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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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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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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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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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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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Job surge: careers that are currently on the rise

There’s no denying that we’re currently in an extremely uncertain job environment, with everything from a persistent global pandemic and its resulting economic and social impact to waves of technological innovation forcing an evolution in how business is done at every level. In such a volatile environment, it can be a challenge for today’s businesses just to keep up and stay viable and afloat.

That said, opportunities exist even in the most volatile job markets. Although 2021 will most likely be remembered as a time of considerable disruption, those who are able to grab success from the mouth of uncertainty will likely have realized that it was also a time for reinvention, and that putting in the work to take advantage of emerging trends can yield positive results.

The following fields represent areas of real growth within the work world through 2021 and into the foreseeable future, and the great news is that opportunities in each can be found across many industries.

Mental health support

Of course, 2020 was a difficult year on many levels. Adjusting to the new rules of living thrust upon us nearly overnight as the pandemic emerged certainly took its toll, and our work lives were no exception. Although each of us had different obstacles and distractions when pivoting to remote work and maintaining appropriate levels of connectedness and productivity in tough times, one thing that united nearly all of us was the fact that 2020 was a real challenge.

Now, in the early months of 2021, things have not changed significantly. Companies across industries, from lean start-ups to huge multinational conglomerates, are taking notice of this and responding accordingly with additional support services to help their employees stay healthy and navigate forward. This includes mental health support services, with both on-staff experts to help workers and their families as well as additional benefits to help cover the costs of seeking and connecting with professionals. Having staff members who are healthy and doing well benefits employers and employees alike, so it’s no surprise that more and more opportunities for mental health support professionals are appearing.

Business development

In today’s rocky work world, companies eager to outpace the competition and position themselves for post-pandemic success are turning their focus to new business opportunities and potential revenue channels. As a result, companies are increasing their engagement with business development professionals at all levels in an effort to find new customers for their products and services. They’re even tailoring their offerings to fit changes in how companies are operating and people are living their lives—which may have accelerated during the pandemic, but reflects trends that have been occurring for a while and will likely persist in the post-pandemic world. Therefore, if you have the interest and ability to embark on a career in business development, or have a desire to learn more about what it takes to be successful in this space, there is no better time than now to get started.

Diversity experts

These days, companies are more conscious than ever before of the importance and benefit of supporting equity, equality, and diversity—both in the workplace and in the world at large. 2020 was a touchstone year for bringing these issues to the forefront of social consciousness, and hopefully, this continues through 2021 and beyond. Companies have already made commitments to promote and support greater workplace diversity, which means that the need for experts within their teams—to provide education and information as well as ensure that key goals are being met—continues to grow. That means opportunities for experts in this field abound.

If you’re at a crossroads in your career journey, either by choice or circumstance, it may be a good idea to consider one of the in-demand paths mentioned here as your next possible step. Good luck!

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The best time to discuss salary

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about when you should talk about money during the interview and hiring process. Person A: Don’t bring it up in an interview, that’s awkward and counterproductive! Person B: No, bring it up right away so you can advocate for yourself! So when should you bring up the cash money elephant in the room? Well, if you ask top recruiters and experienced hiring managers, it depends.

Don’t make money your first question

Almost universally, recruiters and hiring managers advise against making money talk the first conversation with an interviewer. While you can certainly bring it up during an interview if the conversation allows, the best course of action is to sell your achievements and resume up front, impress them with your qualifications, and let the other person bring it up. If you walk in and ask to talk about money before you’ve showed you’re a good fit for the job it can give the impression that you’re more interested in the salary than in the job itself. Even if you’re polite and really just looking for information, that kind of tone is often a turnoff for the interviewer.

Pick your audience

Many recruiters make it a point to bring salary up during a first session to make sure that nobody is wasting their time if they refer you to the hiring company. Budgets are very real, and if you’re expecting more than the company is willing to pay it doesn’t help you (or the recruiter) to move forward in the hiring process. In that case, if the recruiter doesn’t bring it up earlier it’s usually appropriate to bring it up at the end of a call.

However, by the time you’re in front of a hiring manager who’s more concerned with making sure you’re a good fit for the job and their company, salary is often a secondary consideration. Negotiation can happen later if you make it to the next level.

Choose your words carefully

“So, what does this job pay?” is a little too blunt and runs the risk of seeming rude. Better to frame it as more of a question about range and your interest in the job. For example, if you do decide to bring it up, you can try something like: “I appreciate you bringing me in for this conversation, and so far everything you’ve said about the job sounds great. I was wondering about the potential salary range for this position—is that something you can share at this point?”

Do your research before you interview

No conversation about salary or compensation is going to be productive if you’re going in without the right context and background information. Many job descriptions give a salary range up front. If this job description doesn’t, do a little digging online. Sites like Glassdoor can help you find salaries for similar roles, either at this company or others. That way if you do end up talking about salary you have a sense of what the role is worth.

If the job description does give a salary or range and you object to that number, the time to discuss that is not up front in an interview. If it’s significantly lower than you’re willing to accept then you should just consider not applying. Putting someone on the spot might not get you the negotiation you want, and they might not have any flexibility anyway. You don’t want to waste your time.

The general consensus among recruiters is that it’s okay to bring up salary early in the process—but you definitely want to pick your timing and your audience. It’s important to make sure your expectations are aligned with theirs before you get too far into the process, but if you introduce it too early in the general conversation, it’s risky. You may not get the outcome you want, and it can take the focus off of your qualification for the job.

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How to implement inclusive language in your job descriptions

There’s no time like the present to update your job descriptions. It’s usually something that should happen regularly anyway (shake off the status quo!), but with many organizations making it an active strategic goal to improve diversity hiring and recruitment, it’s now a must. However, saying it should happen and actually doing it are two different things. Job descriptions are often pared down to the bare necessities already, so finding different ways to convey the same information in a better way can be difficult. Here are some tips for revamping yours so that they are more inclusive and appealing to a broader range of applicants.

Take a close look at your existing job descriptions

Time to put on your editor hat. Read your current job descriptions and evaluate them differently—not for typos or factual correctness, but in a more generally critical way. Is there information in there that could be taken out? Are there job requirements that you put in because you feel like they’re standard, but aren’t actually hard-and-fast needs for the job? For example, do you list a bachelor’s degree as a requirement when the job could really be done by someone with fewer credentials but equivalent experience? Do you use a lot of jargon or complex phrases that might not be clear to someone who speaks English as a second language?

The goal here is clarity for people from a broad range of abilities and backgrounds. Your job description should be limited to “must-have” requirements, expressed clearly. There’s no real upside here for using a five-dollar word when a shorter one will do.

Create a “diversity style guide” for your organization

Style guides are used in formal writing and editing to make sure certain standards are being met. Making one that specializes in language specific to diversity and inclusion can help make sure that anyone writing job descriptions on your team is using consistent language. You can define “bias words” to avoid and give your people tools for framing job requirements in ways that don’t alienate potential candidates. Diversity Style Guide is a good reference as you start working on yours to help you see what kind of language carries bias or problematic overtones.

Emphasize your commitment to diversity

In addition to the basic points about the job and your company, make sure you’re calling out that you’re a diverse organization that is committed to finding the best people. Space can be at a premium when you’re trying to fit in all the information, but even just a sentence or two in your posting can make a variety of readers feel more welcome to apply.

Consider adding information about diversity-focused benefits to demonstrate your commitment to inclusive hiring. This can include blurbs about employee resource groups that support inclusion, any internal committees devoted to diversity, and needs accommodations (like flexible work arrangements or accessible offices).

Use tech as a tool to boost your inclusive language

Writers are human. As such, we’re always going to be subject to certain kinds of bias, consciously or not. There are a number of resources out there that can flag and remove biased language, as well as recommend replacement text. Tools like Textio and OnGig’s text analyzer help you minimize bias and maximize inclusivity in your job descriptions. If you’re unsure of whether something is inclusive or not, these tools can help remove that uncertainty.

Like with any other aspect of improving diversity and inclusivity, meaningful change to your job descriptions means thoughtful evaluation and educating yourself to ensure you’re reaching out to as many people as possible. It’s a great chance to revisit your current job descriptions and make sure you’re writing the best, most broadly appealing ones that you can. Your talent pool will be all the better for it.

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Inclusive leadership: how to become a leader for all

Inclusivity isn’t just a goal for recruiting or for your specific team. It’s a goal for anyone in leadership in an organization. The responsibility doesn’t start with HR, or a board—it starts with you. And me. And anyone with aspirations of moving up to a senior role. The best leaders don’t just say they’re inclusive; they show it in every aspect of their professional lives.

Inclusive leaders aren’t just team builders, they have the talent to find people who bring diverse backgrounds and perspectives. A truly inclusive leader makes sure everyone feels heard, engaged, and supported. This translates very directly into results: a Harvard Business Review study found that teams with inclusive leaders were 17% more likely to report high performance. Respondents also reported being significantly more likely to make high-quality decisions and act collaboratively. Inclusive leadership also gets people through the door: the HBR review found that for every 10% increase in perceived inclusivity, work attendance improved almost one day per year per employee.

One of the great things about leadership is that as a skill, it’s always growing and developing—you always have room to improve. And if you’re interested in becoming a more diverse leader in your organization, there are ways you can build those skills.

Commit to inclusivity

This should be a personal goal, one that should be clear in all of the work that you do. That includes voicing open support for diversity and inclusion. It also includes doing so when it’s not so easy or when you might experience pushback from others. Agreeing that there are imbalances in power isn’t enough—by speaking out about the status quo and expressing specific ways you can work on changing it to be more inclusive, you’re showing your commitment.

Understand how biases work

Very few of us would say outright that we’re biased. In reality, bias is often an inherent part of human nature and perception. The trick to overcoming it is to understand what’s going on. You may feel a certain way about someone, but do you understand why? And once you consider why you perceive things as you do, are you willing to do everything you can to minimize those personal predispositions that might have more to do with you than the other person?

Bias can take many forms in an organization, from straight-up discrimination to assumptions. For example, assumptions like “this system works well for me. It must work well for everyone here.” Or “as long as someone works hard, they’ll naturally get promoted.” Others may be facing challenges that you can’t see. These blind spots can prevent you from being a naturally inclusive leader.

Don’t be afraid to admit your challenges

Good leaders are modest and willing to admit when they’re facing challenges or making mistakes. This can be just as important as sharing “inspirational” successes. By sharing the bad with the good with members of your team, it helps create a space where people can succeed—and even fail—together, in a productive way.

Be curious about others

One of the most important aspects of inclusive leadership is being open to learning more about people: people’s experiences, perspectives, and ideas. Being openly curious about others (in an entirely professional way, of course) involves listening without judgment, offering constructive criticism, and asking open-ended questions that give team members a chance to show what they bring to the table.

This kind of curiosity also helps build cultural intelligence. The more you learn about your employees and their points of view, the more you’re likely to learn about different cultures, socioeconomic experiences, religious perspectives, etc. The goal isn’t to build a happy, seamless team that avoids those differences, but rather a team of individuals that demonstrates how those perspectives can come together and provide results for the company.

Emphasize collaboration

Leaders who turn their teams into competitive machines may get short-term results, but they also get high rates of burnout and turnover. Instead, make sure you’re doing everything you can to enhance collaboration and cooperation to achieve goals. When considering specific tasks or projects, think about how you can get team members to work effectively toward shared goals.

Being an inclusive manager certainly means prioritizing diverse hiring and team assignments. But if you’re looking to take your leadership skills to the next level, put the thought and effort into making sure that you’re truly embracing all of your team and finding ways for them to shine.

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Thinking about grad school? Consider this before applying.

There’s no denying the fact that we’re currently living through extremely uncertain times—with everything from a persistent global pandemic and its resulting economic and social impact to waves of technological innovation forcing an evolution across nearly every facet of our lives. As we try to navigate through these unprecedented times, all of these volatile forces have led many of us to powerful inflection points in our lives. In such an unpredictable environment, it can be a challenge to figure out what strategies for personal fulfillment and career advancement make sense, as we wonder what work and life will look like in a post-COVID world and what skills we’ll need to master to succeed in the future.

Although this current era will most likely be remembered as a time of considerable disruption, even in the most volatile of times opportunities exist—especially for those who are brave enough to consider reinventing themselves and allow for growth and change. Chief among the options to consider at moments like these is continuing education. Whether or not to go to grad school is a common decision many of you might be currently thinking about. It’s long been said that those who embrace the notion of lifelong learning are best poised to steer through uncertainty and grab success from the mouth of uncertainty.

Going to grad school is a big move and one you should carefully think through before deciding whether or not to race full steam ahead. Is investing the time, money, and effort to go to grad school a worthwhile investment for you? Consider the following before making your final decision.

What are your goals?

Everyone likely has a different set of reasons for considering grad school, based on your individual life goals. Are you looking to advance your career or embark on a new professional path? Build new skills for personal advancement or just dive into a new hobby or area of interest? Make sure to have a clear understanding of your reasons for wanting to go to grad school so you can get started on the path to making an informed and careful decision regarding whether it is wise or even necessary to achieve your goals.

What will it cost?

In years past, grad school was considered a rock-solid investment in your personal and professional future. But times change, and it’s forcing folks to reevaluate the value of pursuing an advanced degree in this brave new world of rapidly evolving opportunities. A big factor that’s upsetting the old way of thinking is cost—simply put, the cost of earning a graduate degree has skyrocketed in recent years, and finding the funds to finance grad school has become more challenging. On top of this, the notion of borrowing your way through grad school has become increasingly less desirable as the stigma against burying yourself in student loan debt continues to grow and gain attention. When thinking about grad school, be sure to have a clear sense of all costs involved when determining if it’s a good decision for you.

Do you have alternatives?

When weighing the decision to go to grad school, ask yourself if the return on investment makes sense for you based on your specific goals or if there are viable alternative options worth considering. If your goals are centered around professional advancement, ask yourself if grad school is a requirement to move up the ladder in your field or if are there other avenues for growth. If your goals are more aligned with the pursuit for self-improvement, ask yourself if there are other ways to achieve these goals that may make more sense for you. When weighing any significant life decision, you should always consider the alternatives—and deciding whether or not to go to grad school is no exception.

In this era of uncertainty and change, it can be a great time to take stock of your life and retool. As we look forward into the future, reflect on experiences and lessons learned, and think about what we want out of life moving forward, it can be a prime opportunity to set new goals, take on new challenges, and work towards enacting positive change. If deciding whether or not to go to grad school is on your horizon, consider the point mentioned here to help you make the right decision.

The post Thinking about grad school? Consider this before applying. appeared first on TheJobNetwork.