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!



4 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.

4 Important Tips for Passive Job Seekers

Here’s a tip for everyone working today: Even if you love your job, you should be prepared to leave it. While that may seem disloyal, in fact, it’s good advice. That’s because markets can shift dramatically leaving employers facing downsizing, which means your job may be on the line. We also know employers can act erratically, so the truth is no job is ever really safe. Many of us have lived through a down economy, so you should always have your resume updated.

Around 73 percent of employees today are passive job candidates, meaning they aren’t actively looking for a new job, but they’re open to it. Here are four of the best tips to stay prepared for the next big thing.

Update Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is one of the resources recruiters use to find job candidates. Take the time now to update your profile. Consider this online presence as your resume, so make it highly professional and up to date, by listing your skills, education and certifications. It’s also a good idea to start to connect with people and their networks to build your own. Try joining a few LinkedIn groups, which are the online version of a MeetUp. Then, write a few recommendations for your colleagues and ask them to recommend you.

Improve Your Networking Skills

While today’s unemployment market heavily favors the job seeker (there aren’t enough employees to go around), it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t force yourself to continue to make networking connections. The bigger your network, the better your chances of finding a job, especially if the job transition is unexpected. Try going once a month to a networking event in your field. Also, post status reports on social networking sites to let people know you’re still around. Sharing interesting job-related articles is just one way to stay in front of your social network.

Check Out Companies

Instead of mindlessly surfing the internet this weekend, surf the internet with a purpose. Start to scope out the kinds of employers you’d be interested in working for, if push came to shove. Here’s another tip: Check out recruiting firms. A recruiter is the best resource for finding the best jobs in today’s hot market. Recruiting firms work directly with hiring managers to fill roles, and many times they find out about positions even before they are posted. So, even though you are “passive” in your job search, you can prepare a list of top companies you’d like to work for and recruiters can help you get your foot in the door.

Update Your Resume

We talked in a prior article about the importance of keywords; updating your resume now and keeping it ready will speed your time to market, should something happen at your current job. Each time you change jobs, get promoted or take an online class, your resume should be updated. You can even have a cover letter template ready to go – just in case.

At Top Stack, we know life changes constantly. Contact one of our recruiters to begin to pave the way for your next job search.

4 Tips For Successfully Reentering the Workforce

If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, coming back is going to feel like a big adjustment. The business world and the technology we use to navigate it changes rapidly, so if you’ve been away caring for a sick relative, or dealing with a personal illness, the transition back may feel a little intense at first.

This article will give you the tips you need to successfully reenter the workforce, no matter the length of absence or the type of job you’re seeking.

Tips for Work Reentry

The first step is to connect with a trustworthy recruiter who will have your back as you search, interview, and finally, land the next big thing. Top Stack can help with this. But there are other tips for work reentry you should consider, including the following:

  • Update your skills list before you even start looking for work. We recommend a resume refurbish based on keywords (see our prior blog post), as well as some padding to fill gaps in employment. Do you know the saying that it’s always easier to find a job if you have a job? That’s actually true, so if you haven’t worked in a while, try volunteering for a worthy cause a few months before you even put your credentials out there. This will pad the resume a bit to help employers understand you’ve still been out there in the world.
  • Try building a functional over a chronological resume. A resume that heavily emphasizes the dates of employment will only make it really easy for employers to see where the gap in working was. Try rewriting the resume to focus on experience and not length of stay. You can create headings such as “Programming Experience” (inserting the right keyword for the job you’re searching for) and then listing the highlights of what you’ve accomplished and learned.
  • Get out there. We know this is a difficult step, but it is the most important. Get your resume on free job boards like Indeed or Monster and then talk with a few recruiters to find the one you most want to work with. Most job boards and the applicant tracking system recruiters use leverage very precise algorithms that will aid you in your job search. Use these tools. You may also want to try your hand at networking at MeetUps or other events to improve your chances in the job market.
  • Ask for help. Even if you’ve been out of work for a while, here’s what you need to understand. The unemployment market today favors the job candidate, particularly in those high-demand jobs like programming, engineering or healthcare. But even though the odds are in your favor, it’s important to use resources that are standing by to help. All you have to do is ask. In the case of the job seeker, one of your best resources is a recruiter who can be your advocate.

If it’s time to start your own job search, start a conversation with the team at Top Stack. We are your best resource for reentering the job market, and have jobs standing by that will get you back in the saddle. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

How a Recruiter Will Help You Prepare for an Interview

When it comes to an interview, a recruiter can be your best friend. There’s no one better when it comes to helping you prepare for that very first employer impression. Even if you feel like you don’t interview well (in fact, especially if this is the case), consider working hands-on with your recruiter to put your best foot forward. Here’s how a recruiter can help you interview well and land your next job.

Tips and Takeaways From Recruiters

Recruiters can help candidates learn how to stress their strengths and de-emphasize their weaknesses in effective ways. The recruiter you’re working with may ask you to write down four or five strengths and weaknesses, along with a one-paragraph example of how you’ve exhibited your strengths on the job and overcome your weaknesses. The recruiter may even have you talk about these skills, practicing the actual interview process. If they don’t, why not ask them for help? Recruiters are expert interviewers and see countless resumes every day. They’re a resource that wants you to land a job as much as you do.

Recruiters may help you practice the universally accepted correct interview answers. Each answer should be about two minutes long. There’s a concept many recruiters know and teach their candidates called “Say a Few Words” (SAFW). This means:

  • S stands for the opening statement on each question answered.
  • A is amplify, which is a clarifying statement to push the point home.
  • F is to remind you to provide a few examples that illustrate your point.
  • W is the reminder to “wrap it up.”

SAFW leaves the interviewer, whether it’s on the phone or in person, with a concise but effective way to get to know a candidate. It backs a statement up with a short behavioral example illustrating your point. Then it closes the deal, wrapping each question up in a nice package.

Another tip is that recruiters may ask you to write-up two of your most important accomplishments to date. This can include your work on a team as well as an individual goal met. What did you learn? How does it illustrate the job skills the employer is seeking?

The goal is writing up this document is that many times the person being interviewed can get nervous, which may make them forgetful. Taking time to write this down may help you retain the information, even when an employer puts you on the spot. (Especially when the employer puts you on the spot!)

The recruiter may have you practice the universal question: I read the job description and your company’s website, but could you tell me in your own words what you think the job entails? This allows the candidate to take control of the conversation and get the employer or hiring manager talking about what’s important to them. Then the interviewee can zip back in with their SAFW set of job qualifications that sell them for the position.

Recruiters, Not Diamonds, Are a Girl’s (and Boy’s) Best Friend

The Top Stack team is different. Our job is to provide you with the coaching you need to land your dream job. That’s why we partner with our employer-clients to understand exactly what they’re looking for. We can help you prepare for your next big move. Contact us today to start the conversation.

The Importance of Using Keywords in Your Resume

The old days of just creating a resume are gone. Today, the majority of recruiters or hiring managers simply won’t notice a resume without searchable keywords. Let’s look at the types of keywords and how they can help improve your resume to land your next job.

Understanding Keywords

Keywords are a short phrase or individual words on a resume that tie into a particular job posting. They can include credentials, skills, qualities and abilities of a candidate. They could include technical expertise or other requirements hiring managers are looking for in a role they’re trying to fill.

Keywords are important for tracking purposes. Most companies now use applicant tracking systems (ATS). This technology is widely used to track resumes and screen candidates for jobs. The software has a query system so hiring teams can search for candidates by job skills. The ATS software can eliminate candidate resumes that don’t have keywords matching the particular job description. That’s exactly why it’s important to add keywords into both your resume and your cover letter.

What Kinds of Resume Keywords Are There?

The job of keywords is to get the attention of hiring managers because it matches the job description. Given that most recruiters and hiring teams simply scan resumes for relevant experience, having keywords makes your resume stand out against all other candidates. Here are some examples.

For an employee benefits manager role, use keywords such as:

  • Employee;
  • Benefits;
  • healthcare benefits; and
  • benefits policy.

For a customer service manager position, try to use keywords like:

  • customer service;
  • computer skills;
  • order entry; and
  • phone skills.

For a logistics manager:

  • supply chain;
  • warehouse;
  • operations; and
  • logistics manager.

How do you figure out how to use these keywords? Look at the ad. It should have keywords throughout it you can incorporate into your resume. Try searching for similar job listings to find out what top words seem to be used in most of them. Especially look at the responsibilities/qualifications sections of the job description.

You may want to also look at the company website for keywords. Look at the section called “About Us” to determine what the company thinks is important. For example, if the company uses the word “creative,” clone that adjective and pop it in your resume. Make sure the language of your resume is the one spoken by the company — use keywords whenever possible.

Yes, you should do this for each job application. We know it’s labor intensive, but it will increase your chances of landing a job. Salt these keywords throughout the resume and mix up both hard and soft skills. A variety of keywords in several different places will show the diversity of your experience. Since the company’s ATS may be queued to find particular characteristics, try using multiple versions of keywords and phrases. For example, programmer and developer or nurse and clinician are interchangeable job titles that can mean the same thing.

Finally, consider using some of the same keywords in your cover letter, in case the employer is also scanning these types of documents. An easy way to do this is to list your keyword-heavy job skills in a summary at the beginning of the letter in a bulleted format.

Contact the Top Stack team for more career advice and, when you’re ready, we have the best jobs to fit your skills.