Monday, March 20, 2017

Ask a Career Coach: How to Assertively Deal with a Toxic ‘Manager’

With this post, we introduce a new contributor, Jessica DeCotis, RIT Alumna and founder of JDec Marketing and Career Coaching. Her Ask A Coach series provides career search and management advice.

The Question: Dear Jess, I have a boss who is a real life gaslighter. He consistently makes me feel like I’m crazy. He tells me to do something one day, and when I do exactly as he’s asked, he screams at me that he would “never ask me to do such a thing!” I am at a loss. This happens multiple times a week. I am afraid of him, and can’t stand the thought of going to work everyday. I never had a problem with my managers in the past. What can I do? I’m new here and I don’t want to give up easily.

The Answer: I’m so sorry you are going through t­­­his. It’s true what they say, misery loves company. I firmly believe that these “managers” are unhappy, whether they admit it to themselves or not. The fact of the matter is that you need to take steps to protect yourself because you’re working with a toxic person who somehow gained access to a role with subordinates.

1. Recognize Your Worth by Becoming Self-Aware
You were hired for your position because you possessed a skillset and the right kind of potential for growth. Do not allow anyone to minimize that. Everyone has room for growth, but being told you’re bad at your job, or you’re not doing it the right way, when you are clearly following direction, is wrong. Own your strengths, your skills, and your potential. But also, own your weaknesses (the real ones, not the ones made up by someone with a complex). View your limitations as opportunities for growth, because that’s exactly what they are. With this 360 view of your abilities you will be able to stand up for yourself because you know your worth. If you can clearly see that despite your best efforts you are being treated unfairly and disrespected, do not allow it.

2. Remain Calm in the Midst of Manager Meltdowns
Do not return fire with fire. If your manager is being aggressive, you will need to keep your cool. If you are aggressive back, you could end up in trouble with HR. Fair, or not, that’s how this usually goes. A tyrant tends to have very thin skin and they score lower on the proverbial emotional intelligence scale. The slightest infraction could very well send them on the defense. Do your best to remain levelheaded and don’t stoop to this person’s level. If you are being yelled at, tune into your self-awareness and assess the situation for an assertive, but firm way out. You can say something along the lines of “I understand there is a matter to be discussed, but I do not appreciate being yelled at.” If the negative behavior continues, you have every right to leave the room. You can also calmly mention, “I will be happy to continue this conversation when you have calmed down.” It is then at your discretion whether to report this poor behavior to HR or not.

3. Document, Document, Document
I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. However, I find it very important to protect oneself in a hostile work environment. After any meeting with your boss, send him/her an email that records everything you discussed. You should include action items, due dates, and what you have already achieved. If your boss raised his or her voice at you in any meeting, and you’d like it documented, you can include a line that says something like, “I understand you are frustrated, but as we discussed, in the future please know that raising your voice at me is not a productive use of our time.”
Documenting is also important to ensure that if your boss is in fact gaslighting you, you will have recourse. You can refer back to your email record of the conversation; what he stated he wanted and what you agreed to take action on. Be vigilant. If there is an update to any discussion, even just in passing, make sure you document it.
If you end up finding another job, or quit because you feel bullied or abused, you can present your documented complaints to HR (you don't have to wait until you quit, this is a personal choice). If you work at a larger company, this should technically go in your manager’s file. If there is work place abuse going on, I recommend enlisting the services of an employment lawyer, who may be able to help you get unemployment if you feel you were bullied into quitting. Again, I’m not a lawyer, but I have heard of cases like this.

4. Look For a New Position
It doesn’t matter if you’ve only been at a job for a short time. You should never allow someone to mistreat you. Not every scenario has grounds for quitting, but if you are being gaslighted, bullied and/or abused at work, you must strongly consider leaving.
Your health should be considered when weighing options about leaving a job. Stress can have some pretty dire consequences. Look at this situation as a bridge to a new opportunity and gained emotional intelligence. It’s very hard to advance under a tyrant, and ultimately you could be doing yourself a disservice if you stay. If you have to put this position on your resumé, and you are asked why you’re leaving, you can simply put it back on yourself and say something along the lines of, “I misjudged the position and gained more self-awareness. This current position has shown me that I prefer to work in an environment that…” Then you can elaborate on positive aspects of environments you’d like to work in, because you have a desire to succeed. Don’t forget to look for the signs of a great potential manager while you’re interviewing. You don’t want to end up in the same situation again.

To summarize, please don’t allow yourself to be mistreated or intimidated. There are some not-so-great ‘managers’ out there, but just because their management and people skills are incredibly lacking, doesn’t mean that you should suffer. No matter what scenario you find yourself in, you must always do what’s best for you, your health, and your career. This will put you on a path to finding a manager who is a real leader and deserves to work with you.

If you would like a personalized session to enhance your resumé, or learn new skills to advance your profession, JDec Marketing and Career Coaching can help you. No matter your current job situation, there is an affordable option for you. For more information, please visit

Monday, September 26, 2016

Using Google+ For Your Professional Networking and the Job Search

One of my favorite cliche lines in regards to career advice is, “You gotta network to get work.” It may be corny, but that doesn’t make it any less true. A great way to enhance your online professional networking profile is by utilizing Google+. Here are a few tips to make sure you are getting the most out of your Google+ profile.

Your Profile
When you create your Google+ profile, create it as you would your LinkedIn profile. Be articulate with your descriptions and present yourself in a professional manner. Recruiters actively search social media platforms such as Google+ for candidates who may be a fit for their openings. Knowing that, it is worth taking a few minutes to do some research and keyword optimize your profile in ways that maximize its chances of showing up in recruiters’ searches. An example would be reading job postings for jobs you are interested in and taking keywords from them to add to your profile.

Relationship Circles
Differentiating your professional contacts from your personal contacts is very important when developing your Google+ profile. The best way to do this is by utilizing the Google Circles feature. This way, when you add new professional connections, you can group them together with other related connections. For example, you could add circles for co-workers, professional connections, other people in your industry, or even individuals in a new industry that you're interested in sharing information with and receiving information from. You can also decide what information in your profile is visible to each of your circles. Here’s some more information about Google Circles, including how to create one.

Google Communities
Google Communities are groups created on a specific subject that can be literally anything. Searching for communities related to your professional interests can be a great way to engage with other professionals and stay up to date in your field. Any individual can create a Google+ community around any subject of their choosing to engage other users on the network with an interest in that subject. As a result, communities can create a direct connection with your target audience, helping them join the discussion.

Networking will never be useful if you approach it passively. To make meaningful connections, you must take the initiative and engage with other users. One way to do this on Google+ is by commenting on your connections' posts so you can add value to the post or stimulate further discussion and debate. Sharing their posts is also useful as it helps them reach a larger target audience, and helping others is a great way to start a relationship. Posting content is also another great way to engage others. When doing so it is important to segment what you share with whom, so that your content shares are always highly relevant and to share them in a way that stimulates discussion and interaction. For example, sharing an article as an open ended question and asking others to share their insights, etc.
By Njyhalo Pavati, RIT Career Services Graduate Assistant

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Using Vault in Your Job Search

Over the past academic year, this blog has discussed the benefits of sites like LinkedIn and Careerealism, and for my last post as an intern here, I thought I’d shed some light on Vault.  You have free access to this valuable tool through Job Zone - find it on the main Job Zone menu once you login, on the right column.  This career intelligence website is geared toward employers and new or transitioning professionals seeking employment alike. It provides readers with comprehensive reviews of companies, job opening information, advice on resume composition and interviewing, and partners with colleges (RIT included) to assist any student, staff member, or alum in their career search. Additionally, Vault offers more than 100 career guidebooks that are focused on specific industries, periods in an individual’s career development, internship programs, managing finances, and more. They provide users with the tools for success, so in that same vein, here are some do’s and don’ts for utilizing Vault as an RIT alum: 

1.       DO start with general industry research, then delve deeper into your projected area of interest. For instance, the “Wealth Management” guidebook section offers guides on that general sector of employment, but also on hedge fund jobs, private equity, investment management, and venture capital positions. Once you know the facet of an industry in which you’d like to work, that guidebook will be the most helpful for you.
2.       DON’T overwhelm yourself with the amount of available information. For instance, in the “Resume” section of Vault, there are several blog posts regarding formatting, deciding what type of resume to create, putting resumes and cover letters together, etc. Try to zero in on what you truly need assistance with first. If you find that you require more information, rather than pouring over every blog post, search the website and gain specific insight that way.
3.       DO check the job board for available positions. Websites that are not affiliated with a university in some capacity may provide you with some job openings, but they may not be the safest place to look. The jobs on Vault are accompanied by rankings of their respective companies, as well as reviews from people who have worked there. You’ll find real and accredited positions that are updated daily.
4.       DON’T just apply for a full-time or internship position because it’s “trending” on the website. Sure, those internships are worth looking into, but if they do not engage your passions or interests, then popularity of the company should not be a prime reason to pursue them. Don’t, however, discount these positions either. RIT partners with relatively large companies with high-rankings and the high profile of a position that truly interests you should not be a deterrent.
5.       DO follow Vault on social media and subscribe to email updates. Getting the scoop on an industry, company, or position right at its release will give you a leg up if you decide to apply. Vault is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest. On the latter, for instance, they have one board devoted to snippets of advice from experts in various fields. A quick perusal of that site may provide you with just the career development advice that you need.
6.       DON’T discount the power of networking. Vault’s blog also goes into detail about expanding your professional network, identifying key players in your network, and how to maintain rapport with the people in it. “Networking” may sometimes seem like just a buzzword, but knowing how to strategically navigate through career development situations while being backed by a solid network can afford you more professional opportunities.

Want to learn more? Check out Vault’s website and whether you’re transitioning between careers or industries, a new graduate seeking employment, or are simply curious about the available rankings and reviews information, you’ll benefit from its partnership with RIT. 

Hayley Johnson, RIT Career Services Graduate Intern