Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Office Newb Is Back!

After disappearing for an unexpected but much needed three-month hiatus, The Office Newb is back and better and better than ever. Not only will you get new insights into being young in Corporate America, but you will also be hearing some new perspectives as I have teamed up with HR Mom to offer thoughts from the other side of the conference table.

Check back soon or update your RSS feed because The Office Newb is back in office.


The Office Newb Is Out Of Office

I will be taking a much need vacation this week, heading out of the chilly Pacific Northwest to Mexico’s sunny Southwest shores.

While I am away I will be running a series of posts with tips and hints on How To Get And Keep A Job In This Economy, covering the following topics:

  • Resumes
  • Interviewing
  • Bad Habits On The Job
  • Email & Productivity

 Feel free to leave your own advice in the comments section.

Hasta La Vista!

-The Office Newb

More on Politics in the Workplace

Stanley Fish, the author of the blogpost I cited in last week’s post, has written a response to the some 300 comments he received on his New York Times blog following his post on whether teachers should be allowed to express their partisan preferences in the classroom.

You can read his full response here, and here is a sampling of his thoughts:

H.J. Boitel complains that “Fish never gets around to explaining why there is something wrong or unprofessional about a teacher passively communicating his or her political preferences.” It’s unprofessional because it’s not part of the job; it’s an extra that is not a plus, but a minus.

Academic freedom, as I have said many (perhaps too many) times is the freedom to do your job, the job of introducing students to materials and traditions with which they were unfamiliar and equipping them with the appropriate analytical skills. It is not the freedom to say anything you like on the reasoning that you are a person with constitutional rights. Sure you are, but your rights are not infringed because your full exercise of them is curtailed for those few hours when you discharge your professional responsibilities.

Are certain things taboo to discuss in the workplace? What things? Should there be a line between the personal and the professional?

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Success Is Relative (Especially When Relatives Determine Your Success)

In the past few years, there have been several high profile cases of cheating and plagiarism among young academics. In 2006, Kaavya Viswanathan, then a sophomore at Harvard University, was accused of including whole passages practically verbatim from another author in her first novel. Her book was eventually recalled by its publisher and her reputation as an author perhaps forever tarnished. This past April, Yale student Aliza Shvarts, admitted to faking the circumstances of her senior performance art project, a controversial first-hand account of her (faked) abortion.

What made these well-educated, high-achieving women desperate enough to risk their reputations for 15-minutes of fame?

Could it be a constant pressure to succeed from parents, professors, bosses and popular media?

A query into the Merriam-Webster dictionary shows the definition of success to be:

The attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.

What troubles me about this definition is that it defines success through a third-party point of view. Gaining favor? Having superiority? These are all things subject to other people’s perceptions rather than a personal measure of fulfillment and meaning. This drive to succeed, to achieve based on someone else’s definition of success is wreaking havoc on our generation, a generation raised to believe that achievement is everything.

From a young age, most Millennials have been told they need to be “well-rounded.” College admission boards wants students who can “do-it-all,” so children are being pushed at younger and younger ages into soccer teams, ballet lessons, foreign-language classes and more with rarely a thought as to whether a child really enjoys the activity or not.

Could this pressure-cooker environment with its non-stop schedule of activities and constant competition be to blame for the rise in student cheating? Or the reason so many young people flunk out of college, go on wild drinking binges, and rack up mountains of debt before the age of 25?

Where did we all go so horribly wrong?

Brazen Careerist, Penelope Trunk, encourages readers to cut through the B.S. and think back to their happiest childhood memories to find their true passions:

Do you want to know what you should do right now? Do you want to know what your best bet is for your next career? Look at what you were doing when you were a kid. Nothing changes when you grow up except that you get clouded vision from thinking about what you SHOULD do — to be rich, or successful, or to please your parents or peers… the possibilities for should are endless.

By measuring your own personal success against the standards of others (not all of us can be Pulitzer-prize winning novelists or MVP athletes) you cloud your own path to true fulfillment and happiness. I recommend everyone read through Penelope’s post and take a few minutes to recall a favorite childhood memory and identify positive traits about your true self that you could be doing more to cultivate. You never know what you might be missing out on just because you never thought it important enough.

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The Path to Success Isn’t Always the Obvious One

While seemingly a normal Thursday, May 1st is a day that will be embedded in the minds of high school seniors and future grad students alike as the day that forever changed the course of their lives. For those of you who haven’t been near a campus in a while, May 1 is the traditional admissions deadline for most U.S. colleges and universities. It is the day that students have to make their final decisions about which school to attend and is also when the fate of wait-listed students is decided.

The Seattle Times ran an article highlighting the cutthroat college admissions process and the bitter taste of not being accepted to a first choice school:

“The college-admissions process is an initiation rite into adulthood,” says Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, an adolescent medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an author of books on teenage stress. “But if success is defined very narrowly, such as a fat envelope from a specific college, then many kids end up going through it and feeling like a failure.”

Students complain about a lack of sleep, stomach pain and headaches, but doctors and educators also worry that stress tied to academic achievement can lead to depression, eating disorders and other mental-health problems.

The college admissions game is many young people’s introduction to the self-exploration and interviewing process. They are forced to determine their interests, strengths and decide what type of environment would make them happiest. They must compile information about available institutions, majors and benefits. They have to fill out forms, write personal essays and jump through endless hoops just to impress a panel of six people they’ve never met. This is very similar to the job-search process.

What worries me about these students, and their job-hunting counterparts, is that they pin their entire life’s hope on receiving an offer letter from the college or company of their choice. Anytime stress causes physical reactions such as stomach pain or eating disorders, there must be a problem. And the problem is that we as a society are much to focuses on status—the status of getting into an Ivy League school, the status of getting a top job at a large firm so we can race around in BMWs and show everyone how successful we are.

Living your life according to someone else’s model of success does not make you one.

Most young people are taught the following model, which I’ve written about before, and assume that it will lead them to personal fulfillment and happiness:

Good Grades + Good College = Corporate Career + Happiness & Success

What is unfortunate is that people don’t realize this isn’t the only model for success. I know lots of people who went away to “good” college only to come home after freshman year or not even make it past the first semester because of homesickness, poor grades or just plain unhappiness with the situation they had chosen. They may have felt like failures at the time, but all managed to pick themselves up, create a new situation, and were happier in the long run.

A guidance counselor interviewed for the story in the Seattle Times had some great advice for high school seniors and workers alike:

“Bloom where you are planted.”

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Fortune Mag Journalist Lacks Facts, Behaves Like Pompous Jerk

Rarely, in the few months I’ve been posting to this blog, have I been so motivated to react to an article than to the one recently featured on the Brazen Careerist homepage. The title of the article, Gen Yers lack confidence, behave like idiots, is not only blatantly untrue but offensive enough to merit not just a response, but moral outrage that something like this could even pass for professional journalism.

Reading more like a high school newspaper, the article opens with this:

After a Gen Y talk recently, an audience member shared an interesting story that went something like this: He — an Xer — was running late for a meeting, and he called down to tell the other employees, all younger, to start without him. Only nobody answered. So, thinking the line was tied up, he ran down to the room, only to find the seven Yers looking at each other, evidently unsure of what to do in the presence of a ringing phone.

Now there are a lot of reasons for this behavior, not the least of which might be stupidity, but I think it may have more to do with something that’s been obsessing me lately: confidence. For all the talk of our narcissism and unrealistic expectations, we also seem to lack a certain go-it-alone bravado that’s characterized many great leaders — bravado that just can’t be cultivated when you have a whole universe of parents, coaches, nannies, teammates and Facebook friends ready to rescue you at a moment’s notice. Like any toddler whose mother runs to him every time he falls, we’ve just learned to cry for help (really loudly), not pick ourselves up.

All I can say about this is, “Wow.”

Aside from the fact that this one example should not a stereo-type make (Were the members of the team equipped to even lead the meeting? Why was the boss late? Is he, as a manager, setting a poor example for his employees?), the most shocking thing about the article was not its content but the fact that a member of Gen-Y actually wrote it! Her name is Nadira A. Hira. Her bio is included with the article and you can feel free to email her at

The article continues with the “toddler-calling-for-mommy” metaphor for several more paragraphs:

What is that about, if not confidence? At least that’s what the folks at Hayden-Wilder, a firm that counsels recently minted college grads and rising seniors through the entry-level job search, told me when I spoke to them last year about the emerging Gen Y persona. “These young people don’t understand that they need to distinguish themselves,” says D.A. Hayden. “It’s almost wrong to reach out and say, ‘I’m a leader,’ They’re trained to work in teams — in school, in extracurriculars — they travel in groups of people, they don’t date singly. Everything is in this touchy-feely team environment. That’s all fine and merry when you’re a very junior candidate, but when you start moving up through the ranks, you have to put a stake in the ground…

“Because this generation has been so coddled,” says Michael Wilder, pointing to Yers’ ever-present boomer parents, “when they do have to make a decision on their own, they’re looking for affirmation. They have no basic experience to allow them to be confident about the decisions they’re making.”

If Yers are too afraid to distinguish themselves, why are so there so many young business/career bloggers in the blogosphere? Why does Generation Y have more entrepreneurs than any of the generations before them? I hate how professors, managers and older workers seem to have completely written off our generation (many of whom will not even enter the workforce for another decade) before we’ve even had a chance to get our bearings. And how can we present a positive image when members of our own generation seem hell bent on sabotaging us in an attempt to move their own careers forward?

Members of Gen-Y are given mixed messages by our bosses, peers and the media. First we’re told we’re narcissistic and demanding but then that we also lack assertiveness. We’re told we’re the most educated generation ever but then also that we’re idiots.

Is it no wonder that maybe we’re lacking a little confidence? Who wouldn’t under these circumstances?

And members of Generation Y are afraid to be leaders? I highly doubt that. Maybe you just don’t see many young people in leadership positions because management deems them too young and immature (thanks to articles like the one above) and refuses to put them in those positions. I’ve blogged about my very own troubles with being promoted to a leadership position. How can we say that Generation Y are not leaders, when they haven’t yet been given a chance to lead? How can you ignore the outpouring of young entrepreneurs and claim that Generation Y cannot work independently?

Folks need to open their eyes, get the facts, and stop relying on anecdotal evidence provided by some bitter old farts (said with all due respect to you older folks out there). While I can agree that my Generation isn’t perfect, whose generation really is?

And by the way, I was once in a meeting where the conference room phone rang­–and guess what? I answered it. How’s that for confident leadership?

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