When it comes to your career, regret can trap you in the past and paralyze you from moving forward.
One survey found that two of the top five most common life regrets were tied to careers—from not pursuing one's passion to working too hard. Another recent poll found that 23 percent of workers regretted switching jobs. While some regrets are linked to significant career decisions, others revolve around smaller moments, like not speaking up in a meeting or not challenging a superior. But when it comes down to it, there are two kinds of regrets: one is based on our actions, and the other on our inaction. And it's the latter that really drags us down.
"Research shows that we regret more in the face of opportunity," writes Forbes' Caroline Beaton, who notes that millennials are particularly prone to career regrets. "Regrets of inaction are more prevalent, last longer and feel worse than action regrets in part because we associate them with greater (missed) opportunity. While regretting a specific action means just one alternative — not doing it — inaction signifies infinite possibility ("I could have done this, or this, or this")."
Here's where things get really sticky: the more we regret, the more likely we are to resort to inaction. It's that fear of regret that "makes us stick with the status quo even if our reasoning or intuition says we shouldn't," writes Eyal Winter, Professor of Behavioral/Industrial Economics at Lancaster University, on The Conversation. "That makes people who are more prone to feel regret less likely to take risks."
That means the fewer risks we take when it comes to our career choices—from using our vacation days to pursuing our dream jobs—the more regrets we're likely accrue. So how do we stop this crazy-making cycle and move forward? The answers involve a little self-examination and some expert advice.
Rationalize Your Mistakes
Everyone make mistakes, it's how we choose to see them that determines whether they'll hold us back or propel us forward in the right direction. "Although it can be tough to hear it in the moment, more times than not, our career 'mistakes' end up being the best things for us," career coach Kristen Zavo tells FlexJobs. "They show us what we want—and don't want. They allow us to learn lessons, encounter challenges, and work with people that we might not have otherwise."
But how do you look at your own mistakes without kicking yourself? The best approach to examining past mistakes is through kindness and understanding. Beaton suggests rationalizing why you made the choice you did at the time—taking into account that you didn't have the hindsight you have now. Maybe you took a job you regret because you needed the money, or perhaps you felt stuck in other aspects of your life and needed a change. "Rationalization doesn't mean shirking responsibility or refusing to learn from your mistakes," explains Beaton. "It means closure." Once you forgive yourself, you can start seeing what influenced you in the past that you may want to avoid in the future. Moreover, you can be grateful that those old mistakes are now guiding you in a new direction.
Ask Yourself Two Key Questions
Another way to diminish your career regrets is through a simple system of self-examination. After researching the science behind regret, Eric Barker of The Week came upon two questions that can make all the difference: "What can I learn from this?" and "How could things have been worse?" The first question doesn't just allow you learn from your mistake, it gives you a sense of control so that the next time you're faced with a similar decision, you'll know how best to handle it. The second question reframes the thing you regret. Maybe you actually dodged a bullet or maybe what you thought was a mistake was actually a defensive move that deserve some credit.
Define Your Goals
Just because you've made peace with your past, that doesn't guarantee satisfaction with your current job situation. If you've been harping on career regrets, chances are it's because you're unhappy with where you're at and don't know how to change it. It's time to stop looking back and instead start examining the present and the future.
"To be more satisfied in their careers now, I encourage clients to focus on both (a) the short-term: what can they do now both at, and outside of, work to be happier and (b) long-term: getting clear on their career vision, building a plan, and taking steps each day, each week, to make it a reality," Zavo tells Flexjobs.
One way to sharpen your focus for your future is to define it in real terms—whether that means writing down your goals, identifying a person whose career you admire, or creating a mood board of what your dream career looks like.
"You can't revisit the past, but you can turn your attention to something you want," writes Psychology Today's Beverly Flaxington. "So this career isn't the best one; how do you paint a picture of something you do want? Paint a picture in as much detail as you can about where you'd like to head. This will start turning your attention away from the rear-view mirror and to the windshield looking forward."
It's time to stop beating yourself up over your past. We all make mistakes. The less we dwell on them and the more we learn from them, the better our future careers will be.
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So you've seized an opportunity: you spotted a job you want, and you've taken the initiative. You wrote a killer cover letter, brushed up your resume and captured the attention of a potential employer. Congratulations, you proactive person, you!
Now comes the real test: the interview. In some respects, the interview process is a mutual feeling-out process. It's an opportunity for both the candidate and the interviewer to decide if the job is a good fit. But it's also a chance to showcase your real, on-the-job assets from your communication and research skills to your ability to think on your feet.
"The interview is an elimination process," Dr. Thomas J. Denham, a career counselor at Careers in Transition LLC, tells Monster.com. "The employer is trying to weed out those who are not the most worthy of the position."
In a way, the interview is an oral test—if you ace it, you will set yourself apart from the other candidates, but if you don't do your homework, you could find your resume in the rejection pile. Of course, there's no bulletproof way to know precisely which questions a potential employer will throw at you in the interview, but there are some ubiquitous (and tricky) ones you should prepare for. Arming yourself with some sharp answers ahead of time will give you the confidence to conquer any other questions that come your way. To help, we rounded up five eternal interview questions, along with expert advice on how to answer them. Study up, then go forth and land that job.
Tell me about yourself
This may seem like a softball question, but its vagueness can trip you up. Where do you start? What do they want to know beyond your resume? How do you sum up your experience without rambling on and on? Okay, deep breath.
Career coach Hallie Crawford suggests this question is merely an opportunity for potential employers to get to know a little more about you beyond your CV. "Keep in mind that they may have looked you up online and have your cover letter, so do your best not to just repeat something they have already read about you," she tells Fast Company. "Instead, is there a background story about how you got into your industry? Can you explain your unique selling proposition—why you are unique in your industry? Or, you could explain your top three values and why they are important to you."
It's important to anticipate the kind of information your interviewer is looking for, specifically, how your past experience and current interests relate to the position he or she is looking to fill.
"Think about the context from which the interviewer is asking the question, which is to say, you should tailor your answer to the particular role you want," AJ Aronstein, associate dean at Barnard College's Beyond Barnard tells Refinery29. "Tell them what you've done up to this point that makes you a good fit for the position and that should take no more than about 45 seconds to a minute." Short, sweet and to the point, got it?
Why Should We Hire You?
To prep for this question, you need to go back to the original job posting and reread the list of requirements. Find which ones reflect your skill set and prepare to elaborate with concrete examples from your past experiences.
The experts at job hub Indeed.com suggest throwing out some numbers whenever possible to support your case. "For example, if you're applying for a job as an accountant at a company that is looking for someone to streamline processes, you might explain that at your previous company, you implemented a new process for expense accounts that reduced time-to-reimbursement by 25%."
Once you've quantified your abilities, finish off by qualifying them. Is there a personal or professional asset you can bring to this role that others might not? Maybe it's your travels abroad, your volunteer experience, or your managerial success in your last job. Whatever it is, find something in your past that speaks to the job's primary requirements, and use it to suggest you're more than a qualified candidate, but a person who can bring added value to the company.
If you're stuck on what career aspect to highlight, job coach Thomas J. Denham suggests picking three to five notable successes listed on your resume and using them as bullet points in your response. "The notion is that past performance is always the best predictor of future performance," Denham tells Monster.com.
What Are Your Weaknesses?
Oh, the trickiest of trick questions. If you're too honest, you'll incriminate yourself. If you're inauthentic, you'll lose your audience. It's all about finding that sweet spot between vulnerability and strength. Nobody's perfect, we all make mistakes and interviewers know that. What they really want to see is your ability to assess your own performance, and turn potential weaknesses into strengths on the job.
In her book, 301 Answers to Tough Interview Questions, author Vicky Oliver provides one example of how to respond.
"I am extremely impatient. I expect my employees to prove themselves on the very first assignment. If they fail, my tendency is to stop delegating to them and start doing everything myself. To compensate for my own weakness, however, I have started to really prep my people on exactly what will be expected of them."
If you're still at a loss for what to say, Indeed.com has created a formula for answering this question that turns any stated negative into a positive. "First, state your weakness. Second, add additional context and a specific example or story of how this trait has emerged in your professional life. That context will give potential employers insight into your level of self-awareness and commitment to professional growth."
Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
Maybe you had a bad experience at your last job, maybe you were laid off, or maybe you're still stuck in the worst job ever. Whatever the reason, you can be honest without being negative. "Remember that you want to avoid bashing your current or past employer and the company," Crawford tells Fast Company. "This question is designed to find out why you are looking for a new job. Instead of focusing on them, focus on you. Are you looking for more career growth than what is offered where you currently work? Or a more challenging position?"
Focus on the positive aspects of your last job, or how your role or the company inspired you to pursue greater opportunities like this one. (Flattery will get you everywhere.)
What are your salary requirements?
This question is a doozy. On the one hand, it's a sign the interview is going well—you're being taken seriously as a candidate and your interviewer is ready to talk rates. On the other hand, the stakes just got higher. If you haven't done your salary research, you could low-ball yourself or price yourself out of a position you really want. Moreover, you don't even know what range they're offering. So what do you do when an interviewer tosses you the salary question? Toss it back.
"The first person who mentions a number loses when it comes to negotiations," career coach Bianca J. Jackson tells the Washington Post. "So I would try to get a number from them first. Every position is budgeted, so I would flip the question back onto them: 'What have you budgeted for the role?'"
Even if you don't get a concrete response, you've proven yourself a shrewd negotiator who is intrigued by what the company can offer but in no way desperate. Of course, if you're pressed to provide a salary range, don't undersell yourself. Lean towards the higher end of your salary requirements, while still ensuring your potential employer that you're flexible because the job itself is so enticing.
The bottom line when prepping for a job interview is to do your homework. Study the job posting, tailor your experiences and assets to their hiring needs and sell yourself with confidence. If you can do all that, you'll be ready for any question that comes your way.
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If you've ever had the bad luck of checking your bank account on payday only to find you haven't been paid yet, you know just how frustrating a delayed paycheck can be. Luckily, the law is on your side. Most states operate similarly when it comes to paycheck laws, and all states (except Alabama and South Carolina) mandate weekly, biweekly, semimonthly, or monthly payments. That means if your employer misses a paycheck, they can be held accountable by law. If you want to know the exact payday laws in your specific state, you can check this list.
But before you worry about getting the law involved, first contact your employer about the lost paycheck. It's best to do this in person as well as in writing, in case you later need to use the email or letter as evidence. If they assure you your paycheck is in the mail, remind them that they are obligated to have your check in your hand by the designated payday, not just in the mail. Hopefully, the check will arrive soon, but if late paychecks continue to be a problem with your employer, you may have grounds for legal action.
But what if the check never comes at all? According to FindLaw, the steps to take in the case of an absent paycheck are as follows:
- Contact your employer (preferably in writing) and ask for the wages owed to you
- If your employer refuses to do so, consider filing a claim with your state's labor agency.
- File a suit in small claims court or superior court for the amount owed
- For larger cases involving a late paycheck or payday laws in general, consider hiring a labor attorney to help you.
The most important thing to remember in the case of a late or undelivered paycheck is that getting paid for the work you do is your right. There's no need to feel uncomfortable confronting your employer about issues of wages, and you shouldn't hesitate to consult a lawyer if you feel you're being taken advantage of by your employer in any way.
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There is nothing easy about a job interview. Etiquette says dress up, even if your interviewers arrive barefoot in blue jeans. You should smile, but not too much. You should be humble and confident at the same time. You should write a thank you note. But what about salary?
Addressing salary while moving into a new role in a new company can feel as difficult as landing the job, itself. And while finding a fulfilling position is important, your income should also be a factor. You deserve the dream job, and you deserve an income that makes that job sustainable.
According to a recent survey, only 37% of employees even attempt to negotiate for their salaries -- and in 2018, that's got to stop. Emily Post never gave us any intel on the etiquette surrounding salary demands, but fortunately, there are a few steps proven to work. You don't have to choose between decorum and financial stability.
First things first, professional negotiators recommend doing your research before an offer is even on the table. Know what people in similar positions are earning, and be prepared to defend yourself if your eventual offer doesn't comply with industry standard. This doesn't mean you should throw a number at an employer during your first interview -- it'll give you the upper hand to wait until you've got have a sum to negotiate with. But be sure you're prepared when going into this conversation. Know what your counterparts are making, and go from there.
When it comes to finally having the money conversation, finance journalist Alison Doyle recommends remaining neutral. "Negotiations needn't be adversarial, and no one has to get aggressive. If you're a reluctant negotiator, it might help to keep in mind that you're on the same side." she writes. Approach the conversation with a sense of camaraderie -- technically, there are no enemies. You both want your services.
"The team has invested time and resources in the interview process, they have consensus on hiring you and they're eager to seal the deal and put you to work. This is the perfect time to talk salary," adds journalist, Robin Madell. Ultimately, you and your employer are a unit, and they want you here. If they were underselling you, they'll want to make it right. They, too, are invested.
If you have pre-negotiation jitters, keep in mind the fact that most employers actually expect to have a little back-and-forth when it comes to salary. The number attached to your initial offer is often ever-so-slightly lower than it could be, in the event that you push back. Your reluctance to talk about money here may be polite in an old school dinner party sense, but those rules no longer apply. Certainly no one will think less of you for negotiating.
Once your discussion is actually underway, if it feels like your negotiations have come to a halt, Doyle recommends negotiating benefits. There may be some other aspect of your financial compensation with a little more wiggle room, be it an office perk, or a health insurance package. Try to take a look at the whole financial picture, and be flexible when it comes to options that don't apply strictly to salary.
There is, of course, the distinct possibility that you will never arrive at an offer that feels substantial to you. If this happens, don't be afraid to say no. Again, this might feel counter to the rules of decorum, but this is 2018, and sometimes self advocacy requires a little bluntness.
"I turned down a position I knew I didn't want, regardless of salary, and received three follow-up phone calls upping the compensation package," Doyle reports. Like with haggling, the word "no" can be powerful. Sometimes, the thought of losing you as an employee will be enough to kick a full negotiation into gear.
On the other hand, know your own situation. Don't push too hard if this doesn't feel feasible. There are times when budgeting doesn't allow what you're fighting for, and if you truly need the hours or the title, check yourself before you deliver a flat no. Walking away with less than you deserve is no fun, but it's equally problematic to walk away with nothing.
"The main reason employees aren't paid what they're worth isn't because they don't deserve it," Madell writes. "It's because they don't ask." This is important to keep in mind.
You only get what you negotiate for, and in 2018, job offer etiquette urges you to make that request. Earning what you deserve is your prerogative. That shouldn't scare you, it should empower you.
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