Job Talk: I'm afraid I'm going to get fired
Dear J.T. & Dale: I just got my first job out of college. I'm doing my best, but I feel I'm letting my new boss down. My first few weeks seemed good, but lately I'm noticing that she seems upset every time I have to ask her for help. The work I'm doing requires a lot of detail, so I need to ask a lot of questions. It's at the point now where I feel like she is trying to avoid me. I'm scared I'm going to get fired. What can I do? — Justine
J.T.: Just because your boss is a manager doesn't mean she is good at it. It sounds as though she thought you'd be able to work on your own, but now that she is seeing how much training and support you need, she is regretting her decision to hire you. The attitude she is giving you indicates that she is frustrated and doesn't know how to fix the situation.
DALE: Whoa. I think it's a big mistake to assume that the boss is the problem. She might be, but hey, she's still the boss, and that means she still has the option of trying out other employees who might not need so much help and reassurance. Here's the first step toward making things work, Justine: Realize that your job is to help make your manager's job easier. That may sound obvious, but the unemployment rolls are full of people who expected their managers to be their counselors and problem-solvers.
J.T.: The good news is that you can take control here. Ask to meet with your boss. Tell her you sense that she is disappointed, and tell her you want to improve the situation. Offer some suggestions of things you could do, such as taking a class or setting up a way to be more efficient with asking the questions.
DALE: Yes, the solution may be as simple as saving up several questions to ask at one time so that she doesn't feel constantly interrupted.
J.T.: By choosing to engage her in this difficult but important conversation, you will show your commitment to resolving the issue. I guarantee that it will help improve things. Not only will your relationship get better, you'll learn how to solve problems together, and that's the foundation of a lasting employment relationship!
• • •
Dear J.T. & Dale: Because I have two bachelor's degrees and a master's, I am "overqualified" for jobs that require only a high-school diploma. Since I am trying to get a job, why would employers think I will leave? Once I am hired, I am happy! I stop the miserable task of job-hunting and get to work. I suppose this stems from me thinking that I need to start at the bottom and work my way up. Is this attitude outdated? — Rose
DALE: One of the important themes of what J.T. and I have been writing is that a job offer is a logical connection; that is, the offer comes when your career and qualifications make hiring you a logical choice. Wise managers want to hire someone who is delighted to get the job — not to get ANY job, but the one particular job they have to offer. They assume that you would take a lower-level job only because you can't get anything else and that you are desperate. As you can imagine, that's NOT where they want to start a new employee relationship.
J.T.: To overcome the assumptions about you, you'll have to bypass the online systems that are screening you out. I suggest that the next time you see a job that interests you, you should jump on your social networks and see if you know someone who works there. The goal should be to get an introduction to someone at the company so you can proactively reach out and talk about the company and the best way to get your application to be considered. This can help you increase your chances of getting an interview, and that's when you have a realistic shot at convincing them that you plan to stick around!
Visit O'Donnell and Dauten at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email. Or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.