Company Hires Workers No One Wants
Q: I work for a privately owned company with an owner who is supremely cheap. Everyone has one-and-a-half to two jobs, and the owner refuses to hire others. He makes sure we tolerate the conditions by hiring people who have a hard time getting jobs elsewhere. He piles on extra side jobs, and we are forced to do them. We all work to the point of exhaustion, which means we are more liable to make mistakes.
I am meticulous in my work, even though I am loaded down with jobs that could keep three employees busy. I made one minor error due to being overworked, and my boss pointed out the error in my recent evaluation. I was furious and hurt. My boss pretends to be on my side, but what kind of manager marks a person down in performance for making a truly minor error? I had asked for more money, and my boss used that one mistake to deny giving me an increase. I have to continue being nice, but it infuriates me. Plus, I am so overworked, how will I ever look for another job when I have never-ending projects? How do I get out of here? I need a job and can't just up and quit without one.
A: Quitting without having another job lined up is not practical, but neither is working yourself comatose so you can't help but make mistakes. I agree you need another job, so you may have to devise ways to take off.
First, you have to get the interviews, and to achieve this, you will need your wits about you to produce a dynamic resume bulleting every category of job you have. Don't list mundane duties unless they require a particular skill that heightens your value. For example, if you file documents, describe how you reorganized and cross-referenced files so they could be found when they pertained to several areas or departments. Don't make up information, but analyze every aspect of your work and how it helps to improve the processes necessary to the company. Everything you do should be thought of as an accomplishment. If you answer phones, it is not enough to list "answered phones." You must describe the purpose and goal of each activity, such as "resolved client inquiries and complaints."
Once you have a personalized resume (not a job description), you are ready to apply to other companies. You can respond to job ads, but you can also research other companies to see if you can create a job that isn't there yet. Your cover letter should be marked "confidential," though that is not a guarantee that the person receiving it doesn't know the owner of your company. Hopefully, other companies will know your current company owner is cheap and overworks his employees, which will speak well of your work ethic during your job search. When possible, meet for job interviews after work hours. If you regularly work overtime, you will have to prioritize your job search above your work, especially if you want to get another job.
Be careful not to speak negatively about the owner being cheap or overloading his employees. When asked why you want to change jobs, you can state you work (mention the number of hours per day or week), explaining you do nothing other than work. This will save you from getting into a similar job where the company expects the same commitment of hours. It may be difficult to deliver such information without turning it into a complaint, but it's important to not show your anger or frustration over it.
Remain steadfast and positive in your job search. You don't want to convey any desperate feelings you have about leaving your employer. The last thing you want is a new company where you also feel trapped.
Email career and life coach: Lindsey@LindseyNovak.com. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/features/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.