News & Articles

Best Career Advice Ever

(K.Hedges, forbes.com)

 The reality is that a whole lot of career stuff is situational. What works for one person, or in one company, doesn’t do so well elsewhere. That said, there are a few, consistent pieces of advice that hold up anywhere, for any level of professional. Follow these, and you’ll fast-track your own career.

1. If you see a fire, run into it.

In chaos, there is opportunity. Most major career accelerations happen when someone steps into a mess and makes a difference. In the technology sector, people will remark that one year in a start-up is like five years in an established company. There’s ample opportunity to stretch your wings, wear many hats, and create a name for yourself when there’s not a set plan to follow. You can find the same opportunity in any organization, if you seek it.

2. Follow up.

If, as Woody Allen made famous, 80% of life is showing up — then 90% of career success is following up. Our organizations are rife with lack of accountability, whether by intention or incompetence. Be the person who meets deadlines, holds others accountable, and heck, even remembers to say thanks when it’s due. Following through on your commitments is trust-building, and the opposite erodes it quickly and indelibly.

3. Tell the truth.

Truthfulness seems a bit obvious to be on this list. However, companies are rife with damaging lies of omission. In an effort to look good, and not cause waves, we don’t express our truthful opinion. Being brave enough to respectfully state the truth in a politically astute way sets you apart. Most CEOs I know want to hear dissenting opinion; they crave more information not “yes” people. As Joann Lublin discussed in the Wall Street Journal, expressing a difference of opinion actually helps your career.

4. Treat everyone as an equal.

Respect has a place at work, but not deference. Being relaxed and confident in front of authority elevates your own brand. People see you the way you see yourself.

5. Pull yourself up with one hand, and reach back to others with the opposite one.

It is extremely common feedback that a leader manages up well, but not down. This works for a while, but turns out you have to be seen favorably by all levels to succeed. A recent global study showed that an inability to build and maintain a team is the top reason organizations fail.

6. Make valuable offers to others. 

Every day in our organizations, we see areas that could be helped, or processes that should be fixed. We let them slip by because of time, political boundaries, or not wanting to speak up. When you see something that you can affect — don’t wait to be asked — make a proactive offer to help. (Or, if appropriate, just do it.) Even if you aren’t taken up on the offer, the fact that you cared enough to make it speaks volumes about your character and your initiative.

7. Show gratitude.

No one succeeds on their own. Even if things don’t entirely go your way, there are still reasons to be grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given. We too often forget to say thanks for the opportunities and rewards we’ve been given — both large and small. Yes, you earned them. But you can still say thanks.

Getting What You Want in Life

Benjamin Franklin was a man of action. Over his lifetime, his curiosity and passion fueled a diverse range of interests. He was a writer (often using a pseudonym), publisher, diplomat, inventor and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

His inventions included the lightning rod, bifocals and the Franklin stove. Franklin was responsible for establishing the first public library, organizing fire fighters in Philadelphia, was one of the early supporters of mutual insurance and crossed the Atlantic eight times. Self-development was a constant endeavor throughout his incredible life.

Benjamin Franklin was clearly a man who knew how to get things done.

Here are 14 action-inducing lessons from him:

Less Talk, More Action

“Well done is better than well said.” Talk is cheap. Talking about a project won’t get it completed. We all know people who constantly talk about the things they are going to do but rarely ever take that first step. Eventually people begin to question their credibility. Taking action and seeing the task through to completion is the only way to get the job done.

Don’t Procrastinate

“Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” This is probably one of the first quotes I remember hearing as a teenager. With an impressive list of achievements to his credit, Benjamin Franklin was not a man hung up on procrastination. He was a man with clear measurable goals who worked hard to turn his vision into reality. What are you putting off till tomorrow that could make a difference in your life today?

Be Prepared

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” You need a plan to accomplish your goals. Charging in without giving any thought to the end result and how to achieve it, is a sure way to fall flat on your face. Think like a boy scout. Have a realistic plan of attack and a systematic approach for getting where you need to be.

Don’t Fight Change

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” While many of us don’t like change, others thrive on it. Either way change is inevitable. The stronger we fight against it, the more time and energy it consumes. Give up the fight. Focus on proactively making positive changes, instead of having change merely thrust upon you. Wherever possible, try to view change as a positive instead of a negative.

Get Moving

“All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” There’s a reason we use the expression, movers and shakers. Movers are the ones who take action, the people who get things done, while the immovable are sitting around scratching their heads wondering how others could possibly be so successful. Which group do you want to belong to?

Avoid Busywork

“Never confuse motion with action.” We are always running around doing things. We rush from one meeting or event to the next, sometimes without achieving a great deal. At the end of the day, how much of our busywork are we proud of? How much of that running around improves anyone’s life (including ours) for the better? Make your motion mean something.   Give

Yourself Permission to Make Mistakes

“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” If we fear making mistakes, we become scared to try new things. Fear leaves us nestled in our comfort zone. Staying in your comfort zone rarely leads to greatness. Taking risks and giving yourself permission to make mistakes, will ultimately lead you to whatever your version of success may be.

Act Quickly on Opportunities

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” Opportunities are everywhere. The trick is being quick enough and smart enough to seize them when they arise. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that something won’t work or can’t be done, allow yourself the freedom to ask what if?

Continue to Grow

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better man.” We all have vices of some description. The key is to keep them under control or preferably eradicate them entirely. Be kind to those around you, whether they are neighbors, family, co-workers or friends. Never accept that you have finished growing as a person.

Keep Going

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.” Have you ever looked at a successful entrepreneur or business person and thought how lucky they are? Most of the time, luck has nothing to do with it. Hard work and sacrifice on the other hand have everything to do with it. Successful people deal with failure. They tackle their demons head on. They pick themselves up and keep going.

Know Yourself

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Understanding ourselves is not easy. Sometimes we just don’t want to see ourselves for who we really are. It’s much easier to hold onto a romanticized version of ourselves or to simply view ourselves through other people’s eyes. Start by being brutally honest with yourself. Follow through with understanding, compassion and acceptance.

Don’t Self-Sabotage

“Who had deceived thee so often as thyself?” We spend so much time worrying about other people hurting us, yet fail to comprehend the damage we inflict on ourselves. If you are using negative self-talk, lying to yourself or indulging in addictive behavior you are self-sabotaging. Life can dish up enough challenges without us adding to the mix. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you would a best friend.

Don’t Give Up

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Achieving our goals can be downright exhausting. There will be days when you want to give up. There will be times when your energy levels flatline and you wonder why you bother getting out of bed. Yet you push forward, day after day because you believe in yourself and you have the determination and strength to back up that belief.

Wise Up

“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” Benjamin was definitely onto something with this one. Who hasn’t had the thought – I wish I could know then, what I know now? Unfortunately there is no time machine; there is no going back. The key is to wise up as early as you can to start forging a life of purpose, achievement and happiness

 

Validation vs. Verification

(‘Serendipity’, November 29, 2010)

The terms Verification and Validation are commonly used in software engineering to mean two different types of analysis. The usual definitions are:

Validation: Are we building the right system?
Verification: Are we building the system right?

In other words, validation is concerned with checking that the system will meet the customer’s actual needs, while verification is concerned with whether the system is well-engineered, error-free, and so on. Verification will help to determine whether the software is of high quality, but it will not ensure that the system is useful.

The distinction between the two terms is largely to do with the role of specifications. Validation is the process of checking whether the specification captures the customer’s needs, while verification is the process of checking that the software meets the specification.

Verification includes all the activities associated with the producing high quality software: testing, inspection, design analysis, specification analysis, and so on. It is a relatively objective process, in that if the various products and documents are expressed precisely enough, no subjective judgements should be needed in order to verify software.

In contrast, validation is an extremely subjective process. It involves making subjective assessments of how well the (proposed) system addresses a real-world need. Validation includes activities such as requirements modelling, prototyping and user evaluation.

In a traditional phased software lifecycle, verification is often taken to mean checking that the products of each phase satisfy the requirements of the previous phase. Validation is relegated to just the beginning and ending of the project: requirements analysis and acceptance testing. This view is common in many software engineering textbooks, and is misguided. It assumes that the customer’s requirements can be captured completely at the start of a project, and that those requirements will not change while the software is being developed. In practice, the requirements change throughout a project, partly in reaction to the project itself: the development of new software makes new things possible. Therefore both validation and verification are needed throughout the lifecycle.

Finally, V&V is now regarded as a coherent discipline: ”Software V&V is a systems engineering discipline which evaluates the software in a systems context, relative to all system elements of hardware, users, and other software”. (from Software Verification and Validation: Its Role in Computer Assurance and Its Relationship with Software Project Management Standards, by Dolores R. Wallace and Roger U. Fujii, NIST Special Publication 500-165)

 

Resume Checklist

 

1. Do not apply to a company multiple times if the positions do not match your experience and skills. Recruiters notice multiple submissions, and it reflects poorly on a candidate if he or she applies for jobs that aren’t a good fit.

2. Include a professional or executive summary at the resume top, followed by a list of bulleted qualifications and/or achievements.

3. Customize the professional/executive summary and bulleted list(s) with keywords that match a given job.

4. Make sure the keywords in the executive summary and bulleted qualifications and achievements replicate those in the job posting.

5. Keywords alone aren’t enough. Frame keywords with descriptive material that demonstrates experience and familiarity with the subject.

6. Do not use abbreviations such as “Mgr” instead of “Manager.

7. Avoid misspellings.

8. Use standard capitalization, not all lowercase or full capitals. Improper capitalization annoys recruiters.

9. Provide all the information requested by the job posting, even if it’s listed as optional. Recruiters often sort by optional information to filter out applicants, and filling in all fields will ensure you don’t erroneously get caught in a screening filter.

10. Make sure your resume is in a clear, concise format, with your contact information located at the top instead of in the header or footer.

11. Do not include graphics or logos on a resume

12. Adhere to instructions provided in follow-up e-mail. If the follow-up e-mail lacks a phone number but directs you to respond with your availability, respond via e-mail, not by calling. This will likely get you the fastest response.

13. If you receive an automatically generated rejection e-mail, immediately contact the recruitment office of the rejecting organization or a sympathetic administrative assistant — anyone who can advise you as to the best way to replace the resume currently in the ATS with one containing better keywords and phrases.

14. When reapplying after an initial rejection, tweak executive summaries and bulleted lists of key skills and achievements. Don’t alter your work history elements.

15. Once your customized resume has been resubmitted, contact the appropriate recruiter (or sympathetic administrative assistant) and request that your updated resume be reviewed for the open position

One Weekly Habit That Will Push You to Peak Performance

 (L Garnett_humanresources.com, Feb. 12, 2014)

 Most of us have the desire to be high-performing. The alternative is boredom and less personal pride.

In the sports world, athletes create rituals and regulate how they live in order to increase their performance. The rest of us tend to make to-do lists and set goals — but not much else. For both groups, peak performance requires attention, reflection, and a plan that goes beyond goal attainment. But because “working” is a daily function, it’s easy to assume great work performance is like the weather, where some days are 72 and sunny and others not so much, for no particular reason.

I want to encourage you to think otherwise, and to adopt one simple habit: Spend 15 minutes every Friday afternoon answering a series of questions. It could make the difference between great and lackluster performance; between job satisfaction and boredom.

These questions are meant to reveal what’s responsible for the high points and low points of your work week. When you are able to see the underlying root cause of excitement — or lack of it — you can begin to make changes so that the next week will feel different. With that personal fulfillment often comes professional success.

Here are 15 simple questions.

1. What was the most enjoyable work activity of the week?

2. How many enjoyable work moments did you have?

3. How many frustrating or boring moments did you have?

4. How would you describe your impact on others you work with, your customers, or those whom you came into contact with this week?

5. Is this the type of impact you want?

6. If not, what prompted this change in desired impact?

7. Were you challenged this week?

8. Were you bored?

9. What were your biggest and most exciting challenges this past week?

10. How confident did you feel this week?

11. Did you have any negative mental chatter about yourself?

12. Are you practicing actively believing that you can achieve whatever it is you have set your sights on?

13. Are you committed to having joy and groundbreaking results at work?

14. What distractions came up this week that prevented you from getting the most out of your job?

15. How can you avoid that going forward?

By going through these questions and answering them honestly, you will uncover the root cause of great or less-than-optimal performance. If you reached a goal but didn’t enjoy it, you want to understand how to increase the joy the next time. You will see the “why,” which allows you to understand the cause and make changes to enhance or avoid it going forward.

Working toward peak performance is a little like driving a car — it may become routine and you may even flip on the cruise control every so often. But it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and adapt to them when necessary. Pay attention, ask yourself some questions, and take control of your success.

Not My Job

I can make ya circuit, but anything else, not my job
I write ya code,  but anything else, not my job
I can PM ‘til  PM, but anything else, not my job
I can tweak ya bluetooth, but anything else, not my job

(Apologies to Mac Dre)

What is your job? It is your job to provide what the customer needs. The only reason that our customers engage our company’s services is because they have things that need to be done that they either don’t have time to do, don’t have the personnel to do, or just plain don’t have the inclination to do, If each of our employees makes it his/her focus to constantly be on the look-out for things that the customer needs done and that they have the skills to do, all would go well for both the customer and you.

It should never be your inclination to say (or think) “That’s not my job!” It is your job to give the customer what the customer thinks they want. Each of us should function in a manner that recognizes that we are not consultants hired to tell our customers what they should do. We are hired to do what our customers want us to do. Yes, if they ask for an opinion regarding what should be done, you should feel free to offer advice based upon your experience and knowledge, but without a specific request, the focus of your work should be set by the wishes and needs of our customer.

When you start limiting what you consider to be “your job”, you start limiting the duration of your job. Our customers value flexibility and willingness to adapt to whatever the customer sees as today’s priority situation. Our longest service employees have all shown a willingness to adapt and that ability has made it very easy for us to continue placing them in different groups as they have developed a reputation for taking on whatever needs to be done without the “not my job” attitude. Make it your goal to be more like them in this.

Coping

At some point in your work life, you’ve no doubt had to deal with a situation that was out of your control. These events cause stress and frustration, which negatively impact your health and mental outlook on life. Learning how to cope with events you can’t control will help keep you in a positive frame of mind and alleviate your stress.

Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that you can control only your own actions (and reactions), you can begin to find peace of mind. What can you control? Worrying about the people or events in your life that you can’t control can cause all kinds of stress-related health problems, such as angina, high blood pressure, and sleeping difficulties.

If you need to feel more in control of your life, focus on those things that you can physically change.

Who you decide to accept as your friends and spend your time with is something you can definitely control. It may not be easy to meet new friends, but the opportunities are plentiful if you look for them.

– Being around negative people can drag your attitude down, since you adopt the mood of people around          you.
– If you have people in your life who aren’t encouraging you to fulfill your potential, find other people to           surround yourself with.
– Having the support of people who believe in you will propel you toward reaching your lifelong goals.

Live one day at a time.

When you intentionally consider each day a gift, your struggles don’t seem as dire. While life does deal some bad hands, such as death, divorce, and financial challenges, how you cope during these hardships can make you stronger or break you.

When you purposely feel gratitude for the good moments within each day, you can genuinely start to accept your struggles as a path to a new beginning.

You can always control how you respond.

By accepting that you can’t change some things, you’ll become more powerful in changing the things that you do have control over. You’ll free yourself from the negative thoughts and emotions that can

Workplace Conduct Rules & Regulations

There are certain workplace conduct rules and regulations that should be followed no matter the political climate or the area in which the work site is located. While Federal laws cover many of the acceptable conduct activities allowed in the workplace, most conflicts could be avoided by following basic common sense.

Golden Rule

When employees are considerate of their fellow workers, they rarely conflict with Federal laws or company policies. The Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” can be used as a guide to acceptable behavior in the workplace. Respect the space of fellow employees and keep personal opinions that don’t have anything to do with work to yourself. A working environment built on mutual respect can provide a pleasant work experience for everyone.

Stay Sober

Employees are hired for their skills and talents and their ability to perform their duties competently. Drugs and alcohol impair an individual’s abilities. The use of drugs on the job is illegal and written into company manuals. Federal law allows employers to seek drug testing with no warning when the practice is clearly written in the company policy manual and employees waive their rights upon employment. Most company policy manuals forbid intoxication in the workplace, which is a rule that adheres to common sense principles as well.

Employee Theft

Clichés often are ubiquitous because in many cases they are true. “Honesty is the best policy” is another of those sayings that are spelled out in the handbook given to most new employees in business and should be the mantra of every working person. Dishonesty on job applications is often discovered, causing embarrassment and termination. Direct stealing of goods or money from an employer can lead to imprisonment and loss of valuable licenses and certifications. Wasting time, making personal calls on company time and taking items such as office supplies is illegal and should be avoided.

Individual Rights

Sexual harassment and religious discrimination are expressly forbidden under Federal law in all workplaces. Creating an environment that is unsafe, hostile or uncomfortable for an employee, whether it is overt or subtle, is an important regulation is also an important rule to remember. Sexual harassment includes comments as well as inappropriate pictures or posters hung in plain view. Employees cannot be ridiculed or discriminated against because of their religious beliefs either.

Stalking as a behavior is also strictly forbidden. Stalking refers to repeated harassing or threatening behavior by an individual, such as following a person, appearing at a person’s home, office, or place of business, making harassing phone calls, or even leaving unwanted messages (including written or electronic). 

Basic Workplace Rules

  •  Follow Reporting Structure: One of the most important things to consider at work is the reporting structure; violating the accepted practices can create ill-will with your supervisors and mark you as unprofessional. When you start a job, ask about the chain of command and commit it to memory. During the course of your employment, follow the hierarchy when reporting a problem or bringing up a new idea, starting with your immediate supervisor and moving up. Establish a paper trail for a record of your good faith efforts.

 

  • Be Respectful: No matter which job you hold in a company, it’s important to be respectful of clients, vendors and coworkers. Show respect for religious beliefs, lifestyle choices, personal property and work styles. Communicate openly and politely, and avoid getting into emotionally driven confrontations. In any given office or situation, respectful behavior helps establish a professional reputation.

 

  •  Leave Personal problems at Home: All employees have their own personal viewpoints and problems. When you arrive at work, leave your issues at the door so they do not affect your professional life. Avoid discussing in detail sensitive topics like politics, relationship issues or financial woes.

 

  •  Minimize Personal Communications: With the quick availability of texting, cell phone calls and social media, it can be tempting to spend a disproportionate amount of time participating in personal communication during work hours. Limit your use of these technologies to avoid the perception that you waste company time or do not get enough work done.

 

  • Follow Company Policies: In most businesses, company policies exist for a reason, from safety to legal protection. Get to know your company policy and make every effort to follow it. If a situation arises that requires you to break policy, speak to a supervisor and ask for suggestions or alternate paths of action.
NEW: Education Reimbursement Benefit

NWCS supports employees who wish to continue their education to secure increased responsibility and growth within their professional careers. In keeping with this philosophy, we have established a reimbursement program for expenses incurred through approved institutions of learning. If you are a full-time regular employee (work 30 or more hours a week) and have completed 90 days of full-time employment, you are eligible for participation in this program as long as the courses are job-related and as long as you maintain full and satisfactory employment.

The company will reimburse up to a maximum of $1,500.00 per calendar year incurred by an employee for continuing education through an accredited program that either offers growth in an area related to his or her current position and/or may be required by the employee’s client supervisor. This can include college credit courses, continuing education unit courses, seminars and certification tests. You must secure a passing grade of “B” or its equivalent or obtain a certification to receive any reimbursement.

For details please refer to your employee handbook, a copy which can be downloaded from

www.nwcontract.com/employees .

Tough Minds

10 THINGS TOUGH MINDS DON’T DO

Lydia Dishman (fastcompany.com)

Many of us spend a lot of time trying to boost productivity by clearing off our desks, walking while we work, working out at lunch and deploying a host of other hacks to make the most of our days.

Those are all great strategies, but what may bring us the ultimate success–in work and life–isn’t simply a matter of rearranging files and appointments. It’s about mental strength; self-control and grit–the tenacity to set a goal and see it through, are excellent predictors of success.

“Stick-to-itiveness” is among the behaviors that the mentally strong exhibit. In addition, what they don’t do allows them to stay tough and focused. Taken together (and adding a couple of our own) they provide a compelling checklist for anyone looking to push past the obstacles that may be holding back growth.

1. DON’T WASTE TIME FEELING SORRY FOR THEMSELVES

‘Sunk costs’. Refers to any time, effort or money spent that can’t be gotten back. The reason most of us can’t get past them is because our brains are wired to feel loss far more strongly than gain. A tough mind doesn’t get stuck in the sunk-cost fallacy and has the strength to make a rational decision without getting mired in the emotional muck of regret.

2. DON’T TRY TO CONTROL EVERYTHING

Trying to control things takes up a lot of energy. Instead, by accepting the situation and letting go of outcomes, a strong mind can adapt and thrive–even when the going gets tough.

3. DON’T FEAR FAILURE

We’ve heard many an entrepreneur’s tale to fail fast and get on to the next thing. To really deal with failure, a tough mind needs to wrap itself around what went wrong and figure out how to do better next time.

Acknowledging mistakes is also important for moving on. In doing so, you not only sidestep the psychological pitfalls of cover-up, rationalization, and guilt; you may also find that you enhance your own brand through your honesty, candor, and humility.

4. DON’T FEAR A SMART RISK

Acknowledging that you may reach greater success if you think out of the box also comes with the risk of making more visible mistakes. Those with more mental strength can silence the saboteur inside their heads and weigh the risk rationally to make an informed decision. On the plus side, taking a calculated approach to risk cuts the recovery time even if you make a mistake.

5. DON’T DISCOUNT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence, that is, the ability to tune in and control your own emotions and be aware of those in others, is an excellent indicator of success. Resilient minds are able to navigate through the currents of emotion in any situation and don’t get pulled into the undertow of office or family drama.

6. DON’T SHY AWAY FROM TRANSPARENCY

At collaboration software startup Asana, they create a road map for blocks of time called “episodes.” At the end of each they pull together a document that summarizes their hits and dissect their misses to share with the team, investors, and entire rest of the world. A tough mind can handle the sheer transparency because it understands that the exercise is about learning and not blame.

7. DON’T FEAR BEING ALONE WITH THEMSELVES

It takes a tough mind not to get stuck in the unproductive fight/flight/freeze state exacerbated by procrastinating until the last minute and doing ‘good enough’ work. Those who can rise above take the time to be alone with themselves and learn to listen to the silence, even for just five minutes a day.

8. DON’T THINK SUCCESS HAPPENS OVERNIGHT

Even “rock star” executives can’t make a sustainable splash in a short period of time. A tenacious mind understands that it takes time to listen to customers and constituents, and teasing out a solution can take months–or years. To succeed in the long run, there has to be a balance between the passion for instant gratification and practicality.

9. DON’T HAVE THE DISEASE TO PLEASE

Not every email or request needs to be answered immediately. A resilient thinker will chew on the best way to deal a problem or concern and substitute “I think” wherever others are tempted to say “I feel.” Tough minds don’t obsess about hidden meanings. They simply address the issue by removing any fraught emotion.

10. DON’T GET JEALOUS AND HYPER-COMPETITIVE

“The old adage ‘competition brings out the best in people’ deserves a proper burial. Instead, a tough mind will naturally gravitate to motivation that ranges from extrinsic (“What can I earn or win in doing this task?”) to intrinsic (“What can I enjoy by doing this?”).

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