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Alice's Adventures in the Real World: How to Get a Job... and Keep It

Alice's Adventures in the Real World: How to Get a Job... and Keep It

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Alice's Adventures in the Real World: How to Get a Job... and Keep It

245 Seiten
2 Stunden
Apr 17, 2016


Your toolkit for workplace survival, "Alice's Adventures in the Real World" offers candid, savvy and grounded advice from a veteran of two challenging careers.
Apr 17, 2016

Über den Autor


Alice's Adventures in the Real World - Robin M. Mayer



Alice laughed. There’s no use trying, she said,

one can’t believe impossible things.

I daresay you haven’t had much practice,

said the Queen.

"When I was your age, I always did it

for half-an-hour a day.

Why, sometimes I’ve believed in as many

as six impossible things before breakfast."

Whether you’re starting out or starting over, getting a job may seem impossible. Keeping it may be about as difficult. Sure, you’ve overcome many hurdles. You’ve survived crappy jobs on your way up. You’ve graduated. You’ve passed many grueling exams— the ones from the professor who actually expects you to think, the graduate school screening drills where you’re competing on a national level, or professional licensing exams like the torturous California bar. But your life is not a Hollywood movie. You’re not a doctor, you didn’t go to Harvard, and the phone is emphatically not ringing off the hook with tempting offers. Your e-mail box is stuffed with spam. Your mother is getting worried.

It’s time to test your skills in the place called the Real World.

Why in the Real World should you read this book? Or take advice from me, a non-celebrity and non-expert in the field of human resources?

Because I’ve been and continue to be where you are: a working stiff, a wage slave, someone who lives from paycheck to paycheck, someone who just wants to get through the day without biting anyone’s head off or considering a leap off of several available bridges. Someone whose ultimate goal is simply to take care of herself and her family.

For more than thirty years, through two careers, more than twenty real jobs and countless I’m here for the beer jobs, I’ve survived. Sometimes I’ve failed like a bad belly flop. I’ve come close to being fired. I lost promotions and prizes I should have won. I’ve been discriminated against and dissed. Sometimes I’ve succeeded. I’ve won four local Emmys and passed the California bar on the first try— at the age of 50 yet. And no matter what the economy, I’ve always found a job or at least work.

The ultimate proof I’m worth your time: I’ve never been laid off.

Bottom line: I think I can help with a little advice. I promise to make it as entertaining as I can.

Note #1: The stories here are factual with some incidents based on hearsay, that is, what someone else said. I have avoided names to protect the guilty and the innocent alike.

Note #2: I use he and she, along with her and him, interchangeably throughout this book, along with the grammatically incorrect they and their on occasion, for an appearance of neutrality. If someone perceives a sexist slant, I apologize, but in truth, most of my bosses have been men.



"‘Tis a privilege high

to have dinner and tea,

Along with the Red Queen,

the White Queen, and me!"

Sure, at some point you have to grow up. At some point your body doesn’t cooperate when you want to stay up all night partying, or working. Your time and your money aren’t unlimited. Your energy runs out. Your bank account runs low. You need to eat. You need a job. But there’s no need to limit your dreams. Ever. They exist in the wide-open realm of your imagination. Make them big and colorful and fruitful and glowing and passionate. You need them to find a job you like and to fuel your life after work. You need them to find the next job, and the next. You especially need them to get through a tough day in Wonderland – the strange place you go to at least five days a week, where odd creatures order you about and what’s presented as logic rarely makes sense.


"Who in the world am I?

Ah, that’s the great puzzle!…"

You! said the Caterpillar contemptuously.

"Who are you?"

As Alice exclaimed, deciding who you are and what you want is a great puzzle, one that may take the majority of your life to solve. The lucky ones— the determined ones— solve it sooner than later.

It’s understandable to be confused by the dizzying array of options you probably have, especially when you’re young. Worse than confusion, you’ll be in pain. Your soul will be troubled. Perhaps you have no idea what to do because you’ve been dutifully following directions from everybody else— parents, teachers, friends, spouses, churches, media— and as a result you’ve forgotten how to dream and forge goals. Maybe you do know what you’d like to do, but you’re afraid to act on your wishes. Or maybe you haven’t given yourself the opportunity to figure out what you want. Perhaps you’ve had some kind of setback that appears to narrow your options. Notice I said appears. Most of the time, we set the limits on our own lives.

Like the Caterpillar, a potential employer will want to know who you are. It is very difficult to get a job, other than dishwasher, when you haven’t made up your mind. From the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted, I can assure you it’s obvious when the applicant is floundering—mentally flopping fins and gasping for air. The answers are vague, they haven’t done their homework, they don’t want to look you in the eye, they are uncomfortable, they are unhappy. Not what anyone wants to see in an employee or a co-worker. What a waste of everyone’s time.

Lack of decision rains down with cruel vengeance during a downturn in the economy. It wasn’t that long ago when the Great Recession was tearing up the country like a tornado. That’s when I graduated from law school, and frankly in no position to turn down any job. As it happened, during a hopeless interview with a top-notch law firm, I seized the opportunity to get career advice and asked the lawyer whether I should specialize right away. He firmly replied, do you want your brain operated on by a surgeon who’s performed thousands of the same procedures, or do you want go under the knife wielded by a general practitioner who has completed a few dozen? I took his wisdom to heart and immediately focused my job search on environmental law opportunities. It took a while for me to get my dream job, but I did. Looking back now, being a lawyer in almost any other field would have bored me to death.

When I interviewed candidates during the latter part of the Great Recession, our agency was deluged with an embarrassment of riches. Top-ranked students from top-tier schools were fighting for internships. We even employed volunteers while they waited for their bar results– basically getting a trained attorney for free. The ones who got those humble positions wanted to work for us and wanted the particular job. They liked the mission, they’d done their homework, and they knew what their long-term goals were. Why would we bother with anyone less enthusiastic or less focused?

In short, the job market has no patience for the confused and meandering. As an unknown wit observed, Fuzzy goals get fuzzy results. It’s crucial that you make a decision, and to some extent, it hardly matters what decision you make. If you haven’t spent time deciding what color your parachute is, you’re wasting other people’s time and your own. Life is short. Decide. And guess what? Lucky us, we live in the capitalist system. Your decision, while crucial, does not lock you in for life. You can change your mind and you can change careers, even later in life. Better to make a decision and take action than to remain indecisive and flounder.

There are tremendous resources available like the "What Color is Your Parachute?" book series, which author Richard Bolles recently updated; recruitment sites like and their associated blogs; and of course, the vast trove of information available on Google and other search engines. (You can Google the questions Google asks for its interviews!) I’ve assembled some of my favorites in the Suggested Resources section at the end of this book along with my own website,

Don’t forget to ask for advice from flesh-and-blood people. Your father and mother, uncle and aunt. Your first boss. Your best friend— the one you admire.

These resources help you figure out what your values are, what you like, what you’re good at, and where you might fit. You already have a decent idea of your strengths from school or extracurricular activities, but you may not remember them off the top of your head. Take a few hours. Use the expert guidance to get your ideas down in writing, which helps you think, prioritize, and plan. A thorough self-exploration should run several pages. I promise you it will be fascinating! If you’re further along in life, you may realize you need to go back to school to do what you want. With that decision made, you are more able to figure out how you can earn the certification or degree as you keep working.

Your desire has to be more than you need a job because you need money. Most jobs offer money (unfortunately not all), and everyone needs a job, even, apparently, Donald Trump. Focus on what interests you about the field, and after researching, what excites you about the particular company and the job opening. Ideally you are burning with desire for the specific job.

After you’ve mined your resources, visualize your ideal situation. Saturate your mind with details. What city. What the office looks like. What the atmosphere is like. What you’ll do. What you’ll wear. How you plan to get ahead. Even the commute— imagine a pleasant one that doesn’t add stress to your day. Visualization is key. Many studies have documented the success of athletes who visualize. The mental practice is as important to their game, maybe more important, than their physical practice.

Deciding, especially with strong visualization, seems to create a ripple effect. Something mystical happens, and the payoffs are immediate. You’ll see opportunities that were previously invisible— your mind sees a match between the environment and what you’ve been thinking about. You’ll feel better. You’ll be able to talk about what you want in a way that is more engaging and more likely to trigger the chain reaction of someone you know who knows someone who knows someone who has a job to offer. Maybe the decision effect is evolutionary. A caveman was more likely to survive if he decided what animal he wanted for dinner and visualized the hunt. That enabled him to select the right spear and leave the cave early enough to make the long trek to the prey before dark. If someone could bottle the decision effect, she would make a fortune. Meanwhile, all you need to do is understand that chance favors the decided heart.

The payoffs last a long time. Is there anyone sadder and sillier than someone who makes a lot of money and is thoroughly miserable? Although I’m an incurable optimist and living proof that you can change careers in mid-life, that person may well be trapped. Too high up, kids in school, a big mortgage, and

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