Friday, May 31, 2013

Check out Task Rabbit


Geoffrey A. Fowler and Brenda Cronin, WSJ, May 29, 2013, write about how people are picking up short-term gigs.

A site called http://taskrabbit.com has quickie money-makers for freelancers.

It is online temp work, basically.

At present, 10% of the workforce are freelancers.

The article also talks about Elance--but to me, Elance is a race to the bottom--writers, programmers and designers race to underbid each other and cheat themselves.

Seventy-five percent of Task Rabbit's workers have BAs. The company takes a 26% commission.

This may or may not be for you. Check into it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bringing home the bacon...

According to Brigid Schulte, Wash Post, May 28, 2013, 40% of mothers are the family breadwinner.

This represents a sweeping change in a few short decades, she says.

The number of married mothers who out-earn their husbands has quadrupled since 1960--to 15% in 2011.

A lot of this change came due to the great recession (what is so great about it, I want to know).

Still, Americans are ambivalent about moms working outsde the home.  Eighty percent think mothers should not return to the Donna Reed model, but half think mothers should stay home with the kids.

Hmmm.

Women also tend to be better educated than their spouses.

Still, husbands can have a hard time with this.

My former parter of nine years was fine with me earning the money. Go know. Actually, he did the cooking---yes, bacon.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to take questions

You do know I write about public speaking sometimes just to bug you, right? People would rather eat spiders than face an audience--but this choice is rarely offered.

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, talks about what to do when your talk is over--the Q&A period.

Ben Decker, an executive at Decker Communications, was quoted as advising speakers not to say, "That;s a good question." He said that is just a plea for more time to think.

Don't be afraid to pause and think.

If you get an aggressive questioner, try to stand by him or her facing the same way. Try some stories to change the subject.

Also don't let people make a big speech of their own.

Never argue with an audience member.

Much less fisticuffs.

Ah, speaking, gotta love it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Before you leave on your trip


Your super good buddies over at the credit bureau Experian have some tips for your vacation planning.

Do not announce travel plans or dates on Facebook or elsewhere.

Use only ATMs at banks.

Lock valuables in hotel safes.

Carry only necessary cards--leave the rest at home.

Notify your credit card company of your plans so they don't block a card thinking it's not you.

Protect your cellphone with a password, using a GPS app to find the phone if it's stolen.

Leave the laptop at home or at least update antivirus and anti-spyware.

Do not do financial transactions on wifi.

See what pluses you get on your credit card--such as secondary car rental insurance, discounts on luggage forwarding, enhanced lost luggage benefits, maybe even those nice lounges in airports.

Credit cards offer better exchange rates and money back--just pay balances promptly.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Usually I leave politics out...


Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, writes about what makes a good leader. Recently on Twitter, people chimed in on what makes a good boss.

A good boss treats employees with respect and works as hard as anyone else.
A good boss listens.
A good boss mentors employees.

A good boss also opens doors--and does not get upset if employees walk through.

A good boss tells the truth when employees need to hear it.

He or she keeps the glory days of the past in the past, looks foward.

Doesn't lead through fear.

I can't help seeing that on a national level, the "boss" is detached, does not want to know things so he can say  he didn't know them, has people around who all think alike so he doesn't even have to say his wishes out loud, does not listen to anything even slightly critical, punishes and creates fear, works very short days, and dines out on past accomplishments constantly.

Just an observation.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Have you seen the movie COMPLIANCE?

This could be considered a workplace cautionary tale. It is a combination of a number of cases in which a skilled con man talked fast food managers into strip searching employees in the back room.

If you think naw, this could not happen--watch the movie.

Anyone--dumb or smart--can get caught up in a con. In the movie, a so-called police officer calls a fast food manager and says one of her employees stole from a customer.

Using a combination of  cajoling, praise, and intimidation, this con man, who is apparently getting off on control and manipulation, talks a series of individuals into mentally and physically abusing this woman.

There were moments when the comments the man made were so inappropriate, you think ANYONE would call BS--do you think you would?

It poses an interesting conundrum. Supposedly this happened 70 times or more.

Have you ever been talked into something at work that did not smell right, but you went along?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dual enrollment doubling up HS and college

With the cost of college approaching a couple of fully loaded Rolls Royces, many places are letting HS students enroll in community college courses while in HS.

By graduation time, the student may also have an associate's degree and can take it to a four-year institution or out into the world.

The community colleges train HS teachers to teach the courses and the kids attend in their HS setting.

The cost out here in AZ, where this is popular, can be $76 a credit hour for the dual enrollment classes, compared with $135 to $945 at nearby colleges.

This is not some "gut" program--gung-ho great students do it. Some said they stay up until 2 or 3 AM but got it done.

One parent describes it as "knocking out the general electives."

Ask your child's counselor or your local communinty college to see if something like this is available.

Be bold--new educational models are popping up everyday!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Google may kill me, but it's not "killing it"

I am about to have a heart attack trying to get Google to help me sort of things out.

I wanted to look up "assisted care" in a certain zip code. Instead, it gave me thousands of centers everyplace, with the ones vaguely associated with the zipcode (meaning 50 miles around) near the top!

This is not helpful. You don't want to be 50 miles from your elderly charge. When I say these words, that zip code, I want that...those words in that zipcode.

I have not tried Bing, but I saw it on TV--they were drooling over how many hits--what if you want appropriate hits, targeted...useful?

Ever heard the expression, "So much has been written about everything, it's hard to find anything out about it?"

Hey, Google--good tag, for ya!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Getting your GED? Hurry up

The so-called high school equivalency test (GED) is for those who did not formally graduate HS and wish to go on to college or have some credential.

Starting in 2014, this set of tests is undergoing big changes. Classes used to be free (google it for places near you, study guides, and so on). The actual test used to cost $7.50, which paid for a printed diploma.

Now the cost is already at as much as $250, depending on your state.

And costs will rise--it's now under a for-profit company.

And forget pencil and paper. Next year, you will need a computer to take it. The changes start Jan 2, 2014.

Go to http://gedtestingservice.com for more info.

All in all--take it now.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Don't MAKE me stop this car


I have been writing this blog for over four years (that's when I suspected no one would be running this place). I have told you repeatedly what to do or not do in a job interview.

Now, I learn in a story by Paul Davidson in USA TODAY, that at least one woman brought her cat to the interview--in a carrier--and plopped it on the desk and talked to it and played with it while the interviewer fumed.

Even if you have a cat with abandonment issues, wise up!

Swearing, texting, prison ink, or bringing your parents--also no.

This is so sad.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mommy, where do ideas come from?


Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Apr 3, 2013, wades into the question of where creativity comes from?

We have been kicking this around on Linked In--some say 10% of people are "creative," others say it can be taught.

The creatives in this story think the best way to tempt the muse to join you is to step away, have a drink, look at something the color green (very conducive, fertility, renewal--there is science).

I also think curiosity is an element. Curious people get into things. They are distractable--piling in a lot of imputs that may (or may not) rearrange themselves into a neat concept.

Ideas often come when doing nothing special--showering, falling sleep--transition times, they call these.

Focusing in on a solution may be counterproductive and shut out other elements of the solution.

Drinking moderately can loosen connections for those thus inclined.

I dreamed the idea for a screenplay about eight years ago--the dream picked up on a second night. Now I am working on it.

Yes, that was a long gestation period. This can also involve being lazy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How to work a room



Unemployed people like to sit at home, safe, cozy, becalmed. But everyone needs somebody sometime.

Arnie Fertig, head coach at http://jobhuntercoach.com, says you need to put yourself out there. First, make this your "real self," not some oily, ingratiating annoyance. Have a thought-through short pitch about you and your quest, but don't launch into a monologue--try some chitchat to find a common interest.

Listen to the other person. Ask about how their day was, what their work is like ("How did you get into that?"), ask if they like what they do.

Focus on the person you are talking to--don't let your eyes wander to better prey. Keep it short.

Be positive--don't vent or gripe. If you do, the person may wonder if you brought the troubles on yourself or are unable to shake the past.

Be polite. Don't take calls, keep it brief (they may be networking, too), and always try to get a card. Ask if it's OK to call, maybe in a few days.

We used to go to free monthly mixers at the Chamber of Commerce. They may still have those--call and see.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Younger people snapping up houses


I just heard an audiobook by Peter Cameron titled Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, which about sums up buying a house. Also, in this book, a whiny NY kid dreams of buying a house in Iowa or Indiana and working at McDonald's--but instead he ends up going to Brown University.

Ellen James Martin, Universal Syndicate, says some 20-somethings are leaving the homestead and buying their own homes. This is chronicled in Eric Klinenberg's book Going Solo.

Collective housing, he says, has peaked (meaning M&D or roommates).

Young people need to set conservative limits on what they will spend (it's a good market now, or better anyhow). Be careful of adjustable rate mortgages--they almost brought our economy down. Fixed rate, fixed rate.

Even if you yearn to go it alone, get enough room that you could have a paying roommate if you want to or need to down the line.

Screen properties for energy efficiency. Get a copy of the current owner's electric bill.

If you value your social life, don't move too far from the action.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Want to work for the feds--read and learn first


Some people still think they want a "good government job." If you do, Joyce Lain Kennedy, Tribune Media Services, has some advice.

A reader said he or she kept applying for government jobs and has had zero success.

She told this person they might lack the qualifications, but were they sure they had not done a slapdash job of reading the job notice?

She was quoting Kathryn Troutman of The Resume Place, who says listing officers often write long, involved requirements to see if people are reading.

If they can "score down" your app or toss it, they will.

There is also the "Occupational Questionnaire" in the government hiring process. This contains documents and references allowing them to double check your resume--and they will!

Before you do anything federal-wise, go to http://usajobs.gov. This site is a goldmine of info, Kennedy says.

The website http://resume-place.com/fedresblog is also good.

I would add--because I used to do my ex's federal apps--this is not something you do in 15 minutes. Those KSAs, in particular--a long narrative statement of Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities--used to reduce me to near-tears.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Day care for Mom and Dad


When my kid was little, even though I worked at home, she had to go to all-day daycare. I could work while she napped until she was about 2. But then this became impossible.

Janelle Nanos writes about new office space for part-timers--that includes a teacher and child area.

It's called Plug & Play in Austin, TX, but there are more--Bean Work Play Cafe (Atlanta), Motherfields (Portland, OR), Mothership HackerMoms (Berkeley).

These are described as Cheerio-free workplaces where adults can have grownup company and interaction,  with the kids nearby.

Almost 43 million people are "untethered" to a workplace. Full-time daycare is EXPENSIVE--don't I know it and this was 30 yrs ago! These places can be as low as $15 a day.

I remember one moment when my toddler daughter answered my work phone. I could hear her end of the conversation. "Hello?...No...She's on the toilet. Bye." SLAM. She hung up.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Companies may adjust to their new crop


Somewhere down below on here I suggest that companies may have to bend a little to the more casual approach of today's young people. Aja Hood wrote about this for the AZ Republic, May 8, 2013.

For one thing, younger people have high expectations of management--they want to be promoted more frequently and be given more slack.

Those 47 and under are called Generation Y, he says. (I have wondered--there are so many names floating around.)

This group wants a promotion every two years. They don't see this is not automatic and is based on performance--they are used to being told they are great and doing well. they assume their performance is fine--so where's the money and increased responsibility?

Eight-four percent think they have a right to work at home.

Sometimes a company is not growing as fast as the employees are.

One good technique for companies is to bring the more junior members to the table, get their ideas, implement their ideas, get them to buy in.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Think like a CEO


Jeffrey Fox and Robert Reiss wrote The Transformative CEO: Lessons from Industry Game-Changers.

First, if you think you should be boss someday, you need to start small. Just like the idea that you should dress for the job you want rather than the one you have, you need to think ahead, too. In other words--what would Steve Jobs do?

Aim to get hired by a culture you respect. Determine the company's culture--touchy-feely, hard driving, consensus-oriented?

Take risks. If you have new ideas, speak up.

If you use a to-do list, just crossing items off does not mean you are getting anywhere. You want to be working off the boss's to-do list.

CEOs challenge industry standards--they go right to basics and don't tinker around the fringes.

That illustration is just for fun. Most bosses these days look more like Justin Timberlake.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Attention foreign students

Following the disgusting and appalling Boston bombing, the Dept of Homeland Security has ordered border patrol agents to be sure incoming foreign students have a valid student visa.

Now there's an idea.

I am shocked that so many people come and go, la-de-dah, on any old scrap of paper they can flash or buy. Those supposed refugees, fleeing alleged death or torture, go back for vacays? I wouldn't. But I don't know the system, and they do!

And they know the student visa info was not at the border outposts. So now they will try to check each person on the flight manifests. Didn't one of those bombers have his name spelled two ways?

Sounds pretty flimsy to me. I heard that a fifth of people with a student visa never show up at a school--they blend into America. Where are they now? Who knows?

How about synching up the computer programs or something!? A "flag" in one system hits all--or it's all one system. Isn't that what computers are for?

Maybe I am a DREAMER.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bad millennial interviewing in the press


As the grads start issuing forth, now comes the job hunt. Apparently, the new crop is not so shiny-faced, eager, and respectful.

This has even made it to TV news a few times.

HR officials report that interviewees sometimes hold up a "wait a sec" finger and answer their phones or send a text mid-interview.

They dress like hiphoppers.

They ask about vacation time and bennies first thing.

The call the interviewer dude or man.

Their tatts are on display.

One even said, "Start next week? Can't--I am going to the beach."

Someone asked on one show should the HR people adapt to them? The answer was NO! But I bet the answer will become yes as time goes on.

Friday, May 3, 2013

RANT: Why is Craiglist such an unreliable mess?

I must be a glutton for bad service, because I try to give listers on Craigs a throw--time and time again.

The latest was my wooden fence--one 8-foot section was sagging and had missing boards.

My first Craigs bid was $500. I laughed.

The second was $300. I said not so much. I figured maybe $50 an hour for a couple of hours.

The third was an older guy--$200, including materials. I said, OK, and we agreed he would come the next day. He never showed. He said he forgot he was going to a yard sale.

Then, I got a guy who talked a great game--he was a vet, he had beat cancer, on and on. He charged $65 an hour--maybe three hours---how about $200 flat? I said, well, OK...He ran to the store and got boards.

In an hour he said he was done. I am too laid up with arthritis to walk back there. My daughter was asleep. So I paid.

Turns out he was a joke, his 6-mo guarantee of the work was a bigger joke, he never replaced the post, and he left the old boards lying around. No calls returned. No emails returned.

My head is spinning with outrage--I know one of his other clients, I could try to find him there. I would sue in small claims.

It only costs $25 to place an ad--I guess it really attracts the low rent crowd. But I don't feel like paying more than a hundred a year to be on Angie's. And apparently my fence guy has good reviews there--so how much is THAT worth?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Employees of interest: Tracking in the office

Rachel Emma Silverman, WSJ, March 7, 2013, says some companies are wiring up employees with tracking devices to see how they move around and interact.

Anyhow, Bank of America did this to 90 volunteers for a few weeks to record their movements and tone of their conversations. The most productive workers were in close-knit teams and talked with their colleagues.

So the bank scheduled group breaks and productivity rose 10%.

Some sensors are placed in office furniture to see how often people get up.

Some say the line is fine between Big Data and Big Brother--but the companies answer that smartphones can already be tracked.

Does this not beg the question--should they be?

The companies adjusted the size of lunch tables, made depts get coffee together.

It's not illegal, the companies maintain.

Yeah, well...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Utah acing it on language instruction


I joke that we have two Japanese states--Utah and Iowa.

But I digress.

One of these, Utah, is more than a boring flyover--they are teaching languages like mad!

Jack Healy, NYT, Apr 19, 2013, says kids there pass notes in Mandarin.

Maybe this is because Mormons span the globe on their missions. But leaders there also say it's the road to the world marketplace and the key to getting foreign companies to locate in the state. 

Half of Utah's schools teach half a day in English, half in another language.

French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin are offered. German is coming. And maybe Arabic.

Regular studies like math are taught in the language. At first, there is a lot of gesturing, then kids "get it."

My daughter took a total immersion German class in DC one summer vacation--she does not remember a lot of it, but it was a neat idea.

Yay, Utah!