Developing a Foolish Path to Your Dream Career

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Now The Motley Fool’s Chief Communications Officer, Adrienne began her Foolish career 7 years ago as an Executive Assistant. Over her time at FoolHQ, Adrienne has also excelled as a project manager and publisher within our editorial business. She recently spoke on how she shaped her dream career to conference attendees in the executive support field. 

By Adrienne Perryman

“Don’t let him keep you down!”

I emphatically said this with hands on hips – head shake and all – in front of a crowd of 250. The comment, which surprised me as it exited my own mouth, was followed by “I think it’s about time for you to start looking for a new job!” The cheers of the crowd, which was mostly comprised of women in blazers and 1 inch pumps, signified overwhelming agreement.

This kind of support in a public forum would normally be pretty awesome. But it upset me.

Here’s Why:

It’s 2014 – having a boss that won’t let you advance in your career is so out of style, Mr. Executive. And women in support roles, you’re not helping yourself either.

My agitation grew when another woman approached me after my speech with the same issue. And then another. It wasn’t just the one woman in the crowd who felt compelled to speak up about her stubborn, selfish boss who was hesitant to let her take on extra projects for their own selfish reasons. There were many. And I found myself repeating similar advice that I uttered on stage.

“It’s time for you to move on.”

“Find someone who will appreciate your interests and encourage growth.”

I felt like I was giving relationship advice. But these were hard working, eager, smart, educated women – all women – who wanted to know how to convince their bosses that their development is important.

Thankfully, this concept of not being allowed to grow, develop, and eventually move into my dream role is foreign to me. I started as an Executive Assistant at The Motley Fool 7 years ago and, from day one, was encouraged by my boss and co-workers to try new things. To use my position as a launching pad into other areas of the business; learn the business and develop to my full potential; take classes in our internal university; and talk to Fools about my development and how I can progress.

This development approach is unfamiliar to many employees, which seems confusing to me. Similar types of career barriers are a reality for millions worldwide. Why don’t executives realize it’s for their own good that their assistants love working for them, rather than feel hindered by their management?

Attention, Bosses

If you’re a manager of someone…develop them. For goodness sake, don’t hold them back! Would you like that if you were in their position? Encourage it. Incentivize it. I’m confident that if your employee is proactively reaching for more, they’ll go to great lengths to make sure your calendar, project, or needs won’t suffer. You’ll survive. And you might actually have an employee who will work harder for you because they appreciate the opportunity you’ve given them.

Attention! You Own Your Career

If you are stuck under the sticky thumb of your boss, do something about it. Have an honest conversation with your boss about your concerns, and take a plan with you to that meeting to help show them you’re capable of doing more – and that nothing will suffer because of it. Own your career. Don’t wait for someone to wake up to the fact that their style is so outdated. Make the change happen. Be the change you want – or find a new job where your development is a priority.

Recruiting: You Can Do Better

Blog Network

By Sara Klieger

We’ve written a few times about what job candidates can do to stand out. But what can companies and recruiters do to ensure that great candidates apply to their jobs and finish the recruiting process feeling good about the company – even if they didn’t get a job offer?

I know a few people who are job hunting currently, and they’ve shared some of their frustrations with me. If your company is committing any of these recruiting sins, I guarantee you’re missing out on highly-qualified applicants. Or worse, you’re scaring them away.

1) Your online application system is the worst thing ever

If an applicant has to upload their resume AND manually enter the same information in a different place, it’s annoying. No one likes annoying. Look into a different system. Also, if applicants are following directions to upload resumes and cover letters, but the system still won’t accept the uploaded files, you’re wasting applicants’ time. They’ll give up on you and apply elsewhere.

2) You don’t give applicants time to prepare

A friend of mine recently applied to a job, and within two hours, someone from that company called them up and began a phone interview – with no advanced warning! Respect an applicant’s time. They might not be in a place where they can talk to you right now (maybe they’re at their desk at the job they want to leave!). Schedule the phone screen in advance so they can be relaxed, prepared, and truly ready to answer your questions.

3) You don’t tell applicants they’ve been rejected – after they interviewed in person!

This one, to me, is the big no-no. An applicant took hours out of their day, possibly taking vacation time, to interview with your company. By now, you’ve probably spoken on the phone and emailed a few times. In short, you’ve built up a relationship with this person. To not ever let them know you’ve made an offer to another candidate is so disrespectful. All it takes is a quick email.

In a world where people can slam you on Glassdoor, your company can’t afford to not treat job candidates well. Make sure the application process works seamlessly, work with candidates to schedule their interviews at a mutually convenient time, and keep up the communication with them, even if the news you have to share isn’t happy. You’ll leave candidates thinking more highly of your company, and more likely to apply again or recommend job openings to their friends.

Weigh the Bad, then the Good: Avoiding a Nightmare Interview

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How many articles advertise exclusive tips for rocking a job interview? Tons. In fact, there’s almost too much advice about the right ways to act in front of potential employers. Though we’ve certainly featured posts on improving resumes, perfecting applications, and details that stand out to those hiring, there’s still more of the story to be told. Here’s the reality check: in an effort to present themselves as the “perfect candidate,” job-hunters often leave less favorable impressions. With bad apple applicants in mind, our own Hiring Managers spoke from experience on conduct to avoid –if you want the job, of course.

The long application process is complete, and we hope you didn’t tell any white lies. Your clean cut resume and LinkedIn profile shouldn’t tell two strikingly different stories, because even a little exaggeration can cost you a lot of respect. If we like what we see, hopefully a phone interview will be offered. Our recruiters work flexibly with a candidate’s schedule, and ultimately it’s the interviewee who chooses the date. In this context, there’s no excuse to be unprepared. Before the opportunity to speak with a Hiring Manager, doing your fact-finding is key. Any top-notch recruiter can sense laziness, so check the organization’s website and take notes. Google is the best weapon for finding more company information, from employee reviews to (hopefully good) press.

Speaking of phone interviews, plan for a quiet, comfortable spot with a place to set up your notes in advance. As much as we all love coffee shops, please don’t try a phone interview at Starbucks. The environment always turns out much louder than you think, and you want the recruiter to hear all of the awesome qualities you could bring to the position.

If you’ve successfully made it this far, chances are good that you’ll be invited for an on-site interview. Show up with a confident attitude (read: not arrogant), but be self-aware and don’t dominate conversations. Keep a positive demeanor and, perhaps most importantly, be delicate when speaking of current and past employers. It’s not the time to bash the manager you hated, or say that one work experience was a total waste of your time. Now is an opportunity to instead prove your knowledge and impress the audience. And while we love enthusiasm, it may be a bit soon to exhibit your thoughts on a question by using the conference room’s whiteboard.

All of the research we recommended will pay off when you aren’t left empty-handed as the team asks if you have questions. We know you can think of at least one, so avoid the response that everything is all clear. At this stage in the interview game, don’t focus on what the company can do for you personally. Inquiring about the number of sick and vacation days, dental insurance providers, and how often you can work from home doesn’t read well. Rather, show how interested you are in the business itself, from their core values to competitors, office culture, and how this potential role will play a part in the company’s big picture.

Finishing an interview feels like a relief, but it’s also when anxiety can start to creep in. Try to block second thoughts from your mind and move on, all in hopes that you’ll get that coveted offer soon. Personalized thank-you notes are definitely appreciated, but this special gesture won’t make or break your chances of being hired. Should you choose to reach out, use nice stationary and make sure your handwriting is legible. And while an extra trip to the post office can be a pain, make the effort to send your note on the same day you interviewed. Email thank-you notes also aren’t frowned upon either, but don’t send a bulk email to everyone you encountered. Make each email message special, and never send from your work account.

Not such smart ideas? Sending Facebook friend requests and LinkedIn invites to your entire interview panel. They’ll likely decline the requests, and it’s too soon to make such quick connections anyway. If you don’t land the job, the awkwardness of having them in your network might be too much to take. In addition, don’t call the office asking to follow-up because, trust me, you’ll eventually hear news. Depending on the position, our Hiring Mangers aim to contact candidates within a week of the interview regarding their status.

Whether you’re applying to The Motley Fool or another organization, it can be eye-opening to consider nightmare interview situations. It’s also a nice feeling to know that it wasn’t you smacking gum or saying something is “totes your specialty” in front of seasoned professionals. And, maybe more so after this article, you won’t be that candidate. Weigh the bad – and the good – advice, and you’ll likely find yourself improving your interviewing game.

 

You Don’t Have to Hate Your Job (Really!)

Employee Engagement

Employee EngagementBy Laurie Street

The Motley Fool isn’t the only company that has built a fantastic culture, but sadly there aren’t enough of us. Countless studies show that employees are lacking engaging and healthy work environments. An interesting New York Times piece, Why You Hate Work, digs deeper into these disadvantages, mentioning faults that stem from the rise in digital technology, increased competitiveness, and our post-recession economy.

Author Tony Schwartz argues simple solutions that, if introduced, could make a huge difference in corporate environments. His suggestions ring true during a time when workplaces actually have the opportunity to evolve. It’s not necessarily a world of suits, ties, and strict regulations anymore.

In Schwartz’s opinion, companies should measure employees not hourly but by the value that they create. He explains, “To the extent possible, let them decide where to do their work, and when to do it, as long as they meet deadlines.” Trust is a huge component, and The Fool’s flexible scheduling speaks to Schwartz’s point. We throw traditional 9-5 calendars to the wind by allowing our employees to manage their own time. With this flexibility comes the expectation that employees are striving to produce their highest quality of work. Because everyone has different work styles, we also offer quiet spaces that offer a break from our open office, as well as the tools to work from home.

We believe in transparency, a point that Schwartz addresses in his column. He notes, “…seek to define all jobs in ways that feel meaningful and significant to people.” Fools are encouraged to establish honest relationships with their managers, making it easy to communicate about goals, projects, and ideas. If a Fool isn’t happy, our People Team wants to help. We organize feedback sessions to connect with Fools about their job path and progress, and recently implemented an internal reward service that allows Fools to publicly recognize others with “gold” for a job well done. Gold can be spent on gift cards for a variety of stores, and the entire process makes receiving Fools feel happy and valued.

However, it’s an unfortunate fact that all workplaces can’t — or will not try — to implement a progressive culture for employees. In addition to cynicism and anger, decreased energy is a common symptom of workplace unhappiness. To combat these signs, Schwartz suggests using 15-25 minutes for rest or an outdoor walk to increase productivity and alertness. The warmer weather has inspired a Fool Walking Group, which takes 30-minute outdoor strolls twice a week. We also have the Reading Room, a quiet space for better concentration that doubles as a place to take a power nap. Our culture encourages Fools to be comfortable enough to always take the necessary time for rest.

Schwartz’s article is one of many that shows how corporate cultures are changing. The Fool is on top of preserving Foolishness, from showing appreciation to our employees to trying out new, fun ideas in the office. Hating your job is the last thing The Fool would ever want, and we’re constantly on the search for ways to top the happiness scale.

We’ll Send You on a Fool’s Errand — In a Good Way!

Fool's Errand

Fool's ErrandBy Laurie Street

Whether it’s checking off a grocery list or paying the bills, everyone knows the definition of “errand” all too well. Here at the Fool, we’re familiar with a different kind of chore called “Fool’s Errand,” and it’s definitely not your typical mundane task.

The Fool’s Errand is a special prize — two weeks off and $1,000. So what are the rules? The chosen Fool must leave immediately and have no contact with the office, with the money only available if these guidelines are followed. The generous gift of $1,000 can be used for anything — plane tickets, hotel rooms, skydiving lessons…you name it! Past winners have visited Northern California wineries; Captiva Island, Florida; snowy Vermont; and even the Dominican Republic. Some Fools have simply enjoyed a staycation, but no matter where they go, winners are always encouraged to spend a few hours on our company’s purpose — to help the world invest better. Winners have rebalanced their 401k, managed an educational savings account, or chatted with a parent about retirement preparation.

At the end of each monthly company-wide meeting, approximately ten Fools are chosen at random and entered to win. To be eligible, the Fool must be employed here for at least one year. Names are entered as many times as the number of years each person has worked here, so if a Fool has been around for fifteen years there’s obviously a better chance for a win.

I can assure you that this process isn’t fixed. Names are drawn through a computer generated system, and the live announcement is always entertaining. I once saw the names laid face-down on a table, and a slightly-wonky remote control helicopter chose the winner upon landing. Another time, a Fool member visited with her dogs, and each contender was given a dog treat. Whomever the Labrador ran to first was deemed the winner.

Obviously, the Fool’s Errand fulfills our core value of Fun, but it also fulfills two business purposes. First, even with an unlimited vacation policy, some Fools find it hard to fully disconnect from the office. We want to encourage our employees to take the occasional break. Second, it’s important for any company to be prepared for an employee’s sudden, unexpected absence (illnesses and family emergencies happen). By knowing that we can cover for a Fool who needs to take time off with short notice, we know there are no gaps in our workflow.

If your company would like to try a similar program, you can start small. Maybe offer a random employee a day off as a reward for great work. Show your employees that time off is important — and they’ll return with fresh ideas and greater motivation.

CEO Tom Gardner Now a LinkedIn “Influencer”

LinkedIn Influencer

LinkedIn Influencer
Motley Fool CEO and co-founder Tom Gardner has joined the LinkedIn “Influencer” program. Gardner published his first “Influencer” post, titled “Half Your Employees Hate Their Jobs,” on Wednesday. The post, co-written with Motley Fool columnist Morgan Housel, highlighted three changes organizations should make to improve their workplace cultures.

“Peter Drucker said that culture eats strategy for breakfast,” Gardner wrote. “Get your fork and knife and let’s get to work!”

By joining the “Influencer” program, Gardner enters a community of the world’s most profound and impactful thinkers. Notable LinkedIn “Influencers” include Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Bill Gates, and more. Gardner plans to write broadly about investing, general business, and other issues he and Motley Fool employees hold dear.

“We’re thrilled for Tom to become a LinkedIn ‘Influencer,’” Fool spokesperson Adrienne Perryman said. “We have a ton of respect for the community LinkedIn has created, and having Tom as a part of it will certainly help us further our mission of helping the world invest better.”

Gardner’s “Influencer” page can be found here, and a full list of “Influencers” can be found here.

Matt Trogdon and Tom Gardner own shares of LinkedIn. The Motley Fool recommends LinkedIn. The Motley Fool owns shares of LinkedIn. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

We’re Looking For Summer 2014 Interns!

Summer at The Fool

Summer at The FoolAre you a college or grad student looking for an amazing summer internship? We’re currently looking for talented, curious, motivated students who want to spend this summer at The Fool! This is an 8-week paid internship where you’ll get to work on great projects with great people…and you’ll never have to wear a tie (unless you lose a bet or something). You’ll work in our Alexandria, VA, office, located just outside of Washington, DC.

If you’re interested in investing, writing, international studies, web analytics, software development, or retention marketing, we want to learn more about you! Find out more about our specific internship openings and submit your application by January 31, 2014.

Want to learn more? Some of last year’s interns were happy to share their Foolish experience!

Core Value #4 : Fun – Revel in Your Work

Fun

FunThe Fool is a fun place to work. We believe that life and work cannot be separated, and rather than balancing, we try to integrate them.  We want all Fools to think about how they can add fun to their day and how they can love their work.  Everyone is encouraged to take time out of their day to socialize, play, exercise, create, or relax.

It’s important to create friendships within the company.  Understanding, and maybe even liking, each other is going to make us a better, more productive, and happier company. We ask about friends in our employee engagement survey twice a year.

The number one way that we encourage fun is to ensure that each Fool is actually in a job they love.  It’s fun to take a break but we also want people to love what they do.  If you ever talk to our Chief Investing Officer, Andy Cross, you will know that he loves investing and it’s fun for him every single day.  The same is true of many Fools.  Laura, a member of our business intelligence team, loves data – LOVES IT!  I’m serious! Just ask her a question about Excel and her excitement could launch the space shuttle.

It thrills us when someone will describe themselves as an investing nerd or a tech geek or marketing dweeb – all a little self-effacing, sure, but it shows that they have a lot of themselves wrapped up in their jobs and have maybe more fun with it than socially acceptable.

Fun also has a very direct business purpose.  It decreases burnout, increases collaboration, and improves employee retention – WIN!

1)      Do we hire for this value?

Yes.  We try through both our application process and in the interview to learn more about you and see your personality.  This one is easily misinterpreted by many candidates (please don’t tell me a beer pong story).  We do want to know what makes your eyes light up inside and outside of work.  I don’t judge what you do for fun – I just want to see that you don’t take yourself too seriously.

 2)      Will we fire for this value? 

This is the value where I get the most questions on our monthly culture tour.  I explain at the beginning of the tour that values are ONLY really values if you will hire and fire for them.  Everyone nods as we discuss Collaborative, Innovative, Honest and Competitive.  Then we get to FUN!  It’s easy for our visitors to see that this is a fun atmosphere and to understand why fun could be a desirable value, but I almost always get a sideways glance and either concerned whisper or snarky comment here – “You fire for fun?”  It seems unbelievable in a business context – sure you value honesty like that, but fun?  Really?

Yes, really.  You don’t need to be the person leading the conga line (that’s my job) – but if you are cancerous to the culture and are making your coworkers miserable, our paths will soon diverge.

3)      Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?

Yes, fun is probably the easiest value to see as you walk through the office.  We have our game room, massage room, and nap room, but it really lives everywhere. From my desk right now I can see 1) large inflatable pool toys (swan, orca, shark, walrus, turtle) 2) a Nerf gun battle 3) several art pieces created by Fools at a happy hour 4) Five board games 5) wizard’s chess, wands and broomsticks (Firebolt and Nimbus) 6) a dozen jester hats.

The other part is just the feeling.  As I’m writing the post I hear laughter coming from the tech team sitting next to me – and yes, they are talking about code.  Behind me Lee is laughing about an upcoming event that he’s planning. It’s hard to sit here for more than five minutes without hearing fun.  I think fun is reason that we are consistently voted one of Washington DC’s best places to work.

4)      Is the value referenced frequently?  When was the last time?

It’s certainly referenced through the constant laughter and passion of Fools every day, but the purpose of this question is more systemic.  How do we ensure that Fun is constant?  One of my favorite Culture Club rules is “If you have to make it mandatory, you have failed to make it compelling.” It’s also frequently used as a tie breaker.  When there is a decision to make about anything from strategy to time management the kicker question is frequently “Which one is more fun for you?  Do that one!”

Please note that our values are not actually rank-ordered.  I call this #4 to help blog readers keep track.  See the full list of values at Core Values to Live By.

Match Office Perks to Your Culture

Cool Office

Cool OfficeRecently I’ve noticed a few articles popping up claiming that cool offices and no vacation policy are somehow a myth, a scam, a sneaky way for The Man to keep you down.  Here was the first line of one recent article: “Don’t be fooled by the perks at all those Silicon Valley (and Alley) offices — it’s all just part of a subtle plot to control employee behavior.”  At The Motley Fool we have one of those cool offices and we chose not to enact a vacation policy 20 years ago, so my first reaction is to mail out some peanut butter to go with the author’s jealousy.

The focus of these negative articles is often on the game table, the casual dress, or the non-policy.  Those are the outcome of what a cool office is actually about – trust and autonomy.  None of the fun of a cool office can be provided without the right culture around it.

At The Fool we put a lot of time and energy in to recruiting the best employees.  We are quite picky, we take our time with the hiring process, and we dislike increasing the employee headcount without good reason.  When new hires arrive, we trust them to do what they were hired to do.  We find that when we get out of the way, people choose their own path and create their own way of getting their work done.  They tell us how they like to work and what they need. The fun toys, the desks on wheels, and the flexible hours are all what employees have asked us for.  We aren’t scheming to invent ways to control employees, we’re giving them what they want to work effectively and be happy. If your study is finding that people at a company are taking fewer vacations or working longer hours, it isn’t because of the policy.  The reason is you haven’t built a culture of trust.

I am reminded of a great line I once heard from Libby Sartain, former Southwest Culture guru, “Every Office has a culture.  Every culture isn’t for everyone.  Find the culture that fits you.”

At The Motley Fool, we know who we are, we work hard to find people that will add to our culture, and we look for every opportunity to support our team members.  We do this because it works.  It shows up in all our numbers no matter how you slice them.  For instance, we have the highest employee engagement score by far that I’ve ever seen using the Gallup methodology.

We aren’t The Man plotting to keep our team down and take advantage of them.  We are Fools working for our employees and doing everything we can to unleash them to do their best work how they’d like to do it.