Lessons learned

ARRRGGH! overlaid on email logo
Image modified from pixabay.com / CCO Public Domain

A brutal email from a co-worker received Friday has been eating away at me all weekend. I’m trying to brush it off. After all, I don’t believe it will have any long lasting repercussions, at least not for me. For her, it will reflect badly for some time.

She was angry, and the emotion came through loud and clear. Actually, the words screamed rage, and her statements came across as marching orders. This commandeering was inappropriate on several levels, First of all, I don’t report to her, and she does not outrank me. However, even if that was the case, it would not justify the harsh tone. In the corporate workplace, professionalism and civility should take priority in all communications. Unless, we’re on a coffee break and chatting about personal matters, the office is out of bounds for emotionally charged talk. Additionally, her boss had already emailed me about the matter and in a more civil tone, so the co-worker’s email was superfluous and came off as a cowardly attempt to distance herself from any shared blame.

Having said that, she had a point. I had handled a situation badly. With a demanding tone of voice that is counter to our company values, she previously asked me to perform a task out of scope for my job. I consulted others for direction who agreed it was in fact her role to execute this but recommended I compromise. As a result, rather than taking a clear position to either decline the request or accept the lead to get the job done, I engaged other stakeholders to get the ball rolling without sharing this approach with my co-worker. This backfired, and I knew there would be pushback. Her manager’s email to me, which included an apology for not setting clear expectations, was acceptable. The co-worker’s email, on the other hand, was over the line.

So, how do I deal with stuff like this and stop obsessing over it? I look for lessons learned from the experience to glean value from it. In the past, I tried to erase such experiences from memory but have since decided that is a futile exercise and a waste of potential opportunity. I prefer to discover a takeaway, now that I have already invested so much time stewing over it. Here’s what I plan to do and not do next time:

  1. Use her email as an example of what not to do should I find myself in her shoes. It is unprofessional, unbecoming, nonproductive and inevitably perceived badly by colleagues and those up the chain who have read it via copy or forwarding.
  2. I should trust my gut instinct about the potential fallout of my own actions and take proactive steps to avoid it.
  3. In the future, I would make it a point to respond decisively, albeit diplomatically, to inappropriate delegation of tasks.

I am also examining my work style. There was a time when I shouldered problem resolution to the point that I didn’t even ask others for advice or support. My approach was: my work, my problem. When I became aware of how frequently others consulted me or asked for help, I decided I had been foolish in feeling that I was always on my own. But I went to the other extreme by following advice I knew, though well-intended, was likely to end badly. From now on, I will look for the middle ground. Using others as a sounding board is fine but in the end, it may be better to use your best judgment based on experience and emotional intelligence to anticipate what will produce the most favorable outcome.

Ace ANY Interview By Treating It Like A First Date

I had to reblog this post, which offers clever analogies between interviewing and dating. I would emphasize the last part. Avoid being a needy date (candidate). HR has the responsibility to fill the position with a superstar. You, on the other hand, can continue exploring opportunities. Who should be sweating?

Healthy Life Perspectives

What are two of the hardest social interactions in life? First dates and interviews. But somehow, approaching the two things the same way can give you better luck in both. Here is how I ace interviews by treating them like a first date:

1. Primping

Never..Ever.. go on a first date or an interview without preparing yourself. By this, I mean that you need to take the time to think about your life experiences and your stories–times when you have grown, and times that have been hard for you and how you overcame them to be the amazing person you are today. Give yourself positive talk, check yourself out in the mirror a couple times, put on your best outfit, and get the show on the road!

2. Bring your best self

Physically and mentally you need to bring your A-game.

Physically, “Dress well test well.” Know what outfit…

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Interview Advice – Just Be Yourself… As Long You’re Being A More Organised, Eloquent, Functioning Version Of Yourself That Is Better Than Your Actual Self In Pretty Much Every Single Way…

The interview process is brutal. I’ve never met anyone who looks forward to it or gets misty-eyed when it’s over. It helps to know you’re not alone and to see the humorous side of feeling exposed and vulnerable, as this post demonstrates so well. It’s so unfair really. In an environment where companies are competing for talent, shouldn’t prospective employees be conducting the interviews and assessing which company would best align with their career objectives?

Some Words That Say What I Think

Growing up and entering the real world can be a confusing and overwhelming process.

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A big part of becoming a fully-functioning adult is finding a job, which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that finding a job can be quite hard.

Sometimes, looking for a job can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack and, when you finally locate the needle, another slightly more qualified person comes along with a big massive magnet.

i_LI

Other times, it can feel like trying to find Wally in a ‘Where’s Wally?’ book.

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But you’re up against a guy who already has contacts in the business.

h_LI (2)

I have been looking for a graduate job for a while now and am therefore quite familiar with the application process.

A lot of job applications begin with a CV.

A CV is a summary of professional and academic achievements but it might be better described as a Verification…

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Are you targeting companies with student repayment benefits? 

I just read an article written by Zack Friedman in Forbes, entitled Student Loan Repayment: The Hottest Benefit of 2017. He lists the following 10 companies that offer student loan assistance as part of their benefit package:

  1. Fidelity
  2. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  3. Aetna
  4. Penguin Random House
  5. Natixis
  6. Nvidia
  7. First Republic
  8. Chugging
  9. Powertex Group
  10. Staples

I see this as an innovative and progressive move for business and hope it becomes a trend. If companies are demanding a higher education, their support in paying back student loans makes so much sense. From a corporate standpoint, it should prove to be an effective recruiting tool. For new graduates, it should bring some relief. Win-win.

Zany interview questions

If you are gearing up for your interview by rehearsing answers to traditional questions like “Why do you think you would be a good fit for this job?” and “Where do you want to be in five years?”, consider shifting your preparation strategy to include questions with a hidden purpose. According to an article published in Business Insider, recruiters may base their hiring decision on your response to questions like these:

  • On a scale of one to 10, how weird are you?
  • What was the last costume you wore?
  • If you were an animal, which animal would you be?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

Companies today want to ensure their new recruits fit the company culture. If that culture includes festive, goofy events, an important attribute will be someone who is productive but also likes to have fun in the workplace. Some organizations foster the work hard/play hard concept. To that end, recruiters would take the interview process in a new direction to glean from the candidate’s answers not only their qualifications but their personality traits.

The lesson here is to do your homework. Research your prospective employer and find out as much as you can about their office environment. If they adorn costumes on Halloween, put on skits and hold pie-eating contests, be prepared to share your lighter side. If the organization is high-energy and innovative, get ready to verbalize your out-of-the box mindset in imaginative ways.

Beware of messages that sound defensive

Today, I had an experience at work that may sound familiar to you. A manager questioned the time it took me to complete a project.

I received an email from a manager asking me to account for my time on a project completed two months ago, requesting a breakdown of the activities and the associated hours worked. It would have been easy for me to go on the defensive and reply back that I simply don’t remember and have never received this request before, but I followed one of my own rules that I want to share. First, do not be quick to respond. Take a deep breath, walk away and think about it. Then come back with a rational state of mind, and put yourself inside the other person’s head.

Keeping in mind that people have their own agenda, which likely has nothing to do with me, I composed a response that conveyed a positive outlook, showed an understanding of the request and provided as comprehensive an answer as possible. I began the email stating that I was happy to offer him the activity details though unable to backtrack on the activity timeline, and then proceeded to list each action I took to complete the project.

Beware of the word “unfortunately.” It sends the wrong message. Just answer the question. Don’t make excuses. Then proofread the email. Walk away, come back and proofread it again, not just for spelling and grammar but for tone as well.

When someone asks you for information and you cannot give them everything they want, give them something. Keep the tone professional and polite. People remember that, in a good way. Going on the defensive only serves to enrage people, and that will come back to haunt you in the end.

 

When & How to Say ‘No’ in The Workplace

This post captures effective pointers for managing special requests that are outside the scope of your regular job responsibilities. One of the concepts I have found to be true is “If you are currently saying ‘yes’ to everything, prepare to be over-worked, abused and irreplaceable. Sadly, irreplaceable means never progressing in your career.”

Kavesha Chetty

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(Pic Courtesy of http://www.pinterest.com)

Over pleasing is as much an unfruitful attribute as idleness. Wherever you lie on the scale between these two extremes, you would have found yourself in the dreaded situation where you would need to cough up the word ‘no’.  In an office situation, the dilemma becomes a lot more complicated.

Are you committing a corporate crime by turning down a supervisor?  And what is the most non-offensive way to do it?  Why would someone rather work themselves to the bone than declining more work?  Some are afraid of disappointing colleagues or becoming unpopular.  Many say ‘yes’ to avoid potential conflict.  The key is not to perceive it as conflict.  It’s not necessary to send yourself on a guilt-trip either.  It is perfectly fine to turn someone down as long as it is gracious.  Take time, consider the request and how it would affect your current workload…

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Why I like writing résumés

Gail's Blog

image of CV, resume and job application Courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I received a nice compliment today from a friend whose résumé I wrote. Referring to an interview he has scheduled next week, he said that my résumés open doors.

I’ve been writing résumés for friends, family and myself since college, and began writing them professionally five years ago. I used to get most of my work through Elance, not so much now that Elance is Upwork. But my friend has been sending me referrals, and his referrals are sending me referrals. In appreciation,I committed to providing him with free updates for life. His field is social services, so as a result, I am developing a niche in that area. I am building expertise in LinkedIn profiles as well. It’s work I really enjoy.

Typically, people don’t realize how much they have to offer until they see it in writing, formatted to accentuate their unique talentand strengths…

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Resumes – for men only

Resume writing – 1940s style. I posted this under Gail’s Blog and thought my mentees would enjoy it too.

Gail's Blog

old article on how to prepare a resume

“The majority of employers prefer to study a man’s résumé before inviting him in for an interview….Remember your prospective employer is a busy man…reach inside your coat pocket or briefcase…”

article

Cleaning out my belated father-in-law’s house has been arduous in many ways. Given his longevity and pack rat behavior, there is an overwhelming amount of stuff to go through. There is an adventurous side to this expedition though. Sometimes I feel like a DeLorean has transported me back to the mid-20th century, a time when men ruled the workplace, exemplified by this article on how to prepare a résumé. Since I write résumés professionally, I swooped this up, read it with askance and giggled.

The sexism and political incorrectness is shocking – or not, considering the advice was probably given in the late 1940s. The article is not dated, but the time period in the sample résumé and the references to work history during the war…

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