Interview Tips for Recent College Grads – Part 1

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????You’ve aced interviews in the past. That one for the cafeteria job your freshman year and just last winter you nabbed a spot on the groundskeeper’s crew after a very successful interview. When you think back, though, those interviews were pretty much a formality. Your roommate recommended you for kitchen prep – actually, she begged the manager to hire you so she’d have a friend on the work team. And with the early, snowy winter, the grounds keeping crew were short-handed, big time, so the interview lasted maybe four minutes before the supervisor pronounced you hired.

But now that your college days are behind you, and you’re officially on the prowl for a “real” job, the game has changed. This is the big leagues. The real deal. The realization that those past interviews did nothing to prepare you for landing a real-world, honest-to-goodness, 40-hour-per-week job causes your stomach to knot.

Don’t let the prospect of a job interview send you into a tailspin. With some preparation and attention to detail, you can successfully navigate a “real world” interview. This week we’ll delve into several key “don’ts” and continue with the “dos” in next week’s post.

Don’t:

  • Focus too heavily on college accolades

In the “real world” grades, extracurriculars, and such matter less than they did in your pre-graduation days. Of course, you’ve every reason to be proud of your accomplishments and will want to note them on your resume. But this potential employer will be most interested in how your knowledge and skills will translate into on-the-job know-how. Focus on the experiences that have prepared you for this position.

  • Focus on everything but the job itself

 It’s fine if the company “perks” have you psyched. The culture and benefits and the location – surrounded by awesome eateries – not to mention that cool coffee shop on the first floor. But none of these topics should dominate the interview conversation. You’ll make a much better impression if you focus on how you’ll give 110% to the job rather than drool over the vending machines. 

  • Forget about non-verbal communication

While interviews are mostly about talking, it’s crucial to be aware of the impression your body language makes. You want to come across as confident so don’t fidget or allow your eyes to dart around the room. Sit up straight and sit back rather than hover on the edge of your seat. You want to project enthusiasm so smile sincerely and focus on the conversation. Speak with “a smile in your voice.” 

  • Expect perfection

Even the best interview has its low points. The one question you dreaded the most, whose answer you stumbled over. The awkward silence when nary a coherent thought could find its way from your brain to your mouth. It happens to everyone at some point. So cut yourself some slack. If you go in accepting that something will probably not go exactly as you’d hoped or planned, you’re likely to be calmer and make fewer bloopers.

Stop by for next week’s post on key “do’s” for navigating successful job interviews.

At B. Loehr Staffing we are continually searching for the highest caliber candidates to become our employees. An interview with us might be that all-important first step in your new career.  Don’t waste another minute.  Contact us today.

The Many Benefits of Positive Thinking

b loehr - positiveWhether your attitude reflects a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty outlook, it will impact every aspect of your life. The benefits of positive thinking are particularly impactful on your health and overall well-being. In fact, a sunny disposition can increase lifespan, reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol and increase resistance to the common cold. Positive thinking lowers rates of depression, lessens stress, slows aging and improves coping mechanisms for dealing with the inevitable bumps in the road of life.

All of these benefits should be reason enough to strive for an optimistic outlook. But according to Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, there’s even more to gain. An optimistic outlook can impact your job skills and create lasting, impactful value in your work life as well.

Fredrickson refers to this as the “broaden and build” theory. Positive emotions create a broadened sense of possibilities and open your mind to potential opportunities. This encourages a person to seek out, build and develop new skills and resources that can provide value across all areas of his/her life.

A sunny disposition is often accompanied by a can-do attitude, a characteristic that certainly makes an employee more desirable—not to mention more teachable/trainable and pleasant to be around. A positive thinker commonly appears on the list of most sought-after “soft skills”.

Many see positive thinking as simply a personality trait. While some folks are naturally more optimistic, those who find themselves prone to negativity don’t have to allow a pessimistic attitude to rule their lives. Choosing to shut down gloomy “self-talk”— the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head—can make a huge difference. Minimizing negative self-talk and intentionally redirecting one’s mental monolog paves the way for a more optimistic overall outlook.

While some of this ongoing internal conversation comes from logic and reason, some self-talk results from misconceptions or a lack of information. Get the facts—assuming almost always leads to a blurry picture—then refuse to allow a gloomy Gus attitude to sabotage a positive approach.

When life throws you a curb, it’s tempting—and takes little effort—to succumb to woe-is-me thinking. But fight the urge to expect the worst and focus instead on the bright side. Because expecting good things to happen actually increases the chances of a positive outcome.

So, Debbie Downer and Negative Ned, make way for Positive Patrick and Optimistic Olivia!

The caliber of B. Loehr Staffing’s Field Associates, as well our clients has earned us the reputation as a solid premier provider of quality staffing in the greater St. Louis area. Whether you are a candidate looking for a position or a company seeking talent, building a “positive” partnership with us will provide a timely solution. Contact B. Loehr Staffing today.

6 Teamwork Characteristics that Will Get You Noticed

Collaboration in the workplace is an effective way to harness creativity, birth innovative ideas, and bring major projects to a timely completion. That’s why job boards are littered with pleas for “team players”. Many of today’s fastest growing industries have stepped up to make teamwork an even more integral piece of their organization’s structure.

When it comes to sports, we know what a “team player” looks like. But what makes for a “team player” in the workplace? What are employers looking for from their team members?

Candidates who demonstrate the following qualities are the people who will grab an employer’s attention.

  1. Reliability

Teamwork fails or succeeds based on the dependability of the individual members. Someone who is known for being behind or shirking his/her duties altogether will not be anyone’s first choice for a project requiring teamwork. However, the person who delivers on time, every time, while willingly taking on a fair share of the work – plus a little when necessary, that’s the guy, or gal everyone will want on their team. Consistent reliability is a must-have quality for teamwork to be effective.

2.  Active participation

“Bumps on a log” have no place on an active team, so no “in name only” team members, please. Good team players participate. They come prepared for discussion, ready to share input and practice “active listening”. No thumb twiddling from the sidelines, thank you very much. A real team player takes initiative, volunteers and exemplifies a “How can I contribute?” attitude.

  1. Straightforwardness 

With tact and diplomacy, a good team member will strive always to be up front. Beating around the bush, game playing and leading folks down a long, winding road that ultimately goes nowhere undermine teamwork. A great team member shares his/her opinion – even when it is an opposing one – with tact and respect. And that includes not being afraid to say, “Look, this didn’t work like we thought it would so it’s back to square one.” Be honest about the good and the bad.  Failure isn’t about shucking plan A and moving on to plan B. Insisting everything is A-Okay when it’s as plain as the nose on your face that something has to change? That is failure.

  1. Flexibility

Being flexible, which is not at all the same as being “wishy-washy,” is an excellent team work characteristic. The ability to review and adjust and forge ahead without losing momentum is of huge value to group efforts.

It happens all the time. Either external or internal forces – maybe both – shift, resulting in the need to tweak or even perform a major overhaul. The best team players choose to view such situations as opportunities and refuse to dig in their heels, stamp their feet and declare a firm “No!” This isn’t about change with nary a thought to the outcome, but rather a purposeful approach that realizes sometimes change is necessary.

  1. Commitment 

Good team players get the job done. Exceptional team players do so with a level of passion that drives them to give 110%. It’s that extra commitment that will get employees noticed. They are in “it” for the long haul – whatever “it” may be. No taking shortcuts or knocking off early. They care deeply enough about the group effort to give their all and expect others to do the same. When they devote themselves to the team, it is serious business. 

  1. Initiative

Not everyone is a leader—and that’s perfectly okay. But everyone can demonstrate initiative. Like coming forward to take on an extra task. Stepping outside your comfort zone to fill a need. Speaking up to get or keep the ball rolling. Going the extra mile see a task completed. Shouldering more responsibility. Each of these initiative-taking roles plays an important part in effective teamwork.

You can make your unique blend of skills and experience shine by polishing your teamwork qualities. Fitting the “team player” bill will present a myriad of job options to the candidate serious about on-the-job collaboration opportunities. Pursuing teamwork-edifying qualities with all you’ve got will make you stand out amongst a sea of less teamwork-inclined job candidates. It’s in your best interest to pursue being the best team member you can be.

When teamwork jells, creativity thrives. Fresh, unleashed ideas and a get-the-job-done energy flow through team members. And that’s a good thing.

At B. Loehr Staffing, we test and train only the highest caliber candidates to become our employees. Their outstanding performances over the years have solidified our reputation as a premier provider of quality staffing in the greater St. Louis area. Contact us today about a position with excellent opportunities for both personal and professional growth.

 

Realizing the Greatest Gain from Teamwork

As more companies recognize the value of teamwork, group projects, and team-driven efforts have become the norm and for good reason. The best products and ideas increasingly spring from collaborative efforts.

“It’s becoming difficult to think of companies that aren’t depending on teams,” says Amy Randel, a professor of management at San Diego State University. “And usually, nothing is more important than having a goal that inspires and organizes people’s efforts.”

But it’s important to make the distinction between a team and genuine teamwork. Any group of people can slap on the label “team”. Maybe they share some interests, like to hang out together, even have common goals. That doesn’t mean teamwork is part of the equation.

The crucial characteristics of teamwork go far beyond the social identities many so-called teams share. To be effective, teamwork must include these critical elements:

  1. Commitment to a shared purpose

Teamwork is all about rallying around a common goal. It’s this goal that unites a group of individuals and provides the motivation for their efforts. As the team bonds around this shared vision, a mission is born. Once expectations are defined and accountability established, the next step is to chart a course toward the end goal.

The more clarity of mind and mission, the greater the commitment level tends to be. The more dedication to the cause, the greater the opportunity for realizing the most value from the collaborative effort.

  1. The expectation of individualism

While the vision and mission have to be the same, that same principle does not apply to the people. In fact, the beauty of teamwork is that differing viewpoints come together complete with all of the creativity and innovation—as well as past experiences—that make each of us unique individuals.

Everyone agrees that different viewpoints are not only welcome but expected and encouraged. Not allowed are discussion-squashing comments such as, “That will never work!” or body language that sends the same message. It’s expected that every suggestion will be thoroughly explored, dissected if you will, for feasibility. No one’s ideas receive more scrutiny than another’s.

This across-the-board agreement creates a strong sense of commitment as well as belonging and ownership. Because value is placed on the viewpoints, knowledge, and opinions of each individual, teamwork flourishes.

3. Established ground rules

By consensus, establish guidelines to ensure orderliness and assist with efficiency. Cover expectations concerning frequency and length of meetings. Out of respect for each other and the ultimate purpose of the team, insist on punctuality and consider how to address absences or periods of inactivity.

Whatever could become an issue, discuss and conquer it before it divides and renders the team ineffective. Review procedures on a regular basis because even as important as such guidelines are, they should never be seen as immovable. Situations change. Priorities shift. Constructive evaluation is always a good thing.

  1. Facilitate communication

Nothing will render a team ineffective faster than a lack of open, honest dialogue. Nothing is more crucial to the dynamics of teamwork than effective communication with its myriad of components. An oft-neglected tenet of communication is listening. People value their chance to talk, but it’s tempting to put less effort into listening. Another is comprehension. Ideas can pass from one person to another without a clear understanding of what is relayed. Words can be spoken and heard without any true communication happening.

Restating, asking questions, “boiling it down” are all useful for ensuring the speaker and the hearer are on the same page. In fact, have several people summarize, as different people hear things differently. A friend once shared how ten people who attended the same meeting, heard the same presentation, each walked away with somewhere between a slightly varying version to a barely recognizable synopsis of the discussion’s outcome.

  1. Plan for conflict

Even the most cohesive, connected team will face conflict. Clashes will erupt – hopefully not very often – but dissension will at some point rear its head. Again, expect it. Remember the emphasis in number two on individualism? That crucial building block that adds such value to group collaboration can – okay, correction –  will lead to conflict.

But seriously, disagreements do not have to destroy a team. Training in conflict resolution can change a taking-sides situation into a workable solution, one that might even result in a learning experience.

At B. Loehr Staffing, we believe in the value of teamwork. We understand how the right mix of people is crucial to successful collaboration efforts. Contact us today for assistance in building dynamic teams throughout your organization.

Be a Problem-Solving Employee

At the slightest setback in the day’s plans, Ms. K threw up her hands and backed away. “I can’t do this!” she exclaimed, her arms crossing defiantly over her chest as her head shook in firm agreement.

Cooler, calmer demeanors stepped in immediately – it was obvious this was not a first-time occurrence. The relatively minor issue was handled efficiently and effectively, with a minimum of raised eyebrows and widened eyes at their co-worker’s behavior, and the day proceeded.

This employee did not possess even the most basic of problem-solving skills. How long will she last in this position? Probably not long.

Problem solving combines logic and the knowledge of past experiences with an imaginative sense of “what if?” to dissect a situation and determine an intelligent solution. A number of important skills factor into successful problem-solving including resilience, analytical thinking and creativity, as well as a bent toward asking the kind of questions that dig below the surface and peel away the layers to get to the core issue.

Consider the IDEAL model, described by Bransford and Stein in their book Ideal Problem Solver. It breaks problem-solving into the following stages:

  • Identify the issue
  • Define the obstacles
  • Examine your options
  • Act on an agreed course of action
  • Look at how it turns out, whether any changes need to be made.

While the process sounds simple, it takes time – which is completely different, of course, from thumb twiddling to pass the time, so it looks as if you’ve invested deep thought into resolving the issue.

The best resolutions result from a purposeful, strategic process.

  • Identifying the problem must involve a thorough understanding of the situation. Minor glitches can be resolved with a brief run through of the above steps. But major issues often involve many contributing components that must be defined before they are addressed.
  • Define the obstacles – with pen and paper or a whiteboard, get a visual of every facet of the problem, listing even the most minute aspect. Make an effort to approach the situation from every angle.
  • Examine every possible option to ensure a great idea won’t be pushed aside because it appeared less than feasible. The first thought that enters your mind or comes up in the group setting discussion may not be the best solution. That’s okay. It’s this kind of thinking, reaching, and grasping that will ultimately lead to the best resolution.
  • Act – when it’s time to move, go for it. Forge ahead with confidence and resolve.
  • Look at the outcome – utilize the acronym ART that stands for Assess, Review, Tweak. Objectively assess the results, thoroughly review every part of the resolution, determine what tweaks will better the outcome.

Typically, problem solvers like to learn, can reason well, think creatively, aren’t fearful of decision making, and possess planning and organizational skills. A purposeful approach to dilemmas will make you a valued employee. So, if you lack in any of these crucial areas, choose one skill to work on and resolve to become a better problem solver.

At B. Loehr Staffing we value employees whose problem-solving skills set them apart from the crowd. It is the outstanding performance of our employees that has helped to build our reputation as a premier provider of quality staffing. Contact us today for assistance in finding a position that will utilize your unique skill set.

 

 

The Work-life Balance vs. Work-life Integration Debate – Part 2

b loehr - integration

Which do you strive for – a work-life balance with distinct boundaries between work and life OR work-life integration that purposefully melds it all together?

Were it possible to create a perfect equation of work and personal time – and sustain it – then work-life balance would get the nod.  Achieving a hardline separation, while doing justice to both, is indeed a worthy goal, but it’s also a tall, tall order. And maintaining that clear line for the long run? Next to impossible.

Employees long for happiness and contentment on both fronts. Why wouldn’t they? And employers desire the same for their workers because a satisfied, engaged workforce will get the job done right.

It seems any strategy designed to better the lives of management and staffers alike will pay dividends. After all, work takes up a chunk of our lives. A Harvard study found that 94 percent of people work more than 50 hours a week with almost half of them putting in more than 65 hours a week.

Although the work-life balance theory still pops up in headlines and water cooler discussions, other concepts are entering the conversation. Things like greater flexibility, energy management, and fulfillment. Because the ability to lead inspired, engaged lives across all facets – work, family, personal well-being – is the true goal.

David DeWolf shares a real-life, hands-on experience that exemplifies the essence of work-life integration.

“Last school year, I brought my three oldest kids (8, 7, and 5 at the time) to the office to experience what Daddy does every day. I made them dress appropriately, bring their school work and work diligently. I taught them how to interact with professionals and  . . . That’s not balance –  that’s integration!”

It’s no surprise that the most innovative companies have catapulted far above the idea of balance to allow the necessary options their engaged, industrious workers need to mesh work and life in a plan that fits their individual lives. The employee has some input as to when/where their tasks are accomplished – providing appropriate deadlines are met. The bottom line is that the job gets done.

Not such a novel concept considering the results of a time diary study of 1001 days in the lives of high-earning women and their families. A full 75 percent of the time, logs showed personal situations – family, school, health related and the like – happening during traditional work hours. On the flip-side, 77 percent revealed work outside the normal workday – making calls after their kids went to bed, writing reports on weekends.

Are late night calls or Saturday afternoons at the computer ideal? Probably not but if it gets mom and dad home for dinner with the kids, homework and bath time, it’s not such a bad trade-off. The only possible way some parents can work and tend to their family is to find a job that embraces work-life integration.

  1. Loehr Staffing understands the demands of life and family facing today’s workforce. We also appreciate how much our client companies need a qualified, productive workforce. Our staffing specialists work hard to provide top quality service, innovative solutions, and the perfect client /candidate match every time. Contact us today.