12/21/13

No Feedback Yet for an Interview I Had. Am I Rejected?


A lot of candidates ask themselves when should a proper feedback come from their potential employer. "Am I rejected?" they ask. Well, here's how it all goes:

1. Most companies won't reply to just receiving your application. In most cases, if you receive anything at all, it's an auto-responder email. So, don't get too excited - it means only that they received your application and that from then on you need to wait.

2. From receiving your application, they may contact you immediately (and I mean immediately - we were searching at some point for a Reporting specialist and I was scanning the applications every 60 minutes - the position was critical, so the guy that we hired in the end was called to be scheduled for interview about 30 minutes after he applied) OR it may take even months. My personal advice, don't send just one application and then just wait. Send applications to all positions you are interested in and take it from there. You have better chances this way. Just for you to have an idea about when you may be contacted - check to see when is the deadline for applications. Normally companies contact candidates shortly after that.

3. If they contact you for a first test or interview, then feedback from their side is mandatory. If they don't offer it, then this company is not worth taking into consideration. All reliable companies who respect their candidates should offer feedback, no matter if it's negative or positive. Negative feedback normally comes via email (sometimes via phone - we used to call all candidates who we thought had some potential chances in the future to tell them what to improve and when to apply again). Positive feedback comes as an invitation to another interview or as a job offering (via phone, email or as an invitation at the headquarters where the offer is discussed face to face).

So, when should you start worrying about not receiving the feedback? First of all, remember to ask at the interview about feedback. It's not wrong to ask details concerning the potential date of receiving feedback. If the tell you two weeks, give them 2-3 weeks (maybe they have some additional candidates they need to see before the final decision and it takes slightly a bit longer, the hiring manager is busy and can't have final interviews as initially planned or even the client comes with some changes in recruitment plans) and then start worrying. If it's been 4 weeks already and nobody has bothered to tell you anything (sometimes recruiters call candidates to tell them when feedback has been delayed), then forget about this company and start searching again.

Good luck with all your job plans and Happy Holidays,
Geo

12/15/13

My Future Employer Asks for My Criminal Record. Is This Common Practice?



A standard employment pack includes the following: personal ID, birth certificate, marriage certificate, birth certificates of your children, diplomas of your studies and courses,  bank account details (if they pay your salary via bank account), medical checks (just final OK from company doctor, not details of your illnesses which are confidential), records of previous jobs and recommendations, various statements that are filled in right before or right after you start.

Not all companies include the criminal record in the standard employment pack, but don't be surprised if they do. It can be for two reasons:

1. Internal procedures ask for it - your company may be part of a larger group or a large multinational, the owners may ask for it or past experience may have convinced them it's necessary. You may never know what issues they may have had in the past with their employees. I will tell you about a situation I had myself in the past with one of my previous companies - one of the employees we were about to hire (on the position of storage room manager) had been previously convicted for stealing. We found that out by asking for the criminal record. Would you trust your storage room with such an employee?

2. Client asks for it - we had a situation when a new client conditioned the signing of the contract on the new hires' criminal record - they would work with us only if the employees in their team had all clean criminal records. We had to accept the condition in order not to lose the business.

Besides criminal record, some companies ask even for drug tests. Don't consider it a discrimination factor. It's all normal. They are protecting themselves. 

Lastly, what you need  to know additionally in order to protect yourselves, the following are reasons for discrimination, are illegal and companies can't ask for any details connected to these: gender, sexual orientation, personal genetic features, age, nationality, ethnic group, religion, political orientation, social origin, disabilities, marital status or marital responsibilities (including pregnancy tests), Union affiliation.

Take care,
Geo

12/12/13

My Colleague Isn't Doing His Job. What Do I Do?

Unpleasant as it may be, this has happened for sure to a lot of you. You have a colleague not doing his job and sometimes your work depends on his. Not nice, right? What to do then? Go to the manager? Eventually yes, but you don't want to. You don't want them to see you complaining or you want to go there with some solutions, not only the problem...Here are a few more things you can do in the meantime...



-Organize informal team buildings (evenings or week-ends out in the city, out of the city somewhere or even during a break at the office)- invite everybody in the team, including the colleague we are talking about and try to talk about the job and personal life if they are willing to share; see what he tells the rest - if he didn't perform well at all, maybe he lacks training and he needs help from the rest of you (some people are shy or a bit vain and refuse to admit that they need help); if his performance changed in time, maybe he has a personal problem, maybe he has motivation issues, maybe he no longer likes the job or no longer feels professional satisfaction doing it; just talk to each other and find out what's wrong; there may be something that can be fixed without the help of the manager;

Here's what you can find out as a result:
  • A personal problem is involved, try to help if possible; if not, try to understand for a while longer;
  • A job problem is involved - see if you, your colleagues or your manager can help - if yes, propose to your colleagues or your manager trainings, help, meetings or whatever necessary;
  • Your colleague is just lazy...then...

- Talk to him directly in a private meeting; tell him how this is affecting your work and this is not fair; your results and the team results depend on his performance; keep a professional approach; if this doesn't work...

- Talk to him directly in a public environment; involve some of your other colleagues and remind him how his job is connected to the team's and how his performance can affect all of you; give him examples of work not done; keep a professional approach; if this still doesn't work...

- Display his lack of performance publicly; see if there's a project both of you can split; do your part, present it publicly and let him embarrasse himself in front of the others; instead or after this you can...

- Go to the manager; this should work in the end or if you prefer this as your first and only step, go ahead; your manager should know what to do - training, meetings, assisning a mentor or simply disciplinary action.

Thanks and I hope you have as little colleagues of this kind as possible.
Take care,
Geo

10/29/13

I Need to Fire Some People in My Team. How to Do It?

All managers have to go through tough moments throughout their career. Being a manager comes with rewarding moments when it's all about you, all about your great achievements, your amazing team, but also with tough times when you have to be strong and think of the team. There may be times when the client tells you that they no longer have money to pay all members of your team and some of them need to go. Your job is to decide which ones. Tough one, huh? Being a manager no longer seems so appealing, right? Well, you have to do it and here is how to:

1. Take time to think things through - don't decide on the spot. You will need to explain your decision to the team and you need to have strong arguments;

2. Discuss with some fellow managers or some people you trust if you feel like doing so. You may need support with your decision. Being guilty is inevitable, so at least they will help you accept the situation easier; they will confirm your decision or help you decide and feel better;

3. Make a list of the criteria to use in selecting the people that have to go. Include professional criteria ONLY related to performance on the job. No social reasons like: this one has a family, this one has an old mother to support, this one has a loan, you have a better relationship with this one, this one brings food on Fridays for the team, this one gave you a great Christmas gift, this one is your brother or you date this one's sister - all these criteria can't exist on your list. No way! By using non-professional criteria you risk losing the respect of the remaining team;

4. Rate all team members according to the criteria on your list. Make a top of all team members according to rating;

5. Now that you have the names of the people that have to go, meet each one in particular and tell them; explain that it was your decision and that they were selected according to the criteria you used; give them all the details and take responsibility for the decision - tell them about the situation created by the client, but don't blame everything on the client - admit it was you who selected them and tell them why in a firm and clear manner; offer them alternatives if they exist - show them you care and that you have tried to help them somehow - if no alternatives exist, at least offer them support in finding another job - offer them recommendations, ideas, contact fellow managers from other teams/companies for help if this is an option;

6. After telling each team member, organize a team meeting and tell everyone - tell them about the criteria, about those that have to go and again take responsibility for your selection.

This is it. Not nice at all, but think that it will make you stronger as a person and as manager. Not everything is pink and wonderful in your job and dealing with such critical situations is your chance to prove that you as team manager was a good choice for your managers.

Take care and I wish you as little situations as the one above as possible,
Geo

10/5/13

Where Can I Find a New Job?

For those of you that are currently seeking for a new job, either actively or just browsing the web for a potential new opportunity I have put together a list of places where jobs can be found. Some ideas like online job portals you know for sure, but not everybody knows how recruitment agencies work or the unemployment office. Since finding a job is taking enough of your time already, I will not waste any more and start the list. Here’s where you can start searching for a new job:

1.       Online job portals – the most famous international ones are: www.careerbuilder.com, www.simplyhired.com, www.indeed.com, or www.monster.com; there are also thousands of local ones – just start searching for the keyword “jobs” and search engines will return local results first; to apply on a job portal most of the times you need an account, then you need to create or upload your CV, search for jobs and then apply and wait to be contacted by companies that you applied for. If they don’t contact you, it means that you probably weren’t accepted. Don’t expect a reply for each CV you send. Companies normally contact suitable candidates only because sometimes they have hundreds or even thousands of CVs for a single position;

2.       Companies’ websites – make a list of companies you would like to work for, search for their websites and then open the “Career” section. Most websites have such a section – if it’s not visible right away, try on the bottom of the page or in the “About us” menu. Search for jobs in your area or in your field and then follow the instructions to apply. If no job is available or you don’t fit any of the available profiles, try to see if you can apply anyway for their database. Sometimes companies don’t even post a job online before searching their database first – which means that being already in the database can be a big plus;

3.       Social networks – create an account on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) or Facebook – these two really work. On LinkedIn there is a dedicated section for jobs or you may register for various groups where local jobs can be available. The Jobs section is not free for companies while posting jobs on the board of a group is, so companies will prefer the latter. On Facebook, try searching for groups related to jobs and hiring. I can suggest a few I am member of: “Now Hiring!!!” or “Facebook Jobs”;

4.       Universities and Student organizations – since most of them are willing to help companies for free in order to get their students or graduates a job and increase the University’s rating, there will be a lot of jobs for students and graduates available there – where can you search? University portals, Facebook groups for students, student forums, student presentations organized by companies, student events;

5.       Recruitment agencies – a lot of people don’t know how these companies work (you can find a full article about them here: What Does a Recruitment Agency Do?). Recruitment agencies can help you for free. They receive jobs from companies (which also pay them to help them find good candidates), search the CVs they already have in their database, post jobs, interview people and try to place the best candidates on all open positions they have. For candidates, being in the database and being interviewed and recommended is free. Just contact them, send them your CV and tell them about your availability. Some recruitment agencies are: Lugera & Makler, Trenkwalder, Manpower or Adecco. Search for recruitment agencies in your area to find more. You will be surprised to see how many they are;

6.       Unemployment agency in your area – in some areas companies have to send all job openings to the unemployment agency; the role of this agency is to send unemployed people in their database to be hired on those jobs (after interviews and a proper selection process of course – companies don’t just have to hire these people if they are not suitable); the point is that the unemployment agency in your area may have job openings available, openings that are not published yet elsewhere;

7.       Public organizations in your area – local town hall, local agencies like the retirement office, the unemployment office, labor office, you know what’s available in your city; contact them and check if they have anything available – sometimes they don’t publish the jobs online, just in newspapers, on their website or just displayed at their headquarters;

8.       Friends, family – ask everybody in your family or among your friends – you may never know who knows useful details about some job openings in their company or a friend’s; some companies offer bonuses for their employees if they recommend good candidates that can successfully fill open positions. Talk to your friends – you may be surprised to see that the company they work for does that and that you can become a great recommendation;

9.       Your personal network -  create a personal network on Facebook, LinkedIn or any other network you use – ask everybody to check maybe someone can help; I personally recommend LinkedIn here – you can see your connections’ CVs and see who has which position and where – you may never know who can recommend you somewhere or tell you about some openings; 

10.   Newspapers and magazines in your area or the area you are interested in – online channels are used more than printed ones, but try the latter as well; you may never know;

11.   Job fairs – local or virtual – get informed about these; their role is to gather companies together and present job openings – you also have the opportunity to discuss with their representatives and ask for more details or make connections;

12.   Conferences, seminars – you won’t see any jobs available there most of the times, but these are a great opportunity to make useful connections in the field you are interested in; sometimes seminars and conferences can be a hidden recruitment event; I can tell you about such an event in my city – a certain company was actually searching for SAP specialists. They organized such a free seminar where SAP specialists were invited to learn about what’s new in the SAP field. The company managed to gather in one room the best SAP specialists in the city. At the end they gave flyers away and asked the participants to send CVs if they were interested in new SAP opportunities. The company I worked for lost if I remember correctly 2 SAP specialists then;

13.   Company or online magazine newsletters – some companies or magazines offer the possibility to register for their newsletter containing company news and job openings – don’t miss these;

14.   Shop windows – if you are interested in working in sales, in a bakery, in a fashion shop or anything similar, sometimes these positions appear on the windows of the shops or offices location. Just take a walk and look around. Windows may surprise you with interesting ads;

15.   Online portals for various ads – they are not designed for jobs only but include jobs as well – Craigslists is a great example;

This is all that I can think of right now. Should you have any additional ideas (maybe unconventional places where you saw job ads), please write them here as comments to the article. Please help me make this article as useful as possible for the job seekers out there.

Thanks a lot and take care,
Geo

8/23/13

Career Ideas – Project Management FAQ – Part 2

I am back with 10 more questions and answers concerning Project Management – a difficult yet rewarding career path. 

Do I need any prior training before starting Project management training?
Not necessarily. If you find a good company able to offer you a balanced, well-structured training session, you should be able to start working in the field soon after. Of course, as I said in my previous article, some personal skills are crucial (organizing and prioritizing skills, time management, decision making skills, communication skills, attention to details, problem solving, negotiation skills, leadership skills to lead the teams needed to implement the project, pro-activity) – some of these you need to just have, no training can help you.
However, some financial knowledge will help you understand budgets easier, some human resources and management knowledge will help you put your teams together more efficiently. And if your project is in a technical field (construction for example) not being an engineer with the proper knowledge will make it really difficult to organize the project in an optimum way because you won’t be able to understand the goal in detail.

What do you mean by assessing and mitigating risks? Is it difficult? Can I do it by myself?
First of all it’s not difficult, yes, you can do it by yourself, but discussing with the specialists in your team is better. Each item of your project can carry risks. For example, the risk of not finding the right people to do the job, not being able to meet deadlines, money not being enough for certain expenses, some work that has just been completed needing to be redone all over again, weather conditions delaying some stages, accidents and more like these. Assessing the risks means identifying what can go wrong during each stage of the project. Mitigating the risks means finding potential solutions to prevent or solve the problems when and if they occur. Each risk is being assigned a certain priority, probability, grade of impact on the project and so on, so each of them is dealt with accordingly.

How do I create a team for a project as project manager? Can anybody help me?
You just need to think as any regular team manager: what skills do I need the people in my team to have and where can I find them…the Human Resources department not only can help, but it’s their job to help. Just tell them what you need and when you need it. They will come to you with the best candidates for you to do a final selection.

I have the project start date and deadline. How do I estimate the deadlines for the sub-activities?
Just discuss with your client and your team specialists. If you have a clear list of stages for the project to go through, then deciding a proper deadline for each of them should be easy. Communication with the client and your team is the key. Just put everybody together in a room and decide.

How does Microsoft Office Project software work? Is it easy to learn?
It looks a little like Excel, but it’s really easy to use and it’s intuitive. You just need to insert the main activities, sub-activities, project start date, deadlines, which activity is connected to which and which should be completed before which, what resources you have – people, money, who is responsible for which stage. The software should help you track accurately your project course – it’s a useful tool to keep you organized.

What challenges should I expect to encounter as Project Manager?
You should be prepared for anything – literally. Your team can fail you (members not being prepared, members leaving the project when you least expect it, conflicts within the team, people wanting more money that initially agreed), your client may fail you (changes in deadline, decreases in budget, additional requirements when you least need it), external conditions that you can’t control may challenge you (weather conditions ruining your work, changes in legal requirements, strikes, unexpected economic issues like a sudden drop in the exchange rate, political turmoil) you name it – anything can happen when you least expect it, especially if your project runs over a longer period of time. Projects don’t always last for one week and that’s it. There are projects running for years.

Is the Project Management certification expensive?
No more than any other serious certification and you may agree with your company to pay for it. The prices below are taken just from one potential provider in my area (Eastern Europe), so make sure that you find one in your area and ask:
-         PRINCE2® Foundation (first stage of the certification) – 800 Eur / 1200 USD;
-       PRINCE2® Foundation+ Practitioner (both stages of the certification) – 1150 Eur / 1700 USD;
-          PMI® PMP Exam Prep – 5 days of training – 760 Eur/1100 USD.

Does the job of PM involve a lot of traveling?
If your client is in a different country or the location of the project is somewhere remotely in who knows which corner of the country, then yes. It all depends on the client and the project location. Chances I would say are 50-50 for you to do a lot of traveling. For instance, if you need to open for your company a new plant on a different continent, expect a lot of traveling. If your project involves creating some new accounting software, you may not need to travel at all. As I said, it all depends on the project. If you are not willing to travel, make sure that you have all these details set from the beginning just for you not to encounter any surprises.

Do I need to be a great computer user to do a good job as Project manager?
Normally, no. Only if your project is in the IT field. Then of course you need to be strong in IT to be able to manage the team and understand what they do. If your team needs to create some software based on Java, then of couse you need to know Java. At least to be able to understand if their path is correct. Not necessarily be top Java programmer, but having worked with Java previously will be necessary. On the other side, a construction project or opening a new business don’t need advanced IT skills. Just some Project management software and some basic skills in Excel, Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, whatever is necessary. I will give you another example – if you need to implement a new telephony system in your company, let’s say in all 10 subsidiaries, you need to have some telephony knowledge to be able to discuss the contract with the provider. Otherwise, who may know what they are selling you, right?

When can I say that I have failed in implementing a project?
Well, this happens when the deadline has passed and your project is not finished yet. Of course, if the deadline changes in the meantime and there is an agreement between the client and the Project manager, then all is fine. You haven’t failed. Failing is just then when you have promised something and you haven’t delivered it. Open discussions can always help you avoid failure. Just make sure that these discussions are carried out throughout the entire process and now a few days before final deadline.

I hope that these details will help you understand the topic better. Please find the first part of the article here: http://www.hr-faq.com/2013/08/career-ideas-project-management-faq.html
The topic is obviously not closed. Should you have more questions, please send them to me on georgianaflorina@gmail.com or post them as comments. I will also try to come back with more useful information in Part 3.

Take care,
Geo

8/15/13

Career Ideas – Project Management FAQ – Part 1

Project Management is seen as an attractive career by a lot of students, graduates, young professionals and even older employees that want a career change due to the large number of jobs available on the market and the high wages offered by employers. To offer you a deeper image into this career option I have put together a list of FAQs that I will answer in my next series of articles dedicated to Project Management – an attractive yet difficult career.


What is Project management?

I like the definition that Wikipedia offers, so I will give you here a small part of it: PM is “the discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals.” The rest is available here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management


What does a Project manager do all day?

At first planning as mentioned above. A project manager is given a specific goal to achieve – for example open a new subsidiary of a company in a specific new location, build a dam, recruit and train a new team that will handle customer support for a new client, introduce a new drug to the market, you name it – projects are everywhere and project managers are those that are given the task to implement them. Planning means splitting the goal into smaller bits – activities, sub-activities, identifying the resources needed to achieve the goal: people, money, materials, creating teams and budgets, identifying risks to be overcome during the phases of the implementation.

Then, after everything has been planned and organized, all activities start and the project manager makes sure that all goes ahead according to plan or if changes and adjustments are necessary, these are implemented and communicated to the teams. Motivating the teams to do everything on time and according to plan and controlling daily that everything is done as required also falls under the responsibility of the PM.


Is the Project manager’s job difficult/demanding/stressful?

I dare to say yes. All because of the tight deadlines and the high level of responsibility involved. Managing people, money and materials and being responsible in front of the investor or customer for everything that happens is not easy to do.


Where can I find Project manager jobs?

They are available all over the internet on main job portals, professional networks, recruitment agencies, everywhere. A simple search with the “project manager” keyword revealed 9,000+ jobs in the US on www.careerbuilder.com, 13,000+ on www.simplyhired.com, 41,000+ on www.indeed.com, 5,000+ on www.linkedin.com and a few thousands again on www.monster.com
 

How much do the Project manager jobs pay?

PM jobs are seen as well paid jobs. Just a simple search on job boards reveals salary estimations/year in the US between $50,000 and $180,000 amounts depending of course on experience and skills required by the employer.


What skills do I need to be a successful Project manager?

Soft skills: all these are crucial - organizing and prioritizing skills, time management, decision making skills, communication skills, attention to details, problem solving, negotiation skills, leadership skills to lead the teams needed to implement the project, pro-activity;

IT skills: PM software such as Microsoft Office Project, Excel, other dedicated software;

Other skills: financial knowledge (income, expenses, assets, liabilities), budgets, pricing, general local and /or international legal requirements;


Do I need a Project management certification to be considered for a job?

At first, no. During the early stages of this career they will not require it, but later on if you want to be considered for a better paid job with more responsibilities, a certification really makes the difference between candidates. Sometimes, the company you are working for will be willing to pay for it. In terms of certifications, these are available: Project Management Professional (PMP) and Prince 2. They are similar. PMP is used mainly in the US while Prince 2 mainly in Europe.


Do I start my job as Project manager or are there any intermediary steps?

Starting your job as PM without any experience is rather difficult even if you are certified. A small project in a small company could be an exception, but don’t count on it. You may start as Project assistant – doing administrative project work and being the assistant of the Project manager, then Project coordinator – handling only a small project or part of a larger one, Project consultant – being involved as consultant for some of the activities (for example financial consultant for the budget part) and only then Project manager.



I will come back with more FAQs in my next article. I will focus on more detailed notions like risks, milestones, budgets and more. Questions from your side are more than welcome.


Take care,