Is attitude adjustment needed for the job?

Dear Joan:
When I read the Sunday Business Section, there was nothing but disbelief about your article. My reaction was "Is this woman in the real world?" ["Job Offers No Duties, No Rewards- Municipal Employee Frustrated By Lack Of Work" that appeared in this column on October 9.]

There would be no problem substituting myself for "Municipal Employee." Though I have not been in my department for two years, my observations are that the longer you work for a government agency, your work attitude becomes very negative and you lose the feeling of being a public servant.

Until you and other taxpayers demand real action (though there would be a huge fight with the unions) and insist that the dead wood be dismissed rather than kept for infinity, there will be many more employees who are told, "don't ask for extra work or you'll get in trouble."

Because I have been in the "real world", I have taken a job with the county rather than be unemployed. Because of my search for employment, I take exception to your statement "It is my understanding that many employers are looking for qualified administrative assistants and secretaries and would welcome someone who is looking for a challenging opportunity."

My qualifications are extremely good; my long-term goal is an opportunity where I can grow with a company and help them meet their goals. However, the large majority of companies are looking for something other than a competent, efficient, honest, trustworthy, etc. employee. Why don't you tell your readership what companies are really looking for so that I and others like me can change our expectations (and probably lie a bit to get a job) so that we can join the work force in a responsible job with a reasonable salary. PS. Any suggestions you may have to help someone get a job with a chance for improving their lot in life, would be much appreciated.

"Municipal Employee," whose letter appeared on October 9, said she only had 2 hours of work a week and no matter who she asked for advice (including her boss), they said "don't open Pandora's Box, just fill your time with hobbies." My advice to "Municipal Employee" was to find a different job before her attitude became a big problem that could prevent her from getting a different job.

You seem to be having the same problem. As long as you seethe in anger and blame companies for your failure to sell yourself as the best candidate for the job, you will never reach your goal.

If you aren't getting interviews, try going to the Job Forum (a free job-hunting organization that meets every Wednesday, 7 p.m., at the Wauwatosa Savings and Loan in Oak Creek). You will get help with your resume and job hunting techniques. Another idea is to visit with an employment agency that specializes in secretarial placements.

If you are getting interviews but aren't getting the job, your attitude may be showing. As you suggested, your work attitude appears to have become very negative and that is hard to hide from a skilled interviewer. Badmouthing your current employer is not going to help you in an interview. Nor is suggesting that all government sectors are filled with dead wood. Generalizations will make you appear bitter and that makes employers nervous. What's to prevent the interviewer from thinking you'd soon be complaining about the same problem in their organization?

If you feel your attitude may be the problem, you need to find a way to become more positive before you visit another employer or employment agency. A trusted friend, counselor or relative may be able to help you turn your attitude around. Organizations, such as the Job Forum, have support groups that are very effective in helping group members deal with the frustrations of job hunting. Many of them have experienced the same feelings you have and are the great voices of experience.

You seem skeptical about the number of administrative assistant jobs that are available. Sue Marks would disagree. President of ProStaff, a Milwaukee based firm specializing in temporary and permanent placement, sites a 15% increase in the placement business nationally and has seen her job orders double in the Milwaukee market. According to Vicky Kramer, Assistant VP with ProStaff, "Companies are having a difficult time recruiting qualified administrative assistants. The reason for this is the labor pool is shrinking and women are being encouraged to get four year degrees and to pursue other fields, which is causing quite a shortage," she said.

Asked what could screen a likely candidate out of an administrative assistant position, Kramer said, "Main problems tend to be a poor work record, a poor reference, an attitude problem or asking for more salary than the market will pay." You mentioned that you want a job with "reasonable pay." Kramer went on to explain that $15,000 to $17,000 is an average wage in the Milwaukee area for a qualified candidate with good skills and 2-5 years experience. "Candidates who are job hunting in the private sector from some government positions or from the East or West Coasts are disturbed to find the pay is lower than they expected in the private sector."

If you want to move into private industry, you may find that a pay cut is necessary for the short term. Because you are a competent professional, you are likely to increase your salary quickly with above average merit increases. Your chances for more responsibility and challenge may only be an attitude adjustment away. 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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