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5 Killer Ways to Kickstart Your Career

5 Killer Ways to Kickstart Your Career

Building a career isn’t easy, especially for graduates. It’s particularly difficult if you find yourself competing against people with better qualifications than you.

The bright side? Experience and skills carry a lot of weight when it comes to applications. It’s not all about pieces of paper. If you can show a recruiter that you developed your skills through hard work and initiative, you’re not just demonstrating technical talents—you’re highlighting positive character traits.

What are some of the great ways to boost your career prospects and gain a job-hunting edge? Here are five career-building tips to help you kickstart your career.

1. Do an internship or get work experience.

Unpaid internships are controversial, but work experience can be incredibly useful when trying to crack into any industry. Why is that? For a start, it works: this YouGov employment survey of HR professionals revealed that 85% of employers felt relevant work experience was more important that non-vocational degrees.

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Why does it work? In a lot of industries, many candidates may not have studied the areas academically, so experience counts for a lot. Working for free (or for super low wages) also shows a lot of character; if you’re willing to log hundreds hours in return for little more than the chance to learn, it shows a lot of determination and dedication.

Work experience or internships aren’t possible for everyone, but if it’s an option for you, it could give you an edge over other candidates.

2. Sing up for a volunteering placement.

Employers love candidates with volunteering work on their resume. In the same YouGov survey referenced earlier, almost half of HR professionals said they would be more likely to employ an applicant with constructive volunteering experience, and 63% revealed that volunteering makes an application stand out.

Why does this make sense? Because signing-up for a volunteering placement abroad with an ethical, independent organisation like Original Volunteers allows you to develop desirable skills and experience that employers crave. Stepping out of your comfort zone and into a challenging environment means you need to learn to be independent, organised and self-reliant. It builds your confidence, forces you to work on your communication abilities and rewards initiative.

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These skills, often earned through challenging experiences, can put you streets ahead of other job applicants fresh out of university with no “real world” experience.

3. Build a brilliant online portfolio.

If you want to work in any industry that depends on impressions, personality and communication, you need to be effective at promoting your achievements. An old-school printed portfolio is useful, but only for face-to-face interviews. An awesome resume and LinkedIn profile is important, but it might not be enough.

So what’s the answer?

Create your own online portfolio to promote yourself, and demonstrate what you can do. Publish links and references to your best work, and point prospective employers in the direction of where they can find your stellar stuff around the web. Turn yourself into a brand.

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Why does this work? Because the easiest way to become a fan of a band is to work through their greatest hits, so make it simple for recruiters: present them with an accessible “best of” version of yourself online.

4. Network with the right people.

Networking used to be all about face-to-face meetings, robust handshakes and physically moving in the right circles. But thanks to social media, on sites like LinkedIn, you can now research, discover and network with the right people without leaving your bedroom. Yep, from the comfort of your own home you can kickstart your career by finding recruiters and their companies—and making sure you show up on their radar.

What does this entail practically? Following them on social channels, engaging with the posts and content they share, and generally coming across as a switched-on, digitally savvy industry hopeful. So that might mean retweeting and favouriting on Twitter, commenting on LinkedIn and plus-one-ing on Google+ (yes, you should be using it).

The “who-you-know” arena of professional networking can be a dense and frustratingly behind-closed-doors world. But with online social networks, you have a chance to “infiltrate” these worlds and get involved in the conversation.

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5. Have something to say.

All the research, clever networking and smart profile creating won’t count for much if you’ve got nothing to say for yourself. To take your career kickstarting to the next level, you need some views. Some opinions. What are the trends in the industry you want to break into? What are the big changes coming in future?

You don’t need to pretend to be a thought leader with 20 years of experience, but you need to have something interesting to say. Parroting the leading voices you follow on Twitter isn’t going to cut it. When it comes to applications and interviews, recruiters are looking for candidates who have a mind of their own and stand out.

A word of warning: you don’t want to be too controversial. Interesting is good. Original is better. Edgy can work, too. But beware the danger of trying so hard to impress a recruiter that you come across as unprofessional. In fact, there are lots of things you should keep quiet about in interviews.

Featured photo credit: Nana B Agyei via flickr.com

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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