How to Navigate FMLA Leave

Taking personal time off doesn't have to mean sacrificing your career

Maternity Leave

Are you starting a family or taking care of a sick family member? There are career steps you need to address before you take your leave.

Before you leave, do this. Speak in "us" language, not in "me" language, and have solutions in mind before you sit down with your boss. Every company and employer handles family leave differently, so do your research and get up to speed on the typical practice of your office. Anticipate what your employer's fears are and be prepared to mitigate them from the outset. Your leave can have a potentially negative impact on your employer, so you have to help them ease into it. There's no set time frame, as every office operates differently.

Customarily, two weeks is the common norm for anyone leaving a position. Be fair and honest to your employer about your wants and needs -- before you officially leave. Remember, The Family and Medical Leave Act could be an option for you (aside from quitting altogether). If you are covered, you are entitled to an unpaid but job-protected leave for twelve weeks. This includes birth of a child, taking care of a sick family member, adoption of a child, personal health conditions or military service.

Another method to slowly ease yourself out of a job but keep positive ties to your company is to learn how to pitch working from home as a win for your employer. Consider all your options (working part-time, taking a year off or telecommuting) and then ask for your ideal schedule. With the push to create family-friendly work environments, employers are more flexible than ever as long as you demonstrate you can and will produce great work.
How to handle a resume gap. Not all employment gaps are due to layoffs or getting fired. You may have taken time off to take courses, have kids, freelance, or travel, and all of those things can make you a better candidate for the job. List the courses you've taken and explain how they will help in this new position. Talk about your freelancing experience and what you learned and accomplished during that time. Discuss the volunteer programs you've been a part of, like the PTA or Cub Scouts. Share your travels with your prospective employer. At the very least, they may find comfort in knowing you've "been there, done that" and won't be taking off to travel the world again!

Never let go of your network. While you might not be 100 percent in the industry right now, you should always stay in touch with your former colleagues and clients. Whether it's liking a post they shared on LinkedIn, attending networking events, reaching out to them via email or even meeting for coffee every few months. Maintaining your relationships will offer insight into how the industry is adapting and keep you abreast of the changes and developments. These tools and industry know-how can serve you well when you are ready to test the waters again.

Where your colleagues are concerned, it'll also keep you fresh in their minds. Those lunch dates and email exchanges will showcase the fact that you've still been actively involved in the industry -- even if it was from a backseat view. If a job opens up down the line, they'll be more open to recommending it to you. Use LinkedIn Pulse to read the most relevant industry news that your professional community is reading and sharing, so you're in the know when you return to work.

Post Interviewing Tips: How Not to Follow Up

Show enthusiasm, not mania

You just interviewed for a position you really want, and you think it went really well. But before you sit back and relax, waiting for that phone to ring, there's one more step you should take: following up with the hiring manager. Getting in touch after an interview shows good business etiquette, reinforces your interest in the position and could mean the difference between getting a job offer and never hearing back from the employer again.

But if you do it incorrectly, you could hurt your chances of landing that job. Here are some post-interviewing tips on the do's and don'ts of following up:

Don't rush it.
Hiring managers neither expect nor want a follow-up five minutes after the interview. Texting a "thank-you note" from the parking lot can make you come across as demanding, impatient and overly eager.

Do: Give yourself time to process what took place during the interview so your follow-up is not only gracious, but also thoughtful about the position and the conversation you had with the hiring manager.

If you're sending a note via U.S. mail or email, try to get it out the day after the interview. If you're planning to place a follow-up call, wait two or three days. Just make sure you don't wait too long. You want your note or phone call to arrive at the company before the hiring committee has made up its mind about whom to hire.

Don't make typos.
Many hiring managers disregard applications that contain mistakes, and they likewise won't think much of a candidate who sends a follow-up note with grammatical mistakes or autocorrect fails.

Do: Check and double-check all of your correspondences with the people who interviewed you. Strong written communication abilities are a highly valued soft skill, and even one spelling error can make you look unprofessional. Remember that the purpose of a follow-up is to further convince potential employers to hire you; you don't want to sink your chances with a poorly written message.

Don't make it all about you.
The follow-up shouldn't be about how well the job would mesh with your lifestyle or boost your career. As much as interviewers want to know more about you, what they're really after is how you can benefit the company.

Do: In the note, show that you're continuing to think about ways you would add value to the company if you were hired. Thank the hiring manager for her time, and say that you enjoyed meeting her and learning more about the position. Refer to a few things discussed during the interview and perhaps add more commentary or details. And finally, reaffirm your interest in contributing to the growth of the company.

Don't be overly familiar.
You and the interviewer may have hit it off, but remember, this is still a business relationship. Don't let yourself get too informal or chatty, or you'll risk looking unprofessional.

Do: Be friendly in your follow-up, but maintain a professional demeanor. Start any written correspondence with "Dear so-and-so," and end with "Best regards" or "Kindest regards." Refrain from making jokes, and don't use emoticons or casual abbreviations.

Don't go overboard.
Whether the interview was a smashing success or a total bomb, avoid extreme emotion in your messages - it will only make you seem unstable and off-putting.

Do: Show enthusiasm, not mania. And while you want to communicate that you're persistent, don't pester. Two follow-ups are enough: one written message and perhaps a phone call a few days later. If you think you flubbed the interview, briefly explain that you weren't at the top of your game and that you'd be grateful for the chance to try again. If you have nothing else to lose and you really want the job, it can't hurt to ask graciously for a second interview.

There are no sure things in a job hunt. But by practicing these post-interviewing tips, you have the opportunity to make another great impression on a potential employer - and to help tip the scale in your favor.

4 things to watch out for in an employment contract

Employment contract

By Emmie Martin, Business Insider

The pile of paperwork that comes with starting a new job may be overwhelming, but it’s imperative that you read the fine print.
When signing a new contract, phrases such as “non-solicit of employees” or “noncompete” may look like standard legal jargon, but these clauses can restrict where you work or who you can hire at your next position if you’re not aware. According to Brad Newman, chair of Paul Hastings’ International Employee Mobility and Trade Secret practice, and author of “Protecting Intellectual Property in the Age of Employee Mobility: Forms and Analysis,” clauses that restrict your options when you leave a position are the most important ones to look out for when signing a new contract. “If you don’t look at this on the way into your job, it’s oftentimes too late on the way out,” he says.
Clauses such as these, aimed at protecting companies’ intellectual property, are becoming increasingly common in employment contracts to ensure that when employees depart, they don’t take confidential information. “It’s never been easier from the technological standpoint to take data inadvertently or intentionally,” Newman says. However, if you sign a contract without reading these clauses carefully, you could be complying to something you don’t agree with.
Newman suggests every employee understand restrictive clauses before signing — and negotiating anything they aren’t on board with. “It’s very much like sports teams going after the best players,” he says. “If you’re that player right now, you can negotiate a very lucrative contract for yourself, provided you haven’t signed anything that prohibits you from doing it.”

Look for these four key clauses before signing your next contract — and make sure you understand the implications of each:

1. Noncompete clause
Noncompete clauses prohibit employees from working for a competitor for a certain length of time or in a certain geographical area after leaving their current jobs. Companies include these to protect confidential projects or information, but they can end up hindering you from being able to move positions or leave a job you don’t like if you don’t read the specifications carefully. “The company wants it to be as long and broad as possible, and the employee wants it to be as short and narrow as possible,” Newman says. He recommends negotiating to tighten noncompete clauses in order to give yourself more potential for job mobility and prevent you from trying to sign a new contract, only to realize you’re barred from working in a related field for a year.

2. Non-solicit of employees
When you leave your employer, you may want to continue to work with the best people from your old company, Newman says. However, non-solicit agreements restrict employees from poaching former co-workers or clients from their previous job after transferring companies. These clauses ensure that businesses won’t lose all their top people to a competitor at once, but can hurt you if you try to hire a former co-worker or entice a friend to join you after starting your own business.

3. No-hire
Similar to non-solicit clauses, no-hire agreements prevent you from hiring people who have worked for competitors, such as if someone were to call you after you leave and try to get a job at your new company. These clauses became controversial after several software companies, including Apple and Google, allegedly used them to keep wages artificially low. Signing a contract with this clause in it can restrict your job mobility by automatically making certain companies unable to hire you.

4. Invention assignment agreement
Invention assignment agreements require new hires to disclose any inventions they created before starting their employment at a new company. These clauses protect companies from losing patents by preventing employees from taking projects they worked on to a rival, but can also allow them to claim ownership of your original work. “If you, the employee, is somebody who thinks you’re going to come up with an improvement or invention, you should disclose what you’ve already done beforehand so that there’s no issue of who owns what you’ve already done,” Newman says.

What’s keeping you away from a leadership role?

Businesswoman Addressing Meeting Around Boardroom Table

Everybody has different career goals. When you’re young, you may be focused on simply finding a paycheck that covers your bills and living expenses. If you’re family-minded, you may seek out a job that either allows you work flexibility to spend time with them or a salary that amply provides for them. If you’re creative or ambitious, you may strive to go out on your own and begin your own company or become a freelancer. If you’re closer to retirement, you may look for a position with less responsibility and instead more of a support role. No matter what your career goal is, there’s likely a position that will help you reach that goal.

But interestingly, most workers’ career goals don’t include leadership positions. A new CareerBuilder survey asked more than 3,600 workers across salary levels, industries and company sizes about their career goals and aspirations for leadership positions. Approximately one third (34 percent) of workers strive for leadership positions, with only 7 percent aiming for senior or C-level management.

Taking a closer look at their responses, the survey shows that by an 11 percentage point margin, men (40 percent) are more likely than women (29 percent) to desire a leadership role. Additionally, African Americans (39 percent) and LGBT (44 percent) workers are more likely to aspire to a leadership role than the national average. Thirty-two percent of workers with disabilities aspire to leadership positions, as well as 35 percent of Hispanics – both near the national average.
Why are workers content to avoid climbing the corporate ladder? A majority (52 percent) say they are simply satisfied in their current roles, and a third (34 percent) don’t want to sacrifice work/life balance. Seventeen percent say they do not have the necessary education.

However, not everybody is voluntarily choosing to forego leadership roles and responsibilities.

The glass ceiling problem
The tech industry and other sectors in corporate America have come under criticism for a lack of female and minority executives, but to what extent do workers feel organizations hold these groups back? One in 5 workers (20 percent) feel his or her organization has a glass ceiling – an unseen barrier preventing women and minorities from reaching higher job levels.
However, when looking only at workers who aspire to management and senior management positions, the percentage increases to 24 percent and is even higher among females (33 percent), Hispanics (34 percent), African Americans (50 percent) and workers with disabilities (59 percent). The perception of a glass ceiling is not as prevalent among LGBT workers aspiring to leadership roles; 21 percent feel there is a barrier to leadership at their organization, slightly less than the national average.
A survey result that may point to part of the problem is that only 9 percent of nondiverse males think there is a glass ceiling for women and minorities at their organization.

Breaking through and creating opportunity
More and more companies are addressing this workplace disparity directly. Twenty-seven percent of employers have initiatives to support females pursuing leadership roles and 26 percent have initiatives to support minorities. Thirteen percent of employees at these companies think there is a glass ceiling.
“While most workers don’t want a top job, it is important for organizational leaders to promote a culture of meritocracy in which all workers, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, are able to reach senior-level roles based on their skills and past contributions alone,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “The survey found that employees at companies that have initiatives to support aspiring female and minority leaders are far less likely to say a glass ceiling holds individuals back.”
If you’re struggling to reach the next level of your career or are working to break through a glass ceiling at your own workplace, consider these actions:
  • Work with a mentor– In or outside of your organization, working with a mentor can help you make more strategic career moves, benefit from the experience and wisdom they’ve garnered and also gain insight when dealing with difficult management.
  • Network – Being a visible member of the team and interacting with other industry professionals will strengthen your own image and establish your expertise. Whether you’re chatting with team members in the break room or attending industry events, the more people you have on your side, the more opportunities will present themselves.
  • Be the change you wish to see – The best way to promote workplace equality and support women and minorities in their professional endeavors is to start with your own actions. Check your own biases and recognize what results your own actions are having. Are you contributing to hurtful gossip or choosing your own friends for projects first? Give everyone a fair chance and find ways to bring everyone on board new projects and initiatives. You’ll help the company and your co-workers succeed.

Underqualified? 7 tips to inspire employers to give you a chance


Young businesswoman at the interview

By JT Ripton, guest contributor

If you’re fresh out of college or you’ve lost your job due to the post-recession restructuring, you’re in the same unenviable position: Both of you are competing for the same small pool of jobs, and both of you face the same obstacles. What can you do to make yourself stand out and convince those choosy employers that they should hire you over potentially better-qualified applicants?

Design your resume around your transferable skills
When you’re changing careers, you need to frame your existing skills and experiences in terms of the job you are trying to get. Most people have a bank of skills that are freely transferable between jobs: communication, interpersonal, teamwork and leadership. You may have other skills, such as computer programs you know, that would be valuable, but make sure that you frame them in the context of the new job. If you can’t find a way to make a particular skill fit, then don’t use it.

Demonstrate flexibility and willingness to learn
Most employers value flexibility and trainability as much as they value hard skills according to a CareerBuilder survey. The survey found that 77 percent of employers believe that soft skills (including trainability and flexibility) matter just as much as hard skills. This is great news for people changing careers or new college graduates. To demonstrate this to a prospective employer, be ready to give examples of times when you had to learn a new skill quickly.

Choose a T-format cover letter
The T-format cover letter is useful for people with scant experience or a spotty work history. It is divided into two columns, where the left column lists qualifications from the job posting, and the right lists the attributes which meet those qualifications. The T-format works well because it lets you showcase your talents in the context of the job posting and takes the focus off any gaps in your work history or the lack thereof.

Be likable
Even when you’re the most qualified applicant, competence alone will never win you the job. At the end of the day, hiring managers often hire the person they liked the best and who they’d like to hang out with. After all, they’re only human. If your bona fides are lacking, then the likeability factor is even more important. The best way to be likeable is to have a positive attitude. Act interested in everything about the job, from the company itself to the industry as a whole.

Know when it’s a lost cause
The new economy is smaller than the old one, and in such circumstances, it is tempting to just throw your resume at every job opening you see, even those for which you are completely unqualified. Yet, doing so makes no sense and is a waste of your time. For instance, if you’re an accountant, it would be silly for you to try to get a job as an x-ray technician. However, realize that job ads represent employer wish lists and not absolute must-haves. Consequently, if you meet a fair amount of the criteria listed in the ad, go ahead and apply.

Experience is experience, paid or not
Many people think that you shouldn’t add unpaid experience, such as school and volunteer work, to your resume, because only paid work counts. However, experience, paid or not, is still experience. As long as you can relate it to the job you are applying for, you should include it. For example, if you’re a tax major, and you interned at an accountant’s office during tax season last spring, it makes sense to include this information in your application to work at a tax preparation office.

Include keywords in your resume
Many employers are screening candidate resumes electronically. The screening software uses keywords and phrases from the ad and will only select resumes and cover letters that include those words and phrases. To make sure that you make the cut, scan each advertisement for keywords that match your skills and include them in your resume and cover letter.

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