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.

clap

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.

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!

Top 10 Reasons Why Buzzfeed Should Hire Me

1. I enjoy making Top 10 lists.

2. Buzzfeed likes Halloween costumes. I like Halloween costumes.

3. I have 3 cats who enjoy being photographed & captioned.

4. I have a short attention span, just like all Buzzfeed readers. Wait, what was I saying?

5. I often travel to exotic cities.

6. I’m hip to current fashion trends.

7. Buzzfeed likes Dunkies. I like Dunkies.

8. Buzzfeed is obsessed with Sriracha. I am obsessed with Sriracha.

9. I am a responsible employee and upstanding citizen.

10. My last name is Tronic, which is perfect for the digital interwebs. Even the patriarch of the Tronic clan likes gossip and pop culture.

My Great Epiphany While Waiting Tables

It’s been a couple weeks since I re-entered the wonderful world of waiting tables after a 7 year hiatus. I love my pretty black apron and ugly black shoes. Somehow I still run out of pens even after buying 26 extra packs of Bics. And I had an interesting epiphany.

The clientele that I serve are older and very wealthy. They’re impeccably dressed (perfectly tailored suits and sleek blouses), well groomed (coifed hair and manicures), and high maintenance. They are quite self-entitled and have tons of annoying requests. But one woman in particular had a giant impact on me.

She and her husband were eating dinner then heading to an opera. Her blonde hair was perfect. I was jealous of her necklace. And much like my cats can sense danger, I could sense trouble brewing between her and I. She ordered a glass of sparkling wine, which I dropped off then checked on my other tables. As I passed by, she flagged me down.

Lady: Scuse me, I’m sorry to be a pain but this champagne isn’t good.

Me: Oh, I’m so sorry about that! Does it taste funny?

Lady (holding up her glass): No, but there aren’t a lot of bubbles in it. Look at it. Doesn’t it look flat to you?

Me (inspecting the glass): Hmm…Maybe a little. Would you like me to bring you another one, or a glass of something else instead?

Lady: Well, if you get another glass of the same thing, it will probably also be flat since you’ll be using the same bottle. Can you please ask the bartender when he opened this bottle?

Me: Sure.

<Scurry to the bar>

Me: Hey, hun, sorry to bother, but table 34 wants to know when you opened that bottle of the Nicolas Brut. She says it’s flat.

Bartender (rolling his eyes): I don’t f*cking know. Tell her I opened it today.

<Scurry back to table 34>

Me: He said he opened it today.

Lady: Well, it’s not very good. Sorry to be a pain, but can you ask the bartender to open a new bottle?

Me: Sure.

<Scurry back to the bar>

Me: Hey, hun, sorry again, but table 34 wants you to open a fresh bottle of the Nicolas.

<I got busy with other tables so the bartender brought her the fresh glass. I checked on her a few minutes later>

Me: I see that he brought you the new glass. Is this one better?

Lady (holding up the new glass): MUCH better. See?

Me: Oh, yes! Great!  Much more bubbly this time. Glad we could work it out!

Lady: Yes, thank you!  But <she leans in>….I have to tell you…the bartender was very rude when he came over and he definitely had an attitude. Then I pointed out that my other glass was not only flat, but it had a chip on it. Then his whole demeanor suddenly became more friendly. I just thought you should know.

Me: Well, I hope he wasn’t being rude. If he was, I do apologize. I assure you that we’re here to make you happy, so please let me know if there’s anything at all that you need.

Lady: Thank you.

So I went back to the server station to ponder this exchange. It’s easy to get irritated and frustrated and roll your eyes.

Then it hit me: what if those 2 people were my parents?

What if the demanding lady was my mom? What if my mom went out to eat and was being a little high maintenance? I would still want her server to be nice to her. To take care of her. Maybe my mom was having a bad day and just wanted to relax over a nice meal. I hate to think of anyone rolling their eyes or being mean to my mom. And what if the lady at table 34 had a daughter like me who just wanted a server to be nice to HER mom?

So that’s exactly what I did.  I went back to table 34 and killed them with kindness. I smiled. I cracked a few lighthearted jokes. I made damn sure that she was happy and had a great meal. By the time they left, I  was genuinely fond of this lady and I could tell they had a terrific time.

Last night, she and her husband stopped in for a quick drink during the opera intermission. I nearly squealed with excitement when I saw her and had to refrain from giving her a hug.  Her husband wanted extra cookies, but only the chocolate kind. I eagerly brought the chocolate cookies out and we had a great conversation. I hope to see her again soon.

So now I have a whole new outlook. My patience has not worn thin. It’s grown thicker. And if I ever hear that a server has rolled her eyes or was mean to my mom, I will hunt that server down and stab her with my wine key and 26 packs of Bic pens.

Hand Me My Apron: Why I Left The “Office World” After 7 Years To Once Again Serve Steak & Cheeseburgers

“Scuse me, miss, are you sure this is decaf?”

“Can we split the check 5 ways?”

“Do you have free refills?”

“This fork looks a little dirty.”

“This doesn’t taste like Ginger Ale. Did you just mix Coke and  7up together?”

These are phrases that I rejoiced in NEVER hearing again when I quit my job waiting tables in 2006.

I started waiting tables in the summer of 2000. I’d just finished my freshman year in college (love you, Emerson!) and rather than move back to my parent’s house in North Andover, I chose to move in with a couple strangers about 10 minutes outside of Boston. Though I had no prior experience, I scored a job at Pizzeria Uno’s. Yay, deep dish pepperoni cellulite!

A few months, several shattered dishes, and countless fattening pizzas later, I got hired at a family-style Italian restaurant (love you, Vinny Testa’s!). I worked there for the next 3 years as a server, bartender, and hostess. I really developed my “I-hate-you-and-I-hope-you-choke-on-a-mushroom-but-I’m-going-to-charm-your-socks-off” demeanor at Vinny T’s.

In 2003, I packed up my belongings (along with my dignity) and moved to LA. Soon thereafter I began working at an outdoor restaurant at the LA Music Center and waited on hungry theater-goers for the next few years. I laughed, I cried, I accidentally dropped 2 of my cell phones in the toilet, and made some amazing friends during that time. But when an opportunity arose in 2006 to work at a CG postproduction house, I had to take it. I hung up my apron, threw my disgustingly stinky “serving” clothes in the trash, and vowed to never again cry about a bad gratuity.

And now, 7 years later, I’m returning to the wonderful world of waiting tables.

After a lot of deliberation, soul searching, and encouragement from a few awesome people, I decided to pursue a career as a writer. It was time to bid farewell to office life and step into a new world. Saying goodbye to my awesome cute bosses, gorgeous desk and beautiful iMac  meant that I needed new employment…and quickly. I struggled with the decision to once again wait tables. I’d been so ecstatic knowing I would never again have to ask how you want your burger cooked. And now here I am, with my tail between my legs and pen in hand, ready to take your order. Would you like a baked potato or veggies on the side?

But being a server grants me the freedom and flexibility to nurture my creative side. I can type away at my laptop at 3am (because we all know that’s when the epic inspiration hits you) and not feel bad about it. I can use all the undertipping, rude, pompous, self-entitled customers as material in my next blog post.  I can polish off a bottle of whisky with somewhat minimal guilt because hey, all the great writers were booze hounds, right? (cue a sloppy fist bump to Bukowski)

So if you’re wondering what I’m doing on Saturday night, no, I can’t hang out. I’ll be grabbing a third serving of bread for the table who ordered the medium-rare-but-kinda-sorta-well-done filet mignon whose kid is allergic to gluten and wanted their parking validated while complaining about the taste of LA tap water.

And I couldn’t be happier.