Thursday, May 31, 2007

Knowing When to Quit

In his book, “The Dip,” author Seth Godin says that the first step to becoming the best in the world is realizing that quitting may be really important for your future success.

While you may think this flies in the face of conventional wisdom that winners never quit and quitters never win, Godin says that quitting something that will not make you the best makes perfect sense. Superstars, he says, are the ones who know when to quit something that is a dead end and stay focused and motivated when it really counts.

If you’re considering quitting something, Godin says you should first ask yourself:

1. Am I panicking? “Quitting when you’re panicked,” he writes in his book, “is dangerous and expensive.” Why? Because the smartest move is to make the decision ahead of time that you’re going to quit. “When the pressure is the greatest to compromise, to drop out, or to settle, your desire to quit should be at its lowest,” he says. “The decision to quit is often made in the moment. But that exactly the wrong time to make such a critical decision.”

2. Who am I trying to influence? If you’ve got a boss who just won’t let up on you, then you’re probably considering quitting your job. “If you’re trying to influence just one person, persistence has its limits. It’s easy to cross the line between demonstrating your commitment and being a pest. If you haven’t influenced him yet, it may very well be time to quit,” Godin writes. “One person will make up his mind and if you’re going to succeed, you’ll have to change it. And changing someone’s mind is difficult, if not impossible.”

3. What sort of measurable progress am I making? On the job, you’re either moving forward, standing still or falling behind. Godin says that if you decide to quit your job because you’re not making progress, then you need to understand it doesn’t mean you’re quitting “your quest to make a living or a difference or an impact.” He says that you’re not giving up because a job is just a “tactic,” a way to get you what you really want. He emphasizes that all those stories about authors who were turned down again and again – and then became a mega-hit overnight with a bestseller – are not stories about sticking it out in a dead-end, but rather the ability of these people to move through a market.
Consider Godin’s observation: “…when was the last time you heard about someone who stuck with a dead-end job or a dead-end relationship or a dead-end sales prospect until suddenly, one day, the person at the other end said, ‘Wow, I really admire your persistence; let’s change our relationship for the better’? It doesn’t happen.”

My Today Show Appearance

You know the old saying about “walking the talk?” Well, I decided to put that into practice for my appearance on the Today show on May 27.

I was asked to discuss some of the topics from my new book, “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy…and How to Avoid Them.” I was told about six weeks ago when I would appear, and even though there was some general discussion about specific topics, I didn’t know exactly what I would be talking about until the day before.

That may sound nerve-wracking – appearing on television in front of millions of people with less than 24 hours notice of the topic for discussion.

But I wasn’t nervous – not even a flutter in my stomach. When I sat down in that chair to be interviewed by Amy Robach, I was confident in my ability to do well in the interview.

That’s because I had followed the advice of experts I had been interviewing over the years. They had always told me that the key to any good interview is to prepare, prepare, prepare. That’s exactly what I did, and it really paid off. So, here’s how I “walked the talk” and some lessons I’ll share with you when you go for any kind of interview:

• I did my research. I read articles and online discussions about television appearances. I am a print journalist, and knew little to nothing about appearing in front of a camera. I learned how television studios function, the best way to sit (straight back, legs crossed away from the camera, leaning slightly forward, hands in your lap) and what to wear (no loud or busy prints). I also watched the show many times to see what worked – and what didn’t – for other guests. I took note of those who seemed really engaging, the way they sat, the way they related to the interviewer.

You should always do as much research as you can on a potential job or employer. If you don’t know how to research a company, check out the resources I’m going to list at the end of this blog, and the other career resources on this Web site. Try to visit a company before your interview to get a feel for the culture and how employees dress.

• I practiced. I wrote out what questions I felt the interviewers might ask, then practiced my answers. I worked on coming up with examples of each item I discussed. I also got my husband to ask me questions while my son videotaped the interview. I wore the clothes I planned on wearing on the show. I learned after watching the tape that I needed to take off the bracelets I was wearing – they clattered distractingly every time I gestured. I learned that I needed to eliminate some “um’s” and remember to keep my posture straight, but relaxed.

Get a family member or friend to help practice your interviewing skills. If you don’t have a video camera, a tape recorder will work. Look for annoying habits such as saying “like” or “you know” or “uh.” Work to eliminate those so that you sound confident and professional with your answers. If you use a video camera, you can see if your clothes look professional and neat. Make sure your appearance is not distracting in any way (wild hair, wrinkled clothes, poor posture).

• I asked lots of questions. When I spoke with the producer in charge of my segment on the show, I had questions prepared. What time should I arrive? Who should I ask for when I got to NBC studios? How long would the segment last?
Who was interviewing me? What should I bring with me?

When you speak to the person scheduling your interview, ask similar questions. Where should you park? What time should you arrive? Who should you ask for? Who will you be meeting? (Get the correct spelling and pronunciation of names.) What should you bring with you? How much time is scheduled for your interview? (This will help your prepare your answers to fit the allotted time.)

• I minded my manners. I introduced myself to each person I met, from the NBC page to the other guests to the interviewer, shaking hands firmly and making eye contact while smiling. (This was not tough – everyone was very friendly and nice.) I also followed up with hand written thank-you notes to the producers and the interviewer.

Never forget that even if you don’t get this job, your good manners may help land you a spot with them in the future. One of the most important keys to career success is establishing good contacts in your professional field.

Some good online sites to check for information about a company:

You can search for a company by name or industry, and will give you home office addresses, telephone numbers and Web site addresses.

Company research
A guide for company research needs, including job hunting, career information, and investment decisions.

Cornell University
Resources for workplace issues.

Corporate Information
Information on private and international companies.

Background on private companies, geared to high tech companies.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Review my book!

Do you want to write a review of "45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy" on your blog?

Penguin Publishers will send a review copy of "45 Things" to the first 25 bloggers who are interested in reviewing it. Please send an e-mail with the URL of your blog and your mailing address to: with the subject line, "45 Things review copy."

Monday, May 21, 2007

Do you Squiddoo?

If you've never seen anything like this, check out I created a "lens" at the urging of a business associate, and it's quite interesting to see the "experts" on various subjects.

For me, I've set up a lens titled, "Getting Ahead at Work," and filled it with career advice from various sources (including myself), interviews, helpful career books (including my own) and other Web sites (did I mention I included my own?)

The Squiddoo "Lensmasters'" interests range from Audrey Hepburn to cats to woodworking to engineering...there's something for everyone. Have a career you feel passionately about and would like to share your expertise? Or, have a product or service that you would like to promote? Try this out -- it's a good way to get your presence known in the increasingly competitive Internet world. Just make sure you do your homework and create something that reflects positively on you as a professional.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blogging notice

I am new to the blogging world, but I have to say it's been a very gratifying experience so far.

I originally started my blog as a way to facilitate discussions among those interested in improving their experiences at work or boosting their careers. I also thought it would be a good chance to build a community of people who support one another and offer advice on various workplace dilemmas or issues.

I've already been interviewed by two bloggers about my book, "45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy...and How to Avoid Them." One of the bloggers was in the U.S. -- the other in Pakistan. To me, it's amazing how quickly communities of people come together under a blog, and how they support one another, argue with each other and discuss various issues. Sort of like when families get together at the holidays!

So, I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce you to two bloggers who, I think, have blogs worth checking out and learning from. Two blogs that have interviews with me:

At the same time, I'd like to hear from anyone who is using a blog to further a career. What do you think is important to include on your blog, and what should you avoid? What advice could you offer to others about blogging?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Losing your job

If you were to be handed a pink slip tomorrow, what would you do? Put on your favorite pajamas, go to bed, listen to Nirvana and not shower for a week?

Then what? How are you going to pay your mortgage? Pay off your car loan? And what about your career -- where are you headed now?

Lots of questions, and lots of stress. But, be assured, plenty of people have not only survived being laid off or fired, but have gone on to have even more successful careers.

Still, it's not easy. Deciding what to do at a time when you're the most disheartened, angry and confused isn't easy for anyone. That's why three smart women who have, at one time, lost their jobs, offer some great advice for all employees.

Nancy Widmann, Elaine Eisenman and Amy Dorn Kopelan, the authors of "I Didn't See It Coming," (Wiley, $24.95) offer this exit strategy:

1. Create an exit fund. Set aside enough financial reserve for a minimum of 12-18 months. The extra padding allows you the freedom to gamble on a new career, or to try something entrepreneurial.
2. Organize a personal board of directors. This group of trusted advisors will be your go-to people whenever you need advice or direction in regards to your career. Choose people who know your strengths as well as your weaknesses, but who are not emotionally tied to the outcome of your decisions.
3. Increase your marketability. Think realistically about where you want to be in a few years. Do you have the qualifications and skills to get there? Consider yourself a work in progress and never stop trying to upgrade whom, what and how much you know.
4. Leverage your networks. Keeping in touch with your contacts is hard work, but it is a crucial part of your exit strategy. When you can envision the next step, you are then able to reach out to all the contacts you know who could put you in touch with the right people.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Help...I'm in a meeting and can't get out!

Rambling, disorganized meetings seem to be frustrating quite a few workers these days.

According to the aptly named "Ouch Point" survey by Opinion Research USA, some 27 percent of people polled said they were frustrated with disorganized meetings, followed by 17 percent who griped they were fed up with people in meetings who interrupt their peers and try to hog the limelight. And those ringing cell phones? Sixteen percent said those were an irritant, although only 5 percent reported Blackberries drove them crazy when used during a meeting.

Other sources of annoyance during meetings: people who fall asleep; no bathroom breaks; long sessions withhout refresments; people leaving early or arriving late; meetings starting late and no written recap of the outcome.

For more information, check out the complete survey at

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Working From Home

Working from Home

If you’re considering working from home, you need to do your homework.

First, what would you like to do? What skills do you have? What do you feel passionate about? How many hours can you devote to it? Are you willing to persevere when the going gets tough? Do you have a support network set up?

Once you’ve answered these questions, then it’s time to do some homework. Here’s the big thing: Don’t jump into any business enterprise – even if it comes recommended from a seemingly reputable source – until you‘ve checked it out yourself. One way to do that is by checking out the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at It will educate you about work from home schemes, and what to avoid.

At the same time, don’t forget to look at the Better Business Bureau Web site for scam alerts: It’s also worth calling your state Secretary of State’s office to get the latest information on any schemes popping up in your area. (You might also want to read about one man’s work-from-home scam investigation, at:

OK, once you’ve cleared away all the scam artists, then it’s time to get more information about how you’re going to make all this work. Remember: working from home often means challenges such as promoting yourself, finding child care, networking and a lot of self discipline.

Here are some places to look for job opportunities, online support, professional associations and publications. Check out:

Work at Home Mom magazine…check out the message board and find out what other moms are doing

Home Based Working Moms
Professional association and online community

Advice and tips from Dr. Phil for work-at-home moms

Small Business Association, providing tips on starting and maintaining your business

SCORE allows you to ask experts for free business advice

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Your handwriting

Bosses these days are struggling to read the writing of their employees, who often have horrible penmanship.

The problem is that many younger workers have come from schools where proper handwriting was a low priority, and they now rely solely on computers for their writing. Of course in the workplace today, many of these same workers still have to use their own handwriting for certain things, and that's where the trouble begins.

As one boss told me, she would rather work with an employee who has decent handwriting than one who does not. She explained that she simply does not have the time to try and decipher poor handwriting.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Decency at work

Visions of CEOs doing the "perp walk" as they are taken into federal court by stern-faced federal marshalls, front-page stories chronicling executives billion-dollar compensation packages and top managers traveling in corporate jets while hundreds of their workers are laid off are just some of the images that adversely impact the workplace these days.

Such images are demoralizing, of course. Most of us can't hope to make in our lifetimes what some of these executives earn in one day. Add to that the companies that are stingy with annual bonuses or raises, managers who routinely take all the credit for themselves and benefits constantly being trimmed back and it's no wonder we have a problem with ethics in the workplace these days.

Wouldn't it be nice, then, if these negative images were balanced by some everyday decencies on the job? What if instead of the bully manager -- who governs the workplace through bluster and profanity -- there was a boss who welcomed employees by name each day? What if the CEO showed up for the midnight shift and brought in pizza so that workers could take a break and talk to him about their concerns? What if a supervisor gave an employee an extra hour for lunch because the worker had been doing such a good job?

These may not seem like much in the face of rampant corporate executive misdeeds and greed, but companies have got to start somewhere and the answer may be that they begin with the small stuff. Or, as Steve Harrison says, these small decencies would become the "building blocks of an ethical culture."

Harrison, head of Lee Hecht Harrison and author of "The Manager's Book of Decencies," says that while regulatory actions such as Sarbanes-Oxley were supposed to restore investor confidence and increase accountability, some companies have been so "ham-fisted" with their responses to the regulations they've reminded us quite clearly that "regulations by themselves can't move the needle to create well-behaved companies."

While Harrison suggests numerous ways for companies and bosses to improve their decency factor, it's worth noting that one of the key improvements is for bosses at all levels to listen more to employees and quite hogging all the limelight and credit for themselves.

So, let's start listening. It's time the voices of those in the trenches be heard when it comes time to decide how best to create a decent place to work.

Some ideas:

* Be polite. This goes beyond just saying "please" and "thank you." Don't interrupt when someone else is talking, don't gossip and don't exclude anyone.

* Don't lie. Lying is a way of controlling and manipulating people and situations.

* Ask questions. By listening to what someone else has to offer, you continually learn -- and that's critical for companies striving to compete in a global marketplace.

* Don't blame. Look for solutions. Don't make personal attacks or criticize personal characteristics.

* Keep your word. It's not fair to say you'll do something and then not follow through.

* Communicate. Controlling information is a power play that demoralizes employees and leads to hostility.