The Procom Jobcast

“Find a loner”, and 18 other things to do at networking events

Stop worrying about being forced-schmoozy and just go make real connections with people in your industry.

Stop worrying about being forced-schmoozy and just go make real connections with people in your industry.

It’s OK, you can be honest with us: you really hate the word “networking.” Whether you’re just beginning your career as a freelancer, or have many years being a part of a close-knit corporate team, “networking” events seem a universal constant in most industries — and odds are, you’re starting to get pretty tired of them. Does the very phrase was make you scrunch up your face and make jokes about breaking out in hives? You have our complete sympathies.

We used to hate the word “networking” too, but eventually we realized that the reason we were so determined to avoid term, and the events, were that it seemed somehow false and inauthentic. If you’ve pictured a bunch of stiff people awkwardly exchanging business cards and chatting strategically about themselves, not interested in making genuine connections but only what they could get out of the people around them for self-serving professional purposes, you know what we’re talking about.

Then, we learned that what we thought of networking was actually bad networking. When we started paying closer attention at events, we learned that networking is actually all about building authentic, mutually beneficial relationships. Building a professional network is about give and take, friendships and generosity, as much as any other kinds of relationships.

With this definition of networking in mind — making real connections with other people with whom you have a great deal in common — these 18 tips for navigating networking events are a great place to start. Even if attending such an event still makes you nervous, these talking points will quickly help you break the ice and get to know your colleagues. Whether you’re more comfortable starting a conversation by bringing up sports, giving a real compliment, or bonding over being a pair of wallflowers together, you’ll find that being a networking success, and just being open to meeting new people and making new friends, are exactly the same thing.

Are coders just… people?

See? Just regular folks.

See? Just regular folks.

Becoming a coder is still an awfully tempting proposition. Whether you’re deciding what to major in straight out of high school, or whether you’re ready to make a career change, there are lots of reasons why learning to be a computer programmer is a great decision. Here are a few, courtesy of Venture Beat.

  • People think of you as some kind of wizard. To anyone who doesn’t know how to code, your skill set will seem like magic. You can use this to your advantage.
  • There are jobs. Coding jobs are proliferating at a rate of twice that of standard job growth, and in a time of economic uncertainly, having highly-sought-after skills is intensely appealing for the security alone.
  • Flexible education. There are innumerable ways to become a certified coder. There are always new undergraduate computing programs opening up; in 2012, the number of such programs increased by over 29 per cent. There are also tons of online courses available to keep up with the demand for education, such as Code Academy and Code.org, so no matter what your needs and situation, there is a program for you.

With all that in mind, some tech experts are beginning to recommend that those interested in furthering technology should turn their attention elsewhere. While everyone is seeking out the next great social app, there is tons of potential in other areas to expand and innovate. Engineers, physicists, and medical professionals are also looking to put these coding skills to good use. Sure, it’s great to have a smartphone that can take selfies, but what if it could also test your blood sugar? It might not just be

The ability to code that is important, but also having the vision to see where that coding knowledge can be applied. So while coding can seem like a safe bet for a career choice, be sure to think about where you want to apply those skills. You could wind up having a bigger impact than you’d imagined.

Work even when you don’t want to, and other advice you’ll hate

We looked up creative commons photos tagged “bootstraps” and this is what came up. We’re sorry.

We looked up creative commons photos tagged “bootstraps” and this is what came up. We’re sorry.

Listen up, y’all. Here is some real talk from our friends — OK, they aren’t really our friends but we feel like they’d like us — at the Harvard Business Review. Don’t procrastinate on a task until you feel like doing it.

Here’s why:

Somewhere along the way, we’ve all bought into the idea – without consciously realizing it – that to be motivated and effective we need to feel like we want to take action. We need to be eager to do so. I really don’t know why we believe this, because it is 100% nonsense. So if you are sitting there, putting something off because you don’t feel like it, remember that you don’t actually need to feel like it.  There is nothing stopping you.

Wow is that ever one of those things that you read and then think “Of course!” and “OH no!” at the same time. It forces us to admit that we might need to stop spending so much time refreshing the Tumblr pages of our enemies while waiting to want to work on a KPI report.

So what do we do, then? Well, the answer to that question contains a fair share of tough love, too:

Too often, we try to solve this particular problem with sheer will. Studies show that people routinely overestimate their capacity for self-control, and rely on it too often to keep them out of hot water. By deciding in advance exactly what you’re going to do, and when and where you’re going to do it, there’s no deliberating when the time comes. No do I really have to do this now?, or can this wait till later? or maybe I should do something else instead. It’s when we deliberate that willpower becomes necessary to make the tough choice.

Sorry, everyone. We promise that we’re not typically bootstraps kind of people around her, but sometimes the lousy truth is that being a grownup means doing a lot of things you don’t want to.

How do YOU battle procrastination? Tell us, in the comments!

Stop agreeing to disagree

Margaret Heffernan, explaining why it's good to disagree now and then.

Margaret Heffernan, explaining why disagreeing is the best way to fight group-think.

We have talked before about the dangers of mistaking your brilliance as common sense. In that entry, we encouraged people to speak up even if you are not sure people will like your idea.

This time we’re asking you to step even further outside of your comfort zone. So far that you are actually voicing opinions that you know people don’t want to hear.

It sounds scary, but Margaret Heffernan makes a pretty great case for it in her TED Talk: Dare to Disagree. She speaks about the dangers of group-think, and the way a dissenting voice in the room can shine a crucial light on weaknesses before they turn into disasters.

Sure it feels better if a meeting is just a constant state of high-fives, and sure it feels lousy to be the only person saying “Um, actually …”, but believe us that it is worth it.  If her TED talk doesn’t convince you, her book, Willful Blindness, will. In it, she talks explores the reasons businesses ignore obvious problems, and how we the end result can be as serious as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

So yeah. Save the world. Disagree. It won’t be as bad as nuclear fallout, we promise.

Happy Monday – Goodnight Moon edition

It’s not going to print the book this big, we’re sorry.

It’s not going to print the book this big, we’re sorry.

Did you see any fireworks this week or weekend? We sure did. At one point someone knocked one of them over and instead of shooting up in the air they shot over at us! That’s not even a set up for a punch line, it is just a super scary thing that happened that we are processing at you. Don’t kick over any fireworks, kids. Stay in school.

Since it’s apparently not socially acceptable to just talk about fireworks all the time — we’ve been trying — here are three things happening in the world right now that you can talk to your co-workers about. It won’t be so bad. Trust us.

1. Russia votes to block web services that don’t store data within the country by 2016

tl;dr – Happy Independence Day, Americans. The Russian parliament passed a new bill that will require companies to store its citizens data exclusively on servers located within the country. Russian MP Vadim Dengin says: “Most Russians don’t want their data to leave Russia for the United States, where it can be hacked and given to criminals. Our entire lives are stored over there.” We’re trying to be optimistic that privacy will be the reality on all the Russian servers that frantically being built.

Ask your coworkers – Do you know what country your data is stored in?

2. You can no longer buy bus tickets with cash in London

tl;dr – Even the most occasional of transit riders can no longer just fish around for a handful of change if they get stuck in the rain and decide to catch a bus instead of walking. Shockingly (to us, anyway), less than 1 percent of all trips are currently paid for this way. Now even that 0.7 percent will have to rely on an Oyster Card that passengers can load up, or old fashioned bus tickets bought with “contactless” credit cards that only require tapping against a machine to complete the transactions. Transport for London said that getting rid of the cash option will save $41 million a year.

Ask your coworkers – How do you typically pay for the bus?

3. Goodnight Moon and Other Picture Book Favorites Go 3D

tl;dr – While we loved Pat the Bunny as much as the next kid — the book’s pages contained a variety of textures, like fake bunny fur — we have to admit that books like that never lasted very long in our house. But with 3D printing technology, the topography of children’s books is about to become a lot more accessible. The Tactile Picture Books Project aims to use this technology to print classic books that visually impaired kids will be able to not just hear the stories read to them, but interact with the book’s pages as well.  The first book printed using this technology is Goodnight Moon. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Cat in the Hat are coming soon.

Ask your coworkers – What was your favourite book as a kid?

There you go, everyone! Have some great conversations, and don’t set anything on fire.

 

Creepy but true: some people can’t be Googled

Please note, being a "digital invisible" is not the same as actually being invisible.

Please note, being a “digital invisible” is not the same as actually being invisible.

We were talking to a friend of ours about parents and computers. She told us that not only has her Dad never commented on her LinkedIn, he’s almost entirely un-Googlable.

Apparently, when her family bought their first IBM 286  back in the late ‘80s, he managed to format the hard drive within minutes of turning it on. The damage was so severe the computer had to be shipped back to have all the software re-installed by a professional. He never touched a computer again.

Occasionally he’ll ask our friend’s mom to look things up for him, and she’ll add his name in the signature of what is, in reality, entirely her email address. Aside from an old car add and a few obituaries, his name never appears online in any context.

While it’s perfectly understandable why a man like that would have no online presence, as he’s stalwartly avoided any only contact or presence his entire life, there’s another, entirely different class of un-Googlable person.

Known as “digital invisibles,” these are people who go to great lengths to scrub any trace of their online presence from web searches.

The idea is not necessarily to keep their online presences as empty as possible for the technology currently available, although some ill-advised Facebook photo tagging has certainly made us sympathetic to why they would. Instead, they’re more interested is making sure their profile is blank for the next generation of devices, such as wearable tech that can scan a person in real time and connect them to their online presence.

What do you think? Does living a very public, trackable life online made you more or less comfortable? Would you consider making yourself “ungooglable?

Yahoo is looking to revolutionize how you search

Marissa Mayer wants to lean into your internet to give you better search results.

Marissa Mayer wants to lean into your internet to give you better search results.

When the internet was new, finding what you wanted in the rapidly expanding online sea of knowledge was a difficult prospect. Search engines came along to tame this wilderness, like railroads crossing a newly conquered continent. As ways to find and categorize data developed, eventually an undisputed monarch rose among the search engines: Google. Since the turn of the millennium, no other search engine has been able to adequately compete with the search giant’s ability to return search data. Whole new industries, including SEO and SEM, have sprung up to help companies and brands make the most of Google’s ever more powerful search algorithms.

Other search engines, such as Bing, remain active, but came nowhere close to competing with Google’s dominance. Many seemed content to cede the throne. But now, one company is attempting to claw back some of the power from the search engine throne once again: the relatively diminutive Yahoo.

CEO Marissa Mayer is not challenging Google’s supremacy, far from it. Rather, she is hoping that during her tenure with the company, she can offer something different, an alternative to the service that her competition has excelled at for years. While Google has long taken the everything to everyone approach, Mayer wants Yahoo to streamline. While Google continues to go global, Yahoo will offer personalization as a selling point.

Exactly what Yahoo is up to is still under lock and key for the time being, but several key details can be gleaned from previous projects and other statements. This new design may feature a personalized Facebook-like feed that tailors information to a user’s interests; a cross between a social media platform and a search engine; structured search and monetization strategies; and an improved user interface. No matter what Yahoo winds up building, it sure is going to be interesting; after all, Mayer got her start at Google, and may be the one person who can rebuild Yahoo into a real, if indirect, competition in the search engine world.

Looking for a job? Show, don’t tell

OK, maybe don’t show THAT much.

OK, maybe don’t show THAT much.

“Show, don’t tell” is one of the great adages of good writing. It encourages creators to demonstrate rather than explain, conveying information in a way that is more powerful and authentic.

When applying for any kind of position, it can feel like the worst kind of telling, rather than showing. Even the most well-written resume and most thoughtful cover letter still feel like telling rather than showing.

It’s an essential flaw in the format, as we try and distill our work experience, skills and personalities — which are varied, dynamic, unique and every-changing — into a bare, heavily formatted and standardized document. This makes it extremely difficult to tell a lot about a person from simply their resume. This is part of why interviews are so crucial to the hiring process, and why both employers and employees are constantly looking for other ways to communicate with each other.  Digital platforms like Linkedin have potential, but in the end these have just become online versions of our resumes and job postings.

Somewhere, however, might just be the alternative that we’ve been looking for. Set up very much like a Pinterest board, the format is extremely visually-oriented, with tags and tidbits of information attractively arranged. It’s all displayed together on a main profile page, and it’s easy to navigate deeper into a profile for more information about work history and specific skills. Just like social media accounts, users can follow each other, as well as companies that interest them.

While it’s still invite-only for now, we hope that Somewhere represents a real alternative to the resume, both for those who have to write them and those who have to read a gigantic stack of them every time the hiring process begins again.

Happy Monday – Our Home On Native Land edition

More lawyers should have purple hair, if you ask us.

More lawyers should have purple hair, if you ask us.

Canada Day (French: Fête du Canada) is the national day of Canada, a federal statutory holiday celebrating the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act, 1867 (today called the Constitution Act, 1867), which united three colonies into a single country called Canada within the British Empire. While originally called Dominion Day (French: Le Jour de la Confédération), the holiday was renamed in 1982, the year the Canada Act was passed.

Probably you don’t care about any of that. Probably you just wish that our settler ancestors had managed to instead enact the British North America Act on “The first Monday in July”, so that you’d be at the cottage right now instead of at the office. Sad trombone.

Since you’re stuck there, we pulled out three articles from this past weekend to give you something to chat to your cubicle-mate about. So at least you have a day off from “struggling for small talk topics”.

1. Supreme Court’s First Nations ruling a game-changer for all

tl;dr – This might not seem like a tech or employment related story at first glance. But the truth is, we don’t yet know all of the impacts of a recent Supreme Court decision about First Nations land claims. It will absolutely affect the resource industry, most immediately the  Northern Gateway pipeline. Following a decades long fight between Tsilhqot’in First Nation and the government of British Columbia, this ruling clarifies major issues such as how to prove aboriginal title and when consent is required from aboriginal groups. Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin wrote unequivocally “This is not merely a right of first refusal with respect to Crown land management or usage plans. Rather, it is a right to proactively use and manage the land.” First Nations groups across the country are expected to file similar suits against companies and projects that will disrupt the ecosystems of unceded territory.

Ask your coworkers – How many generations has your family been in Canada?

2. Facebook is learning the hard way that with great data comes great responsibility

tl;dr – In 2012, Facebook helped facilitate a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to determine how much your Facebook content impacted your mood. 700,000 members had their news feeds manipulated to show either more positive or more negative content from their friends and family. The study found that online expressions of emotions were contagious, with users who saw more negative posts going on to make more negative posts themselves. Since the details of this study have been released, Facebook has come heavily under fire. Many feel this type of manipulation is seriously unethical.

Ask your coworkers – How much do you think Facebook affects how you are feeling?

3. Hello Mary Sue, goodbye heart

tl;dr – If you are a woman, and a self-described geek, you probably know and love the website “The Mary Sue.” Since 2011, it has been fulfilling its mandate of “highlighting women in the geek world, and providing a prominent place for the voices of geek women.” A great place to find news and analysis about gender in geek culture, it just merged with the gender-non-specific website Geekosystem. Immediately, the site’s “About” page was edited to take out any mention of feminism and female-identifying geeks, which upset the site’s existing audience quite a bit. To make matters worse, the new (male) associate editor handled this completely predictable outcome terribly, tweeting all-caps complaints that he was being declared “THE ENEMY” because he is a straight white man.

Ask your coworkers – Have you ever had a favourite website that turned lousy?

There you go, everyone! Have some great conversations, and do something fantastic with your day off tomorrow!

100 words that you should put on your resume

This person is going to be super embarrassed when they realize they've been handing out a resume that's just placeholder text.

This person is going to be super embarrassed when they realize they’ve been handing out a resume that’s just placeholder text.

There is a task that makes even the boldest and most experienced writers panic. A type of writing so stressful, so frustrating, that no matter how many times it’s been done, the prospect of tackling such a job still inspires groans. The kind of work that inspires a truly epic level of procrastination, to the point where rearranging furniture and deep-cleaning the carpet seems more appealing that completing the task at hand.

We’re talking about resume writing. For a document that is so short and straightforward — often just a few pages, or even a single, information-filled sheet — writing resumes and cover letters is disproportionately stressful. While it can be the easiest thing to chat about yourself in a professional setting, such as an interview or networking event, it suddenly becomes ridiculously difficult to put all of that down on paper.

One of the main obstacles when it comes to resume writing is that the writing can feel very unnatural. It’s often challenging to distil everything about your education, experience, and personality into a highly formal, formatted document. The form can make it difficult to differentiate yourself from every other candidate for a position, which is exactly what you want your resume to do: stand out.

Because of this, whenever it’s been time to update our resume, we’ve always struggled with what vocabulary to use. How do we sound professional yes distinct? How can we let our personality show while still staying within the boundaries of what is appropriate?

A good place to start is this list of resume-friendly words from Careerealism, which provide a great guideline for how to talk about and contextualize your experience and qualifications. Were you known for the way you “accelerated” or “forecasted” various projects? Were you “promoted” or “recommended” for a great career advancement? Do you prefer to “troubleshoot” or “simplify?” Suddenly, rewriting that resume can seem like a game of career Madlibs, and you might just wind up with something that is more accurate, fun to read and attention grabbing in the process!

No one really pays attention in meetings

What do you most often do in meetings?

  1. Pay attention to what is being said and participate.
  2. Do other work.
  3. Have side conversations.
  4. Eat your lunch.
  5. Check your email.

If you answered number one, we’re not sure we believe you. A recent survey on behalf of Fuzebox reveals that more often than not, we are multitasking in meetings. And as we’ve discussed in this space before, people can’t actually multitask.

Does it matter if we’re checked out during check-ins? Unfortunately it does. Low employee engagement has real consequences on a company, and an economy.

There are things you can do, though! You know how when you are in a bar with a TV and you can’t stop looking at it, even when it is playing The Price is Right on mute? Well it turns out the same thing applies to your employees. People are way less distracted during video meetings than in-person meetings! Let’s not think too hard about what it says about us that we can ignore someone in person way easier than we can if they are on a flickering screen.

To get some more facts and tips about engaging employees during meetings, check out this infographic from the Undercover Recruiter:

wantmoreengagedemployees1-2

What do YOU do in meetings? Tell us, in the comments!

 

Want to earn more than a pilot?

Don’t do it, little buddy.

Don’t do it, little buddy.

Next time you ask a kid what she wants to be when she grows up, and she tells you “A writer or a pilot”, you might want to steer her more towards the latter. According to recent reports, the starting salary for a pilot is $22,400 a year, compared to $41,800 a year for a copywriter.

On one hand, pilots can end up earning six-figure salaries later in their careers. On the other hand, who wants to do 15,000 training hours and spend $100K in tuition to make $10.75 an hour?

If want to earn big bucks right out of the gate you’re better off only metaphorically reaching for the sky. Here’s some good news about starting salaries in tech.

Computer Programmer:
Entry-level programmers earn a median salary of $53.6K.

Database Analyst:
Entry-level database administrators earn a median salary of $55.5K.

Environmental Engineer:
Entry-level workers earn a median salary of $52.5K.

As we’ve talked about in the past, salary isn’t the only thing to consider when planning your career: a happy job also requires good work life balance and rapport with co-workers, some offices have dreamy perks like hammocks and catered lunches; and we also want to make sure we are doing work that doesn’t bump against our ethics. So make sure you’re not only focusing on the numbers, everyone! But it’s still good to be realistic about what you’re getting yourself into.

How important are starting salaries to you? Let us know in the comments!

Procom’s Corporate Responsibility Update: Heart & Stroke Big Bike

Procom is proud to partner with The Heart & Stroke Foundation by participating in their Big Bike events across Canada. Big Bike brings companies, community organizations, and other groups together to pedal a giant Big Bike in support of the Heart & Stroke Foundation!

This year, Procom’s branches in Toronto, Ottawa and Kitchener-Waterloo collectively fundraised over $6,000 for this extremely important cause.

By supporting Heart & Stroke we are providing Canadians with the tools, resources and initiatives to help reduce the controllable risk factors of heart disease and stroke. Since 9 in 10 Canadians have risk factors, we know our support can make a big difference.

Procom believes in enhancing the health and well-being of our local and national communities. Our new Corporate Responsibility mandate is focused on supporting health-related activities, while leveraging our business expertise and resources, to create a positive social change.

How’s The Market? Spring Brings Increased Job Activity

It may not have felt like springtime, but the season did live up to its promise of rejuvenation and productivity for Procom. This quarter was extremely busy, with job activity increasing by 14.88% over last quarter.

Keep that momentum going and consider the trends below for the coming quarter!

Top 5 In Demand Roles:

Most Hired Roles Spring 2014

Procom Tops Branham 300 Lists in 2014

In the 2014 edition of the Branham 300 List, Procom Consultants Group Ltd was once again recognized as a leader in the staffing industry. Widely considered one of the premier industry performance metrics, the Branham 300 List recognizes Canadian IT firms based on revenue growth, strong performance, and industry leadership.

Procom reached the top of Branham’s list of Top 10 ICT Staffing Companies this year by reaching $708 million in revenue, with an annual growth rate of 1.6%.

Top Canadian Contract Staffing Firms*
2013 (million) 2012 (million) Growth (million) Growth % HQ
Procom  $        708  $        697  $          11 1.6% Toronto 1978
Randstad  $        315  $        312  $             3 1.0% Toronto 1960
SI Systems  $        295  $        248  $          47 19.0% Calgary 1994
Calian  $        232  $        235 -$            3 -1.3% Ottawa 1982
TekSystems  $        173  $        165  $             8 4.8% Mississauga 1983
TES  $        144  $        140  $             4 2.9% Toronto 1975
Eagle  $        134  $        140 -$            6 -4.3% Ottawa 1996
Ian Martin  $        125  $        135 -$          10 -7.4% Oakville 1957
Veritaaq  $          72  $          60  $          12 20.0% Ottawa 1983
Tundra  $          50  $          42  $             8 19.0% Toronto 2004
TEEMA  $          41  $          30  $          11 36.7% Vancouver 2008
WPCG  $          33  $          28  $             5 17.9% Vancouver 2002
*Source: 2014 Edition of the Branham300 – www.branham300.com

Procom also appears on two other Branham lists, climbing from #5 to #4 on Branham’s list of Top 25 ICT Professional Services Companies, and from #19 up to #16 on Branham’s Top 250 Canadian ICT Companies. Procom’s responsive, results-driven approach is what makes us an industry leader and a key component of your company’s staffing success.

 

 

Procom Ability Prize – Funding The Future

Procom Ability Prize - Scholarship

Procom is proud to invest in Canada’s future with The Ability Prize. Secondary education can be costly; Procom hopes to break down the financial barriers some students face in their pursuit of education, so they can more easily transition into the workforce and contribute to the future success of Canada’s most important industries.

The Ability Prize is awarded to those talented young candidates who have demonstrated academic success and a passion for learning. Up to five $1,000 Ability Prize scholarships are awarded to college or university-bound family members of Procom consultants and clients. Are you a consultant or client of Procom whose child or dependent plans to pursue a post-secondary undergraduate, diploma, or apprenticeship program in Fall 2014? Applications for the Fall 2014 Ability Prize are now open!

Six Ways to Retain Top Talent Without Playing the Rate Game

Every business wants to retain and attract top talent, and your contractor pool can be a great PR tool for your company.  A contractor’s positive experience with your company can yield fantastic referrals; however, negative news about an engagement can travel faster and farther within the industry. While paying your contractors well for a job well done remains a priority, it will prove a waste if relationship management is not a part of your engagement strategy.

Procom wants to help its clients foster and maintain exceptional relationships with their contractors, without playing the rate game.  To keep your contractors singing your praises, follow these six tips for contractor satisfaction:

1)      Clarify Contributions – Contractors may take a while to calibrate your company’s culture and business objectives. Take the time to clearly communicate how their work contributes to company goals.

2)      Manage Expectations – Expectations are established right from the time you request a resource, but backing up those expectations with a clear and concise plan of action will ensure that your project stays on track.

3)      Provide Feedback – Contractors aren’t mind readers. They have vast and varied backgrounds and experiences that influence their approach to each new environment. If a contractor is not performing as expected or is struggling to “fit in”, immediate feedback will help them to do a swift course correction to adapt better to your specific culture and expectations.

4)      Give Props (Judiciously!) – Contractors also need a high five from time to time. Recognizing work that goes above and beyond engages contractors and lets them know that although they are not staff, their work is valued. However, be careful. Too much praise can also lead to pay raise requests…

5)      Build Trust – Contractors are usually brought in to provide expertise or support to a project that is beyond the scope of employee ability.  It is imperative to ensure that trust is built between employees and consultant resources to ensure there is no animosity that may impact the sharing of knowledge and impact the project timeline.

6)      Include in Company Culture - Contractors are more satisfied and productive when they feel they’re part of the team.

 

Pay rate isn’t included on this list of talent attraction factors, because clients remunerating contractors at the industry standard get recommendations based not on pay, but on corporate culture and relationships.

What techniques do you use to build client-contractor relationships? Give us your tips in the comments section below.

Modern Microsoft = 1990s IBM?

IBM may not be the company they used to be, but they sure have some nice buildings.

IBM may not be the company they used to be, but they sure have some nice buildings.

In an interview with Fortune, John Thompson, recently appointed Chairman of the Board for Microsoft, admitted that it was time for the company to take serious stock of its company identity and corporate culture, and make some real changes.

As he was moving into the position, Thompson said that the two biggest questions he said had to be considered were: “As the company grows, do the management systems of how you think about markets, think about deployment of resources, think about allocation of capital all change to accommodate a bigger and different company? And does the culture along the way change as well?”

There are some significant reasons why it’s time for Microsoft to make some significant changes to the way that it identifies itself and operates in the world. Where once they were the operating system kings, their hold on the market has loosened considerably in the last few years, with alternative platforms offering real competition. Also, they’ve found themselves regularly beaten in several emerging markets, such as the tablet and mobile markets.

Thompson likened the situation at Microsoft to that of IBM in the 1990s. He sees the parallels in a few key ways:

  • Like the former incarnation of IBM, Microsoft has become a struggling giant who has realized that they no longer have a monopoly on the market they once had cornered.
  • The competition they are up against are smaller, more agile companies that can adapt more quickly.
  • A strong leader is needed to make some significant changes, encourage specific behaviour, and help the company change.

How Microsoft ultimately adapts to the changes that are required has yet to be seen, but it seems like the transformation will have to be pretty dramatic.

What do you think it takes for a company like Microsoft to turn the ship around? Let us know.

What is going on here? 10 strange recruiting-related stock images

Looking at stock photography is like being punched in the imagination. How many times have you been reading a story illustrated with a photo of a woman sitting at a laptop with her fists in the air in triumph?

Answer: Every time.

We fell down the rabbit hole of recruiting-related stock photography, to bring the most amazing ones to you. You’re welcome.

iStock 1

What is going on in this photo? Have this pair of adult men put themselves up for adoption? This really feels like a “Parents Wanted” poster. Aw, now we feel sad for them. It’s OK, little buddies!

iStock2-2

Whoa job seekers. Why don’t all of you just push that bright green “JOB” button on your keyboards? It seems to have replaced the H key in this model. Check for it! Big time problem solver. Especially if you don’t use many words that have an H in them!

iStock3

Here is another amazing way to get a job that we didn’t think of! Or, to get anything, really! Just write it on a chalkboard and then… click on it? If you figure out how to click on a chalkboard, we’d really like to hear about that.

iStock4

These three photos together are like a baffling tech trifecta. Is the mouse pulling the CV? Does it have the CV locked in its laser vision? Is this the weirdest connect-the-dots ever? Your guess is as good as ours.

IStock5-2

This picture is so ominous! Like, do you want to be the washroom sign dude that the lady points her finger-gun at, like some sort of dystopian Lilliputian Sadie Hawkins dance? No thank you.

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Look I hate to tell you this, job-searching fellow, but you’ve got bigger problems than not having gainful employment. Um. It’s just that. Um. You don’t have a head.

iStock 7-2

There are a LOT of human-meets-stick-figure things happening in the world of stock photography, everyone. At least this guy seems appropriately confused by that. Like “Why did I hire this stick man?”

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Don’t you hate it when you post a job, and then no one applies except for a bunch of goldfish? Pro tip: Stop dangling your job in the water on a hook.

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Oh man we feel so bad for this lady. Do you think she’s just standing in front of someone’s office holding this sign with a look of panic that she is hoping passes for exuberance?

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Okay, kid. Who ever you are, you’re hired.

What is the best piece of stock photography you have seen recently? Tell us, in the comments!

Happy Mondays: fiber not fibre edition

Calm down, Portland. The news is not about this kind of fibre, for once.

Calm down, Portland. The news is not about this kind of fibre, for once.

So, um, how about that international kickball competition, hey? Wow all of those countries sure have varying degrees of success getting scores! Sooooo. Anyway. Flags, am I right? Whoo boy. Anyway now that you’ve totally blended into all of your colleagues conversations about the World Cup, how about steering the topic back to something you know a bit more about: tech and hiring. We’ve got three stories ready to help you do just that.

1) Google Fiber approved in Portland

tl;dr – Groups of people don’t agree on much, but Portland City Council just voted unanimously to approve Google Fibre. If the deal goes through, the city residents will have access to free low-speed broadband — if they pay a $300 installation fee — and free WiFi in some outdoor spaces.

Ask your coworkers: When did you first get highspeed internet in your house?

2) Windows leaker Alex Kibkalo will reportedly be deported to Russia

tl;dr – In August 2012 — Alex Kibkalo, who was working at Microsoft at the time — leaked a build of Windows RT and software activation kits to a French tech blogger. The arrest warrant makes it seem like he did it sort of for the lols. Instead he got 90 days in prison and is being deported to Russia. That’s a costly loss of impulse control!

Ask your co-workers: What was the last dumb thing you did and immediately regretted?

3) LinkedIn faces lawsuit for emailing user contacts without permission

tl;dr – You know when you get those out-of-the-blue emails from exes and your heart kind of stops and you mentally start preparing your “Die in a fire” reply before even reading them, but then when you open them they are inadvertent LinkedIn spam? Well, there is a lawsuit about those emails, and it’s not going well for LinkedIn.

Ask your co-workers: When you get requests like that, do you accept them?

Go forth and chatter!  Let us know how it goes, in the comments!

 

Communicate Better with Upper IT Management

Your manager asks whether you’re on track to meet your December 1st deadline. How do you respond?

Response A: “Maybe, but many unforeseen problems have arisen. The laptops that were scheduled to arrive last week were not delivered, which means that we were not able to implement the systems update to the laptops and therefore appropriate troubleshooting to ensure systems compliance could not be done. In addition to that, while we were testing the server, the power went down se we decided to wait until the morning at which point we realized that the laptop had in fact been delivered, but to the wrong floor. The server issue has yet to be resolved but I will keep you posted. I think some developers are on vacation, but I’m not sure, so it’s unlikely the project will get done on time

Response B: “No. We are looking at completing the project by December 7th, and the anticipated cost of this delay will be $5,000. We are still on track to a projected net savings of $20,000 for the completion of this project with little use of overtime.”

If you chose Response B, you’re already on track to communicating better with management. Why? Because despite being the bearer of bad news, your results-oriented language saves upper managers time and energy. Keeping your messages concise and focusing on clear outcomes are two ways you can become a more effective communicator.

Here are some other ways to communicate better with upper IT management:

  1. Communicate results and outcomes first. Opening with results and keeping responses clear, concise, and quantifiable gets busy upper managers’ attention and appreciation.
  2. Be prepared to share. Once you have provided an upper manager with the results and outcomes through quantifiable data, be prepared to elaborate and to substantiate with more detail as the listener requests it. In response B, where “little use of overtime,” an upper manager may request that you elaborate on which individuals will be putting in overtime or whether you have devised any strategies to mitigate overtime costs.
  3. Be honest and offer solutions. Response B is effective because the consultant is honest in her ability to meet a deadline and doesn’t overpromise. Before you approach management with a problem, show some initiative and build your relationship with management by doing your research: develop at least one solution to that problem, as well as the pros and cons of your own solution.
  4. Isolate expectations. In your preparation for a meeting with an upper manager ask yourself what you want to get out of the meeting. Are you looking to affirm that you have taken ownership on a particular task? Do you want to provide a status update? Do you want to communicate specific goals? Once you have determined the purpose for your communication, next ask yourself what it is that you expect your listener to do with the information that you communicate. Isolating your expectations prior to your meeting will provide a framework to your conversation with upper management. Be sure that by the end of your meeting you are on the same page as to what is being expected from both parties with respect to future actions.
  5. Have a good attitude. Display a positive attitude when communicating challenges and triumphs to upper management and be open to constructive criticism. Also, there are times when communicating is not nearly as important as listening. Listen to instruction from upper managers and commit to their direction with humility. I tis important to show gratitude for these opportunities because that manager has chosen to share his/her valuable knowledge and experience with you for your benefit.

More helpful suggestions:

Email vs. Face-to-Face

Email is not the best medium for communicating complex and difficult ideas. Instead, opt for face-to-face communication and leave email for brief and simple updates.

Details

The level of detail needed in your communication as your project progresses. For instance, detail is most important at the beginning stages but becomes less of a priority as the project progresses, if everything is going according to plan.  However, specific detail should be provided if a problem surfaces or deadlines will not be met.

Remain calm

Talking to upper IT managers can be intimidating. At the end of the day, managers are human beings, too. Don’t be afraid to take a casual and relaxed, but professional approach with them.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Communication is a skill and just like any other skill, learning and perfecting is a life-long approach. Put your communication skills into practice in a supportive and fun environment, like Toastmasters or improv classes.

Predict Project Outcome with the 4 Rs of Candidate Evaluation

Project Managers have many ways in which they can predict the risk, scope, and critical success factors of planned projects. But often, we overlook a factor that contributes greatly to any project’s success: people. Borrowing from the traditional “3 Rs” of teaching (“Reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic”), Procom has compiled the 4Rs of project planning from a staffing perspective. Following the 4Rs when evaluating potential candidates can help Project Managers predict the success of a planned project.

So what does a project need when hiring? Follow the 4Rs of Candidate Evaluation for Project Planning:

1)      The Right People

  • Knowledge of the problem domain, the technical environment, and the methodologies
  • High levels of commitment and ownership
  • Understand the importance of status reporting
  • Able to overcome the challenges of the various resource models (e.g. virtual, offshore)

2)      The Right Relationships

  • Able to influence stakeholders
  • Have an inventory of positive relationships
  • Have relationship building skills
  • Have a track record of building new relationships in a project environment
  • Have credibility across the organization and especially with the project’s stakeholders

3)      The Right Frame of Mind

  • Understands and is committed to the project objectives
  • Understands on a project the glass needs to be half full
  • Not carrying negative baggage from past projects
  • Understands the benefits of celebrating project achievements
  • Understands the benefits of acknowledging and communicating project challenges
  • Able  to encourage other team members
  • Willing to share knowledge with other team members

4)      The Right Actions

  • Work Breakdown Structure prepared by the team
  • All tasks move the project forward
  • Dependencies make sense
  • Prototyping as required
  • Attacking greatest risk first
  • Good match between organization culture and proposed methodologies

In a team of 10:

  • At least 3 people should be in possession of the 4Rs
  • At least 5 people should be in possession of at least 3 of the 4Rs
  • All team members should have at least one of the 4Rs, although a calculated risk can be made to except those team members whose objectives include growth opportunities
  • Do not proceed with the project if no one on the team has all 4Rs
  • Do not proceed with the project if any one of the 4Rs has no representation

 

What if you still don’t know what colour your parachute is?

Please note, we are not talking about actual, literal parachutes here.

Please note, we are not talking about actual, literal parachutes here.

A few weeks ago, we talked about Kelli Anderson’s great tool to help you decide if you should take a job. But what if you’re not even sure you’re in the right industry? What if you are not feeling the passion about your career that you think you should be?

Here’s a roundup of advice to help you out!

Careerealism suggests the missing piece is talking to people.

I want to invite you to make a list of people you know or what to know who do things that you find interesting or intriguing. Once you’ve done that – e-mail two of them and see if they’ll have coffee with you for 30 minutes.”

Psych Central recommends thinking back to your childhood:

“Go back and think about something in your life that was a definite ‘yes’ – something that felt fun, delightful, satisfying [and] fulfilling.” When recalling the memory, pay attention to how your body feels and what emotions you’re experiencing. This memory doesn’t have to be work-related, she added. It can be anything that felt great, even playing with your pet.”

Forbes thinks your best bet is to give yourself a time out:

“It’s easy to get so caught up in the minutiae of work that misery becomes overwhelming and ends up being the focus. When that happens, there’s a tendency to look for a new job. But jumping from one job to another can often cause even more heartache (and headache), especially if it’s from one ill-fitting job to another.”

Wikihow has a remarkably thorough how-to, that suggests combining interests!

“Maybe you have more than one talent, like doing tricks on a BMX, and you love to write. Could you see yourself writing books on BMX riding and tricks, or true stories about how those riders started out doing what they love?”\

Oprah isn’t going to spoon feed you advice (in this instance). She’s got a quiz for you though!

“After responding to the statements below, you will discover your striving style, learn what to do if it’s backfiring from neglect, and find ideas to guide your life in the direction that it was meant to go.”

Have you already found your career passion? Tell us, in the comments!

Paternity leave is good for the economy

It’s enough to melt our icy hearts.

It’s enough to melt our icy hearts.

For a long time, it was just sort of widely assumed that women are “natural caregivers” and therefore should be solely, or at least primarily, responsible for taking care of babies and young children. Thankfully, this sort of thinking is increasingly seen as being as outmoded as avocado appliances.

More and more parents are embracing the idea of a more equitable division of labour, including child-rearing duties.

This is starting to translate into more fathers taking time off work for child-rearing duties, especially just after a baby is born. There are some interesting, and unexpected, economic implications from this — namely, that dads who take time off to care for their kids are actually contributing positively to the economy.

This article begins by cheerfully proclaiming that “a man’s place is in the home, changing diapers”. It then uses hard number to back up the suggestion that paternity leave is good for the economy.

For example: When fathers also took parental leave, even a few weeks just after a baby was born, there was a marked increase in the likelihood of women who had given birth 9-12 months earlier returning to work.

There’s a few very interesting reasons that this might be, including:

  • Child rearing habits form quickly and firmly, and fathers who start off caring for their babies at the beginning tend to keep up those behaviours, making the division of work more equal between parents;
  • One of the long-term consequences of this early engagement is that father’s become more involved, becoming the kind of parent to rush home or take time off work for their kids, which helps balance out some of the career drawbacks (like slower advancement and lower pay) that mothers face;
  • Employers are more likely to retain their female employees when parents share parental leave.

While this article is written from a U.S. perspective, and Canada has much more supportive programs for parental leave in place. So dads, get changing those diapers and leaving work early to get your kids to dance class — it’s good for the economy!

Meet a Procom recruiter: Josh Pryor

Josh Pryor, deep in thought.

Josh Pryor, deep in thought.

Josh Pryor may be one of Procom’s newest recruiters, but he’s already in love with his job. Josh came to recruiting in the summer of 2013 after spending years in sales.

“I was talking about wanting a career change with my brother Jairus, who works in the marketing department at Procom,” Josh says. “He told me they were looking for recruiters. It’s not something I had considered before, but told me he thought I’d really enjoy it. Within minutes of my interview,  it felt like a great fit.”

He says that while the transition from sales to recruiting was relatively easy, he was worried about his lack of IT-specific knowledge. Thankfully, a thorough training program got him up to speed.

“I don’t come from a strong technical background, so coming and learning an entirely new industry seemed like an insurmountable task,” he confesses. “But they’ve done an amazing job at teaching the essentials and giving me the tools to succeed.“

His favourite part of the job is building relationships with job seekers, as well as the joy of helping someone find their dream job.

“The fact that I can find someone online, call them up, have a great talk with them, and work with them to get placed at a role they are really excited about is pretty amazing,” he says.

Pryor says that if you are a skilled salesperson who is more interested building relationships than moving units, you should consider looking into a career in recruiting.

“If you enjoy relationship building and are out for something more than a quick buck, this is a great career,” he says. “Of course the compensation is nice, but the work here is really satisfying and connecting people with jobs is a great feeling.”

He also says that employers who are debating whether or not it’s worth it to hire a recruiter should give it a try.

“Do it!” he says. “The amount of time that we put into researching and talking with people to find the perfect fit for a role is invaluable. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

Happy Monday – When A Stranger Calls edition

This dude has made himself a more analog version of that app. We wish him all the best.

This dude has made himself a more analog version of that app. We wish him all the best.

If you’re anything like us, you hate to acknowledge that you like anything popular. You’ve never eaten at McDonald’s. You don’t know the difference between Snape and Dumbledore. You liked the Beatles early stuff. And you for SURE did not spend the weekend marathoning the second season of Orange is the New Black. Using these links below, you can pretend that you instead spent the weekend like you do all of your free time, reading about tech issues. Bonus points if you can work in the phrase “Wake up, sheeple.”

1. Voice Call App Inbilin Nets $15 million of Series A Funding

tl;dr – This app is very close to our literal worst nightmare. It’s like Chatroulette — don’t pretend you don’t know what that is — but for phones. Imagine your phone just ringing, and having to make agonizing small talk with someone you know nothing about? Our stomach hurts just thinking about it. But some folks obviously think it’s a good idea, since it just got a bunch of venture funding. Evidently 65 per cent of the users are under 23, so it could just be that we’re very very old.

Ask your coworkers: How do you feel when your phone rings?

2. Turing Test breakthrough as super-computer becomes first to convince us it’s human

tl;dr – We’re not sure what it says about us that the first story filled us with dread and this story delights us completely. I guess that we’d rather type to a computer than talk to a stranger, which actually isn’t even surprising when we write it down like that. The Turing Test requires that a computer convince over 30 per cent of testers that it is in fact a human. This program, called Eugene Goostman, convinced 33 per cent of judges that it was a 13-year-old boy from the Ukraine.

Ask your co-workers: How would you try to trip up this test?

3. First Vine from Space!

tl;dr – Astronaut Reid Wiseman posted the first Vine from space this weekend, saying “1st Vine from space!  Single Earth orbit. Sun never sets flying parallel w/terminator line #ISS #Exp40”.

Ask your co-workers: Do you expect space tourism in your lifetime?

Go forth and chatter!  Let us know how it goes, in the comments!

Why mentoring has been around for 3000 years

We just found out that Madonna acted as a mentor to a young Gwyneth Paltrow. Huh.

We just found out that Madonna acted as a mentor to a young Gwyneth Paltrow. Huh.

There’s a very simple reason why the mentoring process is discussed as far back as Homer’s Odyssey: it works. Between great warriors and kings as well as craftsmen and artists, mentoring has been around for thousands of years.

There are many people who contribute to making us successful, from inspiring instructors to the friends and family who cheer us on every day. But few people can have as much as an impact on our professional lives and ultimate successes as one great mentor. Out schools can teach us hands-on skills and broader theories, and our support structures can give us the strength to keep going, but mentors can provide the anchor of real-life, relevant experience.

There are some things that a mentor can offer that no other distant experts or well-meaning colleagues can offer:

  • No one gives better advice than a mentor, because they are someone who has experience in precisely the field that you are working on, and they have probably worked through exactly the same problems and know how to navigate the difficult waters of your career.
  • Because of the nature of the mentor relationship, which is one of trust and intimacy, no one can offer constructive criticism like a mentor can. They can be brutally honest when they need to be, and also serve as your cheering section and most stalwart supporters.
  • The lessons your learn from a mentor can have an effect over the whole scope of your career, and advice you get at the very beginning can still have an effect years later.

If you’re just at the beginning of your career, seeking out the advice and support of a mentor is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself. And once you’re at the height of your powers, consider returning the favour and mentoring colleagues who are just starting out — you never know how great an impact you might have on their lives.

Think you want to be a high earner? Not so fast!

This person seems to really LOVE money. (nayukim/Flickr)

This person seems to really LOVE money. (nayukim/Flickr)

Come on, who doesn’t daydream about making a lot of money? The idea of being in a high-earning position certainly is tempting, and when a lot of folks are trying to imagine a dream job, a massive salary is a big part of that dream.  A lot of young people, when choosing which education and future career options to pursue, to choose the one that seems to bring with it the most financial stability.

While many people see a large paycheque as a ticket to stability and wish fulfillment, have you ever considered the toll that being a high wage earner might take on you? It turns out that people who tend to make larger salaries also have some personality traits that can undo a lot of the benefits that making a lot of money would seem to have.

There are five key tendencies that set high wage earners apart:

  1. More emotionally volatility and instability.
  2. Finding conflict energizing, and are therefore are more likely to seek it out.
  3. Being rule-breakers, even when rules are helpful or necessary.
  4. An increased likelihood of being medicated.
  5. The belief that they would happily trade their large paycheque for a more stable emotional life.

It might be surprising, but money isn’t everything. If those are the personality traits that tend to guarantee a larger salary at the end of the month, maybe a little less money and a little more stability is a good thing.

What do you think? Would you trade some emotional well-being for a huge salary? Tell us, in the comments!

A dozen IT jobs to kickstart your career

So you know that you want to get a job in the tech industry. That’s a good first step! IT jobs can be an fantastic way to jump-start your career. You’ll end up on the ground floor of a highly skilled and constantly evolving industry. While there’s never been a better time to look into getting an IT gig, it’s also important to consider what jobs are the best for you.

This infographic from The Undercover Recruiter might help bring you some clarity on that front:

topitjobsfasttrack

It’s obviously that there are lots of fantastic benefits to all of these jobs, but that doesn’t mean they are all right for you.When determining where you are the best fit, it’s important t ask yourself some key questions:

  • How important is flexibility? Some IT jobs come with massive amounts of adaptability and accommodation, and so are idea for people who thrive on freedom.
  • What is the level of education required? Some positions, like web developers and applications developers, are often available to people who are self taught and who rely on the quality of their work and portfolio to gain them employment. Other types of jobs, like cloud architects and network engineers, can require advanced degrees and certifications, even graduate work.
  • How well do you work with others? Project managers will be leading a team and working closely with others, whereas database administrators have much more solitary and isolated work; it’s important to know if you’re a people person or a lone wolf.
  • How much money do you want to make? IT salaries vary greatly, from the modest to the extremely lucrative, but salaries are often tied to highly specialized knowledge and skills.

Once you have a solid idea of what you’re hoping to get out of an IT career, you’ll be able to choose the job that’s best suited to you.
What is your IT dream job? Tell us why, in the comments!

Procom: who we’re not

Procom, not at all affiliated with Ryerson University, although we do think their campus looks lovely at night.

Procom, not at all affiliated with Ryerson University, although we do think their campus looks lovely at night.

Admit it, you’ve Googled yourself. We all have. Unfortunately, it’s almost always a disappointing process. Unless you’re incredibly accomplished, or have a Zappa-child-level unique name, you almost always realize that the first two pages of results are about a former San Diego Padre’s prospect who happens to share your name.

Well, the same thing can happen to companies, it turns out. Thankfully, we are the first result you get when you Google Procom, but there are a few others. Here’s who we’re not.

We’re not Ryerson’s Professional Communications program. We’re also not this medical transcription company. They inter-cap the “c.” (If you’re curious about what a medical transcription company does, doctors recite their notes into a dictaphone, then upload the files to a secure server. ProCom then types them out and sends them back.) We’re not a group of insurance brokers from Red Deer, Alberta, nor are we this Illinois-based alarm company.

We ARE the oldest IT recruitment firm in North America. We started doing this back when most people didn’t even know what IT meant. We ARE a company that works with some of the biggest banks and telecom companies on the continent, with a 36 year history of leaving both clients and job seekers satisfied. And if you let us, we ARE going to be the company that finds you your next great job in IT or project management. We’re just not going to sell you any insurance. Drop us a line and see what we have for you.