Friday, August 30, 2013

More young adults live at home

More...not fewer. And they are trying to tell us the recession is over. Maybe on paper--but not in the spare room.

Actually I don't mind the European model--my kid lives here--she likes it--she has her own entrance and chips in for food. She can also scoop me off the floor if I topple over.

Neil Shah, WSJ, Aug 28, 2013, says 13.6% of kids from 25 to 34 live with their parents--this is up from 13.4% in 2011.

Without that $700-$1000 rent payment, they can save money.

Also attitudes are changing. Lennar Homes even sells a NextGen house with a separate unit in it for offspring or parents.

Maybe things are just such a mess that people want to stick together. Who knows. I don't think it's so horrible--what do you think?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bad boss can be a negative role model

Negative role model? That is Star-speak for what not to be like.

According to CareerBuilder, if you are tangling with your boss, you can turn this to your advantage.

First, you are learning what not to do, as I said. This can be better than business school.

You will be more self-reliant. If your boss is vague and never gives you what you need, you have to try harder.

No praise--well, look to yourself for a sense of accomplishment. Set a goal, meet it, and reward yourself.

You will learn how to choose your battles. When to push back, when to let it go--these are great things to learn.

You will also learn what CareerBuilder calls diplomacy and what I call strategy. Know when the boss is in a receptive--and when they are not approachable.

You will also learn to form teams and work more with others.

I once had a boss who got plastered and fired me a few times a year. I just came back to work the next morning--see, I had learned that nothing would be said.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Uh-oh--Here come college exit tests

The SATs are about what you learned in school and  now seniors at about 200 colleges will take a test on what they learned in college.

Didn't see that one coming, did you?

Douglas Belkin writes about this in the WSJ, Aug 26, 2103. It's called the Collegiate Learning Assessment (catchy). CLA+ for short.

It's a report card for critical thinking skills.

Employers say grades can be misleading. They want another indicator. Grade points have been rising, but kids seem less prepared to work. Only one in four employers think colleges are doing a good job.

The value of a diploma is getting harder to estimate--and justify.

One student said, "It kinda sucks that employers can't trust GPAs."

Yeah--he's a genius.

Some students even take the Graduate Record Exam and if they get a high score, use it on their resume.

The good news, I guess, is that this post-college testing is voluntary--but it may become more and more highly advised, which is the same as not voluntary.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What you can learn from the circus

You may think your office is a circus, but some people actually go to circus school. Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, talks about the American Youth Circus Organization.

It provides internships for HS kids.

One participant said it was great networking. (I bet it is with 100 clowns in that little car.)

There is a 5-day festival from 30 states, three countries, and 50 circuses.

The counselors have circus experience. They teach clowning, puppetry, contortionism, and other skills.

Circuses, someone pointed out, are a combo of art and sport--some lean toward one, others to the opposite.

Working hard is the basis of the circus--you can run away and would be accepted if you worked hard. Period.

About 8,000 young people practice circus skills regularly, they estimate.

Once you learn to juggle, that is yours for life.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Typewriters still live--due to death

Remember typewriters? You are probably too young. But I sure do. Proportional spacing--that was fun. Correction tape. White Out--ah, that was wondrous stuff. But my favorite was starting over. If you left out a paragraph--you had to start over.

I would never have gotten my lobbying job that kept me in silk dresses for 16 years if theguy who gave the typing test had not been out sick the day I was hired.

Laura Kusisto, WSJ, Aug 23, 2013, says the old clackers are still around--kept alive by funeral homes (no death certs can be done on computers). Police depts, law firms, and some govt agencies also still use them.

The biggest company is Swintec. Swin-what? It doesn't have the ring of banging something out on the Remington.

Swintec sells 5,000 typewriters a year.

Another big customer--prisons. It's harder to hide contraband coming into a commissary when the records are typed and not stored. Some prisoners buy them for their cells.

Death certificates may go digital pretty soon, but the prison business is strong.

Prisoners also write letters--they replace Miss Manners this regard.Of course, if they do stay in school, handwriting may be phased out soon. The old reliable QWERTY machine may be needed.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Messy desk, messy mind?

The other night on the Fox show THE FIVE, they showed the desks of the five regulars. All of the desks looked straightened to me, but not nasty neat.

I was shocked at how small their offices are, but I digress.

There has long been a meme that says if your desk is a mess, you are a disorganized slob and bad at your job.

In a corporate culture of squared-away desks, this may stand out and you will want to follow the crowd and not look like a hoarder.

So-called "messies" often say they know where everything is. They may! Clutter may not be a punch in the eye to them.

I once worked with a woman who had traveled the world, was one of the first female helicopter pilots, had an international organization called the Whirly Girls, dressed to kill, and had a scary office. There was so much paper in there, it was stacked in the kneehole of her desk--she had to work at a table in the library.

Clean it up? Clean WHAT up? She was fine.

Unless it's an actual fire hazard--what's the harm?

I know people like to judge--but you know, there are some shoes under my desk. More than one pair.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Try to assume a power position

Sue Shellenbarger (WSJ, Aug 21, 2013) says one woman used to step back from listeners when speaking and twisted a ring on her finger. She wondered why people asked her if she were nervous.

Studies show that even consciously assuming a power position for a few minutes--standing tall and leaning slightly forward, hands at your sides, for instance--can lower stress hormones and increase testosterone, even in women.

When she heard this, the woman started rising during her presentation--to counter her short height.

Other power stances are leaning forward and placing hands flat on a desk or table, opening legs expansively (men do this), leaning back feet forward, taking up space.

Most people aren't aware of the power of body language. You are broadcasting info about yourself! Leaning toward the listener is key.

Leaning over a smartphone may put you in a low-power position.

Arms folded across the chest may mean you are withdrawing.

One woman put a rubber band on her wrist and snapped it under the table to remind herself to project power.

I think that might be taking this a wee too far.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Perks v benefits

Barbara Haislip, WSJ, Aug 19, 2013, says sometimes the little things mean the most to employees.

Small firms are getting creative to hold onto employees.

One company offers free beer on Friday as a reward for the week's effort. Sodas, too, of course.

Permission to work remotely. This one has been around a while.

How about bringing your pet to the office. And not just dogs--fish have been known to come to work at one joint. Or talking birds.

Time off to volunteer is another perk. One company gives four paid days off a year for good-doing.

A tech slush fund maybe? One company gives $400 a year for high tech devices.

Other companies offer summer internships and jobs of spring break to employees' kids.

How about access to a company pastor or life coach?

Or a yoga hour?

One company--in India--allows young people to put their parents on their health plan. That would not work in the US--in fact, it's the opposite.

I remember when I had a real job and the mail room would wrap and mail my parcels. I loved that.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Your two-minute warning

Our job gurus Dale Dauten and JT O'Donnell had bad news for somone who just got a warning letter that said to correct behavior or face further disciplinary action.

The two said--this means you are about to be fired!

A written warning can be part of a documentation process to cover the employer's butt for wrongful firing.

Instead of being defensive and blatting on about not being respected, as this letter writer did, they advised going to the boss and saying you would work aggressively to correct matters.

Say your goal is to be their best employee.

Provide a list of achievable goals you can ace in 60 or 90 days.

In the meantime, start looking for another job.

They did not sugarcoat it--a written warning is not good news.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Careful when pushing for higher salary

The conventional wisdom is that if you have solid creds and are confident, you can maneuver into the salary you want. But we have also covered how many women take or leave the offer without countering it or negotiating.

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, says it's pretty easy to blow the job by blowing the salary talk.

First, remember, they may have a Number Two candidate--most of the time they do.

Do your homework on what the job pays in the area. Check or

Try to learn what the last person was making. If you don't know anyone in the company, maybe on Linked In?

Make a list of must-haves. And one of like-to-gets. If you want to work at home one day a week, maybe you can negotiate that for less money.

If you don't like the opening offer--ask how they arrived at it.

As if they would consider a sign-on bonus outside of salary? Or re-evaluation in six months.

If the other person is getting ticked off--back off. Then you have a decision to make.

The problem is, they may have already made one.

One guy in the story was asked what he wanted in terms of salary and named a figure $150K more than the Number Two backup candidate--ooops. See ya.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Even robots need a boss

Remember Hal, the computer in 2001 Space Odyssey? He got loose and defied his creators. Not good.

Lauren Weber, WSJ, Aug 8, 2013, says bossing robots can be a career choice.

In fact, many factory workers supervise machines more than people, as the economy slips, slides, morphs, and oozes.

The old form of management was about motivating people, measuring their performance and productivity, and carrying info up to bosses and down from the bosses to the people.

Not so now. But we still need managers!

Now they supervise processes--as well as people.

The job is  more complex--takes more technical know-how.

This is not just in factories--but also the back offices of companies large and small.

Strangely, this has not eliminated middle managers, but made them more necessary--and their work more difficult.

But being essential is good. So is knowing what to do when Hal goes on a tear.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

7 ways to get slugs to step up

Adam Grant, writes about the dilemma of some people working harder than others (Govt Exec Mag, Aug 9, 2013).

The worst offenders in the "hardly working" group are American men, it turns out. Women and non-Americans tend to be more group-oriented.

What do you do when you're stuck with some free riders?

First, make the task more meaningful.  In one study--of call center employees raising money for a university--the employees talked to by a scholarship student they had helped had a huge jump in dedication and productivity.

If some are doing less than the norm, show them what others are doing. In one study, when shown their neighbors were saving more energy, people got serious about conserving.

Smaller groups also make people think their work is more important.

Assign a unique role to each person.

Make individual inputs visible.

Make stronger relationships between the people--people don't like to let down friends.

Ask the slackers how to deal with slackers. This gets buy-in. With any luck, they will also slack about seeing why you asked.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Keep up your small talk skills

There was a period of my life when I was completely sick of small talk. I called it "tiny talk," hated to have dumb superficial interchanges.

Once at a party, an older woman told me she didn't like me. I had just met the woman.

Elizabeth Bernstein, WSJ, Aug 13, 2013, says you need to keep this skill up to date. Your small talk can get rusty.

You need to walk up to someone, get started, yes, this could mean the weather. A compliment is also good--I love those shoes.

Give a little info about yourself--but don't launch into your favorite topic or you will blab too much.

Alcohol may seem like it's making you a better talker--it may not be.

The web also has made us worse small talkers--videogaming won't improve your skills (unless you hang with gamers).

I usually ask what the person "does"--but that was Washington. In Arizona, that isn't a winner. I also hate to sort of ask, "Before you retired what did you do?"

If it goes quiet, don't worry--the other person may be thinking up something to say.

For your part, ask questions--about the other person. That works.

Usually. I had asked that older woman what her book she was writing was about and she apparently didn't want to tell me. And--she hated me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

BELOW DECK--again!

Scroll down--I wrote about this Bravo "reality" show before. Millennials working on a charter yacht.

I said then they sort of shocked me with their insolence to their bosses, but this has blossomed into a near-mutiny, with one steward, Kat, getting drunk and openly defying the captain--who is a sort of hard-to-read guy, hypercritical (although getting it right could save lives), and suddenly mixing with them in social situations.

I know they are trying to cut it together to be dramatic--and it is. But it brings up a lot of workplace issues to ponder--socializing with your superiors, workplace "romances" (more like hookups), and substance abuse on the job.

I still think your boss should not have to be your warden or your father or mother.

Maybe people should not work in a close space like a boat.

But I also think these people should put themselves in check. They say incredibly inappropriate and rude things to each other and get sloppy drunk.

What I call a toxic work environment--and this does not even count the despicable customers (some of them).

The captain fumes and pounces on the crew's behavior and criticizes, but so far has not put anyone ashore. Maybe that is coming.

This is a job--and even a TV show--not a big excuse to act out.

You are not entitled to the job you have no matter what. You could find that out the hard way.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Strategic flirtation? Does that have another name?

Jean McGregor, Wash Post, Aug 7, 2013, writes about flirting in the workplace.

A paper, authored by Oklahoma State management professor Alexis Smith and researchers from several other universities, surveyed 281 female attorneys in the Southeast about how often the smiled flirtatiously or played dumb at work.

They asked the women if the firms were "masculine"--aggressive, risk-taking--or "feminine"--loyal, empathetic.

The more masculine, they thought, the more common the flirting. They were right.

But--they also thought women in both cultures would be forgiven and understood. Not so in the masculine cultures.

So bear that in mind when you feel like batting your eyes or asking a big strong man to reach the file off the shelf or explain a difficult concept.

It may help you--it may not.

Personally, I think using natural charm is OK--being really blatant is probably dopey unless the men at your place are pretty dumb. You can be the judge..

Friday, August 9, 2013

Work is high school with better clothes

Bullies grow up--and they get jobs--they don't become nicer, necessarily. Bullying works so they keep up the pace.

You can find mean girls and boys in every workplace.

Shana Lebowitz wrote about this in Govt Executive mag, Aug 8, 2013.

She says bullying is on the rise as workplaces get more competitive. In 2011, half of employees in one study said they were treated rudely once a week, 25% up from 1998.

It can encompass repeated health-harming mistreatment such as verbal abuse, offensive nonverbal behavior, and generally interfering with work.

Unattractive people tend to be bullied more. Many people say this treatment causes health problems.

Why is this increasing? Some bullies are narcissists. But others are so overwhelmed they lash out without even knowing people run to the bathroom crying.

I pick number one. They do it because they can, because people won't look for another job and because it helps them do their work quicker.

It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Luddite's lament

Luddites were some guys who hated technology or progress or something. I forget the details. I feel like a goober saying this, but so much of our so-called fabulous technology is half-vast.

At least in my opinion.

First, I saw a debate on TV about whether two-year-olds need cell phones. I can answer that. No. Park them in front of the TV like any good parent.

My sister's cell rings over and over and over during the course of a lunch. I said why don't they call back after a few hours? Oh, she said, that is just the reminder call that I have messages. Who needs that?

I have seen texts she gets with one letter: K. Is this so pressing?

Websites. They have been around a while--but every one I go to blows up or has some glitch. I end up calling--and the message says, "We have a website, you know." Yeah--I heard.

By the way--why can't you search on Yelp? If you do find a category, say internists, why is it random and not alphabetical. So whimsical

I am waiting now 10 days for the results of my yearly blood work. Ten days--three calls. Could your robot call mine--please?

I know of people who have almost surrendered the last tattered shreds of their sanity going to a phone store.

I don't have a cell, but I did call and see if I could get call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding and stuff I don't use taken off.

"It will cost more without those," I was told.

Of course, it would.

My doctor has the worst hold music--I think at one time it was jazz, now it sounds like a cat in a blender. I said that and the woman said, "Like a dead cat?"

No--a dead cat would be silent.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What's new in education

Justin Pope, AP, says the latest target of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists is education.

Money is being thrown at trying to get kids--and often adults--up to speed.

A big favorite is MOOCs--massive online open online courses (you can see what I did on those do far by entering MOOCs in the search box at the top of this site).

Another emphasis is education on the tablet or smartphone.

Classes and degrees can come from several universities.

MOOCs often don't result in a heavyweight degree, but can help you do your work, which translates into money.

Also--the two-semester "year" is on the way out. Arizona State, for one, has broken the year into six parts of six-seven and a half weeks.

The sacred cows are going to the slaughter! So MOO.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Do something new--something different

If you are job hunting, you need a reason to hope--to carry on. This means doing something different to get (maybe) a different result (I hate that cliche).

If you are technologically oriented and sort of out-doorsy--why not join a Community Emergency Response Team? It's volunteer--but good contacts. Check it out at

If you have always wanted to work at a certain company--target it, whether there are openings you know of or not. 

Send a letter--send a pain letter (see below)...Follow the company in Google Alerts. Keep pecking away.

Volunteer at a place nearby so you don't burn gas. It gives you a place to go and possibly contacts. Also you won't be so draggy. How about Meals on Wheels? They have kids and grandkids in companies.

Look into getting a certificate--say in grant writing or nursing assistant.

Elections are only a little over a year off. Campaigns will be staffing.

Subscribe to the local business paper.

Put some oomph into it!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Remember him--the Dirty Jobs guy?

Mike Rowe is a personable sort of man's man type guy who for years has undertaken blue collar or no-collar jobs on TV's DIRTY JOBS show.

He has a great website and organization called Profoundly Disconnected --

The title refers to the persistent notion that college is everything--that without it, you cannot make money, raise a family and achieve satisfaction.

That notion is profoundly disconnected from the reality Rowe found as he traveled the country cleaning sewerage plants and milking bull semen for a living.

He said one thing he noticed as he entered each little subculture of work was how happy the people were--they had money--friends--hobbies--loved sports--had kids doing well.

I once went on a luxury barge ride on the Mississippi--they talked about River People--people who never strayed far from the Mighty Mississip all their lives.

The Bar Pilots who guided the barges though the "passes" (and around the sandbars) down near New Orleans were a closed group--the jobs, which paid $250K and up, were passed from father to son.

On Rowe's site, you can find trade resources as well as several video rants by Mr Rowe. He was particularly unimpressed by something  his HS counselor showed him--a picture of a worker on one side and next to it a guy in a suit--the caption was "Do you want to work smart or hard?"

Rowe says how about both! America's relationship to work itself, much less a job, is changing. And not for the better.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Many in their twenties are not employable

Every week, the stats come out--more people dropping out, discouraged, the workforce narrowing.

On the news, there is a constant drumbeat for jobs for the minority communities--alongside how badly educated many kids are, how covered with tattoos, how attitudinal, how this, how that.

I honestly wonder if we are facing a lost generation--kids (and some grownups, too) who are so twisted now they are not employable.

In the cities, would you rather scrounge around selling drugs and make a thousand a day, or take an entry job--for pennies?

Even I would have to think about that--although I am not cut out to be a high-risk dealer, I don't think.

There are so many factors that come into play in the changing workforce. The pattern has changed--manufacturing has gone overseas. Service jobs tend to pay less. There is a dearth of jobs that pay enough to raise a family and creep upward, American Dream style.

Jobs do require more training, if not education--at least computer literacy. You have to want to be educated--see a percentage in it. Street smart is useful, but book smart will carry you into old age. How many kids sense that or see it?

Even if we rebuild some neighborhoods, put a cop  on every corner, slap a uniform on every school child, come down hard on violence in school, and provide lots of after school programs--the generation in their twenties now have records, neck tatts, and scare people with the violence and murder stats. You hate to think in terms of a lost generation, but this one and the next, if we don't change things, may well fit that description.

If this the growing pains of a vibrant democratic experiment or the end of our country as we want it to be?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Everyone is "innovating"--how to do it

Same...stuff, different day? Jump out of the box! Every notice that the buzzwords around innovation have become unoriginal? And the lightbulb! Let's think up a replacement for that as a symbol.

But companies--and even individuals--do need to shake things up sometimes. Govt Technology mag had a few suggestions.

Hey--maybe a suggestion box!

First, create momentum. Set the clock ticking. There must be an urgent goal.

Make sure managers know the limitations.

Have a clear assignment. Be concrete--get buy-in from those affected.

In fact, not only get buy-in, but put those people on the team.

Be sure the person who thinks there is a problem needing a solution is on the team.

Out of the box sounds good, but the ideas must fit the realities of your organization.

Check out new product ideas to see if (1) They are appealing, (2) Stand out in the market, (3) Have great potential for turnover, (4) Will make an adequate profit, (5) Fit management's goals, (6) Can be achieved quickly, (7) Will create more support as they come into being.

See? Easy-peasy!