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Advice for .NET programmers

This single interview strategy will make you successful

 

It has been said that “people get hired for what they know, and get fired for who they are.” This is actually true in almost any profession but maybe especially true for .NET programmers. If you are a .Net programmer and looking for a job, this is the most important thing you need to understand. It’s not about what you know. It’s about who you are in the eyes of the hiring manager.

What kind of worker are you?

OK, you are a .NET developer. You know C#/Java and you have worked on enterprise applications. This is not “old” technology. It is popular technology, a standard being used in a vast majority of companies in America today.  You can spin this technology by saying you are proud of helping your company to succeed in its business goals by supporting its basic IT platform. You have been committed to your company’s success. You are a problem solver.

It would be great if you could show some sample code and discuss how it solved a particular problem or supported an application which resulted in some kind of business improvement. It’s always good to show and tell.

You have taken on challenges to maintain programs. You are a hard worker, working long hours to get jobs done, even overtime when needed.

You were never happy with sloppy code and tried to become more efficient all the time. If you saw code that could be improved, you went after it. You wanted to be the best coder on the team. You were always competitive.

You are both independent – you can work with minimum supervision – and you are a team player. You like working in a team and think you can help others become better coders. Maybe you can relate an example of when you were part of a successful team.

What kind of attitude do you have?

In addition to being competitive, independent and team-oriented, you are goal-oriented, too. You want to be successful, you want the team to be successful, and you want the company to be successful. You realize that your salary and job satisfaction comes from a growing business, and you want to help the company reach its objectives. You see the big picture.

You are also curious. You want to see if there is a better way to solve a problem, a more efficient way to do the coding. You have based your good reputation on solving problems using C# and you have mastered it – but you are open to other languages and applications, too.  The problem solving comes from your curiosity and innovative thinking and does not depend on any specific language. You can solve problems in any language.

What is your potential?

The hiring manager is looking to fill an opening for a developer. So he wants someone who can get to work today to maintain applications or start a new one. And he wants someone who will work hard and be committed to the department’s success.

He wants someone who will fit in well with the team he has and hopefully will stay long term. And when he thinks of the future, what will he think of your potential value to the team and company?

Is he convinced you have what it takes to do a good job today, but beyond that, will you keep learning and growing and adapting? How will you handle change? Can you work under pressure?

And do you show leadership potential? Coming up with ideas, working with little supervision, and helping teammates show the manager that you may be in line for promotion down the line.

How to be that person

Learn how to demonstrate the qualities that will showcase who you are. Learn what questions will be asked and what skills you will be asked to show. Work with a staffing agency to practice interview questions. Have that agency review your answers and how you answer them. Are you talking about activities or results? Are you showing what you do or how you think?

Make sure to prepare questions to ask the hiring manager about – the languages being used, the applications being developed, the culture of the company (its goals, organization, etc.), the manager expectations for you and for his team, and any other questions that will show your interest and commitment.

Just keep in mind, a hiring manager is not looking for the right programmer. He is looking for the right person.

How to become more assertive

Why is it that some people always get noticed, have great interviews, seem to have great relationships, have that “inside track” on the next promotion, and generally get what they want?

Why is it that the rest of us can’t seem to overcome our shyness or “invisibility” in group settings or be recognized for our contributions at work? Why don’t we feel more confident? And why don’t we openly disagree or say “no” when we want or need to?”

Maybe we need to be a little more assertive? Assertiveness can change the quality of our lives

Let your light shine

Quality of life comes from being who you want to be. The realisation of dreams, the reaching of potential and the fulfilment of lasting and loving relationships – all depend on your ability to be honest with yourself and on your ability to react effectively with others in your life – on your own terms.

Assertiveness is the ability to navigate relationships, somewhere between being passive and being aggressive.  It is the quality of being confident and self-assured. It is a learnable skill and mode of communication.

Assertiveness is not just about self-realisation.

 

It also recognizes and respects personal boundaries of others. It means that you can communicate in a way that satisfies your own needs, yet in a spirit of cooperation with others. That is the secret to assertiveness.

Nelson Mandela said, “As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. “

So what is involved with “assertiveness?”  How can you be more assertive? Is it just about how you talk to others? Is it just about how you act with others? Actually, it’s many things. And it starts with attitude.

Develop attitude

As Mark Twain said, “All you need is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”

Confidence starts with attitude. You have to speak and act in a manner that says you “own” your beliefs and actions.

 

You know you have a “right” to say what you think and act how you want to act. You may not agree with others but your thoughts are as valid as theirs, and you even recognize that their ideas are valid too. That kind of “fair” thinking is what gives you the authority to speak for yourself.

And this sense of fairness should prevent any negative reaction or thoughts about you being aggressive. Your self-assuredness will be attractive and will encourage others to respond favourably. Going forward, those other people will anticipate your confidence and expect you to speak your mind.

 “You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” – Doug Floyd.

Dress to impress

Assertiveness can be developed in many ways. Even how you dress says something about your attitude. A sweatshirt says you feel casual, but a running outfit says you like being active.

 

A suit or well-tailored outfit says you are “professional” and you can be trusted.  Casual clothes do the job, too, as a sign you want to “roll up your sleeves” and get to work. But even those should also be chosen to show some level of style.

The importance of dress can be felt on an interview, on the job, on a date, at a dinner engagement, or even hanging out with friends or spending time with family. Whatever you wear tells others how you are feeling about yourself. Your clothes reflect your “purpose” or “intentions” at any given time.

Did you get the memo?

The joke is common. But memos and other forms of communication at work can be opportunities for assertiveness.  Whenever you get a memo, respond to it with a personal comment.

But don’t fall into the memo trap.  Being assertive means you want to be as personal as possible.

It is better to stop by someone’s office to talk with them face-to-face than it is to send a memo. Memos can’t reveal emotion and can be misinterpreted.

 

You should choose the most personal form of communications: face-to-face first, then call, then memo, then text, then email. But the important thing is to communicate often, however you do it.

Information is power

You can be assertive in conversations without being aggressive. If you know what the conversation will be about, you can come up with ideas or suggestions beforehand and be ready to talk about them. Generating new ideas and new solutions to problems is a great way to be assertive.

By knowing your subject matter, taking initiative in talking about it, and both asking and answering questions  keeps you at – or a little bit higher than  - the level of conversation of the other people involved. Come to the realisation that information is power.

Raise your hand

Volunteering is a great way to assert yourself.  And volunteering comes in many flavours. If your boss is looking for a volunteer, be the first to raise your hand (like the kid in the front row).

 

That’s an obvious one. But in meetings, you can also volunteer by being the first one to ask or answer a question, or make a comment. You can lead a task team. You can do a report.

 

When you can stimulate discussion, you are in fact the leader of that discussion. You have asserted yourself and your ideas into the conversation. Your boss will notice.

Learn that it’s OK to say NO

In your haste to become assertive, don’t make the mistake of becoming a “Yes man” or woman. Agreeing with someone else, your boss especially, doesn’t mean you are being assertive. It’s OK to say “no” if that’s how you really feel.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say “no” to almost everything.”  - Warren Buffett

Saying “no” gives you the chance to offer your own suggestions. It makes you stand out from the crowd and shows independent thinking.

Be up front – literally

It is interesting that meetings can provide so many opportunities to be assertive. We have already discussed conversations, asking questions, and volunteering answers. Another opportunity comes from – believe it or not – where you sit.

First of all, it’s good to be invited to the meeting table in the first place. That means someone cares about your ideas.  As Elizabeth Warren said, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”

But where do you sit at the table? When you were a kid in school, did you ever notice the kids in the front rows who always raised their hands to answer questions? You probably hated them. But you know what? It’s now time for you to sit in that front row.

OK, so it’s probably a conference room. And it’s a long table. Sitting near the manager or meeting organizer shows assertiveness. It’s like “sitting at the right hand” of power. It implies a sharing of that power. It is a subtle but effective form of assertiveness.

How far should you go?

So you’re going to be more assertive. But how far should you go before you are being too aggressive? The key is to get some level of agreement from others.

 

Make suggestions. Ask for agreement or permission. Say “what do you think?”  Or say “Do you think this will work?” Be assertive in the spirit of cooperation.

Here are a few tips for being assertive in the face of opposition to your ideas and feelings.

  • Keep repeating your position in the hope that the other person will finally agree with you

  • Agree in part with the other person (compromise) without giving up on your overall principle

  • Ask the other person to be more specific in his or her objection

  • Restate your idea as being your opinion without casting blame anywhere

These techniques will help you promote your ideas while maintaining relationships and allow you to be assertive, stopping just short of being aggressive.

What next?

These are all good suggestions for becoming more assertive. But as a new drug should not be tried without a doctor’s consent, you might want to check with a smart lifestyle coach for a personal review of your own strengths and opportunities for growth. 

Transferring executive skills

 

You like the company you are with but you need a change of pace. You may have been in the Sales Department for many years but you have recently taken interest in the Operations Department, or the Marketing Department, or the Engineering Department.

You may be in one financial area of the Mining Industry – like Risk Management – and want to move into another, like Mergers and Acquisitions. These are examples of what I call “Quadrant Two” – different job, same industry.

Your skills are easily transferable because you will have basically the same kind of responsibilities in the new job, perhaps with more impact, but your chances of success are very high.

How do you approach such a possible job change? How do you gain access to the appropriate management team who can help make it happen? How do you present your capabilities to the new team?

I have been coaching executives for many years, and I have helped them advance their careers and personal interests by showing them how to effectively transition to new areas of responsibility within the same company.

Climbing the hidden executive staircase

 

So you like the company you are with and want to move your career forward, or rather, upward. That’s a normal goal for a lot of business professionals, especially those with executive aspirations. Maybe you want to move into a different department or be promoted, or you want more money or more responsibility.

Maybe there is an opportunity in a different city or country with your current company. Whether you are a sales manager in a property services company or a finance manager in a mining company, there are ways for you to get what you are looking for while keeping that same kind of job.

If more business, management, or industry knowledge is needed, the right move may be to get an MBA or other degree that would further qualify you for that corner office. That’s the path I followed successfully to land an executive recruiting and consulting position.

 Showing diligence, commitment, and hard work will make you stand out.

 

Working long hours, taking on new assignments or responsibilities, voicing positive ideas, and showing initiative will always catch the eye of executives and spark conversation in the Board Room.

Your Rights in the Workplace

Know your rights

You have civil rights in the workplace which are protected by the federal government. In addition, many states have adopted programs and laws which complement these federal laws. The information presented here will help you understand your rights and show you how to get resolution of any workplace issue you may have.

Since laws can change over time, you are encouraged to verify the current status of any law or guideline as you go through the process of problem resolution with any government agency.

There are many areas of civil rights which can be discussed. Here are the ones we cover:

  • Discrimination

  • Sexual harassment

  • Drug testing

  • Polygraph testing

  • Minimum wage and overtime

  • Worker’s compensation/ Disability

  • Safety and health

  • Time away/ end-of-work rights

  • Right to organize

 

Discrimination/ EEO: everyone has a right to work

Equality was mandated by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).  The law is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and makes it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of a person’s  race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against someone who complained about discrimination.

Sexual harassment

 

What constitutes sexual harassment?

What is sexual harassment? What do you do if you are feeling harassed or are uncomfortable in the workplace because of unwanted attention or affection?

Basically, it is that feeling of discomfort which itself may be enough to form the basis of harassment.

Any unwanted sexual conduct, actions or comments which contribute to an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment constitute harassment and are a violation of your civil rights.

If such behavior results in a loss of position, demotion, or termination, you may be entitled to just compensation and/or reinstatement, according to the Civil Rights Act.

Drug testing: a company has rights, too

 

If asked to take a drug test in order to get a job, do I have to comply?

Alcohol and drugs abuse poses a potential threat, not only to the individual, but to all the people in the workplace who rely on that individual for safety. In addition, the company or organization which hires the individual has risks and liabilities associated with the hire. Such an organization has a lot to lose by hiring the wrong person. Companies have rights, too

What if you are asked to take a drug test? Do you have to comply? Most private companies do not require a drug test. But there are exceptions. Some companies do require drug testing at the final stage of hiring, especially for transportation jobs and those affecting the safety of others.

There are legal liabilities involved in public transportation jobs like those in the airline or shipping industries, buses and trains, limousine service, and jobs with government agencies like the Coast Guard, NASA and the Defense Department.

Employers have the right to ask for alcohol and drug testing as a job requirement. You can accept the testing or decide not to pursue the job opening.

If you are taking prescribed medication for a disability, and the medication becomes the reason you are turned down, the company may be held to be discriminatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

However, if you live in a state which allows medical marijuana, and you have a doctor’s prescription, you may still be turned down legally. Most states have taken the position that approved marijuana use protects an individual from criminal prosecution, but does not apply to the workplace.

In any case, employers must not violate personal privacy nor discriminate against any class or group of people in the testing process.  You have a right to privacy and confidentiality as well as equality in the testing procedure.

Polygraph testing

 

Can my employer ask me to take a lie detector test?

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) prohibits employers from using lie-detector tests either as a method of screening for new-hires or at any time during employment. But there are exceptions, most notably for hiring security personnel or pharmaceutical-related personnel.

Subject to certain restrictions, lie detectors may also be used in private firms where certain employees are suspected of workforce t heft or damage where there was significant economic loss or injury. In such cases, there are strict requirements for the examiner and  for the privacy of any information  gathered.

Hours and wages: you deserve fair pay for your work

You are entitled to fair pay for your labor. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs the minimum wage that should be paid, and addresses other issues like overtime pay and child labor, specifying requirements, restrictions and limitations.

Minimum wage and overtime

The FLSA determines the difference between exempt and hourly jobs to be based on the job functions, not the job title. But even salaried exempt employees may be entitled to overtime pay, depending on functions performed.

 

Does the minimum wage include “tips?”

The FLSA establishes that the current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.  But sometimes local standards and compensation are higher than those of the federal government.  For example, in New York State, the minimum is $8.00 and will rise to $8.75 on Dec. 31, 2014 and to $9.00 on Dec. 31, 2015.

For workers who get tips on the job, wages may be less than the minimum hourly rate if tips will raise the combined total to or above the minimum level. Employers cannot deduct pay if it will bring the total under the minimum wage level.

Work above 40 hours per week is classified as overtime and is to be paid at the rate of one and one-half times the regular rate for those additional hours.

Employers may not disguise hourly positions by giving employees “important sounding” titles and requiring those employees to work longer hours without additional pay.

Nor can employers disregard such menial tasks as record-keeping, sending emails, or making phone calls, attending meetings or training sessions when they take additional time.

Workers compensation/ disability

 

If I get hurt on the job and have to stay home, will I still get paid?

The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) provides administration four major disability programs which offer wage replacement benefits, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation and other benefits to workers and their dependents for work-related injury or disease.

 

Workers for private companies or state governments, contact the workers’ compensation program for the state in which you work.  The federal government has no role in state programs.

How to handle a wage issue

If you have an issue which needs addressing, the first step is to talk to an HR representative in confidence. Let the HR rep handle the issue with appropriate individuals (management, etc.)


If you do not receive satisfaction in a reasonable time, you should contact the DOL directly.

It is always a good idea to keep a written record and schedule of your attempts to resolve any issue, preferably separate from any company word processor or email system.

I’m afraid I might get hurt at work. What can I do about it?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) assures healthy and safe working conditions for workers, sets and enforces standards, and provides training and education. OSHA is part of the Department of Labor (DOL).

Workers have a right to have working conditions which do not pose a threat of physical harm. They should be trained and informed on any job hazards in a language they can understand.  They should be allowed to get records on any tests performed to measure hazardous conditions. If they believe the work place contains a hazard, they have the right to contact OSHA in confidence to have the work place evaluated.

OSHA requires companies to follow health and safety rules including finding and correcting hazardous conditions, informing workers of hazardous chemicals and safety procedures, keeping detailed operational records, and providing employees with protective equipment.

Employers are prohibited from any form of retaliation toward an employee who contacts OSHA for assistance or in some other way uses their rights under the law.

OSHA conducts onsite inspections without advance notice. Violations can result in fines and/or citations of how and when the employer must correct any unsafe conditions.

For more information on OSHA

Time away/ end-of-work benefits

There are times when you need to be away from work. This time away may be unpaid time, or ins some cases paid, but it is most important to have the right to be with family when needed. It is also important that there be some considerations paid to those who lose their job through no fault of their own.

 

How much time can I take off to be with a newborn child or sick family member?

Here are some laws and rights concerning family leave and job loss.

Family Leave: you can take care of someone for an extended period

You are entitled to take unpaid time off for the birth of a child and to take care of that child in his or her first year. You are also entitled to take care of a family member with serious health issues.

Some individual states offer paid time off for family leave, and you should check with your own state agency on current policy.

If I get laid off, do I lose my health benefits?

Eligible employees are entitled to continuing health coverage through COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). COBRA programs attempt to fill the void from the loss of health coverage previously provided by the worker’s employer.

Right to organize

Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), it is illegal for any company to prohibit or restrict a worker’s right to organize and bargain collectively with their employers. Workers have a right to join or assist unions, discuss terms or conditions of work with another coworker, and raise work-related complaints directly with the employer or with a government agency. The NLRA covers other situations as well, including employer restrictions or prohibitions and similar rules for unions.

Whistle blower rights

If you find that you are working in a situation which you find unhealthy or dangerous, you have the right to bring that condition to the attention of your employer without worrying about retaliation. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting unsafe conditions, illegal activities or workplace regulation violations. 

 

OSHA provides protection from discrimination with over 20 statutes covering such situations as work place safety, transportation carriers in airline, marine, railroad, or commercial motor carriers, food, drug, security, health and many more.

Summary and conclusion

Federal and state governments have passed many laws concerning your rights in the work place. Most private companies today as well as public sector organizations have Human Resources Departments which are charged with the task of explaining basic work place rights to you.

But it is good to be personally informed on general rights and on the laws and agencies which govern these rights. Having some information on hand will enable you to ask intelligent questions of your employer.

Knowing where to go for further information will also benefit you if you find it necessary to lodge a formal complaint or pursue action on some rights violation. Hopefully, the information you read here will help with that task.

First rule of CEO success: “Know thyself”

The importance of self-discovery for entrepreneurs and CEOs

Today’s executive, whether CEO, Chairman, Founder or other entrepreneur, faces the ongoing challenge of being the best leader possible in his organization on a daily basis. He wears many hats and deals with many issues.  To be successful, he needs to know his strengths and weaknesses and needs to be somewhat introspective, checking his personal inventory of skills against the varied demands of his job and awesome set of responsibilities.

Is he a visionary? Is he a leader? Is he a motivator? Does he know how to handle the business issues, the budget, investments in capital, or contracts?  Is he a good salesman to customers and prospects, investors, and stockholders?  Can he run an organization?

Knowing what he knows and what he doesn’t know is critically important. By embarking on a journey of self-discovery, he can learn what skills he can develop and which ones he needs to acquire through others. It’s a lifelong process that will help him define the path and growth of his company.

Many great entrepreneurs of the past have gone through this process and have found that they were not prepared for some of the challenges they faced. But through early failure, they learned how to be persistent. They learned how to succeed.

They learned their limitations and overcame them. They learned how to add skills by adding skilled people to their organizations and empowering them. They learned how to innovate and execute.

Self-discovery provides all this learning. And it starts when the entrepreneur makes a mistake.

Persistence is the key to overcoming faults

Many successful entrepreneurs started out as failures. Bill Gates’ first company was called Traf-O-Data, a company that analyzed data from traffic tapes.  He had to close it down when investors backed out.

Walt Disney started a company called Laugh-O-Gram. The company did not do well. Disney was told he was not creative enough.

Steve Jobs was fired from Apple at age 30. He joined another company which was acquired by Apple, thus allowing him to rejoin Apple. It was only then that he led the company to its greatness.

Milton Hershey had three failed candy companies before he started Hershey’s Chocolate.

Abraham Lincoln failed at seven jobs before becoming the American President.

As Bill Gates said, “It is fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

Know your strengths – and limitations

Clint Eastwood, American movie actor who played many Western cowboy roles, was in a classic gunfight scene. After he out-drew another gunfighter, he said simply, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

This is true for entrepreneurs and CEOs, too. Not too many people have all the knowledge and skills necessary to run a modern company.  There are many areas of a business that need constant attention.

Product design and development, budgeting and finance, marketing and sales, organizational development, and distribution are just a few.  There are business skills needed and people skills.

A good CEO knows his or her limitations and knows how to correct them. Mark Zuckerberg knew that he needed help with business and people management, and he hired Edwardo Savarin to help him run Facebook.  Hiring competent people is one of the best ways to complement your own skills and broaden your influence in the effective management of your company.

There are other ways to add skills, too. You can find a mentor who is more knowledgeable or more skilled than you who can advise you on important decisions. You can seek executive training courses or join professional organizations to peer interaction. You can retain the services of an outside consultant.

Self-discovery will lead you to the right opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Become a Chief Relationship Officer

Managing a company is all about managing people, especially in Asian companies where family, locals and Westerners are all part of a typical workforce. Having effective workers means you have to become what has been called a “Chief Relationship Officer.” Relationships are important in many ways.

You have to manage employee relationships as well as your relationships with vendors and suppliers, investors, partners and alliances. It is helpful to develop an even temperament so that you can move throughout your organization, horizontally and vertically, most effectively. And you can negotiate with suppliers and customers with maximum results.

This ability to handle people and situations with a calmness and reasonableness has been called an Emotional Quotient (EQ). Having a strong EQ will give you the best chance to get the most out of the people you deal with.

Modern organizations are becoming flatter and less hierarchical. Leadership is becoming more distributed across the organization. There are fewer department “silos” and more crossing of traditional responsibilities. This means more people in your organization have more opportunity to generate new designs, new products, or new businesses.

Good CEOs are managers, not bureaucrats. They get involved. They delegate responsibility and authority. They value their people. They listen. They suggest. They advise. Through constant self-discovery they become aware of what their people need from them. And they provide it.