At Work

Pick the Job That’s Right for You

My sister-in-law recently received her bachelor’s degree in nursing and began searching for a job. She was a licensed practical nurse for 12 years prior to her graduation – so she had a lot of experience in her field, which helped her job search. She received several job offers and is having a terrible time trying to figure out which job to take. She has three small children, so picking the right job is crucial to her work/life balance.


This job dilemma is a good one to have; however, some people aren’t quite prepared to handle this situation when it arises.  Of course, in the grand scheme of things, you must take into account all factors when trying to find the right job choice for your career. When trying to determine the right job, keep these tips in mind:


Take time to compare: Don’t say yes immediately. Make sure to take some time to evaluate each job offer. Write down the pros and cons of each offer, and go over them with your family or someone you trust. If you have additional questions, write them down and call the potential employer back for answers. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. You want to make sure it is a good fit for everyone involved.


Focus on your priorities: Money isn’t everything, so make sure that you understand everything each potential employer has to offer. Check out their benefits and healthcare package. Do they offer corporate perks or bonuses? If you receive a great salary but the company doesn’t offer any benefits program, or career advancement opportunities, is the pay worth it?


Be honest: Let other prospective employers know that you were offered another job and you are trying to determine the best fit. You don’t have to divulge any information about the salary or who is offering the job if you don’t want to. Let them know that you need some time to evaluate the offer, and give them a time frame in which you will get back to them. Most employers will understand if you ask for a few days to think.


Don’t back out: Make sure that you are respectful to all prospective employers. After you decide which job you are going to take, don’t back out. Once you have accepted a job offer, the company lets all other applicants know that the position has been filled. If you back out, the employer has to start all over, and it doesn’t usually reflect well on you.


You may love the idea of having multiple job offers, but the anxiety of picking between them can be tremendous. By following these tips, you can help narrow the field down to the one offer you want to accept.

Have you ever juggled multiple job offers? What was the deciding factor – money, benefits, time off?

The Workplace Classroom: Creative Moments Allow Lifelong Learning

workplace classroomMost of the children in my area are starting back to school this week or next – which got me thinking about my own school days.

I remember lying awake the night before school started filled with excitement about wearing my new school clothes, meeting my teachers and finding out who I’d sit by in class or play with at recess.

The start of each school year was filled with eager anticipation for the new things I’d experience and discover.

When I graduated from college and entered the working world, I really missed the ever-changing class schedule that promised challenging ideas and unfamiliar faces. But, after my first year in the professional world, I got in the groove of my new lifestyle and missed my scholastic days less.
In my current job, I still have the opportunity to take new classes (projects), meet new students (vendors, clients, co-workers) and learn from interesting teachers (supervisors, colleagues, books). While my recess (lunch break) doesn’t involve swinging on the monkey bars or playing tetherball, it probably could if I wanted to head to a local park in my work clothes.

One of the things that made elementary school great was the opportunity to cut loose and experiment with new ideas – whether that was increasing our understanding of politics by sculpting world leaders out of Play-Doh or learning about teamwork by running a three-legged race.

Those moments stimulated our minds and helped us kids refresh from a sometimes draining day of reading, writing and arithmetic. I think those same moments are invaluable in the “workplace classroom.” Employees need to be able to try out new ideas and shake off the hum-drums when their enthusiasm wanes.

Infusing creativity and fun into the workday helps employees stay sharp and engaged.
Of course no classroom or workplace is all fun and games, but my favorite classes were always the ones where I learned without realizing I was learning. The same can be true at work. If we have enough moments that stimulate our minds and shake up the status quo, we don’t feel like we’re working, but rather exploring and making contributions to our world.

What were some of the best learning moments from your school days? How could some of those creative learning times be brought to your workplace?

Call in Well – Take a Vacation Day

day offI played hooky from work yesterday. It was a planned event, weeks in the making.

Coming up with the excuse to call in with was a challenge. My favorite was “I am stuck in the blood pressure machine down at Wal-Mart and the paramedics are on the way.”

I didn’t use an excuse. After writing yesterday’s post, I opted to tell the truth. I needed a mental recovery day.

Well that, and it’s best not to lie to your boss, your coworkers or your clients because they’ll probably be the ones you’ll run into on the golf course or while you’re walking down the street in shorts and flip flops when you’re supposed to be in bed with the flu.

I told my team at work exactly what I was doing – taking a family health day. Every year before school starts my oldest (and only school-aged) daughter and I have a full day of play – Just like Ferris Bueller and his friends.

My work was covered, and the department and the company operated just fine without me for one day. This is important because taking a vacation day should not cause undue hardship on your co-workers.

Father and daughter went to breakfast, then to an amusement park, lunch and then the movies. We enjoyed every moment. I didn’t think about to-do lists, deadlines or meetings. Instead I reconnected with my childhood, when being a kid meant just having fun, hanging out and playing together. My daughter felt important (she planned the day) and by bedtime I felt rejuvenated and ready to face work on Friday.

Have you taken a vacation or personal wellness day recently? Or are you more prone to calling in sick or coming up with an elaborate excuse? Either way, I’d like to hear your story.

Wasting Time at Work or Taking a Mental Break?

Have you checked out YouTube today? Did you do it at work? If so, you’re part of 63% of the workforce who’ll admit to wasting time at work.

Employees waste 20% of their work day (1.7 hours) according to a survey conducted by Salary.com. Look at it a different way. In a five day work week the average employee wastes an entire day, and that doesn’t even count lunch.

Let’s assume that I just spent 15 minutes looking at the weather forecast, paying my bills online and talking with my cubemates about the newest Jason Bourne movie. Then I would be just like most workers. The leading time-wasting activities at work include:

• Personal Internet use
• Socializing with co-workers
• Conducting personal business
• Making personal phone calls
• Taking extended breaks to run errands

Men and women waste time equally, but younger workers are inclined to waste more time than older workers. Employees age 20-29 reported the highest total – 2.1 hours a day. The average for 30-39 year olds falls to 1.9 hours and 1.4 hours for 40-49 year olds.

I’m a little depressed. I turn 40 in five months, which means I’m going to have to convert 30 minutes a day from water cooler talk to work production.

There are some things to consider if you find yourself at work doing Sudoku puzzles, downloading music and checking out eBay listings instead of compiling weekly production reports.

You’re not being challenged. If you have time to waste, maybe you don’t have enough to do. It could be time for a new challenge. Maybe you’ve mastered your current job duties, and you’d like to take on additional responsibilities. Ask your supervisor for more challenging work.

You’re burned out. Take a vacation to recharge your batteries. That’s what your paid time off (PTO) leave is for. Hopefully, you’ll come back rested and ready to work. But then again you might not. So…

Quit. You may beyond repair, so to find challenging work you might need to get another job. Seriously, how many hours of Tetris can you play before you need to pack up your box and hand in your keys?

Most bosses don’t expect their employees to work non-stop eight hours a day. Bosses (OK – good bosses) know what employees are producers and which ones are slackers. Breaks are to be expected and can benefit your company’s culture by strengthening the bond between co-workers.

There’s a difference between taking a nap and having a casual conversation with your peers. Internet research that helps you increase your overall productivity impacts your company’s bottom line more than spending an hour updating your MySpace profile.

That reminds me. I need to look up a recipe for dinner tonight. Where will I find the time?

Don’t Let a Roadblock Derail Your Raise Negotiation

roadblock your raiseYou’ve done your homework, booked the meeting with your boss and prepared yourself mentally. You’ve made the pitch that you are well deserving of a raise based on your performance, progress toward your goals and value to the organization.

Then your boss throws you a curve ball, “So, Peter, what’s happening? Ah, now, are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?”

You are unsure where the conversation is headed when you boss adds, “Oh, and next Friday is Hawaiian shirt day. So, you know, if you want to you can go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans.”

If handled correctly, this blatant attempt to change the subject can work to your advantage. This tactic is used frequently by managers because it gives them the opportunity to regroup and hopefully discuss something else. You need to remember that this is your meeting, and you’re on a mission. Here are a few suggestions to help you reach your goal.

What do I have to do? Ask your boss to explain the career path that will allow you to increase your responsibilities as well as your bank account. Set time tables and measurements so you (and more importantly your manager) will know what’s expected.

Take responsibility. Offer to take on additional responsibilities and have your raise be reassessed in 90 days if your manager is pleased with your performance. Point out that you will be doing more work for the same pay. If your boss is open to this, consider suggesting that the raise be retroactive to the day of your meeting. There’s no sense leaving three months of extra money on the table.

Offer alternatives. There are other ways to get the raise without increasing your salary. A 5% raise for someone making $35,000 a year equates to an additional $1,750. If you know this going into your meeting why not suggest a one-time performance bonus equal to your raise. If that’s too much for your manager to digest, offer quarterly installment based on performance.

Get another job offer. I’m hesitant to offer this as a suggestion because it can backfire. You might mention that you have another job offer, and your boss will give you an empty box and show you to the door along with your last pay check. If you are going to attempt to use a job offer as leverage to get a raise, be prepared to leave.

Good employees are even more valuable in today’s tight labor market. It will cost the company more money to replace you and retrain a replacement than it would cost to give you that well-deserved 4-6% pay increase. Sometimes you have to rattle the cage to get your manager’s attention.

Best of luck to you, and let me know how it goes.

How to Get the Raise You Deserve

deserved raiseWhen was your last raise? If it was more than a year ago you may be losing money.

In 2006, the U.S. inflation rate was 3.24%. That means goods and services cost more today than last year. The price of gas has increased. Milk costs more. Cable costs more. Everything costs more.

If you haven’t had a recent pay increase, you are actually making less today than you were yesterday. So, what’s stopping you from getting that raise?

Many people are afraid to ask for more money. It could be conflict avoidance, fear of rejection or that you don’t know how to pull it off. If you are one of those people, I have some suggestions to help you successfully add some green to your future paychecks.

Know the market value of your job. Research how much your peers are making at other companies. It is dangerous to compare job titles with other companies because you might not be comparing apples to apples. Your best bet is to compare job duties or job descriptions. Online job boards and sites like Salary.com can help you develop a pay range for your position based on your job duties.

Timing is important. It’s not wise to broach the subject when your boss is in a bad mood or on a tight deadline. You should also avoid asking for a raise right after you screwed up a project, went over budget or survived a layoff.  The best time would be after you completed a significant project or after you’ve taken on more responsibilities and proven you’re up to new challenges. Many companies create their budgets in the fourth quarter of the year. Employee compensation is an important part of each department’s budget so it’s best to get your request in early.

Stand strong. Don’t just walk into your boss’s office and demand a raise. You’d better put together a convincing case of why you deserve to make more. Examine your goals, progress and accomplishments. This is your opportunity to sell yourself. If you go in unprepared, be ready to get a quick brush off.

No boot kissing. Whining and groveling are pathetic in most business scenarios. You will be rewarded for your performance and confidence. Stating you need the raise because you’re getting divorced, having a baby or you need to get out of debt are not legitimate reasons. Any raise is based on your work performance. Not on what happens at home.

This should help you prepare, but it’s up to you to book the meeting and to make it happen. If you don’t ask the question, you’ll never get the answer.

This is evident in a recent study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University. Researchers found that four times as many men (51%) as women (12.5%) pushed for a better deal in negotiating a job offer. Not surprising, the individuals who asked for more money received 7.4% more than those who accepted the offer without debate.

The study cited a primary reason that women avoid salary negotiations. Women who pushed for more money were seen as “less nice” and were at times viewed negatively.

Have you recently experienced a successful raise negotiation? Do you feel you’d be looked at negatively if you ask for a raise? Are there different rules for women and men?

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the appropriate course of action if you meet some roadblocks when asking for more money.

Ugly Uniforms Deflate Employee Confidence

Ugly UniformsLast week, I attended a conference at a hotel in Florida where all the employees were dressed in terribly outdated, unattractive uniforms – faded royal purple and turquoise jackets with pleated beige blouses and royal purple pants with pleats and elastic waistbands.

I think uniforms in general are fine, especially in customer service jobs. They simplify getting dressed in the morning and help customers easily identify employees. Uniforms don’t need to look like something the employees could walk down the runway wearing. But, there has to be a happy medium between hideous and high fashion.

If a company’s uniforms are so unstylish and awkward that they make even customers cringe, are they really serving their purpose? They certainly aren’t impressing customers or encouraging employees to perform their jobs with more enthusiasm. Ugly uniforms bring down employee morale and leave customers with a less-than-positive feeling toward the company.

In my working life, I’ve had to wear lots of uniforms. Some of them were more attractive than others. In my tackiest uniforms, I remember feeling distracted and eager to hide my clothing and face from customers. Unattractive uniforms also made me anxious to leave work so I could change into something more comfortable.

In my current job, I wear something of a uniform – business suit, dress shoes, hose. But, since I’m able to tailor this “uniform” to my own style, I don’t have to feel awkward or like a fashion ad from 1987.

What do you think about uniforms? When do they help a business, and when can they hurt it? What are some of the best/worst uniforms you’ve worn?