Archive for the ‘On the Job’ Category

The Essential Cure for Exaggeration

February 8, 2015

First, I love Brian Williams.  I believe in him.  I watch his newscast whenever possible.

And I hurt for him in these difficult days.

He exaggerated in his narrative and he has been found out.

Has it happened to you?

  • When asked about an extracurricular activity in school, have you enhanced your role?
  • Have you stretched your importance on a work team?
  • Have you minimized your role in an losing campaign?

I think there are two steps you can take while seeking redemption:  you can take on a large dose of humility and you can correct the mistake immediately.  If you are job-hunting, stop right now.  Get out that resume and read it again.  Check it for total truth.  You might feel better and more confident that you don’t have to conceal a truth any longer.

It’s also a potentially great interview question. Have you ever stretched the truth about your performance on a job?  

I think the answer might be – Yes!  I was advised to stretch my role in a reorganization in order to keep my job.  I was so uncomfortable with that process that I vowed never to do it again.  And I haven’t.

Would anyone asking that question believe a no?  I don’t think so.  There’s something appealing and refreshing about a candidate who tells the truth about him/herself while showing emotional growth.

Why are you in this job?

October 27, 2014

See this lovely young woman baking biscuits over a coal fire?  No, she is not a Vermeer figure come to life.  Her name is Rhianna and she is a historical reenacter at the Beamish Museum in Northumbria, UK.  I visited the Beamish recently.  Imagine – it’s a cold, windy, sometimes-rainy day, you step into Rhianna’s kingdom, you smell the warmth and scent of a coal fire along with fresh biscuits. And you get a friendly greeting.

We got into a conversation.  I asked if she is studying history or acting – just how did she get this job?  And what appealed to her?  (And yes, these are nosy questions, which I justified by saying that I’m a career counselor and am always on the lookout for a good story.)

Rhianna said she is very shy and sought a job that forced her to interact with people, so here she is, explaining about biscuits, flour, copper polishing, and coal fires. all day long.

Yes, she is less shy than she used to be.

Rhianna, congratulations on making such a courageous and productive choice!  I loved our chat and indeed, all of the nice people in Beamish, who explain life and work in different times.

Beamish 2

Perspective on Pain

August 12, 2014

Who knew that a beloved actor and comedian was living with so much pain that he couldn’t take it any more?

Those in the inner circle of Robin Williams knew, cared, worried, and tried to help.

But the outer circle – that’s us, his fans and admirers – did not know beyond tabloid gossip.  We just wanted more of his gifts.


Is there a lesson for the rest of us?  I think of two things that can begin to make a tiny dent in the tragedy of Robin Williams:

  1. Draw closer to the suffering of people in mental pain.  They can be your colleagues, relatives, classmates, or neighbors. It’s the right thing to do, and you can do it to honor Williams.
  2. Never EVER take tomorrow for granted. A brilliant life ended at only 63 years.


Do you ever hear stats about recovery from depression?  Would these numbers offer hope for sufferers?  If not, where are the rainbow ribbons to wear to support mental health research?

Malaysian Flight 370: now here’s a real math problem

April 9, 2014

Remember those math problems in algebra and geometry class?  Problems about trees and their shadows, trains leaving for Kansas City at 2:00, graphs about average heights of kids in the fourth grade, circles using pi and a radius.  I wondered then why we were doing these things if not for torture.  I was pretty good at them, but absolutely never saw the point.  And no one dared asked the teacher why.

Things could be so different today, and I really hope they are.  Why learn about triangulation and angles of satellites?

There’s a black box down there in the Indian Ocean.  And it has been calling to a searching world, actually overheard a few times.  Some say the pings are heard from locations 16 miles apart.  And then the experts get on tv and explain it.  I find myself fascinated.  I’d love to have seen my scary math teacher, Miss Rockefeller, drawing this all over the board and dragging out a theorem or two to explain it.

So there was a reason for all that!  We who were girls in decades past never imagined actually using math to solve problems beyond calculating the cost of a pair of shoes that was 20% off.  We never ever thought of math as a factor in airline safety.  And of course we did not identify with the experts who have always used math to improve our lives.

So hang in there, math teachers.  Seize this tragic moment and use it to teach your students about the practical uses of math.  Maybe you would share with us how you are using this story.

Other Duties As Assigned…what would you do?

March 23, 2014

How far would you go to fill a need on your job?  What if you were asked to do something …. really bizarre?  Read on:

I know a woman, a federal employee, whose job is pretty structured – she’s on a small team that deals with supplies going out into the field and coming back in.  Straightforward, you might say.

She is in a small office of a very large agency – so large that it has all kinds of volunteer happenings going on all the time in addition to work.  There are art shows, jewelry shows, a singing group, a fund-raising charity group, sports leagues, and so on.  When this woman used to have more free time, she sang with a group, which she enjoyed very much.  Now she puts her volunteer time into organizing and presenting fun, family-oriented activities.  The other day, on a week-end, she joined a team putting on a bowling tournament.  You won’t believe what happened.

This group begins each event with the singing of the National Anthem.  And the bowling alley where the event is held has always had a recording, which they willingly play.  So imagine the consternation when the bowling alley people admitted that they no longer have that recording.

One of the volunteers jokingly (she thought) told my friend that she would just have to sing it.  My friend laughed and walked away, only to hear a voice on the loud speaker saying, “Please  rise for the singing of the National Anthem” and they were holding out the microphone to her.

Other duties as assigned?  You bet.

She took a deep breath, remembered to start low, and started singing.  She expected others to join in, but they did not. She got through it and was surrounded for the rest of the morning with high fives, hugs, compliments and congratulations.

I think the group was  lucky to have this woman with a beautiful, strong voice and a willing heart.  I know she is set for life with an interview story about her dedication to her workplace.

What would you do?

Your 2014 Goals – continuing to explore

February 14, 2014

Attainable?  Varied?  Can these traits coexist in pursuit of a goal?

I think so.  Is it within your grasp, meaning is it attainable?  I hope so, or it would be a silly goal.  Maybe you need to improve your skills or sharpen your focus, but you can achieve it, right?  Because that is how you know you want it…

Varied is easier to describe.  I’ve heard clients say that the routine of the job is the worst thing about it.  It’s killing them, slowly and tediously.  Yawn.

I know there are those for whom routine is a comfortable and secure routine, kind of like the things that happen between sunrise and sunset.

But that’s not everyone.  Some of us crave newness, adventure, surprises, and to put it simply, variety.  I think you should have it.  This may mean a new job, a new turn in your career path, or (at least) a frank talk with your boss.

Make it happen in 2014.  Attain it, keep it fresh and new.  And tell me about it.

Resolution Update #3 – what about your goals?

February 13, 2014

If goals are fun, why wouldn’t you want to pursue them?  I like fun, although yes, it does take a bit of energy.  I’m vowing to say yes to things I might ordinarily be inclined to sleep through.  But fun beckons, or at least the possibility of fun.  So yes, I’d love to go to the theater with a friend, or meet a relative for dinner even when it requires a bit of effort.  It just might be rewarding.

What is fun for you that might lead you into a more rewarding career path?  Have you pursued that kind of fun so far this year?

Did you know that some kinds of fun can make your resume more interesting?  I’m talking about volunteer activities, community involvement, or a special niche activity in your current job.

There’s quite a fine little ebook available on polishing up your resume that (I happen to know) addresses taking the threads of your very interesting life and weaving them into a unique document that can help you stand apart from the crowd.  I know, because I wrote it.  Check out Reflections on Resumes at your nearest online bookstore.

Have fun this year, let it show on your resume, and let other readers know what is working for you.

Resolution update: Are you giving?

February 6, 2014

At the end of 2013, I proposed that all successful job seekers and changers should be more intentional about giving.  This includes three kinds of generosity:

Information, Support, Recognition

During the new year, now 1/12 gone, have you shared information you’ve come across, such as a new website?

I noticed today on LinkedIn that the esteemed Richard Bolles has shared an online service that might be of use to all of us.  He has directed us to, to engage in a bit of feedback and analysis.  Thank you, Dr. Bolles.  I just might try it as well as recommend it to others. I think it is possible that receiving feedback from the people in our lives can be perceived as information, support (don’t we all hope!) and recognition of what we are doing right.

Why not try this free service?  I hope you will be so encouraged that you will pass this on to others who could use a bit of feedback.



Workplace Courage

April 19, 2013

Like many Americans, I’m riveted to the television coverage of the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.  As I watch law enforcement individuals headed toward targeted sites in the Boston area, I note that they have that unmistakable bulgy look of people who are wearing bulletproof vests.

And then there are firefighters in West, Texas, battling a mighty explosion of a fertilizer factory.

What kind of courage does it take to proceed toward a building that probably contains a suspect with nothing to lose?  Will they face a rain of bullets or a mighty explosion?  And in the face of this terrifying question, what propels the individuals to move forward?  I really don’t know, and I wonder.

What courage does it take to run toward a fire, knowing this might be the toughest blaze you’ll ever face?

These individuals set an example of bravery for the rest of us.  How does this impact me?

Well, I’m not faced with approaching a burning building or a determined terrorist.  But I do face people who may be unrealistic, who are their own worst enemies, who don’t take necessary steps today, but would rather wait for another day.

I don’t need a bulletproof vest or firefighter gear, but I do need courage.  I can remember to say – Wait, that doesn’t make sense You can do better. I can learn from the bravery being displayed at this very moment.

What kind of courage will you need on your job today?  Is it harder than what law enforcement is doing in Boston?  Harder than firefighters in West, Texas?

An Unexpected Gift

February 1, 2013

Yesterday, I received something so surprising, so delightful, that I have been smiling ever since.

A client from a few years back (4 years? 5 years?) wrote to touch base.  Wanted to let me know what is happening with her and to inquire how I am.

Well, I’m fine, thank you.  As I have shared before, this is a year of moving into retirement / refocus.  I’m concentrating on the clients I already have and on a renewed focus on several writing projects.

But way more interesting is how she, the former client, is faring.  And the answer is – great!  I remember her so well.  A young graduate in a branch of performing arts, stuck between part-time work and that huge question of should I give it up and get a steady job?  

As I recall, she embarked on a program of simply touching base with the good people of her academic world and letting them know she was in the area.  And it worked.

A former teacher, now located in a new university, let her know that there was an administrative job available in an arts department.  Which she applied for.  And she got.  Etc.

Fast forward in time: she is completing a Master’s degree, still works at the university, still delighted to be working in her creative field in any capacity at all.  Her personal life has also blossomed.

If you are reading this and grumbling that some people have all the luck, I beg to differ.  She has worked at it.  Stayed in touch, accepted work that was not 100% what she wanted to do, remembered to say thank you to all along the way.

Barbara, you’ll go far.  Keep doing what you are doing.  Keep in touch.