Contract Work-Take It Seriously

Some might think of contract work as an extra pay check, but you should take it a lot more seriously than that.  You might even want to read my posting from earlier in the year titled, Non-Compete Laws, The Ugly Part of Contract Work.

I recently got a ping from the Doostang blog about this topic and felt it was important enough to revisit.  There are all kinds of laws, non-compete to name one, and cautions that go along with this type of work and with so many people still unemployed many more might be signing up for contract work than ever did before.  Take caution and then reap the rewards of working for yourself!

Here are some great tips from Doostang about negotiating a freelance contract.

1. “Write it down: First and foremost, whenever you negotiate a contract with an employer, be absolutely sure to put all terms down in writing. If you instead opt to commit to something verbally, you run the risk of having an employer change the terms on you, or conveniently remembering them in a different way.

2. Agree to a Price Upfront: When you discuss project details with an employer, it’s important to discuss compensation at the outset. Don’t wait until you’re halfway through the job to bring it up – by that point you might already be too embroiled in the work to easily get out of it if an employer refuses to compensate you properly. And never, under any circumstances, hand over work without first agreeing on the value of your efforts.

3. Set a Date: Negotiate a date on which you will be paid in full – and write this down in the original contract. That way, you hold an employer accountable, and if they fail to hold up their end of the bargain, you can pursue the next necessary course of action. If you don’t set a date, you give the employer the opportunity to continue pushing off payment later and later, which keeps you in a state of limbo and prolongs an already unhealthy business relationship.

4. Procure a Retianer Fee: After you have set a price and a pay date, require that your employer pay you a retainer fee. This is an amount of money that an employer pays you upfront in order to secure your services. Even once you draw up a contract with an employer, you can still run into a tricky situation at the end of your business relationship: your employer may claim that you did not live up to the terms of your end of the bargain, or may lack the finances to pay out to you in the end. A retainer fee ensures that you do see at least some of the money for your work.

5. Understand the Time Commitment: It’s important to have as thorough understanding of the project as possible, at least to a point where you know how much time you will be spending on it. Why? Several reasons. Some people may wish to negotiate pay based on an hourly rate. If you originally underestimate how much time a project will take you, it may be difficult to go back and convince your employer of the time that the work actually took, and of how much you truly deserve to be paid. It’s also imperative to know how much time you need to devote to the project so that you manage your time well. Getting the work in on time is built into your part of the contract, and failure to do so may delay or nullify payment. Finally, understanding time constraints can be helpful so that you can convey this information to the employer.

6. Understand the Project: A nice segue from the discussion on time commitment, you must understand the project you are undertaking, and so should your employer. If you are asked to complete one thing, make sure that this is the thing that you deliver in the end. This will help keep you on track, as well as lessen the likelihood that an employer will claim that you did not provide the work you were supposed to, thus ensuring that you don’t run into unnecessary issues when it comes to getting your paycheck.

What did you do today?  Will you be using these tips?

P.S. Thanks again to the Doostand bloggers for these tips!

Have you ever been fired?

Although the majority of us at this point have been laid off and not fired a lot of employers might have the same stigma against you.  Many will understand the circumstance surrounding a lay off but there will inevitably be a handful of those that will think you did something wrong.

So what do you do?  Do you lie and then worry about what the employer might find out during the background check?  Well, according to your conscience and the writers of the Doostang Blog, you should always be honest.

Just tell the truth and explain the circumstances.  Was your position flat out eliminated?  Was there an issue that arose out of your control?  Either way, just give the facts but don’t dwell on it and most definitely don’t bad mouth anyone.

“Explain the circumstances surrounding the incident.  If it was a conflict of interest, let the interviewer know.  If it happened 15 years ago, tell them that you now have a lot of distance from the incident and that your stellar work performance since then speaks for itself.  If it occurred in the more recent past, explain that you have learned quite a bit from the incident, but don’t spend your time making excuses.  Lay down the facts, and focus on what you’ve done since and will do in the future to demonstrate that you are a valuable employee who understands what it takes to be an asset to a company.”

What did you do today?  How did you handle a similar situation?

P.S. Check out my Career Advice 101 group for other topics.

Job Search Strategies

To round out this week I wanted to share a great article from GetInterviews.com again. This one focuses on job search strategies and since sometimes, read often times, it is very time consuming and frustrating to look for work I had to share these tips with you in the hopes that they’ll make your lives a little bit easier.

Thanks again to Alesia Benedict for putting together these tips:

1. Create a road map for your job search.
2. Put and emphasis on a good first impression, “Begin the journey with a professional cover letter and resume. You want to engage hiring managers and build interest in you as a viable candidate. “
3. Following up is just as important, if not more so, than actually applying for a job, “Follow up with hiring managers to produce results long after the first contact you have with a company. You might call to be sure your resume has been received or to inquire as to the need for additional information. Sending a thank-you note following an interview is par for the course, but also send one to acknowledge any assistance you received, such as to the contact who helped get your resume to the right individual. Even if you don’t land an interview initially, state your intent to touch base periodically. See this as part of your network building. “
4. Network, network, network! “Take advantage of job fairs, community gatherings, and professional organization events to keep your finger on the pulse of local and national job markets. Not only are these excellent opportunities to network, but also to understand movement in key positions at companies of interest. Consistent networking, even if you aren’t actively looking for work, can lay the foundation for subsequent job searches. Read local business publications to stay on top of regional business news and opportunities. “
5. For those who are already working, “Professional passion and interest in your field of work cannot be overrated. Only you can determine whether this is the time to follow your heart and create a new direction in your career or if it’s better to stick with a sure thing.”
6.  Job searching is a job, so treat it like one and don’t waste your time without knowing what you have and have not accomplished, “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are continually looking for opportunities and feel stymied by the lack of results. The sheer number of job listings and sites makes the job search feel even more challenging. Keep diligent records of your job search and organize contacts so you don’t inadvertently duplicate your efforts. “
7. Use every resource you can, “Use the resources available to you. Call the new company in town and introduce yourself. Share your interest in the company, but more importantly, use your elevator speech to broadcast your skills and value. Follow up with a resume. Ask for a meeting. Give hiring managers good directions in identifying your strengths and linking those to the needs of the company.”

What did you do today?

When the Resume May Not Be Enough

Everyone who applies to a job sends in a resume.  Most people also send in a cover letter and in some industries are asked to show a portfolio.  So how do YOU stand out from the crowd?

When I was applying to marketing positions I would come in with a PowerPoint slide that included all of my social networking profiles. I would bring in samples of my work from previous companies, and if I got far enough, I would present the interviewers with a 30-60-90 plan that outlined what I hoped to accomplish in the job in the first 30-60-90 days.  This showed my interest in the job and that I was ready to get started today if need be.

So what does Alesia Benedict from GetInterviews.com suggest when it comes to standing out from the crowd?  Well, here are her 5 tips:

1. Plan Your Strategy.

“Review all the positions to which you have applied and analyze them for similarities and differences. Compare these trends with your skills, experiences, and goals. How closely does your skill set match with your job search?  If your search appears disjointed or lacks coherence, most employers will consider this as indicative of your future performance on the job! Match your skills as closely as possible to available jobs to maximize your efforts.”

2. Create a List.

“Targeting your job search with specific goals is just as critical well into the process as it was during week one. Writing down your goals can focus your efforts more effectively and help you present a more powerful image to potential employers. Creating a list will also allow you to follow up in person with potential employers, an action that will set you apart from the majority of candidates being considered for the position.”

3. Invest in the List.

“Your earlier analysis of skills and experiences will help you identify any potential areas of training that may help you stand out from the competition. Go beyond the initial job description for the position of interest to learn more about the company’s presence in the local community. Although employers are primarily interested in your on-the-job value, if you are able to engage them in conversations about corporate philanthropy, you are demonstrating a deeper understanding of the company’s values, prompting them to invest in you as well!”

4. Showcase Accomplishments that Align with Corporate Projects.

“A resume is an effective tool to help you open doors, but in order to do so it must be closely aligned with the company’s mission, values, and top-notch projects. Edit your resume so that only the most meaningful accomplishments are included. Many job candidates become emotionally attached to certain achievements, often from early in their careers. But the fact that you earned ‘Rookie of the Year in Sales’ when you were just out of college will do little to land the job. “

5. Go Beyond the Resume.

“Finally, no matter how outstanding your resume is, these days it often takes more than a great resume to land the job. Brainstorm how you can make yourself stand out beyond the resume. In addition to including the personal contact noted above, this step may also include creating white papers that outline potential areas of improvement for the company. Or you may consider branding opportunities for yourself – from business cards to promotional items to lunch or treats for the helpful staffers you have met along the way.”

What did you do today?

The Importance of Cover Letters

When I was searching for a job I crafted up at least 9 general cover letters that were targeted toward marketing, advertising, social media, etc.  I then had at least 25 company specific cover letters.  But recently, at a girls night out networking group a member commented that she had never in her life written a cover letter.  I myself have wondered if cover letters are no longer important so I did a little research and here is what I found:

“When it comes to landing a job, etiquette still goes a long way, according to a recent survey of hiring managers conducted by a career website.

Of the 2,800 managers polled…one-third of the hiring managers polled said that they would not even consider an application that didn’t include a cover letter.”

Share your thoughts and what did you do today?

P.S. Read more from the article quote above: Hiring Managers Reveal the Importance of Cover Letters, Post-Interview Thank You Notes.

Management

I try to make my manager’s life easy.  I make sure to get things done and be proactive about it.  But…I find myself wondering what kind of manager I would be.  Reason being…I’m planning a wedding.  Yes, it’s true, I got engaged a couple of months ago.

I think that overall I would be a very reasonable manager.  As long as things get done, you should be able to go on as you do and do your job without too much meddling from your boss.  However, as we make our way through this whirlwind called “wedding planning” I wonder about those that don’t deliver when they say they will and how I would manage through that.

Our wedding planner, read: woman who manages events at our venue, is a wonderful woman…when you speak with her.  Once the phone is hung up, all the promised deadlines go out the window.  We have yet to hear something we hate or haven’t been able to work through but there is a lot of checking in on my part and a lot of hand holding.  Maybe it’s my analytical mind.  I simply want results and itemized spreadsheets.  Instead, we’re getting bits of information after numerous  requests.

So I ask, how do YOU deal with those that require a lot of hand holding?

What did you do today?

PR in the World of the Fast and Furious

Last week I finally got around to checking in to LinkedIn Today and seeing what new articles I could browse through.  As per usual, I ended up with 6 new browser windows all full of interesting information…one referenced the great toilet paper debate, over or under?  I believe the winner was keeping the toilet paper flap over the roll.

Anyway, one article I found particularly interesting was how PR has changed these days.  Beth Monaghan, the author of 6 ways PR has changed for the better, looks back to the days of manually faxing and FedExing into the wee hours of the night in order to get a new “hot off the presses” press release out the door.

These days, with the help of sites such as prweb, PR managers have the ability to do a huge blast within seconds.  Gone are the days of relying on FedEx to pick up your latest release, in the world of the fast and furious we want our news NOW!

Read Beth’s article to find out more about how the PR world has been rattled, I promise that you’ll learn something!  The part I enjoyed most was about PR driving SEO and how nowadays it’s much easier to measure results of the e-mail or fax blast than it was in the old days.

What did you do today?

The Statistics that Matter

The majority of us love Google Analytics.  I could spend a whole day looking at new information and finding new metrics to look at.  But that would be information overload and at the end of the day I might not have a clear picture of what I was actually looking at.  So what statistics should you pay attention to in order to figure out if your site/blog/social media platform is performing?

Well, Michael Hyatt looks at the number one should pay attention to in his article titled, What Social Media Stats Should you Include in Your Book Proposal?  Now don’t get discouraged, these tips apply to much more than just a book proposal scenario.

1. Unique visitors per month.
2. Page views per month.
3. Percentage change in the last 12 months.
4. Average number of comments per post.
5. Total number of blog subscribers.
6. Total number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans.

Read the article to get the full scoop on these tips.

What did you do today?

Our Unemployed Life

Last week a story on Yahoo read, Out of work for a while? Tell us your story, so I did.  Zachary Roth is looking for people’s stories to perhaps share at another time.  In case mine goes into the dark abyss, here are my answers to Zachary’s questions:

• How did you lose your job in the first place?
Well, my company at the time was going through its 3rd round of layoffs and this time I wasn’t as lucky as I was during the first two rounds.  I worked as an international marketing coordinator and was told that my position was simply getting eliminated.  I was brought back for one more short project but in the end I was still left without a job.
• What was the hardest thing about being out of work so long?
I would have to say the hardest part is the rejection.  I made it a point to apply to at least 10 jobs a week.  I would get lucky and go on interviews, about 15 total in the 16 months that I was out of work, but they all ended in rejection.  I was either overqualified, or underqualified or didn’t have that “je ne s’ais quais.”  While unemployed I also finished up my MBA studies which quite honestly couldn’t have come at a worse time because I was now not only looking for a job but I was also an MBA graduate.  For one reason or another, this new title immediately took me out of a large pool of jobs that did not require that kind of education.
• Were potential employers wary of hiring you when they found out you hadn’t had a job in while?
Nobody said it to my face but I know that had to be true.  I also couldn’t really say that I’d like to be compensated at a specific level because really…beggers can’t be choosers and at times I felt like a begger…with an MBA degree.
• How helpful were jobless benefits in keeping you and your family afloat? Did you exhaust them?
They were very helpful.  I did have to reach out to my family for help as I had a car payment and two school loans.  When I began to give up, I applied for a retail job which also took about 2 months to secure.  Those two things together helped a little but I had no savings and my health insurance ran out which made things even worse, seeing as here in MA we have to have health insurance.  I chose to go without for a few months because I simply could not come up with $300 and did not want to ask my family for more help.
• Are you seeing more competition for openings than you did when the economy was booming?
Absolutely, I called it the buyers market.  The employers were the buyers and had, and still have, the upper hand.  My resume was competing against at least 100 people each time and then you would be one of 5-10 people being considered.
• Did you find work in the end? If not, are you still looking? Or have you given up?
I did finally find a job and I could not be happier.  It took 16 months but I did it.  There were a lot of times when I thought I wouldn’t make it out and would be thought of as “old school” in terms of my marketing knowledge.  So, I started a blog called Our Unemployed Life.  I share tips for resume writing, interviewing, social media and other ideas.  It was a way for me to show that I understood new marketing platforms.
• If you ultimately landed a job, how did you do it? Any useful tips?
I scoured the internet for all kinds of ideas.  In the end I think going on interviews and being prepared is what really did it.  The other amazing tip I read about, and implemented, was the 30-60-90 plan.  I came in to my second round of interviews with a drawn up 30-60-90 plan for myself and my employers.  This made it easier for them to see that I was driven and that from the get go I was ready to jump in and get started.  I also prepared a powerpoint slide showing my social media presence, as social media saviness is what the job called for.
• How should we go about making it easier for the long-term unemployed to find work?
Maybe create a forum in the form of a blog where everyone can share their job searching stories and tips, I’m not sure if you already have something like that.  If you do, I would make it more prominent on the yahoo home page.
I hope my experience helps and below is a direct link to the blog posting from when I finally got a job, it breaks down how many jobs I applied to, how many rejections I got, etc.
What did you do today?  I hope you shared your sotry with Zachary.