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Blog - Unique Interview QsYou walk into a job interview feeling confident and prepared. You did all the right things to get to this part of the process, networking with connections and perfecting your resume, but it’s still just the beginning.

Difficult interview questions are meant to challenge you and force you to think on your feet. In every job interview, there will be questions ready to stump you. But with a little time, thought and preparation, you can have the answers ready.

“What are your development needs?”

You could take multiple approaches to this broad question, but the key is to be specific. Tell your interviewer exactly what you’re looking for. For example, your answer could mention having access to mentors, learning who succeeds in the company and asking for constructive feedback on the job.

“You just finished a contract assignment, why didn’t the company hire you full-time?”

Let’s say your last job was a contract assignment, but the company wasn’t able to hire you full time. How do you explain this in an interview? It’s best to give as much detail as possible. Don’t just tell the interviewer that there weren’t any full-time opportunities available. Explain that the company wanted to hire you, but it wasn’t in the budget so they offered to provide great references.

“What was your salary at your last job?”

You don’t have to tell the interviewer an exact number. The best way to answer this question is to simply say, “I understand the salary is within a certain range, but I don’t want salary to become a distraction.”

“What makes you the best candidate for the job?”

The important points to touch on in this question are your skill set, experience and past projects. Tell the interviewer that you have all of the skills and past experience needed to succeed in the position.

But remember, no matter what you say, it’s the delivery the counts. Be sure to give real examples and present your answers in a positive light. Need more interviewing tips? The Five O'Clock Club offers guidance for every step of the job search process.

 

Young female entrepreneur working in a home officeSetting off on your own to work as a freelancer or consultant is a great way to broaden your experience and grow your network. Whether you’re planning on becoming a professional freelancer or simply looking for work between jobs, one of the most important aspects of freelance work is knowing how much to charge. Figuring this out will help you confidently negotiate your fee.

What should you be paid?

Keep in mind that your wage from your most recent payroll-based job represents only a fraction of what you need to earn.

If you’re making the equivalent of $20 per hour at your salaried, payroll position, you need to plan on charging much more than $20 an hour. Read on to learn why and for steps to help you determine your rate:

  1. Calculate your cost rate. Take your annual base pay plus bonus — in this case, we’ll say $50,000 and add 20 percent. This represents your benefits (social security, health insurance, etc.). Divide that number (in this case, $60,000) by the number of hours most people are available to work in a year, which is usually 2,000. $60,000 divided by 2,000 hours is a rate of $30 per hour.
  2. Calculate your lowest billing rate. Because it’s unlikely that you will work 2,000 hours a year (that's just the nature of freelancing), add another 20 percent to your hourly cost rate. $30 x 1.2 equals $36 per hour.
  3. Calculate your average billing rate. As a rule of thumb, freelancers spend half their time marketing themselves and networking. It's just the nature of the game. Therefore, they bill at twice their cost rate. That’s $30 times two, which is equal to $60 per hour.

Now, if you run a consulting firm or have additional overhead costs, it’s not uncommon to charge at 3 times your cost rate.

What you charge and the rate you negotiate depend on several other considerations. What can the market bear? How specialized are your skills? Will you charge per hour or will it be a project-based rate?

To learn more, contact The Five O’Clock Club for resources to help you answer these questions and succeed on your freelance or consulting venture.

 

Businessmen talkingThe Five O’Clock Club has always stressed that networking and direct contact are the two most effective ways to generate interviews. Effective networking, however, goes far beyond telling as many people as you can that you’re out of work. There’s fine art and a meticulous science to networking, and in this blog, we’ll explore just that.

The Science of Spreadsheets

Many successful job hunts begin with a spreadsheet. The purpose is to organize information, keep notes on whom you speak with and what you discuss.

TFC Alum Alan R. describes his job search process: “I made a list of all the people I knew and all of the people I wanted to know. I used TFC’s techniques for targeting exactly where I wanted to be, what I needed to say and how to position myself. I created an Excel spreadsheet, and saved every imaginable bit of information I had gleaned from anyone. I had also created a network diagram illustrating who knew who. Some people turned out to be hubs, other people were the spokes. Knowing that a lot of people knew each other helped clarify my targets and advanced my search.”

This technique allowed Alan to keep the information he gathered in order, a crucial move for anyone looking to grow their network.

The Art of the Two-Minute Pitch

One of the most disappointing things a job seeker can hear is, “we’re not hiring.”

This is what happened to TFC Alum Shahzad H. when he finally got in touch with a manager at one of the hedge funds he had targeted. “One of the first things I heard was, ‘Well, we’re not hiring.’” This might have been the end of the conversation, but Shahzad was ready with his two-minute pitch.

Shahzad told the manager what he had done, what he was looking for, and if he could give him some advice on his job search, especially about some of the other hedge funds on his list.

The manager was willing to help and suggested other people that Shahzad could talk to and wished him luck.

But Shahzad had planted the seed. Not only had he sent the message, loud and clear, about his own talents, but it was obvious, from his go-getter attitude, that he might soon be hired by another firm. Just two weeks later he got a call from the manager fellow who had wished him luck. This time he was asking Shahzad to come in for an interview. His two-minute pitch had made an impression. It led to the interview and eventually led to him being hired.

Like any skill, networking is something you learn. To learn more about the TFC's proven methods and techniques, reach out to The Five O’Clock Club today.

 

 

startup-photosWhether you’re employed or unemployed, looking for full or part-time employment, in the hunt for consulting or freelance work, or even if you’re not interested in changing jobs right now, taking a systematic approach to your job search is one of the most effective ways to grow your network and prepare for unexpected changes.

A systematic job-hunting campaign has four main parts:

Targeting

It begins by making a list of targets: the geographic area you want to work in, industry, company size (small, medium or large), and role. For example, you may want to be an account in the publishing industry in Philadelphia. That's your target.

After making a list of target careers, you will focus on one big goal: getting an interview.

Getting the Interview

This might be the most labor-intensive part of the four-step process. You'll write resumes and cover letters, network like crazy, make connections, search firms, answer ads and so on. Good organization and dogged persistence are key at this stage.

The Interview

The interview is the culmination of the time you put into networking and trying to get yourself in front of the hiring manager. Before you arrive at the interview, make sure you've practiced with a career coach, that you know what points about your experience to emphasize, and how to turn the interview into an offer.

Follow Up

After every interview, follow up with an influence letter. Here you will briefly thank the person you interviewed with, recap the conversation, explain what excites you about the role and share why you would be a good fit.

Practice, Practice, Practice

You should always be on the lookout for new opportunities. Get your name out there, whether you plan on changing jobs or not. The fact is, organizations change directions and departments merge, and you can’t always rely on your employer to tell you about what will happen next.

With enough job-hunting practice and with the help of The Five O'Clock Club, you’ll be able to take advantage of these changes and move your career in the direction you want it to go.

 

New projectYou go to work and complete your tasks day in and day out, but have you ever wondered if your boss or manager truly sees your potential? If upper management is ignoring your skills and knowledge, you'll may begin to feel frustrated or unsatisfied in your position. Make sure your senior knows what you want them to know, and you can improve your chances of getting ahead. Fortunately, doing so can be as simple as an Eight-Word Message strategy.

Most people miss everyday opportunities to spread a little information about themselves. An Eight-Word Message is a quick blurb snuck into casual conversation to inform your coworkers and managers all that you’ve been accomplishing at work. It’s not enough to just do a good job; you need to make sure those more senior than you know about it. Managing the message they receive about you is critical to your success.

For example, Ralph used to be the head of a marketing department before he joined a new organization. He’s in a position now with less responsibility, but he is doing a great job. His new management, however, doesn’t always remember his broader background and that he could be contributing much more. While Ralph could write a memo or request a formal meeting to remind his manager of his skills, an Eight-Word Message strategy involves much less risk. In casual conversation with his division head, Ralph comments, “The energy in this place is terrific. It reminds me of my last company.” When the conversation continues, he reminds his boss that he was, in fact, the head of marketing at his old company.

Start your Eight-Word Message strategy by coming up with a list of six to ten people who are senior to you at your company. These are the people to consider when you have an important message to get across. Decide what message you want to send and where you need to direct it. Remember you are working to promote yourself, not undermine your boss or co-workers. Take the right steps to manage and grow your own career.

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Blog - 3PsWe’ve all experienced a career setback. Maybe you didn’t get the job you wanted or you were laid off due to circumstances beyond your control. But sometimes, these events are just the push you need to make a necessary change.

Jan Conklin was working as a TV producer for CBS when the show she worked on was suddenly canceled. Through help from The Five O’Clock Club, she was able to find her true passion.

“I tapped into my hobby, what I was doing in my life outside of work, yoga, and began a career at Lululemon Athletica. I now manage a retail location for them and specialize in training and leadership development for the company. I opened the first store in the Caribbean and the Flagship store on 5th Avenue. I travel once a year to Vancouver for my own leadership development and enjoy four weeks a year of paid vacation. Life is good,” she says.

Conklin is the perfect example of how a challenging situation in your career can propel you forward, giving you the opportunity to focus on what you really want to do.

“Next week, I travel to Costa Rica with a yoga ambassador for the company. I could have gone back to school, instead I decided to learn a new skill while on the job. I moved through all of the ranks within a retail location, learning each position so I could be an effective leader. I knew nothing about retail and I now manage an 8–15-million-dollar business.”

Conklin offers her advice for finding and pursuing your passion in the form of a career:

“Look at what you love to do. Find an opportunity that matches that passion. And then humble yourself. Don’t look for a previous title or a financial package that matches where you were at. Be willing to start ground up and where you are meant to end up will evolve and come to you.”

 

Want help finding your true passion? Let The Five O'Clock Club help!

 

 

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Work planning“We’re looking for the right fit,” you hear the interviewer say.

“The right fit?” you ask yourself, “I’m just looking for a job with a salary.”

But the truth is, a job is more than just a place you have to go every morning. Each company has its own organizational culture that you might not even notice until it rubs you the wrong way.

But Why Does Culture Matter?

When you have a full-time job, you spend 40 or more hours at work; it’s not too much to ask to enjoy your time in the office. Just like your personality differs from others, each office will have a different way of operating. It’s important to find a culture that allows you to thrive, and here’s how you can do just that:

Research Before you Apply

When you’re applying for jobs, you look for positions that fit your skills and career goals. When it comes to company culture, the same rules apply. When you find a position that sounds like a good fit, take your research a bit further. Check out the company on Glassdoor or Salary.com, and try to spot any patterns in the reviews so you'll know what you might be in for. You can also check out the company’s social network profiles to see if they post any insight on what it’s like to work there. You can also reach out to people in your network to learn more about the reality of a company's culture.

Ask the Right Questions

If the company seems like a great place to work and you’ve landed an interview, the next step is to ask your interviewer the tough questions. Ask specifically about corporate culture. Ask them what it’s like to work for the company. What do they like about it? What do they not like? Do they hang out with co-workers outside of work? You should also ask about:

  • The performance review and reward process.
  • Benefits, perks and remote work opportunities.

Don’t Accept an Offer Without Digging Deeper

If you've successfully made it through the interview process, you’ve most likely decided whether the job is a good fit. Don’t, however, automatically accept the first offer you receive. Ask the hiring manager any follow-up questions you may have and try to get a picture of what your day-to-day experience will be like. The more complete your picture is, the better decision you’ll make.

When you’re out job searching, remember that it’s not all about skills and salary. Follow these tips to ensure your new company will be a match in all aspects of your job. And if you're looking for more job search help, The Five O’Clock Club can help you every step of the way.

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Surfer on Blue Ocean Wave in the Tube Getting Barreled

It's an all-too common story: You save funds and PTO days to treat yourself to a week-long getaway. Whether you decide to hit the beach or visit the slopes, you thoroughly enjoy the break from the hurried pace of work. You return to your job rested and reinvigorated  but then you open your inbox.

Suddenly you're flooded with hundreds of emails, countless voice messages and co-workers stopping by constantly to drop off new to-do's. As your stress levels hits the roof, you suddenly wish you'd never taken a vacation at all!

This post-vacation chaos may be a main factor why 55 percent of Americans don't use all their vacation days, but that doesn't need to be your reality. Staying on track throughout a well-deserved vacation isn't rocket science, and you can do so with a few smart strategies.

1. Be Proactive and Have a Plan

What you do or don't do before you leave can dramatically affect your stress level when you return. Keep projects flowing smoothly by setting an out-of-office message with the name of a trusted colleague. If appropriate, create a folder of important information about clients and tasks that can be easily accessed while your gone. Set boundaries for when co-workers can contact you and how.

2. Check Email Early

After you return from satisfying your wanderlust, it's easy to put off work until the very last minute — often 8 a.m. Monday morning. However, you can prepare your mind for the transition back to the real world — and reduce stress — by checking your email a day early. Delete unnecessary emails, sort through important action items and flag priority tasks. No need to respond! This exercise simply gives you a head start on your looming workday, eliminating any unwanted surprises that may catch you off-guard.

3. Push Meetings a Day

Ambitious professionals have a tendency to fill up their calendars immediately when they return from a vacation. This can be a big mistake. If your first day back is packed with back-to-back meetings, you'll leave no time to catch up on communication and events that transpired while you were gone. If possible, block your calendar the first day back and immerse yourself in catch-up activities and actual work. Meetings and even the start of major projects can wait one day in most cases.

PTO is an important benefit and should be used fully each year. A vacation allows you to disconnect and return to work with renewed energy and passion

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JoMeeting partner at conferenceb searching — you've been at it for months now, yet you haven't received any leads. It's time to rethink your networking strategy. From reaching out to those in your industry to showing up to networking events, it might seem like you're doing everything right. Networking, however, isn't just a matter of meeting new people and asking about recent openings within their company. Proper networking takes time and requires you to build strong relationships with those in your industry. When you follow tried-and-true networking practices, you won't have to ask for opportunities. Your network will reach out to you.

How to Build Your Network

The next time you show up to a networking event, don't ask about job opportunities. Ask instead for connections. If you're interested in a specific company, for example, you can ask for the name of someone who works there. Anyone who can provide more insight on a specific role or industry is worth chatting with over a cup of coffee. Plus, informational interviews can lead to relationships, which can then lead to opportunities.

Tips to Prepare for Your Informational Meeting

Once you've set up a few meetings, take some time to prepare questions. Your questions can be about the industry, the company and the specific tasks your interviewee accomplishes each day on the job. Consider what you need to know about the job or company to become a better candidate for job openings in the future. When forming questions, always be specific. General questions, like "how does marketing work?" are hard to answer succinctly, and they usually don't benefit you.

How to Format the Informational Meeting

"Winging it" is never a good strategy when going into any type of interview. Instead, have a general sense of how the interview is going to go before your meeting. Here's a simple format you can follow for every interview.

  • Exchange pleasantries
  • Explain why you reached out
  • Establish your credibility
  • Ask your questions
  • Ask for referrals

Keep in mind that if you ask for referrals, the person you're interviewing might not have any connections to provide. Or, perhaps a manager you're interviewing might not want to give out any names until after you've established a relationship. That's why it's essential to send a thank you after your interview and continue to follow up in the future.

Networking is essentially turning connections into relationships. Follow these tips to begin networking properly and increase your chances of landing a job. For more advice on networking and leading a successful job search, reach out to The Five O'Clock Club.

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By Kate Wendleton

After stepping down from day-to-day management of The Five O’Clock Club, I have been able to spend more time pursuing some other important interests of mine, particularly volunteering. I have always emphasized the importance of volunteering to Five O’Clock Club members, not just to expand one’s experience and circle of contacts, but also to create a well-rounded and meaningful life, so I’d like to share some of my experiences here.

People usually imagine retirement — if they imagine it at all — as one big lump of time. But 50 is different from 70, 80, and 90, just as being 10 years old is very different from being 30, 40, and 50. Each of the segments over 50 can be envisioned and planned for. At my age, many people choose to travel, play bridge or tennis, or take courses. But over the years, I had already immersed myself in cooking classes, horticulture classes, and art history classes. I have had more than my fair share of travel and have been active in sports such as hiking, skiing, squash, white-water canoeing, and horseback riding. I decided it was time to give back, but on a really personal level.

It’s a sad fact that 85 percent of nursing home residents get no visitors at all.

In the distant past in Philadelphia, I had volunteered with United Way for 12 years, as well as with the YMCA. I was also very active in the cultural area, volunteering with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Walnut Street Theater Art Gallery, and the Concerto Soloists, a chamber music group. When I lived in New York, I volunteered at NYU hospital for two years, visiting about 50 people every Sunday. So what should I do now?

While running The Five O’Clock Club, my main volunteer outlet for the past several years has been working with young African-American men who have aged out of foster care. My husband and I had already raised three children, and we founded our not-for-profit, Remington Achievers, in order to extend some of the advantages our children had enjoyed to youths who had not been so privileged. Being with these young men every Saturday always took my mind off work better than any vacation could.

New Family Photo-2011Six years later, we are still involved with five (or sometimes six) of the young men, who are now all in their mid-twenties. We see them regularly and still offer the same kind of guidance and help that any parent would provide. We love these young men and want to have a lifelong relationship with them. We are thrilled when we get to hold their young children. We know their life partners or girlfriends. We no longer view this as a volunteer activity, but consider them family and imagine them being a part of our long-term future.

My largest volunteer effort now is visiting residents in nursing homes, as well as hospice patients who have six months or less to live. We have lengthy visits (an hour or more) with about five people per week who are assigned to us, and see an additional hundred people by walking around the nursing homes with our dog and our stash of Lindt chocolate truffles. It’s a sad fact that 85 percent of nursing home residents get no visitors at all. Perhaps their children live far away, or perhaps they have outlived their family and friends. So they are happy to see us.

The residents love to pet our dog, an 8-year-old Whippet named Molly, whom we got permission to bring (with the necessary paperwork from our veterinarian, etc.) after we had spent time in the nursing homes and the staff had gotten to know us. Molly knows when she is working and allows many residents to pet her at the same time. Those with dementia or Alzheimer’s tend to respond well to Molly and seem to be more present and coherent when they are relating to her.

We have given out hundreds of Beanie Babies so that residents can have something soft to touch in between our visits. They enjoy choosing from the different animals, and are also grateful for the chocolate we bring. We always check with the staff to find out who is allowed to have the real chocolate versus the sugar-free version for diabetics — and we always make sure we give chocolate and Beanie Babies to the staff as well!

To round out my volunteer work, I expect soon to starting tutoring West Africans who are new to this country and either want to learn English or prepare for their GED.

These days, a great accomplishment for me is when a dementia patient shows some significant signs of cognition or joy, or when a young man passes a test on his way to becoming an airline mechanic, or when my 90-year-old father is happy with his life despite having lost his wife of 68 years two years ago.

Just as most jobs are created for people, good volunteer work is as well.

Just as most jobs are created for people, good volunteer work is as well. Ads are a way of thinking about certain organizations or fields of work. They are basically a form of job-search research. If you are looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity, don’t be discouraged if some organizations you contact are already swamped with volunteers; there are other places that will be delighted to have you. You are unique, and you will find something that appeals to you and makes the most of your capacity to give. Throughout my life, I have gained excellent experience through my volunteer work that has helped me in my career. So I would urge you to volunteer now. Then, put it on your resume. Work is work, whether you are paid to do it or not. You don’t have to note that you were not paid!

As the Dalai Lama says, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five O’Clock Club.

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