Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bone up on giving great interview

Yeah, people still sing and dance to get a job. Even more so now.

Remember, says someone in Chad Graham’s article in the AZ Republic,
June 28, 2009, everyone seen in person is qualified—so they are picking the person they like the best.

Come armed with specifics—they can tell a rambler immediately.

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF. Ask, “I don’t mind telling you about myself, but could you tell me the types of things you want to know…” Avoid religion, politics, groups you belong to, etc.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS? Ask what paths are available. Show how your skills and interests match up.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS? Be honest. If you don’t like detail, for instance, show how you’ve worked to overcome that.

DO YOU WORK WELL WITH A TEAM? Try to find out the company philosophy on teams. Some companies like self-starters and self-maintainers.

Try to be yourself. Smile. Meet the interviewer’s eyes. Would you want to work with you? Think about it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Do you laugh 17 times a day?

The average person laughs that many times. Are you pulling down the curve?

Yes, I know—times are grim, a million people in the US have gotten the pig flu so far, Michael Jackson is dead, Farah, the Oxiclean Guy, Iran, etc.

But still, people, we need to laugh in order to stay alive. Scientists have shown (to my satisfaction) that laughter triggers a better immune system, prevents cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and is like internal jogging. Plus—it’s way more fun that external jogging.

Laughter as a therapy came to America several decades ago when an Indian doctor and yogi named Medan Kataria come to train some laughter leaders. Saturday Review editor Normal Cousins also credited funny movies with curing a degenerative disease he had.

Now, there are Laughter Clubs (seriously) in nursing homes, retirement villages, therapists’ offices, and even the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, where the director was informed that there weren’t enough laughs.

Most clubs are out of the video business, and use the fact that laughter is contagious to set things off.

They may start out with a laughter chant—ho ho ho hee hee hee…etc. This sounds so funny people start laughing for real.

There is also the laughter greeting—go up to someone, shake hands, then burst out laughing in each other’s faces.

There are other exercises…Ice Cube Down the Back—you simulate the screeches. The Roller coaster—hands up, screaming.

To see if there is a certified laughter leader or club near you, go to www.laughterworldtour.com.

Don’t laugh—I am thinking of trying this.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Telephone interviews can be a minefield

Sarah Needleman writes about these “screening” calls in the WSJ, June 2, 2009. Time was, these were used as a chemistry check—a call to see if an in-person interview might be the next step.

Now, they can be the interview.

The bar has been raised.

One woman was grilled for 90 minutes on what she knew about the company and her marketing philosophies—a far cry from “tell us a little about yourself.”

Now they can ask for exact dates of employment, or to describe 10 marketing initiatives or other projects, including results.

The interviewer may try to determine where you stood when you were laid off. Were they glad to see you go?

This saves the money on flying people out.

Be careful how your call comes across, too. Don’t put the interviewer on hold to tend to a kid or order from the drive-through.

Keep your answers short. If you don’t know or need to look it up, say so.

It wouldn’t hurt to keep a resume and cribsheet by the phone, either.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sick--but must keep your job

Lesley Alderman, NYT, June 20, 2009, says hard times can be bad times for people with chronic illnesses, Yet these are the people least able to weather a job and insurance loss.

So now what?

Most of the policies on the chronically ill in the workplace are company rules and practice. Companies may provide short- and long-term disability payments, for example.

Of the 22 richest nations, only the US does not guarantee paid time off for illness or treatments, such as cancer therapies.

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows 12 weeks off—no pay.

Advice? Inform your employer of your situation. Be honest. Don’t be ashamed.

Ask for adjustments—if your illness meets the terms of a disability, the company has to make reasonable accommodations. Even if you take meds for it, it may still be a legal disability.

You have to be reasonable—asking for a car and driver probably does not meet this.

Read the office procedures manual. You can take family leave all at once or a little at a time.

See if you can work part-time if the job is too much for you.

If you are worried about losing your insurance or not being able to get by, check with the organization governing your disability.

As for govt disability, it’s hard to get, often requiring a lawyer to beat back the bureaucrats. They get paid when the payments start. After you have been in this for two years, you automatically get Medicare. Two years can be a long time., though.

My advice: take it one day at a time. But remember Auntie Star’s motto: You can ask anybody anything.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Don't fret--still a man's world in one sense

Our newpaper had about 100 stories about Father’s Day. Man, did they like Father’s Day.

However, Rick Montgomery, McClatchy Newspapers, is worried that working women will soon outnumber men.

It’s this darn recession.

More than 4.2 million men have lost jobs nationwide since 2007. Keep this up and women will outpace men in the workplace—but not, of course, in salary, which is another reason we are all altered economically forever.

They even have a name for it—man-cession.

Yes, some are glad to have more time with the kiddies, but it’s hard to have quality time when you are glugging underwater.

Only 30% of men said they would leave their jobs if their wives could pay the freight. This used to be almost half.

More men may want to transition into teaching and health care—meaning more education. Who is paying for that? Mom.

Some dads are becoming coaches to meet more dads and network.

Am I too snarky? Maybe I am. I always see dads getting bouquets for doing what moms do everyday. And a lot of Dads don’t do windows.

Around here, they don’t even do yardwork anymore.

We are supposed to feel bad because women will outnumber men in the workplace—hello, doing work as always, people!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dos and don'ts of business plans

No job? How about a business?

Writing in the WSJ, John W. Mullins has some excellent advice on writing a business plan. Of course, you already know it’s not on the back of a napkin, right?

Check it out:

A downturn is a good time to start a business. Hey, there are people available, clients may need a new supplier, and so on. I once heard a guy say he wanted to start a trucking company because so many had gone out of business there should be work. Uh…gone out of business…is that a clue?

You need to be clear..convincing. Those with money are picky these days.

Most business plans, Mullins says, don’t make much of an impression. Here are five types of plans destined to sink without a ripple.

Those that don’t identify a customer problem and instead focus on the wonderful technology being proposed.

Those who show a large market and say they only need a part of it. It’s easier to win a large share of a targeted market and investors know this. A new large market also needs distribution systems and lots of marketing.

A plan where the profits are paper profits. Take pets.com—it looked good, deliver the food to the home—but the logistics killed it.

The team that can walk on water raises flags. You need to show you can handle critical success factors, such as location in retail. Even a weakness in the team could be a strength—if you ask the investor to find the right person for it.

If everything in your plan is wonderful and sunny and you don’t identify any challenges, this is an uh-oh. ID your rough spots.

Some words to avoid: "Huge"--our market is huge—how huge, do research. "Conservative"—as in “we conservatively forecast." "Revolutionary"—as in our product is. How does it really differ from what’s out there? “We believe” is also a substitute for research. “We have no competition.” Yup—you do. Actually, competition can mean the need is so real others are going after it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the job hunt

My daughter lost her beloved job and we are both pretty devastated. It hurts to lose a job you loved. You have to grieve. For one day.

Then it’s back to the drawing boards.

As a freelance writer for almost 30 years, I look for a job everyday. Of course, now it’s harder because some of my fellow writers have decided to sell out for $8 an hour or even $1 (no zeros) a story.

I have learned, though, that blanketing local employers with “To Whom It May Concern” letters is useless.

Call—get a name. Even call the person first and say you would like to send something, such as a letter of introduction or a resume.

Don’t blab in cliches—enclosed please find, etc. Lose the texting abbrevs, etc.

If you want to leave out a lot and not look overqualified or just fill in gaps where nothing was happening for you, some people use a “functional” resume format—with skills emphasized. This is raising flags these days. What are you hiding?

I recommend formatting by your greatest strength. If you worked for big-name companies, emphasize that. If your titles were Director or Manager, highlight the title first.

Try to cut out a lot of blather, like your height and weight or even references unless they are asked for. And don’t put “References provided on request.” They know you will do that.

If your old field is withering, try to adapt your skills to a newer one--emphasize the people you supervised, classes you took, money you saved or earned the employer.

If you do provide references, customize the list for each requester.

Don’t get too creative. If job requirements are listed, parrot back the same words in your answer. Some resumes are checked by computer for matches. Or by a lower level employee who isn’t going to puzzle out your rewording.

Ask the interviewer what the next step is. When can you expect to hear. If everything seems good, offer to work on a trial basis. What do you have to lose? That doesn’t mean free. It just means you’re ready to roll.

If you are er, older…by all means don’t say: “I have forgotten more than you’ll ever know, sonny.”

Not good. Trust me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Aw, you'll never wear it again

Christina Binkley, WSJ, June 4, 2009, says many women who have hauled their preserved wedding dresses around from place to place are now selling them.

It’s not like they will wear them again.

Will their daughters want to? One woman said the chance was slim.

Having bad luck with eBayers and Craigsers, one woman started www.PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com.

Now there are almost 2500 gowns on the site.

It’s often not a matter of sending it off, though—sometimes women want to try on and local sellers are preferred. One seller met the bride-to-be at a dry cleaners in case it was a weird scam or something.

Another woman found the dress of her dreams in a store—then googled it…Saved almost $800.

My sister wore Mom’s dress to her first wedding. Me, I never thought about the dress or even a dress. I guess women do, though.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good riddance

I know—every time you walk into the garage, you think, “We need to sell this cr….er, stuff.”

At least, I do. Half the stuff is my kid’s, her friends’, could go to the trash…and so on.

One garage sale expert says keep all your sale items in one spot, then you can just open the garage door and you’re all set for customers.

Sure. Definitely—all in one spot. Got it.

She also says don’t bother pricing, ask people what they will give. You will end up with more.

My daughter used to go up to the seller when she was small and say, “What would you charge a little child for this?” Worked every time!

Even if you advertise—you still need signs around the nabes. Neon pink, black marker, this woman says.

Provide cold drinks or water—for a price, say a dollar. This is especially important in Arizona—who wants to haul off dead bodies?

A lot of people say “No early birds.” But this is the time to get up early, grab the money, and knock off.

Smile—be happy. These people are paying you to tote this stuff away.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Playing Misery Poker

Elizabeth Bernstein, WSJ, June 16, 2009, says everyone is playing “Misery Poker,” bitching about everything.

I call it Top That Woe—and sorry, Elizabeth, I enjoy it no end.

I am not what you would call a positive thinker, as most people know. I prefer to think of myself as a Negative Resilient.

Stress is now our default mode. Guess we better get used to it.

People try to induce guilt in others to get more attention. Thus they TOP THAT WOE.

You stayed up all night with the baby? Well, I stayed up, too, and had to go to work the next day. You know the sequence.

Elizabeth says you can get more attention by saying something positive.

People say chirpy stuff all the time—I just think, great, they are good, now about my mess…

The movie theatre, where my daughter finally found a job she loves, closed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Divorces cost

Remember those stories of feuding couples who cut the house down the middle with a chainsaw. Who can even afford that anymore?

Kara G. Morrison, writing in the Arizona Republic (June 15, 2009), says people are putting off their divorces for lack of cash.

One woman said her divorce took her from Nordies to Wal-Mart in 24 hours—and her friends are feeling bad enough now and looking at her example.

What about the idea that bad times cause divorces? Still, kinda true…it’s just that the housing market, here in AZ anyhow, is so pathetic, no one can move on with their lives.

This is the asset people usually divided.

So people stay in the same house and have rules of engagement. They sort of establish themselves in given rooms. Lawyers can even help set the rules.

Sometimes this is because of “collaborative divorce,” a new trend where each party hires an attorney but agrees to settle out of court.

Until then, separate rooms, mediation maybe, waiting.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Out here in Cowboy Country, everyone owes more on their houses than the darn shacks are worth in today’s market.

We used to have net worth—now we are a liability to ourselves.

Ellen James Martin, Universal Press Syndicate, says even the most pristine huts are going begging.

You really need to hustle.

For one thing, you may want to hire a professional “stager” to remove excess clutter and rearrange the existing furniture or bring over something more impressive.

This can run ya $500 or more. So ask if they can just do a few things, such as shift the furniture, for less. Go to www.realestatestagingassociation.com or google in your area.

Throw a home-selling party. Invite your close friends and relatives who can spread the word.

Ask your listing agent to burn up the phone lines contacting past buyers and anyone else who might be interested.

Bring over a ton of flowering plants for outside.

Any other ideas, readers?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Worst thing about buyers' market--the buyers

Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but I used to hire people. And I once had to fire someone for sleeping with a member of Congress—why did she TELL me?

Ah, good times.

Anyhow, Joann S. Lublin, writing in the WSJ, June 2, 2009, says some companies are putting applicants through so many paces they end up in tears.

They are asked to bring lunch, to bring years of W-2s, they have to do hours of simulated tasks, and fill out questionnaires and personality tests all day.

One office requires lunch hour karaoke, so I guess lip-syncing is tested.

One investment bank asked a woman to wear evening wear so they could see what she would look like entertaining customers.

This stuff makes the Spanish Inquisition look tame, one recruiter said.

How would you like to answer a question about how you would act if the boss’s gay son propositioned you?

What if someone said, “Tell me something with your eyes, arms, and legs at the same time”?

Perform a play with other applicants beside a highway?

Wow—how about a garden-variety casting couch and call it a day? Or ask people who Soljah Boy Tellem is to rule out people over 25?

You know what? Someday things will be a little less dire and we will remember where these bozos live and work.

One thing I have learned in this long life—what goes around comes around. They, too, might be facing a nice interview some day.

They better keep that evening gown clean.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Need money? Well, get some

M.R, Kylis, writing in Working Mother (June/July 2009), writes about the money you have just lying around.

First, comb the house for stuff you don’t use.

Put the bigger ticket items on Craigs, save the rest for a garage sale.

Come companies also have online networks where you can post items for sale.

Reinvent garages sales. Have a reason for it—for camp money, for a wedding. Put up a sign. This personalizes it and makes people think they are helping.

Drag your old-fashioned gold jewelry to the jeweler and see if you can unload it. You might get more selling it as gold, though. Check out wikihow.com/Calculate-the-Value-of-Scrap-Gold

You can also sell old computer accessories and machines at gazelle.com

Or give things away and get your reward at tax time. A two-fer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Kelsey Perry, Arizona Republic, June 6, 2009, says even the best watering holes are getting pretty generous these days.

They used to be able to open on weekends, bang, money! There are no more givens anymore, one bar owner said.

Now they need to get creative.

One woman said she went to lower-rent places, such as Dos Gringos Trailer Park (seriously? That’s the name? It MUST be cheaper or else dangerously ironical).

A manager at Hell’s Half Acre (like our AZ bar names?) says they don’t like to raise the price of the drinks. In fact, Devil’s Martini lowered the prices to pre-Super Bowl.

It’s chic to be cheap, one said.

One passes out coupons called “The Bailout.” Kind of a political statement.

They also tell the bouncers and door staff to smile and be nicer.

People don’t want to get gussied up and go far. Neighborhood bars are cheering that one.

I love neighborhood bars. My neighborhood is 2,500 miles from here in DC, though.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Skatin' cheap at the market

Cut back, save, get a squealie dealie—that’s what it’s all about.

Spend 10 mins with the Sunday coupons. Seriously—you. Coupons.

Buy extra Sunday papers if there is something really good.

Trade with your family and friends.

Plan meals around sales. Go to coupon sites such as selectcouponprogram.com or couponmom.com.

Visit the manufacturers’ websites, too—coupons there.

When you find a buy, get multiples.

If you’re old, shop a lot on senior discount day.

You know what I don’t like? I don’t like someone saying, “I gave you the senior discount.”

If I ask, I ask.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Who needs more character?

In an excellent essay, titled “There Is No Upside to a Down Economy,” Todd G. Buchholz says basically he is sick of all the rants treating consumers like naughty dogs that need to be rapped on the nose with rolled-up newspapers.

Same goes for a recent thread in the NYT on health care costs—many commenters said, sure, pay your cell phone, but don’t pay your $17,000 ER bill. Like those were interchangeable.

I remember a time when people could have cable TV and see a doctor. Ah, those were good times.

I am not so sure I want to build character or go back to simpler times. My times were already pretty darn simple.

Buchholz points out that if we had pressed “Pause” in 1904, we would never had airplanes or computers or the polio vaccine.

It is the pursuit of knowledge, money, and status, Buchholz says, that releases dopamine and ignites our passion.

People used to think kings and queens were different types of people and the rest of us serfs were fine with herding and drinking ale.

We all died at 50 anyhow, so no need for that stupid health care, leaving more money for Wagyu beef and a cell phone in every pocket.

To read the essay, go to:

Maybe some of us were kinda hoping not to be serfs again.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Meet The Perfects

No credit cards, live within your means, jeez, who started this?

Kidding, kidding. I am not one of these people, but I am sure they are nice to their children and pets.

Anyhow, our paper started a search for the thriftiest evah!

Their find was a single-income family with three adorable tots.

Some of their suggestions to the rest of us…

Of course, cut up those cards (does no good, they keep sending bills).

Pay cash. Yes, many places still take it.

Check receipts. Esp medical bills.

Ban impulse buying. Well, yes, this is good.

Haggle. You can ask anybody anything—even Auntie Star says so.

Buy quality. These people made sure they had a “quality” swimming instructor for the kids. I am not sure how you determine that until it’s too late.

Reuse. Fix things. I do this. I once had a washing machine guy come for $100
to spin it with his hand, all better now.

Use cloth diapers…not an issue for me, yet.

Grab a smokin’ deal. If food is on sale—freeze it.

Use coupons. This woman uses couponsense.com, let me know how to do it.

Give each other an allowance. They give each other $40 to spend on whatever they want.

Accept help. Their friends have done a lot of construction for them.

Yeah—these are good ideas… And you got the snark for free, so don’t complain.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What makes you run?

I think everyone is looking more closely at what a good job is and what blows. At the same time, we are hanging on for dear life to jobs that may not be ideal for the insurance or the MONEY, hello.

Yet, there are still many pretty wise, thoughtful employers out there who inspire loyalty and help employees be their best selves.

A friend sent me a list of what really motivates people to do their best—and it isn’t fear, anxiety, just obscene bonuses, either. (These are from www.employer-employee.com)

If employees do routine work, try to add some variety.

Let the employees suggest ways and choices as to how they do the work.

Encourage initiative and responsibility.

Promote socializing and interaction between employees.

Avoid harsh criticsm.

Develop goals and challenges for employees.

Provide encouragement and appreciation.

Develop ways to show performance increases.

Here are some human desires: desire for activity, ownership, power, affiliation, competence, recognition, and meaning.

Give employees those and you're golden…Employees will accept pay cuts, changes in hours, furloughs, and all the rest—knowing a better day is coming.

Yes, a better day is coming, but I caution you that it won't ever be the same as it was. Adjust accordingly.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Grease spot on the sidewalk of life

I am feeling crummy today, so decided to write on how to feel better.

Our paper, the Arizona Republic, is riffing off on ways to improve your outlook.

I usually hate sappy stuff, but here goes.

First, get not only out of the house, but out of yourself. Volunteer for something.

Swim (you may have a pool nearby you never use).

Cook something weird.

Take dance classes.

Go to the nearest massage school and see if they give discounts.

The outside of a dog is good for the inside of a person. I have been trying to get a spare dog, preferably one abandoned when someone had to move. The rescue people have more hoops that a barrel maker.

Get the Singles vaccine. Sure, would love to—it costs a ton and insurance cos don’t want to pay.

Take a hike. A hike—trees?

Get a few laughs. I have been writing on Laugh Therapy—really, it has scientists and everything. Half an hour a day of laughing lowers BP, strengthens your immune system, and does everything else for ya except take out the trash.

Go to http://worldlaughtertrour.com or try singing Happy Birthday to someone in Ha’s, not words. Or greet someone by bursting into laughter instead of saying, “Glad to meet ya.”

If no one throws a net over ya, you’re already having a good day.

Write that down.

I am counting on it myself.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Contain yourself

You know those shipping and storage containers they bring to your house for you to fill up? What is that were your house?

I am always fretting abour my crackerbox and wishing I lived in a Dymaxion dome like the one Bucky Fuller lived in in Carbondale, IL, when I went to his house while in collitch.

Very cool. Bucky was spacey, of course—talked and talked and people basked and basked, but no one seemed to know what he was saying. His house walls were curved, so his pictures were on easels, I remember.

Now several architects, including Lorenzo Perez in Phoenix here, are using steel shipping containers and other already—built boxes to form apartments and houses.

These ship containers cost $2,000 each and last for 50 years.

Close to being a trailer, you say? Well, they do put in dry wall and a/c. Containers are low tech—a right door and a left door. That’s it.

For more info, check out: http://shippingcontainerhousedesign.com/

Still, I want a bright blue dome like Bucky’s. Anyone want to test drive one at my house?

Monday, June 1, 2009


I have heard of tongs, alliances of Chinese business people who extend credit to each other, but now I learn that Mexicans here have type of group savings plan called cundinas.

These are groups of 10 or so family members, friends or colleagues who contribute a set amount of money each week, say $100 for 10 weeks. Each week, one member gets $1000.

Experts say be careful, though—these can be based on scams.

They work best when the people know and trust each other and no new people are added unbtil everyone has gotten their sum.

The word comes from “cundir,” which means “to spread.” They are also called tandas.

These arrangements are funded in all social classes in Mexico and used to fund businesses and so on, but here are mostly formed among immigrants.

Be sure you know the level of risk if people back out. But if they don’t, the money is interest free.

Am I missing something here…If you put in $100 a week for 10 weeks, wouldn’t you have had your own $1000?