Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Most slackers are...men

Don't get mad at me--I learned most slackers in a team situation tend to be male. American men, to be exact. They tend to more individualistic, meaning do whatever they want and not do things they don't want to.

If you work with free riders, how can you motivate them? Adam Grant took this up in the Oct 2013 Government Executive Mag.

It helps to show the slacker how the team effort is helping someone--have a beneficiary talk to the group.

Let the person know everything the others are doing. They may not even know how much they are dogging it.

Keep groups small--so every effort stands out. Give everyone a different responsibility.

Make sure each input is visible and known.

And keep the group close knit--no one likes to let down someone they know and see all the time.

Supposedly.

I once saw a reality show in which I guy said he had never in his life done anything he didn't want to.

Really? My mouth fell open.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Demand for biz grads remains flat

Employers expect to hold level with their demand for MBAs in 2014.

This comes from a new report from the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Still, 72% of employers plan to hire MBAs.

Eight percent intend to hire business undergrads--again the same as in 2013.

Of those, financial service specialist hiring may be down, though.

And don't expect raises beyond inflation.

Well, hmpf!

What should you do if you are thinking of an MBA or in the process of getting one? I say--proceed. You are one person, with one set of skills, and one dream. Not a statistic.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Be mindful in describing female execs

Attention all HR newsletter, magazine, and obit writers. You need to be very careful in your writing when it comes to female scientists and executives.

Curtis Brainard wrote about this in the Summer 20134 issue of Science Writers Magazine.

Too often, the tack writers take is to emphasize the woman's "perseverance" in the face of hideous discrimination.

Phrases like "she is married and has two children, but has been able to keep up with her research" are a no-no.

Do not mention: the fact that she's a woman (should be obvious), her husband's job, her child care, that she "nurtures" underlings, that she was taken aback by the competitiveness of her field, how she is a role model for other women, and how she is "the first woman to..."

The above is called the Finkbeiner Test after science writer Ann Finkbeiner, who wrote a post about an astronomer--and treated the woman as just as astronomer, not some role model.

I have been guilty of this--I wrote an profile of an astronomer, too, once--she said she often had to tell men that her "eyes were up here." I included that--although my emphasis was on the fact that she only had a BA and was known for many discoveries.

The NYT opened an obit on a woman who had won The National Medal of Technology by talking about what good beef stroganoff she made and how her kid thought she was world's best mom.

They took out the stroganoff after a blizzard of tweets--but left in that she followed her husband from job to job.

Our work in never done.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Clueless bosses must learn the intertubes

I am kind of OK with technology and kind of a testy goober--both at the same time. I don't tweet and hate FB, but I also am plunging into new screenwriting software and whining and calling tech support about that.

Melissa Korn, WSJ, Dec 18, 2013, says c-suite types are being paired with smart "kids" or being given classes in the new media and social tools. A two-day program for execs can cost $60,000.

Sixty grand? Someone is using the old noodle, looks like. But it may not be the execs.

Most companies say digital growth is important--but only 10% think they are achieving it fast enough.

Other execs come to the training because their companies have been trashed on Twitter or other sites.

Another top leader hired someone to show her how to shop on her smartphone.

If anyone knows Final Draft--email me?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tiny apts becoming the rage

Rents are soaring in many big cities so teeny-tiny apartments--say 300 square feet--are becoming more than an amusing novelty.

Kris Hudson wrote about this in the WSJ, Dec 20, 2103. They are called micro apartments.

They are about the size of a hotel room. And they cost half of what a normal apt would. Pricey for what you get?

Often there is no separate kitchen or bedroom.

They are aimed at singles in their 20s or 30s who work a lot and don't hang out at home.

Experts swear this trend is on the march.

I read in my DC newsletter that some people in DC even raise children in them.

No way! Really? I guess they got tired of sanity.

Me, I like Airstreams. In theory.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Terminated because of weight?

Pavneet Uppal, of the firm Fisher & Phillips, fielded a question from a woman in Arizona (AZ Republic, Dec 8, 2013).

She said she was fired from the front desk--on the grounds of taking too many breaks and not completing her work. She said that was untrue and she suspected the real reason was her size.

Apparently coworkers made comments about her weight and said she was the only woman on the desk who was "not a cover girl." One manager sent emails about gym memberships and another told her to wear makeup since she was the first person someone saw when they came to the office.

Uppal said such discrimination was unfortunate but common. Studies show, he said, that attractive employees make more money.

If say, a protected class, such as older employees, were held to higher standards of appearance, that would be illegal.

If the weight was from a disability--there might also be cause of action.

Otherwise, it's a stupid, cruel world, apparently.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Start a startup weekend

There is an idea--pardon the expression--going around. If you have an idea for a business or product, why not interest fellow head whackers in a startup weekend?

You could advertise it on Craigs maybe--or in a press release in the paper--or on Linked In's many creativity groups--or Facebook.

It could even be in someone's home. Everyone will make a "pitch" of their idea. Maybe others would join your "startup."

At very least, you will learn the flaws in your ideas.

Companies have started as the result of startup weekends. Zaarly is one--a mobil app that tracks nearby sellers and allows users to bid on items.  Planely--something about airplanes-is another.

You will have to get out of your comfort zone (if you have one, I don't). This is because people will inevitably pounce on flaws. People are like that.

My idea is Valet Cat--where cute guys and gals in shorts bring heavy kitty litter bags to your car, saving you humping them through the store with your aching limbs.

At a startup weekend, I am sure someone would tell me to quit being so lazy.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sad at Christmas?

People tend to get sad if they aren't as hippy-hoppy-happy as they think they should be. But when you start to dwell on someone who died recently, it can get really bad.

A missing face at the table--all of that.
Hayley Hirschmann, PhD, a bereavement specialist at Morris Psychological Group in Parsipanny, NJ, says there is no right or wrong way to grieve, but some forms of expression can lead to lasting depression. Pardon me, but wouldn't that be the "wrong" way then?

We all know the five stages from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (which she sort of refuted when she was dying). These are shock, sadness, anger, fear, and acceptance.

Wallowing is bad--not facing at all is bad.

So what should you do?

Lean on friends and family.

Join a support group.

If you have a faith, participate on it.

Plan for grief triggers--maybe a certain tradition.

And if you feel really undone, talk to a counselor.

Gradually, the fact of the loss will become another thing about you--but not the way you are defined.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Data miners can tell what's wrong with you

I am not sure even I am paranoid enough to keep you ahead of this spying stuff. But I do try.

Joseph Walker, WSJ, Dec 17, says medical researchers do not need your medical records (still somewhat sheltered for now, except from the govt) to find candidates for medical studies. They can use credit card records, cable TV subs, social networks, pharmacy data, and other available info to pinpoint if you have a disease or condition.

Isn't that peachy?

They use hundreds of "data points," new speak for scraps of info.

Take an obesity drug they want to study. How to find fat people. Hmmm, well, they are sedentary, it's assumed. They look for people with cable, then fast food on their cards.

Or arthritis--preference for jazz, owning a cat, participating in sweepstakes--you probably are arthritic.

One expert in the story said patients would be shocked at how little privacy they have--and how accurate these systems are.

One woman researched diabetes a lot but did not have it--she was called for a diabetes project. So maybe it has flaws--this system--but I bet not too many.

These are nosy nells.

Why do I get those come-ons in the mail for burials at sea? Those creep me out. I guess because I am death age. And maybe because I own a calendar with pix of beaches?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

C'mon, gals, we can code

According to Government Technology Magazine (November), in a story by Colin Wood, women earn 57% of all undergrad degrees and 52% of all math and science degrees.

But in computer science, women represent only 18% of grads.

They are teaching two-year-olds to code in nursery school, so the sort of condescending implication is that more women could do it, too.

But we do need women to get into this! By 2020, there will be 1.4 million computing-related openings--and only 30% of those will find workers.

We equate technical and masculine, the story asserts. (I know I do, bad bad Star, although recently a tech took over my computer and installed some software that baffled me--and she was a woman, or as I prefer to say, a Cyber Goddess.)

Some groups are cropping up that encourage women to get into this work (iUrban Teen Tech is one, Black Girls Code is another ). There are scholarships galore for women willing to get into computing.

Kids need mentors--hip teachers--encouragement. Those two-year-olds will grow up coding. Nothing stands still.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Startups may be short experiences

Stephanie Gleason and Rachel Feintzeig, WSJ, Dec 13, 2013, says joining a startup company can be a fast rollercoaster to unemployment.

The new companies have a philosophy of "fail fast," meaning they want to throw it out there, see what happens, and if it doesn't take off, not burn through everything. This can lead to "failing fast" for hires, too.

Some people come and go in days.

So if you move to take a job--know it could be a fast ride.

New companies fire 25% before the first year is out. For companies in business for longer than 18 years, this number is just below 7%.

Often, too, new companies hire on friends--or friends of friends--and these people may not have the specialized skills.

One company head said she hired the best and the brightest--and everyone hated each other.

Also people coming from the more sheltered corporate world often do not move as fast as people in a startup need to.

In one example, an experienced marketing manager from outside did not want to make cold calls.

Companies can turn and burn--remember that.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Executive skills for children

Schoolchildren need an array of intellectual, emotional, and social skills, according to Stacey Spencer, EdD, a pediatric neuropsychologist with the Morris Psychology Group in Parsippany, NJ.

The key to executive function, or success in school, is short-term memory. This means the ability to store recent info and use it and make sense of it.

Poor functioning in this area--in the school environment--means inability to prioritize tasks, focus, and cooperate with other kids.

In the early grades, kids are expected to do work independently and also work with others.

So, parents, how can you help?

First, try to make the child's environment less stressful. Home should be stable with outlets for creativity and physical activity.

Relationships should be supportive and reliable.

And, play and activities should foster thinking, creativity and social connections. Gradually increase the complexity of activity. I remember playing a lot of Concentration--putting a deck of cards face down on the floor and trying to draw pairs. If you did not get a pair, you put the cards back--and had to try to remember where an ace was or an eight--if you needed one

Or maybe Mom was not trying to improve our executive skills-but was trying to shut us up for five minutes. Hey! I bet that WAS it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

OMG--leave us alone!

The Wall Street Journal, in a story by Elizabeth Dwokin and Greg Bensinger (Dec 9, 2013) revealed yet another creepy wrinkle in trying to sell us stuff.

Heat maps.

Little devices in some malls will home in on your cellphone and track you as you move around the store. Something called the Future of Privacy (ironic, since privacy has no future) says 1,000 retailers already do this.

They say they just want to rearrange stores--put certain items in high traffic areas.

One retailer swore she learned that people linger longer at displays far from the entrance.

Can't you find that out without locking in on cellphones?

Nordstrom did a test--and posted that they were doing it. People were not charmed.

Other applications include "pinging" cellphones with sales. They can also tell how many times you came to the store and didn't buy--and then they offer better incentives in the form of coupons sent to the phone while you are in the store.

Yeah, call me up and upsell me. Well, upsell THIS!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How to increase your pay

Our workplace smarties Dale Dauten and JT O'Donnell tackled what to do if you think you are underpaid.

JT said instead of just documenting all you do and asking for a raise, you should ask the employer what you could do so earn more.

If the employer says "nothing," it might be time to look for another job.

Dauten cautioned, though, not to give up too easily--try to increase your value. Find out what they value most--troubleshooting, managing a team, inventing--and concentrate on it.

What part of your skill set is deficient--fix it.

What emerging skills--say social media--do you need to master.

Get smarter, get visible, be loyal, work hard.

But even this may not be enough. But one thing is for sure, you need to suit up, show up, and speak up.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Say "no" at the holidays

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, has some advice for people who work in an office. The holidays are a time when you can easily be overloaded with burdens that are not yours to bear.

People want projects done before the end of the year, they want to be covered for, there are parties to plan, work plans to be developed for the next year, gifts to buy coworkers, on and on.

This can lead to workers being "on" 24/7--working at home, checking emails at home.

You need to say no sometimes or you will burn out. This means setting boundaries.  You can say, "I would love to but I have a lot on my plate, too."

Or you could take on a small part of the task requested.

If the boss dumps a list on you, ask him or her to prioritize.

I hate that non-word.

Keep a schedule. And divide tasks into HAVE TO DO, SHOULD DO BUT NOT NOW, and DECIDE AFTER THE HOLIDAYS.

Or--just bail and go to Key West.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Green energy


Flash! Houseplants make workers 40% more productive.

This according to researchers at the University of Exeter (England)--in a study done at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Plants make people feel more productive and creative, they found. They boost staff well-being.

But was it the plants--or allowing the workers to design their own work space including plants?

Creativity was up 45% if people designed their own workplace.

Yes, there have also been studies showing that plants help hospital patients with their pain and anxiety.

Plants can also cut down on bacteria in the air. NASA confirms this for its confined spaces.

And, yes, having them around can reduce sick days. In schools--they supposedly boost learning potential.

So, what do you think? Would a nice houseplant help you get promoted? Your call.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Millennials have weird (healthy) eating patterns

Is the food scene around your office strange? I remember when I had a real job back when dinos roamed--there were doughnuts. Do they still do that? Don't know.

I got a press release from Unisonagency.com with some interesting factoids:

Twenty-five percent of consumers say they have a daily calorie target (QSR Magazine).

Economically, health eating makes sense, they say, referring to being a vegetarian because of rising meat prices.

But for young people--who eat out--money is not the issue. Millennials love themselves, Unison says. They score 30% higher on narcissism personal inventories than older counterparts.

Women eating only "good" food were rated as sexier and more feminine than "bad" food eaters.  Male "good" food eaters were also rated as attractive.

I dunno--what do you think? Is a guy nibbling tofu a babe magnet? Are women obsessing over carbs interesting conversationalists?

I am biased--I eat "bad" food sometimes--bad, bad food. You don't even want to know.

OK--but don't tell--the fries of the French.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sometimes companies bite back on reviews

What is it with this review stuff? I had a clothing place ask for a review of a blouse. I wrote, "Uh, neck hole, sleeves, good color--what do you want me to say?"

On Good Morning America, they had a story about an online merchant who slammed a Utah couple with a $3,500 fine for writing a negative review.

The couple fired back asking for $75,000 in damages for being annoyed.

The wife had ordered a $20 item and it didn't arrive. She wrote a negative review on RipoffReport.com.

This was five years ago. Then the hubs got an email from the company asking for $3,500, claiming the couple had agreed to a "non-disparagement clause" in the Terms of Service.

They asked RipoffReport to take the review down--but the company involved the bad company in the arbitration.

The "debt" ended up on the couple's credit report, costing them financing of a new furnace in cold Utah.

The bad company is also is asking for another $50 for a dispute fee or some nonsense.

What's more, the non-disparagement clause was not even in the Terms five years ago.

A nonprofit is helping straighten this out.

Should I name the bad company? Probably--but they sound a little nutty to me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Silicon Valley not only techie paradise


Silicon Valley in Northern California gets the buzz, but it is no longer the fastest growing tech center.

Tech jobs are expanding all over this country, according to New Geography dot com. A guy named Mark Schill, research director at the Praxis Group, looked at job creation trends in 52 large metro areas.

The two with the most technology growth were not Silicon Valley. One was Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas, which has expanded employment by 41% since 2001, with STEM employees rising by 17%. Located there now: AMD, Cisco, HP, Intel, and Oracle.

The second is Raleigh-Cary, NC. There has been a 54.7% increase in tech sector employment since 2001, with a 24.6% increase in STEM employees. IBM, GSK, Syngenta, and Cisco are now located there.

Southern Silicon Valley--San Jose, Sunnyvale--was strong but is struggling to keep up the pace.

Seattle also may be a comer.

Actually, a lot of smaller places with lower living costs may grab a share--think Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Denver, Kansas City, and Jacksonville, FL.

Phoenix is trying for Silicon City--does that count? Intel is down the road from me.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Customer rage cresting at the hols

Arizona State's WP Carey School of Business says 56 million households experienced at least one customer problem in the last year.

Companies need to improve customer service. And I don't mean drones tooling through the air and bringing your purchases.

They have been studying customer rage since 1976. It is increasing--despite automation.

Or maybe because of automation. More "Your call is important to us," fewer live agents.The average is four contacts to get a problem solved. Four!

We yell more now at agents. (I am glad they can't record what I say while the robot is babbling. How I hate those robots--"Please help me understand..." Grrr.)

People complain by phone 11 times more than on the web.

Of those who complain, 56% say they got exactly nothing for their trouble.

But--if companies gave an apology or coupon, satisfaction shot up from 37% happy to 74% happy with the complaint sequence.

Sooo...we have a way to go. How often have you thought, "Why can't I just do this?"

Monday, December 2, 2013

Manly men use body wash

Would a new shampoo make you feel more confident in your job interview? I am talking to you, men!

Elizabeth Holmes, WSJ,  Nov 27, 2013, says the giant, hyper-masculine types in the NBA dote on their body products.

Amar'e Stoudemire (detached retina, like me), stocks up on body wash, oils, and creams, he says. Before games, he applies a stress relief smell.

They often post on their favorites on Twitter and Instagram. What, oh, what has happened to sports?

Of course, this is known to the cosmetic companies, who are paying the athletes tons to endorse their products.

They also get pimples--which one player attributed to touching a ball others had touched. Yup, kind of going to happen.

And, naturally, deodorant is a huge best seller.

You get the idea.

It's OK to smell good. Ax? You decide. Maybe Shea Souffle from Carol's Daughter instead?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Weird requirements when buying a house

It's a wacky real estate market--in some areas, inventories are low and sellers can clamp on weird contingencies.

Nancy Keates writes about this in the WSJ, Nov 22, 2013.

In one case, the buyers were asked to take on the owners' Norwegian elk hound Fiffi--they could not take the pet to their new place. The dog lived happily another 10 years.

Such requirements are called "irregular exclusions or inclusions."

They give agents fits--their commissions depend on making people agree to these--they are on the increase, up 25% from five years ago.

One deal fell through because the buyer would not buy one of the seller's unremarkable paintings.

Another deal meant most of the plants in the yard were going with the seller. A U-Haul pulled up.

Another buyer refused to close because the seller had taken the turtle fountain that spit water into the pool. The agent found a similar one and saved the day.

Another deal turned on the buyer taking the seller's four chickens.

As for Fiffi's new owners--they had never had a dog. She barked and barked to go out until they got it--she trained them. My dog is not so conscientious--a coping story for another day.

As for advice--ask your agent about contingencies before making an offer.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Do you favor white sellers over black?

One thing we can be thankful for is the internet and its constant reminders to us to not be jerks. (Along with its constant opportunities to be jerks.)

At the University of Virginia, they did a year-long experiment on Craigs selling iPods.

They placed 1200 ads in 300 locales, ranging from small towns to big cities. The hand pictured holding the iPod was either white, black, or white with a wrist tattoo.

The iPods in the black hands received, on average, 13% fewer responses, 18% fewer offers, and offers that were 10% to 12% lower.  The wrist tattoo offers were similarly disadvantaged.

Buyers corresponding with the seller with the black hand holding the iPod were also less likely to give their full names, agree to a proposed delivery by mail, and were more concerned about a long-distance payment.

They docs said they were surprised to find as much racism as they did.

I thought about this--I have bought on Craigs from black and white sellers--I had no idea of race when I paid extra for the person to bring it over. I wonder if this would have affected me. I am not sure--and that is unsettling.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Don't hate me, but older people need to stop having fun

You know when you go in a bar and the over-50 set look kind of pathetic and tired?

Drinking is harder on you as you age. Bear this in mind during the hols.

Older people tend to be borderline dehydrated--their bodies soak up liquor.

The liver is also changing--getting bigger but less efficient.  The enzymes that break down alcohol decrease.

Often the glass or two of wine you used to look forward to can give you a headache.

Also older people take a lot of meds--these can interact with the hooch. A big one to look out for is blood thinners--coumadin or warfarin. Many docs say not to drink if you are on that.

Booze also can cause brain changes--and you know how we don't want THOSE when we get older.

And it interrupts sleep and you know how older people need their sleep.

So--quit drinking? You don't have to, but limit it to one drink a day max for women and two for men, preferably not every day.

And never wear a hat like that guy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A horse life is a good life

Talk about doing what you love.

The WSJ had a story by Jen Murphy (Nov 19, 2013) about Phyllis LeBlanc, CEO of Harbor Sweets, a chocolate factory.

A lifelong horse rider, her life and workout is not chocolate, though she eats it every day, but riding.

Riding a 1,200 pound animal takes a lot of core strength, she says. I will take her word for it. She works out a lot--including with a trainer one day a week.

 She competes in dressage, a precision sort of "horse ballet." The horse and rider demonstrate 38 movements with increasing levels of difficulty--trying to make it seem effortless.

The horse notes it when she is not focused--and so, she says, do her chocolate employees and vendors.

It can take 12 years to perfect the movements of dressage.

How long it takes to become a chocolatier, it does not say. But the chocolate pays for the expensive tack and makes a well-rounded life.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hup hup hup--up and at 'em!

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, says sit down right now and write down your goals and aspirations.

Write about two paragraphs.

This is not an elevator speech--it's just for you.

Studies have shown this increases your confidence. You will use more action verbs.

You will prepare more--do more homework.

Keep your back straight, dress appropriately.

Show interest in others.

So do it now--write down your goals--not stuff like be a CEO by age 30, but more general goals--to help others, make enough money not to worry all the time, live up to the expectations of others.

I was talking to a friend and we decided you can think about the meaning of life--or set out to have a life of meaning.

Leave the world a better place. Heaven knows it needs a makeover.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Health insurance--what now?

The whole system is in play. You may think you are OK--but next year, the companies plan to send "the letter" to millions--as many as 100 million--people in employer plans, mostly in small businesses.

They have know this all along. This isn't a surprise. We are supposed to have plans now that pay for in vitro fertilization, birth control, all sort of things that the few affected could pay for on their own. Or this could be in a family plan--and families could pay for it if they needed it.

If you have been cancelled already, your state may or may not allow the insurance companies in that state to give you back your old plan.

We all know, contrary to the spin, that not all of these plans, or even most of them, were "acme" or bad. That is another lie, wrong promise, or misstatement, however you want to put it.

So, if you're cancelled, you may want to see what the govt has to offer in your state exchange or if your state does not have one, in the federal one.

Problem is, the federal one--healthcare.gov is only 30% built--the part where you pay has not been built. If you can't pay, you can't have it.

So now what? I think you can call in insurance broker--they can't see the plans on the exchanges but may have something--even short-term.

The word mess is inadequate for this. We need a new word. I make up words--and I can't think of one or at least not a clean one.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sorry, your smartphone is smarter than you are

This is such a sad tale. Government Technology mag, Nov 18, 2013, says some smarties self-congratulating each other and comparing notes in Barcelona decided our phones will soon be smarter than we are.

This includes grownups.

Smartphones will soon predict your next purchase.

They will adjust to help you--say you have a meeting scheduled in your calendar in your phone, if traffic is heavy the phone will wake you earlier than you asked it to. Or if the meeting is with someone under you, the phone will let you sleep and send an apology to that person.

Phones will shoot out birthday greetings or make weekly to-do lists.

They will take pictures of you actually taking your medicine and tell the doctor you were a good little patient.

The apps will have apps.

I wish my phone would clean up after my dog--or at least call someone.

Who am I kidding--I don't have a smartphone. But my toaster is quite brainy.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fifty shades of the hot paint color for 2014

The "hot" colors are well...not hot. The Paint Quality Institute comes out with the trendy colors for the coming year--next year, gray.

"A hot new neutral, a sleek and sophisticated color that adds refinement to any room."

Gray will also appear washed on woodwork and in fabrics used for seating and floors.

Also "in" for 2014--black and white. There will be at least 50 shades of white with a hint of color mixed in.

White also makes smaller spaces look bigger--remember, people will be downsizing.

Another comer is mustard yellow--now that is my favorite. We call it monkey vomit green. My bedroom walls are that color.

But the important thing is to stick with colors you love--not just those some "expert" loves.

That pix of the gray bedroom--restful or putting you to sleep? Which?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ex-military entering workforce can feel like an alien

According to Jacob Green, in a special story in the Arizona Republic (Nov 13, 2103), the military and civilian work worlds are two separate cultures.  One ex-military type said he felt like an alien off Mars--he acted, wrote, spoke, and dressed differently than his civilian coworkers.

Employers may not "get" this.

But you have to stand tall and realize you have a lot to offer.

An infantryman may not need to shoot in a civilian job, but will have engrained skills of maturity, judgment and teamwork.

Take the military jargon out of your resume. Community vet centers can help with this and give you a second opinion.

Former officers may be good networkers, but enlisted men less so. Everyone needs to get out and talk themselves up.

Get to know people before you retire and keep up relationships.

Also--the US government gives priority to vets--check out jobs there first.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Questions interviewers should not ask

CareerBuilder ran a list of things interviewers are not legally allowed to ask. Any questions that reveal age, race, national origin, religion, marital status, and sexual orientation are no-nos.

But did you know they cannot ask you what type of discharge you had from the military--honorable or otherwise?

They can't ask if English is your first language. They can ask you what other languages you read and write fluently.

If you have an accent, some interviewers may say, "Where are you from?"

Nope--no can do.

I wonder if they can ask do you plan to get pregnant--I don't think so.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Colleges court foreign students


Caroline Porter and Douglas Belkin, WSJ, Nov 11, 2103, says many smaller universities are actively scouring Asia and other locales to find students--paying students.

The number of foreign students shot up 7.2% last year from the previous year.

Foreign students account for 3.9% of US college and graduate students.

Seventy percent are in 200 schools (there are 4,000 accredited colleges).

The biggest collections of foreign students are at University of Southern California, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Purdue, and New York University.

Chinese students are a goldmine. Also lucrative--India and South Korea.

Are these students admitted on the basis of grades or because they pay a lot? Do they keep American students out?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Do you know your neighbors?


Editorial writers used to lament that people were isolated, would not report crimes, did not know even their next-door neighbor.

I knew people in my apt building in DC, but here in the burbs of Phoenix, I only know the guy across the street--and he is moving.

There is also a guy a few doors down who wears short shorts and has the bod for it, but in almost 20 years, we have not buddied up. He drove by the other day and waved. About it. His wife probably doesn't let him date, anyway.

So how to you find a block party type neighborhood if that is what you crave?

If you have kids, focus first on the school district--a lot of your life will center on the kids and their parents.
You will be working with these adults--believe me--even if you don't want to.

People in rich neighborhoods usually work late--this is how they get rich. So there may not be a lot of socializing.

Drive around--do you see people on the street talking?

Maybe pick a place with like-minded people--such as a senior community.

Some of this is up to you--you have to make an effort. Do they still have welcome wagons and cookie bakers?

Not sure.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

View of rusty manufacturing and sleek technology is wrong


How often do we hear the term "Rust Belt" to describe the brawny factory areas across the Middle West? Now Detroit--the brawniest--is bankrupt and the auto industry dispersed around the world.

This is bunk, says the National Association of Manufacturers.

NAM has launched a new D.A.T.A. (Driving the Agenda for Technology Advancement) Policy Center. Manufacturing drives technology is the message--it is not its victim.

Manufacturers, the NAM points out, invest more in R&D and hold more patents than all the other domestic sectors combined and this includes Silicon Valley.

Patent rights bestowed by the Constitution keep manufacturing strong.

So if it seems to be in a doldrums, because of say no manufacturing jobs being created in recent quarters--it's only because our leaders don't emphasize it, promote it, celebrate it, protect it in international marketplaces, and work to recreate it in a manner worth of a new century.

Buy American if you can! Don't let others eat our lunch.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Are you a hard driver?

Remember Meyer-Briggs--a complicated way of zeroing in on personality types? I never quite got it.

But then a read a piece by Mission Facilitator's International's president Dean Newlund. He want back to four personality types I used to use, so naturally I liked it.

First, we have analyticals. They like a slower paced environment, more time to assess, and they don't like making a final decision. If you're their boss, give them time.

Hard driver is the second type. These are your Type As, they like control and dislike listening. To manage them, plan ahead, don't wing it. Give them options and let them control the picking. Cut the chitchat.

Expressives are fast-paced, but like the "big picture." Don't worry them with details--give them approval and use words like "gut" and "intuition."

And last, amiables are slower paced types, who build relationships, listen and share (even their personal life).

Try to "mirror" the person you are dealing with. Know our own style, but identify with theirs.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bad interview body language

Stories abound about people who bring their cat to an interview or wear hot pants. But short of that, there are other no-nos in how you present yourself.

CareerBuilder says don't rub the back of your neck or head.

Don't touch your nose (like you are expecting it to lengthen like Pinocchio's).

Don't lean toward the door.

Don't stare blankly.

Nod but don't look like a bobblehead doing it.

Sit up straight and lean slightly forward attentively.

If you are facing more than one person, make eye contact with all.

If the interviewer's phone rings, motion that you can leave the room if the person wants you to.

Of course, sweating like a faucet is out.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Now meet Gen Z

 Just when you thought you knew Generation Y--entitled, casual about hours, techie--comes Generation Z.

Gen Z's were born between 1990 and 1999. Millennials are two groups--Gen Y and Gen Z.

The Z's are already 7% of the workforce.

The impact of Gen Y was muted because many did not find jobs. But now the Boomers will have to bag it and the other two Gens will be featured.

One observer says Gen Z grew up with the uncertainty of war time--On Terror, Iraq, Afghanistan.

They either grew up too fast or not at all.

They are never lacking for data, but may be lacking wisdom and interpretation.

They are good workers but high maintenance. Employers need to focus on putting them in small, intense groups.

Teach work behavior--appropriate conduct, interpersonal dealings--don't try to find people who already have these skills.

Show them a reward, a prize--they are also used to a lot of do-overs.

And let them do work they love.

Isn't that spesh-ul? What do I know. I am probably Gen D.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Which comes first degree or job?


This is now a consideration, according to gurus Dale Dauten and JT O'Donnell. A job seeker wrote that he (or she) was an optician and had gone back for a business degree, then applied for dozens of jobs--nada.

Dauten replied that the old model of picking a degree you want and then finding a job that fits has been changed--now you identify the job you want and find out what degree you need. (It even be a short course or a certification.)

Degrees, let's face it, don't open door as in days of yore.

And this reader did not work internships in the new field while getting the degree. So now this job seeker was competing with recent college grads.

Employers then wonder if you want more pay.

Another dead end is to just shoot out resumes online--you need to network.

I also suggest joining a professional society in your new field and attending all the meetings. You have taken a huge step in adding the degree--now you need to make that pay off.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How to act when you make a mistake


I usually try to leave politics out of this site, but can you think of any people who have made mistakes lately and aren't owning up?

Anita Bruzzese, CareerBuilder, says fear or stubbornness (that doubling down thing) make things worse.

Show that you've learned, move on--don't harp for six months.

But--often--managers take responsibility and it wasn't really their fault. It was just on their watch, as they say. So they make themselves scapegoats or let others do it for them.

A workplace guru says if you are in the middle of a mess, stay calm. Be respectful.

Say to the boss, "This makes me uncomfortable."

Define the problem--here is the issue.

Then suggest a solution.

Ah, it sounds so simple--but your hide may be at stake. Good luck!

As for our national leaders, don't get me started.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Want to pay less and never go to class?

Georgia Tech has created an online master's using Massive Online Course (MOOC) technology.

Unlike most MOOCs, it's not free of charge--but a master's will cost $6,600 rather than $44,000. Sooo....

MOOCs used to be dissed as useless and not helpful for getting jobs. Now they are morphing into credit courses at a rapid rate. Check out Udacity.org--they are cobbling up credit courseloads.

The Georgia Tech program was besieged with applicants--a lot (79%) from the US. This is in contrast to foreign nationals' dominating graduate engineering.

This is not college-age kids. If you have a four-year degree with a 3.0--you will be accepted. But you will have to make  B in two courses to stay.

Unlike the on-campus version, qualified people will not be turned away.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Weird reasons to pick a college

Angela Chen, WSJ, Oct 24, 2013, says colleges are pulling out the stops on offbeat inducements.

One student picked Oberlin because the school would let students rent priceless art for their rooms--Picassos, Matisses. Cost--five bucks.

Colleges often have "signature events," marketed to show their character--brainy, light-hearted. I would add left-wing--viz., Brown letting students shout down the NY Police Commissioner.

William and Mary has the professors justify their existence and the superiority of their courses--the winners get to get on a raft and sail to safety--metaphorically, of course.

Lawrence University (no relation) has a trivia contest that attracts people worldwide.

Back in the day, whether a university had fraternities and sororities was selling point for some people. Maybe a Nobel laureate or world-famous writer in residence would be controlling. I went to Southern Illinois Univ--Bucky Fuller was a draw. Maybe a good drama dept would attract people.

Things change.

Personally, worrying about some dude wrecking my on-loan Picasso would keep me up nights--and not in a good way.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Holiday travel may be bumpy

Scott McCartney, WSJ, Oct 24, 2013, says prices of airfare for the hols are going up. Act now.

In past years, airlines had last-minute bargains, but now the planes are filling up and such deals have gone a'glimmering.

Heading for warmer climes--like the Caribbean? Bring your wallet! Instead of going to Grandmas, the story said, more people are going to the beach and bringing Grandma along.

Christmas is mid-week, so the travel window is longer--which is good news.

The best professional advice--don't wait, prices probably won't be going down.

I remember one Christmas, stuck in O'Hare with almost no money and a whiny kid, then hitting DC at 4 AM in a blizzard, all our presents fell into an icy lake of water...ah, good times.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Who's looking out for you?

How about Consumer Reports? Stephanie Ponder wrote about this long-standing nonprofit in the Dec 2011 Costco Connection Magazine.

This organizations is more than 75 years old.

It tests thousands of products a year--from socks to pasta sauce.

It even once got the Lexus GX 460 a "Don't Buy" rating--until a problem was handled.

Now, you can get this info online at http://consumereports.org.

A staff of 600 work to get testing info to consumers (50 testing labs). They also do surveys of what people think about products.

They take no advertising and try to stay objective.

They have only been sued 16 times.

I wish I had the faith in the Better Business Bureau that Consumer Reports enjoys. The BBB has really gone down, in my opinion. I have looked up local vendors with a good standing--and 100 or more complaints.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What evil lurks...

Joel Best is a professor at the University of Delaware--but he is "best" known for debunking the myth that various funny uncles and weird neighbors are out to kill your kids with poison candy on Halloween.

He started his investigations in grad school. He checked records back 25 years in all the big papers.

Nothing.

One kid did die--but his Dad gave him the candy, figuring this legend was so accepted he would skate. He was wrong.

Another little boy ate his uncle's heroin stash. That wasn't Gummi Bears.

Now, Best gets calls every Halloween--what he wants to know now is how can reporters just not get over it? But they don't (you're reading this, aren't you?), so he updates his research every year.

Still, some hospitals X-ray treats, some malls say trick or treat here (and of course, spend money), and some churches have trick or treat in the parking lot--the kids walk from car to car.

Best says an urban legend is harder to kill than a vampire. Really? Vampires exist?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Why not get a job that will exist in 10 years?

Freelance writing is sure endangered, gone the way of those benighted buggy whip makers. Actually they still make buggy whips, but you see where I am going.

Try to think about whether you are in a sustainable field. Will people still read? Gotcha!! Maybe not! They won't be able to write cursive, either. So that lets out handwriting analysis.

Andy Kessler wrote a book called Eat People and Other Unapologetic Rules for Gamechanging Entrepreneurs.

He says tellers, phone operators, stock brokers are nearly extinct. I say I have all three.

So what is extinct or about to be? Kessler says forget white collar and blue collar. We must thinking: creators and servers. Many of the latter will be replaced by technology.

But he thinks the word server is too vague (agree). So he has "created" categories. Sloppers--people who move things from one place to another. Those are easy to replace. (Yeah? Tell a computer to long-haul some other computers someplace--they would probably just build them where needed...Oh...)

Spongers in Andyspeak are people who pass a test (license, certification) designed to limit supply of them. Even doctors--computers can scan x-rays to some degree already.

Supersloppers mark up value without adding it--think The Rolex Oyster which keeps worst time than an iPhone. Well, think the iPhone, for that matter.

He has more.

I don't esp love his names, either.

But--the overall message is machines don't increase employment--even when people are needed to build more machines.

I say get into something that can't be sent overseas--esp something like health care. The sick will always be among us. Who will pay for their care, I have no idea.

Also burger making--can't send that to India. Or not yet, anyhow.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Now for something completely different

Ah, Monty Python.

Anyhow, according to my friend Dana K. Cassell, owner of the long-standing Writers-Editors Network, the visionary Buckminster Fuller used to go to magazine stands and select the magazine in the top right-hand corner and read it cover to cover. Supposedly this led to his reading a story on beehives that led to the geodesic dome.

I met Bucky Fuller at Southern Illinois University, where I attended for a year, and loved his bright blue dome--I want one to this day!

Anyhow, Dana also told about a site called StumbleUpon.com--this will take you to a random site you otherwise would never know about.

Break up your usual pattern!

Brush your teeth with your other hand.

Eat anchovies.

Go wild.

I recommend joining Dana's online job-searching services--if you are a writer. Check it out at http://writers-editors.com.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Signing on to a firm on the way down

 Some companies are trying to rebuild staffs--but those who remain are bummed out, cranky, and suspicious.

As a new hire, what is your best course?

First take it slow and keep a level head. Don't get anxious because others are.

Put ideas out there--keep moving forward.

Stay neutral in long-standing smackdowns--these were before your time, stay clear.

Try to help out--you may be regarded with resentment--sure, you get a nice job now, but you should have been here before, are you here to fire me, replace me, show me up?

If everyone has an attitude, make a point to find one lifeline person you can talk to about things.

And try to stay positive--the existing employees are all set in their roles--don't come on too strong, just do your job.

Gradually things should turn.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

You can't just slack in your twenties

Your twenties are when you acquire soft job skills, such as showing up on time, dressing appropriately, and getting along with people. You need to be in some work situation to absorb these.

Your twenties are when you can live for less--you may not have a spouse or child--it's cheaper. You can even move to another town easier.

Your twenties are when you need money to go out and have fun! To get some living under your belt.

This takes money.

Your twenties are a pretty short time, actually, to see what you like--and are like. Do you prefer to work outdoors or in? You could try both.

Your twenties these days are when you get a certain respect for your technological abilities just because you are young and it's assumed you "know things." Make that work for you.

In entry level or lower level jobs, you learn how to tune into office politics, to get the lay of the land.

So my advice is get some kind of job even though the economy sucks. Go to this job every day. Take it seriously. Keep track of the people you meet. If they leave, see what's up at their new job.

You can't do this stuff my sitting at home, looking an Monster openings and sending off resumes.

This is a life hunt, not a job hunt! Make your mistakes early.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Losing your insurance--now what

We all know by now that the assurance that if you liked your health plan you could keep it is...no longer operational, as they used to say under Nixon.

Companies that will eventually be required to cover people are ending their insurance in some cases and in others, the insurance companies are dropping the companies.

Bam!

Sooo...if you get the letter, what should you do? First, I am not a trained expert in this--so you must decide for yourself.

Due to the nonperformance of the gazillion-buck website, Consumer's Union says wait a month to even attempt to get set up.

When you do try to pick apart plans and see what's what, there will be four levels--bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The better "metals" may be taxed as income. So bear that in mind. All will have deductibles--this means amts you pay from your own funds before the plan will pay anything except for the so-called "free" stuff like mammos and other preventive tests.

A preventive test, by the way, does not prevent the disease for the most part, just early death from it. Maybe.

But I digress.

The premiums will also be not less, but more, in more cases, than you pay now, even with a subsidy.

Your personal IRS agent will be talking to you about the subsidy. Or maybe the website will work one day and then maybe it will factor in your income and check for you. Who knows.

I had individual insurance all through my career--even though I had pre-existings...I joined groups that offered it, etc. Not sure whether you can even jump between the lilypads like that anymore.

Can you get it from an insurance agent?

Insurance agents know which drugs are on which plans, which plans pay fast (another thing--you may end up with insurance from a company you never heard of), which plans are going to be around.

This is a mess, so cowboy up--but for now, hurry up and wait.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Work on your res, then find way not to use it

Resumes! Gosh, what an enduring subject. You can never get an answer on these, say our jobs gurus Dale Dauten and JT O'Donnell.

Your resume is a marketing brochure for you. They go through fads--today Objectives are out, Experience Summaries are in.

That could change in six months.

You can get some tips at JT's site--http://careerrealism.com.

The idea is to do a clean, error-free res and then spend your time trying to get people to actually read it.

You might want a couple of variations--but after that, redoing it all the time is a way to avoid networking, calling, reading, and thinking.

The best time for a hiring manager to see your res is when you show up for the interview--an interview set up by a person trusted by you and the manager.

Personal story--Last week, I sent an app to a company on Monster. I hardly ever do that. It was hoops, flaming hoops, you name it.

Then I got calls from insurance companies wanting me to be an agent. What about me screams insurance agent?

I need a nap.