Keep Clichés Off Your Cover Letter

The cover letter is important. It’s a personal introduction about who you are and what you’ve accomplished. A good one provides more information than just a resume and should be considered an essential element to any job application. And yet, some people still think no one reads a cover letter. The truth is, the person who reads your cover letter has probably read hundreds just like it. If you’re sending out the exact same cover letter to every job you apply for, chances are it’s the same as everyone else’s. 

Cover Letter Clichés

To avoid having a cover letter that’s easily forgettable, you’ll need to keep the clichés out of your resume. The Muse has a great article about overused lines like “I’m a fast learner” and “This is exactly the job I’m looking for.” These lines, or similar ones, turn up in just about every cover letter. Imagine how tedious it is for the person reading them. Look for more creatives ways to get your point across. Add some personality to differentiate yourself from the other candidates.

To Whom it may Concern

At every opportunity, find a name to address your letter to. Even if you’re applying online, finding the company, finding a phone number and calling to ask if there is a name you can address your letter to will put you ahead of everyone else. Sometimes this just isn’t possible. If you can’t find out who to address your cover letter to, don’t try and guess. It is far better to have “To whom it may concern” than to address it to the wrong person. 

I Did This and This and This

Your cover letter should be interesting. If you’re just going to use it to say what you’ve already written on your resume, there’s really no point. Use the opportunity of a cover letter to expand on what is in your resume. Talk about your accomplishments and your story. It’s cliché to think that the cover letter has to be a boring retelling of your professional life. 

Your cover letter will get read, as long as it’s not the same old, same old that recruiters and hiring managers are tired of seeing. Keeping clichés off your cover letter is one way to make sure they’ll be interested in what you have to say.

Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

No matter what the reason, answering why you left your last job can be difficult.  In all cases, you don’t want to sound like you’re slamming your former employer. You also don’t want to linger on why it didn’t work out.

Employers ask it to determine you had a good reason for leaving your last position. When answering this question, be confident and assured that you have the right answer.

A Learning Experience

When you talk about your former job, even if you were let go, be honest about it. There’s no sense is trying to get away with a fib here, even if your former employer isn’t one of your references. If your interviewer wants to find their number, it won’t be that hard. Instead, focus on what you learned and how that experience has helped shape you as a professional. Talk about how you’re going to bring that experience and knowledge to your new position

Focus on What You Accomplished

No matter how your last job ended, when it comes to why you’re moving on, bring up the results you achieved while at your last company. This is will assure your interviewer that you’re dedicated to the job until the job is done. This also allows you to remain positive when talking about your last job. 

Bring it Back to This Company

If things weren’t working out with your past employer, it’s okay to say that in a positive and polite way. Then point out that the things that weren’t working out at your last job, are exactly the reasons why you think this new company is right for you. Maybe the goals of your last position changed and you felt they didn’t mesh with you anymore. Note that your goals align with this new position. Maybe your last job wasn’t a cultural fit. Explain to your interviewer that you’ve researched their company’s culture, and you think you’re a great fit.

It’s a difficult question to answer, but it’s one you don’t have to be afraid of. There are many perfectly acceptable reasons to have left a position, and you shouldn’t feel immediately defensive when this question comes up. Be honest, be positive and be confident!

How To Get Ahead At Work

No one wants to be a suck-up. Actually, that might not be true, some people seem to want to, but it’s rare that being your boss’s yes-man will help you get ahead at work.  If you want to climb the corporate ladder, there are far better ways to do it. And don’t let anyone tell you that trying to make your way to the top of the food chain is a bad thing. You should be rewarded for the work you do. Here’s how you can get ahead at work while keeping your dignity intact.

Do Good Work

The first and most important rule for getting ahead at your company is to do good work. Good work alone doesn’t always get you noticed, but if you want to have any hope of success, sucking up can only get you so far. To better your chances of a promotion, do more than just good work. Look for opportunities to grow your responsibilities. Take on more tasks, always ensuring a high standard of excellence, and you’ll be well on your way to promotion and success.

Find Out What the Boss Wants

You don’t have to say yes to every idea your boss has. Spend a little time finding out what your boss values and what they are looking for in their workers. Aim to fulfill those needs and show you have similar values. Being a person your boss can rely on is a far better strategy than just being the person who compliments the boss everyday.

Switch Companies

Studies have shown that staying within one company for more than two years can hurt your earning potential. There are many reasons for this, one is that you may be willing to take a pay cut in order to stay with a company you feel loyal to. Another is that switching to a new company will often bring with it a pay increase. If you want to grow your skill set, you may have to head to a new place to grow those new skills.

Market Yourself

This doesn’t mean shouting how great you are and how much work you do from the rooftops. This does mean being able to take credit for doing good work, being active in work discussions and adding your two cents. Offer new and interesting ideas that separate you from everyone else.

Just doing good work isn’t usually enough to get ahead at work. You need to couple it with self promotion and making sure you’re someone that others, especially your boss, can rely on. Once you’ve managed to balance all these separate things together you’re sure to find success and slowly start moving up the food chain.

Need Some Help Decoding The Hiring Process?

Need Some Help Decoding The Hiring Process?

When it comes to getting hired, the whole process can feel like a bit of a mystery. How, in fact, do you stand out from the crowd in that pile of resumes? Why does one person get noticed over any other person? And then if you do end up getting an interview, what about that process leads a hiring director to choose one person over another?

You’re not the only one who is confused. Most jobs get about 250 resumes per application, and hiring directors typically whittle that down to about six candidates. Once they do that, then it comes to in-person time and that’s really where you can find some tips to lead you to success in your next interview. For example, can you and do you make eye contact? Then that’s an automatic positive in the eyes of the person doing the hiring. What else can you do? This graphic has some ideas.

 

Boost Your Creativity

Boost Your Creativity

Boost Your Creativity

Is creativity something you’re born with? Is it something innate that some people have and others don’t? Can you do anything to help yourself be more creative?

Everyone has the capability to be creative, to generate great ideas and to see those ideas through to completion. For some, creativity may come easier than for others. If you’re one of those people who feel like you have a tough time being creative, here are a couple ways you can boost your creativity. 

Change Your Routine

We all have our routine. The way we wake up, the route we take to work and the things we do when we get home form a safe and familiar routine. Your creativity can get stuck in this routine as well. Listen to music you don’t usually listen to. Change the way you get to work once in a while. Breaking your routine will force you to find different, and more creative solutions.

Break the Rules

According to Entrepreneur, you should practice breaking rules. This doesn’t mean you should shoplift. It means you should look for common conventions and move outside of them. Play around with an idea that can’t work, try something that makes no sense. Don’t be bound by what is commonly accepted. Look for a mold, and break it.

Write Your Ideas Down

There’s nothing worse than having an idea, needing that idea a couple hours later, and discovering it’s gone from your mind. Whether on your smartphone, laptop or even the tried and true pencil and paper method; have somewhere to write your ideas down when you have them. Keep them organized so that when you need an idea, it’s right there waiting for you.

Sit in the Dark

Darkness and dim illumination promote creativity. When trying to come up with ideas, being in a dim or dark space, or even just thinking about being in the dark can help you be more creative. In a similar vein, taking time to clear your mind can be an effective way to open up to new creative thoughts.

Find Someone Who Disagrees

If you’re working with others, find someone who disagrees with you. Working with people who say yes to all your ideas is a terrible idea. Everyone needs an editor. Someone who will be your sounding board and help you refine the ideas you have. This person will force you to be more creative in your thinking rather than just saying “Good Idea.”

Listen to Mozart

Albert Einstein credited listening to Mozart with helping his creativity, and there’s even science to back him up. Your brain’s creativity is increased from listening to certain frequencies, which can be found in classical music. 

Use Creativity to Build Creativity

Creativity is easier for some but rarely does it just happen for anyone. Creativity is something that can be worked on and strengthened. Use these ideas to boost your creativity.

 

Avoid Stagnation By Checking In With Yourself Regularly

Avoid Stagnation By Checking In With Yourself Regularly

You’re in a job you’re happy with. Life is percolating along in a satisfactory way. There’s not much to worry about. You’re not currently working towards any huge goals. Routine and ease of days is great – and if that’s what you’re after, fantastic you’ve arrived.

 

If however, all that routine suddenly makes you realize you’re stagnating then it’s time to take action!

 

Invigorate yourself with new goals

When we are striving toward a specific goal or accomplishment, we keep ourselves sharp with plans and deadlines and new ideas. Whether we mean to or not, we learn new things in the process. If you don’t currently have a goal then create one!

 

Avoid falling into the background of your life

Have you actually reached the pinnacle of where you wanted to be career-wise or have you just reached a plateau? Becoming comfortable often makes our original intentions for our lives fall into the background.

 

If this has happened to you, check back in with your younger self and remind yourself of your big plans. What did you want to be doing at 30? At 45? At 60? Are you on track? What do you need to do to get yourself back on track?

 

What ignites the passion in your heart?

Sometimes we can be perfectly happy with where our career has taken us, but we’re still not entirely thrilled with the direction of our lives. Time for another check-in. Rather than professional, this one is more personal. Is there something in life that holds great significance for you? Something you’d like to contribute to or participate in or learn about?

 

If it’s a change you’d like to see in the world then figure out what you can do to be part of it. Look into volunteer opportunities. Join groups trying to make a difference.

 

Did you used to want to learn to play the guitar? Or did you once have a dream to walk the Camino?

 

By checking in with yourself regularly you will remind yourself of all the reasons you are grateful to be alive. Along with the things you can do create the life you’re grateful to be living!

 

Time Management In Easy Steps

Time Management In Easy Steps

Excellent time management is quickly becoming the must have career skill of today’s employees. The ability to manage multiple projects is an essential trait for any job seeker. Companies want to know that you can handle a variety of tasks and complete them on time. Being able to manage your time effectively in your personal life serves many benefits as well.

Here’s How to Manage Your Time Effectively.

Start with a To Do List

Creating a list of the things you need to get done is the best way to keep those items in your mind. This will also keep your tasks front and center.  One of the best things you can do with this To Do list is to give yourself deadlines. Daily, weekly, monthly. Deadlines will help you plan your tasks better and stop you from putting them off.

Prioritize

Deadlines will also help you prioritize. Don’t spend all you efforts today on something that isn’t due for a week. There are a number of little things you need to focus on today before you need to worry about those larger projects. Once the immediate things are taken care of, then look to the larger projects and slowly chip away at those. Being able to manage your time effectively means being able to work on a project, put it down for awhile and come back to it later.

Use Your Most Productive Time

Some of us are morning people, others are night owls. Find the time of day you feel most productive and handle your tasks then. Don’t use your most productive time of the day to check Twitter or read through blogs, use it to focus on your tasks and projects. Using you productive time to produce leaves your less productive time for surfing the web and other tasks. It’s also means that you’re getting more stuff done.

Take a Break

Working without taking a break will actually lead to a loss in productivity. The best way to manage your time effectively is to focus and work diligently, and then take time away from the task. Return to the task refreshed from your time away!

Update Your To Do List

Updating your To Do list doesn’t mean only adding to it. See where you are on your projects. Feel motivated when you scratch things that are done. Keep an eye on the things that are coming. Keeping your list updated keeps you on the ball and allows you to plan out your time.

Should Salaries Be Transparent?

Should Salaries Be Transparent?

In some companies everyone knows everyone’s salary. They are transparent. People know what they can aspire to and specifically what each job is worth. It evens out the playing field. A job has a set worth and that’s the end of story.

 

Other companies aren’t nearly so transparent. Salaries fluctuate as incentive tools, according to seniority or the discretion of the boss.

 

Some employers are pro-transparency others are not. There are valid reasons for both sides of the argument.

 

Equality   

On the pro side, if everyone is aware of everyone else’s pay grade, it promotes pay equality. If people know they are being compensated equal to others doing a similar job, it eliminates pay jealousy and people are less likely to be unhappy with their salary.  It also ensures everyone is paid equally for the job they are doing regardless of gender of race.

 

Satisfied they are being fairly compensated, pay equality encourages people to be more collaborative and productive.

 

Easier to discuss pay raises

Pay transparency also takes the pressure off when it comes time for employees to approach the question of a pay increase. As a person acquires more responsibility they understand they can request compensation for their efforts.

 

More to the job than meets the eye

On the surface person A and person B might seem to be doing similar work, but person B actually carries the lion’s share of responsibility. A downside of pay transparency is it can create jealously and hostility in the workplace when people look at dollars only, without understanding what exactly a certain job might or might not entail.

 

Restrictive to employers

Some employers use pay as a way to increase performance. They use it as an incentive. However when everyone knows what everyone else is making those kinds of discrepancies can cause envy and jealousy. Rather than raising their standards to try and increase their own compensation, lower paid employees will use the pay differences as a reason to seek employment elsewhere.

Late Arrival Doesn’t Have to Kill the Interview

Late Arrival Doesn’t Have to Kill the Interview

Lateness happens. Buses don’t come, traffic is awful, trains are slow. It’s not always your fault, but on your way to important meetings like interviews, it can seem that way. Here are some ways to not crash and burn if you’re late to your interview.

Keep your cool

The top tip, as always is, don’t freak out. That’s generally good advice for interviews. No matter what happens, keep your cool. No matter how late you are, remain calm.

Make the call

If you know you won’t make it time, then as soon as you have access to a phone give them a call. Apologize. Tell them what’s going on and let them know when they can expect you. Don’t make excuses. “Sheesh THE 22 BUS, HUH?” Is not going to earn you brownie points.

Take responsibility. Admit it was your mistake and apologize, but don’t go overboard. Life gets in the way all the time. People understand.

Stay confident

It’s important to recover and remain confidant. This is a test to see how you will react if you’re ever late for work – it’s a test to see how you will react under pressure.

Don’t pull into the location, run in and arrive flustered and out of breath. Before you take yourself through those doors take a minute and re-center yourself with a few deep breaths. Remind yourself of exactly why you are a great candidate for this job. Do a quick run though of all the questions and answers you already prepared for this interview. Put a smile on your face.

 

Apologize again briefly at the start of the interview and tell a lame joke if you can. Remind yourself, one day this will be a great story about your introduction to your new job.

So, if you’re running late for an interview don’t break a sweat about it. Act calm and professional, they’ll be impressed by your grace under fire.

Learn To Speak Publicly Like a Pro

Learn To Speak Publicly Like a Pro

You start to shake a little bit. Your hands are a little clammy. There’s this weird hole in your stomach that makes you feel like you haven’t eaten in days. You’re thinking it might not be too late to cancel. Except you’re already at the podium, in front of all these people. You can’t turn back now.

 

Some studies estimate that 75% of the public has some level of fear or anxiety around the thought of public speaking. Whether it’s in front of an auditorium of people, or just to a handful of coworkers, public speaking leaves people feeling queasy.

 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. To overcome your fear of public speaking try these steps.

 

Preparation

If you want to freeze and loose track of your message and stumble around your words, step up to the podium or take your place in front of a room and simply wing it. Otherwise do your homework first. Determine who your audience is. Prepare speaking points that will be of interest to them. Give them something that will teach or inspire them right off the bat to get them on your side. Or something that will make them laugh. Have a solid presentation on paper then prepare to give present it out loud.

 

Practice 

That means practice, practice, practice. Give your speech to yourself in front of the mirror. Take note of your body language and what your face is doing. Give your speech to your dog. Give your speech to a friend. Give your speech to a couple friends. Start small and work your way up to larger crowds. Practice makes the words come easier. It’ll help you remember what comes next. It’ll give you more confidence as well.

 

While you’re doing all that practicing take note of your tone. Do you sound bored? Engaged? Nervous? Learn to modulate that in front of the mirror. Remind yourself to pause between thoughts. Give your audience a chance to absorb what you’re saying.

 

Talk slowly, breathe deeply

Taking a couple deep breaths automatically relaxes you. Take a couple of grounding, reassuring breaths before you get up to speak. If you are using cue cards or a paper, write “Talk Slowly” at the top. When you get nervous, you’ll start talking quicker without realizing it. That little reminder can keep you calm and help you realize it’s okay to give yourself small moments.

 

Pick someone out in the crowd

Generally, the fear that comes with public speaking has to do with the public part. We have no trouble talking with friends at a party or over coffee. But expand that number and feel the eyes of all those people on your person and all of a sudden your mouth dries out. Many people adept at public speaking pick a single person in the crowd and focus on them. By focusing on an individual you can imagine you’re delivering your speech to an audience of one.

 

Remember fear is normal

Finally, remember that getting nervous about public speaking is normal. Ask 75% of the public at large. However, just because you are worried about speaking in public, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it well!