Spotlight on Matt Baker

As difficult as it is to follow last month’s Spotlight (Ryan Seelhoff), the Orlando office is proud to put the Spotlight on Matt “the Touchdown Maker” Baker! Matt’s dedication and work ethic is paying off in a big way this year as the Orlando office continues to grow and mature in a very challenging market. When Matt isn’t spreading the good word about Conexess, he facilitates sports training sessions in his home town of Saint Cloud, Florida. Conexess is proud to have this beast of a team player on OUR team!! Go Matt!

Best thing about living/working in Orlando:

Being close to family, and the amazing weather year round.

Favorite part about being a recruiter:

Having the opportunity to help people find the perfect career path.

Nicknames:

Baketrain- I’ve had that name since the high school football days. (Toot…toot!)

What is something you are passionate about?

Fitness and helping develop young athletes.

Little known fact about you:

I have huge addiction to workout sneakers. I must own over 20 pairs.

Best place to eat in Orlando:

Jimmy Bear’s BBQ.

What is your favorite weekend activity?

Boating and spending time with family and friends.

Connect with Matt on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter!

Business Lunch Do’s and Don’ts

Business lunches can be a lot like dates. Oftentimes you are meeting with someone you don’t know very well, you have to dress up, and it’s best to think of a list of conversation topics beforehand. Maybe that last part is just me…regardless, here are a few tips to help you navigate the ins and outs of lunch meetings.

<DO>

Email/phone ahead to confirm the lunch. There is nothing more annoying than showing up to a scheduled lunch, only to receive a frantic call from the person you’re supposed to meet asking to reschedule after 30 minutes of sitting alone in a restaurant. The waiter will think you have an imaginary lunch date, and you will have wasted at least an hour of your time.

<DON’T>

Order the most expensive item on the menu. Be considerate – of the other person if they are paying, or of your company if you are expensing the bill.

<DO>

Dress at or above the level of the person with whom you are meeting. That is the “Golden Rule” at Conexess, and it goes hand in hand with my own belief that it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

<DON’T>

Talk with food in your mouth, be on your phone, chew with your mouth open, slurp your soup – basic table manners most definitely apply. Finishing school not required, but please, be polite.

<DO>

Be direct, but also meaningful when it comes to conversation. You should have an objective for the lunch, whether it is getting to know the person better, or closing a deal. Make sure that you accomplish your lunch goal before going your separate ways.

<DON’T>

Arrive unprepared. Research the person with whom you are meeting, and have any questions, papers, contracts, etc. prepared and with you when you get to the lunch. It is also helpful to tell the person you’re meeting what you’ll be wearing that day to streamline the introduction process.

While following this list of do’s and don’ts won’t guarantee a successful meeting, it will undoubtedly get you on the right track. How do you feel about business lunches – love or hate? Any tips to share? Leave a comment below, and let’s go to lunch sometime!

A Contractor’s Perspective…

The other day I had the pleasure of sitting down with one of our longtime contractors, Keith Beckman. Keith has been working contract positions for the past few years, and when asked what incentives, if any, would cause him to revert to a permanent position, he said “none.” Pretty bold statement considering that he held a permanent role for several years prior to working contract. Initially, it was the fear of the unknown combined with a lack of the right opportunity that gave Keith pause before switching to a contract role. While he said that there is admittedly more paperwork that goes along with working contract (as a 1099 employee), he claims that the perks of “being your own boss” are most definitely worth it. Between the flexibility, and the immediate control that he has over his occupation, Keith wouldn’t change a thing.

I asked Keith the hot button question of what it’s like to work with a recruiter. He very eloquently gave a response, careful not to step on too many toes. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first, shall we? Turns out that Conexess aside, recruiters don’t have the most honest track record (resume tampering, lies about salary, etc.), and tend to cause a lot of “noise” in the lives of candidates. Keith said that he daily has LinkedIn messages, emails, and voicemails from recruiters he does not know. And while it is flattering to be so sought after, it is annoying/frustrating/exhausting to weed through the endless barrage of messages, especially because he is happily employed right now! That being said, he noted that when one is out of work, getting a cold call from a recruiter can be the best part of your day – it is all about the timing. If the call comes in:

  1. Not at dinner time, and
  2. When you need a job,

then it is fantastic! Wonderful, even. One of my favorite things that Keith said was:

“If you haven’t built a relationship with someone, you don’t know what you’re getting.”

At Conexess, we truly value the relationships that we form with candidates. Case in point – Keith is one of many who have been in our pipeline for multiple years, and the relationships that have been formed are genuinely enjoyed by recruiters and contractors alike.

When presented with the opportunity to work as a contract employee, many without experience doing so are hesitant, or flatout refuse to consider making the switch from a perm role. I asked Keith about this recurring phenomenon and he said that having a permanent role within a company is no more stable than having a contract position. Anyone could be fired at any time regardless of the supposed “security” of a permanent role. Keith did note that if you are not a skilled negotiator, and/or don’t have your finances in order, you may want to think twice before working as a contractor. And as far as health insurance is concerned – you are paying for it one way or another, whether it is included as a portion of your set salary, or a policy that you choose and pay for out-of-pocket.

An aspect of working as a contract employee that Keith has come to really enjoy is networking and going to conferences around the country to hone his craft. Attending various networking events and conferences not only widens your social network, but also expands your skill set. If you are a contract employee, going to a conference is a great way to meet someone who could give you your next job opportunity. Be warned that popular conferences sell out quickly! PyTennessee is coming up next month but has already sold out, however they do still have sponsorship slots available.

Ultimately, working contract versus working perm comes down to personal preference and lifestyle choice. If you want more freedom and flexibility, then 2015 might be a great time to take a contract position. If a more structured work environment works best for you, then a “perm” role might be a better option. Just remember, that there is no such thing as a permanent job! Although the verbiage makes it seem that way, an employee can be let go at any time, regardless of the position title. Have you worked both perm and contract roles? Which did you prefer and why? Let us know in the comment section below!

If you are looking to make a career move this year, check out our job postings here, or contact one of our rockstar recruiters.

**A great big thank you goes to Keith Beckman for contributing to this blog post!**

Team Building in the Office

happy hour

Team building. Ice breakers. More than 40 hours a week spent with co-workers. To some, any of those three would bring on a reflexive headache worse than the most painful of migraines; and the thought of combining the three into a collaborative activity sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen. To the people who think that way, I say – you’re wrong! You’ve been misinformed, tricked, fooled into believing that team building is a hassle and a waste of your time, when in fact, it is a critical component when creating a cohesive office environment.

Here at Conexess, a significant amount of emphasis is placed on team building in order to achieve a more familial atmosphere. The crazy thing is that the more team building we do, the more everyone seems to enjoy it, and the closer we all become. Last week, there was a spontaneous gathering in our “pit” area with everyone swapping relationship stories, anecdotes, and advice. I overheard one of my coworkers comment “I love our family time discussions.” Even without years of experience in the workplace, I know that the bonds we have at Conexess are uncommon to say the least. The reasoning behind our closeness is simple:

  • Being a culture fit is a pre requisite to working at Conexess, which means that we all get along on a general level to begin with.
  • Team building activities are built into our annual calendar to ensure that our connections with one another go beyond the walls of the office.

WHY

Let’s go over a few of the basics: why team build? Because even in a sales-oriented workplace, you cannot rely on yourself alone to be successful – you need teammates. Team building exercises build trust, a crucial element of working cohesively with others. They also promote unity within a company, and can be FUN if you know what you’re doing.

WHEN

At Conexess, we plan quarterly bonding activities that correspond with the time of year and type of quarterly contest we have running in the office. Quarterly activities are fun to plan because there is always a holiday/event that can be tied in with the theme of the team bonding. For example: 1st quarter – Valentine’s Day, Super Bowl, March Madness; 2nd Quarter – Memorial Day, Summer kickoff; 3rd Quarter – 4th of July, Labor Day; 4th Quarter – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah. The 4th quarter is an all-star grouping of months, and we like to take advantage of that. Rather than have one big blowout activity, we’ll carve pumpkins for Halloween, have a potluck lunch for Thanksgiving, and a Christmas/holiday party in December.

christmas sillyUSA

In addition to having quarterly team building, we also have annual retreats that last 2-3 days. They focus on brainstorming ideas for the upcoming year, and bring all of our offices (Nashville, Detroit, and Orlando) together for some time of fun and relaxation. Our retreats typically happen in the summer months because we love to be outside. A quick tip is to have a retreat at the same time of year, every year. That way, employees can plan around the retreat, and look forward to it each year.

Birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones are also a great excuse for a small celebration with the team. At Conexess, we like to gather as a team and enjoy a sweet treat to celebrate those occasions.

barile bday

Another EASY way to bond your team is to go to happy hour together! Any day of the week will do, but Thursdays and Fridays tend to have the best response rate…especially if you get out of the office a little early :-). Here is a link to the best daily happy hours in Nashville: http://nashvilleguru.com/best-nashville-happy-hours-and-specials, and in the words of my dear friend, Jimmy Buffett, “it’s 5:00 somewhere.”

WHAT

Since repeating the same activities can be mundane, we try to shake things up when it comes to team building. For the first quarter of 2014 we had a “progressive lunch” where everyone was broken up into groups and assigned a meal course to contribute. After eating, we played board games and went to an early happy hour. The lunch/game combo was great because it got everybody involved, and it didn’t cost Conexess a dime! We went on our annual retreat during the second quarter, which involved a trip to a cabin in Kentucky and time in the sun on a boat…success. Sometimes all it takes to bond a group of people together is getting away from the office for a few days. In that regard, company retreats have been an excellent source of team building for us. Third quarter team building took place on The Redneck Bus Tour, a local attraction that allows guests to bring a cooler with “adult beverages” on board, and takes them on a driving tour of Nashville hot spots. Other team building activities that we have done and recommend are: attend a Nashville Sounds game, attend a Nashville Predators game, go to a pottery studio, have a pumpkin carving contest, take a ride on the Nashville Pedal Tavern, or throw a holiday party (4th of July, Halloween, Christmas). It is always a great idea to support local businesses while team building at the same time!

pedal tavernQ3 Kickoff 014ladies night18

WHO

Ideally, team building activities should include the entire office. However, in larger companies that may be unrealistic. We break up our office in several different ways to team-build throughout the year. The quarterly activities always include everyone at Conexess. Annual retreats are divided into two groupings – one for the operations staff, and one for the rest of the team. Within our sales team, there are smaller groups that work together on a daily basis, and they occasionally have team building exercises on their own. Make sure that everyone in your office is included in a team building exercise in some capacity, leaving someone out unintentionally is a careless mistake that can lead to needlessly burning bridges.

Team building encourages unity within an office, and builds trust through fun and oftentimes, low-cost, methods. When planning a team building activity, it is important to consider when you want to have it, what you want to do, and who you want to be involved. Any budget or timeline can be used, as long as the team is spending time together, getting to know one another on a deeper level outside of the office. Best of luck with your team building endeavors! If you have questions, please leave them in the comments section below.

group pic

Interview Dos and Don’ts: the inside scoop

Working in the IT staffing industry means hard work, long hours, and GREAT stories. Here is a compilation of interview dos & don’ts, anecdotes, and downright ridiculous situations. We hope they tickle your funny bone, and cause you to think twice before your next interview.

  • DO show up for the interview. Common sense? Apparently not. If you have an interview scheduled, don’t bail without any notice, people. Rescheduling with a busy hiring manager is next to impossible, so if you get an interview, don’t blow it off.
  • DON’T threaten to “blacklist” your recruiter. If you have an issue, talk it out. They want to help you, but communication is key. Plus, it’s an empty threat – everyone knows that blacklisting hasn’t been effective since McCarthyism.

**If you walk into an interview and immediately announce that you refuse to work for the posted salary and need X amount more, it makes you look greedy, your recruiter look misinformed, and wastes the interviewer’s time. Refer to previous bullet point – communication with recruiters. It’s a beautiful thing.**

  • DO your homework! Don’t expect to be able to breeze through an interview without even knowing what the company does.
  • DON’T be typing on your computer during a phone interview. The interviewer will either think that you’re Googling answers to his questions, or that you’re a double agent trying to steal his hiring process.
  • DO always bring some form of identification, or else you’ll have to be interviewed in the lobby when you can’t get past security. And that’s just awkward.

**If you choose to get your resume done professionally, make sure that they don’t embellish to the point of lying. It will be extremely uncomfortable for you when the interviewer asks about your extensive knowledge of the Spanish language, and all you have to say is “yo quiero Taco Bell.”**

  • DON’T walk out in the middle of an interview. Even if you get stumped on a question. Stick it out, no need to be rude.
  • DO shower, brush your teeth, and dress appropriately for your interview. Some recruiters have been known to give away their own jackets, and rush candidates in for emergency haircuts before interviews….but it’s always best to be prepared.

The moral of this blog post is to please please please trust your recruiter (especially if he/she works at Conexess 😉 ). If you listen to what they have to say, and can effectively communicate your wants and needs to them, you will be in great shape for landing a rockstar* job!

 

*Disclaimer: not an actual rockstar, we don’t do that kind of staffing.

Welcome to our blog!

Hello, and welcome to the Conexess Group blog! We are so excited to be joining the blogging world, and want to start by telling you a little bit about Conexess. We are an IT staffing firm with locations in Nashville, Detroit, and Orlando. We are passionate about what we do here. We are also passionate about happy hour. And we keep our office stocked with fully loaded Nerf guns at all times. If you follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, you know that we have a lot of fun together – we want you to get in on it too! So, check out our blog, follow us on social media, and come hang out at one of our awesome events 🙂 In return, you’ll get a peek behind the curtain of life at Conexess – buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy wild FUN ride.

To start off, here is an interview with one of our founders, Jerry Baker, that will give you the background of the humble beginnings of Conexess, and a few tips about the staffing world.

After spending many years working for large corporate structured IT Staffing organizations I had an itch to start my own company.  What held me back was FEAR – that four letter word.  Then I met my future business partner Austin Meibers.  After our first meeting I told my wife “Austin is the person I’ve been looking for to start something special”.  The rest is history…

  • What was your inspiration for the idea of the company?

Our inspiration came from what we didn’t like at our former employers.  We wanted to create a company that had a unique culture and that could be agile in growth. Too many of our competitors run their organizations based on ways of the past – one of the worst things anyone can say is “This is how we’ve always done it”. 

  • The economy was in a pretty tough spot when you launched Conexess, how did that factor into your plans?

2009 was a horrible time to start a company.  But Austin and I believed in our vision and, fortunately for us, had overwhelming support from our families.  We couldn’t get a loan so we borrowed money from Austin’s grandmother and she became our Angel Investor.  Of course we paid her back as soon as we could and bought her a nice antique table. 

  • How is Conexess different from any other staffing firm?

Two ways – our people and our culture. Our people are among the best – we have a great process for identifying team members that line up with our core values.  We make sure our team understands the importance of building relationships. Our culture is one of flexibility – we don’t have a vacation policy, we share the fruit of our labors with our team with an annual retreat trip, as well as company wide top producing sales trips.

  • “Trust, humility, and balance” are 3 words that Conexess emphasizes – how did you decide to focus on those words?

During one of our retreats we did an exercise with the team called The Metaplan.  Simply put, we asked our team members for words that captured how they felt best described Conexess Group – that gave us immediate feedback from the team and we narrowed the answers down to three core values.     

  • Number one tip for someone looking for a job

Be aggressive in your search – know your strengths and weaknesses and work your ass off to get the opportunity that lines up with your values. 

  • Why use a recruiter during a job search?

Working with a recruiter allows a candidate to expand their reach in the job market. As recruiters, we are talking to candidates and clients everyday which allows us to get a direct pulse of the market we serve.  We know where the opportunities lie and what companies line up best with the candidates goals.

group pic

Summer Retreat 2014

kisses from conexess

National Milk Chocolate Day ~ (Hershey) Kisses from Conexess

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Q3 Kickoff – all aboard the Redneck Bus Tour!

ConexessAmericanCancerSociety

Sponsoring the Drive Against Cancer Golf Tournament

mi cropped

Our Michigan office goofing around….imagine that 🙂

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The Conexess ladies in the photobooth at our annual 4th of July party