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Case of the Mondays: Three Ways to Face Monday Like a Pro

April 24th, 2020

It’s Sunday afternoon, and even though it’s a sunny day and you’re relaxing and enjoying yourself, you can already feel it coming on: the Sunday Scaries. That feeling of unexplained irritability, inability to concentrate and stay present, a queasy foreboding feeling in your stomach…These are all signs that anxieties about the workweek ahead are getting the best of you. And in a way, your precious free time is being coopted by the workplace, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Except there IS something, you can do about it. You can get ready for Monday without giving half of your weekend over to queasiness, crankiness, anxiety and dread. And when you walk in the door on Monday morning, you can feel a little bit more like yourself…not someone facing a five-day jail sentence. Here’s how.

Breath deeply.

Breathing deeply for a few minutes and simply feeling and concentrating on your breath as it moves in and out can bring you back into the present moment and pull you away from the stressors of a future that hasn’t even happened yet. Just controlling your breathing for five minutes can bring you back into Sunday and leave Monday far away, where it belongs.

Take pleasure in small preparations.

Yes, you need to pack your lunch (and maybe lunches for other family members). And yes, you need to choose an outfit and do whatever else you need to do to get ready for Monday morning. But try not to view these little preparations as a sort of dismal ritual and instead, just take them step by step and find things about them to enjoy. For example, the fact that you have to pack a lunch for your wife and child may be a chore… but it also means you HAVE a wife and child who you love very much, and this little gesture offers an opportunity to demonstrate your love and appreciate the fact that they’re part of your life.

Remember what you like about your job.

Note that we said “like,” not love. If you force yourself to pretend or act like you LOVE your daily work, or feel “passion,” or a sense of deep, visceral commitment, you set the bar unrealistically high and only increase Monday morning feelings of dread and stress. Your job is a job. You do it for all kinds of reasons, and the reasons don’t have to include passionate love. Try to focus on the small details that bring you a sense of accomplishment, a sense of purpose, or a sense of camaraderie with your team. Then go back to step one, take a deep breath, and face the day with courage and grace.

For more on how to stride into Monday morning with your head high and your step light, turn to the workplace experts at Merritt. Contact us today.

Don’t Let your Coworkers Make You Sick: How to Stay Healthy At Work

March 26th, 2020

With springtime illnesses spreading and 24-hour coverage of COVID-19 on the news and in the rumor mill, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself and your coworkers from bugs and germs. And keep in mind: news-making coronavirus and the flu aren’t the only troublemakers lurking on our phones, hands, and keyboards. Just a simple cold is still enough to bring on misery and lost workdays. Here’s how to stay a step ahead.  

Wash your hands.  

We all know that handwashing prevents illness, but make the practice easy for yourself. Make a note or set a timer so each hour, you stand up, walk to the sink and wash your hands, no matter what else you’ve been doing. Most of us don’t think about handwashing at all outside of trips to the bathroom or notably germy encounters. Wash for no specific reason, several times a day, on a schedule. Use lotion to keep your skin from drying out and to prevent the practice from becoming unpleasant.  

Place fun or fragrant soaps by the office sink.  

Again, making the experience pleasurable in a sensory or amusing way can keep it from becoming a chore. If you manage the office, place pleasant soaps and lotions at the sink. If you’re just an employee, consider making a generous gesture and buying a delightful soap that you can leave by the sink and share with everyone.  

Control coughs and sneezes.  

Sneeze and cough into the crook of your arm, not your hands. Use your tissue one time and then throw it away. When you see others practicing controlled coughs and sneezes, thank them or quietly show your approval. Always say, “bless you.” If you see someone coughing incorrectly, don’t scold them, but be sure to lead by example.  

Clean your keyboard and phones at least twice per day.  

Again, set a timer if it helps. Otherwise, resolve to wipe down your screen, keyboard, office phone, and cell phone at least once in the morning and once more before you leave for the day.  

Use and share your hand sanitizer.  

Use the office hand sanitizer, but also carry a small bottle of your own. Be generous with it. If you see someone coughing or sneezing, offer them your bottle. Don’t be possessive or stingy with your gel and your tissues. The more you share, the more health benefits you provide to everyone in the office, including yourself.  

Call Us Today to Learn More

For more on how to keep your workplace clean and germ-free, contact the team at Merritt. 

 

Is Remote the Future of Accounting?

January 22nd, 2020

Remote work arrangements are springing up and becoming mainstream across a wider range of industry sectors every year. Where once “working from home” only made sense for a limited set of positions and tasks, changes in technology and culture are bringing offsite possibilities to positions that were once bound to specific offices, labs, clinics, and other settings. Remote work options are now gaining a deeper foothold in the accounting field, and since employees want these options, competitive hiring managers are wise to offer them.

Here are some of the tools that make remote accounting not only possible but more profitable then requiring employees to stay on site.

Automated Workflow Management

Workflow management tools provide dashboards and real-time updates that let you keep track of who’s working on what, who’s waiting for the next step, and where a specific return lies on the path from submission to completion. Returns are far less likely to fall through the cracks if you—and all relevant accounting staff—know exactly where they are and what’s impeding progress.

Video Conferencing

An accountant may not be in the office, but that doesn’t mean he or she is unreachable or unavailable for a meeting. Even the briefest updates, check-ins, and Q and As can be dealt with face-to-face if your video conferencing software is connected, tested, and updated regularly. You can even record meetings and playback complex details, which can be harder to do in a spontaneous office setting.

Mobile Time Entry and Expense Tracking

Like many other accounting tasks, neither of these need to be done onsite anymore. Time entry can be handled remotely, even through a smartphone, with secure cloud-based tools. And expense tracking can also happen in real-time. Mileage, meals, supplies, and other expenses can be recorded immediately, with no need to collect paper receipts.

Email and Scheduling Tools

Written communication hasn’t required an onsite presence since the arrival of email decades ago. And now with modern email account features and accessories, your teams can check each other’s schedules, plan meetings, receive acceptance and reminder notifications, and make last-minute changes with no difficulty. They can share conference and meeting materials in the moment, share screen access, play and record audio, and make presentations and announcements that can be accessed from anywhere.

Not sure if you have the set-up, tools, or trust to allow your accounting team to work remotely? You may be underestimating your preparation and abilities. Contact Merritt! We can help you determine if you’re ready to cut the cord, and if you aren’t, our staffing experts can get you there.

Is Your Resume Too Generic for the Job?

December 20th, 2019

Your resume seems excellent on the surface. You use the word “great” at least five times. You also lean heavily on the words “skilled,” “experienced,” and “excellent.” All employers like great candidates, don’t they? So why aren’t you landing more interviews?

Maybe your word choices aren’t giving you the boost that you expect. They may even be holding you back. Here are a few simple tips that can help you get rid of some of that generic language and deliver a more specific, focused, and memorable message.

Review the job post carefully.

All employers want candidates who work hard, show up on time, and look sharp. But these qualities aren’t rare and they won’t set you apart in a crowded pool. To find the traits that WILL set you apart, start by scanning the job post carefully and looking for specific requests that these specific employers find relevant to the position they’re trying to staff. Focus on those traits and on the narrow, measurable skill sets that can bring success in this field, at this level.

Shine a light on the things you offer than nobody else can.

You may be proud of your friendly personality, but you can let that aspect of your candidacy speak for itself. In your resume, focus instead on the skills that took you years to obtain. Focus on your most challenging courses, your most unusual accomplishments, and awards, and the specific lessons you learned in the school of hard knocks. Be most proud of the achievements that came with the highest level of time, setbacks, and difficulty.

Shine a light on preferences few others share.

Do you enjoy some of the aspects of this job that others will merely endure? Do you like humble tasks, dirty tasks, or tasks that others find tedious? Do you like social challenges, public speaking, high pressure, or tight deadlines? Do you thrive in harsh environments, or enjoy extensive work-related travel? Most people don’t. So if you have these traits, you’ll move quickly from a generic scan to a curious second look.

Sharpen your verbs.

Now that you know the specific points that can help your resume stand out go back and highlight those messages by choosing strong verbs. Replace weak choices, like “has,” “was,” “is,” “gave,” and “does,” with more specific ones, like “builds,” “leads,” “directed,” “implemented,” and “organized.”

Add some details that may not be entirely relevant.

Add just one or two proud accomplishments to your resume that don’t directly relate to the job, like sports accomplishments, art awards, or community leadership roles. These small details can help employers notice and remember you as a person.

For more on how give you resume an extra boost and separate yourself from the crowd, turn to the experts at Merritt.

How Procrastination will Hurt You in the Long Run

November 25th, 2019

Do you tend to put off tasks or ignore obligations until you run head-first into your deadline, or miss it altogether? Do you find yourself waiting until the last minute to begin a project and then doing a sloppy rush job that could have been avoided if you had started earlier?

The tendency to procrastinate is relatively common, and in some cases, it can be serious…and it can also bring serious consequences for those who aren’t sure how to get it under control. If you feel like your minor habit of procrastination is slowly becoming a significant habit, or you’ve already missed one too many deadlines or milestones, and you’d rather not miss any more, keep these thoughts in mind.

Address one problem at a time.

Your report is due in three days. You’ve had it on your plate for two months, and you haven’t yet started. So you have two problems: 1) a report that’s likely to be rushed or missed altogether, and 2) a psychological problem (procrastination) that will haunt you and hold you back long after this report is over and forgotten. Don’t let a sense of paralysis cause you to freeze, give in, and give up on both. Instead, take a deep breath and face the first problem, the report. When that’s over, don’t take a long vacation. Face your next challenge and do what you need to do to get help, counseling, or support. Don’t walk away from either of your challenges; face both, but tackle only one at a time.

The second battle will be harder than the first.

Once your report is no longer an issue, face your procrastination problem with courage and conviction. Ask yourself honestly why you behave this way and what you hope to gain each time you do it. Do you feel rebellious and passive-aggressive, and is procrastination your way of claiming control? (“The person asking me to complete this task can’t tell ME what to do!”) Do you feel scared of the task and doubt you’ll be able to do it successfully? (“As long as I haven’t started yet, I haven’t failed.”) Are you so excited about the task that you’re hiding from your strong feelings? (“I really want to plan this wedding/write this novel/ finish this job application, but I just can’t get started!”) These are all very common reasons why people succumb to procrastination…but they’re all very different. Which do you relate to the most?

Break big tasks into smaller tasks.

No matter which reason best reflects your situation, one approach can help with all three: breaking down your intimidating task, so it no longer controls, scares, or overwhelms you. Instead of “planning a wedding,” choose a date. Instead of “writing a novel,” write a rough outline. Once you’ve started, you’ll find it easier to continue.

Merrit can help you with professional challenges.

For more on how to address and overcome the professional challenges that may be holding you back, talk to the career management team at Merritt!

Four Tips that Can Help You Ace your Phone Interview

October 14th, 2019

Phone interviews and initial phone screenings are not new; they’ve long been used by employers to narrow down a large pool of candidates without the hassled and expense of bringing everyone into the office for an in-person session. Phone interviews usually give both parties a chance to establish a few basic parameters and deal-breakers before either party decides to invest further, a process that cut a large pile of resume in half within hours instead of days.

But there is one aspect of the phone interview process that’s on the rise in the modern workforce: Remote hiring, which may mean that the phone is your only mode of communication, not just your first. In 2019, your employers may hire you based on this medium alone, without ever seeing or talking to you in person.

So here’s how to use the phone (and only the phone!) to show off your readiness for the role.

Check your connections and distractions.

Before the call takes place, check and double-check to make sure your barking dog is locked in another room, your noisy children are in someone else’s care, your phone is fully charged, your signal is strong, and you have everything you need within reach. A quiet room and a strong connection can help you get your message across. If you’re currently employed while taking the call, arrange an hour at home or a coffee shop; try not to scuttle into a stairwell or whisper into the phone from your cubicle while you’re at work.

Do as much research as you can.

It’s always a good idea to research the company and the job before an interview, but this is especially important when the interview happens by phone. Why? Because over the phone, you have limited ways to show off. It’s harder to steer the conversation in your direction when you can’t use visual cues, and you can’t wow your interviewer with your million-dollar smile. So use what you have! A few signs of effort can go a long way.

Speak more slowly and clearly than you normally do.

You may think it’s best to adopt a natural and relaxed demeanor and be yourself. But over the phone, the stakes are higher if you deliver a garbled sentence or tell an incomplete story. If your witty remarks fall flat because your interviewers didn’t understand you, the fallout can be unfortunate. Slow down. Enunciate. And use fewer words to make your point than you would in person.

Reveal yourself through your voice.

Smile when you greet your caller; the person can hear your smile. Before you answer any question, pause for two full seconds. Convey your energy and interest through your voice. Again, you have limited ways to do this, so make the most of all of them!

For more on how to crush your interview, contact the staffing team at Merritt!

Four Questions to Ask at the End of Your Interview

September 20th, 2019

As your interview winds down and your employer reaches the end of his or her list of questions, the employer may turn the tables and ask if you have any questions of your own. Even if the interviewer doesn’t directly ask you, take advantage of these final minutes of your session to take the floor and get some vital information about the job before you walk out the door. 

Asking some questions of your own has a twofold advantage: Not only will you learn more about the company and the job, but you’ll also have a brief opportunity to impress your interviewer with your proactive, incisive nature and your sense of self-direction. Here are a few example questions that can grab answers AND positive attention. 

What made you choose my resume? 

Ask this question in good faith, and expect an honest and detailed answer. If you do, you’ll probably get one. And that answer will help you understand exactly what you’re employers are looking for and what they hope to attain when they bring you on board. What changes will they expect you to bring them? How do they believe you might influence the culture or personality mix in the office?  

What specific challenges are you facing as a company/department? 

This question can help you understand the larger industry and the business model of this company. It can also help you gaze into the future and get a sense of the struggles, pitfalls, or growth spurts that may be awaiting this team, and you if you sign on. For example, you may learn how competing products are encroaching on the company’s market share, and how the company hopes to push back against these trends.  

How does your company stand out from its competitors? 

Your employer should know that this job isn’t the only option that lies ahead for you. With skills and talents like yours, they are likely one of several organizations that stand to benefit by having you onboard. What can they offer you that others can’t? And in the meantime, what makes their product or service a better bet for their customers? 

We talked about your company values; how does the company demonstrate those values?

Companies often want to emphasize that they are driven by values, not just by profits. This may or may not be true, but it’s a nice way to humanize the organization and it helps the company attract human workers who do have values and want to partner with companies who share them. So if your interviewer talks about environmental responsibility, for example, ask for some of the green initiatives they’ve taken. If they claim to care about social equality, ask how they’ve demonstrated this through programs or charitable donations.  

For more on how to make sure you’re on the right track with your job search, talk to the experts at Merritt. 

Seven Benefits to Being Involved on LinkedIn

July 5th, 2019

Not sure LinkedIn can really support your career growth? Here are a few reasons to take a closer look. This unique social media platform differs from the rest of the crowd; on LinkedIn, people may not share pictures of their cats, and they may share way too many thoughts about “synergy” and “action plans”, but you still don’t want to be left out of these impersonal, work-focused conversations. Here’s why.  

Professional networks can be even wider than social ones.  

You don’t have to be friends to connect with someone on LinkedIn. In fact, friendship isn’t as important in this realm as shared professional interests and the ability to provide mutual support, now or someday in the future. If you’ve worked with, worked for, partnered with, hired, or simply brushed against someone in any professional way, add them to your network. No need to hesitate.  

LinkedIn in allows recruiters to find you (and vice versa).  

You can blow the dust off your phone book if you really want to go out into the world and track down recruiters in search of candidates with your skill sets. Or you can sign on with LinkedIn and let recruiters find you…in droves. A simple keyword search can bring recruiters right to your doorstep, and they’ll bring jobs that are a perfect fit for your needs.   

Adjust your settings and site will show you open positions.  

Let LinkedIn know you’re actively looking for work, and the site will send you job postings that match the terms and indicators in your shared resume. You can apply for these jobs if they seem like a good fit, or ignore them if they don’t.  

LinkedIn helps you show off.  

Too shy to boast about your skills and accomplishments in social settings? That’s good; most socially well-adjusted people are. But you still want contacts to know what you bring to the table, so send them to your LinkedIn profile and they can see for themselves.  

Your profile provides a record.  

Even if you don’t include every aspect of your profile in your formal resume (or every aspect of your resume in your profile), you can still add each job, employment date, accomplishment, published paper, leadership role, etc, to your site and consult the list when you need to impress an employer.  

LinkedIn helps you stay in touch.  

It can be difficult to reach out to an old employer you haven’t seen or spoken to in years and ask for a reference or recommendation. But with LinkedIn, the gap isn’t so wide—especially if share a public post or update now and then.  

LinkedIn connects you with specific groups.  

Individual connections are valuable, but group contacts can be valuable too. Connect with industry organizations or just casual shared-interest groups and stay in touch with changes and big players in your field.  

For more on how to get the most of this popular platform during your career climb, contact the team at Merritt.  

How to Stop Feeling Like the New Kid at Work

May 17th, 2019

When you’re new at work, you experience a kind of double-sided coin. Everyone gives you a break, since you’re new and you haven’t yet had time to learn the ropes. But at the same time, all the breaks and indulgences you receive may leave you feeling a little patronized or excluded. Sure, you don’t know anyone here and you’re still finding your feet … but being treated like the “new kid” for too long can be unpleasant, and it can interfere with the development of your relationship with your new lifestyle.

So, move through that early chapter as quickly as possible. The sooner you’re up and running, the sooner you can have honest conversations with others, reveal your true self, gain trust and become part of the social fabric. Here’s how.

Make yourself selectively vulnerable.

When you don’t know something, just ask. When you need help navigating a new software system, get help. When you can’t find the exit door or the restroom, ask for directions. Don’t hide or pretend. Come clean, be bold, admit your ignorance and get it resolved. Be vulnerable, get your answers, and get it done. At the same time, be careful; some forms of vulnerability are not for public access just yet. Emotional stress, anxiety and personal or family information should stay under lock and key for a little while longer.

Be uncharacteristically friendly.

How friendly are you on a scale of one to ten? Take your answer and add two points. That’s how open, friendly and forward you should try to be at your new job. Of course, your extroversion and high energy will revert to the status quo in time, but meanwhile, you’ll learn some new names and faces and make some connections, a task that gets harder the longer you wait.

Take notes.

Make things easy on yourself by writing down new information instead of trying to remember it and hold it all in your head. You can even write down names, titles and key information about your new colleagues. The faster you learn who they are, what they do and how they relate to you, the better.

Accept invitations that come your way.

If you’re invited to lunch, go. If you’re drawn into a pleasant conversation, allow it to happen. You’ll thank yourself later when you’ve had a chance to become (insert your name) instead of “that new person over there.”  At the same time, don’t worry if you have to say no. Another opportunity to connect will come along soon.

For more on how to integrate yourself into the social and professional machinery of your new workplace, talk to the career management experts at Merritt.

Do Employers Really Read My Cover Letter?

April 19th, 2019

Job applicants typically work hard to stay efficient with their time and energy. If you’re searching for work, you’re likely to choose actions and options that shorten the path to your goals and help you cover more ground using less fuel. And as you do so, you’re likely to find yourself asking a common question as you toil over every word of your cover letter: “Will anyone actually read this?”

To find an answer, we’ve turned to countless employers, including our clients, partners and professional contacts across multiple industries. Unsurprisingly, their answers differ. But most reposes fall into three distinct categories. The next time you ask yourself if your cover letter is worth the effort, consider your audience and try to determine which category they fall into.

Yes, we read (almost) every single letter.

Employers are likely to read letters carefully if they manage smaller firms, new startups, family-owned businesses, and tightly controlled companies (where the CEO or department head may be the one reading the resumes and making hiring decisions). With employers like these, don’t take a chance with your cover letter. That means no errors, poor wording or missed opportunities. Your strong cover letter may help you edge out a small pool of very tough competition, and it’s not uncommon to land an interview based on one passing remark or a throwaway statement you added to your letter at the last minute before sending. At some point down the road, these employers may let you know what aspect of your letter won them over.

We ask for them, but we don’t read them all.

Some employers request cover letters because they’re useful tiebreakers when the candidate pool has been narrowed to a small handful of excellent prospects. By the time the winner’s circle has been drawn, the front-runner with a brilliant, detailed letter will certainly win the interview over the one with a poorly written letter or a solitary resume. But most candidates won’t make it that far. If scanners don’t pick up the right resume keywords, your resume and letter may stagnate unread in a database somewhere.

Letters are our first (sometimes only) deciding factor.

Some employers don’t ask for cover letters … but some take cover letters only. These reviewers aren’t even interested in a resume; they just want you to tell them, point blank and in your own words, why you should have the job. If the job post makes it clear that your letter is important, don’t skip a single detail or cut a single corner. Your letter is your stage. Grab the spotlight and make the most of it.

For more on job search decisions that can help you find the fastest path to success, turn to the career experts at Merritt.

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