HR Specialist

Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

10 top career mistakes

In Human Resources on January 25, 2010 at 11:25 am

 In his 21 years as a career consultant, Emory Mulling has seen his share of career mistakes — and even made some of his own. The chairman of The Mulling Corp., an Atlanta coaching and leadership development firm, compiled a list of the 10 most common career mistakes to help his clients.

“I think we’ve all made these common mistakes at one time or another. Being aware of them and learning to avoid them will definitely make us more successful,” Mulling said.

If you’re seeking more success in 2008, steer clear of these career missteps.

1. Not having a long-term career plan

“A lot of people will do financial planning. They’ll get medical checkups and make sure their homes and cars are covered by good insurance plans,” Mulling said. “The irony is that they fail to do career planning, and it’s the career that pays for all the rest.

“Either they don’t know what they want or they don’t know how to do it or they don’t seek advice [on how to set and achieve goals.]”

It’s shortsighted not to take time to plan your career direction and the next step on the path.

“If you’re unclear, find someone who will help you think things through, someone who will be honest and not patronize you,” Mulling said. “If you don’t have a goal, you’re less likely to get there.”

Everyone needs to spend time reflecting on his or her career direction, and the start of the year is a great time to do it.

2. Not keeping your network active

As executive director of Re:Focus on Careers, a networking organization, Debbie Rodkin believes that the key to career success is “ABN” — always be networking!

“Once people find a job, they tend to get complacent and neglect their network,” she said. “Then, when they get ready to find another job, start a new business or an entrepreneurial venture, or seek a promotion, they have to start from scratch.

“Networking is the key to success and the best way to keep your career moving forward.”

It’s much easier to start a business with referrals from existing clients or to achieve a promotion if you’ve taken the time to get to know different people and understand their roles in the company, she said.

“If you only call people when you want a favor, people are less likely to want to help you,” Rodkin said. “New Year’s is a great time to reach out and reconnect with colleagues. Instead of asking for something, find out how things are going in their lives.”

Make it a habit to contact people on your list at regular intervals.

“It takes less time than you think. You have to eat lunch anyway,” Mulling said.

3. Not having a current résumé to document your accomplishments

“Most people don’t want to write a résumé, so they wait until there’s a deadline and then frantically throw something together. It’s not strategic, well-thought-out or effective,” said Gayle Oliver, president/CEO of Execumé, an Atlanta recruiting and career services firm.

Oliver helps clients look at the “situation, action and results” of their accomplishments.

“A job function doesn’t have any meaning alone. It’s the function in relationship to the company that counts,” she said. “Why was what you did meaningful? What was the outcome and the impact on the company?”

Answering those questions will help you write a compelling document that gives a true picture of your skills and abilities.

Oliver recommends reviewing and updating your résumé twice a year, to see how you’re doing and to add new accomplishments. A résumé-writing service, book or Web site can teach techniques to better portray your true value.

“Without an updated résumé, you could miss the perfect job opportunity,” Oliver said. “With it, you’ll feel more confident — or, as one client put it, ‘Now, I’m armed and dangerous.’ ”

4. Becoming outdated in your technical skills and not understanding your developmental needs

“We all tend to like the status quo, but, when it comes to technology, business leaders need to find a way to stay abreast of and embrace new technologies, or run the risk of being outmoded,” said Paul Terlemizian, president of iFive Alliances, which helps small and midsized organizations form and manage strategic alliances. “The kind of employee I’d want to hire is one who takes responsibility for his own professional development.”

Terlemizian stays current by reading journals; being active in professional organizations, such as the Technical Association of Georgia and the American Society of Training and Development; and talking with friends and employees who keep up with the latest innovations.

“Remember when you were young and you did impossible things because you didn’t know you couldn’t do them? Adopt an attitude that change is interesting and remember that, as long as you’re learning, you’re still young,” he said.

You also can deduct nonreimbursable business expenses — such as training classes and professional meetings — on your taxes.

5, Not asking for choice assignments to receive good exposure in your company

“People think that, when they volunteer for choice assignments, that it looks self-

serving or that it will be more work or that they won’t have enough time to do it,” Mulling said. “If you don’t take on choice assignments, you lose the opportunity to make a difference and look good.”

Even if it doesn’t work out as planned, people admire initiative and courage to take on a challenge. “Those assignments pay off in the long run,” he said.

6. Not receiving proper credit for your work accomplishments

“People in a job interview [or review session] often don’t take proper credit for what they’ve accomplished,” Rodkin said. “Women, especially, tend to shy away from bragging. It’s not bragging to explain your achievements, and, if you don’t, you are never going to move ahead.”

If your team had a success, claim your unique part in it.

“It doesn’t hurt to write your boss periodic notes outlining all you’ve done toward a goal,” she added. “If you aren’t given a 90-day review after hiring, create your own and show your progress.”

7. Not showing your employer your value to the bottom line

“It’s a free-agent economy, and your job is valued by whether it adds value or increases the bottom line. Today, companies are ruthless about their bottom lines,” said Craig Allen, creator of the radio show “Career Doctors” — formerly on WGKA-AM (920) — who has 20 years of experience as a senior strategic marketing executive for companies such as Disney, Time Warner, Citibank and General Motors. “Even if you’re in a department or role that is not on the front line of revenue generation, you can have a financial impact on the company.”

For example, a human resources manager can use industry norms and statistics to show how he or she effectively has used recruiting dollars, saved money on benefits, cut turnover costs or increased productivity through good training programs, Allen said.

8. Putting too much emphasis on your performance

“The fact that you need to do a great job to get ahead is a given, but it’s just as important that you do a good job of gaining exposure for what you do,” Mulling said. “It’s not always the best performer, technically, who gets promoted. It’s often the person with the best exposure. That’s not fair, but it’s the real world.”

You may be an excellent worker but need to improve your marketing, people or teamwork skills.

9. Not understanding the value of your reputation and positive exposure with your employer

“If you don’t have a good reputation with the company, you won’t be given the choice assignments or invited to the right meetings,” Mulling said.

If you want to survive and see new opportunities, “think of yourself as an independent contractor,” Allen said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t be loyal to the company, but you are a brand. You need to know what you stand for and what skills and accomplishments make you uniquely different, and [you need to] be able to speak about them.”

One way to enhance your reputation is to get involved with professional organizations that allow you to grow your network, stay aware of new trends and increase your knowledge base.

“You are working for you. If you learn to manage your career with confidence, you can add value anywhere you work,” Allen said.

10. Not maintaining work/life balance

The old adage about all work and no play making Jack a dull boy holds true, Mulling said.

“You need to have balance in your life if you want to be more effective at work,” he said.


5 Steps to Say ‘No’ (With Kindness)

In Pre/Post Employment Services on January 20, 2010 at 9:46 am

You know that little project you agreed to complete because your boss said it would only take a minute? Or the lengthy phone call with your friend who only rings when she is in crisis (again)? How about the two-hour community car wash that took nine months to organize? Welcome to Time Vampire Central — where non-mandatory activities suck you dry.

Believe it or not there is indeed a silver bullet for the time vampires in your life. It is the tiniest complete sentence in the English language. With a little practice, the simplest, most powerful utterance in our fabulous system of words can be yours. Are you ready? Say it with me now.


Saying “no” is not easy, especially for women who are conditioned to accommodate everyone else’s needs before their own. But we are modern, savvy individuals who know that setting boundaries is the key to our success. “No” is a part of establishing those limits so we have room to breathe and achieve.

If you are ready to release the time vampires from your life, the following process will help them bite the bullet once and for all.

1. Acknowledge. If someone asks you to do something, it is because they have faith you can do it or they like you enough to want to spend their time with you. If spearheading a new project or attending that party makes your heart sink instead of sing, first acknowledge the person’s thoughtfulness for having considered you.

2. Express gratitude and interest. Thank the person for his or her invitation, then show interest in the project itself. Ask questions pertaining to the person’s request. Most often, people just want to feel important enough for you to listen.

3. Decline. Once you have acknowledged the person’s request and expressed your gratitude for the consideration, politely decline with a few simple words. If “no” itself is too hard, you can say you have an overlapping commitment.

4. Offer alternatives. If someone remains persistent in pursuing his or her request, offer up alternatives. Be careful not to get too involved in brainstorming new ideas or you might find yourself sucked into the project after all.

 5. Remember this: If you still struggle with declining people’s requests, stick a note on your mirror that reminds you that saying “no” to someone else is actually saying “yes” to yourself. Repeat it like a mantra until it becomes second nature. And if that doesn’t work, tell yourself that “no” is indeed a complete sentence. It really is.

You needn’t make excuses when someone asks you to do something you’d rather not. Consider a few simple sentences such as “It sounds like a wonderful opportunity that I am going to miss. Do keep me posted on your progress!” Or “I look forward to hearing all about it. To your success!” You can also say “no” without uttering the word at all. Letting that call go to voicemail or answering non-urgent e-mails the next day is another way of letting the world know you are simply not available at the moment.

Saying “no” is a lot like flossing. You may not notice an immediate impact, but, over time, you will appreciate the difference it can make in your life. With the “Power of No” by your side, the time vampires suck from your life will recede into the darkness from whence they came, and you will have liberated your personal bank account of time for what matters most.

10 Ways to Schmooze Your Way to Success

In Pre/Post Employment Services on January 19, 2010 at 10:07 am

Everybody knows that in this day and age, it’s not always about what you know, it’s who you know. During trying economic times like these, the key to landing your dream job is to stand out from the competition by showcasing both your talent and personality. 

For a quick and painless networking experience, follow a few tips that will help you leave a lasting impression:

1. A handshake can make or break a first impression, so practice, practice, practice! Demonstrate your self-confidence and genuine interest by executing a firm shake. 

2. Don’t be shy! Attend events related to the industry that you’re interested in and mingle. Whether you’re waiting in line at the coat check or sitting up at the bar, you just never know who you might meet.

3. While chatting it up with people you’ve just met, be sure to talk about topics other than the industry you’re trying to break into. Listen and ask questions. It’s important to showcase your personality, and who knows, maybe you’ll find out that you share common interests!

4. Don’t be too pushy. When meeting someone new, don’t simply shove your resume at them. Everyone knows you’re talented, so establish a friendship first. After all, no one likes to feel as though they’re being used. 

5. When attending events, don’t forget to ask for a person’s business card or contact information at the end of a conversation. People love to know that others are interested in what they do, so chances are, they would love to continue talking with you, even if it’s just via email.

6. That being said, be ready to hand out a business card of your own! Some may think that business cards are outdated, but it’s a lot easier to remember to contact someone with a concrete reminder sitting in a coat pocket.

7. Stop apologizing. Too often, inexperienced networkers tend to apologize to those they’re reaching out to. If you don’t think you’re worth their time, why would they? And more importantly, networking doesn’t have to be a burden…just think of it as building new relationships!

8. People receive tons of emails each day, so it’s easy to miss one. To make a more lasting (and tangible!) impression, send a handwritten note when saying “thank you.” Even if it’s a coffee date with a friend of a friend, a handwritten note adds a personal touch as you thank someone for their time.

9. Follow up. Again, potential employers meet new people every day, so it’s important to stay on their radar by sending an email or making a call every few months. Just started a new internship? Finished an awesome class project? Let them know! It shows them you’re gaining experience and reminds them that you’re out there. 

10. And finally, take a risk. Many people fear networking because they’re afraid they’ll be rejected. Such a fear will prevent you from meeting interesting (and interested!) people.

7 Digital Job-Hunting Mistakes

In Pre/Post Employment Services on January 11, 2010 at 12:01 pm

As if job hunting wasn’t hard enough already, the Internet has added a few new twists to the process. Specifically, there are now more ways to shoot yourself in the foot. Beware of these digital faux pas:

Not having an electronic version of your résumé. Savvy job hunters go a step further and put their résumés in PDF format. These look more professional and they can’t be altered.

A silly E-mail address. If your E-mail is something like “ilovekittycats,” you’ll appear unserious and unprofessional. ( Also, did you know some hiring managers say an AOL account makes you look out of touch? It’s true.)

Not being on LinkedIn (or whatever networking sites relevant to your field), not keeping your profile current, and not having two or three good recommendations.

Incriminating photos or information on Facebook/MySpace/etc. Guarantee: Potential employers are going to Google you. Clean up your online rep!

Same goes for Twitter or your blog. Refrain from snarking about your current or former boss. Never write anything that makes you look dishonest, unintelligent, or crazy.

Sending E-mail blasts. No one likes getting anonymous mass E-mails, including HR managers.

Exclusively relying on online job-listings. Make the six-degrees-of-separation idea work for you and identify jobs before they’re advertised. And then be the only applicant.

Meanwhile, the basics of job-hunting remain the same: network like mad, treat your job search like a job, always send a thank-you note.