Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Are Resumes Obsolete?

Not yet. I hear all the time that resumes are becoming obsolete, and while they are certainly becoming overshadowed from the perspective of recruiters who are actively sourcing candidates through LinkedIn profiles and other social media tools... resumes are still a crucial part of the job search. For those of you not in the human resource profession, you may ask, "What is sourcing?" It is what a recruiter does when they actively seek qualified candidates for a job. If you are not at the point yet of being an established professional in your field, you are going to have to get your foot in the door somehow because no one is knocking down your door to get to you. A resume is an important tool to help do this. If you are someone who is well known in your field and who has a vast network of other professionals in your field, than a resume is a bit less important because your LinkedIn profile will tell the recruiter who is searching for you what they need to know. So for an outsider looking in, wishing to be the person that is sought after by recruiters, how do you get there? That is a good question and not an easy task. You have to put into relevant terms your education and other experiences and bridge the gap between what you've done and what you would like to be doing. A well-written resume can do this, especially if paired with a thoughtful letter of interest for a position. Students and recent graduates often ask me how to do this. The first step is learning all you can about the job that you want. If you understand what is required in that job and what is expected in the day to day functions of that position, then you will be better prepared to make the connections for the recruiter from your past experience and how you could be a valuable asset in the job you are seeking. When I was just out of school, I focused my resume on my skills and education and highlighted the longevity on the job which is important to employers. Turnover costs have HR pros seeing red, and they want to see more green. If you stay on a job less than a year, you automatically lose a few points with the hiring manager. If you stay 2 or 3 years, you are more likely to look favorable to the person hiring for the position. Need an example? First, let's say (taking from my personal experience here) that your first job was as a carhop at Sonic (or some other fast food job). How on earth is that relevant to any management position? If your resume only says that you were a carhop at Sonic and does not have much else listed, good luck scoring any job outside of the fast food industry! However, it can be done, and here's is how you can make it happen. First, think about what your deliverables were in your job. For me, I needed to get orders out in 4 minutes or less and make the customers happy above all else. As you can imagine, getting much of anything done in 4 minutes is a lot of pressure, and it cannot be done alone. In my resume and letter of interest I spoke about the skills I attained from that job and made correlations for the recruiter from my experience to the job responsibilities that I was seeking. In any entry level management position everyone knows that getting employees to work together is a vitally important part of the job. As a carhop I partnered with my coworkers to make our processes more efficient, and I worked as a team player. I learned every position within the organization so that I could help out wherever and whenever needed. Based on one minor change that I made in the food packaging process, we reduced the average time to get an order out to the customer by 1 minute, and this was shared as a best practice with other franchises which still use this system today. This slight efficiency improvement meant more customers could be handled in a shorter amount of time which translates to more profits for the company. I also outlined my ability to work under pressure with tight deadlines which is important for management professionals. Making the customers happy is also important in any position. Here I talked about how my average tips were about 3 times higher than my coworkers because I ran from car to car during rush hours and made a point to proactively prepare to meet customer’s needs such as bringing extra ketchup packets when I knew they ordered fries or bringing a straw and spoon when they ordered a shake and bringing extra napkins when a kids meal was purchased. These small things translate into insightful customer service skills that speak volumes to recruiters in any industry. These are just a few examples from my past to show you that it can be done. Remember that Google is your friend when seeking to learn more about the position you hope to attain. If you are having a difficult time correlating your experience, volunteer work or education into work ready skills for your industry, seek the help of a professional resume writing service. There are many to choose from, and I happen to offer that service as well if you are interested (shameless plug). May you find all you want and need in your next job! Good luck!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Refreshed and Ready to Tackle Another Monday

I'm here to tell you today that there is no better way to start your Monday morning than a good night's sleep. All too often on Mondays I see my coworkers dragging themselves in while yawning all throughout their day because they didn't get enough sleep. The problem is that their lack of energy is also a drain on their productivity. This is evident even to the untrained person, but as I thought about this topic I did what most curious minds do... I googled it. Here is an interest tidbit of information for you from a recent Harvard study discussed at http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health. Quoting directly from this link, I found this information quite interesting…

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests six reasons to get enough sleep:

 Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
 Metabolism and weight:
Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
 Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
 Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
 Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
 Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

Back to my own original thoughts on this issue. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a sleep scientist for that matter) to figure out that you perform better when you are well rested and refreshed from a good night's sleep. I recently invested in a new mattress, and now it feels like I'm sleeping on a cloud every night! I can honestly say that I feel better every morning since having the new mattress. Who would have thought a new bed could lead to a new and improved me? I wake up easier in the morning and feel more alive and awake and ready to tackle the day when I get in the office. So the moral of this story is... INVEST IN YOURSELF! Whether it be allowing yourself more time for that needed cat nap or a new bed to make your slumber more tranquil, take the time to ensure your body and mind have the much needed reward of a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Does PTO stand for Please Take Off?

I just read an interesting article at http://theenergyproject.com/blog/case-vacations which made me think back to a recent conversation I had with a healthcare manager about paid time off requests. From many managers you will hear statements like, "It's your time, take it if you need it" when asking about company vacation or PTO (Paid Time Off) days. However, all too often despite what a manager says, the reality is that their actions do not mirror their words.

Over the years I have talked with employees who said PTO meant “Please Take Off [Permanently]” because they felt like their jobs would be in jeopardy and they would be fired if they took time away from work. Although excessive time off over and above the time your employer (or applicable leave policies) allows for you can lead to disciplinary action or termination, the employer does actually want you to utilize your PTO (Paid Time Off) or vacation to reinvest in yourself so that you can be more productive when you are at work. They just want you to pre-plan that time so they can plan on keeping the business running smoothly while you are away.

Some of you may say that is true in theory but not in application. Have you ever been sold on a job because of the generous vacation package that went with it only to find that they never actually allowed you to use that time? I'll be honest here and tell you that I have been there. I have been in a position where I had as many as 30 days of vacation available to me each year, but I always ended up losing at least 2 weeks of that time by not using it before it expired. It was not because I did not want or need a break.
It was because the workload never allowed for a break. I think some of you know what I'm talking about here. If you take a vacation and know that NOTHING will be done while you are gone and all of the work you miss will just be piled up on top of what you have to do the week you're back... it is hard to take a vacation and really forget about work and relax!

Worse yet, some managers will go a step farther in hindering your ability to utilize vacation with guilt tactics! This is when although your vacation request may have been approved, you spend the days leading up to your vacation hearing about how much harder the rest of the team will be working to pick up your slack. Some managers do this unintentionally or even do it to make you feel needed and appreciated, but the reality is that it makes it hard for any employee with a conscience to leave work with the feeling that they are putting their coworkers in a bind.

Juggling family and/ or personal responsibilities with daily work responsibilities can be difficult without needed time for relaxation and recuperation. Everyone’s needs are unique of course, and there is no one size fits all solution to solve this problem. However, I have some helpful suggestions that may help you achieve a better work/life balance. First, realize that although it may not always be possible to take a week or two away from work to head to the beach if you have a job with a lot of responsibility, there are destinations closer to home that can give you the same benefits. If you are in need of some fun in the sun, find a local lake or even pond where you can have a picnic lunch or camp out for a weekend (a place away from busy multi-line phones and internet connections!) If you really need an umbrella drink to make the day complete, pack a little toothpick umbrella (which you can buy from the grocery or liquor store) and put in your wine glass (use your imagination for something other than strategic planning at work.)

If relaxation is what you crave, try a spa day at your local spa. If a whole day is too much time away from your schedule this week, a half day off in the afternoon to unwind can still provide a much needed break. Worried about the expense? Check these links to find discounts available near you for spa services or other great ideas for fun or relaxation away from work, http://www.groupon.com/r/uu1629474 or www.livingsocial.com.

Lastly, I might also suggest a day at home all to yourself. Sometimes, the best way to unwind is to just sleep in until noon and have no where that you have to be, with no one expecting anything from you. If you have a family that counts on you, this may take a bit more planning, but it can be done.

When time and workload is an issue, 3 or 4 day weekends are a great compromise to allow for family fun or personal relaxation. Time away from work can actually help make you MORE PRODUCTIVE when you are at work! Remind your manager of this the next time your approved day off is met with a guilt trip.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Relational Intelligence

Relational intelligence is not some new concept, but it is one that I've been hearing more and more about in recent months. What is it you ask? It's common sense really. If you are nice to someone, they are more likely to be nice to you. This is just another example of the Golden Rule here, wisdom as old as time itself basically. So, why the resurgence of interest in studying relational intelligence? I'll tell you my thoughts on the matter. For many years we've all heard the phrase, "It's not personal, it's just business." Well, as a friend of mine recently pointed out, that catch phrase actually came from the 1972 movie Godfather. Honestly, do we believe that taking advice from movie mafia gangsters is going to make us successful? I think not. The whole point of business is people.

By that I mean, business is there to do one of two things... to provide a product to a person or to provide a service to a person. Either way, business is all about people helping people for monetary gain. The motives behind creating the business don't have to be like those of Mother Teresa, but whether a business is for profit or not, it is there to provide something for someone. Knowing that people are involved in every business, doesn't it make sense to put some effort into caring for people? THEY ARE your business! So yes, business is personal. It is personal to the employee who needs the job to pay the bills to care for his or herself and to provide for family. The product or service purchased is personal for the customer too. They want good service and good products. Have you ever noticed though... even when the product is not great... people will still buy it if it offers either convenience or that "feel-good" something to go with it sometimes known as great customer service! Just imagine if you have a great product or service coupled with great customer service! The possibilities are endless!

So whether you are a CEO, an entry level employee, or an HR professional... remember... BUSINESS IS ALL ABOUT PEOPLE! Be mindful of your relationships with people and make every effort to build mutually beneficial positive relationships if you want to be successful.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Back In The Saddle Again

If you are like me, 2010 just flew by, and with it many exciting adventures and opportunities came and went. Did you seize the moments? Did you carpe diem? Did you stop and smell the roses?

Well here’s what I’ve been working on… as the President of the University of Central Oklahoma’s Human Resource Society I’ve been utilizing my network connections to bring exciting and knowledgeable HR pros to the society as guest speakers with the objective of enlightening the students to the realities that HR professionals face in today’s ever litigious society. We have discussed topics ranging from ERISA to Social Media and much more!

Now I’m setting my sights on a new project, founding a chapter of The National Society of Leadership & Success on the UCO campus. I’m not just telling you all of this to show why I’ve been too busy to blog lately (although maybe subconsciously I am), but really I have a point to make here. When you have a dozen irons in the fire, you can drop the ball and end up doing none of those things well. (Or such as in the case of my blog, not doing some things at all. They just get pushed further and further back on the priority list.) There is a very careful balance to be had.

Have you ever been so busy at work that you felt like you were always moving another project to the back burner to start something else without every really completing anything? If so, you are not alone. I have a little success tip for you though. This is not some new-found stroke of genius that I exclusively conjured up and trademarked here, but just some age old wisdoms from numerous sources that have time and time again proven true. These are key strategies that I utilize to accomplish so much when I have many hats to wear in both my professional and collegiate realms.

First, if someone else in your circle of influence (a Stephen Covey phrase) can do something that frees up your time, LET THEM! It is okay to delegate! However, it is important to utilize your peers, partners, and networks in a mutually beneficial way. This means, swapping favors. Don’t expect any of your professional relationships to last if they are one sided. Build up your peers for a job well done; sometimes praise is the only reward needed to motivate someone to help you again in the future. Sure you can handle multiple tasks, but don’t over extend yourself. If someone gives you a project, be honest about where you are with availability taking into account your current workload. Finally, I recommend always under promising and over delivering! What does this mean? It means you need to plan appropriately for even the unexpected. If you know that you can get a report done by Tuesday, given everything else in your schedule goes as expected, then tell your boss that you can have the report done by Thursday. This way, if some more pressing issue pops up you still have some flexibility with your time. If however, all goes as planned and you get it done by Tuesday, then your boss will be impressed that you beat your deadline!

Stay tuned for more words of HR wisdom in the coming weeks and months as I shift my focus to stay more connected with my social media outlets.