WHEN IT PAYS TO STAY IN A DULL JOB
(FORTUNE Magazine) – IT'S A LITTLE BIT humbling to a professional advice giver like me, but some of the best workplace wisdom I know comes from my readers. Antsy video-generation employees, fast-track foreign languages, office time-saving tricks, workplace violence--you had plenty to say about those and other topics over the past few months.
In the Feb. 7 issue, I agreed with Rock Steady--who wanted to quit his first job out of school because he had almost nothing to do all day--and man, did I get an earful. "Is Rock Steady merely 'Video Ready'-- part of the early wave of videogame freaks who want instant gratification?" wonders reader Don Raiff. "As an employer of young professionals, I would pass over someone who had been at his job for less than a year and therefore had never had a serious performance review." Paul Coleman agrees: "Rock Steady should use his downtime to learn about the business. Doing his current job well and showing initiative is his chance to earn credibility with managers."
Some pretty compelling research indicates that you'll soon need mastery of at least one foreign tongue to reach the highest levels of management (Jan. 24). But which language should you learn? "Fluency in French or Spanish gives you a twofer," notes Rusty Weissman, who lives in Madrid. "If you speak any Romance language, you can at least figure out enough words in the other ones to read a newspaper." Eric Rosenkranz, CEO of Strategic Thinking Group in Singapore, warns would-be expats that choice of language won't necessarily determine their destination: "You learn Spanish, get sent to Germany. Learn French with dreams of sipping red wine by the Seine, get sent to Korea. In India they speak 17 different languages." What's important, says Rosenkranz, who has "transferred hundreds of people" across national boundaries, is to "learn (or try to learn) the local language after you have been assigned."
Thanks to all who responded to time-management expert Stephanie Winston's advice (Jan. 10) with time-tested tips of their own. "Give your cellphone number to high-priority clients only," says attorney Nancy Guilder. Albert Maruggi, who runs a St. Paul consulting firm called Provident Partners, suggests, "Never answer the phone. Instead, schedule voicemail listen-and-respond times. Get up early. Don't shower when you are not meeting clients. (Best to use your discretion on this one, however.)" Indeed.
On the grim topic of violence in the workplace (Feb. 21), dozens of readers recommended a screening test called the Conditional Reasoning Test of Aggression, designed to weed out high-risk job applicants, available through a company called the Psychological Corp. (PsychCorp.com). "I worked for 20 years as a forensic psychologist, often evaluating 'bad guys' after they'd shot up a place," writes David Robinson, who now teaches at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. "In every case where there'd been a fatal shooting, no one was surprised. In psychiatry, they teach, 'Trust your fear'--a good rule to follow."
To all readers who weighed in, thanks! And a bit of housekeeping: If you would like a reply to your e-mail, please add firstname.lastname@example.org to your list of acceptable addresses, or your spam filter will kick it back at me.