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What is your time worth?

A reader recently wrote to me with an interesting question. He was seeking advice on how his teenage daughter might find an after school job for her high school years. His logic makes sense. He wants her to learn discipline and to gain a work ethic. These are great qualities for a young student to develop. Although I respect this method of getting there, I also suggested an alternative path.

When I was growing up, I was also encouraged to take a high school job. Where I lived, most options for teenagers focused on fast food. Although I could have made extra money this way, I decided to try something else. And, I’ll be honest – it was fairly controversial at the time.

I made the decision not to take a job during high school. In order to do this, I committed to spending as little money as possible, and to saving everything I could. This made my plan more feasible.

Then, I set out to use my spare time differently. I studied day and night in order to get the best grades I could. With my remaining free time, I looked for volunteer projects. I also founded a mentorship program at my high school for high risk third graders. Nobody paid me for these projects. But, they were an investment in myself, and in my community. I learned similar lessons about disciple and I gained a work ethic.

When it was time to apply to college, I now had a wealth of experience that I could include on my applications. I had initiated a community project that made me stand out from the other college applicants. I gained real experience that I could include on my resume. This experience, along with my high marks, resulted in scholarship money I desperately needed to go away to college.

In fact, the scholarships I received were for far more than I ever would have made working after school and on the weekends for a tiny paycheck. Given the minimum wage at the time, it would have taken me four years working full-time forty hours per week to earn the amount of money I received in scholarships.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that choosing not to work during high school is a luxury that not all kids have. I don’t want to knock on the teenagers who are working many hours on top of high school in order to contribute to their family’s expenses. I have incredible respect for these teenagers.

But, for the high schoolers who are lucky enough to get to choose, think past the basic options. Soon, you’ll pay someone else thousands to take college courses you may never use. Don’t assume being paid is always the number one priority. Think about what profession or real world cause you’d like to learn more about and go from there. You will gain new skills, differentiate yourself from your peers, and may even get a little scholarship money along the way.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Bullying 2.0 – Mean Coworkers

Growing up, it seemed like one of the perks of being an adult was a lack of bullies. After all, bullying stops after high school graduation, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. A few bullies sneak through life without giving up their bullying ways. Often, these meanies resurface at work, making your eight hours there much less rewarding. Maybe they’re unhappy with their own lives, or perhaps they have other personal issues at play. Whatever the cause, being on the receiving end of bullying is never fun.

After meeting a number of people who have experienced bullying, a few common themes emerge. First, being bullied is something we feel shameful about. We don’t talk about it openly because we feel bad that it’s happening to us. We assume we are the only person it’s happening to. We keep our thoughts locked up and allow them to eat away at us.

But, bullying is real. According to a 2017 study released by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 19% of Americans are bullied at work and another 19% witness it. Bullying affects 60 million Americans.

If we’ve been bullied, we may wonder what’s wrong with us. We assume the bullying is a reflection of us. We think that maybe we’ve chosen the wrong career path. Maybe we’re completely unqualified. We’ve been pulling off a total show until this bully figured out our game.

This internalization of workplace bullying is one of the most toxic experiences we can go through at work. It’s stressful. It takes away our power. And, it can undermine our confidence and our performance. 40% of bullied targets are believed to suffer adverse health effects.

Because I have the good fortune to meet many job seekers, I get a chance to see behind the curtains of what we’re all going through. If you are on the receiving end of bullying, you should know that you’re not alone. A workplace bully’s efforts is not a reflection of your abilities.

Aggressive behavior, whether it’s name calling, back stabbing, or undermining, is never okay at work. Period.

If you have found yourself on the receiving end of a bully, work to build your personal team of advocates. Find people you trust that you can talk to and who will be supportive of you as you find a way out of this situation. Document your experience, so you can reflect back on what’s happening over time. Look for opportunities to reach out to folks within your organization for help, such as your manager, coworkers, or human resources. And, consider looking for a job at a new company.

The solution to making it through bullying is not to just survive the day. Your end game is to thrive. You deserve to be treated with respect. Sticking up for yourself in this time of crisis is critical to your future success. Don’t let a bully’s efforts go on until you are both physically and emotionally run down. Work to end this cycle of unhealthy behavior today.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

When you thought it wasn’t personal

A reader recently wrote to me with a unique situation. They landed an impressive contract position. Everything was going along great for eleven months until one day, they were let go. The company laid off a large number of people all at the same time. After soliciting feedback, the reader was given a good review and sent on their way.

It wasn’t personal. Or, was it? Just a few days after being let go, their contract job appeared online as an open position. It was the same job at the same company. Then, a friend of the reader was hired at the same company. They asked what had happened. They were told the reader was let go due to poor performance issues.

How could this be? The reader had never been given any negative feedback. They were told it wasn’t about them.

After this incident, the reader has had multiple job interviews. This has left them with a difficult question. “What should I say in future job interviews if someone asks ‘Why did you leave the company?’ How do I honestly answer that without bad mouthing anyone?”

Reader, let me say first, I am so sorry this happened to you. Being let go from a company is difficult enough. Receiving conflicting messages about it later is even worse.

When you interview, it’s very important to be honest. It’s also important to be as accurate as possible. The problem here is that the company may not have been honest with you. If there was a performance issue as you have heard, it’s possible that your manager avoided their duties by not giving you direct and constructive feedback.

The problem is, you don’t really know the truth. What you’ve heard is third hand information at best. It’s tough to know how much of what you were told is a rumor and how much is reality. For example, did the feedback come from your boss or from an old coworker who likes to gossip?

In a case like this, it can be tough to know what to say in an interview. But, the best course of action may be to go with the company line. You were part of a random company layoff. It wasn’t personal. Your performance ratings were good. It’s what is documented in your employee file.

Unfortunately, when someone leaves a company, others have a tendency to talk. Often, they may try to guess the reasons someone left. This gossip can spread misinformation.

Even if the rumor is true, how would you validate it? And how would it benefit you to do so? It would not be helpful to provide unproven, negative information to a future employer. It would also not be helpful to explain a long story of events about your departure and the rumors that followed.

Stick with what you were officially told and move on to a more exciting and fulfilling opportunity with a manager who appreciates your skills and talents. Best of luck in your job search!

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Breaking the rules and finding your perfect job

Sometimes in your career, things don’t always work out the way you plan them. For me, the first time I learned this lesson, I was in college. I went to one of those fancy, private schools to study computer engineering in the late 90s. I knew that an investment in such a great degree would guarantee me a job when I graduated. Not only that, it would guarantee me a great paying job.

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The dot com crash came along right in the middle of my studies an put a halt on hiring. Even the recruiters that normally came to our school to hire students canceled their visits. It was something I’d never seen before and couldn’t have predicted.

This experience took me down a path of finding my transferrable skills and learning about new careers. Transferable skills are the strengths you can take from job to job. I also learned to interview for all sorts of jobs in many different industries – and I lost my fear of reaching out to strangers. It’s truly a skillset I developed out of survival. I needed to pay the rent.

I know it sounds strange, but when you look at interviewing from a different angle, it’s less scary and much more interesting. I looked at (and continue to look at) interviewing as making new professional contacts and learning about new jobs. I look at interviews as networking meetings, not as an opportunity to be rejected by a stranger.

And, you know what else? I don’t care as much if I meet every little minimum requirement on the job description. You know why? Because, truth be told, many employers don’t really care if you do. If an employer brings you in for an interview, it’s because they think you can do the job. Why not submit your application and let them decide?

If we could all spend a little less time worrying about being the perfect candidate, and a little more time just being the best candidate we can be, we’d all go a little further, faster. When I learned this lesson, my own career path changed dramatically. I went from being an engineer to a project manager then from a project manager to a digital marketing executive. Now, I’m a career coach. I could have never guessed in the 90s that my career path would have been so winding.

I was recently invited to share my own story of career success as a TEDx Talk. My talk, titled “How I broke the rules & found my perfect job,” shares my story of not waiting for permission and a little obsession I developed along the way. You may have already noticed. It turns out, I really like interviewing.

I invite you to check out my TEDx Talk on the TEDx Talk YouTube channel (http://bit.ly/broketherules). It’s my hope that you will be inspired to bend the rules in your own search, so you can find your perfect job.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Make your next interview a success with these three things

Interviewing is hard work. If you’re currently looking for something new, you know that finding a job is a job. From preparing your favorite suit to revising your resume to networking and rounds of interviews – there are times it feels like it will never end. It can be tough to keep your head above water with your existing role while you’re balancing your life and your job search. To ensure you’re making the most out of every interview, do these three things.

Research. The best part about job searching in the age of the internet is transparency. This is something that has never existed in the same way in the past. Take advantage of it. Use websites like Glassdoor, Salary.com, and Indeed to find out how much companies are paying. Look up company reviews to find out what employees think of their workplace. Read through the common interview questions for the company you’re interested in. Search on Google and the company website to learn what new changes the company has recently undergone. And, use LinkedIn to learn more about the hiring manager– or better yet, use it to find the hiring manager’s name. The internet is an invaluable tool to job seekers.

Customize your application materials. If you’ve been working to crank out a high volume of applications every day, it’s something you may not have thought of. The more you target your application materials to the company (and the particular job), the more you increase the likelihood a company will be interested in you. And, it’s not hard to do. Start with your resume. Read the job description closely and ensure you’re highlighting the skills the employer is looking for. Customize your objective statement to include both the job title and the company name. Use a similar approach with your cover letter. Specifically mention the job title and company name — and ensure you explain why you’re a perfect fit for this particular role.

Don’t take it personally. Unfortunately, you’re not going to get every job you interview for. The higher you climb the ladder and the more specialized your skills are, the truer this becomes. Just because you weren’t hired doesn’t mean the hiring manager doesn’t like you. There are a number of reasons you might have been overlooked that have nothing to do with your skills. For example, an internal candidate may have been preselected. The job may have been put on hold. The hiring manager may have left the company. None of these reasons are about you.

When you’re rejected, you can either choose to walk away unhappy. Or you can choose to build a relationship with the company. Very often, when you first interview with a company, they’re just getting to know you. If you stay in touch, you will increase your odds of being hired the next time they’re looking for someone with your skillset.

Doing your research, customizing your application, and moving through rejection are three keys to making your job search a success.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

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