Owl_R Owl_L RACHEL ABRAMSON & ASSOCIATES
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Psychologists, Career Counsellors, Hypnotherapists and Relationship Counsellors



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Bullet Proof Your Career

This page has been set up as a blog with new material being added each Monday. You will see tips and suggestions on how to bullet proof your career. Feel free to bookmark this page so that you can return to it on a regular basis. For more information on bullet proofing your career, you can email Dr. Abramson requesting your own complimentary subscription to Career Quarters. And for now, you can use the List of Bullet-Proof Your Career Blog Topics to directly navigate to the topics you want to learn about:

Bullet-Proof Your Career Blog Topics

What is Your Career Passion?

Recognising Your True Calling

We spend the best part of our waking day in the workforce. It makes sense that we work in a field that we truly enjoy. It also makes sense that we find a job within that field that we find professionally fulfilling, and where our colleagues are a pleasure to work with.

So, on a scale of 1 awful to 10 amazing, how would you rate your current field, occupation or profession? On the same scale, how would you rate your current job?

Ideally, you want to be answering both questions with a 9 or 10. So, if you could answer both questions with a 9 or a 10, that is awesome. However, if your answer to either of these questions was between 6 and 8, you may like to reflect on how you could tweak your chosen field or job so that you can progressively move into something more fulfilling. You may think that working for someone else in an established field gives you little control. Yet, you may have more control over the way you work than you currently realise. Moreover, it can sometimes be the case that tweaking minor details is enough to turn an ordinary field (or job) into something amazing.

If you rated both your field and job as less than 6, it may be time to revisit your career. In this case, it can be useful to reflect on your personal and professional interests. You might be interested to know that interests often align with your skills and abilities. So whatever they are, give yourself the permission to pursue them.

If you rated your current job as less than 6 but rated your field higher, it is possible that you are in the wrong role for you. If so, it is time to dust off your resume, update your C.V. and start searching for a more fulfilling role.

At the end of the day, we are all entitled to work in a field that we enjoy and in a role that we find professionally stimulating. So, if you are not there already, give yourself permission seek out that 10 job within your 10 chosen field.

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Career Health Check

Finding your passion is only the beginning. It is important to take stock of your career on a regular basis. Ideally, you can take stock of your career every three to five years. However, if the field you work in, or even your job itself is changing rapidly, you will want to take stock more frequently, with the frequency in which you take stock depending on the rate of change in your job or chosen field.

Here are some questions to help you take stock of your career:

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What to Put in Your Resume

As a career counsellor, I am often asked to provide feedback on C.V.s and resumes. I often see material in resumes that do not serve the job-seeker very well. In some instance, job-seekers may include irrelevant, but harmless, information about their ability to do the job, (e.g., career objectives). In other instances, that information is not only irrelevant to the position being sought, but may also detract prospective employers from the job-seeker's capabilities and abilities to do the job, (e.g., age, gender, date of birth, religion, marital status and the like). So, what should you put in your resume?

It is often helpful to provide your name (in full) along with your contact details on the front page of your resume. You can repeat this information on the bottom of each page of your resume (as a footer). In so doing, you enhance the professionalism of your resume while making it easier for a prospective employer to contact you.

The balance of the first page of your resume can provide a list of four to six major competencies or capabilities. The competencies will reflect your own strengths and capabilities in relation to the position you are applying for. Your competency statement will be more powerful to the extent that you provide three concrete examples demonstrating your ownership of those four to six competencies.

The body of your resume will reflect your work history. You can provide your work history in chronological or reverse-chronological order. Here, you can describe who you worked for, what you did, as well as the bottom-lined results you generated for your respective employers.

Your resume can also include qualifications, further self-education activities and awards. It is up to you whether you place this information after your competency statement or after your work history.

Finally, you can close your resume with the names and contact details of three referees. Be sure to advise each referee of each job you are applying for as well as why the role interests you.

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Getting the Job or Promotion

Getting that First Job

If it is time to find a new job, or go for a promotion within your own company, it is also time to take stock of your career, revise your C.V., refine your interview techniques and then get that job.

Take Stock of Your Career: We often find that we have developed additional skills and abilities that have not yet been acknowledged in the C.V. It is therefore worth your while reviewing the knowledge, skills and abilities you developed over the years, irrespective of whether those skills have come from your place of work, committee or community work or recreational activities.

Revise Your C.V.: Once you have reviewed your knowledge, skills and abilities, you can consider whether to add, update or drop some of the competency headings on the front page of your C.V. You may also like to consider which three examples you might use to show evidence of each competency. The competencies you choose, along with the examples of same, should be chosen on the basis that they best showcase who you are and what you can do professionally in areas most-valued by employers. You may also like to consider what additional experience you can fold into the chronological section of your work history. Finally, you may like to add any certifications, awards and any other accomplishments not yet noted in your C.V.

What to do When You Get to the Interview

Refine Your Interview techniques: It is always worth while reviewing how you approach job interviews. In this way, your interview skills can grow with your professional on-the-job skills.

You may find it helpful to prepare a presentation folder with work samples that showcase who you are and what you can do professionally. Those work samples may have been referred to in your job application, but not necessarily. You may find it helpful to order the contents within the folder in a memorable sequence for you (chronology, or the sequence in which referred to in your job application).

You may also find it helpful to rehearse the interview with the help of a trusted friend, family member or career counsellor (such as myself). It is very useful to have the interview practice so as to hone your self-presentation overall, and in answer to specific kinds of interview questions. If you find you get thrown by unexpected questions, you will find it helpful to rehearse answering unanticipated questions. By the time you get to the interview, you can comfortably and confidently answer whatever is asked of you at the interview. It might even begin to feel as if it was a friendly collegial chat.

Prior to the day of an interview, you will also want to prepare a suitable outfit, checking that shoes are polished and the rest of the outfit is in good condition and sits comfortably on you.

Get that Job! And, for the rest, you can smile, take a deep breathe and be the best you you can be in the interview. Remember to think about what you can do for the prospective employer while you are having that nice collegial chat.

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How to Ask for a Promotion

You may feel that you ought to be promoted but how do you convince your employer to give you that promotion? Do you just go in there and straight out ask for the promotion? Do you drop hints? Do you find another job and then come back to your employer with an ultimatum (promotion with payrise or I go). What if it backfires?

There is a way of applying for a promotion, without the prospect of your request backfiring on you. This blog discusses how to increase your chances of getting that promotion, while having your employers thank you for asking.

Step 1. Document the Evidence: When you work on the job, you have first-hand experience of what you are contributing to the organisation. Your employer, however, is that one-step removed from access to that same first-hand experience. It is therefore up to you to provide the concrete evidence of just how much you are accomplishing in your role. So, keep an evidence file that showcases your workplace accomplishments. If you have saved the company a significant sum of money or increased its profitability, find a way of documenting those successes. If you have received an email from a customer, colleague or supervisor, that thanks you for going the extra mile, include that email in your evidence file.

Step 2. Research What is Involved at the Higher Levels of Employment: Consider the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) required of those who are working at the higher levels of employment, focusing on the level to which you seek to be promoted. Consider the kinds of duties performed at those higher levels as well as the crucial KSAs that enable those higher duties to be performed.

Step 3. Do a Gap Analysis: From there, you are in a position to identify the KSAs that you already possess that will help you perform the higher duties. You will also be able to identify whether there are any key KSAs that you have yet to develop, not only at the level to which you would like to be promoted, but also at the one or two levels above it.

For the KSAs you already possess, you can look through your evidence file for examples that demonstrate your possession of these KSAs.

Consider ways of developing missing KSAs (at the level to which you wish to be promoted, and the one or two levels higher). You may, for instance, consider volunteering to be part of a special project where you can develop those missing KSAs. You can also explore mentoring and training opportunities that will enable you to develop those missing KSAs. You may come up with other ways of developing any missing KSAs you might have.

Step 4. Arrange Your Meeting: Once you have all this information to hand, you are in a position to arrange a meeting with your employer.

Depending on the nature of employment meetings, you may choose to let your employer know that you are keen to be promoted to the next level when you arrange the meeting. Alternatively, you can let your employer know your keenness to move up the ranks when you arrive at your meeting.

Be sure to bring the relevant items from your evidence file demonstrating the possession of the KSAs you have already developed. You can also bring your plans to develop the remaining KSAs and be prepared to discuss your plans with your employer.

With a plan that not only considers the immediate promotion you seek, but also considers the one or two levels higher, your employer is likely to be impressed with your initiative. Your employer is likely to advise you on how best to tweak your plan for efficiency and effectiveness. Ultimately, your employer is more likely to offer you the promotion immediately, and if not immediately, upon seeing sufficient signs of progress as you move through your plan. Your employer may even thank you for asking.

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Answering Challenging Interview Questions

Commonly Asked Interview Questions

Job interviews can be stressful, and even more so if you are asked challenging questions. Over the next few blogs, I will discuss how best to address some of the most challenging questions you could be asked at the job interview. So, watch this space if there are any interview questions you find challenging. You can also send me an email if you would like me to address any particular interview question next.

Challenging Q1: Ever Worked For a Difficult Boss? One of the most challenging questions an interviewer might ask is whether you had to work for a boss you did not get along with. Just by thinking about the boss from hell, may be enough to trigger all those negative, raw emotions you once felt about that boss. Yet, if you answer the question from the space of those emotions, you may not be able to put your best foot forward at the interview. So, here are some strategies to help you handle this particular interview question.

Prepare in Advance: Challenging interview questions benefit from a lot of prior reflection. This particular question is no exception. So, you would be well-advised to reflect on all the previous roles you have undertaken, including those undertaken outside the field you currently seek work in. Consider also extra curricular activities, voluntary work, community work and professional studies. You can even consider part-time/casual roles you have undertaken while at school or university.

Take note of any difficult bosses you might have been working for in each role. Difficult bosses may have been the ones to initially hire you, or they may have been appointed to supervise your work at a later stage of your employment. Either way, for each difficult boss you identify, consider what it was that made them so difficult. You may find that the boss was difficult because of something that they did or failed to do. Similarly, you may find that the boss was difficult because of something you did or failed to do. The difficulties between yourself and your boss may be justified or uncalled for. The difficulties may reflect underlying discrimination (race, religion, gender, sexual preferences, political preferences or etc.) and it may reflect a difference in work ethics, integrity or values. It is up to you, with the benefit of your current wisdom, to reflect back on that experience and determine what was underlying that difficulty you experienced.

Once you feel you understand the basis for the difficulty, you can move on to how you handled that difficult working relationship. If, with the benefit of hindsight, you realize that you could have handled that working relationship better, you may like to reflect on what you would do differently if you were to find yourself working in a similar situation in future.

Rehearse the Interview: Once you have prepared a suitable answer to this question, it is time to rehearse the interview, including your answer to this particular question. By rehearsing your interview with a trusted friend, family member or career counselor (such as myself), you can flesh out your response to this question in a safe setting. The more skilled they are at coaching you on job interviews, the more prepared you will be on the day of your interview.

Speak to the Question: When asked this question at the interview, you will need to be candid about what took place to make the boss from hell so difficult to work for. You may like to give a bit of background to the role you were performing at the time, the typical difficulties you faced with this boss, along with how you handled the difficulties at the time.

If you conducted yourself admirably at the time, you can feel comfortable stopping there. If you conducted yourself poorly, you need to share what you would do differently if you were back in that role today.

If there were several bosses that you found difficult to work for, you may like to discuss the trend you now recognize, lessons learnt and how you might handle such difficulties if you were to find yourself in a similar situation in future.

At the end of the day, you can answer that challenging question with professionalism and reflective insight. And, in so doing, put your best foot forward at the job interview.

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Challenging Q2: Your Greatest Strength

This question may be asked to elicit your one greatest strength or your three greatest strengths. Either way, this question can prove quite the challenge for job seekers. How do you know what to share so that you do not sound as if you are just being boastful?

Like all challenging interview questions, this one is best reflected upon in advance of the interview. You can then select the strength you most want to highlight, find examples and evidence to support your statement, rehearse answering this (along with other potential interview questions) and you are ready-to-go.

Identifying Your Top Strength(s): You may find it helpful to brainstorm what you know to be your greatest strengths. If you find yourself drawing a blank, ask friends, family and co-workers what they most admire about you. You may also like to consider what that others most come to you for help on. Depending on what you come up with, you may like to explore underlying themes. You may also like to consider what each of the identified qualities will enable you to do, be or have; as well as what those same qualities will enable a future employer to do, be or have. From there, you may like to highlight the top one to three qualities you most want to highlight in a job interview.

Identifying Relevant Examples and Evidence: Once you have selected your top one to three strengths, you are then in a position to find the relevant examples and evidence that can support your belief. It does not matter whether the examples come from your personal or professional life. It does not matter whether those examples come from paid, voluntary or community work. They just need to showcase your strengths and reflect examples that you are willing to talk about in an interview setting.

If you have any awards, certifications or testimonials attesting to your strengths, these are useful to bring with you so that you can share them in the interview.

Rehearse: I can't say this enough. It is important to rehearse the interview with a trusted friend, colleague or career counsellor. By rehearsing the interview, you can practice how you might respond to each interview question, including this challenging one. Your own response will tell you how well you are able to answer the question. However, you will often get additional feedback from your friend, colleague or career counsellor that can help you hone your answers for the day of the interview.

Goferit! Nothing more needs to be said.

At the end of the day, you can answer this particularly challenging question with professionalism and confidence. And, you can do so in a way that puts your best foot forward, bringing you that one step closer to getting that highly covetted job.

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Challenging Q3: Your Greatest Weakness

This question may be asked in conjunction with challenging question 2 or it might be asked separately. It may also be couched in the form of eliciting your three greatest weaknesses, rather than your single most-pronounced weakness.

The interviewer is not really asking you to sabotage your interview presentation. Instead, the interviewer is more interested in your degree of self-knowledge, as well as how you address your own limitations.

As with the previous question, this question is best answered by prior self-reflection. You might begin by brainstorming what you know to be your own weaknesses. You can include major and minor weaknesses, as well as those you previously overcame or are currently working on. From there, you might ask those closest to you (family, friends, colleagues) what frustrates them about you or what they might prefer you said/did differently.

Once you have identified your list of weaknesses, you can sort through them for themes and commonalities. You can then sort them from least-pronounced to most-pronounced weaknesses. You can also highlight the top three you would be comfortable talking about in a job interview.

You can then map out key points you would like to make in answer to this interview question. Your answer will want to cover three main elements: Firstly, you will want to name the top three greatest weaknesses. (You can simply answer with any one of them if you are only asked to speak to one weakness in the interview). Secondly, you will want to highlight the conditions in which these weaknesses emerge. Finally, you will want to discuss what you are doing to redress them. If one of those weaknesses has just become apparent (perhaps a family member, friend or colleague has just highlighted it to you), you might begin by letting the interviewer know that this weakness has just come to light. You can then discuss your plans on how you will redress this weakness as well as how long you think it might take to redress it.

As with the previous question, you would be well-advised to rehearse your answer to this question with a trusted family member, friend, colleague or career counsellor such as myself. Doing so will give you invaluable feedback on how you come across as well as provide the opportunity to hone your answers in a way that enables you to put your best foot forward at the interview.

At the end of the job interview, you can go home feeling confident that you have put your best foot forward. Indeed, the interviewer may respect your honest and open insights. Moreover, the interviewer may be keen to welcome you to the workplace on the strength of your answer to this one question.

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Challenging Question 4: Why Should I Hire You?

This interview question may be asked in the form of what do you bring to the table? or what do you bring to the job?. Whatever form the question takes, there are three preparatory steps you need to take before you can formally answer the question. Much of the preparatory work can be undertaken before you even submit your application for the position.

Step 1. Know thy self: It is important that you know your own capabilities; those that will be listed on your C.V. and personal qualities that may not be listed.

Step 2. Know thy company: It is equally important to do your research on the company, advertising the position you are interested in. Your research may include a visit to their premises as a potential customer. It may also include a visit to their website as well as a google search on the industry in which the company operates. By the end of your research, you want to understand the business itself, as well as its problems and likely opportunities.

Step 3. Know thy contribution: With your self-knowledge and company research to hand, you are in a position to prepare an answer to this question. You can reflect on the problems and opportunities the company face and for which you have the skills to address. If you have identified an abundance of problems and/or opportunities, you may like to focus on the top three you would find professionally stimulating to address. After all, if you are going to define how you perform in the job, you might as well make it something that you would absolutely enjoy doing.

Once you have prepared your answers, you will be well-advised to rehearse how you would answer this question, as well as tailoring your answer to a range of ways the question could be couched on the day. As mentioned on the previous questions, rehearsing the interview with a trusted friend, family member, colleague or career counsellor (such as myself) will help you hone your answers so that you know you are putting your best foot forward on the day of the interview.

And on the day of the interview, feel free to bring whatever you need to (including any bullet points you might have made in answer to this question) in order to feel confidently prepared on the day.

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Challenging Q5: Why are You Leaving Your Current Job?

This challenging interview question is often met with dread and trepidation, especially if the job-seeker left their previous place of employment because of harassment, discrimination or toxity in the workplace. Whether or not you left your previous place of work on good or bad terms, this blog provides two tips on how you can best answer this interview question. As with the previous blogs on challenging questions at the job interview, you would be well advised to rehearse your answer with a trusted friend, family member, colleague or career counsellor.

Tip 1. Leave the negative emotion at home: You need to work through any negative emotion you may be feeling towards your previous place of work. If you do not, you may find yourself speaking disparagingly of one or more people at your previous workplace. While an interviewer may sound sympathetic in the interview itself, speaking disparagingly of others will not enhance your job prospects. The interviewer may be quietly wondering what you might say about them once it comes time for you to leave their workplace.

Tip 2. Look for the opportunity you are seeking: It may be more helpful to speak to the opportunity that the job might provide you; whether that opportunity may reflect qualitatively different work or work at a higher level to the role you are leaving.

At the end of the day, you do not have to dread this question. Just remember to take out the emotion of leaving your previous employer and focus on the positive opportunity that this potential job might offer you.

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Challenging Q6: What Do You Know About Us?

What do you know about us? is often met with blank stares, a quick/partial shake of the head or a few mumbled words. Naturally, the interviewer will fill you in on the gaps in your knowledge of the company itself. However, would it not be nice to be able to use this question to showcase who you are and what you can do for the company? This article provides four steps to do just that.

Step 1. Prepare: The best thing you can do to answer this question occurs long before you get to the interview. You need to prepare your answer.

Step 2. Company Itself: You can begin your preparation by finding out about the company itself. Find out what the company does by visiting its website and/or visiting its store. You can also google the company by name to see what its online presence is like. You can also google on key terms for its industry/sector to see how well it ranks on google. You can interact with the company via the web or through its store to see what it is like to interact with as a potential customer. Consider what the company does well as well as what it does poorly. You can also consider whether there are any problems the company needs to address or opportunities it could tap into. Finally, you may like to consider how well the company's business activities fit with your own values and beliefs. Everything you do to learn more about the company will generate interesting observations and insights you could choose to share in answering this question on the big day.

Step 3. The Industry: It is also useful to research the industry or sector to which the company belongs. As part of this research, you are looking to identify whether there are any industry/sector-wide problems or opportunities to address.

Step 4. What Can You Do: If you do identify problems and opportunities at the company and/or industry/sector level, you can consider how your set of knowledge, skills and abilities will enable the company to overcome those problems or tap into those opportunities. Otherwise, you can speak to your observations about the company, its product range and the degree of fit between the company operations and your own values and beliefs.

You now have the foundation for a well-thought out answer. As with the previous questions, you may want to rehearse your reply to this question with a trusted friend, family member, colleague or career counsellor such as myself.

Then you can attend the interview with the confidence that you absolutely know you are putting your best foot forward. And, the more preparation you have done beforehand, the more you will shine on the day.

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Challenging Question 7: What Would You Do If X Happened?

What would you do if X happened is a kind of behavioural interview question. When interviewers ask you a question of this ilk, they are looking to see if you have a reasonable answer or a reasonable solution to the scenario raised [i.e., the X]. The interviewers are not necessarily looking for the 'best' possible answer from amongst each of the candidates for the job.

The best way to prepare for this kind of interview question is to begin by reflecting on the kinds of problems and scenarios likely to occur in the role you are applying for. You can then consider a range of options that might help address those specific problems and scenarios. You might also consider if any of the options you identified are superior or inferior to the others, and if so, on what grounds.

As with the previous interview questions, you would be well-advised to rehearse your answers with a trusted friend, family member, colleague or career counsellor (such as myself). Doing so will give you the much-needed feedback on how you are coming across as well as whether there is anything else you might need to consider.

At the end of the day, the more thinking you do before the day of the interview, the more reasoned your answers are likely to be on the day of that interview.

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Challenging Question 8: What Are Your Salary Expectations?

This question is a challenge for many job-seekers. How do you know what salary to ask for? Many job-seekers regard the salary earned as less-important than the duties to be performed. However, if you are appointed to the position, you do not want to later discover you could have asked for a significantly higher salary than what you are currently receiving. So, how do you best approach this interview question? This blog provides a two-part strategy to help you do just that.

Part 1. Know your worth: As part of your preparation for the job interview, you want to take stock of who you are and what you bring to the table. You want to recognise your composite of knowledge, skills and abilities that you can apply in service of the position you are applying for. Consider the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that are uniquely YOU, as well as those that you might share with other candidates for the position. Some KSAs might come from your formal studies. Others might come from on-the-job experience and others might come from hobbies, interests, project, committee and community work.

Part 2. Know what it pays: The balance of your preparation for the job interview involves researching the salary range for the type of job you are applying for. Some fields are highly structured. Others, less so. You may have to think divergently to identify the salary range that applies to you. The more structured the information available, the more likely you will obtain a nuanced view of salary; one that is based on differing levels of KSAs. The less structured the information available, the more you may have to draw upon the willingness of your colleagues to share how much they earn in their respective roles.

To the extent that you can identify what is a fair price for the kind of KSAs you bring to the table, you can walk into the interview knowing your worth and what you might fairly be expected to receive in return for your KSAs.

And for the rest, be sure to discuss your KSAs before any attention is drawn to the subject of salaries. You can then speak from a place of confidence: Confidence in your own contributions and what you are worth to the prospective employer.

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Challenging Question 9: Any questions?

Have you ever shook your head no upon being asked any questions? at the job interview? Perhaps your mind has gone blank and you do not know what to ask. Perhaps you asked questions throughout the interview and cannot think of anything else to ask. So, how does one best answer this interview question? This blog discusses two different approaches you can take when asked this question.

The first approach involves preparing a list of questions in advance. These questions may come from a range of sources, including your own research and preparation for the interview, your values and beliefs as well as practicalities associated with the commencement of a new role. Feel free to bring that list with you so that you can glance at it as needed. Be sure to ask your questions throughout the interview, holding back one or two questions so that you have something to ask at the end of the interview.

The second approach involves summmarising your understanding of the company and the job itself. You can then discuss an opportunity you recognise the company could tap into or a problem you recognise that the company may need to overcome. You could then seek clarification from the interviewer as to whether what you recognise is indeed the case. If the interviewer answer in the affirmative, you could speak to how you could help the company tap into that opportunity or overcome that problem. You could then conclude with a willingness to apply your knowledge and skills to helping the company tap into the opportunity or overcome that problem.

If the interviewer answers in the negative, you could ask what problems and opportunities the interviewer sees ahead for the company and where your skillset might be best applied on same. You could then conclude by affirming your ongoing interest in the position as well as a willingness to apply your skills to the problems and opportunities the interviewer recognised.

At the end of the day, you can handle this question with finesse. And, who knows, the questions you raise may place you in a class of your own - one that places you in a better position to get that job.

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How to Say Thank You After the Interview

Standing Out

It can be nice to thank an interviewer for their time after the job interview has ended. However, it can be a real challenge to work out what to include (or exclude) from the note so that you come across professionally. It can also be a challenge to work out the degree of formality to use in the note itself, as well as how soon you should send the note after the interview has ended. This blog provides three tips on how best to convey your thanks following the interview.

Tip 1. Timing is Everything: The ideal time to thank an interviewer is within seven days of the interview. In so doing, the interview you had will still be fresh in the minds of the interviewer. Moreover, your thank you note may arrive while the interviewer is in the process of deciding upon whom to hire for the job.

Tip 2. Keep it Professional: You will want to keep your note as professional as possible. This means that how you communicate your message is just as important as its content. So, if you are posting a hand-written note, be sure to keep your handwriting neat, tidy and free from any smudges. If you are typing your note, consider font style, font size, layout of your message and quality of the paper your note is printed on. Emailed notes simply need to consider font style, font size and layout.

In conveying your message itself, you will want to consider your choice of language. Keep your word choice professional, but at the same time, let your personality shine through. You can let the degree of formality in your note match the degree of formality you experienced in the job interview itself.

Tip 3. Cover Three Points: Your note should make three points: Firstly, you can begin by thanking the interviewer for the opportunity to discuss the role. Secondly, you can affirm why the role interests you and how you will be able to use your skills for the employer's benefit. Finally, you can conclude by confirming your ongoing interest in the role. In relation to the final point, you might mention how soon you would be available to take up the role.

At the end of the day, you can keep putting your best foot forward after the interview has ended. And who knows, the professionalism you display through your note may be just the difference that makes a difference in getting that job.

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Barriers to Career Advancement: Internal

Once you have found the kind of job you seek, you can focus on doing the job to the best of your ability. Your next task becomes one of advancing your own skills so that you can grow professionally, and ultimately, move into increasingly challenging roles. While some professionals are able to advance at a steady rate, others may find themselves held back or held down. This blog looks at common internal barriers to career advancement and how to manage them.

Common internal barriers. Sometimes we may experience generalised fears or anxieties without really knowing where they originate from. We may also lack the confidence in our own abilities. At its worst, we may feel like an imposter, wondering how soon it will be before someone realises we should not be doing this work. When we lack confidence in ourselves, we may procrastinate, demonstrate poor time management or avoid speaking in public forums. We may also lack the motivation to do what we need to do in order to advance in our careers.

Tip 1. Recognise the source: When you find yourself feeling unmotivated, procrastinating or avoiding certain tasks, it may be time to reflect on the underlying source for your actions (or inactions). If you recognise that you are lacking confidence in your own abilities, perhaps fearing you are the proverbial imposter, it may be reassuring to know that confidence is not directly related to ability. It may be more helpful to look for objective evidence regarding your current level of ability. As part of this process, it may be helpful to seek the input from your subordinates, colleagues and superiors. You can ask them what they most admire about you. You can also ask them for a balanced picture of your strengths and weaknesses.

Tip 2. Change your focus: It may be helpful to change your focus, depending upon what came up as the source of your internal barriers. If, for instance, you recognised a fear of failure (or success), it may be helpful to change your focus from results to process. It may also be helpful to take a learning focus, where each endeavour provides you with new learnings and understandings that help you tackle more complex or challenging endeavours down the track.

Tip 3. Focus on the goalpost: It is helpful to identify your long-term career goals. It is also helpful to focus on what you truly want, rather than what you think you should accomplish professionally. It is also useful to metaphorically step into your future self when you have reached your goalpost. From the vantage point of actually being there, you can assess whether your long-term goals are genuinely what you want, or whether they turn out to be something you think you should strive for. You can then tweak your goals so that they reflect more of what you want and less of what you do not want. From there, it is a matter of planning what is needed to help you get there. This may mean structuring your long-term career goal into a series of shorter-term sub-goals or milestones along the way. You can then follow your plan, monitoring and tweaking the results you get along the way so that you remain on track to your goals.

Tip 4. Focus on the next milestone: It can be helpful to focus exclusively on the next milestone. As part of this, it may be helpful to establish a daily or weekly routine that can help you reach that milestone. By introducing daily or weekly habits, you keep yourself on-track to reaching that next milestone, no matter what happens in your life along the way.

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Barriers to Career Advancement: External

Not all barriers to our own career advancement are of our own making. Some barriers reflect the mindset of others in relation to us. In some instances, their mindset reflect stereotypes about a person's age, gender, race, religion, disability, mental health or sexual preferences. In some instances, we may also find ourselves a victim of workplace bullying as a consequence of their mindset or stereotypical views. This blog provides four tips on how to address external barriers to your own career development.

Tip 1. Stand out for the right reason - on paper: You can stand out for the right reason on paper by removing any personal information from your CV (such as age, DOB, gender, race, religion, marital status, etc.). In so doing, you can keep the focus of your CV on your professional knowledge, skills and capabilities.

Tip 2. Stand out for the right reason - in person: You can stand out for the right reason in person by dressing professionally for the field you are in (or the promotion you might be seeking). If you choose to wear jewellery, keep it simple, discrete and minimal. If you bring any accessories with you (such as briefcases, satchels, scarves or coats, etc.) ensure that they enhance your overall professional image.

Tip 3. Do the right things right: You can also ensure that you always do the right things, in the right way and at the right time: For your employer, for your colleagues, for your subordinates and for the customers you serve. Part of doing the right things right means nurturing your own capabilities, taking a learning focus and attending any relevant training that can help you improve upon your current best work. It may also mean demonstrating a can do attitude by going the extra mile as well as putting your hand up to take part in group projects.

Tip 4. Stand tall, smile and speak up: Finally, you can stand tall, smile and speak up. When you stand tall, you portray an element of confidence in your own abilities. Others may pick up on this subconsciously and when they recognise you are confident in what you are saying or doing, they will demonstrate more confidence in you. Smiling is infectious. So, when you smile, you may be delighted to discover just how many people will smile back at you. So, smiling alone, can create a positive space where you are made to feel more welcome wherever you go. While you are at it, be sure to speak up to your own capabilities. You can be comfortable showcasing what you have accomplished as well as how past accomplishments may help address a current problem or tap into a current opportunity. By speaking up to what you have already accomplished, you are controlling the narrative that may be spoken in your name. And, in so doing, helping to break down the original mindset or stereotypical views others might have had about you.

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Helpful Career Habits

Careers can be grown and nurtured by engaging in some helpful career habits. Here are some you can fold into your daily routine. Some of these habits can be undertaken while you are in the bath or shower. Others can be undertaken in your daily commute to work or interspersed throughout your working day.

At the end of the day, we can all have the kind of careers we find fulfilling. It just starts by routinely engaging in the kind of helpful habits that will put you reach your own career goals.

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Managing Workload Peaks and Troughs

I am bored! There is nothing to do and I like to be busy. At one level, I do not mind because I am getting paid. At another level, I want to know that I am being productive and doing something worthwhile.

Workloads can come in peaks and troughs in any workplace. There will be times when you are flat out, and you do not have a moment to stop and take stock. And, there will be times when you are sitting there, twiddling your thumbs, wondering what to do with yourself. Your boss may be fully aware of your current workload (or lack thereof) and yet does not seem to be bothered. Why should you?

Deep down, you know that the boss is taking notice of how you handle the quiet times. While company profits are going strong and your skills are fully utilised, there is no problem. However, when company profits are less than they should be and your skills are underutilised, management will start thinking about restructuring and downsizing the workforce.

Employees that get to keep their jobs during a period of downsizing will be the ones who have proved themselves to be worth their weight in gold. But how can you do that, when there really is nothing to do? Here are four strategies you can use to show your boss just how valuable, and employable, you truly are:

Strategy 1: Consider whether any of your peers or colleagues are currently overloaded. If so, offer to help them out or ask your boss if you can do so.

Strategy 2: Consider whether your boss is currently overloaded. If so, offer to help your boss out, at least until you get busy with your normal duties again.

Strategy 3: Consider asking your boss to extend your current range of duties. In so doing, you could make yourself more productive and more valuable to the company.

Strategy 4: Consider whether there any projects you could take on that would ultimately be useful to the company bottom line. You may, for instance, be able to revisit the company website (including website search engine optimization), marketing materials, policies and procedures. You may also be able to work on new product/service development. Once again, you could suggest taking advantage of the quiet times by working on these particular projects. Doing so would have the added bonus of developing your knowledge, skills and abilities in highly-valued areas.

At the end of the day, there are ways of keeping yourself busy during quiet times in the workplace. And, to the extent that you could keep yourself busy in a way that is useful to the company, your efforts will be well-appreciated. Your efforts will also be remembered the next time the company makes key decisions about its staffing. And, at those times, you can look forward to moving up the organisation (with an accompanying pay rise), not out.

Oh, and if you find that you are so busy that you do not have time to think. It may be time to ask for help. You will not be doing yourself, or your employer, any favours if you are constantly tired, stressed and overworked.

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Returning to Work After Ill Health

Returning to Work After Medical Illness

Life happens to us at the best of times. Hopefully, you will be able to travel through your life with a minimum of physical or psychological illnesses to contend with. However, if/when you might have to address this type of concern, here are three tips to ease that return to work:

Tip 1. Be Assuringly Brief: It is only natural for your superiors, colleagues and customers to want to know how you are. Feel free to share as much as you are comfortable doing, but do so briefly, with a view to returning attention back on to your professional duties.

Tip 2. Focus on the Job: After your initial contact with superiors, colleagues and customers, you can redirect attention back onto your work. You may find it easy to do by simply asking about common activities or projects.

Returning to Work

Tip 3. Manage Your Duties: If need be, you may like to have a private discussion with your superior on how best to modify your duties while you progressively return to full health. Whether you are returning to work after physical or psychological illness, you will find it imperative to pace yourself carefully. You may also want to increase the amount of time you spend on exercise and relaxation techniques. If so, you may like to consider a lunch time walk. You may also like to do some quiet deep breathing during your tea and lunchbreaks. Alternatively, you may like to step outside for some fresh air in your breaks.

Finally, if you know people who have recently returned to work after a major physical or psychological illness, feel free to show them some kindness, but be sure to respect their wishes when they feel ready to resume their duties. You may also show them some consideration in the event they may need their duties modified to accommodate their current level of health and well-being.

Returning to Work After Psychological Illness

At the end of the day, it is possible to return to work after a major physical or psychological illness. You just need to consider how your duties may need to be modified (if applicable) as you progressively return to full health, pace yourself, as well as ensure adequate time for exercise and relaxation throughout your working day.

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Career Quarters

Our newsletter, Career Quarters, provides articles, quick tips and food for thought to help you reach your full potential: Professionally. If you would like your own complimentary subscription to this newsletter, feel free to email your request to Dr. Rachel Abramson . You can also follow Dr. Abramson on Facebook or Twitter.

It is often not the best person who gets 'the job',
but the one who presents themselves the best.
Dr. Rachel Abramson.


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