Q: I run a small business. I was told by my attorney that I should not rely solely on a candidate’s resume. I have read that resumes are full of embellishments. How do I know what a candidate’s work history really is? Should I be using an employment application form? Thanks Job Doc.
A: Resumes are wonderful tools for better understanding a candidate’s background. A resume, though, is like an advertisement for the candidate. It may not be complete and it may include embellishments, errors or omissions. A resume is most often written by the candidate and the candidate can choose what to include or what to exclude. A candidate can omit a job from which they were terminated or state that they earned a bachelor’s degree, when they have not.
A well-designed employment application often forces a candidate to be more complete in the details of their work history. As an example, most employment applications ask why a candidate left a certain position. Most resumes do not include this information. An employment application may also ask about a candidate’s compensation history, which again, is information often not revealed in the candidate’s resume.
Employment applications often have “fine print” at the end or beginning of the form. The language in the “fine print” will state that, upon signing the completed employment application that the candidate agrees that the information provided is true, complete and accurate. In short, it pressures an applicant to be more truthful. There is often language that states that if a candidate is not truthful and complete (regardless of when the misstatement is discovered), that the candidate can be terminated if the candidate becomes employed by the company. For example, in 2013, John Doe claims to have a master’s degree at the time he applies to ABC Corporation, but does not hold such a degree. In 2014, it is discovered he never completed the requirements for his master’s degree, he can be terminated when the misstatement is discovered in 2014.
Candidates be warned. Be truthful about your work history and academic credentials.
I’m a female marketing consultant. I always greet new clients with a firm handshake. I generally don't do anything in subsequent meetings with people I already know. My question is, how should I greet my regular clients? Should I shake hands every time? I'm not a kisser and I don't want to give the wrong impression, but I never know if I should kiss or hug someone. I don't want to appear cold, but I don't want to give the wrong impression.
What's appropriate for female professionals?
M. D., Saugus, MA
Yes, whenever you greet someone, you should shake hands. It’s an expected norm in today’s business world. As a woman, by extending your hand first, you remove any question a male might have about whether or not to shake your hand. Conversely, if a person reaches out to shake your hand and you don’t reciprocate, it creates a very uncomfortable moment as the person stands there with his neglected hand dangling between you. All the focus of the greeting turns to why you didn’t shake his hand. You literally could damage an existing relationship or ruin your chances for gaining business from a prospect simply by not shaking hands.
The only excuse for not shaking is if you have a cold or the flu and don’t want to chance spreading your germs. In that case, offer an explanation as the greeting starts. For instance, at a first meeting with a prospect, you might say, “Please excuse me for not shaking. I have a cold and don’t want to chance giving it to you. I am so pleased to meet you.”
A woman who was in marketing once told me about her most important client, who invariably would greet by coming out from behind his desk and giving her a hug and kiss on the cheek. She was creeped out by his greeting but, at the same time, didn’t want to say or do anything to mar the relationship. Given that this had been going on for a while, doing something to prevent the hug and kiss probably would be noticed. She would have to decide if the effort to change the greeting was worth the risk of causing an awkward moment with her client.
In business hugs and/or kisses are not appropriate for any except people you know very well. Even then, it subtly shifts the focus away from the professional. What could Ms. Marketing have done to prevent the hug and kiss initially? At the first greeting, she holds her hand out to shake; then, if the person starts to move in for the hug and kiss, she should stiffen her arm gently to keep him from moving in. Works every time.
by Cindy Atoji Keene
The data scientist has been called the sexiest job of the 21st century. The emergence of this role – an elusive blend of software engineer, statistician, and business analyst – is akin to a cowboy trying to harness the wild frontier of “Big Data.” As organizations wrestle with the volumes of information generated by mobile devices, social computing, the cloud, and more, data scientists help turn data into insights that companies can use.
Big Data will add 1.9 million IT jobs in the U.S. alone by 2015, with a majority of those hires happening in Boston and Silicon Valley. Some of those data scientists are brilliant, quirky and nocturnal, said Andrew Schwartz, Lattice Engine’s co-founder and data scientist, who lives on a sailboat on Boston Harbor; rides a bright green recumbent bike to work, and does his best work between midnight and 4 a.m. “To really understand a problem, it helps to be completely isolated with my computer. I have to sit and stare at it because it takes me a while to get everything in my brain. The longer I can work and understand the problem, the more productive I am,” said Schwartz, who created Lattice Engines to help businesses make more informed decisions about sales and marketing opportunities. Companies, for example, can make predictions about which customers and prospects are most likely to buy products, based on data about purchase history and customer service records, as well as outside sources such as LexisNexis, tax records, and other databases.
A: Is there an art to data science?
A: Data science is a mixture of business analysis, analytics modeling, and data management, and you have to know how to look at large amounts of data to help businesses gain a competitive edge. It’s like a scientist painting a picture: you have to do some analysis and sketch out what the main figures are, while also teasing out the fine-grain details, like choosing your colors. A data scientist needs to be methodical but also make guesses.
A: Data scientists can look at data and spot trends. What trends have you discovered?
Q: In a previous company, for example, I worked to help a casino optimize their slot machines. We did some controlled experiments to see how customers responded to payoffs, or winning the jackpot. We discovered that the size of the ‘take’ is not as important as the frequency and distribution, meaning that people are very responsive to hearing someone else win, even if it’s just a small amount of money. They are more likely to stay around and play if they hear other people hit the jackpot.
Q: How did you become a data scientist?
A: I have a Ph.D. in Math from Harvard. Like everyone else, I went off and taught. I was standing in front of a calculus class of 150 students when I realized that none of the students really wanted to be there, and no one would ever use what I was teaching. After classes ended, I went sailing for three months with a programming book, and by the end of my trip, I knew how to program.
Q: What are some buzzwords among data scientists?
A: Hadoop is a system to put break up problems and put together results; Hive is a tool to make queries and build up a particular analysis. You also might be using SAS or R as a statistic library. The other big buzzwords are machine learning, regression analysis, and a nice one, bagging and boosting.
Q: What’s the future of the data scientist?
A: We are right now in the early stages of data science, so for the next five to 10 years, we’re going to be seeing a lot of projects opening up that are addressing the types of problem that you need Big Data to handle. In the next 15 years, as the basic footprint of Big Data spreads into a range of domains, then it will be time to find commonality and pull together a single Big Data optimization platform.
Q: Give us an analogy of how big Big Data is.
A: Big can be very big. It’s equivalent to the total of every email sent or received by Gmail for the past four years; or every financial transaction by every bank; or a reading of all the information on every person on every flight in the US for the past three years.
Q: Are you using data analysis to buy a new boat?
A: Yes, I am looking for a slightly bigger boat, so I’m following the classified ads and doing a data analysis for pricing, including how long a boat has been on the market, and the relationship between price, space, and retail value. I’m spending all my time trying to correct my models of analysis. My boat broker hates me.
Q: Do you know how / where I can find out about upcoming educational seminars in the field of HR in the Boston area? My company often receives brochures for various one-day courses that look interesting, but the participant reviews I've read were terrible and they don't rate well with the Better Business Bureau. Is there a legitimate source you can refer me to? I would like to attend a live event, rather than a webinar. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks!
A: The first resource that came to mind is the Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA). An affiliate of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), NEHRA is the third largest HR Association in the country.
NEHRA offers a wide variety of programs taught by experienced HR professionals with deep subject matter expertise. If you join NEHRA, you will have access to all programming, their legal database, membership directory and Payscale salary reports.
Tracy Burns, NEHRA’s CEO, provided the following information of what is available in early 2013 through NEHRA:
HR Basics is a program designed for those who have recently been handed HR responsibilities in their current position. Many attendees already have experience in one area of HR, and are looking for the basics in some of the HR areas. The program consists of six modules and includes a free one-year NEHRA membership!
Beyond the Basics
Beyond the Basics is the next step in NEHRA’s programming. It is designed for the HR professional with a least a few years of experience and is ready for a ‘deeper dive’. Offered in six four-hour sessions, the program will prepare you for the transition from technical/content expert to HR leader by building the required skills to be an impactful HR leader in today’s dynamic business environment.
Leadership Level HR
Leadership Level HR courses are designed for the HR professional whose next step is HR leadership (e.g. Director/VP). Courses will focus on increasing self awareness and strategic thinking, along with how to build an HR team and lead organizational/strategic initiatives. This series launches in March of 2013.
Visit www.nehra.com for more information.
Two of my co-workers (in my department of 5 people) spend a lot of time surfing the web. Their computer monitors face the hallway, and frankly it is embarrassing, and a bit shocking, how often the screens show websites that are not at all job related. (Nothing inappropriate, but obviously they are not working). We all report to the same boss, and we've all been working together for many years. I believe our group (sales) as a whole can be much more productive and successful if these particular co-workers were more focused on the job. I also think that sometimes our department gets a bad "rap" because others see this as well. While I prefer not to alienate these co-workers, I wish I could tactfully motivate them somehow. I believe that if I approached them directly about this, they would either deny it, or they would just appease me, then eventually go back to their ways.
Work computers should be used for work, not for personal agendas. Surfing the Internet on company time is unprofessional. Some companies have tracking programs to monitor what sites employees are visiting. The fact these employees are so brazenly surfing the Internet for personal reasons indicates that your company doesn’t see it as an issue or as a loss of productivity.
Unfortunately, you are in a difficult position. Thus far, doing nothing has been your course of action, and it may be your only good option. As this has been going on for a while and it’s being done out in the open, it’s likely your boss knows what is going on. Clearly, he doesn’t object or is unwilling to deal with it. Putting your boss on the spot about the situation may actually boomerang: rather than dealing with the perpetrators he may resent your interference.
I agree with you that if you address the issue with these employees directly they will deny it or pay lip service to changing their ways and then return to personal surfing in the near future.
I think the real issue here is: What does this situation say about your boss? Is this really someone to whom you want to attach your potential to grow? The fact he has not dealt with the situation in all this time is indicative that he won’t deal with it, even if he is confronted by you. So, you can choose to stay where you are and put up with the situation. Or, the company sounds like it is large enough that you could investigate making a lateral move to a boss whose thinking and management style are more in line with yours. A more drastic alternative is for you to keep your eyes open for a position outside the firm with a company that supports higher professional standards.
Q. I am interviewing regularly with no offers yet, but I think I am getting close. I was asked to have lunch with two people from the group I hope to join, and the hiring manager. I know not to order spaghetti, but what else do I need to know about meeting three people over food, so I can turn lunch into a job offer.
Many important interactions happen over food, and you are wise to consider what to choose from the menu. The message that is often associated with an invitation to interview over food is “we like you, and now we want to get to know you even better”. So take the opportunity seriously, and as with any meeting you are invited to, do your research. If you know where you will be going, check out the menu in advance. Select something that looks easy to eat, doesn’t have red drippy sauce, and isn’t something others would be appalled to see you order? (not the time for liver and onions, or steak tartare).
I consulted with Jean Papalia, owner of A+ Etiquette in Boston, who provides business protocol programs. Through 25 years of experience working with employers and job candidates, Jean has found that dining etiquette skills are an essential part of our business culture and a blunder can cost you a job or lose a client. Employers need to know they can trust you to represent their organization in any dining or business-social situation.
Papalia suggests that before you go to that business lunch, you brush up on your dining etiquette skills so that you will be confident and comfortable. “You want your interviewers to pay attention to what you bring to the table (i.e. your skills and experience) not what you are doing at the table.”
Though Jean has a comprehensive list of etiquette tips the keys seem to start from knowing which utensils are yours. Forks are to the left of your plate, (clue - 4 letters in fork and 4 in left).
Remember BMW – Bread plate is on the left, meal in the middle, and water/drinks on the right.
As far as what to order, you can ask your host for recommendations, such as “What do you like? Or do you have a favorite dish?” Whatever you order, this is not the time to experiment with new foods. If you’ve never had oysters, just move on to something that you know will be safe and easy to eat. Do not order alcohol at lunch, even if your hosts do. If wine is served with dinner, consider half a glass or none.
And some basics that we know you know but just for others, don’t talk with your mouth full and always chew with your mouth closed. Covering your mouth with your hand while you talk and chew is not acceptable. Cut food one piece at a time, and make pieces small.
Consider this a business meeting. Meetings don’t start until everyone has the materials, and meals don’t start until everyone has been served. Most often your host may say “bon appetite” to signal everyone to begin. If not, look to your host and follow their lead.
Papalia offers one additional piece of advice about business meals. Do not arrive starving. “It’s NOT about the food! You want your focus to be on the conversation and the relationships you are building, not on the next course.”
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Actuarial science is consistently ranked as one of the top jobs, with relatively high salaries, comfortable working conditions, and low unemployment. Actuaries have been compared to cross between a weather forecaster and math whiz, putting a price tag on future risks and applying financial and statistical theories to solve business problems. For James Forbush, partner at Aon Hewitt, actuarial science incorporates aspects of all that he enjoys: math, programming, finance, and consulting.
Forbush, 45, who helps clients design and manage retirement program for their employees, said that many people think he spends his days looking over mortality tables. “I am often asked to try to predict when people are going to die, but while life expectancy is a component of my work, it is only a small piece,” said Forbush.
While actuaries have always been number crunchers for the insurance industries, more and more actuaries are going beyond the traditional arenas to get involved in politics and marketing and other fields, even using predictive modeling to forecast elections.
Q: What are some recent projects that you've worked on?
A: A recent project involved assessing whether a client should offer lump sum distributions to former employees. The company wanted to assess whether it made sense to offer the employees a single lump sum payment instead of lifetime payments many years in the future.
Q: You’ve been an actuary for almost 25 years. How has the field changed?
A: In the past, we used more calculators, manipulated numbers manually, and applied mathematical shortcuts. I remember in some cases carrying around stacks of punch cards from old Fortran processing machines. Today we are ten to 25 times more efficient and accurate than we used to be.
Q: Why is the demand for actuaries so high right now?
A: Many companies have ramped up their focus on risk management in recent years. There are many factors that have caused this, not the least of which are the 2008 market meltdown and large-scale events like the BP Gulf oil spill and Hurricane Sandy. This focus on risk is not a short- term fad but a structural change in how business is managed.
Q: Why did you choose this particular field of work?
A: I was definitely the type of kid who loved math; I was always looking for extra math work to do in school. I spent many hours in my youth wading through baseball statistics. When I graduated from MIT in ’89 with a degree in economics, I first looked for a management consulting job. But during my job hunt, I talked to an actuarial consulting firm and this really made the field come alive for me.
Q: If you ever decide to give up the actuary business, would you consider handicapping races at the racetrack?
A: While the track would be fun, I would definitely head to the casinos and play blackjack. I was always envious of the guys at MIT that I knew who played on the blackjack team for money. I highly recommend Ben Mezrich’s book, Bringing Down the House, about the team’s exploits.
Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners in Boston, has over 20 years experience in career consulting, executive development and coaching. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: Although a potential employer can't overtly use age as the basis for making a decision, we over 55ers will frequently be passed over for younger applicants for a job. How do you sell your age as an asset when you are interviewing without being overly pushy about it?
A: Great question. You raise a reality that many job seekers are facing. A candidate will be told, “You are not a good fit.” Or, “Not sure if you would do well with our team.” Or worse of all, no response at all.
In short, you have to convince the interviewer to focus on your value to the company, not your age. Candidates who can demonstrate value get hired. After all, an employer is buying your services trying to get the best bang for their buck.
Here are some tips:
1. Limit your resume to two pages. Consider eliminating your early career roles which may not be as relevant.
2. Include key words in your resume that showcase your skills as up to date. Make sure that you have stayed current in terms of technology, industry trends and experience.
3. Ask a trusted colleague for advice and feedback on your resume and your job search.
4. Don’t offer hurdles that make it easy for a recruiter to eliminate you. What are hurdles? Comments like: “I won’t go into Boston anymore.” Or “I don’t have the time to learn the newest version of that software. I went to a training class in the 80’s and that was enough for me.” Instead offer what you can do. Speak in flexible terms. Examples include: “I know I could learn the latest version. I enjoy learning new technologies.”
5. Some of my clients perceive some email addresses, such as having an aol.com extension, as that of a candidate who is living in the past.
6. Talk up your current experience. Candidates who reminisce, at length, about companies that have died, are not perceived as vibrant candidates.
7. Check your clothing and appearance. Make sure that you are not wearing a suit that you bought in the 80s.
8. Think about what you are expecting in terms of compensation. If you last made $70K and an employer is posting the role with a $50K price tag, is $70K reasonable? Sometimes I think companies are focused on dollars and cents. If another candidate comes along and will take $55K, then think about your salary requirements. I find sometimes it is not a candidate’s age but their salary requirements which scare off the employer. A $70K salary offer could disrupt their internal equity (what they are paying others in the same or similar roles).
9. Lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, be energetic, willing and enthusiastic. Companies want to hire engaged candidates, of any age.
I like it when the theoretical lessons I teach in my seminars are validated experientially.
I’m in Dubai, and last night I had dinner with one of my hosts and a guest she had asked to join us. Naturally, we got to talking about etiquette. The guest wanted to know if etiquette is simply different in different cultures or if there is any commonality to etiquette that crosses cultural boundaries.
I began answering him by affirming that etiquette does vary between cultures and it changes over time. A simple example: During my visit, my host and I had met numerous people both on a business and personal basis. Greetings had gone well—American-style: look them in the eye and add a pleasant verbal greeting to go along with a firm handshake. But I noticed a difference in style when my host, who is a man, greeted another man with whom he was clearly friendly. They would greet each other by kissing on the cheek three times. They would go to the right; they would go to the left; and then they would go to the right a second time.
In the USA that most assuredly is not the custom, even amongst good male friends. For my generation even good friends would greet each other with a handshake. More recently it’s become more common in the USA to see two men who know each other well greet each other with a hug. While our cultural greeting norm is changing over time, you’re still not likely to see even one kiss on the cheek—much less three—between male friends. The norm differs between cultures.
I explained to the guest that although the forms of greeting—three kisses or a hug or a handshake—vary, they all demonstrate a key underlying principle of etiquette, which is to honor and show respect for a person as you greet him or her. While the act of showing respect is universal, the means or the particular manner does vary between cultures and can also change over time. Here’s a more dramatic example of the same manner changing over time: In current American culture, women no longer curtsy nor do men bow in greeting as they did in the eighteenth century.
Sometimes, explaining the difference between manners and the principles of etiquette seems like an academic exercise. But here in Dubai, watching my male host greet other men with whom he is clearly friendly, reminded me that in the real world, principles of etiquette like consideration and respect are universal, that they do cross cultural boundaries and are consistent over time, while the outward way we demonstrate that respect is a reflection of current cultural practice.
Q. I would like to ask a colleague I respect tremendously to mentor me. I don’t work with him directly, but I know he’d be a great help. How do I ask? I don’t want to be a burden and I hope he’d enjoy spending time with me too. I want to bring specific ideas and goals to the table - is that too pushy?
A. There is a difference between pushy and prepared, and if you are going to ask for career support from someone, you need to show just how seriously you take their time and that you are highly invested in making the process easy.
A mentor is a person who acts as a trusted advisor to someone less experienced or new to a job or industry. Some industries and functions have apprentice roles with a senior craftsperson that plays the mentor. Some organizations have formal mentor/mentee programs, or mentoring can happen informally between two people who agree to a mentoring relationship. Either way, the mentoring arrangement should be determined by the goals and availability of the mentor and protégé.
There are many benefits to working with a mentor. They can help you with professional development, offer advice and encouragement, help you develop a network of colleagues and professional contacts, and help you understand politics in the workplace and the savvy to avoid issues.
The fact that you have a potential mentor selected means you’ve already crossed the biggest hurdle. You know your mentor, and don’t have a straight reporting relationship. Identifying a potential mentor who works within your company would be great, but is not a requirement. Finding someone who works or worked in your industry or function however is critical. You will benefit most from working with someone who has a shared understanding of what you do and where your challenges fit in your career trajectory.
Before you ask, assess the strength of the current relationship. Is there a mutual respect? Does your potential mentor like you? Have they been supportive in the past?
When asking your potential mentor to work with you, explain why you want to work with them and provide 2 or 3 goals you would like to work on through the relationship. Provide suggestions on how they might be helpful. Explain what you have learned already from “being in their circle”. If they suggest keeping the relationship informal, ask them to consider a 90-day trial period where you meet 2-3 times to asses if the mentor/protégé relationship will work. That gives you ample time to determine if it’s a fit, while giving you both an out if it’s not. Many people are interested in supporting others, but worry that they will take the burden of “making this work”. Let them know you hope to retain the informal relationship as well, but that you would also hope you have something to offer them, and open up the idea of a two way street. Clearly communicate your hopes on how long the ‘trial’ relationship will last and how frequently you would like to meet. Ask what might be the right amount of time for them. Remember their time is valuable and this shouldn’t be a never ending assignment.
If they say no, recognize the timing may be bad, the relationship isn’t there, or they don’t want the added responsibility. Be professional and retain a cordial relationship. They may suggest other people you can meet who can also provide professional development opportunities, and a flattered colleague is better than an unhappy mentor and mentee.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Being a nail technician was a career path that Vivian Ong never questioned. “It’s in my blood for sure,” said Ong, 21, of MiniLuxe, a Newbury Street nail and beauty lounge. With more than a half-dozen relatives in the nail business, Ong grew up helping out in her aunt’s salon, and the day after her 17th birthday, the minimum age for state licensure, she was already applying for her nail technician license.
One nail industry survey found that that nationally, 45 percent of nail technicians, like Ong, are of Vietnamese descent, and in Massachusetts, one report identified more than 4,000 licensed Vietnamese American nail technicians in the Boston area. “Many Vietnamese Americans have found good employment at nail salons, even though they may not be fluent in English and or have a high education level” said Ong, who is studying business at Suffolk University and training to become a customer service manager at MiniLux. “It’s a profession that requires proficiency but still can be learned quickly.” Ong loves cosmetology and especially doing nails because it’s not a lengthy process and offers a lot of variety. “Nails are not a pricey luxury service; getting your nails done is affordable, and a lot of my clients find it relaxing,” said Ong. “A $19 dollar manicure is not a whole lot of money for a whole lot of heaven.”
Q: When you first were training, what was the most difficult thing for you to learn?
A: A lot of people think that being in the nail industry is easy, but some aspects of the business can be demanding. One huge aspect is just being able to multitask – engage in conversation with a client while giving a really good manicure and still finishing on time. Creating a relationship with clients is vital to our success. The other factor is precision. Nails come in different, shapes, and sizes, but no matter what the type, they need to look good in the end. This can be a challenge. If nails have ridges, for example, sometimes you buff and smooth and the ridges still show up.
Q: What’s your favorite gadget to use?
A: It would definitely be the cuticle nipper. I can go without cutting or filing nails, but I can’t go without cutting cuticles. With a manicure, when the cuticles are cleaned up, hands feel lighter and breathe. Take my buffer away – I don’t care as long as I get cuticles trimmed.
Q: Any regular at a nail salon knows that the lacquers, like those made by OPI, have catchy names on the labels, right?
A: Whoever gets paid to name these nail polishes is the luckiest person in the world. The nail polish colors are so creative and so cute. I like Elephantastic, which is a bubble-gum looking pink, or Cajun Shrimp, a popular coral orange. In the winter, a hot color is a deep burgundy called Wicked; another nice shade is a dark purple, Lincoln Park After Dark.
Q: What is required to get your nail tech license?
A: It depends on what state you live in. In Massachusetts, you must attend a licensed school, complete the minimum required 100 training hours, then pass written and practical exams required by the State. Nail techs learn about sanitation practices, nail and skin diseases, protocols and services, and, of course, the fundamentals of manicures and pedicures. It’s a tough 100 hours and you may not leave the school as a perfect manicurist, but the rest is perfected while on the job.
Q: What new trends are you seeing?
A: Nail art is definitely growing lately, as well as nail candy, little sparkly beads glued onto the nail, which is a 3-D type of art. Women are also painting just the ring finger on each hand a contrasting color, which shows a lot of personality.
Q: Can you share one of your favorite tips or tricks with us?
A: When you’re giving yourself a manicure at home, add a little bit of glitter to the base coat. This creates a bond that helps polish to last longer.
Q: Whose celebrity nails do you most admire?
A: Definitely the Kardashians. I follow them on Instagram and they always have the perfect manicure. Kim and Kourtney always post pictures of their nails. Unlike a lot of celebrities, they don’t have artificial stiletto nails. I’m not a huge fan of those.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: I have been with the same company for about five years. All of my performance reviews have been good and I have a strong relationship with my boss. I also work well with my co-workers both in and out of my department. I like my company for the most part. My company is small and we don’t have a policy for posting jobs internally. I know some larger companies post job internally so employees can apply. When a job opening becomes available, the President never thinks about anyone working might be interested. He always rushes to hire from outside the company. A few of us are sort of irritated by this happening again and again. What do you think about this?
A: It sounds like you enjoy your work, your colleagues and your employer overall. All of these factors are very important to job satisfaction.
I agree with your observation that larger companies often have more formal policies for posting jobs internally. Smaller companies sometimes also post jobs internally but it is less of a formal practice and sometimes done only when someone points it out to one of the business leaders.
I think your President might rush to hire from the outside because no one has asked him to consider looking internally for qualified candidates. Perhaps your manager can request that opportunities can be posted internally. Many companies will post most opportunities, but not all opportunities. Sometimes a required skill is very specialized and it would be challenging to find that specific skill set internally.
I think you raise a valid point. I think your President needs to be aware of this concern and then he may re-consider his past practice of hiring external candidates. Retaining current employees is as (if not more) important as attracting new employees.
An engineer is dying to tell her boss: “STOP sending me so many emails!”
Ever try to reform your boss?
You know it’s risky. Maybe your boss doesn’t want to be changed. Maybe, if there’s a problem, your boss thinks the problem is you.
The engineer elaborates: “My manager sits a few feet away. And all day long, he emails. I email him back—he emails me back. Most of these things could be resolved quickly, by talking, instead of playing email ping pong.
“Any advice?” she asks.
Well, instead of trying to STOP behavior, try “shaping” it. You shape behavior by rewarding any action that comes remotely close to the target.
Shaping is simple. Consider how you teach a baby to walk.
You don’t say, “STOP falling down so much.”
Nor do you say, “I’m totally unimpressed. You can barely walk two steps without falling flat on your face. Call me in 20 years when you’re ready to run a marathon.”
Instead, you go crazy over any effort at all, and in no time flat, your baby is walking here and there—and soon, mostly there, and then, moving to a faraway place, and all you ever get are text messages. Is it so hard to call? Even an occasional postcard would be nice.
But I digress.
Back to the engineer—let’s apply shaping.
Ever talk with your boss? I ask her.
“Only if I walk over and initiate it,” she says. “Then we usually resolve things quickly.”
Well, assuming it really is quick (otherwise, a short email can beat a long conversation), and assuming your boss doesn’t get visibly agitated the minute he sees you coming, then you really don’t have a problem.
Keep initiating conversations. Keep resolving things quickly.
And every once in a while, say, “Thanks for being so accessible. I really appreciate how fast we get things done when we talk.”
Your boss may be more malleable than you think.
Or, maybe he just wants you to take initiative. Maybe he’s shaping you.
Tip: Build on what’s working, instead of driving yourself crazy about what isn’t.
© Copyright 2012 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
I often talk of how much success in business depends on building strong positive relationships. Relationships with clients and prospects is obvious, but equally important are the relationships you build with your co-workers and your boss or manager(s). At this time of the year, you have one of the best opportunities to enhance relationships at your office: the office holiday party.
Building those relationships starts by being sure to respond to the company’s invitation right away. If you’re not sure you can attend, contact the organizer anyway to let him know when you will have a firm answer. If the invitation is vague about whether or not to bring a significant other or spouse, ask when you reply. Nothing would be more embarrassing for you and your S.O. or spouse than to have him or her be the only non-company employee at the party.
Once you arrive, be sure to say hello and introduce your S.O. or spouse to your boss and to the people you work with. How you treat your partner will reflect on you.
Circulate. It may be comfortable to make a bee-line for colleagues whom you know well, but think of the party as an opportunity to get to know other people in the office with whom you don’t regularly interact.
Don’t just talk shop. Use the holiday office party as an opportunity to get to know colleagues and your boss on a more personal basis. Engage them in conversation by finding out about their interests.
Each year I hear from organizers who are frustrated by employees who think it’s okay to ask for a “doggie bag” to take home. It’s not. Enjoy the food while at the event. But even asking if you can have a plate of food to take home for yourself or your family is inappropriate.
Be careful not to over-imbibe in alcohol. Office parties often come at the end of the workday. If you haven’t eaten in several hours, you may be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than you expect. Unfortunately, those effects can be noticeable to others well before they are noticeable to you. You don’t want to do or say things that you will have to apologize for the next day. Think of the office holiday party as a business event rather than happy hour with your friends. Best advice: follow the one-drink rule.
As the evening winds down, take notice of people starting to leave and plan your own exit so you aren’t the last person at the bar or food table. Then as you prepare to leave, be sure to thank your boss and anyone involved in organizing the event. You might even send a note the next day thanking them again.
I am an introvert by nature, and not at all comfortable with putting myself into networking conversations. I know networking will help me get a new job so I really want to overcome my fears. Do you have any tips on networking for introverts?
You are not alone in your anxiety about networking. Many extroverts cringe at the idea of meeting strangers and striking up conversations where they will have to talk about themselves. But, there are plenty of shy people who master the skills of networking by practicing and then using specific assets to their advantage.
Assess your strengths. Introverts often are often good listeners, which helps to build deep and meaningful relationships. This quality is an enormous asset relative to developing strong networking skills. Think about how you can use it to your advantage as you talk to people about who you are, what you have to offer an employer, an how you might help them.
Next, think about a larger networking strategy. You may be more comfortable starting with a one-on-one strategy rather than utlizing to networking events that attract hundreds of people and may be overwhelming.
To get one-on-one meetings, create a list of places where you can find people with whom you would like to network. This list could include alumni associations, professional associations, health clubs, family and friends. Categorize each group or person on the list by connections that are easy, moderate or challenging to make.
Give yourself goals - develop a networking plan that details who you will call and email, how many people you will contact per week and how you will approach the request for a meeting. Research and create a list of specific contacts and start with the easiest people on your list. They will provide great networking practice in addition to being helpful for your search.
Before making other calls, research the person’s professional credentials and connections. Develop a “want” for each contact so you are clear on what you want to communicate about your professional history and goals and about how they can help you succeed. Prior to each meeting, script a list of questions you want to ask, so you can get the conversation flowing and calm your nerves.
During each meeting, give the person your 60 second professional statement to set the context for the conversation. From there, you can ask for their feedback on your resume, their perspective on industry or market trends, and advice on your job search strategy. Also, ask them about their professional path and what they have learned from their job search processes.
Use every opportunity to build rapport. If the contact mentions something you feel is a mutual interest (professional association membership, leisure activity of interest, family, etc.) use that as an opportunity to further the conversation based on those common interests.
Finally, towards the end of each meeting, ask for recruiters and other professionals they recommend you meet and see if they are willing to make an introduction for you. You can offer them a few company names or names of people you’d like to meet to make it easier for them to make referrals.
Thank them for every offer of help or suggestion they provide, even if you already know the contact or have tried what they have suggested. Most importantly, differentiate yourself from others by offering to help your networking contact by providing a “give” from your network.
Networking can be stressful, but with a little practice you may even come to enjoy it, or at least the success it brings.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
When is a slice of cheesecake viewed as a complicated still-life composition of color, form, and texture? When it’s being shot by food photographer Andy Ryan, who says that a photo of a cheesecake slice should evoke the same visceral response as if you actually had the dish in front of you. “There are a lot of complex flavors in the engineering of food. A good photo visually calls out a food's characteristics and presents them in their best light while at the same time being cohesive and believable,” said Ryan, 48, a Lexington and New York City-based food photographer who has shot photos of sizzling burgers, frosty grapes, high-end wines, restaurant interiors and more, for commercial clients such as The Cheesecake Factory, Barnes and Nobles Cafes, Starbucks, as well as Food and Wine, and other publications and websites.
Ryan, who also does architectural, engineering and corporate photography, got started on his career path at age 5, when he won a local art competition with a photo shot with the family Kodak instamatic, followed three years later by a Polaroid sx-70 won through a bank raffle.
Q: How many photos do you typically have to shoot before getting the “right one”?
A: The tweaking of ingredients and camera position are a bit like golf. Sometimes I nail it; sometimes it’s a birdy or a boogie. Then there are times when nothing is working but this is what makes a good photographer – anyone can get a good photo, but can you do it every time, in any condition? That is what makes a professional.
Q: What’s the most challenging photo shoot you’ve been on?
A: It was in Korea, and the photo shoot location was 120 feet underground in a Jules Verne-type cavern that was being excavated for a subway line extension. Water was cascading everywhere, and I had only a few minutes to set up my lights before the Korean official and his entourage showed up. I shot them in these outrageously difficult conditions, blending the light with a strobe because I wanted an eerie lighting effect. I got 10 shots, and then went back to the airport and flew back home.
Q: What’s the total weight of the equipment you generally have with you on a shoot?
A: My camera bag weighs about 45-50 pounds, and I have a tripod, which is another 7-8 pounds, as well as 10-pound computer, cables and hard drive; a 30-pound bag for lighting stands, umbrellas, gels, and other grip gear and two 80-pound bags of power packs and lights. It all adds up. I have to bring all this stuff since I never know what will come up.
Q: What tricks of the trade do you use, if, for example, you need to take a photo of ice cream before it melts?
A: I know there are all manner of tricks, such as using lard instead of ice cream, but for me, what you gain in control is lost in authentic visual flavor values. When I shoot ice cream or cream cakes, I shoot the real thing. It's extremely challenging, because the “nose “of the cake melts before the heel of the cake has even lost its frost. I work with dry ice to isolate that front end so it stays cold while the heel thaws.
AQ: Who are your favorite photographers?
A: It's kind of changed a lot over time. These days I'm into Robert Capa, known for his images of the Spanish Civil War, and Berenice Abbott, an American photographer best known for her architectural images of New York City in the 1930's. I've also been influenced by the French photographer Eugène Atget whose images of Paris created just after dawn are exquisite. But my greatest influence is Boston College professor Charlie Meyer, a photographer and filmmaker. He is my mentor. He taught me to go with a flow but still make it happen.
Q: Do you take photos with your smartphone?
A: I do. I have an iPhone and I have to admit I’m compulsive about taking photos with it. It’s crazy what it can do, and the quality of the photos is improving all the time. I love to use the Postagram app, which turns mobile photos into real postcards and then mails them to anyone you like.
Should I wear a suit and tie, jacket and collared shirt, or just a collared shirt for a Skype interview?
Congratulations on landing a Skype interview! A Skype interview is an interview conducted using a computer. Your computer would need special software (like Skype) to be able to connect with another party and your image would be projected on their computer screen. Additionally, your voice is also transmitted to the other party. This type of interview is often used to save time and money, especially when there is significant distance between a candidate and the company’s location.
An online video interview is just as important as an in-person interview. You should dress as if you were interviewing at the company’s location. You also should dress professionally from head to toe. Often candidates believe they should only dress professionally from the waist up. This is not the case. You might need to stand up to adjust your webcam. You don’t want to be worrying about your outfit.
A few other tips for online video phone interviews:
1. Do a technology check before the day of the interview. Test your connection with a friend. Sometimes a slow connection causes awkward pauses and lags in the conversation. You don’t want to be concerned about your connectivity during your interview. Exchange phone numbers and contact info before the interview just in case there are any unforeseen glitches. Make sure that you have a phone handy during the planned interview time. Part of your technology check should be testing how an outfit plays on the screen. A loud pattern may be distracting. A bold necklace might cause unnecessary glare.
2. Make sure that your Skype profile is a professional one. Skype requires users to select a user name and a profile photo. Both the user name and the profile photo should be appropriate and professional.
3. Eliminate distractions. Silence your phone. Crate your dog. Make sure that your background is professional and does not include an unmade bed or dirty dishes in your kitchen sink. If you are planning to schedule this interview at work, be careful. A private lockable office would be a good choice for a location.
4. Remember to focus on the camera, not on the image on your computer screen. Practice this before your interview.
5. Prepare! Just like for an in-person interview, prepare! Don’t minimize the importance of this interview.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.