Friday, July 30, 2010

Working temp

Paul Vigna and John Shipman did a little story in the WSJ on July 27, 2010, on temp work.

These agencies used to be big when I was coming up. Now they are resurging because companies don’t want to commit—they just want a body to put in a job.

Being a freelance writer is temp. Oh, is it temp.

Manpower, TrueBlue, Robert Half—all are posting gains.

One guy said it’s like they are hiring full shifts of temps. These execs don’t see the full employee commitment coming soon.

They call it flexible staffing now, by the way, not temp.

We must be au courant, my dears, even if we're broke.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What if someone DOES read your cover letter?

You never know. Someone might. “Pursuant to your ad on Craigslist, please find…”


Wake up! Come on.

Andrea Kay, CareerBuilder, writes about the good old cover.

For one thing, many hiring agents think your resume may have had “help,” but you wrote your cover yourself. They look at the writing level.

First, don’t jump in with how great you are. Say something individual about the company—“I used to walk by your building and thought, ’That looks like a good place to work.’”

Maybe you could ask a question. Have you ever hired anyone who made their last company a million dollars?”

Or: I see you merged with Citibank. I know from my many years in the banking industry that this is a tricky time, with many challenges.I may have faced some of those already and have some ideas.”

What can you do to make their life easier or make or save them money?” Think!

Incidentally, there is a widespread notion at the moment that companies won’t hire you if you an unemployed. I guess this may be true in some cases. It’s wussy and lame, but it might be true.

Are they afraid you will come to work with Froot Loops sprinkled on your clothes?

Say, “I have not worked at a salaried job, but I have kept active and useful doing….” And maybe save it for the interview—don’t lead with it in the cover.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We still have debtors' prison--sort of

Martha White writes that the Minneapolis Star-Tribune did a story on people who say their debts got them sent to jail.

And not income tax evasion, either.

The problem is aggressive bottomfeeder collectors.

The collector files against the debtor, requiring him or her to appear in court.

If the debtor does not appear, the collector gets a default judgment, allowing a second hearing at which the judge will go through the person’s assets and bank accounts to see if there is anything to get there.

If the debtor does not show up then, either, a warrant for arrest may be issued.

This means govt funds are used to collect a private debt. The person can be picked up and thrown in jail.

The debt may not even be owed anymore at this point or be all penalties and attorneys’ fees. The collector owns it.

But—this can be good for the debtor. The collector may not have the paperwork. All the debtor has to do is show up and ask for the papers.

If you get a letter threatening legal action, respond, don’t hide.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Going (under)ground

Betty Beard writes about the “informal” economy in the AZ Republic, July 25, 2010.

Informal…um, shadow economy, cash economy, off the books economy…or as I like to say, Waterworld Without the Water.

Yes, people from Mexico with sketchy papers ask for cash when they come by to trim your trees—but some of these people also have bank accounts and will take checks. So it’s not really an immigration deal.

Some estimate the shadow economy at as much as 10% of all the goods and services.

The illegals that do prefer cash, the story said, prefer it because that is what they are used to, not because a bank is going to check their nationality (which they won't).

Still, immigrants pay sales taxes or property taxes via rentals.

They don’t pay income taxes, but most do not make enough to even owe tax. The SS they pay goes into the treasury and they can’t claim it later.

What about education and health—experts say these costs from illegals amount to 1% of GDP.

Immigrants do send a lot of money out of the country.

I also know non-immigrants who use prepaid electricity—cash loaded on a card called an M-Power card. If it runs out, the a/c goes off until they go to the electric company.

With interest in banks at part of one percent, why not put the stuff in your mattress?

Entropy is growing in the US, in my opinion. Everything is more hand-to-mouth, more desperate.

Immigration has almost nothing to do with it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rent a lift

Out here in Phoenix, bad times have birthed car self-repair shops.

You heard me—you can tell YOURSELF, “Oh, man, I don’t know…sounds bad.”

Of course, if you are so inclined, you may lack say, a lift or other tools to do it yourself. So this is for you!

Basically, U Fix IT is a large garage with tools and advice. Use of the lift is $20 an hour. Other pricing is also by the hour and depends on which tools you use.

The guy got the idea by watching a young man working under a car on an axle and knew the car could fall on him. Not good.

You have to watch a safety video before starting. They also dispose of fluids for you. In addition, they know who has all the rare parts in town.

There could be a business in this for you. The garage under discussion sometimes hosts the police dept in tearing down cars to teach cops to find drugs. People come to learn to change their oil.

It’s like a community center with grease.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fool for a client

Nathan Koppel (WSJ, July 22, 2010) says more and more Americans are representing themselves in court.

Bankruptcy, foreclosure, rent disputes, wrongful firings, immigration, divorce.

One authority said too often people think, “I can play checkers,” and go into court and find out it’s three-dimensional chess and they are lost in space.

One woman owed back rent and planned to say she was withholding it because the place was falling down. Did she know the implications? Probably not.

People without lawyers don’t know everything open to them. Or the penalties they might incur.

Still, lawyers cost a ton and in some places there are none for less than $150 an hour.

Legal aid places have also cut back in this economy.

If you have a lay person help you, there is even a chance that person could get nailed for practicing law without a license. It’s happened.

I declared bankruptcy and did get a lawyer, who turned out to be a boob. And he cost $2,000.

So, you have a nice day now, hear?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Things not to say in an interview

“Can I get your website address?” You should have already memorized the website.

“Could you make a copy of my resume—this is my original.” Slap, slap--you're a doofus.

“I am a jack of all trades.” What comes next—“And master of none.” (Oh, you’ve heard that one.)

“I am sure I saved my last company some money, let me think.” Have the numbers at hand. Same for making the company money, winning a contract, doing a merger, etc.

“Is that your daughter in that picture?” Your wife—oh. She’s lovely.

“I don’t tweet. And don’t mind my Facebook—my boyfriend told me to put those pictures on there.”

“What are the hours for lunch?” Do you plan to work first?

“Why did I quit my last job? Something about money, I didn’t do it, though.”

“My biggest accomplishment? Kicking drugs without rehab.”

“Hold on, I need to take this.”

I once interviewed a nice young woman and she asked the hours. “I said, “Well, after you’ve paid some dues, you can come and go as you please, so long as the work gets done.”

“Dues?” she replied. “You have to PAY to work here?”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pay up

According to Emily Maltby (WSJ, July 15, 2010), a third of business owners say customers are stalling on payments (this was a quarter in 2008).

One business owner started adding a late fee at 45 days and again at 90 days. Customers noticed and called on “the day” and said, “I am sending it, don’t charge me.”

This same woman started using a distributor instead of dealing with each shop.

New customers also fill out a credit app now, too.

She asks customers to leave a credit card number in case a payment is late.

You could also use a factor for larger sales—basically the factor pays you for the debt, then collects it and keeps the money. They also assume the risk, obviously, and you pay a percentage for this.

Small claims is an option, too—I have been twice and urge you to sue only if it’s for the full amount allowed. The process is long, tiresome, and you have to collect somehow if you win.

The leg breakers also charge. (Kidding, kidding.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Yeah, they are so lazy

A meme is a snippet of a theme or notion—and one has gotten started that collecting unemployment is so cushy people suddenly don’t care about satisfying work and having money and just turn into gigantic welfare queens and leeches.

Well, they sure snap back fast when a job opportunity presents itself. It’s a miracle!

In the Phoenix area, Cabela’s, the sporting goods and outdoors heaven, had 40 openings and 800 people showed, snaking around the block starting at dawn.

One line stander said he had applied for 200 jobs.

The store interviewed 500 people.

When the store opened in 2006, it had 300 employees. Now it has 260. The 40 jobs were to get ready for hunting season.

Every day is job hunting season.

As for resuming unemployment payments--consider this: Workers paid into that and because of the stupid spending of this admin in the name of stimulus (read: something for our friends), the funds on the state level were exhausted and few jobs appeared. Then--as a POLITICAL powerplay--they refused to designate the unspent stimulus to extension of unemployment in order to make the other guys look mean. It's all a powerplay. Sand box stuff.

A friend of mine went to Washington and said no one there seems to be hurting, they still carry their Coach handbags, never talk about food stamps or unemployment extensions while out in the bars.

Well, pooey on all of you so-called public servants!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Even the rich getting cheap

Motoko Rich, NYT, July 16, 2010, says the wealthy used to be spending like drunken heiresses but now are scaling back as this mess grinds on.

The Top Five Percent (households over $210K) account for a third of consumer spending. Now THEY are skittish.

Those earning over $90K, spent $145 a day in May, then in June, that dropped to $119.

The feeling that the worst is over has abated, one source said.

Of course, it’s a vicious cycle—people stop spending, which causes a slowdown or drop, then more cuts in spending.

Weirdly, in spring of 2009, the rich spent more than they saved. But less well-off consumers saved. This gave the rich spending power. This spending caused an uptick.

Others say the rich have less control over events than this.

All I know is—it’s ramen all the way, my darlings. Hold the caviar.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Disabled going into business more often

It’s hard enough to get a job if you have two legs, transportation, a fast-moving brain, good eyesight, and sharp hearing.

What if you were disabled? (I am vision-impaired enough to take this personally.)

Sarah E. Needleman wrote about this in the WSJ, July 15, 2010.

Some orgs have stepped forward to help—one being Community Options, in Princeton, NJ.

Unemployment for the disabled is officially 14.3%, up from 9.3% two yrs ago.

Six business schools offer entrepreneur boot camp for disabled vets (Whitman School of Management, Syracuse Univ).

There is also a group called the Disabled Businesspersons Association.

Unfortunately, these people are competing with able-bodied business execs for scarce loans and really, in some cases, may be too disabled to run a business. (The story talked about a man in the dog treat business who needed a "helper" to make sure he didn't gobble the treats.)

But if this is the way you can get money, go for it--and ask for help if you need it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lessons from Billy the Exterminator

I admit it—I love “Billy the Exterminator” on A&E.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, Billy and his family run a company called Vexcon in Louisiana, taking out wasps, yellow jackets, maggoty dead things, gators, snakes, and other wildlife that ends up where homeowners don’t want it.

Lesson one--do something others don't want to do.

He has a gelled-up mullet, slitty shades, a crumpled black cowboy hat and goth duds festooned with the skull-and-crossbones and spiky wristbands. He has established a brand, lesson two.

But he also has a friendly smile, always introduces himself, is interesting, over-the-top enthusiastic, and generally demonstrates positive qualities for a business owner or job hunter.

See where I am going with this?

Our favorite expressions of his are “Oh, MAN!” and “It’s a nightmare.” Tag lines.

He hates heights—but goes up in the eaves to flail at pigeons or up in a cherry picker to zap a wasp nest. “It’s a nightmare!” he exclaims cheerfully. Going the extra mile.

He doesn’t like to kill things and would rather relocate them to pristine wilderness areas he knows about (but he does not like wasps, which he considers to be just plain mean). He's humane.

He is very scientific—every varmint, he informs us, carries botulism and dysentery, and maybe rabies—he has a list. He does his research.

Most of all, Billy has game. That’s what you need in your job hunt or business. Stick your hand out. Shake. The beleaguered homeowners always respond to his friendliness, and heaven knows where his hand has been.

That's customer devotion.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Biz Owners: $$ there to hire unemployed

It’s a program called HIRE, all approved and ready to go. If you hire someone who has been unemployed 60 days or longer, you don’t have to pay your 6.2% share of SS payroll taxes for that person for the rest of this year.

Keep that employee for 52 weeks, and you get a credit of $1000. A credit—comes right off the amount of tax owed.

Many companies have not taken advantage of this, mainly because they don't know about it.

There are plenty of job candidates—of the 15 million unemployed, 6.2 million have been out of a job for six months or more, not two.

Of course, it would have been better to suspend both halves of the payroll tax to get people on board, but this is what is out there.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tattoos are recession-proof

Oh, don’t EVEN when it comes to tattoos in our family. Mom hates them and makes mean cracks. Somehow dementia has not dulled THAT edge.

I have always liked them and got the first of two when I was 37. Smokey Nightingale—a famous inker in DC at the time (now dead).

I got my second from a speed freak named Wade out here in Arizona—when visiting, before I moved here.

My sister and I got the same one—we sort of designed it from a brooch we saw in a catalog and then Wade, who had been to art school he trippingly told us as he tweaked away, refined it. Very pretty.

My sister later added a banner to hers with her husband’s middle name. Tattoos are so personal.

A 2007 Pew study says 40% of those born between 1961 and 1981 have a “unit,” as Smokey liked to call them.

Forty-five million Americans have at least one.

Of course, the bossy cows like to blat on about Hep C, etc. Hey, hope you don’t get hit by a bus. Make sure the joint has an autoclave. Buy some Hibiclens.

The stigma? Sure—you can run into it. I advise not to do neck or face and put your tatts places that can be covered during an interview at IBM.

Although---a unit that reads I B M – who knows? Maybe with a nice little banner that reads OR BUST.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pre-emptive help for the unemployed

It’s gotten so bad that here in Phoenix we have a Rapid Response Team to zip in and tell soon to be laid-off workers how to cope.

This is a federally funded program.

Now the census workers are being laid off and this is coming into play.

The Rapid Response Team sometimes comes for a few hours, talks about unemployment insurance and leaves—or can come days at a time in places where people have worked for years and never planned to be laid off.

One worker tries to get the employees to think about what job would make them happier, not just which one they can get. “Your dreams are non-negotiable.”

Check under

The good news? The Team is going to fewer AZ companies in 2010 than 2009.

Layoffs are still happening, but to a lesser degree.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Get lucky

I saw an interesting concept the other day from self-styled business guru Dale Dauten, who said you can position yourself to get more luck in your life—and networking and volunteering are two ways.

I think the golfer Gary Player said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

If you are moping at home (like I do often), you need friends. You probably also live less than 2500 miles from yours.

Get out—have coffee, lunch, something!

Pinpoint some good places to work—try to find the execs on Facebook or Linked In.

I am down on Linked In because they seem to have ratcheted up to having a lot of things cost—including contacting people.

Maybe you can coax the universe into turning your way. Couldn’t hurt to try.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Some high tech jobs are... baack

The NYT, July 7, 2010, profiled some rich wuss-bag who was sending 4-5 resumes a WEEK, then turned down a $40K job. Let’s just say a lot of readers, more than 1000, commented and weren’t impressed with his decision-making skills.

He had been a poli-sci major at Colgate. His ‘rents paid his full ride, all four yrs. He lived at home. He was cutting lawns for pocket money.

Apart from how much fun it was to peck at this dope, I wondered if picking another major might really have helped—for most people, he was sissified beyond help, I think.

John Yantis, AZ Republic, July 7, 2010, writes that high salary high tech jobs are coming back to Phoenix.

Up 24% from the month before.

The people at, a technology professional website, said employers are gettiing more confident. Freescale Semiconductor was one company adding staff.

Salaries for new hires are also going up. There had formerly been sort of a freeze.

GoDaddy has 110 positions available for database administrators, and Microsoft and Linux people.

If you have a systems background, get some certification if you need to. Hit those companies hard!

We don’t want them to go over to DC and get permission to bring in Indian engineers.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Should you age your res?

Mike Mayhew of Right Management says it’s best not to “date” yourself on your resume by putting your college graduation date and dates of service at various jobs.

One exception, he says, is if you got an advanced degree recently—shows initiative.

As for those various jobs, concentrate on the last 10-15 years.

If you have no dates on the whole thing, this can also look suspicious.

This age thing is getting pretty bad, folks. I get so many letters from people saying no one wants their mother around or wants to hire a guy dad’s age.

Much less their grandparents’ age—no matter how well they know how to suck eggs.

It’s stupid, but there it is.

What do you think? Speak up. Dates—yes, no.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Outer space? Here's my application

The problem is most apps want to be sent into cyberland. The day of sitting down and filling in an application are going fast.

When doing apps online, you can hang, you can get interrupted, stuff can happen. It’s scary.

Should you spit back keywords from the ad, so the computer can see how “matchy” you are? Some say yes, others no.

To me, one hard part is keywording your search—how narrow should you make it? Maybe the title you want and one or two keywords.

Don’t pay someone to search for you. It’s pretty much free.

Try to find most recent listings. Nothing like doing a lot of work—then JOB NOT FOUND.

Don’t try for things you are not qualified for. As a corollary, we used to say, “If you have no idea what a job is, don’t apply.” Things like: “Participatory analyst.”

Follow instructions. No calls means no calls. Sometimes these listings can get really obnoxious: “If you attach a resume, you will never ever be considered and will be deleted immediately.” Delete me? Isn’t that illegal?

Customize your cover letter. I recently applied to something in Naples, Florida, and included a few sentences about a trip I took there once and how I still had the shells I picked up.

No answer.

Be prepared for that even if you do everything right. It’s a buyer’s market and those shelves are bare.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Slow? The economy? Really?

Finally the VP or some other timeserver over there in DC admitted the “recovery” was slow.

Uh, yeah! Slug on ‘ludes, dude.

What tipped them off? The 20% of wealth that…went someplace?

The bankruptcy support groups springing up?

The sleeplessness? The crying?

The unemployment cut off amidst a born-again deficit-cutting peeing contest?

Was it the five people for every opening thing?

The jobs are never coming back thing?

Even Europe getting a little worried?

Paul Krugman (it’s Friedman with the rich wife) saying it’s a Second Depression?

All of the above?

Of course, it’s the Republicans, the immigrants, that annoying oil, always some reason.

It’s been THREE YEARS, people! Building culverts isn’t cutting it. I am not sure what will—everything seems locked in a death spiral, feeding each element, as we slide lower. Slowly, revolving, down...down...

How about a reset? No one gets foreclosed. The banks take what they can get. Everyone gets a new mortgage 50% lower. Clean slate! Start over. No more mortgage-based securities, confirm income, have down payments, give businesses enough confidence to hire people and pay into unemployment again, tax foreign-assembled stuff coming back into the US, give companies ten grand for every person hired.

You get where I am going. Bold new one-time fixes!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Harder to launch or stay launched

Bonnie Miller Rubin, Chicago Trib, says it’s difficult for those Millennials to get going. Millennials were born around 1982.

I have one around here someplace. In her case, she wailed, “You never told me I had to live someplace else..This is my home!”

I said, “Don’t you want to?”

Nope. She doesn’t.

Mary Waters of Harvard wrote a book called Transition to Adulthood and says it’s more difficult to establish an independent household.

It can take until age 34 or more to get going.

Ben Stein once emailed me that he had a 40-something at home. Yes, Ben Stein of “Bueller, Bueller" fame. Not immune.

One kid said he wished he had learned a skill instead of getting a BA.

One interviewee said she wanted a job that paid enough to support a family and a vacation once a year.

Nah—now you’ve gone too far.

If these people are going to pay our Social Security, they might as well spend it, too.

I tell you—we are going to Water World without the water. Maybe a compound, the kids, the oldies, the so-called responsibles, the rescue animals, the rescue animals with jobs...


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Do the math

New Pew survey.

Percent of working adults the recession has hurt (unemployment, cut pay, cut hrs)…52

Percent of wealth destroyed…………………………………20

Percent of workers out of a job more than six months……………………9.7

Percent of adults 62 and older still working who have postponed retirement…………35

Percent of those between 50 and 61 who may have to do the same……………………60

Percent who plan to spend less…………………………………………………………33

Percent of those between 18 and 29 back at home…………………………………24

Percent of adults who borrowed money to live on ………………………25