3 Difficult Conversations You Need To Have With Your Boss

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There are certain conversations with your boss that are tempting to avoid, but these are often the ones that are most crucial to your career.  It’s difficult having to admit to a mistake or to ask for something that you just aren’t getting in your current work environment, but open communication on these matters ensures that everyone can do their job correctly and is happier in the long run.

Here are a few examples of conversations with your boss that are difficult to have and why they are so important.

1. Admitting You Made a Mistake

Why is this important?  Because if you try to hide from it, you will ultimately hurt the company by failing to bring it to anyone’s attention; and if you try to blame it on someone else, you will hurt others and, very likely, yourself.  The reality is, whenever you are working for or with others, and even when you are in charge, it’s imperative that you maintain open communication with all involved parties so that everyone can do their best possible job.  Trying to cover up your tracks impedes progress and creates the possibility of further oversights.  Admitting a mistake is never easy, and that’s why people respect you more when you’re able to do so.  It becomes an occasion where you can reevaluate where you’re at, and move forward in a positive way.  Moreover, the consequences will likely be far less severe when you come clean right away, rather than let others discover the blunder later on.

2. Lightening the Workload

People are often terrified of having this conversation with their boss, because they feel that asking for a lighter workload will make them appear weak or serve as grounds for their superior to find someone else to do the job.  These fears aren’t groundless, and before you go to your boss with your concerns, you should do your best to determine if you are being reasonable.

There is really nothing wrong with taking a step back and going over your priorities with your boss.  The last thing your boss wants is for you to give a subpar performance or to let projects slip through the cracks because you lacked the time or energy that your work required.  Sometimes it’s necessary to pause and go over deadlines and expectations.  You’ll be able to work out a plan with your boss that works for you both, and he or she may have some suggestions for you on how to more efficiently complete your work.

3. Asking for a Raise

Many employees hesitate asking for a raise, either because they feel they will appear unreasonable or because they worry that their boss might opt to hire someone else who will do the job for less money.  Before you have this conversation, make sure you put together a few talking points that will allow you to explain why you need and deserve a raise.  Remember that timing is key as well – you’re probably not going to get a bigger pay day after your first couple months at a company, but once you put in the hard work, your boss is more likely see it your way and feel that you deserve what you’re asking for.  Employers want to keep their workers happy, and they understand that this often means offering competitive salaries.

(Here’s some helpful advice on what NOT to do when asking for a raise.)

Don’t let tough conversations leave you with a pit in your stomach.  Just think through what you’re going to say, and be ready to accept what your boss has to offer in return.  Working together and maintaining open communication will take you far.

What are your experiences broaching these subjects with employers?

Making the Move to Management – How to Move Up

You may be thinking about moving up the scale in terms of a manager’s position and wondering if you have the necessary skills to do it. Maybe you’ve been offered a favorable promotion but you’re unsure if you should take it. Keep in mind that even if somebody else sees you as management material, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to accept the position if it’s not truly what you want to do. Not everybody is meant to be a boss. And that’s okay if your decision isn’t fear-based. Feeling intimidation or fear of being in a position of power despite wanting it and actually being qualified, shouldn’t keep you from moving up the corporate ladder. If the ‘higher ups’ have offered you a desirable position, or if you’re thinking about making a move towards management, ask yourself the following key questions first:

1. Are you willing and able to work many more hours without any compensation for putting in the overtime?

Even though a promotion to a position in management likely comes with a significant salary increase, it also comes with a bigger time commitment. A higher position often means getting to work earlier and staying later.

2. Are you willing to be accountable for not only your mistakes, but for the mistakes of your subordinates as well?

Naturally, you’ll carefully explain to your employee how to do a certain task you want him to carry out. But that doesn’t mean he won’t make a mistake. Even though everyone is liable for his own mistakes and actions, as a person in power, the responsibility is ultimately yours.

3. How good are you at offering constructive criticism?

When a member of your staff performs poorly or makes a huge mistake, your first instinct may be to either walk away and say nothing, or start yelling at the person. Neither of these approaches will benefit your staff member or you. It’s your job as the boss to properly coach your employee so that they can do better the next time. Clearly explain the problem and what’s not acceptable. In the end, as a manager you have to trust that when you assign another task to someone who previously failed that they will eventually succeed.

4. Can you assign work for people to do? 

If you don’t learn to properly distribute work to others even though you have more responsibility as a manager, it will just make your job that much harder. As the boss, you will share burdens with your staff, some of them undoubtedly unpleasant. That may mean sacrificing things you normally enjoy doing so you can show others how to do certain tasks or projects. You will ultimately be responsible for the work of your subordinates

5. When the time comes, will you be able to fire an employee who has done their job well but must be laid off?

This is likely one of the worst parts of being a manager, especially during tough financial times. However, it must be done. Firing someone for any reason is hard, but it’s particularly difficult when the worker is a great employee.

6. Will you be capable of reprimanding a staff worker for doing something wrong?

Some employees repeatedly arrive late everyday, generally misbehave, or spend entirely too much of their working time online. Nobody wants to be the bad guy, but it is indeed the job of the manager to ensure that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

7. Can you fire a staff member for not doing their job well?

It may sound easy to fire someone who isn’t doing their job well. However, in spite of their lack of performance, you may start to think about their mortgage, family, and bills they have to pay. Suddenly, it seems more complicated, but you are the boss and it must be done. If you’ve tried to help someone improve their overall performance and it didn’t work, then it’s your responsibility to let them go. Period.

Moving up to management involves careful consideration as it’s a lot to handle. Consider these questions and answer them honestly before you make your next move.

About the Author: this post comes from Sarah, a writer and consultant with Naked Business Consulting, a company that focuses on franchise consulting, raising capital and international expansions. Apart from reading books on management every week, Sarah likes to practice her golf swing when she gets a chance, as well as learning more about the internet.

10 Questions You Should Ask Before A Job Interview

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Getting a call for an interview can be so exciting that we forget to ask for important information. Having the following information before you arrive can make all the difference in winning the job.

1. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions about the interview?

Depending on the answer, you know if you can ask the rest of the questions, or if the person making the call is an administrative professional with no more information than your name, phone number and the interview time.

2. What times are available?

For many interviews, the person calling gives you a range of options on when you would like to schedule your interview. The best times are 10am, and during the early afternoon. Avoid these times…

  • 9am – the interviewer may not be fully awake and alert, and not remember you as well
  • 11am – the interviewer is thinking about lunch as much as listening to you
  • After 4:30pm – the interviewer is thinking about going home and may be tired

3. Can you tell me the names of the people I’m interviewing with?

Ask for the full names and job titles of the people whom you’ll be meeting. Get the exact spellings of the names if you’re not sure. Do research online on the interviewers beforehand. Knowing the background of the people you’re speaking with is a critical advantage, and you might even have some common connections, like universities or hobbies.

4. Is this a newly created position?

It’s good to know if the position is new, or someone else previously held the job. If it’s new, the interviewers may be expecting you to help them define the role. If it’s not new, try to do research on who had the job last and why they left. Go to Linkedin, and search for people at the company. Look for one who had the same job title as what you’re interviewing for. Depending on their current employment or lack thereof, you can get an idea of your predecessors performance, skills and achievements.

5. How long has the position been open?

It’s a bad sign if the position has been open for a long time. It usually means many candidates have been interviewed and rejected. The most common reason is the company isn’t attracting the candidates it wants with the compensation it’s willing to provide.

6. What is the salary and benefits?

Here’s a list of the most common responses and what they mean.

  • “The salary ranges between X and Y” is a good answer, because the company has an idea of what it wants to pay for senior and junior candidates.
  • “I don’t have that information”, might be a lie, and might not be, but you don’t lose anything for asking.
  • “It’s yet to be determined”, is a red flag. Salary estimators are free online, so this answer usually means the salary is low, and they don’t want to scare you off.

7. Should I bring anything besides my resume?

Nothing’s worse than a interviewer asking for a sample of your work when you don’t have any with you. Usually they’ll say no, but its great when they say “Yes, actually, you can bring a sample of your work” or something similar. Since it wasn’t in the job ad, you’ll be the only candidate with something that demonstrates your skill and talent.

8. Will there be a skills test?

Increasingly employers are using standardized tests to determine if the candidate is worthy of being given an in-person interview. Find out what tests will be given, and study hard before you get there. Don’t let yourself be ambushed by a test you didn’t know was coming.

9. Is the interview scheduled to end at a certain time?

Be prepared for the two extremes. If the interview is only 45 minutes, be prepared to present yourself and make all your points in that given time. If there is no scheduled end time, take your time and don’t rush. The last thing you want to do is cut an interview short because you need to go back to your current job.

10. Are there other open positions at the company like this one?

If there are, try to get information on them. Interviewing for two jobs gives you twice the chance of getting hired. If the position hasn’t been posted yet, you’ve gained a great advantage.

 

 

Brand Yourself

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You’ve been developing a personal brand since the day you first stepped into a classroom. Those bright white socks and new shoes. The backpack with the cartoon-character theme you hand-picked. And remember when the teacher asked you to stand up in front of your peers to describe yourself in three words? Even then, you carefully picked the adjectives that described you best with hopes of leaving a good impression on your teacher and peers.

Your response now to the same question has likely evolved into something more sophisticated than it was back then (“silly” shouldn’t make it into your cover letters), but the end goal remains the same: to broadcast your strongest attributes and interests so that the people around you have a clear idea of what you bring to the table. Branding yourself requires that you identify the unique value you can offer an organization and communicate a memorable and consistent message to all current and prospective parties vested in your career.

There are countless career benefits to becoming associated with certain interests and characteristics, such as solid leadership skills, environmental activism, a great sense of humor, or public speaking skills. A strong personal brand makes you stand out from other job applicants or colleagues with the same educational and professional background. A successful personal brand also leads to more unsolicited job offers, as recruiters looking for someone just like you hear about you through word of mouth or read your blog. It can also raise the confidence coworkers, clients, bosses, and potential clients have in you. By knowing your passions and strengths, you’re more likely to find greater job satisfaction that someone who hasn’t spent enough time thinning about who she is and what she can offer.

The point here: A strong personal brand is an essential tool when it comes to opening yourself up to new opportunities and a more satisfying career. Defining your brand isn’t an easy process: It requires some serious introspection and an understanding of how others perceive you. Be true to yourself. Although you can certainly evolve your brand to fit certain skills and interests, you won’t find success without being honest with yourself and others.

5 Things to Do Before Writing Your Resume

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When applying for a new job, a great resume is extremely important in order to get your foot in the door. It is especially important when you think about the fact that on average, about 250 resumes are submitted per each corporate job opening.

While this number obviously fluctuates depending on the industry and company, it still showcases the importance of a strong resume to get you noticed. However, you can’t just dive into writing your resume without any preparation.

So for your convenience, I have compiled a list of 5 things to do before writing your resume that will help you not only with the writing process, but also help to land you an interview.

1. Make a List Of All Your Jobs

Depending on your age, the number of jobs that you have held can vary drastically. Nevertheless, you should make a complete list of every job that you have ever held and list them in reverse chronological order (from most recent moving backward).

If you have worked in a large collection of positions, then you probably won’t list all of them, but you will have a good pool to choose from.

2. Write Down All Of Your Job Responsibilities 

You may think that you can remember every aspect of your job without writing it down, but chances are that you are wrong. You often do much more than you think, so write down all of your job responsibilities for each position in order to get a thorough list to include on your resume.

3. Look Over The Job Requirements Thoroughly

Say you are applying to an open position at a manufacturing company. Well, the job requirements and skills needed for their sales position are going to be much different than that of the mechanic position.

Do your homework! Thoroughly look over the requirements and skills the position needs. Then, include all of the skills that you have that they are looking for. The matching keywords will show that your skills align with what the company needs.

4. Consult Your Performance Reviews

Your manager took the time to let you know what you excelled at and what needed work, so use these critiques to your advantage. Pull key points from your past performance reviews such as your impact on increased sales numbers or what you excelled at. You can then use this information as a key point for a particular position you have held.

5. Find a List of Strong Action Verbs

Do not use boring verbs when listing your responsibilities and accomplishments on your resume. It will sound dull to the hiring manager, and even unimpressive.

Instead, find and compile a great list of strong action verbs that you can use. Words such as “orchestrated” sound much better than “led”, and the incorporation of these terms will expand your vocabulary.

The plus of already having this list put together is that you will save yourself time when you actually begin to write your resume, which allows you to focus on the facts.

Now You’re Ready

So, you’ve followed these 5 steps and have written your resume. Great! What’s next you ask?

Well, once your resume is ready to go you will need to draw up a well-tailored cover letter to accompany it. Then, it’s time to clean up your social media profiles to make them employer friendly. You can alter your LinkedIn account to reflect the resume that you just wrote, as well, which will make your information more consistent.

Once you have all of these things done, it’s time to actually send your application and hope for the best.

About the Author: Leah Rutherford is a freelance blogger specializing in career development, especially resumes, cover letters, and job search. She also writes about small businesses startups and social media, which you can find on her blog, JetFeeds.

 

4 Fears Of The Newest Job Seekers


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We have some good news: Prospects for today’s college graduates are looking up.

According to a job outlook study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers expect to hire 7.8 percent more Class of 2014 grads for their U.S. operations than they hired from the Class of 2013. If you look at international operations, prospects are even more promising, with an overall increase of 12 percent.

Good news aside, as a graduate or soon-to-be graduate, you’re probably still faced with some concerns and fears as you start to look for work. That’s completely normal, and only shows that you are taking a true interest in your future and career.

To help you out with some of your concerns, let’s look at some of the most common concerns today’s graduates are facing and how to overcome them:

Not Finding A Job
With the job outlook looking up, finding a job shouldn’t be too worrisome for you. Just remember that finding a job takes time and patience. It’s best to devote at least one hour per day to looking for a job. If you’re out of school, you should increase that time to two or three hours a day.

Also, remember what you do during school or while you’re looking for a job is very important and can help increase your chances of getting a job faster. Internships, pre-professional organizations, and volunteering at local businesses can give you some real-world experience and networking opportunities to give you a leg up with the competition.

Finding A Job You’re Not Happy With
Coming out of college, it is common to have a picture painted in your head of the perfect job at the perfect company in the perfect location. The truth of the matter is that just doesn’t exist. One job won’t be able to fulfill all of your interests and skills. But you can certainly get close by doing extensive research on the companies where you apply and keeping an open mind when you start working with them. Plus, you have an entire career ahead of you, so be patient!

One word of caution: If you are constantly looking for the perfect position, it can lead to serial job hopping, which is not good. However, if you’ve given your job an honest try and realize it’s not the right fit, it’s ok to start looking for something else. You may even consider resetting your career path altogether.

Becoming The Perma-Intern
Although they may not be the most desirable positions, internships are common for students to take after graduation. Think of it as a “test drive” for both you and your employer. It’s a great way for them to see your skills, and for you to figure out the company fit while gaining some valuable real-world experience.

To avoid feeling like you will be a perma-intern, treat the internship just as you would a real job. Before accepting the position, ask them what their policy is on promoting interns to full-time employees. Once you have the position, prove you are a valuable asset to their team and stay alert of any job openings that come up within the company.

To Stay Or Not To Stay
Many college students want to find a job that allows them to get away from their hometown and explore other parts of the country or world after college. Our advice to you — go for it! You are still young and have very little tying you down, so take advantage of that. Employers also like college graduates who are more flexible to the idea of travel and relocation.

Ultimately, your post-graduate years are a time to explore your career choices and see what else is out there. There is nothing saying you can’t come back to your hometown if you want, but give yourself the chance to be open to new opportunities and unexpected possibilities.

It’s common and acceptable to be nervous about entering the workforce — a full-time job comes with bills and other added responsibilities. However, it’s exciting to be on your own and pave your path for the future. Just take these pieces of advice, and remember it’s about taking everything one step at a time to land your first job.

About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and#ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

Guide to Investment Banking: Part 3 of 3

Cream of the Crop: The Top Investment Banks 
Investment banks can technically come in all different sizes and shapes. They don’t have to be units within major financial houses. They can stand on their own as relatively small private entities with about 50 employees. They can include only a handful of people, assuming the founders have the skills, connections and reputation to assist corporations and governments in raising capital and advising on major deals.

Bulge Bracket Banks
The big investment banks on Wall Street, where both young and established bankers often want to leave their mark, include Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citibank, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, UBS, Deutsche Bank and others.

Those institutions, which are sometimes referred to as “bulge bracket” banks due to their huge size and multinational reach, will also have offices spread around the U.S. and world, looking for new business opportunities and trying to stay in touch with past, current and potential future clients.

Smaller Banks
Non-bulge bracket investment banks, which are generally smaller and often privately owned, will locate in large cities with dynamic, cutting-edge industries and firms that need to raise capital for public offerings or advice on M&A deals. San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Houston and other major U.S. cities are popular locations for investments banks, big and small, due to the dynamic and diverse nature of their economies.

The Current State of Investment Banks
Since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the number of investment bank jobs has actually declined around the globe, as Wall Street and other multinational investment firms retrenched amid market turmoil. The result has been that the already coveted jobs within investment banking are even harder to find and land.

But many of the job cuts, including those on Wall Street, are considered cyclical in nature — and some investment bankers say good times could lie ahead within the industry.

They point to the uptick in IPOs in 2013 — and the prospect of a strong IPO market in 2014.

According to Renaissance Capital LLC in Connecticut, there were about 222 initial public offerings in 2013, valued at about $55 billion. Compare this to 2012, when there were 128 deals valued at $42.4 billion. The 2013 IPO figures were the highest since 2000, when the dot-com frenzy was at its peak. Based on preliminary filings, Renaissance Capital estimates that 2014 has the potential to at least match 2013.

Technology, biotech and pharmaceutical companies have been particularly active in recent years on the IPO front.

But the better news, from the investment banking perspective, is in mergers and acquisitions. M&As have just about fully recovered from the 2008-2009 financial crisis, though the sector has yet to advance beyond pre-recession levels. According to the MergerStat, there were 28,829 M&A deals valued at $2.5 trillion across the globe in 2012, with final 2013 numbers expected to match, or come close to, that approximate level.

As the economy improves and as corporations pile up cash reserves from historically high profits, some investment bankers believe it’s only a matter of time before companies, especially U.S. firms, start to pursue M&A deals more aggressively.

“It’s a fantastic time to be in investment banking,” says one managing director at a Wall Street investment bank. “The M&A market is poised to really improve. Corporations are sitting on a lot of cash that they can put toward acquisitions. There’s a lot of business out there waiting to happen.”

About the Author: Jay Fitzgerald is a business journalist based in Boston. Over the years, his articles have appeared in The Boston Globe, the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Herald and other publications.

 

What Should My Cover Letter Include?

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In your cover letter, include information that truly tailors the application to a particular employer and specific job opening.  Complement and reinforce the qualifications presented in your resume, using words and phrases from the employer’s job listing and/or website.

Here are some points about content you’ll want to keep in mind as you write your cover letter:

  • How you learned of the job or company is important to recruiters and hiring managers, especially if there is a mutual connection that can speak of your qualifications.
  • Demonstrate a good fit with the employer’s corporate or organization culture.  Be sure to back up any assertions of personal characteristics by describing the resulting achievement either on your resume or in your cover letter.  Ideally, the cover letter refers to information found on your resume without being repetitive or redundant.
  •  Go beyond the resume in explaining your situation and career direction.  For example: “My career goals include gaining leadership experience in the delivery of financial advising services in a private business setting.  I am open to relocation for the appropriate opportunity.”
  • Avoid discussing weakness or making excuses; instead, concentrate on what you have to offer.  The cover letter is not the place to confess your mistakes or problems.  For example, if you’ve been laid off, don’t mention that fact.  Instead, discuss what you have done recently to be productive or better prepared for this job (e.g. I have recently completed training in….or I have gained valuable marketing experience volunteering with….).
  • If salary requirements are requested in a job posting, discuss them in your cover letter.  It’s best not to trap yourself by naming a specific amount.  Instead, say something like “my salary requirements are in step with the responsibilities of the position and the expertise I would offer your company.”  If an ad or job posting absolutely requires a salary figure, state a range, such as “seeking a compensation package to include benefits and a salary in the low-to mid-$30s.”

How to Spin the Negatives in an Interview

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A savvy interviewer or negotiator may try to destabilize your presentation (or subsequent negotiation position) by tying your hiring chances, compensation, title, or responsibilities to something negative in your work history.  If you have had some rough patches in your career, or you have had a manager who did not appreciate your style, it is imperative that you own those negatives and turn a question about them into an opportunity to either deflect to a positive story or demonstrate how you overcame those issues.

Here are some examples of negatives and how to deal with them:

You Were Laid Off from a Previous Job

There is no shame in being laid off; in fact, it happens to almost everyone at one time or another.  Come up with a breezy two-sentence explanation for the company’s layoffs, and finish with an upbeat recitation of the opportunities that the layoff presented.  For example, you were able to finish school, you toured Europe, you learned some woodworking, and–best of all–you were freed up to look for more meaningful work at a great company.

The trick here is to have a quick gloss for the layoff and then segue directly into a positive wrap-up that conveys equanimity and readiness to take on the next challenge.  Also, don’t be cheesy, but don’t underestimate a hiring manager’s desire to hear genuine enthusiasm about the new position and the prospective employer.

You Were Fired from a Previous Job

This one is a bit tougher, but you absolutely should have a packaged explanation at the ready when the subject comes up, and it’s likely that it will.  The best explanation will openly acknowledge that the situation wasn’t optimal and look for a way to tell the story with a positive ending.  Above all, you do not want to get bogged down in a long-winded explanation of how you weren’t wrong in the first place or how other folks had it in for you.  Even if you were mostly in the right, most hiring managers don’t want to hear the whole story–and will tend to sympathize with your former manager.

Instead, describe the problem in three to four short dispassionate sentences and then speak about what you have done in the interim to fix your contribution to the problem.  If you were fired for poor attitude, you might talk about how you started volunteering and realized how much you took for granted.  If you were fired for being constantly late, you might talk about how you saw a sleep specialist and now sleep 8 hours a night.  Most important, don’t lie about either the problem or the solution; a prospective employer may check your story and blackball you in the industry or profession if your story doesn’t add up.

You Quit Your Last Job

Assuming you didn’t leave your former employer without notice, there is absolutely no shame to this.  Characterize the decision as one you made, after careful consideration, to give you the time and icus to find a better opportunity at a great company.

If you didn’t quit your last job without notice and for a thinly justified reason–and you know there is potential animosity remaining at your former employer, we suggest employing an approach similar to that given above for explaining a firing.  Emphasize what has happened in the interim to develop your professionalism.