Sweats to Suits Your transition from campus to the workplace


It’s a Hard Knock Life

Annie was the first Broadway character I worshiped. When my parents eventually tired of reading my favorite book, “It’s a Surprise Party for Kate”, they put the Annie soundtrack on my Panasonic tape recorder until I fell asleep.

The lyrics to “Hard Knock Life” (from Annie, not the Jay-Z or Dr. Evil versions) came to mind a few weeks ago during a conference I attended for career advising professionals.  I had the opportunity to view the interactions between Directors and their team members and I also attended sessions which touched on the changing dynamic of the workplace, particularly around generational differences.  My team dynamic observations at the conference were further internalized after three and a half hours of Org. Behavior class, focused on power, influence, and leadership.

Perhaps your boss doesn’t yell at you to make the floors of your workplace “shine like the top of the Chrysler building”, as Mrs. Hannigan did to the girls in her orphanage in Annie, but you have most certainly experienced some level of stress at work related to your boss or your fellow employees (if you haven’t, please let the rest of us know where you work so that we can submit an application).

So what are the qualities embodied by a good manager or supervisor versus a bad one? I of course of have my own opinions, but this time I decided to seek answers from the second most reliable source after Wikipedia – Facebook!  I asked friends and former colleagues to answer this question, (and privately email me their responses) and I’ve included many of their responses below.

My Worst Boss…

definitely assumed he was a level above what he really was…had me do all the work and he took all the credit! micromanaged, like from a rung on a ladder as opposed to being part of the team.

is most definitely the one I have now – Yikes!  I wasn’t expecting this exercise to be so cathartic for some!

did not provide any performance goals and then became upset when we didn’t meet his expectations!

yelled at me (in front of senior management) for forgetting to make a nametag for someone and on another occasion she called me while I was on vacation to ask about the location of nametags.  I HATE nametags!

was a micro manager and extremely anal. She talked down to all. And it was her way or the highway. She put her nose in everything, other departments, other meetings, etc.

she had bad communication skills, she did not listen, and she did not think things through, which set us all up to fail.

she was so stingy with positive feedback, even after I told her it was important to me to hear that I was doing a good job.

she was quick to throw those she managed under the bus, which meant there was no trust.

made two of my employees cry based on his tendency to blow up. He was so bad he single handedly lost the contract that accounted for 85% of the business.

set me on pins and needles every time I took a vacation day, expecting “an emergency” to blow up at any minute.

had ZERO tone and approach.  She was so terse in her communication style that people left as a result of it.

If you have this boss, run screaming to HR: She crossed the line all the time with personal comments. "If you weren't dating him -- I would so hit that!" or my personal favorite mortification -- look at the new bra I got last night!

My Best Boss…

took the time to explain the big picture + details, was genuinely interested in my growth and development, and didn’t mind rolling up his sleeves to help out when workload was too heavy to handle. – AMEN TO THAT!

promoted honesty - it's the best and when it's not there, it's the worst.

let me take on additional responsibility, but made sure I had the resources to succeed – and she ALWAYS gave me the credit for a job well done.

invested time to teach me new skills and encouraged me to get different certifications.

took time to recognize, reward, and celebrate our accomplishments and hard work, like leaving a note on my chair for an afternoon off whenever I wanted to use it.

always remembered what everyone was working on and if we were asked to do something additional -- she would go to bat for us saying something else needed to be moved in priority to compensate. LOVED that she knew how to make others prioritize the "emergencies". :)

took the time to establish rapport with my team before jumping into making process improvements and job responsibility changes.

always congratulated subordinates on a job well done and encouraged them to think outside the box.

Just Funny

wore socks with holes in them - it was just super odd and creepy especially since we are compensated enough to buy decent clothes!

made me go on a wretched Physical Inventory during a peak busy time that was in a not-safe place and then requested that I drive back and work first thing in the morning. (I was made to drive back from a campus in a snowstorm once. I ended up stopping half way back to town at a hotel mid-blizzard and felt NO guilt about treating myself to a fancy dinner and BIG dessert)

set his email notification sound to Chewbacca from Star Wars so it made this horrid sound every time he got an email.

once talked about lip gloss for a half hour when we were supposed to be having a productive meeting.

beat his computer as if he were playing the drums.

is only middle-aged, but acts like an old woman!

Had a nasal voice like Fran Drescher – like nails on a chalkboard!

offered unsolicited personal advice, like how I should meet guys. Eww!

Moral of the Story: Not surprisingly, I received far more “bad boss” responses than responses related to good managers or supervisors.  What does this mean for you? If you do have supervisory responsibility over others, take note of the comments above and think about what you are doing to foster a positive work environment and the steps you are taking to develop your employees.  If you are on the “bottom rung” of the professional ladder, take advantage of the positive moments to coach your boss or offer constructive feedback. If the relationship is beyond repair, start referencing some of my other blog entries about the job search and start networking.  You spend WAY too much of your life at work to be miserable.  Get out there!  Once you do start interviewing again, compose a very good list of situational interview questions to ask your prospective boss before interviewing for your next job.

Career Blunder: You may or may not have heard about Dawnmarie Souza, the woman who was (recently) illegally fired over Facebook remarks.  Although the National Labor Relations Board considered Souza’s comments protected speech, I hope it goes without saying (but it probably doesn’t) that you should not slander your employer over the Internet.  Even making comments as “harmless” as “I’m so bored that my co-workers and I are having chair spinning contests” can be detrimental to your career. For the record, this was a legitimate Facebook post I viewed.  Moral of the story: BE CAREFUL about any work-related comments you put on your Facebook profile.  To be completely safe, don’t ever post anything work-related – shouldn’t you be working at work anyway???


People Who Need People

Blog Post #8: People Who Need People

For those of you who are show tune savvy, I’m sure you imagined that it would not be long before Barbra Streisand made her way into a blog entry title.  People who Need People is a track from Funny Girl, a musical about an actress named Fanny Brice who falls hard and engages in a codependent relationship with a handsome gambler.  I must admit that I never actually saw the musical and only excerpts from the movie, but the song title stuck with me and immediately came to mind during an event I attended this week.  For purposes of the blog, perhaps we can all agree to focus on attributing a positive meaning to the last two lines of the song’s refrain, “People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”

Some of you may have seen my LinkedIn or Twitter posts about the Women for Hire Career Fair and Networking event (http://www.womenforhire.com/career_expos/spring_2010/dallas) that took place in Dallas this past Tuesday.  Women for Hire is an organization (but perhaps empire would be more appropriate) founded by women empowerment expert, Tory Johnson (http://www.womenforhire.com/).  The event mostly catered to women looking for re-enter the workforce after having been out of it for a while, but also attracted an audience of women looking to reinvent themselves.  I was out of Sweats to Suits business cards in the first 20 minutes!  The People Who Need People theme entered my mind a number of times during the speaking engagements I attended, but most prominently before the event even started when my new friend and entrepreneurial inspiration, Jasmin Brand, invited me to the event AND provided me with free VIP access to Tory’s speech, i.e. I did not have to pay the $20 for Starbucks nor pre-register via the website.

My most favorite part of the day occurred when I serendipitously sat down next to Jasmine’s sister for Jasmin’s spiel on utilizing social media to make the most of your job search.  Upon introducing myself, she said, “oh girl, we love you and we need to have a party to watch Working Girl.” We became fast friends as well!  I should also share that additional positives coming out of the event were that I was able to get myself on a list to speak or serve as a resume reviewer for next fall’s event AND…Tory Johnson (HERSELF!) replied to an email that I sent to her organization requesting information on her retreats for small business owners.  I’m not sure that I’m her target audience, but I certainly hope she keeps my name on her radar!

At this point, I’d like to share most of the pearls of wisdom I gleaned from Tory and Jasmin’s wise words. This is a LONG entry, but I was hesitant to be too particular about what I share given that I have a mixed audience of readers.  I hope you find some of these thoughts useful regardless of where you are in your own career path (and that you’ll forgive me for using recycled material rather than Joy original work!).

Highlights from Tory Johnson’s Key Note Address

  • The bitterness of your unemployment situation can keep you from succeeding in your search.  Embrace the reality and use it to move in a new direction by starting with a blank slate.
  • Treat your job search process with the same degree of precision as you would if you were ordering food in a nice restaurant, e.g. you would not just ask the server to bring you any food and therefore you should not just accept any job because it is gainful employment.
  • Think back on your experiences (work, personal, etc.) to try to get a sense of when you felt most happy and passionate about what you were doing and use that to drive your job search.
  • Author Daniel Pink encourages his followers to ask themselves two questions.  He shares that if you want to find your true motivation you should first ask yourself, “What’s my sentence?” He goes on to say that you should think about your sentence and use it to navigate your life.  The second question to ask yourself is, “Was I better today than yesterday?” suggesting that incremental progress contributes to improvement over time.  Check out this video on Daniel’s website to see where the inspiration for these questions originated: http://www.danpink.com/archives/2010/01/2questionsvideo.  Tory suggests focusing on what you can build on and on what you can learn from the mistakes you made from the previous day to be better the next day.  By the way…Tory’s sentence is related to women’s career empowerment.  I am still working on mine J
  • When embarking on your job search you should pack your schedule full of activity and work toward specific, deliberate goals so as not to lose yourself in errands and other competing priorities.
  • Most people use the internet to search for jobs, but they take the “spraying and praying approach”, meaning that they simply post their resumes for jobs of interest and wait (and pray) for a call from a hiring manager.  Job seekers should allocate 40% of their time to internet, but to spend the vast majority of that time utilizing social media rather than relying solely on job search engines. Internet job searching and posting gives us a false sense of security because we can quantify what we’ve done.
  • Use the company profiles on Facebook and Twitter to conduct organization research and to source potential contacts.  Check out Tory’s tutorials on utilizing Twitter and LinkedIn for your job search: http://abcnews.go.com/gma/jobclub.
  • Connecting with like-minded people via social media can help you get your foot in the door.  Check to see if the companies you’re interested in have a Twitter following.  Find people talking about what you’re interested in and share ideas, tactics, and advice from your experience.  Start building your brand and your on-line presence if you haven’t done so already.  Reconnect with old friends and colleagues via LinkedIn to broaden your network and then make a list of people you should connect with based on the direction of your job search.
  • Join a local job club to garner support from others in a similar vocational mindset.  Check out this story on the Collin County (north of Dallas) job club: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/JobClub/story?id=6150326.  You need support and comradery when circumnavigating the job search.  The AA and Weight Watchers nature of these clubs can provide much needed motivation.  As an aside, this topic provided additional inspiration for the People Who Need People blog entry title.  I am thinking about leading a job club in the Dallas area.  I just hope it’s not required to be weird and quirkly like every other Weight Watchers leader I’ve ever met.
  • Temporary jobs are the #1 source of new work in today’s job market.  Temporary employment is great for filling a gap in your resume and earning an income while searching for a job. It should be a part of your strategy while seeking permanent employment.
  • Volunteer strategically and join associations related to your industry or field of interest
  • Temporary employment, strategic volunteering, and involvement in related associations allow you to position yourself as someone in control of his/her job search and it allow you to focus potentially uncomfortable conversations around what you are “doing” rather than just speaking to the fact that you are looking for a job.
  • If you are not a natural networker, strongly encourage yourself to introduce yourself to three people at the next networking event you attend (and they should not be part of the staff or crew).  Many women find it challenging to sell themselves and to self-promote, but it does get easier with practice.
  • It is hard for women to ask for something and much more likely for us to give.  The moment will never be perfect, so ask when the moment is “good enough”.  Most people (women especially) like to help others.  Keep this in mind when you have reservations about asking for guidance and support.
  • If you are “overqualified” be prepared to respond and to probe into why the hiring manager may be concerned.  Be ready to share experience you have working for people younger than you and address experience you have which highlights your sense of loyalty.  Anticipate, rehearse, play devil’s advocate, but DO NOT ignore the fact that you could be perceived as overqualified.
  • Train yourself to become a strong negotiator.  Check out the statistics and advice from the authors of “Women Don’t Ask”, Linda Babcock and Sarah Laschever, on this website: http://www.womendontask.com/stats.html

Highlights from Jasmin Brand’s Seminar: How to Make Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook Work for You in Your Job Search

  • Check out these social media stats:
    • 400 million people are on Facebook each day
    • 60 million people are registered on LinkedIn
    • 18 million people access Twitter at least once a month and most companies have a Twitter feed as well
  • Social Media Action Items
    • Best Practices by Social Media Site
      • Twitter:
        • Use the search function in Twitter to identify jobs, news, and associations relevant to your job search.
        • Visit www.search.twitter.com for industry specific key words and phrases.
        • Add people and companies of interest to your following then tweet away (no more than 140 characters at a time).
        • Set your email preferences so that you are notified when someone is following you or replying to one of your posts.
        • Update your status to let people know you’re looking for work.

        • Linked In (I added a few of my own here):
          • Complete your full profile, which is made incrementally easier if you upload your resume to the site.
          • Build your network – start with 10-15 people you know well and then “invite others to the party”.
          • Hiring managers use LinkedIn to search for candidates and to get a preview of their background.  Ask for recommendations and offer to recommend others with whom you have worked.
          • Use the search function to learn about companies and the employees within them.
          • If you are eventually selected for an interview, search for your interviewers’ profile(s) to help prepare specific questions you can ask when you meet in person or over the phone.
          • Join as many relevant LinkedIn groups as you possibly can to broaden your network of connections.
          • Don’t be afraid to connect to people you haven’t spoken to in years.  LinkedIn can bridge long gaps in contact without the awkwardness of making a re-introduction.
          • Add your LinkedIn site to your email signature.  It is the last line in the blue box of important information called Public Profile within your profile screen.
          • Facebook
            • It is better to use Facebook strictly for business or strictly for social purposes (i.e. make the tough choice if you are on the job market).  If you must keep your social profile, adjust your privacy settings.
            • Limit your posted photos and consider asking friends not to post photos of you without your permission.
            • Be selective about accepting friend requests.
            • Add Facebook Marketplace to your list of search engines for job-seeking: http://apps.facebook.com/marketplace/
            • Post an ad for yourself to increase your chances of getting noticed.

Brief Career Blunder for this Week: “There’s No Crying in Job Hunting”

Several years ago, I attended an all-university career fair at one of the campuses where I recruited students.  At one point during the fair, I was approached by a woman who introduced herself and shared her entire life story, concluding by telling me about the completely unrelated Masters degree she was in the process of earning.  Mind you, this happened before I moved to Texas and before I absorbed some of my husband’s excellent active listening skills (e.g. before I developed the mental fortitude to listen to anyone for long periods of time), so my patience was growing very thin at this point.  I finally was able to interrupt her to explain that her degree and experience were in no way related to the type of positions we were recruiting for.  Even though I tried to be as polite (yet direct) as possible, my words somehow triggered an eruption of emotion and a waterfall of tears came streaming down her face.  I don’t think I realized it then, but perhaps this was what started me down the path of career counseling.  I took this woman (who was easily twice my age, by the way) aside and tried to advise her as best as a 23-year-old with limited work experience could and then I sent her on her way.  I’d like to think that she is now working in a tranquil environment like a nature preserve or ashram.

Moral of the Story:

Job hunting can be a challenging and emotional process.  Keeping a positive attitude and finding healthy ways to relieve stress during this time are absolutely critical to maintaining one’s mental sanity.  Exercise, pleasure reading, and spending social time with others can help give your mind a break from the mentally taxing act of looking for a job.  Perhaps most importantly, however, you need to find a strong support network so that when rejection happens (and it will) you will be prepared and can address it head on instead of experiencing an avalanche of emotion akin to Old Faithful.