How I Educated Myself OUT of the Job Market

Research Scholar Practitioner

I’ve always been a believer that knowledge is power and that it provides opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked.  Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that his knowledge and experience would be a disadvantage in the job market.

Let me explain:  I’m one of those professionals who has led a dual-career track.  I’m an entrepreneur with a successful track record in coaching and training as well as a professor who has taught traditional and nontraditional students at universities.

In other words, I’m truly a scholar-practitioner (or practitioner-scholar, depending upon your viewpoint) whose model for eradicating workplace burnout is based on scientific research.

When I recently faced a significant financial hit arising from administering my father’s very poorly planned estate and his equally incompetent estate attorney plus a very large unpaid corporate contract that eluded the collection agency, I decided to re-enter the “traditional” job market.

While I didn’t expect a new job to spontaneously appear, I did enter the job market with what I thought was a well-armed arsenal of benefits to a potential employer:

  • As a scholar-practitioner, I was not confined to a particular industry.
  • I had a successful work history with clients so I could spot trends and offer viable solutions.
  • I had a solid educational and research background, as well as a proprietary theoretical model that had been achieving international interest in the area of workplace burnout.
  • I had also grown a viable network.
  • So, I knew that I could benefit employers in a variety of capacities – either on a contract, part-time, or even full-time basis.

So I launched my job search – and was immediately aware that what I thought were “benefits” were actually viewed as negatives by recruiters and potential employers.

Corporations viewed me as too “academic,” while universities viewed me as too “corporate.”  Huh?  Wouldn’t this combination be a valuable benefit?  Instead of operating in a corporate realm based on assumptions or limited understanding based on prior roles, wouldn’t an ability to thoroughly research a problem in order to provide the best solutions be more valuable than blindly applying “best practices?”

And when it came to universities, my successful history in providing application-based learning experiences for students was overlooked.  While “theory” is important to orient practitioners to a situation, it takes human curiosity, knowledge, and wisdom to select the appropriate model and then apply it to achieve the desired results.  Also, I teach BUSINESS – which is a down and dirty, practical field focused on achieving results.

One experienced high-level colleague working in human resources even told me that my Ph.D. would be viewed as a negative factor by recruiters and hiring managers.  The reason?  Despite the use of technology to find new employees, recruiting biases still exist.

  • “Oh, you’ve got a Ph.D.? You’re going to be tough to manage.”  In other words, my education and critical thinking make me less inclined to blindly follow a manager’s demands – especially if it isn’t necessarily the best course of action for the business.
  • “Oh, you’ve got a Ph.D.? You’re going to want too much money.”  What exactly is considered to be “too much money” – especially when compensation hasn’t even been discussed?  This reflects an ill-informed assumption that all university professors are very highly paid (often for very little work) –trust me, they’re not.

But what about jobs in academia?  Universities are obsessed with the accreditation of the university from which I obtained my Ph.D.  AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE were acronyms that I began to hate.  Basically AACSB accreditation means that the educational institution focuses on research; IACBE focuses on teaching excellences; ACBSP focuses on both research and teaching.

One department manager at an AACSB-accredited school of business actually told me that my 15 years of teaching experience were not even considered in the hiring process – there wasn’t even a column in the Excel spreadsheet for candidates’ prior teaching!  The primary criteria for an interview rested on the candidate’s alma mater’s accreditation.

NOT the quality of my research.  NOT the advancements that it made in the field.  NOT my proven ability to inspire students.  It all came down to the accreditation of the university – which means the hiring process had nothing to do with MY credentials!

Similarly, corporations expressed concern that (although most of my corporate clients had been large, multinational organizations) I hadn’t been “employed” by a large corporation.  Despite the complaints of companies that they are trying to build more agile, innovative, and entrepreneurial work teams, my years of entrepreneurial experience were overlooked simply because I hadn’t been employed by large company.

Wouldn’t it make sense that it takes someone with a history of entrepreneurial success to build entrepreneurship into the culture of the organization?  Nope.

So What Does All This Mean? 

I’ve been a career coach for over 20 years and have had great success in helping job candidates navigate the muddy waters of a job search.  I also hold two senior level professional certifications in human resources, so I’m well aware of the goals of recruiting highly qualified candidates.

What my foray into the job search jungle has shown me
is that the recruiting process is deeply flawed.
(Talk about an understatement, huh?)

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) used to screen, evaluate, and score resumes are the bane of job candidates’ efforts to find a job.  They are often so poorly programmed that the auto-population of the online application with the content of the uploaded resume becomes an unintelligible mish-mash of words.

How bad is it?  One ATS populated my name on the application as…PROFESSIONAL.  Huh?!  My name was top and center on the resume  – where did it find “PROFESSIONAL” and decide to use that as my name on the application?

Additionally, ATS cannot “understand” job candidates who have a dual-career path.  In other words, if you have multiple jobs covering the same period of time (such as adjunct faculty roles in addition to running my training and consulting business), the system is unable to recognize that you worked for more than one employer at the same time.

Confused, the ATS throws all the data together in ways that make it absolutely unintelligible.

This will be particularly problematic as companies increasingly are resorting to contract workers (rather than employees) to do the work that is needed.  And, in today’s environment where “job security” is often non-existent, an increasing number of workers are doing side-gigs or hustles to offset potential job loss.  Or to simply pay the bills.

If you’ve worked at a university or in higher education, the ATS seems to be programmed to search for the terms “college” or “university” and auto-populate it into the “Education” section of the application.  I taught at a community college, but never attended – yet this community college was the first item listed under Education!  Oh, and the degree was populated with the first few words of my duties as an adjunct faculty member at the college (which made absolutely no sense).

Once you have amassed significant work experience, it is very common to format your resume using a hybrid or functional structure.  Adding a Summary of Qualifications at the top of your resume highlights your accomplishments and benefits to the employer.  This section also frames your career to make it easier to understand and helps brand your unique selling proposition (U.S.P.).

However, ATS are confused by this format – seemingly spitting out random words from the Summary of Qualifications into nonsensical entries within the online application.  So job candidates lose the power of this executive summary to position themselves in the eyes of the recruiter or hiring manager.

While ATS are more efficient in terms of
the amount of time required to scan a candidate’s resume,
I strongly doubt their ability to more effectively
scan the candidate’s work experience in relation to the job opening.

The ATS is the employer’s gatekeeper – and NO human eyes will ever see your resume unless the ATS ranks it with an acceptable compatibility score.

For example, I’ve taught numerous sections of undergraduate human resources classes; I’ve also taught most (if not all) of the modules in the preparation program for HRCI and SHRM human resource certification exams.  Yet I received know the standard “after careful review of your qualifications, we’ve decided to go with other candidates” email in response to my online application to teach an online undergraduate HR class as an adjunct faculty member.  Huh?

After several of these “thanks, but no thanks” emails, I decided to use my research skills to figure out what was going on.  I knew that employers were complaining that they couldn’t “find” qualified job applicants – and that very well-qualified job seekers were complaining that they couldn’t seem to get an interview after applying online.  Something was a lose-lose situation.

So, What Is the Solution?  

The Take-Away About Online Resumes:  It’s no longer enough to have one well-crafted resume focused on marketing you as someone who can “hit the ground running” in performing the duties and responsibilities of the posted job.

While we all know that key words are critical to pass the ATS resume screen, I have also discovered these insights and hacks:

  • Don’t use a hybrid or functional format. Remove the Summary of Qualifications and add them to specific jobs.  Quite frankly, if you’ve used these skills in multiple situations, then add them to each employment experience.  Repetition might be able to reinforce to the ATS that you possess these skills and increase your “match” score for the job.
  • You may need to “dumb down” your resume. This was painful for me.  After all, we’ve worked our tails off to build our work experiences and history of successful accomplishments – it intuitively doesn’t make sense to remove them from the resume.  However, all these competencies and accomplishments might be viewed as “over-qualified” (I hate that term!) for the position – maybe not by the ATS, but very possibly by the human recruiter who may eventually see your resume and make erroneous assumptions about you.
  • The resume you use to apply online should be formatted for artificial intelligence. Nope, it’s not going to look “pretty” – in fact, it will probably look downright ugly!  Don’t use horizontal lines (it can screw up the ATS).  Put everything flush to the left margin (ATS “read” resumes top-to-bottom- not left-to-right).  Don’t add color (ATS get confused).  Don’t use columns (ATS will auto-populate the online job application with a series of mumbo-jumbo – the second column of items will be moved as garbage after the last entry in your resume).
  • You now need two resumes: one to be scanned by ATS and one to be read by humans.  Networking is still a critical tool to find a job.  The ATS resume will not provide a good first impression to a human reader, so you also need a “pretty” resume that will pique a person’s interest.  But updating that “pretty” resume into an online application will be misinterpreted by the ATS scan and lead to a low compatibility score.  The content should be the same on both resumes, but it’s HOW it’s arranged that is different.  Form follows function.
  • Consider applying for jobs via your LinkedIn profile. For some reason, ATS auto-populate LinkedIn information more easily into the online job application.

By the way, it used to be that after uploading your resume to the ATS, you didn’t have the opportunity to make corrections to the online job application.  Thankfully, this has changed in some online application sites.  But don’t assume that your resume will upload correctly!  Take the time to check the imported data to make sure that what the ATS “sees” on the application is intelligible.  And make note of trends as to where your experiences “land” in the auto-populated online application – then make changes to the resume to facilitate easier uploading in the future.

Advice to the Players

It is imperative that companies find quality employees who will help the organization achieve its strategic objectives.  It is likewise imperative that high quality workers are able to find work that motivates them in an organizational environment that is a good cultural fit.

In other words, companies and workers need each other to succeed.

To Employers:  Reconsider what you really need to staff a job.  An unbroken employment history in a specific job within a specific industry may appear to be an indicator of success.  But not only is such a candidate difficult to find, it can also restrict the new ideas that a candidate with a slightly different professional background can bring to the table.  Hire not just for the job as it is today, but also as it will evolve in the future.

While many organizations use assessments to ensure that candidates have the requisite competencies for the job, the candidate’s resume has to pass the ATS screen in order to move forward in the process.  Recruiters vary in their reliance on ATS scoring of resumes:  some only look at the top 3 “matches,” while other peruse many the resumes overall.  “Garbage in, garbage out” is an axiom in technology:  make sure that what you have programmed the ATS to search for in applicant resumes relates to the actual performance of the job.  Look not just at the job description, but also the job specifications and competencies of current high performers in this role.

Finally, corporate should quit relying on the qualities of a candidate’s previous employer and begin to look at the candidate’s actual accomplishments. Similarly, universities need to move beyond a candidate’s alma mater’s accreditation and focus instead on their contributions to expand the knowledge base in their field.

To Job Candidates:  The modern job search has changed dramatically – and the old tools used to find a job must be modified in order to address the new recruiting technology.  Having two resumes is a pain in the neck, but it may be the only way to get the ATS to recognize that yes, you are a viable candidate for the job.  Email your “pretty” resume to the recruiter when scheduling the interview – and bring a copy of this resume with you in face-to-face meetings.  Perhaps most importantly, harness your network in order to get whose “warm” referrals to a human being who has the power to forward your resume to the appropriate decision-maker.

You should be applying for at least one job every day – if there is a connection between the duties and responsibilities of the job to your employment history, then apply.  Remember:  75% of online applications are automatically rejected by the ATS (pretty disheartening statistic), so you need to have more opportunities in the pipeline in order to land an interview that can lead to a new job.

Finally, never apologize for your work experience and education!  If an employer expresses concerns, then take this as an early warning sign that it will probably NOT be a good job fit anyway.

The new recruiting and hiring landscape seems to be the perfect storm that often leads to employers and job candidates passing each other like ships in the night – never making any meaningful contact that could benefit them both.  But it IS the new reality.  Employers might be slow in making the necessary changes to its ATS, so job seekers need to work within the existing system.  Form follows function.

You can increase your chances for an interview by initially bypassing the ATS.  But remember:  there is nearly a 100% certainty that you will need to apply online for the job (even if your resume has been presented to a real human being).  Don’t be stuck in the past – modify your job search approach so that it addresses the very real challenges associated with the new recruiting technology.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Finding a Job When You’re Over 50

Knowledge-Skills-Abilities

I’m currently collecting information to better understand (and hopefully eliminate!) the job search challenges faced by workers over the age of 50.

Please click on the link below to take my short (10 questions should take 2-3 minutes to complete).  The results will be posted in future blog posts AND as part my upcoming live online webinar series!

CLICK ON THIS LINK TO TAKE THE SURVEY:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9Q9NLF7 

Thank you!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Job Burnout: What It Is, Why It Matters, What to Do (FREE live workshop)

Job Burnout - What it is-why it matters-what to do - BACKGROUND

Job burnout is in epidemic proportions:  but how do you know if you are burning out AND what can you do about it?

Join me on Sunday, April 28 from 1:30-3:00 PM at the Moon Township Public Library for a free workshop to discover:

  • Your personal risk factors and workplace situations that can lead to burnout
  • The potentially debilitating emotional, psychological, and physical effects of burnout
  • Proactive steps to overcome and avoid burnout

Enjoy some tea, coffee, and a pastry along with an active discussion of this important workplace issue.

The Moon Township Public Library is located at 1700 Beaver Grade Rd # 100, Coraopolis, PA 15108.  For more information, please call (412) 269-0334.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

How to Promote a Stress-Free Workplace

Last month I was thrilled to be part of an international online summit focusing on burnout in nurses.  Even if you’re not a nurse, the insights from the summit can help you avoid and overcome burnout.  In this 30-minute interview, I discuss the workplace stressors that can lead to burnout.  

Thanks to the generosity of Ashild Tilrem (the event organizer), who has graciously permitted me to share my video interview with you on my blog.  Enjoy!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Life Is Like Riding a Bicycle

Life is like a bicycle - Albert Einstein

Why do we tend to focus so much on arriving at the goal…but forget about the journey?  Why is it so easy to quit moving forward after we’ve reached our destination?

In other words, why do we STOP moving after a perceived “end point?”

Nothing in life is static.  We are constantly moving.  The goal, of course, is to direct our movements toward something that is worthwhile, noble, and satisfying.  If we stand still, we are more likely to retreat into our past glories (or defeats) and forego moving toward the future.

But many movements are imperceptible.  Even when we are sleeping or at rest, there is constant motion within our bodies:  our hearts, lungs, and digestive tracts continue to work autonomously even when we aren’t.

Despite the stillness we experience in meditation, certain parts of the brain continue to be highly activated. A recent study showed that our electrical brain waves during meditation are not static; instead the waves indicate a perfect balance of mental activity that is both wakeful and relaxed.

Life is all about this delicate balance arising from movement. Some of our movements will be visible to others through actions and behaviors. Other movements will be private and intangible in the form of thoughts and desires. But both forms of movement are necessary to build wisdom and growth during the journey that is our life.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

What To Do When Your Boss Is Unethical

Handcuffs - niu-niu-600592-unsplash

When I was conducting my research that led to the Burnout During Organizational Change Model (B-DOC), I asked my participants to identify what they believed led to their burnout.  I didn’t offer any potential choices relating to what I thought caused burnout.  So, one particular finding left me, well, flabbergasted:

A disturbing 57.1% of my participants believed that their burnout was either caused or exacerbated by their manager’s requests for them to take ILLEGAL OR UNETHICAL ACTIONS.

This was over half of my participants!  An even more disturbing finding was that these requests were more prominent in participants who worked in nonprofit environments (66.7%) compared to those in for-profits (50%).

According to one female non-profit change leader, she felt that she had somehow become involved with “dirty people” because there were multiple requests for her to take illegal or unethical actions.

Another male for-profit change leader was adamant that he would not take the actions requested of him by his manager, stating, “I’m not going to do it.  I won’t.  It goes against everything I believe in.”  His manager’s response was simply, “You have to.”

What do you do when your boss asks – or even demands – that you take actions that you believe are unethical or know are illegal?  Sadly, this appears to be a growing challenge for the modern worker.

Some Reasons for Unethical Requests

Organizations are beginning to demand a higher level of ethics in their employees’ conduct.  Despite demanding that all employees read and sign the organization’s corporate ethics and compliance policy, the projected moral and legal commitments may not materialize.

The sad reality is that corporate ethics have been under increasing scrutiny as a result of a hypercompetitive marketplace.  When the competition is significant (even staggering), company leaders may resort to making business decisions that require employees to take actions that may not necessarily be illegal, but can be perceived as unethical.

While some of these decisions have led to public scandal and disgrace (such as Enron), it appears that far too many companies are “flying under the radar” of conventional ethics, yet still achieving success.  For example, companies may use misleading product information or unfair competition practices in order to gain market share.  Corporate financial reports may be manipulated to cast a better light on their financials.

Any and all of these unethical decisions are made by employees.

In today’s űber competitive marketplace, some managers believe that a strong commitment to ethical behavior unfairly limits their ability to create desired organizational results.  So, they rationalize the underlying ethos of their decisions and demand that their subordinates do the same.

In other words, organizational demands can create a powerful environment in which ethical people behave unethically

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review noted that, although there has been progress in building more ethical enterprises, 41% of surveyed workers reported seeing ethical misconduct in their workplaces within the previous 12 months.

The ways in which unethical behaviors are displayed in the workplace vary.  In my research, participants characterized their managers’ behaviors as unethical when there was constant swearing, inappropriate comments, yelling, screaming, and even harassment.  Such poor communication was a precursor to burnout in 64.3% of cases.  This lack of values-based, ethical management practices led to treatment of employees that bordered on being inhumane.

Put another way, burned out employees were often the victims of unethical bullying by managers.

Bullying is defined as “any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended.”  According to ACAS (a nonprofit in the U.K.), bullying and harassment are similar unethical workplace behaviors which may or may not be readily apparent in the workplace.

Even though they are similar, “harassment” under U.S. law has special meaning and protections that are not afforded to bullying.  According to research conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, most bullying is not accompanied by illegal harassment – meaning that:

80% of bullying provides NO legal recourse for its victims. 

Although there are currently no laws against bullying in the U.S., it is gratifying that 30 states and 2 territories have introduced anti-bullying legislation in The Healthy Workplace Bill.

The importance of anti-bullying law is reinforced due to the rise in such behavior across organizational hierarchies.  In 2018, Forbes magazine reported that nearly 75% of employees have been affected by workplace bullying.  Whether the bullying is initiated by a supervisor or a coworker, it is always considered to be a type of power struggle between the parties.

NOTE:  Although the participants in my research did not specifically cite “bullying” as a cause of their burnout, bullies tend to be poor leaders and withhold resources.  This combination of poor leadership and a lack of necessary organizational resources to do the job was cited by 92.9% of my participants.  Additionally, the lack of organizational caring (which are often displayed in the tactics by used by bullying managers) contributed to burnout in 85.7% overall.

How to Respond to Unethical Requests

Whether these managerial requests are the result of a culture that tolerates such behavior or reflect a management personality that uses power (or bullying) to pressure workers to behave unethically, the individual must still deal with the effects of these requests.

A recent New York Times article gave the benefit of the doubt to the manager:  perhaps your boss made the unethical request unwittingly.  Similarly, a BusinessInsider.com article warned of the importance in making sure that you fully understand the situation surrounding your boss’s unethical request.

However, once such a request has been made, the quandary for many workers lies in the potential ramifications of complying:

  • Will you be held complicit and liable if the unethical request is discovered?
  • Will you face retaliation if you report the unethical request to your boss’s boss or HR?
  • If you comply, will subsequent requests require even greater ethical challenges?
  • Finally, can you continue to work in an environment in which you must act in a way that undermines your ethics and values – even if you are dependent upon your paycheck?

These fears of potential retaliation, demotion, or job loss may be justified.  In a National Business Ethics survey conducted by the Ethics and Compliance Initiative in 2016, 53% of U.S. workers who reported misconduct were retaliated against!

So, what can you do when your boss asks you to act in a way that you believe is unethical?

  • Ask questions. One of the most simple ways to avoid unethical behaviors is to understand the true nature of the request.  Often times an unethical request may simply be an expedient way of solving a problem (in other words, your boss was “too busy” to consider ethical issues).  Before reacting strongly and emotionally, ask your manager to repeat the request so that you can clarify what he or she is specifically asking you to do – then paraphrase this understanding back to him or her.
  • Trust your gut. If after fully understanding what your manager is requesting and you intuitively know that the act is unethical, explain to your boss why you feel uncomfortable following the directive.
  • Focus on creating a more ethical approach to solve the problem. If “cutting corners” to expedite an activity feels unethical to you, mutually brainstorm other ways that your boss can still achieve the desired outcomes and you can feel comfortable with the desired actions.  If an initial conversation doesn’t work, then put your ideas into an email – you’ll then have a record as to why you are not complying with a request to do something that you believe is unethical.
  • Don’t tolerate being bullied into doing something unethical. If you boss insists that you perform an unethical task, he or she may use pressure, coercion, or intimidation to force you to comply.  DON’T!  Many requests that start out as unethical may ultimately lead to legal consequences.

Some Reasons for Illegal Requests

Quite frankly, there are none.

Managers who knowingly or unwittingly ask their subordinates to engage in activities that are illegal will still be held liable for the consequences – as you will be, too, since you complied with the illegal request.

The challenge is how to protect yourself in the event of a lawsuit stemming from these illegal actions.

How to Respond to Illegal Requests

The good news is that you may have legal claims against your employer if you suffer retaliation for refusing to take an illegal action at work or if you were a whistleblower who reported the illegal activity.  In addition to laws protecting whistleblowers (always check with an attorney!), there may be grounds for wrongful termination pursuant to relevant state laws.

NOTE:  Don’t assume your legal standing –
always check with an attorney experienced in employment law!

If you have been asked to take illegal action, this is a time when you MUST take a stand and refuse.  As previously mentioned, taking the illegal action even if you disagree with it is NOT an adequate defense in a lawsuit.

To protect yourself, consider the following ideas:

  • Escalate your concerns. Talk to your boss’s manager in an effort to resolve the problem.  Speak to someone in your company’s HR department – ideally a manager who has the authority to act upon this information.  Ask your company’s compliance manager for advice as to how to proceed.
  • Be prepared that your boss may retaliate against you. No, it isn’t right.  No, it isn’t ethical.  And, yes, it may be illegal.  But sadly retaliation is all too common.
  • Be prepared that your employer may do nothing in response to your questions or complaints. This is a cultural issue – and an organizational culture that supports unethical or illegal behaviors will do little to assist an employee who refuses to comply.
  • Be prepared to address coworkers’ comments. Although you should ideally keep the confidentiality of your boss’s request to engage in illegal conduct, the office grapevine can still find out.  Once again, this is a cultural issue:  you might be viewed as either a hero for refusing to act illegally or you might be viewed as a “snitch” who doesn’t fit with the corporate culture.
  • Make sure your resume is ready in case you need to find a new job. As previously mentioned, many employees are retaliated against when they fail to comply with a manager’s request – even if it is unethical or illegal.  The question is:  do you want to stay in a culture that advocates unethical or illegal behavior AND are you prepared for the legal consequences of being complicit?

An unethical boss is the bane of an ethical employee’s existence plus it can be an environmental factor that leads to the psychological, emotional, and physical űber stress of burnout.

If you’re currently employed at the company, you have some important decisions to make:  Is the unethical or illegal request a one-time issue OR is it an indication of the corporate culture?  If you stay with your employer, can you handle the emotional strain of staying in an organization whose values do not align with your own?  And, finally, is the risk of potential civil or criminal charges against you due to your complicity worth it?

Remember:  Unethical or illegal management requests can not only place you into potential legal jeopardy, but can also cause you to burn out!

To thank you for reading my blog and to help you in deciding if you should stay or leave a stressful employment situation, please check out my newly updated eCourse, Job Burnout:  When to Stay, When to Go, What to Do.  In this on-demand eCourse, you’ll discover three critical questions to help you decide.  (NOTE:  Although this is an intensive 6 module course, it is available on-demand so that you can work on it at your own pace – plus you have LIFETIME access!)

SPECIAL GIFT:  If you use discount code ANW2W15, you can save $15.00 off this course.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

So, What Do You REALLY Want to Do?

Bored woman at desk - joshua-rawson-harris-444993-unsplash

Have you ever asked a child what he or she wants to be when they grow up?  Usually they have a long, extensive list of all the professional possibilities just waiting for them when they grow up.

But ask an adult what he or she really wants to do professionally?  Well, that’s usually a completely different situation.

Have We Settled for “Boring” in Our Jobs? 

In the 25+ years that I’ve worked with clients to help them direct their careers, one of the most challenging issues has been getting them to tell me what they really want to do:

  • Some tell me what they’re currently doing – but don’t say it with any type of emotional connection or enthusiasm for the work.
  • Some tell me about the desired outcomes of doing “something else” – but never talk about what they’re willing to give in return for those outcomes.
  • And some look at me blankly, but honestly say that they just don’t know.

It seems like we’ve forgotten how to dream about a desirable future because of our self-limiting beliefs on what is “possible.”

Yes, I said SELF-LIMITING beliefs.  We confuse what is “possible” (which is anything) with what is “probable” (which restricts imagination based on what we believe).

While it is true that our dreams of being a musical prodigy or sports superstar may be improbable, our underlying  passion for music or sports remains very real – but often hidden by layers of “real-life” pragmatism.

But being “pragmatic” is often an excuse for denying our dreams.  For denying our passions.  For denying our potential.  And even denying our personal blend of knowledge, skills, abilities, and talents that makes us unique.

Instead of basking in our uniqueness at work, we instead wallow in jobs that neither inspire us nor appeal to our higher level passion and goals.  In other words, we settle for jobs that are boring.

And we spend too much time at work to be bored!

Assuming that we average around 40 hours per week in paid employment and have 2 weeks of unpaid vacation time per year, we’ve committed ourselves to working 2,000 hours per year.  Let’s also assume that we ideally sleep 8 hours per night; this means that we are awake 5,840 hours each year.

These basic calculations lead to the following conclusions:

On average, we will spend @35% of our waking hours at work —  over a 40-year career, that’s 80,000 hours spent on work that doesn’t excite us! 

These are conservative calculations.  In reality, many of us spend many more hours working at our jobs.  This doesn’t include overtime (paid or unpaid, of exempt salaried under FLSA).  Nor does it include all those paid vacations that we “never got around to taking.”  Nor does it consider that many Baby Boomers’ careers are longer than 40 years (because they want to or need to).

Do you really want to spend this much of your live…being BORED?!

The Dangers of Boredom at Work

Boredom occurs when an activity feels unsatisfying or when some mandatory task does not ignite your interest.  It’s not necessarily the result of a bored mindset.  Even highly energized workers can become bored when they are not given opportunities to focus that energy on something that is meaningful to them.

Some recent research suggests that boredom can lead to physical ailments:

  • Weight gain (eating because we’re bored – and generally food that is not necessarily healthy for us)
  • Poor emotional health and depression
  • Persistent back pain or a higher level of pain in general (in other words, unhappy emotions increase feelings of physical pain)

Other research has found that a lack of neurological excitement coupled with a subjective psychological state of dissatisfaction is the basis for feelings of boredom.  In other words, we are uninspired and dissatisfied with our work.

Boredom makes us feel “stuck” – we’re weary and restless with no direction.  It also prevents us from engaging in our innate curiosity by placing boundaries on what we believe is possible.  It tells us that “nothing will change…so why bother trying something new?”

Boredom makes us believe that “success” is impossible.

By affecting the individual worker,
boredom can also jeopardize the company’s very survival! 

Moving Out of a Boring Job

It is not helpful to believe that every task in a job should be full of excitement.  A certain level of mundane tasks can be found in any job.  But we don’t have to let the tedium take over our work experience.

If your job has become boring and tedious, you have arrived at an important crossroad:  are you going to accept that you have no choice to change a job that is boring OR do are you going to muster the courage to take action toward finding something new, different, and better aligned with your life goals?

My hope is that you take the time to assess your career to date in order to determine if it’s time to make changes in your life.

The first step to moving out of a boring job is to identify what you want.  Don’t limit yourself to probabilities at this stage!  Instead think back to what gives you enjoyment.  Identify those activities in which you are so thoroughly engaged that “time seems to fly by.”

Once you’ve identified these activities, it’s time to search for common themes.  Even though you might enjoy what initially seem to be very diverse activities, there is always some underlying action or outcome.  By identifying this thread, you have the foundation for creating a career that contains this important element.

For example, I was originally a conservatory voice major.  This required me to be comfortable on a stage, able to communicate and engage the audience, and be prepared to do what was necessary in order to be ready to do perform my best onstage – regardless of the amount of time involved.  I also liked the creativity blended with a thorough understanding of different musical genres.  While much of the background work was autonomous, there was also camaraderie with other musicians as we prepared for a performance.

But above all, I wanted to make people feel something as a result of my performance.

While I no longer have ambitions of being a professional singer, I still have a deep desire to make my clients, students, and keynote attendees feel something by being challenged with new ideas that can improve their lives.

While the “stage” of my career is quite different, the elements that gave me joy as a singer are still present in my role as a leading advocate for the eradication of workplace burnout.

What’s your “common thread” in what gives YOU joy?

To thank you for reading my blog and to help you on your journey to finding a satisfying career that you love, please check out my newly updated eCourse, A User’s Guide to Managing Your Career:  You’ll learn how to identify what you really want in and expect from your career, plus develop 3 levels of goals to propel you toward a career that you will love.  (NOTE:  Although this is an intensive 7 module course, it is available on-demand so that you can work on it at your own pace – plus you have LIFETIME access!)

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Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com