Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Do people get nicer with age?

Elizabeth Bernstein, WSJ Apr 22, 2014, writes that personality is half nature and half learned.

They did a study of 16K Australians between 2005 and 2009. Those who were happy in 2005 became more emotionally stable, conscientious, and agreeable--and more introverted--in the next five years. The "Big Five" marks of personality are Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Openness, Extroversion and Neuroticism.

Changing even a small part of your behavior can change your personality--it takes time, though.

Decide which trait you would like to change.

Isolate the behavior. Be conscious of going against it.

Take baby steps. But remain committed.

I guess I could be less of a smartass--but would I have to give up this blog?

See? That is an example.

Now, those Australians--did they become nicer without effort? If so, I am down with it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stay-at-home dads going back to work

The day of the stay-at-home dad may be ending. Or maybe not. There used to be 1.5 million such households--now it's down to 1.45 million.

In many cases, this is definitional--some dads work part-time but still are the primary caregivers of the kids.

The mothers also tend to make more. This used to be 4% of cases and is now 23%.

Also--say moms and dads--families are finding all sorts of new ways to take care of children.

In other words, this is getting creative!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Eat right to work hard

The April 2014 issue of Food Technology, published by the Institute of Food Technologists, lists some functional trends for the coming year.

Specialty nutritionals. These are foods, not supplements. Eat food with more vitamins, minerals, herbs, and Omega 3s.

Get real. Look at labels and stick with foods containing things you've heard of. Half of consumers look for foods with no artificial ingredients. One-fourth buy organic.

Hispanic trends. These are the op users of energy drinks, sports bevs, and 100% juice. Hispanics are also twice as likely to want to look young.

Almost 60% of consumers emphasize protein.

Mothers also buy kid-specific products--with kid-appropriate calorie counts and flavors.

Eight in 10 buyers try to eat "pharma foods" to prevent heart disease and osteoporosis.

Eighty-percent of households eat meatless meals for dinner on occasion--with eggs and lentils subbing for meat.

Performance is also big. Nearly six in 10 adults used sports nutrition products. This applies to kids, too. (Just kidding on the picture--feed them, don't eat them.)

Weight loss is also changing--with deprivation diets losing in popularity. Protein is in.

Millennials think their eating is healthier, more expensive, more natural, less processed, and better tasting.

Better tasting. Hmmmm... Maybe there is something to this. Even in a lunch box.

Friday, April 25, 2014

As we dribble along

Housing, at least new housing, is down almost 15%. Unemployment claims are up.

This economy is meandering along, half-waiting for some big stock market crash or an election or something to happen.

Maybe manufacturing could "return." And not just fixing recalled cars, either.

Maybe companies hoarding money overseas could bring it back and open factories.

But do people have money to buy what those factories would make--what with no jobs?

The Council of Economic Advisors reprints the same opening paragraph on each monthly report.

The 20-something in tech land continue to make money on what...WhatsApp sold for 19 bill and has 55 employees. So that's not a big job producer.

Chicago is never going to get those "big shoulders" back--instead we have drug massacres every weekend.

What's the answer? Drink more?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What if your dream job is a nightmare?

Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Ap2 22, 2014, says some people doggedly pursue a certain job or profession--and then find out they don't like it.

People expect a lot from a job--emotional fulfillment and identity. Problem is, most jobs are about what the employer wants, not what you need.

One woman craved the creativity of a big ad agency job, but found herself mired in budgets. Another got advanced degrees in international affairs, got a "big" security post in the Pentagon, worked herself almost to death and then did not want to go to war torn countries.

When this happens, you need to first overcome disappointment.

Then you need to make the most of the skills you did acquire.

Try to stay 12-18 mos to show stability.

But if you have to pivot sooner, do it. But try to be clear with yourself about why the other passion was so strong--was it for the right reasons?

Say you wanted to help others...There are other ways to do it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Big job--big decision

Joann S. Lublin, WSJ, Apr 16, 2014, says installing a new CEO or top dog also takes a period of adjusment.

Sometimes even CEOs have been bounced.

The biggest reason the top person may not in the end suit the company is cultural, as a rule. Think the IBM blue suit in a sea of sandals.

Of course, these top people have golden parachutes and often walk or are pushed with a care package of millions under their arm.

At the moment, 56% of execs are considering a move.

Candidates for top jobs should arrive early for interviews--check out the chatter level, the art on the walls.

Try to get face time outside the office--people are more candid.

From there, both sides are doing a chemistry check. Chemistry can blow up, create a new compound, or even be a time bomb waiting to go off.

Handle with care.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

If you are a "Mudgie," clap your hands

What is so great about positive thinking? Half or more of the time, you are deluded--things aren't that smokin.'

You might like Charles Murray's The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead.

Curmudgeons are not just mean, negative people--they also can be clear thinkers. Of course, this clear thinking often results ironclad opinions. For instance, "No Problem" is not the same as "You're Welcome."

This might be called being an intellectual provocateur.

But basically, crotchetyness is involved. Inward grumpiness. Insistence on precision.

I used to have a client--you would know who he is if I went into detail--who had me ghost essays that all bore the title of.."A Contrarian's View of..."

I am not sure where contrarians fit on this spectrum. But they are on there, I assure you.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Two-pizza teams

According to Rick Karlgaard, publishert of Forbes, in Government Executive, Apr 18, 2014, when orgs form teams or focus groups, they loop in as many people as they can.


You may get a consensus, but more often, you will get an endless debate and get off track. The conflicting agendas will be flying.

That Jeff Bezos guy at Amazon forms teams that can be fed by two pizzas.

Small teams are more entrepreneurial. Recently the software giant SAP blew up its 20,000 person development dept and formed teams of 10 people each. Each team had power over the whole development cycle. It cut time nearly in half.

Also, fewer people, the easier to even get together. and the shorter each meeting.

People on small teams know each other and trust each other. Sometimes they will even sacrifice for the project or team. Small teams are also more specialized.

Small teams promote mentoring and weaken the glass ceiling.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Lack of experience hinders diversity

Joann S. Lublin, WSJ, Apr 16, 2104, says the biggest companies are not making much progress bringing women and minorities into the boardroom.

This is because they get a few experienced board members in diverse categories and recycle them, instead of grooming new ones.

Therefore black women (34%) and Hispanic women (19.1%)and 19.8% of black men tend to have had more than one directorship.

I believe in some circles this would be called being in a rut.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The govt has plans for Robbie

Hilton Collins,, says the government (ours) is mad for robots. And not just those little tin cans that trundle into burning buildings or war zones.

Under the DARPA Robotics Challenge, two-legged humanoids are under development to perform disaster relief.

NASA also has Robonaut--a surgery-performing robot to patch up space travelers.

The Navy has also teamed with NASA to create a shipboard firefighting robot that can climb stairs, open, hatches, and rescue victims. First it must recognize what a hose is.

But--they admit--"there is an awful lot of stuff to do and it won't be easy or cheap."

This is in its infancy. Still, I remember Rosie from The Jetsons. She was cool. I think it was the apron.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ta-da! I am the one!

You need to toot your own horn. But how to do it so that HR depts don't barf on your shoes.

Anita Bruzzese, Gannett, writes about this.

The key is to project confidence in your own abilities.

This means being excited. This can go back to Dale Carnegie--How to Win Friends and Influence People. The idea is to listen to others--they will sense your interest.

Translate what you have done into what the boss or company needs.

Be brave, positive, and pleasant. That is an interesting threesome. Think about it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New grads--Maybe whiff of hope

Brittany Ducksworth, Arizona Republic, Mar 12, 2014, says employers may be hiring more of the Class of 2014 this year.

A little more than 7% more than the year before.

Many grads are underemployed--meaning a degree is not required for the job they hold.

As ever, employers are looking for business, engineering and computer, as well as communications, backgrounds.

About 84% of grads have a job or an offer 90 days after graduation.

So take heart.

Monday, April 14, 2014

How to SELL your house

The Wall Street Journal has me shaking my head sometimes. I love breaking out my thick (but devastatingly attractive) glasses and magnifier and picking through stories on the latest in backwoods restaurants in Brazil or what socks are "in."

It's like I live in a different world.

Sanette Tanaka, WSJ, Apr 11, 2104, writes about how to hype a listing.

First, describe individual characteristics--granite countertops, wood burning fireplace. Each individual breakout increases price by 1%. Pick offbeat features--just saying bedrooms does not count. To WSJ readers this means, dual dishwashers, wine safes, safe rooms, etc.

Each additional adjective--beautiful, fabulous--boosts the price by almost 1%.

Don't overdo the descriptives, though, or people glaze over.

Also you want agents and prospects to have things to ask--a reason to call.

Keep descriptions under the MLS word count.

I would add--don't get ridiculously creative--words like ultra-cozy, warm, old-fashioned garden can mean tiny, no air and over grown to some people.

Friday, April 11, 2014

IT skills beyond just the technical

Time was, an IT guy or gal could be a pocket protector type, quiet, pencil-chewing, peering into a computer.

Now this person needs tact, empathy, maybe even charm.

Look at a problem, craft a solution. This is not cut and dried anymore. Some techies even build parts on 3D printers.

The IT person should know how customers use the product, what level of expertise they can or care to bring to it, and what they expect the product to do.

I often wish just an inventor would have to use the product for a year. One year!

If the customer says you take over the computer and install it--don't sigh with the weight of the stupid nontech world on your shoulders. Just do it.

Take AOL--how many WHOOPS SOMETHING HAPPENED screens would this person tolerate?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Here's an idea--where do YOU want to work?

I knew a woman in DC who wanted to work for IBM. She studied the company, befriended people there, read business news, and did everything she could think of to get on there.

Eventually she did.

CareerBuilder is all for this approach, but says be sure you know why you are trying so hard to get hired by that particular company. Say you like a company because they have Friday happy hours--what if you get sick of those? After all, you are just socializing with the same people you work with.

Do ongoing research--set Google alerts. Find out who their partners are. What is their supply chain?

See if anyone you know knows people at the company.

In all, make your interest known before an opening happens.

There is one underlying principle that will help you--companies like people who want to work for them.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Break up the boys' club

Struggling for political advantage, the WH is trying to convince women they are being ripped off paywise. They had a "come to Jesus" type meeting there the other day in which women were invited to feel slighted.

Truth is, they may be in some cases--the the truth is also that this is not a federal issue, it's an HR challenge.

Audrey S. Lee, writing in Government Executive, Apr 8, 2014, says today's work force is not white men anymore--36% are other cultures. Forty-seven percent are women.

But the idea of a leader as strong, direct, confident, and take-no-prisoners persists--who does that remind you off--the white man of old.

Say you are petite, Japanese-American, speaking in uptones--management may ask where is her fire?

Instead you may want to study this woman's style--her troops are loyal, well organized.

Yet others who more closely fit the pattern of "the boss" may get chance after chance.

At least think about this.

But who may need to break up The Boys Club? The boys. This is a challenge. But, I think, one that the coming generation will do quite naturally.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Is work like high school?

Do you want to be popular? Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Mar 26, 2014, says social media has made likability more important past the HS years.

Likeable people are more likely to be hired, get help from their coworkers and get useful info from others.

People tend to like authentic (non-phony) people who are like them and seem trustworthy.

You can learn to be likable, they say. Make eye contact, make your voice warm and enthusiastic.

Also really listen to what the other person is saying. And don't make fun of others--if you are funny, make fun of yourself.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What if your boss calls you an idiot?

Well, call him a moron, of course. Or her. Have you ever HEARD of the internet?

Actually firing back will make things worse.

I know, I am a buzzkill.

Instead, ask for a meeting.

Be nice. Maybe the boss forgot he or she TOLD you to do what you did.

Or maybe the boss's boss got torqued and you are the scapegoat.

Then you may want to send an email the next day summarizing the meeting.

Ask everybody to "copy" everybody, one authority says.

I would advise you to say your piece, say you were hurt by the name calling and let it go.

I once thought I was writing to one person and I called a list manager (male) a little old lady. SEND! Ooops, it went to the whole list.

By the time I apologized etc it was a screaming federal case.

And he was---a little old lady.

Friday, April 4, 2014

When autism can be a plus

Shirley S. Wang, WSJ, Mar 28, 2014, says some employers are seeking out people on the autism scale for certain positions.

With 85% of people with autism unemployed, this is good.

People with autism spectrum disorder, characterized by social deficits and repetitive behavior tend to pay better attention to detail.

People with autism often go step by step, don't skip details. They also don't take a lot of time chitchatting and socializing.

Often the computer and number crunching are strong areas.

Who is hiring? The business software company SAP, for one.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dream of quitting corporate America?

Not so fast!

I did that--quit. I had a late-in-life baby and ended up freelancing for 35 years. Coupla things.

When you freelance, you will miss that check appearing in your account every two weeks. We were old school, a guy named Gil dropped it on your desk. Nice. You didn't need to hire muscle to get paid. You didn't need to wait 30 days, 45 days.

You will miss benefits--supposedly under this health care scheme, you may--repeat, may--be helped to buy some overpriced insurance plan--but it will be full of pitfalls such as out of pockets and limited docs and hospitals.

You may miss being a part of something--a team if you will.

You may even miss gossip. The watercooler, which in my case was the break room, which had its own staff to make coffee and get the doughnuts. Nice! The mailroom would also wrap and send your personal parcels.

Our former House speaker Nancy Pelosi likes to wax on how the health bill will let people dump "real" jobs and become creatives. Not that she would do that.

Well, you have to be sure that creative job would not only pay the health insurance, but the rent or mortgage, electric, water, credit cards, etc. You have to be REALLY creative. Not everyone is.

Still, 40% of Americans in one survey would like to leave their desk jobs--they would even take a pay cut.

Well, yes, they would. Think about it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Employers to take MOOCs seriously

Taking a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is not like going to the Learning Annex. Many employers are not aware of these, but when they learn about them, researchers at Duke say they tend to give them credence.

The study was done by Duke and RTI International and funded by the Gates Foundation.

When they queried 400 NC employers betweeen Nov 2013 and Jan 2014, 103 responded.

Only 31% had heard of MOOCs. But when they read a description, they were receptive to using MOOCs to recruit and hire. They also saw MOOCs as a path to professional development.

Only one had used MOOCs to recruit--but 57% said they might  in the future. Communications, tech and manufacturing were the fields most likely to credit this training.

They also said applicants who took MOOCs would be viewed favorably.

So, you may want to look into a MOOC. The field is changing rapidly. Check out or

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bright lights sell

In a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, it was suggested that bright lighting meant warmth---which intensified reactions both positive and negative.

You know--how a sunny day can lift your mood?

In an emotional meeting, dimming the lights somewhat can keep it calm.

These experiments were done at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto. With lights bright and dim, the different groups evaluated everything from sauce to juice to TV commercials.

The specier sauces won in the lighted rooms. Brightness also increased the impression of aggressiveness and sexiness of others.

Soooo....also they wondered whether one's feelings of warmth went the other way--making the room look brighter.

At that point, I wondered what the heck they were measuring.

The general idea, however, could be useful in some situations.