The Job Search

Time Management: Getting It All Done in the New Year

By Kristen Harris

If you’re anything like me, you’re headed into the new year with big plans and goals, maybe a long list of things you want to accomplish both personally and professionally. Goals are good, but how on earth are we going to get it all done?

Time management is one area where I’m continuously trying to improve. We’re all given the same number of hours in a day so I want to use my allotment wisely.

First, I have to decide what I’m going to spend my time on, and the answer can’t be “everything”.

  • Be Clear on Priorities. I have lots of different interests and new ideas every day (#curseofcreativepeople). I am also fortunate enough to be offered many opportunities, from trips and events to board positions, business connections, and creative projects. While I want to do everything all the time, I know that I just can’t. I’m one person, and being worn out isn’t fun either. Over the holidays I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what is most important to me right now and where I want to spend my time and energy this year. Being clear on priorities helps me decide whether a new idea, opportunity or plan is the right thing for right now. Which leads to...

  • Saying No, or Not Right Now. I’m really working on this one because by nature I’m a “yes” person. I like helping people, I like new opportunities, and I have a lot of different interests. But I’ve realized that I can’t do everything well all at the same time, so right now I’m working on saying “not right now”. Join a new committee? Not right now, but maybe when this current one is done in June. Start a new project? Not right now, ask me again in a few months. Meet up for a coffee chat? Not right now, but let’s schedule a time next week. Stopping to consider whether a new opportunity is something I really want to do and if it fits into my schedule has helped me say yes to lots of things, but not all at the same time.

By knowing my priorities and saying “not right now”, I’ve reduced the number of things I’m trying to fit into my day. From there, I apply a few tools and techniques to manage my time to get the things I’ve said “yes” to.

  • Schedule Meetings. I live by my calendar! While it might seem counterintuitive, scheduling meetings can be a great way to manage your time. I have weekly meetings with people on my team and try to schedule short meetings to discuss issues or solve problems. This saves us both from continuous interruptions or pop-ins and reserves time where we have each other’s undivided attention. If the issue can wait, we save it for our weekly meeting. Of course, anything critical or time-sensitive gets taken care of right away, but you might be surprised how many things can wait a few days. Plus, reducing interruptions increases productivity, so by having meetings I’m actually saving time!

  • Decide What’s Important. I’m a big fan of the Eisenhower Matrix. (I’ve used this for years but only recently found out the origin. Apparently, it was a favorite tool of President Dwight Eisenhower...who knew?!) Basically, every task is urgent or not urgent, and important or not important. Something that is urgent and important needs to be done now, and usually always happens. But items that are important but not urgent often don’t get time dedicated to them even though they could be very impactful. Things that are urgent but not important should be delegated to someone else, and just let go of anything that is both not urgent and not important–delete it from your to-do list. Using this system can help identify items that need time scheduled to make sure they happen. Great segue...

  • Schedule Work Time. I am notorious for trying to jam too much into a day. To overcome this, when I have projects that need dedicated time to concentrate (like writing this article), I schedule blocks of time on my calendar. This accomplishes three things: it reserves time to get the work done, other people see it on my calendar and give me space, and it’s a reality check on what I can really get done. Often I start to block time for projects in addition to the meetings I already have scheduled, and suddenly my calendar is full. Or overfull. If there are simply not enough hours in the day or week to accomplish everything I’ve planned, then it’s time to make some decisions. Depending on the situation I might need to shift deadlines, reschedule meetings or change priorities. But at least I’m making these decisions upfront rather than getting to the end of the day having run out of time for an important task or deadline.

    Managing time helps me accomplish what is most important, and that doesn’t necessarily mean more work. Time management means you can work on art projects, go to the gym, spend time with family, take an afternoon nap, go to the park, or start a side hustle. This year, put it on your calendar and get it done!


Asking for a Raise? Timing Matters

By Kristen Harris

You’ve been working hard, doing great work, contributing to your company, and you want to ask for a raise. But is now the right time? When and how do you bring it up? Is it too soon (or not soon enough)?

Asking for a raise is one thing; getting it is another. With a little forethought and preparation, you’ll improve your chance for success. Go barreling into the conversation without a plan or respect for business etiquette, and it can quickly become awkward.

The Etiquette of Asking for a Raise (or How to Not Make it Weird that You Want More Money)

#1: Talk to the right person.

Any conversation about your pay should be with your direct supervisor or manager, but realize that they may not be the final decision-maker. If their response is that they need to discuss it with someone else, respect that answer and ask when would be an appropriate time to follow up on your request. Even if you know who the final decision-maker is, do not go directly to them; this is one place where you need to follow the chain of command.

#2: Be sure the timing is right to justify an increase.

Have you been in the position long enough to prove your worth? Are you taking on increased tasks or responsibilities? Have you developed additional skills or experience? You may think “it never hurts to ask” but actually it can. Asking for a pay increase too soon or at an inappropriate time can leave a bad impression.

I believe pay increases should be tied to increased work contributions, not tenure. But, if you really need a time frame, don’t bring it up any sooner than 6-12 months into a new role. When hired, you agreed on a certain level of pay; asking for more after a few weeks or months is unprofessional and unfair to the company. They may hesitate in the future when perhaps you really have earned an increase; it’s hard to regain that trust.

#3: Schedule a time to talk.

Most people don’t like to talk about money anyway, so don’t spring this on your manager or just “pop in”. If you have a regularly scheduled one-on-one meeting with your supervisor, that’s the ideal place to start the conversation. If not, then schedule a time or check their calendar for some free time. When the meeting comes around, make sure it’s still a good time to talk because you want their undivided attention with no distractions.

#4: Choose the right setting.

Any conversation about pay needs to be one-on-one with your supervisor. If they have a private office that works; otherwise, ask to meet in another private location. You don’t want others overhearing your conversation, and definitely, do not bring up pay in a meeting or group setting.

#5: Know what you’re asking for.

Do your research, evaluate your role, and put together your case for why you’re worth the number you’ve come up with. Also, know the range you’d be fine with, and understand that there could be pre-determined pay ranges for each role in your company. Generally, the larger the company, the more structured the pay levels are. Your role might have an upper limit, and you may even already be at the top of that range. If that’s the case, ask what you can do to continue to grow and move into the next level. Check out Asking for a Raise? Four Steps to Getting What You Want and Pay Matters: Getting What You’re Worth to prep yourself.

Being thoughtful about the timing and setting of any conversation, including one about pay, greatly improves the likelihood that you’ll have a positive outcome. Be prepared and good luck!


Pay Matters: Getting What You’re Worth

By Kristen Harris

Everyone wants to be paid what they’re worth. But what exactly is that? What factors determine your worth? How do companies determine the pay for a role and how can you find that out? People generally don’t like to talk about money so anything related to pay tends to be murky and mysterious.

First, it’s important to keep in mind what type of work you’re considering. There is a big difference between pay rates for freelance or project work as opposed to hourly contract roles or full-time salaries. Let’s break it down.

> People who work on a freelance basis are running their own business, even if it’s a business of one. Generally, you’ll be a 1099 contractor with all of the responsibility of finding your own work, running the business, paying the employer’s portion of payroll taxes, and providing your own healthcare and retirement. You have flexibility, but when you don’t work you’re not paid; there’s no holiday pay or paid time off. Whether you’re paid hourly or by the project, generally freelance rates are higher than contract or full-time because you’re taking on all of the financial risk and responsibility.

> With a full-time position, you’re generally paid the same salary every week, or an hourly rate with a guaranteed number of hours per week. The employer probably also offers benefits like paid time off, holiday pay, healthcare benefits, retirement plans, and maybe even an onsite health coach or foosball table! Plus the employer’s share of your payroll taxes is paid by the company. If you divide the annual salary by 2080 hours (the number of work hours in a year), the hourly rate might actually be lowest of the three but add in an additional 30-40% of your salary for those benefits to get a true picture of your total compensation.

> The pay for an hourly staffing or contract role usually falls somewhere between a freelance rate and full-time salary. Depending on the firm you’re working with, you may have a level of benefits similar to a full-time position (that’s us) or little-to-no benefits provided by the firm. If a lot of benefits are provided, the hourly rate will be more similar to a full-time rate; when no benefits are provided some firms pay a slightly higher hourly rate (although many do not).

So, with the context of whether the position is freelance, staffing/contract or full-time, how do you know if the rate being offered is appropriate?

Pay ranges are a bit of art and science. There are some online resources where you can search by title, experience level, location, and other factors. I always like to look at 3-4 different sources, remove any outliers, then find the average. These resources usually gather their information from individuals self-reporting so this gives you a good idea of the going rate for that type of position. That’s the science. From there you have to consider other factors like your particular experience or level of expertise, your reputation, whether you already have a relationship or have worked together before, and even the company itself. Some places simply pay more than others; every business is structured differently.

Even with all of your research, at some point, it might just come down to whether the pay being offered fits within what you’re willing to accept. If there is a gap, consider other ways to bridge it. What else is important to you? Sometimes it’s easier for a company to provide additional time off, flexibility or other benefits rather than additional pay. Just keep in mind that any negotiations need to happen upfront, before taking the job. Once you agree on a rate, that should be the expectation on both sides.

We all want to feel good about ourselves and that we’re being paid “what we’re worth”. However, there really is no magic formula to come up with that number. Only you know what is most important to you, what you’re willing to compromise on, and what’s a deal-breaker.

Getting “what you’re worth” really means that you feel appropriately compensated for the work you’re doing, and that number is different for everyone. It helps to understand the different types of work arrangements, and the market for your skill set. We work with creatives in this area every day, just let us know how we can help!


Your Guide in Deciding What to Wear for an Interview

By Catherine Lang-Cline

Today is the big day, the day of the interview, and you are swaying back and forth in front of your closet wondering what you should wear. There are some definite “do’s” and “don’ts” when it comes to picking out what you will wear, this is a guide to help you make the best choice.

  1. Pick something out the day before the interview, the week before the interview, just not the day OF the interview. This will make sure that there are no last minute problems with your attire. Everything fits properly, no buttons are missing, no holes and everything is wrinkle-free.

  2. Wear something simple. If you choose to be dramatic or daring in your wardrobe choice, it could backfire. Keep your choices simple. Ideally, no bold patterns, tailored, neutral colors, and simple lines. You don’t want your clothes to overpower you. YOU are the one that deserves the focus. If you wear something too bold or blousy that is the only thing that the interviewer will remember. If you know that everyone in that company wears t-shirts and ripped jeans, great! Wear a nice t-shirt and jeans. Elevate the look they have to be taken seriously.

  3. Keep jewelry to a minimum. Again, a statement piece could have its place, but you don’t want to be remembered for some giant pink earrings. Really determine if it looks good or if it looks distracting.

  4. Speaking of distracting, piercings, gauges, and tattoos can also be distracting. Use your best judgment. Sorry to say, it is ideal to remove piercings and to cover tattoos. You would be surprised how quickly a person can make a judgment call about you. I understand it is you. Loud and proud. But you can be you once they love you and you get the job. The last thing you want is to be completely qualified and you were immediately taken from consideration because of something that doesn’t even matter. It’s like when your mom finds out you got a tattoo. Chances are, she was already in love with you already.

  5. Wear something that makes you feel good about you. If you don’t have the clothes, go out and get them. Simple clothes in neutral colors are easy to find and they can be found at any price point. It may be worth just investing in that one power outfit and keeping it on hand for anytime you want to make a great first impression.

You are now ready for that interview. Go get that job!


Brand You: Take Time for a Personal Brand Audit

By Kristen Harris

Branding is important in helping a product stand out from the pack. Important enough that clients hire us creatives to help them create, grow, market, and sell brands all day long.

We believe that individual personal brands are just as important. For more on that see our article Brand You: Are You Carefully Crafting Your Personal Brand?

Personal brands are like company cultures–everyone has one, whether it’s something that was purposefully created or evolved when no one was looking. So, are you a brand that people know and trust? How do you appear to others? Do you even know?

When is the last time you took a look at your personal brand? We recommend a personal brand audit every so often, to be sure your brand is intentionally communicating what you want to share with the world.

When doing a personal brand audit, take a look at these four key areas:

What You Do. This isn’t just a list of software you know, years of experience, and tasks you can complete. What do you REALLY do? What problems can you solve? Just like a product, people need a reason to try something new, to try you. What do you provide that others don’t?

How You Do It. With creative work, everyone approaches it in a slightly different way. What’s different about how you do your work? What are your unique and special talents? How do you approach a problem? Is there a system or process you apply to your work that gets certain results? Can you share an interesting behind-the-scenes view of what you do and how you do it? Share your strengths and unique superpowers (not sure about your strengths? Check out Be Your Best: Using Strengths at Work.

Your Communication Style. This covers everything from the style of your work to how you interact with others; it shows up in how you present yourself in-person, online and on paper. Are you clear, direct and to the point? Do you share lots of details or provide solutions through storytelling? Are you relentlessly positive, or maybe you maintain a healthy level of cynicism that helps you spot problems before they pop up? How do you communicate who you are and what you care about in every situation?

Your Values and Beliefs. What do you care about? What are the values, principles, and beliefs that guide your work? What’s so important that you just can’t and won’t compromise, no matter what? Why does your work matter, what’s important about it? Tell us how you’re making an impact, solving a problem, or making the world a better place.

We live in a world of branding and online presence, it’s inescapable. So do a quick audit to make sure the personal brand you’re projecting is the one you want.

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Kristen Harris is the COO • Co-Creator of Portfolio Creative. A central Ohio firm solely focused on creative roles, Portfolio Creative has been connecting companies with the top creative talent for onsite staffing, full-time direct hire, and project needs since 2005.

#SheMeansBusiness Presents: Women at Work

Recently, Facebook stopped by our office to learn more about our Co-Creators, Kristen and Catherine, for their #shemeansbusiness series.

Watch the full video below!

Brand You: Are You Carefully Crafting Your Personal Brand?

By Kristen Harris

Our world is becoming more and more brand-centric and for good reason. Brands help set one product apart from another, stand out from the pack, and quickly communicate their promise to the customer.

We no longer just have vacuum cleaners, shoes, and sparkling water. We have a Dyson, wear Rothy’s, and drink LaCroix. We talk about brands as if they’re a part of our lives and share them online like they’re our friends.

In this creative space, many of us create, grow, market, and sell brands all day long. When people buy brands they know and trust, they’re buying what the brand stands for not just the product that’s being sold.

Are you crafting your personal brand as carefully as the brands you create for your clients? Do you have a personal brand that people know and trust?

Yes, we are people and not products, but everyone has a personal brand. If you only tell people about your functional skill set, the software you know and your years of experience, you’re promoting the product of you. When you share the unique combination of who you are, what you do, and how and why you do it, that’s the brand of you.

Your personal brand includes what you do, how you do it, your communication style, your values and beliefs, and everything else someone gets when working with you. It tells people who you are, not just what you do.

Personal branding tends to show up three key places: in-person, on paper, and online.

In-person, our individual brand comes across the minute anyone sees us. How we carry ourselves, our posture, confidence, speed, energy, volume, and wardrobe or personal grooming choices all add up to a physical projection of our brand. Whether it’s a choice we’ve made or something we’re born with, our physical presence is a part of our brand. Make sure the brand you’re projecting is the one you want. Some physical attributes can’t be changed but most of what people see and perceive about you can be adjusted to project the brand you want to communicate in-person.

On paper, our personal brand is clear on any physical materials like a resume or cover letter, marketing pieces, printed samples, or portfolio. It’s communicated through word choice, writing style, fonts, colors, graphics, and paper textures–and you get to make all those choices. Select options that project who you are and what you do; a good brand will attract the right people and repel the wrong ones.

Online, you get to create and curate your personal brand. Since you’re making all the choices, choose images and words that project the brand of you. Help people get to know what you’re all about, where your passions lie, and your unique skills or strengths. Caution: sometimes people curate their online presence and social feeds to the point of becoming inauthentic. Project the brand that you want to share but also keep it real–let people see a bit of the real-life messiness, behind-the-scenes steps, or special process of your work.

We live and work with other brands all day long; take a little time to consider your own personal brand and how you’re sharing it with the world.

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Kristen Harris is the COO • Co-Creator of Portfolio Creative. A central Ohio firm solely focused on creative roles, Portfolio Creative has been connecting companies with the top creative talent for onsite staffing, full-time direct hire, and project needs since 2005.

Our Favorite Places for Offsite Meetings

Our days are filled with meetings, but sometimes it's nice to get out of the office once in a while. Below are a few of our favorite places for offsite meetings. 

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Photo by Fox in the Snow 

Fox in the Snow

[German Village] + [Italian Village

Website

 

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Photo by La Chatelaine

 

La Chatelaine

[multiple locations

Website

 

 

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Photo by Pistacia Vera

Pistacia Vera 

[MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

Website

 

 

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Photo by Jeni's 

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Photo by Mission Coffee

Mission Coffee

[MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

Website

 

 

 

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Photo by Zen Cha Tea Salon 

 

Zen Cha Tea Salon 

[Short north

Website

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Photo by Winans

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Photo by Bros' Coffee 

 

Luck Bros' Coffee 

[Grandview

Website

Workplace Culture: It's a Reflection of Who You Are

By Kristen Harris 

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“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” (or lunch). 

This relatively common quote is often attributed to management guru, Peter Drucker, although it’s not really clear who actually said it. Really, it doesn’t matter who said it first, now people say it all the time. 

But what does it really mean?
What IS culture? 
And why is it so important?

While there are plenty, here is my definition of workplace culture: the set of norms your company and employees live by, otherwise known as “what happens when no one is looking”.

Culture is the standard of how things are done, how people treat customers and each other, the flow and pace of work. It’s all of the tiny (maybe seemingly insignificant) details that all add up to “this is how we do it here”. Culture is not what you do, it’s how you do it.

Every company and workplace has a culture, whether it’s been created intentionally or just happened over time. Cultures can be good, feel good, do good. Or they can be bad, feel bad, turn out bad. And, of course, there’s a lot of grey area in-between. 

In most cases, “good” or “bad” may be a judgment call of whether it feels right to you. If you like a laid-back vibe then a hard-charging, competitive culture won’t feel good. And, vice versa. Each culture may be right for that business, but rest assured that they are all different. Culture is a big part of what differentiates one business from another in the same industry.

Think about your favorite coffee shop. Is it a single location, down a side street, where only locals go? Or is it ultra-hip, in a trendy area, a place to network and be seen? Or is it a ubiquitous chain, found on every corner, consistent and easy to find? Each of these shops has its own culture–from the decor and how you’re greeted to what is offered, how it’s made and delivered to you. The way you feel receiving that coffee shop’s product and service is a reflection of their culture. And you probably feel more at home in one over the other. 

Culture reflects company values–what’s important to the people working there–and influences every part of your interaction. Which makes us feel more at home in one place over another.

At Portfolio Creative our culture has always been very important. Catherine and I set out to create the type of company where we’d want to work; we figured if it’s the kind of place we want to be, then our clients, talent and team members would too.

Here’s a taste of our culture:

  • Fun – If we’re not having fun then we’re not doing it right! There’s a lot of laughter throughout the workday, even in meetings (yes, we’ve proven even meetings can be fun).

  • Friendly – We smile, say “Hi”, ask how you’re doing and actually listen to your answer. We act nice because we are nice.

  • Caring – We genuinely like each other, our clients, our talent, and all the other people we get to work with. When you really care, it shows.

  • Helpful – It’s our job to help people; we’re problem-solvers for our clients, talent and each other. If we can’t solve the problem, we try to share ideas or provide resources; no one walks away empty-handed.

Culture isn’t about what you do–it’s how you do it and who you are. How everyone in the company behaves every day, even when no one’s looking. Especially when no one’s looking. 

Our Portfolio Creative culture reflects the values we live by every day. Want to see how it feels to work with people who are fun, friendly and caring? Reach out to let us know how we can help; you won’t leave empty-handed.

Sharpen Up Your Search

By Kristen Harris 

Shark Week has become such a big deal, it’s practically a national holiday! (Nice work, Discovery Channel.)

We’re always picking up new ideas about careers and job search. So, in the spirit of the almost-holiday, here are a few lessons learned from the sharks. Happy hunting!

  1. Never Stop Moving. Sharks have to keep swimming to avoid sinking to the bottom. They are basically always moving, even if it’s ever-so-slightly. Whether you’re building a career, starting a business, or searching for your next opportunity, never stop moving. Do something, even if it’s small, every day. Read an article, learn a skill, send out a resume, contact a potential client–small actions add up over time to keep you moving forward (and prevent sinking to the bottom).

  2. Adjust to the Situation. If there is no food, sharks move on to a location with more options. This is the same with searching for a job, new business, or career growth. If the opportunities aren’t available where you are, adjust and focus on where the opportunities are. This could mean changing tactics, finding new connections, redesigning your marketing pieces, changing your area of focus, or literally relocating.

  3. Choose Your Surroundings. As predators, the feeding behavior of sharks changes according to the presence of prey and competition. They (literally and figuratively) feed off of the energy of the group. Remember that the energy of the people you surround yourself with has a strong impact on your mood and motivation. Spend time in positive situations with people who are encouraging, helpful, and supportive.

  4. Remember and Learn From the Past. Sharks have very good memories. They migrate to follow food sources and remember the (often complex) migratory patterns of their prey. Reflect on where you were successful and not-so-successful in the past. How can you repeat some of the patterns that worked, perhaps in a new and updated way? And remember what didn’t work, avoid it, and try something new?

  5. Socialize with Your Kind. We think of sharks as solitary, but some species are very social, hanging out and hunting in “schools”. As fierce predators, they do not need special protection so this grouping is thought to be purely social. We gain a lot by spending time with others as well. Seek out individuals and groups related to your industry, interests, or a new topic you want to learn. The connections you build can extend way beyond the one meeting or event, leading to long-term relationships and valuable career connections.

The waters can be rough out there! If you have questions about your career or job search, we’re here to help. And we don’t bite, promise.