Resume Must-Have: Soft Skills

Source:  CNBC

 

Employers are looking for soft skills. In fact, more and more are listing them as part of the job requirements for open roles. More than 6 million job listings included “communication skills,” 5.5 million included “customer service” and 5 million included “scheduling” as a requirement on jobsite ZipRecruiter in May.

soft skills “Even without looking at a specific job listing, we can probably imagine that every job is going to require the same set of soft skills: teamwork skills, communication skills, problem solving skills, time management skills,” says Gorick Ng, Harvard career adviser and author of “The Unspoken Rules.”

If you’re on the market for a job, “your resume is a really, really, really important platform for you to use to embody” these skills, says Octavia Goredema, career coach and author of “Prep Push, Pivot.”

Here’s how to illustrate soft skills on your resume, according to career experts.

Use descriptive titles

The anatomy of a resume features multiple facets. One of them is the various job titles under your “experience” section. These present an opportunity to convey some of your soft skills.

“The key here is to be truthful but also be descriptive,” says Ng.

“There’s a big difference between calling myself an intern and a social media intern,” he says as an example. “There’s a big difference between calling myself an analyst and a project manager, if I was, in fact, doing that. There’s a difference between me calling myself a manager and a communications manager.”

Each of these titles illustrates another facet of the job that proves you have certain experience. “Even just one word like ‘communications’ or ‘social media’ or ‘project’ or ‘product’ or ‘department’ can go a long way in giving people a mental image of what it is that you’re actually accountable for,” he says.

Think back on your work experience for each role you’re outlining and consider one or two additional and accurate words that describe what you did and what you can do.

Bullet points can give examples of your skills

Another piece of resume real estate that could be used to illustrate your soft skills are the bullets under each job title giving concrete examples of what you achieved. Each bullet could speak to a soft skill an employer specifically mentioned in the job description or one you think is relevant for the role.

Consider some of your accomplishments in previous roles, then, when writing these, “think about it being really a Mad Lib exercise consisting of impactful verbs, impactful nouns and impactful numbers,” says Ng.

Say you want to highlight your communication skills, for example, and you work in search engine optimization. One bullet could say something like, “I led a presentation to 30 of our clients outlining effective ways to use keywords, resulting in an average 30% increase in traffic for each of their websites.” “Led,” “increase” and “30%” are a verb, noun and number that give a visceral sense of the kind of impact you had on your company.

The bullet serves to highlight an impressive achievement. Inherently, because it takes strong communication skills to give a good presentation, and because your presentation was clearly successful in helping your clients grow their traffic, you’re proving you’re a good communicator.

“It’s almost implied that I would have had to have the skills to make this impact,” says Ng.

‘What language are you using to talk about work?’

When it comes to communication, specifically, the way your resume is written as a whole can go a long way to proving you’re a good communicator. “You want to be as concise and impactful as possible,” says Goredema.

“What language are you using to talk about work?” she says. “Is it repetitive? Is it flat? Is it really long convoluted sentences? Really take a look at how you are bringing your career to life on paper and how you’re communicating what you do best.”

A resume with strong work examples free of excessive language can show potential employers that, at the very least, you’ve honed your written skills, which are critical for multiple forms of day-to-day communication.

 

Still struggling with your resume?  Apply with Allied and our experienced recruiters will review your resume and help you improve it! 

5 Everyday Actions That Will Expand and Strengthen Your Network

Need to strengthen your network but not sure how to start? The task can sound overwhelming, particularly when you’re at a crossroads with your job or struggling to find that next opportunity. But working on your network is actually more straightforward than it seems – it is simply strengthening existing relationships and creating new ones. You can do this through easy, everyday actions which can have a huge impact on your career and future goals. Here are 5 to help get you started!

1. Send a personal message to 5 people. Start with the network you already have before trying to create new relationships, even if the connections you want seem different than what you think your existing network can offer. Reach out to contacts from past job experiences or your personal life, since they know your strengths and can endorse you when a relevant opportunity arises. This networking exercise is a good way to organize your contacts and determine the types of contacts you should message. In your message, update your contacts about what’s new in your career and life, and ask them for an update as well.  Don’t ask them for an introduction or recommendation if they’re not someone you’ve been in touch with regularly, but do tell them you’re looking to strengthen your network and connect with other professionals. If you’re contacting someone you have kept in touch with, you can take this opportunity to let them know about your career goals or who would you like to meet. You may be surprised by who they know or the opportunities they come across.

2. Have coffee with a diverse colleague or contact. Meet with someone from a different department or function, since they may be exposed to different contacts and opportunities than you. The same goes for contacts who are in a different age group, race, or industry. Strengthening the more diverse areas of your network can lead to finding “linchpins” or connectors to other groups, in which you have no connections. Also, diverse colleagues and contacts think differently than you, so they are the best to contacts to help spur new ideas and expand your perception.

3. Contact 1 person you admire per week. Find people who inspire you or have the career path you desire, even if they are outside your existing network. Mention why you admire them and share your goals. You’d be surprised how many successful professionals want to help others succeed and are just waiting for them to ask. Add value when you can, be specific about why you admire them and make it clear that you’re interested in a relationship, not a favor. Even if you already have a mentor, experts suggest you should have many people in your network  providing you with mentorship and advice, not just one person.

4. Update your social media profile. Based on your industry and position, you can choose which social media platforms provide you with the best opportunities to connect and build your presence on them. Regardless of what industry you’re in, be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile updated. An estimated 95% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates, and are attracted to the following aspects of a profile that you can easily update:

  • A high-resolution, professional profile picture (increases your views by 14 times)
  • Your current position (increases your connection requests by 5 times)
  • 5 relevant skills (increases your messages by 31 times)

Another easy way to boost your visibility and make positive connections on LinkedIn is by endorsing others for skills. The gesture is likely to get you some endorsements in return!

5. Add value to another person’s life. As important as networking is to our personal careers and goals, successful networking requires adopting an “others-first” mindset. If you want others to connect you with opportunities and contacts, you need to exhibit that same behavior. Adding value requires understanding your contacts’ needs and challenges (personal or professional). Do they need a connection that you can provide? Can you contribute your time to something they are working on? Increase the likelihood of someone in your network wanting to help you by helping them first.

Contrary to what you may think, strengthening your network doesn’t need to be a massive endeavor. Start by leveraging your existing relationships first then expand to new contacts through simple actions like sending a message. You will be surprised how these everyday actions can make a big difference in your network online and offline and can lead to unexpected opportunities!

 

Let Allied help you improve your networking skills!  Referring someone for a job is a great way to help your network!  Who do you know that is looking for work?  Contact Allied today!

The ultimate guide to nailing the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question

Source:  Fast Company

 

We’ve all been there.

You’ve just sat down for an interview and you’re feeling a little nervous. After a few quick exchanges of small talk, it’s time to get down to business. You’re trying to recall all those notes you prepared, hoping your background noise stays quiet for the duration of your Zoom, and going over the buzzwords you want to avoid. You know what’s coming, yet it always catches you by surprise: the dreaded first question.

“So,” your interviewer says, “tell me about yourself.”

Where do you begin? Do you jump right into the details of your résumé? Do you talk about what you do in your free time? Or how much you want this job?

The “tell me about yourself” question is an almost universal way to kick off an interview. In fact, nearly 60% of job recruiters report that this is their go-to first question for a candidate. Although planning ahead and embracing the open-ended nature of this query can feel overwhelming, acing it could just be the key to ensuring your interviewers remember you as the standout candidate you are.

TAKE YOUR TIME

You might come across some career “experts” who suggest sticking to answers as short as 30 seconds because hiring managers will lose interest. While unorganized rambling will do you no good, hiring managers are likely looking for more information than you can express in under a minute. Managers ask questions like “tell me about yourself” because they are looking to see whether your professional skills align with the role you’re interviewing for.

“It may be difficult to understand the depth of a candidate’s experience related to the role if his response is shorter than three minutes,” Brenda Kurz, chief administrative officer at Toptal, previously told Fast Company. In the same piece, Pete Sosnowski, head of HR and cofounder of the tech startup Zety, agreed:

You want to give an impression that you really thought this through. If your answer is too short, the recruiter might think you simply don’t care or have much to say.

It’s not just what you’ve done in your career, but why you made those decisions. The average hiring manager spends just seven seconds looking at your résumé, so this is your chance to show them who you are. When you answer this question, you want to share a clear narrative of the experiences, roles, and achievements. Use this time as an opportunity to road-map your interviewer’s takeaways so that you will stand out against other candidates.

THINK LIKE A LEADER

If you answer this first interview question hesitantly, chances are it’ll be harder to impress upon your interviewers that you’re a strong leader. Kicking off your interview with the intention of motivating and inspiring your potential employers can help you land the job. Try taking a less “informational” approach and more of an “inspirational” one. Show that you’ve done your research on the company and don’t be afraid to move the conversation toward your own visionary thinking.

You can also adopt what Judith Humphrey, author and founder of The Humphrey Group, calls “the Leader Script.” Open your answer with a line such as, “I’ve heard so much about you from my previous interviews, so it’s great to meet you in person.” You’ll come across as being open-minded and self-assured: two qualities that will remind interviewers of your leader’s presence.

But it’s not just what you say that will make your interviewers see you as a leader. Humphrey also pointed out that leadership begins with your physical presence in a room. Be vocal and animated. Speak energetically. Act enthusiastically and eager to be there. A smile and good posture could just be the extra note of confidence to show recruiters your commitment to the job.

EMBRACE IT

When hiring managers inevitably look at you and say, “tell me about yourself,” think how your answer can be the start of a deeper conversation, leading to a stronger relationship with your interviewer. According to public speaking coach and founder of Spokesmith Eileen Smith, you should keep three themes in mind when crafting your response: Engage your audience, establish credibility, and tell your interviewers why they should care.

In tailoring your answer to your specific audience, you will find ways to connect your experience with the expertise and interests of those listening to you. Smith recommends using some version of, “This is important because . . . ” to link what you have told your interviewer with what you hope they remember about your potential in this new role.

GET AWAY FROM YOUR RÉSUMÉ

As much as your previous leadership experience matters, employers are also looking for a well-rounded candidate. Don’t discount the last thing you read or watched as material for the “tell me about yourself” question. This can be a way to demonstrate your interests beyond the workplace and to show hiring managers that you have opinions that you’re not afraid to express.

“I look for curiosity. I legitimately don’t care if the answer is Game of Thrones, as long as they have an interesting take and an ability to communicate it clearly,” said Jess Greenwood, North America’s head of strategy at R/GA, in another Fast Company report. “We work hard, and maintaining a life outside of it is important. I want to hear how they stay grounded and what makes them happy.”

DON’T NARRATE YOUR LIFE STORY

The only thing you’ll accomplish by admitting how you’ve been unable to get a job or that you’re unsure why this position is a good fit for you, is leaving hiring managers absolutely cringing. “Tell me about yourself” is a great opportunity to share what you’re like beyond your one-page résumé, but be careful about spilling your emotions and dishing out your entire life trajectory.

Michelle Mavi, director of content development, internal recruiting, and training for the hiring agency Atrium Staffing previously warned candidates in an article for Fast Company that the nature of this question can feel daunting. “As it’s a very broad and open question, candidates are prone to ramble, talking about their professional selves in very generic and general terms, and basically rehashing their résumé,” she said.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR SIMILAR QUESTIONS

Sometimes, this question can be disguised as another. Anne Marie Squeo, CEO and founder of Proof Point Communications, always starts job interviews with “tell me your story.” She reminds interviewees that she and other hiring managers have already read a candidate’s résumé, so there’s no need to rehash it. Yet, 85% of candidates seem caught off guard by the question and fall back on reciting their résumés anyway. Or fall prey to the urge to tell the interviewers everything they’ve done since high school.

For Squeo, the question is meant to be an opportunity for a potential hire to offer an illuminating deep-dive into what drives and encourages them as a person. “One candidate not long ago responded to this question by telling me she’d been a concert pianist who had an injury and had to quit during college,” Squeo wrote recently in Fast Company. “She then took a deliberate approach to identify what also fueled her passion and embarked on a career in corporate communications. Here’s what I learned: She’s resilient, knows who she is, and is purposeful in her pursuit of a challenge.”

DON’T DISCOUNT YOUR ATHLETIC EXPERIENCE

Maybe you’ve just graduated or maybe you’re switching industries. Either way, your athletic experience could be a factor in showing hiring managers that you’re right for the job. A lot of the skills employers are looking for align with the characteristics you develop on the athletic field–you just have to convince an interviewer that this is the case.

Think about the challenges you encountered in a game and apply it to the workplace. Did you attend daily, grueling sport practices? In the workplace, former athletes will know how to work through tough times, handle a busy schedule, and always keep a goal in mind.

Remember all the sacrifices you made for your team, too. You gave up personal time to perfect that pass or that trick shot. You understand that if one team member is struggling, success will be impossible. These are all critical characteristics to bring to a workplace.

AVOID BUZZWORDS

Remember that employers interview many candidates, and if your answers sound the same as theirs, you don’t have a chance of sticking out. Using generic buzzwords will only increase the chance you’ll sound like a corporate drone, so try not to use too much jargon. To avoid this, practice describing your skills and your experience with anecdotes that demonstrate the value you will bring to a company. In other words, show your potential employers why your experiences have shaped you rather than tell them.

The same idea applies to generic accolades about yourself. Avoid inauthentic statements that interviewers can see right through like, “I’m a perfectionist,” “I get along with everyone,” and “this is a dream job for me.” According to a TopInterview survey, the two worst traits for a job candidate are arrogance and dishonesty. Don’t take the risk of coming across as disingenuous by using these vague lines. Instead, focus on moments of individual experience and growth–your interviewer will notice this.

PLAN AHEAD AND WRITE IT DOWN

If you’re reading this now, you’re probably expecting that your interviewer will look at you and say, “Tell me about yourself.” You might think very few candidates actually write out what they’re going to say but, without a script, you could be caught flailing in an interview. And with a question as common as this one, you should be prepared.

Humphrey offered advice for prepping your interview script in another Fast Company report:

As a former speechwriter, I can tell you, good scripts don’t come “in the moment.” There’s a slight chance you’ll get it right. But more likely, you’ll deliver mixed messages that don’t add up to a clear and compelling picture of yourself. You have to think a lot about how you’re going to tell your story. After all, it must inspire that particular interviewer, and that company.

Humphrey underscored that every job seeker needs a message. What is the big idea you want your interviewer to hear? And how should that show them you’re the right candidate? In getting this message across when you’re asked to tell interviewers who you are, you’ll have a better chance of securing your interview narrative right from the start.

FRAME IT AS A STORY

If you’re stuck while you’re trying to write out possible responses, Humphrey suggests framing it as a story. In a recent Fast Company story, she wrote,

The simplest way of thinking about flow is to build your story chronologically—with a past, present, and future. If you are in a job interview for an HR position and are asked why you want the job, you might develop this flow:

Past: “I’ve always loved people, and that’s why I’m passionate about this job in HR. I was outgoing and extrovertish, even when young.”

Present: “In my last two HR positions, I have developed programs that make employees feel safe and engaged. One program I am particularly proud of is our Mental Health offering.”

Future: “This job is my dream job, and as an HR professional, I know I would be a great fit for this role.”

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Even the best narrative won’t work if you sound like a robot. Whether you practice in front of a mirror or with a handful of trusted friends, you should go into an interview having already rehearsed what you plan to say. In an interview, you’re expected to balance sounding confident without coming across as a know-it-all. Striking this balance ahead of time will not only calm your nerves in the moment, but it will ensure that interviewers can relate to your personality.

According to a study conducted by TopInterview and Resume-Library, 70% of employers think a candidate’s personality is among the top three factors they consider when making a hiring decision. Personality consistently ranks higher than education (18%) and appearance (7%). So, stay calm, take a deep breath, and fire away at the script you’ve prepared.

BE YOURSELF. THIS IS JUST A CONVERSATION

When the interview time finally rolls around, take the moment seriously without wigging yourself out. Test the waters and follow the lead of your interviewer. Do they want to make small talk? Go with it. Are they probing for how much you know about the company? Go for it. The broadness of “tell me about yourself” should serve as an asset. You can talk about yourself while emphasizing the skills you will bring to the job. Skills are now the most important factor employers use when hiring, so don’t waste this opportunity to share your strengths.

Show hiring managers how you’re professional and experienced beyond your career accomplishments. In doing so, you’ll both tell interviewers who you are and why you’re the qualified choice.

How Success Is Like Chinese Bamboo

In the age of social media, YouTube sensations, and “viral” posts, it seems like we witness the  “overnight success” story over and over. But is there such a thing? Most entrepreneurs will tell you “no”.  While a business or product may appear to be an overnight success, it’s actually just consumers suddenly realizing its value.  What they don’t see are the years of hard work, failures, dedication, and relationship-building it took for the creators to get the market’s attention.

A popular Chinese parable demonstrates this concept through the story of a farmer who put in years of hard work before successfully growing the plant of his dreams:

Like any other crop or plant, Chinese Bamboo needs to be nurtured in order to grow; fertile soil, water, and sunlight are crucial for its survival. As the story goes, a Chinese farmer once planted a bamboo tree as he heard that it can create miracles, and he needed one to care for his struggling family.

The farmer faithfully watered, fed, and cared for the soil, in which he planted the bamboo seeds, for an entire year but saw no sign of life. No growth, no sprouts, no hope. The second year was the same as were the third and fourth years. His patience and faith in this “miracle” bamboo plant started to fade. How could something he had so diligently cared for reap absolutely no reward? During the fifth year, just as he was about to give up on his dream of growing the plant, he noticed it started to sprout. The bamboo sprung up 60 feet over the next six weeks!

How did this happen? Did the bamboo lie dormant and then suddenly shoot up 60 feet in six weeks? Of course not. What the farmer couldn’t see during the first four years was the root system the plant was developing to support its rapid ascent above ground. Had the bamboo plant not developed a strong root system, it wouldn’t have been able to support such massive and quick growth. What’s more, if you’ve ever tried to control or get rid of bamboo, you know it’s nearly impossible. The root system is so strong, it’s prolific under almost any circumstances.

This story demonstrates that patience, faith, and perseverance pay off over time, and what appears to be “overnight success” is usually the product of years of hard work.

Like the farmer, we may not immediately see the fruits of our labor in our journey toward success, but here are three things we can learn from him:

  1. Authentic Relationships are Key to Success – relationships are your root system. Like the farmer’s bamboo, genuine relationships take years to build and often do not provide an immediate, visible payoff. However, strong relationships give you a strong foundation for success. If you develop and nurture them with care, relationships enable your business to thrive. Developing authentic relationships isn’t complicated, but it does require you to shift your focus, especially in a business setting. Your focus should be not on what you want from this person, but what you can give to them to strengthen your relationship. Look for ways to add value, make connections, demonstrate your support, and build trust
  2. Patience is a (Very Necessary) Virtue – the culture of impatience and instant gratification, in which we currently live, has us very accustomed to getting immediate results. Our culture, especially in the United States, highly values speed and convenience. However, in your career and in life, this is not always the best philosophy. When rapid success does occur, it’s very difficult to maintain. Lottery winners, who are most notorious for achieving quick success, typically declare bankruptcy within 3-5 years. Looking at success as a journey rather than a destination will help you practice patience. Rather than trying to hurry up and get to the next step, enjoy the step you’re in. If the farmer had impatiently dug up the bamboo seeds and replanted them over and over to see if he could get quicker results, he would never have seen the fruits of his labor. Remember, the best things in life are worth the wait
  3. You Gotta Have Faith – have faith in yourself and your business. Had the farmer become discouraged and given  up after two or three years, he wouldn’t have experienced his dream become a reality. JK Rowling, Jeff Bezos and Henry Ford are just a few examples of entrepreneurs who did not find mega-success until their 40s. Without their hard work and perseverance, we would live in a world without Harry Potter, Amazon or Ford vehicles. In his best-selling book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Jim C. Collins writes, “The only truly reliable source of stability is a strong inner core and the willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.” Have faith in your dream. You might make mistakes, get frustrated, feel discouraged and want to quit along the way, but remember what’s driving you. Believing in yourself helps others believe in you too.

The farmer and the bamboo teach us that though success may appear to happen overnight, it’s really the result of hard work, perseverance, and faith, building what most people can’t see. The farmer was laughed at and called crazy when he watched for growth from the tree for five long years. Time placed doubt in his mind, but all along he was building the foundation he didn’t even know he needed for the amount of growth that was to come.

Let everyone laugh at you while you continue to build the relationships that will form the root system of your future success!

Pride in the Workplace

Employers must protect individuals identifying as LGBTQ+ from workplace discrimination. Awareness of issues affecting LGBTQ+ individuals is also important, including sensitivity to the needs of transgender individuals who may be transitioning or undergoing sexual reassignment surgery.

Take Complaints Seriously

Create an atmosphere of open communication and trust so that employees can voice their concerns without fear of retaliation.

Firmly commit to taking all complaints based on LGBTQ+ status seriously, and promptly investigate them. Assure employees, managers and supervisors that they will not be retaliated against for bringing a complaint and that the complaint will be kept confidential to the extent possible.

Conduct a thorough investigation by reviewing any evidence and interviewing the complainant, the alleged perpetrator and any potential witnesses. Document the entire investigation process and the steps taken in response to the complaint. Consider implementing interim measures such as separating the complainant from the alleged perpetrator during the course of the investigation. Take remedial and/or disciplinary measures, if warranted. Then follow up with the employee to ensure that no further incidents have occurred.

Provide Reasonable Accommodations

Carefully consider all accommodation requests from LGBTQ+ individuals. Discuss the request with the employee, and provide reasonable accommodations when possible. For example, consider allowing all employees and third parties to use the restroom or locker room that corresponds with their current gender identity and presentation regardless of the individual’s sex at birth. Single-occupant, gender-neutral restrooms provide increased privacy for all individuals. If an employer maintains multi-occupant restrooms with stalls, it may want to consider additional privacy measures such as stall doors and dividers. An employee who is uncomfortable with an LGBTQ+ individual using a particular restroom should be permitted to use another facility.

When it comes to accommodation requests relating to dress codes, allow an individual to dress consistently with their gender identity, as long as the individual looks professional and appropriate for the particular workplace and position. This also applies to policies related to uniforms, grooming, jewelry and makeup.

Handle a transgender employee’s name change using the same policies and procedures for other employee name changes (e.g., after marriage or divorce). Also find out their preferred pronouns and then use them. Make sure all managers, supervisors and colleagues do the same.

Support Transitioning Employees

While the Supreme Court recognized that its decision does not provide employers with guidance on issues surrounding sex-specific changing facilities and restrooms, employers can still strive to be sensitive to transgender employees who are transitioning and/or undergoing gender reassignment surgery.

Processes around how an employee can make a name change, update employee records, resolve conflicts over restroom use, comply with the dress code, or request a change in duties or responsibilities, a potential transfer and other accommodations that an employee may need while they are transitioning should be discussed and handled on a case-by-case basis.

Keep all discussions private and confidential, to the extent possible, but also work through with the employee how and when they want co-workers and third parties to be advised of the change.

Also, be aware of any state or local laws that may impact the employer’s decision. For example, in New York City, employers may not require an individual to use a single-occupancy restroom or other facility. However, employers can accommodate requests to use single-occupancy restrooms and can provide single-occupancy restrooms and private space within multi-user facilities for anyone who has privacy concerns.

Review Recruiting and Hiring Practices

LGBTQ+ individuals should be treated fairly in all aspects of employment including recruiting and hiring.

Recruitment practices should aim to attract applicants from as wide a talent pool as possible. Inclusive recruitment practices include:

  • Stating the employer’s adherence to anti-discrimination laws in job postings. An employer could even consider listing the specific grounds on which it will not discriminate;
  • Recruiting from broad-reaching sources (e.g., post job ads on general job boards) and targeting under-represented groups (e.g., provide job ads to LGBTQ+ advocacy groups to post on their website); and
  • If using an employment agency or external recruiter, clearly explaining the employer’s stance on discrimination.

Hiring decisions should be based on merit, skills and qualifications. Ensure interviewers do not talk about personal matters, especially ones that could lead an applicant to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity or other protected characteristic (e.g., asking about family status, assuming a male candidate’s spouse is a woman).

Any background checks or reference checks that require applicants to provide a prior name could expose a transgender applicant. Such information should be kept confidential and not shared with the hiring decision-makers.

Tips for Shift Workers

Work schedules that fall anywhere outside the hours of 7 am to 6 pm are considered shift work. These schedules may consist of fixed hours, rotating or split shifts, or irregular work times. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 16% of full-time salary and wage workers in the U.S. worked non-daytime shifts in 2017 and 2018. Recently, many employees have also been forced to take on shift work in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alarm clock in the middle of the night insomnia or dreaming

Common occupations that require shift work include:

  • Food preparers and servers
  • Hairdressers, fitness trainers, and other personal care professionals
  • Sales and retail staff
  • Police officers, firefighters, and other first responders
  • Doctors, nurses, and other medical staff
  • Transportation, warehouse, and manufacturing plant workers

Shift work can be demanding when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, especially for those who work night, early morning, or rotating shifts. Over time these employees may develop shift work disorder, a condition characterized by insomnia symptoms when they attempt to sleep and excessive tiredness while they are at work. Shift work disorder not only causes cognitive impairments and physical complications but also affects occupational performance and makes workers more prone to errors and accidents.

Getting a good night’s rest and feeling alert upon waking is essential for any shift worker, regardless of their specific profession. For many, adopting a consistent sleep schedule and creating a bedroom environment conducive to rest can have a huge impact.

How To Set a Night Work Sleep Schedule

Sleep consistency is key for many employees working night shift schedules. If you wake up at 5 pm for your night shift and normally go to sleep at 8 am after getting home from work, then you also should maintain this sleep-wake schedule on your days off.

Obviously, this can be difficult to accomplish. Make sure significant others, children, roommates, and anyone else sharing your roof understands the importance of your designated sleep time. They should not wake you up unless there’s a true emergency.

Light and noise exposure may be other issues for sleeping during the day. Try drawing the shades or sleeping with an eye mask if your bedroom tends to be bright during the day. Earplugs and white noise machines can be effective at blocking outside sounds. Unless you are on call, consider turning your phone off while you sleep.

Rather than immediately going to bed, some shift workers prefer to stay up for a few hours after arriving home as one might do after a day at work on a traditional 9-5 schedule. This way, they can wake up closer to the time when they start their next night shift. For others, a split-nap schedule is more effective. This entails napping for a few hours after getting home in the morning and then sleeping for longer in the hours leading up to the next shift’s start time.

Before going to bed, consider a hot shower or bath, meditation, or another relaxing activity. Consuming alcohol before bed can lead to sleep disruptions. Although alcohol has sedative properties that help you fall asleep more easily, you may experience sleep disturbances or fragmented sleep as your body breaks down the alcohol. Some shift workers take melatonin supplements to fall asleep during the day, but you should consult with your doctor or another licensed physician before taking melatonin because it can have an impact on your sleep-wake rhythms.

Finding the right system for you may require some trial and error. The key is getting enough sleep every 24 hours. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of daily sleep for most adults between the ages of 18 and 64, and seven to eight hours of sleep for most adults 65 and older. Some adults can get by on slightly less or may need slightly more sleep, but we don’t recommend fewer than five to six hours or more than 10 to 11 hours of sleep per day.

Tips for Staying Awake During Shift Work

While you are at work during an irregular shift, strategies to stay refreshed and alert may include:

  • Caffeine in moderation: Caffeine can provide an energy boost for shift workers, but it should be consumed carefully and in moderation. A cup of coffee or caffeinated soda is recommended at the beginning of your shift. The caffeine will usually take effect within 15-20 minutes. Moderate amounts of caffeine every one to two hours will be more effective than heavy amounts. You should avoid consuming caffeine within three to four hours of the time you plan to go to sleep.
  • Get the blood moving: If you have enough time during a scheduled break, consider a brief workout or a jog around your workplace. Even a small amount of exercise can provide an energy boost.
  • Take a nap: You can also snooze on your break if you’d rather sleep than exercise. A nap of 10-20 minutes is considered ideal because you won’t enter deep sleep and feel excessively groggy when it’s time to wake up. For some shift workers, the “coffee nap” can be effective. This strategy involves drinking a cup of coffee and then taking a nap that lasts 15-20 minutes. Your wake-up time will coincide with the caffeine in the coffee taking effect.
  • Exercise caution: People who experience sleep problems due to shift work are at higher risk of on-the-job errors and accidents. The same is true of employees who are new to shift work, or those who are working shifts that are longer than usual.
  • Consider a post-work snooze: Drowsy driving accidents are another hazard associated with shift work. According to the most recent statistics, midnight to 6 am is one of the most dangerous periods of the day for drowsy driving. If your workplace does not have a room where you can nap undisturbed, you can try dozing for a few minutes in your car before leaving the property. If you begin to feel drowsy behind the wheel, pull over at the next available opportunity where you can park safely and nap for a few minutes.

Tips for Employees With Rotating Shifts

Fixed shift work creates plenty of sleep challenges for employees, but rotating shifts that involve different start and times for shifts during a given week or month can exacerbate these issues. Rotating shifts vary by workplace, but some of the most common rotating schedules for employees include the following:

  • Dupont: This schedule operates on a four-week cycle and consists of four different teams covering 12-hour shifts. A given team will work blocks of both day and night shifts lasting three to four days, interspersed with one to three consecutive days off. Each team also receives a seven-day block of days off for every four-week period.
  • Panama: Also known as 2-2-3 or the Pitman, the Panama schedule consists of four teams. Two teams trade day shifts throughout the week in two- or three-day blocks, while the other two teams trade off night shifts in two- or three-day blocks. Each team will receive seven non-consecutive days off every two weeks.
  • Southern Swing: This schedule requires employees to work eight hours per shift for seven consecutive days. After each seven-day block of work, employees receive two to three days off. Upon returning to work, the employee’s team will adopt different hours from the previous seven-hour block. Most Southern Swing schedules rotate teams between day, swing, and night shifts.

Shift workers with rotating schedules should prepare for shift changes by adjusting their sleep times. Let’s say you are currently working a day shift and planning to rotate to a night shift the following week. You should gradually delay your bedtime by one or two hours each night a few days prior to starting the night shift if possible. This will help you get enough rest and avoid sudden changes.

Some rotating shifts are better for sleep than others. For example, rotating from day to afternoon to night shifts is a more natural progression that is easier on your body compared to rotating in the opposite direction or in random patterns. Rotating shifts every two to three days may also be better for workers than rotating their shifts every five to seven days, and too many consecutive night shifts can be problematic.

If you work a rotating schedule and the routine is wearing you down, consider having a word with your supervisor. They may be able to adjust your shifts or rotations and provide a schedule that is better for your sleep schedule.

Source:  Sleep Foundation

Job Fairs Are Back! Here’s How To Get the Most Out Of Them

In-person job fairs are one of the many things that haven’t happened much in the past 2 years, thanks to COVID.  2022 marks the return of one of the largest job fairs in the Lehigh Valley:  The Morning Call Career Fair.

Attending a job fair can be an excellent way to get your job search started, or to re-energize a search that may feel stalled. It’s a great chance to get in front of many employers in a single day and see what companies are hiring. But in order to make the most of a job fair, it’s important to be prepared.

1) Research. Find out what companies will be there. Most job fairs include a list of employers in advertisements for the event. Visit the websites of those companies to check out current job openings. If there are opportunities you are interested in, take a minute to learn more about the company. Then when you speak with a recruiter at the job fair, you are able to talk about a specific opening or about their company’s business and really stand out from the crowd.

2) Prepare.  This is the one time you won’t be able to customize your resume. Since you will be presenting it to multiple employers for various opportunities, make your objective specific to the way you’d like your skills to be used and to the type of work environment you prefer. For this occasion, this is better than trying to specify a position or an industry.

3) Practice.  Do you have your 30-second commercial ready? This is one tool you absolutely must have ready for a job fair. Prepare it and practice it. A job fair is a great opportunity to end your commercial with a question; this will help you start a dialogue with the recruiter.

4) Attire.   Going to a job fair is a lot like going to a bunch of mini-interviews, so dress as you would for an interview. Often the setting for a job fair is casual, but don’t dress for the venue.  Workplace dress codes also have become much more casual in the past 2 years, so a full business suit may not be necessary, but it is still important to dress to make a great first impression.

5) Prioritize.  Rather than start at one end of the job fair and visit every single booth, determine your game plan before you arrive. Because you’ve done your research, you will know the employers you are most interested in visiting. Start with those. If the recruiters are tied up with a line of people waiting, it may be best to stop back. For some very popular employers, there may be no downtime for the recruiters, and waiting in line may be your only option.

6) Respect.   At a busy job fair, you need to be respectful of the recruiter’s time. If there are a large number of job seekers, you may not get a chance to do much more than introduce yourself and drop off your resume. Don’t monopolize a recruiter’s time with excessive explanations about your work history or with multiple questions about their openings. You want to be remembered but not as the person who talked excessively.

7) Follow-up.   Get business cards and contact information for the companies you are interested in and follow up with them. A short, hand-written thank you note reconfirming your interest in the company or in a particular opening is a simple way to give a recruiter a reason to pull your resume out of the stack they have from the job fair.

Don’t be intimidated by long lines at job fairs or by the volume of resumes you see stacked on a recruiter’s table. If you play your cards right, you’ll be on the “first call back pile” and a new employment opportunity may find its way to you.

Planing on attending The Morning Call Career Fair on May 3rd?  Be sure to stop by and say hello to the Allied team!  

 

Why Sleep is Sacred for Productivity and Relationships

An exhausted or tired businessman is sleeping on a keyboard in the office.

Sleep is essential to our productivity, well-being, and relationships. Science proves it, and most of us know it. However, with jam-packed schedules and the ability to work and connect anytime, anywhere, sleep gets put on the back burner, reserved for “when we’re dead”. But poor sleep may be affecting your relationships, productivity, and life more than you know. Below are a few eye-opening facts that may prompt a little more eye closing for all of us. Sleep deficiency:

  • Decreases your desire to build relationships: A powerful study shows that when you are sleep-deprived, you are less likely to want to interact with others and others are less likely to want to interact with you. According to the research, sleep-deprived people did not have as much activity in the areas of the brain that would otherwise encourage social interactions, and instead, viewed others as a threat. Conversely, a night of good sleep increased participants’ desire to connect with people and made them more socially desirable to others.
  • Increases your risk of getting sick. A weaker immune system means you’re more susceptible to viruses and other diseases, and it will take you longer to recover.
  • Impacts your cognitive performance.  Sleep deprivation interferes with your ability to learn new information and increases your risk of making mistakes. Some estimates show that as a whole, the US economy loses as much as $411 billion and 1.2 million working days a year because of lower productivity and sick days due to sleep deprivation.

With overwhelming evidence about how important sleep is, why is it that over a third of Americans are still not getting as much sleep as they need? Unfortunately, it’s just not a priority. While most people know sleep is important, the majority of Americans prioritize other activities such as work and fitness over sleep and confess to not planning time to get enough sleep. In addition to not prioritizing sleep, some people still associate sleeping with being lazy or indulgent, which is a misconception that many scientists, business leaders, and professional athletes are starting to be more vocal about correcting.

Regardless of the demands on your time, you can make some simple adjustments to improve your sleep.

  • Put away all devices one hour before you sleepBlue light from screens can affect your body’s ability to follow its circadian rhythm and can prevent sleep. While it is the norm to check emails and our phones for messages at all hours, doing so before bed can prevent you from getting the sleep you need to be productive the next day. Agreeing on contactable hours within your team or with coworkers is a good way to set boundaries and decrease the likelihood you will receive messages that may tempt you to check your devices before bed.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning“Anchoring” your circadian rhythm to darkness and light at regular times will help improve your sleep quality and create good sleep habits. Also, avoid alcohol and caffeine before you sleep. Alcohol interferes with your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and causes disruptions in your sleep. Caffeine also prevents healthy sleep since it is a stimulant and can stay in your body for long periods of time (even hours after you have had your cup of coffee). If you suffer from anxiety or stress, then meditation and journaling before bed are tools that can help calm the nervous system and prevent sleeplessness.
  • Keep a sleep journal. There are plenty of apps and devices available to help you track your sleep. You can also just keep an old-fashioned paper journal with the time you went to bed, woke up, and the number of hours slept. Do it for a couple of weeks and take note of how you feel, interact with others, and perform your everyday tasks.

While awareness of the importance of sleep is growing, many of us are still holding on to that “hustle mentality”, which prioritizes everything over sleep – much to the detriment of our performance, relationships, and mental and physical health. Sleep is not just about you, it affects the way you give, serve, and connect with others. Your well-rested self is your best self and isn’t that the person you want living your life?

 

Looking for a new or unique schedule?  Check out our available jobs and apply today!

 

3 Essentials for an Exceptional First Impression

You’ve heard it before: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Research shows we make judgments about someone’s trustworthiness in seconds. What’s more, our first impressions are unlikely to change – even if we see conflicting evidence that suggests they’re wrong!

first impression

The takeaway? First impressions are very important, and shouldn’t be left to chance. With a little education and practice,  you can increase your chances of making an exceptional first impression. In addition to nailing the basics, like maintaining eye contact and having a firm handshake, there are other simple actions you can practice to make a memorable first impression:

  1. Listen actively. One way to establish an immediate sense of trust and connection is through active listening.  Active listening occurs when you are fully immersed in what the other person is saying, as opposed to thinking of the next thing you’re going to say or selectively listening for what you want to hear. The key is to be authentic. It is obvious to the other person if you are not taking a genuine interest in them or the subject, so only ask a question if you genuinely want to know the answer and avoid giving in to distractions. Use body language as well. Making eye contact and smiling builds trust and indicates you are fully present in the conversation. Active listening may sound simple, but can be very difficult when you are nervous and thinking about what you are going to say or ask next. Practice active listening in advance and take deep breaths to clear your mind before the meeting.
  2. Ask meaningful follow-up questions. If you are actively listening to someone, it is easier for you to think of follow-up questions based on your curiosity about the topic, or to clarify their message. In case the conversation comes to a lull, have questions prepared based on your research of the person. Preparing questions that go deeper than a typical, surface-level conversation makes the interaction memorable. Keep your questions open-ended and let them do the talking. Research has found that when people talk about themselves, it produces pleasurable feelings and stimulation in the brain, which will leave them with a positive impression of you!
  3. Book your next meeting in person. Clarifying the next step and your next meeting time demonstrates you are reliable and committed to developing the relationship. If possible, continue to have in-person meetings, since 93% of communication effectiveness depends on nonverbal cues, which are best assessed in person rather than through video conferencing or over the phone. Also, in-person meetings result in more small talk, which is an innate part of social bonding and establishes trust.

First impressions are developed quickly and are long-lasting, so you need to make them count! When you’ve made a positive first impression, getting your next meeting is much easier.  Whether or not these actions come naturally to you, it’s a good idea to practice them with people you already know and trust. When you’re meeting someone you really want to impress, your nerves can get the better of you and reduce your ability to listen and ask thoughtful questions. The more you practice, the more likely you’ll be able to do it in stressful situations. These simple, but essential tips will improve your first impressions greatly and can have a huge impact on your business and personal relationships.

Be sure to check our blog often for more tips for success at work.  Ready to make a great first impression at a new gig?  Check out our available jobs and apply today!

Use Your Strengths to Improve Your Relationships

What are your strengths?

Hundreds of self-directed tests and assessments have been created to help people figure this out. It’s one of the most commonly asked interview questions, and many companies aspire to build a “strengths-based” culture, which encourages employees to discover and develop their strengths.

Studies continuously show that focusing on your strengths leads to higher levels of engagement and better performance. When you focus on using your strengths, rather than improving or “fixing” your weaknesses,  your confidence and self-awareness increases.

Conversely, when you are focused on your weaknesses, you are more likely to have lower levels of confidence and be more stressed, which can negatively impact self-esteem and your ability to have healthy relationships.

Discovering Your Strengths

You may have an idea of your strengths based on past performance reviews, feedback from others, and by looking at your past successes. These can be helpful, but they are contextual and subjective. Here are a few tools for helping you discover your strengths:

  • The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been used consistently in organizations over the past 40 years to help people become more aware of how they judge and perceive situations and others. For example, are you more externally focused (extroverted) or internally-focused (introverted)? Do you look to logic for decision-making (thinking), or do you consider how you or others feel first when making a decision (feeling)? Through a questionnaire, you are assessed across four main dichotomies and given your personality type. For a fee, you can take the test and receive personalized courses and guides about how to make the most of your strengths. Because this test has been used for so long, it has been refined and validated by many professionals. There are endless resources available based on the test that help you leverage your personality type and strengths in both a personal and professional context.
  • For an assessment about your character strengths, the VIA institute offers a free character test for you to identify whether things like teamwork, gratitude, and curiosity come more naturally to you than other character traits. These not only give you insights into your own strengths, it also helps you recognize strengths in others, which can improve your relationships and the gratitude you feel towards others in your professional and personal life.
  • The DISC Assessment Test is a free psychologically-based assessment test that is commonly used for teams and motivational purposes. Based on your answers, you are placed into one of four different personality types: dominant, influence, steadiness, and compliant. Although you’ll likely exhibit one type more than the others, you may demonstrate the other personality types in varying degrees.  Because this test is widely used, there are many free resources that help explain the implications of your result and help you understand the traits of the other personality types as well.

An important thing to remember is that there are advantages of all of the personality types, character traits, and categories that these tests diagnose, and one type or category is not “bad” or better than another. Also, while these tests are a great start to helping you determine your strengths, they have their limitations. It is impossible to capture the full essence of someone through online tests and questionnaires. To make sure you’re not missing anything important that such assessments did not detect, ask your friends and colleagues about your strengths and competencies as well.

Choosing a Career Based On Your Strengths

Knowing your strengths also allows you to choose opportunities for which you are well-suited. For instance, if creativity is a strength, choosing an R&D position rather than a sales or administrative position might be a better fit for you. Similarly, if you shine in client-facing tasks, choosing a client representative role over a position that is more focused on research and analysis will help you hone your strengths and increase your likelihood of success in that role.

In addition, being aware of your strengths can help you determine the value you can add to a team or a group, as well as identify the types of people with whom you work best. For example, if you are very detail-oriented, then you might add a lot of value to the team by taking note of the action items from each meeting and holding people accountable. If you have this trait, you would work well with someone who is more big-picture focused, since they will complement your detail-oriented approach by keeping the overall project or purpose of the task in mind.

Using Your Strengths To Build Positive Relationships

Authentic relationships are the key to unlocking your true potential. Understanding your strengths and recognizing others’ strengths will help you find and build positive professional relationships that will be mutually beneficial. The Enneagram Test is a tool commonly used in the workplace to help improve team dynamics and business relationships. It measures your personality across 9 personality types, giving you a better understanding of your tendencies, stressors, fears, and strengths. It helps you understand how you interact with others and how others will interact with you based on their personalities. The better you understand your strengths and how to use them, the more you’ll be able to bring to a relationship.

For example, if one of your personality strengths is making people feel connected and comfortable, help your contacts connect with others and start conversations. If you’re task-oriented, use that strength to stay in touch with your contacts on a regular basis or help them accomplish a task they’ve mentioned to you.

Using your strengths in relationships will likely feel natural to you in situations or relationships in which you feel comfortable. It may take a little more effort and practice when you’re feeling vulnerable, but that’s when focusing on using your strengths, rather than worrying about your weaknesses, will help you build and develop relationships that create opportunities.

Using Your Strengths To Serve Others

Understanding your strengths and confidently using them will allow you to serve others in meaningful ways. Serving others increases your sense of purpose, which leads to greater happiness. Conversely, knowing your strengths also enables you to set boundaries and say “no” to projects, requests, or relationships that aren’t a fit. Focusing on how you can use your strengths to best serve others, rather than how you can please others, will enable you to thrive in your relationships and career.

Going through the process of discovering your strengths and the best ways to use them will also improve your ability to help others discover and use their strengths successfully. Bringing out strengths in others is a highly desirable leadership skill, one that will serve you well in business, relationships and your career.

Key Takeaways

  • Focusing on your developing strengths rather than “fixing” your weaknesses will help you build a successful career and positive relationships.
  • Use the available personality tests and assessments to get an idea of your strengths, weaknesses, and relational style. However, recognize that automated test results don’t fully define you. Ask trusted friends or colleagues to share their feedback and do some self-reflecting to fully understand your strengths.
  • Knowing your strengths and using them to serve others is the best way to build authentic relationships, feel a sense of purpose, and thrive in your career.

How are you using your strengths to serve others in your career and relationships? Write down a few ways you are or want to and let them guide you!

 

Looking for a new opportunity to tap into your strengths?  Check out all of our available positions and apply today!