Hire Our Heroes!


Today, we celebrate the courageous actions and valor of the servicemen and women who served in our country’s armed forces. Let us take a moment to thank them for their service and sacrifice in the name of freedom this Veteran’s Day and every day.

After last week’s post offering advice to recently returned veterans, I have been inspired to take it one step further. Hiring managers, I am talking to you. The large pool of skilled and accomplished veterans is some of the top talent available. Many of you may ask what skills and traits military personnel have that are applicable to your businesses.

There are many!

Veterans hold specials sets of skills that are so engrained in their being, they have become second nature. Determination, dedication, and drive are some that come to mind — all three highly valued qualities that any business owner, supervisor, or hiring manager would hope to bring to their teams.  I could go on and on, but I will simply highlight the top 10 reasons why you should put our veterans on your payroll!

  1. Leadership – The most successful military personnel are incredible leaders. They have the traits and characteristics to inspire and motivate those around them. The ability to lead and get the best from the members of the team is a priceless attribute.
  2. Global experience – Veterans have experience in a wide variety of regions around the world. They are used to adapting to different cultures and experiencing life/business from other viewpoints.
  3. Exceptional learning curve – Upon entering the service, military personnel must quickly master a series of skills and competencies that are required for survival. This experience allows veterans to quickly adapt and accomplish tasks that may take others months to achieve.
  4. Teamwork – Individual and group productivity are required in the military setting. Servicemen and women are familiar with working together as a team and understand the importance of personal responsibility to one another and accountability in a group setting.
  5. Ability to deliver results under pressure – Resourcefulness and adhering to tight time schedules are common occurrences in the military. Veterans are trained to organize and tackle priorities no matter what difficulties they are faced with.
  6. Respect for authority and procedures – Military vets understand the importance of structure to an organization. They value and encourage a clear set of rules and regulations that help maintain and support strategy.
  7. Integrity – This is a characteristic that is hard to come by in today’s environment. Veterans understand the value of hard work, persistence, honor, and honesty. Many have been involved in missions that require high level of secrecy and security clearance.
  8. Adherence to safety standards – Safety is a major concern in the military with regard to fellow servicemen and civilians. Military personnel believe in maintaining a safe and healthy environment; protection of colleagues and equipment is a top priority.
  9. Working knowledge of technology and machinery – Veterans are trained to effectively use the latest computers, machinery, and technology to achieve goals and accomplish tasks. If they are unfamiliar with a piece of equipment, I’ll bet my favorite set of knitting needles that they will be heads down until they can operate it with their eyes closed.
  10. Positive outlook – Even under the most dire circumstances and grim futures, military veterans have the intrinsic knowledge and skills to triumph over adversity. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, drive, determination, and the desire to achieve greatness and success for the team are of the highest priority.

As if all that weren’t enough…  thanks to the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, employers will receive tax credits for hiring veterans —  40% percent of the first $6,000 in wages (up to $2,400) for short-term unemployed vets and 40% of the first $14,000 in wages (up to $5,600) for vets who have been unemployed longer than 6 months.

Employers, what are you doing to recruit and hire military veterans? If you are uncertain of hiring veterans, what is your reasoning?

Here is a video sharing the many ways that you can help support our veterans.

Validation for Veterans


A reader writes:

Good Morning, Anita,

Recently, I returned home from a deployment to Afghanistan. Since coming home and taking a much-needed break, I feel that I am ready to join the civilian workforce and begin supporting my family again. Like many other veterans, I am running into some difficulty finding gainful employment and paying the bills. What advice can you give to me and other veterans looking for employment and experiencing the hardships of transition? Thank you!

Dear, Valued Veteran:

First and foremost, thank you for your service to our country and for the sacrifices you have made in the name of freedom. I can speak for many reading this blog that we greatly appreciate your efforts and dedication to the United States of America.

Unfortunately, as you mentioned, transitioning into the civilian workforce and regular life after serving in the armed forces can be difficult. Not only do you face the same challenges as those currently unemployed, but you must also Army_Bootsacclimate to new surroundings and hone your military training to fit open employment opportunities.

To get the ball rolling, make sure that you register with Veteran Affairs (VA) as soon as possible after you are discharged. You should qualify for medical and dental insurance. These benefits will diminish your financial burden significantly if unexpected medical emergencies arise. Co-pays for preventative medicine and routine exams are relatively low for this program and maybe expunged if you are unable to afford them.

Next, I suggest that you take some time to sit down and write a strong and compelling résumé and cover letter describing your skills, experiences, and work ethic. These items are job hunting gold and are necessary in landing your next career. For tips and advice on how to create and perfect these documents, take a quick look my posts How to Tailor Your Résumé and Covering the Cover Letter. If you feel like you need additional help, you can look into services such as CareerPerfect  to write your résumé and cover letter for a nominal fee. The VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Program also has services that can help.

Some strong qualities and experience to highlight are:

  • Military efficiency
  • Overseas experience
  • Problem solving skills
  • Flexibility and decision-making abilities under pressure
  • Leadership roles
  • Other relevant experiences

Also, take your military occupation code (MOS), area of concentration (AOC), Air Force specialty code (AFSC), or Navy Soldier_Saluteenlisted classification (NEC) and enter them into a skills translator, like those found at www.vetsuccess.gov/military_skills_translators, to turn them into commonly desired skills in the private sector.

Now that you have a strong and noteworthy résumé and cover letter, head on over to my friends at Select Staffing for employment assistance. Visit their website (www.selectstaffing.com), fill out the online application, and call your local office to schedule an appointment with a recruiter. Select Staffing is actively seeking skilled, dedicated, and versatile veterans for a wide variety of positions. They highly value the characteristics, commitment, and skills possessed by servicemen and women and are determined to do their part to help.

I know that they are currently recruiting for the following positions:

  • General Professional
  • Security Services
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Legal Assistant/Paralegal
  • Accounting
  • Data Entry Operator
  • IT Auditors
  • Utility Workers
  • Project Managers
  • Business Intelligence Analysts
  • And much more!

If you are looking to sharpen your skills and become educated in your field of interest, sign up for the GI Bill. Once you have done so, get in contact with Veteran Affairs Education and apply for benefits online to help cover tuition, books, and living expenses while you are in school. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this benefit as you will strengthen your résumé and have better chances of landing a lucrative career.

I found a great webinar that I think would be great for all veterans to watch, titled “Job Search Tips: Webinar for Military Veterans Transition to Civilian Careers” by Lida Citroën. It is a bit longer than my typical videos but worth the time.

Readers, what advice do you have for our recently-returned Veterans?

Veterans, what have you found to be the most helpful with you return to the civilian workforce?

Reasons for No Résumé Responses


A reader writes…

Anita,

I am desperately seeking a job and I feel as though I am sending out résumés left and right with no response. I have experience in a variety of fields and have been stretching the boundaries just to find some type of employment. What am I doing wrong?

Hi, Craving Call-backs,

Thanks for the question. I have a feeling many of you out there are experiencing this problem in your job search. With the lagging economy, fewer employers are actively hiring large numbers of people and the competition for those jobs is much steeper.Keyboard Bite

I have come up with a list of 8 reasons why you may not be getting the “we must hire them” response. Check them out below.

1. Applying for a job you are not qualified for. Many of you are looking to find any job available and have tried applying to jobs for which you do not meet the minimum requirements. It seems like it is worth a shot, right? Wrong. Unbeknownst to the masses, job descriptions do serve a higher purpose than just putting some text out hoping to hook a few applicants. They clearly spell out the necessary skills, training, education, duties, and responsibilities of the job. If a company is looking for a person with 5-7 years experience in the automotive sales industry and you have 2 years of sales experience and love cars, odds are you won’t get the call-back. It’s better not to waste your time or theirs by submitting your résumé.

2. Generic cover letter and résumés. Employers are well aware of job seekers that work on autopilot, distributing the same résumé whenever they feel even the slightest pulse. Before you send out a résumé or cover letter, take the time to tailor it to the job you are applying for. For a full list of tips on how to do this visit my post How to Tailor Your Résumé. As for cover letters, do your research and include the hiring manager’s name, company name, and business address, even when it is an email. If you need more pointers, see my other post called Covering the Cover Letter. Remember, it is the little things that get you noticed.

3. Generic job title. As we have seen in the previous section, generic is not the way to go. It can come off as lazy or disinterested. If the job description says they are looking for the Director of First Impressions (or receptionist, in layman’s terms), by all means put that as the job you are striving to obtain!

4. You don’t live there. If you are looking for a job in a city other than where you reside, you will most likely be pushed to the wayside. Employers do not want to pay for relocation and do not want to interview a candidate they know Lost in the Pileis not in the area. If you have friends or family who live near the job location, use their address on your résumé.

5. Keywords in job description not included. With the large influx of résumés coming in for advertised positions, many companies do not have the time to read them all. It is common practice now to feed résumés through software programs that pick up keywords that apply to that position. If you do not reach the set number of keywords necessary to move to the next round, your résumé will be discarded. A great way to lower your chances of this happening is to skim the job description and include as many keywords as you can without being grammatically incorrect or overly obvious.

6. Didn’t follow instructions. Be sure to read the job description very carefully. Some employers have very strict standards and procedures on how they accept applications, résumés, and other materials. If they request that you send your résumé in Word and you send them a PDF, right off the bat, you have shown you cannot follow directions. Who wants a person like that as an employee? If they require that you submit three references and you submit two, odds are that you will be rejected before you can say “hire me.” By the way, this includes salary requirements. I know it seems you’ll be pricing yourself too low or too high, but there are ways to give a number and then indicate you’re flexible.

7. Focus on accomplishments, not duties. Employers want to see what you have accomplished, not what you did on a daily basis. Accomplishments show drive, ambition, productivity, and more. List actions that you can take credit for. Try to use words like managed, implemented, developed, applied, created, etc.

8. Typos in résumés. Punctuation problems, misspelled words, and goofed-up grammar force many employers to slam on their brakes. With computers, spell-check, and (I know I will sound old here) plenty of dictionaries, there is almost no excuse for why you should have grammatical errors and typos in your résumé. Do not always trust spell-check; go through the entire document from bottom to top and read every word. Proofread it over and over again and ask for feedback from professionals you trust. If you notice a typo after the fact, do not send a corrected version, but definitely fix your résumé before sending it out to the next opening.  Be sure to check for these common mistakes I find all the time:

  • Is the correct word there, their, or they’re? It’s or its? Where or wear? Figure it out, and be right!
  • Bulleted items should only end in a period if they are complete sentences.
  • Jobs, activities, and accomplishments you have had in the past are in past tense. Those that are current are in the present tense (manage vs. managed, raise vs. raised, negotiates vs. negotiated).

I hope with these tips you can begin to see the résumé response from employers you are looking for. It is also important to remember that recruiters and employers are swamped with job inquiries. Give it about 1-2 weeks before following up with that prospect or putting that position behind you. Keep your chin up and your attitude positive!

Readers, have you had trouble getting résumé responses from potential employers? What have you found to be the best trick to get the call-backs rolling in?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Happy Hunting,

Anita

Building a Beneficial Brainstorm


A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I am looking for a fresh new way to get the creative juices flowing in my team. I have tried to host a brainstorm but was not successful as I had hoped. What do I need to do to have a brainstorming session that promotes creative thinking and will be beneficial to all involved?

Hi, Brainstorm Builder!

Bringing together a group of talented individuals with unique perspectives can do wonders for your team. But in order for a brainstorm to function properly, you will want to follow this simple plan and include an assortment of key elements that will really make the sparks fly.

Put together a Dream Team. For brainstorming to work at its best, youBrainstorm are going to need the number one, most important ingredient…brains! An ideal number is 6-10 people, and to throw some interesting twists into the mix, bring in a person from a different area of expertise. For example, if you work in Marketing, invite some members of the sales team to participate in your discussions. Different perspectives bring forth new ideas!

Bring in an outside facilitator. This individual should be someone from your company, but from a different department. Many people default to appointing the manager or department head to lead a brainstorm discussion. I think it is best to avoid this approach as it can lead to shaping and guiding ideas back to the standard mold.

Escape from the ordinary location. Break away from the day-to-day scenery of the office for brainstorms. Parks and playgrounds are a great location, as well as museums and scenic outlooks. Better yet, try a location that is applicable to your brainstorm goals. If you are thinking of new ways to encourage children to eat more vegetables, why not visit a local farm or farmers market. These visuals will awaken creativity!

Define the problem and what you are trying to achieve. Once you have determined what the goal is of the brainstorm and what you hope will come out of discussion and reflection, get the wheels turning. Ask participants to begin thinking about ideas on how to solve the problem and request that they come to the table with at least 3 alternatives and solutions to share with the group.

IdeasThink outside of the box. Make it clear to your team that there are no wrong answers at the brainstorm. Encourage your staff to dream wildly and come up with solutions that may lie outside of the norm. Stir up the wild thinking and see how far they can push themselves and stretch the boundaries. If it weren’t for this kind of thinking, who knows where we would be? Imagine a world with no electricity. Airplanes. Telephones. All very scary thoughts and all way outside of the box.

Quantity, not quality. Yes…you read that right. We are looking for the most content as possible here, people. Ideas can later be sifted through and viability/quality can be determined. The more ideas you have the more you have to work with and build upon.

Build off of one another. One idea has the potential to spur hundreds of other ideas. Encourage participants to “piggy-back” off of the creativity of others.  It will help produce more ideas and help the group move forward together.

Designate a note taker. If all goes to plan, ideas will be flying left and right. Be sure to have a person whose sole purpose is to capture and record all ideas and information being discussed. You don’t want any of that creativity to slip through the cracks.

Now that you have all the ideas on paper, I suggest bringing everyone together one final time to review the ideas. As a group, discuss and then select the strongest ideas. It may take a few rounds of brainstorming to come up with the ideal solution. Once you have narrowed it down, assign follow-up activities for the ideas you have designated as contenders. You will want to set deadlines, hold your team accountable, and keep track of the progress.

See this video for some other great tips about brainstorming and some silly ideas on preserving gum…Crazy, right?

What have you found to be the best tips for brainstorming?

Sincerely,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Money for Mileage


A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I have recently been promoted at my job and the new position requires that I spend quite a bit of time on the road. I need some help understanding the proper procedures and in-and-outs of mileage reimbursements and hoping you can help. Thanks, Anita!

Dear On-the-Move,

What great news! I love hearing about success stories. Congratulations on the promotion. Many companies have moved away from providing company cars to their traveling employees due to budget cuts and insurance/liability issues. More often than not, employees are asked to use their personal vehicles for on-the-job transportation and in return receive monetary compensation per mile driven or are given a car allowance for renting vehicles.

Each company has the choice to reimburse mileage expenses. There is currently no government mandate that requires what a company reimburses employees per mile. The reimbursement is not only intended to cover the cost of fuel, but also
wear and tear on your vehicle, tires, or engine parts. As a general standard, the Internal Revenue Services has issued a guideline payment for the following businesses:

  • 55.5 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 23 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The next question I often get is where to start calculating the miles driven. I always start from the location of your office. This would exclude any mileage driven on a typical work day to and from your job. If, for example, you are scheduled to travel on a sales call that is 30 miles away from your home but 25 from your office, you will clock the distance traveled from work to the final destination and back. On the other hand, if the site is 5 miles from your house and 35 from your work then you will still start at the office. It is a general rule of thumb that I follow personally.Money for Mileage

To make sure you have enough money set aside for maintenance and unexpected automotive expenses, I would deposit the money that you receive from your company into a savings account. Let’s say it is $4.00 a gallon for gasoline and your car gets 20 miles to the gallon on average. This means roughly you will be spending about 20 cents per mile on fuel, leaving you 35.5 cents to cover maintenance costs for your vehicle (assuming your company follows the IRS standard).  Do yourself a big favor and put about 70% of your reimbursement into savings. Trust me, you will be thankful you have it someday.

I know we are all trying to save some money at the pump these days. I found a great video with some tips to improving your gas mileage and keeping more money in your pockets. See below!

What are your thoughts on personal vehicle use for business purposes? What are the policies of the companies you work for?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Looking forward to your input,
Anita

Understanding Unemployment


A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

I was recently laid off from my position as an Accounts Payable Clerk and my severance package is just about to run out. I was offered 2 months’ pay after the layoff, and I have been living off that while looking for a job. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find gainful employment and now will be filing for unemployment. How do I go about filing for and obtaining unemployment benefits?

Dear, Moving Forward,

Thank you for the great question. It can be a difficult time maneuvering your way through a layoff and coming to terms with what your future may look like. After you have exhausted your severance package or if you were not presented with a package, you may feel like you are up the creek without a paddle. Try your best

to remain calm. You do have the option to receive unemployment for up to 99 weeks if necessary.

Every state has a different process and procedure as to how you go about obtaining these benefits. Most states allow you to file a claim right from your own home or wherever you have access to the internet by completing an online application. If you do not have this type of access, you will want to visit the state’s unemployment office or see if you can file over the phone.

Be prepared with specific information that may be asked by your state’s representative. Each state varies on their requirements, but a few pieces of key information are listed below.Discouraged_Job Seeker

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Telephone number
  • Former employer’s name
  • Former employer’s address
  • Former employer’s telephone number
  • Employer’s Federal Identification Number. (located on your pay stub)
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your Alien Registration card number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Employment start and end dates
  • Compensation amounts, typically just your wages
  • Grounds of your release or termination of employment

After you have submitted the initial application and are approved, you will be given the option to reapply for aid each week. Funds are typically paid to your bank account, via check, or sent to a debit card.  Select whichever method of payment fits your situation the best.  If you choose direct deposit to your bank account, be sure to submit a voided check to verify your routing and checking account numbers.

Job HuntingMore details and information about filing for unemployment in your state can be found visiting your state government’s unemployment office.

My final piece of advice is to not stop your job search! As a matter of fact, some states won’t continue sending you checks unless you prove you have applied to jobs each week. I will be writing an article soon on what you should do while you are unemployed to increase your chances of landing a great job. Stay tuned for this post. In the meantime, I have a quick video I’d like to share with you that synopsizes this post.

Readers! Have you had to file for unemployment benefits? Share with me your experience and how you are overcoming adversity.

Thanks and I look forward to your comments!

-Anita

Sharing Strategic Leadership


A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

I have been hearing about strategic leadership a lot lately. From what I have read, it seems like a pretty great leadership technique, but I need more information on the topic. What can you tell me about strategic leadership and what it can do for my team?

Thanks for the question. It appears that strategic leadership is one of the new buzz words in business. People are always looking for ways to become better leaders for their company and develop innovative plans to get ahead of the competition. So you want to be a strategic leader, huh? Here are few key points about this type of leadership and what you need to do to make it successful.

Strategic leaders are growth- and goal-oriented. They strive to get the best from their employees. Encouragement, equal Leadershipexpectations, and lead-by-example strategies are what make these leaders the most successful. A sense of equality is rarely seen in large well-established corporations. Employees are more likely to put in the extra effort and go the extra mile if they feel their contributions are being appreciated, recognized, and having an impact on the company and their peers. With this increased input comes a greater level of output in the form of higher productivity. More productive workplaces are much more efficient, cost less to operate, and have an improved rate of return. The increased productivity encourages best practices and streamlined process that are in the best interest of the company as a whole.

Future planning and awareness of the industry are key components to being successful as a strategic leader. You will develop a keen ability to foresee future issues due to growth and expansion. To prepare, additional funding should be invested in educating and providing opportunities for your staff to take responsibility of their future and execute their Leadersrole in the company as changes begin to occur. The employees will learn to act, think, and work in ways that have the best interest of the company in mind. With proper training and skill maintenance, decisions that may have previously needed additional management approval or second opinions can be made in half the time without expelling and wasting additional resources.

Coaching and mentoring  staff is one of the many blocks found in the foundation of strategic leadership. By presenting an inexperienced or new staff member with suggestions and guidance, an entrepreneur can mold and shape this individual into exactly the correct fit for the job. Contrary to managerial leadership, strategic leadership focuses on the potential of the individual and how to best utilize their skills and talents in the long run. The best employees are those who excel in their environment and have a sense of pride in their job.

This video from Carolyn Stevens will help you get more answers to your questions.

I hope this brief overview of strategic leadership gives you a better understanding as to what it is and how you can put it to good use in your office. For fun, take this quiz from CNN Money to see if you “Are a Good Leader?”

Readers: What do you think are your strongest leadership qualities? What types of management styles do you admire most?

Wishing you luck in leadership,

Anita

Bring Your Own Lunch, Bandit!


A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

I always thought people stealing food at the office was just an old wives’ tale…but this morning I was proved wrong! It looks like there is a thief in my office building who has gotten their little stealing hands on my lunch!!!! *Annoyed* What can I do to feel safe about putting my lunch in the company fridge again?

Dear, Hurt and Hungry,

Thanks for the question and so sorry to hear about your snatched snacks! It is hard to believe that in this day and age, people (much less, adults) have not yet learned the principle of what’s mine is not yours. I always thought it was just a formality at the workplace to remind everyone that food theft was not to be tolerated and against the rules.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why people continue to feel entitled to the things that are not theirs. As much as I would like to become Anita Clew, the caped crusader out to defeat the Lunch Sack Snackers of the world, I can’t. But what I can do is give you a few tips to discourage thievery and bring peace back to the lunch room.Lunch Bag

One way to deter those who are eyeballing your next meal is to go with a frozen entrée or a self-stable meal, like soup, for your lunch selection. These foods are not easily concealed and require a microwave to make them edible again. I would think, hopefully, that the culprit would know that it would be a risky move to wait at the scene of the crime to heat up their booty. Just the scent of the food while it cooks and is being enjoyed would be a dead giveaway.

Another option is to bring your lunch disassembled. If, for instance, you bring a sandwich every day, take the time to separate out the meat and cheeses, the bread, the vegetables, and the condiments. It may seem like a lot of work to do, but that is the whole point. As mentioned above, most thieves are looking for a quick and easy escape to cover their tTuna Sandwich Named Kevinracks. Assembling your afternoon masterpiece will probably not fit into their busy schedule.

Bring your lunch in clearly labeled non-disposable containers and in a reusable bag. Not only is this
earth-friendly, but they are easily recognizable. You will be cutting down on the cost (financially and environmentally) in the process and make your delicious lunchtime treats distinguishable. This will rule out any excuse that someone had “mistaken” your lunch for theirs and be harder to conceal while someone is unlawfully devouring it.

Give these tips a try and if you still have no success, maybe you could convince your boss to let you move your desk to the lunch room or install a “Mission Impossible”-esque, thievery deterrent system to keep robbers at bay! Well…that may be a little extreme, but it can’t hurt to dream!

For a few laughs, check out this video from Westaff about the things bad employees do by viewing below or clicking here.

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Best,

Anita Clew

Networking Know-How


A reader writes:

Hi Anita! I am new to the area and in search of a new job. I have heard and learned from reading your blog that networking is one of the most important aspects of job hunting. Can you offer any advice to help break the ice and get the most out of professional networking?

Dear, Need-to-Network,

Thank you so much for the great question. I have said time and time again that networking is extremely important when it comes to finding your next position. The more people you know, the more likely you are to bridge the gap between Business Man with Cardbeing a stranger or being the candidate that comes highly recommended. Getting your foot in the door and your résumé to the top of the pile is an incredible advantage in today’s world.

First off, get yourself a professional set of business cards with your contact information on them. Even if you are not currently employed, you should still be prepared. Being able to exchange business cards is networking gold! Think about it. How embarrassing is it to be empty-handed when you finally meet the CEO of the company you are dying to work for and he/she asks for your info. You just blew that first impression. Companies like Vista Print offer deals where you get 250 business cards FREE! All you pay is shipping and processing. Now you have no excuse not to have them! Include your name, address, telephone number, email, and other vital contact information.

One of the big No-Nos in networking is focusing your attention elsewhere, as in playing with your phone or carrying on a text messaging conversation. It makes you look Thumbs up from Womandisinterested, unapproachable, and worst of all, unprofessional. Do yourself a huge favor and leave your phone in the car or keep it in your pocket on silent. You are networking to meet new people, not to catch up with old ones.

Many of us, including me (I know, HARD TO BELIEVE), can find ourselves at a loss for words when placed under pressure or in a new social setting. Before you go to an event, prepare and arm yourself with what we call an “elevator speech.” When a hiring manager or person of interest asks you “what do you do?” or “what are you future career goals?” you will be ready to give them a response with a punch. You will leave them with an impression that you are smart, confident, and maybe even their next star employee!

Keep your spiel short, sweet, and strong for the most impact. Also be ready with follow-up questions to keep the conversation moving. (Check out my “Sell Yourself… Quickly” post for more tips.)

Finally, don’t be afraid to speak up and talk to others. This is probably the most difficult part of networking. It would probably be easier to be a wallflower and blend in with the crowd, but that is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. If you see a group of people talking, pick up your head, perk up your posture, and stroll over and introduce yourself. The more you do it, the less awkward it gets. Before interrupting their conversation, however, do be sure you read their body language; if they’re having a serious and intense discussion, wait a bit before going over.

Check out this video on Networking’s Golden Rule for one final tip:

Readers, what tips and tricks have you found helpful during networking opportunities?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Rewards From Retreats


A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I have a team of about 10 people who have been working incredibly hard over the past few months. I want to reinforce their positive attitudes and keep the group productivity and focus flowing through a department retreat. But I am in need of some pointers to make sure the outing is both rewarding and beneficial to our group. Please help!

Dear, Retreat Ready,

Department retreats are a great way to step out of the office setting and focus on reinforcing strengths of a group or addressing areas for improvement. They help
re-center and boost creative thinking and break through the monotony of daily activities and tasks, so your employees will return to work feeling refreshed and rejuvenated by the change of pace. Retreats also promote team unity and strengthen the commitment of the group toward a common goal. I suggest you schedule a retreat at Handsleast once or twice a year.

To make a retreat produce top results, your group must be comfortable, the presentations interactive, and the topic relevant. Here is a list of things you can do to put together a fun and productive staff retreat:

Provide breakfast or morning snacks, such as coffee or muffins. Your employees will appreciate the gesture. Added bonus: Now they will not have an excuse for low energy while participating in the activities.

Encourage participants to dress comfortably and on the casual side. It can help set a tone of relaxation and remove any stuffiness that should be left at the office.

Ask your team to be prepared with real-life work achievements and issues. Sharing successes and troubles will help the group come together as one to revel in wins and to find solutions to obstacles standing in the way. Make sure you give your team enough time to prepare before the meeting – don’t spring it on them in the room – and make sure they know you expect them to participate in the discussion.

Start the retreat with an “ice breaker.”  To start your meeting off on the right foot, play a fun game or activity that brings your team closer together. The more fun and crazy, the better! One example is to have each person share something about them that is not work-related. To keep everyone at ease, be sure to make a point to say that sharing is encouraged but not required. Check out this list of funny questions to integrate into your ice breakers. My personal favorite is “If you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be?” Some may disagree, but I am going along the lines of a chili. I like to think I am spicy!

Get people involved. Create a space for open discussion and creative thinking. Challenge your team to stir the creative juices and really think outside the box. Sharing thoughts with the team and encouraging feedback and input are where great ideas are shaped and big accomplishments take place. Keep your eyes out for a post I have in the works about hosting a successful brainstorming session.

Don’t just stand there; get up and move. Plan to have lunch off-site from the retreat. It will give your group time to stretch their legs, socialize with group, and develop relationships outside of the office. Make sure to pick a place that isn’t too loud and has a little something for everyone in attendance.

Provide visuals whenever possible. These are great for keeping the energy up and tstimulating the creative parts of the brain. Plus, I wouldn’t want to listen to me yap all day long. Throw monotony out the door and bring some images and videos into the mix.

Build in some competition and some prizes. Offer some goodies for good ideas shared, the quickest right answer to your question, and more. People love to win free stuff, and it will get your group talking and volunteering information faster.

End with a bang! People will most likely be starting to wind down after all the fun activities and discussions you have had during the day. Give everyone a little something to take home with them that ensures things end on a positive note! A card acknowledging their hard work and dedication to your team and a bag of M&Ms is just the right thing to accomplish this.

Managers, what interesting activities or ideas have you come up with to create a rewarding retreat? What were your results?

Employees, what types of activities have you participated in that worked well and others that fell short?

I can’t wait to hear from you all.

Best wishes until next time,
Anita

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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