FIRE OF THE WEEK: SUPERINTENDENT DR. KATHLEEN MALONEY

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Every week, Auntie Evan and Uncle David scour the news to find a Hire or Fire of the Week. Hires display impeccable aplomb and go above and beyond what they’re expected to do on the job. Fires do the opposite. Tune in every week to see who’s getting Hired or Fired next. 

SHOW DATE: OCTOBER 9, 2013

Dr. Kathleen Maloney, Superintendent of the Port Washington school district In Long Island, New York, has temporarily banned footballs, soccer balls, baseballs—basically anything that may cause injury—at a local school. Why? She wants to make sure that, “the children have fun, but are also protected.”

Maloney, we know you’re trying to protect the children, but let’s face what’s really happening here: you’re a control freak. You’re acting just like the refrigerator nazi who labels everyone’s food. Part of being a kid is stumbling and falling and getting hurt—let it happen.

Eventually someone’s going to eat your sandwich, and eventually a kid’s going to scrape his knee. Maloney, you’re not helping by being the den mother, you’re just exercising your need to be in control.

We say, play ball!

MAKE YOUR RESUME LOOK SOPHISTICATED

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Uncle David has gotten every job he has ever gone for, so when he gives job-hunting advice, you better listen up. Join us every week for Uncle David’s 100% Successful Job Hunting Tip.

SHOW DATE: OCTOBER 9, 2013

They say the job god is in the details, and that includes something as minute as the spacing between the letters in your resume. It’s these little differences that make you stand out from everybody else.

Here’s how to increase the character spacing in Word and make you resume look more sophisticated and elegant.

You know those section titles you have, “Experience,” “Education,” etc.? We’ll be focusing on that today.

Right click the section title and choose “Font…”

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Next go to the “Advanced” tab (note: this is if you’re using Word 2010; Word 2007 will say “Character Spacing.” In the “Spacing:” drop-down menu, select the “Expanded” option and in the “By:” drop-down menu directly to the left, type the number “2″ in place of the “1,” and leave the “pt” alone.

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And here is the result:

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LEAVE YOUR JOB WITH GRACE

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SHOW DATE: OCTOBER 9, 2013

The way you leave your job is just as important as how you got there.

When you first arrived at your new job you were kicking ass, you were on top of things. When you leave, you should put in just as much effort. Slamming the door on your employer’s face won’t get you a recommendation or potential networking connections.

Leave your job with grace and put it as much effort into your departure as when you first arrived.

ADMIT WHEN YOU’VE SCREWED UP ON THE JOB

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SHOW DATE: OCTOBER 9, 2013

It’s human nature to screw up on the job every once in a while, but it’s how you react when you get busted that will determine if you get fired or promoted.

Kessler International, a research firm, has found that 80% of people mislead their interviewers during a job interview, 25% outright lie on their resume and 49% try to cover up their mistakes while on the job.

Everybody lies at some point in their career; whether those lies are big or small is a relatively minor issue when compared to how you decide to handle them when you’re found out. Will you let the lie accrete until it gets out of control or will you fess up?

To help you decide, allow us to tell you the tale of the two screw ups.

We hired Screw-up #1 to work for us at Forster-Thomas, our college and graduate school admissions consulting company. One of the reasons we brought her on board was that she made it very clear on her resume and interview that she had done college admission essay work for the past ten years.

Five days in with her first client, we found out what Screw-up #1 really meant was that while tutoring kids, they’d sometimes come up and ask her for help with a college essay, meaning she didn’t have formal training with college admission essays. The worst part was, when she was confronted, she tried to make excuses about her experience. Needless to say, her credibility and trust went down the drain.

But it’s one thing to say that you know about college essays and that you’ve worked with them. It’s another matter entirely to be handed a client of your own with a strict deadline and not tell the truth about your experience until only after things start turning sour. Part of her responsibility was having the courage to fess up that she may have overstated her abilities before everything went off the rails.

When you fail to be honest with your employer, you endanger your job and you lose your boss’s good grace. While your boss may yell at you a bit when you tell them you’ve screwed up, ultimately your honesty and willingness to communicate builds trust. Lying does the opposite.

Our office manager—today’s Screw-up #2—was confronted about an important email he didn’t send out. Rather than cover it up, he said he was sorry and asked what he could do to fix it. Auntie Evan yelled at him at first, but after some time, his trust for Screw-up #2 only grew.

It’s this trust and communication that strengthens your relationship with your boss and puts you on the frontlines of a promotion. There is much more value in an employee who is willing to fix his mistakes than one who constantly lies about them and lives in fear of being caught.

Here are a few pointers about being honest on the job:

Stop compounding the lie: Say you forget to send that important client email, and when your boss asks you about it, you lie through your teeth and say you did, in fact, send it because you don’t want to look incompetent. Then you forget to do it again. You’re just compounding that lie and setting yourself up for even bigger problems in the near future. The fact it, you will get found out, and the more the lie builds, the bigger the repercussion.

Put yourself in their shoes: Put yourself in your employer’s shoes. Imagine you’re the president of a major catering company and you’re catering for a wedding. As the bride walks down the aisle and Bartholdy’s “Wedding Marth” plays on the organ, your assistant, your right-hand man, approaches you diffidently and tells you that he forgot to order the liquor. Now he knew this since morning and has only now confessed because he was frightened at what you might say. While several hours earlier the situation could have been remedied by running over to the nearest store and buying the liquor for twice the price, the snafu has now reached the point of no return. The couple is going to request a chunk of their money back, and it’ll be your employees and your company’s reputation that will suffer in the aftermath. Would you give your assistant a slap on the wrist and move on? Or would you take more drastic measures?

Understand that it’s nothing personal—it’s just business: The only way to look at your screw up is from a business perspective. There’s no other way to play the game if you want a successful company. Your employer doesn’t have it out for you, he’s just looking out for the company.

Don’t hope against hope: “To thine own self be true,” writes Shakespeare. Not only do you take away your opportunity to fix the problem when you lie, you subconsciously tell yourself that you can’t handle being wrong. It’s a matter of ego and it’s a matter of closing your eyes and hoping against hope. Instead of being true to yourself, you dig yourself deeper.

Avoid shutting yourself off from help: Don’t shut yourself off from communication because you’re afraid that people won’t like you or think you’re inept. Recall what Screw-up #2 said: he’s sorry he messed up, and how can he fix the situation. Here’s the thing: your employer wants to help you. He wants the best possible results for the company, and that means providing help when you ask for it.

The bottom line is, do your best to tell the truth and keep the agreements you make. Your boss may yell at you a little now, but a little now is better than a lot later. Besides, honesty builds trust, and trust paves the road to a promotion. On the other hand, if the lies continue, it’s going to get to the point where you get fired, and that’s just not worth it when all you have to do is tell the truth.

 

IT’S TIME FOR YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO GROW UP

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Think your email account is ready for prime time? Think again. If you’re like many job applicants out there, your email account is greatly reducing the chances of you getting called in for an interview. Here, Auntie Evan alerts you to the main offenders, and tells you what you can do to give your online life a makeover.

FOUR OF THE WORST JOB HUNTING TIPS EVER

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SHOW DATE: OCTOBER 2, 2013

Carmel Lobello from TheWeek.com did an excellent job compiling four of the worst job-hunting tips of all time. We enjoyed the list so much we decided to give it our own take.

1) Send a shoe, get the boot:  GuerillaJobHunting.com suggest you should get a cheap pair of shoes, take one out and put a note in the box with the remaining shoe saying: “Now that I have one shoe in the door let me introduce myself…” This is job hunting folklore, it’s common knowledge not to do this. But sometimes people just don’t get the message. A Stern Business School applicant actually tried this—he sent in his application, and then sent in the shoe. We all know how this story ends: a big fat rejection.

2) Force them to meet you at Starbucks: One of the items on a list of guerilla job hunting tips from Salary.com advises you not to fall for the “trap” of sending just your résumé and salary requirements while forgoing “engaging on your terms.” What exactly are “your terms”? Sending a potential employer a $1 Starbucks giftcard, and then asking them to “meet for coffee at a nearby location. At that time bring your résumé taped to a pound of fresh-ground coffee.” So that’s two instances of petty bribery on top of the fact that you’re telling the employer where to conduct the interview. This speaks for itself

3) Interrupt a recruiter’s family time: From the very goldmine on Salary.com that brought you the Starbucks tip comes another genius idea: since your recruiter calls you out of the blue on your home phone, why shouldn’t you do the same? Just do a little “sleuthing” and find the recruiter’s home number—basically stalk them online, get their personal number and interrupt the only time they can comfortably relax.

4) I’m too good for you, please hire me: A JobDig.com article recommends that you describe yourself as overqualified in your cover letter, since this will get an employer’s attention. We couldn’t help but laugh when we read this. This will get their attention, enough so that they will chuck your application in the trash. Nobody wants to hire some who deems themselves as overqualified for the position. This is not being proactive or aggressive—this is just being stupid.

Like we discussed in our feature article this week, we’re asking you to stop trying to go out of your way with crazy tactics just because you don’t like the way things are going.

These horrendous job tips are excellent examples of a venomous mentality—that to get noticed you need to rely on gimmicks. But all you have to do is be great. And to be great, you must be somebody your office can rely on. You don’t need to bribe an employer with ground coffee or call them on their personal time to get their attention. You just have to play big.

USING KEYWORDS TO TAILOR YOUR RESUME

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Uncle David has gotten every job he has ever gone for, so when he gives job-hunting advice, you better listen up. Join us every week for Uncle David’s 100% Successful Job Hunting Tip.

SHOW DATE: OCTOBER 2, 2013

There’s no excuse to be generic in your job search anymore. With keywords, you can actually tailor your resume to any position you apply for, and you could do it in a way that will make you stand out to employers.

What are keywords? Let’s say the title of your last job was manager, and what you managed was inventory. You’re applying to a new job where you will again be managing inventory. Why settle for “Manager,” when you could change your last job’s title to “Inventory Manager.” It wasn’t your official title, but it was certainly what you did.

When an employer looks over a resume, first they scan the companies you worked for, how long you worked there, and then they look at your title. Your title needs to speak out to the employer. When you use tailored keywords like “Personnel Manager,” “Inventory Manager,” or “Accounting Manager,” they catch the employer’s eye far better than a vanilla keyword such as “Manager.”

If you settle for something as vague as “Manager,” the employer may never even read the bullet points for your past job. You may have a plethora of experience managing inventory, but because your keywords aren’t tailored for that particular job at that particular moment, employers may not even bother to look.

EVERYBODY KNOWS YOU’RE NOT HEALTHY BUT YOU

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SHOW DATE: July 31, 2013

If you’re leading a destructive lifestyle—whether at your job or in your home—and you think one won’t bleed into the other or nobody will notice, you’re hurting yourself more than you know.

Anthony Weiner is a fabulous example. He believes his destructive actions won’t affect his job, but a congressman should know that work is life and life is work. After tweeting a racy photo to a woman in 2011, Weiner lay low, and has finally reemerged in 2013 as New York City’s mayoral candidate. But now a picture of his…um, namesake, has resurfaced on an entertainment website after being sent to a woman in 2012. Weiner is living in a bubble of self-denial—he tells himself that his behavior won’t affect his work, but in fact, it’s destroying his career.

And it may destroy yours if you keep telling yourself that nobody will notice your bad habits.

You smoke, or drink, or get angry all the time, or you bottle up your emotions and yell at your spouse. You think nobody at work can tell that while on the outside you look like fine, inside you’re a complete mess. But what you don’t realize is that your lifestyle has a direct impact on how well you do at your job.

If you’re not physically fit because you spend all your time at work and have no time to eat healthily and exercise, you’re not just out of shape physcially—you’re increasing your psychological stress levels. Not only will your job performance suffer, your lifestyle will take a major blow.

How do you find the right balance, then? How do you create enough time for yourself to work on your body and mind while keeping up with your job? Here are a few tips to get you going:

  • Stop thinking that nobody notices your bad habits. If you weasel out of your office to smoke on the street corner, don’t think that nobody can smell the smoke on your breath. Same goes for every other bad habit that carries over to your job—sneaking food or booze under your desk, being depressed about your home life, or feeling overwhelmed by the things you have to do (check out this article for time management tips). Stop believing that nobody will find out and start acknowledging that these habits affect both you and your co-workers.
  • Stop blaming external sources, or your job. Too busy at work to exercise? Too stressed because to stop eating junk foos or smoking on the curb? It’s not your job or your domestic life that’s preventing you from leading a healthy lifestyle—it’s you. If you’re eating too much, take initiative—wake up early and go for a jog. If you’re too stressed, talk to your management about extending your break so you can have more time to reset your head. Cutting off excuses and taking initiative improves mood, health and spirit—at work and at home.
  • Improve yourself alongside likeminded people. Why do you think there are group therapy sessions or book clubs? Goals are easier to handle when there are others encouraging you and giving you support. Call up a few friends to jog with in the morning. Ask a friend for advice with domestic issues or job stress. If you have a friend who is fit and seems happy, ask him what his daily routine is. Stop being a loner and surround yourself with others who want or have a healthy lifestyle.

Working on yourself requires incredible self-discipline, but once you stop blaming everything around you (but yourself) and get help from likeminded people, you will see an improvement in all areas of your life. Unlike Weiner, you will have the ability to stop living in denial and say NO to the bad habits that decrease your quality of living.

EIGHT THOUGHTS ON ELEGANT LEADERSHIP

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This article originally appeared as a gust blog on the website for professional relationship expert Keith Ferrazzi

The fallacy that leaders must be perfect is one of the biggest misconceptions we encounter as educational consultants who have helped hundreds build outstanding candidacies to top colleges and graduate schools. Leadership development is a major component of our new book, The MBA Reality Check.  We came up with these eight insights about how to harness the leader in you.

1. Leaders think big — and small. They have grand, visionary, ridiculous ideas. But they also return phone calls and show up on time.

2. Small acts of leadership create the potential for more leadership. Simply having an idea is an act of leadership, and it’s okay if you don’t know where to go from there. For example, you want to create a “green” break room at the office.  Go ahead and organize a meeting about the idea, even if you don’t know the first step for researching the options or winning budget approval. That simple move is an act of leadership because the meeting creates an opportunity for others in the office to participate, come up with next steps, and even volunteer to share the work with you.

3. Management and leadership are not the same. Management is about a process, while leadership is about people. You manage deadlines, milestones, spreadsheets, work flows. You lead people, groups, attitudes, and relationships. Some excellent traits for good management—such as hyper-precision, detail-orientation, and staying the course—can be harmful to good leadership. It is important to distinguish between the two.

4. Know your leadership style. Think of a typical group of friends who, when they go out as a group, tend to fill different roles: the organizer, the partier, the know-it-all, the charmer, the mediator. Which one are you? Knowing which role you tend to take in a group will help you understand and maximize the strengths and weaknesses that accompany that role.

5. Leaders aren’t afraid to make fools of themselves. For example, if you absolutely can’t remember someone’s name, just be honest and ask that person again. And if you lack a certain skill set or don’t have all of the information, it’s okay to say the following words: “I don’t know.” Saying “I don’t know” is powerful, because it’s confident, it’s honest, and it puts people at ease.

6. Real leaders don’t cry. They don’t have time for it. They don’t blame other people. They take responsibility. If you haven’t ever really screwed up or failed, you aren’t really a great candidate—for anything. Insightful, confident people often learn more concrete lessons from failure than from success, so don’t deny yourself “teachable moments” by being afraid to act or pretending that your failures never happened.

7. Leaders do not make excuses; they keep appointments and make deadlines. Leaders understand that everyone’s time matters. Leaders are not more important than teammates. This means if you make an agreement to be somewhere, you don’t cancel at the last minute.

8. Leaders think in terms of legacy—not their own, but their projects’. This means creating new leaders from the very beginning. Great ideas shouldn’t die when their founder leaves (or gets hit by a bus). I once heard that there are two kinds of mentors: those who are afraid their student will surpass them, and those who hope they do. Leadership is not about you, it’s about the impact you are out to achieve. If you keep that in mind, the idea of getting “surpassed” will bring you relief, not fear.