Friday, June 28, 2013

What's hot on the manufacturing front

With the economy limping along the bottom at 1.8% growth and incessant caterwauling about the death of the manufactruring sector, what is going on in the area of making things besides burgers?

Well, my fascination--3D printing--or what they now call "additive technology"--building an item by layering on materials--is a front runner.

There is a sister technollogy now called "cold spraying." Metallic particles are blasted through a nozzle at such high speeds that they bind to each other to form shapes.

Other happening areas include sensing and measurement. This helps things be built by computers.

Materials design, synthesis and processing are big areas. New machines mean new materials--new materials mean new machines.

Digital manfacturing is big. This means computer-aided modeling. Saves time.

Sustainable manufacturing is also a coming field--capturing lost energy.

Nano--teeny tiny things.

Flexible electronics--bendable tablets, electronic clothing.

Robotics are being refined as we read this, and researchers are trying to find new ways to join materials besides forging or welding.

It's all up for grabs! Got any ideas?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Work-life balance--buzzwords or possibility?

Take time for yourself, set aside "me" time, etc--yeah, yeah. Sure.

You can't leave your work at your office--it's in your phone, in your brain, in your consciousness.

CareerBuilder suggests looking at how much time you spend doing marginally productive tasks. For me this is a lot--from cleaning up after my animals to writing this blog, which makes zero bucks!

[Which reminds me--please order books on here.]

Ask yourself do you have to be available after hours or do you do this of your own free will? Many people like to think they are indispensable.

And maybe you have to choose a little--relaxing personal life or rewarding career? It may be more one than the other--and this answer will change over time (say when your kids get older).

I always joked that I lived at the office. Only it wasn't a joke.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Are there more liars around than say 50 yrs ago?

For some reason, I have the notion that people in the Middle West lie less than people elsewhere--they are more bedrock honest or something. Probably not true, but I think that.

Certainly most of our politicians are now adept and proven liars.

We have no baseline--we can't take people at their word anymore.

Anita Bruzzese says this is especially damaging in the workplace. A study at the University of Mass shows that 81% of job applicants lie--did you?

Then it continues throughout working life...Lies can deflect blame onto the blameless, destroy lives.

Carol Kinsey Goman wrote Lies in the Workplace: How to Spot Liars and What to Do About Them. Troll down in this blog--I covered this from a different angle quite recently.

One tipoff of a work lie can be excessive detail, followed by weasel words such as "to the best of my knowledge."

The problem is we want to believe people at work--it helps us to do so.

But--frankly--people are not always so nice. Be skeptical.

Pinocchio looks so cute, doesn't he? Well, he's not.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to get bigwigs to answer emails

Bigwig is a great term, isn't it?

Anyhow, Adam Grant posted a story on LinkedIn that was picked up by Government Executive on how to get people to pay attention to your emails. He got interested in this because people would not answer his.

First, he suggests, pay attention to the subject line. When people are busy, this means a subject line about what's in it for them--utililty.

Grant lists some he got from strangers:

•Appealing to the recipient's curiosity: “Advice for a fellow teleological people-person,” “I do not want anything from you,” “Your book kept me up all night,”

•Utility: “Applying your techniques to recovering addicts” and “Getting you to Atlanta”

Second, tell them why you chose them. Grant got a lot of requests that had nothing to do with his expertise. Those won't be opened.  He says: Good emails overcome this barrier by highlighting what drew you to this person and the distinctive value that he or she can add. It’s worth devoting a sentence or two to what you know about the person’s work, and how it has influenced your life.

Third, show that you’ve done your homework. A sizeable number of readers wrote Grant asking for links to articles that were freely available on my public website. The psychologist Bernard Weiner has found that people are more motivated to help those who try to help themselves.

Fourth, highlight uncommon commonalities. I felt a stronger connection to strangers who emphasized something unusual that we had in common. As the psychologist Robert Cialdini sums up the evidence from Influence, “Similarity literally draws people together.”

Make your request specific, and keep it short and sweet.

And last, express gratitude. Grant's least favorite emails made demands instead of expressing appreciation. One person wrote, “We should definitely meet,” and another implored, “Please answer this question.”

Personally, I find that a snappy, "creative" headline sends emails to the Spam Filter.

I know, I am a Grinch. But I am also trying to reach some people on H'wood who make a specialty of never being reachable. Well, nifty for them!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Have women really come a long way?

More than half the college grads are female, women crowd the business schools, yet pay differences abound, women are being assaulted in the miliary and I recently read a story (Marie Claire, June 2013) on how badly outspoken computer genius women are treated by their male counterparts.

It sort of make sense, although it's sickening--but women in traditionally male areas such as finance and education administration are more likely to be paid less than their male counterparts.

Female CEOs earn a median salary of around $76K, while then men drag down $110K.

Big diff!

The lower-paying levels are more likely to be equal between men and women.

Women are less likely to be mentored, walked though the pay maze, negotiate well and get what they want and deserve.

There also is still an old boys' network and in the shocking story I read about the high tech industry, the old boys often issue death threats and destroy women's sites.

I almost didn't write this, but decided, what the hey. This is wrong and we need to speak up.

As for the military--women should be fighting the enemy, not men on their side. Fix that! Men, if you can't get a girlfriend except by force, you may be a soldier, but you are not a man.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Benefits can trump salary

No one should work for free--see below on unpaid internships--but savvy job hunters can sometimes substitute smokin' benefits for money.

CareerBuilder riffed off on this recently.

If you are relocating, suggest a housing allowance (esp overseas).

Ask for guaranteed severance and outplacement services--jobs do come and go these days.

Sometimes, in visible entertainment and fashion jobs, you could snag a wardrobe allowance.

See how many conferences you can attend--good for networking, and of course for working.

If you must work overtime a lot--see if some child care could be covered.

If you drive your car, make sure it's on THEIR nickel. Same for airline travel. You keep the  miles.

You can ask anyone anything...don't be shy.

Oh--and ask about health insurance. It's in play now--you could be cut loose into the unknown world of exchanges and self-insurance. Brrrr.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Unpaid internships may be on way out

Unpaid internships have long been a staple for upwardly scratching grads--usually in glam industries like movies, advertising, publishing or some other field where just putting in the hours was supposed to be an honor.

Not so fast.

A federal judge in NY ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns who worked on the movie "Black Swan."

Up to one million unpaid internships are offered in the US each year.

These could be looked at as exploiting youngsters and driving down wages. And at a time when kids have a big burden of school debt.

The two who sued Fox Searchlight organized file cabinets, tracked purchase orders, made copies, drafted cover letters and fetched coffee.

They got some benefits in that they learned how a production office works and could put it on their resume--but the jobs were not designed to benefit them.

The Dept of Labor requires that the internship must be similar to an educational environment, run for the benefit of the intern, and the intern's work should not replace an paid employee.

What about college credit for the work? That was not mentioned.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Can you carry off the "silver fox" look?

Our favorite work gurus Dale Dauten and JT O'Donnell tackle whether a 60-year-old guy should dye his gray locks? He doesn't want to.

Dale says to beat age discrimination, you need to look in your thirties--and clearly hair dye won't make 60 the new 30.

O'Donnell says if you want to stick with the natural color, then you need to be extra careful that the rest of your "brand" is updated--makeup, nails, jewelry, suits and dresses (for women) and for men, the latest chic looks (probably not from the buy one suit, get a second free place).

Maybe even a few highlights in the gray, men?

One thing I know you should not do--grow one of those Bernanke/Dave Ramsey gray goatees--it even contains the word "goat." Catch a clue!

What? George Clooney had a beard like that once? Oh, never mind then!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Have you done a 10-10-10 analysis?

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, had some sort of interesting ways of assessing a job offer. She quotes Dan Heath, who with his brother Chip, wrote Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.

In looking at a job offer--or any decision--think how you would advise a friend who is not you.

You need to know what the walk-away point is--the deal breaker.

Heath recommends a 10-10-10 analysis. How would you feel about taking the job in 10 minutes? In ten months? In ten years? No one will have the perfect thing they will love in 10 years--so just try it out.

There is also the vanishing options test--if you don't take this job, where does it leave you?

Or you could dip your toe in--maybe volunteer in the field to see how you feel about it.

Look for  multiple jobs at one time--I call this working with a net.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Not a Skinny Minnie--new clothes coming, sort of

According to the WSJ, Christina Brinkley, June 13, 2013, the average American woman is 5'4", weighs 167,and has a 37-inch waist.

That's a 14. But the really cute clothes stop at size 12. And that is considered horsey and somehow shameful.

I wear so-called Plus Sizes--and have all my life, except for after every diet, where I was maybe a Size 10 for a few months.

Why do they even call them Plus Sizes? Just call them a size!

This week, in NY, we will have Full Figure Fashion Week. Abercrombie & Fitch was guilted into putting up larger sizes when one of the twit directors said something snooty about larger people.

Even Kate Upton, a babe in anyone's book, gets flak for being "curvy."

That also disdainful Michael Kors has plus sizes (there I go using the term), but claims he has no pictures of them. Sure, Michael.

A larger blogger, Gabi Gregg ( came up with the Fatkini--which sold out almost immediately.

One study showed that larger women had 28% of the clothes money, but spent only 17%.

One designer has clothes for Rubens Women--uh, didn't they go naked?

As for Lane Bryant and its sister stores Woman Within and Roamans--why are so many of the tops for butt-ugly--and LONG. Who needs a shirt down to your...

Oh, never mind! Plus this!

And another bone I have to pick--the sizes are so inconsistent. You have to ask yourself if you are "a Vietnamese Large?" when the clothes come from the Far East. Usually a VLG top will fit only on your forearm.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Don't love the job--fake it till you make it

I guess I should be worried--my family is an endless trove of object lessons and bad examples. But I am a blogger--we need material.

I have a relative who started a new job, then after a few weeks, called in some Mondays and then was in an accident and had to take two weeks off, and what do you know--they did not see the humor and she is on probation.

A new Gallup poll finds that 52% of workers aren't involved in, enthusiastic about, or committed to their work.

Well, isn't that just ducky?

Another 18% are actively disengaged--this would be the nurse maybe who lets your alarms ring and ring or forgets to send over your referral.

So less than a third of full-time workers are engaged and happy.

Women and managers seem the most engaged, as do new hires in Louisiana. Male service workers in Rhode Island were the least engaged.

Those on smaller teams of 5-9 workers also seemed happier.

Well, this is why they call it work, people! You suit up and go. Showing up is huge and you may find things to like after that.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Want to become a chemical plant operator?

How are you at playing video games? Some professions are capitalizing on this craze and the hand-eye experience they give people to find and train employees. They have found, for instance, that doctors operate robotic surgery machines better if they are game enthusiasists since teen years.

Deborah Gage writes about this in the WSJ--June 11, 2013. The US Dept of Energy and some universities are studying video savvy college students to see if they can learn to run chemical plants using game simulators.

The idea is to lure bright young people to manufacturing--long a blue collar stronghold, and now one that is slumping.

It's called the Avestar Project--for Advanced Virtual Energy Simulation Training and Research. It's being tested at the West Virginia University and may be taken to other schools.

The students put on 3D glasses and maneuver through the plant to see how it works. They can
""peel" off the sides of machines and see what is going on inside.

They can take charge of the whole plant--which could kill people if not virtual. They can also respond to alarms and emergencies.

This is good, they say, because kids today don't usually get to see their parents fix things and improvise. It all must be learned.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Unbanked" may have insurance problems

Oh, the Unaffordable Care Act just keeps on giving--lucky us. Vanderbilt policy expert John Graves, PhD, assistant prof of preventive medicine, says as many as a quarter of those who might be able to get subsidized insurance may be cut out because they don't have a bank account.

My daughter doesn't. She works at Wendy's and gets paid on one of those preloaded cards. Vets get these, too.

Many insurers may require people to pay out of bank accounts. Yoops.

Sure, they could probably change this regulation, but some question if insurance companies would want to--those without bank accounts may be poorer and thus less healthy and it costs money to process debit card transactions.

I am sure this is just the beginning of the unintended consequences. My daughter was already distraught one day. She said she would have to pay a fine because she could not afford the Wendy's plan (which barely covers anything anyhow) and would she get a payment plan for the fine--she could not pay that in one chunk, either.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I have about had it with contractors

Try hiring someone to help you do something! Just try!

I was thinking of investing in a new, triple-pane picture window next to my desk--to get rid of the cracked, pot metal one. Also on the front of the house, is another large window--but it's behind plantings.

Windows are crazy expensive--four figures.

I got a brochure from a company that had remodeled my kitchen in the Wayback--big bargains for old customers, etc. So I called. The same guy was still there, at least 12 yrs later.

He came over--10 days later. He insisted on doing a bid for both front windows--upselling, my beloved friend. I hate upselling.

When I insisted on one window--it was not "cheaper to just do both"--that was a joke--he lost interest in me. When I would not close and pitch over $1300, he said well, if I decided to do it, could it be via email because his bosses would not want him to use the gas to come over here.

Use the gas? I am an old customer, but not worth the gas?

That seemed like an internal issue to me--and not my darn fault.

I called another window company--Andersen--big outfit. The guy on the phone was trying to see if I was serious--he wanted me to know they would not fix a window, the meeting would be 90 minutes, the window would take 8 weeks to get, they would rather do both, both homeowners had to be there (implication--woman cannot decide), etc. Not loving the vibe, I cut off the call.

So now, I am off the window kick. I guess they didn't want my business. Why even advertise then?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Can you tell if someone is lying?

I mean someone besides Jon Lovitz, with his Saturday Night Live routine of "Uh, uh, yeah, that's it."

Marty Latz, founder of the Latz Negotiation Group, has some tips (with an assist from Dr Paul Ekman of the TV show "Lie to Me" and Law professor Clark Freshman).

First, decide if the other person is changing his or her baseline behavior. If they are fast talkers--do they slow down? Could be lying.

See if the body language matches the verbal. A big denial accompanied by a shrug--could be a lie.

Look for very quick facial microexpressions. These can mean--lying!

You can also see how credible the person is in advance--do some research.

And ask probing followup questions. See if the person fidgets or looks uncomfortable.

And--of course--the flaming pants are also a giveaway.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Thinking of selling your house?

Ellen James Martin, AZ Republic, Feb 5, 2013, says housing prices are going up and you may be able to sell your house without paying THEM to take it.

But, first, to get that top dollar, you may need to fix up a few things. Only 10% of homes on the market, according to one estimate, have everything fixed. Peeling paint can turn off a buyer and you will never know why the person cooled.

Getting contractors may mean Craigslist, home of the cheeseball fly-by-nighters. I can count on one hand the Craigs people I have used twice.

So research good contractors. Get recommendations, don't use the Yellow Pages. One suggestion is to have a block party and compare notes on contractors.

How about Angie's List? Well, I hate to condemn a whole business, but one guy I am chasing to make good on a project has good reviews there.

One suggestion is to get FIVE bids for work over $5,000. Then toss those 20% above or below the median of the five.

And ask for references--don't go by the contractor's website or pix.

I have had good luck asking other homeowners. And after my job is done, I become a reference.

If things have gone well.

Welcome to the crapshoot.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

US cheesy with paid vacays

Almost 25% of those lucky enough to have a job get NO paid vacation time, according to Cathy Payne, USA TODAY.

This according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research in DC.

Companies are not required to provide paid vacation. the group looked at 21 democracies--and all of them do.

Except little old us.

The European Union makes companies pony up for 20 days a year--four weeks!

When you average up US employees who get paid leave, they get 10 vacation days and six paid holidays. the holidays are nice, but are not when the worker might want them.

Ninety percent of high wage workers get paid time off, 49% of low paid ones do.

Psychologists say even if you like your work, it's stressful.

To me, this is the "everydayness" of it.

Did you know it used to be required that workers in banks take time off--that way, if someone was fiddling with the money, it would show up when the person was not there for a time to cover it up.

Oh--and of course, the millions who still have no work have no paid vacations. Reminder!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What to expect on the first day of new job

Most people starting a job expect armloads of paperwork and a slew of introductions they won't remember.

At best, employees try to nail down where the restrooms are.

Rachel Emma Silverman, WSJ, May 29, 2013, says this is changing in some companies.

They are trying to suck the new employee into the swim first thing with networking sessions and maybe a scavenger hunt.

The first few weeks are called "onboarding." New one on me.

Instead of new employees nosing around trying to find out if it's OK to bring lunch from home or wear jeans, they are assigned a "peer coach."

They had the employee describe what he or she is bringing to the company, instead of harping on the company's mission.

Sometimes a new hire is given hard work the first day--such as updating the website.

Others have techno music and a limbo bar.

One study showed that employees sucked into the flow quickly were one-third less likely to quit within six months.

If I had to limbo the first day on a job, I would have only lasted hours, if that. Arriba!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Put off procrastinating

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, writes about our pal procrastination. We have all done it. It's a universal.

Putting things off creates sadness, guilt, and fear that can actually hurt your career.

If you are procrastinating out of fear that you can't do a task perfectly--quit it. No one can do tasks perfectly.

Afraid of rejection? Well, it's part of life.

List all your fears--on paper.

If you are sad--cry. Then do the task.

Think about what the boss really wants instead of what you think would be "perfect."

When you do it, say, "Good for me!"

Probably no one else will say it for you. So what? Grow up.

I am back to screenwriting again--and this means calling bigwigs. the first thing I think of is, I don't want to. But now, I am older and actually more carefree, and I just dial.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Get some game in asking for a raise

Researchers at the Columbia Business School have some advice for you when you negotiate salary or ask for a raise.

Asking for a precise odd number to kick things off results in a higher final number. This is your "anchor" number.

Precision shows you have done your homework--you are above the average bear.

Using round numbers--such as "I was thinking $45,000,"--shows you have only a general idea of the market.

The researchers had 130 people negotiate a used car price. Those who offered a round number paid an average of $2,963 more than their intial offer. Those who offered a precise number paid only $2,256 more than their initial number.

So ask for something like $92,350 and ignore the puzzled looks. They will chew on it. You will come out ahead.