Tagged: company culture

Leaders, Here Is How To Promote From Within

When Jerry was made head of his sales team at a pharmaceutical company, there were groans and comments questioning his promotion.  What Jerry did proved that the head of sales knew a good thing when he saw it.

First, Jerry met with everyone on the team individually to better understand their strengths, preferences, style, unique qualifications and hopes.  A bit of reorganization allowed members to function more freely. Next, Jerry was able to support each of his team as they advanced their qualifications.

Sheila was a wiz a developing new customers from casual contacts.  Her can-do cheeriness brought positive attention to the company.  Jerry began to take her to local events, industry meetings and in-house gatherings where she could be introduced to other department heads.   Not long after, Sheila was promoted to an opening in the public relations department.

Jerry’s  habit of highlighting each individual’s talents and successes, especially in settings where decision makers were present, launched team players toward their own goals.  When a team member was promoted, everyone shared the success.  Jerry offered enlightening stories  that illustrated why the decision to promote was made.  Knowing that the change wasn’t random or based on favoritism helped everyone buy in.

When the culture of a department or a company is based on advocacy of the ambitions and objectives of individuals by the people who wield power, productivity goes up; engagement rises; job satisfaction increases.

Leaders understand that no one wants to be seen as a cog in the wheel that is their job.  Encouraging individual aspirations and making it possible for them to be fulfilled is the distinguishing feature that separates a manager from a leader.

Want to know more about entrepreneurship or career success?  I have resources to share with you! stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.


Interview Questions For Your Potential Boss

To be a credible candidate for a job you must ask questions at the interview.  Sometimes the interviewer would be your boss and that can be intimidating.  However, its also an opportunity to learn more about how she or he leads.  Asking the right questions can give you insight into what your work life would be like if you accepted this position.

Here’s a copy of an article from The Muse

10 Questions to Ask in Your Next Job Interview to Avoid (Another) Toxic Boss

by Alyse Kalish

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re finally getting out of an unhealthy work environment. Good for you! You deserve to work with someone who treats you well.

That said, you certainly don’t want to make the same mistake again and end up working under someone who’s just as bad (or worse) than the last manager you had. As you’re job searching, make sure you ask these 10 crucial interview questions to get to the bottom of what it would be like to report to your potential new boss.

If the Interviewer Is Your Potential Boss

1. How Would You Describe Your Ideal Employee?

Whatever they say, take it to heart and make sure you genuinely fit into what they’re looking for—if you don’t, that’s a giveaway you won’t get along or enjoy working with them.

2. How Do You Like to Give Constructive Criticism?

Make sure they actually do give their team feedback (you don’t want to work somewhere where you’ll never learn and improve) but also express care and concern when doing so.

The point of giving it is not only to help make their job easier (less oversight needed), but also to help you grow. So if they respond with, “Calling people out in front of the whole company to teach them a lesson?” Definitely a red flag.

3. What’s the Process for Reviewing and Evaluating Employees?

Related to the one above: Is there a proper employee review cycle in place? Does it seem like they regularly evaluate and course-correct employee performance? And, do they seem to care about helping employees set and achieve their career goals?

4. How Long Has Your Current Team Been in Place?

Search their answer for any signs of high turnover or conflict. Were there legitimate reasons why their team has shifted? Do they avoid bringing up specifics?

5. How Would Your Direct Reports Describe Your Management Style?

This is a self-awareness test for your interviewer. They should be able to show that their direct reports feel properly managed without sounding egotistical or disengaged.

6. Who Are Your Leadership Role Models?

And ask them why they chose those people—this gives you a sense of what leadership tactics they respect and want to emulate.

7. How Does Your Team Unwind After a Stressful Period or Celebrate a Success?

This is a great way to get a sense of how they value work-life balance and how they acknowledge their team’s accomplishments. They should have some response to this.

If the Interviewer Works With Your Potential Boss

8. What’s [Boss’ Name]’s Management Style Like?

Look for hidden clues here. Do they sound supportive but not a micromanager? Respectful but motivating? And, does the person you’re speaking with seem to like their management style?

9. What’s Your Favorite Part of Working With [Boss’ Name]?

Do they brag about how awesome it is to work with so-and-so, or is their response vague and unimpressive? Take note.

10. How Would You Describe the Team Culture?

Some things you might look out for include how people work together and communicate, how your potential boss is involved in that culture, and how people get along both inside and outside the office.

Two other factors come into play here.

One is body language and nonverbal cues—pay attention to how people respond to your questions and if they seem turned off by them. A long pause can say wonders.

And the other is your own standards and values. I could easily say that X or Y response is a definite no, but at the end of the day everyone is looking for a different kind of work environment and manager.

So, before you enter any interview, make sure you’re clear on what you want in a boss so you can properly assess whether the person you’re interviewing fits the mold. If you’re not sure, think about what qualities you admire in other leaders, past bosses, and mentors (and which ones you don’t).

Finally, if you do smell something fishy during your interview process, consider reaching out to former employees or people in your network who work with or know of this person and ask for their off-the-record opinion.

It can feel awkward, but remember: You’ll have to work with this person every day, five days a week. So the more you know, the more informed your decision will be.

Lets talk about company culture and create a list of questions to ask about the job when the interviewer is from HR.  610-212-6679 or stephanie@accessguidance.com

5 Career Lessons I Wish I’d Had When I Was 22.

Here’s an article from LinkedIn that every undergraduate student and every recent college grad should read.

Sara Sutton Fell     May 5, 2014

I live in a college town, and besides just busy restaurants and more traffic, this time of year is chock-full of college graduations, commencement speeches, and lessons for young professionals just embarking on their careers. I thought back to when I was that age and what advice I wish I had been given — and listened to — that would’ve saved me a lot of stress-related headaches and self-doubt. As part of LinkedIn’s #IfIWere22 series, here are five lessons for my 22-year-old self. (Hopefully they’ll help someone else starting their career and interested in saving themselves some career-related agony!)

Common sense is more important than an MBA.

While an MBA can be useful, it is not a requirement to be successful in business. However, I believe that common sense is. I started my first business when I was 21, with a childhood friend who was also 21– and honestly, we both looked like we were about 16. We had no business experience whatsoever and obviously no MBAs, but we were incredibly driven and passionate about our idea. In an effort to learn from others’ experiences, we actively built a group of advisers who were older, had MBAs, and who were impressively experienced. But our company was an internet company in the dawn of the new economy, and while the advice was well-meaning and came across with confidence and levity, it simply wasn’t as applicable, and they didn’t understand the audience and product nearly as well as we did. Because we were young and lacking professional depth, we didn’t give these two factors enough credit, and too often we were swayed from our instincts by people who we thought were smarter just because of their MBAs. Bottom line, always be open to learn from people who might have more knowledge or experience than you, but don’t sacrifice your common sense for it.

Each and every job will teach you something about what you want to do (or not to).

No matter how bleak or pointless a job might seem, there is actually always a valuable takeaway… it just might not be what you expect. The boss you hate? Well, you might realize that you never want to be a manager like that. The soul-sucking job hawking a crappy product? It might be horrible, but you might learn some amazing marketing tactics that you will use down the line to get national awareness for a product you do believe. Regardless of your job and whether you love it or hate it (or vacillate in between), look for opportunities to learn about what you like and don’t like. These lessons will help you design your career in a way that makes you happy and proud.

Your career path is almost certainly going to be more of a meandering river than a straight path.

You will move backwards, forwards, sideways. There will be jobs that on the outside promise to be a ticket to the top, but instead that end up leaving you laid off when you are seven months pregnant, wondering how the heck you got there (as I did). You might take a job that seems like a step (or more) backwards in your career, but because you are such a high-performer you are offered an unexpectedly awesome skyrocket to the top within a few years (as I was). You might find that you want to switch careers entirely. So try to remember to ride each unexpected twist and turn, take it all for what it’s worth, and try not to stress too much that your career path isn’t as straight as you expected it to be.

Networking just to network can be more distracting than helpful.

We’ve all heard it’s about “who you know”, blah, blah, blah. And I get that, BUT. Be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that quantity is more important than quality. While I admit it’s cool to see the “500+ connections” indicator on someone’s LinkedIn profile, if all of those 500 are strangers or low-grade acquaintances, you’ll be missing the real opportunities that networking really provides. So be sure to seek out substantive professional relationships (mentors, trusted colleagues, people in your company you admire, friends and family, or just people you respect). Keep regular communication with them, and engage them in real conversations. It’s not to say that general casual networking can’t be helpful–it can!–but don’t let it be your only goal. Because those deeper, “real” connections are like investments that will yield better and better results over time, on both a professional and a trusted personal level.

Place high value on company culture.

There are a lot of bells and whistles that companies may advertise as why you want to work there, but no matter what industry you’re in, the culture where you work is vitally important. Is there a ton of turnover? Do colleagues often have advancement opportunities? Do people enjoy working there? What the company values and identifies as important to them will impact you every single day. , also don’t rely on it exclusively. Supplement the information they’ve provided by researching people who work for the company (ideally in a related department) on LinkedIn, see if you have any connections, and ask them for an informational interview. Or use sites like Glassdoor to read reviews of companies from the employees themselves. And in job interviews, always ask specific questions about the culture. Always. You are going to invest a huge amount of your time and energy into this place. Make sure it’s a worthwhile investment.


Sara Sutton Fell is an expert in the online employment market and is currently the Founder and CEO of FlexJobs, an award-winning career website for telecommuting and flexible job listings. Sara is the Founder of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, an initiative to help positive change towards flexible options in the workplace.


Is This Company A good Fit For You?

Justine was offered a job that seemed perfect.  She had the experience to make a success of the projects that would come her way.  Under the anticipation was a feeling of unease that arose when she thought about the people she had met when she had her interview .   The culture of the unfamiliar company was a mystery to Justine.

If you’re job hunting take time to learn what you can about the company values, policies, hierarchy and relationships.

To evaluate values, read the company mission statement.  If its a large company read up on their recent history, transactions, stock.  Google the people in the C suites or other decision makers.  If they have published, scan what they have written and what has been written about them.

Ask your contacts within the company if management promotes from within or typically hires from outside the company.   Find out how decisions are made: top down, collaboration, trial and error.   Within a department are all voices heard?  Can team members propose changes?

Your contacts may also know why the position is open and what the last person to hold it is doing now.  Was she promoted, poached by a competitor, or left for some other reason?

Take a look at the office set up.  Are team members situated in an open space or separated by by walls or cubicles?  Does management have an open door policy?

You will also want to know about compensation.  How often are employees evaluated and what are the criteria for success?  If everyone has a fancy title this company may give meaningless perks instead of salary bumps.  If you can, find out what a typical raise looks like.  These may be questions for your interview, not for your network.

If these suggestions sound like some of the investigation you did when you researched colleges, you’re correct.  Your college hunt was a preview of what you need to do to find a job that is right for you.  It isn’t a favor to the company or to yourself to accept a position that you know won’t be fulfilling or provide a growth experience.  Do your homework so that you find a job worthy of you and one where you will become an asset to the company.

Want to talk about company culture and what you need to succeed?  I’m here to help. stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.

Work From Home May Not Benefit You

Work from home or WFH, is offered by many companies to woo younger workers who want to balance work and life or have a job that integrates with other interests or responsibilities.  Even though employers who are flexible about where their people go to work, not being in the office sometimes produces negatives that can sidetrack even the most effective employee.

The first roadblock is offering WFH when it doesn’t fit the corporate culture.  Businesses that succeed because of rapid innovation or quick turnarounds may leave the home-worker out of the loop on new prospects, projects or teams.  When an immediate fix is needed and you aren’t near the water cooler  you might not be the first one to get the message.

WFH works well for companies that have strong communication and thrive on consistency in fulfilling their mission.

To evaluate a Work From Home option get to know other employees well enough to ask about the policy and how well it works.   You will want to know how much of an employee’s time can be spent out of the office.  Equally important is asking if management and supervision also work from home and how often.  You can’t expect to use alternate locations if the boss never does.  Working from home isn’t much of a perk if the norm is to do so once or twice a year ( like when you’re laid up with the flu).

Before you go for the interview learn as much as you can about the company culture so you will have good insider information on the policies and practices.

The second potential negative comes from a proximity bias.  This is a psychological term for the way in which we perceive others based on seeing or interacting with them.  If you arrive at work at the same time each day as a co worker, even one you don’t know, if asked about her you are more likely to say she’s nice or that you like her.  The same thing happens in an office.  People who see you, even if its crossing paths on the way to get coffee, are more likely to have a positive impression of you.

How this disadvantages people working from home is that they don’t acquire the affinity felt by co workers.   Unfortunately, this is a major factor in promotions and project assignments.  While the person who works from home may be more productive, efficient and in every way superior, the person who works in the office day in and day out is more available to be seen and reaps the reward.

Evaluate the value of working off site in light of the way the hierarchy uses this perk and the probability that you will lose traction on the corporate ladder.   Work From Home might be an advantage but it also might not give you the outcome you seek.

Want to find the best work environment for YOU?  Lets talk! stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679


Should You Take This Job?

Sarah was offered a job that sounded great; well. maybe just OK.  She graduated from college last May and this was her first offer in her field, marketing.  The salary wasn’t what she had been expecting, but, still, it was a job.

We talked about some elements she should consider before committing to the job. We talked about some of the elements she should consider before committing to the job.

Is this job interesting? Does it offer growth potential?

  1. What will you be doing?  Do your duties call on your experience, talents, strengths?
  2. Are there opportunities to grow the job, expand responsibilities?
  3. Can you expect training in new software or new products?
  4. What can you learn from this role, from colleagues, from the operation of the company?
  5.  Have others in your role moved into management or into other departments?

Who are the people? What is the company culture?

  1. Will you be part of a team and work collaboratively?  Will you be isolated? Does this meet your preference?
  2. Do you sense that individuals compete with each other?
  3. Are there people from whom you can learn?
  4. Does the role offer networking opportunities within and without the company?
  5. Are employees promoted; is hiring within first then from outside the company?
  6. Is management flexible and open to new ideas and suggestions?
  7. Do employees seem to be happy?  Is there large unexplained turnover?
  8. Will you be expected to work many uncompensated hours?

Salary and benefits

  1. If the salary is below your expectation, is it also significantly below the market for the job and your level of experience?
  2. When can you anticipate a performance review?
  3. Can you expect a raise following a stellar review?
  4. What will health insurance cost you?
  5. Will you have travel or parking expenses?
  6. Is there an option to work from home part time?
  7. What benefits or perks are offered?
  8. Do the hiring manger  and supervisor seem excited to have you come on board?

Making a decision

           If your experience interviewing and meeting company people has been positive, If you like the tasks assigned to the role and the salary is manageable, then the decision is going to be affirmative.

Sometimes your impressions are mixed.   You may feel you are worth more than is being offered or you’re not certain about the company history of promoting good people, so take some time to look for positive potential outcomes.  Can you learn something from working here?  Is this a strong networking opportunity where you can make valuable contacts?   Can you manage the working conditions?  If there is more positive than negative, give the job a trial run.  Tell yourself you will stay for a year and see how it goes.

There may be  jobs that make you uncomfortable or  cause a tightening in your gut.  Pay attention to those reactions.  No matter how great an opportunity you’re offered, if it is going to make you miserable, walk away.  Even a great job can be dreadful with a boss who is unreasonable or whose management style is opposite of your work needs.  Be honest in your evaluation of supervisors’ attitudes and habits.  There are many who are demanding and gruff but also supportive and helpful.

In the end, you will make or break the job.  The more you set yourself up for success by learning, growing your responsibilities, being kind and helpful to all, the better your experience will be.

Sarah accepted the offer knowing that she would have a performance review in 6 months and would likely receive a salary bump.   What she liked about the company is that she would be working directly with the 2 people who develop new products so she would understand the products’ evolution.   While she was a bit intimidated by the owner and day to day manager, she felt that they could teach her much about business and marketing strategies.

I can help you set up criteria for evaluating or comparing job offers to avoid the pressure of making a quick decision.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679




Is Your Interview Outfit Sabotaging You?

Before you dress for an interview, take time to carefully choose what you will wear.   The outfit that is just right for Company A may not be perfect for Company B.  How do you know?

As you are doing your research on the company before you send the resume and before you land the interview, pay attention to the company culture, including how emloyees dress.  If you have an inside contact, ask how formally people at the level of the role you are seeking dress.  Suits?  Khakis with a suit jacket for meetings?  Khakis and a dress shirt or polo shirt?  Shorts and flip flops?  Your attire should match the job you will interview for, even if others dress more casually.



You can find clues in other places, too.

-Instagram photos taken in offices

-LinkedIn profile pictures

-The company website

-Call the office of the hiring manager’s office  and ask her/his secretary

Its OK to be a bit more formally dressed than your interviewer by wearing a blouse or dress shirt instead of a polo shirt, although you may seem stuffy if you show up in a power suit when the rest of the group is in business casual.

Is over-dressing a deal breaker?  Probably not  but you may feel uncomfortable.             Follow these tips s so that you will feel your best and do your best.

Hair clean and combed?

What foot print are you leaving?

Shoes clean, without obvious wear or scuffs?

Wearing hose or socks?  (Bare feet only if wearing casual sandals is appropriate)

Clothing clean and pressed?

Skirt long enough to protect privacy – yours and the interviewer’s?

Minimal, modest jewellery?

Large tatoos covered and piercings removed?

NB      To help interviewers remember which candidate your are from among a group of interviewees, bring or wear one item that is  memorable.   Wear or carry something distinctive but not distracting.   For women this could be a pin; interesting bracelet; a small square scarf tied around the strap on your handbag where it joins the bag itself.  For men, wear an interesting watch or carry a portfolio for your resume and pad with list of questions.  This way you are “the guy with the navy portfolio” or “the woman with the scarab bracelet”.

Need more tips on interviewing etiquette and practice answering the questions?   I regularly hold interview boot camps.  To join call 610-212-6679 or email stephanie@accessguidance.com



Job Boards Aren’t Helpful To Most Seekers

Says who?

Says Art Campbell, of the Camden County Chamber of Commerce (NJ).  Art points out that 54% of businesses have 5 or fewer employees and 83% have 19 or fewer employees.   These employers  have no HR department because the owner or manager is the person who selects new employees.

Small businesses hire differently from the 2% that employ 100 or more people.  The owners of  small companies are most likely to ask the senior staffer or most trusted one if s/he knows someone who can fill an open position.  They ask colleagues and they look for candidates on LinkedIn.

Open jobs never make it to the newspaper or the job boards because they are filled quickly by someone in their network.

If you are looking to move over or move on, need your first opportunity or are thinking about changing career directions, you need to fortify your network.   Revise your LinkedIn profile to include recent achievements and training.  Expand your connections.  Attend networking events.  If you aren’t visible, you aren’t going to be hired.

Consider larger firms and corporations that post multiple positions on job boards.   From  among the hundreds of  responses, the HR department uses a filtering system to find resumes with the closest fit to the experience and qualifications of each job.  Applicant Tracking Systems are only as good as the person who uploads the job description but who may not have first hand knowledge of what is needed. Batches of resumes are run through the ATS which selects 25 resumes to be hand read.  From the 25,  5 are chosen for interviews and one of the 5 will be hired.  Using keywords does not automatically make an individual the best person for a job; the best candidate may go unrecognized.

Lets look at another scenario.   Matt knows that YouRit is hiring programmers.  His former colleague, Krista, works there.  Matt calls Krista and over coffee he asks if she would recommend him for the job.  She passes his resume on to HR who adds his name to the interview list because he has been pre-screened by Krista.

Had Matt sent in a resume without a sponsor it is likely to have gone to the virtual dustbin marked “Disapproved” or “Disqualified”.  Not only does Matt not get this job, but if he applies again he already has a black mark next to his name which will automatically keep him out of contention.

When hiring, most people will choose the candidate who is the best fit with the company culture over the one with the more impressive resume.  To be that person, take time to understand the company and the business problems and reach out confidently.  Its the personal touch that makes the difference.

Lets talk about your best job search strategy.  Stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679



Five Things To Do On Your First Day On The Job

New job, new people, new responsibilities and you’re the new kid on the block.  Try these simple tasks to smooth your way into your new position.

1.If you’re new to the company you will spend a good part of the day in what is called briefcase-and pad“Onboarding”.  You’ll have paperwork to fill out for HR such as your tax forms and , if you’re lucky, pension, health care and stock option forms.  There may be a confidentiality agreement that companies take very seriously.  Make decisions ahead of time so that you can fill out the forms quickly.

2. Someone will show you your work space and introduce you to the people who work around you and to those whose work interfaces with yours.  Get to know your colleagues and how their work affects and is affected by yours.  Will Cynthia need your report before moving on with her project?

3. Its important to make friends among your colleagues.  When you get into your work you can ask them for feedback that will enhance your performance.

4. Take time to observe the company culture.  Even if your title is the same as in another job, this company has different clients, partners, mission, and unspoken rules.  Dress code, speaking up in meetings, questioning decisions, work place rituals,and chains of authority are all unique to each company and even to each department.

5. Start reading books on career success.  A good starting place is Michael Watkins’        First 90 Days.work place graphic

I have more advice for making a great start  if you are in a new job or your first job.  Call or text 610-212-6679 for personal strategizing.