Artisan Blog

Tips for Successful Video Meetings

Katty Douraghy - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When was the last time you had to conduct a Skype interview or had a FaceTime meeting? How was your experience?

In today’s global environment with multiple offices across numerous time zones, the virtual office space makes conducting video meetings and interviews a necessary daily activity.

In 2009, we at Artisan Creative decided that the benefits of a successful virtual environment outweighed the stress of the daily commute. We love it and firmly believe in the life/work integration that a virtual setting provides our team. From the business standpoint, we stay connected, have daily meetings, and conduct initial candidate interviews using a multitude of online collaboration tools such as zoom.us, join.me and Skype.

Over the years, we have developed best practices and would like to share some tips on how to conduct the best video meeting/interview.
  • Test your equipment beforehand: Nothing can take away from the quality of your meeting or impact the first impression negatively more than being unable to actually connect and have a clear conversation!
Technical issues are commonplace, so check your connection, video and audio quality the day before. Conduct a dry run with a friend or colleague to make sure no issues persist. 

Have a back-up plan if on the day of the interview or meeting an unexpected issue arises.

Check the screen placement and height—What do they see? Watch the camera—Are you making eye contact? Are you talking to the person in front of you,or looking to the side? I have had interviews where I could only see the top half of someone’s head, or was looking up their nose…so practice ahead of time!
  • Clean up your surroundings: Whether you are conducting the meeting from your home office, or a conference room, check your surroundings to see what will be seen on-screen. Desk clutter, inappropriate wall hangings and artwork, a messy room... keep in mind that a video meeting should be treated the same as an in-person one. 
  • Dress for Success: You have a precious few seconds to make a good first impression. A video interview is often the first step in the overall process. Dress appropriately as you would an in-person interview or meeting.
I once conducted a Saturday morning interview and my candidate showed up for the video interview in a bathrobe drinking a cup of morning coffee! Needless to say, that wasn’t quite in line with the qualification criteria I was aiming for with my client.
  • Smile and Focus! 
Smile—You are on camera! Enough said.

Focus—Incoming calls/emails/IMs are all distractions--for both you and your interviewer. Turn everything off and focus on the task at hand. Be present and practice active listening skills. 

If you need reference points about the company or a copy of your resume handy, place it at eye level so you do not have to take your eyes off the screen, which can come across as being distracted. If that is not possible, set the stage by letting the other person know you are referencing other material.

Practice as much as you can ahead of time. Call a friend and conduct a brief mock interview/meeting.
  • Follow-up: Finally, treat your online interview the same as an in-person one. Follow-up with a thank you note or email. Send any requested back-up documents as soon as possible. The goal here is to move to the next phase of the interview process, and get closer to the job you are looking for!
Katty Douraghy, President, Artisan Creative

Your First "Real" Job Interview

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Although you probably have had jobs during your high school and college years, if you are graduating from college in the next few weeks, you may be having your first “real” job interview in the near future. We hope our job search tips for graduates helped you land that interview. Here are our tips for your first time sitting across the desk from a hiring manager in your field:

Do some research--You might think you are done with research after you throw your mortarboard in the air, but all that work at school was preparing you for the research you need to do throughout your career. Look up that company you are interviewing with next week on LinkedIn and read everything on their website. Know their mission and everything you can learn about their culture.

Get a great outfit--You might be reading articles about how everyone these days has tattoos and wears jeans to work, but that hiring manager isn’t your friend yet. Dress up more than absolutely necessary and keep your individual style down to an accessory that shows your personality. You will have a better idea of what is acceptable at the company after your interview and may be able to be more casual at your second interview. Bide your time.

Practice--Can't say it too many times! Don’t just think about your answers to typical interview questions, practice them out loud with a trusted friend. You need to know how to keep your answers to a good length, know your stories well enough to keep eye contact while you are talking, and get some feedback. If you have some options for “What is your greatest accomplishment?” or “Tell me about yourself,” a mock interview is the perfect place to give them each a tryout.

Everyone gets nervous before interviews, even those more experienced than you. If you know you are as prepared as possible, you will get into the zone quickly and be able to establish a real connection with the hiring manager and maybe it won’t take you too long to land the perfect first job after graduation.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Fun in Freelancing

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, May 07, 2014

There are lots of positives about being a freelance creative, but one that often gets overlooked is the fun of starting something new in a new place more often than people with permanent jobs. If you can look beyond the anxiety inherent in lots of “first days,” you can appreciate the great things about new starts:

Make connections--Like to make new friends and network? Short-term freelance jobs let you meet new people often and show them what you can do. You can never meet too many people, especially in your field.

Learn something new--Every project has unique challenges. Embrace them and you can keep learning throughout your career.

Explore neighborhoods--When you work in the same place for a long time, you can get comfortable, but you can also get bored. Ask one of your new friends to walk around with you on your lunch breaks for a few days. You never know what you might find.

Discovering a hole-in-the-wall restaurant or park isn’t the only perk to that walk. We came across a study from Stanford University this week that showed that “walking boosts creative inspiration” by as much as 60%. 

So, when you start that new freelance gig, don’t be shy about walking around on breaks or at lunch. Ask your co-workers for the best places in the area to eat or read. Find outdoor spaces you’ve never seen before. You might find yourself an expert on parts of your city no one you know has ever seen, and you might also find it makes you more creative and more successful.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

5 Job Search Tips for Graduates

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Getting graduation announcements in the mail these days? All of those newly-minted diploma holders are about to enter the workforce in droves and the job search environment is still in a tenuous recovery. Here are some of our tips for landing that first job after graduation:

Think long-term: Your short-term goal is to get a job, but don’t neglect to think about where you want to be next year, five or even ten years from now. You can’t make a solid plan, but you can figure out some routes and take your first steps along one or more of them.

Get in touch: Now is when you should be connecting with friends you made in classes ahead of yours in college or graduate students who have moved out of academia and adding them to your network, not to mention letting anyone you worked with as an intern during school know that you are ready for the job market.

Set up informational interviews: Ask your parents’ friends and colleagues and anyone else you can think of. They really are a way into the hidden job market.

Keep learning: Yes, you just finished school, but your education doesn’t end there. Read the latest books in your field, take a class. Whatever you learn now will make a great interview topic.

Practice interviewing: Most likely, you’ve never taken a course called Job Interviewing 101. Get together with other recent graduate friends and do some mock interviews, critique each other’s stories and get into the zone. Here are some great questions for practice.

If your job search takes longer than you would like, you're not alone. Find a non-profit organization you are passionate about and offer your skills as a volunteer. Volunteering keeps you busy, keeps your skills up-to-date, gives you great networking opportunities, provides you with stories to tell about your summer, and may even lead to a paying job.

Congratulations on a great achievement! Now get out there!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Freelancing and Sick Days

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Illness comes upon us all on occasion. No matter how we eat or exercise or how many times a day we wash our hands, we get sick. But for freelancers, getting sick has an added bonus: no paid sick days.

Many freelancers will work on days they would take off if they worked in corporate jobs. Missed deadlines and unhappy clients are bad for business. Here are our tips for working when you’re under the weather, without missing part of your paycheck:

Don’t push yourself--Today is not the day to tackle a big project that isn’t urgent, even if you planned to. Your best work may be unattainable and you might end up having to do things over again later. Take it easy, slow and steady.

Let your clients know--If you get to the point where you really have to stop for the day and rest, communicate that. Most people are understanding--they’ve been there, too.

Keep it simple--Make a list of what really needs to be done today and another of what can be done tomorrow. Stick to today’s list.

Put it off--If there is flexibility about when your work gets done, put it off for a couple of days until you feel better. Working on Saturday may not be the most fun, but if it means you can take a nap on Thursday, that might be the best thing.

Do you work through illness or take time off? Let us know in the comments!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Distractions Can Be a Good Thing

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Are you easily distracted? Distractions can work for us--or against us, depending on what we are trying to accomplish and what kind of distractions they are. Here are some pros and cons of distractions and some ways to use them to your advantage:

Your Smartphone:

Notifications interrupt you all day long--Facebook messages, emails from co-workers, texts from your spouse, requests from your manager.

Pros: The communications you receive during your work day from team members, colleagues and managers may be interruptions that clarify the project you are working on or improve collaboration. They could also offer valuable suggestions. These interruptions could improve productivity, rather than damage it.

Cons: Off-topic notifications can disrupt your work flow for no good reason.

Solution: Consider turning off notifications from social media during working hours and let your friends and family know that you will get back to them when you take a break (you are taking breaks, right?). Set up an emergency code with your spouse and children for things that need to be taken care of immediately and let the rest of the personal communications wait a little while.

Email:

An email might be urgent to the sender but not to you.

Pros: Email is a great timesaver--no need to walk over to your colleague’s office to chat about your project every few minutes, email also keeps a good written record for later evaluation of your process.

Cons: All of our Inboxes are filled with emails we will never read or can read after the workday is over. But if we see them, we will click on them.

Solution: Spend some serious time creating filters for your Inbox so that you will see the emails that you need to see right away, but only see the less important missives when you have time to choose.

Wandering Thoughts:

Can't help them, but you can stop beating yourself up about them.

Pros: Letting your mind wander can lead to creative ideas that might never have occurred to you if you were plugging along, trying to stay on task.

Cons: Letting your mind wander for too long can make you miss your deadline.

Solution: Schedule break times during your workday. Read 10 pages of a novel. Think about what you want to make for dinner. Give yourself time to let your project marinate in the back of your mind instead of the front. You might come up with something truly innovative on that wandering path.

Welcoming distractions is counter-intuitive. Focus is easier to see as a positive. But if you embrace the distractions that work for you, it might improve your work product--and your productivity!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Coming in Second

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Does coming in second feel like failure? It shouldn’t--but sometimes it does. Psychology Today recently wrote about how people react to getting a Silver Medal in the Olympics and I spent last weekend in Nashville, Tennessee with over a hundred teenage performers who ended the weekend as First Runners Up with remarkable nonchalance. There are many people, however, who torment themselves with the “what ifs” and have a hard time with just missing that brass ring.

It happens in job searches and at work, where we can be a hiring manager’s second choice or be second in line for that promotion. Coming in second can feel like failure--so close and yet so far.

What many of us do when we come close to winning is imagine what would have happened if we had done something differently. Psychology Today calls it “counterfactual thinking.” The “what if” scenarios imagined by Third Place winners are generally positive, but those of the Second Place finishers are more negative, even though they were clearly almost at the very top of their field.

Counterfactual thinking can be helpful after a near miss since it helps us come up with alternative behaviors or better choices we might make next time out. Perhaps it was one of your interview questions or answers that made the difference, or something about your presentation which was was less than stellar.

The trick is to make sure you also think about what definitely worked in your favor. Don’t forget to praise yourself for that story you told exactly the way you wanted to, the research you did about the company that surprised the hiring manager, and the relationships you started building with the people you met. It is all too easy to focus on the mistakes you think you may have made, rather than the things you did well.

The high school students I was with last weekend know that they did as amazing a performance as they could possibly have done and their First Runner Up was not because they didn’t do their very best work, so they can be proud regardless of their placement. They have no regrets. There is no shame in coming in second. Making the choice to see it as a top-tier finish will set you up well for your next opportunity to shine.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

(Of course, the photo is from a competition where they were Grand Champions!)

Spring Cleaning Your LinkedIn Profile

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Spring is here even in colder climates and it’s time to clean out your LinkedIn Profile as well as your closet. You should be revising your resume every quarter, listing new accomplishments and adding job responsibilities, volunteer experience and of course proofreading again. Your LinkedIn Profile could probably also use a fresh eye.

Summary

Make sure your summary reflects what you are passionate about now, not what you were doing last year. If your focus has changed, it’s time to rewrite.

Files

LinkedIn lets us add files, photos and videos so if you have some more current writing samples or other work product, post it now.

Experience

Freelancers have probably worked for new clients in the last few months. Make sure you add those clients to your experience on LinkedIn and your resume.

Skills

Added anything to your skillset this winter? Add it to your list. When you add skills to your list, your connections can give you new endorsements. And if you haven’t learned anything new lately, go do that!

Connections

Take a few minutes to send invitations to the people you’ve met over the winter. They will be happy to have some fresh faces in their connections, too.

Landing a new job isn’t the only time to revise your LinkedIn Profile, and it is easy to let it get stale. Open the windows and shake out the dust!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Tax Tips for Freelancers in 2014

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

More and more of us are freelancing in 2014 and the numbers are expected to go up dramatically in the next few years. Freelancing brings its own tax challenges that some may have not encountered before. We are not tax experts or CPA’s at Artisan Creative, but we do keep track of tax issues for freelancers and there have been some changes this year that might affect you.

If you were already freelancing in 2013, we hope you took our advice last year and:
  • Tracked your mileage
  • Created a dedicated office space
  • Kept receipts for business expenses
  • Saved
  • Made a list of clients who should send you a 1099
What’s different this year?

Home Office Deduction

In 2014, this deduction is simpler--still based on the square footage you use for your home office, now the IRS uses a flat $5 deduction for each square foot up to 300 or $1500. Much easier than figuring out the percentage of your household expenses for the year, but it may be less for you since it is capped.

High Earners

If you earned over $200,000 last year as a freelancer, congratulations! The downside is that you will pay a 3.8% Medicare surtax on your income. But you did well!

Reducing Your Liability

Personal exemptions, allowed contributions to IRA’s, and contributions to health savings accounts were all raised for this tax year.

If you get to the end of the year owing self-employment tax, you should be paying that on a quarterly basis, so be sure to do so if you are having a great year or don’t have many deductions.

And if you get one, Happy Refund!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

3 Tips for Odd Interview Questions

Wendy Stackhouse - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

We’ve all heard stories of strange interview questions and we’ve come up with some of our own on the Artisan Blog. Glassdoor recently published their list of 2014’s Oddest Interview Questions and some of them were definitely off the wall. Here’s our take on a few favorites:

Are you more a hunter or a gatherer?

This question from a hiring manager at Dell is interesting and we wonder which answer they were looking for. Which works better on a team? Hunters have to strategize and use each other’s strengths to succeed. Gatherers must work together and have a common goal in mind. We recommend you think for a moment and answer honestly whichever you think is true of you, and be sure to find a positive quality about your choice.

How lucky are you and why?

This is indeed an odd question, but we like it. What a great opportunity to talk positively about what you bring to the table, what you are passionate about. Are you feeling lucky? You’ve got a job interview--of course you are!

If you were a new kind of crayon, what color would you be and why?

This question is harder. You don’t want to pick the hiring manager’s least favorite color (even though it wouldn't be fair to judge you on that) or even your own favorite color since that’s not a terribly creative answer. Our suggestion is to talk about a quality you like in a color--contrast, saturation, value, etc.--and how those qualities reflect your work or your personality, rather than a particular hue.

You can never know what a hiring manager will ask. They might have a particular strange question they ask everyone or be looking for a genuinely creative response and think they have the perfect question to get one. The secret is to listen actively, take your time thinking and answer honestly. And it’s okay to laugh sometimes. A sense of humor might be just what they’re looking for.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

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