8 Productivity and Organization Tips for Your Work Day

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8 Productivity and Organization Tips for Your Work Day

8 Productivity and Organization Tips for Your Work Day

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Getting through the day is tough sometimes. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but a lot of that is up to how we as humans naturally function as multitaskers (not very well) in a world that completely requires it of us.

Below, you’ll find eight handy tips on organization that’ll help your productivity skyrocket. 

Write it Down

Writing things down is not only practical because it creates a physical record of things you can’t readily remember, but it also helps you manage the flow of incoming information throughout the day by ingraining key points into your mind.

Once you write something down, or draw it, or plot it out on paper, your mental focus will increase, and you’ll have additional ways and means of tackling your problems.

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Give Everything a Home

If you give your daily items a permanent home, you’ll lose track of things far less often. Gone will be the days of losing your keys if you make a habit of always putting them in the bowl on the kitchen counter.

This will help to enforce a positive routine, and it will help you cut back on time spent searching for items, as well as the stress that comes along with that.

Declutter Your Workspace

Someone once said “a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind” -- that couldn’t be farther from the truth! It’s good office humor, though.

A cluttered workspace is oft thought of as a precursor to a cluttered mind. It’s not just a proverb, either -- your brain is constantly processing sensory information. Think of the way the memory in your computer works. The more memory your computer uses to process something, the less it has available for other tasks.

Your brain works much the same. If it’s always processing images, colors, textures, sounds, emails, and all other forms of clutter in front of you, it won’t have the power to tend to other functions without inducing stress. A clean workspace and home equals a clean mind.

Work Hard

There’s no better way to make an impact on your to-do list than to simply do them, right? Right! Sometimes, the key to organizing our work lives and our home lives is to get the extras off our plates.

Plow through work or appointments that have built up -- or are threatening to -- and you’ll have less items and metrics to track. Besides, more work will be in the “done” pile than in your “to-do” pile, which will take a mental load off. Try it next time you’re in a lull!

Make a List

Memory is a fickle thing, and humans aren’t the best at multitasking. Making a list of your daily goals can be a great way to keep yourself on track, as well as prioritize what needs to be done.

To-do’s, upcoming events, and a ledger for the day are ideal things to keep track of.  We like to use Any.do https://www.any.do/  to keep things in order around here.

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Have a Launch Pad

In a sense, our morning routines are little more than a warmup for the rest of the day. They get us tuned up, ready, and able to handle whatever’s in front of us. But, as we all know, mornings can be stressful, and the hustle to get your ducks in a row pre-caffeine can be an unforgiving one.

That’s where a launch pad can come in handy. It can be a foyer, a table, a space near the front door or in the kitchen -- you name it. All you need to focus on is creating an area that’s solely dedicated to getting you out into the world in good shape. Maybe a fresh gym bag, umbrella, and everything needed for a car trip can live here.

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Prepare the Night Before

We spend a lot of our mental energy and focus in the mornings. Preparing breakfast, clothes, and hygiene for the day can take up a lot of time and create quite the scramble -- particularly if you don’t prepare.

You can stay more organized and focused throughout the day by spending a bit of time the night before preparing. Preparing what? Anything. Your clothes, food, items needed for work, etc.

Routines

You might think that a routine could hamper your progress -- stifling your daily rhythm. Some folks do have routines that are counterproductive, but used properly, they’re one of the best organizational tools available to you.

It’s probable that you already have a routine in the morning. Most of us jet for the coffee pot (and we do mean jet), grab a shower, get dressed, and out the door. That routine helps you tackle your entire day.

Try making a routine out of other things, as well. Maybe a quick five minute cleanup of your office, or a few minutes spent squaring away your emails at the end of every day. Try adding a small workout at some throughout the day. Stick with your routine for maximum effect, and you’ll get more done, and your laundry list of chores and tasks will feel more automatic.

 

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First Impressions and 5 Ways to Leave a Great One During a Job Interview

Three, two, one. That’s all it took for anyone who may have glanced your way while you were reading that sentence to form an opinion about you. Human beings identify things quickly, and friend-or-foe is only the tip of the iceberg.

In a short, snappy three seconds, people calculate opinions about others based on their physical appearance, their clothes, posture, body language, mannerisms, and demeanor. It’s often subconscious, but we as people read each other faster than we could ever hope to read a book.

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There’s an old platitude out in the wild that states, “the first impression is everlasting.” The implication therein is that first impressions, while fleeting, tell a person almost all the information they’re going to ever use in forming an opinion.

It might sound counterintuitive, as I’m sure we’re all currently friends with someone who didn’t rub us the right way upon first meeting them. But on the flipside -- how many people seemed interesting or friendly when you met them, only to end up worth avoiding? We’ve all been there, too, I’m sure of it.

You and I don’t count as evidence, though, so thankfully Harvard Business School professor, Amy Cuddy, along with fellow psychologists Peter Glick, and Susan Fiske conducted a study on this very matter.

Not only did they conclude that the brain renders judgements in a flat two or three seconds when forming its first impressions, but it really only acts on two criteria: the likelihood of trusting someone, and the likelihood of respecting someone.

That’s all, during a first impression, the brain is interested in figuring out.

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That means worlds to anyone involved in conducting or participating in job interviews. Applicants seeking a position within a given company would do well to leave a first impression with their interviewer in order to increase the odds of landing their dream job -- and they have to be perfect for three seconds.

The formation of a first impression is a small, fleeting moment in time, but it matters more than the rest of the interview. If you’re meeting someone for 45 minutes, then 44 minutes and 57 seconds of that time takes a backseat to the first 3 seconds.

On the flip side, employers who really want to impress a candidate know that they’re representing the company with their eyes on a prospective employee as a prize. Obviously, the interviewer would do well to avoid spilling their coffee on the floor upon walking in and screaming “son of a bitch!” This could scare away a well-to-do dream employee.

Sounds like a risky notion to put your chips behind, but it’s true. A good first impression is way more important than nearly anything on your resume, and as a job seeker, you’d do well to focus on nailing this true critical component of your interview.

Don’t get nervous, though. We make first impressions all the time, whether we want to or not. Your interviewer would form an impression on you if you passed one another in the hallway. You form these impressions of the cashiers who check you out. By the time you’ve subconsciously done so, they have, too. It’s natural, so you may as well get it over with, and not lose sight of the ultimate prize -- becoming a member of your dream team!

Here are some of our favorite, and proven tips to helping your interviewer form a positive first impression of you. You’ve always heard about employers and managers looking for someone who “jumps off the page” -- here’s how you do it!

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(Side note - It occurred to us that you could take a shortcut and pay someone clumsy to trip in front of you and your interviewer, so the heroism of you helping them up would impact their impression of you, but we explicitly recommend avoiding paying people to take falls. It could get messy, and Pieter has tried it at least twice as a workplace motivation tactic. None of us have changed our impressions of him, so.)

 

1.     Be on Time

We hesitate to start somewhere so obvious, but maybe it isn’t -- you have to show up on time! It boggles the mind to see how many interviewees, who by definition, are there to impress the interviewer in order to join their ranks, make this critical mistake.

Being late to a job interview brings up all sorts of red flags. Off the top of my head, it tells the interviewer that you gaffed on a situation that you (likely) had adequate time and resources to prepare for. Many interviews are scheduled roughly one week or more in advance, so tardiness here is really looked at as a big no-no.

Consider how it might reflect on your reliability and performance on the job, should you be offered a position. If you were late to your interview, what’s telling the interviewer you won’t show up to the job late?

That wastes time, and money. Businesses don’t like employees who waste time and money.

 

2.     Be Yourself

This applies to interviews, but every other aspect of life, too. It’s very scalable.

As far as interviews are concerned, being yourself goes a long way. First, consider that the person(s) interviewing you aren’t at their first rodeo -- it’s likely they’ve met, and will continue to meet, hundreds of people.

Surely, the Secret Service is even better at it, but your average recruiter is quite good at ascertaining whether or not someone is being authentic, is nervous, lying, telling the truth, excited, confident, or hiding something.

Putting on a front is natural -- really, it is. We all assume certain defensive mechanisms in order to protect ourselves from embarrassment, failure, or other pains. The simplest example might be falling off your bike. WHAM! Your knee is in excruciating pain. Your colleagues come to a skidding halt next to you to see if you’re alright. They’re worried, but giggling.

“Are you alright?” They ask.

“I’m totally fine,” you reply, in agony, mounting your bike like nothing happened. “Let’s hurry on.”

That’s called putting on a front, and every human being in the world is guilty of it. It’s very natural.

However, you have to ditch it during an interview. You have to be yourself, which is for the benefit of yourself, and the company. If you’re not acting like yourself, then the person whose interests and personality you’re assuming might land the job, making the real you miserable in the long run.

The company would suffer, too. If they hire someone who seems like they thoroughly enjoy the job, but only thought so because the interviewee put on a convincing front just to do the job, they’d have an unsatisfactory employee on their hands -- not to mention the likely hiring and training costs of finding their replacement later on down the line.

If you’re sold by the pragmatism of doing something, then being yourself is more time and more money for everyone.

Being yourself will allow you to better judge whether or not the position would be right for you. It’ll also help you to avoid setting off any red flags in the minds of your interviewers.

 

3.     Dress Sharp

“Dress for the job you want.” This is one of those platitudes of the working world that really do seem to work. It’s a bit misunderstood, though. It doesn’t mean you should wear, say, an apron to a job interview at a restaurant. It really means that you should dress for upward mobility -- like you care about your appearance, and about advancing in the world.

In an example, let’s say two twin sisters are interviewing for one open position at a company. Let’s say they’re broadly the same in every appreciable category -- perceived intelligence, knowledge about the company, and body language. Now, imagine they give near-identical interviews that earned them near-equal consideration.

Imagine that the first of these twins interviewed wearing business-professional attire, and seemed as if her appearance was of utmost concern. All other things being equal, this personal would seem caring, and conscience of the environment. This is a person that would appear professional in the eyes of an interviewer.

Now, finally, imagine the second of the twins interviewed in her sweatpants and college hoodie, with unkempt hair that looked like Albert Einstein’s. All other things being equal, this person might seem uncaring, or content to wear what’s comfortable for them, and not what’s best for the business. In a business environment, this could be a liability, so the better-dressed applicant would probably get more preference than the sister who seems lazy or uncaring.

You don’t have to dress like the Great Gatsby, but taking a clear interest in your appearance shows that you are an astute individual who has the ability to maintain things on a regular basis. Dressing well shows that you have plans for your future, a penchant for quality, and an air of professionalism about you that companies everywhere are looking for.

 

4.     Let the Interviewer Talk First

This is a tough one to talk about, because it’s not exactly an empirical subject. What I mean by that is that there’s a lot of flex in what recruiters think about this particular topic. Some will call this spot-on, while other recruiters may see ways around it or see no need for it at all. To each their own!

While the onus is on you to impress your interviewer and make yourself seem like an ideal fit for the company, the interviewer is essentially running the show -- a show that’s been outlined, blueprinted, choreographed, and field-tested umpteen times. He or she is there to steer the ship, if they’re doing things right.

So, don’t attempt to take control of a room -- that’s probably a given. Don’t surrender too much airtime, either. Another given. Find a nice balance, starting with letting your interview talk first, which allows them to set the tone, and to lay out information for you.

This is purely anecdotal (meaning it’s based on my experience and not any studies), getting the interviewer to talk a little extra in the beginning of an interview couldn’t hurt, and provides a great opportunity for laughing over a joke, or making some all-important non-awkward smalltalk. To do this, you could ask them to elaborate on a few of their initial points, ask a question or two, or if you’ve got a silver tongue, talk about the day’s news. Be brief, as this is just the kickoff phase of your interview, but you can score lots of points vis-a-vis confidence, professionalism, and tact by acting the part, and letting the interviewer lead you where they want to take you

 

5.     Be Confident, Comfortable, and at Ease

Not everybody is confident, especially during an interview -- cut them some slack! Confidence is hard, for many, to come by. Since we’ve already taken comfort in a platitude in this piece, we’ll do so again. “Fake it until you make it” works a lot better than you’d ever thing.

Now, “hold up,” you’re probably thinking. “Didn’t you just tell us to be ourselves?”

I sure did, and you must. It’s always imperative that you be yourself in an interview. What if you go into one, put on a facade, and day 1 of the job because miserable and impractical for all involved? Don’t waste time and money. Find a good fit for yourself, and that always starts with being yourself.

On the other hand, it’s as I said: confidence comes hard to a lot of people. Looking others in the eye, which is normal, easy, and assumed of many, is completely impossible for some. You know how some people have no problem approaching the opposite sex at, say, a bar? For every one of those people you see, there are two outside getting physically sick on the sidewalk over the notion of meeting strangers.

It’s common. No, there’s nothing wrong with these people. Humans come in many flavors, and confident isn’t always one. 

It’s uncomfortable for me to say, therefore, that confidence is something of a requirement in job interviews. It’s the job of an interviewer to determine whether or not an applicant would be a good fit for a company. Their (the prospective employee’s) job duties could include stepping up, or being a leader of some kind. It’s imperative that employees are happy, love being challenged, and feel good about overcoming problems.

Someone who isn’t confident may not check a lot of boxes an interviewer hopes to check off during an interview. If a company is seeking a manager, then a timid, demure individual who looks at the floor and speaks softly is automatically going to be a bad candidate for the job -- no matter their qualifications.

However, if someone is boastful, confident, and acts as if there’d be nothing easier and more fun than performing the duties of the job, they’ll likely stand out in the recruiter’s eyes.

Don’t fake it, like the platitude says. These people (recruiters) are literally trained to recognize lies, and break through people’s fronts in order to eliminate potentially bad hires. Be yourself, but be the best, most confident version of yourself that you can be.

If you need a boost, as many people do, ask your friends and family for lots of luck before the interview. Just knowing they’re behind you might give you a small, well-timed boost of bravado.

 

6.     No Phones! 

Another one you’d think would be obvious, but you’d be just as wrong as us. Most people agree that letting your phone ring in a movie theatre is rude, so it stands to reason that people would have the same ideas about letting one ring during a job interview.

This doesn’t seem to be as clear-cut as it should be. We’ve conducted -- sincerely -- hundreds of interviews with applicants whose phones rang or trumpeted notifications while meeting with them. Worse yet, we’ve had a few interviews where applicants have used their time in between answering questions to answer texts.

There should only be emergency reasons for keeping your phone on during an interview, and if you’re expecting one, or feel you may need to take an emergency call during your interview, you should be upfront with the hiring personnel. They’ll likely be more than accommodating, especially if you tell them in advance.

In all other cases, we highly recommend totally forgetting about your phone during, and before, an interview. It has no place in an interview, and can only serve to be a distraction in an environment where appearing professional is the name of the game.

 

7.     Actively Listen, Don’t Passively Talk

There’s a key, yet easily-digestible difference between active listening, and passive talking. Active listening is when you’re hanging onto someone else’s words -- you’re not thinking of your response mid-sentence, or letting your mind wander. If you’re focused on one thing, it’s the image someone is painting you with their words. When people are actively listening, they’re being empathetic, and are considering what someone is telling them.

Passively talking, on the other hand, is when others’ conversation serves as little more than time for you to catch your breath and plan out what to say (about yourself) next. It sounds devious, but it’s human nature, and it takes a little focus to master this. It pays dividends, though -- people can absolutely tell whether or not someone is listening to them, or taking in the words haphazardly.

Consider an example. Let’s say a friend comes to you in need of help, and says, “Hey, my tire popped on the way home from work. I went to change it to the spare, and then I realized we took it out a few weeks ago to make room. So I decided to call AAA but my cell died as soon as I tried to call. It was a seriously awful day.”

Also consider the concept of active listening. An active listener would not interrupt, and would not gloss over the frustration that the imaginary friend (with three wheels) is trying to convey. Instead, they would listen intently, and attempt to achieve the most amount of information and value from the conversation as possible. They’re participating, and building trust.

On the other hand, consider passively talking. Passively talking would more closely represent a situation where your friend came to you, and right about when they hit the words “tire popped,” you’d zone off thinking about a time when your tire popped that was much more interesting, and would fade in and out of the conversation until you found an opportunity to tell them about it. You might not hear about their battery dying.

If you’re not actively listening, and instead, are just waiting for opportunities to talk, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

 

8.     Body Language is Everything! 

There’s a lot more to language than simply talking. We communicate with our bodies, too. Simple example? Your eyebrows. They’re incredibly expressive, and even without words (see: mimes), they can convey a lot of information about how we’re feeling.

Also on that list? Not to freak you out, but to name a few: your eyes, your eyebrows, your lips, your cheeks, your shoulders, your chest, your arms, and your legs all communicate information to the people around you. It’s true: people sitting next to a stranger or someone they don’t like are far more likely to “block” that person out by crossing the leg nearest them.

The next time you have Thanksgiving dinner and have all your in-laws seated to your right, see how often you cross your right leg over your other one. It’s very, very common!

In your interview, it’s important to use positive, confident body language. Rolling your eyes or showing disinterest or “wearing your emotions” can bite you if you have negative thoughts. It’s best to present a bold, confident, curious, interested individual, albeit an honest and true-to-self one.

Do your best to make sure you have good body language for an interview. This can be your posture, the way you take a chair, or how expressive you are with your hands. Keeping them in your pocket the whole time might be a red flag, for example.

 

Closing Thoughts

We’ve went over 8 tips to nailing your interview, and making a rockin’ first impression on your interviewers. It’s just as applicable everywhere else, too. First impressions are fleeting -- it only takes us three seconds to form one. It takes a lifetime to change one.

That’s why it’s so important to leave a great one during a job interview.

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Thoughts on Halloween Style

Is it appropriate to dress up for the holiday?

Halloween is a time when even working adults want to bring out their inner child.  Whether that means binging on snack size candy, picking pumpkins, or dressing up in costume.  Even though it is a festive time, it does not mean that it is time to neglect the office dress code. 

The office dress code is something to keep in mind every day before you leave for work as it is something that most companies have a written policy on.  Holiday dressing on the other hand is something that is not usually written out in black and white, but there are definitely some key things to keep in mind if you are going to partake.

 

1.      Ask your supervisor what their policy is on dressing up

This may seem obvious, but it is something that can easily be forgotten when making holiday plans.  Ask your supervisor what their policy is on dressing up for the holiday and be prepared to respect his or her decision.  If you feel your supervisor has given you an answer that is not concrete in either direction, you can ask a few coworkers in your department what the usual protocol has been.

  

2.      Make sure to have the usual office dress code in mind

Even though the trend outside of work may be to make everything extra provocative for Halloween, this does not mean it is ok to wear the same style of outfit to work.  If the typical office dress code is business casual, for example, try to model an outfit around that guideline.  

 

3.      Keep the costume neutral.

Do not consider a costume that could be seen as playing on racial, religious or ethnic stereotypes.  Same goes for costumes that touch on hot button issues such as the orange jumpsuit costume with “Illegal Alien” in the name section.  You do not want to offend anyone at work inadvertently because you decided to dress as something that could be seen as offensive.  On a similar note, just because no one at your job may find it offensive still does not mean it is a green light to wear it.  As we know from years and years of internet horror stories, pictures live forever on the internet and that picture Sally took of you could end up resurfacing next time you are on the job market. 

 

4.      Don’t dress in a way that can impede your ability to do your job.

 If your job responsibilities include answering the phone, it is probably not the best idea to wear a mask.  If safety requirements include that you wear closed toed shoes, it is probably not the best idea to be a Grecian god/goddess and wear sandals.  You get the idea.  Even though it may be a holiday, that does not mean that is an excuse to not get any work done that day.  In general, if it makes it hard for you to talk, hear, type, or affects your safety, it is probably not the best choice to wear for work.

 

5.      If in doubt, consider an alternative way to celebrate.

At a risk of sounding like the Ebenezer Scrooge of Halloween, if you are not sure of what would be appropriate don’t dress up.  Instead consider an alternate way to express your love of the holiday without dressing up.  You could get a fun holiday candy container to put on your desk and fill with mini candies for example.  Another option to consider could be getting a few small desk accessories to add some festive flair such as small gourds or figurines.  

  

If you keep these rules in mind, your office Halloween should go by without a hitch!

 

Happy Halloween!

 

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When is the Perfect Time to Switch Jobs?

Changing jobs is scary, we see and hear it from people every single day. That feeling is often magnified when you have been at the same company for a number of years and have grown comfortable. So how do you know when it’s the right time to make a change? How do you know that it’s the right time to quiet those nerves and take the leap?

There is never a “perfect” time. It will always be slightly risky, and there will always be a small fear of the unknown, but that should never hold you back from going after what you want. And while there may not be a perfect time, there are a handful of times that are better than others when it comes to saying goodbye to your current company. Here are the times we suggest you start looking at your options.

1.       You’ve been at your company for over a decade

You’ve put in good work, and maybe you’ve even climbed a few rungs on the corporate ladder. You should feel proud that you’ve been able to chalk up so many years to the same company, but doing the same thing in the same office year after year will eventually cause you to get complacent. Starting at a new company can help you find that inner spark, and you will be able to bring that decade worth of knowledge to a new crew.

2.       You just finished a big project, and it was a huge success

Ride that wave all the way to your new offices. Whatever the project you recently finished was, it will give you fuel and talking points in your upcoming interviews. The challenges and achievements will be fresh in your mind, and you’ll have that little extra boost of confidence. Plus, finishing a big project often leaves you with a little extra time throughout your day, which makes it that much easier to slip out to an interview.

3.       After your bonus

If you have a bonus sitting on the table, stay put. There is no reason to walk away from a big check that you’ve already been promised (unless your new company is willing to match that as a signing bonus). Additionally, if you end up having a few weeks between positions you have a nice padding to keep the stress from building up and allowing you to truly enjoy that short time off.

4.       After a vacation

You’re relaxed, you’re in a good state of mind, and you just used up your vacation time. This allows you to go into your new job with no vacations planned, which means you won’t have to have that awkward talk telling your future boss you need a week off on your third week there. Plus, your batteries will be fully charged and ready after a little R&R, allowing you to go into your new place of work ready to make things happen.

5.       You’re being underpaid

You recently did some market research and realize you’re making far less than you’re worth. Start looking immediately, even if you absolutely love your job, chances are you’re there to make money. Go where they are going to pay you what you deserve.

6.       You and your company don’t see eye-to-eye

Maybe you want to be with a company that is innovative and always looking to the future, but you’re stuck in a company that has the “it’s always been done this way” mentality. This can be like a cancer for the creative types. Lucky for you, there are plenty of companies out there who want to grow and evolve with the times. Align yourself with one of these companies and your work day will be that much better.

7.       Your skills aren’t being utilized

This can go with number 6 to an extent. Maybe you have skills that aren’t being used because they are newer technologies that the company hasn’t implemented yet (or never will). Getting your manager to see where you’re coming from can be like pulling teeth and you might be better off looking for a company that can see your skills and potential and are ready to put them to use day one.

8.       You aren’t being challenged

No one wants to do mind-numbing work, and if you’re finding yourself in this situation it’s time to move on to bigger and better. Look for a company that is working on projects that excite you, and keep interviewing until you’re a part of one of them.

9.       You and your boss are butting heads

This shouldn’t cause you to run for the hills immediately, but if you’ve taken steps to solve the problem and it continues to be unbearable then it’s time to seek new employment. If you’re being yelled at on a daily basis, and not being heard simply because of your title and not based on the competency of your ideas then it’s time to give that two weeks’ notice.

10.   The career path has come to an end

Keep getting looked over when it’s promotion time? Continually getting denied the raise you know you deserve? See ya! Sometimes the easiest way to get a promotion is to get it elsewhere, so get it.

11.   Opportunity is knocking

The biggest mistake you can make in your professional career is not seizing an opportunity when it arises. Maybe a friend tells you about an amazing opening at their company, maybe you get a call from a recruiter, whatever it is, take a moment and strongly consider it. Don’t turn down new opportunities simply because you weren’t looking for them. You never know, the next role you take could be the role of a lifetime. 

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Is Working for a Startup as Great as it Sounds?

It has been well documented in the media how exciting and unique employment at a startup can be. The laid back atmosphere, the unorthodox company perks like ping pong tables and company bikes, employee services such as free dry cleaning and childcare, and most importantly, the potential for the big payoff and being on the ground floor of the next global internet phenomenon all feed into the general notion that working for an IT startup may not only be the best career move ever, but also possibly one of the best ever life experiences.

But there are disadvantages and risks to working at a startup. A recent study conducted by Harvard found that 75% of venture capital backed startups ultimately failed.  While it may be a rewarding experience and job, it is not all fun and games more often than not, working for a startup has the potential for a lot of sacrifice with very little payoff.  

For starters, to use an age old expression “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” The company perks such as free food and employee services are there for a reason. Companies provide these “perks” because they want to keep their employees at their desks rather than having to leave work for lunch or errands. More time at work and less external distractions, leads to more productivity as the thinking goes.

Working more is a common theme at startups. You will not be working a 40-hour week. According to a survey from Tech.co startup employees work 50-80 hours per week in the office, depending on workflow, plus additional time at home.  Employees with a busy life often find the adjustment to startup work culture difficult.

The long hours are due in part to the need to develop and grow the company as well as the “do what is needed” mentality when it comes to your job. In a more established company employees have very defined job requirements. Developers develop. Administrative assistants administer. But in a startup environment the line between jobs and duties become a bit of a blur. The environment is smaller and employees are expected to pitch in anywhere and everywhere. The internet is full of message boards for startup IT employees lamenting about having to clean the staff kitchen or mail letters for their bosses.

And all of these extra hours and job duties do not necessarily lead to extra pay. Startups are usually dependent on external funding until they begin to generate revenue on a large scale. In order to attract and retain quality IT talent, the management of startups often give employees stock in the company. If the company goes public or is bought out like Instagram was by Facebook, then the employees are in for a huge payday. But if the company fails or never hits the big time, then the stock options and the work time they represent, are essentially worthless.

Even worse, sometimes as a startup grows, the owners give out more stock to potential investors or additional employees, or themselves, thus diluting the value of the original stock given to employees.

None of these arguments are meant to dissuade people from working in startups. Some startups will become the next Google or Twitter. And the experience of working in one, no matter how successful, will leave a lasting impact on someone’s professional development. But in this day and age where startups have an aura around them, it is important to remember that there can be a downside as well. 

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How to Land the Interview

So you’ve already spruced up your resume, updated your LinkedIn, and started putting out feelers to see what’s on the market. But how do you get from submitting your resume to actually landing the first round interview? Well, we’d love to help you with that.

The Recruiter

Does the job you’re applying for have a recruiter assisting in the hiring process? If so, they are your new best friend.

Recruiters have a big say as to whether or not you get in the hands of a hiring manager, and a good recruiter will get to truly know you, not just your resume. This is your time to shine. If you can find out the name and contact info of a recruiter on the role, reach out! But don’t overdo it. Let them know you’re interested and that you’d love a chance to speak with them. Don’t be pushy, but email them 100 times, but give them a heads up that you’re out there. You reaching out to them shows them you’re a serious candidate, in turn, they will take you more seriously.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who has a recruiter reach out to you, be nice! We have a lot of applicants who want to bypass the recruiter and get in front of a hiring manager immediately. While that would be ideal, it probably won’t happen. Telling a recruiter to “just submit me to the hiring manager” isn’t going to work. Hiring Managers don’t have time to sit down and look at every resume that pours in from Monster.com—it’s why they have the recruiters do it for them. We understand you’re excited and want to get in the room with the decision makers, but you’re going to have to win over the gatekeeper first.

Following Up

Maybe you’re looking at a smaller company, or one that just doesn’t use recruiters. That doesn’t mean you should just submit your resume, sit back, and hope for the best. Show them you’re passionate (without being annoying) and follow up with the person in charge.

Can you see the job poster on LinkedIn? Send them a quick message letting them know you’re interested.

No job poster? Search LinkedIn for current employees and reach out to someone you’re connected to, someone who know someone you know, or someone who simply seems like they may be the person you’re looking for. Even if they aren’t the right person, there is a good chance they will be able to put you in touch with someone who can help, or set you on a more direct path.

Network, Network, Network!

Having a firsthand recommendation can be the biggest helper in getting you past the application stage to the interview stage. Talk to you friends, old colleagues, friends of friends, whoever you can get to talk to you, and enlist their help! Maybe your friend knows someone at the company you’re trying to get into, and even if they don’t know you personally, they likely wouldn’t mind that referral bonus most companies give out. You never know who will help you until you ask.

So, if you’re ready for your next step in your career—be proactive, and get moving! 

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How to Ask for a Raise

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As the calendar turns over to a new year many employees turn their attention to their jobs and more importantly, their salaries. With companies beginning their new budgets and often having extra money, now is the time when many people decide to bring up the dreaded question of a raise.

Asking for more money from your employer can be nerve wracking and often a treacherous navigation through dangerous waters, but if done properly it can be extremely rewarding in the financial sense. Here are some basic tips to succeed (and survive) the request process.

Know your worth

Employers like numbers and data, not ideological arguments like “ I am the heart and soul of the team.”  When asking for a raise, come prepared with data on how much revenue you have brought in or money saved, or how many positive changes you have brought about in the company.  Your goal is to re-sell yourself to the company.

Choose the right moment

Money is always a sensitive issue. You will want to approach your supervisor at the right time to ask for more money in your paycheck. So avoid asking in the staff kitchen or in an informal moment. Find a less busy time of the day or week and ask your supervisor if you can meet with them.  When the time comes for the meeting, if you sense your supervisor is busy or stressed out, ask them if they can meet another time.

Don’t complain or make threats              

Asking for money is a moment when you must above all else be professionally composed. Pointing out that you have not had a raise in X amount of months/years or that other people had larger or more frequent raises are bad strategies. Additionally, saying that you have other job offers or companies on the table that will pay more is a quick way to get yourself sacked.

Avoid sob stories

All supervisors are human beings and have a heart (as hard as they may seem to believe at times), but again, this is a professional setting and conversation. Avoid stories about how many children you have or hardships outside of work.  Instead talk about your accomplishments.

Look to the future

In addition to focusing on your recent accomplishments, talk to your supervisor about your plan for the coming year and how you fit into the company’s future. What new responsibilities do you want? What are your goals? This shows an employer that you are not a mercenary, but rather “in it to win it” with them and therefore worth an increased investment.

Have a Plan B

If you cannot get a raise, propose an alternative form of compensation such as more paid time off or a better healthcare plan.  Of course, the easiest way to get a raise is to find a better paying job.

Hopefully these tips help to make 2016 a more financially rewarding year for you!

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New Year, New You… New Job?

As soon as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve a good portion of the population declares that this will finally be their year. Maybe that means finding a significant other, reconnecting with old friends, dropping a few inches from their waistline, or, as studies show, make it a point to find a new job.

So where do you start? What’s the best plan of attack?

January is the biggest month for job seekers. Unfortunately, the number of job openings doesn’t increase at the same rate as the employees looking to jump ship and head for greener pastures. So how do you make sure your chances are better than everyone else’s?

First, be committed. The perfect opportunity rarely finds you, you have to find it. Be diligent in your searches and check the job boards regularly. Finding a new job can be a fulltime job in itself. Treat it that way.

Second, network, network, network. Talk to hiring managers, talk to friends of friends in careers you’re interested in, make recruiters your best friend, basically, make it a point to chat with anyone who can give you any advice or direction. This can open doors you never even knew were closed, and getting on the right persons good side may end up landing you a role down the road somewhere.

Lastly, don’t feel defeated. Searching for jobs can be a long, extremely drawn out process, and the feeling of defeat can make it easy to throw in the towel. Don’t.  The right job will come sooner or later; you just have to believe it.

In the meantime, stack the odds in your favor with a team of recruiters who will fight for you from start to finish. Those recruiters are here at RedStream. Check out our About Us section and give one of our amazing recruiters a call and your 2016 will only get better. 

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Interview Disasters, and How to Avoid Them

In our line of work we encounter a lot of amazingly talented individuals. We have seen candidates who were so strong and impressive that they got the job after one short telephone interview.  Unfortunately in our time doing recruiting we have also encountered some interview situations that look like they are straight out of "Office Space". Below are some real life interview mishaps we encountered along with some advice on how to avoid them.

 

Incident: A candidate had a phone interview. He decided to completely blow off the call, and when reached later by RedStream to find out what happened, he told us "I had something else to do."

Advice: If you are no longer interested in taking a job interview, whether it is because you had second thoughts about pursuing the job or you got another job offer, tell the recruiter or interviewer. They will likely not be mad and will probably be grateful that you were professional enough to alert them to your cancellation. Interviewers block off parts of their days for interviews, so if you no-show, that is 30, 60, 90 minutes etc. that they could be doing something else. Completely no-showing guarantees that you will be blacklisted from that company or recruiting firm forever.

 

Incident: A candidate arrived 45 minutes late for a job interview because the subway train they were on encountered massive delays.

Advice:  Either leave as early as possible or take a cab. We always recommend that you give yourself twice as much time as needed to get to the interview. Public transportation is unreliable and often problematic. If it ends up working correctly and you arrive early, just walk around the neighborhood of the interview site or find a quiet spot to review your interview prep notes. But be careful, you don't want to arrive at the office too early…

 

Incident: A candidate arrived 40 minutes early for an interview. The hiring manager had just arrived at the office herself and was in the middle of a meeting with her staff. The early arrival put her in a bit of a bad mood. We can't say for sure if that single handily eliminated the candidate from the job, but it certainly did not help his cause either.

Advice: We recommend arriving 10-15 minutes before your scheduled time. By that time the people who will be interviewing you are either ready for you or are about to be. You never want to be late for an interview, but showing up extremely early is often just as unprofessional.

 

Incident: One candidate interviewing for a Start Up took the work culture there a little too far and showed up for the interview in shorts. He was promptly eliminated from contention for the position.

Advice:  We have all heard the stories about certain Silicon Valley companies eliminating people who dared to wear a suit to an interview and we have our doubts about how true those anecdotes are. Unless the person inviting you for the interview tells you that you don't need to dress up, always come in professional attire. If a company does not hire you solely because you came looking professional for the job interview, you probably don't want to work there anyways.

 

Incident: A candidate kept looking at his phone in the interview.

Advice: TURN IT OFF! This should go without saying, but for some reason we find we need to remind people regularly. Whatever Facebook post your friend made will still be there for you to "Like" after the interview.


Incident: During a phone interview a candidate admitted that he had not been trained properly in the skill set that was most important for this job. On top of that, he started crying.

Advice: Firstly, don't ever get emotional during an interview. Should you be funny? Yes. Professional? Yes. Tearing up? Never.


If there is something you do not know or an area you do not feel strong in try to turn it into a positive. Point out how you have adapted to new work cultures or skill sets in other jobs. Highlight how you are familiar with skills similar to the one that is being focused on in the question. And most importantly, do not throw your previous employer under the bus. That will tell the interviewer that you like to pass blame around and avoid responsibility. Instead of saying that you were not trained properly, re-word that to say that you were not given enough opportunities to learn skill XX and that is why you are now applying for a new job.

A lot of this advice may seem self-explanatory . But interviews can bring out the best (or worst) in people. Here is hoping there are less bad interviews in 2016! 

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Don’t Be a Fake!

It may seem hard to believe, but in today’s ultra-competitive job environment the number of “fake” resumes on the job boards is astounding. For whatever reason, whether it's to cover up a poor work history or to get one’s foot in the door somewhere, people lie on their resumes/CVs and sometimes even forge the entire thing. We like to think that we know a thing or two about how to vet out the fake people from the real ones, so here are the major red flags we look for. 

Listing General Information

One of the easiest ways to determine whether a resume is fake or not is to see if a candidate lists their name and contact details in full. It is understandable why some people may not list a phone number in order to avoid annoying and repetitive calls from recruiters. But not listing your last name, home town, or e-mail address is the fastest way to get your resume reassigned to the dustbin. We want to know who you are, where you are located (for commuting purposes) and how to contact you.

Not Listing Your Previous Employers

Unless you are working for the CIA or MI6, your current/previous employers are not a state secret. Trust us, you are not the first person to work for a popular search engine company or a major hedge fund. Not naming your employers only makes it look like you are hiding something. Recruiters have little time in this fast paced job environment to play guessing games with a candidate.

Not Having a LinkedIn Profile

The fastest way for a recruiter to verify the veracity of your posted resume is to look up your LinkedIn profile. Not having a profile does not necessarily mean your resume will be labelled “fake” but it certainly does not help its cause either. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, get one.

Months AND Years

Another common trait amongst the fake resume crowd is to only list the years they worked at a company. Why people do this is a mystery to us. Saying that you worked somewhere from 2012 - 2013 could mean that you started in December and finished in January, or that you began in January 2012 and finished in December the following year. Two months vs. nearly two years at a company is a huge difference in work experience. So if you want your resume to avoid being overlooked, reacquaint yourself with the Gregorian calendar.

Bolding Keywords

One of the odder traits of fake resumes is to bold keywords. Maybe “Control F” didn’t work for the original creator of fake resumes? Bolding the sections of your resume like “Work Experience” and “Education” are fine. But we can find “Java” and “Agile” without the large bolded font.

Hopefully these tips help you avoid making a fatal resume mistake and keep things looking “real”. 

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How to make your resume stand out

It’s no secret that recruiters look at more resumes in a day than most people will in their lifetime. We’ve seen everything from photos of the applicant and their cat at the top of the page, to enough spelling errors that we can hardly get through the first paragraph.

Don’t let your resume be remembered as a horror story.

When it comes to technical resumes (the kind we see most often) there are key points our talent researchers and recruiters look for. There are also common mistakes that will get your resume thrown out almost immediately.

We’re nice people over here at RedStream, so we figured we’d give you some friendly advice to help make sure your resume finds its place at the top of the pile, and not lost among the masses. Here are our biggest do’s and don’ts:

Use Keywords. You don’t have to be an SEO expert to know that keywords can help get the right eyes on your resume from the start. And while industry jargon and company specific slang may help you seem super cool to your coworkers, odds are no algorithms on Monster.com are using that specific word or phrase when telling recruiters to look your way.

For example, if you’re looking for a technical position, include the specific names of programs you’ve worked with and are familiar with. Use phrases like “mobile”, “iOS”, and “Android” instead of just mentioning one or referencing phone support. Think of how you would be explaining the position to a recruiter in layman terms, and then use those same phrases and keywords in your resume. Having the correct wording will help things standout to recruiters while they scan your resume, and that could make all the difference.

Do Not Use Template Resumes. Sure, resumes can be tricky to write if you aren’t doing it day-in and day-out, and sometimes using a reference can be extremely helpful. Use a guide you find online as simply that, a guide.

Odds are hundreds, if not thousands, of people have used this same template. Follow it too closely and your resume might as well be their resume. We see 100’s of resumes a day with the same exact font, the same exact tables, and the same or similar wording. That doesn’t make you stand out from the pack-- even with the best experience in the world this will land you smack dab in the middle of it.

Be Specific. But not too specific. We want to know what you did in your last job, it matters, and it’s completely relevant. What we don’t want to know via your resume is how you like your coffee in the mornings, or what story Sharron told around the watercooler on your first day. Explain the responsibilities of your job, highlight what makes you a sought-after candidate, and save a little something for the interview.

Take Your Resume Online. This doesn’t just mean throwing a resume up on a job board and crossing your fingers. Take the time to craft your LinkedIn profile to be as stellar as your resume (yes, this matters!) Your digital footprint is as important as your paper one, and if we can’t find you on LinkedIn but we can find the guy who submitted his resume right after yours, and his LinkedIn is awesome—well guess what? You just got beat out.

LinkedIn has a great tip guide for making your LinkedIn page all-star status. Check it out.

Include Your Contact Info! This seems like a no-brainer, at least that’s what we thought, but you wouldn’t believe how many people forget to include simple things like their contact info on their resume. No email address listed? Don’t expect an email from your next employer. No phone number? Don’t expect a call. No last name? We aren’t going to bother trying to find any additional info.

You put your resume out there because you want to hear about new opportunities, we want to contact you because we want to tell you about them. Help us help you.

Hopefully this short guide will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes we see made on resumes on a daily basis. Keep checking back on the RedStream blog for more tips and tricks to landing your dream job. 

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How to Survive a Tech Job Interview

The job interview: Often the final boundary between you and a life changing job/career.  Yet in technology jobs an interview can often be more of a quagmire than a coronation no matter how skilled you are in your respective field.

A new generation of hiring managers have come into the fray, many of whom have come through the ranks of the company and know the technologies required for the position backwards and forwards.

As a result tech job applicants have to adapt and be prepared for almost anything in a job interview. But do not fear. This is an opportunity to show off your skills and sell your brand! Here are some helpful tips to ace your next tech interview.

Know your technology and express it

It may sound obvious or self-explanatory, but it is really  not. Hiring managers are now more astute and polished than ever in tech. They will throw detailed complex questions at you and look for the smallest mistake or area of weakness. Giving examples of your how you used the specific skills in a current or previous job gives you more clout and credibility.

Be ready for anything

“Expect the unexpected” may sound like a cliché but it has never been truer than in tech job interviews and throughout the hiring process. Hiring managers want to see what you are made of and how you respond to various situations and different types of pressure.  One IT hiring manager was renown for not introducing himself or conducting small talk and going straight into detailed questions. Other companies have been known to bring in members of the team you would be working on to “tech you out” and to provide additional feedback to hiring managers during the interview.  Almost anything is possible these days in a tech interview, so go into one with an open and flexible mind.

Demonstrate people skills

Your tech skills and qualifications and experience may be the crème-de –la- crème, but these days that is only gets you halfway. Hiring managers and companies for that matter now focus on personality almost as much as qualifications and work history. Tech environments are often small and rely on strong teamwork skills.  Hiring managers will look to see how well you open up in an interview and personable you are.

All things are good in moderation though. While hiring managers like to see how friendly and outgoing you are, no one wants a chatterbox either.

Ask questions

Hiring managers want to see if you are interested in the job and how well you actually listened to them. Avoid the generic questions like “How will I be challenged?” and find specific topics based on the information the hiring manager or recruiter gave you during the interview. Not asking questions can show a lack of interest in the role. 

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On The Job Market? Avoidable Mistakes Abound.

We know looking for a job can seem as complicated as rocket science. We're here to prove it's the simple stuff that makes a difference.

This story from THE WEEK does a nice job of highlighting the four worst job-hunting tips of all time, and it's worth a read. 

In addition, we'd like to offer our own Top 4 suggestions: 

THE RESUME

1. Take your time with your resume. Write thoughtfully, concisely and above all don't bother embellishing. We recently came across a fellow who had put into his resume every technology that might have been in the same galaxy as the one he had worked in. The not-so-surprising response from the hiring manager was "How could this be real? No one could be good at all of these technologies in one lifetime." (More thoughts on resumes coming in our next blog...stay tuned.)

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2. Explain what you do, how you do it, and where you did it. The better you do that, the better response you'll get. And be specific: for example, list which version of XYZ technology you know; details are key to making your resume stand out. 

THE PHONE INTERVIEW

3. Your resume looks great and you landed a phone interview. Congrats! This is your chance to get noticed. We recommend taking the call from a landline. Or, if you have to use your cell phone, make sure you have excellent reception. A bad connection is like having typos on your resume. 

4. And while you're on that call...make sure to provide examples! It's important for the resume and even more important in the interview. How did you handle that tough situation? How did you use XYZ technology to solve a problem in your last job? Be specific and avoid generalities. It will help the interviewer picture you in the job!

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