Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy brings out the best in some companies

Christine Overby writes for She says the social media went crazy over the storm.

My favorite line was in the NYT—“Sandy slapped the snark out of Twitter.”

I would like to slap the snark out of people—so long as they are not moi.

Anyhow, Overby says USAA’s mobile app was Johnny on the spot allowing people to report damages with pictures and submit insurance claimns from their phones. So useful!

Citi Cards and American Express, two almost evil entities in my book, rose to the occasion and offered access to cash, fee waivers, and general instructions on how to get help. The right tone—and right values—Overby says. Well, good for them!

The WSJ and NYT also suspended their paywalls until this is over so people could stay informed.

Of course, some companies were dopey. The Gap tweeted… “All impacted by Sandy, stay safe! We will be doing lots of shopping today.”

This did not go over—one tweetee (tweety?) tweeted back: “Drowning in Gap hoodie.Send help.”

The Gap could have used a little snark slapping.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Unlimited paid vacation

Otherwise known as WOO HOO! According to Leslie Kwoh, WSJ, Oct 29, 2012, says some—repeat, some—companies offer trusted employees unlimited paid time off.

So far, the system is not being abused. One such cmpany, Red Frog Events, is a Chicago entertainment organizer. They let full-timers take off here and there, no questions asked.

Only 1% of employers do this. The average worker gets 2.6 weeks of paid vacay in a fixed system.

Proceed with caution, employers are advised.

Still, companies that do this seem to be insisting that workers who feel trusted are trustworthy.

One company did say some workers “made a mistake” and missed a meeting. If that is a mistake, maybe this isn’t as nicey-nice as it sounds.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Emphasize outcomes in your res

I always tell people to tell would-be employers how they made or saved money for the previous employer.

Chana R. Schoenberger, WSJ, Oct 29, 2012, says this is becoming more of a trend in resumes.

She breaks it down on paper as SKILL/OUTCOME.

Example: SKILL: Decade of experience running a global manufacturing organization. OUTCOME: Runs factories, deals with suppliers and customers, bringing the highest levels of benchmarking and best practices.

To that I would add--New supply chain techniques saved $50 million a year or some more specific outcome.

I also recommend using “action” verbs—supervise, hire, pivot from one objective to another, manage, decide, created, ran, increased.

Make it zippy—irresistable!

Friday, October 26, 2012


I am feeling ornery. The more we digitize, monetize, rationalize, the less efficient things are becoming.

In no particular order:

Doctors whose staff doesn’t answer—please leave a message, they will call back. This is to make an appointment! Sit there during business hours and take calls! Half the time, they don’t call and you are too sick or too tired from powering though, you can’t remember if they did or not. Humpf.

And forget that Lunch Two-Hour, docs--stagger the staff lunches, don't shut the office.

Bad hold music. I swear some of this stuff sounds like a 5-year-old practicing the piano.

Too frequent interruptions of the bad hold music—“We appreciate your patience…” This is a joke—we are not OK with this. ‘Shut up so we can read—or more likely, so we can suddenly hear “Deet deet deet—if you would like to make a call…”

Do not brightly announce that you have a website which we no doubt would prefer to use. If we wanted the website, would we be sitting on this line? Come on! This is not our first rodeo. The stupid website would probably hang, anyhow—or already did, which is why we are calling. Not that YOU care.

Do not say, “I tried to call you…” I sit here all day—you did not!

Not not not!

I need my binky.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What about past addiction problems?

A registered nurse said she had problems years ago with addiction and now, with background checks, this is coming back to haunt her in getting a job.

Ninety percent of employers do BG checks.

The Americans with Disabilities Act precludes discrimination if the person has stopped using drugs.

But if a position is “safety-sensitive,” with a potential for harm to others—such as taking some drugs and watering the remainder, or operating heavy machinery-- this can allow the employer to say no.

This is determined case by case.

So, know what you are looking at—put your best case forward.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Maybe living at home isn't so bad

You know—at home, where Mom and Dad, or one of them, anyhow, pays for the roof, food, electric, water, cable…that home?

Michelle V. Rafter, WSJ, Oct 22, 2012, writes how some grads who returned home see a silver lining.

One woman saved $12K in two years—and then lit out on her own.

Yes, boomerang kids are beginning to find their footing, but they now think returning home was not the horrible defeat they once thought.

In 2010, one in five young Americans lived in a multigenerational home. Almost 80% said it was OK.

One hand does wash the other—kids get a home base, parents may get help with yardwork or other chores that challenge older limbs.

When they move out, often they do not move far—they feel a loyalty to the parents.

My kid is 30 and lives here. She said I never told her she had to leave and she doesn’t want to. I need her around when I have dizzy spells, etc—but I worry that I may be too dependent on her—that she needs to strike out. She says no, though.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What is a good retirement job?

You didn’t know you would still work? Oh, yes.

Andrea Coombes, WSJ, Oct 22, 2012, says there are more older looking for jobs now and getting them, too. More Americans turn 55 than 25, in other words.

Employers, too, are seeing that older workers bring skills and experience. If an older worker loses a job, though, he or she is likely to be unemployed longer. Sad face.

Education is one area older workers try to enter. But the game is being amped up there with greater emphasis on teacher performance. Still, if you have a skill set—you can get hired. You may not need a teaching degree.

Financial services is also popular with older people. This sector tries to offer flexible schedules.

Health care is reaching out to the older worker, according to this. This crosses the board from the greeter at the door, to the person who fills out paperwork, to actual nurses and doctors. There are even sort of new jobs—such as patient advocate.

Knowledge worker—such as consultants—are also in demand. If you have technical niche, more the better.

I have a friend who got certificated to teach English to non-English speakers. This is very complicated! I am in awe of her new start.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Course in how to pay for courses

Is the college expense thing getting wacky? The Univ of Mich offers a one-credit course in university finances—where the school gets revenue, what drives costs and how all this affects tuition.

They claim it is not just the school’s side of the issue—but balanced.

The typical grad leaves with $22,000 in debt. Default within two yrs is at an all time high.

All this according to a story by Matthew Dolan in the WSJ, Oct 20-21, 2012.

Are schools spending too much on sports, entertainment, food and housing?

Some also say providing lower cost loans makes more people get them—and more schools feed off them.

This one needs more examination.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Movin' on up

Feeling a little lowly or unappreciated? Maybe it’s time to try for a promotion—no matter how bad the economy is. Stand tall!

Chelsea Klement has some tips in the Arizona Republic Sept 2, 2012.

First, you have to be excelling—and be able to back that up.

What makes you unique—think this through.

Bring some new ideas to the party.

Pay attention to office politics! I cannot emphasize this enough—keep your ear to the ground.

Visualize yourself in the next job up. Dress for it.

And bring this up at the best time—at the end of a successful project.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why do adults throw tantrums?

Elizabeth Bernstein tackled this subject in the WSJ, Oct 16, 2012. Of course, we all know common courtesy is dead, thanks to the internet and anonymity.

But why go postal if someone has more than 10 items in the store? Or is talking on a cell at dinner? Or forgot the pickles on your burger?

Some guys at Duke think it's because there are deeply held rules of what's fair. Some inner social contract.

Lying is not fair--because then we can't trust anything--we have no starting point, no benchmark. Nothing means anything.

The Duke people found everyone had a breaking point--a pet peeve, something that really rang their chimes.

Part of the key is to know that and try extra hard to avoid it.

I have several--but I really hate boring commenters on blogs and in newspapers. "Stay on your medication" is a particularly unhelpful and trite remark, in my opinion.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What is your biggest strength?

Seriously—this is not a canned interview question. Think about it. How about, I am usually curious and try to learn. Or:I seem to get along with most people. Or: I think I get really good ideas.

Please do not say, I am just too big a perfectionist. You think this will help you in an interview—but it’s trite and probably not true. I had a guy once in an office situation say—“You always want to do everything right!” He was not complimenting me—he was furious.

Now—that is sort of funny. I am taking a laugh break.

OK—I am back!

Anyhow—Justin Thompson, CareerBuilder, says you also have to be careful on the What is your greatest weakness question. If you are bad with numbers and it’s a banking job…well, be careful.

If they ask you to tell them about yourself—do not start with “It was a dark and stormy night and a little baby came into this world with great expectations…” Keep it short. Think it through in advance.

They may also try to get you into what you expect to be paid. Try to keep this until the end. Have the lowest figure you’d take in mind to maintain your lifestyle, then add and see if the negotiation takes you to a comfortable number.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Are you CERT material?

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) teaches you first aid and how to help your family—and your neighbors—in an emergency.

Might I add—it also could be good networking and contacts for you?

You learn teamwork in the 20-30 hour course, which is crafted to the needs of your community.

You will learn to make household items into bandages, how to make stretcher out of blankets, how to communicate with other CERT members and the govt.

There are nine CERT zones in the US—each contains a storage unit of supplies.

You will learn all about it. Start by going to:

You will be doing good work.

Unpaid, but good.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hot flash--Almost half of caregivers are men

Kelly Green, WSJ, Oct 13-14, 2012, says more men are taking care of kids and aging parents than ever before.

Many still have day jobs, too—like women often do. Forty-five percent of caregivers are male—despite the idea that this usually falls to women.

This costs men almost $90K in lost wages over a life time. Also an estimated $145 in SS benefits and $50K in pension benefits.

Men are also less likely to seek help from govt and other agencies.

The National Council on Aging, developed a free benefits checkup at This tells older people and caregivers what they are entitled to get.

There are also local agencies to help find funds and facilities, or services such as transportation.

Many companies also help with caregiving being done by their employees. This can be information—or a referral service.

Geriatric care managers can help.

War-time vets with more than 90 days in qualify for “aid-and-attendance” benefits.

There are also caregiver support groups.

Why should men need any of this less than women?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Make the Job Fair work!

OK, let’s pretend there are more jobs—are you finding more job fairs? I am not. But whatever.

Anyhow, Johnny Gutierrez, AZ Republic, July 25, 2012, says big job fairs can be intimidating.

Still, this can be one-stop shopping if you do your homework.

Research the companies that will be there. Are any appropriate for you?

Smaller, more specialized fairs are now the rage. These may give you more face time with the people there, too.

So dress professionally, tie and dress slacks for men, a suit or covered-up dress for women.

Be friendly, professional, decent handshake.

Be sure your materials are perfect—no weird parchment paper, no personal photos.

And if you have a nice conversation—follow up with a written thank you note.

Be someone you would want to work with!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How are you fixed for butterflies?

Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Oct 10, 2012, says job pressures are second only to financial worries in stressing people out.

Companies are trying to stretch employees thinner by emphasizing mindful communication and cognitive behavioral training,

People take seminars on breathing, meditation, bringing thoughts back when they wander (the thoughts).

They scan their bodies for tension.

If stuck in traffic, employees learn to appreciate the sights around them without reaching for a gun.

They learn to screen out negative thoughts. They try to experience happiness each day.

One company had a five-acre meadow teeming with butterflies for employees to look at.

Lacking that, another company had a room full of beach posters.

This will not, said one expert, make up for having a jerk for a boss.

Still, my hummingbirds amuse me as they come calling at the feeder.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Headhunters being replaced by in-house

Joann S Lublin, WSJ, Oct 10, 2012, reminded me of when a lot of people had “big jobs” and recruiters called headhunters used to be hired to tear them away from their company and come to another one.

When, the layoffs—pardon me, downsizings and restructurings—started, these flattering calls tended to trail off.

Now, in this story, we learn Time Warner only used a headhunter once in the last seven years.

Funds to hunters have been slashed.

At least a quarter of the Fortune 500 use in-house searchers.

When headhunters are engaged—it may be to tap foreign pools of talent.

Everything changes…

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bald is powerful in the workplace

Or so says a study done at Wharton. Subjects looked at pix of men with hair and with the hair digitally removed. The shorn guys were described as taller, more powerful, and more dominant.

Think Michael Chiklis or Telly Savalas.

The thinning, male pattern baldness (35 million American men) was least attractive.

Bald is associated with the military, athletes, superstars (Bruce Willis, Jason Statham).

Also seizing up the clippers is seen as gutsy and bold.

The cue-ball look, according to a story on this in the WSJ by Rachel Emma Silverman, can be seen as menacing, so try to smile a lot.

I have heard that balding means you have a lot of the sex hormone testosterone—sexy. But I guess if a few hairs still cling, this cancels out the alpha male deal.

Do you agree? I never minded balding

But how do you know ahead of time that you have a nicely shaped head and no crud on it? Part of the gutsy call thing, I guess.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Part-time may be the ticket now

Those “creative” employment stats—mostly people cobbling part-time things into a semblance of a living.

So maybe this is what we have to do.

CareerBuilder has some part-time things you may have overlooked.

Catering or cater-waiter. This can pay almost $10 an hour.

Chauffeur. Think $11 an hour. You may need a special license and will work weird hours.

Dog walker. Be strong and patient. Those pooches can yank ya. Save up plenty of plastic bags.

Fitness or yoga instructor. You may close in on twenty bucks an hour—but you need to know your stuff.

Massage therapist—You may need hundreds of hours of experience and a certificate—this is not the hot pants kind of massage.

Translators. Yes, you need to be fluent in another language. This twenty-bucks-per-hourish.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A little bird could sink your college app

Douglas Belkin and Caroline Porter, WSJ, Oct 4, 2012, says a quarter of admissions officers at the top 500 colleges use Facebook and Google to check out applicants.

A third find something that hurts the applicant.

Bullying, alcohol, drugs, plagiarism, even criminal activity…pix or descriptions are there big as life.

They look usually if something else is “off” about the application—but this does not help.

Something to keep in mind anyway.

I wonder if tweeting for one candidate or another could harm you…what do you think?

I quit Facebook some time back. Profanity on my wall, weird political ideas I did not agree with. The cats were nice.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Applying to biz school

The WSJ did a story Oct 4, 2012, on the ins and outs of applying to business school. Melissa Korn’s sidebar was an interview with four experts—Keith Vaughn of Univ of Southern Cal, Dawna Levenson of MIT, Amanda Carlson of Columbia, and Jeremy Shinewald, of mbaMission, a consulting firm.

Vaughn said the applicant pool is shifting-fewer from financial sector. The domestic pool is stagnant if not down.

People are more intense about school ranking, Shinewald said—this is seen as make or break. The school, they think, determines their future more than their performance.

People also think they need a NY school to stay in NY—these people said that was not true.

Artists and doctors can apply successfully—but must tie their skills to the MBA in the app.

The optional essay can do the above.

Some people can’t relax, take the mask down.

You should also spend more time talking to your recommender—so they can say why you are going to benefit from an MBA.

In other words, make sure this credential leads to what you want—because it’s going to cost.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Life lessons from Gallery Girls

This is a weird “reality” show on Bravo about some 20-somethings in NY working in art galleries. They are almost to a woman, youthful, beautiful, and have a feeling for art, but they are also kind of whiny and can’t let go of a slight to save their lives.

Two have father issues—one has a rich doctor Dad who sells her condo out from under her and says she better get a paying job instead of an internship. This girl, Amy, is sort of dorky, but also seems very well meaning and dogged in helping her friends set up an impromptu opening in Miami—she even drags in the customers off the street, while the other gals sit around whining about low turnout.

In short, Amy is a go-getter.

The other one with father issues, Liz, has a remote, rich dad with warehouses of neat art but he doesn’t take her out to dinner enough. Liz tends of be…snotty.

Maggie is nice, but got bogged into an unpaid internship for several years and she finally quits thinking she is getting a job where she tried out for a few hours.

Ooops—dogged Amy also tried out for a few hours, can make a mean cup of cappuccino (a job requirement, I think) and is as wiggly as a puppy about how much she wants to work there,

She gets the job!

See where I am going with this—you have to want the job, show it.

This is nothing against Maggie—I think she got sort of played…But life is like that. Remember what Auntie Star tells you now.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rejoining the working world

My daughter joined a big multinational called Wendy’s after five years of looking. We needed something walking distance—which limited our options.

The nearby Wendy’s is transformed into a new, sleek coffee house type Wendy’s—she is on the first staff of it. Very exciting.

She is in awe of what it takes to run such a place. There is a guy who is in charge of pickle placement, she told me. Pickles!

She sees there is a real science to this capitalism deal—that it takes a lot of time, expertise, imagination, investment, and maintenance to “flip burgers.”

More people should appreciate this.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Best time to do everything

Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Sept 26, 2012, says you can do more in a day if you time it right.

This goes beyond whether you are a day or night person, a lark or owl.

You need to organize around your body’s natural rhythm. Few people do.

Disrupting those Circadian rhythms can even cause or make certain diseases worse.

When you need to think and reason, late morning is best for most adults. Body temp rises as you wake and go through the day, alertness improves.

Alertness then slumps after you eat.

Fatigue can—surprisingly—boost creative powers. For most adults, open-ended thinking is best done in the evening or when pooped.

Strangely, this story also treated Tweets—they are more upbeat earlier in the day—more fun to read. To get retweeted, post from 3-6 PM.

Late-nite tweeting can get heated. (Drunktweeting?)

Physical performance, as a rule, is best between 3-6 PM—good time to exercise. Muscles can be 6% stronger then.

Remember the old Biorhythms deal? Physical—mental—emotional. They could be at diff levels. Is that passé now?