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January 28, 2015 / Stephanie Anderson

5 Simple health hacks for wellness at work

HealthyofficeHow healthy is your office? If you’re reading this hunched over your computer, munching on a sugar-laden vending-machine snack and unsure of when you last took a break, you’re probably thinking not very.

While we all have our days when working through lunch and extra cups of coffee become necessary to hit deadlines, it definitely shouldn’t become a habit. When managers do this often, it can set an unreasonable precedent for employees who think they must do the same. Not only can this create a toxic work environment where employees put their physical health at risk, but it can also mean greater disengagement and dissatisfaction.

Creating a healthy office culture starts with the leaders of the organization. From simply being a good role model to proposing company-wide initiatives that encourage employees to be more healthy, there’s plenty of ways to transform a sedentary culture into one that embraces wellness while working.

Getting push-back from upper management members who think health initiatives could be a distraction from work? Here are three can’t-be-ignored reasons why healthfulness and work go hand-in-hand:

1.Company health: Healthy workers are more productive workers! If that’s not enough, consider how reduced doctor visits and hospitalizations will affect the cost of the company insurance policy next year.

2. Personal health: Employees want to feel like their employer truly cares about them. Health and wellness initiatives make a bold statement that personal well-being is a priority for the business. Loyalty will follow.

3. Teamwork: New programs can boost camaraderie and help co-workers get to know each other better. Health initiatives offer a creative, fun way to encourage teamwork and a healthier lifestyle.

Convinced? Now take action. Consider these five super-simple hacks for creating a healthier office culture:

The LinkUp Fitbit challenge is healthy competition at it’s best!

Create an office challenge
At LinkUp we just started a new activity challenge that’s really got everyone motivated. We’ve split into two teams and whichever team gets the most cumulative steps by the end of the week has to buy the other team lunch. This would be an easy initiative for any office to do; simply get pedometers and start keeping track! We are only half way done and nearly half-a-million steps have been logged. Go team LinkUp!

Transform the break room
Vending machines are an office staple, but it’s important to offer a variety of healthy options so people have the opportunity to snack wisely. Contact the vending-machine provider if your selection needs a refresh. Better yet, provide healthy snacks at no cost to employees. Foods like nuts, whole-grain crackers or dried fruit make great options. Consider offering decaf coffee and caffeine-free tea, too.

Encourage biking to work
In Minneapolis, we love to bike; yes, even in the cold weather. In fact, the city is rated as the #1 biking city by Bicycling.com, thanks to 118 miles of on-street bikeways and 92 miles of off-street bikeways. But no matter where your company is located, you can encourage biking by adding bike storage racks and designating closet space for biking gear. You might even start a biking club for group rides after work!

Promote healthy activities on breaks
Breaks are important because they allow you to decompress, plus they give the body a break from being behind a screen. Get a group together to go shoot hoops once a week. Or, start a 10 a.m. walking club where people gather to walk outside for 15 minutes. Is an employee a certified yoga teacher? See if he or she will lead an intro class, and if there is enough interest, consider making it a regular occurrence.

Look closely at the environment
It’s not just physical activities that benefit employee health, of course. The work environment itself can be a positive influence. First, make sure employees use an ergonomically correct office space. Add some fresh plants, touches of color and as much natural light as possible. Finally, ask employees what they need to feel healthy at work. Their answers will likely include simple things, like a new chair or keyboard, but these just may have a dramatic impact on their long-term well-being.

January 21, 2015 / Molly Moseley

Internal vs. external, which hire has more value

internalexternalIn many industries, it’s common knowledge that if you want a big pay raise, you’re probably going to have to look for a new job with a new company. Even after years of loyalty, companies tend to underestimate the potential of internal staff and instead hire external candidates whose skills, they hope, will bring new energy and productivity to the team.

But is this strategy paying off for companies, or is it better to promote from within? Furthermore, how do these actions affect existing staff who get passed by?

A fascinating study, titled “Paying More to Get Less” and published by Administrative Science Quarterly, found that although external hires are paid about 18 percent more, they scored worse on performance reviews and were 61 percent more likely to be fired from their new jobs than their internally promoted counterparts.

Every situation is unique, of course, and there will be times when no internal candidates are qualified for a particular role. If there are hardworking employees that could be a potential match, however, it appears that any hiring manager who overlooks them would be making a big mistake. Even if fresh candidates are highly qualified in regards to the skills they bring to the table, it can still take one to two years to get up to speed with important components of success, such as trust, relationship building and aligning with the corporate culture.

While the allure of bringing in new blood in hopes of revitalizing a team can be difficult to resist, it’s important to look at all your options in order to make the right decision. Here are four ways that internal candidates trump external talent:

Productivity: Internal employees already know the company and its procedures. Even if some training is required for the new positions, they will be more productive more quickly than a fresh face.

Reputation: You already know this person’s work ethic and how he or she collaborates with other employees. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of an employee ahead of time is a huge asset.

Cost: In addition to often paying more for salary, there is also added training and lost productivity to consider. This means it often costs a company much more to hire externally.

Loyalty: You know internal staff are more loyal because they have a history with the company. Hiring from within boosts morale for the whole team; hiring externally can cause worry.

These compelling reasons aren’t just valuable for companies, they can be great points for employees who want to make the argument that they are the best candidate for a promotion. If you want to be considered for a job opening, have a candid talk with your supervisor and/or head of HR. Bring hard numbers about your productivity, know why you want the position and mention your tenure. These things alone can make a compelling case.

What about getting paid less than an external candidate to do the same job? It’s a topic that should be addressed head-on. Existing employees should have the confidence to negotiate salary if they are applying for a new internal position. You might already know the pay scale based on the job posting, so make sure you get an offer within that range. If that information is not advertised, research what people in that position are getting paid in the local market, and share those numbers to back up why you feel you’re worth more. Remember, you are your biggest advocate for a promotion and adequate pay, so make sure to share your thoughts in a professional manner.

January 14, 2015 / Stephanie Anderson

The real cost of job hunting might leave you in shock

It’s no secret that searching for a new job takes a lot of time and energy. Beyond dedication and determination, finding a new position often requires a financial investment as well. So how much cold hard cash do you need to land the job of your dreams?

While the numbers vary from one person to the next, here’s some insight into the expenses that many people incur as they seek out a new job:

Resume writing services
Cost: $100-$500
A resume is a critical marketing tool when finding a job, so some people decide to hire a professional to create their resume to ensure it’s in tip-top shape. Costs vary depending on factors such as the writer’s experience and the time required to complete the project.

Travel and lodging
Cost: $50-$1,000+
Likely the most common expense of job searching, the cost of travel and lodging can vary greatly. Whether you’re paying for gas to drive across town for multiple interviews or footing the bill to fly across the country to meet an executive team, it can add up very quickly.

Wardrobe
Cost: $100-$300+
With so many workplaces moving to a more casual dress code, you might find yourself short on options when it comes time to dress up for an interview. You want to make a good impression so you pick up a new suit or other type of professional attire.

Career coach
Cost: $100-$500/hour
Feeling stuck? Career coaches can give you third-party insight that can revamp your career. Their services can be particularly helpful for some during the job-hunting process, but good ones come with a cost similar to hiring a lawyer.

Outplacement services
Cost: $1,500 – $10,000 (for senior executives)
Outplacement services help laid-off employee find new positions. Services can include career counseling and job-hunting assistance. While some people decide to pay for these services themselves, a previous employer may foot the bill as part of a severance package.

Cutting costs and giving yourself an edge

As you an see, it can be costly to try to find a new job while attempting to stand out from the competition. And these numbers don’t incorporate the cost of lost wages if you’re unemployed. Fortunately, there are numerous ways you can manage these expenses.

1. See what you can get for free
If you’re fresh out of college, the school’s career center will likely offer many of these services for free. For others, some community organizations make services like these free or highly discounted to those actively searching for employment. Your local library is a great resource as well, plus you’ll find free WiFi. A small bit of research can save you a big amount of cash.

2. Shop around
If you’re looking to hire services for things like resume writing or career coaching, take time to shop around. Everyone’s rates are different. You want to hire someone you can trust with experience and a reasonable rate. Some people might offer discounts for special circumstances, such as if you are a veteran. If you’re not finding what you need, leverage your personal and professional networks instead of hiring out.

3. Know your tax deductions
There are a variety of tax deductions that you might be able to claim to reduce job costs. Things like travel, outplacement agency fees, and even the cost of mailing resumes may be deductible if you are looking for a job in your current field. To determine your deduction, use Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The amount of your miscellaneous deduction that exceeds 2 percent of your adjusted gross income is deductible, according to the IRS. Learn more at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Job-Search-Expenses-Can-be-Tax-Deductible.

January 8, 2015 / Toby Dayton

LinkUp’s 2014 Track Record In Forecasting the Monthly Jobs Numbers

Earlier this week when we published our forecast for Friday’s December jobs report and I sent out a few Tweets with the always-entertaining hash-tag #NFPGuesses, Joe Weisenthal of Bloomberg asked what our track-record was in forecasting the monthly jobs numbers.

tweets

I provided him with a brief response that we were off 1.9% from the YTD BLS numbers, but indicated as well that I would write a blog post that provided a bit more detail regarding our 2014 track record in forecasting the monthly jobs numbers. As such, I will provide no additional commentary, but rather simply publish below the charts and graphs that we maintain to track the accuracy of our forecasting model.

YTD, we are off 1.9% from the BLS Data as compared to the Bloomberg consensus estimate which is off 13.4%.

YTD Track record thru Nov

 

The monthly data provides additional detail about our variance from BLS.

 

 

LinkUp Bloomberg BLS

 

We also give ourselves a monthly grade based on not only the quantitative measure but also the narrative around each of our forecasts each month (which can be found in our monthly forecast blog posts). This is obviously hugely subjective and completely self-graded, but it does provide some insight into how we assess our own track record each month.

Monthly Commentary

And as far as tomorrow’s Employment Situation Report, our forecast is quite a bit below consensus. Although our 170k call is not the lowest, we are definitely an outlier on the downside. With the ADP and jobless claims data this week, it’s anyone’s call what kind of number we’ll see tomorrow.

NFP_2015.01.08

January 7, 2015 / Molly Moseley

Is it time to retire annual reviews? Effective alternatives to consider

shutterstock_210394492If it’s time for your annual review, it probably goes something like this: you meet with your supervisor in a private room, he or she rates your performance using a variety of scales, you talk about where you need to improve in the future, and at the end you learn if you get a pay increase.

It’s no wonder most workers dread this process!

Beyond being ineffective, annual reviews can actually have many negative consequences. These one-sided conversations can diminish the employee-manager relationship and reinforce hierarchy within an organization. Traditional reviews often don’t give employees any helpful information about about how to do their jobs better, nor do they motivate them to strive for more. They can hurt a team’s dynamic and its ability to work cohesively, cause unneeded stress and often leave employees feeling unappreciated.

Annual reviews are like an ancient tradition. We keep doing them, but we really aren’t sure why except that it’s what we’ve always done in business. But more and more people are arguing it’s time for a change, and there are many alternatives for innovative companies willing to think outside the box.

Alternative methods for reviewing employee performance

Start a conversation between HR, management and any other important parties about the effectiveness of the current system. Then brainstorm how it can be improved. This might entail an overhaul that completely abandons annual reviews. It also could mean a fresh approach to the current process to make it more effective and more likely to produce a positive outcome. Here are three ideas to get “the talk” started:

1. Why annually?
Employees work all year long – why are they reviewed just once a year? Build a better relationship between employees and managers by having one-on-one meetings more regularly. For some companies this means once a month and others once a quarter. Additionally, always maintain an open-door policy so things can be discussed even when a meeting isn’t scheduled. Additionally, kill annual performance raises and instead adopt merit raises that can be earned at any time, not just once a year.

2. Key in on collaboration
Skip whatever rating system your company has and make reviews more conversational than judgmental. Be honest with employees, and let them voice both their joys and concerns at work. You both should talk about the job and where improvements can be made; two people working together in a trusted manner can uncover some truly remarkable things. Be a coach and work on how you can strengthen your team and build up morale and engagement!

3. Make reviews a team effort
Traditional reviews can seem pointless to employees because they come from supervisors who are not really in touch with what they do on a day-to-day basis. While meetings should still be led by managers, why not ask for feedback from the team beforehand? Peer review can be powerful, plus it’s a meaningful way for others to show their positive feelings about the employee in addition to any areas for improvement. Best practices are to keep peer feedback anonymous so it’s most useful.

Do you work at a company that has a modern take on the annual review? How do you feel these approaches benefit employees and the company as a whole?

January 2, 2015 / Toby Dayton

Despite Strong Job Gains Of Late, Labor Market Remains An Enigma; LinkUp Forecasting Weaker Jobs Numbers For December

With Alan Turing much on my mind these days (being knee-deep in Andrew Hodges’ outstanding book and having just seen the phenomenal movie it inspired), it’s hard not to apply the word Enigma to todays’ labor market. Without question, the overall trend of the labor market has been positive for quite some time and momentum has recently been accelerating. The U.S. economy added 2.65 million jobs in the first 11 months of 2014 (as compared to 2.25 million jobs through November of 2013) and November’s gain of 321,000 jobs marked the 5oth straight month of positive job growth and the largest monthly gain since January of 2012. 2014 will stand as the best year of U.S. job growth since 1999. As Krugmam so perfectly articulated in his editorial entitled ‘Tidings of Comfort’ on December 25th:

Consider next the state of the economy. There’s no question that recovery from the 2008 crisis has been painfully slow and should have been much faster. In particular, the economy has been held back by unprecedented cuts in public spending and employment.

But the story you hear all the time portrays economic policy as an unmitigated disaster, with President Obama’s alleged hostility to business holding back investment and job creation. So it comes as something of a shock when you look at the actual record and discover that growth and job creation have been substantially faster during the Obama recovery than they were during the Bush recovery last decade (even ignoring the crisis at the end), and that while housing is still depressed, business investment has been quite strong.

What’s more, recent data suggest that the economy is gathering strength — 5 percent growth in the last quarter! Oh, and not that it matters very much, but there are some people who like to claim that economic success should be judged by the performance of the stock market. And stock prices, which hit a low point in March 2009, accompanied by declarations from prominent Republican economists that Mr. Obama was killing the market economy, have tripled since then. Maybe economic management hasn’t been that bad, after all.

But despite all of those most welcomed data points, there are a number of critical aspects of the labor market that remain perplexing to economists. Chief among them are questions relating to how much slack remains in the labor market and when wages will start to rise should steady job gains continue in 2015 as most believe will be the case. We touched on it last month, but wage growth has hardly budged at all and the labor force participation rate remains at historically low levels. Digging into those issues raises questions around the shift in the Beveridge Curve and the extent of ‘Labor Market Scarring’ from the Great Recession as well as broader macro-trends such as the pace of baby-boomer retirement and widely debated structural changes in the economy and today’s labor market. All of these issues (not to mention the real or imagined impact of the Affordable Care Act, states’ minimum wage laws, a strengthening dollar, etc.) will be of paramount importance in forecasting job growth, GDP growth, inflation, and when the Fed will raise interest rates. And as complex as those issues are, there isn’t even consensus around what the labor market will look like in the next 60 to 90 days, let alone the next 12 months.

Things are always a bit turbulent as far as forecasting job growth at year-end goes, and this year is no different. With strong holiday hiring in the second half of 2014, seasonal factors should be more dramatic than in years past. Combined with that, weather always seems to play into some people’s forecasts, as do other seasonal factors like ADP’s ‘Purge Effect’ and to what extent companies might accelerate hiring earlier in the year, to name just a few. While the horrific mess in Washington (particularly Congress) seems to be having less impact on labor market uncertainty as compared to years past, new questions have arisen around what net impact the price of oil might have on hiring.

Putting this all together, the big question is whether or not the labor market can sustain the kind of job growth we saw in 2014 or if the optimists are going to get crushed yet again (see Charlie Brown/Lucy analogy from our blog post last April). As the WSJ pointed out this morning, “For the past five years the economy has given several head fakes, where job growth looked to be achieving real velocity only to falter.” Unfortunately, the data from LinkUp points to a somewhat disappointing start to 2015.

In November, the blended average of new and total job listings from our search engine (which indexes 2.5 million job openings from 50,000 company websites) fell 12.7% from October. Because the best indicator of a future hire is an employer posting a job opening on its own company website, the steep decline in job openings from November points to weaker job growth in December and serves as the basis for our below-consensus forecast. We are projecting that the U.S. economy added a net gain of only 170,000 jobs in December, well below the 250,000 consensus estimate.

 

LinkUp 60-day Forecast for Dec '14 and Jan '15

 

As disappointing as it would be to have December’s numbers come in below consensus, a net gain of even 170,000 jobs would still cap off a phenomenal year of job growth.

 

Job Growth by Qtr Stacked '10-'14

 

Presented in slightly different form…

 

Job Growth by Qtr '10-'14

 

Unfortunately, both new and total job openings in LinkUp’s job search engine fell again in December. New job openings by state dropped 6%, while total job openings fell 3% from the prior month. Those declines were broadly distributed across the U.S., with 37 states showing a decrease in job openings and 46 showing a decrease in total job openings.

 

Jobs by State Dec 2014

 

New and total job listings by category didn’t fare much better, with new and total job openings falling from November by 7% and 3% respectively.

 

Jobs By Category Dec 2014

 

Based on the decline in LinkUp’s job openings in December, our preliminary forecast for January is that the U.S. economy will add only 120,000 jobs in the first month of the new year. Regarding our 60-day forecast, however, it’s important to note that because of our ‘paired-month’ methodology, we’ll get another set of data for January when we compare January’s numbers to December’s numbers in 30 days, and our forecast for January will be updated accordingly.

Luckily, our data from December wasn’t all doom and gloom. On a slightly more positive note, LinkUp Job Listing Duration fell from 43.6 days in November to 42.2 days in December, providing an encouraging sign that the pace of hiring continues to accelerate.

 

LinkUp Job Duration December 2014

 

LinkUp’s Job Listing Duration indicates the number of days that job openings were on LinkUp before they were removed from our search engine at some point in the past 6 months, presumably because they were filled with a hire. Looking at the chart above, between July and December, 2.9 million job listings were taken off company websites throughout the country, 1.1 million of which were on the company’s corporate website for less than 15 days, 615,000 of which were on the site for between 16-30 days, etc. The average number of days that all 2.9 million job openings were listed by the employer on their corporate website was 42.2 days, down from 51.0 days in April. So according to our data, the pace of hiring among the companies in LinkUp’s job search engine accelerated in Q4, a good sign that companies are filling their jobs faster and more aggressively than they were earlier in the year.

While this is good news for sure, it potentially conflicts with the overall decline in new and total job openings on LinkUp in December. Or perhaps the decline in job openings last month can largely be attributed to seasonal factors given that 25% of the drop in new job listings were in Retail. But of course, even after removing Retail jobs from the total, new job openings still fell by 32,000 from November. Chalk it up as just one more enigma to add to the list of question marks that will only be answered as the year unfolds.

Enigma Images

 

December 30, 2014 / Stephanie Anderson

10 career-boosting New Year’s resolutions too simple to ignore

shutterstock_233930755Will you be making New Year’s resolutions for 2015? While 50 percent of us make resolutions each year, just 8 percent are actually successful at achieving those goals. This year, it’s time to do something different.

When it comes to your career, there’s no better time to take stock and set goals than the start of the year, but that doesn’t mean setting the bar so high that the outcome is virtually impossible to achieve. These 10 resolutions will supercharge your career and position you for success in the new year, and the best part is they are so simple, they are practically fail-safe.

1. Update your professional online profile
Don’t have a LinkedIn profile? Get one. Have one but never sign on? Resolve to do so regularly and become an active member. Update your information, load a fresh head shot and strive to make connections or post at least once a week in the new year.

2. Join an industry association
Become a member of a local industry association and start networking. Make it your goal to attend events at least quarterly. Perhaps you’ll learn new things and meet new people who can help you advance your career and grow your reputation.

3. Define career goals
In college, you had a map for completing your degree and you assessed it regularly to ensure you were on track. Now that you have a career, when is the last time you defined goals and paths for achieving them? Ask yourself where you want to be professionally in one year and five years, and brainstorm ideas for getting there. Write it down and reference it throughout the year!

4. Be proactive and ask for new responsibilities
It’s easy to get stuck in a comfortable rut at work, but that often doesn’t grow your skills or put your name at the top of the promotion list. Resolve to be proactive and ask for new responsibilities rather than waiting to be told. Your initiative will get noticed, plus you can propose projects of interest to you so you are more engaged with your work. Lead meetings, publish an internal newsletter or start a company book club; the sky’s the limit.

5. Brush up on skills
You don’t necessarily need to head back to a university to further your education, just look at non-credit career courses through local colleges, industry associations and even community education sources. A few affordable classes can boost your career development and give you an edge in the workforce. Bring it up to your boss and your employer might even pay for it!

6. Embrace criticism
Some of the most successful people are those who embrace criticism rather than getting defensive about it. When someone tells you about a mistake your made or how you can do something more efficiently, keep an open mind, be thankful for the critique and learn. Criticism is not the enemy, and when used correctly, it can be an big ally in growing your career.

7. Use your PTO
Think this will be an easy resolution to keep? Studies show that more than 40 percent of American workers do not plan to use all of their PTO. Time off provides important mental and physical breaks from your job, so use it when needed; it’s part of your compensation package, after all.

8. Be more visible
Aim to be more visible to your boss and within the organization as a whole. Resolve to get more face time with your supervisor and be more active at company events. Contribute input at meetings, attend social gatherings and offer to organize company functions. Consider again employee programs you previously dismissed, such as group luncheons, mentoring opportunities and company-sponsored clubs.

9. Complete tasks before deadlines
Meeting deadlines is a critical part of doing your job well, but what if in the new year you try to complete tasks early? This initiative is sure to get noticed among colleagues and supervisors. While not always possible, plan ahead and meet goals early in the new year for a big career boost.

10. Praise others
From the over-achieving intern to the sales lead who just closed a killer deal, make it your goal to praise others more often while at work. This will help bring you closer to your colleagues, increase collaboration and get you more respect. Plus, a positive attitude is contagious, so you may just find your work atmosphere a bit happier in the new year; you’ll be the one leading the way.

December 23, 2014 / Molly Moseley

Precation: Will this awesome new benefit be on the rise in 2015?

shutterstock_69214975Imagine receiving a job offer for a new position at a company, but there is one stipulation you must meet before starting: take a two-week paid vacation. Say, what?

Yes, precations are a growing requirement at companies across the country, and some argue this requirement benefits the new employee and company alike. You may have never heard of it before, but I bet if you were offered a precation, it certainly would catch your attention.

Innovative companies and those in highly competitive industries are pushing the boundaries beyond traditional benefits into new and often unexpected places in order to lure top talent and build a strong reputation. A precation is an example of what is coming out of this movement, and we all might be hearing more about it in the new year.

Why would a company want to offer a paid vacation prior to an employee’s start date? Traditional belief is that PTO is a reward for those who work hard, providing them with time off to do what they love. And these new employees haven’t even logged an hour yet!

The reality is that Americans work more than anyone else in the industrialized world, according to ABC News. That means longer work days, fewer vacations and, often, delayed retirement. All this work can cause extreme burn-out and dissatisfaction, both of which are reasons an employee would seek new employment. That’s a great opportunity for a new employer to scoop up valuable talent, but who wants someone starting who is already burning the candle at both ends? Instead, you want someone who is energized, passionate and ready to go, and a precation is the perfect way to prepare employees to start a new job on the right foot.

Think about it: in highly competitive fields, employees often skip vacation in order to stand out or simply keep up with day-to-day demands. In fact, Americans in general are skipping valuable PTO at alarming rates! A traveleffect.com survey found that despite 96 percent of people recognizing the importance of using PTO, a shocking 41 percent of American workers do not plan to use all their paid time off in 2014, even though it is part of their compensation.

We’re skipping our vacations and time with family to work, and it’s causing extreme stress. A precation is the perfect solution and ideal way to lure talent at what typically isn’t an overwhelming cost to a company’s bottom line. Some believe the investment early on pays dividends in increased productivity and employee loyalty down the road.

What are your thoughts on the growing availability of a precation benefit? What other innovative benefits have you heard companies offer in order to lure talent and position them for success? Please leave your answers in the comments section.

December 17, 2014 / Stephanie Anderson

Holiday survival guide: Secret Santa edition

The holidays are typically a welcome time of year at any office. The hustle and bustle of closing up Q4 paired with tree decorating, holiday parties and other breaks from the norm can all combine to help people bond and get to know each other outside of the day-to-day routine. In fact, you may be feeling as jolly as Old Saint Nick himself with all the good cheer in the air… until you realize that your workplace does an office Secret Santa exchange.

If you’ve never participated in one before, the program works when each person in a group is randomly assigned to shop for another person anonymously. You might be tempted to opt out of such a program, but you don’t want to come off as the office Scrooge. Why not say yes and read on to learn what you can expect?

Rule 1. Be thoughtful
Don’t take yourself too seriously when figuring out what to get for your Secret Santa, but do give something you genuinely think the other person would like. If you’re assigned to shop for your best bud at work, you can probably get something you’ll both find funny. If you’re assigned someone you really don’t know well, ask around to learn what she might like or get something that is broadly appealing. Avoid anything that might be misinterpreted or thought to be in poor taste!

Rule 2. Know and respect the budget
This is not the time to show off by spending more than necessary. The budget is there so that everyone is on an equal playing field. Be mindful by not going over the maximum amount. The Secret Santa program is about others, after all. Spending more will most certainly backfire.

Rule 3. Get creative with gifts
There are a lot of unique and appealing ideas for Secret Santa gifts. Check out a few of our favorites:

$5 and under
Five bucks doesn’t go far, so you really have to maximize your dollar. Homemade gifts are great for this amount, so whip up your famous fudge or tie a ribbon around that jam you recently jarred.

If you’re not so much the “homemade” type, here are a few fun ideas that are sure to bring a smile for $5 or less:

Note: A quick trip to your local dollar store can also provide plenty of inspiration for affordable gifts that will make a big impression.

$10 and under
Gift cards rule the $10 and under category. Think about getting a certificate from local haunts, like that independent coffee shop down the road or your co-workers’ favorite happy-hour spot. But don’t just go generic and leave the gift card in an envelope; jazz it up with a little something extra like a piece of candy, a sprig of evergreen or a holiday-scented candle.

$20 and under
A fail-safe gift for the $20 and under category is a fun new mug paired with bag of coffee beans or some tea. The mug could be holiday themed, feature something you know the recipient would enjoy (cat or dog lover?), or say something comical, like this one that cleverly references the movie “Office Space.”

Books are another option if you know what the recipient would enjoy. When in doubt, cookbooks or cocktail guides can be a festive option for the Secret Santa game. We enjoy these options:

For those of you who have done Secret Santa in the past, what was the best gift you received? Please leave your answer in the comments section.

December 10, 2014 / Molly Moseley

10 hot industries positioned to hire in 2015

The new year is just weeks away. As we look ahead to 2015, many industries have a positive outlook toward growth and hiring. Here are 10 hot industries positioned to hire exponentially in the next 12 months:

1. Health care
The health-care industry continues to grow, and many areas have a hiring demand that surpasses the available qualified talent. Thanks to an aging boomer population and a variety of governmental regulations aimed at the industry, this growth won’t slow down any time soon. A few particularly hot health-care jobs include registered nurse, physical therapist and health services manager.

2. Manufacturing
A sure sign of a recovering economy, manufacturing as a whole is growing and the demand for qualified workers is high. From line workers and machinists to experienced managers and executives with extensive knowledge of supply-chain management, look for further manufacturing growth in 2015.

3. Digital marketing
Marketing as a whole is evolving and those with digital experience are often courted by multiple companies. Typically demand for executive positions like chief marketing officer and chief digital officer far outpaces the available talent. Skilled marketing professionals have experience in data analytics, mobile platform development and strategic digital outreach.

4. Mobile technology development
As more people rely on mobile to run their daily lives, tech developers with specialty skills are in high demand. Growth in 2015 is likely, particularly for developers with expertise in the Java programming language. Because Android phones rule the majority of the smartphone market, Android developers are in demand as well.

5. Cyber security
Major online security breaches make headlines each year, and due to the growth of the cloud and the public’s growing reliance on e-commerce, many businesses are investing in better cyber security. This means they will be hiring smart people who can ensure the customers’ and business’s information stays safe. Those with experience in information security and digital risk won’t wait long for a new job offer.

6. Human resources
As the unemployment rate goes down and industries across the board grow and regain hiring power, human resources becomes a particularly critical function of a business. Skills in talent acquisition and global HR management are sure to get noticed on resumes.

7. Finance and insurance
Confidence in the financial and insurance industries is growing. Professionals who can offer expert insight in the financial sector will see increased demand for their skills. Insurance specialists are also deemed valuable and will enjoy increased hiring in 2015.

8. Government
Just a few years ago many governmental entities were making cuts in order to adhere to budget restrictions. Today, many areas of government are enjoying an improved outlook, which means anticipated hiring in 2015. Government is an area that might be particularly well-suited for entry-level positions, so recent college graduates should take note.

9. Nonprofits
Just like governmental entities, the sluggish economy did no favors for the nonprofit sector. Donations were down, positions reduced and some nonprofits didn’t survive. Today, a growing economy means nonprofits are once again thriving and they need to hire experts to help with growth, donor relations and event planning, in addition to driving social change.

10. Retail
The majority of retailers are entering 2015 with an optimistic attitude, and so they need skilled help to ensure numbers stay in the black. Look for hiring to run the gamut from reliable team members on the floor to effective sales managers. As earnings grow, hiring will drive an overall industry boost.