11 Tips To Excel At Work This Year

Have you set your goals for 2019 yet?  I’m sure everybody has at least some, right?  Do your goals include any that tie to your career?  Do you really have what it takes to excel at work?

excel at work
Truly show up and engage at meetings. This is one way to excel at work this year.

The Importance Of Success At Work

Success at your job is key to a happy and prosperous life, right?  Some will tell you that working less is the key to a longer life.  Others will say working additional years helps you live longer.  Whatever you believe, there’s one thing we can all agree on:  Being happy at work is important.  Happiness can come from being more productive.  Here are some tips to excel at work this year.

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Financial Moves In The Event Of A Job Loss

The economy is rolling but it might not always.   In fact, things won’t always be so great.  It’s just the cycle of economics.  I’ve been at my job for 12 years.  It’s great and I feel secure, as I’m sure do many.  Still, it never hurts to prepare in the event of a job loss.  Here are some financial considerations in the event of a job loss.  These are tailored for my family, but are applicable for many.

Unemployment Benefits / Health Care

I would expect that any state unemployment benefits that I would receive would be eaten up by health care premiums, whether it be COBRA or a privately funded insurance policy.

Paying the Bills

We have an emergency fund specifically for events like this. The money isn’t earmarked for anything else. We would use this to pay essential bills.

If unemployment were to continue for longer than that time, we would look into one of several options. First, we could sell some investments. We have non-retirement investment holdings that I could sell that would sustain us for another 6 months or longer. Second, we could re-evaluate some of our other cash holdings. We have additional dollars alongside our emergency fund that are earmarked for things like a new car, home repairs, etc.  These can be be re-allocated if necessary.

Concentrate on the Job Search

Due to having a fully funded emergency fund, I wouldn’t be panicked.  Since we could pay the bills without fear of ‘going under’, this would allow me to focus on a job search.

As of now, there are lots of contract positions available in my field.  I am not inclined to work contract for a considerable length of time.  Many are fine with this.  I’m not.  But, in the interim, to put food on the table, I’d definitely look at these positions.  It could end up leading to something permanent.  That’s how it worked for my current job!

Reducing Expenses

There are definitely some expenses I would look to cut as a method to reduce our cash outlays. Even though we have a fully funded emergency fund, the fact remains that with a job loss, it would no longer be fully funded after I found new work, and would need to be re-built. I would employ the following strategies to make sure that our cash lasts as long as possible and to ensure that we could get back on track as quickly as possible once I found new work:

  • Eliminate Netflix
  • Eliminate eating out
  • Unlevel some of our spending – I currently put aside an equal amount every month so that our monthly spending is fairly even. But, this has increased the amount of cash that is on hand. We could essentially draw down some overfunded accounts.  Of course, we’d work to replenish them later!
  • Let the lawn go brown
  • Reduce or eliminate the A/C and cut back on heat.
  • Cut back grocery spending.  We could save some money at the grocery store.  First would be working through food we have stocked up.  The pantry and freezer would be good for this.

In Summary

When faced with a job loss, finding work is the most important goal.  But, making sure you and your family have the basics is just as important.

Nobody wants to think of a potential job loss, but preparedness is key.  It does happen.  It’s happened to me and while I hope it doesn’t happen again, it’s good to know we are ready in many ways.

Readers, have you faced a job loss?  How did you deal with it?  What job loss preparations do you currently have in place?  

10 Ways To Nail Your Job Interview

So you found the perfect job.  There’s only one problem.  First, you have to nail your job interview.   Well, actually you need to get the job interview first.  But once you get it, you need to stand out.  Here are some ways to nail your job interview.

Dress Nicely

Don’t be flashy. Dress professionally.  You want to stand out in your job interview, but not for the wrong reasons.  If you dress nice, it shows respect toward the interviewer and the company.

Start And Finish By Saying Thank You

Even though it’s their job, the person interviewing you is giving you their time.  Make sure you express appreciation for that.  Give a nice smile and handshake while saying thank you at the beginning.  At the end, thank them again.  Manners matter for people of all ages.  Use them.

Be Confident, Not Arrogant

Your job at the job interview is to make them know that you can do the job.  Be confident, but not to the point of arrogance.  Don’t talk about how you’ll make things better once you’re hired.  That shows a lack of respect for how they do things today.

Make It Clear Why You Want This Job

Don’t spend a lot of time talking about your current job.  For sure, don’t bash it.  And, if spend time talking about things you want to do at your next job, make sure it fits with the job you are interviewing for.  Many people spend a lot of time talking about themselves, their skills, and their goals, but forget to tie those things to the actual job.  Interviewers can see through this.

Turn The Interview Into A Conversation

When I interview people, I have a list of questions that I want answered.  However, the best interviews are those where the time spent is more of a conversation versus going down a list one by one.  If done well, at the end of the conversation, the interviewer will be able to look at their list and see that most have been answered.  And they’ll have enjoyed the interview much more.

Explain Why Your Skills And Experience Matter

Your resume lists your skills and experience.  The interview is the place to prove why they matter.  If you kicked butt on a project, explain how that helped your company.  When you have a skill you are proud of, show how you used it or plan to use it.  At no point in a job interview should it sound like you’re reading a bunch of bullet points.

Know How To Answer The Dreaded ‘Biggest Weakness’ Question

“What’s been your biggest weakness?”  That’s the question that sends shivers down the spines of most people.  Here’s the thing.  A good interviewer isn’t looking for a particular weakness so much as what you have done about it.   They want to see that you can identify a weakness, and take action to solve it.  Your answer should show that you can take ownership and that you can problem solve.

Know The Company

Learn about the company.  Have information about their history.  Talk about it when the time is right.  Don’t force in the facts you know.  That’ll be a little too obvious.  But when you’re able to fit in the fact that you know your stuff, it can make a big difference.

Ask Questions

This is standard advice.  However, be careful.  Don’t ask questions just for the sake of asking questions.  People see through that.  And then they feel like you’re wasting their time.  Come up with 5-10 questions before the interview.  But here’s the thing: Don’t ask all of them.  If you do, you turn into that annoying kid in class always raising his hand.  A list of questions will give you a couple of things to ask at natural points of the interview.

Be Respectful Of Time

There’s a few things that go into this one.  Be early to the interview.  But, not too early.   You don’t need to sit around a waiting room for 30 minutes. You can pull in the parking lot that early, but sit in the car for 20 minutes.  Keep the interview flowing.  Stay away from the filler.  You don’t need to rush through things, but don’t drag it along.

These are just some tips that I’ve learned over the years.  I’m sure there are many more.  While these won’t guarantee your job, they certainly can help.

Readers, I’d love to know your thought and tips.  What have you seen or done in a job interview to stand out?   What other tips do you have to nail your job interview?  Please comment below, and thanks for reading!

 

15 Things To Do When Leaving Your Job

Did you hear about the crazy lady that stabbed her HR rep with a pen while resigning?  This actually happened last week.  Now, it probably goes without saying for MOST people that you shouldn’t do that.  But what should you do when leaving your job?  Well, here are some tips to get started so that leaving your job is a positive experience for everybody.

Give Notice

I’m a firm believer that you should offer two weeks notice before leaving your job.  Technically you don’t have to, but it shows you’re a team player.  You can technically quit and be done that day, but it’s just bad form.  Make sure you give proper notice.

Train Your Replacement (Or Document)

Someone will likely have to do your job. This might be a permanent replacement or someone that fills in.  Either way, make sure they know what you do.  If you know the person taking over, sit down with them.  If the company plans on hiring someone after you leave, then write out a document and give it to your manager.

Tell People Respectfully

Chances are you’ll want to let your co-workers know what’s going on. Make sure you do so respectfully.  And, if your employer asks that you don’t tell people, be considerate of that request.

Be A Good Employee

Make sure you’re providing value to the company until the end.  If you’re staying for two weeks, work for two weeks.  You’re going to expect that full paycheck, so give your employer their proper return.  Don’t slack off for the last two weeks.  It’s disrespectful toward your employer as well as your fellow co-workers.

Clean Things Up

Depending on how long you’ve been around, you might have a lot to clean up.  Clean your desk.  Make sure your file drawers are cleaned.  Run through your e-mail.  Get things in order.  Just make sure you don’t go too far and discard something that will be needed by your replacement.

Give Honest Feedback

When you provide your intention to leave, you’ll likely be asked why.  Give honest feedback.  But stay respectful.  For example, if you’re leaving for more money, don’t say: “You’re not paying me enough.”  Instead say, “I got an offer with a salary that I just couldn’t pass up.”  Both get the message across, one way more professionally than the other.

Share Contact Information

If you want to stay in touch with co-workers or managers, share contact information.  Run through your LinkedIn contacts and make sure to add people.

Follow Up On HR Issues

Make sure you understand everything that will and won’t happen once you leave.  How are your benefits handled? What happens to your retirement accounts? Are you getting paid for unused time off?  HR will give you higher priority before you leave versus afterward.  Have everything handled accordingly.

Turn Everything Over

Make sure you know what you’re supposed to have turned over and do so.  Laptops, cell phones, badges and other company items are big ones, but return everything that’s expected.

Understand The Money Aspects

Be prepared with how everything will go from a financial perspective.  Will your last paycheck be deposited or sent in the mail?  Are you all caught up on your expense accounts and reimbursements?

Be Gracious

If you’re moving to bigger and better things, don’t be a jerk about it.  It’s not cool.  Plus, you never know for sure how things are going to work out.  You never know when you might need to come back.  Don’t burn any bridges.

Thank People

Chances are there are people at your company that have helped you.  Make sure to personally thank them.  They are a part of the reason you’re now getting a new opportunity.  Let them know you recognize and appreciate them.

Update Your Resume

Make sure your resume has an updated end date.  Validate your responsibilities.  Make room for what you’ll add at your new employer.

Update Your LinkedIn Profile

Since LinkedIn is the online resume spot these days, keep this updated as well.  Note that you left your job and put details for your new employer in your profile.

Say Goodbye With A Smile

When you’re riding off into the sunset, make sure the last impression people have is a good one.  Leave with a smile on your face and a wave goodbye.  First impressions matter.  But last impressions make a difference, too.

Readers, do you make an effort to leave jobs on a good note?  Have you ever heard of any horror stories of job exits gone wrong?  Please share in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

 

 

20 Job Interview Red Flags

Are you interviewing for a new job?  If so, congrats on the new opportunity!  However, as everyone knows, not every job is perfect.  But, how do you determine what might actually not be the best job?  Sometimes, an interview can provide some great insight.  Here are some job interview red flags that I’ve experienced and heard over the years.

Job Requirements and Such

  • Nights & Weekends.  If these words come up at all, it’s a safe bet you might be expected to work off shift.
  • On call.  Are you expecting to be on call?  If so, great, but if not, watch out if this comes up at all.  You’ll likely find yourself on call sooner rather than later.
  • Filling In.  If you suddenly start talking about items beyond the job description, and how you’d be filling in, watch out.  This could be a permanent or way too regular thing.
  • Short Staffed.  If the words come up at all, watch out!  When they tell you in a job interview that they’re short staffed, they are probably always short staffed.
  • Mismatch from the job description.  If the job description differs from what they talk about in the interview, watch out.  My friend hired in for a job where the travel time was listed at 25%.  During the interview, they said it could occasionally be 50-75%.  Well, of course it was 50-75% all the time.
  • Learning a job on the fly.  I was hired for a job where I didn’t qualify.  But, they assured me that my background would make me a quick fit after I was mentored for a few months.  Then, after I was hired, the mentoring shrunk to a week.  It was doomed for failure from day one.

Compensation Issues

  • Introductory salary.  If you are promised a big raise after working there for so long, be careful.  Often, something comes up or they’ll find an excuse to get rid of you before awarding the raise.
  • Delayed benefits. If a company doesn’t want to give you benefits from the start, be careful.
  • Deflection to non-monetary benefits.  Some companies love to talk about the great rewards they provide beyond salary.  If they are trying to sell this as a way to offer less, look out.  After all, the free snacks in the lunchroom aren’t going to pay your bills, are they?

Interview Experience

  • Starting late. It’s poor etiquette to show up to a job interview late, right?  It’s also just as poor if you are brought in late.  Respect is a two way street.
  • Not answering questions.  You’re supposed to ask questions about the company and the job.  They should answer them.  If you’re getting the runaround, listen to the warning bells.
  • Interviewing from a list.  I believe that every job interview should be unique.  An interview feels comfortable to me when it flows based on the conversation.  I find it very off-putting when an interviewer is clearly running their way down a list of questions.  It feels as if they have no interest in getting to know you as an individual.
  • Not paying attention.  Have you ever had an interview where the person interviewing you was clearly distracted?  Again, a big red flag should wave here as it demonstrates a clear lack of respect.
  • Interviewing with other candidates.  I don’t want to sit alongside my competition.  Ever.  If this were ever to happen, I would decline the interview.
  • Anything off color.  Breaking the ice during an interview can help calm nerves.  But, anything off color is a no-no.  If any of that comes up, walk, don’t run, away from that job.

Culture

  • Stressed out looking people.  When you’re walking around or waiting to be called in, pay attention.  Are people happy looking or do they appear stressed out?  Do people look conversational or confrontational?  Getting a feel for how existing employees appear is huge.
  • Talking someone down.  Just as you should never bad-mouth your current employer or boss, nor should you hear anybody being talked about during your interview.  It’s unprofessional, and you know they’re probably talking about everyone.  Which would, of course, one day be you if you’re hired.
  • Political.  If politics comes up at all during an interview, be careful.  Unless you’re interviewing for a position in politics, there is no good reason for this to come up.
  • Turnover.  If it comes up that there’s a lot of turnover, this is a clear sign of problems.
  • The ‘forever’ club.  If it comes up that everyone else on the team has worked there for a long time, dig into that.  Many times a new hire, no matter how qualified, will be kept at arm’s length.  A good mix of experience on the team isn’t required, but can help.

These are some job interview red flags.  Some might apply and some might not.  You have to be the judge on whether they do an if they’re important.  What are some red flags you’ve used (or missed) during the job interview process?

Pros And Cons Of Working From Home

Our employer allows us to work from home one day per week, with manager approval.  My manager has approved us working from home, with one caveat. We are not allowed to work from home on Monday or Friday.  This is designed to prevent abuse in the form of beginning or extending the weekend without using time off.

I like our policy and it seems to work well.  I don’t take advantage of it every week.  I’d say I probably use it about half the time.  Over time, I’ve come to realize there are pros and cons of working from home.

Pros Of Working From Home

  • No commute.  This is the obvious one.  I don’t have to drive to and from work.  As my commute is around 10 minutes each way, this isn’t a big deal.  Still, every minute avoiding crazy drivers is better, right?
  • No co-worker distractions. Our office is pretty open.  On top of that, some of my nearby workers can be quite loud.  Having some peace and quiet one day per week is definitely welcome.
  • Casual dress.  I can dress in comfortable pants or shorts and a t-shirt when I work from home.  Not only is it more comfortable, but it keeps my nicer and more expensive clothing to last longer.  After all, I’m wearing it less!
  • I can have lunch with my wife. Last week, my work from home day was sunny and warm.  My wife and I grabbed subs and stopped to eat at a nearby park.  That was spontaneous, fun, and all within an hour.  It wouldn’t have happened had I been in the office!
  • Longer gym time.  I go to the gym before work on days that I work out.  When I work from home, I can stay a little longer.  Even that extra few minutes helps me feel like I’ve gotten a better workout.
  • Breaks up the workweek.  My work from home day is on Tuesday.  This provides a nice way to break up the week.  This makes the normally dreaded Wednesdays and Thursdays a bit easier to take.

Cons of Working From Home

  • There are other distractions.  Just because my co-workers aren’t there to distract me doesn’t mean I’m free of diversions. There are plenty of other things to distract me at home, and discipline is required to avoid them.
  • Disconnect from co-workers.  There’s just something about seeing the people you’re working with that you miss when working from home.  Or, if you have a question, sometimes it’s just easiest to walk over and talk.  I miss this when I work from home.
  • Other costs.  Even though I save on gas, there are sometimes other costs.  My home office is in the basement.  In the cold months, I turn on a space heater to keep warm on days I work from home.
  • Harder to get re-motivated.  If I lose my concentration, it’s harder to get back in the swing of things at home than if I’m at work.  At work, I can use my hard working colleagues as motivation. If it’s just me, this can be more difficult.
  • Lonely.  I enjoy being by myself, but only to a certain degree.  There are times when I’m in the house for the whole day, and I miss human interaction.  I’m not sure I could work from home each and every day!

All in all, I think working from home one day per week is perfect.  It’s just the right balance for me.  I’m glad I have the opportunity to do so.

Readers, do you work from home?  If so, how often?  What are some of the things you like?  What about drawbacks?  Let me know your experiences in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.