Thursday, September 30, 2010

Give two weeks' notice or just book?


A server says she hates her job and wants to go on vacation and just not return.

Biz guru Dale Dauten says some people do this, but if you think that employer will ever be contacted about you (even if not given as a reference), this is a bad idea.

People worry about that two weeks—will they be shunned, treated badly?

Sometimes, sure.

Or you may be asked to write a job description or even an ad.

You may be asked to do a list of your projects and their status.

Or—and this is increasingly done these days—they may say, thanks for the notice, but here comes security—and walk you to your car.

This used to be done more when computer people quit, because they could bollix up the system, but now it’s often done.

Still, Dauten says, a person of good character quits formally—are you? Of good character?

True confessions—I left a long-time post after my maternity leave ran out…I meant to return, but it didn’t work out that way.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back in with...the old?


Salvador Rodriguez, AZ Republic, Sept 26, 2010, recommends tagging up with your past employers.

Some people don’t like to go “backwards.” Some can’t—they are burned there.

If you don’t feel like this—it couldn’t hurt.

If you were let go for some bad reason, you may not get rehired. But it is was indeterminate, a layoff, you may be able to talk up how you have improved and all you have learned since.

But be sure you know how you felt when you left—and how they felt.

I recently noticed that an assistant I had hired had returned to my old place—so I was recontacting someone below me, or who had been 30 yrs ago.

She never responded.

So be warned—that can happen. It’s all a crapshoot.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hideous college fees


I am just bitter because my kid spurned college. Also I usually don’t like this columnist—Froma Harrop, who seems to shill for this admin.

But I did like a column she wrote on the ridiculous cost of higher ed.

Seriously, do people, even the so-called rich (who now seem to earn this sobriquet for making more than $250K, which used to be middle class), have fifty to eighty big ones lying around to send to some campus? That would be EVERY YEAR.

Many of the classes are taught by entrenched authors of books, who also get year-long paid vacays. I mean, sabbaticals.

Bill Gates, according to Harrop, remarked that you will soon be able to get the best lectures online for pennies.

At the University of Illinois, a state school tuition is almost $14,000 a year.

That’s six times what it was in 1980.

One father (Kenyon College) said taking his kid to school each year was like driving a Corvette over, leaving it, and taking the bus back.

A lot of this dough is going to sports.

Administrators have doubled compared with teachers.

And some of these grads? Dumb as hair.

I once wrote a story on how almost a fourth of those in the “big schools” are Asian. I am not sure what the answer is to that. Or if there should be an answer.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The American albatross


Not an investment, not an ATM, not the American dream…but also not the underside of a highway overpass. Our houses, if we still have them, are shelter.

Nick Timraos and Sara Murray write about this in the WSJ, Sept 23, 2010.

Thousands of people out here and elsewhere cannot sell their homes without bringing $50,000 to the table. That would be the SELLER bringing the big check!

People also don’t want to buy because all indications are—better deals coming.

Sales of existing homes rose 7.6% last month. Sound good? Remember--

It will take a year just to clear the present inventory if present levels hold.

Drop the price, drop the price—that is the strategy.

Different parts of the country are different. AZ going lower. Parts of Texas and Oklahoma could be inching up.

People rent even if the rent does not cover the mortgage—beats taking a 50% haircut.

Renting out your home is a total crapshoot, one would-be seller noted.

And as more people move in with relatives or double up on households, the more houses available.

The key, of course, is jobs. If you get a job—finally—you move out of your sister’s house.

But there is also the “shadow inventory.” That is the incipient foreclosures about to come on the market.

Eleven million people are underwater. Two and a half million will join them if prices drop another 5%.

Investors and first-timers are in control. And you know who the investors are here in AZ? Canadians.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Great job, people


Betty Beard, AZ Republic, Sept 22, 2010, writes about five AZ companies that earned Enterprise Awards for staying afloat in the “thing,” here.

Each year, Arizona State gives out these awards to companies that find innovative ways of surviving.

The best strategy was diversification. China Mist Brands (tea) focused on ice tea products for restaurants and cultivated markets overseas, such as Dubai.

Dircks Moving and Storage saw the bottom drop out because people could not sell their houses and move and had no new jobs to move to, so they went into office moves and warehousing.

Arizona Air Boutique went from helium balloons for advertising to coffee mugs and water bottles. They also marketed a “beer mix,” gas to run kegs in bars.

Sunstate Equipment Co. saw construction flop by 65% around the southwest and CA, so it expanded into Tennessee.

All About People, a minority-owned personnel company, was always diversified people-wise, so it added areas such as medical services and education.

Other companies that had never promoted before went into that instead of relying on word of mouth. A cleaning company called Maintenance Mart Janitor Supply emphasized being woman-owned and environmentally friendly.

A car dealer let people try a car at home for a few days—this was popular.

Companies renegotiated leases, reduced benefits, and sometimes laid people off.

In several cases, the extra push was so effective, survival became growth.

That would be a big woo-hoo!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are you the "broke" one?


I was reading that the Delaware candidate is not the only candidate this year who got whapped by the recession or whatever this is.

Public officials are affected. Lots of people are.

Yet, not all…and therein lies a problem. What if you are the broke one and your friends and relatives are all fine and dandy?

Recently I read an advice column where a woman wrote in that she had a friend who was “cheap” and only wanted to go to restaurants for which she had coupons. The “adviser” said, “Tell her you don’t feel like pizza and to live a little.”

Yeah—that won’t go badly or anything. The couponer will feel stupid and the solvent one will feel …what…do they feel survivor guilt or anything? I don’t even know.

I know my more solvent friends feel awkward…so do I. I have to say, “I can make a sandwich for us” instead of the drive-though…Even I would rather have the drive-through.

Any ideas, readers? Which one are you? How do you feel?

Another problem is TV…I have had to cancel HBO and most of the elective channels. If my sister mentions a show and I don’t get it, I feel like a loser. I am jealous. I am angry.

I know—deal with it, Star.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Truth time--what kind of worker are you?


Mary Elizabeth Williams, Working Mother, Oct 2010, plays around with working personality types.

See yourself?

MOTHER HEN. Tough, take care of business, but also kind and patient to newbies. They can resent this sometimes, though. This can be smothering.

LADDER CLIMBER. Motivator, competitive, uncompromising, a little scary. Take more breaks.

DOOM MEISTER. You’re not a pessimist—you’re a realist, right? (This is your humble correspondent, by the way.) If you are worst case all the time—lighten up! Law of averages--something has to go right sometime.

PERFECTIONIST. Detailed-oriented, micromanage-y. Let people learn from experience sometimes.

STRESS SISTER. You eat deadlines, wash them down with ulcer medicine. You make up stress if you can. Try some humor.

PROBLEM SOLVER. You know ALL the ins and outs. You came with the furniture. Share some of that.

SLACKER. You may be well-rounded or just lazy, who knows.

Actually you should know—so which is it?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Remember when not having to work was good?


Motoko Rich, NYT, Sept 19, 2010, says many people over 50 are suddenly thinking, what if I am done, what if I can never work again?

I never felt that way myself until the last 3 years. I always thought I could redouble my efforts, get some great story assignments at a dollar a word, I have great samples, I could interview interesting people, learn things, do good stories.

Now people will do something "good enough" or just short of outright bad for a penny a word. Quite a difference—and don’t think the big mags didn’t notice writers were a dime a dozen or less, way less.

Of the almost 15 million out there with no job, more than 2.2 million are 55 or older.

They cost more than a young person.

They are perceived as not having the technology skills, though many pay to brush up.

Now, they fear becoming homeless or are moving in with relatives.

The government is clucking about Social Security—got to mess with that.

Can’t sell these darn upsidedown houses…

Still, we have to try…remember that little runt Yoda—"There is no try, there is only do."

Speak English, awreddy!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Majoring in political science, minoring in....


I tell youngsters they will have seven careers in their lives—not just seven jobs.

Anne Ryman, AZ Republic, Sept 17, 2010, says more kids out here in AZ are “minoring” in subjects different from their majors.

Covering the odds, I guess. A minor is 18-20 of the 120 credits needed to graduate.

Some schools offer different emphasized areas—this is called interdisciplinary study.

Yale looked at this and decided against allowing minors—feeling it locked students into set courses and cut the number of electives they could take.

Scheduling a minor can be a challenge.

One guy is going to be a surgeon with a minor in business.

Oh, boy.

Sometimes youngsters take a bunch of electives and find they almost HAVE a minor and finish it up.

That’s what I did with my major. I took so many classes at the Elliott School of Public and International Affairs it amounted to a degree from there.

So I graduated.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What will normal be?


I often write about this present mess being the “new normal.”

The admin’s latest whiz kid, that Goolsbee fellow, says unemployment will stay high
for years. Then he disappeared—has anyone seen him lately? Weird. Hmmm.

Anyhow, Jon Hilsenrath recently wrote about this in the WSJ, Sept 4, 2010.

He asks if more “stimulus” doesn’t cause jobs to jump into being, could it be because the structure of the economy has changed? (It also doesn't help that most of the so-called stimulus was to pay state workers the diminished tax base could not pay.)

One aspect is the interconnectedness—people can’t move to take jobs because they can’t move, period, they can’t sell houses that other people can’t move to buy from them.

Companies can’t find appropriate workers. Workers can’t find appropriate jobs.

The Federal Reserve can’t fix this.

One idea is lower unemployment payments, but there as long as you need them, without this continued need for renewal.

Usually, when there are a lot of unemployed people, firms can fill positions quickly. Not now and not for the last 18 mos.

Maybe it’s because the big hirers of the past—construction, finance—are now the down and out group.

Workers can't easily shift from framing to drawing blood, for example.

They can’t move geographically to where there is work.

Remember when we worried about being a service economy rather than a manufacturing one? Oh, those were good times.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Keeping kids' spending under control


My kid once had a friend who said she only wanted birthday presents from The Limited, no other stores.

Of course, I got hers from Walmart.

Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Sept 15, 2010, says kids can really run up the tab on ya, especially in this climate.

One woman’s solution was for the kid to have a rummage sale and sell her old jeans to buy new ones.

Supposedly, it costs $222,000 to raise a kid to 18. I guarantee you my kid did not get a payday like that.

What Shellenbarger calls “reshaping expectations” I call saying nope.

In the story, a family sits around jeering at shows like “My Sweet 16,” which I actually saw once. Daddy Gotrocks indulges Daughter Dear to anything she wants, diamond encrusted My Little Ponys or a Ferrari.

Some families give a set amount the kid can spend—get more at Walmart or make tough choices at The Limited.

Just saying you can’t afford it won’t be believed—the kid will see you spend the same amount for food—so what’s the deal? And you probably manage to get some things—they figure you have the money.

Still kids who ride their bikes to school instead of a limo or SUV learn to find their own style.

And, I have one word on the clothes thing: Uniforms! Boy, did I love those!

I do feel a little guilty over a knock-down drag-out my daughter and I had several times over “fruit leather.” I could not see it—just candy!

She wanted candy. Twenty-five years later, I realize I would have let her have it. It wouldn’t have broken the bank.

In my defense, there were plenty of Hello Kittys running around our hut. Plenty! A litter.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pity the poor HR person


Ha! I knew that would get your attention.

But seriously, I read a great description in a story by Jahna Berry (AZ Republic, Sept 11, 2010) about a gal who put an ad on Craigs at almost midnight and within minutes her Blackberry was dinging “like a slot machine.”

That would be job hunters.

She said she had 400 replies and wished she could hire them all..but of course…

MacDonald's also had 1,000 openings out here—15,000 people lined up.

Employers should post on industry-specific sites, the story advises. Use a detailed job description.

Job hunters, of course, should customize their resumes or at least their cover letters to the job (have I mentioned this before a few thousand times?), mention some honor or mention the company has achieved, show you keep up.

One job hunter said she always kept a rosary in her purse.

Can’t hurt.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Time to reinvent yourself again?


My sister and I liked how Tom Cruise used to pull off his face in Mission Impossible and had a different face underneath.

We said it applied to about the sixth week of dating someone, but it could work for changing careers, too.

Zip, new you.

As if.

Anyhow, Tara Burns wrote about choosing a new path in the Sept 12, 2010, AZ Republic.

Sherri Thomas, founder of Career Coaching 360, is quoted as saying if you are just surviving, you need to do better.

Yes, it’s possible to be in the wrong field—to “settle.” If you have to look for a job. Why not one you want? I keep telling my kid that.

Maybe you could take a personality test like Meyer-Briggs to see what your aptitudes are.

Do a lot of research, Thomas says—what does the new field really amount to? Google Occupational Outlook Handbook—it’s govt info on careers.

Talk to people who have the career you want.

Reboot your resume, completely change it.

And ask for what you want. The worst they can say is no. The second worst: No answer.

That last is so common, but try anyway.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Resume don'ts


Yes, resumes are still used. You’re not getting off that easily.

Often, though, they are read by people looking for reasons to throw them in File 13 and cut down on the quantity.

So some suggestions. First, don’t use the same resume for every job. Take items out, put items in—tailor it.

Forget that Objective section. Your objective is to get the job. If you say, “To be in a genial group where I can make a satisfying contribution”—that is what they can do for you. They don’t CARE what they can do for you—it’s the other way around.

No photo. This is done overseas a lot. Here, the photo and the res will be tossed—no one wants to be accused of discriminating based on beauty, race, or nationality.

Forget the physical and personal stuff. You’re 6 feet tall. Goody for you.

Don’t include references unless asked.

Forget the clubs and hobbies. A professional organization related to the job is OK. If you are a Civil War re-enactor, for example, this might mean you would beg off on weekends if needed. Not good.

I also hate buzzwords. Team player, results-oriented, outside the box, under the bus, on the table, vertical organization, aieee.

But maybe some of these are…um…baked in the cake. Is there such a thing as ResumeSpeak?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Big ad in our paper--BARTENDERS WANTED


There is a rumor going around that people want to drink more than ever!

I sure do.

Megan Finnerty, AZ Republic, Sept 9, 2010, says bartender schools are popular—mixing drinks carefully, measuring, saves a saloon owner money.

Forget the shaker demos and all the tossing around Tom Cruise-style, bartenders these days mix their own flavors and make their own syrups.

Good grief—some of these drinks are almost $20 per. Especially up in Snotsdale.

Bartending used to be a respected profession—most popular person in town, that kind of thing. Oh, Innkeeper!

Now it’s blue collar—but it’s coming back!

Phoenix has a U.S. Bartenders Guild chapter. They give classes. One woman learned to appreciate Scotch.

Now that’s a decent day’s work.

I like Cosmos—but I learned from this that Cosmos are pretty low in status. Sorry, Carrie.

Would bartending be a good second job—or even first job? Why not? Especially if you like to sleep in.

I love bars. I miss bars. I remember the bartender setting up free shooters. I wonder if they still do that. Another DC bar followed the rule of every third drink free. That’s a New York tradition. I miss New York, too.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Can't afford Lexis-Nexis?


Want to look up a company—mergers, lawsuits, earnings…Try the library.

Dunn & Bradstreet, Reference USA, Hoovers—these are probably only a card away.

Before an interview—see if the interviewer is in a trade pub database. See if the president of the company has given a speech on the future plans of the company.

There should be no such thing as a cold call—or a cold interview.

Our library even started a jobs groups because so many people were coming in for help.

Research librarians rule! Hug yours.

Or maybe shake hands?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wanted: Pinball wizards


Ever think it’s time to niche out?

Thirty years ago, I wrote a story for Washingtonian on people who collect pinball machines. Even then, the machines were going less mechanical and more electronic.

Now, according to Barry Newman (WSJ, Sept 7, 2010), no one can repair a broken flipper anymore.

First rule: If a machine is for sale—it’s broken. Nobody, the experts say, sells a working one.

Only one machine maker is still standing in the US—Stern in Chicago.

These things get banged askew when people apply English with a hand or hip. The rubber bands break. Clown heads can crack. A nicked ball is like sandpaper—it wrecks everything it touches as it caroms around.

There are 750 repair wizards left across the 50 states. They charge $150 an hour or more—and like most doctors, won’t make housecalls.

As one guy said, this is no time for sentiment anymore. “Game over,” one said grimly.

But this raises a point—what arcane (or should I say, arcade?) deal can you get into to make a few bucks?

I remember Bally as a brand from my story—the Bally Spiderman. Slam, slam, ding, ding.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What crap


I used to do a newsletter called CHEAP RELIEF—14 years, on paper, mailed, etc.
In it I often quoted Dale Dauten, a business guru with lots of interesting takes on the biz world.

Bad sign—I was reading something he wrote just now and grumbling my buns off—"no way," "what a bunch of…" you get my drift.

Some asked Dauten and his advice sidekick J.T. O’Donnell how to handle it if an employer offered way less than you were making before.

Dauten said to say something like, “My last employer was very generous—perhaps too generous because they had to lay off a lot of people.”

Gag.

He also said to say, “I think I was overpaid—what do you think?”

See? My instinct would be to say, “I think the standard may have changed in just a few months here—I read three papers a day and keep up with business news and the pay rates are changing.”

These two also advised some treacly BS about why you would stay even if the economy improved and you were stuck at a low rate. “I don’t want my pay to make me vulnerable to layoffs.”

How about: “I hope I could be a vital part of helping your company rebound—and pay would rise rather than stay the same.”

Oh, what do I know—I stare at a cactus. Ask people if they agree you were overpaid. At least you will be in agreement. Employers like that.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Back in 2000, honey...


This is so not China. Our elderly, of which I am fast becoming one, aren’t respected for our wisdom.

Jeffrey Zaslow, WSJ, Sept 1, 2010, saw fit to riff on about this for a while.

Stats show most people of both age ranges think there is a generation gap. The youngsters say older people have differences in perspective, work ethic (yes, we do it), and technology (no, we may not eat and sleep it).

Case in point. Hardware store—do you ask the old guy? Apple store—do you ask the oldest guy?

See?

Youngsters who want to know how to do things go on YouTube—they don’t ask the dinos, who are probably still supporting them using endangered Social Security money.

One guy said older peope still think it’s smokin’ to buy a house versus renting (not this older person).

Zaslow’s 21-year-old asked him about a thank you she had written for a job interview. He told her to lose the multiple exclamation points. She did. The reply was loaded with them (at least the interviewer was still enthused about one as lackluster as she).

Older people drone on about writing a resume—the younger ones can’t even hear us—they are texting some top guy at the company.

Older people: Question your assumptions. Offer suggestions, not dictates. Listen to the other side. They may have learned a thing or two, though heaven knows how.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Millionaires are boring


Remember when being a millionaire used to be a blast? As a hundred-aire, I always was in awe.

Now, I am in aw-nuts.

In the nineties, studies showed millionaires are not the Dynasty types—they have the same spouses they tagged up with at first and live within their millions.

They operate small businesses, often blue collar ones. They also can be docs or lawyers, of course.

They are twice as likely to have a Sears card as a Brooks card.

They pay about $400 for a suit, $235 for a watch.

They drive domestic cars, or used to. Ford, Caddie, Lincoln. Jeep, Lexus, Mercedes come after.

Their businesses, not their investments, generate their money.

Secrets you cold use: Start a business in a wanted field without a lot of competition. Be Russian, Scottish, or Hungarian—these national origins tend to build fortunes.

Keep your spouse. Warren Buffet was married to Susie for 52 years, even though she moved out for 25 of those. One day she asked a woman she knew to check on Warren. She did and they hooked up. But Warren did not marry her until Susie died.

Divorces cost, remember that.

Still, the Trumpster still has gold-plated everything, I notice.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Required to be a citizen?


Julie A Pace of the Kavanaugh Law firm talks about a high tech company that did not want to sponsor people who needed those special visas and wondered if they could specify U.S. citizens.

Are they required to sponsor people from other countries? I thought they wanted to or had to.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act prohibits discriminating based on citizenship if the non-citizen is lawfully allowed to work here.

Some exceptions are made for govt work and to get security clearances.

Companies cannot ask if someone is a citizen, but can ask if they are legally eligible to work in this country.

As for paying for those visas—you don’t have to bring those people in. Not required.

Out here in AZ, where many people are not legally able to work because of lack of papers, the question needs to by asked by employers.