Posts Tagged ‘career’

Photo Credit: Aaron Edwards @Flickr

Photo Credit: Aaron Edwards @Flickr


Common opinion: the current job market sucks and employers have all the power.

Truth: employers are just as screwed as you are…kind of.

The world at large would like to wag their fingers and say employers are the almighty powerful ones because they are the ones with the jobs.

Nonetheless, how powerful can they really be when forced to slash jobs and lose labor, thus diluting their market share? The ambiguous, elusive big-badness of a down economy affects employers as well.

True business productivity is invested in how much is created – not how much is deleted.

Companies in a down turn need to seek new alternatives to connect with the unemployed besides creating boring Monster ads. There is a disconnect – a gap – between keeping the job seekers relevant to the market and the employers maintaining  business productivity. 

Just because the job is “gone” doesn’t always mean the work still doesn’t need to get done.

There are ways for the job seeker to keep their skills and ideas fresh while they look for permanent work. As a business, how are you taking advantage of that?

Shut up

Job descriptions say too much.

Or, they don’t say enough.

For the sake of argument, I’m going to opine that employers veer into the former much more often than the latter. Oh no! Employers wring  their hands and yammer with gusto “How else do I attact the right candidate?”

In reality, you probably are not attracting the right anything because your HR manager’s in-bin is flooded with qualified, unqualifed and crazy job candidates.

People are applying in droves to everything, everywhere. So, what exactly is the purpose of  master tailoring  your job descriptions to speak to certain candidates?

None. Zip. Nada. Goose eggs. 

It would be best to revamp how you want to recruit for the downturn instead of worrying so much about keywords and scanable resumes. 

Also, keep your promotion as a teaser. It’s fair to say that you’ll eventually interview someone for a job with your company. Tell me just enough. And, if you’re lucky (or, if I’m lucky) when you interview me, you can talk (ad nauseum) about how great your company is.

And, while you may be sure that a certain job would be great for the right candidate – don’t inundate (or alienate) me with overstuffed descriptions, pretentiousness or fresh vocab from Bill O’Reilly’s Spin Thesaurus.


Perhaps this is a quirk that only HR folks like to use. Numbering a list of responsibilites in a job description makes it look boring and rigidly unimaginative. Why? See below:

  1. Wake up
  2. Brush teeth
  3. Shower
  4. Eat
  5. Blog
  6. Nap
  7. Job search
  8. Nap
  9. Eat
  10. Bed

Wow. All this to be done in one day? I can’t wait. In reality – it’s a lot more fun than it looks.

Don’t embarrass yourself

I recently saw a job description that called for the following (emphasis mine):

The candidate needs to work it and own the front desk.

They also have to be comfortable with hearing the other brokers yell (not necessarily at them).

Also, when the big guys in the office have clients (football players, star athletes, entertainers) the receptionist will need to step up.

Does this company want a receptionist or an In Living Color fly girl running the front desk? Scarily, I think they want the Fly Girl. 

I wonder how seriously such a company takes the jobs of its employees. In this case, they are trivializing the job in question when mandating that the receptionist “own” his/her desk. Trust me on this: owning a desk is not the company’s way of “hipster-izing” job duties or professional accountability.

Just because I’m a twenty something (soon to be thirty something), please don’t talk to me like an idiot.

Better yet, don’t talk like that. Period.


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Kristina B@Flickr

Photo Credit: Kristina B@Flickr

Lately, when I talk to other professional colleagues, I mention that I have a blog.

Eyebrows raise.

When I encourage others to begin blogging – mouths twitch.

Of course, not everyone blogs. And, certainly they don’t have to if they don’t feel the need. I’m addressing those who are interested in adding a context of relevance to their current (or changing) careers.

I’m speaking to the frustrated few with loads of ideas and want ways to implement them.

Everyone blabs about how college students and professionals alike should start a blog. Start a blog to gain online presence. Start a blog to establish credibility. 

Nonetheless, that still doesn’t give much credence to would-be bloggers and the blog-curious.  They want to. They think they should. Yet, a few reasons keep them from taking that first step toward their computer: 

 It’s an online diary…

That’s fair. It can be an online diary. Yet, that’s like saying when you go outside, you can only run. When entering the blogosphere, your blog can do anything you want (and be anything you want).

There’s no over riding commandment that stipulates you must bare intimate secrets for the world to read.

Seriously. It’s your playground. Talk about something that interests you. And, if you don’t know where to start, read something that will give you food for thought.

I won’t have anything to say…

All those ideas buzzing in your 3 pound mass and yet nothing to say? If you are interested in the following:

  • Grooming your writing abilities
  • Learning
  • Conceptualizing ideas
  • Rounding out opinions

There should be plenty to say. Placing your thoughts into plain view for mass consumption is the real fear. The blog-curious worry that their ideas might not be interesting or great enough. Yet, if you want to create space and opportunity to reciprocate a flowing current of creativity– blogging will be a great tool for you.

And, just like any other tool, you can use blogging to shape your voice, hone your ideas and tune your (own) words.

It’s for geeks…

Oh, goodness. Are you kidding?! Do I have to address this one? Were you the type to beat up on the kids who got A’s on their spelling tests?

There’s no point…

If you don’t understand the meaning behind discussion or circulating your ideas – then, you are right. There is no point. Also, oddly enough, some people don’t see the validity in unfamiliar ventures if the reward isn’t inherently obvious. 

And, the risks of blogging are a little more than ambiguous on the surface (and the rewards are distinctively abstract).

You risk nothing if you melt into the background.

Truthfully, if you aren’t interested in risk , you probably have very little invested in your career (maybe, even in your life).  

Therefore, don’t blog at your own risk.

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Addrox @ Flickr

Photo Credit: Addrox @ Flickr

Going to work can feel like you’re going to your parent’s house. And, if your parents get on your nerves, this can be annoying.

You deal with fussy bosses (your parents), co-workers  who get away with murder (your siblings) and the occasional guilt-tripping that comes when attending office meetings (family gatherings and holiday parties).

So, sometimes, I can’t help but feel like I’m a kid all over again when I’m at work. I have to prove that I’m “grown up” to my bosses, despite the fact that they know that anyway.

People have to get over the teasing that gets bestowed upon them when they make mistakes or look stupid. It can be merciless. 

You get nagged.

You’re watched. 

And then, out of nowhere, you get dressed down for stuff you don’t remember doing or happened so long ago, it just seems silly to bring it up now.

You think you are in a professional environment, but then your coworker laughs at his own joke verging somewhere between toilet humor and Chris Farley slapstick.

Roles get reversed too. You end up playing mommy to your 4 year old boss. But, the only difference is that the 4-year old gets the credit and you get the boot. Or, a grade of “mediocre performance” on your once a year employee evaluation.

So, how are people surviving this perpetual “childhood” at work?  For the next week, I’m going to examine the following  themes (in no particular order):

Proving your Independence

Ahhh, the teen years. You’ve got the license to drive, but Mom and Dad (or, better yet, your boss) just won’t let you drive – anywhere. How can you convince them to let up?

Middle Child Syndrome

You’re ignored. At least, you think you are. It seems like no matter what, you aren’t doing enough to get your boss’s attention. What gives?

Oooooh, you’re in trouble: Dealing with Mistakes

A favorite phrase of the corporati – CYA (cover your ass). But, getting in trouble for mistakes is so passe – do you want creativity or people who only do things “right”?

Role Reversal

Who’s really managing the department – and why aren’t they paying you the money to do it?

Am I missing any? Probably. Maybe you should tell me and I’ll add them to my list.

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Jaboney @ Flickr

Photo Credit: Jaboney @ Flickr

If it were up to you – would you really work for a living? That’s a funny phrase. Working for a living. What’s that mean nowadays when so many people are living to work to survive?

Right now, I’m marginally attached to the workforce. I work weird hours (when I want to) and participate in volunteer projects at my leisure. No, I’m not independently wealthy. But, I don’t consider myself to be unemployed. Instead, maybe I’m “semi-retired.” While most of my out of work colleagues won’t feel the same way about unemployment like I do, I feel that semi-retiredness is out of necessity, not out of choice.

Presently, I can spend a lot of my time looking for jobs I truly want.  I’m not beholden to my 45 minute “lunch hour.” I can be flexible with people I want to connect (and network) with. It’s not ideal. I won’t say that some days aren’t especially tough for me. And, when you spend months and years being productive (for someone else), it’s hard to have it come to an abrupt stop or (for you lucky few) have it become cut in half.

There are lots of questions behind how to fill your unemployed hours of the day. I think the simple stigma of unemployment is that you will run out of money. And, since you are not working, it feels you aren’t doing something meaningful, productive and responsible.

You, nonetheless, never run out responsibilities. You have rent, mortgage, kids, spouses, sicknesses, habits to supply and misdeeds to fund – anything, everything. But, even if you had a job, those responsibilities won’t disappear. You still have student debt to pay and groceries to buy. Money only makes handling that stuff easier.

It doesn’t necessarily make anything any better. Yet, people sometimes insist on narrowly placing meaning on the activities they do for 8 hours a day in an office. But, meaningfulness is not merely created in a cube or a vacuum or a job or a work title.

It’s more alive than that. It’s 3-dimensional and fluid. It requires 3 million bits of ideas and all of them breathe from the life you live. So, the time you spend being productive while not working demonstrates just as much (if not more) about meaningfulness than the time you spend being productive on the job (for someone else).

As a semi-retiree, I like to think that my professional “pauses” are my respites. Whether I needed them or not. Whether I wanted them or not. I can’t do much about the state of the economy and the job losses except complain. And, I don’t get paid to complain. But, I do get paid to be productive regardless of the financial value or if I’m employed.

Therefore, I’ll continue my volunteer work, my job searching and my networking.  I’ll continue being semi-retired. I’ll continue doing the things that get me in tune with others.  Being unemployed doesn’t mean you become disconnected from being productive. And, it doesn’t mean you are being irresponsible or losing meaning.

It means I can continue being thankful. I can continue to do all those other things that fill up the hours of my day. I can remain feeling meaningful and valuable. I can continue being connected and feeling worthwhile.

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Photo Credit: FotoSpawn @ Flickr

1. Never leave the office

The door may even remain shut most of the day. They do this because they hate their job. To avoid confronting this harsh reality on a daily basis, they sit in their office seething. Isolated. Secluded.

And, maybe eating.

2. Never stay in the office

You can never find these people. In fairness, ineffective managers may be forced to travel a lot. Beyond that, they make themselves as unavailable as possible no matter where they are (or aren’t).

3. Communicate at a bare minimum, so they assume people can read (their) minds

Paying attention to office politics is an unheard of skill to the mismanaging boss. They claim they’re so engrossed in their own job – they can’t be bothered with following up with others. They assume somebody would know they’re too busy to come to this meeting or be present for that conference call.

4. Make 3rd party comments in reference to their own employees

If your manager is working well at being ineffective, employees are complaining about each other full blast. So, what does your manager do? They mention comments various co-workers brought to them about other employees and relay such thoughts to you in the form of a performance evaluation.

Don’t be (too) offended. They’re incapable of critiquing your job performance (from their own perspective) in the first place.

5. Have no problem alienating people

This is done through nepotism or cronyism. Either way, their cliquishness drives down employee morale. People perform the bare minimum because they become so frustrated.

By this time, the ineffective manager has lost respect from fellow employees and wonders why the department isn’t pulling the same results from say… 3 years ago (before they became boss)?

6. Coddle rude, difficult or all-around crazy employees

Breeding an environment for bullies, hostile meanies or unstable co-workers is bad news. Folks like that end up setting the tone for the department (instead of your weakling boss). Managers who “ignore” this bad behavior are doomed to suffer high turnover, an unstable work environment and dissatisfied workers.

7. Hold double standards

If the manager makes a mistake, it’s OK – “We’re in the learning phases.” If you make a mistake, you get written up. This doesn’t always apply to the boss. This is also played out amongst their cronies. Thus, managers will have no qualms sweeping certain mistakes under the rug while blasting others who suffer under their ineffective and incompetent management skills.

In the not so long run, these tactics actually cost your company money.

8. No one knows what the boss does and for that matter – no one knows what anybody else does either

Despite job descriptions, an effectively run department includes knowing what people do. This helps any business run smoothly. Coworkers prefacing questions with, “I don’t know if these are your job duties, but…” is a problem. 

And, if people don’t know how their boss spends his/her workday – that’s confusion fueled by crappy management.

9. Train you and get upset when you don’t do your job correctly

Actually, no one is training you if you have an ineffective manager. What happens is that other co-workers (who don’t know what you do anyway) train you on how to operate the copier and show you where the lunchroom is located. You spend a majority of your time wondering why you were hired in first place. Then, you can’t figure out how to make the most of your 7.5 hour work day.


Or wait for #10.

10. Fire people who are under utilized only to replace them with people who will be under utilized even more

Crap managers don’t know how to make the most out of their current employees. They’ll claim they’re firing those poor (under utilized) souls for bad performance. But in reality, they believe they’ll just hire their way to star performers who mind read into effective contributions and meaningful job performances.

Such tactics keep a company out of a steady business rhythm and impede productivity. Ineffective managers, nonetheless, don’t know that.

They’re kind of dumb.

11. Blame the economy

Bad economies and recessions are wonderful performance boosters for awful management. When things are in the toilet, such distractions provide a great scapegoat for otherwise poor performance and less than stellar results. 

It’s to their advantage to use slow business and an uncertain job climate as a dangling measure to keep jittery employees nervous and even more desperate to hang onto their jobs.

I’d love it if you could add to my list – I’m sure this isn’t everything a bad manager can do. What else is there?

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at Flickr

Photo Credit: ::stromberg:: at Flickr

1. When an entire department is on vacation or during the major holiday season

If the salaried employees can’t be bothered to be there, why should the temp? Once, I was supposed to cover for two admins that were on vacation during Christmas. The agency asked me to work the day before Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas.

Ok, that’s fine. But get this: the entire department was gone as well. Actually, not the entire department, just the director of operations, the office manager, all support staff for both floors, the managing directors and the consultants – not to mention, the lights were on weekend timers.

Needless to say, even if I could find another soul in that place (and I did) – none of them could give me work to do. There was nothing I could do. But, the guilt goes away fast. You get some cash in your pocket, at the expense of a disorganized manager.

2. To help someone else with work they were hired to do in the first place

If you need to hire a temp so that someone can catch up on their job tasks – something is seriously wrong. Most likely, this person has too heavy of a workload. Or, they’re an incompetent employee. Or (scarily) both. Either way, it costs businesses money. Hiring a temp to help someone do work that only one person was hired (and needs) to do is a sad case of mismanagement and wasted company funds.

Years ago, the office manager at a company I worked for hired a temp to cover the phones while the receptionist sat in a cube. The receptionist supposedly used this time to catch up on her administrative duties. On the surface, it just seems odd. If you probe even deeper, it just gets stupid. If you are going to outsource someone else’s (current) job, wouldn’t it make more sense to have them perform the “cheaper” portion of it?

You probably wonder what that means.

In reality, it costs more to have a temp answer phones (per hour on average) than it does to have them do data entry at a desk (especially when it takes the same amount of time to train). Also, you’re aren’t doing your business any favors when you pull maneuvers like that in the name of “efficiency.”

3. You are overwhelmed with “outstanding projects”

Outstanding projects are business wild cards. You have the idea that the work should’ve been done. But, it wasn’t. Now, it’s collecting dust. And perhaps, we (the business) should pay attention to it now (for whatever reason).

The projects become outstanding because they fall out everyone’s primary job description. You know how it goes, “I don’t do that, Pete does that!” “Well, I used to do that, but my boss says it’s not my job,” blah blah blah. You know the drill.

As a manager, you can stick it to some hapless soul and make it part of their job description. Nevertheless, it sounds like you may need to create a new job position within your company. For the sake of employee morale and efficiency, hiring a temp to take over tasks that are too time consuming for one person to do is the best use of time and money for any company.

4. When someone quits unexpectedly or you haven’t hired anyone yet for a job vacancy

This is a perfect opportunity for managers to evaluate if the position needs to be filled, eliminated or rewritten. Some companies take the cheap (and most inefficient) route. Managers lodge additional job duties onto other employees to pick up slack. Unfortunately, business suffers in the long run when employees have to deal with handling two jobs instead of one (in the long term). 

Not only will you have cranky employees (who question your management skills), but you will have to deal with confused clients and a medley of whining complaints thinly disguised as “concerns.”

After a few weeks, if you don’t expect to promote or hire anyone soon, it’s your best bet to have a temp come in.

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bored-workWork that doesn’t require a lot brain power is hard. Usually because work that doesn’t require brain power is indubitably boring. It might even be the death of you.

Boring work is safe. It’s predictable. It’s comfortable. It inspires you to remain uninspirational. Curiousity takes hiatus because boring work doesn’t require that you be curious. It demands that you be focused. This means that you concentrate on being boring. You become comfortable with boring because it’s safer to do.

Staying comfortable may keep you safe, but it keeps you shamelessly staid. You don’t have to worry about innovation because you aren’t forced to think on your toes. And thinking on your toes is a little dangerous because you might get it wrong. And, you worry about being wrong.

But, what if you aren’t? 

Being safe and worry free are not the same thing. People spending 8 hours of the day being bored (and knowing it) aren’t contributing much to the grand spectrum anything. They worry about being wrong. They’re too busy being safe.

And safe just isn’t any fun.

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