The Procom Jobcast

What We Learned at Bullhorn Engage 2015

Written by Kent McCrea

It’s been roughly a week since several members of the Procom management team were down in Boston for the annual Bullhorn Engage conference.  A big kudos to the Bullhorn team, and particularly their marketing group for pulling off such an upscale event this year.

bullhorn engage 2015 gordon burnes presenting

On June 11th, delegates from countless staffing services companies converged on the Boston area to gain keen insights from industry leaders.

The conference was unbelievable – Bullhorn organized a wide range of panelists that spoke to the fundamentals of the staffing business – specifically our Consultants, our Clients and our staff.

Lauren Jones (Director of Talent Acquisition Resources & Strategy for Volt Workforce Solutions) led a particularly fascinating session on methodologies for Increasing Candidate Engagement in the Digital Age.

The session focused on a key question…  Has the Consultant experience gotten better or worse? The fact remains that despite tremendous innovation in the recruiting industry over the past 30 years – ranging from the days of faxing resumes in the ’90s, to the rise of email and job boards in the early 2000s and today’s world of multi-platform, multi-medium recruiting – the Consultant experience has in many cases suffered.

As our partners are increasingly challenged for time, we find that more and more of our conversations and services are delivered through low-fidelity communication platforms, such as email, VMS portals, text message (thank you, Millennials) and voicemail.

Some of this we control, as the recruiting industry as a whole has sought out more efficiency, but other items – such as the trend to VMS interfaces for Client interactions – are the result of a tidal industry forces that are very much beyond our influence. For me, the phrase “adapt or die” readily comes to mind.

And despite these challenges for time and the trend to low-fidelity service points, we face a paradox… Our partners on the Client and Consultant side have rising expectations of personalized service and one-to-one relationships.

So what’s a recruiting team to do?

Well, the theme of the conference was Engage, and the Procom team walked away refreshed, energized, and ready for this challenge. It is clear to us that opportunity will not come from pursuing the same old ways of working. It will be up to us to develop our approach to deal with the future and this new environment we live in.

While our technology teams work to refine the tools we have available (and there are exciting things coming), we must remember that in our business people matter, and it comes down to individuals to make a difference.  This has always been the culture at Procom, and it is our job as managers and recruiting professionals to never lose sight of it.


 

kent-mccrea

Kent McCrea is Procom’s newly appointed COO.

He is a member of the management team for the Procom Group of Companies. Kent is dedicated to providing Procom’s customers with technology-driven resources and solutions that build business value. Kent’s areas of focus include competitive analysis and financial management. He brings to Procom a diverse career background and powerful insights into the staffing services industry.


 

 

Largest Independent Canadian Staffing Firm Names New COO

Procom Congratulates Kent McCrea

kent mccreaIt is with great pleasure that Procom announces the appointment of Kent McCrea to the position of Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the Procom Group of Companies. Kent’s academic credentials include a BBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and an MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Prior to joining Procom in 2008, Kent worked with CIBC World Markets in New York and became a holder of the Chartered Financial Analyst ® designation.

Since his arrival, Kent has played an ever-increasing role in support of growth for the Procom Group of Companies, first taking on responsibilities for Keous – A Procom software development subsidiary – before relocating to Ottawa as Branch Manager for the Procom Consulting Group. In recent years he has been increasingly involved in operational aspects of Procom. His appointment to the position of COO is a well-deserved formalization of his ongoing efforts.

“I’m truly excited to take on this new role,” said Kent. “The relationships between Procom and our clients have evolved admirably over the years, and the increase in business has brought the company to a turning-point. It’s both a challenge and a wonderful opportunity to be able to help see Procom through this next period of momentous growth.”

About Procom

Procom is one of North America’s leading staffing and contract workforce services providers. Successfully meeting the needs of Fortune 500 clients for nearly 40 years, we have 14 offices across North America, with over 8,500 skilled professionals currently on assignment.

Procom has long been recognized as a market-leading source of high-performing services and solutions that transform how our clients acquire and manage the very best talent. Relying on the excellence of individuals to make a difference, we know that people matter.

And we want to work with you.

Contact Procom

To learn more about Kent McCrea and Procom, please contact
Nicole Dupuis, Marketing Manager
2200 Yonge Street, Suite 700
Toronto, ON M4S 2C6
Toll Free: 1-800-461-4878 x607
nicoled@procom.ca
CFA® and Chartered Financial Analyst® are registered trademarks owned by CFA Institute.

The 2015 Branham 300 List – Procom Continues to be Canada’s Largest ICT Staffing Company!

branham 300  logo

 

Procom is pleased to announce its rankings on the Branham Group’s release of the Top 300 List.  The Branham 300 listing has become the most comprehensive listing of publicly traded and privately held IT companies in Canada.

The Branham Group’s 300 List was released on April 22nd and appeared in a special edition of the Globe and Mail newspaper, in which Procom held on to its 1st place ranking on the Top 10 Canadian ICT Staffing Companies.

Procom also appears on two other lists placing 18th on the Top 250 Canadian Tech companies, as well as maintaining our rank of 4th place on the top 25 IT Professional Service Companies.

We continue to grow, and remain one of the largest Canadian-owned and operated companies in the country!

We take this moment to thank our clients for continuing to put their trust in Procom, supporting our reputation for delivering the highest quality in IT Staffing and Contract Workforce Services. We’d also like to extend a special thanks to our employees for their efforts in keeping Procom one of the best-performing companies in the business.

For more information on the Branham Group and to view the results of the Top 300 List please visit their website.

For more information on Procom please visit our ‘About’ page.


 

Procom est heureux d’annoncer son classement sur la liste Top 300 du groupe Branham.

La liste Branham300 est devenue la liste la plus complète des  entreprises cotées en bourse et privées dans le domaine de TI au Canada.

 

La liste a été publiée le 22 avril 2015 et est apparu dans une édition spéciale du journal Globe and Mail, dans lequel Procom maintient son classement de 1ère place sur la liste des 10 meilleures sociétés de recrutement dans le domaine de la TIC.

Procom apparaît aussi sur deux autres listes, classée 18ème sur la liste des 250 meilleures sociétés technologiques canadiennes, ainsi que le maintien de notre 4ème place sur les 25 meilleures sociétés de services professionels en TI.

Nous continuons à developper, et restons l’une des plus grandes sociétés canadiennes au pays!

Nous aimerions profiter de l’occasion pour remercier nos clients de leur confiance continue, leur soutien de notre réputation comme fournisseur de services de haute qualité dans le domaine recrutement et main d’oeuvre en TI. Nous aimerions aussi remercier tout particulièrement nos employés pour leurs efforts à maintenir Procom comme l’une des sociétés les plus performantes de l’industrie.

Pour en savoir plus sur le groupe Branham et pour voir les résultats de la liste Top 300, veuillez visiter leur site.

Pour plus d’informations sur Procom, veuillez visiter notre section “A propos de nous“.

What’s Happening? Here Are Our 1st Quarter Labour Market Trends

The market trends for this quarter saw a slight dip in the demand for Developers and PMs, but a proportional rise in the need for Business Analysts. That said, Developers clearly maintain a decisive lead on the action, and enjoy double that of Project Managers as the next highest trend.

Traditionally in the lowest demand across these five categories, QA Specialists and Architects are essentially swapping stats here, representing a variance of less than a percentage each category from early 2015.

An important figure to consider as we all emerge from the slightly slower holiday season is that jobs received overall is up 3.1%! These numbers remain consistent with what we have seen to date, and are metrics that (so far) show little fluctuation.

Procom's labour market trends for April 2015

Procom Wins with Deloitte for 9th Year in a Row!

Canada's Best Managed Companies - Platinum Member Logo

Each year Deloitte recognizes the Best Managed companies in Canada. This year represents Procom’s 9th year as a recipient of this prestigious award.

Here at Procom we are overjoyed and extremely proud to be named among the 2014 Platinum Club winners of Canada’s Best Managed Companies!

This is the ninth time Procom has been a recipient of this distinguished honour, given annually by Deloitte – a testament to our core values of reliability and integrity, our position leading the staffing industry in Canada, and our determination to constantly grow, improving our processes and performance, always.

Procom began its involvement with the Best Managed Companies program in 2006, and since that time our business has more than doubled, despite one of the largest recessions in recent memory.

In 2013, Procom achieved Platinum status and our portfolio of large enterprise clients stands today at its strongest level ever. Our relationship with the Best Managed Companies program has helped build our reputation and attract top discerning clients, but the dedication and teamwork of our talented employees has been a key factor in Procom’s success.

“Having started Procom out of my home some 38 years ago, I couldn’t be happier to see the company thriving today. I truly believe that it is our commitment to our values, and the extraordinarily high caliber of people making up this company that set us apart from our competition each and every day. In this regard, we strive to not only lead the staffing and payroll industry, but also to supporting its future.”

We look forward to growing, innovating, and earning a decade’s worth of Best Managed titles. We know well that our people make all the difference. We’d like to extend a very warm thank you to everyone on the Procom team for their hard work & continued support! You deserve this most of all. Indeed, we couldn’t have done it without you.

Frank McCrea, CEO & President

Deloitte will be recognizing Procom, in addition to our fellow Canadian winners of the Best Managed Companies on the @DeloitteCanada Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/deloittecanada. If you would like to join the conversation please use the hashtag #BestManaged.

 


L’expertise de Procom a été reconnue par Deloitte 9 années de suite

Chaque année, Deloitte Canada reconnaît les sociétés les mieux gérées au Canada.  Cette année Procom a été récipiendaire de cette prestigieuse distinction pour la neuvième année consécutive.

L’équipe de Procom is particulièrement heureuse et très fière d’avoir été récompensée par et obtenu la distinction honorifique du Club Platine de la société la mieux gérée au Canada

C’est la neuvième fois que Procom a été le récipiendaire de cette distinction honorifique, attribuée chaque année par Deloitte.  Elle constitue un témoignage de nos propres idéaux et valeurs de fiabilité et d’intégrité.  Elle conforte notre position de chef de file de l’industrie de la dotation de personnel au Canada et notre détermination à continuer de croître et à améliorer nos procédures et nos performances encore et toujours plus.

Notre participation au programme des Sociétés les Mieux Gérées nous a aidé à bâtir notre réputation et à attirer les clients les plus exigeants.  Mais c’est le dévouement et le travail d’équipe de nos employés talentueux et dynamiques qui a joué un rôle essentiel dans le succès de Procom.

“Ayant fondé Procom à partir de mon domicile, il y a 38 ans, je ne pourrais pas être plus heureux de voir la société si prospère aujourd’hui. Je suis persuadé que c’est notre attachement à nos valeurs, et le niveau extraordinairement élevé du personnel de cette société qui, chaque jour , nous distinguent de nos concurrents. A cet égard, nous nous efforçons d’être non seulement les meilleurs de l’industrie de recrutement et de dotation, mais également à soutenir son avenir”.

Nous nous réjouissons de continuer à accroitre, à innover et à gagner des prix de Sociétés les Mieux Gérées pendant toute une décennie. Nous savons très bien que notre personnel fait toute la différence. Nous aimerions remercier chaleureusement chacun des membres de l’équipe Procom pour leur travail acharné et leur soutien continu. Vous méritez cette distinction plus que nul autre, car effectivement nous n’aurions pas pu atteindre ce niveau d’excellence sans votre appui.

Frank McCrea, PDG et Président

Procom sera reconnu par Deloitte, en plus de d’autres gagnant canadiens du prix des Sociétés les Mieux Gérées au Canada sur le fil Twitter de Deloitte, à http://twitter.com/deloittecanada. Si vous aimeriez vous joindre à la conversation, veuillez utiliser le mot-clic #MieuxGérées.

 

How’s The Market? New Year, Steady Stats

It’s 2015, but the New Year has only brought minor shifts in job placement trends. Although Developers, Business Analysts, and Project Managers remain the top 3 placements for last quarter, Business Analyst placements decreased by 7.2%, sliding down to third on the list while Project Management placements jumped to second place, increasing by 1.4%.

MostHiredRoles4-01

The 3 Ways Your Organization Can Help Recruiters Make the Best Candidate Submissions

A recent Procom survey revealed some surprising ways in which you can help recruiters find your organization the perfect candidate.

Engaging contract labour cuts costs and improves your bottom line, but it can be difficult to find best practices for dealing with the recruiters who get you those contractors. The key, it turns out, is communication. Most recruiters at Procom agreed that the “hands-off” approach is not the best way to go about helping them screen potential candidates. In fact, only 1% of recruiters suggested that hiring managers remain un-involved in the process.

When asked about the best ways in which clients can improve the candidate screening process, 40% of Procom recruiters agreed that having clear, unchanging criteria for the role was most important. 27% of recruiters surveyed said regular check-ins helped them find the best fit for the job, while 22% of recruiters contradicted the top result by suggesting that flexible criteria from hiring managers was most helpful.

How can an organization apply these somewhat conflicting results? The truth is that these pieces of recruiter advice tie in together quite well, in that they all require clear and open lines of communication. A regular check in with a recruiter can help you examine and re-negotiate your criteria for a role if you’re flexible, or re-affirm your strict guidelines if you’re set on a certain type of candidate.

Think of these top 3 survey results as a venn diagram, with the flexible approach and the inflexible approach as overlapping circles, and regular check-ins in the middle. Whether you have strict or flexible criteria for the role you’re filling, clear communication with your recruiter about your expectations is key:

Whether you have strict or flexible criteria for the role you're filling, clear communication with your recruiter about your expectations is key.

Whether you have strict or flexible criteria for the role you’re filling, clear communication with your recruiter about your expectations is key.

Let us know how often you engage with recruiters during the screening process! Leave a comment to tell us more about how you like to find the best candidate for your job.

Video Friday: dogs in the office

Once upon a time not so very long ago, if you suggested a bring-your-dog-to-work day, people would have looked at you like you were a Martian. Now, though, it’s a growing trend, and many workplaces are finding that, rather than being a distraction, a dog or two around the office can do wonders for morale and productivity. If you don’t believe us, check out these studies from CNN:

Randolph Barker, a dog-loving management professor, monitored the stress levels of employees at a retailing and manufacturing business with a 14-year history of allowing dogs in the workplace.

On any given day, the firm would have 20 to 30 dogs and 450 to 550 employees working across a facility about the length of five to seven football fields, Barker says.

A sample of 76 employees were studied — some brought their dogs to work, some didn’t, and some didn’t own dogs. The study found that while everyone started the day with low baseline levels of the stress hormone cortisol, those who didn’t bring their dogs to work reported drastically higher levels of stress by the end of the working day.

Those who had their dogs with them had low levels of stress throughout the day, and about half of that group felt that dogs were important to their productivity. Of the two groups without dogs, 80% felt that the dogs in the workplace had no negative effect on productivity.

It’s also possible that having an office dog could engender a pack mentality in employees.

In 2010, psychologists at Central Michigan University ran tandem experiments to find out what impact the presence of a dog could have on team work. Paired groups were given a collaborative exercise that involved generating ideas and then reaching a consensus on which one was best.

So there you go. Dogs in the office. Not such a bad idea. And now, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for; a video of a whole bunch of dogs getting unleashed on an office full of stressed out employees.

Beyond Manic Monday

Looks like this guy is having a great Tubesday.

Looks like this guy is having a great Tubesday.

How many of us have sat, staring at our screens, trying to figure out what to do next?

How many of us are doing that right now?

Maybe we all just need some direction. Enter the case for themed days, via Fast Company. Make a list of all the things you have to do in a week, and then organize them into categories. Then assign a category to each day, and you’re off to the races!

It’s not to say that you still won’t have certain tasks that you do every day (good luck telling your boss that you are only replying to emails on Thursday), but when you have time in-between those daily to-dos, you won’t be at a loss with how to fill that time.

Are you waiting to hear back from someone in marketing about the Request For Proposal you’re working on together? No sweat. If you’ve decided that it’s Followup Friday, you won’t flail around half-starting things while the feedback loop closes. Instead, you’ll know to check in with all of the clients who you haven’t chatted with a bit, to see if there is anything you can do to strengthen that relationship.

Another great perk is that you get to stay on one topic all day. We’re sure you’re a genius who is able to have a financials meeting followed by an HR one, but not everyone can do that. But if you are focusing on prospecting all day, you don’t have to keep jumping from headspace to headspace, and instead can have meetings that compliment and build on each other.

When Forbes writer Rachel Gillett tried out themed days for a week, she saw a decrease in procrastination and an increase in workflow. That’s good enough for us.

What would your themed days be? Tell us, in the comments!

Stock photography about office holiday parties

Well, you survived the season of stressful party games and awkward banter around the chips table. What could be better? Probably everything? Anyway, all those Santa hats got us thinking, how does the idyllic world of stock photography treat holiday work parties? Let’s find out.

noise hats

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do noise-makers and Santa hats even go together? Either way, imagine how enraged the cleaning staff are going to be tomorrow when they come in and have to find a way to vacuum up seven thousand pieces of crepe paper confetti. The worst.

gift affair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh man. Is there anything more stressful than the office Secret Santa gift exchange? We think these two are either having a secret affair, or have worked in the same department for 8 years and never actually had a conversation. Either way, the look in their eyes is one of pure panic.

ornament

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This man has literally never seen a Christmas tree decoration in his life. Look at his poor confused face! If it wasn’t for his awful striped shirt, we’d feel kind of bad for him.

mansplain

 

 

 

 

 

You just know this dude is mansplaining some aspect of this woman’s job to her that she does way better than he ever will. Stay strong, boxy suit lady! Keep applying for other jobs!

Carl

 

 

 

 

 

No, Carl from Finance. You try this every year, and no.

Just 350 days until next year’s office party.

What is YOUR best office party story? Tell us, in the comments!

 

Facebook thinks it can tell when you look drunk

The Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research Lab is trying to save you from yourself.

The Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research Lab is trying to save you from yourself.

We’ve talked a lot over the last little while about the importance of social media in searching for a job, how employers aren’t just vetting candidates social media, but are using things like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find potential new hires. We’ve also mentioned how, given this, you probably want to keep your profile as clean as possible, which can be tough during a time of year that’s basically an endless round of parties Thankfully, the folks at Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research Lab have taken some time off of building robot butlers for Mark Zuckerberg to help with that. Their new digital assistant will analyze your face in photos and try to determine if you’ve possibly had one too many.

Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Research Lab is developing a “digital assistant” that will identify whether you look drunk or sober in a photograph and ask if you actually want to upload that photo. Yann LeCun, who oversees the lab, told Wired magazine that the program would be like someone asking you, “Uh, this is being posted publicly. Are you sure you want your boss and your mother to see this?”

This enhanced facial recognition program—an extension of the technology that recognizes your face from photos and suggests tagging—will be developed using a form of artificial intelligence (AI) called “deep learning.” It’s a promising avenue in the field that “could understand language and then make inferences and decisions on its own,” according to MIT Technology Review. Deep learning has been studied since the 1980s but has recently seen tremendous development—Android phones use it to recognize voice commands and Microsoft uses it to translate Skype calls in real time, for example.

Of course some folks aren’t crazy about these developments. They don’t’ like Facebook analyzing faces, fearing that the faces will be used for targeted ads, or having their computer be anything more than a conduit for their online interactions. They think it would be like their phone keeping them from making calls. Other people, though. are just worried about Facebook insulting them.

@Danielle_CE@guardian That won’t get offensive at all. Facebook: “You look drunk? You REALLY want to post that?” Me: “That’s just my face”

— Zack Cooper (@Z_Cooperstown) December 10, 2014

What do you think of this? Blessing? Curse? Opportunity for accidental insult? Let us know in the comments.

‘What do you want to do with your life?’ and other questions not to ask your younger cousin at Christmas dinner

The youth are our future, just don't bombard them with vague questions.

The youth are our future, so maybe don’t bombard them with vague questions.

You probably have a least one teenager in your family. Maybe it’s your little cousin, maybe it’s your niece or nephew. If you don’t see them often, you’re probably going to struggle to think of something to say to them at Christmas this year. We don’t have a lot of insight into that, other than to remember that teenagers aren’t a monolithic group, they’re individual’s with individual interests.

We would, however, advise against asking one specific question: “What do you want to do with your life?”

The Globe and Mail has a pretty good breakdown as to why that’s a bad question:

Underlying all these questions is the good-hearted attempt to prophesize a child’s future career prospects. This notion is troublesome since the whole concept of work is in a state of disruption.

It’s no secret young people are already struggling with employment. When October’s U.S. unemployment data was released, it showed that 37 per cent of young Americans, aged 16 to 24 were neither employed nor unemployed, meaning they aren’t working but have been out of the work force for too long to be considered unemployed. That trend continued in November.

A Pew Research report suggested that while this young and unemployed cohort may have grown disillusioned with trying to find work, there may be another trend at play: teens and young adults don’t seem as interested in entering the work force as they use to be. The number of young people who said they just didn’t want to enter the work force has grown by 10 percentage points since 2000. Many have decided to stay at school rather than battle it out in a challenging job environment. Is this the chicken or the egg dilemma?

In short, it’s a scary time out there for young people. They have no idea what they’re going to do after school. They don’t even know what jobs are going to exist by the time they’re done university.

If you want to ask them a career-related question, the Globe suggests you try this:

Instead of asking kids what they want to do, how about focusing on what issues they want to solve? What inspires them to get out of bed? How do they build up their skills, network and brand so they can walk into new roles they want once they finish a degree

They also add that you shouldn’t be too surprised if they respond by asking you “How are you going to help me launch my career?” It’s a fair question.

 

Tweet me a job!

Oh hey! It's @ajob tweeting at you. Excellent.

Oh hey! It’s @ajob tweeting at you. Excellent.

Social media has changed a lot of things in the last decade-and-a-half, from how we define the terms “friend” and “like” to how much we know about the social life of our cousin Jeff. It’s also changed how we look for jobs, and how employers find us. One of those changes is a rise in the amount of “passive” recruiting that takes place, or recruiting of people not actively seeking employment. And if you think that employers are just looking through LinkedIn, think again. Here’s are some of Jobcast’s tips for recruiters.

They may not be visiting your career site, or looking on job boards, or even have a LinkedIn profile, but now a day’s pretty much every single human (in the first world at least) has some form of internet presence. Heck, there were over 35 million #selfies posted on Instagram last year. There are 231.7 million active monthly users on Twitter, Google plus adds 25, 000 new users on the daily, and Facebook accounts for 16% of total internet use.

If you can’t reach candidates via job boards, you can tweet at them, connect with them on Facebook, add them to your G+ circles, and even heart their excessive Instagram selfies. People love it when you double tap their #selfies!

That’s right. They’re even in your Instagram, which means you may want to think twice before posting those bachelor party pics. And lest you think this is just a western phenomenon, read these quotes from India’s Jagran.com:

“As talent leaders in India are also increasingly targeting ‘passive’ talent or quality candidates who are not actively seeking their next job, recruiters need to devise a more intelligent hiring strategy to stay ahead of this trend,” Abdulla said.

“How a recruiter shapes and influences a candidate’s perception of the organisation as a place to work is a major task for any talent organisation or HR function,” Abdulla said.

So there you go, even when you aren’t looking for a job, jobs are out there looking for you. They could even be seeking you out from the other side of the world.

 

What do you want for Christmas? A job?

Jobs, a great gift, but super hard to fit under the tree.

Jobs, a great gift, but super hard to fit under the tree.

If you’re hunting for a new job right now, you’re probably debating scaling back your efforts for the next few weeks. You’re busy with holiday obligations, and most hiring managers probably aren’t around anyway, right? Wrong. According to the hiring professionals surveyed by Undercover Recruiter, this is the time to set yourself apart from the pack:

Freyja White

Senior Professional Recruiter at COASTLINE

I don’t find the job market slows down at all – in fact quite the opposite. Companies are in the last month of their fiscal year, their budgets for the New Year are already approved and sitting on their desks, they know who they are replacing in the new year and what new positions are being added to their departments and they are raring to find new people to hire.

So, no, don’t slow down a job search at all!

Jose Watson

Pioneering Spirit Recruiter for Lowe’s Home Improvement

I say take advantage of this slow season to really get your employment brand out for candidates to celebrate new careers!

Claire Giancola-Belmares, MBA

Director of Talent Acquisition, Thomson Legal at Thomson Reuters; Dakota/Scott County Workforce Investment Board

Give yourself the gift of a new opportunity in the New Year! The holidays are the perfect time to reflect on your current situation, research and make a resolution to propel your job search.

There you go. This is the time to double down on your efforts. Go get yourself a new job for Christmas!

 

“Oh look, chips!” (a holiday-party-small talk how-to)

Just doing some light mingling.

Just doing some light mingling.

The office holiday party is an event that inspires a lot of different emotions in people. On one hand, it’s a chance to get to know your colleagues as people, and find out that Janice from IT is wickedly funny and Muhammad from accounting knows all the words “Stayin’ Alive.” That, and there’s a really good dinner and a desert buffet at the end.

On the other hand, it’s also where you get to hear your slightly sauced CEO give a speech that includes the phrase “tearing the competition a new one” — that really happened to a friend of ours — and discover that Lou from marketing has a lot of opinions on, well, pretty much everything.

Here are a conversation starters from the folks at Levo, that will hopefully distract Lou when he starts explaining the “proper” way to cook salmon.

1) What’s one word that categorizes 2014 for you?

Often, the holiday season wraps up the corporate financial year, so retrospective thinking is common during this time period. With this question, you are essentially inviting someone to think about and summarize the impact of 2014. This question opens up many doors as someone can take the perspective of work, personal life or even a more macro worldview. How your conversation partner answers this question will help you discover a lot about them as a person and colleague. Ask follow up questions to uncover the stories behind the theme of 2014 and conversation will flow from there.

2) If Santa could put one gift for you under the tree, what would it be?

In the spirit of holiday fun, throw out this question to spark a lighthearted discussion with a stranger. Often in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the adult in us overtakes the inner child. Offer someone the chance to ignite their childlike enthusiasm and imagination as you inquire about one thing they really desire and why. You may discover a shared hobby or pastime that could spark an entirely new tangent in the conversation. Be sure to share, too! Dream up your most desired gift and share your story behind it.

3) What are you most excited for next year?

When you give someone the chance to talk about what excites them, you learn about what they value most. Pay special attention to facial expressions and body language when people speak about plans with passion and excitement. Being a great listener means taking in all the verbal and non verbal cues in conversation and sometimes reflecting it back to the speaker. If you notice someone’s eyes light up when they’re speaking about a project, tell them about their glow.

There you go, you’re ready to be the most fascinating person of the evening. Except for Muhammad, because that Robin Gibb impersonation is wild.

Four places not to network

This would be an inopportune time to start handing out business cards.

This would be an inopportune time to start handing out business cards.

Networking is crucial to career advancement, and we’ve written about it more than a few times over the course of this blog. All that said, it’s important to have an “off” switch when it comes to networking, too. If you’re always in networking mode, you’re probably looking pretty off-putting and doing your career more harm than good. Here are four places where you should never network, according to US News and World Report. Some of these seemed obvious to us, but you can never take these things for granted:

1) At a celebration with an honored guest or a highly personal focus on someone

The risk: Shifting the focus of the event away from the honoree and onto you. Ambitious networkers can come across as a bull in china shop if they are gregariously greeting others and asking for business cards.

The best practice: Focus on the celebration and the celebrant. You can still network, but only in a very subtle way. In “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie says if you can get people to speak about themselves and what’s important to them, you’ll have their interest.

2) At any event, when it’s way past closing time

The risk: Hearing and seeing more than you want to or need to and being remembered as the person who saw and heard someone at a time that was not his or her finest hour. There are times when we regret our behavior. And so we may avoid anyone we associate with or remember from that moment in our life. It’s very similar to the halo effect experienced when someone associates you with a wonderful event or happening in their life, except the association is now negative.

The best practice: Watch the time at an event. There is a point when the attendance in the room wanes, and that’s when you should leave. Don’t try to network when people are becoming louder or more argumentative or dropping their inhibitions.

3) At a highly personal tragedy

The risk: Coming off as callous, calculating and uncaring. These moments and gatherings are all about the survivors or the victims and those who care about them. Seeing this as an opportunistic moment can immediately backfire and be extremely detrimental to your reputation.

The best practice: Now is the time to leap into action and to help in ways that are helpful to those in need or suffering. In “The Go-Giver,” Bob Burg shares that changing focus from getting to giving, putting others’ interest first and continually adding value to their lives ultimately leads to unexpected returns.

4) At a children’s party or event

The risk: Being perceived as that overly ambitious person who puts his or her needs and interest above that of a child. Imagine being at a soccer game and realizing that the person you’ve been wanting to meet is sitting next to you on the bleachers. There’s no amount of time or money at stake that makes this the right time to network.

The best practice: Remember the basics of relationship building: Find out what’s important to someone, and share your common frame of reference. This could be quick comments about how well his or her child is doing or a comment on how great it is to be able to see the game. Be a part of the event, and make time to participate.

So there you go, no children’s parties, no funerals, no events where everyone is bombed. Again, we feel like this shouldn’t be necessary, but on the other hand, we all know “that guy” who would drop a business card on you while you were fleeing a burning building. We also all cringe when he sees us in the line at Starbucks. Maybe the next time he’s telling you about how hard he’s hustling, you could show him this post.

Have you ever had someone try and network with you at an inopportune time? Let us know in the comments.

Be proactive at work, but not too proactive

Hold your horses there, eager beavers. (They said, fearlessly mixing animal metaphors.)

Hold your horses there, eager beavers (they said, fearlessly mixing animal metaphors.)

“Proactive” has become a bit of a go-to buzzword in job descriptions over the last few years. Everyone’s ideal candidate is “proactive.” In fact, according to the folks at Inc., 87 percent of job ads have the word in there somewhere. But, apparently you don’t want to be too proactive. You want to be able to read people’s cues before you go jumping in. A recent study by professors at the University of Bonn and Florida State University found that being proactive can backfire:

“Anyone taking personal initiative should first make certain that one’s own activities are also actually desired,” professor Gerhard Blickle from the Institute of Psychology at the University of Bonn said in a press statement.

Employees should be careful when tackling projects that do not fall directly into their line of work or expertise without carefully communicating their intentions first. Otherwise, the study warns, they risk being labeled as “isolated troublemakers.”

“This consequently means that appropriate identification of favorable opportunities and the ability to adapt to the respective situation are important preconditions for skillfully putting personal initiative behaviors into place,” Blickle said.

The research went in three phases:

The first study involved 146 employees with their supervisors from a wide variety of fields. Standardized tests were used to survey the extent to which the employees themselves took the initiative for action and had social acumen: How well are colleagues’ emotions and plans perceived and classified? Is communication efficient? The questions also focused on the ability to react appropriately to the respective situation. Together, the employee and supervisor estimate how receptive the respective company is to proactive behavior.

In the second study, a questionnaire was used to ask 143 employed participants about their skill in utilizing favorable opportunities for changes through carefully selected behaviors. In addition, personal initiative was assessed in turn and the employee’s performance was evaluated by the supervisor. Result: The personal initiative demonstrated led to better performance appraisals if the skill regarding correct behaviors was pronounced.

The third phase of the research confirmed that soft skills, like a “feel for the appropriate moment,” are key if you want to be the sort of person who steps up to take on extra tasks.

Along with employees and supervisors, colleagues were also included in the survey this time. The result confirms the previous findings: A positive atmosphere for proactive behavior only leads to good performance appraisals if the participants demonstrated a high degree of personal initiative as well as social acumen and sensitivity to the right opportunity.

So before you go waving your hand to take on every project, take a look around. Are you going to be stepping on someone’s toes? Mowing their metaphorical lawn? Is there a way you could clearly communicate what you want to do?

How proactive are you at work? Let us know in the comments.

 

Two Tips to Stay Motivated During the Holiday Season

Resist the urge to grab for this crown!

Resist the urge to grab for this crown!

This time of year can be so tough to stay focused. There are treats all around, and workplace festivities — more on those in future blog posts. Also, let’s be real, it’s really tempting to try to get some online holiday shopping done, “in between tasks.” Next thing you know, you notice the sky is getting darker and you realized another day of productivity has sort of passed by you.

What to do?

Blogger Lauren Berger has some great tips to pass along. We’re going to focus on our two favourites:

  1. Take a walk: This is one of those pieces of advice that feels so inane that you kind of half-roll your eyes every time someone suggests it. It’s right up there with telling someone to  “take a long bath” if they are feeling overwhelmed, or saying they should “just take deep breaths” if they are having a panic attack. Unlike these two things, however, we can vouch for its effectiveness. In addition to helping prevent dementia, a walk just functions as a great reset button when you are spinning your wheels. If it’s too cold, just walk faster! Trust us.
  2. Make a plan: Often when we can’t seem to start working, it’s because we don’t have an obvious next-thing-to-do. It’s amazing how effective it can be to just stop, and figure out all the steps to a task (even one that seems simple!) and write them all down. You might realize why you are stuck — maybe there is a report you need to read, and you forgot you don’t have it yet. Or maybe just the thrill of being able to cross things off as you do them will be all the motivation you need to hop back to it.

What do YOU do when you can’t seem to hop to it? Let us know, in the comments!

How to ask for a raise (according to an early 20th Century German philosopher)

Walter Benjamin, thinking very deeply about how to ask for a raise.

Walter Benjamin, thinking very deeply about how to ask for a raise.

If you were looking for advice on how to ask for a raise, you probably wouldn’t think to ask Walter Benjamin. For one thing, the Frankfurt School philosopher was known for his analysis of Goethe and Kafka, and translating Proust into German. He wasn’t known as a high powered recruiter and career guru. Also, he’s been dead for over 70 years, so asking him anything would be a bit of a challenge.

Nonetheless, in 1931, Benjamin went on German radio and gave listeners some advice about how to ask for a raise:

  1. Timing is key. Don’t approach your boss just after you have underperformed on a project. Wait until you have done something great, the boss has acknowledged it, and the doors to his/her heart and mind are metaphorically open.
  2. Be confident… When speaking with the boss–don’t be shy, fearful, or submissive. Most bosses like people with gumption.
  3. …but not arrogant. However, never be impolite or arrogant. Simply remind him of your accomplishments and draw attention to the value that you have brought to the company. State the facts.
  4. Be direct. Above all, maintain your dignity, stay on point, and speak your mind.
  5. Own up. If your boss reminds you of a time when you were not productive, do not blame your poor performance on a colleague or circumstance. Doing so is unfair and makes a poor impression. Point out that you are loyal to the company, want to contribute, and are eager for greater responsibility.
  6. Broaden your appeal. Do not address the question of the pay raise in terms of your needs alone. The boss is interested in his business, not in the private lives of his employees.
  7. No threats. Do not threaten to quit. Your boss is likely to call your bluff. You are not an injured party. Threatening to quit never works.
  8. Watch your words. Do not use the words “unjust”or “unfair,” when asking for a raise. A boss does not let himself be told which employee deserves a raise. That is his concern. It is inappropriate to speak to your boss about other employees’ salaries.
  9. Be positive. Maintain an arsenal of courage and composure, dignity, and determination. Cultivate a fundamental attitude, a state of mind, an inner bearing that communicates the basic values that a successful person displays at work, with the boss, and in the rest of her life. Be clear, determined, and courageous. Know what you want. Remain both calm and polite throughout the conversation. Tune your antenna to your boss’s state of mind. Be curious about her perspective. Ask her questions about her career, about how she got promoted and won raises. You do not have to sacrifice your dignity in the slightest.
  10. Be prepared. Be composed. Do not be discouraged. Consider your struggles a kind of sport, and approach them as you would a game. Contend with the challenge in a relaxed and pleasant manner. If the boss says no, keep a clear head. Ask him why, and when you should approach the issue again, and what you can do to improve your chances. Successful people are never sore losers; they don’t whine and give up after every failure. In fact, they keep their chins up, weather misfortunes, and live to fight another day.

So what do we think? Was Benjamin on to something? Do his tips stand the test of time? Or should he stick to pondering “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction?” Let us know in the comments.

 

Happy Monday — beware of drones edition

Apparently drones are a menace in ways we hadn't even imagined.

Apparently drones are a menace in ways we hadn’t even imagined.

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Here are some things to discuss with your coworkers while you secretly panic on the inside about what to get your sister.

Drones abound, airplane insurers are scared

tl;dr — According to German insurance company Allianz, the insured value of the world’s commercial airline fleet will be going up in the next few years, due in no small part to the rise of the commercial drone. Apparently there are very few rules regulating drones, meaning that insurers see them as a growing collision hazard in increasingly crowded skies.

Ask your coworkers: what would you do with a drone of your own?

Angela Merkel has come out against net neutrality

tl;dr — The German chancellor says that having a special internet fast lane is crucial to the development of things like driverless cars and telemedicine.

Ask your coworkers: how well do you understand net neutrality?

An Egyptian student discovered a major flaw in PayPal’s security system

tl;dr — “Former hacktivist” and information security student Yasser Ali discovered a flaw that made him able to access customer accounts with “one click.” He reported it, got $10,000 for his honesty and PayPal fixed the problem.

Ask your coworkers: how often do you use PayPal?

Alright, there you go. You’re informed now. Go blow minds.

Video Friday: advice for the young, fabulous, and broke

Right now, you’re probably looking at this saying “I’m not broke, why should I watch this video?” You might also be saying “I’m not even particularly young.” (Hopefully you’re not saying you’re not fabulous, because we think you are.)

The reality is, even if you’re neither young nor broke, our old pal Suze Orman’s advice is actually pretty universally applicable — put yourself out there, make yourself invaluable, out work the rest of your colleagues, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to invest in yourself and spend a couple dollars to enhance your long-term employability. In an age where people are changing companies constantly, it might be worth it to spend the time and money to learn French or Python. It could be the difference maker the next time you’re up for a new gig.

 

Best theme songs for tv shows about work

There have been literally hundreds of television shows set in workplaces over the years. Some of them have had really great opening sequences. Here are a few of our favourites.

Are You Being Served (1972-1985)

One of the longest running sitcoms in British history is more than a little problematic in 2014 — we don’t think you could get away with writing a character like Mr. Humphries or the near-constant sexual harassment today — but man, that theme song is so groovy.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977)

If you can’t watch this opening sequence without exuberantly throwing YOUR tam in the air, there is quite frankly something wrong with you.

The Office (U.S.) (2005-2013)

No show opening has done a better job of making us care about the characters before they’ve even said a line.

The Office (U.K.) (2001-2003)

Oh, the sense of impending doom and drudgery. Like, nothing even remotely bad happens in this opener, but you just get the sense that the trek to this dreary industrial park, or trading estate as they say in the U.K., is the best thing that’s going to happen to you today.

Street Legal (1987-1994)

Being a lawyer is a tough job, and includes many hazards, not the least of which is PUNKS RUNNING IN FRONT OF A PIZZA PIZZA! Look out!

Want to know what is holding women back? Ask Women

Emily May of Hollaback and 21 Leaders' Oraia Reid

Emily May of Hollaback and 21 Leaders’ Oraia Reid.

You’ve probably overheard conversations among peers, mostly male, wondering why there aren’t more women in leadership positions. While it would be nice if there was just one easily-solved answer to that question, in truth there are as many different answers as there are women.

Fast Company recently pulled together first-person answers, from women who are acting as leaders in their companies and/or communities. Even having achieved as much as they have, they still feel like they are being held back. Here’s a highlights reel of what they are trying to overcome, and what tactics are helping:

Arianna Huffington, President and Editor in Chief of The Huffington Post:

“The greatest obstacle for me has been the voice in my head that I call my obnoxious roommate. I wish someone would invent a tape recorder that we could attach to our brains to record everything we tell ourselves. We would realize how important it is to stop this negative self-talk. It means pushing back against our obnoxious roommate with a dose of wisdom.”

Katie Rae, Managing Director of TechStars Boston and founder of Project 11:

“The most important thing I ever did was own what I wanted instead of listening to other people’s advice.”

Sallie Krawcheck, Owner of the Ellevate Women’s Network:
“Gender biases still exist. Recognizing and relentlessly curbing them yields a superior team and, the research shows, is associated with superior business results. By shifting the onus of ‘not holding women back’ onto the management teams, we can avoid implicitly pushing everybody to exhibit the same types of workplace characteristics of the existing management team. After all, the benefit of diversity is to actually have diversity.”

Mei Lee, Vice President of digital marketing at Condé Nast:
“I follow a method called the 10, 10, 10 rule. When I am faced with a challenge or problem, I would ask myself this question, “How does this affect me in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years? This resets me and gives me immediate perspective on how I should move forward.”

Rachel Sklar, cofounder of TheLi.st and Change the Ratio

“Fear, insecurity, inertia, money—all those have held me back in my life and still do. I have to fight against it all, and all the time, to put myself out there. The world will always tell you no if you let it. You have to fight for yes—but when it happens it’s so much more worth it, and you’re so much better. Getting things easily only looks good. Working your ass off to earn something is what actually feels good.”

Emily May, Cofounder and executive director of the anti-street harassment non-profit Hollaback!

“I think what’s holding women back has less to do with personal decisions, and more to do with societal decisions. The maternity leave policy in the U.S. is one of the worst in developed countries globally. The Violence Against Women Act struggled to pass last year in spite of one in five women getting sexually assaulted on college campuses. And women leaders can’t take media opportunities without a barrage of comments on their breasts and/or wrinkles. With the deck stacked against us, being a woman leader is an uphill battle and we’re all just trying to navigate it as best we can.”

What do you think is holding women back? Tell us, in the comments!

This is your brain on performance reviews

Your brain, not a fan of performance reviews.

Your brain, not a fan of performance reviews.

Back when Jack Welsh ran GE, the company was big on annual performance reviews and ranking employees. Welch would have the heads of each of GE’s businesses rank their executives, then cull the lowest performers. (The system was unflatteringly referred to by outsiders as “rank and yank.”)

If you’re not an early ‘80s GE senior manager, chances are you hate performance reviews, and yet, as of 2012, more than half of Fortune 500 companies used some sort of rate-and-rank approach to performance reviews. It turns out there’s a valid reason you don’t like these reviews, even if you’re someone who would likely do well on them, according to the Harvard Business Review:

In general, there are two explanations for why PM doesn’t work: One, merely being ranked provokes a “fight or flight” response, which gets in the way of “thoughtful, reflective conversations” (but is great for when you’re being chased by wild animals, which probably isn’t exactly what your manager is going for). Two, a ranking assumes that people are fixed — either good at something or not — and incapable of change, though we know that’s not true. The article’s authors say we should start with the opposite assumption: that we all can grow and change. Then we should get rid of the numerical rankings. After all, “only one person typically feels neurologically rewarded by the PM exercise. It’s not the high performer, but the senior executive who oversees the ranking system.”

These annual reviews are gradually falling out of favour, and are being replaced with a more feedback rich system, in which employees and managers are in an ongoing dialogue about performance and goals. While this may be more work for managers, it relieves the stress of the annual review and helps everyone reach their goals.

Happy Monday — Europe versus Google edition

Inside Google's European headquarters in Dublin. It's quite fancy.

Inside Google’s European headquarters in Dublin. It’s quite fancy.

It is December. The countdown to the holidays is officially on. You are probably already making your list, checking it twice, and trying to figure out how to keep Jerry from accounts payable from talking to you about fly fishing at the Christmas party again. (Jerry, we’re stoked FOR you, but we don’t share your enthusiasm for hip-waders.) While you’re ruminating on that, here are some non-Christmas, non-fly fishing related things to talk about this morning:

Clinkle is paying people $20 cash money to use it

tl;dr: Payment app/cautionary tale Clinkle has been paying college students across the U.S. $20 to download the service, which, in our opinion, kind of defeats the purpose of developing a payment app.

Ask your coworkers — Would you download an app if someone paid you?

The European Parliament wants to break up Google

tl;dr: EU parliamentarians voted 384-174 in favour of a non-binding resolution that would urge anti-trust regulators to break up the company that they say is coming too close to being a monopoly in certain areas.

Ask your coworkers — how much of your life is monopolized by Google products and applications?

Your company’s “B-players” may be more important than you think

tl;dr: Every company has high flying superstars, but according to the Harvard Business Review, most companies are ignoring their quietly competent employees — the character actors of the corporate world — and not doing enough to help them reach their potential, resulting in a less efficient  company, overall.

Ask your coworkers — who’s your favourite character actor?

There you are, go out and be fascinating.

Procom Movember Progress Report (Final Week!)

Well, it’s the last week of Movember, and what a blast it’s been! Procom’s patchy, itchy, piratey efforts did not go unrewarded. Our Toronto and Waterloo teams are grateful to all of you who donated to help improve men’s health across Canada.

We’ve raised $75 so far, but we still have 2 days left! If you’re in a giving mood, please donate to our Movember Fundraising Page, or to any Movember initiatives you’d like to support.

To thank you, we’d like to give you a final look at our glorious scruff:

Bryan didn't get the purple shirt memo, but boy did he get the mustache memo!

Bryan didn’t get the purple shirt memo, but boy did he get the mustache memo!

John from Waterloo: "Can you see the 'stache? Can ya?!"

John from Waterloo: “Can you see the ‘stache? Can ya?!”

What do you get when you combine a start up with a not-for-profit?

These charities are a little more sophisticated than just boxes.

These charities are a little more sophisticated than just boxes.

It turns out the future of charity may look a lot like the future of everything else; it’s going to involve a lot of online startups. Google.org, Google’s non-profit arm — yes, Google has a non-profit arm — recently partnered with charity startup accelerator Fast Forward to hold and event that was a sort of TechCrunch Disrupt for charitable start-ups. Not only did they give the startups a chance to demonstrate what it is they do, they also donated $20,000 to each company, and offered to match all other donations dollar-for-dollar, up to $100,000 per organization.

Here are the organizations that were there, according to VentureBeat:

One Degree

One Degree bills itself as a “Yelp for social services.” Its site is a directory of local nonprofits and social services that residents can learn about. They can even click through to the services they need.

Although our communities could always provide more and better resources, an even bigger problem is that people who qualify and would benefit from the existing resources often don’t know what’s available and where to find it. Many don’t even know what they qualify for.

Sirum

Sirum is one part sustainability, one part heath care, and one part philanthropy. Clinics and hospitals constantly dispose of unused medications their patients didn’t take or need, sending them off to medical waste incinerators. Sirum’s team thought, “Why not collect these medications and donate them to clinics with patients who need them but can’t afford them?”

With Sirum’s app, nurses in donor clinics can upload tallies of their leftover and untampered with medications, creating a manifest of their available inventory. Sirum then finds recipient clinics in need of them.

Medic Mobile

With mobile and web technology becoming more and more accessible in developing countries, Medic Mobile is building tools that enable community health workers to better care for others.

Through parallel SIM cards, little microcontrollers that slide under the SIM card and run apps, Medic Mobile’s apps enable community health workers to register pregnancies with a local hospital, coordinate urgent care, alert clinics that their community is experiencing an outbreak, and so on. Local clinics and hospitals install Medic Mobile’s dispatch software and can keep track of these incidents. Since Medic Mobile works through the text messaging protocol, it doesn’t require an Internet connection.

Noora Health

Noora Health focuses on what happens to patients once they leave the hospital. Oftentimes, family members are overwhelmed and don’t have the basic skills to help their loved ones with aftercare, such as changing bandages properly and frequently, checking vital signs, or providing care that’s specific to a patient’s situation.

Noora Health takes waiting rooms and turns them into classrooms, as co-founder Katy Ashe said on Wednesday. Noora Health trains hospital and clinic employees to teach family members how to take care of patients once they go home. The health workers also teach and keep in contact with the families and patients through video-chat, since hospitals are sometimes far from where they live.

Moneythink

Although health and related needs are crucial, Moneythink is taking on a different kind of challenge: financial decision-making. Unfortunately for many teens and young adults, frivolous and impulsive financial choices often have huge repercussions on their lives later on.

Moneythink, created by University of Chicago alumni, started out as a year-long, in-class program for high school students in at-risk communities. Moneythink volunteers spend time every week teaching the students about money management and ways to be responsible with their finances.

But Moneythink’s team soon realized that the classroom is not where these teens are making their financial decisions — most of that takes place when they’re not in class. So the startup recently released a photo-sharing app, described as a “gamified Instagram for finances” by students, which helps them share their good decisions with their classmates.

So what do we think of the future of charity?  Would you donate to any of these apps?

Listening to the Ticktockman

Yes, we did manage to work a Harlan Ellison reference into this blog post. And yes, we are quite please with ourselves about it.

Yes, we did manage to work a Harlan Ellison reference into this blog post. And yes, we are quite please with ourselves about it.

Are you frequently late? Or even chronically late? Are you late for something right now?

If any of those things are the case, you’re not alone. One in six American employees are late to work at least once a week. In slightly worse news, one in three American companies have fired an employee for lateness. If you fear that you may someday be subject to a lateness-related termination, don’t panic. Here are a few tips to help you get back on time, courtesy of the folks at Quartz:

Check your mental health:Being chronically late can have deep psychological drivers that go beyond having too much to do or underestimating traffic. Problems such as attention deficit disorder and obsessive compulsiveness—which often drive late-goers to spend needless time fixing crooked placemats or over-surfing the Internet—can be to blame.

Avoid over-scheduling your day: Society tends to reward busy overachievers. But the tendency for overachievers to over-schedule activities often leads to tardiness, according to DeLonzer. Pace yourself throughout the day and you’ll have a higher chance of making it to your next event on time.

Wake up earlier: A to-do list of small tasks—like figuring out what to wear, remembering important meetings, packing your keys and umbrella—can take up more time than you think, not to mention leave your mind frazzled when you have little time. According to a study by Harvard biologist Christoph Randler, waking up early can help you anticipate problems and minimize them.

Clear away distractions: Little distractions that go unnoticed can eat up a lot of time. These include leaving tempting snacks scattered around your home or work area, email alerts, social media feeds, and even mirrors. Yes, preoccupation with mirrors makes time go by faster than you think, which is why they’re placed next to elevators and other areas where you need to wait for a long time.

Don’t blame public transportation: A major benefit of living in a large metropolitan area is great access to public transportation. A major drawback: public transport is not always reliable. Only 77% of short-term trains in the US are punctual compared to 90% of those in Europe. To pre-empt this problem, factor in ample extra time before your departure.

Don’t fool yourself—you’re not that fast:Even meticulous planners overestimate their efficiency at completing tasks. The official term for that is the planning fallacy… Add 5 minutes onto even your most conservative time estimates.

Drop hints that it’s time to wrap up:Don’t let over-talkers squander your valuable time. If a manager, co-worker or friend is going on too long in conversation, there are subtle body cues that can politely signal that it’s time to go—gather your notebook and pen or slowly start standing, for example.

Own up to the problem: Sometimes being late is a foregone conclusion. When that happens, be courteous enough to call or text the person you’re scheduled to meet with to say you’re running late and how long you’ll be. Admitting fault can show strength, character, and leadership.

Hopefully this will help you get wherever you’re going on time, or at least help you figure out why you were late.

Are you a prompt person? Do you have tips and tricks to get places on time? Let us know in the comments.

“How many friends do you have?” and other questions you don’t want to answer in a job interview

How many friends do I have? Well, there's Ross and Rachel and Phoebe. I'd consider Chandler more of an acquaintance really...

How many friends do I have? Well, there’s Ross and Rachel and Phoebe. I’d consider Chandler more of an acquaintance really…

Job interview questions are strange animals. Everyone dreads being asked what their greatest weakness is, and then having to balance the pros and cons of being honest versus the now clichéd approach of “turn your weakness into a strength.” For years, Google was infamous for making interviewees spend a lot of time answering “brain teasers” like “Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco” and the difficult to comprehend “Explain the significance of ‘dead beef.'” Google subsequently deep-sixed the practice after discovering that it didn’t actually help them find better employees at all.

It turns out that many South Korean companies are now going through a Google-like moment when it comes to asking seemingly irrelevant interview questions. For years, Korean companies have tried to determine if someone will be a “fit” in their organization by asking doozies like:

  • What do your parents do for a living?
  • How much alcohol can you handle?
  • What will you do if you don’t get hired by our company?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you felt you were in despair?
  • How long do you plan on working for our company?
  • What do you plan on spending your first paycheck on?
  • How many close friends do you have?
  • How does it feel like to live far away from your parents?

Women applicants got it even worse, by by being asked such additional winners as:

  • As a woman, do you want to be an executive?
  • How many years do you think you’ll be working?
  • What will you do with your job if you get married?
  • Are you dating anyone?
  • What do you think of male-female interactions?
  • How long does it take you to do your makeup?

(All of those questions were taken from a Korean blog called Tistory, which got them off of job search sites.)

Thankfully, new privacy legislation, as well as a fear of angry would-be employees taking to Twitter, means that questions like those are falling out of favour.

Still, it makes you feel better about the “greatest weakness” question, doesn’t it?

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve been asked in a job interview? Let us know in the comments.

Happy Monday — coder underpants edition

OK, you have our attention.

OK, you have our attention.

OK, so we assume that you spent your entire weekend gearing up to see, then seeing, either the new Hunger Games movie, Interstellar, or both. Which is totally fine. Here are some things you can talk about that don’t revolve around either Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain saving the planet.

1) An Airbnb exec thinks the company should get a Nobel Peace Prize

tl; dr — During the company’s annual retreat, which happened last week, Airbnb Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, Chip Conley was asked where he’d like to see the company in 10 years. His answer? “I’d love to see us win the Nobel Peace Prize.”

His rationale, according to Fortune, is that Airbnb is helping with cross-cultural understanding.

Ask your coworkers: are you an Airbnb person or a hotel person?

2) The highways of Silicon Valley now feature photos of coders in their underpants

tl;dr — Silicon Valley firms are embracing the old media, specifically billboards, and paying between $14,000 and $40,000 a month to put up billboards on the 101 freeway between San Francisco and San Jose. Uber and Airbnb have both sprung for ads, and all the billboards along the highway are now booked up until next summer. The most noticeable billboards, however, are from tech jobs site Dice (as pictured above). These ones win for attempting to make commuters smile and proving they have the hottest tech talent by putting up giant pictures of coders in their underwear.

More cautious commentators are pointing out that this mirrors some of the excesses of the turn-of-the-millennium dot-com boom.

Ask your coworkers: billboards on the highway, entertaining or distracting?

3) People respond better to goals set as a range, rather than a single number

According to researchers at Florida State, people lost and kept off more weight when their were given a goal of losing 1-3 pounds per week, as opposed to a goal of 2 pounds. That’s because high-low goals are simultaneously challenging and achievable. Think about that the next time you’re trying to increase productivity at the office.

Ask your coworkers: how do you set goals?

OK, you’re good, go be fascinating.