How to Make a Good First Impression at Work

Making a good first impression with your new employer is important. It can be the difference between being successful and losing your job.

The Secrets to Successful Job On-BoardingYou’ve landed a job – it may be your first job or it may be a new one. Either way, how you come into an organization and your first impression may signal the start of a great career or one where you meet some bumps along the road.

Let me ask you – what do you think you need to do to make a good first impression? Is it important to knock your goals out of the park? Do you let your self-confidence speak for itself? Are you vocal about what you like or don’t like? How much time do you spend getting to know your co-workers?

While many of these attributes are important to creating a good first impression, there is one that will help you carry out all of them with more finesse and acceptance: establishing positive work relationships.

Think about this –

  • If you deliver exceptional results in the first couple of months – is it at the tradeoff of forming good relationships? In your quest to deliver quick results, do you trample over others to make the goal?
  • Employers want confident people. However, have an overpowering air of self-confidence in a new situation may be misread as – being cocky or over-confident. Sometimes it sets up a competitive situation. How does that help you with forming new relationships? Will co-workers willingly help you?
  • When you come into a new organization, there are going to be things that you like and dislike. Consider if airing your opinions early on will be beneficial. Will others use information to help you or lay the groundwork for labeling you as a complainer?
  • Take time to get to know your co-workers and boss – there are many benefits. It is the first step to building trust and respect. Doors will open. There is little down side to relationship building unless taken to an extreme where you are seen as a gossiper or a slacker.

Remember, how you present yourself is a choice that you make when coming into a new situation. If you feel uncomfortable or unsure of how to introduce yourself to a new organization, I have written an eBook about it: The Secrets to Successful Job On-Boarding. It will help you set up a good first impression.

Is it Time to Leave Your Job?

While traveling from Charlotte NC to Rochester NY, I met a woman in the seat next to me and we talked about her career. It turns out she has been working for the same organization for 35 years, most of that in the same job. She has six more years until she wants to retire. The question she is pondering is “Is it time to leave my job? Do I stay even though something is missing?”

She has not gotten a raise in years because she is at the top of her range or pay scale. With the economy, many organizations have had little to no movement in their salary ranges for jobs in years.

It is clear she is torn about what to do. The lack of financial rewards (pay increases) in her job troubles her. A few years back she contemplated leaving the organization to do something else, but decided the economy was too shaky to take such a bold step. Now she believes she should ride it out – every additional dollar she makes will help boost her pension.

She shared that she could take a promotional job opportunity in the organization at one of the other locations – one that is closer to home. She currently commutes 40 minutes to work. I asked her why she had not done that. She said:

  1. The person who would be her boss at the other location was someone she did not want to work for because they often disagreed with one another. The boss she currently has is easier to work for even though he has not stepped up to support her efforts to be recognized and rewarded for her work.
  2. She did not want to leave her co-workers because there was a family camaraderie and that was important to her.

I commended her for looking at the situation from all angles. The reasons people leave jobs are most often because of a poor relationship with their manager and a bad fit culturally. The company either lets them go or a little voice inside them asks – “Is it time leave?” – and they do so on their own.

Money is not the key motivator for leaving a job, which is why she is still there. While she may want more compensation/pay, ultimately the reason people stay is because of their relationship with their boss and positive work environment work environment.

If either of these too factors are not working well for you, think about how you can either improve them or perhaps it is time to leave your job and find a place for your remaining work life and make it enjoyable.

Fired for Being Ethical

I received a letter from a woman in India who was recently fired for being ethical and upholding her values and principles. Here’s her story:

What to Do after Being FiredI’m from eastern part of India. I have work experience of 14 years in IT. Last April 2014, I joined a start-up company as Technical Lead & Project Manager as they wanted my ability to help the company grow.

Things were good till I hired an ex colleague of mine as my junior. After a month into this company, she started having an affair with the top boss and was virtually running the company in disguise. The top boss wanted to fire everyone whom she didn’t like.

The first in the line was our HR. Since I was the most senior employee they wanted to use me in firing her. They offered me a hefty hike if I did. But I didn’t do it as my professional ethics prevented me.

Then that boss started spreading among the employees that I am not that competent and the company had incurred loss due to my inefficiency. When HR asked for the detailed list of the projects cancelled due to my inefficiency, the boss wasn’t able to give it.

On 13th January, 2015, I took a day off due to my severe back pain. On that day, the company mailed me my termination letter effective from 14th January, 2015. The mail didn’t carry any company letterhead, digital signature. It was just a plain mail format.

Since then have started applying for new jobs and I am not hiding that I was terminated. But please advise me what I should say about the reason of termination. I can’t go this deep when asked by the new company.

First of all, bravo for standing up for your ethics. Personally, you have paid a price with your career, however, your morals are intact and that compass will land you with the right organization in the future.

Second,  the fact that the company terminated you in the way they did is not surprising. Start-up companies may not have their policies and procedures in place like a large organization.

When you believe you have been fired for being ethical, it can put you in a difficult position. In your interview, if you have stated that you were fired which is completely accurate, your future employer wants to know why.

What do you say? Know that if you go into any details about your previous employer it will show badly on you, especially if the employer is well-known in your community. You don’t want to be known as the person spreading negative comments about them.

It is important to keep it light and high level. Avoid going into the details. In this situation, it would be perfectly acceptable to say that your values or approach to business was very different from your previous employer. If questioned about what you mean – then avoid saying what the employer did or did not do and emphasize what you do and how you like to work.

Another approach is to tackle the business size – that is only if you decide start-ups are not for you. Some people thrive on having procedures and processes in place; others want the excitement and challenge of the unknown. As you found out there are trade-offs. Start-ups can run amok quickly without a clear set of values.

For more information on how to craft your specific response, consider investing in your future with my eBook: What to Do After Being Fired. It will help you get past those hurdles more quickly even if you were fired for being ethical.

Strategies to Overcome Unemployment

Let’s face it – how to overcome unemployment is difficult – especially when you are in the middle of it. Confidence is low because you may have just gotten laid off or fired from your last job.

While it seems brutal and personal, being let go is the process that companies use to:

  • Right size their staffs
  • Let people go that are not a good fit with their culture
  • Move poorer performers out to bring in high performers

So what are the best strategies to overcome unemployment? The first and most obvious one is to avoid being laid off or fired in the first place. I realize if you are unemployed right now, this may smack you in the face a bit, however, the more you know about how things work; the better you can strategize and position yourself not to get laid off in the future.

Here are some things to remember. Companies keep employees:

  • With critical skills – If there is not some skill or ability that differentiates you from the person working next to you, you are at risk. Get the training you need in your industry or profession. The more specialized your skill is, the better.
  • That are high performers – Whatever it is you do – generate revenue or save the company money – do it better than anyone else. If you are looking for a job, make sure you highlight your accomplishments on your resume or in your cover letter. Give the employer are reason to want to talk to you!
  • Who get along with others – You don’t have to schmooz to get along with other people. Be known as the person who everyone wants on their team or is a go-to-person because of your contributions.  Extend that same philosophy with your outside networks – job hunting, social and professional groups.  Bottom line – people help people they like.

Now that you know how companies evaluate who to keep, use that information in the next set of strategies.

Other strategies to overcome unemployment include:

  1. Make good decisions on the companies you want to work for. Don’t just accept any job – accept a job that has a good culture fit.
  2. In the interviewing process, are you being an active participant? Remember you are evaluating them as much as they are evaluating you.
  3. Get comfortable with networking. More often than not, it is who you know that opens the door to the job. If you are relying on online services for finding your next position, you are severely limiting your opportunities to find the perfect job.
  4. Let all your friends and family know you are looking for a job and what kind of job you want. Most people really don’t know what you do so it is up to you to educate them. Tell them about your specialized skills or your accomplishments.  Chances are if they don’t know they won’t ask because they don’t want to appear uninformed.

To summarize, the best way to overcome unemployment is for the company never to want to let you go…and if you are looking for a new company – let them know why they need to snatch you up.

Are You about to be Fired?

I received a letter from someone who is about to be fired and is thinking ahead, most of the time people are scrambling after the fact. Sometimes you see the signs in your organization or from your boss that you are about to be fired is about to happen, what do you do? Here’s her letter:

First, thank you for your article about termination settlements. It was very helpful. Second, I am anticipating being fired on Wednesday. I have been an outstanding worker but due to personalities, my guess is that this will happen. I believe my manager told my coworker which, I assume, would be a violation of my rights. I am a trainer and see that my name is only on the schedule up until Wednesday morning. My manager has been on vacation for the past few days but I have been informed that a meeting w/HR has been called upon his return.

I have never been in this situation before. So if they ask me to sign something, do I have the right to not sign it until I review it or get someone to review it? You said it’s not something the company can use against you in terms of not providing your last pay check. Also, what is a typical settlement? I’ve been with this company for two years. It is a private company so I’m not sure if that changes things or not.

If this indeed does happen, is it possible to ask for a letter of recommendation in addition for any negative contents of your file be removed? Does signing it waive unemployment? Or if you put ‘do not agree’ or ‘recognized receipt only’, does that enable you to get unemployment? I have two sons heading off to college in a week so this loss of income would be very difficult.

I just want to be prepared. I contend this is wrongful termination but based on the statutes you and others listed, proving anything would be almost impossible even if I have email documentation of an unfair situation. The reason being is that it’s not related to sex, race, religion, etc. just due to personalities.

I deeply appreciate any help or guidance you can provide.

Have a wonderful day!
About to be Fired

First of all, even though it is stressful and upsetting that you may be fired on Wednesday, you are in a MUCH better place to handle the discussion that will occur and make decisions that will benefit you. Too often when someone is about to be fired, they are caught off guard and make mistakes.

All the signs you point to – the lack of work being scheduled and having an HR meeting very strong clues that you are about to be fired.

The fact that you manager may have shared that you will be terminated with another employee is not a violation of your rights. In my opinion it may be poor management practices but there are always exceptions. For example, if the other person is going to absorb your work or have to make adjustments to accommodate a schedule, then they may be told in advance. I realize it is upsetting that someone else knows your business however; the company will make business decisions in their best interest, not yours.

eBook Cover - What To Do After Being Fired

Your guide to handling being Fired!

Another thing you have going for you is that it seems the company is large, which means they should know legally what they can and cannot do in the meeting. The best thing you can do is go in ready for the meeting and keep your cool. Remember you do NOT have to make any final decisions in the meeting. Here are a few pointers:

  • Do not sign any documents. Tell them you will review them when you have a chance to look at them with a clear head. Ask them what the time line is returning the information. The reason for this is that you want to be clear what you are signing – are you giving up any rights in return for more separation pay. Even if they say this is this the standard agreement, take it away and read it later.
  • If the documents are confusing, get advice from a lawyer or someone who understands how to interpret the information so that you can make informed decisions.
  • Company settlements have been less generous over the last few years. Larger companies have policies in place for standard separation pay. They will let you know if you are getting the standard or if they want you to sign off an agreement that gives you extra pay where you agree to hold them harmless.
  • Ask the company if it is not stated in the termination paperwork what the reason is their reason for termination. Until you know that, you won’t know if there may be a fight with unemployment.
  • Asking for a letter of recommendation is something you can do – consider if that is the right time. You’ll know based on how the termination discussion goes on Wednesday. They may be less likely to cooperate if you don’t sign off on everything. Not signing their paperwork means more work and follow-up for them and leaves them in an uncertain state. Personally, I would leave that for later as a potential negotiation point.
  • You don’t have to have anything signed to get unemployment. Knowing how the company is going to position your termination is important in how you present your case the unemployment.

I realize that time is tight, however, I would suggest that you or anyone else that is about to be fired or has just been fired, pick up my eBook: What to Do After Being Fired. It will help you get through many of challenges you will be facing ahead.

How to Leave a Toxic Work Environment

This letter came from a reader who is experiencing a toxic work environment. Here’s her story:

I am looking to get advice on my current work situation. I have been very sick due to my work place environment. I took a STD (short-term disability) for 4 months. I went back, but to the same thing all over again. They are now documenting me and trying to find things where they think I have been dishonest. I told them it’s untrue and unfounded.

This company is known for bully bosses and mean girl mentality.

I have since hired an employment lawyer. He has asked for a separation agreement in hopes they will provide some unemployment benefits. Is it in my best interest to go back to work while they/lawyer hash this out? Or do I have my doctor write-up a letter saying I cannot return to work. She wouldn’t have to lie. I have had 3-4 doctor appointment since my return due to the hostility at work. I am sad, confused, and need to escape with a good reputation. I fear they will give me a bad reference.

Being in a toxic work environment is a very difficult situation, for a number of reasons. First of all, you are working under less than desirable working conditions and your employer does not seem to be working pro-actively to get you back to work.

The tactic the employer is taking to document anything that may give them cause to terminate you is common when they believe forcing you out is a better solution than keeping you. It’s unfortunate because everyone experiences hic cups from time to time.

However, if the situation that originally caused your illness is something that they do not want to fix, it begs the question, why stay? Aren’t you better off leaving – which is why your employment attorney is trying to negotiate the best separation package he can for you.

Many doctors will write a letter giving you more time off especially if returning to the same environment is causing the illness to regain momentum. Understand that taking this option will solidify to your employer that keeping you or trying to work with you to return to your job is not in their best interest.

You are in a difficult situation about how to leave under the best conditions. On the one hand if you return, it will further aggravate the company because they have a “problem” to resolve, however, if you take a leave they may think of you as someone who is taking advantage of the system (even if you are not).

In my opinion, the lesser of the two evils is to take the leave as long as you intend to leave the company. You will be in a better place to explain why you left to a new employer than why you were fired. Your attorney can negotiate what kind of reference is given upon your departure.

Career Rethink

Evaluating your career happens at many stages in life – I call it career rethink. I have worked with people from their early 20’s to late 60’s who have a strong desire to make a change for the better.

Sometimes you are forced into change, other times it is a personal choice to do it. Career rethinks happen while you are working or after losing a job. Regardless of the reason, you may feel uncomfortable or stressed because you are wading in new territory.

Here are some of the situations that start a career rethink:

  • You got the degree that everyone said you should get but it is not what you want to do.
  • Your hate your job and going to it every day puts you in a bad mood.
  • The job you have had for many years is going away – it is getting eliminated or the company is closing.
  • Location is important to you and you are not where you want to live.
  • Boredom has set in…the work you do fails to challenge you and you have become complacent.
  • The field you are in is dying – it’s time to make a shift into a growing field where demand will stay strong for many years.
  • Illness has affected your ability to hold a job long-term.
  • Should you invest in a degree to improve your marketability? Will there be a payback?
  • Are you a corporate person or an entrepreneur? How do you choose? Is the risk worth it?
  • You got fired from your last job – does that mean you are doomed and can not work in that same field again?
  • It’s time to retire – but you don’t want to be fully retired! Now’s the time to do something that you always wanted to do…but what is it exactly?
  • Here’s what you love – your company and job. Here’s what you hate – your boss. Can you survive?
  • Your performance is slipping and you are trying as hard as you can. What can you do to save your job?
  • You’ve been laid off several times – all for the same reason. Are you selecting the right positions or companies?
  • How do you create a life after retirement that includes service, income and fun?
  • You just got a new job – how do you integrate yourself successfully into it? What’s most important?
  • How do I successfully leave a job that I love to go to a job that I aspire to?

While each question is different, each person generally wants the same thing – greater satisfaction in their careers and lives. What form that satisfaction takes will be different.

It all starts with you identifying what your question is and what outcome you want. Finding your answer is a combination of accurate information or data collection, investigation, soul-searching and asking specific questions to get to the root of what is blocking you from progress.

Career rethink is a process of discovery, not a bullet proof answer. If it was that easy, you would have done it already. Armed with the right information and confidence, you can make the changes you want to in your life. The only thing stopping you is you.