Q: Whenever I stand up at our Rotary meeting to make an announcement, I can count on a man in our club rolling his eyes or making a face. Although this annoys me, I have always been able to swallow my irritation.
Yesterday, however, when "Jim" made a snide comment about me to one of his buddies as I was passing his table, I said, "Spoken like an oaf."
This morning, my boss called me into his office and told me I had professionally embarrassed our company and as a result he was considering having me withdraw from Rotary, but that I would redeem some of his faith if I would personally apologize to Jim and the two others who heard me slam Jim.
I had simply stood up to a bully. I told him I would have to think about it. What do I do now?
A: You didn't stand up to a bully; you went into the mud with him.
When Jim makes a face, he shows immaturity. When you called him an oaf, you acted poorly and let Jim know he got to you.
The next time Jim rolls his eyes, ignore him. Meanwhile, apologize to the two individuals who overheard your comments and to Jim. It takes class to apologize; it simply means you regret you voiced your thoughts aloud.
Q: I've worked at my current receptionist job since 1995. Even though I'm working on my business degree, I'm still a receptionist and my job bores me to tears.
Although my bosses praise me, they don't promote me. Meanwhile, they have promoted everyone hired after me into a professional job. How do I ask a future employer if they consider anyone they hire as receptionist someone who will forever be chained to the front desk?
A: When you interview for a job, ask this: "If I do a good job here, what are the chances you'll consider me for a position in other areas of the company?" By doing so, you get an answer and signal your interest in advancement. If a prospective employer doesn't intend to promote you out of your front desk job even if you excel, they probably won't hire you.
Unfortunately, you won't always get an accurate answer. The deck can be stacked against a front desk person who wants to move up, partially because managers hesitate to lose a great receptionist. Additionally, some managers overlook front desk employees when looking for candidates for other positions, not realizing that the same attributes that make you good as a receptionist -- multi-tasking and caller greetings -- can translate into other positions.
Because you want new duties, talk honestly with your current employer. Once they realize they may lose you, they may promote you or at least give you a crack at other duties. Further, ask them what has led them to promote others hired after you -- and listen carefully. You may learn that while they praise you for on-time arrival or a cheerful voice, they see you as easily thrown by changing circumstances or unable to handle more complex duties. You'll want to fix whatever you can.
Next, widen your job search, removing any assumptions that might block you from the right job. Many receptionists falsely assume large employers offer the greatest promotional opportunities only to learn that large companies pigeon-hole front desk staff. Instead, look for a small company in an industry that intrigues you.
And apply for nonentry-level jobs for which you qualify. To give you a good shot at landing one of these jobs, rewrite your resume, identifying your problem-solving, multi-tasking, coordination and other skills. You may find yourself more marketable than you think.
-- Lynne Curry is president of Alaska's The Growth Company Inc. in Anchorage. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.