Sunday, April 29, 2012

Back in Business and Employer Tactics to Keep You Out

Alright #workinggirl, I admit it, I'm not perfect.  This is my first blog in three weeks and I'm sure you are in the midst of major withdrawal from your continuous need for career advice.  Every once in a while, we all need a break, and while three weeks is extreme, I felt it was better to go on hiatus than to push out poor quality material.

But the good news is we are back in business.  So let's start off with a bang.  Last Friday, I saw a segment on "20/20" on ABC titled True Confessions: Ex-HR Exec Tells All.  A former HR executive exposes how employers weed out potential employees by finding out personal information, such as if they have children, through any means possible without directly asking (which is against the law).

Although somewhat shocking, the fact employers try these tactics is not all that surprising.  See the full excerpt below.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

1.  Keep your personal life personal.  This is specific to a job interview.  It is only natural to want to talk about the people that mean the most to you when someone asks about yourself, but on a job interview, you need to keep it 100% professional.  Speak to your interest in travel or wine tasting, you don't need to mention that you travel with your husband with kids in tow.  And girlfriend, I know you love that rock on your finger, but leave it at home.  Engagement ring equals marriage and marriage equals kids which is enough of a reason NOT to hire you.

2.  Vacation Time.  I disagree a little with the video with regards to time off.  I think it is fine to use your vacation time, it just depends on when you use it.  If you have been at the company long enough to find your footing and you are planning two weeks to New Zealand during the slow season, you should have no problems.  Similarly, if you had a trip planned before you even accepted the position (which you only told them after they made you the offer, of course), that you should be fine as well.  However, if you need three weeks off and you just started two months ago, eyebrows will certainly be raised.

3.  Fashion Police.  This doesn't mean you need to spend every free penny on the newest looks from the catwalk.  It does mean however you need to look tidy and put together.  People like to be around other people who are confident.  You don't need to be a model and spend thousands on designer clothes.  Dress so that your confidence shows and you'll never be accused of being frumpy.

4.  HR is not your friend.  My jaw dropped open when I saw the segment about the Citibank worker in the clip above that was fired because of her wardrobe.  Not because of what she was wearing, which didn't seem inappropriate to me, but because she stood there crying saying she honestly believe that HR was on her side.  Is she serious?  HR is never on your side.  HR is there to protect the company and look after the company's best interest, not yours.  I almost never recommend going to HR with an issue, it never ends the way you envision.  Find another route.

5.  Leave or get left behind.  If you have been passed over for a promotion, requested to take on more responsibilities, or applied to work on a specific project and were denied, it's time to move on.  Your leadership do not see you at the next level.  If your goal to continue to move up the career ladder, you are going to have to do it in another department, or better yet, at another company.  Do not be afraid to move on.  Being managed out is not a bad thing, the only bad thing is letting it drag on for years.

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Friday, April 6, 2012

#DestinationFridays: MotownPHILLY's Back Again

Working for Virgin America, I often have amazing opportunities to get out of the office and travel. This week was no exception as I attended Virgin America's launch events in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia!  Events included a "Tailgate on the Tarmac" and an amazing party at the Hotel Palomar in Center City, Philadelphia in celebration of the airline's new non-stop flights to California.

Sir Richard Branson is joined by Philadephia Mayor Michael Nutter and Congressman Chaka Fattah on the tarmac. (Photo: Bob Riha, Jr)

The tailgate had a party atmosphere at the Virgin America gate in Terminal E that included food provided by local chain Chickie's and Pete's featuring crab fries and, of course, Philly cheesesteaks.  Moving to the tarmac, we sat in bleachers awaiting the aircraft's arrival and getting pumped up with classic Philadelphia songs.  Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter among others greeted the plane's guests to a red carpet welcome.

DJ Jazzy Jeff spins for the crowd - and they all loved it! (Photo: Virgin America)

The evening event was a star studded affair and celebrity guests included actors Terrence Howard and Seth Green, model and singer Amber Rose, Boys II Men singer Nate Morris, and an amazing performance by DJ Jazzy Jeff.  Other guests included former Mayor of Philadelphia and Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell and players from both the Eagles and Flyers.

What surprised me most was the amazingly cool atmosphere that was buzzing in Center City with plenty of trendy shops, restaurants, and bars.  I grew up in New Jersey and we would sometimes come to Philly for the day and there wasn't always a whole lot going on.  In the last 15 years, the city has totally transformed itself into the perfect mix of historical significance and urban cool.  I could really live and work here.  Easily.

Top historical sites include the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and The Betsy Ross House, while the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Franklin Institute are always worth a visit.  No visit to Philadelphia is complete without embracing your inner foodie with a mandatory stop at the Reading Terminal to sample some local market cuisine and cure those late night cravings with a cheesesteak from Geno's or Pat's.  Both are open 24 hours and you'll sit side by side with locals, sports fans, and those dressed in their finest, all with one common goal, eating Philadelphia's best signature sandwich.

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Staying productive when you travel

Traveling for work has its pros and cons.  It's often nice to get out of the office and catch up with customers or vendors.  But it can also be difficult being away from home, and staying caught up on your day to day responsibilities can be a real challenge.

Here are few tips to make life on the road a little easier.

Stay connected. If you are traveling by air, pick an airline with in-flight wifi if possible.  It's an amazing feeling to land and have an empty inbox.

Switch off. If you are traveling for a client meeting or a conference, stay focused on the reason you are out of the office.  If you are constantly taking calls or responding to emails when you should be concentrating on those you are with, you might as well have stayed at the office.

Wellness.  If you have any down time, use this as chance to hit the gym or the hotel spa.  Recharge your batteries and you'll be refreshed when you return to your family and the office.

Travel smart!

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Promotion or lateral move? No brainer, right? Not so fast.

Well #workinggirl, after landing that first job after college, you are on the right track and have begun building a solid career foundation.  You are going above and beyond and your leaders are starting to take notice.  This may not be your dream job, but you know it's only a matter of time before you are moving onward and upward to bigger and better things.

You are the official/unofficial team leader and you are starting to become the go to person on your team.  You like your work, though you just aren't sure if this is what you want to do for the rest of your life.  Suddenly, you are smack in the middle of your first true career dilemma: Seek a promotion within your current department/company or pursue a lateral position externally to gain experience in a different area?

This is the question career professionals have been asking themselves since their very first job offer.  You may think the obvious choice is the promotion, right?! I mean who wouldn't want more money?  But before you accept that promotion, make sure you ask yourself these 3 questions.

1.  Is this the area of work you enjoy and want to continue working?  What's the point of having more headache and responsibility if you aren't 100% sure you even like the work?  Life is too short to be miserable 40+ hours a week.

2.  Is your goal to be a senior executive one day, and if so, what breadth of experience is needed to make it in your industry?  Many people that are ultimately selected as CEOs have experience in many different functional areas.  If you only have one or two areas of expertise, your career progression may eventually reach a dead end.

3.  Are you at risk of being pigeon-holed or is the experience you currently have easily transferred to other business areas? We all have experience with people in our departments that have been there for-ever.  Sometimes known as "lifers" they have been there so long and their skills are so specialized, the perception is they don't have the ability to work anywhere else.  Don't fall into that trap.  

Only you can answer what is best for you and your career.  Just remember, the correct choice isn't always the most obvious one.

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning from a job that you hate

One of my very first jobs after college was working for a travel company.  On paper, it seemed pretty good.  Great work experience, decent vacation time, free lunches, and travel discounts.  The pay wasn't great, but I needed the experience and I figured better money would come later.

I had my doubts on day one.  There was all this talk about weekend work.  I was confused, no one had mentioned working on weekends?  It also seemed really strict, for example somebody apologized profusely for being 10 minutes late, there wasn't a lot of chit chat going on, and I actually shared a desk with two other people, there barely enough room to breathe.

The work itself wasn't bad, but I had tried to make suggestions and asked questions on why certain things were done in a particular way and could tell no one was interested in making improvements.  Then I was scolded for sending too many external emails (I assumed they were reading every word as well) and for not apologizing for being 20 minutes late one morning when being caught in the rain.

After five months, I just couldn't take it anymore.  I was miserable and handed in my notice.  Thinking back on this period, although I didn't realize it at the time,  I did learn a tremendous amount about the workplace and would have never gotten my subsequent job if it weren't for this experience.  Here is what I really learned.

  1. Get all the facts.  This job required working half a day on a Saturday once per month and I didn't discover this until after I had started.  I could blame the company, saying that no one ever told me, but I never asked either.  This was my job and my life, the responsibility is all on me.
  2. Know the rules.  My boss had a thing for always being on time and not sending personal emails at work.  However, some people would often take 15 minutes twice a day to go for a coffee, which never seemed to bother her.  I continued to do the things that annoyed her rather than adjusting to the work environment.  Until you are in a position to set your own rules, you need to avoid doing the things that give your boss heartburn.
  3. Never burn your bridges.  Even when I handed in my notice, I thanked everyone for their help and said I was grateful for the opportunity. I wasn't lying, I was truly grateful, this job just wasn't for me.
It's important to remember that even when you are in a position you don't like, that you try and learn what you can (even if it is what not to do!).  Use this experience to land an even better job!

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Now or Later? When to Reply to Weekend Emails

We all live and work in a 24 hour society.  Everyone is connected all the time and we expect to receive answers to questions within minutes, not hours.  Although us GenY working girls really appreciate flexibility in our lives, we also need time to unwind and to mentally take a break.

Although you may feel compelled to be tethered to your smart phone, continuously replying to emails out of hours sets a precedent and a certain level of expectation in your responsiveness.  Here are some tips on when you should reply and what you should let sit in your inbox until Monday.

  1. It's urgent. Really.  There is a true operational emergency.  The business has stopped and no revenue is coming in and it's imperative the issue is resolved immediately to alleviate any additional loss in sales.  Here you should reply immediately, without hesitation.  
  2. Someone else is cleaning out their inbox.  Some people have no time to manage their inbox effectively during the week as they spend much of their day in meetings (sigh).  In order to catch-up, they must take some time over the weekend to crank out a few responses.  Don't feel compelled to respond, this person just wants to start fresh on Monday.
  3. It depends.  Depending on your mood, you might be inclined to reply immediately.  If you are ready to engage in email ping pong, go for it.  If you are zoning out for the weekend, opt to catch up on Monday.  
Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Thursday, March 22, 2012

#DestinationFridays: The Ferris Bueller and More Tour of Chicago

We all can relate to the teen focused, John Hughes movies of the 80's and 90's. Some of Hughes' great films include Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Home Alone. Seeing the latest Honda commercial with Matthew Broderick on Superbowl Sunday this year reminded me of all the great Chicago locations where these movies took place.

Brett DiDonato, creator of the stock broker review site Online Broker Review, first had the idea to locate some of these famous filming locations, when he was planning a visit to Chicago back in 2009. "I started to do some research and I realized many of the most recognizable sites from my favorite John Hughes films were scattered around the city and nearby suburbs. With a little internet digging, I was able to locate many of the sites and reenact some of the most memorable scenes "

Armed with a google map, local addresses, and approximate locations, DiDonato was able to turn his photos into this amazing compilation. Here are some of his favorite sites, all of which can be visited in one day, by yourself or with a group of friends. You'll need a car (Cameron's Dad's Ferrari is optional) once you leave the city, so plan on renting one for the day even if you don't need it for the rest of your visit. Also, be sure to bring print outs or have the links easily accessible on your phone so that you can compare the then and now.

Downtown Chicago

Starting in the heart of the city, you can cover some of the major sites from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. These are all within walking distance or a short taxi ride away.

1. Sears Tower - 233 S. Wacker Drive. From the movie.
Now called the Willis Tower, if your nerves allow, go out on a ledge! The Sky Deck is located at 1,353 above the city.

2. The Art Institute of Chicago - 111 S. Michigan Avenue.
Be sure to see all of these great works of art starting with the Lion Statues out front, The Red Armchair by Pablo Picasso, Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon, and Chegall's America Windows. Some of the paintings may have been relocated, so don't hesitate to ask if you can't find a particular piece.

3. The Flamingo Sculpture - Corner of Dearborn and Adams. From the movie.
Not a lot more to see, snap a quick picture and let's keep it moving!

The North Shore - Wrigleyville, Winnetka, and Glencoe
Although you can take the Red Line up to Clark and Division and Wrigleyville, it is easiest to pick up a car now so you can easily continue further north up to Winnetka and Glencoe immediately afterwards. Here we'll see sites from Home Alone, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Sixteen Candles.

4. "Chez Quis" and Wrigley Field - 22 W. Schiller Street and 1060 W. Addison Street. From the movie.
Don't plan on stopping for lunch at Chez Quis, as this was always a private residence. Even if the Cubs aren't playing, it's worth a few minutes to stop and have a look around Wrigley Field.

5. The Home Alone House and Downtown Winnetka. 671 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka and Corner of Chestnut and Elm, Winnetka
Recently sold for just over $1.5M, the iconic Home Alone house is one of the major tour highlights for me. You just can't resist taking a quick picture! Two minutes across the street is downtown Winnetka, which is the location of Mrs. Bueller's Real Estate Office, which is still there and a real life real estate office.

6. Glencoe Beach and Glencoe Union Church. Glencoe Beach at Park Avenue, Glencoe and 263 Park Ave, Glencoe
A worthy site in its own right, Glencoe Beach is the spot where Cameron went catatonic in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Just up the street is Glencoe Union Church, where Sam and Jake had that first real moment in Sixteen Candles.

Shermer aka Northbrook
Our third and final area location is the fictitious Shermer which is based on Hughes' hometown of Northbrook, located in the northern suburbs of the city. Shermer is an actual road name used throughout Northbrook.

7. Formerly Main North High School 9511 Harrison Street, Des Plaines
Our first location from The Breakfast Club, Shermer High School was seen in the very beginning of the movie. Today it is a police station and looking eerily run down.

8. Glenbrook North High School 2300 Shermer Road, Northbrook
Two great scenes were shot at Gleenbrook North High School. The first is from Ferris Bueller's Day Off where

Mr. Rooney and Sloane are waiting for Ferris and Cameron as seen here which is actually the entrance to the Performing Arts Center. Further behind, is the football field from the final scene in The Breakfast Club fists high! The scorebox on the bleachers has been built up, but otherwise remains the same.

The next time you visit Chicago, looking for an alternative to the typical tourist attractions and love these classic films, the John Hughes Tour of Chicago is for you.

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl