Here I am from downtown Budapest sharing some of my observations about the life and career of recent college graduates in Europe!
The New Year is rapidly approaching, and with it questions of whether the uncertain workplace environment of 2009 will continue into 2010 or whether employers will be faced with the new challenge of rebuilding their workforce as the economy turns around. The one thing that’s clear is that 2010 will bring a fresh set of challenges from employee engagement to retaining top talent to attracting passive and active candidates who are poised to take advantage of new employment opportunities.
Spherion, a recruitment and staffing company, recently released 2009 Emerging Workforce Study: Forging Ahead: New Workplace Strategies for a New Time directly addresses the question of what employers will need to do to ensure that their top talent is engaged and will remain in place for the coming economic turnaround.
The study had an interesting section on career preferences. Most employees agree that their most important career priority is fulfillment and balance (86 percent), that they have growing confidence in their ability to make a stable income within a traditional organization (84 percent), and that they are willing to take a back seat in their careers in order to make time for family (78 percent). Most workers prefer a job that allows them to think creatively (95 percent), and where they are expected to think of new and better ways of doing things (88 percent), while just 42 percent prefer an environment where their supervisors set their goals and give them their assignments. The vast majority of employees believe that an employer that promises long-term job security (97 percent), offers work/life balance options (94 percent), and a predictable work schedule (90 percent) makes a job more attractive.
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has landed an offer as a result of attending a job fair. You know the kind I mean. You show up with a few dozen copies of your resume and are herded down lines of look-alike booths hosted by companies you’ve never heard of, collecting handouts and brochures in a plastic bag.
I remember to going to one job fair
Perhaps job fairs are good sources
of company information, but today, couldn’t you just get that online, without
having to waste time getting all dressed up and commuting out to some
convention hall? And in terms of meeting people who work at the
organization and are in a position to hire you, wouldn’t you be better off
going to a relevant conference or setting up an informational interview?
I look at attending a job fair the same way I look at posting your resume online and just sitting back and waiting for something to happen. You can tell yourself that you’re looking for a job by doing these things, but if you want to locate viable opportunities that will result in interviews at the very least, you’re going to have to get a whole lot more active. An active strategy includes researching specific companies that do the work you’re interesting in pursuing, and then using personal contacts or online channels to get yourself introduced to the right people in the organization.
What approach should a job seeker take when beginning to look for work at a small business? Start by finding just one individual with a similar background or skill set as yourself. Do a People Search on LinkedIn to find this starter profile. Now search their current employer’s name to find other individuals with similar functions. Look at where all of these individuals worked before. Some places will be larger companies that you have heard about, but many will be these smaller companies that you have never heard of before.
What are some qualities to highlight during the interview? Highlight your abilities to work independently, without the need for too much support. Illustrate through example where you have taken the reigns and have worn several hats at once. Show them that you can bring significant industry expertise to their team. Of course, be sure to convey that you are a team player too.
Is networking more important than in larger organizations? Smaller organizations are much more like families. Contact and network with several individuals within the company, and work to build rapport with contacts you uncover. As your dialogue with the company evolves and people begin to discuss you internally, you will have already laid a foundation of chemistry.
Those of you who are current students need to be concerned about your image beyond how you portray yourself in interviews. Here are some statistics to illustrate how your world has changed:
These developments can be scary, so to address them my friend Dan Schawbel has just launched Student Branding Blog, which is an offshoot of his successful Personal Branding Blog that will deliver career and personal branding advice for high school, college and graduate students. The blog, with the support of experienced college career counselors and recent graduates, will help students capitalize on their own unique abilities. If you’re a current student, I highly recommend checking it out!
DO - Set boundaries as to how you use various social networks (e.g. Facebook for personal, LinkedIn for professional) and make sure you communicate those boundaries so that feelings aren't hurt. DON'T let your boss and co-workers catch you chatting and playing with Facebook applications when you should be working.
DO - Use your real name on Twitter to network with people you wouldn't have the chance to communicate with in real life. DO - send them valuable information or interesting tidbits about their field. DON'T - get caught up in the heat of the moment. Before you post something on Twitter, think about whether you'd want to read it on the front page of the WSJ.
DO - Pursue friendships in other departments and with friends of your co-workers. DON'T ever date a boss or a direct report, and DON'T date an immediate co-worker unless you can handle seeing that person every day if the relationship goes south.
DO - Reply to all only if every person on the string really needs to hear what you're saying. DO - check (always) the list of people in the TO and CC lines before sending any e-mail. DON'T hit reply too quickly in case that Reply to All function is accidentally on, and DON'T use e-mail for negative or controversial discussion.
DO - Deal with loud talkers by saying nicely that you're on the phone with a client and ask if they would mind keeping it down a bit. DON'T allow your desire to avoid confrontation affect your work effectiveness.
DO - Get negative emotions off your chest by venting to a close friend or family member. DON'T complain at work at all - people won't like you. DO - think of ways to turn a bad situation into a more positive one and approach your boss and co-workers with solutions instead of problems.
When employers talk about desirable skills they look for in new hires, they usually mean things like marketing, IT, budgeting, and project management. But what about the ability to learn?
I’m not kidding. Let’s
say a 20-something employee, we’ll call her Amy, starts a new job as a sales
representative at a Fortune 500 software company. She graduated from college
fairly recently and has never done sales before, so her boss expects her to
have lots of questions as she proceeds to develop her first client relationships.
He guides her through the process patiently, explaining in detail how to
communicate the product’s value proposition, and how she should go about
getting a meeting with a decision maker.
After all the time he spends, the boss hopes that Amy can take what he told her and apply it to her next sales situation. But the boss is taking for granted the fact that Amy has the ability to assimilate new information, and that she instinctively knows how to harness it in a variety of circumstances. However, this is actually a pretty rare skill. Most people will need to hear similar instructions repeated time and time again, just because the scenario is slightly different than last time.
Employers frequently test for this skill during the hiring process, often in the form of behavioral interview. This type of interview demonstrates how a candidate acted in past job situations. How should you prepare for it? First, think of a project with which you were tasked in a prior job.
Consider the details, including the type of assignment and the expected result. Next, create a list of the steps you took to complete the task and solve any problems that came up during the course of the task. Finally, practice explaining your results and what you learned from the initiative. This last part is the most important because employers want to know that you can put all your terrific experience to use for them and dive right in on your start date.
For the first time since September 2007, the majority (55%) of small business owners have a positive view of the economic environment and its impact on their ability to grow, according to the American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor. Concurrently, more firms are at risk of going out of business (17%) than six months ago (11%), due in part to personal funds being tapped out: one-third (32%) say they are using personal or private funds to manage cash flow challenges.
While there appears to be a widening divide between healthy and struggling businesses, even the healthy businesses are proceeding with caution. Fewer firms have hiring plans than at any point in the eight-year history of the Monitor and plans for capital investments equal the record-setting low from Spring 2009 (42%). Other findings include: