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Rules for Revisiting and Revising Your Resume

Having to revise your resume and writing cover letters for jobs is stressful. Especially if your savings are running low and the phone’s just not ringing. It’s easy to start getting down on yourself and letting negative thoughts take over.

But you know you can’t quit. You got bills. However, you probably need to take a break and allow yourself to do something fun, so you’ll have a clearer head to get back out there. So quit applying from jobs from a place of fear, anxiety and disbelief.

Trust me, you have to feel good about yourself and your abilities in order to convince someone to pay you to do stuff.

Whether you’ve had a steady job for 12 years and looking for a change, or you’ve been out of work for a few weeks or a few months, taking the time to revisit your work history can feel like it’s painful as spring cleaning, or as anxiety-inducing as being asked to jot down how many sexual partners you’ve had on a health form.

Sometimes, you just don’t want to go back. But in all of those scenarios, in order to move forward, you have to face it.

Working on your resume and cover letters is time-consuming. It just is. It’s a necessary evil. But instead of being filled with fear and anxiety, be comforted that in the age of technology, you can get a lot of help and find free resources to help you polish things up a bit.

Rule number one: Just because you snagged a job with your old resume doesn’t mean sticking with what you’ve got will continue to work.

I like to use my job-winning resume format as a foundation, but I continue to tweak.

Rule number two: Work on your resume while you have a job and can readily think of accomplishments and achievements and your duties while you are actually doing them.

Rule number three: Tailor, tailor, tailor. I write different cover letters for every position. Why? Practice makes perfect and I challenge myself to say what I have to say with fewer words. I think I hit a new record when I got my cover letter down to about 380 words. This means you are getting closer to matching your written elevator pitch and effectively getting to the point, which is an attractive attribute for any kind of candidate. This also saves the recruiter and hiring managers some time, which they appreciate. This is not to say that I don’t have a base letter that reminds me of my accomplishments or uses good phrases that describe my experience level and background, but I try to change it up. Besides, you don’t want the mistake of copying and pasting an entire letter with the wrong position title, or worse yet, wrong company. This is why no matter how tired you are, you have to review your work, and always run it through spell check. I also like the other features like word count, and the passive voice percentage checker. Web writers, you want to have 0% passive sentences.

Rule number four: Government jobs are a different beast. As with all applications, READ THE DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY. Usajobs.gov actually has tips and videos that go along with their job descriptions and applications to help you bone up on what they expect and how your resume should be presented. If they took the time to do this, take the time to watch. It actually means qualified folks probably got tossed because they didn’t follow the rules, so this time, the government is trying to do us a solid here. Doing this may separate you from the folks who blindly upload resumes that get tossed immediately and may give you a few more points to compete with the veterans who get special preference.

Rule number five: Actually follow the directions as given. This applies to all applications, but the government in particular is rather fond of eliminating people for not doing things exactly as they asked. Just ask anyone who’s applied for a grant. Folks who approve grants are always trying to catch folks slipping. It’s not because they are mean, it’s just that there are strict rules when it comes to handing out government funds. They can get in a lot of trouble if they skip steps or let sloppy paperwork slide. It’s a picky, picky process. Details do matter. “Slay, trick or get eliminated.”

Rule number six: Imagine your resume is a contestant on “The Voice.” No one knows what you look like. Your resume has to sing and capture the attention of the hiring manager in less than a minute. Like the judges, they know what to listen for. Is this person confident? Can they even sing? Are they breathing right? Are they on key? Do they have a unique voice they haven’t heard before? Can they take songs people have heard millions of times and make it stand out? Same rules apply to your resume.

Are you on key? Does the tone of your resume and cover letter fit the description? Do you meet all of the requirements? Do you have examples?

Do you have a unique voice? What do you bring to the table that your other competitors don’t?

Can you take songs people have heard millions of times and make it stand out? There are millions of lawyers and accountants and teachers and nurses, but if you are in any of those fields there’s still only one you. You specialize in something, you may have come from another field that makes you have a different perspective on how you’re doing what you do now. You may have volunteered in another country, or had to use your skills in other ways. Play that up.

Rule number seven: Did you really read the job description? Use similar terminology the job description uses in your resume and cover letter so the machines can pick up the terms and match them. Say exactly how you meet each requirement and give an example.

Rule number nine: Don’t waste your time on long shots. Don’t apply to positions that are way out of your league and don’t apply to junior positions if you have a lot of experience. You have to strike the right balance.  Conserve your energy so you can concentrate on researching the company, rereading the job description so you can write an amazing cover letter and resume for jobs you have a real shot at getting.

Rule number nine: Don’t lie. This should be obvious, but do not lie or over embellish. There have been instances where people lied about credentials and were exposed several years later having to step down or being fired in shame. It’s never worth it. People also tend to lie about salary in hopes of getting a bump. It’s not worth it either. Report the truth, and ask for what you’re worth when it’s time to discuss the offer. If you can back it up, you’ll be surprised when companies step up.

Rule number 10: Say thank you.This goes back to kindergarten, but thank folks for their time and consideration. Don’t forget to include your contact information so someone can get back to you!

Bonus Rule: Have someone else look at your resume and give feedback. If you know someone who is an HR professional, that’s even better! Do you know writers or copy editors? Let them have a look too. They can provide some insight on things you should put more emphasis on, and things you can leave out.

Good luck!

 

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Reconnecting to My High-Achieving Self

It has been a tiring week, that was filled with crazy highs and neurotic lows. Moments that made me feel unsure and tired and other moments that made me feel ridiculously proud of myself.

It all surrounds the project I’ve been working on for my job.

At the beginning of the week, I was vexed because the ideas I presented to my group was originally met with a meh, kind of tepid response. To the end of the week, me having a breakthrough moment and actually being inspired getting out of bed to present my ideas through a well-produced, high-quality video.

I’m normally reluctant to get on camera, but for whatever reason (God, prayer) it just came together. I felt good, I felt confident. I hadn’t been this passionate about anything in a while.

My big boss seemed to even feel inspired and I haven’t spent this much face time with her in a long time. When I’d come in to her office, she’d stop what she was doing, and we’d end up talking for two hours. She seemed just as excited about my ideas as I was.

When she got in the door the same morning that I woke up with a script for my video concept, I made a beeline to her and shared my even bigger idea. She gave me full support. By the end of the day, I had a product and she was thrilled. She began to heap credit on me, and I reminded her of the people who quickly rallied around me to make the project turn out as amazing as it did.

So she looked at me and she said, “I’ve never seen you this happy.”

I said, “Oh, boy. I must look pretty unhappy most of the time.”

We laughed and she assured me I didn’t look unhappy most of the time, but it had to have been clear to both of us that I’d been in a professional rut. Her giving me this opportunity ended up being much bigger and better for me than I really initially anticipated. As I mentioned in the last post, I really wanted to play the background, but the ideas kept coming. Then the confidence kept building. I was working for my own integrity, and doing it from my heart and an honest place. And that’s what made it feel good.

Then I felt like we had an ultimate mentoring moment. And I do respect my boss. She is one of those started from the bottom now we’re here type women. And at every level she’s gotten to she’s had to learn things the hard way, she’s had to make mistakes, she’s had to make really tough decisions and she’s had to fight harder because she’s a woman. Sometimes she’s had to walk blindly through somethings or put on a brave face, but she’s tough, she’s sharp and she has an insatiable curiosity. For some reason, I feel like our interactions this week did just as much for her as it did for me. My favorite part of the conversation was when she asked me what I thought of my finished product.

I told her, “I think it’s fabulous.” She noticed me catching myself and trying to turn humble. And she laughed. She laughed really hard.

I explained that it was an affirmation for me. I woke up this morning with an idea. Just this morning, I had this vision in my head and now it’s something real. In one day. I’m so happy about that. I’m happy that people rallied around me to make it happen and they also believed in what I was trying to do and eagerly supported me. That’s what made it even more special. It seemed like the excitement was infectious throughout the office. People saw me standing in front of the cameras, some watched and smiled. Some people were thrilled I asked them to participate or do a quick cameo. I realized, people want to feel acknowledged and even feel like a star sometimes… little did I know that I did too.

So here I was, channeling one of my favorite television host personalities Rene Syler, proudly rocking my natural hair and I found myself calm and cool and confident on camera.

I gave my boss all the details that the final edit would be done soon, but even the rough cut made me very happy. I told her that I did wonder what our group would think of it, because sometimes they could be downers and she said to me, “What do you think of it?”

“I love it.”

“Well that’s all that matters.”

And she smiled.

Even though I’ve been exhausted every night this week, I haven’t felt more excited or happy about my work. And that hasn’t happened in a really long time. I had a meeting today with my group and even the most critical ones of the bunch loved my video concept. It seems to have reenergized everyone and we might create a lot of buzz during our out-of-town business trip next week. Everyone wins.

I did put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best. I won’t lie, I did tell a friend earlier in the week that I wanted my presentation to be so good, I want anyone going on after me to have a panic attack in the restroom.

When members of my group were trying to figure out the order of presentations, people quickly suggested I go last because no one wanted to go on after me. “I can’t follow that.” “Me, either,” they said.

So this week, I felt like I was reconnected to my high-achieving self. And I won’t lie. It felt good. It felt right. It felt like me. I believe this is truly the start of a new season in my life. New opportunities are opening, some of which are very unexpected. But I’m glad I threw myself into this experience because what I’m feeling right now is worth being tired or feeling a little uncomfortable. This is worth it.

Now, I just hope it goes over with the really important people at the meeting next week!

Stop Hiding

So there has been a recurring theme that’s been popping up lately.

I came to an epiphany while talking to a good ex. He was wishing me a belated happy birthday and we started talking about a lot of random things. And he said to me some very positive things about me to me.

I asked him if I had changed and to him, he said not one bit, but he was very worried when I was going through my rough patch. He told me he didn’t like it when I would be down on myself because I could do anything.

He said it so simply and with so much love and admiration it made me miss our relationship so much. And it reminded me that whoever I choose needs to shower me with that kind of support. It didn’t feel syrupy at all, because as soon as he said something sweet, he said something absurd and silly as he often does to break the moment. And I enjoy that about him.

I disclosed to my good ex, that for the last several years I had been hiding in a sense.

After what I thought was a failure at a newspaper I worked at, I went to another job for security and got satisfied with consistent raises and well-deserved promotions. When I fell in love, and was preparing to get married, I saw my impending move as a way out to something else; a convenient excuse for a fresh start that I was all too ready for. At that time my comfy job was making me miserable with a tyrant of a co-worker trying to ruin my life.

And finally, the feeling that the last time I had to choose between career and love, I chose a career. So to show I was all in, I went all in and chose the man. But, that still didn’t work out, I said laughing. I was existing and hiding after the split, just trying to survive. I was too unhappy to think about purpose, I used all of my energy to simply get out of bed and make it to work.

To that, the good ex said, no way. And that I was awesome for holding it down everyday and paying my bills and staying employed which a lot of people in our industry were having a very tough time doing. I was glad we were texting because I was blushing.

I told him about grad school and how it scared me a bit, but how in some ways, I had no other choice. It was time for me to take control and live up to my best self. And I can’t keep doing that being satisfied where I am.

Which brings me to work and a certain project my big boss personally selected me for.

I thought I could hide.

But for some reason, my big boss chose me. So, I was given a task and I did it, I represented. I was prepared, confident and cool. After a conference call today when I asked her a few questions about the direction of the project and preparation for a larger presentation. She basically said aside from her I was one of the best people on the team. And this was in an area I knew nothing about and had to study in the span of a week. But I brought my ideas. And people were receptive and enthusiastic. It made me feel good. She also basically told me to take the ball and run with it and I will be a presenter in a major out-of-town meeting.

Whether I liked it or not, I could not hide.

God gave me a whole lot of time to sit on the sidelines and occasionally step forward at work with moments of brilliance and leadership even when I didn’t want to, or when I just wanted to lay low. He gave me time to rest and heal and deal with my own confidence issues and insecurities.

But I’m noticing more and more, God presenting certain opportunities that say, it’s time for you to shine. Do the work, don’t fear, if I’m telling you to go and you do it, you will not fail. You will have favor.

So I started being thankful for this season, even if it means if I do something impressive today, folks are looking at me to do something even more impressive tomorrow. That’s a good thing and like my ex said, its beyond high time to start seriously believing in myself the way I used to.

When I was busy questioning why my big boss chose me to do something way different from what I do everyday, I had to stop and say why not me?

Take this challenge and impress the heck out of everyone in the room. You belong at the table. You can lead. And with the full endorsement of the big boss, I am very much empowered to do so.

Then it made me think about the bigger picture and how God gives us tasks of varying degree of difficulty to prepare us for greater things and higher things. So I started thinking about what I’m studying and the kinds of things I want to do, like be a guest on Melissa Harris Perry or be a thought leader in public health or in public health communications, and what’s going on right now with work is practice.

God is letting me practice on a smaller scale so I’ll be ready to work at the CDC or NIH or even the White House. All things are possible.

But I can’t accomplish any of those things if I’m hiding. Or if I’m doubting myself. He sent me a bunch of signs in unexpected places that I cannot ignore.

So join me and come out of hiding. If you have a gift and a skill and a sincere desire to do something, then come out of hiding, put aside your fear and do it, even if it feels like it’s on a small-scale. When you are honest, when you do things from the heart and you are trying your best, the right people notice and you find yourself rising. When you show gratitude to people who give you chances, you get more chances. When you give other people chances, you get bigger chances. You notice you aren’t where you were a few years ago and you are in places you’d never thought you’d be.

Don’t hide anymore.

Oh Baby– On Office Shade for Unmarried Folks With Babies

I’ve been on a work-related post kick lately.

But something came up that was fascinating to me that I really want to delve into an examine. But first I want to share with you this very moving clip from a poet during the Arsenio Hall show recently. He is discussing what black male co-parenthood is. And when his voice cracks, I nearly started crying for this man. There’s a reason I’m including this clip. http://www.arseniohall.com/video/show-highlights/4127_Prentice_Powell_Performs_Good_Father/index.html

I hope you watched it.

There is one black young male that works at my job. There are a total of four black women. He’s a nice guy. He’s quiet and he’s knowledgeable about his work. There have been times that people who are uncomfortable with his presence have said they’d wait for another person to help with their problems, even though he was available and more than qualified to get done what they needed quickly.

It made me sad to hear that. It made me mad to hear that, because he worked a miracle for me while I was working from home. I know he’s smart.

I’d noticed it seemed he’d been out of the office for awhile, but I’m only in the office three days a week now, and with all the snow, sometimes I’m there barely two days.

But I didn’t think anything of it.

Today an email pops up, and he’s announced the birth of his beautiful son. And attached is a great picture of the new father holding his baby boy swaddled in a blanket in his arms.

Amid the replies of Congratulations via email… there were quiet, yet still audible whispers.

“What?”

“We didn’t know? Did you know?”

Then there were uncomfortable silences, where you could practically see other questions running through people’s minds.

“Wait, he’s never mentioned a wife or girlfriend.”

It ran through my mind too. I don’t recall seeing a ring on his finger. But it doesn’t mean he isn’t married either. I haven’t gotten to talk to him much about his personal life.

Which leads me to something else in my predominately female and married office.

I have a feeling my co-worker did want to keep it to the vest that he was a new father, because he may very well not be married. And in truth, that isn’t anyone’s business. It has nothing to do with his job.

And keep it to the vest he did.

Even his supervisor didn’t know.

Which means, this brotha just asked for some time off and didn’t give much detail. And according to HR, he doesn’t have to unless he wants bonding time off through FMLA. (Family medical leave act). And men on my job have totally used their three months or broken it up to help their wives. So he should take it.

When his supervisor was asked, he shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know either and that he guessed the guy was just really private. While the folks on my job are well-meaning, they are nosey and they gossip. I really don’t blame my co-worker for his CIA-like steathness.

The very few men we have on the job, there were showers held for their wives who were asked to come into the office and baby gifts were collectively purchased. My job loves babies and weddings and they never mind ponying up to buy an expensive stroller.

But I think my co-worker knew his situation was different.

Since I don’t have any facts, I can’t confirm any possible scenarios. But I think if his situation involves a woman he really doesn’t want to marry or isn’t in a committed relationship with, but wanted to still keep the child, it’s very hard to go around prior to the birth without dealing with those kinds of questions around the relationship with the mother. It’s also hard to be completely excited about the birth, knowing he is going to have to deal with a woman he may not have wanted to for the rest of his life. There can be all kinds of sticky details.

But I honestly hope that is not the case. But even if it is, I want him to be the best father he can be to his child and have a positive relationship with the mother/girlfriend/wife/surrogate whatever she is.

Two, he knows the stereotypes placed on him as the ONLY black guy in the office. He knows even if he wasn’t married, people would already lump him into a category- which no doubt is probably happening right now and people still have no facts. Here goes the young black guy. Having babies. That’s what they do. Child support.

The email simply stated the child’s name and that he is a welcome addition to the family. There was no mention of the mother or a reference to my girlfriend or wife. His silence and the careful wording of the email kind of suggests, that he will be in a co-parenting situation. I wish him the best of luck.

There is a double standard when it comes to children out-of-wedlock for other races and for black people. Not taking into account the large numbers of women from a number of backgrounds who are mothers without husbands, especially lower-income women.

Precious is a tragic drain on society doomed to continue procreation. She had AIDS, was illiterate and morbidly obese. Well damn.

Juno was just a misguided girl who made a mistake. Her only afflictions were witty sarcasm and crushing on a married man.

So I watch my co-workers carefully as they try to dissect his situation, and politely ask for details, that they weren’t bold enough to ask him, themselves.

I had a wiry grin on my face during that discussion. Because I one time wondered if I showed up pregnant, unapologetic, and with no husband how supportive would people genuinely be? Would I be dropped down from my pedestal as the black girl who isn’t like the others (stereotypes)? Would I still be harshly judged for making a choice to keep my child as a 32-year-old woman with an education and a home and a career? Or would they look at me with the same lens as precious simply because of my color?

When I got engaged, I was the most popular person in the office. My office is big on marriage and family. They live for it, and they love throwing showers. I felt like I was finally in the in crowd. The women finally had some commonality on which they could finally reach out to me and have conversations. They seemed more relieved than I was. And when the news finally got around that my engagement ended, I may have gotten a few pity glances, but no one rallied around me or asked me how I was doing. Now that, that was my business.

I wouldn’t have wanted to go into details, but simply showing concern would have gone a long way.

There is another young lady around my age who went through a difficult divorce, and well, folks really rallied around her. One of my co-workers suggested that it wasn’t necessarily about race, but a level of openness. And I tend to be very private, meanwhile my divorced counterpart was quite vocal about the breakup. So I decided not to think of it in terms of race. But sometimes I do.

Sometimes I feel as a black person in the workplace any sign of emotion will cause people to equate that with being incapable and unable to handle stress… meanwhile black women have hypertension and diabetes and all sorts of ulcers and fibroids because they are putting on the strong woman front, and bosses continue to pile on the work, bragging about how so and so can handle it. She’s unshakeable. (I was described that way once by a very proud manager. And inside, it made me think of how proud Patsy’s master from “12 Years A Slave” bragged about her picking 50 pounds of cotton every day, out picking the men. And Patsy was being raped and beaten on a daily basis, but still outshone her male counterparts. This is historical yall. Same ish, different master.)

I started off this blog talking about black men and I got sidetracked bringing it back to me and black women. My bad.

Either way, I do think whether you want to deal with the facts or not, the brother at my job was very cognizant of the potential reactions and judgements if he mentioned his new son prior to his birth. And it’s not fair.

But it never is. Is it?

 

 

Professional Poor Shaming

When we think of the phrase “poor shaming” you may think of someone posting an angry Facebook post about being a hardworking person standing in the checkout line behind a person buying, shrimp and lobster and ceremoniously whipping out a public assistance card.

They are disgusted this person is flaunting what is apparent mooching off the system, because they didn’t dare fill their carts with, oh I don’t know Spam or government cheese or whatever good respectable folks on assistance are supposed to eat, because they don’t deserve hummus or omega 3 fatty acids. Or soy milk. Nope.

But there’s another kind that isn’t so easy to see, that you probably won’t read about or hear about, because the victims of what I call “professional poor shaming” would never want to be outed. It would destroy the persona they’ve built at work or in their social circles. But as sneaky as professional poor shaming is, it’s managed to work its way into workplace culture and it has a lot of people who are financially in the margins, living in fear during every business trip, or business lunch.

One of the best illustrations of this is reflected in a scene from a movie called “The Pursuit of Happiness” you know the feel good, keep dreaming working story starring Will Smith and his son Jaden (when he was little and super cute).

Will Smith has killed himself to earn an internship with a major company, he hides the fact that he is homeless and sleeping in public bathrooms at night and fighting for beds at shelters and emerges as one of the rising stars. He is in a cab with one of his very wealthy bosses. The cab ride is but a mere $10, and his boss says, “Hey, I don’t have any cash, can you take it?” Will’s character is mortified because basically that is the only $10 he had which would be a meal for he and his son, but the shame and the desire for this man to see him as an equal steps in, and you can feel the pain as Will has to hand over that money to the cabbie.

This scene plays out at lunches, where if you are a young professional, single and paying most of your bills and paying back large student loans or repairing your credit, surrounded by people who make more money than you and live in dual income homes you are overwhelmed with the feeling of being able to keep up, pay your share, or even take the tab for the entire group, because the last person who opted to pay for everyone reminded the whole table it’s your turn.

This scene plays out in an institutional way if your company sends you on a business trip, but turns around and says you have to use your credit card to pay for the trip and once you file expenses you’ll get the money back later. But what if you don’t have the money or the credit now?

The panic sets in. You may ask your boss a whole lot of details about the cost of things, and they will wonder why you are so uncomfortable. “Just charge it, you’ll get reimbursed. It’s no big deal.” Will be the response.

They don’t realize, nor the people who put together these reimbursement protocols that everyone doesn’t take home the same check they do, or face certain financial difficulties. Just like the boss in the movie, they think about money, but they don’t really think about money. And if you are in the world of the powerful or wealthy, everyone in the circle kind of assumes everyone else’s financial status and no one is going to be crazy enough to admit, I just can’t do it.

Especially in business, it would seem you are weak or irresponsible if you just can’t quickly muster up $300. In some people’s mind it may pull into question your judgement. But for people trying to make it everyday, you best believe that $300 they had to use on a trip or the additional $30 to make up for Frank’s tab at the restaurant since he treated last time, can put people in a financial tail spin. It will cause people to hold their breath when the card swipes, it will cause people to go without other necessary things at home, to keep up a good face at work.

I feel like professional institutionalized poor shaming is like an invisible electric fence to people who come from lower incomes who are making strides to enter another professional and economic level. You want to feel your talents are what get you in the door, and it is. But a “little” thing like paying for your own hotel room at the conference so you can show your talents and show people why you belong there are an added and in my opinion unnecessary pressure that management can easily resolve. But those in management at a number of companies that don’t send socioeconomically diverse people anywhere do not see or understand, because they are not quite in touch with being an educated, professional person still living in the margins.

Educational professionals don’t want to admit to it because they are ashamed, and it is taboo to discuss salary, when most folks know a lot of people, especially women and minorities are statistically underpaid. It seems that if you are able to boldly pick up the tab or have no questions when the company says you have to come out of pocket for a company sponsored event, you are implicitly saying, “Yes, I belong here. I am better than, those people.”

If you raise a question, in order to brace yourself for the costs and how it will affect you and your money and your life, which you are responsible for, you may get clarification, but now people are questioning you. And your professional currency is losing value.

It’s a form of poor shaming, and these practices are exclusionary to really bright people who can contribute something valuable, but because they may not have enough credit, or any credit or they are repairing their credit, they are being discriminated against or missing out on other opportunities that can really boost their career and in turn their earning potential. It further frightens me that this is a very real barrier to some people getting ahead. It is something to think about and if you are in a position of power within your organization, you should take a look at company-sponsored events, group lunches and proactively think of ways to even the playing field for your lower paid workers so they can participate without fear and not just lower paid workers, but employees who are struggling regardless of income.

You Wore Your Fake Hair Today: A Holiday Party Don’t

We recently had our company holiday party and it was nice. The company sprang for a lovely lunch and a brief cocktail hour at a local hotel ballroom.

Excellent.

Something that really surprised me was how casually people were dressed for this event. We are in a creative industry, and most of the people at my job aren’t in suits and heels or stockings everyday, but I assumed since we were having an offsite holiday party, folks would step it up.

The IT guys did wear ties, and some people did have a festive edge to their ensembles, wearing red, greens, golds.
I chose to get in the spirit, and I wore a great gold metallic H&M sweater with a long leather looking green skirt. I slicked my hair down and added some hair to make a simple bun. Some red lipstick and I was good to go.
I had a lot of really nice compliments until one co-worker said the unthinkable.
“Yes, doesn’t she look nice? You even have your fake hair in today.”
RECORD SCRATCH

I couldn’t hold back. The look on my face shot daggers because I couldn’t believe this woman had the nerve to say what she said.
Another woman in the conversation, “complimented” my hair, said that it looked very nice and she really had no idea I included some extra hair. Then looking very awkward, she took a swig from her wine glass.

After giving the offensive woman, probably the side eye of certain death, she waddled away.

When desserts were being served, she wanted to remark about how great my sweater was and at that point I just wanted her to shut up.
When I wear hair pieces or wear braids, I don’t broadcast that they are extensions. Clearly they are. I don’t have a problem with it, and I usually don’t mind if people ask me questions about my hair, I’ll give them the answer I feel like giving and move on. It’s far better than them just reaching in and petting me like an animal.

What I can’t go for is what that woman said. “You even have your fake hair in today.” It wasn’t even a simple, “I like your hair, or it looks nice.”

To me, that awkward statement was akin to saying to someone, “Your fake boobs look great in that top.”

“Grandma, you’re wearing your dentures today!”

There’s no need to point out the fakeness of something to attribute how special it is. Just compliment the thing you like about it, or just leave it alone. Actually, it isn’t a compliment to point out if something is fake. And this isn’t limited to holiday parties. Just don’t do that ever.

Blank

I was thinking about something last night and this morning.

My goal in life is to not be ridiculously wealthy. I would like to comfortably pay my bills and not have to think about it and when I want to travel, or eat out or buy something I really like, I don’t want to have to feel like I’m sacrificing to survive, or living from check to check. Just a simple existence. And I’d like to buy a house someday.

This became clearer when I went to the transitional housing shelter to drop off the food I made. The woman in charge was a fellow former journalist, her husband also in the business. She seemed like she was passionate about what she was doing and generally happy.

I already knew a long time ago (and I’ve mentioned it here) I want to work in mental health advocacy or with a program that helps women and girls.

It’s a new goal.

As I watch the world of journalism morph and die all around me, seeing talented friends and colleagues lose their jobs everyday, and the decline of great journalism for whatever it is that’s out there now (even though there are great blogs and non-traditional forms of media that I love), my initial dream of being a great reporter, who ends up writing a great weekly column well into retirement is over.

I’ve been fortunate to have lived my dream in a number of ways. I wanted to be a newspaper reporter and I did it. I got to cover awesome events and go to places and meet people I would have never imagined.

I wanted to become an editor and that was a major achievement for me. And I’ve been one for nearly 7 years. God is awesome. And as this industry changed, I was changing with it. Even though I was getting further and further away from writing, I was learning about content management systems, social media, video, podcasting and broadening my skills.

Sometimes I felt like the odd woman out working for a very specific kind of media company that most folks when I attend media conferences haven’t heard of. But I’ve been stable and blessed.

So the question is what now?

I’ve got no kids, I’ve got no husband. As my father has told me numerous times, if I want to switch gears at any point, I have the right to do so.

I have amazing friends who have taken insane leaps over the last few years. They’ve gone back to school, they’ve left stressful, unfulfilling jobs, they’ve even left the country and they are all doing just fine. They still have places to live and food to eat.

What real risks have I taken?

I’ve been wondering what’s next? And instead of wanting a Pulitzer, I want to be more impactful on a smaller, micro level.

I don’t want to run from new challenges.

I didn’t realize how sometimes, there is a great challenge in being comfortable because now you have to hold yourself accountable for what you do next and the level of energy you put in towards that.

When you are grinding for your life, it’s easy to make goals and decide you have no choice but to achieve them.

I thought to myself that this is the first time in my life that I didn’t have an immediate do or die goal.

I’ve wanted to buy a modest house or condo, but it freaks me out and I haven’t really saved money.

The tee-shirt company is still in limbo because I’ve made the excuse that I need to get my credit card balance down to something more reasonable so I can use it to buy inventory.

I dream of going to Greece and my goal is to do it next year.

But unlike when I was a kid or a college student, my future hasn’t seemed so clear lately.

In fact, it’s felt blank.

Love life? Blank.

Professional life, blank.

There once was a time where I thought maybe I wanted to be like my bosses’ boss and run a bunch of publications and deal with the politics and madness.

Eh, not so much.

Being like the woman running the transitional shelter seemed waaay more appealing as of late.

I used to always think about doing more, or the awards I didn’t win. Or that maybe my career as a reporter was too short. I missed having front page stories and bylines and rushing off to do a story.

But I’ve always been where I’m supposed to be. I’ve been blessed. I’ve had moments and achievements to be proud of that no one can take from me. I’ve fought for my respect, for my paycheck, for my current position.

I’ve tried to aid other people in their personal and professional success and offer encouragement and support.

So I have no clue what’s next. But I’m starting to notice that as I get older, I’m wanting a simple life of giving back and service. I don’t need to be flashy, or have a corner office but I want to lead a comfortable life full of food, loved ones and travel.

I don’t think that’s a bad goal…

Be You In the Face Of Intimidating People Anyway

This post is inspired by a quick little message I got the other day, via LinkedIn.

An old boss who always seemed to terrorize me, and was never satisfied with my work and who never praised me, came out of nowhere to congratulate me on my latest promotion.

I asked a friend (who was in the trenches with me at the time and knew this person well) if I was terminally ill, or if he was terminally ill. She laughed. Then we made jokes about the old jokes about he and I having sexual tension.

I thanked the ex-boss for the compliment and noted that it meant a lot to hear it from him that he was proud of me.

He quickly responded that he has always loved my grit and determination and advised me to never lose it.

I really thought my days on the Earth were numbered and that the Rapture would commence once I closed the email. But I smiled. I felt validated and was left thankful, the Good Lord gave me a little more time.

Some folks would say I shouldn’t care, and what this old boss thinks of me shouldn’t matter. But he finally stepped up, and damn it, I do care. It felt nice. I told you I was awesome, mean boss! Now you see me! Ha! I still became somebody anyway!! I’m still in the industry! Ok, that was immature.

Moving on.

I’ve had a couple of bosses who were terribly hard on me early in my career. I mean, I really felt like it was bordering on abuse or hazing and I’m not exaggerating or complaining like today’s young folks who are really wack (for a prime example of our über entitled next generation, read this http://doanie.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/mean-professor-tells-student/).

But from time to time, when I just couldn’t take it anymore, I would have moments where I’d face off, toe-to-toe with those folks, job security be damned. When I had those moments, I secretly dared them to fire me, because I knew I was right.

There was even one instance with the boss that I mentioned, who told me to my face he felt I was too green and that my well-connected and highly respected recommendations were “overembellished.”

So I went off. And I even went as far as saying that despite all of that, I wasn’t going to quit, or be pushed into quitting. So if you are going to fire me, you call security and have me escorted out. I didn’t come all this way, and move my life to a vastly different part of the country, not to do what I came to do.

When I took another job, this editor and another difficult editor did say I reminded them of themselves as a young reporter and that they were so hard on me, because, well it was a hard business. They congratulated me and wished me well. While I disagree with how far they took the tough love without balancing it with necessary praise and acknowledgement of improvement, hey, it was a life lesson. I did get a tougher skin.

A second boss, who was at the job I landed in after the first mean boss, may have been even rougher than the first.

I was on assignment with this boss out of the country, and when he said something out of line, I looked at him dead in the eye and said, “You are impossible. Your expectations for this situation are completely unreasonable.”

He looked back at me and said that no one has ever said that to him. He actually smiled. The next day, we were having dinner at the top of the CN tower in Toronto, on him.

He was angry when I quit that job, but I told him I was underpaid and the conditions of the workplace were not conducive to my growth and things that I was promised upon taking the job never happened. I have to make the right business decision for myself.

In turn, he held my last check, citing that according to my contract, I had to pay back my relocation expenses and upon receipt, I could then have my last check.

I negotiated a signing bonus with my new job, to get me out of that wack deal. A mentor loaned me money to pay my rent until the whole thing was resolved.

Sometime after that madness, a person I deeply respect said that boss actually spoke highly of me and said he respected me.

To hear that from such a complicated person, who had ego that rivals that of Kanye West, I was shocked. Especially since he was so emotional about me quitting and was heard saying that I had no integrity for breaking my contract.

So what’s the point of all of this?

I often hold back. Sometimes it seems like I back down. But every now and then there are the moments where I stand up, put the fear aside and stand up for myself and for what I really believed was right, no matter how intimidating the person was/is/ or pretends to be.

And in both situations, I may have found out way after the fact, but I eventually found out that through those moments, I gained their respect.

That said, I didn’t cuss anyone out, or say something disrespectful, but I firmly stood my ground and spoke my truth. I’m sure God was looking out for me, because maybe other people have gotten fired for doing such things, but I still stand by it. Sometimes you have to show people that you demand respect no matter what level of the game you are in.

The sweet little LinkedIn message was a reminder to, as that ex-boss said, never lose my grit and determination.

In some cosmic way, he might have been right on time with that…

Women, Negotiation and the $10,000 Rule

koratmember/freedigitalphotos.net

koratmember/freedigitalphotos.net

It’s a monster out here in terms of the job market and finding the right gig.

I read a disappointing, and yet truthful article this morning about how the way folks work and do business has shifted and that we basically will never see the days of staying with companies for 20 years, pensions, retirement and such.

As the world gets smaller, thanks to technology, only the hustlers and entrepreneurs will survive. Period. You’ve got to get your own hustle and work it to death and stack your money on your own terms.

It’s interesting that after reading this article with my breakfast, later I found myself  talking to a young woman at work, who I just love and want to see her do well. She has the same apprehensions I had as a young woman around 25, 26.

Her jaw dropped when I told her with a serious and straight face that I always ask for $10,000 more than my current salary for any new job.

A male I was dating, years ago gave me that successful gem, and I’ve never backed down from it. These days, I have dropped to as low as $8,000, but I simply cannot afford to go lower.

That’s bad business for my brand.

I am a single woman living in the DC area. It ain’t cheap. I gotta eat, pay rent alone and just live. Period.

And with my years of experience and what I’m bringing to the table, any move I make, I’m not doing it for less than $8-10,000 above my current salary. Period.

The young lady was shocked. She said in these times no one can afford to be so commanding.

I told her in these times, I can’t afford to work for less than what I am worth. I am a woman, I am automatically paid less than men. I am a woman of color, I’m often already paid less than my white, female counterparts.

The young lady I was talking to is a latina. I told her, asking for that amount is simply trying to break even. It’s basic math.

With time, you do build confidence. I explained to her, if I hadn’t asked for more money during various periods, the company would have never given it to me.

The second year with my company, I presented the evidence and I got an 8 percent increase to go along with the incremental increases we got annually. But at rates of 1 or 2 percent for those annual increases– if there aren’t any freezes that year– you still aren’t gaining much ground.

Closed mouths don’t get fed.

If I didn’t get the bump I got in the spring, If I never asked for the increase I got a few years ago, the pay cut we had to take in the fall would have been catastrophic.

Women, if you are putting in the work, and you have proven your worth you have to ask for the compensation.

You just have to.

You can’t be afraid. They can tell you no, but at least they know where your head is at and that if you do leave, they can’t be surprised because you did ask them for more money.

I’m not saying march up to your bosses’ office and demand a raise during crazy times, after a bunch of layoffs. No.

You have to read the climate of the economy and where the company is financially, before you have that serious talk with your boss.

Even in low times, it doesn’t hurt to remind folks that you have weathered the storm, contributed greatly and you want to be remembered for your dedication and service when times are good and the company has rebounded a bit.

Companies are always about their bottom line.

Women, we need to be about ours too. We cannot be martyrs.

Men have a tendency to not have a problem with feeling like they deserve more money than what they are getting. They’ll tell everyone so. Including their bosses.

There was a young man on my job, who had only been around for six months and was actually insulted by the 2 percent bump folks automatically got around review time.

Don’t be delusional, but don’t be a fool by not at least asking for what you deserve and what is an appropriate salary for your position and the region in which you live. Folks need to come correct at least in those areas, if nothing else.

And in my opinion, my male friend was right. $10,000 is the magic number.

By the time you are excited about a $5,000 raise, unless you are working at your dream job and most of your daily stresses have been completely removed, taxes have sucked out a good $2,000 and you’ll hardly feel it.

So tell me, am I nuts for thinking folks should tell a potential new job to shove it if they aren’t offering an increase of at least $8-10,000?

Isn’t the point of a new job/promotion to advance?

Are women getting better at the art of negotiation? Or are we still trying to keep the peace?

And I hate that. How is asking for what you deserve rocking the boat? I hate when women say, they don’t want to rock the boat or cause trouble because they had the nerve to ask for more money. Trust me, companies are counting on you not to speak up.  Once again, folks need to know where you stand and that you are aware of what you bring to the table, and that you know that they know you may not be getting properly compensated.

I’m just saying…

As Beyonce says, “Eff you, pay me.”

*Sidenote. Please have proof that you are killing it in the work place. Write down your accomplishments, save emails from superiors who praise successful tasks, bring back info from conferences… etc. If you are a lazy, unproductive bum, do not march your raggedy self anywhere asking for more money. Please have a seat.

Talking About Progress, People

Alrighty, so after my post about making promises to your self, even if it’s day-by-day, or week-by-week, I was asked to write about my progress.

This week taught me that you must have daily goals and you’ll feel better that you accomplished SOMETHING.

This week also taught me that if you don’t do every single thing you set out to do, as long as you accomplished something everyday, you are not a complete loser.

Mission one was to do an exercise in the morning and in the evening, everyday.

Ok. I did that on Monday. The other days, no dice. I started my period and things went to hell. But I did make sure, come hell or high water I have my morning workout.

Mission two was to be vegetarian all week to help jump-start the weight loss along with the everyday exercise.

Welp, I went pescetarian because I just needed more, um substance in my life and I was looking for good vegetarian recipes, but I wasn’t really inspired. Fish is my friend. In terms of food, I think I did really well this week with food choices. My snacks consisted of apples, baked Pepperidge Farms crackers and 80 calorie cheese sticks.

I said I was going to drink just water all week. Well, I went to the grocery store, so I picked up Tropicana 50 juice, almond milk and some orange juice, all low in calories. The majority of liquid I’m consuming is water, but I will have an ocassional glass of the low-calorie juices or the milk. All still good in my book.

So while I made some amendments to the promises, the point of training myself to live healthier daily is still prominent. I’m proud of myself. Especially today.

I’ve been bloated and angry, and this morning it was a struggle. For starters, things went wrong with my workout because I didn’t get up on time, so I felt rushed, and now I’ve learned in order to wake myself up morning workouts gotta be some form of cardio that gets me moving or some kind of yoga that allows me to do a lot of stretching.

No strength training, no abs (billy’s ab bootcamp workout is the truth!). So, even though I felt like today was a fail and I really wasn’t energetic or giving it my all, I pushed through. And I also realized what I needed to do to have an effective morning workout that would make me feel good about myself for the rest of the day. So it wasn’t a total loss although I was disappointed in my energy level and that I couldn’t lift it.

I learned an important lesson about myself.

Taking action on my fitness and eating has prompted me to take action in other ways.

I started looking for a new place and I found one that is bigger and more awesome at a price I’d be willing to pay, for a bigger spot. Now, pulling the trigger is something else, altogether.

I stopped waiting for that dream job to call me back and broke the promise I made to not apply for anything else until I heard a yes or no.

I saw two jobs I think I’d really like, (one of which would be totally different from what I do, and would be associated with a fantastic cause) and I went ahead and applied for them. There is no point in me just waiting and waiting and torturing myself. Would I like the “dream job”? Sure, but all of this inactive waiting is making me feel like I’m just standing still. And what’s today’s lesson?

Everyday, DO SOMETHING. ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING.

So by just sending out those apps two nights in a row, I felt better.

I did something. I took an action for my life.

For four days in a row, I exercised. I took an action.

Because I was tired of waiting on the dream job, I emailed the receptionist, with whom I believe I built a lovely rapport. I asked her if she heard anything. She told me there has not been an announcement about the position being filled just yet. She suggested I call the person I interviewed with to follow-up.  I may do that tomorrow.

From this, I deduce that either they are about to fill it, they’ve selected someone and the info just hasn’t gone public yet.

Or,

They haven’t filled it yet and they are still trying to figure it out.

Either way, all is not lost, just yet.

So that information still managed to be useful.

I took an action. I’ve been very cautious to not over kill on sending follow-up emails or phone calls, but I think I didn’t overstep my bounds in this instance.

So today’s point again is there is no progress without action. You have to take a step, you have to just do something. It may be painful, it may be risky, scary, uncomfortable, but doing something and knowing you put forth an effort does make you feel better and feel alive.

Even the King sang about action…

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