The New Kindle Book Has Dropped!

Late last year, I was sitting in yet another industry conference and listening to the speaker talk about “An Introduction to…” or “How to succeed in…”  Having been in corporate life for nearly 20 years, I must have attended more than 100 of these seminars.  Some were very valuable, some, not so much.  And in all these seminars, I can remember only one that addressed corporate culture and its unwritten business rules.  This became painfully (and often times hilariously) clear through the years as I watched co-workers (and myself of course) break these rules – often leading to embarrassing and awkward situations.  These rules also came to mind while conducting hiring interviews with fresh out-of-college millennials (which I described in a previous post).

So I decided to put my thoughts down in a Kindle book, “The New Jack Guide To Corporate Survival”, which will be temporarily available (for free!) on the Amazon Kindle platform.  In the book, I talk about some of the written (but mostly unwritten) corporate survival rules.


With summer approaching, more than likely, you know someone who is graduating from college and heading into the workforce for the first time.  Maybe your son or niece has landed an internship or will be working part-time over the summer.  Maybe you or someone you know is re-entering the workforce after a long break.  Whatever the case may be, hook them up with the book and help them avoid some of the common “new-jack” mistakes.

And as always, if you have comments, stories, or feedback on the book – feel free to leave me a comment (here or on the Kindle site) or just shoot me an e-mail at

Thanks for reading!



This Meeting Blows (Six Meeting-Killing Behaviors)

Right now, all around the world, there are hundreds of thousands of people sitting in some type of meeting.  One-on-one meetings.  Small group meetings.  Huge departmental meetings.  And more than likely, there are thousands of people behaving badly in these meetings.  Look, a lot of the meetings we attend are huge time-wasters.  I get it.  There’s a reason why TV shows like “The Office” and comic strips like “Dilbert” lampoon office meeting life.  Unfortunately, there can be real consequences when we exhibit bad meeting-killing behaviors.  There are poor first impressions and reputations that can be affected.  Also, you never know who’s sitting in the meeting…

I had a good reminder of this recently.  At the start of a meeting, one of the attendees rolled in and immediately started scrolling through his iPhone.  OK, he’s a busy guy, I get it.  But when he started picking at his fingernails, I was completely distracted.  Now, every time I see him, I’m going to think of dirty fingernails…see how this works?

So what are some bad behaviors?  Check yourself for the following the next time you attend a meeting (which probably will be soon):

Being Condescending: My poor co-worker.  I remember sitting in a conference call one time when we were listening to a higher-up go on and on with the latest non-sensical MBA buzz words ending with “-gize” (like synerGIZE and strateGIZE).  My co-worker asked the higher-up what a certain word meant.  After about a minute of silence, she came back (with an irritated and condescending tone) and said, “Are you serious?”  She should have just said, “I’m wasting my time with you two idiots.”  You might be the smartest guy (or woman) in the room…but people will hate you for coming off like you know you are.


Poor Body Language: Interview and interrogation experts say that more than 90% of our cues are non-verbal.  In other words, actions speak louder than words.  The executive who leans back in his chair with his hands behind his head (I’m the big dog).  Or how about that anti-social co-worker who sits with her arms and legs crossed (leave me alone). In the same way, when you rest your head on your hand or slouch in your chair (like being in your least favorite high school class), this screams, “I hate this meeting and can’t wait to get out!”

Going Off-Topic: This one drives me crazy.  The meeting is already taking up a lot of time. The off-topic co-worker makes this even worse by taking you on a verbal journey.  A simple question like, “What do you think about the company’s new initiative?” is an invitation for the off-topic co-worker to bring out their inner Lincoln.  The response will begin with a monologue and continue for the next 15-20 minutes…unless someone jumps in and cuts him/her off (PLEASE!).

Smart Phone-Scrolling: Sadly, this is so commonplace now I think it’s becoming an accepted practice.  I feel for the meeting planner (or speaker) when meeting members have their heads down and are scrolling through their phone.  Is it really that important that it can’t wait until the meeting is over?  Nothing screams “You are not important!” more than putting your head down and ordering movie tickets from Fandango. (Are you really checking your e-mail?)

Sleeping: The classic meeting-killer.  Admittedly, I’ve done it. (In my defense, the one embarrassing time I really fell asleep, I had taken Benadryl for my allergies.  For me, I might as well have taken sleeping pills.)  If you have to, step out of the room before you start snoring (I’ve heard snoring on a conference call before) and avoid the huge pasta lunch before your 1 PM meeting.  The best (or worst) ever?  During one of our CEO speeches, a guy in the front row fell asleep.  After the speech, the CEO immediately went to the back of the room and asked, “Who is that guy?”  I never saw the guy again.  Not to say the guy got fired, but you can be sure that his manager and his manager’s manager heard from the CEO (and everyone else in that room).

Bad or Inappropriate Jokes: I have to admit, this one I actually have to laugh at (as long as I’m not the one telling the bad or inappropriate joke).  If you ever watch “The Office,” this is Todd Packer.  No filters and no sense of what’s bad or inappropriate.  I worked with guys like this.  At the time it’s painfully embarrassing and awkward.  At worst, these incidents become like company urban legend and you’re forever known as the “Remember that one meeting…” employee.  Don’t be a company urban legend.

What are some memorable meeting-killing behaviors that you’ve seen?

Post your comments below.




A Brief Visit With The Ghost Of Career Future

The worst days of those who enjoy what they do, are better than the best days of those who don’t.

– E. James Rohn


I ran into a long-time co-worker the other day.  She has a great position, excellent benefits, and is dutifully taking care of her family – paying the bills and putting her kids through college.  I remember having this very same conversation with her ten years ago:

 Me: “What are your plans?”

Her: “Nothing.  I’m not going anywhere.  I’m staying right here.”

Me: “What about retirement?”

Her: “I can’t.  Maybe in a few more years once my kids graduate from college.”

Me: “How about a new job or position in the company?”

Her: “Nah.  I don’t know how to do anything else.”

Then it hit me.  I was basically talking to myself in the future.

My friend is an honest, thoughtful, and responsible person who is taking care of her family like a good wife and mother is supposed to.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  What I see and hear though are the ghosts of career years passed.  I remember her telling me, at one point, how she wanted to work in law enforcement.  But now, her verbal and nonverbal cues scream comfort and, worse than that, resignation – resigned to the fact that this will be her final career stop until she either retires, her kids finish college, or God forbid, she is laid off.

Even though she’s older than me, we both come from a time where our career paths were pretty much laid out for you.  In fact, the running joke was when someone from management came and tapped you on the shoulder (literally) it was time to be promoted.  I always found this analogy funny because it sounded like some sort of mafia ritual.

But times have definitely changed.  There are now only a small percentage of companies that you can stay with your whole career while periodically getting the “tap on the shoulder.”  Looking back at that same conversation ten years ago, you know what I told myself then?

 “That won’t be me.”  Guess what?  That is exactly me.

the mirror that reveals the inside

So now what?  Do I feel sorry for myself?  Reminisce about “the good old days?”  Blame my parents, spouse, kid, environment?  No.  We can all begin where we’re at and:


As soon as you can, do whatever will move you towards your ideal work life – whether it’s sticking to the “9 to 5” world or starting your own business.  Start a niche blog about something you’re passionate about.  Develop (and sell) that product.  Write your book.  As for me – in addition to reading (and listening) to all the materials I could get my hands on about midlife change, career re-engineering, and life transitions – I started this blog and took a few online writing and career development seminars.  I had a magazine article published for the first time.  I started exploring other career options where I could leverage my strengths.  If you’re reading this and are currently (or have been) in the corporate world, you can relate to my story.  And for those of you starting out or are new in your respective careers, take this advice from someone already far into the corporate game:

The phenomenon of the “golden handcuffs” is very real.  The mind and body are naturally lazy and enjoy steady, predictable routines.  When you’re accustomed to a nice job, steady paycheck, and great benefits, your mind and body will fight you tooth and nail at the first sign of desired change.  The “handcuff” refers to that which keeps you bound and tied up – the job and all of your responsibilities (bills, children, mortgage, etc.)  If you know what you’re doing is not what you want to be doing, get out before you get locked down.

Hand cuffs and coins as security concept

Find your sweet spot.  On the flip-side, if you really love what you’re doing, consider yourself very fortunate.  I’ve seen career discontent survey rates as high as 50%.  The key to finding work that you are passionate about is to intersect your values, strengths, personality type, and interests.  For this, you will need to grab a notebook, find a quiet spot, and take some time to map this whole thing out.  This one-hour (or however long it takes) exercise will pay dividends in helping you determine exactly what you want to do (or point you in the right direction).

Experiment with it.  There’s no need to completely jump ship from your job.  There might be opportunities within the company that are a better fit for you.  Have a conversation with the manager of another department.  See if you know anyone from a different division, take them to lunch, and pick their brain.  You might even be able to find volunteer or internship opportunities in your area of interest.  This is a great win-win opportunity.  You get the experience and the business gets the free help.

Don’t be afraid to fail.  Look, you might get that opportunity to try a new position and find out that: 1) it wasn’t what you thought it would be; 2) it really wasn’t a very good fit; and 3) the job really sucks.  Congratulations!  You can compare yourself to Thomas Edison and his legendary thousands of failures.  You didn’t fail…you just found something that didn’t work.  Like Jay-Z says, “On to the next one…”

One of the characteristics of a midlife crisis is waking up one day and feeling like you’ve squandered all of your years in a job you did not love.  You didn’t become that ballerina, NAVY Seal, or professional baseball player.  The beautiful thing about life, though, is it gives us choices.  Yesterday’s dream career might be gone (or the shelf life expired), but you can always find (and pursue) that new career dream today.

How do you define career happiness? 

Post your comments below…

How To Have A Difficult Conversation In Five Steps

I used to sit next to this lady (I’ll call her Janice) at work.  Janice had a subordinate (I’ll call him Rob).  I used to cringe every time Rob would come to her desk.  For some reason, Janice was just flat-out mean to this guy.  You could hear it in her voice and see it in her body language.  It got to a point where Rob would look like an abused dog when he came around; head hung low, shoulders drooping, posture hunched forward.  I think this clear sign of domination only made matters worse.  When I would see Rob in the hall, I wanted to stop him and say, “Dude, why don’t you say something?”

Having difficult conversations is something very few of us look forward to.  I know I don’t.  In fact, I’m pretty much downright non-confrontational.  I have a long fuse and am pretty patient.  This can be a blessing and a curse.  Where people might explode with impatient rage, I’m usually pretty calm.  The problem is, if we don’t have that conversation to tell someone STOP!, will we end up like Rob?  For example, despite your sweaty palms, pounding heart, and shortness of breath, could you:

Tell one of your friends that his jokes are inappropriate and unacceptable?

Confront your manager and tell him (or her) that their management decisions are killing your department’s morale?

Sit down with one of your in-laws and tell them that their frequent visits are a little too frequent?

Wild Goats Fighting

Not as easy as it sounds.  In fact, I’d venture to say that, like Rob, we are more likely to brush it off and saying something like, “I’m used to it” or “That’s just the way it is.”  But does it have to be?

Not to sound like Dr. Phil (the real Dr. Phil), but people treat us in accordance with the way we allow ourselves to be treated.  It’s why bullies continue to walk over their victims, why people take advantage of you, and why Rob always looks like an animal in one of those sad ASPCA commercials.  So how do we put a stop to this behavior?  By having a difficult conversation.

Identify the why: What’s the purpose of this conversation?  Get to the point and don’t beat around the bush.  This can be done professionally and tactfully.  Just don’t string it out and lose your target’s attention by starting off with, “Uhh, uh, umm.”  Maybe something more like, “Janice, I’d like to talk to you about our working relationship and how you’ve been treating me lately.”

Illustrate your feelings: I don’t mean break down and cry or scream at the top of your lungs.  Letting the other person know about how you feel places context around the situation: “When you joke around like that, it makes me feel uncomfortable.  I think the things you’re saying are disrespectful and hurtful.  I know I wouldn’t want someone talking about me in that way.”

Remain open-minded: Remember, conversation is a two-way street.  Open-mindedness actually means understanding what’s driving the other person’s behavior.  Could it be problems at home, pressure from the corporate higher-ups, or simply being oblivious?  The answer might surprise you.  I always keep this in mind by remembering Wayne Dyer’s story about a father and his kids on the subway.  The kids were running around, being unruly.  The passengers were growing irritated and angry with the father, thinking he was being extremely inconsiderate for not checking his kids.  When confronted, the out-of-it father apologized by saying that they were coming from the hospital…where his wife just passed away.  OK, so maybe your conversation may not be that extreme.  But always keep in mind, there’s another side of the story.

Listen: This goes without saying.  Whatever emotions you may have (anger, sadness, disappointment, etc.) they may cloud your ability to focus and listen to what the other person is saying.  Without listening, you’re already losing half the battle.  In order for this conversation to work, you’re going to have to temporarily suppress your emotions and just listen.

Resolve, Agree, and Move Forward: Finally, find the resolution and move forward.  In Rob’s case, he gets to the root cause of the problem (maybe Janice doesn’t like the way he just pops in unannounced at her desk).  He agrees to schedule meetings or IM her to see if she’s free and she agrees to watch her tone of voice, attitude, and body language.  With a common understanding and working agreement, they can both move forward and course-correct when needed.

Where in your life do you need to have a difficult conversation?

Five Tips For The Informal Mentor

When I hear the word “mentor,” I immediately think of Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi, Richie Cunningham and The Fonz, or Daniel-San and Mr. Miyagi – older, more experienced individuals teaching young whippersnappers the way of life.  I also think of how many individuals and businesses set up formal mentoring relationships.  Meet at such and such a time for coffee or lunch.  Discuss topics for a half hour.  Obtain assignment to read a book or answer personal development questions.    Rinse and repeat.

A mentor is defined as “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher” and “an influential senior sponsor or supporter.”  But sometimes, informally, you become the unsaid or unwritten mentor; the person who people turn to for guidance, advice, or answers.  This usually happens by default.  You’re the most experienced person in the department or you’ve been with the company the longest.  Being an informal mentor is a good thing.  It means that people like, respect, and trust you enough to look to you for direction and assistance.


With newer and less experienced individuals coming in and out of our department, I’ve found myself playing the role of informal mentor.  Inevitably (or maybe right now), you might be in this position as well.  Here are five things to keep in mind as you dispense your sage advice:

Give Freely: I’ve worked with individuals who were conspiracy theorists or were always thinking there’s an “angle.”  Why is this person coming to me for advice?  Why are they asking me how to do something?  Do they want my job?  Are they trying to make me look bad?  STOP.  There’s not always an ulterior motive to people’s behavior.  Maybe someone is coming to you for help…because they need your help.  Giving unselfishly of yourself builds trust, strengthens team bonds, and adds to your reputation as the go-to guy (translation: valuable to the company).  There’s also the karma aspect of giving.  What goes around usually comes back around.  Like Zig Ziglar says, “You can have anything you want if you just help others get what they want.”

Show Them Landmines and Shortcuts: At the heart of mentoring is wisdom.  In other words, the value of saving someone time, pain, effort, or embarrassment by sharing what you’ve experienced or what you know.  My last manager was a company history book.  He was known for spinning great company stories.  A lot of people kind of just blew these stories off as reminiscing about the past or unfocused detours (which they could be at times – especially when there was an agenda to get to).  However, these stories had great pieces of advice on how to navigate the company.  In the same way (maybe without the 15 -minute story attached, although there’s a time and place for that, too), light the path for the person you’re trying to help.  Show them how to do something properly, who or what to avoid, who to seek out, or how to be more efficient.


Be Honest: If you can’t be honest, then the mentoring doesn’t work.  Like any good relationship, the foundation is built on trust.  Trust is gained through honesty.  Now, there’s honest and brutally honest.  Depending on how you operate and whom you’re helping, this is something you’ll have to gauge for yourself.  Some people aren’t built mentally to withstand a no-holds-barred assessment: “Who taught you how to write?  Did your thirteen-year-old daughter write this?”  Others have no patience for sugar-coating.  My informal mentor would take a red pen to my reports so much I thought someone had bled on the paper.  We eventually just referred to it as “red-penning” a report.  At first I was both irritated and embarrassed.  He could have easily just done a few edits here and there.  Instead, he basically firebombed the entire report.  Looking back several years later, it was the best thing he could have done for me – giving honest feedback.

Allow for wins and losses: In other words, let them learn.  You’re all adults so I’m not going to use the parent-child analogy.  But when mentoring someone, let him or her do the job.  A lot of times we want to stay in control.  Maybe because we don’t want to look bad, there are time constraints, or we don’t want to see others screw up; but failure is part of the learning process.  I would have never learned to write a good report if I didn’t get red-penned.  On the flip side, let them experience victory as well.  Nothing builds a person’s confidence more than being successful at something they’ve never done before; running a meeting, making a big presentation, or completing a well-received report.

Give Yourself Props: For those who don’t like to pat themselves on the back or give themselves credit, it’s OK to do this once in a while.  By unselfishly giving of your time and experience, you’re: 1) helping someone get better; 2) improving the company; and 3) strengthening your team.  It’s also an indication of your value to the company and all of the years of hard work, learning, and experience you bring on a daily basis.  You may not be The Fonz or Yoda yet, but it’s something to be proud of today.

How do you mentor others?

Six Sure-Fire Ways To Kill Your Credibility

Credibility – “The quality of being believable or worthy of trust.”


I recently attended an industry training seminar and saw an old co-worker.  This former manager abruptly left the company after several months of abrasive behavior, confrontations with co-workers and questions about her overall integrity.  I couldn’t help but think about the integrity part as I watched her pick up her certificate of completion (they handed them out first thing in the morning) and walk right out of the conference room.  She never came back.  In other words, she left a half-hour into what was supposed to be an eight-hour training class.  

Whether it’s in business or our personal lives, how much time would you spend around someone you didn’t trust?  Would you buy something from them?  Invest in their product?  Have dinner?  Go on vacation?  Probably not.

Credibility is extremely hard to build but very easy to lose.  Like my aforementioned co-worker, after a few slip-ups, whatever good will she had built with her direct reports, peers and higher-ups had quickly deteriorated.  Several years after leaving the company, people still mention her name and cringe.  Now that’s leaving an impression (in a bad way).  Don’t let this be you.  Avoid these six credibility killers:

Lying – This is the quickest and easiest way to end your credibility.  Once your lie is revealed (no how matter how small), every time you open your mouth, people will: 1) Remember the time that you did lie; and 2) Wonder if you’re telling the truth.

Not Helping – I remember being at a work volunteer event where we were helping clear trails at a local park.  At one point, it was just me, one of my department mates, and another guy from a different department who we didn’t know.  The guy from the other department proceeded to put his shovel down while telling us what we had to do.  By not helping, you’re telling the rest of us that you’re lazy and can’t be counted on when needed.

Trashing Others – We all need to vent sometimes, and yes, your gripe or complaint might be legitimate.  But how often and how violently are you trashing other people?  What are you saying?  When you verbally assault people behind their back, the person you’re talking to starts to wonder what you’re saying about them when they’re not around.

Taking Credit For Other People’s Work – If you’ve ever:

stolen someone’s idea;

asked someone for significant help;

worked with others on a project;

and then took credit for all the work that was done, keep in mind these same people will not trust you or want to work with you ever again.

Break Confidentiality – “Just between you and me” is supposed to mean “Just between you and me.”  When someone tells you something in confidence, it should be, well, confidential.  The fact that this person thinks highly enough of you to share something in confidence should be taken as a compliment.  Don’t blow it by telling others.

Taking Shortcuts – I’m not talking about shortcuts that actually increase efficiencies or improve processes.  I mean shortcuts that totally circumvent your duties or responsibilities.  Take for example tragic accidents where a bridge collapses or gas line explodes because an inspector chose to sign off on a safety inspection without actually completing the inspection.  The attitude of “it’s no big deal” can suddenly become a very big deal if something blows up (sometimes literally).

We’ve all screwed-up and probably did one (or more) of the things mentioned above.  The critical thing is how did we respond?  Did we immediately address the situation and course-correct or did we just blow it off?  Even the smallest of actions eventually lead to habits.  These habits result in severe consequences in both our professional and personal lives.  Treat your credibility as something sacred and guard it closely.  Even if you don’t realize it, people are watching you everyday.


What are some other credibility killers?

Are You “Losing It” At Work?

“I like work. It fascinates me. I sit and stare at it for hours.”

– Oscar Wilde


Have you ever seen a co-worker fly off the handle or lose it at work?  I once saw two of my male co-workers get into a cubicle shoving match.  After one particularly contentious meeting, another co-worker went straight to his desk and overturned a big stack of binders, flinging them in the air.  Another co-worker, in the middle of a meeting, slammed his hand on the conference table screaming, “That’s why this company is so screwed up!”

These incidents came to mind after seeing the following Good Morning America clip.  I had to laugh at 0:23 because every day at work, the copier makes this distinct beeping sound signaling that it’s out of order.  These short beeps are followed by the usual sound of metal slamming, which means either one of two things – someone slamming the copier door or kicking it.  I can’t tell.

As amusing as some of this grainy footage can be, which looks like something straight out of “The Office” or “Office Space,” workplace stress is real.  Tight economy + workforce reductions = more work for the remaining staff.  Violent confrontations, which were rarely seen ten years ago, are a common occurrence nowadays.  It seems like every week you read, see or hear about some employee who completely loses it and tragically kills one or several of his co-workers.

So can you tell if you’re losing it?  Here are five definite red flags:

Your fuse is growing increasingly short: I’m not talking about the “I’m hungry” kind of irritation but the everyday “everything is making me angry” kind of short fuse.  Things that usually wouldn’t even register on your stress meter (like a meeting that runs late) is now causing your face to turn different shades of red.  Computer problems that used to be minor inconveniences now want to make you slam your keyboard into your monitor (like in the GMA video).

You’re getting sick all of the time: You never had to see the doctor or pop over-the-counter medication.  Now you’re having debilitating headaches and stomach pains you can’t explain.  You have little to no energy.  You have massive pain in your neck, shoulders and lower back.  It feels like your entire body is rebelling against you.

You’re withdrawing: At work, you want to hide in your cubicle and avoid interacting with others.  After work, you want to go straight home and crawl into bed.  You avoid any kind of lengthy interaction.  You have no desire or motivation to do anything.  Activities you used to look forward to now seem like more work.

Your thoughts are turning violent: This is one of the key red flags that security experts tell you to look for: individuals who talk about violence.  For me, a bad day simply means being in a bad mood…but it’s temporary.  I can usually find something to laugh about or a co-worker usually steps in with something funny.  But when you start thinking about physically harming others, that isn’t normal.

Indifference: Everything is ho-hum.  Your one-time go-getter attitude has turned into, “I’ll get to it when I get to it.”  Assignments that used to excite you now give you nausea. Deadlines and people counting on you to do their job now mean nothing.  In other words, you just don’t care.

We all have our good and bad days at work.  We’re all going to experience one or more of the above symptoms on any given day.  There are times when I drive home thinking I need to find another job.  Other times, I have this huge smile on my face from a day’s work. However, if you find yourself experiencing all of these symptoms on a day-to-day, consistent basis, it might be time to seek some help – or find another job.  Life is too short to be driven crazy by your job.  Take action now before you end up on one of these grainy You Tube workplace videos.


When was the last time you “lost it” at work?


The Seven Enemies of Business Casual Wear

“It is both delusional and stupid to think that clothes don’t really matter and we should all wear whatever we want. Most people don’t take clothing seriously enough, but whether we should or not, clothes do talk to us and we make decisions based on people’s appearances.”

– G. Bruce Boyer


For work, a few weeks ago, I threw on a pair of black Banana Republic loafers.  I hadn’t worn these loafers in a while so I thought I’d switch my shoes up.  I didn’t think anything of them until my co-workers started cracking on them:

“Nice slippers.  You should have worn your pajamas too.”
“Dude, are those suede shoes?”  And the dagger…

“My Mom has a pair just like those…”

I can give (and take) a good ribbing.  I like it.  Although I’ll probably never wear those shoes to work again.

I am definitely no fashionista when it comes to work clothes.  I generally wear the standard corporate casual uniform of slacks/khakis, nice shirt and black dress shoes.  If I’m feeling really GQ, I’ll mix in a sweater or colorful patterned shirt.  The loafer jokes made me think though.  We used to be the stereotypical “stuffed shirt and tie” insurance company. However, since we moved to “business casual” about ten years ago, I have definitely seen some crazy gear at work.  From assorted liquor bottle Hawaiian shirts to football jerseys, people have definitely taken advantage of the “casual” in business casual.

You don’t have to be Bradley Cooper or Daniel Craig on the cover of GQ; but like it or not, your work fashion matters. Not only are your peers and higher-ups judging you (consciously or unconsciously), but what you throw on for work affects how people perceive and think about you.  I’m also in the camp of “what you wear affects how you feel.”  There’s just something about being nicely dressed that boosts your confidence.  So the next time you drag yourself out of bed and sleepily head to the closet to grab your clothes for the day, keep the following seven things in mind:

OK, so maybe they do look a little like house slippers…but your Mom’s shoes?

Wrinkled/Rumpled: There are actually some guys who are really good at ironing (I’m not one of them).  The next time you’re in a meeting, look around the room and see who looks like they just crawled out of a suitcase.  It’s actually kind of distracting – like the wavy lines on your old-school tube TV when the picture wasn’t coming in.  Nothing screams “I just grabbed this shirt out of the laundry hamper” like an un-ironed shirt.  I know you’re tired, but maybe spend a few minutes the night before or on the weekend and iron your shirts (and pants).

Cross Trainers/Running/Rubber Shoes: New Balance shoes at work?  Seriously?  How about the rounded rubber walking-type shoe?  Shoes are actually one of the first things people notice when it comes to your work gear.  Nice, clean looking professional shoes say “I care.”  Leave your Nike cross-trainers and walking shoes for the gym or your family day at the park (no matter how dark or “clean-looking” they are).

Too Big: If you lost weight and leaned out, congratulations.  Reward yourself (and show off) with some nice, athletic-cut business gear.  The big gear actually makes you look sloppy.  When you tuck your shirt in, the sides flap all over.  Your pants sag.  Think Tom Hanks in “Big.”

Too Tight: If I had to choose, I think I’d go too big.  Too tight (especially if you’re carrying a little – or a lot – of extra weight) is not a good look.  The hangover (not the movie) above your belt and sides is not flattering.  And why would you want your clothes too tight anyway?  Isn’t that a little uncomfortable – especially after a big lunch?

Dress Your Age: I had a friend rock some Sean John gear a few years back on a night out. There was something just not right about his age and the Diddy-designed shirt he was wearing.  I’m a big fan of hip-hop, but that doesn’t mean I want to look (or dress) like 50, Diddy or Nelly.  And I shouldn’t.  This also goes for anything with dragons, skulls, oversized old English lettering or bikini-clad women on the front.

Everyday Work Logo Day: Unless you work for UPS or deliver Domino’s Pizza, you should limit the number of times per week you wear work-adorned logo clothing. There’s always that one guy who has every type of work-logo shirt: polo, white dress shirt and even the yee-haw country denim shirt.  This does not make you look like Mr. Company Man.  It makes you look like you’re either too lazy to wear anything else (hence the work shirt rotation) or you don’t want to spend money on buying any work clothes.

Outdated: Your Z. Cavaricci pants…unless I’m mistaken, that style hasn’t come back around (yet).  Same with those 50’s-style bowling shirts with the big vertical stripes.  When you look at your clothes and say, “I remember I bought these on our trip to Napa…eight years ago,” it’s probably time to spend a little money on some new gear.  Same if you catch an old movie on TV and say, “Man, I have a shirt just like that…and I’m wearing it to work tomorrow.”

I’m not saying you should go out and blow a load of cash on a whole new work wardrobe (although that might not be a bad idea).  But maybe it’s time we hit the reset button on what business casual should actually look like.  Take some time this weekend and assess what your work wardrobe looks like.  Read a few fashion dos and don’ts.  Talk to your sharp-looking co-worker.  Go out and get some new shoes, pants, or shirts.  Pretty soon people will be saying, “Now that’s what business casual looks like!”

What kind of clothes do you wear to work?


Seven Tips For Your Next Job Interview

I was recently asked to conduct a few job interviews at my work.  It’s been years since I last interviewed for a job, and seeing how young some of the candidates were, I forgot just how long I’ve been in the workforce.  In sitting through these interviews, a few things stood out in my mind.  If you’re preparing for a job interview in the near future, here are a few of my suggestions:

Show some personality.  I don’t mean tell jokes or be obnoxious, but show some life.  Smile.  Lean forward.  Have some enthusiasm.  When someone’s asking you about your family or favorite activities, it shouldn’t look like you’re going through an IRS audit.

Ask questions.  At the end of an interview, if you don’t have any questions for the interviewers, it comes off like: 1) you’re not that interested in the job; and 2) you really don’t care if you get the job or not.  Your follow-up questions are a sign to the interviewer(s) that you’re engaged and are serious about working for the company.

Activities matter.  You’re not sleeping at the office, so what are you doing in your off time?This is another opportunity to display a little bit of your personality.  Interests show that you have a life outside of work.  Plus, you might just have something in common with whomever is interviewing you – and connecting in a job interview is critical.

Know why you’re there.  If you can’t tell me why you’d be a great fit for the position or if you can’t tell me why you want to work for the company, these are red flags.  This screams, “I am unprepared.” Or worse, “I just want a job.”  Don’t make it look like you sent a thousand resumes out and you happened to luck out with this company.

Answer the question.  If you have taken the time to prepare for the interview, that’s great.  But don’t be so stuck on your answers that you can’t adapt or be flexible to a question you haven’t prepared for.  In other words, don’t try cramming in your pre-programmed answer to a question that doesn’t even relate. For instance:

Interviewer: What kind of management style do you prefer?

Candidate: I’m a team player.  If I’m given a task, I’ll work until it’s completed to the best of my ability.  If I have any problems, I’ll go and ask one of my co-workers.  I can work independently and am a real go-getter.

Huh?  You didn’t answer the question.

Show that you can hit the ground running.  We’re hiring someone because we need help.  You might not be a perfect candidate, you might not have all of the skills or experience, but if you give the impression you are ready and willing to do whatever it takes – that goes a long way.  Saying you’re willing to work late or learn what you need to learn with enthusiasm is appealing – especially for a department that is desperate for help.

Be careful with your grammar.   Believe me, I’m guilty of this one, too.  But then again, I’m not the one in the interview hot seat.  The knock on Gen Y job candidates is that they are poor face-to-face communicators and that they prefer to have a conversation electronically.  So it doesn’t help when your answers are interspersed with “uh,” “like,” “umm,” and my favorite, “You know what I’m sayin’?”  As in, “I’m down for you to hook me up with a job.  You know what I’m sayin’?”

The fact that you’ve been invited to interview for a position is a great sign.  It means something in your resume or job application piqued enough interest to warrant a closer look.  Your interview is a chance to seal the deal.  It would be a shame to throw the opportunity away on mistakes that could have been avoided.  Get excited, come prepared, kill the interview and go home to answer that call from HR offering you the job.

What are some of your best job interview tips?

Who Microwaved The Fish? And Other Embarrassing Work Moments.

I was sitting in a meeting in one of our conference rooms a few months ago when I noticed a co-worker standing at the door.  She was peering into the room, kind of looking like Michael Myers in Halloween.  Assuming that she had the meeting room booked, we got up (two other guys and myself) and proceeded out.  In passing, she stopped me, looked at the papers in my hand and asked, “Did you take anything off of the printer?”  She was white as a ghost at this point.  I shuffled through my papers but didn’t see anything that didn’t belong to me.  We went into another conference room and as I was going through my papers again, I saw that I actually did have something of hers.  Her resumé.  Embarrassed that I didn’t find it to begin with, I ran back to the meeting room where it looked like she was preparing for a phone interview.  I sheepishly gave her back the resumé with a heartfelt, “My bad.”  Man, if looks could kill.

We’ve all had (or seen) embarrassing moments at work.  I’m not talking about things that get people hurt or fired, but situations where you look back (maybe even cringe) and think, “Damn, that was funny.”

About three years ago, I was part of this e-mail chain talking about a female co-worker who was in the hospital with a life-threatening illness.  Sadly, she passed away shortly after being admitted.  Unfortunately, like so many of us do with e-mail, one of the guys failed to read the entire message.  He must have stopped at “admitted to the hospital” because his “Reply All” message stated that he could stop by the mall and pick up flowers and a card for us to sign.  He added that he couldn’t “wait for her to get well and return to work.”  Ouch.  And let this be a lesson to those who hit “Reply All” when you send e-mail.

My most embarrassing moment at work happened when I first started with the company almost 18 years ago.  I was very much into health and fitness.  That day I brought rice and orange roughy, leftovers from the night before.  Keep in mind I was in my early 20’s and had no clue about lunchroom etiquette: Thou Shalt Not Heat Fish In The Microwave.  I placed my tupperware in the microwave and put it on high for three minutes.  About a minute later, my manager comes running into the break room and yells: “OK, who microwaved the fish?”  Immediately, I knew something was wrong.  My manager told me that the break room air ducts dumped into the office.  Sure enough, when we walked through the office, it smelled a little like Chinatown.  He had to walk around to individual desks and apologize to customers about the smell.  In the corner of my eye, I could see some of my co-workers pointing and laughing.  That was the last time I ever heated fish at work.

This is probably why we love TV shows like “The Office” and movies like “Office Space.” We can all relate to embarrassing moments and co-workers who are a little (or a lot) off. And even if we can’t admit it, maybe some of these characters remind us of ourselves.

What was your most embarrassing work moment?