Informational interviews are an often-underutilized, but incredibly valuable tool in the process of searching for the next step in your career. They can solidify a contact as a link in your professional network, and provide personalized insights into your industry of interest. 

informational interviews are an excellent tool to better your career

The purpose of an informational interview is to gather information about a career path, company, or industry, through a casual conversation. It's different than a job interview in that it's completely detached from a job application process, usually being requested prior to any position being available, if at all. An informational interview is asked of a professional contact when you're looking to either build a relationship that may provide potential opportunities for you in the future, or to learn more about the path to reaching your desired position. 

Finding someone for this conversation can be as simple as reaching out to a friend or family member, or as challenging as cold-contacting a distant connection on LinkedIn and hoping for the best. The perk of an informational interview, however, is that it's a low pressure situation for both parties. With more purpose than "meeting for coffee" and without the stiffness and formalities of a job interview, a contact is much more likely to take you up on the offer. If you decide to follow up with a previous connection from an event or conference, they may even welcome the chance to expand their network as well. 

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Do your research prior to this meeting. Learn more about your contact and the company they work for. Even if you plan to ask about it, investigate how they reached their position by reviewing their LinkedIn profile. Review details about their company beforehand. This is an opportunity to get inside information about working in a particular field, and you'll want to avoid wasting any time collecting information that can be found on a website. 

Conducting an informational interview, though it is a casual conversation, should be done in a professional manner. Dress nicely, but not too formally. Be punctual. Consider it an excellent confidence booster and warm up for a job interview in the future. Plan to keep the conversation brief, around 30 minutes, unless you've mutually agreed on a larger window of time. 

Ask good questions. To be clear: yes, this is an informal meetup, but if you've requested it, you're expected to be steering the conversation. It shouldn't be a full blown Q&A, but your contact will expect questions to drive the conversation, so make sure you have well thought out inquiries to move the discussion along. Check our next post for some great starting points!

Post-interview, take notes for future reference. You may have received some useful tips for applying at this company, or valuable information about salaries, benefits, or challenges you can expect to face, and recording this information will keep your mind refreshed and allow for easy reference later on. Did they mention a word or phrase several times? Maybe it's worth including those words in a cover letter. Were there any concerns raised about your own experience? Figure out an action plan to address them.

An informational interview can take the edge off of future interviews and provide firsthand knowledge of a field or company you have great interest in. It can potentially give you an in for a future position or create a stronger arm of your professional network. Our next post is all about the questions to ask during these interviews - they can make or break the experience!

Posted: 5/23/2022 3:47:35 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

Huge numbers of people are leaving their jobs.

Last summer, immediately following the release of nationwide vaccines, a return to a "normal" workday for many Americans brought with it clarity of professional and personal priorities. What became known as The Great Resignation marked a tidal wave of employees voluntarily abandoning their positions, leaving a record breaking 10.9 million jobs open last July, with 3% of the U.S. workforce resigning later in October.

the great reshuffle

The Great Reshuffle

Since then, a shift in the landscape has led to fewer employees resigning altogether, but many switching jobs in search of positions that better suit their needs. It's being called The Great Reshuffle, and many are considering it to be the biggest transformation the job world has seen in modern history.

What is going on?

People want flexibility (or need it)

As a result of the Great Resignation, a decrease in available workforce has given knowledge workers the power to be choosy about their next steps. People are happiest when they have control over when, how, and where they work, and the personal life shifts caused by the pandemic have really clarified those realizations. 

School closings, mask regulations, and social-distancing recommendations have made daily life slightly more complicated, so it's no surprise that the employed workforce is attempting to simplify their lifestyle with flexible workdays. Since remote working was adopted by a large number of companies in 2020, employees are realizing a lack of employer flexibility can be a deal breaker. Many are leaving current positions or forgoing new opportunities if flexibility is not an option. 

Employers must differentiate themselves

Having hybrid working options is critical for employers moving forward, but the benefits cannot stop there. Companies are now competing for a pool of employees who are more particular than ever, with a need to stand out by investing in a "company culture" that is admittedly very different than it looked even five years ago. In this case, we're not talking about ping pong tables, office swings, and free snacks; we mean fostering a supportive community of team members, with respect for personal time and encouragement of open communication.

But, when a workplace has no central location for its employees to gather, how can connections be maintained and a workplace culture thrive?

Encourage open communication beyond meetings

Zoom is not the permanent solution to replace all in-office meetings. (After all, how many of those in-office meetings did we realize could be replaced with a single email?) To keep up colleague relationships, allow for quick calls, short chat messages on your platform of choice, or other means of communicating outside of a formal Zoom room. Only having cringe-y "digital happy hours"? Mentally set aside a few minutes at the beginning or end of a meeting to catch up before moving on to other work, so it feels like you're still connected to the people you work with.

Embrace "family-friendly" schedules

Being understanding of personal obligations will strengthen employee loyalty - just be sure to keep communication lines open and honest. A lot of trust needs to be built among teammates working remotely, and employees need their leader to be supportive and also transparent about expectations.

Allow "not camera ready" moments

Let's face it – we're not all donning a full suit and tie every morning anymore. Part of the appeal of remote working is the time saved without a commute or need to be presentable. Respect fellow workers habits and give some notice for a video call, or accept the fact that someone might keep that camera off.

Employers paying attention to this massive workforce migration towards flexibility will thrive if they invest in a company culture that supports the professional and emotional needs of their teams. Job seekers don't just hope for it anymore, they demand it.

Posted: 3/16/2022 5:10:49 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

During COVID, unemployment rose to obscenely high numbers, breaching any peaks this country had seen in almost 40 years. Government stimulus checks satisfied the need for immediate relief, but many issues caused the effects of a struggling job market to linger.

With vaccinations and booster shots on the rise and COVID cases trending down, the outlook is no longer so grim. Companies that have survived the last year are looking to ramp up their productivity once again, but they're finding a workforce with the lowest participation rate since the 1970s. This August saw a record number of people quitting their jobs.

So, why aren't people working?

From our perspective, lots of reasons.

Child Care

Prior to the pandemic, around half of U.S. families reported having trouble finding care for young children. Mid-late 2020, and a global pandemic, saw that number rise to two thirds of families, but not much has changed since - it's still a challenge to find child care, and there are even more kids requiring it. Any school reopenings this fall were counterbalanced by a quick-spreading Delta variant and ultra sensitive school closings. Younger, more vulnerable children are in many cases kept at home, in an effort to mitigate risk or in response to schools and centers being closed. And working parents are left with the responsibility of daytime care for their children.

Unemployment Benefits

Many companies can't afford large salaries during this period of pandemic recovery. Their hiring might be back to 2019 levels, but that doesn't mean their employee package is enticing enough to draw a pool of applicants. Additional unemployment benefits were generous and only ended recently, in some cases providing more income than a previously held job had, so the unemployed were less tempted to jump back into the job market.

Stimulus Payments

Alongside the decent unemployment benefits came multiple stimulus checks, dispersed over the last year and intended to ease this period of nationwide loss of income, removing the instability behind people's financial situations. A lessened incentive to find new employment, added to lack of child care and other personal struggles during the pandemic, means there are fewer job seekers.

Changed Values

Employees are demanding more from their employers, after time working from home held a magnifying glass up to their work-life balance. Commutes, pointless meetings, long hours, and meager salaries are keeping people from jumping into anything new without substantial consideration. Priorities have been reevaluated. 

Early Retirements

A less than ideal working situation pushed many on the verge of retirement over the edge. Boomer retirements more than doubled in 2020 from the previous year, removing a significant number of people from the workforce.

Fading Skills

Being sidelined for so long keeps many people out of practice, losing skills needed for jobs they once had. Lack of time or ability to prioritize relearning these skills means lower self esteem and confidence, holding many back from applying to jobs similar to what they held previously. Even though a skill lapse during these times would be easily explained, it can be an inhibiting factor to putting oneself out there.

There are jobs out there. And there are job seekers out there. But with many micro-shifts in the priorities and needs of the unemployed workforce, it may take some time before companies see their applicant pools grow. 

Posted: 11/3/2021 2:04:19 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

After over a year of COVID-19's presence and its disastrous effects on global health and the economy worldwide, the job market has seen some steadying. Unemployment levels are much below the astonishing 14.8% we saw in April 2020, and the companies that survived are starting to see some relief. We hesitate to say "normal," but it feels like things are getting back on track.

Such a long time spent in this phase of uncertainty has surely affected the workforce. Remote working became much more commonplace, and this shift has lasting effects on job seekers. The market looks a little different these days, and hiring has changed along with it. 

Your local talent pool is pickier

If you aren't open to remote working, you may find your candidate pool smaller than it once was. With the receipt of stimulus checks, many unemployed job seekers can be particular about finding their next position. At the same time, anyone considering a move to a new company may be hesitant to jump ship in an uncertain economy. Besides preferences about their careers, many candidates are still under obligations for home child care or schooling. Taking a new position adds stress and uncertainty, and many workers just won't consider it right now. 

What you can do:

In the immediate future, you may need to allow for some working from home to satisfy the needs of the market, or be willing to choose from a smaller selection of candidates. The other solution, a much less appealing one, is to just wait it out. The stimulus checks will stop, unemployment will go back to normal levels, and job seekers will come out of the woodwork once again, willing to come back into an office full time. With the Delta variant, however, this may also be a challenging solution. 

Your remote talent pool is larger

Are you allowing employees to work remotely? Great! Your talent market just got a whole lot larger. Even a hybrid model, requiring some in-person presence in the office, allows candidates staring down a long commute to more readily consider the job. But, while expanding your geographic considerations might feel like a relief to a tight candidate pool, you'll need to adjust a few things if this is a new policy. 

What you can do: 

Ensure you have systems set up to support a remote team. Improve communication, setting up regular check-ins and utilizing programs and technology to keep communication channels open and your team engaged. New-to-remote-working employees report feeling less connected to their coworkers now, so try to incorporate some solutions for the loss of social interaction. Be sure to emphasize your plans to all job candidates. 

Understanding how hiring will change is critical to finding solutions to continue to attract the best talent. The pandemic has tested the flexibility and nimbleness of companies, and only the ones able to embrace change will come out on top. 

Posted: 8/23/2021 4:24:49 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

Our last post discussed the best ways for employers to incorporate feedback, working to include an analysis/reflection step in their project cycles so employees can stay informed of their performance level and thrive in a communicative environment. Preparing comments upon project completion is a great opportunity for identifying problem areas and spotlighting employees' needs for improvement.

What if your workplace doesn’t value open communication and healthy, constructive feedback? Asking for it can feel needy or unnecessary. The truth is, however, that feedback is critical to your vocational growth and an important component of your professional relationship to management. Most importantly, you present yourself as a committed and passionate member of the team.

We've gathered some tips for getting the comments you need and implementing changes efficiently.

Ask. Ask again.
Request a meeting to evaluate your work upon project completion. Next time, request again. Keep asking until it becomes the norm. Your boss should consider these discussions to be an investment in the success of the company, and even if they don’t have time for a meeting, suggest a quick one or two sentences on an area that could be bettered.

Don’t get defensive
Teams are supposed to be collaborative and supportive of all members, so comments that come your way should be taken seriously and not personally. Pointing fingers at others while deflecting useful feedback yourself just perpetuates inefficiency. Take each piece of advice and assume it’s coming from a genuine place.

Make a point to be better
Feedback and suggestions are useless if they aren’t implemented, so with each new project, set a small goal based on past calls for improvement. Targeting your focus will better indicate the success of your efforts, streamline the process, and organize your goal into actionable steps.

Be ready with questions
If you get the sense that management can't devote the time for proper evaluation, keep it simple. Ask a very specific question to direct their comments - something like "How did my timing feel on this project?" or "Would it help if I _____ next time?" This way, you're not demanding much of their time but still demonstrating your dedication and making moves to better yourself.
Try these suggestions to begin making progress towards improvement your performance at work. Your employer will thank you in the long run. 

Posted: 6/10/2021 4:33:01 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments