On-the-Job Success Archives

“Employers Seek Job Candidates with Empathy – A Critical, Yet Scarce, Attribute”

Published on January 21st, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.”

– Meryl Streep

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES: For a long time we have encouraged clients to live an empathic life by being involved in charitable and civic matters, because it is good for their careers. And, of course, it is contributes to the welfare of our entire society.

More and more, it seems, employers are seeking out those who exhibit empathy as a valuable and scarce business advantage. That is because the view is growing that you simply can’t serve the needs of customers unless you understand and appreciate what “moves” them to purchase your product or service, and then to come back for more.

The following article on this very topic appeared in Fortune Magazine on September 22, 2014, and addresses the importance of empathy in business, employment and career.
Read the rest of this blog post »

“New Job, First Week – Seven Questions You Should Always Ask”

Published on October 1st, 2013 by Alan L Sklover

“Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.” 

– Native American Saying

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: It just never ceases to amaze me: new employees encounter needless difficulties – and lose out on significant benefits – for one simple, yet avoidable, reason: they simply fail to ask a few important questions during their first week on the job. 

At some companies, employee benefits begin the first day on the job; at other companies, benefits don’t begin until after three months of full-time employment. Some employers provide healthcare benefits beginning on the first day of the next calendar month after hiring, while 401k eligibility does not commence until a full year of employment has been completed. 

At other employers, all employees have probationary periods, but are never told of that fact. And, at still other companies, you are given a stack of papers to sign during the “onboarding” process, but never offered a copy of what you sign. It’s all very confusing, and made even more confusing by it being the start of a brand new job when you’re confronted by a veritable “blizzard” of new information.  

The number of difficulties that arise, and the amount of legal fees that are sometimes unnecessarily incurred to correct these difficulties, are so much greater than you might imagine. For this reason, every new employee would be wise to ask the seven questions we set forth below during his or her first week on a new job.

LESSON TO LEARN: Information is always valuable, and even more so when put to good use. But first you have to acquire that information. In the context of new employment, it is usually the case that, “All you have to do is ask.”  Of course, asking should always be done politely, in person, or if preferable, in the form of an email. Of course, follow up may become necessary.

Sure, in the beginning of a new working relation, you don’t want to appear distrustful or confrontational, but the questions we recommend you ask are not “edgy,” but instead sure signs that you are prudent, thoughtful and attentive to detail – all attributes of a valuable employee.

Savvy, sophisticated and successful workplace “negotiators and navigators” know and appreciate the truth in the saying, “More data, better decision.” And you should, too.   

WHAT YOU CAN DO: When starting a new job, you have lots on your mind. However, certain questions are more important than others.  These seven questions are the ones we suggest you “Do Not Forget To Ask”: Read the rest of this blog post »

21 Tips For the Newly Hired Employee

Published on August 21st, 2012 by Alan Sklover

“There may be luck in getting a job,
but there’s no luck in keeping it.”

– J. Ogden Armour

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORY“: [Note: Other than the recipient’s name being changed, this is an actual letter I wrote and sent to someone quite near and dear to me]:

Dear Sarah: I am so, so glad to hear that, after a long, hard “campaign,” you’ve landed a job you are so happy about. Very few people I know deserve this great news as much as you do. You have my heartiest Congrats and wishes for only more happiness and success.

I am very confident that you will do quite well on your new job. It seems to be a great “fit” for you. That said, over the years in my experience in business I have seen a few of my friends, clients and colleagues make an early faux pas, or stumble, without realizing it – until it was too late. As I sometimes counsel my clients, “On the highway of life there are more accidents on the on-ramps and the off-ramps than there are on straightaways.”

May I offer you the very same list of “do’s and don’t’s” I offer my clients who have just begun new jobs? Though I have every confidence in your coming success on your new job, many of my clients have told me that this list helped them avoid problems early on in a new job. And, so, I offer it to you, along with my sincerest wishes for your every success!

My best,

LESSON TO LEARN: New jobs are like driving your car through unknown territory: you don’t yet know the “lay of the land,” there may be unforeseen dangers, hidden alliances, secret languages, and seemingly tranquil minefields. Until you are very comfortable with the “lay of the land” – assume for a 90-day period – exercise utmost care.

To keep your career from the equivalent of driving over a cliff, falling into a hole, or crashing into a tree, here are our 21 Tips for the Newly Hired Employee.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: For your first 90 days on the job, consider these 21 tips to be guidelines for your appearances, expressions, decisions and conduct:

Read the rest of this blog post »

“Any ideas on how I can get a promotion, despite my relative youth?”

Published on January 9th, 2011 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Hi, Alan. I am a recent addition to your blog reading family. I have read a lot of your “back issues” and have thoroughly enjoyed them while broadening my business savviness.

I am a young professional, under 30, and have been in my field for 6+ years. During my recent employment review, I asked my supervisor for a promotion to a management level. I have received nothing but stellar feedback and have managed many projects on my own so I feel that the promotion was completely warranted. The additional feedback I received in my review was all positive. In fact, it was requested that I do more business development outside the office.

My proposition for the promotion was well-received, but a promotion needs to be approved by the Board of Directors. After nearly a month of waiting for an answer from the Board, I am afraid the answer is “no” and that I may be stuck in this position for another year, until my next review. I haven’t spoken to the supervisors who sat in on the review since then as I didn’t want to appear overly pushy.

How can I inquire on the status of my promotion without appearing too forceful, and secondly, if my request is denied, how can I break through the age perception, as I feel that may be a huge factor in the decision? Previous employers have shot down promotions due to my age – it was implied, but never stated directly – and I am afraid déjà vu may be happening again.

         Boulder, Colorado

Answer: Dear Lorna, Welcome to the SkloverWorkingWisdom family! Your questions are truly great ones, because they bring up so many thoughts that I would like to share with those who are relatively younger than their colleagues. Admittedly, I am first addressing certain things I “read into” your letter before I address your specific questions; I hope you don’t mind. Here are my thoughts:

First, keep your expectations of yourself high, but your expectations of others low. While promotions, pay raises and other rewards may be “warranted” (to use your own word) it is not reasonable to expect that, therefore, you will receive them, either promptly or ever. Many, many things at work will be clearly due, earned, warranted and even overdue, but it is a touch self-defeating to expect such “fairness” or “justice,” promptly or ever. 

Second, you will not be rewarded based on what you “deserve,” but rather on what you can “motivate” others to give you. They are two very different things: one is based in a sense of “entitlement” and “expectation,” while the other is based in a sense of “hope” and “challenge.” People will reward you to the extent they feel they need to reward you, not to the extent you “deserve to be rewarded.” That’s the real challenge: motivating the decision-makers. You may have the best product or service in the world, but you still have to sell it, that is, convince others “it is in their interests” to buy it.

Third, do not make the mistake of believing you and your colleagues necessarily share the same interests and goals. It may be that your supervisor is “stealing” credit for your accomplishments, and it is not in his/her interests to tell the Board about your true contributions or value. It could be that some of your colleagues – including your supervisors – feel that, if you get the promotion, they or their “friends” will not get it. It could be that, if you get a raise, the company will have lower profits. It may seem cruel, but it is often true, that many people feel intimidated by a “rising star.”

Fourth, remember what Einstein said, “Do not worry about success, but rather your value to others, because if you become valuable to others, your success will follow.” For the moment, I suggest you focus on developing yourself for your next promotion in this company or the next one. Take the important courses, meet the important people, develop the important relationships. Then you can either “sell” your value, or it will “sell” itself. It sounds like you have been doing this; you may need to give it a bit more time.

Fifth, every request should have “The Three Magic R’s”: That is, it must be (1) presented respectfully, (2) reasonable in nature, and (3) most importantly, it must have as its rationale the interests of the persons to whom it is presented. The rationale should never be “I want, I need or I deserve,” but instead, “I believe, for these several reasons, this would help you accomplish your most important goals.”    

Now to your two specific questions:

1. I do not think it would be “pushy” to address an email memo to your supervisor to (a) request an estimated date for a decision regarding your request for promotion, (b) accompanied by reasons you believe your promotion would help your supervisor accomplish his or her most important goals. Bear in mind that all of his or her most important goals may not be limited to the success of the company, but rather will likely include his or her own personal success. Keep it respectful, and I don’t think it should come off as “pushy.”

2. I suggest you read (or review) a newsletter I wrote entitled “For a Raise or Promotion, Use ‘Triggers of Value” that I think presents a pretty good summary of how I think you might overcome the age issue.  Perceived Value, if anything, is your path to success in this matter; if your perceived value is great enough, you will get anything you ask for. Bear in mind, though, it is your perceived value to the person you present your request to, not necessarily your perceived value to others, or even the company. To review that Newsletter [click here].

3. We also offer a Model Memo for Requesting a Raise or Promotion.

If you would like to obtain a copy, simply [click here].

My own sense is that you are doing all the right things and, yes, your youth is holding you back a bit. Those of us who are “more experienced” (I prefer that  word to the word “older”) are often concerned that intelligent, motivated, focused younger people have not yet had the chance to gain the one missing ingredient they need for great success – experience – for which there is simply no substitute. Lorna, I do not refer necessarily to experience in the field – your six years is a lot of experience – rather, it is experience with people and organizations, in general, and introspection on those experiences. Sure, a younger person may be better in so many circumstances, but there is often a preference for a person who is a touch more “seasoned by life” and possibly more adept at handling unexpected and unforeseen problems of any kind. 

Is this illegal discrimination? You bet it is. But is it something that you should allege? Of course not! It is simply something you must do your best to deal with, which is something you are obviously doing. But take it as a challenge, which I gather you do enjoy! I am certain that, over time, you will be so very successful. I really am.

I hope I have not written too much. But I hope this does help you. Thanks for writing in. I would LOVE to hear how things turn out for you in this regard.

Once again, welcome to our “SWW Family.” Sempre Famigila!

Best, Al Sklover   

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

How do workers get job security?

Published on May 26th, 2009 by Alan L Sklover

Question: My question is how do you give job security to workers. Thank you.


Answer: It is a simple question that you ask, but its answer is not so simple.

First, an employee earns job security by being valuable to his or her employer, and by making sure the employer knows that. For example, if most other employees can fix five cars each day, and you can fix ten cars, and if your employer knows that fact, he or she will keep you on the job when other employees are fired, or laid off, because it is in his or her interests to do that.

Second, the employees of a company all get more job security when, together with their managers, they are very productive. For example, if all employees fix ten cars each day. To be so productive, employees usually must be paid fairly and treated fairly. So, it is in the interests of the employees and the employer to work together well, with dignity, with respect, and with fairness.

Third, employees can get job security by asking for a contract of employment, or an agreement that they will receive three months’ notice before being laid off, or perhaps six months of severance if laid off. Those are kinds of job security too.

I hope I have answered your inquiry. Thank you for writing in, from so far away.

Best, Al Sklover

© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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