Workin’ It: Hail To The Boss·some Leaders

bosssome

Boss·some
an amazing workplace leader; an awesome boss

Bloss
a mediocre workplace leader; a blah boss

As someone who’s thrived in excellent job environments and slogged away at unpleasant ones, I’ve reported to wonderful bosses (the kind you want to hug and impress) and horrid bosses (the kind you want to accidentally-on-purpose spill coffee on).

I know it’s difficult to be the guy in charge – you’ve gotta make tough decisions, you’re constantly under different types of pressure, and the livelihood of your employees depends on you. You deserve props for taking on the challenges of running a business.

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If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to have a rad boss, you know how good it feels. You want to work hard. You don’t mind going that extra mile to get things done. Heck, you don’t even mind taking his calls on the weekend, even though you threw back a coupla cocktails and you’re uncharacteristically enthusiastic about metrics and KPIs.

One such gentleman, a former supervisor of mine, rocked his Boss·some·ness like a custom pinstriped suit. He was supportive, kind, encouraging, and his habits taught me a lot about great leadership. Let’s examine why…

Mr. Boss·some made employees feel valued.
He asked for our input and listened to what we had to say. The first time it happened, I was suspicious that we were on a prank show. Then I realized that he actually cared about our opinions. Weird, eh?

Mr. Boss·some offered constructive criticism.
He helped me become a better writer by giving me helpful feedback and solid suggestions. I lapped it up like a thirst puppy.

Mr. Boss·some rocked at communication.
He always let us know what was going on in other departments, which helped us see the big picture and gave us a better understanding of the company’s mission and vision.

Mr. Boss·some let employees know when we did things right.
It’s not that I need a gold star placed on my forehead each morning, it’s that unless you let me know that I’m doing well, I won’t know. One of my former bosses never said anything about my performance, so I never knew where I stood. And with his rigid expressions, it was impossible to know if you were kickin’ butt…or just floating along.

Mr. Boss·some let employees know when we did things wrong…privately.
Have you ever been berated in front of your colleagues? It’s not a good time. Mr. Boss·some knew the importance of discretion and dealt with delicate situations confidentially.

Mr. Boss·some didn’t micromanage.
If you’re going to hire people, why not trust them to do their job? Being hands-off, but available when your employee has a questions or concerns, just sets the tone for a healthy boss/ employee relationship.

Mr. Boss·some was realistic about expectations.
Remember that volcano in Iceland that exploded in 2010? My friend’s boss was stuck abroad, and was frustrated this his flight was cancelled due to THE VOLCANO EXPLODING, yet he called my friend at 6am on a Sunday to insist that she somehow find him a flight out of there. Apparently he thought my friend possessed magical powers. Thankfully my Mr. Boss·some was sensible in his expectations for deadlines, workflows, and volcanic hazards.

Having a Bloss is a total drag but it makes you appreciate the Mr. Boss·somes of the world.
We’ve all had a Bloss at some point throughout our careers. You fantasize about publishing their rude emails or snotty iChats across the internet so everyone can see how awful they are. You imagine setting their computer on fire. You think about deleting a very important part of their server files. But you don’t because karma. And because when you work for your Mr. Boss·some, and you are thanked and appreciated, the workplace universe equilibrium has been restored, and when the time comes, you know how to be Boss·some.

On The Prowl For A New Job? The Rumor Is True: It’s All Who You Know

job referrals

When you’re hunting for work, your instincts urge you to spend 24/7 on LinkedIn, to incessantly investigate every online job board, and to send out a billion resumes because “it’s all a numbers game.”

Sure, there can be some worth in the digital hustle, but I found the true magic sauce: referrals.

Get this: every job I’ve scored throughout the last 13 years has been through a referral.

No joke. Every employment opportunity, both staff and freelance, has been because of connections I’ve made. I only discovered this a few weeks ago, when I carefully traced a path along my career trajectory to investigate how I ended up at my current gig (aka heaven on earth…well, heaven in downtown, anyway).

When I moved to Los Angeles circa 2003, I needed a job as quickly as possible, which meant either waiting tables or selling fruit on Hollywood Blvd. I scoured Craigslist and found a post for some local catering company that needed servers. (Ok, fine, that’s the ONLY job I didn’t get through a referral, but I didn’t  know anyone at the time, so it doesn’t count.) I shudder to think about how I looked in those pleated tuxedo pants and cummerbund. Spoiler alert: I looked like a chubby panda bear sporting a ponytail.

During training, I met a cool guy from the east coast and we became fast friends. Casey and I laughed our way through countless shifts and I sulked when he quit a couple months later. He started working at an outdoor restaurant in downtown L.A and immediately got me an interview with the manager. Time to burn that cummerbund!

And so it began…

Exhibit #1 – HI, MAY I TAKE YOUR ORDER?

For the next 2.5 years, I doled out cheeseburgers, greasy quesadillas, and forced smiles. I went through a few hundred pens, dozens of lost wine keys, and thousands of white collared shirts. The more double-shifts I powered through, the more I wondered what to do with my life. Eventually Casey moved on again, but this time he called with exciting news: the post-production company next to his new job needed a receptionist and he could easily get me an interview. I knew nothing about post-production, but I was desperate to hang up my apron and not smell like stale food scraps all the time.

Exhibit #2 – POST-PRODUCTION + THE 7 YEAR ITCH

Thrilled to toss out my putrid outfits and psyched for my new (albeit longer) commute, I started with typical receptionist duties like phones, lunch, errands and coffee runs. Over time, my responsibilities multiplied, and 7 years later I’d worked my way up to Business Manager. The steady employment allowed me a sense of stability, but I kept thinking I was destined to do something else. After some soul searching and tons of research, I decided to go back to school. I picked a certificate program at UCLA Extension and told my bosses about the plan. Though they assured me that I could attend school and reduce my hours with no threat to my employment, they let me go a few weeks later. I like to think that I got the axe because they wanted me to have more time for homework.

Exhibit #3 – PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN HIP HIP HOLLYWOOD

Suddenly unemployed, I panicked about my lack of income but loved every moment of school. I sat up front for every lecture and lapped up the lessons like a thirsty puppy. I even griped to my new favorite professor about needing a job. Amazingly, he knew of an opening at a cool branding company in Hollywood and said he’d put in a good word for me. The following week I met with the owner of the agency and BOOM – I began working as a part-time Project Manager. I handled website launches, oversaw design projects, dealt with clients, and learned tons about digital. As much as I enjoyed the folks I worked with, I slowly realized that I wanted to be on the creative side of things. I wanted to write. Later that year, I (dubiously) submitted my resignation in order to enter the freelance writing game.

Exhibit  #4 – FREELANCE PANTS + WAITRESSING 2.0

While I worked on building a solid portfolio, I needed supplementary dough, so I begrudgingly waited tables at the same downtown restaurant from 10 years prior. (How’s that for life coming full-circle?) Even though the apron came with a sense of contempt, this time I knew that waitressing was merely a means to an end, and only temporary. Now I had direction. I had goals. So I polished silverware, grinned through bad gratuities, and enthusiastically folded napkins. I took on side gigs from various clients (all referrals!) and developed a collection of writing samples that I adored. About 11 months later, that rad professor from UCLA got hired at a production company, and got me an interview for a position on his team. Fun fact: the CEO was intrigued that I had video jingles in my portfolio and during my interview he requested that I perform one live. I felt terribly awkward but he loved it and asked me to start on Monday.

Exhibit #5 – AN EXERCISE IN DIGITAL FUTILITY

As a Content Producer on the brand new digital team, I showed up with a shiny attitude and a yearning to utilize all the knowledge I’d amassed over the years. In the beginning, I got to manage a few website launches, write a bunch of fun articles, and interview hilarious comedians for the company’s syndicated TV show. Unfortunately, the company wasn’t really ready to go digital, so eventually my team dispersed in search of new opportunities. A sweet coworker knew that I was seeking a fresh creative opportunity, and set me up with an interview at a very cool tech start-up in the pet industry. The clouds parted. A golden ray of sunshine peeked into my life.

Exhibit #6 – PURRFECTION

Digital + writing + pets + tech = paradise. I’m happy as a kitten in a cargo of catnip. As a dog with a bucket of bacon. As a grateful gal at her dream job.

So therein lies the assortment of job referrals that brought me here. Word-of-mouth has been my best form of self-promotion. If you have the chance, I urge you to always recommend friends and colleagues for employment opportunities. And hopefully they will do the same. Because the adage is true: it’s all who you know.

Creative Professionals Seeking Job Postings That Don’t Bore Everyone

In today’s digital universe, the endless supply of online resources is a major convenience to people seeking employment. Remember the “Help Wanted” ads in newspapers circa 1993? Adorable, yet quite cumbersome.

When you consider the abundance of platforms you can peruse (LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Aquent, Monster, Indeed, Craigslist, etc, etc, etc), hunting for a new job, can, well, quickly become a job in and of itself.

A couple of my BFFs are on the prowl for new career opportunities and we recently met for brunch. Over too many lattes and plates of eggs, we had a good laugh about the job postings they came across. A lot of the posts were stiff, some were baffling, and others were so absurd we shot coffee from our noses. (Except for me – I’m too dainty for that.)

Nearly every post required that:

You can multitask and prioritize in a fast-paced environment
You have the ability to manage multiple projects at once
You have excellent attention to detail
You’re a hard worker
You’re organized
You possess superior written and oral communication skills
You’re a dedicated self starter
You work well within a cross-functional team environment
You’re a multilateral thinker
You have the ability to manage and meet deadlines

Here’s the thing. I agree that those traits are necessary to possess as a working professional. But, shouldn’t it be ASSUMED that you work hard, you’re organized, and you can efficiently communicate with others? Is it really necessary to spell out that a qualified candidate should be able to multitask? These are basic skills I’m pretty sure we all acquired in high school.

Beyond the required koalafications, several job titles intrigued me. One particular post sought to fill a position for “VP of Internet.”

Wait..what?

Ok, a VP Marketing, yes.

VP Sales, sure.

VP Operations, absolutely.

But…VP of Internet? What are the responsibilities of an executive who reigns over the internet?

Is this person in charge of SEO? Newsletters? Blogs? Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram? Compiling cat videos? All of those? The only thing I’m certain of – my mom would be SO proud if her daughter earned the esteemed title “Vice President of the Internet.”

My gals also found a few job post gems that necessitated a loud chortle:

Define a media plan that is cutting edge and highly desirable but also cost effective.

Cutting edge, highly desirable, and cost effective. What a delicious mess of jargon. So the media plan needs to be new, exciting, sexually attractive and cheap? Sounds like my Tinder dating profile.

Must be highly proficient with computers.

So…just computers, eh? You can’t be bothered to list out the specific software or platforms that I should be proficient with?

Must participate in select value-oriented professional societies, events and activities related to the Internet industry.

So…I will join the “I Heart Internet Club,” drink cocktails at the “Internet Rules Happy Hour,” and be a panelist at the “F*** Yeah Internet Digital Conference?”

My big question is…why do job postings have to be so boring and so generic? Even if you’re not looking to fill a creative position, you can still publish a job posting that’s not a total snooze-fest. After all, as an employer, wouldn’t you want to excite people about joining your team?

But just like needles in a haystack, my besties eventually came across some cool postings that actually excited them.

We are a super awesome full service marketing communications agency based in LA, and we’re looking for a Digital Strategist to come in on a contract to full-time basis! This is an immediate need, and we are accepting apps now! Read on for the awesomeness…

Now THAT’S what we’re talking’ about.

It’s No Secret: Working With Great Brands Satiates Your Soul

whip_stick

Anyone who works in a creative field knows the feeling. The one that slowly buzzes throughout your body after you’ve finished a project that you’re truly proud of. Whether it’s acting, designing, writing or making sculptures out of popsicle sticks, you’re filled with pride and you bask in that warm glow of accomplishment.

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But then, you submit your work to your boss/ client/ colleague/ popsicle judge, hoping they’ll share in your sparkly enthusiasm.

They don’t.

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They don’t like the way you performed that scene. Or the way your red logo is “TOO red.” Or how you described something in your script. Or the brand of popsicles you went with.

You feel deflated, just like Tom Brady’s fooseball. (Sorry, too soon?)

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But you realize that maybe your work wasn’t well-received because your boss/ client/ colleague/ popsicle judge doesn’t quite “get” it. Or maybe they’re afraid to do something different. Or perhaps they’re hesitant to let a little personality shine through. They probably hate taking risks.

Then there are the kind of brands that you always hope to work with, like Secret Squirrel.

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They’re a local family-owned business that makes incredible cold brewed coffee.

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And they’ve got an inspirational story.

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Owners Trevor and Rebecca Smith are the epitome of successful entrepreneurs.

These self-proclaimed coffee lovers would often experiment with different ways of creating and enjoying their favorite drink. The duo built Secret Squirrel from the ground up and embarked on a grassroots marketing campaign. They began selling their products at a local farmers market and quickly developed a community of cold brew loyalists.

Now Secret Squirrel is partnered with the largest independent natural foods distributor and just rolled out a new line of dairy-based drinks. (Yummy Hint Alert: stay tuned…more recipes are in the works.)

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I had the pleasure of working with Secret Squirrel recently, and I admire them for a myriad of reasons.

Trevor and Rebecca have created a great, approachable brand that invites people to be a part of their world.

They don’t hide behind an anonymous corporate wall.

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Their website is a welcoming digital experience with fun facts, pretty pics, and a rad recipe section, complete with boozy brew beverages!

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And they absolutely love interacting with their customers.

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Best of all, they clearly have a spectacular sense of humor.

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Oh, and their coffee is downright delish!

It’s so refreshing to see brands like Secret Squirrel. I know that as they expand and grow their empire, they will continue to be an inspiration to people like me, and to other businesses. I’ll drink to that!

From 1099 To Showin’ Up On Time

It’s been a few months, way too many coffees, and countless fits of road rage since I made the change from freelance to fancy-dress-pants. The 9-5 workingwoman behavior (well, technically, 9-7) is way different from the sleeping-til-noon and answer-emails-in-your-underpants lifestyle. I’m finally getting adjusted to (and perhaps even embracing) the nuances that accompany Cubicle Life.

For example…

Sweatpants are no longer acceptable daytime wear.
My work uniform of yesteryear didn’t necessitate much thought – a stained American Apparel T-shirt, whichever Under Armour running capris were sorta clean (or at least not super smelly), and a hoodie covered in cat hair. I know, I know, I’m way too glamorous and sexy for my own good.

These days, my attire is a wee bit sharper and actually requires drycleaning. (OK, I’ll admit that it COULD be washed/ dried/ ironed…but I don’t own an iron.) And even though my clothing underwent an upgrade, my level of klutziness has not subsided, so my lovely work outfits are typically dotted with a mix of coffee stains and salad dressing remnants.

Sleep now takes priority over all other activities.
At one point, writing and socializing were my favorite pastimes. Then I realized that arriving at work on time meant waking up at 8am. Then I realized if I wanted to hit the gym before work, the alarm needed to go off at 7am. Then I realized that unless I wanted to be a baggy-eyed moody zombie, I need to be in bed by 10:30pm – which is pretty much when I went to bed in 5th grade.

Snack quality is now evaluated by volume.
No, not volume as it pertains to weight measurements, but as it pertains to noise levels. I work in a cubicle, in a cute open area with my digital team. It’s pretty quiet most of the time (in between our high-pitched fits of giggling) which means if I choose to bite into a carrot, apple or pretzel, I feel like I’ve launched an aural assault on the entire vicinity.

Collaboration breeds great creation.
I’ve previously chronicled the difficulty of facing distractions while working from home, but didn’t mention that the lack of human communication took a strange toll on my psyche. One time when I went to Starbucks for a mid-afternoon latte, I was so desperate for conversation that I kept asking the barista a bunch of mundane questions just to enjoy a a few minutes of mindless banter. “So…making a whole lotta peppermint mochas today, eh?”

Working alongside other creative minds is a blessing. Bouncing ideas off one another helps foster newer and better ideas. And spending time with likeminded worker bees does wonders for your motivation.

Commuting can be a zen-like experience.
My former commute was nice and short- roll outta bed, shuffle into the living room and fling myself onto the couch. Easy peasy. These days I battle the hell of Los Angeles Morning Madness and try not to let my road rage take hold of the steering wheel.

But after I take a deep breath and let a curse word escape my lips, I’m able to actually enjoy the quiet time and mentally prepare for a successful day.

So at the end of the day, I’m lucky and grateful to be a part of the W2 world. And I never thought I’d say this but….

How I Scored The Best Job I’ve Ever Had

So. Recently I started working at an awesome company doing incredibly fun things.

I somehow lucked out and scored a job that allows me to write. To interview comedians. And to utilize everything I’ve learned in the last 11 years about web design, web development and digital marketing. #WinWinWin

I’ll be honest – for the last year, I’d been filled with doubts and fears. I didn’t mind waiting tables and freelancing, but as bills piled up and friends from home were getting married, buying huge houses and creating babies…I was washing my apron, grimacing at my bank statements and feeling like a broke useless oaf who drinks cheap whiskey.

Then the clouds parted and I got that call. That amazing call. That job offer call. Obviously I accepted.

I thought about what I’d done to land such a killer opportunity. And I realized that once I’d decided to be a writer, there were a few things that definitely helped me get where I am.

1) Decide what you wanna do. Then take actionable steps to make it happen.

When I left my perfectly stable job as a Project Manager to pursue writing, the first thing I needed to do was….write! I had no portfolio, and the few pieces I’d previously written didn’t do much to showcase any kind of diversity. So I started blogging. Started tweeting more. Made a few more video jingles. And wrote some articles about bars and restaurants in the West Hollywood area.

2) Make yourself visible.

Wouldn’t it have looked weird if I called myself a writer/ content creator, but kept my Twitter posts and Youtube videos set to private? Don’t make it difficult for people to find you. If you take the time to create good work, don’t hide it!

Bad, bad, bad!

Bad, bad, bad!

3) Prove that you’re a pro.

Once I had some solid writing samples, an active Twitter feed and a healthy blog, I needed a proper website to showcase my best work in one place. I purchased my domain and sought out a talented web designer. I hired an amazing photographer. I bought some rad business cards. Basically, I cleaned out my checking account to make myself look professional. Best decision ever.

Wonder if Moo.com will accept an IOU?

Wonder if Moo.com will accept an IOU?

4) Give your LinkedIn some lovin’.

Like a good girl, I brought 3 copies of my resume to the big interview. But when I sat down in the conference room, I saw that they’d already printed out copies of my LinkedIn profile. How embarrassing would it’ve been if my profile looked incomplete, sad and skimpy? Don’t underestimate the importance of having a nice robust LinkedIn page. And don’t be shy about listing accomplishments or anything else that helps you stand out. My new boss was impressed that I’d taken a dozen classes at UCLA in 2012, and liked that I’d listed poetry among my college writing activities.

Upload a photo, you dingbat!

Upload a photo, you dingbat!

5) Be yourself.

If you know me, you know that I’m loud, very hyper and always a bit animated. On my way to the interview, I thought that I should perhaps hold back as not to scare off a potential employer. But as I chatted with my new bosses, I relaxed and let them get to know the real me. Fun fact: I performed one of my jingles live during the job interview…without music. Hey, sometimes you just gotta be a goofball!

Look who found the perfect outfit for her interview!

Look who found the perfect outfit for her interview!

Vitamin Barf: Embracing Your Nausea

No, it’s not the purple gunk in the leftover red solo cup from last night’s beer pong.

No, it’s not one of those gross gummy chews from the giant vitamin bottle in your Christmas stocking every year.

And no, it’s not the new cocktail du jour at the douchey mixology bar down the street.

Vitamin Barf is an important sensation you should embrace.

Vitamin Barf is that unique mix of anxiety, fear, and well, nausea (duh) that you experience right before you take a flying leap out of your comfort zone.

Some people have a dose of Vitamin Barf before they make a presentation. Some get it before making a major life decision. Me, I get it when deciding between Hazelnut or Vanilla. Ok, not really, but I’ve been taking a lot of Vitamin Barf in the last 2 years.

Like when I decided to take out loans to go back to school at the tender age of 31.

Like when I earned a Marketing Certificate from UCLA Extension. (GO BRUINS!)

Like when I accepted a job as a project manager at the coolest branding/ design agency in Los Angeles.

Like when I make the gut-wrenching decision to leave said amazing job to pursue an entire new career as a writer. A career that I knew nothing about.

Like now, when I’m working on a book with a lot of deep dark secrets about my past and being nervous that a lot of people will judge me.

And also like now, when writing a spec script and wondering if it’ll be absolutely terrible. (OH CRAP, I was supposed to include a B-story?)

But I realized that Vitamin Barf is great. It means you’re taking a big risk. Risks are scary. But they also yield big rewards. I’d rather try to be a writer, and fail miserably and sit on the sidewalk with cheap whiskey, than to never have tried at all. You can’t let the fear of failure hold you back.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I might hurl real quick as I write another chapter of my book.