Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Goal Setting: Open Up Your Imagination

It’s the first of the year and many people take this time to reflect on their life and also to think about how to make this year better than years before. New Year’s resolutions abound as people think about health, relationships and careers. I am among that reflective group and as I have done for many years now, I sat down to reflect on the past year and to set new goals for this year in my journal. My philosophy in journaling is that life is already trying to impose limitations on me, so when I write down my visions and goals, I always take the limits off and just write it out the way I see it in my imagination. Your thoughts and imaginations really do influence the course of your life and my life is a prime example. As I went over all my old journal entries, I was simply amazed at how many of the things that I had written down had come to pass. I can clearly see many of my goals and aspirations from my journals in my life today.

At the Career and Professional Development Center, we work with students daily, helping them with proper methods and techniques for creating the perfect resume or cover letter. I advise students everyday on the best way to do a job search or how to connect to other professionals on LinkedIn. These are all very important career tools, however, I find that sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the right methods and techniques and really miss out on the opportunity to let your imagination have some space. There is definite value in actually taking the time to imagine what type of career you want and then setting a goal to reach for it.  A recent article from Mind Tools confirms that two people can have a similar education, ability and opportunity, yet see very different results in their lives and careers. Why the difference? The difference lies in the fact that successful people take the time to think about what they really want and then they take the initiative and set goals that will equip them with the necessary knowledge and tools needed to achieve that success.

So, here are some simple tips that will hopefully inspire you to let your imagination have some playtime and help you get a little closer to your goals and aspirations!

  1. First, take a note pad (or your computer, if you prefer) and just begin writing down what you’d like your career to look like without consideration for any limitations. This is your brainstorming session so let yourself really get into it
  2. Next, write down 3 or 4 things that would need to happen to make your goal a reality
  3. Find a place to put your goal where you are sure to see it over and over again
  4. Every step toward your goal counts, so take a minute to  congratulate yourself every time you find yourself reading an article, checking out a lead or talking to someone who can give you insight into obtaining your goal
  5. Let your dissatisfaction with your current situation be your fuel and keep you motivated
  6. Get it settled in your heart that not making the goal the first or even the fifth time does not mean you won’t make it
  7. Don’t just write it down once. Keep writing your goal and updating it at least yearly and more often if possible
  8. Watch as your goals begin to materialize with each step!

This is the simple method that I used to see many of my goals come to fruition. I always wanted a career in coaching, so every year I would write down in my journal that I would go to graduate school and ultimately get into coaching. I didn’t know exactly how it would work out because there were so many demands on my life but I wrote it down anyway and reviewed it every single year. Each year when I looked over those goals, I would get inspired and I would read a book or look into my company’s tuition reimbursement plan or talk to someone already working as a coach. Writing the goals down every year and then reading it over always inspired me to take some action, no matter how small. I am happy to share that I have achieved success in both of these areas and you can do the same! Yes, there is time and effort involved- as with anything that is worth doing, but the satisfaction of creating the life and career that you have imagined makes it worth it! Happy New Year!

About the Author
Adenike Makinde is a career specialist for Western Governors University. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Social Media Blogs to Enhance Your Career

Social media and networking online can be intimidating. Even trying to find blogs that explain blogs can be like chasing your own tail. Below are a few blogs that will help bring some clarity to the social media chaos. The various sites below were chosen to specifically help WGU students and graduates understand the use of social media when it comes to both job searching and managing your professional profile. Be sure to explore the WGU Career & Professional Development Center’s own homepage for other tips and insights to Social Media mastery!

How to Use Social Media to Land a Job
“I’m not very techno-savvy”, “I don’t want to put myself out there on the internet”, “I’m a private person”. If these are some responses to why you’re not using Social Media as part of your job search, you may be missing out on a huge piece of the action. Many recruiters today use Social Media to network with possible candidates. Miriam Salpeter, who writes for US News & World Report, offers tips on how to use these tools successfully.

Social Media Do’s & Don’ts: 10 Tips for Keeping Your Profiles Professional
Recruiters and hiring managers are now using the web and Social Media to vet candidates for jobs. What will they see if they “Google” your name?  Megan Ruesink is a freelance writer for Rasmussen College and she gives some do’s and don’ts when it comes to your professional presence on social networking sites.

35 of the Most Influential Career Sites for 2014
Here’s a link of a comprehensive list of some of the best career, interviewing, job search and recruiting blog sites. These are long standing sources that are consistently updated and have shown significant expertise in the field.  Ken Sundheim is the CEO of KAS Placement and a contributor to Forbes.com. He has collected these sites for job seeker’s convenience.

How to Use Social Media for Professional Development
Devika Arora is a professional writer currently focusing on the extensive domain of job search and career building. She contributes to Social Media Today. This blog demonstrates how various social media platforms can help both job seekers and working professionals develop and leverage “personal learning networks (PLNs)” to advance their career goals.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Creating Accomplishment Statements for a Commanding Resume

When creating a powerful resume, it is important to highlight your accomplishments for each position you have included on your resume, going beyond just listing job duties. A job duty only describes what you did and an accomplishment describes how well you did it. Hiring managers are familiar with job duties, but you want to tell them something they don’t already know.  They want to know what sets you apart or what you have accomplished in your past positions that would be beneficial to their organization.

It can be challenging to turn job duties into accomplishments. Following the steps below, you’ll soon be able to change standard job duties into accomplishment statements that highlight the results and outcomes of your actions. 

1. Brainstorm. Start by taking time to create a list regarding what you have accomplished in each of your positions without worrying about wording, grammar, and punctuation.  Amy Michalenko from The Muse shared these questions for consideration as you develop your list.
  • What did I do that was above and beyond my normal job duties?
  • How did I stand out among other employees?
  • Was I ever recognized by a supervisor for a job well done? When and why?
  • Did I win any awards or accolades?
  • What new processes did I implement to improve things?
  • What problems did I solve?
  • Did I ever consistently meet or exceed goals or quotas?
  • Did I save or make the company money?
  • What made me really great at my job? 
2. Utilize Numbers.  Whenever possible, try to incorporate numbers, percentages, and figures into your accomplishments. Utilizing numbers can help the employer understand the scope of your work and the level of your responsibility. Numbers help paint a clear picture of what you accomplished that employers can understand.

3. Create your accomplishment statements to add to your resume. Utilizing the information from the steps above, you now want to apply consistent formatting to each accomplishment, paying close attention to wording, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You’ll want to start each accomplishment with an action verb followed by a description of what you did and how well you did it. The University of Utah Career Services created this table as a tool to help you develop your own winning accomplishment statements.

Action Verb
Who/What/How Many
a new policy and procedure for auditing reports
increasing accuracy rates from 65% to 90%
Created and managed
a fundraising event  for 250 attendees
that sold out and raised more than $100,000
all customer questions and concerns were addressed 
consistently receiving unsolicited praise from customers and supervisor 

Utilizing accomplishment statements is a powerful way to help your resume stand out from the pack. WGU Career & Professional Development would be happy to assist in creating accomplishment statements, providing resume feedback, or answering any additional career questions you may have.

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!