Tuesday, April 30, 2013

From my creativity site, THWIM

Someone told me my creativity site was "peculiar." That's good, right? Do you ever check it out? Go to http://thwim.blogspot.com.

Anyhow, here is a post from it:

Where do ideas come from? the WSJ asked on Apr 29, 2013.

David Cohen, TechsStars: Ideas tend to come when you are hard at work on something else. For instance, he said, I wanted info on music and could not find what I wanted, so I created earFeeder--it checks your computer for music and then sends info on those bands.

Vivek Wadhwa, Singularity University: Coming up with ideas is not necessarily a young person's game. The typical entrepreneur is a middle-aged professional who knows the market and starts a company with his or her own savings.

Angela Benton, NewME Accelerator: Look outside your industry to see how others are attacking problems. Be present in your life. Do things you are invested in.

Samer Kurdi, Entrepreneur's Organization. The key is not the idea but the entrepreneur's willingness to try and keep trying.

Ben Baldwin, ClearFit: Let your subconscious do the work. Smell the flowers and let your mind pop out a solution.

Brian Spaly, Trunk Club: Be sure you can fail fast and cheaply and move on if need be.

Victor W. Hwang, T2 Venture Capital: Listen to weird stuff, watch obscure documentaries, walk in weird places, talk to weird people.

What isn't such a good idea: Reading a market forecast from a big-name consulting firm and creating a product for that need. This from Guy Kawasaki, Apple.

Apple, Apple...rings a bell.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Should you take a part-time job?

Well, the economy is still inching along at pitiful growth rates and the new health care thing is about to clobber companies, which may opt to not have full-time employees, so you may need to work part-time.

Recent grads, especially, need some money to keep the parental units quiet.

But part-time work also shows employers you are industrious and serious.

It can also get you a contact or a recommendation--not to mention experience in dressing, getting to work on time, and being a willing and pleasant employee.

Oh, and by the way, the word "freelance" does NOT mean "no job" or "between jobs." And it certainly does not mean FREE except in the sense that we are free to attach to anyone we want to. It means independent.

I think we are all going to be pretty independent in the future--getting people to pay for our skills as best we can.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Say what?

I wish I spoke Spanish. I got a CD course, but my kid and my sister said it was SOUTH AMERICAN Spanish--they wanted Mexican Spanish. There wasn't one of those.

So maybe Google could fill in. Via smartphones and computers, Google does a billion translations a day.

It translates in 65 languages.  According to an AP story by Martha Mendoza, one family used the Chinese translation availability to negotiate an adoption from China. When the girl got to the US (she was 14), they communicated with the translation program.

This is machine translation, which dates back to World War II. It is far from perfect. In fact, it is kind of pigeon-y. But if you have nothing else, it helps.

In fact, I think I will add a function to this blog. Right now!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dinosaur meet dodo

Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Apr 17, 2013, talks about us, um, more seasoned people being run over by the technology train.

Are the kids who did their first website in middle school and have 5,000 Twitter followers going to push us into involuntary retirement?

I have had daily blogs for a decade and these may be obsolete. Yet, everything I see about Twitter looks to stupid to me and time-consuming (do Tweets belong on newscasts?).

Still, some execs are taking tech courses and listening to their younger hires.

One guy said he spent his career being a manager and now no one wants a manager!

Another guy said his staff called him Uncle Bob or Coach. A sign of endearment--or a message?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What percent of your clothes do you wear?

I recently read a story in the WSJ, Apr 18, 2013, saying people only wear 20% of their wardrobe. I didn't feel so bad so took a bag to Goodwill.

The story, by Ray A. Smith, said people buy things they end up not loving for a number of reasons. What kind of shopper are you?

The choices are Sale Shopper--can't resist the price. Aspirational Shopper--would like to look good in the item. Emotional Shopper, buying to cope with stress.

Sometimes you never take the tags off.

Men tend to wear more of their things than women do.

I may see something on eBay or in a catalog--but I wait a few days to see if it returns to my mind over and over. If not--good!

On-line also satisfies my hunter-gatherer urge somewhat.

That's all shopping is--with shoes or tops instead of nuts and berries.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cost of owning a car rising

That hoopty is costing you more than $9,000 a year!

 Larry Copeland wrote about this in USA TODAY. These are AAA numbers.

If you drive 15,000 miles a year, it's costing you 60.8 cents a mile.

This covers maintenance, fuel, tires, insurance and depreciation--not even your car payment.

Maintenance is up more than 10% this year. This covers costs of repairs and replacement parts for 5 years and 75,000 miles.

Cars are getting older. Could it be the crummy economy? Anyhow the older they get, the more they break.

More people are also getting extended warranties. Insurance is an average of more than $1000 a year.

Gas is up. Duh.

The average car on the road is 11 years old.

Any of this surprise you? We don't have a car.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Follow your passion--bad advice?

I recently read some outtakes from a commencement address. It said the repeated advice to follow your passion in life is horrible advice.

The speaker said what if your passion was singing bad karaoke or dealing coke?

Some people don't even have passions.

The speaker's advice was do something valuable--let the problems of the world guide you.

Leave the world a better place. In other words.

Behaving altruistically makes people healthier and happier--there are studies.

Even if you are not volunteering, paid work that helps others is more satisfying. It gets you out of bed--people are depending on you.

The speaker also said (and this is arguable) that people compete for money, fame, power, and status but in trying to help others, there is little competition.

I guess not having competition is comforting--but I am not even sure that is true. Just ask yourself--Who is benefiting from what I did today--if it's only you, think about it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Let's hear it for divas

Elizabeth Bernstein, WSJ, Apr 9, 2013, says divas need make no apologies. Good! Because I have a cute tanktop that reads "DIVA" and I try to live up to my shirt.

Divas have confidence, even a little arrogance. They want things their way. They are high performance narcissists, Bernstein says...hey, isn't narcissism a mental illness...

Wait--some divas are front and center--but make room for others. Whew, more like it.

Having a "healthy" diva around brings a lot of sparkle, said one expert.

Healthy divas stand up for others.

They are self-aware and if they ask for (OK, demand) something, they know they are worth it. They deliver 150%!

And above all, I think, divas are interesting, they bring energy, even if it's because people talk about what a diva they are.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What do workers really want?

Have you heard about Google's fabulous free meals--they are designed to keep you at work for many, many hours. And--aw--the IRS may consider them taxable.

Anyhow, what do workers really want--what attracts them? Besides having a job in the first place.

CareerBuilder says 72% of employers will increase pay levels this year and 47% will offer higher starting salaries.

But money isn't everything. (They say.)

People also want growth opportunities--a path, variety.

Flexibility also ranks high--this would be the work-at-home sometimes option or attention to work-life balance.

Bennies also need to be competitive within the industry--meaning health insurance, educational, vacation time, and bonuses.

I would say people will go to an interesting place, with a future, and one that respects what they bring.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Plan to regularize online learning

Justin Pope, AP, wrote about a proposed compact, sort of a treaty, between the states to make the US a common market for online education.

Nearly 7 million students now take college classes online, but the regulations vary from state to state.

The proposed program would be sort of like the one for drivers' licenses, where one state recognizes another's.

One big aspect would be handling of complaints--a Georgia student, say, would be able to complain about a California online program.

So, this is good, I guess, although it might result in loosening of some regs in states with very strict oversight.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Are you already sick of the "new normal"?

To me, the new normal means few good jobs, people picking on oldsters for using the SS and Medicare they paid into for decades, people I can't understand trying to help solve bureaucratic screwups on the phone, the selection of govt by the lo-fo (low information) voter, and a whole host of non-improvements to life.

Dean Newlund, president of Mission Facilitators International, has an acronym--VUCA.

VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Oh, yippee.

The difference between Dean and myself is that he sees lots of opportunity in the new normal.

He says these will be available to leaders with "a deeper understanding of human needs."

These people will analyze how the trends will affect them, create mission statements, and then master strategies.

I read the other day that govt agencies should have a 200-year plan.

Heaven help us.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Up, up, up--time to feng shui for spring

Calling all couch spuds--it's spring. Time to freshen things up. Dr Andie T Pearson, DMD, of Chicago Healers (www.chicagohealers.com) says blocked energy flow (or in my mind, ugliness) leads to mental confusion, sickness, anxiety, money problems, and a host of problems.

Much of feng shui--the Chinese art of placement--is decluttering. There are also "schools" of philosophy in it, but some simple steps can help.

Decluttering is the first step.

Clear the space, make repairs, including windows, shelves, floors, carpets. I need to do this because my office floor is unpainted concrete. Long story.

Anyhow, go through your possessions--keep, pass along, or sell. Make piles. Clear bathroom cabinets of old soap, expired meds, torn towels.

To fend shui your car, completely clean out the interior. Take out the scrapers and extra wiper fluid and put in summer supplies such as folding chairs and sports equipment.

Now, the yard--clean up winter debris, cut spring weeds, repair fences (I did that last weekend), clean water fixtures and pumps. We need to do the last one--our fish can't fix their own pond.

Well, now...feel better, more motivated?

Me, I need a nap.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Coffee--the staff of work life

Anna Codrea-Rado, Govt Executive magazine, Apr 10, 2013, said even the College of Cardinals takes coffee breaks.

Java is good stuff.

First, she says, it keeps you alert. Workers perform better, especially on the night shift, where the body says forget it even if the person slept during the day.

Coffee eases pain in the neck and shoulders--so people can sit at a desk longer.

People talk more--are more social--more creative.

Coffee shops are pretty good places to work. Studies show background noise improves concentration and creativity.

The best time for a cup? 2 PM. In Britain, they did a study--energy levels bottom out at 2:16 PM.

Still, coffee can make stress more stressful--see how it affects you.

People in their 50s and 60s who drink three or more cups a day have a 10% lower risk of death compared to non-coffee drinkers. (This goes for decaf, too.)

You know who drinks a lot of coffee? Baristas.

That's one for The Big Book of Duh.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Getting a job at a small company

Most people think or dream of a job at a Fortune 500 company, but most jobs are actually in small or even Mom and Pop companies.

If you happen on an opening at a smaller place, ask yourself if you are willing to wear a lot of hats. Employees there need to pitch in and be self-starters--maybe even do their own scut work, such as fixing the computer or getting supplies.

You will need to work closely with others--the same others--all the time.

Since every customer counts at a smaller place--you need to be great at schmoozing.

And--I would add--smaller places may have issues coming up with whether they will offer health insurance--ask about it.

That man's office? Just joshing! It won't be that bad.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Extreme cheapskates

I have a section of fence that needs repair and when I get a huge bid, the guy says, "You want it done right, don't you?" Actually, I think, not really.

But I am not as extreme a cheapskate as the entertaining folks on the show "Extreme Cheapskates."

--One woman has not bought clothes in eight years--she finds them on the street. (I used to find all my umbrellas in cabs--but that's different, right? RIGHT?)

--One guy flushes the toitie once a week (he has two roommates). He tells a girl he has somehow lassoed into going out with him this and makes a concession: "You can flush." She is gratified to hear it but put off when he washes the plastic plates in the cheapo BBQ place to take home to use later. Also, he precedes the meal by asking her, "You're not really hungry, are you?" He eats half of hers.

--A guy asks a family he somehow met on the internet if he can sleep on their couch when he gets to town--just one night. They say OK--and he makes them a nice hot meal of fish heads as payment.

--A woman serves her guests expired sandwiches she found in a dumpster.

--Several people shower in their clothes and lather up the duds--a two-fer!

Is this thrift or pathology? You decide. Oh--one man also makes his own deodorant, a curdled mess he sort of pushes up from a toilet paper roll.

I would have yelled "Check, please!" long before that.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

When you tell all and the company doesn't

Krisanne Elsner, Southwest Recruiting Services, was asked what to do if a company asks you for all the particulars of your life and they don't even give their name.

The jobseeker was afraid of ID theft.

Elsner advised keeping your resume name-only, no address. Never send your SS, of course!

If asked for references in this situation, provide email only. No street addresses or phone numbers.

I would advise being a little cagey. There are so many sleazies around these days.

The rule of thumb is don't put too many specifics in one place--for you or your references.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dude! I mean, sir

The Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania (sad face) says they asked a bunch of recruiters in many industries about the new crop of grads and more than a third said professionalism has decreased in the past five years.

Nearly half said the work ethic had lessened.

The young employees often seemed arrogant, either during interviews or on the job. They show up with a sense of entitlement. Me? Photocopy stuff? Seriously?

OK--let's review. Here are the marks of professionalism: Appropriate appearance, punctuality, regular attendance, honesty, attentiveness, and finishing a task.

One big thing these newbies often do wrong--model themselves after other new hires, rather than more experienced workers or bosses.

Oh--and these inexperienced ones also while away time on their phones.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Are you thrilled with employer training?

Jennifer Agiesta and Sam Hananel, AP, say that 65% of jobs added since the recession (supposedly) ended in in 2009 were low-wage.

Two-thirds of employers say they offer mentoring or training--but only 36% of low-wage workers report that their employers have such programs.

Do they even know?

Seventy-one percent of employers rated education important--only 41% of low-age workers thought it was.

As one professor put it, "All the training in the world isn't addressing the fact that wages are declining and good jobs are just not available for the vast majority of workers."

Very few workers--or companies--take advantage of govt programs, either.

So what is the answer. Are we doomed before we even try?

I believe that employers need to train people up--the govt cannot pay for it anymore.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bye-bye, cube farms?

Ben Kesling and James R Hagerty, WSJ, Apr 3, 2013, says the same companies who created the ever-popular cubicle are now thinking of ways to eliminate it.

More sales--makes sense.

These companies--Herman Miller, Haworth--are convincing customers that more informal, floating groupings of chairs and tables enhance productivity and creativity.

They studied how people work--sometimes large conference rooms were used by two people. This led to smaller "focus" rooms.

The walls on the cubes went lower, then were taken out. Then came the um...downturn...everything stopped. But now it's picking up.

The companies offer design services--they sell interiors, not furniture.

Younger workers like to work in corners, coffee shops--the don't need "walls" to have status.

The furniture companies attached sensors to chairs to see how often people sat in each one--sometimes they were empty 80% of the day.

Some CEOs even like to circulate and plop down where people are sitting in chairs talking...er, working.

But some other CEOs still like the wall thing. What about you?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Time to slash the crud off your resume

New start time!

CareerBuilder says too many resumes are filled with fluff.

First to go, the "Objective" statement--a job that uses my skills to make you money, yackety-blah.
If anything put a condensed elevator pitch--your unique offerings.

Forget the "references available on request" thing. They know that.

Outdated or nonspecific info should go--try to stick to jobs in the last 10 yrs.

No picture--unless you are an actor or model. Also the height/weight/good health thing is over with.

If your education was in the past--meaning FAR in the past--put it last. It a Harvard degree is your main selling point, put education first.

Think...slash...prune...change it up.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What if your coworker is lazy?

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, takes on the subject of slackers at work.

According to a study (VitalMarts), a quarter of workers put in more time each week than they have to in order to cover for lazy colleagues.

Bosses may not even know anyone is dogging it.

This can lead to resentment and bad morale. You may need to do something.

First, do not be judgmental. Approach with respect. You may be more mad at yourself for taking it.

If you decide to just do the work--then do it. Don't complain.

And remember--the boss may not want this person doing the hard stuff--to this degree, the boss has already acted. You are reliable--so more work falls on you.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Military says "sorry" to most applicants

Ever think, well, if all else fails, I can join the military?

Maybe not.

Arthur Sloan, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, said out here 85% of those who visit the recruiters are turned down.

Why? Law violations, health problems, low test scores, earlobe stretchers, and to some extent, being fat.

It breaks down this way: 41.6% are declined for medical reasons, criminal history or having too many dependents.

20.2% are ineligible due to lack of education or low Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery scores.

14.8% exceed body fat standards.

That leaves 7.7% qualified to enlist.

True, fewer are needed now, but this is a pretty small pool. Some tattoos can even keep you out of the Army--along with those earlobe stretchers, presumably.