Girl Talk Career Blog

June 18, 2010

What Tiger Woods Teaches Us About Career Strategies

Filed under: celebrity careers — lisalahey @ 1:51 am
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It started when Tiger’s wife smashed his car window in with a golf club after he accidentally ran into a tree. The first news that went around the internet was that the famous golfer was in an accident and his panicked wife broke the window to get him out.  Not long afterward  the truth came out about his infidelity and his wife’s outrage.  It took all of a few hours for the internet to shoot the story around the world. In due course dirty Tiger Woods jokes were all the rage and soon after that girl after girl came forward looking for her sleazy fifteen minutes of fame with more stories about his many infidelities. If Andy Warhol was alive he would have picked up the phone and told Tiger to play it cool and let them have their fifteen minutes until they disappeared back into the petty obscurity from whence they came, that it would all be over pretty soon.  And had he been alive to say those words Warhol would have been right.

Everywhere I went people would make Tiger Woods jokes to me or comment about Tiger Woods and his infidelity. 

“Isn’t that terrible? What kind of man is that?” they’d say.
“A man with a helluva golf swing,” I’d reply.
“Have you seen how many women he’s fooled around with behind his wife’s back?”
“I’ve seen how many golf tournaments he’s won in the past two years,” I’d shrug.
“Do you think his wife should leave him?”
“I think he should keep playing golf,” was my reply and still is today.

My point is who cares what the man does in his private life?  I don’t care.  I care about his golf swing.  I care about the fact that he is the first black American man in the golf sports sphere (coincidentally alongside Obama being the first black American man in the political sphere) to trail blaze  through four centuries of staggering American racism to make history with his natural brilliance and innate talent. 

Why does it astound people, let alone even hold their interest, that Tiger Woods likes women?  Would it have been better if he liked little boys? Athletes cheat.  If it isn’t with women, it’s with steroids or drugs. Sadly those opportunities seem to arise far too often in the world of professional sports. Let’s break this down a little further shall we?  A famous, good-looking, young sports hero who engages in sexual dalliances on the side of his marriage.  That’s a first in sports history. NOT. I’m not excusing it.  I feel bad for his wife. She must be hurting terribly. And I feel sad for his kids who deserve a secure family with two happy, close parents. That’s the biggest tragedy insofar as his personal situation is concerned but even that’s none of my concern or my business. 

I suspect the biggest fear Tiger faced was getting dropped by his sponsors and never doing another endorsement.  Shattering his image in the American eye. Wearing the Scarlet “A” on his forehead as if we lived in the pilgrim era.  I can understand his worry about his corporate sponsors and not because of financial reasons obviously. It would be the principle of the thing, the public humiliation and judgment about his character that would surely hang over this man like a dark cloud for years to come. And that isn’t fair.  How many of our sports heroes have gotten away with the same thing?  They simply weren’t caught and because we don’t know about this, we revere them to this day.  Consider that if Mrs. Woods hadn’t taken a golf club to Tiger’s car window the world wouldn’t likely know about his infidelities and he’d be carrying on with the same impressive reputation that he’s ever had.

Now let’s think for a minute about our careers and our private lives Girlfriend.  Do you ever worry when you’ve been out partying it up and you run into a colleague that word will get back to your boss about your drinking, flirting and possible promiscuity (egad! how dare you go home with a guy)? What is the main reason you’d worry?  If you’re entry level or mid-management with an eye towards promotion you’re likely to think “OMG! Now they won’t take me seriously enough to give me a promotion!”  Hopefully you’d be wrong but unfortunately there might be situations where you’d be correct. Why? When you get a job that is anything above stock boy or cashier get ready to be judged by your colleagues, your boss and the clients of your corporation about each and everything you do.  You work for them, you represent them. You screw up, you make them look bad.  You do well in your community, you make them look good.  They don’t just sign your paycheck. They own you body and soul.

That’s not fair!” you scream wildly.

Of course it isn’t.  Neither were all the silly remarks and jokes people made about Tiger Woods when he screwed up and it reached the internet and national news.  Now lets take a faux pas you may have committed at one point in your career and magnify it in front of billions – not millions – billions of people. How did Tiger sleep at night? Was that fair?  Now it’s up to you to decide whether or not you can work with an organization that believes it owns you.  Some corporations don’t care.  Some certainly do. The higher up the ladder the more it matters. If that’s an issue you cannot live with then consider becoming an entrepreneur, or working for a company that is more open-minded and unconcerned about its employees’ private lives.

A few blogs ago I mentioned a book called Weirdos in the Workplace written by John Putzier. I offered you the Coles Notes version of the corporate receptionist who moonlighted as a pole dancer and the CEO who stuffed $10 bills into her g-string every night.  Of course she got hauled into her boss’s office and told she’d best avoid that sort of work or she wouldn’t remain with their organization much longer.  Her response was “then perhaps you should say the same thing to the CEO.”  And in fact, they did.

My friend is a schoolteacher and her industry publication asserts very clearly that “a teacher cannot wear both hats, one within and one outside of the profession. A teacher must conduct himself or herself as if he or she was a teacher at all times.”  Can you imagine? But that’s the nature of that game.

And think of the recent news about Facebook faux pas that have cost many young people their jobs.  Now to be sure going online to diss your corporation or your boss warrants a firing or at the very least a serious conduct report and a suspension without pay.  However that situation entails an employee going out of his or her way to seek out public attention and declare their unhappiness with their work or state what a jerk their boss is and that’s just plain stupid.

And speaking of games, what does it matter that Tiger stepped outside of his marriage when he can swing a golf club the way he does? He should still play the game and play it with pride. His corporate sponsors shouldn’t drop him. The best defence in this situation is not to address the press with a phony plea for forgiveness (whatever he does DON’T pull a Todd Bertuzzi). Play it cool. Act like it didn’t happen. Play golf. In due course the pitiful nobodies who’ve tried to take a ride on Tiger’s fame and fortune will lose media interest and slip back into their blank, meaningless void exactly where they belong.

Golf anyone?


May 22, 2010

Too Much Honesty is a Career-Killer

Authors should save story-telling for their storybooks and keep their private lives to themselves. Very recently Robert Munsch, a well-loved American-born Canadian children’s author came forward to tell his story of drug and alcohol addiction to the public. He also admitted to being diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive and in his own words “manic-depressive” (now known as bipolar affective disorder).  Most people probably weren’t surprised about the mental illness diagnosis. It became public knowledge that Munsch had bipolar disorder several years ago. And it’s hardly a surprise that an author suffers from a mental illness.  There’s something about people gifted in the arts, artists, authors, singers, actors, etc, that seems to coincide with a mental illness of some sort. In fact most of the names on publicized lists of famous people throughout history with bipolar disorder and clinical depression tend to be artists in some capacity. Not all of them of course, but a pretty high percentage.

The fact that Munsch is plagued by obsessive-compulsive behaviour and mental illness is just a genetic mishap, hardly his fault. But did he really have to come forward with the additional information about his cocaine use and alcoholism?  I was quite surprised by that admission and I must admit very put off. I love the man. I am a fan of many of his books and yes I’m still a Munsch fan even though I’m well beyond childhood now. Contemporary children’s literature has always appealed to me and Munsch writes some of the best.  Michael Martchenko has worked for decades as an illustrator of Munsch books and his cartoon-like pics add a distinctive appeal to Munsch’s stories. A brilliant combination.

Now Munsch has truly coloured my impression of him a very grim, grey sort of shade. I was fine with him coming forward to talk about his “manic-depression“. That seems to be a celebrity trend over the past 10 years or so. Consider for instance Ron Ellis, former NHL hockey player who admitted to attending Homewood Institute in Guelph, Ontario for people with mental disorders and addictions, and Margret Trudeau, widow of the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau, former Prime Minister of Canada. More and more people are coming out of the mental illness closet to disclose this very personal aspect of themselves and in a way it is quite admirable. If successful, attractive people can be dogged with bipolar or schizophrenia, yet live successful lives in the very public eye well that offers quite a ray of hope for ordinary people also afflicted with the disorder, and most likely their families too. 

It takes guts to admit to having a mental disease. Most of us still feel uncomfortable around people who have a mental illness. We don’t treat it like it’s a physical disease such as cancer or diabetes even though having a mental illness is every bit as debilitating as a disease of the body. Yet still people with mental illness are often persecuted and the stigma affects every aspect of their lives, hence the reason they usually keep their silence on the matter. And that is where Munsch should have left his disclose to the public about his private life.  Very good of him to come forward and reveal his mental illness but very questionable about the drug use.

He writes kids’ books. He visits schools and local theatres to tell his children’s stories to groups of very young children. And now everyone knows he is a recovering cocaine addict and alcoholic. Do I judge him for that? Yes I guess I do. He operates within a children’s sphere and coming forward with an admission of that nature was highly questionable on his part.

He stated that his mental illness caused him to develop a cocaine habit. Rubbish. It’s a lifestyle and a personal choice. How does a person get access to illicit drugs? Perhaps they go looking for them. Why does a person try an illicit drug at all?  Curiosity?  Depression?  Maybe.  But what about after that first exposure in terms of repeating the behaviour? One experiment and a mentally ill person is hooked?  Highly doubtful. In order to develop a habit it is a fact that a person has to repeat the behaviour to develop the addiction and become dependent upon the chemical. Whose choice is that?

Are mentally ill people more likely to develop addictions?  Hard to say. The vast majority of people who attend AA every year are not known to have a mental illness. Same with people who attend CA (cocaine anonymous) or NA (narcotics anonymous) or GA (gambling anonymous). If mentally ill people frequently experienced long term drug and alcohol addictions I do believe the percentage of these people in AA and other similar groups would be considerably higher. Mental illness is a lot more common in people than you might think.

One thing I cannot abide is a person who uses their personal problems, whether they are emotional or mental in nature to defend anti-social or highly irresponsible behaviour.  It’s just wrong. It’s side-stepping the issue of personal responsibility for one’s own actions and decisions. I have a friend who has bipolar affective disorder.  For a time she got caught up in cocaine use herself. I asked her straight out if she felt her illness contributed to her drug use and she snorted. “It was a personal choice and I was stupid to do it. If I blamed my illness on all my shortcomings I’d never leave the house again,” was her very honest answer. I believe her.

However let’s give Munsch the benefit of the addictive doubt here and agree with him that it is his illness that drove him into addiction.  Did he have to tell the world about it?  Isn’t that also a choice? More than anything else I wish Robert Munsch hadn’t told us about his addictions. I wish the only thing I knew about one of my favourite children’s authors is that he has bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I wish the only thing I knew was that he is a great author and loves kids and is doing the best he can to tackle his mental illness. I wish I didn’t have to know how much he has burdened his family and friends with his addictions.  But all the story-writing in the world can’t re-write his public persona now.

May 15, 2010

How to Be Your Own Change Management Consultant (and a Little Help from David Bowie)

I’ve been a Bowie fan for years now. And lately I seem to be an Alexander Kjerulf fan but for entirely different reasons.  No, no. Penelope Trunk hasn’t been dethroned. But I also like what Alexander has to say about careers and I’m especially tickled about his self-annointed title CHO (Chief Happiness Officer). Cute. Alexander, like myself and Penelope, frequently gives career advice in a variety of areas. With the recession and plethora of layoffs many people are obsessed over employability, training for a new career and career transition.

David Bowie would probably agree with the benefits of change to a radical degree and therefore he’s more likely to side with Alexander and Penelope than me. Have you ever looked at his pictures from the earliest stages in his career and now? 

Wow.  He is unrecognizable (yep that’s really Bowie) and not merely because of his youth. (Personally I think he got better looking as he got older but that’s just my opinion). However in Bowie’s case constant change made an incredible amount of sense. He probably didn’t realize it then but he was the prototype for today’s worker and the elements of change in image, roles and career direction in order to stay current and keep employed (and maybe to have a little fun too). 

Now as I said in my previous post Jump Ship Before You Have to Build a Raft it’s always important to know if you’re in an industry or a job that will soon be made redundant then you can plan your career change accordingly. I’ve done some of the research for you in that post but of course if you’ve become inspired by the concept of career change or frightened by the notion that yes you are on shaky ground then by now you’re probably sifting through options to make that change. Interestingly Penelope and Alexander seem to have a common ground where I cannot tred: they are both obsessed with job satisfaction as opposed to security or salary. I can already hear you shrieking “Girlfriend! There is no such thing as job security anymore!” Well to a point that’s correct but at the very least you can improve your job security odds by investing in a long term career that seldom dips in terms of supply and demand (teacher or registered nurse for example).  See the Jump Ship post….

Let’s say for argument’s sake that you aren’t happy so much with your industry and your job as you are with your place of work. Now that’s a different kettle of fish entirely.  If you’re stuck with a bad boss, bad co-workers, bad reviews and a bad salary then perhaps you do have a valid need to pack up and head on out of there

Before you jump ship however you need to take a critical look at what it is you’re running away from and running toward. In other words figure out what it is that requires change. You know what they say “don’t fix what ain’t broke?” Well have you considered that it’s not the organization that’s the problem here but you? Check out this link and if you’re finding yourself harrassed on a fairly regular basis by your boss and co-workers it may be that you are indeed the fly in the ointment.

The only way you can figure this out is to get the input of a third party. Trust me you can never be completely objective about you so if you’re going to consider changing your career, your boss or your place of work you have to rely upon an outside source for feedback about you. Do you have a reliable confidante at work whom you can request some friendly feedback over lunch? (without you picking up an axe like the rather frustrated woman above).  Be prepared to hear anything because trust me some of it won’t be pleasant no matter how great a worker you are. In spite of that no matter what the feedback you should congratulate yourself because you have just become your own Change Manager.

So let’s say it turns out that you’re right. The organization does stink and your co-worker loathes the boss as much as you do. If that’s the case and you can trust her, enjoy lunch, enjoy the bitch fest then get back to work smug in the knowledge that you are indeed ready for a new employer and your loathsome boss doesn’t even know it yet.

Worse case scenario: your co-worker tells you that the boss is alright most of the time and she doesn’t mind the company. Now what? Now it’s time to consider a little self-change management. Become your own change management consultant in terms of your role at work and your attitude and you might find that your job becomes a lot more enjoyable and your boss a lot less loathsome as a result. Let’s apply some of the change management principles you’ve read about in the link above entitled “Change Manager“.

  1. Start from the ground up. Identify what you dislike about your current role. Too repetitive? Not enough promotional opportunity? You seem to get overlooked for the really interesting projects? Well. If you’ve been miserable at work then you’ve probably performed at half-mast so no wonder your boss is reluctant to offer you bigger and better projects. Take a deep breath, grab a notebook and pen and approach your boss, requesting an interview when she has time in order to give you some feedback on how you’re doing and how you can work to improve your work performance. Trust me, she’ll be thrilled to hear you say it.
  2. Meet with the boss and jot notes about how to improve (change) your work performance. Make sure you take notes because you will forget much of it later. You’ll have an emotional reaction which is normal and that will make a lot of information slip your mind. Try to remain composed and whatever you do DON’T get into an argument with your boss! You asked for the feedback and you’re getting it.
  3. Ask for suggestions about how to improve your work performance.  Don’t be in the dark about this part of your personal change managment. You need to be on the same page as your boss or you may end up making changes in ways that aren’t resolving any issues.
  4. Ask your boss is she will schedule another interview with you. Choose a specific date then and there. Don’t leave her office until she commits to another appointment for giving you feedback about your change management. An important aspect of change management is ongoing feedback.
  5. Your notes are your blueprint for your change management. Whichever areas your boss as stated need improvement you must begin there first. Is it your punctuality? Is your work a little sloppy at times and you have too many do-overs?  Are you sullen and grouchy much of the time? Time to change!
  6. Consider a career coach. If you find your boss’s suggestions too overwhelming to handle on your own get a career coach. Set out the boss’s objectives for you and discuss how best to go about them with a professional who is on the outside of the organization.
  7. Decide if you really want to change. How much does remaining employed with that company matter to you? How much does job satisfaction really matter? If you don’t give a hoot either way then stay exactly as you are and hope you don’t end up getting fired.
  8. Put your plan into action. Let’s assume you want to remain employed and you want to enjoy your job again (if you ever did). Alright Girlfriend it’s time to organize your notes from your career coach and your boss and download your plan into a template. If you ‘ve decided not to work with a career coach you may need to design your own change management template. Here’s a suggestion.
  9. Give your boss a copy of your change management plan. Give her time to look it over. She may want to re-schedule with you right away to assist you with your plan.
  10. Record the changes you have been putting into place. It’s important to document your progress, both for yourself and your boss.
  11. Record your feelings and your perspective on your job in a personal diary. This isn’t for the boss’s eyes so don’t type anything onto your work computer. Get a diary and write about how you’re feeling and any changes you’re noticing in the people around you. You’ll probably notice some positive changes right away. Make sure however that you aren’t silly enough to blog about your work situation! That’s an absolute social media no-no and believe it or not blogging about work could end up getting you fired.
  12. Follow-up with the boss. Ideally the two of you will have already chosen a date to meet again and discuss your change management plan during your first meeting. She will evaluate your progress and you will take notes about her feedback so you can put them into effect and for your memory’s sake. You still have a ways to go no doubt but I have a feeling you’ll be hearing some very positive critique!
  13. Evaluate your own progress. After all the changes you’ve made and the diplomatic criticism you’ve received from your boss if you still aren’t happy then perhaps you are ready to Jump Ship Before You Have to Build a Raft. 

 And while you’re managing change, here’s a little more David Bowie inspiration to wrap things up and motivate your Changes .

An Astounding Career Move and An Obvious S.O.S.

Filed under: celebrity careers — lisalahey @ 1:04 am


Remember that weird incident when a 25-year-old Britney Spears shaved her head completely bald?  Although I’m no Spears fan I must concur that Spears is one of the most over-publicized and media-hounded women in the world. It certainly took guts to shave her head like that. At the time Spears made the bizarre move she was nearly as famous for her blonde mane as her wannabe music (not much competition there really).  Of course Spear’s body image has always been a major focus for both paparazzi and talk show host jests. And if all that wasn’t enough Spear’s mothering has been called into question more than once with controversial photos and video snippets on Insider Edition to back up such claims.

And you think you’re stressed? 

It’s unlikely that Spear’s theatrical move to shave herself bald was about generating yet even more publicity for herself. She’s pulled enough hissy fits trying to escape the paparazzi to prove that the last thing she wants is more attention towards anything other than her “music” (sorry, I just can’t say that with a straight face).  Spears takes enough “hits” about her weight without worsening her physical image with a bald head.  It’s much more likely that her shaven head was (and still is even though her hair seems to have all grown back again) an expression of mental stress, perhaps even mental illness. Wouldn’t surprise me. How many attractive young celebrities, already hounded by the paparazzi deliberately make themselves less attractive to gain more attention? 

We’ve seen Spears go from decidedly chubby to admirably lean in a matter of days, reportedly through injections that cause body fat to dissolve and and then void from the body. Yuck. It doesn’t make sense that she’d shave her head for media and public reaction.

My money’s on mental duress if not illness and not because of the ensuing reports of a possible bipolar affective diagnosis that emerged after the notorious head-shaving. I figured that had to be the case before I ever read that article (honest!). It’s the only thing that  makes sense in this whole mess called Britney Spears.

Yet in a sense her quest for unattractiveness and less media appeal backfired. Spear’s baldness made her even more media worthy and it sent her league of teen minions scratching their (blonde, fluffy) heads for days over that one. The world probably waited for Spears to follow up the new image with an equally newsworthy mental breakdown and incarceration in a mental hospital yet it didn’t happen. It’s quite possible she began treatment with a psychiatrist but privately in her own palace, er home, out of sight of the relentless paparazzi. Personally I think had she not shaved her head that might have been the next step in Spear’s career and personal life. Or worse. A cry for help isn’t that difficult to recognize whether it’s driving a car into a tree, shaving one’s head bald or attempting an overdose.

But in some spheres it makes for a great career move.