How Networking Works

Guest Post by Reesa Staten of Robert Half

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature,

he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

Recently, I accepted an invitation to attend an industry conference in Chicago. I rarely go to these events because my job in California takes so much of my time. But I was curious to meet the people at this particular meeting because they hold roles similar to my own. It was a chance to compare notes on our jobs and make new connections.

Networking doesn’t come second nature to me. But connections do. Career experts will often tell you to “keep moving” when you are at a networking event or reception: make small talk, share a few things about yourself, exchange cards and go on to the next person. That never works for me. I like to connect with the people I meet by finding common ground, sharing a personal story, looking for ways I can use my experience to help the other person, or vice versa. I may spend the majority of my networking time speaking to just a handful of people.

This approach doesn’t work for everyone. It might not even work for the majority. But it feels right to me. And that is exactly the point. You need to find the networking style that best fits your personality. I like to get to know people, and I’m not thinking about how they can benefit me professionally — not immediately that is. Later when I reflect on our conversations, those opportunities to ask for advice or assistance invariably surface. I’m convinced this wouldn’t happen if I hadn’t taken the time to make a genuine connection. When I do, the door is wide open.

When you network, meeting new people is part of the process, but don’t forget your own self-interests. If you are in the job market, make sure you let people know. If you’re currently employed but exploring new job opportunities, let them know that, too.

A recent OfficeTeam survey of senior managers found that not asking others for help is the top networking mistake people make. Failing to keep in touch with contacts and not thanking the people who help you were also common pitfalls.

If you’re not yet confident networking, here are few tips to increase your comfort level:

1. Leave no stone unturned. Don’t rely solely on formal networking events or social media to broaden your list of contacts. Everywhere you go, you have an opportunity to make new connections that could lead you to your next big thing. Look at even chance encounters as opportunities for networking.

2. Nurture your network. Keep connections alive by checking in with your contacts periodically. Networking should be a process, not a one-time event. If you see something in the news you know would be interesting to people you know, share it with them. If you learn of a job that seems right for someone, pass that information along, too.

3. Don’t procrastinate. You should follow up with people within a week of meeting them and ideally sooner. That way, your conversation is still top of mind. If someone contacts you, respond quickly to show your interest in keeping in touch.

4. Be courteous. Don’t make networking all about you by constantly pushing your agenda. Not everyone you meet is in a position to help you, nor will they always have time to stop everything and hear you out. Treat new connections like you would any new friendship by being friendly, diplomatic and open. You’ll be rewarded with a more loyal network.

5. Perfect your grip. Networking may not come naturally to you. If you’re afraid or embarrassed to meet new people in a business setting, have more career-related conversations with people you already know. It will give you practice describing what you are looking for and what you can do. The more you have these conversations, the more confident you will be when you meet someone who could more directly influence your job prospects.

When we are very young, making new friends comes easily. But as we grow older, insecurities emerge that chip away at our confidence. Just remember that other people have the same insecurities — and the same desire to make connections — that you do. Take your cue from your 5-year-old self, and don’t be afraid to start a new conversation. If you’re positive and genuine, the people you meet will be happy not only to make a connection with you but also to invite you into their network. That’s how networking works!

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

Don’t Stand in Your Own Way: The Definitive Guide to Self-Confidence

By: Reesa Staten of Robert Half

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” 
― Henry David Thoreau

April’s thought-provoking blog entry from Joi Gordon explored the relationship between gender and confidence in the workplace, noting that structural support of the unique needs of working women may play an even larger part than gender in determining whether someone reaches her full potential.

I’d like to stay on the subject of confidence because it’s an important one. In the business world, confidence can propel you to the top of the list of contenders for a job opening. The absence of it weakens your chances of being hired, no matter how qualified you are.

Whether you are looking for a new job, hoping to advance in your current one, or just want to be taken more seriously at work, a little self-assurance goes a long way.

In the course of a career, many things can chip away at our confidence, such as a job layoff, long period of unemployment or being passed over for a promotion. But confidence breeds confidence. If you can maintain your stride — and your positive attitude — in the face of these challenges, you’ll show others they can place their confidence in you.

Research has shown that women often have a more difficult time with this than men do.  An often-cited internal study by tech giant HP found that women applied for jobs at HP only if they were 100 percent qualified. Men, on the other hand, were likely to put their hat in the ring if they met just 60 percent of the hiring criteria. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in us, or the tendency to follow the rules to the letter. For many women, myself included, it doesn’t occur to us that some rules are actually guidelines. The confident person seizes the opportunity to ask for an exception to the rule if he or she can make a strong case for it. In other words, if the job fits, fight for it.

As a manager, I frequently make hiring decisions, and I regularly evaluate an individual’s readiness to take on new assignments or increased responsibilities.  Aptitude is always the first thing I look for, but self-assurance is a close second. Talent and confidence are a powerful combination.

Two books published in the last few years address the confidence equation head on: Lean In. Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know by journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Both books discuss the unique challenges many women in the workplace face as they pursue leadership roles. And, in many cases, we are our own worst enemies.

How can you increase your self-confidence? Start by setting yourself up for success. Here are five suggestions:

  1. Don’t assume there is someone more qualified than you for the job. It’s easy to talk yourself out of applying for a promotion or a new job. You may tell yourself it’s not worth your effort because someone out there surely is more qualified. But what if you’re wrong? What if you are the right one for the job? You won’t know unless you put yourself out there.
  2. Work on your presentation skills. Make sure you are communicating with confidence, whether you are sharing your ideas in an informal setting or speaking before a group. Can you make your case articulately, concisely and with passion? Demonstrating self-assurance inspires others to want to follow you.
  3. Don’t assume others know how great you are. I have a friend who applied for a promotion at her company. She lamented that during the interview when she shared her many accomplishments with the hiring manager, he was surprised. He had not realized how hard she had been working and all she was contributing. Make sure you are getting credit for your good work so managers think of you first when new opportunities surface.
  4. Start small. Little victories are still victories. Volunteer for small projects at work and give 100 percent of your attention to them. By completing these tasks successfully, you’ll build up the confidence to take on more. And you’ll be showing others you can deliver exceptional results. Positive feedback from coworkers and customers is a proven confidence-builder.
  5. Walk the talk. Make sure your words are backed up by action. Being overly boastful or making false claims is just as damaging to your career as a lack of confidence. Always present the best version of you — and stay true to yourself in the process.

The next time you feel your confidence wavering, don’t let it get the best of you. You would be surprised at how even a little self-assurance will open doors for you at work and in your personal life. You have everything to gain from reaching for that next opportunity — and so much to lose if you let fear stand in your way.

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

 

Why Professional Motivation Matters So Much

By: Reesa Staten of Robert Half

Nike made the phrase “Just Do It” a part of the American lexicon. Nike’s goal was to inspire us to channel our inner athlete and embrace physical challenges. I would like to encourage you to push yourself in the same way — but this time, in the context of your work.

If you’re reading this, you’ve already displayed professional motivation and taken the first step toward your next career move. Dress for Success gives you the foundation wardrobe, moral support and confidence boost to shine brightly in job interviews and throughout your career. I hope you take advantage of the career resources available to you as a Dress for Success client.

Taking your first steps

It’s possible to change just about anything about your job or your career — if you take action. Your dream job or promotion doesn’t have to be just a dream. You can make it a reality. Your first steps don’t have to be big ones. Even small strides, like updating your resume and LinkedIn profile, or getting in touch with an old classmate or colleague in a field that interests you, can start the momentum. These actions require just a little effort and professional motivation — consider it the warm-up.

From there, you’re more likely to take further steps, like reviewing the job boards to see if an employer may already be advertising your dream job. Most major job search websites let you set up alerts to receive emails when a job matching your search criteria is posted.

Overcoming doubt

It’s at this point that you have to decide how serious you are about your pursuits because once you start looking, you will find jobs that appeal to you. This is often when the doubt kicks in and professional motivation stalls. All elite athletes will tell you they had to overcome the fear of failure at some point in their career. They succeeded by not letting these fears shake their confidence. Instead, they carefully prepared so that when the time came to compete, they were ready.

The same is true in your job search. Preparation will give you confidence. That means making sure you know enough about the position and the company to submit a targeted resume. It also means dressing the part, interviewing well and having good references who can attest to your abilities. If the job you want requires additional training or certification, preparation may involve gaining that added knowledge. Depending on the level of training or education, this may be the marathon portion of your journey and where your professional motivation is put to the test.

Applying professional motivation to your current job

If you’re not ready to look for a new job but instead want to advance with your current employer, ask your manager what steps you need to take to be considered for a promotion. Many people lack the confidence to talk to their boss about career growth, when, in fact, most good managers welcome these conversations. The conversation they don’t like having is the one in which a good employee resigns without ever having let on he or she longed for more responsibility. It can be a lost opportunity for both the employer and employee.

To paraphrase Isaac Newton, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Likewise, a body at rest stays at rest. It’s easy to become complacent, either because you lack confidence or you don’t know where to begin. But even a few steps toward looking for a new job can give you the professional motivation you need to keep the search going. Small victories will empower you to take on even bigger challenges and, from there, it’s a sprint to the finish.


Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for
Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

 

Are You an Office MVP?

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half

When it comes to your job, it’s easy to assume your employer holds all the cards. You depend on your boss for a paycheck, and he or she often has the final say when it comes to raises, promotions and plum assignments.

But you also are a valuable asset to your employer, and that gives you more power than you might think. No company can stay in business very long without a reliable workforce, which is why firms frequently go to great lengths to motivate and retain great employees.

Are you one of those great employees?

Here are five questions to ask yourself to find out if you are an office MVP (most valuable person):

  1. Are you checked in — or just phoning it in? Employee engagement is the Holy Grail for managers because an engaged workforce turns an average company into a great one. If you’re not showing your employer every day that you understand and are committed to the company’s mission, you may not be living up to your full potential in his or her eyes.
  2. Do you make customers your top priority? Yes, it’s true: With very few exceptions, the customer is always right. Without paying customers, a company has no revenue stream. Without revenue, the business can’t survive. And if the business disappears, so do its jobs. You can significantly increase your value to your employer simply by going out of your way to make customers happy. If your name appears frequently in Yelp reviews or customer satisfaction surveys, it’s hopefully because you provided outstanding service. Customer favorites are also employer favorites.
  3. If you see something that needs to be done, do you do it without being asked? Initiative is extremely attractive to employers. In fact, it’s one of the first qualities employers include in job postings when describing their ideal candidates. You can make yourself indispensible to a busy manager simply by being a problem-solver. When pointing out challenges or potential roadblocks to the boss, always come armed with ways to overcome them. Even the little things count. If you see a mess in the break room, do you ignore it or clean it up? I like a tidy workspace, so it’s not unusual to see me clearing off someone else’s kitchen mess. It’s not my job or my mess, but someone has to take the initiative, and it might as well be me. As for those inconsiderate coworkers who regularly leave behind spills, crumbs and dirty dishes, well, that’s a different column.
  4. Are you open to new ideas or ways of doing things? Businesses are constantly changing their processes and strategies to remain competitive and keep pace with rapid changes in technology. Being seen as someone who is flexible and can adapt to new systems without being overwhelmed can be a form of career insurance. If technology is your strong suit, for instance, try volunteering to train others on your company’s new software. If you have devised a better way to organize a project or task, share your ideas with coworkers and your boss. Above all, avoid being locked into outdated processes or ways of thinking: Business is moving too fast these days for anyone to be standing still.
  5. Does your boss trust you with key projects or responsibilities? Perhaps the biggest indicator of your value to your employer is your job description. Your boss needs people he or she can rely on. If you are regularly tasked with high-profile or highly complex assignments, it is because your employer feels you are up to the challenge. You have instilled confidence, and that greatly raises your value quotient.

It’s important to know your value to your employer because it affects your self-worth and your earnings potential. Hiring mistakes are costly to companies, and they will do whatever they can to retain their best people. This means that if you are an MVP, you have some bargaining power when it comes to your job duties and your salary. Confidence is appealing, so never sell yourself short.

Incidentally, Robert Half has a variety of salary resources that can help you determine what your skills are worth in today’s market. Our 2014 Salary Guides are available now.

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

Let’s Stay in Touch: Networking to Get a New Job

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half

In the job search, as with many things in life, the secret to success often lies not in what you know, but who you know. The fact is that all things being equal, hiring managers will often give an edge to applicants who have been referred to them by someone they know.

Why? Hiring is risky business for employers. Hire the wrong person, and your company loses valuable time, money and productivity. Not to mention the negative effect a bad match can have on team morale. So managers look for any input, including referrals, that will help them make the best hiring decision.

As a job seeker, you can increase your odds of getting hired by constantly expanding your professional network. The more people you know, the better your chances of hearing of job openings first and getting a foot in the door by having a personal referral.

Start by telling everyone you know — and everyone you meet — that you are in the job market. Job leads can come from anywhere, so leave no stone unturned. Of course, if you already have a job and are looking for something better, then your inquiries will need to be a little more discreet.

The first rule of networking is to make connections long before you need them. Keep in touch with the people you meet throughout your life, including past teachers, bosses and coworkers. Don’t overlook the family friend who works in a field or industry that has always interested you. If you lose contact with old acquaintances, rekindle the relationship with a friendly call or email.

The second rule of networking is to pay it forward by being a resource for others, no strings attached. If you offer support to someone who needs it, he or she will be more inclined to return the favor when it’s your turn to ask for help.

When someone introduces you to a person in their network or helps you land an interview, be sure that you are professional and courteous when you meet with the new contact. Your friends are going to bat for you. Make them glad they did.

Become a ‘Social’-ite

LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites are good channels for building and cultivating your professional network. You can use these sites to locate people who can help you expand your network. Be sure that you have an up-to-date profile so that your contacts get a complete picture of your skills and work history.

Facebook is one thing, but don’t overlook the value of face time. Arrange to have coffee with former colleagues from time to time so that you can keep the connection alive. If it’s been a while since you talked to someone, bring that person up-to-date on what you’ve been doing, including any new work experience you’ve gained. This will help him or her identify career opportunities that may be a fit.

When you ask your contacts for help, keep your requests reasonable, and make it as easy as possible for them to help you. For example, if you are applying for a job at their company, personally hand them your resume and explain why you think you would be a good fit. If you know the name of the hiring manager, share that information, too, so your contact does not have to do the legwork for you.

Not everyone will be in a position to help you, so be gracious if they decline. They may not feel comfortable advocating on your behalf, particularly if the two of you have had only limited interaction in the past. This is all the more reason you need to stay in frequent contact with members of your network.

If networking isn’t a habit for you, make it one by engaging in at least one networking activity each month. It could be as easy as sending a quick thank-you note to someone who has helped you in the past, attending a business mixer or congratulating a friend who was promoted.

Networking shouldn’t feel like a chore. If you foster great relationships over time, then your contacts will start to feel a lot more like friends than professional colleagues.

 

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

Can a Dream Vacation Lead to a Dream Job?

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half International

Every once in a while, a summer vacation takes me to a city I could imagine myself living in. Maybe it’s the draw of a warmer climate or the appeal of being within walking distance to great museums and restaurants.

You also may long for a change of scenery, either because you love a particular town you have visited, have a desire to live closer to friends or family, or are contemplating a major life change. Whatever the reason, the decision to make a move is a big one and you should weigh your options carefully, especially when it comes to your career.

Career websites make it easier than ever to identify jobs in other parts of the world, but working out the other logistics involves considerably more effort.

Here are six questions to ask yourself before taking the leap.

1. What’s the job market like? Is your vacation destination someplace you can actually make a living? Visiting an island resort is a dream come true, but unless you mix a mean mai tai, you will have limited career options if the island is too remote. If a beach lifestyle is appealing, choosing big cities like Miami, San Diego or Honolulu will give you more employment options than a destination that is too far off the beaten path.

2. How “livable” is the city? Many places are fantastic to visit, but are not easy cities to live in because of a high cost of living, impossible commute or severe weather for much of the year. Visit the region and talk to people who live there to get a reality check before deciding on a permanent relocation. Try visiting at different times of the year, so that you are familiar with seasonal weather patterns. You may fall in love with summer in Anchorage, Alaska, but be prepared to trade sandals for snow boots once winter rolls around. Also research food and housing costs to get an idea of what your monthly spending might be. Will you be able to earn enough to cover living expenses?

3. Will you have a support system? Moving to a new city often means leaving behind friends and loved ones. It will be easier to meet new people once you find a job in the new city, but be prepared to feel a little homesick from time to time. It may take time to rebuild your support network, but for the right job in the right city, it could be well worth the effort.

4. Will you love your new job? If you’re contemplating a move because you’ve already been offered a job in a new city, consider all aspects of the offer. Is the work environment appealing? Are the daily responsibilities interesting? Will taking the job allow you to improve the quality of life for you and your family? Research salary trends so that you can ensure you will be earning enough to maintain or improve your living standard. Money isn’t everything, but it can make a big difference when you plan a major move.

5. Can your future employer make the transition easier for you? Starting salary is not the only aspect of a job offer that can be negotiable. Moving costs, temporary housing assistance, and travel and lodging expenses for house-hunting trips are just a few common elements of relocation packages. Gather documentation, such as estimates from moving companies and airfare quotes, for use during the negotiation if you are offered a job in another city. If you decide to accept a relocation package, ask for the terms in writing. 

6. Be prepared to make a strong case. Many employers will try to avoid the time and expense of relocating someone if they believe there are qualified candidates locally. You will need to explain to the hiring manager why you’re seeking a job outside your area. If you are able to relocate without assistance and can move quickly if offered a position, make this clear to the hiring manager. Are there any assets you’d bring to the role that a local candidate might not? This is the time to make your case.

You would not be the first person to fall in love with a city while on vacation and decide to pull up stakes and relocate there. Many people have made exciting life changes and never looked back.

I recall visiting San Francisco as a college student and telling myself I would live there one day. Within five years, I found myself crossing the Golden Gate Bridge every day on my way to work in downtown San Francisco. It wasn’t easy leaving friends and family, but I developed new personal and professional networks and started building a career I love.

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

Inside Track: Tips for a Successful Job Interview

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half International

For most people, job interviews rank near the top of the list of life events that cause anxiety, and with good reason. The stakes are high in these situations, particularly if you really want — or need — the job you’re going for. 

As with most things, preparation will increase your odds of making a good first impression. I’m sure we all can remember at least one occasion when an interview did not go well, and if we’re honest, it was probably because we walked into the meeting unprepared.  

What follow are eight tips for acing the job interview. Some of these lessons I (and others) learned the hard way. I share them with you now so you have the inside track on a successful first meeting with a prospective employer.

1. Research the company and the opportunity. You should go into the interview with a beyond-the-basics knowledge of the firm. Read the company’s website, marketing materials and relevant news stories to learn its mission, history, reputation and corporate culture. A simple Google search can uncover a wide range of information. The more you know, the better able you will be to convince the hiring manager that you are an excellent match for the company and the job.

2. Practice. Enlist the help of a friend or family member and practice responses to common questions such as “Tell me about yourself,” “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “Why do you want to work here?” And be ready for the curveballs like “Who is your favorite fictional character and why?” There are no right or wrong answers to these types of questions. The employer is looking for clues as to how you think and some insight into your personality.

3. Arrive on time. Being late is a deal breaker for most employers. One way to ensure you’re not late is to plan to arrive half an hour early. You’ll give yourself some leeway in case traffic is worse than expected or you get lost. If you find you have time to spare, use it to review your resume or check your appearance in the restroom. Arrive at reception five to 10 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start, but no earlier. 

4. Be honest. Interviewers often ask you to describe your weaknesses. While you don’t want to launch into a list of reasons they should not hire you, try to provide a little color on your work style. Saying that your greatest weakness is that you “work too hard” or “can’t help but be a perfectionist” are clichés and will make you seem insincere. Instead mention an area where you could improve and describe the steps you’ve taken to do so. Just don’t tell them you have no weaknesses. Nobody is perfect, and the employer knows this (see tip #5).

5. Be humble. Never underestimate the power of humility. Employers like to see that you are self-assured and assertive, but being overly confident or cocky will leave a bad impression. Show employers that you can take direction and that you understand the company’s business objectives. Demonstrate a willingness to learn and an openness to new ways of doing things. These are all signs you will contribute to the company in a positive way.

6. Don’t disparage past bosses. You may be asked by an interviewer why you left a particular job. Regardless of how unhappy you were in that position, avoid sounding bitter or resentful or badmouthing a former supervisor. This will prompt the hiring manager to wonder if you will be equally critical in your new job. Companies want to hire people with a history of loyalty, successful collaboration and a good attitude.  

7. Dress to impress. If you are reading this blog, you know how important it is to “Dress for Success.” First impressions count, and professional attire tells the hiring manager you take the job opportunity seriously. Make the best impression by wearing a clean, well-fitted suit, dress or similar outfit. Go easy on the accessories and the fragrance, and when in doubt, err on the side of dressing a little more conservatively.

8. Save the demands. The interview is like a first date. You are getting to know the employer, and he or she is getting to know you. Avoid giving a list of demands like salary requirements, benefits and vacation days. This tells a prospective employer you’re more concerned about the perks than the job itself. Focus your efforts instead on what you can offer the company by asking what expectations the employer has of someone in the role.       

The best advice for a successful interview? Just be yourself, show the employer you are qualified for the job, and make a persuasive case for why he or she should hire you over everyone else who interviews. And don’t be bashful about asking for the job — you just might surprise the hiring manager into saying yes!

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

 

Discovering Your Unique Professional Strengths

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half

Like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two people are exactly alike. We all have individual strengths that define who we are and distinguish us from every other person on the planet.

Do you know what makes you unique? If you can describe to a potential employer what you bring to the job that no one else will, it may be all you need to convince that person to hire you. Knowing your strengths also will help you choose a career that will give you the greatest job satisfaction.

Whether or not you know it, you are a specialist at something. Maybe you are great at solving problems, or perhaps you’re known for your ability to create order out of chaos. These are life skills, but they also are highly transferrable to the job market. For example, problem-solving abilities are essential in any customer service or technical support role. If you can help someone troubleshoot an issue he or she is having with a product or service, and keep that person happy in the process, this is a highly marketable job skill. Likewise, if organizational skills are your strength, you may excel at leading projects and people. If you have worked in a particular industry for many years, you likely have a level of knowledge that makes you a specialist in that field.

If you’re not sure what your strengths are, ask people you know. You will be surprised at how quickly they can name them. Take this information and build on it. Consider jobs in which you have excelled in the past or courses in school that engaged you the most. These are clues into the type of work that will give you the most enjoyment and be the best match for your personality.

Remember that you are unique, and your dream job may not resemble those of your friends or family. I have a friend who is a top salesperson for a Fortune 100 corporation. She travels constantly, juggles half a dozen major accounts worth millions of dollars to her company, spends a fair amount of her day solving problems for her customers and knows she is only as successful as her last commission. Her job is like climbing Mount Everest every day. Her unique strength? She loves tackling big challenges, which means she loves (and excels at) her job.

You may also love a challenge, or your ideal career could be just the opposite. You may be looking for something more predictable, and you may choose routine over volatility. Jobs that appeal to you probably involve close attention to detail and adherence to specific, repeatable processes. There is an employer out there looking for someone just like you, so don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about what most makes you happy.

Some professionals have specialized skills but fall short when it comes to marketing themselves.  Robert Half recently released a research paper that describes the importance of specialized job skills in the workforce.

Following are six tips to help you showcase your unique strengths:

1. Create a specialist resume. Your resume should highlight your individual specialty areas and interests. For example, if you’re an accountant who has worked in the healthcare industry, emphasize not only your accounting skills but also your healthcare expertise. Add a “Summary” section that briefly describes your most relevant attributes and experience. Remember to customize your resume for each job opening.

2. Be seen online as a specialist. Add keywords to your profile on sites like LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter that reflect your areas of specialization and participate in online groups in your areas of interest.

3. Know yourself. Remember that you have transferrable skills that will benefit you in almost any field or industry, such as being great with people, highly organized, creative, detail-oriented or something else. If you’re just beginning your career, choose a specialty area that strongly interests you and acquire additional skills and training in that area. A career focus that you are passionate about is more likely to lead to long-term success.

4. Acquire more education. The unemployment rate for professionals 25 years or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher is roughly half that of the general employment rate. Depending on where you are in your career trajectory, consider completing a degree or certification in your field that you never finished — or never pursued.

5. Fish where the fish are. For example, one of the fastest-growing fields right now is healthcare. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that one-third of the projected fastest-growing U.S. occupations are in the field of healthcare. Job demand is expected to remain high across the healthcare spectrum, including for doctors and nurses, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists, medical lab technicians, and more. Professionals who provide support to healthcare organizations, such as dental hygienists, medical records clerks and medical assistants, are also seeing rising demand for their services. If your strength is helping people, the healthcare field offers tremendous opportunities to do just that.

6. Work with a specialized staffing firm. A staffing company that specializes in your field can help you accurately highlight your strengths and specialty areas in job search materials.

Once you to identify what you like doing and are good at, direct your job search accordingly. You will be much more successful in a career that inspires you, and employers will value your enthusiasm and motivation.

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

Being a “Momager”: Tips on Being Successful in Your Job While Juggling Life & Family

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half International

Sunday, May 12, is Mother’s Day, and there is no shortage of personal stories reflecting the struggles working moms face as they balance job and family obligations, all the while reaching for the next rung on the career ladder.

Full disclosure: I am a female executive, but not a mother. My biggest career influence, however, is a working mom. My own mom. She was ambitious at a time when few women openly admitted to having career aspirations.

My mom’s career started shortly after high school when she left her small town in Maine for a bigger small town in Iowa to look for her first job and take courses at the local college.

Mom was married a few years later and, within a year, was a new mother to my older sister. She kept working, first out of financial necessity and later, as she has confided, because she couldn’t picture herself not working. It was the best example she could set for her two daughters. When I was a young girl, my mom was the family’s chief breadwinner. She never missed an opportunity to ask for a raise or promotion when she felt she deserved one, and she didn’t shy away from changing jobs when it meant more money or better benefits.

Her primary goal was always to build a better life for her girls. Mom once told me of the time she set her sights on a long-vacant property in town, a fixer-upper built in the early 1900s. (I think of George Bailey’s drafty old house in the film It’s a Wonderful Life.) The house wasn’t for sale, so she researched public records to find its history. She learned the home was in a family trust and, determined to have the home, she made an offer.

I can envision my mom (5’1”, 90 pounds) in 1960s middle-America marching into the trust attorney’s office with a verbal offer and little collateral — except courage and a personality that told others she was someone to bet on. My mom taught me the importance of not backing down from a challenge. She also taught me the value of asking for what you want. We got the house, and it was the first of many steps-up for our family as my parents worked to build a future for their children.

Times are different today, but the lessons my mom taught me guide the decisions I make every day. Below are seven things I learned from watching my mother be both a successful working woman and a dedicated mom.

1. Be someone others can count on. In a healthy office environment, people look out for each other. Managers and colleagues will be more likely to provide you with flexibility if you have earned their trust. Show you are part of the team by volunteering for assignments, covering for a sick colleague and returning the favor when someone asks you for assistance with a project. In doing so, you will have a better chance of getting the support you need when you’re faced with conflicting work and personal demands.

2. Get organized. My mom’s favorite quote is, “When you want something done, ask the busiest person you know.” She was precisely that person at work and at home. I try to be that go-to person in my office, too. Busy people have a gift for multitasking. They make (and complete) to-do lists. They tackle challenges head on; they don’t wait to be asked, they do what needs to be done. It’s this level of initiative that makes it possible to accomplish more than you thought possible. When my mom eventually retired, it took two full-time people to replace her.

3. Be stingy with your personal time. My mom did not burn the midnight oil. She was home by 5:30 every night, and she didn’t work weekends. She also didn’t take the job home with her — mentally or physically. This separation of career and family is important. You need that mental divide between the “you” at work and the “you” that is mom, wife, friend or family member. This advice applies whether or not you are a parent.

4. Prioritize. Consider everything you would like to accomplish at work and outside the office and then rank these tasks in terms of importance and immediacy. At work, there are times when a project will be both business-critical and time-sensitive — it has to be on the boss’s desk tomorrow, for example. A longer-term assignment may be equally important, but have a longer lead time — researching potential locations for an off-site meeting, for instance — which means it can wait until you handle more urgent matters. When you can prioritize in this way, you will be better able to direct your efforts where they are needed most and avoid becoming overly stressed.

5. Stand up for yourself. If you don’t, no one else will. Mom once told me of the time she covered for an absentee coworker whose job required using a Burroughs adding machine — state-of-the-art for its day. When the woman eventually left the company, mom quietly stepped in, balancing the books to the penny each month. When she learned the firm had advertised to fill the vacancy with a Burroughs expert, mom asked for a meeting with the company president, where she politely explained that she was already doing the job and had been for several months. She felt the position should be hers, and the company president agreed. She was just 22 at the time, and it was the first of many promotions in mom’s career.

6. Ask for help. The reality is that sometimes we can’t do it all. Accept this fact and look for ways to build your support network. Stay close to family members. Get involved in your local community. Attend school or church fundraisers. Make friends. These network connections will help you down the road because they are all sources of advice, referrals and direct support.

Do the same thing at work. If your job is one where you can delegate all or parts of assignments to others, don’t be afraid to do so. Some people are afraid to delegate either because they don’t think the other person will do as good a job at the task, or they fear the person might do a better job than them, which could put their own job at risk. The problem with that logic is that if you let your work back up, you risk missing deadlines, which also reflects poorly on your performance. You could end up in the very situation you were trying to avoid by keeping projects for yourself.

7. Look for alternatives to traditional work hours. My mom did not work in the era of telecommuting and job sharing. Fortunately, we do. In many offices, alternative work arrangements are becoming commonplace. Try to investigate the possibility of flexible scheduling options that might give you more balance, such as part-time work or a compressed workweek.

Even if your company doesn’t offer these programs on a formal basis, it’s worth talking to your manager about any possibilities that might exist. For example, many employers allow workers to arrive early on occasion so they can leave the office in time to meet personal obligations. Just keep in mind tip #1 above.

Be prepared to make a case for how such a work arrangement could benefit your employer and not just you. For instance, a compressed workweek, during which you work four ten-hour days and have three days off, might allow your company to extend its business hours. If you can show clear advantages with a flexible scheduling option and make it easy for your manager to implement, you’re less likely to meet resistance.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to being a good “momager,” just as there is no easy way to balance work and personal demands. As a working parent, you will always have a long list of activities, events and projects competing for your time. If you have a strategy in place for managing them, you may find work/life balance a little less difficult to achieve.

It will never be easy — but then that’s why we have a special day set aside each May to recognize the super moms who perform miracles and magic tricks every single day. Happy Mother’s Day.

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.