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Workers With Big Egos Sometimes Do Make Big Contributions

By Mary Ellen Slayter
Sunday, June 8, 2008

Q Have you ever figured out how people with a reputation for being difficult, high-strung and generally egomaniacs move up the ladder? Some, I realize, have highly specialized and difficult-to-obtain skills, but others? -- Maryland

AIt's because those same personality traits can frequently serve you well in business -- even as they make someone unpleasant to work with.

Are these "difficult" people skilled negotiators on behalf of the company? Do they take on high-profile (and high-earning) legal cases that no one else in their right mind would tackle? Do they win deep price concessions from vendors? Do they post the top sales numbers month after month? Do they motivate the people they supervise to succeed? (Yep, it counts even if they motivate through fear and anxiety, not loyalty.) Are they unsentimental enough to make the tough decisions needed to keep a company afloat in hard times? If the answers to those or similar questions are yes, you have your answer.

Of course, if the impossible person in question isn't even competent, you could be looking at an unfortunate result of nepotism or favoritism.

A person I work with is leaving her job, and I would like to be a candidate for that position. I told my boss, and I told the boss of the new job. In the meantime, I am searching for jobs outside of the organization. Is this okay? Or should I wait until I have definitive word on whether I got accepted for the new position before conducting a job search outside? -- Washington

Applying for a job isn't a commitment to take it. So you are free to continue your search outside the company. You can even go on interviews with outside suitors, guilt-free. It's not as if you are guaranteed the internal job, and if you're anxious to move on to a new job, there's no reason to put your search on hold. These days, you can't take offers from any potential employer for granted.

Where you should be cautious, however, is in accepting an offer inside the company if you don't really want to stay. What will you do if you are hired for the internal position but are offered a job outside just two weeks later? Or two months? Do you plan to continue your job search if you get this internal gig? Do you want to move up at this organization, or would you rather leave?

I have submitted my résumé to several employers since posting it on washingtonpost.com and have not received acknowledgment from the employer or an interview. Is this a good venue for seeking employment? -- Woodbridge

It is, but it shouldn't be your only venue. And I don't just mean that you need to branch out to rival Web sites.

The ads you see are the tip of the iceberg in terms of the jobs out there. So go ahead and apply for them, but most of your time should be spent networking. If you want to work somewhere, you don't have to wait for an ad to pop up.

Research the organization and brainstorm ways to make connections there. Perhaps you have a friend or neighbor who works there? Or a friend of a friend? Those connections can lead to a job offer before thousands of people have time to submit their résumé online.

And don't overlook the ads for job fairs. Such gatherings can be a great way to meet recruiters and others. Even in the Internet age, hiring people is still a face-to-face process.

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