Thursday, September 11, 2014

Things You Should Never Do When Networking

You've heard time and time again that networking is the key to developing your career, but how do you ensure that you're behaving in a way that will create and not limit opportunities for you?  Here are common mistakes that you need to avoid if you want to grow your network:

Failing to say thank you.  When you're dealing with people, a little bit of appreciation goes a long way.  A simple thank you will make your contacts a lot more willing to help you in the future.

Being self-centred.  So many people approach networking completely focused on what they can get out of it.  Don't make that mistake.  Once people detect that you're only there out of self-interest, they will quickly lose interest in you.  If you instead approach networking by trying to get to know other people and seeing how you can help them, your network will quickly expand.

Looking like a slob.  When you meet a new person, they generally form an opinion of you before you even open your mouth to speak.  You are able to create a lot more opportunities for yourself when you are clean and professionally dressed than you are when you look like you just crawled out of bed. 

Losing sight of why you're there.  When you're at a networking event it's important that you stay focused.  Don't let yourself get distracted by the food or by conversations that have little to do with your career.  Talk to people and build relationships, but never forget why you're there. 

For the most part, the secret to networking is to just get out there and meet people, but if you're making big mistakes, you could be doing yourself more harm than good.  Stay focused, behave courteously and always maintain your professionalism, and you will quickly build a vibrant network that will open doors for you.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Imagery Majestic/

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I Have Two Interviews at the Same Time!

When you're looking for a job, crazy things can happen.  Since you're dealing with a lot of different people and they all need answers quickly, it is not uncommon for job seekers to find that they've scheduled themselves for two interviews at the same time.  So what do you do if you find yourself in this awkward situation?  Here are some questions to consider:

Which job is most important to you?  Sometimes you need to prioritize one position over the other.  Of the two, which one do you really want?  At the end of the day, you might need to risk one for a shot at the other. 

When were the interviews scheduled?  Try to be reasonable when deciding which interview to attend.  For example, if one interview was scheduled two weeks ago, then it makes sense to prioritize it over an interview that was scheduled just last night.  If the employer is inviting you to an interview at the last minute, they will be more likely to understand if you need to reschedule. 

Which job are you most likely to get?  Are you more qualified for one position than you are for the other?  Do you have a contact at one of the companies that might give you better odds?  It's a good idea to favour the position that you actually have a good chance of getting. 

The worst thing that you can do is be late for one of the interviews or miss it altogether.  Not only can that destroy your chances of ever getting a job with that company, but it could also damage your reputation.  You need to try to reschedule one of the interviews.  Here are some tips that might help you salvage the opportunity:

Be flexible.  When rescheduling an interview that you're not able to attend, you need to be as flexible as possible.  If you aren't able to make it to more than one of the times that the employer suggests, they will begin to doubt both your commitment and your availability. 

Be apologetic.  Keep in mind that you are competing against candidates who have completely opened up their schedule for this employer.  Since it is inconvenient for the employer to reschedule your interview and it is easy for them to discard your application to focus on other qualified (and more available) candidates, it is a good idea for you to apologize and let them know that you appreciate them making an effort to find a time that works for you. 

When it rains, it pours.  While this situation is stressful, the fact that two employers have invited you for an interview is a good sign.  Show them that you're the best fit for the job and an offer should be around the corner. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/

Friday, September 5, 2014

How Students Can Prepare for their Career

Most students wait until they are about to graduate to start thinking about their career.  However, if you take that approach you miss out on a lot of potential opportunities.  Instead, why not start this school year with your career in mind and do everything that you can to prepare yourself?  Here are some things that students can do to get themselves job ready:

Complete a Co-op Program.  Co-op is an excellent way to try out a career while gaining valuable work experience.  Even if you decide that you don't want to pursue that particular career, you might get some valuable connections that can help you later. 

Do Extra-Curricular Activities.  Employers like to hire candidates that are responsible and well rounded.  If you don't have much work experience, extra-curricular activities can help you stand out above your competition. 

Research Career Opportunities.  It is difficult to prepare yourself for your career until you know what type of job you will be targeting.  Take some time to research different career options and try to find one that appeals to you.  You might even want to do an aptitude test to get some examples of careers that would be a good match for your skills and personal attributes. 

Get a Part Time Job.  In addition to providing an income, a part time job will give you work experience to put on your resume and access to potential references.  Just the process of finding a job is a valuable learning experience.  

Keep Your Eyes Open.  If you pay attention, you will see potential career opportunities all around you.  Many people miss out on careers that would be a perfect fit for them simply because they didn't know about it.  When you meet people, ask them about their jobs.  When you hear about different careers, research them to find out exactly what they are.  In order to make the best career choice, you need to know all of the opportunities that are available to you. 

Being a student is an amazing time in your life and you don't want to miss out on it by focusing too much on the future.  However, if you take a little time now to prepare for your career, you will be in a much better position to get a job after graduation. 

(Written by Karen Bivand, Photo by: Artur84,

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Behaviour That Will Get You Fired

Nobody is perfect, but as an employee there are certain lines that you should never cross.  If you have been guilty of any of the following behaviour in the past, you had better change your ways before you find yourself out of a job:

Falsifying Company Documents.  In some organizations, it becomes common practice to backdate records or alter reports in order to make them appear more favourable.  Even if everyone else is doing it, you shouldn't.  If you get caught, your employer won't hesitate to terminate your employment. 

Insubordination.  There is a hierarchy at your workplace and you are expected to do what your supervisor asks of you (within reason).  An employee's failure to obey a direct order made by their supervisor is considered to be a violation of the employment contract.  Even a single act of insubordination is grounds for dismissal. 

Attendance Issues.  Few employers will put up with attendance issues for very long.  If you're not showing up for work (or not showing up on time), they will let you go. 

Poor Performance.  When it comes right down to it, your employer is most interested in your ability to do the job.  If you meet your targets, they will do their best to keep you on their team.  If you don't, they will happily get rid of you. 

Misuse of Computer or Email.  Never forget that when you're using your company computer, your employer is always watching you.  Never view a website or send an email that you wouldn't want your employer to see.  You can even get into trouble at home using your own computer by the content that you post publicly on social media.  Be careful when you're online.

It is always best to leave a job on good terms.  The world can be painfully small sometimes and you never know when your bad behaviour might come back to haunt you. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: David Castillo Dominici/

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Interview Mistakes that Candidates Make

Interview candidates make the same mistakes over and over again.  In some cases, seemingly small errors can leave the employer with an inaccurate perception of you.  By becoming aware of common mistakes, you are able to avoid them and ensure that the employer  stays focused on your relevant skills and experience:
Appearing disinterested.  Employers want to hire a candidate who is enthusiastic about the job.  If you seem arrogant or disinterested during the interview, the employer will conclude that you either have a bad attitude or that you don't care. 

Not doing research.  If you are interviewing for a job, there is an expectation that you have done some research on both the company and the position.  If it becomes apparent that you are not prepared, the employer will quickly lose interest in you. 

Not providing specific examples.  Candidates that are vague in their answers are labeled as weak by employers.  If you only give general explanations and fail to provide specific examples, the employer will come to the conclusion that you are either being evasive or that you are exaggerating your level of experience.  Allow the employer to picture you doing the job. 

Being negative.  Often the interviewer will ask you questions that almost invite you to speak badly about a previous manager or colleague.  Don't take the bait.  Remember, it's you on trial here, not your manager or co-worker.  Anything that you say will reflect negatively on you, even if you're right.

When it comes down to it, your success at job interviews depends on two things; preparation and attitude.  If you're positive, enthusiastic and you do your homework, you will be offered a job in no time. 

(Photo by: David Castillo/,  Written by: Karen Bivand)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Are Your Thoughts Limiting Your Career Growth?

While you may find it surprising, the way that you think can significantly impact your career success.  It's not that far fetched when you consider that your behaviour is directly determined by your thoughts.  If you get trapped into negative thought patterns, they can hold you back.  Here are some mind traps to avoid:

Focusing on the negative.  Do you filter out all of the positive aspects of a situation and only see the negative?  For example, if you were invited in for an interview would you be concentrating more on your strengths or your weaknesses?  Keep in mind that a pessimistic outlook can negatively impact your performance.   

Viewing a setback as a failure.  Do you make general conclusions based on a single incident?  If one employer decides not to hire you for a particular position, would you then assume that you will never get a job?

Taking things too personally.  Do you tend to attribute people's behaviour to their feelings towards you?  For example, if an interviewer was being standoffish, would you automatically assume that it was because they don't like you? 

Having an expectation of fairness.  Deep down do you believe that if you are a good person and you work hard you will get a job?  While this may be fair, it's not the way the world works.  The strongest candidate is not always hired and just because you've been working like crazy, doesn't mean that you will get a job on your own timeline.  However, you can increase the odds in your favour by growing your network and targeting jobs that are in demand. 

While you can't always control what happens to you, you can control the way that you respond to it.  If you feel like your mind is taking you down a negative path, give yourself a moment to reflect.  When you maintain awareness, you can ensure that your thoughts work for you instead of against you. 
(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo Courtesy of Graur Codrin/

Friday, August 22, 2014

Improve Your Leadership Presence

Have you ever noticed that some people just walk into a room and immediately command attention?  What is that 'it factor' and how can you get it?  While some people seem to just be born with it, it is a skill that you can master.  Here are some tips that will help you better command a presence:

Appearance.  The reality is that people do judge a book by its cover.  You don't have to be a supermodel, but you should always be well groomed and well dressed.  Choose clothes that fit you nicely and always look slightly more professional than is necessary.

Keep your composure.  Never let them see you sweat.  If you are someone who is able to stay calm in difficult situations, people will see you as a leader. 

Communicate confidently.  Leaders are able to communicate assertively but respectfully.  They understand the needs of others and know how to behave appropriately in any situation.  It is important that you always communicate honestly, directly and clearly. 

Watch your non-verbal communication.  If you're not feeling confident, your body language will betray you.  Take control of your non-verbal communication.  Stand tall, make your voice loud and steady, and make eye contact with people when you talk to them.  Ask people for feedback on your body language to identify areas where you need to improve. 

Maintain your integrity.  As a leader, your character is important.  People will not be willing to follow you if they don't respect you.  Communicate your values and make sure that your actions are always consistent with them.  Set your priorities and show that you are willing to stand up for your beliefs. 

In order to grow in your career, you need to get people to see you as a leader.  You might be surprised to learn that people who seem to effortlessly command attention have actually put a lot of work into it.  Be strategic and before long people will be hanging on to your every word.   

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/