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.

https://www.statista.com/chart/12386/the-most-common-new-years-resolutions-for-2018/ 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!


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.


#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.

5 Steps to Winning at Presentations

Is it your turn to present at the staff meeting? Are you giving a talk at a business conference or job fair? Were you asked to prepare a presentation for a job interview? Whether you’re workforce center staff, an employer, or a job seeker, you will run into occasions when you need to talk in front of other people. All of us know the protracted pain of poor presentations, so to win at your next presentation, we suggest keeping these five steps in mind:

  1. Know your audienceWhat do they value? What do they already know and what do they need to learn?
  2. PracticeKnow your content; know your technology (how comfortable are you with the presentation software or other media you may be using?); regulate your breathing.
  3. Consider aestheticsChoose colors, fonts (type and size), and graphics that enhance your presentation without distracting from the content. Remember #1 above. Will your audience find your aesthetic choices pleasing? Also be sure to follow any applicable branding or style guidelines.
  4. Promote interactivityGetting your audience involved makes a presentation more interesting and memorable. Try mixed media or polls, but remember #2 above. Practice and know your technology!
  5. Make a connectionUse a story or statistic to connect with your audience, then give a call to action so that they can apply what they’ve learned in your presentation.

5 Steps to Winning at Presentations Graphic

Check out our Proposing and Presenting board on Pinterest for more advice and a collection of cool, free online presentation tools. We look forward to putting our words into action and giving top-notch presentations at the upcoming Spring Meeting in KCMO. If you have any advice or recommended resources, leave us a comment.

School’s In Session: Continuing Education for Professionals

If you read our post about New Year’s professional resolutions, you know that the goal of learning something new can benefit your career. By learning a new skill or topic that’s relevant to your work, you are advancing your skill sets, building your career portfolio, staying current and relevant, improving your confidence, and adding value to yourself as an employee.

Laptop and desk graphicNot sure where to start? Explore free online education sites like Udemy, Coursera, or Khan Academy, or take advantage of free course from universities like StanfordMIT, or Harvard. Here’s just a handful of course topics that can make you a more valuable and knowledgeable employee:

Once you’ve chosen a course, make sure you’re prepared to succeed. Here’s a few tips to make the most of your online learning experience:

  • Be realistic: Know what you have the time and energy to complete.
  • Identify your learning objectives and goals: Decide what you want out of the course and how you will use your new knowledge at work.
  • Make a study plan: Schedule time to complete coursework.
  • Seek support from your employer: Tell your employer what courses you’re taking and how you think your organization will benefit from your learning.
  • Participate in online discussions and forums: Get more out of courses by interacting with the instructor and other students.

Ready to learn more? Check out our Online Education Pinterest board for a collection of resources and articles about online professional education.

Ringing in the New Year: Five Professional Resolutions for 2017

Lose weight. Get organized. Spend less, save more. Enjoy life to the fullest. Stay fit and healthy. These are the top five New Year’s resolutions according to a study by the Journal of Clinical Psychology. While resolutions to do yoga every morning or to eat more vegetables are undeniably good goals, commitment to make changes in your professional life may hold equal or greater importance. The average person works 90,000 hours of their life, so a commitment to a change in your professional habits will noticeably affect the rest of your life.

Whether you are workforce professional staff, a job seeker, or an employer, we’ve identified five commitments to make in the upcoming year to improve your career:

  • Learn something new: Keep your skills relevant, your brain sharp, and your confidence up (“8 Benefits of Lifelong Learning”) by taking advantage of free online learning communities, where you can take classes on almost any topic. Many top schools like Stanford, MIT, or Harvard offer free courses, some with optional professional certification.
  • Read more: Reading improves your intellect and emotions and can be a great way to take a break and reset. You may think you have no time to read, but stolen moments—like waiting for a friend to arrive or for the coffee to be ready—equal pages read. If you read two pages a minute, and you have 60 minutes of spare time throughout your day, you can have a 300-page book read in 10 days (Khim). Don’t want to carry around a book? Try free reading apps like Kindle or OverDrive that offer a great selection of free ebooks and audiobooks.

    The Math of Reading in Small Chunks
    Picture from HubSpot
  • Listen to a podcast: If you can’t find time to sit down with a book, try listening to a podcast. Podcasts are great for daily commuting or traveling, and with plenty of great podcasts dedicated to business, you’ll be up to date with the latest news and topics.
  • Be a mentor: Do you have mentors in your life? If you do, you likely know how important they can be in your career. Well, it’s time to turn the tables and become a mentor to someone else. Being a mentor means listening and offering support, and leading by example. Mentors don’t come in a specific size, shape, or age; even younger employees can be mentors.
  • Take breaks: Short breaks throughout the day increase your concentration, alertness, and productivity, while decreasing your stress, aches and pains, and eye strain. Stand up, stretch, walk around, get a healthy snack, doodle, or read a few pages. Set a timer so you know when to stop for a few minutes; the Pomodoro Cycle suggests you take a 5-minute break every 25 minutes, then a 30-minute break after four sessions.

    One Pomodoro Cycle
    Picture from FastCompany

Whether you’re helping someone find a job, seeking a job yourself, or running a business, following through on these five commitments will result in a more positive work experience filled with opportunities to learn and grow. But don’t limit yourself to our five suggestions; make a list of your own professional resolutions. Check out the following articles offer for more ideas, and let us know in the comments what professional resolutions you’ve made for 2017.

AJL Works with Veterans: Transitioning from Military to Civilian Careers

November 11 marks Veterans’ Day, a day dedicated to honoring American service members. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, American veterans numbered 21.2 million, and of those, 495,000 were unemployed. As workforce development professionals, assisting veterans in transitioning from military to civilian careers is an important service we can offer to honor our vets.

A recent “Veterans in the Workplace” report, published by Hiring Our Heroes on November 2, 2016, surveyed 400 human resource professionals and 1,000 recently transitioned veterans. The survey found that veterans who began their job search at least six months prior to leaving active duty had the most success in transitioning from military to civilian careers. In entering the job market, surveyed veterans reported difficulty deciding what career path to pursue, lack of communication from hiring managers, and insufficient resources or contacts.

As those who use our system know, America’s JobLink (AJL) is a great tool for recruiting and assisting veterans seeking employment. Job orders are posted in accordance with Veteran’s Priority of Service settings (which are customizable by state), so employers can be confident that veterans and covered persons have first access to job listings. Resumes from veterans and covered persons are easily identified using filters to return veterans and by icons next to resume titles. With specialized reports tracking self-service and staff-assisted veterans, other eligibles, and covered persons, workforce center staff can easily identify who needs to be contacted and who has been receiving services.

Sergio Estrada graphic
Sergio Estrada from Illinois Department of Employment Security–Thank you for your 27.5 years of service in the Marine Corps!

America’s Job Link Alliance (AJLA) Steering Committee member, Sergio Estrada, Manager of Federal Performance Reporting for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, retired as a Marine Sergeant Major after 27.5 years of active duty and has worked with veterans in the workforce for 11 years. We asked him a few questions about working with veterans. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: What was your experience transitioning from a military to civilian career? What was most helpful during your transition?

A: My experience was good. The Transition Assistance Program (TAP)—which provides employment and training information to armed forces members within 180 days of separation or retirement—conducted at Great Lakes Naval Base was very helpful. The coordinator had a speaker from the Illinois Department of Employment Security who briefed those attending on the issues we were facing transitioning from military to civilian life, as well as how to register for the State Labor Exchange, write resumes, and interview for jobs. With those resources, a week after I retired from the Marines, I was employed with the State Department of Veterans Affairs.

Q: What would you say to a workforce staff member who’s new to working with veterans?

A: Listen to the veteran and try putting yourself in their shoes.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to veterans finding employment?

A: Pride! Most veterans hate failing. They feel that they can do it alone without the help of others.

Q: If you were to organize a workshop for veterans who are seeking employment, what would you focus on?

A: Inform the veterans that we are there to guide them throughout the process, and there’s nothing wrong with seek help.

Q: What resources do you find most helpful to refer vets to?

A: Federal and State Veterans’ Assistance (VA) benefits, such as VA home loans, and state and federal education assistance, and TAP’s employment services presentations on the military base.

This Veterans’ Day, let’s be especially mindful of service members who are transitioning from military to civilian careers. Every day, not just November 11, is an opportunity not just to thank a veteran, but also to offer our support and assistance as workforce center staff. Investing in the futures of veterans is the least we can do in return for their service.

#InclusionWorks: Celebrating Diversity in the Workplace

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time to focus on the value that workers with disabilities bring to the workplace. With nearly 20% of the working age population represented by people with disabilities (think one in five), employing workers with disabilities is a timely and important topic to the workforce development community.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month Poster

Disability employment is an important facet of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), as explored in Section 188, which was originally enacted with Workforce Investment Act (WIA) in 1998 and continues to apply to the updated WIOA legislation of 2015. Section 188 seeks to prevent discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or political affiliation or belief.

To assist American Job Centers with understanding and applying inclusionary practices, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) developed “Promising Practices in Achieving Universal Access and Equal Opportunity: A Section 188 Disability Reference Guide.” Other resources, like The Disability and Employment Community of Practice, educate employers and workforce staff on providing services and programs to people with disabilities.

To celebrate and promote awareness of NDEAM, we’ve prepared a quick list of Do’s and Don’ts for making your workplace or American Job Center more inclusive:


  • Test your website, online applications, recruitment material, and social media content for accessibility. (See Section 508 for detailed info on accessibility standards.) The America’s JobLink system is routinely tested for accessibility using the SSB BART Group’s Accessibility Management Platform (AMP). AMP is a web-based solution for meeting Section 508, Americans with Disabilities (ADA), WCAG, and other compliance needs.
  • Provide accommodations for public spaces and events, such as considering the height of display tables, offering a variety of publication formats, or being prepared with assistive technology.
  • Participate in internship, mentorship, and hiring programs for students and recent grads with disabilities.
  • Consider the needs of employees with disabilities when developing emergency management plans.


Have something to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

List Lovers: Discover the Bullet Journal for Work

I have a problem. Some might term it an addiction. I love lists. I need lists. I have lists for everything; I have lists of new lists to make. I have whole notebooks dedicated to my lists. And recently, I’ve found I’m not alone. Buzzfeed, Reddit, and Instagram have been populating the internet with images of lists, in the name of a new trend: Bullet Journaling.

Bullet Journaling is a style of tracking your life in a notebook. The term and the system was designed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer from Austria. Carroll struggled with focusing and needed a way to capture his ideas, so he developed this system. He has described the system as

“For the list-makers, the note-takers, the Post-It note pilots, the track-keepers, and the dabbling doodlers. Bullet Journal is for those who feel there are few platforms as powerful as the blank paper page. It’s an analog system for the digital age that will help you organize the present, record the past, and plan for the future.”Bullet Journal

So what does this have to do with the workforce? Bullet Journaling is not limited to tracking grocery lists or birthdays; job seekers, students, and employees can use a daily journal to visually track progress toward career or educational goals with lists such as:

  • To Do: Note the tasks that require your attention. Make use of the Bullet Journal symbols to track whether the tasks have been completed, migrated to another list, or scheduled.
  • Kudos: Track the compliments you receive on your work. Whether you are an employee with a yearly review coming up or a job seeker interviewing for a new job, you can pull out this list as evidence of the work you’ve done well.
  • Lessons Learned: Write down something you’ve learned that day or week, whether it is a new skill or a reflection.
  • Accomplishments: Record projects that have been completed or goals that have been reached. If possible, write down the outcome.
  • Progress: Break down projects or goals into manageable tasks, and track when each phase is completed.
  • Duties: Divide responsibilities into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.

Communities have sprung up around the Bullet Journal trend, and among them are the Bullet Journal Professionals. Wondering why you should keep your own Bullet Journal as a workforce professional? Don’t worry; there’s a list for that.

The Benefits of Using a Bullet Journal at Work:

  • Organize and prioritize your responsibilities in one place.
  • Document growth and success in your career for reviews and raises.
  • Refer to the lists when building your portfolio or LinkedIn profile.
  • Record the ideas and plans that usually get lost in the shuffle.
  • Feel a sense of accomplishment from checking off completed tasks and projects.
  • Reflect on successes and missed opportunities.

If you’re a case manager in an American Job Center, consider sharing the benefits of Bullet Journaling with your clients. Maybe you could even offer a “Bullet Journaling for Your Job Search” workshop! If you keep your own Bullet Journal or something similar, be sure to comment and/or post images below. You can also check out our Bullet Journaling at Work board on Pinterest for inspiration.