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.

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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

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Telecommuting: 5 tips for a productive day

High speed internet, smart phones, increasing gas prices, and our 24/7 society has lead to a gain in popularity in telecommuting over the last few years.   Employees can now do everything at home that used to be required to be done in the office and some corporations have implemented an official telecommuting policy.

Telecommuting is a huge benefit to many people.  Here are five tips to ensure you have a productive day.
  1. It's a work day.  If you haven't done a lot of telecommuting before, it can be very tempting to catch up on daytime tv, housework, or run errants while you should be working.  While it is perfectly acceptable to throw in a load of laundry, resist the urge to begin spring cleaning.    
  2. Settling in.  Ensure you have a good place to setup shop.  It can be in a home office, at the kitchen table, or on your couch.  Just make sure you have an environment that is conducive to work.
  3. Take a break.  Working from home can often be a constant barrage of emails and conference calls.  Ensure you leave time for a break for lunch, a walk, or squeeze in a workout. 
  4. Staying connected.  When you aren't in the office, it is even more important that you remain in contact with those whom you work closely.  Don't be afraid to pick up the phone to clarify a question.  It's easy to hide behind email, but make an effort and remain engaged where it makes sense.
  5. Don't ruin it for the rest of us.  Your company and your boss is entrusting you to be productive and almost have higher expectations of you to get more work done than if you were in the office.  Don't take advantage.
Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Thursday, March 15, 2012

#DestinationFridays: Extreme Day Trips

I love travel.  And I love the excuse to travel somewhere far, for a short period of time, even just a day.  I have been fortunate enough to work for an airline for the majority of my career and eligible for flight benefits, which allow airline employees to travel for drastically reduced prices.

Having access to the world at my finger tips, I have taken some pretty long day trips (24 hours or less).  Here are my top 3 day trips I have taken over the last 10 years.

Chicago to London
Departing Chicago on an early evening, overnight flight, puts you into London early morning the next day.  Hop on the Heathrow Express (it's expensive, but time is of the essence) and head into the city.  Stop by the National Gallery, do some shopping on Oxford Street, and stroll through Hyde Park before circling back to Buckingham Palace.   You have just enough time to for a quick lunch, a tacky souvenir, and head back to Heathrow for a mid afternoon departure.  You arrive back to Chicago late the same night.  Cheers!

Los Angles to Honolulu
Leaving LA early morning, you arrive in Hawaii mid morning and head straight to Waikiki.  Chill out on the beach and then stroll along Kalakaua Avenue and grab some lunch.  Get some shopping in at the International Market Place and then it's onto the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for a Mai Tai and to watch the sunset.  Have another Mai Tai along with a light dinner before heading back to the airport for your overnight flight back to LA.  Aloha!

Manchester to Rome
Time for an early morning departure from Manchester (or any Northern European city), arriving into Rome late morning.  Head to center of Rome, making stops at the Spanish Steps, Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain.  Stop for lunch at a cafe at one of Rome's many piazzas before hoping over to Vatican City.   Take in St. Peter's Square and marvel at the artistry inside the Basilica.  You have just enough time to grab a slice of pizza and head back to the airport before you evening departure back north.  Ciao!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When you should say "No" to a job offer

Well girlfriend, you made it.  You wrote a killer resume, dressed for success, and nailed your job interview.  Now it's the moment of truth: the offer.

I hope the offer you received is everything you ever wanted and more.  But in reality, it's probably far from life changing.  I have yet to receive an offer that knocked my socks off, but hopefully what you received is a starting point.  If however, the offer is just not hitting the mark and after trying your hand at negotiation, you aren't getting anywhere, when do you consider walking away?

  1. You have a job.   It's so much easier to find a job when you have a job.  So if the offer you received is just not hitting the mark, no worries, you are already employed and are under no pressure to accept something you aren't 100% sure about.
  2. Salary is missing the mark.  Assuming that you already have a job, and the salary on offer is still less than you were hoping for (10% or so), consider that this may not be the right opportunity for you.  Know what you want and what you are worth.  Of course if you don't have a job, you don't have the benefit of being so selective.  
  3. The benefits aren't bountiful.  What are the non salary benefits like?  Flexible hours, working from home, 401k match, health insurance premiums, vacation/sick time?  These all play a part in the overall package.  Sometimes these can be enough to compensate when the salary is less than you expected, but other times not.  
In short, you want to head into your new job happy and content.  As this is usually the happiest you will be in the workplace, you might as well start off on the right foot.

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Supporting Charities at Work Without Going Broke

No matter where you work, it seems that there is always some sort of collection or fundraising taking place.  It could be a company wide initiative, employees banding together for a common goal, or an individual collecting funds for their kid's sports team.

The number of charity requests can become overwhelming.  However, with just a little bit of organization, you can contribute and make a real difference without leaving yourself short before payday.  Here's how.

Give what you can.  If you can afford to give a cash donation, do it.  Your co-worker who is fundraising will truly appreciate it and it may even enhance your relationship with your colleagues.

Donate your time.  One of the easiest ways to help contribute is by donating your time.  A bake sale is a low cost way to participate.  For a few dollars, you can make brownies or cupcakes, which in turn can be sold for 10 times your cost and used for donations.  Keep your eye out for when the ingredients go on sale at the supermarket, then you can have them on hand when needed.

Give items.  Another great way to contribute is through a food or clothing drive.  Often all that is required is to bring in some food from your cupboard (ensure it hasn't expired!) or some gently used coats or clothing.  It's a good way to clean out your closet without having to part with any cash.

Help organize.  It takes a lot of time and energy to fund raise.  Volunteer to help your colleagues with existing charity drives or find a cause that you are passionate about and start your own fundraiser.  Giving your time can often do more good than a cash donation.

Say no.  Just like in the 80s, it's ok to just say no.  When I was working my first job immediately after college, I had a lot of bills and not a lot of money.  I would have loved to donate to the variety of causes my co-workers were collecting for, but I really did not have the money.  I promised myself that once my situation improved, I would indeed begin to contribute once again.  I am fortunate that I am now in a position to help others.

Bottom line, if you can afford a small donation, do it.  But just because you don't have the cash, doesn't mean you can't contribute in other ways.

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Thursday, March 8, 2012

#DestinationFridays: Booking a package vacation

This week on #DestinationFridays we'll discuss the pros and cons of booking that fabulous, hard earned #workinggirl vacation as part of a package versus booking the components individually.  

Booking a package vacation can often have many benefits, especially as to the price.  Depending on your preference, you could go with a destination specialist such as Apple Vacations for the Caribbean or Pleasant Holidays for Hawaii. Or you could book with one of the larger online travel agencies such as Expedia or Orbitz, which have a huge number of destination choices. 

Let's Get Booking

Money. Money. Money.  The main benefit of booking a package vacation is the travel company you book through will negotiate preferred rates for all components of the vacation.  Also, they are able to combine these pieces together and offer them to you for a lower price than you would have been able to get yourself if you booked each component individually.  You can often save anywhere between 10% to 30% or more depending on when you book your vacation.

This is not what I paid for.  Another benefit to booking a package vacation is protection.  I recently booked a vacation through Travelocity and when we arrived at the hotel, we discovered the property was overbooked.  After a few hours of waiting and shuffling around, they were able to find us a room that was scheduled for refurbishment.  It was far from ideal, but it was a holiday weekend, and we didn't have much choice.  On our return, I contacted Travelocity and they were able to help intervene with the hotel and provide some compensation.  Had we booked directly with the hotel, I know my request for a credit would have gone ignored.

Not so Fast...

Prepayment required. When you book a package vacation, you will need to pay for most or all of the associated costs in advance.  When you book directly on a hotel's website, you have the benefit of not paying until check-out. However, in order to take advantage of the lowest available rates, most hotels in popular vacation destinations are now requiring full prepayment.  

Being walked.  In the hotel business, being walked means a hotel will overbook and then walk you to a nearby hotel as they do not have any available rooms. The hotel will usually select those guests that paid the least amount (remember those preferred rates that your travel company was able to offer you as part of that great package?) to move to the new hotel.  Even if you book directly with the hotel, being walked is still a possibility but a lot less likely.

No points for you.  Finally, if you love to collect hotel points, you can forget topping up your balance if you book your branded hotel as part of a package.  You will earn points based on any miscellaneous charges spent once you arrive and, depending on your loyalty program, will get a night or stay credit but you won't receive points for the daily room rate.  

Ultimately, you need to decide what is most important to you.  If you are traveling to a destination that has a lot of independent hotels in a very traditional beach destination such as Mexico or the Caribbean, a package vacation is often the way to go.  If you are going somewhere in the US or to a city in Europe, consider booking direct.

Enjoy the sun girlfriend!

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Don't just survive...excel at any business lunch

A business lunch can be an odd situation for any #workinggirl.  Not quite a business meeting and certainly not a  leisurely meal with your co-workers, proper etiquette can often be a mystery at this type of meeting.  Here are a few tips, not just to survive, but to excel.

What to order.  This is not the time to experiment with a new dish.  Stick to what you know you like and unless you are at a fastfood restaurant, order something that you do not have to eat with your hands.  It makes conversation awkward and can get messy.  Go with a salad, soup, or a lunch size entree.  Avoid the fish tacos, burger, or sandwiches.

Know your objective.  Whether you are leading the business conversation or on the receiving end, it's important to know your purpose.  If you are making a pitch, you really aren't at lunch to eat, you are there to sell your idea, so put the fork down and focus on the conversation.  However, don't overwhelm the others where they feel they cannot eat while you talk.  You need to find the right balance.

Making it personal.  If this meeting was just all business, you probably would've met somewhere else.  So take the time to get to know or catch up with associates.  Ask them about their personal interests, their family (especially if they have kids, people love to talk about their kids), and what's going on with their company.

To drink or not to drink.  Having an alcoholic drink during the day can be a tricky one.  If you are leading the conversation, it's important to follow their lead.  The last thing you want to do is to make anyone feel uncomfortable, one way or the other.  When in doubt, skip the alcohol, but realize that if you are dining with those where culturally drinking during a business meeting is expected, not having a drink might also be offensive.  Of course if you do not drink at all, for whatever reason, you should absolutely refrain from any group pressure.

Thanks for the free lunch.  Like the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch.  If someone offers to take you to lunch to discuss their product or service and you have zero interest, do not take the lunch. Leading someone on doesn't just apply in a personal relationship, it happens in a professional relationship too.

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Voice of the (Sophisticated) Customer - United and FlyerTalk

On March 3rd, the new United Airlines (combined as United and Continental) migrated all flight bookings stored in the old United Apollo reservation system to the Continental reservation system called SHARES.  This type of system 'cutover' is often described as performing a heart and lung transplant while the patient is running a marathon.  Having recently experienced this similar event late last year at another airline, I watched with interest over this past weekend how the cutover was progressing.

There were the usual expected issues associated with such a transition: long check-in lines, slightly delayed flights, and some people losing their seat assignments.  What I found particularly interesting was United's presence and interaction with customers on FlyerTalk, a website dedicated to the exchanging of information  by frequent travelers.

thread was dedicated specifically to the system cutover where "UA Insider" answered customer questions and provided detailed updates on issues.  In addition, this was a place where sophisticated, qualified customers provided detailed feedback on items that were and were not working.  Here, you had a highly engaged and knowledgeable audience helping to identify issues so they could be resolved, because they cared about the company.  Incredible!

Here is a screenshot with a list of issues and updates provided by United within the forum.

This feedback from the FlyerTalk community is invaluable and much more focused on specific issues than the generic, non specific comments which appeared on United's facebook and twitter feeds.  

Here is a screenshot from FlyerTalk on test feedback provided by loyal customers.
I would've liked to have seen more communication on United's own website on what was or wasn't working, rather than just the generic information.  Below was the update provided.

The vast majority of this work is going well, and we are resolving technical issues that we are identifying during this process.

However, I do appreciate this can be a PR tightrope and the more updates that are provided, the more negative attention may be drawn.  Using FlyerTalk was a way to remain engaged with their most loyal customers through a dedicated, targeted channel.  Thumbs up.

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Interview Aftermath

Last week we talked about how to Nail your Job Interview.  But what happens now?  The wait can be agonizing but don't sit around and fret.

If the interview went well…

You loved the job even more and want it.  Good news girlfriend!  Hopefully it is a match made in heaven.  Use this time to think more about the position for any additional follow up questions you may have before committing, continue to research similar roles online to ensure your expectations are accurate, and think more specifically about your salary requirements if you haven’t discussed these already.    If you are without a job currently, DO NOT STOP YOUR JOB SEARCH.  Even the best interviews don’t always materialize, KEEP LOOKING. 

You aren’t sure if you really want it or if it is the right fit for you.   Don’t rush to judgment just yet.  If you have questions or concerns, make sure you note them.  If the company is prepared to make you an offer, make sure you get all of these answered before you accept or decline.  If you are without a job, you may not have a choice but to seriously consider the position.  Remember, everything is negotiable.    

If the interview didn’t go so well…

Keep your head up girlfriend.  Hopefully you remained composed throughout the whole process and did your absolute best.  Even if at the end of the discussion, it was pretty clear you would not be successful, you met some good contacts and a little interview practice never hurt anyone.  If the position is truly not the right fit for you, better to know now than a month from now when you are ready to quit. 

In all cases…

ALWAYS send a thank you email regardless of how the interview went.  You never know where you might cross paths with the interviewer again or they may have an additional opening in the future that would be a good fit for you.  Stay positive girlfriend!

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

5 ways to deal with jealous co-workers

We've all had to deal with them.  People in the workplace who, for whatever reason, just don't like you.  They are always trying to make you look bad in front of your boss, never want to help you with a project, and just go out of their way to make your life difficult.

Unfortunately, there will always be people like this, but here is how you can beat them at their own game.
  1. Ignore them.  These people are just 100% jealous.  Maybe you are the newest shining star doing great work and your VP doesn't even know who your co-worker is.  Don't lower yourself to their level, keep doing what you are doing, because whatever your co-worker has been doing isn't working.
  2. Don't be a doormat.  If your co-worker is throwing you under the bus or is saying things that aren't true in front of others, speak up and defend yourself.  "That is not correct" or "You are misinformed".  Don't remain silent when you are unfairly being attacked.
  3. Let them dig their own hole.  I once had a co-worker complain that they thought I was taking too many vacations days.  First of all, it was none of their business, but most importantly, I absolutely was not.  After an internal investigation was completed (which I knew nothing about at the time), it was determined that I was well within my limit and it was my co-worker who was left with egg on their face.  
  4. Being nice as pie.  No matter how much this co-worker tries to undermine you, do not give them ammunition to respond.  Continue to be your natural, helpful self.  It's really hard to be mean to someone when they are nothing but nice to you.
  5. Talk it out.  If nothing else seems to be working, call them out on their behavior.  I know it might be difficult to be confrontational, but its amazing how people will turn into a puddle of mush once their obnoxiousness is called into question.
If none of the above works, you will have no choice but to advise your own manager.  However, if there is any chance to resolve the issue without having to go to your boss, then you should certainly try to explore that possibility first.

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Google+ Here to stay or bye bye bye?

I don't know how you feel about Google+, but I have been resisting investing any time in this new channel until I really see if this is going to pan out.  I'm also holding out adapting to Pinterest as well, but the difference is everyone seems to rave about Pinterest, but there seems to be only radio silence on Google+.  Hmmm.

I didn't give Google+ too much thought until I saw this commercial over the weekend.  It's a little sappy, but so true.  The ability for all of your pictures taken with your phone to automatically be loaded to the Cloud so they are saved, how cool is that?  How many people really want to carry a phone and a camera out and about?  Who wants to lose all of their pictures if your phone ever went missing?

So one win for Google+.  I downloaded the droid app this morning...What do you think?

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Monday, February 27, 2012

#WorkingGirl Films

After watching the #oscars last night and seeing Meryl Streep win for Best Actress for The Iron Lady, I began to think about two of my favorite #workinggirl films.  The original working girl is of course Melanie Griffith in Working Girl and Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada.

Although made 20 years a part, the the concepts depicted in both of these films remain the same and still apply to the workplace.

  1. Nothing happens by accident.
  2. Help others, but always watch your back.
  3. Only extraordinary will do.  
In case you have forgotten or (gasp) have never seen Working Girl before, below is the original trailer from 1988.

And here is The Devil Wears Prada - Classic! 

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Friday, February 24, 2012

#DestinationFridays: Frequent Flyer Miles and Points

Well #workinggirl we had another successful week.  We took Monday off for President's Day (the only bonus holiday this #workinggirl has), Tuesday was all about excelling in your in person interview, Wednesday we learned to dress for total interview success, and on Thursday we discussed the benefits of internships.

Well this edition of #DestinationFridays is not dedicated to a specific destination, but how to use frequent flyer miles or points to get to that fab travel locale.  You don't need to be George Clooney from Up in the Air to win the miles game.  Even the occasional traveler can score big.

I recently was a guest blogger on, a travel website focused on enhancing your travel experience.  Everyone wants to cash in all of those miles for free travel.  Check out my two part post to see how.

How I Scored 2 Peak-season International Tickets for $300: Part 1 – Air Loyalty Programs & Earning

How I Scored 2 Peak-season International Tickets for $300: Part 2 – Reward Burn

See you all on Monday!

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Put the Ice Cream Down and Be an #intern this Summer

We are approaching that time of year when every #collegegirl is (or at least should be) thinking about what to do this summer.  And we aren't talking about getting a beach house or traveling around Europe.  No girlfriend, we are talking about building your career, and not with a J-O-B, but with an internship.

Ten years ago, most college students on summer break were looking for a job that would allow them to earn the most amount of money and still leave time to hang out with friends and enjoy the sun.  Restaurants, retail stores, ice cream shops, and life guarding are all great jobs...for high school students.  If you really want to get the most out of your summer, an internship is the way to go.

Paid Internships
So in a perfect world, you would have a paid internship.  This might take place in an business office, doctor's office, library, or whatever business most interests you.  You'll likely be doing general administrative tasks, data entry, or answering phones.  You'll be paid just over minimum wage but what you are really earning is a solid work experience to put on your resume.  Then next summer, you might land a even better internship and once ready to apply for a first job out of school, you'll be in a great position to differentiate yourself from the competition.  So even if you can earn more money with a standard summer job, the goal is to earn more experience (which allows you to earn more money in the long run, think big picture!).

Unpaid Internships
Unfortunately, not all internships are paid.  Do not let this deter you, some of the best internships are unpaid.  These types of positions allow your employer to ask you to do more tasks they would not have necessarily had you do if you were being paid.  For example, let's say you were interning at an advertising agency.  If the position is paid and you are answering phones and entering data into a spreadsheet, they may be reluctant to take you to meet clients or attend a photo shoot and they want to ensure they are getting their money's worth of "real" work.  However, if you aren't being paid and are available to observe and listen, you have the opportunity to learn how things are really done without your boss worrying about how your time is being spent.

How to Find Internships
Some positions are easier to find than others and many companies now have a formalized application process for a few coveted positions, which are often advertised through the same channels as other jobs.  However, the best way is often through word of mouth.  Talk to your family, friends, anyone that may have a small business and ask if you can learn from them.  Most people are flattered and all too happy to try and set something up.

Don't Screw It Up
Once you are successful in landing a great internship, do not take it for granted.  The whole reason you wanted this position was to gain solid experience and hopefully a professional reference.  Even if unpaid, do not think you are held to lower standards.  Be on time, work hard, and have a good attitude.  Treat every day like you are on The Apprentice.  Interning has a lot of responsibility and the last thing you want to do is inconvenience your employer and have them rethink their internship policy.  Don't ruin it for others.

Start applying girlfriend, good luck!

Many thanks to my friend Jackie for her inspiration on this post, thanks hun! :)

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dressing for #interview #success

During yesterday's post we discussed how to excel in your in person job interview.  You could get every aspect of your interview 100% correct, but if you don't dress appropriately, that offer letter will never make its way to your inbox.   In order to dress for success, you need to know what the atmosphere is like where you will be interviewing.

Before you can even start to think about an interview outfit, you need to fully understand how you are expected to look.

Conservative Law, Accounting, or Consulting Firm
Traditional suit, black or navy, with a solid color blouse, ideally white or blue.  Ensure your skirt is below your knee and nothing is too revealing (this applies everywhere really).  Pull your hair back and keep your jewelry and make-up to a minimum, though a string of pearls is perfectly acceptable.  Your goal is to blend in with the rest of the office, not win best dressed.  If you are uninspired to dress like this each and every day, this may not be the place for you.

Fashion Forward
Some interviewers may test your fashion sense just as much as how you can work under pressure.  If you are interviewing for a designer, a magazine, or in PR, your appearance is even more important.  Rather than trying to blend in, you will be trying to show a little personality.

But be careful, this is not the time to try to the latest untested trend as a major faux pas can spell the end of your opportunity before it even truly began.  Consider wearing a professional dress or a blouse and a skirt, with a fab pair of shoes.  A piece or two of jewelry is acceptable along with a normal level of make up.  Where your hair how you are most comfortable, with the goal of a fun, fresh, yet professional look.

Comfortable Non-profit, Casual Tech Company
More and more organizations are starting to implement casual Friday every day of the week.  There is nothing worse in being in a stuffy suit when all of your interviewers are in jeans and a t-shirt.  This doesn't mean you should wear the same, but you can tone it down slightly so that everyone feels comfortable.

A good choice is business casual type of outfit.  A blouse and a skirt or pair of pants works great.  Feel free to show some personality with a great pair of shoes or a colorful scarf.  Never wear jeans yourself, and when in doubt, always dress up rather than down.

It may be difficult to reprogram yourself to wear anything other than a traditional suit, but fitting in and putting people at ease are a huge part of building rapport and landing that dream job.  Bring it girlfriend!

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nailing your job #interview

Alright girlfriend, this is it.  You searched and found your dream job, wrote a killer resume, and soared in your telephone interview.  Now you are ready to hit it out of the park and prove to your future employer that you ARE the right person for this position with an in person interview.  Here's how you do it.

The Basics
Let's start with the things you will do automatically and instinctively.  These include being on time (early but preferably no more than 10 mins), no gum chewing gum, not smelling strongly of anything (including but not limited to food smells, perfume, BO), and dressing for success (we will talk more on this tomorrow).

Ensure you have already eaten, have had enough to drink (though not too much!), that you have already visited the restroom, and that your phone is ALREADY switched off BEFORE your arrival.  Don't underestimate the important of the basics.  If in the most extenuating circumstances and you are going to be late, ensure you call/email ahead and let them know (and you better have a REALLY good reason).

The Meet and Greet
The majority of the time you will first check in with reception and will have a few minutes to wait until your interviewer or their assistant arrive to get you.  Use this time to compose your thoughts, review the job description and observe the company atmosphere.  Since your phone is already off and away, there is no chance you will be distracted (right?!).  And of course it goes without saying, ensure you are nice and friendly to everyone that you encounter.

Once your escort has collected you, ensure you smile and make eye contact, shaking hands with a firm grip (not too hard, not too week). Gauging on their body language, make small talk.  If they are part of the interview panel, it will help you begin a rapport.  But make no mistake, your interview begins the second you enter the building and every employee you encounter may provide feedback on your behavior.

The Conversation
Hopefully your interview will be conducted in a comfortable room.  Your host may offer you something to drink, which you should politely decline unless your throat is dry and it will prevent you from speaking clearly (just don't spill it!).   Bring several copies of your resume with you as you should assume those that are interviewing you have NOT had a chance to review it yet.

At this point, your interview may take several different forms.  They may have a set of standard HR questions that must be addressed first, or it might take the form of a conversation.  It is important to read the situation and answer to the best of your ability.  HR questions are generally looking for you to hit a few key words or responses while general questions by the hiring manager are looking to gauge your ability and how you will likely fit with the rest of the team.

The best interviews are those that feel and act like a conversation, not a tennis match.  Never interrupt your interviewer, but feel free to jump in with examples as needed.  Follow their lead and let your personality shine without being overbearing.

You've had a good conversation and now here it comes, "Do you have any questions for us?"  Well girlfriend, the answer is always YES.   Even if all of your questions have been answered, make one up.  Asking questions shows you have interest in the position and have thought about this opportunity.  However, your questions should be something the interviewer can answer easily.

Ask questions about the company or about the position, but you cannot question the strategy or direction the interviewer has decided to take the position or make them feel defensive.  Also, continue to read body language, as usually after a handful of questions, the interviewer has had enough.  You should refrain from firing endless questions their way, especially if you have already had a long conversation.

The Follow-up
Thank everyone for their time and if they haven't mention a timeline for follow-up, feel free to ask at the end of the conversation.  Later the same day, ensure you send a thank you email.  Some experts argue that a hand-written note is the only way to go, but I have found that an short, brief email is more than sufficient.  Now go back to your normal life and resume your job search.  Never stop your job hunt because you think you had a great interview and you are sure an offer is coming.  Things change, situations change, and you may not be successful.  

If you haven't had an update within a couple weeks, feel free to follow-up again. You should hear one way or the other, but it is completely possible you will never hear anything.  It's rude and in poor taste, but it certainly happens.  Knowing that you did your best and gave it your all is all one can expect.  Good luck #workinggirl!

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Thursday, February 16, 2012

#DestinationFridays Iceland

It was another great week on #CollegeGirl to #WorkingGirl.  On Monday we argued that being a #hotmess was far superior than being a bad leader, Tuesday was about discovering our #motivation in the workplace, on Wednesday we excelled in phone interviews, and finally on Thursday we were seeking some relief from the pain that only meetings can bring.

This week's #DestinationFridays feature is Iceland.  I traveled to Iceland back in March 2006 with a group of friends seeking a long weekend of fun and cool scenery.  Iceland was much more expensive back then compared to today, but seeing the pictures from one of my friends who visited last month reminded me how stunning the scenery really is.

One of the most recognizable sights in the capital city of Reykjavik is the Lutheran church of Hallgr√≠mskirkja. It took 38 years to build the church and was completed in 1986. Although it may be a far cry from the glamour and wonder of some of Europe's other more traditional churches, it still provides a striking image amongst Reykjavik's winter landscape.

In addition to the bars and nightlife of Reykjavik, no trip to Iceland is complete without stopping at the Blue Lagoon on your way back to the airport.  The Blue Lagoon has been voted best medicinal spa five years in a row where the water's temperature is a consistent 98 to 102 degrees and the geothermal sea water is naturally renewed every 40 hours.

Iceland's location in the middle of the North Atlantic makes a weekend trip from the East Coast a total reality.  The next time you are looking for a little something different not too far away, Iceland should be at the top of your list.

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

10 things you can to do make #meetings a little less painful

Meetings.  Any #workinggirl has a few words that come to mind upon hearing this term, many of which are not very positive.  Here are 10 things you can do to make meetings a little less painful.

  1. Be prepared.  Sounds simple, right?  You wouldn't believe how many people turn up completely unprepared to speak to the topics at hand.  Don't waste everyone's time, come ready.
  2. Know your objective.  What is the goal of the meeting?  If you don't have a goal, then you shouldn't be holding a meeting.  If it is a brainstorming session, then say so.  But if your aim is to make a decision, ensure you have presented all the items in order to do so.
  3. Have an agenda.  Again, sounds pretty basic, but I cannot tell you how many meetings I have been to that have had no real structure.  The more people you have in the room, the more important the agenda becomes.  
  4. Get the right people in the room.  If you can't make a decision without specific people or a department representative, ensure they are available to attend and actual plan on be present.  
  5. Listen.  We all know that one person that loves the sound of their own voice.  Don't be that person.
  6. Speak up.  There is nothing more infuriating when you can't get anyone to agree with you in the meeting only for someone to come up to you afterwards, saying they agree with you!  Thanks a lot, where were you when I needed you?!
  7. Keep everyone on topic. This is a tough one.  If you are leading the meeting, it is your job to keep the discussion focused.  Rein it back in if the conversation starts to go off on a tangent.  
  8. Start and finish on time.  Some companies are much better at this than others.  Remember when you were in school?  Your classes started and ended on time, with time to travel in between to your next class.  Meetings should work the same way, respect people's time.  
  9. Ask the right questions.  This is so important.  Some of the most successful people in business know what questions need to be answered.  Remember to connect the dots.
  10. Thank everyone for their time.  No matter how good (or bad) the outcome of the meeting was, always thank people for their time.  This often gets overlooked and it's important to remember that everyone's time is equally important.  
Meeting adjourned.

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

5 ways to excel in a telephone #interview

Well #workinggirl , you've created a great eye candy resume, you found a fab job on and submitted your application, keeping your fingers crossed that you hear back.

A few days pass and there it is. You've Got Mail.

Your future employer wants to set up a quick, informal "chat".  Congratulations sister!  You have managed to cut through the HR key word search and pass the recruiter quick screen.  However, don't be too overjoyed just yet.  This "chat" is far from informal so if you really want to excel, check out these 5 tips.

  1. Be flexible.  Try to be as accommodating to your interviewer's schedule as possible and accept one of their suggested times to talk.  The last thing you want to do is appear to be difficult.  If you need to cancel that hair appoint to accommodate them, do it.  
  2. Find a quiet environment where you can speak freely.   You don't want your interviewer to have to strain to hear you.   Avoid anywhere that has dogs barking, children playing, or general background noise.  Also ensure you can speak freely.  Don't take the call in the break room at work if there is a chance others will walk in.  You need to speak without hesitation and without the whole office knowing you are interviewing.  
  3. Know your audience.  Exactly who will you be speaking with?  Is it the HR recruiter, the actual hiring manager, or a group of people?  The HR recruiter will ask basic questions about your work experience and education and will try and determine if you are worthy of passing on your resume.  The hiring manager is likely to ask you more specific questions related to the position to determine if you fit the skills needed.  Finally, if you are interviewing with a group on the phone, be prepared for a range of topics and stop talking when others speak.  It's rude.  
  4. Do your research.  Although this is not a formal face to face interview, it doesn't mean you get a pass on preparing for your conversation.  Ensure you are familiar with what you put on your resume and have a copy of the job description in front of you.  Do some light LinkedIn stalking on those you'll be speaking with to identify some common interests and be familiar with their background.  Finally, make sure you know some basic facts about the company.
  5. Let your personality shine.  Phone interviews can make it difficult to make a real connection to the interviewer.  You will have to work even harder to build a rapport than if you were face to face.  Avoid giving one word answers - short anecdotes often will show more depth.  It is important to NOT speak too much.  Allow yourself to pause at least every 30 seconds so the interviewer can interject, if necessary, so the conversation flows smoothly.  
Hopefully the conversation went well and you are talking next steps to arrange an in person interview.  Nice work girlfriend!

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl