Applicants Beware!

I hope in sharing my story, some of you will avoid the same situation.

Like lots of recent graduates, by July 2005, I was freaking out and applying for any position that I was even remotely interested in. Unfortunately, using Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and a few others meant, I was also unwittingly applying for job scams.

Below is a word for word email I received from “Grey Marketing Team” (to my knowledge, they are no longer in existence).

Dear Aurora,
I have recently viewed your resume online and feel you may be qualified for our Advertising Department Assistant position. We are Grey Marketing Team, a national management and marketing firm. We assist companies in maximizing their marketing dollars by developing advertising, sales, and marketing campaigns.
We are currently seeking an Assistant to our Advertising Department to help our Creative Team develop print, internet, radio and television ads for our clients. An Advertising Department Assistant’s responsibilities would include the following:
Working with in house creative team
Assisting on sets and shoots
Acting as a liaison with production companies, photographers, etc
This position offers direct hands on experience working with clients. We offer the following:

Starting Salary of $41,600
Quarterly and annual bonuses
Top benefits package including medical, dental, 401k, tuition re-imbursement, paid vacation and holidays, and paid holidays
Rapid advancement opportunities

The person we are seeking must fit the following description of the five “B’s”
Be a self starter
Be motivated to succeed
Be willing to travel occasionally
Be a team player
Be willing to learn and educate himself or herself

If you feel this position is for you please apply online at: www.greymarketingteam.com

Go to the “employment” section

Select the “Advertising Department Assistant” position

Fill out the application.

Once you have filled out the application completely I will contact you for an interview.

Vonda Dixon
Director
Human Resources
Grey Marketing Team

Surprise, surprise, I applied and was granted an interview. When the HR Director I spoke with sounded really young and told me the dress was business professional, I got an uneasy feeling. But I brushed it aside. I arrived for my interview at a nondescript building in St. Louis. As I found the suite, I noticed a lot of people wearing backpacks and business suits, which I thought was odd. The suite looked like any other office suite, only everyone in the office was young, really young. I interviewed with three people who couldn’t have been older than 25.

They asked the standard interview questions and others that were really off the wall. Like super powers and wishes. The entire process lasted about an hour and a half. At no point did we discuss what I would actually be doing for the “company.” The interviewers talked about a second interview, which would be going out with one of their employees “in the field” for a day and that I would be hearing from them soon.

When I got home, I researched the company and realized it was more door-to-door sales and less actual advertising or marketing work. I decided I would not be going into “the field” with one of their employees for any amount of money. Apparently, soon meant less than 24 hours later. I got a call from the woman I interviewed with. I politely turned down the second interview and was barraged with “you’ll regret not taking this opportunity.”

The more I’ve talked to recent graduates in the last seven years, the more I’ve heard about these kinds of job scams. Positions likes these are preying on the eagerness of young graduates and unfortunately, seem to be becoming more and more popular.

You can avoid job scams by throughly researching the company you are applying to, which you should be doing for your cover letter anyway! This includes a standard Google search, verifying phone numbers, addresses and general details. You should also check out the scam websites and search the key words used in the ad. Also, misspelled words and bad grammar are dead give aways that something isn’t right.

Similar scams include: Steel Town Promotions

Have you encountered a job scam of your own?

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally for Brazeen Careerist, where I am lucky enough to be a guest blogger. If you haven’t checked out the site, I highly recommend it.

After college, you’ll likely never have to write a paper on the inhumanity of man in Don Quixote or solve 50 statistics problems using standard deviation before class the next day. However, you will have to prepare for meetings and presentations.

Learning shouldn’t end when you cross the stage at graduation.

According to a study by the Jenkins Group,  “42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.” (The validity of this study is questionable, but it’s often quoted.) Just because you aren’t going to be graded on how well you know a book, doesn’t mean you should stop reading.

Read books on management, even if you aren’t in management (yet). Read books on other businesses. Read fiction for enjoyment. Every book you read adds to your collective knowledge. Not only are books great conversation starters, but they also can nudge you into make positive changes.

Balance your checkbook. Practice math. You never know when understanding financials can help you make a good decision or keep you from making a bad one.

More than anything else, learning makes you a valuable employee. It sets you apart, makes you a more well-rounded person and keeps your skills sharp.

Every office has that one person who has always done things one way. They begrudgingly accepted email, but that’s it.  Change is glacial, if at all. Yet every year, new hires come in with baffling technical skills widening the gap even more.

“Individuals born from 1957 to 1964 held an average of 11 jobs from age 18 to age 44,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.  Job hopping is more common now than ever before. If your skill sets haven’t evolved to make you competitive with those fresh out of college, how do you expect to land that next job?

Working with Someone You Don’t Like

Comic from: www.cartoonstock.com
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your co-workers. Here’s my advice for how to make it work, when you don’t like someone you work closely with on a regular basis.

I suggest going with the benefit of the doubt (something I’ve referenced in It’s Not Fair!). Maybe their attitude isn’t sunny and they are a grouch to be around, but you really don’t know if this person is going through a divorce or has a seriously ill relative. Have they always been ill-tempered? Is it just toward you? If the answer is that they used to be positive Polly and they just haven’t been lately, then I suggest waiting it out. If the person is negative only toward you, try to address it.

Sometimes saying, “I know we have to work on project X together for the next few months. I’m excited to combine our talents and eager to get started.” This could help diffuse the situation and reiterate that you trust the person’s ability to help get the project done.

Just because you don’t want to hang out with this person after work and wouldn’t think of going to lunch with them, doesn’t mean you can’t have a working relationship. In a team environment, your success is your partner’s success and your failure is their failure. As long as everyone can remember that, you should be able to make any pairing work.

Focusing on the positive attributes even the most negative co-worker brings to the table can help get you in the right mindset. You could say, yes, she’s brutally blunt, but she’s very detail orientated and great at making a timeline based task list. Or sure, he monopolizes the conversation and asks the same question every single day, but he means well and is just trying to make sure you know he cares.

Obviously, getting a good read on the person is a great way to find that silver lining. Is he a control centered person? Let him be the one to suggest the starting point. Do you see her as scattered? Maybe she’s just able to multi-task extremely well or is very creative. Try to see the bright side.

If it does become a huge issue and you two can’t get past it talk to your supervisor (if you are comfortable). Reiterate that you are excited about the project and want to make it work, but you are having a hard time getting on the same page with Suzy. Just make sure you indicate you want to move past this issue.

Lunch with the Boss

Photo from: www.officearrow.com
Is there such a thing as a casual lunch with your boss? I am not talking about a formal business lunch with clients or even a group lunch with other staff members. In this case, I am talking about the one on one lunch on a given, regular Wednesday.

Before my current position, I would have said no. It is not only not possible, but ill-advised.

Now, I work in a two person department. My supervisor and I regularly (at least every couple of months) go to lunch together. Sometimes we talk about work, but mostly we talk about other things. It is an opportunity to connect without the prying eyes and eavesdropping ears of our co-workers. It’s relaxed.

Knowing this was an anomaly from my previous experiences, I asked around about how other people view going to lunch with the boss.

On friend had two very different stories to tell.

“I was working for a women’s lifestyle magazine in St. Louis. It was very about looks, and appearances, etc. I was broke, a graphic design graduate, and definitely not looking “the part” at a women’s lifestyle magazine where everyone looked like this. One day my boss (the guy) came and asked if we could go to lunch (out of the ordinary). He took me to a super healthy restaurant and proceeded to pick out my meal and stare at me as if to say “are you going to eat ALL of that?” It was the most torturous experience and I felt horrible about myself for the remaining four months I worked there. I was broke and hungry all the time.”

Yikes! I have no idea how I would handle that situation. Luckily, the other lunch with the boss situation was much better.

“I was hired for my current job over lunch with my boss. He took me out to offer me the job and it was the best lunch I’d ever had (it was just McCallister’s). We talked about my ideas for the position and what we thought we could do to expand. It was really great having someone actually interested in what I thought I could do, and what my experiences were. It was a great preview of my position and what was to come.”

I think the takeaway from the above situations is that a lunch with your boss can give you insight unavailable in the every day office setting.

How to Deal with Office Survivor’s Guilt

Photo from Service Employees International Union
If you’ve worked in an office lately, you know what I mean. There are many kinds of Office Guilt. The most prevalent is Survivor’s Guilt if the pink slips or ax managed to slip by your desk or survivors enthusiasm.

While layoffs might not be as common, they are still happening and Survivor’s Guilt is still relevant today. As the February 2009 Times article states, “watching colleagues pack their things and go — and dealing with guilt that it wasn’t you, anxiety that you might be next, exhaustion from the extra work you must take on and even envy of those who get to leave such a sullen environment — that’s not much cause for celebration.”

It’s hard to go from a department of eight to a department of four. To take on additional tasks and keep telling yourself you’re lucky to be employed and have a paycheck still. But that mentality doesn’t make it less stressful. If there’s not a renewed sense of camaraderie or team building to make those left feel important, feel wanted, then it can easily become a place of people biding their time until something better comes along.

The newest lines of advice indicate you should never stop looking for your next position. Even if you’re happy. In the uncertain world of careers, this could be a lifeline.

My best advice? Don’t let people around you bring you down. If they’re being really negative, let them know. If you want to love your job and your workplace, do it. No one but you can help you deal with being a layoff survivor. However, that being said, if you are feeling very stressed out or overwhelmed find someone you trust to talk about it.