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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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

"Need advice? Pitfalls to avoid"/ "I haven't had a full time job in three years"

Nov. 23, 2015 "Need advice?  Pitfalls to avoid": I cut out this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail on Mar. 2, 2015.  I like this article, because it's helpful.  I do ask my friends, family, and co-workers for advice usually regarding if a job is a scam or not:

Seeking advice is commonplace in management – so routine we don’t realize how difficult a skill it actually is. Choosing the wrong adviser, failing to explain the context adequately to them, and not weighing the advice properly are among the ways we can blow this seemingly easy managerial task.

And it usually happens in high-stakes situations, where we have identified a decision as difficult and sought counsel. “Part and parcel of making a good decision is knowing how to get good advice,” Joshua Margolis, a professor at Harvard Business School, said in an interview.

Over the years, Prof. Margolis found that one colleague’s advice seemed to tower over that offered by everyone else he consulted at the business school. So when the chance came to study the art of receiving and giving advice with that colleague, David Garvin, he was delighted, and the result of their collaboration was a recent article in Harvard Business Review offering ample advice.

Here’s where they feel we mess up:

1. Thinking you already have the answers

As people assess whether to seek advice – and how to weigh what comes forth – they are often overconfident about their own abilities. “You don’t even feel you need to reach out for advice, or do it half-heartedly, believing you can make the decision yourself. Or you reach out for affirmation of what you intend to do,” Prof. Margolis said in the interview. This can be common, with advice-seeking merely a pretext to reach out for a figurative pat on the back.

2. Choosing the wrong advisers

Often we seek like-minded advisers, failing to think creatively about the expertise we need. Studies also show we are more receptive to advice from people who are likeable, friendly and unthreatening. In a sense, Prof. Garvin said, their personality traits become proxies in our mind for the quality of the advice being received. “Pick a portfolio of advisers with different expertise who will tell you the unvarnished truth. If all you get is a pat on the back, it’s probably not good advice,” he said. His mentor, the late Harvard Professor Roland Christensen, used to tell him: “When you pick your advisers, you pick your advice.”

3. Defining the problem poorly

If your advisers don’t properly understand the issue, they can’t offer solid counsel. Often, advice seekers are uncomfortable laying out parts of the situation that doesn’t show them in a good light, like the person asking for help with a hostile boss who fails to mention screwing up on the last big project.

Executives take the political situation they are embroiled in for granted, but it needs to be spelled out to advisers. A Goldilocks approach is needed here, not weighing the adviser down with too many details but also not being too sparse with information.

When offering advice, Prof. Garvin always asks: “Is there anything you may have done to contribute to the problem?”

Make sure you give your advisers the real deal.

4. Discounting advice

After receiving advice, too often we undervalue or dismiss it. We succumb to an “egocentric bias,” putting more stock in our own brilliance than the views of others. Research has, in fact, put a number to this discounting: When individuals are given estimation tasks and then told the assessments of experts, they will only change their initial evaluation by 30 per cent in direction of the advice. So we discount by something in the order of 70 per cent.

Adding to this tendency is that we know our own reasoning for such decisions but often the advice from others comes without specific reasoning – so ask about that pattern of thinking, to help you weigh the ideas. “People feel they are truly reaching out for advice. They don’t realize that this is happening – they are discounting the advice they get,” Prof. Margolis said.

5. Misjudging the quality of the advice

Research shows that we value advice more if it comes from a confident source, even though that’s no sign of accuracy. When advice breaks from the norm, we’re skeptical. In essence, we’re judging the advisers or the situation more than the advice. We also don’t properly account for conflicts of interest; when a counsellor mentions a conflict, we assume that shows they are unbiased, when we need to beware the advice isn’t tainted.

Giving advice is also fraught with dangers. Prof. Garvin highlights the failing of offering self-centred advice – ideas that assume the other person is you, rather than tailoring ideas to them and their situation. Prof. Margolis warns against assuming the problem brought to you is similar or identical to a situation you experienced previously. That can lead you to rush in with anecdotes and war stories, obscuring the complicated texture of the actual problem.

Over all, they urge you to be deliberate and systematic in seeking advice. Set up a diverse group of advisers and pick the appropriate ones for the situation. Also, remember that things are not always what they appear to be. Confident advisers are not necessarily better. You may not have explained the problem sufficiently. You may not understand the reasoning for advice that seems off-kilter.
“Dig deeper,” Prof. Garvin concludes.

"I haven't had a full time job in three years": I cut out this article in the Globe and Mail on Mar. 2, 2015:

I am a 51-year-old woman who has worked as a secretary for 33 years.
I was badly bullied at a job almost three years ago and I was fired. It took me seven months to find another job, which I stayed at for three months. I then was offered a job working for an organization to end homelessness. It was, I thought, my dream job. I was also bullied out of that job.

As a result, I have not been able to get another full-time job for almost three years. I work in Alberta and the drop in the price of oil has hit the province hard.
I have been barely hanging on, working very low-paying temp jobs. How do I move back into a job with reasonable pay that fits my experience?


Julie Labrie
President of BlueSky Personnel Solutions, Toronto

You can’t change a bully’s behaviour, and you cannot change what has already happened. You can, however, change your perspective on your position today. To move past your current obstacle, you must stop thinking of yourself as a bullying victim, and start thinking of yourself as a survivor.

Employers look for job candidates who have a winning attitude and confidence. If you come to an interview in a negative frame of mind, they will pick up on it immediately and interpret it as a “blaming” attitude. They will read it in your body language, tone of voice, vocabulary, and even small facial expressions – elements that come naturally to us and are difficult to control. Employers do not want to hire negative employees.

To get that full-time job, concentrate on the positive side of your current situation. You are working hard to put food on the table, but beyond that, tell prospective employers that you have taken on some temporary opportunities to gain experience in different areas, as you look for the right fit. Remember, too, that temporary roles often turn into permanent jobs.

In regard to your work history, turn the termination into a positive – that is, it was better for both parties since things weren’t working out. Avoid the word “bullying” and shine the spotlight on all of the great work experience you have amassed over 33 years.

When you focus positively on your accomplishments, employers will follow your lead, and that’s what will make you most attractive to hiring managers.


Zuleika Sgro
Human resources partner and talent manager,, Toronto

Workplace bullying is a growing concern. Certainly the biggest opportunity to move forward is to focus on your growth from the experience.

I strongly encourage you, if you are faced with bullying in the future to ensure you document the occurrences and seek support to deal with the situation from the company’s human resources department or your manager. There are mandated procedures in place to investigate such claims and provide you support.

To move forward, I recommend that you update your skills through continuing education programs to ensure your qualifications continue to meet market needs. Also reflect on transferable skills perhaps gained even outside of work. Many times we believe that since we have been in a certain role for many years, this is the only job we can do. This is often not the case.

Challenge yourself to gain new skills relative to where the jobs are, and don’t lose hope. You may find new motivation and fulfilment from learning new skills, and in turn be more marketable where you live.

I would also encourage you to apply to positions outside Alberta, to expand your options.


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