Saturday, February 20, 2016

Are You Following Through at Work?

By Susan Pines, Shy Job Seeker Blog

Throughout my career, I’ve separated co-workers into two main groups: Those who follow through, and those who don’t. When I’ve been new on a job, it didn’t take me long to figure out who at work took action, and who put things off (or never did them). In the workplace, workers who don’t do their jobs place a burden on their colleagues, the boss, the company, and customers. Employees who don’t do what they promise to do reflect badly on the organization and affect people’s lives, the organization’s purpose and programs, company profits, and much more.

Working with people who don’t follow through can be upsetting, confusing, and agonizing. For example, I have a publication deadline every week, yet two of my co-workers usually miss the deadline because of their own disorganization. Their lack of on-time follow through leaves me constantly wondering: When will I get their content? Will I get it at all? Will I need to reconfigure my publication based on what they give me? Now I’ve tried to set expectations, send reminders, and inquire about their material’s status. But my hounding, which I don’t enjoy doing and don’t feel I should have to do, seems to make little difference.

Somehow these co-workers manage to do enough of their jobs to stay employed, but it makes everything run much more smoothly and with less stress when people do what they need to do--on time, thoroughly, and accurately. When one of these slackers leaves the organization for whatever reason, it’s such a relief.

People who don’t follow through usually develop a negative reputation. Customers complain about them or take their business elsewhere. Co-workers avoid them, have to cover for them, or try to find workarounds.

Why do workers not follow through? Why do they not take the action they need to take? I try to always give people the benefit of the doubt when they don’t follow through—at first. But usually I see it is a bad habit and the result of disorganization, inability to prioritize, laziness, lack of focus, aversion to giving someone else control, forgetfulness, and distractions. 

Sure, many people have too much on their plate, but those who don’t follow through seem to have this problem with just about everything. So it’s not one or two tasks that don’t get done; lots of things don’t get done, or get done partially or badly, over and over again. Their excuses include, “I’m so busy” and “I forgot” and “I’m getting to it.” Rarely have I seen these people improve their follow through, despite chaos all around them, undone work piling up, complaints, and warnings from the boss. Perhaps these individuals don’t realize there is a better way to work or are not aware of the extent of their problem.

If you want to have a good career, following through is important. If you have trouble getting things done and are aware of it and the problems this behavior causes, then you are ready to change. I offer the following tips to help you become a person who follows through and gets things done.
  • Get organized: Set aside time to clean up and organize your work space. Put paperwork, supplies, and tools in folders, drawers, file cabinets, racks, and bins. Throw away trash. Manage your email daily. Take a couple of minutes at the end of each day to prepare your workspace for the next day. Then make a vow to stay organized.
  • Prioritize: What is most important for you to do today? What have you fallen behind on? Who is waiting to hear from you? Try to attack your priorities first. Let people know you haven’t forgotten about them and their needs. 
  • Avoid distractions: Distractions abound in the workplace, including the Internet, text messages, phones, noise, interruptions, food, parties, visitors, chit chat, social media, and gossip. The more you give in to distractions, the less time you will have to do what counts. So wean yourself away from things that take your focus off your work. 
  • Delegate or seek help: If you feel you have too much work, see if you can get help before it gets out of control.
  • Keep to-do lists and set reminders: Creating, following, and managing a to-do list can change your work life. Set reminders on your electronic calendar. Be sure to give yourself enough time to accomplish what you need to do.
  • Are You Following Through at Work [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
    Keeping a calendar may help you follow through on your work.
  • Stay put: To get work done, you need to work. So sit in your chair, stand behind the desk, or be where you need to be. Then work. Avoid running out for long lunches, getting involved personal phone calls, snacking on treats in the break room, gossiping, complaining, and chit chatting.
Implementing just one or two of these suggestions will go a long way in helping you follow through on the job. If you start to follow through at work, you’ll have less stress, a greater sense of accomplishment, and more success.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Customize Your Resume in 15 Minutes

Customize your resume in 15 minutes [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
You can tailor your resume to a job opening
in 15 minutes. 
When you apply for a job opening, you want to make it easy for the employer to see how you fit the organization’s needs and requirements. A key way to accomplish this task is to customize your resume to the job.

Customizing a resume means you are tailoring it to match the job’s required skills, responsibilities, experience, knowledge, and education. It does not mean you are starting your resume from scratch. Instead, you are making small changes, substitutions, additions, and deletions to the words and phrases on your resume. In addition, you may be moving words and phrases to emphasize certain parts of your background.

Of course the thought of fiddling with your resume every time you apply for a job is not appealing, especially given the time-consuming nature of online job applications. It’s much quicker and easier to use the same resume for every job opening. But by taking a few minutes to adapt your resume to the opening, you increase your chances of getting a job interview.

Here’s another important reason why tailoring your resume is critical: With the online job application process, an electronic applicant tracking system (ATS) will “read” your resume and attempt to match it to certain keywords, such as required skills, knowledge, experience, and job duties. If your resume does not contain the right words, the electronic system screens it from human eyes. Only the resumes that pass this test will be forwarded to human resources or a hiring manager.

Then, if your resume gets forwarded to a person, it must pass another test: Based on your resume, does the employer think you could be a good fit for the job? Based on your resume, are you worth a job interview? Employers scan resumes quickly and will decide within seconds whether to give yours a longer look and more consideration.

So you can see why it’s important to make your qualifications stand out. If you are not getting results from your resume, or if you want to be a top candidate for a job opening, you need to take a few minutes to better match your resume to each job’s requirements. To stay motivated for resume customization, I suggest you limit the amount of time you spend on it. If you take too much time, you will stop doing it. So take just 15 minutes or so to do the resume tailoring for each job opening. Remember, you are not rewriting your resume.

Here are some pointers for 15-minute resume customization:
  • Review the help-wanted ad carefully. Some ads are well-written and detailed. Others are poorly done and skimpy on details. Regardless, treat the ad like gold. Spend a few minutes reading and rereading it, noting the job’s duties, responsibilities, and skill and education requirements. Ask yourself which words and phrases are key in describing the job. Read between the lines to identify pain points the employer may have experienced with past workers and want to avoid with a new employee. Such pain points are often identified by the word “must,” as in the ideal candidate must know certain software, must have certain experience and knowledge, must have a certain trait, or must be willing to work certain hours.
  • Add the keywords you’ve identified in the ad to your resume. Next, add the keywords from the job opening ad to your resume. For example, if a job requires experience in using Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest for business, and you have this experience, don’t just say “social media” on your resume. Be sure to add the relevant types of social media. Another example: If the job mandates experience in Adobe InDesign CC, don’t just say “desktop publishing” on your resume. The same is true for specific coursework, specific job tasks, specific tools, specific work settings, specific customer types, and so on. Besides adding keywords, you may need to delete words, modify words, and move words to make your changes sound right. Warning: Add keywords that are honestly part of your experience and background; do not insert keywords for experience or skills you do not possess just to get your resume read. In addition, be sure the job seems like a good fit before you start modifying your resume. Otherwise you are wasting your time and the employer’s time. If you are truly qualified for the job, most of your resume should be suitable and need changes that take less than 15 minutes to make.
  • Enhance your professional summary. Many resumes include a summary of your background and skills at the top. This summary is an important place for tailoring a resume to the job. For example, when I was applying for a communications job, the company wanted someone who could “write pamphlets” as a key job responsibility. My current resume mentioned writing brochures and flyers but not pamphlets, which I had created in the past. It was an easy fix to add “pamphlets” to my professional summary.
  • Resave your resume. Be sure to resave your modified resume under a new name, perhaps with the company name. For example, you could call the resume “Jane Doe Resume for Springer, Inc.” This step will help you stay organized and look professional to employers as an attachment or an upload.
  • Proof carefully. Any time you start changing and moving words in a document, you may inadvertently create errors. Be sure to carefully proofread your customized resume more than once. 
  • Don’t forget your cover letter. A cover letter is another great place for showing the employer you are right for the job. Tailor your cover letter to each job in the same way you customize your resume. See my blog posts here and here on appealing to employer needs in your cover letter.
So be wise and customize your resume. By making your resume a great match for the job, employers will be eager to interview you.