For some people, the worst fear is a layoff. For others, it’s a demotion. But if you’re given the chance to choose between the two, how do you decide?

Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to take a little time to make that call and not become wrapped up in the emotion of the moment. You may be tempted to voice your true feelings on the matter to management, which could burn bridges in both the short and long term. Take a breather and try to see things objectively so you can make the best decision for you.

A layoff can leave you feeling high and dry, but it may represent the chance for a fresh start. Maybe you’ve been meaning to take a few weeks off, or maybe a total career change is in the cards. This could be a great time to go back to school, spend time with family, or consider whether you’re really happy with what you’re doing.

On the other hand, taking a demotion means you can keep some stability in your life. While a demotion equals backtracking in your career to a degree, it also means that you can keep your job and maintain a similar status quo. However, “reclassification” can be a major ego bruiser that not everyone recovers from quickly.

Choosing between a layoff and demotion isn’t easy. Take your time to think things all the way through and imagine the direction your life will take with each scenario. Which choice meshes best with your goals? Which one gives you a better gut feeling? Whether you choose the relative safety of a demotion or the chance for a fresh start that comes with a layoff, you have to do what feels best to you based on your situation.

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So many people think about what their clothes says about them, but what about their work space? Everyone works differently, and oftentimes a desk can reveal more about you than you think. 

Take a moment and look at your desk. What’s on it? Is it littered with papers and files, or is it neat and tidy? Are the walls as plastered with photos as a street corner is with concert advertisements, or are they bare?

No matter what type of worker you are, your desk says as much about you as your clothes and personal style. If your space looks like a paper swamp, coworkers will assume you’re sloppy and disorganized. If it’s tidy or has more of a controlled chaos feel, you’re more likely to be trusted with important assignments. 

Personal objects within a space also say a lot. While it’s good to have some photos and perhaps a funny toy or two, don’t go overboard. You want to project an image of someone who is at work, not at play. Take time to choose just the right things to put at your desk, ones that will give you an emotional boost whenever you see them. Don’t let your space feel too cluttered with personality or it may appear as if you are not focused enough on the job.

On the other hand, having no personal items may work against you. If your desk is indistinguishable from the empty one beside you, people may have trouble locating your space. If you never “move in,” it may seem like you’re transitional and don’t plan on staying with the company. If you’re not into decoration, throw in a photo or two and call it a day, or install a white board to write work notes on.

Another fun way to add personality without going overboard is with a cool lamp. Lamps can be cheap to pick up, make a space feel more comfortable, and add extra light. It can make you feel more at home without over personalizing.

If you want to take a fun quiz to test your desk personality and see what your space may say about you, check out this link from TestQ.

Group work can be challenging. You never know what sort of leader you might have, whether your colleagues will pull their weight, and you want to be noticed without being labeled as a bad team player. Team dynamics can be foggy to navigate, but there are ways to stand out without making colleagues feel put out.

Don’t be negative. When it comes to attitude, positive is the only way to go. If you’re feeling down or doubtful, keep it to yourself. You don’t want to drag the group down, and having an upbeat attitude can change the whole group’s dynamic for the better. You may not be the leader, but your attitude can change the course of the project.

Be reliable. When working with any group, you want to be the person that everyone can count on to keep your promises. Be consistent and dependable. If something goes wrong, don’t try to blame someone or something else; take responsibility. You’ll become a team member that everyone respects.

Listen, listen, listen. Lots of people think that good communication is about how well you can speak. But the best communicators are actually outstanding listeners. Before you try to communicate your own ideas, listen to your leader and team members. They’ll value this quality, and it will make you that much more credible when you do speak up.

Pitch in. If you’re eager to get ahead, chances are that you’re good at what you do. If you finish your project assignments early, offer to help your colleagues. Ask your leader where help is most needed, then get set to lend a hand. Your colleagues in need will appreciate your help, and so will the project leader.

Most of all, think about what you most value in a team member. Then do your best to be the kind of person you would love to work with.

Kermit the frog likes to sing that “it’s not that easy being green,” and the same goes for being the leader of a group. When you’re the person in charge, you have a lot to manage. There are deadlines, group dynamics, and a variety of ideas to handle. How do you stay on top and keep the respect of your peers?

Be open to new ideas. Every group project should begin with a brainstorm. No matter how streamlined your processes may seem, there is always room for improvement. A good brainstorm where every idea is written on a board is a great way to begin your project.

Value the ideas of the group. Not every idea is going to be perfect, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good ones rolling around in the room. Let the group know that their thoughts are important, and you might be surprised what people share.

Be flexible. Almost every great idea is difficult to accept in the beginning. After all, change is difficult, whereas sticking to conventions is simple. Have the courage to think outside the box, and you might just discover a better way of doing things.

Allocate tasks and manage timelines. As a leader, it’s your job to make sure deadlines are met and that everyone pulls their weight. Set up a task like so that every group member’s role is defined, then create an illustrated timeline that will help everyone stay on track.

Be disciplined, but have fun. You want to project an attitude of authority, but you don’t want to be a dictator. Be the kind of leader you would want to work with, and let yourself have a little fun as you meet goals alongside your colleagues. Being relaxed and enjoying the work will make you much more fun to work with, and it will also help people respect you.

When your project goes smoothly and deadlines are met, organize everyone for a special lunch or drink after work. You deserve it, and everyone will appreciate the celebration.

New Job, Month 1: A survival guide

On October 28, 2011, in Career Advice, Hot Topics, Success on the Job, by Randstad Staffing

While you may think that surviving the first day or week of a new job means you’re out of the woods, the first month is really the toughest. There’s a new culture to learn, new faces to learn, a new position to learn… And all that learning can become stressful fast.

The same rule that applies to your first day still stands: Smile! Make an effort to show your pearly whites even if you feel stressed or overwhelmed. People’s first impressions of you at work go beyond the first day, and showing your positive personality will be a big part of how well you do at the job in the long term. So stand up straight, be confident, and smile. Also, check out this helpful video that features quick tips for appearing more confident.

Don’t be afraid to branch out. While you may be tempted to hang at your cubicle for lunch or visit old coworkers, make an effort to get to know your new ones. Ask a group out to lunch so you can get to know them better. While this will make working with people easier, you’re also likely to pick up important information in a more casual setting where people are comfortable.

Don’t complain, no matter how stressed you might feel on a given day. Stay positive and don’t give up—stick with it. Keep arriving early and staying until quitting time to prove your dedication and commitment.

Finally, it’s okay to ask questions; in fact, it’s expected. Try to learn as much as you can independently, but when you need help, ask for it. You’re new, and people expect that you have to overcome the learning curve. Everyone will understand, and they’re probably happy to help.

Is your office so gossipy that you feel like coming to work wearing a tortoise shell just to shield yourself from all the backbiting? If so, then you know how stressful and upsetting a gossipy environment can be.

On one hand, sometimes hearing juicy details can be interesting and break up the monotony of another dull day at the office. But on the other hand, when you’re the one whose beans are being spilled when the gossip train turns on you, it’s not so fun anymore.

  The best way to avoid gossip is to not become a part of it. That means you   don’t get  to tweet any deets about your coworkers should you stumble on them. If  you hear a sensational or very personal bit of news or rumor, leave it be. Don’t publicize it and become part of the fray.

Now comes the hard part: If you hear people gossiping, don’t listen. You may think you can cheat by listening and not speaking, but that doesn’t count. If you listen to gossip, you’re just as guilty, and you’re encouraging a negative culture within your company. You don’t want to add power to the rumor mill, lest your name be next on the news roster.

Finally, do your best not to share personal information with coworkers. While it can be tempting to share a few details with coworkers to bolster relationships, sometimes people have a way of twisting details until juice comes out and gossip is born.

If you know you work in a company where gossip prevails, think of yourself as the manager of your own personal public relations agency. You control what details you share, and professionalism should always be the first rule.

Don’t participate in gossip (which includes listening), and don’t fuel the flames with personal details of your own. You might be surprised—over time, others may choose to show the same behavior, and order can be restored so that no back armor is required.

Social media is a great tool to use when searching for a job. It can connect you with important contacts, allow you to demonstrate professionalism through your profile, and help you research a company’s culture instead of just its business statistics.

While social media shouldn’t be your only job hunting resource, it’s an invaluable way to research a company. Official company sites may post news and business updates, but social media pages are more likely to feature news that has to do with company culture, such as picnic photos. Fan pages also allow you to see how the business interacts with consumers.

After you’ve landed an interview, use LinkedIn and other social sites to view your interviewer’s job history and background. This can help you tailor specific questions and adjust your interview presentation accordingly. Proving you have done your research will show that you’re a valuable candidate.

Social media is even changing the way companies recruit college graduates. This recent article from USAToday.com says that nearly 28 percent of college students plan to seek employment using LinkedIn, up from last year by 5 percent. Campus visits with paper pamphlets are going down, and social media presence is rising.

When candidates reach the offer stage, it’s now common practice for them to reach out to current or former employees to ask for advice on negotiation. Even quick email conversations can help candidates get a clearer picture of what it’s really like to work somewhere, get a scope of work assignments, and get tips on salary ranges.

Using social media might help you land the job you want, but it could also help you to negotiate a better bottom line!

In a perfect world, every work place would be filled with employees who mesh perfectly and get along all day, every day. But we don’t live in a perfect world.

When it comes to categories of jerks that may work beside you, the list is long: the bully, the crybaby, the thief, the gossip, the snob. Where do you turn when a coworker has you clawing your way up the cubicle wall?

Be prepared. If you know someone is argumentative, bossy, or snarky, don’t let their behavior surprise you. Anticipate what they will do and practice how you will react. A professional reaction is much better than an instinctive one, which will more likely be childish and angry or annoyed. Respond, don’t react.

Be kind. While you may wish to flush your coworker’s keys down the toilet, it’s better to be kind. Why? First, it’s the right thing to do, but second, it takes their power away. Difficult people thrive on conflict, and refusing to engage in nasty banter leaves them without any fuel. Besides, sinking to their level will make you as bad as they are.

Loop in a professional. If situations are continually escalating, get human resources involved. Calmly and rationally explain the issue and ask for mediation help. Human resources should be more than willing to help resolve the conflict.

If it’s really bad, move on. If you’ve tried every kindness and available route for resolution and your coworker still seems to be out to get you, it might be time to start looking for another job. While this may seem extreme, if the coworker is negatively impacting your work and your life, you deserve to find a better job. Besides, do you really want to work at a company where bad behavior is allowed to run the show?

Whenever you put a bunch of folks in a room together for nine hours a day, every day, there are going to be issues. The question is how to maintain your sanity in a workplace ripe with the possibility of folks getting on your nerves. Four types of coworker can be especially tough to handle; here’s an outline of who they are and how to handle them. 

The Narcissist. Narcissists are people who are obsessed with themselves and think of situations in terms of how it affects them. They’re egocentric, and nobody else matters. To navigate around a narcissist, try to position requests around how it will affect them. If you need something from them, bring it all back to how it will make them look great.

The Talker. Talkers can be tricky—they can drone for hours, but the problem is getting them out of your space so you can get your work done. Invincible to signals such as turning around and eyes rolling back in your head, talkers just want to hang out and gab. Try saying you’re on a deadline; if that doesn’t work, use your cell phone to discreetly dial your office phone. Your office line just became a lifeline.

The Smarty Pants. Smarty Pants think they’ve got it all figured out, whether they’re an arrogant sales dude or a snarky IT Help desk attendant. How to get around them? Feed their ego, get what you need, and make your exit. If your IT guy feeds on praise, then give it to him until he fixes your computer. You’ll likely move to the top of the line the next time something breaks.

The Black Hole. Black Hole people relentlessly suck all your energy, time, and work out of you, yet are always thirsty for more. The best thing you can do is to nip the behavior in the bud before it becomes a habit. Set clear boundaries in the beginning about sharing your work and time with them, and set limits for how long you will listen to their problems. Be professional, turn your back, and move on.

For more great tips on dealing with obnoxious behavior at work, check out this hilarious and accurate field guide by Geoffrey James. It will have you nodding, laughing, and saying “aha!” to some bright ideas for handling people who are tough to deal with.

Stressed Out At Work

On March 29, 2011, in Career Advice, Hot Topics, Success on the Job, Work/Life Balance, by Randstad Staffing

Feeling stressed? You’re not the only one. According to a recent study, nearly one out of three workers is experiencing extreme stress.

It’s no wonder given the current economic situation, and some of the personal experiences that some individuals  faced during the past two years. Fear about keeping a job, concern if a spouse or partner lost a job, increased costs of everything from food to gas to medical bills.

Stress is a common ailment but it can be helped. If you feel like you are experiencing the signs of anxiety, tension and pressure, consider these tips to help relieve it:

  • Treat yourself to a massage. Good for mind, body and spirit, your stress will melt away. A little pricey? No problem. Check out if there are massage therapy schools near you. Often times, students give massages at a significant discount.
  • Discover a hobby. Take your mind off things by indulging in a hobby. The distraction can help you relax and relieve tension, and give you enjoyment.
  • Indulge in a little “me time”. There’s nothing wrong with solitude, and sometimes that’s all it takes to decompress and let stress go.  Read a book, go for a walk, or take a warm bath or shower to let go of stressful feelings.

Stress can interrupt sleep, become a distraction from work, or worse, make you sick. There are a number of ways to find stress relief, and it’s important to find the one that works best for you.