Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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Avoid 'failure pitfalls'

You can do everything right to get a job, but unless you keep your eyes open to what's going on around you, you may get caught in incidents that will cause you to fail.
To help you avoid that, Losing It by Bill Lane lays out often-overlooked causes of failure at work and shows how to avoid them.
Lane, who was Manager of Executive Communications at General Electric, and for 20 years wrote speeches for its famous CEO Jack Welch, believes his following advice will help you not only survive each round of layoffs, but keep climbing.
 
1.) Be paranoid about keeping current.
You can never even appear to coast on your knowledge. Stay potently curious. Act like a benevolent nut and fanatic. Sign up for jobs you don't fully understand and surmount the learning curves masterfully. Stay on the edge, even if to you it seems forced and phony. The ultimate sustainable advantage in your career is the ability to learn.
 
2.) Banish yes-people.
False validation will sink you. Surround yourself with smart truth tellers and listen to them. Your goal should not be to feel good; it should be to know what's happening in the business. Without suffering the blabbering of fools, hear out anyone who has a worthwhile observation. Reward your reports for their candor.
 
3.) Make micromanaging look good.
Learn the business right to its roots so you understand how everything works. Otherwise you could be the victim of a snow job because you don't know the difference between truth and fancy. Once you have enough information to be sure you have good people handling things, you can back off a little. But don't preside like a doodling tycoon. Manage.
 
4.) Hold a moral ethical compass.
Some failings are beyond your control; integrity is not. Avoid even the gray zone. Avoid even slight discomfort. Imagine yourself on the other side. If you would not agree with it, do not do it. Some spin and BS is OK, but never tell a lie. And never break the law, even if it doesn't seem morally or ethically wrong to do so. Don't get steeped in sleaze culture. Integrity isn't necessarily instinctual. You have to practice it.
 
5.) Pay attention to the subtext of jokes.
If there's anything people are uncomfortable telling you, there's a good chance they're going to let it slip in their humor. If your colleagues stop busting your chops good-naturedly or your boss starts taunting you about how you can go back to sleep, take note. Something has shifted. You're going to need to figure out what's changed and up your game considerably.
 
6.) Work to do sustainably good work, not just to get promoted.
Look for the long-term, sustainable advantage, not how to make this year's quarter or "number." Being a one-hit wonder will only keep you on the charts, so to speak, for a short while.
 
7.) Stay humble. Arrogance is at the root of every flame-out.
Arrogant people tend to make Tonya Hardings out of their reports by treating them badly. Add to that they often don't ask for advice or seek out answers to their questions for fear of appearing fallible. If we learned anything from Greek drama, it's that hubris will ruin you.
 
8.) Dejargonize.
Your communications should provoke something. Jargon and buzzwords have been overused to the point of meaninglessness. They are career retarders. Smart people will turn off and everyone will resent you for wasting minutes or hours of their lives.
 
9.) Embrace management changes
What's done is done. A gloom and doom attitude won't make people "come to their senses" about hiring decisions you disagree with. Be optimistic. Be constructive. Lead by example. But don't doubt the general direction of the company. If you think it's no good and can't fake it, you have to leave.
 

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