Friday, October 30, 2009

Oh, no--time to become someone else AGAIN


Rick Hampson, USA Today, talks about reinventing yourself. Hey, my Mom invented me! Don’t make me start over on this monumental project.

Positive people (them!) see this economic disaster as a catalyst—forcing them to their true calling or something. I tuned out.

I used to be a lobbyist, then a Mom, then a freelancer, then a screenwriter, now a ticked-off pauper. What a deal!

Hampson talks of lumber workers becoming nurses, paralegals selling cosmetics, interior designers cooking barbecue. Hey, I wish my kid would just be an interior designer—something for which she has an aptitude--forget the brisket.

Figure out something people will do or buy even if they are hurting—pets, appearance, maybe health.

One woman became a dog walker—she bought a franchise.

Which reminds me. I hired a former computer analyst turned pet groomer to help me cut matted fur off my 26-lb cat Chubby Butters. I was holding the Chubster, when the yellow fellow sank a tooth into my hand, blood went everywhere, the ceiling even, and I ended up with a tetanus shot and antibiotics, not to mention a trip to the doc.

See? That guy? Should have stuck with the computer game.

As for me, I am not holding cranky animals ever again.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Uh-oh--you are now the boss


Chip Cutter (about the best name ever), Associated Press, says you may not be unemployed forever and may in fact get a job where you are the boss.

Then what?

Newcomers have employees of all temperaments to meet supervise—and mountains of paperwork left over.

First, meet with your own boss. See what is expected—maybe an increase in output? Or maybe you have to lay people off. Find out. If there are many tasks, ask for priorities.

As an underling, you focus on your own performance. As a boss—the performance of others, and you can’t control it.

Be authoritative. Don’t try to be buds or friends.

Get to know your people. Set up small meetings, breakfasts, lunches.

Constantly evaluate progress and priorities.

Report to someone every two weeks if you can.

But be confident. Sure, you used to report to a person like you. Now you are that person.

Life is funny like that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keeping holiday spending down to a dull roar


From Ryerson University, some tips for cutting holiday outlays.

First, be realistic. What are your income prospects next year?

Then figure out how many people you have to buy for. Maybe it’s time to buy only for children.

Keep all receipts—don’t let it creep up on you.

Don’t use cards, unless you can pay them off in January.

Maybe get a line of credit at a lower interest rate. (Has Ryerson heard of the credit crunch?.)

Watch out for “Don’t Pay Until” deals—Make it says Interest Free, or it’s not.

Try to save—get five of the same thing if it’s cheaper. Hope your friends never meet.

Try to shop in one place and save on gas.

Cut back before shopping—brownbag it, use public transit.

You know what I do? eBay! I put bids on unusual jewelry—maybe one dollar, or two. If I get it, I get it. Usually the postage is more, but it’s reasonable in total.

And I apologize a lot—sorry, this isn’t much, but you have to admit it IS weird.

Any other ideas, readers?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting cushy government job no POC


Sara Murray, WSJ, Oct 26, 2009, says more than 250,000 federal workers need to be hired in the next three years, but the govt sucks at hiring.

Forget those internships—they hardly ever lead to a real federal job (with pay and all).

7% of federal interns get signed up—50% of private sector interns get lucky.

USAjobs.gov is the spot to cruise for federal employment. The process is very lengthy. Most respondents never hear a word in return.

They feds say they are working on it.

One applicant said he might as well throw his forms in an abyss.

We call it the black hole at my house.

These people can’t get through the resumes—170 on average per opening. They are working on getting an 80 calendar day cycle—11 weeks to fill an opening.

The dreaded KSAs—Knowledge, Skills and Abilities essay question thing—has been eliminated for jobs not requiring a lot of writing.

The apps are difficult, often asking candidates to cite their experience with specific laws or regulations.

Some people come in via private contracting companies instead. But even that takes networking.

If I were meaner, I would say being a left-leaning govt hugger would help, but I am not that mean and it might not help.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cheers, and I do mean cheerful


I was sitting here today with bills in both hands, half-finished story ideas on the screen, eeekkk…I see I need to drink more.

Then—super helpfully—an email came in about ecological cocktails, which has to be the best rationalization approach EVAH!! Kudos, people.

Apparently our own Camelback Inn here in the Valley of the Sun has made some spa cocktails—using organic liquor.

You can catch a buzz and kill off free radicals. It’s a dream come true.

Let’s see…The Green Apple Tea’ni uses Juniper Green organic gin, gunpowder green tea, green apple puree, and house-made lemon sour mix. Pucker up—and live long!

Or how about Bloody made with 360 Eco-Luxury vodka, fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes, and basil?

Other drinks contain agave nectar—some agaves just died in my back yard—I killed a mixer! Damn!

There is something else called Rain Vodka—ever tried it? Just so it’s not water. That would be just too cruel.

PS On the shirt in the picture--the fine print says, "Ask your doctor or bartender." I laughed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dreaded background check


Would you believe some people buying writing services are checking the background of writers? We should be checking them! Will they pay? Are they multi-state scammers?

Every time you see an “Examiner” story, that writer submitted to a background and credit check for the privilege of being paid next to nothing.

But I digress.

Background checks these days can be way more than calling your references. If you are dealing with children or the elderly or working in an airport, for example, you will be checked for felonies.

You might want to check yourself first and see if there are things out there waiting to bite you.

Check court records online.

See if you can get a copy of your personnel file from your old job—you can, in some states.

Be sure your credit report has no one else’s info blended in.

DUI and DWI convictions are felonies—see what your driving record is.

Try to get ahead of the power curve.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jumpstart your boring job search


Even being sick and desperate can get boring if you do it long enough.

The gummint now has to list people who aren’t even looking anymore—just living in someone’s basement eating off the fat of the food bank.

In a story by Sarah E. Needleman (WSJ Oct 20, 2009), one person interviewed said he just slapped her cover letter on, sent a res, slapped, sent, etc.

Eventually, she started winging it on the letters, customizing them…and things began to happen.

It takes 27 weeks to find a job, on average. This used to be 19 weeks a year ago.

A second way to liven things up is to seek nonadvertised jobs—jobs people know about. This means talking to people.

This also means going to individual company websites.

Also read the business pages—when someone gets a new position, write and ask if they are going to add people.

If you are waiting a long time, this also gives you time to take a course or get a certification.

Tweet, build Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

And you might have to cut your price point. Even those Million Dollar Listing guys on Bravo are making people cut house prices. Why should salary expectations be different?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What not to wear (to an interview)


CareerBuilder is at it again with fashion uh-uh’s.

No “transit gear” when you sit down with the interviewer. This means no sunglasses on top of the head, no briefcase in your lap, and of course, no running shoes.

Do not carry a fanny pack or backpack—briefcase only.

Women, make sure your skirt covers your thighs when sitting.

Men, stick with red or burgundy ties no less than 3-3/4 inch wide.

Stick with navy, black and gray unless you’re in advertising or some creative field. No short-sleeve shirts.

Cut the makeup to essentials.

Men—no earring, just a watch or wedding or class ring.

No visible tatts or facial piercings.

No talon nails, especially with novelty polishes.

No too-short socks or socks that don’t match shoes.

No strong aftershaves (Hai Karate, for example) or perfumes.

If you are wearing a new suit--remove the tags. Also, make sure the pockets are not sewn shut.

Plan what to wear…you have three seconds to register on someone.

Ooops—slip showing.

Do women wear slips anymore?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Retirement a disease magnet?


Robert Powell, Marketwatch, says that job-based earnings are 30% of the average retiree’s income and above 40% for those with more income.

Are you in good health, can you find work, do you need money? You may be working.

Almost 40% of those over 65 work full-time.

And the good news? A study in the October Journal of Occupational Health and Psychology looked at 12,189 people between 51 and 61 at the beginning and every two years for the next six years and found those who continued to work experienced fewer major diseases and functional limitations.

Hey, you’d just waste your Social Security on booze and fast cars, anyhow.

Might as well punch in and work.

Our paper had a 92-year-old working in a law firm—and she got the job at age 90. They love her!

I would say getting a job at 90 might be a little challenging, though.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where's a head hunter when you need one?


In the “Life is Perverse” file you can find headhunters—executive recruiters for big companies.

Usually, if you are at a certain level, you may get an occasional call—they like to seek out good candidates who have jobs and try to lure them away.

Lose your job—need a job—they may not be thick on the ground.

The first hing to remember about head hunters is that they are not working for you, the job seeker. They are only interested in you if you fit a search they have underway. Of course, once you are on their radar you may be considered for other openings they are trying to fill.

Often, they are trying to rule people out, too.

They don’t live to FIND YOU A JOB—you are a way for them TO MAKE MONEY.

To be a polished candidate, you need to have a really good short “elevator” speech—in the time it takes to ride up to Mahogany Row, you should be able to explain yourself. Talk about new systems you invented, money you saved or earned a company, maybe awards.

Don’t lie. Head hunters check.

It’s OK to ask a head hunter about how many placements they make in your area of expertise.

If you work with more than one—tell them all that. Some companies hire more than one head hunter—what if two head hunters succeed in getting you an interview. Who gets paid?

They hate it when that happens.

You want them happy.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Yes, you can can


Ana Campoy, WSJ, Oct 15, 2009, talks about “putting food up” and I was transported into the kitchens of my past, with steaming vats of fruit and sweating grandmas.

Canning food has been going on since Napoleon, though, when his cooks wanted to tote along provisions.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation—our govt, can’t you tell from the name—is online helping people can.

There was a Canning Across American can-off last summer. And sales of those jars and rubber lids you use are up 30%.

It’s more the health movement than the recession that’s behind this. No preservatives—basically sterilize the food and seal it so no organisms can get in.

You have to be very careful about botulism. You prevent this by heating food to a very high temp in a pressure cooker.

Go to http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/questions/FAQ_canning.html -- and heed! You want to have fun, get some healthy food, and especially—you do not want to die from a pickle.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Brand X-cellent


Kathie Canning, writing in the Costco Connection (Oct 2009), where your humble corespondent also writes on occasion, says the days of brand loyalty are waning along with our economic well-being.

Private label items no longer say BEER or POTATO CHIPS. In fact, a survey shows that nearly 80% of buyers view these positively—and no longer think of them as Brand X.

Why should they? Private label foods are often made by the same companies making the big boys. A&P long had Eight O’Clock Coffee, Sears has Kenmore.

Then TV took over and touted the brand names and we went along. Besides, those black & White generic packages (BEER) were lame.

So the brand equivalents came along—a little sex appeal, lower price. Costco has Kirkland Signature, Target Archer Farms, and Safeway O Organics.

These are lot cheaper, too—an average of 27%!

Private labels are both food and non-food.

So grab for VALUE and go home and have a BEER. You can afford it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vacays without pay--furloughs


Let’s see…don’t want to fire ‘em, but can’t afford ‘em along with MY profits, so…
how about some time off without pay, so I can still bring 'em back?

Some people think this is a plus. In some ways, maybe so.

Accoding to RetirementJobs.com, 15% of employers have pulled this—including newspapers, univs, state govts, and regular old businesses.

Two days furlough a month—the average—is equal to an 8-9% pay cut. Remember when people got 3-5% raises, not cuts?

Sometimes employees can “pick their poison” and decide when to be off—but often this runs afoul of laws governing employment. Salaried employees (who don’t get overtime) are likely to be required to take a full week rather than individual days. They are not supposed to do “any” work or check in.

Sometimes a couple of days off a month qualifies you for unemployment. This varies by state. The advice is to check into it and file if you are going to be furloughed more than five days.

Usually you keep your benefits, though—which is much better than being laid off.

Many experts say furloughs are better than laid-off, so don’t bitch too loudly. But suit yourself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lessons from the gang


Mainstreet.com has some job hunting tips from the past.

OK—they had bad jobs and were bad at getting them. Remember George lying on the floor for some reason to get a phone to give himself a fake reference? Of course, he did work for the Yankees for a while until Steinbrenner noticed.

Only Jerry had a career—Mainstreet reminds us. Comedian. It helps to be funny and a pig for punishment to get that job.

Elaine had a few office jobs (lesson: never dance at an office party), then ran into Peterman while shopping. Retail networking! The lesson: Don’t just pump out electronic sendoffs, talk to people. GET OUT!

Kramer had little gigs here and there—like selling coats with Jerry’s father, something like that. Or was it CDs? I think he also sold those.

Newman had a govt job—or quasi-govt. The Post Office. They are laying off now, though.

Didn’t George also live with his parents for quite a while…Also an approach. And it’s helpful at Festivus.

The real lesson in Seinfeld? You can not work at much of anything and still afford to live in New York.

Good to know.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I see...wait a minute...a little gold bar in your hand


According to Alia Beard Rau, Arizona Republic, October 9, 2009, more Arizonans have given up on the pundits and are going to the madams.

No, not that kind of madam—the Madam Knowitall types, psychics and astrologers.

Some people can’t afford their periodic check-ins, but the economy has created many replacements. Business is good!

People want to know if they will be fired or ask when the economy will improve.

Hey, beats listening to Bernanke, which now says we’re A-OK.

Not.

Psychics are good at career paths.

Still, most people are interested in happiness and finding a mate.

Interestingly, the psychics interviewed said they think the more "spiritual" outlook will last, even when the money starts to flow.

Incidentally, I read where is doesn’t cost too much to hang out a shingle—could be a living if you are so inclined.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Getting a good reference


When the movie theatre where my kid worked went bust, the owner gave her a written letter of reference. This way, if and when she looks for another job (don’t ask), she can show the letter. But will he give her an atta girl if someone calls? We don’t know.

It’s best, though, say the experts, to get a reference before you leave—because many employers will only say that you worked there and won’t stick their necks out to say anything personal.

These days, make sure the letter says you were laid off for economic reasons.

Even if you just quit on your own accord, you can ask for a letter.

The trick is to ask your supervisors—not the HR Dept, which may be locked into the “Suzy worked here from March 5 to August 7th” thing.

Sometimes a letter from a coworker can be a plus, too. Make sure it’s a nice, smart, well spoken, intelligent coworker.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Volunteering can "free" you


I don’t mean the kind of volunteering in which someone with no money or ability to get capital mounts a “start-up” and expects you to work for free until money flows in—flows, hah!

I mean the kind of volunteering that can put your newly spare time to some use, give you some momentum and structure in your day, some laughs, some feeling of accomplishment, and can even get you next to people who might know of or have paid work.

Look for a group that you believe in.

See if your skills—such as organization—can be applied to a new area—say animals.

See if you can learn a new field or new information in your chosen field.

Make sure you don’t get overcommitted. Know when to say no. Remember the saying about volunteer politics—There is never more conflict than when so little is at stake.

You may have to pass a background check. Good to know if there is anything lurking there.

Just get out there—shake it up—talk to people and maybe even help someone.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Love a sale--unless it's the whole country


The price of everything is falling, according to Rachel Beck. Of course, many people cannot afford even rock bottom and must dig down from there.

The average house in Detroit is $7500!

People whip out the coupons and pay $5.00 for a basket of groceries.

But what will happen when the makers of flatscreens need to raise the price to actual cost?

If that ever happens.

The problem with this is—If companies can’t make a profit, they can’t hire people. This sucks as we all know. One in 10 people wants to work and can’t. Maybe one in five.

Then what?

Then, maybe, conceivably, this admin will think “industrial policy” and we will try to be a country that makes things again and has pride in our work, not just our ability to live on air or suck as much money out of the govt as possible—which means out of our own pockets and our kids’ future.

This would mean suspending payroll taxes for awhile, incentivizing hiring (and not some dinky $3,000 per employee), lowering capital gains and corporate taxes, and penalizing offshoring. When someone thinks it’s safe to make money again, they will hire people to do it for them.

That is how the world has always been.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Job hunting on the cheap


Some people call the LinkedIn Profile the new resume. (I object to the paid version of LI that only allows three “enhanced” contacts for $25 a mo.)

Answer the LinkedIN questions—raise your profile.

Join some LinkedIn groups.

If you went to college, see if your alumni or college employment office has job listings not shown elsewhere.

Put your resume on Monster and refresh it every 10 days. Job coaches can charge a lot and need some certification—look for that. Resume writers want about $200 on average.

If you go to another city for an interview—see if you can line up more than one interview there. Stay with a friend if you can. You can also ask the prospective employer if they pay—some do.

Remember—job hunting is tax deductible—keep receipts. You may soon have a salary to pay taxes on—and can deduct these outlays.

That would be a big—all together now—YAY!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Are these the vibes you are emitting?


Rachel Zupek, a writer for CareerBuilder.com, says there are ways to come off as the ideal employee. Do you?

First, employers want to see long-term potential in you. You need to know the company’s path and future and express how you fit into it.

You need to seem to be a team player, able to work with others. Being all irritated with the interviewer—bad start.

You need to show you are aware you will make or save the company money.Be specific. Metrics! (Stupid word for numbers and stats that show something.)

Yes, you need an impressive resume.

Is your work experience relevant? Managers don’t have time to train, critique, coax, etc. You need to hit the ground running.

Show your creative problem-solving skills. Things are shifting fast in business.

You need a strong social networking presence, according to this writer. And remember—employers may see it, divorces, bankruptcies, stupid breakups, and all.

Be a multitasker—ask for more assignments when you get the job. Ask to cross train.

Fit in the culture—If the people wear jeans, wear jeans. Same for suits and skirts.

Be enthusiastic. I used to hire people in the Wayback, and you’d be amazed how many forgot to say they were interested in the job, wanted it, were excited.

Ask for the job. The worst thing they can say is no. Or: We are going another direction. Or: We had so many good applicants, etc…

People hire for many different reasons. I once hired a woman because it came up in the interview that she had once had lunch with Mick Jagger. OK, I was young. But—heck—she stayed seven years and got promoted twice. She even outlasted me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Get rid of stress, now, what are you waiting for?


James S. Gordon, clinical professor of psychiatry and family medicine at Georgetown Univ, says we’re a mess.

Writing in the Washington Post (Sept 29, 2009), Gordon says in 40 years, he has never seen this level of stress and worry and fear of the future.

Me, either! I feel like the country is careening off a cliff. Gordon says his patients ask what they have done, why do they deserve this, is this what their life will be now.

Me, too!

He suggests starting meditation. Slow deep breathing, in through the nose, out through the mouth, keep your belly soft. Several times a day for 10 minutes. This calms the fight-or-flight chemicals.

Exercise also enhances mood chemically.

Reach out to family, friends, and coworkers—don’t withdraw and brood.

Find someone to go over your situation financially—it may not be as bad as you think. Does that Dave Ramsey guy annoy you? Me, too!

One man cut out pictures from a magazine that “said” success to him. Another imagined a safe place several times a day.

I have pictures of a special lake we went to as kids on my screen all day.

Sit quietly, try to clear thoughts—let them drift across your mind without stopping—then a guide may appear, a person you know or knew, an animal, something. Ask about what is happening and see what your mind and guide “answers.”

This is different.

Doing something different is good. If you do something different several times a day is it still different? Meditate on that one for awhile.

You don’t want stress chemicals sloshing in your system, gnawing at your organs and sending you lunging for the bottle or the pills.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Is your res "Internet friendly"?


You can put your resume on hundreds of job boards and send it by email, but you have to be sure your formatting is compatible with electronics.

Gone is the beige vellum or parchment paper—and a grabber headline is in its place.

Be sure to include a professional email address. Babe@hotmail.com does not count.

Don’t use any templates, fonts, tables—these tend of scramble into letter stew.

Adapt your resume to the job advertised. Take off side issues and extraneous material.

Bullet items you want to stand out.

Try to put examples. NOT: "I saved the company $10 million.” INSTEAD: "Creating a task force, I saved the company $10 million in proper supply of paperclips alone. Before, we ordered tons of clips and had to store them. After I came, we got them only as they began to run out, as evidenced by our auto-order system I instituted, and thus saved $10 million in storage.”

Lose the hobbies, body weight, and marital status.

Proof it carefully. Have someone else proof it. Then proof it again. Proof on paper, not the screen. Even have someone read it aloud to you.

Recently, on my home page, someone noticed a repeated word—this has been there for years and professional proofreaders have looked at it.

Go know.