Posts Tagged ‘career’

Using Assessment Tests to Determine Your Career Path

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

You may have tried one back in high school: your school guidance counselor gathered all the juniors and seniors together and handed out these standardized tests to determine what you should be when you grow up, to help in making plans for college. Of course, they were supposed to be all about what you should be and not what you wanted to be, but you could still skew the results that way if you weren’t careful (or didn’t care). I remember all the bars showing what areas best suited my responses… and all of the lines were very short except for one (turns out, as things go, it was the wrong one). Plenty of other people were told they should be park rangers because of a love of horticulture… many laughs all around.

So if you can skew them so badly and some seem to pull answers out of thin air, are the more sophisticated ones useful for those of us who have left high school and even college far behind?

Are you wondering what career you should go for? Are you looking to make a career change mid-life but still feel like you don’t really even know what you want to do when you grow up? Your resume is great for telling you where you’ve come from, but would a self-assessment test like, say, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the DiSC Profile, or the Strong Interest Inventory, be helpful in pointing your way forward?

Well, we’ve checked with a number of professionals on the subject to see what they think:

Matching your personality, preferences and natural abilities to the kinds of requirements of work, pressures and environments of a given career can be one among many predictors of your ease of achieving success. When you work at a job that aligns well with your personality, it will likely feel natural… Assessment tools like Myers-Briggs can enable you to understand your preferred way of getting energy, perceiving information, making judgments and organizing your life. This tool assesses people in terms of their inherent tendency toward being Extravert or Introvert (E or I), Sensate or I(N)tuitive (S or N), Thinking or Feeling (T or F) and Judging or Perceiving (J or P). Your overall personality is the combination of one of these choices in each of the four category sets.

There are many ways that various tests dissect human personality and behavior and correlate them to types of jobs that fit well. For example, individuals oriented toward working with things and ideas might fit well as scientists, forensic types or in other problem-solving fields. Alternatively, people orientated toward working with ideas might do well as writers, artists, or other creative types.

Of course, it might be that you have a particular interest in a field that isn’t generally associated with your personality type (which is what kept skewing my results on those tests in high school). Though you may be able to handle that type of job, it will feel less natural and take more energy to get it done properly – like writing with your nondominant hand. It isn’t that you can’t or shouldn’t do the job. But it certainly shows the limitations of the tests that focus on your responses.

Testing is one of many considerations that should go into deciding on one’s career direction. The various personal assessment tests have value insofar as they can help an individual in the process of self-discovery. I’ve always been partial to the 360Reach survey. With this tool, a person surveys friends, colleagues, relatives, or others. The results can provide valuable feedback about how you are seen and help you determine what differentiates you from everyone else in the marketplace. This tends to work better than the usual surveys limited to people with whom you work.

Of course, the MBTI test is often required by employers to aid in their candidate assessment, so understanding how you respond to this test can be beneficial in determining whether your potential employer will consider you a good fit, not just in terms of competency but also work culture and team dynamics.

So, what’s the bottom line for job seekers and career planners?

When used appropriately by both employers and job seekers, testing can be a useful element of the Chemistry part of the equation, in determining the best candidate to job to employer fit… but it isn’t and shouldn’t be the final decision point, so use with discretion.

Good luck!

Should Assessment Tests Determine Your Next Career Move? | Arnie Fertig via US News & World Report

Job Search Expenses: What Can be Deducted

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

A client walks into an accountant’s office for help with an audit of his income tax return. “They’re disallowing all of my job search expenses. And I swear, I only took those trips to find work. Okay, there might have been a little bit of personal time, you know, vacation, mixed in, but it was mostly to find a job.”

Here’s his story: He retired many years ago but his pension shriveled when the economy tanked and his wife who had been working full time was forced to cut back due to health issues. To help make ends meet, he had to rejoin the workforce. His job hunt cost about $4,000, and he deducted it on his tax return on Schedule A Itemized Deductions as a miscellaneous deduction.

Everything looked in order. The primary purpose of the trips was to get a job, and he had receipts to prove the deductions. He also had all the miscellaneous paperwork to substantiate his purpose – resume, business cards and correspondence to and from prospective employers. He was not able to get a new job; employers told him he was too old. But according to the rules, job-search expenses are deductible even if employment is never achieved. So why was he getting audited?

The bad news is that one of the rules to qualify for the deduction is that, according to the IRS, “there cannot be a substantial break between the ending of your last job and your looking for a new one.”

This is just one of three basic rules:

  1. You can’t deduct expenses for a job search if you are looking for a job in a new occupation. So if you were a shoe salesman and you just finished your nursing degree and are now applying for nursing positions, you’re on your own with covering expenses.
  2. You cannot deduct expenses for a job search if you are looking for a job for the very first time.
  3. There cannot be a substantial break between the ending of your last job and your search for a new one.

Let’s say you are looking for work and you qualify to deduct the expenses, here’s what you may deduct:

  • Employment and outplacement agency fees. If you get the job and an employer reimburses you for the fees, you must declare that amount as income
  • Resume preparation expenses including postage and overnight mail charges
  • Fees you pay each year to keep a license active
  • Travel and transportation expenses – keep a mileage log. Note that travel expenses include any laundry or dry cleaning bills racked up while you’re on the road
  • Meals and lodging while away from home. Keep your receipts or use the per diem cited on the IRS website for the cities you visit
  • Education expenses to improve or maintain skills in your present occupation

These are the basic categories of expense but the list in not all-inclusive. The IRS allows any expense that is considered “ordinary and necessary,” as well as legal.

In other words, bribing a person to hire you is considered an illegal activity, and the deduction will not be allowed. But hiring someone to revamp your resume or a career coach to help you manage your job search will be.

8 Reasons to Continue Your Holiday Job Search

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Despite common misconceptions, job hunting during the holiday season is actually an opportune time to find your next job. Here’s why:

1. You’ve got more time to search for a job since work has slowed down. If you’re still working while looking for another job, chances are you will have a little downtime during the holiday season. Finding the time to make an interview during your lunch break or taking off a couple hours earlier may be easier for you.

2. Your competitor job seekers may not be looking. With so many people competing for the same job, now is the time to jump in full force to your job hunt. Since so many people think the holiday time isn’t the time to look, your competitors may have taken a break, while you’re out meeting and greeting the right people to get hired. Many companies want to close out their open requisitions and have a new hire start in the new year.

3. It’s a perfect time to meet the people who may be hiring later. Even if the company of your dreams isn’t hiring right this instant, the slowness during the holidays is an opportunity for you to get on the hiring manager’s radar. Introduce yourself via email, phone, or even at a party. You’ll be more likely to catch them in the office when you call.

4. Holiday networking opportunities abound. Holiday parties are a ripe location to meet new contacts. The fact that everyone is in a better mood at these festive events gives you the opportunity to really connect on a personal level, which will help you in the long run.

5. People are more laid back. It’s easier to get to know them during the holidays. Sometimes meeting people is difficult if they think you’ve got an agenda. This time of year, it’s all about being merry and bright, so lay off the pitch and work on personal conversation.

6. End-of-year budgets may provide hiring opportunities now rather than in January. Occasionally, a company’s end-of-year budget works in your favor. If there’s surplus money in the employment category, a company may want to hurry and hire before the year is through.

7. Holiday cards are the perfect excuse to remind hiring managers that you’re available. While sending holiday cards should be a thoughtful and selfless act, it doesn’t hurt to let recipients know you’re available should they be hiring. Make the announcement subtle and not the purpose of your card, and include a personalized note in the card.

8. Freelancing while everyone else is on vacation might get your foot in the door. Another great “in” to the job market this time of year is freelancing. If others are taking vacations but work needs to be done, there might be the opportunity to fill a role part-time or temporary position. Once you’re in the door, it’s up to you to make yourself indispensable.

If you have time, here are some tips for your holiday job hunting:

Attend networking and holiday events. This could include a lead or networking group, or many overlooked events like an end-of-the-year neighborhood party or an event at your child’s school.

Once you meet someone of influence, guide the conversation toward the hiring climate at the company. Don’t pitch yourself immediately, but get a feel for whether they’re hiring now. If you maneuver the conversation well, he or she may ask you what you’re looking for, and be ready to help.

Spend time developing relationships. Come January you’ll be back to competing with the rest, so send out as many invites for lunch or coffee meetings as you can handle during the holidays.

Putting a little extra effort into your job hunt and networking this time of year may be the best present you could give yourself!

Original U.S. News

Negotiating Salary

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Salary negotiation skills must be an essential component of every professional’s career toolbox if they are going to achieve new levels of earning power. Negotiating salary, however, is never an easy task, especially when a professional is highly motivated, if not desperate, to take the job, or any job. Salary negotiations can be quite intimidating unless they are conducted in a prudent and productive manner. Even though you might deserve a better salary, it is extremely important to convey this fact in an appropriate way to a potential employer.

One of the most important aspects of salary negotiation is knowing what you might expect from a potential employer and understanding what you are wiling to accept. If the employer lists a number or a range on a job ad, go with that. If there is a recruiter involved in the process, ask the recruiter. You should also determine, in advance, the lowest level of compensation you will accept, beneath which you will be ready to walk away from the table. This ensures that you will be prepared for any offers that may come and that you will not accept, even verbally, any offer you may later regret.

Do not rush into negotiating salary during the interview process; rather, be patient and wait until the job has been offered to you. In case you are required to provide compensation expectations in advance, you must be vague and offer a salary range suitable to the job or industry, indicating that the compensation package is dependent on the specifications of the job. Never pinpoint your ideal compensation while there are other candidates still in the candidate pool. Wait for the potential employer to provide you with a starting number from which you can then begin negotiating your salary.

You must be well-informed about the fair market value of your skills and expertise and also of the position that you are seeking. Research what the company’s competitors are paying for the same job. Even though you will probably not tell a potential employer what their competitors are paying, you can always use the information to determine how far you can go during negotiations.

You should also cite examples from your past achievements to use as leverage in the process. Emphasize to the hiring manager what you can bring to the team, the ideas that you already have for making improvements, and the successes that define your background up until today.

It is extremely important that as a candidate you understand the financial position of the company as well as the budget for the position that you are seeking. If the company is financially stable, expanding, or is having difficulty filling the role for some reason, you can always negotiate for a hike in the offered compensation; however, if the company does not have much flexibility or you are already aware that the department is making cutbacks elsewhere, it is always best to be reasonable and not attempt to drive the compensation above where you believe the employer is willing to go.