How to Set Personal Development Goals

To set personal development goals, it’s important to build emotional intelligence, feel confident in your talents, grow your motivation, and become more mindful.

If you stop growing in your life or career, it’s a detriment to you and the options you have down the road. Personal growth is a worthy goal, and it can lead to big career advancements, more salary, and generally more opportunities. The personal goals we set can sometimes be different from professional goals. However, there is so much overlap between the soft skills you use at work and your personality, that it’s safe to assume your personal development goals should influence your career.

Here’s how to set personal development goals and then leverage them to improve your professional career.

Understanding Personal Growth

Personal development is the growth of you as a person. Improving yourself, your skills, and your life are all personal development. Growth in this area means that you become stronger, more confident, and more effective as a person. Personal development improves how you interact with other people and see yourself and your future. Personal growth and development could affect your emotional intelligence, communication skills, decision-making, or even the positivity you bring to your life and your work.

All of these skills have an impact at work, affecting everything from how you handle stress to how you work on teams. As you improve yourself, you will naturally begin to affect others around you in new and more positive ways. Here are a few personal goals that will have a big impact at work and possibly improve your career:

  • Living in the moment or mindfulness is a practice that could calmly center your emotions and help improve your work/life balance. Practicing the art of mindfulness allows you to compartmentalize stresses and focus more intently on what’s happening in the moment instead of worrying about the past or future.
  • This practice can also help you with situational awareness of yourself and those around you. Understanding how your actions affect others is an important way to navigate tricky political waters at work. It can help you manage a fractious team or a difficult boss. It’s also crucial to the possibility of promotion or career advancement.
  • Learning better organizational skills is a crucial work best practice, so the overlap for this personal goal is clear. If you struggle each day to accomplish tasks, teaching yourself how to set goals and then complete them will increase your productivity at work. This is extremely important if you’re hoping for a promotion at some point.
  • Build your emotional intelligence and see how much better your working relationship is with your peers and managers at work. It can also improve your interactions with customers, which will strengthen your reputation at work. Learning how to deal with crucial conversations, stress, or other conflicts at the office is a vital management skill. If you can achieve this as a personal goal, the work-related reward will be high.

Many of these personal development goals can be achieved and benefit your work. As you start to achieve these personal goals, you will naturally become more self-confident in your abilities. You will carry this confidence forward into the work world, whether it was an intended side effect of the personal goal or not. Top employers look for all of these personal skills and hire and promote leaders that have taken the time to develop themselves as people, as managers, and as employees.

Contact Top Stack about how you can apply your personal and professional skills this year. We can help you grow.

Tips For Answering the Interview Question “What Are You Passionate About?”

If you’ve been in the job market for a long time, you’ve probably been asked, “What are you passionate about?” more than once. It’s one of these standard questions similar to, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses?” that is almost inevitable in any interview process.

However, the question could be awkward; who wants to share what they’re truly passionate about (“My spouse.”) (“My paycheck.”) with a total stranger? Too, if you’re working to live and not living to work, it may feel like the words “passion” and “job” don’t fit together. While you probably don’t want to lie and run the risk of the recruiter sensing it, you should give a professional answer. But what should it be? How should you answer the question, “What are you passionate about?”

First, Understand Why They’re Probably Asking

Remember that interviewers do want to get to know you both personally and professionally. Chances are, you’re going to spend a lot of time at their office, so the hiring manager just wants to get a sense of who you are and if you’ll fit the culture of the organization. When you think of it this way, the question doesn’t seem intrusive, but a fair way to assess what interests you.

Next, Consider How To Answer Professionally

The answer should reflect well on your professionalism, energy, and general strengths as a candidate for the job. Think about the job itself and the tasks you’ll likely do every day. Is there one that you’d particularly enjoy? Does the job do something to help the social good in some way? Maybe it would allow you to learn a new skill.

In these cases, you could tailor the answer to make your skills stand out as a good fit for the job. Above all, be real with your response while still being professional. Here are some good examples of how you can respond to, “What are you passionate about?”

  • Do you have a side project that relates to your profession? Say you’re a software engineer interested in innovation and start-up businesses. Do you volunteer for hack-a-thons or go to meetups? Maybe you’re a gamer and like to play with friends from all over the work on the weekends.
  • Maybe you’re a project manager that has a great love for organizing. Do you volunteer to organize events for your church on the side? Or maybe you help out at a non-profit by organizing their books?
  • Or, perhaps you’re a content writer that just started a blog. That’s certainly an appropriate passion to share if you’re going after a marketing or content writing job.

But What if Your Passion Isn’t Work-Related?

Truly this is okay. In figuring out how to answer this question, you may realize there are crossover skills from work that you use in your off-the-job passion project. Or, maybe that passion taught you skills that you apply on the job. Or, perhaps that passion is simply a way to decompress after a hard day’s work. There’s nothing wrong with that.

At Top Stack, our passion happens to be matching candidates to their perfect job. We can help you meld your work and personal passions in a new career in 2010. Contact us today.

 

4 Important Networking Tips When Looking For a Job

When networking, it’s important to know how to make your pitch, keep track of your contacts, and always be open to opportunities.

Today, professional networking is one of the most important things you can do for your career. Building professional contacts can lead to your next job or help you land a sale. Networking can also find mentors or business connections that can help you grow your skills. It’s a type of exposure that always pays you back in opportunities. But if you’re looking for a job, there is no better way to make connections. LinkedIn says 80% of professionals say networking is still the most important thing you can do to land a new job or grow your career. But they also say most people don’t know what to say when they’re networking or how to use these connections. Here are some tips to help you improve your networking efforts.

Practice Your Pitch

The first step toward knowing how to network is to understand why you’re networking. What is your goal? What is your pitch? Try to break it down concisely but share your skills and how you plan on using them. You can introduce yourself as “I’m an entrepreneur with ten years in technology.” Or, “I’ve been a finance manager for a top firm for the past five years.” But you should also come up with two or three conversations starters that can be as simple as “What is it that you do?” or “Why are you here today?” or “Tell me more about your company?” As the conversation progresses, you can let them know you’re open to new opportunities, and you’d like to call on them to network further in the future.

Keep Track and Follow Up

Keep a list of the people you meet, any referrals they give you, and where you met them. If you get a business card, always follow up by connecting on LinkedIn and then sending them an email after your visit. You may even want to schedule a coffee with them down the road to strengthen the connection.

Who and Where Will You Meet These Connections?

From business events to the kid’s soccer games, there are all kinds of ways to start networking. Neighbors, alumni organization, professional or personal groups, or other activities all give you opportunities to meet people. You just have to take advantage of these contacts.

Be Ready for New Opportunities

Before you get serious about networking, consider your LinkedIn profile along with your resume. Take time to do any updating necessary. You may want to have small cards with your name and contact information to leave with the person you just met. Always ask them for their card and if you may reach out to them to network in the future.

Networking your way to a new career will get you out and noticed by professionals. It’s important to always stay open to new opportunities as they arise. Make an effort to get to know people and then follow up with them to see who they know. You should also reach out to the team at Top Stack for a confidential assessment of your resume. We can add it to our database, so as jobs come up, we can alert you to who’s hiring and connect you with new employers. Contact us in the New Year. We can help.

 

Learn About the Benefits of Having a Passion Outside of Work

Having a passion outside of work will boost your performance at work, increase your confidence, make you more resilient, and more. 

Being a workaholic is one thing, but lacking any interests outside of work can make you less productive on Monday morning. That’s what the current research says. Here’s why cultivating the passionate pursuit of a hobby outside of work makes you even better on the job.

Inc. Reports Having a Hobby Makes You a Better Employee

A recent article in Inc. suggests that people that pursue other interests when they leave work come back rejuvenated and inspired. Employers can take this to the bank; studies show that when their employers have a hobby, they are more productive.

San Francisco State University researchers studied how creativity outside the job in the form of cooking, painting, gardening, or knitting affected work performance. They found that people who engaged in a creative pursuit were 15 to 30% more effective at work. Researchers couldn’t tell if the creative pursuit was a motivator, helped people recharge their batteries, or had some other benefit, but they did show that these employees were at the top of their game when they returned to work.

But that’s not all. A British study recently found that if people have a hobby, they are more confident in their ability to overcome challenges on the job and in their lives. The study found that the more passionate the person was about their hobby, the more they achieved self-confidence and mastery in their professional and personal lives. The only caveat was that the hobby had to be radically different from their work in order to achieve this benefit.

The Inc. article also looked at the research of Duke University psychologist Patrician Linville. This researcher found that the passionate pursuit of an activity or hobby outside work made the person more resilient. When faced with a setback in one area, these workers were able to overcome it by using their hobby to bounce back. For example, if the worker faced a defeat at work, and their hobby was baking, going home to whip up a delicious baked item made them better able to cope with the setback.

Some hobbies nourish the brain and even make you smarter, according to research cited in Inc. Note that we said “some hobbies;” binge-watching TV or playing Mario Kart may not raise your IQ. However, exercising, reading, writing, or playing a musical instrument can all boost your energy and intelligence. The studies show that playing video games can even improve your ability to make decisions under pressure, although that may not help your IQ.

Finally, the article suggested the research shows having a hobby outside can increase your mindfulness and even make people nicer. Having a passion outside of work can lower stress and improve focus. Focusing intently on a project can help people sharpen their minds and relax, a de-stressor that many of us need after a long day at the office.

So, for those of you without a hobby, it might be time to consider one. Or, maybe it’s time to combine what you love with a great job in your field. That’s where Top Stack can help. We help people change their lives. Contact the team at Top Stack. We can help.

3 Tips for Finding a Career You’re Passionate About

To find a career you’re passionate about, be sure to ask yourself, not other people, what you feel passionate about. You also want to think about where that passion can lead you. 

There are lots of Americans right now that believe it’s impossible to find a job that they’re passionate about. We know this because of the latest research that shows 70% of workers are disengaged from their work. Employers are very concerned about these trends because disengaged workers are demotivated, possibly demoralized, and certainly less than fully productive. 

Do you know what might shake these workers out of their apathy and disengagement? The millennials. The studies show this youthful population is actively seeking out jobs that have a purpose. Millennials want to be passionate about their careers. This article will give millennials—and other workers of any age, three tips for finding a job they can be passionate about.

Tip 1—Define Your Passion

If you’re ready to look for a career that is more than just a job, start by defining what you’re passionate about. When was the last time you became so engrossed in an activity or project you were working on that you lost track of time? Start paying attention to the little voice inside you that points you toward the true work that makes you happiest. Look around at your friends and family. Are they engaged in work they love or work that just pays the bills? Can you do both? Try to surround yourself with people that are excited about their work. What did they do that led to the job they have now? 

The first step is to ask yourself what is it that you like to do. After you’ve defined your passion, step two is to determine if it can make you a sustainable income. 

Tip 2—Put Your Passion to Work

The good news is that there are all kinds of flexible work arrangements out there today. The Freelancers Union says more than 56 million Americans had some sort of side hustle going last year—and that number is expected to grow. Side hustles can be conducted even if you hold a day job, and; the work benefits Americans not only for the extra income it brings, but it can serve as a conduit toward the passionate pursuit of a job that makes you happy. There are all kinds of platforms online that can connect you with employers. Staffing agencies can also help you with part-time or other flexible work options. But you have to make an effort to find your passion and put it to work. 

Tip 3–Consider Contracting

One of the biggest benefits of connecting with a staffing agency like Top Stack is that we help give you a taste of what’s possible in the work world. Through flexible contract arrangements with top employers, we help candidates “try it before they buy it.” For employees engaged in the passionate pursuit of what makes them happy, we have a variety of roles available that will let you explore jobs and work environments in shorter-term arrangements. Contracting is perfect for anyone interested in building their work portfolio and experiences until they are ready to settle into a longer-term arrangement. These engagements can help you determine the kind of culture and the type of work that will ignite your passion—and perhaps, even fill up your wallet. Call on Top Stack today to find out more.

“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” Learn How to Answer This Important Question

Some standard questions that show up in almost every interview process include, “Why are you seeking a new job?” or behavioral questions that begin with, “Tell me about a time when you…” But another common question that crops up is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” While we don’t know what it is about five years that somehow is the magic number employers have settled on, it is probably a question that you’ll want to formulate an answer to in advance. Some of the standard responses that you make think about in your head may not come across well during the interview. We’ve compiled a few responses that are polite, professional, and strike the right tone with employers.

Best Response to the Five-Year Question

The first thing to consider is where the job could take you in the future? Saying something like, “In five years I want to run this place,” can come across as sarcastic at worst and unrealistic at best. Think about the general expertise you will learn or how the job will prepare you for a move up the corporate ladder. What will the job potentially teach you, and how will that align with your personal and professional goals? Do you want to hone your managerial skills or become an expert in the industry you’re working in? 

Many people, especially those just starting on a career path, simply may not know where the job could take them. It’s fine to say you don’t know exactly what the future might hold, but you’re looking for an opportunity to broaden your skills, whether they are to become better at customer service or to learn a new piece of software.

Think about what the interviewer wants to hear from you:

  • That you’re going to stay with the company during that time.
  • That your long-term career goals fit within the corporate mission and vision.

Next, think about the company and what they value. If they offer tuition assistance and seem to value training and growth, perhaps you talk about how you’d like to go through a training program they offer or participate in a mentorship program, or maybe receive some sort of credentials or additional degree. 

The idea is for you to take your goals and filter them through the funnel of what’s valued at that company. Make the goals that you share with the interviewer relevant to the position and realistic. Skip any flippant answers like, “I want to win the lottery,” or “I want to retire at 25 from my bitcoin portfolio.” Be professional, warm, and enthusiastic. Express your commitment to the company, even though you may not be entirely sure about the position yet. 

But what if you don’t yet know what career path is open to you at the company? In this case, stick to generalities, like, “I hope to hone my organizational skills in this role.” You can talk about your personal goals, like, “I’d like to finish my BA,” or, “I want to work toward my CPA.” Certainly, don’t say you want to use the role as a stepping-stone to a better company—even if it might be true.

Top Stack can connect you with top employers and help you prep for your interview. Call now.

 

How to Follow-Up After Attending a Career Fair

Career fairs may seem a little outdated in today’s modern digital application process. But they’re great for networking and may even land you a job. This is an especially pleasing thought if you’ve been sending resumes into the digital void and coming up empty. Contrary to what you may have heard, career fairs are not just for college students; they allow qualified candidates to sync with potential employers in a comfortable environment that puts applicants face-to-face with employers. 

If you’re a job seeker, these events are worth your while. But one question we hear is, what happens after the career fair? How should candidates follow up with the recruiters and hiring managers they just met? 

This article will give you our best tips for following up after a career fair.

Get Organized for Better Follow Up

When you show up to a career fair, make sure you come armed with a nice portfolio or briefcase filled with professionally printed resumes. Many companies will want you to fill out online applications after the career fair, but the general rule of thumb is that you should give your resume with contact information to everyone you meet. 

Try to engage in as many face-to-face meetings as possible; this is not the time to be shy. Ask for business cards so you can follow up with the people you met. Also, write down the names and email addresses of employers if they don’t have a card and will share the information. Career fairs are the perfect networking event. Your job is to get out there, meet employers, and share your resume. But there is one thing you can do after the event that will leave a long-lasting impression, and that is to send a thank-you note.

Thanks for Meeting

Within 24-hours of the career fair, go through all the cards and contact information you have, and send personalized notes to the people you met. Speed is important; recruiters and hiring managers usually take a few days to wade through all of the resumes they received. If your email hits their inbox, it will be like pulling your CV to the very top of the pile. 

You don’t even need the email to be very long. Just thank the person for their time and say you’d like to connect with them over job opportunities in the future. If you can remember something you spoke about, it may make them remember the conversation, so feel free to include any details about the meeting. The tone should be concise and professional; the relationship is too new to be super casual. 

Make sure you end your email with your name and contact information and attach your resume electronically again to be sure they have it. If you visited a booth and didn’t meet anyone specifically, you can also research the hiring manager or HR coordinator of the company and send them a short note saying that you appreciated the opportunity to visit the booth at the career fair. 

Finally, as the last step, we recommend connecting with anyone you met on LinkedIn to increase your professional social networks.

If you’re looking for a job and haven’t talked to the Top Stack team, we are standing by. Contact us to be connected with great employers in your area.

 

Learn How Goal Setting Affects Your Brain

There are dozens of articles on goal setting as a tool for getting ahead in business. Goal setters seem more organized and achieve more in the workplace. Employers look for the goal-setting motivated employee. Goal setters seem to have it together more than the rest of us. But did you know there is scientific research that shows that goal-setting improves higher brain function?

Here’s what the science says about goal setting and your brain.

Setting Goals Rewires Your Brain’s Effectiveness

Goal setting is powerful. It can motivate people to build for the future and accomplish tasks they might not have thought they could. What’s puzzling is why some people seem to drift through live aimlessly and why others set and achieve goals. Top-level achievers in all industries set goals that they often achieve. How are they able to pull it all off?

A study in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews proves what we’ve known all along; people that set goals are generally more together than everyone else. That’s because goal setting rewires our brains to make the component parts work more effectively. The study showed that when you set a goal, multiple parts of the brain are suddenly engaged:

  • The amygdala, which is the brain’s emotional center, evaluates the goal for how important it is to you.
  • The frontal lobe, which is the brain’s logical problem-solving portion, defines the goal and digests it.
  • Both the amygdala and the frontal lobe then work together to push you toward the completion of the goal.

As the brain moves you into situations to help you achieve your goal, the organ changes in structure to help you optimize behaviors and tasks.

Another study, this time with multiple sclerosis patients from the University of Texas, showed that MS symptoms lessened when goals were set and achieved. The symptoms of MS included severe fatigue, speech impairment, loss of muscular coordination, and numbness. These symptoms were lessened when patients set goals.

Inc. reported on another study, this time in the Journal of Applied Psychology that found people who established an ambitious goal usually achieved it. People who created a simpler goal failed to achieve it. The study suggested ambitious goals stimulate the brain more, motivating the person to accomplish the impossible. The study found the higher the goal, the more likely you would achieve it.

The Psychological Bulletin said 90% of the studies showed that more challenging goals led to higher performance. More manageable goals, “do your best” goals, or no goals did not have the same effect on the brain, or the person’s ability to achieve their goals. The article reported, “Goal setting is most likely to improve task performance when the goals are specific and sufficiently challenging.

Ironically, it should be noted that these studies suggested the brain rewiring must occur when the individual sets the goal. The brain doesn’t change when your boss or coworker sets the goal for you. Inc. reports, “All a leader can do is have ambitious, challenging goals for themselves in the hope it will inspire others to do the same.”

If you need assistance with your career goals, contact the staffing professionals at Top Stack today.

5 Ways to Advance Your Career as an Accountant

To advance your career as an accountant, you can become a CPA, find a CPA mentor, keep up with new technological developments, focus on soft skills and more.

Accounting is one of those careers that remain secure even during hard times. As a result, it’s a popular career option that allows you to work in multiple fields or as an entrepreneur if you have the skills to run your own business.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says there will be more than 1.5 million accountants by 2026, and the field has good job growth. But what kind of advancement is there for the average accountant? It turns out there are opportunities for you to go after. Here are some of the best ways to keep your career moving forward when you’re an accountant.

Start with the CPA

It’s worth the effort to land your Certified Public Accounting credential. Having a CPA behind your name can open doors, whether you’re working in finance as part of an enterprise organization, if you’re working in public accounting, or even if you start your own firm. Landing your CPA takes dedication; you must study and then pass the challenging CPA exam. Each state has slightly different requirements, and most cost somewhere between $30 to $200 per section, plus $125 to $170 for the ethics exam, and another $50 to $300 for your CPA license fee, so passing the test the first time is important. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) says you will benefit from earning the CPA designation in the following ways:

  • Earn prestige and respect from your peers.
  • Earn the ability to go after higher-level accounting roles.
  • Have more career security.
  • Have more job satisfaction.
  • Earn more money and greater benefits.

Either before or after you’ve earned your credentials, we recommend finding a CPA mentor as your second step up the ladder.

Find a CPA Mentor

A CPA mentor can help you understand the ins and outs of the profession. Look for someone you both trust and respect who can help you navigate the challenges of the profession. They will help you find answers based on their own experience, which will help you avoid mistakes that could threaten your career. You could even have more than one mentor to share information and seek advice when you’re struggling with a seemingly insurmountable problem. Make sure you recognize that the mentor/mentee relationship should be give and take, so take good care of these partnerships; they will pay off in the long run.

Improve Your Networking Efforts

Like any job, who you know is important to your career. All accountants should work hard to develop an extensive network of colleagues to help further their careers. Networking can help find new business if you’re in business for yourself, or it could help you find your next job. Given that 85% of all jobs are filled through networking and making an effort to connect with others is imperative for your accounting career.

Advance your career by networking with Top Stack. We can help you with your next career move. Contact us today.

Not Sure How to Address Your Cover Letter? We Have a Few Tips

Writing a clear and concise cover letter still matters to your job search. But so much of the application process is generic these days that you may not know who you’re sending your cover letter to. Everything is electronic and streamlined; many applications can be sent at a click of a button, which leaves something to be desired if you’re seeking a human connection with the job you’re applying for. How can you even address your cover letter if you have no idea who is on the hiring team? How can you come across as genuine and smart if all you’re left with is the generic “To Whom It May Concern?”

Here are some tips that may help.

A Little Legwork Can Go A Long Way

Sometimes the ad can help you determine how to address the cover letter. For example, it may tell you what position you’ll report to in the company. Many times, you can look at that particular role up on the company website to get the name of the person. Or, LinkedIn is a useful resource for finding someone that works at a specific company. Internet research is your friend in this area.

As you’re looking at the corporate website, try to understand the culture. If it’s very formal, your salutation should be the traditional “Dear Mr./Ms.” You may be able to just use the person’s first name, but be careful if you can’t figure out if the person is male or female. Drop any gender-specifics for names like “Robin,” if you can’t confirm the person is male or female.

But what happens if you can’t figure out the reporting structure? How can you avoid the old school “To Whom It May Concern?” Try these approaches:

  • Can you find the name of the department head under which you’ll work? While this may be a mismatch because you would report to someone below the department head, at least it shows you made an effort.
  • If you can’t find the right name to send your cover letter to, why not address it to the department itself. For example, how about “Dear Sales Department,” or “Dear Production Team.”
  • What if you can’t figure out the department head, or the department you’re reporting to? Do you have a name of a recruiter or hiring manager that’s doing the interview? Bingo! What’s wrong with putting their name on your cover letter? They’ll likely be the first one to review your credentials, anyway.
  • What about “Dear Hiring Team” as a cover letter salutation? Nothing wrong with that, unless the company calls these professionals by a different title, like, “Recruiting Team,” or “Talent Acquisition.” You can make it a little less generic by adding the name of the company. For example, “Dear Oracle Hiring Team” is a little warmer and shows that you’re not just recycling a generic cover letter. You can even add in the title you’re applying for, such as, “Dear Account Manager Search Team,” or “Dear Sales Executive Search Team.”

While these are just some of the ways you can get to the next step in the hiring process, the best thing you can do for your career today is to reach out to Top Stack. Contact us when you’re ready to jump-start your career.