Giving Back

giving backMartin Luther King Jr. once said “People who have a stake in their society protect that society, but when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.” I firmly believe that not only is this true, but that giving back is a way to earn a stake in society. Whether it’s on a personal or corporate level, or both, it’s necessary to help anyone or anything in need.

Working with charities is rewarding for everyone involved. By giving your time, you get a new perspective on issues and learn humility. When an organization gets together to volunteer it can be an exercise in team building. We’re proud to say that this year we will be assisting 3 different charity organizations.

Housing Forward

Housing Forward is local organization in western suburbs of Chicago that set out to transform the lives of those needing housing. They work to address health needs as well as income needs as they transition people back into stable housing.

Melinda is serving on the auxiliary board for their upcoming Have-a-Heart Gala! The gala will be held at The Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago on February 11th, featuring a reception and a silent auction.

Anyone who is interested in donating prizes, big or small, please reach out to Melinda at melinda.holm113@gmail.com.

Sarah’s Inn

Sarah’s Inn is a local non-profit whose mission is to improve the lives of those affected by domestic violence and to break the cycle of violence for future generations. Their services and initiatives focus on ending relationship violence through domestic violence crisis intervention, community education, and violence prevention programs for youth.

Earlier this year we all got together to cook dinner for the women and children at the shelter, cooking enough for about 40 people! This year, not only will we be donating holiday gifts, but we’ll also be acting as drop off center. If you’re interested in contributing, feel free to swing by our office at 7630 Madison in Forest Park, Il  to drop off an unwrapped present through November 27th.

If you’d like to donate an item but aren’t in the area, feel free to browse their Amazon Gift Registry and have the gifts shipped right to Sarah’s Inn!

A few of the ladies here will be volunteering at Sarah’s Inn through the holidays as well! We love the partnership we’ve formed over the year and we’re happy to help in any way we can!

The Jane Adeny Memorial School

The Jane Adeny Memorial School, or JAMS, is an girls boarding school located in western Kenya that offers a high school education that is good enough for the richest, but open to the poorest. In lieu of gifts last year, we decided to sponsor a girl for all 4 years of her high school career.

I personally volunteer my summers teaching at JAMS and this past summer I had the chance to meet the bright young mind we’re sponsoring! Her name is Phloice and she comes from a small town about 5 miles from the school. Phloice is left with only her younger sister and father, having lost her mother at a young age. Upon being accepted at JAMS with full sponsorship, she gathered the few items she had and walked from her home in Koru up into the hillside to her new home.

The education JAMS gives is unmatched by any other school of it’s kind. The girls are taught to be curious and ask questions. They work all day and night to ensure that their grades are up and their campus is clean. National exams are administered yearly and determine which students will be eligible for university. While only 31% of students qualify to go to university nationally, 80% of JAMS students qualified!

MELINDA ON THE GO!

melinda-on-the-go

As a part of my role as CEO of Melinda Holm & Associates, I am attending many conferences both locally and nationally.

This week I went to the BMA, the LBMA, and the AMA conferences/seminars here in Chicago. I can’t keep the acronyms straight! I was recently out at a party and when talking to someone else in advertising, I said (paraphrasing) that I had known someone from BBDO or C-K who left to go to DDB or FCB and then went to as a VP to GSD&M or HCB or maybe it was HMT. The person in our group who is not in advertising said “WHAT? I have no idea what you just said”. But that is advertising and marketing!   
 
What I learned this past week. The biggest take-aways are:
 
1. Marketing Automation is HUGE and is continuing to grow.
2. Social media remains important of course. You must have good content, and then you can work on context – how do I deliver the message and when?
3. Beacons and other devices to track consumer behavior are growing in use. Exciting technology. As Tony Donova from Business Insider wrote:
“Beacons are a low-cost piece of hardware — small enough to attach to a wall or counter top — that use battery-friendly, low-energy Bluetooth connections to transmit messages or prompts directly to a smartphone or tablet. They are poised to transform how retailers, event organizers, transit systems, enterprises, and educational institutions communicate with people indoors. Consumers might even want to deploy them as part of home automation systems”.
4. Augmented Reality is also a huge growing market, along with Virtual Reality.
5. Global Sharing, or the Shared Economy is also continuing to grow in popularity. This includes companies such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Divvy Bikes and more. The focus is on being green, not adding to waste, cost savings and realistic usage. Why do you need a car everyday? Just share!  
 
I have to give kudos to some of the speakers I saw. Suzanne Martin from The Mx Group was awesome. She had a great warmth and connection to the audience, along with good content in her speech.
 
Melinda

From Recruiter to CEO

Melinda Holm-Peterson, CEO

Melinda Holm PetersonI have taken on a new role at Melinda Holm & Associates – CEO! While this has always been a part of my title, I’ve always been so involved in the day-to-day of recruiting that I’ve really functioned as a “Do Everything” person. In the past few years, we have worked to take responsibilities off of my plate and now, success! I’ve officially walked away from the day-to-day grind to become the face of Melinda Holm & Associates.

Lately, I’ve been spending my time going to different conferences, luncheons, and other events. For some people, they’re more comfortable networking in a relaxed kind of conversation setting than when trying to sell, and that is definitely the case here. Meeting new people through these opportunities has lead to many lessons of how the industry has been changing over the years.

Recently, I flew out to Orlando for the AMA conference. Unfortunately, as I landed people were being forced to evacuate the city due to the pending hurricane. I guess next time I should pay more attention to the news and weather! I’d like to give kudos to the staff at the hotel I stayed at (Cabana Bay) for letting me check out early without any fees, same with American Airlines and the AMA. The American Marketing Association credited my attendance fee without any questions.

Up next, I’ll be going to a variety of conferences and events to really help Melinda Holm & Associates be on the cutting edge of marketing and advertising recruitment. First up is the the Business Marketing Association Chicago’s Breakfast followed by RetailLoco – a day and a half conference that focuses on the latest and greatest in mobile and location-based tools for retailers. If you missed Content Marketing World, I highly encourage you to join BMA Chicago’s event! Later that same week, I will be finding myself at MarTech Smart, a marketing technology conference in beautiful Downtown Chicago. Later, in November, I will be making the trek to Boston for the In-House Agency Forum Conference – a prestigious and premier networking event for the in-house agency community. The IHAF Annual Conference is aptly named Game Changers this year and you should check it out!

On a side note, I am a huge fan of walking and cycling everywhere; I do my best to commute without a car. This may not work well everyday, due to Chicago weather and it becoming fall, but moving on! The latest average of daily walking is about 10 to 12 miles/day while cycling is can vary between 50-100 miles/week. During the Path to Purchase Expo just last month, I biked to Rosemont from Forest Park! Use your feet or bicycle when you can!

Have a great rest of your week!

HOW TO INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY IN THE WORKPLACE

increase-producitivity

Small changes can make a big impact

Tips to increase productivity

Sometimes, it feels like this digital age is masking our productivity. We can’t remember all of the details from the day when we shut down, but are we as productive as we think? Here are a few things to pay attention to so you can increase productivity.

First of all, this multitasking thing has to go. You’re doing now aren’t you? Stop it. The folks over at Stanford did quite a bit of research trying to figure out what makes multi-taskers so gosh-darn special and as it turns out, they aren’t. Those who multitask more actually have more errors. Not only that, they spend less time on projects, and could even be doing damage to their cognition. The rule here? Don’t take on too much at once. Instead, try focusing on one thing at a time and see how much better you do.

It might not just be the workload that’s distracting us, but our minds. It happens to the best of us more than a few times a day. Our brains have a crafty way of pulling us off task for just a moment. With things like Facebook only a click away it can be hard to resist the distraction. Obviously, taking time away from work to do other things is going to reduce productivity, but guess what else it impacts? Our standard of living. Track how much time you spend on things like social media and reduce it. 

Ah, but if it isn’t the workload impairing our productivity nor is it our natural desire to do something else then it must be… the dreaded open-office space. Who’s idea was this? Google. Bad Google! They’ve been playing with ways to optimize their workers the way they optimized their search engine and while I can wholly respect this, it’s safe to say the rest of the office world jumped the gun with this floor plan. The open-floor plan is probably good for some companies, after all, not everything in this world is absolute, but it’s not good for all companies. In fact, introverts and extroverts alike need solitude in order to work effectively. Headphones can be great to block out the unnecessary noise. Also, try scheduling time where people are to work with out interrupting others; this will make everyone more productive. 

And finally, the last bit advice to increase productivity: be nice. See, there’s this thing called psychological  safety. People are able to pick on others body language and tone of voice. Consider these things, especially when you’re feeling frustrated. A safe work environment means people don’t do things like reject or punish their coworkers thoughts or ideas. Definitely speak up if you have something to say, but use constructive criticism and thoughtful responses to question others on your team. A little respect can go a long way.

 

Volunteering: An Exercise in Team Building

Volunteering: An Exercise in Team Building

VolunteeringSure. Most of us love throwing back a few cocktails with colleagues at work functions, but team building can be time used for community building as well. Volunteering has been shown to be good for you mentally, physically and professionally. By volunteering you are learning and expanding upon your skill set, building a more cohesive relationship with your colleagues and employers, and doing meaningful work that you can take pride in. Also, it’s okay if it feels good to do-good.

In 2013, Forbes discussed corporate charitable giving and community involvement.  They mention that companies select causes that are relevant to their own industry, pick a local cause to support, or choose a cause that is personally important to one of the staff. Here at MHA, we do the latter. Keri, our Associate and Social Media, goes to Kenya each year to teach.  We annually participate in the JDRF walk to support a fellow colleague who suffers from type 1 diabetes. It is important to us that we show support for them, and others who are effected. Rather than donate money we choose events that require physical involvement as a way for our office to build comradery. Our company sponsors its employees to run in local monthly fundraiser races as well.

There are many things you can do with your company/team/department for team building:

  • Cook and serve a meal at a local homeless shelter.
  • PUPPIES!!!!!!!!! Who doesn’t love dogs? I don’t even want to know them. Local shelters would love, and are definitely in need of help.
  • Volunteer planting flowers, bushes and trees. Help make your city beautiful.
  • Mentor students preparing for college
  • Join Habitat for Humanity in building and repairing homes.
  • Organize an event at a nursing home, like an ice cream social, movie night, or bingo.
  • Have an employee bake off fundraiser. Enjoy friendly competition, laughs and delicious desserts for a good cause.

Enjoy the bonding experience with your colleagues, appreciate the time you spend giving back to your community and be grateful for working at a company that values you and your time and what you have to offer.

Thinking about a new career?

Thinking about a new career?

Thinking about a new career?

Wondering if it is the right time to make a move? Just curious on what other opportunities are out there? These are just a few of the things running through a typical job seeker’s mind. Everyone’s motivation for making a job change is different. However, there are some things that should consistently be taken into consideration.
Job searching is not necessarily a seamless process by any means. There are several things to take into consideration while job searching. Below are a few key things to consider:

1) Are you ready to commit to changing jobs?

Changing jobs can be a life changing event. Before you start to look, whether actively or passively, you should know if you are truly ready to commit to a job change should the right opportunity come along. This is the most important factor to consider. You do not want to waste your time or a potential employer’s time if you are not truly going to make a move.
2) What are your ‘MUST HAVES’ to take on a new job?
Not every career change is a response to dissatisfaction with a current job. That being said, you should know what is motivating you to consider another opportunity. Everyone’s motivators will be different. It is a good idea to think about these ‘must haves’ whether you are actively looking for a job or not; your dream job could present itself when you least expect it. Being prepared will ensure you don’t accidentally disregard that opportunity.

3) Is job title important to you?

This may not be important to you or it may fall under your ‘must haves’. Either way, defining your role with just a job title can be tricky. One thing to always remember is that titles always come with a description. The titles will vary with each company, some will make you appear under or overqualified others will consider you ‘spot on’ for your experience/qualifications and associated responsibilities. Employers are aware of this, and often consider other factors when determining a candidate for a position. It is important for you to know if having a specific title is important to you. Employers seldom are able to deviate from the titles that are in place.
4) What compensation are you looking for?
Knowing what compensation you are willing to move for is important. Don’t undervalue yourself but remain realistic; once you’ve made your mind up, be clear and upfront with employers on what you are looking for. Always know what your minimum requirements are before making a move and stay as close to them as possible. In most cases, there is room for negotiation however, employers do have budgets and it has been my experience that they are very fair and transparent with what they can offer.

5) How much time can you commit to your search?

This is a very important part of any job search. Finding time, especially if you are employed, can be difficult. You need to set aside time to focus on your search. Most IMPORTANTLY, when you are in the interview process you need to make sure that you are being flexible with your potential employer. Most employers try to work around what is convenient for the candidate to interview with them. That being said, it is important for you to show the same respect and try to be as flexible as you are able without disregarding your current employer. You may need to use vacation or personal days to interview and be prepared for that. This allows you enough time to interview with the employer without being rushed or taking away from your current employer’s time.

6) How much flexibility do you have with benefits?

This is a big thing for some to consider. When changing jobs especially if you have been with your current company for a longer span of time; there might be a loss of certain benefits such as vacation, insurance coverage, etc. These benefits are often accrued by the amount of time an employee has been with a company. Know what benefits you are open to negotiating or potentially losing. Candidates are encouraged to be open minded about the big picture and where that next opportunity can take them in the next five years.
A job search is a journey but the reward of a new job is limitless! Enjoy the ride.

YOU DON’T NEED THREE DRAGONS TO GET AHEAD IN YOUR CAREER.

Getting ahead in your career can be a long and sometimes frustrating task, but there is nothing more satisfying than finally obtaining that position you’ve been working towards. If you’ve been watching Game of Thrones, it would be the equivalent of sitting on The Iron Throne everyone is fighting for. But what’s the easiest and quickest way to get there? The truth is there are no short cuts; there is only dedication and the willingness to get ahead. Take Daenerys Targaryen for example, she didn’t just walk up to the Dothraki, Unsullied and the entire city of Meereen and say “take over the Seven Kingdoms with me, please?”. Instead, she confronted her fears head on, learned from those around her and took action. Although you don’t have three dragons to back you up on your career conquest, here are three tips to help you grow as a professional:

Listening:
Learning how to listen is no easy task, but when you’ve got it down you’ll find that the people around are filled with all sorts of information. Your peers can teach you new skills, help you with projects or give you a better idea of the role you play to make the organization work.

Developing an “I can” attitude:
Challenge yourself and face those projects or tasks you’ve been dodging! Taking on the hard tasks will allow you to broaden your talents; who knows, it might even earn you some recognition. Just believe that you can get ahead in your career and you will!

Get involved:

Adding to our lengthy to-do list is not something we get excited about, but taking on new tasks or helping others can help you grow. Whether you’re helping someone at work with a project, or volunteering at a non-profit you’ll be learning something new. Take action; it’s the only way you’ll get where you want to be!

Developing a Relationship with Recruiters

Developing a RelationshipI often feel like I lead two lives – my working life as a recruiter and my personal life as a wife, mother and friend. I am often asked outside the workplace what I do for a living. When I explain what I do, people often react one of a couple of ways: “wow, that is interesting” (usually from folks who don’t work) or I get “I have recruiters always calling me or messaging me on social media and I usually ignore them.” I often find myself explaining what recruiters actually do and why people should connect with recruiters within their industry.
Developing a good rapport with a recruiter is a great idea whether you are looking to hire someone or you are looking for a new job. I often work with candidates who want a new job and just want to know what I can do for them rather than taking the time to develop a solid working relationship. There are many reasons to develop a relationship with a recruiter in your field but I want to share just a few with you:

1 – Recruiters know the industry they work in – they know who is hiring, who is firing and what the culture is of many organizations. If you take the time to be honest about what you are looking for, a good recruiter will keep that in mind when they are working on new roles. Recruiters often know about open jobs before they are publicly posted and they know the wants of the hiring manager.

2 – If a reputable recruiter in your industry reaches out to you, take the time to respond vs. just ignoring their message. It never hurts to build your network. You just never know when you may be in the need of a new job or you have a colleague/friend who needs a new job. If you have a relationship with a recruiter, you can help others out by connecting them to the recruiter.

3 – All good working relationships are built on trust and it is the same for a candidate/recruiter relationship. The more honest you are about what you want in a new role, the better job a recruiter can do for you. If they know there is NO way you will move out of Chicago, they won’t contact you for out of state roles.

SO the next time a recruiter reaches out on LinkedIn, instead of ignoring the message, think about connecting with them. Be honest – feel free to tell them you are not looking for a new role at this time but happy to connect for future opportunities. You never know – sometimes the perfect job comes along when you aren’t looking!

Relax

We have billions of nerve fibers in our brains working around the clock to remind us of all the emails we haven’t opened (sometimes at 3am for no good reason) and the endless list of “to-dos” we’ve accumulated over the years. With this, it is no surprise that maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be an exhausting process all on its own. Fortunately, we are amazing creatures capable of adapting to almost anything, including new habits to improve our life. I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks that have helped me make time for relaxation and family activities. Hopefully, these will come in handy when you’re working on your weekly schedule!

1. Incorporate downtime into your schedule
Make it a point to spend time with your family and friends! You can’t possibly work 24/7 so why not spend time at the park with your children or at that restaurant you’ve been eyeing.

2. Work smarter not harder!
Leaving work on time is a mission that depends solely on your productivity. Spending time on social media (if not work related) or searching for completely irrelevant information like what the winner of the third season of American Idol is doing these days, will only result in you staying in the office longer. Gossiping around the office, making personal calls and checking your bank account to see how much you don’t have will inevitably result in the same outcome. Try to set list of goals for that day and get through it in a timely manner, once you’re done the day is yours!

3. Outsource your errands!
This might sound impossible at first, but think of all the little activities you complete daily and how much time you spend doing them. Grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning, by the time you’re done with all of it you’re falling asleep watching “That’s 70s Show” reruns. Why not save time by prepping meals, shopping online or using laundry drop-off services? Doing so will open up your schedule for hobbies or some serious R&R.

4. Get moving
The best way to keep yourself and your luscious brain healthy is physical activity! It’s not as easy as it sounds but maintaining a consistent exercise routine will make your work-life balance a breeze. Physical activity helps pump blood and stimulate growth of new neurons, which means you’ll be able to think more clearly. Also, when you exercise your body releases endorphins that trigger positive feelings. Look into activities that work with your schedule like swimming, yoga, or walks around the park; it’ll only result in a positive outcome.

5. Relax
Last but certainly not least, make time for whatever helps you relax. Read a book, take a bath with all the bubbles, listen to your favorite album, or simply take a walk. Whatever it is, you have to make time for the things you enjoy.

YEAH, I CAN DO THAT!

Yeah I Can Do thatBeing a team player within an organization is extremely important. Not only does it show that you can play well with others, but it shows a willingness to go above and beyond what is being asked of you. Being collaborative shows taking initiative to help out where you are needed while exhibiting some skills you may not regularly showcase. But what are some good ways to be a team player?

First and foremost, show a sincere dedication to the work. Committing to the cause shows that you are serious about helping and giving 110%. Bring new ideas to the table, be active in creating the game plan, and help to carry that plan out. Be in it from start to finish, and do not walk away halfway through. One of the best ways to show commitment to the work is to do the research and be prepare. You want to be knowledgeable so that you can contribute to the project in a meaningful way.

Be adaptable. Flexibility also makes for a great team player. Be ready to lend a hand, even if it means stepping outside of your normal job description. I know this is easier said than done. We often get caught up in what we are responsible and not responsible for, and then we leave the rest to someone else. However, stepping outside of your comfort zone is an amazing opportunity to show off not only your skills, but willingness to be a part of something bigger than yourself. I once had a boss that frequently said “flexibility equals indispensability”; by being willing and able to adapt to change, you make yourself necessary for the business.

Active communication is essential in just about everywhere– in your personal life as well as in teamwork. Communication is comprised of both voicing your thoughts and opinions as well as actively listening to those around you. Sharing your thoughts and feelings on a project, process, or whatever you are working on, is key. You show that you are a proactive member of the team and not someone who sits on the sidelines. Listening to other team members is something to also keep in mind. You want your cohorts to feel that their opinions are valued just as much as yours. Stay engaged in what they are saying because they have some great ideas, too. They may think of something you did not and would be perfect for what you are working on.

Lastly, it is imperative to manage up. If you have a lot on your plate, it may be best to wrap up what you are working on instead of taking on a larger work load. Your team needs to have the confidence that you are going to put forth the effort, and if you cannot pull your fair share of the workload, then they need to know that, too. Self-awareness needs to be monitored, and, sometimes it is best to know if you would be more of hazard than a help.

Working as part of a team is a reality in the workplace. Henry Ford once said “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Work together is success”. Be that success and you will become indispensable.

Choose Your Attitude

We are all affected daily by things that stress us, aggravate us, or make us want to run for the hills screaming. This comes in to play at work, at home, everywhere.

The quote that has helped me recently with annoying situations is the following –

“Everything can be taken from a man but the last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.
– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

If a client made you so mad, you just had to slam down the phone in their ear, remember – they did not, YOU did. You are SO lucky that you get to choose to be mad, sad, or glad in a certain situation. Hopefully you will choose a positive reaction. The big thing is you can make your life change around by choosing a happy response or even no response versus a response you will later regret.

I think this is one aspect of daily living that we forget – you don’t have to be irritated all the time! You can give yourself permission to let it slide, to not stress and to choose a tranquil response. This is not to say you need to be a push over – set boundaries and stick to them, but choosing to take a deep breath and smile vs yelling does not make you a wimp.

I still get angry and overstep, but being aware that I can choose how I respond to situations is a huge plus for me – and YOU! Just remember it the next time a client ticks you off!

A CULTURE YOU CAN THRIVE IN

As Recruiters we always want to find the right opportunities for our candidates. Culture is always a topic of conversations. Our candidates talk about laid back, friendly, collaborative, positive, or entrepreneurial culture- the list can go on. I recently spoke to a close friend of mine who went from a Worldwide Advertising Agency to a small 20-25 person agency.

“Culture was a big obstacle since my very first day at my first agency. It was a really large, worldwide agency, and I knew I didn’t stand a chance.
I entered the Advertising business as a 30-something artist of many disciplines. My art wasn’t very marketable, but I knew how to keep my head above water via my various jobs – sign maker, landscaper and bartender being my three favorites.

Entering my new world full of corporate-conscious, financially motivated people was a culture shock, especially when I saw how many positions were required to do the myriad things I previously did by myself everywhere else prior. I began to learn the ebb and flow of my new environment, finding its strengths and weaknesses. I began to understand the nuance of this new vocation.

I began to find my “place” when I started to enjoy, and excel at, my work. I made friends. I had a blast at the huge parties — all more opulent than the last – but I couldn’t shake how the bombast of the parties rose while our bottom line, and our wages, did not. It seemed like the executives were going out of their way to impress each other at the expense of the hundreds of people who depended on their prudence.

After four years of making the proverbial lemonade, I knew I needed to jump ship. I needed a place that valued work above artifice. When I found my new home, a much smaller agency, I knew the industry didn’t need to be one particular way. I saw the entire horizon by eliminating one obstacle. I actually didn’t feel like a great fit here initially. I didn’t know how to distinguish my new situation from the last one I couldn’t help but run from, but I could NOT be happier now. The small shop is my kind of shop. That’s what I need. People I work with, who started their careers at my new spot, look out their windows longingly at new horizons. I know some of them would do amazing things in the very environment I couldn’t wait to leave. Some might call that “greener grass”, but I just call it “variety”, the spice of life.”

How well you fit into a company’s culture depends entirely on your personality traits and outlook. These are intrinsic to you — you can’t fake it, and unlike your skills or salary, you can’t “build up” to a good cultural fit.

THE ART OF STORY TELLING

The Art of StorytellingSo often we hear our clients ask for a candidate who has the ability to tell a good story. Storytelling is a selling technique/art form used to inspire excitement or interest from others to bring one’s vision to life.

Storytelling can be used in many facets of business. This could include branding, marketing, sales and more. When you are in a job interview (whether you are interviewing a candidate or a job seeker), storytelling can be used to generate more interest from your audience.
As a candidate
– A resume can only tell your prospective employer so much about you. Come to the interview prepared with stories of your proudest moments throughout your career. Also, think of examples where you’ve learned a big lesson and how you’ve handled it.  Anything you can think of to help bring forth your personality and build rapport with the interviewer will help. Be yourself.  Keep your stories short and to the point.  Review the job description and company thoroughly before you interview and prepare stories which will talk to each task on the job description.  Also, it could not hurt to review the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile to show that you’ve done your homework on him/her.
As an interviewer
– Think of what makes your company unique. Why would a candidate want to work there? What makes this company special? Are there any stories you could share about the culture, benefits, significant wins, team outings, etc.?  Candidates need to walk away from the interview with a genuine excitement about moving to the next step.
Regardless of if you’re a candidate or interviewer, be genuine, sincere and personable.
Here is a graph created by Fast Company, which illustrates The Science of Storytelling as it relates to a brand. Job seekers, think of yourself as a brand and as you’re looking for a new job opportunity, consider all content marketing tactics as listed below.

BLURRED WORLD OF COMMUNICATIONS

The communications industry has been going through a very noticeable shift in the last several years where job titles and responsibilities are blurring between advertising, marketing and public relations to include the ever present digital/social media and content development.  Public relations agencies have been known to focus on earned media but as of late, large PR agencies have been building out their paid media expertise as well as hiring Creative Directors, Strategic Planners and Digital Analytics teams; all areas that PR firms have not necessarily concentrated on hiring in the past.  Now, it’s a necessity to create integrated communications plans to blend all areas to satisfy clients as well as their customer base.

In the age of digital/social media, consumers want messages and brand experiences that are holistic and aligned from all mediums whether it’s coming from their television, billboard or FaceBook banner ad.  As Recruiters, we are seeing more people with integrated experience in the past few years that mirror what we are seeing happen in the industry.  People focused on earned media, media relations and press release writing are now getting experience with original content creation, managing paid search campaigns and strategy as well as managing SEO/SEM campaigns and analytics.  So, don’t be surprised if you start getting contacted by recruiters for opportunities that feel outside of your comfort zone or different than what you may be used to.  For instance, you could be approached for an Account Management role with a PR agency if you have strong brand management experience but don’t necessarily have the typical earned media experience; however, your background may be very transferable to the needs of the client for that firm.  So be open to gaining new experiences, growing your skill set and moving into this blurred world of integrated marketing communications.

WHAT DOES WORK-LIFE BALANCE MEAN TO YOU?

Work LifeWe often hear candidates say they would like a good work-life balance. This got me thinking. What exactly is a work-life balance and what does it mean to me? My next step was logically to hit up Google and do my research.

According to Wikipedia “Worklife balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).

I also found this article which I was interesting!

The definition made complete sense to me, but at the same time, I feel like it is more complex than that. I feel like it is truly something that is individualized and that we should think about in order to really maintain a work-life balance.  So I decided to break it down for myself by answering 2questions; what are the 5 things that are important to me in my career and what are the 5 things that are important to me in my personal life?

For me it was the following:

Work:
1) Career growth
2) Importance of my role within the organization
3) Work schedule
4) Compensation/benefits
5) Vacation time

Personal:
1) Spending time with my daughter
2) Travel and taking vacations
3) Hanging out with friends and family
4) Health and Exercise
5) Continuing education

After writing these down I took some time to think. I felt after evaluating everything I had written down that working with my current company is a pretty good spot for now in terms of what is considered a good work-life balance for me. Of course, not all of my ideals were met. However, based on what I have learned, work-life balance does not mean that you get everything you want; it is about finding a middle ground of what is mandatory and what you can budge on.

I feel like knowing what a good work-life balance is for you is important. Let’s face it – a majority of us spend a lot of time at work. Knowing what is important to maintain the balance can determine how happy we are in our jobs as well as our personal life. When you get a chance you should sit down and think about it – maybe even write it out like I did. See if you have a good work-life balance or if there are maybe a few things you should be looking to change!

 

2016 RESOLUTIONS

2016If you have pledged to find a new job in 2016, you are among 21% of employees. And that percentage is even higher for those under the age of 34. The good news is that there are a lot of job out there and employers are realizing that it has become an employee marketplace. The bad news is…looking for a job can often become over-whelming and is big time commitment. If you are truly resolved to finding a new job in 2016, go about it with your eyes wide open and have realistic ideas of what you want and don’t want in a new role. Besides a higher salary, the most important factors people note in a job search are: job stability, affordable benefits, location and a good boss/team.

The beginning of your search is when you should sit down and make a list of what you want in a new role – specific to your career ambitions and your lifestyle. Are you open to a long commute? Will you only take a job that give you a work from home option? Do you want to work at a large or small company? The more questions you ask and answer for yourself, the better targeted your role will be.

When job searching, do not overlook working with a recruiter. If you find a good recruiter who specializes in your industry, they can help open doors to roles you didn’t know were available. Recruiters have worked hard to build strong relationships with hiring managers and internal recruiters. They build their reputation on delivering quality candidates and those candidates often rise to the top of a resume pile. Also, looking for a job takes time and using a recruiter is a good use of time. You could spend your lunch hour contacting a few companies a day or your recruiter can be contacting numerous companies and doing the leg work for you. It makes sense to develop a good working relationship with a recruiter– one built on honesty with a recruiter. I would never say to give up searching on job sites and company job boards but making a recruiter part of your overall search strategy is something I would highly recommend.

Good luck!

INHALE CONFIDENCE. EXHALE DOUBT.

Let’s paint a picture. You just heard from your totally awesome recruiter at MHA and they have a cool job that sounds perfect for you. You’re totally excited about it. You have your prep call with the aforementioned totally awesome recruiter and they tell you things about the position, how to dress, and, above all else, exude confidence. But, what does that mean exactly? What do confident people do? 5 Ways to Project Confidence is a great article published by Forbes gives some great tips on how to just that.
Start by playing to your strengths. This is simple because you are already good at whatever strength you are exhibiting. Doing something you are good at is an easy confidence builder, but the key is to identify what you are good at. The article explains that you can be good in your job, but that does not necessary translate to confidence. However, once you are aware that you are competent, at even the little stuff, your confidence begins to build. Try to find things everyday, no matter how small, that you are good at and hit out of the park. You will be beaming with confidence in no time!
Next, with the way you look. Dress for success. When you look and feel successful, that will translate to just about everything else from your firm handshake to your unwavering (but not creepy) eye contact. Also, watch your posture. Standing up straight can make you feel more powerful and dominant. When you feel you are in control, your confidence automatically rises. It’s been proven by science. The article discusses that posing in “high-power” stances helps to reduce cortisol (the stress producing hormone). This makes sense. How confident do you feel when you are completely stressing about something? Not very. So, if we can reduce the stress, we can increase the confidence.
Choose to be positive. This can be challenging for some people who are naturally more negative. Do not dwell on the things that can go wrong or something that did not go quite right. Hashing negative events over and over is a waste of time and energy. Instead, focus on the positive and things that are going right. Now, that is not to negate the fact that learning from mistakes is useful, but learn from them and move on. Also, focusing on the positive will shine light on other opportunities that you did not see before.
Loosen up and go with the flow. I have to admit that this is my biggest downfall. I am such a worrywart and like things to stick to my plan. Now, this does not mean to not worry at all about anything, but to let go of the things you cannot control. This also goes back to controlling your stress. Learn to be flexible, if you are not already. Work, and life in general for that matter, do not always go as planned. Adapt. The quicker you are to adapt and think on your feet, the more confident you will be.
Lastly, embrace failure. Have you ever heard the saying “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”? You do not fail if you do not try. And not succeeding at something does not make you a failure. Even just the fear of not succeeding can be a huge road block. This goes back to being an optimist. Failing does not need to be a bad thing or a negative experience; it can be looked at as a learning and growth experience.
Exuding confidence is definitely easier said than done – especially on a professional level. However, if we can inhale confidence and exhale doubt, getting that new job or getting a promotion would be easy as pie. Nothing can stop you when you are feeling your best.
Mmmmmmm… Pie…

MODERATION

Moderation is what we strive for in eating, drinking, exercising, smoking, and in general, all things fun. It is easy peasy for some people and for others, not so much. Am I the only insane person who likes to go overboard? I was talking to my sister the other day and her comment TO ME was – “I have never known you to do anything in moderation!”
So – What is moderation?   Spark People says –
What is Moderation?
On the surface, moderation simply means avoiding extremes. It involves finding strategies and habits that can be maintained over the long-term, without cycling between one extreme and the other.
At a deeper level, moderation is a commitment to balance and wholeness. It is rooted in the recognition that each person has many different (and often competing) needs, desires, abilities, and goals. Living up to your full potential means finding ways to incorporate all of them into your decision-making processes and choices.
During this holiday season, think moderation when you are cavorting, but not as a bad thing. Think of an overall holistic approach to your wellness.
The only caveat- it is completely fair to break any commitments to moderation if you have family in town staying with you for more than two days.
Happy Holidays!!

Earn Respect in the Workplace

EarningIt is really easy to get frustrated with certain aspects of our jobs. Let’s face it, everything cannot possibly go the way we want in the business world.  Even company owners and presidents have aspects of their jobs that they dread.  Here are a few things to keep in mind to earn respect in the workplace:

Recognize the value you bring
Note that your current boss saw a lot of potential in you when s/he hired (or promoted) you. Every minute of work you put in is helping the company achieve success. Take pride in that because you are on that success ride with your company and will likely grow and be rewarded for your contributions.

Continue to prove your value every day
Your employer puts a lot of trust and faith in you for doing your job well.  You need to calibrate your mind with a positive outlook, sense of urgency/speed, optimal efficiency, focus and pride in your work to achieve excellence.

Do not let yourself become complacent.  If you find yourself not feeling challenged, seek out new responsibilities at work. Present new ideas to the team and offer yourself up as the change agent to spearhead new initiatives.

We are all replaceable and there are others who would jump at the opportunity to take over your position. Don’t let yourself be so easy to replace.  Stay focused and motivated. Stand out and commit yourself to working 20% harder than your peers. It will get recognized and you are likely to achieve growth faster.  Don’t fly under the radar by doing the bare minimum.

Look at the big picture
Don’t let a few annoying things let you lose sight of the fact that you have a company which is taking care of you. Look at all of the good things your team members have taught you and have learned from you.   Recognize what you get in return from your employer.  Money and benefits are obviously very important.  So are your personal relationships, job security, and more.  Don’t let any setbacks let you lose sight of the goodness of your company, boss and team members.

Count your blessings for what you have rather than focusing on what you aren’t getting.  Remain grateful in your own mind and it might help you gain clarity of the bigger picture.

Strive for valuable relationships in the workplace
Gaining respect at a company takes a lot of hard work, dedication and patience.  Act like an adult and be professional. Avoid gossiping, bullying, pettiness and aggressiveness.  If things don’t go your way, don’t take it personally.  Be above it and try to understand the rationale for decisions.

As an employee, your role is to make your employer’s job easier. If s/he constantly has to instruct and guide you through your daily tasks or call you out on things that have slipped through the cracks, s/he probably won’t have much respect for you. Instead of waiting for a new project, take initiative and figure out what needs to be done on your own. Give your boss updates before it is asked of you. Hold to all of the promises you make to your boss and refrain from making promises you know you can’t keep. Be flexible in your scheduling and workload, and strive to go the extra mile instead of scraping by doing the bare minimum and expecting respect to be handed to you.

Your boss is human and will understand that we all make mistakes. If you own up to your mistake before your boss finds out  from someone else, then you won’t lose respect from him/her.

Celebrate others
Don’t take credit for other people’s contributions. Applaud your team members and support them to achieve greatness.  Make yourself available to jump in and help when others are struggling. Recognize that if your team members have obstacles then that is automatically an obstacle for the entire company’s success.

Help others remain positive when they’re having a bad day and ask for them to give you pep talk when you need it.  Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Don’t hold grudges toward good people who may have made mistakes, themselves.

Speak up
If something is upsetting you then set a meeting to speak with one of your supervisors. Before doing so, prepare yourself with specific examples in writing of the issue at hand. Come with a proposed solution to the problem and remain open-minded to the feedback you’ll get.  Set metrics (if you can) to prove your value for a promotion or for areas you see that need to be changed.  Try not to let your emotions take over the conversation. Remain professional.

Earning and keeping respect comes down to work ethic, personal drive and respect for yourself and others.  Do your work to the best of your ability.  Stay focused and conduct yourself with a good attitude.

Keeping Current

Linkedin can help you find jobs, clients and industry knowledge, all in one place. It is a social media site that offers you the ability to keep current and on top of what is happening in your field. Connect with people you have worked with in the past or wish to work with in the future and allow you to follow companies or leaders of your industry. You update your Facebook almost daily, so why wouldn’t you keep your LinkedIn updated of any changes in your career???

Your dream job is out there.
So, you are happy in your current situation and haven’t updated your Linkedin since before you got the job…SEVEN YEARS AGO! You may not be looking for a new opportunity but that does not mean that a great opportunity won’t find you. After all, you have been honing your skills and climbing the ladder within the company. You added value to your worth and your LinkedIn profile should reflect that with pride. Who knows, maybe you will be contacted about a new opportunity. One that will allow you to work in a specific area you have been dying for, and with a sweet new title to boot!

Social networking with a purpose.
Expanding your connections could mean more prospective clients, more job opportunities or finding that great employee who completes your dream team. Introductions are a two way perk. Just as someone can make an introduction for you, you can also make an introduction for trusted connection who is looking for new opportunities.

Just in case.
Of course you have savings stocked away in case of you lose your job, but you should always have your resume current just in case as well. Some things happen that you cannot prepare for, like lay offs due to company merges or downsizing. The better prepared you are now, the easier and quicker the process of gaining new employment will be later.

There are a plethora of reasons to keep your profile up to date. Just remember, even if you are not updating it someone is still seeing it.

UNDERSTANDING RECRUITERS

Prior to working here at Melinda Holm & Associates I had no idea what a recruiter did. I had received calls from recruiters over my career and never gave them a chance to talk before saying “not interested” and hanging up. I assumed they made calls all day, bothering people. My impression was that they’d just waste people’s time trying to sell them on opportunities which would benefit them. I’ve learned in my time here (after being hung up on a few times) that there are others that see this the same way.

Well, I’ve come to find out I couldn’t have been more wrong. Recruiters tirelessly work at finding the right candidates for their clients. They do their best not to waste the candidates’ time by contacting them for inappropriate positions. This is not an easy task as the careers and lifestyles of candidates change all of the time. There are times when we have a dated resume and information on file. This could lead to candidates being contacted for positions at a different level then where they are currently at. This being said, it’s definitely in your best interest to send your resume over as you continue to update it and advance in your career.

Aside from having our candidates who register with us directly or who are referred to us, there is still a lot that goes into finding the right candidate for the position and vice versa. There are many resources recruiters exhaust to find the perfect candidate for very difficult searches. It is not an easy or quick process by any means. There is never down time.

In addition, recruiters are extremely busy presenting the candidates to the clients, following up for feedback, convincing clients to meet candidates, scheduling interviews, negotiating offers and keeping the candidates up to speed on where everything is at in the process. This is a job that truly requires a strong ability to multi-task and willingness to put in a lot of hours.

Overall I’ve learned recruiters are not out to bother people or do what is best for themselves. They really do want to make people happy in their professional lives, both employers and candidates. Feel free to see How to Manage Your Recruiter 101.

So, as we have all heard a million times, “never judge a book by its cover.” The next time you receive a call or an email from a recruiter, in my opinion, it may be in your best interest to at least hear them out. Sometimes the best opportunities surface when you’re not even looking.

TIME FLIES

When my children were younger, I was constantly being told to “enjoy this age…time flies…they are only young once.” I always smiled but in my head was thinking, I am drowning…when are they going to get older and be more self-sufficient. Sometimes I would feel guilty feeling this way but I also thought that this parenting thing was too hard. I must be doing something wrong because I am always feeling rushed, tired and un-organized.

Now, my children are getting older and I am feeling sad that time is going by so fast! Why didn’t I listen to all those wise older women…why didn’t I worry less about laundry and more about enjoying the moment.

I recently was told “the days are long but the years are short”. I have heard it before but never really appreciated the comment til now. And wow, does it ring true. My four children are growing into young adults before my eyes and I couldn’t be prouder! I just wish I had tried to enjoy the little things more…the long days.

So my pledge to myself is this – stop worrying so much about a clean house, pressed clothes and worry more about enjoying the time I have with my kids. Enjoy their unique personalities and be proud of what nice children they have become.

I urge all of you take the time to enjoy life! Remember “the days are long but the years are short”

Fall In Love With Life

LoveWhen is the last time you went for a walk by yourself? How often do you sit alone, maybe with a cup of coffee, and just look out at all the wonder in this world? Do you see beauty passing on the streets or do you keep your eyes fixed on what’s ahead of you? People always seem to be rushing from one point to another and I can’t help but wonder if they really appreciate what’s around them. Are you in love with life?

I rarely seem to find myself where I think I ought to be in. To be clear, I’m usually pretty happy about whatever it is I’m doing; it just seems strange that I’m there. Often times I have to remind myself that I’m living for an ever changing dream. I keep my happiness and appreciation in check so that at no point am I ungrateful for what this world has to offer.

Make the choice to be happy.
Things can be rough sometimes, but don’t let those things take over. Even hard times have a silver lining. If you’re unhappy about something, take a step back and ask why. Come to terms with your feelings and work at changing your life.

Live for a dream.
Why are you doing what you do? What is your goal? Do you have a goal? We all have things that we’re working toward and it’s important to understand what that is. A lot of people I see seem to be chasing after money, and personally that seems to be a lousy thing to chase.Studies show that money and happiness are directly related, but only up to a certain amount. Don’t let money be your end goal. Impact those around. Leave an impression of love and warmth. It doesn’t matter how you do it.

Acknowledge People
When’s the last time you made a stranger smile? When’s the last time you even made eye contact with a stranger? There’s a certain callousness that comes with industrialization, so the bigger the city an individual lives the less likely they show they care. I can’t find any research to support this hypothesis, but I feel like it’s an accurate statement. Happiness is contagious, though! Think of how wonderful this place could be if we all just worked a little harder at being happy. See people. Value them. Give the world a reason appreciate you and you may just fall in love with life.

AROUND OAK PARK!

Recently, we were featured int the Know Your Neighbor section of Around Oak Park! Read the full scoop here!Oak Park

THE NEW ERA VS THE OLD

As a young African American I have witnessed death, gun violence, robbery, etc.. I have been a victim of loss to the streets of Chicago. Everyone always asks questions like “How can we stop the crime? “or “Will the it ever stop?” The truth is crime can stop if we have parents spending more time with their kids.

We as parents need to pay attention to our kids instead of keeping our kids dressed in designer clothes and fashion. We need more fathers spending quality time and bonding with their sons and daughters. The reason why the era is so bad is that our youth don’t have leadership. Fathers are either deceased or in prison.

To answer to my question “will the crime ever stop?”… As a young mother coming up in our world, I continue to pray for our country. It starts with us first, the parents, to make the changes. It’s very important to show your kids love and support and to be there. Talk to your kids and find out if anything bothering them at school, among their peers. As a parent we might be frustrated from a bad day at work, finances or other things. We as parents need to stop taking our frustrations out on our kids. All that does is lead them to be afraid of us. We need to pay close attention to our kids. It only takes a second to lose a child to violence or be the parent of a child who commits violence.

Spend more time with your children. Teach them the value of things like money. Talk to your children. Please, continue to pray for our country, especially the ones in your own community.

TO TEXT OR NOT TO TEXT… THAT IS THE QUESTION.

In a recent meeting, we at MHA were discussing new techniques of contacting candidates about a new, hot job that might be of interest to them. Now, we know that everyone utilizes email, the phone and LinkedIn. But what about text messaging? Would text messaging be an appropriate initial point of contact to notify candidates about a new job? Or maybe even a follow up to an email? It is definitely an up and coming tool for recruiters to use to let candidates know about new job opportunities.

However, with most things, there are pros and cons. Let’s start with the positives. Text messaging is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways of communicating with other people. In fact, most younger professionals prefer texts as their main form of communication. Recruiters would be able to quickly alert more junior candidates to a new opportunity. In turn, the candidate would be able to express interest and we could get the process moving more quickly. In essence, phone tag is completely eliminated. Texts are also succinct enough to get the point across without an overly wordy email.

Now for the cons… We know that recruiters are not always top of mind when candidates are not actively looking for a new opportunity. So, when a candidate gets a text message from someone who is virtually unknown to them, it can be aggravating and confusing. It may even feel like an invasion of personal space. Sometimes, messages like these can also come off as a bit spam-y. By looking like spam, recruiters risk losing the personal touch and connection that might be needed to interest candidates in the perfect opportunity. Text messaging also, inadvertently, creates an age gap. Whereas younger people prefer text messaging, more seasoned professionals understand the value of a phone call as well as a well thought out email. Human interaction is key in making connections, both in and out of the professional world, and it is quickly becoming a lost art.

Text messaging job opportunities is definitely still up for debate, and it is worth being a topic of conversation. For now, it may be tool that is used on a case by case basis. However, with the younger generation working their way up the ladders, it may become a more commonplace and accepted practice.

Penny for your thoughts? What do you think? Let us know!

A Most Refreshing Bike Ride

RefreshingI rode my bike to Madison last week. I left from Forest Park on Wednesday and arrived in Madison Friday afternoon. I went 215 miles by myself and cleared my brain!

On the ride, I was struck by not only how beautiful our Illinois Prairie Path is how it’s also an unused resource!!  You can jump on your bike and head west and north and south and gosh darn it, just about anywhere!

Seriously, it is great to see the City of Chicago and the suburbs take pride in offering safe biking options for cyclists. I commute by bike all the time, in addition to my longer rides. From Forest Park, I can ride downtown on a bike lane that runs down Madison, then to Washington, and take that all the way downtown to our office at 225 W. Washington in the Loop. I can ride home on Randolph, pick up Warren, and head all the way home. Or, I can pick up a bike lane on Damen and then home on Division or cut back down to Lake and its bike lane.

When I first moved to Chicago in 1990, there were not the options provided to cyclists that there are today. Yay Mayor Daley and Rahm! Keep it safe and fun- enjoy those lanes and the trails!!!  If you want any tips on best bike routes, I am happy to give suggestions!  Would love to hear from you on your favorite bike lanes and trails!

MY STORY

StoryOn NYE in 2011 my boyfriend of 11 years proposed to me on a rooftop in Minneapolis. It was one of the best nights of my life! A year later and the wedding planning started! AHHHH! Wedding dresses, bridesmaid’s dresses, flowers shops, guest list, food, seating and working full-time. I was dropping a lot of weight as we planned everything. Wedding jitters?  I didn’t think much about it but by our wedding, I had dropped 60 lbs. 60 LBS!!!

On September 1st, 2013, I married the love of my life!

A couple weeks after our wedding I started to feel really sick. It was hard to catch my breath, I was exhausted, and often dizzy. I called my doctor and made an appointment. On October 7th, 2013 I broke down in his office because I didn’t understand what was going on with me. I was really scared. My doctor took my blood samples and sent it to the lab ASAP. I brought my little sister with me to the appointment for support.  We waited and waited and waited. Finally my doctor and his nurse came back in the room and told me that my blood glucose levels (blood sugars) are at 403. I didn’t get it…I just stared at him. He said, “Lyndsey, you have diabetes.” I went white. I asked what type and he said “You’re Type 1.” I always thought Type 1 was juvenile diabetes. At 30 years old I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I couldn’t believe it. I went home with insulin, needles, a BG monitor, test strips, and carb counting books. I didn’t know where to start. I made an appointment with the endocrinologist my primary doctor referred me to.

Over the next couple months I was writing down every time I checked my BG levels, carb counting, figuring out how much insulin to inject myself, reading article after article. There were times I broke down, but I kept thinking to myself “this disease is not taking over my life.” One day I met with my nurse practitioner and she told me about the pump. She sent me home with a folder of information on Medtronic. I couldn’t believe it! There’s a device out there that could change my life. I told her I am in! YES, YES, YES!!!! She sent all my information over to Medtronic. A couple days later I received a call from a Medtronic representative congratulating me. I was floored!

It has been almost two years since I was diagnosed. I am seeing an amazing endocrinologist at The University of Chicago, I have gained healthy weight, joined many social media groups for Type 1, and am living my life to the fullest!

Last year I joined the JDRF walk in Chicago. JDRF is the leading global organization funding promising, life-changing T1D research. It’s their goal to progressively remove the impact of the disease from people’s lives until they achieve a world without T1D. This year Melinda Holm & Associates is  joining and supporting me to help JDRF continue to fund life-changing Type 1 diabetes (T1D) research and create a world without T1D. So far we have reached our goal of $2,000! Here is the link to our team page. Please donate or share!

JOIN OUR RUNNING CLUB AND NETWORK!!! THE DASH AD DRINK FUN RUN

Melinda Holm & Associates is starting a monthly running club for marketers, advertising gurus and friends.  Come join us and build new friendships within the marketing and advertising community.

Are you saying “Eek!” to the thought of running?  No problem as we will have a group of walkers you can join.  If you are not interested in moving at all (c’mon, really?), we encourage you to join us anyway as we will mingle after each run and offer snacks, cold beer, savory bloodies, and refreshing mimosas to enjoy together.

Why did we decide to do this?  So many of our candidates and employers tell us about their stories of races training or fitness journeys. During these discussions, we’ve both said “Hey, let’s go for a walk or run together someday”, but it just never happens.  Now is the time!!!

Additionally, we have relationships with so many industry experts who could benefit from meeting each other. We feel that this beats networking with a name tag on at some lame hotel. This is an opportunity to build business and personal relationships in a more relaxed and informal setting where you can be your true self and get a work out in.

You will set a good example to your employer by joining us. Healthier, happier employees are more productive, take fewer sick days and cost less to insure Nearly three-quarters of companies that provided health benefits last year also offered some sort of wellness program, up from 57 percent in 2009, according to an annual report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If you are interested in running, but not sure if it’s for you then start slowly. You’ll be surprised at how easy it gets if you remain consistent with your workouts. Here is more information: http://www.runnersworld.com/getting-started/the-8-week-beginners-program

Below is information on our first Dash and Drink Fun Run:

5k walk and run option – a mapped route will be provided

Date:  9/13/15

Time:  Please arrive by 9 AM. Departing for the walk/run promptly at 9:15 AM

Where:  7630 Madison Street, Forest Park, IL 60130 (meet in the parking lot in the back of the building)

Click HERE to join us!!

FITNESS IN THE WORKPLACE

WorkplaceHere at Melinda Holm & Associates we have had a lot of exciting things going on, especially with our expansion. One of the many nice things about the additional office space is the awesome fitness room we had put in. Prior to the fitness room only about half of us regularly worked out. Those who didn’t often couldn’t find the time. Lucky for us, Melinda knows the importance of health and fitness and promotes it in the work place. Since the addition of the fitness room everyone has been working out regularly. We have even started monthly fitness challenges. We started with a 30 day squat challenge and are moving on to a 30 day plank challenge next. It has definitely fostered team work and improved employee morale. Health and fitness in the work place has many benefits and I am grateful we are enjoying it here at MHA!

INDIVIDUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE

When I started at Melinda Holm & Associates in May, my mind immediately drifted to a John Hughes film:  a coming of age tale about a group of teens trying to connect with each other while trying to find themselves, with every situation drifting between sweet and funny to just plain awkward.  Why was I suddenly imagining myself with red hair, brown leather boots and a super hero power of boobage lipstick application?

You see, we are a small office with only twelve employees, all women.  It is a mix of small and big personalities, some quiet and others obnoxiously loud (you know who you are) and all with an opinion. Where would I fit in in this myriad of personalities?  I began to see the Hughes stereotypes forming.  An athlete, a princess, a brain, a basket case, a criminal…just kidding, there are no ex-cons employed here.

Every day is interesting to see how such different people could work so well together.  How they could completely disagree on so much, yet find a bonding common ground on how great NWA is, or the importance of bringing your dog to work (not so shockingly, dogs in the workplace upped happiness levels and productivity — in between the cooing, that is).  The fact that we all see things differently has not been a hindrance, but rather of valuable importance.  We debate, respectfully.  We argue, passionately.  Our very different backgrounds and lifestyles brings new viewpoints and creative solutions in the workplace that the other may not have thought of.  We have learned to respect the differences among us.  Those differences have developed into unusual friendships that extend beyond work hours.  There is an underlying common thread tying us all together…we love our job and want to make it a healthy, happy and fun place to work.  We did not need a Saturday afternoon of detention to find ourselves, but working at MHA we have found that each one of us is a bit of a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…and a princess…and a criminal (checking Facebook on the clock), and that is what makes us so successful.

Sincerely yours,

The MHA Breakfast Club

LIVING WITH INTEGRITY

I often tell my kids they need to always have integrity.  That they must make decisions based on their sense of right and wrong – not decisions based on what their friends are doing.  The other day my 10 year old asked me what I mean when I say “live with integrity.”  Well…I had to think about it a minute so I could explain it in terms that a 10 year old would understand.  As I began my explanation, I realized it could and should be explained to people of all ages.  I can’t speak for all but I know I want to surround myself with people of integrity.  That means in both my personal and professional life.

I would say integrity has different meanings in personal and professional situations but many areas crossover.  In terms of business, I would say integrity means avoiding conflicts of interest, following laws, and living by the guidelines your company has established.  And of course, you should strive to work at a company that has the same sense of integrity as you do in your personal life.

Integrity goes far beyond following the rules or standards of the company.  It is about doing the right things even when no one is watching.  And sometimes even harder, doing the right thing when people are watching.  It means taking pride in your work.  Following through on promises.  Living up to expectations.  Not cutting corners or taking shortcuts.  Taking on problems, not ignoring them.  The daily internal struggle to do what you know is right even though it may be hard and difficult.

And at all times, integrity is about putting the organization’s interests ahead of our own.  If people are driven first by self-interest, they will eventually be exposed.  And it’s hard, if not impossible, to coach someone to overcome self-interest.  It’s so ingrained that all the coaching and mentoring in the world just can’t change a basic sense of self over others.

I think that self-interest is at the core the true downfall of many leaders – perhaps more than any other single trait. It translates into poor decisions, poor execution, and a poor company reputation.  And while there may be patience to help a leader develop, there’s little to no patience to overcome a gap in integrity.

Are you working for someone of integrity and are you keeping to your standards of integrity?  Sometimes the same things we are taught as children apply to our adult life.  Simple truths but truths nonetheless.  Take some time to think about this – you will be a happier individual if you are living your true self.

The Jane Adeny Memorial School

RainsAfter three days of travel, we were finally approaching our destination. Over 20 hours was spent getting on and off planes, followed by staying the night with kind strangers just so the next day they can take me back to the airport for yet another flight. I left my house early Friday and the following Monday I found myself driving through western Kenya. Nestled up on the hillside, a system of buildings with red roofs can be seen from the main road. We turn off and start going up through the hills. There is no pavement and at one point Teresa, the director of the school, has to get out of the vehicle to move a large stone so Andrew, her husband who is driving us, can pass safely. Upon arrival to The Jane Adeny Memorial School (JAMS), the students come out to greet us. The 80 girls stand in a group, one stepping up at a time, as Teresa calls them by name and hugs them.

The school is a private, not-for-profit, all-girls high school that relies on donation. It was started by Teresa Wasonga and Andrew Otieno to help impoverished girls whose families can’t afford to send them to school. I was invited to stay at the school for 5 weeks to teach sexuality education. It was, hands down, the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done and I’m excited to say I get to go back again next year.

Teaching sex ed. isn’t an easy task in most cultures. Sexuality is filled with stigma, judgement, worry… all outside pressure. Because I’m from the U.S. it is thought that I have little shame about the topic so I was easier to trust than a local would have been. That as well as my extensive studies on sexuality means that not only am I honest and open, but also knowledgeable. I didn’t realize how much information I had floating around my brain until the first time I stood in front of the Form IV (senior) class. The girls wanted to know everything and were rarely too afraid to ask.

I tried to make sure my lessons included as much as possible. We covered everything we could including what sexuality encompasses, anatomy, mindset, STIs, relationship dynamics and more. It’s not uncommon for girls to drop-out of high school due to pregnancy. HIV rates in Kenya are between 5-10% (here in the US the HIV rate is less than 1%), with the highest rates being in the Western area not far from where the school is. The end goal of my class wasn’t to stop the girls from having sex, to not get pregnant, or to not contract HIV because teaching people what NOT to do doesn’t work. Instead, I focused on empowerment. They needed understand all aspects of sexuality and how it can impact their health, opportunity, and future.
Now that I know what I’m doing, next year is going to be great.

ALWAYS GOOD TO GET AWAY!

Well, we all stress over work, bills, money… just finances, period.  As a single mother, I know I have to prioritize finances before planning any kind of vacation time.  Just recently, I came back from a family vacation and I can say it was truly needed!  If you have vacation time, use it.  Take a few days or a week to see how relaxed and mellow the time away can make you.  Your work will still be there when you return.  Stop stressing over deadlines.  My motto is, “It will get done.  You are only one person.  If you need help, ask.”

A lot of people don’t like to take time off of work because of bills, money, and personal finances.  Regardless of whether you’re a single parent or have a family, there are ways to get away.  I recommend taking two trips a year: one personal trip without any of the children and another one with the family.  Even if it’s only a weekend getaway, it’s better than letting the stress build up.

First step, plan ahead and look into deals that are offered.  There are travel agents or sites that can be used.  Groupon is the bomb.  They have so many destinations you can choose from with hotel and airfare included for a very low price.  There are places that you may have dreamed about going to and I’m telling you that you can make those dreams a reality.

HELP, I’VE FALLEN AND I CAN’T GET UP!

This last couple of weeks at MHA, we have been going the the 360 review process. As the recipient of the review, it can be nerve-wrecking because now you will find out what everyone really thinks of you. I am happy to report that the majority of my review was good, but here was an overarching theme – I need to learn to raise my hand when I need help.

I have always (wrongly) associated asking for help as looking like it was a sign of weakness, laziness, or failure. In fact, it is the opposite. It shows that you know your limits and that you are not afraid to admit what you don’t know. It shows your commitment to doing the job right, getting it done in a timely manner, and wanting to learn and grow in your career. But how do you ask?

I have found an article on Forbes.com that has a 3 step process onhow to ask for help. Try first, then ask for help. You want to make sure that you have tried everything you can think of before asking for help. Not figuring out something on your own isn’t a failure; it just means that you two heads are better than one.

Step two is to not be a martyr. I have to admit, I am frequently guilty of this. I have this nasty little habit of trying to take on way too much and then becoming overwhelmed. Once I get to that point, I don’t even know where to begin or how to prioritize; I shut down. As a result, I end up working some crazy hours and still feel like I have accomplished nothing. I would be better off raising my hand asking for help. This helps to manage expectations as well as to help re-prioritize whatever I’m working on. It you don’t ask for help, it becomes counterproductive and nothing gets done. You spend more time worrying about how you are going to get things done rather than doing the work.

Lastly, make a list a questions or solutions.This shows that you have put forth an effort and have thought about the problem. Then, your manager can help re-prioritize or help to delegate some of the work so that it is more manageable.

Everyday, I am learning and growing professionally. Sometimes, the lesson is small and tactical, and other lessons are larger and abstract. Admitting I needed help with the amount of work on my plate was tough, but a learning experience nonetheless. I learned that it is more beneficial to ask for help then let my work get out of control. Everyone needs help every now and again and there is no shame in asking.

REVAMPING YOUR OFFICE SPACE

As you may have heard, Melinda Holm + Associates has recently purchased and expanded into the building next door to our current Forest Park location!  For the past couple of months, we have been gathering many ideas for the design of our new office space and turning them into reality.  It has been so much fun to see the transformation of the space from day one of demolition to where it is today.  Pretty soon we will be ready to add even more personal touches!

Your office environment can have a big impact on your mood and productivity during the workday. Here are a few ways that you can add a bit of personality to your office space to help liven it up and get the most out of your day.

Create a dry-erase or chalkboard wall.   These are a couple of features that we have added to our new office space at MHA.  Thedry-erase wall was made by painting a wall the color of our choice and adding a coat of clear Dry-Erase Paint, and the chalkboard wallwas simply made with chalkboard paint!  These are a great for writing inspirational messages and quotes, personal goals, company goals, etc.  Bringing in your own whiteboard or chalkboard from home into your personal cubicle or office should do the trick as well :).

Add some color!   At MHA, we have added pops of orangethroughout the office — from walls and doors to rugs and other accessories.  Adding some bright colors to your space can make you feel more alert and stimulate creativity.

Workout room.  While this isn’t exactly a simple fix, our new workout room is a feature of our new space that we are VERY excited about!  Exercise is a great stress reliever and can improve your concentration.  Having access to a treadmill, elliptical, and weights right in our office is a huge treat!

Fun partitions/room dividers.  Cubicles and room dividers in an open office space no longer have to be dull.  There are now so many interesting ways to separate offices such as shelves , panels, andmodern transparent dividers that will let some light in and prevent the room from appearing dark and dingy.

Accessorize!   As a kid, my biggest motivation at the beginning of the school year was being able to use the fun and fresh supplies and accessories (I can still smell that fresh box of Mr. Sketch Scented Markers…mmmmm). This doesn’t have to be any different at the office!  Fill your space with unique accessories that will help give you the same kind of excitement and motivation during your work day.

Check out our Office Space/Organization Pinterest board for some neat ideas to help transform your space!

RE-TRAINING YOUR BRAIN

I am reading a book The User’s Guide to the Human Mind: Why Our Brains Make Us Unhappy, Anxious, and Neurotic and What We Can Do About It … by Shawn T. Smith.

This is a great book to read if you are ready to change your thinking! I myself am my worst enemy.  I have a hard time staying in the moment, often worried about something coming up or something in the past.  However, I am getting much better!  And, this book is a real eye opener for me.  In a nut shell – start watching your mind, be aware of your mind.

Try to think of your thoughts as toy soldiers (or signs or balloons) marching in front of you and you can CHOOSE which one you might want to hold onto… and that is a novel thought for many of us – we can CHOOSE our thoughts.  To our mind we can choose to say “thank you, but I don’t need your help, I am going to choose my path based on facts, not emotion”.

Thoughts are not reality, not always helpful, and often, based in past, learned experiences.  So what your mind throws at you may not be a true assessment of a current situation, or your mind may lead you down the path of continuing past behaviors and responses, which have not been effective.

What I find liberating is the ability to choose MY behavior, my responses, my thoughts.

It is neat to watch your mind think and to slow down, pick out your responses.  Try it, and try the book!

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Make sure you research the company before your job interview.

Employers want to see that a candidate has done his/her homework prior to an interview. This applies for in-person interviews, video interviews and phone interviews. Having knowledge about a company’s history and what has made them stand out will help you to make a good impression.

When discussing the company, be sensitive to the fact that the interviewer is not going to be as excited to hear any negative comments or questioning. Position your input sincerely, but in a flattering tone.

If you happen to receive the name/title of the person you’ll be speaking with then try to find his/her profile on linkedin, google, facebook, etc. Understanding his/her career journey can open up a topic of conversation. Also, know the name of the President and CEO or COO.

There are websites where employees and former employees anonymously review companies and their management. Examples include glassdoor.com, yelp.com, careerbliss.com, etc. We have found that the reviews on these sites tend to come from mostly disgruntled employees. We are not implying that the reviews should not be considered, but keep in mind that one person’s input is not always agreed upon by others. Several of our clients with top notch reputations and low turnover have been in receipt of one to six bad reviews, but they have a staff of over 400 to 500 people. The numbers don’t translate to a real picture if only 1% of their staff post reviews. If you see a consistency of something (i.e., long hours, no pay raises, etc.) in several reviews and you’d like to address it, then be very delicate about how to bring it up. Usually you’ll be asked if you have any questions. At this point you can tell them that you’ve read some of the company reviews and wanted to ask what input they have on them.

Ask around. Check to see if anyone in your network has worked there or knows of someone who has worked there. Ask open-ended questions about his/her experience at the company.

Review the company’s social media including their blog, Facebook. Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest and anything else you can find. Find out which awards they’ve won and and scan through press releases on their website. Check their website for work samples, case studies and anything else you can find.

Obviously, review the job description a couple of times prior to your interviews. List out examples of your experience to discuss which are relevant to the job description.

In sum, we always encourage our candidates to research the company and the individuals conducing the interviews.

 

Do your homework and you’ll impress!

FIRST TIME BUYER

Make sure you research the company before your job interview.

Employers want to see that a candidate has done his/her homework prior to an interview. This applies for in-person interviews, video interviews and phone interviews. Having knowledge about a company’s history and what has made them stand out will help you to make a good impression.

When discussing the company, be sensitive to the fact that the interviewer is not going to be as excited to hear any negative comments or questioning. Position your input sincerely, but in a flattering tone.

If you happen to receive the name/title of the person you’ll be speaking with then try to find his/her profile on linkedin, google, facebook, etc. Understanding his/her career journey can open up a topic of conversation. Also, know the name of the President and CEO or COO.

There are websites where employees and former employees anonymously review companies and their management. Examples include glassdoor.com, yelp.com, careerbliss.com, etc. We have found that the reviews on these sites tend to come from mostly disgruntled employees. We are not implying that the reviews should not be considered, but keep in mind that one person’s input is not always agreed upon by others. Several of our clients with top notch reputations and low turnover have been in receipt of one to six bad reviews, but they have a staff of over 400 to 500 people. The numbers don’t translate to a real picture if only 1% of their staff post reviews. If you see a consistency of something (i.e., long hours, no pay raises, etc.) in several reviews and you’d like to address it, then be very delicate about how to bring it up. Usually you’ll be asked if you have any questions. At this point you can tell them that you’ve read some of the company reviews and wanted to ask what input they have on them.

Ask around. Check to see if anyone in your network has worked there or knows of someone who has worked there. Ask open-ended questions about his/her experience at the company.

Review the company’s social media including their blog, Facebook. Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest and anything else you can find. Find out which awards they’ve won and and scan through press releases on their website. Check their website for work samples, case studies and anything else you can find.

Obviously, review the job description a couple of times prior to your interviews. List out examples of your experience to discuss which are relevant to the job description.

In sum, we always encourage our candidates to research the company and the individuals conducing the interviews.

 

Do your homework and you’ll impress!

A FEW TIPS ON LETTING GO!

As recruiters, we run across many candidates who are ready to make a move and let go of their current job. Others, however, aren’t quite ready make the jump. One thing we always tell candidates is that you should always leave your options open because you never know when that perfect opportunity could arise. Letting go of things, especially a job, can be tough, so here a few tips to help prepare yourself for this situation.

  1. If you are leaving your options open, know whether you would seriously make a move and mentally prepare for that.
  2. If another opportunity comes along, write out all of the pros and cons from each job to give yourself a better picture of what is most important to you. Is it Salary? Title? Commute? Work/life balance?
  3. Know what type of job you would leave your current position for. Even if you are happy in your current role, put some time into thinking through what types of roles would intrigue you enough to make a move. It will have you prepared if that perfect job happens to make its way across your desk.

These are just a few tips to consider thinking about. I think learning to let go is one of the hardest things anyone can do. Until some recent life changes, letting go of things was a challenge for me. One of the reasons letting things go can be hard is because it can mean change and change can be scary. A favorite quote of mine is by Gail Sheehy: “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t living.” This reads true in many aspects of life not just our jobs. So keep in mind that letting go of things from big (such as your job) to small (such as a bad hair day) can make a huge difference in your life.

THE SUMMER IS UPON US

The summer is upon us and it is a great time to re-charge your battery. Mentally, I just  feel better when I start to see green grass and colorful flowers popping up everywhere. January may be the time to make New Year’s resolutions but I think summer is a great time to make resolutions as well. My resolution is to be less stressed about what I don’t get done and enjoy the things I can do. There are many things to enjoy in the summer and if you take the time, you will roll into Fall a more relaxed, refreshed, and positive person. If you are like me, your kids will be out of school and ready to have some fun! Don’t let work stop you from spending quality time with your kids. Kids remind us how the simple things in life are worth enjoying. Take a bike ride, enjoy a popsicle on a hot summer night, just get outside and take advantage of the beautiful weather. Summer is a perfect time to travel. A change of scenery can recharge your battery. Whether you pick a place that you go every summer or pick someplace you have never been, take the time to enjoy it. Be present and enjoy the moment rather than think about all that you aren’t doing at work. Travel sparks creativity and you should be bring that creative energy back with you. The summer is a great time to try something new – do something that you have always wanted to try but never had the time. Take a few golf lessons. You may find that you really enjoy the game. Golf is a lifetime sport and the golf course is the perfect place to mix business and pleasure. Or take up paddle boarding. It is an “in” sport and a great exercise! Learning something new changes your perspective on the familiar and may spark new solutions to old problems.

TIME IS PRECIOUS

Over the years, I personally never understood the meaning “Time is Precious”.  It wasn’t until I gave birth to my gorgeous daughter my whole perspective changed.  Time is always important, especially now!!!!  We are living in a world where there is hatred, racism, killings, and depression.  One person can’t change the world but one person could help out the world by focusing on their time.  So here are a few different aspects of time:

Important Time: This is the time we use to attend to the things that are of high importance in our lives; like working to earn a living, filling the role as a parent, and partner, paying bills, balancing our budget, attending school, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are all things that usually take up our important time.  Prioritizing these tasks will add value to our lives, and leave us with a feeling of fulfillment at the end of the day.

Interrupted Time: This time involves all of the things creep into our day that are unexpected.  Finding yourself stuck in traffic, missing the bus, or with an increased work load may get in the way of what you need to do.  You need to recognize that some of these time issues are out of your control.  This will help ease stress and lead to a better frame of mind so you can come up with alternate ways to tackle the issue at hand.

Escape Time: These are the moments when we simply need to get away from daily grind, to step back and away from the situation in order to clear heads. Using this time is very important for maintain sanity, especially if you find yourself being short tempered on the job or snapping at others. Simply stepping back to gather our thoughts can lead to making healthier choices.

Relaxing Time: The time we enjoy food , get caught up with what’s going on in the lives of friends, vacationing, watching TV, reading a book, or participating in something you love.  Setting time aside is a MUST.  Taking time to relax will re-energize the mind and body.  We’ll be able to reflect on what we’re grateful for like our jobs, loved ones, and health.  Sometimes we take these things for granted.

Bed Time: This the time everyone looks forward to, especially after a hectic day.  It is important to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep and get your body ready to handle the new day.  We need to use the time we have now, to embrace the good, to love ourselves, and to give life to others by showing we care.

I’LL TAKE THAT TO GO!

Last week, the MHA team strolled down the block to Flavour Cooking School in Forest Park for our company outing. It was there that we learned a variety of cooking terms and techniques and worked together to prepare a delicious meal: crab bruschetta; asparagus ricotta tart; pea, ricotta and speck pasta; and roasted berry meringues…YUM! (If you are in the Chicago area, I highly recommend signing up for a class here!)

It was this particular event (okay, and perhaps one of my pregnancy cravings…) that inspired me to write about my favorite and most important meal of the day that often goes skipped: breakfast.

I love breakfast and could eat it for every single one of my meals. Not only is it DELICIOUS, but really does give you a boost of energy in the morning and a great start to your work day. We live in a very “to go” world, and while I know that most people do not have the time to prepare a gourmet meal in the morning like we did at our company outing, there are plenty of other ways to prepare some easy, yet scrumptious, breakfasts. I personally prefer to wake up early to sit down and enjoy my meal with my cup of coffee or tea, but these easy-to-prepare breakfasts are also great to take on the road and will surely help you start your day the right way.

  1. Ham and Cheese Breakfast Sandwiches: I prepare these breakfast sandwiches and freeze them for my husband, a non-breakfast eater, to grab and heat up in the microwave before he leaves for work in the morning. He loves them! It’s like a healthier version of a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich (admit it…McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches are pretty darn good…).
  2. Refrigerator Oatmeal: Refrigerator oatmeal is a breakfast my sister would prepare for herself on a regular basis the night before (which is a requirement for this recipe) and it is so worth it! Remember to pull out the yogurt, oatmeal, and mason jar tonight because all of these refrigerator oatmeal recipes look so tasty and dessert-worthy!
  3. Skinny Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie: This is my new personal favorite breakfast/snack/dessert. It is so simple to put together, easy to drink in the car (in a tumbler), and tastes oh-so-good.
  4. Baked Oatmeal Squares: These oatmeal squares are great. You can cut them up and grab one for the road in the morning, or you can put it in a bowl, heat it up, and pour some unsweetened almond milk over it to eat it as more of a cereal!
  5. Ham & Egg Cups: If you prefer salty over sweet, these little bacon and egg cups are a great choice. You can prepare a bunch ahead of time and either freeze or refrigerate them. Just heat them up in the morning, and you’ve got a great breakfast for when you are ready to hit the road.

Breakfast can be so much more than a bowl of cereal, granola bar, or piece of toast and doesn’t have to take up a big chunk of your morning. Get motivated for the work day and make your mornings more interesting by trying easy breakfast recipes like these!

What are some of your breakfast suggestions?

BREAKING THE BLOCK

Writing is an essential part of everyday business life. We all have to do it and we all get the occasional dreaded writer’s block. When I was asked to write this blog, I literally have no idea what to write it on. Then it hit me; write your blog on how to write a blog when you have writer’s block. A stroke of genius if I do say so myself!

One of the key factors to writing a good blog is to get started before the blog is due (my first mistake). This way, you can brainstorm a few good ideas and start the writing process. If you are looking for topics, there are tons of websites out there for appropriate business topics. I found a few ideas from MONK posts:

1. Compile a “best of” list
2. Compare the new vs. the old way of doing business in your industry
3. Review a book dealing with your topic that displays out of the box thinking
4. Take a common issue that many people care about and explain how it relates to your industry
5. Make a donation to a good cause and write about it

Once you make a list of ideas that would be good, possible blog topics, pick one and start to define your big idea. Start adding the details. Knowing what you want your central theses to be and what position you want to take will definitely help your blog take shape. You need to decide if your writing is a persuasive, expository or a narrative. Once that is figured out, sketch out the major details pertaining to your central idea and a lot of the blog will practically write itself! It’s funny how that works, isn’t it?

Lastly, be creative and have fun. Writing, in general, doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, many of these tips can even be used outside of blogging. It is perfectly okay to inject appropriate humor and personal anecdotes into your writing if relevant.

So, go on! Take out those sledge hammers and break up that writer’s block! You never know what ideas you will uncover once you break that wall down!

WORRY… AND ARE THERE REALLY MARTIANS?

It is hard to stop the brain from dissecting events, thinking of what one should have done, what one should not have done, said, etc. This is in both social and work situations.

The motto that I am striving to live by is to not over think. I can think about a situation, but if I start looking back at what I did or said, what I think others are thinking, or what might happen – then I have evolved into worrying. And, worry accomplishes nothing. One of my favorite quotes about worrying is from www.tut.com:

“As far as I can tell, worrying about anything at all is a pretty good indicator that one has begun thinking that their joy and prosperity will somehow hinge on pending physical events, other people, or angry green Martians.

First, joy and prosperity are created within. Second, the events and people of your life can be changed with your thoughts. And third, for the most part, Martians are neither green nor angry.”

I continue learning and practicing each day that happiness is in my control, and worry is a habit that CAN be eliminated. Staying in the present is one of the best ways to control worry – a subject for another blog!

DON’T BE A DEAD FISH

Handshaking is perhaps the most widely recognized of greetings worldwide, in both Western and non-Western societies. While on the surface a handshake appears to be a warm, friendly gesture, this can be a superficial reading. It’s important to recognize the different meanings of handshakes in different situations, and to be able to use them to your advantage.

The history of the handshake dates back to the 5th century B.C. in Greece. It was a symbol of peace, showing that neither person was carrying a weapon. During the Roman era, the handshake was actually more of an arm grab. It involved grabbing each other’s forearms to check that neither man had a knife hidden up his sleeve. Some say that the shaking gesture of the handshake started in Medieval Europe. Knights would shake the hand of others in an attempt to shake loose any hidden weapons.

Today, handshakes are the standard greeting in business and even personal situations. You’re probably not looking for weapons. But there’s still a lot to be learned about the motives and beliefs of others handshake style!

The Palm-Down Shake

When someone shakes your hand and turns their palm down, they want to dominate the interaction.

When you receive a palm-down shake you can move both of your hands back to the Equal Shake. And you could make the decision if you want to work with the other person or not. They are most interested in getting their way!

The Palm-Up Shake

When someone shakes your hand and turns their palm up, they want to be welcoming and pleasing and will most likely do exactly what you want.

When you receive a palm-up shake, you can move it to the Equal Shake position to show that you want to be on even ground. In your dealings with palm-up shakers, make sure that you go for a win-win. They will be easily persuaded to do what you want!

The Equal Shake

When you shake hands and the clasp is vertical, it says that you’re meeting on common ground and want a nice, even interaction. You can easily turn a palm-down or palm-up attempt into an Equal Shake if necessary.

There’s nothing to do about this. It’s what you want!

The Fist Bump

This shows a symbol of power and raising fists together to fight in unity. Its origins are as a secret handshake between soldiers.

If someone offers you their fist, just bump it with yours. It’s more awkward to change course once the fist is offered instead of the palm. Plus, you want to be cool, don’t you?

The Dead Fish Handshake

A limp handshake tells people that you don’t have a backbone and will do anything they want without any argument. If you receive a dead fish handshake, it could indicate that the person or couple is going to be agreeable to your offers.

If you are giving someone else a dead fish handshake, it’s likely you don’t even know it! As a rule of thumb, when you shake another person’s hand, just match their grip and you’ll let them know you mean business.

The Nice Firm Grip

The perfect handshake is firm, but not too firm.

When you get a handshake that matches the firmness of your grip, you know that the other person wants to meet you on common ground. If your grip is less firm, be sure to match theirs (unless you find yourself in the situation below!).

The Bone Cruncher

When you receive a handshake that’s way too hard, you know that the other person is trying to dominate the situation or trying to be someone they’re not.

A handshake like this lets you know who you’re working with and their deep, unconscious motivations. Be careful! They may be friendly on the surface but you’ll know what’s really on their mind.

What’s your style?

 

Resource: What Your Handshake Style Says About You

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS ARE NOT AN A LA CARTE MENU

Sometimes candidates ask us if we can negotiate a different insurance package for them when they are reviewing a job offer. Often candidates may walk away from a very generous health care package and accept lower coverage by a new employer which means a higher employee contribution.

Most employers only have one plan to offer all of their staff due to the buying power of group health insurance. There are special challenges to companies which employ a staff of less than 50 people. After all, the insurance companies can write more policies for larger companies, which is why they tend to get better costs.

In 2014, The Affordable Care Act mandated that businesses which employ the equivalent of 50 or more full-time workers will be required to provide health insurance to all of their employees. Companies which employ less than 50 people are not effected by this mandate which means that they do not have to offer insurance to their employees.

Additionally, 401k matching, accrued vacation time and other benefits cannot always be matched because companies cannot change group policies for one person. Even being at the SVP level or higher won’t change this.

We advise candidates to share everything with us about their entire benefit package up front so that we can proactively prepare the employer to create an offer to make up for any potential losses in benefits. We don’t want to encounter any surprises or disappointments after a long interview process.

We encourage candidates to look at the big picture when assessing an offer. While there might be a step back in certain areas, there are usually big leaps forward in other areas. Think about where the position will take you in the next five years.

FINDING “ME” TIME!

Everyone wants a good work-life balance but what about just setting aside time for yourself.  Until recently, the thought of setting aside time for myself between work and family seemed like a impossible joke.  For the most part my routine was get up, get ready, get my daughter ready, go to work, pick my daughter up, cook dinner, play with her, give her a bath, story time and bedtime.  I never had any time for myself though and it didn’t feel possible.  I used to love to read but could not tell you the last time I read until I started setting aside time for myself.

Now when I am talking about setting time aside for yourself, I’m not talking about hours a day or anything absurd.  I learned that finding 15 minutes a day for myself for just my own thoughts or what I want to do is not impossible.  It helps with stress and not feeling like I’m pulled in too many directions.  If you give yourself a “time out” everyday, it will become part of your routine.  And I promise that you will be happier for it.

Here are some 10-15 minute break ideas that I came across that could be helpful: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/21-counter-intuitive-break-ideas-to-boost-your-productivity-at-work.html

AS I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH…

I received my degree in psychology. Most of my classes involved sexuality. If they didn’t, I would find a way to relate the topic. My educational experience with advertising consisted of “Killing Us Softly”, a series of documentaries about the negative repercussions popular advertisements have on women and society. I’m a headstrong feminist with political agenda and have always planned on getting my master’s degree in counseling for abusive survivors.

With all of that, there was no evidence I would start working at a marketing and advertising recruitment firm. I was never too sure what I would do with the interim between my undergraduate degree and graduate studies, but it did not involve sitting in a cubicle, doing grunt work in a field I knew nothing of.

There are no regrets there. While I still argue I have too much personality for cubicle, I do like having a cubicle. While the first few weeks may have been a little rough, I rode the curve (the learning curve that is). I’ve been learning the positions and Googling titles to better understand everything. The ladies here are all really helpful, too. I also have been finding myself moving away from the idea of a counseling degree and more toward consumer psychology and marketing.

HOW TO STAY POSITIVE AND MANAGE STRESS IN THE WORKPLACE

Life can get in the way with how you perform in the office. Anxiety and stress impact your productivity and most of all get in the way of your motivation. Financial worry, health issues and family problems are just some of the things that can make you demotivated, and the pressure at work is not helping one bit. So how do you set your mind to face the challenges that life has to offer?

Two areas where I know I could use help is staying positive and managing stress in the office. I want to share a couple ideas on how to do both.

Here are some tips that can help you stay positive:

Love your work

The last thing that would demotivate a person is do something that he/she hates. Responsibilities can be easier when you are dealing with something you enjoy doing. One thing I have an issue with lately is loving what you do but being demotivated because things aren’t going well at work. I have struggled with this and it is tough to stay positive. You have to force yourself to step back and realize you can’t control everything. You need to enjoy the successes – big or small. In this specific job, you need to not blame yourself when placements don’t work out.

Give yourself some slack

Work does not need to be all business. Sometimes you need to laugh and not take yourself so seriously. Usually, people who can laugh at themselves and at ridiculous situations deal with stress better.  Look for ways that make you look forward to going to work. Set goals for yourself. Create friendships in the office place. Treat each Monday as a refresher.

Now about that managing stress thing.

Emotions are contagious, and stress has an impact on the quality of your interactions with others. The better you are at managing your own stress, the more you’ll positively affect those around you, and the less other people’s stress will negatively affect you.

There are a variety of steps you can take to reduce both your overall stress levels and the stress you find on the job and in the workplace. These include:

  • Taking responsibility for improving your physical and emotional well-being.
  • Avoiding pitfalls by identifying knee jerk habits and negative attitudes that add to the stress you experience at work.
  • Learning better communication skills to ease and improve your relationships with

And lastly, when it comes to stress, our bad habits contribute to our stress. Many of us make job stress worse with negative thoughts and behavior. If you can turn around these self-defeating habits, you’ll find employer-imposed stress easier to handle.

A couple areas where people can improve:

  • Resist perfectionism. No project, situation, or decision is ever perfect, so trying to attain perfection on everything will simply add unnecessary stress to your day. When you set unrealistic goals for yourself or try to do too much, you’re setting yourself up to fall short. Aim to do your best, no one can ask for more than that.
  • Clean up your act. If you’re always running late, set your clocks and watches fast and give yourself extra time. If your desk is a mess, file and throw away the clutter; just knowing where everything is saves time and cuts stress. Make to-do lists and cross off items as you accomplish them. Plan your day and stick to the schedule—you’ll feel less overwhelmed.
  • Flip your negative thinking. If you see the downside of every situation and interaction, you’ll find yourself drained of energy and motivation. Try to think positively about your work, avoid negative-thinking co-workers, and pat yourself on the back about small accomplishments, even if no one else does.
  • Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things at work are beyond our control—particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.

I am sure you will be a happier person if you can figure out ways to stay positive and manage stress.  And if you find some things that work, share your ideas with us via social media!

The bad news: It’s morning. Coffee isn’t working.

The bad news: It’s morning. Coffee isn’t working.

The good news: Coffee is the not the solution to life’s problems.

Weekday mornings are never appealing, so here are some tips to start your morning off right and get through those wee hours of the day (potentially without the need for caffeine)!

1. Drink water. Drink a glass of water instantly after you wake up to de-fog your brain.

2. Don’t snooze. You’re setting yourself up to feel lazy and unmotivated throughout the day when you wake up and hit that snooze button a couple times. Pick a time that gives you enough sleep and also gives you enough time on your daily routine.

3. Exercise in the morning. It actually gives you more energy throughout the day.

4. Turn up the music. My favorite thing is to listen to something I love — R&B, pop, jazz, etc. But to really get my day started, I enjoy listening to Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album or “Thriller”.

5. Take a shower. No explanation needed.

6. Don’t treat coffee like a drug. On days when you feel energized, try cutting down on the amount of coffee you drink. Try drinking tea instead.

7. Eat breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, for me, any meal is important. Breakfast gives your brain nutrients to carry out the mental processes throughout the day. Think of it as fuel for your body. Without it you’ll run out of fumes.

8. Talk to someone. This is another favorite of mine. Engage in light conversation with co-workers and/or family members in the morning. Conversation helps the mind and body get out of a zombie-like state.

What do you do to get your day going?

WHAT DO I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP?

As a recruiter, most of the candidates I talk to in the course of my day seem to have a pretty good handle on the answer to that question. Most seem to have a path in mind.

But occasionally, I have had some candidates ask me for more advice than I have a right, or am trained, to provide. Once in a while, I will be interviewing a candidate who has been in one kind of work situation for a long time, or worked in one kind of industry or sector and now wants a change. I am not talking about a change to a different company in the same sector or different advertising agency that promises a promotion. I mean a CHANGE. A MASSIVE SHIFT. And they ask my advice. They tell me about what they have done in the past and then they share their passions, the things they have always wanted to do but have not yet done, and then they ask me, what do you think? How can I move from being a marketing manager to being a potter?

And here is where I have to be careful. If a candidate is, perhaps, choosing between two opportunities and wonders which would be the next best step, we, as recruiters could offer up some insights into what might be a good next move for long-term career growth, or we could, perhaps, help weigh the benefits offered by two companies to help the candidate make an informed choice.

But when those larger life choices, BIG CHANGE questions come up, that is where we, as recruiters, have to step out. And that brings me to the idea of Career Counselors. I, personally, happen to be a big believer in seeking out the help of these sorts of professionals, to help you weigh some of these larger questions. If you are looking for a way to explore these LARGE career shifts, life shifts, a good licensed career counselor can be a great way to get some insights. It can also be beneficial to be in career support groups where chatting with others who are in a search mode can be supportive, can inspire, can give you big light bulb ideas.

If you are looking for that SEISMIC SHIFT, consider reaching out to people who are trained to guide you, to help you get those inspired moments, at least as a starting place. Of course, this kind of exploration can also be done with therapists, spiritual leaders, trusted family members. You have to go with what works for you. The path to becoming that potter, or painter or master gardener, or yak farm operator is out there.

Just being in the question of what do I want to do when I grow up is the first place you have to get to and seeking out the people who can help to guide you is a good next step.

What do I want to be when I grow up? I am still trying to figure that out! But it is better than the alternative…

INTERVIEWS: THE FIRST DATE

Interviews and dating. Two very different meetings, yet similar in so many ways. You may be feeling a bit nervous beforehand and have a variety of thoughts in your head. Will this be a good match for me? Will I be a good match for them? Whether its the first date with your dream guy/gal or an interview for your dream job, we all know that it is important to make a good first impression. Here are some tips to help you ace your interview and get a bit closer to finding “the one” job for you.

Dress to impress   Do you spend hours in front of the mirror and/or trying to find the perfect outfit for your first date? You should treat your interview similarly. When selecting your ensemble, keep the culture of the company in mind as some are slightly casual whereas others are more buttoned-up. No matter what, always show up to your interview well groomed and pulled together and keep in mind that it is always better to overdress than to underdress. Refer to ourDress to Impress blog and Pinterest board for some interview attire tips!

Get to know one another   An interview is your opportunity to show how good of a fit you are for a company and a particular role within it. You want to impress the interviewer and show yourself in the best light. Get to know one another. Show them what you have in common with them and the great qualities you can bring. Give them a reason to have that second “date” with you.

It’s not all about you   Sure, you have loads of great things to say about yourself (your skills, your accomplishments, etc.), but what about the person at the other side of the table? It’s important that you are showing interest in him/her, too! Be engaging with your interviewer and be prepared to ask great questions about the company and role! In doing so, you will be able to find out what is most important for them and whether you will be a good fit for one another.

Don’t talk about negative experiences with a previous job  Would you want to listen to your date speak poorly of his/her ex all night? How about the ways in which he/she messed up or had his/her heart broken. Similarly, bad-mouthing a previous employer is never a good idea at your interview and should definitely be avoided.

Body language   Body language is a form of communication that can say a lot about a person. From the very first greeting to your final departure, you want to be sure that you are sending the right message. The strength of your handshake can indicate a lot about your personality and level of confidence, while fidgeting and lack of eye contact will leave your interviewer thinking you are uninterested and anxious to leave. Be aware of your body language throughout your interview to ensure that you are giving off only positive messages.

Follow-up   Did you feel a good connection with the interviewer, company, and role by the end of the interview? Let them know! Wouldn’t you want your dates to let you know what a great time they had with you and that they’d like to see you again? Similarly, follow-up is very important after an interview. Send a note to thank the interviewer(s) for their time. Let them know how interested you are in the company and role and how you would be a great addition to their team.

Keeping these in mind just might land you that second date and closer to the job that is “the one” for you. Even if you find that you are not right for one another, perhaps they have a friend they can set you up with that will end up being a perfect match!

Are you ready for your next “first date”?

ONWARD AND UPWARD

Promotion. This is the most exciting yet simultaneously the most terrifying word in our professional vernacular. I have recently been promoted, and, truth be told, I am a little afraid. Most of my tasks are different than they were before and a few were added for good measure; I’m learning a whole new job. Although advancement is almost always a good thing in your career, it is still something that needs to be handled with care.

First and foremost, know what you don’t know. When moving into a new position, it goes without saying that there will be new duties and tasks that will be required that you have never done before. Spoiler alert: your boss knows this, too. Although it is human nature not to want to look dumb, especially at our jobs, it is very important to ask questions and raise a hand if you need help. You boss and team want the work done correctly and also want to see you succeed. How else you would expect to learn and grow professionally if you don’t ask questions?

You should be asking about not only the job itself and the process, but also about your boss’ expectations. Joan Lloyd and Associates has outlined a few good questions to consider:

1. What are my new tasks?
2. What is the most important project that you would like me to start with first?
3. Who can I use as a support person ? Who can I ask questions to?
4. Are there any areas that you have a concern about?
5. Here are some areas that I have a concern about…
6. What are my performance expectations over the next 3, 6, 9 and 12 months?

However, asking questions may not enough. You need to retain what you have learned, so take copious notes. Make sure to keep your notes readily available so that you can reference them at any time. If needed, have 2 different notebooks. Keep one for taking notes in the moment when receiving instruction, and one that is neat and organized where you can find things easily.

Lastly, try to be confident. For some (like myself), this is easier said than done. Your boss is confident in you; why shouldn’t you be confident in yourself? After all, there is a reason your boss picked you. Be realistic and know that you are going to make mistakes. Pick your self up, dust yourself off, and try again. Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. And, like my mother says, “If all else fails, fake it until you make it”.

Promotions can be intimidating at first, but are well worth it in the end. You learn new skills and get a chance to showcase what you’re made of. Even though I’m still learning what is expected of me, but I have no doubt that I’ll be just fine.

MANAGING UP

Managing up is an important part of work life.  It means different things to different employers, I am sure, but to me it means managing the expectations of your superiors and keeping them updated on your projects and status.   Communication is key.

Examples of not managing up:

1.  If you are given projects by your boss and you take them on, but are already overloaded and don’t discuss prioritizing – you are not managing up.

2.  If you are given a project and unable to communicate your timelines and status to your boss effectively, you are not managing up.

Examples of managing up:

1.  You are given an assignment, and you are eager to start, but you are still working on two other projects for your boss, or other supervisors.  You let your boss know you are eager and willing to work on his/her project.  However, given your current workload, you ask your superiors to prioritize what is most urgent.    I love when my staff does this!

2.  You are given an assignment and are on track, but the rails fell off and you will not complete the project in time.   You alert your supervisors and let them know you will not be able to complete the assignment, but will be able to complete it within X days.   That is what I like to see.

3.  Communication — hard to always do, but best when you do!

Other things to remember on managing up:

In a WSJ article from a few years back, a Ms. Edwards says that there are numerous strategies her clients often overlook when it comes to managing up. For example, getting to know one’s manager & and his or her style. “If you and your manager seem to be speaking two different languages, then the problem may be that you are not leaning into that person’s style,” says Ms. Edwards. “An analytical [type boss] will take exception to someone who presents an idea without data to support it. A people person will be offended in the absence of regular communication.” Knowing your manager’s style — and adjusting your own to meet it — will help you manage up, she says.

There are plenty of other easy steps you can take to become adept at managing up, according to Ms. Edwards. Important ones include: paying attention; jumping in when needed; maintaining a good attitude no matter what; doing quality work; keeping your boss informed; building relationships, trust and an information network; staying out of politics; learning the art of selling and negotiation as well as the company’s rules; and being a good follower when the situation dictates it.

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU

A new year means New Year’s Resolutions. Taking time over the holidays is a good time to reflect on the last year to see what you could have done better. You can look back and figure out what you’re happy with and what you’re not so happy with. What are you looking to change? Do you want a promotion? Maybe change fields? Ask for a raise?

What steps are needed to obtain these things? Keep yourself organized. Being organized and confident proves to others and yourself that you’re serious about what you wish to change. Don’t be afraid to talk to friends and coworkers about your goals. They can help with strategy or support, just as you can help them. Think of each other as ‘responsibili-buddies’.

Just be aware that you’re going to slip. You may even fail. You may even give up for a day, week, or month. It’s part of the process. You need to accept change isn’t easy. If one or two little bumps in the road is enough to deter you, then maybe you should reassess what you want. We’re all prone to slip up every once in a while. Those moments don’t define us, it’s how we handle it that does. If you want to follow through with new goals, or even old goals, it comes down to you. Be stronger, more educated, more aware. Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you do not take.

GOOD NEWS FOR JOB SEEKERS IN 2015!

Good news for job seekers in 2015!

The projections for 2015 all point to a healthy market for job seekers, but filling these jobs and retaining top performers continues to be a struggle for employers.

The buzzword for employers is “the war for talent”.  The war for talent is a term coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company in 1997.  The term is also described in the book, “The War For Talent” written by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod.

The war for talent refers to an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees.

Talent retention is an important topic for all HR professionals as top performers are getting contacted by recruiters on a regular basis.  We saw a lot of counter offers go out to candidates from their current company in 2014.  Employers are working on creating incentives to keep the employee at their company for as long as possible. Some have paid out five figure signing bonuses which the employee needs to pay back to the company if s/he leaves within 2 years.

In 2014, we saw several of our candidates in a position to chose from 2 to 4 offers at a given time. Prospective employers who have waited on a candidate for too long have come in too late with an offer and the candidate is off the market. After losing their top candidate, the employer is back to square one on their search.  This is why we always try to keep the employers informed of the said candidate’s activity every step of the way.

What does this market mean for job seekers?

  • Assess what your current employer would need to offer you in order to keep you and weigh that against what you could get out of a new opportunity
  •  If you want to stay with your current employer, but need more of an incentive to stay, then schedule a time to chat with your boss about options. Don’t be pushy, entitled or demanding. Approach the conversation with the idea of what you both need from each other in order to keep you on board. Be prepared with what you can offer the employer in the long-term.
  • Do not use other employers to get a counter offer with your current employer. This will burn bridges with everyone involved in your interview process.
  • Make a commitment to where you’d like to work for the next few years and don’t become a job jumper.

Feel free to read more here:
http://edition.cnn.com/2013/05/08/business/workplace-baby-boomers-exodus/index.html
http://time.com/money/3632517/heres-what-to-expect-from-the-job-market-in-2015/

LAUREN’S STORY

“For it is in giving that we receive.” – St. Francis of Assisi

This holiday season, Melinda Holm & Associates made a donation to the SAMFund in honor of Lauren Wollenberg, a young cancer survivor and the sister of our very own Lyndsey Wollenberg. SAMFund is a grant program that helps to support young adult cancer survivors by providing financial assistance to help them recover from the monetary impact of receiving treatment. They also provide online resources and education to help survivors truly move forward with their professional, personal and academic goals.

Lauren shared her story with us to show how the SAMFund has made an impact on her life:

On April 1, 2007 I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia at the University of Chicago Hospital. I was able to keep my disease under control with oral chemotherapy drugs (Tyrosine-Kinase Inhibitors) until the day I was told I needed a bone marrow transplant. I was extremely blessed to have my sister, Amy, as my 100% HLA- identical match. I had my bone marrow transplant in October 4, 2010.  I tolerated my transplant well, but I was really feeling the financial burden of my treatment. I was seeing the doctor upwards of 16 times a month and had stacks of prescriptions to fill. I was unable to work and thought to myself, “How am I going to make it?”

I received a call from a research nurse who told me about a grant program called the SAMFund. They provide financial assistance to young adult cancer survivors.  Since I was in the right age group, a cancer survivor, and out of treatment, I was the perfect candidate. I had no idea there was any organization out there like this! The nurse sent me the link to apply on July 6, 2011 at 2:39pm with the deadline at 5pm that evening. I hurried to get the application completed, and I did! It felt like a weight was lifted. It blew my mind to know that some strangers in Boston might help me to pay off a part of my medical debt.

On December 30, 2011, I received a call from Michelle Zeitler. She let me know that my application was accepted and they would pay off $963.00 of my medical debt. I was so relieved! These people who knew nothing about me other than my cancer story and financial challenges helped me in a way I never thought possible. It was one of the best days of my life!

Since then, I have discovered that SamFund does more than just help pay off debt; they have all the resources that any cancer survivor would ever need. They offer great webinars, social media support, and awesome parties to get to know other SAMFund recipients. I feel truly blessed to be part of the SAMFund family! And I’m so grateful to Melinda Holm & Associates for making a donation in my honor! They are giving cancer survivors like myself an opportunity to move forward! #CANCERisntFREE

Please feel free to visit SAMFund’s website to learn more or make a donation.

Warm wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from your friends at Melinda Holm & Associates!

IS WORK CULTURE IMPORTANT TO YOU?!

Everyone is driven by different motivators in their careers. Many of us spend more time at work than anywhere else. When you really think about it, culture is a big component of enjoying your job. You could love what you do but the environment could be off for you. No one wants to work in an environment they are not comfortable in or don’t enjoy.

Here are a few things to think about when it comes to choosing the right culture for you.

1) Is culture important to you and what does culture mean to you?

2) What culture do you thrive best in?

3) How can you help contribute to creating a culture you enjoy?

 

Once you know what type of culture you enjoy and want to be a part of, you can make it an important part of your job search. Some of the ways to know if the culture is what you are looking for are as follows:

1) Research the company you are interviewing with. We can pretty much Google about anything these days to get insight on a company.

2) Ask about culture during your interviews. Interviewing can be intimidating sometimes, but you should not be afraid to ask questions. This lets the employer know you are interested in the opportunity and their company.

3) Make it a two way street! You should always let the employer know what type of culture you enjoy and what you can contribute to their company’s culture as well. Our skill sets are important and most employers are interviewing you because they can see your skill set on your resume. Make yourself standout by letting them know who you are as an individual and what you can bring to table for their culture!

These are just a few of the things to think about when it comes to company culture–it is important and it also means something different to everyone. Know what it means to you. It could be more important than you think.

WHAT IS GRATITUDE AND HOW DO WE EXPRESS IT?

The definition of gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude is certainly a word that comes up often over the holidays. We say it and hear it often but do you ever really think about what it means and how to live life with gratitude?

Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. Gratitude helps to change your focus – instead of looking at what you want, you look at all that you have. Research has shown that one’s life can improve greatly from the practice of gratitude. Small gestures of thanks can actually make people feel more content – happier with where they are in their lives. People who practice gratitude usually have less stress levels and are generally happier than those who do not.

There are many ways to show gratitude, but often it helps by actively finding ways to “practice” gratitude. Often, the simple task of being aware makes one realize how easy it is to be grateful and how much better it makes them feel.

Many people suggest keeping a daily gratitude journal really helps get one started in being aware of things around them. This is a simple exercise that basically consists of writing a list of a few things that you are grateful for. You can do it anytime of day, but just the act of having to think about things and writing them down makes it seem more real.

Another way to make one more aware is to implement a set amount of days that you promise yourself to go without gossiping, complaining or being critical of others (or yourself). This helps you stop the negative voice inside of you and inside think positive thoughts.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and I believe it is the perfect day to practice gratitude. This year, I am tasking my family to treat Thanksgiving like New Year’s and make a resolution – to practice gratitude on a daily basis and be thankful for all they have. I dare you to make the Thanksgiving resolution – I guarantee it will be one of your best holiday seasons ever!

Happy Thanksgiving!

BUILDING TRUE FRIENDSHIPS AT WORK

I recently had a conversation with one of my colleagues. After seeing one another on a daily basis at the office for years, we have grown to know each other on so many levels. Not only do I now consider her a co-worker, but also a true friend. I love the conversations we have and how we can always come to each other for advice, and, whether or not we like it, we always hear each other out.

Here is what a true friend is to me:

  1. Always be there, even in silence
  2. Be kind and listen
  3. Don’t be scared to tell each other the truth no matter how difficult it may be
  4. Guide one another in times of need
  5. Always listen
  6. Be loyal and forgiving
  7. Remain friends despite the choices a person makes
  8. Accept them as they are
  9. Stand up for your friend even when others are not
  10. Don’t hold grudges over petty arguments

UNPLUG

A colleague of mine forwarded an article to me written by a very senior level executive about unplugging/disconnecting in this constant contact world.  This executive did not recommend totally disconnecting, recognizing the impossibility of that in this digital world, but recommended consciously choosing where/who to connect with and when, drafting emails to send later, that sort of thing.  The recommendations made a lot of sense.

Mine may not.

Well, they do to me, but….

I was standing in the lobby of my office building waiting for an elevator with 6 other going-homers (or going some-wheres). I decided to be pleasant and say goodnight, comment on the day, current events, etc., but there was a problem.  Every one of my fellow travelers was wearing headphones and staring at their phones.  They could not hear me, and certainly were not planning anytime soon to look at me either.  I felt saddened by this.  Not that I needed them to engage with me particularly, but it got me thinking, so I decided to talk to myself (not out loud–at least I do not think it was out loud).

In  a typical day, how many times do I encounter this situation?  Often, I said to myself.  In elevators, in meetings, on the sidewalk, nearly everywhere.  When I pull into or out of the parking garage at my office, the pedestrians are all plugged in, walking by without noticing that I am coming perilously close to them and, if I were not the sensible person that I am, might even consider nudging them with my car, just to make a point.  Of course, I would never do that.  But I have thought about it.  When I am driving home, watching people dashing across Wells Street to make trains while they catch up on their email or are rapturously listening to their music, I marvel at their luck in not getting squished under some truck or taxi or hit by some person on a Divvy or other kind of bike or struck by the driver in front of me who is also checking emails and listening to their equally rapturous music.

This tendency to be staring at our phones all the time (and I do it too) is part of modern life.  I get it.  However, not only do I believe that we are losing the ability to relate to each other, but also that eye contact is suffering.  I meet a lot of people in the course of my work day and am sometimes amazed by spotty or non-existent eye contact.  I recall one person who spent most of our meeting together looking at the surface of the cement building outside my window, which was directly behind me.  I kept trying to lean into his eyes, but to no avail.  Admittedly, an extreme example, but it makes a point.

While that senior level executive I referenced earlier in this commentary had a lot of great ideas about managing her electronic world, I say she did not go far enough.

GO FOR IT. UNPLUG. (At least sometimes):

In traffic
On the street
In meetings
When your significant other is talking to you
When your friends are talking to you
When you are with your children
While I am talking to you at the elevator
When you are driving – had to say it even though I know we know
At movies
At the theater
At any restaurant table
Oh the list goes on…I am starting to bore you I am sure

Use your phone to:
Make calls (important ones)
Receive calls (important ones)

Try it – once a day, once a week, once a month, or once in a while!

I believe if we all unplugged a bit more, we would be better friends, co-workers, bosses, and listeners; more observant and in-tune with our surroundings and people; more intuitive, interesting, smarter; and much safer when crossing the street in front of cars being driven by drivers who are checking their emails, or considering nudging you to make a point!

So, I look forward to talking with you the next time I see you at the elevator AND waving and smiling at you as I pull into the parking garage.

A DOSE OF INSPIRATION

We all have those days when we feel that we’ve come to standstill, lacking patience and getting overwhelmed when everything fails to go our way and our goals have not been met. This feeling can make it difficult to remain optimistic, confident, and motivated, which can not only affect us and our own progress, but also of those around us. We mustn’t forget, though, that we have a full day ahead of us and plenty of time to turn that frown upside down! 🙂

Whenever you need your spirits uplifted — whether it is the beginning of the work week, a stressful time in your life, or just a day when you need a boost in self-confidence — sometimes all it takes to get yourself inspired and motivated to take action are the wise words of some of the most successful and influential people in the world. To help keep you motivated and work toward achieving your personal and career-related goals (and stay on good terms with your peers!), I have compiled a list of some of my favorite inspirational and motivational quotes.

“The grass is greener where you water it.” – Neil Barringham

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

“If Plan A didn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letter! Stay cool.” – Unknown

“Wake up in anticipation something great is going to happen today.” – Unknown

“When nothing goes right, go left.” – Unknown

“I never look back, darling. It distracts from the now.” – Edna Mode,The Incredibles

“Expect nothing and appreciate everything.” – Unknown

“Work hard in silence, let your success be your noise.” – Ritu Ghatourey

“It never gets easier, you just get better.” – Unknown

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

“There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” – Unknown

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

“I’m going to go stand outside. If anyone asks, just tell them I’m outstanding.” – Unknown

“Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” – Charles Swindoll

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” – John F. Kennedy

“Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn.” – Unknown

“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” – Maya Angelou

“Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.” – Unknown

“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo, age 87

“I’ve always been in the right place and time. Of course, I steered myself there.” – Bob Hope

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t.” – Thomas Edison

“Better to be the one who smiled than the one who didn’t smile back.” – Unknown

Be sure to follow us on social media for weekly doses of inspiration from your friends at Melinda Holm & Associates!

3 TIPS FOR OFFICE ORGANIZATION

Office organization is vital to a productive work day. Just think about it; how much time do you spend looking for something that you had in your hand yesterday? Or, trying to remember that thing you were supposed to do? We have all done it. But, there are a few ways to combat the daily battle of disorganization.

Keep a “to do” list.   I keep an open document of everything that I need to do from things that need to be scheduled to supplies that need to be ordered. Nothing is too small to put on your list. From my experience, it is typically the small stuff that I am likely to forget and need to make sure gets on that list. Those are the tasks that are likely to sneak up on you and catch you off guard.

Set appointments in your calendar.   Technology is a wonderful thing that allows all your devices to sync with one another. They also have features to set reminders and alarms. Use that to your advantage. When we have an appointment in the office, I make sure to have a reminder pop up fifteen minutes before everything happens. This way, I know everyone involved has everything they need to be prepared. I know it sounds silly, but I even use this in my personal life. I don’t know how I would remember to change the litter in the litter box if I didn’t have a reminder set in my phone to clean it 3 times a week!

Think ahead.   Also, I keep almost everything that I will need to make my day productive within reach. This does require thinking ahead.  Although it is not a failsafe, I’m not spending a large portion of my day looking for something that I need. I have all my basic needs and information at the ready for whenever I need it.

There are many other methods, websites, and apps that help with organization. I personally love to use Evernote and the Stickies app. Blogging Bits provides other great resources for organization. It is really just finding ways that work best for you. When it comes down to it, organization equals efficiency, and who doesn’t like getting through their work faster?

SAY WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY

For some reason, recently, I have been thinking a lot about thinking. And, I have come to a surprising conclusion –

NO ONE CAN READ YOUR MIND

I found this startling! Believe it or not!

I used to think that my husband, family, friends and co-workers knew what I wanted and I did not have to spell it out. But I do! We recently passed around the office a Simple Reminders flier – it states the obvious, ways to keep things simple. The couple that have stood out for me are –

Want Something – Ask for It

Don’t Like Something – Say It

I have had a hard time in my past asking for something. I have had a hard time telling people (or one person) that I don’t like something.

But, I have changed and I think for the better! If we don’t spell out how we are feeling, if we assume people know, if we never ask for anything, or submit to something we don’t like, we are not going to ever be happy. No, your husband doesn’t know that you want him to (fill in the blank) unless you tell him. Your mom, dad, sister, aunt, friends and more have their own thoughts and lives to deal with, and no one (not even your BFF) is going to be able to know what you want unless you tell them.

You need to be selfish in this way – state what you like, state what you don’t like, and of course, always remember to tell someone you love them!

HOW TO STAY FOCUSED AT WORK

Ever click on an interesting article and the next thing you know you have wasted 30 minutes falling down the internet rabbit hole?  Of course you have, we all have.  Staying focused at work can sometimes be hard when there is so much information only a click away.

I am lucky enough to work for an employer that does not block where we are allowed to surf on the internet.  With that privilege, it is important to be respectful and stay focused on why I am on the computer in the first place…to do work!  Studies have proven that taking small breaks throughout the day can help bolster an employee’s productivity and their overall happiness in the workplace.

Here are some quick tips for staying focused in the information age.

Only take a break after completing a task.   Stopping mid email to check out those shoes you saw in the store last night or to check a social media notification that popped up on your phone makes your work take longer and also feel more tedious.  The longer a tasks takes you, the more tiresome it can feel.  Stay focused until your project is complete and then reward yourself with a quick 5 minute break to see what your old college roommate instagrammed for lunch.

Create a routine.   Have a long project to work on?  Take your breaks at regulated intervals.  For example, work for two hours and then take a ten minute break, but keep an eye on the clock while you are cruising the web so you don’t let time get away from you.

Don’t keep excessive tabs open.   If you always have a tab open with your twitter feed or your favorite news site, it is easy to constantly click back and forth and see what is happening in the outside world just for a second.  Those seconds add up! Best keep the tabs closed and the temptation gone while you are working.

Disable pop up notifications.   Another big distraction at work is your smart phone.  If you are constantly getting notifications from your all your applications, it is distracting not only to you but to your co-workers (in the era of open office spaces chances are your neighbor can hear every time your phone buzzes).  Check out your phone’s settings and disable the applications that can be easily checked manually.  No need to lose your train of thought because your village was attacked in Clash of Clans!

Lastly, remind yourself that anything you don’t get done at the office during the day is probably just going to have be done that night from home!

NETWORKING IN A NEW CITY

There are all kinds of reasons that bring you to a new city: a new job, your partner’s new job, to be closer to family, and so on.  An often overlooked part of moving is the need to set up a professional network in your new location whether or not you are in an active job search.  Building a strong professional network is important — you never know when knowing that extra person might come in handy.

First off, start looking for a LinkedIn Group.  This can even be done before you move.  Become active on the board and reach out to connect with individuals who you feel have similar interests.  Many companies post potential job leads or networking events on LinkedIn boards and it is always best to stay informed of opportunities to make valuable connections.

If you have a new job, get involved in your work place!  Going to social outings like happy hour or participating in the company softball team will help you get to know your coworkers better in a relaxed environment.  If your company is small or doesn’t have many team building events, suggest grabbing coffee or lunch with a couple of your coworkers.

Another great resource for networking is utilizing networking event websites such as Meetup.  Meetup.com has the largest network of local groups where you can find people with not only shared professional, but shared personal interests as well.  If you can’t find a group that fits what you are looking for, start one of your own!

The most important thing to remember when you are trying to make connections in a new place is to not be afraid to take risks and say “YES!”.  Going out and meeting people is the first big step to getting acclimated and calling that city your home.

CAREER BURNOUT, HELP!

Let’s face it, we all struggle with balancing productive, successful work with a happy and healthy lifestyle.  Workplace burnout goes beyond ordinary stress.  It often can influence our entire outlook on life, which can affect our health, our personal relationships and more.

Many of us are recipients of heavy workloads, long hours, client/employer pressure and keeping up with really tough competitors.  This can turn into a ripple effect with fosters resentment inside and outside of the office walls.  Hence, that feeling of being ‘trapped’ can completely consume someone.  How in the world can we turn this around for ourselves and/or for co-workers who are experiencing this burnout?

Here are  couple of points that may help:

1.  Take responsibility for the way you feel. If you’re angry, resentful and hopeless then something has to change either at work or within yourself.  If work is the problem, then take charge to lead change.  Perhaps you need to talk to your boss about hiring someone else to even out the workload? You could propose realigning processes.  Maybe your firm is taking on too many clients?  Can you find a different position within the company?  There could be a number of solutions, but you need to professionally speak up.  If change with workplace is not realistic you can either change your attitude or perhaps it is time to move on.

2.  Don’t over-commit yourself.  If you are taking on more work than you can handle you need to manage up.  Your boss is not likely to want poor quality work from an employee.  Set some boundaries for yourself, but be very careful about just saying no without being a team player. Propose a solution before just saying no to extra work.

2.  Be realistic with yourself.  It is easy to blame others for what is wrong around you, but ask yourself if you can be more patient with people.  Could you be the culprit of low morale?  Try to be forgiving of others and give them the benefit of the doubt.  Realize that burnout can be self-inflicted.  Are you overworking yourself for more income or gaining recognition? Is your purpose really worth it?  Try to figure out what options you have and start setting your priorities straight.

3.  Take a step back.  Try to evaluate your situation objectively.  There could be a huge risk of leaving your job and then stepping into the same situation (or worse) in a new one. Maybe that is just a reflection of the industry you’re in.  Perhaps your life outside of work might be influencing your burnout?  Are you giving yourself time to relax at all?  Is there anything in your life which could be simplified?  Can you drop anything to give yourself more balance?

4.  Attitude check.  Ask yourself “Is it really THAT bad?”.  Are you making it worse for yourself by focusing on the negative?  Are you feeling sorry for yourself?  Focus on the aspects of work which you enjoy.  Take a look back at all of your successes and appreciate the people at all levels who helped you achieve those successes.  Try to get excited about what you’re working on now and in the future.  Renew yourself.  Wake up every day and make the decision to be happy, hopeful and positive.  Sure there will be blows every now and then, but keep yourself going and look at all of the other opportunities to chase after.  You can’t win them all, but you still can win a lot of them!

5. If it is truly time to move on then do it.  Write down a list of questions for your interviews which can help to identify red flags.  You want to avoid mirroring the aspects of the job you are not enjoying now.  Prepare yourself to accept trade-offs.  Do a gut-check about what is most important to you — more money or spending more time with loved ones or pursuing personal passions.

6.  Take a deep breath.  You may not be able to make your change overnight.  It may take a while for you to realize what you really want.  Be patient with yourself.  If you are religious then turn to your place of worship to gain renewal every week.  Talk it out with loved ones.  Take charge of your burnout instead of the burnout taking charge of you.  You can beat it!

ADDING DETAIL TO YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE

At this point, most professionals have a LinkedIn profile. However, a good amount of them are not very detailed. LinkedIn is a great platform for networking with professionals AND is a great place to find a new career or be contacted for opportunities you may not have known about otherwise.

Just simply having a LinkedIn profile will not get you contacted by potential employers. It is very important to put as much detailed information on your LinkedIn profile as possible. From a recruiter/employer standpoint our searches will be keyword, experience, and skills driven. So the more information pertaining to what you do and what skills you have obtained, the better the chances of coming up in the appropriate searches and being reached out to for potential career opportunities. That being said you should still always have a resume besides your LinkedIn profile at the ready.

If you are not looking for a new job or interested in hearing about them, it is still a good idea to keep your LinkedIn profile updated. LinkedIn has made it easy so you can simply decline an inmail from a potential employer or make it where you do not accept inmails if you are not in the job search mode.

Overall, LinkedIn has become an important tool for not only employers but job seekers as well. Sometimes the best opportunities surface when you are not even looking!

FREELANCING

freelancingHave you ever thought of freelancing or been asked if you’d be open to freelancing? Quite often I ask candidates if they’d be open to freelancing and most often, there is silence on the other end of the phone. Then, they often say that they’ve never thought about it. There are many reasons freelancing makes sense but one needs to go into it with their eyes wide open.

Often, one finds him/herself unemployed because of a lay-off, a move or because they took time off for personal reasons. Landing a permanent role of your dreams can be tough and often takes time. While you are looking for that dream job, it may be the perfect time to open yourself up to freelancing. There are many perks that come with freelancing. To name a few, freelancing is a great way to bring in income while your look for your dream job. You are able to keep up to date on the latest advances in your field. You keep your skills fresh and that helps in an interview situation. Freelancing is a great way to network and expand your professional network. When you are in a work environment, you get to meet folks in your industry and they get to see your talents. Let them know you ultimately want to land a permanent role.  Referrals are often the best way to get your foot in the door for an interview.  Also, employers are looking for candidates who can not only do the work, but also fit into the overall company culture. By proving both through your freelance work, you’ll increase your odds of landing a position within your newly expanded network. One of the biggest reasons people choose to go the freelance route is that it offers them flexibility and helps with work-life balance. When you freelance at a company, you are typically paid an hourly wage and are given a set schedule. That way, you don’t have the unplanned late nights at the office.

Now for the eyes wide open part. Freelancing takes discipline and flexibility. You need to show up to your job and show your A game every day. Otherwise, people won’t be moved to hire you permanently or refer you to colleagues looking to hire. Also, you must be both disciplined and organized with your financials. Because freelance roles are not permanent, you have to be willing to not have a set salary. And lastly, you must be comfortable jumping into a situation with little training and work to make an immediate impact

Freelancing is a great way to go for many people. If you are open to freelancing or need to hire some freelancers, I’d love to hear from you!

SUPER MOM/SINGLE MOM

I am a single mother of a 6-year-old girl. Just like many other single working parents, whatever the circumstance may be, there are a variety of challenges I must face each day in order to care and provide for my child on my own, all while having a career. My career is not only about me, but my daughter as well, and every decision I make about it will affect both of us.

Being a parent is another full-time job. It requires a lot of multitasking and time-management throughout the day, and the need for a work-life balance has become essential for me in order to relieve the feeling of being overwhelmed by the pressures of having multiple roles. Some of the many things I juggle on a daily basis include dropping off and picking up my daughter from school or daycare, making sure her homework is completed, cooking her dinner, getting her ready for bed, doing her laundry, etc. It is important to stay organized and keep a schedule so that all the little things don’t seem so daunting. As a single mom, stability is important for both your and your child’s peace of mind.

Flexibility at the office is another very important factor as single parent. Having a short commute to work has always been a necessity to me. We all know emergencies happen, and unless you have a back-up, you do not want to be far from your child. My ten minute commute from home to work allows me to be there for my daughter in an instant should she ever need me. I love working with Melinda Holm & Associates because my boss, Melinda, understands my situation and has opened her doors to her staff numerous times to let their kids come in for the day if they can’t find alternate help. Melinda has even been known to let our candidates bring their kids in while they interview with us! Be honest with your employer and your immediate supervisor. People respect honesty and will understand if you need to leave for the ballet recital your daughter hasn’t stopped talking about for weeks. People don’t have tolerance for dishonesty and excuse after excuse as to why you need to take some time off.

In my time as a working mother, I have also learned to surround myself with good role models for my child. I have worked hard to build a strong support system for my family and have found that asking for help is not a sign of weakness at all; people who care about you are happy to pitch in and help. Always remember that children are often more resilient than adults. They take things in stride. Even when things seem tough, kids just want to be happy and feel loved. You can’t be everywhere at once and sometimes certain sacrifices have to be made at home when you have a team counting on you in the office. Having a strong support system can help put your mind at ease and enable you to focus on work while at the office.

Being a single mom is hard work, but I have made the best of it and, in my opinion, the rewards far outweigh the struggles. Regardless of what is going on around me, I always remind myself to stay strong and keep my head up. I strive to be a woman that my daughter can always look up to. I am proud and blessed to be a single mother.

TAKING TRIPS. COACHING BALL. SLEEPING IN. DATE NIGHT. READING. LEARNING TO PLAY THE BASSOON.

I talk to a lot of folks throughout each week about career history, goals, requirements, and wish lists as they explore new opportunities.  Besides asking for salary history/expectations and relocation requirements — those dream cities they have always wanted to move to (“warm, warm”) —  one of the things I ask are, “What are your top three ‘must haves’ for your next job?”

The most common response to that is, “Hmm, never thought of that.”  I often get, “I don’t have any must haves, I am easy going.”  Then as we talk further and dig in about their past jobs, ideal workplace culture, their particular skills, people will suddenly pause and say, “Wait a minute, I do have a must have.  I REALLY want work/life balance.”

“Oh,” I say, “What does that mean to you?”

This brings a long list of must haves, suddenly.

“My son is in T-ball – I’d really like to coach.”
“I travel all the time and have no time for my family.  I really don’t want to do that any more.”
“You know, I really could do this job at home 2 days a week – they would not miss me – I’d like that.”
“I used to paint in college, but that has gone down the tubes.  I want to get back to that.”
“I can’t remember what my kids look like. I have had client meetings out of town for weeks!”

Suddenly, the list grows.  Of course, people also tell me they want to manage a staff, or be more strategic, or want a bump in salary, but the most frequent answer is work/life balance.  This is not a revelation, I suppose, but I would say that if it comes up as much as it does, then there must be something to that.

Of course, our job requirements and structures are what they are, but sometimes it’s a good idea to inject a little T-Ball into ones life, or revisit writing that great novel, or just going out with friends.  It refreshes, rejuvenates, and helps you to bring your best self back to your career.

So, what are your top three must haves?  A good question to ponder.

THE POWER OF A “THANK YOU” NOTE

When I was a child, my mom and dad, just like millions of parents, taught me that when someone does something nice for me, I was to say “thank you.” Whether they offered me a snack, drove me home after school, helped me with my homework, or gave me a birthday present, the proper thing to do was to thank him or her and express my gratitude. This concept transfers over right into the working world. In fact, saying “thank you” after a job interview can actually be a key factor as to whether or not you get a job offer.

Sure, you may have impressed your potential employers during the interview with your extensive knowledge and experience, but shaking their hand and saying good-bye at the end of your meeting does not mark the end of your interview. Within 24 hours of your meeting, you should always send your interviewers a thank you note. Their time is valuable, so use this as a chance to express how grateful and enthusiastic you are to be considered for this position! It reveals humility, it reveals respect, and it reveals overall good character, which is good etiquette. Etiquette is a quality that employers want to see from its employees! You may be a great fit for both the company and the role, but do not risk having them think less of you and miss your shot at obtaining the position by skipping this important step!

In addition to showing your appreciation, thank you notes also give you the opportunity to highlight your key skills and qualifications for the position and allow you to share any additional skills or experiences that you may not have had the opportunity to discuss during the interview. Even if the employer does not have an open position for you at the moment, the courteous gesture of sending a thank you note can make you stand out amongst other applicants and they may keep you in mind for future openings with their company.

An email thank you note is fine, but a hand written note is rare these days. People are likely to remember a hand written thank you note more than an email.

As British philosophical writer, James Allen, said, “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” This simple task can very well determine whether you get offered the job!

EXCITING NEWS FROM MELINDA HOLM & ASSOCIATES: JENNY MOSHER HAS BEEN PROMOTED FROM SENIOR RECRUITER TO ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT OF RECRUITING!

Jenny Mosher came to Melinda Holm & Associates with over ten years of recruitment experience in the advertising and marketing world.  After joining the team at Melinda Holm in 2012, she has helped us grow our network and make several key placements in Media, PR, and junior level opportunities.

Due to Jenny’s leadership, initiative, advice, and thoughtful insight on managing the staff and business at Melinda Holm she has been promoted to Assistant Vice President of Recruiting!  Jenny is a valuable member of the team at MHA and her positivity and honesty are essential in helping the company thrive not only in the marketplace but internally as well.

Thanks to our new and existing clients, as well as our outstanding candidates we are continuing to grow at Melinda Holm & Associates.  We have some big changes in the near future, including an exciting (albeit slightly daunting) search for bigger office space to support our expanding staff!  We look forward to what is to come and are appreciative to everyone who has helped us get to where we are now.

 

Melinda Holm & Associates is a Chicago-based and woman-owned marketing and advertising recruitment firm that places professionals in marketing, promotions, public relations, and advertising positions on all levels nationwide. We cover both freelance and permanent placement needs in corporations and agencies.  If you are interested in working with us to find the right candidates for your company or as a candidate looking for the next step in your career, please visit our website at www.melindaholm.com for more information!

CHOOSING WISELY

ReferencesFinally! You have made past all of the phone screens and a couple of interviews. Now, your new prospective employer is asking for your professional references. Yay! They must be serious about you! Before giving a plethora of names, make sure to do your due diligence and seriously think about who you choose. Remember, the contacts you give are representing you, so choose wisely.

One of the biggest things to remember to is to make sure your list gives a 360° view of you. Not every contact you choose should be at the peer level. A boss or supervisor that has worked in close capacity with you is important because they can speak to the overall quality of your work, your strengths, as well as your interaction with others from an unbiased perspective. A peer can speak more about the ins and outs of your day to day work whereas a direct report can discuss your management style. All three perspectives are equally important insight into what you can bring to the table.

Also, make sure that whoever makes it on your list is an effective communicator. This person should have both great written and verbal skills. You also want a person who has a good balance of giving good examples without getting bogged down in the details or being ambiguous. Giving too much information or not enough can be detrimental to the quality of the reference. Your contact should be able to be direct and concise without being confusing.

Lastly, no matter who you choose, make sure you have their permission to use them as references. The last thing you want is for your new prospective employer to call one your contacts and they had no idea that they would be contacted. Some people are uncomfortable providing a reference and some cannot due to work policies. Always ask to make sure that your contact is both willing and able to speak positively on your behalf.

My mom used to tell me that your future changes with every choice you make. I think she told me that to stop me from being that rebellious teenager that I so desperately wanted to be. But, as much as I hate to admit it, she was right wasn’t she? The choices you make change your future; the references you choose can impact whether you get the job or not. In the end, remember to choose the people who are the best representation of you.

EMBRACING CHANGE

I am 50 – yikes I say!! But on a good note, I think my age and some of the maturity that comes with it has helped me to embrace change – which can be scary to me. I get in a groove and like to stay in my self-created structure.

Now that I am 50 (the new 25!), I think I am finally becoming my own person, and recognizing my strengths and weaknesses (often pointed out by others). And, I think I am embracing my weaknesses and realizing – WHY not concentrate on the areas where I am stronger, and let go of the things I am not as good in. For work, this means more delegating, less micro-managing, and trusting that projects will be executed by my team without my guidance. I will be freed up more to engage with clients and candidates in a one-to-one manner, in person, as well as when attending trade shows, speaking engagements, and exploring new business.

And, it is hard to walk away from the day-to-day management of a business I created!! But, for growth, I am embracing the things that scare me and walking away from the comfort of day-to-day “in the weeds” management. Very exciting while frightening!! But, I am excited to feel a little frightened every day!

Which is why I am also signing up for a marathon and I think a 50 mile run, too. Why not dream big goals?

RESEARCHING POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS

While looking for a new job, we encourage our candidates to look into the companies they are interested in working for. This enables the candidate to get a good idea of the company’s work and culture.

First and foremost, visit their web site.  This will give you an idea of a few things.  First off, if it is an agency, you will be able to see who their clients are and what kind of work they are doing.  Secondly, it will enable you to see what kind of image the company is trying to project for themselves.  Read their mission statement and their company history.  Find out where they are coming from and how they want to grow.  Take into account the design and usability of the site.  Does it look like they are keeping up with current design and tech trends?  Take a look at their job postings aside from the position you are currently applying for and see if they are going through a growth or transition phase and looking to fill lots of positions.  This can give you an indication of their stability.

Next up: google them.  See if they have made any major headlines recently. Perhaps they landed a new account that you can congratulate them on and talk about in the interview.  Also, look to see if there are any reports on trouble they might be having in the marketplace or anything you may view as a red flag.

Look into their social media presence — you can guarantee they are looking into yours.  Look at the voice the company is currently speaking across their social media channels.  Are they active on twitter?  Do they blog?  Are they thought leaders in the marketplace?  Also, if you have landed an interview and know the person you are meeting, take a peek at their LinkedIn profile. See what their career path has been like prior to working at this company and how long they have been there.

Lastly, check out job employer review sites like Glassdoor.com.  Now, with sites like Glassdoor it is easy to see things in a very negative light, so I advise you to be wary.  Keep in mind that just like on Yelp, people tend to write reviews when they are angry and want to get their opinions heard.  That being said, it is still good to look and see what current and past employees have to say about the company.

So remember to do your homework!  Once you have researched the company, if you still have questions or concerns, reach out to your recruiter.  We are always happy to share any information with you that we have on the company’s culture and why we feel they would be a good fit for you!

DRESS TO IMPRESS: JOB/JOB INTERVIEW ATTIRE

DressThere have been endless articles on what to wear and what not to wear to an interview. While its best to keep in mind the essentials such as wearing slacks vs. jeans, finding the right blazer or suit jacket, and maybe flashing your college ring, a few minor details sometimes slip through the cracks.

Here are some of the little things your interviewer is bound to notice. I’ll break it down for you from top to bottom.

First off, hair. Keep it clean and simple. No need to over-style your hair; that will just add unnecessary stress to your primping routine. Don’t go overboard on product — just keep it sleek and clean (think school picture day for a grown-up). As for facial hair, if you want to rock a beard, go for it, but whatever facial hair you do have, keep it trimmed and make sure you have picked out any stray food morsels from your breakfast!

Now onto make up. Keep it neutral. Use natural tones to accentuate your best features. If you are really looking to make a statement, wear a slightly bold lipstick, but nothing too distracting.

Clothes! Here is where we start to see some variety. Some work environments (especially ad agencies) are a little more casual with their work attire. A good rule of thumb is to always dress one notch above what they tell you to wear. If they say jeans and a t-shirt, throw on a blazer. If it is business casual, dust off your suit, but maybe leave the tie at home, gents. Whatever you decide to wear, the most important thing is to make sure it is CLEAN and IRONED. Check for any small stains or lose buttons, prep your outfit in advance, and be sure to try it on before you the day of your interview so that you aren’t dealing with extra stress when suddenly last year’s clothes are a little too loose or tight.

If you are planning on wearing a skirt, put on some pantyhose! Even for companies with a lax dress code, it is a minor addition that can really polish off your outfit. With pantyhose and tights, always check for runs before you leave the house and have a back up pair in your bag, just in case.

As for the feet: Men, be sure to pick out a pair of shoes that are scuff free and that match your belt. Ladies my rule here is if you can’t walk well enough in them to chase after a bus, save it for the weekend.

Also, I don’t care how casual the office is, never wear flip flops.

COMPANY OUTINGS

Company outings promoting creativity, fun or friendly competition provide great opportunities to build camaraderie and boost morale. These experiences provide tangible benefits in the workplace.

Co-workers often do not understand parts of each other’s personalities outside of the office. When leaving the confines of the office and engaging with each other on something fun, often co-workers can bond at a new level.

The Melinda Holm & Associates team has benefited from these outings and we continue to have them once every quarter. Below are some examples of outings which we have enjoyed:

Fitness related     At one point we had a yoga instructor come to our office once a week teach a class for our entire team. We loved it, but we ran out of room at the office to continue our classes as our team keeps growing.

Creative     Ceramics and painting parties – everyone is an artist and it is a fun way to socialize while creating your masterpiece!

Tourism-related     Our team has gone to Great America together, which was fun. It was humorous to see the varying levels of fear from certain rides. We have done architectural boat tours of beautiful Chicago. We bring all of our children, spouses, and friends to the annual Forest Park parade, which is always a great time. Going to Cubs games, Sox games, Blackhawks and seeing Da’ Bears is always a hit in Chicago as well!

Relaxation/stress relief     We all have gone to the spa and gotten our treatments and then went to lunch while we were so relaxed. It was a fantastic time to enjoy each other’s company with the stress wiped away!

Going out for lunch     Our team meets for lunch to discuss business matters regularly, but we schedule the ‘no talking business’ lunches occasionally to just share some laughs and have fun.

Pool parties/barbecues     One of our recruiters has a pool which the team gathers at. We bring our children, spouses and friends. When we get our kids together, it is great way to bond outside of the office.

If your employer does not have company outings, perhaps you might want to volunteer yourself to plan one. This a great way to deepen/broaden your work relationships that will benefit not only the company, but also can enhance/brighten each employees day-day work experience and can help with employee retention.

KNOWING WHAT YOU WANT AND BEING CLEAR AND HONEST WITH YOUR RECRUITER!

HonestHappy, unhappy in your current job or unemployed, it is important to know what you want out of your next opportunity and career. Everyone should know the key things that will help them thrive, be successful and truly enjoy their job. Most of us spend more time at work than pretty much anywhere else. So why not want what is the most ideal situation for you?

Knowing what you want

One of the things we ask our candidates is what are the top must haves, the most ideal things for you in your next position. It is truly amazing how often this takes the candidate by surprise as they really haven’t thought about it. It’s important to know what you want out of your position, employer and career. These are things that may come easy to you or may take a lot of thinking through. Either way it is important to take the time to think about it and know what is important to you.

 

Be clear and honest with your recruiter in what you want

Knowing what you want is the first step. It is also important to express these things openly and honestly with your recruiter. The key to finding the best fit for you and the potential employer is knowing the things that will truly make you happy and help you thrive. The recruiter is there to help you find the right opportunity and make a successful and happy transition into your new career. The best way for us to do this is having complete honesty from our candidates so we can help place them in the perfect position. Recruiters have your best interest in mind. So being clear in what you want and what would not be ideal for you helps us to help you.

GO GREEN IN THE OFFICE!

greenMother Nature hasn’t been too kind to us these past few months (70 and sunny one day and snowing the next? Really?!?), but the date dedicated to awareness of and appreciation for the earth’s environment is quickly approaching…Earth Day!  Since we spend the majority of our days at or commuting to work, let’s take a look at a few simple ways in which we can show that we care for our home, planet earth, and go green in the office.

Go Digital   Reduce the amount of printing in the office by keeping agendas and other materials in digital format. Utilize email, DropBox, and Google Docs. Viewing documents on your computer screen and/or tablet can significantly decrease paper waste!

Paper and Printing   While eliminating all printing in the office isn’t realistic, a few changes in your office’s printing habits can make a big difference. This can include printing on both sides of the paper and reducing your margins and font size to maximize the area of space used for printing. Also, be sure to reuse and recycle any old and unwanted papers.

Lunch   Lunchtime can end up producing a lot of unnecessary waste. Rather than using disposable paper products, such as plates and cups, pack your lunch in a reusable food container and drink from a reusable water bottle. You can also bring in a mug for your frequent coffee breaks!

Turn off the lights!   Whenever and wherever possible in the office, keep the lights off! Try to utilize natural light and remember to always turn lights off in rooms that are not in use.

Commute   Rather than contributing to air pollution by driving your car to work daily, consider other options if they are available. Try taking the bus or train, carpool with a co-worker, or, if you are close enough, walk or bike to the office! Talk to your supervisor about whether telecommuting is an option, even if it is for just a few days each month. Doing any of these can help improve air quality!

Remember that even though Earth Day is April 22, environmental awareness lasts all year! Share some ways in which you can go green!

LET IT GO

Let it Go“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.” – Ajahn Chah

Throughout the course of the day we all run into countless obstacles that cause stress in our life and can ultimately impact our work performance.  One of the keys to handling stress is learning how to not only let things go, but also how to use your experiences to make a positive impact on your career. I have compiled a quick guide to help you more efficiently manage problems.

Find an outlet. Learn a new skill to improve yourself and/or gain expertise in a certain area. Use meditation, yoga, or physical activities as a stress-reliever. Feeling good about yourself starts from the inside out.  Not only does exercise quell stress by releasing endorphins and improving your overall health, but also gives you a break and an opportunity to step away from your computer and focus on yourself for a while.

Take your emotions into account. Emotions are subjective and biased. Your feelings can have a significant influence on your thoughts and actions. Before doing anything brash, such as sending an angry email, take a moment to process your emotions and factor them into your decision-making at work.

Change your perspective. We can sometimes be our own harshest critic — change your perspective! Stop comparing yourself to an idealized image, and take note of your accomplishments and how far you have come rather than only focusing on the negative. When conflicts arise within the office, put yourself in the other party’s shoes — review the situation from the other person’s point of view and remember that there may be factors in their life that could be affecting their decision-making.

Take responsibility. Own up to your mistakes rather than attempting to dodge the situation. You will feel better and it will reveal strength of character.

Identify what the experience taught you. Every experience, whether negative or positive, will teach you something. While some lessons are harder than others, everything has a positive take away if you look hard enough. Be open to criticism and use it as a way to better yourself.

Choose from one of three options. As Eckhart Tolle said, you can “remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”

I DON’T REMEMBER DOING THAT: THE ELUSIVE RESUME TRAIL

ReumeSome of my readers have worked with recruiters often, but there may be some of you who have never worked with a recruiter at all or have only infrequently.  We want to make sure that your experience is positive and efficient for both of us and that we give you the best service we can.  To that end, I wanted to share a recruiting industry standard that might be helpful to you.

Generally speaking, if you have already sent your resume into a company for a position (any position) and you are in their database, we, as recruiters can’t represent you to them until at least 6 months has transpired from the time you sent it.  This can vary with some of our clients, but generally, it is a 6 to 12 month window.  Given this, we encourage you to keep track of where you send your resume, whether it is through LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Monster or directly to the company.  I know you are thinking, of course, I always do!  But, what with all the easy, electronic ways to apply for jobs, a flick of a finger on a company website or a quick reply on LinkedIn can sometimes be forgotten.  In the very olden, ancient times, you sometimes had to hand deliver resumes.  That you did not forget!  And using a typewriter to put together a cover letter would emblazon the company name on my brain since it took me so long to type the blasted thing.  Not to mention the stamping and licking of the envelopes — (think George Costanza’s fiance).

So, help us to do the best job for you.  Keep track of where all those resumes go, and the next time you send out your resume just be thankful you don’t have to type it while employing some form of “White Out” to fix it or, the horror of it, carbon paper to track the thing.

MHA IS ON INSTAGRAM!

Melinda Holm + Associates is very excited to introduce to you our new Instagram account!  Instagram is a newer social networking service that enables its users to share photos and videos to their followers.  Through this tool, the MHA team looks forward to taking you behind the scenes at our office and sharing jobs and other useful information and inspiration to help you in your job search!

So, how can you use this tool to help you find a job?

Create an account  Not on Instagram yet? Create your account! Even if you are currently active on Instagram, we recommend setting up a second account to use strictly for your job search. When you setup your profile, choose a professional username and profile photo. Include a brief biography of yourself describing your skills and the kind of work you are looking for. Finally, add a link to your portfolio or online resume (such as LinkedIn) so your followers can view your great work and see your strengths.

Say cheese!  Start uploading those images!  Whether it is an image of you hard at work, a shot of your resume and art/writing samples, or a photo of a networking event you are attending, load them up and let us see what you are up to! Take advantage of the video feature to demonstrate your skills or ask your audience a question. It’s your chance to get creative!

Follow Melinda Holm + Associates!  Search for “melinda_holm” and start following us on Instagram! Get a taste of our culture, meet our employees, and keep an eye out for job postings!

Follow other companies  Is there a company you dream of working for one day? This can be your chance to get your foot in the door! Follow these companies and the people that work for them and begin networking. “Like” their photos and leave comments to increase your chances of getting noticed.

Search for #hashtags  On Instagram, hashtags are used to group together related photos and topics. Do a search for hashtags that are relevant to your industry and use them with your photo postings (as appropriate) to help you get discovered by companies and recruiters. See what hashtags your favorite companies are using and add them to your Instagram postings.  Also, be sure to search #mhajobs regularly to see all the great opportunities we have in store for you :).

Hope to see you on Instagram soon!

WHY HAVEN’T I HEARD FROM YOU LATELY??

From time to time we hear from candidates who are disappointed that they haven’t heard from us in a while. We love our candidates and do our best to stay in touch with our active ones.  We are not intentionally ignoring you if you don’t hear from us for a bit.  Unfortunately, sometimes it may be a while before the right opportunity comes along, BECAUSE…

We do not control the job orders we get from our clients.  Today, direct marketing VP’s may be hot, another day it is for a VP with shopper marketing and promotions experience or copywriters.  We do work with a variety of agencies and in-house marketing departments looking for expertise in different areas (direct, integrated, traditional, promotions, interactive, packaging, public relations, etc) so our opportunities are varied.  There is also a lot of variety in the levels of the opportunities we get.  However, we cannot promise that we will have the right opportunity for YOU within a specific time frame.

Please do not be offended if you don’t hear from us right away after you register with us.  We do respond to all resume submissions and try to meet our local candidates in person, either immediately or when an opportunity surfaces.  We do ask that our candidates email us to stay in touch or to update us every couple of months, and we in turn will contact you once we have an active position open that may be a fit.

We want to help you out – we are in this together and are pulling for you!

REFERENCE GUIDELINES

References can be a very important aspect of helping you get a job. Here are some tips!

You should always have at least three professional references.

Do not list personal references such as friends or relatives.Employers want to hear from those within the workplace so they can find out performance-based information.

The best reference that you can supply is a current or past supervisor. This is not always possible if you’re current employer does not know you are looking and in this case be sure to ask trustworthy people. If you can get two of your three references from supervisors, that would be ideal. All references that you provide should be by those you have worked on a one-on-one basis with.

Use references from your employers. If you have worked in more than one position, use some references from your current employer (if possible) as well as previous employers to get a variety. Try to use references from more previous positions if your background is extensive.

Communicate with your references. Discuss with them that you will be using them and only put them down if they have the time and are sincerely interested in helping you. A reference check may take anywhere from 10-30 minutes (depending on the questions asked). There are occasions when we call our candidate’s references for our clients and they never get back to us. If an employer is checking your references and one does not get back to them, this may reflect poorly on you. Also, discuss with your reference to give thorough answers to each question.

Include all contact information. For your reference’s contact information, always include their cell and business phone numbers as well as their email address.

Last but not least, when leaving a job, always ask your supervisor and co-workers if you can use them as references for the future. Also ask those who are significant to write a letter of recommendation as well. Those people would include someone who has worked with you closely, known you long enough, has relevant expertise, and is at a senior level.

THE ART OF OBTAINING AND ACCEPTING A JOB OFFER

When interviewing for a new job, it’s important to tread lightly as you approach the offer stage. At this point things either come together or fall apart. Working with a recruiter can make this process much easier, as this is a large part of a recruiter’s job and the recruiter has a relationship with the employer.

  • Be upfront and arm your recruiter with information. The more your recruiter knows about what you are looking for in an offer, the better chance the recruiter has in making it happen. We are here to be your advocate in the process.
    • Make sure you are honest with your recruiter about your current salary, bonuses, vacation time and other non-monetary perks at the start.
    • Let the recruiter know what salary you would accept, what salary you’re ideally targeting and any other components to an offer you require.
    • It’s also important to tell your recruiter if your have other offers or are expecting offers. By doing so, your recruiter can manage expectations.
  • Understand that there are many factors that impact your market value and your ability to negotiate with a potential employer that go beyond your talent and experience. Your current employment status and the economic climate are the two most important.
  • Be positive and professional. It is paramount to set the right tone with your potential new employer. Being too demanding or wishy-washy can quickly sour an employer’s opinion of you. We have actually have seen offers rescinded when an employer senses a ‘red flag’ in a candidate’s behavior or attitude.
  • Once you have an offer in hand, be prepared to make a decision. Offers rarely come out of thin air. You should be thinking about whether you’d accept an offer throughout the interview process. It’s fine to ask for a night to think about it in order to speak with a significant other or family member. However, it should not be a hard decision at this point. Making the employer wait doesn’t do anything but frustrate them and create questions regarding your motivation and enthusiasm level. If there’s a concrete reason to ask for more time, be honest with your recruiter so he/she can manage the process.

While there are always unique situations, in general these tips will help you navigate the offer process.  When in doubt, ask your recruiter questions and let them know if you have any reservations. Recruiters deal with these issues day in and day out. A good recruiter will be your advocate and be happy to guide you through the process!

HOW TO SURVIVE BEING LAID OFF

Ugh! We hear it daily in the news and from our friends and family. Now it’s happened to you—you got laid off! There’s no doubt that this is a stressful situation and it’s not a lot of fun. Whether you loved your job or not, there is a grieving process that most people go through. One’s job is often a large part of their identity and is a source for the majority of our day-to-day relationships. As tough as it can be, there are many steps you can take to minimize the impact on your life.

Decompress   Take a day or so to get your head around things. Whether your response to losing your job is tears, fear, relief or you take it on the chin like a man, take a step back and take a deep breath. This way you won’t make rash decisions. Take a day or two to sleep in, watch a “Law and Order” marathon and catch up with some friends over cocktails. Now it’s time to hit it!

Sign Up for Unemployment   Don’t be too proud to enroll. You’ve paid into the system and you are entitled to this money. No need to dread going to a governmental office and waiting in line—you can enroll online! For Illinois residents, go to: http://www.ides.state.il.us/ (Outside of Illinois, Google your state name and ‘unemployment’ to find the link.) Also, a new law took effect which extends benefits from 13 weeks to 33 weeks for eligible individuals.

Sign up for COBRA   COBRA (It’s called State Continuation for companies with less than 20 employees)provides employees who are laid off the opportunity to enroll in the temporary continuation of their former employer’s health coverage. COBRA is important because it protects you physically and financially in the event of a medical crisis. Also, continuous medical insurance coverage is important if you have a preexisting condition or develop any conditions that future insurers could classify as preexisting. While COBRA is expensive, there is some great news to come out of the Stimulus Plan. The new law subsidizes the cost of COBRA, reducing the cost to you by up to 65% for the near future.

Don’t Burn Bridges   Reach out to your former managers and co-workers. Let them know how much you learned while working together and that it was a great experience. You want to keep these individuals in your corner for future references. Also, you never know, you might work with them again!

If your exit was less than graceful, then try to stem the damage. Employers don’t enjoy laying people off and it is often a very difficult process for them. Most are empathetic about what you’re going through and understand an emotional response. If, by chance, you crossed a line and said some ‘less than professional’ statements, apologize. Most people will forgive you if you offer a prompt and sincere apology.

Don’t be a ‘Sad Sack’   Losing your job is tough stuff on a multitude of levels. However, you don’t want to come off as defeated to potential employers. While they empathize, they don’t want to hire someone whose confidence is blown. If you are struggling, talk to close family and friends. For some, it may not be a bad idea to look into some short term professional counseling.

Set Job Search Goals   While it is often said that looking for a job is a full time job, the reality of this is daunting. Set goals for the week and then break them down into daily tasks. Spending eight hours a day on a job search can be overwhelming. So, commit to a solid number of hours a day or a number of contacts you’ll make. Then go and have a little fun! Otherwise you may find yourself procrastinating for the entire day.

Network   As we’ve mentioned in other posts, tell everyone you know that you’re looking for a job. People want to help and you never know who knows who. This sounds so obvious, but others can’t help you if they don’t know you’re looking. Also, don’t just rely on industry-related events to network. Social activities and other groups in which you are involved are a great way to get new leads!

Exercise   First you now have the time! No more excuses! Second, exercise produces endorphins, reduces stress and gives you energy. These are all important while coping with your job search. Third, you’ll feel more confident both emotionally and physically and it will show in interviews!

Enjoy the Break   Take this time to do things you enjoy and things you don’t always have time for. Explore your city and visit museums you’ve always meant to go to (one candidate told me you can check out passes to local museums from the library). Take up a new hobby or pick up an old one. Clean out your closets. Volunteer. Read. Take a class.

While being laid off isn’t fun, it can be a productive ‘sabbatical’. It can be a great time to refocus your life and your career. Most importantly, please remember you will work again!

HOW TO MANAGE YOUR RECRUITER 101

A good recruiter is your friend, really!  A great relationship with a trusted recruiter can bring opportunities to job seekers through all phases of their careers.  You may think we’re crazy (and we are for other reasons) for some of the things we say or do, but the list below might help you to feel more in control of the process:

1.  Communication is key.  There is no need to check in on a weekly basis, but definitely check in once a month via email even if you haven’t heard from your recruiter in a while.  As you update your resume, send in the latest/greatest version.  If there is a company you have an interest in, but you have no contacts there, feel free to ask your recruiter if they can get you in somehow.  Try to avoid blindly applying on job boards.  We get calls from employers saying “I have over 1,500 applicants to this ad I ran. I don’t have time for this. Just send me your top three people and recommend your favorite and why”.  If a recruiter can’t help, use your network of contacts.  If you still come up dry, then apply through the job board or website, etc.

2.   Be selective.  It’s okay to be registered with multiple recruiters, but it is often difficult to manage relationships with too many for reasons listed above, which ultimately hurts the candidate.

3.   Be honest with your recruiters.  The more we know, the more we are able to help you!  This includes where your resume has been sent your salary information, vacation plans, other offers pending, etc.  If you’re concerned that you are underpaid now, a good recruiter should be able to brainstorm with you on a strategy to bump your salary.  Recruiters are experienced negotiators and they know what makes their clients tick.  There are so many details that surface so please share as much as possible up front.

4.   Let your recruiters know that they do not have permission to send your resume or name anywhere without getting your okay first.  On a few of occasions we’ve had clients tell us that they don’t want to bring a candidate in for an interview because the resume has been presented by three recruiters.  Why?  Because the employer doesn’t want to get caught in a disagreement as to who represents this candidate.  Additionally, it illustrates the fact that the candidate is not managing this process well…how would this person manage process should s/he be hired here? Yikes!  It is really sad when we have to go back to the candidate to deliver this news.  What’s really unfair is when the candidate didn’t even know who presented the resume.

5.  Be careful with emails to/from recruiters.  Yes, we use email all of the time to communicate with our candidates.  It’s a wonderful thing!  The concern is if the email is used irresponsibly by your recruiter.  What do you do once a recruiter emails you with an opportunity you’re interested in pursuing?  Make sure your reply includes this:  “I am interested in learning more about this opportunity.  Do not send my resume quite yet.  I need to know the name of the company and get more information on the job before I can agree to let you send it”.  There are a few recruiters out there who are notorious for claiming that just getting a response equals an agreement from a candidate to proceed.  Often a resume is sent without the candidate’s knowledge or consent. If the candidate is aware of the presentation, they never get any feedback or closure, which brings us to #3.

6.  Run away, fast, from recruiters who do not return your calls or get back to you on an opportunity.  There are recruiters who are only out for themselves and see their candidates as just numbers.  They try to blanket the market with your resume (often without telling you), which can actually block you from getting interviews due to your attachment to that recruiter.  You will get more out of a recruiter who sees your long-term relationship as more important than making a quick placement.  This is the type of recruiter employers want to work with as well.  If they can’t even return your phone call or email, what does that tell you?

7.  Understand the process.  Recruiters have legal and binding contracts with employers to protect both parties.  An important part of the contract to be aware of is the window of time that a candidate is tied to the recruiter.   That window (usually twelve months) starts from the date a resume is sent to the employer. That means that the employer has to go through the recruiter, even if it is for a different position than what the candidate was presented to, for 12 months after the candidate is originally presented.  This applies even if the open position is not what the recruiter presented you to in the past.  This is how the standard recruiter/employer contract works.

8.  No, our fee does not come out of your salary.  Candidates sometimes miss out on opportunities by trying to go in through a friend, thinking that will get them a higher salary.  What they don’t know is that employers usually have to honor certain salary parameters regardless of the cost of outside resources.  Recruiters often have confidential opportunities and long-standing relationships that can often give them that extra push to get an interview.  Use your recruiter to get you in the door!

9.  Do not use recruiters to pursue a counteroffer from your current company.  Counteroffers do happen and we understand that, but pursuing another offer to get a better deal at your current company is dangerous for a candidate’s reputation.  This applies with or without a recruiter’s involvement.  When using a recruiter, however, the recruiter could lose their client.  Employers rely on recruiters to protect them (and all of the time/resources put into the offer) from losing a candidate to a counteroffer.

10.  Don’t break ties once you’ve landed in a job.  Keep sending recruiters your updated resume even if you’re not looking.  You may just get a call about a position that is a once in a lifetime opportunity when you least expect it.  Sometimes the best opportunities surface when you’re not even looking!

We were once candidates too!  We remember all of the feelings associated with a job search, etc.  This is why we strive for great long-term relationships with our candidates.  Our goal is to provide value to you for your entire career and to have a little fun together on that journey.

WHY WE ARE ADVOCATES OF THE CHRONOLOGICAL VS. FUNCTIONAL RESUME

One thing that we all agree upon here at MHA is that clients want to see a chronological resume (most recent jobs at the top) versus functional. The chronological resume is key because it displays career progression, highlighting your growth and experience. It is the format employers (and our clients, specifically) like to see most because it provides an easy-to-follow structure. Some clients have been known to reject a candidate’s resume from the first sight of a functional resume!

Reading a functional resume can be both confusing and frustrating. In the eyes of an employer, when they see a functional resume they are instantly skeptical because they see it as a candidate hiding a sketchy past employment history (whether that is your reasoning of using a functional resume or not). It also does not help the employer understand the experience you have gained in each position; most importantly your most recent skill set. Which in turn, the employer has to take the time to piece together your resume. Who wants that responsibility when (in these times) they may be looking at upwards of 500 resumes?

If you are worried that there are areas on your resume that display the movement or lag time between positions in an unfavorable light, do not fret!  Take advantage of using a recruiter, career counselor, or resume writing service.  These people can help to position you effectively.  Recruiters, specifically, can help employers to understand the choices that were made or unfortunate events that may have occurred throughout your career. If you have valid reasons for switching jobs or taking time off, in most cases, our clients do understand.

Also, as mentioned in a previous blog, it is critical to incorporate all the mediums you have worked on, especially digital. For those on the agency side, include a list of the brands, accounts/clients you have worked on even if it has been in a limited capacity. Use a bullet-ed list of your key accomplishments under each job you’ve held.

It is a very competitive market out there for candidates right now, as you probably know.  By writing your resume in a favorable format to employers, you will bump yourself up that much higher on their list!

Happy resume writing!

MINDFULNESS IN THE WORKPLACE

MindfulnessThe practice of mindfulness seems to be increasing based on all the articles that have been flooding my social media feeds in the last two weeks, and that’s great. For those who don’t know, mindfulness is akin to meditation. There are many forms of meditation (prayer, exercise, music, and yes, mindfulness meditation) and they all go back to putting time aside to clear and relax the mind. Now, mindfulness on its own, no meditation required, is just closely monitoring thoughts and activities, letting them come and go without reaction, judgement, or holding onto as an individual goes about their everyday life.

Mindfulness can do a lot for an individual! Long terms effects include better concentration, enhanced creativity, improving memory, and decreasing things like anxiety and depression resulting in a better mood and a healthier immune system. This is not just limited to the personal sector of one’s life, but can also help in the office as well! Here are a few things you can do increase mindfulness in the workplace…

  1.   Commit yourself to the practice. The core of mindfulness is being aware of what is around you, whether it be your thoughts and actions of those around you.
  2. Start slowly! Pick one thing to be more aware of and pay attention to it throughout the day. Do you have high anxiety? Pay attention to your tone of voice and how that affects those around you. Do you get stressed when looking at your inbox? Do you feel your lungs fill with air and your nostrils flair? Pay attention to your breathing; it tells you a lot about your mood.
  3. Actually practice LISTENING to those around you! Don’t be rude. Shift your energy to those around, focus on them and what they are telling you. If someone is talking to you, do not just say something back or ask a question that you probably would have the answer to if you stopped and just processed what was told to you. Not only will this increase communication, but it also fosters trust and follows along to number 4…
  4. Often time, people’s successes get noted, but what about their needs or difficulties? Everyone is different and has different needs. If everyone is acknowledging and understanding those around them and how they all operate, they work together better.
  5. Think about what you want the outcome of this to be. Reflect on yourself and surroundings using discernment instead of judgement.

Now, go be mindful.

TRANSMUTE YOUR COMMUTE

CommuteCom●mute  noun. kə-ˈmyüt:  A regular journey of some distance to and from one’s place of work; otherwise known as the dreaded, stressful, and tiresome period of time that separates your work life from the rest of your life.

If your definition of commute is similar to the one above, join the club and read on!  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average travel time to work in the United States is 25.4 minutes (Megacommuters, 2013).  What you may notice after traveling down your specific route day after day is that the minutes within this time frame quickly add up.  In fact, based on the previous statistic, people spend an average of 9.2 days per year commuting!  Since the daily commute is a factor in your life that is not likely to go away, rather than seeing it as a nuisance in your day, make it a part of it!  Here are a few ideas on how to make the most of your commute:

 

1. Make use of your technology*   Living in the digital age definitely has its advantages!  With MP3 players, smartphones, tablets, etc., we havefile000958034548 portable sources of information and entertainment right at the tips of our fingers.  Listen to music or use this time to catch up with friends, relatives, or colleagues over the phone.  If you use public transportation (never while driving!), on your tablet you can watch your favorite TV show/movie, read that book you never seem to find time for at home, or download newspaper apps to keep up with current events. (*Never text or send emails with your technological devices while driving, and please be aware of and respect all cell phone laws in your city and state.)

2. Be productive   So much to do, so little time?  Use your commute time to be productive!  Make a shopping list and plan your meals for the week.  Create a list of chores that need to be done at home. Walk into your office prepared by writing up a daily plan beforehand.  By doing this, you can get organized and eliminate any extra chaos in your life.

3. Clear your head   Use this time as a mental transition into the next part of your day — from home in the morning to your job and from your job in the evening to home.  For many, this may be the only “alone” time you have!  View your commute as a gift!

file00013736559944. Exercise!   Adding exercise to your commute is beneficial to both your health and the environment.  A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that those who commute long distances to work were less fit and physically active, weighed more, and had higher blood pressure because they cannot find time to fit a workout into their schedule (Juva-Brown, 2012).  Instead of setting aside extra time to do this, why not try to include it in your commute?  Take a walk or ride your bike to the office, bus, or train!  As gas prices continue to soar, doing this can also allow you to give your wallet a bit of a break.

5. Change it up!   Bored of your commuting routine?  Try changing it up!  Whether it be driving a different route, using a different source of transportation, carpooling with a friend, telecommuting, or stopping by Starbucks on the way for a morning treat, find a way to make each day unique and liven up your mornings and evenings.

 

What do you do to improve your commute?  Share some of your own tips!

 

Resources:

Juva-Brown, Theresa. (2012). Long commute time linked with poor health, new study shows. USA Today.  Retrieved May 14, 2013, from http://usatoday.com.
Megacommuters. (2013). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 20, 2013, from http://www.census.gov.

HOW TO FIND A #JOB USING #SOCIAL MEDIA

Social MediaFor the new college grads of 2013 and those just looking to land their next gig, finding a job can be an overwhelming and time-consuming experience. #Help

According to Nielsen’s Annual Social Media Report, the United States spent approximately 121 billion minutes on social media in July 2012 alone (The Nielsen Company, 2012).  Typically, social media is used on a personal and social level to share photos, news, and opinions with one’s network.  Since social media is a source for sharing and exchanging information, why not also use it as a tool in your job search?  More and more companies are now using social recruiting as a way to find candidates for opportunities, so go ahead and build an online presence!  Get discovered through this medium that is already so familiar to you!

Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of social media during your job search:

LinkedIn:

If you haven’t done so already, create a LinkedIn profile!  Use your profile to list your professional experiences and highlight your successes.  Add a professional photo of yourself and insert the link to your online portfolio for employers to view your creative skills.  Building an online resume is a great start, but don’t leave it at that!  Although LinkedIn can serve as a great online resume, use it for what it is made for — networking!

Ask your colleagues (current and former) for recommendations to enhance your reputation and build credibility.  Follow hiring managers and the pages of companies your are applying to as they may put job postings up.  Finally, join and contribute to groups that are related to the industry in which you would like to work.  Use them to reach out for advice and let them know you are looking for new opportunities.  Reconnect with old contacts, form new ones, and watch your professional network grow!

Twitter:

Similar to LinkedIn, Twitter allows its users to follow companies and institutions for which they may want to work.  Fulfill its networking purpose by retweeting posts by the companies and people you are following.  Even better, build a relationship and communicate with them personally by using the “@” symbol before their Twitter handle and send them a note!  Let them know that you have been following them, you like what they do, and you would love to be a part of their team.

Since, for most people, Twitter is a social media tool that is used for personal reasons, many may be hesitant to make it available to his or her professional network.  If this is the case for you, go ahead and make two accounts — one for personal use and the other for professional!

Facebook:

 While LinkedIn is strictly professional networking, Facebook tends to be used on a more personal and social level.  This can cause a dilemma of separating your personal life from your work life.  Should you decide to use Facebook as a source of networking, please use caution.  Make sure your profile looks as you would like it to look to an employer.  Be aware of the content and photos you post, as well as what the rest of your network may post about you.  Create statuses that contain information that is relevant to your job search rather than using this feature as a personal diary.  With Facebook, you have the capability of representing yourself as a whole person as it allows employers to see the individual behind the resume.  Take advantage of this and let them see how great you are!

Pinterest:

Yes, even Pinterest can be useful in your job hunt!  Amongst your boards dedicated to food, home decor, and fashion, create one (or multiple) to showcase yourself and your talents!  Post your portfolio pieces that link to your personal website.  “Pin” all of your blog articles and writing samples.  Post your creatively designed resume to grab attention.  In addition, use Pinterest as a learning tool by following people in your industry that set trends.  You may even find that the companies you follow “pin” job opportunities!  The more you give yourself an online presence, the closer you get to finding opportunities or getting discovered.

As you make connections via social media, it is what you make of the connections that really count.  Reach out to them!  Ask to meet with them for coffee or lunch to ask questions and get advice.  “Shadow” them at their job to get a better taste of the industry (and make even more connections!).  In the end, you never know who knows who in your industry — it may just land you the perfect opportunity!

Be sure to follow Melinda Holm & Associates on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest!

Sources:

(2012, December 3). State of the Media: The Social Media Report 2012. The Nielsen Company. Retrieved May 5, 2013, from http://www.nielsen.com.

Photo Credit: stockphoto43.com

THE MOST PRODUCTIVE YOU: IN AND OUT OF THE OFFICE

Out of OfficeProductivity is becoming a buzz word across all industries. The question is no longer “Can you do the job?” but, “How efficient can you be while you do the job?”

As technology and computers replace hard copies and humans, high productivity is necessary. Whether you want to be more productive at your job or in the precious hours you have outside of work, maximizing your time leads to the highest results of productivity.
The ultimate goal: Work Smart, Not Hard. How can you curb the wasted minutes in your day to get more done while also having more “you” time? Try making these small adjustments in both your work and personal life.

  • Start with a daily plan. Having a plan is the first step. Write down all of the things that you need to do and prioritize them. Even if you don’t think you’ll have time to get to a task today, seeing it on your list will help remind you that it needs to get done.
  • Goal yourself. Whether it’s something small like not grabbing your lunch until you finish item 3 on your list, it will keep you motivated to stay on task.
  • Give yourself a break. When you can feel yourself starting to lag, take a recess. Stand up and stretch, get a breath of fresh air, or eat a quick snack. By allowing yourself to have that 3 minutes break you will be able to refocus and get down to business instead of dragging through your do to list.
  • Plan ahead. If you know you need to do errands after work or are going to go to the gym before, bring the things you’ll need so you don’t have to waste time stopping home. By taking 5 minutes to plan ahead you can save yourself the time of back tracking.
  • Clean your work space before you end the day. Coming back the next day to a space that’s ready for work will give you a jump start the next day.

Being productive is not about how fast you can accomplish a task, it’s about how efficient you can complete a task and build a foundation to accomplish the next.  If you’re not ready to have your job taken over by a computer show your value through your efficiency. Being the most productive you that you can be will leave you ready to take on whatever the next day brings.

KEEPING ORGANIZED IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Digital AgeWith the convenience of being able to send your resume at the click of a button applying for jobs can now be done in minutes. No longer do you need to hand write the address of your resume’s destination or walk into a business to present your resume. Technology has made it easier than ever to mass apply for jobs. However, blindly applying to jobs on line can make you become a disorganized job seeker and takes away from the personal connection that is beneficial when sending in your resume.

Keeping organized in the digital age is key. Over saturating your resume at a company is never a good thing, which is why it’s crucial to keep tabs on the companies and jobs you’ve applied for. Here are a few easy ways to stay organized when job hunting.

  1. Use Google Docs. By creating either a document or a spreadsheet you can easily keep a list of the companies and positions that you’ve
    applied for, the dates you applied, and the recruiters that you’ve worked with. You could keep a copy of this saved on your computer’s hard drive, but Google Docs (or iCloud) allows you to access this list from any device. Not to worry if your computer crashes or if you need to look up your list on the go!
  2. Rotate your references. A rule of thumb is to only provide references when asked. You don’t want your old boss getting 30 reference requests! Keep track of whose name you’ve given and the date and keep rotating the references who have agreed to provide a review of your work.
  3. Set alerts in your calender to follow up with recruiters or hiring managers that you’ve been in contact with. Bombarding a recruiter on a weekly basis is not necessary, but checking in every few months to keep your resume top of mind won’t hurt. The alert should be set to reach out every 4-6 months and provide a new copy of your resume if it’s been updated.
  4. Take advantage of social media. Following a company’s career page on their website and checking for new updates daily can be time consuming. Follow the companies and recruiting firms who provide the type of jobs you’re looking for on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Companies usually post openings they have on
    these sites as well as their website. This way all of the opportunities are in one place instead of frequenting each individual page.
  5.  Reach out to your connections. Though applying online is easy, often the recipient of on line submissions may not ever pass your resume to the actual hiring manager. The best way to get in front of the decision maker is with the help of your recruiters, friends, colleagues, and professional connections. Once you find a job you’d like to apply for get in touch with a recruiter who may be able to present you or someone who already has an in with the company. Having an advocate who can help push your resume will yield better results than blindly applying on line.

As great as it is to easily apply for jobs by uploading your resume to a site, it is important to keep track so you don’t become a serial-applier! Use these tips to keep you organized and employed in the digital age.

 

TWO LOCATIONS, ONE TEAM WORKING FOR YOU

Melinda Holm & Associates is excited to announce that we will now be able to offer our services from two locations: our home office in Forest Park, IL and our new location in downtown Chicago.

Our team works hard to support our clients and candidates, and we’re stepping up our game by adding a second convenient location. Clients and candidates can now meet with our Project Managers and Recruiters at either of our offices:

  • 7630 Madison St. Forest Park, IL 60302
  • 225 West Washington St. 22nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60606

Our new office is located in the Allianz building near Northwestern and Union Train stations, Kennedy Expressway, and CTA stops. Whether you are in the city and want to schedule a meeting during your lunch, or in the suburbs and prefer to avoid the city bustle we will be able to accommodate you.

Are you ready to schedule an interview or meet and greet with Melinda Holm & Associates to jump start your career or employee search? Give us a call at 708-488-9701. We’re excited to work with you.

CHOOSE YOUR RECRUITER: DRIVE THROUGH OR FINE DINING

Fine DinigChoosing a recruiter to fill your company’s employment needs can be much like choosing a place for dinner. Do you want drive through food that lacks taste and is comparable to every other drive through, or do you want a quality, fine dining experience?

With so many recruiters reaching out to your company, all claiming to be “the best” with integrity, results, and top candidates how can you choose which recruiting firm will really be the best fit for your business’s needs?

Bigger is not always better when it comes to selecting a staffing agency.  Large corporations often face the pressure of making weekly numbers to
report to shareholders and parent  companies.  Job placement is strictly a numbers game and positions can get filled too soon and by the wrong candidate just so the company can meet it’s quota. How many burgers a drive through chain can flip in one day does not mean that the quality of those burgers is the same as your favorite, boutique eatery.

Executive recruiting has become a commoditized service; however, there are distinguishable traits which can help you choose the right partner.

  1. Client references– When considering working with a recruiting firm ask for references from other client’s that they’ve worked with. Askthese references why  they would or would not recommend working with them.
  2. Perception to candidates– Top recruiters attract/retain top candidates and know how to sell your position and company to them. Candidates tend to talk about the recruiters who they have had good experiences with and refer their colleagues to them. They also talk (quite a bit) about recruiters who have treated them like a number and are not likely to refer people to that firm.
  3. Rely on relationships– A recruiter who has built trust with a candidate can often convince them to interview for a position they would not normally consider but that would be a good match. A recruiter should only do this knowing that it would not be a waste of anyone’s time, not just to meet a quota.
  4. Permission to present– A recruiter should ONLY present the resume of a person who has given permission, not just the resumes that stuck after a mass email. This shows that the recruiter has actually been in contact with the candidate and that they are truly interested in the position.
  5. Recruiting from your company– While it may be frustrating to find your employees being pulled by a persistent company, if you become their client your employees will no longer become actively recruited andyou can rest assure that the candidates they send you will have been carefully sought from a competitive market.
  6. Ask for examples– Many companies are bringing recruiting in-house, which means they are only relying on outside firms for the most challenging openings. Ask the recruiters for examples of how they’ve succeeded on difficult searches in the past when all else is failed. You will want to rely on these companies to save the day!
  7. Value diversity– Companies are often encouraged to work with minority owned firms for their supplier diversity efforts. May we suggest national certification by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

Just like you wouldn’t want a slab of mystery meat thrown at your window for dinner, you don’t want an ill matched candidate rushed to you for a position you’re trying to fill.

Choose a recruiter that will offer quality experience based on your needs, not theirs.

GETTING PAST THE GATEKEEPER

Sometimes the hardest part of getting a job is just getting past the gatekeeper. Why can it be so hard to get your name, resume, or message in front of the decision maker? The job of the gatekeeper is often to answer the questions you have without going to the decision maker.

Decision makers are busy people and train their staff to handle a variety of situations so they don’t have to spend their time answering questions that someone else can answer. This way, the decision makers have ample time to deal with the situations and questions that only they can answer.

Our resident gatekeeper, Sarah Solinski, offers her advice on getting past the person at the front desk.

  1. Email the decision maker directly. If you know it is a matter that you need to speak with the DM about, save your self the steps and cut right to the chase. Most companies have emails listed on their webpage or can be contacted via Linked In. At Melinda Holm & Associates if you want a fast answer from the recruiter herself your best bet is to shoot them an email. They can respond directly to you and on the double! However, if it is a general question  (directions to an interview, how to apply for a position, etc), the quicker route is to contact the gatekeeper.
  2. Explain in detail what you are looking for to the gatekeeper. When calling and saying that you just need to speak to person X the gatekeeper will have to ask you questions. In most instances the office coordinator or someone else can help with whatever you need. If you explain exactly what you need, “I’m calling in response to Melinda’s message about a job opportunity with agency X,” the gatekeeper will either send you right though to the powers at be, or might be expecting your call and has instructions to help you.
  3. Make a good impression. Your interview starts with your first point of contact with any person at the company.  From your first email, phone call, or in person meeting your attitude is important. If your first few interactions are with the gatekeeper don’t disregard them as unimportant. Often the decision maker may ask what they were like on the phone, via email, or in the waiting room to get a taste for what the person is actually like outside of a formal interview. This isn’t gossiping–it’s knowing that interviews are longer than a few minutes in a conference room. If you want to get past the gatekeeper get him/her on your team so they can advocate for you.

Whether it’s at Melinda Holm & Associates or another company you are directly applying with you will most likely need to work with a gatekeeper to get to the decision maker. Use these tips to make getting past the gatekeeper a breeze so you’re one step closer to your new job!

NOW STARRING: JAN SODARO. TRUST US, SHE’S SOMEONE YOU WANT TO MEET

Jan Sodaro is not your ordinary Project Manager. She brings her years of experience working in marketing and advertising for agencies, a non-profit organization, and for a large mutual fund company to give her a high level of expertise in the field. As a Project Manager at Melinda Holm & Associates her primary role is to assist the recruiters in their search efforts for each job opportunity. Jan works closely with the candidates, getting to know a person for more than just his/her resume.

“It’s all about the meet and greet,” says Jan. “There is no substitute for human interaction. Interviewing a candidate face to face fills the candidate out personally and brings to life what the words on their resume say,” she adds.

Jan can often be found camping out at the Cosi downtown Chicago for hours, meeting candidates and getting a taste for who they are. Jan prefers the Cosi setting because it is a relaxed environment where she not only sees how the candidate interacts, but also gets to know their hobbies and what makes them tick. While some meetings are true interviews and others are more casual introductions, they all provide the human interaction component that is so essential.

Personal relationships are stressed at Melinda Holm & Associates. When we present job opportunities we can rely on more than just a resume to know if it is a match for a person thanks to the time that Jan and the other Project Managers and Recruiters spend getting to know each candidate.

“Meet and greets are a win for the potential employer and the job hunter,” says Jan. The employer trusts that when we recommend a candidate they come stamped with our seal of approval. Jan explains that a recommendation from a recruiter has significant weight over a resume submitted online: “Employers know that we’ve spent time with the candidate allowing them to build a rapport, which speaks volumes louder than a resume.”

Jan uses more than just the experience that she’s gained in the marketing world. Working at Melinda Holm & Associates is just Jan’s day job. She is an actress who was last seen in Lifeline’s Pride and Prejudice and will soon be auditioning for more roles. “Eye contact is key,” expresses Jan. Something she uses both on the stage and during interviews. “If a person isn’t making eye contact with me it could be because they are nervous, or it could show a lack of interest,” Jan explains.

Jan emphasizes the importance of eye contact. The interview a job seeker has with a Recruiter or Project Manager will help strengthen their recommendation for a job opening. Jan suggests coming to a meeting ready to talk about your background and being open to sharing your best self. It is not a stuffy interview for a reason, we want to get to know the whole person, not just their 9-5 history.

Are you ready to take your career to the next level or interested in seeing what doors are open? Submit your resume here to register as one of our candidates and have the opportunity to meet Jan or one of our other rock star Project Managers!

THE THREE C’S OF RESUME WRITING

In April of 2009 we wrote a post professing our stance in favor of a chronological format over functional. Three and a half years later times have changed and resumes have evolved, but one thing remains the same: chronological resumes are ever-green. But that’s not all that a resume needs to help land you a job.

As a recruiting agency primarily focused on marketing and advertising positions we see a plethora of creative resumes; a reflection of the creative engineer themselves. After reviewing hundreds of resumes in a day, we bring you our Do’s and Don’ts of resume building: the Three C’s.

Be Creative

Your resume is a reflection of who you are, what you’ve done, and what you can provide to a future employer. Times New Roman is over used and archaic, choose a font that is clean and shows you’re up to date. Once you choose a font, stick with it! If you want to stand out from the sea of fellow potential interviewees we recommend something with a little more flair, but not not crazy–no Bauhaus please!

Keep it simple and easy to read—don’t add butterflies—while giving your resume an edge that says something about you. Adding the personal logo that you’ve created for yourself, a QR code to save your contact information, or one interesting piece of information about you keeps your resume professional and exciting. If you’re going to add a splash of color keep it minimal! Find the perfect marriage between creative and classic.

Include your LinkedIn address. This gives your potential employer a link to see even more of your creative genius than what fits in an 8 X 11” space.

Be Concise

Just because your resume is creative does not mean that it should be a novel. A one page resume is ideal and it should never exceed two pages. Follow the same format for each job: 1) position, 2) company, 3) specifics about what you did there, including who your clients were and the mediums you worked in.

Your education should also be listed (but not all the way to where you went to Kindergarten!).

Do you feel like you have to squeeze all of your experience onto one page and you’re leaving pertinent information out? Get rid of your job objective and “references available upon request.”

Be Chronological

Employers are looking for the growth in your career. A chronological resume makes it easy to see how fast you’ve gotten promoted and when your responsibility increased. You’re applying for a new job to move forward in your career, show this progression in a chronological fashion.

Finally, spell check, grammar check, and peer edit everything!

What are you waiting for? Revamp your resume so it speaks to your high level of awesome-ness. Once you’re proud of how it looks be sure to send it to us at Melinda Holm & Associates.

We will update your profile in our database so we can keep you posted on opportunities that can help you advance your career. We help place candidates in jobs nationwide. You never know when that perfect opportunity will knock on your door!