April Fool's Pranks That Won't Get You Fired

Keep it fun and clever and the joke won't be on you

Woman afraid of rats
Are you already plotting and planning your workplace April Fool's Day pranks? Or, are you the butt of the jokes – the one always on the receiving end of every prankster with an idea?

If you're considering pulling a big prank at work, you may want to think twice. A national survey by a recruitment firm found 68% of advertising and marketing executives think April Fools' pranks are inappropriate for the workplace. While under the guise of "team building," certain pranks cause more harm than good. Even if your corporate or office culture embraces jokes, be aware that a misstep, even if intended all in fun, can mean you're looking for a new job if someone takes it the wrong way, or if things go too far.

How can you evaluate a workplace prank?

Don't be a bully.

Every office has a few known misfits – people who don't seem to mesh with the rest of the crowd. Choosing these teammates to be on the receiving end of your prank isn't funny, it's mean spirited and potentially cruel. Picking on someone known to be an outsider puts you on the same level of the grade-school bully who takes lunches from weaker kids on the bus.

Resist the urge to do anything that could cause permanent harm.

While changing a meeting time on someone's calendar to cause them to miss an appointment may seem casual or harmless, if the event was important, the prank may escalate from mirthful to consequential very quickly.

Avoid gags that could be considered offensive.

Stay away from anything that could be interpreted as targeted at any group or could be considered harassment. Making fun of people based on their race, religion or sexual orientation is never appropriate. Anything sexual in nature at all (a stripper, for example) is crossing the line in the office and could result in harassment charges.

Know your audience.

If your target is the one who normally plans office pranks, and gags are common in your workplace, you're less likely to be met with resistance, and your prank may be well received. If you work in a place where fun comes first, a well-played practical joke may be a welcome distraction. On the other hand, if it's a buttoned-up work environment or clients frequent the office, you may want to think twice (or three times) before breaking the company's culture with an April Fool's joke.

Consider social media's potential to extend – or ruin – your harmless prank.

Maybe making your boss look a little silly won't get you fired (if you're lucky). However, making your boss look silly, filming it and posting it on the company's YouTube channel or Twitter feed may very well result in termination. Be aware of the ramifications of what you do and how a single photo posted on Facebook can affect someone's career.

"Safer" work gags.

There's no dearth of ideas online for practical jokes at work. If you must break the monotony at work and have considered your plans in the context of advice to evaluate a workplace prank, choose something that won't hurt anyone's feelings and that leaves everyone involved thinking, "That was funny."

Here are a few April Fool's Day pranks unlikely to hurt anyone, but proceed at your own risk. (Tweet this.)
  • Mashable suggested arranging for co-workers to each bring in several changes of clothing, and to update their outfits throughout the day. While it could make a very tired co-worker think he is going crazy, it's unlikely to cause any real harm.
  • Put "Out of Order" signs on bathroom doors or on other "important" devices, such as the coffee pot or microwave.
  • "Foil" or "wrap" someone's office. Before you start, be sure he or she doesn't have an important meeting first thing in the morning, and then cover everything in the office.
  • The old "fill the drawers" trick. Ping pong balls in every drawer will be inconvenient, but is unlikely to cause any real damage.
  • Balloon an office. It can be a challenge to fill an office with balloons, and clean up may be a pain, but it can be a fun –- and colorful –- prank to spice up the day.
If you do choose to proceed with a prank, make sure to be careful and keep the end goal in mind. You want everyone remembering the prank as being fun and clever, not nasty and mean spirited.

Career advancement: What it is and how to achieve it

By Kaitlin Louie, 
Career advancement is one of the most important elements for employee satisfaction and retention at a company. According to Victor Lipman of Forbes, clear opportunities for career advancement are an “especially powerful” employee motivator. Speaking of his observations as a manager at multiple companies, Lipman notes, “At times when career paths were clear, individuals tended to be more motivated, with tangible goals to work towards. At times when career paths were dim or nonexistent, individuals tended to be less motivated, less focused, more uncertain. […] That’s why it makes good business sense for organizations of all sizes to spend time developing and maintaining thoughtfully structured career path systems.”
The importance of career advancement in motivating and retaining employees makes the findings of one study particularly concerning. According to a press release, professional services organization Towers Watson discovered in a recent survey that only 37 percent of companies in the U.S. and Canada stated that their employees understand how they can shape their careers in their given role. Additionally, only 44 percent of companies report that their employees are actually able to obtain the career advancement opportunities they desire. Other key findings:
  • Only one third of companies that partook in the survey reported defining vertical career paths for their employees.
  • While 67 percent of the companies surveyed reported using technology for employee training and development purposes, only 44 percent of these same companies stated that they use such technology effectively.
  • A mere 25 percent of survey respondents said that managers effectively provide career advancement to their employees.
As these findings suggest, there is a significant gap between employees’ desire for career advancement and the actual opportunities they are afforded in the workplace.
Defining career advancement
Part of the reason for the lack of advancement opportunities at many companies is the fact that the definition of professional advancement differs from employee to employee, making it particularly difficult to address the needs of everyone. To some individuals, career advancement means reaching a top position at a particular company; for others, it could mean gaining experience in multiple professional fields in order to create a unique and versatile role for oneself. Still other ideas of career advancement include an entrepreneur’s dreams of success, an author’s hopes for publication, and a developer’s desire to acquire more complex technical capabilities while on-the-job.
Despite peoples’ varied definitions of career advancement, there are nevertheless aspects of the workplace that management at any company can address in order to increase their employees’ advancement opportunities, engagement and loyalty. Essential components of an effective career advancement plan: expanding employees’ skills sets, giving them additional responsibilities that lead to an evolution or a changing of their roles, acknowledging accomplishments through raises and promotions, and offering a tailored career advancement plan for each employee that aligns with his or her professional goals.
In an interview with CIO, Wendy Duarte, VP of recruiting at consulting company Mondo, explained how companies can retain more of their top talent by truly listening to their employees. “One of the key things […] is to find out if [your employees] are getting the resources to add to and change their roles, to take on more and different responsibilities, to spearhead new projects, to experiment,” she explained. “Most people don’t want to come to a job every day and just slog through, doing the same thing day after day. They want to learn new things, try new things, and if you can support their efforts to do that, you’ll inspire loyalty and that can help with retention.”
The power of sponsorship
The responsibility for advancing one’s career doesn’t just lie in the hands of employers, however. Employees are also responsible for both vocalizing what they want to learn and achieve on the job, and actively pursuing such knowledge and accomplishments independently of any employee development program. For example, economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett explains how making one’s own opportunities is crucial for career development in her new book “(Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor.” Hewlett’s work focuses particularly on the career opportunities (or lack thereof) for women and minorities. “Less than 8 percent of the top earners in this economy are female. That is the figure of 15 years ago, and it hasn’t shifted at all — despite the fact that 34 percent of middle managers are now female,” Hewlett notes in an interview with The Washington Post.
The reason for this disparity? The lack of a sponsor, Hewlett argues. “[W]omen are only half as likely as men to have a sponsor — a senior champion at work who will basically take a bet on them, tap them on the shoulder, and really give them a shot at leadership.” In contrast to mentors, who provide encouragement and friendly advice but do not actually have the power to propel their mentees’ careers, sponsors are influential people in the workplace who can place their protégés on impactful projects and actively connect them with the right people. Sponsorship, unlike mentorship, is a reciprocal relationship, in that sponsors invest a good amount of time and effort into promoting their protégé’s capabilities, and in turn expect stellar performance from the people they take under their wing.
Unlike both mentorship and career development programs, the concept of sponsorship requires the recipients of such endorsement to put in as much effort — if not more — than their sponsors. “The cardinal rule here is to give before you get. […] Figure out how you can be valuable and sponsorship flows,” Hewlett advises. “You don’t walk into someone’s office, particularly someone you don’t know, and say, ‘Will you sponsor me?’ That is a guaranteed route to failure on this front.”
Finding a sponsor also requires strong focus and getting out of one’s comfort zone. “You have to know, in some large way, what your destination is, what your dream is.” Additionally, Hewlett found in her research that “[W]omen in particular often choose the wrong people. They’re vaguely aware they need a champion, someone to speak out for them, but they seek out a senior person they’re very comfortable with.” Instead of choosing someone with whom you get along, people looking to advance should select sponsors whom they respect, but who are first and foremost excellent leaders, rather than friends or role models. “Role models are great, but they may not prove to be effective sponsors, so put efficacy over affinity,” Hewlett noted in an interview with Forbes. “You need to be very strategic and tactful by looking for a sponsor with the power to change your career.”

By forging powerful relationships, honing your goals, and delivering excellent work, you can advance your career even if your employers don’t have clear career advancement tracks in place for their employees.

7 Tips to Spring Clean Your LinkedIn Profile

When it comes to finding your dream job, it's all about the match

LinkedIn Said Likely To File For Initial Public Offering Today
Spring has officially arrived. While you clean up your home and store your winter attire don't forget to tackle your LinkedIn profile. It's most likely been a while since you updated your profile, added new connections and touched base with your network. Grab a cup of coffee and get started.

Your profile picture is old.

Use a photo that's no more than five years old on your LinkedIn profile. If it's older than that you're misrepresenting yourself and most likely aging yourself. Perms, feathered hair and Jennifer Aniston cuts retired back in the 80's and 90's. Listen up - those do's, clothes and awkward photo backgrounds are making you seem older than you actually are. Embrace your experience and update your profile so it feels fresh, timely and energetic. Remember, the interviewer has to recognize you when you walk through that door. The best photo is a colorful headshot of you in professional attire. Tilt your chin up, pull your shoulders back and smile. LinkedIn professionals who upload a photo are 11 times more likely to have their profile viewed.

List all your experience.

Experience counts – list it all. A LinkedIn profile with more than one job listed is 12 times more likely to be viewed than one with a single job. And it doesn't matter if you've changed industries. One great example is a friend who said, "I used to work in PR when I first started and now I'm in marketing. How could that help?" It turns out that the agency she interviewed with was very impressed with her PR background. She had skills other marketers didn't. She knew how to sell a brand to the media which is a huge asset when promoting a product. Your volunteer work, freelance and even internships can positively impact your professional profile. Remember to upload projects and presentations to your profile. This feature truly lets your work speak for itself. Your network can comment on or like your work, which can naturally start a conversation about future projects or jobs.

Create Water Cooler Conversation.

At a loss for what to chat about in the break room? Check out LinkedIn Pulse which allows you to customize your home page through subscriptions to channels for trending news coming from your industry. You can also follow inspirational Influencers like Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington. Check out what Diane Von Furstenberg has to say about the fashion industry or Workplace Happiness Tips via Gretchen Rubin. Adding these channels will keep the conversation growing and evolving on LinkedIn and at the office.

Make Time to Reconnect.

You've spent time growing your network but when was the last time you reconnected? Don't accept and forget. Your LinkedIn network is as valuable as the relationships you create and sustain. By all means connect with someone you met at an event or even yoga class. Always give them a reference to remember who you are. You want to take these first-level connections and build them into more robust relationships where you can help them and they can help you. For example, "Hi, I'm Sarah we met at the Engineering Conference in Dayton. We chatted about our businesses and you gave me that great recommendation of a developer." Make a point to message everyone in your network once a year. It's a great way to catch up, keep the conversation going and stay on their minds throughout the year.

Get a Stamp of Approval.

We often trust our friends when they are setting us up on a date, our doctors on what vitamins to take and our local bartender on what new special drink to try. A recommendation always helps set you apart. Ask clients, co-workers and former bosses to pen one for your LinkedIn profile. Ask them to highlight a particular skill, such as event planning or your social media skills. Consider asking for a recommendation while you're in the midst of a project working your tail off. That's when your hard work is top of mind and they're more motivated to do it. That recommendation will live on your LinkedIn profile and act as evidence to your amazing work.
Check on the Competition.

We all know that job hunting can get discouraging. If you're not seeing results it might be time to give your profile a bit of makeover. Have you tried checking out your competition? It doesn't hurt to see how other people in your industry are presenting themselves. On LinkedIn, use the Advanced People Search feature to see "what other people in your industry are listing as skills and specialties." Research the buzzwords in your field and insert them into your profile. Many recruiters use software to sort for these types of words or phrases.

It's all about the Match.

How do you take initiative and actually find the job of your dreams? Take advantage of your own ability for some online reconnaissance. Follow companies that you're interested in, and identify groups that contain your industry's best and brightest. That way, not only do you get a sense of who you want to work for, but by the time you get to the interview stage, you're also able to bring all of your unique talents and experiences to the table and help them to see that not only are they the perfect fit for you, but also that you are the perfect fit. 

6 Job Tips for Recent Graduates

A Millennial's guide to that first post-grad job

You have a few months to go before you say Sayonara to school and officially become a working professional. You might have taken Psych 101 but chances are you never took a class on how to get a job or what to do when you scored your dream gig.

What if you're applying for first job...ever: If you've recently graduated from a Masters, MBA or undergraduate program your first thought will most likely be...I have NOTHING to put on my resume. I have never worked! Except, that isn't exactly true. List your hobbies, clubs, conferences, volunteer experiences and activities you are a part of. Have you ever had a leadership role (class president, yearbook editor, captain of JV Field hockey) list it! You should also include what you learned from your school courses; business, teamwork, computer programs, marketing skills, public speaking, etc. All of these items should be a part of your resume. You'll see how quickly your resume fills up after some analysis.

> Apply for an entry-level job

Conquering a job interview: Be prepared. You would never show up to class without reading an assignment and same goes for a good interview. Come armed with information about the company, your boss and your role. Sign onto LinkedIn and study the Company Page and the career trajectory of your hiring manager.

Be wary of pushy parents: Your parents will always want the best for you but there is a professional line they should never cross. Under no circumstance should your mom and dad be at the interview with you or apply for you. Think I'm kidding? A parent at my firm did just that. He didn't see anything odd about asking me to hire his daughter to be an intern and tell me how great she would be, how he'd be involved and how much he'd be "checking in."

Your parents would never take a test for you or sit in your Spanish class...I hope... same rules apply for the office. You should ask your parents to reach out to their network of co-workers, clients and friends to see if someone might know of a job opening up. After that, YOU need to be the first point of contact -- not your mom. You could also ask your parents to review your resume or help you with a mock interview. After that though, you are on your own.
When the new boss is always M.I.A.: If you only have a limited time with your boss ask your questions the first few minutes of the day. Let them know you are interested in the business and want to be the best employee for them. Have an idea? Let them know that moving the straws next to the soda cups creates efficiency.

When the office is cliquey: High school cliques annoyingly also exist off campus. Often times these mean girls will at first see you as a threat. Be as friendly as you can to them and try to learn. Make them feel like they are the BMOC. However, if they are still icy – do your best to ignore them. Don't let it get to you and focus on the job at hand.

Ready for a promotion? Before you ask make sure you deserve it. Here's a list of 4 questions you need to ask yourself:
  • Are you helping the company's bottom line?
  • Are you punctual and working overtime if you have last-minute client requests?
  • Have you been there longer than six months?
  • Have you felt that you've made your boss' life easier and are taking on more responsibilities?

If so -- go in for the ask. If not, be the best employee you can be and ask for a promotion 30 days down the line. If you are asking, make sure you come prepared with reasons why you have earned this. Have sales increased since you started? Are you able to get through your work much faster than other employers? Have you created a business website or helped with the social media strategy? Are you volunteering for projects outside your typical responsibilities?

Making a grand & graceful exit: Your employer knows that you won't be at their firm forever. Set up a meeting to chat privately. Start off the conversation by letting them know how amazing it has been to work there (even if it wasn't) and how much you have learned from them as a boss. Then let them know you'll be leaving and will give 2 weeks' notice so they have time to find someone to replace you.

Always end on good terms with a boss – you never know if you'll want the job again down the line or which business owners your boss is friends with in town. You'll also want to count on them for a reference.  

The 6 Stages Of Career Development [Infographic]

A highly scientific breakdown

Do you recognize yourself? Is age a stage? Do you think there are seven or eight stages of career development? Review the infographic and tell us where you fall in the comments at the bottom!

What 85% Of Recruiters Want You To Do

Facebook can make you readily accessible to recruiters

Asian businessman peering over hedge with binoculars
Do you know what recruiters like more than anything? Easy access to find quality candidates and few barriers to entry. Do you know one way you can provide this? Use Facebook as a professional platform.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know posting unprofessional information on Facebook can prevent you from landing a job. Employers don't like profanity, comments about illegal drugs, posts of a sexual nature or excessive misspellings and bad grammar. What they do like, according to Jobvite's research, is to be able to find you online and to learn about you. If you put time, effort and energy into creating some public information in Facebook, you could find yourself with a new job sooner than you thought.

Recruiters are looking for you.
Recruiters will source new hires where ever they can find them. With the exponential number of people using Facebook and the amount of time they spend there, it isn't surprising to learn from Undercover Recruiter that 70 percent of recruiters say they connect better with potential jobseekers due to widespread use of Facebook and 85 percent of recruiters using Facebook recommend it as a tool to other recruiters. (Tweet this stat.)

Companies are spending a lot of time, effort and money to connect with you on Facebook. They want you to "like" their career pages, and they hope you'll post smart messages there. Don't disappoint them.

Make your information available.
You don't have to post your vacation photos for everyone to see, but if you want to be found, it's a good idea to allow certain sections of your Facebook profile to be public, including: Work and Education, Professional Skills and Contact information. Not only will this make it possible for people looking for someone with your skills to find you, it also provides professional information that will help people in your network connect with you when they are in job search mode.

Another benefit of making this data public, it allows you to engage with Glassdoor.com's "Inside Connections" tool, which provides job seekers access to their Facebook networks to identify people who work at companies with interesting jobs. When people in your network provide public professional data on Facebook, you'll also be able to access information from friends of friends for networking purposes via this tool. Clearly, making these items public on Facebook helps you be found as well as enhances networking opportunities. Since four in ten job seekers found their favorite or best job through personal connections, don't ignore this opportunity to tap your online network.

Give them a little something.
Since many recruiters want to know a little something about you beyond what's on your resume, why not give them a little professional information? Create public updates in your private Facebook page and you have the opportunity to post and share certain items that will be easy for people you do not know to find. This is easy to do.

Follow the link on the top of your Facebook page to check your privacy settings.

Once there, click on the icon that says "Followers" on the left side of the screen. Then, under Who Can Follow Me, select the drop down that says "Everybody."

This will give you an option to create public updates and for people to "follow" your public updates. Public updates can include links to news about your industry. If you're in customer service, you can occasionally post a public update about the latest customer service trends. If you are a bank teller, you can post links about your company's financials.

Answer the key question.
There's no more important question to answer for job seekers than, "How can I help employers find me?" Facebook could be one way to answer it.    

The non-tech skills needed to succeed in IT

By Debra Auerbach

Workers with information technology skills are some of today's most in-demand workers. In fact, employers are having a hard time finding people with the right IT skills to fill open positions. While technical skills are naturally important to employers seeking qualified IT candidates, that's not all it takes to get a job or be successful in an IT role.

Here, IT experts share the non-technical skills they believe are needed to succeed in IT.

Analytical skills
"I think it's critical that IT professionals must be analytical in nature -- the ability to look at trends and problems with an eye on cultivating a solution that can speak to an overarching trend rather than a particular, nuanced issue is critical." -- Richie Lauridsen, director of operations, SEOhaus

"The most important non-technical skill for IT professionals in my experience is empathy. With empathy comes understanding of the clients' and/or end-users' problems. This breeds an 'ownership' of the problem, which, in turn, breeds clarity in delivering communication of the problem and its resolution." -- Yehuda Cagen, director of client services, Xvand Technology Corporation

Communication skills
"After 30 years in this industry, which began as a programmer, the skill that helped elevate my career most is that of communication. Learning to be succinct and communicate clearly to your intended audience is absolutely essential for continued success in this business. Communication skills should be developed early and attention paid to detail that is expressed in emails, presentations, phone conversations, meetings and so on. I often coach our younger staff members on communication and why understanding the context of communication is critical." -- Kevin Carlson, vice president and chief security officer, Optaros Inc.

Presentation skills
"Presentation skills make the difference between your ideas being implemented in the real world and them never seeing the light of day. When an IT professional complains that no one in the business understands them, they often have their own faulty presentation skills to blame. To have effective presentation skills, an IT professional must understand how to communicate clearly to a non-technical audience, to be comfortable with the tools and techniques of speaking to a group and have the ability to create a business 'value proposition' for their audience. The key to learning to present is practice, practice, practice -- to your IT peers, to friendly colleagues and even to the mirror." -- Jon Eberly, CEO, Clock Four

Ability to listen
"The ability to listen to the needs of those you support can directly determine the types of products and projects you are assigned to. And while everyone in IT may want the latest and greatest, it does not mean it is necessarily the right fit. Listening to staff needs will also affect your judgment(s) concerning specific products or methods required to fulfill those needs. Lastly, listening will help to foster relationships within the department. Working and listening so closely with one another establishes a sense of trust, reaffirms their faith in your abilities and aids in ensuring all IT personnel meet or exceed expectations." -- Sean Harris, network administrator, City of Palm Bay, Fla.

Business sense
"Today's IT professional needs to be sure they possess the 'soft skills' that can help them really merchandise their work -- and worth -- to the organization. They need great people skills, the ability to anticipate questions, and most importantly, a good business sense. I'd recommend IT professionals get really smart about return on investment and showing how their work impacts the bottom line. They should also make sure they're absolutely clear about the organization's business goals as a whole and find ways to show how their work contributes to those goals. In today's market, it is not enough to have great IT skills and knowledge, it is equally important to position yourself as a strategic business person." -- Peter Nordberg, CEO, InSite

"I believe that entrepreneurship is the most important non-technical skill IT professionals should possess. Entrepreneurship is more of a mindset than a skill, a perspective that can transform problems into opportunities and opportunities into innovation. In the world of IT, innovation large and small can be viewed as 'career currency' that increases the value of the IT professional to their organization." -- Ara H. 

13 strange interview mistakes and how you can avoid them

By Anthony Balderrama, 

CareerBuilder's annual look at the strangest interview mistakes shows how frequently job seekers say and do the wrong things during interviews. Some of these missteps could have been the result of nerves, and others are just so weird there's no way to explain them.
Here are 13 outrageous and real interview mistakes that surveyed employers have experienced and how you should avoid them:

Strange interview mistake No. 1: Candidate said he had to quit a banking position because he was always tempted to steal.
Why it's a mistake: No one wants to hire a potential thief.
What you should do: Say you wanted to explore other options or you needed a position that aligned with your career goals. Honesty is great, but an employer doesn't want to hear that you're possibly going to rob the company.
Strange interview mistake No. 2: Candidate denied that he had a cell phone with him even though it could be heard ringing in his briefcase.
Why it's a mistake: A ringing phone is a simple mistake; a lie is a deal breaker.
What you should do: Say, "Excuse me" and quickly turn the ringer off. A sincere apology shows you're sorry and lets you get back to the conversation at hand.
Strange interview mistake No. 3: Candidate emptied the employer's candy dish into her pocket.
Why it's a mistake: It's just weird.
What you should do: Take a single piece of candy like a normal person. Pouring the entire bowl of candy into your purse makes it seem like you have no manners.
Strange interview mistake No. 4: Candidate said he didn't like getting up early and didn't like to read.
Why it's a mistake: Separately, these statements sound like red flags warning the employer you're not keen on working too hard. Together, these statements are worrisome.
What you should do: If early morning isn't your preferred time to rise, you can admit that as long as you counter it by saying you have no trouble staying late. This works only if getting up early isn't vital to the position for which you're applying. Also, if you're asked what books you've read recently, you should have at least one title to mention. If the questions continue down that path, explain that you spend most of your time outdoors or doing something else productive with your time.
Strange interview mistake No. 5: Candidate asked to be paid "under the table."
Why it's a mistake: Ethical employers frown on illegal activity.
What you should do: Don't ask to be paid illegally.
Strange interview mistake No. 6: Candidate reached over and placed a hand on the interviewer's knee.
Why it's a mistake: Aside from the handshake, you shouldn't touch the interviewer.
What you should do: Keep your hands folded on your lap, writing in your notebook or resting on the table. Basically, keep them anywhere that isn't the interviewer's body.
Strange interview mistake No. 7: Candidate commented that he would do whatever it takes to get the job done, legal or not.
Why it's a mistake: Crossing the line from passionate to a legal liability is worrisome for a company.
What you should do: Stress your passion for the job and how eager you are to reach the company's goals. Employers want to know you've got the strong will to make things happen, not that you're breaking the law on their behalf.
Strange interview mistake No. 8: Candidate hugged the president of the company.
Why it's a mistake: Hugging is never appropriate in an interview.
What you should do: Unless there is some very unusual exception to the rule, interviewers and job seekers shouldn't hug. You really shouldn't hug the president of the company, unless you've been asked to do so. (And if you have been asked to hug the president, you probably should find out why.)
Strange interview mistake No. 9: Candidate called his wife to see what they were having for dinner.
Why it's a mistake: Your focus should be on the interview. Phone calls are never appropriate mid-interview.
What you should do: If there's an urgent matter, such as your child is sick, explain to the interviewer that you might need to step out of the room if an emergency call comes in or that rescheduling might work better. What's for dinner is not an emergency.
Strange interview mistake No. 10: Candidate asked to postpone the start date so she could still get holiday gifts from vendors at her current job.
Why it's a mistake: That's not a good excuse.
What you should do: If this or any other frivolous reason is why you want to postpone the start date, make up a better reason. Simply saying, "I have a prior engagement I can't get out of," is better than saying "I want gifts."
Strange interview mistake No. 11: Candidate called in sick to her current employer during the interview, faking an illness.
Why it's a mistake: You're showing your potential boss that you have no trouble lying.
What you should do: Interviewing is tricky, because you usually have to lie in order to get out of the office to get to the interview. Employers know that. However, they don't need you to tell that lie in front of them. It's a sign that you don't know how to be discreet and professional.
Strange interview mistake No. 12: Candidate said he didn't want the job if he had to work a lot.
Why it's a mistake: No one will hire a lazy person.
What you should do: Don't admit you don't want to work a lot. If there's one thing you shouldn't say in an interview, it's that you're looking for a job where hard work isn't a requirement.
Strange interview mistake No. 13: Candidate wouldn't answer a question, because he thought they would steal his idea and not hire him.
Why it's a mistake: This answer makes you sound greedy and paranoid.
What you should do: You definitely don't want to hand over all of your genius ideas and secrets, because a crooked company could steal them. However, you should be prepared to give a sample of your ideas, because sitting in silence or refusing to answer the question doesn't help the interviewer evaluate you.

7 God-Awful Ways To Survive on Minimum Wage

How much beans and oatmeal can you eat?

New York, USA. 5th December 2013. Fast Food workers and Unions supporting a living wage for all workers rally and march in New Y
As the debate over raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour continues to rage, it's worth asking how the people who earn it are coping now. The internet offers a wealth of survival tips for minimum wage workers, most from people who probably make well above the minimum. Plus, there is the first-person testimony of people who are surviving on the minimum wage, and are prepared to talk about it.

It's not a pretty picture.

Quite a few Americans are surviving on minimum wage. According to the latest statistics available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for 2012, about 3.6 million Americans earned the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or less.

Most are young people under age 25, who may or may not be able to rely on help from their families. However, their numbers include about 3 percent of all salaried workers aged 25 and above.

A minimum wage job adds up to a pre-tax income of $15,080, if the worker gets full-time hours and does not take time off. For most, that adds up to a real income of about $1,000 per month. That is above the official poverty line for a single person, but below it for a wage-earner with a child.

Here are some of tips for surviving on that amount of cash:

1) Move to a rural area.

It doesn't sound reasonable to relocate for a minimum wage job, but it could help, according to an article on WikiHow. A room or small apartment can be much cheaper in a rural area, say $100 to $200 per month.

It's better to choose a place where the climate is relatively mild, the article points out. The nationwide average heating bill is now about $200 per month.

And, it goes without saying that the best choice is an economically depressed area. The living is cheaper in regions where low-wage jobs are the norm.

According to an analysis prepared for The Huffington Post, a single, childless worker would need $10.20 an hour to fund the basic necessities of life in Hanson County, South Dakota, population 3,331, which has the cheapest living costs in the entire United States.

Unfortunately, South Dakota is not a warm-weather state.

All of the above means that a minimum wage worker can't make ends meet anywhere, but is likely to eat more regularly if housing costs are kept as low as possible.

This AOL Real Estate slideshow identifies 20 rural areas that combine great living and excellent job growth prospects. Some, like Watkinsville, GA, are in mild-winter territory.

If you're relocating, some states have a minimum wage above the federal minimum.

2) But not too rural...

A minimum wage employee needs to be within walking or bicycling distance from the job, in order to avoid the costs of car ownership. All of the above tips come from Wikihow, along with a helpful link to an article on surviving without home heating.

3) If you have a car, drop your car insurance.

This is illegal in most places, not to mention extremely risky, but it may be necessary. An estimated one in seven American drivers has allowed their car insurance to lapse due to economic pressures.

4) Sign up for food stamps.

A worker who is supporting a child on a minimum wage job is eligible for food stamps in most cases. The child will also get free Medicaid coverage, as a child living in poverty. The adult is now required by law to have health insurance, but assuming the employer does not offer coverage, the employee will get a substantial subsidy or even free coverage under Obamacare.

5) Eat a lot of beans and oatmeal.

This tip comes from a woman who works in customer service.

You might have thought that this diet, common among residents of third-world countries, was no longer prevalent in the United States, except among vegans. But you would be wrong.

6) Cancel your cable, internet and phone services.

The now-notorious sample budget that McDonald's prepared for the edification of its employees allocates $100 a month for cable and phone costs for a couple, each of whom earns a minimum wage salary.

Internet service and cell phone costs are not listed separately, implying that this line item actually covers the common "triple play" home service, plus cell phone costs.

The average monthly cost of that bundle of television, telephone and internet is $128. The average cell phone bill adds about $50.

Clearly, a minimum wage worker is better off canceling all of the above and allocating that $100 to something else, like beans and oatmeal.

7) Rely on payday loan services to cover critical bills.

In localities that do not restrict or outright ban them, payday loan services, located mostly in poor neighborhoods, extend short-term loans at an annualized percentage that is typically 391.34 percent.

Clearly, this can lead to a vicious cycle of epic proportions, so they are best avoided even at the risk of having the lights shut off.

Waiters and waitresses are paid much less than the minimum wage. See what you can do here

How to Get a Job Without a Degree

Tips to compete in a crowded labor pool

Oct. 22, 2010 - Long Beach, California, U.S - A job searcher uses the Calfornia Employment Development Department website. Calif

With the latest recession, a new trend has developed. Companies increasingly ask for degrees or advanced degrees in job applications. It's not because degrees are always needed, but because there are so many people with these qualifications that companies can use the criteria to wean candidates in the first screen. This screening is particularly hard on three types of job candidates:
  • Laid off Boomers who rose through the ranks without degrees
  • Younger candidates from more rural environments who have only associate degrees
  • Employed Boomers wanting a new job but who no longer qualify for the jobs they currently have much less new positions

For many Millennials the recession resulted in longer education stints as parents encouraged them to stay in school since there were no jobs to be had. Now, many are entering the work force with higher debt, but advanced degrees. Is it Game Over for Boomers? No. Experience still counts for something, just not everything.

When applying for new jobs, here are questions to ask yourself:
  • What knowledge is needed that an advanced degree was desired?
  • Can you demonstrate that knowledge in a different way?
  • Even if you have an advanced degree, is it too dated?
  • What other qualifications might gain attention?
  • How can you get those qualifications or certifications?

Listed requirements in many job postings state: "Degree Preferred or a Plus." Don't be deterred. Just because it's desired, doesn't mean they'll get it. Your job is to position yourself as relevant so the lack of a degree is not the deal breaker. One method is continued course work or certifications particularly when you are unemployed. Consider these benefits:
  • Keeping your mind busy
  • Meeting teachers and professionals active in your field.
  • Showing recruiters that you're a life-longer learner and still in the game
  • Gaining credentials you didn't previously have

In today's digital world, some certifications and courses are free while others cost. Some can be done from home, and some require physical class time. Regardless of the certification you seek in your chosen field, the investment is worth your time and effort on many levels.

Employers admire and seek talent who demonstrate a growth mentality – those likely to foster company growth rather than wait to be trained. For Boomers, this means being a candidate dedicated to continued learning/growth opportunities.

Major universities and many organizations now offer MOOCs – Massive Online Course Work. Other groups such as Lynda.com offer trainings with endorsements that can be uploaded to LinkedIn upon course completion. Associations frequently offer industry-specific certifications such as the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation from the American Society of Association Executives.

Certifications vary and some are easier to obtain than others, but don't get hung up on the word "certification," either. Just taking a course and listing it on your resume, or using a course to list "X credits towards Y qualification," lets a recruiter know that you are growth oriented and not just sitting home licking your wounds.

The trick is to start learning something new of any sort that can give your resume a leg up in the job pool. Keep in mind that in applying for a job you're asking an employer to invest in you. A salary is no longer just payment for work provided. It's money invested in hoping you make a difference in the company's growth. The best way to send an alert that you're worth the investment is to show that you believe in yourself enough that you also have invested in yourself. That's the true value of a degree or any course completion certificate.          

How to Write the Perfect Email Subject Line for Job Hunting

By Business Insider

blinking cursor for column of internet search engine
By Jenna Goudreau

With an estimated 89 billion business emails sent every day, it's harder than ever to get yours noticed.

And since email is often the first point of contact for job seekers and hiring managers, the subject line can make all the difference. It not only communicates who you are and what you want but also can be a marketing tool that shows off your qualifications and helps you stand out.

So how do you motivate a reader to click on your email and give you their time? Depending on the context, career and communication experts offer the following advice that job seekers should bear in mind when crafting their job-search subject lines.

Keep it short. A typical inbox reveals about 60 characters of an email's subject line, while a mobile phone shows just 25 to 30 characters, says Amanda Augustine, career expert at professional job-matching service TheLadders. With such limited space, eliminate any unnecessary words like "hello" and "thanks," and get right to the point in about six to eight words.

Example: Human Resources Assistant Application

Place the most important words at the beginning. A whopping 50% of emails are now read on mobile phones, says Dmitri Leonov, a VP at email management service SaneBox. Since you don't know how much of the subject line hiring managers would be able to see from their smartphones, it's important to put the most important information at the beginning of the subject line. Otherwise, compelling details could get cut off.

Example: Marketing Manager with 8 Years of Experience

Be clear and specific. Recruiters spend just six seconds reviewing a resume, says Augustine, so they likely spend even less time scanning a job seeker's email. The subject line should communicate exactly who you are and what you're looking for without a recruiter needing to open the email. Don't use a vague subject line like "resume for opening," and instead specify which opening you're applying for.

Example: John Smith Following Up on Sales Position

Use logical keywords for search and filtering. Hiring managers typically have filters and folders set up to manage their email and probably won't focus on your message when they first see it, says Leonov. That's why it's important to include keywords like "job application" or "job candidate" that will make the email searchable later.

Example: Job Application: John Smith for Social Media Manager

Include the position and your name. For a standard job application, Augustine says the most important information to include in the email subject line is the job title and your name, as well as the job's ID if it has one. Anything less will require the hiring manager to spend time opening the email and trying to decode it.

Example: Data Scientist, No. 123456 – John Smith Application

List your designations to show that you're qualified. The subject line should be a place to distinguish yourself and immediately catch a recruiter's eye. Augustine recommends including any acronyms you have that are pertinent to the job. For example, you might add MBA, CPA, or Ph.D. after your name, depending on its relevancy to the position.

Example: Marketing Director – John Smith, MBA

If someone referred you, be sure to use their name. If you've been referred by a mutual acquaintance, do not save that for the body of the email, says Augustine. Put it in the subject line to grab the hiring manager's attention right away. Moreover, she suggests beginning the subject line with the person's full name.

Example: Referred by Jane Brown for Technical Writer position

Don't capitalize words. Using all caps may get someone's attention, but in the wrong way. It's the digital equivalent of yelling, and your job is to make the email as easy as possible for a recruiter to read rather than giving them anxiety, says Leonov. Instead, use dashes or colons to separate thoughts, and avoid caps and special characters like exclamation points.

Example: Job Inquiry: Award-Winning Creative Director now in New York    

How to handle the 'cold' networking call or email

Growing your professional network is an essential part of finding a job and advancing your career. The Internet makes this easier by allowing you to expand your reach beyond your typical contacts. Reaching out to people you aren't directly acquainted with, whether they are hiring managers or simply contemporaries working in your industry, can be a tricky and sometimes awkward situation. However, the reality is that "cold calling" or "cold emailing," when handled correctly, can be a useful part of building your network.

Here are some tips for mastering networking with strangers.

Find the missing link
You've probably heard the popular theory of "six degrees of separation," which suggests that every individual is six or fewer steps, by way of introduction, from any other individual. Your best bet to get a hiring manager's attention is to be introduced or recommended by a mutual acquaintance. Hiring managers may ignore cold calls or emails if there's no mention of a specific connection that led the job seeker to them. Familiarize your contacts with your elevator pitch to help them introduce you around at networking events, and don't forget to return the favor when the opportunity arises. 

Give context
If you can't find a direct link, it is essential that you have a good reason for asking for the contact's time and that you are upfront about this reason from the start. Be specific about why you're reaching out to this individual in particular. Are you familiar with his work? Were you both at a networking event but missed the opportunity to connect? Or are you simply looking for job opportunities or career advice? Know what you're looking for before you dial or hit "send."

What else can they offer?
Typically, when building your network, it's not a good idea to bluntly ask strangers for a job. If they say no, which they likely will, the relationship ends there, and you may as well remove them from your network. Rather than asking for a job outright, try fostering a connection by asking for advice or an informational interview. Not only are hiring managers more likely to respond positively to this request, but you build a stronger relationship and gain valuable information in the process.

Keep it short
Make it easy for the hiring manager you contact to help you. Your email should be short and concise, clearly spelling out your situation and the relevant information. A lengthy, wordy email with big blocks of text is unlikely to be read, much less thoughtfully considered and responded to. Respect your contact's time and keep the initial introduction brief.

Emailing or calling a person out of the blue can be scary, but if done right, it can also help your job search and career. Follow these tips, remain respectful, and soon you'll start to see your professional network and employment prospects grow.  

12 crazy excuses for arriving late to work (GIFs)

We’ve all had those days when the alarm clock goes off and we press snooze 15 times, only to suddenly realize that an hour has gone by and that important work meeting starts in 10 minutes.
What are you to do when that happens? Call your boss and admit to oversleeping? Yea right. Why would you do that when you could make up an elaborate excuse that involves wild animals, Super Glue or must-see TV?
According to a CareerBuilder survey, here are some of the outrageous excuses workers have used to explain their tardiness to their bosses, as illustrated by GIFs.
1. Employee claimed a zebra was running down the highway and held up traffic
2. Employee woke up on the front lawn of a house two blocks away from his home
3. Employee’s cat got stuck in the toilet
4. Employee couldn’t eat breakfast — he ran out of milk for cereal and had to buy some before getting ready for work
5. Employee was late to work because he fell asleep in the car when he got to work
6. Employee accidentally put Super Glue in her eye instead of contact lens solution, and had to go to the emergency room
7. Employee thought Halloween was a work holiday
8. Employee was watching something on TV and really wanted to see the end
9. Employee got a hairbrush stuck in her hair
10. Employee was scared by a nightmare
11. Employee said a hole in the roof caused rain to fall on the alarm clock and it didn’t go off
12. Employee forgot that the company had changed locations
Have you used a creative excuse for arriving late to work? Was it actually true? Tell us about it in the comments section!

How To Get The Appreciation You Want At Work

A little bit of 'thank you' can go a long way

Many people feel underappreciated at work. Why? Perhaps the organization does not have a culture that promotes appreciation. Maybe everyone constantly feels under the gun and no one has time to stop and say thank you. You may ask, "How long does it take to say thank you?"

The reality is, in many workplaces, "thank you" is not automatic, and cannot be expected. In the cut-throat environment where many people toil away every day, it takes a lot more than a job well done to attain the acknowledgement or reward you'd like to see.

In honor of Employee Appreciation Day on Friday, March 7, here are tips to get the recognition you deserve when you feel underappreciated at work. (Tweet this thought.)

Identify the stars at your organization and follow their leads. 

Once you figure out who's doing a great job getting recognition at your workplace, you can leverage that knowledge for your own benefit. Did someone get a huge shout out at the last staff meeting?


Identify key factors that often lead to recognition. For example, what accomplishment led to the appreciation? Perhaps the organization has more of a tendency to appreciate extra effort; is going above and beyond the call of duty needed to attract appreciation? Is someone appreciated in your office because he or she is a really helpful person to have around in a crisis?

Different organizations value different characteristics at work. Once you see where the bar is set in your organization for recognition, you know what you need to strive to achieve.

Offer insights instead of complaining. 

No one likes a complainer. Like it or not, if you have a reputation for always being a downer at work, it's going to be difficult to achieve much in the way of recognition. That's not to say you necessarily have to be a "yes man or woman," either. Be aware of your attitude and keep it in check if you have a tendency to spout off about every single thing that annoys you. That includes comments on social media, especially if you are connected in any way to anyone connected to your workplace.

Keep in mind: your privacy settings are only as good as your least loose-lipped friend.

Be a problem solver. 

What's the biggest problem your organization or team faces right now? If you can help take major steps to help solve the problem, or come up with a way to solve it altogether, you will earn recognition. If you still don't feel appreciated, you may be in the wrong job.

Network in and outside of the office. 

Sometimes, appreciation comes hand-in-hand with relationships. If you've been skipping team nights out or prefer to lunch alone, maybe it's time to make a change and to try to get to know some of the people at work. If you're not a social person, consider it research instead of socializing. Make it your business to determine what's most important (in and outside of the office) to your colleagues – and your boss, if possible. You may be surprised to find that a few well-placed lunch appointments can yield interesting information that may help you attract the appreciation you deserve.

Join professional or volunteer organizations. 

While it may not specifically land you appreciation AT work, when you volunteer for your professional association, it's very likely you'll have an opportunity to receive some kudos and the "thank you's" you want at work. A side benefit, you'll have the opportunity to network with people who can get to know you and your work ethic. Those contacts are key when it's time to find a new job.

Ask for it. 

While it's not ideal, perhaps you need to ask for recognition in your workplace. That includes requesting a promotion, a raise or other benefits when appropriate. (Such as after a huge win.) If you don't get any feedback at all from your boss, request a review. Create a list of your accomplishments and ask for what you want.

It's possible that you work in a place where the culture is to believe providing a paycheck is thank you enough. If that's not a good fit for you, after you've taken these steps and still aren't satisfied, it's time to find a new job where you'll feel more appreciated. 

8 things that can kill your job chances

body language
In her new book “What Your Body Says,” Sharon Saylor writes, “The most influential part of communication is your nonverbal. Your nonverbal can actually destroy or produce the results you want, such as inspiring employees to do better work, calming angry customers, creating fans in the marketplace and closing sales.”

And according to a new CareerBuilder survey, your body language can also hurt your chances of landing a job … especially a lack of eye contact.
In the survey of more than 2,500 hiring managers, 67 percent said that failure to make eye contact would make them less likely to hire a job candidate. Other nonverbals that hiring managers cited as negative included these seven things.
  • Lack of smile – 38 percent
  • Fidgeting too much – 33 percent
  • Bad posture – 33 percent
  • Handshake that is too weak – 26 percent
  • Crossing arms over their chest – 21 percent
  • Playing with their hair or touching their face – 21 percent
  • Using too many hand gestures – 9 percent
“In a highly competitive job market, job seekers need to set themselves apart in the interview stage,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder. “All that pressure, though, may have some job seekers making body language mistakes that don’t convey a confident message. To avoid these faux pas, and ensure you’re remembered for the right reasons, try practicing ahead of time in front of a mirror or family and friends.”

Haefner offers the following tips to avoid body language missteps during an interview.
  • Keep calm. To make the best impression and avoid nervous body language, take measures to stay as calm as possible before the interview. Leave the house with plenty of time to get to the interview, avoid caffeine if possible and take deep, calming breaths.
  • Practice makes perfect. The old adage proves true in this case, as you’ll feel more comfortable the more you prepare for the interview, and in turn, it will help decrease your anxiety. Rehearse ahead of time with friends or family, do your homework on the company and be prepared for common interview questions.
  • See for yourself. Viewing yourself while speaking can help you notice what body language mistakes you might be making without realizing. Look in a mirror while practicing interview responses or videotape yourself to figure out your typical physical movements, and whether or not you need to change them.
Saylor, who is a certified group dynamics and behavioral coach, says it is possible to change your behavior and be conscious of what messages you’re sending with your own body. Her book gives the reader tips on overcoming many communication roadblocks including how to project confidence, how to look intelligent, how to eliminate verbal pauses, and how to use your posture to show confidence.

How the skills gap benefits job seekers

Engineer Showing Trainee Plans With CMM Arm In Foreground
By Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and co-author of “The Talent Equation”

Today’s employers are looking for employees who can help the business succeed from day one, but a growing skills gap is undermining efforts to secure talent — and causing employers to experience big losses in revenue, productivity and employee loyalty. This is obviously bad for employers, but is there a silver lining for job seekers?

Consider this. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, 1 in 4 employers admit they have lost revenue due to extended job vacancies. The average company can lose more than $14,000 for every job that stays open for three months or longer. One in six companies lose $25,000 or more.

What’s alarming is more than half of companies currently have open positions for which they can’t find qualified candidates. In fact, 35 percent of all employers have positions that remain open for 12 weeks or longer, so those costs can add up quickly.

And many employers see the ripple effects of the skills gap extend beyond finances. Workers, burdened with heavier workloads, have lower morale (41 percent) and produce lower quality work (30 percent). Certain work never gets done (40 percent), and work that is done is not delivered on time (34 percent).

Why the skills gap means new opportunity
These financial and performance setbacks can cause businesses to fall short of achieving their full potential, but what does this mean for job seekers? One, employers may be willing to pay a premium for the right talent. When it comes to hard-to-fill positions, 30 percent report they have increased wages and 42 percent say they are considering it.

Two, employers are investing more in training to create the perfect job candidate instead of waiting for one.
This year, 49 percent of employers will train workers who don’t have experience in their industries or fields, which is a 10 percent increase over last year. This is good news for the 72 percent of job seekers who say that they are willing to take a job in a different field than their current one and try out new career paths.
For these job seekers, the key to making this shift is not only being open to a new path but also to knowing which fields have the most opportunity. Employers who are hiring in 2014 said that the areas in which they are experiencing the most difficulty in filling open positions are:
  • Computer and mathematical occupations (71 percent)
  • Architecture and engineering occupations (70 percent)
  • Management occupations (66 percent)
  • Health care practitioners and technical occupations (56 percent)
  • Installation, maintenance and repair occupations (55 percent)
  • Legal occupations (53 percent)
  • Business and financial operations (52 percent)
  • Personal care and services occupations (50 percent)
  • Sales and related occupations (47 percent)
  • Production occupations (41 percent)

What needs to change
Workers are willing to take a leap out of their comfort zones, but they need help to succeed.

For example, if colleges, universities and businesses work together, they have the potential to affect the skills gap in a positive way. Ninety-six percent of surveyed academics feel their institutions should be talking to employers about the skills they require; 55 percent admit this only happens a little or not at all. Fortunately, many educators are proactively making changes within their control. Fifty-four percent of academics say they are adjusting their curriculum based on local demands or shifts among employers.
In an effort to bridge the skills gap, businesses have begun taking a proactive approach within their organizations and by collaborating with others. In fact, CareerBuilder is working with major brands to support their efforts to close the skills gap and empower employment. More than 50 companies have made commitments as part of this initiative, including:
  • Randstad coaches university students on choosing career paths, the skills they need and building effective résumés. Its Inspiring Experts campaign also aims to motivate, inform and educate future generations of workers to explore high-demand industries, such as STEM.
  • Bosch established The Bosch Community Fund, which supports a variety of STEM and environmental education initiatives and partners with FIRST Robotics and A World In Motion (AWIM) to motivate students to pursue engineering, robotics and other technical careers.
  • MasTec, Inc. offers in-house tower technician, home security and field service technician training, as well as advancement and leadership opportunities for veterans through their Warriors 4 Wireless program.
  • Cisco has increased certified networking talent from 1 million to 2 million people in the last five years through its Learning@Cisco program. Its Cisco Networking Academy helps people gain skills needed to build, design and maintain computer networks.
The skills gap is an issue that is not going away anytime soon. There is a growing disconnect between the skills employers need and the skills that are being cultivated in today’s labor market. In “The Talent Equation,” a book I co-authored with Lorin Hitt and Prasanna Tambe, we found that 8 in 10 employers express concern over an emerging skills gap, but only 4 in 10 say their company is doing anything to alleviate it. The onus is on businesses and the public sector to work side by side to identify where there is a deficit of talent and to reskill workers to close the gaps within their communities.

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