Category: Career Wise

Leaving? Keep It Classy

How honest should you be in your exit interview about your reasons for leaving?

Ian Mathews, Real Estate Investor and former Senior Executive (2018-present)

Answered Wed

“This place is poisoned. The managers don’t care about employees. You are running a sweat shop. You don’t pay anywhere close to market and some of your policies are so anti-customer that it is clear that corporate only cares about profits. You only promote politicians and yes men.”

I’ve seen this bitter approach from more than a few employees on their way out the door. They leave with their chest puffed out, feeling good that they gave us a piece of their mind.

Most managers do want feedback on your way out the door and it is usually best at the skip level (your boss’s boss). The problem with the personal attack approach is that it comes across as bitter and the feedback lingers. Inevitably, the exiting person runs through a few more companies and with perspective, realizes it wasn’t so bad. In fact, the pay wasn’t better, the atmosphere more negative and workload was heavier at other companies. Then comes the email:

Hello Ian,

I hope all is well with you and your company. I was laid off last month and have come to realize what a great opportunity I had. I made a mistake in leaving your company and would love it if you could give me another chance.


Formerly Disgruntled Employee

How many of these emails do you think I responded to when they took the personal attack approach on the way out the door? Correct, zero.

In the last two months, three different former employees have called me and asked if I would put in a good word for them. They wanted to come back to my

old company and wanted me to vouch for them to the executive who replaced me. I did no such thing with two of them, as I remember how they tore out of the place. Two of them blasted the company on Glassdoor, a move meant to hurt the company’s future hiring. I wasn’t putting my word on people who went that route already, given that the odds are higher that they will do it again.

This is a small world and even smaller when you figure that most people stay in the same industry for most of their careers. Even if you are 100% certain you don’t want to return to that company, you gain nothing by going scorched Earth on the way out the door.

What if one of those same managers that you scorched is hired into your new company in a position of authority, even your direct boss? I’ve seen this more than a few times.

Take the approach I mentioned above and eliminate the personal. You could still say this, while being honest and helping the company improve:

“I just can’t find the balance here between work and personal life. I also have a chance to make a serious jump in pay, which is very important to my family right now. I have learned much from this company and appreciate that you took a chance on me. I hope we stay in touch.”

As a manager, I get the point with this feedback. We need a different staffing model and need to look into our compensation program. In almost every case, I knew our problems but just couldn’t make changes fast enough to help the front lines. Managers don’t like running short staffed which can happen in a hot market or overly competitive market where income is rising rapidly.

Anything else you share is probably just going to sound bitter and make that manager defensive. With the positive approach, I remember you in a good light years down the road and you’ve left the door open. You also earned a positive reference from me should a future prospective employer call me to ask about you (and most of them will).

So, pass on the short term opportunity to stick it to your company on the way out the door. It won’t encourage the company to change and the only person who can get hurt is yourself.

Keep it classy.

15 Vital Leadership Lessons

Rather than tweet the link to this article from LinkedIn, I’m putting it in a blog post so that more readers will be able to access the information.

You’ll find that Bernard Marr has created a list that modernizes the ingredients of Everything I Needed To Know I learned in Kindergarten and formulated a list applicable to everyone who works, volunteers or hopes to do either.

Enjoy and make sure this shoe fits well enough to wear it.

Interview Questions For Your Potential Boss

To be a credible candidate for a job you must ask questions at the interview.  Sometimes the interviewer would be your boss and that can be intimidating.  However, its also an opportunity to learn more about how she or he leads.  Asking the right questions can give you insight into what your work life would be like if you accepted this position.

Here’s a copy of an article from The Muse

10 Questions to Ask in Your Next Job Interview to Avoid (Another) Toxic Boss

by Alyse Kalish

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re finally getting out of an unhealthy work environment. Good for you! You deserve to work with someone who treats you well.

That said, you certainly don’t want to make the same mistake again and end up working under someone who’s just as bad (or worse) than the last manager you had. As you’re job searching, make sure you ask these 10 crucial interview questions to get to the bottom of what it would be like to report to your potential new boss.

If the Interviewer Is Your Potential Boss

1. How Would You Describe Your Ideal Employee?

Whatever they say, take it to heart and make sure you genuinely fit into what they’re looking for—if you don’t, that’s a giveaway you won’t get along or enjoy working with them.

2. How Do You Like to Give Constructive Criticism?

Make sure they actually do give their team feedback (you don’t want to work somewhere where you’ll never learn and improve) but also express care and concern when doing so.

The point of giving it is not only to help make their job easier (less oversight needed), but also to help you grow. So if they respond with, “Calling people out in front of the whole company to teach them a lesson?” Definitely a red flag.

3. What’s the Process for Reviewing and Evaluating Employees?

Related to the one above: Is there a proper employee review cycle in place? Does it seem like they regularly evaluate and course-correct employee performance? And, do they seem to care about helping employees set and achieve their career goals?

4. How Long Has Your Current Team Been in Place?

Search their answer for any signs of high turnover or conflict. Were there legitimate reasons why their team has shifted? Do they avoid bringing up specifics?

5. How Would Your Direct Reports Describe Your Management Style?

This is a self-awareness test for your interviewer. They should be able to show that their direct reports feel properly managed without sounding egotistical or disengaged.

6. Who Are Your Leadership Role Models?

And ask them why they chose those people—this gives you a sense of what leadership tactics they respect and want to emulate.

7. How Does Your Team Unwind After a Stressful Period or Celebrate a Success?

This is a great way to get a sense of how they value work-life balance and how they acknowledge their team’s accomplishments. They should have some response to this.

If the Interviewer Works With Your Potential Boss

8. What’s [Boss’ Name]’s Management Style Like?

Look for hidden clues here. Do they sound supportive but not a micromanager? Respectful but motivating? And, does the person you’re speaking with seem to like their management style?

9. What’s Your Favorite Part of Working With [Boss’ Name]?

Do they brag about how awesome it is to work with so-and-so, or is their response vague and unimpressive? Take note.

10. How Would You Describe the Team Culture?

Some things you might look out for include how people work together and communicate, how your potential boss is involved in that culture, and how people get along both inside and outside the office.

Two other factors come into play here.

One is body language and nonverbal cues—pay attention to how people respond to your questions and if they seem turned off by them. A long pause can say wonders.

And the other is your own standards and values. I could easily say that X or Y response is a definite no, but at the end of the day everyone is looking for a different kind of work environment and manager.

So, before you enter any interview, make sure you’re clear on what you want in a boss so you can properly assess whether the person you’re interviewing fits the mold. If you’re not sure, think about what qualities you admire in other leaders, past bosses, and mentors (and which ones you don’t).

Finally, if you do smell something fishy during your interview process, consider reaching out to former employees or people in your network who work with or know of this person and ask for their off-the-record opinion.

It can feel awkward, but remember: You’ll have to work with this person every day, five days a week. So the more you know, the more informed your decision will be.

Lets talk about company culture and create a list of questions to ask about the job when the interviewer is from HR.  610-212-6679 or

MIT Offers Digital Diplomas

For a long time it has been possible to earn a degree in a field of technology that leads to a well-paying, ever-changing job. Block-chain technology is now making it possible for workers and college graduates to demonstrate their experience and credentials.

As long ago as 4000 years, merchants in the middle east created small mud or clay blocks inscribed with the details of a transaction.  When the transaction was complete, goods delivered and both sides were satisfied, the tiny tablet was cracked or broken to signify the end of the contract.

Modern education uses something similar, a digital badge, to show that a student has accomplished specific tasks, acquiring proficiency.  Some colleges and institutions of higher learning attach the badges to certificates issued to students.

MIT has come up with a way to use block-chain to record education details in the same manner as  ancient businesses recorded transactions.  Block-chain records are harnessed together to create digital documentation of a degree earned.

Here’s a link to the article from Inside Higher Ed:

Where Hiring Managers Look For Candidates

Alan Carniol   Hidden Job Market


When hiring managers have an opening to fill they use these sources to find the right candidate.

  1. First Choice They hire someone they’ve already worked with, a subordinate or a colleague, or someone they worked with at a different company.

If they don’t find someone …

  1. Second Choice Reach out to someone who comes recommended by a friend or a trusted colleague/advisor they trust implicitly.

Then if they don’t find someone, they….

  1. Third Choice Hit up referrals given from a weaker connection-like a subordinate, or a friend, or someone in their network-where they can see some evidence of their past performance (like LinkedIn)

Then, if they don’t find someone…

  1. Fourth Choice   Maybe if they are lucky, a stranger will show up at the right time and the right place )e.g., a networking event, or reach out to them cold) and will quickly inspire trust and create a relationship.

Finally, if none of the other four avenues yield a solid candidate:

  1. Fifth Choice They’ll have HR post the job on websites and run ads in newspapers.  HR takes over from this point and screens all the candidates for interview.


This is how it works behind closed doors.

Choices 1-4 are the “hidden” jobs market.  Only the fifth option is in the public jobs forum.

Thanks, Alan.  Now that you know how HR finds candidates, you can see that networking is the best way to be in the right place at the moment a job opens up.  Lets formulate your networking plan so that you are top-of-mind when HR starts thinking about who to hire. or 610-212-6679




Contextualizing Tech Now Reads Resumes

When you submit your resume the first reader is often a computer.  You already know that to get past this technology gate you need to include keywords that show you have the experience that matches the requirements of the position.  Generation Next in applicant tracking systems is  technology that looks for keywords but also looks at the context in which they are used.  You’ll be more successful if you follow these suggestions for placing keywords.

Starting at the top of your resume, in the introduction (summary), use a few bullets that include 3-5 of the keywords you’ve identified for this position.

In your experience section, highlight your achievements using the keywords.  Use keywords again when you list recent training or skill updating.

You can help the ATS identify the keywords by using an easily read font such as Arial.  Keep the resume format simple to enable the computer to “see” all that you have written.  Eventually, a human will look at your resume, most likely on a device, so make all of your information easy for the eye to locate.

What type of file should be used?  PDF is safe, is readable across devices and can be faxed.

All of this sounds pretty cut and dried.  Don’t forget to include your excitement about the job, your passion for exceeding expectations, your unique human qualities.

Vermont Offers $10K To Remote Workers Who Move There

If you like to work from Starbucks, the park, or even Indonesia, if you make Vermont your home and work remotely for a company headquartered outside Vermont, the state will write you a check for $10,000.

The plan is good for Vermont because you will be spending your money there, buying a house or renting one.  Your groceries will come from the local market and you will buy gas from the local station.

You benefit because Vermont has a live-and-let-live attitude, is home to several top notch universities and has a lower cost of living than, say, the mid-Atlantic region or Chicago.  And locally sourced, eco-friendly, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is made just down the road.

Vermont is known for its fall color and attracts visitors from all over the county and Europe. There is great skiiing in-state.  Boston, NYC, Montreal and Quebec are a short trip away.

So who could you work for?  The Flexjobs article lists 7 companies that are hiring right now.  Polish your resume, pack your bags and go collect your bonus!

5 Career Lessons I Wish I’d Had When I Was 22.

Here’s an article from LinkedIn that every undergraduate student and every recent college grad should read.

Sara Sutton Fell     May 5, 2014

I live in a college town, and besides just busy restaurants and more traffic, this time of year is chock-full of college graduations, commencement speeches, and lessons for young professionals just embarking on their careers. I thought back to when I was that age and what advice I wish I had been given — and listened to — that would’ve saved me a lot of stress-related headaches and self-doubt. As part of LinkedIn’s #IfIWere22 series, here are five lessons for my 22-year-old self. (Hopefully they’ll help someone else starting their career and interested in saving themselves some career-related agony!)

Common sense is more important than an MBA.

While an MBA can be useful, it is not a requirement to be successful in business. However, I believe that common sense is. I started my first business when I was 21, with a childhood friend who was also 21– and honestly, we both looked like we were about 16. We had no business experience whatsoever and obviously no MBAs, but we were incredibly driven and passionate about our idea. In an effort to learn from others’ experiences, we actively built a group of advisers who were older, had MBAs, and who were impressively experienced. But our company was an internet company in the dawn of the new economy, and while the advice was well-meaning and came across with confidence and levity, it simply wasn’t as applicable, and they didn’t understand the audience and product nearly as well as we did. Because we were young and lacking professional depth, we didn’t give these two factors enough credit, and too often we were swayed from our instincts by people who we thought were smarter just because of their MBAs. Bottom line, always be open to learn from people who might have more knowledge or experience than you, but don’t sacrifice your common sense for it.

Each and every job will teach you something about what you want to do (or not to).

No matter how bleak or pointless a job might seem, there is actually always a valuable takeaway… it just might not be what you expect. The boss you hate? Well, you might realize that you never want to be a manager like that. The soul-sucking job hawking a crappy product? It might be horrible, but you might learn some amazing marketing tactics that you will use down the line to get national awareness for a product you do believe. Regardless of your job and whether you love it or hate it (or vacillate in between), look for opportunities to learn about what you like and don’t like. These lessons will help you design your career in a way that makes you happy and proud.

Your career path is almost certainly going to be more of a meandering river than a straight path.

You will move backwards, forwards, sideways. There will be jobs that on the outside promise to be a ticket to the top, but instead that end up leaving you laid off when you are seven months pregnant, wondering how the heck you got there (as I did). You might take a job that seems like a step (or more) backwards in your career, but because you are such a high-performer you are offered an unexpectedly awesome skyrocket to the top within a few years (as I was). You might find that you want to switch careers entirely. So try to remember to ride each unexpected twist and turn, take it all for what it’s worth, and try not to stress too much that your career path isn’t as straight as you expected it to be.

Networking just to network can be more distracting than helpful.

We’ve all heard it’s about “who you know”, blah, blah, blah. And I get that, BUT. Be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that quantity is more important than quality. While I admit it’s cool to see the “500+ connections” indicator on someone’s LinkedIn profile, if all of those 500 are strangers or low-grade acquaintances, you’ll be missing the real opportunities that networking really provides. So be sure to seek out substantive professional relationships (mentors, trusted colleagues, people in your company you admire, friends and family, or just people you respect). Keep regular communication with them, and engage them in real conversations. It’s not to say that general casual networking can’t be helpful–it can!–but don’t let it be your only goal. Because those deeper, “real” connections are like investments that will yield better and better results over time, on both a professional and a trusted personal level.

Place high value on company culture.

There are a lot of bells and whistles that companies may advertise as why you want to work there, but no matter what industry you’re in, the culture where you work is vitally important. Is there a ton of turnover? Do colleagues often have advancement opportunities? Do people enjoy working there? What the company values and identifies as important to them will impact you every single day. , also don’t rely on it exclusively. Supplement the information they’ve provided by researching people who work for the company (ideally in a related department) on LinkedIn, see if you have any connections, and ask them for an informational interview. Or use sites like Glassdoor to read reviews of companies from the employees themselves. And in job interviews, always ask specific questions about the culture. Always. You are going to invest a huge amount of your time and energy into this place. Make sure it’s a worthwhile investment.


Sara Sutton Fell is an expert in the online employment market and is currently the Founder and CEO of FlexJobs, an award-winning career website for telecommuting and flexible job listings. Sara is the Founder of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, an initiative to help positive change towards flexible options in the workplace.

How Compensation Decisions Are Made

How Compensation Decisions Are Made

Understanding how employers make compensation decisions is critical if you want to be effective in negotiating your own compensation package.

Compensation has been very much in the news during the past year.  From the fervor over a $15.00 per hour minimum wage to robots coming to take people’s jobs to an accelerating employment market, compensation is on the minds and hearts of just about everyone. Before you can begin to get a handle on any of these issues, you first must have a basic understanding of how employers make compensation decisions.

Current Factors Impacting Compensation.

Like any other aspect of compensation, trends in the current market are impacting the compensation offered for specific positions.  Here are five of the factors that dramatically impact compensation ranges for virtually every position:

  1. The value of the work being done. Labor costs are almost always the single largest expense item incurred by any employer, other than the costs for the goods and services produced.  Labor costs include components such as base compensation (hourly or salary), variable compensation (such as bonuses or commissions), benefits, payroll taxes, and related insurances. So there is always pressure to assure that the value produced by each employee exceeds the costs associated with that employee.  Because the market sets to price for the goods and services it consumes, compensation must be tied to the value of what an employee’s work produces – or the employer cannot afford to remain in business.
  2. Supply vs. demand. This factor affects both industries and regions.  If there is a shortage of qualified candidates for a position in a particular area, compensation will tend to be on the high end of the range, with some employers electing to pay sign-on bonuses to attract candidates.  Likewise, if there is an over-supply of qualified candidates, compensation will be on the lower end of the range, with relatively few people hired in the higher ranges of compensation.  You will need to understand the dynamics of your industry and region.
  3. New job vs. raise. People changing employment (either inside their own company or moving to a different employer) tend to have larger compensation increases available, versus those staying in the same job or role.  The typical range for an annual increase is about 3%, while the average increase achieved when changing jobs is about 10%.
  4. Difficulty of filling the position. The difficulty an employer has experienced or (is anticipating) in filling the position will tend to increase what the employer is willing to pay.  Highly specialized skills, experience, and education are often the largest reason for the difficulty in filling a position.
  5. Benefits add 10% to 70% to total compensation. While benefits such as healthcare have been in the headlines during the past few years, the cumulative value of non-salary benefits is significant.  Here is an excellent calculator from CalcXML to determine the value of the benefits being offered.

The Mechanics of Compensation Decisions. 

Employers have established a range of what they are willing to pay for a particular position.  For example, a position with a target average annual salary of $55,000 might have the following range:

  1. Minimum – $45,000
  2. Mid-point – $55,000
  3. Maximum – $65,000

The interview process – the candidate’s credentials (résumé, social profile, and the like) and the results of any pre-offer background check (references, social media) – all influence where within the compensation range the initial offer will be made.

Researching compensation.

This can be done via the internet by Googling salary ranges or visiting compensation sites such as, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or Because information may be self-reported, tend to view these figures as optimistic about the position evaluated.  While the information provided on these sites is generally accurate (± 10%), there are regional differences, as well as differences from organization to organization.  Another helpful site for salary research is Glassdoor, which provides an inside look at jobs, companies, and compensation (as reported by current and former employees).  When calculating total compensation, bear in mind that benefits can be worth as little as 10% of base compensation, or as much as 50% or more.  Employer-paid expenses, travel allowances, hiring bonuses, tuition programs, insurances, paid time off, and other benefits add up quickly.

Some companies provide a lower starting salary, with a compensation increase once the new employee completes his/her training period (usually 90 days) and proves him/herself.  In a slow economy, there is an abundance of people looking for positions, so salaries can be somewhat depressed.  Likewise, when the economy is booming, starting salaries may be increased to attract better candidates.

Finally, understand that regional cost-of-living factors greatly affect the market-based compensation for any position.  A $60,000 position in an average cost of living area may translate to $48,000 in a low-cost area and $110,000 in a high-cost area.  Based on the relative cost of living of the area, the $48,000, $60,000, and $110,000 benchmarks reflect the same equivalent purchasing power.

Bottom Line

Like anything else in life, proper preparation prevents poor performance.  Never enter into a compensation negotiation without first having done your homework, with includes not only understanding how compensation for the position is established and what the reasonable ranges for compensation for your position by market, but also how you can prove that you’ll be able to deliver excellent value for the compensation you desire.

This article was excerpted from the most recent edition of Get a Better Job Faster? now available on

Are You Savvy About Getting A Job?

Job Applications

Students, how much do you know about the documents and activities that help you find a job?  Take this Job Search Strategy Quiz from Grand Valley State University.  The 14 True/False questions will show you how far ahead of the curve you are.


After you complete the quiz, give me a call to talk about strategies you will need to get a job or an internship.  610-212-6679 or