When Should You Ask for Help at Work?

Some people are built to never ask for help. Their pride may prevent them from ever reaching out a hand in need. Or, they may just really have their act together to the point they get through work and life without ever crying “Uncle.”

But being too stubborn to ask for help when you’re not sure what you’re doing at work could ultimately affect your performance and the teams you’re trying to help. Here’s how to know when it’s right to ask for help at work.

Hello, I’m Completely Lost

It happens. You may have missed the memo or the project you’re working on could be outside the scope of your personal experience. If you’re in a position where you don’t understand the goals of the project you’re working on and the steps in how to get there, it’s time to reach out to someone in the office to seek some assistance and clarification. Why in the world would you torture yourself and waste your time trying to figure out what’s going on? This is especially true if you’re new to the company. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and admit you’re a little lost. It’s better than wasting time going down the wrong path.

Suggested way to ask for help: “Hey, sorry to bother you, but I was hoping you could help me figure out the details on this project. Could we find some time to sit down and go over it so I’m sure we’re on the same page?”

My Plate is Overflowing

If you find yourself overworked and bogged down, it’s time to ask for help. You may have over committed to all the cool projects coming down the pipeline. Or, you may find that one project got too big too fast and you have to reprioritize. No matter the issue, you must recognize when it is time to say that you are buried by your work. Saying you’ve reached your limit is no crime; everyone has limits to what they can do in a day. If you don’t ask for help now, you’ll likely miss deadlines or turn in shoddy work. Now is the time to delegate to other members or your team or go to your boss and ask for help.

Suggested way to ask for help: “I hate to do this, but I need help. I’m totally overwhelmed and need help with a couple parts of this project. If you have any extra time, is there any way you can help me out?”

Oops I Made a Mistake

To err is human, right? You may be a superhero, but the truth is everyone makes mistakes in their lives and in the job. That’s why it’s important to own the mistake, ask for help if needed, and fix the problem. Don’t think sweeping the issue under the rug is the best approach. It can be humbling and embarrassing to admit your mistake, but do it now before that little snowball turns into an avalanche.

Suggested way to ask for help: “I feel terrible, but I completely messed up. I’m sorry for the confusion, but can you help me with XYZ to get us back on track?”

Top Stack is standing by to help you with your job search. All you have to do is ask. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

Tips for Following Up After Submitting a Resume

You can feel powerless after submitting a resume. You’ve done the work of creating a clean, crisp resume you feel represents your best work. The job description seems to fit your skills. The company even checks out well on sites like Glassdoor. But once you hit the send button on the electronic submission of your resume, it’s just a waiting game where all the power rests in the hands of the employer.

Or does it?

Here’s What to Do After You’ve Sent Your Resume

Today’s resume application can feel cold and impersonal. Sending a resume into the void without even the name of the hiring manager makes for a potentially awkward process if you’re trying to follow up. However, sites like LinkedIn allow the job poster to add their profile picture and a link to their page. Check the ad you submitted to see if the job poster took this friendly approach. See if you can, first, connect to the poster. Send a note with your request that alerts them to your application and thank them for allowing you to share your credentials.

LinkedIn is generally a good resource for job applicants, because you can find the job poster or perhaps someone in the HR department in your connections or through a simple search. While you don’t want to come across as a stalker, you can certainly try to follow up on your application, whether you applied on LinkedIn, a job board like Indeed, or perhaps on the company website.

It’s perfectly appropriate if you haven’t heard back in two weeks or so to reach out to check on the status of your application. There are several ways to do this:

  • Email gives the hiring team a record of your correspondence; so many prefer this method of contact. Generally, tracking down an email isn’t hard; most websites have some sort of electronic contact information. Make sure your subject line is concise. “Following up on (date) resume submission” is a good subject line to use. The body of the email should include the name of the job you applied for. If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, the salutation should be, “Dear Hiring Team:”
  • Some people choose to send a paper letter at this time to follow up. This isn’t a bad idea, because it’s an unusual approach in today’s electronic submission process. Use a standard business-style format and the same kind of content you’d use in a professional email. Make sure to include your contact information in the signature line.
  • A phone call could also work. Try these either first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon, when people are not usually stuck in meetings. If you haven’t been able to find out the name of the hiring manager, just ask for the HR department when you call. Try calling twice before leaving a brief message with the job you applied to and your name and contact information. Offer to clarify any information they might need and thank them for their consideration of your credentials. 

One important caveat is to check the ad you applied to; sometimes they will say not to call the company directly. If this is the case, follow their request.

One way to take the guesswork out of the hiring process is to work directly with a recruiter at Top Stack. We take our candidate and client relationships very seriously and work hard to keep you in the loop at every step in the process. If you haven’t worked with a recruiter before, it’s a free service that will give you a leg up on other candidates who are blindly submitting an online application. Contact us to talk about your future.

Stand Out at Your New Job With These 5 Easy Tips

When you start a new job, you probably want to stand out. You worked hard to land the work and it’s natural you’d want a reward for doing if. The first 90 days in a new job is a time of excitement and learning, as you make new friends and learn new workflows. The last thing you need is to stand out for the wrong things. To start your job off on the right note, here are some things you should do in the first 90 days.

1. Fake It Till You Make It

It’s normal to be nervous in a new job, but no one needs to know it. Go in confident in your abilities to do the job, even if you feel, deep down, you’re not prepared to pull it off. The last thing you want to do is let your managers know you don’t have confidence in your own abilities. Faking it till you feel more comfortable is a good idea, because you don’t want your boss to start to regret their decision to hire you. So, go into the role having faith in the abilities that brought you this far.

2. Allow Enough Time

Go into a new job recognizing it will take some time before you feel like you have mastered the position. Think about what led you to this job and why you left your last position. You are going to have a learning curve, so cut yourself some slack and allow enough time to adapt, learn, and thrive in your new role.

3. Get to Know the Culture

Culture is everything in a new job. It’s probably at least partially why you went after the role to begin with. But you know how people are let go from jobs because they “just didn’t fit in”? The idea that fitting into a culture is just as important as being able to do the work is an important one. Understanding the cultural norms in the job is important. So, make sure you make the effort to go out to lunch with your co-workers and get to know them. Talk to people and get to know them. Make sure you spend more time listening than talking so you can learn the ins and outs of the organization and what cultural norms you should conform to.

4. Be Positive but Realistic

When you start a new job, it’s easy to promise everything to everyone. But don’t over promise and despite your enthusiasm for the job, be realistic about what you can deliver in your new job.

5. Be Proactive and Meet With Your Manager

Don’t wait for your annual review to find out how you’re doing. Set the standard when you walk in, that an environment of back-and-forth feedback is important. Ask your manager how you’re doing after the first week, first month, and certainly at 90 days. That way you can adjust your behaviors based on real-time feedback instead of waiting for a long-term review.

Finding your next job is just a phone call away. Contact the team at Top Stack to get started.

 

3 Ways to Turn Stress into Productivity

Stress is a strange emotion. It’s a psychological trigger that can lead to increased anxiety, but also more activity. On one hand, the studies show that stress can cause all kinds of health problems, like depression, heart disease, and insomnia. Chronic stress can wreck your health.

On the other hand, stress can inspire some of us to produce our best work. Which is it for you? Since everyone experiences stress, perhaps there’s a way to turn this negative emotion into a positive. Here’s how to turn something stressful into higher efficiency and productivity.

Harness Your Stress by Recognizing

An article in the Harvard Business Review suggests the first step toward conquering stress is to simply acknowledge its existence. It suggests that stress has several positive attributes we can benefit from. Being stressed reminds us of the cliché, “if it doesn’t kill you it’ll make you stronger,” and that is certainly true. But to reap the benefits of being stressed out, we must acknowledge the impact it is having on our lives. The Harvard article says that stress causes the human response of fight or flight; our heart rate and blood pressure can increase along with other visceral reactions. Understanding that what’s making you anxious is the dopamine being released in your body is just one way to use those feelings as a motivator. But recognizing these reactions can stop these physical responses. This allows you to take a more deliberate approach to your reaction to the stress you’re under.

Change Your Approach

Once you recognize your stress, you can take steps to master it. Taking steps to use stress as a challenge to help you achieve more is a good way to manage it. One study found that people who view their stress as a challenge instead of a negative problem hampering them were able to maintain their energy and focus without getting sick or emotionally exhausted. Taking stress and using it to help you overcome hurdles will give you control over your feelings of being overwhelmed by negative emotions. Instead of viewing stress as a negative, use it as the impetus to help you increase your performance and productivity.

Now Get Motivated

If you’re not experiencing stress, the body will not trigger the heightened energy that comes from stress. That’s why the final step toward conquering stress and using it to your advantage is to leverage it to get motivated. Could stress push you to meet a deadline or prepare for a last-minute meeting? The energy that comes from being stressed implies activity – which is exactly what stress can spur you on to. Stress can cause you to take action, completing tasks in record time. If you are a procrastinator, you’ll instinctively understand how the stress that comes from a deadline can motivate you to get it done.

So, use your stress, don’t let it paralyze you. By acknowledging your stress and recognizing it for the tool that it can be, you could increase your productivity and turn a negative into a positive.

To learn more about how you can turn stress into productivity, contact Top Stack. We can help you take control of your career.

4 Ways to Turn a Setback at Work Into an Opportunity

Whether you’re in management or a lower position, a setback at work can be frustrating, depressing, and can even make you want to quit. The setback could be a raise or promotion you didn’t get or a maybe a project that went wrong. Maybe a personal emergency forces you to take some time off. All these things can force a loss of confidence and dampen your enthusiasm for the job.

How can you cope with these or other job setbacks? How can you get back on track?

Feeling Down? Exercise

Daily on-the-job challenges can leave you feeling overwhelmed. But something as simple as taking a walk can improve your perspective and even help you problem solve. If you have a desk job, taking a 10-minute walk after lunch will improve your mood. Remaining active is always the best way to cope with any stress. It will also keep you moving ahead in the job, no matter the problem or setback that’s getting you down.

Rethink the Problem

A landmark study showed the power of positive thinking on the brain and our emotions. Positive thinking can help you persevere through a problem and even improve your health. Scientists say that avoiding negativity may help people avoid the physical damage that comes from stress. From a mental perspective, staying positive helps people make better life decisions while focusing on long-term goals. If you’ve had a setback at work taking the time to find your perspective, reframing the problem in a new way may be exactly what you need to keep moving forward. While today didn’t work out, what long-term goal are you hoping to achieve and what do you need to do to still get there?

Sit Down and Take Stock

Your self-confidence can take a big hit when something goes wrong at work. You can lessen the impact by sitting down and taking stock of how far you’ve come. What is it that you’ve done so far to accomplish your goal? Instead of wallowing in the loss, focus on what you’ve gained to date. No one is infallible, and if you pat yourself on the back for the wins you’ve accomplished, maybe the setback won’t seem so insurmountable. Let’s face it; life is hard and it has its ups and downs. It’s how you fight through the adversity that builds the most character.

Try Something New

Say you’ve been trying to solve a problem and it just isn’t happening. It may be a struggle with a staff member you’re managing or trouble with a difficult boss or a less human-centered problem related to the tools you use. What happens if you stop flailing away at the issue and take stock for a second. Get creative and try to think outside the box. Do you have a peer network you can share the problem with? Sometimes stepping outside accepted practices or seeking the help of a mentor is all you need to jump-start a new, fresh approach to solving the problem. Mix things up and get back on track!

Sometimes the setback is insurmountable, and you know it’s time to find a new job. When that happens, contact Top Stack. We can keep you moving forward.

4 Daily Habits To Help Make You More Successful

Have you ever noticed how some people just get more done? These high producers seem to be at the top of their game, which seems to be multitasking and checking things off their to-do list.

If you’re not one of the most highly productive people, you might be envious of these task jocks, which make life look a lot easier than it may feel to you. What is their secret? Are they doing something every day to make them more efficient? What daily tasks can you do to improve your success in your job and life?

  1. Make a list and check it twice – or 20 times.
    Hyper efficient people almost always write down a list of things they want to accomplish that day. Sitting quietly with a cup of coffee while road mapping the day helps most people stay more efficient in accomplishing their goals. For anal-retentive types, crossing things off your list is also kind of addictive. It shows you’re making progress on your day when others may have stalled. For those of you that are technology-inclined, you can also make notes on your phone or download an app to help you list and accomplish tasks throughout the day.
  2. Work out before work.
    If you’re not a morning person, you may hate this suggestion, but seriously, if you work up a good sweat before you go to work, you will get your frustrations out and be calmer in the office. You will also think more clearly. Also, working out naturally produces adrenaline, so you’ll feel more energized. Like sitting quietly and making notes and task lists, a workout before work is something you have control over. When you get to work that may be a different story.
  3. Practice mindfulness and the art of singular focus.
    When you get to work, it may be easy to get overwhelmed with the chaos of having so many tasks, people interrupting your train of thought, angry customers or whatever you have to deal with as part of your job. The practice of mindfulness requires the person focus only on the task in front of them. Instead of stressing over all the things coming up, what is the one thing you’re supposed to work on now? If you’ve made a task list, you should know what’s next, right? Mindfulness fosters a sense of clarity, organization, and calmness in your mind. While most of us multitask, using the practice of mindfulness will keep you from being overwhelmed with how much you have to do. The most successful people only check these communication tools a few times a day to minimize their distractions. This helps them focus on the task at hand, which can be completed more quickly if your train of thought isn’t interrupted. Being responsive is one thing, but it can destroy your attention span and slow down your primary tasks.
  4. Limit access to communication platforms.
    If you’re trying to focus on the task at hand, having a Slack or IM pop up, an email or even having someone stick their head in your doors is distraction that will make you less efficient.

Contact Top Stack about ways to improve your performance on the job. We’re here to help!

 

 

Four Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Job Interviews

Job interviews are like visiting the dentist; you know they’re important, but you hate to go. Even the most confident job candidate expends an inordinate amount of time preparing for the interview, whether it’s on-site or on the phone. Most candidates feel nervous, anxious and stressed at the prospect of being judged by a group of strangers. What can job seekers do to mitigate their fear, take control, get through the interview process and get the job?

Prepare for Every Interview

The enemy of nervousness is preparedness. There are all kinds of things you should do to get ready for each interview. If you follow these tasks before every interview, it will lessen your stress and help you perform more effectively:

  • Prepare by researching the company and, if possible, the people you are interviewing with.
  • Develop a list of questions to ask the interviewer, from what is the corporate culture like to clarification on the job description.
  • Practice interviewing with a friend, focusing on defending any gaps in employment on your resume and answering questions in a way that is positive, articulate and energetic.

Taking time to prepare for your interview isn’t much different from prepping for any big meeting. The key to nailing it is to do your homework before the event.

Stay Focused on the Positive

One mistake many candidates make is to bad-mouth their former employer. Even if your last boss was Attila the Hun, it’s important not to bring negativity into the interview process. All it does is make you, not your employer, look bad. Negativity has no place at work and certainly not in the first impression an employer has of you in the job interview. If you practice your interview techniques with a friend, make sure to work heavily on staying positive throughout the meeting.

Stay Strong and Don’t Give Up

It takes a lot of courage to interview, not get the position you wanted, and get back on the applicant horse by sending out more resumes. Just remember that you do not have everything riding on just one interview. We currently have historically record low unemployment, which means there are more job opportunities than there were even five years ago. So, stay confident and work to impress the potential employer, but know there will likely be other interviews for you to pursue.

Relax and Boost Your Confidence

Staying relaxed during an interview is easier said than done. But there are some techniques you can adapt to help you stay calmer and feel more in control before the interview starts. Here are some techniques to try:

  • Play music on the way to the interview. Music can take your mind away from worrying and help eliminate some of the stress hormones circulating around your body. Your favorite song can energize you while soothing your frazzled nerves.
  • Just taking time to breathe deeply is something most of us simply forget to do. That’s exactly why there are dozens of apps designed to remind you to breathe deep, clear your mind, and calm your stress. Anytime you experience anxiety, your body naturally wants to breathe more shallowly, so focus inward, breathe deep, and meet that interview head-on.
  • Practice a little creative visualization before the interview by sitting quietly in a room and imagining what you would look like in the job you’re interviewing for. Visualize nailing the interview and getting an offer on the spot. Then imagine your first day at work and how much fun you’ll have.

While these are just a few interview tips, Top Stack recruiters are standing by to help nervous job candidates find, prepare for and win their next job. Contact us today.

 

Learn How Networking Can Help You Find a Job

Here are the best arguments for networking:

  • 85% of open jobs are filled through networking, not through the application process.
  • 80% of jobs are never posted on job boards; instead, they are filled through networking.

Today, if you don’t have a recruiter in your corner and are simply sending out resumes to job board ads, it will be much harder to find a job. The key to finding the right job is through the power of networking. This article will tell you what you need to know.

Networking 101

Don’t wait for the perfect job to call you. Stop blindly sending out resumes. Instead, use social media and networking to help you with your next career move. The days of having a resume, sending it out, and waiting for the phone to ring are over. Instead, employers say 60% of their best candidates are found through referrals. Most recruiters use the power of LinkedIn to source new potential candidates, working their social networks extensively to find the right fit.

Maintaining your professional connections on these platforms is crucial to finding your next career. If you’re not on LinkedIn, now is the time to build a professional profile and begin the process. Most people have done this process, and many people are regularly working on these connections. How do you use these networks?

First, don’t be afraid to email your resume to your connections with a short note on what you’re looking for. Ask the connection if they would be willing to make a recommendation to someone in their network, based on your skills. However, don’t just reach out when you need help. Make sure you stay in touch with your connections by inviting people out to coffee or meeting them at events.

Speaking of events, you need to get out there. Try joining your local Chamber of Commerce or even attending a MeetUp to expand your social network. If you’re a developer, there are likely dozens of events in your area that will teach, inspire and grow your network. If you have a specific job in mind, consider targeting events that focus on that area. Use these events to socialize, expand your LinkedIn connections and look for the next big thing.

Try to help other career seekers during this process. Networking is a quid pro quo arrangement; so if you help others, you will be more likely to receive help yourself. Keep your social network in mind as you read articles. Are there links you should share with colleagues in a specific field to help them improve? Are there jobs you think people should apply for? Take the time to give back and you’ll be amazed at how the referrals and helpful information you share will be given back to you in a full-circle process. That is the beauty of networking after all; we use our skills to help each other while gaining valuable help for ourselves.

Best Networking Advice From Top Stack

One of the best things you can do today to expand your social network is to contact the recruiting team at Top Stack. We have the networking connections and the jobs you’ve been seeking and are standing by to help your career.

Important Email Etiquette Tips When Searching for a Job

You may be surprised to know there are actual rules for email that apply to your job search. Most of us use email every day, but few people realize there are some best practice tips for using these tools for the job hunt. This article will give you all the tips you need to not only use these tools, but use them properly to get your candidacy noticed by the right employers.

Tip 1 – Keep Job-Seeking Emails Separate

Not only is it bad form to use your current work email to send out resumes, most of the time your employer has a monitoring system in place for what’s being sent. Getting caught searching for a job at work is usually grounds for being let go on the spot, so avoid the practice entirely.

Instead, set up a private email at Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail or any one of a number of other free email service providers on the market today. From there you can send out inquiries and resumes to whomever you choose without jeopardizing your current employment relationship. Make sure your email address is professional; hotstuff1234@hotmail will turn off hiring managers, so keep it simple and appropriate.

Speaking of inquiries, whenever possible try, to reach out directly to hiring managers instead of a general email inbox. Did you know most jobs occur from networking and not from applying online? Sending a generic application usually fails, which is why we recommend approaching a hiring manager directly with a clear subject line stating the job you’re applying for.

Always include a signature at the end of every email, with your name, email, phone and LinkedIn profile.

What to Include in the Email

It may be tempting to send an abbreviated version of a cover letter to the hiring team because you’re using email. Skip abbreviations and emoticons or any slang you may normally use. In fact, the email actually takes the place of a professional cover letter, so what you should write is the full-on document you would normally produce in Word.

Like any other cover letter, your email cover letter should have a beginning, middle and end, just like any other business letter. Always have a professional signature at the bottom of the page. Given that reviewers will skim the content, keep it short and to the point.

Make sure you proofread so there are no typos on the email. You can install an app like Grammarly to help ensure your emails are clean and error free. If you’re still worried, send a test email to a friend and have them check it for you. Typos in an email cover letter are just as bad as typos on a resume.

The email should be succinct; make sure you mention the role you’re applying for, the skills you have (preferably in bullets) and the next steps. When attaching your resume, send it as a Word document or a PDF. Always thank the reader for the opportunity to apply and keep it to no more than three short paragraphs.

Finally, use a simple font like Times New Roman or Cambria. Don’t use color and use 10-point or 12-point font, so the email is easy to read.

While these tips will help your email get noticed, contact the recruiters at Top Stack to find out more actionable ideas for the job search today.

Employment Gaps in Your Resume? Here’s How to Address Them

While employment gaps are common on a resume, there is a trick involved with explaining them to prospective employers. Many times these gaps are planned for, such as the birth of a child or going back to accomplish a degree. Other times the unexpected occurs, from a job layoff to a major illness. Either way, there are blank spaces in your resume that are clearly noticeable. How you explain these holes will affect your future job prospects. Fortunately, this article will help you prepare for your discussions with hiring managers. Here are some commonly asked questions and answers from workers with a gap in their work history. 

Should You Mention the Resume Gap?

First, if the gap was several years ago and you’ve been successfully employed since, you probably won’t need to mention it. Keep in mind there is no rule that you have to include all your experience on a resume. This is especially true for workers that have been employed for a decade or longer. In most cases, your early career history isn’t necessary to the current job search if you’re applying for a mid- or later career track. Most recruiters will suggest just keeping the history to the last 15-years or so if you are applying for a management position. 

There are several ways to make a more recent gap in your work history more appealing to employers. For example:  

  • You can use dates to make the gap stand out less. Try removing the month from the date history and instead just list the year.  
  • You can use resume formatting to make the gaps less obvious, like putting the dates of employment in non-bold type.  
  • Start your resume with a summary at the top to draw the reviewer’s eye to your accomplishments and skills. 
  • Include any experience and skills you gained during the employment gap. Did you volunteer; take a class or a sabbatical? List it on your resume as a valuable skill. 

If the gap was recent, the employer or recruiter is certain to notice it and comment on it. In any case, be prepared to explain it clearly and succinctly to the recruiter or hiring manager. What was your rationale for the break? If the break wasn’t voluntary, what happened to put you in that situation? Emphasize the issue has been resolved and you’re ready to return to work.  

If you were laid off, it’s a very good idea to provide the potential employer with documentation of your excellent performance before the layoff. A decision to conduct company downsizing is a decision that employees can’t control. It’s important to show you were a solid employee prior to the economic downturn the company faced. Part of an active networking process is to ask for recommendations now before you need them during the job search.  

Networking With a Recruiter

The best networking advice we can share is to speak today with a recruiter. These professionals are on the prowl for you; employers hire staffing agencies to find the best talent.  

Contact the staffing professionals at Top Stack today if you’re looking for a career shift. We can supplement your professional networking efforts and help you find the perfect fit.