Thursday, October 28, 2010

Recent College Grads Should Consider Staffing Agencies

Compliments of:

When I was a sophomore in college, I remember having a conversation with a couple of friends about jobs. They were seniors, and we were discussing their hunt for jobs for after graduation. So confident that a good job would surely pan out, one of them had decided to buy a new car. After all, he was going to have a nice salary, he reasoned, and he would need a nice new car to get to and from his job. So he decided to buy a brand new red Saturn. At the time, I was impressed – he seemed so grown up, and I was also jealous of the prospect of a nice new car and the salary that we all assumed would follow shortly. Not having kept track of him after graduation, I now wonder – did he find a job that quickly and one that paid well? Since most people I know, myself included, had some dues to pay before the plum job with the good money came along after graduation, I wonder how that car payment ended up treating him.

Let’s face it – it’s not all that easy to get a job after college. Sure, yes, maybe you took all the right classes, (or maybe you followed your heart and majored in Art, only to find that well-paying painting gigs are a little hard to come by), and maybe you even have an internship or two to list on your resume. But times have been tough in the past few years, and there are some very qualified people out there who have been in the work force for much longer than you. And they are out vying for the very same position you are aiming for.

So what’s a recent college grad to do? Especially when you not only need a career, but some good old-fashioned money? Answer: Consider a staffing agency. Staffing agencies (also often known as temp agencies) generally offer a variety of
hiring options, including temporary, temporary-to-permanent, and direct hire positions. You can often start work almost immediately and (hopefully) even end up with a job that will provide you with a strong start in the corporate world.
Here’s the run-down on what these staffing terms mean:

Temporary jobs are the kind where an agency sends to you a client of theirs for a short time to fulfill a certain position.
These can be anything from receptionist, customer service, data entry or any kind of short-term need a company might have. Generally, these jobs run about a day to a few weeks, although some offer long-term temporary positions, where the “temp” (that would be you) works for several months, or even years. (Yes, it has been known to happen – some people are just very happy working this way!) While working as a temp, your salary is paid by the staffing agency. Payday is usually
once a week, which is a nice bonus for those living paycheck-to-paycheck, as many recent college grads are. You can generally pick up your check directly at the agency, although some places offer direct deposit into your checking account.

Temp-to-perm jobs start out with you working as a temp for the agency’s client. All the usual rules apply, including your
salary being paid by the agency. However, if the client likes you and you like them, they may offer you a permanent position.
If this occurs, then they hire you from the agency, and you become an official employee of the client. Temp-to-perm
positions are great because it is a good way to check out a job and/or a company before anyone makes a formal
commitment to each other.

Direct hire positions begin with a company who has an open position that they have filed with the agency. The agency then acts as a middleman between you and the company hiring. You will go through an initial interview with the staffing agency
first and they will then speak to the company about you – this is a huge bonus because you have someone who acts on
your behalf with the company. Consider the agency to be your very own personal sales team…who wouldn’t want someone talking you up to a potential employer? If everyone agrees it could be a good fit, you generally will go through an interview process with the company itself (with the agency assisting with the arrangements), until you are hopefully offered the job!

So how does it work? Most staffing agencies require an appointment, although some will accept walk-ins. You can often browse agency websites for potential positions and to find out what their general procedures are for interviews.

Once you have made an appointment, be sure to bring with you a couple of copies of your resume. The agency will want at least one on file, and it is handy for them to have an extra copy or two. In addition, be sure to bring a couple of forms of ID. When you make your appointment, it’s a good idea to ask if they need you to bring anything else with you. Once you are
there, you will fill out an application and other general paperwork (including a W-2, if you are going to start out as a temp, as this makes you an employee of the temporary agency). Agencies will often also have you do some computer tests for
various proficiencies that you have, including MS Word/Excel/Powerpoint, as well as typing, etc. These tests can take some time to complete, but they are worth it, as the agency can then inform clients of your test scores and be sure that you are a good fit for the skills that the client is seeking. So be patient, and be sure to give yourself a couple of hours for your appointment when you are making your plans for the day.

You will then meet with one of the agency’s recruiters and have an interview – during this interview, they will get a good
feel for your background, skills, and what kind of jobs you are seeking. Be sure to let them know what kind of positions
you are open to – whether it’s just temporary, temp-to-perm, or direct hire. And be flexible, if at all possible. Agencies love
to meet a bright, educated prospect that is willing to try just about anything! People who are willing to go out on a variety of temp jobs while the agency is searching for a temp-to-perm and/or permanent position for them are considered golden by agencies. Remember that if they like you, this will translate when they are talking to clients about you!

During the interview, they will probably talk to you about positions that they have open, if any of them are a good fit for you. Here’s one of the greatest things about staffing agencies – you could have a job lined up before you even walk out the door! And while you are working temporary positions, the agency can be looking for permanent positions for you. In other words, you’ll be earning money while experts are working to find you a job…now THAT’S a smart situation!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Conquer Your Career Fears

Compliments of: & Monster+HotJobs

For most people, Halloween conjures scary images of witches, goblins, and ghosts. But for many workers, there are other fears lurking in the shadows all year: like the fear of being reprimanded, laid off, or stuck in a dead-end job. According to Ford R. Myers, president of Career Potential, LLC, and the author of "Get the Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring," "the American workplace is largely driven by fear. Most bosses use fear as a mechanism to control and drive the employee's activity."

How can you conquer those fears and succeed in the workplace? Read on.

Fear #1: What if I get laid off?
Given the unemployment rate, layoffs are a chillingly real possibility for many workers. However, you can cope with that fear by actively building your
network. "Regardless of whether you believe you'll be laid off, you should proactively engage in your professional community," says Michael Woodward, PhD, an executive coach and the author of the "The You Plan." "Belong to your professional association or community organizations. ... The difference between those who stay unemployed and those who are quickly able to get back on their feet is that the latter have strong networks."

Fear #2: If I don't get laid off, but others do, will I be able to handle the added responsibilities?
When companies downsize, often the best employees get "rewarded" with more work. This can cause job-performance anxiety, especially if the new tasks are outside your skill set or if you're afraid of adding
anotherproject to your to-do list. In this situation, Woodward suggests reaching out to your boss and coworkers for guidance. "Knowledge helps create certainty," he says. "You could wallow in that stress or you could say, 'I need some clarification on a couple of points.' It's an opportunity to broaden your skill set and to make yourself more valuable in the future."

Fear #3: Will I be underemployed forever?
Often younger workers end up in support roles where they may not feel challenged. More-experienced workers can also wind up in this predicament due to a layoff or workforce re-entry. However, thinking ahead to your next position keeps things in perspective when it feels like you're endlessly folding t-shirts or fetching coffee. "The smart person does not just ... do what the boss tells them and nothing more," says Myers. "They should consistently grow their credentials. Step up for the juicier, more challenging assignments. Show up earlier; leave later." Remember, the old model of your boss or human resources managing your career is no longer applicable. It's up to
you to determine your next steps.

Fear #4: What if my boss yells at me again?
A boss who yells or criticizes you in front of others can really damage morale, so Myers advises that people be "very, very careful about the culture that they choose." Another thing, he says, "is to be very proactive and clear with your boss when you first get hired about how you establish the relationship and set the right precedent." If you're already in a job with a toxic boss, you can sometimes manage a situation (and prevent future problems) by discussing it in a calm, nonthreatening manner. "Don't bring it up in public and don't point fingers," Myers advises. "Say to your boss, I have a concern about something that happened. I'm not sure what your motivation was. I may have misunderstood, but this was my perception; I'd like to get your take on it.'"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Who's Hiring Now: 5 Hot Industries for Fall 2010

Compliments of & Monster+HotJobs

As another tough year winds down, some parts of the economy are showing signs of life. So where are the jobs hiding? We asked two career experts--Brendan Courtney, president of the national recruiting firm The Mergis Group, and career coach Robin Ryan, the author of "60 Seconds and You're Hired!"--to pinpoint this season's best sectors and the most in-demand (and well-paid) jobs.

(All salary data is from The salaries listed are median hourly salaries for full-time workers with five to eight years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions, or profit sharing.)

Health Care
Registered nurses ($61,300) are always in demand, particularly for emergency rooms and other hospital settings. In addition, new federal medical-billing requirements have created a growing need for anyone with experience in health care information technology, such as information-technology specialists ($50,547), medical-billing clerks ($33,036), and medical-billing managers ($42,759), says Courtney.

"Accounting professionals within health care are being highly sought after to do federal-compliance health care IT," he says.
Ryan notes that our aging population means (recession or no) that demand for physical therapists ($67,575), occupational therapists ($65,214), and physician assistants ($89,375) has continued to grow.

Federal Government
If you think the federal government hires only low-paid workers or only people in Washington, D.C., think again on both counts, says Ryan. There are branch offices of many agencies across the country, and few workers consider federal jobs, so getting hired can be easier here than applying in the private sector.

"People think there's a civil-service test," she says, "but that's long gone."

Due to a wave of baby boomer retirements, coupled with the change of administration, the government is hiring 10,000 people a month, according to Ryan--a level unseen since the 1960s. They're hiring professional-level people, too; she says that nearly half of federal hires in the past several months have been for jobs paying more than $100,000.

Among the roles Ryan sees in demand: project managers ($60,687), senior civil engineers ($79,725), plumbers ($42,577), and electricians ($45,524).

The government is a major employer of health care workers, too. As troops return from overseas deployments, the need for medical help is, sadly, rising. Ryan says small health clinics located near military bases, as well as big military hospitals, need staff.

Financial Services
From the federal financial bailout of big banks to recent banking reforms, changes in federal oversight of the financial-services sector have created a need for accountants ($47,712) with experience in regulatory compliance, says Courtney.

In addition, big banks are beginning to rebuild their staffs after the mass layoffs of 2008, Courtney says. Loan processors ($33,613), loan underwriters ($52,869), and mortgage brokers ($64,732) are all in demand, he says. Not all the jobs are at the banks themselves, either--third-party loan-servicing companies also offer opportunities.

Orders are starting to pick up for some light-manufacturing companies, says Ryan. For instance, she says, "Microsoft has 4,000 job openings" for software engineers ($52,869), customer-service representatives ($31,589), and more.

The past couple of months have seen rising retail sales, the U.S. Commerce Department reports, and Ryan says companies are starting to hire sales help again. While much of the current hiring may be seasonal for the holidays, retailers will be trolling the holiday-help ranks for sales representatives ($43,914) and sales managers ($61,734) they want to keep.

Most in demand, Ryan says, is anyone who can work a daytime shift--perfect for many people who are currently out of work. Stay-at-home moms looking to re-enter the workforce are also having some luck lining up 9-to-3 shifts.

"I personally know three people who've done that recently," she says.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

15 Toughest Interview Questions (and Answers!)

Compliments of Tania Khadder | Excelle

1. Why do you want to work in this industry?

Bad answer: “I love to shop. Even as a kid, I spent hours flipping through catalogs.”

Don’t just say you like it. Anyone can do that. Focus instead on your history with that particular industry, and if you can, tell a success story.

Good answer: “I’ve always loved shopping, but my interest in retail marketing really started when I worked at a neighborhood boutique. I knew our clothes were amazing, but that we weren’t marketing them properly. So I worked with management to come up with a marketing strategy that increased our sales by 25% in a year. It was great to be able to contribute positively to an industry I feel so passionate about, and to help promote a product I really believed in.”

2. Tell us about yourself.

Bad answer: “I graduated four years ago from the University of Michigan, with a Bachelor’s in Biology — but I decided that wasn’t the right path for me. So I switched gears and got my first job, working in sales for a startup. Then I went on to work in marketing for a law firm. After that, I took a few months off to travel. Finally, I came back and worked in marketing again. And now, here I am, looking for a more challenging marketing role.”

Instead of giving a chronological work history, focus on your strengths and how they pertain to the role. If possible, illustrate with examples.

Good answer: “I’m really energetic, and a great communicator. Working in sales for two years helped me build confidence, and taught me the importance of customer loyalty. I’ve also got a track record of success. In my last role, I launched a company newsletter, which helped us build on our existing relationships and create new ones. Because of this, we ended up seeing a revenue increase of 10% over two years. I’m also really interested in how companies can use web tools to better market themselves, and would be committed to building on your existing platform.”

3. What do you think of your previous boss?

Bad answer: “He was completely incompetent, and a nightmare to work with, which is why I’ve moved on.”

Remember: if you get the job, the person interviewing you will someday be your previous boss. The last thing they want is to hire someone who they know is going to badmouth them some day. Instead of trashing your former employer, stay positive, and focus on what you learned from him (no matter how awful he really was).

Good answer: “My last boss taught me the importance of time management, he didn’t pull any punches, and was extremely deadline-driven. His no-nonsense attitude pushed me to work harder, and to meet deadlines I never even thought were possible.”

4. Why are you leaving your current role?

Bad answer: “I can’t stand my boss, or the work I’m doing.”

Again, stay away from badmouthing your job or employer. Focus on the positive.

Good answer: “I’ve learned a lot from my current role, but now I’m looking for a new challenge, to broaden my horizons and to gain a new skill-set, all of which I see the potential for in this job.”

5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Bad answer: “Relaxing on a beach in Maui,” or "Doing your job”.

There’s really no right answer to this question, but the interviewer wants to know that you’re ambitious, career-oriented, and committed to a future with the company. So instead of sharing your dream for early retirement, or trying to be funny, give them an answer that illustrates your drive and commitment.

Good answer: “In five years I’d like to have an even better understanding of this industry. Also, I really love working with people. Ultimately, I’d like to be in some type of managerial role at this company, where I can use my people skills and industry knowledge to benefit the people working for me, and the company as a whole.”

6. What’s your greatest weakness?

Bad answer: “I work too hard,” or for the comedian, “Blonds.”

This question is a great opportunity to put a positive spin on something negative, but you don’t want your answer to be cliché — joking or not. Instead, try to use a real example of a weakness you have learned to overcome.

Good answer: “I’ve never been very comfortable with public speaking — which, as you know, can be a hindrance in the workplace. Realizing this was a problem, I asked my previous employer if I could enroll in a speech workshop. He said “yes.” I took the class, and was able to overcome my lifelong fear. Since then, I’ve given lots of presentations to audiences of over a 100 high level executives — I still don’t love it, but no one else can tell!"

7. What salary are you looking for?

Bad answer: “In my last job I earned $35,000 — so, now I’m looking for $40,000.”

“If you can avoid it, don’t give an exact number. The first person to name a price in a salary negotiation loses. Instead, re-iterate your commitment to the job itself. If you have to, give a broad range based on research you’ve conducted on that particular role, in your particular city.”

Good answer: “I’m more interested in the role itself than the pay. That said, I’d expect to be paid the appropriate range for this role, based on my five years of experience. I also think a fair salary would bear in mind the high cost of living here in New York City.”

8. Why should I hire you?

Bad answer: “I’m the best candidate for the role.”

A good answer will reiterate your qualifications, and will highlight what makes you unique.

Good answer: “I’ve been an Executive Assistant for the past ten years — my boss has said time and time again that without me, the organization would fall apart. I’ve also taken the time to educate myself on some of the software I regularly use (but didn’t really understand the ins and outs of). I’m an Excel whiz now, which means I can work faster, and take over some of what my boss would traditionally have had to do himself. What’s good enough for most people is never really good enough for me.”

9. What is your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?

Bad answer: “I never finished law school — and everything that’s happened since has taught me that giving up, just because the going gets tough, is a huge mistake.”

You don’t want to actually highlight a major regret, especially one that exposes an overall dissatisfaction with your life. Instead, focus on a smaller, but significant, mishap, and how it has made you a better professional.

Good answer: “When I was in college, I took an art class to supplement my curriculum. I didn’t take it very seriously, and assumed that, compared to my Engineering classes, it would be a walk in the park. My failing grades at midterm showed me otherwise. I’d even jeopardized my scholarship status. I knew I had to get my act together. I spent the rest of the semester making up for it, ended up getting a decent grade in the class. I learned that no matter what I’m doing, I should strive to do it to the best of my ability. Otherwise, it’s not worth doing at all.”

10. How do you explain your gap in employment?

Bad answer: “I was so tired of working, and I needed a break,” or “I just can’t find a job.”

Employment gaps are always tough to explain. You don’t want to come across as lazy or unhireable. Find a way to make your extended unemployment seem like a choice you made, based on the right reasons.

Good answer: “My work is important to me, so I won’t be satisfied with any old job. Instead of rushing to accept the first thing that comes my way, I’m taking my time and being selective to make sure my next role is the right one.”

11. When were you most satisfied in your job?

Bad answer: “I was most satisfied when I did well, and got praised for my work.”

Don’t give vague answers. Instead, think about something you did well and enjoyed that will be relevant at this new job. This is an opportunity for you to share your interests, prove that you’re a great fit for the job and showcase your enthusiasm.

Good answer: “I’m a people person. I was always happiest — and most satisfied — when I was interacting with customers, making sure I was able to meet their needs and giving them the best possible customer experience. It was my favorite part of the job, and it showed – I was rated as “Good or Excellent” 95% of the time. Part of the reason I’m interested in this job is that I know I’d have even more interaction with customers, on an even more critical level."

12. What did you like least about your last job?

Bad answer: “A lack of stability. I felt like the place could collapse around me at any time.”

Try and stay away from anything that draws on the politics, culture or financial health of your previous employer. No matter how true it might be, comments like these will be construed as too negative. Also, you don’t want to focus on a function that might be your responsibility in the next role. So think of something you disliked in your last job, but that you know for sure won’t be part of this new role.

Good answer: “There was nothing about my last job that I hated, but I guess there were some things I liked less than others. My previous role involved traveling at least twice a month. While I do love to travel, twice a month was a little exhausting — I didn’t like spending quite so much time out of the office. I’m happy to see that this role involves a lot less travel.”

13. Describe a time when you did not get along with a co-worker.

Bad answer: “I’m easy to get along with, so I’ve never had any kind of discord with another coworker.”

Interviewers don’t like these types of ‘easy out’ answers. And besides, they know you are probably not telling the truth. Think of a relatively benign (but significant) instance, and spin it to be a positive learning experience.

Good answer: “I used to lock heads with a fellow nurse in the NICU ward. We disagreed over a lot of things — from the care of patients to who got what shifts to how to speak with a child’s family. Our personalities just didn’t mesh. After three months of arguing, I pulled her aside and asked her to lunch. At lunch, we talked about our differences and why we weren’t getting along. It turns out, it was all about communication. We communicated differently and once we knew that, we began to work well together. I really believe that talking a problem through with someone can help solve any issue.”

14. What motivates you?
Bad answer: “Doing a good job and being rewarded for it.”

It’s not that this answer is wrong — it’s just that it wastes an opportunity. This question is practically begging you to highlight your positive attributes. So don’t give a vague, generic response — it tells them very little about you. Instead, try and use this question as an opportunity to give the interviewer some insight into your character, and use examples where possible.

Good answer: “I’ve always been motivated by the challenge of meeting a tough deadline — in my last role, I was responsible for a 100% success rate in terms of delivering our products on time and within budget. I know that this job is very fast-paced, and deadline-driven — I’m more than up for the challenge. In fact, I thrive on it.”

15. How would your friends describe you?
Bad answer: “I’m a really good listener.”

While being a good listener is a great personality trait, your employer probably doesn’t care all that much. It’s unlikely that they’re hiring you to be a shoulder to cry on. You’ll want to keep your answer relevant to the job you’re interviewing for — and as specific as possible. If you can, insert an example.

Good answer: “My friends would probably say that I’m extremely persistent — I’ve never been afraid to keep going back until I get what I want. When I worked as a program developer, recruiting keynote speakers for a major tech conference, I got one rejection after another – this was just the nature of the job. But I really wanted the big players — so I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I kept going back to them every time there was a new company on board, or some new value proposition. Eventually, many of them actually said “yes” — the program turned out to be so great that we doubled our attendees from the year before. A lot of people might have given up after the first rejection, but it’s just not in my nature. If I know something is possible, I have to keep trying until I get it."