Friday, September 30, 2011

How To Cope With Chronic Illness on the Job

I've worked with people who have a chronic illness, and I even have one myself -- migraine headaches. The thing about chronic illness is that you never know when you're going to have a bad day. If that were the case, it would be much easier to plan around. You could say to yourself: "Oops...looks like Oct. 21 a migraine is going to hit like a sledgehammer. I'll need to get everything that day rescheduled so I can fall into bed in a dark room for several hours."

A recent story I did for Gannett/USAToday will hopefully make us all realize that chronic illness is all around us, but not something that has to destroy careers. Here's the story I did...

Anyone who has gone to work while suffering from the flu or a headache knows how miserable it is trying to get anything done.

Usually, it helps to know that your ailment is temporary.

But what happens when you feel lousy nearly every day or you're in pain most of the time? How do you get a job done in that condition?

  • That's a dilemma those with a chronic illness have to deal with all the time.

Rosalind Joffe, an executive coach who specializes in helping people with chronic illnesses, says that whether it's asthma, allergies, cancer, diabetes, or a injury or ailment that causes pain, chances are good that you or someone in a cubicle near you is dealing with such an issue.

Calling herself "an autoimmune-disease poster child," Joffe has had a successful career even while managing health challenges such as multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis. She started her own coaching business 15 years ago and has counseled others on mapping out a successful career while confronting health issues.

"One of the biggest concerns is that many clients of mine believe their co-workers or bosses must think they're not up to the work or they're not doing the work they should be doing," Joffe says.

In that case, Joffe has her client create a self-assessment to discover whether the person's performance is dropping off because of the chronic illness or whether something else is at play.

With the demands on workers to increase productivity in a struggling economy, it may be that a work-performance issue is simply a matter of having more to do than ever before.

"I tell my clients: 'Remember to look around and realize you're not the only one suffering,' " she says.

Employees with chronic illness may decide to inform their colleagues or bosses of their health issues when they believe that their symptoms or doctors' appointments are getting in the way of regular work duties, Joffe says. It's a mistake to think that others will figure out on their own what is wrong.

"People you work with won't think you're ill. It's the last thing they'll think of," she says. "They might think, 'Oh, she's just a bad worker,' or 'She's getting old,' or 'She's looking for another job.' "

But avoiding a conversation on what is affecting your job performance "really is the elephant in the room," says Joffe, author of Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease.

If you decide to tell colleagues or your boss about your chronic illness or pain, Joffe suggests you should:

• Let the other person know that you're living with the pain or illness and that you've got it under control.

"Tell them they don't have to worry about you," Joffe says. "You want to normalize it."

• Explain how the pain or illness might affect you and what it might mean for your job.

If you have migraine headaches, set up someone to cover for you when you're not feeling well. Or help others understand that the problems with your condition may come and go; some days you may feel fine while others will be a struggle.

The unpredictability of a chronic illness is something you — and your colleagues — will learn to deal with, she says.

• Convey through your tone of voice that you're OK.

"Let them know it's not a tragedy, and you don't think of it as a tragedy," Joffe says.

• Give them permission to ask about your illness — or not.

"People need to know whether you want to talk about it and ask you from time to time how you're doing, and if you're capable of doing the work," Joffe says. "Or, let them know you just want to do your job and would rather not discuss it."

• Use your emotional intelligence. If you work with a jerk, chances are this person will be a jerk about your illness as well.

Don't feel obligated to tell everyone if you think some people won't handle the news well.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Are Your "Best of" Lists Alienating Your Network?

Lists are big in my business. Want to get someone to read your story? List 10 ways they can lose weight by consuming only pancakes, lima beans and Fresca for two weeks.

Those are fun to read, aren't they? We don't always take them seriously, but they help sell magazines or newspapers or get people to click on a website.

But there are some kinds of lists I don't like. I don't like "best companies" to work for because I find too many employees who work there and who couldn't disagree more. Those "best" lists, I find, often end up leaving out some folks or companies who should have been included.

If I were to ask you to list the five "best" people in your network, could you do it? Your answer might change from day-to-day. One day, Fred really helped you land a great customer, so you'd want to put him on your list. But the next day, it's Lisa who was really the biggest help. After a year, what does your "best" list look like now, hmmmm?

If you've got 500+ connections on LinkedIn, how in the world can you say that some are the "best"? What does that make the other people -- the "worst"? Or the "so-so"?

Maybe you try to get around this by asking people to add to your "best" list.

"My apologies to anyone I forgot!" you may say. But that's sort of like forgetting to invite someone to your birthday party, and then asking them to add their name to a list of those who actually were AT the party.

Not exactly a way to make someone in your network feel special.

A network is about give and take. It's about making everyone feel they add value, and you returning that value to them. Ranking the "best" isn't the "best" way to go about it.

Your thoughts?


Friday, September 23, 2011

How Job Seekers Can Project a More Confident Image

Even the most confident job seeker has a niggle of doubt every now and again. Even if it's only a twinge that wakes you up in the middle of the night, it's there. You're not alone.

But there are ways to become more confident about yourself and what you bring to the table. Here's a story I did for Gannett/

If you’ve been out of work for a long time, self-doubt can begin to set in.

Are you dressing correctly? Is your hairstyle out-of-date? Do you look too old? Too young? Could your communication skills be holding you back? Do you have bad breath, poor posture or a weak handshake? Are you providing unimpressive answers when questioned about your abilities?

The doubts linger as you attend another networking event. But you square your shoulders, and decide now is the time to impress the heck out of everyone. The advice from others is ringing in your head as you approach possible employers and charge through contacts like a bull in a china shop.

When you’re done, you feel like road kill. You’re exhausted. You have little to show for your efforts, other than jaw pain from smiling too much and a few paper cuts from passing out so many business cards.

Networking, you decide, is not the answer. Anything that makes you feel that rotten cannot be good for you, can it?

But the problem may not be the networking, but your approach. Because when you put on that fake smile, when you forced yourself into stilted conversations that felt as comfortable as a walking over a bed of hot coals, you doomed yourself to failure.

Michelle Tillis Lederman, an adjunct professor at New York University’s School of Business, says the problem is that people think they have to be something they’re not in order to impress others. She says that unless you’re “authentic” in your interactions, then you wind up feeling stressed, depressed and anxious about your efforts.

“Think about what is the real you. There should be an internal message that will tell you if it’s not feeling right,” she says.

That means that if you’re more introverted, glad-handing dozens of people, passing out business cards and plastering a big grin on your face as you wade through crowds at a big event, for example, isn’t going to make you feel successful and may only erode your self confidence.

“Define beforehand what a successful event is going to be for you,” she says. “It may not be meeting 30 people or passing out 20 business cards. Maybe it’s meeting one person and calling this person later to talk about something you have in common.

In her book, “The 11 Laws of Likability,” (Amacom, $16.95), Lederman outlines some ways to bolster your self image and help you project an authentic image that will attract others and help lead you to the success you desire.

For example, Lederman says the words we choose can often send the wrong message. If we frame our responses in a negative way, then others may see that, also.

“Often, it’s just small shifts. Instead of saying you’re not employed, say that you’ve been out networking, volunteering and learning new skills,” she says. “Focus on action instead of lack of results.”

She also suggests using strong verbs. For example, instead of saying that you’re “considering” what job you may apply for, say that you’re “deciding” what job to apply for.

At the same time, it’s important to give yourself little pep talks so that when you do interact with others, you project more confidence, she says.

Lederman says it doesn’t do any good to beat yourself up about what you’ve done wrong in your career or job search, but makes more sense to focus on what you learned from your mistakes and how you’ll handle them differently next time.

For example, maybe you’re upset you took too long to fill out an application and a desired job went to another candidate. Tell yourself that now that you understand the process better, you’ll respond more quickly and decisively to job possibilities, she says.

Any other suggestions you have to boost the confidence of job seekers?

Also....I've recently begun writing for Intuit's Quickbase blog. My latest story is how to take over a management position for a beloved or superstar leader (like Steve Jobs, only on a smaller scale.) Here's the story:

Please check it out and leave any comments ... I'd love to hear what you think on the subject.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

5 Ways to Sharpen Your Persuasive Skills

Much of our time is spent trying to persuade others.

We try to persuade a customer to try a new product. We try to persuade a colleague to lend his expertise to a project. We try to persuade our kids to eat broccoli and the dog not to eat the new carpet.

Sometimes our efforts are successful, but often they are not. One of the reasons may be our lack of preparation. Whether you're going to try to talk your 5-year-old into trying brussel sprouts or your boss into letting you handle a top client, here's the prep work necessary to make sure your persuasion is successful:

1. Understand the needs. Decide what it is the other person needs. Is it to cut time, or costs or errors? To eliminate poor service? How soon could your proposal make things better for this person?

2. Decide on a plan. Write out a concise solution to the problem.

3. Press play. Explain, for example, how your new system will increase efficiency by making sure steps aren't duplicated. What are the complete costs of your plan?

4. Talk about results. What benefits will this other person receive if they go along with your plan? How much money will it save? What errors will it stop?

5. Take action. This step asks for specific action by a specific time. If the person goes along with you, when will you be up and running on your proposal?

Once you have this outline put together, then you can better write a formal proposal or deliver it in person. Try to keep it to one or two pages, or a 15-minute presentation.

What other tips do you have for preparing to successfully persuade someone else?


Friday, September 16, 2011

Should You Hang Up When a Recruiter Calls?

Many workers are open to other job offers now. They're sick of working so much, with little (or no) pay raises, and dream of landing a job where there will be more appreciation and less stress. But before you jump ship, be careful you're not going to land in shark-infested waters. Check out this story I did for Gannett/

You're sitting in your cubicle one day considering the dozens of emails that await your attention when your phone rings.On the other end is someone interested in interviewing you for a job.

Wait a second, you think. You already have a job. You haven't applied for a new one. How can someone be interested in offering you a position when thousands of people are out there trying to land a job right now?

Why would a company want someone who isn't even looking for work?

Welcome to the new world of recruitment.

Hiring managers are searching social networking sites like LinkedIn looking for potential candidates who might be a good fit. Or they use their network to find people like you, people up to date on their skills who may be interested in jumping ship for a new title, more pay or new opportunities.

While you may think it's a good idea to go for an interview just to hear what is being offered, tread carefully if you're seriously considering making a change, career experts say.

"It's really stressful to start a new role and prove yourself all over again in a new job," says Kathy Harris, managing director at Harris Allied. "It can mean a lot of personal sacrifice."

The other problem: You may be so taken with the notion of being wooed by an employer that you don't stop to consider whether the job will be a good fit. Then a year later in the new job, you realize you're miserable, you've made a mistake and you're going to be one of the thousands of job seekers on the market.

Still, you can avoid such a scenario and make sure that when you do leave a job, it's because you've found one that will be a great fit and offer you new opportunities. All it takes is doing a little investigation, listening to your intuition and asking smart questions.

When you begin exploring a new opportunity:

• Do some sleuthing. Use social media to get the buzz about an employer.

Are employees whining about work conditions or too many deadlines? Is Facebook full of comments from disgruntled former employees? Are customers leaving in droves because of bad service?

Harris suggests checking LinkedIn to see about high turnover among workers or reaching out to past or present workers who may be in your network.

Phyllis Mufson, a career and personal coach in Philadelphia, also suggests reading about the company on, where employees can post anonymous comments and reviews about a company.

"It's important to be crystal clear about your values and the kind of structure and culture you'll thrive in before the interview, because otherwise you can't make a solid evaluation," she says.

• Get past the charm. A hiring manager is going to put the best face on a job opening and an organization, so try to dig a little deeper.

Ask questions about why the position is open. Is it because someone is being replaced? Why did that person leave?

"If they offer this kind of information to you, be careful to respond diplomatically," Harris says. "Steer clear of commentary about the employee or whether there was a fit issue."

• Check out the boss. Your manager is going to have a big impact on your career at a new company, so take the opportunity to find out as much as you can about this person.

In addition to doing a Google search, meet with your potential boss and ask about his or her background and management philosophy. Someone who talks about a need for workers to be "thick skinned" or "able to push back" may mean the boss is difficult to work for, Harris says.

• Look around. Are workers talking with one another, meeting in groups to collaborate? Does the atmosphere seem friendly and relaxed?

Mufson says you should ask for an office tour. Look to see if doors are shut, and try to speak with workers to get a feel for the environment.

"When you evaluate a position, listen to your gut as well as your intellect," Mufson says. "Ask yourself if you would feel at home in this environment and working with these people. If you felt uncomfortable ask yourself why, and listen to your answer without rationalizing."

What other advice do you have for someone contacted unexpectedly by a recruiter?


  • Though you want to put your best foot forward if you decide to meet a recruiter who is wooing you, don't forget to check out the job, the company and your prospective boss before you say yes.

    Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

    Though you want to put your best foot forward if you decide to meet a recruiter who is wooing you, don't forget to check out the job, the company and your prospective boss before you say yes.Wait a second, you think. You already have a job. You haven't applied for a new one. How can someone be interested in offering you a position when thousands of people are out there trying to land a job right now?Why would a company want someone who isn't even looking for work?Welcome to the new world of recruitment.Hiring managers are searching social networking sites like LinkedIn looking for potential candidates who might be a good fit. Or they use their network to find people like you, people up to date on their skills who may be interested in jumping ship for a new title, more pay or new opportunities.While you may think it's a good idea to go for an interview just to hear what is being offered, tread carefully if you're seriously considering making a change, career experts say.The other problem: You may be so taken with the notion of being wooed by an employer that you don't stop to consider whether the job will be a good fit. Then a year later in the new job, you realize you're miserable, you've made a mistake and you're going to be one of the thousands of job seekers on the market.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

5 Bad Twitter Habits

I'll admit that when Twitter first started I thought it was a blast. I met lots of nice, cool people, who recommended great music, made me laugh and offered insights that made me stop and think.

But lately I find myself not so intrigued. So, I thought about the things that drive me nuts on Twitter, and here's my list of Twitter habits that drive me crazy:

1. Just posting links. If you're going to offer some industry news, at least put in a little comment like: "I really agree with this" or "this is just stupid" or something that shows you're more than a droid posting content.

2. Nothing on bodily fluids. I've mentioned this before, but some of you are not paying attention.

3. Don't always use the automatic "tweet" button on a blog post or story. Sometimes these tweets are boring, stupidly written and offer no incentive to pay attention. If you can craft something more intriguing, do it and then give a link.

4. Stop being repetitive. Don't post "Check out my free e-book" 10 times straight. When I'm trying to decide whether to follow you, I check out your tweets. A page of "Check out my free e-book" is not only uninteresting, but a reason for me to block you. Because I know it's only a matter of time before you send me a direct message that says, "Check out my free e-book."

5. Avoid a lot of abbreviations. Seriously, people, I know what BFF means and ROTFL....but anything I have to struggle to interpret....I don't. If you're using a bunch of insider jargon, be prepared that you limit your audience. That's fine if that is your intention, but if you're trying to expand your effort, you may turn some people away. Like me, who has no idea what RUYT means, nor do I care.

What other Twitter habits should be dropped?


Friday, September 9, 2011

Are baby boomers suffering more than other workers?

I'm a baby boomer, and was raised by a mother who suffered a lot during the Great Depression. For that reason, I think I became aware at an early age of the importance of saving money. Of never taking a job or security for granted. That's why I so appreciate being able to earn a living wage when times are so difficult for thousands of people. I think if I couldn't work, and earn a paycheck, I'd go a little nutso.

Here's a story I did for my Gannett/USAToday column on what baby boomers are facing....

Baby boomers use face serums, teeth whiteners, exercise programs and even plastic surgery to look younger for work, but it could be that the greatest change isn't happening on the outside — but what they're going through on the inside.

Many in the baby boomer generation had planned on retiring by now. Butt in this poor economy, they are struggling to deal with a ton of anxiety about their financial well being, says Tamara McClintock Greenberg, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

"I've got patients who are checking the stock market several times a day, they're so worried," Greenbergsays. "There's a lot of worrying."

  • Greenberg says baby boomers also are concerned about younger workers coming in to take their places. If they're laid off, they face a daunting challenge as unemployment for those older than 55 has grown by about 2.4 million — or 9.3 percent — since the official start of the recession in December 2007. Health statistics show Americans have an average life span of 77.9 years, and boomers are realizing they may be facing decades of financial demands.

"You've got people who are worried that if they live 30 years past retirement, will they be able to support themselves? Will they run out of money?" Greenberg says. "This all comes at a time when they may be also dealing with aging parents and children still at home.

"I have great sympathy for baby boomers right now," she says.

Older workers can better handle the financial, personal and professional demands that are creating so much stress for them right now in a number of ways, Greenberg says. She suggests they:

• Plan realistically. While you might think you have a tidy nest egg for retirement, what happens if a spouse or family member becomes ill?

"Make yourself have these difficult conversations, no matter your income level," Greenberg says, adding that a qualified financial adviser can help you set up a plan.

• Maximize health-insurance benefits. "Some people really feel like they need concierge medical care, but I suggest people try to use the benefits they have and find doctors that will take their health insurance," she says. "Take advantage of getting your health care paid for as much as possible."

• Look for support. "Baby boomers have always had a great commitment to help, so they can get caught up in intense caretaking for someone like an aging parent," Greenberg says. "But there is a price to be paid for doing that. They need to think about what they can realistically do."

Older workers must consider that becoming physically drained from caretaking duties could cost them their job. It might make more sense to get caretaking help for someone at home or look into a facility for aging parents.

• Don't self-medicate. "The baby boomers are amazingly resilient, but they are really disillusioned and disheartened right now. They were in many ways a privileged generation, so there's really not a lot of sympathy for what they're going through," Greenberg says. "The temptation for them right now is to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol."

Greenberg says she hopes that employers will recognize the stress older workers may be under and support them by reminding them of the valued experience they bring to the workplace and their role in a company's success.

"I really do think that right now baby boomers need more of our sympathy and understanding," the associate professor says. "They tried really hard in their lives to make social change and were the most idealistic and socially conscious generation."

The struggle they face right now is more than they ever thought would happen, she says.

Do you feel for the baby boomers or believe they're no worse off that anyone else right now?


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

4 Rude Networking Behaviors

I'm one of those people who has written many times about the values of networking. It's good for your career, for your job search, for your personal brand, blah, blah, blah.

For all I know, networking leads to better digestion and clearer skin.

But one thing I'm really tired of is rude networkers. You probably don't know who you are, so it's a good thing you're reading this blog, because I'm going to tell you that your behavior is driving the rest of us nuts. So, before we block you on Twitter, dump you on LinkedIn and run from you at a networking event, let's clear the air.

You may be a rude networker if you:

1. Set up an appointment to talk over the phone or in person, and then decide to multitask while communicating. No, I don't want to watch you text someone else while talking to me. No, I don't want to hear you whisper to someone else while you're on the phone with me. I also don't want to hear you shuffling papers, typing on your computer or doing anything else but giving me your undivided attention.

2. Stand me up. This has happened more times than I care to count. If your schedule is so full that you're going to squeeze me into a five-minute slot, perhaps it's best that we find another time. If chances are your meeting will run late, you'll get stuck in traffic or it's a lovely day and you'd rather be playing golf, then tell me. Just don't fail to let me know, because then you go on my sh*t list, and many people on this list will NEVER get off.

3. Don't make false promises. Networking is about honesty. Don't promise to help someone if you have no intention of doing so. I'm still smarting about a connection who promised to help me promote my book, then not only didn't help me -- but acted like I had some kind of nerve in even asking. She is at the top of my sh*t list. The tippy-top.

4. Avoid being a bobble head. This is a problem I have myself, because the journalist in me is always sniffing the air for what else is going on. But I've worked hard not to dart my eyes around when I'm speaking to a contact. I try to blot out anything else in the room and focus completely on my contact. It's nothing less than I want myself.

What other rude networking behavior drives you crazy?


Friday, September 2, 2011

4 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Finding Remote Work

Many people think they want to work from home until they do it. Then, they get tired of the isolation, the constant need to do housework or watch "Teen Mom" when they should be working. It's not for everyone, but if you can find a way to stay focused, it might be a way to forge a new career path. Here's a story I did for Gannett/USAToday:

The job outlook hasn't been rosy for years, but at least one area continues to grow: remote work.

Sara Fell, the founder and chief of, says she's seen a 400 percent growth in telecommuting jobs in the past three years.

You may or may not work full time for an employer, and you usually spend at least some time during a workweek laboring from home or a nearby coffee shop. The key is that an employer connects with you via technology while you do the same work you would as if you were sitting in a cubicle at an office.

Some of the reasons have to do with more employers seeking to cut real-estate costs by letting workers do their jobs from home, and by a desire of key talent to have more flexibility in their work arrangements.

Keeping critical employees happy is becoming more critical for employers. Workers have been given minimal pay raises — or none at all — during difficult economic times. And employers worry that their workers are beginning to show increasing dissatisfaction, which can affect productivity and efficiency.

Another reason remote work is gaining traction: Technology makes it easier than ever. While many believe only certain jobs lend themselves to working remotely, Fell says her company recently received a job posting for a neurosurgeon in Nevada.

"We were surprised at first," she says. "But then we learned that so much of medical work is looking at digital imagery, which can be done from another location. The physician would fly in for surgeries and just have to be licensed in that state."

U.S. Census data show that more employers are letting workers set up home offices to get work done with 61 percent more workers considering home their primary workplace in 2009 compared with 2005. A study from oDesk found that companies spent more than $18 million on online work in June. That's 93,000 new jobs posted and more than 1.8 million hours of work performed.

Fell says that jobs for remote workers can range from entry level to executive. Salaries sometimes run 10 percent to 20 percent less than working on site.

Many of those seeking remote work are willing to accept less pay for the added benefit of flexibility and working from home, she says. Still, many companies do offer benefits to remote workers, even those who only work part time.

If you're looking for remote work, Fell says you can get the attention of those hiring such workers:

• Spiff up your LinkedIn profile. While it can pay off to be active on other social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, LinkedIn is still a place where most recruiters will go to check out your professional profile.

Don't go overboard, she says. Stay "true to yourself" when participating in social networking.

"You can join groups that interest you on LinkedIn. Just choose those areas where you feel comfortable or those that are within your industry," she says.

• Show your independence. Your LinkedIn profile or resume should note experience working remotely or independently on projects. It's helpful if recommendations from others can laud your adaptability or your ability to be a self-starter.

• Sharpen your technology skills. No matter what your industry, it's critical that you show you're up on the latest software in your field.

Take classes or get new certifications to demonstrate you're staying current. Be prepared to show you know how to use online communication channels such as Skype or instant messaging, which will be critical in any remote-work situation.

• Write well and often. "It's really important for remote workers to be proactive in communicating with their bosses or other members of a team," Fell says.

An early indicator is your resume. "Your resume has got to be free of typos, and you need to avoid a form cover letter. Your writing shouldn't be too formal. When you apply for these jobs, it's your chance to prove that you're a savvy communicator."

What are some suggestions you have for working remotely?