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Pride at Work — All Year Round

As we enter Pride Month 2021, we’ll begin to see rainbows pop up all across the business world. So whether you want rainbow-themed Legos, a colorful Mickey Mouse hat, or rainbow-packaged mouthwash from Listerine, there are a million ways to show your pride and support for the LGBTQIA community this month. Even LinkedIn is getting in on the rainbow trend with their updated logo (by the way, does anyone know if their graphic designer is open for work?).

Now we at smartdept. inc. love rainbows as much as the next boutique-style creative, digital, and marketing talent resource, but we also understand that pride at work isn’t limited to 30 days out of the year. That’s why we are committed to supporting LGBTQIA employees year-round. And as a WBENC certified women-owned enterprise, we see the value in promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion from the top down. Here’s a few ways we (and you!) can do it:

Diversity
Improve the representation of women and minority groups. Additionally, we address diversity from a broader perspective and look at all types of diversity. We do not just stop at gender and ethnicity. We also focus on cognitively diverse people.

Inclusion
Create an inclusive work environment that fosters creativity and innovation and promotes engagement through awareness. Enable employees to be their true selves. We encourage and celebrate each person’s personal story and how that impacts how they perform their job.

Communications
Ensure that DEI initiatives, actions, and results are clearly communicated consistently. Provide ongoing training on why diversity is important to us.

External Relations
Engage with vendors, support organizations, and groups that support and align with diverse values and interests.

Accountability
Consistently measure and train how our initiatives work with the EEOC and OFCCP while staying in compliance with our goals and objective.

As a proud and out member of the LGBTQIA community, I feel especially grateful for smartdept. inc.’s commitment to supporting diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace. Pride at work was never something I knew I needed until I got it, and it is something every person, regardless of gender or sexuality, should have. Happy Pride 2021!

 

By Haley Stowell, smartdept. inc. Creative Consultant

Let’s get down to payrolling

One of the great things about not being a stuffy ogre in the staffing universe is that we tend to have a lot of actual conversations with the other people in this universe. We love that! Collaboration is fun, and working together with people to solve or improve something is what we dig the most. One FAQ is about whether it is better to hire a freelancer on a 1099 or W-2 basis. At the suggestion of our own trusty advisors, we offer our candidates the opportunity to work on our client’s behalf only as a W-2 employee of smartdept. inc.

Why, you’re asking? Well, how much time do you have?

The long and short of it is that making our freelancers W-2 employees as soon as they accept an assignment allows us to offer our working talent the benefits they deserve. It also keeps us on the right side of employment law and protects us from potential penalties – if we had a freelancer working as an independent contractor and they forgot to file their earnings with the IRS, we would be on the hook for paying their penalty.

This next bit is a little dry, but your friends at the Internal Revenue Service (you may also know them as the IRS) would want you to know that they require subcontractors to submit IRS Form 1099-MISC with their annual tax returns? Subcontractors, or what we lovingly refer to as freelancers, must report earnings of $600 or more from a company in a calendar year. A freelancer must provide earnings information to the IRS even if they do not receive 1099 forms. And, oh, by the way, companies that fail to provide these forms to their freelancers may face IRS penalties of at least $250 for each incident.

In a nutshell (that’s a phrase only people born before 1971 use), companies usually mail 1099 forms to their freelancers in January. The forms should list the freelancer’s earnings and notes any income tax withholding. In February, companies report 1099 information to the IRS. That alerts the IRS to expect certain taxpayers to report the income, and each form is linked to a taxpayer by a Social Security number, and freelancers may receive multiple 1099s in one year.

Are you with me so far?

Great, but if scary things make you squeamish, get ready to cover your eyes! I’ve heard some companies pay freelancers “under the table” by paying them in cash! This little creative workaround allows the freelancer to avoid reporting the money as income, possibly resulting in tax savings. Even though companies paying under the table may pay lower wages than they would under normal circumstances, this is a bad idea because both the company and their freelancer could face penalties if the IRS found out.

The minimum penalty is $250, but (remember when I told you to cover your eyes) total penalties for the calendar year could total as much as $500,000, depending on the size of the business. OUCH! To add insult to injury, the IRS also imposes penalties for sending 1099 information late and may learn about missing 1099 information when subcontractors report the income but note it did not receive a 1099.

What does it all mean?

It means that the 1099 process can be time-consuming and costly. Time is money! And, money is money! Kinda like bitcoin is money and nonfungible tokens are, too. Okay, maybe not exactly like that.

Look, it doesn’t matter if we find your freelancer for you or not. Everyone payrolled through smartdept. inc. is a W-2 employee of the smartdept. inc. This is helpful to them because they are paid bi-weekly (no chasing invoices) and are automatically entitled to benefits like healthcare, paid sick leave, and 401k. As their employer, we cover payroll taxes, onboarding, record keeping, HR/employee compliance, and time tracking. Oh man, you’ll be able to do so many more activities (Step Brothers reference).

Let’s just agree that time is money, money is money, and using smartdept. inc. to payroll your freelancers is a great way to save you both.

Drop us a line at getsmart@thesmartdept.com if you’d like more information.

What if a staffing resource could find you the best available candidate (even if they lived on the moon)?

If the following blog seems familiar, it’s because we first published it a year ago. At that time, remote work was like the “fingers-crossed, let’s hope this works” solution for how we can all get back to being productive. But a funny thing happened on the way to surviving a Pandemic. These tips on how to manage remote workers are relevant! As we hold on loosely through the tail end of this universal challenge, remote work is not only accepted; it’s taking off. Now, it seems that it is here to stay. Granted, we only have a small sample size (baseball term), but over the last six months, we have placed Photo Re-touchers from Chicago with Ad Agencies in Seattle and Project Managers from Grand Rapids with a Wellness Organization in Phoenix. Still not convinced? How about a Print Graphic Designer from Cleveland paired up with a small Agency in Minneapolis or my personal favorite, our candidate from Chicago, creating templates in Microsoft Word for our client in Medford, Oregon. It is not quite like cats and dogs living together, but it’s on that level, and it’s awesome.

Though I am not a licensed Remote Organizational Psychologist, I can tell you with confidence that a successful remote relationship might require patience and flexibility from all parties involved. In many cases, we have gone the extra mile to ensure our clients get the candidate they asked for by providing equipment, software, and coordination as part of our service. If you are still on the fence, a simple 5-minute phone or zoom conversation can make it all happen. 

So, let’s say you’re in Timbuktu, and the very best Digital Flugalbinder Designers all live on the Moon…

 

I’m sure you know, working remotely is not a new concept. Sure, in certain fields like Healthcare or Manufacturing, it’s a tricky proposition. But for companies in the areas of Knowledge and Service, the possibility for remote working does exist. Many companies (smartdept. inc. included) have been taking advantage of some form of work-from-home policy, even well before it was thrust upon us as the “new norm.” Until now, working from home was often considered a privilege and had been used in corporate settings as motivation, or for the advancement of a negotiation. And, even as a replacement for salary.

Experts have been predicting that remote working will become commonplace for half a century now. Heck, in my research for this blog, I came across something I wrote 10 years ago about how to vet a candidate in a remote location properly. You know, voice inflection, speech pattern, pitch and all that.

But, like anything else, remote working (even under the best of circumstances) isn’t without its challenges. Here are five challenges of remote working and how you might find your way through them.

 

Challenge: Keeping your team focused during a remote meeting.

My Suggestion: Don’t let the “power person” dominate the meeting.

Possible Action: Every person’s input matters! By engaging each of your co-workers during a remote meeting and allow them to share their unique views and insights on the topic at hand, you will begin to problem-solve as a group. Rather than one person giving their opinion and everyone else agreeing or following, the entire team will feel they are adding value to the meeting.

Desired Result: Getting everyone involved will help to establish open channels of communication between you and the team, now and into the future. Additionally, it will help to develop mutual respect among teammates.

 

Challenge: Continuing to build trust with teammates while working remotely.

My Suggestion: Work towards creating (or maintaining) a Shared Identity and a Shared Understanding. A Shared Identity can be helped along by promoting a sense that we are all in this together, and as a group, we share one common goal. Talk to your team as “we” rather than “I and you.” Gaining a Shared Understanding can help you get to know who your teammates genuinely are (and vice versa) and what they truly value.

Possible Action: Make an effort to learn about your co-workers outside of their work responsibilities. Ask them to give you a tour of their at-home workspace. Try and gain a further understanding of their context. Why do they set up their day the way they do?

Desired Result: Learning a little bit about what makes your teammates tick can help gain trust, give them added confidence, and lead to improved productivity.

 

Challenge: Getting the most out of introverted co-workers.

My Suggestion: Pay attention to your teammates during a video call, you could be losing introverts by only using video. It’s possible that they may be distracted by the knowledge that they are on camera, and they might be less inclined to join the conversation. Everybody is different!

Possible Action: Turn off the video portion of your meeting.

Desired Result: Not relying on visual cues can help people to focus more on what someone is saying, and eliminating the video may help to put your more introverted workmates in a better position to focus and contribute.

 

Challenge: Staying focused throughout your workday.

My Suggestion: Avoid the problem of time becoming meaningless by creating a routine at home that includes all of the variables that you would have had during your typical workday. Consider your commute, lunchtime, breaks, and worktime when solving this equation.

Possible Action: Be creative! Exercise or listen to a podcast during the time you would typically be commuting. Set up your unique workspace and make sure it is not in the same place you eat your meals.  Use break times to run short errands. Get the most out of your work time, but make sure to have a definitive end to your day.

Desired Result: Your work routine, all be it different, will have structure and some sense of familiarity. Having a definitive start and end time will keep you motivated to work at achieving your usual daily goals, and being creative with your commute and break times might lead to more productive results during the scheduled work time.

 

Challenge: How to prevent worry from taking over during this unprecedented time.

My Suggestion: Allow yourself to think about things in the past, present, and future tense. Be aware of the difference between worry and rumination. Worry can be an attempt by your mind to problem solve a current issue going on in your life. Rumination is your mind continuously obsessing over that same issue without trying to solve it.

Possible Action: Set aside 15 minutes every day to worry. Focus on thinking about what troubles you during this dedicated time and then move on.

Desired Result: Reminiscing can lead to nostalgia. Nostalgic events generally make you happy, which can lead to motivation. Thinking about the future can be productive, even if those future thoughts include worry. For some, thinking about the future can help motivate us to get through the present. For others, it can make us feel thankful for what we have in the present. Setting aside time for worry can allow you to contemplate and move on.

 

Of course, there are plenty of other challenges to consider when setting up a home office. Technical issues are right at the top! Slow internet, bad sound quality, or a lack of technical ability might slow you down. But I believe focusing on a few of my top 5 will get you and your team pointed in the right direction and on your way to successfully working remotely.

If you have questions about these tips or what to discuss with other challenges, drop us a line at getsmart@thesmartdept.com or reach out to us directly. If you’re looking for remote work, check out our jobs page.

 

By smartdept. inc. Principal, Eric Pairitz

We’re in the relationship-building business

From the get-go, we’ve emphasized relationship building (over being transactional) concerning our business. I used to say, “we are too small to make a mistake, sweep it under the rug, and move on like nothing happened.” In the beginning, opportunities were difficult to come by, maybe even more so today.

We choose to build relationships with both the candidates and clients! And our goal is to improve them over time. We’ve developed pretty awesome relationships over our 20 years at smartdept. inc. It’s why we are still here! So, I thought I would share my top 5 reasons to build relationships in business.

… I never know if I should start a Top 5 list with number 1 or number 5? I’m going with the best, first! If you prefer to be surprised, feel free to start at the bottom and scroll up!

1 – IT FEELS GOOD! – At our core, we are creative. Having lived it, our goal is always to find someone their “dream job.” Very early in her staffing career, my partner in crime, Michelle, placed a graphic designer with a local minor league sports team located in Chicago’s Western Burbs.  Recruiters, like all professionals, celebrate wins. Her candidate got a new job, and the ball team was happy, too. Success! But a couple weeks later, Michelle received a handwritten letter from the designer’s wife explaining how happy her husband was in his new role. “This was his dream job,” she went on to explain. Remember when people wrote letters? I do! A simple, heartfelt thank you. I remember it 20 years later, and it wasn’t even to me.

2 – BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS CAN BE TWICE THE FUN – In our second week of operation in the Chicago market, we got lucky with a suburban tech company. Who knew that our good fortune would continue with this hiring manager for nearly two decades? Sadly, our long-time partnership was forced to an end during the pandemic. But then a funny thing happened, the person who trusted us to provide him with a top-level talent for his department reached out to us for advice as a candidate. A new partnership was born! We worked with our long-time cohort to tighten up his resume, gave our opinion on his portfolio, and lent some advice on where to look for the next opportunity. In the end, our talented friend was snatched up quickly, and it didn’t have much to do with us. But, we were honored that a veteran creative, with 20 plus years of experience, entrusted us with the task of helping him to find his next opportunity, and wouldn’t you know it, a few weeks later, he called needing creative help. Another new partnership is born, and with any luck, this one lasts another 18 years!

3 – WE ARE IN IT FOR THE LONG HALL – It was January 2002, and we had been in Seattle for less than a month. Literally, we were still sweating over how to find our way back home at night from our office in Pioneer Square. Chicago’s streets are set up on a pretty basic grid, okay! Our newest candidate was looking for work as a print production artist, and she was openly frustrated (at the time) with the other resources in town. Her skill set was a perfect fit for a well-known Ad Agency located on the edge of downtown Seattle, so we jumped at the chance to make the connection. This smartdept. OC (original candidate) has worked with us on and off through the magic of forging a relationship since we began. Like many relationships, there were gaps in our communication and chunks of time when she was OTM (staffing lingo for off the market). This fall, nearly 19 years to the day that we first met, we placed her once again. This time with a well-known agency on the opposite side of town, and the opportunity went from freelance to a temp-to-hire in a matter of a few weeks. With any luck, we won’t have to help our friend for a while. But we both know that the next time she calls, we will help her again.

4 – FORGIVE AND FORGET – That’s the funny thing about really good relationships; they’re not always perfect. But if they are really worth having, you have to find a way to push through the tough times and make them good again. Such was the case with our Fortune 500 client from Chicago. We were really making an impact with their creative team when we were given a gut punch. They would soon be moving their staffing needs to a managed program, and long story short, we were not going to be included in their future plans. Still, we continued to stay in touch. We waited patiently for another opportunity, and two years later, they would call us. That’s right, they called us. They explained that their current relationships weren’t meeting expectations and asked us to participate in their next RFP. We obliged and re-earned a spot in their program, which we hold to this day. Fly the W Flag because that’s a win for relationship building. It’s also why you never give up if you believe a relationship is worth having.

5 – FRIENDS FOR LIFE – That’s what I think of when I think about our relationship with the creative leaders at the Benefits company that we are partnered with. Once again, an organization that we have helped for nearly the entirety of our existence. It would not be an exaggeration to say we would not be here today if not for their loyalty and trust in our abilities. And I’d like to think we’ve had an impact on them, too. Still, these relationships are truly rare, and we don’t ever take them for granted. The great part about working together, year after year, is that you get to know people and learn and grow along with them. Ultimately, the effort you put into growing a relationship can lead to becoming the best partner possible. In business and in life, tomorrow is promised to no one. But no matter what lies ahead, I’d be willing to bet we will always be in touch with these champions of our organization.

Honorable mention:

OH, THE STORIES WE COULD TELL – Did I ever tell you about the time I helped a candidate move out of her apartment so she wouldn’t have to reschedule an interview? And, there’s the time I drove a candidate to an interview because she had car trouble. Did you know that we’ve thrown pizza parties for candidates and clients to thank them for being a part of our lives? I could go on…

The moral of the story is that none of these unique memories would be possible without being open to the idea of making and growing relationships.

Are you ready to hire talent for your team? Are you ready to begin your job search? Get in touch with us today. We’re ready to build some new relationships!

 

By Eric Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

REAL PEOPLE – My encounter with the artist, Duane Hanson

To the best of my recollection, the story goes something like this… it was the wee hours of the morning when the night custodian was passing through the lobby of the building he was tending to. Suddenly he was startled! The hairs on the back of his neck were raised just slightly as he caught the presence of a woman out of the corner of his eye.  He had locked the door behind him after he entered the building, and up until that moment, it was business as usual. But unexpectedly, there she was. A middle-aged, disheveled woman dressed in rag-tag attire and resting comfortably at a nearby table. She appeared to be content, if not deeply consumed, by the bag of personal items that accompanied her.

“Hello,” the custodian said.

The women did not offer a reply.

“Can I help you?” he politely asked.

No response.

As he approached, the women remained still. Now practically on top of her, the man realized that the intruder was not moving… not at all. His concern grew deeper as he assessed the situation further and determined that she was also not breathing. In his one-piece jumper with his name embroidered in a little circle on his chest, our hero immediately dropped his supplies and streaked to the phone.

Yes! This story takes place during a time when you actually had to go to the phone. Attached to a wall. With a cord!

As he arrived, breathless, at the phone, he frantically began to dial. Every second would count in a situation like this. The fact that it was a rotary phone made each number he dialed seem like an eternity. “Help,” he exclaimed as he was finally patched through to the authorities! “There is a woman! She’s not breathing!” Desperately, he tried to keep it together as he shared his story with the concerned 911 Operator.

I know it seems dire, but don’t worry. This story doesn’t end tragically (unless you feel bad for the custodian). Emergency services quickly arrived to find that the lifeless woman was actually not a woman at all. The custodian’s Superman-like efforts, as it turned out, would not save a damsel in distress. Though, it did allow the local police and fire departments to have a sneak preview of the buildings’ newest exhibit called REAL PEOPLE.

That is how I came to admire the sculpture of Duane Hanson.

Duane was known for his hyper-realistic depictions of ordinary people. He employed the use of polyester resin, Bondo, bronze, and fiberglass in his work. Mastering a technique that involved casting living people and then painstakingly painting the fiberglass figure with all the imperfections and veins of actual skin.

Born on January 17, 1925, in Alexandria, MN, Hanson received his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI, in 1951. His works can be found in the Smithsonian American Art Museum collections in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

Before his passing, on January 6, 1996, I had the great privilege of meeting Mr. Hanson. He allowed me to write and film a fictional scene in which he and I co-starred for my studies. In the spoof, he angrily denies me entrance into his studio until I offer to treat him to the lunch of his choice. What was not fictional about the film was his kindness in allowing me to come to his studio. And the care he took in showing me the steps involved in the creation of his work. Also strange but true was his request to eat turkey dogs and strawberries for lunch.

“My art is not about fooling people,” the artist explained. “It’s the human attitudes I’m after—fatigue, a bit of frustration, rejection. To me, there is a kind of beauty in all this.” –Duane Hanson

If you haven’t seen the REAL LIFE work of artist Duane Hanson, I recommend pulling your phone out of your pocket and looking him up.

By Eric Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

Photo credits: Taken from REAL PEOPLE exhibit book owned by Eric Pairitz and via Wikipedia.

smartdept. inc. is proud to be a certified Women’s Business Enterprise

Hi everyone. My name is Michelle Pairitz, and like many of you, I am entering my second school year as principal, administrator and part-time home-school teacher to my four daughters (9th, 8th, 6th and 5th grade.) But up until a few months ago, my main credentials were being a twenty-year veteran of the staffing industry and the majority owner of smartdept. inc.

It remains difficult to craft a meaningful message that isn’t somehow related to COVID-19 or social distancing right now. So, to each of you taking the time to read this, I appreciate your time and hope you and your loved ones are safe. And while I have your attention, does anyone remember how to divide fractions? Asking for a friend.

Earlier this year, I was encouraged by one of our largest clients to apply for certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise. This certification affirms that smartdept. inc. is an organization owned and entirely operated by a woman and earning this certification would prove to be no small task. After filling out the initial application, I had the next three months to provide all critical information to tell the story of how smartdept. inc. came to be. This trip down memory lane (and into some very dusty flat files) included everything from sharing our latest financials, contracts with my stamp of approval, rental agreement and equipment lists, to rediscovering the corporate documents we created nearly two decades ago. And everything in between. In addition, I was quizzed on every aspect of our creative staffing business. The goal was to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was in control of every process vital to successfully operating the company.

On the day of my site visit, I was asked to connect all the dots. What was my inspiration for starting the company? What was a typical day and week at smartdept. inc.? How had I helped push the organization forward? How exactly did I get from a two-person staffing company in Seattle in 2002, to a staffing company spanning nationally with thousands of placements?  The conversation was long, but reflective. And it gave me the chance to think honestly about my journey as a business owner and appreciate how my organization, with the help of so many along the way, has been able to achieve some very unique goals.

Michelle pictured with her four girls.

As a woman in recruiting:
When I started this company at 27, I looked and sounded young for my age. (Oh, the good old days!) But I remember struggling to overcome doubters and naysayers – both women and men. And I vowed I would not treat others that way. I earned respect, I gave respect and I lifted others up every chance I got. At smartdept, our culture is based on encouragement and kindness. What we do is more than just recruiting, it’s creating an environment of confidence and support for our clients, candidates and each other.

As a mom:
When I began, I was part ignorant and part fearless, and I am proud of it all. I want my girls to have the same confidence and be fearless in making something happen. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be a company, but I want them to know that anything is possible.

As a business owner:
Some of our biggest clients were my candidates just starting their careers 18 years ago. Long-standing relationships and treating people with respect means everything to me, and to us. We are all humans, and it’s important to really get to know people beyond what position they’re looking for or looking to fill.  We take the time to do that, so each person could potentially work with us for the next 18 years whether they are a client or candidate.

I am proud to report that on Thursday, March 19th, 2020 (at 3pm CDT), smartdept. inc. received its Women’s Business Enterprise certification! It represents so much, and I feel it’s worthy of another mention during National Women’s Small Business Month.

Thank you, to Kristin Malek at CDW, Ranjani Mohana at R Mo Diversity Solutions, Karen Golder from the Women’s Business Development Center, #WBENC, #NAWBO and to the countless others who have made me feel welcome as a Women’s Business Entrepreneur.

Be safe, be well and best of luck with all the math homework.

Love, Michelle

Meet Lolablue

It’s a combination of nervous energy and excitement. Your stomach hits the giant drop at Six Flags, and your mind is racing, Indy 500 style. You’re on the ledge now. Looking over. Your eyes can see for miles and miles, and while your egoic mind is telling you the ground floor is near (and it’s gonna hurt when you land), your heart tells you the free fall will be endlessly glorious.

If you want to start your own business, all you’ve got to do is jump. So… are you going to jump?

Jamie Lovern did!

Jamie is the owner of Lolablue, located in North Port, Florida. Lolablue is an artisan maker of bath, body + beauty goods which (in her own words) are infused with love + positivity to inspire clean + mindful living. Hand-crafted in small batches with only the best ingredients on the planet. Goods to help you live your best life ever.

As an entrepreneur myself, my favorite part of any successful business story is the beginning. What pushed Jamie, an award-winning creative professional with 12 years of experience, to leave her comfortable surroundings at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and embark on this slippery little journey (soap reference, get it)? I mean, besides infinite amounts of competitive drive, giant wax holding tubs of courage, a sprinkle of curiosity, and a hope to create something better for this planet and the people on it.

Well, ultimately, it was the birth of her son, Dakota. But let me go in reverse for a minute.

All the way back in 2002, Jamie and her husband (and right-hand man at Lolablue) DJ were burning a candle that was leaving a curiously unpleasant pile of soot. Thinking the black flakey powder pile didn’t fit with the theme of relaxation associated with burning a candle, they began to do a little digging. It turns out this gathering of amorphous carbon carried along with it potentially cancer-causing carcinogens, too. How’s that for romance? Soon after this discovery, Jamie began making her own candles with something better for us all. Soy! At first, she made them for herself, and then for friends, and then for Christmas presents, and then… well you get the point, people like them.

It wasn’t long before her one-bedroom apartment was wall to wall candles. I think there’s a Kramer from Seinfeld reference in there somewhere. “It’s gonna be wall to wall candles, Jerry!” These constant reminders of her candle making addiction and the encouragement of a friend prompted her to visit with a local accountant who pushed her right up the edge of that dusty little cliff by simply asking her, “when are you going to quit your job and make it official?” Nuff said! In 2003 Lolablue was born.

In 2005 her son, Dakota, was born and the kidding around was pretty much over. The name Lolablue is derived from Jamie’s love for Barry Manilow and the song Copacabana. Lola was a showgirl, but I cannot confirm or deny that Jamie ever was. Blue is in reference to our giant blue planet, which Jamie and DJ have pledged to take care of by using natural ingredients to make each and every variation of their now line of 10 different products. I have it on good authority the planet earth is, in fact, mostly blue. I also have it on good authority that the birth of her son gave Jamie the final push needed to leave corporate America and focus on her love of Lola fulltime. I wish I could say that they just made candles, and then soap, and everyone just started running towards them, it all erupted into a buying frenzy akin to Luke Perry showing up at the mall, they moved to Hawaii became neighbors with Rosanne Barr and lived happily ever after.

But that’s not how it went.

Like many entrepreneurial stories, Jamie and DJ had to rise from the (potentially carcinogen filled) ashes and fight to get where they are today. In 2007 the recession hit. Jamie was staying home to raise Dakota, making candles and spending her weekends traveling to various farmer’s markets to sell her products. The couple had invested in a real estate magazine with the hope of making it successful enough to turn a profit and use the money to invest back into Lolablue. But, when the real estate market bottomed out, so did their magazine venture, and like many people during that time, they trudged along for a while. DJ found a succession of opportunities outside of the comfortable wax walls of Lola, but because of the economic state of the world, nothing seemed to stick. With product literally oozing out of their home in the hot Florida sun, Jamie had what she refers to as “the utility sink moment.” Doubt was creeping in, and she was coming to the realization that a decision needed to be made about what lies ahead. Does she keep moving forward with Lolablue, or should she get her portfolio and resume up-to-date and use her contacts to get back into the creative workforce? With money running out, and their family’s future hanging in the balance (and in the middle of a recession), JAMIE AND DJ WENT ALL IN! They took the little money they had (and probably some that they didn’t) and leased warehouse space. The new digs, which they got on the cheap because of said recession, allowed them to store their existing product and gave them the necessary space to make more. “Every time I thought it was over, something popped up that kept us going,” Jamie would say. DJ also made a decision. He stopped looking for the next, “get us through,” opportunity, and began to focus his full attention on a life of Lolablue Living.

Their courage paid off! The determined couple was able to persevere through the recession and build their business by forming strong local relationships within their North Port community. Soon Lolablue products made their way into local shops, and then on-line. Finally, as their products got more popular, they added a way for their growing fanbase to come in and buy them in person. Lolablue products have been used in swag bags for the Oscars and MTV movie awards and even got a little love from Martha Stewart, herself. In 2020 the couple renewed their “go for it” vows and invested into a brand-new, larger, location with the intention of stomping, full-on, the petal to the metal! I’m sure this will mean more amazing, good for the earth products for all of us to enjoy in the future and perhaps more opportunities to get them.

Truth be told, I chose to write about Jamie (and Lolablue) because we are all about courageous, creative, smart, and talented women who own and operate a business. And, because I know her, I can unequivocally say that all of the mentioned personal attributes are 100% accurate. That said, my favorite part of putting together this blog came when I asked her if she focused on any charitable efforts. Though her answer was not really a surprise. Jamie made full mention of all the people who helped her along the way and makes it part of her mission to pay it forward. She loves to give back to her community and give her creations to literally anyone who walks through her door. For years, they have donated their products! Supporting local schools to promote Teacher Appreciation Day, making an offering to neighborhood daycare, and even routinely dropping product at a North Port area animal hospital. Lolablue has teamed up with Baby Boot Camp (now called Momleta) to give back. And Yup! They even made, bottled and distributed hand sanitizer during the onset on the Coronavirus Pandemic. Jamie let it slip that she could probably put someone to work full-time fulfilling her donation efforts. Hey, give her a call if you want to help her out.

Jamie’s advice to current and future entrepreneurs, “Follow your bliss and doors will open that you never knew existed.”

Oh, one last thing! Check out Jamie’s life’s work at lolablueliving.com if you see something you like enter the promo code: smartdept and Jamie will give you 25% off of your purchase. Who knows, maybe she will even throw in a sample of her latest killer soap creation!

Artist Profile – Justin Kauffmann

Every so often, I see the work of an artist that brings on an immediate rush of emotions. For me, it feels like envy, jealousy, happiness, appreciation, and love with a side order of how the hell did they do that and an order of that’s awesome to go. A garbage plate of emotions, if you will.

Of course, I get those types of feelings when I go to a museum and view a piece (or a collection) from one of the greats. I am intrigued by the mind of Pablo Picasso and the use of color by Henry Matisse. I love Norman Rockwell because his work is a slice of Americana. These are artists that, as a youth, drew me to have a career in a creative field or, in some way or another, influenced the beginnings of my creative process.

I like these dudes! But, in the end, I can only guess what Picasso was thinking during his Blue Period or read in a book about how Norman Rockwell came to work at the Saturday Evening Post. And, I will have to view it entirely through somebody else’s eyes.

More exciting for me is making that same type of connection with artists who are my contemporaries. There is something extra cool about being able to walk right up to Plein Air artist Ethan Jack Harrington (@ejakcity) and talk with him while he pushes around his paint in the middle of a crowded Seattle street. Or, as I recently wrote about, talking Chicago Cubs Baseball with the likes of Regan Dunnick (@ibraygunz).

Another, on my very short list of inspiring artists that I have the pleasure of knowing and whose work I am privileged enough to have hanging in my collection, is my Ringling classmate, Phi Delta Theta fraternity brother and friend, Justin Kauffmann.

Justin recently completed a 2-year long journey that resulted in it the completion of his first published book called “Yesterdaze.” Though, at its inception, it was meant to be a compilation of witty quips with his art as a backdrop. It evolved into a career retrospective, of sorts, highlighting 25 years of creativity, which began in Atlanta, GA, and landed him in Chicago via New York City.

Growing up in Goshen, Indiana, Justin’s earliest creative influence was his father, Joel, who was a cartoonist. Joel’s influence (and most likely his genetics) are an obvious link to the evolution of his style and what led Justin to attend The Ringling School of Art and Design with the hope of someday working as an animator at Disney.

Post Ringling Justin worked for 12 years as a “9-5 graphic designer”, first in Atlanta and then in New York City. Honing his fine art skills after hours, his mixed media work of collage, pencil, paint, and chalk was influenced by the likes of Ray Gun Magazines, David Carson and painter, Phil Frost. One of Justin’s proudest moments as an artist happened in 2001 while curating his show in New York. A gentleman approached to compliment him on his work. Serendipitously, the gentleman was none other than David Carson (that’s freakin cool). The two hit it off and have worked together on several projects over the years. A few samples of Justin’s work even appear in one of Mr. Carson’s books.

As for his book, Yesterdaze is a collection of Justin’s personal and professional finished work, accompanied by printed articles, thumbnail sketches, and “in action” photos weaved in throughout. Packed with inspiration, my favorite part of this explosion of color and creativity comes near the end of my signed first edition. A piece that I begged Justin to do for me for 10 years called “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” appears along with an original sketch (and a Cubs pencil) in a 2-page spread. “I made it into the book,” I shouted upon first seeing the page.

Also worthy of mention, as a designer, Justin has had the opportunity to integrate his fine art into a line of t-shirts working with apparel giant, Quicksilver. Additionally, if you’re a fan of winter sports, you may have seen Justin’s work while shredding the mountainside. As he worked alongside, Creative Director, Sven Hoffman at Head to create the artwork for their Rocka snowboard line (drop me a line if you have one of those boards).

Justin is currently available for both fine art and graphic design work! If you want to be inspired check him out online at justink.com or follow him on Instagram @justink

Challenge Accepted: Five common obstacles of working with your team remotely

I’m sure you know, working remotely is not a new concept. Sure, in certain fields like Healthcare or Manufacturing, it’s a tricky proposition. But for companies in the areas of Knowledge and Service, the possibility for remote working does exist. Many companies (smartdept. inc. included) have been taking advantage of some form of work-from-home policy, even well before it was thrust upon us as the “new norm.” Until now, working from home was often considered a privilege and had been used in corporate settings as motivation, or for the advancement of a negotiation. And, even as a replacement for salary.

Experts have been predicting that remote working will become commonplace for half a century now. Heck, in my research for this blog, I came across something I wrote 10 years ago about how to vet a candidate in a remote location properly. You know, voice inflection, speech pattern, pitch and all that.

But, like anything else, remote working (even under the best of circumstances) isn’t without its challenges. Here are five challenges of remote working and how you might find your way through them.

 

Challenge: Keeping your team focused during a remote meeting.

My Suggestion: Don’t let the “power person” dominate the meeting.

Possible Action: Every person’s input matters! By engaging each of your co-workers during a remote meeting and allow them to share their unique views and insights on the topic at hand, you will begin to problem-solve as a group. Rather than one person giving their opinion and everyone else agreeing or following, the entire team will feel they are adding value to the meeting.

Desired Result: Getting everyone involved will help to establish open channels of communication between you and the team, now and into the future. Additionally, it will help to develop mutual respect among teammates.

 

Challenge: Continuing to build trust with teammates while working remotely.

My Suggestion: Work towards creating (or maintaining) a Shared Identity and a Shared Understanding. A Shared Identity can be helped along by promoting a sense that we are all in this together, and as a group, we share one common goal. Talk to your team as “we” rather than “I and you.” Gaining a Shared Understanding can help you get to know who your teammates genuinely are (and vice versa) and what they truly value.

Possible Action: Make an effort to learn about your co-workers outside of their work responsibilities. Ask them to give you a tour of their at-home workspace. Try and gain a further understanding of their context. Why do they set up their day the way they do?

Desired Result: Learning a little bit about what makes your teammates tick can help gain trust, give them added confidence, and lead to improved productivity.

 

Challenge: Getting the most out of introverted co-workers.

My Suggestion: Pay attention to your teammates during a video call, you could be losing introverts by only using video. It’s possible that they may be distracted by the knowledge that they are on camera, and they might be less inclined to join the conversation. Everybody is different!

Possible Action: Turn off the video portion of your meeting.

Desired Result: Not relying on visual cues can help people to focus more on what someone is saying, and eliminating the video may help to put your more introverted workmates in a better position to focus and contribute.

 

Challenge: Staying focused throughout your workday.

My Suggestion: Avoid the problem of time becoming meaningless by creating a routine at home that includes all of the variables that you would have had during your typical workday. Consider your commute, lunchtime, breaks, and worktime when solving this equation.

Possible Action: Be creative! Exercise or listen to a podcast during the time you would typically be commuting. Set up your unique workspace and make sure it is not in the same place you eat your meals.  Use break times to run short errands. Get the most out of your work time, but make sure to have a definitive end to your day.

Desired Result: Your work routine, all be it different, will have structure and some sense of familiarity. Having a definitive start and end time will keep you motivated to work at achieving your usual daily goals, and being creative with your commute and break times might lead to more productive results during the scheduled work time.

 

Challenge: How to prevent worry from taking over during this unprecedented time.

My Suggestion: Allow yourself to think about things in the past, present, and future tense. Be aware of the difference between worry and rumination. Worry can be an attempt by your mind to problem solve a current issue going on in your life. Rumination is your mind continuously obsessing over that same issue without trying to solve it.

Possible Action: Set aside 15 minutes every day to worry. Focus on thinking about what troubles you during this dedicated time and then move on.

Desired Result: Reminiscing can lead to nostalgia. Nostalgic events generally make you happy, which can lead to motivation. Thinking about the future can be productive, even if those future thoughts include worry. For some, thinking about the future can help motivate us to get through the present. For others, it can make us feel thankful for what we have in the present. Setting aside time for worry can allow you to contemplate and move on.

 

Of course, there are plenty of other challenges to consider when setting up a home office. Technical issues are right at the top! Slow internet, bad sound quality, or a lack of technical ability might slow you down. But I believe focusing on a few of my top 5 will get you and your team pointed in the right direction and on your way to successfully working remotely.

If you have questions about these tips or what to discuss with other challenges, drop us a line at getsmart@thesmartdept.com or reach out to us directly.

 

By smartdept. inc. Principal, Eric Pairitz

At the Old Ball Game with Regan Dunnick

Did I ever tell you about the time I played softball against World-renowned Illustrator, Regan Dunnick? It was late August 1990, and I had just been dropped off at the Ringling School of Art and Design for my freshman year to study graphic design. My father is a 40-year veteran of the fire service and parent to six kids, of which I was the last. So, for me, being dropped off at college was something akin to being thrown out of a moving car at the front gate of the school. You know. Don’t call us…

Spring Training Spread, February 2016

One of the activities mixed in with trust falls and meet your R.A., which are devised to ease a new student into life on campus, was the faculty/student softball game. Even though this was an Art School with a total student body of 600 (at the time), I could see immediately that there was a sense of pride among the faculty about this game. I imagined that they had done this for many years before I arrived, and being that the incoming freshman were all “artists,” the faculty had expected, like usual, to win going away. The clear but unspoken leader of the faculty team was Regan Dunnick.

I liked Regan right away. Honestly, I had no idea that this guy standing on the opposite side of the diamond, representing the Illustration Department for the faculty team, was an internationally known illustrator. Nor did I know that his works are in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress. What is unique about him as an instructor and a creative professional is his ability to asked for (and receive) your respect while continuously putting you at ease with his unique brand of humor. Best of all, he is as comfortable being the butt of the joke as he is its creator.

Off the ball field, Regan has been selected to such major exhibitions as the United Nations Environmental Show, the New Pop Show – which toured Europe and chronicled innovators, American Illustration, and The Hiroshima Memorial Design Show. Additionally, his works appear in several books, he has been the subject of many published articles, and his client list (which includes smartdept. inc.) is too long to get into. On the ball field, he was a fierce competitor. And, on the day of our initial meeting, it was clear that he does not like to lose. A high school teammate of Hall of Fame outfielder, Andre Dawson, he is a lifelong sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs and Miami Dolphins (clearly, he likes misery).

As unaware as I was of his creative accomplishments, Dunnick and his band of faculty softballers had even less information about this incoming class of Art School Freshman. It turns out that our group went against the grain. We were, in fact, loaded with kids who were both artistic and athletic. Several of us played ball in high school and lived for the game. I doubt any of us had the sense to give way to the rag-tag group of middle agers who held our creative futures in their gnarled hands. The details of the actual game are a bit cloudy after 30 years. I do recall that nobody was taking it easy on one another and that there was at least one collision at home plate, we were all filthy by games end and the faculty was quite surprised (and irritated) by its defeat at the hands of its new students.

Sadly, that brief moment, at the very start of my 4 years at what is now called Ringling College of Art, is the only common thread that Regan Dunnick and I shared during my studies. He taught illustration, and I studied Graphic Design. I had studio art classes with some very talented instructors, but he was not one of them. I can only assume that learning illustration from Regan Dunnick would be similar to learning stand-up comedy from Jerry Seinfeld. Maybe you prefer Eddie Murphy? Still, that game, which should have been considered an instant classic (later to air on ESPN), was enough for the two of us to acknowledge each other and exchange pleasantries when passing by on the way to classes on the tiny campus. Years later I would reconnect with my old nemesis when we collaborated on the smartdept. inc. bakers dozen anniversary poster. It was during that project that I learned we shared a common interest in our love for the Cubs and about his annual family visits to IL.  Following that successful venture, we collaborated once again to use his handywork for the smartdept. inc. website. We enjoyed sharing stories about our favorite Cubs moments, talking about family, the Midwest and about his infamous pet bird, Mr. Pickles. After all of his success, he is still unassuming, still warm, and still hilarious. I am proud to have his work represented on our website and to have one of his original works on display in my home.

If you haven’t seen the works of Regan Dunnick, I’d recommend you have a look. Just type his name into the Google machine and if you really want to be entertained (and learn more about Mr. Pickles), follow him on Instagram @ibraygunz.

 

By smartdept. inc. Principal, Eric Pairitz

Header Illustration by Regan Dunnick from my personal collection,  Spring Training Spread, 2016 by Regan Dunnick via his portfolio,  smartdept. inc. poster illustrations by Regan Dunnick, 2014

Tips to make the most of your face-to-virtual-face interview or presentation

Working remotely is gaining in popularity and becoming more accepted by the day. Even without the current conditions forcing us all to think differently. I believe companies and hiring managers alike will soon realize what I already know. If the job can be done remotely, your prospective employer will have the opportunity to hire the best choice in the country and not just the best choice in your geographical area.

If you’re interviewing over video (or even presenting), here are some tips to make the most of your face-to-virtual-face meeting. Hang on to this information because there’s a good chance you’ll need it.

  1. Be ready. Set up 10 minutes before the call to work out technical issues with your audio, video, and connection. (You can mute and turn off your video until 2 minutes before to assure yourself it’s working).
  2. Sit in a quiet, neutral area. Check your backdrop – try to minimize visual and audio clutter as much as possible to keep attention on you.
  3. Check your framing. Set the camera at eye level. Pick a well-lit, neutral background. Make sure your computer screen and camera are faced away from direct light. You want directional light towards your face, not coming from behind you.
  4. Dress professionally. Dress as though you were going to an in-person job interview. At least from the waist up 😉
  5. Turn off your phone or put it on DO NOT DISTURB (just as you would in person).
  6. Smile! Just as you would in real life, watch your body language. Sit up straight, talk articulately, interact as you would in-person.
  7. Be Prepared. Have your resume and key points you want to explain in front of you so that you stay focused, on track, and can point to specifics. Be ready to talk about the job, why you would be a good fit, and how your experience translates to this position.
  8. Have your portfolio ready. If possible, have an iPad or another device with your portfolio up (or be ready to screen-share) so that you can seamlessly walk the hiring manager through it and direct them to specific examples.
  9. Practice with a friend. People tend to look at their own video on the screen. Practice looking at the person and getting comfortable seeing yourself and looking at the camera.
  10. Roll with the punches. Much of this is obviously harder in quarantine, so if a child or pet wanders in, make the best of it. We can all relate right now, and being flexible and having a sense of humor is a great attribute for any job.

A post that was 18 years in the making

Hi everyone. My name is Michelle Pairitz, and like many of you, I am currently acting as principal, administrator and home-school teacher to my four daughters (8th, 7th, 5th and 4th grade.) But up until a few weeks ago, my main credentials were being a twenty-year veteran of the staffing industry and the majority owner of smartdept. inc.

It’s difficult to craft a meaningful message that isn’t somehow related to COVID-19 or a Stay at Home order right now. So, to each of you taking the time to read this, I appreciate your time and hope you and your loved ones are safe. And before I get to the good news portion of this post, does anyone remember how to divide fractions? Asking for a friend.

Okay, onto some good news about smartdept. inc. Because we could all use a little right now!

Earlier this year, I was encouraged by one of our largest clients to apply for certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise. This certification affirms that smartdept. inc. is an organization owned and entirely operated by a woman and earning this certification would prove to be no small task. After filling out the initial application, I had the next three months to provide all critical information to tell the story of how smartdept. inc. came to be. This trip down memory lane (and into some very dusty flat files) included everything from sharing our latest financials, contracts with my stamp of approval, rental agreement and equipment lists, to rediscovering the corporate documents we created nearly two decades ago. And everything in between. In addition, I was quizzed on every aspect of our creative staffing business. The goal was to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was in control of every process vital to successfully operating the company.

On the day of my site visit, I was asked to connect all the dots. What was my inspiration for starting the company? What was a typical day and week at smartdept. inc.? How had I helped push the organization forward? How exactly did I get from a two-person staffing company in Seattle in 2002, to a staffing company spanning nationally with thousands of placements?  The conversation was long, but reflective. And it gave me the chance to think honestly about my journey as a business owner and appreciate how my organization, with the help of so many along the way, has been able to achieve some very unique goals.

Michelle pictured with her four girls.

As a woman in recruiting:
When I started this company at 27, I looked and sounded young for my age. (Oh, the good old days!) But I remember struggling to overcome doubters and naysayers – both women and men. And I vowed I would not treat others that way. I earned respect, I gave respect and I lifted others up every chance I got. At smartdept, our culture is based on encouragement and kindness. What we do is more than just recruiting, it’s creating an environment of confidence and support for our clients, candidates and each other.

As a mom:
When I began, I was part ignorant and part fearless, and I am proud of it all. I want my girls to have the same confidence and be fearless in making something happen. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be a company, but I want them to know that anything is possible.

As a business owner:
Some of our biggest clients were my candidates just starting their careers 18 years ago. Long-standing relationships and treating people with respect means everything to me, and to us. We are all humans, and it’s important to really get to know people beyond what position they’re looking for or looking to fill.  We take the time to do that, so each person could potentially work with us for the next 18 years whether they are a client or candidate.

I am proud to report that on Thursday, March 19th, 2020 (at 3pm CDT), smartdept. inc. received its Women’s Business Enterprise certification! It represents so much, and to receive it during Women’s History month made me even prouder.

So, thank you to all who have played a part in our growth and this milestone achievement.

It’s a little something that allows me to pause, to celebrate how far we’ve come, and have hope for better days ahead.

Be safe, be well and best of luck with all the math homework.

Love, Michelle

Welcome to “Hipsturbia” – Millennials are leaving the big city for the suburban lifestyle

Millennial’s coming to age, we all knew it would happen, but what does that mean for business and the creative candidate pool? Millennial’s are approaching a different stage of their life. They are at the age of settling down, moving away from the city to the suburbs to buy a home and plan for a family. Welcome to “Hipsturbia”! (Axios Cities)

While suburban growth decreased during the financial crisis in 2013, Millennials were just graduating college and migrating to big cities like Chicago, where jobs were concentrated. Now, suburban businesses get ready because the millennials are heading back! Suburban organizations of all sizes – start-ups, mid-size, and large corporations need to take the “if you build it, they will come” approach to attract and retain talent.

Millennials grew up in a time of rapid change, which has given them a different worldview perspective on how to conduct business and expectations of the ideal workplace. From the luxury collaborative culture of Google to the free breakfast and lunch buffets at Facebook. Suburban businesses are going to have to think like the big time city-biz and upgrade their work environments – “if you build it, they will come.” Here are 5 benefits/perks to attract and retain Millennials during the Hipsturbia wave.

  1. Remote flexibility/ flexible schedules
  2. Health Insurance/Dental Insurance/ 401(K)
  3. Vacation/paid time off/paid sick days
  4. Maternity/paternity leave
  5. Gym Membership or Wellness programs

Another adaptation of the Hipsturbia wave that suburban companies need to adjust is the speed in which they can identify top talent and on-board candidates. Millennials have taken the act of “ghosting” in dating to their professional endeavors. We are working with a candidate-driven market, Forbes stated: “businesses are reporting anywhere from 20-50% of applicants are pulling no-shows in some form during the hiring process, according to USA Today”. The creative talent pool is already shallow, multiple rounds of interviews and extending the process to longer than a week will present a challenge in winning over top talent against competing companies.

 

– by Heather Gouldsberry

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For more smart insight, industry tips and other tidbits, check us out on Instagram @smartdept.inc.

All Sides – What is the most stressful part of the hiring process?

Welcome to our newest blog! We like to call this an ALL SIDES. That means we asked the same question to three different people to see how their responses compare and contrast. The question — what is the most stressful part of the job search. Our participants represent a hiring manager, a candidate and a smartdept. inc. staff member. Enjoy!

Hiring Manager
“From my perspective, as one of the hiring managers, the most stressful part of the job search is reviewing the resumes and seeing that the skill sets do not match the job requirements. Filling a creative position is difficult and especially challenging when the portfolio isn’t specific to our industry. Although, since we have been using smartdept. inc. as our hiring resource, the resume searching is no longer an issue. Your team is able to filter and screen the top-notch candidates and send them our way!”

smartdept. inc. Staff Member
“As a Creative Account Manager with smartdept. inc., my favorite part of this job is collaborating with clients to identify top talent for their team. In a candidate driven market, it’s critical to have a detailed job description to help successfully fill a position. In order for me to successfully identify top talent it would be ideal to know the skill sets needed, what the top responsibilities of the position will be, the ideal years of experience, budget for the role, a good understanding of the culture/environment and (last but not least) the preferred interview process and start date. When presenting candidates, time is of the essence and feedback is necessary. An open line of communication with my client is essential to customizing a strategic sourcing plan, especially if my candidates are not hitting the mark.”

smartdept. inc. Candidate
“As someone who has been in the working world for many years, I have seen a real difference in the process of looking for a job. When I started my professional journey, it was all about who you knew and how to get your resume in the hands of decision makers. Today, the opportunities come straight to you via online recruitment tools, virtual networking and the internet. But with these new tools come new challenges: the sheer volume of information and opportunities available via digital mediums is overwhelming and misleading. Every day I receive dozens of emails from online recruitment companies listing thousands of ‘real’ job opportunities seemingly curated just for me. While I appreciate access to these leads and the implied ‘foot in the door,’ the reality is that I am one of millions who receive these emails for these same positions. My resume gets placed on top of a big pile along with the other numerous, qualified applicants. In the end, it still comes down to who you know and how to get your resume in the hands of decision makers.”

Conclusion
Building relationships is key in making a successful placement. One of the most effective ways to work through the challenges of the hiring process is through communication. In order to make the best match, it is crucial that the person you are partnering with during this process has all the information. While technology is offering many innovative solutions to finding top talent and new opportunities, the most effective solution might still be to reach out to an expert in your field, take the time to give them the details and trust that they have done the same with people they are considering for your open position.

5 Trends We’ve Seen at smartdept. inc. in Q1

Marketing related roles are on the rise! During the first 13 weeks of 2019 we have seen a wide variety of marketing roles open up for both freelance and direct hire. A few of the titles we have done searches for include Marketing Associate, Marketing Analyst, Marketing Specialist and Marketing Project Manager. It’s a good time to be in marketing!

Healthcare is hot! We have seen a wide variety of creative, interactive, marketing and technology opportunities related to the healthcare field. Our healthcare related clients come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s in retail, advertising or associations, employment opportunities are up in Q1.

First half is prime for senior level opportunities! According to an article published by Monster, senior level opportunities are on the rise during Q1 (and Q2). We concur.

It’s a candidate’s market! Unemployment is at an all-time low and that means we have to work feverishly in order to have success. For us, proactive recruiting will continue to be a key factor for staying ahead under the current market conditions. Our direct hire candidates are available for an average of 10 business days before they find their next opportunity. This means if you identify a candidate that is a good fit, it would be best to act fast!

Company culture is key! Our candidates are expressing that work life balance is high on the list of  things they are seeking in a new opportunity. Additionally, our candidates are seeking some flexibility in schedules, opportunities to work off-site and unlimited PTO

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly if you’d like to discuss these or other trends that smartdept. inc. has observed during the first part of 2019.

Adventures in Bookland

Here at smartdept. inc. our internal Smarties love to learn and grow both personally and professionally through reading. In the spirit of the always popular, “book club” we put together a quick list of our current (or favorite) reads.

So, have a look and share your book! Or, just let us know if you prefer to come to the book club prepared or are you just in it for the snacks!

MINDY MARVIN – National Director of Sales and Strategy
The Way of the HR Warrior by Monica Frede & Keri Ohlrich, PhD. 

Human Resources has immense power to affect an organization’s bottom line as well as its culture, but it gets a bad rap. The Way of the HR Warrior is a guide for HR professionals who really care to demonstrate the true power of the HR department to influence business strategy and the bottom line, especially in the changing landscape of business with a multi-generational and global workforce, the gig economy, the knowledge economy, the rise of conscious consumerism, and increasing regulations.

Why I chose this book – Being in the staffing industry, I was automatically drawn to the subject matter. And I hate the eye roll that often accompanies a conversation about HR. I like the straight forward, honest and conversational tone of the book, and am excited to put the authors’ advice in to practice.


ANDI PAFFORD – Senior Creative Account Manager
Mismatch – How Inclusion Shapes Design By Kat Holmes

Sometimes designed objects reject their users: a computer mouse that doesn’t work for left-handed people, for example, or a touchscreen payment system that only works for people who read English phrases, have 20/20 vision, and use a credit card. Something as simple as color choices can render a product unusable for millions. These mismatches are the building blocks of exclusion. In Mismatch, Kat Holmes describes how design can lead to exclusion, and how design can also remedy exclusion. Inclusive design methods―designing objects with rather than for excluded users―can create elegant solutions that work well and benefit all.

Why I chose this book – Having experience as both a personal who is both a creative professional and a creative recruiter, I was inspired by the subject matter and look forward to sharing it with the creative professionals I connect with every day.


MELISSA IMBROGNO – Creative Account Manager
The Art Of Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

“This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially—statistically speaking—there aren’t any people like that. Geniuses get made once-a-century or so, yet good art gets made all the time, so to equate the making of art with the workings of genius removes this intimately human activity to a strangely unreachable and unknowable place. For all practical purposes making art can be examined in great detail without ever getting entangled in the very remote problems of genius.”

Why I chose this book – Art is in the eye of the beholder. This book addresses coping with insecurities commonly felt by creative people and made me feel like all people should explore (and be proud of) their creativity.


ANNA LARSON – Creative Account Manager
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

America’s most sought-after executive coach shows how to climb the last few rungs of the ladder.

The corporate world is filled with executives, men and women who have worked hard for years to reach the upper levels of management. They’re intelligent, skilled, and even charismatic. But only a handful of them will ever reach the pinnacle — and as executive coach Marshall Goldsmith shows in this book, subtle nuances make all the difference. These are small “transactional flaws” performed by one person against another (as simple as not saying thank you enough), which lead to negative perceptions that can hold any executive back. Using Goldsmith’s straightforward, jargon-free advice, it’s amazingly easy behavior to change.

Why I chose this book –  This book reminded me of the importance of self-reflection and how making time for it can lead to personal growth.


ERIC PAIRITZ – Principal
Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Moneyball is a quest for the secret of success in baseball. In a narrative full of fabulous characters and brilliant excursions into the unexpected, Michael Lewis follows the low-budget Oakland A’s, visionary general manager Billy Beane, and the strange brotherhood of amateur baseball theorists. They are all in search of new baseball knowledge—insights that will give the little guy who is willing to discard old wisdom the edge over big money.

Why I chose this book – Of course, I love this book because it’s about baseball. But more importantly, it proves that, if you take the correct approach, an underdog operating on a small budget can out preform its most powerful competitors.


MICHELLE PAIRITZ – Principal
Dare to Lead by Brené Brow

Leadership is not about titles, status, and wielding power. A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.

When we dare to lead, we don’t pretend to have the right answers; we stay curious and ask the right questions. We don’t see power as finite and hoard it; we know that power becomes infinite when we share it with others. We don’t avoid difficult conversations and situations; we lean into vulnerability when it’s necessary to do good work.

Why I chose this book – I like all of her books. This particular book helped me put being a leader into a proper prospective and challenged me to re-examine my approach to being a leader in my own organization.


APRIL LEVINS – Accounting and Operations Manager
Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi

In 2015 Manoush Zomorodi, creator of WNYC’s popular podcast and radio show Note to Self, led tens of thousands of listeners through an experiment to help them unplug from their devices, get bored, jump-start their creativity, and change their lives. Bored and Brilliant builds on that experiment to show us how to rethink our gadget use to live better and smarter in this new digital ecosystem. Manoush explains the connection between boredom and original thinking, exploring how we can harness boredom’s hidden benefits to become our most productive and creative selves without totally abandoning our gadgets in the process. Grounding the book in the neuroscience and cognitive psychology of “mind wandering” what our brains do when we’re doing nothing at all―Manoush includes practical steps you can take to ease the nonstop busyness and enhance your ability to dream, wonder, and gain clarity in your work and life. The outcome is mind-blowing.

Why I chose this book – The subject spoke to the operations side of my work here at smartdept. inc. And, the author sounded smart on NPR.


COLLEEN FUELLING – Creative Account Manager
The 7 Critical Principles Of Digital Marketing by Kasim Aslam

The 7 Critical Principles of Effective Digital Marketing is an attempt at establishing a baseline for one of the most tumultuous and change-ridden industries in existence. It takes a step back from the strategies and tactics that most digital marketing approaches start with and, instead, establishes a core and foundational structure from which all digital marketing initiatives can and should operate. The 7 Principles are simple without being simplistic and help to align digital marketers with a set of axiomatic, unchanging and foundational beliefs. In fact, these 7 principles may be the only thing about digital marketing that won’t change.

Why I chose this book – I’m interested in the marketing aspect of my job and love researching new ways to improve our marketing.

Book images via Amazon.

EXTRA, EXTRA… Read All About It!

On January 14th the smartdept. inc. will celebrate its 17th anniversary. While it’s not a milestone celebration and nobody will be receiving a gold watch, it is still a proud accomplishment for us. Heck, anything that a person (or group of people) can remain passionate about for 17 years is worthy of mention in my opinion.

Our Mission – I believe our success over the years in routed in our core values. We strive to engage in long lasting, mutually respectful relationships with both the candidates we represent and the clients we service.

My favorite quote (related to staffing) – “I will keep searching for new opportunities, until you tell me to stop.” – Michelle Pairitz, Principal at smartdept. inc.

My favorite memory (related to staffing) – Receiving a heartfelt message, sent from the spouse of a candidate that we had recently placed, letting us know that we had just helped her husband get his dream job.

That never gets old!

Most valuable lesson learned – Always stay engaged with your work and your teammates, and don’t ever take your foot off the gas.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years (that too, never gets old)!

smartdept. inc. gets smart(er)

We’ve made some changes at smartdept. inc., and we’re so happy about them, we want to shout from the rooftops. Or at least here in this blog post.

We’re so pleased with these tweaks, we’ve taken to calling ourselves the smart(er)dept. inc. And when we’re that proud of something, we figure it’s wise to let people know what we’re up to. So, after emailing our key contacts the following news, we lifted the juiciest bits and plunked them into this blog post. (Bonus: referring people to this post may help keep our smarties from getting hoarse when talking with candidates or clients.)

Here are a handful of changes we think you should know about!

Improved Candidate Benefits – We’ve changed our Blue Cross and Blue Shield healthcare enrollment waiting period to 90 days, down from 12 months. I think it goes without saying when it comes to healthcare, offering it sooner is smart(er). We also offer 401(k) through Merill Lynch, but we’ve been doing that for a while now.

Organizational Changes – We’ve added both speed and power to the lineup! April Levins has joined our team as Accounting and Operations Manager. She is diligently working to improve many of our internal processes. Mindy Marvin has also joined our team as National Director of Sales and Strategy. Mindy is working alongside us to help grow our national presence and create strategies to support our growth.

Electronic Timecard and Approval System – Okay, so it’s not that revolutionary. But, technically, it does make us smart(er).

Recruiting Philosophy – We’ve changed our recruiting philosophy, too. I KNOW! Under this updated model we offer the same boutique approach to service locally, while adding the ability to source and recruit nationwide. (Yup, we’re fancy.)

smartdept. inc. Strategy – If explained in detail, this would most likely draw a close comparison to the effects of tryptophan on Thanksgiving Day. Just trust me, it’s smart(er).

If you’d like to find out more about how we’ve gotten smart(er), feel free to drop us a line at getsmart@thesmartdept.com. I’m confident that the minutes we spend together will be a wise investment of your time (see how I didn’t use the term smart(er) there).

smartdept. inc. Seattle moves to the historic Pioneer Building

In case you hadn’t heard, the Seattle smarties just got a shiny new office! We’ve achieved the dream of every couple on House Hunters gotten a new space in our current neighborhood. We even got the elusive open plan kitchen!

We’re now in the historic Pioneer Building on the corner of 1st and James. Don’t let the vintage exterior fool you though, inside we’ve got all the latest amenities including elevators and air conditioning! Our new building can be a little confusing if it’s your first time visiting us so here’s a crash course on how to get to the coolest staffing office in Seattle.

Once you’ve found the building (600 1st Ave), your going to have to find your way inside. At first, you might think the big, fancy doors with “Pioneer Building” written over them are the entrance, but those are just for decoration. The real entrance is the much smaller door off to the side with “Level” written on it.

Once you get inside take the first right you see and then take another right. Now you’re in front of our elevators! They may look old, but don’t worry, they’re very safe. Push the button for the sixth floor and then “door close.” Don’t forget to check yourself out in the mirror on your way up!

Once you get out of the elevator, the hard part is over. We’re across the atrium in Suite 618. You’ll know you’re in the right place because the door says smartdept. inc. and the entrance looks just like in the picture. See you soon!

smartie spotlight: Jennifer in Grand Rapids

I’m Jennifer Wallace, a Business Development Intern. I’m a lucky wife, a doting mommy of two, and an USAF intelligence veteran who graduates from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s in public relations this April.

What got you into staffing? (Or how did you become a smartie?) 
I was assigned smartdept. inc. in my Advertising and Public Relations Capstone course at Grand Valley State University. I researched the staffing industry and smartdept. inc., and formulated a campaign to suit smartdept. inc.’s needs to reach a narrowed target audience in the Greater Grand Rapids Area. When I heard about this job opening, I jumped on it.

Do you have any pets? 
I have a pug named Gidget and an ornery cat named Indiana “Tiny Paws” Jones. They’re both naughty.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 things would you take with you? 
A machete, a hunting rifle with ammo, and a case of whiskey. I would like to survive.

What is the best thing about being a smartie? 
All the people I get to meet and know!

What is your favorite band? 
I don’t have a favorite band, but my favorite composer is Tchaikovsky.

What is your favorite type of pizza? 
Hand-tossed with garlic crust, thick-cut pepperoni, maitake mushrooms, and banana pepper slices.

What is your favorite movie? 
Burn After Reading

What is your dream job (not in staffing)? 
Chief Communications Officer for a large corporation or investor relations practitioner at a public relations firm that operates nationally.

Top tip for any job seeker: 
Apply to jobs you’re passionate about and talk about what facets of that job interest you (and why) during the interview. Being passionate about the job and displaying your knowledge thereof will work in your favor.

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