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Are you going to risk your reputation during your job search?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You feel like your past may be haunting you as you are searching for a new job. Wondering how to manage your reputation? Let’s talk about it.

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Woman in interview with concerned expression, perhaps considering her reputation.

We hear all the time about what a small world it really is and that many industries or career paths are close-knit where “everyone knows everyone.” Some may have also been called incestuous. Many recruiters know a lot of people (that’s their job!) and also require references so that they can speak with some of your former colleagues if seriously considering making you an offer. Have you had experiences where you worry if a future employer finds out about it, it may ruin your reputation? Do you fear that no future hiring manager will want you on their team if they hear about some of your mistakes (aka learning experiences)?

Here’s a fairly extreme example from this Reddit post:

“My reputation is ruined. What do I do?

I have struggled with crippling opiate addiction for the past ten years, resulting in being fired from a number of positions that could have led to successful careers. My reputation is absolutely destroyed, and I’m feeling quite hopeless about ever finding another good job. I have since decided to get clean, and have over a month. But I’m still unemployed, with a terrible reputation, and I don’t know what to do. I have a few good references from previous bosses who saw my true potential, but plenty of bad ones as well. What should I do to rebuild my reputation? In my future job search, should I mention my history of addiction or be vague about it? Should I try to go back to school? Should I volunteer? Or should I just give up and accept a miserable dead-end job, or just off myself? Is there any hope? :’(

Edit: Thank you all for your advice. I never expected to receive so much support. I will continue to work on staying sober. You have all helped me stay positive and I really appreciate that.”

First off, let’s give credit to this person for getting sober (and hoping they continue to have the support to stay on that path – and especially support if they relapse). We are all human and it definitely doesn’t hurt to constantly be reminded of that. There’s lots of well-earned attention on Brené Brown right now who spotlights the need for vulnerability and being your authentic self. Her work is based on research and it’s inspiring and uplifting.

Like most things in life, there has to be a balance in your vulnerability as it relates to job searching. People that are looking to hire us do want to get to know us, but there are some things that they may not need to know right away as they evaluate us for a position. Or things they may never need to know about. There is a balance in sharing things that are too personal as it relates to your professional pursuits.

You may expect that this article suggests that this person be totally honest. Well, it’s not that kind of article. There’s a time and a place for divulging your deepest secrets, and the interview room may not be one of them.

It is important to be your authentic self, but you have to identify what is your professional authentic self. When we are job searching and interviewing, we put on our best and have to be buttoned up and polished.

As we grow and learn in our careers, there may be a variety of challenges that we feel can possibly tarnish our reputation (not just limited to addiction mentioned above):

  • Bad relationship with a manager
  • A toxic work environment where stress got the best of us
  • Harassment that was not addressed by HR
  • Financial blunders as it relates to personal or professional budgets
  • It just wasn’t the right fit – whatever that means

Here are some thoughts if you worry like our Reddit contributor that your reputation may be tarnished beyond repair:

  1. Is it time to explore a new industry – where the connections are fresh and they won’t know about why you left so many previous positions? If so, you may have to do some Career Exploration on your transferrable skills and how those can take you in a new direction. Or even a new city. The good news is, doors are opening with remote work in our current situation so maybe you can find a new pool of contacts or companies hiring.
  2. Would this be the right time to take what you have learned and help others? Is there a certification or volunteer project that would help you help others that have dealt with your issue? This may help you feel redeemed for why you had to go through that experience.
  3. Utilize LinkedIn to build your network with your advocates or make a simple journal entry of who you worked with in the past that was able to see your potential. These would be great choices for references.
  4. Seek a chat with a friend or even licensed therapist to discuss your situation and forgive yourself. Ultimately if you are holding on to guilt and shame, you won’t allow yourself to move past it and admit that it was full of life lessons. Explore Brené Brown’s work if you need some help in learning more about guilt and shame. They can be very heavy emotions that are also an innate part of being human. We don’t need to eradicate these emotions, we need to acknowledge, accept and MANAGE them.

Often times we are the ones holding ourselves back. It can help to speak with professionals (therapists, recruiters, mentors) to see if the issue is bigger in our head than it really is. And if you need a reminder that we are all human, here it is. Be kind and graceful with yourself.

Erin Wike is a Career Coach & Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin and owner of Cafe Con Resume. Erin is fueled by dark roast coffee with cream AND sugar, her loving husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs. She is the Co-Founder of Small Business Friends ATX to help fellow entrepreneurs + hosts events for people to live a Life of Yes with Mac & Cheese Productions.

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Business Entrepreneur

Many entrepreneurs facing mental health issues don’t get help [part two]

(ENTREPRENEUR) It isn’t a financial issue or a refusal to admit a problem – here’s why many entrepreneurs struggle with mental health and never seek help.

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sadness depression mental health

Nearly 44 million adults experience an episode of mental illness in any given year according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Of these, the experience of 10 million adults in the United States with mental illness was so serious that it substantially interfered with a major life activity.

A significantly higher percentage of entrepreneurs studied showed signs of mental illness than did the general population according to research conducted at the University of California in 2015.

Only 41% of adults who needed them received mental health services in the past year. What prevents us from getting the assistance that we so desperately need?

…To Read Part 1 of This Series…

Although a common problem among us, mental illness in America, in all its forms, is still marked by stigma and shame. This spurious perception of a shameless disorder has been partly responsible for individuals not getting the help they need.

“It’s much more difficult to think about an anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder helping a person excel in business,” said Claudia Kalb, author of Andy Warhol was a Hoarder: Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities, speaking to the Harvard Business Journal.

“Stigma stems from not understanding what mental health conditions are all about, and not realizing that we all have at least some of these characteristics, “ said Kalb. “Part of the reason to learn more about these conditions is not to label people, but to better understand where people are coming from — and how, in a business setting, some of these attributes can be positive.”

While it’s very tempting to stay afraid of the stigma of a diagnosis, understand that you’re not alone, and that we all share similar problems from time to time.

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Americans hoped access to personal healthcare insurance would be both easier to obtain and less costly. The U.S. Small Business Administration reported in 2014 that over 75% of businesses are known as “non-employer” firms. These firms create a single job — typically the business owner — and have no one else on the payroll.

Because of the changes in insurance laws, many of these individuals were faced with having to leave health care options that they many have had under prior insurers and face higher rates on the new healthcare exchanges for insurance plans that were less comprehensive.

Premiums for some insured have risen nearly 10% in the past two years, and depending upon the state in which they live and income targets, many individuals are bracing for steep increases in insurance prices this year, with estimates ranging from 16% to 65%increases.

As the publisher of the Washington Post, Newsweek, and owner of multiple television and radio stations, Phil Graham was a man with money and power. Yet, despite his wealth and privilege, he was not immune to mental illness. His journey with severe mental illness began in 1957 and continued for years thereafter.

Katherine Graham never forgot her husband’s tears, even decades later. “He was in real tears and desperation,” she told The Baltimore Sun, “he was…powerless, immobilized.”

In an era in which the stigma was profound and the treatment options severely limited, there was little help that could be found, and Phil’s rapid descent into illness included hospitalization and invasive electroshock therapy, all to no avail. Throughout it all, Katherine carried out the doctor’s orders, trying to talk Phil out of manic depressive episodes, speaking for hours on end to try to bolster his spirits.

We know that we ask our loved ones to carry large burdens for us an entrepreneurs, and try to ease their load. Yet, by not looking for help in an attempt to not be a bother to them, we don’t help them.

A study by Rogers, Stafford, and Garland at Baylor University found that for family members of those with mental illness, there were high levels of both subjective and objective burdens reported, with many family members struggling to process through their own feelings about the mental illness and their loved one.

We do not ease the path for our loved ones by refusing to seek and get the help we need, but instead damn them with a heavier burden, despite our well-meaning intentions.

In her powerful work, The Dangers of Willful Blindness, Margaret Heffernan, discusses the all-too-familiar concept of people not wanting to allow themselves to think about things that end in conflict or that rock the boat, personally or professionally.

“We can’t notice and know everything: the cognitive limits of our brain simply won’t let us. That means we have to filter or edit what we take in. So what we choose to let through and to leave out is crucial,” writes Heffernan. “We mostly admit the information that makes us feel great about ourselves, while conveniently filtering whatever unsettles our fragile egos and most vital beliefs.”

For many of us, it’s not that we don’t want to admit that we need help, but rather that we simply cannot allow ourselves to see it — even in the best of times! If you’re struggling to see life clearly through the lens of a mental illness, it is even more difficult.

Being open with one’s self about things that are real and things that are not, and acknowledging that things might not be okay, is the first step to finding assistance.

You don’t have to find help all alone. Reaching out to someone for help can often be uncomfortable, especially about a topic that is as personal as your own health, but doing so is the critical step towards recovery. Find a trustworthy partner for your recovery who you trust to help you find someone who can provide the level of assistance you need.

While your healthcare provider is the best first stop to discuss things that are going on with you physically or emotionally, it’s important to have a support network who can be there for you in between doctor visits.

There are other, more immediate resources for those who need them:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 either by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by going to their website and engaging in an online chat.

For those who prefer texting options with qualified crisis counselors, the Crisis Text Line is available 24/7 by texting “Go” to 741741. Both options are confidential and are immediate supports for you and your family.

Once you’ve begun treatment or counseling, stay educated and informed about the challenges that you face. You share control of your pathway to recovery with your doctor or counselor; find out all that you can from reputable sources about the specific challenge you face, and stay involved in making informed treatment decisions about your care.

You’re the most important thing in the world to your family, not your business, not your perceived notions of success — you. If you take away nothing else from this article, know that. You are not alone, and professional help is available.

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs face higher rates of mental illness [part one]

(ENTREPRENEUR) For many entrepreneurs, carrying out the work that they feel that they were meant to do comes with the cost of unchecked mental illness.

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depression anxiety mental illness

From the outside looking in, the entrepreneur’s calling is charming and magical. Being one’s own boss, making the decisions, and doing what one loves makes many people who work for someone other than themselves a tad jealous. For all your neighbor’s reveries about how the entrepreneurial life is a series of unbridled successes, you well know the price you pay, including those that no one else ever sees or hears about. For many entrepreneurs, carrying out the work that they feel that they were meant to do comes with the cost of psychological turmoil or mental illness, a cost often left unchecked.

As an entrepreneur, you balance the responsibility for the health and welfare of your company with the need to preserve your own health. There are pressures to maintain a public façade for the perceived benefit of your brand that may well be at odds with what’s going on in the inside.

Being artificially strong and denying yourself the help that you need isn’t only harmful physically, but fiscally as well. Businesses in America lose $193.2 billion in lost earnings annually due to the effects of serious mental illness on employee production and associated costs.

A significantly higher percentage of entrepreneurs studied showed signs of mental illness than the general population, according to research conducted at the University of California in 2015. The authors contended that there may be a link between mental illness and creativity.

The expanded creativity of many entrepreneurs is a fantastic attribute, but also one of a host of characteristics that affect their mental well-being. One of the authors of the study, Michael A. Freeman, identified the link and called for further research. “People who are on the energetic, motivated, and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states,” stated Freeman, speaking to Google.

Amy Morin, psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, identified four common mental health issues that many entrepreneurs face based on the nature of their work: depression, anxiety, self-worth issues, and addiction.

Working long hours, alone for many of them, can drive entrepreneurs to be less mindful of their health. That isolation can lead some towards increased risks for depression, as well as the mindset that “time is money.”

We’re written before about the dangers of such a mindset, and maintaining it costs the entrepreneur much-needed leisure and decompression time.

The pressure you feel can be healthy, a motivator to continue your efforts and network with others who can help you succeed. However, it can also be linked to extreme anxiety, which can manifest itself in multiple ways, including being so afraid to make a business decision that it leads to mental paralysis.

This incapacitating anxiousness can also lead to burnout. “It’s much more difficult to think about an anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder helping a person excel in business,” said Claudia Kalb, author of Andy Warhol was a Hoarder: Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities, speaking to the Harvard Business Journal.

She notes, “Howard Hughes… was a successful entrepreneur, but in the latter part of his life, as his OCD characteristics became worse, he became totally isolated. He couldn’t interact with people in business or in society.”

Anxiety’s effects can be compounded by how you judge your own self-worth.

For many, your job is your identity, and your bank account a quick barometer of your importance.

In an era in which it’s no longer uncommon to have startups fail to launch or succeed for awhile before not pivoting in a market shift, failure to make your business thrive shouldn’t have the stigma that it once did.

Some of us are feedback junkies, seeking engagement with and feedback from our internal and external customers. For others, it’s the excitement of the design and launch that gets us motivated. Whatever your particular cue might be, for the serial entrepreneur, the rush that you get is palpable and you wouldn’t trade it for anything. Maybe you should, though.

There’s a fine line between persistence and obsession, and a finer line still between obsession and addiction. Morin cites a 2014 study, published in The Journal of Business Venturing, that found that the actions of serial entrepreneurs shared similar characteristics with behavioral addictions.

These characteristics included having obsessive thoughts, negative emotional outcomes, and withdrawal-engagement cycles, in which the entrepreneur withdraws and yet feels pressured by the need to reengage with his business or partners, which he does, only leading to increased frustration and resentment. The inability for the entrepreneur to understand when their behavior was potentially damaging to themselves was also noted, with a “pursue at all costs” mentality being common, despite the harm done.

The need for mental health supports knows no class boundaries, no race or gender, or age limitations. Nor does it differentiate between those with the entrepreneurial spirit and those without.

Having an issue with your mental health or maintaining your emotional equilibrium doesn’t make you weak. The work that you’ve chosen sometimes comes with hidden pitfalls that can cause a human cost; as your most important asset, be proactive in maintaining it.

You’re the most important thing in the world to your family – not your business, not your perceived notions of success — you.

If this is a fight that you currently face, or fight on the behalf of someone close to you who suffers from a mental illness, know that you are not alone.

If you take away nothing else from this article, know that. You are not alone, and professional help is available.

You don’t have to find help all alone. Reaching out to someone for help can often be uncomfortable, especially about a topic that is as personal as your own health, but doing so is the critical step towards recovery. Find a trustworthy partner for your recovery who you trust to help you find someone who can provide the level of assistance you need.

While your healthcare provider is the best first stop to discuss things that are going on with you physically or emotionally, it’s important to have a support network who can be there for you in between doctor visits.

There are other, more immediate resources for those who need them:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 either by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by going to their website at http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ and engaging in an online chat.

For those who prefer texting options with qualified crisis counselors, the Crisis Text Line is available 24/7 by texting “Go” to 741741.

Both options are confidential and are immediate supports for you and your family.

Once you’ve begun treatment or counseling, stay educated and informed about the challenges that you face. You share control of your pathway to recovery with your doctor or counselor; find out all that you can from reputable sources about the specific challenge you face, and stay involved in making informed treatment decisions about your care.

You’re the most important thing in the world to your family, not your business, not your perceived notions of success — you. If you take away nothing else from this article, know that. You are not alone, and professional help is available.

…To Be Continued in Part 2…

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Business Entrepreneur

Scammers are out to prey on MLM victims, small businesses

(ENTREPRENEUR) MLM pyramid schemes are already predatory enough, but for victims trying to get out of the cycle, scammers are waiting on the sidelines.

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Predatory, scam, rip-off, shady, trap… all of these may be words that rightfully come to mind when I mention pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing campaigns, or “MLM.”

It probably conjures images of annoying messages from the one gullible high school friend you haven’t quite had the heart to unfriend on Facebook. Perhaps you know someone who got put through the wringer themselves. The one thing victims of these predatory marketing schemes have in common is being in the hole of a lot of money. Usually money the victims can’t afford, since these scams prey on the economically vulnerable. Truly, there are few things more universally detestable than MLM pyramid schemes… but I found one.

Did you know there is an entire secondary scammer market to recycle victims of MLMs?

A new spin on the idea of ambulance chasers, there is an entire demographic of scammers out there that trawl social media such as Facebook and Reddit to find recently victimized people looking for a way out of the pyramid-shaped hole they’ve found themselves in, offer services to these victims to “assist” them in recovering lost investments or liquidating their almost valueless inventory, and then ghosting the victims – taking them for their non-existent money a second time. They often pose as legal representation or consumer relief of one flavor or another.

Here is an example posted on the subreddit r/antiMLM:

That website doesn’t exist. That is not a real law firm. The premise is a scam looking to make a sucker twice out of the same victim. One commenter using the user name ‘lemontest’ shared the following account:

After my relative got scammed by a company that promised to help her set up a drop-shipping business, another business magically appeared that promised to get her money back. She gave them money and never heard from them again. I’m sure there’s a lot of money to be made selling contact lists of people who fall for get rich quick schemes.

How incredibly filthy toxic is that? Be vigilant out there, the scammers are creative.

If you (asking for a friend of course) or anyone else you know has fallen victim to any online scam, I recommend this light-hearted, and a little bit cheeky, recovery guide found on the Federal Trade Commission website and authored by Jon M. Taylor, MBA, Ph.D. of the Consumer Awareness Institute.

Any stories to share about MLMs or other comments? I’d love to hear from you.

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