DEAR J.T. & DALE: I am losing my mind! I’m in my first job out of college, doing “social media” for a small food company. However, after four months, I’ve yet to do any. Instead they have me answering phones, taking orders and filing. I’m upset because I believe I could do something amazing with social media, but the owner keeps putting it off, saying I can start when they are caught up. But they’ll never get caught up. What should I do? – Belin
Dale: First, let’s acknowledge a key lesson you’ve learned, the one about being caught up. This type of “when” formula is rarely a plan; it’s an excuse to do nothing. Why would an owner make an excuse about important progress? Because he’s mired in his everyday crises, which is why the company is doomed to be a small food company. That doesn’t mean, however, that you are doomed to small tasks.
J.T.: You’ll be doomed until you show your boss exactly what he is missing. Why not put together a presentation that maps out how everything would work? Ideally, you’d include competitors that are using social media.
Dale: I want you to pay attention to J.T.’s last suggestion about competitors. You need to convince your boss that social media efforts aren’t merely something “nice” to do “for the millenials”; instead, prove to him that he’s leaving money on the table, and then tell him how you’ll go get it for him. He’s going to put you off until you make it easier to say “yes” than to say “no.”
J.T.: Along those lines, include in your proposal how this will fit into your work. You might start by suggesting that you devote one hour per day to getting your new effort going. That’s an easy “yes.” You even might consider going ahead and starting, putting in an hour a day after work. I know the idea of doing free work isn’t appealing, so why do this? Think of it as a working education: You not only will show initiative, but you’ll gain practical experience. That way, in the event that you want to move on, you’ll have experience to help you get your next job.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I interviewed for a position that was advertised at a certain pay. However, in the interview I was informed that the pay was less. I accepted anyway, because I really needed a job. After being hired, I did all the work while the boss made personal calls. She also had me come in early some days and never paid me for it. Then she told me I was no longer needed because the company couldn’t afford my pay. Now the company is advertising the job at a much higher rate. Is there anything I can do? – Rosa
Dale: Much higher pay, eh? Do you believe that, Rosa?
J.T.: You shouldn’t. As for your situation, you accepted the job for what they offered you, so there’s no going back now to seek a higher rate. As for the overtime, you would have a case if you’d kept a paper trail of hours worked. If not, it’s just your word against hers. I would encourage you to put your energy into finding a new job.
Dale: As you go into your new job search, remember this: The easier a job is to get, the worse the job is. By that I mean that the lousy bosses and cheapo companies have high turnover and thus are always hiring. By contrast, great jobs get filled by word of mouth and often have waiting lists of highly qualified candidates. If you’re desperate to land a job, any job, you’ll likely end up grabbing a lousy one. If that happens, you must work to break the cycle by devoting time to landing the job after the lousy one. Keep your escape in mind as you build your contacts and your options.
J.T.: You also might improve your marketability by doing more than is required. Going the extra mile for an employer will give you credibility to take to your next interview.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.