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CareerNews: Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Corporate Culture of Your Next Employer

Avoid These Common Blunders If You Want to Get Ahead at the Office

Video Resumes: The Pros and Cons for Job-Seekers

The Future of the Workplace: No Office, Headquarters in Cyberspace

Create Your Own Brand of Excellence

Making Office Politics Work to Your Advantage

How to Negotiate a Flexible Work Schedule

Outsourcing Back to the U.S.

Building Trust

HR Not Measuring Up

Ethnic Diversity in IT Presents CIOs with Challenges

"The Corporate Culture of Your Next Employer"
Computerworld, August 27

How well you fit into the workplace culture of a new company is one of the single most important determinants of your future job satisfaction. Every organization has a corporate culture that sets the tone for the day-to-day office environment and how co-workers interact. If you take the time to consider the type of office environment that fits you best, you are more likely to form strong bonds with co-workers, become more productive at the office and, as a result, have a better chance of advancing along your desired career path. With that in mind, the article provides a few key steps that you can take to make sure that you will be comfortable with a certain corporate culture before you start working there.

Many job candidates overestimate their ability to adapt to an unfamiliar work culture, so they do not take the time to clarify what type of office environment they work in best. Make a list of your work values so you can see how well they align with those of a potential employer. If you value independence, for example, you might quickly clash with management that insists on being involved in minor decisions. Before you reach the interview stage, form a detailed picture of the company. You can start with the corporate Web site and then check out the annual report. From there, you can consult with former or current employees at the company for insights. Even if you do not know anyone who has worked at the company, you might be able to find someone on a social networking site.

The interview process is your best chance to learn as much as possible about the corporate culture. For example, take note of the workplace atmosphere. Do employees seem engaged with their work and one another, or under stress and isolated? When meeting with the hiring manager, ask questions about the corporate culture and inquire as to which characteristics the company values most in its employees. A follow-up interview gives you a chance to address any cultural concerns you have developed. For example, if you have impressions from several sources that management does not encourage creativity, ask about it directly.

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"Avoid These Common Blunders If You Want to Get Ahead at the Office"
Career Journal, August 21

Even if you are hard working and talented, there are five common mistakes that could hold you back from reaching your career goals. According to career planning expert Cynthia Shapiro, it does not matter how skilled you are at your job or how late you stay at the office if you fail to understand the needs and interests of your company. As Shapiro explains, being positive about developments at the company and aligning your personal agenda with that of the company are the two most important things you can do to become noticed and rewarded at the office.

The first major workplace blunder is following your own personal agenda without considering the broader objectives of the organization. If you are not working on what your company thinks is important, you are never going to be seen as a valued asset. If your goal is to advance along the career ladder, discard your own agenda and do what you can to further the agenda of the organization, no matter how misguided you think it is. The second major mistake is publicly voicing negative thoughts. This means griping about your workload or speaking negatively about the latest venture of the company. When it comes to business, being positive is more important than being skilled.

The third major mistake is complaining to HR. If you bring an issue to HR, they will only work to address your concerns if it is in the best interest of the company to do so. Another mistake is showing off your smarts to others within the organization. Showcasing your smarts can make you appear like more of a threat than an asset if it is not done with finesse. Finally, the last mistake is failing to recognize when it is best to quit and find a new job. If you have a contentious relationship with your boss or have not received a raise in a long time, it could be a sign that you are in danger of getting fired.

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"Video Resumes: The Pros and Cons for Job-Seekers", August 23

With the growing popularity of video sharing sites like YouTube, job-seekers are exploring ways that they can leverage the power of video to arrange interviews and, ultimately, land jobs. They are creating one- to two- minute video presentations, during which they summarize their skills, experience and qualifications. On one hand, these video resumes can help hiring managers understand why the jobseeker might be the perfect candidate for an open position. On the other hand, however, some employers are fearful of discrimination claims if they rely on video resumes to exclude or include certain candidates. With that in mind, the article provides a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of video interviews for job seekers, highlighting examples of when they worked and when they did not work.

Online video is gaining in popularity as an important tool during the job search. For example,, an Internet company that launched in 2006, now hosts and showcases the video resumes of jobseekers. Among online job boards, launched a video resume service in June 2007 and is currently mulling over the possibility of a video resume service. According to a recent survey of more than 2,200 hiring managers and human resources professionals, 60% of respondents expressed some interest in viewing video resumes of potential candidates. Currently, however, less than 2% of clients from recruiting firms ask for video resumes from candidates, and only about 1% of candidates offer them. Those numbers could change, however, as technology becomes cheaper and more readily available.

There are both pros and cons to creating online video resumes. Candidates who create polished, professional clips may distinguish themselves from the competition, especially if the video complements a traditional paper resume. According to hiring managers interviewed for the article, a short online video would help them determine whether the intangible qualities of the applicant would make a good match for the team. They also agree that video resumes could make the process of choosing candidates easier and less time-intensive. However, this emphasis on visual presentation can also be a double-edged sword. Both job seekers and hiring managers admit that online video resumes tend to put too much emphasis on the appearance of a candidate. Opportunities for discrimination increase with the use of video just as when candidates include photos or other personal data on applications or resumes.

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"The Future of the Workplace: No Office, Headquarters in Cyberspace"
ABC News, August 27

With more companies than ever before experimenting with cutting-edge new technology that enables workers to collaborate off-site, some futurists predict a day when the notion of a corporate headquarters will seem strangely antiquated. In short, imagine a work world with no commute, no corporate headquarters and perhaps not even an office in the physical world at all. At large technology companies, small Internet start-ups and even some consulting firms, the virtual office is becoming a reality. The article explains why these virtual work environments can result in significant cost savings and productivity gains before highlighting a few of the ways that companies are collaborating off-site and experimenting with new mobility options.

The most common scenario is for employees of a company to work off-site, away from the office. Employees might collaborate with other co-workers via off-site meetings or teleconferences. In the case of IBM, for example, 42% of all employees at the company rarely come in to the office. At other companies, the office functions as a way to connect far-flung teams and bring together scattered work forces. The work force at consulting firm Accenture is so mobile not even the CEO has an office with his name on the door. In the future, companies may make their headquarters in cyberspace, with workers gathering weekly in virtual worlds such as Second Life to discuss business.

Despite these inroads into creating a true virtual work environment, maintaining a work community is still an important goal for most companies. At IBM, for example, employees working away from the office overcome isolation by deliberately scheduling some common lunches to make sure that they keep in contact. The company has also started to organize social clubs to foster a community and exploring other types of venues to bring people together.

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"Create Your Own Brand of Excellence"
California Job Journal, August 26

The same marketing techniques that are used in corporate marketing campaigns can also apply to your job search. One of the best ways to communicate your value is by creating an image or brand for yourself that is recognizable and desirable to prospective employers. As the article outlines, there are four key reasons to develop a career brand: to make yourself more attractive to employers, even when there are no formal job openings; to control what interviewers remember most about you; to lower the barriers to being hired by creating trust; and to differentiate yourself from the competition.

In creating your own career brand, you need to consider what you would like to be known for as well as what kind of employer you would like to connect with. By constructing answers to these questions, you can capture the essence of your image and the types of connections that you want to make. Think of your brand as a uniquely individual image used to attract employers who share your values and skills. Once you have determined what image and connection best suits you, you can develop this brand through both verbal and visual means. Verbal branding includes sound bites, success stories, and thoughtful written communication to potential employers. Visual branding is accomplished through your actions, attitude and attire.

To develop your brand, you can begin by creating sound bites. Sound bites, like success stories, will help you feel prepared to meet any networking or interview situation. Your sound bites should be short, no more than two minutes in length, and can be used when you need to convey your unique strengths, articulate your goals, or offer a brief, value-packed introduction of yourself. Once you are comfortable using your sound bites and success stories, you can consider the specific aspects of you written correspondence and visuals that will create positive connections with prospective employers.

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"Making Office Politics Work to Your Advantage"
Career Journal, August 27

By following a simple list of strategies, you can master the basics of office politics without sacrificing your integrity. While many people think of office politics in terms of ruthless scheming and blatant power plays, the reality is that office politics is all about being savvy about how to align your actions and goals with those of other co-workers at your workplace. The article covers the finer points of office politics, presenting suggestions for office workers trying to climb the career ladder. For example, it is important to establish allies amongst your peers, avoid harmful relationships with office troublemakers, and observe carefully the characteristics of people who succeed within the organization.

There are several things you can do to become politically savvy in the workplace. First of all, think about aligning your actions with your goals. If you are desperate to switch departments, look for opportunities to take on cross-departmental projects. If you want to earn more, speak with your supervisor about what it will take to secure a promotion. You can also look to build alliances. Take the time to make friends with your peers and even the administrative staff. This guarantees that you will have allies in your corner should you need help with a project. Finally, watch and learn to find out the unique formula for success within your organization. Note the characteristics of the people who succeed and then leverage your own strengths.

There are several things not to do. For example, do not initiate strategically harmful relationships. Steer clear of troublemakers or you may be branded as one yourself. Also, do not gripe about being passed over. It is easy to nurse a grudge when you are overlooked for a promotion or denied an opportunity to work on a coveted project. Instead, draw attention to yourself by volunteering for a challenging task that allows you to demonstrate your skills and knowledge. Finally, do not assume hard work is enough. Being competent is not sufficient to earn you accolades. Getting ahead requires strategic thinking, subtle self-promotion, and teamwork.

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"How to Negotiate a Flexible Work Schedule", August 29

Flexible work arrangements are becoming more commonplace as managers and companies realize that they must provide flexibility in order to attract and retain the most talented IT professionals. More and more companies are waking up to the fact that flexible work arrangements, such as part-time work, job sharing, telecommuting, compressed workweeks and flexible schedules, can lead to higher job satisfaction rates, greater productivity and improved collaboration. Already, there are a number of best practices that have emerged for IT professionals thinking about negotiating a flexible work schedule. By following these practices, you will increase your chances of being able to negotiate a flexible work arrangement.

The best approach to take when asking your boss for a more flexible work arrangement is to think about how your request could benefit your company. Once you have built a business case for flexibility, you need to put your proposal in writing. A well-written proposal should spell out exactly how the arrangement will work and how you will succeed in the arrangement. Your proposal should include several key components, such as a summary of the proposed arrangement, a contingency plan for handling fluctuating workloads, a review of any changes to compensation, and a review of any upside for the company. Also, list any support or resources that you will need to work in this new environment and recommend a trial period to test the new arrangement.

After submitting the proposal, you need to be prepared for several different types of responses. Very rarely will a manager quickly accept all of the terms of a request for an alternate work arrangement. More often, a manager may be open to granting your request but will have some reservations. For example, if you are the first to request a flexible schedule, your boss may be concerned that others will want a similar arrangement. Other common concerns include the quality and quantity of the work you will provide in your new arrangement and your ability to manage fluctuations in work activity.

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"Outsourcing Back to the U.S.", September 7

With Indian software firm Wipro announcing plans to hire hundreds of new software developers within the U.S., analysts are already debating what this means for the long-term U.S. IT employment outlook. The decision by Wipro to hire more than 500 computer programmers over the next three years and set up a training center to provide technical and soft-skills training to its employees in Atlanta sounds like good news for U.S. IT workers. If other companies follow the lead of Wipro, it could lead to a reversal of the trend in which U.S. firms send IT jobs overseas. The article considers the various reasons behind the decision by Wipro to expand to the U.S., pointing out that the move must be viewed in both an economic and political light.

The move by Wipro to establish an enhanced presence in the U.S. appears to signal that the United States is being seen once again as a leader in IT development. At a time when many in Congress are highly critical of U.S. jobs moving overseas, Wipro is actually creating jobs in the U.S. If other companies follow the lead of Wipro, the trend may accelerate. On the other hand, experts are concerned whether Wipro is making a long-term commitment to the U.S. The article considers the various reasons why Wipro might be willing to pay a higher price for top U.S.-based talent, including the desire to find more candidates immersed in American culture and a future plan to bid for U.S. defense contracts, which require that all workers be located in the U.S.

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"Building Trust"
Computerworld, September 5

At a time when less than 3% of senior-level IT managers are African-American, it is time for the IT industry to consider the steps needed to attract more African-Americans to careers in computer science and engineering. Over the past decade, it appears that progress has been blocked on attracting more African-Americans to the industry. Between 1996 and 2004, the number of African-Americans in the IT industry actually declined by nearly 9%. With that in mind, the article examines the primary obstacles to the recruitment and retention of African Americans in IT, suggesting that intangible factors will play a key role in future recruitment efforts.

According to a recent survey, 56% percent of African-American IT professionals have considered leaving their current employer over the past 12 months. This widespread lack of job satisfaction can be attributed in part to concerns about not being treated honestly in the area of career development. People do not perceive that they are getting candid and straightforward information that will help them improve their performance in their current environment or take greater responsibility over time. The perception among many of the respondents to the survey is that their direct supervisors do not serve as advocates for the career advancement of African-American employees.

When it comes to compensation, as well, African-American candidates feel they are being shortchanged. While the average annual compensation for IT workers is $90,169, the average for African-American IT workers is $81,161. In large part, this compensation gap has to do with subjective factors that determine where in the compensation range an individual falls. If managers are uncomfortable working with African-American professionals, they may unconsciously rate them lower on certain subjective factors that influence compensation. There are several ways to change this. By building trust, establishing transparency in communication, and facilitating stronger relationships, it may be possible to address some of the subjective factors that are holding back African-Americans.

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"HR Not Measuring Up"
Management Issues, August 24

According to a study carried out by the Human Resource Planning Society and the Institute for Corporate Productivity, many HR departments are failing to keep up with the strategic imperatives of their organizations. The study found two-thirds of respondents believe that HR is not reacting fast enough to the strategic challenges related to organizational growth, with a similar proportion saying that the emphasis on growth in their organizations is changing the meaning of strategic HR. Even if they are not represented on the executive team, HR leaders must provide a crucial supporting role to leaders who are focused on overall business growth.

Other surveys, too, have documented the changing role and expectations of the HR department. For example, a separate survey from research company Corporate Executive Board found that nearly 90% of HR executives are unhappy about the strategic impact their function is making on their organization as well as critical about the basic effectiveness of HR at managing people. In addition, the Corporate Executive Board survey suggested that nearly 60% of front line managers under-perform during their first two years, leading to performance gaps and staff turnover across the entire front line. According to this survey, targeted skills upgrades, new hiring profiles, competencies management and career path strategies will help organizations improve management and business impact.

There are a variety of reasons for HR failing to keep up in high-growth companies. For one, HR professionals rarely have hands-on experience in areas such as meeting customer needs, delivering quality products and innovation. It requires a different kind of strategic HR to help drive growth. According to the joint study, many HR directors are struggling to play a key role in the growth strategies of their organizations but are being sidelined by issues such as talent acquisition and integration. Another 10% of respondents said that HR leaders were not involved in growth strategy at all, with almost 25% feeling that the overall role is below the executive-team level. Only 20% of respondents believe that HR directors are critical members of the executive team, while just 16% feel that the HR function plays a key role in promoting organizational growth in their companies.

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"Ethnic Diversity in IT Presents CIOs with Challenges"
CIO Insight, August 27

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, African-Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented within the IT industry compared with their presence in other professions. For example, African-Americans represent 6.5% of employed IT managers and staff professionals, compared with 11% of all types of managers and staff professionals. Similarly, Hispanics represent 5% of IT staff professionals and managers but nearly 14% overall. In addition, fewer than 30% of all employed IT professionals are women. The article examines the various reasons for the under-representation of African-Americans and Hispanics within the IT industry, highlighting that the industry must do more to make IT organizations an inviting place to work.

Over the past six years, while the number of IT workers increased by 1 million to 3.6 million overall, the number of women in IT fell by nearly 8% and the number of African-Americans in IT declined by more than 25%. There appear to be several reasons for the sharp drop among African-Americans. Clues can be found in a 2006 survey of black IT managers conducted for the Information Technology Senior Management Forum, a group of professional African-American IT managers, showing that fewer than half the respondents trusted their organizations. In addition, 43% said they had to adjust their personal style to fit in as IT professionals. Fewer than half saw the possibility of advancement in their companies and 56% said they had considered quitting their jobs in the previous 12 months.

Many organizations are simply unaware of how their company cultures adversely affect the perceptions of some employees. Perception can be as important as reality, and the concerns expressed in job satisfaction surveys should provide the impetus for organizations to consider how they recruit and retain certain minorities. This imperative is all the more important, given that a significant number of IT professionals have left the profession at a time many companies complain about the difficulty finding qualified people to fill crucial jobs. As the article explains, deepening the IT labor pool and increasing the diversity of the workforce is as much about public relations as it is about cultural differences.

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