Tuesday, November 18, 2014

6 Ways to go Above and Beyond at Your Job (and Get Noticed Doing It)

Have you ever been passed over for a promotion that you knew in the depths of your soul you had earned? Have you ever looked at your annual raise and cried/died a little inside? Have you felt overwhelmed and under appreciated at the same time? Work at any business long enough, and you've probably felt all three. The thing is, you might be the best person in your company at doing exactly what you are required to do, but if you aren't going above and beyond your basic job requirements (and getting noticed doing it) then chances are you are going to stay exactly where you are while getting paid almost exactly what you are currently making. Here are five tips on how you can kick it up a notch and get the promotion, raise, or recognition you are after.

1. Don't just come up with ideas. Plan and implement them. Good ideas are worth about as much as the whiteboards they're written on during brainstorm sessions. In fact, they're worth less. Whiteboards are kind of expensive. Have you ever sat in a meeting where everyone pats each other on the back about the great idea they're coming up with, only to leave the meeting and not see a single one of them implemented? A brainstorm is a dust flurry if no one does anything after. Take one idea from every meeting you're in, build a workable plan around it, and take it to your supervisor to ask permission to take charge on it. They may say no. You may be too busy with other projects. But you just got face time with your boss showing your interest in stepping outside your job description on something creative. You showed initiative. AND if she says yes, you get the chance to shine.

2. Be the data king/queen. Sure, management wants people who are personable and a joy to work with, but at the end of the day they want someone who knows how to move the needle. If you know what moves said needle, you're ahead of the game. Learn the big picture. If you work for a shipping company moving boxes from the belt to the truck, know how a quarter turn and pivot instead of a full turn reduces your single box load time by a full second. Know that in a four-hour shift when you used to load 1,200 boxes, using your new technique allows you to load 1,309 boxes. When your manager notices this because you point it out to them, explain how you did it. They will be impressed, and it will help them improve everyone on the team. Needle moved. You = Awesome.


3. Offer to help. This is one of the simplest things you can do in an office, and it is so important. Be the person who offers to help, not the person who always asks for it. Sure, ask for help when you need it. There's no shame in that. But when you hear someone complaining about being overloaded with an impending deadline, offer to help—even if you don't know their job. Offer to take their menial tasks off their hands until they finish. Don't just offer to help management. Offer to help everyone. If you are known as the person in the office who is always willing to help everyone, you will have obtained the ultimate in workplace karma. Your boss won't just want to promote you; everyone will want you to get promoted.


4. Complain less. This one can be difficult. Sometimes complaining feels SOOO good.  Coworkers bond over complaining. They feel united in their misery. In most offices the break room should be called the vent room. And jobs are FRUSTRATING. Clients can be difficult. Bosses can be horrible. Coworkers can be oblivious. One of the hardest parts of being a manager is knowing that all of this unrest exists and finding a way to deal with it without making everybody hate you. The technique most good managers rely on is working incredibly hard to keep people positive. Happy is impossible. Positive is somewhat achievable, but not easy. It involves being a mentor, friend, and complaint recipient, all while maintaining discipline, increasing revenue, meeting goals, etc. Managers know who the positive and negative influences are on their teams, even if they're not in the break room during the complain-fest. Being a positive force is going above and beyond in the eyes of your boss, especially during the busier times of the year.


5. Be visible.  Let cc: be your proxy. You can do amazing things in the dark, and no one will see them. If a tree staples a cover sheet on all of its TPS reports in a forest, and no one is around to see, did it actually happen? No. Trees don't have hands, and even if they did they couldn't operate a stapler. That is silly talk. But really…

If you have accomplishments, great ideas, good news, and a positive influence on your office, and if that is being communicated via electronic media, CC YOUR BOSS. So many people use cc as a passive-aggressive way of letting their boss know that someone else messed up. You can also use it as a passive-aggrandizing way of tooting your own horn. With the bitter brew of reports and complaints your manager or supervisor gets in their inbox in a day, being included in your good-news e-mail will be a delicious cherry on top of their gross, melted, boring e-mail sundae.

So many people say they aren't being paid enough—more people than really deserve it. Instead of being the one who always says, "I deserve more," be the one who shows it. Good luck! Now get back to work!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Stand Out with a Strong Cover Letter

“Do I really need a cover letter?” This is the question I often get when I ask people if they have one. The question is not really about needing it but about how much you really want the job.  When you’re passionate about something, you don’t do the bare minimum – you go the extra mile. That is where the cover letter comes in. It’s that extra step, the enhancement to your product (which is your resume) that can be the difference between “Hi! We’d love to have you come in for an interview” or “Thanks for your interest, we have decided not to move forward.” For job seekers who are really interested in securing that interview, the cover letter is essential.  A cover letter is your golden opportunity to share your communication skills and really highlight your value to the employer

So, let’s get started on your stand-out cover. There are several things to remember when crafting the cover letter because a poorly written one can definitely hurt your chances. Here is a list of some of the best tips to consider when you begin writing.

  1. Do not re-state your resume. Compose your cover letter as if you are talking directly to the recruiter. Imagine being stuck in an elevator with a recruiter for 5 minutes (the elevator pitch as it is widely known).  How would you make a strong positive impression that would have the recruiter itching to get back to his or her office to set up an interview with you? Think about this scenario and then start writing your cover letter.   Use your cover letter to really showcase your  credentials and accomplishments so the employer clearly understands the value you would bring to the company 
  2. The first paragraph is crucial. You have to hook the recruiter right off the bat and show them why you are a perfect fit for their company. Show passion and show interest.  Make sure the employer can clearly see that you know who they are and then tell them why you are interested in working for their company.
  3. Understand that it’s not really about you. Don’t go on and on about why this position is perfect for you. Tell employers what you can do for them. Remember to put yourself in the employer’s shoes when writing the cover letter. They wrote the job description and they are focused on what they need so show them you have what they need.
  4. Don’t just focus on your past experience but clearly tell the employer how your past experience will benefit them in the future. Refer to your research on the company and the job description to help you focus on clearly showing why they should hire you. You can do this in a narrative but there are other ways to get that point across as well. You can craft a direct statement such as “Here is what I can specifically deliver in this role…” and then give bullet points using the PAR method (problem, action, result) to show exactly what you can do. Creating a table listing their job requirements alongside your matching skills is also a great way to make sure you are showing the employer how you can help them now.
  5. Never sell yourself short! Even if your experience is not an exact match, you still have much to offer. Let your enthusiasm and high energy come across. Show your transferable skills and your positive attitude. You would be amazed how your unique combination of intelligence, positivity and willingness to learn can tip the scales in your favor. 
  6. Be yourself. Showing your professionalism and communication style is important but it is also very important that you be yourself. Give the reader a sneak peek at your personality along with your qualifications. Be original and engaging, tell a story, or share an interest.  You will stand out from the pack and make an impact that can get you that coveted interview.

For additional tools and resources to assist in creating a powerful cover letter, please visit the WGU Career & Professional Development website. For individual assistance in crafting your cover letter, email careers@wgu.edu. We look forward to assisting you in reaching your career goals.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Guest Blogger: 10 Tips for Jobseekers 50+

If you are like me and have been otherwise occupied, such as raising a family and/or going to school, searching for employment in newspaper classifieds and job boards will get you nowhere. I’m a recent graduate, jobseeker, and over 50.  I’ve also learned a few things about today’s job market.  Here are some other tips:
  1. Don’t PANIC.  Get help.  You’ll flag quickly if you try to go it alone.  The staff here at the WGU Career & Professional Development Center will give you as much/little help as you need.  Check out everything and use what works for you.  There’s a firehose worth of information out there---the trick is finding the trickle that you need.
  2. Use Social Media.  From someone who is allergic to it, try it.  A LinkedIn profile with accurate privacy settings will get viewed, and there are jobs on LinkedIn that are listed nowhere else. There is a LinkedIn Job Search Checklist on how to set up your profile on the WGU Career & Professional Development website.
  3. Identify your passion and stay focused on it.  Thinking outside the box is okay, off-planet is not.
  4. Make a master resume with everything on it.  Cut and paste only what you need to answer the job description.  If you’re not sure what a master resume is, contact a WGU Career & Professional Development Specialist to help you.
  5. Consider a pay cut.  If it’s the job you really want (you know, the one that will make you jump out of bed Monday mornings with a smile), consider it anyway.  Current employment makes a difference on your resume.  
  6. Remember nothing is permanent.  No matter your age, your next job is not necessarily your last.  The “one job until you retire” idea is as outdated as the Model T Ford.
  7. Look for jobs where your experience is appreciated.  Websites such as Idealist.org, Encore.org, and Work Reimagined may give you new ideas.
  8. Make Connections.  Online connections are very important, but in-person connections are better. Talk with people, like the guy in the coffee line with you, or the lady that cuts your hair---you never know who has a connection for you. 
  9. Modernize your hairstyle and wardrobe.  Some say to cover the gray, but I am more comfortable and confident with natural, but nice.  If it makes you feel more confident, do it.
  10. Cut yourself some slack.  Job hunting is likely the worst, unpaid, full-time job you’ll ever have. Remember to take some time for yourself.
In his editorial column, “Between Us” in AARP The Magazine, Editor-in-chief Robert Love states, “…U.S. adults who are over 50 [are] the third largest economy in the world, trailing only the gross national product[s] of the United States and China,” so “Who’s afraid of a little gray?”

About the Author
Joy Gruver is a recent WGU  Washington graduate (Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies). Adult Educator, Amateur Radio operator,  former EMT, and avid recycler.  She has several years of experience as an adult educator and is currently seeking a position that aligns with her interests, passions, and career goals. Please visit her LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/joygruver/

Monday, September 22, 2014

Back in the Saddle: Re-entering the Job Market

Lately, students have been asking how to deal with gaps in their employment when they’re writing their resumes. These gaps range from stay-at-home parents to returning veterans. They tell me they’re nervous because job descriptions require 3-5 years of experience and they don’t believe they’re qualified. Well, the truth is people step in and out of jobs all the time.  I tell them that if they listed everything they did in their home-jobs or on the battlefield; they might come across as over-qualified. I advise them to consider the following:

Use a hybrid resume format, which is a blend of a skills/functional based and chronological based document.  A chronological resume is the most popular format but if there are holes in your chronology, it might be a red flag. Also, some recruiters say that a pure skills based resume that includes a job history section with no employment dates is a red flag. So, why not mix it up to give the best of both worlds? The hybrid style will start with a robust “Summary of Qualifications” at the top, followed by a “Core Competencies” section. The summary highlights your best practices, what you’re known for and what you’re most proud of as it relates to the job you’re seeking. The competencies section includes the things you know how to do (e.g. balance budgets, cost control, project management, client relations).

List any volunteer or part-time projects or jobs. This shows that you’re putting your skills to work and not just sitting home keeping your couch warm. Any hiring manager will want to see that candidates are “self-sustaining” by proactively taking initiative. Make sure that you create this section to be as “business-like” as possible. You want those who make corporate decisions to take your resume seriously.

Networking… I know! This can be a tiresome buzz word but it still is necessary. Miriam Salpeter, a job search and social media consultant for US News & World Report, strongly advises to take advantage of every kind of networking tool including in-person opportunities. She says that LinkedIn, job clubs and mixers are all “equally important for job seekers who really want to solidify relationships with the potential to earn them introductions to key decision-makers at their target companies”.

Remember, your job search may take time, trial, and error but be patient with yourself and with the process. This is still a brave new world and the rules are in constant flux. Pay attention to how interviews and phone screenings go. Assess how you think you did, celebrate your progress and make course corrections along the way. In the world of job searching, patience and persistence will be your best friends. Giddy up, y’all!