By Candace Moody
Wed, 27 Jul 2016, 06:08 AM

You’ve heard that “job hopping” is bad for your career – a red flag for recruiters.

Job hopping is defined as changing jobs “too often,” but of course that’s subjective. Most managers agree that multiple jobs held for two years or less will qualify you as a job hopper (layoffs happen, of course.) As are many workplace standards, the definition of job hopping is evolving.

According to research by Workopolis.com from its database of resumes with work histories dating back to 1990, the number of people who stayed on the job less than two years rose from 16 percent to 33 percent, doubling from 1990 to 2000. Since 2000, the number has almost doubled again, from 33 percent to 51 percent. Only 30 percent of workers hold jobs for more than four years.

Why is job hopping considered bad behavior? For employers, it’s costly and frustrating. Most employees return almost no value for the first three months while they’re onboarding and training. It takes six months to a year to become competent at a complex job. Having to start the recruiting, hiring and training cycle over costs the company the months of salary they invested in a hopper. They’ve also missed the opportunity to hire qualified candidates who might have stayed, but by now will be off the market.

Your character is inferred by your willingness to stay on the job. An employment offer is a contract; the company agrees to pay and train you for a certain salary. You agree to learn and work for that salary for the foreseeable future (until you can take on more work and provide more value.)

Leaving for a better offer within a few months will feel to your employer like you’re reneging on your end of the agreement. (If you needed to make a dollar more, you should have waited for the right offer, or tried to negotiate it up front.)

If you leave because you’re just not into the work or the culture, you may think you’re doing the company a favor. But without deep thought into what you really want, you’ll find yourself taking on job after job that doesn’t interest or excite you.

Almost all work has dull moments, especially in entry-level jobs. If you never stay around long enough to learn, you’ll be perpetually assigned low-level grunt work.

I’m not saying that you should never quit when the work or the company is a poor fit. You’re bound to have a couple of bad experiences when you’re young.

One or two early hops make sense; you might even re-label them “job shopping” until you find a good fit. But after your mid-20s (or two years out of school, whichever comes first), it’s time to learn to stick with something for more than a year – preferably two. Show that you’re able to learn and grow on the job. Show that you have patience and are willing to work for a delayed reward. Develop more advanced skills that you can take to the next company.

It may not be true that winners never quit. But quitters don’t often win.

Candace Moody is vice president of communications for CareerSource Northeast Florida. Her column appears every Wednesday in the Times-Union, and she can be reached at cmoody@careersourcenefl.com.

Posted with permission of Candace Moody.

This week, Fast Company alleges that it’s a great time to be unemployed. In her article, Lydia Dishman notes that there are twice as many companies looking for candidates as there are applicants.

While that ratio seems off to me, Dishman’s larger point is excellent: you need to stand out in any market, and make yourself irresistible to hiring managers.

Because we’re in the advertising, marketing, public relations world, we know to focus on value proposition. We know that visual presentation is important. We know that tailoring the message for the audience is crucial.

But as I’ve written before, text-only, simple resumes are winning the day lately, in part because of machine scanning and in part because of ridiculous-font-and-layout overload. So how do you make yourself marketable without going exceedingly wild on your primary communication tool?

1. Position yourself. Really, the application process is a microcosm of marketing. Know the value proposition. Focus on benefits not attributes. Offer proof points. Don’t blather; don’t lie.

2. Tighten copy. Your cover letter (which is now likely an email) and resume has to sing. Slash bloat, inflated adjectives, unsupported claims, old jobs. Make your introduction explain the benefit of hiring you. Make the resume prove your claims.

3. Freelance. We know that companies will more likely hire proven talent. So get in for one project, and sell them with the mastery with which you handle their clients, tasks, and teams. Let them, in essence, try before they buy.

4. Keep looking. We’ve already warned managers that most fully employed, solid performers are always looking for new opportunities. In a market where good talent is worth a mint, don’t settle. Keep roving LinkedIn, social media, and your professional connections, even just a few minutes a week. You might find an amazing opportunity when you’re only casually looking. Likewise, you can often offer a dream job to a colleague because you keep your head in the job search game during a buyers’ market.

5. Focus on your niche. Tara Sinclair, an economist quoted in the Fast Company article, notes that tech and healthcare offer significantly more jobs right now than other industries. If you have experience in either, highlight it. Hone your search to the industries most likely to hire you if you have overall marketing, advertising, PR, and other general communications and visual skills. Our recruiters have been handling more requests from healthcare clients than for any other industry over the past year. We are still staffing at agencies, tech firms, and other industries. But healthcare hiring managers make up a significant portion of our placements right now.

I’ve analyzed in another post some outrageous questions interviewers ask. And I’ve talked many candidates down off a metaphoric ledge by telling them after an interview where they were thrown off their game, that all those curveball questions are really trying to discern is your thinking style.

But here’s an article in Forbes by Jenny Jedeikin that points out how simultaneously straightfoward and incisive interview questions can be.

It’s a good read, mostly because it’s proof that the core of good interview questions are about getting to how you think, what you are able to assess in hindsight, and what it’s like to be with you in a more comfortable setting. These aren’t about practiced answers; they’re about being able to step back, analyze, and articulate your thoughts.

The highlights, for your interview planning:

  • Describe yourself in one word.
  • What was the last thing you learned on the job?
  • What isn’t on your resume?
  • How long are you willing to fail before you succeed?
  • What’s in the newspaper today?
  • Tell me something true that nobody agrees with you about.

Read these questions and several more in Ms. Jeneikin’s article before practicing your interview skills. And keep these tips in mind.

Good luck!

Whether to contract or seek staff employment is one of the top three questions we get in our offices. (The other two are, “How do I find work?” and “How can I find the right candidate?”)

There is, I hate to tell you, no right answer to the “Which is better: freelance or staff?” question.

But there is probably a right answer for you.

Let’s start with the basics.

Overall
Staff employment is usually a steadier gig. It generally continues until one or both parties want to end the relationship. Staff jobs often offer formal benefits, including having taxes withheld from paychecks that arrive at regular intervals. They often offer a physical place to do your work. Employers sign papers, employees sign papers; legal contracts are explicit. As long as you’re doing work for the company, you’re getting paid. Even on holidays and vacation.

Freelance jobs are billed and paid per project. Because freelancers are self-employed, they have to pay estimated taxes at regular intervals throughout the year. Even when a client keeps coming back to you for freelance jobs, jobs are almost always for a defined period, to complete a defined scope of work. Payment can be slow, and oftentimes you’re paid months after you do the work. You can protect the relationship with contracts, and will likely get paid. But there are fewer legal ties to hold employers to your fees, timing, and scope. There’s also nothing to hold you to a bad client. You can say no to the next project or the next month of freelance work.

Pay
Which pays more? That depends on the same things that drive salary in conventional employment. Fees and salary vary by industry, skill set, experience, client desperation, and market rates. In general, freelancers command a slightly higher rate per hour than salaried employees, but they have to spend unpaid time marketing their services, can’t count on steady work, and are at the mercy of market forces like budget seasons.

Benefits
Do staff or freelance contractors get better benefits? That depends on what you’re looking for: tangible or intangible benefits. Healthcare exchanges in each state mean you’re able to access similar healthcare to that an employer would provide. You have to pay for healthcare benefits as a freelancer, but employers and the IRS both count such paid benefits as part of an employee’s pay, which is why salaries are generally lower than the equivalent fees for freelancing 40 hours a week for 52 weeks. Most human resources directors calculate the paid benefits (vacation, healthcare, retirement, etc) at 40% of a full time salary.

Like healthcare, retirement accounts are as readily available to self-employed freelancers as to staff employees. Gym, cafeteria, and technology: employers cover these for staff but freelancers usually have to pay their own way.

Other benefits are also quite different for staff and freelancers. Most staff have a physical place to work, while contractors don’t always get to work onsite. Some freelancers get to set their hours and decide when to say no to a project, meeting, or travel. Some can work from home, school, or a cafe, making freelancing a choice for flexibility and different lifestyle.

Permanence
You’ll notice staff jobs never say “permanent position,” because nothing is permanent. Not even the choice to be staff or freelance. We see a decent percentage of our associates moving into staff positions for a while, then freelancing for a time, then shifting back onto staff when the time or job is right. Some freelance for decades, others only consider freelancing rarely. But there’s nothing saying you have to be one of the other. We also have some associates who are on staff at one company and freelance for others.

Flexibility
In the end, most professional deciding between freelance and staff focus more on lifestyle needs than on the measurable details, because skilled candidates who have found the right career can make the details work regardless of whether they choose staff or freelance. Healthcare, salary, and retirement accounts are details you can work out once you are being paid. The details that are harder to change are how, when, and where you work.

Choices, choices, choices
If stability is important to you, seek staff work.
If flexibility is more important, freelancing could be ideal.
If steady work is your priority, you’ll prefer being an employee.
If you prefer working on projects without being stuck with one boss and one company, the contractor’s life might be for you.
If you have a niche, marketable skill, freelance to use your talents where they’re most needed and valued.
If you want to stick with one company to create and implement multiple projects, go see who’s hiring.

The world between staff and freelance is quite fluid, and it all comes down to what’s right for you. For now.

Video interviews are increasingly a part of the hiring process, in part because of time constraints, distance candidates, and the ubiquity of video conferencing.

SEE MORE: Five Tips for Great Video Interviews

A recent article on Mashable argues that employers will use more video technology in the future, and will do so in new ways. The list is written under the guise of predicting the future of video interviews, and it largely misses the mark, despite being posted by the CEO of a video interview company.

The large roles I see for video in the hiring process are threefold:

1. Video resumes. There is no better way to show creativity and personality than through scripting, shooting, and editing video. And though most candidates don’t proofread their resume nearly enough, in the age of selfie sticks and constant avi updates, I’m willing to be that they’ll watch and edit their video resume until it’s flawless.

2. Screen-share interviews. Josh Tolan is quite right to note that assessing a candidate’s skillset is remarkably simple through a video call with screen-sharing, where the hiring manger asks a candidate to perform a task, then watches the screen as the interviewee shows their finesse, skill, and thought process by working on an actual task. It’s like a modern-day typing test for designers, writers, or developers, and I believe it’s an incredible boon to the interview process.

3. HR video company descriptions. Aside from letting someone work in your offices for a fair amount of time, there seems to me no better way to show candidates the culture, priorities, and nuances of your organization than to create a video greeting card. We often try, in the laborious and fraught process of writing job descriptions and job announcements, to convey with voice alone, the culture of the company. We’re after fit, right, so why use just writing to explain the feel of a company? Photos are good, but video is better.

The ways I don’t expect video interviewing to go much further:

1. Video recommendations. No manager wants to put on film a recommendation for a colleague. It just makes no sense to spend the time and effort to make a solid video referral when you can type a letter or email more quickly, with fewer chances of making an fool of yourself.

2. Video job postings. See above. It’s challenging enough to get a team to agree on the basic requirements and ideal qualifications of a candidate, and word them in the company’s brand voice. But producing a video for each job posting? That’s a bit beyond what, in my experience, clients will be willing to do. Consider the time and energy it takes to script, shoot, produce, and edit; then double it to get buy-in from stakeholders. Blah. Just write a job posting. And if you get stuck, read this.

Jacksonville has a fair number of resources for women in business: we can find information, training, and opportunities through the Women Business Owners of Northern Florida and the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center. The Jacksonville Business Journal recently featured a profile of The Mayo Clinic’s former CE, Shirley Weis, that claimed to include nine tips for getting more women in the corner office.

In reality, though, the article featured only three basic principles: learn yourself, learn the game, and maximize opportunities for success.

Learn Yourself

Ideally, as part of the interview process you will have taken stock of yourself and you know wherein your strengths and passions lie. You know what risks you want to take, and how you define personal and professional success. That knowledge will allow you to direct your efforts toward those projects that further your ideals and vision for the company, your career, and your sense of self. Use your energy for that which makes you grow as a colleague and leader, and ditch that which drains you, including fighting losing battles.

Learn the Game

I agree with Weis that business is a game, and each company has its own team culture, rules, style, and goals. When you first join an organization and after personnel shifts, watch carefully. You’ll see the unspoken rules and where the opportunities lie. There are actually organizations where you can fit in wel land make big, positive waves. More likely, you’ll have to make active decisions about what battles to fight and what cultural legacies to adhere to. Interview well and find the right fit and you won’t have to choose peace versus affect. If you do need to calculate whether to fight or placate, choose wisely. It’s easier to get a new job than a fresh shipment of self worth.

Maximize Opportunities for Success

Studies repeatedly show that grit, the willingness to struggle through a challenge until you’ve succeeded and the perspective that setbacks are learning opportunities, is the single most important predictor of success. Cultivate that mindset and take on challenges as a path toward growth. Try, try, try, until you’re a master. Get better than your nemesis at some quantifiable and valuable skill. Making mistakes is exciting because faltering offers feedback on something that’s not working, and gives you the chance to change and try again.

Cultivating personal and professional grit also means ignoring people who doubt you. Critique from trusted advisors will focus on techniques and won’t feel like attacks. If naysayers tell you what you can’t do, or how your priorities are wrong, avoid these people and discount what they say. Do not let their criticism affect your drive toward mastery. In fact, note their pettiness, their meanness, and their incompetence as fuel toward your own efforts to get better and learn more.

As important as learning the rules of game, learning yourself, and growing toward being an invaluable part of your organization are, I feel Weis’s advice is missing a technique crucial toward getting more women into leadership roles:

Mentor other women

As younger or newer colleagues come into your sphere, see how they can fit into the game. A good coach can see the strength and potential in other people, and helping colleagues cultivate their best selves is part of the long game toward creating better workplaces, professional success, and personal fulfillment. Don’t mentor for you, bur rather foster the growth of your direct reports and interdepartmental colleagues to boost the level of play in your organization and industry.

In honor of the Spring Forward horror of Daylight Savings Time, I offer you tricks to kick your lateness habit and find more time in your day. You’re going to need them, with one fewer hour this week.

Chronic lateness is irritating to clients and colleagues alike. If you’re late to the meeting, your boss and team think less of you. If you’re late to the interview, you lose the job. If you’re late to a business lunch, colleagues are either mad or conducting business without you.

So why are so many people late? An Inc. article claims that humans underestimate how long it takes to do things.

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But in my experience, the few who consistently arrive slightly early are freelancers. Without debating which came first—the habit of timeliness or freelance success—I can note that time management is a skill universal to successful freelancers, regardless of industry. This comes from necessity, I’d guess: when they’re late to meetings they lose clients, and when they’re late with deadlines they lose jobs.  Take a tip from some of my best contractor affiliates: fight lateness by estimating timing better, and by assuming the inevitable will get in your way every day. This will actually free up more time in your day so you can get more done.

Estimate based on experience. Contractors know how long projects and tasks take because they’re paid based on actual work time. You can build a similar mental database of tasks by paying attention to your day. Are you consistently late to meetings and appointments? Stop thinking you can teleport there; note how many minutes hibernating your computer, pushing away from your desk, making your way downstairs, and getting out the door actually takes. Do this for a week or so and you’ll realize that what your brain says is “two minutes to leave” actually takes seven. That five minutes late habit that irritates your team is now “right on time.”

Use the 20% rule. Add 20% to your estimate for each task, then 20% to the total. Does that sound obscene? As though you’d waste hours of your day just padding your time? You’re wrong. You think it’ll take 10 minutes to get ready. Call it 12. Ten minutes to get there? Call it 12. Add them and tack on 20%. That makes the 20 minute process into a 26-minute task. And what happens if you’re 6 minutes early? You won’t be. The phone rings, you can’t find your keys, the traffic lights are against you, the bus is late, your shoe hurts and you need to adjust it. You might be two minutes early. Then you can check your work, check your email, check your teeth for spinach. The 20% rules will decrease your stress, cut the number of times you’re late, and make you much more sure of what you can fit into a day. And for freelancers, that means more business, not less, because they exceed expectations on projects rather than continually fail.

Have an early list. If you manage your time better, you’ll arrive places a bit early, and you’ll finish projects early. If you keep a list of tasks that you can do easily from your phone or in a notebook, all of which take five minutes or fewer, you can fill that waiting time with productivity. And those annoying little tasks that add up and dominate your to-do list become tasks assigned to the corners of your well-scheduled life. If your calculations are wrong and you show up to a meeting with only one minute to spare? No big deal. The email you’re hoping to send, the article you want to skim, and the recipe you want to find will still be there. There will be plenty of opportunities to fill five-minute windows. So let go of those quick-and-easy tasks, and get to them once you’ve submitted your taxes. Early.

Model on-time arrivals. Nobody likes the airlines that are chronically late. So they started pulling away from the gate earlier, thereby training us to show up 20 minutes early. they’ve all trained us to be 20 minutes early to the gate. If you show up to meetings a few minutes early, tackle your early list, and look ready right on time, the team will notice. Make this a habit and you’ll all be more productive and less likely to avoid meetings.

Good luck filling your days with meaningful work and on-time arrivals!

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In the process of searching for a job, one of the most important resources available to you is your network. But a network is not just a list of names on LinkedIn or the names that your email autofills when you type a few letters. Your network is the colleagues and friends you talk with often enough that telling them you’re looking for work is information they want, not an inconvenience you thrust upon them.

Consider this: a colleague leaves for another company and you don’t see her or talk with her for several years, and you call to ask if she’s heard of any jobs. Chances that she’ll want to help you are slim.

On the other hand, a colleague leaves for another company and you email each other a couple of times a year to ask about best practices or check in on each others’ lives. She tells you a story about a client, you tell her about an interview you had. She’s a person who would likely be glad to help you in your job search, either by passing along contacts or by keeping you in mind if they see a posting that’s right for you.

Networking is not just calling all the people you know when you need work. Networking, done properly, is keeping in touch with people, knowing what they need, helping when you can, and asking for similar help when you need it.

An article from The Jacksonville Business Journal suggests that scheduling a networking meeting should involve an agenda and a follow-up thank you note. That’s good advice, but it misses the larger picture of cultivating relationships.

How?

Prepare Your Pitch

“I’m looking for a job” isn’t useful. “I’m looking for a PR firm that focuses on global clients because I have experience with many languages” puts into people’s minds that you know languages and PR. Prepare the elevator pitch of your job search in the same way you do a business plan or the interview version of why you’re applying for a job.

Tell Stories

Most of life is experience, and people want to hear those stories. When you tell a colleague about a digital advertising project you’ve just started or about a client who seems to fit the same patterns we all know, they feel engaged in your professional life. You connect. And through those connections, they remember you’re skilled in digital advertising and that you handle clients well. That’s the type of networking that will lead you somewhere.

Be Human

Hear your colleagues and friends. Stay present in conversations. Help them whenever you can. The point of your network is not getting something out of every relationship, it’s interacting with people in your field and your life. Not because they can get you a job, but because you are interested in them as humans with stories and interests.

Good luck!

This Ted Talk playlist is a compelling and interesting series of videos aimed at finding career bliss. And who can argue with that?

 

My blog is full of admonitions to be honest on your resume. I tell candidates incessantly that they should never lie or exaggerate to hiring managers.

So once you’re telling your story in completely honest terms, what words should you use? In our business, your language is part of your professional portrait, and how you speak says just as much as what you say.

Obviously, I can’t tell you what words to use, since how you express yourself is part of who you are. And I don’t want to change who you are. Unless, of course, you use some of the words highlighted in a survey designed to elicit the resume and cover letter terms that most annoy hiring managers.

So what should you avoid saying when you apply for a job? According to this article, never say that you’re:

  1. “Best of breed” or touting your “track record.”
    Why not? You aren’t a dog or a racecar. Skip the cliched metaphors.
  2. A go-getter, go-to person,  or team player.
    Why not? This isn’t a 1980s movie about work. Describe less and show more.
  3. Thinking outside the box.
    Why not? This claim is doubtful. 99% of candidates don’t even realize what their box is, let alone how to think outside of it. Plus, you can’t quantify thinking, so this is an unsubstantiated claim.
  4. Skilled or interested in “value add,” synergy,” or “bottom line.”
    Why not? This isn’t a 1990s article about work. Skip the jargon and talk in words that mean something.
  5. Self-motivated, dynamic, or detail-oriented.
    Why not? This isn’t an outdated brochure about work. Anyone who isn’t self-motivated can’t get out of bed to the interview. Dynamic means changing, which suggests anyone with a heartbeat. And detail-oriented? Claiming you’re not sloppy isn’t a big pitch point.

 

Instead, use these alternatives:

  1. Achieved, Launched, or Influenced.
    Why? Because you’re showing real results, which is what employers want.
  2. Trained, Mentored, Managed, Negotiated.
    Why? Because it’s one thing to claim leadership and another entirely to quantify how you led.
  3. Improved, Resolved, Created, Won
    Why? Because these words set up genuine achievements, the proof for whatever you’re claiming about yourself.
  4. Volunteered
    Why? It matters how you use your skills. Applying your strengths to causes you care about says more than a list of interests or hobbies
  5. Under Budget, Profit, Revenue, Increased, Decreased
    Why? Goodness. We all want to see the financial benefit to having you on the team.

Remember that resumes aren’t about hyperbole and sales language. Resumes show what you’ve done and for whom. Make the showing more important than the telling. Populate your application with verbs, not adjectives.