In the past, when employees wanted to "dish the dirt" about their company they would congregate at the water cooler. Today, though, this water cooler has expanded to the size of the world. You only have to casually search the Internet to find a host of people talking about a host of companies -- and not everything they are saying is fit for polite company.
All it takes is one indiscretion, one moment of anger, to brand you with a bad reputation. Even worse, once people develop an opinion of you as a troublemaker, they may see issues where none really exist. Sometimes, we can damage our own reputation so badly that other's expect us to be a problem. This was brought home to me again, as I watched my son's latest Little League game..
For whatever reason, a successful high-tech career has always involved a bit of cynicism. Whether you are questioning the reality of a manufacturer's delivery date or the actions of your own boss, it can be healthy to keep a questioning mind about the actions of others. They might not be truly "out to get you" but, unfortunately, they might not be telling you the whole truth, either.
Book: The No Asshole Rule by Robert I. Sutton, PhD
Let me start by addressing the mild curse word in the title of this book. I find it a totally appropriate use of the word and truly brings home the extremity and importance of the issue. If the word offends you, please skip this post, although I do highly recommend this book. -- Douglas
A world without assholes (the author has a precise definition for them) -- what a dream it would be. Working in a company where you weren't constantly demeaned, threatened or abused. A company where everyone had the ability to succeed to their highest levels without suffereing the outbursts, rage and attacks of the assholes around them. While nearly everyone can agree this would create a much better workplace, too often we support assholes and allow them, even encourage them, to continue their behavior no matter what the cost to the company or those around them.
Sutton clearly explains what we already know in our hearts -- excluding assholes from out lives makes everyone happier and more productive. He suggests that every company have no assholes rule clearly stated on paper and embraced by everyone in the company and I highly agree. It is the only way to insure that you, your fellow workers and your company can reach your highest productivty.
There is so much in this book that rings true with my own experience "in the trenches" of corporate life. This is especially true of the times I watched, from the outside, the extremely disfunctional entertainment business where my wife worked. The entertainment industry seems a haven for assholes of all sorts and I have seen some of the worst in action.
Too sum up the book in a few lines -- don't hire assholes in the first place, get rid of them if you have them and use some of the coping mechanisms in the book to survive them, if you cannot escape them. These might be the most important steps you can take to protect and extend your own career.
You can hear Moira Gunn's Tech Nation interview with the author over at IT Conversations - Listen Here
Bad reputations follow you everywhere May 25, 2007
All it takes is one indiscretion, one moment of anger, to brand you with a bad reputation. Even worse, once people develop an opinion of you as a troublemaker, they may see issues where none really exist. Sometimes, we can damage our own reputation so badly that other's expect us to be a problem. This was brought home to me again, as I watched my son's latest Little League game.
You have a lot to say! June 1, 2007
Sitting around with friends over dinner, talk often turns to blogging and podcasting. They know I have been blogging for a while and that I was one of the first 20 podcasters and they often want to know more about both pursuits. One of the most typical comments from my friends, though, when I tell them that they should be blogging and/or podcasting is, "I don't have anything to say!" What?! Are these the same people who can give me detailed dissertations on the native lizards of California? Are these the same people who can recount every ride on every rollercoaster they have ever ridden? Are these the same people who can get off on an hour-long rant about why you should never do X, Y and/or Z?
Take time for a mid-year review June 8, 2007
Here in the U.S., the end of one year, and the beginning of the next always brings out our desire to reflect on the past and plan for the future. We look back over the past year and note what we would like to change and then look forward, through New Year's resolutions, goals and other plans. Unfortunately, by the time we reach the mid-point of the year in June, many of those thoughts have been forgotten, resolutions have been abandoned and we might find ourselves so immersed in our day-to-day work that we have lost all memory of what we had planned to do.
Turning one client into many June 15, 2007
Recently I wrote about how computer consultants could find an entirely new set of clients, and maybe even a new place to live, by building connections with hotels and resorts. It only makes sense to develop relationships where one client is in a position to refer you to many more. Additionally, I have also written about the importance of referrals to any consulting career.
Career complaints can lead to bigger problems June 22, 2007
Over the course of any career, you are sure to have complaints both large and small. It is a simple fact of life that our work is not always perfect. That said, some people can fall into the role of the constant complainer – someone who always has a complaint at hand, ready to toss it into any conversation, whether appropriate or not. Worse still, these people can lead others down the wrong path and enable them to become a constant complainer, as well.
I am sure you have all experienced it as often as I have -- the worker who has decided that their job is not meant to offer customer service -- or any service at all. Their job is only to fill a particular space for a particular amount of time and receive their paycheck at the end of the week. This attitude doesn't just effect retail and other customer service operations, though. Nearly any company can fall victim to employees who have just stopped trying.
You might not think you would learn something about high-tech at the local Chuck E. Cheese franchise, but this is exactly what occurred the other day. Due to some technical difficulties at this particular branch, I was reminded of a basic truism of technology -- little things mean a lot.
As the father of a 5-year-old, I spend more time than I care to admit attending birthday parties at CEC. It seems every child in my son's pre-school class is intent on keeping the company in business for at least the next several years. I have had an opportunity to visit several different locations, so I know the basic layout of their shows and how the technology is supposed to work. Unfortunately, at one location, the technology was not working very well. Even though the failures were small, it created quite a negative feeling in both the children and the adults.
Watching my son's Little League team, I was reminded once again about the deep difference between knowing what to do and doing it when the time comes. I watch them go through drills at practice, perfectly implementing such concepts as the double play and acting as backup to other players. Then, in their games we see them faced with the reality of high fly balls and hot grounders and all their best practices fall apart. The outfielders overthrow the base, catches are missed and runners circle the bases until the ball finally gets returned to the pitcher. I am sure that this can resemble your business on a bad day, too. No matter how much we practice, crises can cause us to forget all that practice and to panic instead.
A Career in Music - An interview with author, John Braheny
Join John Braheny, author of The Craft and Business of Songwriting*, for a discussion of A Career in Music. We'll discuss many of the lesser know musical careers and dispel some of the sex, drugs and rock and roll myths of the music business.
* I wrote the podcasting sidebar for this edition of Johns book
JOHN BRAHENY (Bra HAY nee) is one of the most recognized and respected names in the music industry, and, more specifically, in the songwriting community. He is referred to as "the songwriter's best friend" for his tireless efforts to create education and discovery opportunities for songwriters, to help bring public attention to songwriting as an art form and to champion songwriters' rights.
Author and Journalist Braheny wrote the best-selling and highly acclaimed Writer's Digest book, The Craft and Business of Songwriting (Writer's Digest Books 1988, 1995, 2002. 2007), now in its 3rd Edition. The National Academy of Songwriters called the book "A veritable songwriters bible. This is the definitive work on the subject of songwriting."
He had previously written the Songwriters Handbook for the American Song Festival, a bi-weekly "Songmine" column for Music Connection Magazine, and has contributed to Songwriters Market, Songwriter Magazine, Keyboard Magazine, Musician Magazine, The Musician's Business and Legal Guide, American Songwriter, and Music Biz Magazine among others.
Interviewer Along with more than 600 interviews with music industry professionals and hit songwriters at the weekly Songwriters Showcase sessions and Songwriters Expo panels, Braheny conducted and edited more than 150 interviews for the Songwriters Musepaper, the monthly magazine of the Los Angeles Songwriters Showcase.
For several years he co-hosted Samm Brown's For The Record, a weekly music industry interview and call-in show on KPFK (90.7 FM) in Los Angeles.
John's expertise in interviewing songwriters is so well known and respected that in 1997 he was commissioned by Disc Marketing's In-flight division to conduct an ongoing series of 55 interviews with both legendary and contemporary hit songwriters for United Airlines' in-flight audio Salute to Songwriters Channel. The channel was a favorite on Air Force One. In November 2000, John was presented with an award by United Airlines in recognition of his contribution to their winning the international WAEA Avion Award in 2000 for "Best Overall Inflight Entertainment." (more)
A crazy workday is familiar to all of us. We are busy from the moment we arrive to the moment we leave...and even after we leave, in some cases. Our lives are driven by one urgent project after another. While we may be busy in this environment, too often we are not very productive. Without some time for ourselves, to re-group, analyze and plan, all of our busyness can come to mean very little. To break free from the constant interruptions of your event driven work, you need to take time for yourself, morning, noon and night.
Over the years I have written several columns encouraging you to step back and try to get a bigger picture of your work and your career. While this is still good advice, reversing this concept can also be useful. There are times when you need to zoom in on your work and inspect the minutia that are often ignored. Not only will this intense focus yield its own reward, it will also help you to gain a deeper understanding of the big picture.
In the typical corporation, you will find many people whose main role is that of "The Enforcer." Project managers who enforce project timelines, human resource staffers who enforce work policies, union representatives who enforce labor agreements and even IT workers who enforce company standards, approved hardware, software and password policies. While, in most cases, all of these items need policing and enforcing, playing the role of the enforcer could be damaging to your career as a whole.
You can find advice on how to build, design and send your resume almost anywhere. They will tell you how to format it, which font to choose and what information to include. Heck, even I've written my share of columns on resumes. Despite this, though, I want to offer one more bit of resume wisdom. In this age of ubiquitous Internet access, search engines and an increase in the serendipity of finding the right job for you, the next step may be to make your resume a blog, because, in many ways, your blog might already be turning into your resume.
Career Opportunities podcast logoOne of the most important parts of any job, whether you are an employee, manager or executive is communication. Without regular communication among all the parts of your company, projects will fail, tasks will go incomplete and business will suffer. Furthermore, as an employee, if you are not communicating with your manager enough to know that you are doing the most critical work of the moment, you risk your job, as well. Have you talked with your manager today? Managers? Have you talked with your employees today? Does everyone know the critical path through this day, this week , the month? If not, why not?
Despite the fact that traveling, especially by airplane, is getting more and more troublesome, there are still a lot of people traveling around the US and the world. Whether they are traveling for business or pleasure, those people are probably bringing some type of personal technology with them. Digital cameras, GPS receivers, laptop computers, PDAs and more are finding their way into suitcases these days. This provides an interesting opportunity for high-tech careerists. If people are traveling with this technology, they are going to need help with it. High-tech workers might find that they can still practice their trade while living and working in a tourist town or resort.
Elsewhere Online: Manager Tools: Interviews - The Introduction
You will never hear me claim to the expert on interviewing strategy, so I offer up this podcast from the folks at Manager tools to get you off on the right foot.
Like everything at Manager Tools, this podcast offers a clear, step-by-step approach that can give you an edge in any interview situation.
Be aware, this podcast is part of the Manager Tools Members Only section and will require a FREE registration to gain access. Trust me, though, it is well worth the time if you plan on interviewing anywhere soon.
In this cast, you’ll learn how to handle the crucial first five to ten minutes of any interview - Introductions. It is absolutely true that this is a critical part of the interview - first impressions are being formed, and I’d bet 75% of interviewers have a strong indication of how it’s going to go by the time this portion is done. That translates into our gut feeling that this is where 75% of technical interviewees fail. It’s THAT important.
No matter who you are, where you live or what you do, if you really want to learn something about your work, your ideas or a particular product, you only have to ask. Of course, asking for feedback can feel embarrassing and even frightening. Still, listening to other's consul and opinion is one of the most important ways that we learn to improve our own ideas.
If you can't join us LIVE, email or phone in your questions. Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-338-5832 any time prior to the event and we will try to get them into the show.
Listen, Chat or Phone in your questions LIVE!
You can listen or join in the interview live, via online chat or telephone, by setting up your FREE account at Talkshoe.com. For more information on joining a Talkshoe Talkcast visit: http://tinyurl.com/2fmk4h
Sometimes we plan deeply and then take concerted action to build a computer consulting career. At other times, good fortune just seems to fall into our laps. That said, it doesn't mean that you can't learn something from my good, if somewhat accidental, fortune.
It is a natural part of any consulting business that you often make clients of people who once worked for you. In my case, a contractor who remodeled part of our house has hired me several times over the last few years to maintain his office and home computers. When he launched a new endeavor, running a high-end photo studio, he called me in once again.
Career Complaints - Our Regularly Scheduled Career Rant and Rave
Whenever I talk with people about their careers, a number of complaints always come up. Sometimes we can get so frustrated with our work situations that complaining seems to be the only thing we can do.
So, in that regard, on the Friends in Tech Forums, I have set up a message topic for Career Complaints. Feel free to rant and rave and get it all off your chest. If you are relating a particular story, you may want to change the names to protect the innocent.
There is one rule, though.
For every complaint, you need to think of one way to improve your situation, one task to make things better, one change to move on with your career. I will chime in on each message and I encourage everyone else to offer their best advice. I'll post this message every so often to remind people that the forum exists. Eventually, if this forum is popular, I might set up a LIVE show over at Talkshoe.com to address some of the issues we discuss.
In this way, maybe we can make turn our career complaints into the career change we all need.