Interviewing 1: the face-to-face

black-and-white-shake-handsIn high school I was a member of the rifle squad in our championship Marching Band. Part of the reason we were champions was the coaching we received from our band director who understood more than music and marching formations.  He understood the importance of things like being “on” more than during the performance. We were expected to behave on the bus as we came into town in the same respectful manner that we would behave once we hit the edge of the field for the performance.

I continue to share his great advice today with students and other job seekers.  As you’re making your way through traffic to your early morning interview, don’t be honking your horn and calling everyone in your way this name or that, and showing them your various finger salutes. You never know who might also be heading into that parking lot, and where you might see them again. This goes double in the parking lot and triple in the building.

You’re fair-game from the time you leave your house, so put on your suit, and make your way to the interview like there’s a driving, parking and walking test included in it. You don’t want to get into the elevator with the same person you cut off in traffic with a finger salute earlier that morning.

In addition, make sure that you’re not so impressed with your new degree, skill or talent that you forget that everyone has value. The housekeeping people, the receptionist, and the administrative assistants that you meet along the way are also hard-working professionals.  Treat them like you would the CEO; a valuable person to make a contact with because in addition to the fact that as a fellow traveler on this planet, they deserve your respect, you never know who might ask them what they thought of you. You want to be the one they genuinely liked; not the one who didn’t acknowledge them, or badly faked being friendly.

We’re all in this work-thing together. The most successful among us have figured that out and long ago lost any idea about rank and privilege.

Coming up next: what to wear to job fair or interview

Interviewing 1: on the phone

AA009679I spent a lot of time coaching college students before they flew from the nest (e.g. graduated) and have been asked recently to reiterate some of that advice, specific to interviews for professional jobs.  Here’s the first installment.

The Phone Interview

Many companies are utilizing phone screening interviews before they bring you in for the face-to-face. It is really important to make a good first impression here since it’s your ticket to the next step in the interview process.

First things first: your friends might think that the sassy, sexy hip-hop call-back ringtone is cool when they call you, but if you’re over the age of 16 and still have this on your phone, it’s not going to instill confidence in an employer who is looking to entrust revenue goals, company secrets or other assets to you. If you’re using a phone number to share with business contacts, ditch the ringtone songs, and keep all voice mail and other messages professional. Here’s an example:

“Hello. This is Adrienne. I’m sorry I missed your call. Please leave me your name, phone number and a brief message and I’ll return your call as soon as possible. Thanks!”

Keep it short, simple and as with your resume, avoid anything that goes beyond the basic facts. You don’t want to add “Let’s Go Steelers!” to the end of your voice mail message if you’re applying for jobs in the Cleveland area (just sayin’).

Once you have the phone interview scheduled, make sure you have access to a place where you have good signal (if using a cell phone) and that is quiet. You don’t want to have screaming children, traffic noise or flushing toilets in the background. If you’re lucky enough to have an office with a door, shut it. If not, find somewhere that can accommodate a business call.

Do not chew gum or have candy in your mouth. I wouldn’t smoke either because while you think you’re being quiet, you may be giving something away that is a big negative in the workplace today.

Have paper and pen available so you can take notes during the call or record any next steps they have for you. It’s also good to get the name of the interviewer even in a screening call so you can drop them a personal thank you email, later.

If you’re new to the phone interview process, have been out of the workforce, or have not had very many high-stakes phone conversations, practice with a friend or family member a few times. Choose someone who will give you good feedback on your tone and overall communication. Like asking the hard questions in the interview, you don’t want to “practice” on an interview for a job you really want to land.

Coming up next: the face-to-face.

The Sunny Side

sunshineWell, I’m over my anti-work rant (for now, anyway).  For the sake of full disclosure, after I ranted, I did put in more than 10 hours of my weekend to get the project done (grumble, mumble, spit, curse, kick the trash can – there,…I feel better now).

One thing that can make the days at the old grindstone better is focusing your attention on the good things around you. Yes, yes – I realize that you work for Ebenezer Scrooge, and Cruella Deville is your division director, but there are many other people around you and many that feel like you, or at the very least, they recognize the dysfunction. If your work place is like mine, these people very often make your day a little easier; a little brighter.

Last year in the midst of great despair as I rode a tsunami of dysfunction (6 bosses in 10 months kind of dysfunction), I had a couple choices: go to the doctor and try to get disability for the nervous breakdown I was sure was coming, leave dysfunction-junction (for a pay cut I wasn’t interested in entertaining yet…) or look for the sunny side of things.

I decided instead to focus on the majority of really nice people in that same company, which is old news these days, but I took it one step further. I made it my goal to find at least 1 person to thank each day at work for their role in making things better for me, or the department, for the company, or just for life in general. Here are some examples.

“Jane, thank you so much for always being so responsive to my questions. I know that I ask a lot of them and I appreciate your patience and your time.”

“Scott – your IT skills and your laser focus on internal customer service are appreciated by lots of people – right now especially by me! Thanks for all your help in the past few weeks.”

“Suzanne – you are always so cheery on the phone when I call – no matter what is going on in my life, after I talk with you I always feel better – thank you!!”

“(Boss’s name), I just want you to know that I appreciate all that you are doing in this company, and especially all you’re doing for me. I know you’re juggling a lot, but you always take the time to consider my input and requests and get back to me in a timely manner and I just wanted to say thanks.”

These will differ by your role, your personality and your job but if you think about adding some gratitude to your day, you will be surprised at how it expands -AND- how it changes your view on things at work. I’ll leave you with this golden oldie that sums up the theme nicely from a (seemingly) simpler time in American life.

Keep On The Sunny Side  (love the old video!)

There’s a dark and a troubled side of life,
There’s a bright and a sunny side, too.
Though we meet with the darkness and strife,sunbeams
The sunny side we also may view.

Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life.
It will help us every day, it will brighten all your way,
If we keep on the sunny side of life.

Hump Day

CamelAt the risk of appearing to copy a funny, current TV commercial set in your typical cubical farm,…today was hump day. In a traditional working circumstance this means that there are only 2 more days to slog it out until nirvana – no alarm clock, no boss, no goofy colleagues that you have to be nice to or risk getting counseled for your attitude – you know what I mean!

YAY! Wa-HOO! Whoopie!

Wait – hold on – oh yeah, I forgot. I gotta go to job #2 (and finish a project for job #3). Or at least I did that year I was working 4 jobs. That was the year that I juggled vacation days from Job #1, so I could complete work and meet deadlines for jobs 2, 3 and 4, so time away was never really down time.

If you’re working Job #2 at the mall or pizza place, and you take a week off to go on vacation, guess what? You don’t get paid for that week, which is OK, if your 2nd job is really only extra money but remember that pesky property of a gaseous substance I talked about in my ‘Too Many Jobs’ post?

In my own case, I initially struggled to simply say ’NO’ to the for-profit school that wanted me to create 15-weeks of curriculum in 72-hours. I’m not kidding you; the deadlines from some of the projects I took on literally had me sleeping less than 4 hours a night,… to add maybe $1,000 – $1,500 (before taxes) to my monthly pay. Not really life-changing, monetarily.

I began to say ‘NO’ to the ridiculous requests and stuck to the more reasonable, public institutions (thank heavens for unions in public higher education) and the for-profits found a long line of people waiting for me to leave so THEY could work 20 hours a day for a few extra dollars. I said ‘NO’ because when I calculated the time I was putting in teaching for the for-profit sector, I was making about $8.00/hour. That was NOT what I went to college and graduate school to earn. I had (and still have) a lot of colleagues who were desperate; piecing together some portion of full time existence working multiples of these crazy-hours and low-pay gigs, which is no way to live (trust me on this one), but unlike me – some of them have no other options.

I began to say ‘NO’ because it was starting to feel like I was a whore – willing to do anything, realistic or not when the “john” wiggled some money in front of me. I would JUMP at it, because I wanted the money, but this “john” placed expectations on me that were just up to the line of realistic/unrealistic. Still, I would fantasize about how that $1,000 (before taxes) is going to pay off a bill or help send my kid to camp without putting it on my credit card, or get my car fixed, … and I would say to myself as my gut tightened in anxious dread, “I’ll do it just one more time”.

I remember the last time I was asked to teach another $8/hour class (I’m being sarcastic, but not entirely imprecise). I was calculating in my head what I might do with the extra $1,300 which is what they offered, and then I thought about what my weeks would look like, and how I would feel physically and mentally – and I said ‘NO’. Soon thereafter they took me off of their faculty rolls and I actually felt relieved and free! Isn’t that crazy? This was a part-time, occasional job and it sucked so bad that when it went away with a whimper, I did a happy dance and I realized that indeed, some things are much more valuable and important than dollars and cents.

So, as this week’s HUMP day draws to a close, take a good look at your life. If you’re working only 1 job, and would like some more money, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that taking that job at the mall, or a pizza delivery job, or a burdensome adjunct teaching job will suck more out of your life than it will ever give you back. It’s so very important to balance QUALITY of LIFE with QUANTITY of MONEY. They are not equivalent measures.

I would encourage you to consider other options, and there are a number of other options; let the hard-on-you and not-terrific-pay 2nd-job options be options of last resort.

I still take on additional work, but I do it carefully and only when it is in my best interest. This means it pays me a fair wage for what I bring to the table, and does not become a burden. I would encourage you to evaluate any additional income opportunities (otherwise known as jobs) with this same lens, and put yourself FIRST in the equation (followed closely by your family) because I promise you – the BEST day of that 2nd (or 3rd, or 4th) job will be the first day when it is new and the thought of extra money is exciting,… it goes downhill very quickly after that.

Now, let’s hear it for tomorrow: S-H-I-T day (Sure Happy It’s Thursday!)

That Sunday Dread

Just a quick add-on blog about the feeling that many of us know too well:

You know what I mean – it’s a gorgeous Summer Sunday afternoon here in the Northern hemisphere. You are having fun, or relaxing and enjoying the weekend – your time away from the boss, and the stress and the baloney at work, and then it happens: the trigger.tick-tock

The “trigger” is anything that interrupts your bliss with a loud (in your head) TICK-TOCK, TICK-TOCK that reminds you that in less than a day, you’ll be back in your cube, or on the road, or at the airport, or on the clinical floor, or on the manufacturing line… and your stomach churns a little; your neck and jaw tighten, and poof! The happy and relaxing mood of your weekend is gone and you know you’re not going to feel it again until you’ve put in another week at work.

When you begin to make better job and career choices, you will notice that the timeframe for this “trigger” begins to lengthen. In other words, instead of getting that knot in your gut right after Sunday lunch, you get a few more hours out of the afternoon and it may get to 5pm before you download that Monday dread.

When you finally find what it is that is your career “bliss”, you’ll enjoy Sunday evenings into the late hours, and will fall asleep like a well-fed baby.

Can you imagine that? A year or so ago, I could not. Today, I’m much closer than I have been in the entirety of my working life in that I’m ok til after 9pm.

I’m making plans to erase that entirely and I’m planning to share the “how” with all of you.

Since it’s after 9pm, I now need to attend to the knot that started in my stomach just over an hour ago.

Do your best to make it a great week!


Too Many Jobs

hundredsA few years back, right after the impact of the 2008 economic disaster began to manifest as pay freezes and layoffs, I was working a full time job that wasn’t paying my bills. I was teaching at a university and had good benefits, but for all the awe and respect that the title “Professor” engenders outside of academia, I was in dire straits. I had student loans commensurate with the advanced degrees that I possess but was making the same amount of money that my 22 year old undergraduates were commanding in jobs they were hired into at graduation. I wasn’t very happy about this – in fact, I was downright mad each month as I juggled and fudged and stressed to pay the bills in my single – parent household.

I’m one of those people who can’t resist talking to folks working in the mall, or at the pizza place or hair salon, so I was aware that a lot of people worked additional jobs. When I engage the clerk or pizza delivery guy, I often find out that they are working a few nights a week and some weekends and that their main job is one that, like mine, sounds respectable, but simply doesn’t pay the bills. I found people at Piercing Pagoda, multiple pizza parlors, Sears, Macy’s, JC Penney’s, Best Buy, Michaels Craft Store and JoAnn Fabric & Crafts and the 3 grocery stores I visit,…all working multiple jobs – and this is important –  NOT to buy fur coats or a new Lexus. These folks, like me, were simply trying to pay their existing bills.

As a professor, I was not interested in working at the mall, not because there’s anything wrong with it, but who wants to ask their students, who pay 20-prices in tuition, if they found everything they were looking for in women’s lingerie or men’s shoes?

Lucky for me, with faculty experience, I had other options.  I began to find adjunct teaching assignments and curriculum design and development work that I could do from home.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2011, about 5% of the U.S. population works more than 1 job, but I think that’s woefully underestimated. I’m guessing that number is much closer to, if not higher than 10%, and rising; and to me that’s sad as I recall the sorry state of work/life balance when I decided to take on traditional extra jobs.  Cartoon collapsed woman

During this time I was working 1 full time and 3 part time jobs. My multiple W-2 slips that year showed that I made a nice income, but I want to tell you that I was miserable (MISERABLE!). I literally worked myself into exasperation, and it was the depth of that misery that led me to a different (higher-paying) full time job, that wasn’t a super fit, but did give me some much-needed rest as it replaced most of the additional-job income with a single job.  Several months into that job I had the opportunity to move in to another higher paying job that was a little better, thankfully and paid me what I was making in 4 jobs – finally!

The decision to take on a 2nd (or 3rd  4th, …) job is at first, seemingly innocuous. We look at the great employee discount, or the other perks and our first few “extra” checks seem to really make a difference. We think, “this is alright!” and we even feel physically and mentally energized by our ability to make more money.

Take THAT,” we think to ourselves about that cheap boss, who waxed glowingly about what an asset to the company we are, while giving us a 1% raise, or telling us there’s no raise this year.

Yes, for a while, we’re really making our own magic – getting that extra money that we’ve been waiting for, perhaps for 2 or more performance review cycles – and it feels great!

Then it begins to shift.

We begin to resent having to leave job #1 to go smile and be friendly at job #2 when what we really want to do is go home, sit on the couch and put our feet up – maybe even snooze for a bit; but this isn’t even the worst of it.  For many of us, before we know it, our lifestyle expands, like a gaseous substance, to fill up to the capacity of our multiple jobs so that even if we wanted to quit the seemingly insignificant part time job, we’d feel some financial pain.

While I’ve been lucky in recent years to have jobs that I could work at home, I remember working full time in retail (on my feet) as a single mother after attending college all day (also full time), in my early 30’s.  There were many nights that I would crawl home, barely able to drag myself into the door and then having to chase kids to bed, do the laundry and find clothes for the 3 of us to wear the next day.  I was able to keep that up for a time because I knew that I would graduate and that I would not have to keep this up much longer….or so it seemed at that time. For t his reason, I am always (always!) nice and understanding of the people working in retail. I really *do* know what they are living and I am empathetic.

Too many of us live up to the brink of our incomes. Some of this can be attributed to lifestyle choices, but life is different today than it was when I was a kid.  When I was a kid, if you could save up enough money to buy a working TV, you could watch it for free, but for the small amount of electric it used. Not anymore: you have to have a cable box to watch even LOCAL channels, and while I’m not sure, I believe that it will cost you at least $30/month. Phones: I know a lot of older folks complain about cell phones, but that cat’s out of the bag. How are you going to live in today’s modern society without some sort of phone?  I also suspect that some of the cell phone plans are cheaper than the home phone services available today, anyway. Then there’s the internet – if you’re a single adult, you can probably get away without this, but I struggle to know how with school-age kids, you can be an internet-free home. I’m not complaining – I love all this technology but it does add another layer to the minimum bills people wrangle each month, and each family has their own unique version of this story.

So, are we all stuck on the hamster wheel until we can afford to retire? Running from Dollar

I sure hope not. My goal is to work at a job that I love, and that makes me smile when I think about it; happy to wake up in the morning and get to it!

Step 1 for me was to “get real” with what kind of work I want to do.  Money isn’t everything, and having lived that (working 20-hours a day, 7 days a week), I have a physical memory of how that feels (never again).

Not having enough money just stinks, on the other hand, so I knew that my plan needed to include work that I enjoy AND produced enough additional income to pay down my debt and save for fun things like vacations. That seems perfectly reasonable in the land of liberty & the pursuit of happiness, right?

Finding Your Way is the formalized version of the process I used to identify what I wanted to do for work, including details on where I wanted to work, and HOW I wanted to work. If you haven’t checked out the free template starter, and you’re working too many hours for too little joy; you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Watch for my next installment where I talk about choosing additional income (e.g. that 2nd job) wisely, and some interesting and exciting options!

Try It for Free (before the beta!)

I hope you all enjoyed the 4th of July holiday and (hopefully!) long holiday weekend that followed on its heels! I had family in town, and a brief incident inspired me to release a free portion of the tool for anyone out there who needs to do SOMETHING,…anything to take that first step toward a better job. fireworks

On this recent holiday weekend, my sister and I were driving through the suburbs around 5pm on Friday evening. We saw a young man get off of the bus from downtown and begin walking up the street. He wore ear buds, carried a backpack that was lightly filled and looked to be an escapee from a local “cubicle farm” – in other words, it was Friday, the day after a national holiday. He had worked all day and was glad to be almost home.

His body language told us that he had hidden in his cube for most of the day, and avoided work; not because he is lazy but because he is uninspired. His boss (and his boss’s boss) had probably taken the entire week off and left him with little direction, and no motivation to go above and beyond.

Let’s face it: it’s hard to go above and beyond for that 2.5% raise. After all, if he makes $45,000 a year, that stellar 2.5% raise equates to an additional $1,125 a year; or ~$93 a month, or just over $21 a week, before taxes – in other words, it’s not life-changing.

It is especially hard for him to reach super-inspiration since he knows that this whopping 2.5% raise will only be his if he walks on water, which he isn’t feeling for this job and hasn’t felt for some time. Last but not least, he recently received an email from his student loan lender indicating that the interest rates on the loans he took out to get this less-than-illustrious job are about to double.

“He needs your tool,” my sister said as we observed him and the look on his face that said, “thank heavens I don’t have to go back for 2 whole days!”

Indeed he does, as do countless others like him – maybe even you.

In honor of that anonymous young man with the defeated look (it actually took me a few years in corporate America to look that miserable, by the way), I’ve decided to offer a free sample of a portion of the Finding Your Way concept as I await (anxiously!) the completion of the printing of my pilot, or as I have been calling it, my Beta Test.

If you’re feeling less-than-inspired by your job, and are not sure which way to turn, or what kind of work you would even like to do, download this sample of the Finding Your Way tool, and start today. You didn’t get into that less-than-stellar job overnight. It’s going to take some time to get out of it and into something meaningful, but as we’ve all heard before at one time or another: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step“.

Take your first step toward a more fulfilling career (and a happier life) – and take it from me, you’ll be glad that you did!

For a how-to on the daily log sheets, check out these industry-specific examples: