Articles in: Stress Management


8 Reasons Why You Should Work for a Tough Boss

swimming with sharksWhen we say work for a tough boss, we’re not necessarily saying someone like the Kevin Spacey character in “Swimming with Sharks” or the Meryl Streep character in “The Devil Wears Prada”—although if you can tough it out with someone like that, go for it—no, what we’re talking about are just normal, run-of-the-mill, tough people to work for, with and please.

This may sound counter-intuitive to you but working for a tough & demanding boss does a number of things that will HELP YOU when starting out on your career path.

1. Working for a tough boss teaches you to be at the top of your own game. If you’re not, don’t worry, they’ll surely let you know. By consistently working at a high level for a demanding boss, you’ll be stretching and able to perform at that level for longer and longer periods of time. Instead of being yelled at for a mistake every two days, it will turn into every two months or even less.

2. Inside the company, everyone who knows this “tough” boss knows that they are hard to work for… so if you CAN work for them and keep them happy, your stock within the company rises and opens up other opportunities for you down the road.

3. This demanding boss also gives you an “out” when asking for assistance in terms of performing your job. You get to blame the rush or circumstances of your requests to the IT department, the mail room or operations on your boss, thus getting what you (and by extension he or she) needs in the quickest time possible.

4. A tough boss also has a reputation within their industry outside of the company and that too can help you when interviewing at a competitor. Either the competitor knows that you “know the drill” given your current or previous tough boss OR they might want to poach you from your boss as “payback”... it does happen.

5. When a tough boss gives you positive feedback on a job well done, it’s like gold and you’ll feel like a million bucks.

6. You will develop a thick skin and be able to take criticism better than people who haven’t worked for a tough or demanding boss. The maturity and poise that you gain through these traits will shine through when compared to your peers.

7. The tough and demanding bosses are usually the ones who are extremely smart and know their business inside and out. If they didn’t, the company would have gotten rid of them a while ago because they are tough and demanding without the performance to back it up. Once you become trusted, these bosses can turn into mentors who will teach you what they know which then opens up career options for you down the road.

8. Lastly, if you can thrive when working for a tough and demanding boss, when it does come time to either move on or be promoted, usually that tough boss turns out to be your biggest supporter.

On the flip side, don’t be fooled by just a regular nasty person with no talent trying to disguise themselves as a tough, demanding and smart boss… these are the folks that you want to stay away from. You’ll be able to spot a boss like this if they change the rules constantly, don’t give honest feedback/advice and aren’t respected by their peers from inside or outside the company and industry. Advice: proceed with caution.

Lastly, in Hollywood, all bets are off.

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How do YOU handle being slammed at work?

paperworkYep, that’s right… I’m slammed with work… Work at my “day job” I might add.

We got big news as an ad agency recently: We’re merging with another shop.

Our North American agency of under 1000 employees is merging with a world wide agency with over 8000 employees. Usually when a smaller shop merges with a larger shop, the large shop takes over and cleans house but with this merger, it’s the other way around. Our management team and a majority of our employees are staying put while the North American arm of the larger agency is being folded into us.

And that’s a really good thing with one negative, short-term consequence.

First, it’s great because my boss got promoted and is really running the show now on the account management and operations side of the business. Love my boss, we’ve got an amazing working relationship and so my position is secure… and until ProAssisting (which she knows about and supports) takes over and allows me to devote all of my time to it, having a “day job” for a boss I love working for is a great thing.

BUT… there is a ton more work on my plate as a result. Dealing with spreadsheets and organization charts and trying to get all of their information to match with ours is a big—and very confidential—task… one that falls to me to make these documents as coherent as possible for my boss… thus, I’m slammed at work.

How do you deal with being slammed at work? For me, I batch my tasks and try to take things one step at a time. Also, if something simple pops up that would take me 3 minutes to complete, I do it, get it out of the way and then return my focus to the larger tasks. I usually find that at the beginning of such large tasks, the work seems overwhelming but as I get into it and start knockin’ bits and pieces of it out, it never seems as bad as I thought it would be. As a last resort, sometimes I come into the office real early, stay late or come in on the weekend to have some time with no distractions to get caught up and get back on my game.

How about you?... How do you deal with being slammed at work?

Flickr Creative Commons image by gregoryjameswalsh

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Explaining being laid off while in an interview

imageLaid off, fired, let go… whatever you call it, it stinks.

However there are a few things you can do prior to getting an interview and say when you’re in the interview hot seat—you will get back into the interview hot seat—that will reflect in a very positive light to your future employer.

Let’s start first with what you can say about your situation when you’re in the interview:

If you were laid off because of down-sizing due to the downturn in the economy, you can explain it as such and that’s it. Say that you enjoyed your past employer and the position you filled for them and that you understood why they had to let you go. In these trying times, any hiring manager will understand and look at this as an opportunity to get a quality employee that they wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance with.

Now, if you were laid off because of poor performance or a poor personality fit, this is a bit tougher to explain. From family problems, financial problems or educational issues (not having the proper training to work effectively) to you weren’t a good fit for the company culture or your job evolved beyond your core competences, any could be the reasons why it didn’t work out.

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE

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What We Can’t Teach Your - Blog Series Part 3

Patience & Sense of Urgency

imagePatience and “sense of urgency” might seem like opposite ends of the spectrum but both are very critical and intrinsically linked when working effectively as any kind of assistant.

Many job postings for assistant positions will mention a “sense of urgency” as a trait they’re looking for in candidates for the position. From our experience, this means they’re looking for someone who is “on the ball”, someone who gets their “to-do” list done as quickly as possible and presents any “situation” to their boss in a timely fashion.

However, in the real world—not in the interview situation—, you’ll find that you’re constantly waiting for people to return your phone call/email or get you specific information you need to get your job done. Whether it’s waiting on an answer from your boss or your travel agent to get back to you, waiting on answers is part of the game. This is where the patience comes in.

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE

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The Recession Proof Graduate

The below is a presentation put together by Charlie Hoehn (who I found via Seth Godin) and it’s a very interesting look at how to recession proof yourself… especially if you’re a recent college grad who want to break into an industry of your choosing.

Now be warned, this isn’t a one shot, easy-as-pie, walk-in-the-park solution to all of your career woes but it does have some great strategies for how to look at your potential career and then how to go about getting it.  AND, if you are a recent college grad with no “full on” responsibilities, this type of work CAN be had… especially where we find ourselves now: in a recession.

Take a look and let us know what you think below in the comments.  Enjoy.

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What We Can’t Teach You - Blog Series Part 1

Your Work Ethic and Pride in Your Work.

strong work ethic

As the introduction to our blog series “What We Can’t Teach You” explained, there are a number of traits, characteristics and attributes that will affect your job performance that we can’t, nor anyone else for that matter, teach you.

The trait we’re going to take a look at today is your work ethic and having pride in the work you perform.

Unless you’re training and competing to be a Navy Seal (like the man in the picture to the right) or some other similar strict hierarchy program, we believe that you develop your work ethic through the observation of and example set by your parents. Having a sense of pride in your work then reinforces your work ethic by always wanting to strive for your best performance.

I developed my strong work ethic via all four of my parents as each was highly committed to and striving for the highest level of success in each of their chosen careers. Stephanie developed hers from watching her parents follow their own entrepreneurial spirit and the hard work it took them to fully succeed on those pursuits.

“Whoop dee freakin’ do” you might be thinking… especially if your parents didn’t exactly set the highest of bars when it came to their own work ethic. So the question then becomes, “If I’m not in the military and my parents weren’t good role models in the work ethic department, where does that leave me?”

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE

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Find Efficiencies in Everything

image

Finding efficiencies is the name of the game in many different fields of work but especially important when working as an assistant. In today’s “high speed” and “always on” working culture, being able to complete your tasks in as few steps as possible clears the way for you to do more work while being less stressful.

To help put this in perspective, let’s take a look at the definition of efficiency:

ef-fi-cien-cy [i-fish-uhn-see]
-noun, plural -cies.

  1. the state or quality of being efficient; competency in performance. 2. accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort: The assembly line increased industry’s efficiency.

The words that stick out to me in that definition are “ability to accomplish a job with minimum expenditure of time and effort”. As you can see in the picture we chose for this blog post, that can be as simple as having all of the right programs open and ready for use on your computer desktop throughout the day.

Other examples include using an online system to make reservations instead of calling and being put on hold OR going to the register in the back of the drug store at the pharmacy counter when there is a line up front OR only walking to the other side of the office to drop stuff off after you have multiple things TO drop off.

My first job was working as a waitress and during my stint serving drinks and food, another more experienced server gave me some great advice: Take as few steps as possible to complete the maximum number of requests from your customers. That advice still holds true for me today as I assist the CEO of a multi-billion dollar hedge fund; he might not be able to put his finger on exactly what he appreciates about my multi-tasking, namely my efficiency, but he appreciates it nonetheless and your boss will too.

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The Golden Rule About Money

imageAnd the golden rule about money and life is…

...to make more than you spend!

So why am I mentioning this at our site which is geared towards supporting and teaching executive assistants, admin assistants and personal assistants? Because having control of your finances reduces your stress and sets you up to conquer your career without being hamstrung with uncontrollable financial debt.

Most of us, after graduating college, have been there…making the “minimum payment” on the thousands of dollars on our credit card, having to pay rent, eat and hopefully have a little left over to have some fun without ever having thought before about a salary, overtime hours or a budget.

The problem is the whole “minimum payment” thing. You see, just paying the “minimum payment” on a credit card seems like you’re on a tread mill that doesn’t end…you keep paying and paying and what you owe stays the same and deep down inside, this creates stress. And this stress can easily spill over into your work when your attitude takes a hit cause you think you should be making more money or offered that promotion…at least it did for me.

Alright then, what can you do? First, if you can pay more than the “minimum payment” due every month, say 30% more, pay it…and pay it consistently. Watching what you owe go down every month will start to feel really good and reduce your financial stress BUT…what if you can’t afford to pay more than the minimum?

You can take out another credit card!

I know, I know…sounds counter intuitive BUT if you CAN take out another credit card (read: allowed to), in most cases, you can do a “transfer” of any current debt you have to the new card at a MUCH LOWER interest rate for a period of 6 or 12 months. This allows you to keep paying what your “minimum payment” would have been on your old card on your new card and since the interest rate is MUCH lower you’re actually paying more of your principle down instead of just treading financial water.

Other option? If you know someone who could assume (read: pay it off) your credit card debt (or any other debt), you could agree to pay them 5-8% interest (way below what the credit card company charges) and then have that money taken directly out of your paycheck so you don’t even see it and put into the person’s account. Most paycheck companies will process this request if asked.

Just two options of many but being able to not dread opening up that credit card bill every month will greatly reduce your stress AND increase your positive attitude at work since you won’t feel like your back is against the financial wall.

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Some tips for happiness @ Work

imageGretchen Rubin over at Slate.com is on a mission called “The Happiness Project” where she writes about happiness and how to be happy… isn’t that just peachy?

Anyway, last week her post focused on 16 Tips for Feeling Happier at Work and four of them jumped out at me as being perfect for current and future assistants so I’m going to highlight them below but if you want to view Gretchen’s full list, click on over to her article via the link above.

OK… so, where were we? Oh yeah, happiness at work. Here are the four points out of Gretchen’s list that jumped out at me and why:

#5 - Get (and use) a phone headset. I know, they look funny and you don’t like how they feel on your head but with the advent of Bluetooth, headsets for the phone have become very lite AND wireless. Trust me when I say that after using one for a couple weeks, you won’t know how you ever lived without one. Now, IF you assist someone who doesn’t get more than 10 calls per day, count yourself lucky and yes, you may forgo the phone headset.

#8 - Never say “yes” on the phone. This may sound weird but our brains are hard-wired to please people as soon as we can when instead we should think things through and “run it by our boss” before committing to anything… especially when you’re just starting to work for someone. By taking this time, you’ll cut down on your mistakes and won’t take on more than you can chew at one time.

#9 - Take care of difficult calls or emails as quickly as possible. We all get emails and calls that we cringe at having to deal with but the sooner we do deal with it, the sooner it’ll be in our rear view mirror and not stressing us out. Even if it is just starting a difficult project or writing a draft of an email, you will partially de-stress the situation by getting the ball rolling.

#16 - Let yourself stay ignorant of the things you don’t need to know. Another tip that might seem counterintuitive at first but as an assistant, for example, if you are asked to package up a picture to be sent to someone and you have a mailroom that handles packaging, delegate the task to them; the professional packers. Same with getting a printer to work on your boss’s computer; call the IT department… this tip basically advises you to delegate when you can and we agree.

Any tips of your own? Please share them in the comment section below. Photo credit: D. Storey

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A few tips for Anger & Irritability Management

angerCame across a blog post by Gretchen Rubin over at Huffingtonpost.com recently that gave 8 great tips for anger and irritability management.

All of her tips, which you can read by clicking HERE, are really good for helping manage these emotions while working as an assistant but we’ll only focus on three here today:

#4- Be realistic

You may want to pull your hair out when your boss wants to move that meeting that took you days to book and get everyone’s schedule to match up but if they have a tendency of shifting their meetings, that’s life. Be realistic when scheduling the meeting and tell yourself that it’s likely going to be re-scheduled. That way, you’ll be prepared when it does and will let such disruptions roll right off your back… can you quack like a duck? That might just help too.

#5- Don’t expect praise or appreciation

This is a big one. If you use your superior skills and tactics to get your boss that prime table that they asked for at that prime restaurant during a jam packed holiday weekend; great job. But that’s just it… accomplishing an almost impossible task is what you’re there for so don’t get bummed out if your boss doesn’t acknowledge such. If you really do need some praise, come on over here to ProAssisting, leave a blog comment telling us about your near impossible feat and WE will pat you on the back. Promise.

#7- Make a joke

I agree with Gretchen that it’s surprising how a joke during a moment of anger or irritation can really have an effect on your mood. 99.9% of the time, as an assistant, you’re not going to be dealing with brain surgery so making a lite joke about whatever mistake you’re currently dealing with will help you to keep things in perspective. Self deprecating humor, when you’re the one who screwed up, has done the trick for smoothing things over with my bosses in the past and it might just work for you too… IF you keep your mistakes and screw-ups to a minimum.

If you found these helpful, check out Gretchen’s post for her take on each tip above and the other 5 that weren’t highlighted here.

 

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Save up your “See ya!” money ASAP

The advice in this post goes for pretty much everyone but as you’ll see below, assistants have to worry about fraud and ethical lapses within their company and be aware of the potential that they unknowingly could be an accomplice to such actions.

This article is about Bernie Madoff’s assistant, Annette Bongiorno down in FL. A reporter tracked her down and is asking questions about all of her assets and if she personally put through any trades on behalf of Bernie. There are legitimate questions about her involvement and knowledge of Bernie’s scheme BUT if she smelled something “fishy” in the beginning AND had some “See ya!” money saved up, she could have quit and avoided a really bad situation. Now she’s being tracked down by investigative reporters and has probably met a few times with the FBI.

Moral of the story? Save up some “See ya!” money ASAP when you enter the working world so if you ever smell anything “fishy” OR if you need to get away from a maniacal boss, you can.

UPDATE - Below is the video of this report and you can see that Annette wants nothing to do with it:

 

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