Preparing Your Professional Digital Portfolio

E-PORTFOLIO GUIDE

 

I am pleased to respond to my reader’ requests to write another article on creating your professional portfolio since the interest in this topic is so obviously high. It is rewarding to learn that my earlier article has sparked an interest in learning more about this process.

Please note that it is important that you prepare ‘both a hard and soft copy’ to aid you in your career development now, and into the future. The time to prepare these tools is NOW while you are gainfully employed – please keep this point in mind.

Assembling a ‘digital’ portfolio will make this process easier for some of you, although as mentioned, you still need to prepare a hard copy as well, which you can place in a binder or leather pouch. It is not necessary to invest a great deal of money on the packaging, as of course, the contents are far more important, and a new, attractive binder will certainly suffice.

Additionally, by preparing both a hard and soft copy, it permits leaving a hard copy with the prospective firms; at your discretion. You will know if it is appropriate to do so. I would not suggest giving away your digital package, unless of course, it is ‘specifically’ requested.

I would suggest that in preparing your digital version, you include a colour photo with your name and current title or the title of your desired role on the cover of the CD casing for the benefit of those who will be storing and viewing it.

Alternatively, you could use a ‘provocative graphic’ for your CD cover, preferably of your own design, and include your professional photo again in the introduction of the portfolio. Be sure to ‘Dress for Success’ in these photos.

Be sure you present your documents in a logical order that makes sense when printed out for viewing and discussion, and run a print or two before finalizing your CD.

Make effective use of ‘colour’ as much as practical, as this makes content more memorable, versus black and white, particularly when using proper graphics within text bodies. Once you have completed your ‘master’ copy, you can ‘burn’ the required number of copies for your intended marketing audience. For instance, you may want to start out with 15 copies in your career arsenal.

When creating your digital version of your portfolio, be sure to remove the ‘personal properties’ of all documents, before converting over to PDF, and burning to CD. This is a ‘crucial’ step.

As you are likely aware, these properties may be read if someone chooses to do so, regardless of the ‘security’ settings in place on the PDF version. The conversion to PDF will enhance the aesthetics of your presentation, as well as save valuable space on your CD, particularly if you have a large quantity of graphics material. Make sure you have ‘protected’ your pdf before sharing with anyone.

Again, be sure to ‘edit’ any confidential information; such as company name, client names, etc., indicated in any of your documentation by changing your text colour to ‘white’ and ‘hiding’ the text, or replacing the text with symbols. You must demonstrate and maintain total integrity in this regard, which will be most appreciated and understood by your audience.

Suggested documents to include in your digital portfolio:

  • professional portfolio introduction with your ‘colour’ photo;
  • capsule profile or short bio (versus long CV);
  • graphics and charts you have created for special projects; such as Excel, Visio, or PowerPoint;
  • marketing or advertising materials that you have created for various forms of media;
  • include ‘short’ publications that have been ‘authored’ and ‘published solely’ by yourself;
  • written acknowledgments from local superiors and/or head office;
  • certainly, include all ‘reference letters’ and ‘thank you’ letters;
  • prepare a listing of ‘current’ references with all pertinent contact information including cell, email, etc., (get permission first!); and
  • create a list of your ‘top accomplishments’ achieved in your current and past roles.

Your own published articles and accomplishments can be elaborated upon during your in-office meeting for a potential promotion, as well as your job interviews at a suitable time in your discussions.

If you have created a method for your firm’ business development pursuits, or perhaps process strategies for administrative teams, include these topics in your discussions, rather than sharing them in written form within your portfolios.

However, I would suggest that you do not disclose ‘all’ aspects of any of your ideas until such time as you are feeling comfortable and secure in your new role within your current firm, or your new career.

 

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Career Marketing Materials ~ Your Professional ‘Portfolio’

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‘Hard Copy’ Professional Portfolio

 

 

Q.  First of all, why do you think you need to create a professional portfolio?

A.  Because this empowering tool will allow you to market your capabilities in job interviews and upcoming promotions, as well as other scenarios; such as your performance reviews and your firm’ Learning & Growth (‘L&G’) efforts.

Creating your own portfolio might sound like a daunting task initially, but trust me; it can be terribly gratifying and a very satisfying experience. Allow me to elaborate on precisely what I mean by Portfolio’.

If you review a number of project works that you have created, you will no doubt come across terrific charts created with Excel, excellent PowerPoint presentations, general marketing materials, perhaps report writing, and different styles of documentation created and/or authored by yourself.

Where are these documents stored? I suspect that they are not enjoying space within a nice binder or casing with page protectors to keep them neat and clean. They are more likely to be on your personal computer or network where they lay dormant. This is not good news for you if you are wanting to market your particular talents.

This then begs the question, how are these dormant pieces of creativity serving you to prepare for future interviews or promotion within your firm – whether the interviews are a directive from your manager, or proactively sought out?

If you do not take action now, your creative pieces will remain virtually useless to your marketing and promotion efforts. This does not produce the desired results, which, in my experience, is building your self-confidence, and more importantly, giving yourself a significant edge.

Therefore, I would recommend that you take some time to peruse your projects, and strategically select the most appealing and complex pieces to begin building your hard copy professional Portfolio.

In my own career, I have used a portfolio for many years, and am invariably delighted at the response it prompts. I must admit, in hectic times, it is very easy to forget to incorporate a very good piece, and end up realizing that the opportunity has passed. I sincerely hope that you do not find yourself in a similar scenario.

Additionally, do not forget to include all your kudos for your great work, and going the extra mile when needed! I can guarantee you that your portfolio will prove to be an invaluable asset in your own career growth today, and well into the future.

IMPORTANT: Please also keep in mind that as unfortunate as it is, the reality is ‘layoffs happen frequently’ these days. Therefore, I suggest that you develop your portfolio while you have the chance, and still have easy access to your great works! Keep your Portfolio ‘up-to-date’, and be most selective with your pieces.

Good Luck & have fun with this, but GET ON IT NOW!

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Are You a Proactive or Reactive Contributor to Your Career? (Part II)

We will begin our journey by having you take a few small steps toward building your confidence and the desire to move forward with this new proactive approach. An ‘example’ of your first step might look like one, or all, of the following:

  • Anticipate project requirements;
  • Once you receive a project, analyze what the logical follow-up will be;
  • Ask many questions to gain information and understanding of every project;
  • On a daily basis, anticipate your leader’s needs; and
  • Use your To-Do Lists and Notebook consistently every day.

Following are some hypothetical scenarios related to the steps above:

  • If you have access to the ‘project needs listing’ read it through to envision what your role and contributions as the Assistant will be – this may be title cover page, table of contents requirements, layout requirements such as instructions for font, spacing, graphics, maps, bios, CV’s, etc., that you will be able to produce, or gather together well ahead of time;
  • When you are creating daily correspondence; check to see if the recipient is in your database and if not, enter the data with a note about the letter details, additionally watch for follow-ups to that letter, and ‘cc’s’, and record them in your notes and your boss’ calendar;
  • In line with the project needs, try to align your printing department with your needs as far in advance as possible; and
  • Contact your graphics department for any maps, special graphics, etc., that you simply do not have in your arsenal, and/or do not have easy access to.

While these are simple steps in launching the proactive process, they will have a positive impact on your level of self-confidence, and professional attributes.

Taking these actions is also clearly indicative of one that has a vested interest in fully participating in the success of your group’s projects, and consequently, the potential for significant firm revenues.

If your department ‘bids’ on projects (e.g., for the provincial/federal government) you will be receiving RFP (‘Request for Proposal’) documentation, which will clearly define the requirements of the proposal your firm is to submit. This document clearly states the requested submittal technique, together with guidelines for the layout of the finished document(s) for review.

Regardless of how you acquire the specified parameters of a client or potential client request, raise queries which will enable you to be proactive, and get the compulsory ‘pieces’ of a project together for your group as soon as you are able. Moreover, taking these steps can lighten your workload once putting the ‘final’ package together for submission, as you have already completed a good share of the requirements well in advance of the deadline.

Naturally, once you have the necessary materials together, you should offer them to your leader for discussion and review. I am confident that your efforts will be most appreciated and acknowledged by your team and the whole firm.

Are You a Proactive or Reactive Contributor to Your Career? (Part I)

What is the distinction between these two characteristics? The main distinction, in fact, is results and the most precious and costly commodity involved is ‘time’.

A proactive person goes out and ‘makes things happen’, whereas a reactive person waits ‘for things to happen’ to them.

I am confident you have heard the expression ‘timing is everything’ within the corporate world, and this could not be more apt. That is why it is imperative to take on a proactive, professional approach in your career direction, and ‘create’ things happening to fully realize the necessary momentum for your chosen career.

Most corporations will encourage and embrace active involvement within the firm, and employees who show initiative, and a sincere interest in their roles. Employees illustrating these traits avail themselves more readily to the potential career opportunities their firm has to offer. Actually, these types of individual’s will even ‘create’ the roles that they want. How do they do this? By creating the ‘need’ for the new role’ existence, and demonstrating the values it would bring their division or the firm overall.

By contrast, reactive employees will wait until an opportunity comes up and likely waver on the entire process because the result is unknown, and unfamiliar territory. These groups of employees are stuck in their ‘comfort zones’, and are afraid to reveal themselves to the potential opportunities that await them if suitable and proper actions are taken.

If you are presently in a role that you simply feel is not aligned with your true capabilities and desires, then my first question to you would be, ‘what are you doing about it?’ I would then go on to raise questions such as, what actions have you taken to change or expand your role responsibilities, and how many career opportunities have you explored within your firm, or have simply let pass by.

In Part II, we will explore the attitude shift from a reactive to a proactive employee, and the small steps to begin on this important growth journey.

You are already securely in place, a contributing employee to your firm. We will build on that, and discuss how you are able to take the necessary actions to draw the role you want with the practical skills and talents you know you already have.

Pre-Employment Credit Checks ~ 3 Points to Remember

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If you have been unemployed for some time and have struggled to pay your bills as a result, then those missed payments or defaults would appear on your credit report. The question then becomes could those negative marks stop you from successfully landing another job?

Some employers check job applicants’ credit reports as a part of their pre-employment background check protocol, however, this practice is not universal. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted a survey back in 2012 that concluded that roughly one-third of the U.S. employers surveyed conduct credit checks on some employees, and 13% conduct credit checks on all employees.

The experts say pre-employment credit checks are less common in Canada. However, if you are applying for employment within the federal government of Canada, you should know that credit checks are actually mandatory now for all levels of security clearance due to the Standard on Security Screening that came into force on October 20, 2014.

“Security screening is a fundamental practice that establishes and maintains a foundation of trust within government, between the Canadian government and its citizens, and between Canada and other countries,” says Lisa Murphy, Media Relations, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat for the Government of Canada.

“The overall assessment of reliability considers an individual’s trustworthiness in the protection of government assets, information, and facilities.”

Whether applying for a public or private-sector job, here are three important points that you want to be aware of with respect to pre-employment credit checks.

  1. Employers have to get your permission first

Employers – whether or not a government entity, or a private company — should receive your written consent before they check your credit. If an employer requests permission to view your credit report, which raises considerations, Henry Goldbeck, President of Goldbeck Recruiting in Vancouver, suggests asking your hiring contact what they are looking for in a credit report.

If they are concerned about defaults or multiple late payments, and you missed one payment years ago, you may well have nothing to worry about.

However, if the issues are more serious, Mr. Goldbeck says it’s better to address them proactively than wait for the employer to bring it up.

In my humble opinion, the lesson here is to address any issues up front, and not give a prospective employer the opportunity to dig even further. In addition to taking action first, your proactive approach on the matter will very likely be respected and appreciated.

“If you recognize that the report will have negative information, the employer may just decline to move forward with your hire, and not give you the opportunity to present your case.”

Alternately, they may conclude that you were hiding something, which of course automatically puts you on the defensive when you are endeavoring to present your case.

Ms. Murphy advised that those applying for security clearance with the government would get the chance to respond to negative information on a credit report before a hiring decision was finalized.

  1. Pre-employment credit checks do not lower your credit score

Hard inquiries on your credit report (for instance, when you apply for an auto loan or a mortgage) immediately, but temporarily lower your credit score, however, pre-employment credit checks do not do so.

“Credit checks conducted for the purpose of security screening are masked so that a negative effect does not show up on the individual’s credit bureau file,” Ms. Murphy said.

  1. Credit checks are only one facet of the hiring process

Fortunately, credit checks are only one factor that prospective employers take into account.

“This is one part of a comprehensive assessment of information collected to determine reliability and trustworthiness,” Ms. Murphy said. The very fact that an employer is requesting a credit check may even be a positive indicator.”

“Typically, they are performing the credit check as one of the last hiring phases, which suggests they have decided they want to hire you,” Mr. Goldbeck said.

 

Supporting Article Research Sources: Credit Cards Canada

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Preventing Future Departures of your Top Talent

Do not make the mistake of waiting until it is too late, and employees are walking into your office to discuss their impending resignations.

love em or lose em

Stay Interviews are an idea popularized by the book Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay,” which released its fifth edition in 2014 and is available from the Amazon link provided above.

Stay interviews serve two primary purposes: to let employees know how valued they actually are, and to identify problems that may lead to a team member’s departure.

Firms that conduct stay interviews are taking a proactive approach in their talent retention efforts, and are typically rewarded with low turnover because of their attitude.

According to recent research released by the Institute for Corporate Productivity,(USA) these proactive career conversations were included in the top six talent management best practices that companies use to boost employee engagement.

Incorporating this powerful ‘Retention Strategy’

First, tell people what you are doing – If speaking with your staff specifically about their careers is highly unexpected; then do not impose this new process on them without due explanation – doing so will inevitably foster suspicion, and quite possibly an insecure distrust.

Give your teams a heads-up about upcoming meetings, to allow them time to gather their own thoughts, and prepare themselves for career-focused discussions.

Set the expectations – Establish ‘clarity’ with yourself: Why are you having these conversations – what are you hoping to learn, or exchange with your team?

Are you hoping to:

  • Become more connected to your team;
  • Improve firm retention efforts;
  • Hear what’s on your employees’ minds; or
  • Surface potential problems/uncover current issues?

Once clear on your rationale for implementing these stay interviews, you can begin to frame a number of icebreakers to help the meetings flow comfortably for all involved.

Plan the conversation – Rather than thinking about these conversations in a linear format, consider dividing the conversation into “topics” — areas of interest or concern that the employees may have.

Potential topics could include:

  • Enjoyable aspects of the job the employee likes;
  • Aspects of their roles that present some challenges;
  • Current career aspirations; and
  • How you can help as a leader.

After identifying each topic for discussion, prepare two or three questions for each that will encourage an open and comfortable dialogue with your team members.

retain-talent

Planning your conversation in this way will help all leaders to find trends within their teams. In addition, having this format as your guide will keep you on track, should the conversations take an unexpected departure.

Follow upUndoubtedly, your conversations will surface at least one idea that will need your action. You will want to act quickly to show your commitment to the retention process you have just implemented.

Do not labour your follow-up, as taking too much time will allow your new retention efforts to die on the spot, and could have serious ramifications for your own career going forward.

Losing a valuable employee is difficult for group leaders and direct divisional managers. Perhaps equally as important, it affects the remaining team members who are left to pick up the slack until either a new hire is in place or, less popular, an analysis of the possibility of redistributing duties within the current group would be a viable alternative, eliminating the need for a new hire.

While it is not possible to avoid losing top talent in every case, firms can certainly reduce the number of times leaders and management teams experiences that uncomfortable sinking sensation when employees ask, “Can we please meet tomorrow morning?”

We all know that people are a company’s most valuable asset. Large companies with 1,000 or more employees measure employee engagement formally (78%), compared to small companies of 250 employees or less (29%). 63% of public companies reported measuring employee engagement, compared to 37% of private companies. (Source: Ceridian)

Show your high-performing team members that you do have a stake in their careers by implementing Stay Interviews and other retention strategies within your firm.

Communicate openly and consistently, following-up on what you say you can or will do for all firm staff.

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Talent Retention Strategies – ‘Stay Interview’

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‘Communication is imperative, and is a major key to retaining top talent’

Connected divisional managers and team leaders recognize when their most gifted workers are signifying a wish to move on, or take on considerably more responsibility – widening the scope of their current roles, considering potential divisional transfers, small promotions, etc.

As we know, high performing employees do not stay in one firm for too long when they do not feel they are getting the recognition, respect, and promotions they believe are so richly deserved.

Personally, I feel that the difference between an effective, connected leader and an ineffective leader is the willingness to make time to uncover what is going on swiftly. This, of course, precipitates setting up the one-on-one ‘catch up’ chats, also dubbed as Stay Interviews’.

Once valued employees give their notice, it is most often too late to salvage the employment relationship, since, from an emotional and psychological perspective, these employees have ‘already left’ their roles and employer behind.

Exit interviews are not greatly valued for the above reasons and the knowledge that the verbal content of these meetings are just ‘hindsight’ discussions. However, these meetings are also intended to ‘leave the door open’ for those that are at the top of their game and show the most promise.

It makes sense then to communicate effectively and consistently with your teams and to also add and conduct ‘stay interviews’ on a regular basis, with particular emphasis placed on your top talent, and the next-in-line, most promising performers.

Want to read more on talent retention strategies? If so, please continue on to read my next article on Preventing Future Departures of your Top Talent.

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Canadian Employers: New Fees and Compliance System – TFWs

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Beginning FEBRUARY 21, 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) would require that employers hiring temporary foreign workers (“TFWs”) that are exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) process to pay a brand new fee to CIC.

The new fee for each work permit will be CAD $230 (payable on-line by employers). Employers will be compelled to offer new and additional information concerning their business and an additional form, even when TFWs are applying at a Canadian port of entry.

With this new system in motion, any foreign national exempt from an LMIA will only be able to get a Canadian employer-specific work permit if their Canadian employer has submitted the desired data, and paid the applicable fee before their work permit application is submitted, or created at a port of entry.

By implementing this fee, CIC hopes to be able to cover the costs of their new employer compliance system, which will precipitate inspections of Canadian employers that use TFWs. Non-compliance may mean administrative financial penalties, a ban from using TFWs, or possibly criminal investigation and prosecution, in the most serious cases of abuse by employers.

Open Work Permit Holders

While the CAD $230 fee is not applicable to this group of permit holders, a brand new fee of CAD $100 is going to be collected from open work permit applicants commencing February 21, 2015 (paid on-line at the time of application).

CIC is implementing this new fee to generate revenue for improved data collection and coverage on the role of open work permit holders within the Canadian labour market.

Fee Refunds

CIC will refund any of those new fees if the application submitted is later refused, or wherever the employer withdraws a job offer before the work permit is issued.

 

 

 

Supporting Article Research Sources: Dale Lessmann LLP, Mondaq

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Citizenship Fees Received another Boost on January 1, 2015

Those that choose to become Canadian citizens this year will have to pay more…why?

Well, for the second time in a year, the Conservative government has hiked the fee it charges to make someone a Canadian citizen.

The new fee for processing citizenship documents has been set at $530 as of January 1, 2015, up from the former new fee set back in February 2013 of $300.

The government has been anxious to increase our citizenship fees for some time, arguing that would-be citizens should be covering more of the associated costs with processing their applications.

In an analysis of the new fees, the Citizenship and Immigration Department says the higher fee will allow the government to recoup a majority of the $555 in costs.

The bottom line; the government estimates a total savings of $41 million it will not have to expend.

“While the analysis assumes that there will not be a significant reduction in overall demand for citizenship as a result of this fee increase, it is acknowledged that some people may have to delay their application to give them more time to save for the new fee,” the analysis says.

When citizenship-processing fees were first increased from $100 to $300 in February 2013, it was actually the first time an increase had been implemented since 1995.

The new fee structure is in addition to the $100 right-of-citizenship fee, which is recoverable if a citizenship application is not accepted.

The good news here is that anyone who applied for citizenship before January 1 2015 will pay the old fee.

The opposition felt that it was unfair to hike fees when people were waiting years to receive their citizenship, as the close of 2013 represented a backlog of close to 400,000 cases. Nonetheless, along with the new fees comes a promise by the government that they are making headway on cutting through this overwhelming pile of documents.

The Citizenship and Immigration Department also indicated that wait times for new citizens would be under one-year at some point within the next fiscal year.

NB: New fees to be paid by employers and open work permit applicants were also introduced on February 21, 2015.

 

Supporting Article Research Sources: Citizen and Immigration Dept – http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/fees/fees.asp#citizenship, The Province – http://www.theprovince.com/news/

Do You Know Your ‘EVP’? ~ Employee Value Proposition

Your EVP is your ‘Employee Value Proposition’, which evaluates the growth you are experiencing with your firm, the level of opportunities available, salary and benefits coverage, etc.

If you feel that you are expanding your knowledge in your current role, and/or have suffered any form of monetary cutbacks, your particular EVP is intelligibly about to fall into the lower range.

I know how disconcerting it can feel to be in an atmosphere where change is constant in terms of employee turnover, layoffs, benefits and pension cuts, and observing high-level professionals departing the firm. This scenario definitely does not speak to a satisfactory ‘comfort’ level of assurance for the remaining staff.

With the downturn, of course, salaries are negatively affected, which also suggests that employees feel that firms do not really have their best interest at heart, and they have become ‘devalued’.

If the firm’ overall performance is not publicly announced, it is certainly easy enough to capture the financial picture through numerous websites, news articles, etc.

It is wise for firms to discuss any financial concerns they may be experiencing to their staff openly and honestly. In this way, employees will appreciate the disclosure, and benefit from having a far better understanding of what is actually transpiring, as well as the reasoning behind the decisions taking effect. This will also aid in giving your talent the perception that they do indeed matter to your business, and their anticipated suggestions and involvement are appreciated.

It is my belief that a large number of gainfully employed people will invest their time and energy in job search activities prior to our turn around, due to the reasons previously mentioned. Those employees that are not as confident as they would like to be in their skills, or experience anxiety at the thought of conducting a job search, will, of course, stay in place until the end, whether it is emotionally healthy or financially viable for them to do so. This lose-lose scenario holds no benefit for the employees or the employer.

Discontent employees are not ‘engaged’ as fully as they might be if they felt acknowledged and secure in their roles, as well as the potential growth opportunities inside their company. This being the case, the company loses out, as they are not receiving 100% in job performance and, as an end result, find themselves with a pool of unmotivated talent.

According to a study by the Corporate Leadership Council (‘CLC’), companies need to improve their employment value proposition (‘EVP’). In a survey of about 58,000 employees, it was found that salary, work environment, and the rebuilding of social and working relationships within the company would improve the relationship.

This survey also indicated that approximately 42% of employees do not feel that their firm’ look out for their best interests. The CLC suggests providing employees with opportunities to define their roles, and enable self-directed development.

The CLC suggests that these moves will help to avoid a potential impactful turnover problem and improve workforce performance. Companies that take on these approaches, and have a successful, productive rollout, will be among the industry leaders coming out of any downturn.

For further information on the Corporate Leadership Council, please visit: http://www.cebglobal.com/human-resources/clc-human-resources/index.html

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