Thursday, May 31, 2012

On unplugging....


The only time I do not do email or check some sites is when my computer is on the fritz.

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, says according to some Harvard prof, staying connected all the time is your own fault. Not the boss, not the job.

Then she wrote a book for $27 about disconnecting from your Smartphone.

If someone stays connected, others on the “team” feel like they have to, seems to be the message.

People stay connected to create predictability—and this creates less predictability—she says anyhow. Why?

She also said we are our own worst enemy.

Twenty-seven bucks? Seriously? Pogo said that for free.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Here's a job--social media director for govt


Gossip to the ‘crats. Or relayer of info from the 'crats.

Elaine Pittman, Government Technology mag, writes about this new age job.

First, they discriminate—they want youngsters—Millennials. (Which aren't all that young anymore, by the way.)

Pittman talks about the town of Oak Park, Illinois, a burg of 52,000, which went Facebook in 2009.

Their social media gal had been in the game since Friendster.

Now Oak Park has a YouTube channel, the director answers questions about govt, liasing between the agencies and Facebook. The town also has a Twitter account, where questions turn up.

The director fields questions on weekends.

The town still issues press releases—this is just added.

Chicago, North Carolina—they are all getting hip.

Do people still say hip?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Don't get drunk with the boss


Sound obvious? Well, what about the office picnic, the hot sun, the beer? Or the Christmas party and the champers?

Parties at work are not social functions—they are tests.

First, if you are invited to the boss’s—respond without fail.

Be punctual.

Dress appropriately.

Do not talk about work when you are there.

Watch the booze.

Don’t sneak out or leave too early. Say good-bye.

Of course, don’t push people in the pool, flash your “top,” vomit, eat all the good snacks, tell dirty jokes, flirt with the boss’s spouse, or just generally do anything that would make you wonder…hmmm, I wonder if I did anything bad.

If you have to wonder—you did.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The "con" in contractor


I have had almost everything in my little hut rebuilt, painted or fluffed up over the years. I have had reliable handy types and some sleazies.

Ellen James Martin (AZ Republic, May 20, 2012) says you almost have to hire someone sometime. Even if someone in the household is handy, that person (cough, my kid, cough) will probably stall and divert until you run screaming into the night.

Just calling someone plunges you into the Uncertainty Zone! The job could be botched, you may need to pay to get it fixed, the person could be a tool, you could get hit with change orders, overcharges, this, that, and the other thing!

On top of that—there is the “I was waiting for the other contractor, so I am running late.”

Now, with everyone broke, the annoying idiots are really coming out.

Some tips: Book ahead and let the contractor fit your job in. This can save you money.

Don’t go to Yellow Pages or random websites. Ask friends or your real estate agent.

Get more than one estimate.

Visit homes where the contractor has worked.

Get everything in writing. The work to be done is clearly noted. Start and completion dates. Penalties for not meeting those dates.

But even that only helps afterward.

I recently had my roof replaced—usually a crapshoot starring gypsies, Irish travelers, and scammers. But I went kind of on instinct and picked about the fifth person who contacted me. It worked out.

Getting some cuttings transplanted—well, they were put in upsidedown. So now—my little flower bed? Sticks coming out of the dirt.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Are you suited to owning a biz?


Given up on finding a job? Thinking of going into business for your self?

Running a business is tough, especially in an economy where no one has a lot of money to spend.

So, ask yourself…Do you have perseverance? You have to be so focused you are almost defiant!

You need to get all the facts you can—take a course, talk to retired execs, research!

You can’t do it all yourself—you need to be comfortable with delegating. In other words, you need to trust others.

If you are a muller, never quite pull the trigger—this may not be for you.

If you are disorganized…well, this can be bad.

Lives may depend on you—are you conscientious and responsible?

My favorite line re organization was from Roseanne Barr before she got all crazy-political. She drawled, “I am trying to get organized and am bringing all my important papers indoors.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Taking the "free" out of freelancing


Thinking of going freelance? I feel like I should throw my body across you and say, Nooooo.

I have been on my own for 34 yrs—and it ain’t no picnic. It used to be. Now it’s ants all the way.

This is what CareerBuilder likes to call “challenges.”

First you have to self-promote. If you don’t like pecking away day in day out saying how neat you are, this is not for you. (I am very neat, by the way.)

Second, supposedly this is a business. You need to supply everything yourself—insurance, paperclips, computers, etc.

Sure, you have a flexible schedule—7 days a week.

Every freelancer has moments of doubt. We are now in our fourth year of extreme doubt.

You may not be doing “what you love.” You may NEVER be doing what you love. (Although I did a neat interview this morning, so there are exceptions.)

And even then, some idiot may be a slow pay-no pay.

Sound like fun? Aw—where’s your sense of humor? It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What is your life lesson?


The other day, my alma mater asked us to write our own graduation address about what we learned in life.

Naturally, I could not resist dashing off some deathless.

First, I said, “What goes around comes around” is true. If you suffer a slight, eventually the person will revolve back into your sights—or will end up dead while you are not dead. Hmmm…that sounded dark.

Moving along…

I also urged grads not to spend their entire lives trying to reconcile the relationship between talent and virtue and money…it’s random at best. The stupidest, meanest people end up with money and no president or anyone else can change this.

Everyone ends up dead. And many rich people--have you noticed--are sort of weird-looking. Also--taking away their money won't get YOU any more. So why bother.

So what is your life lesson? Keep on keepin’ on is probably my main one…and try for the laffs.

A couple of things, negatively speaking, that I have learned…

It’s not all good.

You cannot get something by thinking about it a lot and visualizing that you already have it.

And life is not a movie—it doesn’t build to a crescendo of achievement, or rarely does. It’s that ups and downs deal. You could end up a huge career speaking to chambers of commerce--or forgetting your entire life.

Still, you never know how many people you touched. The other day, I was thinking about a guy I knew in college who died in Vietnam. He was never forgotten.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Headphones--the new walls


Cube farms are noisy. John Tierney wrote about this in the NYT.

Or they are too quiet—every syllable overheard.

People are clicking, clacking, yacking. Or hiding and whispering.

Some companies pipe in background noise or white noise.

Yet, people lack speech privacy—people can hear them, in other words.

One company experimented with a pink-noise system—a whooshing that sounds like ventilation but is pitched to cover human voices.

The workers freaked—no no no.

Ironically open office plans are supposed to encourage communication—now there is too much of it.

And it’s overheard—so people duck into broom closets.

Another office tried the sound of a burbling brook—people liked it but I wonder how many more times they went to the loo and not just to confer.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I quit FACEBOOK


I sort of dabbled around for years, but never really “got” it. People (friends of “friends”?) posted all kinds of uninformed drivel I had to scrape off my “wall” a few times a day. Waste of time.

Sometimes people posted cute pix (dogs, cats, which I like, both breeds) but then I learned some of them went to sites full of material made for FACEBOOK posting. That seemed stupid.

Then that Zuckerberg movie came out—I could not even finish it—boring and irritating at the same time.

Then some founding father of FACEBOOK wanted to decamp to Singapore and change his citizenship to protect his billions. What a tool.

Didn’t like the Timeline—didn’t like being played, having this forced on me.

And then to top it off, the IPO—from my reading, to make money, they would have to package up my info and sell and resell it—the ads were not going to cut it. I personally never clicked on one.

Is there life after FACEBOOK—you know what? There may be.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nursing a hot career


Nursing used to be a career women could fall back on if need be. Now it’s a professional field for men and women who want to be in an arena of constant demand for their services.

People are going to get sick. Count on that.

But Cherry Ames is now obsolete—you need to specialize, maybe as a nurse practitioner (seeing patients, prescribing, maybe even in your own practice with other nurses), director of surgical services or director of an ER, for instance.

Home health care is another niche.

You need to pick something and expand your skills. Go back to school if you have to.

And get up to top speed on computers—they are everywhere now, even at the bedside.

I have had super good nursing experiences and others not so great. But nurses make a huge difference both for good…and...um, ill.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sign language as a language


Kerry Fehr-Snyder, AZ Republic, May 4, 2012, says that many colleges require two years of a foreign language—and American sign language (ALS) counts.

Some schools out here in AZ offer it.

I remember thinking I could take some little class in this one time—and it was years long! There is the alphabet, words, grammar, and non manual signals…in other words, language!

It is no easier than French or Spanish.

Still—as deaf people are fully mainstreamed, it could come in handy—and of course, for those private conversations.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Appearing to be local


C-Cube Career, Coaching and Consulting’s Kevin Tucker has some advice on how to handle apply for a job at a distant location.

Don’t use a local address or deceive, but do make it clear that you are coming there and will be local—this saves the company money. Not all firms have relocation funds.

Show your value. Don’t belabor the location issue.

On your resume, you could write “Transitioning to” wherever the place is. Don’t use a friend’s address.

Or maybe you could get a cell account in the area code of the place and use that number.

We had a (310) area code all the while we were screenwriting—although we never claimed to live in LA.

Monday, May 14, 2012

When you are broke and desperate


Someone tries to cheat you, of course. Easy pickin’s.

Robert Anglen, AZ Republic, May 13, 2012, writes about those creepy online job offers—of course, we know about the people from China who just want someone to process orders. Or the pitiful dying Nigerians who are so very sorry to break into your day with an unexpected windfall.

One of my favorites is the offer to help you if you are cheated by one of the above—just submit bank account info.

There is a whole category of job hunting rip-offs. Be wary if asked to interview for a job that has nothing to do with your skills. Never pay upfront for training products. Don’t give personal financial info—we must check your credit, etc. And never, as I said, agree to act as a middleman.

Do your own research—google the company and any names they provide.

If the company needs a license, check that.

Check local court records.

A lot of jobs you find out about via email are really commission sales—especially insurance jobs. You may be asked to come someplace for an interview—and it’s really a group grope about all the commissions you will (never) earn.

And I am sure you have seen those “I was down to my last nickel and then…” ads. Just laugh knowingly.

Would someone pay you $20,000 for something you never did before? And those envelopes—ever heard of mail houses—they insert mail for fractions of a penny per—why would anyone pay you?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Working at home needs tweaking


Many companies let employees work at home, at least part-time, but this arrangement is still evolving.

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, talks about it in the AZ Republic, May 9, 2012.

Some questions arise—how can bosses keep home employees looped in?

Can a boss tell from a video chat that the employee needs more help or encouragement?

Clint Smith, CEO of an email marketing company called EMMA, was interviewed. He said this is complex. There is more to it than providing a computer and camera.

A lot happens in the office—sort of by osmosis—around the water cooler, so to speak.

It’s key to hire the right people. He wants people who are confident and will kick up a remote conversation with him.

Have regular video chats with the out of office people involved.

Remote workers should also come to parties and meetings.

Look into the collaborative technology—but don’t forget the phone.

I heard of a situation where the manager of the whole schmear was at home—this seemed to create difficulties as the underlings duked it out in the office.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Match job to traits


CareerBuilder says instead of looking at what’s available, assess your personality type and decide what job would be best.

Laurence Shatkin wrote a book called 150 Best Jobs for a Secure Future. Then he took the Six Personality Types proposed by John Holland and slammed the two together.

Here they are with suggested fields.

Realistic. I you are practical, hands-on, think about electronics engineer, surgical technologist, or security guard.

Investigative. Look for idea or abstract thinking jobs. Biological scientist, industrial engineering, scientist. Does curiosity itch at ya--this is your group.

Artistic. Jobs that work with forms, designs, patterns—what “looks” best. Graphic designer, translator, interior designer. Or even—artist.

Social. This points to interaction with people. Traning, compliance officer, computer systems analyst.

Enterprising. Go toward leadership positions, startups. Customer service rep, human resources, administrative support.

Conventional. Follow set procedures and routines, deal with details. Budget analysts,admin assistants, computer analysts.

Which are you? Are there other categories? Where would entertainer, cook, movie maker, writer come in--artistic? How about construction, factory work?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Can anyone dress anymore?


I work at home—no, I don’t wear bunny slippers, but I do have regular, non-rodent slippers for hot sidewalks outside at mail time.

I also wear shorts—but I spare the populace the spectacle of me in shorts when I go out—and put on my Big Girl pants.

So—basically, we are talking a uniform. Nice colors, jewelry, makeup.

Freelancer Jane Switzer writing in TheStar.com talks about work-at-home duds. One freelancer went to lunch with a lawyer friend and suddenly realized she looked like a dog’s laundry compared with the lawyer.

You do need to show respect in meeting clients and job interviewers. Or even showing your puss in public.

According to Switzer, sweatpants are OK if you are home alone. But if you are going out, do not wear anything you would sleep in.

Get a nice-fitting jacket---men and women. For men, I would add, a blue dress shirt. All men look good in blue. Maybe some khakis, guys.

Men—lose the backpack when venturing out. Especially the one with the ski tags dangling. For women, Switzer says, your purse is an item that can be judged. Ooops—red leopard. Oh, well, I consider leopard a neutral.

Get good quality clothes if you can. Layer. Don’t be afraid of a pattern. Pop with color. Men, too.

I get my clothes from eBay. Don’t tell.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Crook evasion


Sid Kircheimer (AARP Bulletin, May 2012) says before you leave home, alert your credit cards of where you are going. This will stop them from being frozen for being used in an unexpected place.

Stop your mail—a full mailbox is an invitation for trouble.

Take only essential stuff in your wallet, meaning driver’s license and two credit cards. Lock one in the hotel safe. Put your wallet in a buttoned pocket or zipper purse.

Don’t even bring your checkbook.

Now this is weird—create a fake wallet—some old hotel key cards, a few dollars—this is to hand over to thieves.

Leave your debit card at home—if you must get cash from an ATM, do it in a bank lobby not some random store.

Don’t access your bank account on a hotel computer.

Should the hotel desk call at night and say they need your card number again—say no. Some idiot.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ping-pong balls? School bus?


What is the weirdest question you were ever asked in a job interview?

AOL Jobs had a story up on various wacky questions the big boys ask. Microsoft, for instance, asked someone what a college dorm room would be like in 10 years? (There won’t be dorms—all online? Or treehouse?)

“So why do you think you are a genius?” was asked by Procter & Gamble. (Hmmm… Because I know Procter is spelled with an “e”?)

“What do you think of this Pepsi can?” asked Ernst & Young. (That it’s empty and I could use another.”)

At JP Morgan Chase, some poor sap got hit with: “If you have two sand-glass timers, one with seven minutes worth of sand and one with four—how do you use both to time 12 minutes?” (Word problems—are they serious? Anyhow, those are called hour glasses.)

And last but not least (never least), Google asked an applicant how many ping-pong balls would fit in a school bus. (I would say—two per seat unless they wanted to be paddled.)

And now you see why I am self-employed.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Teachers--where to next?


CareerBuilder says some teachers long to change to a new venue—leave the classroom and…

Become an instructional coordinator perhaps? These select textbooks, create curricula, decide on new technology.

You could also become a corporate trainer, mentoring new hires, teaching professional skills.

Private tutor is another idea. Start your own business or sign up with a company such as Varsity Tutors. Or how about Sylvan?

You probably already know you could become an administrator or principal.

Let’s see—How about test developer or even textbook author?

Teachers have administrative and subject capabilities—think how those could be used.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Is college overrated?


I graduated from college. My kid did not.

Only half of those who enroll graduate—even in five years. More women are in college than men.

Yet, you read all the statistics about how much more you will make with a college degree. I am not performing, I guess.

But you also read about huge loans hanging over people.

Renie Cavalliari of Aspire Market ring says employers often look for whether you are dependable. Do you fit in with the culture at the organization?

Even if you don’t have a degree, you need to be passionate about learning—not resistant.

Focus on your skills and past experience, not education, if that is not outstanding. Highlight your life skills—organization, getting along with people, work ethic.

Do not focus on your lack of degree. When it comes up, it comes up. You can say, “I don’t have a degree, but I am wondering if this company provides education allowances because I always like to learn more.”

Say it in a non-suckingup way.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Let them call your present employer?



Dale Dauten and JT O’Donnell, business gurus (seriously, card-carrying) tackle whether you should let your prospective employer call your present one. What if you don’t get or accept the job?

Does saying no hurt you?

Dauten says any decent employer will know this puts you in a potential mess.

You need to say you are presently in a good situation and don’t want to ruin it. Then direct the interviewer to your references.

O’Donnell says you should say, “Yes,you can call, but I would prefer an offer in hand before you do.”

I am not sure how that would be greeted, but these guys are the experts.

I would say, “Gosh, maybe you could wait until you interview everyone and choose me, if you do—this could get me in trouble.”

I might even ask, "What would you advise me to say? If someone on your staff were leaving and you got this call, what would you do?"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Keep it simple, smartie



The word on the street these days (Alexandrea Cass) is to keep the resume basic—even though technology and video and Skype interviews swarm around the scene.

One page. Summing up your experience. Go easy on the wild fonts and colors.

Too original means flaky. Toss.

The one thing you need to do is key each res to the opening. Have more than one version or fine-tune it.

Play back keywords the company used in the opening notice.

Then—in your cover letter—send the resume to a specific person.

Don’t say things like “experienced” this or that…show it.

And proof it!