Monday, February 28, 2011

Recovery Act did not whip things into shape


Just for the record, the $787 billion Recovery and Reinvestment Act did not do much for many business owners.

Publicly traded companies got most of the money, according to the Peepperdine Univ’s Private Capital Markets 2011 Report.

For one thing, few business owners could understand how to get in the way of any credit or tax breaks in there.

Also, it was too slow. Even the president had to admit the shovel-ready projects weren’t ready for the shovel or even a low-paying trowel.

In terms of access to credit, the SBA was allowed to eliminate fees on federally backed loans—this allowed SBA lending to go back to pre-recession levels. This was too small an amount to make much of a dent, though,

The tax breaks were complicated and didn’t provide immediate cash flow—nothing happened to "help" until it was time to file taxes.

About a third of stimulus projects went to small business—only 23% had to under law.

This helped some companies—but take it from me, becoming a govt contractor is maddingly difficult…I am still trying to do it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

"New" plane landing


Scott McCartney, WSJ, Feb 24, 2011, says the new Boeing 737 is being billed as the latest in aluminum couture.

My, aren’t we twee?

Boeing remodeled the inside—don’t get too excited. This thing has been around since 1967.

The overhead storage bins are at angle, so you can stand without hitting your head.

The windows are the same size, but tricked out to look bigger.

Still..the seats are not more butt-friendly and the leg room is…sadly…the same.

So far, Continental is the only carrier to fly these, but American is getting some.

Oh—the ceiling lights give a “cathedral feel.” Is that for praying you don’t crash?

Apparently they focus-grouped this a lot! And no one said make the seats wider? No way!

Well, the lights can change colors—when you approach Fiji, I guess they can turn on the peachy sunset lights to get you in the mood.

Like I am ever approaching Fiji.

PS Those seats in the picture? Not them.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How permanent is permanent?


A permanent job may be as permanent as curly hair from a ..permanent.

Misnomer.

Anyhow—Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, says a lot of jobs around are temporary or full-time freelance or contract or some mutation of a real job.

Employers don’t have to offer bennies—whew, dodged that one!

At present, only 1.5% of the workforce is contingent—this could go to 5%…but still, only 5%.

But still…a big jump.

Supposedly, these temps love the flexibility and varied experience.

People are advised to seek temp as eagerly as permanent. It can lead to permanent—yes, it can, but the employer needs some reason to make this move.

Talk up your suitability, your accomplishments.

If you got it through a recruiter—check in when the temporary gig is about to end—see if they have something else or can negotiate for you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

They say all the jobs will be in health care


Of course, if no one can get work with health insurance attached and is depressed and sick over it and can’t pay, who will pay all these people?

As it is, I saw this morning that women are only getting one in 20 of the "new” jobs being “created.”

Arg.

But recently CareerBuilder outlined the health jobs that will be needed. First, because we are all going to renounce fast food, dietitians and nutritionists will be needed. These work in hospitals and schools and usually have a BA and must pass licensing exams. The median average wage is $50,000.

Recreation therapist is another. These use crafts and other activities to help patients regain skills and recover. Pays around $38,000.

Nursing home administrators will be in great demand. These people manage staff, programs, and finances, with a financial degree or at least a BA. The pay can average $61,000.

Clinical lab technicians made around $50,000 and conduct tests.

Medical records technicians know computers and usually have an associate’s degree, pulling down around $30,000.

A pharmacist mixes and dispenses drugs and counsels patients. Some college plus a PharmD degree, and must be licensed. Average salary is $106,000.

Registered nurses provide care and advice. There can be subspecialties, but basically a degree is required or a diploma from an accredited hospital program. The pay is around $63,000.

A health information manager uses computers and has a grad degree in health services administration, although sometimes a BA is enough. Think $65,000-$132,000.

A health care administrator runs the business side of a hospital or medical practice. A business-related degree is needed and usually a graduate degree is good.

These a good, probably "permanent" jobs, but wouldn't you say the pay is not exactly Goldman Sachs?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Maybe you should (not) rent instead of sell


Do you watch real estate porn? By this I mean, "Selling New York" (HGTV) and "Million Dollar Listing" (Bravo).

Anyhow on "Million Dollar Listing," a woman does not want to buy a smokin’ house, but does offer to rent for a while—and the market is so crummy, the owner says OK.

What was the monthly rent? Fifty grand! The real estate guy says, “Hey, just take the $600,000 a year and wait for the market to improve.”

Yeah, guy—just take it.

Anyhow, Universal Syndicate’s Ellen James Martin points out that renting may not be such a cakewalk.

Being a landlord can suck. Think back—did you ever call a landlord in the middle of the night about a clogged toilet? That could be you answering.

It’s hard to find creditworthy renters these days.

You can’t just do repairs when you feel like it—you have to do them when the renter feels like it.

Your renter could cause a flood or fire or something that causes lasting damage.

The tax advantages and depreciation you may be getting now as a landlord disappear.

One thing you can do is have a registered appraiser assess your home’s future value. You may be hanging on and installing a renter for nothing.

Will that guy collecting $600,000 a year get the midnight toilet call? If not—he has a manager and that can cut into the profit.

Yes—you do have to pay taxes on rental income (attention, Charles Rangel) and many local jurisdictions have a swarm of petty regulations.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Girl Scout or government operative?


I loved scouting as a kid—and even a junior counselor.

So I am mixed on a recent story by Elaine Pittman in Emergency Management on how the Girl Scouts are partnering with the Dept of Homeland Security and FEMA to create a “preparedness” credential—to ingrain disaster preparedness—into young people.

The Scout spokesman said being prepared has been part of the credo since 1912.

Being prepared, maybe—but preparedness? The latter seems to have a whiff of terrorism, fatal disaster, fear, or even paranoia.

Or is that my personal problem?

This is designed to interest girls in emergency management and response.

The three keys to leadership in the scouts are discover, connect, take action.

The girls get to know the police, city planners, and responders.

They ask the girls to have an emergency planning mindset—whether they are going for Ice cream or camp.

“Don’t be scared, be prepared.” That’s the motto.

One exercise was to show how fast you can get a germ on your hand. They rubbed colored oil on their hands, tinted with Jell-O powder, and kept shaking hands and seeing how the colors wove on there..

Wonder if Jell-O knew about that one?

I guess if they are not asking people for their green cards, turning in suspicious characters in their nabes, or having nightmares of disasters this is OK, but it still creeps me out a little.

On the other hand, I did a “glass” badge and got cut. Life can be full of surprises.

Kids these days. They get not scared so fast.

Friday, February 18, 2011

First fired, first hired? Naw


In fact, there seems to be a trend—even openly stated in WANTEDs—that if you are unemployed, you need not apply. Sometimes this is a length of time you have been unemployed—THEN you have an expire date.

Being unemployed does not put you in a protected class, though—like being a minority, disabled, or old.

Congress even became concerned and asked the Labor Dept if this were illegal. The answer was only if those being discriminated against for not being employed also fit into another class.

Blacks and Hispanics, for instance, are less likely to still be working, so saying you have to be working discriminates against them—voila, a bad thing.

They are going to look into it—hearings or something.

Hey, this is just plain cruel—people who have been out of work a long time need money more than other people!

Also, women who aren’t working because they are at-home moms or taking care of relatives also would be ruled out.

This sucks. Simple enough for ya?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How to get good deals


Ask!

You can ask anybody anything—they don’t have to answer, tell the truth, do what you want or be nice, but you can ask.

Redbook recently had a story on how to get a great travel deal. You could go online and compare prices, it said, but a recent survey in Consumer Reports shows that asking worked better.

Right before you leave, check hotel and car rates. If you are signed up to pay more, ask for the lower rate.

Tell clerks you are on a special trip—birthday, anniversary, or even funeral.

If you arrive late, you may get a better deal.

One woman signs up for the cheapest room, then when she gets there, says she would love to see the hotel at its best, did they have a room with a view? Sometimes you get transferred without a charge.

Be nice. A clerk may take pity on you.

Even complain nicely—it could pay off.

Not that I go anyplace—but still this is good advice.

My daughter and I had a fabulous time in San Francisco once—we had been kept out of a bar we had always wanted to go to because she was 18, not 21. She cried. We went to a different restaurant and the waiter asked what was wrong—we told him. He said, “Why, goodness, I would never have known you were not 21.” He handed her the drinks menu without further comment.

It made the whole trip—that chocolate martini! Her first.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When walking is stressful


Things are getting tense. Shirley S Wang, WSJ, Feb 15, 2011, writes that you don’t even need a car now to fly to pieces.

Slow walkers—those have to go! One scientist has even created a Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale to map the outrage.

People get “intermittent explosive disorder.”

Facebook has a site called “I Secretly Want to Punch Slow Walking People in the Back of the Head.” It has 15,000 members.

If you have this syndrome, you may shove around people, mutter menacingly, stare, offer “a mean face,” or tailgate on their heels.

They firmly believe slow people should keep right, stay on one side of the escalator, etc. The world apparently should cater to them.

One guy walked into people all the time—he thought he was walking correctly and they weren’t.

Well, who says?

A study in NY showed that smokers walk 2.3% slower than the average. Tourists walk 11% slower. Cellphone talkers are slower.

Maybe older people (me) and slow walkers (tourists) are giving you a great chance to smell the daisies. Try thanking us.

And—be glad you even have sidewalks—I live in gooberville and would love to walk on a crowded sidewalk again in this life and clog it up!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is it possible to plan your life?


Which Beatle said, “Life is what happens while you are making plans”? I don’t remember—maybe Paul? Anyhow, how planned is life?

My sister told me my present troubled business life is my fault for “choosing” such a "dumb" profession (writing).

First, it chose me. Secondly, I reject that it’s dumb—it’s just that others who buy creative services have jiggered this around now so they get them free or almost free from abroad or from desperate American writers.

My daughter has not worked in three years—she used to love interior design, but does not have a degree and now doesn’t profess to “love” anything.

Do people take aptitude tests anymore? I heard about a site called www. strengthsfinder,com, but you have to get a book or a password or something to find yourself.

Readers—do you know of any others like this?

What about life coaches—has anyone tried one? What do they do for you? Who can afford them—I know we can’t.

What brought all this to mind was a entry I had planned to write on what jobs you could get in expanding industries. The jobs were: insurance underwriter, finance officer, market researcher, manufacturer’s agent, financial services agent, shipping clerk, power plant operator, and solar equipment installer. And one more…freight agent.

Freight agent—what little kid did not fleetingly want to be a train engineer—but a freight agent?

Oh, boy—paperwork!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Too much to do at work?


CareerBuilder says especially now with employers asking more and not hiring you a nice assistant, you may be feeling the pressure.

Try to see why you feel so stressed—is it really work or things going on at home. If it’s the home scene, don’t ask for help or complain at work—do other things to relax, such as long walks at lunchtime. If it truly is piling on at work, then you need to talk to your manager. See if he or she can “prioritize” your duties, one, two, three, in urgency.

If you can’t meet a deadline, let everyone know ASAP. If you need help, ask for it.

If you ask your coworkers for help, be upfront about the time you need from them—or they won’t help next time.

Look, everyone likes to please, especially now. But being burned out and resentful will bite you in the long run.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Don't play me, advertisers


Ellen Byron, WSJ Feb5-6, 2011, says advertisers are spinning their brains out to grab that Boomer buck.

They are using “flattery, subterfuge, and euphemism” to waltz us oldies out of our money.

Wait—isn’t this what all advertisers do?

Still…

Those ADT people with the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” stuff are told never to remind people that they are old. Yet, the telephone people are told to speak fast and get to the point. Apparently, shaky old people still don’t like patronizing BS.

How about those “adult diapers” we so DEPEND on? Well, for one thing, they are now “underwear.” And they are mixed in with tampons in some stores so people won’t feel like they are going to the geezer aisle. Some stores are also putting magnifying glasses in the aisles.

The investment company Invesco tells brokers offer coffee cups with handles (you know we can’t handle—so to speak—smooth Styrofoam) Put in lamps, not overhead lights, they are told, and turn off the TV—too much glare and background noise for us.

Those grab bars—Kohler renamed those “belays,” trying to evoke mountain climbing expeditions of yore. Yeah, all those mountain climbs—remember them well.

Type is getting bigger, contrasts better.

What’s up with the term “senior citizen”? Many of us are not citizens. Trying to make us feel like part of the society? Well, can it.

Stuff is being moved to convenient shelves in stores, signs are bigger.

Hey, they could be even bigger!

Actually, I welcome a lot of this. Which idiot decided the door to the library should be about a mile around back of the building? Why are there steps everyplace and few curb cuts. Can you say curb cut? Or is it “skateboard access for really really young people”?

Sure, make it easier. I see plenty of young people sitting on the benches in the mall—which reminds me, why don’t all stores have a few damn chairs?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to repair your reputation


I was on Linked In the other day and we were discussing the bad freelance marketplace and one of the guys who had been saying he could not get work suddenly launched into a psychotic rant…whoa, no wonder he couldn’t get work.

I left the discussion and may leave the group.

But what if you are in a job and do something wacky or make a bad mistake—say for the sake of argument you are not so far gone that you know you screwed up.

Once you have played the “bad form,” “bad skills” or “bad judgment” card, it’s hard to climb back.

Leadership guru Terry R Bacon was quoted by Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, as saying if no one defends you, you may have a problem.

First, you can try apologizing. Don’t make excuses—just explain.

Do not deny it—people never forgive that.

Be sure you don’t do it again—this will be remembered.

And try to redeem yourself with good works or an anger management class or something.

A single slip does not a D-bag make.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Please don't be an at-home dupe


Recently, someone asked gurus Dale Dauten and J.T. O’Donnell how they could work from home without being a generous Nigerian potentate’s widow.

You have seen the stuff—Mystery Shopper, test products, post to social media sites, and my personal favorite—freelance writer.

By the latter, these days, they often mean lash yourself to the desk, with a camera on you, and pound out “stories” that correspond to what people are searching for, which means sites containing these get more hits and more Google ad money.

The smarty-pants gazillionaires who thought this up have become fabulously wealthy convincing big papers like USA Today and others, in addition to major websites, that these stories are a money maker.

Their approach can be explored here: http://listicles.com/media/4-er-3-online-content-farms-writers-should-avoid/

But what if you are the one in the slippers? Many try to rationalize that they need some money to live and this is the best they can do.

Those of us who have been at this for years the old-fashioned way, with skill and ability to interview, organize, write, revise, polish, are seeing fees a hundredth of what they were six years ago.

This has spread to decent payers, too.

We might as well be braiding buggy whips.

So—want to work from home? Babysit. Take sports bets. Phone sex. Program. Anything but writing 50 stories on linoleum by Friday.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Break out the programmer chow


Joe Light, WSJ, Feb 7, 2011, says some companies are hiring, but can’t find the right matches.

This mess is patchy, let’s face it. You may have a desired specialty but there may be no openings in your area—and you can’t move because your house is not salable.

A lot of the desired skills are technical or specifically, engineering.

You know that Android phone (I wish these people would call me to name their stuff)? One company, Gowalla, wanted to do an app but could not find the people to do it inhouse.

Now, they will hire computer engineers with skills and train them in their specific needs.

Anyone with any smarts may get several offers.

The social media site Meebo in Mountain View needs software engineers and sales execs right now. They say they would always take a good JavaScript engineer or analytics person. Standing order.

The Conference Board says that if all the people whose last job was in computers got a new position, there would still be 350,000 openings.

The java is hot—in more ways than one.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Delta agents get schooled


What with the snow closings and strip searches, things are getting tense at airports.
Delta is rated last in customer service, so it’s sending its 11,000 agents back for a refresher in not being part of the problem.

Scott McCartney (WSJ, Feb 3, 2011) says the emphasis is on making each encounter personal, being empathetic, listening, asking, then listening again, and solving the problem together with the customer.

I hope that eliminates the stern, “Ma’am…ma’am….I am TRYING to tell you…”

Most often, Delta says, people say they are not heard—no one will listen.

In the classes, agents role-play and try to solve a problem rather than get rid of the flyer or shunt the problem aside.

They are also told not to throw the company under the bus and say, for example, “Yeah. these fees are awful.”

If someone is racing to the gate, the are told to start the rebooking rather than let the flyer hobble all across the airport for nothing.

If a customer misses a wedding or a cruise, maybe they should have gone a day early, but don’t say that.

By the way, a lot of time is spent on catering to the top flyers—but that is only logical.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Do you need a house to fall on you?


Ice dams. Well, damn!

Gwendolyn Bounds, WSJ, Feb 3, 2011, says these filthy disgusting big storms are sending homeowners to the hospital—and not just for shoveling heart attacks.

When snow keeps piling up on your roof, melts a little, gets icy, more snow falls, it can let loose and smack you in the head. One guy needed 3 staples. Stuff can also lurk in trees and get heavier and heavier—and here you come, nice and innocent, and blammo!

Ice dams collect along the edges of a roof—and you can guess the rest. If it doesn’t fall, it can also force water back up under shingles—also not good.

Some people buy long roof rakes. Electrical ice-melting systems are also the rage.

One roofer makes $100,000 a season as a roof ice cutter.

Going up to shovel the roof yourself can result in a fall. It’s slippery up there!

But you have to do something. In most cases, it’s required by law.

Most new homes have more insulation and dams don’t form.

Don’t count on it, though.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

When you stop to think about it


Someone asked an employment guru what she should do. She and hubs were both out of work for ages, desperate, and her mother-in-law said some companies will let you work for nothing for a month and still collect unemployment.

How nice of them—let the state pay them to take a chance on you. Also, this amounts to duh—getting you to work for free.

Are you into that? Unemployment is probably way less than your new salary.

Still, a lawyer said maybe the companies could get your four weeks approved as a training program. This seemed like an outside possibility to me.

This one does not pass the sniff test—they win and you lose. And what if they don’t hire you?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

You are the only one who applied, but...


Someone asked Fred Bocker, president of Fishal & Blocker HR Associates, about a recent interview. The job hunter had applied for a job and was the only candidate—but was offered a lower job instead. Was this bait-and-switch?

Bocker said, no, they hadn’t found an assistant manager, but had liked him enough to offer another job that they thought suited him.

If you still want to be a manager, ask about the career path in such a situation. Would you eventually move up to manager, or was this pretty much it?

It’s not like all you have to do is show up and get the prize because you are the only one there.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What do you think of Undercover Boss?


Undercover Boss is the CBS show where the CEO of a big company tries to work alongside the “regular” employees for a week.

I have seen it twice—really got into the first time, then was over it the second time.

The first one I saw was the CEO of a disaster cleaning company. No suicide tidy-ups or splatter killings, but some fire and water damage jobs.

First they showed the guy’s closet full of ranks and ranks of pricey suits and dozens of pairs of shoes—then he put on wig that looked like a dead muskrat and went off to hang dry wall under the tutelage of, first, a guy who freely admitted he was a general contractor and took side jobs (not allowed by the co) and a younger man who didn’t like this new dude at all!

The younger supervisor kept sneering with disgust at the CEO’s lack of carpentry skills—“Well, I hope that screw is in there because you stripped the bleep out of it.”

The CEO heard some heartwarming stories of people who could not pass the exam for a promotion because they had never been to formal school, etc. Another woman said, "I passed, but those dopes at headquarters froze all promotions, so I do the job, but don’t get the money.”

Ooops.

Anyhow—at the “reveal,” he hands out raises, scholarships, big chunks of cash and so on to those he suddenly saw as worthy. My thought? Did this change anything—would others get this? The top execs looked pretty steely-eyed to me.

In the second one, the CEO was a woman who ran an empire of theme hotels. She worked as a check-in clerk (man, that line was long), server (forgot to ask whether they wanted drinks), and aquatic employee (had to remove human poop from the pool).

She seemed pretty unamused by it all and only teared up when some said her daughter had died at age 9—it made the CEO think of her own kids she hardly saw because she traveled so much.

Anyhow, by then, my cockles were not warming. What do you think?