A Fast-Track Alternative to a Teaching Job

ANXIETY about what comes next in midlife is gripping a lot of people these days, especially if their jobs are ending or they are nearing retirement age.

Wylie Schwieder mulled over his prospects as his consulting job was winding down. And when his wife of 20 years, Katie, a former corporate trainer and business writing coach, came home on Sept. 3, 2007, their wedding anniversary, he was waiting on the front porch of their Richmond, Va., house with a bottle of wine and two glasses.

“I’ve decided to become a teacher,” he told his wife.

How Facebook could cost you your job

If you are one of the six million Australians or 250 million people worldwide who use Facebook, you probably use the social networking site to keep up with your friends, write on each other’s walls and view each other’s photos.
Caught up in this breezy social interaction, it’s easy to forget all the invisible readers who may be reading your profile information and looking at the photos you just posted of your last drunken night on the town. That may include the ‘friends’ you’ve added who you actually barely know, the friends of your friends, your colleagues and – shudder – your boss. Depending on your privacy settings, total strangers may be able to view your profile – including prospective employers.

Cautionary tales are increasingly emerging of how Facebook has proved the undoing of the hapless. Many people will already have heard about Australian Kyle Doyle, a call centre worker who chucked a sickie after a drunken night out, only to be busted by his boss after posting this on his Facebook page: ‘not going to work, f*** it i'm still trashed SICKIE WOO.’ Oops.

Then there was Kevin Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish Bank in the US, who told his employers he had to miss work to go to New York for a family emergency. When his Facebook page later showed a photo of a fairy costume-clad Colvin at a Halloween party instead of his ‘family emergency’, his manager copied the photo and emailed it around the office with the reply: ‘Thanks for letting me know – hope everything is OK in New York. (cool wand).’

How to succeed in a group interview?

Did you know that you could take a cocktail shaker to a group interview and walk away with a job offer? That's right – it's all about standing out from the crowd when it comes to group interviews. But when everyone else has the same goal, that's not such an easy task.

So who uses group interviews?

Companies that recruit large numbers of staff (like retail and supermarket chains) love group interviews. They are also used to recruit graduates into highly prized cadetships at organisations such as accounting firms, banks and other corporates.

A personal account

But back to the cocktail shaker and my experience in a group interview. At the end of a gruelling seven-hour group interview that started with 50 people, I was one of five candidates offered a job. We each had to give a three-minute speech so I decided to 'drink to my success' using my personal attributes as ingredients for the job success cocktail; hence the cocktail shaker!

Why did it work? Because, I think, the speech was memorable (more for the cocktail shaker perhaps but memorable nevertheless). If you don't stand out during a group interview, you'll get lost in the crowd. While you don't have to bring a cocktail shaker with you, you should think about how you can impress the interviewers. No matter how qualified or experienced you are, it's easy to get spooked at a group interview. I was completely unprepared for a make-or-break question in a group interview with an iconic Australian department store: 'What is your favourite colour and why?'

The Top 5 Stay-at-Home Careers

You've probably seen the ads. Certain companies will guarantee that thousands of dollars can be made by stuffing envelopes at home, or doing something equally easy. These scams are everywhere, and sometimes obscure the truth: A college degree can lead to real money made in real work-at-home jobs.

These five jobs are among the top careers for those who prefer to stay at home while working. Some of them might surprise you.

Customer Service Representative

Large companies need someone manning the phones, often around the clock, in order to handle calls from their customers. With a dedicated phone line and a reliable Internet connection, the customer service representative can work from home. Patience and great communication skills are a necessity for this position.

An associate's or bachelor's degree in a related field, such as business or communications, is increasingly preferred by employers. Career training takes place on the job, and those who do well in the position might find opportunities to advance in the company. The average annual salary for a customer service representative in 2008 was $29,860, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Leaving your job - don't burn those bridges!

The time comes for everyone where their job isn't what it used to be (or perhaps it never was!). So you have to leave. Some people don't understand that being unhappy in a job is more important than your income at the time. You just have to do it.

So what's the best way to go about it? How can you minimise the impact on both your career and your soon-to-be ex-employer?

Tie up loose ends!

You weren't thinking about just walking out were you?

It's a move a lot of people make and can be a big mistake. It could be argued that there are a lot of issues in the workplace that could mean just getting up and walking out would save a lot of hassle, but it could also be argued that you should at least try to resolve these issues first.

If you have outstanding work, then try to get it finished. If other departments are relying on you to do their jobs, then it is only professional courtesy to not let them down. How would you feel if you couldn't hit the deadline because someone just up and left?

Smart Risks vs. Foolish Risks

Playing it safe with your career may seem smart. But to really get ahead, you may need to take some risks.

"Nothing gives your career a boost like succeeding at a risk," says Sheila Wellington, author of "Be Your Own Mentor" and a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business. "It helps you break out of the pack."

Still, before you take a risk -- whether it's quitting your job or confronting your boss -- consider whether it's smart or foolish.

Make sure you know yourself and your organization well enough to understand what happens if you take a risk and it doesn't work out. Will failure damage your career, or will coworkers admire your initiative? Will you be devastated, emotionally or financially, if you don't succeed? Or do you have a high tolerance for failure?

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5 Answers: What's Your Biggest Weakness?

Everything is going well. You arrived on time, you're making excellent eye contact and you're acing every question that's being thrown at you. You've got this job in the bag, until you hear the interviewer utter, “What’s your biggest weakness?” You know you shouldn't answer too quickly, so you take your time and then suddenly realize you're not sure how to answer. You may be tempted to blurt out, “I have no weaknesses,” and hope to illustrate your confidence in your abilities, but we all know (and your soon-to-be boss will too) that's a lie. Since you can't opt for a pass as you would in a game show, here are five strong techniques to answer the popular interview question, "What's your biggest weakness?"

"I tend to talk too much."

Certainly, this answer is not to give the impression that you prefer to spend half of your day in idle chitchat with your coworkers. Illustrate how, in a world of e-mailing, being able to effectively communicate in person is a huge plus. Additionally, this can flow over into being able to get on the phone and talk with prospective partners or clients -- a skill that employees lack more and more in business today. In group activities, note how your verbal communication skills allow you to quickly convey the message and encourage discussion. In some cases, you may be classified as being too talkative and state that you are aware of that, but this approach gives you confidence that the message is being delivered appropriately. Of course, use this answer in the correct setting. For example, it likely applies more to a communications or sales position than to a number-crunching job.

What Your Desk Says About You

The accepted aesthetic of the modern office have unfolded and changed through the generations as dramatically as the typewriter’s evolution into the desktop PC. Few employers continue to force draconian, sterile environments upon their people; they now encourage flexibility, comfort and personal expression at work -- a concession that’s best proved by the personalization of your desk.

Now, that’s all very well -- thank goodness our days are no longer spent staring at Bartleby’s “dead-wall” -- but while corporate policy may have changed, human nature has not. This means that what your desk says about you will serve as the basis for what others will think about you.

You see, your desk is where your boss hovers over your shoulder, where clients will wait for your return and where your peers will judge you as they leave the office for lunch. As the rookie in the office, you may want to carefully consider what your desk says about you, but that’s not to say that the oldest veteran is free to express his inner salsa dancer. The calculated management of your workspace and the careful consideration of what your desk says about you are imperative if you seek to impress.

We've compiled some suggestions to help you make sure that what your desk says about you is positive.

Expand your network by sending thank you letters

Sending a thank you or follow-up letter within 24 hours of an interview is not a new idea, but it is still a good idea. A key reason to send a thank you letter is to nurture new and existing relationships. Plan to send a thank you letter to all the people that assist in your job search.

This group includes the people that you meet during an interview; your existing contacts that provide written recommendations, and any friend (or friends of friends) that offer career related leads or information.

Thank you is a good place to start relationships that will greatly contribute to your ability to secure the right job in record time! Unless you have a good reason for sending a card or a handwritten letter to your target reader, plan to send an e-mail that is easy to produce. Use the subject line to note "thank you for the interview". This action demonstrates a respect for their busy schedule and an understanding that they may want to read this e-mail after they have read all their urgent e-mails.

Student Résumés: A Guide

Students are often worried about writing a résumé and it’s not uncommon to struggle with the task. But it doesn’t have to be intimidating if you understand the goal of your résumé - to generate interest and interviews. It doesn’t have to get you a job and it doesn’t need to cover your life history. It simply has to pique the interest of the reader and answer the only question he cares about: will this candidate add value to my company?

If you focus your résumé on answering this question effectively, employers will be interested to meet with you. It really is that simple.

Of course, in order to demonstrate your value, you need to know what potential employers are looking for. Start by researching job postings that interest you. Look for frequently-mentioned requirements. Ask experienced professionals what they consider important when they make hiring decisions. Read professional publications and websites related to your target industry. Once you know what is important to employers you can create target your résumé to address those issues.

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