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Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Oct 3, 2016 in Career Path
, Lessons Learned
When 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.
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Aug 10, 2016 in Self Improvement
Within the Job Jungle, plenty of animals work in packs. Wolves, monkeys, many kinds of birds – all of these rely upon group coherence to survive. And the most successful packs are the ones which can work together effectively. In order to work together, pack animals need to be able to communicate clearly and well, without conflict or confusion. If you want to join one of these successful packs, you, too, will need to demonstrate these exemplary communication skills. Here’s why communication is important, and how you can improve your working communication skills.
Without Effective Communication, There Is Chaos
Every company, and everyone working within a company must balance the needs of the collective with the needs of the individual. Humans are social animals, and a large part of our brains is given over to working with others. However, we’re also individuals, and our own individual needs and desires often clash with the needs and desires of others in the group. When this happens, conflict occurs. In most cases, conflicts within organizations work to the detriment of the organization as a whole. Conflict can sometimes be an essential precursor for necessary change – but in order for this to be the case, the conflict needs to be framed within civilized communicative boundaries. On a lesser level, failures to communicate effectively can result in tense working environments, frustrations, and even damage to the fabric of the company. A surprising amount of insurance claims result from people misusing equipment etc, simply because what they were supposed to be doing and how they were supposed to be doing it had not been communicated effectively. In order to create and preserve constructive working relationships, companies need people who are good at both talking and listening. If you can prove that you’re good at communicating, you’re more likely to get the job than someone who’s otherwise highly qualified but can’t communicate as effectively as you.
When people think of ‘communication’, they tend to think of chatter and words. However, a huge part of what makes someone an effective communicator is their ability to listen. This doesn’t just mean staying quiet while someone else talks – your mind really needs to be on what they’re saying, absorbing their words, and considering the implications of them. Listening is as much a character trait as a practical skill. If you’re the kind of person who decides on their line and sticks to it whatever the other person says, you’re not really listening, however much you ostensibly hear their words. Chances are that you’re using the time while they’re talking to think up counter-arguments, rather than critically and open-mindedly assessing what they’re telling you. Listening well does not necessarily mean agreeing with your co-converser. But it does mean giving their words a chance. It’s also worth noting that good listeners tend to be more respected and liked than those who are less skilled at listening A good listener will:
- Not talk over other people. Don’t interrupt, and don’t finish their sentences for them. If you really feel the need to engage while they’re talking, do so through non-verbal cues like nodding and smiling.
- Encourage the speaker. They won’t display disinterest or frustration. They will signal that they are interested and focused and wish the speaker to get their point across.
- The listener will not let their attention stray from the speaker, either visibly or invisibly. They will concentrate on what the speaker is saying, and let their meanings fully sink in.
- The listener will do their best to understand and empathise with the other person’s point of view. This does not necessarily mean agreeing with them – simply appreciating where they’re coming from, and the experiences or considerations which have led them to this viewpoint.
- Be patient. Sometimes it can take a while for speakers to get their point across. A good listener will have the patience to wait this process out and remain engaged throughout, even when they feel that they know where the speaker is going.
- Listen to volume, tone, and body language as much as words. Non-lexical cues can tell a good listener a lot about what the speaker is really saying, and add a valuable dimension to their comprehension of the speaker’s point of view.
- Work out the bigger picture. Rather than snatching isolated soundbites, a good listener will try to look at the bigger picture which the speaker is painting.
Speaking is, obviously, another aspect of effective communication. To properly engage with your colleagues, you will need to be able to talk to them in an equable and clear manner. People who can’t make themselves clear through speech, or whose speech isn’t received well will not be as able to get their ideas or points across as well as they might, which can cause conflict-creating frustrations. Nor will they be as able to make friend and form effective team bonds. If you wish to be a good speaker, try thinking about the following things:
- The pace of your words. Often, if we’ve grown up with our words marginalized, we may speak in a rush to try and get our points out before someone else speaks over us. There is no need to do this. If someone speaks over you, that is a problem with their listening skills – do not make it become a problem for your speaking skills. Pace your speech comfortably, so that people have time to absorb your words, and you don’t come across as desperate, harried, or panicked.
- The thought behind the speech. Don’t launch in without thinking first about what you’re saying, and the implications of that. One well thought-out piece of speech is worth a thousand vague and inconsequential words!
- Get to the point. While a good listener will stick with you while you go off on tangents and beat around the bush, it’s still best to avoid doing this as much as possible. If you’ve thought out what you’re going to say, you should know the point you’re trying to make. Get to the point while talking, and don’t waste unnecessary words. You can explore avenues arising from your point in ensuing conversation.
Also – be yourself. Ok, so we’ve just told you to control what you’re saying, and now we’re telling you to ‘be yourself’. What if the ‘real you’ speaks quickly, beats around the bush, and doesn’t think before they speak? Don’t worry – you can still be the genuine ‘you’ while taking care to make your speech clear and concise. Simply make sure that you’re staying true to your own ideas, and keep your mannerisms and tone natural. People appreciate and will listen to someone with integrity – and staying true to your own self is a great way to demonstrate integrity.
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!
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 25, 2016 in Lessons Learned
The 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.
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.
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.
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!
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on May 16, 2016 in Job Search
, Lessons Learned
Employers 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.
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Feb 19, 2016 in Self Improvement
Cassowaries are flightless birds native to the tropical forests of New Guinea and Australia. It is the second heaviest living bird and the species subsists mainly on fruit. Cassowaries are identified by a prominent boney casque protruding from their wedge-shaped heads. Several purposes for the casque have been suggested including use as a weapon for dominance, protection against fruit falling from trees, or even as a sort of knife; aiding their ability to cut a speedy path through the forest vegetation.
As professionals, we continuously work to hone our networking skills. Those in business development are always working to uncover a new business prospect. Job seekers are continuously building their networks to obtain job opportunity referrals that might not be advertised using the “friend of a friend” network.
But how did those people originally become friends? I can promise you, it wasn’t from reaching out only when they needed something. They checked in from time to time and had recurring mutually beneficial exchanges that exemplified that they could trust and rely on one another. They created a relationship.
Relationships are built over time and go far beyond networking. If you are working to expand your network for personal or professional reasons, try changing your paradigm to cut through the jungle of networking and focus on expanding your relationships. How can you help someone else in their pursuits and, at the same time, reach your own goals?
Networking can be a painful part of job searching if you haven’t been building relationships along the way that are mutually beneficial. Job seekers who work tirelessly to get referrals while they are looking for work often neglect to continue the efforts that got them there after they get the job. I have heard countless stories about people who never received even a thank you note when they referred someone for a job. The job seeker was so focused on getting the job that they didn’t consider (or possibly remember) the person that made the intro for them.
Referrals are often made out of kindness without expecting anything in return, but when they are overlooked, it really sticks out in the referring person’s mind. I can almost promise you if you lose sight of building the relationship with the person that referred you, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get a second referral down the road. And the cycle will have to start from scratch again.
When you receive a referral, thank the person. Send a gift card, or a note in the mail, invite them to lunch or happy hour, but don’t just send another email. Referrals are a gift, not a right, and your own personal reputation is on the line when you refer someone to another person. Ask others how you can help them meet their goals this year as they were kind enough to assist you in meeting yours. That’s how you build a relationship.
People do business with people they know, trust and like. Rarely does a vendor get selected when they rub someone the wrong way.
Like the cassowary, use the tools you have to cut through the forest to reach your goal. Take time to keep good notes, thank people who help you along the way, and help them as well. Building relationships is far more important in building your network than just showing up and attending an event. Get involved at a higher level with your networking groups. Remember, It’s a two way street.
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jan 22, 2016 in Building Confidence
, Executive Coaching
Successful leaders have a certain “Je ne sais quoi” – an air of authority, trust, confidence and knowledge that inspires others to follow them and move towards the goals they have set. Jungle guides are the most valuable members of the excursion party. Without them, the group may become hopelessly lost, run out of food, or become food themselves. If the guide effectively projects their knowledge and authority, the group will follow the guide safely through the jungle.
As someone moving up the ranks towards leadership, it’s imperative to create your leadership presence early on. In order to be the one that’s tapped to take on new leadership assignments you need to assume the presence of a leader before you can actually be one.
Consider what you say, how you say it and how you look saying it.
WHAT YOU SAY
Leaders phrase things positively. They move as quickly and efficiently as they can through a process to a successful conclusion. Listen to great leaders who choose their words wisely and adjust your delivery to mimic theirs. Researching great speeches of the past is a good place to start to learn to frame your comments positively. Rarely do great leaders talk about all the problems they have had and what they are trying to avoid, they only speak about where they are going and how they are going to get there. Avoid negativity and find the positive in every situation first and only talk about the positive which will eliminate any appearance of negativity.
HOW YOU SAY IT
Contrarians are never the leader – they are the outliers. There are many times you may not agree with something, or have a differing opinion, which is how creativity and growth are often generated. But how you deliver the message is the difference between someone who is considered a leader and someone who is branded as not supportive of the company’s goals. The best way to offer a new idea that may not be in alignment with others’ thinking is to present it as a “brainstorm” by starting off the introduction with something like, “I don’t know if we’ve ever looked at it this way, but what about the possibility of…”, or “These are really important and great ideas, can we brainstorm for a moment here?”. Avoid blurting your disagreement directly out for risk of alienating others in the room. Remember, it is possible that your ideas have been explored in the past and were overlooked or avoided for some reason you are not aware of.
Don’t take it personally if others don’t like your ideas every time. Remember, it takes a village, so do your best to contribute AND collaborate when it’s time for you to support someone else’s ideas that are being adopted.
HOW YOU LOOK SAYING IT
Even if its casual day, a put together look is key. No matter how crazy their morning was, leaders never come in and talk about chaos in their lives, they just manage it. If others view you as unable to manage yourself to be where you need to be and looking ready, you won’t be the one they choose to be a leader. Always putting your best self forward will ensure others view you as a leader at all times. Leaders don’t make excuses, either. They take responsibility for what they do, where they are and their outcomes. They embody this by making it to meetings and appointments on time, dressed appropriately and being organized and ready for the meeting or conversation. Traffic doesn’t keep them from being on time. Their kids don’t prevent them from getting somewhere they need to be when they need to be there. They get it done, consistently and build confidence in others by being reliable and dependable.
Wondering if you are on the right track? Look at people in the hallway – are they making eye contact with you? Are they saying hello? Do the big bosses know you by name? Take the lead and greet others as they pass you in the hall; introduce yourself in the elevator to someone you know that may not know your name. Leaders are natural connectors, too – introduce others you are with to the people you are meeting to take the lead and position yourself as a leader.
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 26, 2015 in Building Confidence
, Self Improvement
Our office has recently seen many individuals make significant employment changes from one large company to another; leaving behind the teams they built over the last 5-10 years for the unfamiliar terrain of a new executive position filled with fresh faces to groom and lead. The conversations about how the new role is going seem to center around a common theme – the first priority of building a new team that they can trust. This begs the examination of what is really the definition of trust.
Webster’s Dictionary says, trust is the “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective.” Wikipedia offers a social definition as when the “trustor” is willing to rely on the actions of another party (“trustee”).
It takes time for people to build credibility with each other. You must exemplify trustworthiness in order to receive it from your team and build your own trust in them. Consider these 5 tips for making a daily effort towards building your leadership trustworthiness offered by Jennifer Miller from SMARTBLOGS:
- Get to know people’s minds and hearts.
- Keep promises.
- Maintain confidences.
- Ask, “How are you doing?” Then shut up and listen.
- Back your people up.
Jennifer stresses as her first point that building and promoting your team’s skills is not enough, you also need to understand their motivations. Recognize the underlying influences that drive your team beyond the technical so that you can better position them for success in the group, and in their career path. This will solidify your team’s confidence in your abilities as a leader. Ask your team members what gets them to work in the morning beyond salary and social aspects.
Equally important is keeping your promises, both positive and negative. Creating a track record of consistency will allow you to ask the same of your team. Nothing erodes trust in a leader faster than broken promises and false hope. Be especially careful about assurances that could be undone because of a lack of information or support from senior leadership. It will be viewed by your team as a significant weak point in any future promises you make no matter how much they trust you.
Get to know your team and their individual personalities to maintain confidences. Your team’s observance on how you treat privileged information about them builds, or destroys, a foundation of trust in what they are willing to share about themselves to you. This can extend to simple praise and criticism where one employee may not mind being corrected or complimented in public and another may prefer to receive any feedback in private.
In this age of technological progress where communication is faster than ever, people seem to have less and less time to truly listen. This is especially true the further you are in your career. Asking how someone is doing and then being able to take the time to truly listen to the response is very rare. Schedule time on your calendar for members of your team to discuss ideas and concerns with you to avoid only half listening while writing an email or having to cut them off to rush to a meeting. Making yourself available to be able to respond with your whole attention will help you develop a deeper relationship with your team.
To err is human and to pass the blame is the mark of a team’s shaky confidence in its leader. If the team makes a mistake, correcting that mistake in the work product should take precedence over whose individual fault it is. If the fault is yours, own it. Even if your only mistake was not catching the error before the project was submitted. When your team is comfortable knowing they won’t have to waste time and energy constantly covering their own rears at the expense of the team’s cohesion, they will be able to get back to business more quickly after a minor slip-up. A single team member can be coached in private if they are the source of reoccurring issues.
Trust must be built over months and years but it can be shattered in an instant. Maintaining trust requires continual investment in the leader-employee relationship. Show your trustworthiness by getting to know your team personally to position them for success, keeping your promises, maintaining confidence, and really listening to and backing your group is the fastest way to develop a team that you will be able to trust. In the wild Job Search Jungle, your team may be your only hope for survival so make sure the trust you build can get you through any obstacle.
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 11, 2014 in Interviewing Skills
, Lessons Learned
Weird Tales from Behind the Recruiting Desk:
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!
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Oct 4, 2012 in Building Confidence
, Self Improvement
Zoosemiotics is the study of animal communication; any intentional behavior on the part of one animal that has an effect on the current or future behavior of another animal. Examples can include sounds such as bird calls or tail-wagging in dogs.
When competition is fierce in the jungle, you have to project confidence using effective communication techniques. In the job search or workplace jungle, this doesn’t mean marking your territory or baring your teeth. It can be as simple as being conscious of how you would like others to perceive you when you speak. Combine refined speech with confident body language in your communication to give you the alpha edge.
Cara Hale Alter, author of The Credibility Code: How to Project Confidence and Competence When It Matters Most (www.thecredibilitycode.com), offers these tips (taken from the Costco Connection):
Keep your head level
Speak with optimal volume
Hold eye contact for three to five seconds
Keep your hands in the gesture box
Avoid using fillers or uptalk
Visit the original article (link above) or www.thecredibilitycode.com for more tips on how to project confidence!
Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 9, 2011 in Career Path
Summer is arriving and so are the summer flowers! While spring is known for its fantastic array of colorful flora, the brief and brilliant display can still remain in the newly emerging summer flowers which can continue into early fall.
Your Step-By-Step Guide to Score a Promotion!
While the summer flowers emerge as a lingering trace of the dazzling color and delicate fragrance of spring, year and half-year evealuations are taking place in workplaces everywhere. Grab your chance at a promotion or raise this summer and bloom in the jungle with these “do and don’t’ tips on how to approach your boss about your performance and career path.
Original article with quotes by Carolyn Thompson
By Brittany Galla at http://life2pointoh.com