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‘Lessons Learned’ Category

  1. The Homelessness Discussion I Overheard at Work

    May 26, 2016 by Lady Unemployed

    image

    I found this photo above five years ago. Seems more fitting for me now than five years ago.

    The thing is there is a homelessness problem near my job. Homeless camps, drug users, people have been photographed shooting up and having sex on sidewalks, people have had tents and camps on sidewalks in front of my building.

    So it isn’t great. And it makes me uncomfortable enough I did buy pepper spray to carry with me when I walked to my bus. And I would be a liar if I didn’t say I wish this crowd was somewhere else.

    But as I hear the owner of my company plead with city officials to fix the problem and groups organize to document the footage of what goes on around us, sometimes I feel sad about what all this sounds like.

    What made it worse and what made me want to blog about it was a discussion I overheard in the break room.

    I walked in to get coffee and I overheard with tones of disgust two coworkers talking about the surrounding problem.

    And I can’t remember the conversation verbatim but it left me feeling like we could apply that same discussion to a pest control discussion.

    “Some even have cell phones!” One woman said with disgust.

    I turned and said, “Oh I think shelters give those out or so I’ve heard.”

    The conversation died. But I thought…

    The homelessness we see are people just like us. Kids who have become adults who once had dreams and desires to become something that surely didn’t include shooting up on the street and digging through garbage cans. And I know it’s not as simple as that. Nothing is.

    I learned in college we are people first. These are people.

    And from what I’ve learned in my own situation of barely making ends meet things can go off track so badly. So I think as I walk down the street trying to get to work and ignore the obvious pain all around me….there but for the grace of God go I.

    I don’t want to judge my coworkers too harshly. I am not exactly striving to be part of the solution. I cross the street when I see tents surrounding the city block, look away when I see signs begging for money, shake my head sadly when I hear people asking for me change and I don’t exactly volunteer either.

    But I just wonder if we started talking about this problem differently what would change. If we started thinking of those who we see struggling the most as people first instead of as an insect infestation that must be gotten rid of.

    Just a thought I wanted to share.


  2. Can You Change a Toxic Work Environment?

    April 8, 2016 by Lady Unemployed

    Does your work environment need this sign like mine does? : (license)

    Does your work environment need this sign like mine does? : (license)

    It’s been a long time since I posted here, hasn’t it? Not much has changed. I’m still at the job that I started a few years ago and I’m sort of in the waiting game on when to make the next move. I’m also unsure of what that will be.

    But I had a few observations of my work environment that I wanted to write about. It was inspired by a Google search that resulted in me finding my own blog post. (Do You Enjoy Seeing Coworkers Get in Trouble? circa 2013)

    To give you some background, it is in regards to a woman I worked with only once. It was my turn to prepare for these Friday meetings (a temporary job duty that rotated every few months). She stepped in when it was my turn (after I had done it several times) and gave me a list of things that I needed to improve on (delivery is everything and she did it in an underhanded way that was very mean). It turned my liking of her very sour and when I see her I don’t smile and neither does she back at me. We coexist without conflict mostly because we only had to work with each other on a temporary thing.

    Well, lately, I overheard this same person getting in trouble over something she had done wrong that incidentally ended up rubbing a supervisor from my department the wrong way. I would be lying if I said that I felt bad for this person I didn’t like. In fact, I was even mildly relieved. Relieved, because it was nice to see that just because this woman I didn’t like is inherently catty acting, doesn’t mean she will be able to get away from the cattiness of other people. Does that make sense?

    I did feel bad though that I took a secret enjoyment out of this woman getting in trouble. It’s pretty obvious that I’ve been working in a toxic environment for too long. I do make a point to NOT repeat the same behavior that has not only hurt people I didn’t like, but also has hurt me and others that I wished it hadn’t happened to.

    I’m not sure the take away from this except to say that I think I need a change.


  3. 5 Tips on How to Handle a Manipulative Coworker

    August 24, 2014 by Lady Unemployed

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    For the past two years, my “difficult coworker” has been a thorn in my side since I started. About a month into starting this job, I experienced my “difficult coworker’s” bad attitude in addition to dealing with manipulative and bitchy remarks and tactics to make me look bad in the department. After a while, despite valid complaints, I was told by my supervisor to “live and let live.”

    Ha.

    If you’ve ever worked around this type of personality that will not leave you alone and are constantly finding ways to make you look bad, you will know “live and let live” is near to impossible.

    There are tactics though that I have learned – often the hard way – to make your work life manageable. The type of office environment where this particular type of attitude is allowed makes office politics an Olympic event. You need to be smart, quick, and learn who your enemies are.

    Here are five tips I can pass along when you are working around a manipulative coworker.

    1) Know that upper management doesn’t want to hear your complaints.

    Unless your coworker violates policy or out-and-out harasses you, your boss doesn’t want to hear it. I learned this the hard way. The downside is that if you DO bring office politics issues to your boss, more than likely, YOU will soon become the difficult party (not playing well with others, etc).

    I wouldn’t recommend suffering in silence, though. It will only make the behavior worse. Sometimes simply asking your boss their opinion on how to deal with a difficult matter (concerning this person) it’s enough to spotlight the difficult personality in the room. This is also showing you are willing to deal with this person without making it a huge deal, but that you need some help or advice (i.e. willing to play with others).

    You may find that your boss DOES want to step in or that your boss will confirm that “this difficult person” is KNOWN to be difficult. You want this conversation to happen. So I wouldn’t run off and tell your boss so-and-so is being mean, but say instead that you are having a problem with how so-and-so is dealing with a certain issue and don’t know how to approach the matter.

    However…

    2) Attempt to resolve the conflict directly (in some fashion).

    In my experience, the difficult coworker isn’t just difficult with one issue. I mean, sure, everyone has their touchy areas at work or territorial attitudes about some things, but this particular type of personality is relentless. Once you feel like ONE thing is resolved, they find something else to be a pain in the butt about.

    So, while I hate being confrontational, I would recommend TRYING to have a conversation with this person about what you are having a hard time with. Sometimes clearing the air will let you know if this is just a specific scenario or if it’s really their overall personality.

    Also, this is important to figure out, because your boss will want to know you have tried. And when you discuss this with your boss, you can use OTHER scenarios where you’ve tried to handle it directly with this difficult coworker and the results of those attempts. This will further prove why you need your boss’ input on “how” to deal with this personality.

    For my situation, I learned pretty quickly that direct confrontation only made the matter worse. And I also couldn’t go directly to my boss after figuring THAT out the hardway.

    This leads me to # 3…

    3) Observe their interactions with other people, but don’t gossip.

    This person will have friends in the office. I promise. I am a bit of a blabbermouth in terms of needing to vent difficult situations to SOMEONE, ANYONE at times. I learned not everyone wants to hear it and (gasp) someone may actually LIKE the very person giving you a hard time. ALSO, fellow coworkers will want to use your difficult situations as a way to boost their relations with the difficult coworker (if you are the black sheep in the department, that means THEY are not the black sheep).

    Be smart. Observe their interactions with others. You can usually spot in your department the person who avoids chatting with your difficult coworker. Also, take advantage of moments when you DO see someone having a hard time. Be THEIR listening ear. I know this sounds awful, but by using their hard time, you will get someone on your side.

    4) Choose your battles.

    It can be very easy to sucked into their game and get you very competitive and ruthless in your attempts to supercede their status in the department. Don’t do it, because this can blind you from your own career goals. Don’t work 10 hour days for a promotion you ONLY want, because this difficult coworker does too.

    Sure this person may shoot you dirty looks across the room when you meet their eye, but you don’t have to confront every instance of it.

    5) Don’t let them silent your voice.

    I’ve had experiences where my difficult coworker ended up taking an idea that I had first shared with her. That was a bad mistake. I’ve also had situations where my coworker shot down ideas for no other reason but to disagree with me. It’s a manipulation tactic to silence your opinion. It’s never completely obvious but you will know when it happens to you.

    I’ve learned the hard way to speak up first to the entire department OR implement the idea without including this coworker at all. No, they won’t like it. Yes, they’ll try to find ways to get back at you. But it’s important you don’t hide away your voice at work just because this person doesn’t like you. The second they realize they can silent you, it will only get worse.

    I’m still learning of course, but the best thing I’ve learned from this job is how to deal with a manipulative, difficult coworker.

    What are your experiences dealing with a manipulative coworker? Do you have any tips on how to handle a manipulative coworker? Any lessons learned the hard way?


  4. The Perils of a Poorly Written Job Posting [A Guest Post by Marc Schaefer]

    June 14, 2014 by Lady Unemployed

    poorly written job posting

     

    I find it infuriating when a job seeker, such as myself, spends a great deal of time and energy crafting a resume and cover letter to match a poorly written job posting that neglects to mention key skill requirements.   Back in March, I applied for a government position in the parks department in the city where I live.    It entailed overseeing events at park facilities, which was a line of work I had done for the last two seasons for a non-profit.   It was only a part-time position, but I thought it could be a good opportunity to land a full-time position down the road.   In addition to spending over 30 minutes filling out a new applicant profile on the job site, I uploaded a keyword-rich resume and a position-targeted T-letter.   I not only met, but exceeded all the listed experience requirements in the job posting.

    Just after Memorial Day, I got a call from the event coordinator at the parks department (not surprisingly, the government moves very slowly).   He said he’d like to have me come in for an interview.   We agreed on a time and a date.   Then, I prepped for the interview.   Wrote down any and all responses to possible questions:  “Tell me about yourself,”   “Describe a time when you had to deal with a stressful situation,” and “Was there ever a time you disagreed with a company policy?” (a trick question HR people bring up to probe complacency).   With a fresh haircut, I entered the interview full of confidence.   It was a two-headed interview, with the event coordinator/potential boss and HR manager firing away questions at close-range.   The preparation proved valuable and I handed the inquiry well.

    Then, the event coordinator asked if I had any experience using event-scheduling software in my previous job.   That was very odd.   Although the job posting required previous office administrative duties, which I had years of under my belt, there was no mention of any particular software skills.   In response, I mentioned I did have experience utilizing Microsoft Office applications for scheduling projects in the past and I am able to learn new skills in minimal time.    By the end of the interview, I thought I was in good shape.

    Last Tuesday, I got a call from the event coordinator.   He said he appreciated me coming in for the interview, but…. as soon as I heard the word “but”, I knew I didn’t get the job.   So as a follow-up, I asked what was the key skill or experience that the ideal candidate had that I did not.   He said the candidate had the event scheduling software experience that they were seeking.   In addition, the software background they wanted (which would avoid any prolonged on-the-job training) involved a closed-sourced, proprietary software that many municipalities use.   In my head, I having a WTF reactionary moment, but the words never surfaced.    He did say that there may be something “in the future” and that he’ll keep me in mind if something does comes up.

    It’s one thing to read a job posting and realize you don’t meet all the experience requirements.   Not getting a response if you’re underqualified is logical.    It’s entirely a different thing to find out you don’t meet the requirements after the interview is over.   It feels like you’ve wasted a good chunk of time, energy and emotion.

    So to all the hiring mangers, HR personnel and recruiters out there, please, check your job posting requirements.   Twice.   We don’t want to waste your time and you shouldn’t waste ours.


  5. Can You Find Happiness at Work?

    May 14, 2014 by Lady Unemployed

    happiness at work

    Today while doing my usual work activities, under headphones I listened to a documentary I had playing in the background of my work screens. The documentary was about happiness, entitled Happiness Is and I highly recommend it).

    This made me think about my happiest work experiences (among other facets of my life where I’ve been happy or unhappy, but mostly I wanted to talk about my work experiences since this is an employment/unemployment blog). And I thought about when I was the happiest at work.

    There are a few things that make me happy at work and it isn’t exactly a fancy title and a corner office with a six figure salary. Realistically speaking, I’m not even sure I’m willing to give over of myself to any company to earn a position quite like that, but I do have to work to pay the bills and that does mean that I will probably be spending the majority of my days at work.

    I’m not happy where I work right now, but I know I have been and can be happy while I’m working.

    So here’s a few things that have made me happy at work (of course, nostalgia can give you rose-colored glasses about the past; I know I haven’t been entirely happy everywhere I work, but I would say there are elements that have made me enjoy work and even laugh at work, which is not an aspect for me right now).

    1) Connection with coworkers.

    I remember I worked as an admin for a cell phone company once and I really enjoyed some of my interactions there. I ended up walking off the job and looking back, I think the trigger point for me to eventually leave was how isolated I became from everyone towards the end. I had developed coworker friends in the office, but they didn’t last and it got to be impossible for me to rebuild any new ones.

    But I can remember vividly early on being in the lunch room of this company, actually enjoying my lunch hour, and laughing a lot with some of my coworkers. Sometimes we would laugh about customers we each would talk to, other times it was about our personal lives, and it got to be a time during the day I enjoyed the most.

    Things changed of course, but looking back, I realize I enjoy interacting with coworkers and laughing and being on an even playing field instead of feeling an ugly sense of competition with them.

    2) Variety of job duties and responsibilities.

    My first job out of high school, I got promoted twice inside of about one year. Plus, I even got to change around desks and connect with new and different people in the company. It wasn’t a great place to work, but I loved the variety of challenges and opportunity.

    Right now I feel stuck where I work, and promotions are few and far between for anyone here. I realize now that I like having the opportunity to take on new responsibility and change around my day a bit. I like variety and having a monotonous work schedule depresses me.

    3) Shorter commute.

    I spend about nine to ten hours a week on my commute (the morning commute lasts about 45 minutes, the afternoon can take up to an hour). This is the first time I haven’t been twenty minutes from home. My first job out of high school was a ten minute drive from home, my first job out of college was about a twenty minute drive from home. My admin job in between college was about twenty minutes from home.

    For me, whether I’m driving or taking public transportation, a commute means stress. And I don’t like 10 extra hours of stress when I’m already taking 40 plus hours a week of stress at work. Plus, I associate my commute with work and right now, commute included, I work about 55 hours a week (10 of which, aren’t paid, of course).

    So, to summarize – connection, variety, and short commute may just be the key to me finding happiness at work. Sure, every job has a downside. But the down side should definitely be outweighed by the good.

    Have you found happiness at work? What makes you the happiest?


  6. My Ode to the Delayed Extension of Long-Term Unemployment Benefits

    May 6, 2014 by Lady Unemployed

    Is it just me or does anyone else hear crickets in terms of the extension of long-term unemployment benefits?

    Nope, didn’t think it was just me.

    And it seems to me, that it’s highly unlikely that extension will ever happen if it’s gone on this long.

    So, here’s my ode to the delay in extending long-term unemployment benefits:


  7. Interview Questions I Wished I Asked (And One I Wished They Answered Honestly)

    March 12, 2014 by Lady Unemployed

    comics-dilbert-job-interview-865505

    I’ve been at my job for over a year now and while it may sound like I’m oversimplifying a bit, all I do during the day is data entry. I can’t imagine much changing either – at least not any time soon.

    The nice thing about having a job that I don’t like is that it sharpens the job qualities I am looking for. The thing is when I first interviewed for this job, there are certain interview questions I wished I had asked based on the values that I know mean more to me than they ever had before.

    Here’s a couple of questions –

    1) Is there any variety to my job duties?

    I would have learned that, no, there isn’t any variety to my job duties at present. I wished I had asked this because at this point, I am very aware of how much I need variety to my day. Montonous work makes me want to run screaming from the building.

    2) What is the management style of the department?

    This would have been a fantastic question because when I interviewed I was in front of three levels of management. Their answers would have brought out the true colors of the micromanaging quality of some and the “invisible” “non-management” style of others. This has made for a toxic, untrustworthy work environment.

    If I had asked those questions, I think I would have a unique perspective on the work environment that would have helped me figure out whether I really wanted to take the job or not.

    The question I wished had been answered honestly was why the job was available. They told me the reason was someone moved onto another job. The truth is the person I would have been helping was difficult and had gone through three people AFTER that person had left.

    What questions do you ask during interviews? Are there questions you wish you COULD ask but don’t?

     


  8. I’m Not Moving Up at Work (And Why)

    March 10, 2014 by Lady Unemployed

    Lately at work I seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock represents my desire to move up but the hard place represents the fact that I don’t want to move up in my department. The bottom line is – I’m not moving up at work and it’s (partially) my own fault.

    This has resulted in a laborious feeling of continue to try and do a good job yet feeling stuck at the same time. I’ve already expressed to my boss(es) that I don’t want to advance in the career track my role represents, but I don’t want to stay in my current position. I’ve been in this role about a year and a half now and I am not learning anything new nor am I taking on new responsibility. I’m restless and unhappy with what I do.

    What do I want to do instead, though?

    I want to work with social media, blogging, and writing. Tragically, social media jobs right now pay minimum wage (a sign of their value, I think). And the only well paying job that deals with this type of work has a title of “management” slapped to it with the requirement you need five to ten years experience or more (has social media been around ten years by the way?).

    I do look around, but I’m not finding anything. Plus, I’m left with this awful feeling of being disappointed I’m not getting recognized at work and yet hoping I can move on into a better suitable position, more than likely outside of this company.

    And yes, I have told them the areas I want to work in – and it wouldn’t be that far off the company would have work in those three areas – but they stare at me with a blank look like I’ve asked to lick their shoes clean. It obviously won’t happen and I’ve told them twice now the areas I want to move into and how I feel about this current job.

    so, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I know I’m not alone and a lot of people are stuck these days – this blog is proof of that – but I just needed to vent about it.


  9. A Billion Entrepreneuers – A Crowd Funded Film

    February 24, 2014 by Lady Unemployed


    This is a sponsored post. The opinions expressed in this post are my own.

    Recently I talked about the ways we can get ourselves out of this economic, joblessness and underemployed rut. One of the ways we can do this is by helping people start their own business.

    When I found out about this opportunity to talk about a movie that believes in exactly this same solution, I jumped at the chance to share this with my readers. I hope in same way you find this as inspiring as I do.

    Before I get into further details, take a look at this video –

    What I love about this movie and this project is that it follows a variety of people who have ideas that they want to turn into a business. If we start making “entrepreneurship” attainable and not so out of reach for the everyday, regular person, I think more of us would get in line for that.

    I truly believe this movie falls right in line with my idea of “teaching people to fish.” We need to learn how to fish to get by these days. The regular jobs that pay well and hire people regularly don’t exist anymore. It seems like you are either underemployed, low paid, or not employed at all.

    I really believe in this movie and in this cause I highly recommend you check this film out and see how you can become a part of this movement.

    To fund this movie, go to their IndieGoGo page at –

    http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/abethemovie

    To subscribe to their cause and join the movement, visit this website and subscribe – http://www.abillionentrepreneurs.com/join-the-movement/

    Thank you to A Billion Entrepreneurs for sponsoring this post.


  10. 5 Ideas to Help the Unemployed and Underemployed

    February 1, 2014 by Lady Unemployed

    I think these days a lot of the people who are struggling the most financially fall under two categories:

    1) You are having trouble finding permanent, full time employment.

    or

    2) You have a job, but you are barely making ends meet.

    Or some combination of the two.

    There are ways out of this if we could all start thinking outside the box. I don’t mean to sound like I’m describing a pollyanna bullsh*t solution where I may as well have a banner on my blog that bleats out a scam of “this is how I made my first million.” I mean, real solutions that should be implemented by a non-profit, government, or some other group. Or just everyday, regular people like us.

    And I want there to be solutions for adults. Not just the young. But for adults at any age. Adults with or without kids. Because my thinking is if you can help out the adult, you are also helping out their kids, too (if they happen to have any). And even if they don’t have kids, you are also helping out the overall happy factor that seems to be lacking in our society these days. You are helping out a future consumer. A future shopper. A future “let’s go out to dinner and improve the local economy.”

    So, here’s a few ideas I had in mind –

    1) Help people start their own business.

    No, I don’t mean free crap seminars that puff you up with horsecrap motivation that only deflates the second you leave. I mean, there should be a place where an ordinary you and me can walk into and say, “I want to start a business.” and there be someone on the other side that you can sit with, share some ideas with, and figure out a way to get the idea off the ground. Let it be like a version of “Shark Tank,” the show where rich people fund profitable products and ideas. Well, take that off a major network and bring that to cities everywhere.

    Because in reality, there may be some ideas I have rolling around in my head or even just the concept of owning a business, but it’s hard to do that when I don’t know what I’m doing. I’d like to talk with someone who can handhold me through the entire process. And not someone who will charge $150 an hour for consulting work.

    Get real people to own their own company and you will have found that person a job.

    2) Give tax credits for businesses who hire the long-term unemployed.

    I’ve talked about this before and I stand by what I said – give companies a tax credit for hiring the unemployed. Simple as that – give companies a motivation to hire the long-term unemployed. No, lengthy unemployment shouldn’t even be a factor. But it is and we need to fix that.

    3) Free software and skill classes.

    Okay, yes, libraries do offer basic excel and word classes and so do some unemployment centers. It’s a start. But what about things like Adobe Photoshop. Or Quickbooks. Or teaching people how to sew or knit and how to sell their items to Etsy. Or design their own websites so maybe one day they can sell web design services.

    Think about situations like the guy who taught a guy who was homeless how to code.It’s less about how much money we make in society. Yes, that’s a major part of it, but what about that expression – give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.

    We need to start teaching more people how to fish.

    4) Bring more communities together – outside of Craigslist.

    If you go to Craigslist, you will find a mass of postings from people within your city. Some people selling items or some offering housing or some looking for jobs. That’s fine and good and all. But what about your neighbors around you? The people who live near you. How do you know if they are selling something or if their company was hiring or if they need someone to babysit Friday night?

    Maybe this is because I live in a big city, but their is less and less of a community feeling to where I live and I think if we brought neighborhoods together, we would find helping each other beneficial. Start bringing communities together. Heck, bring back good ole fashioned paper classifieds. Start a classified section for your block or apartment complex. Let’s become a community together instead of the isolated society we have become.

    5) Make random acts of kindness really cool.

    I think in every city or county there needs to be a center for random acts of kindness. People who come together to do kind things. No, not once a year around Christmas. But going out and doing things to make people’s lives happier. Make kindness matter. Make it the next cool thing. Make helping people – anyone – the next hottest thing to do. No, this has nothing to do with employment or underemployment – not really – but somehow, I think the two relate.