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The top two responses to our latest online poll – “Where do you go first when you’re looking for a job?” –  were Internet Job Boards and My Contact Network

Whilst there is no doubt that internet job boards provide an easy, user-friendly way to apply for advertised roles, job seekers must always beware of becoming lazy in their application approach, ie sending the same old cover letter and CV again and again for roles that might actually require you to do a bit of “tailoring” first, or resort to a scattergun mentality, ie, “If I send my CV to enough job advertisers, then one will surely produce a result.” 

I can assure you, as someone who has worked in the recruitment industry for eleven years, recruiters who know their stuff, whether they work for an agency or within a company, can spot a thoughtlessly-sent CV at twenty paces. For example, a candidate might have a newly-minted accounting qualification. They are seeking an entry-level accounting role. They do a key-word search using “accounting” and send their CV in response to the 25 job ads that appear, despite the fact that only two of the advertised roles are suitable for entry-level candidates. Not only is this a ridiculous waste of time for everyone concerned, it does the candidate absolutely no favours, instantly creating an impression of a total lack of attention to detail and no real interest in the actual role or company. 

You must remain in charge of your job search. It is your responsibility and yours alone to secure your next role. 

Here is a prime example of what I mean from an article on Forbes.com entitled Get a Job Using the Hidden Job Market

“The technology executive had been out of work for more than a year, but he didn’t tell any of his friends he was unemployed. Instead, he made up a story about how he was consulting on some confidential projects, the details of which he would reveal when it was time to go public. Meantime, he applied for dozens of posted job openings he saw online, with zero success. He also spent time golfing at the country club, where his locker was next to a CEO in his field. Still, he guarded his secret carefully, staying mum with his golf buddies about his job hunt. Finally, his distraught wife set up some sessions with Donald Asher, an executive career coach and author of 11 books, including Cracking the Hidden Job Market: How to Find Opportunity in any Economy. Asher convinced his new client to open up about his job hunt, and start talking to everyone he knew about how he was on the market. Sure enough, one of his golfing friends gave him a tip that led to a job at a startup.”

What do you know?

I asked Challenge Consulting’s Managing Director, Elizabeth Varley, what she regarded as the best overall way to find work. 

Without hesitation, her response was, “Your network.” 

She continued: “You must be organised and methodical in your approach to seeking work. When you’re in your car travelling to a new destination, you use a road map, you don’t just start driving. Ask yourself what you actually want to do, what skills and experience you wish to utilise. Then, work out who you know who can give you entrée into industries or companies where these are attractive. It might be a friend, it might be a LinkedIn contact, it might be someone you meet at an industry function, it might be someone you get talking to waiting for a bus.” 

They key things to remember are: you have to make it known that you are seeking work (no one can read your mind, after all), and you cannot expect a high success rate flailing wildly in the dark (see Elizabeth’s above comment re using a map!). 

Comments from three of our poll respondents re using their networks:

– “The people in my network know me best, so they’re the ones most likely to present a suitable opportunity. They’re also less likely to point me in the wrong direction.”

– “My first port of call would be tapping in to my networks.”

– “Recently, for the first time ever, I was approached for a job based on my LinkedIn Profile.”

What do you think? What success have you had finding that next great role using your networks? Let us know in the comments below!

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Latest online poll results:

Yes – 80% 

No – 20% 

First, I would like to convey my thanks to everyone who responded with comments this week – obviously this issue struck a chord with lots of you, and there was some very thoughtful, heartfelt feedback!

It is, naturally, a fact of living and working in the 21st century across cities, states, countries and time zones, that email communication has become a toll of communication that cannot be avoided.

And, as with all forms of communication, email is not an all-encompassing evil. Sometimes it is the best and most efficient way to convey information. However, when it is used to ask simple questions when it would be faster to pick up a phone, or when people hide behind it, or when they copy in huge contact lists of irrelevant people, it becomes silly and annoying.

I loved the anecdote shared by one poll respondent: “In my office, the IT lines went down for two days. Suddenly there were people at my door wanting to chat, and I had numerous marvellous conversations on how to do things better. People were walking around the corridors, having a laugh at the photocopier, and the whole atmosphere in the building lifted. Now with the IT lines restored, I sit in a silent space, no one chats, and even the colleague right next to me sends me an email with a simple question. Bring back the conversations!”

As another respondent said: “there is no substitute for having a conversation to stimulate ideas and creativity.”

Indeed. Getting everyone around the table, brainstorming, sharing ideas, laughing, asking questions, listening to each other, is unarguably more stimulating and fun than a series of silent, staid emails.

But, a single email sent to all participants afterwards listing the main discussion points and action items is, equally, an efficient and effective way to convey the ideas generated and itemise the next steps for everyone involved to take.

Email is also an excellent way to keep a record of an important exchange between colleagues, or between yourself and a client: “In the workplace, I prefer to communicate via email. I like that I have information in writing (both from what I have sent and received from clients) to refer back to.” Further: “Emails should be used as a confirmation of a conversation, and not as the main form of communication.”

However, there are some situations where an actual conversation, either face-to-face or via telephone, is supremely preferable to an email exchange. “Too many people rely on emails to issue orders, bad news and to address employee issues. Excessive email usage kills the art of spoken communication and removes the opportunity for someone to respond to a certain situation.”

No one enjoys difficult conversations, such as performance managing someone. We all have a client or contact we loathe speaking with. It is always so tempting to simply shoot off an email. But, of course, these are precisely the situations where a conversation is the best approach.

How many times have you changed the tenor of what you will say next because of the reaction to your last statement?

Would a problem with a customer be handled more quickly if the customer’s response was immediate? The nuance of the spoken voice includes information you would miss with electronic communication.

Some organisations have initiated “no-email Fridays” and encourage people to pick up the phone for a conversation on any day of the week or to see others in person. These organisations report they soon experienced better problem-solving, better teamwork, and happier customers.

I also found it interesting and somehow reassuring that listed amongst the dozens of titles in our new range of online skills tests is one that assesses Office Telephone Etiquette: “The focus of this assessment is on evaluating a test taker’s communication skills along with their ability to recognise proper telephone etiquette and the best way to handle calls.”

What do you think? Leave your comments below or, of you feel moved to do so, please give me a call! 

Our new poll is live! Tell us: Does your manager really care what you think and is their door really ‘open’? Results published in next week’s ChallengeBlog …

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Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. Click the FB icon to “Like” us now and stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …

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Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. “Like” us now to stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …

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One wit I know maintained that “having songs written and sung in my name” was a perfect introduction. Another suggested “a fruit basket”.  

Lovely, apt even, if one is beginning work with a fruiterer, but perhaps not #1 on most people’s list of first-day expectations. 

So, what was #1 in our online poll last week? 

#1 = In-person introductions to your key colleagues, junior and senior – 32.7%

#2 = Being assigned to a “buddy” for your first week while you learn the ropes – 24.5% 

#3 = Feeling expected by your new workplace and colleagues when you arrive – 13.1% 

=#4 = Having a desk, equipment and a computer ready for you – 9.8% / Immediate involvement in “real” work or a team project – 9.8%

Nothing makes a new person feel more like part of a company than warm, personal welcomes from the people they’ll be working with and, perhaps more importantly, for. 

“Make sure that the first day’s schedule is full of meeting people and onboarding activities. Schedule a good portion of the morning with the new employee’s boss and mentor. Don’t let the day go to waste and contain nothing but paperwork and HR meetings. The day is for bonding with the boss, the mentor, and coworkers.”* 

After one week on the job, the employee should begin to feel comfortable with her responsibilities, have met at least one new business contact each day, be familiar with team members (inside her department and outside) and be able to walk into your office with any questions. Arrange an informal session of drinks, cake, or something similar with the other team members at the end of the week so the new hire can assess what she has learned, ask the group questions and hang out in a less formal setting. 

And what of the notion of being assigned to a “buddy”, which came in at #2 in our online poll? What is a buddy? What do they do? And why can they make such a difference? 

A buddy is an experienced employee who partners with a new employee to provide guidance and encouragement during a defined period, typically the first two to three months of employment.  A buddy helps reduce new employee uncertainty by being available to answer immediate or routine questions. They relate new employee information to actual situations, and can suggest experiences and provide information to help the new employee become an “insider.” 

To be a buddy, an employee should know and be committed to their department or work area, understand the company’s culture, have good interpersonal skills, be a respected performer and role model, be a peer of the new employee, and want to help.  A buddy must also be given time to support the new employee. 

Of course, the flip side of this equation is that it’s not just up to your new company and colleagues to ease you into your new role. You are a professional. You are there to do a job and you are getting paid money for it. So, it’s also up to you to make the best impression you can during your first days in a new job.

Here are some top tips for all newbies (and, quite frankly, some of them can be applied even if you’ve been in your job for a while!): 

Your First Days Working at a New Job: 20 Tips to Help You Make a Great Impression**

1. Have a Positive Attitude: Nothing works better – in all situations – than having and expressing a positive attitude. Let your enthusiasm for being part of the team and the organisation show to everyone you interact with. And always leave non-work problems at home.

2. Dress Professionally / Blend in With Co-Workers: You should never underestimate the importance of dressing professionally in your new job. And in the beginning, even if your department has casual days, you should dress professionally because you never know when you’ll be called out to meet a top manager or key client. “Dress how you want people to perceive you because it plays a huge role in how you are initially treated,” advises Desiree Devaney, a financial analyst with GE Capital Credit.

3. Show Your Team Spirit: You are now part of a work team, and teams work together to solve problems and get the job done. Show loyalty to your co-workers and focus more – initially at least – on sharing any recognition you get with the team. Always give credit to the team.

4. Learn Co-Workers’ Names Quickly: No one expects you to have everyone’s name down pat by the end of the first day or week, but if you are bad with names, now is the time to research some of the neat memory-aid tricks you can try to use. 

5. Ask Questions/Ask for Help: No one expects you to solve all the organisation’s problems on your first days on the job – nor that you know everything – so, relax a bit, and always ask questions or ask for help when you need it. Remember that it’s better to ask before you’ve completed the task the wrong way and wasted all that time. 

6. Take Notes / Go to Orientation: Unless you have a photographic memory – and few of us do – consider taking notes on all the various systems and rules of the organisation. And no matter how boring they may sound, attend all orientation sessions. Nothing gets old faster than someone repeatedly asking how something works; such behaviour shows a lack of attention to detail. 

7. Be a Self-Starter; Take Initiative: In most situations, in your first days on the job, you will be given small doses of work – to let you get your feet wet. As you finish assignments and are ready to handle a bigger workload, take the initiative and ask for more assignments. Whatever you do, don’t just sit there waiting for your next project. 

8. Discover Everything About Your New Employer: In theory, you should have already done your homework during the interviewing process, but there is always more to learn now that you are on the inside. “Get an employee handbook” exhorts a MBA grad with an information-technology concentration. “Don’t act or think you know more about everything than your peers.” In addition, gather all those reports and company literature and read up and become an expert on your organisation. 

9. Work Full Days: There’s nothing that can affect your reputation faster than routinely coming into work late or leaving work early. Especially in these first days/weeks on the job, be sure you get to work early and leave no earlier than when the majority of your co-workers leave. 

10. Establish a Good Attendance Record: Just as with working full days, it’s important to show up to work every day and establish a good attendance record. Yes, there will be emergencies, and yes, you may get sick, but as best you can, try to make it to work every day during those first weeks/months on the job.

11. Avoid Office Politics and Gossip: As with any social organisation, the workplace is full of rumours and gossip. Your mission is to keep your nose clean of all of it – and be sure not to associate too often with the office gossips or risk having your image associated with them.

12. Keep Personal Business on Company Time to a Minimum: Studies show that just about everyone conducts some amount of personal business on company time – checking email, making dinner reservations, buying stuff online. Your goal is to keep your personal business to a minimum and stay focused on work. 

13. Take Advantage of After-Hours Activities: Many organisations have formal or informal after-hour activities, such as sports leagues. Get involved – even if only as a cheerleader – because these types of activities are great ways to bond with your co-workers. Do be on your best behaviour during these outside-work activities, though.

14. Show Appreciation: Nothing works like kindness and genuine appreciation. So, show your appreciation to everyone who helps you learn the ropes during your first days on the job – from your co-workers to receptionists to the human resources folks. 

15. Find a Mentor: You don’t need to jump on this task your first day, but as you get introduced to senior staff, begin thinking about developing a mentoring relationship with a member of management above you – and outside your department – in the organisation. Mentoring has numerous benefits, from a simple sounding board to someone who helps direct and advance your career within the organisation. 

16. Get and Stay Organised / Set Goals: If you’re one of those super-organised people, this tip will be easy for you. The rest of us, however, need to develop a system for keeping track of meetings, appointments, assignments, and projects. Get an organiser or planner and keep on top of all your work. You certainly don’t want to miss an early key deadline or meeting. And as you look ahead, set goals for yourself s- and then strive to achieve them.

17. Keep Your Boss Informed – of Everything: Your boss is not a mind-reader, so keep him/her informed of how you are doing. Especially in those early days, meet with your boss to further establish a rapport and relationship. 

18. Meet and Network with Key People in Organisation & Profession: Join an organisation outside of work. Take additional classes to stay ahead in your field. Take advantage of every opportunity to network with key people in your organization and profession – attend staff meetings, professional organisation conferences, trade shows – every opportunity to meet colleagues in your field. Just because you have a new job does not mean you suspend your network; constantly manage and grow your network of contacts because you never know when a problem or opportunity will arise. And networking with key people can also help you in finding one or more mentors. 

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* How to Welcome a New Employee 

** Your First Days Working at a New Job: 20 Tips to Help You Make a Great Impression