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Self-Directed Learning in the Workplace

Getting employees to participate in training seminars (let alone actually pay attention to them) can be like pulling teeth.  No matter how important or relevant the training, there will be people who think it doesn’t apply to them, people who show up then sit in the corner and doodle, people who leave after lunch, and so on, which can create the impression that you’ve just wasted a lot of money trying to get people to learn a new skill or process that could help them perform their job more effectively.  One way to combat this is to implement a self-directed learning program that allows employees to pursue their own education, expand their skill sets, and improve performance on their own schedule.  Below, we’ve provided some insight into why self-directed learning can be of value and how to implement a program of your own.

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How to Maximize the Value of an Internship Program for Your Company

Internship programs are ubiquitous around the beltway (and around the world), but few employers approach these arrangements as ways to attract, develop, and retain top talent.  A well-designed internship program will not only help the student or young professional learn valuable skills that will help them in future endeavors, but will create a talent pool of qualified candidates who already have an understanding of your organization and its culture.  We asked our experts to come up with some ideas for employers looking to leverage their internship programs – or start one – to attract fresh talent and expand their candidate pools. Give Interns Real Work  – This tip is the most obvious, but definitely worth bringing up.  An internship is about much more than fetching coffee or making copies, and giving interns real assignments that will help them build their skills while learning about what type of work is expected...
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Professionalism and LinkedIn Profiles: Presentation Still Matters

LinkedIn was launched in the early 2000’s as a networking site where business people could connect and make new contacts, and, while it did retain that professional edge for quite some time, it’s difficult to log in to LinkedIn now and see that same level of decorum.  As more users sign up (LinkedIn has over 400 million users around the world), people are seeking new ways to distinguish themselves from the crowd, and, as a result, some of the professionalism around the platform has deteriorated.  Headshots of people on vacation or at a party are not uncommon, taglines are often aimed at being clever or funny rather than describing an individual’s profession, and there has been a rising trend of people treating LinkedIn’s messaging service as a dating app.  If you’re using LinkedIn to look for a job, though, you need to make sure that your own LinkedIn page demonstrates...
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Job Search Tips for Veterans

One of our specialties here at Potomac Recruiting is helping people looking to transition out of the military and into the private sector, so this week we asked our experts to put together some straightforward tips aimed at candidates with a military background.  Though transitioning out of military service and into civilian life can be daunting, conducting a job hunt as a veteran is not substantially different from any other search – but it does require a different type of mentality from what you might be used to in the military. Tip 1: Research Common Job Requirements Unfortunately, many of the jobs in the private sector will require qualifications that military veterans might not possess, which can make applying more difficult.  Before you start sending out résumés, do some research online and consult with career counsellors to find out what kind of qualifications you will need for the job you...
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How Women can Best Prepare to Sit on a Corporate Board

Getting a seat on a corporate board is a prestigious accomplishment, and, as such, requires a lot of careful planning and preparation.  This is especially true for women, who only hold approximately 20.2 percent of corporate board seats among Fortune 500 companies .  One of the key functions of an effective Board of Directors is representing company stakeholders, including customers, employees, and shareholders, therefore a diverse, inclusive Board that combines a variety of skills and viewpoints is crucial.  With that in mind, we’ve compiled some tips and advice on how women can prepare to sit on a corporate board. One: Develop your Personal Brand All Board candidates must have a strong personal brand and value proposition that differentiates them from the pack, and you must be able to articulate this both in person and through your board-specific résumé.  Identify your strengths and correlate them with the experience you have gained...
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Adjusting to a New Job

The end goal of any job hunt is, naturally, to accept a position at a new company – which means adjusting to a new company culture.  This can lead to a difficult transition period, during which time you might feel frustrated or like you’ve made a mistake.  Don’t get discouraged, though!  We’ve put together some tips for dealing with an unfamiliar environment and company culture. One: Don’t Panic It’s very easy to get overwhelmed when starting a new job, especially on your first day.  Everything is different: the people, the location, the work, the coffee, and you’re struggling to take it all in and remember everyone’s name and role.  Step one is not to panic.  Yes, it is a lot, but over time you will get everything down – and no one expects you to remember everything right off the bat.  Getting confused or overwhelmed at the beginning is normal,...
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Using Social Media to Source Candidates

Social media has become a recruiting buzzword; these days, it seems everyone is sourcing candidates through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  There’s just one problem: there are millions of people on these social networks, and finding the right candidate among the crowd can be difficult – if not impossible – leaving many recruiters and hiring managers wondering how, exactly, they are supposed to leverage this technology to improve their candidate searches.  We’ve put together some tips designed to help you get started and effectively utilize social media sites to identify and reach out to qualified candidates. Tip 1: Take Advantage of Niche Groups So you’re on Facebook and LinkedIn and you want to find a specific kind of person to fill an open position – say a Java developer.  Where do you start?  By searching for relevant groups!  LinkedIn, for example, has hundreds of thousands of Groups professionals can join to...
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Networking over the Holidays

Last time we wrote an article confirming that the holidays are not a death sentence for job hunting , and outlining a few ways to use the festive season to your advantage when searching for a new position.  This week, we decided to take a deeper look at one area in particular: networking.  As we mentioned last week, the holidays can be an excellent time for networking, as there are a seemingly endless stream of parties and events to attend along with countless old friends, family members, and former colleagues.  These events are the perfect forum for you to announce that you are in the job market.  Networking over the holidays is a delicate balance, though: people want to have fun, catch up, and chat about their holiday plans, not spend the entire evening talking about career opportunities.  So, this week we’ve put together some tips for savvy holiday networking,...
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Job Hunting during the Holidays

The holiday season is officially upon us, and for many job seekers that means their focus tends to wane as they shift to gift-buying, decorating, and attending holiday parties and events.  Plus, we’ve noticed that job seekers often think that the holidays are a bad time to be in the market, since they assume everyone is equally distracted by the festivities and is not interested in setting up interviews or filling out paperwork.  While it may be true that you are less likely to get a formal interview or be hired during this time, we’ve put together a list of things you can do to keep yourself in the market and use the holiday season to your advantage. Tip 1: Use the Holidays to Reconnect with your Network The holidays are a time for merrymaking and reconnecting with friends and family, therefore they provide the perfect excuse to contact old...
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Coping With Office Politics

Unless you’re self-employed (and maybe even then!), chances are high that you will have to deal with at least some form of office politics.  Some people thrive on office politics and seem to be easily able to navigate the in-groups and out-groups, informal networks of influence, and dynamics of power that characterize office relations.  Others prefer to remain on the outskirts and focus on keeping their heads down and getting their work done without drama.  Whether you love or hate office politics, though, escaping is nearly impossible if you hope to move up within the company.  It isn’t enough simply to do good work – you have to make sure that the right people know about how good your work is, demonstrate that you can build team cohesion, and ensure that you are the one receiving credit for your ideas.  So, this week our experts have looked into some steps...
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Improving the Candidate Experience

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when in the midst of a candidate search, especially if you work at a small company that may not have a dedicated recruiter who’s been well trained and can manage every aspect of the search.  You may find yourself sending out brusque form e-mails to candidates who didn’t make the cut, or calling people in for interviews without really having a plan in place for what to do with them when they get to the office.  Spending some time thinking about the process of applying for a position at your company from the candidate’s perspective, though, can be very beneficial in the long run – applicants who had an overall positive experience, even if they didn’t get the job, will be more likely to keep in touch with the company and apply for future opportunities, and to recommend your company to their friends.  So, here...
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Do’s and Don’ts of Making a Good Impression at Networking Events

Does anything strike terror into the heart of a potential job seeker more than the idea of a networking event?  If you live in (or near) a city, chances are you could attend a networking event every single night, but there seems to be a tendency to build these events up in our heads until the idea of actually going to one of them and doing something other than standing in the corner drinking free wine and eating free hors d’oeuvres seems nearly impossible.  Unfortunately, networking is probably the best way to meet your career objectives, whether those are to get a new job, to build relationships within your field, or to attract new clientele.  Fortunately, however, there are some easy things you can do to make a good impression and achieve your goals.  Our experts have put together some do’s and don’t’s for networking events that will help you...
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Building an Effective Team Part Two: What to Do

Last week we took a look at some common missteps managers make when trying to encourage their teams to work together and perform well, and outlined why these issues can be detrimental to a team environment.  As promised, this week we’re flipping things around and offering a guide on things to do to build an effective team that is cohesive, high-performing, and communicative. One: Evaluate Yourself A strong team needs a strong leader, so step one in building an effective team is evaluating your own leadership skills.  It’s important to be honest with yourself at this stage: what are your strengths and weaknesses?  How does your team perceive these strengths and weaknesses?  What can you do to improve and be a more effective leader?  These are all important questions.  And remember, everyone (and every team) functions differently!  If you successfully managed a strong team at one organization and now are...
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Building an Effective Team Part One: What Not to Do

Much of a manager’s time is spent making sure their team or department is performing well and functioning as smoothly as possible, so we’ve decided to devote the next couple of weeks to our two-part series on how to build an effective team.  In Part One we’ll take a look at some common mistakes managers make – usually with the best intentions – in an effort to show you what not to do when trying to foster team development.  Then next week we’ll turn around and look at things to do, and provide some advice on techniques you can implement to help build trust and create a high-performing team. One: Don’t Provide Empty Praise As we’ve mentioned numerous times, recognizing achievement and publically praising employees who have gone above and beyond in their efforts or successfully completed a major project is an excellent way to boost morale and create a...
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Making the Most of a Reference Check

Checking references is a step that, unfortunately, many recruiters and hiring managers decide to skip when bringing in a new employee.  It often seems tedious and time-consuming – the candidate has already passed through the pre-screening process, they’ve gone through phone and in-person interviews (perhaps even multiple rounds of face-to-face interviews), and they’ve managed to shine through it all.  What’s the point of going through their list and calling everyone just to get standard, canned responses about what a great employee they were?  Reference checks should never be ignored, though.  People can be trained on how to interview well and come across as competent, personable, and eager, so checking their references to make sure that they are actually a good employee , not just a good interviewee, is crucial.  Additionally, you need to verify that everything they’ve said on their résumé is accurate – you’d be surprised how many people...
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How to Recover from a Bad Job Interview

There are a myriad of reasons why even the most well prepared job seeker can crash and burn during an interview: maybe your personality clashed with that of the interviewer, maybe you were running late and got flustered, maybe the job description changed, or maybe you just had an off day.  No matter the cause, though, there are a few things you can do to help recover from a poor interview.  Our experts have put together a list of five key steps you can take to improve the interviewer’s perception and make sure your hat stays in the ring! Step 1: Stay calm The first thing to do following a bad job interview is to stay calm.  Panicking is a natural response, but it won’t get you anywhere.  When your adrenaline is up and your mind is racing, you will be more likely to blow things out of proportion and...
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Tips for Effective Coaching

Coaching or mentoring employees is an important skill for a manager – or anyone responsible for supervising a team – and a large industry has popped up around the process of teaching people how to become good coaches.  Training seminars, workbooks, and online courses are all available for those seeking to hone their abilities, often at a substantial cost, but becoming an effective coach does not have to be difficult!  We’ve put together some simple tips that anyone looking to brush up on their coaching skills can follow. Tip 1: Delegate Tasks Meaningfully It’s hard to coach someone without first giving them something on which to be coached, so the best place to start is by delegating work.  It isn’t enough to just randomly assign tasks, though.  When delegating work with the goal of coaching an employee, pick a task that fits well with their interests, has concrete milestones, and...
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How to Improve a Negative Employer Brand

It can happen to any company.  A few negative reviews on Glassdoor, one discontented employee spreading rumors, or a piece of negative press, and all of a sudden your company is suffering from an unattractive brand image.  Happily, however, there are a number of ways employers can turn the situation around and improve a negative brand image problem.  We’ve put together some easy steps that can help you rebuild your company’s image, or even just help you turn your company’s brand from average to excellent. Tip 1: Do your Research Making assumptions about the root cause of your company’s negative brand issue will not help you improve the situation, as you may end up targeting the wrong item and wasting time and money trying to fix something that isn’t broken.  If you’re afraid a branding problem is affecting your company culture and your ability to hire, start by doing some...
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Tips for Avoiding Job Posting Scams

Many recruiting scams are easy to spot: offers to make thousands of dollars a month working from home and blatant Ponzi schemes typically get sent to spam folders anyway, making them very easy to ignore, and fake ads on recruiting boards generally offer high salary ranges with vague descriptions of the position and responsibilities.  Some are much more subtle, though, and falling for them can have consequences that range from the mild annoyance of wasted time to devastating identity theft.  With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you avoid some of the more sophisticated recruiting scams, which tend to attract first-time job seekers, those who have been in the market for an extended period of time and have become increasingly frustrated, and mothers or recently retired seniors looking to make some additional income by working from home. Tip 1: Always Research the Company and...
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How to Write a Cover Letter

While a résumé is an incredibly useful tool (and one which we have devoted a number of articles to), it’s only half of the package when you are applying for a position: your cover letter is equally important.  Your cover letter allows you to tell your prospective employer a story about how your past experience has prepared you for this position, as well as what interested you in the position in the first place, and its value should not be underestimated.  We’ve seen too many great candidates who focus only on their résumé and recycle the same form cover letter for every job application, so we’ve put together a list of easy-to-follow tips for writing a compelling cover letter that truly makes you stand out among the pool of applicants. Tip 1: Personalize Your Cover Letter Starting your cover letter off with “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom it may Concern”...
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About Us

Potomac Recruiting consultants are specialists in talent. Our experienced consultants are passionate about finding the right people for your business—that’s the Potomac Recruiting advantage. We specialize in finding the people who will help your business exceed its goals, and our success is measurable: in today’s fast-moving world Potomac Recruiting is proud that our retention rate is 93%.  

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