Dealing with Irascible Managers or Co-Workers

I have worked with and for quite a few problematic characters throughout my long career. Some are still friends and confidants, and a few continue to be valued as mentors.

Many of these irascible managers or co-workers lack social grace and a sense of control, so they cannot communicate well under stress. They also appear to forget that a timely apology can be a fallback position.

You see them coming from a mile, so the choice becomes whether you rise to and meet the verbal challenge or obfuscate. But, since nobody wins in these confrontations, you seldom try to deal with it.

They are unaware of how their behavior impacts others because they need to elevate themselves above others in a group situation. They do not hesitate to exploit their leadership role by insulting others because they are often insecure and quick to attack to assert their leadership.  

So they seek to maintain their position in the hierarchy through criticism, humiliation, and camouflaged insults, in a kind of unconscious narcissistic way.

The second group of tough characters are those with narrow interests and vapid sympathies. These folks say and do the same cruel things regularly as if on cue. I worked for one manager who lobbed the same petty insults at every group meeting but never in one-to-one meetings.

The worse part is that you feel bad for the manager. And deliberately avoid connecting with the “Oh No, Not Again” apologetic looks directed your way by the other team members. You think, “well, somebody has got to pull up the weeds.” Feeling all the while like the embarrassed parent of a preschooler misbehaving in public!

There is a stunning lack of creativity when someone overuses the same petty insult. If you must be regularly petty, try to be creative and offer variety. Unable to rise to the occasion, then stop it, the exercise of watching a manager or colleague try to diminish a coworker publicly is tiresome and embarrassing for everybody!

Is it time for a Career Self-Assessment?

The reality has set in. You are getting career restless. You are not bored, but Mondays are tough! By Wednesday, you are back in the groove; But for some reason, “thank God it’s Friday” is now the week’s longest, most challenging day. How do you restart your job love-engine?

Don’t start by simply updating your resume. If you do, you will end up with an autobiography masquerading as a resume. Try doing a career self-assessment to help you identify your critical talents, career interests, goals, and needs.

A self-assessment will help you gather valuable content for your new resume and is an excellent prepping tool for interviews. The process will help you uncover expertise and work patterns that illustrate your capabilities.

It will enable you to gauge your employability at this time relative to what is available. Self-assessments highlight and lay bare gaps in your expertise and suggest repair resolutions. It will also prepare you to run an effective job search campaign. How do you go about conducting a career self-assessment?

1.      Review your skills
Do the fun stuff first. What aspects of your current job do you do well, which ones do you like doing, which fall into the “not so much ” category, and which ones do you do poorly. Think about the skills required to do your job effectively. Now think of two or three examples where you excelled in each skill. You may also identify several related skills you utilized to enhance the skills you already accepted are your strengths.

2.      Are you an expert? What do you know?
If you have worked at a company for an extended period, you may underestimate your product knowledge, technical know-how, service sector, or customer type. Did you come up with a deficit during this exercise? Then make this an immediate correction item.

3. Did you add real value?
Did you help your organization generate quantifiable income, reduce costs, solve unique customer problems or improve the quality of its service? Your contribution may have been as an individual or as part of a team. Include it all.   

4.      What do you truly want?
Your wants may include an improved salary, but what else is important to you? How do you want your next job to differ from your current role? Are there things you would like to keep the same? These items will be your decision criteria for future opportunities.

Finally, benchmark your skills and value by reviewing job postings that interest you to see what employers define as needed skills and attributes.

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Why You May Not Be Invited To Interviews

Look, there are many possible reasons why you are not getting interviews. And, you are beginning to sense that your career search journey, while not entirely derailed, is turning out to be very bumpy and indeterminate. Plus, you are not enjoying the ride, one bit!

As you try for a correction, it turns out there is one area you may have overlooked – your social media footprint. Question – do you know what your social footprint looks like to an employer who looked you up on social media or googled your name? Was your response to the search results: Yikes?

What you publish about yourself or the personal info you allow unfettered access to by everyone on social media; has the power to enhance, neuter, or severely hinder your chances of obtaining the job interviews. Consequently, you must plan out and curate your existing social media collateral to improve your chances of success in your career improvement project.

So, beyond publishing your skills and experience to the public domain and networking online with professionals from various employment sectors, here are some things you should do immediately.

1. Resolve to keep your personal intrigues, fallouts and updates, and professional updates on separate social media accounts.

2. Ensure that your LinkedIn URL and the name you generally know in the business are in simpatico.

3. Widen your reach; build your network, and engage in professional dialogue with a broader audience across multiple social channels.

4. Interact with recruiters, former colleagues, and prospective employer representatives by liking and commenting on their posts across all channels in real-time.

5. Resist the urge to be disagreeable and pedantic in your comments and responses to the posts of others. Alternative views are encouraged, but razing someone on a social media post, does nothing to further your career improvement project.

Are you ready to take the lead in your job search? Then it is time for a social redo or upgrade of your social footprint?

Problems with 1st Interview Feedback?

So, no one called you back after your first interview. You were told they would get back to you in two days, and it has been two weeks! Plus, you’ve called three times for a status. Imagine getting no credit for your restraint!

By the end of week two, it is slowly beginning to dawn on you that you have crossed into the high-maintenance job seeker category. So even if you performed well at the interview, you might have blown it with your overanxious, aggressive interview follow-up.

Are you a high-maintenance jobseeker? The high maintenance jobseeker views interviewing and job search as a proactive, highly competitive exercise. The HMJ candidate believes that they should take control of the interview and the interview feedback process and may make some mistakes to get an edge over other jobseekers.

Have you committed one or many of these mistakes while job searching? Here are the most often abused missteps.

1)     Once contacted for an interview, the HMJ candidate bombards the recruiter or manager with a series of “before I set up the interview, I would like to share” emails.

2)     When asked for additional or supporting documents, the candidate sends each item in a separate email. As a result, the recruiters or managers are so overwhelmed that they never open any documents.

3)     During the interview, HMJ struggles to allow the manager to ask complete questions or constantly interrupts to present supporting documents, forgetting that there is no prize given for being a “quick-draw” with the responses. It is important to remember that some people ramble before coming to the point, so answering the question too soon can hurt you.

4)     Post-interviewed HMJ often calls to find out the state of their candidacy or will email show-and-tell items to highlight their projects, reference letters, reviews, etc.

5)     HMJ forgets to write down the Key Manager’s name and addresses their Thank You note “To whom it may concern” – the answer to which is “Nobody.”

Many job seekers inadvertently commit one or more of these interview mistakes to stand out from other candidates.

If you were not invited to a second interview or did not hear back after your first interview, check the items above. Did you commit any of these blunders – are you an HMJ- a high maintenance jobseeker?

Close your interview with a process question.

Closing your interview with a process question instead of a project related question, is a winning interview strategy. Asking an organizational or process question at the end of an interview can help you gauge whether the position is a good career fit for you at this point in your life and career.

These questions should replace the project, technical or industry related questions as you may have already discussed those topics with the interviewer. A good sample question: “What are the challenges someone hired into this role can expect to face?”

The Manager’s response to the question will show:

1.   Whether there are departmental or interdepartmental politics that you will have to battle against? And, are there technical issues that may make it initially challenging to perform your role effectively?

2.   The Manager’s answer may provide clues as to whether the Manager is aware and in-tune with what it takes to be a success in this role?

3.   Does the manager offer suggestions on how they will work with you to ensure your success? Does the manager speak about the good technical or process culture among the team?

4.   Does the manager’s response discuss how they generally mitigate friction among their talented team members? Because, while friction can generate new ideas, it can massacre the implementation of the new or unique ideas.

5.   Are there actions in place to correct some of these deficiencies, and how someone like you can add value in that effort?

This and other similar open-ended questions, is the manager’s opportunity to sell the role, their organization, and their management style. It is also an opportunity to tell you a bit about what kind of training the company provides its employees.

The manager’s failure to grasp the importance of this question and the opportunity to sell their management style, will also help you gauge the Manager’s interest in your candidacy for the position, and the potential for career growth that the position will provide.

Asking thoughtful process questions shows that you are interested and committed to success in the role could set you apart from the other candidate.