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How to recognize a family-friendly employer

One of the biggest lessons of this pandemic year has been that balancing work and family life can be hard, for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s taking care of family members, helping with kids’ remote schooling, or any other family concern, many professionals have learned how necessary it is to have a job and company that can work with personal priorities. If you’re thinking about making a job change but want a family-friendly company, here’s how to start looking for the right opportunities.

Know what you’re looking for

Before you start looking for specific jobs or companies it’s important to take stock of what you really want. Flexible work hours? Generous leave policies? Strong health benefits? Think about the commitments you have to your family right now. What are your priorities that need to be balanced with work? Is this likely temporary or will you need to plan long-term for these priorities and needs? What has worked for you in the past and what hasn’t?

The clearer you can be with yourself about what you want and need in a new job, the less heartache later when you go after opportunities that don’t really fit.

Do your research

As with all quests for knowledge, go online and scope out company websites in your industry. You can tell a lot from how a company talks about its employees and the way it talks about employee support. Also scope out the senior leadership—is it a mix of men and women? If there are very few women at the top, it could be a red flag that people with families aren’t prioritized or supported at every level.

And if the site mentions family-friendliness directly, great! Still do some snooping around the site to see if they talk about how they support employees with families or how they talk about employees, to make sure it’s not just a buzzword. Newsletters, blogs, and social media feeds are a good way to see how the company presents itself on a regular basis. In your search, also check around for any employee resource groups, especially those geared toward support for working parents, adoption support, and other family issues.

Listen to the word-of-mouth feedback

While anybody’s personal opinion should be taken with a grain of salt, it’s helpful to see what current and ex-employees have to say about the company. Sites like Glassdoor allow for candid feedback, and you’ll be able to see if companies are bad about family leave and work-life balance, or how they treat working parents.

LinkedIn can also be a good networking tool to use here. You can reach out to current or former employees and send a friendly email to see if they’re willing to chat with you about what it’s like to work at the company.

Ask the right questions in your interview

In your interview, you don’t have to talk about your family plans or obligations (and in fact, it’s illegal in many cases for them to ask you about those things). What you can do is find out more about the company culture. It’s also a chance to see what your interviewer is like. Do they have a desk full of family photos? Mention something offhand about their kid being a regular Zoom cameo? You can ask them about work-life balance without tripping any red flags.

Also be sure to ask what the typical work day would be like. From there, you can figure out on your own whether it would work for your needs. For example, if it’s a place that has scheduled meetings and calls all day every day, that could be a problem if you need a more flexible day.

You should also not be shy about asking questions directly of your HR contact, about benefits and support for working families (like childcare, healthcare, and personal wellness programs).

To find the right job opportunity, you shouldn’t have to deprioritize your family obligations. Plenty of companies out there can fit your needs (and your family’s). Doing a little extra digging when looking for your next job can help you find your people.

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3 must-watch TED Talks to improve your allyship

When it comes to navigating the modern workplace, you need to make sure you know what it takes to be successful. Across most industries and roles, today’s work world seems drastically different from what it was just a few years ago. As things continue to evolve and the effects of new technological innovation alongside constantly shifting social, cultural, and economic forces take hold, our work lives will inevitably be subject to further change—hopefully for the better.

That said, despite all the workplace volatility and uncertainty, there are some tried and true strategies to help you secure and improve your work life. Chief among them is to be a stronger ally to everyone within your work orbit—regardless of rank, role, or responsibility. Although what makes a good ally can vary depending on one’s perspective and experience, at its core it means being a proactive participant and advocate when it comes to recognizing privilege; acknowledging, respecting, and appreciating the wealth of diversity to be encountered in the world; and acting as an agent for healthy and progressive change, especially for those who are marginalized and underrepresented.

Being a good ally is certainly not a new concept, but it’s been gaining increasing attention and focus in recent years as everyone from high-powered C-suite executives to support staff in companies both large and small recognize the importance and value of supporting diversity, inclusion, and equity—both in the office and beyond.

Simply put, it’s a great investment of time, energy, and resources to help improve allyship—both across a business and as a personal goal. The good news is that there are a wealth of tools available out there to help you achieve this worthy goal, many of which are accessible online. These include TED Talks, which are a series of presentations given by some of the world’s most influential, successful, and innovative thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and change agents. These talks span a wide range of topics, including allyship, and are well worth your time to investigate. The following 3 TED talks highlight the tremendous wealth of knowledge and insight available on the subject, to help you learn, improve, and grow.

Mellody Hobson: Color blind or color brave?

Mellody Hobson, a financial world luminary who’s currently the president of Ariel Investments, a money management firm focused on value-driven goals, is also a key thought leader when it comes to issues of race and promoting diversity in the workplace. Her TED talk focuses on this critical issue. Although previously thought of as a “conversational third rail” in the office, Hobson advocates for opening the lines of communication and speaking openly about race as we strive to move towards a better and more inclusive and equitable work world and society.

Nita Mosby Tyler: Want a more just world? Be an unlikely ally.

Dr. Tyler is a well-recognized expert when it comes to advocating for and promoting diversity and equity. She’s the Chief Catalyst and founder of The Equity Project and is committed to helping organizations and communities develop effective inclusion strategies. Dr. Tyler’s TED talk draws on her powerful personal experience to make the point that creating a fairer and more equitable world requires each of us to acknowledge our responsibility for taking part in making this happen, by being active change agents and allies who fight for others who face injustice in all forms.

Jennifer L. Eberhardt: How racial bias works—and how to disrupt it.

Jennifer Eberhardt is an accomplished social psychologist whose research focuses on race and equality. Her work investigates the negative effects of racial bias and how racial imagery and judgments shape behavior and outcomes across society, including the criminal justice system and the various social spaces we inhabit. Her TED presentation leverages her extensive body of research and published work to demonstrate how our brains categorize incoming stimuli to organize and make sense of the world, and how this invariably leads to unconscious bias. Her talk focuses on how these biases unfairly impact the lives of Black people at every societal level and serves as a powerful call to action to actively disrupt this from happening whenever possible.

Being a proactive ally in the struggle for positive change is a responsibility we all share to help move society forward, and the TED talks mentioned here can help guide you in the right direction.

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Making the case for women in STEM

Gender diversity is still a work in progress for most industries (particularly when it comes to pay disparities and hiring for executive or leadership roles), but some are further along than others. One field that still has a significant gap between men and women is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Although more women are studying and graduating in STEM fields than ever, more men are also choosing those fields—keeping the gap very much alive.

Here’s why STEM careers should attract more women, and how women can take advantage of those opportunities.

STEM is a major growth area

While some industries are facing job shortages or lack of opportunities, STEM jobs are still growing at a crazy rate. The focus on technology and innovation is creating new avenues and opportunities for those with the skills and education to meet the demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM occupations are expected to grow by 8% by 2029—while all other jobs are expected to grow by 3.7%. Few fields are expected to explode at that rate. That’s a huge surplus of jobs available for the taking.

Fixing the education gap is key

One of the most common barriers to a career in STEM is that it often requires advanced education, skills, and training just to get in the door. Such skills and training often aren’t available to people from lower-income backgrounds or people who don’t have the flexibility or resources to attend a STEM-dedicated college or university program. Although traditional standardized math and science testing comes out fairly equally between women and men, people from higher-income households perform significantly better—closing the door early for many students who might otherwise be interested in STEM. This means that there’s a significant need for minority women especially if the field is going to move closer to representing society as a whole

Early intervention seems to be the key. Math and science support for female students at every school level can help ensure that women stay the course and ultimately get to the surplus of STEM jobs.

Women in STEM boost the global economy

Few industries have global reach as broad (or with as many economic implications) as STEM industries—especially technology. According to research by McKinsey, job equality between women and men could add as much as $12 trillion to the global economy. With STEM jobs making up so much of current and future job growth, it shows how reaching gender parity in STEM stands to benefit everyone involved.

Small changes in the workplace can mean big things for women in STEM

Things you may not even think about can actually limit the number of women who want to enter (and succeed in) a particular field. For example, a recent study found that women performed better on math and verbal tasks when a room’s temperature was warmer, while men performed better on the same tasks when the temperature was cooler. Something as minor as raising the temperature can mean that women achieve better than they might otherwise. Is room temperature the sole reason more women aren’t in STEM? No. But it is an example of how women’s needs are often not considered or prioritized when the workplace is developed.

In a more STEM-specific example, most companies’ safety equipment is designed for the average man. That means the same equipment is often ill-fitting (and thus not as effective) for women, creating a potentially dangerous situation. Investing in better-designed personal safety equipment (PPE) creates a more welcoming, safe environment for women alongside their male colleagues.

In short, STEM fields often aren’t particularly welcoming for women right off the bat, and it makes it a challenge to both attract and keep qualified women in the industry.

Recruiting and advocacy are a solution in the meantime

Education and early intervention are key ways to get young women to go into the right programs. But what if you’re a woman who has the right skillsets or education now? How do you find the right opportunities for your career? Specialized job sites are a good place to start. There are also organizations out there that provide support and resources, like Women in STEM and the Stem2D initiative. Networking is one of the best ways to find and develop career opportunities in a field traditionally dominated by men.

STEM is an area of incredible potential for people of all kinds, but with a gender gap of 72% male to 28% female, it has even more potential for women to move in, grow, and start changing the face of these crucial careers.

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Foolproof ways to answer the toughest competency-based interview questions

It’s no stretch to declare that today’s job market is more volatile—and competitive—than ever before. Across all industries, the number of people vying for a limited number of coveted positions continues to rise. Amidst the uncertainty one thing is abundantly clear—if you’re going to cut through the competition and get noticed by key industry gatekeepers and hiring personnel, your interview skills have to be absolutely on point and razor-sharp.

Today’s interviews bear little resemblance to those from just a few years ago, thanks in large part to the global pandemic and tidal wave of disruptive technological innovation that’s changing how companies operate at every level.

At least for now, gone are the days where you’d hustle to get ready and out the door to commute to an office for an interview, arrive early, sweat it out in the waiting room, and do your best to maintain appropriate eye contact, speak eloquently, and end things on a high note and a handshake with the hopes that you’ve made a positive and memorable face-to-face impression. These days, if you’re on the job hunt or thinking about getting back into the open market, you better make sure your video conferencing skills are strong and that you’re poised to present your best self remotely—and that you’re well versed in the types of interview questions commonly used today.

Chief among these are competency-based interview questions, which have been popular for a while but continue to grow in prominence. These typically adhere to the classic “situational” format, in which you’re tasked with a hypothetical work-based scenario or asked to give an example from your prior work history that is targeted to gauge your competency in key areas—things like decision making, creative problem solving, moderating conflict, handling a crisis, or managing a project or team.

Some people seem to handle these types of questions without breaking a sweat, but for others, they can pose a greater challenge. Read on for some effective strategies for tackling even the toughest questions you might face on interview day.

Know the role

Usually, the competencies being targeted in these types of interview questions are directly aligned with the type of position and role you’re vying for. Use this as a guide when preparing for an upcoming interview. If the job requires extensive personnel management or team leadership, then be ready for questions that test your people skills. If it’s a role with heavy project management, then your communication, organization, and teamwork skills will likely be in focus. You get the point—know the core skills the role requires to help you anticipate the type of competency-questions you may encounter on interview day, and be prepared to demonstrate how you more than fit the bill.

Come to interviews pre-loaded

Those of us who have been in the work world or on the job hunt for a while know that there are few things more awkward on an interview than complete silence—and competency-based questions tend to induce more silence than other question types. This unfortunate scenario usually occurs when unprepared or nervous candidates are asked to summon an example of how they handled a certain type of situation or deployed a certain set of skills in the past, but are unable to come up with one in the moment.

It can happen to the best of us—interviews are stressful , which can significantly affect your ability to think quickly on your feet. The best way to push past the awkwardness is to come to interviews equipped with a wide range of experiences from your past that touch upon your abilities in the areas you’ll likely be asked about, based on the position and skills it requires. Another great reason to prep scenarios in advance is that it gives you the opportunity to cherry pick the most memorable and resonant ones, which will help you stand out from the interview crowd.

Rely on trial and error

Effectively preparing for interviews means more than just showing up on time wearing a nice outfit and a smile. Today’s job market is so competitive that you really need to work hard to sell yourself as the best available candidate in a crowded field of qualified individuals. This means advance preparation to help you get ready to tackle the most challenging types of interview questions that you can expect to encounter.

A great way to get comfortable answering competency-based questions is to practice doing so before interview day. Enlist the services of a trusted colleague, friend, or family member and run mock interviews that focus on this question type. Ask for constructive feedback and examine your performance critically. See what works and what doesn’t, and retool accordingly. And don’t forget that when it comes to interviews, the old cliché that practice makes perfect still holds true.

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Trends that will shape your workplace in 2021

It’s difficult to argue with the notion that 2020 unleashed a torrent of disruptive forces upon the work world. We’re all aware of the big variables that were at play as the tumultuous year unfolded—everything from a volatile economy rocked by a global pandemic to a relentless wave of technological innovation left employers and employees alike scrambling in an effort to keep afloat and stay viable in a time of extreme uncertainty.

We’ve made it through, though many of us are a bit shaken up by the events of what felt like a year without precedent. But, as 2021 unfolds, we push forward, hopefully, armed with new wisdom from lessons learned. Although a key takeaway from 2020 is that it’s impossible to predict the future and how it will ultimately impact our grand plans, we can use what we’ve learned to look ahead and make informed predictions about what we can expect in the months to come—particularly in the world of work. Expect the following trends to help shape and define the workplace in 2021 and beyond. 

Remote technology is here to stay

Last year saw the most abrupt workplace transition in recent memory. Practically overnight, employees in companies across industries and sectors went from working in offices to working from their homes and beyond as the pandemic roared through society and took hold.

In a year full of uncertainty and dark metaphorical clouds, one bright and shining takeaway was how capably and effectively companies and their teams were able to quickly pivot and continue getting work done in the most tumultuous of times, thanks in part to the power of technology to meet the needs of businesses and workers wherever they are around the globe. Yes, this migration has been happening for years, but the acceleration of the remote working trend exploded in 2020, and it certainly won’t taper off in 2021. Tech companies from lean startups to industry behemoths are continually advancing new innovations in the work from home space, and businesses are reaping the benefits as they get more done while keeping infrastructure costs low. Count on this trend to continue.

Lean is king

Embracing new technology has been an absolute game changer for companies to maximize profits and efficiency while outperforming the competition. In addition, it has allowed businesses to embrace a lean mindset without fear of understaffing and not having sufficient resources to meet their needs. Technology is making it possible for companies to automate key aspects of their productivity pipelines in ways that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago, and this trend is only accelerating, with new and innovative ways for businesses to do more with less being developed at breakneck speeds.

What does this mean for workers? Simply put, the average employee should expect to be tasked with wearing more work hats than ever before, and at this point it shouldn’t be surprising to see their number of colleagues dwindle over time as technology replaces human power across core business functions and things get leaner. It also places additional pressure on workers to keep their productivity levels high and their skills razor sharp when it comes to new industry-standard technology and process rollouts. As businesses continue to evaluate their operations through a lean mindset, they’ll be paying careful attention to who’s keeping up and who’s falling behind when it comes time to find new areas of potential excess to trim.

Focus on diversity is mandatory

Globalization may have gotten the ball rolling when it comes to businesses seeking to diversify their teams with a broader range of employees worldwide (full-time, part-time, and contract-based), but the focus on diversity has gone far beyond the desire for businesses to cut costs and maximize profits. Companies have increasingly come to realize that having a diverse spectrum of employees empowers them with a more comprehensive and multi-faceted array of perspectives and voices to leverage, in addition to allowing them to source the best and brightest talent from a larger and richer applicant pool. The positive contributions that diversity makes to their productivity, corporate and brand cultures and bottom lines are undeniable and will continue to fuel this long-overdue workplace trend through 2021 and beyond.

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New year, new you: how to be a better learner

The dawning of a new year is always a great time to take stock of your life and retool. As we look forward into the future, reflect on experiences and lessons learned from the previous year, and think about what we want out of life moving forward, we can take this opportunity to set new goals, welcome new challenges, and work towards enacting positive change.

Chief among the goals we often set for ourselves for the new year is to learn something new. Whether the idea is to advance in our careers, build a new personal skill, or dive into a new hobby or area of interest, many of us include learning as part of our plans to steer ourselves toward self-improvement.

That said, some of us are more successful than others at actually following through on the learning goals we set for ourselves. Sometimes, motivation and apathy are key driving factors that determine success; for others, life simply takes on other unanticipated challenges and priorities as the new year unfolds that force us to shelve our grand plans. However, there may be another key factor at play that can contribute significantly towards your learning success, or lack thereof—your learning skills. That’s right, the ability to learn itself is a skill, and if you’re under the impression that some people are just naturally wired to learn better than others and there’s nothing much you can do about it, then think again.

The truth is, there’s a growing body of research-based evidence that points to the fact that your ability to learn is not some innate and immutable trait you’re born with, but rather is a skill that can be strengthened or weakened depending on the amount of attention you give to it. Simply put, you can become a better learner if you devote the effort. If you’re looking to become a better learner this year, consider deploying the following strategies to help you achieve this laudable goal.

Discover your learning style

Long gone are the days when “one size fits all” was a suitable approach to learning. It’s now widely recognized that there are a variety of learning styles, and people do their best when given the opportunity to learn in their preferred style. The VARK model comprises the most commonly accepted styles:

  • Visual learners do best when given tools to discover new concepts through seeing.
  • Auditory learners do best when given tools to discover new concepts through hearing.
  • Reading/writing learners do best when given tools to discover new concepts through reading and writing.
  • Kinesthetic learners do best when given tools to learn new concepts by moving and doing.

Perhaps you already know which style suits you best. If not, it’s worth the time and effort to discover what type of learner you are—and once you do figure it out you can use that knowledge to incorporate helpful targeted aids whenever you try to learn something new.

Decrease distractions

Let’s face it, the world is chock full of things designed to grab your attention and distract you from staying on task, especially when you’re trying to learn something new. Simply put, distractions are the enemies of focus, which is an essential element of learning. Doing everything within your power to minimize distractions when you’re trying to learn something will help safeguard your attention and focus, allow you to stay on task, and ultimately help you learn more effectively. Everyone has different tolerances when it comes to confronting and resisting distractions—the key is to learn your own strengths and weaknesses and react accordingly, which means avoiding those things that always threaten to derail you from achieving your learning goals.

Learn from trial and error

You likely have some preconceived ideas regarding what conditions are most conducive for you to learn effectively—and you may be completely on point, but you also may have it wrong. We also tend to change over time, so things that work well for you at one point in your life might not hold true as time goes by. Trial and error is a great way to continually hone and refine your learning approach—everything from your chosen environment and the study tools and aids you deploy, to the time of day you embark upon your learning tasks, all which may significantly impact your results. Analyze your successes and setbacks, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better learner.

As the new year unfolds, seize the opportunity to make some key improvements in your life. Use the strategies and advice presented here to help you become a better learner and achieve whatever goals you have on your horizon.

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What HR should prioritize in 2021

To call 2020 a turbulent year for the work world is an understatement, to say the least. Nearly every conceivable industry was thrown in a state of unprecedented flux, resulting from a massive jolt of disruptive forces—including a global pandemic that’s impacted every facet of how we approach work, as well as a tidal wave of technological innovation that’s forcing a rapid evolution in how business is conducted on a global scale.

The pace of these breakneck shifts that are impacting the world of work would have been nearly inconceivable just a short while ago, but that’s often a key aspect of change. We don’t always see it coming, but those who respond accordingly to it are best positioned to pivot effectively and find a successful path forward.

Businesses are learning how to make their way through this global historical inflection point. Figuring out how to help navigate their teams through the turbulence and volatility, remaining viable, learning the lessons of history, and forging an innovative path forward are among their primary challenges as they make their way through the early days of 2021—and HR is at the vanguard of helping companies achieve these core goals.

As a business develops and evolves through its operational life cycle, HR professionals are always essential to help keep things running smoothly and to steer through uncertainty and change, and that’s never been more important—and challenging—than at the dawn of this new year, amidst the flurry of operational headwinds and obstacles companies are facing.

It can hardly be argued against that HR teams have a lot on their plates at the moment. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things they’re focusing on and prioritizing as 2021 unfolds.

Organizational design

The wave of volatility that characterized 2020 shows no sign of abating in 2021, and it’s forcing many companies to drastically reimagine how they conduct business in an effort to meet revenue targets while hitting key performance metrics. Many are making significant structural and organizational changes to their teams to embrace a more lean and agile mindset, reduce overhead costs, and stay viable during this period of economic uncertainty. These types of dramatic changes can be disruptive and often require the guidance of HR personnel to plan wisely, implement these shifts effectively, and help employers and employees alike adapt to the changes appropriately and thrive in the new paradigm.

Employee support

It’s an understatement to say that 2020 has tested the fortitude, resilience, and flexibility of employers and employees alike in new and unprecedented ways. The abrupt and often rapidly shifting changes we’re all being forced to accommodate into our lives are by no means easy to cope with. Everyone from business leaders at the helms of multinational corporations to small business owners to seasoned workers, to those who are just getting started in their career journeys, have felt the brunt of these forces and are struggling to cope with them on a daily basis and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Helping to make sure that employees are doing well and feeling supported and connected is chief among the goals of HR personnel right now, which should come as no surprise. On top of ensuring that workers remain dedicated, focused, and capable of staying productive and meeting their goals without overworking to the point of burnout, beneath the work titles and roles, HR pros are typically caring and supportive individuals who want to ensure that their colleagues are doing okay.

Bridging the skill gap

Things are changing in the work world at breakneck speed, and companies both large and small are trying to pivot accordingly in an effort to stay viable. Those that are able to stay agile and respond accordingly to change will be best positioned to weather incoming storms and lead their industries into the future.

The same holds true for employees. Those who are able to weather incoming volatility, quickly adjust to new baseline concepts of workplace normalcy and demonstrate value to current and future employers will be the ones to thrive—while the rest of the pack struggles to keep up. This means that employees need to stay on top of the latest tools and technology in their industry in order to stay connected and productive—whether they’re working from home, nearby, or halfway around the world.

For some, the adjustments required of us throughout 2020 and into 2021 were relatively uneventful; for others, things have been more difficult, which has been a real source of stress and frustration for many employees. A key challenge for HR pros is to ensure that any skills gaps that threaten to diminish the productivity of employees are recognized and addressed—often through additional support and training to get them confident, prepared, and up to speed.

Regardless of industry or area of expertise, HR teams certainly have a lot to handle in 2021. Those professionals who help their companies address key issues—including the ones mentioned here—will be best positioned for long-term success.

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How to follow up after submitting a job application

To quote the late, great Tom Petty, “The waiting is the hardest part.” That’s especially true in the job hunt. You work so hard on your resume, your cover letter, your interview skills…and then you wait. At every step of the process, you…wait. Every company and every job seem to have their own timeline—there’s no overarching guidance on how long it takes to fill a position. It’s also a process subject to human error and human delays (people out sick, holidays, overwhelming work load), which make the waiting feel even more uncertain.

However, that doesn’t mean you should always resign yourself to an open-ended period of waiting. There are ways to handle application queries and follow-up that won’t annoy your friendly local HR rep and won’t make you look like too much of an eager beaver.

Find out up-front about the timeline

Recruiters and hiring managers may not know exactly how long it will take to fill a position. (Again, the unpredictability of life and business can disrupt even the most efficient timelines.) However, it’s legitimate to ask the question initially: “Hi! I just submitted my resume for Job Name. Do you know roughly how long before you’re expecting to notify candidates?”

Or maybe you’ll get an auto-response when you submit, either saying that the company doesn’t guarantee a response or that you’ll hear (for example) within a week. If it’s the former, you won’t win any friends by calling them to follow up on an application that isn’t guaranteed a response. If it’s the latter, wait at least the amount of time that they indicated.

If you’re interviewing and can reasonably expect some kind of official notification of whether you got the job or not, it’s okay to ask for a time range in the interview. Again, it may not be exact, but at least you’ll know whether you should call if you don’t hear back after that period of time has passed.

Give it at least a week

If it’s been more than a week since you submitted, it’s legitimate to send an email thanking the company for their time and consideration and letting them know that you’re available. It should just be a brief note—and again, don’t try to pin them down on exact specifics that they may not have. It’s about reminding them of your application and your availability.

For example:

Hi Ms. Jackson,

I hope you had a lovely weekend! Thanks again for speaking with me last week. I’m very interested in this position at Company X and would love the opportunity to join your team. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if there’s more information I can provide as part of the hiring process.

Best,

Rosa

Call if email doesn’t work

Email is usually the best way to reach someone these days. Phone calls can feel more intrusive and less sensitive of someone’s time. However, if it’s been a few weeks and you’ve heard nothing after an interview or other promise of notification, it’s okay to reach out via phone to your contact. Again, be very mindful of the person’s time and understand that it might be circumstances—and not laziness or forgetfulness—that explain why you haven’t received a response. Always be friendly and polite and don’t get upset if you don’t get the exact response you’re hoping to get. That’s life, but you’ll have made a good-faith effort to get more information.

The waiting game is always tough, but you don’t need to watch your inbox forever, waiting for any response whatsoever. You can reach out in polite, non-pressuring ways that can help you get the updated information you need.

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Are cover letters necessary in 2021?

Let’s be honest: cover letters are nobody’s favorite part of the job hunt. There’s a lot of pressure to be smart, clever, and informative in just a few brief paragraphs (but not too many). Cover letters can stress out even the most seasoned job seekers and feel like a throwback to a bygone era of fancy stationery and letter openers. These days, everything is handled digitally. So now, in 2021, do you even need to bother with a cover letter?

The answer: it depends.

Who still reads cover letters?

According to surveys done by LinkedIn and others, many recruiters, HR reps, and hiring managers still read cover letters. They may not read them for everyone who applies, but rather those who make it past a certain hurdle in the evaluation process. So you should think of your cover letter as a good sign: if someone’s reading it, they may be seriously considering you and your application package.

According to Jobvite’s 2020 Recruiter Nation survey, 27% of recruiters read cover letters and consider them in the hiring process. That may seem low, but think about this additional piece of data from the survey: that’s up 19% since 2017. So while the practice isn’t as widespread as one might hope since this is something that requires a lot of effort by job seekers, it’s happening. In job markets where every advantage counts, a cover letter can help someone make it to the next recruiting level.

So, do I need a cover letter?

You have nothing to lose by crafting a quality cover letter. While a cover letter is often not required in the digital engines that take in applications and spit out metrics on the other end, it can help build your case for why you should be hired. This is especially important if your resume has gaps or questionable spots. Your cover letter is a chance to get ahead of any questions that a potential employer might have. It’s also a way to set the tone and narrative for your resume. A reader may or may not skip right to the meat of the resume, but if they have your cover letter as well, it helps to highlight what you want them to take from your resume.

If you’re going to use a generic template for every job for which you’re applying, you probably shouldn’t bother. A recruiter’s eyes will glaze right over a blatant boilerplate letter that starts with “To whom it may concern” or “Please find attached.”  But a thoughtful, well-crafted cover letter, tailored for each job application, is a way to show qualities like attention to detail, communication skills, and personality.

How do I update my cover letter for 2021?

Your cover letter should be tailored for the specific job and company to which you’re applying. Someone going through a pile of resumes will appreciate a letter that shows thought, effort, and awareness of what the job is. Studies have shown that resumes that have a tailored, specific cover letter are more likely to get an interview. Again, it adds and extra level of care, and recruiters notice that extra touch.

You should also be mindful of keywords and the language you’re using. Given that so many resumes and application packages are submitted digitally, chances are your application is being screened for keywords to help identify qualified candidates from the rest. This does not mean your cover letter should be a robotic mess of random words related to the job. However, be sure to use specific terms from the job description to show that you bring qualifications that the company is seeking. These days, you need to satisfy the bots as well as the humans who will make qualitative decisions about your application.

A cover letter may seem outdated, but writing a solid one can really make the difference between getting an interview and having your resume languish in a pile somewhere. It may not be required for every job, but you should still consider writing one and give yourself every potential advantage you can get.

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Remote onboarding: How to make your remote newbies feel welcome

After many months of hunkering down for pandemic work life, many employees and organizations are settling into this new normal of remote work. And that doesn’t just mean Zoom happy hours and endless calls where people think they’re on mute, but aren’t. It means that when new employees start their first days look different than ever before. Whereas before new employee onboarding might have meant meet-and-greets to introduce everyone and getting settled at a new desk, now it’s a virtual experience.  

According to a survey by Glassdoor, onboarding impressions are key. Organizations that do onboarding well see employee retention of more than 82%, and high productivity. Companies that provide poor employee onboarding often lose those employees within the first year. So how should your organization bring on new people in a pandemic, and do it well?

1. Don’t assume your old onboarding plan fits the new world

“Status quo, but remote” doesn’t really fit here. Organizations need to go beyond to make sure that new hires feel welcomed and included in their new role. Change is hard, and it’s even harder when you feel isolated in your home office instead of being able to integrate yourself in the same space as your new team.

It’s time to rethink your entire onboarding process and implement one specifically for remote workers. Work with your HR team to document the entire onboarding process from offer to first day, and think about how it can be adjusted for someone who will be on the other end of the phone call or video meeting at every step.

Provide detailed checklists and itineraries for the new employee so that they don’t feel like they’re at loose ends during their first weeks. If possible, get a list of goals from the new hire’s manager, helping set expectations for the first few months, and encourage the manager to set up regular calls or meetings with the new hire to check in.

2. Dial up the enthusiasm

When you can’t introduce someone around the office and show them all the “good” spots for coffee and coworker chats, it’s crucial to make extra effort when it comes to enthusiasm. To make your new team member feel welcome, set up a specific channel where people can get to know the person, and vice versa. (Slack works great for this—you can have a channel dedicated to having people stop by and greet the newbie.)

3. Send some welcome swag

Chances are you’ll be sending your new hire some kind of welcome packet that includes necessary paperwork and documentation. Don’t stop there—have a “welcome!” gift that goes out to new employees a few days before they start working with you. Maybe it’s some company-branded swag or some fun snacks for their home office—it just has to be something that says you’re looking forward to having this person on your team and aren’t just focused on filling out forms and handing out company policies.

4. Enlist “buddies” to help make the transition easier

At some point, the onboarding process has to go beyond HR and a welcoming committee. Having a buddy program (where existing employees mentor a new employee) can help make that social transition better and more fulfilling. No matter how old we get it’s always tough to be the new kid in school—and the sooner one can make friends and feel settled, the better. It’s not about matchmaking BFFs, but rather finding sociable, approachable team members who are knowledgeable about the company and happy to share some of their insider intel.

The best part of the buddy system is that it’s free. All it takes is the time investment of recruiting potential buddies and setting up video chats or virtual hangouts for the new colleagues.

Working remotely has changed the work world this year, but it doesn’t have to upset your onboarding game. Putting thoughtful effort into revamping your current onboarding, and going a few steps beyond to make your new team members feel welcomed, valued, and integrated will help all of you make it a positive experience.

The post Remote onboarding: How to make your remote newbies feel welcome appeared first on TheJobNetwork.