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These Are The Qualities You Need to Be an Amazing Leader

Companies are looking for leaders. You don’t need to be a CEO to exhibit leadership qualities that make you stand out to future employers. What are the qualities that employers look for in their future leaders and how do you measure up?

Top Leadership Qualities for 2020

What makes a leader? We believe that the workplace can hone leadership skills and that tomorrow’s leaders are within the ranks of today’s front line employees. Employers know this, too; that’s why top employers are always on the hunt for employees that they can count on to lead teams. But how can you know if you have the leadership skills that make you stand out to these employers?

Some of the best qualities include:

  • Empathy
    Understanding your coworkers and doing things that help them succeed is one way that empathy manifests in the workplace. Being a good listener and taking time to understand the needs of your boss and coworkers makes you empathetic and understanding.
  • Focus
    Having the single-minded focus to achieve a vision or even a set of tasks is an important skill that leaders exhibit. If you can see the prize, chart a path toward it, and then work hard to achieve it – it’s the kind of focus employers look for in future leaders.
  • Integrity
    Real leaders have integrity in their dealings with people and Integrity means that you try to always do the right thing and are respectful of others in the workplace and even in your life.
  • Mentorship
    How much time do you spend helping others? That quality of mentorship is a kind of give-back to your coworkers, but also to your friends and family as you make your way through life.
  • Presence
    Do people gravitate toward you? That presence is a quality evident in some of the greatest leaders of all time, and it means that your coworkers trust and will follow your lead.
  • Self-Improvement
    If you’re the kind of employee that always has goals to improve yourself or those around you, employers want to hear about it. The best leaders look around constantly to improve the organization and those within it. The best bosses work hard to support their team in growing and learning new skills.
  • Support
    Positivity in the workplace is an amazing skill set that can change the course of business. The best leaders lift others, supporting them in a goal or mission. It can inspire those around us to work harder to achieve goals and create change that can ripple across an organization.
  • Transparency
    Honesty is the human quality that translates to transparency in the workplace. It’s a form of credibility that takes responsibility and ownership for mistakes. Transparency is sincere, consistent, and it lets others know they can trust you.
  • Vision
    Leaders often have a clear-sighted view of what’s ahead and how to get there. They can communicate this vision and have a passion for the execution.

Leadership is crucial to every job, and employers always have their eyes out for individuals that exhibit these skills. If you believe you exemplify these characteristics, Top Stack, and the employers we represent, would like to speak with you. Contact us today.

How to Properly Use Social Media to Help Your Career

Most people probably recognize that social media can both help and harm your career choices. These days most recruiters will track you down on social media and look for inappropriate postings that could disqualify you for a job. But social media can be a tool for good when it comes to your career. How can you use Internet social tools to improve your chances of landing a job?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find Out What it Means on Social Media

Building a positive social media presence requires exercising caution in what you post and what you respond to. Always be respectful in your dealings with other people. Be professional and consider if what you’re trying to say could be used against you in a job search. The most basic rule of thumb for social posts is never to use profanity or post something offensive. But beyond that, don’t take any controversial stance on social media that could hurt your career. Certainly, don’t post memes about how terrible your current role is.

LinkedIn is Your Friend

If you’re not on LinkedIn, now is the time. Make sure you have a professional headshot and a complete profile. Don’t use a selfie picture of you at a party or Disney World. Instead, keep it warmly professional and concise. Make sure if you post, you consider how it would look to an employer. It should be obvious that you don’t use the venue to trash your current employer. The benefit of LinkedIn, however, is that it’s a very active platform for recruiters. There is even a privacy setting on the platform that allows you to let recruiters know you’re looking for a position.

Speaking of Privacy Settings

You can certainly use social media like Instagram or Facebook to share your personal opinions. Still, you should always take advantage of their privacy settings, which allows you to lock down your settings. You can also change your profile name to a nickname or your first and middle names to keep things on the down-low.

Another way to keep things on the down-low is to be careful never to post during the workday. Certainly, don’t post any sensitive information about your company or the work you do. That’s a huge flag for potential employers. If you speak badly about your current company, many employers may wonder what you’ll say about them if you get the job.

Social Media for Job Seekers

The general rule for social media today is to post as if everyone is watching. Be respectful of others, and don’t post on controversial topics. Have a professionally polished presence on LinkedIn, and make sure your privacy settings for your personal, non-work accounts have the appropriate settings to keep these pages more private.

 

Talk with Top Stack for more helpful job search hints. Our team is here to help you find your next career opportunity.

How to Have a Successful First Week at a New Job

Starting a new job is stressful, fun, and exciting. You’re nervous and on edge, maybe not getting enough sleep. By the end of the first week, you may be overwhelmed with how much you need to learn and accomplish. These feelings are very common if it’s your first job or your fifteenth. But we have some tips to help you take it all in, while still hitting the ground at a steady pace.

Soak it All In

First of all, congratulations. You worked hard to get right where you are, which is part of the feeling of excitement you have when walking through the job to a new job. But get some perspective; your real job, in week one, is to be a sponge. Absorb, listen, and take it all in. You need to get the lay of the land politically (who has power, who are your bosses, how can you excel) and culturally (who will be your friend), but also how to communicate, who your teams will be, and even what office systems to use.

Take time to go to orientation and sign up for any classes or training. Attend to all the tedious but important HR paperwork. Then get the lay of the land by sitting in on meetings, observing, and listening. Go to any of the fun stuff they have for you; happy hours, lunches, and take the time to get to know your people.

Soaking in the new environment is the biggest job in your first week. The real work starts in week two, but for now, take time to get comfortable in your new home.

Exercise Caution

It’s going to feel tempting to take on the world in that first week. You’re feeling optimistic and excited. It will be easy to overcommit. While going to meetings and participating is important, you must also find balance by having quiet time at your desk. Do not set yourself up by thinking you can be “all things to all people” and get overwhelmed. Pace and take care of yourself by scheduling a short walk at midday to reflect on everything you’re learning. Or, put in your earbuds while sitting at your desk and writing down what you’ve learned. These techniques will help you find balance later on.

Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask questions. You need to learn and get up to speed fast. Your coworkers will expect you to ask lots of questions, and they should be more than happy that you’re engaged enough to ask. Write down everything, even if it seems mundane. It’s possible at some point your brain will be overwhelmed and start to shut down, making you forget important details. Try writing down everything you can. Then, on Friday of your first week, take time to rewrite your notes more slowly (and probably legibly) to review everything you learned that week.

Speak Up and Add Value

Feel comfortable adding insight when you can during this week. They hired you to add value to the organization, so when you have something to contribute, speak up. You won’t know everything, but maybe you’ll have an idea they haven’t thought of yet. Your willingness to participate in the success of the organization will be noted—and appreciated.

If you’re ready to experience the excitement of a new job, there’s no time like the present. Contact the professionals at TopStack. We have the best jobs in your industry and can help you with your goals.

 

These Tips Will Help You Stop Procrastinating at Work

One in five people admits to being chronic procrastinators. Procrastination is so common; we think these numbers are low. Procrastinators can let work pile up until the pressure is too much or the deadline too close—and something has to give. While procrastinators may say that all that added pressure makes them more creative, is the quality of their work generally better or worse if they’re rushing to get it done? While you’ll have to be the judge, we do have some tips to help you stop procrastinating at work to (finally) accomplish your goals.

Start with the To Do

Let’s go old school for a second and make a list. Limit your list to one to three things that you want to get done that day. Do it every morning before you start work. These tasks are the big accomplishments for the day; the rest is just cake icing. Make it your goal to get the tasks on the list accomplished and do whatever is necessary to make it happen. This includes blocking time on your calendar where you turn off Slack and email, close your office door, and force yourself to concentrate on just those couple of things. If you can do this, every day, you will break your procrastination habit.

Work Backwards from the Deadline

Developers are familiar with this concept. In Agile environments, large complex projects, like a software build, start at the deliverable and map their way back through each task to get to the goal. You can use this same technique no matter what you’re trying to avoid. Say you have a task due on Friday with multiple milestones along the way. Benchmark those milestones throughout the week, and then add them to the day’s task list. By the time Friday hits, you won’t have to pull an all-nighter to get the job done.

Procrastination versus Percolation—What’s the Difference?

Noodling over a project to solve a problem isn’t procrastination. It’s an important part of the creative process that lets you solve a problem. A complex problem may require a walk around the block. You may need to take a break to go to lunch. You may even need to sleep on it. While these things are going on, your subconscious may be working to solve the issue. What you can do is set limits on how much time you’ll spend percolating. That way, you’ll know when you cross the border into procrastination.

Create a Fake Deadline

You’ve heard about fake news? To stay ahead of deadlines, try to forget the real deadline and create a fake one that’s earlier. If the deadline is weeks or months out, setting benchmarks is the first step. But set each of those milestones just slightly ahead of the real deadline. Your efficiency will wow your boss!

Do It Now

Finding a new job isn’t something you should procrastinate over, but so many people hate the drama of job searching, they put it off. The time is now to look for better opportunities. Contact us today. We can help you get started.

How to Advance Your Career in 2020

If you’re like most Americans, you made personal or professional New Year’s resolutions. One of them may be to advance your career in 2020. It’s a good goal that can lead to a better title, more responsibilities, and perhaps more money. If you’re seeking to advance your career, we have some tips that might help you reach your goals.

Expanding Your Skills

Advancement usually comes at the price of hard work. If you’re seeking a better job or increased career responsibilities, it makes send to expand your skillset in your chosen or targeted field. There are tons of free and paid online training tools, many of which come with credentials that can add to your resume. Some good ones include:

There are also hundreds of podcasts that will expand your skills, including:

With the Internet at your fingertips, learning is just a click away. Expanding your skills just takes time and effort, but it’s always worth it.

Seek Mentoring

Seeking out a mentor is an important way to move forward in your job in the New Year. Look for a mentor that already has the skills you’re seeking or a job you’d like to work toward. A mentor can give you objective advice on your career and motivate you in new ways. You can look for mentors in your current or a former workplace or seek out a colleague from your social network. Do you have a former college professor that you look up to? Or, does a friend have a connection with a business colleague that could help your career? The key to learning new skills is to make a connection with someone you trust and respect that can give you honest and authentic advice to move your career forward.

Network

Networking is extremely important for advancing your career. In fact, about 70% of new jobs are found through networking. LinkedIn is a good place to start this process; having an updated professional social profile is a crucial first step toward building a network. You can use a tool like LinkedIn to follow companies or professionals that have advanced in their career to where you want to go. It might help you connect with a mentor, as well. You can also attend networking events in your community to reach more people or join a professional organization. There are all kinds of social and professional organizations out there, from Girls Who Code to Toastmasters. There are also dozens of MeetUp groups happening in cities and towns all over the country. Each of these opportunities exposes you to new ways to learn and grow.

One of the best networking partnerships you can form is with a recruiter. Recruiters know people and companies, so taking the time to network with these professionals will help advance your career in new ways.

At TopStack, we believe in your goal of self-improvement. Contact the recruiters at Top Stack when you’re ready to meet your New Year’s career advancement goals.

 

4 Tips For How to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

In 2020, it’s all about soft skills. Soft skills are the interpersonal traits that help people collaborate and work well with others on tasks and goals. Interpersonal skills are increasingly important in most fields, but particularly in careers where big teams must work together toward a common aim.

Here are four tips on how to improve these important interpersonal skills in 2020.

All About Interpersonal Skills

Some of the best and most in-demand skills for 2020 are interpersonal skills such as:

  • Active listening
  • Motivation
  • Communication
  • Conflict management
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Leadership

No matter the job, we can all agree that some of the skills necessary for getting along with others in the workplace. Having these skills can mean the difference between completing a team-driven set of tasks and failing to meet goals. Having or not having interpersonal skills can also strongly affect your career advancement—and new employers are always on the lookout for these traits.

Since these skills are so important, how can you improve them?

Tip 1 – Increase Your Confidence

Having a balance between humility and confidence will help you quietly command a team. Shyness has no place in collaborative environments, so building your confidence will allow you to advance your career. In a job, having confidence can come with experience but also subject matter expertise. But if you feel like you lack the self-confidence needed, sit down and write up your strengths. This is especially helpful if you’re going into a big meeting and feel nervous. Take that list into the meeting and glance at it to shore up your confidence.

Tip 2 – Ask for Feedback

If you want to have confidence in your skills, ask the people around you for feedback. Tell them you’re trying to improve your interpersonal skills and ask if they’d share how you come across in meetings. Are you a good listener? Does the person feel like you’re working well as part of the team? How can you improve? The positive feedback will give you a confidence boost. Anything negative will be like a roadmap for your self-improvement.

Tip 3 – Listen and Ask

Listening is just as important as talking. Everyone knows this, but far too many people forget to hone their listening skills. Asking questions and listening to the answers is an important way to hone your interpersonal skills. It’s a selfless way to engage with others. Practicing these skills is important when working in a team environment.

Tip 4 – Gain Perspective

Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Gaining the perspective of another person’s approach to problem solving or communication will help you gain patience. Before responding to a team member, try imagining their perspective on things. Then try to adapt your response to their unique situation and perspective.

Employers increasingly seek out workers with solid interpersonal skills. In today’s increasingly collaborative environments, it is these skills that help organizations come together as teams to get the job done.

Top Stack offers the kinds of opportunities where collaboration and communication are just as important as hard job skills. Make the connection. Contact our team about your options today.

4 Great Ways to Stay Motivated at Work

Most Americans are disengaged at work. It’s a sad state of affairs that many people in every field lack the motivation to do more than the bare minimum at work. While this may not always be the case, sometimes work can get boring and monotonous, and people can struggle to stay motivated. This is true in every job and every field. Some days there are exciting projects to work on and other days—not so much.

This article will give you four ways to stay motivated even when you’re feeling “blah” on the job. You’ll be surprised by how a few changes to your attitude will improve the motivation of everyone around you.

  1. Put Your Work in Context

Not every task can be glamorous. This is especially true on particularly complicated projects like building a software product. But everyone on the team plays a crucial role in the build, so recognizing the bigger context of your work is important for staying motivated. Say you’re a finance manager trying to balance the books in a non-profit organization. The task of cleaning up a ledger may feel like watching paint dry, but how are you helping the mission of the non-profit organization by completing these tasks? No matter how mundane or small the task, everyone has a role to play toward achieving the organizational mission.

  1. Avoid Procrastination by Breaking Down

By “breaking down,” we don’t mean having a tantrum or weeping uncontrollably. Sometimes you lose motivation and overwhelmed by how large the job is. All books start one page at a time. All presentations start with an outline. All projects start with a task list. Every closed deal starts with that first phone call.

Try replacing the huge project jamming up your motivational gears with a series of smaller tasks. As each task is accomplished, celebrate the small win to keep motivating yourself. You can try this approach with a team or across a department to keep everyone moving forward. Something is satisfying about crossing a task off a list as you move toward a goal.

  1. Step Outside the Box

Is your lack of motivation stemming from being underutilized? Are you simply bored? Breaking out of your funk means breaking away from your comfort zone. Are there skills you want to apply somewhere else but don’t feel you have the chance? Are you just not feeling challenged? Why don’t you speak with your supervisor about taking on a new project outside the box you’ve found yourself in? Breaking up your routine could require additional training or helping with a new project. It could even be a physical rut; are you sitting at your desk all day? Should you get up at lunch and take a brisk walk to improve your mood? The point is that you need to shake yourself out of the rut you’re in by doing something different to remotivate and inspire yourself.

  1. Push Yourself By Setting More Deadlines, Not Less

Snap yourself out of routine by setting daily goals and deadlines for yourself. This works well if you have a big project that you’ve broken into increments. Every day try writing down your tasks and set one big goal to go after. It’s okay to share what you’re doing with others on the team. Make it a contest to see who can hit their goals fastest. The power of the team will create some competitiveness, which could push all of you to hit deadlines and reengage in the tasks you’re doing.

If you’re still not motivated in 2020, maybe it’s time for a change of venue. Top Stack has a variety of roles. Contact us about jump-starting your career.

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.

 

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.