Read Fire Your Boss Online

Authors: Stephen M. Pollan,Mark Levine

Tags: #Psychology, #Self Help, #Business

Fire Your Boss (30 page)

BOOK: Fire Your Boss

For a first-time job seeker this means being as open-minded as possible about which opportunities to pursue initially, and pursuing a large number simultaneously. One of the things you may not have learned in college is the ability to multitask. You may have been able to go to one class at a time, and to do your work one project at a time. In the job market you’ll need to be able to juggle multiple projects in which you may play different roles. Your first lesson in this will be to not look for work in a serial manner. Too many young people, uncomfortable with the process, send out a mass of résumés, land perhaps one or two leads, and then pursue those leads until they yield either a job or a rejection. In the latter case they start the process again, sending out a mass of résumés, getting a couple of leads, and following them to their end. Instead, you need to be constantly sending out résumés and constantly pursuing leads. You need to always be doing every step in the process.

Just as important, when you find a job, you need to keep job fishing. Most people end up in industries or professions by default. Fresh out of college they get a job in, let’s say, the greeting card industry. They stay with their first employer as long as possible, perhaps getting one or two promotions. After just a couple of years they feel they’ve made an investment in the industry, and that their best chances for finding another job are to stick with it. So they keep looking for work in the greeting card industry. By the time they’re in their thirties they’re considered “industry veterans.” Not only are they afraid they won’t earn as much, or be able to maintain their organizational rank, if they shift industries, but they’re secretly worried they won’t be able to cut it in another industry. Greeting cards are all I’ve ever known, they’ll think to themselves. I can’t leave the industry. By continuing to look for another job, even after landing your first job, and taking a better offer as soon as it comes along, you’ll be able to avoid falling into that trap.

No One Hires a Young Stranger Either

You’re entering the job market at a time when the standard job-search strategy no longer works. For years, most people in business eschewed classified ads and instead drew on a business network consisting of coworkers, peers, clients, customers, and competitors to generate job leads. They’d use their network to gather names of people with whom to hold informational interviews: overtly casual conversations to get advice, but covertly requests for jobs. The lack of job growth and a push by human resources professionals to regain control of recruitment and hiring has led to the demise of networking.

I’m urging clients to instead return to the use of help wanted ads, since they are the single best way to get a job, any job, in the shortest period of time. For many, that’s what’s most important. But I’m also suggesting that my clients follow a second, parallel path by tapping into their personal lives for job leads. That’s because no one hires a stranger anymore.

Since, as a newcomer to the world of business, you don’t have a network on which to draw, its demise as an effective job-search tool isn’t an issue. Luckily you do have a personal life you can use to generate job leads.

However, since most of your social contacts are probably people in situations similar to your own — just entering the job market, returning to a hometown after four years away, or making a fresh start in a new community — they may not offer either the breadth or the depth of social connections that could generate job leads. That’s why you need to follow a slight variation on the technique I outlined earlier in the book. You need to tap into what I call your “second-generation social life.”

Instead of looking to your friends or to people you’ve met in social situations for job leads, look to other people’s social contacts. Ask your parents and older siblings to tap into their social lives for help. Anytime you’re invited to meet friends’ parents, grab it. Invited to a party at your parents’ neighbors? Leap at the chance. Is your aunt begging to take you to church with her to show you off to her friends? Do it. Don’t look at going to the Rotary Club breakfast with your father as the equivalent of having teeth pulled. It’s an incredible opportunity to tap into a social sphere that could yield multiple job leads.

A second-generation social life has an added bonus. You will be one of the only young people present. As such you’ll stand out and attract attention. Instead of seeming like a desperate job seeker, you’ll appear to be a young person with an unusually mature approach. Just your presence at these kinds of events will create a positive perception in the eyes of others. Whenever the people at that Rotary Club breakfast are told about a job opening for a young person, they’ll instantly think of you.

From Day One, It’s the Money

When you do get that call from a Rotarian about a possible job lead, it’s vital that you realize which characteristics of a job are important today, and which aren’t. Most of the people who follow the Fire Your Boss approach will analyze the twenty main elements in each job offer they receive, focus on the important ones I describe in chapter 7, and weigh whether or not to accept the new offer. When you’re just starting off you’ll do the same, but some of the elements carry a slightly different weight.

The unimportant factors are the same, whether you’re getting your first job or your fiftieth: amenities, auto, challenging, culture, environment, expense allowance, opportunities for advancement, stability, status, and title. The factors I believe are definitely important remain that way as well: income, proximity, paid time off, unpaid time off, and opportunities for learning. It’s some of the questionable factors that, I believe, take on increased importance for those getting their first job. Disability insurance, retirement plans, and life insurance, while potentially valuable to some, aren’t always essential to first-time job seekers. On the other hand, health insurance and tuition reimbursement, I believe, are definitely important factors for someone getting his or her first job. Let me explain.

Most young people fail to realize how expensive health care can be. Having been covered by your parents’ health plans up until now, you’ve probably never received a bill for medical services. The response from most young people, when faced with the possibility of having to pay large medical bills because they don’t have insurance coverage, is to go without care. That’s an understandable response. However, it’s not a wise one. The only reason I don’t consider health insurance coverage an important factor for all of my clients is that many of them can obtain coverage from a partner, and so can do without coverage of their own. Since most first-time job seekers aren’t yet able to obtain coverage from a partner, my recommendation is to consider health insurance coverage one of the important factors in choosing a job.

For most of my clients tuition reimbursement is an important factor only if the selection of courses isn’t limited. That’s because most experienced job seekers are returning to college in order to acquire skills and credentials that will allow them to more easily enter a different industry or profession. For a first-time job seeker, further education is almost always a good thing. My suggestion is that you should add tuition reimbursement to your list of important factors.

All that being said, the most important factor, whether you’re just entering the job market or are getting your final job before retirement, is still the money.

You Must Be Going, Even Though You Just Started

When you land your first job you need to enter it with the attitude that it’s only a matter of time before you leave for another job. That’s true for every worker, but it’s especially true for the first-timer. Don’t let yourself get too comfortable. This is an excellent opportunity to set a pattern for the remainder of your working life: that you, rather than your boss, will determine when and how you leave your job.

In order to determine whether or not it makes sense to leave your current job for another one, you need to weigh the twenty elements that constitute each job offer. I tell my clients that their decision about leaving should also be influenced by the length of time they’ve held their current job. For instance, if you’ve held a job for a year or less, you should leave for another only if the new position represents an improvement in at least two of the factors you consider important. If you’ve held a job for between one and two years, you should leave only if the new position is an improvement in at least one important factor. And if you’ve held a job for more than two years, you should feel free to move for any job that offers a boost in any of the factors, important or not.

However, if you’re in your first job I think the rules should be slightly different. I believe a first-time job holder should be ready to move within a year for any position that represents an improvement, even if it’s just in one important factor. In addition, if you’re still holding that initial job after two years, I’d suggest you take another, even if it doesn’t offer an improvement in
factor, but simply is a change. I believe it’s essential for young people to create a momentum in their work lives and to fight any tendency toward complacency. In the twenty-first century, movement is essential for a successful work life. The sooner you learn that and make it part of your life, the better.

Liz Mandel Lands Her First Job

After accepting that she needed to kill her career before it even began, Liz set aside her idea of getting an entry-level job in the nonprofit sector. After speaking with a former professor about her desire to find a volunteer activity, Liz contacted a neighborhood youth center in Brooklyn. She and the director struck up a quick friendship, and Liz volunteered to help set up a peer counseling service. Liz also decided to go “temple shopping,” as she called it. After attending services at a number of synagogues around the metropolitan area, Liz found a small but energetic Reconstructionist congregation in Manhattan that seemed to provide much of what she was looking for in a religious community.

While she was busy creating a fulfilling personal life of her own, Liz tapped into the personal lives of her parents and her friends’ parents, looking for job leads. It was actually at a barbecue in her parents’ backyard that she struck up a conversation with a neighbor she hadn’t seen in years. A marketing executive in the sporting goods industry, he had started consulting with a large national chain of sports stores that was setting up an electronic commerce operation. After hearing Liz explain how studying philosophy had taught her how to be a problem solver, he mentioned that that was exactly the skill the sporting goods store’s e-commerce arm was looking for in staffing its customer service department. The chat at the barbecue led to an office meeting, followed by an interview.

At the interview Liz saw that the hiring manager seemed to be looking for people who would be compassionate with customers. Liz stressed not only her problem-solving skills, but also her charitable work. She got a job offer. Since the only other offer she had was for an entry-level position at a bookstore, and that paid much less, Liz took the customer service job. After a few weeks on the job Liz quickly realized her boss’s real need. A veteran in the retail business, he didn’t have much of a handle on the Internet customer. But he was being pushed by the management of the new e-commerce operation to come up with innovations. Liz began offering suggestions and new ideas he could use. Within six months she was promoted to be his deputy.

Despite her promotion, Liz continued to fish for other job offers. After a Bible study group at her synagogue, she and a very fashionably dressed woman in her midforties struck up a debate about Spinoza. It turned out that the woman operated her own business running focus groups for clients. As I was in the process of writing this chapter, Liz was in the process of talking with the woman about a possible job facilitating focus group discussions.

Before I met Liz I was worried that a young person who majored in philosophy wouldn’t be pragmatic. She proved I was falling prey to stereotyping. Liz Mandel, a philosophy major fresh out of college, is as savvy and successful a practitioner of my Fire Your Boss approach as any of my most seasoned, bottom - line - focused clients.

Firing Your Boss in Another Industry
To betray, you must first belong. I never belonged.
— K

separating most businesses from each other is jargon. Sure, there are fields requiring specialized technical knowledge, like auto mechanics and neurosurgery, but most industries have far more in common with each other than most people realize.

Businesses usually follow similar sets of strategies and employ comparable arrays of tactics, regardless of what they’re actually selling. That’s actually the first common point: all businesses are selling something, even if it’s intangible, like advice. I know it’s something of an oversimplification, but you could say there are only three business strategies: sell the best for the most, sell the cheapest, or sell the best compromise between quality and price. In addition, all your skills and experiences in business operations can probably be divided into three categories: finance, management, and marketing.

The secret to successfully changing industries is realizing there’s this similarity between businesses and then being able to demonstrate that sameness to others. You need to demonstrate that your skills and experiences are transferable. The first step in doing both is firing your boss and hiring yourself.

That’s what I told Jody Harkins when she came to see me. Jody is the thirty-nine-year-old deputy director of planning and development for a small city in the northern suburbs of New York City. Married with two young children, she was referred to me by her brother-in-law, an attorney with whom I’ve worked on a number of different projects. Jody found herself in an all too common position. A bit of an obsessive, Jody hated to see anything left undone. She instinctively filled any vacuum she came across. I’ve found that, as if by magic, people like Jody always end up working for individuals who are more than happy to let others do their job for them.

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