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The Quagmire – Limits of Unlimited Leave

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Oct 3, 2016 in Career Path, Lessons Learned

quagmireWhen a company uses an unlimited leave plan to attract people, what’s really going on behind the scenes is a culture that drives the highest performers higher and enables lower performers to fall by the wayside into a professional quagmire.

Webster’s dictionary defines quagmire as: “an area of soft, wet ground: a situation that is hard to deal with or get out of: a situation that is full of problems.”

Companies who have this policy are generally known as high performing companies. Top spots are competitive and expectations are high. Work assignments are distributed to those employees who have proven themselves as reliable, dependable and willing to put in the extra time necessary to get a job done on time and within budget. High performing professionals do an excellent job of prioritizing work and combining that with balancing their personal lives, vacations and family commitments.

Lower performers choose personal life over work, and work to live, not live to work within a balanced framework. Employees who are seemingly unavailable are often passed over for both prime assignments and promotions which often leads to them being laid off or let go for circumstances that are actually easy to avoid.

Having a clear and complete understanding of what the employer’s expectations around deliverables is the number one contributing factor to an employee’s success and to prevent themselves falling into a performance quagmire they most likely cannot emerge from.

Use your performance review process to clearly identify and establish what both meeting and exceeding expectations looks like with your supervisor. Use common language and have both qualitative and quantitative goals that both parties agree to in writing. Avoid using generalizing terms like always or regularly and replace them with terms like daily weekly or monthly which are clearer for both parties.

Should your supervisor change, having these in writing to discuss with your next supervisor will ensure a smooth transition and allow as a starting point for discussions around their expectations as your new boss.

Remember, there is no free lunch, and unlimited leave does, in fact, have limits. Meeting expectations is good, but exceeding them is great.

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The Sick Parrot – Why You Should Take Time Off If You’re Ill

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 25, 2016 in Lessons Learned

Parrot2The parrots are one of the most beautiful and lively features of the jungle. Always active, always cheering, always loud and colorful, the parrots provide joy and inspiration for the other animals. Unless they’re sick. The sick parrot is a marked contrast to his healthy fellows. Rather than flying around the treetops in streams of wild colour, he sits on a branch, feathers ruffled, shoulders hunched, looking thoroughly miserable and making everyone who sees him miserable as well. If he retreats to a safe perch and rests until he feels better, the sick parrot does not impact upon the life of the jungle too much. Often, however, sick parrots try to hide their illness so as not to appear weak. This rarely works out well for the other parrots. If the sick parrot tries to fly with the other parrots, he’s likely to disrupt the aerial display, infect his fellows, and add a distinctly duff note to jungle proceedings. The sick parrot is a great exemplar of why, despite our yearnings for productivity and excellence, we really should take time off to recover if we’re sick.

Infection

Time taken off for illness is, it cannot be denied, a big issue for many companies. It results in lost productivity, and sometimes on claims to the company’s health insurers, which can prove to be an administrative headache. However, most companies are far more concerned about people faking sickness in order to get time off than they are about genuinely sick people staying home from work. If your boss seems to have a bit of an attitude about sick leave, it’s probably because they’re worried about people faking it rather than an actual desire to force people to work through sickness. Indeed, if you’re genuinely sick, the majority of bosses would probably rather that you stayed away. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons, top of which is probably the risk of infecting others. If you’ve got some horrible virus, it’s better that you stay away and keep your germs to yourself rather than passing them around the office. Better to have one person sick than to have twenty people sick – that’s basic common sense! There are things that can be done to reduce the risk of infection (good hygiene practices, for example) – but there’s only so far that these can go. In general, the best way to prevent a workforce from succumbing to viral infections is to isolate the initial carrier at home, and stopping them from exposing everyone else to the virus.

Motivation

You may feel well capable of working through your sickness, and you may well be right. However, if you’re not feeling 100%, you’re unlikely to be able to act 100%. You may be tired, moody, dull. You are likely to be quite ‘down’, and this can correspondingly bring the mood of the entire workplace down along with you. If people are stepping on eggshells around you because you’re irritable, or worrying about your state of health, or simply absorbing your low energy and feeling lethargic themselves accordingly, productivity is likely to diminish. We all have bad days, and we all sometimes find ourselves bringing the workplace energy and vibe down, but if the reason you’re doing so is because you’re ill, it’s probably better to phone in sick until you feel well enough to perform at your optimum. Better to lose a day or two of work from one person, than to diminish everyone else’s productivity exponentially.

Image

If you’re working in a customer-facing role, or interacting regularly with clients, it does not present a good corporate image if you’re obviously ill. If you’re sniffling, sneezing, bleary, or in pain, customers will not be left with a positive image of the company. This doesn’t mean that you have to be perfectly beautiful, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed in order to do your job – but it does mean that you’re better off working when you’re capable of summoning some enthusiasm and positivity. Which, as we all know, is pretty hard to do when you feel like crap! Stay home and get better rather than leaving clients and customers with an image of a sickly company!

This Guest Post was contributed by Gemma Matthews.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Deciduous Forest – Question of Quality

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 8, 2016 in Career Path, Lessons Learned

Forest2The job search jungle includes all biomes and species that are all indicative of Carolyn’s vast experience in her field. My name is Cammy Cohen, and as a summer intern at Merito Group I feel I am qualified to speak metaphorically on only one ecosystem. I have chosen the Temperate Deciduous Forest because of its seasonal changes. Unlike the Tropical Rainforest, which has the same temperature and weather patterns from season to season, my summer, winter, spring, and fall are all very different. I am currently a student at Virginia Tech and love being a Hokie. In Blacksburg, everyone is wearing maroon and orange on game day and you can order pizza bigger than your face until 2am. I want to share my glimpse into the professional world and my view as a college student. I truly cannot express my gratitude enough to Carolyn and everyone in this office for investing in me and immediately making me feel like part of the team!

People are always taken aback by the fact that I want to be a recruiter. It seems to be a job that most just people find themselves in rather than set out for as a career. I suppose I am the exception to my perceived rule but so far, I believe this is the right path for me. I believe recruiting is an incredible use of my marketing degree. I don’t just want to market products, I want to market people’s skill sets and ambitions. I want to bridge a company’s needs with what my candidate wants, and market my firm in the process. I want to help people with the next step in their career by reviewing resumes and conducting interviews. But above all, I want what everyone should want from their career- to feel passionate about the work and to know that it has significance.

In the summer months the warm temperatures and ample sunlight harbor the growth of lush vegetation in the forest. In my current position, I am learning and growing as a professional every day. I am currently on a project with one of our clients who is a large government contractor. I am part of a team conducting the initial screening process of many diverse individuals every day.

My peek into the recruiting world has been a fantastic experience thus far, but not without falters in confidence. What I struggled with most was understanding the reason for implementing specific metrics- or why we have metrics at all. My idealistic view of recruiting was focusing on the candidate’s potential, finding the perfect job, and then making a “happy every after.” I was spending upwards of 10 minutes with candidate running through a conversation that should take no longer than 5 and stumbling through the computer software. I was reassured that I was still just learning, but that I wasn’t meeting my metrics meant that I wasn’t doing my job. This weighed on me and made me ask the question “at what point does quantity override quality and does this signify the nature of the industry?”

One day, after staying late in the office I asked this question to two of my colleagues. The question that had been nagging at me every time I opened my underperforming excel sheet. Both of them seemed surprised. My project deals with a high volume of candidates and they assured me I would get the hang of it. But that wasn’t what was concerning me; I wanted to know if this was truly representative of recruiting. They told me they felt the metrics kept them on track and was a fair, quantitative way to monitor progress. I left feeling unsure determined to understand the balance.

The next day I came back a new intern determined to streamline my efficiency without sacrificing the quality of my candidates. I found the best way to navigate the software and strived to keep my conversations concise and meaningful. Everything from this point on has clicked (which is the reason I have time to write this, might I add.) My point here is that everyone was right, I just needed to see it to believe it. So my first lesson has been learned- in a corporate environment there are quantitative standards you are required to meet but the true value of a recruiter is bringing quality alongside those metrics.

This Guest Post was contributed by Cammy, our fabulous summer intern! To see if Cammy has a position for you, apply here: Merito Group Career Opportunities

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The Jungle Weed – Navigating The Drug Free Workplace

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on May 16, 2016 in Job Search, Lessons Learned

WeedsEmployers who advertise a drug free work place will likely have drug testing in place as a condition of hire. With the legalization of marijuana in several states, this has caused some confusion for job seekers.

There are many kinds of drug tests that are administered for pre-employment checks. The drug test form will ask for all the medications you are taking so have a full list with the proper dosage information handy. If you have a prescription, you need to list it on the form. This should be done for ANY medication you take regularly or frequently. If it is prescribed, and it turns up in your test, your employer will consult their personnel policies when determining whether or not they will hire you based upon their established guidelines.

Some states border others, like in MD, VA and DC, so be mindful of what is legal in each jurisdiction when applying for work. Even if your state has a legalized marijuana policy, the federal government still lists marijuana as a controlled (illegal) substance. Federal laws take precedence over state laws especially if the company that you are applying to is a national or multi-state corporation or if that employer receives any kind of federal funding. This means that a company could still deny you employment for testing positive for marijuana even if marijuana is legal in your state and even if it is being used medicinally with a prescription.

Where we have advised job seekers to be forthright about criminal convictions in the application process, it is not a good idea to overshare about drug use. If you have questions about the company’s policy, ask them anonymously BEFORE you apply. Asking during the process may be detrimental to your application depending on the company, who you speak with, and them not fully understanding your personal situation. Try to get a person on the phone to discuss it vs webchat which may track your email and contact information.

If you pass the initial drug test to be employed, workplaces with a drug-free policy may do intermittent, random, and/or “reasonable suspicion” testing so if you are a prescription holder for marijuana, testing positive for the drug while you are currently employed- even if used off of company property and on your own time- can be cause for dismissal in a drug free workplace.

As more states legalize marijuana, more employers have to take a closer look at their hiring practices and policies. As you navigate the jungle, stay away from the weeds if you can avoid it.

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The Erosion – Trust in the Workplace

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Feb 13, 2015 in Lessons Learned

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The jungle is a dynamic place: the river rises after a hard rain, a flower blooms in its season, and the boa slithers from tree to tree as he changes habitats. Sometimes—maybe very quickly but often gradually– the lush jungle landscape wears down. Wind and water move soil and rock causing land degradation. This process is called erosion. Although erosion is natural, human activity has caused or intensified erosion in many areas so that now excessive erosion is a serious environmental problem.

Like the jungle, businesses and our relationships within those businesses are in constant flux. The business can be growing and positively affecting our communities, but other factors can quickly or gradually wear a business down. As in the jungle, erosion in business is increased as a result of human activities. Trust is the soil of the workplace environment. Trust holds the whole business landscape together. As employees, we have a trust based relationship with our supervisors. When that trust is broken, the relationship begins to erode.

Consider this scenario:

A seasoned business development executive who had worked for the same company for more than four years and had consistently been compensated in accordance with the written pay plan was suddenly not being paid.  The first time she wasn’t paid because she didn’t turn in her quarterly sales reports on time.  When she turned in her reports and asked to be paid retroactively, no response was given by the supervisor other than, “I will submit them, thanks.”

Subsequent quarterly reports were submitted on time over the course of the next six months.   None of them were paid, either.  Finally the employee approached the supervisor and said, “Listen, I really need these to be paid.  This is half my income that I count on, and I have a kid going into college.”  The supervisor looked at her and said, “I understand.”

This went on for an entire year.  The employee asked payroll about it. Payroll told her that they didn’t have the approval to pay the commissions but that they would look into it.  Payroll escalated the matter to another executive who in turn told the employee’s supervisor to “take care of it.”   Despite all of the people involved, the supervisor never approved the payments.

What should have happened in this case?  The employee should have been more direct in her questioning about why she had not been paid.  Choosing your words wisely goes a long way.  She should have asked, “Why haven’t I been paid?”  Asking open ended questions would have positioned her to receive a direct answer from the supervisor.

Issues of pay, or in this case, lack thereof, may be in violation of state and federal laws regarding compensation. It is best to hire an attorney to advise you regarding your specific situation and circumstances.

As far as trust goes, this type of behavior cannot be rectified and in cases like this, trust is forever eroded.  The supervisor’s misuse of power eroded the employee’s trust, and the employee could never again respect the supervisor’s authority in the same way. In general, failure to follow through on spoken or written commitments is the fastest way to erode trust.

Just like land degradation intensified by human activity is the pervasive environmental problem of our time, the erosion of trust in the workplace is a great threat to workplace happiness and any company’s bottom line. Mistrust of a supervisor is one of the number one reasons people leave their positions. They don’t leave jobs or companies: they leave bosses.

 
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The Chameleon – What Your Recruiter Hopes You Don’t Do During Your Next Interview

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 11, 2014 in Interviewing Skills, Lessons Learned

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Weird Tales from Behind the Recruiting Desk:  Chameleon

The jungle can be a tough place to find shelter, or in this jungle, a job, so let’s take a key piece of advice from our friend the chameleon – it can be in your best interest to blend in order to get ahead in the market. This thought came to light recently, as my last few months recruiting at the Merito Group has allowed me to uncover some of the more unique inhabitants of the jungle. Sticking out can be a great asset in an interview, but in these cases not so much.

In this blog series I will be examining a few candidates that were special cases – some facts may be exaggerated, skewed and twisted! These are meant to be lessons learned, not exposes of my stellar candidates, so please enjoy:

Be aware of your surroundings. The chameleon has an advantage above the rest of the jungle. They can slide under the radar of those trying to hunt them, but they still must be on guard! (It is, after all, a jungle out there.) Many companies in this day and age offer the flexibility of webcam interviews for those candidates who are still currently employed, but looking to make a move. Here at Merito Group we try to make the process as easy as possible for our candidates as well as our clients. I have had a few occurrences, though, that have made me wonder at the lack of professionalism exposed with this media.

Candidates who use their computer screen, phone, and other varying technologies as a security blanket: beware! Employers and recruiters will want to see you and meet you “in-person” so you must still present yourself professionally, even if it is from the comfort of your own home in a webcam or phone interview. Your interviewer will understand that your home is your place of comfort and exudes personality, but your cats, dogs, children, spouses, and cuckoo clocks are not a welcome distraction in an interview no matter where you are. Use a room where you have solitude from such distractions.

Technology is changing every day and to keep up with the times, we sometimes must use interfaces we are not used to. Please test your webcam, the platform, and your phone reception before calling in/showing up to an interview that is not “in person.” The most annoying thing our clients have to put up with on phone or webcam interviews is that the candidate doesn’t have great call quality or internet speed. Use a land line or go to a library, if necessary! Sometimes a webcam can freeze due to bandwidth limits, weather, or even user error. Please be aware that both sides may not always freeze at the same time: do not assume your interviewer cannot see you! Maintain your professional persona until after your interview is complete. Many technological issues can be avoided with the proper preparation.

Remember: You can’t re-do a first impression! More on that in my next post…

This guest post was contributed by Emily Craig of Merito Group. If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Human Being – Not The Human Doing

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Mar 7, 2014 in Executive Coaching, Lessons Learned, Self Improvement

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Lisa Nirell of Energize Growth LLC writes in her blog, The Wealthy Business, about her experience at the Febraury Washington Women’s PhoneLeadership Initiative (WWLI.org) Luncheon where Arianna Huffington presented the Third Metric to attendees. Lisa uses Arianna’s message and urges her readers to build a lifestyle around frequent moments of being “unplugged” from technology to improve health and quality of life. “It takes a leap of faith to unplug. Several senior marketing leaders and CEOs whom I have met think of their lives as an “either/or” proposition where they are either relaxed and unplugged, OR overworked and hyper-connected. Today, I believe it’s about living a “both/and” life. We are human beings, not human doings.”

Read the rest of Lisa’s article “How Successful Marketing Leaders (Like Arianna Huffington) Unplug” on her blog.

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The Peacock – Making A Lasting Impression In The Wild

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Feb 17, 2014 in Lessons Learned

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The ostentatious Indian Peacock’s tail plumage has many admirers, but little understanding of why the colorful feathers evolved. Theories of sexual selection, camouflage, signaling, and defense have circulated since before Darwin’s time without any satisfactory conclusions. Sexual attraction is currently the reigning theory, but studies continue to research the complexities of the peahen’s choice since the incredibly elaborate feathered train of the peacock does not seem to have sole control over mate selection.

Networking events are common in the business world. They occur nearly every day in every major city across many industries. It’s important to stand out at these events in order to make contact with people, but you don’t want to be the one that during the event debrief everyone asks, “Who was the person with the crazy [tie/hat/coat/outfit, etc.], and what were they thinking?” Your choice of peacock flair for the occasion may be a great conversation starter, but is it a great first impression?

First impressions are lasting ones, particularly when you are interviewing. Networking events are crucial for people seeking new jobs, but you want to be the one that stands out by your intellectual conversation, not your outfit or something eccentric about yourself that you (over)shared. Having a unique hobby, skill or passion is a good discussion at a social event, but avoid tales that delve just a little too deep below the surface for new acquaintances to digest.

Keep conversation light and thoughtful and stay away from your recent divorce, loan applications, and too much personal talk about your family, children and pets. Rather than talking about yourself and simply offering information that may or may not be relatable to the person you are speaking to, ask the other person questions about themselves. Explore topics around what they’ve been writing or reading lately and solicit their thoughts so that you can expand on things that are already of interest to them. This will make you stand out in the forefront of their minds as a qualified professional as opposed to the person who told the slightly uncomfortable story about such and such.

Trends in attire come and go, but looking polished never goes out of style. As far as clothing for a networking event, pairing a nice conservative suit with a colorful tie or scarf without over-doing it is key. Even a single piece of interesting jewelry such as a necklace or a ring can be a simple artistic addition that will nicely go with a conventional suit without being overwhelming. Again, you want to be the one they remember, but not because you didn’t look the part or because you wore something that was out of place at the event.

Ask a friend or colleague if you are unsure about what you are wearing and whether it’s appropriate for the event. You will certainly be remembered if you imitate the peacock, but you probably do not want your new acquaintances to theorize through the next day about your outfit.

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The Attachment – Getting Turned Around In The Jungle

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Nov 15, 2013 in Lessons Learned

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To all of our regular readers of JobSearchJungle.com, we apologize for the brief interruption in our new content over the past few months. Unexpected medical and technical issues presented themselves which are now both nearly resolved so we are back online!

One of the funniest moments that has ever happened to me as an executive recruiter occurred in the intermission, and I feel compelled to share it with you.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon, I was reviewing resumes submitted for an Executive Project Manager in Commercial Construction position and saw that one of the applicants had accidentally attached a cover letter instead of their resume to the job posting. I went ahead and read the letter, twice in fact, because I wasn’t quite sure that I was reading it correctly. On the second pass, I confirmed that I had read and interpreted it correctly – the person had attached their online dating profile instead of their resume cover letter.

An easy oversight to make because the file was simply named “personal bio,” but imagine if I had been the manager at the company who was hiring for the position – what kind of impression would that have made?

I looked the candidate up on LinkedIn.com and called him to explain that he had, in fact, sent me the wrong letter. After a brief conversation about his work experience, we determined that he wasn’t a fit for my client but I did mention that if I came across anyone that he might like to date based on what he described in his bio, I would make the introduction. (I have successfully set up and married off 11 couples in my time.)

Well, last night at a client’s housewarming party, I met someone he might like… today I went ahead and made the introductions. So, while the original point of my story was to caution you to always make sure you have attached the correct document when you are job searching, this ending may turn out to be about how virtual introductions can create attachment.
Stay tuned!

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The Ostrich – Head In The Sand With A Criminal History

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 10, 2012 in Interviewing Skills, Job Search, Lessons Learned, Thinking Positive

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Ostriches will attempt to avoid dangerous situations by burying their heads in sand and pretending the threat does not exist. Although this saying comes from a false legend about Ostriches, it is true that you cannot avoid risky situations, such as a criminal history in a job search, by pretending that it does not exist.

A criminal history is one of the most difficult things to overcome when it’s time to find a job. Many employers require criminal background checks, or at least self-disclosure of criminal history on applications, and the thought of losing out on an opportunity due to even minor charges lurking in your background can be nerve-wracking. But, this is no reason to lose hope for future employment or faith in your career. In fact, there are many steps you can take to overcome a negative background check during the interview process and even give off a better impression than you would have otherwise. Read on for some steps and ideas:

1. Address it head-on.

If you already know that you have some criminal history on your record that could potentially affect your employment, then it’s a very good idea to address the issue head on. This is something that you have to balance, though. If the charges are light enough, such as a few parking tickets, then you may not want to bring them up at all. If there are some serious misdemeanors or felonies on your record it is never a good idea to stay silent.  Rather than waiting until your interviewer brings it up or (even worse) hoping they don’t notice, take the matter into your own hands and let him or her know in the initial interview stages. You will look much more professional by addressing the issue clearly and honestly than by skirting the possible hesitations of the employer.

2. Tell the truth.

This is probably one of the most important pieces of advice when it comes to dealing with a negative history during a job search. It can be tempting to simply keep this information off your application or make certain charges seem less serious than they really were, but this is almost certain grounds for dismissal if your employer ever learns the truth. If you are honest about your past, many employers will take your honesty into account when they are considering whether to hire you. If you are dishonest, an employer would not be wise to ever consider you for hire. Besides, it is much better to approach a job interview knowing that you are being forthright. Getting through an interview based on lies will only mean that you have to keep up those stories to your boss and everyone else who works there.

3. Discuss what you’ve learned.

If you need to bring up some criminal history during a job interview, try to turn this potential negative into a positive. Depending on the charges and how long ago they occurred, you can use this as an opportunity to discuss your own life with a potential employer and what you’ve learned from past experiences. Everyone has a past, and no one is perfect. If there were issues in your life that caused you to go down the wrong path, own up to them and express why you are a different person now than you were then. Learning from your mistakes does not make you less of an employee, it simply makes you human, and every successful person has gone through trials to get to where they are today.

4. Don’t be picky.

Even though the thought of a future employer uncovering a less-than-stellar background in your past makes you cringe, there is no reason to feel like your life and opportunity for success is over. However, knowing that you have a record that would make many employers look the other way, you have to be prepared for multiple rejections. But, there is always opportunity to re-build and start again. If you have to work in less than desirable positions for a while, then that is what you have to do, but there is always a way to come back from a criminal past, as long as you have a true desire to work hard and continue moving in a positive direction. So keep your head out of the sand!

This guest post was contributed by Jane Smith. Jane is a freelance blogger and writer for http://www.backgroundcheck.org/. She specializes in career issues, managing an online reputation, and making healthy life choices. She welcomes you to email her any questions or comments and can be reached at janesmith161 @gmail.com.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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