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  • work related stress

    Work related stress is real. And why would that so difficult to imagine? Waking up every single day and going to a job you don’t like can wear on you. After all, this is close to half your waking life. We’re talking 2080 hours per year for a 40 hour per week job. That is a lot of discomfort.

    Work related stress is not only real, it is hazardous to your health. I had a client who placed an order, called me to explain how he needed to get out of a high stress situation because of what it was doing to his health, and one month later he was dead. I spoke with him a couple of times on the phone. He was a great guy with a great outlook on the future. He just could not get out in time.

    One study revealed that 83% of people are stressed about at least one aspect of their job. Between the lack of job security, low pay and increased workloads after the 2008 economic collapse, it is a wonder that number isn’t higher.

    Of course, everyone’s financial situation is different, but I believe any job that is slowly draining the life out of you (and sometimes not so slowly) should be kicked to the curb immediately. Creditors be damned. However, if you feel you must stay in the high stress environment, here are some tips for your survival:

    • Plan your day around minimizing interruptions. Every email doesn’t need to be answered right away. In fact experts have recommended answering your emails twice per day. Also, do what you can to schedule as many of your calls at the same time as possible.
    • Take advantage of breaks minimize the mundane existence. Frequent breaks also help to refresh your brain, refresh your perspective, and increase your productivity.
    • Don’t underestimate the value of exercise and a good night’s rest in keeping you on an even keel. In fact exercise has been proven to produce endorphins, which aids in improving sleep. Exercise is also a great mood enhancer and fights depression.
    • Avoid focusing on potential problems that have not materialized. It has been said that “fear is not real and the only place it can exist is in our thoughts of the future, causing us to worry about things that at present, and may not ever, exist“.  We often build up stressful situations in our heads about how a boss or co-worker will react to something, or how a particular project may get completed. Cross that bridge when you come to it. Practice keeping the focus on real issues and let the prospective ones go until they become tangible issues.
    • Hobbies outside of work are a great way to turn off the part of your brain that deals with workplace stuff. When you get off of work, it is good to have something else in which to pour your mental resources.
    • Socialize outside of work. Good conversation with friends over a glass of wine is a great way to let the worries of the day or the week just wash away. Maybe the bar around the corner has a trivia night, or the small local playhouse has had a live performance you can attend every now and again.

    According to the Observer, a magazine put out by the Association for Psychological Science, stress can cause deterioration in several areas of your personal health, including your heart. It also makes own more likely to fall victim to illnesses from the common law cold to cancer. It’s time to change the focus to YOU. Regardless of what Mitt Romney says, corporations are not people and are as a body only concerned with one thing, profits. And once you drop dead, they will simply pack your things and insert another cog to keep those profits coming in.

    But again, my vote is that if a job is that bad, you don’t need to be there. But that’s just me.

  • boost focusConcentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” (Alexander Graham Bell)

    Whether it is writing a report for a project at work or trying to study for a big exam, many people have the same issues: focusing on the task at hand. These days, we are constantly distracted by pings and dings from our cell phones, texts and calls, the availability of YouTube and Nextflix videos, and a host of other things demanding our attention. So, how do you go about boosting your focus and getting the job done? The key is doing what it takes to shape your environment into one that supports the focus you seek. Here are 5 simple strategies that can help with boosting your focus right now.

    Clear Your Visual Site Line

    Whether you now it or not, everything that enters your line of sight affects you. If you are working at a desk filled with clutter and a space with clothes, books and other random things lying around, your mind sees and recognizes them. Your productivity is affected by the chaos, whether you wish to admit it or not. A study completed by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute revealed through functional magnetic resonance imaging and other physiological measurement tools that the mind focuses better when the clutter is cleared. There are those who have claimed that their depression and anxiety are amplified in cluttered and messy environments. Clear the mess and watch your productivity spike!

    Close Your Email

    There are some of us who cringe at the thought of unanswered emails and an inbox with any more than 5 of them being unread. But the ever-open email program can constantly pull your attention away from whatever you are working on at the time. Did you know that the average business person received 68 legitimate emails per day in 2014 (per The Raticati Group, Inc.)? If those emails were evenly distributed across a 10-hour work day, that would mean a distracting email every 8 minutes and 49 seconds. How in the world would you get anything done if you felt the need to read, answer and act on each email as soon as they came in at such a rate? To support boosting your focus, limit the number of times per day that you check your email. The frequency would of course depend upon your particular circumstances, but you are definitely better off working on critical projects with without the ping of an incoming honey-do.

    Add While Noise to The Mix

    For some, the words and conversations around you can pull your attention away just long enough to throw you off track. Perhaps it is the two ladies talking loudly in the booth behind you at the coffee shop. Maybe it is the television your spouse is watching in the other room where you can hear the muffled conversation. In times like these, a little white noise can do the trick to move you forward. What works for some is water sounds, such as a flowing stream or waves hitting the beach. Perhaps it is classical or new age music that can work for you. Find the “white noise” that best drowns out the distractions for you and either throw on some noise-canceling headphones or play it on speakers to help you get back to on track.

    Take a Break to Reset

    You’ve been at it for hours and you find that your mind is wandering and your eyes are tired, meaning your productivity level is dropping. Nothing resets the batteries better than an active break. When you’re on a roll, it is sometimes hard to convince yourself that a break is in your best interest. But these “productive pauses” can be of more long-term benefit than fighting through the weariness. A study done by the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Leeds School of Business revealed that stepping away from the office truly helps entrepreneurs by improving their psychological well-being. The break from the stressful existence actually helps prevent burnout. Stepping away from the task helps to relieve your brain of the monotonous processing.

    But remember that some ways of “stepping away” are better than others. For example, using break time to scroll through Twitter or Facebook is what is called a “low-efficiency diversion”. To re-energize, take a walk and get the blood flowing to aid in boosting your focus.

    Ignore the Big Picture-Focus on the “Next Thing”

    We can sometimes be a bit discouraged when we try to wrap our minds around a large project while executing the tasks necessary to get to its conclusion. As a result, your energy and enthusiasm can be sapped and your subconscious mind can might resign itself to the hopelessness it perceives as being a mountain that you cannot climb. Once the monumental task has been accepted, try not to think of the whole picture while moving toward the goal. Instead, keep your thoughts on the very next step. If writing a paper, it is only about the very next sentence. And then the next one, and the next one. If you are studying, nothing exists beyond the one chapter you are studying. Before you know it, that monster has been slain and you’re done.

  • Explosive Job Growth and High Salaries Make STEM Careers Ideal for your Children

    stem resume writerSTEM: acronym referring to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

    The world today is vastly different than what it was 20 or 30 years ago. The dramatic technology explosion has created a revolution in how we move about our everyday lives. If you told the average person in 1980 that one would be able to use a handheld telephone to turn off their home lights, pay their bills, buy movie tickets and map a trip to Disney World, you likely would have experienced some ridicule. But here we are at a time when those things are commonplace, primarily due to trailblazers in STEM related disciplines.

    Some of the reasons for exposing your children to STEM concepts and careers early are obvious.

    • The technological boom has spawned new industries that didn’t exist years ago. There were no Cyber Security Analyst or Clinical Informatics Specialist positions available in 1990. As technology continues to evolve, so will the opportunities for your children to get in on the ground floor and transition into a more secure industry right after college.
    • Young STEM graduates have far more earning potential right out of the gate. According to topeducationaldegrees.org, 8 of the 10 most valuable Bachelor’s degrees are in the engineering discipline. Additionally, STEM fields are expected to grow at a much faster rate than their counterparts. For example, the biomedical engineering field is projected to grow by 62% through 2020. Additionally, a report titled Technology Works: High-Tech Employment and Wages in the United States indicates that STEM jobs by far outgrew other occupations by a 27:1 ratio during the first decade of the new millennium.

    But some of the reasons are not so obvious:

    • Along with creating new industries, technology is eliminating others. For example, the retail sector experienced a 15% size reduction between 2007 and 2011. How about the newspaper industry? With almost everyone having breaking news at our fingertips on our smartphones, the newspaper industry experienced negative growth of 28% over that same four-year period.
    • The Technology Works report also pointed out that the high-tech sector has an impressive “multiplier effect” on other local goods and services. With 4.3 jobs created for every job created in the high-tech sector, it far outpaces any other sector. To put this into perspective, traditional manufacturing only offers a 1.4 multiplier effect.

    To take advantage of this opportunity, the U.S. has some work to do. According to the World Economic Forum, we only rank 52nd in math and science and our global competitiveness ranking is 5th (and continuing to fall). Also, among developed nations, we only rank 27th in the proportion of students receiving STEM undergraduate degrees. But there are some out there that are pushing to move the needle in a more positive direction. Shining examples of this include:

    • STEM NOLA in New Orleans takes head-on the goal of increasing awareness of STEM careers by exposing kids of all ages to the wonders of STEM and how it impacts their everyday lives. Founded and directed by Dr. Calvin Mackie, STEM NOLA is entering its second year. What kind of impact is STEM NOLA having? In 2014 alone, STEM NOLA engaged more than 2300 kids from more than 200 different area schools through its innovative and fun “STEM Saturdays”. STEM NOLA also offers in-school and after-school programs, summer enrichment programs and professional development for educators. STEM NOLA is sponsored by high-profile organizations such as Boeing, GE, ExxonMobile and Great Minds in STEM, with the stated purpose of “exposing, inspiring and engaging members in the surrounding communities about opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics”. STEM NOLA is a 501(c)(3) organization and accepts donations (Click here to donate). If you live in New Orleans or its surrounding areas, your kids should attend “STEM Saturdays” at least once. Dr. Calvin Mackie is an engaging personality that is able to connect with youth in a unique way that most PhDs can only dream of doing.
    • The TAP Coalition (Tapping America’s Potential) seeks to boost the number of yearly STEM graduates by 400,000. TAP is a cooperation between 15 leading business associations that include organizations such as The Business Roundtable, Information Technology Industry Council, the Council on Competitiveness, the Minority Business Roundtable and the National Venture Capital Association, among others.
    • The STEM Education Coalition has the goal of informing state and federal policymakers of how STEM affects the country’s global competitiveness in the 21st century. Home based in Washington, D.C., this organization communicates with the White House to recommend education policies and advocates for the development and implementation of legislation that facilitates STEM competitiveness.
  • How to Make Yourself the Lead Business Analyst Candidate

    business analyst resume

    The title “Business Analyst” is rather broad in nature can take on many different job titles. Depending upon the organization, it can be titled management analyst, business systems analyst, requirements engineer, enterprise analyst and business intelligence analyst, to name a few. As a Business Analyst, your primary purpose is to identify organizational changes needed to improve various areas of operations for stakeholders, as well as develop and implement plans to facilitate those changes. In effect, as a Business Analyst, you act as a sort of pioneer in guiding an organization through uncharted waters and serve as a leader in ensuring continuous improvement.

    If nothing else, preparing an effective resume for a business analyst has one thing in common with preparing an effective everyone else: WRITE TO ENGAGE YOUR READER! This means focusing the resume and cover letter on what will solve the reader’s organizational issues, not necessarily what has been important for you to this point. Remember, the purpose of our resume is not to frame it and put it on the wall. Nor is it to impress our friends and family. It is a tool for wedging open the interview door to land a position as a Business Analyst with room to grow.

    Here are five critical concepts that one should always look to communicate (either overtly or covertly) on a Business Analyst resume that will speak to the reader’s needs:

    Project Scope Definition

    One of the main challenges Business Analysts and Project Managers usually have with stakeholders is zeroing in on what is needed from a project in terms of high-priority deliverables. In an effective Business Analyst resume, you want to show your knowledge and skills in determining project goals, deliverables, tasks, functions, deadlines and costs. Have a story of how your skills in protecting against “project scope creep” kept project costs in check? Then you’ll want your resume to reflect that. Do you possess expertise in using tools such as Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to clarify and define deliverables? Be sure your reader doesn’t have to search high and low for this information.

    Organizational Modeling

    Depending upon the organization and the project, a Business Analyst can be required to help define the organizational structure. This can mean mapping out the organization’s framework, command tree, communications methodologies and personnel duties based upon organizational mission and goals. If your background includes helping stakeholders in examining and fine-tuning their organizational model to ensure alignment with strategic goals, then make sure your reader knows it. There are various off-shoots of this concepts, such as Dynamic Enterprise Modeling (DEM) and Dynamic Organizational Modeling. If you bring knowledge and skills in these paradigms, be sure your Business Analyst resume displays them.

    Project Management

    As a Business Analyst, your ability to demonstrate skills in overseeing projects to ensure achievement of goals, timelines and budget is crucial. To ensure success, you are required to prepare schedules, establish budgets, assign tasks to your team and set task deadlines. If you have a track record for preventing cost overruns because of your efficiency in this area, by all means your reader needs to know. Perhaps you have a dynamic skill in securing project resources or experience in applying the Critical Path Method (CPM) design plan tool. Your resume should be clear on this.

    Risk Mitigation

    Evaluating threats and hazards that can affect an organizational restructuring project and developing action plans to minimize them is an important part of what a business analyst brings to the table. One’s ability to reduce or eliminate the adverse impact of inherent project risks can be of real importance to the hiring authority. Be sure to detail your experience in developing and integrating risk mitigation strategies and their results on your project. Related to risk mitigation (but not the same) is risk management. Your resume should support your talents in both areas.

    Contingency Planning

    For a skilled business analyst, contingency planning can consist of several sub-concepts that include critical business process analysis (usually performed by business impact analysts), business continuity planning, impact tolerance, disaster prevention and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) determination, among others. Good contingency plans are documented, thoroughly tested, communicated clearly to all critical personnel and consistently maintained to ensure its viability. Your Business Analyst resume should convey your expertise in reducing risk levels and stakeholder costs.

    Of course, an effective Business Analyst resume will be about much more than concept inclusion. Strategic placement, spacing and emphasis of these vital concepts plays an important role in whether your weary-eyed reader picks up on those concepts and gives you a call, or misses them and tosses your resume in the trash. Remember, you have less than 15 seconds to impress. But at the very least, knowing the concepts to integrate can go a long way in beating out the dozens (sometimes hundreds) of competitors who won’t even properly target their reader.

     

  • santa clause hiringI have been working for myself for quite a while now writing resumes and cover letters for my wonderful clients. As such, there aren’t many times when I find myself wondering what it would be like working for a boss or having supervisor. In a way, my clients are my boss, but of course the dynamic is a bit different.

    While not involved in a Christmas job search, I did received a request from a recruiter to interview for a position with The Jolly One himself:

    Kris Kringle …

    Ol’ St. Nick …

    Santa Claus …

    I was pretty excited at first, but I had to remember to take my own advice and weight long-term pros and cons, as well as do my research before jumping in. Because while I am sure working in Mr. Kringle’s employ has its advantages, there are definitely downsides I would need to consider if accepting a position with Father Christmas.

    There are a number of good reasons to accept the interview request from Mr. Claus. First, unless they are really, really good at keeping dirty laundry in-house, Santa’s Workshop seems to be an environment filled with positivity and employees happy with their jobs. Santa’s elves are famous for their commitment to the task and being in good spirits while getting the boss ready for his annual run. When it comes to job security, you don’t have to worry about The North Pole plant eventually being closed down due to competition because, well, Santa Inc. doesn’t have any. A job with The Big Guy seems like it can be as secure as they come.

    Let’s not talk even about if you are lucky enough to get a position in R&D. Can you imagine being able to dream up and experiment with all of the toys and gadgets? (Hint, kids: pursue STEM careers!!!) But what I really think would be the highlight of working at The North Pole is learning what goes behind the logistics of that operation. I mean, my man is delivering toys to what amounts to 2.4 billion kids within about 10 hours … IN ONE NIGHT! Don’t you want to know the interworkings of THAT supply chain??? Can you imagine the kind of business you can run and product you can deliver if you had that sort of product delivery system?

    But there are some aspects of working with on Team Kringle that might not be as attractive. For instance, no competition likely means no need to reinvent yourself. As such, I would imagine the tedium of doing the same thing year after year with no end in sight can be a downer. And what about upward mobility? I consider myself a pretty career minded guy (I mean, shouldn’t your resume writer be that way?). I would like to think that at some point in my career there, that if I put in the time, I can one day call the shots and be the boss. But let’s face it, there isn’t much chance for upward mobility in an enterprise where the hierarchy goes “Mr. Claus, Mrs. Claus, elves”. Besides, CEO Claus has held this position since the 3rd century. And after 1800 years on the job, there is nothing indicating he is not good for another 1800 years. Honestly, I don’t have that kind of career patience. Besides, even if he handed the job to me, can I commit to 1800 years? I don’t think so.

    But looking deeper, things get a little more suspicious. When the boss has “intel” into everyone who has been naughty or nice, you have to wonder if your electronics are being monitored. That is some Cold War type stuff I am not wanting to get into. Lastly, consider the fact that Santa Inc. provides toys for boys and girls the world over, but collects no revenue from it. Now THAT is shady. What pays for R&D, administration, materials, feed for the reindeer, etc.? I mean, is this all a front for something else? And even if it isn’t, how do I justify asking for a raise down the line?

    I don’t know. The more I think about it, the more it seems like I should stick with resume writing and LinkedIn profile development.

  • Oops!In our previous installment , we went over the first three of six resume killer items that can significantly reduce your interview frequency. Many assume the content alone carries the day with your resume. The fact is that nothing can be farther from the truth. Just as with verbal communication, there are many factors that affect how your message is received. One’s resume is no different.

    As I mentioned in the previous post, my wife is a huge fan of the show Big Bang Theory. They name their episodes like scientific theories and postulates. As a joke, I decided to do the same for the resume errors. I hope you enjoy.

     

    Resume Killer #4: The “Duplication Complication” (Identical content in separate job descriptions)

    Your last two positions had the same job title and same job descriptions. So, when preparing your resume, it only makes sense to simply copy and paste the content from the first entry to populate the second one, correct? Well, not so fast. Duplicate content is one of our resume killer culprits.

    There are two good reasons we do not want to use a resume killer such as word-for-word duplicate content in position descriptions:

    • Most readers of resumes do so begrudgingly. Like most of us, these people are distracted, working multiple projects and manage other employees who need attention. The last thing we want to do is bore them to death by giving them the exact same thing they just read.
    • You lose the opportunity to restate the description in a way that would allow the use of different keywords. When you duplicate the content, you cheat yourself of the chance go at the applicant tracking system (ATS) from a different angle.

    Keep the content of your resume fresh and interesting. You can even consider trimming the content a bit so that it does not duplicate the concepts. But whatever you do, avoid 100% position duplication within your resume at all times.

     

    Resume Killer #5: The “Gramps Effect” (Dates Exposing Advanced Age)

    In case you were unaware, ageism is all too real in the job market. Older candidates are finding it difficult to get a fair shot at good positions because the assumption is that:

    • As an older person, they will be resistant to change and not understand the newer technologies
    • Their salary requirements will be more than what the employer wants to pay
    • Their health benefits will be too expensive to maintain.

    So, if you are a 55+ job seeker, trumpet this fact before you have even been in the building to state your case for employment is a potential resume killer. I usually recommend to older clients to remove graduation dates that are past 18-20 years. With most people graduating between 22-25 years of age, it is a simple math exercise for the reader to figure out the applicant is at least middle aged.

    When it comes to professional experience, we usually want to take a similar approach by not giving the reader work experience that spans 25 years. While every situation is unique, I usually go into into a project wanting to keep the chronology to 10-15 years to stay away from this resume killer. Not only is this likely to be the most relevant content, but it can disguise the fact that this may only be 50% of your working dossier.

    Of course, once you show up for the interview, the hiring authority can obviously pick up on your age. But you now have an audience where you can convince them of just how narrow-minded this thinking is. Dazzle them with your energy and knowledge of the latest and greatest in your industry. You’re thus avoided a major resume killer!

     

    Resume Killer #6: The “Sardine Can Conundrum” (Improper Content Spacing)

    I can tell you from experience that the last thing a tired-eyed reader wants to do is read a resume that is so crowded and stuffed with verbiage that your eyes glaze over. This is a more common occurrence than you think. The reason is that most people feel the need to tell their life story and erroneously think the content alone will carry the day. Cramming too much content into one page is definitely a resume killer.

    When you are looking to get the message across to a reader, you want to ensure that the entire environment is right for absorption. Would you believe that perhaps the most important factor in your reader’s comprehension of your message is the areas where characters do not appear? That’s right, the white space within a resume helps a reader rest their eyes. This aids in the comprehension of the next information block. Additionally, when executed strategically, variances in line spacing height can subconsciously communicate information groupings, helping the reader with navigation.

    I see many cases of job seekers cramming tons of info into one page simply because they have been told (erroneously, I might add) that that a resume can be no longer than one page. As I mentioned earlier, every situation is different, but there is no general rule that the document MUST be one page. The fact is, a well-spaced two-page document gets an overstuffed one page blur any day. You’ll find a nice article on whitespace by clicking here.

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