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.

The Best Questions to Ask At the End of the Interview

A few great questions to ask at the end of an interview include “Beyond the hard skills required to successfully perform the job, what soft skills would serve the company and position best?” “what have past employees done to succeed in this position?” and more.

Interviews are hard. You meet with strangers for an hour and somehow have to thrill them to the point where they offer you a job. If you’re shy or lack self-confidence, it can make the interview process awkward and uncomfortable. Even if you are the most qualified person for the role, the interview could be a slippery slope that you have a hard time with.

One of the most awkward moments of an interview can come at the end. Is there a way to neatly wrap up the discussion in a polite, professional manner that leaves the hiring managers wanting more? This article will give you some great ideas for wrapping up the conversation.

Best Ways to End an Interview

Finding the right questions to ask your interviewer shows that you have done your research and have skin in the game. This includes the end of the interview process, where the hiring team may tell you that they’ll get back to you. Instead of leaving the ball in their court, why not try one of these questions that will show the interviewers you are very interested in the position—and ready to go to work.

When the interviewers ask you, “Do you have any questions for us?” try one of these questions to leave on a positive note.

  1. Who is the ideal candidate for this position, and how do I compare?
    This is a good way to determine if your skills are even close to what the hiring team is looking for. If you don’t seem like a match, you’ll know it on the spot, so you can move on with your search instead of waiting for the company to get back to you with a “No.”
  2. What soft skills are you looking for in a successful candidate?
    Soft skills are the ones you need to get along with the team and fit into the company culture.
  3. What have past employees done to succeed in this position?
    If it’s a new role, this question doesn’t fit. But if it isn’t, this is a great question to determine what metrics you’ll be held to and what the company believes is important. It could also lead you to ask what kind of advancement is available to the person in the position.
  4. How has this position evolved?
    Again, this is another question that may not apply. It’s important to know if the person in the role before you was fired or let go. This is an excellent question to get a sense of company stability and how the firm has evolved.
  5. What would a typical day look like in this position?
    Don’t you want to know what the job really entails? This is a good question to understand workflows, who you report to, and the daily grind.

Ending your interview with these intelligent, respectful, but probing questions, is an important way to leave hiring teams with a positive impression. For more tips and tricks, why not send your resume to the team at Top Stack. We have great jobs and information to share. Contact us today.

Learn How to Connect with Your Interviewer

Making a meaningful connection with someone that you’ve just met is challenging. When it’s a face-to-face interview, you also have the pressure of somehow connecting respectfully with the interviewer in a way that lands you a new job. No pressure, right? Here’s how to connect more thoroughly on the spot with an interviewer to improve your chances of getting the job you want.

Step 1 – Prepare

Prepping for an interview is extremely important. Make sure you take the time to understand the company and the person you are interviewing with. You can find out more about the interviewer or panel of interviewers and the company on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Taking the time to understand the background of the individuals you’ll meet is just as important as understanding the kind of company you’ll be working for. Try thinking about how you will relate one-on-one to the person you are interviewing with.

The added benefit of preparing for the interview by researching background material is it will help you feel more confident and in control during the process.

Step 2 – Establish rapport

Many times it is the soft skills that will get you the job. Interviewers will measure your friendliness and communication skills. If you come across well during the interview you’ll likely interact more effectively with co-workers, clients, or managers. If you don’t establish a connection during the interview process the hiring manager or recruiter may assume you are not a good communicator or generally pleasant to deal with, so making a good first impression is highly important. Here are some suggestions for how to create rapport with your interview team:

  • Greet the interviewers warmly as if you’re happy to see them. Stand up, shake their hand, and share that you appreciate the opportunity.
  • Smile and be genuine in your interactions. Try to express positive emotions, even when the interview questions are difficult. Always be optimistic and enthusiastic about chatting with your interviewer as you share your story.
  • Make small talk by asking the interviewer or recruiter questions such as, “How is your day going so far?” Ask the interviewers how long they’ve worked at the company or whether they’ve had other roles at the company. This will help relax the interviewer and warm up the conversation.
  • Sit up straight and lean into the interview questions to show that you are engaged. Always make eye contact to show you’re listening to what they’re saying. Acknowledge that you’re listening by nodding and affirming the conversation with, “I see,” or, “I understand.”
  • Many times you’ll interview with a team of people, so try to pay attention to everyone in the room as much as you can. This is hard to do sometimes, especially if it’s one primary person doing the interview. However, it’s important to try to build rapport with everyone in the room.
  • At the end of the interview, thank everyone for their time. Follow up immediately with an email to your contact and reiterate your interest in the position.

Top Stack can put you in touch with major employers who are standing by to interview you. Practice these interview skills by reaching out to our team to see what’s available in your community. Contact us today.

What You Need to Know About Working with a Recruiter

What if you had a free human resource professional to help you find your next job? What if that resource could help you improve your resume and connect you to your next job? Recruiters can do all that, and more. If you haven’t worked with a recruiter, this article will help you understand how you can benefit from establishing this relationship.

Understanding the Role of a Recruiter in Your Job Search

Applying to jobs from a job board is like tossing your resume into a black hole. Many times you never even hear back from the company you’re applying to. If you’ve been longing for a more human-centered presence in your job hunt, it’s probably time to reach out to a recruiter and build a relationship.

Some companies have internal recruiters and you may have worked with one in the past to interview for a job at their company. But some external recruiters work for third-party staffing agencies. These firms provide additional help to companies seeking new employees. They usually have a close tie to a hiring manager and can help fill you in on the company’s long-term goals, culture, and process for employment.

Third-party staffing firms often work with several employers and the benefit is that they may hear about jobs even before they’re posted. They often have a unique insight into a company’s hiring practices. If the recruiter is a good one, they are heavily networked with the local community, which makes them a terrific resource for job seekers.

Did we mention that this is a free service? That’s because the employer pays the recruiting overhead as part of their fee when they hire a candidate. Look for a recruiter that works in your field. There are recruiting firms that work in healthcare, manufacturing, technology, and all kinds of other professions. Start by selecting a firm that specializes in the types of jobs you’re looking for. Check their website and connect with some of their recruiters on LinkedIn. Then pick your target for building a relationship that will help you find your next job.

Benefits of Working with a Recruiter

You and your recruiting partner both have the same goal in mind; finding your next great job. Here are some of the benefits of working with a recruiter:

  • They will keep your search confidential and are careful to submit your resume and pitch your candidacy to firms that are the best fit for your skills.
  • They will help you revamp your resume so you stand a better chance of finding a job.
  • Give you feedback on how you interviewed and what you need to work on or improve.
  • Share background and insider information on the company you’re considering.
  • Discuss whether your salary expectations are in line with the market.
  • Get your resume out to a huge network of employers.

If you’re looking for a job, contact Top Stack. We will find you the best recruiter who can advocate for your candidacy with employers and find you a better job.

This is How A Temporary Job Can Benefit Your Career

Employees today have more choices than ever before. With the unemployment rate at historically low levels and the flexible work economy thriving, you have options for building your career that you may not have realized. One of those options is a temporary job. While temp jobs may have had negative connotations in the past, they’ve gained new status as flexible ways to improve your skills and build a stronger resume in a shorter amount of time.

The New Work Reality

The American Staffing Association (ASA) says there are more than three million temporary and contract workers engaged at staffing agencies each week. American companies hire almost 17 million of these workers each year. Some of their statistics illustrate how temporary jobs have new validity in today’s economy:

  • 76% of temp employees work full-time.
  • Almost half say it’s a good way to get a permanent job.
  • Nine of 10 say temporary jobs make them more employable.

These workers cite the flexibility of the temp job as something both highly attractive and the primary reason for choosing these positions. The research from the ASA also says the average wage is $17 per hour for temp workers but some make more than $100 per hour depending on their skillset.

The benefits of temporary jobs are myriad. They include:

  • As the ASA data shows, flexibility is the key driver for workers snagging lucrative temporary jobs. A temp job can flex with your life; if you need a special schedule or only want to commit to a specific timeframe for working, a temporary job gives you options that you may not have with permanent employment.
  • For workers that may not have the experience to land a full-time permanent position, a temporary job is a good way to add skills to your resume quickly. Ultimately, these temporary positions may lead to an entirely new career.
  • Temp jobs can expose you to an entirely new network, adding new business connections and exposure to new people. It can also add new references to your resume or LinkedIn profile that you didn’t have before.
  • A temporary job could also get your foot into a company where you haven’t been able to make headway. Many of these jobs can go permanent, but again, you have the power to pick and choose your next steps.
  • Temping in a position allows you to try it before you buy it, exposing you to the workplace culture while you get to know a company before making a long-term career commitment.
  • A temporary job can also close or eliminate gaps in your resume when you cannot work full-time.

Today, temping is the new normal. Millions of workers now take advantage of the benefits of contract employment for the flexibility and high pay these roles offer. It’s a positive step toward shoring up your career and will allow you to learn and modernize your skills. If you haven’t considered contract work, maybe now is the time.

The Top Stack team will work closely with you to determine your career goals and see if temporary work can get you on the right track. We specialize in partnerships to help you succeed in the job market. Contact us to learn how we help you today.

These 8 Resume Writing Tips Will Help You Get a Job

It’s crazy, but that little Word document called a resume is still very important to your job search. Employers use resumes to get to know your career history and a good one can get you an interview. Having a resume with typos, or one that lacks keywords that seem to fit the job you’re applying to, will cause the hiring manager or recruiter to discard you as unfit for the role. Here are some tips to get your resume noticed.

  1. Keywords
    Keywords are important words that crop up in the job description you’re applying to. Take those key action words and work them into your resume. This will help employers searching on job boards to find your resume. Each resume you send should use keywords specific to the job you’re applying to. Pay particular attention to the words in the qualifications section of the job description.
  2. Look at other resumes to improve yours
    Try doing an online search for resume examples of people in your industry. There are so many resume samples out there; it can be helpful to determine what some popular styles are in your field.
  3. Common resume best practices
    Do not make your resume too long or you’ll lose your audience. Each section of the resume should be concise and full of action, with concrete examples of achievements in each job. Focus on the most key and relevant information that will impress future employers. But also use numbers and metrics that show your accomplishments.
  4. Use a simple but professional font
    Skip Comic Sans and instead go for Times New Roman or Arial. Keep your font size no larger than 12 points. Selecting a clear and readable font will also ensure applicant tracking systems (ATS) can easily read your resume, so that nothing will be lost.
  5. Put the most relevant information first
    Resumes are typically chronological, but they should be brief. Start with your last job and work backward. While you may have extensive work experience, try to encapsulate everything into just a couple of pages. Hiring managers do not spend more than a few seconds to a few minutes looking at each resume, so give them the concise version of your work history with the high points right on the top of the front page.
  6. Use action language
    Power words are important on a resume. Earned, completed, accomplished and achieved are all action words perfect for the average resume. Speak in very concise language with short sentences that emphasize your accomplishments. Reduce words by cutting out anything unnecessary.
  7. Skip the Objectives section
    Trust us, the employer knows your goal is to find a challenging new job. Save space on your resume by eliminating this section and go straight to the heart of your experience and expertise.
  8. Margins matter
    Use a one-inch margin all around the page. Single spacing is fine unless you have too much white space. You can increase the margins, too, if this is a problem but don’t go over two inches.
  9. Edit and proofread
    There is nothing worse than sending out a resume with a typo. Go through several rounds of editing and then ask your friends and colleagues to take a look. There are online proofreading and spelling tools you can use, but there is nothing like the advice from an objective third party.

The Top Stack team is standing by and would be happy to take a look at your resume. Contact us today.

Not Sure How to Answer an Interview Question? Here’s What to Do

It’s going to happen. You’re going to run into an interview question you can’t answer. You may have prepared extensively for the interview, gotten plenty of sleep, and went in primed to rock it. But then there’s a curveball question and you draw a blank. What should you do?

  1. Slow down and take a breath.
    You can control the interview process by using a stalling tactic. For example, try saying, “That’s a good question,” or use some other phrase to acknowledge you’re thinking about it. Tell the interviewer you’re thinking about it. While it’s natural to want to fill the silence with words, try to just sit still with the silence for a moment as you try to work out the question. You can also ask clarifying questions. Then move to step two.
  2. Solve the problem out loud.
    Sometimes interviewers want to figure out how you think, so they deliberately ask questions that require you to figure out a problem and provide a solution. After you’ve taken a moment to clarify the question and get control of the conversation, walk through the steps necessary to come up with the answer. For example, if you’re asked about a particular process you don’t have a series of steps for, describe the steps you would likely take to accomplish your goal. Try to frame the conversation in steps, such as, “First, I would probably do X,” and finish with “Lastly, I would.” That will help frame your conversation for the interviewer.
  3. Redirect the conversation to something you do know.
    If you’re asked a question you can’t answer, try redirecting the conversation into an area you know. Try to think about crossover skills you bring to the table, even if you don’t have the specific skill they’re asking about. That approach is better than admitting you don’t have the skill or just cannot answer the question. Talk about how you would use your existing skills to solve the problem or how you’re a great troubleshooter able to learn new things quickly.
  4. Have a fallback answer, just in case.
    If you get a question that requires a definition you simply don’t know or an explanation of a concept you haven’t learned yet, try to work through it if you can. If you simply can’t answer because it’s a term you’re not familiar with, try expressing that while you haven’t learned about that concept yet, you are very excited and eager to learn more about the industry. You can also say you don’t know, but you’re going to Google it as soon as you leave and learn it immediately. Then, when you do your interview follow up, make sure you email the answer to the question to show your ability to learn and your eagerness for the job.

Working with a recruiter is one of the best ways to prepare for your next interview. Recruiters work closely with their clients and can fully prep you for the questions you’ll be asked or at the very least the interview team you’ll meet. They are your best tool to help you land the job you’ve been dreaming about. Contact Top Stack to take the next step in your career.

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.