Kareer Kandor with Kathy, Volume 3

PrintAnd its time for another installment of Kareer Kandor with Kathy.

Here’s some great questions from my readers.

“Dear Kathy, I’m new to the corporate world and I’m trying to decide what kind of employee I should be. The funny guy who always has a joke? The pervert who hits on all of the ladies? The stressed out guy? Or the guy that always blows out the bathroom on a different floor than I work on? Please help, as I really want to make a name for myself and do well.”

Anonymous bathroom boy, I wouldn’t suggest you become the Grim Reaper in the water closet. You’re question is relevant to all of us. Don’t feel like you’re alone. Whether you’re entering or are new to the work force, or trying to reinvent yourself, all of these questions are good ones.

I don’t think that you should walk around acting like Lumbergh, so forget the jokes, the sexual harassment, and being that guy sweating his job security all day.

Instead, focus on what you can do right now to make an impact.

  1. Ask your boss for mentorship. Find out what he thinks that you can do to move the needle.
  2. Make friends with HR. They know more than you think when it comes to the “up and comers.”
  3. Teamwork dude. Get your peers on your side. Making relationships at work is one of the most important things that you can do. You want people to have your back. Good leaders have teams that respect and believe in them.
  4. Market yourself. You need to be the one that shows and tells people what you can do, and more importantly, what you’ve accomplished. If you don’t do it — no one else will.
  5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from bad decisions and move on. Don’t focus on being right all of the time, because it will ultimately lead to a lack of creativity and innovation because you’ll be scared of the results.

Be “that guy.” The one that everyone respects for his integrity, motivation, and drive.

“Dear Kathy, my name is Anne and I’m just getting back into the workplace after staying home with my young kids for 9 years. I don’t even know where to start. Do you think that I can get back into the workforce after I’ve been out of it for so long?”

Anne, my dear, yes you can! I did the same. I changed diapers, cleaned up vomit, and wiped behinds for years, all without a job. I was scared to get back into it too. I mean who wants to hire a woman that’s been associating with screaming 5 year olds all day long other than a lion tamer? Trust me. You’re more hirable than you think you are. I mean think about it— you’re enduring the toughest job of all, being a mom. You can certainly learn to re-navigate the workplace. Hell, I rather be at work, than at home with my snotty kids.

I think that the biggest issue for us fellow moms is remaining relevant in a world that we’ve been displaced from for a long period of time.

This is what I would do.

  1. Pull out your old resume and update it. Although your last job was 9 years ago, think about what you’ve done while you’ve been at home. You might have done community service projects, joined the PTA at school, been president of your local moms club. Although these sound a little trite in the face of a hiring manager, it does show leadership and a willingness to stay engaged.
  2. You might want to consider hiring a recruiter. Not only will they help you reframe your resume and write your cover letters, they will also lead you in the right direction to your next big opportunity.
  3. Talk to your peers. You’d be surprised what your friends and family will say when you let them know you want to go back to work. Not only will you get encouragement, these people will have your back. You can never imagine the power of networking. Your friends and family may have contacts for you that at least lead to a casual discussion or even an interview.
  4. Go on any and all interviews. Even if the opportunity isn’t ideal, use the opportunity to practice. Then when you go to land that dream job, you’ll have more experience and know how to seal the deal in the interview.
  5. Be confident. There is absolutely no reason for you to be scared. You’re smart, talented and ready for a new chapter.

I try to write these every few weeks, so let me know if I can address your questions.

Until then.

When it’s Right to be Wrong

Image converted using ifftoany

What? It’s ok to be wrong? For f*#% sake, I nearly fell of my chair at this frightening idea. I’m never wrong.

A woman named Kathryn Schultz spent the last five years thinking about the notion of being wrong. Boy, that is job security in a world where we convince ourselves, and those around us, that we’re infallible.

My husband and I live in Orange County, California and we set out on a trip to mountain bike in Santa Barbara. I used to drive to Santa Barbara at least two times a month to meet a client, so I knew how to get there. I told my husband to take the 5 freeway. He questioned me constantly. But I knew I was right. So when we passed Magic Mountain (which is now where near the coast of Santa Barbara), I challenged myself, do I admit that I’m dead wrong or let him keep driving? Haha. We had to trek back to the 405, for an hour, listening to “Tiny Dancer” to finally reach our destination. I thought he was going to kill me, but then we ended up laughing about it. So was is so bad to be wrong? Not at all. Just part of life experience.

We’re always thinking about being right, or the opposite, avoiding the disaster of being wrong. We live in some altered reality, trapped in a feeling of being right, which as a culture, is the root of many problems. It, in many ways, stifles creativity and innovation because we’re always so focused on the right answer that we can’t see our mistakes. And then we operate out of fear and we’re driven to safety rather than to better solutions.

Kathryn compares our lives to Wiley Coyote and the Road Runner. The Coyote is forever devising plans to ruin the Road Runner, yet surprisingly he’s willing to jump off the cliff. Would you do the same, knowing that you’re probably going to crash to your death? Right now, in my frame of mind, I wouldn’t do it. But I can change.

Remember being back in grade school and you got a test returned with the words “see me” written in bold red pen? Sheer panic, right? You knew you made mistakes, but isn’t that part of the human experience? Unfortunately we learn early on that being wrong is a sign of failure or irresponsibility and from that leads an inconceivable search for perfection and over achievement.

It’s actually true that the feeling of being correct all of the time is dangerous, especially at work. You start to question others, assume their ignorance and idiocy, and then work becomes a drag. We actually create our own competition in the search for rightness.

This is why being wrong is a good thing:

  1. It means your living in the moment and you’re likely to be willing to experience the special moments of surprise and wonder.
  2. You’re freeing yourself from the constant thoughts of the past and the future.
  3. You’re able to see others as capable and outstanding—true teammates and partners.
  4. And you’re able to step outside that terrifying space of rightness.

“Wow, I don’t know.” Say it. It’s ok. And it’s liberating.

Kareer Kandor with Kathy, issue 2

Print“Dear Kathy, I love my job, but I work with a gal who constantly throws everyone under the buss. Nobody likes her, but I’m the only one that will stand up to her. Management now sees this as a personal feud that affects our work. How can I get my other coworkers to grow spines and stand up against her too?”

Oh Dear, Greg. That sounds like a cat fight in a rooster coop. From what I can ascertain from your brief question, you seem like you’re dedicated to your job. But is it a good idea to be having such huge turmoil with a colleague? Boss or peer—you gotta steer clear of the chaos. I’m sure you can hold your own with her, but your stand for glory makes you the odd man out. If your team doesn’t have your back, you have nothing. HR kinda frowns upon the outlaw, and right now you’re Billy Clanton, not Doc Holiday, so don’t go wandering into the OK Corral without a plan.

This is what I would do.

Instead of assembling Fox Force Five to stand up against her, take up a civilized conversation with her. If I were you, I would request a formal meeting. Then I would put together a detailed, yet terse, account of your issues and email it to her prior to the face to face meeting. Then she won’t be caught off guard. If you receive a response to your email, respond politely that you can discuss the issues during your meeting.

But you need to be polished in your thoughts, non-accusatory, and willing to play the game. You need this gal on your side, but it’s your job to get her there—not the other way around. Turn the tables man. Be your own Huckleberry. I know you can do it.

If it continues to be a problem, then go to HR. They can intervene and try to create a happy arrangement that accommodates you both. Let me know what happens.

“Dear Kathy, why am I so awesome?”

Thanks for your poignant thoughts Kim. Since you’re so awesome, how ‘bout you write my blog for me? #fullofherself. Moving on.

“Dear Kathy, what happens if I get demoted?”

Andy. That is a scary proposition. I’m sorry that you’re in that space right now. First, be present in your work situation and really evaluate whether you’re in a bad position or if you’re just anxious.

If you really think you might find yourself being offered a demotion or a retirement package, then maybe you need to cozy up to your boss a bit more. Ask him/her for their mentorship—and if you get a positive response, you’re probably ok. If that doesn’t work, talk to your team. Listen to them, and have an authentic discussion. Find out what they think…and what they think about you. Take the critiques to heart and maybe consider implementing changes in your habits. When all else fails, it’s always a good idea to have an updated resume, based on accomplishments, not tasks, along with a kick-ass cover letter.

Don’t let yourself get demoted. Please remember that you do control your own destiny at work. Whether you stay at your current job or not, it’s your call.

“Dear Kathy, I’m an engineer but don’t want to do this anymore. I get paid really well, so if I quit my job and opened an orange stand on the side of the street, could I make the same amount of money if I marketed my stand to the right demographic?”

Craig, seriously, you’re clogging my blog with this?

First of all, I don’t know how much money you make. Second of all, you indicate that you’re an engineer – what does that mean? I just engineered this blog.

Anyway, if this is a real inquiry, I have a few suggestions. #1: Put down the bottle. #2. Ask yourself what your tipping point is. #3 You better get your stuff together and learn about oranges—everything from producing, gathering, and distributing them to your street-side biz. Volume, cost, shipping, everything. #4. Then you need a marketing plan. You need to understand the demo of your area and determine if you can price your oranges at a lower price, and BETTER quality than that of the local chains. If you don’t have the goods, then don’t play the game.

Listen, I believe in you, and you’re not the only one to venture outside of the box. Check this out, you’ll find it fun and interesting.

I’d be happy to help you develop a business plan, ‘cause you need one. Respond back.

Check out Kareer Kandor with Kathy in the next few weeks.

The 21 Day Road to Happiness


a sign post of changing to a new way of life

Today’s post is about happiness and career success, taught in the from a real life experience I had a very, very long time ago. It’s a bit rambling, but stick with it, I promise there’s a moral at the end of the story.

When I was about 28 I worked in advertising. Grueling career. I worked with a ton of cheeseheads, which was epic for me because I love the Packers, especially Brett Favre. I love that man – but I won’t digress into my laundry list unread love letters.

So us fans decided to head down for a Packer game at the ol’ Murph stadium. We rented a bus – which we immediately crashed at the rental place – but it was drivable. We were all decked out in our Packer regalia, face painted, with pom-poms. During the bus ride down, our Wisconsin native, Bob, did a classic Packer cheese and booze passing. After numerous shots of room temp black berry brandy we arrived at the stadium.

We had an amazing time tailgating and an even better time in the stadium when the Packers won. BTW, it’s the only time I’ve seen the Packers win in person after chasing them all around the U.S. I yelled “God Bless Brett Favre” and then thousands of fans chanted with me as we left the stadium. Back on the road we decided more black berry brandy was critical. So we drank the whole way home. Good call right?

Come the next morning. OH MY GOD. I could hear the ants crawling under my carpet. I was dry heaving while putting on my makeup. And what did the day have in store for me? A huge client meeting with our best client, including all of my Packer peers. We were absolutely DYING in the meeting. We were all taking turns hitting the lieu. Somehow, someway we made it through.

The best Sunday of our lives, turned into the worst Monday imaginable. Funny how such a positive experience can turn negative on a dime. Our bleary eyes made us all regret our decisions. The thrill of the day was lost on a stuffy client lunch, with hangovers that could kill a pack of wolves.

Isn’t this relatable to our experiences at work? Massive success one day, complete failure the next. (I told you there was a moral to this story.)

Shawn Achor has done a ton of research on the idea of linking success to happiness. What precedes happiness—is it really success? What he found is that we’re constantly measured on the average and we’re competitively wired to weed out the weirdos, outliers, and those like our selves—that fall in the bar graph as average. Which sucks, because we all have potential that is outside that damn graph. As we complete our last accomplishment, we just raise our own bar that much higher.

Surprisingly, he found that 75% of participants in his study actually viewed stress as a challenge, rather than a threat. How rad is that—only 25% of the sample defined happiness as success!

He says that its time to escape the cult of the average and that starts with NOT studying the average. Our brains our wired for a certain degree of happiness, but that happiness depends on the lens through which we look. He mentions his peers at Harvard. They were so excited to receive their acceptance letters, but once the stress hit, the privilege diminished. And that colored their view of their experience.

He suggests that we need to move the average up, which we all have the potential to do, but it takes hard work. Does that mean working harder? No.

Rather, we decide to reverse the formula for happiness and success. We decide to be positive in the present. And realize that it is proven that by reversing the cycle, sales people have better sales, doctors give better diagnoses and overall we’re more productive as a society. And with that, working harder, smarter, and more intelligently actually pays off.

So, this is his recommendation. There are 5 things that you can do everyday, for 21 days straight to set you on a new path. But you can’t waiver, everyday for 21 days:

  1. Give gratitude
  2. Journal your experiences, keep it positive though
  3. Exercise
  4. Meditate
  5. Perform random acts of kindness

So what do we need to do to be unhappy? Keep living our lives I guess. Or, we can leverage the “Happiness Advantage”. Can I be happy in a mere 21 days? I personally think that his suggestions are at least worth a try. Like most of you, I would love to be satisfied at work and in my personal life—all along feeling successful—and more importantly, happy.

If you get time, try the model for 21 days and let me know what happens.

Kareer Kandor with Kathy: I Don’t Want to Work for IBM


Time for a new segment in my weekly blog. We’ve taken some emails from our readers and wanted to respond with some suggestions. Not to bring you down or anything, but today we will be covering Corporate Take-Over, Clock Watching, and Inadequacy. Fun stuff.

Craig: “My company just got bought by IBM and I don’t want to work for IBM. What’s my next career move.”

Hey man, I don’t want to work for IBM either. In fact, by Wednesdays I don’t want to work at all. But we don’t have that choice if we want a roof over our heads.

Your facing what I call a “Kill Bill” moment, when you find yourself getting impaled by a Hattori Hanzo Kantana sword. It’s probably time for you to read the writing on Black Mamba’s wagon, if you know what I mean—haha. If you just play the waiting game, you might find yourself with a cup of coffee and a pink slip in hand—a heinous way to start your day.

So, get going on that resume. It’s an arduous task, but start quickly by listing all of your accomplishments, which is way more important to highlight than the mindless tasks you do all day. Need help compiling a list? We usually enlist a Budweiser to help us. If bud or two doesn’t do the job, we’ve found that Sam (Adams) will do just as well in a pinch.

Figure out whom you can count on for a good reference and call them immediately. By reaching out you might also find a job opportunity right under your thumb.

Once your done with the resume, you need to write a kick ass cover letter. This is your time to brag about yourself, even if you have to bend the truth a bit.

Viola, you’re on way to better horizons.

Mike: “I’m so bored at work that I can’t see straight. I spend the majority of my day watching any and every clock in sight. I don’t know what to do next. I’m being euthanized by my work. Help me.”

Tick tock Mike. If the most important thing that you’re doing today is watching the clock, liking Facebook posts, or ordering teacups from amazon.com, then you certainly need a change. Just like Craig above, get that resume together.

But, you might want to go hunt down your supervisor and tell him/her that you’re ready for a new challenge. I had a colleague do the same. He asked his supervisor to mentor him and asked to be moved onto a new product line. Not only did he love the new challenge, he was able to lead a change in the group, met a whole new group of peers, and found it to be very rewarding.

Stop clock-watching Mike and man up.

Kerry: “I’m so sick of my boss marginalizing my contribution. I’m totally dejected and want to barf on my way to work because I hate it so much. What can I do about my demon boss?”

Oh sugar Kerry. This sounds like the typical man vs. woman contest. There’s no reason to ever feel inadequate at work. Just like Mike above, I think that you should start with your supervisor and try to ascertain why you’re being treated like the village idiot.

Take his input, act on it, and see what happens. You would be surprised how easily it is to turn the tables on a man. Us ladies do it all of the time in our personal lives and the same principles apply at work.

If you don’t see any change, I think that you need to visit your HR representative for direction. That might be a severe move, but HR has a lot of pull and you might find that your relationship with your Ogre of a boss will be changed, immediately.

Just make sure that you remain calm, and appropriate with the discussion. No name calling, throwing him under the boss, etc. Remember what Ron Burgundy said, “Keep it Classy San Diego.”

Well, that’s it for this month’s Q&A. Have a question or comment? Lay them on us in the comments below.


3 Ways to Use Vulnerability to Your Advantage

VunerabilityI’ve found myself thinking about how authenticity and fear can actually help me at work. I found a TED Talk from Brené Brown that speaks to The Power of Vunerability, which was relevant to me. Although the content of her presentation had nothing to do with business, her points are truly valuable and transferable as we face the inexorable fight for power as leaders.

These take aways are simple, so I’ll try keep it terse.

  1. Discomfort. Brown tells you to lean into discomfort—which on its on makes me sweat. Excruciating pain and anxiety—yeah, sign me up for that!

She means that we need to understand where our weak points are and dive into the reality of those fears. Are they real? Do they exist? Or have we just built them up in our heads.

The bottom line is that we all have disruption in our minds but we have to forge on and get through it.

It’s like trying to drive a Formula One car in Monaco when you can barely drive 65 miles per hour on the freeway. Go as fast as you can, without worry, and believe that you won’t hit the wall, but can come out on the other side. It’s possible, although I’m not suggesting that you pull a Michael Schumacher on the 405 freeway.

  1. Guarantees. So I have this super hot neighbor. He’s gorgeous, he smells good, he’s super smart, he drives a nice car, and he’s got game. So I decide that I’m going to ask him out. I can’t do it in person, so I text him and wait. And I wait. I have a libation and I wait. Waiting absolutely sucks. I’m having a break down, or some kind of awaking, which sounds better, haha.

I know, intrinsically, that there are no guarantees in life. But I’m somehow bound for a struggle. I’ve been born to make myself perfect and I think that I have control when really I have none. I toil over what has happened, but if I look back, there’s nothing there. All I have is this moment.

But I try so hard to predict everything. At work I feel like if I can’t measure it, then it doesn’t exist. I’m always walking around with a ruler. I’ve become addicted to answers. Sound familiar?

This notion is NOT the birthplace of success and creativity. To truly lead, we need to put the guarantees aside. Its time to put down the yard stick and just go for it. We know that there are rules, but let’s commit today to break them. Yell right in the face of “no guarantees” and swing for the fences. Because if we don’t at least try—then we fail.

By the way, he did text me back. And we did go out. And it was a kick ass time.

  1. We think we’re connected—email, text, Facebook, Twitter.

But are we really making true connections? We’re not. There’s something in fear that keeps us disconnected, always building walls around us for protection.

I’m not good enough to be promoted. I’m not strong enough to find the solution. I’m not honest enough with myself to get through a performance review.

We live disconnected because it’s easy and how we’re wired.

But if we brought ourselves into the “now” and became connected we would find purpose and meaning in our professional and personal lives. This means breaking it down—which sounds very clique but very true. By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to judgment we can become better co-workers and exceptional leaders.

Connected, we can find better opportunities, strive for much higher levels of success, and realize the great potential in the projects and teams that we manage. It comes down to this—we need to find a sense of worthiness and belonging.

Do Superheroes Exist?

SupermanI recently watched another TED Talk, this one by Margaret Hefferman. (I’m watching a lot of TED.com lately.) She talks about the “pecking order” at work and the suppression of employees that aren’t the super stars. Her talk was captivating, especially because many think to themselves that this is “my company.”

Maybe we work for a boss that takes all of the credit, or a peer that is so focused on his individual work that he resists collaboration. Or maybe, you’re at a company where upper management pits people against each other, only motivated by the bottom line over anything else. Whatever the situation, if you’re in it, it sucks.

So what is it about the Superman that keeps employers so interested? Superman is about one man. Just one.

But isn’t it true that these types of people actually spawn competition, dysfunction, and aggressiveness amongst teams? Isn’t this the type of environment that actually squashes productivity?

We’re now born to compete, but having to do that at work is ridiculous and uninspiring.

Hefferman introduces a concept called social capital, the idea that the relationships between people, and groups of people is what really counts. The bonds, loyalty, and trust that people develop between each other is what really gives companies momentum.

And just like an professional sports team, its time that builds this foundation. Because with time, teams get better and smarter.

I found this to be true during my MBA. I went to Pepperdine and we did everything in a group setting. Not only did I make great friends, I had help, which I needed desperately because I didn’t have all of the answers. We got to the point where we became safe together. Although at times there was conflict, the candor that emerged between us brought out the best in each of us and creativity was born.

Hefferman went to one of her clients and she found that they instituted a rule where there were no coffee cups allowed at desks. They wanted people to congregate around the coffee pot, just to talk, and get to know each other. What a novel, organic, idea.

MIT studied the notion of high achieving groups. And what they found is that the aggregate IQ’s of high achieving groups didn’t lead to more success. In fact, what they did find is the groups with a high level of teamwork and empathy for each other actually performed better. These groups treated each other like peers, they worked together, they got to know each other, and many were women.

Fostering teamwork and relationships is a high stakes proposition.

But what is really at stake here is breeding energy and imagination. Hefferman said that “companies don’t have ideas, people do.” And that right there is the impetus to behave differently at work.

Ideas don’t come from Superman, they come from a legion of super-heroes that challenge each other and ask for support find the best solution. This is the idea that togetherness becomes commonplace and relationships become authentic.