Bloomberg has published a very interesting article on how people treat each other in the workplace. Citing research performed by two scholars at Stanford, Akane Otani writes that we are more likely to return favors done for us by friends than we are to help co-workers. This is logical since most workplaces because people are more calculating about what they do at work. One of the researchers, Jeffrey Pfeffer, recommends that the best way to deal with selfishness at work is to be realistic about it. He says that we need to stop looking for a “mythical Santa Claus” that is going to be nice to us. People act in their own interest, and we need to do the same.
In one sense, I totally agree with this advice. While we might make friends of co-workers, those relationships tend to be separate. If we can get a better job, we leave our co-worker friends behind. On the other hand, bosses and co-workers are often our best teachers and mentors. Throughout my career, I have learned great life lessons at work. Now, I would add this to them: Don’t get upset when a co-worker stabs you in the back to get ahead or plays office politics with your reputation. That’s how most people are, especially when they aren’t our friends.
“What can you do for me?”
That’s what employers really want to know when they are hiring a new employee. Too often job seekers worry so much about what they’ve done – and haven’t done – in the past that they don’t answer the employer’s big question. In writing your resume and presenting yourself at an interview, stay focused on what the employer needs. How do you know what the employer needs? Look carefully at the job post, and adapt your resume to the requirements and qualifications. Before going on an interview, look at the job post again. Ask yourself: Why will I be an asset to the company? Show how your strengths will make you the best candidate. No employer will hire you just because of what you did in the past. They will hire you because of what you can do for them. Answer the question:
“What can you do for me?”
Deadspin has linked to a report from the Tampa Bay Times, which has conducted an investigation on a church that uses its flock as indentured servants. According to the report, New Beginnings takes in homeless people and addicts, confiscates their government aid, and makes them work at menial jobs for their keep. Some of their assignments include working concessions for local pro sports teams. The NFL, MLB, and NHL are not directly involved, but these organizations and team owners need to look into this matter. I’ve written before about wage theft, which is horrible. At least those employees are free to work at another job. In this case, it seems that an alleged church has ignored both legal and moral condemnations of such behavior.
A client recently told me that he was checking several major job boards for openings. He asked what else he could do. I asked about networking, which he was doing. Then I asked if he was checking the websites of companies he wanted to work for. He wasn’t doing this. Can you assume that the company you want to work for is posting on job boards? Are you looking at the job boards where they are posting?
Checking company websites is also a good way to learn more about your industry. The more you know about your employment market, the easier it is to network and target the best employers. There is no magic trick that will let you find a good job. What work in your most recent job search probably won’t work in the next one. Try to find different ways to look for work. Better still, build the kind of knowledge about your industry that will let you manage a career.
I’m currently working with a client who began his career as a Chef. Frank (not his real name) loved working in the kitchen and making his guests happy. About five years ago, he stretched his skill set by becoming an Executive Chef. Rather than running the kitchen, he took on the role of managing business operations. In this role, Frank’s first concerns were budgets and profitability. Rather than cooking, he now coaches chefs and unit managers to make them more conscious of business goals. Frank now makes more money and feels more challenged by his work. He remains dedicated to providing his guests with the best quality of food, but now he does so as an operations leader, not the person behind the stove.
A few years ago, one of my clients was a successful mechanical engineer. Joe (not his real name) was assigned to projects across the U.S. based on his ability to redesign products and systems. Joe’s manager came to him one day and asked if he was interested in becoming a Product Manager. Like Frank, Joe had to learn new skills quickly. He began to meet with customers to learn what they needed in new products. He now had to consider what components and raw materials would cost. Joe began to create budgets and forecasts. He continued to use the technical skills he learned as an engineer, but he added a new understanding of business, including purchasing and marketing.
We often think of career changes as big moves, the police officer who becomes a sales person. In many cases, career change is an evolution. By picking up new duties and being open to new challenges, it is possible to find a new career with less stress. Look for ways to do more at your current job. Volunteer for special projects. A new career could be just around the corner.
Huffington Post offers an interesting take on Americans’ attitude toward work and time off. 16% of people worked would trade 20% less pay for 20% less work. While this statistic is interesting, it reveals two big problems in our current work economy:
- So many people are living so close to the edge that they can’t even pretend to be to do this.
- Some people still have good jobs, or they could not answer the question in the affirmative. For a person making $50,000 a year, 20% is $10,000. Not many Americans could give that much up and still continue to live in their current manner.
The question is interesting. What it tells us about American workers is even more interesting: We’re overworked, underpaid, and highly stressed. America needs a raise.
A client came to see me just before Christmas. He was a college sophomore looking for an internship. I asked where he wanted to be an intern. Without hesitating, he rattle off the three top companies in the field where he wants to work. He called me today to say that he’ll begin an internship with one of those companies this May. How did he do it? He studied the market and demonstrated that he had what the company was looking for. More importantly, he had enough faith in himself to try. Yes, college students and recent grads are in a tough job market. However, those who are smart in how they look for work can still be very successful. The first step is to look in the mirror and tell yourself: I can do it.
Too often resumes simply convey basic qualifications for a job. This information is important, but it is equally vital to show the value you will bring to a new employer. Describe the achievements that will set you off from other candidates. Think of achievements this way: How have you been a hero at your previous jobs? If possible, quantify your success stories, but you should tell them even if you can’t represent every success with a number. Here are a few examples of how you can present achievements on a resume:
• Won several accounts from a major competitor (Symantec).
• Achieved year-over-year growth of 25% for license renewal.
• Increased market share from $100,000 to $900,000 in one year.
• Reduced cell phone costs for 500 units by conducting detailed research of market and price trends used in negotiation.
• Cleared a back log of 50 overdue performance reviews.
• Ranked #1 of 75 Account Executives.
• Completed an average of 500 projects per year.
• Established protocols and procedures for a new PET CT Department.
• Recognized by supervisors for providing outstanding customer service.
• Consistently exceeded goals for productivity.
• Achieved 110% of goal in the first year; planned and delivered 500 events.
• Launched social media and email marketing to reach younger consumers.
• Played a key role on a team that improved workflow in the Emergency Department by 20%.
• Entrusted with customers’ confidential data during computer repairs and data migrations.
• Achieved +$1 million in saving by negotiating price reductions outside of the market.
How have you helped your employer or former employers? Find a way to make these hero stories part of your resume.
I often cite Seth Godin, who’s one of my favorite writers and thinkers. In his book, The Dip¸ Godin explores how winners know how to quit the things that hold them back from moving forward. The New Yorker has published a short essay by Adrian Cardenas, who last played in the Chicago Cubs organization. He played in 45 games for the Cubs in 2012. Cardenas is eloquent in explaining why he left the big leagues to focus on being a student.
I was especially impressed by his confession that money took away from the joy of the game. That’s a hard confession to make. Most of us would kill to make the minimum big league salary. Baseball as a business was not what Cardenas, a student at New York University, wanted. Leaving the sport is his first step to a new life. May he find happiness.
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