I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up (still don’t!), so I took the LSATs, went to law school and became an attorney. I quickly realized I would have been a great lawyer if it wasn’t for all that darned fine print!
Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to come up with a compelling topic to write about, so I keep a notebook of ideas to help me out in the lean times. This was one of those times. I checked my list and found lots of good ideas, but none that could be fleshed out into a full article. EPIPHANY ALERT: I decided to take a bunch of those ideas and create an article based on them. One idea per paragraph. Perfect for those short attention spans of summer. Here goes. . .
THOSE SINISTER LITTLE GREMLINS IN OUR HEADS that tell us we can’t (fill in the blank). These voices batter our confidence and keep us in a rut. Often, we don’t even know they are speaking to us. Each time we don’t ask that cute person over there to dance, every time we don’t apply for a job because we don’t think we can get it, those are your gremlins talking, pal. One of the keys to life is awareness. Simply being aware of our surroundings makes us more effective decision makers. If, every time we had a negative, debilitating thought, we said “Hold on, there,” and stopped to recognize that thought, we could do an immediate analysis of the situation and take, or not take, rational, or irrational action. At the dance, instead of avoiding the risk (the safe move), go ahead and ask if he/she wants to dance. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If she says NO, you might feel the temporary sting of rejection, followed by a much longer period where you realize that you are still here, post rejection, and there are other possible dance partners close by.
ANECDOTE ALERT: About 10 years ago, at the vivacious age of 47, I decided to completely change my life by applying to medical school. First step, a summer school chemistry class (a bunch of 21-year-old valedictorians and me). First test score: 64%. Midterm test score: 51%. I didn’t feel the need to stick around for the final exam. EPIC FAIL? I think not. And I say this next phrase with the force of absolute truth: At least I tried. I realized that if I couldn’t even pass the first class, how the heck was I going to get through the more advanced classes? And the internships. And the cost of all the pre-med and medical school itself. By the time I paid off all my student loans, I’d need a doctor! Moral? By actually going through the process of preparing for medical school, I received a real-life education about what is, and what’s not attainable. What I might have accomplished at the age of 25 seemed somewhat unrealistic at 47 (at least for me; I know others who have done it at even more advanced ages). That’s fine, at least I tried. It built character.
AND SPEAKING OF CONFIDENCE
Like everything, and I mean EVERYTHING in this universe, confidence is fleeting. It fluctuates constantly. Perhaps it’s an ancient survival mechanism (maybe I’d better not chase that mastodon today), I don’t know. Time to ask the boss for that raise, but having palpitations about your worthiness? Once again, awareness steps in to help. Make a list of all the positives and negatives involved in the raise-seeking process. ARM YOURSELF (it’s warfare, after all, no?) with good information as to why you deserve a raise. Just going through this process should bolster your confidence (if it does not, then maybe you shouldn’t bother asking for that raise in the first place).
EMBRACE YOUR “WEIRDNESS”
Corporate culture does a good enough job of homogenizing us; let’s not help it along by self-homogenization (not bad, I just made that up). Sure, we all have to put on our “work faces” every day, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be our bad selves at the same time. The workplace is a richer, more enjoyable (and, if I may say, more effective) environment when it is populated by a diverse, motley crew comprised of interesting characters.
CAN YOU BE “GREAT” ALL THE TIME?
I say that greatness is a short-lived, fleeting thing, and the vast majority of our lives are made up of mundane, day-to-day tasks. Most jobs that seem glamorous from the outside are not so glitzy from within. Supermodels spend the majority of their day waiting for shots to be set up. Astronauts are spending much more time reading gauges and meters and filing reports than taking space walks (and even those are more often necessitated by the need to fix something outside the ship). Generally, the most valued workers are the ones who show up on time every day and do their jobs. Insights and breakthroughs are wonderful, but they don’t happen every day. CLICHE ALERT: Dream big, act small, and the breakthroughs will follow.
STFU (Shut the f**k up), DAVE! A CREATIVE RESPONSE TO DIFFICULT SITUATIONS
Sometimes the best response is no response at all. How many times have we wished we didn’t say that thing we just said? I, for one can say “a lot.” Some years ago, I had a job working in a California based wine sales office. My team would often arrive early to have coffee and shoot the breeze. We had a co-worker who suddenly stopped showing up, and one morning the team was discussing what might have happened. A colleague from another department (whom I always suspected had some unspoken issues with me) overheard our conversation. He turned to ME and started in: “How would you like it if we gossiped about YOU at the office. If I found out that you were talking about me, I’d knock your head off” and so on. The New Yorker in me had some creative ideas about how to handle this yahoo. In the six months that I’d been working there, I had a pretty good idea about how this guy operated, and I knew I could end the situation with his total humiliation. And while he was bigger than me, I had NO DOUBT that I could verbally intimidate him into a fetal position. With all these tasty options, I decided to simply STFU, Dave. I let him spew, and I nodded my head up and down. When the boss came in a few minutes later, asking what was going on, my team said that “Drew” started getting belligerent with me, but I stayed calm. He was called into the office for a good talking to. I stayed above the fray; business as usual. While “Drew” and I never became close, we never became tense, either, and the workplace was saved from bad vibes.
WHICH BRINGS ME TO when to keep quiet during job interviews. Job seekers have wish lists relating to the perfect set of conditions that would exist in their new jobs. Flexibility is a biggie. Job seekers want to know if they can modify their hours to accommodate certain events in their lives; they would like to know if there is a possibility of working from home, etc. I am often asked “When, if ever, should I bring up my concerns?” I always respond by advising the candidate to draw up a list of all possible questions that could be asked (by the candidate, and by the interviewer as well). On the initial interview, I recommend sticking to the script; letting the interviewer lead the way. Keep your wish list to yourself (unless the interviewer asks YOU). The initial interview is simply a “getting to know you” chat, not a place or time to get into the nitty, gritty details of YOUR requirements. If you are called back for another round or three, it’s time for our old friend “awareness” to show up. Pay attention to how the interview process is unfolding. If it seems like a job offer is becoming more of a possibility, you can start getting into the details. I think the best time to bring up your concerns is just BEFORE a formal offer is extended. Once it is, it may be too late to do the back-and-forth negotiations, and would certainly be awkward in any case. Get everything ironed out pre-offer, post “getting to know you.” Vague, I know, but each situation is different.
WE LIVE IN A DO-IT-YOURSELF WORLD
But do we really want to do EVERYTHING ourselves? Yes, one could do the research and all the comparative shopping in order to get the best price. Airline tickets are a good example. When my lovely wife Donna DeClutter and I needed to book a flight last month, we turned to our long-time trusted travel agent. Remember them? They are the ones, at no charge to us, that do all of that tedious research on our behalf! Why spend all that time when there are people who will gladly do it for you? SALES PITCH ALERT: The same goes for recruiters. Now, I would never advise using a recruiter in lieu of doing your own job search, but, despite all the available online tools, enlisting a qualified recruiter in your field (at no charge, BTW, unless it’s a retained search) is one of the best ways to increase your odds of landing that perfect job. It’s like online dating; we send the job listings to you! If you are diligent about doing your own search, and enhance it with one or two recruiters, you are well on the way! Let’s chat!
Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to come up with a compelling topic to write about, so I keep a notebook of ideas to help me out in the lean times. This was one of those times. I checked my list and found lots of good ideas, but none that could…
We enter the job market for many reasons. On one end of the spectrum, we may have risen to the top, achieved all we could hope for, and there is no longer an avenue for promotion and no opportunity for new challenges. On the other end of the spectrum, we were fired for poor performance…
As the Jefferson Airplane once wisely said: “Life is change.” Something disturbing happened to me last week. My lovely wife Donna and I booked a flight from San Francisco to New York to visit family and friends. We were scheduled to arrive at Newark Airport on a Tuesday evening. Not wanting to drive into Manhattan during rush-hour, we thought…
David L. Reitman, Esq.