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How do you treat those around you?

May 31st, 2008 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoHow do you treat those around you?
By Douglas E. Welch

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Listen: How do you treat those around you?

How do you treat those around you?
May 30, 2008

Starting tomorrow, I want you to arrive at your work — whether in an office, retail store, support phone line or other service job — and imagine that everyone you deal with is NOT an idiot. Imagine that everyone is NOT out to make your life miserable. Imagine that everyone is NOT actively sabotaging your work. Imagine. Now, do more than imagine. Act as if all that is true. Act as if the people you meet each day are normal, decent people who want nothing more than to complete their transaction with you and move on to the next item on their agenda. If you do this I can guarantee that you will have a day unlike any other. You will find that work is a pleasure, not a chore. You will find that people are nice and interesting. You will find that, while there are some grumpy people in the world, for the most part, everyone just wants to get along.

Having worked in “service industries” for almost 25 years, I know how tough it can be. I know how it can wear you down, chew you up and spit you out…if you let it. I know how quickly you can become cynical and abrasive. I know how you start to treat everyone as “the problem” instead of those who truly are. That said, this is a dangerous place to find yourself and you must, at all costs, find a way out. Falling into this trap can damage more than just your job. It can damage your life.

It all starts so slowly, of course. When you first start out in a job, everything is new and, usually, exciting. You answer questions quickly and expertly with a friendly smile. After a while, though, you start to see the same questions, again and again – often from the same people. Worse still, you think that just because you have learned the answers over time, everyone else should know them as well. You can find yourself getting angry with people who ask you a question for the 2,000th time, even though they might be asking it for the first. You start to believe that everyone is a complete idiot and your interactions with them become more and more terse, if not downright hostile.

When we don’t treat each other with respect, we end up in an endless cycle of tit for tat. You treated me badly, so I will treat someone else badly.

I see this type of behavior everyday in nearly any business. The librarian who treats patrons as a bother and not their “customer.” — the telephone rep who would rather hang up on you than explain a particular charge on your statement for the seemingly 1 millionth time — the computer consultant who gives an exasperated sigh and rolls their eyes at every question. (See The Exasperated Sigh) All of these people need to be reminded (as I need to be reminded on occasion) that while a question may be old to you, it is probably new to your client or customer. They are not trying to drive you mad. They are trying to get the answer to an important, annoying, costly problem and you are the person they are paying (directly or indirectly) to help them.

When we don’t treat each other with respect, we end up in an endless cycle of tit for tat. You treated me badly, so I will treat someone else badly. Do you really want to be the cause of that among your customers? As was discussed in last week’s column, do you really want to be the cause of more ugliness in the world? Worse still, if you get involved in this behavior at your work, you will surely bring the same behaviors home to your family and this can cause even more dramatic problems in your life.

So, pick a day. Sit in your car before you go into the office and repeat to yourself, “Everyone is NOT an idiot. Everyone is a fellow human being. Everyone is NOT out to get me.” Then, go in and do the best work you can. Engage with people. Treat them as individuals. Make their life just a little easier. I can guarantee you that your day will fly by and you will leave work energized instead of drained. Then, do it the next day and the next and the next. Before long, with a little work, you will have regained some of the joy you once found in your work and, hopefully, passed it on to those around you.


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Archive: Nothing from Something – April 22, 2008

May 28th, 2008 Comments off

(This podcast is pulled “from the archives” and presented here as a service to more recent listeners — Douglas)

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Even as the world has progressed from a manufacturing economy to a knowledge economy, many things have remained the same. Products, whether hard physical objects or great ideas, are the end goal. What we can mold with our hands or mold with our minds creates something new and valuable. In some ways though, the average technology job is different. Instead of focusing on making something tangible, we are engaged in making something disappear. We solve problems. We remove barriers to access. We make something obsolete that was previously unassailable. This can lead to some interesting workplace issues.


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Ugliness and Beauty

May 23rd, 2008 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoUgliness and Beauty
By Douglas E. Welch

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Listen: Ugliness and Beauty

You may think that ugliness and beauty are only concepts that occur in art, but they are both part of everyday life. More importantly, they are also a part of your work. Every action we take, everything we do can often be divided along these lines. Were we kind to our fellow bus passengers? Beauty. Did we drop our litter on the ground? Ugliness. While it may seem extreme to divide the world into only two sides, it can give us a very clear idea of how much effect our actions have on the world.

First, it is important to remember that you have complete control over whether you create ugliness or beauty in your life and your work. You have it in your power to add both to the lives of those around you. The simple gesture or small kindness is often dismissed as worthless or unremarkable by many people who are rushing through their day. They can’t be bothered to say “Please” or “Thank You.” They’re too busy moving from one crisis to another to worry about the feelings of those around them. What they don’t realize is that every time they create ugliness in the lives of others, through inattention or malice, they are also bringing ugliness into their own lives.

Every action, every step, every conversation, every email can bring ugliness or beauty. Which would you rather have in your life?

You have seen how this works. You are brusque with a waitress, retail person or co-worker and it inevitably comes back to you. Either you don’t get the service you need or it sets up an altercation that neither of you really wants nor needs. Even if the reaction to your brusqueness is not immediate, your overall demeanor carries the ugliness into the other interactions along the way. At the end of your day you find yourself stressed and aching, both mentally and physically, without ever knowing exactly why. Call it ugliness. Call it “bad energy.” Call it just being a jerk. It takes a toll on you and everyone around you.

So, starting Monday, take a hard look at your work and see whether you are creating ugliness or beauty in your own life and the lives of those around you. Did you tell someone you would call them back and then break that promise? Did you say you would ship something overnight and then let it set until it was too late to make the delivery? Even worse, did you then blame it on the delivery company or a fellow employee? Did you refuse to help a co-worker, even though you had the time to help? Did you say “Please” and “Thank You” throughout your day? Did you treat every customer, regardless of their question or their demeanor, as the idiot you expected them to be?

Now, add up all the interactions of your day and imagine what a painting of your day might look like. Is it a pastel colored garden like Monet might have painted, or a dark, brooding mass of blacks and browns that you might see in a Munch painting. (Munch was the creator of the well-known painting, The Scream.) More likely, it has a bit of both. There are the splashes of yellow where you solved a recurring problem for a client and then slashes of black where you lashed out at someone for no good reason expect your own mood. Regardless of how your painting might look, visualizing a painting of your day gives you a clear indication of the beauty and ugliness you are creating with every action. What would your painting look like today? What will it look like tomorrow, now that you can visualize it in this way?

Every action, every step, every conversation, every email can bring ugliness or beauty. Which would you rather have in your life? Which would you rather be known for creating? It seems clear that if more of us created beauty, in our work and our life, the less ugliness we would have to experience. Which will be the focus of your work and career? It seems clear that beauty is the path to the career you deserve.


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Archive: Working in a Coal Mine – April 15, 2005

May 21st, 2008 Comments off

(This podcast is pulled “from the archives” and presented here as a service to more recent listeners — Douglas)

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When I am having a particularly bad day on the job I tend to grumble about it. On these days, my wife’s usual response is, “It isn’t like your working in a coal mine!” She is right, of course, I am not sweating away hundreds of feet below the earth making my money with physical labor. Still, there are some types of high tech work that are my version of “coal mining.” These are the endlessly repetitive or frustrating tasks that seem to make up the majority of too many workdays. Too much of this type of work and I begin to wonder if I made the right career choice after all.


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Those who talk, but do not do

May 16th, 2008 Comments off

Career Opportunities podcast logoThose who talk, but do not do
By Douglas E. Welch

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Listen: Those who talk, but do not do

“I want to…” “I need to…” “I would love to…”

We hear these every day from those around us. We might even say it ourselves. Then come the excuses. “I don’t have enough time. I’m too busy. I don’t have the money.” There are a hundred more. While I can easily forgive occasionally slipping into this mode, one of the most frustrating experiences is knowing or working with someone who professes to want or need so much and yet does nothing to achieve any goals. What they are often saying is that they lack the will to do something, not the time.

The truth is, anyone who is complaining about a lack of time to do something is really suffering from a lack of priorities. What they are really saying is, “Someone told me (object X) should be a priority in my life, but I find that other things more important.” Unfortunately, instead of just admitting that fact, they continue to say how much they want or need to accomplish that goal at every possible occasion. They want the best of both worlds. They want credit for “wanting” to do something without the trouble of ever actually doing something about it. They want to appear wise and noble for recognizing the goal, but thwarted by reality, not their own poor planning.

To be honest, everyone, myself included, can fall into this trap. It seems to be a part of human nature. That said, when I realize I am acting this way, or called on the carpet by a friend, I do everything I can to stop. I either take direct action towards the goal, or I let it go and simply stop talking about it. No one…not even myself…wants to hear how I want to accomplish a goal, but refuse to do anything about it, over and over again. It sets up a cycle of pity and despair that only spirals lower over time.

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What I find intolerable in myself, I also find intolerable in others. Someone who is constantly mired in “talk, but not do” will quickly find our friendship waning. In my own personal case, I will either ignore the problem, as other aspects of the friendship are good, or I simply stop spending time with the person.

Call it a pet peeve, but I am horribly biased towards those who take action over those who simply talk. Perhaps it is because I have lived in LA for so many years, where talk is truly cheap and millions of projects never come to fruition. I see so much talent wasted here, everyday, that anyone who takes even the smallest action towards achieving their goals, I see as a hero.

How do you put action behind your words, wishes and wants? Simply find one concrete action you can take. When you hear yourself say, “I need to lose weight”, take a few minutes to research dieting options, go for a walk or put back that second donut. Immediate action almost guarantees future action.

Immediate action almost guarantees future action.

I first learned this lesson in college. Faced with large projects like papers or presentations, I would take some concrete action on the day that it was assigned. This could take the form of a few jotted notes, requesting a book from the library or discussing the project with my professor. To be clear, I might not take further action for a week or more, but this first immediate action made it much easier to face the next step. I didn’t have to get over the inertia of starting, I only had to continue.

Taking action on a goal shows a certain level of commitment. Not only will it energize you, it will elicit the support of those around you. People are much more willing to help people who are taking action already. On the other hand, if you only talk about your goals and constantly bemoan your inability to achieve them, people will quickly come to understand that you have no commitment to your goals, only lip service. You want to “have achieved” your goals, without any of the work. Take action…and take it often. Otherwise you risk damaging your friendships and your career.


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Seesmic Video Comments now enabled

May 13th, 2008 Comments off

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Career Tip – 20080512-2

May 12th, 2008 1 comment

Your blog (twitter stream) is now your resume. Treat (Tweet) it well!! 🙂 Read/Listen to the article at: http://tinyurl.com/62w7k5

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Career Tips – 20080512-1

May 12th, 2008 Comments off

Companies laying off people will often offer them lousy jobs at lousy pay to give them some “alternatives”. Don’t be sucked in. Go elsewhere.

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Career Tips via Twitter

May 12th, 2008 Comments off

Today I started a new daily Career Tips message using Twitter. If you are on Twitter already, you can type follow careertips or visit http://twitter.com/careertips


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    It is your career, after all

    May 9th, 2008 Comments off

    Career Opportunities podcast logoIt is your career, after all
    By Douglas E. Welch

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    Listen: The difference between what is and what you wish it to be

    Lately, when asked to describe Career Opportunities I have found that I can better describe it by what it is not. Career Opportunities isn’t about resumes, interviewing, climbing the corporate ladder or many of the topics covered in more typical career forums. I figure that there are plenty of places you can go to find that information, including one of my favorite podcasts, Manager Tools.

    Instead, Career Opportunities is about you and your career. It is your career after all…nobody else’s. While so many people see their career as something that happens to them, I want you to reach out and actively manage your career. Instead of simply moving from job to job as they are presented to you, I want you to think deeply about how one job leads to another and how a series of jobs develops into a career. I want you to understand that you need to make the career decisions that are best for you, even if they might not be the best decision for your company. I want you to understand that you have a level of control over your career, despite the fact that many people who will try to convince you that you don’t.

    While I have touched on many of these ideas in past columns, I wanted to take this time to explicitly discuss them and reinforce their importance to you and your career. Sometimes in the chaos that work can be, we can forget about these important rules and allow our careers to get off-track. We can allow the crisis of the moment to prevent us from making the best decisions.

    Leading your career

    With the current economic downturn, we can let our fears about layoffs, downsizing and outsourcing keep us in a job longer than we should. A bad job is a bad job, regardless of the economic climate. One of the worst scenarios I see at these times is someone who is working the best they can in a difficult job and then ends up on the layoff roll anyway. So not only are their producing for a company they don’t respect, they are then handed the added insult of losing a job that wasn’t even that good. They were thinking that any job was better than no job and ended up wasting time working when they could and should have been looking for a new, better career move.

    You are the master, the CEO, the captain of your career and you must step up and take that responsibility.

    Sure, looking for a new job in tough times requires more planning and finesse, but you certainly shouldn’t allow it to prevent you from leading your career. You have to be more careful about how you conduct your search — you don’t want to lose your current job before you are ready. You also have to make sure that your new company isn’t suffering from the same ills as your current one, whether those ills be economic or managerial. The old adage about “jumping from the frying pan into the fire”, still applies to this day.

    What is best for you?

    Once you find a new position, you also shouldn’t let feelings of loyalty to a company or to a manager override your career needs. Remember, this is your career. You have to live with it every day. Will your departure leave the department shorthanded? So be it. That is a problem the company must deal with on their own. You can make your departure as painless as possible, but staffing issues aren’t under your control. You have to do what is best for you and your career despite its effect on the company. Why is that? Simply, because the company will act in the same way, in their own best interest, when necessary. If your company needs to layoff 100 people, they will do it, because they must, with only limited concerns about how it might effect you.

    You are the master, the CEO, the captain of your career and you must step up and take that responsibility. No one else will ever care as much about your career as you do. They are not as invested in your career as you are. They might help you along, develop your skills and provide opportunities to grow, but only you can make the, sometimes, difficult decisions that insure your career thrives and develops into the career that you deserve.


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