A Definition of Success

Recently, I’ve been doing the inner reflection that is necessary to writing a meaningful cover letter. That has meant facing the fact that I have left two promising and incredible career tracks. Why would I do that? Some outside observers are very put off by the fact that I retired from both engineering and law by age 32. I’ve been labeled a quitter, a failure, and worse. Not that these people are haters. Those were honest reactions of people who care for my well-being.

To complete the cover letter for the position that I’m looking at now, I needed to do an honest and realistic assessment of where I have been.  Yes it is true that my career has had a lot of outward changes. But what has been consistent? And so as I’ve done an inquiry, and faced these questions and labels, I have come to acknowledge some consistent threads of success:

Aiming for Excellence. I have always done the very best I could in any situation or circumstance, without exception. This has been true regardless of limitations arising from my own capability or from the circumstances I have been in. It has been true regardless of whether I’ve been designing a fuel system, writing a patentability opinion, or cleaning the bathroom sink.

Altruism. For the most part, I have had always needed to dedicate my time and efforts to the well-being of others. I’ve needed to develop an understanding of how the time and effort that was put into my work has impacted society and humanity at large, and I’ve needed that impact to be a positive benefit. Not always an astronomical landslide of a positive benefit. But definitely a positive benefit.

Intellectual. My work has very often included intellectual or cognitive challenge. Often these challenges have been technical or academic. But sometimes I’ve met greater cognitive challenge in the need to change my own belief systems, or to focus unwaveringly for long periods of time through boring and repetitive information. It has been good to push myself and grow.

And as a matter of principle, my heart has prevailed over my head when making career choices. I’ve followed my heart because no other path could possibly lead to my heart’s desire. At least that is how it has seemed to me. Have I achieved worldly success? If one defines that as immense glamour, fame, or fortune then certainly not. But there is all of the money needed to do the things I love, the respect and esteem of clients and colleagues, and perhaps most importantly there is often a deep satisfaction, enjoyment, and happiness about living life as it now is. And to me, that is perhaps the most successful experience that life can bring.

Staying Motivated

It may be cliche, but it is also a simple truth, that if you think you can, you’re right. Our thoughts and beliefs usually have a deeper impact on the events of our lives than we are willing or able to acknowledge. So what can be done at those times when we are blocked, stuck, depressed, miserable, tired, demotivated, desolate, or so bottomed out that we just can’t even move? What to do when we fall so short of believing that things can improve or being able to figure out how to change our situation for the better? When we just can’t even go on?

Just keep going. And as you do, know that there are robust beliefs that will help no matter how difficult the circumstance.

There is always a silver lining. Even the most horrific situations have an upside. When it doesn’t seem that way it is because we don’t see it. We are not omniscient and so we can not possibly do a full analysis the impact of difficult circumstances we may be in. Yet we always try to judge. Judgment is human nature, but we are limited and so judgment is only helpful to a point. Reflect that 20, 30, 35 times removed there may be an upside to any situation, that may or may not ever be understood.

Powers greater than ourselves influence all events. There are always factors at play beyond our own individual influence that determine outcomes. Consider that if we cut the stem between a tree and an apple, we take credit for making the apple fall to the ground. But what about gravity? Similarly to gravity, there are influencing patterns that act on our circumstances, influence our behaviour, and determine outcomes. Also similarly to gravity, because we only see the effects of these influences we forget to take them into account

Gentleness is infinitely more powerful than force. Whether you are stacking firewood, performing open heart surgery, or negotiating a $50 million deal, treat any situation with the gentleness that you would treat a 98 year old grandmother. Perhaps if whatever you are facing is malicious, unstable, and violent (like a terrorist or an opposing litigator) then treat the situation with the gentleness that you would treat your own grandmother if she had Alzheimer’s and was throwing things at you. Alzheimer granny’s teach us that we can be firm yet gentle when faced with mental illness resulting in violence. And with gentleness and care, we will always reach the best outcome, no matter how egregious the circumstances.

We experience things in our head, through our own subjective lenses. So if we change the way we look at our circumstances, our circumstances change. Rather than flailing, grasping, and gasping about trying to get our head above the surface of the water, we can just relax and float. It is that simple.

How to Shine Among Superstar Colleagues

Common scenario for new lawyers: first day at law school or some super-impressive firm. You are inundated by new information, new people, and just when you think you might be able to process all of it, you come across a superstar. This superstar has a brilliant list of accomplishments. Perhaps she has been awarded a Nobel or Pulitzer, or he is an astronaut, or they have each founded a billion dollar enterprise. Likely your superstar also has a brilliant personality and a brilliant physique. Olympian. You notice this superstar and suddenly your own light seems that much dimmer. It is a low place of shrinking and sadness. How are you ever going to get work assignments or grades or friends with this superstar around?

There are a simple steps to help you shine among superstars. First, acknowledge yourself for getting yourself into this fabulous person’s company. After all, YOU have been hired by the same firm, or accepted into the same law school. Law firms and law schools both have well established entrance standards. These standards tend to be high. The schools and firms know what they are doing when selecting candidates. And since you are in the same place as this superstar, you must have at least a few brilliant qualities of your own.

Second, step up and befriend the superstar. Approach the superstar with curiosity. Select the most fascinating aspect of his or her brilliance, acknowledge it, and ask what the inspiration was to choose that path, or what it was like to have that experience. What are his goals now? What are her concerns going forward? Make a connection. With an open mind, you can learn about this person. Greatness is contagious so bask in it. Your superstar is likely to have a lot of integrity. It isn’t really possible to become a true superstar otherwise. Your superstar situation is an excellent opportunity to turn a potential competitor into a valuable comrade. You have your own unique perspectives and experiences, which the superstar would probably love to learn about and experience by being friends with you.

If the superstar blows you off, then you have learned something valuable about his or her personality. You also have a great opportunity to learn something about yourself. Ask: “What is it that this superstar does or says to make me feel dim?” Be honest with yourself. After acknowledging where you are at, you can decide to accept your weakness or become willing to change. Alternately you can beat yourself up, say that you’ll never measure up, and persist in diminishing your potential. Refusing to accept yourself and refusing to attempt change are also choices. You keep and create your own integrity by intentionally knowing and accepting yourself, and by taking ownership of your accomplishments, skills, and behaviours.

At the end of it, having a superstar in your midst is an excellent opportunity to uncover your personal weaknesses or to add a valuable ally to your network. Maybe you can even do both. Certainly you need to embrace your weaknesses and have strong allies in order to be a superstar yourself. And with TWO superstars, your office or school environment will be twice as bright.

Light and Love,


The SECRET BENEFIT of awkward interview questions

Your job interview is more than simply an occasion for an interviewer to put you on the spot by asking you questions. It is your opportunity to learn about a potential employer, the nature of the employer’s work, and the prevailing values in a potential workplace.

In some circumstances the people who conduct interviews create an interview environment that is awkward, or maybe even downright hostile. This awkward vibe could be created unintentionally, or intentionally. The unintentionally awkward interviewer is incapable of phrasing difficult questions in a diplomatic way. The intentionally awkward interviewer creates difficult circumstances in order to gauge how you behave in response.

Two ways that an intentionally awkward interviewer might test you would be to become blank (i.e. withholding an emotional response) or to become aggressive and/or hostile. An even sneakier third way that a potential employer might test you with an awkward situation is to become very fun, friendly and overly casual to see if you can be goaded into unprofessionalism or into revealing something that would be better left unsaid. AWKWARD!

Regardless of the reason for awkward interviewer behaviour, the situation is saved by demonstrating basic characteristics of confidence, honesty, professionalism, and grace. Sound simple? It is. Here are some suggestions for what to do in an awkward interview situation:

1. LEARN about your awkward interviewer.
You are considering investing the formative years of your career into this employer. Use this awkward situation to your benefit. Consider that your awkward situation is a very good opportunity to observe the nature of this potential employer. Put any emotions about the situation in parenthesis and be objective. Why is this interviewer being awkward? Is the awkwardness intentional or unintentional? Perhaps this person is socially challenged? It may be that he or she is putting you on the spot? Take note of your first hunch — it’s likely right.

2. REMEMBER the purpose of your interview.
The interview serves two purposes. First, to communicate about yourself to a potential employer. Second, to learn about this potential employer for yourself. So when your interviewer is being awkward, for whatever reason, stay calm, and take note of what you are observing in his or her behaviour. What does this question tell me about this interviewer? What does it tell me about this firm? As uncomfortable as this situation may seem, it is ultimately serving your own good.

3. EASE the mood.
Guiding the conversation to a lighter or more congenial tone may be possible if the interviewer is not being intentionally awkward. Humour could work. So could “adding honey” if doing so won’t be perceived as sucking up. Be cool. If you don’t feel cool, then play it cool. Exuding confidence and grace can show even an intentionally hostile interviewer that you are unruffled by such antics. Being cool doesn’t mean not caring about what the interviewer has to say, rather it means letting go of concern about what the interviewer thinks of you.

4. RESERVE judgment
Focusing your attention on your own performance – what you could have said or done to “make” the interviewer behave this way distracts you from taking full advantage of this opportunity to observe and learn about your interviewer. Similarly, it is not helpful to you to judge your interviewer’s behaviour as inappropriate. This is not to condone bad behaviour. Rather it is an acknowledgment that your interviewer thinks that the behaviour is appropriate. Different strokes for different folks. Again, not condoning, just focusing on what is best for you. Forget about his or her appropriateness just for the duration of the interview. Save the judgment for a post mortem and focus on learning as much as possible while exuding your own professionalism and grace.

5. FIND your inner strength.
Are you willing to sit there and be gracious and polite regardless of how your interviewer is behaving? If it seems like the next hour or thirty minutes will be the worst minutes of your life, try to keep things in perspective. You’ve got yourself into law school, you can get yourself through this. No employer is going to admit to a workplace culture permeated by rampant incivility. But, they may reveal that information if you watch them. Once the interview is over then you can weigh all the different benefits of accepting this position. You are in a much better position knowing about this interviewers awkward behaviour now than you would be finding out later.

6. ADOPT a mentality of contribution.
Your interviewer is trying to determine a multitude of things about you. Some of these things they can ask you directly. (Why are you interested in writing research memoranda?) Other things they cannot ask in a reasonable way. (Is this person able to hold their own in a confrontational environment?) One reason for their hostility or awkwardness is that they are trying to learn about you. If you’ve researched this employer you probably have an idea of their expectations and their culture. Or anticipate their needs as you learn about them during your interview. Communicate to your interviewer the valuable contribution that you are able to make.

7. DEVELOP compassion.
Even if your interviewer has said something completely indecorous, incorrect, incorrigible, irredeemable, irregular or completely abnormal, see if you can find it in your heart to feel a bit of sympathy for this person. The truth is, this person lacks the suave or savvy to know how to identify the strengths in other people in a benign way. He or she probably doesn’t appreciate how well civility can foster a strong practice and support their firm. This person is may be blind to the incredible potential of the people around them, and such an inability can hardly support quality relationships. Developing sympathy and compassion for awkward interviewers will help you stay gracious no matter what your interviewer might say.

8. APPLY the basics.
Regardless of how bad things may seem, stick with the basics of Professionalism, Honesty, Grace, and Confidence in every circumstance. Respect yourself by telling the truth no matter how your interviewer may put you on the spot. If you don’t have an answer, then say so. Honesty indicates self-acceptance and confidence. No matter how your interviewer may behave, stay gracious and stay professional. If your interviewer is hostile, stick up for yourself where necessary, but always in a calm, polite, and professional manner.

The secret benefit of awkward interview questions is that they reveal important information about your interviewer. Zooming out past the emotional discomfort of the situation to a broader context of learning will allow you to mitigate your concerns about performance with the benefits of objective observation. The bigger picture is that that everything you learn about these interviewers and their workplace will benefit you in the future whether you end up working there or not.

Transcend your interview awkwardness

What if it’s me?

Do you become anxious at the thought of being put on the spot?
Are you unable to exude confidence and have an easily flowing conversation?
Are you unable to discern if a person is being intentionally or unintentionally awkward?

Awkward in interviews? Congrats on noticing it because it isn’t easy to recognize one’s limitations. And recognizing a limitation is the first step to growing beyond it.

It’s all good. There are lots of steps that you can take to become more relaxed, charismatic, and perceptive in interview situations. Practice with a friend, refer to a self-improvement book, or get help from a pro. Here are a few quick and easy tricks to get you going:

#1 Turn the Tables.

I love this. YOU be the interviewer. This is YOUR career. Take the time to determine if this is an employer who will support and encourage your long term growth. Turn the tables by asking your interviewers awkward questions. Also consider asking reverse behavioural questions. Here are a few:

What would be the best thing about working at your top competitor? What would be the worst thing about working there? What would be the most difficult thing about working here?

What would you say to a junior lawyer in order to temper his or her expectations about the quality of his or her work product?

How would you distribute work between two articling students, one of whom you were happy with their work yet who was already over capacity working on tasks for you, the other of which you knew had nothing on their plate?

How do you give feedback to your assistant that his work is not acceptable?

What, in your opinion, is the best way to motivate the people that are working for you?

What is your approach to attrition?

Ask anything that it is important for you to know about your workplace.

#2 Strike a Power Pose.

Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy speaks about how certain body chemistry related to stress can be activated (and deactivated) by adopting specific “power postures.” (Amy Cuddy, “Your body language shapes who you are.”)

Generally speaking, any posture that diminishes the space your body occupies (think arms and legs crossed, shoulders slumped, and head and gaze downwards) has disempowering effects on brain chemistry and mood. Conversely, expansive or spread out postures (think arms on hips, hands behind head, leaning back, arms in V to sky, or looking upwards) have an empowering effect on brain chemistry and mood.

Research subjects who adopted power postures prior to interview situations categorically out-performed those who did not.

The takeaway is simple: do a “Wonder Woman” or “Super Man” for 2 minutes in a bathroom stall prior to going into your interview – it will lower any cortisol-anxiety and amp up some testosterone-boldness.

#3 Affirmations.

Say them out loud. Say them in your head. Say them to a mirror, to a friend, to your mother, to anyone who will listen. Write them. Type them. Whatever. Do it until you believe it.

I am gracious in every situation.
I maintain professionalism no matter what.
I am confident and kind.
I speak my truth easily and effortlessly.
Others are comfortable around me.
Others are comfortable speaking to me.
Others speak their truth to me.
I am gracious and professional.
I am confident and honest.
I am cool as a cucumber.
Other people easily relax in my presence.
I relax easily around others.
I stand up for myself.
I am respectful of others, and others respect me.
You get the drift. Affirmations work by simply reprogramming your own thinking patterns in a way that eventually percolates into your behaviour.

Do you have any suggestions for overcoming interview awkwardness? Please share by commenting below!

Applicant, Know Thyself

There are at least one million explanations out there regarding how to prepare effective cover letters and résumés. However, applicants often overlook the importance of these crucial steps:

    1. Know the requirements of the position;
    2. Know thyself and what type of position you want; and, if appropriate,
    3. Communicate to the employer that you meet these requirements.

 It is like a sandwich. All the important stuff is in the middle. You may be thinking, “yes, yes, but what do I say in this fr#*&ing letter?” I’ve sat there dumbfounded at application time too. Let’s break it down.

How do you know the requirements of a position? If you are lucky, and things are easy, there may be a posting in a field that you are familiar with. As you read this posting, you simply identify with meeting the requirements of the posting and write a letter explaining how you do so. For example, consider a criminal defense posting asking for someone interested in rights of the accused, with research experience, and ability to communicate with clients who are in high pressure situations. The posting gives a laundry list of the requirements for the position.

More often, you will not have a concise laundry list from your potential employer. You can create your own by having meaningful conversations with people. What enabled me to get the above-mentioned application together so quickly is that I asked “what are the top three skills required by the job?” This type of information can be collected at networking events, from cold calls, or from informal conversations. Take notes. You can use the same language when drafting your application materials.

Next, know thyself. Everybody is different. There are no right jobs nor wrong jobs in general. To land the right job for you, you must know, at least on a subconscious level, what you want. It seems so simple, but so often this step gets missed. Before you rush off to get as many job offers as possible, take the time to think about what type of work you would be happy and engaged in doing.

Perhaps, when you read some job requirements, or talk to people who describe their position you might be feeling positive. In the above case, you might think “yeah I can do that. I did that extensive research paper about wrongful arrest and people are always saying that I’m cool as a cucumber in any situation.” Alternatively, perhaps your skin crawls. The former would indicate that you are well suited to the job, while the later would indicate that you may not be.

Perhaps, when you learn about a particular position, you feel blank. You just don’t know. “I don’t know” and “not yet” are very important messages from yourself. You don’t need to decide now. What you do need is more information prior to being able to make a clear and informed decision. Take some time, and think about what is meaningful to you and what your priorities are. Perhaps do some more research about the particular field or position.

Wouldn’t it be great if we only ever applied to positions where we felt “YES! This is EXACTLY the job for me.” Talk about an engaged work force. At the very least, please try to apply only to positions where you feel a minimum of “I could see myself there, I’m not sure how it will work out but I am willing to try.”

The final stage, if you have decided that it is an appropriate match, is to communicate this helpful insight to your potential future employer. They are going to be SO HAPPY to hear what a great fit you are for their position.

Overall, the most important thing to do is to honour yourself. Honour your intelligence, your charisma, and your dedication to give the best of your wonderful self to this world. You can only succeed. Thank you for reading, and for your willingness to learn and grow.

xoxo Tatiana

Win at OCIs no matter what

Unbeknownst to the world at large, summer marks the first phase of an annual hiring gauntlet for law students entering their second year: On Campus Interviews (OCIs). OCIs are much more than a typical set of interviews. Rather, they are a highly regulated recruitment extravaganza, in which large legal employers and top law students try to “fit” each other. There are several stages of recruitment, and the entire OCI process takes months to complete. The OCI process is an opportunity unique to attending law school and becoming a lawyer.

For some students, OCIs bring anxiety, trepidation, nervousness, or perhaps even migraines, break-downs and other types of physical pain. However, I suggest that rather than viewing the process as daunting, overwhelming, or even hopeless, it may be seen as an incredible opportunity for personal and professional growth.

No matter how we engage with the OCI process, or what stage we reach, there is always a benefit to come away with.

Some law students know that they are not interested in working for any one of the OCI employers. They abstain from OCIs altogether. For this type of student, choosing not to do OCIs is an indication of some very valuable clarity regarding career direction. Even if you are unsure of what is next, you have the benefit of knowing what you don’t want to do. Knowing that you don’t want something is a crucial bit of information that will help you determine what you do want to do.

If OCIs don’t appeal to you, but you aren’t sure what to do next, then try identifying what is unappealing to you about OCI employers as well as the opposing characteristic that you will seek in your ideal employer. For example: “I don’t want corporate clients” becomes “I want to serve the needs of human individuals.” Or: “I would be lost in a large organization” becomes “I am looking for a position in a small or mid-size firm.” “I don’t want to work until midnight” becomes “I want a position that allows me to maintain a balanced life.” Honesty about your values and priorities is crucial to finding a position that helps you fulfill them. Knowing that you don’t want something is a clue to what you do want. If you still feel clueless, maybe some broader brainstorming is needed.

Other students may put out written applications without receiving any OCI offers. If this happens, you still benefit from the process of having prepared your application, including your resume and cover letters, as well as the benefit of any market research and or networking that you may have done to prepare these applications. The research and introspection that goes into writing a good cover letter uncover hidden gems of self-knowledge and market knowledge that stay with you on your career path. Learn how to use self-knowledge for creating the most compelling cover letters.

Another great benefit that you may get at this stage is the input from the people that review your application materials. This may be from the people who help you edit, or any helpful feedback from any employers regarding how you might improve your application.

Do consider receiving detailed feedback from employers who did not select your application to be rare occurrence in the OCI process. Recruiters are often swamped at this time and so providing information beyond “we had a lot of qualified applicants” is very difficult. Find lots of gratitude for anybody who creates the time to do you such a kindness.

There are very typical reasons why a particular written application may not be successful, and it might be helpful to consider if any of these typical reasons apply to you. While every application is different, the major reasons an application would not be selected include: the firm was not convinced that you are interested in the type of work they do, your marks or written materials were not competitive, or there were editing mistakes in your materials.

For students who do receive invitations for on campus interviews, diligent preparation means learning how to speak clearly and professionally, to be concise and to the point, to be an active listener, and to communicate effectively under pressure. That is, you have a chance to develop enough charisma (i.e. the interview skills) to easily navigate interview situations. If you don’t feel naturally charismatic, then find a way to improve your charisma. You can get charisma without being born with it. The self-help industry is overflowing with exercises that you can use.

What can sometimes happen in the OCI process, is that people with high marks and good cover letters get a lot of OCI interviews, but without appropriate charisma to carry them through the in-person stages of OCI, they do not move into the in-firm stage of interviews. It is not unheard of for some people to receive invitations for 20 OCIs but then receive only one or two invitations for in-firm interviews. The reason for this is because written communication and good marks that make up a successful written application are not sufficient for the interpersonal aspect of interviewing. Be prepared.

If you find yourself at the in firm stage, your interview skills will be tested at a much higher level. At this level, the game can change. Employers can get pushy. Some of them “play dirty.” It is not uncommon to be pressured to state that a firm is a top choice. You may do so, at the expense of receiving potential offers from other firms (because the recruiters do share notes), only to find that you also don’t receive an offer from the firm that pressured you. Be careful, and stay in integrity. Use generic language: “I’m really excited to work at your firm, I would be very pleased to receive an offer.” Remember that you don’t have any offers until 5 pm on call day, no matter what somebody implies over dinner or at a cocktail party.

The best advice that I received during OCIs is to remember that this process is for me. For me, there was nothing deceptive in telling more than one firm that I really wanted to work there, because it was true.

Also, find people to support you who are positive and uplifting. Learn to consciously reject the drama and fears perpetuated by those who are not. Their energy can be chaotic and weighty. Stay uplifted, clear, and positive. It is a mental game. See yourself as capable and you will be.

While it can be frightening to consider coming away from OCIs without any offers, try to focus on what you can always take away from the process. If you did your research and homework at the cover letter stage, you could be coming away with a strong set of application materials and a lot of knowledge about your potential job market. If you had some interviews and/or did networking research, then you’ve also come away with the additional benefit of increased charisma as a result of exercising your professional interpersonal skills.

Many people who do land a position from the OCI process miss out by skipping over the research and introspective aspects of cover letter writing. They may wind up with a job that they aren’t really sure why they are there or if it is satisfying for them. Even though they have a position, they are not on a conscious path to fulfilling, meaningful work. This blindness can lead to serious dissatisfaction down the road.

No matter what the outcome is, the OCI process is bound to be an incredible growth experience. It is like a boot camp that can provide you with extreme amounts of valuable job market knowledge, self-knowledge, written cover materials, and interpersonal skills that you would never normally have an opportunity to develop in such a short period of time. Many professionals never get the benefit of this sort of process. It is one of many unique perks of pursuing a career in law.

I hope that you come away from the OCI boot-camp with the ease, flexibility, and knowingness that you are equipped to land a perfect position, no matter what. That is where your freedom and fulfillment will come from down the road, regardless of what occurs in articling and beyond.

If you are a law student going through OCIs, I am here to support you with special group or one-on-one OCI coaching packages. Please contact me if you would like some backup!

Yours very truly,

Tatiana Lazdins

10 Ways to Resolve Workplace Harassment

Generally workplace harassment sucks. So does conventional advice about how to deal with it. DO NOT GO TALK TO HR! At least not without reading this first.

My own experience of gender-based harassment in my workplace was that it made me feel insignificant, inadequate, diminished, devalued, and small, like I was worthless, incapable, and did not belong in my environment. Later, these feelings evolved into a blinding rage, which was somewhat more empowered yet still very counterproductive.

Eventually, I began meditating. This allowed me to view myself and my situation very differently. When that happened, the harassment miraculously stopped. Gone forever. Here is what I learned:

  1. Get professional help.
    Sadly, harassment has happened before. You are not the first person this has happened to nor will you be the last. The upside of it is, there are professionals available who can help you turn your situation around. I recommend talking to both a psychologist and an employment lawyer. Both of these have a professional obligation to hold your story in absolute confidence (except in extreme extenuating circumstances) and therefore it is completely 100% safe to seek their help without putting your career or any other confidentiality obligations at risk.

    Talking to a psychologist can help because harassment can REALLY mess with your head. You can lose objectivity, clarity, direction, and purpose. Harassment undermines your ability to make decisions in your best interest. A qualified professional who is on your side will help you make decisions that are healthy and empowered.

    Talking to an employment lawyer is also probably beneficial. There are laws to counteract workplace harassment. However, the specifics of every situation are different and therefore it is good to know exactly what your rights and options are. There might be a simple solution such as having a lawyer write a letter on your behalf. I am not giving legal advice but I can provide referrals if needed.

  2. Surround yourself with people who uplift you.
    Harassment can have the impact of making us feel → ← big. This is a sorry illusion because we are all, each and every one of us, ∞ big. However, when somebody has convinced us that we are not enough, we feel sapped and unable to realize and recognize our true potential. Therefore now is the time to find someone who is 100% loving and supportive of you. You can identify these people as the ones whom you feel best being around.

    Be careful – sometimes people who you think would be supportive don’t actually have the capacity to understand or help. For example, after confiding in my infinitely loving and usually nurturing grandmother about an incident of sexual harassment, she responded with “but what if he’s in love with you?” Umm… all the more reason for me to put a stop to this ridiculous behavior? Harassment ain’t love – and if the person who you are talking to does not understand that – then they aren’t the right support.

    Check in with yourself before and after talking with someone. Put a number on yourself from a scale of one to ten. If your number drops after you talk to them, then that person drains you. Even if the draining relationship is with your mom, best friend, or someone else you intimately trust, give yourself some space from that relationship for now. Only confide in people who help your number go up.

  3. Take good care of yourself.
    Yes, this means the basics. Eat well. Exercise. Sleep. There are plenty of places that provide healthy takeout and delivery. (Whole Foods, Green Zebra, Camros Organic Eatery, Fresh City Farms). You are what you eat. If you eat garbage, how do you expect to feel?

    Exercise – 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be extreme. Just do SOMETHING to get your blood flowing and your body moving. It is hard to do when you are working towards big goals. Even getting up and taking a stroll around your office for two minutes every hour is better than sitting at your desk all day without moving.

    Set a sleep alarm – often we set the alarm to help us wake up – but why not look at it differently? Set an alarm to remind yourself to get to bed on time. When I was articling I used two sleep alarms, one to remind me to leave the office, and another one, 40 minutes later, to remind me to start meditating (after which I would go straight to sleep). Yes, on some occasions I had to turn the alarms off to meet a special deadline, but mostly I was in a routine that supported myself and top performance.

  4. Meditate.
    I set out to learn meditation when a workplace harassment situation became so unbearable that I felt at rock bottom and had no idea how I might turn my life around. I’d already left engineering behind me, and I had wanted a new career to bring brighter and better things. What happened was that my inner blocks followed me.

    Try 5 to 15 minutes of meditation right after a “serious interaction” – i.e. a conversation with your harasser is a quick and effective way of purging out a lot of the negativity that can come up. There are a million types of meditation that you can try (ask the internet). I highly recommend breath awareness meditation. It is pure, simple, and easy to learn and it can be used, anywhere, anytime.

  5. Resist Smack-talking Your Harasser.
    Overcome the temptation. Yes, his or her behaviour is completely unacceptable. No it should never be condoned in any free, just, or reasonable society. No, it should never be tolerated. Yes, he or she deserves to have heinous, horrible things to happen to punish them for what he or she said or did. BUT, sinking into a cycle of smack talking negativity will only keep you down in this miserable situation. Rise above. That does not mean condoning. But it DOES mean not sinking to the same level.

    Your harasser will suffer consequences for his or her actions. That person has to live with himself or herself, and suffer crappy relationships wherever they go as a result of his or her treating people so crappily. This miserable person may never learn. They may forever continue to keep themselves down as a result of their idiotic behaviour. YOU on the other hand know better and are in the process of rising up.

  6. Let go.
    Yes, you heard me. Let it go. That doesn’t mean condoning it. But it does mean taking a strong stance with yourself to avoid replaying the situation in your head a million times. If you do so, you would be forcing yourself to relive the abuse again and again. Isn’t it bad enough that it happened once? In fact, each “event” only occurred once. Every single time you replay the scenario, again and again, you force yourself into the same situation of despair, again and again, and you carve those negative feelings into your own consciousness.

    No, it isn’t okay what they did. And you are going to do something about it. So there is no need to terrorize yourself by replaying the scenario. If is safe to let go. You will help yourself the best by letting go. You are protecting yourself, and part of doing that is letting go.

  7. Sass back.
    Depending on the situation, it may be beneficial for you to speak up. Your harasser is incredibly socially inept. I say that with 100% certainty because people with functioning social skills do not need to put other people down. Sadly, there are many people in places of workplace “authority” who lack productively functioning social skills. If you are up to it, you may consider simply telling them that their comments are inappropriate or unappreciated.

    From personal experience, it is not always possible to sass back when the comments were too infuriating or too hurtful – but I did find that with practice it got easier.

  8. Get witnesses.
    Sometimes, another good way to mitigate bad behaviour is to ensure other people will see. Just having other people around can put a serious damper on some behaviours. Avoid being alone with the person. Find a way for a trusted friend to accompany you if you have to talk to them. Make it so that other people can overhear. Find any excuse not to be in an office with the person with a closed door. Get your assistant to interrupt the encounter or ring your telephone. The simple presence of another set of eyes and ears makes a huge difference.

  9. Formal Complaint.
    This tactic doesn’t come up until number nine on this list for a reason. Sadly, I’ve never found talking to HR or a firm’s complaints committee to be as helpful as the other suggestions included here. However, a formal complaint is an important way of notifying the organization that you work for that they have work to do with respect to establishing a supportive work environment that conforms to the Human Rights Code.

    Document your experiences, and then go to HR or your firm’s complaints committee. This is a step to take only if you are ready or wanting to take a big stance. Be prepared that it can be disruptive to your projects, your mentality, and your work environment.

    A formal complaint may get you ahead if there is somebody that you just cannot be around. Ask your employer to change your projects or assignments so that you don’t have to be anywhere near the harasser ever again.

    The drawbacks of a formal complaint can be that it becomes a “he said she said” situation. The process can really open you up to judgment and increased feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.

    Also, if you are perhaps looking to be vindicated, from my experience generally harassers don’t usually get serious repercussion. The process will probably do little to relieve any outrage about “it all.” (Please re-read 6. & 7. above). Maybe the harasser watches a video on appropriate workplace conduct. More likely they keep harassing other people who allow themselves to be victims. Be sure to temper your expectations about what the complaints process can actually do for you.

  10. Get a new job.
    This may seem extreme, but it’s also my favourite. Career fulfillment IS available. The world is your oyster my friend. If you try all the above, and nothing is working, then why not make a change to get yourself somewhere where you can be healthy and thriving? There are millions of jobs out there. There is absolutely no reason for you to suffer in a work situation where you are not 100% cherished and respected for your incredible talents and capabilities.

    You can have all the benefits of your current position, as well as added benefits of working in a respectful environment. It is as simple as aspiring to that goal and then taking the steps to make it happen. I know it doesn’t always seem that simple, but it is.

I would do almost anything to spare even one person from suffering what I did as a young female engineer. Yes it was that bad. Actually, it was probably worse that whatever you are imagining. If you would like some help making changes towards a healthy and supportive career, please get in touch with me.

Wishing you all the best, happiness, fulfillment, and incredible success!

Xoxoxo Tatiana

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