How to Get Out of a Dead-End Job

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How to Get Out of a Dead-End Job

If You Want Your Career to Change, You Need to Change

Dear Heather,

I really need to get out of where I’m working. It’s toxic and completely reactionary. My boss (whom I’d worked with elsewhere in happier times) just resigned after only one month in her position! Sandy is known for her skill in improving business infrastructure but couldn’t tolerate what she termed “arrogant” and “immature” behavior from management (they never listen to anyone and think they’re always right). I feel like I have no control over things, especially now that my old boss has left. It’s like I’m on an island all by myself. I’m single—no kids. All I really have to show for my life is my career, and it doesn’t look so great at the moment.

I really want to work in a professional stable “team” environment as opposed to being in a small HR department. I took this job after being unemployed for an extended period. Really needed to replenish my savings and get benefits (this company offers a good package), but I keep wondering if I jumped too soon. I need room for growth and advancement. Not more drama!

I know my life needs change, but I keep hoping it will just happen. I keep dreaming that I get a ridiculous job offer and move to Hawaii and live happily ever after…but Monday comes and I’m still on my imaginary island in a dead-end job. Any suggestions?

~Mandy

Dear Mandy,

It’s a noun/verb issue, Mandy. You want “change” but haven’t changed anything yourself. This isn’t uncommon, but it is usually ineffective. Why not put your future into the hands of the one who most cares about it? This is your chance to make some active choices for yourself—the remote control is in your hand, and you have the power to change the channel.

Reality impacts valuation—and the truth of a situation can be a roller coaster drop from a much higher expectation.

Our jobs impact both financial and mental needs, Mandy. While your current situation fills the bank accounts, it is wedging a sizable emotional gap into your life. At some point, you’ll need to decide whether your contributions to date—and likely long-term payoff—are worth your further investment. If you can’t say, “this will (probably) be worth it in the end,” this job will continue to chafe like ill-fitting shoes.

The ability to self-launch is one of the most valuable skills we can learn. Without it, we float at the mercy of circumstance and other people and are more likely to land—and stay—in depleting situations. When self-launch is enabled, however, we can motorize the drifting and begin a more directed course toward our career dreams.

Toleration is a default position that will invariably entrench us deeper into substandard conditions. One has to hate a “rut” with enough passion to rev on out of it. If status quo seems preferable to taking steps toward change, you must identify the reasons or excuses for inertia in order to motivate forward motion.

1) Is it truly about the job? Dissatisfaction with one area of life will often bleed into the next. You mention being “on an island all by (yourself).” Workplace drama has greater impact when it’s your only regularly scheduled program. More than half of US adults are single per the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and feelings of isolation are a growing problem worldwide. Regardless of your employment satisfaction, creating connection—via friendships and non-work activities—will provide stability, valuable perspective and an excellent counterbalance to typical job stresses.

2) Do you know what you want? Or is this more about what you don’t want? Without a target, you’re only programming your internal GPS to get you away from your current location. An “escape” goal can lead us to teeter on ambivalence—holding on to what we dislike because we’re uncertain of where to reach. What will a “professional, stable ‘team’ environment” look like? Develop this goal into specifics—a recognizable destination.

3) Identify the cost. Outline what you’re willing to sacrifice to gain this opportunity. Are you willing to move to another city, sidestep to another career or accept a pay cut in favor of giving yourself better long-term opportunities? Consider making a lifestyle job choice—aiming for a location (you mentioned Hawaii) or family and friends—that will grow your overall quality of life as well as your career.

4) Choose your next steps. Once you’ve picked a path and oriented your attitude toward a destination (rather than simply “away” from the rut you’re in), you have to start lifting your feet. Identify and address your roadblocks—lack of connection, confidence or up-to-date search tools…so that you can activate change.

5) Set calendar goals. Hold yourself accountable to short-term objectives that will equip you, and then mark goals for your actual job search. Include research and reflection time. Your overall discontentment is a message from you to You. Listen to your own voice.

~Heather

Originally published at Salary.com | Boost Your Work/Life Balance column.

How Can I Stop Hating My Job?

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How Can I Stop Hating My Job?

Quit, Improve Your Lot, or Get a Hobby

As an advice columnist for Salary.com, I answer letters related to balancing and blending our work and personal lives for better overall living. It is rare that we can successfully relegate an office issue to “office hours,” so effective navigation of these situations is critical to our general well being and productivity. Read on for what happens when ophthalmologists lose sight of office management:

Dear Heather,

I read one of your articles on what to do about hating your job and it moved me to write you a message myself.

Like the woman in the story I too have come to absolutely loathe coming into work. I’ve been in my current line of work for close to five years, and to be honest I really enjoy what I do. In case you were wondering I’m an Ophthalmic Technician for an Ophthalmology office. At first my advice and actions were very respected and the rest of the office seemed to care about them. But as time slipped past the luster started to fade and the true beast began to rear its ugly head. We have two doctors here in the practice and they couldn’t be more opposite one another. One is very old school and is resisting the technological advancements we have to make with everything he has. The other couldn’t embrace it fast enough. Due to the intense nature of this job its imperative that we follow through with all the electronic issues that we face. And since I came from the computer programming/troubleshooting background I have even more knowledge and responsibility in the office.

There are three of us (technicians) in this office and we are all responsible for loading patients into exam rooms, working up their charts, doing the testing required for their exams, and getting them set for the doctor to come see them. However over the last 6 months the others have started slacking off their duties or “specializing” in one area over the other. I’d have no problem with this if the job titles were different. Instead I’m seeing more than my fair share of the load and still getting paid like the underling I was 5 years ago.

To combat this little problem we’re supposed to have weekly staff meetings to address our concerns in a professional manner. Instead weeks, possibly months, go by without said meetings even occurring. And when they do, it’s a blame-fest. No one likes to take responsibility for anything. The phrase “I was told” is used a lot when referring to the wrong way of doing a test, etc.

Basically the problem boils down to this. I’ve lost respect for this position because it doesn’t respect me. Too many times I’ve been walked all over and expected to pick up the pieces like nothing has ever happened. No one wants to man up and take charge, and the authority around here is terrible.

What can I do to stop (or at least limit the amount of) hating my job?

Thanks,
Jason

Dear Jason,

I’m sorry you’re in such a tough and depleting situation. It sounds as if divergent leadership has left your office with no leadership at all. Consequently, guidelines have been blurred and rules have grown fuzzy creating an “every man for himself” environment with lot of the unhealthy brand of competition. It’s no wonder you hate your job. I bet you aren’t the only one.

You have three basic choices in front of you, Jason:

1) You can muscle up your motivation and focus on filling your life outside the office with rewarding endeavors, amp up your business/social networking and simply wait out the current situation. Focus on the parts of the job you enjoy and your interactions with patients. What you’ve described is unlikely to last indefinitely. Either one of the partners will “win,” one will split, co-workers will quit or there will be a leveling process in which the technological advances take hold and positions realign to fit present need. There is no timetable, however, so this is an undefined period of stress. I’ve written elsewhere that the indefinite aspect of limitless stress can be a debilitating energy drain. These situations, whether an unfulfilling job, tenuous relationship or chronic health difficulty, can feel like an ongoing sprint with no finish line —and we need a finish line. So, I’d suggest that if you choose this route, you set a deadline at which point you will move on to option 2 or 3.

2) You can seek to create a resolution yourself. The main issue is the doctors’ opposing views and weak leadership. This has created opportunities for co-workers to basically redefine their own job descriptions. It has also fostered a defensive atmosphere in which office staff is unwilling to shoulder responsibilities. The randomness and combativeness of the staff meetings only magnify these issues and serve to etch those battle lines more deeply. You can’t fix the doctors’ dysfunctional partnership, but you can seek some clarifications. Ask to meet with both doctors (or the office manager if there is one) and share your observations regarding the shift in job responsibilities. Be careful to a) meet with both together (say that you have some ideas that you think could improve staff/patient relations) and b) avoid bad-mouthing co-workers. Instead, explain that responsibilities have become unclear and that you’d hate for there to be an error with a patient that would reflect poorly on their practice. Offer to take notes regarding proper protocol at the next staff meeting —this will at least start a paper trail to refer back to when disputes arise and will possibly provide a means from which to routinize procedures.

3) You can set your sights on greener pastures. You sound like a smart and capable man, Jason. It is to your credit that you have tried to keep your focus on maintaining quality patient care within such turmoil. If you don’t feel you’ll be appreciated or allowed to grow where you are, consider searching out another office. Chances are you can list half a dozen reasons why this is a bad idea: lack of job opportunities, seniority, location or benefits to name a few. But consider the toll that stagnating in a contentious atmosphere will have on your career and mental health. Your present situation is creating drag and wasting a lot of your energy. The mere act of choosing to take control of this area of your life by creating some new possibilities will generate positive energy and be a reminder that your world is bigger than the one you’ve live in these past five years.

It may be that a combination of all three strategies will be your best course, allowing you to take action in the present as you also plan for the future. Best of luck to you, Jason.

~Heather

Originally published at Salary.com.

How Should I Handle a Passive-Aggressive Boss?

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Salary.com Columnist

How Should I Handle a Passive-Aggressive Boss?

Your Boss’ Behavior May Not Be Your Fault, But It Is Your Problem

Hi Heather,

One form of passive aggressive behavior is a boss who looks displeased but does not speak to you for a day or several days. I am retired now but have been through a variety of good & bad managers. There is seemingly no recourse from moody nonspeaking bosses. If reported, one may be labeled as being over sensitive. What are your recommendations?

Wouldn’t it be nice to just sit down and have a little chat when those situations arise? But that is exactly what the passive-aggressive personality seeks to avoid. Whether due to unresolved issues from childhood or problems with authority or maybe a poorly masked lack of self-confidence, this type of individual is extremely uncomfortable with confrontation and personal accountability.

The good news is: It’s not your fault. Blame his mom (doesn’t everybody?) or the fact that he was an underappreciated late bloomer or — the cause is unimportant, but rest assured, something happened long before he started ignoring and procrastinating in your office.

The bad news is that it’s happening in your office. So it becomes a matter of letting it remain the boss’ issue in a way that won’t unduly affect the employee’s work performance.

Passive-aggressive behavior manifests in multiple ways: procrastination, subtle sabotage, sullenness and a discrepancy between words and behavior to name just a few. Sounds a little childish, doesn’t it? And yet, he (or she) is the boss.

Here’s what you do. My three “D”s for dealing with passive-aggressive personalities are:

1) Be Direct. Yeah, Jim doesn’t want to discuss what angered him in the meeting. Maybe it was that Tom took off with an initiative. Maybe he thought you missed a point. Maybe there wasn’t enough caffeine in the coffee. Instead of agonizing over which one it might be, just ask. “Hey Jim, you don’t seem very happy with how the meeting went. Is there anything you’d like me to do differently next time?” Jim may brush you off with a smile. He may shrug indifferently, and then stomp off down the hallway. Or he may tell you. Open the opportunity -and then let it go. You can’t make him talk.

2) Document. So she isn’t being clear about things? She says things are fine, but is acting a little sullen toward you? If you’ve tried using your words, use your email. Address issues in written form. Yes, they may be ignored. But you will have a record of your sent emails showing your attempts to identify and rectify. Keep written and electronic records from meetings and discussions. Maintain a digital paper trail to protect yourself from sudden sabotage.

3: Be a Duck. Your boss has the issue. Don’t let it become your problem by stressing over unspoken words and vibes. Be as professional as you know how to be. Accept criticism with grace. Be grateful and generous with praise. Don’t be absorbent, allowing your mood to ebb and flow with his passive-aggressive quirks. Let the good and the bad roll off your back, and then move on out of the puddle before you get your feet wet!

~Heather

Originally published at Salary.com.

Profile Plagiarism

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Salary.com Columnist

Profile Plagiarism

She Likes Me. She Really Likes Me

Dear Heather,
What do you do about someone who just about stole your LinkedIn profile?! I’ve run into “Amy” at a few networking events and noticed afterward that she kept looking at my online profile. At first I was flattered, but I finally looked at hers and found that she has posted, almost word for word, MY profile job description!! I was trying to be nice and introduce her to people at some industry events because she’s new and a little socially awkward but began distancing myself after she asked for my contact list (!). Now I’m angry. How can I handle this? I worked hard on my profile and don’t want her passing it off as her own!

Nikki

Dear Nikki,
Extending a helping hand to “the new kid” is kind, but yes, giving over your LinkedIn profile and contact list is the killing sort of kindness. Hopefully you explained to “Amy” that your contact list would do her no good because it’s comprised of associations you’ve built. A good contact list is not just a string of company titles, phone numbers and email addresses —this basic information is ideally attached to faces, interests and areas of expertise. It includes relationship history. Handing Amy a personal contact list is akin to giving her a storage locker without the combination necessary to open it.

And now she wants your profile? With the website growing by 175K profiles a day (and garnering 25 million daily profile views according to LinkedIn), your online profile is a critical career tool —but it’s also a very personal one.

Understand that Amy’s actions are the maneuverings of an uncertain and slightly desperate person. While perusing profiles for inspiration or structural ideas is smart, the copy/paste thing is rather “5th grade math class-ish.” The significant difference is that at this stage of life there are professional reputations at stake rather than test grades and TV privileges. It was wrong then, it’s unconscionable now.

So, what are your options? Well, you could report her to LinkedIn. People do, and there’s a link for that. Based on the screenshots you provided, it seems fairly clear that she shopped your profile, lifted some sentences and only rearranged the ordering. But it sounds like you’re bound to run into her again, and it might be difficult —or at least awkward— to inflict a LinkedIn ban on a colleague.

My first step would be to contact Amy directly. Perhaps you could even explain the situation in terms of its impact on her own professional reputation: “Hi Amy, I checked out your LinkedIn profile and noted its similarity to my own. Normally, I might be flattered, but we move within the same circle and I fear that many will note the identical language and think that you’re talking about me! You have some terrific abilities and accomplishments that are unique to you, and those are the things that should be highlighted in your profile. Please take the time to rework your profile description without the language used in mine. I understand that it takes a lot of time to get it just right, but it will be worth it to establish your own professional presence. Thank you! Nikki.”

Even better? Phone her. The under-confident can be expert email evaders. If you manage to catch her, boil it down to: “Hi Amy! Good to see you at (fill in the blank). Say, I checked out your LinkedIn profile and noticed that it’s just like mine! That’s going to confuse a lot of people. Would you please take care of that?”

Yes, she could deny it, in which case you retreat to the first option of alerting the powers-that-be at LinkedIn, but at least you’ve given her the benefit of the doubt and a chance to do the right thing. Perhaps her mimicry was the inadvertent outcome of a harried schedule and blurred judgment. Perhaps someone else wrote her profile for her. Perhaps your “wake up” call will prod her to prioritize the creation of her own distinct online profile. Congrats on crafting an attention-grabbling profile —may it facilitate exciting career opportunities for you!

~Heather

*For those of you wondering “could this happen to me?” Of course it can! One easy way to check for plagiarism is to use LinkedIn’s advanced search option. Copy and paste a phrase of your profile —in quotes— into the key words box, hit search and hope that your own profile is the only one that comes up in the results.

Originally published at Salary.com.

Putting in Overtime on a Workplace Friendship

Author, Columnist, Speaker, Voiceover & Video Spokesperson

Salary.com Columnist

Putting in Overtime on a Workplace Friendship

How Much is Enough?

Dear Heather,

One of my co-workers has hit a rough patch in her personal life. She just ended a three-year relationship, is taking it very hard and apparently has little family/friend support. She is a very committed to her job and takes on extra projects on a regular basis. The boyfriend didn’t seem very important in her life (I only met him twice), and I’m kind of surprised she’s taking it so hard. The problem is she has started calling me in the evening fairly regularly. I don’t think she has much going on outside of work and is pretty lonely. I feel really bad for her and consider her a friend, but my husband is getting annoyed and I guess I am too a little. I want to help her but need my family time after work. Any suggestions?

~Mary

Dear Mary,

Your compassion is commendable. Human connection is what makes it all worthwhile, as your friend is discovering in a painfully tangible way. But in this case it’s unacceptable because it is at the expense of your most valuable human connection — your family. Because her present imbalance has the potential of impacting your own work/life balance, you need to sketch in some boundaries fairly quickly.

You are her chosen life preserver. While your empathy is a good thing, keep in mind that life preservers are not intended for use as extended support. They are temporary flotation devices designed to transport a weakened party from an unstable position to where they can stand on their own two feet. The key word is “temporary.” You need to view this as a short-term situation and devise specific steps to help your friend without negatively impacting your family.

You may feel a temptation to set her up with one of your husband’s poker buddies (Jim’s single and hasn’t been arrested in two years). Fight it. This is a very bad idea as it has the potential of doubling those late night phone calls. Bandaging one broken relationship with another rarely does more than create another bandage-able situation.

Instead, help your co-worker begin to establish the balance that has apparently been lacking in her own life. She needs friends and outside interests. Fortunately, those are often a two-for-one. Encourage her to explore the world beyond your office. Offer to accompany her to couple of networking or interest-specific events where she can make new connections to build upon.

Next, establish “help” zones that won’t jeopardize your family life. Let her know you want to talk when you are best able to focus, and that your evenings are too hectic for you to give her full attention. Can you give her your ear at a weekly breakfast or lunch? Maybe meet her for an endorphin-amped workout at the gym?

Finally, do not be afraid to suggest professional counseling: “I really want to help you, but I don’t have all the answers. This is hard, painful stuff. I think you deserve the kind of knowledge and guidance a professional counselor could give you.”

Keep the compassion, but don’t allow it to override your primary obligations to your family. Don’t abandon your co-worker/friend, but don’t be a sled dog either. Your role is not to rescue, but to facilitate your co-worker’s rescue of herself while still retaining that critical balance in your own life.

~Heather

Originally published at Salary.com.

8 Reasons You Should Turn Down That Job Offer

8 Reasons You Should Turn Down That Job Offer

Just Because You Were Offered the Job Doesn’t Mean You Should Take It

The good news is you got the job. Which, in this still-reeling economy, is quite an accomplishment. But the bad news is you’re worried you might be settling for a position that isn’t the right fit for you. So where do you go from here?

Look, the honest truth is there are times when you’ll have to take any job you can get, even if you know it’s a bad fit. Maybe your house is about to be foreclosed on, you can’t make rent, or you have a family depending on you for income. We completely understand there will be times when finding ANY job is a priority over the PERFECT job.

But then there’s the flip side of that coin, which is taking a job just for the sake of having a job even if you have the luxury of holding out for something better. Maybe you’re frustrated because your job search has taken far longer than expected, or you graduated college and you’re the last of your friends to find steady employment. Those situations aren’t ideal, but neither is taking a “filler” job that won’t really benefit your career.

To help guide you, here are some very valid reasons to reject a job offer.

8. It’s a Dead End, Not a Detour
Sometimes we travel a broken career road, but that’s not all bad. Many success stories include colorful chapters where the hero bravely works his way up to corporate glory. But what about the sad dramas where the heroine ends up pausing her career indefinitely in a so-so job that moves her off-target and out-of-sight of her hopes and dreams?

Consider: Will the circuitous route still allow some sort of progress in your chosen direction? Or will the filler job effectively block the path to your desired destination? The best filler job will still allow you to grow skills and experiences that are resume-worthy, and easily applied at your next position. The worst ones can spiral you into a black hole from which you gain no additional skills or experience, essentially trapping you with no hope of escape.

7. When It Costs You Opportunities
Most jobs are found through networking. A job organizing office supplies in a backroom or basement will offer you few opportunities to rub elbows with anyone save the occasional lost soul seeking a restroom. On the other hand, a retail job selling business apparel might give you the inside scoop on unposted job listings. Remember, the clear majority of today’s employment opportunities are unadvertised.

Consider: If volunteer work or community service puts you in touch with a growing number of business contacts, it might be worth fueling that momentum rather than cutting yourself off with a short-term, bill-paying position. Obviously, if you’re in debt and behind on your bills, you may not have the luxury of timing. However, be certain that wherever you spend your 9 to 5, you remain in the vicinity of connections to your chosen career goals.

6. When It Hurts Your Professional Reputation
On the other hand, while assembling sandwiches in a company cafeteria will likely put you in contact with key decision-makers (even CEOs have to eat lunch), do you want to be remembered for a cheddar cheese mishap when you finally land that interview?

Consider: It’s one thing to wait tables as a new college graduate in search of that elusive first job. However, a displaced IT manager refilling iced teas is doing nothing to enhance that image of technical prowess. There is nothing wrong with honest labor. But aim for labor that won’t contradict your status and reputation as a professional. To wit, waiting tables would be consistent with a hospitality manager looking for her next gig. Web design work might be a better fit for the on-hold IT manager.

5. When It’s Soul-Crushing
How tough is your spirit? Can you retain essential hope and focus while working in the potential filler job? Some people own the sort of resilience that will not be trampled by janitorial duties or irate customers at a fast food establishment. Others have a tendency to link identity to work and their self-worth will deflate like a leaky balloon.

Consider: Know thyself. The purpose of a temporary job is to equip you — financially and possibly experientially — for the real deal. If a filler job is likely to grind down your self-image, perhaps you need to look a little longer. Find employment that will pay your bills without costing you your confidence and breaking your spirit.

4. When It Goes Against Your Morals & Values
The nature of your temporary work shouldn’t make you feel like you’re compromising who you are or your beliefs. Obviously you should avoid anything illegal, but beyond that black and white is a lot of grey. For instance, a vegetarian meat-packer, an environmentalist working for big oil, or a personal privacy advocate making telemarketing calls. These are scenarios that will pit self against self.

Consider: You will be ineffective and personally miserable in any position that requires you to ignore core values. Selling something that is personally disagreeable is a blow to your integrity. How will you sell the professionalism of someone willing to turn a blind eye to his own convictions?

3. When It Costs You Your Family
A great paycheck that takes you out-of-town — or out of family life by nature of the sheer number of hours required — may be a risk to your family connections. Yes, getting behind on your mortgage payment could strain family loyalties as well, but be sure you and your spouse (or significant other) are on the same page regarding expectations.

Consider: How “temporary” will temporary be? Are there other options that might provide a better balance to the financial vs. family stability equation? An indefinitely timed strain on familial relationships (and connections to your support system) should be approached with caution. Do you work to live or live to work? Just remember, no one on a deathbed ever wished they spent more time at work.

2. When the Money Isn’t Good Enough
Sometimes, it really is all about the money.

Most of us work to live. We have mortgages, rent, utilities, car payments, daycare and more to pay for, and we’re working to foot the bills. So if you’re presented with a job that doesn’t even come close to making all the ends meet, it might be worth holding out for something more lucrative if that’s feasible.

Consider: Be clear about pay structures and costs of employment — especially for commission-based work — before grabbing a temporary position. The word “temporary” can ascribe less value to the details tied to these jobs. These details should matter, however, because you are making a trade of your job search time. Be sure it’s a worthwhile exchange.

1. When the Money Is TOO Good
Whoosh. That’s the soul-sucking sound of a lucrative paycheck pulling talent from a long-term goal. It happens. The pay is so good you stay on a little longer. And a little longer after that. Next thing you know you’re completely hooked on your fat paycheck, 10 years have gone by, and you’ve forgotten you used to have other dreams.

Consider: If you’re a “work to live” personality with a goal of retirement, this may not be a deal-breaker. But if your goals are for professional achievement, be wary of temporary jobs that could lull you into career complacency. “Umm, I got busy and forgot” isn’t going to sit well with a bored, stagnated version of yourself, wondering about the untapped potential of your youth.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize. “Any” job is often better than no job, but not necessarily. Measure “filler” jobs against your overall career plan. Be wary of any side gig that holds the power to hamstring you into a permanent sideline position.

Our career paths are rarely straight lines. Sometimes the route to a coveted sales position goes through the mailroom. And there are times that outside pressures and financial considerations force us to pause professional progress completely. These challenges are surmountable and may even provide valuable perspective, as long as hitting the pause button doesn’t cause our motivation to idle as well.

Originally published at Salary.com.

7 Ways to Lead in Business and Basketball

KDurant7 Ways to Lead in Business and Basketball

Kevin Durant’s emotional acceptance of the 2014 NBA MVP award transcended sports and speeches. The Oklahoma City Thunder power forward delivered an eloquent acceptance speech spotlighting his supporting cast, revealing the heart of a true leader, and offering a glimpse into one of the more successful teams in the highly competitive world of professional basketball.

The star athlete’s speech illustrated key elements that can be real game changers in leading a successful team. Here are the big points to take to the office.

Connection Breeds Collaboration.
Durant’s speech has been lauded for the very personal manner in which he thanked others, and Durant focused almost exclusively on valued relationships. “When something good happens to me, I tend to look back at what brought me here.”

A good team draws strength from the relationships between its players. Employee interactions will either foster company success or drain positive momentum. When management actively promotes good employee relationships, it creates an atmosphere conducive to idea generation with better receptivity to constructive criticisms and greater shared motivation toward common goals.

The Little Things Count.
The quick email acknowledgment of an employee’s contribution to a big project, a public “good job” to the gal who brought in a key new client, the pause to say “hello” en route to the elevator — these things might seem little to you, but they’re not. Yes, we toil for paychecks, but small kindnesses prompt bigger efforts.

Durant mentions the special pre-game handshakes that “get him going” and better prepared him for the game. What little thing will spark your regional sales manager to better coach her team? What small encouragement might prompt your assistant personnel director to generate more effective training material?

Little things play a big part in creating and maintaining a positive company culture. Want to attract top candidates? The employees you already have will generate much of the positive (or negative) buzz on social media and in your industry.

Culture of Inclusiveness.
More than once, KD spoke to newer team members, saying, “You just got here” and “I didn’t know who you were…” Immediately, he went on to describe each newcomer’s unique value to the team and to him personally.

Change can be a hard sell. How easy is it for newcomers to assimilate into your company culture? Is your team so tight that it’s slow to warm up to new hires? Consider the drag an exclusionary atmosphere might create on ramp up times for new team members. Employees will generate better results—sooner—when they’re solidly welcomed to a team.

Cultivate Potential.
Throughout a childhood marked by challenges and even teasing for his rim-reaching height, Durant didn’t recognize his own potential. The NBA star’s early dreams extended no further than coaching underprivileged kids in rec league basketball. That’s why, in his speech, Durant thanks those who believed in him before he believed in himself.

How actively do you facilitate employee development? Hiring the right talent is good. A continued focus on growing the human assets of your business is better.

Ignored employee potential represents untapped skill and talent that could be working for your company’s future success. Unrecognized and underutilized talent will wither into wasted opportunity — or be hired away to a competitor. A visionary leader may note unconnected skills and bridge them to enable an employee to expand his contribution.

Be Specific With Praise.
Even with callouts to more than two-dozen individuals, Durant avoided generalities and was very specific in citing unique contributions. Particular memories—of a note from teammate Caron Butler, of GM Sam Presti’s late night text messages—and mentions of players’ unique personal qualities, added authenticity to Durant’s gratitude.

Specific praise lands with more sincerity and effect than general appreciation. Keeping notes of laudable actions will make it easier for a manager to positively reinforce—and motivate—his or her employees.

Culture of Excellence.
“You elevate my game.”

Durant recognized the high caliber play of others pushed him to a higher level of achievement. He cited teammates’ work ethic, consistency, and hard driving competitiveness as significant factors in making him a scoring champion. He recognized his mom’s tenacity and the investment of the coaching staff in pushing him toward excellence.

Professionalism indicates competence and builds confidence. It can show up in the less obvious details like a clean break room and grammatically correct emails. Even if outside the public eye, tolerance of a “B effort” will eventually bleed into public image and company productivity and innovation.

Value high performance over perfection in individuals, while realizing the efforts of multiple highly capable individuals collaborating on common goals should result in near perfect work. And work with everyone to make sure the little details are consistent with your big picture.

Be A Team Player.
While the trophy bears Kevin Durant’s name, his words made it clear he considers it to be another team effort and a shared victory. His mom, his teammates, the coaching staff, and many more were included as critical components of his success.

Celebration is both bonding and inspiring. In larger companies, the magnitude of a key success is often diluted into a featured paragraph in the monthly newsletter or as happy gossip in the elevator. Generously tabulating the contributions of many and including them in a business success expands the motivating impact of a victory.

Originally published at Salary.com:

Photo Credit: ShuttrKing|KT via Compfight cc

9 Ways Job Interviews are Like Online Dating

9 Ways Job Interviews are Like Online Dating:

A List of Things That are Unlucky in Love and Job Search.

HD1At first glance, dating and job interviews don’t seem to have much in common. But as I was writing “Date Like a Grownup: Anecdotes, Admissions of Guilt & Advice Between Friends,” I began noticing missteps common to both endeavors.

Are you coming off as desperate? Bad-mouthing an ex? Turns out there’s a lot job seekers can learn from going on first dates and online dating in general. So when you’re headed to see the hiring manager, remember these hard-learned lessons from the front lines of dating.

Don’t Be Desperate
The most common cause of poor dating choices is loneliness and the fear of being alone. An empty space on Friday night’s calendar leads many to pick anybody over nobody at all, starting downward spirals that lead to even lonelier places.

Similarly, the first instinct of the newly unemployed is to do a panic grab towards any position that might fill that 8-5, Monday-Friday space in their workweek. Better to breathe first, assess second and then make strategic moves. Desperation repels. Cloudy thinking will waste time, energy and opportunity. Rather than react, make a thoughtful choice.

Don’t Be Irrelevant
One of the biggest hindrances for the newly single is navigating changes in the dating landscape. If the previous relationship was of significant length, they must contend with the new phenomenon of “social obsolescence” and actively upgrade their connection skills.

Similarly, the unemployed must advance their professional skills to compete in a job market with openings for only forty percent of active seekers. Come-from-behind victories are hard work — better to stay well versed on industry trends and to keep your professional/social connections active and solid.

Don’t Dwell on Shortcomings
You want to stand out? Be you. A vague or overly general self-assessment guarantees you’ll blend in, but wallflowers are last to dance and slow to be hired. You can’t have every skill. While highly desirable, that would be equally unbelievable. So instead, be specific about where and how you excel.

On dating sites, this translates into profiles that display genuine personality. On a resume, that means focusing on your “star quality” attributes, and showcasing those top talents to fit the job to which you’re applying.

Face-to-face? Don’t apologize for your lack of managerial experience. Instead, draw attention to your creative initiative.

Don’t Wear Rose-colored Glasses
If you start dating someone who is constantly traveling on business, then you can’t get mad down the road when you’re unfulfilled. And if your date asked for bail money the first time you talked but you didn’t heed the warning sign, that’s on you.

This kind of wishful thinking and seeing only what we want to see can lead to interviews at companies with negative histories, into too-good-to-be-true scenarios, and other employment situations in which perception doesn’t match reality.

Do a little research online and within your network so you can lead with your head instead of your heart.

Don’t Compromise Too Much
A little flexibility is good but know when to hold firm. What can you live with? What can’t you live without? Too much pliability is a set-up for failure.

Some singles are so eager for coupledom, they’ll load up on Benadryl to welcome the allergy-inducing cat. But reality and resentment are great levelers. Better to be real, both in love and in your job search.

If this job is only about money, think long and hard. Do you see a job or a career path? Is it more of a stepping-stone to something better and less of an ideal, long term match? Plan accordingly.

Don’t Go It Alone
You’re going to do this alone? Seriously? Don’t think so.

Adult singles fare poorly compared to those who have a support network to yank them back from emotional disasters. Similarly, job seekers who have mentors and supportive colleagues will make better choices and find better opportunities. That big buzzword “networking” is really just about making genuine connections—building your own community that will stand ready to help you.

Don’t Be Dishonest
Failure to portray oneself in an accurate and positive light is one of the biggest problems in both online dating and job search.

If you’ve been on a blind date, you’ve likely uttered the phrase “He/She doesn’t look at all like the picture.” Either that shot was taken 10 years ago during better times, or it’s just made up. Likewise, if you embellished your resume, work experience, or skills to the point you could be considered a fake, you’re going to be found out — and summarily dismissed.

It sounds trite, but be yourself. Sure it may not work out because not everyone (or every job) is a good fit, but at least be honest.

Don’t Be Selfish
Ever been on a date that’s been completely one-sided, in that the other person won’t stop talking about him/herself long enough to even consider finding out about you? Being so focused on yourself doesn’t lead to many second dates, and the same holds true when it comes to job search.

While it’s essential to spotlight your achievements and general excellence during a job interview, there has to be more than that. Hiring managers will ultimately based their decision not on what you’ve done in the past, but how you fill a crucial company need in the future. That means listening to what the company needs and making a legitimate effort to be of service.

It’s a two-way street.

Don’t Be Something You’re Not
Blithely comment, “It’s not you, it’s me” to a roomful of singles and watch the eye rolls. But it’s often true—in both dating and the hiring process.

Being the most skilled financial auditor won’t lift your resume over the moderately qualified actuary applying for a valuation modeling position at a life insurance company. He fits the job, you don’t. And wrong fit jobs lead to unhappy employees, dissatisfied employers and a rapid rewrite of the resume.

Squeezing yourself to fit the wrong job increases your chances of failure, or, even worse, a cycle of short tenure positions. Be real on what each of you offer and require.

Originally published at Salary.com.

Redefining the Work Relationship With an Old Friend

Salary.com Columnist

 

Redefining the Work Relationship With an Old Friend

Have you ever had to “unfriend” a co-worker? Is it possible to be the new boss and still be a good friend? Here’s my answer to a Salary.com

“Boost Your Work/Life Balance” reader:

Dear Heather,

Any suggestions for “unfriending” a co-worker? Or at least taking it down a notch? When I first started my job, “Melanie” and I became fast friends. We were both going through some similar challenges and bonded quickly over daily lunches and the occasional happy hour. But over the past six months, I’ve become her boss and she has made some bad relationship decisions that are beginning to impact her work. She comes into my office and bursts into tears, and I feel like a horrible friend for saying this, but I can’t deal with it! At least not at the office. Any ideas??? I like her. A lot. But she’s over her head with the wrong guy and it is seriously affecting her judgment!

Sandy

Dear Sandy, Yep. That’s a tough one: Will you be a consistent boss or an unconditional friend? Can you be both? Probably not. One relationship will have to take the lead here, and it will probably need to be the one that supplies you with electricity and Greek yogurt. While it’s certainly possible to maintain a friendship with Melanie, it probably won’t resemble the original model wherein you dished dirt and dreams and dating dilemmas on your lunch hour. A work-based friendship will require some adjustments when hit with hierarchical changes. It isn’t clear if you tried to address this when you leapfrogged to the boss seat, but the fact that Melanie is bursting into tears in your office tells me that your current boundaries are at least ineffective. Let’s consider two possible courses of action. In the first, Sandy the Boss would schedule a meeting with Melanie in the office and explain how her personal problems are negatively impacting her job performance and, potentially, her future opportunities. You would express your professional confidence and support but draw a firm and unmistakable line between the office and those tearful outbursts. Or…In the second scenario, you would meet with Melanie outside of work in your capacity as “friend.” Sandy the Friend would express concern over some of Melanie’s recent decisions and help her look at options that might stabilize her personal life. She would encourage her to take actions that demonstrate self-respect. She would affirm Melanie’s capabilities both personally and professionally, and then segue to the impact her current personal dilemmas are having on her job performance. Sandy the Boss would then speak up, delineating the need to segregate personal problems from workplace interactions: “Melanie, I want to be supportive of you both personally and professionally, but I simply can’t discuss “Jim/John/Jackass” during our workday. What I can do is assist you towards your career goals…” Integrity demands that the two “Sandys” become one and the same. This is accomplished in the first situation with a somewhat blunt dismissal of the friendship. Ideally, the second scenario would allow you to blend them into one consistent boss who is also a cordial friend. Your status as Melanie’s superior dictates a diminishment to the level of intimacy you once shared, but if you navigate this well, your friendship can, hopefully, endure — albeit in a new form. And don’t burn bridges. Ever. There are no guarantees that your employee Melanie will not one day be your boss. It happens. Extending professional kindness whenever possible is always the best office policy.

Heather

Originally published on Salary.com “Boost Your Work/Life Balance.”

Stuck in “launch” mode? Unsure of your best option in navigating a workplace issue? Looking for perspective on a critical relationship? Or maybe you’re one of the new—often isolated—single majority seeking next steps for this next stage of life… Send an email and your question may be answered in one of Heather’s columns.

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