Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Answering Reader Mail: How Do I Navigate Terrible Co-Workers Trying To Undermine Me?

"In the past I worked with someone trying to undermine my work and efforts. At first I thought they were trying to be helpful, but overtime it became very clear their intentions were not sincere. When one FIRST enters a new role, how do you stay positive, eager to learn, and NOT even allow this to become an initial issue?"

Sorry to hear about the difficult work situation. I hear about it all too often. Nonetheless, it is NOT fun when it is happening and very disappointing. It seems so unfair. Your question on how to stay positive, eager, and not allow this to be an initial issue is a good question. It seems you have enough self awareness and perhaps already read books about professional growth, etc. While it is in your power to stay positive and eager, I'm not sure how much control you have over it not ever happening again or it not becoming an initial issue. It really is disheartening to be put into situations as such and the only remedy is to learn how to control your reactions, thoughts, behaviors so your productivity, peace of mind, and sanity are not jeopardized. At the heart of it, you can't control other people. You can perhaps engage less with them and learn to understand why they act the way they do (on your own through reading, without consulting them). Their efforts to undermine you could be for a variety of reasons - boredom, they feel threatened, you're their scapegoat, low self esteem, insecurity, gunning for a promotion, inter office politics, a pay raise at stake, etc. My advice to you is to keep your head down, do your work well, be nice to everyone while observing who can help you fulfill your goals at work, get to know your boss really well, get to know your boss' boss really well. It's good to get to know people at work, but they don't have to be your best friends there or outside of work. Also take the time to nurture those below you and help them out. One thing I would caution you against doing is getting other people involved. Although the situations are counterproductive to a great work environment and don't make a lot of business sense, unfortunately, being a mean person at work is not illegal. It's true that terrible people get to keep their jobs because someone higher up likes them. Most people would rather work with someone semi competent that they like than someone stellar that they like less. I think this is an issue we all come across and it's a long learning process. Understanding human behavior, forgiveness, and concentrating on your life goals are the foundation to getting through tough times and scenarios. The better you become at reading people, understanding what makes them tick, how to give them what they want (attention, praise, validation, results, commiseration), and to navigate the business world gracefully, the easier it becomes. I would suggest reading books by Keith Ferrazzi, Covey, and Robert Sutton. I'm glad you have such an open mind and are eager to learn. That's a great first step! Keep me posted on everything and hopefully I can help.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This Journey We Call Life...

(This piece was actually written in mid-May when I decided to buckle down. I’ve also updated it at the end.)

I realize the last time I posted was 6 months ago. Since then, I’ve been regrouping. I’ve been enjoying the process, maybe too much, that I decided I should probably blog again. If you haven’t noticed yet, I alternate each posting between a professional and personal topic. Today’s is about this journey we call life...

I’ve been a lot more introspective as of late. A couple of friends have both moved away and moved on to bigger and better things in adulthood. One lost a family member. I’ve run into people from my past. Babies were born. Someone had a really, really bad day. There has been a lot of worldwide natural disasters and news. And I’ve met some new wonderful people too. In the last few weeks, every conceivable human life experience has touched my friends’ lives or mine. It has made me ask myself - am I spending my time wisely? Am I grateful enough? What do I REALLY, REALLY want out of life?

I have yet to re-answer those questions. Right now, I’m trying to find the time to apply critical thinking skills to evaluate the master plan for my life. I will go into goal-setting mode in the next few weeks as well. As I carve out “me-time,” it strikes me how odd and flummoxed I am with how to fill 40 hours. Although I’m very much a “do-er,” sometimes my doing is too automatic that I’m on this treadmill of short-term productivity without long-term progress.

Next week, some vague goals I have are to meditate every day, to work out a couple of times, to meet with various people, and to find time to ponder and reflect how I want the rest of this year to look. I can’t believe it’s already ½ over. Perhaps I will go so far to structure one year and 5 year plans. Right now, I’m just brainstorming how to wisely spend next week. I’m already seeing it’s a lot of work, but it will make things so much easier in the long run.

To help, I’ve been watching or reading the following. Lately, this is what has captured my interest:

-Soul Surfer, the book and movie
-True You, Janet Jackson’s new book
-Penelope Trunks’ self published book
-The How of Happiness book
-I Am documentary

6/16/2011 Update

I recall looking forward to a week or two of deep self-reflection and planning for the future. I wanted to get through a lot of what if, what next, and strategy so I wouldn’t have to think about it again for another 6 months.

As I was thinking about how to best use the week, an odd thing happened. I had actually cleared my entire schedule for this self-imposed sabbatical and instead, I got flooded with meetings and projects. By the end of it, I was exhausted. I almost wonder if in “letting go" or letting things "be" things began to change.

I was able to tackle some of the books listed above. I certainly got a lot done, even though it wasn’t stuff exactly on my list. I did exercise a couple of times too. I’m somewhat in the same place where I still have to think hard about the next 6 months. I think blogging again is a good start. It forces me to think, to be concise, to be focused. I also took a mini vacation. I’ve implemented some actions that will hopefully pay off in the long run. I'm going to give it about a month to track initial progress. If all the steps from the past couple of weeks don’t lead anywhere at that time, I will definitely have to go back to the drawing board. This time I'll have to make sure to come back with some nice blueprints for life. ;) If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Interview Attire Dilemmas (Again)

A long time ago I blogged about what to wear since I was interviewing for non-corporate roles or companies. As of late, I’ve been headhunted a lot and am running across the same dilemma. All my interviews are at companies that either never existed until recently, aren’t traditional companies, or are cutting-edge leaders that are forging new paths they don’t “obey the rules,” and thus, corporate culture is highly specific to that industry. What throws me off more is when I interview for senior management at a very atypical company. Do I dress as the “gets stuff done” EA or cater to the company ideal of “we’re different because we start trends, we don’t follow them”? Decisions, decisions, decisions!

As you may know, my standard interview outfit for being a CEO’s assistant is an all black suit with pointy heels in black. Since all of my jobs have been pretty corporate and I dress fairly conservative at work anyway, this has worked well for me - until a few things made me start to think...

Because I’ve been meeting with all these companies, I started to notice differences I never had exposure to, coming from mostly a corporate, Fortune 500, all business all the time background. The companies I met with were legitimate, successful, and reputable, but they became that way for not following whatever was mainstream. And how they differed was evident from the first point of contact. The communication was breezy, very casual, peppered with slang, as if we had known each other for years. The meetings were in coffee houses or over meals. They didn’t want to see my resume. They just wanted to sit and chat. Through the grapevine I heard I was complimented for being cute because of my large dimples. I was advised not to wear the suit. It was also suggested to not have my hair up in a clip. I was advised to wear something very trendy and specifically a dress. Because fitting in with a company’s corporate culture is imperative, that also comes across in the way one dresses.

I had difficulty coming across young, hip, and trendy, without it becoming too cute, too green, and not business enough. And how does one wear a dress to an interview without it becoming too feminine and alluring? I finally settled on a speckled black, grey, and white long turtleneck sweater dress that came down to mid-calf, with long sleeves, a wide silver and black belt to give the dress an empire waist, and low red heels. I also wore an oversized ring on each hand to accessorize a bit.

When one is only 5ft tall and petite, it’s sometimes hard to be taken seriously. I’ve had colleagues see me out in LA and not recognize me at all in casual clothes, or mistake me for a junior high kid in jeans and a shirt. In the past, I would have rather erred on the side of being taken too seriously in a corporate suit rather than too lax in something a bit more casual. However, knowing that most people would rather work for someone they like that they have things in common with that is a pretty good employee versus someone stellar and they like less, I should probably tone down the corporate attire and let my resume (hopefully) speak for itself...

Have you had similar dilemmas? And what are your suggestions for dressing for various types of companies - technology, advertising, architecture, music, and other industries that are not typcial business, law, real estate, or finance companies? And do you wear different types of outfits for the head of HR, the assistant, and the CEO or other executives that you interview with? What have you found that works or doesn’t work?

Monday, June 13, 2011

3 More Tools for Self-Branding and Job Hunting

Lately I've been poking around online trying to see what else is out there for self-branding and job hunting.  I enjoy doing this and it helps when I volunteer or make suggestions to those I'm mentoring or friends who ask me questions.  I'm by no means an expert in social media at all.   But amongst my circle of friends and colleagues, since I love learning they usually figure I've read something about it or maybe came across it.  

Here are 3 more tools you may want to check out.

1) Tweet My Jobs - I know most of us may roll our eyes or not believe that people have found jobs through Twitter or Facebook because it seems so far-fetched and unlikely.  While it may not happen for everyone, those that genuinely care about others, helping them, and connecting with people will find themselves forging connections with strangers online.  You know how sometimes you have that random question that you wish you could find an expert or someone in the exact same boat as you to ask, but none of your immediate circle has any clue?  This is when social media plays a large role.  I had a wonderful chat with a new online friend this past weekend.  We swapped stories about interview attire.  Hi, @AllyRae!   A friend of mine got her job via a Facebook status update when she ranted "I need a job!" out of frustration.  Someone saw it and passed that along and the rest is history.  So I was skeptical too and started to Google how people used Twitter to find jobs and I came across Tweet My Jobs.  It is a site and free service to tweet out your full resume.  They also notify you of jobs in your area.  Pretty cool, eh?  Technology moves at such a fast pace it's hard to keep up with what's out there.  So maybe you'll get a job and tell me how you did it!  Is there a new telepathic message service now?

2) Snail Mail - This isn't a new program or site.  I'm actually referring to regular old snail  mail, USPS mail.  I've actually sent in my resume and cover letter to companies with open positions whenever their site was down or when a post had expired.  On a whim, I figured I would only have 44 cents to lose.  It has paid off where I got a phone call or an interview.  One HR rep actually said to me, "I wouldn't normally call, but because you mailed in your resume specifically to us, I wanted to reward that."  So believe it or not, sometimes going old school does work.  Nothing pays off like a more personal touch and reaching out in unconventional ways when everyone is updating their FB status, tweeting, emailing, and filling out online applications.  

3) About.Me - This is also a free site where in three steps you build a visually elegant splash page that points visitors to your content from around the web.  Upload a photo, write a couple of sentences, and input links to your FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Vimeo, and etc.  It is a central site so you can pull into one place where everyone can see and connect with you.  In a word, brilliant.  So brilliant, AOL bought it in a heart beat.   

Relationships and networking will always be about one on one connections.  Nurturing them takes time, but it is so fun and rewarding.  Technology only helps facilitate that process along, but it also serves as a jumping off point too.  Otherwise, how else can you meet so many different types of people while eating a late night snack, in your PJs, vegging out on your couch?    

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Can I Follow You On Twitter?

Although I have been MIA from this blog for several months, I'm always thinking of blog topics to write about and tips to share with my fellow readers. I usually have 2-3 half written blogs I'm waiting to flesh out and finalize between reading your fan mail, mentoring other assistants, and answering any of your direct questions. I do read all mail that is sent to me and try to personally respond when advice is sought. However, a faster way to communicate would be to Twitter! I would love to follow you and see what issues are coming up in your every day lives at work or at home. Work life balance is something we all struggle with, me in particular. So please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter so I can follow you back! Let me know it's because you read my blog and how I can help you! Talk soon!