Telecommuting issues emerge at Yahoo!

There are may significant advantages for a company letting workers telecommute and work remotely. Productivity often increases as this flexibility makes workers happier. In today’s world, it’s important for a company to offer this option for some jobs.

Yet there are disadvantages when you don’t have workers together on a consistent basis. It’s impossible to replicate the casual environment of workers being together at lunch and around the office. Much gets done when people are together.

Every company needs to strike the right balance, and that’s what Marissa Mayer is trying to do at Yahoo!, but her recent announcement has sparked a backlash.

Here’s a clip:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

Just reading this, it seems like this could have been handled better by bring up the issue and looking at specific jobs. As stated above, balance is best.

But I suspect the problem may have gotten out of control at Yahoo! and that has prompted Mayer to take a hard line. Workers can be very productive at home in terms of how much they work, but it’s harder to keep workers focused on what’s best for the company if they are always at home.

It will be fascinating to see how this story develops.

Finding employees through social media

We often discuss how you can use social media to find a job. But this works both ways of course. Whether you’re an entrepreneur with a small company or a PR executive at a large enterprise, you must be aware of how and why social media can be an effective tool in finding employees. Mashable has a great article about 5 ways that social media is revolutionizing talent acquisition. Read the entire article and you’ll see how social media recruitment is a trend you should be following.

Maximize your LinkedIn account

LinkedIn is a critical resource for networking in today’s world. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer looking for more exposure or someone looking for a new job, it’s important to have a complete LinkedIn profile and to put your best face forward. This is a critical part of your personal branding, and it’s also a great way for prospective employers or prospective customers to find you.

This article has 10 common mistakes and very helpful tips for managing your LinkedIn account.

1. Not Displaying Your Personal Photo
It all really comes down to having social media credibility or not. There are too many fake profiles on LinkedIn, so you want to show that you are real. If you have taken the time to complete your LinkedIn profile, why wouldn’t you display your photo? It just raises too many potential questions. And company logos or photos of pets obviously have no value here

2. LinkedIn Profile Headline is Not Branded Enough
See that space underneath your name? That is your “Professional” or Profile Headline. It will appear in search results next to your name, as well as next to any questions you ask or answer. It is, in essence, your elevator speech in a few words. Are you just putting your title and company name here? Don’t! This is the place where you need to appeal to anyone who finds you in a search result to reach out and look at your profile. Your Profile Headline is the single most important piece of real estate on your LinkedIn Profile, and you need to brand it as such. This really ties into personal branding as a job applicant.

Read the entire article and update your LinkedIn page today. Also, check out more LinkedIn tips from this blog.

Online Education: Using Twitter to Get the Job You Deserve

Social media is a twenty-first century revolution that has swept the globe. It has given billions of people new opportunities to share their voices, connect, and facilitate the type of discussion that helps propagate more revolutions. It has infiltrated television, movies, advertising, mobile phones, online education, and a whole slew of other niches that are heavily embedded in many peoples’ daily lifestyles. To say that social media is here to stay would be an absurd understatement. In a way, the world is moving towards virtual connectivity on a level that parallels the time when the Internet first became available for personal use.

One of the most interesting things about this connectivity is how it has redefined what it means to network professionally. In the old days, networking to leverage relationships for careers was a matter of putting on a suit and tie and heading out to dinner parties—but no longer is this the case. Instead, you can join virtual networks dedicated to this type of activity like LinkedIn, Plaxo, or Jobster. Sure: you might have to bring out the suit and tie once in a while, but you’re far more likely to score a job through the Internet than you are by hosting dinner parties today (unless you can afford it).

Twitter especially is a unique platform for finding jobs for companies whose visions you are passionate about. These days, especially with the advent of online education, more and more people are obtaining highly accredited degrees—the competition is fierce, and it has become extremely important to differentiate yourself and to establish an online presence that is credible, intriguing, and that piques the interest of employers you want to work for.

And now, the million-dollar question: How do you do it?

Establish an online presence

Employers love to find people who fit their company’s cultural and behavioral values. Do you know what those values are? Do you want to work for a tech firm that values a geeky understanding of computers and the Internet? Establish yourself as an authority and a pundit in the niche you’re interested in sweeping and you will likely attract the attention of unique employers. Do you tweet about industry-relevant topics? Do you demonstrate a singular knowledge for your realm of expertise? Do your insights give other people a better understanding of the way you think—the way you approach a problem, the way you interact with others? By establishing an online presence via Twitter (where companies are always watching and tweeting themselves), you can essentially sell yourself in an environment where hungry recruiters are constantly scouting.

Connect with recruiters on Twitter

Any smart company looking to hire fresh talent knows that the Internet is one of the first places to go. Recruiters are often required to use social media as a means for sifting through potential applicants, and you might find that your dream company’s best headhunter is more sociable than you think. Follow these people—watch what they’re tweeting about, and try to connect with them about openings at their company. So what if you find that they’re not hiring right now? The more you can expose yourself to the right people, the better your opportunities are of receiving an email one day that says “Hey, send me your resume!”

Expand your network with the right people

Make friends. Connect with relevant people on Twitter who work in your industry. See what they’re talking about, and get involved in creative discussion that establishes your unique voice in your specific niche. The more your network expands—just like in the real world!—the more you raise the chance for making a random connection that could lead to your next big break. And remember: none of this requires toasts of campaign over an expensive caviar dinner—this can be done from home. Or a café. Or a smartphone.

At the end of the day, your ability to solidify the authority of your online presence will translate into career wins that you never even thought were possible. It’s very common today for hiring teams to type your name into Google when considering your application—so why not give them something unbelievably stellar to judge you by?

Your Business Cards

We’ve discussed the cheap revolution before. It’s the notion that you can do so many things today and use countless services for a fraction of what they used to cost. This helps drive entrepreneurship and it helps people sell products or services without a huge support organization. You can be a one-person wrecking crew, using email, the web and social media to network, chase leads and close sales.

That said, there are still some older traditions that you shouldn’t abandon. While you may not need a fancy office and a receptionist answering phones, you should have a web site or other online presence, and you should have things like business cards. The online and mobile worlds are important, but person-to-person networking is still critical.

But here the cheap revolution helps as well. You can access business card printing services online and avoid all the hassles of the past. It’s easier and cheaper and you get exactly what you want. So do all the new media stuff, but never abandon old methods of meeting people in person and exchanging business cards.

Real Estate Career Outlook OK

In its heyday, real estate was one of the most lucrative careers in the U.S. Top agents and brokers could easily make six (or even seven) figures a year doing what they loved—selling homes and commercial properties. Today, the market has obviously cooled, so it’s a bit tougher for agents and brokers to make a buck. However, according to financial analysts and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the real estate industry is far from dead. In fact, because home prices and interest rates are so incredibly low, right now is the best time to buy. What this means is, although real estate agents and brokers may make less per sale than they’re used to, there are lots of sales to be made. So, if you want to break into the real estate industry and you’re willing to wait, say 3-5 years for the industry to really bounce back, you could end up making a very lucrative living down the line.

Employment in Real Estate at a Glance

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (2010-2011), employment of real estate brokers and agents  is expected to grow faster than average for the 2008-2018 decade. The industry is still very competitive, with well-established, more experienced brokers and agents leading the pack. Beginners do face an uphill battle, but can use the time to learn the ropes, establish themselves, and prepare for better days down the line. As such, the Bureau suggests that beginners have enough money to live for about 6 months or until commissions increase.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of real estate brokers and sales agents (combined) is expected to grow 14 percent during the 2008-18 decade, which is faster than average for all occupations. Separately, employment of real estate agents is expected to grow 16 percent and real estate brokers is 9 percent, for an average of 14 percent overall.

Brokers and agents can expect job growth based on “a growing population, particularly young adults, who will be forming households in greater numbers.” These buyers will require the services of real estate agents and brokers to buy their homes. In addition, although some argue that renting rules right now, millions of people still believe in the American Dream. This means owning a home. According to BLS, home sales will be sparked by the continuing desire for people to own their own homes and their perception that real estate will be a good investment over the long run.

According BLS, in addition to job growth, agents just entering the field can expect a large number of job openings based on the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Real estate brokers and sales agents are older, on average, than most other workers, and many are expected to leave the occupation over the next decade.

Salaries for Real Estate Brokers and Agents

Today’s real estate industry is no place for part-timers. If you are ambitious, well trained,  enjoy selling, and have “extensive social and business connections” you will have the best chance of success. In addition, large urban areas and “rapidly growing communities” are the best places for real estate. Employment is heavily concentrated in these areas.

The Bureau reports average salaries for agents and brokers, but keep in mind that commissions are the main source of earnings in this industry and they vary greatly “according to whatever the agent and broker agree on, the type of property, and its value.” Region may play a role as well. While commissions can be all over the board, several years ago, the National Association of Realtors reported an average commission rate of 5.2 percent across the nation, with a range between 5 and 7 percent. Again, average salaries should be taken with a grain of salt. According to BLS:

The median annual wages, including commissions, of salaried real estate sales agents were $40,150 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $27,390 and $64,820 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,120, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $101,860. Median annual wages, including commissions, of salaried real estate brokers were $57,500 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,420 and $93,970 a year.

Residential building construction offered the highest median average annual wages at $63,280 per year for real estate brokers and $49,620 per year for real estate agents.

Becoming a Real Estate Agent or Broker

Yes, to be a successful agent or broker, you have to have a pleasant personality and be trustworthy, mature, and enthusiastic about selling real estate, but in today’s competitive real estate industry, you need much, much more. A high school diploma is the minimum requirement to break into the industry, but many firms wont even look at an applicant that has less than a bachelor’s degree. Common degrees for this field include real estate, finance, law, business, economics, accounting, and marketing.

Whether you have a high school diploma or a bachelor’s degree, you must be licensed to become a real estate broker or agent. This means you’ll have to pass a written examination. Many states also require 30-90 hours of classroom instruction. Broker’s must take a more comprehensive exam and have between 60 and 90 hours of formal training, and typically 1-3 years of experience selling real estate. In some states, a bachelor’s degree in real estate may allow you to waive the experience requirements to become a licensed broker.

Because laws are always changing, among other things, many states require continuing education for license renewals. Brokers and agents must renew their licenses every 1-2 years, depending on state requirements. Contact your state real estate licensing commission for specific licensing requirements. Visit Nationalrealtorsdirectory.com for contact information for each state commission.

How Do Scientific Staffing Agencies Work?

A scientific staffing agency specializes in matching professionals that work in scientific fields with employers in the industry. The types of positions are not limited to biologist, astronomer, meteorologist, engineer, or physicist. Scientific staffing agencies also work with technicians, lab assistants, research assistants, record clerks, and many other entry-level workers in the science sector.

Scientific staffing agencies work with the employee and the employer to find the right match for both parties. Companies, facilities, and organizations sign up with the agency much in the same way as a potential employee does. The agency meets with a representative of the company to assess its needs. If the agency feels like the company would be an asset, the agency will perform a background check on the company and if it passes, the agency will enter into a contract outlining how and under what terms it will help with the company’s staffing needs.

To sign up with a scientific staffing agency, job seekers must begin by submitting a resume and references. Once the agency has verified an applicant’s employment history and references, he or she will be invited to interview. At this point, the applicant may be asked to take a series of skill tests and sign an authorization for a background check. In most cases, a drug test and credit check may be required as well.

Once the process is complete, the agency will begin searching its database for possible matches. Scientific staffing agencies work with hundreds of employers on a daily basis, so many job seekers end up working multiple temporary assignments before the agency finds a permanent match. Temporary workers typically work assignments that last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. In some cases, these assignments lead to a permanent position.

Whether you’re a temporary worker or the agency places you in a permanent position, you will never have to pay a fee for their services. Salaries and fees are paid by the hiring company, organization, or facility.

How to Locate Scientific Staffing Agencies

It’s perfectly ok to use your favorite search engine to locate scientific staffing agencies, but this shouldn’t be your first choice. If at all possible, obtain a referral from a friend, family member or co-worker. Someone with firsthand experience with any given staffing agency is much better than dealing with an agency blind.

If you cannot find a referral, jot down 5-10 agencies that you find online and start researching. Find out how long they’ve been in business, if they are listed with the Better Business Bureau, and if there are any complaints against the company. You should also make sure the company can be reached by phone, email, and fax—not just email. Make sure the company has a physical address/office as well. If there’s a problem, you should have the option to speak with someone in person.

A reputable company will be more than willing to provide answers to any questions you may have and they are even willing to provide their own references and testimonials for you to check out on your own. Remember, if a staffing agency offers vague answers to your questions or if they request a fee, chances are it’s not an agency you want to do business with.

Top College Funding Programs for Military Personnel

There are more than 1.1 million active military personnel in the U.S. today and more than 1 million reserve and National Guard members around the country. Civilian personnel also make up a sizable number of America’s military system with more than 634,185 active employees distributed throughout the four branches of military service—the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Many members of the military will continue their careers within any of the four branches of service, while others will pursue interests outside of the military, such as obtaining a college degree.

One of the biggest benefits of serving in the U.S. military is the opportunity to have most if not all of your college tuition covered. For veterans and current members of the military, the U.S. government has set aside more than $4 billion in education benefits and more than $3 billion in grants. Veterans and current members of the military are almost guaranteed a substantial amount of “free” funding for college, regardless of income, in the form of benefits, grants, and scholarships.

Depending on the program, students may enjoy benefits that cover anywhere from 75 to 90 percent of undergraduate or graduate school expenses. In addition, low-cost student loans are also available to all members and former members of the military.

Programs for Veterans and Current Members of the Military

Because the U.S. military is made up of a diverse group of American citizens and the military is diverse and complex in itself, there are literally hundreds of college financial aid programs to consider. The following are the largest financial aid programs offered by the U.S. government/military. It is important to keep in mind that each of the four branches of military offers its own distinct financial aid programs.

The Montgomery GI Bill

The Montgomery GI Bill provides benefits to veterans, service members, and certain dependents of disabled or deceased veterans interested in pursuing a degree or vocational training. The GI Bill provides up to 36 months of education benefits to servicemembers. For post-9/11 veterans, the benefit will cover the full cost of tuition at any public school in the country and a sizable number of private schools. Tuition payments will be paid directly to the school and each student will receive a $1,000 book/supply stipend per year as well as a monthly living stipend. Tuition payments are capped at the cost of the most expensive public school in each state. Please click here for a state-by-state breakdown. To calculate your benefits, click here or visit the GI Bill 2008 website at: http://www.gibill2008.org/.

To apply for the Montgomery GI Bill visit the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to complete and submit your electronic application online or you may call 1-888-GI-BILL (1-888-442-4551) to have the application form mailed to you.

Army ROTC

For individuals interested in earning a college degree and serving as an officer in the Army, Army Reserve, or the Army National Guard, the Army ROTC program is for you. The program is offered at more that 600 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and it is the largest single source of Army officers. Army ROTC scholarships pay up to $20,000 a year for college tuition and education fees or room and board. The student may choose what area he or she would like to use the scholarship award for.

In addition to a maximum $20,000 per year, ROTC students will also receive a tax-free subsistence allowance for up to 10 months each year the scholarship award is in effect. The amount of the subsistence allowance increases as student’s progress through the program. Army ROTC scholarships are based on merit and grades, not on need. So a student may fall into any income bracket and still qualify for a scholarship award. For more information about Army ROTC, visit the official Army ROTC website at: http://www.goarmy.com/rotc/.

Federal Pell Grants

Many forms of financial aid for veterans and military personnel may be combined with the Federal Pell Grant to help cover the costs of college. Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, the Federal Pell Grant Program is the largest grant program offered by the federal government.

U.S. Congress sets the maximum award amount based upon a student’s need analysis and status (full or part-time). For the 2009-2010 academic year, the maximum award is expected to fall somewhere between $4,241-$4,310.

To apply for a Federal Pell Grant, simply fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Veterans Education Assistance Program (VEAP)

The Veterans Education Assistance Program is a matching program designed to help cover the costs of college tuition and it may also cover the costs for refresher courses for individuals who have been out of school for a while. Enlisted individuals can contribute $25-$100 per month to an educational fund. The Federal government will match the contribution with $2 for every $1 contributed by the service member. The program pays the service member up to 75 percent for undergraduate courses and 90 percent for job-related courses.

Recruiters are Calling, Now What?

Yes recruiters are still out there—and they’re not just working for the Army. Recruiters may work in house for companies in all industries from art to technology or companies may hire them on a “freelance” basis to help recruit fresh talent. There are many different types of recruiters, but some of the most common are corporate recruiters, retained recruiters, and contingency recruiters.

Corporate recruiters are salaried employees that work in house for companies. Their goal is to find and qualify new employees various positions within the organization. In some cases, companies will hire an independent recruiter to help fill positions as needed. These recruiters are called third party recruiters.

Contingency recruiters are just that—recruiters that receive compensation only if their efforts result in a hire. Retained recruiters work mostly for large companies that need to fill executive level positions. These professionals work for the company whenever a high-level position needs to be filled.

Recruiters use a number of techniques to recruit talent. They visit college campuses, attend job fairs, search databases, browse professional networking websites, and they even check social networking websites. They also check company websites in hopes that they’ll come across a bio that matches what they’re looking for and the employee is interested in making a change.

Most recruiters do their best to match the skills to the job, but sometimes, they just miss the boat. If a recruiter contacts you, there are a number of important questions to ask to avoid wasting your time—and theirs. If a recruiter contacts you and asks you to send a resume, ask:

According to Employment Digest:

If a recruiter ever contacts you and asks for a resume before knowing anything about your professional background, don’t send it. Your resume could land in places where you don’t want it to be. A professional recruiter, though he is working for the client company, not you, will want to ensure that you are a “good” candidate.

He will ask questions like:

  • -What are you seeking in a new employer that you don’t currently have available where you are presently working?
  • -Would you consider relocation for the right job, and if so, where?
  • -If you say you would consider relocation, they should also ask about your family situation.
  • -Does your spouse work?
  • -Do you have children still in school? This will help them determine whether you (and your family) will be happy, and stay with the job, if moving is necessary.

A professional recruiter will want to know that she has not only done a good job for the client, but that she also kept your best interests in mind as well.

If you follow these steps, you could very well wind up with a position you’ll be happy with, without the frustration of a wild goose chase.

Hiring a Recruiter on Your Own

Hiring a recruiter on your own can be the difference between wasting precious time for months on end and finding a job in a reasonable amount of time. Recruiting agencies employ thousands of recruiters to help you with your job search and the benefits of taking advantage of their services are beyond impressive. For starters, a recruiter has exposure to the hidden job market and specific industries, and compensation negotiation skills. Recruiters can also help you save time and money by searching for the best possible matches, screening them, and setting up interviews. A recruiter can also help you prepare for a job interview.

Recruiters are free for the job seeker. The hiring company pays as agreed upon fee for the recruiters service, so you really have nothing to lose! To find a recruiting service ask friends, family, and co-workers for referrals first. A second option is an online directory. No matter which option you use, always make sure the agency has a good rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Can’t Find a Job? Consulting Might Be Your Calling

The nation’s economy has sent seasoned workers back to school, stay-at-home moms back to work, and those with an entrepreneurial spirit into their own businesses. In fact, independent contractors and freelance workers seem to be enjoying unlimited amounts of work now, while others are waiting in line with hundreds of applicants for a single, halfway decent job. Why? Independent contractors and freelance employees are an attractive option for employers today because they cost company’s less and they are usually more flexible to employer’s needs. Freelance workers and independent contractors handle their own health insurance, taxes, retirement, and other benefits, so employers don’t have to. As more and more companies downsize, limit or eliminate hiring altogether, and hire one person to do the work of three, they will call on independent contractors and freelance workers more and more to fill the gaps.

So, what does this have to do with consulting? Plenty. While consulting firms are not immune to the effects of the economy, they still rake in billions of dollars each year. Not only this, but many ambitious consultants have found that they can take home a bigger piece of the billion if they branch out on their own. What this means is, freelance consultants and independent contractors will have plenty of opportunities to compete for thousands of jobs in an industry that’s expected to expand by 82.8 percent by 2018.

Before you take the plunge, take inventory. There are certain skills, experience, and education that you’ll need in order to be successful in the consulting industry. Let’s start with education. Whether you’re looking for short-term projects or a long-term position with a consulting firm, you will have to provide some impressive credentials to and the account or get the job. Most companies prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in business management consulting, marketing, accounting, engineering, economics, computer and information sciences, or business.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, some companies hire MBA (Master of Business Administration) students right out of college and place them in a rigorous on-site training program. The same goes for students with a master’s in a related field. For individuals interested in working freelance, as an independent contractor, or starting their own consulting business, spending a few years in the industry with a top firm is probably a good idea. This way, when its time to marketing yourself, you will have the education and experience needed to impress your potential clients.

Besides education and experience, you will need certain skills that you cannot acquire in school and others you can. For starters, advanced computer skills are a must, so during your graduate and undergraduate career, take as many computer course as you can. Next, you have to have a certain type of personality to be a successful consultant. You must be a people person, friendly and outgoing as well as service-oriented and idea-driven. Most employers look for these qualities. They have to be able to work with you and depend on you to come up with ideas that will benefit their company or organization. Now that you have an idea of what it takes to become a consultant, take a look at the following list to find out which careers are ripe for consultants. 

  • -Accounting
  • -Advertising
  • -Auditing
  • -Business
  • -Business Writing
  • -Career Counseling
  • -Communications
  • -Computer Consulting
  • -Editorial Services
  • -Executive Search/Headhunter Firms
  • -Gardening
  • -Granstmanship
  • -Human Resources
  • -Insurance
  • -Marketing
  • -Payroll Management
  • -Public Relations
  • -Publishing
  • -Taxes
  • -Writing Services

For more information about consulting careers, visit the Association of Professional Consultants at Consultapc.org.

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