Activating the best of you!

Dear Coach Joan,

I am filled with apprehension and fear. I am 58 years old and have been at the same corporation for 25 years as an attorney. I see colleagues the same age as I am being laid off and replaced with much younger candidates for much lower pay. I have always gotten excellent performance reviews and feel that my depth of experience and institutional knowledge is of great value to the company. What do you suggest I can do to keep my job? I am not in a position to take an early retirement. We still have two children to put through college and a mortgage to pay. Plus, I enjoy my work and feel I am fully effective at it.

Thank you for any advice.


Dear Mitch,

I feel for you. Through no fault of your own you may be losing your job as the corporation looks for ways to cut costs. You know  you are not the only one in this situation and you are wise to see if there are ways you can change an outcome that looks inevitable.

And yes, there ARE things you can do:

  1. Remind management of your value add: This is the time to regularly account for your contributions. Prepare a weekly status report and see your manager will let you periodically present it to a team of upper managers. Include not only your accomplishments but the strategy and thinking that went into your activities. Make your results clear and connected to the company bottom line.  Show that you are relevant and are bringing best practices to your firm.
  2. Be proactive: Set up meetings with influential leaders in the company to determine current and future challenges where you can be effective. Show that you are on top of your game and willing and interested in being a more impactful lawyer for the company. When upper management meets to discuss human resource issues and budgets, be considered a top and valuable player they do not want to lose.
  3. Plan for a package: Consult with an employment attorney who specializes in compensation and or ageism in the workplace. Ask how you can best prepare to get as ‘rich’ a severance package as possible. See if there is the possibility of making a case for ageism at your company, or prepare to include that topic in your negotiations.
  4. Look for future employment: That company is not the only game in town. Do a quiet job search both for full-time work and also explore firms who provide lawyers on a contract basis. You might be able to build a consultancy and or piece together  lucrative contract work.
  5. Reduce spending: Now, while you still have your full income, start saving. Try to reduce discretionary spending in anticipation of a layoff.

Mitch, this is not an easy situation but as the saying goes, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going’. Please act on all five recommendations and let me know how you are doing. Just by knowing you are engaged in helping yourself, your fear should go down and your confidence should go up.

All the best,

Coach Joan

Dear Readers

More and more companies and recruiters are using phone interviews for initial candidate screening. They find it to be an effective and efficient strategy. This is now commonplace for positions ranging  from entry level to C-level executive. As such, it is imperative that you learn how to master the phone screening.

The rules for doing well over the phone are a little different than for the in-person interview. The success model I draw on is the customer service industry where phone communication is the the norm. Did you know  that call centers have mirrors in each cubicle? Is it to make sure the employees are well groomed? No!  It is to make sure they use this  secret approach to winning in phone communication.

And what is that?

It is the S M I L E !! Yes, look at the image that accompanies this article. The young woman has a bright smile. We perceive her smile through her voice. Test it out for yourself. When you smile, even though you cannot be seen by the caller, your voice has more energy, and that energy is perceived and felt by the listener.

We subconsciously smile back at her and feel positively inclined toward her.  We feel more open, trusting and likely to want to relate with her. Imagine she is holding a neutral expression or even a frown. Would you feel as good about her? Probably not.

Research shows that when people are smiling they naturally speak in a way that attracts others. They sound happier, lighter, more accessible and much friendlier. We feel a positive rapport with them and we want to hear more.

To ace the phone screen:

USE A MIRROR: Set up your phone location where you can see yourself in a mirror. Practice that smile. And use it. The person on the other end of the call will naturally feel more comfortable with you, perceive you as more friendly and team oriented, and feel more inclined to spent more time with you in conversation. Some job applicants actually go into the restroom and use the mirror there. Do what you can to prevent interruptions.

Other important ways to prepare for a phone interview include:

* Read and study the job description and prepare good reasons for why you’re a strong fit for the position.

* Research the company and show you understand the industry, services and or products. Develop thoughtful questions to convey intelligence and interest in the job.

Most importantly, SMILE, and you will create positive rapport at the outset, and increase the odds you’ll be asked back for a live interview.

FYI, this topic was prompted by a recent email from a client:

“Joan, perhaps one of the best tips you ever gave me was to smile in a mirror when receiving an interview screening call. This trick has worked for me time and time again. My conversation naturally becomes lighter and more personal. You can hear the Screener put immediately at ease. Rarely am I not forwarded enthusiastically to the next step.”

Coach Joan

Dear Readers,

My last article was about really bad bosses and how to cope with them.

This time I want to share three success stories of clients who woke up to the reality of their wicked manager and pivoted wisely to a create a positive outcome. And they learned valuable  strategies; now a vital part of  their career tool box.

Success Story #1

Daniel was the young man who wrote in to me from the last article. He had a rotten new manager who was stripping him of his responsibilities, ignoring him, and making it clear he only wanted to work with the direct reports he brought over from his last company.

Daniel took my advice! He reached out to two of his former managers and explained his situation and his availability. He also reminded them of the skills and accomplishments and made sure to show that he was still a positive guy, despite having a bad boss! He explained that he was ready to move forward, still hard-working, confident and ambitious, but recognized it was time for change. Both former managers were impressed with his maturity and the way he was handling a tough situation. And one had an opening.  And it turned he knew the bad manager as they are all in the same industry. He was impressed that Daniel was good at reading the situation and reaching out to make productive change. Daniel just received his new job offer and it is for a more responsible position and higher pay.

Success Story #2

Liz was happily working at large high tech company and enjoyed the challenges in her position as a product manager. She worked for two years under two different and excellent managers. But a third one was brought in who seemed not to like her from Day #1. Liz had no idea what the problem was, and set up meeting after meeting with the new manager only to find he had little interest in communicating with her, other than criticizing her work or questioning her decisions. It took her some time to realize that he was doing this to her peers as well, but not before her confidence started to erode.  She did finally open her eyes to reality that his manager was a true narcissist and only interested in building his career. In fact, the one time he showed an interest in her work was when he put a star on a specific objective and actually said, ‘Do a good job on this project, my bonus is based on it!” She was stunned, but that finally got her to start interviewing internally and fortunately, her work in that first two years solidified her reputation.She was about to move to a different department, far from her horrible boss and she has gotten her career back on track.

Success Story #3

Alexander’s case is an interesting one. He was working as a graphic designer for a large corporation and though he was getting positive feedback on his work, he never liked his work and thought that problem was his manager. He wondered how he could have the misfortune of having one bad manager after the next. He felt that none of his managers protected him from his work overload. No matter how hard he worked, and no matter how much he produced, he felt like was ‘cattle whipped’ into doing more. He actually became a client of mine when he felt desperate that he would never find happiness at work. After much discussion and some exercises to see what he really enjoyed doing, and what skills he liked to bring to the workplace, we realized he was in the wrong profession. In fact, he really did enjoy art and had majored in art in college, but he was a perfectionist in art so he was not able to work as quickly as his corporate graphic design position required. And he really wanted to use his art and design skills in his personal life, not in his professional life. In fact, he loved business and working with people. He also loved technology and explaining technology. We had him transition his career into corporate sales in the high tech world and now, three years out, he is a very fulfilled and happy professional, pleasing himself and his management, and tripling his income in the process.

What are the takeaways from these three success stories?

*Size up your situation and if you have a really bad manager or if it’s a really bad fit, make change.

*Managing a career is much like sailing. You’ve got to continually check on the weather conditions, see how the winds are blowing, check to make sure you’re going in the right direction and be confident and capable in changing course when necessary.

Onward to bringing your best to work,

Coach Joan

Dear Coach Joan,

How do I survive this horrible work situation? My new manager is disrespectful, ignores me, and has given my key responsibilities to members of his new team.  I feel like I’m invisible and unwanted. I know I need to get a new job but it is so difficult to just get up in the morning knowing  I am facing such a negative and destructive environment. It’s not my fault but I just find it so depressing. I’ve had three wonderful managers in my career so far and this is just the worst situation.

Please help,



Dear Daniel,

I hear your pain. And it is really horrible to go from a positive work environment to a negative one, especially when you are doing the same work that was once appreciated and well regarded. Plus, it is shameful that your new manager is disrespectful, and doing a certain kind of bullying. Yes, ignoring your employee and pulling responsibilities is not only wrong and unethical, but I see it as a kind of bullying.

I have never found anyone who has not experienced THE HORRIBLE BOSS, the truly Wicked Witch.

It seems to be a harsh reality of the work world.

But you can get through it, and here are some proven strategies:

  1. RECOGNITION – First, acknowledge to yourself that this is truly a WICKED BOSS. Imagine him or her in the costume of the wicked witch from The Wizard of Oz because that is really who s/he is and if you can imagine him in the witches costume it will also give you a good laugh!! Laughing is good. It might not change the situation but it will get you to lighten up and see that he is the JOKE and he is the problem, not you!!
  2. TEMPORARY – It really helps to know that at some point this Wicked Witch will be just a blip on your career screen!! You will not have this person in your life for long. And you need to determine how long ‘not long’ is. Most people can get a new job within 6 months. So say to yourself, “This is a temporary situation and I can plow through it.”
  3. GET YOUR GOODIES ELSEWHERE: Whereas you used to get good feelings by being appreciated, recognized and groomed to take on  more responsibilities, you are no longer getting much satisfaction at work. Your wicked witch boss is not a source of satisfaction or positive self image at this time. Look to get more involved with your friends, family and or other activities that make you feel good, that make you feel seen and worthwhile.
  4. TAKE NOTE OF YOUR STRENGTHS/SKILLS/TALENTS: Capture all of the skills, accomplishments and key capabilities you have gotten out of the job so far. Update your resume and Linkedin and for a moment, relish the advancement and contributions that are yours, for always! Contact your past bosses and any peers or colleagues who can reinforce your talents and provide recommendations and job leads for you.
  5. DAILY REMINDERS TO YOURSELF: Put together a list of things you are most proud of about yourself and your career so far. Look at that list daily. Keep yourself pumped up!
  6. OWN YOUR CAREER DEVELOPMENT: There’s more than one way to get ahead in your career. If your boss is not giving you opportunities to learn and grow, do it yourself! Identify areas of growth that will increase your career toolbox! Improve your financial skills, communication skills, whatever areas you would like to learn and grow in. You can take classes, webinars, read blogs, books, etc.right on your computer!  So take your career development into your own hands, and create the kind of learning and progress you are no longer getting at work.

Daniel, you must be strong. The Wicked Witch has some power but you can be even stronger! You can empower and strengthen yourself.

You can and will get through this temporary situation. The good news is once you’ve recognized and moved past your first horrible boss you will know the drill, and know how to navigate back to a ‘good witch’ scenario!!

Best of luck to you and please use these proven strategies.

Coach Joan