Friday, May 30, 2014

America is backsliding

Our economy went backwards in the first quarter.

Anemic growth of 1-2% would have been welcome. But no.

Are you seeing this where you live? Are you out of the workforce now? Did you bail?

Are you working two or three jobs? Taking classes? About to graduate and wondering how you will pay off those loans?

This is big stuff!

The heck with a level playing field--we need any kind of playing field--an economy where companies recruit and train, where people can afford to buy what workers make, an economy where the casino or lottery is not part of so many people's financial planning.

Taking money away from rich people does not make me richer.

Let's see some industrial giants confab at the Big White--not people worried about teenage concussions, an important issue but not the business of the administration. Same for what we eat or what size sodas we can buy--let's concentrate on how we pay for what we eat and slurp.

We have an election coming up. Make your views--and your fears--known!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Is coding school worth the money?

You hear it all the time. Toddlers, can code. Learn to code--fixed for life. This means writing computer code, by the way.

Melissa Korn and Lauren Weber, WSJ, May 21, 2014, say coding boot camps are everywhere.

Learn Python. Learn Ruby on Rails. (What happened to BASIC? OK, Grandma will shut up.)

These places charge $6-$18K for a 3-mo course!

This is less than a college semester. Some are extending the time, though.

One source says there is a gold-rush thing going on here--and that coding can be frustrating on long-term projects. A quick deal it is not.

Also, most of these establishments tell you they are getting you ready for entry-level, which can be $60K.

Many grads, they find, need mentoring on the job, too. "You need good onboarding," one source said.

I think this is a case of you have to start somewhere. They compared schools-there seemed to be a, 82% to 100% success rate in getting a job after graduating one of these courses.

One student was able to quit bartending, others did better than that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Grrrr--desk chairs

The city of Phoenix keeps 10 chair samples in a room for employees to try out. Well, isn't that SPESH-UL.

Actually, it is special--Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, May 21, 2014, says some people just aren't made to be in a desk chair--these chairs are made for the majority.

Four million workers are out in the cold. Or wracked with pain. Or fear.

Short people can't reach the backrest--ouch. Or else their legs stick out in front like a kid's.

Tall people north of six feet are all folded up, too. Or if they lean back, they fall over backwards.

Manufacturers now are also making tables and desks that go up and down--instead of those hydraulic chair adjustments.

I  HATE THOSE! Once one let go, my arthritic knees were suddenly bent into sheer agony as the hydraulics let go and the chair plunged down a foot. That chair is on the patio and I sit in a wooden dining room chair. Never again!

Check out a Steelcase chair called Gesture. I am sure they will take your first born for it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How interviewers check your soft skills

Soft skills are such things as communication, creativity, team participation, spirit--sort of intangibles that govern how you will fit in.

Most employers now look for Science, Tech, Engineering and Math--computer programs mastered, and so on.

According to Mary Lorenz, a writer for, they don't even delve into whether the person has a strong work ethic (no Monday sick days), can pitch in on a team, manage lots of priorities, and is flexible or confident.

If these are of importance to the employer, they will ask behavioral questions.

Some examples: Describe a problem you had with a supervisor and how you resolved it.

Or: Tell me about a time people did not work together and how you handled it.

Or: Describe a problem that was almost overwhelming to you--what did you do?

My advice is to try to be concise an d honest--and not braggy.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Your summer internship may be key

Brett Arends, WSJ, May 17-18, 2014, talks about a study some profs at Univ of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, Univ of Pennsylvania, and Auburn did.

Last year, they created 9,400 fictitious resumes for people out of college for three years and sent them to 2,000 online jobs in several cities.

These were banking, finance, insurance, management, marketing, sales--the gamut.

They sent four resumes for each job--changing variables. Half showed a business major, the other half English, biology, history or psych.

A quarter of these showed the past summer was spent in an internship similar to the job.

Five out of six never heard back. Shocker.

Only 17% were invited for an interview.

Majors did not matter! An English major was as likely to get an interview.

Grades also did not matter.

The summer internship--that mattered. And these were candidates out of college for three years--the internship still resonated.

Also--the internship cushioned damage from being a barista or underemployed.

The researchers were surprised. They had added the internship thing later. And afterthought.

They theorize that if you worked in a bank in the summer and then you applied to a bank even three years later, the bank would think you must like banking.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Are you the work inside type or the wanderer?

Susan Ricker, CareerBuilder, May 22, 2014, invites us to decide a basic thing about ourselves--do we like office work or being out in the world?

Some people like being in the thick of the action in the office. For others, it's getting out, taking cabs or the subway, driving, meeting different people.

About 76% of inside and outside workers said they were happy, but more inside workers had some complaints.

Ditto for stress. About equal at 30%--but non-desk workers have more burnout.

If it's money you are going for, the desk jobs win. Those with desk jobs were twice as like to earn six figures. The non desk people were twice as likely to be under $35,000.

Seventy-two percent of desk workers liked access to the internet and technology. They also liked work that was not physically demanding.

Still they turned around and complained about being stuck at the desk or stuck inside.

The non-desk people liked being more active (68%). They liked the variety.

But they were also pooped at the end of the day (35%). And some said they were more prone to illness.

Sooo...which are you?

When I had a real job, I was inside and outside. I had to go to Capitol Hill almost every day--so I was out of the office for about half the day. That was perfect.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Money, money, talking money

When can you ask for a raise--or talk about what someone else makes?

CareerBuilder has some tips.

Even if they rave about you, six months may be too soon to ask for a raise. Wait a year. (Unless a lot of duties have been added in those six months.)

What about your year-end bonus? Too cheesy? Well, bonuses are not "givens." You can make a tactful inquiry. Maybe it was an oversight.

What if a new hire is making more and you find out? First, this person may have skills you don't know about. This gets very tricky--the whole equal pay thing. It's better to ask for a raise based on your performance--not someone else's check.

If you are offered too low an incoming amount--should you negotiate?  Check out the Robert Half Salary Guide--sure, negotiate--it is often expected.

So your research, be gracious, pick your moment.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to be a more feeling boss

In the Wayback, when I had people to boss around, I tried too hard to be a pal. It was my weakness. I used the whole "we are all in this together" gambit--which your employees may not actually think is true.

Dan McCarthy, director of executive development, Univ of NH, Govt Executive, May 7, 2014, said a survey shows that 58% of managers fail to show the right level of understanding toward their employees.

Empathy means "getting" the feelings of others.

First, you need to get to know your employees. See if you can name their spouse, their kids, where they live, where their parents live.

Have one-to-ones with them occasionally.

Show an interest in their daily grind. What--you missed lunch all week, well, that isn't good.


Respond caringly--So I am hearing that you didn't get what you needed from John....

Lend a hand. The most important thing I did as a boss was set priorities. If I asked them to do 10 things, I put them in order of importance.

Still, if I also knew about divorces, children, this, that, as women tend to do, some employees played me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

So you want to work in financial services

According to Kevin Knapp, CFO of CareerBuilder, 47% of financial services companies have open positions--they say they can't find the skills.

It's up to you to overcome misgivings if you want to work in the banking, investment or mortgage area.

First, be realistic Too many people expect a giant salary--and overlook the bennies.

Decide on several wage levels you would take using market data--not water cooler gossip.

Going in a little low with good benefits can lead to raises for performance.

If you have a skills gap area, know that 55% of financial services companies poll as thinking training should be paid for by the company and candidate equally. Thirty-seven percent provide technical ed on the job.

Communicate a willingness to learn.

Remember employers lose revenue from extended job vacancies. You hold some cards.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Jill, this your best look?

We are not supposed to judge by appearances--but you tell me one person who doesn't.

There is a big whup right now about Jill Abramson being fired from the New York Times--she says for asking for equal pay (the other guy had been there longer, I might point out).

I say it may be (partly) for sloppy grooming--not putting her best foot forward. For not doing the best with what she had. For a bad hair style, if that is one.

Be neat, clean, get a good haircut, and yes--use makeup! Most people look vastly better with a little definition and contrast.

Abramson has a muddy complexion and needs to smooth it.

And those eyebags...well....

I am not saying this is why she was fired. Exactly. But would you say she was representing the Times in the best light?

There is also a picture of her, tattooed, in a sloppy wife beater, boxing.

Spare me.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Packing tips from a business insider

 Lydia Dallet, Business Insider, wrote about frequent flyer Jeffrey Davis, who could give "Up in the Air" George Clooney some tips on traveling efficiently.

Ditch the colors. Black, black, black. Jeans, T's, suits, socks.

Never EVER check your bag. Two suits are plenty--wear one with a casual shirt and workout shoes.

Forget Ziploc bags--if you wear contacts, use a smaller bottle. Use in-room shampoos.

Stay in the same hotel for two nights each week--and use their laundry service. This means five socks, five pairs of underwear, etc.

A roll-aboard suitcase case with a hook saves stress.

Before you go, test ALL batteries. You may not even need the charger.

Scan your paperwork into your computer or phone--it could come in handy.

May I add one thing--bring a few one hundred dollar bills--accepted everywhere. Cheerfully.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rain in your area--plant a swamp

I mean, a rain garden. (Obviously this is not an issue in the Sonoran Desert where I live, though I do have a huge pond.)

A rain garden fills with a few inches of water and slowly filters into the ground. Lots of water-loving plants will thrive there.

Pick an area where runoff from your slope or gutters will end up. (Keep it at least 10 feet from building foundations, underground utilities, and septic tanks.)

Make it 4-8 inches deep. Have one inlet for water to come in--another for it to dribble out--maybe line these with stone.

Keep it level.

Many plants and grasses like the soppy ground. Sedges, rushes, umbrella plants, ferns. Ask your local Ag extension service.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Can you love your organization too much?

Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, Apr 30, 2014, says some workers are so loyal, they crash and burn if something goes wrong in their company.

It may not even in their dept or under their control. They are devastated.

Others are free agents and see the company as the place that pays them.

One woman was so in love with BP because of its stated environmental concerns--she gave her all for nine years. Then came an explosion, a pipeline spill, and a new CEO--she left.

The hurt ran deep, she said, because she was so in love with that company.

One in three employees are attached to their jobs and this is rising.

Where do you stand?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hey, bosses--someone under you sick?

This is for all bosses and human resources departments with employees battling serious illnesses.

Bryan Bishop is the sidekick known as Bald Bryan to radio and podcast personality Adam Carolla. I recently picked up Bishop's "cancer memoir" titled Shrinkage.

We have all seen actors vomiting from chemo and regrettably many of us have known non-actors who have undergone cancer treatment. But this book--kind of self-absorbed, kind of breathless and very candid--with "corrections" from Bishop's beloved wife Christie--really lays out the brutal effects of  trying to shrink an inoperable brain stem tumor.

Of course, the couple is also trying to get married, manage without jobs, juggle well-meaning families, and describe and fight back against certain doctors lacking in the charm department. Dr. Drew, for instance, has been known to pronounce "death sentence" when he hears of people's diagnoses--and he is one they like.

We all know chemo can make you throw up and lose your hair (Bishop's was already gone, so no problem). But what you will learn is how chemo and radiation slam the entire body--Bishop could not dress himself, walk without help, eat without help, or even speak clearly without slurring as his brain was bombarded.

This is where supervisors and HR departments come in. This book can advance understanding of what your colleague may be going through. Despite a boss who Bishop features  in his Biggest Douchebags I Have Known segment, Bishop's colleagues stand by him pretty well. I was not clear on his insurance situation, though Cobra was mentioned, so maybe he was  not with Carolla anymore. I am not clear on that. I know Carolla stood by him--as did hundrreds including Jimmy Kimmel who attended a fundraiser for the Bishops.

Remember--you could land on Mount Douchemore--so proceed accordingly.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cubicle versus open savannah

Writing in The Atlantic, Laura Smith says we former plains and cave people are ill suited to cubicle life.

This comes from a book called Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval.

The premise is the cube is too removed from nature. We crave the natural world.

Hunting-gathering--that is our calling and has occupied 90% of history.

Hunting kudus we were in motion, reacing to passing scenery. We maintained "primitive" attention.

Viewing nature is "visual Valium."  Walking in forests and breathing tree "breath" has been shown to have beneficial effects.

Would windows help?

Maybe a little.

I do look out a lot. The birds, the bird baths. The hummingbird feeder.

No gazelles or kudus. I must look into that.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Why men may not stand up for you, ladies

Less than 15% of executives at Fortune 500 companies are women. If men would like to see more, says Adam Grant at Government Executive mag, many may be afraid to get out in front.

There may be two types of sexism--the usual reason given for men's shyness in this area. The first is not wanting to share the wealth and the second  is being pro-women but just not in leadership.

Grant says it may be more than men think they won't be take seriously if they stand up for women--because they are not women and are seen as having no stake.

Mean speaking for woman can sound patronizing. One man who spoke for women was accused of trying to enhance his dating prospects.

Is there a winning position here? Can women build up women without the help of men?

Back when I had a real job, it was mixed--the men knew they owed all the efficiency of their offices and even their jobs to women, but still wanted to keep them in lower positions.

This is called a mixed message.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cheap fluff-ups for your home before selling

As the housing world limps and gimps, some people are trying to sell their homes. On the high-end shows (usually containing the words "Million Dollar"), they stage the fabbie houses and apts, put in new kitchens, and so on.

Out here in real life, maybe cutting the weeds in front would be a good idea.

The recommendation is to fix things up as best you can. The buyer can customize it the rest of the way to suit their tastes.

Some cheap steps:

Fresh linens and towels.

No small appliances on the counters.

Clean and oil wood cabinets.

Declutter--this includes photos.

Weed the yard.

Touch up painted areas that are scrappy looking.

Keep the front door area tidy--have a bulb in the light.

If you have the cash, granite counters and tile floors are good fixes.

I guess my painted concrete won't cut it, huh?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

MBA students delving into philosophy

Melissa Korn, WSJ, May 1, 2014, says a handful of schools are combining philosophy and business.

The courses have titles such as "Thinking about Thinking." They read Kant, Marx.

The London School of Business, for instance, has a course called "Nobel Thinking"--theories.

All this is to help students grasp "the big picture"--the world beyond the spreadsheet.

But many business types do not like ambiguity. They like questions with one right answer.

I think this sounds great--more emphasis on the quirky science of human nature, why do people vote against their interests, ignore facts, and so on.

That could be a course.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Are you a baby Master of the Universe?

Jason Bellini gives a crash course in how to get hired at Goldman Sachs (WSJ, May 3-4, 2014).

You will be one of 3% of 100,000 applicants.

You will probably attend an on-campus networking session or meet with an alum who works there.

The next step is to get invited to a "superday" there--be passionate about financial services, remember.

(A superday is one-on-one meetings in a division or group. Don't be late. Know where their stock is trading.)

If you get a slot, you will be called.  Base pay is about $70K, non-negotiable. The job starts in July. Don't be late.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Success breeds success

You're a winner. On a roll. Beginner's luck. Some Researchers at Stony Brook University in NY decided to see whether early success produced significant later success.

Finding: Early success not based on merit may produce inequality in achievement, whatever that means. But great early success did not produce later success. In other words (I think), huge amounts of early success did not result in huge amts of later success.

What you are looking for is a "self-propelling cascade of success." You don't always get that.

They researchers did find that getting early financial support for a project resulted in more chance of other financial support.

I can see that--that is how they got to the study, probably.

I want a cascade of success--that sounds pretty nifty.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fighing the mid-afternoon blahs

Lunch is long over, quitting time is long in the future--and you are so drained you could put your head on the desk.

According to CareerBuilder and sleep expert Michael J. Breus, author of Beauty Sleep, in the afternoon your core temp begins to drop, you release melatonin, and ... nap time!

Some companies have nap couches, but don't get your hopes up--very few.

Have a good breakfast. Have protein. At lunch watch the fat content. Carbs increase alertness.

Coffee is also helpful. Two-three cups a day helps.

Move around, take a walk.

Stay busy--answer emails, anything.

I take a nap. But of course, I work at home and I am a nice boss to myself.