Working from home? 7 smart tips to help you get more done
LinkedIn
Young woman working from home office. in kitchen

As I write this, I’m sitting in my home office in the South End neighborhood of Boston. Since I’m self-employed, this is where I report to work every morning—usually around 8 a.m., or a little later, if I decide to treat myself with something from Starbucks, a short two-minute walk from my apartment. Though work-from-home professionals like myself only make up an estimated 3.4% of the workforce, that figure is about to change dramatically. As the world reacts to the spread of coronavirus, many companies are shifting to remote work.

While this is my normal routine, remaining effective away from colleagues (and your boss) isn’t an easy task for everyone—including my boyfriend, who is currently sitting upstairs at our dining room table. Typically tidy, our apartment looks a little wild: computer screens, laptops, notebooks and power chords scattered everywhere. He usually travels weekly for work but he’s been grounded, and now is figuring out how to meet deadlines, manage others, and host meetings, sans office.

There are many unknowns with COVID-19—from a health to an economical perspective—but if you are stuck inside and still need to do your job, it’s important to set up a productive shop. As someone who has built a lucrative career remotely for the past three years (and counting), I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade. Here, my advice, along with that of other telecommuters and career experts:

Put your bra on

Or, your pants. Or whatever you’d like to wear for the day. Though most of the Instagram memes will praise the ability to answer emails in your robe all day, being overly comfortable will tempt you back into your bed, or to your couch. Today, only a handful of people have seen me, but I’m still fully dressed (albeit in leggings), I brushed my teeth, I put on face moisturizer and even ran a comb through my hair.

It’s important to still do your morning routine as you usually would if you were commuting into the office, since it signals to your brain that it’s time to work—not to lounge. Of all of the lessons I’ve learned as a freelancer, this one is probably the most important and has made the biggest impact on my ability to work effectively.

Create a dedicated work space

Though some people are woefully unaware of their surroundings, others are inherently sensitive to dirty dishes, unfolded laundry, and those Amazon boxes that need to be broken down. When your space has to double as home and office, Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume and part-time remote worker, says a dedicated work space is essential.

Ideally, this should be a separate room where you can close the door, since Augustine says this signals to your roommate or partner or kids that you’re on the clock. If that’s not an option, map out an area that can be clear of clutter . . . or at least allows it to be out of sight. This may mean sitting at a specific chair in your dining room, so you don’t see the chaos in the kitchen, or pulling out a folding table in your bedroom, if it’s the cleanest spot in the house.

Set and maintain your normal hours

The first morning my boyfriend and I were working together from our apartment, we overslept by an hour, since it wasn’t our usual Monday-morning tango. Though we both made up for lost time and worked longer into the night, this is an all-too-easy habit to adopt when you’re new to remote work. After all, if you technically don’t have to be up by 7 a.m. and out the door by 8:30 a.m., why not get a few more zzzs?

The issue is the tone it sets for the day, and thus, your productivity. As leadership development and career expert Elizabeth Whittaker-Walker explains, when you’re away from the office, it’s more important than ever to set specific hours—and stick to them. One way to ensure you stay on track is to create time blocks. Whittaker-Walker says this could look something like this: checking email during the first and last blocks of the day, only holding calls between certain windows, and managing the hours when you feel the most alert. “If your freshest thinking is before noon, save meetings or intense work periods for the first part of the day. Cross off the day’s objectives as you complete them for an intrinsic motivation boost,” she says.

Focus on your output

There’s a big difference in working from home randomly one week because you weren’t feeling 100 percent—and being asked to perform away from the office for a few weeks, or more. As Kari DePhillips, the fully remote CEO of The Content Factory and cohost of the Workationing podcast explains, many people will try to hide from their deliverables since they don’t feel accountable in the same way. But, she says, it’s not enough just to “be at work” with a body warming up a seat. “In a remote work environment you’re entirely judged by the volume, quality, and timeliness of your output. In this way, remote work is a great equalizer, and you may find it gives you an opportunity to shine—and snag that next raise or promotion,” she says.

Every morning, DePhillips suggests creating a list of what you will deliver by the end of the day. If it’s helpful, scribble these down the night before so you can dive straight into work in the morning. Everyone functions differently, but I’ve found it helpful to outline the upcoming week every Friday afternoon and Monday morning. I go through everything that needs my attention, schedule time to complete it, and even set reminders that keep me focused.

Eat healthy lunches

During the coronavirus panic that’s wiped out certain supermarkets, you may find yourself stockpiling junk food. Unfortunately, the sugar highs followed by inevitable crashes aren’t exactly the best for keeping your brain focused. Career expert and remote worker Wendi Weiner says if you’re eating healthy at the office, don’t suddenly start eating bowls of chips or ice cream at home, just because you can. Not only do unhealthy food choices impact your energy and mood, but they can also compromise your immune system. “Plan your healthy snacks and lunches at home the same way you would plan for them at the office. Stick to a routine of keeping healthy even if you’re able to wear stretchy pants at home,” she says. “Ask one of your work colleagues to be an accountability partner and keep each other motivated.”

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Kristin Malek: Redefining Supplier Diversity at CDW
LinkedIn
A woman leading a business meeting

As the senior manager of Supplier Diversity at CDW, Kristin Malek drives CDW’s strategies to achieve supplier diversity objectives. She is responsible for CDW’s $2+ billion annual Supplier Diversity spend initiatives. Kristin is the architect of the CDW’s diverse supply chain, which today is defined as more than 1100+ suppliers that serve the needs and offers solutions to CDW and their customers.

She is a member of the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC), Board Member of the Chicago Minority Supplier Diversity Council, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA) and TIG (Technology Industry Group), sharing her voice and best practices on inclusive business strategies.

 Under Kristin’s leadership at CDW; the supplier diversity program at CDW has been named a finalist for Corporation of the Year with NMSDC in 2018 and 2019. In 2019, the supplier diversity program was named the Best of the Best Supplier Diversity Programs for veteran-owned businesses.

 Earlier this year, Kristin was named one of Top 25 Women in Power Impacting Diversity. Under Kristin’s leadership, CDW was inducted into the prestigious Billion Dollar Roundtable in October.

Professional WOMAN’s Magazine (PWM) spoke with Malek about her career.

PWM: Describe a moment you felt like a Wonder Woman and made a difference.

Malek: To describe a moment in which I felt like a Wonder Woman is hard to define, as every day I hold myself to high levels of accountability, being available to my family, teams, customers, and friends, and live with integrity. To find a day in which I perhaps elevated myself and pushed myself out of my comfort zone presented itself this spring when the world was sheltered in place. I found myself being tasked to support my third-grader with learning from home and getting her through fractions, having the responsibility to be a special education teacher for my fifth-grader who while in school received 1:1 paraprofessional support and lost that when distance learning presented itself while leading the Supplier Diversity program at CDW. Many days, I felt it was an overreach for me, but staying true to asking for help, staying honest with my capabilities and being able to set boundaries maybe made me Wonder Woman for the day – title or no title, it’s OK to ask for help.

PWM: What values do women bring to the workforce?

Malek: Competitiveness, leadership, empathy, solution thought leadership, and perspective, but I think men bring the same things; the more we separate skills by gender the farther we get away from inclusion.

PWM: What are your tips to keep growing professionally?

Malek: Take opportunity of changes; changes create needs, and needs create opportunities. Embrace Change. Second, compete with yourself only.

PWM: What are some things you think women can do to advocate change in the workplace?

Malek: Advocate from a place of respect, authentic gratitude and confidence in your abilities.

PWM: What lessons have you learned that you would like to share with our readers?

Malek: My lesson that has come to be reoccurring is that courage doesn’t always roar but can be the quiet voice that says I will try again tomorrow.

The one characteristic that will make you an all-star according to science
LinkedIn
Smiling young African American businesswoman leaning on a table in her office

By Amy Stanton

A few years ago, an interesting study came out of Harvard Business Review titled “The Business Case for Curiosity.”

In the study, HBR reported how an increase in employee curiosity led to a dramatic increase in company-wide creativity; how curiosity leads to empathy, which leads to reduced conflict among team members; and how “Google identifies naturally curious people through interview questions such as these: ‘Have you ever found yourself unable to stop learning something you’ve never encountered before? Why? What kept you persistent?’”

And then a few weeks ago, I came across a piece on Medium titled “The 2-Word Trick That Makes Small Talk Interesting.”

What are the two words?

“I’m curious…” before asking a question.

Whether we realize it or not, curiosity is one of the most appealing qualities . . . in a friend, an employee, a boss, or a leader. Curiosity leads to improved problem-solving—in just about every capacity (logistically, emotionally, financially, etc.).

As the HBR study goes on to explain, “To assess curiosity, employers can also ask candidates about their interests outside of work. Reading books unrelated to one’s own field and exploring questions just for the sake of knowing the answers are indications of curiosity.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I was starting my company, originally focused exclusively on female athletes and women’s sports, a number of people told me, “There’s no money in women’s sports.” And the reason I pressed on regardless was that I was curious. “Is that true? If it is true, why? And shouldn’t we change that?” Those questions and my curiosity started the Stanton & Company journey (thank goodness!).

And then a few years ago, when I decided I wanted to write a book about femininity, I was curious about my behaviors, feelings, and ideas—was I experiencing something unique, or were my feelings and human responses part of a larger societal reality? (The answer turned out to be the latter.)

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

How to Stay Focused When Working at Home
LinkedIn
woman working from home with child and dog nearby

 By Jennifer Parris

Regardless of where you work, there can be distractions. In office environments, water cooler chats and nearby conversations can disrupt focus. On the flip side, working at home can present challenges with structure and discipline.

If working from home is temporary due to the pandemic or even if you’re a seasoned remote worker, there’s a chance you’re having some difficulty staying focused and productive during these uncertain times. Don’t fret. Here are some tips to stay laser-focused when working from home.

Know Thyself

Some of us are morning larks, and some of us prefer a late start to the day. Regardless of your preferences, take some time to figure when you’re at your best. Betsy Andrews, Career Coach at FlexJobs, advises everyone, no matter where they work, to “learn which time(s) of day you are most productive and schedule the tasks that take the most focus during those times. Prioritization of tasks can be key.”

So, if you know you do your best work between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., schedule your most “important” tasks during that time, and save the less taxing tasks for later in the day when you’re feeling less productive or focused.

Make a List

Lists may seem a little old school. But, keeping track of all your to-do’s will help you stay focused while working from home and also provide you with a starting point at the beginning of each day. That list will serve as a daily reminder of what has to get done.

FlexJobs Career Coach Toni Frana advises workers to “write your to-do list right before you end work for the day. This helps in two big ways: It provides closure to the current workday, allowing for an easy transition from your home office to life at home. And the next day, you can begin your day with a laser focus because you’ve already identified your tasks and goals for that day.”

Create a Home Office

In most cases, working remotely allows you to work from anywhere. And while this freedom is typically one of the benefits of a flexible job, setting up a home office is still highly recommended.

If your work-from-home arrangements are temporary and a full-on office isn’t realistic, try to create a dedicated workspace that allows you to focus while working from home.

Structure Your Day

Start with the time you know you’re the most productive and focused then establish your work hours around those times. That means setting and sticking to boundaries. This is critical to staying focused while working from home.

Let well-meaning family members and friends know that even though you’re home, you don’t have time for unlimited socializing. Instead, chat with them briefly during one of your breaks for a quick boost. And stay on schedule by truly working the hours you’ve dedicated to your job. For more advice, read up on how to talk to your friends and family about boundaries when you’re working at home.

While you’re working from home during the pandemic, you might have kids at home, too. Unfortunately, kids aren’t the best at respecting boundaries, even in the best of times. An age-appropriate conversation is a good place to start (‘I have to work’; ‘You have school or other activities to do’).

Limit Media Consumption

This is good advice for any time. It’s easy to get distracted by the constant influx of breaking news notifications, even on a slow news day. These days, though, it seems like something new is happening every few minutes.

Checking out what’s happened every time your phone beeps can divide your attention, making you a less productive worker. However, during the pandemic, these constant checks can also make you anxious, which, in turn, can make you lose focus on your work. To avoid these pitfalls (and maintain your mental well-being), try these tricks.

Set a Timer on Your Phone

While you are sitting at your desk, it can be tempting to pick up your phone—especially when it’s constantly pushing alerts at you.

To stop you from being distracted, set the timer on your phone for 90 minutes, turn off push notifications, and then put it out of sight.

Not only does the timer help structure your time, it is also a reminder that you’re not supposed to be looking at your phone.

Block Time-Wasting Sites

Now that you’ve blocked your phone don’t forget to block your browser, too. It’s tempting (and easy) to fritter the day away on your computer. So, use browser extensions to block yourself from social media, news sites, and anything else that will tempt you.

Just like on your phone, set a timer to unblock them during your breaks or after hours. Then, have them “re-block” those sites when it’s time to get to work.

Create a Calendar

If you don’t know what to focus on, how can you stay focused? Post a calendar in your home office so you can see what tasks you need to work on. The more organized this calendar is, the better.

Prioritize daily what work needs to get done for you to hit your deadlines and then write it down. You could use a whiteboard, a planner, or an online calendar.

The objective is to have a visual of what you need to focus on so that when your mind starts to wander, you see the list, and you get back to work.

Take Scheduled Breaks Often

Some people believe that every 90 minutes we need a break from our work. Staying focused while working from home can be tough because we don’t always the mental references that in-office workers have, like people leaving for lunch, grabbing coffee, etc. These breaks are just like you walking to the break room or stopping by someone’s office to chat.

Before your day starts, plan when you can take breaks based on your meeting calendar, workload, and priorities.

Stay Active

Physical activity is important, even if it’s just a quick walk. Lack of movement is not only bad for your body but also your mind, as it can cause your brain to become sluggish.

Frana says, “Don’t be afraid to schedule in a workout or some sort of movement in your day. This not only keeps us physically well but also allows for a mental refresh so we can maintain focus throughout our workday. This is hard to achieve when we don’t allow ourselves to take breaks to move during the day.”

So, take a brisk walk in the morning or walk the dog on your lunch break. Bad weather by you? Stream a workout for a quick 10-minute fitness boost, or even do some stretching. Your thoughts will become clearer, and it will help you to be more productive for the rest of the day.

Don’t Graze All Day

Just like you want to stay focused with your work productivity, you’ll also want to create boundaries with food intake. That said, you still have to eat. And, the advantage of working at home is that you can create your own fresh and healthy meals without relying solely on the microwave. Check out some of these simple and easy work-from-home meal ideas that even the most inexperienced home cooks can master.

Stay Focused, Stay Productive

You will get distracted from time to time, and that’s OK. Be easy on yourself. Staying focused while working from home can be a challenge, but with a little restructuring—and a little persistence—you can become more productive and effective. Incorporate these tips a little at a time, and you’ll see how much more you can get done during the day.

Source: flexjobs.com

Avoid These 11 Things When Giving Feedback to Employees
LinkedIn
woman on zoom meeting giving employee feedback to group

By Gina DeLapa

As a manager, you have the opportunity to inspire your team and bring out their best. One of the most powerful tools you have for this purpose may also be the one for which you received the least formal training: how to give constructive feedback—or how to give feedback, period.

Thankfully, it’s never too late to strengthen this skill. The more you practice, the better and more confident you will become. And you won’t have to wait years for your employees to notice and appreciate your efforts.

The first step is to make peace with the word “feedback.” Notice how often it has a negative tone. I have this theory that if feedback were always pleasant or helpful, we wouldn’t have to soften it with the word “constructive”—as in “Hey, can I give you some constructive feedback?”

Most people will head for the hills.

And while employee engagement also depends in part on positive feedback, it is not the realm where most managers and employees clash. So, let’s focus for now on how to turn the dreaded constructive feedback into an opportunity instead.

It starts with avoiding these 11 common pitfalls:

Pitfall #1: Escalating the conflict. Examples of how this happens: patronizing, digging up the past, or launching into a tirade. In the words of Groucho Marx, “If you speak when angry, you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”

Pitfall #2: Tearing down the person. If you want the best chance of being heard and respected, stay focused on the issue—that means no criticizing the employee or generalizing the issue to their entire worth or existence.

It’s the difference between “Why are you so unreliable?” and “Help me understand the no-show to yesterday’s meeting.” Notice how the latter approach invites dialogue and communicates “We’re on the same team” (even if you’re not happy with the no-show at the meeting).

Pitfall #3: Overfocusing on the problem. Instead, move the conversation as quickly as possible to the desired solution. What is the conduct or performance standard you need to see instead? To put it more simply, “Don’t correct, redirect.” You’ll save time and let your employee save face.

Pitfall #4: Making it public. Show respect by taking the feedback behind closed doors. In fact, the more serious or sensitive the feedback, the more it helps to give the other person a say. Example: “Monique, I need to speak with you today for about 15 minutes. Would you prefer to meet right before lunch or right after?” Now you’ve shown Monique some respect and dignity by allowing her to choose her preferred time. It also ensures she’ll be in the best frame of mind.

And if the meeting is held in your office, make sure to silence your phone and remove any other distractions. (I once sat in my pastor’s office and watched the blobby, undulating screensaver on the computer screen behind his head. I don’t have words for how awkward that was.)

Pitfall #5: Ignoring context. Compassionate leaders know that the company holiday party, the team golf outing, or the employee’s birthday are not the time to get into sticky subjects.

Pitfall #6: Implicating the whole group. Example: One person on the team has a performance issue. Rather than issuing a group statement, hoping someone will take the hint, an astute leader takes it up with the individual.

Pitfall #7: Procrastination. The sooner you address someone’s performance, the sooner they can correct it—and the less damage it will do to the rest of the team.

Pitfall #8: Disregarding their own role. Courageous leaders ask questions like “Did I set out clear expectations?” and “Have I done my part to set the employee up for success?”

Pitfall #9: Ambushing the person receiving it. For example, everyone knows a performance review is not the place to bring up a new issue. Yet it happens all too often. The best leaders make sure their feedback is timely. They don’t simply “save up” and share it once a year.

Pitfall #10: Vagueness. Before you sit someone down to address an issue, get clear on the behavior you need to see instead. Make sure the other person is clear on what’s expected. Wherever possible, collaborate on a mutually agreeable outcome.

Pitfall #11: Ignoring consequences. Look for ways to build in accountability. What results are expected and by when? How will you know if the results have been achieved? What happens if they aren’t? (Shout-out to my mother who always lovingly enforced consequences with her four offspring.)

Finally, when you’ve done your part, promise yourself you won’t internalize your employee’s response. If they react poorly at first, let them simply have their reaction. What counts is what they do with the feedback after they’ve had a chance to take it in.

This is yet another way to show your strength and compassion as a manager. When you deliver constructive feedback with respect, you will be regarded not only as a leader, but a strong leader who expects the best from her team and gets it.

Gina DeLapa is the owner of Thriving Cultures LLC, which helps companies transform their culture so employees engage. Sign up for her tips on leadership and company culture by visiting GinaDeLapa.com.

Andrea Garcia: Breaking the Gender Barrier to Accounting Success
LinkedIn
Andrea Garcia's headshot

By Mary Marshall

The sun-drenched skies, sculpted rock formations and Saguaro cactus of the high desert are part of the landscape that Andrea Garcia calls home. Garcia, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, is proud of her Hispanic heritage and feels fortunate to be able to crossover the language barrier from English to Spanish and collaborate in two languages as a bilingual accountant.

“So many people within the Hispanic community appreciate someone who can speak Spanish in everyday business interactions,” said Garcia. “Especially when it comes to tax accounting. It truly makes everyone feel comfortable and at home when you can convey the message in their own language.”

Garcia, an entrepreneur and founder of her own accounting firm AG Tax and Accounting as well as an accountant with Nahrwold Associates in Phoenix, received a wealth of opportunity that opened many doors for her as a Hispanic woman in a male-dominated profession like accounting.


“I landed a part-time administrative job with Nahrwold Associates, a small accounting firm, while still in college,” reminisced Garcia, 27. “The owner, Allen Nahrwold, noted my interest in business and finance. He became my mentor in the field of tax accounting. Many employees were part-time college students, such as me, who left the firm and moved on to other jobs. I ultimately stayed and learned the accounting business from the ground up. I have never found that being a woman or Hispanic has been an issue – if anything it has been an asset since I speak Spanish as well as English. That is an area where many young Hispanic women could find themselves in a career, and truly excel rapidly by being able to speak both languages.”

Now into several months of being a business owner, Garcia has discovered the freedom of creating her own business identity while remaining a Nahrwold employee.

“This is the best of both worlds,” said Garcia, “being able to work for myself and Nahrwold. I am building a great network based off referrals and additional business contacts provided by Nahrwold. It is amazing how the clients and referrals come when people discover you are starting a new business.”

When contemplating college following high school graduation, Garcia’s exemplary grades led to a wealth of scholarship opportunities including several that she received from the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA), an educational and professional association for women in the field of finance and accounting, headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky. Garcia has since completed a master’s degree in accounting and plans to complete the two phases of the CPA exam by the end of the year.

“The AFWA scholarships were so beneficial to my college success,” said Garcia. “The whole organization has been a wonderful education and networking experience. I joined our local AFWA chapter (East Mesa and Phoenix Chapters) shortly after finishing college. Now I am the president of East Mesa and enjoying every minute of it. It is a great way to network, make friends in your profession, create revenue streams, and get involved in the community. I have also served for several years on the national AFWA Board of Directors, and that has been a wonderful experience.”

Garcia’s advice to young women interested in pursuing a profession as an accountant or in the field finance includes becoming an intern for valuable experience and finding a mentor to guide you down the career path of choice. She also believes that it is important to join a professional organization while still attending college, like the AFWA, that offers a student membership and scholarship opportunities.

“Working as an intern in a position is a wonderful chance to discover if accounting or finance is the career path you want to follow,” said Garcia. “It is even more beneficial to find a mentor to help you learn the ropes and give you advice along the way, help develop skills, and create your business acumen. It is also important to join a professional organization, like the AFWA, to develop soft skills, networking, and leadership skills. Women are underrepresented in the field of finance and accounting. There are so many opportunities available it just takes making yourself aware, willing to step out of your comfort zone and into a role where you can learn, lead, excel and grow in your business and interpersonal skills.”Toggle panel: Yoast SEO

Laid off? Make the Most of This Time Professionally
LinkedIn
woman on laptop working from home

Have you been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic? While your employment circumstances may feel ambiguous at this time, a number of sectors are adding jobs and anticipate continuing to expand hiring. And although a layoff is a challenge and a setback, you can find ways to grow professionally during this time.

Whether you will return to your prior workplace with new knowledge, or impress at your next job interview, consider using some of this time to prepare for what’s next in your career.

Try some of these ideas:

  • Stay in touch with your employer. Many businesses only planned temporary layoffs and plan to re-open, or to re-open with adjusted business operations.
  • Refresh your resume and social media profiles. If you don’t have a profile on any social media source, create one—but take care to optimize for maximum effect. If you already have a profile, increase your visibility by sharing links, along with your comments, to relevant articles in your field or other sources.
  • Connect with people who lead in your field. Find a professional or industry association that leads in your sector. Reach out to join, attend virtual events, and qualify to access their job leads, if available. You can also establish connections through social media.
  • Get local help. Find resources and check out the online job search and other skill-building workshops and virtual job clubs sponsored by your local American Job Center.
  • Join job search meetups. Sponsored by an individual or organization, meetups often offer online or virtual opportunities to connect, network with other professionals, and learn about a topic. Find meetups in your area by entering the search term “Job search meetup” in your browser.
  • Develop personal marketing tools. Create an online portfolio or website that speaks to your competence and achievement in your field. This could include writing samples, presentations, curriculum, case studies, project plans, drawings, or other items that help tell your story.
  • Learn what’s new in your field. Read blogs and books in your field to build current knowledge, terminology, new techniques or skills, etc.
  • Write an article. If you have a topic you have some expertise in, now may be the perfect opportunity to take the time to write a blog or article for publication. You can try publishing on social media (for instance, learn how to publish articles on LinkedIn), in professional association publications, or in community newsletters, local media, or blogs.
  • Take online training. There is an abundance of free online training resources available, covering a wide variety of topics from basic math and software skills to foreign languages and philosophy.

If you need help finding the right training for you, or need assistance in paying for training, reach out to an American Job Center. They can help you figure out whether your training is eligible for a Pell grant or whether you are eligible for training assistance through a training and employment program like WIOA or another grant.

Source: blog.careeronestop.org

8 Proven Video Interview Tips to Help You Succeed
LinkedIn
woman on virtual job interview looking confident

If you landed yourself a video interview, congratulations! You’re almost there. Now it’s time to prepare for success and brush up on video interview tips so you can get closer to landing the job.

More companies are conducting online interviews these days. That’s because it can be really efficient, for both the candidate and the company.

Although it’s easy to write off an online interview as the same as an in-person interview, there are subtle differences in which to prepare.

Tips for a Successful Video Interview

Preparation

Having a video interview does not mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. Treat it as if you were interviewing in person. You should thoroughly research the company, its industry, its products, and its achievements so you’re prepared to discuss them during your interview. Additionally, the Internet has made it incredibly simple to familiarize yourself with your interviewer before you meet them virtually—HR professionals are generally very active on LinkedIn, and a quick Google search will shed some light on who you’re meeting. Also remember to prepare some questions to ask of the interviewer yourself when the time comes.

Punctuality

For an in-person interview, it’s courteous to show up approximately ten minutes early. This tip also applies to video interviews, except it’s for more than just showing that you’re a punctual person. You want to be early to your online interview because it may take you a while to log on. For example, if the company uses a video conferencing software you’ve never used, it might take some time to download the application. You’ll want to make sure you do all this beforehand so that you’re ready to go at your interview time. Being late for the interview, no matter what the reason, is not a good way to start a successful online interview.

Technology

It would be a letdown if you found out that your microphone or webcam didn’t work right before your interview. When preparing for your video interview, there are three main components to test:

  • Audio settings: Do your speakers and microphone work? Make sure you are coming across clear and loud with no static.
  • Camera settings: Is it too dark? Too light? Too distracting in the background? It’s best to sit in front of solid colored wall with plenty of light. This way, the interviewer will focus on you and not the decor behind you.
  • Internet connection: This is often overlooked, but it may be wise to ensure you’re plugged in with an Ethernet cable for a hard connection. Video conferencing may take up a lot of bandwidth and a spotty Wi-Fi connection may cause an overly lagged session.

You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the software being used for the interview. Zoom, HireVue, GoToMeeting, Skype, and Google Hangouts are some common platforms. Consider signing up for a free trial, watch tutorial videos, or do whatever you have to do to familiarize yourself with the tool.

Environment/Setting

Choose your location very carefully. Be wary of places like coffee shops or coworking spaces, because you’ll want to avoid the sounds of coffee grinders and other people in the background. You also don’t want to interview in a place where there’s a lot of visual distractions, either. Try to find an area with a plain wall to use as your backdrop, and make sure that your lighting isn’t creating a glare or shadow.

The ideal setting for a video interview is a secluded room in which you can shut out any distractions. Avoid being near windows against busy streets, and make sure children and pets are out of the house or being supervised to be sure you’ll have a distraction-free environment.

Speak Slowly and Clearly

When using technology for a video interview, there can be delays or the microphone may not pick up your voice well. To prevent this from happening, take your time when speaking and enunciate your words. This will make sure that your interviewer can hear and understand you

Listen Carefully

Keep your mind from drifting off and focus on listening when the interviewer speaks. Pay close attention to what the interviewer is saying. Sometimes when you’re on a video job interview, it’s easy to accidentally cut someone off due to audio delays or from not paying attention to nonverbal cues. To avoid this, listen carefully to the interviewer and wait a few seconds before speaking to avoid cutting in.

Attire

Attire is one of the most frequently overlooked video interview tips. Even though an online interview usually means the interviewer won’t see anything from the waist down, it doesn’t mean you should only dress up the upper half of your body.

You may need to stand up to grab something in the middle of the interview, which would reveal your mismatched bottoms. Avoid this risk and wear interview clothes from head to toe. View yourself through your webcam to make sure your outfit looks professional on camera as well.

Body Language

Your body language in a video interview can convey a lot of things about who you are as a person. You can present a positive image by ensuring you’re sitting up straight with good posture. Place both feet on the ground, and avoid doing things like slouching or holding your head up with your hand. And always try to keep your hands in your lap to avoid distracting gesturing or fiddling.

It’s also important to pay attention to where you’re looking. Looking at the interviewer’s face on your computer screen means you’re not actually looking into the camera and making eye contact. Instead, look into the camera as often as possible, especially when you’re speaking. This will give your interviewer the sense that you’re engaged and not distracted by what’s happening on your screen.

While it may seem like a lot to remember, these video interview tips can help you adjust to the intricacies of interacting with a remote team. By following these tips for video interviewing, you can help ensure that you’re fully prepared and able to make the best impression possible.

This article was provided by FlexJobs, a job searching and career service that connects job seekers to flexible and remote work opportunities.

How Superstar Candidates Know if a Company is Right for Them
LinkedIn
woman using video chat for online job interview in office, closeup

It’s all about how you interview. But not in the way you might think.

By Jeff Haden

You need to hire the best possible employees. You need to hire superstars. But superstars have options.

For talented people, the job market is a seller’s market: Because they’re in demand they can to a large extent choose where they want to work. That’s at least partly why recent research involving nearly 100,000 interview reviews and offer decisions shows that last year, more than 17 percent of job offers were rejected by candidates, according to Glassdoor.

That’s right: Nearly 1 in 6 were offered a job they decided to turn down.

So how can you increase the odds that great candidates will accept your job offer? Make the job interview more difficult. The survey showed that the acceptance rate for people between 25 and 34 increased by 3 percentage points when the interview process was more “difficult.” And candidates in professional and technical fields are most likely to accept an offer if their interview is “difficult.”

Toughening Up the Interview Process

For the candidate, the interview is a good way to gauge the potential of a particular employer or job. “If the interview process is tough,” the thinking seems to go, “then that means getting a job here is tough—which means getting in the door should be great for my career,” according to Daniel Zhao, co-author of the survey.

Research clearly shows the interview has a huge effect on how candidates see you as a company. Skills and career development are a priority for younger workers, and interviews are an opportunity for them to see if the company they’re applying for will equip them with the experience they want. Of course, you might think your interview process is already tough. Think again. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “easy” and 5 being “very difficult,” only 10 percent of interviews were ranked as a 4, or “difficult.” And only 1 percent were considered “very difficult.” Which means the odds are, candidates feel your interviews are easier than you think. Which means making your interviews harder should pay off: Increasing the interview difficult by one level increases acceptance rates by nearly 3 percentage points.

Tests Work—As Long as They’re Skills Tests

Aside from asking more difficult interview questions, one way to increase the difficulty of the interview process is to have candidates complete some form of testing. Skills tests, though—not personality tests. Taking personality tests actually lowered acceptance rates by over 2 percentage points. Maybe that’s because superstars want to work for people who care more about results than personality: Taking applicable skills tests increased acceptance rates by over 2 percent.

Don’t Involve Brain Teasers

Many people feel having to answer a brain teaser question during a job interview feels like a bad move, and science backs up their intuition. How you answer a brain teaser says almost nothing about how you will perform on the job, but it says a lot—and none of it good—about the interviewer who enjoys asking the question. All brain teasers reveal is that the interviewer enjoys putting people on the spot and watching them squirm. Which is the last thing any interviewer should want to do—especially since great candidates will see that as reason enough to turn down a job offer.

Instead, do this. First, establish a consistent rubric for how you assess candidates. Then use behavioral interview questions to not only determine how candidates have performed in real-world situations but to also get a sense of what they consider to be “difficult.” The answer to, “Tell me about the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last six months,” instantly gives you a sense of what the candidate considers to be a “tough” decision. Then consider adding a skills test to the process. (Tests are available for just about every job and industry; just make sure you administer the tests consistently and that every short-list candidate takes the test. Where hiring processes are concerned, consistency—and fairness—is everything.)

And then ramp up the difficulty, because the research shows many candidates, especially the great ones, won’t think your process is as tough as you do. They’ll know, within minutes, if your process is easy, or difficult, or very difficult. The answer to that question plays a significant role in how likely they are to accept your job offer. Which means increasing the difficulty of your interviews will not only help you better evaluate candidates… it will also make it more likely that a superstar candidate will say, “Yes.” Win-win.

Jeff Haden is a speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, author of The Motivation Myth.

Meet the first black women to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from their respective colleges
LinkedIn
three black women nuclear engineers seated at table on the grass outside office building

By Amanda Zrebiec

On most days, the corner conference room in Building 26 on the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory’s Laurel, Maryland, campus is indistinguishable from the many quiet work spaces that surround it. But on a gray afternoon in mid-February, the voices, laughter and energy bounding from its occupants differentiate it from the rest.

As Jamie Porter, Mareena Robinson Snowden, and Ciara Sivels gather around the small table inside, the feeling of stumbling onto a gathering of old friends is difficult to shake. Their bonds, though, are forged less through time than their shared experience of being “the first.”

Each one—Porter, APL’s radiation effects lead for NASA’s Europa Clipper mission; Snowden, a senior engineer in the National Security Analysis Department; and Sivels, a nuclear engineer in the Air and Missile Defense Sector—was the first black woman to earn a Doctor of Philosophy in nuclear engineering from their respective colleges: University of Tennessee, 2012; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2018; and University of Michigan, 2018.

Now, Porter, Snowden and Sivels work in three different sectors at APL, dedicating their time and their brains to important challenges facing the nation. Here, they have created a community.

Path to the Ph.D.

“I used to hate physics,” Porter says with a laugh. “Lord, I don’t know how, but now I live in this world.”

Porter arrived in APL’s Space Exploration Sector in 2015. She focuses on radiation hardness assurance for all electric, electrical and electrochemical parts of missions, specifically NASA’s planned Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s icy moon. She also manages the sector’s Radiation Analysis and Test section.

Three years before she arrived at APL, Porter was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee. It’s likely, Porter said, that she was just the second black woman in the country to do so, after J’Tia Hart, who received hers from the University of Illinois and subsequently appeared on Season 28 of the CBS show Survivor.

After completing her undergraduate studies, Porter said her goal was to get a master’s. Her professor and graduate advisor, Lawrence Townsend, told her a Ph.D. was what she needed. Porter credited Townsend for pushing her—from undergraduate classes through her doctorate, and even a postdoctoral fellowship. “He told me, ‘You need to do this for yourself, and you need to do this for other people,’” Porter said.

It wasn’t until Porter was nearing her graduation that Tennessee discovered she’d be their first. They didn’t publicize it at the time—a decision reached through a conversation with Porter, where the school admitted embarrassment that it took until 2012 to reach the milestone. They later acknowledged regret at not celebrating it more publicly.

“I actually got to be the speaker at the hooding ceremony the year after I graduated, and it resonated with a lot of people,” Porter said.

When Snowden became the first black woman to earn a nuclear engineering Ph.D. from MIT in 2018, on the contrary, it was well publicized, particularly after her own Instagram post from graduation day went viral. That doesn’t mean her path to that moment was smooth. In retrospect, it wasn’t even a path she necessarily chose.

“People ask me, ‘How did you pick nuclear engineering?’ and I’m like, ‘Nuclear engineering picked me.’ You get a ticket, you get on the train,” she said.

Snowden credited her father, Bill Robinson, with guiding her into studying physics as an undergraduate at Florida A&M University, a historically black college in Tallahassee. It was a visit with a friend of a friend who worked at the school that started her trajectory.

The mantra of FAMU is they don’t expect you to be the best student on the way in, but you will be the best and most competitive student on the way out. That, Snowden said, was absolutely her experience.

It was acceptance into a summer research program at MIT after her freshman year that set Snowden on a firmer course. “It was the only application I sent out because I just knew I was going to be at FAMU doing research in the lab like normal,” she said. “But they messed around and accepted me. And we celebrated like I got into the Ph.D. program.”

A few years later, she did that, too.

Snowden, whose work at APL leverages her technical training in nuclear engineering on current and future national security challenges, applied to eight graduate schools. She got into one.

That’s where she met Sivels.

Sivels and Snowden first connected when the former was an undergraduate MIT student in nuclear engineering and the latter was working toward her Ph.D. That fact alone would knock a 16-year-old Sivels over with a feather.

Originally wanting to be a chef, Sivels’ chemistry teacher pushed her to explore her options—urging her to take his class (advanced placement chemistry) as a senior, recommending she look into chemical engineering schools, and turning her down time after time as she suggested potential colleges that might be a good fit.

“He kept saying, ‘This isn’t good enough, this isn’t good enough,’” Sivels recalled.

To boost her credentials for engineering school, Sivels enrolled in a local community college physics class that covered the history of the discipline. Fascinated by antimatter, she read about work at the California Institute of Technology. The Virginia native showed that school to her mom, who nixed the idea. But as she researched Caltech further, their rival, MIT, popped up.

“I didn’t know what MIT was, the prestige associated with it, anything,” said Sivels, whose work at APL focuses on how radiation interacts with and changes the properties of various types of materials. “It just came up in the sentence with Caltech, so I took it back to my teacher, Robert Harrell, and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the kind of school you need to be applying to.’”

Even after she was accepted, Sivels was certain she’d be attending Virginia Commonwealth University. It was a campus visit to MIT—coupled with the release of the movie 21—that helped convince her of the school’s esteemed reputation.

Her undergraduate studies were difficult. Sivels noted, among other setbacks, she failed a class and shed many a tear. She got through it, and knew she wanted to further her impact in the field. That’s when her advisors suggested moving on to Michigan for her graduate education.

And it wasn’t until she went searching for a mentor there—preferably another black woman who’d gone through the program—that Michigan noted she’d be the first.

 The Challenges of Being the First

In many ways, these women know they are the exception, not the rule. They were able to navigate turbulent waters and persevere through biases and other challenges.

It doesn’t mean, however, that just because they did it, black women trying to get nuclear engineering Ph.D.s are suddenly no longer the exception.

“I come from an HBCU [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], and so much of that culture and legacy is about that question of responsibility,” Snowden said. “FAMU was intentional about teaching us the context—about what it meant to be black in America and in professional spaces. I went into my Ph.D. process with that context, so when I came up against a challenge, or a person coming at me sideways, I could leverage that context to help me interpret the situation.”

“Both of my parents went to HBCUs, so I had that training, too,” Sivels added. “My parents didn’t want to jade me, but they knew I was smart, and they knew it was coming…When I used to cry to them at MIT, my parents were like, ‘You’ll get over it. Welcome to the world—something is finally hard for you.’”

Porter, who grew up in Tennessee with a white mother and a black father, said, “There are moments when I am like gosh, I do feel the pressure, because I have to deal with comments or expectations that my counterpart does not. Sometimes I will send out an e-mail that says, ‘This is a learning moment, please do not do this [thing you may not think is offensive, but is offensive],’ and I’ll put it out there because I feel like…”

As Porter trails off, Sivels jumps in. “If you don’t, who will?”

“That’s exactly right,” Porter said. “But it’s hard. You have to pick and choose your battles. You have to think, ‘How is this going to affect me if I react right now?’”

“I read a paper once that talked about that,” Snowden said. “They called it the tax. It’s the tax you have to pay of being ‘one of only’ of an identity. That extra calculation you have to do in your mind of ‘How am I going to be perceived in this environment? How do I respond to this stimulus?’ That’s a tax your counterparts from majority populations don’t have to pay.”

And that, the women noted emphatically, doesn’t even include bouts of impostor syndrome that often lurk just around the corner even as they continue their ascents.

Eyes on the Future

To listen to Porter, Snowden and Sivels, you’d think their trailblazing happened with a shrug of the shoulders—they just put their heads down and did what they thought they were supposed to do. It wasn’t nearly so simple.

They also know the rewards of their perseverance come with a duty to future generations.

“I definitely feel a responsibility,” Porter said. “I am the lead radiation engineer for a billion-dollar flagship NASA mission, and when I do reviews, most often I am the only black person in the room. So, I try really hard to bring people with me.”

They make an effort to mentor those behind them. They work on committees and in outreach programs, like the IF/THEN Ambassador program, of which Sivels is a part.

And they tell their stories. They talk about their journeys so that their shared experiences as “the first” are ultimately just a way to pave the road for those behind them.

“I look at the diversity and inclusion conversation as two sides to one coin,” Snowden said. “You have the recruitment piece, and the second, less-talked-about part, is the retention piece. Once they’ve gotten into these programs, and they’ve gotten their Ph.D.s and they’re STEM professionals, how do we get them to and through mid-career, promoted up to senior levels, given power so they can hire, and all of those types of things that will make an impact?

“Now, I think the mission is to preserve the recruitment momentum but create a new body of momentum on the retention piece, but it’s the harder challenge to me.”

In a way, what Porter, Snowden and Sivels would like is for their accomplishments as “the firsts” to fade. For them to be the firsts of many—and for that to extend through to professional life.

“I love outreach,” Porter said. “It’s telling your story. It’s letting a little girl see what’s possible. [Snowden and Sivels] saw each other [at MIT], but they didn’t really see it was possible until it happened. I didn’t see anybody and it was just like, ‘Well, this is happening.’

“But it all goes back to that responsibility and the fact that now we have that responsibility to put ourselves out there—so other girls can see it’s possible.”

Photo Caption: From left, Jamie Porter, Ciara Sivels, and Mareena Robinson Snowden, who all now work at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, were each the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. from their respective colleges in nuclear engineering.

Credit: Johns Hopkins APL / Craig Weiman

This story is courtesy of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. This is an abridged version. The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, or to read the unabridged story, please visit www.jhuapl.edu.

How to Use Online Networking Now for Future Success
LinkedIn
Smiling Indian girl wearing headphones using laptop, networking online

By Alexis Reale

It’s been said that looking for a job is a full-time job in itself. You need to make finding a job the focus of your daily routine, and follow a detailed job search plan to ensure that your time is being used wisely.

While applying for jobs is a large part of your job search, networking remains one of the top ways job seekers find positions, so it pays to build a variety of solid connections. During the pandemic, in-person networking is out of the question, so you need to change your networking tactics to focus on online networking. However, even during “normal” times, creating a strong online network can benefit your job search and career.

How Online Networking Helps Your Job Search

With online networking, you have a wider reach than you would at an in-person event. People from all over the world can meet up in a professional, like-minded group, giving you the opportunity to meet and network with people in your field that you might never meet otherwise.

Creating a Successful Online Networking Strategy

Start with LinkedIn. LinkedIn has become the go-to site for career-related networking. Beyond creating an optimized LinkedIn profile, be sure you’re taking full advantage of all it has to offer. Let LinkedIn automatically make the “easy” connections by sending invites to everyone in your address book. Then, take heed of its periodic suggestions of other members you might know based on your information or background.

Move Beyond LinkedIn

While LinkedIn is the place for all things career-related, don’t limit yourself to one social network. If your work involves a visual component, create a professional Pinterest or Instagram account to highlight that part of your work. You can also use Facebook and Twitter to engage with thought leaders and other professionals in your field. To take your personal branding to the next level, consider building your own website. It’s a great place to collect testimonials about your work, and create an online portfolio of your accomplishments. This should serve as a one-stop shop for people to connect with you and to learn about your background.

Consider Your Existing Network

Before you reach out to possible new networking connections, reach out to your existing connections first. This is a great way to start building your online network.

Starting with current contacts can offer a greater sense of support and connection simply because of the existing relationship. It can also allow you to catch up with former colleagues and peers, and potentially schedule informational interviews. LinkedIn also has a feature that allows your existing connections to introduce you to their connections. This helps you build your network when one of your current connections is connected to someone you want to meet. You can then ask that existing connection to introduce you.

Try Chats and Groups

Eventually, though, you’ll want to expand your network from existing contacts to new contacts. While that can be intimidating, online networking makes it easier and less stressful for people to connect with new networking contacts.

Join social media groups and chats dedicated to your area of interest. Groups can be found on LinkedIn, and chats exist on Twitter. If you’re savvy with social media, you can also find discussions with like-minded individuals through Reddit. You’ll want to find the sub-Reddit that pertains to your profession.

Choose the Right Connections

Before you reach out to any professional, consider if you’re reaching out to the appropriate person. There is often a pecking order of who talks to whom. If you are a mid-level professional trying to reach out to CEO and executive-level professionals exclusively, you may be hurting your chances of forming any valuable connection.

Connect with professionals on a similar career level to you, or who work on a team where they could be your manager (i.e., a senior tax accountant reaching out to a senior tax manager). This way, you will foster relationships with the people that truly matter—the ones who can influence hiring decisions and likely relate most effectively to your experience. In addition to online networking, joining a professional association in your area is a great way to network in your industry.

Slow Down

“Hi, this is Bob, and I would like a job,” is not the best way to introduce yourself to someone. Networking takes time and requires a relationship to develop. As you continue to build your relationship, you can dive into more details about your professional relationship and potential jobs, but jumping in with both feet and asking outright for a job will only hurt your chances of success.

Keep your “cold call” introductions quick, simple, and professional. Don’t ask too many questions and don’t expound on your great accomplishments in this first message. This first message is just an introduction, a hook to get their attention. Once you have their attention and their response is positive, you can take the next step and delve into more detailed networking questions.

Taking these small steps displays your interest in the company, but it also shows your respect for the person you are contacting.

Online Networking Now for Success Later

Networking is one of the most complex aspects of being involved in the professional world. There are endless methods, tools, and platforms associated with networking, and it can be difficult to decide where and how to start.

One constant about networking, however, is that it is about the practice of building relationships over time. Don’t wait until you are out of work to start networking. It’s something you should develop throughout your career. Take the time to successfully network online using the tips above, and the results will be worth the wait.

Source: flexjobs.com

Upcoming Events

  1. 2020 NAWBO National Women’s Business Conference
    September 21, 2020 - September 23, 2020

Upcoming Events

  1. 2020 NAWBO National Women’s Business Conference
    September 21, 2020 - September 23, 2020