Going Out With a Bang

Quitting Your Job the Way You Want…and What it Might Cost You

You hate your job – the pay, coworkers, the hours and especially your boss. Every day, as the boss piles more busy work on your desk and asks you to stay late, quitting is on your mind. A letter of resignation seems so inadequate, though, in light of the miserable years you’ve spent at the company. In a perfect world, you think, there would be a better way. Your fantasy, my friend, is shared by many but carried out by few.

Standing up from the rock-hard office chair you’ve had for five years (because they are too cheap to get you a new one) you walk calmly to the boss’ office. Carrying that pointless report you were commissioned to do – the one that will never see the light of day – you enter his office to find him on an important phone call. His expression turns to confusion and then shock, as you grab a pair of scissors from his desk and cut the line. Just for effect, you may want to cut his expensive tie, too.

The thousand-page report lands with a thwack! on his desk. You say something to the effect of “I quit!” Elaborate on exactly why you’ve decided to leave. Do this loudly so the whole office can hear. Then, you turn your attention to the precious golf clubs he uses to perfect his game each afternoon while everyone else is working. You grab a nine iron, or maybe a driver, and destroy each expensive crystal, gold or glass item in the room. He will get more useless clutter next Christmas from anyone desperate to keep their job.

Running out of the office and between the desks of your coworkers, you gather your personal things and sweep every paper from your desk. Hopefully, security is here by now – that always makes things more interesting. You take one final bow before the elevator doors close, and you might even squeeze in one more audible profanity.

Stop right there! Before this gets out of hand, snap out of it and get back to reality. Almost no one gets to turn this fantasy into a reality. Why?

For one thing, you need a new job. Hating your job, unfortunately, is not an excuse to quit without having something else lined up. The satisfaction from the scene you made earlier, while it feels good, will not pay bills.

So, once you’ve gotten a new job, is it safe to have an outburst? Well, that all depends. You may need that reference in the future and it is always best to stay on good terms. The issues at your old job aren’t your problem anymore, so it may be best to just let it go.

If you absolutely must live out your fantasy, then go for it. Just tone it down a bit. Yelling at your soon-to-be-former boss is one thing — leave the golf clubs out of it. You can prove a point without getting arrested for vandalism and assault.

The bottom line is that no quitting fantasy is practical. Few people ever get to experience what it’s like to say exactly what they think at exactly the right moment. Many people simply believe that living well is the best revenge. Try just being happy at your new job and take solace in remembering how much worse it was.

The Key to Success in the Workplace

Passion. If passion doesn’t drive you then I don’t know what will. It makes work seem like fun, your hours spent actually seem to matter and you know that you are helping an industry that you have such a love for. My teachers always told me that if you can turn your passion into your job then you are the luckiest person in the world. If you have a love for what you do every day then your work will be top notch and not only you but the company will radiate from your performance.

Everyone knows what passion is. I don’t need to describe how to attain that glowing emotional feeling when you are overly enthusiastic for something. However, I can tell you why it is so important to exude passion in the workplace. First of all, passion intensifies your focus. If you love what you are working on then you will put all your energy, love and focus into the project. And focus is huge for the outcome of a company. Additionally, people with passion raise the standards of performance in the workplace. If everyone is motivated and excited about their work then the people who aren’t passionate will stick out like a sore thumb. This will let the company weed out the people who don’t care about their work and keep the standards of the company high. Lastly, people with passion create an electric and stimulating work environment that energizes other people. Instead of snoozing off on the job, people are active and everyone is feeding off everyone else’s energy.

Passion is the key to success in the workplace no matter where you work or how tedious your job is. If you love doing your job then it never feels like you are working a day in your life. Keep the passion alive in your work and you will outshine the people who are restlessly counting down the minutes to 5 pm.

Your First Résumé: A Guide for Beginners

The following is a great example of how NOT to write your résumé. I may have exaggerated things a bit with “Joe Jobseeker’s” past work experience, but the other faux pas are unfortunately pretty common among amateur résumé writers.

After reading this through and seeing the many changes needed to make this résumé even remotely acceptable, take a closer look at your own to see if you’ve inadvertently made some of the same errors.

Let the learning begin!

This is Joe’s résumé. He spent about 10 minutes writing it and sprucing it up to bring it to what he feels is its full “awesome potential.” He’s a bit delusional. This résumé clearly needs a ton of help.

 

Page 2

1 Joe, first and foremost, your fonts are not consistent throughout the résumé. Formatting like underline, italics, and bold should be used sparingly. Also, the phone number is missing a digit, and the email address is far from professional.

2 Again with the crappy font. This is barely legible even at this large font size. Your objective is incredibly vague. Specify which industry you hope to get a job in.

3 Why is this entire thing centered? You need to make it line up on the left. The word “shoveled” is misspelled. Also, here come a few more fonts and bolding – ugh. Is this job even relevant? You were likely a teen when you did this job, and it doesn’t seem like you learned too much in the way of how a business is run from the stalls. Also, you can’t say that you fed slop to your boss. You can say “Brought boss his lunch” or something, but it still doesn’t seem appropriate.

4 Do not use an ampersand (&) in place of the word “and.” You’ve changed tenses with the third duty. Only your current job should be in the present tense; all past jobs should be in past tense (help customers vs. helped customers). Also, you shouldn’t say you were hired because your good looks helped you sell tires, even if it was true.

5 There’s a typo with the word “lined.” Use capital letters at the beginning of each line. You should leave “repeat” off because it seems like negative commentary about how repetitive this job was.

6 I believe you meant “groceries.” You changed tenses with the last two duties. Also, you should organize the order of your past jobs to be most recent to oldest. Managers want to know what you’re doing now, not what you did a decade ago (though they will read that far eventually, it doesn’t help your case at all to put the oldest jobs first).

7 Don’t abbreviate on a resume even if it is monstrously long and more than one page (like you did here: “w/” instead of “with”). Find other ways to make it shorter. Your last duty needs to be removed or changed to something a lot less specific like “Kept the customer restrooms clean.”

8 This font is much larger than anything else found in the rest of the document. I know you’re proud of your education, but it’s impressive enough without being in bold, size 24 point font. The year is formatted differently here than in the rest of the document. Also, the dash is different.

9 The way this section is written hurts you more than it could ever possibly help you. Those bullets when there are none anywhere else? Bad idea. Stay consistent. Also, format the sentences the same to say “I” in each statement or in none of them.

You should be as specific as possible about skills that you think an employer will see as vital. What kinds of computers can you use? What kinds of programs? Also, you don’t write “good,” you write “well.” I would suggest leaving this off completely if you don’t understand the difference.

Your disposition is not a factor on a résumé . It’s something they will notice during an interview. You can put that you are great at customer service perhaps, or that you can use many types of cash registers.

Overall Analysis: Where do I even start? The entire format of this résumé is boring and confusing. The margins on the page were obviously widened so you could put all of your contact info across the top, but then you skip two spaces between each job and completely waste space. This must be one page, but not with 1/2 inch margins and tiny font that kill a reader’s eyes. That said, following these edits will make this résumé a thousand times better. Then you can work on how to make your past jobs seem like great learning experiences instead of just what you had to do to pay the bills. But that’s another blog for another day.

Highlighting Your Work Experience

Chances are, every job you’ve had over the years hasn’t fit into a neat and perfectly descriptive slot. You might’ve held a job for positions like “Keyholder” or “Key Holder.” These are very different positions, but how will anyone who’s never held that exact job know the difference? Sometimes a resume just doesn’t have enough space. Sometimes certain things could be taken out of context.

I’ve held both positions during my working years. When I was a Keyholder, I worked at a bookstore in the mall. This position was one step below an assistant manager. Basically, I was an assistant manager who didn’t work 40 hours a week (because of school). A friend suggested I write “Shift Lead” on my resume instead to explain what the heck I did there. Even that doesn’t cover everything, though, and you can’t write an essay about each place you’ve worked. No one will read that!

Someone who’s been (or may have known) a Keyholder might assume that a Key Holder is the same thing. It’s totally not. A Key Holder is the position at a large home improvement store that refers to the person in charge of the key making service they offer. I didn’t oversee any other employees. I didn’t actually have my own set of keys to the store. What I did do, though, was a huge array of various duties in addition to making keys. People don’t line up in front of the key counter at all hours of the day and night. There’s downtime. Lots of it. So I would help out in any section that needed me for the sake of keeping myself sane. Can I list every little thing I did on my resume? No. That’s not what it’s for.

This is where you come in. As the only person in the interview room who was actually at all of these workplaces, doing these varied jobs and duties, it’s up to you to convey their importance and relevance to your prospective employer. You shouldn’t act as if your résumé is the end all, be all of who you are as an employee. There’s a lot more story to tell than the few little blurbs under each job heading on that one sheet of paper.

Think of your résumé as the outline you’d use to write a history paper in high school. Your outline just has bullet points for you to expand on in your paper. Your résumé serves the exact same purpose. The hiring manager you’re interviewing with has seen the résumé, and now it’s time for you to flesh it out, to give it life and description. Paint them a picture of who you are as an employee. Review your résumé and have notes in front of you with things you’d like to make sure they know more about from it.

For example, your résumé might say something like, “Assisted with departmental development statistics.”

That phrase doesn’t mean much to people who did not work with you, though it looks good on your résumé, it could still use some explanation.

Be sure to emphasize the specific parts of your old jobs that will help you do this one (creative tasks if your new position will deal with creating things, organizational tasks if the new job will include being in charge of others, etc.).

This is a simple step that can really make you a memorable candidate who knows what his strengths, and therefore his limitations, are in the workplace.

Tips for making a great first impression in the workplace

My husband and I ate lunch last Sunday with a small group of people we haven’t spent much time with. The setting was nice: an outdoor Chinese restaurant with delicious rice concoctions and fortune cookies for dessert. There was a slight breeze and the weather was in the 70s; life was good. However, there was one woman present who monopolized the entire conversation, and I found myself more and more eager for our outing to end. This particular incident helps highlight one of the key lessons in the art of first impressions: self-absorption is not an attractive quality.

Sure, we all enjoy talking about our life, our dreams, and our desires with someone. That’s a necessary part of life. We need to feel that someone gets us and cares about us, and we do that through communication. But the first time you meet someone is not the time to debrief them about your life—past, present and future.

First impressions happen everywhere, but one place where they are particularly important is the office. Let’s say you just landed your dream job and this morning is your first day. You’re probably nervous, maybe you didn’t sleep well last night, but take a deep breath and look at today as an opportunity—you get to start from fresh with your coworkers and boss. Here are three tips for making your debut in any office a hit.

1). As highlighted by my Chinese restaurant example, it’s not all about you. Of course, your coworkers are going to be curious about you. They’re going to ask questions, and you certainly don’t want to be evasive, but make it clear you are just as interested in getting to know them. When people learn you aren’t self-absorbed, they’re much more likely to view you positively and seek you out in the future.

2). Dress professionally. This shows your coworkers and boss that you care about your job, the company, and that you respect them enough to display a high level of professionalism.

3). Stay off your cell phone and no text messaging unless on lunch or break. Even if other coworkers are on their personal phones, it’s best to avoid such practices, especially in the beginning when you are still unsure of company policies.

So, savor the opportunity to create great first impressions: they are a powerful tool that will help you both professionally and personally.

Research and colored note cards

card-catalog-big.jpg

The first research paper I ever did was on the history of cloves, which is a bit strange because I was a second grader at the time. While other kids were looking for information on kangaroos or the history of chocolate, I was reading about the history of spices. This may all seem a bit odd, but I don’t pretend to have lived a normal childhood.

My interest in research started back then. I enjoyed the colored note cards—pastel pinks, yellows, blues, greens—that represented different subject matters my paper would later highlight. I loved the old books with faded covers and black and white pictures of people who lived across the world. In short, I loved the very art of collecting information about a particular subject.

But not everyone has a positive view of research, in fact, probably very few people do; colored note cards just don’t do it for everyone. But research is something no hopeful applicant should ignore, because a well-researched applicant is an attractive applicant. Imagine you have an upcoming interview. Before going to the interview, you decide to spend a couple hours researching the prospective company. Such research leads to preparedness, confidence, and several other qualities that appeal to a potential employer.

Researching is also incredibly easy to do given the huge network of information available via the Internet. I recommend checking out a company’s main website and also any related company or industry blogs. After reading up on the different sites, it’s a good idea to prepare some questions for your potential employer ahead of time. But you should also be ready to modify those questions according to the natural course of the interview.

Research will always pay off for the serious job seeker and it’s a relatively simple process thanks to the Internet—one that won’t consume nearly as much time as the whole colored note card system.

Keeping Your Name Out There

I was at a holiday party over the weekend and a group of people started discussing their jobs and whether or not they like what they do. Some were unhappy, some were content and others were very happy. I fell into the latter group. I make a pretty good living and like what I do. Then someone asked if I would switch companies to make more money but still do what I do now.

“Of course,” I answered, “that’s the American way.”

That is why it’s important for me to keep my résumé up to date and my network up and running; someone might be able to recommend me for a new job even if I’m not actively in the market for one. Often the best opportunities in life pop up when we aren’t looking. I met my wife two days after I decided to stop dating and concentrate on my college courses. Life’s funny that way.

Maintaining your network during the months you are gainfully employed ensures that it’s available to you when you aren’t. It also serves to notify you of exciting opportunities that may further your career or net you a larger salary.

During those blissful months on the job is the best time to share positive comments with those in your network. Tell them about accomplishments at your job or awards you may have won. If you only ever contact people during the rough times, they won’t be as likely to think of you for a better position.

Be supportive of your network. Give back and don’t always take. Each time you recommend a quality person for a job at your company you’ll be more likely to have that favor returned.

Similarly, constantly update your résumé with changes in your responsibilities and accomplishments you make. It needs to be ready at a moment’s notice in case you are approached by a member of your network with a great new job.

You career’s forward momentum relies on keeping an ear to the train tracks to see if a new train is coming soon. The best way to do that is to keep your name out there to people who may be in a position to help you. Continue building a network, making contacts and forming relationships. It’s the surest way to safeguard your future.