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Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Job hunting is an uphill climb already, but there are times during the process when the odds truly seem stacked against you. When this happens, it can be very tempting to throw in the towel. See what Tina* and Ulysses* did.

When Tina* approached me about beginning her job search, she was wary and explained that she didn’t like the process of looking for a job.  This wasn’t so unusual, and I tried to discover which part she found difficult:  Crafting her resume?  The interview?  Selecting positions to apply for?  Getting her to respond to my questions turned out to be the hard part, and took more investigation than usual.

It turned out that what was really the most difficult part of job interviewing for Tina was dealing with her sister throughout the process.  Whenever she had decided in the past to conduct a job search, Tina found that her sister’s remarks were so negative, critical and hurtful, that she ended up taking the first thing she could – simply to be done with everything.

“This time,” Tina explained, “I’d like to take the best offer – not the first offer.  But I’m not sure how I can hold out, with my sister’s constant criticism.”

Although my first suggestion was that Tina simply not tell her sister that she was conducting a job search at all, this wasn’t feasible, since she would probably need to ask for her help with babysitting during some interviews.  However, we did decide to delay mentioning the job search until at least the first interview, and downplay everything as much as possible.

In the past, Tina would share her excitement – and disappointment – each time.  This time, her sister wouldn’t have the opportunity to elaborate on anything.

When Tina’s sister finally became aware that she was interviewing and began engaging in her familiar patterns, asking for details, Tina responded as we had rehearsed, by providing very minimal details, with as little description as possible:  “Oh, it’s hard to say.”  “We’ll see.”  “You never know.”  “I’m just going to give it a try.”

When prodding her for further information didn’t work, Tina’s sister attempted to provoke her, as she expected: “Well, when you’re ready to hear the truth, you let me know!”

Tina was prepared this time, and refused to engage in these battles, keeping her eye on the ball.  “Uh, huh.  Gotta go now.  Talk to you later.”

Spending more time and energy on her job search – and less effort fighting with her sister – allowed Tina to select the right job, as she wanted, and not merely the first job that came along.  It took nearly a year, but she is much happier not only with how she was able to Fix It! with her new position, but also in how she now stands up to her sister.

Ulysses* had gotten an interview with an organization he would be pleased to work for in a neighboring city.  He was also impressed, because, although it was a nonprofit, they had offered to pay for his travel expenses.  He hadn’t seen this offer made before at the middle management level, merely for interviews, and figured it was a designation of professionalism that marked this organization as being special.

The first interview went well, as Ulysses met with a couple of people on the development staff.  In addition to the typical interview questions, they asked him specific questions about how he would conduct campaigns for the organization, and handed him their latest direct mail piece, wanting to know his specific opinions about it.

Ulysses, eager to impress his potential employer with his skills, rattled off a variety of items that were good, as well as several that could be improved, and noticed that the assistant director was taking notes furiously.

Later, he was called back for a second interview, which included meeting several more staff members.  Ulysses was pleased that his previous performance put him into the final cut, and planned on showing more of his talents, in the hope of being selected as their newest staff member.

His final meeting of the day was with the Director of Development, who made a point of sharing with him some very specific (and “proprietary”) budget figures, and asking him to strategize – given that “this is our current situation,” where they should focus their efforts next.

Ulysses was quite excited, thinking that surely he was going to be hired, because this type of information was not really something to be shared with a candidate, but really with an internal employee!  If the director is seeking his expertise, he must have already decided to hire him!

Ulysses responded to the question about where the next campaign strategy should focus, as well as some other thoughts, and then finished the rest of the interview.  He went home feeling quite good.

Then a week passed.  Then another week passed – and no word from the organization came.  At all.

Finally, the HR Director contacted Ulysses and told him that the Director of Development had done some “further research” on him and concluded that he really wasn’t “at the level” of fundraising that they needed, and that they were going to open up their search once again.

Adding insult to injury, she said, “So, you don’t need to apply.”

Ulysses felt very deceived!

“For one thing,” he said, “I don’t know what ‘further research’ they’re talking about, because he didn’t speak to any of my references.  They would have told me.  For another, the Director knew ‘at what level’ of funds I’d raised before I had my first interview from my resume, so that wasn’t a surprise.”

Ulysses suspected that there was no job at all, and that the organization was merely “interviewing” candidates for free consulting services.  He particularly believed this because his set of interviews was the second round of interviews.

“I don’t think the HR Director realized that I knew they had already ‘opened up the search again.’” Ulysses told me.

Looking back, Ulysses postulates that their “travel reimbursement” was merely a type of protection, should anyone figure out that they are engaging in this type of behavior, so they can technically say that they are “paying people” for their time.

Although he knows he can Forget It! with respect to this job, Ulysses is carefully considering how to position his expertise for future interviews.  On the one hand, he wants to demonstrate how knowledgeable he is; on the other, it’s a fine line that needs to be walked.  He won’t make the same mistake of giving away everything during the interview again.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Leslie* and Kirk* have different interview difficulties

Noah* and Odelia* learn the power of networking

Blanche* and Arthur* face discrimination

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

It’s important to know the what and why about the company you’re interviewing with, but for your sanity, dig deeper. The more you can learn about an organization’s “personality,” the better. See what Orson* and Peggy * did.

Orson* interviewed for a sales rep position which would cover a several county area.  He was pleased with the salary he had negotiated, and learned that he would also be getting a company car to cover his territory.  This was in an area that was new to him, and moving expenses were included.  All in all, he was excited for his new challenge.

When his offer letter came, however, his excitement soon faded.  A provision had been inserted which said that he would be starting at 80% of his negotiated salary, on a 3 month probationary period!  This had never been discussed – not during any of his interviews, nor over the phone.

He called his manager for clarification, asking why this had been put in the offer letter.  Her only response was that it was “standard,” and she wouldn’t budge.

Orson had also met with his manager’s supervisor during the interview phase, so he then felt he had no recourse but to call the district manager.  It wasn’t the best way to start out a new job, he felt, but he had been offered his full salary, and told the district sales manager so.

The district manager agreed, and a new offer letter was sent to Orson, stating that he would start with the originally negotiated full starting salary!  Orson was proud that he had Fixed It! and signed the offer letter and returned it to his manager, hoping that there wouldn’t be repercussions.

Shortly after he began his new position, he asked his manager, “How do I take care of my moving expenses?  Does the company get billed, or do I get reimbursed?”

She responded, “Oh, you don’t get moving expenses.  Didn’t you read your offer letter?”

“I was so burned up!” Orson said.  “I actually called her boss again.”

This time, though, the district manager was less inclined to be supportive.  He asked, “Does this prevent you from taking the job?”

I said, “No,” Orson recalled, “But looking back, I wish I’d played hardball.”

Orson later learned that his territory had two reps before him in the past year, and his company’s sales reps for the entire state saw more than 100% turnover in one year!

“I, too, ended up leaving the position within the year,” Orson recounted.  “That organization was terribly unhealthy, and I wish I’d noticed the many, many warning bells that were going off around me!”

Peggy* had made it as a finalist for a job she felt would be a good step up in her career, and was interviewing with the woman who would be her supervisor, should she get the position.

Things had been going well, and Peggy began to ask some more direct questions about the history of the organization and specifically, the position itself, such as, “How long has this position been vacant?” and “Why did the last person leave?”

Typically, these answers are not only revealing about the position, but also about the person answering them, and whether or not they are forthcoming.  This is true especially if the previous staff person departed under difficult circumstances, such as getting fired.  Seeing how delicately (or not) a manger handles describing such a situation is very revealing.

On the other hand, if the organization promotes from within, it can be a good sign – and also a bonus to know that the staff member will be available to answer questions while learning a new job.

Peggy was relieved to learn that the answer was somewhat benign:  The former staff member left a month ago because she had a baby and decided to become a full time mother.

The director continued by saying what a loss it was to the organization when the staff member left, then added, “And it’s really so foolish of her, sabotaging her career like that!  I even offered to let her work part time, too!  What can she be thinking?”

Peggy was so startled, she didn’t know what to say.  It certainly seemed as though she was being given a directive that if she had children (or was planning to have them), she’d better not be considering staying home full time and leaving her job!

Before Peggy could think of what question to ask next, the director continued the conversation and changed the subject back to the job and organization, much to her relief.  Peggy finished the interview, all the while searching her memory, wondering if she had dropped any references to her family situation during the interview.

A couple of weeks later, Peggy got the job offer, but politely declined, saying she had accepted another offer (she hadn’t).  She decided to Forget It! and not work for someone who so obviously declared that she knew what was right for everyone else’s situation.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

 

            

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Culturally, women are conditioned to be agreeable and cooperative. That, combined with those who feel the need to help a part of society, yields an abundance of women in nonprofit with a calling to serve in a congenial way.

While this is certainly good for society, it’s not always good for the agreeable – and often, non-confrontational – women, particularly when it comes to their careers.  Often, all the traits that make such women the ideal candidate to work in the nonprofit arena actually work against them when it comes time to lobby on their own behalf.  They frequently learn – too late – that they have been passed over for promotions, raises, or generally left out of conversations that they should have been consulted on.

It has become more important now than ever before, with such a competitive job market, that women speak up and speak out at every opportunity – whether currently employed, or actively job hunting – so that their voices and ideas are heard by management and others on a regular basis.

Bonnie* had discussed her current work situation, where she felt that the director had used the economy as an excuse to whittle down everyone’s position essentially to being his serfs.  Bit by bit over the last couple of years, he had made everyone feel that if they didn’t comply with his latest “cost cutting” idea, they might be next on the chopping block.  This included petty things, such as his removing the office refrigerator and microwave, to “save electricity.”  (Bonnie did notice that, although all of the women in the office now had to modify the types of lunches they brought to eat, the director still managed to treat himself to eating lunch out on a daily basis.)

When Bonnie decided to Forget It! we worked on finding her another position, but kept in mind the dynamics which led to the situation she ultimately found herself in.  She wanted to make certain to define what type of treatment she would – and would not – tolerate right from the beginning.  I explained to her that a great many parameters are set in the first few weeks of employment, when you make your first impression.  Her boss and the other employees would see what they could expect from her during this initial phase.

While it’s important to be eager to learn and get along with others, of course, you still don’t want to project yourself as a doormat, either.  If, for example, Bonnie had given the idea that she would be willing to do everyone’s filing (whether it was her job or not), all those on staff would immediately be thrilled to have her do it for them . . . and anything else they could delegate to her.

When Bonnie began her new position, she had difficulty getting her business cards printed in the first couple of weeks.  The position that usually handles the task was vacant, and the procedure in his absence was arduous.  She learned that the last person who went through the procedure not only waited a long time, but her cards weren’t right.

Bonnie decided this would be one way to define herself.  She took action and had her own cards printed and simply submitted the receipt afterward.  Her director was surprised at first, but then she explained why, and he signed the expense report.  Bonnie was pleased with her first step toward defining her new self as someone who wouldn’t sit around and wait for second best.

Caitlin* defines herself as a “very shy person,” but came to me for assistance, because she felt that she was “invisible” in her organization.   She wanted to work on her networking and socialization skills, but didn’t know where to begin.

“I don’t feel as though I can just barge in on the already established social groups at the office and ask to join them for lunch,” Caitlin says.  “They’ve been having lunch together for a couple of years now.  Nobody has ever invited me along.  It’s like they don’t see me, even though I’m right there.”

Since Caitlin didn’t feel comfortable encroaching upon what she already felt was “established territory,” I suggested we Fix It! by trying some new territory, and had her join a local chapter of her professional society.  Not only was it good to work on her skills with a new group of people, but, I explained, it’s always best to extend your professional group beyond your immediate workplace, anyway.

One excellent way for someone shy to mingle at professional functions is for them to volunteer to work the function, and Caitlin signed up to help at a few upcoming events.  This provides several benefits.  Not only did she get the lay of the land beforehand and feel more at ease, but if she ever felt awkward at any time while talking, she could always excuse herself, since she had “something to do,” because she was working the event.

In addition, the leaders of the professional society got to know Caitlin in an informal setting and became appreciative of her hard work.  I had given her advice on several talking points to make about herself, as well as targeted questions to ask of others when chatting at these events, and it was working well.

After Caitlin had worked at several of these events and was becoming more comfortable speaking with people she’d recently met, I had planned on having her apply these techniques back at her workplace, so she wouldn’t feel as isolated.  It turned out, though, that it became unnecessary.  Caitlin made several good contacts with her new networking friends, and one of them offered her a better job, which she accepted!

Now, Caitlin works in an atmosphere that is more inviting, and she no longer feels “invisible.”  She also makes a point to participate more actively, to ensure that she’s seen, too.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Abby Wants to Break the Cycle of Bad Bosses

Whitney, Yolanda & Zelda Deal With Being Taken For Granted

Sadie & Tanya Work on Their Negotiation Skills

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

It’s easy to think that a job offer – any job offer – should be taken immediately, especially in this economy.  Often, though, many of them need a second look before accepting.  They can be more expensive than you think.

Winnie’s* story wasn’t uncommon.  She worked for a small organization that was hit hard by the economy, and when they had to cut their staff, she was among the “last hired, first fired” list of people to be let go.  Her manager let her know that it was no reflection on her skills and that he would write her a recommendation, as well as be a reference for future interviews.

This became less and less of a consolation as time went on and her interviews continued to be merely job interviews, but no job offers.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Winnie did get an offer from a small nonprofit for a position that wasn’t an exact match, but she viewed it as an exciting growth opportunity.  The organization had created a new position, and she would get to essentially create the direction that the job took.  Mostly, though, Winnie was just thrilled to be employed again – and she was certain that she could fulfill the duties of the position.

A few weeks into her new job, as she was learning the ropes and finishing what seemed to be mounds of HR paperwork, Winnie discovered something that she wished she had paid more attention to during the hiring phase:  her position was grant funded, and only for one year.  She discovered this because she had additional – regular – paperwork that she had to file about her job, to comply with the terms of the grant that funded her job.  The other employees didn’t have to file as many reports, she realized.

Although it was possible that this grant would be extended – or that the organization would find her valuable enough to hire next year in another position – Winnie certainly couldn’t rely upon either of these situations occurring.  She realized that she’d only bought herself one year, and was essentially a temporary employee, still needing to begin another job search!

Winnie and I worked together and made a point to Fix It! by scrutinizing the positions we researched and applied for.  While on the one hand, she was frustrated to have to begin searching once again so soon, she did feel less pressure than before, since she was earning a paycheck while interviewing this time.  She also made a point to network – and asked her manager and other employees for assistance with referrals.

“In a way,” Winnie says, “I had more freedom while searching than typical employees.  Many currently employed people wouldn’t feel free to ask their present employer for help, but since I was under contract for only a year, there was no resentment – or need to hide the fact that I was looking – so I did get referrals and assistance from others.”

Alexandra* is a very shy person, and hates to interview, because, as she puts it, “It means public speaking and bragging about yourself – both things that I’m not good at.”

Alexandra is actually quite good at her job, but often feels that she is overlooked for recognition and/or promotions, as well as taken advantage of by co-workers and managers.  A lot of this stems from her demeanor of being shy, quiet and cooperative.  She works in a mostly male-dominated industry, and those around her often speak up more about their accomplishments.  Alexandra quietly works on her projects without saying much, and frequently gets more than her share of work handed to her.

Eventually, Alexandra’s discomfort at being taken for granted became greater than her discomfort with the interview process, and she approached me about preparing her for beginning a job search.

Several months later, Alexandra had a job offer for something quite a bit better than the conditions she was currently in:  larger organization, better title, pay and benefits – and she accepted.

Upon learning that she was leaving, her manager was shocked.  He conveyed a thinly veiled attempt at congratulating her, followed by an offer to hire her as a part time consultant upon her departure, to “finish up a few things around here.”  He asked her to consider what her rate would be, and she agreed to think it over.

As Alexandra took the weekend to ponder her manager’s offer, she realized that this was actually an attempt to continue making her do the lion’s share of the work in her soon-to-be former office!  Clearly, her manager had known all along that she was essential to getting a great deal of work done – and was worried about her departure.  This way, though, he wanted her to keep doing it – and without being a full time employee?!

Although the additional money was tempting, when Alexandra returned after the weekend, she decided to Forget It! and politely declined, saying, “I really need to focus on my new job and all of its responsibilities, but thanks.”  Her manager was visibly irritated, and she knew that it was because it would be difficult for him to find someone – anyone – not only to do the caliber of work, but also the amount of work that she had been doing.

Alexandra was pleased that this was no longer her problem – and vowed not to repeat the same mistake at her new employer’s.  Taking the lessons she’d learned from talking up her strengths during her interviewing days, she made a point to continue profiling her accomplishments on a regular basis at her new job, too.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Audrey* and Brian* Don’t Feel Appreciated

Nell* and Otis* Discover Surprises in the Workplace

Lynn* and Murray* Felt Nothing Would Change

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

When researching a company prior to an interview, it’s important to go much further beyond “the corporate face” presented on its website.  These days, a great deal more information is available to guide you in your decision.

With such a tight job market, it’s not uncommon for job seekers to spend six to twelve months looking for the right position.  Of course, much of this depends on a variety of factors, including profession, experience, geographic location, time spent each week actively searching, level of networking, etc., but the fact remains that the market is tough.

Because most searches are lengthy, though, I advise all clients to keep track of not only their past applications and interviews, but also to try to remember the listings that they view, because after time, trends or patterns may start to appear.

Magda* had come very, very close a couple of times as a final candidate, but still hadn’t gotten hired after several months.  However, she had learned a great deal after each interview on how to perform better next time, she felt.

Still, there were some losses that stung more than others.  [Organization Y] was one in particular.  Not only had she been a promising finalist, but the Executive Director concluded the interview with a reassuring, “I’ll call you soon,” only to put her off a couple of days . . . followed by a couple more, until finally, he sent her an email, stating, “Thanks for your interest, but we’ve made an offer to another candidate, and they’ve accepted.”

“That one really hurt,” Magda explained, “Not only because I didn’t get the job, but because of the way I was treated.  It seemed obvious in retrospect that I was the second choice, and had just been strung along until they heard back from the one they made the offer to.  Plus, he couldn’t have done me the courtesy of a phone call?”

Less than a year later, Magda was reviewing job listings, as she does weekly, and – much to her surprise – she saw the same job listing for [Organization Y] appear once again!

“As disappointed as I had been last year,” Magda recounts, “That’s how relieved I was not to have gotten the position, upon reading the listing so soon!”  Although still looking, she was ready to tell [Organization Y] to Forget It! this time.

After a few more months of interviewing, Magda did land a job offer with an organization that was a good fit for her, and thinking back to “the bullet I dodged,” she could see how much she had learned over the past year that helped her select a better, more stable place of employment that she felt good about.

At Ned*’s previous place of employment, he had given his all to the company, which left him virtually no time for socializing or networking.  When he was laid off, he found that he had very few contacts or connections to reach out to, because he hadn’t done much to maintain those relationships while he had been working so hard at his job.  One of our first goals was to Fix It! with regard to his social media skills, which would likely translate to any new position he ended up getting.  Regardless, I explained, they would certainly be of use to him while searching for his next job.

Ned made a point to work up a list of the few dozen companies that he most wanted to work for, then he not only followed them on Facebook and Twitter, but also monitored their LinkedIn activity closely.  In addition to tracking the companies’ job listings, Ned worked on building up his various social networks, regularly adding friends, followers and linking with new contacts as much as possible.

Whenever Ned saw a position that he felt was a good match, we reviewed his various networks – particularly LinkedIn – for possible connections to the company, narrowing down to the department, if it was a larger organization.

If Ned was directly linked to someone at the company, he wrote to them for advice on how best to apply (e.g., “To whom do I send my resume?  What is her/his email?”).  If he was a second degree connection, he would ask for an introduction to the right company person, or advice on how to proceed, if they knew.

In many cases, this approach led to expanding Ned’s network even further as he continued his job search.

A great deal of “background research” not found on company home pages was to be gleaned from company social media channels, including peripheral channels, such as employees’ blogs, Twitter feeds and posts to LinkedIn groups that were often fed back through the employees’ personal pages.

This type of up-to-date knowledge helped Ned impress others during interviews, establish more contacts, and ultimately, get hired in his new position.  (He also makes a point to continue networking since having been hired.)

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Eileen* and Frieda* research social media and email marketing

Noah* and Odelia* learn the importance of networking

Nell* and Otis* witness effects of sour workplace networking

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