Dr. Orange Chair Mc Fancy Pants

I can’t believe I’m thinking this, especially after my rant about the cost of graduate school (we can’t deny that Master’s programs can be a University’s bread and butter) and how much I didn’t enjoy my Master’s program BUT I am thinking about pursuing my DrPH (that’s a doctorate in public health for those who may not know).

Boom! I bet you didn’t see that coming (or maybe you did and then you’re more clairvoyant than me).

I’ve come into a unique situation in which I could begin taking classes, join a program, and finish up a program at little to no cost. This whole ‘free degree’ thing is pretty appealing. Well, it’s not really free is it? I mean, financially, maybe. But there’s a whole time and sanity sink that comes with going back to school (papers, classes, teachers you don’t like, more bureaucracy than you can shake a stick at).

I have felt since getting my Master’s that it hasn’t done much for me…and maybe it will, maybe it won’t (maybe it has maybe it hasn’t). It is what it is. So then why am I suddenly enthralled by the thought of getting a Doctorate?

I don’t really have to ask because I know…it’s the academic in me that wants to go ALL THE WAY, the one who wants to be Dr. Orange Chair Mc Fancy Pants. I’d also like to believe that at the doctorate level, education isn’t such a business transaction where I pay a gagillion dollars and get a sheet of paper in return that somehow says I’m awesome. I’d like to believe I could take away a real leadership skill set from this and that it could help propel my career.

But one thing I’ve learned in my job search history is that institutions seem to care a lot more about what you have done and less about where or what you have studied. Would my experience with a doctorate be so different as to make it worth it? Unclear.

If you could pursue higher education for free, would you? To what end? And what do you think it could help you accomplish?

Change of Scenery

As some of you know, I am no longer at my job. As some of you also know, this is OK.

Perhaps the tone of my blog gave it away – there were definitely issues I had that I felt I couldn’t raise given the environment. Regardless, I am now moving on and dedicating myself, full time, to finding (or making) the next opportunity, something that will fit my career goals  and fulfill my desire to do some global good.

This will also mean I get to spend lots more time working on My Orange Chair! (Almost to that 100th post!)

While I know you guys said you didn’t care much about the ‘job search’ stuff, I will feel compelled to talk a bit about it more because it feels a lot different than it did last time. I have a broader range of contacts, more work experience under my belt, and a better sense of what it is I’m after AND it doesn’t hurt that there seem to be a lot more positions opening up nearby (no more commuting! GAAH! that commute was awful). So be prepared for some posts on this process.

Happy Monday!

Power Tripping

Hi internets, I know it’s been a while but life has been going on and it’s been busy so I know you’ll forgive my absence.

I thought I’d come back today with a piece on bullying in the workplace. Some of you may or may not have seen the recent Salon article, When Bullies Go To Work. which I think is a great platform for what I want to talk about here. I could barely get through the comments, many of which called the interviewees whiners, and I was surprised that this didn’t get a bit more play in social media land because I know a lot of you have experiences that relate to workplace bullying, either from colleagues or supervisors. Unfortunately…

“There’s a definite lack of awareness. People are very surprised when they think about these things happening in the workplace.” Yet it’s all around us –  a 2010 workplace bullying study found that 35 percent of workers say they have experienced bullying firsthand, and another 15 percent report witnessing it.

35%!! That’s a lot. That’s too much. That’s one in three of your coworkers.

In the aforementioned study, workplace bullying was defined as “repeated mistreatment: sabotage by others that prevented work from getting done, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation, & humiliation”. But statistics are hard to come by:

…because targets themselves don’t always connect the dots between their absenteeism-causing migraines and ulcers and their aggressive colleagues, but Dellasega says at least 5 percent of workers say they’ve deliberately not gone in to work because of stress there.

I know I’ve had friends who felt they could not handle going to their workplace either because they knew they were going to get abuse (I mean mental, not physical or sexual) from their boss or they felt so overwhelmed by their negative workplace culture.

The study showed that both men and women bully, but the majority of bullying is same-gender harassment, which is mostly legal according to anti-discrimination laws and workplace policies. Women target women. I’m surprised by this last stat. because my experiences and those of some of my peers suggests that bullying is pretty gender neutral and is primarily influenced and encouraged by office culture, not individuals. Salon seems to agree with me on that one (the culture part, not the gender thing):

Part of what makes workplace bullying so insidious is that it’s so deeply entrenched in the corporate cultures where it flourishes. It’s not just one jerk — it’s a whole department of sycophants and terrorized underlings. As Liza, who works in graphic design, says, “One of my bosses likes to throw paperwork on the floor so we have to get on our knees. I commonly see a reaction of, ‘That’s just how he is,’ or ‘He’s just having a bad day,’ when an incident occurs.” Namie says this is common. “The whole group adopts the practice out of survival and fear, and over time it becomes the norm and the bullying becomes institutionalized. It’s about loyalty,” he says. “Once you start promoting people for that kind of behavior, you’ve sent the message.”

I’d go a step further and say that workplace bullying, like all bullying, is about demonstrating power. If bullying has become the norm in an office culture then management and junior staff alike are trying to flex their muscles and show that they have some sense of power – this may not always be solely related to work, but rather, feeling powerless in other aspects of their lives as well.

One big challenge we have is how to combat this in workplace cultures that seem to promote bullying or ignore it when it’s clearly happening. What do you do if your HR person engages in bullying themselves? Who do you have to go to? If your boss is bullying you, you probably feel stuck! Sure you can complain to your fellow employees but then what!? Office cultures seem to have created systems in which young employees remain powerless (and not just against bullying, but also against all kinds of change). It may be easier to affect change if your bully is a peer but even then, if you’re new, how do you develop allies?

It’s unfortunate to me that the workplace has become, for some people, a war zone, filled with negativity, unnecessary obstacles, and cruelty.

What cultural factors have made this OK and how can young employees stop it from getting worse, or stop it from happening in the first place? You tell me.

*Also, did you know this is my 97th post? I bet you didn’t. 100 is a pretty big hallmark and you’re invited to pat me on the back about it*

Screen Time & Copious Emails

One thing I would change about my life (and may if I actually make it a goal) is the amount of time I spend in front of a screen. It’s likely I will check my email and the weather before I leave the house in the morning. If I’m not reading a book on the train I am watching a TV show on my iPod.

Then – there’s work – which centers largely around the computer. My office culture doesn’t encourage much interpersonal mingling. Some managers seem to believe that if you aren’t at your desk, you aren’t working (I couldn’t disagree more about this by the way and this is a great example of generational office culture issues). So that’s roughly 7 hours of screen time each day, just at work!

But you all know I’m a gamer right? And I have a great love for horrible TV (i.e. Real Housewives, the Bachelor…I won’t embarrass myself further). So there’s night-time screen time (this is where I feel like I could reduce but not eliminate…it’s like wine at the end of a long hard day).

But back to that huge chunk of screen time during the work day – this is largely due to email right? Office cultures have shifted away from phone calls and personal chats and towards the far less personal email. In some ways this may increase productivity, helping you to multitask, communicate when you’re ready, etc. And I am on board with that – there are some things that are more easily communicated through email and some people with whom email is the best form of communication!

Fast Company’s Co.Design‘s shared an infographic (you know how much I love these) about whether or not you should send an email. Check it out:

They, like me, have a few issues with the tree:

We have some quibbles with the decision tree. The first question is “Are you at work?” and if you answer “no,” then the chart leads to “okay.” No! Not okay. Heartwarming PowerPoint forwards are never okay (confidential to our relatives: We love you very much). Further down, there’s weird ritual advice like implementing a “No Email Friday” policy.

But there are some good considerations there too. Poorly written subject headers remain the bane of our existence, to say nothing of the ongoing river of pain that is CC abuse. For a more thorough and thoughtful take on when to send email, we recommend Seth Godin’s checklist (forlornly titled “(maybe this time it’ll work!)”).

However, I love the real message of this image which is – think about an email before you send it and think about other ways to communicate like getting up and walking to your coworkers’ office (unless you don’t like them).

Is anyone else concerned with how much time they spend in front of a computer or a TV? They have just become so ingrained in our lives … Right now, I’m sharing this information and you’re looking at it on a screen!

At least I’m not sharing it by email  🙂

Happy Friday!

Leadership Development in Nonprofits

YNPN recently released a great document called “Good in Theory, Problems in Practice” that touches on leadership development in nonprofits (and whether or not its actually happening). YNPN tested five recommendations for developing non-profit leaders and found that there’s a significant gap between theory and practice – this is not surprising!

The recommendations the report examined were:

1. Nonprofits should offer more competitive compensation

2. Nonprofits should invest in building “bench strength”

3. Nonprofits should engage in inclusive succession planning

4. Nonprofits should prioritize diversity

5. Nonprofits should explore new organizational structures that are flatter and more nimble

YNPN tested these recommendations to find out:

  • Are young nonprofit professionals excited about the strategy’s potential for impact
  • Are nonprofits implementing the strategy?
  • Are the strategies having their intended impact?
  • And, how involved are young professionals in this process?

Here’s what they found:

Finding #1 Ideas are great but only if they’re implemented (effectively).

Less than 40% of surveyed nonprofit professionals stated that their organization had undertaken a diversity initiative. Fewer than 20% of respondents stated that their nonprofit had made a change to their organizational structure or chief executive role or conducted some form of succession planning.

Finding #2 Structural change is underrated.

Only half of survey respondents rated structural change as potentially high-impact, a stark contrast to the rave reviews the other four strategies received. Yet when this strategy was implemented, structural change was the most effective strategy we investigated.

I think this finding is so interesting – I never would have thought of structural change as such a positive force for good but the results are pretty cool.

Finding #3 Competitive compensation is key…but a good manager can help.

Finding #4 Being left out is not uncommon.

It was disconcerting to find that only one of every five survey respondents
whose organizations implemented one of the strategies we explored
reported that they were not involved in the development or implementation of that strategy.

Perhaps this is a disconcerting find but are you surprised? I am not! Key generational differences are likely playing a role here. Survey participants weren’t surprised either:

This finding did not come as much of a surprise to YNPN members during focus groups. In Washington DC, members understood the reasons nonprofit executives took on much of the strategic planning, but felt disconnected from leadership because they were not a part of the conversation that occurred before plans were made. Rather than providing clarity, after-the-fact, top-down communication from leadership just added to young professionals’ frustration. Focus group participants thought that simply implementing an open-door policy would offer staff the opportunity to learn about or even add their two cents on the path their organization is taking.

Finding #5 Despite systemic challenges, we remain mission driven.

Although many young nonprofit professionals seem sector agnostic, they are just as mission focused as ever. Of the professionals that were hesitant to commit to a nonprofit career, 57% stated that they required their job to have an explicit social mission. This means over 70% of our full sample remains committed to building a mission-driven career.

I don’t believe that you need to work in a non-profit in order to affect social change. I think that nonprofits need to be aware of this and start to really invest in their employees, not only through compensation (though obviously that’s important!!), but also through inclusion, modernization, and development.

But again, my issue with this is how can we affect change as young professionals? How do youput a document like this in a supervisor’s hands and communicate the importance of these changes? Go read the report.

And I’m curious to see what you think is most important:

Leaving a Job (No…not me!)

I know, I know, I just started a new job! But I think it’s never too soon to be prepared for this career eventuality (for the absolute majority of people). I don’t plan to stay in this job forever and it’s becoming more common for young professionals to change jobs frequently – According to a recent study, 55% of college graduates only expect to stay at their first jobs for 1-3 years. This statistic doesn’t surprise me at all given that my generation seems to be focused on getting the most broad range of experiences  possible (and the pay bumps that come from moving out instead of up)

But in the same way that applying to, interviewing for, and starting a new job is scary, so is leaving a job, especially if you’ve never done it before. Whether you’re thinking about changing your work up soon or not, these tips from Jessica Lawlor seem pretty useful –

1. Your immediate supervisor should always be the first to know. Out of respect, be sure to break the news to your immediate supervisor first, and preferably in person. Depending on the type of office environment you work in, you may need to request a meeting or simply ask if they have a moment to talk in private.

I’d recommend giving notice in the morning, to give your supervisor the chance to absorb the news and get the ball rolling on the resignation process. Also, have your resignation letter drafted and ready to submit.

2. Break the news to the rest of your colleagues in person, if possible. In person is always better. Avoid sharing the news of a new job in an email. You’ll find that most people will be happy and excited for you, and will appreciate the fact that you took the time to tell them personally.

3. Create a “how to be me” document. My first order of business once I gave two weeks notice was to create a master document of every single project I was working on, outlining point people, processes and deadlines. This document ended up being close to 10 pages long and extremely detailed, but it was worth spending the time; I wanted to offer a resource for whoever would take over my responsibilities. *I love this idea and have found my predecessors’ “how to be me” document VERY useful* 

4. Do what you can to make the transition as smooth as possible. After creating the “how to be me” document, I set up a meeting to review the document and allow my colleagues to ask questions and get clarification about all of my duties. I purposely scheduled the meeting mid-way through my final two weeks to ensure there was time to schedule a second transition meeting, if needed.

Additionally, if your supervisor is looking to fill your position quickly, do everything you can to help replace yourself. Spread the word on Twitter and LinkedIn, help review resumes, recommend people you think could be a good fit. After you leave the job, let your supervisor and colleagues know that you’re still happy to answer any lingering questions they may have about your responsibilities.

5. Show your gratitude.Buy a big box of thank you notes. And prepare to have your wrist hurt after handwriting multiple notes of appreciation for colleagues.

6. Keep in touch. This is perhaps the most difficult tip to follow, and one I’m still trying to figure out. We all know that staying in touch is key to creating a lasting connection and maintaining your network.

I have to admit, as a young professional in my first job, I wouldn’t know the first step to leaving a job. I would probably just run over to Big Sister and plead for advice which I know she would willingly give. [also…wouldn’t it be great if I could link to Big Sister’s blog when I mention her!? Tell her so in the poll on the left sidebar].

As an intern I’ve taken many of these steps before – it’s always a good idea to hand-write thank you cards and to make efforts to keep in touch. I’ve found these to be key parts of maintaining my network…but I was never in danger of burning bridges at the time because I was just moving on at some agreed upon time.

After reading this advice though, I still have some questions:

  • As a young professional in your first job, how soon is too soon to leave?
  • If you have a lot of a lag time between this job and the next, when should you notify your current employer?
  • Are resignation letters fairly uniform?
  • How can you repair a network relationship that may be damaged by your leaving?

Any advice readers? Perhaps some words of wisdom from a resignation gone awry?

No one ever accused me of being patient

My sister (almost author of Tiny Kitchen Food Project)* in all of her wisdom and glory once told me that the work place is really really hard on young twenty-somethings looking to change the world. They have all of these ideas and aspirations but they are at the bottom of the totem pole and ultimately have to slog through a lot of crap to finally reach a position where they feel they are affecting change.

At the time I wasn’t sure if I agreed with her but now I’m feeling the pain! Idealist recently posted an article entitled, “Got a new job? Eight tips for a successful start” . I read the post and realized that I struggle with quite a few of their tips, which may be why I haven’t had the most ideal start! Now, anything they say about being yourself, or remembering you’re awesome and that’s why you were hired – well I’m good on that front! No one has ever accused me of being humble or modest. But here’s where I have been struggling:

Example 1: Striking a balance between respecting what’s been done and making changes.
I’m an idealist and I definitely have a vision of what my organization could be, what we could do, and where we could go. It is difficult to reconcile this vision with the very real fact that I have been working here for a hot 3 months! Yeah…I’m not exactly the go-to person for organizational changes and that’s OK for now. At least it has to be or I’ll drive myself crazy.

Example 2: Stay away from office politics. 
I’m improving on this because I have a mentor in the organization who is helping me see reason and who also has been here for a long time and seen organizational response to politics. But it’s so tempting to jump on the dramatic political bandwagon. It goes hand in hand with example 1 because you have a vision and other people may share that vision – that doesn’t mean you should stir up the pot without a bit of clout and perspective.

Example 3:  If you struggle in your new position, give it some time.
Just as no one has ever accused me of being humble, no one has accused me of having patience either. It’s a flaw and I’m working on it, especially when it comes to work. I fully realize that my position has not come to fruition – there’s a lot that comes with trust and longevity (I hope). I may have the urge to bolt some days but I have to reign myself in and realize that I could miss opportunities and references if I don’t allow some of the dust to settle. This isn’t to say that I’m willing to settle or won’t advocate for myself at the appropriate times (or drink a lot of wine on the rough days).

It doesn’t surprise me that I’m having trouble in these areas but I do wish there could be easier more efficient conversations across generations to help ease the transition into a new work place. What about you? After reading through the idealist post do you see any tips that aren’t aligning with your current situation? Anyone have some sage advice for us young’ns?

*Please vote in the poll on the sidebar and guilt her into getting her butt in gear!