Corporate Jobs That Suck

Dream Jobs and Job Nightmares — Work-Related Dream Analysis

October 30th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

During this week leading up to Halloween, a holiday designed to let you live out your secret fantasy or nightmare for the evening, I have been plagued by weird dreams about work. I decided to do some research and  it turns out that bizarre work-related dreams are very common. But what do they mean?

According to self-proclaimed dream analysis experts, if you are dreaming regularly about your job, it’s a good sign that your subconscious is trying to tell you that you’re overworked or feeling overwhelmed by career issues. This is why I have now scheduled an overdue vacation so I can start dreaming about Caribbean beaches instead of gray conference rooms.

Have you ever awakened from a twisted office nightmare that makes you fear for your sanity? After researching dream interpretations, I discovered that there are several very common work dreams. I bet you’ve had at least one of them. Read on for interpretations of what these job-related dreams may be telling you about your waking life.

5 Most Common Work-Related Dreams Explained

desk-sex-boss1) The Dream: Sex with Your Boss

I might as well cover the most exciting (or potentially horrifying) dream first, right? If you’ve been living in shame and confusion about sexy-time dreams involving your vile boss, you’ll be relieved to know that you’re not alone. Many people dream about sex with a boss or authority figure at the office.

The Dream Interpretation

Maybe your boss just happens to be hot. Maybe you have a suppressed fetish for pinstripes and comb-overs.

On the other hand, sex in dreams can also be a metaphor. You may dream of sex with someone that you feel a strong chemistry with — even if the chemistry is strictly professional. Or your boss may represent something — authority, success, control. Your dream of hooking up with the boss may indicate that you want to connect with the part of you that he/she represents.

Years ago, my friend T. was troubled by a dream of very satisfying sex with her then-boss, who was not particularly attractive and about as far from T’s usual type as humanly possible. For weeks, she had trouble looking him in the eye without blushing. Actually, after hearing about the dream, I got a little giggly in his presence myself. We decided that the dream symbolized her eagerness to please her new boss (and to have him please her with a positive performance review).

2) The Dream:  Killing  Your Boss

But what if your dream self is more interested in homicide than hot sex? Have you ever dreamed about harming or killing your boss?

The Dream Interpretation

The straightforward interpretation here is that your dream self is acting on strong feelings of dislike or envy toward the boss in question.

Another interpretation is that your dream murder victim represents a part of you that you resent or hate. Maybe your boss represents a nightmare version of the future you. Then again, it’s possible that you just played a rousing version of Shag, Marry, Kill before bedtime.

naked-with-briefcase3) The Dream: Naked at Work

In this dream, you’re going about your business at the office when you suddenly realize that you’re completely naked. Oops.

The Dream Interpretation

There are a couple of potential reasons for your public dream nudity. The most common interpretation is that your nudity symbolizes feeling caught off guard. Perhaps you are currently overwhelmed with responsibilities or feel unprepared for a particular project or presentation.

If nobody else in your dream seems to notice your pantslessness, your subconscious may be trying to tell you that you are blowing your fears out of proportion and you’re the only one who thinks you’re out of your depth.

Alternatively, if the discovery of your dream nakedness makes you feel ashamed or  horrified, your subconscious may be reflecting feelings of vulnerability or embarrassment surrounding a secret that you’re keeping. read more…

Hypnotize with Your Words — Learn Persuasive Writing Skills

July 2nd, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Learning how to write to persuade can really pay off in the business world. Your writing can sell a product or service, score you a job interview, justify a promotion or raise, establish credibility with a client or boss, motivate a difficult employee, or win support for your cause.

In the current hyper-competitive business environment, persuasive writing skills are more valuable than ever before. That’s why I worked with the American Management Association (AMA) to develop a live 90-minute webinar that teaches the 12 proven techniques for writing persuasively.

The webinar will take place on August 6th from 1-2:30 pm and we have worked hard to pack it with valuable information and exercises that will help anyone be more effective at work — even if writing isn’t a major part of your job. In fact, persuasive writing is an essential skill for managers (write convincing emails and performance reviews), entrepreneurs (write winning proposals and pitches), and career changers and job hunters (write brilliant resumes and cover letters).

Sign up now if you’re interested in learning how to convince, inspire, and influence with your writing. The email just went out the the AMA database and spots are filling up, so I wanted to give everybody here a heads-up now. Learn more about the course.

From Lehman Brothers to Taxi Driver — Laid Off in Las Vegas

June 17th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

vegas-taxicabWhen I hailed a taxi on the Las Vegas strip last week, I never expected to find a former Lehman Brothers broker behind the wheel. His greeting: “I hope you’re not one of those liberals.” I am, but he didn’t hold it against me for long.

Let’s call my driver Jack. Jack was an up-and-comer with Lehman Brothers for years and worked for the firm in New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. When he agreed to pack up his life to transfer to the Las Vegas office, he never expected that the firm would implode and leave him stranded without a job in Sin City.

You see, Jack invested in Las Vegas real estate and is unwilling to walk away and take a loss on his home. But there aren’t many financial services jobs to be had in Las Vegas. Not that Jack isn’t flexible. He recently traveled to San Francisco for an interview with a major international bank and met with a condescending 30-year-old manager (Jack is a well-seasoned 50-ish). Don’t call us, we’ll call you. But they never did.

So Jack spends his days driving a taxi around Las Vegas. It’s not so much that he’s desperate for the cash. Luckily, his wife is still bringing home a regular paycheck. No, Jack became a taxi driver because he couldn’t stand sitting at home in his depreciating Las Vegas home and thinking about the job market and how he got screwed over by Corporate America.

It’s better to have the distractions of Vegas traffic, talkative tourists, and slow-moving construction workers. “She’s pulling in six figures just to stand there holding that sign,” he grumbles after beeping, cursing, and exchanging hand signals with a sluggish woman in an orange vest.

Jack’s a pretty good cabbie and an even better story teller. But he doesn’t want to do this forever.

In between shifts, Jack is keeping an eye out for promising job listings (they are few and far between) and waiting for a break.

In the meantime, if you hail a cab in Las Vegas, you might find yourself accused of liberal leanings by a gruff, bearded, former Lehman Brothers broker. He will get you to the airport on time and even help you with your bags. Tip generously.

The Collapsing Corporation and Rise of Virtual Distance

March 19th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

We’ve been hearing a lot about collapsing corporations lately.  Dr. Karen Sobel Lojeski, author and Professor of Technology and Society at Stony Brook University, says Virtual Distance may be to blame for many of today’s corporate problems.

Last night, I heard Dr. Lojeski speak at a lecture sponsored by the Project Management Institute.  She has spent the last several years studying the concept of Virtual Distance™, which she defines as  “the perceived distance between two or more individuals when their primary method of communication and  coordination is not face to face.”  Her research shows that our increasing dependence on technology for communication (even with those in the cubicle down the hall) and outmoded vertical corporate structures have led to failures in efficiency, collaboration, engagement, and innovation.

She is not proposing that we outlaw telecommuting, email, and conference calls. Instead, Dr. Lojeski has  identified some techniques for minimizing virtual distance within an organization, regardless of the geographic distance between team members. These include building in face time at key points in a project and forcing focus during calls (shut down your email and step away from distractions).

Most importantly, she believes that techniques for managing  successful virtual teams must be people-focused, not technology-focused. The technology enables, but there is no innovation without engaged human beings.

I must say that I agree strongly with that philosophy. And because  I value the flexibility of being able to work from just about anywhere in the world, I’m a big supporter of any research that will help make remote workers, telecommuters, and road warriors more effective.

Virtual teams are here to stay.  And if they are managed well, they can help companies achieve serious business and productivity benefits.

However, I do find that work relationships develop more quickly when I have already met someone in person. That’s not to say that I don’t have close and valued clients and colleagues that I’ve never met face-to-face.  I do, but it usually takes a bit longer to bond when you only communicate via phone and email.

Ask any sales guru — they always try to score an in-person pitch meeting because they know it will improve their chances with a prospect exponentially.

So what do you think? Does virtual distance make the heart grow fonder or is it a productivity-killer? Have you found successful techniques for maintaining strong relationships with virtual team members?

For more information about Dr. Lojeski’s research, check out her latest book, Uniting the Virtual Workforce (and look for her upcoming follow-up, Leading the Virtual Workforce, later this year).

The Latest Job Satisfaction Stats

February 5th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

theofficedwightIn this economy, “job satisfaction” tends to be relative. Yes, many are grateful just to have a steady paycheck,  but you might be surprised at how many of the gainfully employed are searching for something better. just released its 4th annual survey of employee job satisfaction and it revealed some interesting trends:

  • Approximately 65% of respondents said they were “somewhat” satisfied, but less than 15% said they were “extremely” satisfied. Meanwhile, employers believe that 30% of their workers are “extremely” satisfied. As usual, management is out of touch (maybe that’s because we know what’s good for us and have learned how to put on a happy face at work even when we’re seething inside).
  • The most satisfied workers are the Working Retirees and those in the Healthcare and Internet industries (I wonder if anyone has done a Blogger Job Satisfaction survey).
  • The least satisfied workers are the Millenials (those under 30) and those in the Financial Services industry (no shocker there).
  • 65% of employed survey respondents said they are looking around (up more than 17% this year). 60% said they plan to intensify their job search over the next three months despite the economy.
  • Nearly 80% of responding managers do not believe that their employees will initiate a job search in the next three months. Workers are smarter than managers realize. We might be willing to settle for a steady paycheck in the short term, especially during a tough job market, but we are always keeping our eyes open for a more rewarding opportunity. So don’t think you can treat us like crap forever. We’ll put up with it only as long as we absolutely have to.
  • Those who plan to stay in their jobs will do so because of a best friend at work, a good paycheck, or an easy commute. It’s rather telling that none of these factors have anything to do with the work itself.

Check out more results from the survey.

Revolutionary Road — Corporate Desperation, 1950’s Style

January 22nd, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

leonardodicaprio1The 2009 Academy Award nominations were announced today and it looks like Revolutionary Road will not be taking home any Oscars despite lots of critical praise and Golden Globe love.

I haven’t seen the film yet. I love Leo and Kate, but my love for Richard Yates’ novel is even stronger and I’m not sure any movie can do it justice.

Revolutionary Road is about two people trapped in an American dream they never wanted. Frank Wheeler has a good corporate job that he hates. April is trying not to go mad with boredom as a suburban housewife and mother. Frank and April always dreamed of greatness, expected greatness. Instead they are stuck in mediocrity that is just too comfortable to escape from.

Anyone who has felt stifled in Corporate America will identify with Yates’ descriptions of Frank’s office purgatory:

“At first glance, all the upper floors of the Knox Building looked alike. Each was a big open room, ablaze with fluorescent ceiling lights, that had been divided into a maze of aisles and cubicles by shoulder-high partitions. The upper panels of these dividers, waist to shoulder, were made of thick unframed plate glass that was slightly corrugated to achieve a blue-white semi-transparency; and the overall effect of this, to a man getting off the elevator and looking out across the room, was that of a wide indoor lake in which swimmers far and near were moving, some making steady headway, some treading water, others seen in the act of breaking to the surface or going under, and many submerged, their faces loosened into wavering pink blurs as they drowned at their desks.” read more…

7 Holiday Gifts for the Downsized and Disgruntled

December 3rd, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

As you’re making that list and checking it twice, you’ll probably notice that some of your nearest and dearest are among the downsized (recently laid off) or disgruntled (stuck in miserable or stressful jobs for purely paycheck reasons) this year.

These are the friends and family members who deserve an extra special gift this year. They’re dealing with increased stress and financial uncertainty and could use a bit of extra good cheer. And you don’t have to bust your budget to give a thoughtful present. After all, this is a year of reduced gift budgets for everybody.

A great present for your downsized, laid off, or job-loathing loved one will accomplish one (or more) of the following goals: 1) Assist with their job hunt or career change; 2) Offer some distraction or escapism from their work or no-work stresses; or 3) Provide a little bit of luxury or pampering that they may feel guilty about spending money on right now. Here are some gift ideas to consider:

1) A Great Book — Books are perfect gifts because they are always affordable and always personal. Show how much you care by taking the time to pick out just the right book. You can opt for a title that will support your pal’s current career transition — like the always-appreciated Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams. Naturally, I am biased and think my own book is the perfect gift for the downsized or disgruntled. In fact, I was inspired to put together this list after hearing from several readers who had purchased extra copies for holiday gifts. Another good career-related book is Smart Networking, which has valuable advice on using online and in-person networking strategies to make career-boosting connections.

Then again, it might be more fun to give a fantastic novel or engrossing nonfiction work that is totally unrelated to the job hunt. Or a book of hilarious essays like David Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed in Flames or Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking.

2) A Resume Revamp — A strong resume is the key to booking that career-changing interview. And sometimes, a little bit of professional, unbiased input can turn a dull resume into a brilliant marketing document. Buy your buddy a gift certificate for a professional resume edit or rewrite. Find a certified professional resume writer in your area through the Professional Association of Resume Writers. Most resume writers offer a range of services at different price points — from a quick edit of an existing resume to a full rewrite.

3) Network Building — Another way to help with the job hunt is by giving the gift of networking. Pay to upgrade your friend to a premium LinkedIn account for a few months. The Business ($19.95 per month) and Business Plus ($50 per month) accounts include more powerful search capabilities and the ability to connect with more people outside your immediate network.

4) A Night at the Movies — Everybody loves the movies. Give Fandango Bucks and your best buds can enjoy some end-of-the-year Oscar bait or a fun holiday popcorn flick (throw in a few bucks extra for Twizzlers or Junior Mints). They can even enjoy one of the perks of unemployment and play hooky at the movies in the middle of a weekday while you’re slaving away in your cube. Another option is to pick up a great DVD for a cozy movie night at home (popcorn from Orville Redenbacher is much cheaper). Good DVD choices for the downsized and disgruntled include Office Space and Jerry Maguire.

5) A Spa Indulgence — Just when your best buddy could most use a massage or a bit of pampering, she probably feels guilty about spending the bucks on something “impractical.” Treat her to a well-deserved rubdown or give a gift certificate to put toward a day of relaxation. SpaFinder can help you find top-rated spas and purchase gift certificates online. Or you can treat her to a little at-home pampering for around $20 with a Spa-In-A-Basket With Comfy Slippers And Massage Tool or Dr. Scholl’s Foot Spa with Bubbles and Massage

6) Overpriced Coffee — Overpriced luxuries are the first things that get cut from most downsized budgets. For your favorite Starbucks fanatics, it’s probably painful to give up those lattes and mochas and espressos for cheaper home brews. So why not perk up their lives with Starbucks gift cards? They get to enjoy some extra caffeinated treats during the holiday season without feeling guilty about frivolous spending. And for those coffee fans who are fed up with the job hunt and searching for a Plan B? Buy a copy of How Starbucks Saved My Life so your pal can learn more about the joys of barista-ing (health insurance, free coffee, and valuable life lessons!).

7) Lots of Love and a Juicy Job Lead — But what if there’s no room in your gift budget for your favorite unemployed or unhappily employed friend? Believe me, he will understand if your wallet is a little light this year. You can always show your love with a holiday card with a personal message or a batch of home-baked holiday treats. Even better, think about whether there’s a favor you can do to help out. Can you think of a job lead to pass on or a potentially valuable introduction that you could make? Could you offer to help punch up that resume or brainstorm career ideas? These are gifts that don’t cost you a dime but can be worth a lot to a friend who’s feeling stuck in a job-hunt rut.

Give Thanks for Your Crappy Job

November 25th, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

To help you celebrate Thanksgiving, here is a new and improved version of my post from last Turkey Day — a call to express thanks for the good things in your life, which is especially important in the midst of our current economic rough patch.

Forget about all of the pilgrim crap. The best way to think about Thanksgiving is as a time to express gratitude for all of the great things in your life — your friends, your family, your health, your access to massive quantities of poultry and pumpkin pie.

And don’t forget to say a little thanks to the universe or your deity of choice for your job if you’ve got one. You’re probably rolling your eyes right now if you’re stuck in a stressful or mind-numbing corporate job. Or if you’ve been recently downsized or restructured or otherwise unceremoniously shown the door by your corporate overlords.

But trust me, there are plenty of things to be grateful for if you really think about it:

Give Thanks for Your Paycheck — If you’re collecting regular paychecks or severance payments, you’re doing better than a lot of people. That’s not to say that you should settle for a job that’s only about the paycheck or avoid taking risks to find more fulfilling work. You can have both a paycheck and a meaningful career. And you will.

Give Thanks for All That You’ve Learned — Your experience in Corporate America has made you wiser. You have learned valuable business skills, developed a network of helpful contacts, and built a resume. You’ve also learned a lot about what you DON’T want to do for a living. All of these things will come in handy in your dream career — whether it’s starting your own business, becoming a third-grade teacher, or writing the Great American Novel. Yes, your bosses can always lay you off but they can never take away any of that hard-earned experience or your talents, skills, or wisdom.

Give Thanks for the Fire Under Your Ass — Sometimes, people need to be miserable in order to find the motivation to change. If you know anything about Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey or have seen a few Hollywood films, you know that the hero must go through crisis in order to achieve victory. A wise woman in one of my writing workshops put it this way — "a character doesn’t change unless you light a fire under his ass." What this means for you is that you will probably never take a leap until you feel flames on the seat of your pants. That fire could be the burning passion for your new career or it could be the slow, smoldering misery and/or frustration of a job that doesn’t inspire you. Whatever your inspiration, if you find yourself giving thanks for a brilliant new career by next Thanksgiving, you have that fire under your ass to thank.

Give Thanks for a Day Off — Most good corporate citizens in the U.S. get a paid day off for Thanksgiving. Many even get two (say thanks twice in this case). And if you’ve been laid off, look at it this way: You can do whatever you want for Thanksgiving and you don’t have to clear your plans with any boss this year. Take a break from the job search and do what so many terminated executives say they’re going to do — spend more time with your family. Or ditch your family if they’re a pain in the butt and spend time with people who are more supportive. Eat well and wear loose-fitting clothing.

And I want to thank you for reading this blog and sharing your thoughts and feedback. I am deeply grateful to everyone who has supported me over the last year as I published my first book and started a new and exciting chapter in my career. So many people shared their advice and expertise and helped me spread the word about Escape from Corporate America. A sincere thank you to each and every one of you…and you know who you are.

Bosses on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

August 5th, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

Is the lame economy driving your boss over the edge? Or maybe it’s just the heat that’s making your manager even more cranky and power-mad than usual. contributor Eva Tahmincioglu sees a trend. She writes, “I’ve been hearing lots of hair-raising stories lately about bosses who may have had a tendency to be mean but are now acting like full-blown Darth Vaders. Many workplace experts believe tough economic times and the constant drumbeat to do more with fewer people may be driving managers over to the dark side.” Read Eva’s article about increasingly bad boss behavior in today’s job market.

Another reason for the surge in manager misanthropy: Bad bosses think they can get away with treating employees unfairly because many workers are afraid to leave due to the shaky job market. I’ve seen lots of bad bosses, inappropriate behavior, and abysmal employee satisfaction survey results ignored by the corporate powers-that-be. The attitude seems to be, “What are they going to do, quit?”

Of course, this is a stupid and shortsighted point of view. Mistreated workers grow more bitter and unproductive every day and are likely to bolt at the first opportunity.

Tahmincioglu offers some tips for dealing with mean bosses. She suggests confronting your manager diplomatically or going over a bad boss’ head if the situation gets severe.

In many cases, however, there is little that you can do to reform a toxic boss. Your best bet may be to leave. Remember: There are other jobs out there even if the economic picture isn’t quite as rosy as we’d like it to be.

Your Boss Is Watching You

April 21st, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

Want to read something scary? Check out this article on AOL about all of the wily ways that your  company can track what you’re doing in and out of the office.

You’re probably aware that it’s possible for your employer to spy on your email and your computer usage. But did you know that corporations also use video monitoring, phone surveillance and radio frequency ID cards to keep tabs on employees?

If you’re naive like I used to be, you may have allowed yourself to be lulled into a false sense of privacy at work. After all, why would your company bother to watch every little move you make? As long as you don’t download porn or blog about your manager’s bad breath, you’re probably fine. Right?

Sorry, no. It seems some companies have plenty of time and resources to keep tabs on employees’ every email, phone call, and bathroom break. Here’s the awful truth:

  • The ID card that gets you into the office may have an embedded radio transmitter that tracks when you enter and leave the office. Better not linger at Starbucks.
  • Employers really do monitor email and 28% of surveyed companies have fired workers for e-mail misuse.  62% were fired for inappropriate  language in email, 26% for personal email use, and 22% for violating company confidentially.
  • Some companies now use software that keeps track of employee printing down to individual print jobs. Better wait to print out that resume until you get home.
  • Your boss could be monitoring your every keystroke at work in real time — including your typing speed, your Internet patterns, and what software you use. Nearly half of companies surveyed capture and save this data.
  • Almost half of companies surveyed use video office surveillance, though most do inform employees if they are being recorded.

Creeped out yet? Well then, you better get back to work (and maybe delete some of those personal emails). Oh yeah, and smile pretty for the camera in the ceiling.