How to Spot a Dead-End Job

If you’re one of the 6.8 million Americans looking for a job right now, you might be finding some great potential career upgrades. Maybe you just graduated college or recently obtained a professional certificate, or maybe you’re just overdue for a change. In any case, there are seemingly endless opportunities with new businesses opening up and companies expanding their workforce, not to mention the extra help needed for the holidays.

So how do you know if you’ve landed an interview for your dream job or just another dead-end position at an organization that you’ll end up leaving in a few months?

It’s often hard to recognize the signs (especially if you’ve got your heart set on a particular position or company), but I assure you that they are out there. Here are some key items to look out for:

1. Photos/Articles/Websites reflect only the company owner or top management

As you research the companies you apply for, be sure to pay close attention to the “About Us” section of the website. We oftentimes overlook what websites are really telling us about the company. For example, if the “About Us” section is simply a timeline of the company owner’s accomplishments, it’s safe to assume that no matter how many people the company employs, it’s never going to be more than a one-man show.  Another key indicator is if the “Team” section of the website only shows the owner/executives. This could indicate that either the company can’t hold onto any other employees to feature on the website, or that the company doesn’t value the “lower-level employees.” If an organization doesn’t want to feature the backbone of their business (yes, the employees!), you can probably assume that you won’t be of much value to them.

Secondly, pay close attention to the marketing materials the company uses. Do individuals have business cards with their names on them, or are they generic “Sales Department” or “Help Desk” cards? Again, not listing individual’s names could indicate that employees do not stay long at the company, or that the company doesn’t value their employees enough to purchase individual business cards.

Look at articles, brochures, and other print materials as well. Do the brochures feature employees or the services/products they offer, or is it a picture of the company owner? Do articles featuring the business talk about the fantastic customer service or how employees pull together to make the business successful, or is it a story about the business owner and his family? These things are often overlooked, but subtle clues like these can help you identify if you are working for a company that truly values their employees or not.

2. Empty offices or poor décor

When you do snag that interview and go in to tour the office, pay close attention to your surroundings. Peek through open doors and windows as you walk down the hallway. Take note of the décor, colors, and cleanliness. What do you see? Empty offices, multiple “storage rooms,” plain walls, dust and cobwebs… all these things are very clear signs of a company you will not want to be a part of.

Unless the company is just starting up or has recently relocated, there is no positive side to empty rooms/offices or lack of furnishings. The empty offices usually indicate that the company has a hard time holding onto employees. Poor (or no) décor shows a lack of investment in employees. Research has shown that employees are happier and more productive when they feel comfortable in their environment. Empty walls, lack of personality in colors and décor, and uncleanliness shows the company’s lack of interest in keeping their employees comfortable.

3. False advertising in the job announcement

Employers have many tactics to entice quality candidates to their job openings. You’ll see talk about vacation time, excellent insurance benefits, 401K, casual Fridays, game rooms, massage chairs, etc. The key is to make sure the things being advertised are actually being offered. The last thing you want to do is accept a job thinking you’ll have amazing benefits only to find out that these items were highly exaggerated.

Reach out to current or former employees (try LinkedIn) or look up company reviews (Glassdoor and Indeed are useful tools) to be sure that the benefits are actually being offered. If you get as far as the interview, take a look around to see if there is actually a game room or massage chairs or whatever other perk the company is advertising. Last, but not least, ask about the benefits during the interview! Don’t be afraid to get clarification or proof that the perks are a reality. And if you find that the business was less-than-honest about the actual benefits being offered, well, you probably don’t want to waste your time.

4. The company is constantly hiring

It’s perfectly normal to hire based on company growth and customer demand, but it’s a whole other story when a company is constantly hiring because they cannot hold onto quality employees. So pay attention to the job announcements listed on a company’s website, job boards, etc. If you apply to a position and receive an automated rejection letter only to see the same opening posted six weeks later, there’s a strong possibility that the company actually hired a candidate, lost them, and posted the announcement again in attempts to find a replacement.

High turnover is indicative of many things – poor management, low wages, unengaging work, hostile working environment, and especially low morale. When turnover is high, you can expect longer hours, stressful situations, disgruntled employees – all of which will make your life more miserable. So if you see that a company is constantly hiring (and especially for key positions), just don’t do it.

All in all, there are many opportunities in the working world right now, but not all of them are worth accepting. Be sure to do your research and look for indications of what the company is really like before taking on a new role. The last thing you want to do is jump from one bad job to another.

There are “dream jobs” out there, but you won’t find them by idly accepting anything that comes your way. Spend some time truly understanding the culture, benefits, and values of the company and steer clear of those which only seek to fill a vacant chair.


Leveraging Relationships to Find Your Dream Job

We are all very well aware of the value of networking. We’ve been told by numerous surveys, job boards, and social media sites that it’s the best way to find a job. In fact, Tom Farley, President of the NYSE, recently told Fortune Magazine that “I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking.”[1] However, the question at hand is not why do we network, but how do we network?

Networking opportunities are everywhere – yes, everywhere! In obvious places, such as work and school, and in more overlooked places, like a restaurant or a grocery store (you never know when you’ve just bumped shoulders with the hiring manager at your dream company). The key is knowing how to make those initial connections and build a relationship with them.

So, where do you start?

Relationships are the direct line to your next career move, so start with the relationships you already have. Whether that is your college professor, a former colleague, or even a friend in the same line of work, you already know someone who can help get you connected to those valuable resources. Reach out to them first and see where they can take you.

For example, say you want to pursue a career in marketing and you have your eye on an entry-level marketing position at a certain company. You know from researching the company on various social media platforms that the Marketing Manager attends many local community events. Your college professor has also mentioned attending such events in the past. Why not ask your professor if you can tag along at the next event and be introduced to some of the attendees (particularly the Marketing Manager)! Not only will your professor likely be thrilled to have a guest to bring to the event, he will also be honored to help with your career development.

As another example, perhaps you worked alongside an individual at a previous job and developed a unique relationship based on similar interests and goals. Though you’ve both moved on to different opportunities, you still keep in touch with each other. Your former colleague now works in Sales and is responsible for reaching out to local businesses, where she has personally met and held conversations with various business owners and hiring managers. Ask if your colleague will put you in contact with one (or several) of her connections in the Marketing field. By having a trusted third party introduce you, there is a greater chance that you will be acknowledged and accepted than if you reached out yourself.

Once you have utilized your current relationships to connect with new resources, it’s time to build those initial contacts into beneficial relationships. Introducing yourself and having a one-time conversation probably won’t lead you to a job offer, so it’s important to continually be in touch and ensure your new connections keep you on their radar.

Know that people are inherently helpful and want others to succeed, but they are also busy and have time constraints. You’ll have to appeal to them and strike their interest in a way that they will want to devote some time to your request. Use what you know about their knowledge and skills to help accomplish your own goals. For instance, you might say, “Being that you are a top performer in your field, I was hoping to pick your brain about what makes you so successful so that I may learn techniques to be successful as well.” By recognizing your contact’s accomplishments and showing interest in learning from them, you’re more likely to receive a response than if you simply asked to meet for coffee to discuss an opportunity.

Another tactic is to involve the person that initially introduced you to your new contact. In this situation, you might say something like, “Our mutual colleague, (name), was just telling me about the success of your last marketing project. I, too, am a marketing professional and I’d love to speak with you about what qualities make your team so successful.” Using the name of the mutual colleague will not only pique the interest of your resource, but she will also be more apt to respond due to her relationship with the mutual contact.

As we know, networking is a sure-fire way to land your ideal job. When you are ready to start connecting, be sure to reach out to the resources you already have. They will be able to assist with putting you in touch with those new contacts of interest.  Once you have made the connection and built an ongoing relationship with the new contacts, you can seek assistance with job placement and career advancement and ultimately find your dream job!



Fostering an Engaged Workforce

It’s no secret that employees are the ones doing the work and keeping an organization running. Without employees, a business cannot maintain operations and profits and will therefore go under. So why is it that more businesses are not focusing substantial energy on engaging their workforce?

With effective human resource strategies, employees will be engaged and satisfied, driving business results and becoming goodwill ambassadors for the company. When employees are happy and can see a connection between their daily responsibilities and the company’s goals, they are more engaged in its success and will be more likely to remain with the company.

So what can a business owner and top management do to foster an engaged workforce?

As most notably discussed by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in First Break All the Rules: What the Greatest Managers Do Differently, 1999, there are four factors that contribute to an engaged workforce:

  1. Identify the best fit for employees

More often than not, human resource staffing strategies discontinue after orientation. Many think that once an employee is hired to fill a vacant position, the task is completed. However, this type of attitude is what oftentimes contributes to employee dissatisfaction and turnover.

You see, some organizations have the tendency to stick an employee in a position simply because he or she possesses the minimum required qualifications to complete the tasks involved. This; however, does not encourage employee satisfaction. An employee will be truly engaged and productive when they see value in the work they perform – and enjoy it! So the best option is to continually communicate with the employee (even after orientation) to ensure they are utilizing their skills in a way that is most beneficial to both the company and the employee.

  1. Concentrate on individual employee strengths

Every employee is different. Even employees in similar positions have unique capabilities. For example, two employees in the billing department share strong organizational and mathematical skills; Employee A is especially good at balancing and reconciling accounts, while Employee B is good at forecasting trends.  Instead of sharing all responsibilities within the department, it would be more beneficial to make Employee A responsible for managing account payables/receivables, while Employee B creates and manages the budget. Not only will this setup keep each of the employees happy by allowing them to do what they do best, it will also ensure that the most capable person is performing each task.

  1. Clearly establish desired results

When employees are not given clear instructions and desired outcomes, it is easy for them to become frustrated. If clearly defined results are communicated, employees will feel more organized and empowered to achieve said result. Then once the desired result is achieved, employees will feel a connection between the work they performed and the actual outcome.

Uncertainty has the opposite effect. If an employee is performing work without knowing if their manager is satisfied with the outcome or not (or how their work contributes to the overall objective), he or she can feel disconnected and unsure if his/her work has any value. When such situations occur, it is common for the employee to seek alternate opportunities.

  1. Select employees based on knowledge, skills, and abilities

It happens more than you think: candidates who are not capable of doing a job are hired to fill a position. They may be selected because of personality, a positive attitude, or simply because the interviewer liked them.  When the employee is not able to perform the tasks required of the position, the business suffers in a multitude of ways. Incompetent employees cause others to have to work harder to achieve goals, thus resulting in decreased morale. These employees also require additional training and coaching, resulting in decreased productivity and output and increased use of valuable resources that should be utilized elsewhere. Ultimately, the employee will likely either quit or be terminated, causing the company substantial cost and lost time.

By hiring the right person for the job based on knowledge, skills, and abilities, an organization can avoid unnecessary burdens and save money. This also benefits the employee because he or she will be placed in a position to which they will excel and feel comfortable in. Recruiting, developing, and retaining the best talent is crucial to the organization’s validity and strength. Selecting the wrong talent can be costly and detrimental to the business.

When businesses realize that their true value comes from human capital and begin actively working to engage their workforce, they will see increased productivity, higher retention, and a truly engaged workforce!



Sometimes You Have to Filter through the Trash to Find the Treasure

Applying Divorce to the Business World

Sure, no one gets married with the intentions of getting divorced, but, as we know, it happens. Often. Here’s the thing, though: despite the devastation and heart-break of going through a divorce, I think more good than harm can come out of it. Divorce teaches many lessons that one may not have learned otherwise. Lessons about love, patience, kindness, devotion… lessons that can only serve to help in future relationships.

At the young age of eighteen, I married a man I was convinced was the love of my life. We had a fairy-tale wedding, complete with the tiara and huge princess dress, large wedding party, and joyful friends and family. The marriage lasted about five years before taking a horrible turn. I discovered that my husband was cheating – probably one of the most heart-breaking discoveries of my life, and chose to end the relationship shortly thereafter.

It was hard adjusting to life after our separation. I had trouble getting used to living alone, paying the bills, and being single again. It was embarrassing and I assumed I would never trust a man again.

Then I met someone. I was hesitant at first, but after learning he was involved in a very similar situation with his ex-wife, I decided to give him a chance. Best decision ever.

In taking the leap of faith and deciding to begin a journey with this man, I remembered everything I endured during those last moments of my previous marriage. I knew what I wanted out of my new relationship. I knew what I didn’t want. I was open and discussed expectations – he did too. We quickly learned that neither of us wanted to feel the hurt and embarrassment of a cheating significant other again. We agreed to be up front and honest about our relationship and if we were ever unhappy. We agreed never to lie or intentionally hurt one another. We agreed that if either of us ever had the urge to see someone else, we would be honest up front, so that we could either work to improve our relationship or agree to go separate ways.

These are all things that most people might think of as “obvious” qualities of a healthy relationship; however, I can tell you, they are much more obvious and easy to agree to if you have been through the anguish of a divorce already.

After dating for two years, my “second chance at happiness” proposed and we were married a year later. Again, I had the fairy-tale wedding with the gorgeous dress and love and support of family and friends. About three months after our wedding day, we conceived our baby girl. We have now been happily married over five years and looking forward to many, many more.

Would I have found this true happiness without being married the first time? Maybe. But I am convinced that the events happened for a very particular reason. I had to withstand the challenges of my previous relationship in order to understand the value of my current one. The arguments, harsh realizations, embarrassment, and heart-break of my former marriage were all things that I had to endure in order to make the next relationship better. I know what I want and truly value what I now have because of that dark period of time in my life.

“You have to filter through the trash in order to get to the treasure.”

Now, you might be wondering how this applies to the business world.

Just as with divorce, jobs can be particularly heart-breaking as well. Your career is a big part of your life – about 70%, in fact. So, it is extremely important to be happy.

If you spend any portion of time in a dead-end job (or several, in my case), it is helpful to learn from your experiences. Write down your likes and dislikes. Identify your key skills and what motivates you. Decide what you want to do and what makes you happy, as well as what you don’t want to do and what makes you miserable. Get out of that soul-sucking office that leaves you stressed out and drained every day and look toward a second chance at happiness in a job that is truly rewarding.

It might be easier than you think to find that “dream job.” Once you know what you want (and what you want to avoid in the future), you can filter your job search to find just that. Life’s too short to spend being miserable in a job that’s getting you nowhere. Be sure you learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them in the future!


Why We Need Friends at Work

Though most of us are still reluctant to admit it, we spend more time at work than we do at home (no – sleeping doesn’t count). Yet the term “work family” is mostly just used by Prime Time TV and sappy Hallmark cards, and not in the workplace. In fact, employees are often discouraged from forming relationships with their coworkers by managers who believe having friendships in the office will interfere with the work itself. We are here to argue just the opposite.

Based on this article from the Harvard Business Review, research has shown that employees are much happier in their jobs when they have friendships with co-workers. Employees report that when they have friends at work, their job is more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and satisfying. Additionally, close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by up to 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.

Another article in Forbes Magazine pointed out that those who develop close friendships at work improve their productivity and performance, get more recognition, and are overall happier in their profession. Such friendships are also found to positively impact retention.

Still not convinced? Let’s think about this for a moment.

You have two employees in a similar role at different companies. The employee at Company X has been directed by management to steer clear from forming any friendships with coworkers as it may “distract him from his work.” This employee spends his entire day segregating himself from others and focusing 100% of his time and energy on his daily routine. The second employee at Company Y works in an environment where fun is encouraged through contests and competitions, team-building exercises, and employee outings. This employee has fostered several friendships with coworkers and has a support system both at and outside of work.

Which employee do you think is happier? More engaged and productive? More likely to stay with the company?

Now, think about your own work history. I’m willing to bet that when you reflect on your favorite or most enjoyable jobs, you think more about the people you worked with than the tasks on your daily checklist. Whether you had an awesome boss you could talk to about anything, a close coworker you hung out with on the weekends, or subordinates you met for happy hour, chances are you were much more connected and engaged at work than if you had no relationships with your coworkers.

Whether we want to believe it or not, the people we work with have a huge impact on our happiness and performance at work. Employees should be encouraged to form such bonds with their coworkers and employers should foster an environment where teamwork, social activities, and fun are encouraged. Otherwise, you may find decreased engagement, productivity, and longevity!



Employer Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Bogus

When looking for a new job, one thing you might do is read up on the company to which you are applying for a position. It’s reasonable to want to know about the benefits, culture, environment, and CEO before clicking the “Apply Now” button. One option is to browse company ratings and reviews, such as those found on Glassdoor or Indeed.

Ratings and reviews can be extremely helpful in making your next career move. However, you can’t always trust that these ratings are legitimate. Many reviews are quite biased, resulting from former employees who held a grudge after termination, management’s request for employees to post their review, or, my personal favorite, employers making up their own employee reviews.

So how do you know which reviews to trust and which are simply rubbish? It’s not easy, but there are a few tell-tale signs that you should look out for when reading employer reviews.

The All-Negative Review

Though many of us have had that hellacious job that we couldn’t get away from soon enough, I doubt very seriously that there was not a single positive aspect to include in the review (otherwise, why did you take the job in the first place?). You may not have liked your boss, but you loved your coworkers, or the culture was less than desirable, but it was close to home.  There are usually at least one or two pros to the numerous cons within a negative review. Reviews that do nothing but talk about how terrible the company is can be a good indicator of an ex-employee who just wants to “get even” with their former employer.

The All-Positive Review

Just as it is unlikely for a review to be nothing but negative, the all-positive review is usually a good indicator of an illegitimate rating as well. Though some of us are lucky enough to have a job that we truly love, the likelihood of writing a five-star review portraying the company as “perfect” with “no complaints” is slim to none. There is always something we wish we could change, whether it is higher pay, better benefits, being closer to home, casual Fridays, etc. A review that speaks wonders on the company, benefits, salary, and CEO without a single con listed is probably one that was written by a representative within the company itself to make the company more appealing (or to counter poor employee reviews and ratings).

Multiple Reviews Posted at the Same Time

I would venture to say that most employees don’t meet up on a Friday night to write company reviews together for fun, so if you see several reviews posted on the same day (and especially around the same time), it’s safe to assume that these reviews are phony. It could be that a manager or company owner requests his/her employees to write a review, hence creating biased and more positive reviews since employees are unlikely to give poor ratings or write negative comments knowing that their boss is going to read their review.

Another likely explanation for several reviews posted in the same time frame is that the owner or company representative compiled fake employee reviews in attempt to make the company more appealing or to combat several negative reviews posted by dissatisfied employees. The likelihood of this situation is increased for small companies where just a few poor reviews can easily damage the company’s reputation and deter future candidates from applying to openings.

Though company ratings and reviews can be helpful tools when job hunting, it is important to consider that not all reviews are legitimate. Factor out those reviews that seem too good to be true or overly negative and focus on those which seem more balanced and honest. Also, make sure the reviews are spaced out and not written in the same day. Once you eliminate the bogus ratings, you should get a clear picture of what current and former employees truly think about the organization.


Simple Acts to Ease the Sunday Blues

You’ve heard the term, and like roughly 76% of other Americans (according to this study from you’ve probably experienced the phenomenon at some point in your life. It’s the “Sunday Blues,” and just as the name implies, they are not very fun.

Usually starting sometime in the afternoon on Sunday, the “Sunday Blues” drain the joy from our day and take over the remaining hours of our already-too-short weekend. We begin to feel moody, tired, and stressed out long before the work-week even begins. The long sighs and not-so-subtle complaints begin and we allow ourselves to be completely consumed with the fact that we must say goodbye to our free time and start another five-day stress-fest at the office.

So, short from quitting our job and moving to the coast to become a professional beach bum, is there anything we can do to prevent or at least lessen the blow of the Sunday Blues? Here, we’ve listed some simple yet effective acts to help alleviate the Sunday Blues.

Prepare for the Following Work Week Before Leaving the Office on Friday

I know – the last thing you want to do on Friday before the weekend festivities commence is think about the week ahead; however, if you can manage to set aside a few minutes to prepare before heading off to Happy Hour, you’ll have less to stress about on Sunday afternoon. Make a to-do list, write down anything you didn’t complete by Friday afternoon so that you can pick back up on Monday morning, and plan out the tasks that need to be completed by the end of the following week. Having a predetermined plan to tackle all those daunting tasks will allow you to relax more on Sunday, rather than think about all the items you need to accomplish come Monday morning.

Disconnect (or at Least Limit Your Access)

You’ve heard it a hundred times: “Turn your phone off,” “don’t check your e-mails,” “leave your stress at work.”  All of these are great suggestions, but are easier said than done. A good number of American workers are consumed by their careers, serving in positions that make it nearly impossible to simply “disconnect.”

If you are in a position that doesn’t require the constant checking of e-mails, don’t. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by reading through countless items that can wait until Monday. If you are not fortunate enough to ignore those never-ending ‘pings,’ then at least limit the time you spend on them. Allow yourself a small amount of time in the morning on Saturday and Sunday to ensure the sky isn’t falling and complete any critical tasks, then allow yourself to enjoy the remainder of the weekend knowing that whatever it is going on at the office will be there when you return come Monday morning.

Complete Chores on Saturday

One of the many items that stress us out come Sunday afternoon is thinking about what we are going to wear, what the kids are going to wear, how much laundry needs to be done, what meals we will be cooking, and so on and so forth. Why not complete chores and plan out meals and outfits on Saturday when weekend-mode first sets in and we are less likely to be consumed with the tasks at hand? By knocking out the required items on our weekend to-do list and planning out meals and outfits ahead of time, we free up our Sunday afternoons and feel more prepared for the week ahead.

Schedule Something Fun for Sunday Night

Now that you’ve completed all of your necessary chores on Saturday, you’ve freed up your Sunday for pretty much anything! Rather than sitting around the house dreading the week ahead, why not schedule dinner with friends or a date with your significant other? This article from suggests that the more time you spend being active, the less time you have for work-week anxiety. So end your Sunday on a positive note and save the hard feelings for your alarm clock on Monday.

Unless you are 100% satisfied with your job and schedule, there’s a good chance that you’ll never fully eliminate the Sunday Blues from your weekend routine, but by practicing the acts above, you can significantly reduce the burden they have on your weekend. So, take your weekend back and limit your blues to the nine-to-five!