Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WT pluck?

CareerBuilder says cursing at work can be a no-no. So eff doing it.

Many people consider cursing to be unprofessional—although professional politicians seem to do it all the time…Oh, well, most of them are not too professional.

But—CareerBuilder notes—cursing can help you fit in some high pressure places.

Some people say cursing prevents real communication.

It can give a wrong perception of you—or worse, a correct one.

Oh, and it can get you fired. You know how some people are.

I would advise keeping it to a minimum…For one thing, the cursing vocab is pretty limited. It can get boring, as well as abrasive.

And you need experience and some real aptitude to get it right.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The house dream revisited

Everyone's dream--buy a house. Yeah, good times, good times.

Now, out here in Arizona, you better like your house ‘cause you ain’t going anywhere. A third of homeowners owe way more than their houses will ever be worth again.

Ellen James Martin, Universal Syndicate, says people now look for a bargain price plus some element that makes the house salable in the future.

Some of those “elements” include: Neighborhood. Select the right location, spend a couple of days walking around assessing the assets. Talk to residents. See if prices on resales have held up.

If you are moving into a city or area, talk to coworkers, anyone you can. Maybe even ask real estate appraisers.

Try to find a neighborhood near an employment center or office park. Even if you don’t work there, those seem to add value.

Stay away from freeways or truck noise. Also stay clear of major discount stores.

Even if you don’t have kids—check out the schools. The next owner may have tots.

Schools, in fact, may be the single most important factor.

Soooo…due diligence. Times are changing. Or have changed—forever.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A certificate--poor man's diploma

Jahna Berry, AZ Republic, Aug 28, 2011, says a college diploma is nice, but a certificate…a certificate is REALLY nice.

Certificates quickly signal that you are up on the latest, can manage projects, boost the bottom line, and so on.

Of course, a few years on the job is also needed to back up the book larnin’.

Certificates don’t take too long to get and are much cheaper than grad school.

Some popular ones are Project management Professional, a Lean/Six Sigma green or black belt, or for construction people, Building Professional.

Be sure the program readies you for the test. Ask employers which have the best reputation. Be prepared to commit,too—the programs may not last long, but they can be intense.

And last—if you have not worked in the area, the certificate should come after you have.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The toad

Are you a plodder or an innovator? Maybe a plodding innovator? I am sort of in that group—I dog along, but do try to come up with new ideas.

Eric Holdeman wrote about this in Emergency Management Magazine.

First, innovation does not come naturally to many organizations. People like to control their world. Not knowing the final destination can scare people.

So they just say no to new ideas—nice, neat, over with.

Social media is an example—many organizations are afraid of it, where will it lead?

If you have a new idea, in smaller organizations, you can pursue it sometimes without telling everyone. If you ask permission, you may get slapped down.

Multiple levels of approval crush ideas. Usually there is one person, or one committee, which is like the toad in the road—stopping everything dead. The idea there is to bypass that toad—find someone higher on the other side and jump over there.

If you are not the person to push the idea, find a surrogate.

Never give up. And—I would add—don’t mush the toad. That would be disgusting and beside the point.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

High finance--oh, ick

I don’t Excel or Quicken. I am exactly the financial idiot Dean Newlund, president of Mission Facilitators International, is talking about in a recent column on financial literacy.

I think I am sort of OK, on “net” as in “net jobs created” or debt versus deficit, but some of the other zips by pretty fast.

Yet, we are now asked to create our own budgets, hold our amusing leaders’ feet to the fire financially, keep China in check, everything.

Newlund says the accounting classes we took were boring. Who took accounting? Did you?

Sooo…could you ask your manager to walk you through how your company keeps score…balance sheets, profit & loss, cash flow, etc.

Take a basic accounting class? Maybe online?

Learn to use and read Excel spreadsheets?

Subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and read the boring parts?

Companies hire people who understand this stuff.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bunny slippers--seriously?

Halyan Feng (AZ Republic, July 31, 2011) talks about the downsides of working at home.

I stare at a cactus alternating with a screen all day. This has been my life for more than 30 years. It used to pay, now it doesn’t—but I am ruined for real work.

For newbies to house-based work, Fend says staying focused can be difficult. Well, yes, for beginners, even cleaning the oven is better than some office tasks. You will soon learn.

You should have a nice space—mine is the living room—not completely separate, but it is an office. The TV and so on is elsewhere.

I have equipment, although weird and cobbled (eBay fax of Smithsonian vintage, an old bank table as a computer desk from when my ex worked in a bank, a $150 Dell scored off the internet).

Feng says have a contract with your clients. Yes, this is good, sometimes. Other times, it can screw you. I have had it go both ways. About a decade ago, for writers at least, the lawyers jumped into the business and created all sorts of stupid clauses—such as how writers would pay Time Magazine’s legal bills if someone sued, things like that.

Be ready for solitude. Well, there are animals. They are not scintillating coworkers, but you can talk to them without being carted off. Especially the ones who haven’t learned the word No!

Take breaks. Yes, this is good. Otherwise, it’s like watching the Tin Man dance a jig. Not pretty.

Stay connected is the last piece of advice. How could one not?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Losing Face(book)

Letting it all hang out on FB is like forgetting you are on a reality show that is always filming.


I am FAR from an authority—I don’t even tweet…but here are some dumb FB moves I read about.

Putting your whole birthday. First the cute studs will ignore you and second, one of them will have another piece of info for ID theft.

Saying, “Off on our vacation, see you in two weeks.” Only bring up the vacay when you get back and have some (clothed) pix to show. (Someone commented that robbers know you will probably be out during the day…but breaking in when you could show up is iffier for them.)

Don’t use obvious password. I am horrible on this..with the insertion of symbols and numbers, etc. I can confuse myself in one second!

Remember, law enforcement actually looks at this stuff sometimes. Don’t talk about creeping someone’s house or something. They hate that.

Use the privacy features. Hmmm, could someone explain this.

Don’t mention the names of your minor kids. Actually they are probably doing that. But it’s better not to help the bad guys queue up to hurt you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Are you a good negotiator?

No, not a hostage negotiator—are you getting THAT desperate out here? LOL.

I meant, if you get a job offer, can you gouge out a decent salary?

Don’t do what someone I know did this weekend. I was selling an item on Craigs and some people were coming over and this person said, “Be sure to tell them this is faded (visible—let them tell me) and maybe you should charge less.”

Maybe YOU should let me do the talking.

The item was not what they wanted anyhow—but at least I didn’t negotiate with myself.

Lindsay Nadrich wrote about salary nego in the AZ Republic, Aug 21, 2011.

Be sure to research salary ranges. The employer will probably ask your desired range—have an answer.

Try to avoid naming a flat number.

Wait on even discussing salary. Let the employer bring it up.

If the offer is lower than you like, bring up perks, benefits, expense accounts, stock options, extra vacation—anything that could take the sting out.

The best one, I think, is: Do you think we could look at this is six months?

Always bring it back to how much you like the place and what you will contribute.

If it really bombs, walk away nicely. But only do that if you simply could not live with the number.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Are you a hard worker--or a smart one?

CareerBuilder asked bosses how to get their attention. One said a hard worker stays up all night to get the job done, but the smart worker delegates or finds a way to do it in half the time.

One working coach said the best team members helped other members.

Attitude is Number 1, said another.

A third liked people who were ahead of the curve—anticipated problems and took care of them.

Or—come to the boss when you are through with something and say, “Anything else?”

Another tip: Fit in with the culture. This earns you respect and trust.

All good—not being a pain in the rear and showing up on time is also appreciated in most organizations.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

You might give up 5 mins before success

Don’t give up. That is the message from Kathryn Stockett—author of THE HELP, which is a shiny new movie after being a popular book.

Stockett says in MORE Magazine that her manuscript was turned down 60 times before finding a taker.

I loved the audiobook—but I can see where the material is somewhat unfashionable—dealing with African-American maids in the South in the 1960s—as helped and befriended by a white woman.

But still, you have to be there…it works somehow.

Back to the not giving up part. Her husband says she never gives up.

Husband? A breadwinner? Gosh—those are so handy when you are throwing yourself against the wall of cold rejection, the one with the razor wire on top.

But if you don’t have one of those around the house, don’t give up anyway.

I hear the moviemakers slammed into that rejection wall, too. But there’s a movie.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

From AZ--how some small biz people are coping

Donovan Wilson, AZ Republic, Chandler section, Aug 17, 2011, talks about a small auto repair company in this bedroom community of Phoenix. The “spiraling” economy, as he puts it, had wreaked havoc on the little company.

In 2008 the shop had 49 business accounts. Within three months, it lost 20. By the end of 2008, it had 12 left.

They went out an networked—combed the business community for business.

Those who shake hands with people do better, the owner concluded. The company head hooked up with local schools—then boys and girls clubs. They helped the schools by providing coupon books for fundraising for the clubs. The $25 booklets have put $30,000 into the club coffers and brought business into the shop, which is now in the black.

Another company—heating and cooling—big out here in the desert--homed in on customer service, rather than branching out into other products and services.

That would be good—when those a/c people come over, they often try to upsell you into something. I hate that. A repairman or annual checkup tech who said, "Everything looks good, I did this or that, we are here anytime you need us" would be welcome.

A commercial office cleaning company diversified, though. They added pressure washing, tile maintenance, upholstery cleaning and other services. They also let customers bring rugs over—which some prefer.

So think, people! Go big? Go smaller? Go different?

Personally, I am adding short health tipsheets—let me cut through the clutter and see what’s what for you. Check out:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

You can't hide from Mr Climate Change

The Institute of Medicine at the National Academies of Science in Drama City (DC) put out a report in June on “climate change” and Indoor Environment.

I put “climate change” in quotes not because I am an ignorant right-wing dope but because I cannot for the life of me (literally) decide which direction it’s changing and why.

The Institute concludes, though, that whatever it is, it is affecting indoor quality.

First, there is a lot of harmful stuff already indoors—gas from stoves, stuff from building materials, radon, smoke, and other factors. Bad atmosphere outside can worsen effects inside, basically.

Heat waves can also cause power outages that cause people to burn more fossil fuels.

Extreme weather (caused by climate changes) can lead to dampness and mold inside. Fungi, bacteria…ew.

The hotter things get the more diseases survive to zip around the world.

Of course, extreme hot or cold can kill people.

And then there is the irony—the more weatherization to keep the outside outside, the more ventilation problems inside—see above.

We get up in the morning, why now?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tips for the young ones--and their bosses

Steve Ressler, Government Technology, Aug 2011, says it takes some smarts to worm into the business world.

First, be a team player—sit back and observe. Smile. Yes, every day.

Avoid dating in the office (yes, Auntie Star has noted this, see below).

Email the right way—use capital letters, put a phone number.

Stop by in person—the whole world is not a keyboard.

Don’t overdo it. That kid who used raise his or her hand every time. Don’t be that kid.

Dress like your boss—unless the boss is a slob.

Connect with others—bring in candy, play on the softball team.

If you have Millennials or whatever they are called as reports, mentor, don’t parent.

Provide the tools the employee needs.

Coach the team!

Try to provide a variety of tasks.

And above all—trust your young folk. These are not interns. You are paying. Show them you expect a lot.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Watch even the sober tweeting

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, reminds us that confiding to people, esp coworkers, online can come back to bite you.

You can been tweeting with a friend, or Facebooking, and pretty soon you have mentioned things you are not supposed to know or tell. Yipes. No takebacks online!

Maybe it’s your “office” wife or husband—they may be told things your spouse does not know or does not know yet.

Or you may share exercise tips and send a shirtless pix of you at the gym.

If you do any of this, don’t freak out. Maybe change your privacy settings.

I once did this back in the Dark Ages of listservs…I said something to a friend on there about the list moderator being “an old lady.”

The comment went to the list. The moderator was not even female. That went really well.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

You little nature lover

I am always in a dither about getting someone to trim my palms or weedeat my volunteer grass. Sometimes I HATE nature. And camping—don’t EVEN! I do like tigers, waterlilies, trees (sort of) and on good days, my dog.

About the size of it.

But, as we all know, I am a snarky exception to everything. So if you love nature—why not try to get a job out in it?

CareerBuilder suggests archaeologist, for one, paying $75K. You need to be patient, like hot sun, and not expect to dig up the Ark of the Covenant.

Zookeepers are outside a lot, for around $33K a year. Tigers, people, tigers!

Geologist…how about that. Salary around $80K.

Fish and game warden—around $56K. Running around in truck or boat, outside a lot, negotiating with more animals than Billy the Exterminator.

Botanists are outside. Average salary $67K.

Park rangers—sound good? My brother was one—he says the most dangerous problem in parks is the people. Expect to be basically a cop.

Organic farmers make about $35K.

Or how about photographer? They let them go outside if they want. Average salary, $46K.

Well, looking at those salaries, I guess you have to appreciate fresh air. Do we still have that?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Home inspection can help you sleep

If you are sticking your foot in the treacherous housing ocean, a home inspection will prevent a costly mistake.

Personally, I live in dread of stuff in this pathetic hut finking out on me. No money for handymen…

Ellen James Martin, AZ Republic, July 31, 2011, says other people are working more and more (those 2-3 jobs) and don’t have time to fix things, even if they know how.

Before you buy, find a WELL-RECOMMENDED inspector. Go to the American Society of Home Inspectors (www.ashi,org), not your brother-in-law.

Look for 3-5 years of experience. Talk to past clients.

In a house, look for easy flooring or carpet. Those fabulous hardwood floors can be hard to maintain.

Avoid a large yard if you are busy. OMG—getting things done in my small yard is the bane for me!

A new build has less problems—you may get years of pain-free living before things go south.

But even then—check out the builder.

Also—those maintenance contracts can be a good deal. You pay $40 a whack—plus $500 or so a year—but that can save you.

Or it might not.

It’s all a big crapshoot with a roof, if you ask me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Save a penny and maybe a day of life

Try brownbagging it if you don't already.

These tips are for kids whose parents think cafeteria food is too “fast,” but could work for anyone tyring to save money.

Yvette Armendariz (Az republic, Aug 9, 2011) talks about how to tweak finicky appetites by bringing lunch from home.

First, have the kids shop with you—co-opt them, get them involved. This can be a good chance to talk about labels, too.

Get cool containers—bento boxes, little backpack things, Hello Kitty anything.

Plan ahead. A great school or office lunch does not happen at five minutes of bus.

Sandra Nissenberg wrote Brown Bag Success: Making Healthy Lunches Your Kids Won’t Trade.

First, lunch does not have to be a sandwich—how about a kabob, trail mix, drumsticks?

Allow a cookie or treat sometimes—prevents trading.

Ask your kid their favorite purchased food—find a better alternative.

Watch the sugar—aim for protein and fiber—makes for sharper minds and better learning.

Oh, yeah—learning. This is school!

Or work.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ixnay on sex with coworkers

First, even if it’s consenting, it can get sticky and embarrassing and hurt both careers. How do I know? Let’s just say I do.

Victoria Pelham, AZ Republic, Aug 7, 2011, also takes up other forms of hanky-panky that might not be so consensual.

Unwanted touches, brush-bys, innuendos, dumb jokes or emails, requests for you to stay late, and other tacky behavior can make work a living hell.

Tell your coworker, either gender, to stop it right away. Say you are not interested. Leave little room for doubt—don’t send mixed messages, “You are so nice and in other circumstances…” Say: Not in this lifetime. Don’t laugh at offensive jokes.

If this continues, go to HR. There are laws and companies don’t want to get nailed.

Try to put some space between you and the person. Switch desks if you can—or projects.

You could also request a session of harassment training.

Always document the incidents—date, time, place, who was there, are there witnesses. Be clear, factual, not emotional.

Others may end up seeing your list.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Stay busy

Ever hear the axiom—“If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

A writer named Hayden Shaughnessy says in a jobless economy, maybe you need to stay jobless—in other words, not have a formal job.

You can be out of a job but not out of work—that’s the idea.

Shaughnessy says he works 70 hrs a week.

Up to 10 days a month he works free—or does not get paid for what he does, which includes testing new ideas, doing a favor for someone who will owe him one, writing on spec. This can also be charity work—where you are up, dressed, meeting people and feeling OK.

He also does low income work—I hope he doesn’t mean content farm crap, but he may.

He also does low income work that is not good—OK, that is content crap.

He does high value, good income work. This used to be just called work. Sigh.

Finally, he does paid speaking. All good.

In the new economy, he says, old roles are irrelevant, new labels have not been invented.

So try to do some things you enjoy. Why the heck not?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Think of would-be employer as a person

Anita Bruzzese, CareerBuilder, says most people know how to attract a member of the opposite sex—open but not groveling, smiling, good listener, funny. Why wouldn’t this work for an employer?

Well, it would. You leverage your personal traits without, of course, being tacky or overly flirty.

A good sense of humor can be the middle ground.

If someone laughs at what you say, they may be interested in you, studies show.

If the interviewer is cracking jokes, this is a good sign.

On the flip side, what if you don’t think the person is funny? One guy found not laughing at the boss can affect your review.

If you get to the review stage. If the person is off-color or racist or something blatant, forget it anyhow.

Humor can also be so personal. I loved the late Spalding Gray, who sat there and talked for an hour. Others I know didn’t “get” that. Some people like Larry David—others...the not getting it thing.

I think The Big Lebowski is a great movie. Others I know thought it was stupid. Well, it WAS stupid—that was the smart part about it.

Is it so wrong to be right? Sometimes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Will a reference check doom you?

CareerBuilder advises that yes, sometimes a company will be so interested in you they will check references. Then what?

What if you had a bad relationship with the supervisor? I have to check websites sometimes to see if they people who didn’t love me left.

It happens. The not liking—and the leaving.

If you are not that lucky and the person did not move on…

First, find out what your previous company does—sometimes they will only say, yes, this person worked here from this date to that date.

Maybe you can get a reference in writing—use it over and over. That way, the former boss does not get sick of talking about you or cannot see you rattle around out there.

Before you leave, though, talk to the supervisor, try to get some closure, as they say.

If that doesn’t work well, then try to find another manager to give as a reference.

If the whole previous organization is not promising, substitute another impressive person you know.

Maybe you can say, “My immediate supervisor at XYZ company traveled a lot and I worked more closely with…” Don’t over-explain or lie. Just put it out there—and live with it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Have it YOUR way

Those endless job websites, sending your res into the Black Hole—how about turning that around and creating a marketing plan for yourself?

Jennifer Anderson, director of career services at the Art Institute of Nashville, recommends creating a list of 50 places you would like to work—maybe they are nearby, you know someone there, you used to know someone there, you have their products, some reason.

Gather the website, location, contacts, human resources manager’s name, as well as the manager of the dept where you would like to work, Anderson advises.

Create a spreadsheet or an index card for each co. Do the same homework you could if you were going there for an interview. Make a note of every contact and the date and reaction.

Keep approaching each company until you decide it isn’t happening there.

Don’t be a pest. This is your hunting list, but be pleasant and casual.

Fifty sounds like a lot to me—how about 10?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stress of economy wearing us down

How’d you like the Great Debt Debate last weekend? The best part was calling the deal a Sugar-Coated Satan Sandwich, which I doubt is a healthy snack, but was funny.

Anyhow, Ken Alltucker, AZ Republic, July 31, 2011, says dwindling job security, the fact that hardly anyone over 50 can get another job if they lose one, the fact that people are pinned in place by upsidedown houses, savings and retirement funds draining, on and on, is causing four of five Americans to suffer stress-related problems. (Not to mention, our amusing leaders informing us Social Security may not come.)

Oh, yeah, and we also can’t afford the doctor, even with insurance.

A monthly survey of 1,000 people making over $50K indicated trouble sleeping, changes in weight, anxiety, and lower energy levels.

More than a quarter had delayed doctor visits. I know I have.

The article called our middle class life a “stick house” with a stick being pulled out.

The expectations of the middle class are changing—said one authority.

At very least. We expect jack and are getting jack-minus.