Personal Brand

The first step is figuring out what you stand for.

Personal Brand 

Do you have a personal brand? When your name is brought up in personal or professional circles, what are folks saying about you? How does your manager think about you? How are you perceived by your peers? Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have a personal brand and if we want to further our careers, we should develop and strengthen that brand for the better. There is no better time than the beginning of the New Year to think about your personal brand. One way to strengthen your professional game is to have a set of values that directs us individually. This set of “values” can help us ground our professional decision-making process in times of stress when decisions are the most important.

Below is the list of reminders I pull out when going through hard times. Some of the bullets have changed over the years, but a number of them have remained unchanged. They are a reminder for myself and I share these as an example to everyone in hopes we all think about what we want to be known for in our particular disciplines. A few of my colleagues outside of HR have similar lists and I have learned a lot when these lists were shared. I would appreciate you, the reader sharing your favorites in the comments below so we can all be exposed to new ideas.  The following is a list of philosophies I try to keep in mind when making hard decisions. I encourage everyone to conceptualize your personal brand for the new year.

  • My primary job one, P0 (P Zero), oath to the CEO and board is to protect the company and make a return on investment for our investors. As the HR guy, I am not here to look out for individual employees. By protecting the company first, I am looking out for the individual employees. You can protect the company and have a great place to work.
  • Successful HR practitioners understand that they are not going to be able to please all employees all the time. Successful HR practitioners understand that there will always be someone who doesn’t agree with a business decision and solid business decisions will not be made if we worry about individual reactions. With 100 employees in a company, I am not going to make decisions based on the 1 or 2 negative Nellies that speak out the loudest. I need to coach them to productive feedback or help them find a better fitting corporate culture. Decisions need to be made for the long-term good of the company goals and not the 2 squeaky wheels. In the immortal words of Spock: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”.
  • As an HR practitioner, all I have is trust. As soon as I lose the employees trust, my value as an HR professional is worthless. HR always asks for trust, but we need to give reasons to be trusted. Transparency is a good first step to earning trust. Helping employees further their careers, make more money, land a new opportunity or promotion is a good step to earning trust.
  • I am going to make it HR’s responsibility to over communicate company decisions to the departments and the company. I want the message to be heard by employees 3 different times, three different ways. Employees may not care for a company decision from a personal standpoint, but my goal is to deliver an understanding so that there is at least professional RESPECT for the decision from a company perspective. When an employee is bitter about a company decision, it is usually a lack of understanding around how the decision was made. It is because the employee didn’t get the opportunity to hear the reasoning behind why the decision was made. At the executive level, big company decisions are hashed, debated and marinated for days, weeks, and maybe even months. Sr. leaders had a voice in the decision and the opportunity to present alternatives. Ideas were vetted against many other ideas and options. Individual employees are not afforded this luxury of visibility or exposure to the problems being solved over time. They may not understand a decision in a 2 minute announcement or a 300-word email. This is why the over communication of company decisions is so important.
  • Make sure that employees are paid on time and accurately. When in doubt, be pro-active and clear up individual questions around employee salaries. Employees work for a paycheck. Apologies from accounting or HR won’t pay the bills.
  • I believe that individually, we alone are ultimately responsible for our own careers / destiny. Despite the manager, despite the VP, despite the dick headed co-worker that is making our lives miserable, it is up to me to take responsibility and actions for my own career. It is not my manager’s responsibility to make sure that I have a successful career. In my experience too many employees believe their managers and the manager alone controls the individual employees career. As an HR Pro/Am, I can influence this mentality held by so many employees.  
  • If we could put a man on the moon in the 60’s with 64 kilobytes of memory, then in today’s age where we can buy terra bytes of storage off the shelf for PERSONAL use, we can do anything. It may take more time, more resources, or more people, but we can do anything. The word “can’t” should not exist.
  • If an employee wants to tell me something in confidence, then I need to let them know up front that if an employee or the company is at risk, I will need to involve others. I should coach and counsel, but allowing the company or an employee to be at risk is not an option. Hearing something in confidence and then running to the CEO without employee permission is weak.
  • On hiring: No assholes. Doesn’t matter how smart they are, no assholes.
  • On culture: Culture is not Ping-Pong tables or beer Fridays. Culture cannot be turned up or down with “more or less toys or activities”. Regardless of the values, effective corporate cultures will happen when the workforce is engaged and believes the leaders vision and values. A company can make a “Great place to work” list and still have a corporate culture that will work for some and WILL NOT WORK FOR OTHERS. As individuals, we need to find a company that has a corporate culture and the products that we can believe in. When the employees believe in the leadership team and the vision, the culture of the company can move the company forward. When the employees don’t care about the leadership values or the vision, the company culture can put the company in a downward spiral.  
  • Culture works when hiring is consistent with the values of the company. Bringing on someone who wants to wear shorts and flip-flops to a suit and tie culture is not going to work. Bringing on a really smart asshole to a No Asshole culture is not going to work. Bringing an asshole to an asshole culture CAN work. No employee is for every company and not every company is for every employee. Culture can start with the job description by attracting and weeding out specific behavior. Culture is reinforced during the interview and on boarding of a candidate turned new hire. Culture works when management and HR work together to reinforce the values. Letting behavior counter productive to the culture go un-checked is what causes apathy to those reinforcing the culture.
  • Being successful in HR means being able to hold the respect of the team while executing on hard and harder painful business decisions. Any monkey can give a raise. Any monkey can hold respect on the easy and obvious decisions. The 800 lb. gorillas can conduct layoffs and make sure that everyone is treated with dignity and will assist, counsel and coach those looking for their next gig. 
  • Successful HR practitioners can appreciate and articulate that everyone will enter the building with a different background and these personal experiences will affect their perception and interpretation of the work environment in different ways. When unsure of what to do, giving the benefit of doubt is a good thing. Every new employee joined the company excited and eager to make a fresh start. If this attitude changed, then something is behind that change. Employees don’t wake up one morning and just decide to be assholes at work.  

And my all time favorite:

It is better to keep ones’ mouth shut and let everyone think you are a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

Let me know what philosophies ground you in your day-to-day practice. The exercise of putting our beliefs down on paper will make anyone stronger by forcing us to think about how we go about and articulate our day-to-day lives.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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job sucks

Smile and run away as fast as you can.

My new job sucks, how soon can I quit?

Your job sucks but you don’t want to quit because you feel like the short tenure on your resume will look bad. Do you fear explaining your short job history in your next interview? Do you think your resume will reflect poorly? This week I answer the question “my job sucks, how soon is too soon to quit?” This past week, I received an email asking these very questions. I hear these questions regularly enough I thought it was worth posting my thoughts. Below is the original email with no edits with the author’s permission of course. (Check the first sentence.) The names have been omitted to protect the innocent.


Your blog has impacted my career significantly. I am thankful that there is no BS in all your advice, and that you offer it whether it is painful or jolly. Which is why your point of view is important to me. I’m hoping you could offer me advice. I recently graduated college and took up a job as an administrative assistant at a prestigious firm in California where I support 2 partners and 2 directors. I have been in my current position for about 7 months and I am very unhappy. I like my co-workers. I just do not like my team members. And my boss is horrible. She is the sister of a leading partner of the firm and gets away with yelling at us. She has no sense of privacy and tells everyone her complaints about our team. I could go on and on. But I won’t. Point is, my unhappiness is deeply affecting my work. I have no motivation to excel because of the terrible work environment. I avoid my boss at all costs, and only talk to her when necessary. I’ve tried reminding myself that in comparison the rest of the world my life is really not that bad. About a third of the world is worse off than me (yet somehow manage to be happy!). But damn. As much as I try to look at the positives – I just can’t because I’m not respected as a professional. Is it too soon to start looking for a new job? I know 7 months is hardly any experience but I don’t see myself here for much longer.  Should I suck it up and stay put for at least a year? Does that even make a difference? As a recruiter, what does one year at a job translate to? I know I will have to get creative when asked why I am looking for a new job at interviews. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Much thanks,



Below is my answer and hopefully it provides the business reasons behind the mentality.



Thanks for the support of the blog and I am really sorry you are in this situation. There is nothing worse than signing up for a gig and finding out you just got the old “bait and switch”. The person that interviewed us was Dr. Jekyll and the person we report to is the evil Mr. Hyde. FWIW, you are not alone.

  • We have all attended a college class, loved the professor on day one and then 2 weeks later dropped out because we couldn’t stand the tyrant.
  • A lot of us have gone on a first date thinking we found our Mr. or Mrs. Right, only to find they were lying, cheating and stealing mistakes.

And of course,

  • A lot of us have interviewed with what we thought was a nice manager, only to find out that they are a better interviewer than a manager.

Don’t worry, you are not alone, the key is to do something about it.

If this were any other HR post, I would say:

  • Try to get along with your hiring manager.
  • Take them out to coffee and find a personal connection with them, it is hard to yell and be abusive when two people have a personal connection.
  • And the classic, if you are not able to get along with this manager, you probably won’t be able to get along with a future manager.

That is not how I roll. The job sucks and it isn’t or fault. I read the email and it was plain as day: Founder-driven company and all of the neurosis that comes along with it.

So, to answer your question.  GET OUT!  GET THE F*** OUT!  GET OUT NOW AND DON’T LOOK BACK.  Could I have been more clear? Want me to tell you how I really feel?  GETTTT OUTTTT! The job sucks and you are not going to change the culture.

X, here is the deal.  No judge pounded the gavel and gave you 2 to 20. There is no timeline on how long your sentence lasts with Acme Publishing’s disruptive manager. The gold watch comes at the 30-year retirement, not at the one year anniversary. There isn’t anything worth waiting for. Skip the 1-year milestone and don’t feel like you are going to miss out on the cheap grocery store cake and card signed by the entire department, “wishing you many more”.

If you wait a year, you will be in such a crappy mood, mentally and emotionally that anyone you interview with will not see the self-sacrificing girl who has the heart stick it out. Nice guys finish last and nice girls don’t go to the prom. If you start interviewing in a year, the next hiring manager will see emotional baggage of someone getting out of an abusive relationship. You may think you can wear a smile, but you won’t realize your bitterness is showing through. Even if you do hide it, you will go down the rabbit hole when any of the following interviewing questions are asked:

  • Tell me about your last manager? What didn’t you like?
  • What will your last manager say about you when we call them up for a reference?
  • What do you look for in a manager?

We want to start applying immediately, ASAP. Your timeline is “turn up the gas and move em’ out “now”. Run Forrest Run! Picture Michelle Jeneke, super positive, smiling and running like the wind. Who wouldn’t want to hire her attitude?

At the interview here is what we want to do and what we want to avoid.

Despite the fact that your current job sucks, we need to go into the interview with big smiles. You want to be the picture of happy-go-lucky. We need to look like it will take a real ass hole to get us to quit our job. We want to exude that positive attitude you mentioned.

We know we will be asked why we are leaving our last company after only 8 months. Just be very polite repeat after me:

“When I applied I thought it was going to be a great career move, but it hasn’t worked out that way.  I like the people I work with, I love the product, and still hang out with the team, but the culture was disruptive and abusive”.

We are not going to roll our neck, we are not going to wave our hands about in a dramatic jazz hands fashion, and we will not let out any deep sighs of exasperation. I have seen this scenario a number of times and this is the last person I want to send to the hiring manager or the VP of the department for an interview. 

When the interviewer asks us to go into details, we decline politely. We do not go into the gore or name any individual names. No one wants to go on a date with someone just getting out of a bad personal relationship and no one wants to hire a bitter employee.

“I want to work for a place and have a long-term career. I want to be at a place a long time and be supported so I can be great at the job”.

A little naive sounding yes, but we want to be positive and matter of fact. The interviewer will continue to dig into why the job sucks and we can diplomatically reveal:

“The culture was abusive and management publicly yelled at employees on a regular basis”.

This is all we let out, we do not go into details we do not give examples.

Don’t worry about the time line.  At 7 months, you gave the managers plenty of time. This of your time in dog years. You sound very rational and if we explain the above situation without emotion, diplomatically, and avoid blaming anyone, then no one will fault you.  If you can remain calm without getting flustered, no one can blame you for taking the initiative to get out. As soon as we start raising our voice, or getting emotional, the interviewer will assume that we were the trigger for the rude manager behavior.

We want to give the impression that we have moved on. We do not want to be the bitter girl who is still hung up on the boy who treated her like dirt. No one wants to hear anything like that on a first date and either does your next manager during the interview.

Let me know if you have any questions, and read here how to resign from your current employer with style and grace, (a.k.a. without burning bridges) here.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!