How You Leave a Job Matters

Whatever reason brings you to leave a job, the process brings a mix of emotions.  There is likely excitement about the next opportunity and a sadness to be leaving people you enjoyed working with over the years.  There could be disappointment that things didn’t work out as you hoped and regret that you didn’t well as well as you hoped.  Maybe you are grateful for what you have learned and ready to move forward.  Whatever the circumstances, how you leave the job matters and becomes part of your legacy.

Work with your manager to define a plan of how the work will be covered.  This gives you an opportunity to transition files and documentation and to answer questions from the individual who will pick up these responsibilities.  You may be able to offer some solutions and some insights on what skills are critical to each job, how you would prioritize the outstanding work.  Demonstrate that you still feel responsible for your work and for the success of your colleagues, clients and company.  Show that you put some thought into the transition to ease the burden on those left behind.

If you work directly with clients, ask your manager if you may communicate with the clients directly.  Do so professionally.  Let them know you enjoyed working with them and explain the transition coverage to them so they will feel supported.

Book a meeting with HR to ensure that you don’t leave the paperwork and details until the last moment.  Be sure to understand the impact and dates of changes in insurance etc.

If an exit interview is offered, book one.  If not, at least do one with your manager.  Provide constructive feedback and focus on what you learned from the experience.  You have the opportunity to directly influence your legacy once you walk out the door.  If you are willing to be available for questions that arise, be clear when and how you wish to be contacted.

The world is indeed getting smaller every day.  Do not burn any bridges on your way out the door.  Exit well and you will be remembered well.

Interview Feedback – Believe it or Not

You just can’t make this stuff up!  I often hear interview feedback that is hard to believe but unfortunately things happen.  Hopefully you can learn what not to do from these stories while I’m confident some will make you chuckle.

Make Yourself Comfortable   – An employer called to inform me that he would not be hiring the student they just interviewed.  While disappointed, I wanted to use it as a learning opportunity so I asked why.  The hiring manager was upset that the candidate put his feet on the manager’s desk during the interview.  I called the student to my office and asked how the interview went.  The student thought he had all the right answers but said he got a bad “vibe” from the manager as the interview ended.  I had to ask more detailed questions and was told “yes, I put my feet up on his desk.  He told me to make myself comfortable.”  Apparently the student did not realize that “make yourself comfortable” means it is ok to remove your jacket or even loosen your tie.

Expletive Not Deleted – In an interview you are putting your best forward to convince the hiring manager that you are the best person for their open position.  I had never occurred to me that we had to specifically tell students not to swear in an interview.  Clearly I was wrong.  I had a distraught employer share feedback that a student had used inappropriate language several times during the course of the interview.  When asked, the student explained that the hiring manager talked about the collaborative work environment so he felt he should just be himself.  Professionalism is certainly expected in most business settings and always in the interview.

White Socks –  We spend time in career management class talking about appropriate professional business attire.  We work to be very clear about our expectations to ensure that students are meeting the expectations of our employers.  You can imagine my horror when I saw a student leaving the interview room with an impeccable, well pressed suit, coordinating shirt and tie, and bright white socks.  I called the student to my office and closed the door.  The student was quick to explain that they were brand new socks.  He bought them for the interview to ensure that they were as clean and bright as possible.  We reviewed the dress code again.  He still thought he had done the right thing and asked if it mattered.  I asked him, “Do you want to be remembered for your experience and skills or for wearing white socks to the interview? “ I never saw him in white socks again.

Weakness with Emphasis – Students are often asked the question “what are your weaknesses?”  We practice that one in class so they are comfortable talking about a developmental area and how they are making progress in that area.  An employer asked that question of a student and she explained that she has a habit of never finishing anything.  She went on in great detail to talk about the closet full of unfinished projects and how after getting started she loses interest and doesn’t go back to a project.  Instead she starts something new and then adds to her collection of unfinished projects.  Not only did she go into significantly more detail than was appropriate she also failed to positively talk about how she was overcoming the issue.  Worse still, she didn’t consider the key skills required for the job – it was a project management job and keeping multiple projects on track and making progress was critical to success in the role.

Overstating Your Abilities – Anything on the resume is fair game and candidates should be expected to be asked about it in an interview.  One student listed proficiency in Mandarin on her resume.  Little did she know that the interview was fluent in Mandarin.  When asked a question in Mandarin, she was unable to answer.  Her credibility was blown early in the interview.  Another student claimed Advanced Excel skills.  When asked by the hiring manager questions about pivot tables and V lookup, the student was not able to respond.  Your credibility is too important to risk it by overstating your skills.

Legal Mumbo Jumbo – Some job applications ask if you were ever convicted of a felony.  It is critical that you answer honestly.  I had a student respond no on the application but the background report showed a conviction.  While there was an explanation and the conviction was eventually cleared, the company would not even consider the student for the job because of integrity issues.  You have to be honest.  If he had disclosed the conviction on the application is would not have been an issue.

Thank You Note Nightmare – I am a strong advocate of the importance of writing thank you notes.  Usually employers are very impressed when they receive thank you notes from our students.  While visiting an employer I had my first sense of doom when he said he wanted to show me a thank you note he received from a student.  My stomach sank as he reached into his drawer.  At the top of the note, his name was spelled incorrectly, crossed out, spelled incorrectly again, crossed out again, and spelled a third time incorrectly.  His reaction was two-fold – clearly attention to detail was an issue for the student but he also felt insulted that he wasn’t worth a fresh notecard instead of sending the note with two crossouts.  Definitely not how you make a positive impression.

Lack of Focus – While candidates should be selling themselves in their interviews, managers continue to report examples of students emphatically stating that they hate the functional area they are working for, the industry the company is in, or the type of work they would be asked to do.  It is important to review your feelings before you decide to apply for the job.  When in an interview you should know what is important in that job and not go out of your way to tell them you don’t like doing that.  Be positive.

Star Attire – We are very clear with our students that professional business attire is a suit.  One young woman with a strong desire to stand out in the crowd chose to wear a glittered mid-riff top under her suit jacket.  Employers to not want to see glimpses of her stomach during the interview and certainly questioned how she would dress in front of clients or prospects.  She stood out but not in the way she intended.

Value of a Professional Mentor

Mentors can provide valuable advice, counsel, advocacy and networking assistance.  They can be a valuable career resource.  Family and friends may want to help but they often lack experience in the field we are targeting and more importantly, they are not objective.  They can’t always provide the constructive and objective perspective that is needed.  Professional mentors can provide support, encouragement and career-related guidance while identifying and maximizing networking and career exploration opportunities.

For students in the full-time MBA program at D’Amore-McKim School of Business, we made finding a mentor easy.  We recently matched all interested first year students with mentors in their fields who can provide valuable guidance and advice throughout corporate residency and second year classes as students prepare for a career after graduation.

A mentor partnership provides a valuable opportunity to learn from someone more experienced in your chosen field.  Open, honest communication is critical to a successful networking partnership.  Being clear about goals of the relationship and agreeing up front on the frequency and mode of communication builds a strong foundation for the relationship.

It is not your mentor’s responsibility to find you a job.  You can explore career goals, seek networking contacts and request advice but do not ask your mentor for a job.  If they offer, it’s fine but the goal of the relationship is to gain advice and insight

Guidelines we share with students to maximize their mentor relationship include the following:

  • Be considerate of your mentor’s time.  Return phone calls promptly and arrive on time for meetings.
  • Seriously consider all advice you receive.
  • Show evidence that you have utilized the assistance they offer.
  • Show appreciation for any and all assistance provided.
  • Be open to constructive feedback and seek it whenever possible.  Do not be defensive.  Be open to all feedback and learn from it.  Seek feedback often.
  • Assume the relationship will be strictly professional.  Let the mentor take the lead in making it more personal if desired.
  • Say thank you often.  Let your mentor know how they are making a difference for you.
  • Look for opportunities to give back -share a relevant article, offer to assist with a new technology, refer a qualified candidate, etc.

Possible goals for a mentoring partnership may include:

  • Expanding my professional network
  • Clarifying my development focus
  • Enhancing knowledge of key functions and industries of interest
  • Understanding organizational politics
  • Receiving feedback on critical skills for development
  • Testing ideas in a safe environment

Remember to say thank you when your mentor shares valuable advice and guidance.

Making the Most of a Mentor Relationship

We believe mentors are a critical component to career success and just finished matching mentors with members of our first year full-time MBA class.  I am excited that we have such talented mentors volunteering their time to work with our students.  Over the years I have observed the significant impact these relationships can have on our students and their careers.

Mentors can provide valuable advice, counsel, advocacy and networking assistance.  They can be a valuable career resource.  Family and friends may want to help but they often lack experience in the field we are targeting and more importantly, they are not objective.  They can’t always provide the constructive and objective perspective that is needed.  Professional mentors can provide support, encouragement and career-related guidance while identifying and maximizing networking and career exploration opportunities.

Most business professionals seek a mentor with more experience so they can learn from their experience or a mentor in a field they aspire to work in.  Open, honest communication is critical to a successful networking partnership.  Being clear about goals of the relationship and agreeing up front on the frequency and mode of communication builds a strong foundation for the relationship.

It is not your mentor’s responsibility to find you a job.  You can explore career goals, seek networking contacts and request advice but do not ask your mentor for a job.  If they offer, it’s fine but the goal of the relationship is to gain advice and insight

Guidelines we share with students to maximize their mentor relationship include the following:

  • Be considerate of your mentor’s time.  Return phone calls promptly and arrive on time for meetings.
  • Seriously consider all advice you receive.
  • Show evidence that you have utilized the assistance they offer.
  • Show appreciation for any and all assistance provided.
  • Be open to constructive feedback and seek it whenever possible.  Do not be defensive.  Be open to all feedback and learn from it.  Seek feedback often.
  • Assume the relationship will be strictly professional.  Let the mentor take the lead in making it more personal if desired.
  • Say thank you often.  Let your mentor know how they are making a difference for you.
  • Look for opportunities to give back -share a relevant article, offer to assist with a new technology, refer a qualified candidate, etc.

Possible goals for a mentoring partnership may include:

  • Expanding my professional network
  • Clarifying my development focus
  • Enhancing knowledge of key functions and industries of interest
  • Understanding organizational politics
  • Receiving feedback on critical skills for development
  • Testing ideas in a safe environment

Don’t be Left Out, Link In

LinkedIn is a valuable business networking tool and is critical to a successful job search.  At Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business MBA Career Center, we work with our students to help them maximize the value of Linked In.

Be Found – Build a powerful profile so employers searching for people like you can easily find you online.  Make it easy for alumni, current students, and former business colleagues to find you.  The true power of your connections comes from the second and third level so work to build a strong first level of connections.

Quality Not Quantify – There is no prize for having the most contacts but the right contacts are invaluable.  Build a network of people you know to help you achieve your career goals.

Seek Feedback – We review the students’ LinkedIn profiles with them and offer suggestions for improvements.  Have someone else review your profile and share feedback.  Another set of eyes can add valuable insight.

Alumni Connections – In additional to joining LinkedIn groups for alumni, utilize the alumni search to identify alumni connections in your target companies.

Benefits of Mentors

Have you ever wondered if it would be beneficial to have a mentor?  The answer of often “yes”.  Mentoring typically pairs experienced professionals with those of less experience to help navigate the career journey.

How can a mentor help?  They provide advice, counsel, advocacy and networking assistance on a confidential basis.  They can encourage effective networking and help refine your career goals. 

How can a mentee help the mentor?  To be successful mentoring partnerships should be mutually beneficial.  The mentee can share their knowledge and experience as well and may have a different perspective to share.  The mentee can also help identify appropriate contacts for the mentor.

Should my mentor work at my company?  It can be very helpful to have a mentor at your company particularly if that person has been with the company for many years or has years of relevant experience.  The mentor can guide you in learning how to navigate the organization, to influence and persuade others, to avoid political pitfalls and to connect with valuable resources across the organization.  It is best if the mentor is not your manager.

Is there a benefit to having a mentor outside the organization I work for currently?  An external mentor can help you network across your industry, provide an objective perspective and focus on the business issues involved without any company politics.  An outside mentor can assist you as you move through your career since the relationship is not tied to a specific company.

What are some potential benefits of having a mentor?

  • Expanding your professional network
  • Clarifying your development goals and identifying a plan to address them
  • Refining and implementing your professional goals
  • Enhancing your interpersonal skills
  • Providing a trusted advisor
  • Understanding organizational politics and decision making
  • Providing feedback on your personal style, demeanor and behavior
  • Encouraging discussion on ideas, visions and creative concepts
  • Offering feedback throughout your career

My Boss & I Don’t Get Along

Image Courtesy of TheAtlantic.com

Image Courtesy of TheAtlantic.com

 

The hiring manager wades through piles of resumes and conducts multiple interviews to find the best candidate for the job.  The candidate researches the company, asks insightful questions during the interviews, and even talks with networking contacts.  In spite of best efforts on both sides of the hiring equation, sometimes things don’t work out as planned.  What is the employee to do if he just doesn’t get along with the boss?

Self-Reflection

  • If you sense that things just don’t feel right, pay attention to your instincts
  • Pay attention to when things don’t feel right and start keeping a list, review and identify patterns and issues
  • Consider what you think the issue is and what you might do to remedy the situation
  • Honestly assess your fit for the position as well as your strengths and weaknesses
  • If you know you need to better understand how your role fits in the larger mission of the company, identify that and ask for what you need
  • The more specific you can be in what’s missing the better able you will be to address it

Meet With Your Manager

  • Request a meeting with your manager
  • Do not be confrontational but state that you are seeking feedback
  • You want to understand what you are doing well and what you could be doing better
  • Ask about your fit with the team
  • Ask for specific recommendations on how to make things better
  • If it is clear that there is just a personal issue seek further feedback, maybe you have very different work styles which are in conflict
  • If you are able to identify the problem and brainstorm ways to make things better, give it an  honest try and agree to debrief at a future date

Remain Professional

  • Do not bad mouth your boss to everyone else on the team and anyone who will listen
  • Do not let a bad attitude or frustration impact your work performance
  • Be sure to keep notes of discussion and observations

Escalate

  • If you have tried talking to your manager and things are not getting any better, consider escalating the issue to HR
  • Meet with your HR contact, share your feedback and what you have done to address the issue, brainstorm next steps

Be Willing to Walk Away

  • If there is an irreconcilable difference between you and the boss, be prepared to look for another position, either within the company or outside
  • Even if the problem is the boss, it often takes time to address those issues through proper channels and it may not be worth it for your mental health to hang in there
  • Think about how to explain your change when looking for a new job without speaking ill of the company or the manager
  • Identify references at the company other than your direct manager before you leave so you are prepared in your job search

Manage  Your Stress

  • Dealing with a difficult boss can be extremely stressful
  • Exercise, get your sleep and do whatever you can to manage your stress level

Try to focus on what you are accomplishing or learning at work without  thinking about the negative impact of your manager, focus on the positive