Working in the Great Communication Gap

Do you ever feel like you and your boss never exactly see eye to eye? Do you sometimes wish you knew the whole picture so you could understand why you’ve been tasked a certain assignment? Have you ever been blindsided by change that impacted your job or work environment?

If so, you know how frustrating it is to work in an environment where communication is dysfunctional. In the work world, one of the biggest complaints of both workers and managers is bad communication. And, your relationship with your boss is the one that will probably impact your overall job satisfaction, as well as your career the most. That’s why it’s vital to proactively communicate with your boss. In the book How to Be the Employee Your Company Can’t Live Without, author Glenn Shepard phrases it this way: “Answer the questions your boss didn’t ask.”

This can mean volunteering for tasks before you’re asked, asking for help when you need it or telling your boss you are interested in career advancement opportunities. For more on this, check out our podcasts on the book. You can see how taking the initiative to communicate with your boss really can boost your career.

However, the best communication is a two way street. With that in mind, if you could tell your boss one thing they could do that would make your job easier, what would it be? Vote in our poll below.

Preparing for a Successful, Less Stressful Trip

Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you’re preparing for a business trip? Maybe you’re a seasoned pro and packing for such trips is no big deal. For some, like me, just trying to figure out what you need to bring on a vacation, let alone a business trip, is enough to cause a panic attack. From laptops to dress attire, packing for a trip is enough to shake even the most confident of travelers. If you tend to stress before going out of town, here are some tricks that will help you be better prepared for any trip.

Travel Light – Travel size items are great whether you’re going on a three day trip or a week long trip. Travel size lotions, shampoos, conditioners, cotton swabs, razor sets and other items that can be discarded when you’re finished, help lighten your load on the way back. Hotels often supply some of these items as well. Another option is to pack clothing items that can be interchangeable. Packing a solid black or brown pair of dress pants or skirt and wearing them with different dress shirts will not only allow you a variety of outfits to wear, but will also lighten your luggage.

Confirming Confirmations – Confirming your hotel, car rental agency, taxi or other reservations is always a great idea. This saves you from last minute surprises when you arrive at your destination. When confirming, make sure you get the name of the person you spoke with, and write it down along with the time of your phone call in case there are any discrepancies.

Making a List and Checking it Twice – Ever get on the plane and wonder, “Did I pack my dress shoes?” And then, a sudden wave of heat goes over your body as you begin to worry because you can’t remember if you did or didn’t. By making a list and checking it off as you pack, you can avoid that overwhelming feeling mid-flight of whether or not you packed all of your belongings.

Front Door Service – The night before you leave, set everything, I mean everything, by the door – your jacket, keys, tickets, wallet or purse, suitcase, shoes, anything that you want to take with you on your trip. That way, if you’re in a hurry to get out the door, you can be assured that you’ll still be sure to grab everything.

By following these tips, you will ensure that when the airline attendant says, “sit back, relax and enjoy your flight,” you’ll be able to.

Can’t Walk and Chew Gum

I reviewed my resume this morning. I’m not looking for another job – I was checking to see if I listed multitasking as a skill set that I possess. Thankfully it was not.

Attention everyone, “I stink at multitasking.”

At home I can do laundry, prepare dinner, empty the trash and check e-mail. What usually happens in the middle of this activity is I’ll lock up and forget what I was going to do. I’ll actually stand in the middle of the living room until I remember that I was headed to get a tissue.

Put me in front of the TV and rest of the world ceases to exist. My wife can ask me a question three times and I’ll not hear her. It’s frustrating to her because she multitasks well. She can have a conversation while reading a book and watching TV.

At work, my lack of multitasking ability is beneficial. Concentrating on one task and doing it well is, in my case, a stronger attribute because when I multitask to get everything done sometimes my work suffers.

When I approach a project, I break it down into multiple tasks. Take this blog post for example. I will research, write, edit, proof and post – five steps. That’s not multitasking – it’s accomplishing one task at a time. I have a to-do list each day of three to five significant work projects that need to be tackled one at a time.

I decided to admit my multitasking deficiency when I read an article in the New York Times that challenged “any man to talk on the phone, send a fax, reply to an e-mail, change a diaper, get a toddler a snack, monitor what your school-age children are watching on TV and add to the grocery list – all at the same time.”

I wasn’t up to the challenge. At best, I can listen to music while working, but that’s like counting breathing while walking as multitasking.

Do you think women are more naturally prone to multitasking? Are you a multitasker or a uni-tasker like me?

Think Before You Ink

tattoos at workDo you remember the episode of Friends in season two when Rachel and Phoebe get tattoos?

It was Phoebe’s idea and Rachel had second thoughts, but then follows through and gets a heart tattoo on her hip. Phoebe is scared of the needle and only gets one pin-prick sized blue dot. It’s referred to as a tattoo of the world (from very far away).

At the time Rachel and Phoebe got their tattoos their characters were 26 and 29 respectively. With 29% of the lead characters having a tattoo, the 1996 show was a snapshot of American society 11 years later.

A recent study by the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology sited that 25% of U.S. adults age 18-50 have tattoos. One-in-three (35%) adults age 18-29 have at least one tattoo.

According to a 2006 U.S. appeals court ruling, Rachel and Phoebe were wise to get their tattoos in easily-coverable areas. The court ruled that police officers do not enjoy First Amendment protection and can be subject to department uniform rules, which required that tattoos be covered.

Employers are beginning to take a hard stance on excessive body art. Companies hire individuals who match with the company image and culture. If that doesn’t include visible tattoos, those who are noticeable inked may be out of luck.

In many parts of the country police officers must wear patches or winter clothes year-round to cover tattoos. Some police forces even turn away applicants with visible tattoos.

Even Uncle Sam is taking a stand on image protection. The Air Force prohibits tattoos that cover more than 25% of exposed body parts and any above the collarbone.

Tattoos are a part of American culture and are firmly entrenched in our society. But your body has a lot of canvas to work with. So, you might want to hold off on that flaming skull tattoo you were planning to get on your neck. I’m certainly glad I wear my art on my back.

What’s the tattoo culture like in your workplace? Have you experienced tattoo regret? What have you done about it?

Baby Boomers Keep On Truckin’ in New Careers

baby boomers jobsBaby Boomers are shaking things up again. While they may not be protesting in the streets or picketing outside schools, their influence is still redefining cultural expectations.

An article in this week’s Newsweek magazine focuses on Boomers who are choosing unexpected career paths. According to the article, an increasing number of the 50+ crowd are saying goodbye to corporate jobs to seek the freedom of the open road as truck drivers. Data in a 2005 study for the American Trucking Association showed that from 2000 to 2004, the number of truckers age 55 to 65 and older increased by about four percent.

As a personal example, over dinner last week, my architect father-in-law told my husband and me that he’d like to drive a truck when he retires in two years. He’s driven Chevy and Dodge trucks for years, so I guess it wouldn’t be such a stretch for him to be out on the road in a big rig.

The Boomer generation is sometimes referred to as the first workaholics and is often associated with aggressively climbing the corporate ladder to get ahead. But, it seems after a lifetime of structure, org charts and board meetings, many Boomers are ready for some freedom.

If you’re a Baby Boomer, what are your career plans for the next five or 10 years? Could you see yourself traveling the country as a truck driver?  Even if you’re not a Boomer, does a desire for a change of scenery tempt you to leave your current job?

Don’t Make Me Use My Patronus On You

harry potter job searchHarry Potter. HARRY Potter. HARRY POTTER.

I can’t get away from him. He’s in the paper. He’s on the Internet, my radio and the television. I can’t escape him at the movies or in the bookstore (which I did not brave this weekend). All weekend I was force fed Harry Potter.

I wasn’t even safe at work, when at 7:55 a.m. Monday, a co-worker asked me if I bought the book and then offered me her copy since she was done with it.

That’s when I started thinking about what Harry Potter character she’d be (Ginny Weasley).

Who would I be? I was intrigued. I took several online quizzes at lunch and the results were inconsistent at best. According to the highly (non) scientific surveys I am the following HP characters:

Hermione Granger: Hermione is a wiz kid, so much so that at times people make her feel ashamed of her intelligence. She is a leader and will tackle anything she puts her mind to. However, she is a bit confused about her romantic interests (does not apply to me). When she goes with her gut instinct she is seldom wrong. In the workplace, Hermione would be ambitious and confident. However, she’d need a strong mentor or boss like Professor McGonagall to rein her in. Her desire to master everything could be her downfall by spreading herself too thin and burning out early.

Harry Potter: He is courageous and very loyal friend. He is not afraid of challenges and is always looking for adventure. Harry loves family but sometimes wishes he was just an average person, which he is definitely not. He is special and important. At work, Harry would be the one to question why something is done a certain way, and then he’d provide a better solution. In his unassuming way, Harry is an innovator. He’s the golden child with a one-way ticket to a corner office.

Draco Malfoy: He tries to influence people, but for all the wrong reasons. Draco picks on his schoolmates. He’s the classic workplace bully. His own insecurities feed his unhappiness and create the desire to harm others. Well, that and the fact that he rides his father’s coat tails and did not have the best family upbringing. One day he will cross paths with the wrong coworker (wizard) and lose his tough-guy status.

When I finished with the quizzes I thought about my high school teachers and how they resembled the Hogwarts faculty: geometry (Severus Snape), drama (Sybill Trelawney) and Spanish (Pomona Sprout).

I daydreamed some more and reflected on some of my past bosses. I ranked them according to how Voldemort-like they were. The list was impressive, but I realized I had never worked for a Dumbledore.

That gave me the motivation I needed. I could become a Dumbledore to my team. I might not ever make it, but it’s a much better path to walk than the path “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” took.

Do you work with a Harry Potter character? Do you hide in fear when your Voldemort-esque boss turns the corner? I’d like to hear your stories.

What Not to Do When You’re Job Hunting

Countless eager job seekers are going to extremes to stand apart from the crowd. But, their efforts, though well-intentioned, can miss the mark. Last year, one video resume from an aspiring job seeker  became a YouTube sensation when it was posted without his consent after he sent it to several Wall Street recruiters. The resume and the buzz it generated subjected its creator to internet ridicule – and didn’t exactly help his job prospects. But in some cases, a video resume has been just the ticket. Another job seeker, featured by Career Journal, actually landed four job offers from his video resume.

Video resumes aren’t the only new trend being used by job seekers to stand apart from the crowd. Recruiting bloggers often post horror stories of job seekers trying too hard to set themselves apart from the pack – from dressing up in costume to sending lavish gifts to hounding recruiters with frequent calls and e-mails. So how can job seekers figure out if these efforts will help or hurt their job search?

The Brand Dame, a professional recruiter, recently posted a list of things not to do in a job hunt – from the perspective of the person picking through resumes. Though it sounds a little harsh, her insights should be taken seriously by job seekers. Recruiters, she says,  “…are looking for reasons to eliminate you.” It’s your job to sell yourself as the right candidate for the job, not eliminate yourself by making a dumb move. And in a competitive job market, it can be hard to find the right balance between not trying and trying too hard. Here are a few top ways you can ensure your resumes gets put in the “no” pile. (Hint: Avoid these at all costs.)

  • Try too hard. Give your job search serious effort, but don’t become a nuisance to the recruiters and hiring managers you are applying with. A unique way to stand out from the crowd isn’t necessarily a wrong move, but whether it’s a right one or not will depend largely on the type of job and industry you’re trying to get into. An off-the-cuff video resume probably won’t appeal to conservative companies or industries, but it might work for creative fields.

  • Oversell yourself. Some people can make themselves sound pretty impressive on paper. Others just make themselves sound self-absorbed and self-important. Present your skills and your abilities for what they are, and keep it at that.

  • Bribe. Recruiters don’t take kindly to being bribed for an interview. Some have legal obligations with the companies they work for to not accept any gifts or outside compensation for their efforts. Don’t go overboard on gestures you send recruiters. Keep your efforts professional, simple and to-the-point.

  • Lie. Don’t say you graduated from Yale, with honors, if it’s not true. It’s the job of recruiters to verify your resume for facts, and these days, a simple Google search or call to a university can quickly uncover the truth and lies behind applicants’ resumes. A recent story on Career Journal highlighted how one woman’s high-powered career fell apart after it was discovered she fudged the truth on her resume when she lied about her credentials.

  • Hassle/harass. Yes, believe it or not, recruiters have been hassled, even harassed or stalked by overly eager job seekers. While a thoughtful gesture can set you apart from the pack, showing up at a recruiter’s front door with a singing telegram and a $100 flower arrangement probably isn’t going to land you a job. Unless you’re applying to be a birthday party clown.

Do you have any stories of job hunting tips gone awry? Share your experiences in the comments below.