Does achievement have a gender?

Does achievement have a gender? That’s the question that kept nagging at me after I read an obituary of a well known and well respected journalist.

The obituary’s first line read: “Arguably, the best female reporter/writer in the history of Chicago journalism……”  And my first reaction was… female? Why the restriction? Why isn’t she just one of the best reporters?

The paper’s online ombudsman is on Twitter (it was his tweet that brought the obit to my attention) so I Tweeted a quick comment about my reaction. And his response was even more intriguing to me: “Give her the “female” as a badge of honor….one more hurdle to overcome in that era.”

I don’t disagree with him in principle. I know he and the author of the piece are great at their jobs and meant no disrespect. I just wondering if that’s an honor, or a limiting label – then, or now.

Do we still need to measure gender? Or for that matter, any other label? Do we only compare Asians to other Asians? How about LGBT people? Or differently abled people?

I don’t know how objective or important my opinion is on this one – I am a guy, after all, and have never had my gender limit the possibilities of what I could achieve in a job. In my career, I’ve worked almost exclusively for women, and with one Cruella de Vil-esque exception, they were all great managers and great leaders. The women I’ve worked for have had more consensus-based, flexible, results oriented management styles, and they were always more aware of a need for life/work balance.

If I think about it beyond that, however, I’d realize that all of those women reported to male managers or executives. The glass ceiling may be less obvious, but it seems to still be in place.

So….I’m thinking it IS still a matter of importance how we describe people – and how we describe their accomplishments.

Am I being too sensitive? I’m curious to know your thoughts. 

The biggest mistake you’re making at work right now

It’s been a few years since I consistently wrote about jobs and careers, but occasionally, people will still ask me for advice.

They’re almost always asking me about a problem at work, and it’s always a variation on one of these issues: They hate their job, their boss, or a coworker.

I’m always happy to listen and to share anything that I’ve learned, so I’ll ask them to tell me what happened. They’re always a breaking point – boundaries broken, too heavy of a workload, total breakdown of sanity in their environment.

In almost every situation, I’ve asked, “Why haven’t you said anything about this? Why aren’t you confronting the people who are making you feel this way, or letting your boss know how this makes you feel?”


Turbo job search

job_searchAfter nine months of searching, I have some encouraging news in my job search. I don’t want to jinx it by talking about details before the ink is dry, so to speak, but let’s just say that it appears there is light at the end of the unemployment tunnel!

It was a long, hard, emotionally draining search over those months. I thought I was an expert; after all, I’d just spent a few months in early 2008 learning best practices when I was searching for a job that would bring me to Chicago.

And then I was hired for my dream job – where I actually wrote about careers and job searching. I was devastated to lose that job, but I’d figured I had just had a master course in how to look for work. I’d only be out of work for a month or two, tops. Right? Well, not quite.

2009 was an entirely different ballgame. What I can tell other people is this: Your search today must be unlike any other search you’ve ever conducted. You have to be in a lot of places, all at the same time. You can’t just use one or two tools to land a job – you have to use the whole damn toolbox.

You can’t glide through a standard-issue job search. You have to kick it up to TURBO.