When I was still in the magazine business, I commissioned a study with an organization of human resource managers about the potential pitfalls during a job interview. It revealed that the decision not to hire is often made within the first five to fifteen minutes of an interview. You need to instantly impress with your promptness, clothes, hair, handshake, body language and manner.
But you’re still not over the hump, of course. Next, you must prove you’re the one. Unfortunately, even a strong candidate can blow it with one bad comment. Here are some of the doozies I have heard over the years.
1) “My favorite magazine? Glamour, I guess.”
There’s nothing wrong on the surface with that answer, but the person who said it was applying to be my assistant when I was running, duh, Cosmopolitan. You might assume she was guileless and just couldn’t utter a lie, but I think she was actually incredibly nervous and blurted out an answer that, though true, she instantly regretted.
My recommendation for every job interview, no matter how senior you are, is to rehearse. Jot down possible questions — standard stuff as well as far-out ones (use your imagination) — and role play with a good friend. But change your answers up a little each time so they won’t sound canned during the interview. Even if you get thrown a few curveballs, rehearsing will up your comfort level so you’ll be better able to deal with those.
2) “I’d like to be involved in some aspect of magazines — editorial, or maybe marketing.”
I heard many variations on this over the years (“articles or fashion,” “fashion or photo,” etc.) and that kind of response guaranteed I’d cut the session real short. It’s not the interviewer’s job to help you sort out how the company and/or field works. Nor is she there to help you decide on a career path. Never seem ambivalent or unfocused. Avoid the word “or.”
3) “Does the company offer childcare?”
That may be something you definitely have to find out, just as you need to know about the 401K plan and vacation time. But don’t solicit that information from a prospective boss during the initial interview. You need to be zero in on the job and what it entails, not the benefits and perks. You can get to those details when… Continue reading at HuffPo’s The Blog.
For 14 years I was the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and along with the responsibility came some pretty sweet perks, compliments of my company. Two of my favorites? A private chef, who cooked for my family and me five nights a week, and a weekly session with a masseuse, whose hands were so masterful they should have been insured. Just kidding! Those are the kind of perks film stars get, not editors-in-chief. Still, there are tasty perks available out there for all kinds of positions, and they can make a great job even better. To score them, you first have to know what they are (a prospective employer probably won’t volunteer them all unless they’re trying extra hard to woo you). Then you have to come right out and ask for them during salary negotiation — not after they’ve hired you!
Here’s a sampling of work perks based on level of employment. Availability will also depend on your field. (Hint: don’t be afraid to ask for stuff in the tier above yours — you never know.)
When You’re Just Starting Out (at a decent job/company)
1. Continuing education benefits/tuition reimbursement
2. The chance to telecommute sometimes
3. Access to a mentoring program
4. Access to training seminars
5. A health/wellness stipend (i.e. gym, yoga classes)
6. Marketplace discounts (this one is often automatic)
When You’ve Scored a Job on the Fast Track
Everything listed above, plus… Continue reading at HuffPo’s The Blog.
More from The Huffington Post:
· Notes From a Scandal: The Petraus Affair
· How to Get Out of the Binder and Into the Room
· Kate White, Former ‘Cosmopolitan’ Magazine Editor, Prepares For Her Next Chapter
Hours before I heard that CIA director David Petraeus had had an affair with the woman who’d written his biography (and worked with him for long stretches), a reporter asked me if I thought it was okay to date someone you work with. Yes, it can be, I told her. That is as long as your company doesn’t have either a written or unspoken policy against it, neither of you is married, neither of you supervises the other, and you plan to be incredibly discreet about it.
She seemed a little surprised by the fact that I was endorsing the concept of office romance. Well, maybe I’m a romantic or softie, but let’s face it: it can be tough to meet a good guy these days. When you find yourself attracted to a work colleague who you’ve spent days or weeks interacting with, it can seem like a far saner way to forge a romantic connection than picking up a stranger at a bar or sorting through the lame-assed liars on Match.com In fact, according to some studies, at least 40 percent of people have dated someone they met at work.
But I added a caveat to my answer: before you date a “safe” candidate at work, you have to realize this: People will find out—no matter how careful you are. Your co-workers see you all day long and they’re attuned to nuances in your behavior that you may not even be conscious of. I was briefly married in my late twenties and after it ended I decided not to broadcast it in the office. But a 23-year old guy I worked with asked me if everything was okay because he noticed I wasn’t wearing my wedding ring. Jeez, Doogie Howser, P.I.
Plus, when you have the hots for someone, it’s just hard to keep a lid on your feelings. You act weird or goofy when the other person is in your presence—avoiding eye contact or saying dumb stuff. Paula Broadwell told a reporter that Petraus considered her his “avatar.” You don’t make a comment like that about the subject of the biography you’ve written. You say that about a guy you’re totally whipped over.
Okay, once you’ve accepted the fact that THEY WILL FIND OUT, you need to ask yourself a question before you say yes to that drink that you know is more than a drink: “When people higher up in the company find out, how will it alter their impression of me?” If you’re 24 and fairly low on the totem pole or you work in a very easygoing, entrepreneurial setting, it may not be a big deal. But if you’re more senior and your company and/or boss are fairly buttoned up, it could negatively color their perception–even if you theoretically are doing nothing wrong. Your boss may get this idea, perhaps not even fully formed, that you are the type of person who puts a need for romance above your work priorities, that you don’t really care what other people think, and that you don’t mind being the subject of gossip (and there will be gossip, trust me).
None of this may make a higher up want to fire you, but it might affect your performance reviews, the assignments you are given and the chance for promotion.
I’m not saying don’t go for the romance. But be sure to ask yourself that question—and listen hard to the answer.
Thanks to the economy, getting the “in” you need, or the job you want, or the career that will really light your fire can be maddeningly frustrating these days. But you can make it happen, especially if you use what I call the TBBH strategy (Take the Bull By the Horns). When I visited Toronto a couple of days ago to promote my new book, I discovered two young women who’d put this strategy into play quite brilliantly.
The first example involves the awesome publicist at my Canadian publisher who coordinated my PR appearances. It turns out she had actually spent the first five years of her career as a chef. But as she looked ahead and imagined kids in her life, she knew she didn’t want to work crazy chef hours for the long term. Some exploration led her to the idea of going into book publishing. But there was a hitch. She’d attended culinary school, not college. After hearing about a special publishing program for college grads, she went to see the man who ran it–and she made her pitch to him: “Let me be the first person who attends who isn’t a college grad.” He said he’d take her on if she spent three months interning in a publishing company. So that’s what she did. When she returned to him, he told her the class was full, but she reminded him of his promise and he found room. And that’s how her second career began.
The second example is a woman who had just started in an entry level position at my publisher’s. How did she get the job in such a sucky market? At a conference, she heard a man speak about social media and the book business. Afterwards, she went up to him and said how impressed she was with his work and his company. I asked her if anyone else had done that kind of thing that day? No. She stayed in touch with him and when a job opened up, he made contact and eventually hired her.
It’s just so clear how these women got what they wanted. Rather than waiting around, they determined where the bull was and yanked it hard by its horns. So find the person who can help you with your next career step, walk up to him or her, make your case, and then show you mean business.
Even if you didn’t watch the presidential debate on Tuesday, I’m sure you’re now familiar with Mitt Romney’s phrase, “binders full of women.” He used it describe the efforts he supposedly made to recruit women for his cabinet when he was governor of Massachusetts. The phrase quickly went viral, giving birth to Tumblr parodies, a Facebook fan page and tons of hilarious tweets. One of my favorite tweets: “Most men with binders full of women are called serial killers.”
It’s hard not to find his comment irritating, especially in light of later reports spelling out that it was actually women’s groups that presented binders of qualified women to Romney, worried that women would be shut out. And yet there was another comment, a little bit ahead of the binder remark, that bugged me even more.
Here’s a recap of Romney’s remarks, just for reference. “I had the chance to pull together a cabinet, and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I—I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are—are all men?’ They said ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ And I said, ‘Gosh, can’t we find some women who are also qualified?’ And so we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become member s of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”
The remark that really annoyed me? It’s when Romney asked, “Can’t we find women who are also qualified?” Why wouldn’t Romney, as a leader, already be aware of the smart, qualified women out there? That’s what you do when you’re in a leadership position—you stay informed about the talented players in your professional universe, you keep tabs on them, you even court them, and sometimes you take them to lunch. But all the smart, qualified women were clearly invisible to a guy like Romney. He hadn’t been watching for them or paying attention.
Thankfully those women’s groups in Massachusetts were extremely proactive and it paid off, because Romney did appoint more women than usual to his cabinet. We need more proactivity like that.
But individually we also have to take the bull by the horns and help ourselves lose invisible status. One way to do that is by acquiring professional sponsors. Sponsors are somewhat like mentors but rather than just offering advice, they open doors professionally for you. According to a study published in Harvard Business Review, men are more likely to have sponsors than women–and sponsors lead to more job opportunities than mentors. So have mentors if you want, but also get yourself some sponsors.
You can’t wait for a sponsor to find you. That sometimes happens, but don’t just sit there hoping for it. Instead, through some reconnaissance, you need to find a potential sponsor and then adopt the person. It may be someone you already know but it could also be someone you seek out at a networking event. Introduce yourself and comment on his or her work—a speech the person gave recently, for instance. Give your card. If the moment seems right, ask if it would be possible to have an exploratory interview. Later on, send the person a link to an article that touches on something you two talked about. Ask his or her opinion. Develop semi-regular contact—but without seeming like a damn stalker! Share news of your professional success. And if an opportunity arises where this person could be a door opener, making an introduction for you (even just an email intro), ask for his or her help. Don’t be shy. Guys do this all the time. It’s why they end up in the room and not just in the binder.
And be grateful. Send a written thank you note. Maybe even a nice bottle of Bordeaux.
Photo via bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com
Last Monday I was sure I was going to feel a little weird. It was my first day no longer working at Cosmo, my first day no longer running the largest women’s magazine in the world, and even though I’d made the choice to leave, I suspected it might be a little difficult for me, that I might even have a few second thoughts about having decided to toss in the towel. I also wondered how it might feel to no longer be a Person of Status in the building. I’d been given another office in the Hearst Tower on a floor with mostly men (and not a pair of short shorts or platform shoes in sight!), so I’d still be bumping into many old colleagues.
Well, things did get off to a slightly rocky start. On my first day AC (After Cosmo), I accidentally took the elevator to my old floor. Once I realized my mistake, I almost dove back toward the elevator, fearful a security siren would go off.
But then things turned blissful. My new office had been outfitted over the weekend, and I loved it. It’s a smaller, more intimate space, which tends to work better for me, and the view from the window is so serene. Throughout the week there wasn’t a single moment of regret or sadness. I didn’t even mind the loss of status. When I was getting coffee on the floor one day, the guy next to me asked me “What magazine do you work for?” “None,” I told him without flinching. “I’m just a consultant.” He looked baffled, curious perhaps why a consultant would have a zebra-print chair in her office and a Botero print of a nude woman eating oranges.
Why, I asked myself, wasn’t I experiencing even a twinge of regret? But I already knew the answer. I’d loved my Cosmo years but by the end I was more than ready for a change. I had decided to live a more entrepreneurial life. And now it felt really good.
But how can you tell for certain you really want to make a big move? How can you be sure you’re not simply in the headlock of a bad week or month? Several colleagues have asked me variations on that question lately.
Well, for starters, if you’re even asking yourself the question—“Is it time for me to go?”–chances are good that it is. Other signs: you’re feeling bored, unchallenged, listless. When you get email alerts for meetings, you hear yourself saying, “Oh, please, no.” For me the revelation came when I found myself feeling grouchy at work, something I’d rarely felt in the past. I had less patience than I’d had before.
On the flip side, absolutely loving your job can be an early warning signal. It doesn’t mean you should leave that second but it’s a sign you’re in pre-change days. Because you’re starting to get comfy, lacking challenges and risks. It doesn’t mean you have to change your job necessarily, but you do need to shake it up, take on a new project.
The key is to act. Because if you wait until you hate your job, you’ll have zero energy. Think about what could be next. Imagine a new adventure. And network, like hell, telling yourself you’ll use each conversation to listen and potentially come away with an idea. I’ve learned that contact + curiosity = opportunity. And sometimes even fabulous opportunity.
When you were young did you ever play the jump-rope game where you try to skip into a swinging rope held by two other kids? I always loved that game as a little girl. I was terrified of getting wacked in the face by the rope, but it was worth it to experience the thrill of jumping in at exactly the right moment.
I had a jump rope moment yesterday in my career. I left my job as editor of Cosmopolitan to focus on my work as an author and speaker, promote my new career book, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This, and start a digital business.
Last January I went to my fab boss and told him that the time had come for me to leave Cosmo and that meant he would begin to look for my replacement. It was bittersweet for me. I’ve loved Cosmo, I’ve loved Cosmo readers, and I’ve loved making it #1 in its category for 14 years–but I was itching for a change.
Change is really important in your job. It keeps you fresh, energized, and yes, on your toes. It’s good to be kind of scared—though never paralyzed with fear, of course. I told my staff they should use my departure to think about where they are professionally and what they may want next.
And it’s also good to be always looking for windows of opportunity to take advantage of. One of my favorite Shakespearean passages is from Julius Caesar: “There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood lead on to fortune.”
It’s another way of saying you have to find the right moment to leap into the swinging jump rope and experience the thrill of it.
The next time you’re in an important professional meeting with someone, keep an eye on the person’s feet. I’m fascinated with body language and there’s one particular movement that especially intrigues me: it’s what I call the rapid foot twitch. It’s when someone’s foot suddenly kicks upward, and from what I can tell, it generally occurs when something in the conversation hits a nerve with the person. After all, the movement is similar to what might happen if a doctor used a reflex hammer you. Is it a good nerve or bad nerve? You probably can’t tell from just the kick. But watch for other signs that might expand on the foot clue.
Because of my interest in body language I’ve read a bunch of books on the subject and I’ve had experts speak on the topic at Cosmo salons, including the very knowledgeable Janine Driver. Janine was in last week to talk about her new book, You Can’t Lie to Me: The Revolutionary Program to Supercharge Your Inner Lie Detector and Get to the Truth, and she held the audience captive. Pick up her new book and you’ll know why the public should have known that Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spritzer were lying all the time.
In addition to talking about liars, Driver offered some general guidance for anyone trying to make a mark in her career. One key point she made. People are constantly evaluating our body language, often on a subliminal level that they’re not even fully aware of. Unfortunately they sometimes get things wrong, in part because of commonly held notions. For instance, if you look away at a moment during conversation, the person you’re talking to may assume we’re lying even though you’re not; if you fold your arms across your chest, he may suspect you’re feeling guarded or uncomfortable even though you’re simply wishing you brought a sweater.
“Certain gestures don’t always mean what people think they mean,” says Driver, “but you still need to be aware of how people may be interpreting them. Myths matter.”
Be conscious, therefore, of you how you stand, how you sit, and what you’re doing with your arms, hands, and yes, feet.
One great tip she offered on appearing powerful. Powerful people tend to take up space. At a meeting, stretch your arm across the back of a chair and “pop your shoulder back.” You’ll seem like you own the room!
Did you watch Ann Curry’s last day as co-host of The Today Show a few weeks ago? I made point of checking it out, in large part because I was curious about what tack she would take. Just recently, someone I knew professionally had resigned a job in a total snit—complete with yelling and slamming and a sarcastic “Good luck” on the way out the door—and I’d been thinking a lot about the right and the wrong way of taking your leave from a job when you’re less than a happy camper.
With all the pressures in the workplace these days, it’s probably easier than ever to find yourself departing with a wounded ego, or feelings of indignation, or even a sense of outrage. But you have to manage your exit extremely carefully—with plenty of forethought, skill and composure.
I think most of us would agree that tossing a few grenades as you beat a retreat is not the right M.O. That approach (a.k.a. burning your bridges) can have lasting consequences—and not just with your boss, HR and whoever might have suffered a flesh wound on the day of your departure. They will spread the word and you will have done all sorts of nasty damage to your reputation.
But to me, leaving in a rage isn’t the only bad exit strategy. I think showing any signs of disgruntlement or dissatisfaction is a lousy idea, even when you think that your candor is going to be helpful in some way. If are leaving with mixed feelings, keep a lid on them—despite how much an HR manager may try to tease the truth out of you in an exit interview. In fact I suggest following the strategy of someone I truly admire: the Great Sphinx of Giza. Be inscrutable. Say “goodbye,” “thank you,” “I hope we can stay in touch,” and give no clue how pissed or annoyed or heartbroken you really are.
It may have felt satisfying for Curry to bear her soul on her last morning and remind the audience of all her terrific accomplishments, but I think a far better strategy would have been to simply tell everyone that she’d loved her time on the Today show and that she was excited about the new challenges ahead. A thirty-second farewell. Strong, inscrutable, invulnerable.
When you retreat Giza-style—with your head high and your lips sealed—you remind everyone what a pro you are. That news will travel. And the mysterious, sphinx-like expression of yours will make people wonder if they don’t know the whole story after all—and that you’ll be having the last laugh as soon as you’re out the door.