How to impress your boss

Shortly after I started working, someone gave me one of the most useful pieces of advice I received early on in my career:

If you really want to please your boss, make their job easier.

Being recognized as a good employee takes more than just working hard and doing what you’re asked.  This became especially clear to me when I became and manager and had different kinds of people reporting to me.  As your manager, my job is to provide you with the guidance and resources you need to produce quality work, which I am ultimately responsible for.  Sure, you could be a hard worker. 

But if I have to expend a lot of time, effort, and extra thought to get you to do the job I need you to do, you can be a pain to manage.

So, how do you become the worker that is pleasant to manage?  There are a few things you can do.

Save them time.   Do you have regular check-in meetings?  Come with an agenda.  Have a lot of questions?  Consolidate them into a list and get them answered all at once instead of peppering your boss with questions throughout the day.  If you’re accompanying them to a meeting, offer to take notes.  Record major points made, key questions raised, and next steps, then send them your notes.  Your boss is a busy person, and they will appreciate your organization and efficiency.

Tell them what you need.  Your boss is ultimately responsible for the quality and completeness of your work.  If you aren’t making adequate progress, identify what’s holding you up.  You could need more clarification, guidance, training, input, feedback, or a decision?  It’s better to proactively ask for what you need than to leave them wondering why you haven’t gotten the job done.

Come with an answer.  Where possible,offer a hypothesis and ask whether they agree instead of asking open-ended questions.  For example, “I think I should do x,y,z.  Do you agree?” is a lot easier to answer than “What should I do?”  By coming with a point of view, you relieve them from the burden of having to fully think through something from scratch.

Keep them in the loop.  If something has gone wrong, or if you think you won’t hit a deadline, raise the issue sooner rather than later.  Your boss will be a lot more forgiving when they have enough time to react to problems rather than when it’s too late to do anything.

Speaking from a manager’s point of view, if you are the employee who makes your boss’ job easy, you become the person they enjoy working with.  You are the one they always want on their team.  You are invaluable.  There’s a high likelihood that they will do what they can to keep you happy, so that they can keep you.  And that’s a good place to be.

Defusing the I-need-a-job-freakout

Let’s be honest.  Two years ago, after I graduated without a job,  I had days when I freaked out.  Last winter, months after my friend also graduated without a job, she freaked out.  A few months ago, when my boyfriend realized that his under-employment was not sustainable, he freaked out.

(source)

We’re all bound to go through it: the “I need a job!” freakout.

It’s ok.

Freaking out can be legitimate. We all have bills to pay in order to maintain life’s necessities, like food and shelter.

Freaking out can also be therapeutic.  If you’re around a bunch of other people who don’t have jobs, it’s something you can commiserate about.  Aaaah freakout! Le freak, c’est chic.

But there’s a point where all that freaking out isn’t healthy.  And I doubt it’s making you happy.
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How to answer the question “What kind of job are you looking for?”

***DISCLAIMER: The following dialogue is a dramatization, and in no way reflects how much whining my boyfriend did in the early stages of his job search.***

“So, what kind of job are you looking for?”

“Arrrrrrrrrgh!  I don’t know.  Why do you keep asking me that?”

My boyfriend, now employed, told me that getting him to answer that question was the single most helpful thing I did during the months I coached him through his search for a full-time job.

“So, what kind of job are you looking for?”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.  I just want to find a job.”

Well, babe, it’s kinda hard to find something when you don’t know what you’re looking for.  More importantly, it’s especially hard for someone to help you find something when you can’t define what it is you want to find.  Continue reading

Networking: Getting Started (Part 3)

Many of us grew up knowing networking was a good thing, and that it had something to do with having or getting a lot of contacts, but what we’re supposed to do with all those contacts may have been a little unclear.

A few months ago I was explaining the concept of informational interviews to my boyfriend.  He was in the midst of a full-time job search, and I had encouraged him to try a networked job search, in addition to doing the respond-to-job postings thing.

I walked him through Part 1, “You have an entire fan club of folks who think you’re awesome and want to see you succeed!” and Part 2, “You just need to let them know what you’re looking for and tell them what specifically they can do to help you.”  Now it’s time for Part 3: how to conduct an informal career chat (a.k.a informational interview).
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For undergrads: a mind map to get you started

Last week I did a workshop for undergrads on some basic tips on how to get started with their career search.  I only had about 45 minutes, so I focused on framing up the career search process as Contemplating, Communicating, and Connecting.

A few days later, I realized that what may be more helpful to give them is a template to help them organize their thoughts.  I did a similar mind-mapping exercise with my boyfriend, but wanted to create a tool that had all of the questions and guidance built into it.

I built it out on Mindmeister.com, where anyone can sign up for a free account and expand on the template mind map I created.  Here’s what I came up with (click on the picture to go to the map on Mindmeister.com):

 

Putting it out there

About a month ago, my little sister came over to hang out and tell me “something big” about what she has planned for this year.

“So, how’s your job?”

“It’s great.  I’m loving my job!”

“You’re loving it?  But, aren’t you back working the same job you quit 6 months ago?”

“Yeah, but it’s a little different.  It’s always different when I come back from quitting.  They change all of the things I didn’t like about the job before I quit.”

This was the third time my sister has quit that job, and the third time she’s gone back to it.  She’s really good at her job, and her boss knows it.  I’m not sure he would know what to do if she were to quit for real.

“Ok, so what’s you’re big news?”
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The most useful concept I learned in undergrad

“So, I ask… any words of advice?”

I didn’t know what to write back.  I was excited by but also unprepared for the overwhelming response I got after my talk at UC Berkeley.  I poured out my story to a group of strangers, in hopes that they would open up and ask questions they may not have asked otherwise.  And they did ask.  But even after this one girl took a risk and poured out her own story into an email, I didn’t know how to answer her question.

I can talk about my own experience, and I can pass along advice that I’ve found helpful, but sometimes it seems like people really just want to know what they should do.

I can’t tell them. I wish I could, but it’s their decision to make.  The most that I can do is help people sort through their thoughts and help them come to a good decision, using one of the most useful concepts I learned in undergrad.

Decision analysis. I love this stuff.  According to Answers.com, decision analysis “offers individuals and organizations a methodology for making decisions.” Continue reading