Downtime in Dallas: An After-Hours Guide to the 30th Annual AJLA Conference

Welcome to Texas
Image by Mikey Burton | Texas Monthly

AJLA states will convene in Dallas for the 30th Annual AJLA Conference in just a few short weeks. From Tuesday, July 17, to Thursday, July 19, we will enjoy true Texas hospitality at the historic Magnolia Hotel located within the Main Street District in downtown Dallas. We’ve lined up great local speakers and sessions where we can discuss regional and national workforce initiatives and to grow as professionals together. In addition to a great conference agenda, we’ve also gathered information on local attractions for you to visit in your downtime.

Giant Eyeball Sculpture in Downtown Dallas
Photo by Sharon Mollerus | Flickr

Directly next to the Magnolia Hotel is the Pegasus Plaza, which features a hot spring fountain and is often the site of special events. Grab a pastry at the Flying Horse Café in the Magnolia and enjoy one of the various nearby restaurants or food trucks during your lunch. Don’t forget to keep a look out for the Giant Eyeball located about a block away.

Evenings are yours to explore all that Dallas has to offer. The Central Dallas area is composed of the Downtown, Uptown, Design District, and Deep Ellum areas. Each is bursting with things to do whether you like the arts, green spaces, fine dining, or luxurious shopping.

Downtown Dallas has a beautiful arts scene with many museums to choose from fine dining and nightlife and tours. Consider spending time at one of the following local destinations:

You can also create your own unique experience with the Downtown Dallas Experience tool by searching the Main Street District around the hotel or one of the other nearby districts. For ratings on popular places, take a look at TripAdvisors’ list.

Staying over Friday? Consider booking a free walking tour through DalWalk, but if walking isn’t your thing, consider the Dallas Segway Tours or Trolley Tours.

We look forward to seeing you in Dallas and hope you’re excited as we are about the conference and the surrounding attractions. For more info about the conference, visit the AJLA Events page.

Sweet 16.0!

March is the month of college basketball. All across the country, basketball fans will be ranking the Sweet 16 teams and comparing brackets. As a company based just 30 minutes from the acclaimed home of college basketball, this spring we prepared our own Sweet 16 for our customers: America’s JobLink (AJL) 16.0!

The 16.0 release features a fully redesigned and improved job seeker registration experience. Both self-service and staff-assisted job seekers will see fewer questions and only the questions that are most relevant to their history or situation. Easier and faster registration means job seekers can get on their way to finding employment and training opportunities more quickly.

Some of the features we’re excited to introduce include:

  • Additional relevant questions display or are suppressed based on your answers. For example, if you select that Yes, it is hard for you to read, write, or understand English, an additional question displays asking what your native language is. Conversely, this also means that you don’t see questions that don’t apply to you.
  • Additional pages display or are suppressed based on your answers. For example, if you select that you are currently employed or not actively seeking work, you will not see pages about being a dislocated worker.
  • Many questions have been moved to the program enrollment process. If you just want to use AJL self-service features (such as the resume builder and job search), your registration process will be much shorter than before. Additional questions may be asked later if you are eligible for and decide to enroll in a workforce program for job search or training assistance.
  • Validation messages display immediately if you’ve missed a required field or given contradictory answers. Instead of waiting until you click Next to see what you might’ve missed or need to double-check, you see it in real time.
  • All questions have been reviewed and edited to improve readability. AJL registration questions help determine your eligibility for assistance through federal and state workforce programs, but that doesn’t mean they have to be written in “government-speak.” Questions are now easier to read and understand, reducing user fatigue and frustration.

Changes in 16.0Want to know more about the new registration process? Check out the JobLink User Guide: Creating an Account. (Staff can see updates in the ServiceLink User Guide through the Help link when logged into AJL.) And if you’re just as excited about college basketball’s Sweet 16 and you’re planning on coming to Kansas City for the AJLA Spring Meeting April 18 and 19, check out the College Basketball Experience in the Sprint Center—just a quick ride from the Marriott Country Club Plaza.

Changing Your New Year’s Resolution Lexicon

What New Year’s resolutions have you set?

Did you make New Year’s resolutions this month? Perhaps you want to lose weight, save money, learn a new skill, or get a new job. Eating Healthier 37%, Get mor exercise 37%, Save (more) money 37%, Focust on self-care (e.g. get more sleep) 24%, Read more 18%, Make new friends 15%, Learn a new skill 15%, Get a (new) job 14%, Take up a new hobby 13%, I don't plan on making new year's resolutions 32%.

New Year’s resolutions and goals are driven by motivation and tend to follow the common threads of health, wealth, and time. However, despite the best intentions, a lot of us fail at our goals. Is your resolution too general? Is it exciting or daunting? How have you worded your resolution? Unfortunately, the way many of us word those resolutions and goals have a fundamental flaw–they are external motivations that require self-control. Often these fail from negative connotations. If you’ve already written your resolutions, don’t worry! You can increase your success by learning the difference between external (extrinsic) and internal (intrinsic) motivation and the SMART goals method. With these tools at your fingertips, you will be able to change your resolution’s lexicon.

To quote Susan David, psychologist, “When we double down on discipline and willpower, this rarely leads to the best results. You may drag yourself to the gym, but how often does that lead to you sticking with an exercise routine? You may call up your relatives out of obligation, but how often do you have a meaningful conversation? When we’re compelled by a wagging finger instead of a willing heart, we end up in an internal tug-of-war between good intentions and less-than-stellar execution.”

Motivation: External (Extrinsic) and Internal (Intrinsic)

So what is the difference between types of motivation? Really, it comes down to how you feel and how you frame your goal with appropriate wording: “I have to” versus “I want to.”

Image of a set of weights on a simple scale. The text on the weights say: “I have to do that” vs “I want to do that” Original Design Inspiration from Designed by Cornecoba / Freepik

External (Extrinsic): External motivation requires self-control to be successful. We have to exert our will to get down and work at the task as intended. When we say, “I have to do that,” it becomes an external direction, because it is expected of us to complete the task, either because it is a part of our job or a societal norm.

Internal (Intrinsic): However, if we change the statement to “I want to do that,” it feels more personal, and becomes an internal motivation. When we say “I want to,” it really feels like it is a part of our being and we have a genuine interest to succeed. When we say “I have to,” it feels like a chore or an outside criticism of who we are. You can apply this trick to any resolution you have set your heart to. So now, let’s think of the example of getting a new job.

New Job
What we say: “I have to get a new job!” “I want a job in…”
Similar statements: “I need a job!” “I really enjoy doing…”
How we feel: stressed, doubtful, self-conscious inquisitive, excited, eager

Regardless of the circumstances leading to this goal, the job seeker has to choose their approach to getting a new job. Searching for work can be either a taxing or invigorating experience. By rephrasing and asking yourself about your desires, it draws you toward behaviors and stimuli to achieve your goals.

Applying the SMART Method

To take this even further, solidify your resolution by applying the SMART method. (Here’s a handy step-by-step guide.) The SMART method takes your resolution or goal and breaks it down into manageable measurable pieces with a target date in mind.

Initial Goal I have to get a new job.
Restated Intrinsic “I want” Goal I want a new job.
The Letter S Specific
(What, who, when, and why.)
I want a new job as a business analyst this spring to fit my education.
The Letter M Measurable
(How can I show progress?)
I want to research positions and refresh my resume by January 31st. I will set a calendar reminder to search for business analyst positions twice a week starting February 1st and will apply to relevant positions within 2 days of a successful search.
The Letter A Achievable
(Do I have the skills, or can I obtain them?)
I will brush up on my Excel skills by watching three video tutorials a week.
The Letter R Relevant
(Why am I setting this goal now?)
I have reached the ceiling of my current position in customer service and I want a better schedule and financial situation.
The Letter T Time-bound
(What is my deadline and is it realistic?)
3 months to apply is a good start.
Your Intrinsic SMART New Year’s Resolution for 2018: I want to apply for a business analyst job by February 1st. To accomplish this, I will watch three video tutorials a week to improve my Microsoft Excel skills, as well as research positions in the area and tailor my resume by January 31st. I will set a calendar reminder to begin February 1st to search for positions twice a week and apply for relevant work within 2 days of my search.

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to find a new job? America’s JobLink can assist you with our resume writing tool; access to career and training information from Career OneStop, O*NET, and more; as well as a tailored job search experience. Are you a workforce professional? Try using some of the techniques in this article to help job seekers make internally motivated goals and see if you notice a difference in their rate of success. Happy New Year from AJLA and best of luck with your 2018 goals and resolutions!


What’s On Your New Orleans Bucket List?

The 2017 Winter Steering Committee Meeting is about a month away, so it’s time to start thinking about what you’ll do in your free time. Whether you’re flying in early or staying a little late, looking forward to the night life, or just dreaming of Po’ Boys and beignets, we’ve got plenty of things to add to your NOLA bucket list.

For the Day Trippers

Second Line in New Orleans
Second Line in New Orleans | Photo by Infrogmation via Wikimedia Commons

For the Night Owls

Street cars on Bourbon Street at Christmas in New Orleans
Christmastime in New Orleans | |

For the Foodies

Red beans and rice, a classic New Orleans meal
Red beans and rice, a NOLA staple meal| Photo by Cheryl Gerber |

While you’re planning your trip and brushing up on your N’awlins speak, we’ll be planning a great meeting agenda for you. Don’t forget to reserve your room by the deadline, Monday, November 6, to take advantage of the discounted AJLA rate. See you in the Big Easy!

Two Thumbs Up: The Business Etiquette of Hand Gestures

Have you ever made an instant judgment about a person based on the way they shook your hand? Are you unsure what to do with your hands while speaking, or have you been distracted by the hand gestures a speaker used?

Body language plays an important role in the opinions (both conscious and unconscious) we develop of one another. By being intentional with your body language, you can change how people perceive you. The study of body language in the business world is broad. Today we’ll narrow in on best practices for handshakes and hand gestures.

The Handshake

As Professor Allan Pease, a body language expert, states, “People form up to 90% of their (first) impression in under four minutes.” The simple, non-verbal action of a handshake can set the tone for a professional relationship. Make it count and make it positive with these tips:

  • If you are sitting down, rise to meet the handshake.
  • Practice holding things such as your meeting notes, your bag, or your drink in your left hand so you are prepared to shake with your right.
  • Attempt to give the same amount of pressure you receive. Grip firmly, not too strongly or limply.
  • Keep your handshake vertical.
  • Keep your handshake brief and maintain eye contact.

Practicing good handshake etiquette positions you as an equal in the relationship, rather than as dominating or submissive. Now that’s a lasting good impression.

Hand Gestures

Young woman using open hand gestures while speakingWhen speaking, you convey meaning not only with your words, but with your movements. Gestures can make your audience more receptive to your message, or cause them to tune out. Before your next interview or presentation, brush up on these hand gesture dos and don’ts.

  • Listing: When referring to a number under five, show the number with your hand. This gesture acts like a highlighter, helping the audience retain key points.
  • The Open Upward Palm: Hold your hands open, palm up. This gesture suggests that you are being open and honest with the audience.
  • This and That: Use your hands to represent two different subjects or groups. Your left hand represents the 1st subject and the right hand represents the 2nd subject. Utilize the appropriate hand when referencing that subject or group.
  • Conducting: Avoid repetitive motions and patterns of movement. This can cause the audience to lose interest.
  • The Pointer Jab: Avoid pointing at the audience for emphasis. This gesture is often perceived as aggressive and belittling.

Hand gestures are a small thing that can have a big impact on your job hunt or other business endeavor. To make sure your gestures are working for, not against you, practice speaking in front of a mirror and train yourself to use positive, non-confrontational gestures at the appropriate time.

If you are a workforce professional, consider sharing this article with your colleagues and the job seekers with whom you work. If you have other favorite resources or an example about body language best practices, please share in the comments.


Boston-Bound: A Preview of the 29th Annual AJLA Conference

Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.The countdown has begun: in 29 days, AJLA states will convene in Boston for the 29th Annual AJLA Conference. From Tuesday, July 25, to Thursday, July 27, we will enjoy the hospitality of The Langham – Boston and the opportunity to network with workforce development colleagues and AJLA–TS staff.

During the days, we’ll be charting the future of AJLA applications, hearing workforce development updates, and collaborating to share strategies on workforce policies and programs. Join us for a great lineup of great speakers, including:

  • Tim Martin, Director of the Office of State Systems for ETA Region 1
  • Christina Graff Eckenroth, Executive Assistant to the Regional Administrator for ETA Region 1
  • Ken Messina, Rapid Response Director for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Career Services
  • Steven Trueman, Vice President of Workforce Development Operations for the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County
  • Stacey Thompson, Workshop Facilitator, Career Center of Lowell, MA
  • Freddie Velez, Deputy Director of Youth Options Unlimited (YOU) Boston
  • Charlie Terrell, NASWA Project Manager
  • Francheska Atchison, Jobs for Veterans State Grants Program Lead for USDOL/VETS

Evenings will be free to enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of Boston. We recommend checking out the Boston Calendar or browsing through our Pinterest board for the conference, which is full of suggestions. We’ll also be using the Topi app for the days of the conference for an interactive agenda, speaker list, and photo stream.

We’re counting down the days til we see you, so book your hotel room and register now!

#ThankATeacher for Shaping the Future

Laura Lucas was my high school English teacher, and without her, I probably would not have made it through high school. She invested time and interest in me when I was quick to push almost anyone else away. She challenged me academically and personally and was a steady source of encouragement and inspiration. One keen memory I have is finding out I got a perfect score on the English section of the ACT. She drove me in 36 circles around the school parking lot, honking and cheering. More than 12 years later, I still keep in touch with her and consider her my mentor.

Think back to a teacher who changed you. Almost all of us can name a teacher who played a role in our academic, personal, or professional development—someone who inspired us to pursue an educational or vocational path or who helped us navigate the sometimes rough waters of childhood or young adulthood. This week, May 7–13, is National Teacher Appreciation Week, with National Teacher Day on May 9—“a day of honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives.”

Teacher Appreciation Week Graphic

Every year, students spend approximately 1,000 hours in school, placing teachers in a position to profoundly influence their students. At all levels of education, positive relationships between teachers and students provide long-lasting benefits. According to the American Psychological Association, supportive relationships with teachers result in higher levels of academic achievement and contribute to students’ social skills. Teacher-student relationships also boost students’ self-esteem and increase their confidence in their academic and vocational futures (Gallagher). With teachers’ encouragement and support, students thrive.

Education is a vocational choice that offers both profound rewards and an ongoing positive career outlook. As of 2014 in the United States, 3.7 million teachers lead our primary and secondary students, and 1.5 million faculty work in post-secondary education. Elementary school teachers earn a median pay of $55,490 a year and can expect a 6% increase in jobs between 2014 and 2024. High school teachers earn a median pay of $58,030 a year, and also can anticipate 6% job growth between 2014 and 2024. Finally, postsecondary teachers earn a median pay of $75,430 a year, with a projected 13% job growth between 2014 and 2024. We will always need educators who are passionate about shaping future generations and willing to offer personal support to help students succeed in and out of school.

This week, take time to show teachers your appreciation. You could:

  • Use the hashtag #ThankATeacher in social media this week, especially on National Teacher Day (May 9).
  • Contact one of your previous teachers and tell them why they were important to you.
  • Give your kids’ teacher a small gift or write a note of appreciation.
  • Volunteer in your kids’ classroom.
  • Leave a comment on this post about a teacher who influenced you.