Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: organizational skills

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to organizational skills.

Take Control of a Disorganized Job Interview

Take Control of a Disorganized Job InterviewIf you’ve been an IT contractor for some time then you’ve met with plenty of recruiters from a variety of staffing agencies. Though no fault of your own, you’ve also had interviews go terribly wrong. Perhaps the recruiter is too junior, extremely busy, or just bad at their job, but when you find an interview going off the rails because they were unprepared, it’s up to you to save the meeting.

Certainly, a scattered recruiter who can’t conduct an interview is a red flag, but they may also be the key to a contract with your ideal client. Making the job interview work will make you stand out, be appreciated by the recruiter and give you more control over the outcome.

Have Empathy for the Unprepared Recruiter

This is understandably extremely frustrating for you. You gave up your time, maybe even paid time, to come into their office and meet but this recruiter didn’t even have the courtesy to be prepared. Still, this is a gatekeeper to contract opportunities so refrain from burning bridges just yet. Empathize with the recruiter and understand their situation. Maybe they’re new to the role, extremely busy, having a personal crisis, or got thrown into this interview at the last minute. None are really excusable but putting yourself in their shoes will dictate your future reactions.

Take Control of the Interview (subtly)

You took the time to arrive for the interview and still want a shot at the IT contract, so you might as well make this work. Even if you’ve determined you’re talking to an incompetent human being, let them feel like they’re still in control of the interview. Doing otherwise would not only crush their ego, but can give them a negative impression of you.

It may be their first time conducting an interview, but it definitely is not your first time being in one, so use your experience to guide the conversation. When you feel an awkward silence in the room, ask leading questions:

  • Can I tell you about my background and how I can help the client?
  • Would it be ok if I lead you through my resume to highlight why I’m a good fit?
  • Can you tell me a bit about the client and their project?

Answer Their Questions, Even the Odd Ones

Another reason your recruiter may appear unprepared is because they do not have the technical knowledge to fully understand the job. As a result, you’ll get off-the-wall questions that make no sense. Politely answer them and then steer the response back to something more relevant. This feeds them with real facts they can use to sell you to their client and the recruiter will appreciate you helping them learn more about the technology.

Know When to End It

As alluded to at the start of this post, sometimes a disorganized recruiter is a red flag. Look around the recruitment agency’s office and reflect on your entire experience leading up to this interview. Was this mess a one-time mistake or have you found your way onto a sinking ship of an organization? If this is not going to work, end the interview and move on with your day.

As rare as they are, unprepared interviews do happen, which is why it’s important for you to be prepared! Could you imagine walking into a meeting where neither party had a clue about the opportunity or what to do? If you find yourself in the situation, remember to be polite and empathetic, and just have a meaningful conversation. A self-aware recruiter will remember your conduct, know they can count on you and, as an added bonus, will know they owe you a favour!

Using Digital Minimalism to Simplify Your Online Life

Minimalism is a lifestyle that, as theminimalists.com describes, “helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.” The website explains that there are no specific rules to being a minimalist and can help people eliminate discontent, live in the moment, focus on health, and discover purpose in life. Overall, it’s a way to find happiness.

When clearing the clutter, it helps to consider digital minimalism to have less materials, as well as save plenty of money. In this video, filmmaker Kraig Adams provides insight into the technology techniques he uses to live a minimalist lifestyle. Whether it be organizing his desktop, storing files or managing email, Kraig has a strategy for everything on his computer.

Google Calendar Tricks You May Not Know About

Stop using Google Calendar just to keep track of appointments or meetings and take advantage of some great features that can make your life easier and more productive.

Sharing or publishing a calendar can make planning a meeting around another team member’s schedule easier or simply lets your client’s employees know what you’ll be completing for the day. As an independent contractor searching for IT jobs, you can keep track of what staffing agencies you’re in contact with and for what position by scheduling reminders with the email included in the description.

Steve Dotto further explains the five “hidden gems” of Google Calendar in this video from Dottotech.

Be an Office Hero with These Time Management Tips

Every memorable Thanksgiving dinner has at least one hero. The person who managed to lead the way in bringing everyone together, whipping up a delicious feast, cleaning the house, and sending everyone home with full bellies and a smile. It may seem like some sort of magic is required to pull all of that off, but reality is, among other skills, time management is probably one of your Thanksgiving Hero’s biggest strengths.

You may never be your family’s Thanksgiving Hero, but the right time management skills can help you become the project hero for your client. People will think you used witchcraft to get the entire team to deliver their work on time, all while going above and beyond to ensure no detail is spared. To get started, have a look at this infographic from Everwise.

Infographic: 8 Secrets for Mastering Time Management

2016 in Review: The Softer Skills of Work

2016 in Review: The Softer Skills of WorkYesterday we shared some of 2016’s top articles and tools about training and development so you can start setting your technical skills development goals this year. While these skills make it so you can successfully complete a project, recruiters and clients alike are looking for more than your abilities. They want to know how personable you are and how advanced your “soft skills” are.

How important is it to keep these skills refreshed? Every member of Eagle’s Executive Team touched on it in 2016:

These skills include everything from basic workplace etiquette…

…to proper communication in various situations.

Finally, and possibly most importantly for a busy IT contractor, is time management. Everybody can always improve in this area, so we encourage you to check out at least one of these posts:

How to Be Productive at Work? Master Your Sunday!

This post by Karin Eldor first appeared on the Monster Career Advice Blog

How to Be Productive at Work? Master Your Sunday! Sunday has two different identities: there’s #SundayFunday and then there are the Sunday Blues.

Well, I’m campaigning to create a new image for Sunday: #SuperSunday.

The timing is actually perfect. With Labour Day having come and gone, September has become the new month for turning over a new leaf and having another go at your New Year’s resolutions (author Gretchen Rubin has even coined September the “other January”). Maybe it’s the back-to-school vibe and back-to-work feeling — likely both — regardless, it’s nice to get a second chance to make those resolutions work.

And does this look like one of your resolutions? Be more productive.

It seems many of us are still learning how to be productive and take control of our days — and one of the ways to do this is by mastering your Sunday.

If you flip Sunday on its head and make it more about looking forward to the week ahead rather than dreading it, your entire perspective changes. (Pro tip: start to perceive Monday as an opportunity to make changes during the upcoming week rather than counting down the minutes to Friday).

It starts with feeling refreshed, rebooted and reorganized enough on Sunday, that you don’t head to work stressed and already overwhelmed by the massive to-do list you need to tackle.

Of course there are the obvious Sunday activities, like doing the laundry, getting groceries, and watching football or Netflix.

Below are the other important tasks to check off your list, which you should try to finish before Game of Thrones starts.

The Sunday success plan

1) Map out your week

Sit down with a calendar and task list, and map out all your deadlines, checkpoints, meetings, and appointments.

Take it even further and block off your gym time and/or sports activities for the upcoming week. This will help ensure that your fitness plans don’t fall by the wayside.

The other key thing about this practice is that once complete, you’ll be able to see where you have some breathing room and can schedule social activities. Conversely, this will help you visualize your challenging days that are chock-full of deadlines; as a result, you might need to plan ahead in order to complete your tasks on time.

I once heard someone say this and I am compelled to share: If something is not blocked off in your agenda by the time you get to the office Monday, it’s not happening that week. So as ruthless as this sounds, it’s important to be disciplined. Of course this doesn’t apply to projects your manager is assigning for that week, as it’s challenging to give that kind of pushback. But it does mean that if a friend texts you to go for coffee, it will have to be shifted to the following week if there is simply no wiggle room between events.

2) Reach out to contacts

Networking is one of those “always on” activities. Sending friendly “How are you?” emails to former colleagues, mentors or even a previous manager that you had a great rapport with is simply good practice — and there’s no better day to do it than Sunday.

You want to avoid only emailing contacts when you need them, so keep cultivating your relationships by touching base every now and then. (BTW: no need to email them every week…)

3) Read up about your industry

Sunday morning is a great time to sit with a hot drink while tackling your favourite magazines and/or papers. Or even all the articles you bookmarked throughout the week and finally have time to get to!

This helps you keep abreast of industry movers and shakers, and any disruptive news you need to know.

4) Work on your hobby

Make time on Sunday to dedicate to a passion project. Studies show that hobbies are important in order to be successful as they help you relax and unwind, which leads to greater creativity.

A recent article published in Quartz magazine, fittingly titled “If you want to be a better person, find something to do outside of work,” makes a strong case for having a hobby: “Hobbies are of central importance to our psychological well-being.”

The article quotes a recent study by Kevin Eschleman at San Francisco State University, which found that workers recovered more quickly from the day-to-day stress of their working lives if allowed to indulge in hobbies in their free time. The Quartzarticle also mentions that Google has a 20% rule, which allows employees to spend 20% of their work time pursuing projects of their own choosing — a perk that leads to more fulfilled and productive employees.

So whether your thing is painting, gardening or playing sports, allow yourself time to dedicate to the personal activities that energize you.

5) Work out your body and/or mind

Speaking of hobbies, perhaps yours is weightlifting, yoga or meditation. Dedicate some time to your deadlifts or downward dog — it will help revitalize you and will make you feel less guilty about all the food you indulged on all weekend.

6) Make time for a digital detox

Whether you go device-free for 10 minutes in the morning or during your mindfulness / fitness session, it’s important to let go of your digital reliance at some point throughout your Sunday. So make a habit of either not checking into your social media feeds for a determined amount of time, not checking your email all day (Meep, is this even possible?!?) or best yet, being away from your phone completely for a couple of hours, at least.

In France this is known as “the right to disconnect” — and you can also exercise this right when it comes to evenings and weekends!

7) Plan your meals

OK so the idea of cooking for the entire week might be totally overwhelming — I get it. At least prep your menu so that you can get the ingredients in one shot when you do go grocery shopping. Planning your lunches in advance is efficient, healthy and a cost savings.

8) Write your Monday to-do list

In the same vein as mapping out your week, take a few minutes to write your Monday to-do-list, so that you’re ready to tackle the new day and week the second you arrive to the office.

It’s also a great way to do a “worry list” — i.e. a brain dump of all the minutiae on your mind, which might be keeping you up at night.

Sunday strong

Many of these habits are important for every day of the week, but especially on Sundays. It also goes without saying that getting enough sleep is key in having a successful, productive week — so make sure to decompress before going to bed by reading (not your email though!).

By flying through your daily to-do lists and feeling more productive, Mondays will feel less manic — and even enjoyable.

Getting Started If You’re Overwhelmed & Disorganised

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on August 25th, 2016

Getting Started If You are Overwhelmed and DisorganisedMany people find themselves in this situation … overwhelmed and unsure about how to dig out from under the pile!

I could talk all day about good time management practices but when you are in this position you just need some help.

“Time is what we want most, but what we spend worst.”  William Penn

  1. Make something happen.  Inertia is addictive, and the more you become paralyzed by your situation the worse it gets.  So pick something that is important and just get it done!  Focus entirely on getting that one thing done and ignore the other things on your plate.
  2. Once you have one thing off your plate … remind yourself that you did it!  You had a success.  Do NOT get overwhelmed again … pick another thing. and get that done.
  3. Choosing the things to get done can also be paralyzing … so don’t overthink it.  Remember you were getting nothing done before, so this is significant progress.
  4. Complex tasks can be tiring, and completing them one after the other can be draining.  Mix things up a bit by adding in smaller (still important tasks) in between the larger ones.

Completing work gives a sense of accomplishment, and provides a little relief to that “overwhelmed” feeling.  However, it is only by taking control of your day that you will feel in control, and relieve that stress.

“Procrastination is the foundation of all disasters.”  Pandora Poikilos

So … the long term solution is to get organised!

  1. Create  a To Do List (or several To Do lists … all the tasks you NEED to do.
  2. Prioritise your work … what is important and what is urgent!
  3. Organise your calendar so that you have time set aside for the work to be done.  Create meetings with yourself so you won’t be interrupted.
  4. Delegate what you can … if possible.
  5. Ignore what you can … not everything is important.
  6. Be very focused on getting stuff done … rather than worrying about how you will get it ALL done..
  7. Use the triage method of organising  your work, just like the hospital.  The most urgent (and important) items get done first.
  8. Get help!  Whether it could be advice and guidance from your management, ideas and tips from your colleagues, or training on time management from wherever you can get it!

Life is too short to be living under such stress.  If you apply your skills in an organised manner you may well surprise yourself at how much you can achieve AND how good you feel about those achievements.

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”  George Patton

Good time management practices could probably reduce workplace stress significantly!

The Importance of Being Organised at Work

Guest post by SmartPA providers of virtual assistants and admin support

The Importance of Being Organised at WorkIf you aren’t aware of it already, which we really hope you are, organisation is key when it comes to any form of work. If your job requires you to use IT in any way, shape, or form, the amount of organisation you need is much greater than if you didn’t use IT. If you rely entirely on external clients for your work, the amount of organisation increased again.

For example, a retail job requires a lot of skills already (time keeping, prioritising, motivation), but wouldn’t require you to keep your emails in check.  If you worked with computers, but not with clients, you would have to worry about keeping emails in check, but not about keeping a client’s phone number safe. If you’re lucky enough to work with computers AND with clients, you have a huge amount of responsibility, which requires a huge amount of organisation.

Keep tabs on your clients

A major part of being a successful IT contractor is keeping in touch with your clients. It’s no good winning work only to lose your client’s email halfway through it.

Keeping your client’s information safe and organised is much more important than keeping, say, your desk organised. You can tidy up a desk in five minutes, but failing to treat a client’s personal info with respect and care can lead to lost work, a bad reputation, and even a lack of work for you to do.

There are several simple ways to ensure that your client’s info is stored safely.

Create a client contact sheet. Make a spreadsheet or table of sorts, which includes your client’s name, contact number, email, address, or any other information you may need. It may not be as easy to update as an Excel spreadsheet, but it’s likely you won’t be losing it any time soon. Even better, implement a smaller version of this contact sheet into your diary, in case you need a client’s details on the go.

Spreadsheets are a lifesaver. If you’re a dab hand with Microsoft Excel, use it to your advantage (many find this software difficult to use, and we can’t say we blame them). It takes a lot less time to use than writing everything out by hand, and can easily be updated (writing out a client’s contact details only to have them change a few months on is going to lead to a lot of scribbling out).

To decrease the likelihood of you losing a client’s info even further, why not do both? It won’t do you any harm, and could save you money, time, and stress.

Be efficient with your emails

If your job entails receiving and writing emails very frequently, your inbox can be from being neat and tidy to having hundreds of unread emails in the blink of an eye.

If this is the case for you, there’s no better time than now to deal with it all; as aforementioned, the number of unread emails can rise scarily fast. Leaving them for too long, as well as being massively confusing and off-putting, may mean that important emails are lost amongst a sea of takeaway offers and petitions.

The majority of most people’s unread emails consists of subscriptions or newsletters, or offers from various shops. If these are becoming a problem for you, open the email, and find the ‘unsubscribe button’.

Next, aim to delete any emails sent before a certain date, ensuring that you don’t delete anything important, of course. If you’ve not rid yourself of emails for a while, you may find that you have emails from months (and even years) ago that are no longer of any concern.

After all of that, you should (hopefully) be left with a fairly bare inbox.

There are also a number of apps and websites available that make cleaning out your inbox seem like a game of sorts, if you feel like that would work better for you.

It’s all well and good having a clean-up, but it defeats the point entirely if you let it build up again within a week.

Aim to set aside 15 minutes or so each day, perhaps at the start, where you delete any unwanted or dealt with emails, reply to anything needed, and generally organised yourself. This way, you won’t have to spend the day darting back and forth from your email, unless your job involves receiving emails on the regular. If this is the case, what better reason to start being more email savvy?

The oldest organisation tips are often the best

If in doubt- keep a diary. It can be a lot more fulfilling to use than keeping tech-based tabs on everything. Buy a multi-functional one, and you may have the opportunity to plan a timetable or schedule of your week, write a to-do list, keep clients’ contact info safe, and have a space for general notes and doodles.

As well, ensure that any receipts, proof of payment, or any other important documents are stored safely, regardless of if they’re physical or online. It may seem like a pain, but you’ll wish you had when a client insists they’ve paid for something when they haven’t.

Even with all of the tips and advice in the world, no one’s perfect. It could be that you’re extremely busy, struggling to balance work and a social life, or that you simply feel a bit overwhelmed as of late.

If you’re still struggling to keep yourself organised, you may perhaps benefit from a virtual assistant, or another form of admin support.

Outsourced virtual assistant services such as Smart PA, can be of massive help to you with a number of tasks including bookkeeping, managing email, and even online research. Never be ashamed of seeking administrative support of any kind- even the most experienced of businesspeople and workers will struggle occasionally.

So, if you’re feeling like you could use a hand, you’re a quick Google search away from perhaps finding the admin assistance that changes your business for the better.

How to Stay Focused and Manage Your Time (Video)

Staying focused and avoiding distractions while working on a project can be a challenge. You may be trying to multi-task, resisting the urge to browse social media, answering a constant stream of emails, or dealing with a phone that keeps ringing. There are plenty of time management strategies that help you get around these distractions and this video from Mridu Parikh digs into some tips to tackle the last item – phone calls.

According to Mridu, struggling with phone call distractions as soon as you sit down to do some work is something everyone has experienced. While not everybody will relate to her examples, her solutions can be applied by absolutely any professional. Do you have any more tips?  Share them in the comments below.

The Benefits of a Personal Assistant

No business is too big or small to use a PA, and with recent technological development with the internet, the new era of PA’s has come in the form of virtual assistants. Virtual assistants work remotely from their own home but undertake the same duties a normal PA would, and this can offer a cost effective alternative for smaller business who need help. So, what does a PA do?  Some of the duties a personal assistant may undertake include email and calendar management, organising transportation, call handling, research and event planning.  As an independent contractor, you might also use a PA for basic bookkeeping and invoicing your clients.  If you are trying to build an online personal brand, PA’s can also help with managing your social media profiles.

The Infographic below by Smart PA looks at some of the duties of a personal assistant and how they might be able to help you.

What is a PA
created by Smart
providers of virtual assistants and admin support