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How to network virtually and make meaningful connections

It’s no secret that the entire work world has been experiencing incredibly rapid shifts at speeds that would have been completely unpredictable just a few years ago. We can point to a few obvious reasons why things are currently in a state of such unprecedented flux, including a global pandemic that has profoundly impacted nearly every facet of life, as well as a tidal wave of technological innovation that’s forcing a rapid evolution in how work and business are conducted at every level.

But the truth is, things in the work world are always evolving and change is a variable that we must constantly contend with—whether or not we see it coming. Those among us who respond accordingly to change are best positioned to pivot effectively and find a successful path forward.

Chief among the recent changes in the professional world has been the transition to remote work. All of a sudden (literally overnight in many instances), employees at all levels and across industries have had to quickly adjust and get comfortable with the notion of working and connecting with others virtually—and many employers have discovered that employees who are well-positioned to work remotely can be just as effective or even more so while working at home. That means we should expect some of these changes to persist long after the pandemic recedes.

Now that the game has changed, in order to remain viable as an employee or a prospective candidate for a new position you have to be able to network virtually—either with your current employer or to lock down a new opportunity. 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 virtual networking strategies to help you reach new levels of success.

Be a joiner

Thanks to social networking platforms and professional organizations that are hosting virtual meetups, you can build your brand and network without ever leaving home—just be sure to be proactive and seek them out. The best part is that once you start getting involved and meeting new folks, your reputation will grow, and new chances to build upon your network will open up. Then, hopefully, word of who you are and what you potentially offer as a prospective employee spreads far and wide. Just make sure you remain active and engaged and seek out the right events—in the world of virtual networking, not all opportunities are created equal, and some industries are notorious for being prey to sketchy online events that are little more than costly scams. As with all things online, research carefully and proceed with caution.

Don’t be shameless

Snagging a promotion or new job these days often requires you to sell more than just your passion and personality—it often requires you to sell yourself as a good potential fit or addition to a company’s existing culture and brand. In today’s work world, your best opportunity to make a good first impression is to establish a solid brand presence online. If done correctly, it will open up new networking opportunities. When networking virtually, it can be hard to demonstrate your sincerity and genuine eagerness to selflessly contribute to the success of others—factors that are often key in developing deep and lasting professional connections. Always remember that displaying transparent or self-serving motives is not the way to build a healthy professional virtual network. Be humble, appreciative, and helpful towards others, and be careful not to display hollow attempts at quick and shameless self-promotion because others will likely see right through you and label you accordingly.

Know your tools

These days, networking opportunities can come (or disappear) in the blink of an eye and the difference between success and failure can come down to your ability to effectively seize the moment. Networking platforms and video conferencing technology allow us to make quick impressions of others and schedule impromptu meetings at a moment’s notice. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to use the tools at your disposal to enhance your visibility—including video conferencing, social networks, email, and text exchanges, and yes, even phone calls in an effort to stay connected, build brand equity and demonstrate your value. Make sure you’re comfortable with using the wide range of available tools so that you come off as professional and polished. This will help you avoid embarrassing flubs or missteps.

Make a better effort

Just because it can be harder to network and make meaningful connections virtually, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible or should be avoided—in fact, it should push you to double your efforts. Work harder to stay in touch with people in your orbit, keep them updated on how things are going in your professional life, and show an interest in theirs, and if feasible try and organize after-work events and activities to stay connected. Remember, professional relationships are just like other types of relationships—they require effort on your part, so don’t forget to nurture them.

Networking virtually can open up a world of potential opportunities, as well as help you build your personal brand and advance your career—but it also poses some new challenges. Use the strategies and advice presented here to make and sustain meaningful connections with colleagues from anywhere.

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Follow these rules to write a better cover letter

If you ask several people about whether you need to write a cover letter these days, you’re likely to get a variety of responses, ranging from “don’t bother, they’re too old fashioned” to “of course you should still write one.” So what’s the right answer, in this world of automated online applications and AI bots reading your resume before a human does?

The honest answer is that…there is no right answer. A cover letter might not always be needed. However, a cover letter can absolutely help you, and you have nothing to lose by writing one to go with any application package. The trick is to write an effective cover letter: one that isn’t too long, and one that catches the attention of a hiring manager who may be spending mere seconds skimming an application package.

Think about the reader

Think short, think sweet. People are busy and may have a very short time to review your cover letter and resume. Gone are the days when someone would open your snail-mailed resume, and read the letter printed on thick stock in your nicest font, with the most formal of greetings. Let’s face it: you’ve probably submitted your application online, and anyone reading your cover letter is using a computer screen or smaller. That means you should write something that is relatively short and is broken up into readable blocks of text to minimize strain.

Assume that the person will be reading it essentially as they would read an email, so prioritize the layout and length accordingly. Avoid strange text formatting, and don’t include long paragraphs if you can help it.

Create a solid hook

Your cover letter is the opportunity to set the tone for your resume, and frame it—especially if you’re trying to explain any gaps or other issues that wouldn’t be clear in the standalone resume. This is a chance to do your elevator pitch, so to speak. You want to highlight your best qualification for the job, and why you are uniquely suited to get the offer.

If you have a personal connection to the job, or a brief anecdote, open with that. Just make sure you don’t go into too much detail, or write a novel about your experience. Your resume should convey any supporting information, but the cover letter can help frame that information positively.

Don’t just rehash your resume

Your resume, which you’re also spending lots of time writing and refining, should be able to stand on its own. If you spend your cover letter reviewing what the person is going to read in your resume, it’s kind of a waste of your time and theirs. Take the time and space to highlight the skills and achievements that are most important to you (and potentially the job). This is not the place for bullet points about responsibilities.

Think of it as a best-of highlights reel, and choose accordingly. The person reading the letter should know about your biggest wins and best stats, not everything you’ve ever done.

Use powerful, non-cliched language

Cover letters have become so formal and templated over the years, and that may be partly why they’ve started to feel unnecessary. “To whom it may concern, I am honored to apply for this job at X Corp…” Instead, use the cover letter to show off your communication skills, including strong word choices. Use active verbs whenever possible to show your achievements, instead of passive phrases like “I believe I am _____” and clichés like “I am a hard worker.”

Employers see those all the time—and again, the goal here is to avoid having the reader glazing over because they’ve seen the same thing over and over. You want yours to be clear and compelling. Make brief points that show the readers, rather than tell them.

The cover letter is also a chance to work in some keywords from the job description. This shows attention to detail, and may also help with any automated ingest system that the company is using to do a preliminary evaluation of your application package. There’s no need to overuse phrases from the job description—again, the real estate is limited, and if you’re using it to summarize a job description that the reader already knows that’s a waste of time. However, you can choose keywords to tie your experience to the job you’re seeking.

You should always check a job description to see if it calls for a cover letter; but even if it doesn’t explicitly ask for one, you should still consider writing one. Even a short, straight-to-the-point cover letter can help you give essential context and narrative for your resume, and the fact that you went out of your way to write one can be a point in your favor. The care you put into crafting a smart, targeted cover letter just might make the difference between you and other applicants.

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How to ensure your next job is LGBTQ+ friendly

Now more than ever, companies are looking to be more inclusive of different genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Part of this is due to broader calls in society to be more diverse, and part of it is simply the market talking: more than two-thirds of job seekers have identified workplace diversity as a key component of their job search. When you factor in the 4.5% of the U.S. population that identifies as LGBTQ+, this makes it a significant priority for many.

If you’re one of these majority job seekers who seek inclusivity as part of your next career move, you don’t have to go into it blind, only to find out later in the process whether or not your new prospective company is walking the walk. There are ways to do your due diligence upfront, and make sure you’re seeking out the right company for you.

Check their website and social media

A company’s website is a major part of its company branding, so it should be your first stop in any job application process. Is there a range of people represented on the site? Is there a mission or values statement that specifically commits to diversity, and/or mentions support for LGBTQ+ employees and communities? Does their official social media seem supportive?

It’s a great sign if a company website has a dedicated section to talk about diversity and provides specifics about programs and statistics to back their efforts.

Look into how they supported Pride

Does the company financially support local Pride events? That can show a financial commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community, going beyond mere PR mentions, hashtags, or lines on the website.

As important as Pride Month is for showing support, it’s also crucial to look beyond. Lots of companies and corporate brands show tons of support in June—but are they also doing it other times of the year as well? Pride-based support is a more positive indicator than no vocal support, but if there’s no peep about LGBTQ+ inclusivity at other times, it might tell you that it’s not necessarily a year-round priority for the company.

Do some networking

Sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn can help you get a little more insight into the people that work for the company. On review sites like Glassdoor, what kind of feedback are self-identified LGBTQ+ employees leaving? As with any reviews, though, you should take extra-glowing ones or extra negative ones with a grain of salt. It’s better to look at trends overall rather than one or two particular reviews—after all, you never know if someone has an ulterior motive.

Through LinkedIn, you can try to connect with people who currently or recently work at the company you’re considering. A brief email can help you get the lowdown on what the company’s culture is like, whether people from minority communities are happy working there, etc. Plus, you never know when having a connection at the company will help at other points in the job process, so your curiosity and connection now could help you later.

Ask!

If you’re working with a recruiter or an HR rep, do they offer their pronouns? Do they ask for yours? During any interviews (informational or formal), you should feel free to ask specifically about how the company supports its LGBTQ+ employees. You’re not ever obligated to disclose your own personal gender or sexual orientation as part of an interview, but you can still ask more general questions that help you get more information. Questions like these can help you get a comprehensive picture of how the company approaches diversity and inclusion:

  • What are the core values for this company?
  • Do you have any employee resource groups for LGBTQ+ employees?
  • How does this company promote inclusivity among its employees?
  • Does this company provide any diversity or unconscious bias training for managers and employees?

The training question is especially helpful for gauging a company’s real, on-the-ground support for a more inclusive workforce. If they have programs in place for educating the organization on diversity, it shows a commitment to addressing this moving forward—not just putting a bandage to solve short-term diversity goals. LGBTQ+ inclusion has become a priority for companies and job hunters alike, and it’s one that can be helped along even further by applicants who look (and ask) for better accountability. If the best talent is committing to organizations that vocally and aggressively support genuine inclusivity, even the stragglers will start to come along as well. Everyone deserves to work somewhere that supports people of diverse backgrounds, and by doing some of this research upfront, you can help make sure that your next opportunity is a good fit.

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HR, It’s time to normalize career gaps. Here’s how.

For a long time, the standard advice for job hunting was “hide your gaps.” Whether you took time off for personal or family reasons, lost a job, or just didn’t have a specific kind of experience, the goal was to make it look like you’ve been seamlessly in the game (and on top of your game) all the way through. But reality has always been a bit different—life throws curveballs at all of us at some point, and sometimes it will inevitably impact our work life. And sometimes we prioritize other life factors over career development. It’s time that we stop pretending that the only worthwhile work experience is a relentless, unbroken line from school to retirement.

With the pandemic year, more people than ever are going to have gaps in their resumes due to layoffs, health concerns, or caring for children or family members. People are being “forced” out of the workforce at alarming rates—but at some point, they’ll need to be back in it. Stigmatizing gaps is counterproductive, and may just marginalize people more when they could be great assets to your company.

Still, silently having your recruiters ignore gaps on resumes isn’t the solution. Companies can be proactive in finding ways to find and help people who’ve taken breaks or been out of the workforce.

Focus on skills in your recruitment

Start with your job descriptions. Are they focused on having X years of experience, or “current” experience? In order to reach talent that might have the skills and background, but not the currency, you should target the job skills and requirements. Quality, not quantity, should be the priority here.

Otherwise, someone who had years of experience as, say, a marketing manager creating successful campaigns before leaving her job three years ago to take care of her kids, might not apply for a job that specifies current experience in the role. It’s not about lowering standards, but about making sure your language is inclusive of people who know they can do the job, and have the skills but be scared off by the idea that only current experience counts.

Even something as small as “or equivalent experience” can help bridge a resume gap for someone who may not have been working in the role, but has relevant non-work experience in the meantime.

In interviews, you can also expand the playing field a bit by going beyond the resume and giving the interviewee an open-ended opportunity to provide specific and relevant examples of skills or past experience, even if their work experience isn’t super-current.

Make your application experience more inclusive

Drop-down menus on a website may seem like a minor thing, but if you’ve ever had to select from a range of options that don’t really apply to you it can be off-putting or even alienating. If you recruit online and direct users to choose from a set of specific job titles, consider making those menus more inclusive of people who have been doing alternative work—for example, parents.

Recently, LinkedIn added “stay at home parent” and other caretaker options to their list of profile jobs. Just seeing this kind of option in an official capacity can help normalize unpaid work for people who’ve been outside the traditional workforce. In turn, applicants can feel more validated (instead of ashamed) when they’re trying to get back into a different work mode. It shows that your company is open to considering people who have gaps or less traditional work roles.

Consider adding “returnship” programs to your hiring repertoire

People who have gaps in their resumes may feel insecure about returning to a standard office environment after time away. Having a “returnship” or “return-to-work” program—which offers mentorship, skill-building and training opportunities, and support—can help older workers re-entering the workforce, parents who’ve taken time off for family care, or people who’ve faced long periods of unemployment. It’s kind of a middle ground between an internship (which is typically unpaid and geared toward entry-level employees) and jumping back into a full-time job after time away.

The key to returnship programs is making sure you’re clear about offering them. Job seekers may confuse them with internships, and feel like they’re too old or too experienced to apply. By making this kind of program a clear part of your recruitment (and promoting them in your standard recruitment channels), your company may find talent pools that were just not part of your passive recruitment before.

Resume gaps are often a fact of life. The more companies prioritize applicant quality over experience quantity and continuity, the greater the upside. And tools to help ease the transition for people who’ve been “outside the lines,” so to speak, will help ensure that you’re creating a productive work relationship for all involved.

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Are employers prioritizing diversity? What job seekers should demand from their employers

For years, many companies have been saying that they need to increase diversity in their hiring. However, the call for accountability on this is stronger than ever before. Over the past year, tragic events like the killing of George Floyd have brought a society-wide reckoning on why there are such glaring gaps in opportunities. The call to do better in fighting systemic racism and economic inequality has shifted diversity and inclusivity from a “we need to talk about this” goal to a “we need to do this” goal for many organizations. So what can job seekers do to help companies be more accountable on these measures?

According to a recent survey by Survey Monkey and Living Corporate, 79% of job seekers rate hiring and workplace diversity as an important factor in choosing their next employer. Yet only 34% of the people surveyed said they had been interviewed by a diverse set of interviewers. It can be difficult to tell which companies are talking a good game about their inclusion, and which ones are actively working to improve.

Do your research ahead of time

Before you apply, it’s time to do a little digging on the specific company. This is a good job search practice anyway, but make sure you’re looking for more than just a vague mission statement.

What to look for when researching a potential new employer:

  • Is diversity mentioned as a core value on their website? Are there mission statements openly committing to a diverse, inclusive experience for employees, clients, customers, etc.?
  • Is the leadership team diverse in race/ethnicity and gender?
  • On sites like Glassdoor, are people mentioning diversity—and what are they saying? Are employees of color leaving negative reviews?
  • Are they certified by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which emphasizes anti-bias training practices?
  • Do you know anyone (or have anyone in your LinkedIn network) who works there, and can speak to what diversity is really like in the day-to-day workings of the company?
  • Is their social media inclusive?

These are all things you can suss out with some basic online research. If this kind of information isn’t readily available online, you can also reach out to the company’s recruiters or HR to get more information. You have nothing to lose by doing some preliminary exploring—and even the most basic research could turn up some red flags that help you avoid a company that doesn’t support diverse employees.

Don’t wait until you have a job offer to ask questions

Part of the growth that’s happening has to be asking tough questions—and expecting honest, constructive answers. Many companies have a plan to look for more diverse candidates, or work with current employees to become more inclusive and culturally sensitive. It’s fair to ask about these things—part of your job search is finding a company whose culture and values align with your own values.

If you’re a candidate coming in for an interview, you will inevitably be asked if you have any questions about the job or the company. This is a perfect time to ask about what the company is doing to ensure a more inclusive work experience for employees of all kinds.

Possible questions to consider asking:

  • Can you share some statistics on your company’s diversity?
  • What are the core values of this company?
  • What do diversity and inclusion mean to this company?
  • What kinds of diversity programs are already in place?
  • How does this company increase diversity in recruiting?
  • What does your organization do to make sure that everyone feels included?
  • Does the company offer diversity, inclusion, or cultural sensitivity training to employees at all levels?
  • How does the company manage accountability for ongoing diversity and inclusion, beyond training?

These are all questions that a hiring manager or HR person should be able to answer in a straightforward way. If the answer is always “we’ll get back to you on that,” or “that’s in our plan for the future,” that could be a sign that the company isn’t moving along in its diversity and inclusion efforts.

As a job seeker, you need to decide for yourself what level of diversity accountability you expect from a potential employer. Ultimately, you’re joining a company’s culture, for better or worse—and if they aren’t willing to put in the work to find and maintain an inclusive workforce, then they might not be the right fit for you. Asking direct questions helps move the conversation forward into reality. If companies know that the talent out there is expecting certain levels of accountability, they’re more likely to take proactive steps against bias, systemic racism, and other forms of discrimination.     

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Ghostbuster: How to follow up with an unresponsive interviewer

You’re likely aware 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 and economic fallout caused by the global pandemic, one thing is abundantly clear: if you’re going to cut through the competition and get noticed by the headhunters and gatekeepers who stand between you and locking down your next great job, you’re going to need to be tenacious and at your absolute best at every step of the job hunt.

Let’s assume that you’ve heeded this advice and have approached this process ready to outdo your fellow job search candidates. You’ve crafted a stellar resume that perfectly highlights your experience and accomplishments; you’ve developed a cover letter that grabbed the attention of hiring managers and held it long enough to snag an interview, and you’ve dazzled the folks you met at the interview and were able to make a clear and compelling case regarding your value proposition should they bring you on board.

Everything seems to be going precisely according to plan, and at this point, you may be thinking that all you need to do is sit back, relax, and wait for the call to let you know that an offer is being made. Not so fast—like most things in life, the job hunt process doesn’t always go according to plan. If the moments you’re waiting around for that coveted callback start stretching out longer and longer into eternity, you may be starting to worry that something went wrong.

If you’re currently in this position or fear that you may find yourself here in the future during your job search then relax, breathe, and consider the following strategies for dealing with a potentially unresponsive interviewer before your anxiety levels get the better of you.

Be realistic

The truth is, what may seem like forever to you while waiting to hear back from an interviewer may not actually be. If you think that you’re bound to get a call or email that same day or even that same week, it’s time to tamp down your expectations a bit. The folks who have taken the time out of their busy schedules to interview you likely have a lot of other responsibilities eating up their time, so before you start assuming that you’ve been ghosted try to determine if it’s just you who needs to be more patient. A good rule of thumb is to expect a wait in the range of 10–14 days before hearing back either way. If you’re lucky, you’ll be alerted during an interview about how long you should expect to wait to hear a response—if so, be sure to heed this helpful information before assuming the worst.

Be polite and professional

Let’s say that a significant amount of time has passed (at least 2 weeks) and you’ve still heard nothing. At this point, it’s ok to start thinking about a follow-up call or email. Make sure that the purpose of your follow-up is to enthusiastically restate your interest in the position and to reassert your potential value-add in a calm, polite, and professional manner. Use clear and precise language and keep things brief and straight to the point. Check your emotions at the door, even if you thought the first interview went amazingly and you’re shocked and hurt that you haven’t heard back yet. If you’re planning to call and think you’ll do a better job scripting out your message beforehand, that’s always an option—just be sure to practice saying it a few times beforehand so it doesn’t come off as too wooden or artificial. And be sure to leave your contact details on the message, just in case. If you’re going to send an email you’ll be able to plan and draft your message carefully, just be sure to follow the same advice as above before sending it.

One and done

Once you make your call to follow up with an interviewer, that’s it—you should only make an attempt once. Any additional attempts may come off as desperate, annoying, or possibly unprofessional. If you still don’t receive any response after a few weeks, it’s safe to assume that they’ve moved on, and you should too. Although you may be waiting for a call back for your absolute dream job, the truth is you can’t control everything in life—no matter how badly you may want something. Plus, when it comes to job hunting it’s never a great idea to put all your eggs in one basket. You may never get that response you’re waiting for, good or bad, and it’s in your best interests to open yourself up to other potential opportunities.

Hunting for a new job can be a significant life challenge in even the best of times; in today’s ultra-competitive, rapidly shifting, and volatile landscape you need to do whatever you can to stack the odds in your favor. Dealing with a potentially unresponsive interviewer is just one of the many hurdles you’ll have to face and overcome on the road to landing your next job—but if you handle the situation effectively you’ll be helping to set yourself up for success.

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Remote work stressing you out? It might be “Zoom Fatigue”

It’s hard to accurately capture just how volatile and disruptive the global pandemic has been to the entire work world. But thankfully the wave of new technological innovation that’s been sweeping across industries for years, alongside an increasingly tech-savvy and efficient workforce, has allowed many companies to continue operating remotely, achieve their target business goals, and consistently hit their key performance metrics— often at pre-pandemic levels of efficiency.

Of course, the pandemic helped accelerate the remote working trend, but the truth is that it’s been gaining acceptance for a while—and it’s likely here to stay even as Covid eases its grip. That said, while working remotely offers employees new levels of flexibility and businesses reap the benefits of getting things done while keeping infrastructure costs low, many folks are struggling with new challenges—including unprecedented levels of burnout, stress, and fatigue.

The truth is, not every employee has adjusted to working remotely equally. Simply put, not all work-from-home situations are created equal. Some folks have many more hurdles and distractions to contend with in order to remain productive. Kids, ambient noise, and laggy wi-fi speed, among others, are big factors in how successful the adjustment has been. Many of us prefer having a clearer division between our professional and personal lives, and working from home has blurred that distinction to say the least. Also, some of us are more social creatures than others and crave the camaraderie and in-person interaction with our colleagues. Its absence is striking, despite the prevalence of available video conferencing tools like Zoom.

In fact, there’s even a term to describe the adverse effects of spending too much time video conferencing: Zoom Fatigue. Why is Zoom causing so many of us to feel a bit more stressed and fatigued than usual? According to a recent study by Stanford University, “while the software has been an essential tool for productivity, learning, and social interaction, something about being on videoconference all day seems particularly exhausting.” They point out four critical yet largely overlooked reasons regarding the subtle pervasiveness of Zoom Fatigue:

  • Excessive amounts of close-up eye gaze: We can normally break eye contact while in person by looking away, but that doesn’t happen at the same frequency while on Zoom. This becomes a source of physiological and psychological exhaustion—especially when there are multiple faces at equal proximity on screen.
  • Excessive cognitive load: The increased amount of conscious and subconscious management of social cues and verbal/nonverbal gestures—both our own that we send out to the world and those we receive from others—can be a real source of drain.  
  • Increased self-evaluation from staring at video of oneself: The relentless “staring-into-a-mirror” nature of Zoom can be a tedious but acceptable reality in infrequent short bursts. But as the amount of time we spend on it increases, the fatigue we feel while being constantly and actively engaged in self-evaluation for prolonged periods takes its toll.
  • Constraints on physical mobility: The small perceptual bubble of space that Zoom covertly forces us to remain in inhibits our natural tendency and preference to gesticulate and move while speaking and restricts our comfort. Over time, this effect only aggregates and wears us out.

Do you feel like you may be experiencing added stress and fatigue from working remotely and spending too much time using video conferencing software like Zoom? If so, it’s more than ok—in fact, it’s completely normal. The truth is, the new normal of remote work is a largely untested entity and none of us know for sure what the long-term effects of this work arrangement may be. If you’re finding yourself in this situation, then consider adopting the following rules for healthy and productive remote working and avoiding burnout. 

Set realistic targets

.As the pandemic struck, many of us went from our normal work routines to remote working in the blink of an eye, and adjusting to this change hasn’t been easy for everyone. The truth is, each of us has a different set of life circumstances, arrangements, and distractions that affect how easy or challenging it can be to work effectively from home. To help prevent fatigue and all-out burnout, be sure to work with your employer to set realistic performance targets that take your unique situation into account.

Stay connected—beyond Zoom

A significant challenge when working remotely is maintaining an appropriate level of connection with 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 emotional and mental health and work performance. Work with your coworkers to stay connected with each other, and not just on Zoom (for the reasons stated above)—phone calls, emails, and text exchanges are still great modes of communication, and if feasible and mutually agreed upon, consider safe in-person interactions. This will help you stay engaged, feel supported, keep productive, and achieve target performance milestones.

Avoid the avoidable distractions

The truth is, employees are a lot like fingerprints—no two of us are exactly the same, and this includes our lives, commitments, and responsibilities. While working remotely we each have to contend with a mix 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 effort to do so. As a rule, 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 maximize your productivity with minimal effort—and reduce your work stress in the process.

Retool as needed

The difference between a good plan and a great one is the ability to update and revise it as needed. For many of us, working remotely is a relatively new concept and will likely require some trial and error to get things right. As businesses and employees devise strategies and implement plans for working remotely, both sides should pay careful attention to the results and adjust things as needed. When it comes to remote working, don’t waste the opportunity to learn from your experiences, including your successes and failures, to help plan a successful path forward.

As we slowly emerge from the pandemic and look ahead to a post-Covid world, all of us—employers and employees alike—are going to have to learn to adjust to the new normals of the work world. In a time of extreme uncertainty, one thing that’s clear is that remote work isn’t going away anytime soon. As we navigate through this new terrain, it’s helpful for businesses and employees to try and establish some ground rules to confront new sources if stress and fatigue and make this transition successful.

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Open hiring: Reimagining the hiring process…without resumes

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed so many things about the workplace—how we work, where we work, the workforce itself. While getting back to “normal,” many companies are also facing the challenge of filling low-skill or entry-level jobs as the economy stabilizes. Traditional hiring practices often exclude entire groups of workers, which is an additional hurdle for companies that want to be more inclusive and diverse in their hiring. These changes just might mean abandoning a cornerstone of the hiring process: the resume.

The Harvard Business Review recently found that companies often spend upward of $4,100 per employee on processing resumes, interviewing, running background checks, and conducting pre-employment screenings. As businesses look for ways to make hiring more cost-effective as well as reaching a broader applicant pool, “open hiring” is a potential option.

What is open hiring?

So what is open hiring? It’s the idea that traditional hiring paperwork and steps (like resumes, interviews, and background checks) may be too limiting and too resource-consuming. In it, a company would try hiring applicants for entry-level jobs who meet a minimal set of requirements (for example, citizenship, ability to perform physical labor, and a motivation to do the work). It doesn’t mean getting rid of all standards. It does mean being willing to offer a job opportunity to people on a first-come, first-served basis. Employees would still need to meet professional standards like food handling, safety, and performance expectations once hired.

Open hiring isn’t for all industries—many, like healthcare, finance, or education, require significant background checks or vetting. However, industries with front-line workers like retail, manufacturing, or food service, and other jobs that don’t require specific skills to get started, can be a good fit. These kinds of roles often provide on-the-job training, and can benefit from a wider applicant pool.

Open hiring gives a chance to people who might struggle to get past traditional gatekeeping but would be productive employees. This can include people in recovery for addiction issues, differently abled people, the homeless, or people looking for a second chance after being incarcerated—groups that often face high rates of discrimination and joblessness. It also limits bias (unconscious or not), which can sneak into any hiring process.

What are the benefits of open hiring?

When you remove barriers from the hiring process, it speeds things up. Companies looking to fill high-turnover positions or seasonal jobs typically need to staff up quickly. Jobs that don’t require specialized skill sets can be filled faster, using fewer resources. Open hiring carries  essentially no hiring costs. 

Open hiring also cuts down on bias, which is a significant problem in hiring. If hiring is done on based on the next name on the list, a hiring manager is less likely to insert prejudices or discrimination into the hiring process (whether they realize they’re doing it or not). This is a relatively straightforward way to increase inclusivity.

How do you move to an open hiring system?

Dropping resumes and background checks in favor of a simplified application is just the first step. If you want your system to be successful in the long term, that means creating an environment where people are set up to succeed. Low-skill or entry-level jobs can be difficult for people facing challenges in their personal lives. Empathy for excluded groups is a good start but it’s also important to have clear accountability in place, and open communication with employees about what’s expected of them on the job.

Companies that use open hiring often work with social service agencies that can offer counseling, housing, educational, or other support resources that can help workers keep their job and grow into more skilled roles. Agencies can help maintain employee confidentiality, while taking the onus off of the company itself to support vulnerable employees directly.

You can also start small—dropping the resume requirement for a job opening or two and seeing how that works for your company before making it a business-wide policy.

Open hiring can bring great rewards, with talent you might otherwise never have found. All hiring comes down to one thing: does this person have the potential to do the job, and do it well? Whether you’re looking at a resume and a detailed background check or reviewing an application that just came in from someone who seems able and willing to give the job a shot, your hiring decision is largely a leap of faith. If you bring thoughtfulness and optimism to the open hiring process, you will likely find it a worthwhile option.

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Is a career in logistics right for you?

If you’re at a point in your career journey where you’re exploring new options in preparation for a possible change, then you may want to consider a career in logistics if your interests, background, and skill set align. It’s a growing field with lots of interesting challenges and opportunities for those who are up to the task.

Are you intrigued? Let’s take a closer look at the field and what a career in logistics might look like should you decide to take the plunge.

The basics

Let’s get some of the basics out of the way first. At its core, logisticians are typically tasked with analyzing and overseeing supply chain management (SCM) for a company and making sure that productivity and efficiency are maximized at every step. Depending on the size and scope of a business, the range of complexity and interconnected parts of the supply chain can vary wildly, so you may be tasked with coordinating a massive system that requires nonstop effort.

An understanding of today’s leading-edge data analysis and SCM software tools is important for achieving success in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of logisticians is projected to grow 4 percent over the next decade, and job prospects should be best for candidates who have experience using logistical software or doing logistical work for the military.

Opportunity awaits!

Sure, this field can be stressful and time-consuming to say the least, but if you’re up to the task the good news is that opportunities abound for talented logisticians. Nearly every conceivable industry employs some type of SCM and logistics experts to oversee it—handling everything from vendor and supply management to shipping and receiving; addressing customer needs and issues; reviewing workflow, materials, and costs of goods; and a myriad of other crucial data analysis tasks to keep it all running smoothly.

Make no mistake, this can be a full-time job and then some—but those who find satisfaction in high-stress work environments where mission-critical decisions need to be quickly evaluated and made it can be a great career choice. With a median annual salary north of $75,000 (which can easily go much higher depending on the size of the company and complexity of the supply chain) it can also be quite rewarding.

The “on-paper” requirements for entering the field are pretty reasonable—typically an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field can get your foot in the door for an entry-level position. That said, there’s nothing more valuable than practical on-the-job experience in this field, especially for positions higher up the ladder. So, if this is a completely new endeavor for you, make sure you’re okay with starting at the bottom and think about volunteer and internship opportunities to help you get your feet wet—this will also help you make a decision about whether the field is a good fit for you, so it’s a real win-win.

Is Logistics right for you?

So, if your curiosity is piqued, how can you determine whether a career in logistics is right for you? A great place to start is to do a critical self-assessment to determine if you possess the following crucial skills—if you do, then it may be worth exploring further.

  • Analytical skills. It goes without saying that an effective logistician has razor sharp skills in data analysis, mathematics, and statistics, including a thorough understanding of today’s operations and database management software. This can often be learned on the job, though some companies will require that you possess these skills as a cost of entry.
  • Organizational skills. As noted previously, logisticians often have to manage incredibly complicated supply chain networks in order for their businesses to operate smoothly. This requires a meticulous attention to detail to ensure that nothing gets overlooked or neglected, in addition to keeping detailed records and multitasking for a wide variety of projects amidst an often-hectic environment.
  • Problem-solving skills. Are you good at facing each workday with an array of unexpected and unforeseen issues that you’ll have to handle? The life of a logistician can be chaotic, with problems and challenges arising when least expected that you’ll have to quickly jump on, often when the pressure is on and the stakes are high. Often, overcoming these challenges will require you to be flexible, forward-thinking, adaptable, and dependable, in addition to having solid decision-making skills.
  • Communication skills. The very best logisticians are often great communicators and must work closely alongside their teams, as well as with vendors, suppliers, customers, and everyone up and down the supply chain, to make sure everyone is involved and informed appropriately.

Are you interested in a career in logistics? If so, then use the information presented here to help you determine if it’s a wise career option for you. Good luck!

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3 healthcare jobs that don’t require a college degree

Believe it or not, there’s a hidden upside to a volatile job market: the ability to make a change. Increased disruption often leads people to start thinking about new career options. Sometimes this is the result of an unexpected layoff or job dissatisfaction, but sometimes in our career journeys we take moments to pause, reflect, and just think about what else is out there, which is a common reaction to a work world marked by uncertainty—and it just might lead us to new and more satisfying opportunities.

If you’re currently finding yourself in this boat, you’re not alone. Today’s job market is filled with both active and passive job seekers, and one career path that’s getting increased levels of attention these days is the medical field, where opportunities abound. Need more convincing? According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, between now and 2029 “the healthcare and social assistance sector is projected to add the newest jobs, and 6 of the 10 fastest-growing occupations are related to healthcare.”

Besides the influx of new jobs expected in the healthcare sector, another great aspect of this field is that opportunities exist regardless of your education or experience level—and many don’t even require a college degree. The following in-demand jobs represent great career options. Plus, you don’t need a degree to get started.

1. Medical assistant

You’ll typically find medical assistants in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare facilities, handling a whole host of important administrative and clinical tasks. If this sounds right up your alley, the good news is that the field is expected to grow by 19 percent over the next decade—much faster than the average for all occupations. The growth of the aging Baby Boom population will continue to increase the demand for preventive medical services, which are often provided by physicians. As a result, physicians will hire more assistants to perform routine administrative and clinical duties, allowing the physicians to see more patients.

The median annual wage for medical assistants is right around $35,850, and although most medical assistants have some level of postsecondary education such as a professional certificate, many others enter the occupation with a high school diploma and learn through on-the-job training.

2. Medical records and health information specialist

With people seeking access to healthcare services in ever-increasing numbers, the field needs more capable individuals to organize, manage, and code key health information data, which is why medical records and health information specialists are so in demand. The field is expected to grow by approximately 8 percent over the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The current median annual wage is right around $44,090. Although specialists typically need a postsecondary certificate to enter the occupation, some qualify with a high school diploma, especially for entry-level positions that provide for significant on-the-job training opportunities. Unlike many other jobs in healthcare, medical records and health information specialists typically spend long hours in front of the computer, so make sure this is the right arrangement for you before getting started.

3. Dental assistant

If you’ve ever visited the dentist for a checkup, you’ve likely encountered a dental assistant, who’s typically tasked with providing basic patient care, taking x-rays, records management, and scheduling appointments, among other key responsibilities. The aging population and ongoing research linking oral health and general health will lead to continued increases in the demand for preventive dental services, and the dental assistant field is expected to grow by approximately 7 percent over the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The current median annual wage for dental assistants is right around $41,180, and the field offers several paths to employment—in some states, there are no formal educational requirements, and dental assistants learn through on-the-job training.

If you’re on the job hunt or are just curious to learn more about what’s out there—but don’t have a college degree—there are a host of potential opportunities available. Consider those mentioned here to help you figure out the next move in your career journey. Good luck!

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