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The New Year Is Here. How To Practice Effective Goal Setting For 2015

At the start of a new calendar year, many of us begin to think about our long-term career goals. As with most New Year’s resolutions and goals, however, many of us also forget about those goals before the Spring thaw sets in.  The reason why so many of us fail to reach our goals is that we don’t know how to set them effectively. How do you ensure that your goals will remain attainable in 2015? You’ve got to start thinking SMART.

SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Using the SMART approach to goal setting gives you a roadmap, guiding you through the steps you need to take in order to achieve your career goals. Here is how you can set effective goals this year:

“S” is For Specific

Many people set goals that look something like this, “I want to get a new job.” While that may be true, it’s not very specific.  You have to know what you want to achieve if you ever hope to achieve it. A more specific goal would be, “Before the close of this calendar year, I will be interviewing with companies for a new position as a (your ideal job title).”

Notice that the specific goal is to be interviewing with companies, not to have landed the job. You can’t control the time frame in which you land your ideal position, but you can control the timeline by which you are submitting resumes and getting interviewed.  Try to keep as many variables out of the equation as possible.

“M” is for Measurable

Goals should be measurable so that they can be tracked over time. They give you a specific end point, so that you know when you’ve reached your goal. If we use the original goal, the measurement might be deadlines for updating your resume, revamping your LinkedIn profile, and partnering with a recruiter.

“A” is for Achievable

Goals must be achievable. A goal that is beyond your reach will only lead to discouragement and disappointment. In order to determine whether or not your goal is achievable, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What skills or resources do I need in order to reach this goal?
  • Do I have enough time to reach this goal?
  • How much effort is required to reach this goal?

“R” is for Relevant

Relevant goals matter to your career and have an impact on the work you do. Chasing after an irrelevant goal will be a waste of time.  If, for example, you’ve set a goal to get a new certification, make sure to do your research and choose a certification that is in demand in your field.

“T” is for Timely

Without a deadline, goals can and do fall by the wayside. Giving yourself a specific timeline will help keep you on track. For extra focus, add intermediate timelines to ensure you’re taking the necessary steps to get you towards your ultimate achievement.

The professional recruiters at The Prevalent Group can help you set and achieve SMART career goals this year. We work with some of the most innovative and forward-thinking companies in the country, and together we can help you take the next step in your career.

5 Soft Skills To Remember In An Interview

More and more, employers are putting an emphasis on hiring candidates with the right soft skills to be successful. It will be important, however, to remember to showcase those soft skills in your interview.

Here are some of the common soft skills that employers are looking for and some helpful tips on how to convey those skills to your interviewer.

Presenting Yourself as a Professional

Like it or not, an interviewer will make a snap judgment about you within the first few moments of meeting you. This is just human nature.  Be sure to show that you are a consummate professional by dressing the part. Look professional, and don’t load on the perfume or cologne. Stand and sit with good posture, watch your hand gestures and tone of voice. Use a firm, but not overbearing handshake, look your interviewer in the eye, and smile genuinely.  Try to make a connection quickly with some small talk, even if it’s just about the weather. Projecting a professional image shows that you care about yourself, your work, and the way people see you.


If you’re unprepared for an interview, the hiring manager will assume that you’ll be unprepared for your job.  Be sure to do your homework and learn everything you can about the company: its history, its current focus, its mission and vision, and other relevant facts. Go over the job posting and description one more time, and review any correspondence you’ve had thus far with the hiring manager. A little bit of preparation can help make a big statement about your work ethic.


Employers want to hire friendly, positive, high-energy people. If you are nervous or naturally reserved, you’ll have to work to overcome this. Good preparation and interview practice can help build your confidence.  If need be, do what professional athletes do before a game and listen to music that will pump you up and get positive feelings flowing.  Show true passion for your profession and your career. If you really love what you do, your interviewer will be able to pick up on it quickly.

Willingness to Learn and Grow With the Company

Interviewers know that there is no such thing as a perfect candidate. Not everybody will have all of the skills and requirements they are looking for. They will overlook some of those shortcomings if a candidate shows a real willingness to learn and develop on the job.  Showcase the ways and times in which you conducted your own development, and have stories ready that illustrate your willingness to learn new skills.


Job duties and requirements can change quickly, especially in technical fields.  You may want to focus on one project, but circumstances may draw you to another. Employers want people who will be able to accept change and adapt quickly. Be sure to have examples ready that show times when you had to remain flexible on the job.

If you are an information technology professional or engineer seeking new opportunities for career growth in Northern Illinois, contact The Prevalent Group today. Our recruiters can connect you with  tech jobs in northern Illinois that align with your skills and qualifications, and we can work with you to help you develop your interviewing style to ensure your soft skills shine through.

It May be Halloween, But Applying For a Job Shouldn’t be Scary

October is a time for scary things: vampires, werewolves, monsters, and witches. If you are a job seeker, you might be tempted to add “hiring managers” to that list. All too often, a job hunt can snap a person of confidence. Rejections can feel personal, and if your search drags on longer than you anticipated, it can have a serious effect on your self-esteem. Here are five tips to help you tackle your job search with confidence this Halloween season:

One: It All Starts With Your Resume

Your resume will either open doors for new opportunities, or it won’t. In order to make it work for you, it must be concise, accurate, and appealing. It should cover the scope of each position you’ve held in your career as well as the impact of the results you produced for your employers. When you’ve got a rock-star resume, your confidence will skyrocket.

Two: Have a Plan and Work That Plan

When you’re applying to random jobs here and there, or to every job you see on a job board, it can have a negative effect on your energy and your confidence. You must have a plan of attack for your job search. Choose the job boards you will use, decide how much time each week you’ll devote to those boards as well as how much time you will devote to LinkedIn, personal networking, cold emailing, etc. Know what types of organizations you want to target, as well as the specific job titles you’re qualified for, and apply only to positions that align with that criteria.  When you have a plan of attack, it can reduce stress and boost your confidence.

Three: Develop an Elevator Pitch

Throughout your job search, you’re going to leave a lot of voice messages and you’ll meet lots of new people at networking events. You must be able to state your purpose and your personal value proposition quickly and effectively. Once you’ve got your pitch, practice it every time you find yourself alone: in the shower, in the car, while walking the dog, after the kids go to bed, etc. The more you practice your pitch, the more confidently you can deliver it in front of others.

Four: Take Breaks

If you’ve been pounding the pavement for weeks with little return, cut yourself some slack and take a break for a week or even two. Stepping away from your search can help you recharge your batteries and return to the market feeling renewed and confident.

Five: Work With a Professional Recruiter

Working with a professional recruiter can help you attack your job search with confidence. Recruiters not only have a line on job openings for which you are well suited and well qualified, but they can work with you to create a strong resume and improve your interviewing techniques. When they recommend you to their clients, they have a vested interest in your success. It’s like having your own personal coach and cheering section encouraging you to succeed.

The Prevalent Group is a nationally recognized management and executive placement and recruitment company. We place executives in sales, marketing, engineering, technology and more. If you are looking for new opportunities in these fields, contact us today.

What You Should And Shouldn’t Ask As You Start Your Job

The first days and weeks on a job are the most critical when it comes to establishing a positive perception, learning the ropes, and building trust among your colleagues.  It will be important to ask questions along the way, but it’s equally important to know what not to say as you start your new job.

Questions for Your Boss

In order to have a good working relationship with your new supervisor, you’ll need to get a feel for the type of manager you’re working with. It is also essential to be clear about your exact responsibilities on the job.  It is appropriate to ask your new boss questions like:

  • How often do you prefer to receive project updates?
  • Do you like those updates to be made via email, telephone, or face-to-face?
  • What are your goals for my first month?
  • How will you measure my success in that first month?
  • How does this position fit into the “big picture” of the organization?
  • If I get stuck, who on the team is easily approachable for help?

Questions for Co-workers

Current employees can be wary of a new team member. They may wonder if you will upset the rhythm of the office, if you’ll get along with everyone, or even if you’ll upstage them. You’ll want to get to know your new colleagues and build a rapport by asking questions that show genuine interest in who they are and what they do. You might ask:

  • Tell me about your experience working on (project that you are assigned to).
  • What types of projects do you head up?
  • Do my responsibilities overlap with yours? In what ways?
  • What types of qualities do you like to see in your teammates?
  • What can I do to assist you and the team in achieving our goals?

What Not to Say

While it is important to ask questions as a new employee, you don’t want to be seen as needy or slow to learn. Asking too many questions, or asking the wrong types of questions can start you off on the wrong foot with your new colleagues. Avoid the following:

  • Don’t ask the same person the same question more than once. Keep a notebook and write things down.
  • Don’t bother people if they look extremely busy, unless it’s an absolute emergency.
  • Don’t ask your co-workers what happened to the person who held your job before.
  • Don’t ask how often you get to leave early, or if your boss cares if you show up late. It shows a lack of motivation.
  • Don’t ask anyone out on a date.
  • Don’t ask anyone how much they are paid.
  • Don’t turn down lunch invitations in your first few weeks. Be approachable and friendly at all times.

Always remember that your first few days and weeks on the job are going to be stressful. You will probably make some mistakes. Don’t be hard on yourself if you hit a few snags along the way.  Prepare yourself, ask questions, and do your best. There is always the next day to start over and get it right.

If you are looking for job search guidance, contact The Prevalent Group today. We are a nationally recognized management and executive placement company that works with experienced professionals in sales, marketing, engineering, technology and more. We look forward to working with you.

Summer Is Over And School Is In

Remember when September was exciting? When it meant a fresh start, new friendships, and opportunities to learn new things? Without “back-to-school” excitement, most adults don’t look forward to fall season the way they once did.

However, it’s always important to keep learning. Expanding your skills and knowledge base will make you more valuable to your current employer and more marketable to future employers. According to the American Psychological Association, learning can also help you increase your job satisfaction and reduce stress.  There are many ways that you can go “back to school” on the job this September.

Enroll in a Class

Visit the websites of your local colleges, universities, community colleges, and adult education centers. You don’t have to enroll in a degree program, but you may find a class or two that not only interests you, but will help you stay on the cutting edge of your field.

Sign Up for a Conference

Conferences are great places to network and to learn. Research conferences in your area of expertise, and when you find one that interests you, approach your boss to see if the company would be willing to sponsor your registration fee. They may be willing to pay for part of the fee or all of the fee, depending upon the conference and the skills you can bring back to the organization.

Start a Lunch-and-Learn Program

If your workplace doesn’t have a lunch-and-learn program, talk to your boss about getting one started. You may find that company leadership hops right on board. Lunch-and-learn sessions are events that give employees the opportunity to learn something new over their lunch break. To get things started, tap experts from within the company from different departments. For example, you may ask the marketing director to speak about social media. Lunch-and-learn sessions can be used for personal enrichment or to help employees grow their skills.

Get a Library Card

Do you have a list of books related to your field that you’ve been meaning to read? If you don’t already have one, sign up for a library card and start borrowing books for free. If you learn just one new skill or useful piece of information, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Volunteer for New Projects

A great way to learn is to simply do something. If you’ve been itching to try new things, volunteer for projects that might be slightly out of your comfort zone. Use those projects to not only expand your skill set, but to make professional connections with new co-workers as well.

If you’re looking for new career opportunities this fall, contact The Prevalent Group. We are a nationally recognized management and executive placement and recruitment company that works with experienced managers and executives in sales, marketing, engineering, technology and more.  We can connect you with positions that will challenge you, expand your horizons, and help you reach your long-term career goals.