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The Competition – Surviving Competitive Workplaces, The Natural Way

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 25, 2015 in Career Path, Self Improvement

CompetitiveCompetition in the workplace is nothing new and if you cannot make your mark in it, you are going to lose in the long run. There will always be someone looking to fill your position and will try all methods to get ahead of you. Doesn’t it sound a bit like the jungle? Yes, a competitive workplace is like a jungle, where everyone competes with each other for their survival.

You will find the strong cats in there sneaking upon its prey, bullish elephants pushing ahead of everyone and the sneaky reptiles slithering its way, biting anyone that challenges them. A competitive workplace is sometimes a good thing for an organization to get the employees motivated and productive. But as an individual you may feel that this is all too overwhelming.

As nature is the best teacher, we can learn a lot from nature about adapting in the cut-throat competition that is seen in some workplaces. Here are some of the acts that can be attributed to the likeness of surviving in a jungle, which will help you to get ahead of the competition:

Survival of the ‘skillest’

This is in analogy to the popular concept of “survival of the fittest” put forward by the great naturalist, Charles Darwin; which states that the fittest always survives and moves forward in the evolutionary ladder. In a competitive workplace, to be fit means to have the skills necessary to remain an important part of it. You will have to learn new skills whenever necessary in order to step up the corporate ladder, as skills are the only determining factor that will make you stand out of the rest. Take time out to learn new skills that you think are connected to your industry. There are various online courses nowadays that help one to gather new skills at your convenience.Just like squirrels hoarding nuts for the winter, you will understand that hoarding skills may help you in the future; if you ever have to face that allegorical ‘winter’ of your career.

Evolve to adapt

I will give you an example of the Darwin’s finches here. It is a group of finches which shows highly developed beaks to adapt to the different environments they live in. If you feel that remaining the same person in this competitive workplace is not going to help you, then you should know that it is time to evolve into something which no one is expecting. Be unpredictable and along with the new skills that you might have learned as mentioned above, you will become an eye-turner. Today’s world is dynamic and change can happen any moment. You will need to learn to evolve in accordance to the environment you work in.

Mimicry

You may not be aware of the fact that corporate culture is developed upon the theory of mimicry. What is meant by when one says we have a typical work culture? So where did this work culture actually start from? It all started one face at a time from emotional contagion. Emotions are highly contagious and before you realise anything, you are mimicking the posture of the person in front of you to receive his attention. Someone smiles, you smile back unconsciously; this is what mimicry is all about. You can use this mimicry in order to survive a competitive workplace. In nature, animals mimic their surrounding in order to not arouse any suspicion among the preys or attackers. Even though it is not highly recommendable, you can always mimic your way to be accepted in a working environment.

Pounce upon opportunities

In a competitive workplace there is no place for chivalry. This may come hard but it is true. Just like in the jungle where every moment is a struggle for existence, a competitive workplace is a continuous struggle for leapfrogging ahead of others. No big cat is chivalrous enough to give a deer a head start. If you are the deer in this environment, you will be wiped out of the workplace’s existence.

Remember to pounce upon any opportunity to show that you are superior and that your work is valued. Volunteer to do things that no one else does and gets noticed by the right people in your organisation. If you let others do it, you might have well lost one great opportunity to show your competence.

Territory master

What happens when a dog enters into the territory of another dog? All hells get loose and the second dog viciously protects his territory. No, I am not asking you to bite or kick anyone; just learn to protect your territory (aka position). If anyone tries to give a challenge to your position, use your experience and the skills to know who the alpha-professional is.

You can no wonder learn a lot from nature and if you use the lessons provided by nature to get the most out your professional life, you can cruise smoothly through all the competition. Instead of going through job sites to get out of the competition, try following the tips mentioned above.

This Guest Post was contributed by Hasib. Hasib is a professional writer working with the job portal –naukri.com and often writes articles related to career and education. He is an avid reader and lives for two things – football and food. If he is not involved in any of those, you can find him contemplating existential issues. Follow him @ twitter, Google+, LinkedIn

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 Jaguar – Online Tests and Survival of the Fittest

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Dec 22, 2011 in Building Confidence, Interviewing Skills, Job Search

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Online tests are the jaguar of the jobs world, as they prey on the weak and devour the unprepared. But unfortunately they are the future of recruitment. With such a huge number of people competing for very little work, having the right skills to fit your ideal role is more important than ever. We’re in a drought and the competition is tough, but to survive online tests you just need to follow these simple rules:

Stay Focused

This is the first thing to remember when taking online tests as any lack of concentration will cause you to make mistakes. It’s understandable to be nervous, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get through to the next stage as this will only distract you. In a stressful situation you may react differently and answer questions in a different way than you would if you were in a calm environment. To optimize your chances of surviving online tests choose a quiet place where you feel comfortable and eat beforehand to make sure you have plenty of energy. This will help you maintain control and stay calm. Deep breathing will also help if you’re feeling especially anxious, and don’t think about your competition!

Pace Yourself

One of the biggest mistakes you can make during online tests is to rush. Jobseekers tend to think they’ll run out of time and get caught out but take your time and read the questions slowly and thoroughly. This will help you digest the information and understand the questions being asked. One thing you can do to ensure you pace yourself is to read the questions out loud, or if you prefer to stay quiet write down the questions on a notepad to make sure you really think about what is being said.

Don’t Be Careless

This is linked to you pacing yourself, as spending time to thoroughly check your answers will ensure you don’t make any careless mistakes. Don’t rely on the online tests to warn you of incorrect spellings. Check a dictionary. If you do make mistakes, an employer may think you don’t pay close attention to details, and if the competition is fierce this could be your downfall. Make sure you read through your answers carefully, paying close attention to each word. Rereading sentences as you type them can also help with spellings.

Don’t Stray From the Rules

Often jobseekers get so caught up in the content of their answers that they forget about the correct rules of grammar. This could end your dreams of securing your ideal job, as employers are looking for reasons to narrow down applicants. Employers are looking for good, reliable writers who they can trust to send out written information on their behalf. To stick to the grammar rules and avoid mistakes, write straightforward sentences. Don’t overcomplicate your writing and reread each sentence to check for mistakes. Be specifically aware of any capitalization errors, missing punctuation, sentence fragments and sentence run-ons.

Follow Your Instincts

Another common mistake jobseekers make is to make assumptions about what the employer wants to hear. To survive online tests you must concentrate on what you think is the right answer, not what you think they want. Don’t be afraid to follow your gut instinct. Some jobseekers start to doubt their own ability and try to think from the employer’s perspective. But this leads to answering the question dishonestly, and above all else you need to stay true to yourself. After all, if you don’t get the job then perhaps the company wasn’t right for you. Nobody wants to get a job for the wrong reasons!

So those are the rules. If you follow these you’ll have more chance of surviving online tests and getting that perfect job.

This guest post is contributed by Sarah Leeds.

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 Penguin – Winter Socialite

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Nov 17, 2010 in Job Search

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For professionals seeking employment at any level, the holidays shouldn’t be the time when you put your job search on hold until next year. Waddle down to the local ice flow, put on your winter tux and socialize! Many people have the attitude “I’ll get started after the first of the year” with a resolution to work harder, but the holiday season is a great chance for you to slide in to job openings as those hibernating species create less competition.

Statistics provided by CareerBuilder.com show that job seekers slow down their search in December, but get back into gear in January creating almost 20% more unique searches with only a 5% increase in job posts than in December. Hiring authorities are scheduling interviews and making hiring plans for the New Year right now!

All dressed up and nowhere to go? How about a holiday party?

For those of you out of work, this should be an opportunity to expand your network. People who are currently working are there to blow off steam, relax, and socialize, so you don’t want to be too aggressive, but take advantage of this time to meet new people to tap into for referrals.

Before you go:

When you RSVP, call the host/hostess instead of emailing and ask who else might be attending and if he/she knows where they work. Remember: knowledge is power- look up the other guests on LinkedIn and connect prior to the party. You can say in your LinkedIn invite, “looking forward to seeing you at so-and-so’s party next week. I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network.”

In social situations reaching out to attendees in advance may open a door for a conversation you wouldn’t have otherwise had by gaining familiarity prior to meeting them in person. Being able to strike up a conversation quickly will set you apart from the other guests.

As with any networking, knowing your unique value proposition before you leave the house in your finest business-casual duds is important. Practice in the mirror before you go. Smile and take mints and business contact cards with you as well as pen and paper to write contact info and names.

While you’re there:

Most professionals don’t carry business cards with them in social settings so be prepared to offer yours and make sure you take notes of who to follow up with after the party.

Have fun and fit in. Having a glass of water between wines will keep you hydrated and ensure you’re not consuming too much alcohol to make a good first impression. Remember- the first impression is a lasting one so make sure you appear professional even in a casual, relaxed holiday setting. Eat prior to the party so you aren’t sidling up to a potential employer with a full mouth.

People like to talk about themselves so be prepared with a list of questions you can ask that could lead into work related conversation.

“So, how do you know the so and so’s?” or “How did you meet the so and so’s?”

Many times people are at parties and don’t know the hosts. You can move into
“Oh, well, I know them from XYZ. So, what kind of work do you do?”

Follow up:

People are often more inclined to help during the holiday giving season so there is no reason to wait until after the holidays to reach out and follow up with someone. Remember, if you link with them on LinkedIn, you can see their email addresses so you don’t have to ask for it. Sending your resume with a thoughtful cover letter about why you are interested in their company and asking for referrals is appropriate. If you don’t have the email address, send them a hard copy of your resume and cover letter via USPS Priority Mail.

Also, make sure you send your host/hostess a thank you note by mail or email, whatever you prefer. You can mention your job search after thanking them for hosting such a great event and that you’d appreciate them forwarding your resume onto people as they see fit or to specific individuals you haven’t been able to reach personally.

Other places you can meet professionals during the holidays:

• Soup kitchen/homeless shelter Thanksgiving dinner service
• Canned food drives
• Coat drives
• Church events
Toys for tots

Party hearty this holiday season and learn from the penguins, the coolest socialites around!

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The Breeze – Cool Summer Job Tips For Students

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 22, 2010 in Career Path, Self Improvement

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No one wants their kids to grow up too quickly. We can never have time back from when we were younger, but let’s face it; our kids ARE growing up more quickly. They are more technologically savvy, they have larger vocabularies and many have traveled the world before they even leave high school breezing through a more connected world.

The generations that have wanted to make their kids lives easier have succeeded. But this is actually making job searches tougher for these young people as competition for entry level jobs has dramatically increased.

Consider these tips for high school and college students-

High school summer jobs introduce us to a hard day’s work. That’s how you make money- you go to work, do a good job, and they pay you. High school is a great time for fun summer jobs where extra help is needed like camp counselors, lifeguarding, babysitting, caddying, amusement park work, landscaping, pet sitting, waiting tables, or catering.

As the college students arrive home this summer, our inclination is to let them cool off and have a break from their studies and enjoy their “free” summers (before they have to work full time.) Unfortunately, they will be at a huge disadvantage if they haven’t had a college sponsored internship or some other position giving them the chance to try out professional work before they have to work full time.

It’s easy for college students to revisit their old high school summer jobs for some extra cash, but 3 or 4 summers later, those skills aren’t going to be the ones employers are seeking. Sure, they will have shown dependability by being on time and they’ll have learned to be individually accountable for their actions, but unless they have assumed responsibility for managing, scheduling, preparing correspondence for the company, and doing some basic bookkeeping or payroll using Microsoft office including word and excel, it’s possible the skills they’re building won’t be suitable for a professional entry level job after graduation. College students should have one or two internships under their belt or in the bag by their sophomore and junior years.

Many colleges have companies that solicit interns for formalized programs. Motorola, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ebay, Microsoft and many other large corporations have formalized internship programs. If your student is interested in pursuing that type of work you can research the company websites and call human resources for information on the educational requirements for admission. These programs are very competitive but often yield job offers for participants.

Remember, over 80% of employers are small businesses. Ask the merchants you patronize as well as people you know personally if your student could interview for a 6 or 8 week assignment while they are home from college. Your local business journal or chamber of commerce are great resources to use when researching small businesses in your area.

Support your students by planning your summer vacations so they can work a meaningful 6 or 8 week program. Help them prepare their resume but show them how to research information to follow up on themselves and set up their own interviews. If they are juniors or seniors you could enlist a few sessions with an executive coach to help them hone their interview skills before sending them out to apply.

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