February 21, 2009 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Don’t burn bridges, no matter how aggravated, provoked, or justified you believe yourself to be. It isn’t worth it. To illustrate, read on. I’ve changed the employee’s name but not the story:
Karen was ticked. In a major way. The manager that she had worked so hard to please had passed her over for promotion. Not once. Not twice. But three times. And three times was the charm. She decided she was going to leave and she wasn’t going quietly. She handed in her letter of resignation along with a request for an exit interview. Her boss said that he accepted her letter with regret, she had been a long time employee who had done her job quietly and efficiently. She had a stellar attendance record and never gave anyone a moment’s trouble. He asked why she wanted to leave the company. Karen said that she preferred to handle that in an exit interview with Human Resources. He immediately granted her request.
The HR manager echoed the bosses sentiments, and asked Karen if there were anything she wanted to say in leaving.
Karen said that there were several things. And with that she let ‘er rip, fueled by feelings she had bottled up for years. The more she talked the more emotional she became. She ranted, she raved, she yelled and she cried. She described the times that she had gone beyond reasonable expectations of the job and received neither compensation nor commendation as a reward; the times that she had asked for transfers to positions that would take her to different levels and pay grades, and her requests ignored. She described taking work home and neglecting family obligations, all in an effort to please her boss. She said that despite co-workers she disliked, managers she didn’t respect, and customers who could be rude and at times abusive, she soldiered on, for the good of the company.
When she was finished, exhausted, and out of breath, she rose to leave. The HR manager thanked her for her candor.
Karen left with a sense of freedom and relief. After a few day’s rest she began her job search with characteristic quiet efficiency. Her resume was understated but impressive. She went on several interviews but nothing came of them. She was confused and disappointed. The hiring managers were impressed by the depth and breadth of her experience and said so. They indicated that they would check references and get back with offers. None were forthcoming. What was going wrong?
Karen did some investigating and discovered that reference checkers were told she had been a good employee with a strong work ethic and excellent attendance record. When they asked if her former company would rehire her, the company representative indicated they would not. The record stated that she had not shared professional concerns in a timely manner and had demonstrated excessive emotional responses to professional set- backs.
Ouch. Those moments of unchecked, uncensored feelings cost Karen a bundle. Was it worth it? Let’s ask her.
“Since I was leaving the company, I thought that it was safe to unload in the exit interview. I had almost looked forward to it. I was going to say all the things I didn’t have courage to say for the five years that I worked there. I didn’t realize that my comments or conduct in that meeting would affect me in the future. The last thing I was thinking of was a reference. I just knew that I was angry and they were going to know it.
I realized my mistake once those references came back. Thankfully, I was
able to do some damage control. I called HR and my former boss and told them both that I realized how emotional I had been in my exit interview and I apologized for my lack of professionalism. I thanked them for the opportunity to work for them and that I had learned a great deal from the experience, which was true. They were very gracious and said that they appreciated my call.
I wish that I had been more open about my frustrations when there was time to do something about it. Lesson learned. I’ll know better in the future.”
February 21, 2009 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
A recent caller wanted to know if she could blame the economy for her inability to find work. I told her that if it made her feel better to do so, please, be my guest. She said that it didn’t. She wanted to somehow get past the fact that there were so few jobs and so many people looking for them.
“I’m not a spendthrift,” she said. “I have bills to pay and no way to pay them unless I dip into savings. What can I do to get a decent job?”
We talked about her search and the obstacles she’s encountered. Much of what we discussed had universal application so I asked if I might share the conversation with you. She agreed.
Obstacle: How can high school grads compete effectively when compared to college graduates?
Key word: Self-confidence. In this market, most companies are under the gun to keep expenses down and production up. They want to hire employees who can hit the ground running, who are as efficient as they are effective. They look for people who can combine strong work ethic with high- octane performance. In other words, if you can sell yourself as energetic, focused, and flexible, with a track record to match, you are competitive.
Obstacle: How can you overcome a bad case of interview-jitters, particularly when you’ve always been scared of authority figures?
Key word: Focus. Authority figures scare most of us. The trick is to remember that you’re a responsible adult, not a dependent child. The person sitting across the desk or standing across the room hasn’t the moral or legal authority to judge your beliefs or your behaviors unless you give them that right. They may approve or disapprove of your actions, but you get to choose what to do about it.
Focus on what you’re there to accomplish. Tell your story and don’t get hijacked by your emotions. Ask good questions. The best questions enable the interviewer to describe the challenges the company and department must confront and what they need and expect from their best employees. Then, respond according to your strengths and abilities.
Obstacle: When responding to ads, whether in print or the internet, I know I’m going up against hundreds of people who are as anxious for that job as am I. How can I move to the head of the line?
Keyword: Network. People who position themselves ahead of the crowd rely on and dedicate at least 80% of their search time to networking. Networking contacts can introduce you to decision makers who get you in the side door without your having to wait in line. Here are three examples of how it works: 1. Talk to people who work where you would like to work or know people who work there. If you don’t know who they are, (I realize they don’t walk around advertising the fact) ask people you know to help you find them. Next: tell the person why you’re interested in that particular company (have a few good reasons) and ask who you might speak to, to learn more about opportunities there. Note: you didn’t ask for an interview. You want a “conversation” to determine that there’s a match between what they need and what you do. 2. Talk to people who are supervisors or managers in their respective places of business. Describe what you do best and ask them for recommendations as to where you might look and with whom you might speak. 3. Talk to people you know personally and with whom you have a great deal in common. Describe what you do best, which, to no great surprise, is what they do best. Ask them to brainstorm with you regarding job possibilities and, hint, hint, who would be good personal leads for you to contact.
Obstacle: What can you do when you’re your own worst enemy?
Key word: Affirmations. Negative self- talk does you more damage than what anyone possibly could think or say about you. Believe in yourself, and say so. Believe that each encounter you have, each meeting, each interview, is a positive opportunity for something good to follow, and tell yourself so.
February 20, 2009 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Fear of failing. Fear of succeeding. Doubt, worry, and anxiety can take over the best that’s within us. We vacillate, falter, and dither over basic decisions and necessary actions. We disappoint ourselves and those we care about most.
“What if I try and don’t succeed? They’ll know I’m a loser. I’d rather let others think I have potential than take a chance and fail.
I’m not happy with my job and I take out my frustrations on people at home and at work. I look around and see friends and co-workers with much less talent and intelligence than I have, getting promoted. I resent their success and know that the only difference between us is that they have courage to sell themselves and I don’t.”
As a career counselor I have the opportunity to work with a wide range of individuals whose needs and goals are as varied as the positions they hold and those they want to attain. The subtle difference between those who succeed and those who fall short exists in the gap between “I can” and “I can’t”. Those on both sides of the emotional divide possess innate gifts. Those who manage to cross over have the confidence that comes from having survived earlier set- backs.
Many people who insist that they haven’t the courage to try have forgotten that they’ve been tested in other ways: some have passed tests of physical strength and human endurance; others have overcome mental and emotional challenges, destructive life styles, and abusive backgrounds. They’ve prevailed over circumstance and succeeded. Yet, when faced with the work place challenge of reaching for more, they step back from the edge and say, with one voice, “I can’t. I’m not ready.”
Parents, friends, co-workers and supervisors, no matter how they try, can’t motivate those who won’t motivate themselves. They can, however, create environments that allow, and sometimes demand, pro-activity from those least apt to step up.
For example: It takes self- control for enablers to stop “doing for others” so that others can learn to do for themselves. It takes self -restraint for managers to stop insisting that their way is the only way, so that others can stretch and grow by making mistakes and learning from them. It takes self- discipline for supervisors who think fast and act faster to stop long enough to allow others time to learn by doing. It takes self-confidence for leaders with all the answers to ask the questions instead, and challenge others to think independently and creatively.
When we insist on doing the work of others we limit their potential. We create transparent, porous cocoons that are neither practical nor protective. We increase the vulnerability of those we seek to protect.
It takes courage to walk away from the shelters that well meaning others provide for us: Food, lodging, expense accounts, cars and insurance from parents who have an overarching need to protect their offspring from the vagaries of life. Inflated performance reviews, even salary increases from bosses who haven’t the fortitude or won’t take the time to give honest appraisals and plans for improvement.
Without realizing the consequences until too late, we needlessly encourage co-dependent relationships. We thoughtlessly protect others from the realities of hard work, earning ones way, and failing, because it’s part of living. It takes will and strength and courage to face adverse conditions that are sometimes inexplicably set in our way. And to keep on, keeping on.
The solutions aren’t easy or pleasant. They require courage of conviction and a sense of purpose and proportion that the end goal will justify the means to get there. Either the grown child will have the courage to create his or her reality by letting go of what’s easy and available; or the parent and employer will cut the cord of safe harbor and accompanying comfort that continues to rescue the adult who’s in no danger in drowning. In the best of cases, the decisions are mutual and the methods consistent.
Of the clients that I see, almost all want one thing above all others: they want to believe that they have a purpose on this planet and can make a difference during the time that they’re here.
February 20, 2009 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
“Who are you?” I asked. “And what did you do with the person I knew?”
We both knew the answer. Will had lost his job and his way back to security. He was devastated by a lay off he knew was coming but took no action to avoid.
The Will I had known in better times had been fun, feisty, and full of energy. Now he looked lifeless. The switch was off and the lights were out. He said he was finally ready to talk about it:
“I went to work every day as though nothing was wrong. I think most people were like me; not wanting to talk about what everyone was thinking. If we just kept it to ourselves, maybe there was a chance that the plant wouldn’t close and our jobs would be spared.
“ A few people left the company as soon as rumors started floating. We didn’t ask where they went. We didn’t call them and we didn’t talk about them.
“I ran into one of those guys a few weeks ago, and asked him how he knew to get out before things got bad. Why didn’t he believe, as we did, that the owners would turn business around like they had so many times in the past?
“His response surprised me. He said he needed to leave the company if he were going to take charge of his life and career. He could no longer limit his potential by someone else’s luck, timing, or intelligence. He knew the owners were going to have to make tough business decisions and so would he. He said he had goals to achieve and he had a better chance of accomplishing them with a company that had a future.
“I asked him ‘what about loyalty?’ What about all those years he had invested in the company and the company in him. Wasn’t that enough reason to stay?
“He said that he was loyal. He had done all that he was asked, and more. The company compensated him, and treated him well. ‘I figured we were even’, he said. ‘I left with no hard feelings. They asked me to stay on, even offered me more money if I would. I had to choose for me. We shook hands and wished each other well.’ ”
“And so”, my client said, “here I am. What do I do now?”
“What do I do now?” is the question that hundreds of bright, hardworking, frustrated un-employees are asking every day. Let’s begin with a little career philosophy:
Let go of the “shoulda, woulda’, coulda’s” you’re carrying around. You made the best decision you knew how to make. That was then, this is now. You’ve had a few new lessons and if you were paying attention, you learned from them.
Once you’re back on the job, track your accomplishments every week and update your resume accordingly. Make networking part of your every day routine. Keep up with what’s happening in your industry, business sector, and company by reading the trade papers, talking to industry insiders, and connecting with recruiters who are industry specialists.
Here’s what you can do now: Meet with career advisors to review, refine, and refocus your resume as well as your job search and interview strategies. They’ll drill you on the questions you’re apt to be asked and those you’d be wise to ask in return. They’ll role play with you so you can get used to answering the tough questions and the ones that come out of left field.
Attend job search support and network meetings to rehearse, re-energize, get and give encouragement, and realize that you’re not alone in all this.
Network, network, network. Tell people exactly what you do and how you can make a difference to a company. Ask for ideas, suggestions, recommendations of business owners, managers, or supervisors who might be interested in what you can do for them.
Take charge of your life and your career. Take action. Follow through. Make things happen. Take care of yourself. Get a check up. Exercise. Eat right. Get rest. You’ll be surprised at the positive effect the combined effort has on your confidence, self worth, and potential for success.