Debra Wheatman, President of Careers Done Write, provides expert insight to the job search process that puts your career in gear with tips for interviewing, networking, job search strategies and how to create a winning resume and cover letter.
I have a question that I’m sure you’ve heard before. When I’m in meetings at work, I’m often the only woman in the room/on the call. My male colleagues continuously interrupt me, talk over me, and dismiss what I’m saying. I’ve spoken with my manager (who is a man) privately about this, and he said that he would address it, but nothing changes. I’ve also asked the interrupters to please let me finish speaking. While that works in the moment, it doesn’t seem to have a lasting effect.
What would you suggest?
You are describing an all-too-common occurrence. This happens with such frequency that it has become rote. And before I get commenters pointing out that women do this too, let me say, yes, women do this also. But the majority of the perpetrators are men. From an early age, men are taught that this is okay. And girls are taught that this is just the way things are. This is a huge cultural barrier to women in the workforce.
You’ve already addressed this behavior with your manager, and it hasn’t resolved. You have also attempted to call out the rude and dismissive behavior of your colleagues, without any permanent change in their behavior. So here is what I suggest.
The next time you’re interrupted, stop talking, but also stop paying attention. Do not absorb anything the person who interrupted you is saying. Don’t nod your head in assent, or lean in. Stare off blankly as you listen to the blithering noise. When the noise stops, you take over again. You state the following words, “I was not finished speaking when you interrupted me.”
Then, start back at the beginning. Repeat everything you said previously, and finish your thoughts. I don’t care if this takes 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Hold your ground. Give exactly ZERO credence or relevance to the person who interrupted you. He is the one being rude, not you.
I’ve found that in most situations like this, it is best to approach the situation by asking yourself, “What would a man do here?” And then proceed as such. Hopefully, your coworkers will get the point, and will not want to sit through this repetitive nonsense, and will learn to shut up. Will they think you’re abrasive, cold, b*tchy? Absolutely. But that’s better than being the doormat.
Stop allowing them to treat you this way, and they probably will learn their lesson. It might cost you some “friends,” but you will gain self-esteem and confidence.
Thanks for your advice as to what I should do about my boss who doesn’t seem to care about anything. I did as you suggested, and invited his manager for coffee. I told him that I really enjoy working with the team and that I learned a lot on the last project we did together. Then I asked him if he had other projects that could use my assistance because I understood that bandwidth was quite tight. He thanked me for being proactive in meeting him, and that he appreciated my enthusiasm. He said he didn’t realize that I had the bandwidth and that he was glad to hear it. The short story is that I’ve been put in charge of the summer intern, and I’ve been asked to help write a team charter. Our company is trying to up its game with our intern program, and this year, all of the interns need to make a two-minute presentation to our CEO. I will be working with the intern to manage his work and to help him with his presentation. As for the team charter, I was a part of the initial brainstorming session on that, and I’m excited to be able to help put it into action.
I now have a biweekly meeting with the boss’s boss, where we discuss projects, progress, and potential uses of my time. He was very pleased to hear that one of the first things I did was to require anyone wanting to use the intern’s time to submit a written project request so that I could vet it to see if it was appropriate. “I don’t want our interns spending their summers doing low value, copy-and-paste tasks,” was his exact quote.
At our next meeting, I’m going to suggest that I start a special client group on LinkedIn and that I serve as the admin of that. Not only will that be good for our business unit, but it will be great for his personal branding. I never mentioned my boss—not once. You are right—he has his number, and he is not really relevant anymore.
Thanks so much.
Thanks for writing, and I’m so glad that this has worked out. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but you are well poised to make yourself valuable beyond the microcosm of your current boss. Your involvement with the internship program is fantastic. Employers of choice take their internship programs seriously and want to use it as a way to recruit top talent. It sounds like that’s the direction your company is taking. That means your involvement with the internship program is high-visibility. I know you will excel. As for the team charter, that is another high profile project. And I think your idea of the client group on LinkedIn is fantastic. Not only does that promote the business, but as you point out, it helps your boss’s boss’s professional brand. Appealing to that is very wise.
Please stay in touch and let me know how things work out. But I am so happy to hear this update!
LinkedIn is a professional website where professionals can grow their network. However, in recent months, people have seemed to confuse their LinkedIn accounts with other forms of social media such as Facebook or Twitter by posting things more suited for those platforms. I have compiled a list of five of the most unprofessional things I have seen people post on their LinkedIn profiles and will explain to you why none of these are appropriate to post.
Unless you work for a Trump company, the name Donald Trump has no place on your LinkedIn profile page. Whether you love him, hate him or are indifferent towards him, his policies have nothing to do with what you bring to the table as a professional. Please save your praises or hatred for your next family gathering.
Other Political Posts
Unless it directly impacts your industry, posting about politics is never wise. Before posting, consider if you would go into the office and announce these thoughts in your break room to your coworkers and colleagues. If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t be posting it publicly for the whole world to see just because you’re behind the keyboard. Politics are divisive and inappropriate to discuss on your LinkedIn profile.
Relationship Troubles/Advice/Lonely Feelings
I mean, really? Your LinkedIn network is not your relationship counselor. Please spare us the troubles you are going through or your profound love advice. The worst offenders are the people who flirt with other users on the website over public comments and posts. This is not OKCupid- this is LinkedIn and should be treated accordingly.
Random Updates about Your Day
LinkedIn is not your diary. Updates about what you’re eating, doing or anything of that nature are not appropriate for a professional website. Don’t be mistaken; your posts should be a bit personal in nature. However, your personality should shine through professionally-driven posts and not by posting about the eggs you had for breakfast.
Promotional posts to branded or nonbranded content are fine, but posts that have zeros for O’s or strange arrows that lead to questionable links are not. To avoid spam being posted on your LinkedIn, it is essential to monitor what you are posting on a regular basis and change your password if posts are being made that you do not recognize. If you see posts that seem off or automatically generated, be cautious before clicking because your profile could be a target for spammers. The last thing you want to be shown as your professional image is spam content.
The bottom line
LinkedIn is a professional website. You might be looking for a new role or simply maintaining your network. Regardless of your reason for being on LinkedIn keep your posts and engagement professional. Your brand will thank you.
We have all heard the adage that winners don’t quit. Quitting is for, well, quitters! Sure, it’s not good practice to give up on something simply because it’s difficult, or because you haven’t had immediate success. But what about strategic quitting?
Strategic quitting is the practice of using quitting to your advantage and knowing and identifying when and what to stop. Continuing with non-productive tasks and activities is a waste of your resources. There is at least one thing in your life right now that you know you should not be doing. It doesn’t feel right. It’s wearing you down. It’s keeping you from achieving your goals.
Pursuing that which does not advance your vision is an exercise in futility. A good example of this is a manager who focuses so much on the minute details of a project that she loses both sight of and grip on the end goal. Twenty four revisions on something. “I think we should use ‘annually’ instead of ‘yearly.’” People who do this need to quit – not quit their jobs but quit being so down “in the weeds.”
Then there are the folks whose products have been losing money despite promotional efforts and aggressive sales tactics. They need to quit. Devoting an hour to a product that doesn’t have the potential for profit means there is one hour fewer to focus on something that can make money.
I understand. It’s scary to quit. To admit that perhaps you’ve failed. You’ve invested so much of your time, endured so many sacrifices. “Quitting is not an option,” is the mantra. If you quit now, all of your efforts will go to waste, and that is terrifying. The prospect of giving up can be paralyzing.
Think about your resources as an economist would. What is the ROI on your time? Do the long-term costs outweigh the short-term benefits? What is the future outlook?
In managing your career, it’s imperative to know when to quit. If you’ve reached an impasse in your current role, you might want to consider looking for a new one. If your field is being automated and humans are being replaced with machines, no amount of effort on your part will stave off the inevitable. You need to figure out something else. You need to quit thinking that all you can do is what you’ve always done.
Strategic quitting is liberating. It is power. Quitting isn’t failure. Quitting can be smart. You create an overall strategy, and you don’t quit that. You quit low-value tactics. Strategic quitting isn’t lazy—it is forceful. It moves you forward toward your end goal.
Sometimes, a firmly held belief I have is validated by an outside source. And usually, this makes me feel vindicated and relieved. But on occasion, a closely held belief is proven to be true, and the result is that I am angry and disgusted. Such was the case when I read this article in the New York Times. I always knew that women were routinely and blatantly discriminated against in the workplace for becoming mothers. The article in the Times provides empirical evidence supporting this belief, and it is simultaneously both shocking and not surprising.
We know that women are paid, on average, 28% less than their male counterparts. What is not factored into that equation are the varied non-quantified ways in which women in the workforce are forced to work for less. Consider the fact that, as the Times reports, pregnant women and mothers are steered away from high-profile assignments and are slighted at bonus season. The investigation found that each child a woman has reduces her earnings by 4%. In contrast, each child a man has increases his earnings by 6%.
There certainly are women who choose to step back from their careers to focus on their families. And there is the whole other issue of the lack of access to quality, affordable childcare in the US. (As an aside, it is worth noting that the US remains the only developed country that does not have a mandatory paid parental leave policy.) But for women who do wish to continue working and progressing in their careers, getting pregnant and having a child creates an involuntary setback.
Pregnant women and women with children are routinely passed over for promotions and are often told outright that they are no longer valued members of their teams. There has been ample non-partisan scholarship on this subject, and the conclusion is unanimous. In Corporate America, becoming pregnant and having children is viewed as a liability.
Women represent more than half of the American workforce. Is it a good management strategy to alienate and to abuse half of your employees? Of course not. And to change this, a cultural shift needs to take place at the highest levels of management. While I will agree that the reasons for gender discrimination are quite complex—societal and cultural norms, historical contexts, individual family backgrounds, and experiences—the solution to ending discrimination is easy. Create a culture that does not discriminate against women on the basis of their gender. Pregnancy and motherhood are statuses which exist only on the basis of one’s gender. Just stop it, and pay people fairly and equitably.
The US loves to tout its focus on “family values.” But until Corporate America truly accepts that the typical American family comes in many different forms and that the two kids, mom at home, suburban lifestyle is the exception and not the rule, the concept of “family values” will ring hollow. If this country really wants to support families, business leaders need to step up and advocate for women in terms of equal pay, fair opportunity, access to resources, and support for parents of both genders.
I have been in my current role for a little more than two years. During that time, my group has undergone a major reorganization and I have a new boss. When I first began reporting to him, I thought that he was incompetent. But as time has gone on, I realized that he’s not incompetent—he just does not care. He has not made his revenue goals for the last two years, and he does not seem to care. It’s like he is on a paid vacation. While that’s fine for him, I worry about myself and my role. The president of our division very clearly does not think that this guy is worth anything. The writing is on the wall, and there’s no way he’s going to be around much longer.
While I think that it’s in the best interest of the business to cut this guy loose, I don’t want to get cut loose as well. I have a good rapport with his manager, and over the last few months, he has assigned me to several new projects, independent of my current manager. I feel like I should talk to him and tell him that I’m worried about what may be coming down the pike and ask how stable my job is.
What are your thoughts on this approach?
Thanks for writing. This is an uncomfortable situation to be in, for sure. For starters, your boss’s boss is well aware of your boss’s performance, but you do not know what exactly the plan is. However, someone who consistently misses numbers usually doesn’t stay around too long. Just because your boss is not a top performer does not mean that by default you aren’t. And if you’re a top performer, it’s been noticed. Why else would the boss’s boss put you on his pet projects?
Here’s what you do. You set up a meeting with the boss’s boss to talk to him about special projects. You tell him that you really enjoy working with him, and that you would love to take on additional projects that he has. Tell him that you know that his bandwidth is limited (everyone’s is) and that you would like to help.
The important thing here is that you make the focus on what you can do for the team. Do not say anything about your boss. He is completely irrelevant. This is a conversation about you and about how awesome you are. You need to align yourself with high profile projects and make yourself indispensable. Your concern is not with your boss. If he’s an idiot, that’s his problem.
Melville’s great white whale, Moby Dick, is perhaps the best-known metaphor in American literature. In the eponymous novel, the whale is not only the object of Captain Ahab’s obsession, but it also represents that which he cannot have, no matter how hard he tries. Ahab’s obsession with the great white whale is what ultimately leads to his downfall. Not only does the whale win in the end game, but the entire crew of the Pequod, including Ahab himself, die as a result of his compulsive drive to capture the elusive creature.
Moby Dick is a novel that addresses the common human experience of desiring that which we cannot have or that which does not exist. Ponce de Leon traipsed around Florida looking for the fountain of youth. Cervantes’ antihero Don Quixote chased windmills across Castilla y La Mancha during Spain’s golden era. But what do any of these, let alone a classic 19th century American novel have to do with 21st century business practices? Much, actually.
From my vantage point as a career coach, I can say with certainty that far too many managers spend their time chasing their personal white whales rather than focusing on the strengths that their people have. In recruiting circles, this is referred to as the “purple squirrel” or “unicorn” syndrome. These terms refer to mystical candidates who have every single criterion a management team could dream up. A purple squirrel or unicorn candidate may also possess an overly specific skill set that does not exist in reality. Think of some of the job descriptions that are out there. An employer wants someone with five years of experience on a software that’s been around for two years, speaks fluent Cantonese, has a Ph.D. in discrete mathematics and another Ph.D. in comparative literature. Yes, that’s obviously hyperbole, but I once worked with someone whose recruiting requirements were as follows: JD and/or MBA, experience in the area of securities law/litigation, must have experience in Wall Street investment banking, all for the salary offered by a publisher. This person did not exist, indeed not for the compensation being offered, and as a result, many qualified, eager, apt candidates were excluded.
Similarly, I’ve seen many cases in which a manager focuses on what her team is lacking, rather than spending time developing peoples’ strengths. No one is perfectly balanced and well-rounded. Even da Vinci—literally, THE renaissance man–had gaps in his competency! Can you imagine someone saying, “Yeah, Leonardo, you’re an awesome polymath, great at sculpture, mathematics, and human anatomy, but you really should consider going to university and completing your degree?” But this is what too many managers do. They have people on their teams who are great in some areas, and not so great—but generally competent—in others, and rather than building on those strengths, they focus on areas that “need” improvement. I would argue that in many cases, there is no “need” for improvement at all.
There is a need for better management and visionary leadership. Someone may be a great negotiator and consummate networker, but this same person may have a decades-long fear of being called to the board to solve for X (or any other letter, for that matter). Although said team member can competently put together a P&L when necessary, and can understand a financial report, he’s never going to calculate algorithms or create predictive analytics models. And that is okay. Rather than telling your math-phobic team member that he needs to improve his analytic skills, it would be far better to capitalize on the soft skills that he clearly possesses. When people are encouraged and praised for doing what they love and what they’re good at, they perform at a higher level. Give up on the idea of the perfectly well-rounded team member, and instead, strive for a well-rounded team, whose members’ strengths complement each other.
The quest for the white whale, the elusive windmills, eternal youth, or the purple squirrel is an exercise in futility. None of them exist in the real world. Rather than pining for what you cannot and don’t have, look toward the amazing talents that you do have!
Workplace sexual harassment has been a problem for decades. Centuries, actually. But the recent spate of allegations of harassment against public figures is a good indicator of how entrenched these abuses of power are. Harassment is insidious, and the damage that it does to the victims, as well as to the organizations that employ them has been well documented. Such harassment does much more than harm the victims’ psyches. Women who are harassed often leave their employers, taking with them their knowledge, skills, and experiences. Such exits can also erode any leadership paths upon which they were set.
Because of the dearth of women in senior leadership roles, harassment claims often go unacknowledged and unaddressed. In spite of the evidence of the financial impact of harassment—in terms of settling claims, losing/replacing talent, reduced productivity—unless those costs are realized immediately, the harassment, and the perpetrators are allowed to continue.
Sexual harassment is not a “women’s issue.” It is not pink. It is not cute. It is an abuse of power. It is a form of bullying and control. It is an issue of leadership. There are many thoughts on the “whys” of workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Is it because men seek to reinforce social norms? Is it used as a tactic to marginalize female colleagues? Is it a tactic to establish or maintain authority?
The answer is yes, to all of it. Many companies and social scientists want to delve into the reasons that women are subject to such harassment. I contend that the reasons are not as important as the action that leadership takes. Many times, the “action” taken amounts to nothing substantive. For example, the bullying by star performers is often excused and accepted. Hey, his numbers are good, so we don’t want to mess with him this quarter. This sends a clear message to all employees about leadership values and priorities. It reinforces the idea that victims are little more than collateral damage, with only themselves to blame.
The pervasive problem of workplace sexual harassment has complex causes, rooted in societal gender norms and expectations of roles. But the solution to this problem is pretty simple. First, parents, teachers, the world: teach boys and young men that girls and women are not objects. Reinforce that women owe them nothing just based upon the fact that they are male. Teach them not to harass and bully. Business leaders—beginning with CEOs—need to do more than merely update sexual harassment policies and offer sensitivity training. They need to create a culture that does not tolerate harassment, not only because harassment has a negative impact on the bottom line, but more importantly because it is bad business. To further reduce incidents of harassment, companies need to recruit, hire, train, and develop more women for leadership roles. The tired excuse that women’s careers move to a slow track because of family obligations is like blaming the intern, so 1990s. Women do not need policies to “protect” them from harassment from co-workers. They need the opportunity to be in leadership positions in which they can affect real change.
How do I set up my resume and LinkedIn profile for the NEXT job I want? If I’m a “Manager,” I’m not that interested in jobs with the title “Manager” in them. But how do I ensure people searching for Senior Managers, or Directors find me if my current job title is Manager? Similarly – how do I put together a CV which says I’m ready to be a Senior Manager or Director if the highest rank I’m at the moment is Manager? Thanks. Btw, love your blog. Always give it a quick read. Have recommended many applicants to go back to the drawing board by looking you up.
Herein lies a nearly universal problem I encounter when counseling clients. So many people operate under the misguided notion that a resume/LinkedIn profile must be a dry, factual accounting of tasks they’ve perfumed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Both your resume, and your LinkedIn profile are marketing tools, and you should massage both the language and the messaging to meet your end goal.
For the CV, I always write aspirationally. If you are a manager and you are looking for a senior manager role, then that is the title along with the function. So: Senior Manager, Manufacturing & Engineering. The same would apply to LinkedIn. In the summary, you can create information that highlights your successes and showcases higher level work.
Your resume and your online profiles are marketing collateral. They are not affidavits that are going to be filed with the court, and they should contain much more than just the facts. You do not need to elaborate on the tasks that you perform in your role. What you do need to do is to ensure that you’re promoting yourself by highlighting both your significant accomplishments as well as your goals. No one and I mean NO ONE, is interested in the daily duties that your job entails. This does not make for compelling reading or riveting conversation. What is unique about you is what is interesting. Focus on that and leave the “just the facts” portion off of your resume/LinkedIn.
But Deb, what if they check my background? If it gets to the point that a background screening is necessary, it’s important for you to understand that it is the application and not the resume, against which your background will be verified.
The bottom line
Your resume and LinkedIn profiles belong to you, and not to anyone else. Take the opportunity to exploit them to your best advantage. This will help in your search for your next challenge. Good luck!
Famed psychologist and researcher Abraham Maslow is best known for his theory of motivation, which is based on the idea that people also have strong cognitive reasons to perform various actions. In his well-known hierarchy of needs, Maslow presents different motivations at different levels. This is often represented as a pyramid.
First, people are motivated to fulfill basic biological needs for food and shelter, as well as those of safety, love, and esteem. These are the base of the pyramid and serve as the foundation of existence. Once the lower level needs have been met, the primary motivator becomes the need for self-actualization, or the desire to fulfill one’s individual potential. People who have obtained self-actualization typically have some common qualities, including the ability to see life more clearly and to put others’ needs before their own. They also share other qualities, including a well-developed or even quirky sense of humor, a distinct need for solitude, spontaneity and high levels of acceptance of both themselves and others. Maslow postulated that only 1 in 100 of us will ever truly reach the top of the pyramid and become fully self-actualized. Nonetheless, self-actualization is something for which most of us strive.
Maslow’s pyramid provides us an excellent framework by which to live our lives, and also by which to help identify, define, refine, and organize our career goals. At the base of the career pyramid of needs is the main reason we all go to work—we need to survive. We must have food to eat, access to safe drinking water, and proper shelter. Safety and security needs, within the context of your career, means that you are earning enough money, you have accommodating benefits, and that you have a safe workplace. Love and belonging translates into teamwork, mentorship, and a sense of acceptance from co-workers. Self-esteem is knowing that your work matters and becoming an expert at what you do.
Finally, self-actualization in your career results in peak performance and experiences, and make you a better contributor, employee, and member of society. As Maslow theorized, very few of us will achieve self-actualization in our careers. However, in order to have a meaningful career, it is something to which we should all aspire. How do we attempt to scale the pyramid to reach the pinnacle?
Be honest in your choices and operate with integrity. Honesty is key to integrity, and no one wants to work with someone who lacks either. Integrity builds trust, which is essential to having a successful career.
Experience the world fully. Be open-minded, and not a stickler for rules. People who operate by the mantra of “my way or the highway” tend to be poor leaders, because they are stuck at the safety and security level.
Recognize your uniqueness. Also, surround yourself with unique people. Everyone’s experiences are different, and they all come together to shape their own unique perspectives. This is exceptionally valuable.
Take risks. Some of the best innovation comes out of failure. Failure is one of the best teachers and motivators we have. Without ever risking failure, you will never achieve success.
Seek constant improvement and change. Self-actualization is not a static state. It is a process that is constantly evolving. Doing the same thing will get you the same results. Switch things up.
Reduce ego defense. Let go of defense mechanisms and let in new ideas and new ways of doing something. Seek out critical feedback.