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.

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.

uvghv

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.

g

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…

View original post 326 more words

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.

Interview questions

In her LinkedIn post, Smart Answers to Stupid Interview Questions, Liz Ryan made me laugh and sigh with relief. I’ve experienced interview questions that made me feel dumb and it was refreshing to read how she turns the tables.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” always irked me. Ryan’s suggested response is perfect: “In five years I see myself happily engaged in projects that excite me, working among smart and supportive people. Is that the kind of environment you have?”

I also like the idea of tagging a question onto an answer. This keeps the discussion moving and drives the interviewer to give, not just take, information.

Advice from Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, and Suzy Welch

This LinkedIn post, Dear Graduate, Here’s How to Get in the Game, offers pointers to graduates that extend beyond the usual resume writing and interview skills:

    1. Seek the juncture of your strengths and passions rather than focusing on the compensation. The money will come.
    2. Before the interview, study the company well enough to be conversant on what matters to them.
    3. Benefit from your parents’ experience in communicating with professionals. Let your parents (or in my opinion, a mentor too) help you plan what to say, how to dress and how to follow up after an interview.

Congratulations class of 2015!

How to work a boring 9-5 job without losing your soul or your mind.

Don’t despair if you don’t land your dream job. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. It doesn’t mean you can’t be happy though.

Almost L-I-V-I-N

Or 8-4:30. Or 12-9. Regardless the schedule, some jobs seem to kind of suck. It’s not your “dream job”, not even in your “dream” field, but you have rent to pay and wine to buy so you’ve got to deal.

almost livinI’ve been working since high school. Got my first job at 17, working part-time at the local pharmacy. That’s 10 years of experience in dealing with this subject. I didn’t love that job and I haven’t loved a job since.

Working for so long and being the analytical type, I’ve learned a lot. A lot about myself and a lot about others, and I wouldn’t hesitate to call myself an expert at reaping the full benefits of working any job whether you like it or not. I’ve lost my soul at jobs before. I’ve lost my mind too. It sucks.

So, if you’re miserable at work and that misery is…

View original post 944 more words

You can do it!

two business women shaking hands
Image courtesy of patrisyu by FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”
– Richard Branson

 

 

When I read Richard Branson’s quote, I thought of opportunities I passed on because I didn’t have as much confidence in myself as someone else had in me. Ranging from assignments that had the potential for positive exposure, to freelance work I thought was too much of a stretch, I avoided scenarios where the possibility of failure loomed overhead.

It’s not that I never took a risk or challenged myself, but when I did the decision came from within. External confidence expressed by others was the core of the issue. This reminds me of the Groucho Marx quote, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” If someone thinks I’m worthy, does it mean they know me better than I know myself or they’re not as smart as they seem?

Branson’s quote reminds me that high achievers weren’t born that way. Likely, an undercurrent of tenacity, luck and timing propelled them to the pinnacle of success. I would make a conjecture that along the way there were times when these superstars were ill-prepared for the task at hand; that trial by fire set the course for the day; that they exposed themselves to risk; and that someone else took a risk by investing in them, their product or service.

Fear of failure prevails when there is an illusive notion that successful people are on a higher plain, elevated and showered with angel dust by the success fairy who passed over the rest of us. The realization that this is a delusion hits me when I meet professionals who lack professionalism, managers who cannot manage and executives who fail to execute. When I have a negative experience with someone at the top, it serves as a reminder that there’s room for me in the club of success. Maybe, it’s not an exclusive club after all. This is not meant to downplay what accomplished people have attained, but to bolster those who are reticent when invited to join the desired club that would have them as a member.

The next time someone I respect offers me an opportunity that leaves me dubious about my capability, I vow to err on the side of imprudence rather than caution, and tell myself, “You can do it!” How about you?

Turning the table on the interviewer

As a big fan of interviewing the interviewer, I recommend preparing carefully constructed questions for the end of the discussion that demonstrate your knowledge, interest in the position and critical thinking.  Find sample questions in my FAQ page.

Many job applicants squirm at the thought of the dreaded behavioral interview. Turning the table by asking the recruiter to give you examples of various scenarios enables you to probe and evaluate key information about the potential opportunity. These questions also send the message that you are an active participant in the process rather than someone who is meekly waiting in the wings for a job offer. The decision-making process works both ways.

Share your comments after you read the examples of reverse behavioral questions suggested in 7 Lies Employers Use To Trick You Into Working For Them.

 

 

Keep your resume updated even after you land a job

Congratulations! You landed the job of your dreams, or perhaps a stepping stone in the right direction. Now you’re thinking, If I never write another resume again, it will be too soon. I know how you feel, but don’t be so quick to bury this job search tool in the bottom of a dusty drawer.

Though some believe the resume is dead, buried by LinkedIn and other sites that offer online profiles, traditional resumes still have value. They are requested by hiring managers for prospective employees as well as internal promotions even if you post your entire work history online. Updating it while details are fresh on your mind is the easiest way to keep it current. You never know when opportunity will strike, either within or outside the company.

The best resumes go beyond generic job functions, delineating key achievements. Add a section to your resume if not already present, entitled Key Achievements or Highlights. Then, when you are assigned to a special project or task team, earn an award for top customer service or sales results, or initiate an idea that improves processes or saves the company money, add a statement or two in that section. Also, remember to add a section for professional affiliations, industry-related enrichment courses and certifications.

An additional benefit to updating a resume is to ensure that career track changes are reflected on paper. For example, if you are a human resources practitioner who started out in recruiting, but veered off into the benefits function, add that dimension to your profile statement and work experience. Depending on your next career step, tweak the resume to place more emphasis on the portion of your job history that correlates with your targeted role.

Save the document to your desktop or a career folder, so it’s handy and not easily forgotten. Even if you hire a professional to develop it, having all the descriptions and dates recorded will expedite the process. Not only will documenting newly acquired knowledge, experiences and successes enhance your resume in real time, but it’s like giving yourself a pat on the back. We could all use a little reminder now and then of what we have accomplished.