Monday, April 30, 2012

What do you Crave?

c. Omar Manejwala
We all crave something. Our society is based upon cravings and addictions. What will satisfy me NOW; What will get me though THIS.

I met Dr. Omar Manejwala at my local Starbucks just last week. He was working on his forthcoming book, when he asked me about the trivia tournament he had overheard me talking about to the baristas. Later, I asked him about the phone conversation I had overheard with his publisher.

Are you writing a book? I asked.

His book is called Craving:Why We Can’t Get Enough by Hazelden Publishing, due out in spring 2013.

I was really excited. Do you talk about the reptilian brain? I eagerly asked him.

Throughout our conversation, I found out that not only does he have extensive knowledge of the reptilian brain, he had worked at the same hospital I do. He now works in LA, and, yes, his clients have included celebrities; but he’s not divulging which ones.

I was intrigued with the concept of his book, so I asked him what had sparked his interest in addiction. He has been in psychiatric practice for nearly a decade. While he started out with no interest in treating addiction, he quickly became the rock star of addictionology.

People’s cravings can adversely affect their lives and people don’t know to do with that.

He said he quickly realized the need for a book on cravings. With all his experience, he was definitely up to the job.

He told me,
Cravings originate in the paleo-brain. Frequently they are somewhat outside of our control. Interplay between deep brain structures, neo- cortex, memory, thoughts, experience and context generates [our] cravings. They are determined both by deep urges that develop mentally and [through our] experiences.

Most people don’t seek treatment for their cravings, unless they are severe addictions, but when they have milder problems they won’t seek help.

I asked him what the number one secret to beating cravings was.

He listed a few for me:
the power of group, altruism, reframing situations, and forming new habits.

I asked him if he was somewhat jaded from all of his years doing this, if everything has become textbook, so to speak. I wanted to know if anything gets to him.

Anytime you are treating a devastating illness it can be tough. Often the family’s response is the hardest. Addiction is a family disease, the effects go on for years. Families are systems, they like homeostasis, if one member decides to get well, that can be a tremendous stress to the family.  Its also incredibly rewarding work.

If you have any system and you change one part of it, the rest of it is forced to change.

People don’t like change, even good change. So he spends a lot of his efforts on helping and supporting families. He says, unlike a job, where you can just leave if you don’t like the way things are going, you often can’t choose to leave a family. So people feel trapped.

He’s seen families of adolescents in eating disorder treatment. Whether or not they admit it, the parents feel responsible for child’s eating disorders. They feel shame, shock. Even if they can’t admit that they feel guilty, they often do.

He says that the teen might complain to their parent about the difficulty of the treatment. The parent feels guilty and pulls them out of rehab, and then, of course, nothing changes.

He doesn’t like the word dysfunctional. It takes a lot more than you would think it takes [to change]. It takes forgiveness, acceptance, accountability and people need to clean up their messes.

He talks about the importance of systems. Just because you stop doing what you’re craving doesn’t mean you are cured. Take care of the problem, change your environment.

I asked him if he ever felt discouraged when, despite his best efforts, he couldn’t help someone.

He said that you hope you are making a difference even if someone doesn’t meet their goals. Instead of thinking in terms of success and failure, think in terms of the journey.

c. 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Interview with Absolutely Abby

Abby Kohut
Abby Kohut is on a mission to help a million job seekers. Abby is a Human Resource professional by day. By night and weekends, she is all about inspiring and educating people to find their perfect job, as Absolutely Abby. I had the opportunity and privilege to speak with her.

Not only was Abby was included in the list of top 100 influential people online according to Fast Company Magazine, but she was named as one of The Monster 11 for 2011: Career Experts Who Can Help Your Job Search.  

She shares all her secrets on how to land a job. Her 15 years experience as a corporate recruiter definitely gives her the edge. Abby has been helping people find not just jobs, but careers, since 2009 through her books, speeches, and website.

I asked her to share one of her secrets, and she has an ingenious idea about how to get your resume actually seen by someone.

Normally a recruitment ad requests that a job seeker send their resumes into a company’s applicant tracking system, a.k.a “the black hole.” To get out of the hole, you need to have a mind meld with the recruiter. That is, your resume needs to have the exact words on the recruiter’s mind as he or she starts to search for candidates. After you send your resume into the back hole, send it in via fax to the hiring manager so you can be sure that someone is going to see it and read it. You’ll have to find the hiring
manager via LinkedIn or the company’s website. If you get it wrong, no worries! The person you sent it to will send it to the correct person but you still get credit for trying.

I asked Abby why HR has such a bad rep. Everyone seems to have a bad taste in their mouth from it. In preparation for this interview, I checked out a job description for an HR manager. It included duties like organizational departmental planning; compliance to regulatory concerns; employee onboarding; company-wide committee facilitation; all sounded very mechanical to me.

While Abby acknowledges that this perception is a problem, she assured me that those things are there to help people. She told me that what she does is help hire people, and then help them get things like benefits and 401ks. She says that she doesn’t understand why HR is frowned upon, because they are very helpful. She thinks it’s very misunderstood.

I watched several interviews with her, and more than once she said that oftentimes she just wanted to jump across the desk and give the person a hug and give them the absolute truth about job seeking. I asked her how she became the HR person with a heart, so to speak.

She said, Well, you don’t become one, you just are one.  

What’s so cool about Abby is that she not only helps people find jobs, but she helps them find their passions. I asked her why this was important.

She said, If someone gets into a job that they love, they’re going to perform better, get promoted quicker, and it practically won’t feel like a job. I like people to come into the company that really love both the company and job. If you are in a job you hate, you won’t flourish and you’ll usually quit or be asked to leave. It’s a no win situation

As part of her mission, she helps people get around HR, offering ways to ace the interview.

When I ask you your greatest weakness, by all means, don’t say THAT.

She says having a weakness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. She coaches people on her website and her books to answer those kinds of questions intelligently.

Abby has a way to answer the weakness question in a way that turns it around to your benefit.

"Take your weakness and explain why it’s a weakness and how the manager can help
you overcome it or how you are working to improve it."

For example, “I’m a perfectionist which means that finishing projects can be challenging. If you give me a deadline, I’ll be sure to complete the project as close to perfect as I can.”

She says we all have weaknesses and you want to work in a job where they don’t get in your way. She says that you’re doing no favors by hiding them. If someone doesn’t have writing skills, they might get a writing job, by having someone eIse write their resume; but their weaknesses are eventually going to come out. You shouldn’t be applying for jobs that require skills you don’t have.

I knew that she had encountered many stressed out people in her 15 years of experience. I asked her what the funniest thing she had ever seen in an interview was.

She didn’t know if this had to do with stress, but on a phone screen to Chicago, she called this man and he proposed to her on the phone. He said she had a nice voice.

When she told him she was calling from a private company and not a headhunter,  he felt bad.

Her response? I just tried to get off the phone and move on to normal people.

That incident notwithstanding, she doesn’t get stressed out at work, because she is passionate about what she does.

You can check out Abby’s job searching genius on AbsolutelyAbby and her latest book,  Top 12 Interview Questions Exposed  which teaches you how stand out in a crowd of job seekers.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Opposite sides

My heart is pounding, as I sit at the computer thinking of my retort. James and I are debating the latest political scandal. How am I going to say what I think about the issue without him taking it personally?

My friend, James, and I are about as different as they come. He could be my foil. He is  Liberal black atheist, to my Conservative white Christian.  Strangely enough, we like to debate. I am probably the least qualified person to be arguing anything. I don’t like dissent. 

Discussions about religion, race relations, sexual orientation, and oh yes, politics, will always be very emotionally charged, whether we mean for it to or not. Anything that your heart is fully vested in has the tendency to turn ugly. We will almost always get defensive, because all parties involved will feel attacked.

Misunderstandings abound because our minds fill in the blanks of what they are saying, whether they actually are or not. Generalizations and accusations pepper the arguments. Or we just disagree with them, and know there is no sense in defending our case because they’ll never say, “You know I never thought of that. Thank you for opening my eyes.”

Real discussion is still good because there is nothing quite like the free exchange of ideas. But we need to listen with an open mind, while not compromising ours. That’s tricky.

c. 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bordering on the offensive…blame as a defense


Mary was a powerhouse Ph.d economist, lawyer and law professor who was brought in to a prestigious Chicago law firm to head up a lucrative consulting group. The business along with piles of paperwork quickly came rolling in. 

Well, as it turns out, the old adage about people in academia being out of touch and not able to function in real life has some truth to it, at least in Mary’s case. She arrived at work at 6, and locked herself in her office until 9 at night.

Mary had been a professional student and had many shiny degrees but had no experience leading, organizing, or even functioning in an office environment. She was clearly out of her league running an organization of people. 

She would call employees at all hours of the night and weekends, assigning things that were outside their job description. She would miss paychecks and be dismissive when called on it. She would freely talk about how incompetent her staff was.

No one questioned her, or really held her accountable, because she was the supposed “expert” or pro. Anytime it came up to her, she would blow it off as someone else’s fault. I have to deal with all of these incompetents, you see. Her staff wasn’t allowed to talk to her or each other, lest they compare notes. She would contact them when she needed them. She was not to be disturbed.

Her staff spent the majority of the time clueless about what to work on. When they were assigned projects it was not uncommon to discover midway through it that they had been due months ago, and were now obsolete. It seems the piles had gotten out of control on her desk. In a haggard frenzy, she would consistently assign overdue projects to her staff.

She would rush into the office, frenetic, with her hair in all directions, demanding that a staff member get her so and so’s phone number, as she had misplaced it. The thing was, no one had so and so’s number, they weren’t supposed to, per her rules.

Obviously, the work wasn’t getting done, so all fingers pointed to Mary. Her excuse was that the clients were all lying and her staff was incompetent. If she had been smart, she would have blamed an individual, but she blamed everyone collectively.

When one of her staff finally took her to task for not paying him, she threatened him. Before he could go through with the proper channels, he found an envelope in his door with way more than the amount he was owed, along with a note that said, “don’t ever talk about this to anyone.”

In an amazing tour de force, she ended up suing the company for $16.5 million for mold exposure, which diminished her cognitive functions and caused emotional distress.

c. 2012