September 14, 2012

career enhancement tactics: work smarter

Welcome back to Zach Buckley who will be sharing some more of his career tips for young professionals today. Thanks Zach for your cool and relevant articles!
Many new-to-the-market job hunters naively assume that all they have to do dazzle recruiters is complete and submit an application. They think that, with these gleaming and well-filled-out applications, the hiring committees will immediately see their appropriateness for the positions. Anyone who has navigated the choppy waters of the job search market for a period of time knows just how wrong this assumption is. In truth, to really stand out you must apply yourself to building skills and honing your appropriateness for the position. In doing so, you can improve your chances of standing out to the hiring committee and increase the likelihood of outshining the competition.

Evaluate Your Expectations

Before you narrow your focus to only one job and target all your efforts toward obtaining a specific position, think critically about what you want to accomplish through the course of your business life. Make sure the career you want is directly aligned with these goals. Once you've decided what you'd like to be doing, delve deeper into what that job entails to ensure a sense of satisfaction once you obtain the position.

Get the Education

Regardless of how ideally suited you feel you may be for the career you've chosen, if you don’t have the education to recommend you for the position, you'll likely struggle to even get a foot in the door. Research the job you want to determine what education is required. Pick up additional certification, or consider working toward a master's degree. By doing this before you start actively seeking employment in the field, you can improve the chances of your application ending up on a hiring manager’s desk–not getting filed away in the trashcan.


Sometimes job prospects have a lot to do with who you know, particularly if you seek employment in a hard-to-crack industry. As you work at networking, make a point of traveling to conferences and business gatherings where industry bigwigs will be in attendance. Dress the part when you go to these conferences to ensure your appearance as a consummate professional worthy of hiring. Follow up on these connections you build, using them to your advantage to improve career prospects.

Work Your Way Up

Particularly if the position you've set your sights on is an exceptionally prestigious one, walking into it off the street may be an entirely unrealistic expectation. Instead of setting yourself up for failure by turning down smaller jobs within the same industry and holding out for a higher-caliber one, be willing to start small and advance. By doing so, you can allow yourself to actively work toward the position you seek instead of cooling your heels and waiting for an opportunity that may well never come.

Obtaining your career goals won't be easy. To improve your chances, you'll need to do much more than simply fill out applications and hope for the best. Play a proactive role in your job search by actively pursuing appropriate tactics for career advancement.


Zach Buckley is a freelance writer based in the Midwest. He enjoys exploring developing trends in education, technology and culture.  When he isn’t reading or writing blogs, he enjoys sampling good music and good food. Follow him on Twitter! @Zach_buckley

September 12, 2012

5 key characteristics of successful professionals

Please join me in welcoming guest writer Karen Smith today. Because we all wannabe successful businessmen and -women throughout our careers, I'm sure you'll enjoy her article. Who wants to learn these 5 characteristics with me??

There are a host of wildly successful people in this world. Even though no two individuals are designed exactly the same, many of the most successful business minds share a handful of personality traits. In the modern business world, in fact, there are a number of required characteristics it takes to become successful, accomplished businessmen and businesswomen. For years, I've seen many people attempt to move up the ranks in business only to fail because they haven't cultivated the traits it takes to climb up the ladder. For those of you who are trying to succeed and grow in business, here are five key characteristics you should try to nurture and embrace in your career.

1. Start the day early
Waking up early in the day increases your production tremendously. The most successful businessmen and women rise early not only to get work done and arrive at the office early, but also to check off an agenda list of items, such as exercising, eating breakfast, writing out to-do lists, reading the newspaper, etc. By getting these menial tasks out of the way, individuals are better able to focus their attention on the work day ahead of them. If you're at work and thinking about getting to the gym, picking up the dry cleaning, or reading the news online, you're not going to be able to devote your full attention to the work that needs to be done in the moment.

2. Do things now, not later
A little procrastination from time to time never hurt anyone. Yet when it becomes a common, habitual behavior, procrastination can ruin your ability to produce consistent, stellar work. For the sake of producing the best work possible, go ahead and get your work done now and not later. In the moment, it may seem tempting to push something a day back, but doing so will inevitably come back to haunt you and your productivity. Not only are you delaying other projects, you'll be more likely to rush your work, which leaves room for low-quality, sloppy work. Therefore, if an agenda item needs to get done, go ahead and do it right away.

3. Avoid distractions
Distractions present themselves in various forms throughout the work day. Early in the morning, you may have a desire to read the news online as opposed to responding to work emails. Later in the day, your colleague may want to pull you aside to chat about the latest office gossip. The most successful businessmen and women avoid distractions at all costs. Distractions are something we all must face, and even though they are hard to avoid, the only way to reach your highest productivity potential is to do away with any distractions. A fifteen-minute break to grab a cup of coffee or go for a walk outside can't hurt, but if it gets in the way of your productivity or daily goals, your work is inevitably going to be affected.

4. Make friends with colleagues
Team players are some of the most respected individuals in the office. Let's face it: everybody can appreciate someone who works hard and plays well with others. I've seen one too many people try to pit themselves against fellow employees for promotions and raises, only to find that they are doing more harm than good to their office reputation. If you want to be respected by your bosses and colleagues, make an effort to get to know each of them on a personal, friendly basis. You don't have to invite them over to your home for family affairs, just try to get to know a little more about each and every one of them, such as their personal hobbies, favorite sports teams, the names of their intermediate family members, etc.

5. Have a vision
If all you can stomach about your job is putting in the bare minimum amount of work required, it's not likely you'll climb your way up the career ladder. In order to be successful, you have to love the work you're doing in your career. Alas, it's not always easy to love your work, especially when there is so much pressure and expectation encompassed in it. Yet as long as you have a passion for the work you're doing, you should be able to find some fulfillment and pride in your career. If you haven't done so already, go ahead and think about where you see your career five to ten years down the road and cultivate an ambitious vision. If you want to get that big promotion, start planning out what you'll have to do to achieve it. As long as you have a strong vision, you should be on your way to a number of successes.

No two successful people are the same, but many of them share a number of key traits and personal habits. If you wish to become a successful businessman or businesswoman, try adapting these five habits into your endeavors.

Karen Smith, a former newspaper reporter and globe trotter, now freelances for various publications and websites. She hopes to bring her readers the latest in business education at, as well as up-to-date, informed advice on everything from careers to parenting to health and more. Karen welcomes your comments below!

September 10, 2012

preparing for a pre-employment background check

Today's post is written by guest writer Jane Smith (I wonder if she is related to Mr and Mrs Smith ☺). Many employers do background checks before offering a job to their favorite candidate, it may be a good idea to anticipate them and ensure that there isn't any dirt your potential employer will uncover in the process! Let's hear what Jane has to say about it all:
There are numerous aspects of the job search that invite worry and stress for a candidate. From writing up an embarrassingly shining review of yourself in cover letters to selling yourself unabashedly in interviews, there are plenty of things to stress over during your search.
Unemployment is a stressful time as it is, not to mention the increasing difficulty job-seekers are facing in today's economy. With so many things to worry about as it is, concern over background screenings shouldn't add to the equation. Pre-employment background screenings are typically used by employers in the final stages of their employment process. While the actual nature of the screening and check varies from one employer to the next, most include criminal background checks, a credit check, resume verification, and at times drug testing.
Failing a pre-employment background check can be extremely costly for a job candidate, potentially costing you the job. The best way to prepare for a pre-employment background screening is to educate yourself on the process and follow these few steps beforehand.
Double Check Your Resume
The first step to ensuring a successful background check from a potential employer is to check all the information carefully on your resume. You want to make sure that everything on your resume is absolutely accurate. Firstly, make sure your employment and education information is up-to-date. Double check dates, test scores, and grade point averages. It can be easy to accidentally put the wrong numbers or dates on your resume. While this may be an honest mistake, some employers may see it as you trying to lie about graduation dates or grades. Be sure to make sure all of your job reference information is updated and accurate. This allows your potential employer to easily get a hold of your references. Be up-front about things. Don't try to stretch dates or test scores to try to look better. Show yourself honestly on your resume.
Obtain a Credit Report
Obtaining a credit report for yourself is a fairly easy process. It's usually wise to obtain a credit report before going through the job process. Be sure to go to the official websites of all three of the major credit bureaus. It's pretty easy to find websites that will allow you to access a credit report online fairly easily. Look through your credit reports and search for any inaccurate items. Try to find anything that looks inaccurate before you go through the job search and employment process, so that you can have things taken care of before a pre-employment background check. Disputing any incorrect entries on your credit report is annoying, but is entirely doable. Include your reason for the dispute and any supporting proof you have concerning the matter.
Check Your Criminal and Auto Record
While this may seem scary and unnecessary at times, it's better to be aware of what employers might find rather than being caught off guard. Go to your local police station and ask for the procedures on obtaining a criminal history check. You can follow the instruction they give you (they may vary from city to city) and review the report. Take note of any items that you want to dispute, such as charges that were dropped, and ask an officer for the dispute methods. It's also smart to review your motor vehicle record is complete and accurate. Ask for a copy of your driving record from your state Department of Motor Vehicles. This item of a background check may not come up for every employment opportunity, but is something some employers look too. If you are seeking a job that involves driving of any sort, this is definitely an item employers will look in to.
Jane Smith is a freelance blogger and writer for She specializes in various types of information screenings, such as pre-employment background checks, criminal records, and much more. Email her your questions and comments at