From Self-Employed to Employed

Dear, Anita,

I’ve been self employed since 1970 but have also held full time positions with other companies at various times, too. From about 1990 to 2007 I experienced so much business that I worked (at home) an average of 12 hours/day, seven days a week. It all came to an abrupt halt when the recession hit. I’m now looking for jobs doing just about anything, but no luck.

I feel my age is working against me but also my many years of experience. I’ve had interviews where the interviewer probably feared I was more qualified than himself. With a resume that shows so many years of self employment I think most employers think I’ll either leave when business picks up or I’ll steal their ideas or their clients. Any advice for switching from self employment to working for other companies?

Dear, Fearful Free Agent,

Entrepreneur PaycheckWith the economic downturn, many entrepreneurs decided (or had the decision made for them) to return to a conventional J.O.B.  Let’s review some of the upsides to “working for the man.” People in your situation can relinquish the financial worries (though the new position may bring apprehensions of its own). There will be a sense of stability that may have been lacking in your recent economic landscape.  Also, being part of a team can be refreshing. Working solo, you sometimes miss people to bounce ideas off of or just to share what you did over the weekend.

That’s not to say the transition will be easy. You may give up the flexibility of setting your own hours for a 9-to-5 schedule. But that means no more burning the midnight oil! And the daily grind may come with benefits like affordable health insurance.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, you need to leap over the hurdles to land that position. An employer may have a bias based on age, but if you craft your résumé wisely, you should be able to secure an interview. For tips, check out my post Getting Hired (or not) Based on Age.

While you could be overqualified in your previous area of expertise, you may need to upgrade or learn new skills to broaden your marketability.  Working by yourself, you may not have needed Outlook or other standard office fare. Check out local colleges and universities or Google “job training” to find resources in your local area to shore up your skill set.

When you were self-employed, you were actually both the boss and the employee, so you know a thing or two about wearing many hats and getting the job done. But be sure to nibble on some humble pie. While you don’t want to be modest about your experience and accomplishments during a job interview, your potential employer will be looking for clues that you won’t go rogue. Practice a response to the inevitable question, “Why do you want to work for someone else again?”  Check out my past article, How to Overcome “Overqualified,” for some interview role-playing assistance.

Keep your spirits up during your job search. To help, here’s a humorous music video, “Self Employment Made Harder By Difficult Boss”:

Readers: Have you successfully gone from entrepreneur to company man (or woman)? What was the most difficult part of the transition? What do you like most about having a traditional job?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Time Theft: Is It Really a Crime?

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

One of my co-workers always shows up to work right at 8:00 a.m. and clocks in. After she makes her mark on the time card, she is out the door to park her car in the lot down the street and then to the cafeteria to get breakfast. By the time she actually starts working, it is at least 30 minutes past. Is it just me or is there something seriously wrong with this picture?

Dear, Time Sensitive:Time

What a great question! This applies to everyone from employees and supervisors to managers and business owners. Your belief that this practice is unethical is spot on. The official term for this type of behavior is “time theft.” Time theft happens when an employee is paid by their employer for work that has not actually been done. Many people may not even know they are doing something wrong but, in reality, they are costing their employers thousands of dollars a year.

There are a few types of time theft that everyone should be aware of. Your employees, co-workers, and even you may be guilty of time crimes.

  • Time Clock Theft: Employees who do not show up for their scheduled shift and have a friend clock in for them are committing time card fraud. This can also include our reader’s co-worker who comes in to work and clocks in but gets to work later than the start of hershift. Most of us are not being paid just to be in the building. We are paid to work and produce results. Forging time sheets to show additional hours worked is another way that unethical employees are trying to cheat the system.
  • Excessive Personal Time: Most managers and employers understand that their employees have lives outside of their jobs that may require attention during work hours from time to time. But when this becomes a routine, that is where the time theft concern arises. Non-work-related calls, emails, personal discussions, and social networking are the primary time wasters that are making employers pay the price.
  • Over-Extended Breaks: Employees are due a break or two during their shift according to federal labor laws. The most common instances of time theft occur when employees either take more breaks than allotted during their shift, do not clock out for breaks that they take, or extend the break time without making up the time.
  • Using Sick Time Inappropriately: Sick time is set aside to help employees in the event that they are ill and cannot be at work. Sometimes, employees will use these days to receive pay when they are taking a personal day off.

For a better understanding of how much these small actions can affect your productivity and profitability, take a look at the following chart from Acroprint. It shows how much arriving even five minutes late and leaving five minutes early can cost employers on a typical, full-time (250-day) work year.

Number of employees

2

5

10

25

50

Hourly Pay

Cost/Minute

Profit Loss

$8.00

$0.1333

$1,333

$3,333

$6,667

$16,667

$33,333

$12.00

$0.20

$2,000

$5,000

$10,000

$25,000

$50,000

$15.00

$0.25

$2,500

$6,250

$12,500

$31,250

$62,500

As you can see, even a small bending of the time rules can cost employers thousands of dollars.

While I applaud you for doing the ethical thing and not committing time theft yourself, I do suggest that you keep your co-worker’s behavior to yourself. Eventually, your supervisor will catch on and the employee will have to face the consequences. It is best to only be concerned with your work ethic and your performance. These issues typically work themselves out in the end.

Readers, do you find time theft occurring in your workplace? What would you do if you noticed your co-workers bending or breaking the rules and committing time crimes?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Declining a Job Offer Professionally

A reader writes…

Good Morning, Anita:

I have great news to report! After searching high and low for job opportunities, I was able to get not one but two job offers. I have taken both into consideration and analyzed the pros and cons of each position. Now that I have made my decision, I need to tell the other employer that I am not going to take their offer. How can I politely decline the position so as not to burn any bridges for the future?

Dear, Job Offer Juggler:

Congratulations on this exciting news! It is always great to hear from readers who have successfully found employment. For all you out there on the hunt for a new job, this is proof that you can and will find something!

Job offerAs for your question, I think that it is very important for your professional reputation to politely decline the other job offer. Just as you do not want potential employers to leave you hanging, you should show them the same courtesy. Who knows, the hiring company may have a future position you are interested in pursuing, and you do not want to sour a positive relationship.

Just as we previously discussed in my post Thank You for the Interview, it is important to be courteous and professional with your communications to the hiring manager. This will most likely be the last chance you have to leave an impression on them, and you want it to be a good one. Below are some rules to follow for declining the offer.

  • Use the appropriate means of communication. If you have been working with the hiring manager through email, you can  respond in that format. In some instances, a formal letter and even a phone call may be more appropriate. Choose  to communicate the news in whichever way  is more relevant to your experience.Job offer2
  • Take the time to plan your message. At this point, the hiring manager has spent a lot of time considering you for the position, and you need to be respectful of this. A well thought out message will show that you greatly appreciate the offer and will leave a more positive impact.
  • Be prompt with your response. Once you have made the decision to decline their offer, you need to let them know. They will have to make other arrangements and contact other candidates when you refuse, so try to make this process as timely as possible.
  • Keep the details to a minimum. The employer does not want to hear about how much better the other offer is. Let them know that you were impressed by their company and that you took all aspects of the offer into serious consideration before making your decision. A great “out” is that the job opportunity was not the best fit for you at this time.
  • Keep it short and sweet. There is no need to carry on about how great the company is and how much you wished it would have worked out. Think of it like ripping off a Band-Aid.

A great site to look at for examples and different ways to craft your letter can be found at Harvard Business Review blogger Jodi Glickman’s post Turning Down a Job Offer. It does a great job of laying it out for you, so take advantage of her advice!

Job seekers and employees, what would you do if you were offered two or more positions?

Managers and business owners, how would you like a possible candidate to break the bad news to you?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Thank You for the Interview

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

I was fortunate enough to land an interview at a manufacturing plant close to where I live. I am very excited about the possible opportunity to gain employment with this company and want to leave them with a lasting impression. What can I do post-interview to continue to spark their interest?

Dear, Eager to Please:

Congratulations on your interview. Getting your foot in the door and meeting face-to-face with the hiring manager is a huge leap toward gaining employment. Now that you have aced the interview, it is time to seal the deal with a little something extra: a great “thank you” note.

Thank you notes are a great way to show how much you value the interviewer’s time and appreciate their interest in you. It also lets them know that you are serious about wanting to be their next stellar employee. In my personal opinion, thank you notes are a requirement after every interview. Follow these simple steps, and take five minutes out of your day to help land the job you desire!Thank you

  • Ask for a business card from the hiring manager before you leave the interview. You should always do this at the end of the interview to make sure you have the correct contact information and address.
  • Select a professional stationery or card on which to write your “thank you” message. Avoid unprofessional imagery or loudly designed cards. Some hiring managers may prefer email communication. In this instance, it may be appropriate to send an email. If you are unsure on which method is best, do both. Send an email and mail a hand-written letter.
  • Address the interviewer using Mr., Mrs., or Ms. For example, if you are interviewed by John Employer you would write Mr. Employer. It is best to be too formal than too familiar.
  • If you are sending a card, address the envelope and write the card by hand. This makes the card more personal and shows that you took extra time to write it just for them (not mass-produced).
  • Choose a message that resonates with the hiring manager and include some information from your interview. Below are two examples that you can use as a guide.
    • Dear, Mr. Employer: Thank you for taking the time to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity with me on (Date). I believe my previous experience and skill set make me an excellent candidate to join your team, especially since you mentioned that (Issue) was a challenge you wanted to tackle. It was truly a pleasure to meet with you, and I look forward to hearing from you. Best regards,
      (Your Name)
    • Dear, Mr. Employer: Thank you for meeting with me to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity at (Company Name). Your insights and additional information about (Job Responsibilities) were very helpful and helped solidify my belief that I am the perfect candidate for the position. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and thank you again for this opportunity. Sincerely,
      (Your Name)
  • Send the thank you card as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours of the interview. You can either send the card in the mail or hand-deliver it to the reception desk where you interviewed.

To bring these tips together, take a few moments to view this video:

This small acknowledgement will take you very far in the interview process. It will help the hiring manager remember you and serve as a reminder to your professionalism.

Readers: What have you done in the past to make an impression on a potential employer?

Best of luck,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Discussing a Job Offer

Hi, Anita:

I was contacted by a recruiter for a position at another company that is very intriguing. The opportunity would be a step up from my current position and offers a higher salary. It may sound like a no-brainer decision, but I really like my situation at my job now and have hopes of being promoted soon. What are your thoughts on discussing this job offer with my current employer? Can there be any benefit to bringing it up?

Discussing Job Offer Negotiate BlocksDear, Headhunted:

Luckily, this is a win-win situation for you. Most employees dream of finding themselves in this circumstance. Who doesn’t like being in demand and scouted for better opportunities? You should be very flattered. So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of your question.

Presenting this situation to your current employer does have its benefits, but only if you are serious about taking this other opportunity. Interest from a competitor or other firm can serve as a little reminder to your superiors of how valuable you are to the company and to the industry. You can use this to your advantage if you are in the position to either stay or make a move. Here are some tips to a situation like this to help boost your salary base and move you up the ladder.

  • Do not discuss the other opportunity with anyone at your current company. If word gets out that you are contemplating another offer and, as rumors do, it spreads like wildfire, things could turn out very bad for you. My advice: keep your thoughts to yourself until you have all the appropriate players in your current position in the know.
  • Think long and hard about what you really hope to achieve through negotiations with your current employer or by Discussing Job Offer Womanswitching to a new company. Are you entertaining this other offer seriously because the base pay is higher? Are there more opportunities for promotion? Do they offer a better benefits package?
  • Remember that hiring a new employee will cost your company money. This could put you at an advantage. The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California at Berkeley reports that the average cost to replace an employee for all categories of workers is about $4,000. The average cost for managerial and professional employees may be as high as $7,000. This doesn’t even factor in the time and energy it takes to train a new employee! Just this alone could help lead you to an increase in salary.
  • Be prepared that the negotiations may not go as planned or your way at all. Your current employer may be unwilling or unable to meet your demands or the competitor offer. Even if they do raise your compensation to keep you, they may feel as if you’ve proven you’ll leave at the next good opportunity and feel resentful toward you. If you are going to bring the other offer to your current employer, you must be confident that the possible new position is a sure thing and that you are okay with making the move. If not, you may find yourself without a job and without a reference.

Be sure to properly analyze and take into account all angles of your situation. This includes your job performance, relationship with your boss, flexibility, and other factors. It isn’t just the salary number that makes people happy at their job.

Readers: Have you ever been in this situation? How did you approach your boss, and what was the outcome?

Making the Right Hire

Hi, Anita:

I have just received notice from one of my employees that he will be resigning from his position in 2 weeks. What tips can you offer that will help me make sure I am making the right hire to fill the opening in our team?

Hi, Hoping to Hire Smart:

Thank you for the question. At one point or another, all managers or supervisors are faced with the challenge of selecting and hiring a new employee. Once you have spent hours sifting through résumés and aInterviewpplications to weed out the definite “no”  candidates, it is time to begin contacting the promising ones to schedule an interview.

The information gathered during the interview provides the strongest insight into whether or not hiring this person is a smart decision. Not only do you need to look at the candidate’s professional experience, but you also need to take into consideration whether or not this person meshes well with your company’s culture and current team dynamics.

One bad hire can throw a wrench into your well-oiled machine, so take note of the following:

  • Understand that making the right hire is not a race. Take the time you need to find a candidate that best suits the position and your company culture. Don’t let pressure or the copout of “I had no other options” be the reason you make a hiring mistake.
  • Utilize behavioral interviewing techniques. Ask questions that require honest, on-the-spot answers, not carefully rehearsed responses.
  • Before the interview, carefully review the candidate’s résumé and be prepared with questions that will provide insight into past, present, and future performance.
  • Test the skills of the candidate. Just because they listed them on their résumé doesn’t mean they can actual do them.Oops Sign
  • Talk to your team to get a feeling of what they want in a new hire.
  • Ask for and check references. Explain the job description the candidate is applying for and how well this person would perform in the role.
  • Be honest with yourself about your selection and interviewing skills. If you are not confident that you can make the perfect hire, contact a professional staffing agency like Select Staffing. They take the worry and hard work out of finding your next employee. With their skill evaluation tools and strict screening process, you can be sure that the bad apples stay away from your basket.

Here is great video from Microsoft Small Business about the importance of hiring the right people.

I hope this information helps you make the best hire for your open position!

Readers, what do you think is the reason why bad hires happen and what do you do to avoid them?

Being Body Language Conscious

Virtually nothing can be heard as loud and clear as body language. Even if you keep your lips sealed, unconsciously you are sending hundreds of messages by the way you present yourself, the way you hold your arms, your posture — the list goes on and on. During a job interview or at a networking event, you may have rehearsed your elevator speech and practiced your answers to those grueling questions, but if you are “saying” the wrong things with your body language, you can do significant damage to your professional image. By reading and putting these suggestions into practice, you can be sure you make, rather than break, a deal.

Confident WomanMy number 1 rule to starting out a good conversation or introduction is with a strong handshake. None of this wet noodle stuff. Your handshake should be firm but not inflict pain to the recipient.  Make sure it is long enough so they know you aren’t running for the door but short enough that a nervous sweat doesn’t develop. (Gross.)

When you are standing, keep your head held high, shoulders back, and back straight. This presents the image of confidence and ease in social situations. Slouching will give off the message of low self-confidence or laziness. The latter two attributes do not work well when looking for a job or instilling a positive first impression.

Same advice goes for when you are sitting. Most likely, you will be sitting during a job interview or client meeting, so focus on nailing these points first. When addressing your interviewer or other person in conversation, keep your shoulders square on the person. You want them to know they have your full attention and you are not intimidated by their questions or approach. Men, keep your legs crossed or in front of you. Women, avoid crossing your legs. Instead keep your knees together and put one ankle behind the other for support.

Nodding in acknowledgement is also encouraged but refrain from becoming a life-sized bobble-head doll. The goal is to project understanding and agreement, not to attempt self-inflicted whiplash. Also, try your best to not to touch your face, play with your hair, focus on your hands, or pick at your fingernails (clean them ahead of time) during the conversation either.

Remember to smile! A pleasant expression on your face will send off messages that you are interested and welcoming of the conversation and discussion. It will relax the person you are talking with as well. But be sure it is a natural smile. Plastering a fake smile on your face can read as if you are just trying to be as tolerant as possible.

Hands are also a straight signal to how a person is feeling at the time. Fidgeting can send signals of uneasiness or aggression. If you are one who talks with your hands, be subtle and only use at appropriate times. When in doubt, put your hands by your sides while standing and folded in your lap while sitting.

As the old saying goes, your eyes are a window to your soul. Maintaining eye contact seems to be the hardest thing for Eye Contactpeople to do during an interview. Some feel uncomfortable just from the thought of it. It is important to keep eye contact with the other person who is speaking. This is a surefire way to show you are confident, attentive, and genuinely interested in what they are saying. All are great qualities you look for in an employee or potential business contact.

If you put these tips into your daily routine, they will become second nature. Practice them with your friends and family to get the hang of it, and once you are ready to put them to the test, try them out in the real world… then come here and tell me how they worked for you!

Forbes posted a great video with Christine Jahnke, author of The Well-Spoken Woman, discussing how to make a lasting impression through body language.

And a quote to round out this week’s post, one which I love to think about when entering a room of strangers or going into a job interview, is one by Henry Ford that says: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you are right.”

Readers, what do you do to boost your confidence and portray the professional individual you are through body language? What have you noticed in what others do that have had a positive or negative effect on how you view them?

As always if you have a question for me, visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Best Wishes,
Anita

Reaching a DREAM

Hello Faithful Readers!

100th blog post!I am so gosh darn excited to announce that with your tremendous help and excellent questions, together we have reached our 100th post on “Job Talk with Anita Clew.” It is hard to believe that in such a short amount of time, with the dedication from my followers and the contributions from readers like you, my initial goal of 100 posts on Job Talk has finally been realized!!

In honor of this momentous occasion, I thought it would be nice to share some of my thoughts on the importance of setting goals that you hope to achieve. Making changes and sticking to them is a difficult task. But in order for you to reach your dreams, you must set a goal and keep your eyes on the prize.

To make your goal a reality, you have to make SMART choices.

You have to start by making a goal that is very SPECIFIC. For me, writing 100 blog posts was what I set out to do after launching “Job Talk with Anita Clew” in November 2010. It was a concrete goal, one that has little variance and can only be achieved one way.

Make your goal one that can be MEASURED, where progress can be gauged accurately within the time frame set to achieve it. Imagine a fundraiser with an empty thermometer showing how much money has been collected during a set period of time. Every time you make progress, you fill in the thermometer. As you get closer to your goal, the more excited you will become to achieve it.

The next key attribute to setting a goal is making sure it is ACHIEVABLE in the near future. Of course, many of us would like to be a billionaire or the first person to land on Mars, but in reality, this is something that most likely will not happen within a reasonable time period. As human beings, we are wired to seek instant gratification, and when we do not get it, we give up easily. Making your goal achievable in the short-term will make it easier to keep up the hard work when times get tough.

Make your goal RELEVANT and REALISTIC to your dreams, passions, career, family, or to whatever gets your gears turning. If you have no personal drive or incentive to complete your goal, it is very unlikely that you will. For instance, try setting a goal to come to the office 15 minutes early this week so you can be collected and ready to start the day fresh. By Friday, once you have reached your fifth day in a row, you will see how excited and more productive you will be for making your goal.

Finally, give yourself a TIME deadline to reach your goal. Deadlines are one of the main reasons why anything gets accomplished in today’s world. When I set my goal, I gave it 2 years, a reasonable time to write 100 blogs posts, at a rate of 1 per week for 104 weeks. Seems pretty doable, right? For example, have you ever set out to lose 10 lbs in the next 2 years? Give yourself too much time, and you may cheat – have an extra brownie or two…or three, and skip your afternoon workout “just this once.” But if you set out to lose 10 lbs in a realistic time period, like 3 months, you will be much more likely to stick on track and be accountable.

Follow these steps and make your goals a reality like I did! Cheers to 100 posts and to our 45,000+ followers. Without your support, none of this will be possible. Next stop on the path to success, 250 posts, and to helping another 45,000 people with their questions!

Best,

Anita

Hiring Process

A reader writes…

I know that staffing agencies offer “temp-to-hire” as an option for adding employees, but they also offer “Direct Placement.”As a hiring manager, is one way more advantageous (or cost effective) than the other?


Dear, “Hiring Manager,”

The beauty of staffing agencies, as you mention, is that they offer businesses a variety of options.  It’s this flexibility that attracts companies all over the country (and world) to the staffing industry.

In my opinion, either option is advantageous and cost effective.  In both scenarios, you are free from having to deal with advertising, resume mining, interviewing, etc.  The steps involved with hiring qualified candidates can be all-consuming and very costly.  You save yourself a bundle (in terms of time, resources, and expense) within the search process alone.

If you choose to go the temp-to-hire route, you will be billed an hourly service rate for the work completed each week (most services pay temps and bill companies on a weekly basis).  While “assigned” at your company, the individual is actually an employee of the agency.  This means the service will handle all of payroll and will cover all fees related to benefits, workers’ comp, taxes, and insurance.  Likewise, in a temp-to-hire situation, you get the opportunity to assess the candidate (while on the job) to see if he or she is, in fact, a good fit for full-time placement. If they don’t work out… no problem, the agency will find a replacement — typically at no extra charge.

There is one downside that you may want to consider regarding the temp-to-hire option.  If you’re looking to attract a stellar candidate (who is already employed, but has the precise skills and experience you need),  they may be hesitant to jump ship from the stability of their current, “permanent,” position and move into a “temp” role – even though the intent is for the job to evolve into something more permanent.  It feels risky and uncomfortable – and may deter certain top performers from even expressing interest.

The “Direct Placement” option, on the other hand, is fairly cut and dry.  You would basically be charged a one-time placement fee (industry standard is about 20%-25% of the candidate’s annual salary).  Oftentimes, this fee comes with a guarantee (which may vary between 30, 45, or even 60 days), whereby you would receive a refund if the person completely flakes out on the job within a set period of time.

As you can see, there are several variables and a lot to consider.  No matter how you look at it though, relying on a service to fill your positions definitely has its advantages!

To the job seekers reading… 
I realize this sounds a bit abrupt, but it’s good for you to know what goes on from the hiring perspective and is all the more reason you should be your best and take long-term placements seriously if you want to land that full-time career.  While working a temp-to-hire position, you’re being reviewed and evaluated.  More and more often, staffing agencies are the gateway to getting in with big firms!

Managers OR Job Seekers – Do you have any “temp-to-hire” or “direct placement” stories you’d like to share?  Post your comments!
Anita

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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