Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How to Choose Your Career



The thought of  choosing a career can be intimidating.  It feels like everything that you've done comes down to this moment and if you make the wrong decision, you will be destined to be unhappy in your job.  Take a breath.  The truth is that most people get it wrong the first time.  In fact, many people change careers three or four times throughout their working life.  However, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration by investing time and effort into your career planning process.   If you do the research now, you can put yourself on a path that you will be able to follow throughout your career.  Sure, there will be some twists and turns along the way but you'll have an idea of where you are going, and if you don't, then at least you'll enjoy the journey.  Here are the factors to consider when selecting a career:

Your skills.  Your skills are the things that you are able to do.  You have developed certain skills at school, at your previous jobs, during extracurricular activities and through your personal life.  Some examples of skills include creating, calculating, investigating, problem solving, decision making, leadership, teamwork, fixing and repairing, and mechanical operation.  We all have certain things that we're good at; make a list of those skills and you're off to the right start. 

Your interests.  There is nothing worse than dragging yourself out each morning to a job that you hate.  You need to find something that really gets your blood flowing.  As Confucius said, "Choose a job that you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life".  What do you love?  Where does your passion lie?  If you're not sure, try to remember what you liked to do as a child.  That often gives us a clue as to what we really enjoy doing when salary is removed from the equation. 

Your values.  We all live our lives according to our values.  Your values are what is important to you and you will not be happy unless your life is consistent with them.  Similarly, we all have work values.  Some examples of work values are job security, opportunity for advancement, a short commute, work-life balance, autonomy, helping others, prestige, leadership, and creativity.  If you choose a career that is not consistent with your values, you may find that you are frustrated and unhappy in the job.  

The labour market.  Once you know what type of career you are looking for, you need to determine which jobs are actually in demand.  A labour market assessment will let you know how many jobs are available for your target career within your region, and it will give you an idea of the requirements of the position.  Industry and company research will help you get a deeper understanding of the day-to-day realities of the job so that you are able to find a job that is a good fit for you. 

One of the most amazing things about today's economy is that there are so many different options available.  However the sheer quantity of potential opportunities can be intimidating in itself.  The key is to keep it simple and to have fun with it.  Stay focused on what's important to you and allow yourself to get excited by what you find out there.  Good luck!

(Written by: Karen Bivand,  Photo by: stockimages.FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Motivation for a Snowy Day

It's cold outside and the snow is still coming down.  It's understandable if you don't feel much like launching into an active job search campaign.  Here are some inspiring words to help lift you up on this chilly December day!

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” –Benjamin Franklin-

"There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing." -Aristotle-

“Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.” –Author Unknown-

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." -Seneca-

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. –Thomas A. Edison-

"If opportunity doesn't knock, then build a door." -Milton Berle-

"If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius."-Michelangelo-

"Go where you are celebrated—not tolerated. If they can't see the real value of you, it's time for a new start."  -Unknown-

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you too can become great." -Mark Twain- 

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” -Thomas Jefferson- 

 Stay warm and stay safe!  Happy job hunting!


(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net) 

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

5 Things to Look for Before You Hit Send

You would be surprised at how many applications are discarded because of silly mistakes.  When you have errors on your resume and cover letter it makes you look sloppy and it gives the employer doubts about your quality of work.  Here is a checklist that you should complete each time you submit an application.  If your resume and cover letter pass this test, then you're ready to apply:

Spelling and grammar.  Spelling and grammatical errors look terrible on a resume and since it's so easy to run a spell check, there's really no excuse for them.  Even if you've proofread it yourself and you're an amazing speller, run the check!

Employer specific.  It is important that you customize your resume and cover letter to the specific employer for the specific position.  You want to show them that your skills and experience will allow you to meet their needs and that you are a good fit for both the job and the organization.  Most importantly, if you are re-purposing your resume and cover letter, you need to remove any previous customization so you're not submitting an application with another employer's name on it. 

Up to date.  The easiest way to keep your resume current is to update it as you gain new skills and experience.  Before sending your resume, take a quick look at your most recent position to ensure that everything is still accurate.  In particular, make sure that you add in any new certifications and skills that you may have attained and that you don't have 'present' listed for a position that you have already left.

Overall appearance.  Once you are done proofreading the content, take a quick look at the appearance and layout of your resume.  Are your headings and formatting consistent?  Is it attractive and professionally laid out?  Since you only have a few seconds to catch the employer's attention, appearance counts!

When you've spent too much time looking at a document, it becomes more difficult for you to identify problems within it.  You may find yourself overlooking glaring errors that you definitely should have caught.  For this reason, it's a good idea to have someone else look at your resume and cover letter.  You want to be judged based on how qualified you are for the position, not on a silly spelling mistake. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Make the Leap to Management

A lot of people want to be managers, but finding an employer that is willing to give you your first management job can be tough.  Here are some tips that will help you persuade an employer to give you a chance: 

Identify leadership opportunities within your own role.  Even if you're not a manager, there are probably opportunities within your job to take the lead.  If you lead teams, projects and committees with impressive results, it's not a big stretch to picture you in a management role. 

Find volunteer opportunities.  Don't underestimate the value of volunteer opportunities.  Any position that puts you in a leadership role, whether managing a budget as a member of a board of directors, or being in charge of a soccer team helps you develop transferable skills that you can bring to a management job. 

Focus on technical manager positions.  There are different types of management roles; some have people who report to them and some don't.  If you have strong technical skills, it may be easier for you to get a position where you are managing processes, but not people.  After you've worked as a technical manager, becoming a people manager isn't as much of a leap.

Network.  Nobody wants to take a chance on a stranger and why should they?  When you are trying to reach a higher level in your career, you need to rely on your connections.  Even without management experience, if they employer knows that you are a good person who does good work, they might be willing to give you an opportunity.  The key is to get out there and meet people. 

The possibility of growing your career is exciting, but when you feel like you're stuck in a rut it can be equally frustrating.  Stay focused on your goals and when an opportunity presents itself, be ready to take it. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: mrsirapholFreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What Every Employed Person Should Be Doing

In today's job market, you can never completely relax.  People lose their jobs every day so it's important that you are always ready to launch a job search at any moment.  Here are some things that you should be doing while you have a job so that you are prepared to act if and when that dark day arrives:

Network.  It has been said that the best time to dig your well is when you're not thirsty.  The same is true for networking; the best time to grow your network is when you don't need it.  If you grow your network while you are working, you'll have a group of warm contacts who are happy to offer you support.

Keep your skills sharp.  You don't want to be suddenly thrust into the job market only to discover that your skills are no longer marketable.  It is important that you pay attention to your industry so that you are always aware of your current strengths and weaknesses.  That way if there is a skill that would make you more competitive, you can get it now.  A good approach is to review job advertisements for positions that you may be targeting in the future and make a note of the requirements.

Keep your resume current.  Since you never know when you will see a position that interests you, it is a good idea to keep your resume up to date.  Otherwise, it may feel like too much trouble and you'll let the opportunity pass.   As you get new experiences and gain new skills, throw them on your resume.  When you're applying to a specific position, you can include the skills that are relevant to the job and leave off the ones that aren't.

Keep your eyes open.  There are opportunities everywhere but you have to pay attention.  Read the newspaper and talk to people about what's happening in your community and industry.  At the back of your mind, always have the question, 'what opportunities could this bring for me?'

Look good.  In the professional world, your appearance matters.  Exercise and take care of yourself.  Always be well groomed and have a set of professional business clothes that are clean and pressed.  If you want your career to grow, you have to look the part.

You never know what lies around the corner, but that can be as exciting as it is scary.  However, if you are always mentally prepared to make a career change, you can just look at it as your next adventure.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Kick the Procrastination Habit

Is your motto, 'Why do it today when you can do it tomorrow?'.  If so, then you are causing yourself unnecessary stress and you're limiting your potential.  Here are some tips that will help you overcome that nasty procrastination habit:

Make it a priority to change.  We all identify ourselves in different ways.  If you often say, 'I'm a procrastinator!', you need to change that.  Procrastination is a bad habit that makes you appear less capable and competent than you actually are.  The harsh reality is that you have likely been beat out for promotions and other opportunities by people who are less skilled than you are because you procrastinate and they don't.  It is time for you to put a stop to this damaging behaviour. 

Set your own deadlines.  If you find that you are always ready to go one day after the deadline, then why not set your own deadline a week before?!  Of course, this will require some commitment on your part to take your deadline seriously.

Do one thing a day.  Change is difficult for everyone.  We all have our established routines and doing something differently takes effort.  Start small by just committing to one task a day.  It won't take up much of your time and it will put you on the right track.

Create a visible task list.  Procrastination feeds on denial.  It is easy to put things off when you allow yourself to forget about them.  Don't let yourself get away with it.  Write out a list of your tasks and put it in a place where you will often see it.  This will keep the tasks at the top of your mind and you might find yourself working on them when you have a bit of spare time.

Once you start working on your procrastination, you will find that it makes a big difference in your life.  You might feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders and that you are suddenly able to accomplish a lot more.  Take note of how much better you are feeling; there is a good chance that you had no idea what this habit was costing you. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

5 Ways to Prepare for a Difficult Interview

When you know that you have a tough interview coming up, it can feel like a cloud hanging over your head.  Everything depends on your performance on one particular morning.  Try not to put so much pressure on yourself.  Here are some tips that will help you ace the interview and hopefully get a job offer!

Practice.  Practicing interview questions is the best way to get it right.  Just thinking about the interview isn't enough; you need to put yourself in a position where you are trying to sell your skills by using specific examples.  You might find it useful to videotape some of these practice sessions to help you identify any body language that you need to correct.

Be positive.  Pay attention to your self talk.  Would you speak to a friend in the way that you speak to yourself?  If you are constantly berating yourself for every little thing, you will show up at your interview beaten down with your confidence shattered.  Instead, tell yourself that you are a skilled professional with excellent experience and that any employer would be lucky to have you. 

Research.  Sometimes it's just research that differentiates the mediocre candidate from the one who is offered the job.  By doing research, you can show the employer that you are knowledgeable about the company and that you would fit in with their organizational culture.

Take care of the details.  It is often said that the devil is in the details and that holds true with interviews.  Even if you are the perfect fit for the job, you could get stuck in a traffic jam, be late for the interview and lose the opportunity.  Before the day of the interview, plan your route and decide exactly what you are going to wear.  The less you leave to chance, the better.

After you've done all of your practice, research and planning, you need to let it go.  Even after all of this preparation, it still might not go your way, but if you always put forth your best effort, it will eventually happen for you.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stuart Miles)