Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Uh uh uh--or are workplace romances OK?

Brittany Watts, AZ Republic, Nov 28, 2010, says dating coach Joann Cohen says workplace romances should be avoided, but do happen.

Good grief, be honest, hasn’t everyone tried this?

She recommends checking the Employee Handbook first—some companies forbid it. Oh, you’re no fun! Be sure to check sexual harassment sections—now you are REALLY no fun.

Communicate with each other—how will this affect your working life?

Be discreet—no big liplocks in the hall. Watch flirty emails, long lunches, same rooms on business trips.

Don’t date a direct report. Very bad form.

Be sure the person is not a different person outside the office. Your squeeze could be oozing charm at work and just oozing outside of work.

Try to keep work and private life separate.

I can report that this does not always work out fabulously. You may not find that in the Employee Handbook. People tend to remember things a long time.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Layaway is back...or never left

Max Jarman, AZ Republic, Nov 26, 2010, says the old system of layaway—select an item and pay a little each week until it’s yours—is coming back in popularity.

People want to pay cash. They want items to mean something.

K-Mart has always had it. Now so does Toys R Us, some others. Target and Walmart do not offer layaway.

Added bonus—Items are at the store, not where sneaky-petes can find them in the closet at home.

Surveys show people may spend a little over 2% more this year than last. Twenty percent more of them will use debit cards.

For layaway, most stores require a fee, a down payment, and payment of the item in 90days or less.

Some of these, such as Sears monthly payment plan, 48 installments, 13% interest, don’t sound like layaway to me.

My mother had her own form of layaway. She would cut out a picture of say, a new coat we were getting, attach play money for the amount we could spend, wrap that, and then when the after Christmas sales came, we could go and pick out a coat.

I always thought she forgot to shop. But hey, it makes a funny memory. Sort of.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Some companies courting tech types

Wouldn’t you love to have someone fighting for your favor in this job market?

Well, if you are a computer genius, they might.

Jessica Guyunn, LA TIMES, writes that Silicon Valley is throwing money at top talent.

Google gave all its employees a 10% raise.

If you can write software, you’re golden.

The little scamps are stealing talent from each other, poaching, enticing, rewarding, peeling grapes.

Facebook, the upstart, is really twitting (not tweeting) Google.

Google is responding by making their workplaces cushy.

Then, wouldn’t you know, along comes some unknown such as Zynga Game Network, to glom onto Facebook and Google people. The brats!

Speaking of b-words—bubble—anyone remember that one?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

People stockpiling less, not more

Since “The Troubles” began four yrs ago, I have developed food anxiety, shortage anxiety, whatever it’s called. If there are only two items in the fridge, I can hardly breathe in all the way.

Our pantry (a bookcase my brother made in shop class) can stand almost bare. No breathing for me!

Today, though, in the WSJ (Nov 23, 2010), Ellen Byron says people are hoarding fewer supplies and less food. They are “just in time” buyers now, just like companies have been for some time.

According to this, they will buy enough for a week or several days and not stock up when the price is low.

I am the opposite—I buy three TPs when the 1000-sheet stuff goes under $9. I will get three boxes of spaghetti when it’s 88 cents. Same for bread—freezer.

Still, the experts suggest people are going to the store more often and getting less.

Reportedly, the manufacturers and big stores like Costco have to allow for this now. If people are coming more often, they change their displays more often.

The warehouse stores package fewer cans in one shrinkwrap. There may be 18 eggs, not 24.

Since 2008, these companies have taken a hit because people eat from their hoards in the pantry instead of buying. Now they buy, but smaller amounts.

Me, I welcome the Value brands at our Kroger and Walmart. The big red "V" means a good deal. I might stock up.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

If you opt to drive this holiday

Cary Lockwood writes about getting your car ready for a holiday jaunt.

You may want to drive in lieu of being fondled and stripped at the airport.

The average age of cars is 10 years now. They need upkeep.

First get your tires inspected. Some manufacturers say seven-year-old tires should be replaced, even if they seem OK.

Get your cooling system checked. Make sure it will hold up down to minus 32 degrees F.

The washer fluid should also be good down to minus 32 degrees F. Be sure the squirters work.

Get your battery checked. There are tests they can run. Don’t assume they did, although this is often done during an oil change.

Keep emergency items in the trunk. Check the website, www.yourautonetwork.com.

Bring food. Blankets. You don’t want to be stuck in a snowbank without anything to protect you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hurry up, apply, no, wait, we are thinking

Mark Whitehouse, WSJ, Oct 11, 2010, says the current uncertainty is slowing down whatever hiring might happen.

Let’s face it, eventually someone will need to buy something, a washing machine will break, a car will punk out, and then someone will have to make something, then someone will hire someone.

But for now, it’s pretty much frozen.

Also, companies really feel like they have their pick. Some people even list a job saying if you are unemployed, don’t even apply. It’s getting creepy.

The problem is the “pick” is getting funkier—credit scores are dropping, meaning companies who somehow translate that into a judgment on people are finding fewer “suitable” candidates.

Skills are getting out of date. People are losing their sales mojo or their investment mojo.

Some companies are sort of screwing around fishing—they will advertise and then if someone “ridiculously awesome” comes along, they might hire—or not.

Come on, people—let’s get with it here. Every person you call back, interview, ask for more information, is a human being with hopes and feelings. Be decent.

What goes around comes around—you could end up being treated the way you are treating people now.

Wasn’t that in the Bible?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Maternity leave can be worrisome

How much time can you afford to take off? Despite laws against it, can you still be fired for taking leave?

The truth is that employers can say you were going to be laid off anyway—and skirt the law.

Most women don’t respond legally—so companies get away with it.

Can you afford to be out a long time—most maternity leave is unpaid.

Have a plan, says Anita Bruzzese, Gannett.

Don’t tell until you have to—when it becomes apparent.

Stay professional—don’t show your sono around or buzz about names.

Plan ahead—even for an early arrival. Have your projects in hand.

Tag up with your boss often while you are home. Stay in touch.

I think I violated all these—and I didn’t go back…So do as I say, not as I did.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hey, hey--no rest for you!

The Taft Resource Group says don’t buy into the idea that job hunting during the hols is futile.

Companies hire all year long—hiring is not down in Nov and Dec. In fact, many budgets come in Oct 1—and managers lose money if they don’t hire before Jan 1.

People may be in and out, but they do schedule interviews.

Since many people do get dormant during this time, you can get a leg up getting out there.

Stay visible. Maybe send Christmas cards to people who interviewed you even if they didn’t hire you. Who knows.

And keep your ears open at holiday parties—“Who needs an assistant, sorry, could not help overhearing.”

And there are those temporary jobs, too—they can go permanent. Well, may not not the Santa one, but some.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Listen up, college kids

Christine J. Kim, USA TODAY WEEKEND, Nov 12-14, 2010, says now’s the time to finish those college apps.

Doing it before they are due avoids the rush—winter is when financial apps are also due.

Apply to at least six schools, says financial adviser Scott Anderson.

It’s OK to be undecided on major. Most people are.

Hold off on making any financial decisions until you hear on money from all schools (March or April).

Be very wary of early admission—you don’t know what you are looking at moneywise.

Exciting times—but also high finance. Be cautious.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's OK to be the "old" one

This mess is really hitting those over 50. Bam!

Daryl Bjornas writes about this for the AZ Republic, Nov 14, 2010.

We older types need to believe in ourselves—but not in a “In my day, sonny” way.

You need to come across as energetic.

You need to do some social networking—think of it as “typing coffee hours.”

You need to be confident.

Update your look. Get a haircut. Maybe have your makeup done at the store, if you’re a woman. No sweaters with leather buttons.

Don’t say too much. Don’t put every little thing on your resume Stay within 15 years.

And just be nice. Be fun to work with. Don’t be a know-it-all, dazed, or a rambling rose talking about everything and nothing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Veterans--ten hut!

Sad story pre-Veterans Day in the AZ Republic about how our female vets are also devastated by horror from Afghanistan and are coming home, some of them to live in the streets.

This is so disgusting, I can’t even describe how I feel—double vomit comes close! Good grief, people, these folks deserve so much more—and unfortunately, this economy is crushing them, too.

Some need retraining for their old jobs, according to Kristena Hansen of the AZ Republic, Oct 17, 2010.

There are resources for vets, though—some not open to non-vets.

First, most vets attend the Transition Assistance Program, a partnership of the Dept of Labor, the VA, Transportation Dept, and DoD. These are workshops, usually on the base, given 180 days after separation or retirement.

Those with service-connected injuries go through a Disabled Transitional Assistance Program.

Another resource is GI Jobs magazine. www.gijobs.com.

Some other starting points are the Dept of Labor, www.dol.gov/vets.

The VA Vocational Rehab section at www.vba.va.gov/bin/vre/

Let’s hire vets!

If any vets need help with a resume or any organizations want mention here, let me know.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weasels never rest

Everyday of the week, more than once, some dude thinks he or she is entitled to take my money, what there is of it, if I am stupid enough to hand it over.

The Postal Service has issued a sort of useful brochure on fraud, even though only 2%of ID fraud happens in the mail.

My advice is ASSUME EVERYTHING IS A HUGE GYP and go from there. (Did you know you are not supposed to say “gyp,” which comes from gypsy, which the Rom don’t like equated with fraud.)

Anyhow, how can you tell if an offer or approach is fraudulent? Does it sound too good to be true?

Does it say “act right away”?

Does it guarantee success? High returns?

Does it require postage be paid or some other payment for a “free” item?

Is someone asking you to “receive” payments, deposit them, and send them the difference?

Also—you do know foreign lotteries are illegal here, right? You can’t win them?

Never click on an url in an email—enter it in your browser if you must.

There are no legitimate jobs that involve reshipping from your home!

And never EVER send some bank your financial details so they can update anything. Update my butt! I even got a call on the phone like this—sit on a tack, dopey!

Why should some gal, who is probably a Russian kid in his pyjamas anyhow, leave you her dead husband’s fortune? Why you?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Selling "as is"

If you still have equity and need to sell your house, what if you can’t paint, polish, and fix it up?

Ellen James Martin, Universal Syndicate, writes about what you can do.

Make sure the home is neat and cleaned out, at least. Try to find volunteers to help if you don’t have family around.

Make sure the place is sparking clean.

At least paint the front door and entry—the first impression.

Some agents will stage for you—provide a piece of furniture or two.

Make sure your listing price is realistic.

Check signs in your neighborhood—go to those agents for a pricing estimate.

Ask what you need to do to get the thing sold.

The agent suggesting the highest price may be trying to flatter you. Having to come down hurts you.

So don't necessarily pick the agent with the highest estimate. Check recommendations, track record, chemistry.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Have a friend who is unemployed?

Biz gurus JT O’Donnell and Dale Dauten take on the subject of how to help someone who lost their job. The questioner says when she tries to help her unemployed friend it ends in an argument and excuses.

I gather the friend is not responding to the help being offered. This probably means it’s advice.

JT says the friend may not be hiding anything, as the questioner speculated, except maybe fear and sadness.

You need to grieve when the centerpiece of your life disappears.

JT says she does not even use the term unemployed because it has such a bad connotation.

Dauten says most unemployed people get sick of advice. Ask if you can brainstorm a list of target companies—and maybe provide some introductions.

It’s better to be a friend, rather than career counselor. If the person wants advice they will ask for it.

Just let them talk—don’t try to fix.

And don't say things like, "Well, at least you could earn a living all those other years."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tried not to be grumpy about DOWNSIZED

I hate it when people try to tell me even more ways I could save money—get rid of my pets, let my kid use my landland phone (we don’t have cells), etc. I am already pretty darn cheap.

Anyhow, I watched the WE Channel’s show on economizing called DOWNSIZED—Saturday night, if you are interested. (Yes, I still have some cable left, basic.)

This is a blended family—7 HS age kids. They didn’t get along at school, then Mom hooked up with Dad, then a contractor making more than a million a year, and the kids had to get along.

Of course, when The Troubles hit, Dad’s construction business flopped. In the first episode they are chasing the last $300 of their $1700 rent. They live in a very tony part of Phoenix and there is a Mercedes in the driveway. Mom has Chanel earrings on and a rock on her finger.

Their other two houses were foreclosed. Yet the furniture looks new. They shop at Albertson’s—one of the most expensive chains here.

The mother has an MBA and teaches grade school for what she considers to be a trifling salary of $40,000 (“basically volunteer,” she says disdainfully).

So—this is not a typical family in any way. Not. Not. The comments on WE are pretty angry about this. I think it’s scripted by some H’wood dope who thinks, gee, maybe the older kids could dumpster dive.

As for Dad, he takes the sofa change to Coinstar, which anyone sane could have told him charges vig of 10%.

Watch at your own risk—and that of your blood pressure.

My daughter laughed. “They have the show, Mom—plenty of money now.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Resiliency--can be in short supply

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, our faithful jobs gal, makes the point that we all are either working too hard, too little, or not at all. There is no Baby Bear these days.

The ones with jobs who are overloaded or underused are looking, too, on some level.

Some people can look every day for years and still be buoyant. Others crumple in two weeks.

People vary in their resilience, according to Davis Temin, a crisis management person in NY.

According to a study by the State Univ of NY Buffalo and Univ of CA Irvine, people with a lot of crap throughout their lives are taking this mess better.

Yeah, well, I have had plenty of adversity and this weekend lost all resiliency over a cheap desk chair that kept breaking. I am in a dining chair now and will be forevermore--no more of those adjustable things.

Resilient people, according to this article, gain power helping someone else. They change it up.

They set goals..remember my checkoff list? Big Sharpie for the checks!

Connect with others—yeah, networking.

Keep your eye on the prize—one job, one better job, an assistant, whatever it is.

Work does not define you. You are not a failure. For one thing, everyone without a job had a heck of a lot of help from Washington in getting into their present situation!

By the way—I am into blaming where blame is due. It makes me feel resilient. Look what those dopes did and I am still standing.

Er, sitting.

Er, falling off my chair.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Food prices to rise

Shopping for us these days is a guerrilla exercise—buy house brand or “Value” brand? Is a can of veggies for lunch actually soup? (Answer to that, sure, why not, except for the sodium.)

Do you ever get backup anxiety—only two rolls of TP left, the 1000 sheet kind is almost $9 bucks on sale, ooo, $9…

Or you open the fridge and it looks a little Mother Hubbardy—and you get that pang of dread.

Now, Julie Jaron and Ilan Brat, WSJ Nov 4, 2010, say the chains are ready to rock-and-roll on prices again.

They said an inflationary tide is about to ripple through the supermarket…that sounds kinda bad, both as reality and metaphor.

They want to raise prices just enough to cover new costs somewhat, but not enough to drive people like me to Walmart—ooops, already driven!

This amounts to raising prices on certain items. OK, Starbucks, do your worst—I haven’t had a granda-biggie or whatever for years.

Meat is more in demand in third-world countries, so grain is becoming scarcer.

The Walmart guy said he wasn’t going to raise prices because demand was weak. You mean there is a cheaper place than Walmart?

Maybe that Hispanic place—FOOD CITY, or whatever it’s called. Will check it out.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Quit dumping on boomers--sell to them

I am a year too old to be a boomer, so what am I—a toomor? Don’t know. All I read now is ageist stuff about how Boomers are selfish, didn’t contribute anything, spoiled their ne’er-do-well kids, are sucking down entitlements, blah, blah.

Well, up until this recent great leveling started, the 78 million of them were also pretty well off. Their average income is $71,000—average net worth $236,000. Does that count house equity—uh-oh.

About 40% of boomers will more after retirement—not if they have upside down mortgages.

One in seven boomers is a caregiver.

One-third of all trips in the US—yup, taken by adults over 55.

Are they internet morons? No—43% of internet traffic is boomers. Eight-two percent of older adults use the internet to research health issues.

If boomers are in online communities, almost 60% log in multiple times a day.

So there—big social types. Some with money.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Try not to get labeled as overqualified

Megan Neighbor (CareerBuilder) says employers can find some very loyal and skilled employees these days—and should not be so afraid they will leave immediately.

Many employers, as a matter o fact, like to fill even entry-level positions with experienced people.

Yet, some fear not being able to get someone at entry-level pay. They may offer a prompt evaluation and possible upgrade. Consider that.

So see how the land lies. One expert says apply for jobs near your home. Some employers don’t want people too far away.

Try to apply your skill set to the requirements—often a computer is checking. Repeat keywords in your letter.

Put a technology section in your resume—programs you know, social networking you can do.

If you have stayed at a job for years in the past, emphasize your stability.

I read an essay about how Americans like to work more than Europeans—even if they don’t need the money. That was interesting. We do need the money now—so be ready to work!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Security theater

I haven’t flown in years, but I dread having my "good china" peered at through some dopey x-ray machine that some company cleaned up inventing and doing all sorts of make-work things like removing shoes (uh, underwear was the last hiding place—thus the neato x-ray?).


Does any of this do anything? There is a documentary out called Please Remove Your Shoes.

It describes all this as “security theater,” designed to make you feel protected. And to scare bad guys from trying anything. But it costs $8 billion—is it worth it?

The "experts" say the wiring on this last device was so subtle, it might not be seen on x-ray, so trying to x-ray all cargo is a huge, expensive, and possibly futile deal.

Couldn’t we get a marshal on every plane or something? The bomb-sniffing archways and nosy x-rays, I just don’t know.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ready for another run at job finding?

Years into this, with our evasive leaders hemming and hawing and saying we are going in the right direction, so many people are still desperate and afraid.

With good reason. This overall unemployment number isn't set to change, at least not in 2011. But all YOU need is one. That's your number.

Too often, and this includes me, we just keep going to our same websites, doing the same things, and nada.

So although the holidays are a bad time to jobhunt, we aren’t quite there yet. So how about…

Sending five paper resumes to companies in buildings near you—go in and get the names off the directory.

If you are working with a job hunting group, find one different group—Check under Workforce, Goodwill job hunting, your state or county, maybe a nearby church.

Call back two people you have been putting off calling.

Do one or two things a day—and not just putting your resume on big computer boards.

Volunteer—to get out of the house and get a different mind set.

Are you game?

Make a list and actually check things off. I love checking things off. I use a big wide Sharpie.