Work

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A recent study reports that no alcohol is good for your health, which is terrible news for everybody who has a real job and wants to decompress.

Unfortunately, the news is true. Forget the French, forget your wine club, forget the beverage industry’s claims that beer is good after running. Not even a moderate amount of alcohol is worth the risk to your body. It turns out that sitting isn’t the new smoking. Drinking is the new smoking.

As someone trying to retire from alcohol, I am acutely aware of the pros and cons of drinking. Love champagne, hate a champagne headache. Love the margarita, hate the salt-bloat. Love the feeling of forgetting my problems, hate when I wake up from alcohol-induced anxiety at 3 o’clock in the morning and remember my obstacles are still there.

Adulthood is a tricky thing. Once you know that something has no upside, it’s hard to see anything but the downside.

NO WAIT THAT’S A LIE.

There are so many things we do that are bad for us — or just don’t work — and yet we do them, anyway. Think about your job.

Interviews don’t correlate to performance, but we compel candidates to dress up in their fanciest business attire and roll into our offices and ask a bunch of dumb questions like we’re oracles and can predict the truth.

Performance reviews are garbage and don’t get to the heart of achievements, outcomes or obstacles; however, don’t tell that to the boss who thinks he’s doing you a favor by sitting down with you regularly and giving you feedback.

Wellness plans don’t deliver. They try to reward us for being healthy — and some companies offer to cook us healthy meals in the cafeteria — while still forcing us to commute to work, shoving us into open-office work environments, and making us sit all day in long meetings that don’t need to happen.

It’s not hard to see why so many people ignore science and drink socially or excessively. Spirits are worn away by a society that doesn’t bend or flex to commonsense or science. And it’s hard to fight back against nameless and faceless people who run corporations that make our lives harder. Much easier alter reality for a few moments than to change our careers and our lives permanently.

But I’m done with short-term fixes that never entirely fix things.

Now that I know that alcohol is mostly bad for society, I’m trying to make better choices. It’s not easy, but I’d rather be brutally honest than pretend that “moderation” is okay. While I’m not going to wave the temperance flag and badger other people about their choices, I’m not going to let the beverage industries profit and win because I’ve lied to myself about the benefits of drinking. The same people who say that it’s never been proven that drinking is bad for pregnant mothers are the ones who tell me that moderation is okay.

Do I look stupid here?

So, these are the things I won’t lie to myself about: Smoking. Drinking. Eating meat. Pretending that HR/corporate methods are useful.

What’s on your list?

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How many people enjoy reading self-help and business books? I can’t imagine many.

(I’m burned out, myself.)

A few weeks ago, I finished my book proposal for “Let’s Fix Work,” and it includes an introduction, author bio, an overview of the audience, a marketing plan, competitive analysis of similar books that sold well, book specs, a chapter outline, and a sample chapter.

Honestly, I’m not trying to write a self-help or business book. I’ve had to read about a dozen to understand my competition, and most of them are horrible.

On the business book side, they are mainly dull and dry. Authors want to establish themselves as experts and write in a formal, unapproachable tone. When it comes to life-hack books, I think it seems uncool and shady to follow a formula where the author tells her own pathetic story, swears at her readers to motivate them, and tries to seem edgy while taking their money.

(No thanks. If that’s the game, I want no part of it.)

What do you think of business books and self-help books? What do you like? What bugs you?

My book tries to make the case that work is broken because you’re broken. Do you want to fix your job? Fix yourself and put yourself first. Deprioritize your job title and reconnect with your community. Bet on yourself. Fix your money. Prioritize happiness and contentment. Put your physical and emotional wellbeing first. Blah blah blah.

My book isn’t a self-help book or a traditional business guide. It’s just an attempt to help you reframe your current situation. It’s a list of ideas and suggestions. Take it or leave it.

(I hope you take it. I hope someone takes it. Part of being a big sister is realizing that no one listens to you.)

Now, having done the competitive analysis portion of my book proposal, I know there are things that I won’t do with my book.

First off, I won’t pretend that I’m a therapist. If I watch another Instagram story from a self-help guru who offers clinical advice in a pretty font, I’m seriously going to lose it. Therapeutic advice from a writer who isn’t a therapist is fraudulent.

Second, I won’t commoditize life’s obstacles and offer a neatly packaged solution. There are authors and gurus out there who have trademarked issues like impostor syndrome®™ and social anxiety®™ with the goal of offering five simple steps to fixing your life. I think that’s malpractice. Also, what if you are an impostor? Maybe you should own up to that and start living a more authentic life, yo.

(I’ve got my work cut out for me.)

The good news is that literary agents are interested, and I start traveling to meet them after Labor Day. I’m also traveling for work — attending conferences and meeting with clients — and can begin my marketing plan right now.

The bad news is that this book proposal has ruined my personal reading goals, and I’ve been inspired-to-death. It’s nearly impossible to pick up my Kindle, right now, and get excited about my library. So, if you have any YA book recommendations, I’ll take ’em.

What’s good? What are you reading that you love? I need to get my mind off fixing work for a few weeks while I’m traipsing around on planes trying to lock down an agent and sell this manuscript.

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When kindred spirits come together in a community, ideas and dreams blossom, passion gets amplified, accountability and empowerment surges, and the problems? Well, they become less daunting. In this episode, Laurie has a great conversation with a dear friend, a cult legend in the online-community building world, Ryan Paugh. Laurie and Ryan share how they met, what Ryan’s role is as a community builder, and why communities are essential in fixing the broken wheel that is work.

  • After a few years of working for corporate America, Ryan dove into the startup arena where he felt his passion for helping others would contribute more – this was his first step in his epic entrepreneurial journey.
  • He created Brazen Careerist, which started out as a community for young professionals looking to find their place in the corporate world, where they can find answers and support from peers and other like-minded individuals. Long story short, Brazen was a success but eventually rebranded into an SAS technology product, which now serves as a peer-to-peer speed networking platform.
  • As the product shifted away from its community-based roots, Ryan decided to walk a different path, but kept the burning passion to create better communities to support the next generation of highly driven leaders. He eventually became the co-founder and COO of The Community Company.
  • Along with his business partner and co-author of Superconnector, Scott Gerber, they went on to build several outstanding communities for different organizations like business executives, youth leaders, and entrepreneurs such as YEC and the Forbes Council which includes the Forbes Human Resources Council, where members are encouraged to support, engage, and pick each other’s brains.
  • Why did Ryan focus on community building? Well, everyone is part of a community in some way or another. We are social beings after all. Ryan believes that in being part of a community, we are given the opportunity to learn and impart vital lessons and experiences that nurture us into the people we are now. He says, “Give,” because he believes that there’s so much more to living than just getting something.
  • Life and people aren’t meant to be boxed up in a simple transaction of give and take. We are much more complex than that – we have feelings, aspirations, and lives outside of the grind. This is why Ryan feels work has more… work to do in a community and culture building aspect. “You’re here to work and not to make friends,” is a typical feel at the office, but we DO need to build relationships in the workplace to grow into more productive members of the organization.
  • Work is broken because it has been reduced to a means to an end; a paycheck for hours, nothing more than a simple transaction of, “if you do this, you get this.”
  • Laurie shares Ryan’s sentiment that there’s more to work than just earning the money. That by limiting someone’s identity to a mere “bringer of bacon” a.k.a “corporate zombie” they have subsequently limited that individual’s potential to contribute to the organization’s greater cause. You see, when people see past the money and embrace purpose, when they are allowed to invest in things that they truly value, there’s a greater opportunity to create a positive and lasting legacy for others to follow or replicate.
  • As a veteran community builder, Ryan believes that a good community must have an element of trust from the top-down. Ask anyone who knows Ryan and they’ll immediately say how helpful and encouraging he is despite his being a company co-founder. More than developing the products, organizations should look into nurturing its workers on a deeper level. People at the bottom makes the most impact, so it is important that they are set up for success throughout their stay in the company and, hopefully, even when they transition into something else. He dives deep into this “building relationships that matter” philosophy in his book, Superconnector.
  • Ryan and Laurie are aware though that most people are still stuck in the old ways and find processes to be difficult to build – and even harder to implement – but it doesn’t have to be that way and we can all to do better.

The DIY HR Handbook

Wouldn’t you love to get your hands on Laurie’s no-holds-barred, honest DIY HR Handbook for employees and pros alike? Download it for free!

Ryan Paugh

Superconnector

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I’m heading to the 2018 HR Technology Conference & Exhibition because I’m excited about the pitchfest.

Generally speaking, pitchfests are a popular way for founders to present their new technology to captive audiences. You stand on stage for three minutes and tell people why your product will change the world.

It’s such a fun experience to watch. Sometimes the founders are PhDs from ivy league schools who feel more comfortable behind a laptop than on the stage. Other times, English is a second (or fourth) language for the speaker, and they face a one-two punch of being nervous because they’re standing on stage and, also, communicating in a foreign style.

Then some judges act like members of Shark Tank. Once the founder’s presentation is over, they ask questions about the new piece of technology. Some of the questions are nice, some are aggressive, and sometimes the judges will interject their opinions and tell the founder why she’ll fail. That’s always awkward because you’ve got someone who is an entrepreneur being lectured by someone who isn’t. Bring snacks.

My favorite thing about a pitchfest is looking at company names. This year, thirty companies are presenting at HR Tech. Their names are:

Humantelligence
CompensationCloud, Inc
Uncommon
PeopleSpheres
Cloverleaf
Talentegy
Relish
Lumity
Espresa
ComplianceHR
AskHR, a division of Audseb
Colleago Pty Ltd
Alyss Analytics
Knowledge Perks
Raven Intel
Swarm Vision
TalVista
XOR
AllyO
BioGrp Technology
Disco
JobAdX
Nalantis
Synctrics
VideoMyJob
AllWork
Blendoor
Jane.ai
TrenData
Zyvo

Some of the names are awesome, some sound like pharmaceutical companies, and some are just weird. But it’s 2018 and hard to create a signature name and value proposition and find a matching domain.

My old tech company, GlitchPath, had a perfect name. In fact, an investor told me that it was the best thing about our platform. If only I could build something better to help people find a pathway out of their glitches, I’d have an excellent little technology company in three years and exit with $10MM.

Ah, feedback.

Good luck to all the companies participating in the pitchfest at HR Tech. If anybody needs my advice on how to communicate on stage or endure the conference, I’m here for you. The best thing to happen to the HR technology scene — and the entire industry, to be honest — is the burgeoning start-up market. I’m rooting for you all, and I would love to host the winner of the competition on my podcast.

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Money management is no joke.

In yesterday’s post, I took you through a rambling financial summary of my mid-twenties. Short version: I made plenty of money but couldn’t rub two nickels together.

Now it’s 2018, I still don’t know how to save any money. I have two things going for me, though. The first is my partner is a saver. The second is I’m blessed with good friends who’ve offered excellent financial advice.

Here is what I’ve learned.

Keep Up with the Right Joneses

If you want to freak someone out, remind them of their limitations and tell them they can go no further. Food. Alcohol. Spending. That’s a blueprint for an emotional disaster.

Growing up, I lived in a 1000 square foot home that had no air-conditioning and one working toilet with eight kids and a few women with irritable bowel disease. It’s now worth over $300K because of an insane real estate market that I don’t understand. Here’s what I do know: I’ll never live below my means again unless something has gone wrong with my life.

If you want to encourage someone to save more money and spend less cash, you need a different approach. I believe you should live slightly below your neighbors.

Right now, I have a mix of neighbors. Some have big TVs, boats and vacation homes. The people across the street from me who live in the woods have a tennis court, and one dude rides around my block on a Segway. But I have other neighbors who live sensibly and drive Ford pickup trucks that are older than Facebook.

Whenever I think about making a big purchase, I think about this guy on the corner named Frank. He cuts his own grass (one of the few in my neighborhood) and washes his own car. He’s always doing yard work, dresses like his wife shops at Sears, and seems happy. He is retired, has hobbies that may or may not involve the NRA, and waves whenever I drive past his house.

Frank isn’t keeping up with anybody and answers to no one. Find your Frank and get to know him a little more. Keep up with that lifestyle minus the NRA.

Don’t Waste Money on Looking Good for Work

As a professional speaker and HR blowhard, I have a weird job. People judge my words, but they also judge my appearance. Literally, people in audiences around the world listen to my keynote speeches and then write things like, “She’s a B+ speaker in a frilly dress.” And I’m like, hey, B+ is good.

My job requires an investment in my appearance. Your job is nothing like mine. You work in restaurants, hospitals, universities, libraries, and corporate headquarters. You work alongside people who look like they haven’t washed their hair since last Tuesday.

Resist the urge to be the prettiest marketing assistant, the person with the best socks/scrubs/handbags, or the best-dressed dude in HR. Spend whatever you want to spend on your appearance because it makes you feel good, but don’t spend money to compete on looks and appearances at work.

And remember this: If you were truly attractive, you wouldn’t need a job. You’d be a model in Miami and living on some Russian oligarch’s yacht. Who wants that life? Oh, wait, everybody? Okay, not me. And not you.

Business Development is a Lie

When I first worked in HR, I always paid for other people’s lunches. I saw it as an act of karma. If I pay for your meal — or buy the coffee at Starbucks — you will have my back and help me throughout my career. Unfortunately, the collective “you” let me down. And I learned that nobody remembers who bought the last round of drinks, they only remember that it wasn’t them.

There are legitimate reasons to buy lunch, but most people buy a round of drinks or pick up dinner because they want to be liked. And ask yourself, “Do I want to build a business or do I want people to like me?”

The fastest way to financial freedom is to stop spending money so that people will like you. That’s not business development. That’s a path towards bankruptcy.

Pay Yourself First

My friend Don MacPherson has been saving 20% of his salary for his entire adult life. We talked about financial planning on Let’s Fix Work, and Don was able to build a tech company and survive the recession because he paid himself first.

Paying yourself first means investing in your future. Paying yourself first means you won’t be poor when you’re old. Paying yourself first means you never have to say yes to a soul-crushing job in a toxic work environment.

Don sold his tech company to Aon and started his life. He has two young daughters and is now on sabbatical. And you can be like Don, too, if you a) live like my neighbor Frank and keep your lifestyle simple and b) stop spending money on work-related appearance expenses and c) find some chump to buy your Starbucks and lunch.

Now let’s be honest. I’m slinging hash on this blog — and not living on the beach — because I can’t follow my financial advice all that well; however, I’ve followed it enough to keep myself out of Corporate America and working as a freelance writer, speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur.

But I know this: to fix work, fix yourself. You’re not a healthy adult who can make good choices about work if you’re not managing your money a little better. Let’s get over our shame and fix our finances as if our lives depend on it. Because, honestly, it does.

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I was one of those Millennials you love to hate who had no kids, lived in a big city, and struggled to make ends meet while earning $65,000/year when I was twenty-six years old.

(Well, except I’m not a Millennial.) 

It feels like $65,000 was real money back in the day, but it wasn’t. First, I wasn’t married. My boyfriend didn’t want to commit to a long-term relationship, so I went hunting for a new place to live in Chicago. The cheapest apartment I could find that wasn’t infested with cockroaches and near my sister (who was a teenager and living with her father because our mother’s house was unstable) was about $1400/month after rent, insurance, and utilities.

That’s a mortgage payment in some small cities. In Chicago, it was a third-floor-walk-up with no A/C in a semi-safe neighborhood.

After payroll taxes, housing costs and health insurance contributions, I was stretched thin. But I had to make a $1000+ student loan payment to Sallie Mae every month. Then there were additional fixed costs like fuel, car insurance, city stickers, and public transportation passes for the days when it snowed and I couldn’t drive my car down the side-streets of Chicago. 

Plus I had other necessary personal expenses like cat food, vet bills, medical prescriptions, contact lenses, glasses, doctor copays, tampons, birth control, and food. Pap smears weren’t free back then, and it was cheaper to visit Planned Parenthood than use my health insurance coverage.

(So much for working in HR and improving the employee experience.)

On top of all that, many of my friends were getting married. David’s Bridal is a bitch, but I wanted to honor my relationships and take part in weddings. I could only afford to do that a few times. After spending too much money on marriages destined to fail, I had to look at my budget and say no when people asked me to be a bridesmaid.

(“Can I do a reading?” That question alone would save me $500 repeatedly.)

And I mentioned my sister who lived nearby. She was a teenager and had little money. While her father provided a roof over her head, there were other things she needed beyond his budget. So, she worked at the mall after school, and I gave her a $100/month to use towards lunch, personal health products, and whatever else she needed.

You know what wasn’t on my $65,000/year HR manager budget? 

Avocado toast, fancy clothing, regular savings, retirement, vacation, entertainment, gym memberships, candle parties, internet, drinking money, brunch, or an emergency fund for car repairs or significant life events. 

My CHRO at Kemper Insurance would criticize what I would wear to work. She gave me gift cards to places like Ann Taylor and J.Crew to buy clothes — and it was a kind (although passive-aggressive) gesture — but a $100 gift card doesn’t go far in those stores. And I would’ve preferred gas money.

About a year into living on my own, I needed my credit cards to stay afloat. I had two allergic reactions (to Compazine and some fruit) and went to the ER. That took forever to pay off. Then my mom got sick a few times between 2000—2002, and I had to take time off and care for her. When I ran out of PTO, my time off was unpaid.

Also, Sallie Mae didn’t give a shit about my finances. That payment was non-negotiable. So, on weekends, I worked part-time as a docent at an art museum. I babysat for some of my coworkers. The hustle wasn’t pretty (and there was no Uber) but I did whatever I could do to stay solvent.

When my CHRO at Kemper Insurance found out I was broke, it horrified her. We’d worked together at a previous company, and she saw herself as a mother-figure. We sat down and reviewed my expenses. Things were tight, and she expected to lecture me on cutting cable and spending less cash on entertainment, but the joke was on her because I was stealing cable TV and had no life outside of work.

During the meeting, she said, “I’m proud of you for living this simply.” 

I’m not a praise-junky, so I asked my CHRO for a raise. Other people in similar roles at Kemper who were 10+ years older than me were earning more money. Rookie mistake, the meeting was over. She told me I was still paying my dues in life, and you don’t get a raise just because you have access to an HR system and you can see the institutional pay inequities. 

Then she gave me a lecture about cutting deeper — why did you order pizza this month? — and told me to find cheaper car insurance.

But I was already living a minimalist life. My existence was so inadequate that someone broke into my apartment and there was nothing to steal. I had a 13″ TV and an old company laptop, and the guy was like — nah, no thanks, not worth it. 

Eventually, my CHRO left the company, and the new VP of HR gave me a raise to $72,000 so I wouldn’t quit. That helped. Then I learned the debt-snowball method and tried to pay down my debt. Dave Ramsey isn’t my jam, but his methods work.

And, thankfully, my boyfriend and I got back together. I could merge my credit cards and use the reallocated rent payment towards my debt. And my boyfriend became my husband, which lowered my health insurance costs. Our combined household income expanded because we weren’t duplicating expenses, and I caught up with my bills.

But it was messy. And it makes me forever sympathetic towards anybody with financial problems. 

Money problems start long before you spend any money. If you’re born poor, good luck. Go to college? Well, that’s a blessing and a curse. Student loans are crippling young American families and you can’t shake that bill with bankruptcy. Student loans follow you until you die. Speaking of bankruptcy, most of them are related to accidents and illness. And nearly all of our necessary expenses like housing, health insurance, and transportation have exploded while real wages haven’t kept up. 

Also, it’s not like average people are walking around in designer clothing. Most of us look like slobs at work. Sure, many of us have mobile phones. But it’s because got rid of our landlines, which weren’t cheap, and use our mobile phones for everything. 

Talking about money with my CHRO was one of the most humbling and humiliating experiences of my life. People love to lecture you about bills, but they’re just talking to themselves as a warning not to be like you.

So, in tomorrow’s blog posts, I’ll share my ideas on how you can fix your finances and set yourself up for success. If you fix your money, you have freedom. And you’ll never have to listen to your boss — who earns six-figures and had a husband with health insurance benefits and a solid retirement account — lecture you on eating pizza again, again.

Amen to that.

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The HR community has always been five years behind the rest of the business world, and, when it comes to the concept of influence, things are no different.

A few years ago, several members of my HR/tech/blogging family were criticized for allegedly taking money in exchange for posting tweets and content that weren’t marked as ads. Now, that was called “advocacy” and “an influencer campaign” in 2011, but, in the world of HR, it looked like dirty money.

There was a ton of drama involved in this debate, and several people were accused of being biased and deceitful. There was no due process, and numerous bloggers were banned from conferences. It’s not lost on me that all of the bloggers were women, while men who run analyst firms — and take money from just about anybody with a wallet or a Venmo account — were allowed to conduct business as usual.

The whole thing made me sick. These women may or may not have accepted money in exchange for promoting products or services, but who cares? They were called whores and bitches and much worse. I heard it with my own ears and jumped to their defense. It got me nowhere, and, ultimately, lumped in with women who like to cause trouble. I didn’t attend many HR tech conferences for a few years because of this nonsense.

Time has passed since the HR technology community held its witch hunt, and now we’ve got a new development in our marketplace — an official influencer and advocacy program being run by a notable marketing firm.

And that’s fine. Welcome to 2012. The top songs are “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra, “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, and “We Are Young” by fun featuring Janelle Monae.

“Toniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight, we are young.”

I still like the song.

The founders of this new HR influence program asked me — what do you think of our idea? Is the market ready for this program?

Hm. I raised my hand with a lot of questions.

How will you stay compliant with FTC guidelines on advertising? Will your ads be transparent? And how do you define influence? Who moves the needle? Your program can see social reach and resonance but are you measuring other markers of influence like private speaking events, curated groups, appearance in the mainstream media, email lists and consulting relationships?

I brought up a lot of good points, I was told. Would I ever join an HR influencer community?

I was like — no way but good luck to you.

So, flash forward to this moment, the HR technology community has an official influencer program. They’re trying to influence HR in the most basic ways. People are being paid per blog post and tweet. And it’s not hard to tell which pieces of content are sponsored — not because they’re marked as ads — because they’re odd and incongruent with the author’s tone of voice and style.

I wish the program well, but these types of endeavors are dated. I was part of an influencer campaign with the BlogHer community back in 2007. And, even back then, advertisers found it tough to capitalize on social mentions.

If I were starting an influence program in the HR space, I’d start a talent agency. I’d represent the top five people. Everything else falls under the law of diminishing returns. And I’d create a program of sponsorships, events, content, and training — internally for HR tech sales teams and externally for HR practitioners — to lift everybody up.

This agency would be a union of the best and brightest influencers in the HR space, and they wouldn’t be paid to tweet. They’d be paid to think and communicate.

That’s how you do influence in 2018 and beyond.

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We get it. You aren’t a tube of toothpaste. But you still need a personal brand. In fact, you already have one whether you realize it or not. The question is, are you going to take charge of it? Today, Laurie talks with personal brand expert, Jennifer McClure, about what a personal brand is, why you need to develop yours, and how it can help you excel in your professional career.

  • Jennifer will be the first to tell you that she doesn’t like the term “personal brand,” but it’s the best one she’s got. You can also think of it as your reputation, and when you consider it as your professional reputation, that makes it a lot more important, doesn’t it? We’re talking about people wanting to work with or for you, getting clients, being promoted, and more. It’s your career advancement, plain and simple.
  • So how do you develop your personal brand? Think about Oprah Winfrey. She’s got one of the strongest personal brands in the world. Her message, live your best life, is known around the world. But her story hasn’t all been cake and roses; there are some negative experiences associated with her brand, and Jennifer explains how Oprah has dealt with it. She also shares how you can be as intentional as Oprah when you are defining your own personal brand.
  • One big mistake people make is that they try to copy someone else’s personal brand. As you can imagine, that comes off as terribly inauthentic. With that said, you CAN take inspiration from other people. See what they’re doing well, what parts of their message resonates with you. What can you adopt while still keeping your uniqueness at the forefront? Laurie and Jennifer discuss, and Jennifer also reveals who she considered her mentor and sought to emulate.
  • There are another few traps you’ll need to avoid in developing your personal brand: don’t overthink it or force it, and make sure your actions and words line up. A good way to tell is whether you’re getting the opportunities you want. Do people describe you the way you intended them to? How do your colleagues introduce you? Jennifer talks about what to do if your personal brand isn’t working for you.
  • Laurie shares the story of trying to be the buttoned-up, serious HR lady for the book she’s writing, and how she couldn’t even finish it until she did what came naturally, and that was to be herself. Jennifer chimes in with some very insightful thoughts on Laurie’s personal brand and what makes it so strong.
  • The tables are turned, and Laurie asks Jennifer what her own personal brand is. The response is humbling, and it’s exactly how YOU should think about how to live with your own brand. More importantly, how to take control of it. One of the key takeaways is that sometimes your brand needs to be audience-specific.
  • Sometimes we don’t like the reputations we have. It’s a challenge to change them; once another person has formed their idea of you, it’s a mental shortcut they’ll use repeatedly because it’s easier. So how do you go about changing your own personal brand if you don’t like it? Laurie digs in with a tough question, and Jennifer steps up to answer it without hesitation, and it’s an answer you need to hear if the attention you’re getting isn’t the attention you want.
  • Finally, we need to broach the topic of negative feedback that isn’t deserved. Jennifer shares the story of her first major keynote speech and the one comment afterward that has haunted her to this day. Laurie has a story to share, too, and they talk about what to do when people try to label you in ways that hurt.

The DIY HR Handbook

Wouldn’t you love to get your hands on Laurie’s no-holds-barred, honest DIY HR Handbook for employees and pros alike? Download it for free!

Jennifer McClure

FREE DOWNLOAD: Personal Brand Workbook

Impact Makers Podcast

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My HR and recruiting brethren are flummoxed. The biggest problem with the job market isn’t stagnant wages or a crisis in leadership. It’s that candidates are ghosting right now.

Ghosting! Like we’re teenagers!

Corporate leaders tell me it’s impossible to find capable people to fill open job requisitions or even show up for interviews. When they extend an offer and agree on a starting date, candidates never show up for the first day of work.

They call it ghosting, and it’s a lie.

I’m sure this version of “candidate ghosting” has happened a few times because people are awful. However, ghosting mostly occurs when recruiters and hiring managers bring candidates in for a job interview and never follow-up after the meeting.

Regardless, the recruiting-industrial complex®™ wants you to believe companies are working hard to put Americans back to work, but Americans just don’t want to work. They want to do opioids and ghost. But don’t be fooled. These are handy narratives that indolent corporate professionals use to justify all kinds of behaviors from ageism to bigotry to indifference.

“We can’t find candidates. People are ghosting us.”

They’re whining like a bunch of middle-school girls about how life is unfair. Also, mom won’t let me get an Instagram account. I could die.

So, it’s my full-time job to tell you not to believe the hype around ghosting or “the ongoing war for talent.” Instead, get smarter. Here’s what’s truly happening in the job market.

1. Companies don’t want to hire anybody. People are an expensive hassle, and, even though we’re facing record unemployment, companies are risk-averse and would instead leave a position vacant — and interview 1000 candidates — instead of taking a chance on someone new.

2. Companies only want to hire young people without defects. I can’t tell you how many times recruiters and HR professionals use the word “unemployable” to describe applicants over the age of 35. You are unemployable if you’re older, expensive, opinionated, ornery, fat, disabled, short, gay, transgender, have natural hair, wear the wrong clothes, not far enough along in your career to justify a recruiter’s attention, too far along in your career to seem loyal, or look anything like “trouble.”

3. Companies simultaneously hate younger workers. Young Millennials and Gen Z workers are spoiled, impatient, taught by a broken public school system, illiterate, and obsessed with celebrity culture. They lack the maturity needed to get work done, so positions stay open.

4. Everybody is way too judgy. Recruiters don’t look at resumes for long, and, when they do, they judge you based on font and presentation instead of the content of the CV. Hiring managers still use interviews to screen for culture and fit without having a consistent definition of what those two words mean. We assess candidates on personality, a tone of voice, smell, enthusiasm, articulateness, and values without benchmarking what success looks like in an organization. And we get it wrong all the time and hire people who blow it. Or we get it right and hire someone who is awesome, but we’re still surprised and disappointed when employees act like capitalists and quit for more money or more compelling work.

What a mess. And nobody — and I mean nobody — is being honest about what’s happening inside HR departments and recruiting shops.

Do you never want to hear the word “ghosting” again? Looking for solutions besides getting rid of recruiters and staying out of the job market? Here are my thoughts.

1. Support universal health care and basic income. Let people contribute to our society based on aptitude and not a desperate need to feed their families. There’s more than enough to go around.

2. Fix your finances. Improve your money so you can live on less and chase your dreams — or chase your kids in the park on a Tuesday afternoon — instead of chasing the almighty dollar. It’s not about the four-day workweek. It’s about the no-day workweek. You have autonomy when you don’t have debt.

3. Know better, do better. If you work in HR or recruiting — or if you’re a corporate professional who leads a team — step up and don’t work for companies that keep jobs open for six months and then complain that they can’t find someone. Got a job opening? Fill it. Find an older worker or a veteran. Find a student or a non-traditional worker. Don’t have the power or influence to change your company’s behaviors? Improve your communication skills, or quit that job. We’ve got record unemployment. Go work for a company that’s doing it right.

What’s wrong with the job market has been wrong since the early 2000s: companies are powerful, cheap, and hoarding profits at the top. Workers are risky, expensive, and impede profitability. There is no skills gap. There isn’t a shortage of talent. There is tension in the job market because companies won’t pay what people are worth, won’t stop discriminating, and won’t share their profits with the people who make it happen.

Anybody who tells you otherwise has got it wrong.

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Back in 2004, nobody knew anything about the social internet.

I started blogging at Blogspot under an assumed name, and it was a grand old time. Then, around 2007, I launched Punk Rock HR. Although I used my real name on the website, times and trends were weird. A catchy alias was still very important to establish a character and brand.

But I wasn’t all that punk rock. The title of my blog was just an insult — I wore Doc Martens to work in 1995, and my boss said something like, “Who do you think you are? Punk Rock HR?”

And I was like, “You look warm. Why don’t you take off one of those eleven fancy scarves tied around your neck before you pass out from a hot flash?”

HR bitches always be hatin’!

Thanks to horizontal envy and female-on-female competition, an identity was born. However, it wasn’t an identity that could sustain itself throughout my 30s. So, I started blogging under The Cynical Girl because that’s what my high school boyfriend called me.

Finally, in 2012, I was like — enough of this nonsense. My friend Josh called me Laurie Fucking Ruettimann while making fun of my diva-like qualities, and I decided to drop the middle initial and just start writing under my real name.

I’m here to tell you that it was the best thing I’ve ever done for my professional career.

Catchy names and identities are cute, and they are the hallmark of early writers and content creators who are feeling themselves out. What’s your tone? Who’s your audience? Why do you write? You can do that under fake identities and funny personal brands.

But you can write about HR, recruiting, talent, benefits, relationships, communication, leadership, AI, technology, blockchain, RPO, organizational development, organizational effectiveness, and executive compensation under your own name. In fact, you should.

While you’re being insecure and assuming an identity, people who are less interesting and less funny than you are mopping up the market with articles about the future of work. And while you think you’re being catchy and creative with your hokey identity, you’re not.

You’re being ignored by people who should know your name.

So, it’s fine to be a newbie and create memes and blogs and movements under an assumed or secondary identity and with 72 other social media accounts. But don’t do it for long. The world is waiting to be entertained and educated in your authentic, honest voice.

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