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Chat live with Job Doc Elaine Varelas

Posted by Julie Balise March 29, 2013 02:08 PM

Elaine-Varelas-100-new.jpgElaine 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.

Office Small Talk Is Part Of Business, Too

Posted by Peter Post March 28, 2013 07:00 AM

I often talk with groups about the importance of being good at small talk, especially in business social situations with people outside your company. But small talk is important inside your company, too. Engaging in small talk at the office is part of building relationships and learning the lay of the land in terms of who can be helpful to you and, frankly, who you want to avoid.

Similarly, how you engage in small talk directly affects your image in your colleagues’ minds. Here are ten pieces of advice to help you excel at small talk in the office:

  1. Look for signals. Don’t just start talking. If someone doesn’t seem receptive to a chat, back off.
  2. Office small talk—water-cooler conversation—is an expected part of the day, especially during breaks or at meals. Just remember that even if the other person is willing to chat, bring it to a close when it’s time to get back to work.
  3. If another person approaches to join your conversation, be willing to include him or her. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment, and think how you would like to be treated if it was you trying to join a conversation.
  4. Avoid private, personal conversations that you wouldn’t want a third party to overhear or join.
  5. It’s okay to voice your opinion, but keep personal comments out of your discussion. “I can’t believe you would support such a cause!” or, “What on earth makes you think that?” are examples of inappropriate and combative responses. Instead think about a more tactful approach such as, “Actually, I just don’t share your view on that, but I’d be interested to hear what you have to say.”
  6. Be informed. Stay abreast of the news, sports, entertainment, and issues in your area of business. That way, if these topics come up in conversation, you can contribute knowledgeably.
  7. One of the best conversation gambits is to prepare by having a question or two ready ahead of time.
  8. Anytime you can ask another person for their opinion, you open the door to conversation. “I heard you’re an opera buff. What is so compelling about opera for you?” You’ve just given permission for that person to talk about her favorite topic, and she will.
  9. Don’t be afraid to end a conversation, especially if it is eating into work time. “That was really interesting. We’ll have to talk again.” is one way to gently end a conversation.
  10. If it’s not a good time for you to talk, be honest and suggest an alternative time. “I have a report I’ve got to get finished. Can we touch base later?”


Presenting Your Professional Weaknesses in an Interview

Posted by Elaine Varelas March 27, 2013 10:00 AM

Q. If asked about my greatest weakness, what is your opinion of using this for an answer
"My education, I know I'm competing against candidates that have their Masters or CPA. I plan on going back to get my master or CMA as I would like to continue to advance in my career."

A. Anticipating questions which will be asked in an interview and preparing effective responses can be an important differentiator for job seekers. Plan on being asked things like, ‘tell me about yourself’, ‘what was your compensation?’, ‘what are your strengths?’, and the always challenging ‘what are your weaknesses?’ Not being prepared for this question shows a lack of planning for the interview, and can lead you to stumble into areas you do not want to speak about.
Everyone has weaknesses, and interviewers want to know that you are able to identify your own weaknesses because it implies an ability for introspection, and a desire to work on developmental areas as you grow in your career. Most career experts agree that you should prepare answers for two areas of weakness. Only offer the first weakness when asked the direct question, and offer a second weakness only when pushed for another. Weaknesses can not be career ending fatal flaws that would affect your ability to succeed on the job, nor can they be the meaningless “I am a perfectionist”. Generate a list of weaknesses you could choose from. These ideas may come from past performance reviews and comments from colleagues or friends. Identify a weakness you feel comfortable admitting to, and have shown some real growth and personal investment toward addressing. One weakness should be work style oriented (delegation, communication), and one should be work skill (technology, financial) oriented. None of the weaknesses you offer should be based in the core area of your work.
Your statement needs to include what your weakness is, how it impacted your work life and the concrete actions you took to develop it into a strength. Your stated weakness is lacking a degree or certification , and you are not taking any action to improve your status – a plan is not a current action. You can strengthen this answer by personalizing the information along the lines of “I saw a need to be more metrics focused in my role and to be able to present data effectively. I took an online excel course, then a second level course, and I am now able to use data to help my team understand the challenges we faced and to show them visually how their actions can positively impact the business.”

Practice these statements out loud. In the interview don’t rush to answer the question. Take some time to think about it, and make sure your answer is and presents in a genuine fashion.

Crime-scene clean up takes compassion and careful provisions

Posted by Cindy Atoji Keene March 26, 2013 12:11 PM

By Cindy Atoji Keene

Who cleans up after a bloody murder or suicide? The potentially gory mess of brain matter, skull fragments, and pieces of corpses doesn’t faze crime-scene cleaner Bill Ciaccio, 33. He considers his job a service to the families who are left devastated after the investigators leave. Mopping up after someone dies involves handling risky biological waste such as blood and other bodily fluids, and properly disposing of material to avoid spreading viruses and diseases. “We have to treat everything with the utmost precaution, whether it’s a drop of blood or very morbid or grotesque,” said Ciaccio, who is a regional supervisor for Aftermath, a crime scene clean-up company.

Q: What sort of trauma do you clean up after?
A: It doesn’t have to be a crime scene; we also do industrial accidents, unintended deaths, gunshots and stabbings. My crew also does all the squad cars and jail cells for a lot of municipalities. There are strict laws about who can clean up fluids in a prison or police car. It could be vomit, feces, or blood – we see it all.

Q: How soon after it after the event do you show up?
A: We like to be in crime scenes shortly after the investigators leave the scene. The longer you let it sit, the more the odor and fluids spread, and what could be a one-day job turns into a very big endeavor. There can be odor and insect infestation because of the blood.

Q: What procedures do you follow?
A: We are on call 24 /7. When a call comes in, we have an hour to respond and be at the shop in North Attleboro. We’ll start contacting the family involved and get them up to speed so they know what to expect, and we’ll help them with the insurance paperwork. Upon arrival, the scene will be quarantined; plastic sheeting is erected and air scrubbers pump out the dirty air. The task could take four hours or three to four days. All surfaces are disinfected, sanitized and deodorized in a procedure called a biowash.

Q: What was it like when you saw your first crime scene?
A: I was nervous and I wasn’t sure how I would react. It was a bad decomposition on the Cape. An older woman who lived alone had passed away and was left unattended for 2-3 weeks in the summer time.

Q: How did you get involved in this line of work?
A: It suits me well because I have a background in construction, which is helpful because some clean-ups require that floorboards and walls be removed. My experience with the mortgage industry helped deal with the insurance paperwork. In many cases, homeowner’s insurance will cover the costs to clean up after a trauma.

Q: How do you keep emotionally detached from the scene you are encountering?
A: I don’t think I always am able to remain detached. There are times when I have a very difficult time staying professional. You’re dealing with people who have had the worst day of their life. Sometimes it really hits you and it’s hard to understand why things happen. I don’t have any answers. It shows you no one is far from tragedy. It could hit any of us at any time.

Concerns of a recent college grad

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole March 25, 2013 07:11 AM

Q: I just recently graduated college, and was fortunate enough to find a job in my field very quickly. I was good at what I did in school, but finding I'm not quite up to par at my new job. I'm not bad by any means; I'm just having trouble adjusting. My question is this: is it normal to experience some difficulties when starting a job? This is my first "real" job, and I (perhaps unrealistically) expected to fully excel with no problems. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy what I do, just kind of feeling behind.

A: Congratulations on landing a job you enjoy quickly after graduating! The transition from life as a student to life as an employee is exciting yet frightening. It takes time to adjust to a new environment, schedule and demands. I bet you are waking up earlier than you did in college when you had some choice in your schedule!

I think it is normal to experience some difficulties when transitioning from the life as a college student to the life of an employee. If you remember back to when you graduated from high school and began attending college that was probably a time of great change for you, especially if you moved away from home.

You are likely learning how to work effectively with new expectations, a new environment and now a manager or supervisor (which you didn’t have in college). Adapting to change is harder than we think sometimes.

However, there are ways which can help you with this transition. First, find high-performing co-workers and colleagues. Ask them about work performance, what is important and what’s not important in your workplace. Observe their behaviors. Ask your supervisor about expectations and what’s most important in a successful employee at your level. Make sure that you understand what you do well and also what you need to improve upon. Although sometimes difficult to hear, feedback is a gift. Be open to feedback even if you may disagree with it.

Lastly, it is not unreasonable to ask your supervisor for a quick check-in meeting 30 or 90 days after you have started your new position. Performance-related feedback should not be “held” until the semi-annual review or annual review meeting. A competent supervisor should be sharing feedback regularly with employees.

Job Doc live at noon: Pattie Hunt Sinacole

Posted by Julie Balise March 22, 2013 04:02 PM

JobDoc-Pattie-Hunt-Sinacole-100.jpgPattie 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.

How to persuade others—or completely alienate them—with a question

Posted by Paul Hellman March 22, 2013 11:00 AM

"Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life?" Steve Jobs asked John Sculley, then President of PepsiCo. "Or do you want to come with me and change the world?"

That's a loaded question. It says, "Look, this job of yours, running PepsiCo, is extremely idiotic. I'm offering something big."

Sculley was persuaded it was big. (Years later, he would call the job a big mistake.)

Do you ever ask loaded questions? Suppose you worked at McDonald's. You might ask:

1) "Would you like fries with that order?" Perfectly reasonable. You're suggesting an option.

2) "You're going to want fries with that order, aren't you?" Ok, now you're getting pushy.

3) "You can get fries or a shake for half price—which do you want?" Even pushier, this is known in sales as an "assumptive close." You assume, aloud, they must want something.

I generally avoid questions like #2 or #3. Except for one time . . .

I'd gone to a job-hunting workshop in my 20s, led by a savvy career coach. He gave lots of advice, including, "If you're ever invited for an interview in a faraway city, make sure to ask the following question."

I wrote the question down in my notebook, although it seemed nervy. A few months later, a recruiter called about a job in Florida.

After we scheduled an interview in Miami, I put the recruiter on hold for a few seconds. Then I dashed around the apartment, found the notebook, found the question, and returned to the phone.

"Will you be sending the plane ticket," I asked, "or would you prefer me to invoice you?" (Note: that's the "fries or shake," assumptive close.)

After a short pause, which seemed endless, the recruiter agreed to the invoice.

So I went to Miami. I didn't get the job, but not because of the question. Today, that question seems tame, and worth asking.

Does that mean assumptive questions are ok? Well, depends on the context. And that reminds me of something else the career coach said:

"For 95% of you, when you think you're being obnoxiously aggressive, you're really just being appropriately assertive."

Good advice. Unless you're in that 5%.

Tip: Avoid asking loaded questions. At least 95% of the time.

p.s. Even simple questions can be dangerous. Consider John Sculley's test at PepsiCo.

He created the Pepsi Challenge, an ad campaign based on giving people a blind taste test (you didn't know what you were drinking) between Pepsi and Coke, and then asking, "Which do you prefer?"

Most preferred Pepsi. But not everyone. One day, while being interviewed on TV, Sculley was challenged to take the taste test. He did, and lost.

I don't think Pepsi used that data in their ad campaign. "Everyone prefers Pepsi," the ad might have said, "except for our President, who says, 'Darn it, I just really love Coke!'"

© Copyright 2013 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

Job-Seeking Telephone Tips

Posted by Peter Post March 21, 2013 07:00 AM

There’s one job-seeking skill that is often overlooked, and yet it sets the stage for whether you even have the chance to demonstrate all your other skills.

The first personal contact in your job search may come through a phone call on your part to schedule an interview with someone in HR or to line up an informational meeting. How you handle yourself on the phone can make or break your chances to get to the next step.

Here are five tips to get you started on the right foot:

  1. When to call. Just what is the best time of day to call? Certainly you don’t want to interrupt someone when they are in the middle of their workday. Likewise hitting them up first thing in the morning may catch them before they are ready to consider your request. No, the best time to call is between 11:30 and noon. Meetings have drawn to a close, and lunch hasn’t yet started, but your contact is starting to get mentally prepared for a break. An alternative time to call is after 4:00 PM as the day winds down.
  2. Have the right attitude. People notice your tone and they will form a mental picture of you from the quality of your voice. To project a good attitude, employ this trick: Smile before you start talking and then keep a friendly upbeat tone while you are speaking. Even if the person you wish to speak to has been difficult to reach and scarcely acknowledged you when you got through, make sure you stay positive and engaged. Remember to be cognizant of the person’s time, so be direct, brief, and courteous.
  3. Think of voice mail as your friend. Getting by a gatekeeper can be difficult. If that seems to be the case, consider calling your contact early in the morning, before work hours, so you can go directly to voice mail and leave a message.
  4. The call-screener. If you do encounter the gatekeeper, be careful about being overly friendly in an attempt to sweet-talk your way past him or her. Likewise, being too aggressive can boomerang on your attempts to get through. Let them know you are aware the person you want to talk to is busy and then ask when would be a convenient time for you to call back.
  5. The person in charge of hiring. Now that you’ve gotten through to your contact, be efficient: introduce yourself, say who suggested you call, offer a brief description of your relevant experience and your current job (if applicable) and explain you are interested in learning about openings. Offer to send a resume and cover letter. And finally be sure to say “Thank you”.

Protecting Your Privacy During a Job Search

Posted by Elaine Varelas March 20, 2013 10:00 AM

Q. Employers are asking for way too much information. I don’t want to provide my Social Security number and other personal information online. People lose laptops; hackers gain access to credit card information. I don’t think anything is confidential or secure. What else can I do and still be considered for the job?

A. Job seekers are often concerned about the privacy of the personal information they disclose in the job application process, including addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers. Given the increasing threat of data breaches and identity theft, applicants justifiably wonder what their privacy rights are in the employment application process, and what prospective employers are doing to secure their personal information.

Many people share your concern about providing their Social Security number and other personal information in an employment application, and are very concerned about whether information is safeguarded after it is submitted.

I consulted Attorney Corey M. Dennis at Governo Law Firm LLC in Boston, an expert in data privacy and security laws, for guidance in addressing these issues. He explained that job seekers are not required to provide their Social Security number or other personal information in employment applications, but refusing to do so may hurt their chances of securing the position. "In the job application process, certain areas are off limits," he noted. Inquiries regarding marital status, membership in protected classes (e.g., race, national origin), and criminal history—are generally prohibited as part of the initial employment screening process.

"Prospective employers are generally permitted to request Social Security numbers from job applicants," explained Dennis. But you may not need to provide that information in an initial employment application. The better practice for companies is to request this information later in the job application process (e.g., to conduct a background check), and for potential employees to wait until then to provide it.

According to Attorney Dennis, Massachusetts has one of the most burdensome state data security law frameworks in the country, requiring all businesses handling personal information of Massachusetts residents to maintain extensive safeguards, document those safeguards in a comprehensive written policy, and train employees on data security practices. Companies face a complex patchwork of state and federal data security laws designed to protect personal information of individuals. Other states have enacted laws specifically intended to protect the privacy of Social Security numbers. For example, in Connecticut, businesses collecting Social Security numbers must create a privacy policy establishing safeguards for that information.

Data privacy practices vary from company to company. “Not all businesses are in compliance with these laws, and data breaches do happen,” said Dennis. For instance, just last week, Salem State University reported a data breach affecting 25,000 current and former employees and students, while The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and Barnes & Noble also reported recent data breaches. Applicants should tread carefully when providing personal information, particularly Social Security numbers, in the job application process; companies will continue to try and protect their data and more laws will restrict how the information is maintained, but there is no guarantee this information won’t be compromised.

Before providing Social Security numbers, job seekers should perform due diligence to ensure that they are applying with a reputable company and through a secure method. Social Security numbers should not be submitted by email, and if submitted through a website, the applicant should ensure that the web page is secure (i.e., begins with “https”). While companies today must maintain extensive security measures to prevent data breaches, job seekers should take these additional precautions to protect themselves from the risk of identity theft.

Acoustical engineer sounds off about noise control

Posted by Cindy Atoji Keene March 19, 2013 06:12 PM

By Cindy Atoji Keene

Acoustical engineer Herb Singleton always carries a pair of ear plugs with him – it’s not just to protect his ears, which are an important tool for his job, but also because he understands that noise pollution can cause countless adverse health affects, from high blood pressure to hearing loss.

Solving a noise or vibration problem often requires detective skills to track down the culprit, whether it’s a complaint about trains rumbling by or construction site din. “The primary goal of acoustical engineering is the reduction of unwanted sounds, but it’s often challenging to figure out what’s causing the noise and how to control it,” said Singleton, who says solutions include soundproofing a building, adding mufflers to equipment, or erecting noise berms made of soil, stone or rock on a property.

Q: How does acoustics fall under “engineering?”
A: Acoustics is engineering, but it tends to be a mix of electrical and mechanical engineering, with some physics thrown in. Since it's not a "fundamental" engineering discipline, it's not considered by some to be engineering; for example I'm licensed as a mechanical engineer in Massachusetts because the Mass Board of Licensure doesn't recognize acoustics as a separate discipline. This creates problems since the lay public will often defer to engineers in matters of sound, but many of these engineers don't have acoustics training and get sound concepts completely wrong – for example the misconception that trees and foliage make effective sound barriers.

Q: How do you measure noise levels?
A: Sound level meters can measure noise, whether it’s a person in the field or unattended noise monitors that run automatically for several days. These instruments are brought back to the lab and run through the computer. The trade off is that there’s a lot more data but also interfering sounds such as barking dogs or auto traffic that need to be screened out.

Q: What’s an example of a community noise project you’ve worked on?
A: A neighbor lived next to a Sudbury farm that had a noisy chicken coop. He wanted to document the noise levels to show that it wasn’t just roosters crowing in the morning but chickens who were active all day and night. He was able to successfully stop the farm expansion.

Q: How do you address train noise and vibration issues?
A: We can recommend sound mitigation measures by measuring train noise and seeing if it violates applicable noise limits. For example, if steel wheels are spinning on the tracks, they can create an annoying squeaking noise. This can be caused by wheels that flatten over time or have divets in them, in which case the train needs to be maintained or lubrication added to the track. For future rail projects, computer models use equations to calculate a noise level.

Q: You’ve been in this field for almost two decades. What changes have you seen
A: The biggest change is the availability of low-cost computer hardware that has transformed the practice. Now we can perform measurements today using relatively inexpensive tools that might have cost thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars even back in the late 90's.

Q: What’s your noise pet peeve?
A: Restaurant noise. Restaurants are often intentionally designed to be loud, which bothers me because as a customer, I hate screaming to hold a simple conversation. As a noise control engineer, I also know these high levels often exceed OSHA guidelines and therefore restaurant workers are likely experiencing hearing damage in addition to their long hours and low wages.

Live chat: Judy Shen-Filerman from Dreambridge Partners

Posted by Julie Balise March 19, 2013 05:13 PM

judy100.jpgJudy Shen-Filerman is founder and principal of Dreambridge Partners in Arlington, a cross-cultural leadership development firm.

Chronological vs. functional resume

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole March 18, 2013 07:14 AM

Q: It's been more than 2 years since I was last employed. Should I change the chronological format of my resume to one that highlights my work experience (35+ years) rather than show the gap in employment? I have already deleted the second page of my resume because it was no longer pertinent to a background in mechanical drafting.

A: Great question. Let me share the advantages and disadvantages of both the chronological resume and the functional resume.

The chronological resume typically has an objective or summary at the top. Then, the candidate’s work history is detailed starting with the present role and working backwards. The education section is at the bottom sometimes along with special skills, certifications or relevant training.

Advantages:
Most employers and hiring professionals are familiar reviewing this type of format.
It is easy to follow for the reader, perhaps because the chronological resume is more commonly used.

This type of format highlights the candidates’ most recent experience, which is often the most relevant. It is also easy to follow a career progression with this type of resume.

Disadvantages:
This format can accentuate gaps in a candidate’s work history.
It may not be the best format for career changers or those re-entering the workforce.

The functional resume groups together common skills. As an example, there may be skills headings like management/supervisory skills, technical skills, sales skills or scientific skills. A candidate’s work history is provided toward the bottom of the resume. Education, certifications, and special skills are often detailed at the very end of this type of resume.

Advantages:The format can help a candidate highlight capabilities and skills which are transferrable, which is good for candidates changing careers.
A functional resume can de-emphasize short stints within a career. This format can also minimize the focus on periods of unemployment.

Disadvantages:
This type of resume is a bit more difficult to review, from the reader’s perspective. Many hiring professionals are taught to look for gaps in a candidate’s work history. This format tends to make this process more challenging.
The focus is more on transferrable skills but sometimes the employer’s names are hard to find if this format is used.

Finally, you may want to using a functional resume and comparing it to the chronological version you have been using. One final tip for your resume: if you have 35 plus years of experience, consider dropping the months off of your chronological format. Instead of May, 1991 – November, 2011, consider 1991 – 2011. This tip may also help take the focus off of your recent period of unemployment.

Chat live with Job Doc Elaine Varelas

Posted by Julie Balise March 15, 2013 04:22 PM

Elaine-Varelas-100-new.jpgElaine 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.

Sincerity Matters for Paul Ryan Just as Much as for President Obama

Posted by Peter Post March 14, 2013 07:00 AM

I’m hearing a lot about sincerity these days. People seem to be able to toss the word around easily, but they may forget that it applies to them just as much as it applies to other people.

On Wednesday morning I heard former vice presidential candidate and Congressman Paul Ryan speaking on Morning Joe on MSNBC. Commenting on President Obama’s recent get-togethers with Republican congressmen and senators, Ryan questioned the President’s sincerity when he said, “Was the so-called charm offensive a temporary poll-driven political calculation or a sincere effort to try and bring people together?”

What is sincerity and why does it matter so much?

At the Emily Post Institute we have always believed and taught that sincerity is critical to building relationships. You can have the best manners in the world, or be as charming as all get out, but if you’re not sincere, it counts for nothing.

Think of it this way: If you are sincere, people will believe you. If people believe you, they’ll have confidence in you. And if people have confidence in you, they’ll trust you. When they trust you, you can work together to accomplish goals solve problems, or move forward. Relationships are built on trust.

Trust takes time build but once built, it takes only one mistake to lose. Then, if trust can be regained at all, the re-building process can take even longer than it did the first time.

Back to the President and Congressman Ryan. If the recent get-togethers are simply a political calculation, then, definitely, the President’s motives can be called into question. And if he’s not believable, the opposition won’t have confidence in him, and he will lose their trust.

Of course the same could be said of Congressman Ryan and the Republicans. Certainly, their sincerity is as much in question as the President’s. Since there is no doubt that the Republicans, the Democrats, and the President need to start building relationships with each other, the place to start is by being sincere in their communications with and overtures to each other. Only by being sincere can they begin to build the trust necessary to bridge ideological gaps and make the deals they need to make.

Businesspeople face the same challenge. A person’s ability to build strong positive relationships is at the core of his or her success. You don’t get considered for a contract or a job or a promotion unless you have the requisite skills. But in the final analysis, your sincerity, your ability to establish trust, will be a deciding factor.

Ryan is right. Sincerity matters—to establishing trust, to moving forward, to eventually getting things accomplished. If you’re going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk.

Now you can follow me at PeterLPost on Twitter.

Live chat: Resumes, interviews, and networking chat at noon

Posted by Julie Balise March 13, 2013 05:16 PM

tracy-cashman-100.jpgTracy Cashman, a partner at recruiting firm WinterWyman in Waltham, provides placement services for all levels of IT positions, including high-level IT Managers/Directors and CIOs.

Relationships Matter: How to Influence the Influencers

Posted by Elaine Varelas March 13, 2013 10:00 AM

Q. I’m a recent graduate with an economics degree and a minor in IT. So far my work experience is an internship with a political campaign, and a part time position in customer service which is where I am now. Things aren’t going very well; the relationships I have with co-workers and customers is poor. There are no opportunities for growth. I would like some advice on how I can make a move and find a job so I can gain field and office experience. I'm open to various entry-level opportunities. I'm confident that my skill set is applicable to any sector. I can be flexible with the schedule and start date.

A. Before you can find what you are looking for in a job and career, you have preparation work to do. Much of success at work, and in the job market revolves around having successful interactions with people and being able to influence them. You need to be capable of building positive relationships with customers and co-workers. Since this is not currently the case, you need to identify why, and develop the skills you need to have successful relationships.

The lack of effective interpersonal skills has derailed many people at all levels in their careers, and since you are just starting out, you have the opportunity to strengthen your abilities with people. Read the classic “How to Win Friends, and Influence People”, by Dale Carnegie. If you can take the same Dale Carnegie course I strongly recommend it. You have the opportunity to change the course of your career for the better if you invest in yourself at this early stage.

People with more experience who are not able to build strong relationships with colleagues and customers will get disappointing feedback on reviews, and most often do not advance as quickly as people with strengths in these areas. This holds true even when qualities like, ‘technical skills’ may be the most important skillset for the job. Coaching and management development opportunities can be offered by the organization and should be welcomed by any employee hoping to move ahead. More senior leaders who have received any similar feedback should seek out coaching support as a developmental need.

In a job search, every hiring manager and networking contact is a potential customer and your goal is to influence them to buy or recommend your product – you! Recognize that you are in charge of the process, and that a passive approach of being open to jobs will not work. Practice your new skills with every customer interaction, and win these people over. Do the same with as many networking contacts as you can, so that you build a group of people willing to recommend you for jobs. Develop a target list of the kinds of companies and roles where your skills will be valued. Perhaps political organizations are a passion and you might want to start in a related environment. Own the job search process. Consider it a graduate level course, and plan out a semesters worth of work to get an ”A+” offer.

Swing App Takes Aim at Improving Golf Game

Posted by Cindy Atoji Keene March 12, 2013 04:01 PM

By Cindy Atoji Keene

Like most avid golfers, Krishna Ramchandran is always trying to improve his game. Four years ago, when he started hitting the driving range, he quickly realized that playing like golf pro Tiger Woods is easier said than done. “My golf game at that time was poor, and I needed a way to see what I was doing wrong,” said Ramchandran, a computer engineer who saw in his experience an opportunity to create technology that changes the way people learn sports. Over time, he built a smart phone app that allowed him to video record his golf swing and watch it in precise slow motion – something that wasn’t possible at the time – and collaborate with other golfers to get tips for improvement. He launched the tech start-up Ubersense in 2011 after launching on the Apple app store and finding that users were using the app for other sports such as tennis, baseball, swimming, and gymnastics.

Q: What’s the 30-second elevator speech for Ubersense?
A: It’s a mobile app that’s like having a personal coach in the palm of your hand, using state-of-the-art video coaching tools – like virtual “chalk” and audio commentary – to help athletes and coaches improve their performance.

Q: Why is the golfing community so quickly adopting swing analysis apps?
A: Golfers are inquisitive and also a bit geeky, always looking for new aids, whether a new club or new apps. In the past, you needed a grand to set up a massive high-speed device on the course to videotape your form – and then a few days later, your golf game breaks down again and you can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong. Being able to analyze a swing’s sequence can help coordinate movements, like head positioning or other body mechanics, to improve technique. And, he adds, his golf handicap is down by about 15 strokes.

Q: What are some sports that have unique challenges when it comes to recording video analysis?
A: The US rowing team used our app to prepare for the Olympics. The biggest challenge was that the team and coach were on separate boats, so it was hard to focus on the individual rowers and the waves can create shaky recordings. But we’ve seen many rowers record videos while practicing in the gym on rowing machines rather on a live boat.

Q: What sports are using Ubersense that you didn’t expect?
A: I don’t think you’d call this a sport, but some masseuse use Ubersense to teach students the proper hand movements. We also have a relationship with the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation; this use case is mostly around the start, which is one of the most technical parts. The coaches also use multiple iPads on different turns to analyze how high or low the sled goes.

Q: How does using this app change the feedback that coaches can give?
A: Baseball coaches, for example, can compare two videos, perhaps a amateur player versus a pro, and use lines to pinpoint exactly what angle the athlete should be at when they take a swing. Angles become very important. Or for track and field, a coach can mark a freehand drawing on a video, which makes it easier to focus their commentary.

Q: Is the Apple store is the new version of the American Dream?
A: The mobile app stores offer excellent platforms to reach millions of users. It was easier to make money in the earlier days when most companies with deep pockets were still trying to figure out how to best build apps. The competition nowadays is fierce and apps have to be of very high quality in order to be successful.

Q: If you had to pick one programming language as your favorite, what would it be?
A: The C programming language and its variants, C++ and Objective C. I used to do a lot of C and C++ programming before Ubersense. We develop almost exclusively in Objective C nowadays as it’s the primary language used to create iOS apps. It is a really beautiful and elegant language if one is able to master it.

Q: What are some of the coolest hacks you’ve done in the past?
A: Probably the most fun hack that I did was when I was 8 years old. I bought some cheap parts in a flea market to build a remote controller battery powered toy truck.

Q: East Coast vs. West Coast for app development?

A: It really doesn't matter as long as one is able to surround oneself with top-notch talent. The West Coast has more such people to choose from, which is an advantage, but the competition to hire them is higher. The East Coast has equally talented people, and I would say that it’s a much more tight-knit and collaborative community.

Q: Your favorite app outside of Ubersense?

Flipboard - it aggregates all of the news and information in an elegant and easy to use interface.

How meal breaks work in Massachusetts

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole March 11, 2013 08:09 AM

Q: I was just hired into a role where I was told I am eligible for paid overtime (at time and one-half) after I work forty hours. However, no one has mentioned lunch breaks. How does this work when an employee regularly works more than 8 hours per day? Do I get a lunch break? Is it paid or unpaid? Everyone working in this office seems to eat at their desk and work through lunch.

A: Most employees in Massachusetts are covered by the state's meal break law. Your employer must offer you a 30-minute meal break by law if you work six or more hours in a single shift. This 30-minute meal break is unpaid. This law does not apply to certain industries in Massachusetts, including those employers in the iron, glass, print, bleach, dye, paper and letterpress industries. Employees can choose to voluntarily work through a meal break, which sounds like the situation at your work location. If an employee chooses to work through his or her meal break, this time must be paid. Many employees think employers are required to offer a "lunch hour" but this is not the case.

Additionally, an employee must have the freedom to leave their workplace during this meal break. An employee should not be assigned other duties during this meal break or else it really isn’t a meal break. For example, an employee can’t be asked to cover the front desk or phones for another department during his or her meal break. The employee should be free from all work-related responsibilities.

Employers can be liable for breaking this law. This law is enforced by the Massachusetts attorney general’s offices. For more information on workplace rights within Massachusetts, visit http://www.mass.gov/ago/docs/workplace/wage/wagehourbrochure-final.pdf.

Chat live with Job Doc Elaine Varelas

Posted by Julie Balise March 8, 2013 12:07 PM

Elaine-Varelas-100-new.jpgElaine 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.

Giving a presentation? Focus on X.

Posted by Paul Hellman March 8, 2013 11:00 AM

Whenever you talk with other people, whether it's a presentation, a job interview, or a police interrogation, your attention has only three places to go:

1) You. Your hair; your shoes; your alibi.

(Good): Some attention needs to go inward because a presentation is a physical act, and you need to notice, from time to time, what you're doing—where you're standing, how your voice is projecting, and so on.

(Bad): Too much attention on YOU makes you feel self-conscious.

Recently, I trained a group of facilitators at a large company to lead a workshop on the "Manager's Role in Career Development."

"My biggest fear," said one facilitator, "is that an audience of managers won't listen to me. I'm not a manager. Some days, I'm not even sure I have a career."

Everyone worries about his/her image. The question is, how much?

2) Your material.

(Good): Your material demands attention.

The other day, I watched a senior exec kick off an important meeting. She only spoke for a few minutes, and probably figured she could wing it.

Big mistake. She ended up rambling, losing her audience, and also losing some credibility.

All she really needed were a few things—a strong opening, a strong close, and a focused message—to make a big difference.

(Bad): If you're too focused on the material, you get buried in details—too many Power Point slides, too many bulleted lists, too much information.

You forget how little people remember.

3) Your audience.

(Good): The best presenters focus on the audience. Suppose, for example, you're presenting that workshop on Managing Career Development.

"Think of someone," you ask your audience, "who made a big difference in your career. Could be anyone—a parent, a past manager, a former parole officer. What did he/she do?"

Then, you relate their answers to a few best practices, and you ask your audience to assess themselves against those practices.

You're still doing a lot of talking, but it feels conversational. And your audience stays engaged for one simple reason: it's about them.

(Bad): You're overly concerned with your audience's emotional state. If someone looks bored and then—oh, no!—walks out, you feel distraught.

You've confused their reactions with your self-worth. But they don't need to love you. Because it's not about you.

Tip: Practice. Practice makes you less self-conscious, and more comfortable with your material. Practice frees your attention.

Then, when it's time to speak, check your appearance, check your talking points. But focus on your audience.

© Copyright 2013 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

McIlroy’s Apology Puts Quitting Issue Behind Him

Posted by Peter Post March 7, 2013 07:00 AM

On March 1, 2013, Rory McIlroy, at that moment the number-one golfer in the world, did the unthinkable: He quit in the middle of the second round of the Honda Classic at the Champion Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Big mistake. Commentators, professional golfers, and duffers all weighed in criticizing his action almost from the moment he did it. Even Jack Nicklaus weighed in: “‘He shouldn't have walked off,’ Nicklaus said. ‘If he had thought about it for 5 minutes, he wouldn't have done it.’”

Then McIlroy made his next mistake: He tried to excuse his action in a tweet by explaining that he was in pain from a toothache: "Apologies to all at the Honda. A tough day made impossible by severe tooth pain. Was desperate to defend title but couldn't play on. Gutted"

Maybe, but really he was in pain from being seven shots over par after eight holes. On the 18th hole (which in reality was only the ninth hole of the match because he started on the tenth hole), he dumped yet another shot into the water. Staring at a bogey or perhaps even a double bogey, he had had enough; he informed his playing partners who urged him not to quit, and then he walked off the course.

Time and again I’ve written about and talked about the importance of owning up to your mistakes, of not trying to hide them or justify them with some lame excuse. It simply doesn’t work, especially in this age of Twitter and blogs where everyone has an opinion and can share it with everyone else, instantly. Americans are incredibly tolerant of people’s foibles as long as the miscreant owns up to his or her mistake. Fail to own up and you risk having your mistake, which is manageable, turn into a major problem.

It didn’t take long for McIlroy and/or his handlers to figure out that the lame toothache excuse was going to boomerang on them if they didn’t head it off at the pass. So on Sunday evening, March 3, McIlroy spoke with senior Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger about the incident. He ceased trying to find an excuse and instead took full responsibility: “What I did was not good for the tournament, not good for the kids and the fans who were out there watching me -- it was not the right thing to do.” By apologizing and doing it sincerely, he’s believable.

That was the best way to put the incident behind him. And it is the best way for each of us to handle situations in which we have erred. It’s these three steps that will help resolve the situation and put the error behind you:

  1. Apologize sincerely,
  2. Take responsibility,
  3. Move on.

Overwhelmed Job Seekers Rise to the Challenge

Posted by Elaine Varelas March 6, 2013 10:00 AM

Q. I have been successful in the past. After this layoff, my self esteem is shot. My job search is pounding home the fact that I am not a success. No one is calling me, and I am not making it past applications. I only see what I don't have that employers want? Isn't there an easier way to get a job?

A. So you know what success feels like and you probably remember it didn't come over night. Most people have highs and lows in their careers and as part of the job search. Managing the stress associated with the process becomes a skill to be developed. Many companies provide continued access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). If your former employer has offered this to you, call them! Maintaining your emotional and physical health and strength will be vital to your success.

The job search process typically involves some rejection, so try to depersonalize it, and look at yourself as a new sales person. Sales may not be the career you want, but you are on a journey to see yourself and your skill sets to your next employer.

Many people ask about the easiest way to find a job and the key is to simplify the process and get focused. The best way to do this is to develop a job search strategy. Things to think about include:

You are the product - Define what you offer. What are your strengths What are the successes you are most proud of? What challenges have you met for the firms you have worked for in the past?

Target - Everyone selling a product or service has to identify the potential buyers. Have you created the target list of organizations you are most interested in working for? Have you developed a description of the kind of company, by size, industry, and any other criteria which are important to you? Put that in writing; you’ll need it.

Market - Develop your written materials. You’ll need a resume which is quantitatively driven and speaks to the hiring people at the organizations you have targeted. You’ll need a template of a cover letter that lets you customize it quickly, for each new opportunity. And make sure you have a new picture on your LinkedIn profile so people can find you.

Obstacles - All job seekers have obstacles. No degree, too much experience, too little experience, not exactly the right experience. Whatever your obstacle, or weakness, understand why potential employers think it matters. Then, develop reasons it doesn’t matter as much as they think. Be prepared to discuss what you have that matters more, and enhances their organizational advantage. You don’t have a degree but you have 20 years of successful experience. Perhaps you have a long list of related coursework which has enhanced your success, and added value for your past employers.
.
Sales team - Build your sales team. Don't wait for people to call you. You need to reach out and enlist supporters who might be able to help you identify opportunities, introduce you to new people to meet, send you jobs that others send to them, and to buoy your sprits. Give each of them a copy of the target list you developed earlier.

Take note of every positive interaction, keep your activity level consistent and high. Good luck!


Greenhouse Manager Tends To Historic Plant Collection

Posted by Cindy Atoji Keene March 5, 2013 10:55 AM

By Cindy Atoji Keene

Greenhouse manager Lynn Ackerman admits she was a bit unnerved at first about taking care of centuries-old camellias and grapevines grown from cuttings taken in the 1870s from Hampton Court in England. “I’d wake up in the middle of the night wondering, ‘Oh God, did I close that greenhouse vent? I was a bit of a wreck being steward of these noble plants.” But now, after serving as Lyman Estate horticulturist for over two decades, Ackerman, 51, said she’s more comfortable taking care of the notable collection. The historical estate in Waltham has among the oldest greenhouses in the country, built between 1804 and 1930, and still houses plants from those eras. Ackerman tends to thousands of plants and maintains award-winning orchids, while welcoming visitors to the greenhouses in all seasons.

Q: What’s the story behind these greenhouses?
A: There are four greenhouses, the earliest built in 1804. They are all connected with a brick backbone, and each one was constructed for a different sequence of plants by subsequent generations of the Lyman family. There is a camellia house, grapery, and a greenhouse for cut flowers. Today the greenhouses also shelter orchids, citrus fruits, exotic houseplants, orchids, and herbs, and are open year round to the public so visitors can enjoy the picturesque blooms.

Q: What makes the greenhouses different from other greenhouses?
A: They are completely different from commercial greenhouses, which use the latest technology in automation and insulation materials. But we strive to be historically accurate, so I take care of the garden just as they did 200 years ago. Instead of automatic watering systems and temperature control, I need to walk around and open vents, and water everything by hand. The lean-to style greenhouses have a glass roof facing southeast to capture the most sunlight. And instead of vast monocultures of mums, for example, we might grow 10-20 different plants.

Q: Which plants are the most difficult to tend to, and why?
A: I would say the camellias, because although the cool temperature and lighting are all perfect in the wintertime, in the summer time it’s a different story. The plants are rooted in a semi-permanent ground bed, so the trees have to stay in the greenhouse even in the sweltering days of summer when it easily gets over 100 degrees. This puts a lot of stress on plants, since we don’t have large air conditioning or cooling units. I have to do my best to hose and mist, and make sure the fans are going to keep evaporation up.

Q: How did you become interesting in horticulture?
A: I grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York. My grandmother was a fantastic gardener and plant person. I was very inquisitive and watched her propagate geraniums for her porch. I was amazed you could take a little piece of plant and turn it into this amazing flowering bush.

Q: If there was one question you could ask the original owners of the Lyman Estate, what would it be?
A: Oh god, there are so many. Even all this time, I wish I could be a time traveler and see exactly how the Lymans did things. They didn’t even have rubber hoses to water plants, yet they accomplished big gardening feats.

Q: Do you believe people are born with a green or brown thumb?
A: I don't think it's green or brown – I think it's a matter of awareness and having horticultural common sense.

Q: What’s your favorite plant at the greenhouse?
A: I guess it would be a particular Madagascar orchid. It’s fairly small but very regal looking, and blooms almost continuously with white, thick and waxy flowers.

Job search after layoff and travel

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole March 4, 2013 06:10 AM

Q: I am a frustrated job seeker with about ten years experience in my field. After being laid off last summer, I took a few months off to travel and visit with friends and family. I thought I would have an easier time landing a new job in my field but now I am really nervous. My search has been harder than I expected. Every week, I am sending out about 10 or more resumes but I am getting very little response. When I do talk to a company, they say that I am overqualified. What effect does my period of unemployment have on my job search? Do you think I should eliminate an advanced degree from my resume? Perhaps I should consider changing fields too?

A: I think many job seekers have experienced similar challenges. It is ok to enjoy travel and some freedom for a period of time. However, as you discovered, weeks can turn into months very quickly.

Consider developing a disciplined plan and stick to it and hold yourself accountable. A few key steps of your plan should include:

1. If you are not receiving calls interviews, ask a few trusted colleagues and/or family members for feedback on your resume. Your resume should be crisp, legible and error-free.
2. Network and then network more. I once had a successful job seeker explain that their professional network has been their only insurance against prolonged unemployment.
3. Build a profile on LinkedIn. Linkedin is an online networking tool that can only help your job search. You can connect with former colleagues, friends, neighbors, etc. Career-related groups are also available on Linkedin.
4. Use job boards but don’t spend your entire day behind your PC. Spend about 75% of your time building relationships, contacting former colleagues and attending networking events. The remaining 25% of your time can be spent behind a PC.

Finally, I would not recommend deleting an advanced degree from your resume. For some roles, an advanced degree may be preferred and it could differentiate you in a positive way. I think you would have more success remaining in your current field unless your field is one that is shrinking. Good luck with your search. Remember, a job hunt is often a full-time commitment.

- editing expertise provided by Ms. Sloan's 6th grade classes, Hopkinton Middle School

Job Doc live at noon: Pattie Hunt Sinacole

Posted by Julie Balise March 1, 2013 03:35 PM

JobDoc-Pattie-Hunt-Sinacole-100.jpgPattie 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.

about this blog

From looking for a job to dealing with the one you have, our Job Docs are here to answer your employment-related questions.

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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.

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