Resist Making A Resolution For A New Job

Instead, try the "three words" technique

new year's resolutions on blank document

Each New Year, a spate of articles appears on resolutions for improving something or several things in your life. If you're unemployed, under-employed, or unhappily employed, you may be tempted to make a resolution to get a new job in the new year. Don't.

It's not that I don't want you to find a new job in the new year. I do. It's why I'm writing this post. But there is much about getting a new job that is out of your control, from the economy to the availability of jobs, as well as the generally competitive landscape. A better use of your time is to find things within your control that better position you for ultimate success.

Finding a job and being gainfully employed is, in fact, so important that I don't want you to relegate that effort to a lowly resolution--especially when research continues to show that resolutions, like diets, don't work. New Year's Resolutions can run strong for up to 60 days, but invariably fail by February (if not after a week).

More importantly, it can be devastating to set a timeframe for a resolution, e.g. lose 10 pounds by Valentine's Day, or get a new job by the end of Q1. Life is on its own time management regime, and like so much else, time is largely out of our control. So as bad as setting a resolution can be, putting a timeline on a resolution can be even worse, as it can set you up for failure. It's why some pundits recommend keeping resolutions vague.

So if a resolution is out of the question, what can you do to create a successful mindset for the new year? One idea is to try Chris Brogan's concept of three words. The concept is simple. Pick three words that resonate with you on whatever you want to focus on throughout the year. Brogan, a respected digital expert and entrepreneurial motivator, and his collaborator Rob Hatch have been practicing it since 2006, and Brogan annually publishes his words. Just Google "Chris Brogan Three Words" to see past lists.

Last year, I joined a digital learning community, a small group of likeminded individuals that meets weekly for an hour to discuss various topics. As a group, we agreed to each adopt three words as personal mantras for the year. I had the hardest time choosing three words, and kept changing words throughout the year. This month, after an in-person get together for the holidays, the group, pleased with how the three words concept worked for them, decided to give it a go again. I'm now in the process of selecting three new words for the new year.

Can this work for you if you're struggling with work issues? Give it a try. Here are some word suggestions to get you started:

Focus. Certification. Professional. Move. Forward. Gratitude. Optimism. Risk. Commitment. Punctuality. Learning. Study. Stamina. Sleep. Routine. Coaches. Mentor. Volunteer. Patience. Clarity. Form. Design. Enrich. Visibility. Steps. Faith. Fishing. Digital. Footprints. Asks. Connection. Community. Ownership. Responsibility. Accountable. Assured. Growth. Practiced. Patience. Confidence. Experience. Motivation.

I could make a case for any of them, and there are thousands more. There are no right three words and no wrong. And, if you're like me, they don't have to last all year long--just until a different word comes along to pull at your heartstrings. Each word can mean something different for different people. The only thing that's important is what the word means to you.

Even with three words, however, focus can fail, just as it does with resolutions. The reason may be in your support system. One common theme in resolution articles is the need for a buddy system or support group. It is why many advocate for job clubs similar to the value of Weight Watchers for dieters. More a fan of going it alone, I'm not an advocate of either concept, but I have to admit that my weekly digital learning group is certainly a type of support system.

In the group, we committed to collectively review our three words monthly. Like most resolutions, we faltered in the monthly reviews, but we did discuss our three words several times during the year. One member clearly credits the three words with his success in achieving a long-desired goal.

The truth is that January 1 is like any other day, and January is like any other month. If you were unhappy in your job in July, you'll likely be unhappy in January, unless something changes. The beauty in each new day is the possibility of reinvention and new things happening. The phone can ring any day of the year and offer you the chance to take a leap into a new unknown. January is as good a time as any to rethink how you're going to approach making change happen. It's not magical, but it is an opportunity to consider how you can position yourself to see open doors rather than closed windows.

For me, words are powerful. Not only because I'm a writer, but because I believe words are sacred. Biblical references abound in the power of words and prayers, which can be defined as a series of words sent to the heavens. New Age forums similarly expound on the value of "thoughts becoming things" and affirmations, also words strung together to create positive thoughts. Words are how we communicate with each other, and increasingly we're shown how we might now also use words to better communicate with ourselves.

My wish for you for the new year is to find work that provides value to you and those around you. It may be a new job, a new promotion, or a reinvention of your current job. Regardless of position, may you find the words that help you move yourself forward for to achieve three words I hope become really true for you: Happy New Year.      

How to be a great career wingman


Step up your professional development with the help of a career wingman.
If you’re just starting out in your career or don’t have much of a professional network to utilize, it can be tough to make progress in your professional life. While it can be helpful to find a mentor, or work on your social media presence, some people—like recent graduates—really benefit from having a career wingman on their side.
So what is a career wingman, and how do you excel at it? Instead of a mentor, or somebody who’s likely more mature and established in his career and can pass on the benefits of their experience to you, a C.W. is often somebody at the same age and experience level in his career as you are. And because you’re both in the same spot, it can be equally beneficial to serve as career wingmen for each other because you’ll be able to offer personalized support for what the other is working through.
As for how to be a great career wingman, here are the three rules to get you both ahead in your careers.

Rule No. 1: Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses
Just like when you’re setting a friend up with a date, it’s helpful to know personal details about your C.W. that will entice others into meeting him. Be sure to know their professional goals, past experience, what they’re currently working on and their personal working style. These are professional basics that employers want to know, as well as others you’ll be networking with or encountering along your career path.
On professional networking sites, vocalize the skills and expertise that your fellow C.W. possesses, as well as the proof and results you’ve seen of their work. For instance, you might endorse their skills on social media, or leave a review of them on their professional website. Employers don’t mind if a potential employee is missing a few of the requirements for a position if they can demonstrate that they have great potential and have already established some success in their life. By backing up your C.W.’s work ethic and professional experience, you’re giving the potential employer a boost of confidence that your C.W. is capable of getting the job done.

Rule No. 2: Network together
Most people don’t enjoy networking, and younger professionals often find the process intimidating since they don’t have many bargaining chips to use when meeting others. But if you have a C.W. on your side, a networking event may begin to feel like any other social event you’ve attended. The key is to have fun, be outgoing and play a support role to your C.W., just like they’ll be doing for you.

For networking events, prepare ahead of time and research who else might be attending, and also look into recent industry news for conversation starters. At the event, people are much more likely to be attracted to your conversation if it’s clear that you and your C.W. are enjoying yourself and being social. And because you and your C.W. already know each other’s strengths and accomplishments, it will be easy to introduce them to networking attendees who may be a good connection, and share why your fellow C.W. is someone they need to meet.

Rule No. 3: Work on professional development together
From public speaking and persuasive writing, to tax forms and nonprofit organization standards, whatever profession you’re getting into, there are some areas you’re going to have to master in order to get ahead. Whether it’s a professional certification you need to study for, or simply a presentation that you want to practice for, having a C.W. means having somebody to bounce your ideas off of, somebody to study with and somebody to review your work.

The biggest benefit to having a career wingman is that you’ll always have somebody that’s invested in your success, and will be there to help you achieve it. A C.W. is different than a spouse or family member who wants to support your happiness, because your career wingman should be a source of honest feedback, informed advice and inspiring ambition. While family and friends will often encourage you to take a hit in your career if it means personal happiness, your C.W. should have better insight on how to get ahead in your career, even if it means working through some unsavory parts of your professional development. The good news is that no matter what, your career wingman will be there to make sure you come out on top.

Ask Jack Holiday Work Dump Older Job Seekers Job of the Week

Co-workers clogging your in-box right before the holiday break! Well, can you read this too before you leave today? OK thanks.

Do I Get Extra Pay For Working Holidays If The Office Is Closed For Holidays, Do I Get Paid

Don't get fired by demanding extra pay to which you're not entitled

American dollars on the Christmas tree as decoration

AOL Jobs readers have lots of questions about holiday pay. Most think you get paid extra if you work on the holidays. Here are some questions I've been asked:
On my job here in Illinois I worked on the holiday and was paid regular time. My boss said she gave me two days off doing the week so working on the holiday gave me 40 hours and I don't get paid double. I explained to her that it if you work on the holiday you get paid double pay. I went out on an appointment with a patient and stayed out 4.5 hours over and was told I had to leave 4.5 hour early so my time adds up to 40 hrs. that week. My question is this legal?
My employer has several "policies" that are unfair at least if not illegal. This is a construction job out of NJ. Among other issues, there are no paid holidays. Is this inconsiderate, immoral or illegal?
I work in a NY hospital. I worked a 6 pm to 12 pm shift, on New Year's Day. The day shift got paid time and a half for their hours but I was told that my shift did not qualify for holiday pay. I thought the holiday is a 24 hour day. Did this hospital do anything illegal by paying some employees and not others for the same work performed?
So, are you entitled to time and a half or double time if you work on holidays? Does the employer have to pay if you don't work on a holiday because the company is closed? Here's what you need to know about holiday pay:

Extra pay for working on holidays

There is no federal law requiring any extra pay for working on a holiday for non-government employees who aren't working on federal contracts. Not double time. Not even time and a half. What the federal law requires is that if you work over 40 hours per week, and you aren't exempt from overtime, you must be paid time and a half. So if you work Christmas Day as a favor to a coworker who wants time off, and you already worked 40 hours this week, you have to be paid overtime if you aren't exempt. But yes, if you work on Christmas and that takes you to 40 hours, your employer can demand you take the rest of the week off to avoid paying overtime

If you don't know whether you are exempt, check out my column, Salaried Workers, Do You Get Overtime? Odds Are You Should. My column 10 Tricks Employers Use To Cheat Workers Out Of Overtime might help too.

I haven't found any state laws requiring extra pay for holidays for private sector employees either, so if your state has such a law, let me know in the comments section. (By the way, Rhode Island has an interesting law, saying employers can't make you work on holidays, and can't discriminate against you if you refuse.)

If you have a contract, union agreement, or if the employer's policy says you get paid holidays, then it may also require extra pay if you have to work on a holiday. Some employers offer incentive pay to encourage employees to voluntarily work on a holiday. However, they can designate all or part of the holiday for paying that incentive pay. If the employer's policy or the contract designates the entire holiday for extra pay, then the entire 24-hour period probably qualifies for that extra pay.

Otherwise, you probably get regular pay for working on a holiday.

Holiday pay if the office is closed

If you're exempt from overtime, and you worked any part of the week, then you must be paid if the office is closed. If you aren't exempt, then there is no federal law requiring any paid holidays for non-government workers who aren't working on federal contracts. I haven't found any state laws requiring any paid holidays in the private sector either. If your state has such a law, let me know in the comments section. So, is it inconsiderate and immoral not to pay employees for holidays? Yes. Illegal? Probably not.

If you don't work for government, then you may have a contract or union agreement requiring paid holidays. Many companies offer paid holidays, but private sector companies can change their holiday pay policies whenever they want.

Working on government contracts

Two federal laws address holiday pay as benefits for employees who are working on federal contracts: The McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act and the Davis-Bacon Act. These laws mandate certain paid holidays. How much extra you get paid under these laws for working overtime depends on whether you are full-time or part-time and some other factors. The details on holiday pay for McNamara-O'Hara are here. More information on Davis-Bacon Act holiday pay is here.

Happy still-employed holidays

So, have a wonderful holiday season, but don't get yourself in trouble demanding extra pay you aren't entitled to, or by refusing to work unless you get extra pay. This is a very bad time of year to get fired.

10 Tips to Stay Productive at Work Around the Holidays

Because it's not Christmas yet.

Santa lying on boxes in storage room, side view

By Deanna Hartley, CareerBuilder writer

As you glance over at the festive decorations and empty cubicles around you during the holidays, trying to stay awake and productive can feel like trying to compete in a triathlon.

Here are 10 tips to help you stay productive at work around the holidays when no one's around.

1. Set daily goals for yourself. Write down a list of tasks that you need to accomplish for the day. Keeping something tangible by your side may increase your motivation to cross all the items off your list before you leave for the day.

2. Remember: It's OK to take a break. Try taking a lap around your office building to get some fresh air or making a quick run to a coffee shop for a dose of caffeinated goodness. Don't think you're doing anyone any favors by staying in your cubicle and sleeping with your eyes open.

3. Clear your desk. Holiday decorations are cheery, but they can also be distracting if they're taking up a bulk of the space on your desk. A little tidying up or clearing away can go a long way toward putting you in the right frame of mind to knock out a few tasks.

4. Put your blinders on for increased concentration. As you're about to start working on a task or project, close out all your entertainment tabs - that includes YouTube and other social networks, and possibly even email if you think it will be distracting. Putting your smartphone away or turning it off for a while can also help eliminate unnecessary distractions.

5. Reach out to others in the office. See who else is working around the holidays and invite them out to lunch. This is probably one of the best times to try to get to know your co-workers better because they'll likely have more spare time and be more laid back than during regular stressful work days. Plus these outings could double as informal brainstorming sessions for projects in which you might have hit a wall.

6. Prioritize your tasks. Not everything is top priority - especially around the holidays when almost everyone is out of the office. Try breaking out your tasks into "must-do" and "nice-to-do" piles so it's easier to tackle them one by one.

7. Hit the gym. You could try putting your lunch break to good use by squeezing in a good workout. Not only will it help in your desperate quest to stay awake, but it will also do wonders for your mood and stress levels.

8. Treat yourself. It works just as well on you as it would on a 5-year-old. Promise yourself various treats throughout the day - coffee, candy, social media breaks, etc. - as you stop procrastinating and cross items off your to-do list.

9. Seek some solitude. If it helps, choose pockets of time when you need to really concentrate. Then, lock yourself in a conference room - they will probably all be vacant and available around the holidays - and try to knock out your assignment in much less time than they'd normally take if surrounded by distracting co-workers.

10. Make sure you're getting enough sleep. Tempting as it is to stay up till the wee hours watching holiday movie marathons, it's important to try as much as possible to stick to a regular sleep schedule lest you mess up your body's rhythm and find yourself constantly nodding off throughout the day.>

4 Dos and Don'ts For Your Office Holiday Party

You never know what opportunities may arise

Obamacare, Handbooks, Benefits And More: Your End-Of-Year Career Checklist

Everything you need to know to make 2015 great

Old clock with stars and snowflakes

As things slow down at the end of the year and you're maybe taking some time off from work, now is a good time to do a checkup on your career. Do you know everything you need to know to make 2015 a good year? Is there a benefit or policy you're missing out on that could make or break you at work or financially?

Here are six things you should be checking up on to make sure your 2015 is the best year at work ever:

1. Obamacare/Affordable Care Act: Yes, I know it's Affordable Care Act or ACA and not officially called Obamacare, but most people still know it as Obamacare. What you need to know, especially if you're on COBRA, is that now is the open enrollment period, which ends February 15. If you've lost coverage at work, then you can qualify for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. If you needed coverage effective January 1, you may have missed your deadline, although a number of states opted to extend it Monday--so it's worth checking if yours is one of them. If you are looking to switch ACA plans, enroll for the first time or switch from COBRA, you have until February 15 to enroll.

2. Check your benefits: Your company may have an open enrollment period for benefits. If you haven't done so already, review your health insurance and other benefits, ask HR what other benefits may be available, and find out when you can enroll or switch. Now is also a good time to get copies of your Summary Plan Descriptions, which describe, supposedly in plain English, your benefits and rights. You'll have a Summary Plan Description available for your health care, pension, 401K, and most other benefits. If it's too late to enroll or switch this year, calendar your deadline for 2015. Find out if your benefits like pension, stock options and 401k employer contributions are vested. If not, when do they vest? If you have options, when can you exercise them? Check the value and see if you might profit by exercising them now. What you don't know about your employee benefits can hurt you.

3. Check your handbook: When was the last time you read the employee handbook? If yours is from 1980, ask HR for the latest version. Your handbook contains important information, such as how to report when you're sick, what to do if you're going to be late, how to apply for medical leave and when you qualify, how to seek accommodations for a disability, how to report discrimination or sexual harassment, information about vacations and PTO, any severance policy, and the company's rules and procedures. You might be surprised what's in your handbook, such as ways the company is spying on you. Read it and be informed. It's the company's manual on how to survive your job, so it's important.

4. Get copies of your contracts: Do you know whether you have a noncompete, confidentiality, nonsolicitation, intellectual property, arbitration or other agreement with your employer? Most people are surprised to learn what they signed when they started their jobs. If you don't read what you sign, or don't keep copies, now is a good time to check with HR to get copies. While some employees are afraid to ask, for example, for a copy of their noncompete agreement because it might alarm HR and make them think you're looking for a job, here's your excuse. Blame me. Print a copy of my article and tell them you're doing your end-of-year checkup. I've never understood HR departments that don't insist you keep copies of what you signed. How are you supposed to know what you're allowed to do if you don't have a copy?

5. Gather evidence: If you think you're the victim of race, age, sex, national origin, disability, religious or other discrimination, whistleblower retaliation or some other legal violation, do you have your evidence where the employer can't grab it? If not, make copies of any evidence you need (don't take trade secrets home, please), get your notes out of your desk drawer or the company computer, update your witness lists with any new contact information and take it home. Put it in a safe place. If you have a notebook where you're keeping notes, put it in your briefcase, purse or someplace where the employer can't grab it. A locked desk drawer, your company locker, and your company laptop are all places you may be denied access to if you're fired.

6. Report it: If you've suffered from sexual harassment, racial, age, religious, national origin, pregnancy or other illegal workplace harassment, think about reporting it, in writing, to HR. Don't wait until you're disciplined or get a bad year-end review to report it. They'll just assume you're disgruntled and making it up if you don't report it promptly.

If you've done everything on this checklist, then you're well prepared for 2015. You know your workplace rights and responsibilities. So relax and have a wonderful holiday season.

One more thing, on another note: I need your vote. My blog, Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home, was named one of the American Bar Association's Blawg 100, representing the top blogs in the legal community. Mine is the only employee-side blog listed in the Labor and Employment category. Now they're asking for votes for the top blog in each category. It only takes a minute to register and vote. I'd sure appreciate your vote. Voting ends Friday.

How Calling In Sick Saved This Woman's Life

An attentive colleague and lucky medical treatment advance let her beat the odds.

Sharon Dajon had a headache and hadn't felt well most of the day. Dajon knew she was healthy -- training for the October Marine Corps Marathon should have put doubts aside -- so the president and managing director of American Health Consulting wrote it off as the luck of the draw. "I just brushed it aside," she told WTVR-TV, and called in sick.

That single call saved her life. A co-worker who took it noticed something strange about Dajon's voice and got her to treat the situation as potentially more serious. It was. An emergency trip to the hospital revealed a brain aneurysm.

An aneurysm is a "balloon-like bulge in an artery" that carries oxygen-rich blood to a part of the body, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. A brain aneurysm happens in a blood vessel in the brain. As the Mayo Clinic explains, if the brain aneurysm leaks or ruptures, the person has a stroke, which can lead to long-term problems or death.

Most brain aneurysms don't leak or rupture and show no symptoms. They're stealth problems and doctors usually come across them by accident. Dajon had one: a previously-hidden brain aneurysm that suddenly ruptured. A fifth of people with a ruptured brain aneurysm die before they can get to the hospital, Dr. John Gaughen, a neuro interventional surgeon with the University of Virginia Medical Center told WTVR-TV.

Luckily for Dajon, she was taken to Bon Secours St. Mary's hospital in Richmond, Virginia. The hospital had been working with UVA Medical Center on a new type of aneurysm treatment only approved by the FDA since 2011.

The treatment involved a minimally invasive technique, notes the Bon Secours website. Rather than literally opening part of the skull to perform open brain surgery, the new technology involves a small incision on an artery. A catheter is inserted and routed up to the damaged vessel in the brain.

In Dajon's case, Gaughen inserted the catheter with a flow-diverter stent, which can bypass the weakened wall of the blood vessel, into an artery in her hip. The medical team then threaded the catheter up to the brain and positioned the stent.

It's been six months since the procedure. "We're going to consider her cured," Gaughen told WTVR-TV. "That the stent is going to be open, and for all intents and purposes will be cured of this, and she can go on and live the life she was living before."

Speaking of going on with life, after a short recovery, Dajon plans to get back on the road to train for the Myrtle Beach Marathon on Valentine's Day. She told the station, "I like that endorphin high."

How to Get Ahead of a Layoff

Don't get caught up in the hysterics

4 Reasons Working From Home Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

Be careful what you wish for

By Aaron Taube

For many office workers, telecommuting is a dream opportunity, one they believe will offer them increased flexibility and allow them to skip the morning commute.

But despite the appearance of freedom, working from home might not be the right option for you.

In a post on Linkedin, founder and CEO Justin Babet explains why he tells people they're better off going in to an office, even if they are running their own business.

1. There's no separation between work life and personal life. 

Babet writes that he was excited to work from home when he first started, but soon found that being at home all day made it impossible for him to get away from the anxieties of his job, even if it was one he loved.

Now that he works out of an office, he appreciates being able to come home and focus on his personal life.

"While it might not feel like this for the first few weeks of working from home, pretty soon what started out as your sanctuary from the world will start to feel like your office," he writes.

2. Being at home can encourage procrastination. 

Babet says that while he spends more time working when he's at home than he does in the office, he's not always more productive. That's because having the carrot of being able to go home from the office for the day gives him a deadline and pushes him to finish things in a timely fashion.

3. Even with all of the technology we have, collaboration is still harder at home. 

One of the benefits of working at an office is the energy you get from your peers who are working to achieve the same goal say you, Babet says.

And even if you have Gchat, Skype, Slack, and other communication tools, there's still the inconvenience of either needing someone's undivided attention or having to wait for a response from them. Plus, Babet points out, if you're not using a video chat tool, you could miss out on important non-verbal communication.

"I've found when working with web developers and designers that being in the same room as them when they're working will make them at least twice as fast because the feedback loop is instant – they don't have to message or email me and wait for a response, I can give them an answer on the spot while they're still focused on the issue at hand, and I can be a lot more precise about what I want," he writes.

4. It can be lonely.

Despite the headaches of so-called "office politics," it can be nice to be connected to the people you work with.

Plus, who wants to spend all their time sitting at home alone?

"I also find when I work from home I rarely leave the house and that's just plain unhealthy, particularly if you do it for weeks and months at a time," Babet writes.      

How to Deal With a Clueless Co-Worker

Remain professional at all times

Businessmen fighting in office

By Robert Half Technology

While companies do their best to avoid making a poor hire, team members sometimes have to deal with a clueless colleague - and pick up the slack. What should you do if this happens in your work group? Here are five tips for how to deal with a co-worker who may not be the sharpest pencil in the box.

1. Be professional. First and foremost, don't allow this person or situation to make you bitter. When you resent a teammate, it shows in your attitude and work quality, and this can affect morale in your workplace. No matter what problems or challenges your co-worker is causing, remain professional and above the fray. Don't turn this person into the fodder for office gossip. And if others do, keep yourself out of it.

2. Decide whether "clueless'" is the right label. Does this underperforming co-worker truly need a call from the cluephone, or could you be looking at the situation from the wrong angle? Sometimes the problem is that she is really smart and skilled, but just not suited for the current role. Maybe he lacks the appropriate training and needs time to learn and grow. Or this employee has a personality that clashes with your team. Jumping to the clueless conclusion before you fully understand the person or circumstances doesn't help the team and just causes you unnecessary frustration.

3. Help struggling colleagues succeed. If certain co-workers seem unmindful of the requirements of the job because they're new hires, less experienced or have subpar interpersonal skills, be a friend and lend a helping hand. If they just need to learn the ropes, ask your supervisor whether you or other co-workers should spend time helping them.

4. Let management handle it. If the additional help and training she's offered doesn't seem to make a difference, and this colleague is dragging down your team's productivity, have another heart-to-heart with your boss. There comes a time when someone above your pay grade has to step in. One of the responsibilities of a manager is to deliver criticism in a way that helps rectify the problem and move the team forward. If a co-worker is a wrong fit for the job, it's up to management to train, reassign or fire him. After you've talked with your boss, there's not much more you can do to "fix" the problem.

5. Tread lightly when a boss needs a clue. Of course, if the problem is your manager, then you have an entirely different situation on your hands. Take the time to find out why he's struggling. Often, a frustrating boss is simply overwhelmed, especially if he's new to the team or position. If this is the case, politely offer your assistance without offending him. In a situation where a supervisor is seriously incompetent and bringing the team down, you may have to talk to someone in human resources. Again, maintain your workplace professionalism and don't succumb to badmouthing. You don't want to make an enemy, burn a bridge or get a reputation as a tattler.

It's not easy knowing how to deal with a co-worker whom you think isn't up to the job. With communication and patience, the situation can be turned around, even if that exasperating person is your boss.

Manage Your 'Screen Name' for a Successful Job Search

You never know who shares your name on Google

lovely woman in rabbit costume...
What do you do when recruiters are Googling you, but you share a name with a Playboy playmate?

When someone (like a recruiter) searches for you on Google or LinkedIn, who pops up on their computer screen: you, or other people with a name that's the same or similar to your own?

Many job seekers think that not appearing in search results is demonstrating maturity and good taste. In fact, invisibility (having no entries in the first page of search results in a search on their name) makes them vulnerable to mistaken identity and, also, to looking out-of-date. Either result can end an opportunity--perhaps many opportunities.

Employers research job applicants

Like anyone contemplating an expensive "purchase," employers research job candidates on the Internet using search engines before they hire someone. A CareerBuilder study showed that a "bad hire" (someone who doesn't work out) can cost the employer as much as $50,000. So a new hire is an expensive risk, and researching candidates before hiring them is a good way for employers to try to avoid a costly mistake.

Recent studies show between 50 percent and 90 percent of employers perform those searches, and that number has been increasing. In the last three years, I haven't spoken with a single recruiter who didn't answer "yes" to the question about online research of candidates. Often, they do the research before they interview the candidate--and certainly before they hire the candidate. What they find is very important to those candidates' chances of landing a job.

Why job seekers should research their names

I recently helped a job seeker who is a computer programmer determine the best name to use for her job search. I found some very interesting people, associated with different versions of her name, including the following:

• A Playboy "Playmate of the Month" from a couple of years ago
• The mug shot of a woman being sought by the police for stabbing her boyfriend
• The obituary of 93-year old woman who died in a different part of the country
• An interior decorator with a great deal of visibility, including appearances on national TV

The job seeker opted to use the version of her name associated with the obituary, since that was the version of she used most often--and clearly, if she was applying for a job, she wasn't dead. She avoided the other versions of her name because she didn't want a potential employer to think she was wanted by the law or had experience and visibility in a field an employer would not expect--or necessarily want--for a programmer.

Self-defense for job seekers

People often shy away from Googling themselves because they don't want to be accused of "ego surfing," which sounds very shallow and self-centered. Ignore that concern. Considering the example above, I call searching on your name "defensive Googling," because that's what it is. Defensive!

You can't address or fix a problem if you don't know you have one. Know what Google will show an employer associated with your name. Otherwise, you are at risk of being disqualified because of someone else's activities, or because something you have posted shows you in a bad light.

The best strategy is to regularly (at least once a month) search in Google and Bing to see what is being shown to employers related to your name. Search on the version of your name you use on LinkedIn and in your resumes. Then search on other versions of your name--with and without your middle name or middle initial. You're trying to find a "clean" version of your name--one without anyone else's "digital dirt" stuck to it--and to avoid versions of your name that could lead a potential employer to avoid you.

Be consistent!

When you find a clean version of your name, consistently use that version of your name for your professional visibility. This doesn't mean that you need to legally change your name. You simply choose the best version to use for your LinkedIn profile, resume, and other job search activities and visibility.

A job seeker I know called himself Edward, Ed, or Eddie, depending on the job he was applying for. On LinkedIn, he called himself "Edward J." This created confusion for employers trying to research him, so Ed now officially calls himself "Edward J." on all of his job search documents and professional visibility. This "connects the dots" for employers and recruiters researching him.      

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