Answers to Career Questions
handle an intrusive boss, avoiding burnout,
and tips on matching
your credentials to job openings
Q: I returned to
college in 2001 after working as a staff hospital pharmacist for
eight years. Along with my pharmacy degree, I now have a bachelor’s
degree in philosophy with a concentration in ethics, and a master’s
in management and administrative sciences with a concentration in
behavioral management sciences.
I want a job that involves the
management of people in a health-care environment. However, I also
want to conduct research and use my writing skills in this job. I
have sent resumes to several hospitals, health maintenance
organizations, and pharmaceutical firms. All of the replies are
much the same. “Your credentials and background are impressive, but
we do not have anything compatible with your interests.”
What should my career strategy be at
A: Since your
credentials and background are impressive, you should consider
creating your own job. Given your particular interests, teaching
hospitals and medical organizations with holistic approaches to
health care, as well as cutting-edge manufacturers, would be your
best target employers.
Rather than sending resumes, try to
schedule informational interviews with upper-level managers to find
out more about their company’s philosophies and future plans. Ask
them which areas of management or marketing require the most
attention now and are viewed as growth areas. As you talk to a
variety of people, trends and gaps will emerge.
Consider how you might meet their needs
through management, research, and writing. Then, after you have
carefully researched the organization and written a proposal
outlining the potential benefits of hiring you, present your ideas
to the person who has the power to say “yes”. While this approach
requires time and effort, it is much more likely to uncover what you
want than relying on resumes.
Some growth areas you might want to
explore in the medical field include training and development,
conference planning, marketing, public relations, and community
affairs. Other emerging fields that are fraught with ethical
considerations are bioengineering, in vitro fertilization, organ
transplantation, and artificial life support.
With your background, there undoubtedly
is a position where you can use your best skills in the medical
community. However, it’s up to you to find it, even if you have to
look outside your area.
Q: I am in charge
of a large data processing department for a $500 million division of
a Fortune 100 company. I think I handle time management pretty well
except for one big problem-my boss. He constantly interrupts me
with the most trivial requests. What can I do to keep his visits to
a minimum so I can get my work done?
A: It’s not
politically astute to tell your boss that he is wasting your time.
Whatever course of action you take needs to be pursued with the
utmost tact and diplomacy.
You might try working with your door
closed for at least part of the day. A closed door usually
indicates an urgent task or conference that should not be
interrupted. Even your boss probably will respect this unwritten
rule. And, as an added benefit, you may find you have fewer
interruptions from your staff.
You can tell your boss that you are
working on a tight deadline but will be free by a given time. Make
it a point to drop in and see him then, preferably with something
important in mind that requires his professional opinion. Also,
getting together every morning for a 15-minute coffee break
might satisfy his need for your
attention and keep the trivial conversations to a workable minimum.
If your secretary is absolutely
trustworthy, she can rescue you with a long-distance call or similar
diversion at your prearranged signal. This approach is risky but
worthwhile as a last resort.
One last thought: Take a look at your
own priorities. A recent study of managers who have been fired
shows their one major common trait is a disinterest in
building good working relationships with
their peers and management. Be sure you are not exhibiting that
trait yourself when you accuse your boss of dealing in
trivialities. He may actually be using a technique valued by good
managers called MBWA (management by walking around).
Q: I’m a 35-year-old, single, professional woman who has risen through the
ranks into mid-level management. All of my peers are men. When I look at their
lives, for the most part, I don’t like what I see. Most of them are workaholics
who have little time or commitment for anything but their professional success.
Some of them are exhibiting obvious symptoms of burnout and overwhelming stress,
such as alcohol abuse, drug dependency, physical problems, and disintegrating
I don’t want to dig that kind of hole
for myself. What can I do to avoid becoming a successful but
A: Workaholism is an insidious disease that gradually envelopes its
victims. However, caught early, the success rate for its treatment is
excellent. My prescription for you has several elements:
Recognize that you are not immune.
It could happen to you, too. Judging from your letter, you
already are aware of your vulnerability. That’s a good sign.
Force yourself to set aside time for
things you really enjoy. Buy season tickets, join a health club
and sign up for exercise classes, enroll in a continuing
education course, plan at least one evening a week with friends
or schedule one or two hours a week to read. In other words,
don’t just think about how enjoyable a play might be, block it
out on your calendar. Make the same commitment to your “fun”
dates that you make to your business appointments. Spontaneous
fun has a way of never happening.
Set limits on your work
commitments. Promise yourself (if you tend to break promises to
yourself, promise a friend) that 50 hours per week is the
maximum time you will spend at work. Frankly, the hours beyond
50 are not very productive anyway. Do yourself and your company
a favor. Come to work fresh each morning, instead of exhausted
from yesterday’s 12-hour marathon.
Find friends who make an effort to
balance their lives. With their support and suggestions, you
can eliminate or lesson your tendency to fall into unhealthy
Finally, commit to achieving your
definition of success. Make sure it includes more than just
your career. Then set goals and action plans to tailor your
life to encompass that definition.
Don’t live according to the expectations of others. You will only wake up one
morning wondering, “Is this all there is?”