Monday, August 31, 2009

Watch yourself pronouncing this

Out here in Phoenix land, some businesses have created their own “currency,” called PHX BUX.

It’s a coin, not paper scrip.

The idea is to corral consumers into shopping locally. Each store owner in the system buys a coin for a dollar—and the coins are worth a dollar at the cash register of another participating store.

The store owners often give a little premium to someone using a PHX BUX coin—such as an extra “frequency” stamp on their coffee card.

This has been tried elsewhere, too, in Michigan and the Berkshires in NY State.

The store owner says the biggest plus is to get people talking about money and life.

This will date me, but when I was a sprout, back in Missouri, they had these red and green plastic disks called “mills.” There were to pay part of a penny in tax. That’s when they didn’t just round up and suck it out of your pocket like now.

Friday, August 28, 2009

OK--look alive!

Dawn Fallik, WSJ, Aug 18, 2009, says you have to keep your skills sharp while sitting at home and/or job hunting.

Stay connected with your industry associations—check those websites once a week. Get the magazine or whatever.

Go to conferences in your industry. Ask if they have special rates for the unemployed—they may even comp you if you were a past member.

Join local groups—like the chamber, offer to run a committee, get involved.

Take classes—not online, in person.

Take entry-level courses in stuff you don’t know, such as web design. Get an advanced certification in your field.

See what training programs you can get courtesy of the state (the state state, not this behemoth welfare state).

Write about your industry, start a blog, find five people you always wanted to talk to and interview them for your local paper.

But on that last—don’t get all gushy and offer to do it free, see what they say. Eager freebers are ruining my business.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Food for thought

I felt like writing about some delish recession grub or something, but nothing came to mind, so back to the workplace stuff. The food pix is just to be ironical, which I felt like being, sue me.

According to Dana Mattioli, WSJ, Aug 18, 2009, women and men are being tossed almost equally—sort of.

A study in the Harvard Business Review found that women with MBAs have fared almost equally. Among men with MBAs, between 2007 and 2009, 36% were promoted and 10% lost their jobs. For women, this was 31% promoted, 12% fired.

5.4% of men and 5.2% of women over 25 are unemployed right now.

In Europe, another study showed, women were promoted many points less often than men. Some scientists say this is a “woman” thing in Europe.

In another finding, women were willing to relocate almost as often as men were. There goes that myth.

In one case, the hubs was the trailing spouse twice.

What does all this mean? Equality in adversity? You tell me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Outplacement no big woo for some

Time was, when you lost a big exec job, they provided outplacement services to cushion the blow.

Now, according to Phred Dvorak and Joann S. Lublin, WSJ, Aug 20, 2009), companies are skimping on such services, limiting the time they can be used.

Resume services can be impersonal and rote, or even wrong, from these services.

Many times employees (40%) don’t show up for outplacement or prefer cash. Two-thirds of companies that had layoffs offered the service.

Employees are angry, the cos say—and that anger gets transferred to them.

One feature is an office to use to look for work. Companies don’t track how many people get jobs, though, although some are gearing up to do this.

Sometimes, anecdotally, the advice is weird—one client was told not to drink diet Coke, it makes you look immature.

One woman did not like the resume a company did for her—too many dates on it, pinpointing her age. They sent it anyway—with a cover letter with a typo in it.

To make it worse, the same typo letter and weird resume approach from another client went with hers to the same potential employers.

Both went to File 13.

For you young people, that’s the trash.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chronic illness in the recessed workplace

Candace Choi, Associated Press, says esp in a recession, absences and taking lots of sick leave can hurt.

But if you have a chronic illness, soldiering on in fear can tip your health over.Talk to your boss. Explain what you need. How many days will you have to come in late or leave early, say for chemo.

Know your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act—

If you have used your sick leave, you may get disability days..maybe at reduced pay. A week to five months is considered short-term disability and usually insurance will be continued.

Under long-term disability, 60% of pay seems to be the norm. You can get laid off during long-term disability, though—your job is not guaranteed. ‘

After 12 months on the job, you qualify for 12 weeks of family leave a year, This is unpaid, but health insurance is continued.

Or you can try for the Big Kahuna—Social Security disability, which is about $1100 a month and takes years and probably an attorney to get. The lawyer gets $5000-plus when the back claim comes through.

Still, you have to step up and see what you can do.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Let's spiff up the old image

Christina Binkley, WSJ,.Aug 21, 2009, talks about an ad exec in NY who wears a suit even in a casual office environment. He likes to look polished. Sometimes people say, “I hope you didn’t wear that for me,” and he says, “You’re worth it.”

Execs these days also spell out words in emails and use the cap key. none of this lower case stuff...

Another guy was always using swear words—he sort of went back and apologized.

One in ten people is unemployed—if you were laid off, just say it. Even if you were fired for cause, people may assume you got hit by the economy. Don’t be too detailed.

And don’t make a video calling your former employer obscene names. These are all over YouTube. Not a brilliant move.

Out here in AZ, spiffing up may mean a bola tie (rock around your neck). Resist.

OK, that’s me—I hate those. I got in a lot of trouble saying that in a newspaper column. Why, Barry Goldwater even started a Bola Tie Society out here—they meet. Didn’t know that until it was too late.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Become a er...field analyst

If you speak Arabic, are ex-military intelligence, or have some other skill the alphabet agencies might want—why not consider intelligence work?

Even if you have a lot of debts, if you have enough skills and show a proactive intention to get rid of your debts, these agencies may consider you.

Check out:

Also: CIA, NSA, and other govt websites. You are a researcher—find those urls.

If you hold dual citizenship with another country, you may have to give it up. Discuss this upfront.

Do they supply the trench coats? Doubtful.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

You have to take the GOOD with the bad

You are downsized, right-sized, laid off, screwed, pick one—it is a scary time. Carol Orsborn, PhD., has a new book out titled, The Year I Saved My (downsized) Soul: A Boomer Woman’s Search for Meaning...and a Job (VN books,

She lists some things that can easily get lost and are worth remembering.

All you can hope to conrol…is whether you bring your best or your worst to bear.

Embrace the possibility that many things are bound to get in your way. Success comes not in spite of what happens to you, but because you have grown large enough to embrace it all.

It is in the void that the status quo has the lightest hold on us. Released from the constructs of our everyday life, we have the least to lose. In the void, we are freest to make changes.

You don’t need an upbeat or even a brave attitude to make progress. You need discipline to put resumes out, make phone calls, and follow up on leads. You can do this whether you are happy, sad, anxious or full of faith.

It’s the economy that’s broken—not you.

When you give up the illusion of control, you can't always stop bad things from happening. But you can’t stop good things from happening, either.

Remember that—good things will happen and you can’t stop them.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bad or good time for a sabbatical?

Some brave employees are asking for paid or unpaid time off to pursue other projects or recharge, despite the bad economy.

Rachel Beck, Associated Press, writes about this.

Maybe the workload where you work may be low—rather than fewer employees chasing more work.

You have to know your company. Seventeen percent of companies still have a sabbatical policy.

If your company has just laid off a lot of people and put the work on the backs of those who are left, this may not be the time to try to duck out.

Try to have a game plan—maybe ask for half pay or offer to ask for no pay.

Highlight the benefits to the company. You may take courses. You may get recharged and peppy. At least they won’t have to pay to turn the lights on in your office.

Make your approach positive.

Of course, there is always the “out of sight, out of mind, someone steals my work and job” thing to think about.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Uh-oh, both spouses at home at once

Elizabeth Bernstain wrote about the efx of layoffs on marriages (WSJ, Aug 11, 2009).

One woman has been “off” since Dec and when her husband walks in, she ambushes him to talk to her. She tells him what plants have ripened in the garden. He, of course, is mesmerized by this material. She also emails pix of the pets to him at work.

“Huge stress,” remarks hubs.

You know what they say about retirement—half as much money, twice as much spouse.

Well, this applies to layoffs, too.

Also couples start to pick at each other—one may not call clients often enough, the other one takes naps. Suddenly this takes on great import.

One couple made a pact—no complaining. “That is hard,” one remarks.

Wait—was that a complaint?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Would Jeff Lewis approve?

I love that “reality” show FLIPPING OUT—with obsessive-compulsive house flipper and designer Jeff Lewis. I want a House Manager to do “the list” everyday. But noooo….I had to give birth and believe me your kids make baaaad House Managers.

Anyhow, Jeff starts a new season tomorrow, Tues, on Bravo—get in touch with your Inner Bossy-Cow.

In the meantime, Kara G. Morrison, AZ Republic, Aug 9, 2009, writes about how to make your pathetic former investment—your house—more attractive to buyers.

First—it must not be bare rooms—you must put in some groupings and touches—this is called staging.

One stager does “comfy-chic.” Hmmm…guess that means not too chic. I can handle that—I am mid-century modern (sorta, or would like to be), but my office cement floor is not painted, which I used to consider charming and loft-like, but now see is crappy-chic.

If I were to try to unload this hut—I probably would have to recarpet. This is recommended.

Big wall-to-wall bathroom mirrors are out—get framed ones.

Update light fixtures and fans. Forget those Hollywood makeup light rows.

Forget the shower door. Nice, new shower curtain. Also—those clear curtains—you can wash those in the machine and they look like new.

Get rid of dead trees, pull weeds, plant flowering species.

Epoxy the oil-stained garage floor—people go oooo.

Clean, clean clean. And no clutter!

See? Now Jeff is happy. Or as happy as he gets.

Friday, August 14, 2009

If you still have a sense of humor, it could pay off

John Rogers, Associated Press, says some laid-offs are doing standup. More than a thousand would-be comics showed up at an open call in NY.

They quickly learn that the same joke may kill one night and fall flat the next. It’s worse than golf, says comic Paul Rodriguez.

The pros say it takes 10 yrs to get into this—and by then you may be too old.

Still, Rodney Dangerfield was an aluminum siding salesman over 40 before he got any respect.

Try it—you might like it and they might like you. Go know.

One of my favorite comedians of all time was Jackie Vernon, president of the Dullards Club. “Yeah, at every meeting, they showed slides of Baltimore after a heavy rain.”

He also remembered a woman who came to every show. “She sat in the front, two suitcases. I finally said, ‘What do you think this is, the bus station?’ One night…the bus came in and picked her up.

“Makes you think.”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Idea she probably didn't know she had

There was a story in the paper today—local section—on a woman who was trying everything to get a job. After 20 years of unemployment, she hit the bricks 7 mos ago.

She has applied to over 400 jobs, even the burger types--$8 an hr (sadly, these are now the writer types, too).

Finally she ditched constant, wistful Craigs-cruising and went to the social sites. While she still found some live ones on Craigs, she sent her resume to all her friends on the social sites.

Still, nothing.


EXCEPT—she got this newspaper story.

Try for it in your town—make yourself sound neat. You probably are neat. Be sure they include your email.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

De-stressing first day of school

Think the youngsters aren’t feeling this—the Mom and Dad whispers at night, the cancelled vacays?

Maybe they will be a little more eager to get back to school, who knows. USA Today Weekend has some tips for making the back to school moment even richer for them.

Rich in love, that is.

Set up some one-on-one time to ask them how they feel about school—and tell them some of your ancient memories.

Mark off the days on a calendar to get the very young ones excited.

Move bedtimes forward, so they can get up on time.

Visit the school—the classroom. The unknown can be scary.

Slip a note in your kid’s pocket on the first day—I love you, you are great, etc.

And remind him or her—just because last year sucked, doesn’t mean this one will.

Remind yourself of that, too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Should you get paid for after-hour calls?

Michael Sanserino, WSJ, August 10, 2009, says there are two lawsuits in the works about hourly workers being asked to work after-hours for free. T-Mobile workers said they are forced to answer work calls on their company-provided phones.

The recession is causing this “assignment creep” and people are afraid to complain—except the lawsuit filers, of course.

Some cops are paid for putting on and taking off their gear.

Other actions rules that people can’t get paid for answering pagers unless it precluded other things they were doing.

What do you think? Taking advantage of all this “smart” tech?

Sometimes it was customer complaints, not just the boss in an emergency—this sounds like work to me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Around the fire at Laid-Off Camp

Out here in the Valley of the Sun they are holding a Laid-Off Camp. Instead of knot tying—it‘s knot-untying.

It’s more support group than job fair.

Some of these—springing up wiki-style across the country—are free-form, get into when you show up. Others have speakers.

An emphasis in ours will be on starting your own business.

But the real key is networking.

And, I would guess, venting.

The other night, I watched a movie called Office Space. It was pretty funny—the bored, droll guy who never came to work, of course, got promoted.

After a while, he roused himself to rip the company off—and was TOO successful and was about to get caught, and then…

Well, that isn’t the point.

He was funny when the efficiency experts remind him that he missed work the day before. “I wouldn't say I MISSED it,” he smirks.

Still, we have to make money. So camp may be a stop-off.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Parents tearing hair in this economy

Hey—cuts costs at the Hair Butchery.


Karina Bland, Arizona Republic, August 6, 2009, says parenting is tougher when times are bad.

One for The Big Book of Duh.

You can go on all you want about teaching your kids true values and having more time together, but the fact remains that you are crazy worried, short-tempered, and stingy as hell (“Please just eat one portion”). surveyed 10,000 parents and more than half, 54%, said they were stressed out most of the time. Two-thirds said this economic “downturn” had affected their families negatively. A lot, 60%, are worried about not keeping their jobs.

People need time alone, but the kids are there…Abuse is up. At one big hospital—it was up 60% these last two years.

Some moms said they tend to ground the kids more, lash out. Some attend Parents Anonymous meetings.

Some parents have even called and asked about giving the kids away because they could no longer give them a decent life.

I wonder if the White House ever sees those requests, with their keggers, luaus, $100a lb beef, New York dates and Parisian vacations?

Don’t send the kids away….This, too, shall pass in some form. We can hang on. One foot in front of the other.

We don’t need no stinking vacays. We’re tough and we love our kids.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Accept substitutes--sometimes

Every chain grocery has private labels—and these are where you will find deals these days.

Kroger brand spaghetti sauce in a CAN for 99 cents beats Prego all hollow, in my humble.

Now private labels are going “organic,” too, so you can at least think you are eating more healthily, while still saving money.

In fact, private label organic has now captured almost a fourth of the organic market.

The big brand-name organics are now competing with themselves and offering stores private label organic.

Even Whole Foods is feeling the pinch—and cutting. Or should I say, chopping?

(To me, Whole Foods could stand to cut—that stuff is so expensive, you lose your appetite.)

You know what isn't good? Store-brand Kraft Dinner--the one that does not say Kraft.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Three-year college

Many students are in college more than four years—did you know that? A luxury we can’t afford, I am afraid, or most of us can’t.

Out here in AZ, they are considering 3-year degrees.

At least three private schools across the country are offering accelerated degrees this fall.

The two-semester schedule may be making this difficult. But online classes may be helping make it easier. The students take in-class and web class and the degree is just as high quality.

The summer job market sucks anyway.

DeVry does this—you take what they say, when they say, and in three yrs, it’s all over.

Still, this is not for everyone. Some people do better at a slower pace.

Talk to your adviser—some majors can be done in three, some not. See if you need to meet certain qualifications. Make sure the courses you need will be available when you need them. And have a plan—what if you have to repeat a class. Think ahead.

I mentioned this to my college-disdaining daughter and she didn’t dump all over it. Now I am trying to type with my fingers permanently crossed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

FAT bastard stay-cation, anyone?

Even if you’re thin, have a FAT bastard stay-cation

Cheap, broke—the bottom line is about the same. Why spend a ton on gas or get a disgusting virus on a ship when you could stay home and quaff a FAT bastard wine?

No, I didn’t even get a free bottle, so settle down.

Make a plan, FB says. Stay away from the computer—then don’t deviate.

Be a tourist in your own home town—don’t paint the house or fix things..

Instead of a hotel, hire a maid to slick up the old hut.

While the work is being done, sip a FB Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

Sage a film festival—DVD-style, of course.

Check out a local day spa—for a massage and annointing, followed by wine, natch.

At the end of your stay-cation, have a blowout barbecue, accompanied by a FAT bastard Shiraz or Cabernet. Check out

In the end—you will be wining, not whining. And the dining doesn’t sound bad, either.

PS It's FB's idea to italicize, upper and lower case, etc. At least, one gets to type the word "bastard" a lot. And it is memorable.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Simple minded

USA Today’s Wendy Koch thinks were are getting simpler.

We are learning to live with less (and resenting it more?).

Nearly a third of Americans are spending less (guess why). A little over a quarter say they will keep doing that (after what—is this ending?).

Nearly half of people say they have what they need? Yeah, but cars, not to mention toilet paper, get used up.

We are both forced and inspired. Well, that’s true.

One guy has issued a “100 Thing” challenge—get your possessions down to 100 or fewer things.

Break the mold of materialism!

[Tiny voice] But what if you like some entertainment or a nice cocktail? Nope! Get with the program.

Me, personally, I have not bought an SUV in let’s see…that would be FOREVER. Same for a second home.

Or even a Cosmo. I am as simple as they come. I even put leftover colored tiles in the front yard to cover up the grass so I won’t have to pay some guy to cut it. My yard is a floor.

It looks kinda nice, though, in a crafty sort of way.