Want to Make Sure You’re Happy at Work? Choose the Right Job AND Company

Since most of us spend more than a third of our waking hours Monday through Friday at work (one arguably could make the case that it’s more than a third after adding on commuting time and the business of getting ready for work in the morning), all of us more  than likely want an enjoyable one-third day. Maybe even a great one-third day. Certainly not a miserable third.

Many of us, therefore, may think we need to find the perfect career or certainly perfect job in order to be happy.

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But even perfect jobs/careers have their bad sides. We know of one physical therapist, for example, who loves treating her patients. The other four hours of her day typing up notes and treatment plans? Not so much: she truly hates the paperwork part, so much so that she’s seriously thinking of changing careers.

So the first thing we need to realize is that we’re not going to be happy for all eight-plus hours on all five days per week.

But we can work to make work pleasant most of the time. Here’s how:

Plan for it.

What we mean is this: you’re not going to stumble into happy circumstances on the job. Instead, you need to know what kind of working environment you enjoy along with the work you like to do. You also may want to consider the personalities of your coworkers.

Another real life example: we know of one woman who took a job in a cube farm that was dark most of the time because her colleagues who worked near the wall of windows on the southeast side couldn’t see their computer screens most of the day because the sun shined right onto them.

She also noticed during the two interview she had with the hiring manager that her future colleagues seemed to keep pretty much to themselves most  of the day. The room was dark and exceptionally quiet.

A voice inside her told her she would be miserable but she took the job knowing she would enjoy the actual work and believing its great benefits – quitting at 2 p.m. every day in the summer, five weeks of paid vacation a year – would make up for the quiet, dark room.

She was miserable and ended up leaving the job within six months (before summer and before she qualified for even one week of vacation).

So ask yourself some questions:

  • Do you like working alone or as part of the team most of the time?
  • Do you need windows?
  • Do you need an office where you can close the door and concentrate?
  • How do you feel about colleagues in an open office playing their radio/streaming music quietly? Televisions on the wall?
  • Ask your boss how she prefers to manage people. Autonomy-with-guidance-as-needed or is she someone who checks on progress every day? Does her management style jibe with how you prefer to be managed?
  • And so on.

These questions may sound trivial, but if you were to talk to either of the women mentioned above, you’d understand that the trivial – the details – are critical to being happy at work. Even the work you love to do can become a burden when the where, how and some of the what makes you miserable.

If you’ve found yourself stuck in a position that you thought would be a great fit work but you found soon enough comes with aspects that make you despondent, consider taking on a temp-to-hire position through Helpmates Staffing. These are temporary assignments that allow you to take work in a position for about three months before signing on more permanently (if both you and your on-site manager agree). These types of temporary positions are a terrific way to “test drive” a company’s and department’s culture to see if you enjoy not only the work, but also your colleagues and work environment.

Take a look at some of our current job opportunities. (Use Advanced Search and click on Temp-to-Hire under Employment Type.)

How to Decline a Job Offer (So That They Won’t Hate You)

Let’s say you’ve been offered a job but it’s lacking.   In something.  The pay isn’t enough. It’s too far to commute. (“91 freeway westbound in the morning? Are you KIDDING me!?”) Your ex-boyfriend just announced on InstaStories that he got a job there. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided that the job isn’t what you thought it would be and so you’ve decided to turn it down.

But in order to get a job offer, one usually must say right out loud while shaking a hiring manager’s hand goodbye: “Thank you for this interview(s). I think I’d be a great addition to your team and I hope you will offer me the job.” Or you said as much on the phone. Or probably in your thank you letter after your interviews.

So. Turning down the job after you baldly and repeatedly said you wanted it? This is embarrassing.

No, it’s not.

People decline job offers all the time. What’s more, job offers get rescinded all the time. So, minor embarrassment aside, it’s perfectly normal to say no thank you after an offer’s been extended.

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But. You never know: you may want to work at this company someday in the future. So be careful how you the job down: you want to do so with grace, professionally and in a way that makes the hiring manager think well of you.

Take a look below for how to do this.

  1. Don’t not show up on your first day.

Sure, you’re nervous about saying no. You also may be worried that you might be making a mistake by turning it down and so you postpone making a decision until the day you’re supposed to start. And so you don’t show up. And you don’t answer texts or calls or emails from your (could have been) new boss.

Instead, be a professional and as soon as you’re certain the job’s not for you, let the hiring manager know, preferably no later than a week before your start date. (Even better, turn it down before you even set a start date!)The absolute latest you can tell someone you’re not coming in: the day before your first day and even that is cutting it way too close.

Not showing up just shows extreme immaturity and massive inconsideration. Man- or woman-up and tell the hiring manager with days to spare.

  1. It’s best to call the hiring manager. Second best is an e-mail. Never text.

Yes, it could be a hard call to make. But the hiring manager deserves this courtesy. And you’re a professional: you definitely can do this.

Whether you call or email, follow these guidelines:

  • Thank the hiring manager for the offer. Tell her how much you appreciate her consideration of your skills and background.
  • Give a brief reason why you’re not accepting the offer/changed your mind. You don’t have to go into great detail: you’ve accepted a position at another company. After much thought, you’ve decided to stay put. You and your spouse discussed and the longer commute will just cut too much into critical family time, etc. You don’t even have to give a reason, you can just say “As wonderful as this opportunity is, unfortunately I am going to decline.” (If you say this in a phone conversation, understand the hiring manager probably ask for a reason. Have a good one handy. Again, you don’t have to go into details.)
  1. Offer a solution.

You’re not going to say “give me 20 percent more than you offered and I’m your gal!” Instead what we mean by a solution is to say you have several connections in your network who may be great for the position and you offer to talk to them about it and send their information to the hiring manager

You see, by turning the offer down, you’ve created a huge problem for your hiring manager: he has work to be done that no one’s going to do and he to go through the interview process all over again! By offering a solution you show that you understand you’ve created a problem and you want to help fix it.

This shows empathy and professionalism.

  1. Say you want to stay in touch.

The world of work is small one. Particularly within industries. There may come a time when you will want to work for this company. Or you may see the hiring manager at conferences, seminars and other professional events. If you aren’t yet connected on LinkedIn, say you will send a connection request soon (and then do so that day). Even a simple “Thank you for your time and offer and I hope we meet again,” will be enough.

Say yes to your next job offer by contacting Helpmates. We have many great job and career opportunities in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Good luck with your job search!

When You Haven’t Had a Job Interview in 6 Months, Do This

Let’s say you’ve been unemployed for a while. A long while, at least six months. You were laid off from your Orange County company and were able to score a nice severance package and so you decided to “take it easy” for a few weeks, catch your breath, rest up, relax, maybe take in some of the Southern California day trips you’d been wanting to take, but never had the time.

And then a few weeks turned into six, then into two months and you woke up one  morning and said to yourself: “Todays’ the day! I’m revamping the resume, taking a look at some job boards, maybe make a few calls.”

And you do start with gusto. But 45 minutes in to the resume redo, you decide to check Facebook. Then it’s on to the Fox News or CNN websites. Before you know it, it’s 11:30: can’t make any calls now; it’s time for lunch.

As you eat lunch at your desk, you browse your favorite sites. You look up again and it’s 2 p.m. How did THAT happen!? So you work for another 45 minutes and then take a break.

Break over, but it’s now 4:45. Contacts won’t be at their desks. You call it a day.

The Same Pattern, Day After Day

Three months in and you’ve revamped the cover letter, but you’re starting to get worried: that severance package won’t last forever.

So you make some calls and people are polite but you can her them yawning on the other end. They’ll let you know if they hear of anything.

You start applying to openings you see on the job boards. You carefully craft each cover letter to the position and tweak your resume for that particular opening, too.

Still, that sound you hear? Crickets.

Six months is coming in mere days and you’ve no prospects and you’ve gone on no job interviews and you’ve definitely received no job offers.

Panic is now your middle name.

Time to REALLY Get to Work!

Even if you’ve been diligently applying for jobs, networking, and so on but have no job offers or even interviews, well, we’ll be blunt here: it’s going to be a lot harder for you to get interviews/job offers. Not impossible; but definitely harder. In a way, employers will look at you as if you’ve been out of work for five years: “What’s wrong with you that you’re still unemployed?”

(Note to self: never again “take it easy for a few days” after being laid off. Start the job search within no more than a week after leaving your employer.)

Enough with the Bad News. Here’s What you MUST Do: You’re Going to Break Some Rules

  • You’re going to approach companies directly (No more applying on job boards. You are DONE.) You’re going to find out who can hire for the type of work you can do and you’re going to contact that person directly.
  • Once you get a name, you’re going to research the hiring manager. LinkedIn, Google, the company’s website. You’re also going to research the company’s website to see what its goals and challenges are and you’re going to Google the heck out of, finding everything you can about the company.
  • Once you’ve done your research and you know the hiring manager’s name, you’re going to write her a letter. But not any old letter. Nope. Definitely not. Instead, you’re going to write a letter about a problem you figure the hiring manager has and how you can solve it for her. You could call this a “pain” letter if you like (go ahead, that’s what she calls it).
  • People hire people to solve their problems and you’re going to state how your skills and experience can help a hiring manager solve that problem. And you’re going to ask for a meeting or phone call to discuss your capabilities in person (instructions on how to do this).
  • Next you’ll place that letter (don’t fold it) with your resume in an 8.5 x 11-inch manila envelope and address it to the hiring manager.
  • And you’ll do this again for several different hiring managers at different companies.

Results can happen pretty quickly once the letters go out. This takes considerable work upfront (finding names, research, crafting the letter, etc.) but hiring managers will contact you. After all, you’ve just shown them evidence that you can solve their problems! Not all of them, of course, but enough will and you’ll soon be headed out on interviews.

Whether you’re looking for a full-time position or some temporary assignments while you look for your next opportunity, Helpmates can help. We have dozens of job openings every day: take a look and if one or more look interesting, apply as instructed.

Do the Job to Get the Job

We can’t take credit for that headline: it comes from the great Nick Corcodilos of AskTheHeadhunter.com who is a firm believer that candidates have much more power than they believe and that the absolute best way to find work is to directly approach a hiring manager. (Go ahead, visit his site and read as much of it as you can; you won’t be disappointed.)

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More importantly, once a candidate has piqued the interest of said hiring manager, it’s up to the candidate to, as Corcodilos puts it, “do the job to get the job.”

Here’s what he means, and it’s downright brilliant:

When candidates are pretty much equal in background, skills, education and ability to perform the duties of the job well, who tends to get the job? The one who shows the most enthusiasm for it.

Enthusiasm is important, but a critical part of that enthusiasm is understanding that one must work to prove one is the best candidate for the job.

In other words, the candidate that is so enthusiastic for the job that she’s willing to show the hiring manager that she’s up to job by actually “behave[ing] like an employee” instead of candidate, often is the one who receives a job offer.

This Doesn’t Mean Working for Free

Far, far from it. What it means, according to Corcodilos, is showing a hiring manager how you actually will do the job and how hiring you will help an employer become or stay profitable. (Remember: the main reason companies hire people is to solve problems and all employers’ problem boil down to one thing: making or saving money (and saving money is pretty much the same as making money).

Here’s a real-life example of this:

A reporter – one without a college degree – decided to apply for a job with a national PR firm. The job description said a college degree was required.

Still, because of her background and writing skills (she sent samples), the hiring manager called her in for an interview. The interview went well and the hiring manager gave her an assignment (as he did all interviewees): she could choose one topic out of three offered and write a pro and con piece on each. She needed to get her samples back to the hiring manager within a week.

The interview was on Monday. The young woman wrote the pro and con pieces on all three topics (six pieces total instead of two) and delivered them to the hiring manager on Wednesday (rather than the next Monday).

She got the job. Without the required college degree.

The “Do the Job” Interview

When going to an interview, be prepared to show your stuff! Corcodilos suggests that you tell the hiring manager beforehand that you want to demonstrate how you will do the work she hires you to do.

At the interview ask the hiring manager to present you with a real problem, one she’s actually facing, and show her how you’d solve it. This can do nothing less than impress the manager big time! (Don’t worry that you will get something “wrong,” because you won’t know all the facts about the problem; just solve the problem as best you can with the facts you have. Ask questions if needed).

Before leaving, look the manager straight in the eye as you’re shaking hands goodbye and tell her that you know you can do the job well and that you want it.  (If you end up turning the job down later, that’s ok. You may learn it’s not what you really want. The idea is to get the job offer.)

Not Easy, but Effective!

This strategy is not easy. It takes guts. A good amount of self-confidence and assertiveness. It may not be possible to speak to or e-mail the hiring manager before the interview to let her know you want to demonstrate your value in this way.

Yet even if you can’t tell the hiring manager beforehand, you can certainly announce it at the interview itself. Study the company as thoroughly as possible so that you can know its goals, challenges and successes as much as possible. (If you land an interview via a recruiting or staffing service, ask your recruiter for as much information as possible about the company.) Know your strengths and how they can translate to providing value to the hiring manager and do not be shy about demonstrating that value.

Go do the job and GET THE JOB!

For help in finding great openings in Orange and Los Angeles, counties, contact the Helpmates’ office nearest you. Or search our job opportunities and if one piques your interest, follow the instructions to apply.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Recruiter

We’re recruiters and we love it! For all its many ups and downs, it’s a career that helps candidates find work and our clients find great employees. Our hearts just go zing! when we help someone find a new position. After all, without work, we can’t support our families, we can’t realize our dreams, we can’t help our children become all they can be.

Los Angeles recruiters

So we fully understand that “a job” really is more than that: work can give us meaning and provide us the opportunity to work at something greater than ourselves. It also can provide community as well as income.

So in a very important way, jobs are our lives in the sense that without work, we can’t truly live. And that’s why we think working as a recruiter is one of the greatest careers out there because our work has a massive impact on individual lives.

(In fact, the American Staffing Association [the trade association of the staffing industry; Helpmates is a member], has a whole section on the benefits of recruiting/staffing as a career: Staffing as a Career – A Whole Opportunity Awaits. If you’ve ever wanted to sit on our side of the desk, we hope you check it out.)

Not All Bright Lights and Glamor

Still, working as a recruiter in the staffing industry is intense. Our days are extremely busy day. As in incredibly, astonishingly, exceedingly, unbelievably, absurdly busy.  On any given day we could:

  • Need to find 20 people to head to work at a distribution center. Tomorrow. Oh, and the client called us about it at 4 p.m.
  • Need to fill 10 administrative assignments this week. We only have eight great admin professionals available, so we need to interview several more so that we can fill our clients’ needs.
  • Three temporary associates called in sick at the last minute, and we need to replace them ASAP.
  • We have two great accounting professionals coming in for an interview with us before we send them out on a terrific permanent job interview.

And that’s all while fielding lots of phone calls and dozens upon dozens of e-mails from our clients and candidates.

What to Look for in a Recruiter/Staffing Service

Looking for work is stressful enough; don’t make it harder by working with a service that makes your job search more nerve-wracking than it need be.

When looking at different staffing firms, look for:

  • A firm in which most of its recruiters are Certified Staffing Professionals (CSPs). CSPs are certified by the ASA and the designation shows that the recruiter has the expertise and commitment to adhere to the highest standards of professionalism. The exam is comprehensive and takes considerable study before a recruiter can pass. It’s a true mark of distinction and all of our recruiters here at Helpmates are required to take the exam and pass it!
  • A commitment to treating all candidates with the utmost respect and understanding. This actually can be rated. Inavero’s Best of Staffing surveys asks both staffing service clients and candidates to rate their staffing service and then Inavero tallies results and provides its Best of Staffing award in the two categories. Only two percent of staffing firms in the U.S. and Canada win these awards and Helpmates has been placed on the “Best of Staffing” list for eight straight years. Winning the candidate (called “talent” by Inavero) satisfaction award is a sign that our candidates feel we treat them with the respect and consideration they are due.
  • Look for a service with recruiters who have stayed with the company for at least three years. The staffing and human resources industries are well known for their internal employee turnover rates. So when you find a service with recruiters with several years’ tenure, you’ve found a firm that treats its internal employees right – a very good sign for you! Here at Helpmates, our average recruiter tenure is 5.1 years and our turnover is less than half of the staffing industry’s rate.

How to Get the Best Out of Us

If you’re looking for work and contact one of our offices, we want to make sure you have the best experience possible, so we want you to know this:

We truly want to help you find work. Really. Honest. Truth!

But we do have constraints and the biggest one is this: our primary job isn’t to find people work; it’s to find our clients the best workers.

Remember, our work on your behalf costs you nothing. If our main purpose was to find you work, we’d have to charge you for it. We need to make a profit: Helpmates is a business, after all.

So our clients pay for our work and therefore our top priority is to find them the best candidate for a position. Yet right up there with that priority (as in, thisclose) is finding you work.

However, unless you have the skills and background our clients need, we won’t be able to place you. You could be the nicest, the hardest working, the most devoted person in the world, but if you don’t have the skills or experience our clients need, we may not be able to find a position for you.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t help you.

What does that mean? If you have flexibility and are willing to take positions for which you may be overqualified; if you understand our client-stipulated constraints; if you understand that even temporary assignments are real work, should be treated as such (yes, put your time with us on your resume) and can lead to more permanent work; if you’re open to learning new skills (such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) on your own time, without pay (we provide the software so that you may do this at home); we will work very hard to help you.

After all, if you do the above, you’re showing initiative and you’re showing a great work ethic. In other words, to paraphrase Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, you’re helping us help you and so don’t be surprised if we go out of our way to help you as much as we can!

In the meantime, take a look at our current temporary, temp-to-hire and direct-hire opportunities at some of Orange and Los Angeles counties’ best employers. If one appeals to you, follow the instructions on the listing or contact us! We look forward to helping you find a great position.

5 Things to Do In Your First Days on the Job

You’ve just started your new job. You want to impress your new manager and get along well with your new coworkers.

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To help you do so, we present you with five things you should aim to do on your first few days and weeks at your new employer.

Take a look below.

  1. Get there early and stay late.

First impressions matter and if you’re late for your first day – or first few days – you’re sending the message that the job is one you’ll get to when you get to. Instead, make sure you arrive on time. Arriving even a little early is better.

As for clocking out, aim to stay at least until quitting time. Staying 10-20 minutes after also is a good thing to do.

  1. Set up some one-on-one meetings with co-workers and others in your company.

We’re not talking lunch here, at least not yet. What we mean is that we believe you should make a point of meeting with new colleagues and supervisors (even people in other departments with whom you will be in contact) so that you can get to know them better. This includes finding out about what they do at the company, how long they’ve worked there, why they chose the company, and to ask questions about the ins and outs of your new employer’s culture. You also will get to know your new colleagues on a more personal level, helping you create a strong relationship from the beginning.

  1. Ask questions. A lot of questions.

You’re the new guy or gal, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember: you may not know what you don’t know. So ask your supervisor to be very clear on his or her expectations. Ask specifically what your duties and goals are. Ask colleagues for help and advice. You’ll come across as a team player and approachable if you do.

  1. Talk less and listen more.

This applies even if you’re a new manager and, if you’re not, make sure you’re contributing knowledge and insights and volunteering for projects, but definitely don’t hog conversations. Instead sit back and observe. When you do speak, make most of the words coming out of your mouth questions, not statements.

  1. Remember to always talk nicely about your former employer.

Yes, perhaps your ex-manager truly was the boss from hell, or a co-worker really did try to sabotage your good work. But you’re unproven. You’re not truly accepted yet and trashing former bosses and colleagues just makes you look…immature and a gossip (which makes you untrustworthy).

If you believe it’s time to move on from one employer to the next, take a look at our current – and ever changing – job opportunities in Southern California. If you see one or more that’s interesting, apply! And if you don’t, contact the Helpmates office nearest you about registering with us so that we can contact you quickly when a position better suited to you appears.

The False Reasons We Give to Stay Put

How often have you thought, “It’s time I really take charge of my professional life and ask for that raise/change careers/move to a better employer/get that college degree so that I can advance in my career.”

And then you do….nothing.

Orange county jobs

You’re not alone. After all, who hasn’t dreamed of saying adios to the status quo and just….making a major move!

But too often we only think about making a big change in our work life or career and take none of the steps necessary to get us where we want to go.

What’s more, we almost always come up with one or more excuses – um, reasons — why we can’t make the change. And, let’s be honest here: they truly aren’t reasons; they are excuses we provide ourselves because – let’s be honest – we’re scared. Totally, utterly, scared.

Need proof? Take a look below at three false reasons we give ourselves when we’re actually too afraid to make a move.

  1. It’s not that bad right now where I’m at in my life/career. I enjoy the work and the pay’s decent. Why change?

Ask yourself this: if you say “it’s not that bad right now,” why aren’t you really saying “it’s terrific!”? In other words, “not that bad” is a far cry from “terrific,” right? “Not that bad,” is code for “I’m scared of change/scared I’ll fail/scared I’ll hate any big change I might make.”

In other words, “not that bad” really means “I’ve given up hope things truly could be terrific.”

Don’t let yourself be “that guy.” You know: the guy (or gal) who reaches the end of life and wonders “what if.”

  1. I can’t afford it.

Yes, you may not be able to make a big change right now. After all, if you have debt or you need to support a family, making an abrupt change definitely is a bad idea.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t start moving forward. Have too much debt? Look into ways you can pay it off.

Want to change careers but need more education to do so and you can’t afford it right now? Talk to a financial advisor at the school of your choice. You may find it has scholarships or grants it can recommend. At the least you will know how much the education will cost and you can start saving budgeting now.

Want to start a business? You may not be able to quit your job now, but there’s nothing stopping you from starting a side-gig and growing it over time while you toil at your day job.

“It’s too expensive,” often really means “I don’t want to do the extra work or make the additional effort to pay down debt/side a side hustle/go back to school.”

If that’s the case, own it. Don’t hide behind supposed poor financials. You’d be amazed how things can come to fruition once you acknowledge that money really isn’t the problem.

  1. I’ve worked so hard to get to this point in my career; I can’t just give it all up now.

This is an example of believing the sunk-cost fallacy, which is a belief that because you’ve put so much money, effort or education into something you should continue doing it because it cost you so much. But in reality the money/time, is already spent (it’s a sunk cost). Leaving it will cost you nothing more and you’ll get nothing more from staying with it, either.

For example: you buy tickets to see your favorite band. Tickets are $200 each and you ask your girlfriend to join you. But by the time the concert rolls around in three months your girlfriend has dumped you, your heart is broken and you’ve no desire to go see the band because it’s too painful to do so without her but you don’t want to “waste” your money.

So don’t go! The money is already spent! You won’t get it back by going. It’s a sunk cost: it’s gone.

The sunk-cost fallacy often has cost people far more than $400 spent on a concert: people stick with a losing stock because they paid so much for it, for example. In your case, you’re staying in a career or at a job because you’ve put so much into it. That time and effort are sunk costs. They are gone! You should go, too.

If you think it’s finally time to take the first step to a better job, contact Helpmates. We connect people living in Los Angeles and Orange counties with some of the region’s best employers, so call or visit the office nearest you to learn more about how we can help get you where you want to go.

Shout “I Got the Job!”: Acing the Interview

A resume gets you an interview. Your references and skills back up what a great fit you are for the position.

The interview is what gets you the job.

On the top of it, that sounds like a lot of pressure: it’s do-or-die time at the job interview! But let us reassure you: it’s not that hard to ace a job interview. It’s truly not, especially if you look at in two ways:

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  1. It’s the place where you can show a hiring manager what you’ve got.
  2. Remember that it’s also your time to check the company out to decide if it would be a good match for you.

Strategies that Can Help a Hiring Manager Say “When Can You Start?”

While we really do believe that job interviews can be enjoyable, the best interviews take a lot of preparation up front (they take some effort, in other words). Remind yourself: no winging it at a job interview. Never.

Instead, a key factor in getting a job offer is to make sure you take the time needed to do the following:

  1. Research the company. A ton. As in considerable research.

We told you good job interviews come about because of effort on your part. And most of that effort occurs long before you shake hands with the hiring manager. As soon as you set a date for an in-person meeting – or even “just” a phone interview – it’s time to crack open the Internet and get studying!

Visit the company’s website and read all of it, if possible. Every last page. Read its blog. Read the bios of its executives. If it’s a publically traded company, check out its Investor Relations tab and read all of the company’s latest financial statements, especially its SEC filings. (These are goldmines, especially the quarterly reports – often called 10Qs – because they report in great detail what the company did that quarter, and what its plans are for the future. SEC filings are better than reading the company’s annual report because they are detailed and gloss over – spin – nothing.)

Studying these reports gives you great insights into a company’s goals, successes and challenges. What’s more, just watch – really, watch! – the hiring manager’s eyes get big with excitement when you say “I read your latest quarterly report about your acquisition of XYZ company. I have two years’ experience with acquisition accounting procedures. Let me tell you about improvements I made for my current employer’s latest acquisition.”

The idea behind this research is not to do the minimal and call it a day. Really dig into the meat of a company’s website, reports, etc. Look for news releases. Google it and see what gossip comes up.

If you know the hiring manager’s name, check her out on LinkedIn (after all, she undoubtedly took a look at your profile). Find out what you have in common and learn about her work experience, education and skill sets.

The more you know about a company the better. It truly will impress your interviewer and will allow you to talk intelligently and strategically about how your background and skills will help the company reach its goals.

  1. Practice the interview with a trusted friend, family member or mentor.

Practice can be especially helpful if this is your first job interview, if you’ve been on just a few or if this is an interview for your first “real” job after high school or college.

Google “typical interview questions in XX ” (human resources, manufacturing, marketing, banking, etc.), print them out and prepare for them. Ask your friend to play the interviewer and ask the questions. Practice asking some questions yourself. Practice answering the questions as asked and then moving them slightly so that you can talk about how your skills and background specifically apply: “I want to work in your medical office because I understand you are expanding and I’d love to help you create efficient patient in-take systems, thus helping you see patients more quickly and cutting down on their wait time. At my last employer I was able to revise the in-patient process such that ….”

You may think that having the interviewer do most of the talking is a good thing (less pressure!), but you want to be sure you are able to tell the employer why hiring you benefits her.

  1. Make a strong, positive first impression.

For good or for ill, the first seconds of a job interview can make or break the interview. Even the very first second. You need to make sure yours is the best it can be. Look the hiring manager straight in the eye as you approach with your arm outstretched to shake hands. Shake firmly, but don’t crush her hand. Wait to sit down until invited to. Call the interviewer Ms. or Mr.  unless told otherwise.

Wear business-type attire, even if you’re looking for work in a warehouse setting. If this is so, khaki slacks and a collared, long-sleeved shirt should suffice (no sneakers, and if you really want to impress, you might wear a tie and a jacket, although they are not necessary). Any office job requires a tie and jacket for men. At least a dress and jacket/dress pants and a blouse for women. If going for any type of professional position, suits for both men and women are appropriate.

Dull and boring? Perhaps. But you’re not there to show off your creative side (unless you work in marketing, and you can save the creative outfits for once you get the job). Yes, most offices are business casual today. But you want to come across as a serious candidate, and one to be taken seriously. It’s always best to overdress than under dress for a job interview.

If you’ve never been to the company before, if possible, make a trip before the interview to see how long it will take you to drive or take the bus: you don’t want to be a minute late, and if you find you will be, call and let the interviewer know.

Here at Helpmates, we want you to get the job and we’ll do all we can to help you land a great one. Contact the Helpmates office nearest you today.

When You Don’t Want to Be the Boss: the Lattice Career Model

You’ve no doubt heard of someone who is absolutely terrific at sales. He or she meets and exceeds quotas left and right, month after month, year after year. So great is this person’s sales prowess that higher ups decide this individual is so phenomenal, they offer the carrot of going into sales management.

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And then the cliff falls away: the qualities it takes to excel at sales are different than those needed to manage and lead others. So much so that many exceptional sales professionals fall flat on their faces within just months of managing other sales professionals.

Successful sales people often turn down promotions into management for this very reason: they are great at what they do, are highly valued and often highly compensated. What’s not to like and why should they change?!

But what if you’re not a salesperson? Few jobs offer the chance to make more money without a promotion. Few positions also offer the opportunity to learn more and try different things without a promotion.

What’s more, what if you would love a promotion, but there’s just no room in your company for it (there’s only one spot ahead of you on the company’s organization chart and you know for a fact that that person has no plans to leave any time soon)?

Enter the career lattice. Possibly more appropriate in today’s workplace where people often come and go relatively quickly, where hierarchies are being replaced with collaborative work styles, the lattice is a great career path for ambitious professionals who know they don’t want to – or don’t have the skills to – manage others.

The lattice works because it recognizes there no longer is one definition of career success (that of climbing up “the rungs” until reaching the highest position possible in an individual’s career). The lattice concept is valuable because it acknowledges that there are a number of ways to contribute and different paths to grow in a career and skills.

What This Means for YOUR Career

Embracing the lattice concept of on-the-job success essentially gives those with non-traditional ambitions a sort of carte blanche when it comes to crafting a career. No longer do you need to worry that you’re not “right” for the next step up the ladder: once you get all you can out of a position in terms of challenge, skills and experiences, you can choose to take the next step up, or take those skills and experiences and find another position that uses your talents while challenging you in different ways.

For example, let’s say you started in banking at the teller level at a small bank. You take a few steps up the traditional teller ladder, taking a few classes along the way to upgrade your skills. You then find another job as a teller, but in a multi-national bank, where you’re encouraged to learn international exchange or credit analysis. You may not be “moving up” (at least, not yet), but while you’re a teller you’re learning new things and enjoying a more engaging work experience.

Or you’re a newly minted CPA and you start out in taxation in a large accounting firm. It can take a while to move up, but perhaps you get interested in the firm’s state and local tax side, so you ask to move over to that group for a while. Such a lateral move now allows you to learn additional skills, helping you stay in demand and moving up later.

If you’ve been stuck in a rut for a bit in your current position and are looking to make a change, contact the Helpmates office nearest you to learn more about how we can help you move up – or sideways – in your career. In the meantime, take a look at our current openings to see if there’s one that interests you.

How to Rule the Office Holiday Party This Year

It’s that time of year again – holiday party season is upon us. After a long year of hard work, the holiday party offers a great opportunity to unwind and celebrate a year of success with your colleagues.

Our list of do’s and don’ts can help you avoid unnecessary career blunders and even boost your career at this year’s event: holiday party tips

  • Do have fun! Holiday parties are thrown to have a good time and reflect on your hard work over the past year. You absolutely should eat, drink (don’t overdo it!) and have a great time.
  • Do remember that it’s a work event. While you should have a nice time, remember that the holiday party is still a professional, work-sponsored event. Your dress and behavior should be work appropriate, and you should conduct yourself as if your boss is watching your every move (because he/she probably is!).
  • Don’t skip the party. Unless you have another obligation that’s impossible to reschedule, you should at least make an appearance at your work holiday party. Skipping the party could send the wrong message to your boss and imply that you aren’t invested in the company. Stay at least a half hour or so, and be sure to say a few “hellos” to key individuals before you go.
  • Don’t be “all business.” While you should conduct yourself professionally at all times, don’t be that person who sits around talking about your to-do list or work projects at the holiday party! You don’t want to be known as the “Debbie Downer” of your office – remember, you’re there to celebrate!
  • Do think about your career. While you shouldn’t spend your time focusing on business talk, it absolutely makes sense to mingle and introduce yourself to the “major players” in your organization. It’s a great opportunity to begin new relationships or strengthen prior ones. Just keep it to either a short introduction (letting them take the lead and ask questions) or a “how have you been” to people you don’t see very often.
  • Do check the invitation. While some employers invite spouses or significant others, many employees also keep the guest list to employees only. Verifying the situation at your holiday party ahead of time can prevent some awkwardness or hard feelings down the road.
  • Do say ‘thanks.’ Coordinating a holiday party is a lot of work, so be sure to take a moment to thank the person(s) from your team who were responsible for planning and coordinating the event.
  • Don’t be the last one to leave. No one wants to be first (someone ultimately has to be!), but you don’t want to be the last person to leave the work holiday party. Organizers don’t want people lingering when they’re trying to close it down. Aim to leave about 20-30 minutes before the official end time to leave plenty of opportunity to say your goodbyes.

Looking for a new job this holiday season? Helpmates works with top employers across Southern California. Search our available jobs or contact your nearest Helpmates office to learn more.

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