Be sure to “Dive Deeper” when you’re ready for some real depth!
“Scanning the Surface”
Formal education develops our skills and knowledge, opens doors for us, and increases our opportunities and financial earning power!
- Having an education demonstrates that we are teachable, committed, and willing to do what is necessary to achieve our goals.
- Education develops our mental muscle by exposing us to new ideas, different ways of thinking, and increases our analytical and reasoning abilities.
- Employers frequently give hiring and advancement preferences to individuals with an education versus those without it.
A variety of options exist for becoming educated – where there is a will, there is a way!
- Earning a high school diploma is a must because it can be very difficult to progress beyond a minimum wage paying job without one.
- Trade schools and the military can be excellent choices for receiving training in job-specific skills for individuals who do not prefer traditional institutional education.
- Associate, Bachelor, and Advanced degrees provide in-depth knowledge and training within career fields of study, and are earned at traditional college and university institutions.
- Taking advantage of continuing education opportunities after we are employed will increase our effectiveness and job security, our opportunities for advancement, and the money we are able to earn. These include training courses and programs, seminars, certifications, credentials, and licenses.
Our first job is all about learning how to get a job, earning our first paycheck, and gaining experience and growth that only the real-world education of the workplace can teach us!
- We learn the detailed process of “how” to actually get a job – from determining where to work, how we should groom ourselves, what we should have with us when we visit a potential employer, who we should ask for when we arrive, how to fill-out an application, how to interview, how to follow-up and how to be persistent!
- Our first job will give us the real-world experience of seeing how business works and the wonderful satisfaction of receiving our own paycheck.
- We are exposed to the concept of working together with others as a team for a common purpose. We experience different management and leadership styles, the need for flexibility in adjusting and adapting to changing schedules, different personality types, company philosophies, and developing new skills for ourselves.
- We also get the opportunity to see what kinds of work we enjoy – work that is repetitive or constantly changing, working with others or alone, work that is physical or work that is more mental, and our preference for working days or nights.
Getting level two jobs (which are those we seek after we get our education and initial entry-level job experience) is all about knowing what we want, having a plan, and executing the necessary steps to achieve it!
- Based on what we learned from our entry-level first jobs, we determine what particular type of job and industry will be the best fit for us to seek out.
- There are a variety of tools we can use to identify specific opportunities we wish to pursue – our personal network of business people whom we know, internet career and employment sites, and professional recruiting and search firms.
- Using the combination of a cover letter, resume, “elevator speech” (which is a 15 second description of who we are, our education and key skills, and the kind of job we are looking for) , and job application, we significantly increase our chances of securing interviews for positions we are interested in obtaining.
- There is a whole list of very important things we must be sure to do, as well as avoid doing, during the interviewing process to improve the likelihood of our being hired.
- Following-up after we have had our interview is a valuable opportunity to promote and bring additional positive attention to ourselves with our interviewer.
Being able to communicate effectively will significantly and positively affect all of our relationships – personally and professionally!
- If we communicate effectively, then what we intend for others to understand occurs. If we do not communicate effectively, then there can be partial understanding, no understanding at all, or complete misunderstanding.
- What we say and how we say it can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of our communication. The choice of the words we use, our tone of voice, and our confirmation of understanding (such as “I understand”, “right”, or “I don’t understand”, “please repeat that”) are all critical components in ensuring effective verbal communication takes place.
- Our non-verbal communication can often “speak” louder than our words. If our eye contact, facial expressions, head nodding, eyebrow movement, and posture match the words we speak, then the effectiveness of our communication is likely very good. If our non-verbal communication doesn’t match our verbal, then poor communication will be the result.
- Properly written letters, notes and email, can be very effective and efficient means by which to communicate.
- By using a few specific techniques, communicating by phone can be an excellent tool in helping us to obtain what we need and want in our daily life.
- Stating the purpose of our our message clearly, being polite, and following through on what has been agreed to, are all keys necessary for effective communication to take place.
- Individuals who communicate effectively are highly sought after. Companies want to hire them, promote them, and keep them by paying them well.
Return to “Scanning the Surface” if you just want to get your toes wet!
Advantages of a Formal Education
- High School Diploma
- Trade Schools and the Military
- Associate and Bachelor Degrees
- Advanced Degrees
- Continuing Education
- Why Get a Job Anyway?
- What Can Our First Job Teach Us?
- How to Get Hired
- How to Keep Our Job, Get a Raise, and Get Promoted
Getting Level Two Jobs and Beyond
- What are Level Two Jobs?
- Our Initial Search
- Getting an Interview: Cover Letter, Resume, “Elevator Speech”, Job Application
- Interviewing: Do These Things, Avoid These Things, Following-Up
Advantages of a Formal Education
Opportunities and Open Doors
- Education provides us with a range of invaluable opportunities.
- We are able to develop and mature in relatively safe and secure environments.
- Education helps grow our interpersonal skills as our mental and social skills are developed.
- It helps us grow scholastically and professionally by gaining knowledge and expertise within specified areas of interest and fields of study.
2. Education open doors that may otherwise remain closed.
- Numerous job and career advancement opportunities will exist only for those who have education.
- Studies consistently show that over time the majority of those who have formal education earn significantly more money than those who do not.
Demonstrates Important Qualities
- Having education demonstrates that we possess important qualities:
- Commitment and dedication.
- Goal setting, follow-through and goal attainment.
- Self-sacrifice and delayed gratification.
2. Many employers evaluate both the current and future potential of prospective employees based on the important qualities that formal education develops.
- Education exposes us to people, places, things and subject areas that we would likely not otherwise be exposed to providing us with unique insights and ways of thinking.
- Through education, we gain a broad awareness and increased access to potential job and career opportunities.
Mental Muscle Development
- The process of education helps develop and condition our “mental muscle”. We learn:
- Different ways to look at things and to think critically.
- How to analyze and evaluate different kinds of information.
- Methods for effectively communicating and defending our thoughts and opinions.
- Habits of organizing and planning.
2. The benefits of developing our mental muscle will serve us well the rest of our lives, both personally and professionally.
High School Diploma
- It is difficult to progress much beyond an entry-level, minimum wage paying job, without having earned at least a high school diploma.
- In earning a high school diploma, we become familiar with several critical life- lessons:
- Setting goals and taking the necessary steps to attain them..
- The importance of commitment, dedication, and follow-through to achieving things we desire.
- The self-satisfaction and pride we get from achieving our goals motivates us to want to experience this feeling again and again (both in our career and personal life).
3. By obtaining a high school diploma, we:
- Are exposed to different subjects and potential areas of interest that we may choose to pursue further educationally, and or as a career path.
- Grow and mature physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially as we transition into adulthood.
Trade Schools and the Military
- Trade schools (also referred to as vocational or technical schools) can offer a good path to many solid career options:
- They provide specific job-application skills training for career choices like aircraft maintenance, automotive repair, carpentry, child care, computer programming, cooking, construction, cosmetology, electrician, electronics, masonry, plumbing, truck driving, welding, and many others.
- Most trade school programs can be completed in two years, and some are available online.
2. Joining the military can be another good option following high school.
- Specific job skills similar to those available from trade schools or college can be learned while in the military. These skills can then be easily applied to the civilian workplace upon completion of military service time, and are commonly sought after by employers.
- The military provides options for paying the traditional college expenses for individuals once they are out of the military and have completed their required service time..
- The military excellent benefits and retirement, while also giving an individual that pride that comes from serving your country.
Associate and Bachelor Degrees
- Earning an Associate or Bachelor degree demonstrates a higher level of commitment and dedication, goal setting and goal attainment, and responsibility than that of a high school diploma.
- A college degree indicates that an individual has a good depth of knowledge in a specific field of study, which perspective employers are often looking for when they are hiring.
- Many companies require or give preference to those individuals who have at least an Associate or Bachelor degree when they are interviewing and hiring because it demonstrates that the individual set a goal and accomplished it, regardless of the specific subject area of study.
- There are three types of advanced degrees. These degrees are designed to meet the particular requirements for certain careers, prepare for specific career advancement opportunities, as well as attaining personal goals of knowledge and expertise.
- A Masters Degree can be earned following the completion of a Bachelor’s degree. It provides a concentrated curriculum in a specific area (Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Computer Information Systems, Music, etc.), and usually takes from one to two years to complete, and is often begun once an individual has some practical experience within the particular area.
- A Doctorate Degree can be earned following the completion of a Masters degree. It involves intensive research on a certain topic under the supervision of a college professor, usually takes one to five years to complete, and is pursued primarily by those desiring to be college professors themselves.
- A Professional Degree can be earned following a bachelor’s degree. It is a requirement for careers like doctors and lawyers, takes several years to complete, and is heavily concentrated on a specific field of study for a specific career choice.
2. Obtaining an advanced degree involves significant involves a significant investment of time, effort and money, along with self-sacrifice and depayed gratification. However, most individuals who pursue and receive advanced degrees are highly rewarded by the number of employment opportunities open to them, which tends to result in higher income and greater job security.
- Most careers and professions have additional formal educational opportunities that can provide attractive benefits (increased job security, potential for advancement, salary increases) for those individuals who choose to pursue them.
- These opportunities include training programs, courses or degrees, which can be taken while the individual is still employed (nights and weekends). Examples include advanced certificates, credentials (teachers, accountants, medical and health care workers, electronics and computers, etc.), and licenses (contractors, realtors, mortgage and stock brokers, insurance agents, equipment operators, etc.).
- Employers are often willing to pay for part of the expense of continuing education, as they benefit from better trained and more qualified employees.
- Continuing our education informally can be very helpful to our career as well. Reading books, researching on the internet, and attending seminars are examples of things we can do on our own. Anything which increases our job-related knowledge will benefit our job security, advancement and earning potential.
Getting Our First Job
Why Get a Job Anyway?
1. Personal development opportunities, that’s why! Getting our first job is all about two things:
- Earning a paycheck and starting down the path to all of the wonderful things that being financially secure can provide for us.
- Gaining valuable experience and growth that only the real-world education of the workplace can teach us.
2. During the process of looking for a job (visiting businesses, filling out applications, going through interviews, not getting jobs we apply for), we will likely experience many uncomfortable feelings.
- Fear, doubt and uncertainty.
- Intimidation and frustration.
- Rejection and discouragement.
These feelings are completely normal, no matter how old or experienced a person is.
3. Once we learn that we are going to be hired, we will typically experience a natural progression of positive feelings that can become an ongoing source of motivation and encouragement for us:
- Our self-confidence and self-respect improves because we have attained a meaningful goal. This increases even further as we learn and master our new job-related skills and responsibilities
- We gain a sense of belonging and of being needed as we begin making contributions to our employer, as well as becoming part of a team with our co-workers.
- We experience self-satisfaction and pride when we perform our job well and when we receive positive feedback from our managers and co-workers.
- We begin to understand the concept of becoming independent and self reliant (which takes place over time as we progress with the different jobs we have and amount of money we earn), and this empowers us and provides us with security.
What Can Our First Job Teach Us?
- Experience and exposure opportunities, that’s what! Our first job (often part-time and within the retail or fast-food industries) gives us the opportunity to see and experience how to manage, lead, and treat other people:
- We will get to see what works, and what doesn’t. How we prefer to be treated by others, and how we prefer not to be treated.
- These experiences will help and positively influence us the remainder of our working lives, and will also help us with the interactions we have with friends, family, and other relationships in our personal lives.
2. Our first job will help teach us important concepts and habits. It will expose us to different types of opportunities that we may want to pursue in the future, all of which will help us to succeed both professionally and personally:
- We will learn about the “team concept”, or working together with others for a common goal.
- We develop flexibility and how to adjust and adapt to changing schedules, different personality types, and learning new skills.
- We will determine what kind of management and leadership styles we prefer (dictatorial, delegating, or participative). This will help us when we have opportunities to be a leader in both our professional and personal lives.
- We will get the opportunity to see what kinds of things we enjoy doing (work that is always changing or work that is repetitive, working with people or working alone, working during the day or working at night, work that involves thinking and planning or work that is mindless, physical work or mental work, working indoors or out, etc.).
How to Get Hired
- First, we should be confident in knowing that many businesses are willing to hire individuals without experience for entry-level positions
- Restaurants (fast-food and traditional).
- Grocery stores.
- Retail-type businesses (Target, Wal-Mart, movie theaters, sporting goods stores).
2. Second, we should check with our personal network of friends, family members, teachers and neighbors to see if they might know of any businesses who might be hiring for entry-level positions.
- If they can give us a specific recommendation (a business with a person they personally know who works there), then we should ask them if it’s okay for us to use them as a referral (which they will nearly always agree to)..
- If we have a referral, then we can go to a specific business and say something like, “My neighbor, Mr. Jones, suggested I check with you about possibly getting a job here”. A referral can be one of the most effective ways of getting any job.
- Even if we are not able to get a specific referral, seeking out the recommendations from those we know is still a very useful way to help us uncover possibilities toward finding a job.
3. Getting Hired – A Step-By-Step Process:
We begin by forming a list of several potential businesses we’d be interested in going to work for.
Next, we make a few basic preparations before we visit any of the businesses we’ve selected:
- We must be sure that our personal grooming is pleasant – our hair and clothes are neat, our face and eyes are clean, our teeth are brushed and breath fresh.
- We must be sure to bring a pen and small notebook (or pad of paper) along with us so that we can record any notes or names that we’ll want to remember, or to fill out job applications should we get the opportunity to do so.
When we arrive at a business, should always ask to see the manager or the person in charge. Frequently, the person we initially speak with will ask why we want to speak to the manager. When we tell them that we want a job application they will likely offer to get the application for you, but we should then tell them that we’d like to meet the manager in person.
If the manager or person in charge isn’t available, then we should go ahead and pick up an application form and thank the person who helped us. Additionally, we should ask for the name and spelling of the manager so that when we return our completed application, we can reference the manager’s name on the envelope we’ll return it in.
- When we are able to meet the manager or person in charge, we should extend our hand and introduce ourselves something like this, “Hi, my name is Joe Smith and I would like the opportunity to work here.” Typically, we will then be told that we need to fill out an application. We should again shake the manager’s hand, and thank them for their time and help. This personal contact and first impression can sometimes make a very big difference in our getting hired, because we become a “real person” in addition to just a name on an application.
- If we are given the opportunity to fill out an application during our initial visit, we should absolutely take advantage of this and complete the application. This can sometimes indicate the business has a job opening that they desire to fill soon, so we wouldn’t want someone else to get ahead of us if this is the case.
Complete the applications we receive as soon as possible, so that we can then turn them in right away as well.
- Some companies require applications to filled out online. When this is the case, we should complete and submit the application online and be sure to make at least one copy for our own records. We can use this copy as a basic template to refer to when we fill out other applications online, as well as taking it with us when we visit the company in person that we want to work for.
- Be sure we include references where required on the application, and use individuals we know personally and who will give us a good recommendation (teachers, principals, pastors, coaches, neighbors, people we have babysat or done jobs for, etc.). We should always ask our references for their permission to use them in this way, and then let them know when we have.
- Before we go to turn our completed application in to the business we received it from, we should place it in an envelope with the following information written on the outside of the envelope:
Date: Write the current.
To: “Mr. Tom Snow” write the actual name of the manager.
From: “Joe Smith” write our actual name.
Subject: Enclosed Application for “Joe Smith” write our actual name.
When we go to the business to turn in our completed application, we should ask for the manager (whom we hopefully met when we picked up the application). If we completed our application online, it’s perfectly fine to take it to the business and give it to the manager as well.
- If we are able to see the manager, then we should extend our hand and introduce ourselves (or re-introduce ourselves if we met them before) and hand them our envelope telling them we are giving them our completed application.
- If we are unable to see the manager, then we should give our envelope to the person who greeted us and ask them to give it to the manager. We should ask this person for their name, and then write it down for later use when we do our follow up.
- In either case (if we see the manager or not), we should ask – “what is the next step, and when might I be able to get an interview?” This will cause the other person to answer us and usually provide some meaningful information.
- Unless we are given a specific time to return for an interview, we should always ask permission to call them in a week to follow up. Sometimes the person will tell you specifically when to call them, but most always they will simply give you permission to call them back in a week or so.
- When we call to follow up we should ask for the manager, letting the person who answered the phone know why we are calling. If we get the manager on the phone (or if we get their voice mail), we should say something like:
“Hi, this is (our name) and I’m calling to follow up on the application I turned in and to see if I could schedule an interview with you?”
“Hi, this is (our name) and I’m calling to make sure that you received the application I gave to (the name of the person we gave it to if we didn’t give it to the manager personally) and to see if I can schedule an interview with you?”
- If we have called a few times over a few weeks to follow up on the job application we turned in and are still not able to get an interview scheduled, then we should probably move on to other possibilities unless we have specifically been encouraged to continue calling.
Once we get the opportunity to have an interview with a potential employer, there are several important things we must know and be prepared for in order to improve our chances of getting hired:
- We must be sure that our personal grooming is pleasant – our hair and clothes are neat, our face and eyes are clean, our teeth are brushed and breath fresh.
- We must be sure to bring a pen and small notebook (or pad of paper) along with us so that we can record any notes or names that we’ll want to remember.
- We should arrive 10 to 15 minutes earlier than our scheduled interview time and let the person we’re interviewing with know we have arrived so that they can get a positive impression of our dependability and attention to time.
- We should extend our hand, look our interviewer in the eye, introduce ourselves, and thank them for the opportunity to interview with them.
- Never chew gum, eat candy or breath mints, or have a cell phone on during the interview.
- Use good posture during the interview, look at the interviewer when they are speaking and when we are speaking to them.
- Frequently nod while the interviewer is talking so that the interviewer can tell we are paying attention and following what they are saying.
- Be prepared to answer such questions as why we’d like to work there, what days and hours are we available to work, whether we prefer to work alone or with others, what is our favorite subject in school and why, and are we willing to work overtime. If we are prepared, we’ll likely do a better job of answering.
- Answer all questions honestly, but do not answer a question that we do not understand.
- If we do not understand a question, we simply need to say something like, “I’m not sure what you mean, can you please explain”. This will prevent us from giving an answer that doesn’t make any sense. It will also show that we’re not afraid to ask questions when we need to, which most employers encourage and want us to do as an employee.
- When the interview is finished, it is a good idea to say something like, “I really hope I get the opportunity to work here and I know I will do a good job for you. Thank you for the time you have given me.”
- If the person who interviews us does not indicate to us what the next step is, we should ask this question ourselves so that we know what to expect.
Following up after an interview is an excellent opportunity to make another positive impression, and increase the likelihood that we will be hired. Keys here include:
- Writing a short “thank you” note to the person who gave us the interview the very same day our interview took place, or the following day at the latest. We can mail it, email it, or drop it off in person. Most people will not do this, but this may the little difference that helps us get the job. We can simply state: “I want to thank you again for the time you gave me during our interview, and let you know that I hope I get the opportunity to work for (name of the business). I will follow-up with you by phone in a week unless I hear from you first. Sincerely, (sign our name).”
- Call our interviewer in a week as we said we would in our “thank you” note. This is another opportunity for us to demonstrate that we are responsible in fulfilling our commitments, as well as showing that we are indeed serious about our desire to be hired.
4. Getting hired is all about numbers, effort, persistence, and timing (luck).
- We definitely increase our chances of getting hired by increasing the number of businesses we visit and applications we fill out, by using our personal network for recommendations and referrals, and by the follow up we do after we’ve submitted our applications and after we’ve had our interviews
- We cannot control the job market or the timing of jobs becoming available, but we can control the amount of effort and persistence we put forth. It is completely normal to feel discouraged when it takes a while to get hired, but the only way we’ll never get hired is if we choose to give up. If we choose to keep trying, we will get a job!
How to Keep Our Job, Get a Raise, and Get Promoted
- Keeping our job, getting a raise, and getting promoted is all about being an exceptional worker. This means we do things and act differently than most other workers do:
- Show up for work 10 to 15 minutes early so that we’re ready to start on time, with full attention and mental focus on our job duties, and possibly even start early if our manager needs us to.
- Work enthusiastically and cheerfully – meaning we have an alert pleasant look on our face, our posture is good and we move around do our job energetically, and we smile at others we work with. It’s choosing to have a positive attitude.
- We do more than is actually expected of us and we’re willing to work overtime.
- We offer to help others when we see a need.
- After we’ve demonstrated doing our job well for several months, we tell our manager that we are interested in taking on more responsibility.
These are things that are actually quite easy to do, but the majority of people do not do them. Being consistent with these habits will cause us to stand out from other employees we work with. Managers love these type of characteristics (as they don’t see them often), and they will reward them by keeping this type of employee, giving them raises, and promoting them to more responsibility with higher pay when they can
2. Developing a good reputation as an employee/worker will also help us in our future jobs.
- If the company we work for has to “lay us off” (meaning we weren’t fired for performing poorly, but rather our company wasn’t doing well enough to keep all of its employees), we will be among the first they re-hire when they can because of our good reputation and track record.
- When we progress to the point where other individuals and companies seek us out to hire us, or we desire to join another company for some reason, we can be confident and proud to use our previous manager as a reference because we know they will communicate very good things about us and how we work.
Getting Level Two Jobs and Beyond
What are Level Two Jobs?
- Level two jobs are those we pursue following our first few years of initial experience with part-time, entry-level type jobs.
- They usually involve full-time employment of 40 hours per week or more, are career-type jobs which typically pay considerably higher than minimum wage, and an annual salary may be involved as compared with an hourly rate.
- Pay is commonly received every two weeks, and additional employment benefits are generally part of the total compensation package (medical insurance, vacation pay, savings programs, etc.).
2. These jobs usually involve combining the experience and exposure that we receive from our entry-level jobs with the job-specific training and qualifications we receive from formal education. This forms our professional profile, or resume, which we then use to match-up with prospective employers who are looking for individuals to fulfill the specific needs that they have, and that we share in common.
Our Initial Search
- In order for us to determine which potential jobs we would like to consider, we need to engage in a multiple-approach effort to be most effective:
- Self-Examination of Our Personal Fit – This involves taking some time to think about what our ideal job might look like, honestly assessing whether or not we have the necessary basic characteristics for that particular job, and considering if we think we would truly enjoy doing it for 40+ hours per week.
- Search Firm Assistance – We establish contact with recruiters (people whose business it is to match-up prospective employees with potential employers) who will search for employment opportunities on our behalf that match-up with our particular interests and qualifications.
- Search Engine Utilization – We connect with sites which will provide us with ongoing job opportunities and career development options (Career builder, Monster, Indeed, etc.).
- Personal Network Tools – Using our own personal network of contacts and relationships (family, friends, classmates, neighbors, groups, business associates, alumni and trade associations, LinkedIn, etc.) can be one of the most powerful tools we have in finding a good job. These are people who know us and can provide meaningful suggestions, referrals, and serve as important references
2. Once we have found a specific job opportunity with a company that we are interested in working for (or multiple opportunities with multiple companies, as it is quite common and very appropriate to pursue more than just one at a time), we now need to put ourselves in the position of getting an interview with the prospective employer(s).
Getting an Interview: Cover Letter, Resume, “Elevator Speech”, Job Application
- Cover Letter
- A short letter, one page maximum, which accompanies our resume and describes our particular skills and abilities.
- It is solely designed to get potential employers to look at our resume and want to set up an interview with us.
- Reviewers will generally only take 5 to 10 seconds to review our cover letter, and are looking for specific skill and ability matches for the job they are looking to fill.
- Our letters should be in an easy to read format (bullet point style is acceptable) and comprised of short sentences which are free from spelling and grammatical errors.
- The purpose of our resume is to generate enough interest from those who review it, so that they will want to meet and interview us in person.
- Reviewers of our resume will typically not spend more than about 30 seconds looking at our resume, so it is critical that we attract their attention from the very beginning.
- Our resume should not exceed two pages, it should be written in short sentences, and must be free from spelling and grammatical errors.
- We need to be sure to use key words within our resume which match the required skills and characteristics of the job we are seeking.
- Additionally, we should also include a statement of what we are looking for in a job, our educational and job-experience background, as well as related personal information (like volunteer programs affiliations, hobbies and interests, etc.)
2. “Elevator Speech”
- An elevator speech is a brief message that we should have memorized and are prepared to deliver to anyone, anywhere, at anytime, in a confident and a professional manner
- It is a very specific description which states our name, our education and experience, our key skills, and the kind of job we are looking for, and should not exceed 15 seconds.
“Hi my name is John Brown. I have an Associates Degree in commercial art and have been an intern for the past year with a local advertising company. I specialize in helping companies grow through local and regional advertising campaigns, and I’m looking for an accounts development position with a company who desires to expand their business.”
3. Job Application
- A job application is a tool employers use to gather and evaluate general information on prospective employees, or job applicants
- Employers use this information to determine whether or not they desire to formally interview the applicants.
- It is common to fill out job applications on the internet, as well as at the prospective employer’s place of business.
- We should have our driver’s license number, social security number, and our resume available to present if it is requested of us
- We need to pay close attention to the directions on the application, as this is our first opportunity to demonstrate our ability to successfully follow directions.
- We must be neat, spell correctly, and remember that this is an important part of our initial impression to the prospective employer
- When possible, we should take the opportunity to tailor our answers to communicate our qualifications pertaining to the job we applying for.
- Instead of leaving something blank or putting “see resume”, we should use NA (meaning not applicable) or provide a specific answer to the question asked of us.
- It is important to use positive comments and avoid any type of negativity when answering questions on the application. Our goal should be to come off as positive and as attractive as we can in order to earn an interview.
- We must be truthful when answering application questions, as it is common for prospective employers to check to verify the accuracy of what we answered.
- We should provide respectable references (previous employers, teachers, co-workers, business associates, neighbors) who we have asked permission to use, and who we know will provide us with a favorable recommendation.
- Finally, we need to be sure that our application matches and is consistent with the information contained in both our cover letter and our resume.
Interviewing: Do These Things, Avoid These Things, Following-Up
- Do These Things
Once we have an interview scheduled for a job that we’re interested in getting, it’s extremely important that we review the key things that we’ll need to do in order to do our best. These include:
- Adequately preparing in order to increase our comfort and confidence levels. This will contribute greatly towards the effectiveness and quality of our interview, and prevent the “would of”, “could of”, “should of” regrets that a poor interview will bring if we failed to prepare properly.
- Research the company we’re going to be interviewing with (by visiting their web site or reviewing their company literature and brochures) to become familiarized with their basic products and services, as well as their history and what thy may be planning for the future.
- Dress sharply, but conservatively. Hair, clothes and shoes, must be clean, neat, and fresh-looking. Avoid using heavy perfumes or colognes.
- Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early, announcing our arrival to the receptionist so that our punctuality can be noticed and serve as a good first impression. It is very wise to make a “trial run” to our interview location prior to the day of our interview, confirming where we are to go and helping us understand any parking or other difficulties that we’ll need to allow extra time for.
- Bring an extra copy of our resume, a notepad, and a pen so that we can make notations of anything we’d like to remember or follow-up on after our interview..
- Upon meeting our interviewer, shake hands (using a fairly firm grip, without being excessive) and look directly into their eyes while introducing ourselves.
- Demonstrate enthusiasm and interest by keeping good eye contact with our interviewer, nodding our heads in understanding when the interviewer is speaking, and using good energy and volume when we are speaking.
- Carefully listen and pay close attention to what the interviewer is saying, avoiding thinking ahead to what you want to say or day dreaming about something else.
- Seek clarification for any questions that we are unsure of, as this can demonstrate that we are eager to fully understand something before we go off and act, perhaps incorrectly.
- Be sure to provide specific answers to the specific questions that are asked unless the interviewer asks us to expand or elaborate our answers. Failure to do this can lead the interviewer to conclude that we may have difficulty understanding and applying concepts and tasks, or that we may tend to be disorganized and inefficient.
- Be prepared to give examples of previous experiences we’ve had, which will likely pertain and relate to the particular job we’re interviewing for. This may include how we’ve solved disagreements with previous bosses or co-workers, how we’ve handle questions that we do not have answers for, or things we liked most about our previous jobs.
- Have three or four well thought-out questions to ask during our interview. Questions such as: What plans for growth and expansion does the company have? What kinds of training (books, seminars, etc.) or supplemental education would be suggested to strengthen our job effectiveness, as well as provide opportunities for increased responsibility and career advancement? Please describe what a typical work day or week might look like for the position we are being considered for.
- When the interview has ended, we should thank the interviewer for their time and for being considered for the position.
- If we are still interested in getting the position we just interviewed for, we should communicate this directly by saying something like, “I really hope I get the opportunity to become part of the team and contributing to the company’s growth and success.”
- If at this point the person who interviewed us hasn’t told us what we can expect following the interview, we should then ask them to please tell us what the next step is?
2. Avoid These Things
While there are many key things that we need to do to increase the effectiveness of our interviews, there are also a few key things we should be sure to avoid:
- Arriving late. This makes a very poor first impression as to how we might be as an employee, and will likely cause us to feel flustered and possibly unable to come across as comfortable and as confident as we would like.
- Failing to give specific and complete answers to the questions that our interviewer asks of us. This may leave our interviewer wondering if we are avoiding being truthful, or if we simply do not have the ability to understand and apply things correctly.
- Providing rambling answers that get off track from the question that we were asked. If we are unsure that we have given a sufficient answer to a question, it is certainly okay to ask our interviewer if they would like us to expand our answer further.
- Making negative comments about previous employers and previous co-workers. Whining, complaining, and criticizing will likely make us look bad. It can also give an indication of how we might handle adversity, and weaken our potential for being hired as a result.
- Bringing up wage requirements. If the interviewer does question us on this, then we should be prepared to give a general range (example: $15 to $20 per hour, or $3,000 to $3,500 per month).
- Not being able to briefly explain why we left our previous employer, or why we desire to leave our current one. Instead, have a prepared explanation that is short, honest and factual, and avoids being negative about our previous employer. Examples include, “it didn’t turn out to be a good fit for the growth and advancement opportunities that I had hoped for”, or “the company down-sized and my position was eliminated”.
Unless we have decided that we do not want a particular position that we’ve interviewed for, then it is very wise that we do a follow-up with the person we interviewed with.
- Our follow-up should take place within 12 to 24 hours following our interview, and there are a couple of good ways to accomplish this additional opportunity to promote and bring positive attention to ourselves
- Call the person we interviewed with to speak with him or her directly, or leave a voice mail message if we cannot reach them in person.
- Mailing the person a hand written note or sending them an email message are both acceptable ways in which to follow-up.
- Our communication should be well thought-out, and we should have a few key points that we wish to highlight when speaking or writing to our interviewer.
- We begin by introducing ourselves similarly to, “Hello, this is Suzy Smith and I’m calling to follow-up on the interview that I had with you yesterday afternoon.”
- We should then state our specific purpose for communicating with them such as, “I want you to know that I’ve taken some time to think about what we covered together during my interview. I feel confident that my skills and drive will be a good fit, and I am very interested in becoming a part of (name of the company) and becoming a significant contributor to the team.
- We then will want to call for action and express our appreciation by saying something like, “I look forward to hearing from you soon and talking further about our next step together at that time. Thank you again for the time and information you gave to me during our interview.”
- If we know, or have a feeling, that the decision to fill the position for which we interviewed will be made soon after our interview took place, then a written note may not be received or read before the decision is made. In this case, we should definitely make a phone call.
Methods of Effective Communication
Why is Communication so Important?
- If performed effectively, communication gets our ideas, thoughts, and desires expressed and understood by others in the way that we intend. If performed ineffectively, what we intend to express and have understood by others can range from being partially understood, to not understood at all, or to being totally misunderstood.
- The depth and strength of both our professional and our personal relationships are significantly impacted by our ability to effectively communicate. How we communicate leaves others to interpret and perceive many things about us:
- What our basic intelligence and reasoning capabilities are.
- Our ability to both understand and apply new concepts.
- If we appear to be able to work together well with others.
- What our interest and enthusiasm levels are.
- How we are understood and respected.
- Whether or not we should be hired and our potential to be taught and promoted.
Verbal Communication: What We Say and How We Say It
- The act of speaking is a comfortable and natural activity for most people. However, the way in which we speak (word choices, order and tone) can leave a lasting and memorable impression (either good or bad) on the person or audience we are speaking to.
- Think about the purpose of what we are going to say, and who we are saying it to. Are we trying to make a positive impression on someone by communicating our skills and drive in order to get hired, or are we speaking casually with a friend?
- Our choice of words should differ greatly when speaking with a person who is interviewing us for a job, compared to a casual conversation with a friend. When we’re speaking with an interviewer, we should avoid excessively using the word “like” or the phrase “you know” (as these can tend to make us look immature and unintelligent). We should use proper grammar (avoiding such words and phrases as “aint”, “no nothing”, “and stuff”) and completely avoid using any kind of profanity.
- Our tone should also differ depending upon who we are speaking with. If we are with friends in a casual situation, then a more laid-back, lower and calm tone of voice is both normal and appropriate. However, when we are interviewing our tone of voice should be upbeat, positive, with a firm and confident tone.
- Providing audible feedback (such as, “I see”, I understand”, “right”, “yes”, “no”, or “I didn’t catch that”, “I’m not following you”, “excuse me, can you please repeat that”) can greatly contribute to the effectiveness and level of communication going on between two individuals.
2. It is very important to watch the person or audience we are speaking to in order to “read” whether or not our intended message is being received and understood. This can provide us with the opportunity to revise and restate our thoughts, using different words and tones of voice, so that we can clarify and more effectively communicate our intended message.
Non-Verbal Communication: “Speaking Loudly, Clearly, and Effectively Without Words”
- Our non-verbal communication can sometimes be more powerful than our verbal communication (“actions speak louder than words”). It can either be a very effective tool to support to our verbal communication (because it is consistent with what we are saying), or it can be a significant detractor (because it is inconsistent with what we are saying). Key points to understand are:
- Eye contact is arguably the most critical form on non-verbal communication. It communicates our respect, attention and interest. Lack of eye contact frequently shortens the length and depth of communication, as the person speaking generally concludes that their message isn’t being understood or listened to by the person failing to make eye contact.
- Calmly nodding our heads communicates that we understand and are following the thoughts of the person who is speaking.
- Slightly smiling and gently raising our eyebrows also indicates we’re engaged and “on the same page” as the person we’re listening to.
- When someone else is talking, there are several body movements and habits that can significantly detract from good communication. These include tapping our fingers and feet, looking down or around at things other than the person who is speaking, or folding our arms with our heads tilted.
2. It is critical that we strive for consistency between the combined messages of both our verbal and non-verbal communication.
- Our attitudes and feelings expressed through facial expressions, eye contact and eye movements, body posture and body movements, should match what and how we are saying something.
- Many instances of unnecessary miscommunication and misunderstanding can be avoided if we maintain consistency with our communication methods.
Written Communication: Letters, Notes, Email
- Putting things in writing can be a very effective and efficient means by which to communicate.
- Unlike when we are speaking with another person or audience, we have the opportunity to organize and finely tune our thoughts before we actually communicate them.
- We are able to command attention to our personal agenda and our specific message, without being interrupted or being side-tracked by questions and other influences (either on our own or by those we’re communicating with).
2. What we write to others can have a lasting and memorable impression (either good or bad), so it is very important that we approach what we write with both care and thought.
- Written documents can provide the great advantage of having a dated record of what we have communicated.
- They can serve as a useful tool for recalling such things as commitments and agreements, important details and events, and reference points of things that have been previously communicated.
3. To ensure we communicate an effective and easy to understand written message, we should follow a simple format. We state the purpose for our writing, we provide necessary information and supporting facts, and we recommend specific actions and solutions. It is also important to:
- Check to confirm that the style and content of what we have written matches the personality and intelligence level of the person or audience we are writing to.
- Prepare a rough draft of our written communication so that we have the opportunity to correct spelling and grammar mistakes, edit, and make improvements before we send our final version.
- Using the phone to communicate can be an excellent tool in helping us get what we need and want, both in our professional and personal lives alike. Being consistent with a few key habits will significantly increase our effectiveness when we use the phone:
- When we make a phone call to someone (other than a casual friend who knows us very well), we should state our full name and the specific purpose for why we are calling. Example:
“Hello, this is Sally Smith and I’m calling to follow up on the interview we had together yesterday afternoon.”
- If we get a receptionist or someone other than who we are trying to reach, then we should alter our statement appropriately. Example:
“Hi, this is Joe Smith and Fred Barnes asked me to call him about scheduling an appointment.”
“This is Joe Smith and I am returning Fred Barnes’ phone call”.
- Be sure to tell the receptionist when the person we want to talk with has requested that we call them, as this will tend to give our call more importance and get us to the person we desire to speak with more quickly.
- If the person we are trying to reach is unavailable and we have to leave a message, then we should follow the same protocol as if we get them “live”. This includes stating our name and the purpose for our call, in addition to requesting that they call us back by providing them with our phone number (even if we think or know that they already have it).
- Whenever we leave a message with our phone number, we must be careful to speak slowly and distinctly, and give our number twice. This will avoid the frustration and irritation of the other person having to replay our message simply to try and capture our phone number correctly.
- Failing to state the purpose for why we are calling someone (when we are leaving a voice mail message) delays the exchange of information and create frustration. Example:
“Hi this is Sue, please call me back.”
Sue should state the specific purpose for her message:
“Hi this is Sue; please call me back to let me know what time you are picking me up in the morning.” This way, when we return her call and can’t reach her in person, we are still able to leave her a message giving her with the information she desires versus continuing the unnecessary “phone tag” scenario.
- Make sure to record the time, date, and the name of the person we spoke with whenever we’re calling to obtain specific information (like making reservations, scheduling appointments, or to pick something up). This is also important when we have to leave message with a “person” rather than the voice mail of the individual we’re trying to reach. Doing so will increase the likelihood that the person we spoke with will do what they have committed to do for us. We will also be better prepared for those instances when discrepancies occur, as we will be able to reference this detailed information.
- Always use “please” and “thank you”, even if it’s a friendly and casual call, because this will ensure we are in the habit when it counts most.
2. The way we receive phone calls can also help us to portray a positive image:
- Unless we know for sure who is calling us, it is both mature and professional to answer our phone by either saying “Hello” or “Hi”, and then stating our name.
- When we record a message for our voicemail, we should keep if short and professional. Example:
“Hi, you have reached Sally Smith. Please leave me a message and I will call you back as soon as I am able to.”
- If we are not going to be able to return calls for an extended period of time (like when we’re on vacation), then we should include this in our voice mail message and be sure to update it when we are back to a normal schedule.
- When someone has left us a message to call them back, we should return the call within 24 hours (the sooner the better).
- If we ever need to place someone on hold when we are speaking with them, we should ask for their permission or ask if they would like for us to call them back. Example:
- “Excuse me Bill, may I put you on hold for a minute, or would you prefer that I call you back?”
It should only be for a very necessary reason that we put someone on hold, and it should never be for more than a minute at the very most.
Communication with Politeness and Kindness
- Treating the people we encounter throughout our day (in both our work and our personal lives) with politeness, kindness, and a little friendly enthusiasm, is a very influential and effective form of communication. Examples of this include:
- Allowing others to go before us, opening doors for people, helping others pick up things they have dropped.
- Always using manners – “Please!” “Thank you!” “You’re welcome!” “No thank you.”
- Using positive phrases – “Sure!” “No problem!” “Glad to help!” “Anytime!” “No worries!” “My pleasure!”
- Using phrases of specific appreciation – “Thanks very much for your time!” “I really appreciate the information!” “Thanks for thinking of me!” “I appreciate your thoughtfulness!” “Thanks for your kindness!”
- Kindly greeting others – “Hi, how are you?” “How’s it going?” “Good morning!” “Nice to see you!”
- Wishing others well – “Have a nice day!” “I’ll talk with you later.” “Have a good night!” “See you soon!” “Have a good trip!” “Have a nice time!” “Good luck!” “Be well!” “Take care!”
- Extending kind expressions to others like smiles, waves, friendly head nods – even if we don’t know the other person very well, or at all.
- Always returning phone calls. Always acknowledging emails (which can simply be short notes like, “Got it!” “Thanks!” “Will do!” “Sure!” “You’re welcome!”
- Offering our help to others.
- Practicing “random acts of kindness”, just like the bumper sticker says!
2. With the exception of some conscious effort at being consistent (until we’ve formed the habit), developing and maintaining the kinds of polite and kind behaviors listed above costs us nothing. However, the benefits that we will likely receive back will be both numerous and long-lasting:
- We will tend to be the ones who get hired for the better jobs, have more opportunities for promotion and advancement, and have more job security.
- People will be attracted to us because we have been polite, kind, friendly and helpful to them. They will tend to want to be with and around us because we encourage and make them feel good, simply by being in their presence and interacting with them.
- Consistently using our words, our attitude, and our actions in this way, will enable us to more easily build meaningful relationships with others and have them be positively influenced by us.
- Having a lifestyle of making others feel good by how we treat them will increase the number of social and professional opportunities we have, because people will want to be around us and have us on their “team”.
Walking the Talk
- One the greatest qualities we can choose to develop for ourselves, and be known by others for, is living a life where our actions match our words.
- Possessing sincerity, honesty, and consistency between our words and our actions creates confidence and trust in us by others.
- A lack of these qualities and inconsistency between our words and our actions leads to the absence of confidence and trust in us by others.
2. Nothing communicates more strongly than saying what we mean, meaning what we say, and then living and doing what we say consistently!
- Our careers and professional life will be more successful.
- Our personal life and relationships will be richer.
3. Do what we say we’re going to do, when we say we’re going to do it!
- If we are unable to keep our commitment, then we must communicate with those affected before the commitment time passes with as much notice as possible.
- Only 5% to 10% of people keep this practice consistently, so this provides us with a great opportunity to be a person who is responsible and stand out as someone who can always be counted on.