Get the Most Accurate Search Results on Google

According to Internet Live Stats, there are just under 2 billion websites across the Internet. And every day, millions of blog posts are written and billions of Google searches are performed. Given all that, how can you possibly be certain that you’re navigating the world wide web efficiently and finding the most accurate information for any given need?

Google is an intelligent search engine with some of the world’s smartest people creating its algorithm to increase your chances at finding the most relevant content. But, you have to meet those geniuses half way. Since Google still isn’t at the point where it can read your mind (yet), it can only give results for what you search. The more accurate the search, the more accurate the results.

That’s where this infographic from Zety.com comes in. It provides some amazing search tips and tricks that will improve your searches, raise productivity, and overall make your Google experience more efficient. If you like what you see here, visit the original page for even more Google search tricks.

Get the Most Accurate Search Results on Google

The Best Music to Listen to While Programming

Yesterday, we shared a post about the benefits of listening to music at work, along with some etiquette tips for listening at the office. Whether or not productivity will actually improve varies from person-to-person, but one thing is for certain, music can be great in any profession, including programming. Of course, as yesterday’s article touched on, science has proven that different types of music are better for different jobs.

An article by jaxenter says that instrumental music is best for programming so you don’t get caught up singing along to your favourite Queen song. They also suggest that white noise is a good alternative when you need something in the background.  The article provides some links to ideal programming music, and so does this post by codingSupply. If you don’t feel like clicking through, then look no further than below and hit play on this video from Max Swineberg. It’s a mix with no vocals or complex beats, and has only instrumental ambient electronic music. Probably not the best tune for a wedding dance, but perfect for programming!

Listening to Music While You Work

Listening to Music While You WorkIf Snow White & the 7 Dwarves taught us anything, it’s the benefit of whistling while you work or, at the very least, having some background music. When in an office around other IT contractors or client employees, other people’s conversations can be loud, distracting and, frankly, annoying. Music is a helpful way to shut them out. More importantly, the right tunes for you can be motivating and uplifting, and is scientifically proven to improve productivity.

That said, this article by no means recommends you blast your favourite Pantera album in the office and expect that your development team to suddenly work double-time. In fact, music with lyrics and a complex structure can have the opposite effects. That’s because it causes the brain to focus on too many items and becomes the equivalent of multi-tasking. An article from Medium suggests these are the best genres of music to listen to while working if you want to increase your productivity:

  • Classical
  • Nature
  • Epic
  • Video Game Music
  • Ambient Soundtracks

And, if you’re looking at this list concerned that Bieber is no longer an option for your workday, have no fear. The Telegraph published a similar article a couple years ago saying that, although Pop music is not always the ideal choice, studies have proven that it helps for repetitive tasks such as data entry or proof reading and is good when working to deadlines.

We can conclude that listening to music can be great… unless you’re trying to make friends with your colleagues and those around you, then it can be a hinderance. Here are five etiquette tips for listening to music at work.

  1. Wear headphones. Keep the enjoyment of your music private by using headphones so only you can hear it. And by “only you” that means keep the volume low so neighbours don’t hear that irritating white noise. Low headphone volume also ensures you won’t accidentally miss phone calls or ignore co-workers trying to get your attention and will save your hearing in the long run.
  2. Don’t sing. Or whistle. Or dance. Or anything else that’s distracting (and weird) for your colleagues to have to endure. Regardless of how talented (you think) you are, there’s a time and a place for everything.
  3. If using speakers, ask those around you first. This is common courtesy. If you have no headphones and want to turn your speakers on low, ask anybody sitting around you if they mind. They may even have a suggestion for music where you have a mutual interest and you can all be happy!
  4. Keep the music appropriate. If you have a more private workspace and have ignored rules 1-3, it’s time to start paying attention. People may pop by unexpectedly and, when they do, they don’t want to hear offensive lyrics and swear words. Keep it PG.
  5. Remember to turn it off for phone calls. And, if the first four points do not apply to you because you work from home, you at least need to remember this. When you pick-up the phone or host a face-to-face meeting, ensure that music is gone. Otherwise, it becomes a distraction and if you skipped over rule #4, things can get even worse.

Do you listen to music at work or do you dread those around you who do? Do you have a preferred genre that you find works best, or do you mix it up? As usual, we love hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

The Age of Working Remotely: Tried and True Advice for Working from Home

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Permanent Placement Specialist at Eagle

The Age of Working Remotely: Tried and True Tips for Working from HomeAs a long-standing employee at Eagle, I have had the benefit of participating in the company’s work-from-home program, “WORKshift”, for a few years now. The program allows staff to work from their home office once or twice per week but I have now transitioned to a new role that allows me to work remotely 100%. As referenced in a recent post, working remotely brings lots of pros, but certainly has its share of challenges. More and more clients and employers are embracing this style of work. With very effective collaboration and communication tools at the ready, it can make it a feasible option and a definite benefit or ‘value proposition’ when trying to attract new talent.

Whether working full-time or in a contract role, there are several important factors of consideration if you are going to move to a remote work scenario.

Anyone will tell you that the single most important facet of remote work is having a dedicated work space or office. Not only does this allow you to stay focused and engaged during the work day, but one of the biggest challenges is that it can be difficult to differentiate and separate your home and personal life from work. One of the things I’ve found most beneficial is ensuring that I have a set work schedule and adhering to that. I personally have found that ending the work day with a routine or a ritual allows me to best transition from my work day to my evening (taking a brisk walk, running an errand, etc.).

Working remotely does allow some flexibility in terms of schedule but it’s essential to always be readily available during work hours or keep team members apprised of availability, if for any reason you will be away from your computer. It only takes a few missed calls or delayed responses for clients or colleagues to assume you are not in fact working — never a good scenario, especially if you need to get a timesheet signed!

Working remotely can be somewhat isolating, but if you use team messaging or instant messaging software it can go a long way in helping you to feel part of the team. It also helps if you have the type of career that requires that you are on the phone a lot – which, in my case, recruiting certainly does!

From my perspective, the benefits of remote work far outweigh the challenges and I have thoroughly enjoyed the transition. There are time savings (no more commuting), financial savings (gas or transit costs, eating out), health benefits (less fast food and more time to fit in exercise) and it’s much easier to find a good work/life balance.

If you are thinking about exploring the option of taking on some contracts remotely be sure you set yourself up for success, and you will likely never look back!

Are You Watching for the ‘Trustable Technology Mark’?

Are You Watching for the 'Trustable Technology Mark'?Have you heard of the Trustable Technology Mark? The new initiative was kicked-off at the end of 2018 by ThingsCon, a global community of practitioners around the Internet of Things whose mission is to foster the creation of a human-centric and responsible IoT. It was developed with the support of the Mozilla Foundation.

According to its website, “The Trustable Technology Mark aims to highlight the work of those companies that put in the extra effort of building truly trustworthy devices.” Based on information provided by the device maker itself, in addition to reviews from the ThingsCon network, five dimensions are evaluated:

  1. Privacy and Data Practices: Is it designed using state of the art data practices, and respectful of user rights?
  2. Transparency: Is it made clear to users what the device does and how data might be used?
  3. Security: Is it made clear to users what the device does and how data might be used?
  4. Stability: How robust is the device and how long of a life cycle can a consumer reasonably expect?
  5. Openness: How open are both the device and the manufacturer‘s processes? Is open data used or generated?

Certification comes at no charge and any device maker is able to complete a thorough self-assessment, which is then submitted for evaluation by neutral experts at ThingsCon. Trustable Technology companies get to display the logo on their products and website.

With regular data breaches and hacks, on top of growing concerns over security and privacy, this initiative is expected to take off. “At a time when the Internet of Things is becoming a powerful force for almost every aspect of our lives — on our bodies, in our homes and across our cities — we have to ask the question ‘do we trust it?’, ” says Jon Rogers, Mozilla Fellow and Professor of Creative Technology at University of Dundee. “I wouldn’t take medicines that didn’t come with a clear trusted label; I wouldn’t buy a car that didn’t come with documents telling me who had owned it and if it was safe. Yet, the things we’re buying that connect us, our family and our friends directly to the internet 24 hours a day, 365 days a week currently have almost no way to visibly and say ‘you can trust this.’ This is why the Trustable Technology Mark is so important.”

At the same time, it’s expected that many will be skeptical. Although the organization’s goal is to  review all applications, certification begins with a self-assessment. Given how many IoT devices are in the world, if this takes off, there will undoubtably massive volume and difficulty making sure no sketchy devices sneak through the cracks.  Still, in this FastCompany article, Peter Bihr, a Mozilla Fellow and cofounder of ThingsCon, says he is not concerned. He is confident that he and his team will be able to spot anything that is “fishy” and if something does get by, they will “launch the mother of all public shaming campaigns.”

Do you think the Trustable Technology mark will take-off? If so, will you actually trust it or will it become another meaningless label?

Designing Technology for the Aging Population

For years the relationship between seniors and technology has garnered a bad reputation where seniors are labelled as “unwilling to learn” or consistently use “The Google” when asking a younger friend/family member to help them find something. And while there may be a small nugget of truth to that fact, the statistics and scenarios where this occurs are beginning to dwindle in the reality of many IT Contractors. The problem now is designing technology that is meant for this age group (i.e. bigger fonts, simpler platforms, etc.). If you’re wondering what some examples of these technologies could be, how they were made, or even want to see the online program, here is an infographic by USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology to get you started!

https://gerontology.usc.edu/resources/infographics/designing-technology-for-the-aging-population/

Refresh Yourself on the Best Communication Tips in Under 3 Minutes

Nearly every workplace battle begins with, or is made worse by, a miscommunication. Getting the right message across sounds like a simple task yet we can all recall too many scenarios where something fell apart simply due to a misunderstanding of words.

Nobody’s perfect and we all fail at communication sometimes. The best we can hope for is to prevent misunderstanding as much as possible, and the prime way to do that is regularly remind ourselves on best practices. This video below runs through 10 of the most important points for solid communication, and in less than 3 minutes! If you want a quick break, hit the play button now and save yourself the stress of fixing a miscommunication later.

Dealing with Discrimination as an Independent Contractor

Dealing with Discrimination as an Independent ContractorDiscrimination, racism, sexism or any other sort of inappropriate behaviour should never be tolerated in the workplace. As an employee, there are options and resources available to end it that ensure a safe and respectful environment. According to Canadian Human Rights legislation, independent contractors are entitled to the same rights, but unfortunately, dealing with these uncomfortable situations is not as easy.

It’s rare that IT contractors will find themselves in a professional work setting that has loud, belligerent racist outbursts like we hear about through the media. It is more likely, but equally unacceptable, to be in a situation with subtle nuances and innuendos, jokes, or lack of respect and opportunity because of race, colour, ethnicity, sex, etc. Nobody, including independent contractors, should have to deal with this but quitting is no easy option for an IT contractor who signed a legally binding agreement, not to mention the fact that you can’t just walk away from the pay. Instead, there is a challenge to solve the problem, all while maintaining a positive relationship with the client and staffing agency. Failing to do so could result in a loss of your current contract (or a miserable time for the remainder of it) and a difficult time landing future gigs.

Here are a few suggestions to ensure your contract experience is respectful and free from discrimination and harassment, all while maintaining positive relationships:

Start with a Reasonable Conversation

Being professional is the key to dealing with a colleague who crosses the line. Remain calm and avoid firing back at a client’s employee with debate, insults, or any other confrontational tone. On the other extreme, experts recommend not to make light of the situation either, by adding in jokes or playing into the situation. This reinforces their behaviour and hurts your case if you need to escalate or end your contract.

It is possible the person is just ignorant and informing them that what they’re saying or doing is inappropriate may be all it takes. However, not everybody is approachable or open to that discussion. If it’s in your personality to avoid confrontation and remain quiet, it is ok to do so… temporarily. When you’ve calmed down, make a manager with the client and your recruiter aware that inappropriate comments or actions are being made. Again, a reasonable conversation will go much further and be more productive than anger and threats.

Document Everything

Once you’ve attempted to diffuse the situation professionally, if the behaviour persists, it is best to walk away. As already noted above, though, that is not easy for independent contractors. To make this step smoother, keep detailed documentation. This includes all specific incidences, including who was involved or around, conversations you had with the client, and conversations you had with your recruiter. It’s also encouraged to consult a lawyer if you think you need to terminate a contract over discrimination or harassment.

Be Careful of Your Own Behaviour

Just as you deserve a respectful workplace, so do other independent contractors, your clients’ employees, and your recruiters. You also have a responsibility to refrain from any discriminatory behaviour, comments or jokes, and the slightest slip-up can seriously harm your career. In addition to people just not liking you, you create risk for staffing agencies and clients as you expose them to lawsuits from their own employees. Be open to the signs that you may have crossed a line and, if the worst happens, fix it quickly.

Workplace discrimination, racism, sexism, harassment, etc. are not easy conversation topics but they are important. IT contractors especially need to be aware because as a business owner, your responsibility is heightened. You need to defend your own rights while at the same time, protect your business from any risk. Avoid getting into a discussion or telling joke that could be controversial in any way. If you are put into an uncomfortable situation, always confront it professionally and consult a lawyer when you feel it’s beyond your control.

Working Through the Contract Extension Process

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

Your contract term is coming to an end, but there’s still work left to be done… or maybe there’s another project for which you’d be a strong fit… or, perhaps, the company at which you are working is cash strapped and may not be in a position to consider an extension to your contract. All these scenarios and others may be playing out for you. There are so many possible outcomes, not to mention all of the “opportunities” at other companies that begin to pop up.

What’s a contractor to do?

As an independent incorporated contractor, you are running a business. You want to do what’s best for your business, so your options must be considered based on a number of different (and sometimes competing) aspects – financial concerns, your company’s image, branding, reputation, and the interest of staff members (you). Also, you must balance all this with what’s in the best interest of your business partners and clients. After all, repeat business relies on leaving your customers satisfied. A bad reputation will propagate as people familiar with a tough situation move between companies.

Tricky scenarios pop up frequently around extension time. The following are some ideas that may make the road less bumpy:

  • Communication and transparency are key. Be open, honest and professional when speaking with your onsite supervisor and your agency partner (if there is one involved). Share your hopes, fears and interests clearly and try to remove the emotion that you might be feeling to get the best results/response. (To help with the emotion part, see the point below) Also, it is important to let all sides know if you are applying to new roles and, if it is really what you want, communicate your sincere interest in staying/receiving an extension. Everyone involved wants to avoid a situation where an extension is offered and refused due to a surprise job offer from elsewhere.
  • Start communicating early. For longer term contracts, begin a conversation with your recruiter and supervisor as much as 6, or even up to 8, weeks in advance of your contract ending. Challenges are much easier to manage if all parties have time to properly manage. If it is clear that there will be no extension, your recruiter might even be able to find you your next role and help to manage the transition from the current one.
  • If you have competing offers, my advice is to give priority to the project or client on which you are currently working. All things being considered, they are likely counting on you to see things through to the end. No amount of “knowledge transfer” will make up for losing a key member of their team. Leaving to take another role elsewhere risks your reputation and that can have long term impact to future job prospects.
  • If there will be an extension and there is a legitimate case for a rate increase, I highly recommend that you speak first with your Recruiter. There are several reasons for this. First, the Recruiter may know of opportunities or challenges concerning rate increases of which you aren’t aware. Second, companies often have a formalized process for rate increase requests and expect them to be followed. Again, your recruiter will know how to do this. Third, your recruiter will be able to help you build your case. They know what arguments might carry more weight with the customer. And, fourth, your Recruiter can have an unemotional and very candid business conversation with the customer avoiding any hurt feelings that might negatively impact your ability to work with the client going forward.
  • Be flexible. As described earlier, a business decision will have competing issues to consider. There may need to be give and take required to get the best overall result.
  • Whichever decision you make, be sure to manage your relationships with professionalism and tact; and give your best effort to mitigate any negative repercussions as much as possible. It will be noted by those observing such things and will help keep your reputation whole.

Whatever decision you make, be sure to manage your relationships with professionalism and tact; and give your best effort to mitigate any negative repercussions as much as possible.  It will be noted by those observing such things and will help keep your reputation whole.  And, remember the importance of having a positive reference on your most recent contract – the saying in the industry goes: “You are only as good as your last project reference.”  This is a good statement to keep in mind as you are exiting a project.

Quick Poll Results: Is Onboarding Easy for IT Contractors?

As an independent contractor, you experience more “first days” in your career than a typical permanent employee. That means, you’ve probably seen the best of onboarding and the worst of it. Some IT contractors arrive at a new client site to see all paper work finalized, workstation set-up and a complete plan prepared allowing you to get started right away. And other times… not so much.

Given the onboarding process can be an indication of how your new project will play out, it’s in everybody’s best interest to get it right. Although a large chunk of this is beyond your staffing agency’s control, we’re always eager to make it run as smoothly as possible.

In last month’s contractor quick poll, we asked you how smoothly the onboarding process generally is based on your experiences. We had a good number of responses which in turn, provides great input for our industry and our clients. Only about a third of respondents said that their onboarding is almost always smooth.

 

Quick Poll Results - How Smooth is the Onboarding Process?