Why Vacation is Important and Why You Should Take it

As spring-time approaches and the weather gets nicer, many people dream about getting out of the office and taking a trip. Though the thought of getting away may seem impossible and some may fear that taking time off of work can be seen as a poor work ethic, or that you aren’t prioritizing work. The truth is that vacations are necessary for the body and brain, and are also beneficial for your work productivity.

Plan Ahead – Schedule your vacation in advance. In every work environment there is usually some sort of priority order or request process to ensure coverage and that no team member is left to do all the work for an extended period of time. Getting your request in 2-3 months in advance is ideal. Planning this far in advance will also help you manage the workload in the weeks prior to your vacation, as well as when you get back. Planning ahead will alleviate some stress for your co-workers or team members because there were prepared and willing to help.

Get Organized – Clean up your emails, organize the papers or work materials on your desk. Be sure to make your office space or desk area as organized as possible for your return after your vacation. Plus, if you need a co-worker or your manager to grab something from your desk while you are gone they don’t need to be rummaging around.

Out of office – Always put your out-of-office on your email and voicemail. Provide the information of someone who can be contacted while you are out, if need be. Also, tell clients, co-workers, partners, or anyone you are regularly in contact for work purposes that you will be out of the office.

Don’t Feel Guilty – Vacation days are a perk that are granted to you and you deserve to take a vacation. You are given paid vacation days for a reason, use them.

Disconnect – Many times vacations feel necessary because you are getting too burnt out at work. On your trip, try to disconnect and not focus on work as much as possible. It is okay to check your emails every once in a while just to stay updated, but it is extremely rejuvenating to completely disconnect.

Change of Surroundings – Having the same routine, Monday through Friday, can lessen creativity and inspiration. Going to a new place or even visiting a past vacation spot will help clear your mind and allow you to get out of your comfort zone. This helps produce new ideas or a different solution to a problem.

Enjoy – Vacations are meant to be a reward. They are for your enjoyment and you should relax as much as possible on vacation. Even though it’s difficult, try not to think about work. Take this time to read a book and catch up on sleep, or try a new activity. Do what makes you happy.

Although it can be hard going back to work after a nice, relaxing vacation, and it may be hard to get back into the swing of things, many find that they have a fresher outlook on their work. Many people are happier and healthier when they return from their vacations. It can be tempting to just keep plugging along at work, but from time-to-time, we need to remember to treat ourselves and use our vacation days for enjoyment.

Laura Nelson, LEED GA – Business Analyst

BlueFire HR


The Importance of Performance Reviews

Annual performance reviews help to create an open dialogue between employees and managers. We all know annual performance reviews can also add stress to both you and the employee, but remember, this is helping to strengthen the way you manage the employee and it simply creates a method to do so.

At the end of the day, performance reviews are absolutely needed to ensure success. As the process starts off, most times it gives the employee an opportunity to provide a self-review, touting his/her accomplishments prior to you, the manager, reviewing the employee’s overall performance. This allows the employee to reflect on his/her performance and identifies areas that may need improvement and guidance. Below are helpful tips for the planning, execution, and the follow-up phases of performance reviews, which will help you and the employee make it a successful endeavor.

Before the meeting:

The first thing to do is set-up a meeting time with the employee. The meeting should be far enough in advance so that the employee can prepare a self-review (if not required by the company) and they can list his/her accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully career aspirations and development opportunities.

Each employee has a different communication style so not every review or planning meeting will be conducted in the same manner. As a manager, it is important to look over the review metrics from the previous year, and understand what the review metrics are for the current review. It is also important to talk to your superior to see if he/she has any additional comments about the employee that you should relay, and review any notes you have made throughout the year about the employee’s performance. If available, make sure to review employee’s prior performance review to support your conversation with the employee.

During the meeting:

As you start the meeting it is important that you remove all distractions and focus on the conversation. First, listen to the employee. Give the employee the opportunity to present his/her accomplishments and areas where he/she may need more direction or focus. After listening to the employee it is now your time as his/her manager to discuss the employee’s accomplishments from the performance year, outlining what the employee did well. Highlight specific situations or projects that the employee did an exceptional job on. It is also important to address areas that need more focus and improvement. Reviews cannot be all fluff, but constructive feedback is a must. Everyone has an opportunity to be even better. If the employee needs more training, help them to outline a plan to improve upon their weaknesses. Discuss the employee’s career aspirations and where they see themselves in the company and what they hope to accomplish in the coming year. As the conversation is coming to a close, ask the employee to draft goals for the upcoming year for your review. Ensure that the employee’s plan is specific, measurable, attainable, results oriented, and is accomplishable within the new performance year/time oriented. This is otherwise known as SMART goals. Setting the new goals early gives the employee plenty of time to be successful.


After the meeting:

Review the employee’s submission, record your comments and submit all documentation to human resources per company policy, process and/or system.  Throughout the year it is important to provide your employee with coaching and feedback consistently. Think about creating quarterly performance check-ins to review the current goals and the employee’s progress toward them.

Although annual performance reviews are helpful, keeping an open dialogue throughout the year with employees is the best way to communicate. Having individual employee meetings throughout the year is beneficial to know if an employee is struggling with anything or to let them know what they are excelling at. With open and consistent communication, you will be able to better manage your employees and have greater success overall.

Laura Nelson, LEED GA – Business Analyst

BlueFire HR


The Path to Finding a Job

They say finding a new job is easier when you already have one, but either way, it’s just not a fun thing to do. You may want to change companies for a new position or completely change your career. It can be hard to know what to look for and how to go about finding a job. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to find positions if you are a recent graduate or entry level because most jobs at entry level positions need at least 2 years of experience. So, how are you supposed to get experience when you’ve been in school and it’s an entry level position?

Even if you are a recent graduate or you do have experience, it can still be difficult to find a job. Below are some helpful tips to finding a job, not matter what phase of your career you are in.

Work your network. You never know who somebody may know. Reach out to family and friends and see who they know. More opportunities become available the more you reach out and talk to people. If there is someone who has a position you want or works for a company you are interested in, grab a coffee and pick their brain. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice on what you should do.

Use LinkedIn. Besides connecting to people, you can also use LinkedIn to help you with the job search. You can follow companies you are interested in and find the Human Resource (HR) Manager and have your connections connect you with someone they know. Through LinkedIn you are able to send “Inmail” to people who you want to talk to and get more information about the company or position if you don’t know them personally.

Attend networking events. Although it seems that a lot of finding a job is networking, the reality is that it’s the truth. A lot of finding a position is who you know. If you are able to attend a networking event, either one you were invited to, or one a friend invited you to, go to the event. You never know who you will meet and what conversations you have. There have been networking events I’ve been to where I’ve had conversations that led me to think about a potential career that I never considered before. Talking to more people will help you either broaden or narrow down your search, depending on the conversations.

Contact a recruiter. A recruiter’s job is to help company’s find the right candidates for the job. Some people may feel too proud to use a recruiter, but the reality is that recruiters are very effective. Companies contact recruiters directly for positions. Many times companies contact recruiters with positions that they don’t even post online. Working with a recruiter allows you to have a direct line with the company/position, whereas simply submitting an application online can cause you resume to become lost in the shuffle.

Be vulnerable, but be yourself. Be open to working in a position you didn’t think of initially. Allow people to give you advice and try different things. While job searching you need to be open to any possibility that comes your way. However, if you know you don’t have an interest in sales or that’s not your personality, don’t try to force yourself into a sales position. If you don’t have a passion or interest in sales, you wouldn’t do very well. Know what types of roles or skills you are interested in and are good at because this will help you narrow the search, but also help you be more selective in finding a position that’s a good fit.

Finding a job is not easy nor fun. Although these are only a few tips, there are so many different ways of going about finding a position. Each industry is unique, and each candidate is unique. Most importantly, stay positive and know that at some point, an opportunity will present itself.

Laura Nelson, LEED GA – Business Analyst

BlueFire HR


Managing the First 90 Days

How the first 90-days are managed is crucial to how a new employee will succeed within an organization. It is important to make an employee feel comfortable and welcome, which at the end of the day adds to retention if you can believe it. The employee may not know a lot of people or really anyone at the company, so as his/her manager, they’ll appreciate that you show an interest and enthusiasm that they have joined your team.

There are a few key steps to ensure that the employee’s first 90-days are as successful as they can be:

Have the employee’s desk set up before they start. In my career, there have been a few times where I didn’t even have a desk or a computer wasn’t hooked up either on the first day, or first week on the job. Although I was usually in training the first week of these jobs did require computer access which left me at a loss from the beginning. It was frustrating as a new employee to not have the tools to do the job. Also, making sure all new hire and orientation paperwork is already printed and ready for the new employee to access.

On the first day introduce them to the team. Either have a luncheon with the team or simply informally introduce the new employee so they get to know everyone. Give the employee some time during his/her first day to talk to a colleague about the position and let them pick his/her brain a bit. At the end of the day, sit down with the employee to make sure they enjoyed his/her first day and to see if they have any specific questions.

Setting goals is very important for the first 90-days. The goals should be both align with the new hire’s position and the organization’s strategic plan. Create a plan for what the employee should have accomplished within the first 30/60/90 day periods. At BlueFire HR we frequently develop onboarding toolkits for all new hires. These kits outline goals, people to meet, and roles and understanding of what is expected from them, from you, and other important positions impacting his/her position. Also, if the employee needs a certification or a license as a part of his/her job, that should be outlined early on depending of the requirements. Also, make sure that you are setting specific, measurable, attainable, results oriented, and time based goals (SMART).

45-day review is a very important review. At this point, the employee should know enough about the company and how it works, and should have familiarity with the position and what is required. It’s a great time to see if the employee is happy and if they understand the bigger picture with the company.

90-day review is essentially the end of the employee’s trial period. They should have made significant strides in his/her work and you should be able to see results. The employee should understand what needs to be done and his/her expectations going forward. This is also a period where, depending on the company and/or contract, if the employee is not performing up to standards, they can be let go.

Although these are not specific rules for managing the first 90-days, they should help an employee succeed. In my past experience, what was really discouraging as a new employee was not having proper materials or even a desk to sit at. However, where I have succeeded was at companies where they took the initiative and provided all the materials to be prepared to do the job, had meetings ever few weeks to see how I was doing, and who provided me with support if an issue arose.

All companies are different, managing the first 90-days shouldn’t vary too much. By showing the employee that they are welcomed and important, and also providing them with the materials and feedback they need will give them the confidence and knowledge they need to succeed.

Laura Nelson, LEED GA – Business Analyst

BlueFire HR


Getting the Salary You Desire

Once you’ve received an offer from a company, the next most important step is making sure you get the salary you desire. The hardest part of negotiating your salary, is simply getting the courage to ask. You can’t get what you want unless you ask.

There are a few different ways of going about negotiating salary. Regardless, always do your research before you start the conversation. Look at reviews of the company and if there are any listed salaries for the position you applied for. There is information available online that will help you know the range of salary for your position. Still take it with a grain of salt, for there are a variety of factors that impact salary, work-from-home privileges, extensive paid time off (PTO), generous benefits, and all other perks that impact salary or might be a tradeoff.

With a job offer, the company or recruiters may ask what your current salary is. You shouldn’t lie about what you are making currently, but move the conversation to what you’re looking for and explain the skills you have obtained and why you are looking for an increase in salary.

After you’re given the offer, but before beginning to discuss the salary, ask as many questions as you can to fully understand the benefits of the job. For example, ask about base salary, PTO, 401(k) match, profit sharing, frequency of reviews, and more. This will help put the hiring manager at ease, but also provide you with more information you need to discuss salary.

Don’t be afraid to ask for more time. If there is a mutual agreement on a deadline, there shouldn’t be any reason why an offer would be rescinded. Getting an offer is extremely exciting, but don’t let your emotions get the best of you. It is normal to feel that instinctive urge to say yes immediately. But thinking about the offer reasonably and when you have all the facts is best.

There can sometimes be negative connotations when giving a range for salary. Some employers think when you provide a range, this will make you less likely to stand your ground. If you feel more comfortable providing a range, the low end of the range should be the salary you want. For example, if you want $50k, you should say you are looking for $50k-$55k, or something of that nature. You are more likely to get the salary closer to what you want.

Many employers are willing to negotiate salary, but employees or future employees simply never ask. You may not get the exact number you are looking for, but there is a good chance that you will get a higher offer than the initial one. Stick your ground when negotiating. Be kind, but confident. If a company wants you and your talents on the team, they will do all they can to provide you with what you need.

Always remember that the worst thing that can happen is that the company says no, but you will never know if you don’t simply ask!

Laura Nelson, LEED GA – Business Analyst

BlueFire HR