Friday, October 29, 2010

Interviewers and applicants need to up their game

If a job applicant doffs the slippers and drives over with scarce gas and puts their worth out there for you, the least you can do is interview a reasonable number (3-4) and tell the ones you don’t hire that you picked someone else.

But I can’t tell you how many jobhunters tell me they never get a followup, an answer, anything.

Cullen Wheatley wrote about this in CareerBuilder.

If you don’t hear back (or even before you leave), ask what you did right—or wrong.

If you don’t feel like that, at least ask what the next step is.

Always send a thank you note. Mailed. Not a text, not an email.

Be patient. If they said it would take a few weeks, then wait.

After the time is up, call and say, “I am still very interested.”

Never sound desperate, even if you are.

Sometimes, if I really wanted to work for someone, I call back in a month after they hired someone else.

Who knows—maybe the person bombed.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New! Pop-up stores

Think fast—that Halloween store is only going to be there for a month or so.

Taking advantage of the MANY empty retail spaces around these days, temporary stores are cropping up.

Even the big guys like Toys R Us are putting in little satellite stores. They just stock the big stores’ hottest items.

The National Retail Federation is expecting a decent holiday and these stores will make shopping more convenient.

Actually, even if things get better, the pop-ups are here to stay. Some of the ones near you may even become permanent.

This refers especially to outlets for the big chains—like the GAP, which opened a pop-up in New York during Fashion Week showcase its Piperlime accessories.

Gucci also has opened and closed these for its Icon sneakers—now you see it, now you don’t.

At least this must create a job or two, right?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When you get ready to depart this changed land

I once went to Ireland for the weekend. Hand to God. Left Thursday night, came back Sunday. Went to visit an old boyfriend who lived in Dingle on the West Coast—he wasn’t even home.

Ever since, I think of myself retiring to that fusty little village, 100 pubs, 400 people.

With this country sinking, I think about it more and more, although my bad vision and poverty would probably preclude an Irish second chapter.

The other day, the WSJ asked some questions about living abroad. Would Medicare cover me? Nope, except for limited exceptions close to our borders.

Would Social Security mail me a check? Yes. To some countries, no, but Ireland is OK.

Could I get direct deposit of my SS check? Maybe. There is a list of places I could.

Would I have to file my taxes? Yup, though I might get more time.

Could I still vote in US elections?Yes—absentee in the place where I last lived, even if I have no property here anymore.

Would you ever consider bagging this mess and trying it someplace else?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

News flash: Grandparents still spoiling kids

The Wall Street Journal (Oct 25, 2010) says grandparents are raining money on their grandkids—recession or not.

In 2009 (OK, not really as bad yet) they spent $52 billion. This according to

Yes, the old…duffers...whoa, wait, the average age to become a grandparent is 50!

Half of all grandparents have contributed to their grandkids’ education.

Grandparents are 26% of movie audiences.

All four Rolling Stones are grandparents.

OK—that one didn’t have to be in there.

The one thing my own child has not done is bring me a grandchild—under the circumstances, this is fine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Questioning credit checks on applicants

Everyone has been touched if not decimated by this stupid economy—especially out of work people.

Four states have limited the amount of credit info a would-be employer can get on you.

African-Americans and Latinos have been shown to have lower average scores—oh, let’s discriminate, what fun.

They have done studies and poor credit does not necessarily mean you will steal or be disorganized or not be good at your job.

About 60% of employers use credit checks, only 13% for all applicants.

They companies contend poor reports mean the candidate might steal or commit fraud.

How about seeing if the person has a criminal background—wouldn’t that be better? Even that could be misleading.

Just because you need money does not mean you will steal.

You might even work hard for it!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Your appliances are having a party

Servomechanisms—supposed to serve, not rob you,

David Wells, a green energy guy in Phoenix, says ceiling fans use one-third as much energy as a box fan.

Switching just 10 light bulbs to CFLS or LEDs can save you as much as $40 a mo.

If you use an oscillating fan all day, during peak hours, this can cost $12 in electricity! At night, not turning, nonpeak hours, maybe $2.

Do you leave your computer on all night? I don’t, but it can consume some electricity if you do (and get weird cooties, I believe—viruses).

Some people unplug the toaster when not in use. The TV also uses some teeny amount of juice to stay at the ready.

If I unplugged everything all the time, I can see myself standing there thinking the damn things were broken, though. I am like that.

Do I turn out lights—yes. Hey—are CFLs (above) those curly messes? I don’t like those. Ugly and the light is odd.

For more from David Wells, go to

He would hate me, but he might like you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Job Fair tips

Jessica Brosilion, Gateway Community College Career Services, Phoenix, apparently thinks job fairs are still happening.

Besides dressing nicely and bringing a resume, what else should you remember?

Listen, don’t blurt out your 1-minute elevator pitch.

Research who is coming and determine which companies are of interest. Call the contact number and get a list. Go to the websites. Check locations.

Have a short spiel ready, like a TV commercial for yourself.

Try to establish a followup. “May I call you in a day or two?” or: “Here is my card if you need more information.”

Act like you would like to work there—that is my advice. People don’t want the blasé, bored, beaten-down, snippy one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Middle class disappearing

America loves to think it has a middle class—hard-working, going to Rotary, volunteering, paying the mortgage, good-hearted, church going, salt of the earth.

Well, this is becoming a myth.

This engine of commerce and its buying power are on shifting sands.

The top 20% of the populace holds 93% of the nation’s wealth.

The top 1% has almost half of the wealth.

The middle 20% of the population—well, only 6% of the money rests there.

The bottom 40%? One percent of the money!!

How did the middle class become what some call “debt serfs”?

Between 2001 and 2009, almost a third of all jobs went overseas—that is one way.

In 1960, 29% of Americans worked in manufacturing. Now that’s 9%.

American manufacturing simply must rebound. We make no TV sets anymore. Computers? Down to 166,000 workers from 300,000.

What is the answer? Well, it’s not a few more viaducts and culverts.

The college boys in DC better wise up and put some muscle into it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What if your financial guy is a Q.U.A.C?

Not that anyone can make any money with interest rates so low, but what if you do want to invest? Is your neighbor’s cousin the guy to ask? Depends on the Alphabet Soup.

Jason Zweig and Mary Pilon got into this in the WSJ, Oct 16-17, 2010.

Seems like organizations “certifying” financial planners have multiplied and are tossing out titles like Tic-Tacs.

CAA-Certified Annuity Adviser, CAC—Certified Annuity Consultant. CAS—Certified Annuity Analyst…You see where this is going…

There are 95 of these, according to one place. The WSJ found 115 others.

They like to throw in the word “senior.” (That you be you, the advisee.)

Some are good, some are weird things yu can score in a weekend course in a motel.

What has credibility? CFA means Chartered Financial Analyst. 900 hours of courses. CPA is Certified Public Accountant—been around a while and takes work to get it. Certified Financial Planner is also legit.

Less zippy are Certified Retirement Financial Adviser, Certified Senior Adviser, Certified Senior Financial Planner.

My eyes are crossing. I don’t have any money to invest, but if you do, look into this. Anything in the back of MAD Magazine—probably not great.

Monday, October 18, 2010

ATM skimming--always somethin'

Jennifer Waters, WSJ, Oct 13, 2010, talks about all the ways inventive sleazoids can grab your money.


I am having a bad customer service day as it is—disservice, that is. “Ma’am, “ma’am, please don’t bother me, call your card company,” etc. That crud!

The next time you use an ATM (yes, those store checkout consoles count, remember some bum may be trying to ruin you).

Is there a chunkier or different look to the machine? Are there mirrors around? Is there a brochure holder nearby?

Thieves attach devices to the machines to grab your numbers.

Apparently they like to add a layer to those card scanners at gas stations.

They get everything about you on the magnetic strip, your pin, an open sesame.

Rob a bank, get $5,000 average. Rig up an ATM--$50,000. Do the math.

Trust your instincts, if something seems wrong, leave.

Cover the keyboard as you put in your PIN. Never obey if it says enter PIN twice.

Use ATMs in your bank branch, not some standalone someplace.

A lot of the skimmers use Velcro—things may not look flat or just right.

Oh, that guy behind you in the store—he may videotape you entering your pin with his phone.

Aw, man, why even get up in the morning? At least, I am getting a few million from that dead general in Africa.

Even though his wife never met me, she trusts me completely.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An extra slow skim no-foam

Starbucks says no to efficiency.

Julie Jargon, WSJ, Oct 13, 2010, says the famed coffee chain thinks the baristas are too efficient.

They may steam milk for a bunch of drinks, instead of fresh for each cup.

They are supposed to make two drinks at a time only, the second when the first is almost done.

This can double the time you stand in line—but the company thinks you want the Italian-guy-tinkering-around feel.

No-foam latte drinkers may face an especially long wait.

This made me wonder—are we too good? Too lean and mean? Maybe we need slower procedures to create jobs and employ people.

More theatre, as Starbucks calls it.

At the bar—more Tom Cruise?

At checkout—maybe some magician-type patter. Like a dealer in Vegas. “I see bananas, bananas, put your items up folks…”

Everything could be rhyming…or rap-style…

I miss lattes. I wish I had not written this. Reminded me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is it me--or are PowerPoints pretty snoozy?

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, has some tips for zipping up presentations.

First, let me freely admit I have never used PowerPoint.

OK, now second, I have been captive in a seat as bullet-points are flashed on a screen and someone reads them off.

Bruzzese reports on one presentation with stars and planets behind the points—no one could read anything! White backgrounds can also snowblind people.

Stephen Kosslyn, a social science and psych pfo at Harvard, says lots of people think their presentations are fine, but they could be way better.

He wrote: “Better PowerPoint: Quick Fixes Based on How Your Audience Thinks.”

Group similar words and graphics together is one piece of advice.

Involve the audience—ask them to vote on whether they agree with a certain point (involve—wake up).

Text should be at least 28 pt. No uppercase, italics, or bold for more than three or four words.

Don’t put a bullet on everything.

Use pictures

Don’t throw on spaghetti graphs people could not puzzle out even given an hour.

Whoa—been there.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ladies: It's hardhat time

Everybody seems to think we need more roads and bridges (how about fixing up the DC subway?).

Jennifer A. Johnson, Cronkite News Service, reports on Arizona State’s “Advancing Women in Construction” program.

Sixteen students are enrolled in the third year of this—they get instruction, internships, connections, mentoring.

Women are now 10% of the construction workforce, but women-owned firms are up 20% from 1997 to 2002.

The leaders of the program admit being young and female may be a drawback in this field. Yet companies are seeking diversity—so here’s some!

Overall, construction is expected to rise almost 20% in the next eight years. You could rise along with it—if you are ready for that shovel, hardhat, and blueprints-- and can shine on the attitudes for a while.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yo, psych majors, why so glum?

Joe Light, WSJ, October 11, 2010, reports on a WSJ study done at Boise State Univ that showed that only 26% of psychology majors thought they had a promising career path.

The study asked people from a lot of majors what they thought of their futures.

Maybe, speculated the profs, this was because big corporations rarely singled out a psych degree as a criterion for hiring.

In contrast, 54% of chemical engineering and of management info majors thought the future looked rosy. This is because these people usually know exactly what degree will get them what job.

More general majors like psychology or African-American studies…not so much.

I think when we all go crazy in this economy these people will be in demand!

I know I try to find time for my daily cry now.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Duct tape--nature's gift to us

Debbie Arrington, Sacramento Bee, writes about man’s best friend, his best medical equipment, his soul mate, his lover—duct tape.

Tim Nyberg and Jim Berg are the Duct-Tape Guys. These bro-in-laws have written 7 books about this miracle tool.

“If it’s not broke, it needs duct tape,” is their motto, according to Arrington.

(Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor’s motto was, “If it ain’t broke, you can still fix it,” but I digress.)

“This stuff is an HMO,” the two enthuse.

I remember the first time I saw a contractor at my house stanch bleeding with it—ah, good times.

These two also sponsored contests in which people make clothes from duct tape.

This 3-layer tape was invented in WWII to seal ammo boxes. It was made of “duck” cloth and was called “duck tape” until it was used in heating ducts.

Personally, I say that sounds way too pat. But what do I know?

As for picture, this is not an approved child care method--or use of duct tape.

Friday, October 8, 2010

'Burbs downscaling

I heard even Paradise Valley out here, very ritzy, is now dropping on the Ritzy Meter.

Yup, poverty is spreading and the safety net is spreading.

Brookings did two studies.

First, poverty is expected to creep up to 15%.

The last census (how quickly we forget) showed the number of poor people in the suburbs is up more than 37% since the last census, to 13.7 million.

These areas just aren’t ready for more homeless, panhandlers, and the need for food banks, stamps (EFT cards), and the other trappings on “the other America.”

People moved to the so-called suburbs for better schools, affordable housing, and security.

Then housing tanked, the schools did not improve and were never too spiffy, and the gangs crept in.

Cities have about an average 19% poverty rate, the suburbs 14%.

By the way, isn't "suburb" a weird word--implies below the "urb" to me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Typical new hire

Government Technology mag tried to give its readers the 411 on young people today—even young feds.

They call them the Net generation—I guess because they think in increments of 140 words.

First, they want freedom. This means family and friends may be a big priority and they don’t want to be at work all day and all night.

They want customization of benefits and conditions.

They will choose carefully—if you don’t fit their priorities, it’s back to Mom and Dad’s.

They won’t stand for questionable ethics.

They want to work hard, but also want breaks—even to use the internet

They like collaboration, feedback, and chat.

They want SPEED. No snail, even email is slow.

They expect innovation, will be early adopters, beta testers, get right on it.

Well, after they do all that—they can teach me. I am more contemplative.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Take-Apart-Day fun for parents and kids

Coty Dolores Miranda, AZ Republic, Oct 1, 2010, writes about an elementary school here that does Take-Apart-Day.

This culminates in The Invention Convention.

They bring in old computers and appliances and dismantle them—learning how they work and getting parts for new inventions.

Usually the Dad is more interested than the Mom, but not always. One woman helped her son dissect a computer and says her son now sees things in the store and wonder how they work.

Sounds like fun—and maybe the next Billy Gates is among us.

Or the next tinkerer. We are going to have to fix more things instead of tossing them.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Even artists don't want to starve

Kristena Hansen, AZ Republic, Oct 4, 2010, says even those who are famed for living on air need SOME money and the recession jabbed many with no room for error.

Unemployment among artists is 9.5%--twice that of other professionals.

One painter turned her private lessons into a business-Come Paint With Me.

Her friends went to work at Target. She still makes a third of what she did before, but is doing what she loves.

According to the Arizona Art Alliance, most full-time artists have had to add other lines of work.

They sell their art on eBay, for example.

You can’t do art shows because no one has any money, one said. She also can’t just paint and paint—she has no place to put the canvases.

She also does not want to devalue her work by selling it for pennies.

They also need to find new ways to market.

Not a pretty picture.

We love you, artists. Remember—a country without art soon fades. There have been studies.

Monday, October 4, 2010

CA while young, then cheaper place for family

Betty Beard, AZ Republic, Oct 1, 2010, writes about International Rectifier Corp, an El Segundo CA company, which is bringing 80 high-paying jobs to AZ.

No complaint about that.

What was interesting was that the company was finding the techies liked CA while they were young, but to raise a family, needed a cheaper state.

AZ was cited for cheap housing, lots of educated techies, and a “can-do” attitude.

Again, no complaint.

So come on, companies—we have the homes, we have the sun (all but 5 days a year), we have the right mindset—now we need the work!

We’re hot, but oh so cool.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wealthy people eating more fast food

I don’t know how to take this. Are they feeling the pinch? Do they think this will keep them from feeling it? Have they given up their entrepreneurial lust and fallen into a vat of peanut oil?

“Forget my employee health debacle, forget no bank loans, forget my competitors overseas ruining me, just give me grease! Grease, I say!”

The WSJ (Julie Jargon, great name by the way, Sept 30, 2010) says it’s true. According to American Express, the “ultra-affluent” are eating 24% more fast food than the year before!

Fine dining is up a scosh, too—but not this much.

Ultra-affluent, in case you are chewing on that one, means charging more than $7,000 a month.

They also spent more on business class, yachts, car rentals and five-star hotels.

One guy said eating fast food made him “feel” frugal, although his bill didn’t seem to be going down.

I guess not! The other day we went to Wendy’s and for two salads and a one-patty Baconater it was twenty bucks! Hold the table service. Hold the courtesy.

I like the picture of some richie rich messing up his hair, loosening his tie and losing it as he rubs a Big Mac all over his face.