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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.

The post Foolproof ways to answer the toughest competency-based interview questions appeared first on TheJobNetwork.

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Trends that will shape your workplace in 2021

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

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

Remote technology is here to stay

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

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

Lean is king

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

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

Focus on diversity is mandatory

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discover your learning style

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

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

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

Decrease distractions

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

Learn from trial and error

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

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

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What HR should prioritize in 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Organizational design

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

Employee support

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

Bridging the skill gap

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

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

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

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

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How to follow up after submitting a job application

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

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

Find out up-front about the timeline

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

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

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

Give it at least a week

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

For example:

Hi Ms. Jackson,

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

Best,

Rosa

Call if email doesn’t work

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

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

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Are cover letters necessary in 2021?

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

The answer: it depends.

Who still reads cover letters?

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

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

So, do I need a cover letter?

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

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

How do I update my cover letter for 2021?

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

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

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

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Remote onboarding: How to make your remote newbies feel welcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Dial up the enthusiasm

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

3. Send some welcome swag

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

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

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

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

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

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How to recognize a family-friendly employer

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

Know what you’re looking for

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

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

Do your research

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

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

Listen to the word-of-mouth feedback

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

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

Ask the right questions in your interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider internships

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

Leverage your network

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

Be patient

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

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

The post Graduating in a recession? Here’s what you should know. appeared first on TheJobNetwork.

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How to increase your productivity (without overworking)

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

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

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

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

Set realistic targets

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

Avoid the avoidable distractions

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

Re-tool as needed

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

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