Viewing posts from: November 2000
by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized
Dear Coach Joan,
The fire might have happened a full year ago, but it continues to impact my life and my work. Our family home burned down, we lost everything, and we’re still dealing with the insurance company and builders, not sure we can even afford to rebuild. Living in temporary housing is another stress in my life.
The problem is that I am not as productive or focused at work as I would like to be. Timing is bad as my supervisor is leaving to retire in a few months. For the past five years I’ve assumed I’d be promoted to his position when he left, but now I’m not so sure. I’m afraid to talk to my manager or HR as they act like the fire was a long time ago, and I’m afraid they would see me as weak and not worthy of the promotion if I tell them I feel distracted and stressed out.
Very concerned and hoping you have some helpful ideas.
I am so sorry for your losses, and I want to assure you that you are not the only one in our community who continues to experience the fallout from the fire. As you know, I am a coach, not a psychologist, but I’ve read that it can take years for some people to fully rebound from a trauma. And in your case, you continue to live in uncertainty, which is very stressful.
I highly recommend that you get outside psychological support. You have strong self awareness, and if you sense that your productivity and focus are impaired, you have a right to be concerned. You do not want to miss out on a strategic career opportunity!
Michelle, please refer to my earlier blog post for information on this topic here.
The good news is that there are professionals who can help you, and you can keep it private from your employer. In fact, in our community we have places like the Jewish Free Clinic that provide services for fire victims just like you! (And as their name suggests, the services can be FREE!) You can also go through your own physician to get a referral, but I would like all readers to know that there are free services available in our community for fire victims.
You might be experiencing anxiety or depression that is sapping your energy and distracting you from your normal focus and performance at work. You might need therapy, medication, stress relief activities, or other things.
You also might find that a professional psychologist can suggest a way for you to work with your employer to give you the time and understanding you need for recovery.
Michelle, you have been a professional for many years and now, through no fault of your own, you are impacted by a mental health problem. It is a valid and real problem, and it can be addressed. Hopefully, you will get the support you need to get your work performance back on track.
Onward in your healing, and hoping to hear that you earn your promotion.
Coach Joan Tabb
Please send your career questions to me at:
I have just accepted an early retirement package after 25 years of working as an engineer in a high-tech company.
I enjoyed my work but always daydreamed of doing outdoor work, immersing myself in nature and playing a role in preserving our environment. I have been a lifelong birder. I am 55 years old, in good health, my wife continues to work and our kids are grown and on their own. I can afford to take a pay cut but still need to have an income.
Is this ‘daydream’ a flight of fancy or something I should really consider?
I value our thoughts on this.
—Brian the bird lover engineer
What would the world be without our daydreams! Some of the best inventions, innovative ideas and remarkable people have started with their dreams!
But does that mean to throw caution to the wind and look to hug trees for a living??? Not necessarily.
I’ve had several clients in your situation and the prudent thing to do is to make a transition and exploration plan.
Identify the key values and work style preferences that drive you. Reflect on the actually skills and strengths you bring to a work environment.
Then begin your research. Look for organizations that support the outdoors and the environment. Set up informational interviews with staff members there. Informational interviews are typically 30 min sessions where you ask to get the inside scoop on a job or profession.
You are not there to ask for a job. You are to prepare some thoughtful questions so you can learn more about what it’s really like to do a job for an organization you are attracted to. Also, assess what your financial income needs will be. Perhaps you might set up a lifestyle where you work part time as an engineer and part time as a volunteer, outdoors, supporting a cause you love. Brian, this is the time for careful planning, exploration and discovery.
It is often the time people come to see a coach to help build and execute on a transition plan that includes accountability and structure. Most folks need that.
Good luck and may your dreams take flight!
I’m a lawyer and I’ve always loved my work. I’ve been at the same firm for 8 years and was on track toward being partner within the next couple of years. I’ve earned consistently glowing reviews and pride myself in using good, careful judgement in all of my business dealings and I have a robust and growing client base. The problem started three months ago when I was assigned to work for a new partner in the firm. He is the most controlling manager I have ever had. I can’t make any decisions without him looking over my shoulder.
In fact, he asks me to review, in advance, any and all client communication. It is counterproductive, demoralizing and frankly, I have never been this frustrated and unhappy in my work before. My wife can’t stand to see me this miserable. Should I just quit and look for a new job?
—Larry, who at present is a very unhappy lawyer
I feel for you. This sounds like a very uncomfortable and difficult situation and unfortunately, one that is not that uncommon.
You and your manager have a style clash. You tend to be an independent worker and he is very high on control. I suggest that you consider not taking his behavior too personally. Why? He either has been treated this way himself and is modeling familiar behavior or, more likely, he has probably been burned before by subordinates who acted impulsively or improperly and the consequences fell to him.
My suggestion is that you ask to talk to him about the style situation, and how you really want to earn his trust.
Suggest that for the next say 3-week period, you meet with him on a daily basis, and discuss not only your current workload, but communicate your strategies and your thinking in full. Let him get to know you and become comfortable with your judgement and decision making style. Additionally, send him a detailed full status report twice a week with any special concerns, red flags or questions. After that 3-week period, ask for feedback, and if it’s positive, ask him if you can meet less frequently but continue to do weekly detailed status reports.
Larry, I have seen this strategy work, a systematic process of earning trust toward more independence.
Best of luck to you and onward to earning your partnership in the firm.
—Joan, the career coach
by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized
Dear Coach Joan,
I left the corporate world 3 years ago to run my own consultancy in the publishing world. I felt that with fifteen years of experience, half of that in management, and a good network of colleagues and clients I could go out on my own. I have some specialized skills and did my homework to determine potential clients. All good. But I now have more business than I can handle but I am wary about adding staff. Any thoughts on how to approach growing my business?
Congratulations on going out on your own and sustaining your business for 3 years so far! That is something to be proud of. And you went through the right steps by determining market needs and potential clients before you left. That caution has served you well in the past and that same caution is needed in growing your business going forward. In my experience as both a business owner and coach, here are 3 of your top considerations in growing a staff:
- Determine the tasks you can delegate: Review and study some of your recent projects. What were the tasks that took you a long time but really did not require your high level skills. Were there administrative skills you could delegate to others? Perhaps bookkeeping and clerical aspects of your work. Quantify the time it took you to do those. Project forward how you might have been freed up to take on additional projects if you had some support. Sole proprietorship businesses often grow by hiring an assistant first, and then considering higher level personnel once that support is in place. Ideally, you will have time then freed up to find additional projects.
- Write out a job description: Think though your upcoming projects. Identify the tasks you can delegate and the specific skills required. Think through the education and training level needed for the tasks to be done right. Consider perhaps a person you could train. Also think about that person growing and providing additional skills. Think about the time you will have freed up to possibly do more business development and really grow. Also think logistically about where this person will work. Can they work remote? Is there room for them in your work space? Perhaps look to find inexpensive office space where you can expand?
- Consider a short term contractor or temp first: Walk before you run. When you know you have some good, lucrative project coming up, think about hiring someone on a contract or temporary basis. See how it goes. First try to find people through your own network. Consider a job board at a local college to find a part time student perhaps. Also, see if you can build a staff person into your next contract. Show that you need an assistant and how much that person costs. You might even make it a win-win with your clients as they see that for lesser skills you are employing a lower priced worker and passing the savings on to them. Growing a business can be exciting but it can also be stressful and daunting. It is wise to go slowly, proceed with caution, and be thorough in assessing the exact role and time required for the new staff member. When it is done carefully and strategically, adding staff can be both lucrative and another step in building a larger, more impactful business. Good luck, Dan! Wishes for all the best as you grow your business successfully! Coach Joan
by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized
Dear Coach Joan,
Am I the only one getting paranoid during my job search? For the last three months I have sent out over 50 resumes and I have gotten no bites, no interviews. I am applying for jobs I am well qualified for. Should I assume that I have been blacklisted by former employers? I just don’t know how to interpret this rejection …
Sad in Santa Rosa,
No, you are not the only one feeling really bad about getting no responses to your online job search. It can be very depressing to feel as though you are being rejected before you’ve even had a chance to be interviewed.
The reality is that many, many people opt to submit their resume online and companies are overwhelmed with submissions. And sadly, unless you have the exact qualifications they are looking for you will often get no response, not even a rejection note. Is this right? Of course not! You have taken the time to submit your resume and possibly (hopefully) a cover letter explaining your enthusiasm for the organization and the position, and your key qualifications and how they align with the job requirements.
But, we live in a very competitive environment, and organizations do tend to be more opportunistic than considerate. Yes, this is my opinion, but it is backed up with many years of seeing candidates experience exactly what you are talking about.
That said, we in the career business strongly recommend that you get up from behind your computer and start getting connected with real people who can influence your job search in a real way. How might you do that?
- Professional Associations: Google to find professional, local organizations in your field. There are organizations for almost every industry from engineering to sales to marketing to manufacturing to hospitality and more…. The people who run these groups are typically professionals who are volunteering to play leadership roles and who are interested in advancing knowledge and education in their field. They often enjoy networking and helping others. You can go to their web sites and find upcoming meetings and I recommend calling ahead to introduce yourself to a couple of the leaders, and offer to volunteer at an event. They will often invite you to come free to your first meeting. Show your enthusiasm and meet people who can help your job search.
- Job Support Groups: Almost every town and city has some kind of MeetUp and job support groups. You can check out your local chamber of commerce and even ask at your local library. There are often employment centers, too. These offer a way to meet people and work together on your job search, on your resume and career tools, interview skills etc. It helps to have support and accountability in the process. And you never know who knows someone at the companies you are aiming for. Having your resume delivered in person rather than online offers a much better chance of you being considered for the job.
- Confidence Cards: The opposite of being paranoid is being confident! I suggest you build something I call Confidence Cards. Use about 6 index cards. On one side write down a skill or capability you have. On the other side write out 2-3 examples that demonstrated those skills or capability. Once you’ve completed those you have your Confidence Cards. Discuss them and really take to heart the achievements and capabilities you truly have to offer! No once can take away the perseverance you showed in working and going to school to earn your college degree. No once can take away your research and writing skills that allowed you to do a fine master’s thesis. No one can take away your having reached quota in your sales job for 6 quarters in a row. Own your achievements, articulate and be prepared to share them when networking and interviewing.
The job search process can be a difficult time and see it as a real JOB. Take control. It is about YOU owning your capabilities, building your confidence based on real skills and achievement. Then, you must get out there to connect with people who can then connect you with opportunity. As I always say to my clients:
READINESS + OPPORTUNITY = SUCCESS
Work hard to be ready, Jan. Keep yourself pumped up! Project confidence grounded in true achievements and skill. You will find and create opportunity this way!
Onward to finding a great job,
by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized
Dear Coach Joan,
I’ve been really frustrated as my job search stretched out way too long. So I’ve taken a contract job, but am bored out of my mind! I know it’s better to be employed and have structure and income, but are there ways to make it a better situation? I feel that I’m sinking….
I applaud you in moving to Plan B. It is not fun or nearly as rewarding as getting your ideal job. But you have made a mature and wise decision to get to work, even if it is boring work. As you said, you now have structure and income. Plus, I would contend you have more opportunity than you realize! Try to put yourself in a growth mindset vs a locked mindset.
Let’s look at three examples of clients who made the most of their contract work. They put themselves in a growth mindset. Perhaps their experiences will give you, and other readers, ideas. When it comes to our work lives, all motivated people wants to feel challenged, stimulated and that they are using their talents and skills. But you can find creative ways to get into a growth mindset:
- Alan became a car salesman. Alan graduated from college with a creative writing degree and wanted to get a job in an ad agency. He applied for over 100 jobs and though he did get a few interviews, he never got the job offer. After 6 months he was frustrated, out of money and really needing to get to work! His friend’s Dad owned a car dealership and offered him a job. He always liked and respected this man but never saw himself in sales or in the car business. But it was the only offer on the table. He took the job and had the good fortune of having a manager who instilled in him the understanding that any job that is worth having, can be done with a good attitude and with an openness to growing and developing. Alan shadowed this successful car salesman for the first 3 weeks during which time he also had some online training. After working his first week, he made a sale. He couldn’t believe the rush of happiness and satisfaction he got from the sale! He continued on, making the most of each opportunity to learn and develop. During his third year he sold a car to the owner of an ad agency who was so impressed with him that he offered him an interview as a copywriter (advertising writer) and got the job! He now works full-time in the ad agency but part-time in at the car dealership to boost his income.
- Suzy worked as a supermarket clerk. Suzy lost her long time job as the office manager of a busy medical office when the office closed. She was in her late 50s and whenever she interviewed for jobs in other medical offices she lost out to younger people who had lower salary requirements. She was frustrated and disappointed, but the reality of needing work sunk in. When she saw a help wanted sign in her local supermarket she applied and got the job. In fact, she gave it her best and due to her excellent customer facing work at the medical office she distinguished herself as a prize employee and she was promoted three times in five years. She is now a supervisor at the store and enjoying her work. Again, she told herself to give it her all and her positive attitude and skills paid off!
- Ben is doing data entry with an MBA. Ben earned his MBA and set his sights on getting a data analyst job in the high tech field. He’s originally from China and has a strong accent and feels it is holding him back from getting the higher level positions that he’s applied for. In fact, he got feedback that his accent was problematic. So he looked reality squarely in the face and decided to get whatever job he could in finance, even data entry, while devoting evening hours to working on improving his accent. Even though his day job is boring, he knows he is progressing in his English tutoring each evening. Additionally, he has made some friends at the company and when he reaches a certain level of language skill, the company will interview him for a higher level position.
Yes, Bob, it can be frustrating to have a boring job. But see it for what it is. Identify the skills gaps that are in the way of getting to the next level and know that you are working day by day to be positive and growing in the ways that you can. Look at the grass that comes up in the cracks in the sidewalk….find ways to GROW, whatever your job or situation. You will feel a lot better once you have built GROWTH and HOPE into your career life!
by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized
Dear Coach Joan,
After two menial jobs after college, I have finally landed an entry level position at a large company and this should put me on the professional track. I was told to actively network to find new opportunities and make helpful professional connections. But I really don’t know how to get started. After three months, my network is limited to my manager and the four other people on my team. How do I get to know others at the company?
Thank you for any advice. I have been patient so far, paying my dues at two boring jobs, and now I really want to get ahead and use my talents.
Congratulations on landing a job that looks like there’s a path to advancement! And now you want to know how to best find and create opportunities. Building a strong network is the way! (In addition to doing excellent work, too, naturally.) The fact that you reached out to a seasoned career coach for advice, shows me that you know how to formulate the questions and you directed them at the the appropriate resource to get the information you need. Good going!
OK, here are the top four strategies I suggest you employ in your networking efforts at your new company. These are proven moves that have worked for other ambitious people. Try them out for yourself:
- The Training Department: Discuss with your manage that you are ambitious and would like to develop professional skills. Ask him or her for some examples of skills that would be helpful in putting you on track for advancement. They would be things like, presentation skills, management skills or technical skills in your particular area. Most large companies have a training department. Ask your manager for approval to sign up for classes. In those classes you will meet other aspiring employees, typically from across the company. Get to know them. Make friends, make lunch dates. Find out more about what they do. The more colleagues and friends you have in your company, the more influencers you have in making recommendations for you to move forward. They might also know about new job openings before they are posted. By taking classes with other employees you are both building skills and growing your network.
- Informational Interviews with other Managers in the Company: Again, let your manager know that you are looking to become better acquainted with the various departments, functions and people in the company. Ask her or him to suggest departments and manager who might be good for you to get to know. Develop a list of some thoughtful questions to show you have done your research and really want to understand more. These managers will be impressed with your initiative. Start with departments who work more closely with your functional area.
- All -Employee Company Meetings: Many companies have what is called All-Hands Meetings. That is where all employees are called together to listen to updates and new plans from the upper management. Smart employees make themselves visible at these meetings by asking smart questions. This way you get the visibility of the upper management folks and can then follow up with a 1:1 to get to know them better. Expand your network to high levels in the company!
- Organized Company Activities:These can range from athletic teams to Toastmasters (to learn public speaking skills) to lunch time yoga, exercise and walking groups. Join groups that interest you. When I was a manager I always asked my employees about their extra curricular interests and often employees would team up to play tennis, form book clubs and more. Yes, don’t overlook the relationships you can build with the members of your own department. We often think we know them well just by working together, but by enjoying outside activities together you can build trust and further the relationships.
- Be friendly! Say hello to other employees while walking in the halls at work, getting on the elevator, eating in the cafeteria! Be opportunistically friendly and helpful. Many serendipitous career opportunities occur because employees just happen to run into one another and start conversation. Many companies have beer busts or ping pong tables or outdoor seating to encourage friendliness and casual meet ups that can turn into business and career opportunities! I’ve had clients who’ve met their future manager when making small talk in the parking lot! I always tell clients: Readiness + Opportunity = Success!! Always be ready for opportunity!!
Yes, Amy, in addition to doing careful, thorough and timely, creative work, you need to reach out to get to know people in your company. Through making friends and colleagues you will be privy to important happenings, new events, and new job opportunities. Additionally, it is a lot more fun and rewarding to work in a place where you have a strong network.
Onward in your network building and career development, Amy!
by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you are not alone:
* I was promised benefits after three months; it is now four months later and my manager keeps giving excuses and postponing the sign up date.
* I was told there would be very little travel, yet I’m on the road 50% of the time.
* I was promised a collaborative work environment and I am not invited to any of the group meetings.
* I was told that if I reached my quota I’d get a 10% quarterly bonus and now they’re changing the terms of my contract but won’t pay me my previously earned bonuses.
* My manager promised that I could work remotely two times a week after we established trust and had a good routine going, but it is six months out and he still says he’s not ready for remote work, yet offers no reasons.
In all of these cases the agreements were verbal and the job candidate trusted the hiring manager at their word.
In none of these cases were the terms puts in writing!
If you relate to any of these troubling and disappointing scenarios and also made your agreements only verbally, I want you to learn this lesson NOW!
1. Put all employment agreements in writing. Include specifics on deliverables and include specific dates.
2. In the agreement, establish that there will be regular meetings where you get feedback and also have a chance to build real trust and get to get to know one another
3. Then, if you have things in writing and they are not honored, you have a strong case with which to go to your HR person or HR department.
Additionally, if things were put in writing but your supervisor and the company are just not honoring them, you need to think long and hard about your choices going forward. You may have invested three months, six months, even a year in a company where they are not acting honorably but it might be well worth your while to just cut your losses and look for a new job.
You also need to carefully think through how you will explain your departure from an employer whom you stayed with for a short period of time and opted to leave. Remember, it is never wise to say negative things about a past employer so it is a tough balancing act. You want to be honest but you don’t want to show any blame or negativity. Your explanation needs to be very well thought out and carefully planned. If it were the travel problem you might simply say: “My last position required more travel than my work/balance allows. I prefer a job where I am in the office 90% of the time.” Or, if it were about working from home, “My situation is such that I prefer to work at home two days a week and am looking for a position that can accommodate that.”
Try to leave out any negative comments about your past employer.
You will come out of the situation a lot wiser and a lot more savvy about researching the integrity of your company and the managers, and making sure to put agreements in writing with all the relevant specifics included.
by Joan Tabb in Uncategorized
I earned my MBA six months ago and have yet to find the right job that will challenge me and allow me to use my new skills and knowledge. However, I have been offered a 3-month contract position to do work that is in my area of finance, but significantly below the level I am seeking. Should I accept this position? I am afraid it will distract me from my job search.
I have to say that I lean heavily toward you accepting the short term contract position. In my years as a career and executive coach, I see how powerful the position of being currently employed is during the job search. Being unemployed, one is perceived as coming from a position of weakness. It is imperative to show that you are involved and active in your field.
I know that your ego and your bank account are not appreciating lower level work. Naturally! However, once you are working, you are ‘in the game’, you have a structured work life and you are perceived as part of the world of commerce. And in your case, you are actually having the opportunity to work in your field, excellent. A tougher call is whether one should take a low level temporary position that is completely out of one’s field. But that, too, can be a good move in certain situations. For instance, I had a client in marketing who was getting very depressed being on the sidelines. This was during a major financial downturn. The competition for jobs in his field was intense and he was getting few interviews, let along job offers. I saw he was emotionally sinking. His friend saw a help wanted sign at the local coffee shop and suggested he consider it. His wife was apprehensive, thinking this would peg him as a low level barista, making it impossible for him to ever secure a professional level job again. But the opposite happened. He loved being a barista!! He was out and among people, he’s a highly social guy who enjoyed the interactions with customers and he had a structured life and a place to go each day!
The upshot is that a few months later, in getting in deeper conversations with one of his regulars at the coffee shop, he found a new job in marketing! So the other benefit to taking a job, even at a lower level is that you have possibility of exposure to new people and new employment opportunities! I always say, Readiness + Opportunity = Success! So even if you are serving coffee, you have the chance to put your best foot forward, get to know people, show your curiosity and friendliness and you just never know who you’ll meet and who you’ll impress.
Larry, I think you need to consciously put aside your ego and get out there and get to work!
And please remember, you should also keep your hat in the ring for more professional level positions. You will still have plenty of hours in the day for your job search. You can still interview at lunchtime or after or before work. So tell yourself you are getting out there, you are active and involved in the world and you are aspirational, too, seeking better opportunities while keeping busy and being a contributor!
The next question you might have is, what to do if you get a professional job offer and the organization wants you to start right away? In that case you need to consider offering your current employer two weeks notice. You do not have to stay all three months, but you do need to provide the customary two week notice so they can backfill your position. And your future employer should understand that you have integrity and you shows respect for all employers.
Larry, life is not always fair or easy. And good timing is not always on our side. It is wonderful that you earned your MBA and that you are now qualified for higher level professional work.
But sometimes one has to look at one’s career as a stair-step process and by working, even in a lower level position, you are progressing upward!
Best to you Larry,
An easy, eight-step guide to self-discovery that lets you make the most of your later years.
We are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are heading into retirement in droves (about 10,000 a day, in fact). Joan Tabb is on a mission to bring the best of them to this new stage of life—one she terms as “Revitalment.” Her new book, Building Blocks for the New Retirement: An Easy, Interactive 8-Step Guide for a Retirement with Meaning, Purpose and Fun (Great In 8 Coaching, 2018) reinvigorates the retirement paradigm for Baby Boomers age 55+ and shows us how to channel our energy into opportunities for meaning, purpose and fun. She answers the key question: How do you best use your gifts of time, energy and experience?
Tabb takes readers from confused and worried to confident and energized. In her interactive “seminar in a book,” she walks them step-by-step through eight areas of exploration, prompting readers to examine goals and aspirations around their abilities, relationships, community, legacy and more. Her process hones in on what will bring the most satisfaction through this next stage of life.