Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: positive attitude

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to having a positive attitude.

Simple Tips to Lighten the Mood in a Job Interview

Simple Tips to Lighten the Mood in a Job Interview

Crystal Nicol By Crystal Nicol,
Director of Delivery, Strategy and Development at Eagle

Job interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience and a struggle for most people. Wouldn’t it be nice to head into an interview knowing that you can control the mood of the interview? Here are some tips and suggestions to not only make a great impression but to also help you lighten the mood of the interview.

First and foremost, smiling is the one thing that can make the most difference in an interview. Even if you aren’t feeling happy, simply smiling can brighten your mood and your tone. Walk into the office and into the interview room with a smile on your face. It will start your interview off on the right foot. You will come across as confident and positive.

You should always focus on demonstrating a positive, friendly attitude when speaking to a potential employer, client or recruiter. Employers want to hire people that appear positive and someone who would likely get along with their team members and clients.

Find ways to incorporate humour into your interview, but use it sparingly. Don’t head into an interview telling jokes but rather use real life examples. Balance your humor with statements and examples that paint the picture that you’re a smart, dynamic, results-driven team player. Humour is part of your professional image so don’t lay it on too strong and don’t neglect your other professional attributes. Read your audience and follow your interviewer’s lead. Pay attention to cues. How does the interviewer react to your humor? You don’t want it to ever feel awkward or unprofessional. Practice your humor before the interview. Decide which stories you want to tell and practice it on your family or your friends, or even the neighbour. If they don’t laugh then try a different approach. Remember, if it isn’t natural, don’t try to force it. There are plenty of other great ways to connect.

This video is a great 2-minute discussion on how to lighten the mood in a job interview. Darryle Brown gives some great simple tips to follow:

  1. Relax — if you’re tense in an interview setting it can make the entire atmosphere tense as well. Be on time or early so you can concentrate on your thoughts and the things you want to say before the interview begins
  2. Tell a personal story — preferably something humorous. Something to help lighten the mood that the people within the interview setting will consider appropriate for that particular setting.
  3. Have a sense of humor — if you’re tense it makes it impossible for you to really be able to deliver, relate or connect with the interviewers in the midst of the interview setting.

So remember, it’s important to relax, tell a personal story that can connect with the interviewers and have a sense of humor so that you’re able to win them over and lighten the mood in an interview setting.

Silver Linings: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Can Strengthen How We Work

Brianne Risley By Brianne Risley,
Director, Delivery Strategy & Development at Eagle

When faced with sweeping changes affecting how we live and work, I like to reflect on some of the positive outcomes I can see for our companies and teams when restrictions are finally lifted. We have gone through something together — let’s look at some ways we are strengthened by this experience.

  • Tighter Bonds: “Work-Friends” are now “Work-Family”. We’ve shared an unprecedented experience together over the past 4 weeks. “Work-friends” have deepened into something a bit more personal as we share stories, fears, and find ways to offer support to teammates that needed that extra bit of connection. We’ve met co-workers’ kids, we know their dogs, we’ve seen them with beards and have no make-up. It used to be I could only say that about close friends. I believe the personal nature of this openness will lead to long-term connections with the people we worked with through this crisis, which is far different than the transient nature of most work relationships.
  • Remote Work… Works!: Every company that has ever stubbornly held fast to a “must-be-on-site”, “bum-in-seat” policy for their project teams has been awakened to remote work possibilities. This opens the opportunity of using remote workers with specialized skills from across the country (and beyond) to support that ‘hard-to-fill’ project in Atlantic Canada or the Prairie provinces. It also presents a path forward for workers in Alberta who find themselves under-employed by the ‘double whammy’ of low oil prices and the pandemic to find work on projects across North America. Before this all started, there was already a strong undercurrent of Canadians working remotely for US companies on tech projects. I expect this to grow significantly in the time ahead.
  • IT Jobs for the Foreseeable Future: All this connectedness is driven by Technology projects and IT workers. Jobs and wages will continue to be strong in this sector which is good for me, as an IT Recruiter, and for my candidate base!
  • ‘Show and Tell’ Culture for Companies and Workers: How will a company introduce a remote worker to their corporate culture? Likewise, how do you, as a remote worker, show that you can be a key contributor to a team-oriented company? Companies will expand on using visual techniques like team pictures, project videos, and 360 video tours of their offices to publicly showcase their work environments. An example of this is here. For workers, we’ll go beyond the basics like optimizing a LinkedIn profile, or crafting a solid personal brand to showcase who we are. To stand out, we will do something bold like sharing a video-tour of our home office to show our preparedness for remote work, or come to interviews with a family photo along-side our diplomas. If you’re joining a ‘work-family’, be prepared to share a bit more about who you are on both a personal and professional-level.

All change comes with a silver lining. There are intrinsic benefits to our work culture that will come from this experience. It’s up to each of us to be mindful, and to capitalize on them.

20 Simple (and mostly free) Ways to Brighten Someone’s Day

20 Simple (and mostly free) Ways to Brighten Someone's DayWe’ve all had terrible days. We’ve also experienced the slightest gesture from somebody else that turned everything around. How many people do you interact with during your workday? Clients, their employees, other IT contractors, recruiters, the list goes on. Wouldn’t it be great if you were that person who turned around somebody else’s terrible day?

Many IT contractors are fortunate to interact with a variety of people, giving you more opportunities to brighten a day, and it doesn’t have to be grand like buying them lunch or delivering a speech filled with compliments. Many quick actions may seem small but, to the person on the receiving end, they are exactly what they needed to push them back to the bright side.

Consider trying any of these, at least once per day:

  1. Smile
  2. Help a busy colleague
  3. Compliment a teammate on their work
  4. Hold the door for somebody
  5. Bake (or bring donuts) for your client’s office
  6. Wish a nice day to a stranger in the elevator
  7. Lend your umbrella (or keep a spare one on-hand for people who forget)
  8. Ask someone about their children/pet/family
  9. Follow-up on a story they told a few days ago
  10. Fill the kettle in the office kitchen
  11. Introduce yourself to the contractor who’s new to the office
  12. Talk to the staffing agency’s receptionist when you arrive for an interview
  13. Send a hand-written thank you note
  14. Reach out to an old colleague just because
  15. Address someone by their name (studies have proven that a person’s own name is the sweetest sound they’ll here)
  16. Show your appreciation for the little things people do
  17. Invite someone you don’t know well to join you for lunch or drinks
  18. Actually listen when others speak
  19. Let someone get in line ahead of you
  20. Be nice and use your manners (it’s amazing how much these are missed in a busy world)

Doing little things to brighten somebody’s day will not only make them happier, but you’ll feel better about yourself as well. And the added bonus, they will remember you in a positive light, and that could come in very handy during your next job search.

The Hardest Person to Motivate is Yourself — Here’s What to Do About It

The Hardest Person to Motivate is Yourself -- Here's What to Do About ItIf you’ve ever led a team, then you’re all too familiar with the challenges in motivating others who just aren’t feeling it. If you’ve ever had to search for a job, then you’re all too familiar with the challenges in motivating yourself!

Self-motivation is no easy task. Some days you wake up and you can take on the world and be the most productive person ever. Other days, you’d prefer to watch Netflix or play video games rather than to continue with the job search, complete the grid or do your accounting. Lack of self-motivation isn’t just limited to tasks you dislike. You could be working on the most interesting project for your client and getting paid a fair rate, but some days, you’d still rather chat with your colleagues.

Motivating yourself extends beyond time management. Even the most organized and productive IT contractors fall into a slump. That’s because motivation is emotional. It ignores rational thinking and if you’re not in the proper headspace, it’s just not there. So how can you overcome your temporary lack of drive and push yourself to do what needs to be done? Here are a few hacks to get you started:

Get Yourself in a Positive Mindset

You’re more likely to procrastinate when you’re in a bad mood, so the logical first step is to make sure you’re in a good mood. There are various ways to do that, including:

  • Remaining optimistic by tracking your progress and celebrating success
  • Setting the right environment with a clean workspace and happy music
  • Getting plenty of sleep and exercise
  • Taking breaks as necessary

Set Meaningful Goals

Obviously you have goals: “Update my resume by the end of today”, “Complete the project on time and on budget”, “Do my taxes before the deadline”. Now you need to take those goals and make them more meaningful:

  • Make your goals mean something to you that’s deeper than “If I don’t succeed I’ll get fired.”
  • Keep reminding yourself of that goal AND its benefits and why you’re truly trying to achieve it
  • Don’t punish yourself for not achieving a goal, rather be constructive to understand what happened and move on.

Don’t Go It Alone

Even if you prefer to work alone, it still helps to have somebody on the sidelines who knows your goals. This will help to keep you motivated. When there are other people involved, you make yourself accountable and suddenly there’s extra pressure to get the work done.

  • Find others who are as motivated as you are (or more) and bring them into your circle
  • Expand your network with other IT contractors to share challenges and mentor each other
  • Don’t be afraid to get a little competitive to help drive your motivation
  • In times you really need motivation, try a commitment device. Give a friend (or even better, a foe) $100. If you don’t succeed, they keep the money. stickK will help you create a commitment contract, set stakes and manage the entire process online.

Get Moving

At some point you might have to fake it ’til you make them. If it takes a cold shower or jolt of coffee to wake you up so be it, but if you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never start at all.

  • Reduce all possible distractions so you have no choice but to work
  • Set routines that will let you know where to start — and change up those routines occasionally to keep it interesting.
  • Take baby steps with small simple tasks. Often just working 5 minutes will get you into the flow.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, everybody falls into unmotivated slumps. The most successful people are those that know how to deal with it. How do you motivate yourself to get moving? Are there are any specific tasks you find are harder to get started than others?

Constructively Accept Constructive Feedback

This may be a hard pill for some to swallow but believe it or not, you’re not perfect. That’s right, even YOU have some room to improve and by doing so you can advance your career as an IT contractor. The only way to get better at anything we do is to know our weaknesses and shortcomings and the best way to learn about them is to accept feedback.

As an independent contractor, feedback may come from clients, colleagues or recruiters at any time and for any reason. In addition to the obvious feedback you’ll get about your work while on a project, you may also hear from people regarding your general attitude, your interview skills, resume advice or something as simple as a more professional way to answer the phone.

Regardless of what kind of feedback you receive, who it’s from or why, it’s always beneficial to follow these tips and receive it effectively:

  1. Don’t get defensive, make excuses or justify yourself. At least at the onset of receiving feedback from somebody, take the time to hear them out and fully understand what they’re telling you. Doing so may lead to humility and self-awareness that can vastly improve who you are as a person in addition to the subject at hand.
  2. Practice active listening. Feedback is a common form of communication and, as such, “active listening” should absolutely be practiced. Be mindful of your body language to show you’re engaged, let them finish talking and ask questions to demonstrate that you do care about what is being said.
  3. Ensure you understand what’s being said. In addition to asking questions as suggested in the previous point, also summarize and clarify the feedback being given to you. This will ensure you both leave the conversation knowing exactly what improvements can be made.
  4. Ask for help whenever necessary. If you are struggling to understand how you can take their feedback and improve, then ask for guidance and suggestions. When people give feedback they should be genuinely interested in helping you and your project.
  5. Follow-up after implementing recommendations. Once you’ve taken the feedback into consideration and made changes to improve, check-in with the person who provided it with you to let them know the steps you took and to see if they’ve noticed an improvement. This will not only ensure your performance goes up, but it will demonstrate your appreciation for the feedback.
  6. It’s alright to ignore some feedback. Some people are nosey jerks who have no real constructive criticism or valuable advice to give. If you’re certain that is the scenario, feel free to ignore all or most of the previous tips. They may make some valid points which you should accept, but it’s not worth wasting too much energy on a negative person.

Any time somebody offers you feedback, remember that it’s often just as hard for them to give it as it is for you to receive it. Appreciate the situation and the confidence they may have had to build to give it to you. Regardless of whether or not you intend to act on feedback received, you should always remain polite and be thankful for the advice. After all, if you intend to provide feedback in the future, it will be received better by others if you can receive it well yourself.

Graciousness in the Workplace… Where Did it Go?

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Graciousness in the Workplace... Where Did it Go?In today’s fast paced world full of never-ending negative social media blitzes, over-hyped reality television, shock-jocks/journalist rants, and larger than life politicians, it appears that the concept of being gracious to one another has been lost.  People are too focused on trying to get our attention with outrageous and unkind behaviour.  They fail to see that the simple act of being gracious can have a more positive and lasting outcome and, yes, get our attention too!

In speaking with contractors, I always ask them why they left their last place of work.  Did the contract end? What were the people like? What was the work environment like? I often hear how negative workplaces have become, how managers and executives don’t seem to care, and that everyone is too stressed out to focus on basic human decency.  This is one of the main reasons contractors do not take an extension with a current client or want to leave a project early. On the other side of the coin, “Was a candidate gracious?” is not the top reference question a client asks, but they do ask if that person was a team player and were they easy to get along with. Therefore, there’s an argument for everyone, clients and independent contractors, to bring graciousness back into the workplace. So how do we do that?

The simple act of saying THANK YOU goes a really long way.  Often, people will stay in a busy work environment if they know they are working with great people in a team who recognize their effort.

Another easy way is by being in the moment — giving someone your full attention and time. When you are in a meeting, or even more importantly, speaking with someone directly, put away your device.   It shows the person you respect them and value what they have to say.

Give positive feedback along with the negative.  People want to hear the good and the bad but want to hear it in a constructive manner.  Graciousness goes along way when working with others on how to improve their work.  You can still get the same message across without being overly negative.

Be open to helping others.  How?  Some simple ways:

  1. If a new person joins the team, introduce them to others.
  2. Say HI to your co-workers
  3. Recognize people’s achievements – privately and publicly
  4. Be genuine
  5. Share your project knowledge capital and help them get set up for success
  6. Be responsive

I know graciousness is sometimes hard to embrace because it demands our time and it can seem counter intuitive to business strategies that promote looking out for #1. However, graciousness does lead to a better workplace.  A better workplace leads to happier people, and happier people lead to better project outcomes, which lead to better references and more work in the future.  WIN-WIN-WIN for all!

IT Contractors: Are You Being an Ant?

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Hard-working ant representing an IT contractor in good timesAesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper” is a timeless tale that makes the link between hard work, saving and the security that comes from doing both. It tells the story of a hard-working ant who spends the summer collecting food, while a more relaxed grass hopper sings the summer days away. Come winter, the grass hopper is stuck begging for food while the ants are prepared for the rough season.

In the present day, we see this story playing out on a macro-scale, right down to the individual level.  I recently attended a speaking engagement featuring Larry Berman (BNN’s “Bermans Call”) and he suggested that the future of the EU is uncertain should the Germans eventually get fed up working to older and older ages to support countries such as Greece where people can take an early retirement pension as early as 45 years old.

Closer to home for me, living in Calgary, current economic conditions are certainly rewarding “the ants”.  Although it is hard to predict when the tough-times are going to hit, they surely come; and when they do, that rainy-day fund (and all the sacrifices made to accumulate it) really does provide some much-needed security.

Along with the many benefits of being an independent contractor, one of the common risks is that these “winters” are more likely to happen, and for any number of reasons extending beyond a challenging economy. For example, sometimes projects being shut down or personality clashes cause gigs to end abruptly. Although you may have relationships with a number of IT recruiters in your region, they may not be able to find you new work immediately. In other situations, you could suddenly get sick or have to take time away from work for a period of time which, again, would leave you in a stage with no revenues.

In any case, the story referenced above can be used as a lesson for independent contractors to always be gathering for the winter. Perhaps that means taking on multiple contracts when they’re available or ensuring you’re always setting some cash aside for times when IT jobs aren’t coming as quickly as you’d hope.

There are many benefits to taking an “ant-like” approach to both your work and your life, as discussed in this article from Success, but should there be a balance? Just because you’re in a “summer” period, does it mean you have to work 24/7 to prepare for a “winter” that may not arrive for a while? What approaches have you taken as an independent contractor to prepare for winter and balance your life?  I encourage you to leave a comment and share your ideas with our readers!

How to Become a Top-of-Mind IT Contracting Candidate

How to Become a Top-of-Mind IT Contracting CandidateA few weeks ago, we kicked off a series of posts about “top-of-mind” candidates and how you can become the preferred IT contractor for a recruiter, ensuring you’re one of the first people they call as soon as an opportunity arises.  In that post, we discussed the importance of being in this group and how first impressions play a big role in getting there. In this post, we’ll go into the specifics of how to become a top-of-mind candidate.

It could easily be expected that having many in-demand skills is all that’s needed to become a top contractor. After all, if you can do the work better than anyone else, why shouldn’t you be the first phone call? This is a factor for Eagle recruiters along with your references from past contracts, your ability to be personable, your communication skills, and your rate expectations. It may surprise you, though, that only 12% of recruiters said that your in-demand skills are the top trait that makes you memorable.

Being personable will be your biggest advantage with a recruiter and if they had to choose one trait that makes you most memorable, it would be how well you interact with others. Recruiters consider every communication with you, from phone calls to interviews to networking events, and use that experience to conclude if you’ll work well on a client’s team.  When a recruiter has a great conversation with you, learns a lot, and feels comfortable around you, they’re more likely to remember you when a suitable role presents itself. Vice-versa, when you come off as rude, stand-offish, or unwilling to open up about your experience, they’ll remember that too!

The second most memorable trait for Eagle’s recruiters is how well you have worked with them on past contracts. This is obviously more of a long-term element considering you first need to win and complete a contract, but it’s a crucial point nonetheless. When a recruiter enjoys working with you and a client raves about your fantastic work, you pretty much guarantee yourself a spot as a top-of-mind candidate. It can even be argued that being personable, the most memorable trait, goes hand-in-hand and is a pre-requisite to earning positive feedback about your work.

The final conclusion we drew about how to become top-of-mind is that LinkedIn cannot be just an option anymore. Not only did 80% of recruiters say that having a LinkedIn profile increases your chances of becoming top-of-mind, but almost ¾ of them say that most or all of their top-of-mind candidates are active on LinkedIn. That means that if you want to be competitive, you should create your profile and be an active member of the community. In a Quick Poll of our readers from last November, we learned that almost all contractors have a professional picture and keep their profile up-to-date, but few take the time to share articles, participate in group discussion, or make recommendations. That presents some great opportunity for you to make yourself a more attractive option to recruiters! For some extra tips on improving your LinkedIn activity, have a look at any of these past posts.

With every list of what to do well, there has to be a list of what not to do. Keep posted to the Talent Development Centre in the coming weeks and we’ll share some faux-pas, as well as some tips that will help you redeem yourself. If you have any more questions or comments about how to become top-of-mind, we’d love to hear them. Please leave them below.

The Troubles Tree – A Parable

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
CEO at Eagle

This post first appeared on Eagle’s CEO Blog on July 13th, 2012

I thought I would try something a little different with today’s blog … and would like to give credit to the website Parablesite.com for this story.

The Troubles Tree - A ParableA carpenter was having a tough day. It started with a flat tire that cost him an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stoney silence. On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. After opening the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss. Afterward, he walked me to my car. We passed the tree, and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier. “Oh, that’s my trouble tree,” he replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing for sure, troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning, I pick them up again.” “Funny thing is,” he smiled, “when I come out in the morning to pick them up, there aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”

Growing up I was educated in Catholic schools and often they used parables to make a point …so they are certainly not a new invention, and perhaps not even trendy.  For some people they may even seem a little “hokey”.

The interesting thing about how people learn is that we are all a little different and different styles of learning will work for different people.  If the visualisation of a parable can help to drive home a point then it seems like it could be a good tool!

This parable has a number of messages … all of which you have heard before:

  1. The extent of your “problems” is largely governed by your attitude.  (Its mostly in your head)!
  2. You can let problems overwhelm you or you can actively “put them in their place”.
  3. It is possible to have a great home life, even if things at work are not going so well … and vice-versa.  When you let one overwhelm the other then you are really just making it all worse.
  4. Very often what seems like a big problem doesn’t seem nearly so bad later.
  5. Remember what is most important to you and protect that … .you really don’t want your family to remember you as “the grouch”.

10 Tips to Improve Your Life

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
CEO at Eagle

This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on October 25, 2015

Look for the good in others quoteI think the “pursuit of happiness” is a goal for almost everyone.

People think “if only … ” and list things or situations as being the answer to their happiness.  If only I had more money, that person would marry me, I had a house in that neighbourhood; I owned a Porsche; and on and on.

At the same time that we are wishing for changes in our lives that will “fix things”, we are focused on all that is missing in our lives and THAT gets in the way of happiness.

The single biggest cause of unhappiness is focusing on what we don’t have!

Similarly we often focus on what other people in our lives don’t have … and THAT adds to our angst!  My partner is messy, my kids don’t listen, my parents don’t understand me!

So … 10 tips for those who truly want to be happy.

  1. Focus on what you have … not what you don’t have.
  2. Do not be envious of other people.
  3. Make plans and set goals … and improve the things that are meaningful to you.
  4. Celebrate your wins.
  5. Look for the good in the people around you.
  6. Look for the good in your circumstances.
  7. Focus on the things that you can control.
  8. Push yourself … and understand what you are truly capable of achieving.
  9. Don’t look for the easy way.
  10. Give more than you get!

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”  Audrey Hepburn