Archive for January, 2008

Girls, Girls, Girls (Update)

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Used to be that when a girl went to college people joked she was just out to earn her “M.R.S.” 

It wasn’t that funny back then either.

Anyway, according to this WSJ article, nowadays young women no longer go to college to meet potential husbands.  They are out positioning themselves for a better career.  If you don’t have time to go and read the link, here are the salient points:

Young people are delaying marriage.  Since 1993, men’s median age at marriage has risen by 1.2 years (to 27.5); women’s by 1.4 (to 25.5).

College students aren’t pursuing serious relationships, but they are hooking up.  According to a Stanford University study, 76% of college students have engaged in hookups.  “Students report having had an average 6.9 hookups and only 4.4 traditional dates by their senior year.”  However, the hookups “usually stop short of intercourse.” 

Close (platonic) male-female friendships are more common than ever before.

In a 2006 study, 14% of married people said they’d met their spouse in school; 15 years ago, it was 23%. 

Finally, Kathleen Bogle, author of “Hooking Up,” says that many twenty-somethings go back to traditional dating after graduation.  They “want to find a quality person, a good person,” she says, “and traditional dating is seen as a better way to do that.”

So, how do you feel about this?  Encouraged?  Horrified?  Unsurprised?

The Biggest Resume Mistake

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Just had coffee with Jill Walser, owner of “I Got the Job!”  Jill is a resume writer and interview coach.  Boy, does she have some stories to tell.

Asked what is the most common mistake people make on their resumes, here’s what she said: 

“Aside from the usual spelling and format errors, the most common resume mistake is:  People list their jobs.  But they never say if they were good at them.”

Sure, they’ll list job titles and duties and dates.  Fine.  But, for all the prospective employer knows, you sucked at these jobs. 

A resume is more than a list of jobs and schools.  It’s a sales document.  If you don’t advertise your successes, who will?

So Jill says ask yourself, How can I show that I was successful at my past jobs?  Think!  Did anything you do save a company money (this is huge)?  Did you devise an efficient procedure that the firm still uses to this day?  Did you solve some annoying, inconvenient, or expensive problem? 

Figure it out and put it on your resume.  Spelled right, of course.

(Does this sound obvious?  Then why is the Number One problem with resumes that people are not “selling”?  Someone must be screwing up.  Don’t let that someone be you.)

Ay Caramba

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Working Girl was un poco annoyed by “When English Is the Rule at Work” (biz section of the Sunday NYT).  Apparement, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued an employer for requiring its employees to speak only English on the job (even at lunch or on breaks), and every Tomas, Ryszard, and Henri is up in arms, either for or against.

Ach du lieber. 

Way too many people in the U.S. are threatened by languages other than what passes for English around here.  Meanwhile, the world becomes smaller and more “globalized” every day.

News flash to all you paranoid Pollys and Pauls:  People speaking another language are not talking about you.  They don’t care about you.  They are busy with their own conversation.  Capisce?

Unless English is necessary for some safety reason, or for simple reasons of communication, why can’t people speak whatever language they want?  At work, or anywhere?

Say benvenuto to a multitude of tongues.  It’s fun.  It’s exotic.  You might actually learn something. 

And say sayonara to a monolingual world. 

Bullies Redux

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Last week’s post on bully bosses generated a lot of discussion in Working Girl’s analog life.  The Question:

Are bully bosses insecure?  Or. . . . psycho?

To put it another way:

Is there real evil in this world,
or are “evildoers” merely misunderstood?

This gets into worldview stuff, and religious stuff, and a lot of other stuff.  But to keep it in the workplace–and to keep it practical–the important issue is how to handle a bullying (or evil) boss.

Obvious answer:  Quit.  But if you can’t quit, remember this one big thing:  Bullies pick on the weak.  They also pick on people they’re envious of, or threatened by, or remind them of their ex, etc.  But weakness is key. 

You can hold off a bully for some time by appearing to be impervious.  Note the word “appearing.”  You may be as annoyed as hell, freaked out, insulted, or fearful for your life.  Do not show it.  Be wonderful at your job.  Be a classy, mature human being. 

Maybe the bully will back off.  Maybe, just maybe, your superiority and the bully’s insanity will stand in such sharp relief to one another that the powers-that-be will step in and resolve the problem. 

Of course, it’s also entirely possible that your classiness will drive the bully to attack you even more.  This happens.  It depends on the degree of psychoness of your particular bully. 

Which brings us back to the “pure evil” concept.  In this case the only solution is to walk away.  Try to do it on your terms.

7 Words To Live By In 2008

Friday, January 25th, 2008

As long as it’s still January, we can think about resolutions, right?  Anyway, they’re on Working Girl’s mind since she attended a lovely breakfast featuring Jean Lawler, naturopath.

Jean talked about 7 simple things we can do to be healthier (and happier) in 2008:

Breathe.  So simple.  So obvious.  But easy to forget!  Jean’s recommendation: 10 deep breaths on waking and 10 on going to bed.  Also while standing in line, waiting at stoplights, etc.  Work up to 100 breaths a day.

Drink.  Water, that is.  She gave a good rule of thumb: Divide your weight by two; that’s the number of ounces of water you should drink each day. 

Eat.  The good stuff!  She stresses protein, not seeming to feel most people get enough.  (Hey, Jean, that’s ’cause we’re hooked on carbs!)  Here’s another formula:  Divide your weight (in pounds) by 2.2 and then multiply that number by .75.  This equals the number of grams of protein you should be getting every day.

Move.  Jean did not go overboard about this.  Suggests something simple to start, like walking 10 minutes after dinner.  Should be a no-brainer.

Sleep.  Yeah, you gotta sleep.  Go to bed at the same time every night and avoid stimulates in the evening.  (But what about that single square of dark chocolate WG & husband consume every night?  Sorry, Jean, we’re not giving that up!)

Play.  Do something fun, something that gives you joy, every day.  Preferably outside.

See.  As in, see yourself in a positive way.  Live in the present, laugh often, hang out with lovely people you love.

Simple, basic stuff.  But we could all do better with all seven of these. 

P.S.  Jean probably didn’t know it, but “seven-word wisdom” is all the rage these days.  Check out this recent NYT column for more than a thousand examples.

You're Not Wearing That, Are You?

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

For the last three weeks in a row, the Thursday Wall St. Journal has featured an article by Christina Binkley about business and fashion.  Working Girl has read with interest and here’s what she learned:

  1. Even highly paid executives have trouble deciding what to wear.
  2. For men:  When you go to a job interview, do not wear a tie decorated with little crowns of thorns with blood dripping from them.
  3. A lot of people judge you by your shoes.  And socks.
  4. If you want to play it really safe, wear what candidates for president wear.
  5. For women:  Your jackets should always have a collar.  Collars project authority.
  6. If you are a woman executive and you want to look less intimidating, wear light-colored suits.  Dark colors frighten underlings.
  7. There is actually at least one employer out there who believes that a woman who wears skirts and pantyhose makes for a better employee than a woman who wears pantsuits.
  8. For men:  Some companies will reject you if your shoes have tassels.  Ditto for if you wear a bowtie.
  9. Women should not wear crimson (the color), French manicures, wet-looking lip gloss, or open-toed (or heeled) shoes.
  10. Good news:  Pearls are not out of style after all!
  11. For women:  Wear stuff that doesn’t wrinkle, like knits (they’re thinking St. John’s suits here, not t-shirts).  Don’t wear make-up that needs touching up by the afternoon.  But don’t go completely without make-up either.  Some men are, apparently, offended by women’s naked lips.  Oh, and don’t wear too much perfume.  Got that?

Last, but not least, here’s a really scary quote from today’s article

“According to unwritten rules, their [women’s] appearance at work should be attractive but not alluring, feminine but not girly, strong but not severe.” 

Okay then. 

If you want to read the other articles, here’s the one from last week.  And the one from the week before that.

The Village Idiot And More

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Monsieur Alphonse D’Auto’s astute comment in yesterday’s post brought up a thought:

The workplace is the modern-day village.

It can’t be an original observation that the workplace is the very last venue in this 21st century world where we are required to, on a daily basis, deal with people not of our own choosing.

Used to be we were born somewhere and then lived in that same spot our whole lives.  Ditto for everyone else.  So you had to be good at managing all sorts of personalities.  Couldn’t get away from them!  People were pretty much accepted the way they were.  Nuttiness, and worse, was just put up with.

Nowadays we have much greater power to pick and choose whom we spend time with.  Even exposure to our families, that next-to-last bastion of a social group you can’t choose, can be limited to the holidays. 

That leaves work.  At work, today’s village, we are exposed to the whole gamut of human nature–many good people, to be sure, but also people who are manipulative, dim, critical, self-centered, lazy, paranoid, promiscuous, evil, dishonest, and just plain unevolved.  What’s worse, a lot of people get away with this behavior for, it seems, forever.  Just yesterday Jared Sandberg, in the WSJ, wrote about people at work who refuse to admit their mistakes.  Some manage to go whole careers like this, perhaps, as Jared says, “not in spite of their ability to avoid accountability but because of it.”

Whaddya gonna do?!!

Bullies Beware

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

All this talk of quitting jobs reminds Working Girl of a boss she once had who took her aside every week or so to say this:

“You are not a nice person.”
“You will never succeed at any job.”
“Your marriage will fail.”
“You are not as smart as you think you are.”

Hmmm.  She got #3 right.  And #4 is just a matter of opinion, isn’t it?

In addition to these little sessions, this forever-to-be-unnamed boss gave WG the worst duties and the most beat-up desk.  She even “urged” other employees not to be friends with her.

Boy, was that a lousy job.  So it cheered up WG, though only slightly, to read in Sunday’s Seattle Times that one-third of workers in this country (54 million Americans) have also been bulled at work.  Yikes. 

What’s the deal with bullying bosses?  Powerlessness, in WG’s humble opinion.

Which does not make the bully-ee feel any better.  So it is sort-of good news that the Workplace Bullying Institute  (up the road in Bellingham, WA) is pushing a piece of legislation called the “Healthy Workplace Bill.”  Four other states will consider similar bills this year.

The news is only sort-of good because no states have adopted such legislation and the same bill was proposed in Washington State last year but never made it out of committee.

And. . . . .would it even help?  Sorry to be pessimistic here, folks, but a law can’t fix all our problems.  And, sadly, the best–certainly the fastest–solution to a bullying situation is to just find a better job.  However, the ST article has some tips for “fighting back.”  Who knows, they may work. 

Meanwhile, two of the loveliest words in the English language are:

 “I quit.” 

How Do You Know When To Quit Your Job?

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Here’s a guest article from Liz Handlin, at Ultimate Resumes.
Last night, I was talking to my friend Whitney about her frustrations with her job. Whitney works for a small privately owned company where she is the top-ranking finance person. I think her title is CFO but I am not certain. She started at the company a couple of years ago when she had just graduated from college and because she is extremely competent and hardworking she has assumed progressively more responsibility the longer she has been employed by the company. She is one of those people (every company has one) who is the go-to person for everything. She “gets it” and never lets the ball drop no matter what she has to do to fix the problem. She knows how everything works and she always thinks about the big picture even when she is working on the most mundane of details.

The problem is that Whitney works too hard in relation to her compensation and rewards program. She worked all day on new years eve and half a day on new years day just to get caught up because they are understaffed. And she is grossly underpaid for what she does. If your employer doesn’t value your contributions enough to staff properly or pay you fairly then why kill yourself for the job? I told her that she is just too young to be this stressed out over a job. She seems to like the job when the owner is pleasant to her but he isn’t always easy to get along with and at those times it just isn’t worth the effort to her. Should she quit?

Here are my thoughts on how to tell when its time to cut your losses and get out of a difficult job:

1. If you are young, have few financial commitments, and you are underpaid and overworked you should think about looking for another job. You can get some great experience at a small company but if you aren’t paid fairly for the work you do (Whitney needs a new car but can’t afford one on her salary) and if there is no possibility for advancement you should start looking for new jobs. Consider larger companies where you can earn more money and learn new skills that you can leverage later on.

2. If you are being sexually harassed or if you work for an abusive boss you should look for a new job. If you don’t find another job before the environment becomes more than you can handle, hire a good attorney to help you negotiate your exit. I would add that if you work for a manager who is abusive to you (not necessarily textbook “harassing”)on a regular basis you should look for another job. I have read management books that preach flexibility and honing your ability to adapt to any manager and, on some level I agree. But there are some mean people in the world and if you work for one you should get out before it affects your self esteem, your health, or your advancement options.

3. If you work for a company or in an industry that is in decline it’s probably time to find a new job. You don’t want to be the last man/woman standing when they start laying off because you won’t have the the same appeal to a new employer at that point. Pay attention to the writing on the wall and if it looks like layoffs or office closings are going to happen you should get out before the sh-t hits the fan.

4. If you are approached by a recruiter about a great job with another company it’s time to go on an interview. Forget loyalty, look out for your own career and meet with the recruiter about the job. For one thing, you can’t turn down a job you haven’t been offered. So at the very least find out more information about the potential job. I have talked to a lot of folks over the years who say things like, “I can’t leave my job because my boss has been so good to me and they really need me.” Really? It’s great to be loyal but understand that these days any employer will lay off any employee if business needs change. Look out for yourself because when push comes to shove your employer will most certainly put its needs before yours.

5. If your employer doesn’t share your values or offer benefits that you desire you should seek an employer that does. Tuition reimbursement is a great example of this. Some employers don’t offer any tuition reimbursement (perhaps a sign that they don’t value higher education) while others have very generous programs. Many people (myself included) have sought out employers who are willing to pay for all or a large part of a graduate degree. For most people past the age of 25, going to graduate school full time means taking a hit in pay that you may or may not recoup later. Any assistance you can get from your employer that allows you to attend graduate school part time is a very valuable benefit.

6. If your office is a hostile or negative work environment you should get out for your own good. I worked for a company once where everyone was tense all the time because of the high pressure and culture of distrust and disrespect. I lasted a year and it took a toll on my health. You have to live with the body you were born with for your entire life so I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to let a job affect your health.

7. If you want to change careers or jobs and you can’t do that at your current employer you should find a new job. Are you working for a bank but you really want to join the Peace Corps? Then apply for a job with the Peace Corps…don’t stick around a job you don’t like. Don’t be afraid to change careers or try for your dream job.

Lots of people take whatever job they can find right out of college. Then they get promoted, then they move to another department and do a great job so they are recruited by a competitor. They make more money along the way and then they wake up at age 45 and say, “How did I get here? This isn’t the life I envisioned.” Be strategic about your career and at least once a year take some time to evaluate the career path you are on. Don’t be afraid to change directions if you aren’t headed in the right direction for you.

A job isn’t a marriage – you can leave whenever you want. Don’t be afraid to look for a new job if your current one isn’t working out for you for whatever reason. A great time to start to look for a job is at the first of the year because many employers are hiring at that time (now). So what are you waiting for? Update your resume and start that job search!

Article courtesy of the Recruiting Blogswap, a content exchange service sponsored by, a leading site for college students looking for internships and recent graduates searching for entry-level jobs and other career opportunities.

P.S.  If reading this has made you decide to quit your job, go here for advice on how to do it. 

It's All Explained For You Here

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

So this is how Working Girl would be defined in a dictionary.  Too perfect. 


Working Girl —

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