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Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
- Vince Lombardi

From a young age, most of us are quickly familiarized with the phrases "in a perfect world..." and "practice makes perfect." We spend so much time and energy becoming the perfect student, getting perfect scores. It would be difficult to argue that achieving perfection is the highest level of success, it seems.

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When we were all in school, hitting this target was more obvious – grades, class rankings, and evaluations all told us how close we were to being the "best." But years and years later, here we are, wondering how we measure up compared to others. As a job candidate, are we a "perfect fit"?

Well, there's good news, for candidates as well as hiring managers!

Job seekers – you can't be "perfect"!

Every position has slightly different requirements, and being excellent in school won't always help you here. Show off your skills and display your talent, but don't dismiss an opening just because you don't think it sounds like a perfect match. Apply for positions just outside of your exact skill set and you might be surprised  at what you find – employers are willing to train the right candidate or shape the position to fit your strengths.

Hiring managers – there is no "perfect."

If you're holding out for the "ideal" candidate, it's time to stop. Last year was the first in almost two decades where the number of U.S. jobs available was equal to the number of job seekers. There's no shortage of open positions, so don't continue to tell yourself the next interviewee will be The One – the grass is not always greener. Instead, take a deep look at the habits, strengths, and personality of the candidate sitting in front of you and consider them for your company as well as for the specific position. Are they eager to learn? Diligent? Responsible, adaptable, and talented? They could be the perfect person for your team.

There's no telling what an adjustment to your thinking could do to your professional career or your business. If you're lucky enough to score an interview or meet a great candidate, you should count your lucky stars and stop holding out for something better – nay, perfect.

 

 

Posted: 3/21/2019 10:24:15 AM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


Hi there. Remember us? We’re your friendly neighborhood staffing agency, and it’s probably not a coincidence that we’re located right near the Freedom Trail.

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We meet with tons of job seekers each month, from people first trying to get their foot in the door, to those who are seeking the next of many career moves.  We know you all take great pride in your past professional experiences, and certainly have some great work to show for it!  In many cases, your creative chops are what get you the job.  However, while we spend an abundance of time perfecting our cover letter, tweaking a resume, and prepping for interviews, do we give our work the same attention?

Having seen our fair share of portfolios, we have some suggestions for you.

1) Steer clear of certain websites.

Imagine you're a chef.  You don't use boxed macaroni and cheese and present it as your own, right?  That would be ridiculous.  The same goes for portfolios – don't use a site that doesn't allow you to customize.  Hiring managers can spot an amateur site a mile away.  Sites such as Behance or Dribbble are fine for networking and community support, but it is recommended to avoid using them as your primary portfolio.

2) You get what you pay for.

You may opt to pay for something.  Free websites often look like just that -- free sites.  There are several great portfolio building websites out there that are worth consideration.  Following are just a few:

Squarespace is one of the most popular portfolio building sites, with a plethora of template options and abilities to integrate apps for things such as ecommerce.
Cost: $12/month

Cargo is a similar service, allowing users to choose templates and then customize. Cargo stands apart from the rest due to an embedded video player.  While it once was by invitation only, their Cargo 2 is open to everyone.
Cost: $13/month

Format is a portfolio site with clean and simple templates perfect for designers and creatives looking to show visual work.  While it's a little trickier to master, there's more customization opportunities than with Squarespace.
Cost: $6/month

3) Build it yourself.

Take a weekend (okay, a few) and do some learning. Teach yourself the ins and outs of simple coding, buy a domain, and get moving!  Should you be worried it'll look like an amateur website, stick with the motto:  Keep It Simple.  Let your work shine with minimal navigation and a white background.  Perhaps you’d even like to add coding to your resume before submittal.

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Don't sell yourself short by settling for a subpar online portfolio.  By using a basic template site, you're placing yourself on the same playing field as any average joe with an internet connection.  Roll with these suggestions and prep your portfolio with a website builder that's built for professionals!

Posted: 2/25/2019 3:22:29 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


When it comes time for the next step in your career, you rarely find a new job through a human being. You're searching online, applying on a website, or emailing a resume and cover letter in an effort to come across as best you can on paper. It should be easy to present your professional career on a resume, since we all have to do it at some point, right? But it's not as natural to write about yourself and your past experiences as you might think.

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Look, we've seen a lot of resumes. We've sorted through the good the bad and the ugly, and believe us when we tell you, we know what works and more importantly, what doesn't. Here are some tips on what you should and shouldn't do to create a killer resume.

Do: update frequently, even you aren't looking for a job

Sometimes the right thing comes along.. all together now.. when you least expect it! Why scramble at the last minute to put your best foot forward when you can be ready to go with some regular maintenance? You know how they suggest a quick clean of your living space for 10 mins a day to avoid a solid weekend of cleaning? Same situation. Once you have a good handle of your new job, add it to your resume, updating as your responsibilities change.

Don't: use an unprofessional personal email address

If your email address was created before you could drive, there's a good chance you'll want to keep it off of your resume – stick with an email closest to your name, and don't use your current work email address.

Do: write smart descriptions

Avoid using blanket phrases or uninteresting wording. For example, rather than saying "hard worker," start by describing a person who works hard, with wording like "dedicated and fastidious designer comfortable with a fast-paced project schedule." Instead of describing yourself as "creative," explain that you "developed innovative solutions for clients in a variety of industries" and "sparked connections in brainstorming sessions." If a fifth grader would use the word, try to think of a better way to exemplify the quality.

Do: revisit your annual reviews

One of the best places to discover your recognizable strengths is to take a look at your past performance reviews. If your supervisor noticed a strength or flaw, you can bet your future employer will be interested. Who knows, maybe they pulled something out of your personality that you hadn't even known about!

Don't: use keywords obviously

Get this: 491 of Fortune 500 companies use an applicant tracking system. ATSs are used to weed out resumes that don't fit the position. That's great for hiring managers, but what if your resume and cover letter resonate better with a real live person? Tough luck, as you'll need to include some keywords spotted in the job descriptions. Don't fill your resume with invisible text containing those keywords (yes, people really do that!), but instead try using them organically throughout the page. ATSs can somehow spot a "stuffed" resume from a mile away, so avoid overusing keywords.

Now that you know how to perfect the art of resume crafting, stay tuned for our next post on making a resume that'll move you to the top of the applicant pile!

Posted: 2/11/2019 8:22:22 AM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


In our last post, we talked a bit about one of the most talked about and least favorite aspects of a workplace: meetings. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're more often an opportunity to see coworkers face-to-face than they are productive discussion.

If all meetings were efficient and purposeful, it wouldn't matter that managers spend between 35% and 50% of their time attending and running them, but that doesn't seem to be the case.  In a Harvard Business Review study of 182 senior managers, 54% said meetings at their organization were too frequent, poorly timed, and badly run, wasting time for groups as well as individuals.

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Rethinking a company's approach to meetings has been shown to boost collaboration and improve employees' positive perception of their work/life balance (from 62% to 92%). We've gathered more tips for you to take to your team check-ins and keep your people satisfied.

Determine actionable steps.

Stay true to the meeting's intentions and leave the room with tasks delegated and decisions made. There's no reason to gather five people at a table to say "we'll decide that later." Keep track of who is help responsible for which items, and hold them accountable for the next steps. Follow the S.M.A.R.T.  guidelines: each action item must be (1) Specific, (2) Measurable, (3) Agreed Upon, (4) Realistic and (5) Time-based. Everyone knows who is doing what. Sending a follow up email to review the next course of action can also be a great way to maintain efficiency, but don't bother if there have been no tasks assigned.

Make 30 minutes the norm.

Many meeting invites default to a 60-minute time period, so guess how long most meetings take? With a whole hour blocked off, why would anyone bother to keep their statements short and direct, and their questions limited? Time spent collaborating and sharing information will take up as much space as you give it, so do everyone a favor and cut that space in half.  You'll likely find attendees are more eager to participate and less likely to get distracted (or even drift off) if the end is in sight.

Keep everyone engaged.

An astonishing 92% of people report multitasking during meetings, either checking emails or doing other unrelated work. Knowing a meeting will go long or won't require participation keep employees from bothering to engage. If people are phoning in, have them video chat instead. In-person attendees should entertain the idea of conference rooms being tech-free zones. Keeping the distractions to a minimum will keep an agenda moving along.

Try collaboration software.

Many team-wide check-ins fall into a few categories: status updates, information sharing, or collaboration. Technological advances have made it easier to work and connect with remote workers or cross-country sans-meetings, so why not try a similar system with your in-office employees? Cross-departmental communication doesn't have to be verbal or emailed when there are options for realtime updated project management like Slack or Trello. You avoid time spent preparing updates or reports when coworkers can clearly see the progress being made or the timeline involved.

Don't plan other meetings while in one. 

If it is a regular group that needs to connect again in the future, feel free to eliminate a pesky email and nail down a date and time, but if only a portion of the team needs to attend. If there is anyone at the table who does not need to be a part of that conversation, have it elsewhere.

A bonus tip: try a standing meeting. It'll stay short and sweet, and you'll get a little break from the computer hunchback.

Posted: 11/28/2018 8:36:45 AM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments


It's commonly known that Americans are workaholics. We leave the office late, check emails on weekends, and even eat lunch while reviewing spreadsheets. We claim this is due to our desire for productivity and commitment to a company, but what if the reason is much simpler? There are everyday occurrences that displace our normal workload, leaving us with hours and hours of work to complete and not enough time in a day. The culprit? MEETINGS.

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Easily one of the most disliked parts of a person's job, meetings steal away valuable hours of worktime each week. In a Harvard Business Review survey among senior managers, 71% of them found meetings to be unproductive and inefficient, with a large portion of those managers (62%) saying they're also a missed opportunity to bring their teams closer together. If nobody finds them useful, what's the point?

We all know meetings aren't going away anytime soon – teams still need to be updated on projects statuses, and consensus must be reached on big decisions, but there are definite solutions to some of everyone's most common problems with meetings. We'll cover some here and finish up in our next post!

Send out an agenda.

Planning what you will discuss does two things: first, it prepares your team for the material to be covered, and second, it keeps you on task. If you and everyone in the room knows the time is half up and you've only gotten through 3 of 10 items, you won't dawdle for the remainder of the meeting. Plus, someone is less likely to bring up an unconnected project if they know it's not intended to be discussed.

Prepare materials ahead of time

Will there be a presentation? Send out the file prior to the actual meeting, giving people time to familiarize themselves with the material covered, and suggest they present any clarification questions beforehand. Day-of, refrain from an actual word-for-word dictation of your previously prepared presentation, and keep your employees engaged by asking questions and prompting discussion.

Pare down the attendee list.

Have you made sure to include only the essential people in this meeting? Being invited to a meeting you aren't needed for is just like being CCed on an email, except it wastes actual time and often can be avoided. Jeff Bezos famously adopted a Two Pizza Rule, which means he only attends meetings where two pizzas could feed the entire group. Any more than that, and you're in inefficient territory.

Divert longer discussion into follow up emails or meetings.

Keep it moving – a few minutes of friendly chatter is fine to warm up the room, but any sidetracking later on is detrimental to the focus and efficiency of the meeting. With certain teams, it can be tempting to let the team go in the direction that happens naturally, but trust us, your employees will thank you later for not letting the room get out of control.

Work with meeting blocks. 

"Deep thinking," or the time spent at work undistracted and uninterrupted, is too often cut short by low-value tasks like checking email or attending meetings. Plus, a person often halts their productivity at a good stopping point, regardless of how much time is left until a meeting begins.  Think about it – the ten minutes before a meeting is often spent preparing to sit in a room without coffee or a restroom for an hour, or killing time for a few mins rather than moving forward with a project (without having a large stretch of time to dedicate to it). Employees may even be gathering materials for the upcoming meeting – they spend up to 4 hours per week preparing for status update meetings (that's 10% of their workweek)!

Try limiting meetings to a specific time block each day or week, giving your team an expectation of solid work time outside of that block. They will likely be more productive without having to plan around constant work breaks throughout the day, and can easily transition from productivity mode to collaboration and discussion mode.

More tips coming in our next post!

Posted: 11/14/2018 12:37:53 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments