Archive for July, 2008

By Golly, Miss Molly!

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

New reader Molly writes in with this great email.  It’s long but has lots of good stuff.

Yikes, WG!

Your job-hating posts definitely struck a chord with me, and in fact inspired me to begin plotting my escape.  I started by searching for jobs in my area, just to see what else was out there.  Rather unbelievably, a senior editor position was posted just two days ago at a great publication across town.

I have been in my current editor position for just shy of a year and am highly underutilized, in short: bored out of my mind.  I’ve been inventing work for myself since I started here last August, and am starting to run out of ideas!  The area I live is a small magazine market and there is no opportunity for advancement with my current company.

So, with high hopes, I’m dusting off my resume and catching up with all your great advice, but have a few questions.  I’ve done quite a bit of research and have learned that the person vacating the position moved to the area while I was in junior high and worked as a journalist for the local newspaper for a decade.  She only held the position since February, so clearly something didn’t work out right.

I’ve only lived in the area for 11 months, but I do have the three years of experience that the advertisement specifies.  The advertisement also requests salary requirements, for which I’m planning to state a range based on salary.com and payscale.com research, my experience, and what I need financially to make the switch.  That’s the right way to go?

How do I frame myself for a position where I know the person leaving is much older and had more experience (even though it clearly didn’t work out)?  Also, how should I discuss my current situation in an interview?  Should I mention how underutilized I am, to justify why I don’t have a whole host of accomplishments in my short time here, or remain positive and say I’m looking to move on to a position that offers growth and a faster-paced environs and leave it at that?

Many thanks!

Dear Molly,

You are already so on the right track it isn’t even funny!  Just three little thoughts:

1.  Your age (or lack thereof):  You have the qualifications for the job.  That’s all that counts.  Who cares if the person before you was old enough to be your, um, aunt?  For all you know, the employer now wants someone younger (if only because younger can mean cheaper–sorry).   Or . . . after this bad experience with someone leaving after only a few months, the employer may very well want someone younger who can perhaps be “molded.”  Whatever.  When it comes to age:  Don’t ask, don’t tell.

2.  Your “current situation.”   Never, just never, say anything faintly resembling a complaint about a former job.  Even if the job was hell on earth, your criticisms are going to come off as whining.  No one likes a whiner.  Anyway,  saying you’re looking for “growth” is the same thing as saying you’re at a dead end where you are, and saying you want “faster-paced environs” is code for “my current job is snoozeville.”  

3.  Salary requirements.  The reason employers ask for “salary requirements” is that it can’t hurt and it might help.  But you are not required to start salary talks at such an early stage in the game.  Simply say you’re going for the market rate and are open to negotiation.  For some ideas on things to say if they press you on your salary history, check this post.  All that being said, the way you’ve determined your range is very smart.  If that’s the info you provided, you can feel good about it.

You’ve got a lot going for you, Molly, and even if this particular job doesn’t work out (keep in mind that the person’s who’s leaving it may have a Very Good Reason), you’re sure to find something good sometime.  It’s the moment to start looking—you’ve been in that ho-hum job for nearly a year.  Long enough.

Good luck and keep in touch. 

The Evilest Email Sin

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

US World and News Reports Find out what it is at Working Girl’s post over at U.S. News today.  (Some disagree!)

"Just" A Temp?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Ronni (who just got married!) writes with a question about temping:

Dear Working Girl,

During the summer, I have been doing temp jobs here and there to gain experience and also to earn a little bit of money.  How do you recommend I convey this to a potential employer without filling up my resume with a billion little two or four week stints?  Thanks!

Dear Ronni,

Being “just a temp” can be a fun, stress-free way to peek into all sorts of different workplaces.  It widens your experience and builds your network.  Temping makes you smarter, savvier, and more flexible.  Temping is good, and not something we need to be ashamed of or hide. 

You said an important thing when you said you were temping to gain experience and earn money.  This shows enterprise and a fabulous work ethic–two qualities employers love and need.  Present your temping experience in this good light, showing how all that experience makes you a valuable addition to any company. 

That being said, you still need to craft a résumé that’s easy to comprehend at a glance.  Have you been temping through an agency?  You could list the agency as your employer and then (briefly) describe the different assignments.  It’s a way to organize all those “little” jobs.

Or you could organize your résumé by skills and accomplishments.  If you were temping to gain experience, this makes sense.  Think in terms of what employers want and show on your résumé how the temp jobs gave you those qualities.

Many professional résumé writers don’t believe you need to list every single job you’ve ever had on your résumé.  So another option is to not bother with extremely short-term jobs, unless they provided you some important experience you want to highlight.

Lots of people temp nowadays.  And, when you think of it, every job is by definition a “temporary” job.  For more specific tips, check out this great article  from QuintCareers. 

P.S.  Always keep in mind that your résumé is just one tool in your job-hunting toolbox.  Your biggest and best tool?  Networking.  You don’t need to worry about how a slew of jobs looks on your résumé if you are getting in to see potential employers directly, through contacts, and hopping right over HR types who for some crazy reason may be trained to look askance at temping. 

Work Versus Real Life

Monday, July 28th, 2008

We all want to do a good job at work.  And we all have “real” lives outside of work.

Usually the two balance themselves out pretty well.  Sometimes we may take work home (even if that means only thinking about it) and sometimes we use work hours to tend to some personal task (going online to, say, send flowers to your sick aunt).

But sometimes your personal life overwhelms your work life, and this is where Working Girl is right at this moment.  Her cat is sick.  Really sick.

Sure, it could be worse.  Hey, it could be Mr. Working Girl!  And so it’s good news that Mr. WG is hale and hearty.

But the fact is that when you’re worried about something or someone you love, cats included, it makes it hard to concentrate on your job.  Which is where WG is today.  Hence the “non-post.”  Hope you are well.  Give your loved ones, furry and otherwise, a big hug.  

Are You Living On The Edge?

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Not the fun getting-a-pink-panther-tattooed-on-your-ankle edge.  The much less fun not-being-able-to-afford-going-to-the-doctor-for-your-sinus-infection edge.

According to a survey done for Qvisory, a third of American adults between the ages of 18 and 34 have more than $10,000 in credit card debt.

A fifth has had their phone or utilities cut off.

More than a quarter has debt from medical bills.

And 15% of this group has had a credit card cancelled due to non-payment.

Yeah, yeah, you may say, things are tough all over, for everybody.  Like for seniors.  Or for veterans.  But the difference between young people and seniors and veterans is that seniors and veterans are much better organized.  They have powerful associations that provide useful information, lobby Congress on their behalf, and get good deals on things like health insurance. 

Well, now young people do, too.  They’ve got Qvisory, an online organization formed to support “the health, financial well-being and career goals of young adults from 18 to 34 years old.”

You can get affordable health coverage through Qvisory (cost depends on the coverage you choose–go here for info).  And the site provides all sorts of useful information–from how to get a car loan to what to wear at work during the summer.  Check out the Tools for Life blog.  Consider joining (it’s only 36 bucks a year).  It’s a great and inspirational new group that might be of use to you.

(Full disclosure:  Working Girl occasionally blogs for Qvisory.)

Okay. Say "The Worst" Happens. . .

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

US World and News Reports 

….which is, that your job goes bye-bye.  Even if you don’t love your job (see yesterday), you’re still going to be unhappy to lose it.

Suggestions for what to do on Working Girl’s post today over at good old U. S. News & World Report.

How To Love A Job You Hate

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

So, okay, you’ve got a job you’re not crazy about (see yesterday’s post).  Here are two incredibly wise thoughts:

Incredibly Wise Thought #1:  Good news!  You know what?  Your chances of leaving your job are approximately 100%.  Yup.  No job is forever.  So if you hate it, take comfort in knowing that it’s only temporary.

Incredibly Wise Thought #2:  Given that the job is going to end sooner or later, your only task is to decide what you will do in the meantime.

You can drown your sorrows in barbecue-flavored potato chips and liters of non-diet soda.  You can buy three pairs of new shoes to make yourself feel “better” and run yourself into debt.  You can gnash your teeth that the high price of gas is ruling out even the thought of taking a vacation.

Or. . . . .there’s two other things you could do.

First, plot your escape.  Do something every day to make the lovely moment you say “I quit” come a little sooner.  Need more training?  Take a class.  Need capital?  Say no to that latte and bank the money instead (or get a second job).  Your network is lame?  Attend conferences, luncheons, benefits, auctions, parties–you know the drill.  Each step you take toward a new and better job is going to make you feel happier.  Guaranteed.

Second, look for something likeable, or at least not horrible, about the job.  Maybe it’s so mindless that it leaves you with energy to work on your painting or novel.  Maybe your cubicle-mate has a fantastic sense of humor.  Maybe it’s close enough to your home that you can walk to work.  There has to be something.  It worked for Pollyanna and it can work for you.

It’s kinda obvious.  But when you’re feeling down, the obvious isn’t always……obvious.

The Life-Work "Compact"?

Monday, July 21st, 2008

In our summer of economic discontent a lot of people are taking “staycations.”  Or foregoing vacations altogether.

The NYT fussed about this yesterday (click to read article).  Here’s the quote that freaked out Working Girl: 

“To most Americans, a summer getaway is a crucial component of the life-work compact: they trade 50 weeks of cubicle-bound servitude for two weeks of sun-dappled bliss….”

Huh?

Life-work compact?  Do you remember signing anything like this?  Would you?

Is it such a hot idea to agree to spend 96% of your time in “servitude” in exchange for two weeks off?  Is this any way to run a life?

Please, please, say you are not living like this.  Even if you’re not wild about your job, even if it’s merely a means to an end, if your whole focus is on those few days off during the summer, then some serious rethinking is in order…… 

Working Girl knows what it’s like to hate your job.  She hated most of hers!  But if so, then what?  Hmmmm.

Stay tuned.

In Praise Of Late Bloomers

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Do you ever feel you’ve missed the boat?

That it’s too late to do what you want to do with your life?

That you shoulda, oughta, coulda?

If so, take a bit of inspiration from Paul Valéry.  As a boy, he was an extremely mediocre (his words) student.  He attended college late.  He worked as a sort of secretary for the French Ministry of War for 20 years.  He didn’t become who he was–a writer, poet, and philosopher–until he was nearly 50, when he published what was at the time a popular and acclaimed book of poems, La Jeune Parque

Working Girls favorite Valéry quote: 

“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”

Yup.

Valéry was also famous for his “Notebooks,” a huge intellectual diary.  He worked on it every morning and once said, “Having dedicated those hours to the life of the mind, I thereby earn the right to be stupid the rest of the day.”

Give yourself a break.  Take an entire stupid weekend.  And then on Monday, wake up!

(For an interesting brief bio of Valéry, click here.)

The Work In Network

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Intrepid job-hunter SFGirl checks in:

Dear Working Girl,

I hope you don’t mind if I email and ask more questions.  There are days I just want to cry hoping seasoned professionals in my industry will respond to my requests and cut a girl a break.

Do you have to regularly be in people’s “faces” such as emailing them and reminding them you’re still looking for this networking thing to work out?

I don’t think I’m being rude or annoying but having to let people know after not seeing them for a month or two that I’m actively on the market is so tiring.  They’re not the same form emails I send to the same people.  There’s always some interesting tidbit about their daughter or something mentioned during the conversation I include to make it specific.

Thanks so much!

Dear SFGirl,

Yeah, looking for a job can get tiring.  It’s tiring working at anything that’s not showing immediate results!

Make it more interesting for yourself by doing something different.  Take a class, go to a seminar.  Form a job-hunters support group.  You’re in journalism, right?  Maybe concentrate your effort on publishing an article somewhere.  Anything to mix it up.

And, ah, networking.  Do try hard to divorce your desire for “results” from the process itself.  Engage in a little self-brainwashing!  Convince yourself that you are doing all this emailing, note-writing, and coffee-having Just For The Fun Of It.  Working Girl knows, it’s NOT always fun, but networking only out of “duty” projects a negative vibe that people pick up on.

For a while, forget that this is all about a new job.  Make connections just for the sake of having connections.  Meet people, enjoy them in the moment, and choose (or don’t choose) to add them to your life.  So often it’s when we let go of the outcome that the thing we want to happen…..happens!

In your job hunt, do the things that you want to do, like to do, and are good at doing.  If you are great at making instant friends at social events, then go to a lot of parties.  If you are more the shy type (like WG), find new connections through referrals and stick to one-on-one interaction.

There are many paths to finding a new job.  Each path is a little different, just as each job hunter is a little different.  Stick with your strengths.  Identify the fun parts of the process.  Do what it takes to relax–a good book, yoga, knitting, your favorite TV show, a bubble bath.

And hang in there!