Saturday July 13, 2024

We’ve all heard about the importance of our body language during an interview.  Few of us, however, are even consciously aware of how we come across.  Chalk it up to nerves or just wanting to make a really good impression and forgetting everything we knew about doing so, but too many times, we completely miss the boat until we’re out of the door and then think, “Oh no….did I cross my arms when he mentioned the need to travel?”  Relax.  Your physical presentation is important, says A. Harrison Barnes, career coach and founder, but it’s not the only thing an interviewer is considering as you’re meeting with him.  Still, it’s the total package that you’re aiming for, so here are a few tips, straight from the renowned career coach, that should ensure you’re more confident than ever on your next interview.

Your resume has done its job.  It was articulate, complete and flowed seamlessly through your education and career history.  Now, it’s that face to face meeting you’re hoping will seal the deal with a job offer.  A. Harrison Barnes says the number one question he’s asked is, “What should I do with my hands?”  Sounds easy, right?  There are few times in our lives when we feel like a deer caught in the headlights, says the founder, but those first few moments in an interview when you’re invited to take a seat will make you wish you could sit on your hands just to get them out of your way.  Instead of resorting to those drastic measures, try to remain conscious of those few seconds after you’re seated so that you know you’ve deliberately placed your hands in your lap.  That sounds overly simple and obvious, but it’s a tool that works every time.  Odds are, you won’t give your hands a second thought afterwards, even if you tend to use your hands in conversation.  It will be the natural progression of your style.  One thing you shouldn’t do, however, is cross your arms.  It’s read by others as being closed.  Closed to ideas, closed to change and closed to another way of doing things; definitely not what you want to portray.

Foot on the floor or in your mouth?  Believe it or not, Barnes says whether you sit with both feet on the floor or legs crossed doesn’t make that much of a difference.  It’s the way your posture is when you’re seated that give off the vibes.  You don’t want to casually lean back in a chair as though you’re about the tip the chair onto two legs.  “It comes across as arrogant and even entitled”, says the founder.  Instead, follow the natural contour of the chair.  Rest your back against the chair back and mind your posture.

All of these tips seem obvious, but for anyone who has a remote memory of a recent interview knows how quickly these mini-obsessions can get in the way, especially when you’re trying to show your true, confident and experienced self to a potential employer.  Breathe deeply and find that happy medium between relaxed and confident versus laid back and arrogant.

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When Your Mistake Costs the Company

Anyone in customer service knows there comes a time when, despite the most noble of intentions, a customer will become frustrated or even take out their ill mood on us.  One minute, you’re happily assisting a customer who ordered the wrong size dress and the very next customer is someone who you swear woke up with the goal of finding you  and making life incredible difficult.  Next thing you know, this customer has demanded to speak with your supervisor.  You weren’t rude, but this customer really tried your patience.  Now what?

We asked A. Harrison Barnes, who is a renowned career coach and founder of, for his insight.  “Unless you were really rude to this customer, most managers have the experience to recognize that even the best customer representatives can’t please everyone all the time”.  Unless there’s a history of customer complaints, odds are, you’re not going to be looking for a new job as the result of one unhappy customer.  The fact is, human nature plays a bigger role in customer service than many are even aware of.  CSR’s are the ones who catch the brunt of an unhappy customer who just realized he ordered the wrong part or that the wrong part was shipped by your company.  Whatever his reasons and regardless of how it happened, it has to be fixed and the one who takes the call is the one, as far as the customer can tell, to make it happen.

There are times when there’s no other way to describe a scenario that ends in an unhappy customer experience other than the rep dropped the ball.  A. Harrison Barnes has a few tips for those times and if you’ve never experienced it, count yourself among the minority.  Most do at some point.

  • The very first thing you should do is extend an honest apology, says the founder.  “Remember a sincere apology will take you a lot further than anything else in these situations”.
  • Don’t make excuses!  Just as you don’t want to hear fifteen reasons why your own order was shipped a week later than it was promised, your customers don’t want to hear it either.  It might be true and it might have been out of your control, the goal is to take responsibility, not make excuses.
  • Have a solution at the ready, says the founder.  Shipment arrive damaged?  Be prepared to give your customer a revised arrival date and work with her to be sure it’s convenient.  Keep in mind, she’s already been inconvenienced one time so her patience may be wearing thin.

Finally, if your slip up is serious enough to cost you your job, it’s not the end of the world.  Take a step back, take a deep breath and then pick up the pieces.  Start that process by visiting for an aggregate of current jobs around the country.  Get help with your resume, check the latest statistics and discover where the hiring trends are happening.

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Calling all Interns!

Ah, the intern.  Fresh faced, eager to learn and ready to put college behind them so that they can finally put their educations to good use.  Before you begin your intern, however, there are some things that first of all, you’ve already been told and secondly, it’s worth mentioning again.  Too many times, college interns, while energetic and ready to change the world, will forget the rules and can sometimes end up being the worst decision a company has made.  So put your defenses down – A. Harrison Barnes, career coach and founder, has some good ideas that will keep you in your employer’s good graces.

  • Are you required to show up each day with a mat?  No?  Then nap time doesn’t exist in the office.  Not only that, but your employer really doesn’t care how late you were out the night before or how many phone numbers your late night netted you.  It’s unprofessional and immature.  Period.  Don’t do it.
  • Your way cool boyfriend may dig the new ink that has the symbolic meaning only the two of you know, but keep it covered in the workplace as much as you can.  And yes, more folks than ever are sporting tattoos these days, and perhaps even the one you answer to on a daily basis, but that doesn’t give you free rein to walk around the office tugging at the shoulder of your blouse in an effort to show your sense of adventure.  Oh, and if you don’t have a tattoo and are considering it, the founder suggests you choose something that’s subtle and that is placed on an area that’s easily covered.  A vivid and colorful tattoo up your leg might be your cup of tea, but remember, there will come a day when it just might get in the way.
  • Have a problem with the employer?  That’s fine.  Don’t resort to the neighborhood antics from when you were twelve and tattle to mean Billy’s mom.  Show maturity and graciousness by going through the proper channels, says A. Harrison Barnes.  Even if those proper channels disagree, you will have handled with it class and dignity and those nuances count in the long run.
  • If you tend to speak or type in computer lingo – whether you’re prone to blurting out “OMG!” or if you forget “what” doesn’t have the letter “u”, but does have the letters “h” and “a” and that it’s spelled “what” instead of “wut”, then find someone you trust to help you work on that.  Revealing these tendencies shows nothing but immaturity – and possibly a poor grasp of the English language.
  • Dress appropriately.  This bears repeating, as Barnes says it’s one of the biggest complaints companies have about their interns: DRESS APPROPRIATELY!  Whatever the standard dress code is, you should follow to the letter.  Casual Fridays in the office might not be your definition of what casual wear is.  If nothing else, forego your casual dress efforts the first Friday in the office so that you can see what’s acceptable.

Internships are incredible opportunities and are advantageous both for you and the company that’s chosen you.  Pay it the respect it deserves.  You never know when you might want to build your career there or it could be that you might need a reference at some point.  Burning bridges is never a good thing.

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What’s Going on in Mobile, AL?

Mobile, AL, best known for its big city atmosphere, but friendly down home folks, is facing some tough problems in the county’s District Attorney’s office.  Actually, several of the area’s community leaders are facing serious charges, says A. Harrison Barnes, attorney and founder.   In early May 2010, former Mobile County Commissioner Steve Nodine was arrested and charged with murdering his mistress, Angel Downs.  He is currently awaiting trial for first degree murder and several other drug charges, along with being hit with divorce papers from his wife.  The accusations also include charges that he used company property, specifically, a company truck, to take numerous vacations to areas such as Pensacola, FL. and New Orleans, LA.

Two months following Nodine’s arrest, Michael Hickman, a Mobile County assistant district attorney, was arrested in his home for what ultimately became third-degree domestic violence charges.  Few details have been released in this case and Hickman is currently taking a leave of absence from the District Attorney’s office.

Two weeks later, Steve Giardini, another Mobile County assistant district attorney was arrested and charged with child sex crimes.  The shocking tragedy is that in his role with the district attorney’s office, he served as a specialized child sex crime prosecutor.  Those whom he worked so closely with over the years have refused to comment on his arrest and instead, are supporting Giardini.  This only adds to the shock since these people, including others in the DA’s office and the area’s Child Advocacy Director, encourage children and families to never suffer in silence and to always speak up.  The director, Pat Guyton, said, “It is inappropriate to comment on the arrest at this time”.

His charges include soliciting a 15 year old girl over the internet to have sex for the intent of producing pornography.  The girl he believed he was conversing with was actually an undercover FBI agent.

District Attorney John Tyson, Jr., who’s been re-elected several times to his post, is reeling from all of these charges and says he is in “major shock”.    The raid took place on Giardini’s home more than a year ago, yet remained confidential and unknown to even Tyson.  Tyson says this only adds insult to injury as he allowed the ADA to continue prosecuting others accused of the same crimes he’s now been arrested for.

In all three of these cases, A. Harrison Barnes, attorney and founder, says it’s important to remember none have been found guilty and are innocent until a jury decides.  Still, these community leaders only make it more difficult for those who do take their public responsibilities seriously.  “It’s a black mark for district attorneys and others”, says the founder.  Tyson agrees, saying his goal is to recover from these shocking events of late and to move forward with the job he was elected to do: convict those guilty of heinous crimes, including domestic violence and sex crimes.

No word yet on when the trials will begin for any of the three mentioned, says A. Harrison Barnes

Assistant District Attorney

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Wal Mart’s Class Action Sex Discrimination Suit

In late August, 2010, Wal Mart appealed a decision handed down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled a class action gender discrimination lawsuit against the retail giant could move forward.  The case is waiting to go before the United States Supreme Court in early 2011.  The decision says that more than one million current and former employees of Wal Mart, who are women, can sue the company.  This is the largest employment class action suit ever filed in the history of the U.S., says attorney and founder A. Harrison Barnes.  There is much at stake.

Originally filed in 2001 by an Oklahoma woman, Betty Dukes, and with six other female plaintiffs, the women were seeking punitive damages and back pay for what was described as “gendered wage discrepancies for all employees of Wal Mart since 1998”.  Among other things, the suit claimed their male counterparts earn “systematically higher wages and receive more frequent promotions at Wal Mart, regardless of women’s competitive quality of work and seniority”.

While the appeal does not directly address or dispute the claim, Wal Mart has nonetheless requested the court toss the case because the plaintiffs “have little in common but their sex and this lawsuit”.  Needless to say, comments such as those have raised more than a few eyebrows – and tempers, too.  A. Harrison Barnes says there is billions at stake if the company loses.  This particular appeal is slated to go before the Supreme Court in Fall, 2010.

Eric Dreiband, who is a former general counsel with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, calls it an “extremely significant case” and says “the rights of millions of women are at stake”.  A. Harrison Barnes agrees.  The world’s largest private employer stands to lose far more than its profits.  It also insists there “is no disparity in pay based on gender”.  It insists it offers an excellent place for women to work and has been recognized as “a leader in fostering the advancement and success of women in the workplace”.

The lawsuit contends that women were not promoted as often as their male co-workers and must wait longer for promotions they are offered.

The case does jeopardize an individual female employee who might be attempting to sue since she would lose rights to present the facts of her specific case and could potentially miss out on the right to seek compensatory damages, since the class action is seeking only punitive damages and back pay.

Many lawyers are saying there likely won’t be any winners in this case since it will affect employees not only throughout Wal Mart, but the American employment sector as a whole.  Still, for those women who believe they were treated unfairly, it comes down to so much more than money and promotions.  “That”, says the founder, “always makes it personal”.

This is most certainly one case all eyes within the legal sector – and law classrooms – around the country are monitoring closely.

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Why Public Relations Matter from a Legal Perspective

Now that Toyota is facing even more recalls, how will the American people react?  More importantly, why do we tend to be a bit more lenient towards the automaker when it seems the nation as a whole is out for blood with the folks from BP, who’s being held accountable for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?  Both are facing PR nightmares and the lawsuit potential continues to grow as more facts about both companies begin to surface.  We asked A. Harrison Barnes, lawyer and founder why we see these two foreign companies from very different perspectives.
The founder says in many ways, it comes down to the attitudes and efforts of both companies.  One, specifically BP, immediately went on the defense while Toyota opted for a more humble approach.  Could it really be that simple, though?
There’s no denying Toyota’s presence on the cutting edge of technology.  It stays connected to its customers via social networking sites and interactive websites.  It keeps its thumb on the public’s pulse and responds in kind.  It immediately went into a proactive mode; unfortunately, BP became reactive and some say even aggressive. Toyota wasted no time in getting its CEO front and center.  Jim Lentz quickly became the face of the crisis, much the way BP’s Tony Hayward did.  Toyota anticipated and wasted no time in its efforts of acknowledging responsibility; however, not so much with BP and its leaders, says A. Harrison Barnes.  Tony Hayward, BP’s face, immediately began complaining of all the sacrifices he was being forced to make and the fact that he wished he could get his life back, too.  Unfortunately, there were eleven families who he insulted with this comment; they had just memorialized the loss of their loved ones during the April 20 explosion.  Further, Hayward was more interested in downplaying the disaster and went so far as to say that he expected a minimal impact on the environment and residents of the Gulf Coast.
Placing blame is never the right choice for a company that’s working to maintain its public image.  Toyota gets it.  BP does not.  As the founder reflects, “These initial approaches will determine how each company is remembered throughout history”.
Toyota wasted no time in its efforts of picking up the pieces.  The company also stepped up its efforts and kept the American public aware, at all times, of every decision it was making and how it would benefit those most affected.  After all, there were millions of recalls of vehicles.  Toyota’s CEO Jim Lentz began taking interviews and was forthcoming in every questioned asked of him.  The transparency, the public approach and the willingness to answer questions during these live interviews as they came in showed a level of commitment we’ve yet to see from BP.  Both can expect heavy legal repercussions for their errors in judgment, says A. Harrison Barnes; it’s what’s left that will determine if they continue to have a respected presence in the American public’s eyes.
Both BP and Toyota are model lessons for those future companies that find themselves in deep water.  One’s example you want to follow and the other’s methods should be part of every company’s manual of what not to do when a company is facing a disaster.

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The Importance of Giving Back

A recent article in Motion Magazine, entitled Lawyers Giving Back: Barrister Book Buddies, spoke of one Farmington Hills, Michigan law firm and its efforts of giving back.  The firm, Kaufman, Payton & Chapa, makes a weekly visit to the Detroit-area school and spends several hours reading to and assisting students in their own efforts at learning to read.  The staff commits their lunch hours for “their” students.  The office administrator, Linda Nickerson, said in the interview that the initial goal of the firm was to collect shoes, coats and socks for students over the holidays.  She’s then quoted as saying, after arriving to drop off the donations that first time, “We all looked at each other, we had tears in our eyes and we said, ‘We can’t just let this go.  This can’t just be a hit and run’.”  From there, the Reading Buddies program was launched.  It’s been an incredible success – the kids always look forward to their weekly visitors and the staff members are learning quite a bit about themselves.

This had us wondering how many other legal professionals were able to take a step back from their own lives and give back to their communities.  A. Harrison Barnes, attorney, career coach and founder of, says “The legal sector is actually home for some of the most generous people to be found”.  He continues, “Many, despite their busy schedules, make their efforts of giving back a priority”.  Often, these habits are formed long before they ever even graduate law school.  Sometimes, as part of a sorority or fraternity, students are introduced to those most in need; whether it’s an hour spent helping a child learn to read or committing to working in a local homeless shelter, the fact is, there is always something to be done.

“It’s important to remember what your focus is”, says the founder.  Anything you do should be from a place of genuine concern and a sincere effort of making a difference.  Any other reasons are not going to benefit anyone.  If you approach these efforts with the mindset, “I’ll have done my good deed for the day”, you’re not going to feel fulfilled and anyone who is hoping to benefit from your time is going to feel it too.  So what are the right reasons?  We conducted an impromptu poll of lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries who are active in their communities.  The question was simple: Why do you volunteer/give back to your community?  Here are a few of the most cited reasons:

• I wanted to share my blessings; to make a difference somehow.
• I saw a need and had the tools/resources to make a change.
• I know how a couple hours of my time can change another’s life; I was once the one whose life needed changing.
• It’s important to me in my walk with God.
• I was raised to believe you give more than you take.

So what are your reasons?  Have you been considering your own community and wondering what difference you can make?  Now’s the time, says A. Harrison Barnes.  “It’s up to each of us to ease another’s burden at some point in our lives”.  We couldn’t agree more.

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The Role of Court Administrators

Court administrators play an integral role within the American justice system, but it wasn’t until 1968, when United States Chief Justice Warren Burger decided this role should be defined – and then filled – by those who could effectively shoulder some of the administrative aspects of a court.  “Judges are already overwhelmed with an ever-growing court docket.  The last thing they need to worry about is staying within budget, ensuring payrolls are met and scheduling the court calendars”, says A. Harrison Barnes, attorney and founder.  An experienced court administrator can ease that burden.

What many don’t know is that the job descriptions are as varied as the courtrooms themselves.  In some courts, a court administrator will work to define and then meet a budget, while in another jurisdiction, the court administrator may not have to worry with budgetary issues.   Most, however, share priorities such as keeping a court system efficient, scheduling cases and ensuring procedures are followed throughout the court.

“Court administrators carry a lot on them and the good ones can effectively delegate and juggle several managerial duties simultaneously”, says the founder.  Some court administrators go into these positions as a way of exploring the legal sector as they try to decide if law school is a good fit for them.  Those who realize the role of a lawyer is not what they want to ultimately fill will remain in their court administrator position and will opt for college credits that will help them become a formidable force in the administrative aspect.

In fact, some jurisdictions require all court administrators to possess college educations.  Associates or bachelors degrees in judicial administration and/or business management are often what the courts look for when hiring a judicial administrator.

Depending on what level a court administrator is employed at, their experience and education, along with the region of the country they reside, the salaries will vary greatly.  That said, a fair “middle ground” for court administrators hovers around $40,000 annually.  Also, another important factor is the employer.  The court where the administrator works might be on a local, state or federal level.  These too will play a significant role in how much court administrators can earn, says A. Harrison Barnes.

Regardless of which court you oversee, it’s a great career choice for many.  Of course, organization is a must and a background in finance always helps since so many positions include maintaining financial records for the courts while keeping an eye on budgets.  It’s also important to realize your boss may change during election years or appointed.   In fact, federal judges generally serve in a district court for eight years while judges on the local level are elected in four year increments and therefore, a court administrator may see many judges come and go throughout the course of his won career.  According to BLS, many court administrators enjoy years of solid salary expectations as well as many opportunities to promote to higher courts.

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The Link Between Late Payments and Job Security

If we didn’t believe it before, there’s  no denying now that in order to get a good idea of what the job market’s doing, all one needs to do is take a look at the trends in foreclosures and late payments.  The Associated Press is reporting that ten percent of homeowners have missed at least one mortgage payment as of June 30 – and we still have four months left in the year.  This, says career coach and founder, is indicative of the continued trend of high foreclosure rates.  Employment trends and housing trends go hand in hand and the current economic environment, understanding one means understanding both.

The latest numbers in first time unemployment claims suggests things might be improving – albeit slightly.  The seasonally adjusted numbers are at 473,000.  The founder says to not focus too much on one particular detail; unemployment numbers are still high.  Further complicating matters is there appears to be a slower approach to employers bringing on new hires.

“This latest news only reiterates the fact that lower interest rates won’t automatically lead more home purchases”, says A. Harrison Barnes.  “Too many are still reeling from the recession and are reluctant to make any big changes in their financial lives, especially since the knowledge is in the back of everyone’s minds that there is no job security these days”.  Despite a steady economic growth over the past four quarters, it’s still lower than what one would find in a strong economy.  It clearly comes down to finding the balance in order to maintain perspective.

One recent major layoff occurred at Northrop Grumman’s Pascagoula shipyard.  Currently, there have been more than four hundred layoffs with another three hundred slated by the end of the year.  The naval shipyard has seen better days. At one time, and especially during the Reagan and Bush administrations, the yard employed more than 23, 000 people.  It supported much of the financial infrastructure along the northern Gulf Coast.  In recent years, however, those numbers have hovered around 12,000.  Currently, the Northrop Grumman facility in Pascagoula employs less than 11,000.  The layoffs are occurring company wide; administration, welding, pipefitting and even new business departments are suffering cutbacks.

Another factor that must be considered, says Barnes, is the newly approved programs that allow for additional weeks of emergency unemployment.  It’s important to remember that when the program was allowed to play out with no Congressional renewal in June, this put more than two million without any source of income.  Once the program was renewed, those numbers were cancelled out.  This, of course, affects the bottom line.

Wondering which fields are moving forward, regardless of the economic picture?  Some jobs you’ll find on are found in the medical field, especially nursing jobs and engineering is trending upwards in recent weeks.  Part time jobs are available, as well.  Even as some analysts say “there is little if any meaningful hiring throughout the economy”, there are jobs available.

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How the Better Business Bureau Can Help With Your Job Search

There’s nothing worse than spending valuable time following a job lead only to discover it’s not anything like you thought it would be or worse, that it’s unethical and the company has a less than stellar reputation.  While we rely on our networks to gain information on which companies and businesses are hiring in our career specialty, the Better Business Bureau is another powerful tool that when used properly, can either reaffirm that we’re on the right path or that we’re headed for a dead end, says A. Harrison Barnes, career coach and founder.

So what can the BBB help with your career?  For starters, just as consumers check out businesses before parting ways with their hard earned money, you can easily check out the same company, but as a job seeker instead of a consumer.  Reporters and donors routinely incorporate the power of the BBB, says the founder.  It’s been used since 1912 to check out accreditation, whether or not a company has been involved in unethical practices and even if there have been complaints filed about their reporting procedures.  Its mission is to “foster honest and responsible relationships between businesses and communities”.

“People have relied on the Better Business Bureau for years”, says Barnes.   Not only that, but they maintain years of complaint statistics so you can easily check a company’s past performance, too.  Been offered a job in sales at an area auto dealership?  Odds are, you already know from local consumers its reputation, but a quick check on the website tells you if the dealership has had many complaints that were proven legitimate.   Wondering about a financial institute and whether or not to put your accounting degree to use with it?  The last thing you want to do is be associated with a company that’s treated its customers unfairly.  This is where you discover those facts.

Waiters and hostesses have relied on the bureau for years to let them know if there have been any health concerns.  Again, no one wants to unwittingly be associated with a less than honorable business.

Perhaps the most important reason you can rely on BBB is its fairness.  It will thoroughly check out any complaints to see if they’re justified or if it’s just an upset consumer who’s unfairly targeted a business.  In many cases, that’s exactly what’s happened, says A. Harrison Barnes.  It’s anonymous and all that’s required is the business name, the city and state.  You’re not asked to provide your name or any other identifiable information, so a potential employer never knows you conducted the search.

In a time when reputation is everything, every advantage you can provide for yourself in your job search can only strengthen your efforts.  While there are more than 120 physical offices throughout the country, it’s not necessary to visit one of the physical locations.  Simply point your browser to and from there, input the business information.

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