Bliou Enterprises


Posts Tagged ‘personal branding’

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, August 22nd, 2012

In an ideal work situation, co-workers and managers can not only get along in their jobs, but hopefully, can have some personal relationships that make the days more pleasant and meaningful as well. That’s not always the case, though.  See what Kathy* and Lisa* faced.

Kathy* thought she was making a routine call to her daughter’s day care center, merely to tell them that her neighbor would be picking up her daughter, ironically, because she was going to be working late.

“If I had known what was about to take place, I certainly would have made the call privately on my cell, and not from my work phone in my cubicle, for everyone to hear,” she explained.

The manager of the daycare took the opportunity to lambast her for a delinquent payment and nearly threaten to expel her child on the spot, if she didn’t make immediate arrangements for payment of her balance by the end of the day.

Kathy was so shocked, flustered, apologetic – and embarrassed that all of her co-workers and supervisor could hear – that she was nearly in tears by the time she hung up the phone, promising to have the money within a couple of days.

“I felt as though I had been publicly spanked by the principal, or something,” Kathy recalls.  “I was still fairly new to this job, and trying really hard to make a good impression.  With that single phone call, I felt that my reputation was gone.  It was all I could do to not burst out crying.”

Then, she was surprised by what happened next.  Her manager came over and insisted that she come out “for coffee” with her, across the street, to the coffee shop.

“I thought it was nice of her to give me a breather,” Kathy recalls, “But I was totally unprepared for what happened next.”

Kathy’s manager asked her how much money she needed to pay her balance – and lent her the money on the spot, saying she could pay her back “whenever she could”!

“I couldn’t believe it!”  Kathy said.  “Ordinarily, I wouldn’t dream of asking for myself, but for my kid is another matter.  Plus, I didn’t ask . . . she offered.  I remember thinking it was like a gift from heaven – and that I was really lucky to have found this job.  Also, I was going to work extra hard for my new boss!”

For the next couple of weeks, Kathy was very pleased to have the financial buffer – and showed it, by working that much harder, coming in a bit early and working a bit late.

After a while, however, Kathy began  noticing a difference in her manager’s behavior – particularly toward her.

Whenever there was an extra job – especially a menial one – she asked Kathy to do it.

“The first hundred times, I was quick to volunteer,” Kathy explained, “But it started to wear thin after that.  I have skills, too, and they go beyond doing her photocopying and getting her coffee, you know?”

When everyone was going to go out to lunch to celebrate someone’s engagement, Kathy’s manager asked, “Are you sure you’ll be able to do that?”  The double implication was that Kathy had too much work to be able to leave the office for the long lunch . . . as well as should she spend the money on eating out?

“I hated myself for it, but I stayed in and worked on finishing her project instead of going out with the gang.”  Kathy told me.  “It was like a turning point, though.  I realized that she seemed to think she bought me, or something, with that loan.  I had to pay it back in full – and soon.”

Kathy and I first worked out a strict payment schedule, so that she could escape the obvious indentured servitude that her boss viewed her as being in.

Next, we found ways for her to defer the various requests of photocopying, coffee, recycling and other menial tasks, without saying “no,” such as, “Oh, I’m about to head that way myself . . . as soon as I finish this ____ report that the director needs.  I can get to it as soon as this is done.”  (Of course, “this” would end up taking a good 30 minutes or so.  If her other task was really important, she’d probably go do it herself before then – or ask her assistant.)

Obviously, it wasn’t enough to get out from under the image of being servile – Kathy needed to document and highlight the important projects that she was working on and contributing to.  Her record keeping of the important projects that she produced helped her to Fix It! when she presented portions of her projects – and their successes – at the next annual staff meeting.

By then, she was rarely photocopying, opening mail or doing other tasks that were not in her job description, so people on staff began to see her for what her job description truly was, and not her manager’s lackey any longer.  (She also makes a point to have all personal calls off site on her cell phone.)

Lisa* worked for a manager who turned out to be an absolute tyrant.  She came to me after a particular set of circumstances occurred at work.

“I guess I knew he was awful, but it became clear just how bad when he was out sick several months ago.”

Lisa works for a medical equipment supply company, and the policy regarding sick leave is pretty strict, because the sales staff often encounters both people with difficult conditions and weakened immune systems.

“If you’re sick, you stay home,” Lisa explained, and you CAN’T return until you’re 100% well.”

Apparently, her manager was on sick leave for several weeks with something that weakened him substantially.

“I never thought of myself as the type of person to take joy in another’s suffering, but I can’t begin to describe how thrilled and relieved I was, every day he wasn’t there!”

“It’s such a different environment,” she explained, “Not being someone’s target all day long.  It’s a much better way to work!

“For a while,” Lisa said, “After he returned, things were tolerable . . . but that’s only because he was both weak & overwhelmed.  It didn’t take him long to become hostile and blame me for anything that didn’t go right each day.”

Lisa then found herself, upon hearing about some epidemic in the news, wishing he would catch it!

“Later, while returning from lunch, I overheard chatter of a bad four car pileup not far from our office . . . I found myself checking the employee lot for his car!”

Lisa explained that working at this company, for someone so hateful, was “turning me into somebody I don’t like.”

She knew the job search might be long and tough, but wanted to Forget It! with this employer.

I helped Lisa with her job search, but explained that most people’s searches have been taking up to a year, and that one of the most important assets she’ll need to have is a positive attitude to help her find the next position – since employers don’t care to hire workers who want to “escape” their current job.

This took the greatest amount of effort on Lisa’s part, but it was also what she wanted to work on the most, since it was what motivated her to look elsewhere to begin with.  She didn’t care for what her current environment was doing to her outlook.

It also helped her achieve something else necessary for any job hunt:  good references.  Although her immediate supervisor wouldn’t be a candidate, there were other people who ended up serving well in this capacity when it came time for Lisa to accept a job offer.

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:

Paul* is Only Known For His Coffee

Duane* was Dubbed the Office Killjoy

What Does Labor Day Mean to You?

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

The job market has made many pause and reassess what they value – personally and professionally. When the positions or other benefits aren’t available, people become more demanding and resourceful. See what Gail* and Hunter* did.

Gail* was feeling very underappreciated, to the point of being taken advantage of by her manager.  It seemed that no matter what she accomplished, it was never good enough – and that was saying a lot, because she was actually quite good at her job.

“I’m not sure how I got here,” she explained.  “I thought I started out being one of his more trusted employees, and worked to prove to him that he could count on me, but it seems to have backfired, and I don’t understand why.”

To Gail, it seemed that she was held to a higher standard and judged more harshly than nearly all other employees, although she typically produced more – and usually higher quality – work.

As we reviewed her work history, not just at her current employer’s, but the past several, Gail described a repeated series of working at a company until she reached a point of exhaustion.  When she felt she could no longer work any harder, she would look for another position.  This appeared to be her pattern.

Turning to the beginning of her jobs, rather than the end, I learned that Gail was always eager to please a new boss so much that she would start every new job with so much energy and enthusiasm, she began by giving about 150% effort . . . “to make a good impression,” she explained.

I demonstrated to Gail that the effect of her beginning every job with this super human effort was actually self-defeating over time.  Since she couldn’t maintain such a hefty output forever, what eventually happened was that she would end up scaling back her energy at some point.

However, she began by establishing a baseline for employers with the “150%” she described, which would leave her new boss expecting it as the norm.  This ended up not impressing them, as she expected, but disappointing them over time, when she couldn’t sustain it.

The effect this would have, then, when “scaling back” to a mere 100% was that she was “slacking off,” so even if her performance was still exemplary, it suffered by comparison, and her performance reviews, etc. would suffer as a result.

Instead of the gratitude she expected, Gail received quite the opposite . . . although she was still working very, very hard at her job. This resulted in resentment and confusion, as well as exhaustion on her part – and eventually, yet another job search.

She decided to Forget It! at her current job, but when she and I began her new job search, we took care that she didn’t put forth a super human effort at the new job.  Of course, she did a good job, but she didn’t set herself up to fail and repeat the same patterns over again.

She’s now more appreciated, as well as less exhausted.

Hunter* worked in the manufacturing industry for many years, and had been watching people around him get laid off by the dozens, as well as various businesses close their doors altogether.  Each time a new “reorganization” came around and he was spared, he’d count himself lucky, but after a while, he wasn’t so sure anymore.

“Of course, I was happy to still be employed,” Hunter explained, “And I certainly don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but there are consequences for those who remain as well.  With every layoff and downsizing, it means the company expects to get the same (or more) output, but with fewer people to produce it.  That translates into the remaining workers each doing the work of two, three or more people.  Oh, and you’ve probably gotten a pay cut in the process of the ‘restructuring’ to boot.  Some reward.”

After seeing so many others lose their jobs, Hunter knew there was no such thing as a “safe job” in his field and made a point to cut expenses, as well as try to save a little bit with each paycheck . . . just in case.

Eventually, he couldn’t escape the effects of the economy, and was included in the final round of layoffs that came around.

Hunter knew that his prospects were bleak:  the field of manufacturing overall didn’t hold a great many job openings, and, of course, everybody he knew was vying for them.  Also, his age would open him up for discrimination, probably making it even more difficult.

Calculating how much unemployment he could get, combined with his savings, Hunter decided to Fix It! instead by going back to school with some financial aid he qualified for, to get a degree in a different field he was interested in that would make him more marketable: Culinary Arts.

In order to continue qualifying for unemployment, Hunter still had to continue applying for positions in manufacturing and interviewing, but he already had a notion of how it would go, from friends of his who had been in his position before.  Although nobody came out and said so, it was clear that he was deemed “too old school” to be of any real value.

By the time Hunter had graduated with his degree, he was able to find a position as assistant chef in the restaurant industry, and now has a healthy employment prospect for the future!

“I never would have thought it at the time,” Hunter says, “But getting let go was the best thing for my career.  I never would have left on my own and decided to reinvent myself.  It took my being forced out to make this happen, but I’m glad it eventually did.”

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* Works To Break the Abusive Boss Cycle

Does My Manager Believe In Me?

What Are You Learning?

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Sometimes, office circumstances may be contrary to getting your actual work done, through no fault of your own. You still may be left having to clean up the mess. Kim* and Larry* found themselves in this type of situation.

Kim* had been a marketing assistant and now was in charge of the marketing department of three where she worked, overseeing a variety of marketing efforts.  For many items, her assistant would send drafts of press releases and copy her on what was to be ultimately sent.  Often, various items had to be reviewed by members of other internal departments first, for accuracy, legality, etc.

Another staff member in particular had worked in multiple departments in the company – including the marketing department several years ago – and had bounced from HR to several others, most recently landing in an executive’s office, working as his assistant.

The newly appointed executive assistant walked into Kim’s department, livid, demanding to know, “What’s the meaning of this?” referring to the most recent email sent from the Marketing Department.  She went on to complain about its “demanding tone” that she didn’t care for, followed by the accusation that she “. . . knew that Melody is too sweet to have written something like that!”

“So, it must have some from someone as awful and ugly as me?  Is that what you’re saying?!” Kim asked her.  She was very insulted.

“I still didn’t even know what she was talking about,” Kim said, “And insisted that she explain herself.”

It turned out that she had gotten upset because a press release was sent to her, asking for edits or approval “asap.”

“This is standard language, and there was nothing offensive in the email,” Kim explained.  She immediately asked for an appointment with the woman’s latest supervisor.

When she met with him the next day, his first question to her was, “Did you attempt to speak with her about this problem first?”

“I have to say that I admired him for that,” Kim said.  I told him that I didn’t, but that I thought he’d understand once I told him what had happened.

“After I told him about her ‘tantrum’ – in front of my staff – and showed him the email, he agreed that there was nothing offensive in it, and that her behavior was unacceptable.  He assured me that he would speak to her about it that day.”

Confrontation doesn’t come easily for Kim, but she felt good about being able to Fix It! in this manner.  Most important to her was that she defended her department from future attacks, but she was also grateful that there would be no further character assaults, such as the obvious one that had been perpetrated.

A week later, a notice was sent around that the woman was leaving the company altogether.  While this wasn’t the outcome Kim had been seeking, she admits she’s not sorry to see her go.  It was no secret that multiple departments had been relieved each time she moved on to a different one.

Larry* had been looking for work for some time after graduation, and was pleased when he got hired by a nonprofit membership organization.  Although the position appeared to be two jobs in one – with essentially two bosses – he knew that people in the nonprofit world did more work than those in the corporate world.  And, with the economy the way it is, budgets are stretched even further nowadays.  (Frankly, he was just glad to have a position!)

After he had been in the job for the first three or four months, he had hoped that the really long hours would slow down, at least a bit.  After all, in the first several months, a steep learning curve is to be expected, so longer hours could easily go with that.  Now that he’d been there six months – and longer – though, the long hours didn’t appear to be slowing down even a little bit.

The conflicts seemed to be growing, too.  Having two managers was a very difficult juggling act, he discovered.  This nonprofit appeared to be set up so that the goals for the Membership Director and Development Director were often in conflict with one another, so it wasn’t just a matter of time spent working for each, but really, an allocation of resources as well.

Which list was going to be used to mail the next appeal to?  If each of them had their way, many people were going to get asked for money multiple times.  Neither director seemed to care, as long as the funds went into their accounts, ultimately.  Only Larry seemed to notice – or care – that the organization would ultimately end up offending a great many of their constituents with way too many appeals.

“I made the mistake of telling them both about the total calendar, which resulted in them having a HUGE fight.  Afterward, when they only pretended to reach a resolution, each of them came to me separately – privately – and informed me that I was to secretly send an additional appeal on behalf of their department . . . without telling the other!”

“That’s when I decided to Forget It!  Clearly, each of them cared more about their own personal vendettas, rather than doing a good job overall for the organization.  I could see further down the line, too, where I could easily end up getting the blame for the entire thing!”

We began Larry’s job search immediately.  Although it took him a while to find something, he did have a year’s history working in the field by then.  In the meantime, I advised him to cover his liability by sending each director various “clarification questions” – via email –  regarding the secret mailings, so that he’d have documentation showing that they had each authorized them, should he need proof.

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:

Kraig* and Lorraine* discover the company burns through employees

Idalee* and Janet* realize the importance of getting along in the workplace

Greg* and Hilda* show that one’s environment is meaningful

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

© 2010 Bilou Enterprises, All Rights Reserved
Site designed and developed by zline media group, inc