14 July 2012

The job of looking for a job

I have been involved in conducting a few interviews for admin jobs and here are two of the main things I have noticed about those who are unsuccessful: resumes are out of date and not relevant to the job applied for and the person was not prepared for the interview. When you go for an interview you have to keep in mind that they really do want to hire someone, but you have to make it worth their while to hire you. Look at being unemployed as a full-time job and what you are trying to do is sell yourself.

Here is what I recommend.

1) Do try the temp agencies. It is better to be working. When on a temp job, work as if you are on probation all the time. You never know who is observing you.

2) When you go on an interview and are not successful, ask for feedback. What could you have done better? What was it that they didn't think qualified you for the job? Many times I have interviewed people and wished they would ask because I wanted to tell them what they could do differently so they would be successful.

3) Find someone to mentor you. A friend, former colleague, former boss - someone who can look over your resume for you, practice the interview with you and give you pointers.

4) It matters what you wear, your hairstyle, how you present yourself, body odour, bad breath, too much perfume etc. etc. They will make their impression of you in the first few seconds. Make it count. This is another area your mentor can help you.

5) Do research about each company you are applying for. It is easier nowadays with the Internet, so take the time to find out about them.

6) If you can search them, be sure they will search for your name on the Internet as well. What does your online presence say about you? What are you saying in chat rooms, on FaceBook, Twitter etc.

7) Be prepared with a few questions when you go to the interview but also look for things to ask in the interview. Consider it a two-way conversation. Don't go in just to answer questions. You want to find out whether you want to work there as well. It's all in the attitude. Their questions can oftentimes be turned around into a question that you can ask.  Especially if you don't know the answer i.e. What are your career objectives?  Your question could be "What opportunities does your company have for growth?"  You may find they will start to try and win you over. 

8) Be aware of your body language. Are you relaxed, too relaxed, tight lipped, arms folded and legs crossed, say 'um' too much, hem and haw etc.  A mentor can help with this as well.

9) Be positive, pleasant, friendly, smile and shake hands and make eye contact when you first come into the room.

10) Be pleasant to the receptionist as well. They will likely ask his or her impression of you. Don't text or be on a cell phone while in the waiting room. You might inadvertently say something that will be overheard and work against you.

11) Choose some good references and make sure you contact them ahead of time to ask permission to use their name and to let them know they may be contacted.

12) Send a thank you card very soon after the interview. It may not help you be successful for this job, although I do find it makes you stand out, but there may be another job that they will immediately think of you for.

All the best to everyone who is looking.  Someone is looking for you as well, you just need to help them find you.


8 July 2012

At Your Service

The admin role is a service-oriented position.  Basically we are there to serve management - whether that be one executive or multiple managers and staff members.  Managing our time can become more challenging when serving more than one person.  Not that the volume is greater, because as someone who serves the CEO of our organization, I know that is not the case, but because it is coming from multiple sources it can seem overwhelming.  This is where we have to be creative in managing our time and workloads and an admin team can be invaluable in helping you accomplish that.

In this time of government cutbacks each of us is responsible to show that our job adds value to the organization.  I find when we are part of a functioning admin team, then we can show that even more.  We are each responsible for managing our workloads and sometimes the work just becomes too much for one person and we throw our hands up and say we just can't do it!  And that is probably accurate, we can't on our own, but if you are part of a team of admins it is highly unlikely that each of you are at the same point at the same time.  While you are overly busy, another person may be trying to find work to do.  But you need a way of communicating that to each other so you are able to share the workload and help each other out.  This is where the admin team can help, with regular meetings to strategize about upcoming projects and how the work can be divvied up, to share concerns with your team mates and get support, whether it be encouragement, physical help or tips on how to do a job more efficiently.

The beauty of the admin position is that each of us probably do very similar things that can easily be passed from one to the other.  If we are part of an admin team then as work comes in we can accept it, whether we think we just can't take on one more thing or not, and then we farm the work out to our team members.  It still requires good management of our time, but the goal is to make the process look seamless and all the manager should know is that the job was done and on time.  They don't really need to know how it was accomplished.  This adds value to not only your position, but the admins as a whole. 

I find that typically when management are thinking of cutting back, the admin pool and middle management generally are where they look to make the cuts.  If we are seen as not performing by always saying no we can't do it (whether it is justified or not), then it becomes an easier choice for them to decide who needs to go.  My motto is to say yes when they hand you the work and then manage the workload by passing it on if you can't do it yourself.  Isn't that the point of a team - to help each other out and to make it look like a single effort?

If you do not have an admin team in your office, why not be the first to suggest it and make the case that it will be beneficial to all?  In our office we have even created an email distribution list for the admin team to make it easier to communicate with each other - and communication is the key, as well as a good team spirit amongst all the team members.  Even those who might not be a team player at first, when they see the benefits to themselves, come on board pretty quickly.

If you are a single admin in an office then managing your workload is still something you need to do well.  When multiple people ask you to do a job, you need to prioritize what needs to be done first and sometimes that requires you to ask the person who is giving you the job, especially when two competing managers have asked you to do something and need it at the same time.  It is OK to hold up your hands and explain both jobs that need to be done and ask which needs to be done first.

I think with the attitude that you are there to serve, you can never go wrong and you will be seen as a valuable asset to your organization.