Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

“Tips to cinch great references”/ job advice column

Mar. 30 “Tips to cinch great references”: I cut out this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail on Mar. 23, 2015.  Here’s the whole article:

We give little attention to references in our job searches, just finding a few people who will be sympathetic and listing them on our résumés or supplying their co-ordinates when asked by a prospective employer.

That’s a big mistake, according to Peter Studner, a Los Angeles-based expert in job hunting, who has helped 27,000 people start new careers through his work as an outplacement consultant and countless more through his book Super Job Search, which recently hit its fourth edition.

He preaches the importance of selling your accomplishments on your résumé and in subsequent interviews – not the posts you have held, but the specific accomplishments that can be traced to your work. And the best way to affirm that those accomplishments are real is for the potential employer to hear it in the words of your references. “That closes the loop,” he said in an interview.
 
But that won’t happen if you just jot down a few names on a reference sheet, don’t check that they can speak about your accomplishments, and don’t make sure they know what it is you want them to attest to. “A single lukewarm reference can kill your candidacy,” he stresses in the book.

But you can prevent that, using his techniques. After listing your accomplishments, consider who can attest to each one. It might be former colleagues – peers, a boss, subordinates – or even outsiders, like customers or a corporate director. Make sure they are good communicators who can discuss you and your work in an objective-sounding manner without exaggerating or offering long-winded tributes that might only provoke more questions in the interviewer’s mind.

Ask their permission. But more than that, ensure they understand how you are selling yourself. Send them a copy of your résumé, highlighting in bold the specific accomplishments that they would be familiar with.

As well, set up a time to meet. Your references will likely be busy people, and so you may be reluctant to ask for their time, which he says is the biggest mistake his clients make. After all, it’s a compliment to be asked to give a reference. These are also people who like you and perhaps have not had much contact with you recently, so they might be delighted to have a sandwich, catch up on what you have been doing, review old times – and learn how they can be of help to you.

Be sure they are on board. Ask directly: “Can you support me on this accomplishment?”

At the same time, think about those people you would rather not be asked about your work. Usually we assume that if somebody isn’t on our reference list, they won’t be approached. But Mr. Studner says life isn’t that neat. Reference checkers will often ask who else would be familiar with your time at the company, and your reference might inadvertently suggest someone with whom your relationship had become poisoned.

He recommends approaching such individuals, acknowledging you had differences of opinion, but asking whether they would still be willing to act as a reference. “Nine out of 10 times, that person will say yes,” he said, and this approach will make them feel more positive toward you.

The next step is not to list them as a reference. They still are not your best bet. But at least you have neutralized their anger, they have an idea of what you feel you accomplished, and if called, may not be a spoiler.

When you meet your references, go through the following 13 questions they might be asked, to help them think through their answers:

“How do you know the candidate?”

“What were the circumstances of his leaving the company?”

“Was she on any performance improvement plan? How did she do?” This may be asked, Mr. Studner notes, if there are hints of any problems with your application.

“What are his strong points?”

“In what areas does she need improvement?”

“Would you hire him again?”

“What were her greatest achievements at the company?”

“Who else supervised him?”

“Did the candidate live up to your expectations?”

“How were her leadership skills?”

“Was he appreciated by his colleagues?”

“Was she reliable?”

“Is there anything else you can add about the candidate?”

In some cases, your references will be unsure how to answer, so you can coach them, reminding them of your successes and filling in gaps, such as why you left the organization.
 
Then keep in touch, making sure that when you supply references to a company, those individuals are prepared for a call. And after you take a new job, make sure they are among the first to know – and are properly thanked. “Thank you goes a long way in the job search,” he said.

Thinking through the process of lining up references, rather than treating it as an afterthought, can be an important element in your job search.


Job advice column:
 
“A colleague of mine lied about our fight and now my name is mud”: I cut out this Globe and Mail article on Mar. 23, 2015.  Two people gave advice and it was to quit the job.  I read some comments on the article and it was the same thing.   One comment stood out to me:

Accon: Answer 3: Post your problems in a national newspaper and hope your boss reads it.

My opinion: lol.

THE QUESTION

I work for a magazine. My editor has a favourite journalist whose work is poor and which I often have to fix. She often speaks to me in a condescending manner, sometimes shouting at me, but I have ignored it and tried to accept that there are some people I just won’t get along with. My immediate supervisor, however, overheard me talking to colleagues about how one of the fights upset me and decided to take it to my editor.

The girl in question is the editor’s favourite – more than once a colleague has warned me about her “golden girl” status. So when I was called in to discuss the fight, she sat next to me and lied about the way she spoke to me. My editor took her word over mine and called me a malicious, vindictive story-spinner who was trying to sabotage my colleague.

My boss now has an extremely low opinion of me and I don’t know what to do to rectify the situation. I can’t say anything against her favourite, because she doesn’t believe me. How do I deal with this?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Billy Anderson

Founder of the Courage Crusade, Toronto

How badly do you need this job? Personally, I could not work with a manager who called me a malicious, vindictive story-spinner. I’d be gone. But maybe you don’t feel you have that flexibility.
 
In terms of Miss Favourite, steer clear of her as best you can. If that’s not realistic, kill her with kindness; always be polite and helpful so she has nothing more against you.

Secondly, your boss. How well do you trust your HR person? You could ask them for advice. However, don’t go to them to point the finger. That doesn’t make you look good. Explain your present challenge: You feel you got the blame for something that wasn’t your fault, and you’re now concerned about your boss’s opinion of you. Do not share Miss Favourite’s name. You’re there to come up with solutions, not to avoid responsibility. Ask if they have any advice for how to restore your reputation.

Or, you could approach your boss directly. Again, do not blame. Say something like, “I feel like the situation with so-and-so caused you to lose some faith in me. I’m not sure what went wrong but I want you to feel confident in me. Can we talk about this? I’d love any advice you may have.”

If your boss reacts in a caring and supportive way, there’s still hope. If she does not, it may be time to start looking for another job.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Heather Faire

Human resources executive, Atlanta

An office conflict can be like a fire. You can choose to keep it safely contained, put it out and minimize the damage. Or you can fan the flames, cause it to spread and end up with self-inflicted burns.
 
Regardless of what you do, there are two lessons you can learn from your situation. You were told not to mess with “the favoured one” more than once, but you ignored the advice. Lesson one: When veteran firefighters tell you how to avoid a fire, listen to them. You also chose to gossip with others, instead of going to someone in authority who could intervene and help. Lesson two: When you encounter an unwanted fire, adding more fuel is not going to help.

With your reputation charred, now is the time to cool down. The first thing you could do is apologize to “the favoured one” and to your boss for engaging in office gossip. That might serve to let the smoke blow over while you spend your time doing great work to earn back your boss’s respect. You could reach out to your human resources representative for advice and support. You might ask for a transfer and try to rebuild your reputation and credibility elsewhere at the magazine.

Or you might want to brush off your résumé and look outside the magazine for a fresh new start, where you can put this experience, and the lessons learned, to good use.


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