Archive for January, 2014
You’re technologically brilliant. Today, that’s almost all you need to be highly desirable – and paid – in the workforce. But here’s a little secret. A technologically skilled worker with a decent handle on some soft skills will often go further than an even more skilled IT, engineering, finance, or accounting professional without those soft skills.
Technical skills get your foot in the door. Soft skills open doors.
Yes – it’s great to focus on your strengths and do what comes naturally to you – but identifying some areas where simple, easy improvements could make a vast difference in your career opportunities – then putting forth the effort to improve these skills until they suddenly feel effortless – will pay off in more ways than one.
We could list dozens of soft skills. But instead we’ll offer two important action steps you can take that we’ve seen naturally result in the improvement of many soft skills all at once. We didn’t come up with them. They’re timeless and proven techniques that have been applied with success for centuries. Apply these at work and at home and you’ll see a big difference. And this goes for anyone, technical-minded or otherwise.
1. Think and speak positive.
Tackling a challenging problem? Imagine the desired outcome first. Not quite satisfied at work? Envision a desirable scenario that is realistic for you if you take the required steps. Not sure of another’s intentions? Assume the best and approach them with that kinder outlook first. And take your mother’s advice: when you speak, let it be to say something positive if possible. The results of this type of thinking aren’t to be underestimated. They’re significant. We’re not saying go so far as denial, but think and speak positive whenever possible, and you’ll see many wonderful things you thought impossible come to fruition – and many bad things the “old you” would have anticipated, never even happen.
2. Ask people questions.
There are at least two obvious benefits to asking other people about themselves. The first is that you’ll likely learn something. You’ll learn about the other people, how to work better with them, and maybe even how to do your own job better. The second benefit is that you’ll be a more likable person. That’s because people, quite simply, appreciate your interest in them and they opportunity to talk about themselves. If there is anyone more successful than a hardworking, skilled person it’s a likeable, hardworking, skilled person.
These two soft skills are simple enough to apply, become natural the more you use them, and make a bigger difference in your life than many others combined.
Do you make it a practice to use these skills at work? If so, have they made a difference in your career?
With 2013 over and gone, human resources professionals are already off the races with new – and some of the same – challenges they face in 2014. Although benefits administrators have a lot of work to do to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the new healthcare law isn’t their only focus. One of the biggest challenges in 2014? This one works in your favor, STEMs. It’s finding job candidates with the science, technological, engineering, or mathematical (STEM) skills to fill jobs. The shortage of STEM graduates and professionals continues, making those who possess these skills some of the most in-demand workers in 2014. So while hiring may be slow in other industries, yours is quickly growing. In fact, according to the Career Builder 2014 U.S. Job Forecast, one in four employers’ plans to create jobs in these areas during 2014.
This means recruiters who specialize in these fields are also in demand. Since these types of jobs are often project-oriented, and because many candidates in these industries actually prefer contract staffing for its flexibility, work-life balance, and higher hourly rate, contract staffing for STEMS continues to grow as well.
Wisely, educators are encouraging more students with the appropriate strengths to pursue fields in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but of course their efforts won’t pay off for a few years.
The “next big” defining characteristic of society today? That we’re always looking for the “next big thing.” Consumers, technologists, entrepreneurs, and investors…we’re all looking ahead to try and predict the new “it.” It’s a tough job, since technology today is changing at exponentially greater and greater speeds – far greater than in any time in human history.
It’s exciting!…or exhausting. Depending on how you look at it.
What if you’re the next big thing?
With much of the focus on often meaningless or trivial pursuits, there’s one way to focus your attention and efforts that is sure to pay off – for the rest of your life. It’s you.
Spend a little time and energy grooming yourself to become a new you. Form new habits to stick with you for a lifetime, allowing you to constantly reinvent yourself in little ways to stay relevant to employers and the times, while also – importantly – staying true to you. Ultimately, it’s up to you how you want to become the “new you.” But here are a few places to start.
Do it now. Whatever project you’ve been putting off until someday, understand that it likely won’t ever happen unless you carve out time for it today. You’ll have to weigh its importance, decide if you’re okay with it never happening, then act accordingly. Either carve out time, or don’t.
Never stop learning. Take a few minutes each day to read up on new technology and apply them to your work. You’ll be helping yourself, your company, and your work stay on the cutting edge.
Surround yourself with mentors. Mentors possess the qualities you envision yourself having. They’ll teach you how to become the person you want to be. Spend time with them, and you’ll notice a change in yourself – one you’re going to like.
Be kind. A little kindness and understanding truly do go such a long way. You’ll create a ripple effect that will surely come back to you.
The best part about upgrading yourself? Unlike the latest piece of technology or hot new toy, you’ve got staying power. And the new habits you create will not only make you relevant to today’s society – they’ll make you invaluable.
Happy New Year! As you get back to work, hopefully refreshed from a little holiday time off, you may be ramping up for a new project, considering fresh new ways to work, or simply re-examining your current situation. And if you’re doing any of these things, you may be searching for new career or hiring opportunities. Whatever your industry, it could benefit you to consider contracting…or hiring contractors. Especially if your field is in information technology, engineering, finance, or accounting. Project-based work in these, and other industries, is becoming increasingly popular for workers and companies alike. Here’s why.
The Contractor Today
Let’s take a look at the technical – aka, engineering, finance, accounting, or information technology – contractor. This highly trained professional isn’t looking for a full-time job, let alone something to last for 20 to 30 years. Instead, she’s looking to jump in on a challenging project and put her highly specialized expertise to work solving problems others thought unsolvable – all while picking up new skills that help her stay cutting edge in the fast-moving tech world. Oh – and she expects to be paid well for it, too. Ten to fifteen percent more than a permanent employee, in fact.
Higher pay is only fair, considering many contractors have years, even decades, of highly valuable experience due to their breadth of projects and work environments. To contractors, such diversity of projects helps them build upon their skill set and hone their craft in a condensed timeframe, along with just keeping things interesting. Yet one more perk engineering, finance, accounting, and IT contractors enjoy? Both their skills and their way of working are in demand, which makes them all the more marketable – and allow you to raise rates even further.
Why companies want contractors
Naturally, it’s much easier to manage your finances and adjust your workforce, come boom or bust, when you include contractors in your workforce. In fact, as rapidly as technology is developing, and as globalized as our economy has become – it’s pretty much essential to hire a mix of permanent employees and highly skilled contractors. Another benefit of contractors is that they can come in, go straight to work without much training, be utilized 100% while on the project (in other words, they’re only paid for the work they do), then when the project is finished move on to the next exciting challenge. This working relationship is a win-win.
How to hire the best
In technical fields, even companies with robust HR departments choose to outsource the work of posting jobs, screening candidates, and performing background checks to find just the right contractor, with highly specialized skills, to a staffing firm that’s an expert in the field. As a staffing firm with years of experience matching IT, engineering, accounting, and finance professionals with companies and technical projects, we can provide a few tips.
1. Look past paper. What’s on a resume won’t tell you everything that meeting a candidate, diving deep into his employment history, education, training, and certifications will – especially for highly skilled technical roles. A recruiting company can help you with this process.
2. Pay well. The perfect candidate isn’t cheap. In fact, neither is the almost perfect one. But the wrong candidate, even with a lower rate, will end up being much more costly.
3. Act fast. Candidates in technical fields are in high demand. So know what you’re looking for, then jump at the chance when you find it.