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          Career Q&A's

 

“Approximately a year ago, I was brought on board in a senior management position.  At the time, it was my dream job and I was told during the courtship that the company was very family friendly.  The last few months have proven differently, however, because the management team works 12-hour days.  It’s been challenging as I have a 3-year-old, so I’m continuously out the office door by 5:00 and seem to take much more personal time than my male counterparts.  What should I do?  I’m afraid of looking incompetent or less dedicated if I don’t work the same aggressive hours as my colleagues.” — LaDonna L., Boston, MA

It doesn’t appear you’re unhappy in your position, nor is there indication the company is unhappy with your performance, so is the current arrangement bothering just you or those at the company?

Take an extensive look at your work performance, and how you measure up to your colleagues.  The amount of time a person spends in the office doesn’t mean that person is out-producing you.  In fact, individuals who spend too much time on details may need to work more hours to accomplish the same amount of work as others in a similar position.  Fatigue can produce less than favorable work results.  Effectively managing your time can have a huge effect on your work performance, and if you are generating results and significantly helping the company’s bottom line, then chances are your superiors are unfazed with your leaving at a normal time in the afternoon or taking some personal time to be with your child.

Do you have a mentor, ally, or friend in the company you can approach?  Let’s face it, when reaching a management or executive position, office politics can weigh heavily on your “candidacy.”  Having an ally to turn to during times of need will help uncover whether a problem exists, or possibly, if your concern is unfounded.  Seek specific answers to your questions: Do you believe I’m performing and adhering to the company’s expectations?  Do you feel there are areas where I need to focus my attentions more aggressively?  Ensure you get honest answers — not sugarcoated ones.

you in a position of implementing programs and training staff members to increase production?  Countless studies over the years have reflected that individuals who spend adequate amounts of time pampering themselves, and participating heavily in recreational situations with families are more productive, give more of themselves, and create a more harmonious atmosphere for everyone in the office.  Certain illnesses will be a hot topic as more individuals suffer from work-related stress; so introducing new programs that will make the company more “employee friendly” could have a huge impact on your employer.

“I recently discovered I’m pregnant.  The timing is less than favorable because I’m participating in a series of job interviews over the next couple of weeks.  Should I disclose my pregnancy during the interview, or do you think it will hurt my chances of landing a job.” — Jackie M., St. Albans, VT

It’s obvious why some prospective employers get leery about hiring women who are pregnant, in my opinion.  Morning sickness (for some women should be coined all-day sickness) and the continuous doctor’s appointments are just the beginning; and making matters worse (for the employer anyway), are the women who decide not to return to work after childbirth.  Employers exert large amounts of money and time to hire, train, and coach employees, so it’s comprehensible why hiring managers get into trouble when it comes to discriminatory hiring practices.

By law, you don't have to disclose your pregnancy during the interview.  The only time physical condition comes into play is if the interviewee is unable to perform the scope of the job.  A warehouse worker, for example, who is required to lift 50-pound boxes, would be asked in the interview whether he/she has physical limitations keeping them from performing the requirements of the position.

Is it fair to the employer?  As long as you present your skill set accurately and you’re able to perform the job, no employer will argue unfairness.  Billions of women have juggled pregnancy and full-time employment over the last few decades — and you’ll be doing nothing different.  If non-disclosure isn’t an option for you, mention your pregnancy during the interview process.

If you want to read more about Q&A’s pertaining to pregnancy, visit: http://www.workplacefairness.org/pregnancy.php#4

“What’s your take on volunteer positions? Do these positions hurt or help a résumé — and my candidacy for a management position?” — Rachel N., Myrtle Beach, SC

Volunteer positions can be great for individuals who have employment gaps or are seeking ways to network within a particular industry  These positions offer value only if those viewing you for a slot perceive them to be.

Take a sales professional targeting the pharmaceutical industry, as an example.  He joins an executive committee charged with soliciting funds and raising community awareness for the HIV virus.  Since his sales experience in the drug arena is non-existent, he opts to volunteer his time and put himself in the position to learn more about the disease.  Other members of the board are doctors, directors of non-profit groups, and other key members of the medical community.  He listens; he learns; and he gives back to his community at the same time.  When it comes time to aggressively pursue pharmaceutical sales, he targets a company that provides medications to HIV and AIDS patients.  Is his board participation relevant to this company?  Yes, absolutely.

Spend adequate amounts of time identifying the volunteer positions available to you, and how these positions might coincide with your on-going career plans.  Select positions that will benefit your career and help you become a more well-rounded employee.

I was recently offered a position by email, and I accepted by email.  Now, I want to ask for a signing bonus.  I'm concerned, however, that the company will not offer one.

I could be old-fashioned, but negotiating financial aspects of employment, such as a sign-on bonus, are best when discussed in-person or over the phone.  Email is a wonderful tool, but it doesn’t offer the same affect as speaking and negotiating with someone on a personal, professional level.

You and the hiring manager are the only persons who can determine if you’re worthy of a sign-on bonus.  The amount of a sign-on bonus can range from 20% up to 200% of the base salary (more for executive-level positions), depending on the industry.  To determine the right amount for you, think about the expenses you’ll incur for changing employers, such as relocation and cost-of-living difference.  Let the hiring manager provide you with an amount, take 1-2 days to think about it, and determine if renegotiations are in order or if the initial offering is fair.

Sign-on bonuses are connected to the amount of time you plan to commit, and the amount revolves around the prospected base salary and the company itself.  Sizable bonuses are typically reserved for high-profile positions, along with positions that are difficult to fill, such as nurses.  Bonuses woe individuals who are employed with other companies to consider changing positions.  After all, the old adage “everything is for sale, but at the right price” falls true when trying to obtain candidates for particular positions.

As with any agreement, especially when $$’s are involved, it’s best to get the details of your hiring package in writing.  A big concern is the scope of the position presented by the company versus the actual duties once employed.  One of the biggest complaints I hear from my clients is that they have a difficult time fulfilling their commitments once employed because the business misrepresented the position during the “dating period.”  Ensure that you have a full comprehension of the company, along with the proposed needs of the department, so there are no surprises during your 2-year tenure.



I recently applied for a position, but didn't get it.  Any advice? 

It’s frustrating to get through the interview process thinking you have the position only to find out differently.  Even if the interview didn’t have hiring and firing power, she likely had some input.

Résumés get interviews; interviews get jobs.  Since you made it to the interview, your résumé did its job by getting your foot in the door.  The focus now shifts to the conversation that went on during the interview.  Were you prepared for the questions, or how could you have answered them differently?  Did your answers push the pressure points for the interviewer?

When leaving any interview, make several notations about the questions asked, the topics your conversation drifted to, and analyze your responses.  Some interviews are structured, where others are not; so the responses you provide within casual conversation can also have an effect on the outcome.

Think about the interview process as a one-sided relationship.  Every answer you provide, every number or percentage you quote, and every skill you mention, should evolve around a core theme:  the hiring company.  Human resource managers don’t care about whether you can use PowerPoint, unless it’s relevant to them.  They’d prefer not to hear about every task performed for the last 20 years … again, unless it’s relevant.  

The interview potentially meant you had the job, but something went wrong during the interview process — they wouldn’t have wasted time unless they thought you could do the job, right?  Build a relationship with your interviewer and focus on offering answers that are solutions focused.  You can try sending a follow-up letter, however, it may not help.  You’re probably better off cutting your losses and shifting efforts towards your on-going job search.

Pick up a publication on interviewing, such as 100+ Winning Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions by Casey Hawley (Barron’s), so you can uncover ways to polish your interviewing skills.

I'm still in high school.  When is it an appropriate time to begin applying to colleges?

Preplanning for large milestones in life will make a huge difference relative to your career readiness.  Your high school years will be finished before you know it, so researching and narrowing down your college choices would be a wise move at this point.  Requesting and submitting applications isn’t a timely process, therefore, you may wish to wait until the start of your senior year before proceeding.  If you’re concerned about acceptance or availability, contact your primary college choice (if you have one) to identify the best time to apply.

Examine your intended major at great length — if you haven’t already.  Over the years, I’ve worked with countless individuals who changed majors mid-stream or finished college with a degree in one area, yet their job search was aimed at another.  Shifting gears is costly, time consuming, and avoidable if adequate amounts of exploration are conducted before signing up for that first class.

"Best Jobs for the 21st Century for College Graduates" (JIST), written by J. Michael Farr and LaVerne L. Ludden, will open your eyes to career fields that are forecasted to grow over the next few years.  The book also takes an in-depth look, including salary, skill, course and occupational expectations.

Just as you’ll research and analyze college choices, other factors should come into play, such as location and cost.  Cost, in my opinion, can be a huge deterrent for certain schools so spend adequate amounts of time researching grants, scholarships, and the financial commitment needed by yourself and/or your parents.  Deadlines for scholarships and grants vary throughout the year, so identify availability and create a calendar for a 6 to 18-month spread.  Scholarships, in particular, are essentially “free money,” so taking the time to submit a quality package and get your applications in on time will make a difference on your success rate.

 

Answers provided by Teena Rose of Resume to Referral.  The above advice is provided as a courtesy and does not constitute as absolute advice for everyone.  Seek the assist of a career professional who can review, evaluate, and advise you based upon your situation.

 

 

 

   

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 
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