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The Expedition – Trust In The Jungle

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 26, 2015 in Building Confidence, Self Improvement

ExpeditionOur 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.


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The Tiger – Bounding Over The Interview Questions

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 3, 2014 in Interviewing Skills

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Interviewing Questions Series: 7-8 of 29 Tiger2

Answers to popular (and sometimes tricky) questions you might hear in your next interview. Suggestions and requests are welcome in the comments. If you are currently a job seeker, a great way to help you prepare for the interview is to prepare a brief answer to all of the questions here. Download all of the questions here: Interview Prep Guide.

Would you be prepared to move?

When you are interviewing for a job that requires relocation, say “yes.”

If you applied to the position knowing that relocation would be required, it will usually be discussed in detail after the offer. Despite the fact that there are a lot of steps that will need to be accomplished for that to occur, the interview is not the time to discuss them – save that for after you have received the offer. Bombarding the interviewer with too much detail about all the things you will need to do to get moved and settled may actually be a deciding factor on who they choose, so when asked this up front, just say you will be able to relocate and leave the planning and discussion until after you have accepted the offer.

What is your anticipated salary?”

Start with a discussion of the cash you have received in your last position. Many discussions about stock options get complicated and the first or second interview is not the time to get into those details. Options are only as good as the cash you can or have received for them so make sure you know what your grants were and what that immediate or near term value is. Preparing a spreadsheet is a good idea in case you need it.

No matter what the total compensation is that you are looking for, let them know you are open their best offer. All companies have different pay and incentive pay plans that are pretty consistent across the board and the larger the company, the more consistency they strive to achieve. You could unwittingly under- or overprice yourself by bundling your base and bonuses together in a lump number so make sure you break that out so they have a firm understanding of the components of your previous pay.

Another thing to consider: Health insurance paid on your behalf is not generally used to negotiate more cash up front. Just because you don’t need the plan now doesn’t mean you might not need it later. While it may seem like a good idea to ask for $2k more per year since you won’t be using the benefits up front, it won’t usually work. If you need to initiate the plan later, they most likely would not reduce your pay so it’s best to just leave it on the table.

Never lie about your previous compensations. It will be verified.

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The Groundhog – Six More Weeks For The Old I-9

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Mar 25, 2013 in Job Search

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The New and Improved Employment Eligibility Form (Form I-9)

Groundhog Day, celebrated annually on February 2nd in the US and Canada, is a quaint end-of-winter tradition. Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks. This year, the Pennsylvania groundhog “Punxsutawney Phil” did not see his shadow which, according to folklore, should mean an early spring for the area. Recent snows seem to contradict the famous woodchuck’s prediction. Although six weeks of prolonged winter weather wasn’t expected, we can expect at least six more weeks for the old I-9 form before it gives way to the new.

The Employment Eligibility Form (Form I-9) has finally been updated and is available to use. Employers should start using this new form now, and may not use the old form after May 7, 2013.

After performing numerous I-9 audits for our clients in the past year, we want to make sure that you’re aware of the hot buttons that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) looks for that may make you incompliant.

So what’s new about this form and the instructions? First of all, the complete form lengthened from five pages to nine pages total.  The boxes in the form are now much bigger and easier to fill out, but there are a couple major changes you’ll need to educate your team about.

(The first six pages of the form are the instructions. The form itself begins on page 7.)

  • Section 1 is the entire first page of the form, what the employee completes. Here, the employee now has the option to also provide a phone number and e-mail address as part of their personal information. The employee does not have to do so, however, and can mark “N/A” in those fields instead. If an employee is providing an I-94 Admission Number, there is now a line for this, separate from the USCIS Number line, and has additional lines for the passport number and country of issuance accompanying it. The preparer/translator section at the bottom has been enhanced to stress the importance that USCIS puts on this section.
  • Section 2 is still just for the employer to complete, but is now on its own page following Section 1. At the top, there is a line for the employer to add the employee’s name as listed in Section 1. Pay attention to this box and make sure to complete it. This is a new major change that can be easily overlooked! Section 2 still contains the identification boxes but List A now has additional and improved boxes for the documents used. The List B and List C columns have clearer fields for the required information (the name of the document, the issuing authority, the document number, and the expiration date, if there is one). Under the Lists, there is still a separate line to add the employee’s date of hire and it is slightly easier to see. Lastly, the employer has more room to write in the company’s complete address in the certification section.
  • Section 3, at the bottom of the second form page, remains almost the same with the benefit of bigger boxes and some minor formatting of the form. If an employer needs to do a recertification on the employee, this section must be used.


What hasn’t changed?

  • ALL new hires must complete this form.
  • The employee is still required to complete Section 1 by the date of hire, and the employer is required to complete Section 2 within 3 days of the date of hire.
  • The employee is still required to present documentation from either List A or, List B and List C.
  • EVERY line needs to be PROPERLY completed in full, without abbreviations, or the form will not be considered compliant.

Hopefully this form will make it easier for both the employee and the employer to complete all of the required information, and reduce the number of technical violations for the employer. This form and the instructions can be found here

This guest post was contributed by Tricia L. Kleber, PHR, CCP.

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The Busy Bees – Creating A Sustainable Internship Program For Small To Midsized Businesses

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 21, 2011 in Career Path

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So many flowers and so little time! Your small to midsized hive needs an extra set of honey bee hands for a couple of months and to cover for staff while they are out on summer vacations. There is a lot of honey needing to be made!

Students are a great resource for quick minds eager to learn. They are often up to date on the latest technology, are up and comers in the industry, and are a terrific way to screen potential employees once they are ready to start their careers.

Many colleges and universities require their students to graduate with at least one completed internship under their belts. This gives the students hands-on and practical work experience directly related to their career goals or field of interest. Employers who wish to take advantage of this pool of young talent should create a program which emphasizes professional development as well as provides constructive evaluation of the student’s performance including feedback on the program itself.

Internships are most often considered during the summer months when students will have more time to devote to their internship schedule, but internships can be offered throughout the year. School credit or pay can be offered at the company’s discretion. If the company wishes to offer school credit, they must meet the school’s requirements and submit an application to the school. This summer is a great time to think about starting a 4 to 8 week program for next summer depending on your business’ needs.

To create a sustainable internship program, you must first identify:
• Learning objectives.
• The tasks and responsibilities of the intern(s).
• Total compensation (paid, school credit, stipend, etc.).
• Supervisors/mentors who will guide the intern(s).
• People and concepts the intern(s) will encounter during their internship.
• Schedule of events not directly related to the tasks required of the intern(s) such as attending meetings, conferences, training, etc.
• Qualifications to perform certain tasks (must have(s)) which can be included in the job description
• Training and evaluation.
• Duration of internship (may be determined by whether it is paid or unpaid)
• How you will solicit interns (through the school website, various online internship databases, on the company website, word of mouth, etc.)

A successful internship program requires time and effort on the part of the supervisors. Drafting basic job descriptions as well as a tight, but flexible, schedule for the interns to follow is essential preparation as well as making sure that workspaces and necessary supplies have been arranged for.

5 steps to a successful program:
1. Prepare answers and materials for all of the above points so the internship period runs smoothly.
2. Orient and train the interns in your company’s business and include them in meetings with exposure to all levels of the company.
3. Utilize their skills by having them perform tasks that will challenge and educate with hands on experience.
4. Mentor– with opportunities for them to network and ask questions to benefit from others’ experience as well as shadow employees performing tasks that interns would not be permitted to complete. Research-based tasks are beneficial as well.
5. Evaluate their performance and success with required activities in the program and have them evaluate the program during and after with open communication. Follow up with the school if applicable.

Research your local colleges and universities and reach out to the deans about their internship requirements. No business is too small to have a formalized internship program. The University of Michigan’s Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute is an entrepreneurial studies program that could benefit from an internship at your startup company. Even if you are a small company you may find someone that ends up being a great long term hire. No company is too small!

Build it and they will come…and don’t forget to have fun! Interns can breathe new life into an organization with their enthusiasm. Go make some honey!

Special thanks to the recruiting department at Dixon Hughes Goodman for being a model program and the Michigan State University’s excellent website for tips on how to create a great internship program at your business.

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The Flock – Your Employee’s First Day

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jan 28, 2010 in Job Search

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In a previous post, I noted some tips on how to be prepared for your first day by comparing it to building a nest. Building the “nest” is up to the employee to prepare for, but as the employer, you have preparation of your own to welcome the new member of the flock. The smoother the transition for your new employee, the faster they will be able to contribute their talents.

Your new employee is very excited about their new position and anxious to make a good impression. Here are some common sense things that will make that transition easier for them into their new company.

A phone call the week before they start is a great personal touch, and goes a long way toward making a new employee feel welcome. Let them know what to expect, where to go and what time to arrive the first day.

Have necessary items ready before they arrive:

·         Keys, security passes, parking passes, etc. should be ready for them or the paperwork associated with them available to be filled out.

·         Payroll forms and HR paperwork should be in a package and ready to be completed if not already done prior to start date.

Have the employee’s workspace ready for work:

·         Computer set up and running, email accounts activated.

·         Ensure the phone is in place, working and a manual is handy.

·         The chair is appropriate for the space and in good condition.

·         The work area (desk, carpet, etc.) is clean and in good working order.

·         A new, current copy of the company phone directory is available (or available on-line).

·         Have a scheduled agenda for them the first day or two. Include them in meetings on projects they will be involved with, even if only as an observer.

·         Introduce them to everyone they will be working with directly. Make sure they meet the person they should go to with facilities questions (i.e.: how to work the copier, the fax, the phone, etc.).

·         Have someone in the department (manager/peer) scheduled to take them to lunch on the first day. There is nothing more uncomfortable than going to a new company and not knowing where to go for lunch the first day, and not being invited to go with others. A little pre-planning can make the new employee feel welcome and a part of the group.

Keep the lines of communication open, and remember that they will have a lot of questions. Be approachable and available to them. Order their business cards and other personal stationary items as needed so they can get to work and be a productive, contributing member of your group as soon as possible.

Once the transition is complete, they will be able to fly uniformly with the rest of the flock and be eager to welcome new employees into the company family.

Discussed extensively in Ten Steps to Finding the Perfect Job as well as available in a recorded webinar presented by Carolyn Thompson at


Carolyn Thompson


Lindsay Sellner

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The Nest – Your First Day At A New Job

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jan 28, 2010 in Building Confidence, Career Path

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Winter is still going strong in the early months of the year, but maybe the new year has brought some good news and you are about to start a new job!

When birds create the foundations for a new stage in their lives, they take a lot of time to prepare. You may not need one or two weeks to gather the materials, but don’t underestimate! Nests keep the bird’s most precious possession safe: their eggs. For the time the bird lays and incubates its eggs and raises its young, the nest has to be solid and strong. The foundation for a new job has to be equally strong and you want to be careful to make the best first impression at the start!  

Leave home early in order to be on time. Factor in an extra 15 minutes in case you run into a traffic jam.

Take proper identification with you to fill out your new employee paperwork (if you have not already done so). This could include your passport, a driver’s license, social security card, green card or other authorization required to legally work in the US. Know what your exemptions are for tax purposes, and take emergency contact phone numbers for your file. Many companies offer direct salary deposit, and you can expedite that process by bringing a voided check or deposit slip with you to attach to the appropriate forms. If you need help filling out your forms, ask! Correctly filling out your new hire forms the first time will save you time and trouble later.

Dress professionally and appropriately for the company you are working for. (When in doubt, dress UP…not down.) Make sure your shoes are shined, your clothes are neat and pressed and that you don’t over-accessorize.

Smile, introduce yourself and treat everyone with respect. Saying please and thank you are the easiest ways to make people comfortable quickly.

Make sure you have some cash in case you need it. Trying to find a bank or a cash machine in a new neighborhood may not be the easiest thing on your first day.

You will be presented with a lot of new information the first few days. It will take time for it all to sink in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions…and be sure to take good notes. If you are invited to meetings to observe or participate, be careful not to jump in too quickly, but don’t be afraid to share comments and ideas if you are asked to.

Change is always difficult no matter how much you prepare. Realize that feelings of nervousness are expected and very common no matter your career level. You will likely miss your old, familiar surroundings. Rest assured, in a few days time, your new environment will become more comfortable and familiar to you. You will settle into your new routine, develop new friendships at your new company and still have the good relationships you developed at your former one.

This is your chance to start from scratch and build your solid nest from experience and preparation. First impressions are not only important but lasting. Make sure you do everything you can to set the tone you want to carry through this important step in your career. Make a comfortable nest for yourself by properly preparing for the first day, and weeks and that strong foundation will help you settle into your new job.



For more job search tips, please visit where you can find resources on interviewing, resume writing, and making a great first impression! Tips for your first day can also be found in the book Ten Steps to Finding the Perfect Job.

Carolyn Thompson


Lindsay Sellner


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The Wildfire – Rebuilding After the Blaze

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 21, 2009 in Thinking Positive

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The economy lately has been a little like the California wildfires that recently littered the news; hot and cold areas, hopping from hill to hill, changing directions without warning, rapidly igniting then ultimately extinguishing, leaving destruction and devastation in its wake, yet opening up opportunities for re-growth and rebuilding.

Last week I had the occasion to interview a fantastic candidate; Carl Adams.  Carl was recently the Senior Vice President of Finance and Treasurer with a large publicly traded local company and is now looking for a new position.  A CPA who led a staff of over 40 professionals, we got to talking about best practices of hiring, and I thought about how similar hiring after a downturn in the economy was to rebuilding the jungle or a forest after a fire.

Plant strategically- when rebuilding a forest, or a team, you need to think about the growth path and what the landscape will look like down the road, as people grow and evolve in their jobs.  Don’t choose a large group of similarly experienced people without a clear growth path for the future laid out.  You’ll end up losing them when you can’t promote them all at once. 

Instead, compliment your own strengths and weaknesses to build a team that will grow together, complement each other in their skills, creating a harmonious group with differing levels of expertise and experience.

It may still look barren now, but the strongest seeds have survived and will sprout into amazingly resilient plants. None of the variety and color has been lost in the heat of the flames. Don’t pass up opportunities to hire candidates who will strengthen your team and your company. A good candidate will require a little room to grow and show what they are made of and fill up the gaps.

Follow one simple rule that is a surefire strategy for success when evaluating people – Ask yourself: does this person have 75-80% of what I’m looking for?  If the answer is yes, then the remaining 20-25% is their growth path that they need to see in order to remain engaged long term. This one idea will ensure every person you hire has a growth path and will ultimately result in longer-term employees and less turnover. 

Back to Carl Adams…if you’re interested in seeing a copy of his resume, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Check out my webinar on Goal Setting!

Carolyn Thompson

Author of TEN EASY STEPS TO A PERFECT RESUME…available on!

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