GETTING PAST YOUR PAST: CAREER SURVIVAL SKILLS
Have a few red flags in your past? Join the club. Most of us have made a mistake or two in our careers. OK, maybe a lot more than one or two. But the screw-ups don't have to be career-enders; they can just be speed bumps on the way to the next opportunity. Which reminds me of R&B singer Ernie K-Doe, who had a hit song with "Mother-in-Law" many years ago. When he died in 2001, his wife, Antoinette, commissioned a life-sized mannequin of him and dressed it in Ernie's suits and wigs. Antoinette kept Ernie the mannequin very busy with public appearances, and he even ran as a write-in candidate for mayor of New Orleans in 2006. She once observed that Ernie had never been busier.
If Ernie can stay that busy after dying, then your red flags don't have to be career-killers, do they? I've got three Do's and one Don't to help you overcome your past mistakes.
-- DON'T let others break the news. With Facebook, Google and background checks readily available, not to mention video cameras in every pocket, is it really possible for bad news to stay hidden for long? I doubt it. That's why it's always a good strategy to deliver your bad news firsthand so that you don't compound the problem by appearing deceitful. Find a moment when your boss is in a good mood -- a real key -- and announce the bad news yourself.
-- DO show what you learned. A little bit of learning can go a long way. Explain specifically how this bad part of your past makes you a better employee now. For example, say you had a major blow-up with a manager in another department. Go directly to your boss and explain what happened, what you learned from the experience and your plan for getting the relationship back on track. People will often give you slack for a mistake, but showing them what you learned is key.
-- DO consider rehab. Celebrities today know that when you get in trouble, there is nothing like a trip to the Betty Ford Center, or one of a million other rehab clinics, to get your career back on track. But a dose of therapy, or yes, even rehab, can help us non-movie stars, too. Was it your anger that got you into trouble? Sign up for an anger-management program. There is a program for whatever ails you, trust me. Two good things will result from a stint in rehab. First, you'll probably learn new coping strategies. Second, you'll show people that you are taking your problem seriously.
-- DO express regret. You'd be surprised at how far a sincerely given apology can go toward cleaning up your image. But it is very important to acknowledge the trouble that your mistake caused for the organization. It's painful, but a necessary part of the healing process.
Ernie's appearances at his old Mother-in-Law Lounge in New Orleans are a bit more sporadic these days, but he's still out there. You can be, too, if you follow these strategies.
GETTING PAST YOUR PAST: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
-- DON'T let others break the news.
-- DO show what you learned.
-- DO consider rehab.
-- DO express regret.
LIST OF THE WEEK
From Lee Hecht Harrison:
How often do job-seekers utilize social media?
-- Use social media daily, 48 percent
-- 2-3 times a week, 19 percent
-- 2-3 times a month, 7 percent
-- Rarely, 13 percent
-- Never, 11 percent
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"He's the only one qualified; that's my opinion." -- Antoinette K-Doe, describing why she thought Ernie would make a great mayor five years after his death
(Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Also check out the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best-seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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