Tag Archives: employers

Are you hiring the job candidate or their parent?

parent-at-interviewIncreasingly, parents are getting involved in the job hiring process.  This presents a challenge for employers because you don’t know how much of the candidate you’re getting vs. their parents.

Things parents do for their adult children today:

  • Go to job fairs and open houses.
  • Write resumes and cover letters.
  • Fill out job applications and send them in.
  • Call employers to set up interviews and follow up.
  • Attend lunches and interviews.
  • Negotiate salaries with employers.
  • Decide which job to take.

Too much parental involvement in the job hiring process is detrimental to both the candidate and the employer.  The employer needs to assess whether the candidate is qualified and is a good fit for the job.  The applicant needs to assess whether the organization and job are a good fit for them.  When parents take over, neither side gets an accurate picture of the other.

What can employers do to move parents to the sidelines?

  • Make it a policy not to talk to parents during the hiring process.
  • Discourage candidates from involving their parents.
  • Politely but firmly refuse to speak to parents when they call or show up.
  • Put your no-parents-during-hiring policy on the website for all to read.

A bad hire is detrimental to both the employer and the employee.  Too many times I’ve heard employers complain that the person they hired “looked great on paper” and had “all the right things to say” in the interview, but wasn’t able to perform once hired.  This is a bad situation for the employer but an awful situation to be in for an employee.  Failing at your job, especially your first job, has long lasting effects on self-esteem.  It’s better for everyone involved—including parents—if the employee is hired for a job they can and want to do.

How can employers tell parents to back off?

Pushing parents away can be touchy for both the parents and the candidates.  How do you do it without losing good candidates?  Here are some suggestions from College Recruiter: How Employers Should Deal with Helicopter Parents.  One of the suggestions is mine.

 

How Meaningful Is Your Work?

meaning of life cartoonHow meaningful is your work? How meaningful do you want it to be? In a recent Gallup poll, 70% of people said their work was not meaningful. On the one hand, that number is alarming. Seventy percent of workers spend half of their waking hours doing something that brings no meaning. On the other hand, should our work be meaningful?

At a very minimum, our work is meaningful because, for most of us, it enables us to feed, clothe, and house us and our families. For many of us, it gives us purpose and focus. We have to get up in the morning and be somewhere and do something. Without that, we often become aimless and dissatisfied.

And then there’s the question of whether we live to work or work tomeaning of life cartoon 2 live. Some say it’s a generational thing—that Baby Boomers live to work while Millennials work to live. I actually don’t see it that way. Yes, Millennials want to have more balance in their lives. However, Millennials are increasingly demanding that their jobs have meaning and that their companies are socially responsible. In this sense, their jobs bring greater meaning, doing something that reaches beyond themselves.

I ask you to think about your work—deeply—and contemplate how much meaning it really does have. I think all of our work has meaning in one way or another. A bus driver enables people to get places. A web designer helps people communicate messages. A word processor may even help save lives, especially if he or she works for a company that builds medical devices, or a shipping company that delivers life-saving equipment to hospitals, or a law firm that litigates tort law, or a school department that educates children and keeps them off the streets.

I watch the elderly people in my neighborhood at the local grocery store some days. For some folks, getting dressed for an outing and walking into a store are big accomplishments. Interacting with the store clerk may be the only social interaction they have that day. A store clerk who is cordial, maybe even chatty or helpful, may bring deeper meaning into a person’s life than the clerk could even imagine.

meaning making illustrationThe meaning is there. You just have to find it. You don’t have to be a world-renown leader to have an impact on the world or to have meaning in your work. This is especially important for young people to understand to take the pressure off of “achieving greatness” at the expense of health and happiness. For the rest of us, dig deep and find the meaning that is already there.

9 Success Factors at Work

man with business cardA college education is important, but learning from real life experiences is more.

Fifty executives at a large pharmaceutical company went through an assessment center to help the company develop its talent pipeline. They were assessed on sixteen competencies, or success factors. “Technical expertise” (what you learn in college) was just one factor; being socially agile, building strategic relationships, influencing others, maintaining composure under pressure, and driving change were among the fifteen other critical factors that are not taught in college.

Here are nine real life factors that typically contribute to an employee’s success in a job.

  • Leadership, courage, and decision-making ability
  • Social agility, being a team player, and building relationships
  • Communication and influence
  • Creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurialism
  • Planning and execution
  • Facilitating and adapting to change; resilience
  • Drive for results
  • Self-awareness and self-development
  • Integrity and organizational values

Joanie teaching at NU 3How do we learn these skills, if not in college? By taking on responsibility, venturing into unchartered ground, and taking time out to reflect.

What are some actions that you are taking to develop these skills? I’d love to hear your comments.

man on computerThe factor I’m learning the most on right now is communication and influence. I’ve broadened my reach to social networking. Learning how to communicate on the internet and how to be heard are two important skills that I certainly didn’t learn in college!

How I Turned my Sitting Desk into a Standing Desk for Less than $35

baby at computerIt’s really becoming clear how unhealthy it is to sit at your desk all day and type on your computer. “Sitting is the new smoking” I’ve heard on more than one occasion. Do I want sitting to cause me to have an endlessly miserable old age? Right in the center of middle age, I’m already starting to feel stiff and hear creaks when I get up after sitting for a long period of time. The writing is on the wall. It probably is for you too if you open yourself to the possibility.

What are the problems with sitting? Sedentary behavior is the biggest one—not moving can lead to weight gain, muscle atrophy, bone loss, and joint stiffness, among other things. On top of that, a seated posture puts pressure on your spine, squishing the discs into each other. Even worse is what bad posture can do to you. Continue reading How I Turned my Sitting Desk into a Standing Desk for Less than $35

Call for Predictability as a form of Flexibility at Work

This is a compelling story from the New York Times on how new shift scheduling technology (and corporate desire for higher profits) affects lower-level employees and their ability to meet demands outside of work.

Working Anything But 9-5: Scheduling Technology Leaves Low-Income Parents with Hours of Chaos

Please comment on your own experiences and suggestions for improvement.  Clearly, flexibility and even predictability are critical to employees.  They are fellow human beings, after all.

Millennials: Your Reputation Is Key

By Joanie Connell

Last week I received a call from a lawyer who wasreputation up in arms about a Millennial he had just hired. But don’t stop reading because this is not a Millennial-bashing blog post. Millennials, this post is for you, to help you develop one of the most critical pieces of your attractiveness as an employee—your reputation.

The lawyer is a solo practitioner and he hired a college grad who is interested in going to law school to assist him. Literally, on the first day of work, the young woman said she was interested in other opportunities to get more experience in different types of law. When the lawyer questioned her further, the woman said she was, indeed, looking for other jobs and she might move home (to a different city) in a couple of months if she couldn’t find a good apartment here.

The lawyer hadn’t offered her the job lightly and he had said he was looking for a 1-year commitment. It was a big decision to hire her over anyone else and he had a big need to fill, being a single-person firm. He was investing a good deal of time in training the woman as well. To have to replace her within a few months would impact the business significantly.

It’s no secret that Millennials have a high turnover ratesome reports are as high as 60%. Others report that Millennials measure their job tenure in months, not years. I’ve also seen the Millennial work ethic described as a “self-centered work ethic.”  No matter how you put it, Millennials are seen as having one foot out the door.

The problem for Millennials is that you only have one reputation to maintain and you are getting a bad one. This is not only an overarching view of an entire generation, but a view of you, yourself, individually. If you switch jobs capriciously and mistreat employers in the process, you will lose credibility in the workplace. Reliability is a deal breaker. I, personally, don’t care how smart, well-educated, or experienced someone is if they are not going to show up. Seriously, what’s the point?reputation 2

The point is, it’s not only about you. Millennials, I know you get this because you have the reputation of being the most socially responsible generation yet. You understand that you are part of a larger system of Mother Earth and what you eat, buy, or do affects people on the other side of the planet. What you do also affects people closer to home. And despite what you think, people notice what you do (even if it’s not posted online).

Given the high turnover rate among Millennials, the lawyer in this case wondered if hiring a new college grad was the way to go. He also wondered if hiring a new college grad from a good university was the best idea. He contemplated hiring someone from the local community college who might need the job more and appreciate hard work and commitment. He observed that the privileged woman didn’t have a solid work ethic, need for a job, or understanding of the big picture. (The woman also asked, within 3 weeks of employment, if she could take a vacation day to go to the beach.)

This is just one lawyer, but he is not alone in his experience. I have numerous stories like this one. Millennials, take this as a wake-up call. You need to build your reputation to be employable. I can tell you right now that the young employee in this story won’t get a positive recommendation from her current employer. After a point, college grades and letters of reference from professors don’t carry any weight. It soon becomes all about what you can produce, the quality of your work, and how reliable you are in getting things done. Your reputation is key.

Stereotyping is bad and ageism is illegal. Hopefully, employers won’t base a hiring decision on a generation’s reputation, but they will base it on yours.

Joanie Connell Interview

This blog is actually a vlog about my new book.  Spend 2 1/2 minutes watching this short video interview and help me come up with a new title for the book.

I’ll have more information on the book available soon.  If you have suggestions for a catchy title, I’d love your ideas.  The current working title is “Lessons from the Workplace: What Parents and Schools Are Missing.”

Why It Is Important to Take Vacation

fete de la musique
Musicians play on the streets of Paris at Fete de la Musique
coupe de monde
World Cup fans outside my window at 2:00 a.m.

By Joanie Connell

Taking two weeks off in itself is a great way to gain perspective on life. Traveling to another country is even better. I just returned from two weeks in Paris. During those two weeks I experienced a very different way of life. I was kept up till all hours of the night by the Fête de la Musique, an all-night music festival that takes place on the streets of Paris. I lost sleep because the fans of the World Cup celebrated on the streets too, by driving around with their horns on at 2:00 in the morning. During daylight hours, I was slowed down by traffic that was gridlocked due to protest marches and demonstrations and by strikes that delayed trains and planes coming in and out of Paris

None of that bothered me. Rather, I found it curiously intriguing. What bothered me–at least at first–was spending over a week without WiFi. The router in our apartment broke and the landlord didn’t seem to understand the urgency around fixing it promptly. I was planning to work while on vacation and was shut down. Public WiFi was no option. In France, free WiFi tends to be so slow it is unusable except for email—another curiosity. The French just don’t seem to have the same need for speed that Americans do.

What was I to do? Well, how about enjoy my vacation! I gave up worrying about work. I didn’t blog for two weeks. I stayed off Face Book and I hardly emailed. Rather, I immersed myself into French culture and leisure.

A funny thing happened. In more than one conversation, French people asked me why I was only on vacation for two weeks. They asked what else I would do during the summer for the rest of my vacation. I kept having to explain that this was my summer vacation and that I would be returning to work when I got home and that I was fortunate to be able to travel for two weeks because many Americans don’t have that kind of time. Now it was their turn to find my culture curiously intriguing.

Even if we only have 2 weeks of vacation per year, as compared to their typical 2 months of vacation, it makes all the difference in the world to get away from work for a while. It gives you perspective. Realizing that you’re dispensable, that the daily crisis at work really isn’t urgent or earth shattering, and that life has so much more to offer than work is truly important. Taking vacation helps to broaden your perspective and refocus your priorities in life.

As a consultant, I get an external perspective of companies. More often than not, I feel the office tension as I walk in. I see the desperate looks on executives’ faces as they try to do what they think the president wants. If the president decides he/she wants X, the executives send their teams into a frenzy to deliver X2. The executives advise me on what words to use or not use to appeal to the president’s idiosyncrasies. They demand that I turn in work proposals immediately and be available to perform without delay. They expect me to work after hours and on weekends like they do. I’ve learned my lesson because, when I do, they change their minds or the president isn’t available to look at it or the project gets canceled or something like that. We have all rushed around with elevated heart rates and stress levels for no real reason.

vacationEvery time I return from vacation, I gain perspective and vow not to get sucked into this lifestyle when I return. Sometimes I succeed. If more of us took time out to relax and gain perspective, we would probably be much less stressed at work. I highly recommend giving it a try. If anything, you’ll be less stressed for a while. If it catches on, we might make the workplace a better place for all of us.

Flexible Work Improves Employee Engagement

By Joanie Connell

surprisedA scary trend is emerging for companies to ban flexible work. Don’t do it. As explained in last week’s post about following along the fads without thinking, this is a bad idea.

The workplace is changing whether we like it or not. That is a constant. The workplace isn’t like it was and it won’t be like it is. The workplace requires our flexibility to keep up.

Why is this important? Because flexible work is inherent in today’s workplace. Some companies are trying to fight it, like Yahoo and Oracle, who have both recently implemented policies that ban working from home during business hours. This is a huge mistake.

working at homeWorkplace flexibility increases employee engagement. According to a recent Gallup study, remote workers are more engaged than on-site employees, and they work more hours too. The study found that a blend of working remotely and working on-site produces the greatest amount of employee engagement.

Those who spend less than 20% of their time working remotely are the most engaged… These employees likely enjoy an ideal balance of both worlds — the opportunities for collaboration and camaraderie with coworkers at the office and the relative sense of freedom that comes from working remotely… [T]hose who spend more than half of their time or all of their time working remotely have similar engagement to employees who do not work remotely.

On a more intuitive level, think about how the flexibility to work remotely has helped you and your organization. For example, how many people call in sick anymore? More often, they work at home when they are sick instead of taking the day off. Keeping the germs out of the office saves the whole team from getting it. People also increasingly work while on vacation. I don’t advocate this practice in general because I firmly believe that people need to take breaks, but if they are managing to balance their lives in this way, I support them.

When I was a professor and I had a baby, I made a point to spend time with my baby during the day when I could and work in the evenings and on weekends preparing my classes. Instead of 9-5, 5 days a week, I worked 7 days a week at various times. It was a great solution for me at the time and I was very effective at work. For example, my students loved it that I responded to their emails at night and on Saturday.

Now that my daughter is older, I still work flexibly but do other things, like exercise or meet a friend for coffee during the day. I still spread my work around at night and over the weekend because that suits me well. I mention this to make the point that flexibility is not only about family. People take advantage of flexible work to do many things, like go to the doctor’s and participate in hobbies. In San Diego, surfing is a way of life and there are numerous professionals who structure their work hours around the waves. I don’t know how good these folks are at surfing, but the ones I know are very effective at work.

Even if companies fight it, workplace flexibility is not going to go away. Technology has made it possible, global companies require it, and younger generations of workers expect it. Companies typically have two concerns about flexible work: (1) lack of control and (2) difficulty establishing a company culture. Both of these obstacles can be overcome with modern methods of managing and leading people. What these companies need to learn is that the workplace requires flexibility to keep up.  It’s better to embrace it than to fight it.