Archive for May, 2008

Praise and appreciation: the keys to job satisfaction?

May 30, 2008

People deeply desire recognition and acknowledgement for what they do. Studies have shown that employees are motivated by praise and appreciation before promotion or a bonus.

A word of praise, a personalised email of encouragement or thanks can make all the difference to how people feel about their jobs.  These mementos last longer than the pay cheque and show that someone has valued what they have done. There are some managers and even companies that people love to work for because they are known for having a special way of treating people. These managers and companies recognise that people really are their means of doing exceptional business, and treat them accordingly.

Many employers seem to think that employees are paid to work, so why should they be praised as well. But if companies do not have a culture of praise and appreciation, it will be reflected in their retention rates.    

Here are 5 ways to incorporate praise and appreciation into your workplace.

·         Encourage a culture of appreciation. Give out positive energy and appreciation of others, and you will find it coming back to you. Start appreciating what other people do at work. Focus on the positives, rather than the negatives. Try thanking other people, and they will begin to appreciate you in return. This works at all levels of the organisation. Appreciate your Managers and appreciate your direct reports and co-workers. Everyone’s role is important and if people start to tell each other this, then the effect will be felt throughout the organisation.    

 

·         Write a thank you note to someone who has performed well – on paper, with ink. In these days of email, a handwritten note will stand out as something special. Use a good quality card and be sincere in what you write. People will keep these cards and too often they are only given when they are leaving the company. Giving this recognition during employment will improve their job happiness and retention rates.

·         Stop the blame and use it as a lesson learnt session instead. If companies have a blame culture, then people feel they cannot take risks or try to improve things for fear of censure. Encourage people to contribute and praise them for trying something new. If it works you will want to use their idea. If it doesn’t, then praise them for trying, and analyse how it can be done better next time. Don’t criticise and blame, but praise and encourage.

 

·         Use the monthly meeting to award people for a job well done in a public forum. Have an original award and give it to people for going above and beyond their job description. This may relate to a demonstration of company values or for excellence. One example is the First Penguin award used at Carnegie Mellon, which is given for being a risk-taker and being ahead of the pack. It refers to the first penguin that dives into the ocean containing predators, someone fearless and ready for anything. What original award could you start at your workplace?

 

·         Be aware of what people are doing in the workplace. If someone does a particularly good job, reward them unexpectedly. For example, tell them to have an expensive meal out with their family and put the cost on their expenses. Have a “Special Day Off” award when someone gets to have a day off for free and still get paid. Or get tickets to a sporting event and take a group of employees instead of clients. Make your employees feel that they are worthy of excellent treatment. After all, they are the ones who make the company work.      

Praise needs to be genuine, so all of these should be done with sincerity. These points have nothing to do with the institutionalised “praise” of bonuses and organised rewards/commissions. These examples are for unexpected thanks and appreciation of what people do over and above their job descriptions. Reward people for their service and their loyalty, and you will find that they give even more.

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Resume Tips 2: Content

May 26, 2008

Maintaining great content in your resume is critical to making a good impression.

·         Create a Master resume that contains everything you have done that may be relevant for future work. Update your Master resume after every significant piece of work you do. It is often hard to remember the details of what you have done in the previous year, so update it every few months, even if it is just one line with what you have done in that time.

 

·         When applying for a specific job, study the requirements and competencies they require. Then create a copy of the Master resume and tailor it to the actual job, cutting out unrelated activities. Think carefully about what you want to include, as it is important to make your resume succinct and as relevant as possible to the job.

 

·         Include a short cover letter with a summary of your skills as they relate to this specific job, responding to any requirements from the job advert. Even if there is an application form, you can always attach a letter. Online applications generally have an upload option, or a text box for extra information. Have your cover letter on a file and paste it into the online form, rather than making something up on the spot. Work on this letter as you only have one chance to make a good impression.

 

·         Include a website address if you have one, but only if it directly relates to the job and is of a professional nature. Be careful with your online presence as this will be increasingly used in recruitment. Google yourself and make sure anything is complimentary and appropriate. Update your Facebook, mySpace or LinkedIn profiles as appropriate.  

 

 

·         Consider whether you want to use a photo on your resume. This is a personal choice and it is not necessary.

 

 

·         Be careful about listing referees. I use “Referees available on request” on my resume as I do not want too many phone calls to the same people. I provide references if I am sure I want the job. In terms of getting references, always remember that you may need someone’s word in the future. When you are leaving a job, try to stay on good terms with people as you may need them later.

  • Another way to use references is to attach written references or positive feedback to your resume. This can be an effective way of standing out in the pile of applications. These references provide testimonials as to your character and skills. But be aware that the company will most likely call those people to verify they are true.

 

New study shows office workers are getting fatter

May 25, 2008

A new study by CareerBuilder.com shows that office workers are getting fatter. http://blogs.eweek.com/careers/content001/working_stiffs/techies_say_theyre_porking_up_on_the_job.html

34% of IT workers have gained more than 10lbs in their current jobs, and 17% have gained twice that.

53% of financial services and 52% of government workers have also put on weight.

Eating out , lack of portion control, sedentary jobs and the need for reward all add to the difficulty of staying slim at work. Here are 5 ways you can eat more healthily at the office.

 

 

a.      Have nutritious snacks around so that when you make a grab for a snack you reach a healthy one. Some great snacks to have around the office include fresh fruit, nuts, whole wheat biscuits or crackers, low-fat energy bars, and hummus with pita bread.

b.      Keep your own set of snacks nearby or in a locked drawer so when the hunger pangs strike you don’t start running to the vending machine! The key is to be prepared so that you don’t give in to impulse eating—something you are likely to do when the work pressure is on and there isn’t any time to think or prepare food.

c.       Choose low-fat versions, diet versions, and sugar-less versions of things you consume such as yoghurt, ice cream, soda, milk and various snacks.

d.      Screen for trans-fats in popular items such as popcorn and chips. Try to avoid them completely and substitute with healthier options such as cottage cheese, crackers, granola bars, etc.

e.      Have a drink of icy cold water both before and after meals. The drink before the meal will mean reduced appetite for food and the drink after the meal will help you to burn more calories while digesting the food.

Resume Tips 1: Structure

May 24, 2008

This is the first in a series on creating a great resume.

You need an outstanding resume to get a job, but even if you want to work for yourself, it is good to look at what you have done in order to be confident of what you can achieve. Reflecting on what you have achieved, and phrasing it positively builds your self confidence and helps you with honest self appraisal so you know what to focus on next. So even if you don’t need a resume for your next job, consider how you could use the tips here to create a positive description of your achievements.

The aim of a resume is to sell yourself as someone who will add value to an employer. It is about highlighting your most important positive attributes and aligning them with the requirements of a particular position.

 

There are some accepted business formulas but no totally correct way to create a resume. Use the following tips to help you create or improve your resume for the specific job you are focussing on.

·         Have clear sections within your resume. Use headings and bullet points with clear and concise phrases stating your skills and experience.

 

·         Include your contact details on the header of the resume and make sure you have an appropriate email address. Use your name or a variation on your name, not a nickname or something unrecognisable as this looks unprofessional.

 

·         Take time over the content and the formatting of your resume. It should be easy to read and look professional. Remember to spell check the final result. Read it several times to check it is coherent.

 

·         A popular resume format is reverse chronology where you start with your most recent experience and work backwards. An alternative is to highlight your most relevant experience first and then list your other jobs behind in another section. Remember that there is no need to list every job you have had, particularly if it has no relevance or would detract from the image you are trying to portray.

 

·         Gaps in job history will be spotted, so be honest about it. When I took a year off for study and travel, I explained to a potential employer the benefits of having someone who was rested and ready to get back to work. This made the career gap look positive. 

·         The length of the resume seems to vary by country and by job type. Two pages may be enough for some, but others prefer a longer resume. It is more important that what you say is succinct and relevant, than long-winded and unnecessary.

 The next post will focus on Resume Content.

How to make 6 figures as a consultant

May 21, 2008

The word “consultant” is now used in many industries to describe specialised skilled individuals hired by companies to perform a specific job. Consultants are generally paid a premium, either as an employee on a large salary or as a contractor at a lucrative daily rate. If you want to improve your income and change your career prospects, could you consider becoming a consultant?

Here are five critical areas to focus on if you want to earn a 6 figure salary as a consultant. 

1)    Specialisation.

If you are just starting out, choose the area you are going to specialise in carefully. Does it pay the amount required? How many companies require this skill? Are those companies based where you want to live? If you already have a career, which of your skills would lend themselves to consultancy? Can you see yourself as a specialist in this area? Make sure your chosen area of specialisation is future proof and will not become obsolete. For example, software developers should specialise in programming languages that will continue to be widely used. Focus and get experience in that area. Get certification if necessary. Only put yourself forward for roles that will add to your area of specialisation. Keep up to speed with new developments in the area.   

 

2)    Know the market.

Talk to other consultants and recruitment agencies about what is available and what is required for the jobs you are interested in. Do you need your own company so you can invoice directly to your clients? Do you want to join a consultancy firm to gain experience first before setting out on your own? What do the companies require in order to pay the premium rate?

 

3)    Have a great resume and good interview skills. Strip your resume of peripherals and non-relevant experience. Concentrate on expanding the areas of your resume that are about your specialist area. Have recommendations and references available that relate to the specific work you will consult in. Professional networking websites e.g. Linked In are good tools for promoting yourself and finding opportunities through colleagues.  

 

4)    Be flexible. Consultants often have to work at different companies, in different cities or even countries in their work. Daily financial benefits are often given for working out of town, but this may not fit with family life or work/life balance. Know what your limits are before signing a contract. Being flexible about the role itself is also important. Job descriptions, particularly for contract work, are often loosely defined. Adaptation to the differing demands of the job are therefore required. Your contract is more likely to get renewed if you are flexible.

 

5)    Be confident.  Consultants are confident in their abilities and portray this to their clients. Even if they don’t know the answer, they are confident enough to say that they will find the answer within a short time-frame. They deliver value for money and so are confident in their daily rate/salary level.

Being a consultant has its pros and cons. There is the freedom to move on, autonomy, project based work and financial reward. But there are also stressful deadlines, overwork and too much travel, job uncertainty and not being paid for off days. It is not for everyone, but if you love change and are confident in your abilities, it is a great way to go.

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Lunch breaks: Why you need to take one every day

May 17, 2008

The lunch hour seems to have disappeared in the modern office world. People rush from one meeting to the next and spend every spare minute trawling their in-boxes. Coffee or cigarette breaks are more common than the lunch break which is often spent wolfing down a quick meal at the desk. A study by KFC Corp found that 60% of workers in corporate America consider the lunch hour to be “biggest myth of office life”.

But the demise of the lunch break is having an adverse effect on the office workers of today. Employers should take note of the benefits that a break can provide in terms of productivity and employee happiness.

Here are 6 options for the lunch break that could benefit you and the company.

1.    Give your brain a break. Concentrating hard on work tasks all the time makes it difficult for the brain to rest. In a resting state, or doing something different, the brain can often come up with the answers that are sought. If somewhere is available, take a nap. A study with NASA pilots showed that a 26 minute nap improved mental performance by 34%. A 45 minute nap boosted performance for up to 6 hours later.

 

2.    Give your body a break from the computer. Office workers suffer from posture issues, eye strain and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Workplaces may encourage stretching and mini-breaks but these are often forgotten in the rush of trying to get everything done. Get out of the chair and go for a walk. Give your mouse hand a rest, change posture and stretch in the lunch break.  The majority of offices are also air conditioned which dries the air and recycles fumes, spores and other people’s germs. Dehydration and inactivity can cause headaches. A walk in the fresh air and drinking more water can help combat these issues.

3.    Get some sunlight. Sunlight improves mood and lifts happiness. People spend so much time under fluorescent lighting which has been linked in some studies to health problems and inability to concentrate. In winter, people may arrive and leave in the dark and get no natural light in the office. Make sure you get some sun in the daytime hours by going outside even just to walk around the block.  

 

4.    Get some exercise. Exercise has been proven to improve brain function and productivity. It reduces stress and improves blood flow to the brain and the muscles. Aerobic exercise in particular improves executive functions like problem solving, planning and attention which are critical to office jobs.  

5.    Eat a proper meal slowly. Focus on eating when you take your lunch break rather than multi-tasking on the computer. Take your time and make the most of it and you will feel less hungry in the afternoon. Eating the right food can also modulate mood and enable more effective concentration in the afternoon.  

 

6.    Social support reduces stress, improves job satisfaction and retention. Meet up with colleagues and friends to spend your lunch hour catching up and discussing issues. Get it all out of your system in one go instead of going round to people’s desks to have a chat at other times which may disrupt a productive day.

These options will improve productivity in the afternoon, as well as job satisfaction resulting in benefits for the company as well as for individuals. So put a recurring meeting in your diary every day for the lunch break and make a decision to improve your day. If you are a Manager, tell your employees to have a lunch break every day and see how the office improves.  

Work from Home: 7 reasons you should do it

May 13, 2008

Thursday 15 May is National Work from Home day in the UK. Broadband access, mobile phones and company provided laptops means people can increasingly work from anywhere, so why not from home?

Here are 7 reasons why everyone should work from home one day per week.
 

 

1)    Get stuff done. Away from water-cooler gossip, desk interruptions and meetings, you can power through those work tasks and still make time for coffee. Demonstrate to your boss that you can achieve more on a day from home, and you can ask for another one next week. Focus on being productive instead of just busy.

 

2)    Work when you are most productive. You have the freedom to choose what hours to work. If you are a morning person, start early and be finished by mid-afternoon. Or have a lie in and take the afternoon shift.

 

3)    Get some exercise.

Less time commuting means you can get to the gym or go for a walk before sitting down to work. Get up at the same time and spend your morning commute time exercising. The increased blood flow will actually help you work smarter, instead of harder.  
 

 

4)    Save money.

No fuel or travel costs, no lunch out or lattes. Eat from the fridge and keep the money in your wallet. No lunchtime shopping to break up the office day, so you know you can have a day without spending money.
 

 

5)    Save your family life.

Have breakfast with your partner. See your kids at breakfast and before they are in bed. Finish work at 5pm and be home already. Don’t spend those commuting hours doing extra work. Stop and enjoy being at home. It’s called work/life balance.  
 

 

6)    Your company wants you to take the day at home. Studies show that working from home makes for a more motivated workforce, reduces sickness absences, reduces staff turnover and reduces office costs. It also helps reduce workplace stress which costs UK business 5 billion per year. (http://www.workwiseuk.org)

 

7)    Save the planet. If all commuting workers spent one day less on the road, rail and bus systems per week, vehicle emissions would drop, air pollution would be reduced and the carbon footprint could be drastically cut.

So talk to your boss and make a case for a day at home this week that benefits everyone.

What do you really want to do for a job? 5 questions you can ask yourself to find out.

May 12, 2008

Some people hate their current jobs, but they don’t know what they would do instead. Here are 5 questions you can ask yourself to find out what you really want to do for a job. Grab a piece of paper and jot down your answers to these questions.   

1)    What did you want to be when you were a child/teenager?

When you were young, you didn’t have to worry about the practicalities of living, working or earning money. When you thought about your future it was not constrained by reality, so you believed you could do anything. Write down all the things you wanted to be or do when you were young, however impractical. What do these early choices reveal about your personality and what you might want to do now?

 

2)    What are you passionate about? What do other people say you are good at? What specific skills do you have? Write down these things and consider whether you could make a living from these. The ideal job is to find something you love, and figure out how to get paid for it!  

 

3)    What parts of your existing job do you enjoy? What do you want to keep in your ideal job? For example, the holidays might suit you, or the commute, or your friends, but you might not enjoy the actual work. How can you combine what you enjoy with a different job?

 

4)    What do you definitely NOT want to do? Identifying these things will help you whittle down your ideas to more specific jobs. For example, you might think you want international travel as part of your ideal job. But you know you like being at home with your family, so actually you don’t want to work abroad. You might not like blood, so being a doctor/nurse is out, and if you are allergic to pollen, you won’t be a gardener.

 

5)    What do you want to achieve, and by when? This is your practical question where you consider how much time you have and what resources you will need to get to where you want to be. You may have identified that you always wanted to be an Olympic athlete, but you are 38 and a bit on the heavy side. Is it likely you will make the Olympics and do you want to put the effort in to achieve this? You may want to retrain as a Doctor but do you have 7 years and the money to fund this program of study?

Read back over your answers and add anything else that comes to mind. Some ideas should be sparking already. This list will give you an insight into some of the things you want in a job, and what is important to you. Use it to start researching into what jobs you might be interested in pursuing.

7 ways to use your commute to develop your brain

May 11, 2008

The majority of city workers have to commute to their jobs daily, many for up to two hours by car, bus, train or metro. The commute is often used for catching up on lost sleep, listening to music/ radio or reading depressing news. But is there a better way to use your commuting time?

For these tips, you will need a notebook to write in and a MP3 player for audio. If you drive, consider using a voice recorder instead of a notebook to record your thoughts. Use your notebook to write down what is on your mind, and also to use as an ideas base and knowledge archive. It does not have to be a traditional diary on what you do every day. Use a quality notebook like Moleskine (www.moleskine.com ) as you are going to fill it with quality material.   

1)   

On Day 1, rate your life in these categories: health, relationships, work, finances, spirituality, travel/experiences. Give yourself a score out of 10 for each, where 10 means perfect. Which of these areas do you need to improve? Write down all the questions you have in this area. This will guide what you focus on next.

 

2)    Download free audio or podcasts on the topic you have decided to focus on. Try www.podcastalley.com or the iTunes store. There are plenty of free podcasts on all topics. You can also buy audio products online. If you want to save money, consider buying old tapes and a player from eBay.

 

3)    Get three books from the library on the area you want to improve. Read them on your commute, even if you only manage a couple of pages a day. Learn actively by making notes as you read. Record your new ideas.

 

4)    Start a correspondence course on the subject you want to improve. Perhaps you want to change your job? You can study on your commute and manage 10 hours per week of extra learning.

 

5)   

Actively read the newspaper, instead of passively absorbing negative news. As you read the paper, search for any articles that you can apply to your life or your business. Don’t forget to record new ideas into your notebook. Start tuning your mind into opportunity and active processing. For example, read about other people’s jobs. Think about how they apply to your own. Or read about a different country and plan an adventure.

 

6)   

Start actively dreaming. Write your perfect day in your notebook. Make it tangible by describing what you can see out of your window, the people who are there and what you are doing. If you are unhappy with where you are now, think where you want to be. The dreaming process is a great place to start. From here, you can identify the steps to get to where you want to be.

 

7)    Reread your old notebooks. Pick up on the ideas you have had and not yet implemented and take action on them now. Remember where you were and where you are now. Celebrate how far you’ve come.      

Sex with your boss: 7 reasons not to do it!

May 10, 2008

There is something about power and authority, late night meetings, work conferences and Friday night drinks. It’s good to look forward to going to work, if only for the chance to flirt or feel attractive.
Sex with the boss is one of the clichés of the office job, for the very fact that it can be quite delicious. But here are 7 very good reasons why you should NOT have sex with your boss.

1) Someone will find out. Email is not private and those text messages will be seen, especially if it is a company phone. Someone will catch the glance you send in the direction of your lover. The secretary will notice how much time you spend together. It will be obvious over time, even if you think you are being discreet.

2) It does not do your reputation any good. When people find out later, then they will assume that your work and position in the company was influenced by your relationship. Even if you think modern society accepts these things, it will still affect your career.

3) The sex may be fantastic…or it may be awful and embarrassing. Flirting and promises are much more exciting than the actuality of ending up in a hotel somewhere to discover you are just not sexually compatible. The embarrassment continues at work, and the excitement is gone, and you end up transferred or leaving.

4) You will be distracted from the job at hand and will not perform as well. You will spend too much time making sure you look good and that the boss sees what you are doing. You will neglect co-workers, friends and even clients in the pursuit of this attention.

5) You cannot ask your boss for a job reference later. Either they give you a glowing referral that you suspect is to do with your relationship. Or they give you a bad one as they feel guilty and blame you for the affair. So you end up not asking them which is a waste of a good reference and could affect your future prospects.

6) It has to end at some point. They will not leave their wife/husband for you. Either you will leave the job, or move to a different department and you will both move on. If you end up loving them and they finish it, you will be hurt so just don’t start it in the first place.

7) They may regret it in the morning and you will be out of your current position in no time. They are the boss for a reason. Respect them, flirt with them – but do not have sex with them.

There are plenty of other ways you can enjoy your job, other than having an office affair. Keep your eyes (and your hands) off the boss!
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