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Writing more effective job descriptions

Job descriptions may seem like one of the most straightforward parts of recruiting and hiring: you list what’s expected and what skills and experience you want, then you proofread and release it to the winds. It’s a necessary part of the process, but maybe not the one you spend the most time or attention doing. However, like with everything else in recruiting, there’s an art to job descriptions. With finding the best talent getting ever more competitive, your job descriptions should be as dynamic, effective, appealing, and informative as possible—in a relatively small space.

Know what (and whom) you’re seeking

Many hiring managers and HR professionals see a job description as a basic checklist of tasks and roles that the new employee will need to fulfill. When you’re thinking about what to include in a job description, don’t just think about the tasks and top-line responsibilities. What work are you expecting to be done in this role? What will this person be achieving for your organization? That helps reframe the job description as not just the what, but also the why.

Thinking about the work itself (and the goals) can also help you get to a more robust description of the job. Instead of relying on later conversations or interviews to flesh out the job, having more information and realistic bullets about the job can help you set a clearer expectation for the role. That will lead to getting better, more qualified people responding to your ad.

Be descriptive about the candidate you want

Space can be at a premium in a job description, so it’s important to emphasize the necessary elements in a successful candidate. Instead of limiting it to basic things like education level or years of experience, think about the most important skills or elements of experience needed for the role. For example, does this job really need someone with a master’s degree? Or are you really looking for someone with a particular skill set instead of a diploma?

This can also help you make a more inclusive job description. For many otherwise qualified candidates who have good skills, experience, and the potential to grow into a role, arbitrary requirements on a job description can be a barrier that keeps them from applying in the first place. Would you be willing to hire someone who didn’t have internship experience? Is there a significant difference between someone with four years’ experience versus seven? When writing your job description, think about the entry requirements you’re putting in place. Make sure that they’re both necessary for the job and descriptive enough to help a reader determine whether they should apply or not.

Be clear on the expectations for the new hire

Remember that you’re not just trying to get someone in the door—you’re working hard to make sure you’re getting the right person to join and contribute to your organization for a long time to come. An effective job description should include information (if only a sentence or a few bullets) that outline what kind of performance metrics the person would need to meet in, say, the first 90 days or the first year.

Show off your employer brand

You’re shopping for a new hire, but the new hire is also shopping for a company. A great job description includes a few lines about your organization and what it can offer. Salary (or salary range) and benefits should be included, but also make sure to include bullets about your company’s values, mission, or culture.

The best job descriptions go beyond the bare basics of the job itself. It’s about how the role fits into the company as a whole, what the person will really be working on once they join your organization, and what attributes the right candidate will have. The more care you put into this description now, the better your recruiting results will be.

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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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4 things you don’t want to see in a job listing

It’s no stretch to say that today’s job search barely resembles what the process used to look like in generations past. In fact, it’s evolving so rapidly that it hardly looks like it did even just a few years ago. In addition to major shifts in technological innovation that continually disrupt and upend the job search process, companies and employees alike are constantly reimagining what the nature of work even looks like—witness the rise of the gig economy and freelance and project-based employment. And of course, COVID-19 has radically and abruptly altered when, where, and how many of us perform our jobs and engage with our colleagues.

Sure, the nature of work and how we search for—and land—our next jobs are currently in a state of rapid flux, but there are some elements of the job hunt that change at a decidedly slower pace. This includes the basic architecture of a job listing and what to look out for when you’re on the job hunt trail. Just as in all of life’s endeavors, red flags you see while reviewing a job listing can help keep you from making potentially bad employment and career decisions—so it’s in your best interest to keep a sharp eye out and avoid them whenever possible.

The following 4 items are good examples of things you may not want to see in (or missing from) a job listing. While finding or not finding them may not necessarily mean that the job in question is a wrong move, it’s a good idea to keep your senses sharp and stay extra alert to whatever follows in an effort to ensure that your next career move is the right one for you.

Missing salary and benefits information

While it’s long been the case that many employers prefer to refrain from getting into discussions regarding money and perks until an offer is made, times have changed. Today’s employees expect and deserve to know what they’re in for in terms of compensation and benefits before getting too far along in the hiring pipeline, which stands to reason—why waste time on pursuing positions that don’t meet your baseline requirements? Furthermore, if you are a candidate in an in-demand field, lack of information about salary and benefits (or at least some basic details or a general range) may be a sign that an offer will not be competitive. While it may mean nothing, proceed with caution if you fail to see this information in a job listing.

Typos

While no one is perfect and making mistakes is just a part of life, one of the last places you want to encounter errors is in a job listing. Simply put, we only get one chance to make a first impression, and that includes employers. A company’s first impression to potential employers is usually through a job listing. If that first impression is one that includes typos, it may be a bad omen for what’s to come and what working for that company might be like—so be careful.

Unpaid trial work periods

The truth is, you never know what will happen during the hiring process and what hoops a potential employer may ask you to jump through in pursuit of a coveted job offer. It isn’t abnormal to be asked to perform a trial work task without pay, but be sure to use your instincts. If it feels like you’re being taken advantage of and are being asked to do more than what’s reasonable for free, trust your gut feeling and move on.

Requests for personal data

These days, job listings can be found in all sorts of places, including anonymous job boards with less than stellar procedures for verifying employers. Depending on where you search, you may be stepping through a potential minefield of less than reputable listings that are looking to take advantage of overly trusting job candidates. Requests for personal data beyond what’s typically found on a resume should be approached with extreme caution unless there’s a real compelling reason for the request.

Are you on the job hunt trail? If so, stay alert to the 4 items listed here to help guide you away from possible red flags when reviewing job listings and towards a productive and effective job search. Good luck!

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How to advance your career . . . remotely

Today’s work world is undergoing unbelievably rapid shifts at speeds that would have been completely unpredictable just a year ago, but that’s often an aspect of change—we don’t always see it coming. But those who respond accordingly to it are best positioned to adjust effectively and find a successful path forward, even if that path takes on unexpected twists and turns along the way.

We’re all aware that the entire work world, regardless of your field, is currently in a state of unprecedented flux resulting from a massive jolt of disruptive forces—including a global pandemic that’s impacted every facet of life as well as a tidal wave of technological innovation that’s forcing a rapid evolution in how work and business is conducted on a global scale.

As we make our way through this global historical inflection point, no one has been spared the burden of having to figure out a way to persist and move forward. Everyone, from business leaders at the helms of multi-national corporations, to small business owners, to seasoned executives at the tops of their career ladders, to those who are just getting started in their career journeys, have felt the brunt of these forces and are coping with them on a daily basis. It’s inevitable that history will divide the successful and unsuccessful by those who figure out how to rise to the challenges of this moment and those who grow stagnant and fall behind.

A pivotal shift that’s been happening is the transition to remote work. All of a sudden—literally overnight in many instances—employees across industries and job roles have had to quickly adjust and get comfortable with the notion of working from home. All types of businesses, from lean startups to global corporate juggernauts, have quickly shifted to a telecommuting strategy to stay productive—and many employers have discovered that employees who are well-positioned to shift to remote work can be just as effective or even more so while working at home.

For some, this adjustment was relatively uneventful—in fact, many companies were starting to embrace the notion of telecommuting before the pandemic even struck. For others, the switch has been more of a challenge. Regardless of which side of the remote performance equation you’re currently on, many of us are facing an uncertain future regarding when and if we’ll be returning to an actual physical workspace—and you better believe that business leaders are paying careful attention to who thrives and who doesn’t when it comes to working remotely. Your skills in this area may profoundly impact future employment decisions like promotions, so it makes sense to make every effort to remain a valuable, viable, and effective employee even while working remotely.

If you’re currently navigating the world of remote work and want to figure out how best to position yourself for career advancement, consider the following strategies to help you achieve success.

Increase your visibility

A significant challenge when working remotely is maintaining an appropriate level of professional visibility amongst your colleagues. Simply put, the absence of a shared physical workspace can lead to feelings of “out of sight, out of mind,” which could directly or indirectly affect your work performance and impact your perceived or actual value proposition to employers, especially at a time when companies are embracing an increasingly lean and agile mindset and are learning to do more with smaller remote staffs.

Therefore, it’s in your best interest to use the tools at your disposal to enhance your visibility to the powers that be—including video conferences, phone calls, and email and text exchanges—in an effort to stay connected, build remote equity, and reassert your value as an employee. Be vocal and present as much as appropriately possible, offer ideas and suggestions for projects and new initiatives, come up with creative ways to address issues and solve challenges, and take every opportunity to do so—during meetings and discussions, on team email exchanges, and even when having casual conversations. Enhancing your visibility is a great way to stay top of mind when your bosses are thinking about awarding new responsibilities, roles, and promotions, even when working remotely.

Go above and beyond

Good employees do their jobs well, but great employees go above and beyond and demonstrate a willingness to roll up their sleeves and pitch in to help their teammates and colleagues get things done—which is a great way to highlight your value as an employee and set yourself up for advancement. Although being a great team player and pitching in is typically easier to do in an office or shared workspace, it’s still possible to go above and beyond to support the company while working remotely. You just need to keep your senses sharp and look out for opportunities to pitch in—and jump on them whenever feasible. Trust us, if your employer sees that you’re the sort of worker who routinely takes the initiative to help keep things moving forward, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

Make a change

Although the work world is currently going through a remote technological evolution, some things still remain the same—including knowing when you’ve learned everything you can in your current position and have reached a ceiling at a company. This is often a signal that it might be time to move on. Although it’s a scary and volatile time to be searching for a new job, you may have reached a point in your career journey where it’s time for a change if advancement is important to you.

Changing jobs to leverage career advancement opportunities is a classic career strategy. Despite a great deal of uncertainty in the professional world, there are new job listings getting posted all the time—and only you can determine when it’s the right time for you to consider grabbing onto the next rung of your career ladder.

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Create a diverse workforce with these proven methods

When you think about the workplace of the future, you might envision a lot of shiny new tech. And that’s key. But the real wave of the future is a truly diverse, inclusive organization where people from a wide variety of perspectives, cultures, and experiences come together to innovate and work together toward a common goal. Every organization strives to be more diverse, but statistics show that getting there isn’t as easy as wanting it. Let’s review some of the best ways to make your team more diverse and inclusive.

Understand the differences between diversity and inclusivity

“Diversity” and “inclusion” are often used in the same sentence to say something similar: we need our organization to be more reflective of society as a whole. And while the goals are similar, they’re actually two different things that complement one another. Diversity, in its most basic form, means bringing in people from different races, cultures, religions, physical abilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and genders.

Inclusion goes beyond that: it means making everyone feel like different perspectives are welcomed and respected, and that everyone is given equal access to opportunities to contribute to the organization’s success. Think of diversity as the what, and inclusion as the how.

Take a hard look at your company culture and environment

Ideally, your organization’s culture would welcome and respect every voice and contribution. In reality, we can get settled in particular grooves that (intentionally or not) exclude a range of employees from participating as fully as they might otherwise be able to. For example: is it common for people to do a significant amount of work outside of standard business hours? That might be boxing out parents or caretakers. Do you provide private spaces for employees to accommodate things like breastfeeding, meditation, or private prayer? If not, this could be alienating employees who need quiet spaces to attend to personal business during breaks.

Adopt an inclusive workplace model

It’s not really enough to say you support a variety of cultures, religions, or nationalities—you need to make people feel welcomed and respected. When employees feel like they need to hide some essential part of themselves because they’re afraid they won’t “fit in,” that leads to low morale and high turnover.

One of the most effective ways to foster inclusion is making your organization more multilingual. Having a common language (like English) is essential to making sure everyone can work together on a basic level. However, that doesn’t mean that there should be a common language to the exclusion of all others. Translation services can benefit employees who feel more comfortable speaking in a non-English language and can help overcome language barriers between colleagues. It’s also an opportunity to offer language learning opportunities to others in your organization and take a multilingual approach during common company events. For example, if you have a significant number of employees who speak another language, have speeches or announcements delivered in that language as well as in English.

Language diversity is also something you can hire for, seeking out multilingual candidates early on in the hiring process.

One way to make people feel safer in their multiculturalism is by honoring and celebrating different cultural and religious practices. This doesn’t necessarily mean having holiday parties for every possible holiday or singling out specific religious practices, but it does mean thinking about things like having “floater” holidays that people can use to celebrate their own religious holidays. Most organizations have already taken steps to make traditional Christmas parties more inclusive and nondenominational; this is just taking that to the next step and expanding the horizon to include other holidays that might be important to members of the organization.

Celebration also doesn’t need to be limited to religious holidays. Throughout the year, it’s good to spotlight different kinds of holidays or celebrations (like Black History Month or Women’s History Month) to help educate members of the organization and show how a wealth of cultural perspectives contribute to your company’s goals, your industry, etc.

Make sure your leaders are modeling inclusive behavior

In any organization, people look to the senior leadership to set the tone for day-to-day work. Take a look at the executives in your organization. Is there a gender imbalance? Do you have leaders who come from different religious or cultural backgrounds? What kinds of teams are your executives building? Do they reflect basic diversity as well?

If your upper ranks are looking a little too same-same, then there are ways to start changing that, without firing valued members of your organization. Make sure that your executives are trained on inclusivity and diversity and are made aware that it’s a major priority for your organization. And when hiring and recruiting, especially for senior-level positions, consider adopting “the Rooney Rule.” The Rooney Rule is an official NFL policy, started by former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. It means that a certain number of interviewees for any given position need to be ethnic minorities, to help ensure that minority candidates are given a valid chance. It doesn’t guarantee diversity in hiring, but rather more equitable access to job opportunities. The policy has spread well beyond football coach hiring and is embraced by companies in many different industries.  

There’s no magic point where an organization is magically “diverse enough,” or “inclusive enough.” It’s an ongoing goal—but one where you can take steps now to get the momentum moving in the right direction.

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The mom/manager balance: how to be both at home

To do work productively you need time and space. But this year we’ve collectively experienced a blur of time. And for those of us able to work from home, we’ve also experienced the blurring of the clearly established border between work life and home life. While it’s nice to save on gas and other commuting costs and just roll out of bed, the lack of a traditional office means the home space contains new responsibilities.

The work/life balancing act that was precarious before the pandemic has been thrown out the window and the burden of this disruption has been acutely felt by working mothers. Remote learning in schools means you are not simply a working parent, but also the principal, school bell, taskmaster, on-demand snack chef, technology expert, and photographer of every scrap of paper that needs to be turned in for school—all while trying to maintain a modicum of productivity in your work by navigating Zoom meetings and answering emails in carefully carved out pockets of time. It is, to say the least, challenging. But there are a few strategies for maintaining this balancing act and your sanity when things are most definitely out of balance.

Lean on routine

If your kids are engaged in remote learning and meeting with a class on Zoom, then you have a set schedule to guide the day. Take the time to experiment and personalize your schedule, finding the best time to navigate work and play and to stick with it. When kids learn a routine, their expectations of you are well-established. If mid-afternoon is park time, then they’ll look forward to that time to enjoy. If mommy work time is well-established, then they’ll begin to develop habits and expectations that fall into the rhythm you establish. Every kid is different and everyone’s workflow is different, but trying to keep a consistent schedule day in and day out will help navigate the chaos of your work sphere and home sphere colliding.

Divide & conquer

You always want to avoid multi-tasking. The problematic function of our work reality, even in normal times, is that you face constant interruption. You receive a push notification or a text, a new email pops up while you are crafting an important one, or a coworker has a question—dealing with continual distractions isn’t exactly new. The solution? Schedule the interruption before you get interrupted. Divide work projects into stages and segments. Plan to do a fast draft, then revise later. Even when things require a lot of concentration, you don’t need to block off multiple hours; you can instead tackle your work in pieces and anticipate the inevitable interruption.

Create a space

If you have a dedicated office in your home that is an entire room, congratulations. If not, it is important to create a work zone. This has an important mental component too—getting “in the zone” works better with a physical setup, but requires a mental setup too. Find the quietest, clutter-free space you can and maybe grab some headphones too. With the ritual of the commute gone, creating some alternative that allows you to shift modes is important. You can also ease the transition from mom-mode to work-mode by a simple practice that guides you to devote your concentration to work. Take a few minutes of sipping coffee or engaging in a minute of deep-breathing, a mantra, or a visualization exercise before you dive into work.

Foster independence & patience

In this current situation, you have a real opportunity to get very involved in teaching your kids daily habits that can be good for all of you in the long run. For example, kids are learning how to use Zoom and navigate the internet as much as you are in your adult job. Sit with them to make sure they really grasp the tech they’re being asked to use every day. Maybe you can even work up to the point where they can photograph their own homework to upload later. Kids of a certain age can also learn some home basics like getting a snack for themselves, if you keep healthy snacks and bowls within their reach, and finding a way to entertain themselves for short stretches.

But one important thing kids can learn right now that you desperately need is patience. Waiting ten minutes to get what they want isn’t the end of the world. Just as you ideally can rely on your partner, your back-up, or their teachers, you can also see how much your kids are able to step up to the plate and help too. Help them learn when you need quiet time to work and when you are able to give them your full, undivided attention.

Do nothing

Everyone needs 5-10 minutes to themselves. Yes, that means you too. Set a calendar reminder and use a timer where you reserve a bit of time to do absolutely nothing work- or parent-related—no reading the news, no watching shows, no emails, no snack fixing. Let yourself listen to your own thoughts. In fact, let yourself have a single complete thought. It can be as simple as doing a short meditation or going for a walk around the block sans technology. On days when you are bombarded with interruptions and being pulled in all directions, you need to find a way to recenter yourself and rebuild your resilience. Sure, all the things you need to do for “self-care” should be a priority, but also just schedule downtime and let yourself be unproductive.

Meet the moment

Redefine success to meet the moment—because this moment is about survival.  If you are less productive than usual, that’s okay. Allow yourself the kindness of admitting the situation is hard and that you may not be as productive as you’d like. Practically speaking, this means you may need to schedule more time for a project than it would normally take. If you are goal-oriented, this means adjusting the timeline to meet a goal whenever possible—whether that’s extending a goal by a week, a month, or even a year. Take the time to celebrate small achievements. And if you’re not achieving as much as you’d like, recognize that this moment will pass.

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How to increase your productivity (without overworking)

In today’s volatile world of work, things are rapidly evolving at near breakneck speeds, leaving workers across industries and roles scrambling just to keep up, with very little in the way of certainties. But despite this seemingly unending tidal wave of constant change, there are a few tried and true fundamentals that still stand firm—and chief among these is that maximizing your level of productivity at work, regardless of what you do, will ultimately benefit you as you strive to work your way up the career ladder.

In fact, this notion might be truer today than ever before. At a time when companies from small startups to gigantic multinational corporations are embracing lean mindsets in an effort to stay viable with as few full-time staff members as possible, those who demonstrate the ability to consistently meet target productivity milestones will be most likely to assert their value propositions—and avoid strategic layoffs and reductions when the time comes.

These days, with many of us working remotely or on altered schedules and employers and employees alike uncertain about what work will look like moving forward, a key question that inevitably arises is how to maintain or enhance productivity while keeping a healthy work-life balance. With today’s lines between our personal and professional lives blurrier than ever before, how can we show our employers that we’re dedicated, focused, and capable of producing at high levels without overworking to the point of burnout or having work completely eclipse our existence?

If you find yourself constantly asking these questions and are curious about how to increase your productivity—and impress your bosses without overworking—then keep reading!

Set realistic targets

The truth is, you’re always going to be your very best resource when it comes to setting realistic goals for what you can—and realistically cannot—achieve at work. After all, you know yourself better than anyone else and have a lifetime of successes, failures, wins, and losses to draw upon. So a great way to move forward is to first gauge your current output alongside your schedule and levels of comfort and stress, and then look for areas where you can facilitate growth and positive change. Try to identify tasks that you’re responsible for that you could feasibly handle more efficiently or effectively. Perhaps a process change or shift in when and where you handle a particular task could lead to improvements. Maybe there are aspects of a project that you can offload to colleagues to help things run more smoothly. Take a look at what your current output is and use this kind of thinking to analyze your work and help you set realistic but ambitious goals to improve upon your productivity without overdoing it. A key facet of human behavior is that we respond well to having goals set for us to work towards—use this idea to help motivate and inspire you.

Avoid the avoidable distractions

The truth is, workers are like fingerprints—no two are exactly identical, which includes their lives, commitments, and responsibilities. These days, many of us are working remotely. In this blurring of our professional and personal lives, we have to contend with a wide array of potential distractions that threaten to chip away at our work productivity—some of which are routine, predictable, and inescapable, while others are more avoidable if we choose to put in the work to do so. Take a careful look at the things that tend to diminish your productivity on any given day and make an effort to avoid the avoidable distractions, which should help you make swift and positive changes in your productivity—hopefully with minimal effort and without having to make significant life changes.

Re-tool as needed

It’s often been said that the difference between a good plan and a great one is the ability to alter it as needed. As you devise new strategies and implement new plans to make key changes in your life to increase your productivity, pay careful attention to the results and revise things as needed. Keep the things that are working well and revisit those things that aren’t working quite so well to adjust on the fly. Trial and error is often the greatest teacher—don’t waste the opportunity to learn from your experiences, including your successes and failures, to help you plan your path to increased productivity.

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Graduating in a recession? Here’s what you should know.

If you’re about to graduate from high school, college, or some other academic or professional certification program, then congratulations are in order for your accomplishment! You likely have grand plans for what comes next, which may include landing your dream job and jumpstarting your climb up the career ladder.

While ambition is great fuel to propel you forward through your professional journey, it’s not the only factor at play that will help determine your success. The truth is, some of these variables aren’t even in your control, and more often than not a little luck and good timing can go a long way—including when you happen to graduate. Why is timing so important? Because the state of the economy when you graduate can heavily affect the sorts of opportunities you’ll encounter—or not encounter—as a new graduate.

In a booming economy, companies are likely to adopt a more optimistic and growth-oriented mindset, and job opportunities for new graduates will often be more robust and plentiful. Conversely, in an economic downturn like a recession like the one we’re currently in, companies tend to operate more cautiously in an effort to reduce expenses and avoid overextending themselves. This means they’ll be less likely to hire and more likely to implement layoffs or furloughs to reduce overhead, which means more competition in the job market at all experience levels for fewer open positions—not exactly an ideal environment for a new graduate to be jumping into.

Today’s job market is as volatile as it has been in recent memory, with a multitude of converging forces—including the global pandemic and its resultant impact on the current economy, as well as waves of new technological innovation—compelling businesses across industries and sectors to adopt lean and defensive strategies to try and offset the significant headwinds they face in an effort to stay profitable.

Simply put, entering the work world during a recession can pose some real challenges. There are more people vying for a smaller pool of available jobs, and companies are trying to figure out how to accomplish more with less in the face of a bleak economic outlook. Forecasting models for employment opportunities, at least in the short term, are less than optimistic for a wide array of fields. It certainly isn’t any job seeker’s idea of perfect timing.

That said, despite the intense competition and decidedly grim outlook, there are some strategies that you can deploy to help you navigate the choppy job market waters during a recession and try to turn the situation to your advantage.

Consider internships

True, internships are typically opportunities you take advantage of while still in college in the hopes that paid opportunities will abound upon graduation. But during a recession, when opportunities are slim, a good way to gain additional valuable experience and exposure with a potential employer is to take on an internship position. Yes, these are often not lucrative or glamorous positions, but they can be great opportunities to get your foot in the door. If and when economic conditions improve, you may be setting yourself up for serious consideration when they decide to start hiring.

Leverage your network

Job searching during a recession can be tricky, and it often requires you to be more resourceful than you’d otherwise have to be when the economy is in better shape. This means that you should think about tapping into the entire universe of contacts and tools at your disposal to find opportunities. Everyone and everything is fair game—from your friends’ parents to your parents’ friends, peers who have successfully transitioned to gainful employment, even businesses you’ve had meaningful contact with. If you can demonstrate value and convince them that you’d be a viable asset, opportunities may arise from previously unexpected sources. Also, remember that many schools continue to offer employment assistance to recent graduates—make sure you know what resources are available to you and take full advantage of them.

Be patient

Sure, after graduating you’re going to be eager to charge forward and take the work world by storm, but an economic recession may put more obstacles in your path than you were hoping to encounter. In this scenario, patience can be a real virtue. The truth is, recessions don’t last forever—economies and forward-thinking businesses tend to work through tough times and rebound. Even in difficult times there are opportunities to be found. Some companies persevere and even thrive during recessions, so don’t let news of a recession dissuade you from getting out there and finding the right job for you.

If your job hunt is taking longer than you were hoping it would, then use your free time to build and hone the skills that are most desirable for your target industry, which will only work to your advantage. Here’s the bottom line: You may have to be a little more flexible, open-minded, and patient than you normally would have to be during a booming economy, but fortune tends to favor the bold and persistent.

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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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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.

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