Stupid Career Mistakes You Make all the Time

You’d be surprised how many women make the same mistakes at work. You’ve done them too without realizing it. Or you realize it but feel helpless to do anything about it. That’s because as females we are raised to be obedient, somewhat passivesomewhat passive, and above all, nice to people. As a result when we become women we carry those feminine qualities into the workplace with us and our careers suffer for it.

There will always be a few negative truisms involving gender in the workplace because that’s how women and men operate at work. This video about avoiding gender stereotyping at work was made in the 1950s. It’s an exaggeration but women still face some of this prejudice today. :

  1. Men make thousands more a year than women for the same job.
    That’s because we underestimate our worth and accept  less salary
    for the same job as a man.
  2. Men make up to $16,000.00 more a year than women in the same role.
  3. There are very few women CEOs.
  4. The Old Boys Network will never go away.
  5. Women are promoted less often and often they hit the glass ceiling
    in middle management.

Here are some of the ways women sabotage themselves at work:

  1. We work for free.
  2. We don’t ask questions in case we sound stupid
  3. Women need to be liked. This is a fallacy. Look at  Sandra Bullock’s
    character in The Proposal. She is an  uber bitch and
    she was the most successful employee in her department.
  4. Not recognizing that your unique character and female traits
    are necessary at your workplace. You don’t have to go to the
    other extreme and act like a man to get ahead.
  5. Trying to be one of the Boys in order to penetrate (pun) the Old
    Boys Network. It won’t work. And you’ll look pathetic.
  6. Being too honest. That refers to revealing information about
    yourself and your company to anyone outside the company. Once
    I saw a woman on television complaining about the low salary she
    made working for Panasonic. The next day, she was fired. Idiot.
  7. We’re too competitive with other women.Professional friendships
    among women can lead to improvement in office politics.

There are many strengths in being a woman in the office. Once you expect more of the people around you and establish boundaries, it’s easier to reach your career goals and earn respect. It’s best to keep sex out of the office. Save details about your sex life, bawdy sex jokes and affairs for after hours with someone else.

It’s difficult to change how you feel about yourself, in your private life and at work. But if you don’t change your behaviours, your career will go nowhere. Make sure you announce your achievements at meetings, approach the boss about promotional opportunities, establish boundaries such as saying “no” now and then, and recognizing that your work isn’t enough to help you get ahead at work.



Avoid Career Change Mistakes

Career change is scary enough without making the many errors emphasized in the video. Of course our little heroine also made sensible choices too. Odds are you will do the same – make good choices and bad choices. However getting the heads-up on both might save you from making as many mistakes as you’d make without learning about these tidbits.

  1. Know why you want to change career paths. Make sure it’s not the job
    you don’t like or the corporate culture. That’s entirely different.
  2. Don’t make a move solely for money. It’s not going to be worth it. You
    could end up in a worse position in terms of your enjoyment of the
  3. It’s a little “iffy” about speaking to people you know (except your mentor)
    about what they think of the career path you are interested in, especially if
    they are employed in that industry. Many people are pretty jaded after
    enough years in a field because they’re thinking about their own mistakes,
    corporate culture, changing financial situations and more. They won’t
    mention these things to you.
  4. You need a career change plan. It’s ridiculously risky to quit and not have a
    plan in place. It could take several months or even a year before you can
    actually make the move.
  5. Make sure you can pay all your bills for 3 – 6 months before you leave your
    current job.
  6. Investigate the type of work that companies value. There’s no point in
    going into a career path that isn’t needed.
  7. Do speak to your mentor about your new career interests.
  8. Change mentors and find someone in your prospective field.
  9. Cultivate a new network.
  10. Search places other than job boards to find available jobs.

Signs You are About to be Fired

There were 23 signs in that video that our sorrowful subject was going to be fired. Can you recognize them all? (Hint: if you did you should be job hunting):

  1. You’ve been excluded from meetings.
  2. You aren’t getting departmental emails.
  3. You can’t access data you need to do your work.
  4. You are being overloaded with assignments to set you up to fail
  5. There is tension between you and your boss.
  6. Your colleagues don’t talk to you anymore.
  7. You are excluded from conferences.
  8. The boss is micro-managing you.
  9. Your budget has been cut back.
  10. You get a poor performance review.
  11. You get warned about your work performance.
  12. The boss begins a paper trail between you and her.
  13. You aren’t getting a raise.
  14. You have to take a pay cut. My boss’s wife recently had a $30,000.00
    pay cut. Ouch. I suspect she is on her way out. Stay tuned for an update.
  15. Your accomplishments are ignored.
  16. You are reporting to new people.
  17. You have to report to your subordinates.
  18. There is going to be a merger. This is always bad news. Always.
  19. Your work area is reduced. Did you see the film Office Space where an
    undermined employee named Milton is removed from his cubicle and
    re-assigned to the basement?
  20. You find a job posting that matches your job.
  21. The confidential project you are assigned isn’t relevant. Did you see the
    Pixar animation “UP?” There was a short follow-up to the film called
    Doug’s Special Mission.” The adventure was assigned to Doug to keep him out
    of everyone’s way. Of course he had no idea.
  22. You  are sent for re-training.
  23. You need an attitude adjustment. This is especially worrisome for a woman
    at work. It’s more acceptable in a man.

I didn’t include you making a major mistake that costs the company a lot of money. Oops.

Whether you actually understand why you are being downsized, fired, or laid off, when dismissal is in the air it’s pointless to fight it. Move as soon as you sense it. Approach management and ask them if you are reading them right. Then get to work on your resume.












It’s unlikely that all of those things would happen to a person or she wouldn’t be employed for too long. It’s easy to miss many of those signs. Some people are downright shocked when they get the dreaded pink slip. That’s also when many employees – especially women – find it difficult to negotiate a good severance package. That’s another blog entirely.

At some point in time you will probably see the signs at a certain company where your job is on the line for any number of reasons. Knowing ahead of time what those signs are might be a chance for you to get an edge on management. As soon as you feel the squeeze it’s time to get your resume together and contact your network for leads.

Even if the signs are few and subtle, it’s best to get moving. It can take up to six months to get a new job. And unless you have a financial safety net, you’ll feel the pinch in a hurry.




Negotiation is Over-Rated

Yes you read that right. Negotiation is ambiguous when you are a woman. Some women are an exception. They are very assertive, know what they want and refuse to settle for less. They are also very valuable to a company, have more than proven their worth and so are on solid ground when they negotiate. Most of us cannot say that.

In fact, I’m thinking of successful women I have heard about who are very high in companies they work for or who are entrepreneurs. I know of one who is a ridiculously successful entrepreneur. I know another woman who is working for a prestigious radio station and has a great job. It sounded enviable until about a month ago when she had to take a $30,000.00 pay-cut if she wanted to keep her job. So much for her negotiation power.

The business world will always be an old boys’ network and you will never be a part of it. Accept it. Here’s one example: When men negotiate they are seen as powerful; women are seen as too demanding. However not negotiating salary is akin to not telling your doctor your symptoms then expecting the medical treatment you need in order to survive. When you must negotiate it’s best to keep a couple of things in mind:

Don’t negotiate salary until you have a job offer in writing. Let’s say the job pays a salary and a performance bonus, but you don’t know about the bonus part. If you do not get a written offer specifying the pay elements before you start negotiating, then you might negotiate a higher base salary but lose a portion of your bonus. That’s because the bonus gives your hiring manager some “wiggle room.” 

Figure out your own needs first. You might not get the salary you hoped for but maybe there are compensations, such as working at home or more vacation time or sick days, or some such thing.

Don’t use salary negotiation to lecture the recruiter about women’s rights. This already suggests you won’t be a good fit with the company. And believe it or not, men recruiters often don’t know they are sexist. Seriously  Doesn’t that make you so irritated? And that’s another thing women don’t do well when negotiating; we bring emotions into our salary talks. Bad move. Remaining absolutely professional in body, mind and spirit is key if you’re going to be at your most effective.

Which is another blog entirely.




How to Get your Old Job back when You’ve been Fired


There are some decent suggestions in that animation but I must elaborate a little. When you’ve been fired it’s not easy to return to your old job. The first thing you must do is to investigate whether your company had the legal right to dismiss you. Here’s a unique example of an organization really dropping the ball on that one.

When I worked for the Peel Regional Police in Brampton, Ontario, there was a supervisor and an intake caller in the 9-1-1 department who received an odd call from a young woman who wanted the 9-1-1 operator to send a car around to pick her up and drive her home. She had no cab fare and she was rather out in the middle of nowhere. The operator thought that was rather odd so she asked her supervisor what she should do.

Naturally the supervisor told the operator not to even entertain the idea of providing a personal taxi service for the public so the answer was no. A couple of weeks later both employees were fired. I don’t know why or under which policy but they were outta there. Both women sued and got their jobs back; an immediate payout of their annual salary; and of course their regular, ongoing salary. Now that’s what you call a wrongful dismissal triumph.

Suppose your company had legal grounds for dismissal. Ask yourself why you want your job back – is it strictly financial? Are you running low on funds and are in a panic? If you think about the reasons why you were let go in the first place, does this suggest to you that maybe this position isn’t for you? If there were extenuating circumstances and you don’t believe that to be the case, then it probably is a good move to return to your job.

Having made that decision, you will have to arm yourself with documentation proving how valuable you are to your former company. If you made significant profits for your corporation, have the documentation to prove it. If you improved employee relations, prove that. Anything you did that was highly beneficial to the organization is mandatory if you think you’re getting re-hired. Be prepared to make a very convincing argument and to answer a lot of questions by your former employer as to how you can continue to benefit the company should she allow you to return.

Above all, be prepared to hear no. It may have nothing to do with your work performance. The company might want a new person so it can move in a new direction. Or your position may have already been filled. That can be very defeating but it’s reality.

Should that be the case, make sure you have solid references when you get out there and continue your roster of interviews.



Need a Job? Get on a Routine.


Alright now. Let’s say you’re a new grad with no work connections or you’ve recently been down-sized. Both situations suck. Both situations make it easy to slack off in your personal routine. Sleeping in late and partying all night; maybe forgoing exercise at the gym and just not holding yourself to a responsible routine tends to be the result. And why not? You might be depressed right now. You might be discouraged. Staying up late to watch your favourite shows or to go out and party gets your mind off your non-work.

It also makes you lazy, phat (yea I said it), and stupid. (I mean phat in a state of mind sense).  It isn’t going to increase your odds of getting a job that’s for sure. It’s also bad for your mental and emotional health. Trust me. As a schoolteacher I have the option of sleeping in almost every day in the summer. Sounds  like bliss?  It’s not. I get lazy. My head pounds when my sleep cycle turns around on me. I feel phat. I get nothing done in the house. Keeping a routine keeps me productive. That’s one of the reasons why I volunteer in the summer. So I have a reason to get out of bed early and get on with the day.

And while you have all this time on your hands, here are a few things you should be doing to secure a job:

  1. Attend virtual and real job fairs and conventions.
  2. Watch webinars about increasing your odds of getting a job.
  3. Join meet-ups for new grads.
  4. Join meet-ups to network and meet people in the business sector. Avoid the networks that are really an excuse to party in the guise of swapping business cards.
  5. Form your own online support/networking group on a site and recruit people who are also seeking work.
  6. Get your profile updated on LinkedIn and check it daily (be careful about posting too much information….read my blog Don’t Put Your Resume on LinkedIn).
  7. Take classes in something you enjoy and haven’t had time to do.
  8. Take courses to improve your skills in your academic or professional area.
  9. Teach at a local college.
  10. Volunteer in the community where you can use your professional skills directly with the organization – don’t simply go without a job. Nothing looks worse on a resume than a big blank space under work experience.
  11. For a downsizer, consider a whole new career.
  12. Or consider asking for your old job back.

There’s another reason why you need a routine when you are job-hunting. The aforementioned suggestions (and there are many more online you can find) will help buoy your spirits. You feel good when you are active. You feel good when you are needed. You feel good when you make a contribution. It’s just good to be in contact with people, whether it’s virtual or in person.

When you have that feel-good aura, you come across as cheery rather than down, confident rather than desperate, and you demonstrate your innovative ways to stay involved and keep your skills fresh. If I was considering a new grad or an unemployed professional for my company, that’s the kind of person I’d want on my team. Not the person who can only stammer “well – I-I haven’t been working lately….” when I ask what she has been doing with her spare time while looking for work.





Develop a Daily Routine When Job Hunting

Follow your heart or your head?


You’ve probably debated that one in your love-life on several occasions. But when it comes to work there really is a lot more at stake….certainly more than just your heart. You may have been told “do what you love” as a young ‘un growing up in terms of a job. You’ve probably also heard the old “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” What rot! In any job you do, there will be an element of something you don’t like and that feels like work. If you’re a writer for instance you will have to be good at marketing and sales because you will be selling your writing to anyone who will listen.

Unless doing what you love is being an investment banker, a teacher, a sales rep or something else quite practical then you will probably never make a living doing what you “love.” Why? Because what you love is usually better as a hobby, not a living. Most people love to play chess, (Bobby Fischer made a  living off it, but you’re not Bobby Fischer – and in the end, he didn’t make it as Bobby Fischer either); some love to play hockey (unless you get drafted to the NHL, forget about it); or dabbling in visual arts (if you’re Warhol or Picasso by all means…. if you’re Van Gogh don’t bother….he sold one painting for $50.00 when he was alive).

There are some people in this world who do make it in the least likely of industries, against all odds. These people are celebrities and they comprise about 2% of the world’s population. Or they may be only local celebrities in your home town (something my brother used to call “lame celebrities”), making a moderately good living as broadcasters, anchors, talk show hosts, sports scouts, or some such thing.

By now you may know that I am an avid of Penelope Trunk. She has a great blog entitled Bad Career Advice: Do What You Love.  Here is an interesting quote from a blog she linked to the aforementioned blog: A job cannot make you happy, but it can save your life. People spend so much time looking for that perfect job, the perfect boss, the salary that will finally make them feel secure. But in fact, the impact a job can have on your life is overrated. 

Ultimately you have probably already worked for a great boss in a great job with a great salary and haven’t recognized it. Why? Because people place a lot of pressure on their career path to define who they are as people. That’s asking a lot of a job. I always wanted to have that incredible, special job that other people envied and wished they could have. I heard over and over as a teenager and 20-something that I, being special for some reason, would find it. I never did. I’m just an ordinary elementary schoolteacher. Big deal.

What makes me feel good however is my volunteering in my community. Currently I volunteer for two great organizations and I am considering a third. These are not organizations that take up an inordinate amount of time or else I wouldn’t be able to do all three. And I like them. A lot. Or I wouldn’t volunteer for them. But as much as I love the work, I cannot get paid for it. It’s worth almost zero to the community but it’s worth a great deal to the organizations who recruit their volunteers. If I wanted to get paid doing the volunteer work I do, I’d be looking under rocks to find an employer because no one will pay me for this kind of work. Yet I love it so I do it. For free.

Along that line, there is a way to do what you love, almost for a living. If income isn’t your biggest priority  then why not do what you love? You could be a writer, a blogger, an actor or some such thing where most people just don’t make a good living. If you don’t care about that and you can survive that way, then by all means, do it. Eventually you may change your mind but if you’re young enough, single and have no kids, what the heck?

Having said that, here’s a weird piece of information: Clay Collins referenced a 1956 psychological experiment  that showed people are more likely to find intrinsic motivation when they’re paid very little to do a task. When the monetary compensation increases, suddenly the money becomes the motivation, and as a result, it feels less enjoyable. Human beings are so complicated, aren’t they?

Does this mean that your passion can’t make you an income? Not necessarily. But the old sarcastic adage “don’t quit your day job,” was coined for a reason. Perhaps doing both what you love and what earns you an income is the answer. Or a compromise somewhere between the two. Or maybe what you love has to remain strictly voluntary. That’s for you to decide. Just make sure if you decide to quit your current job that you do so with a strong safety net in place – financially, emotionally and socially. You can bet your decision will be affected by the people who are important to you. It’s really not a step you make by yourself. And that’s one of the things that makes doing what you love so difficult to accomplish.