All posts in Career

  • Why Nice People Shouldn’t Work in Customer Service

    image courtesy of 10ch

    Note: This is an article I originally wrote for Brazen Life, a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals, where it first appeared.

    Employers love to put nice people in customer service positions. Especially if they’re authentically nice people—I’m talking about the kind it’s impossible to get mad at because they’re just naturally so dang polite and pleasant. It’s obvious they genuinely want to solve everyone’s problems, and they’re working really hard to make it happen.

    This setup makes sense (put nice employees in front of clients = a no-brainer) and works out well for all involved—except you, the sweetheart professional.

    For you, the arrangement is stressful and trying and leads to major job dissatisfaction. Here’s why:

    Nice People are Sensitive

    Customers are loud, abrasive and impatient. They’re rude. There are exceptions, of course, but anyone who’s worked even one day in a client-facing position knows that people coming to customer service are usually upset. And for some reason, many clients find it acceptable to take their frustrations out on you, the well-meaning customer service employee, as if you’re intentionally out to make their experiences with your company crappy.

    The main problem with this is that you internalize the insults and absurd accusations and take it all personally. As a truly nice individual, you absorb this non-personal angry venting and blame yourself for the issue. The more customers you work with, the worse you feel.

    Nice People are Easily Flustered

    All you want to do as a nice person is make the client happy. That’s a difficult enough endeavor on its own, but when several customers are barking commands at once, your people-pleasing brain starts smoking. All these clients need help, and most of them are mean about it, and you so desperately want to take care of all of them immediately—but the high level of negative input impairs your ability to problem-solve.

    And so you bounce around from complaint to complaint, attempting to put out each fire but getting pulled away before it’s out by a larger one—and ultimately, you hardly accomplish anything.

    At the end of the day, you reflect on all the issues you weren’t able to resolve and doubt your capabilities as a professional.

    Nice Introverts Have it Even Worse

    Extroverted people get their strength from speaking with others. Chatting and interacting excites and enlivens them. Introverts, on the other hand, find too much verbal communication tiring. It leaves them mentally exhausted, and they need some alone time to recharge.

    It makes sense, then, that if you’re an introverted employee in a customer service position—where interacting with other people is the name of the game—you’re at an increased disadvantage. Not only is your “niceness” working against you, but you’re also operating in an environment that depletes you of energy.

    A nice customer service employee leaves work feeling offended and doubtful; you, the nice introverted customer service employee, leave work feeling offended, doubtful and drained.

    The Exception: When Customers are Awesome

    There are situations in which darling you working in customer service is a beautiful scenario for all parties. For example, let’s imagine you work for a charity, and your clients are donors or volunteers. Or maybe you’re employed by a Hawaiian resort, where your customers are vacationers.

    If the clients are participating in a feel-good activity, or are arriving at the scene already in a fantastic mood, it’s likely those conversations are going to go swimmingly. That’s a win-win-win for the customer, the employer and you.

    Bottom line: know yourself well and navigate the professional world accordingly.

    And if you’re honestly nice, stay far, far away from most customer service roles.



    Have you worked in customer service? What other jobs should nice people avoid?

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  • This Woman Just Changed Your Whole Career Plan

    penelope trunk
    image courtesy of eschipul

    No one has influenced the way I think about career like Penelope Trunk. Not even close.

    Her ideas are so big and so smart, and she manages to kill my dreams and inspire me in a span of two minutes, while covering the same topic. Penelope’s changed everything I thought I knew about professional life.

    As I brainstormed key takeaways from her work to include in this post–originally intended to pay homage to all her views that have had an effect on me–I realized there’s no way I’d be able to highlight the many lessons learned and insights gained from hours of browsing her archives, and decided to categorize them.

    These are the career-related ones.

    Don’t Go to Grad School

    My newsletter subscribers know how tough this message is for me to accept, as just a couple of weeks ago I shared with them a gigantic meltdown I recently had about academia. The gist: I had compiled hours of research on my personality and talents (because my quarterlife crisis is totally not over. Yay!), presented it to John, we both very clearly saw academia as the best career path for me, and then almost immediately realized it was a completely unrealistic goal due to life circumstances that are beyond the scope of this post. And I took it hard.

    But maybe I shouldn’t be so upset–Penelope argues that in general, working toward anything more than a bachelor’s degree (and maybe even that) is a waste of time and moneyIt’s not like higher education institutions have a stronghold on all the world’s information, and if you’re looking to learn more about something–pretty much anything–you can learn it for free by picking up a book or doing research online. How many employers would love to hear that? “No, I didn’t go back to school, I just know all this because I’m ambitious and disciplined enough to teach myself.”

    Related, while your main role in life is a student, and you’re spending so much time studying, you’re not exactly stacking up what employers truly care about: achievements.

    Now, if your intended career exists in academia itself, then yeah, it makes sense to get an advanced degree…except it doesn’t, because there are no jobs in academia.

    Don’t Listen to People Who Laugh at the Words “Quarterlife Crisis”

    When I acknowledged I needed to make a career change, and subsequently realized I had no idea what to do, I felt like I was dying. What made it worse is that I felt ridiculous and alone–I thought everyone else had their shit figured out. At least way more than I did.

    I was introduced to the quarterlife crisis concept on Penelope’s blog, and felt so much relief. I later used the term in a conversation with a middle-aged man who laughed so hard at the idea, and, because of the knowledge I now had, it didn’t upset me.

    Don’t Freak Out About the Possibility of Being Fired

    I’ve mentioned before that I have a history of ending up in jobs I should be fired from. You know how this makes me feel? Stressed beyond belief. And BROKEN.

    Actually, it used to make me feel broken, until I read about Penelope being fired from a lot of jobs, and her friend Melissa being fired a bunch, too. And then I thought, maybe I’m just part of this subset of people who aren’t good fits for most jobs. Plenty of successful people have been fired before. The universe will find a place for me.

    EDITED TO ADD: There was another section right here, but I deleted it. It was about women and work–a topic I’m still feeling my way around–and what I’d written suggested something I didn’t mean. I plan to revisit the subject in the future. Apologies to anyone who was offended; my intention was actually the opposite.

    Don’t Do What You Love

    I’ve come back to this post of Penelope’s over and over again, because it’s so radical, and without the information in front of me, more popular messages skew my thinking. (Another example is my initial resistance of following the Paleo diet. ‘But how could we have been told so often for so many years that grains are good for us is they really aren’t? But the fiber and the nutrients and…’ Eventually, you find truth, and the more you expose yourself to it, the more it sticks.)

    So we’ve been told to follow our passion and make the thing we love into a career. And Penelope and others are trying to tell us that’s poor advice. The idea is that it’s dumb to think we should be paid to do what we love, because we’re already doing it. For free. Because we love it. Not only that, but also when you make it your work, it starts to suck. You have to start making compromises and tough decisions and thinking like a businessperson instead of just enjoying your hobby, and you suck the love right out of it.

    So the better option is to do what you’re good at, and what will help you achieve the lifestyle you desire. And keep the thing you love untouched so you keep loving it and have a nice free time activity.

    I agree with all this, but I think it’s very complex. For example, pretty much everything I care about and everything I’m good at is represented in my role as a blogger. So it isn’t easy for me to identify some other skill I possess that I don’t use to run this site, and find a job that uses it, because my talents and interests are all at work here. Part of me thinks I should make this my career, because look, there is no better fit. The other part thinks I’d end up hating this thing I love if I do that, and I should find something unrelated.

    Clearly, I’m still sorting this one out.

    Don’t Dismiss Alternative Career Paths

    Penelope’s entire approach to career is unconventional. She challenges things we all just accept to be true, and points out flaws in common ways of thinking. I realized shortly after John introduced me to Penelope’s work that I could define “career” however I wanted. I could call being a mother my career. I could call a series of random jobs my career. I could spend 40 hours a week doing work that’s fine and say it’s my job…but actually call blogging my career.

    A career can be a messy mish-mash of roles, projects, and experiences. Likely, it should be. And really, following a traditional path can majorly delay your success.

    I guess overall, the theme of everything I’ve taken away from Penelope’s writing is that we’re screwing ourselves by failing to challenge “rules.” And hey, that’s what the Alternative Badassery philosophy is all about!



    Who has influenced your notion of career? What’s some unpopular advice that’s helped you?

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  • Marketing for People Who Hate Marketing: A Better Strategy

    funny sign
    image courtesy of **viv**

    I haven’t exactly kept my distaste for marketing a secret. In an email to Penelope Trunk, I described myself as “a marketer who hates marketing.” It’s true—it’s a terrible fit for me.

    Well, most of it. But we’ll get to that…

    Even if you don’t actually work in a marketing position, you’re quite likely marketing if you’re part of modern working society. If you’re not marketing your company’s stuff, you’re marketing your own stuff. Or, you’re marketing yourself to an employer. In some way, we’re all doing it.

    And a lot of us despise it.

    Why We Hate It

    I think my own loathing of the practice can be boiled down to two main issues, which I’d be willing to bet most marketing haters can relate to.

    1. It Feels Shady

    At least most of it does, right? It feels so WRONG to me. It feels like trickery. And it makes me feel so dirty that I’m good at it. I can use certain words, deliver a message in a specific way, display content in a psychologically appealing fashion—I can get you to take the action I want.

    Gross, who am I?

    I hate that I’m influencing buying decisions like this. I feel like I’m effing with you. And I don’t want to eff with you, friend. I want you to know the facts and have all the information, and purchase (or not) at will, with no prompting from me.

    2. It Feels Unnatural

    I don’t set out to deceive people in my everyday life. I’m, like, the most honest girl ever. I almost can’t not be honest. Most marketing efforts run counter to my natural preferences for disseminating truth, and for helping people (not getting them to buy my shit).

    I also don’t really try to stand out. I’m not shy or anything, but I’m not looking for attention, which is exactly what I feel like I’m doing when I’m marketing. It feels jarring against my M.O.

    Why We Need to Stop Hating It

    Let’s assume you have something worthy of others’ investment. Something that really is great (like yourself) or that really will help people or make them happier. Now, people don’t magically know you exist, or that your company/product/service/website does. That’s the gist of it, ya know? If you build it, they won’t necessarily come—you have to tell them about it.

    And there’s so much noise out there—so many marketing messages competing for our attention—that unless your goal is to fail, you have to find a way to capture some of that attention and let people know about you and your offer.

    Allow Me to Make Your Day By Saying This: Inbound Marketing

    We get to stop screwing people, you guys!

    The inbound marketing philosophy can be simplified this way: instead of pushing your message on people, you’re pulling them in. And a big part of pulling them in is providing super-valuable content (a.k.a content marketing)blog posts, how-to guides, checklists, whatever. You’re being helpful, and they’re coming to you as a resource, and then they trust you, and then they buy your stuff, which is good stuff because you’re a good person… IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL.

    Write applicable articles. Develop handy whitepapers and reports. Be useful and generous on social media. Give your people the information and guidance they’re looking for, and the selling will take care of itself.

    This is good marketing. This is effective marketing.

    This is marketing we can stop hating.



    How do you feel about marketing? Have you tried any inbound marketing tactics?

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