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