Expert Interview Series
Jane Miller is the founder of JaneKnows.com, the go-to website for practical career advice that is easy to incorporate into a personal career plan. We recently chatted with Jane to hear her thoughts on topics such as office politics, dealing with troublesome bosses, and networking.
Briefly tell us about your background. Why did you decide to start a blog?
After thirty years in business, I felt that the same issues that I faced when I started my career were still happening! At the time, I didn't know how to face many of them and had to learn the hard way by trial and error. I thought I could help today's up-and-coming leaders avoid some of my pitfalls by being honest about what they are – and more importantly, how to overcome them. I wanted to tackle some of the issues that can derail a career, like not understanding your horrible boss or having a different style that doesn't fit the culture. From those thoughts, my blog, JaneKnows.com, was born.
It's 2017 – do people still face over] gender-based discrimination in office settings?
Gender discrimination still exists, and although it's less obvious than when I was starting my career, it can still be overt. It comes down to the generalization that people like to be around people that look and act like them. And since most companies are still run by men, it can appear that men get more opportunities in those companies than women.
But it doesn't happen everywhere! Just a little research into a company can quickly show whether women are in senior positions and the overall diversity of the company. The job searcher has choices! Pick companies that have a great reputation of providing opportunities regardless of gender, nationality, color, or sexual orientation.
Finish this sentence: "The biggest shock for most college graduates when they start their first job is…"
…there are lots of people in the workforce who are political, unfriendly, incompetent, and just plain horrible!
Name one or two soft skills that can really save your bacon at your job.
1) Asking questions and showing intellectual curiosity.
2) Taking initiative without direction.
What strategies would you suggest to newly-employed young adults for dealing with mean co-workers… or bosses?
Always take the "high road," which means to not lower yourself to the tactics of people who don't treat you right. Sometimes people are testing you and your beliefs. Sometimes, they are just plain mean! Try not to take it personally, because this is not about you; it is about them. Treat people the way you want to be treated, even if they don't give you the same benefit.
When you talk about career-related "self-sabotage" on your blog, what do you mean by that? Could you give us a couple of examples of how people fall victim to it?
It is really easy to blame the company or the boss for your job not going the right way. But I know in my own experience that I actually contributed to a few situations that I would describe as self-sabotage. In one example, I was convinced that my boss was an idiot and that somehow no one in the company (except me!) actually realized it. So, I took it upon myself to tell my boss' boss about how incompetent he was. And the reaction that I got when I so confidently reported this incompetence? I was called out as immature, unprofessional, and not savvy to the politics of the company. In another example, a different boss "strongly" recommended that I hire a person for a job. I did not agree and so I did not do it – until, of course, I was ordered to hire the guy by my boss. By then, he decided that I did not listen very well and could not be trusted.
In both situations, I could have avoided self-sabotage if I would have looked at the situation from the bosses' points of view, not just my own view. That's the most important thing to remember: try to get the other person's perspective before you take on something that feels risky, like outing a boss or refusing to accept guidance!
Treat people the way you want to be treated, even if they don't give you the same benefit.
What are some innovative ways that today's young adults can network professionally that they may not be aware of?
Get to know people that don't have an obvious impact on your career in order to meet interesting people and make great connections (perhaps for the future). Don't always look for someone more senior to create a network connection. A peer or subordinate could have equally big impacts on your career because companies are moving so fast, the hierarchy today could be different tomorrow. And don't feel like networking is a heavy lift. It can be as simple as coffee, a walk, or a cocktail with someone that intrigues you.
How can a young adult distinguish between, "I've had a horrible week/month," and "It's now time to leave this job."?
All of us have bad days and bad bosses that impact how we feel about our job. But if you find that you continually hate going to work, first ask yourself why it is so bad. Is it the work you are doing? Is it the people you are around? Then ask yourself if you can change the things you hate. Can you move to another department or apply for a different type of job? You want to understand what isn't working so if you decide to leave, you won't make the same mistake at your next company.
Here are two key things to note: if you hate your job, don't bring that attitude to the office. If you leave your job, no one needs to know how much you hated it, especially your next employer. Bad jobs can be the best way to learn what you don't like, which leads you to finding a job that you love!
To learn more tips on how to succeed once you land that first job, give Vocate a try today!