Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Oops--unintended consequence

I am all about unintended consequences--every action seems to have at least one. There's a life lesson for ya.

Some very nice, well intended people, Debbie and Jennifer Fink, thought the term "army brats"  needed a makeover. They wrote a book called The Little C.H.A.M.P.S.

This tells the story of some army brats and brats of other services. But instead of brats, it called them CHAMPS--Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel.

Ooof---that is dreadful. First, why are they heroes. And "attached"--like conjoined?

Well, the brats worldwide were not charmed, either!

"The title received a bit of pushback," Jennifer allowed, quoted in a story by John Kelly in the Wash Post, Dec 30, 2014.

Brats had swagger, said one brat.Well, of course it did--living all over the world, among armaments and capable people, would impart that.

Naturally, in true internet fashion, there was a backlash against the backlash.

At this point, I say WHATEVER! I would way rather be a brat myself than a fake kid hero annointed by some young gals, however well meaning.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How to be a better communicator

Jayson DeMers, a Forbes.com contributor, talks about the things good communicators do.

First, they get personal. This does not mean personal facts about them, necessarily, but can mean something that speaks to the personal life of the listener.

They stick to facts and don't just spew random garbage or start sentences with "I wonder if..."

They are specific. They cut to the chase (and maybe don't use cliches?). Say it and get off stage.

Good communicators ask questions--they fold in the audience. This does not include, "You know what I'm sayin'"?

Good communicators often ask others for clarification. Just say, "What do you mean exactly?"

And--they listen! How often do I watch a news show and the person being interviewed is asked about what he or she just said! I scream at the TV--"He just said that!"

Look also for the body language of the listener--are they glazed over, have you lost them? Do they look puzzled?

Do we know all this stuff--sometimes I think we do!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ten skills you 2015 grads need

Susan Adams, Forbes.com, Nov 11, 2014, says employers are looking for industry-specific knowledge, sure, but more importantly--teamwork, decision-making, and other skills.

The National Assn of Colleges and Employers, a nonprofit linking college career placement offices with companies, asked hiring managers about their priorities.

Degrees and fields, of course, do matter--most in demand, business, engineering and info sciences.

And here are 10 skills mentioned...

*Ability to work in a team

*Ability to make decisions and solve problems

*Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside the organization

*Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work

*Ability to obtain and process info

Ability analyze quantitative data

Technical knowledge of the job

Ability to write or edit reports

Ability to sell and influence

*The top five are key. You must have those for every modern-day job.

Did I communicate that?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How to get back the respect of your staff

Let's face it--people will take advantage if they sense weakness. At the office, they may start taking long lunches, dogging assignments, making excuses, blaming others.

When workers respect their managers and feel respected in return, this does not happen.

But say, things have slipped. CareerBuilder has some ideas...

You may have gotten sloppy dress-wise...Set a good example.

Listen to your workers--ask for feedback.

Ask employees to take risks--don't toss them to the wolves if they fail.

Watch your mouth--the cursing, the public dressing downs.

Praise in public, correct in private.

Transfer your knowledge.

Stay involved with those below as well as above you.

But set limits--if people are becoming unprofessional and troublesome, draw the line.

That was my biggest issue when I was a "boss." I would want to be nice, egalitarian and I expected people to appreciate this and do their best. It does not always work that way.

Back Monday--have a nice holiday!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Guarding the kids

I almost never double post to this and my health site, HEALTHSass.blogspot.com, but I am making an exception.

I first learned of this effort from the University of Wisconsin magazine called On Wisconsin. Apparently a professor and his family set up a house, guarded by armed guards, to safeguard albino children, believed to be possessed of evil spirits.

Of course, this is condition is genetic, not spiritual.

But these kids are hunted and killed for their body parts. Like a rabbit's foot as a lucky charm...

The kids can never walk around unguarded--our Congress even passed a law. But guarding them is the most effective way to get them to adulthood and to where they can fend for themselves.

The goals it to establish a campus in Tanzania for 200 kids--some with albinism and some with other handicaps.

Currently the professors' friend is caring for 35 kids in a house in Lamadi Village. She is turning kids away--which can be a death sentence.

They have the land and have broken ground on the campus. I am convinced this is not some hanky-wringing scam. Any little amount helps.

Go to http://savealbinochildren.org.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Are you in the wrong pew?

Maria Gottschalk, Government Executive Magazine, writes about how you can tell if you are in the wrong job.

Poor matches do happen, she says. Or jobs change and people don't. Or people change and jobs don't.

One sign can be that you feel lost. If tasks leave you feeling unprepared (like the school dream), this can be an indication.

If you feel your strengths are not being used.

There is no challenge, you feel like you are standing still.

Or--do you feel like your team is going one way and you increasingly are at odds?

Do you avoid work--have trouble completing things.

What does the little inner voice say?

If it says, "Hmmmm" or "uh-oh," listen.

Friday, December 19, 2014

What if your company gives you food stamps?

I remember back when I had a "real" job, we used to have fabulous Christmas parties in hotel ballrooms, then one year, we got a $20 gift certificate to the grocery store. We called it food stamps, being (in those days) elitist little brats.

Some companies and coworkers do give awkward gifts. Be prepared.

According to CareerBuilder, there should be more bonuses and cash rewards this year.

But there is still plenty of the "creative" stuff. Most of this comes from "Secret Santas," who are assigned to give you something.

The oddest CB found was some Hot Pockets--what a gift!

Another worker got one chess piece...just the one.

A bag of chips wowed yet another worker--or a single serving of coffee grounds. Drink up!

And--one person reported getting a fire extinguisher--freshly ripped off the office wall.

Only 20% of people give their bosses a gift--just between us.

If his first name is Ebenezer, forget it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How to tell your boss does not like you

Someone once told me ten percent of the people I met would not like me and would never like me. That turned out to be pretty true.

But what if one is your boss?

Bernard Marr, Government Executive Magazine, writes on this.

Key signs:

--The boss excludes you from important meetings.

--Micormanages you.

--Is inaccessible and hard to reach for guidance.

--Criticizes you publicly.

--Skips promoting you.

--Never thanks you.

--Seems to dismiss all your ideas.

--Stops introducing you to clients.

--Never emails or calls back.

--Assign you menial tasks a lot.

What can you do besides look for another job?

First, confront the boss in a nice manner, don't be defensive. Say you want to improve.

Document your successes and the boss's slights.

Talk to HR or your boss's boss if this does not change things.

This is a tough situation--you need to proceed wisely.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Being unemployed affects men and women differently

A recent Kaiser and CBS News poll showed that out of work men and women with children spend more time with the kids--60% of the women said this improved relations with the kids, but only 22% of the men thought it did.

Working is in decline, according to Binyamin Appelbaum, NYT, Dec 15, 2014.

But men seem to be more burdened with pride and are less willing to take a lesser job.

One man's wife made $10 an hour, but he would not take such a job, saying she was more "accepting."

Women--especially those with children--put a higher value on being at home. They are more likely to cite "family responsibilities" as a reason not to go back to work.

So far, this seems unremarkable.

But--now for a problem--43% of out of work men report worse mental health and only 16% of women do.

Twenty-five percent of women even said they felt better.

Women said they spent their time volunteering, caring for others, and exercising. Men said they read, watched TV and surfed the net.

Was looking for a job anywhere in the mix? Did not see it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Could a layoff be coming?

Is it possible to second-guess the coming of a layoff. Maybe.

Cheryl E. Palmer, owner of Call to Career, says some red flags of a coming layoff are:

--Frequent closed-door meetings of execs.

--Budget shortfalls.

--Reassignment of your tasks.

--Company mergers.

If you smell it in the air, first try to secure your position. Align yourself with the direction of the company, Palmer advises. The workers "not in sync" can be the first to be laid off. Be able to quantify the money you saved or earned the company.

If you do get laid off, expand your network. Volunteer to serve on committees--up your visibility.

In job interviews, let the interviewer know you were not the only one laid off (if this is true).

Be level-headed, hysterics are your enemy.

Regarding the merger clue--I have had people say well, the merger will create more customers and more jobs--but usually redundant people from one of the companies will be laid off.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bad raise? Maybe some perks might be possible


Deborah Jian Lee, writing on Forbes.com, says wage stagnation is a fact, but sometimes instead of pay you can get other things to make life more pleasant.

Want some ideas?

Flexible schedule. Maybe coming in early and leaving early. or work longer Mon-Thurs so you can have Friday off.

Telecommuting. Work from home 1-2 days a week. Skip the commute, catch up on exercise, etc.

Time off. Try to get extra vacation days.

How about a nicer office? Bigger, a window.

Better work equipment is also nice..maybe an ergonomic chair, bigger monitor.

Continuing ed classes are nice. This also shows you are industrious.

Maybe it's time for that dream assignment or a better title.

And last, you could ask for commuting reimbursement...Companies offer this.

Or you may have to ask first. You can ask anybody anything...remember that. However, I would not ask for all of these--be brave, but think first.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ah, idiots, we love them so

I used to say, "I have many bosses but no superiors." This, naturally, went over big with the boss class.

Scott Reeves, writing in Forbes, explains the best ways to work with idiot bosses. I guess one way would be not to call them idiots.

He suggests "idiot engineering"--turning the boss's cluelessness to your advantage.

Many people try to make idiot bosses look bad--the best strategy, though, is to do the opposite.

You want to diminish the harm to you the boss's cluelessness can do.

First listen to the person. Try to key in on their hobbies or interests.

Idiot engineering is not butt-kissing. Incorporate your ideas into the idiot's language and agenda.

Remember, though--this is the person with the institutional power. They can pop alive and do you damage.

The battler against idiocy is a long twilight struggle, Reeves says. And--remember--you may have a little idiot in you. Combining that with the boss's can mean disaster.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

People who say they are good at math...

..may not be. Apparently thinking you are good and being good are two different things.

One in five people who say they are bad at math score in the top half of testing. One third of those who say they are good are in the bottom third.

Still...this does not mean they are not good with numbers. Being good with numbers takes different forms. Those who think they are good, for example, stick with a problem longer. Those who think they are bad, are not motivated and quit.

Those who think they are "bad," may put off their taxes, pick the wrong health insurance--give up, basically.

Of course, they did a big study on this--what does "being good" mean and how does this test?

They learned there are variations in numeracy.One was objective numeracy--being able to work problems, predict answers, etc. Some were better at symbolic-number mapping used rough estimates, which were usually good enough.

There is more than one way to be good at math, they concluded.

I can always see if a calculation "makes sense." I will say to my sister, "That can't be right." She looks blank.

I think I am in the good enough camp.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to snag a great mentor

Scott Eblin, Govt Executive Magazine, Dec 5, 2014, says usually a mentor relationship evolves from people you know--you don't go out and request someone to devote time to you.

He suggests some ways to intersect with someone:

Volunteer. Sometimes a boss or person will say no, but usually they will welcome your help and attitude.

Do great work. Treat every job as a chance to do your best. Create more value than expected.

Be open. If you are asked to do something you don't feel ready for, be open. Mentors can spot talent--try to live up to it.

Watch and learn. Learn from the best in your organization, the way they appear, how they deal with others, how they handle disappointment.

Again, don't ask a senior person to mentor you. Mentors choose proteges.

I had one mentor in my career--and he was sort of a negative mentor--he pushed, mocked, prodded---I vowed not to be like him--yet, I did change and grow.

Weird.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Some body language poses to avoid

Did you ever judge someone by how they sit? Of course, you have.

Bernard Marr is a business strategy guy. Writing in Forbes, he has some body poses you may want to watch out for--in others--and avoid in yourself.

Leaning back too much. You look lazy and/or arrogant.

Leaning forward--too aggressive.

Breaking eye contact to soon--makes you look untrustworthy.

Nodding too much--makes you look like a bobblehead.

Crossing your arms--defensive.

Looking up or around--make you look like a liar or fake. Looking left means lying, some say.

Staring--aggressive or serial killer.

Steepling fingers or holding palms up--begging.

Checking phone or watch--we all know that one--bored, looking for someone better to talk to. Washington DC version: Looking over the listener's shoulder for someone more famous.

So what should you do? Beats me.

Monday, December 8, 2014

If your spouse cheats, then what

Daniel Walter, a clinical psychologist and specialist in sexual and relationships with the Morris Psychological Group in Parsippany, NJ, says marriage is supposed to be permanent, based on trust, fidelity, and mortgages.

Virtually everyone who gets married, expects their spouse to maintain that trust, he says. But, as m any as 40% of married people cheat.

This can be devastating--31% of men and 45% of women blame cheating for marital separation.

The destruction of trust is worse than the physical aspect of cheating. Feelings of hurt, anger, rage--we all know this personally or know someone close who has experienced it--or both.

If you want to stay in the marriage, Walter says:

--The infidelity must stop. Completely.

--You must consider your motives--staying isn't a given. Sometimes the cheated-on mate will blame themselves and stay out of insecurity.  Or people do it for the children's sake. Decide why you want to stay.

--Get help--counseling gives an outside view, things you never thought about.

You can break through the recriminations to a better place--the spouse may be in that better place--or not.

Friday, December 5, 2014

What says success to you?

Howard Sandusky, Govt Executive Magazine, Dec 3, 2014, asks if you look over your career--what constitutes success to you? Your title? Your salary? Your home's value? An award?

Happiness is dropping in America--only 35% in a Harris poll say they are happy--2% fewer than five yrs ago.

He tells the story of a seamstress who would look carefully at yardsticks--they differed--some were crooked. She thought garments measured with a crooked stick would never feel quite right to the wearer.

Income, goals, possessions never really satisfy.

See if your yardsticks are straight.

First decide who you are. What should people remember about you after you are gone--or your company?

Make peace with your past. It's just a starting point.

Where are you going? Amazingly people can't answer this. See if your feel "right"?

Set your own terms. That seamstress only had $500 when she died at 58, but she was fulfilled. She raised a good family, loved her husband and five children. She knew the items she made brought beauty and joy to others.

She had selected the yardstick and she was secure in that knowledge.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Contrarian's view of working

I used to have a client who had me write "A Contrarian's View..." of many topics. Memories.

Anyhow, Stephan Pollan, author of Die Broke and Live Rich, is a lawyer and finance adviser.

He's 83 so may have picked up a thing or two. He was interviewed by Forbes Magazine.

At the center of a career--he says--is fear.

He says the concept of a career is passe, gone. Jobs should not afford you fulfillment. It's a stream of income. Employers don't care if you are fulfilled.

He also thinks people work for their supervisors, not the company. Companies rarely know who you are. Your job is to make the supervisor look good.

Talk to your supervisor at least once a month. Show gratitude for opportunities. Be passionate, especially if you are older. Supervisors think of young people as cheaper and more energetic.

Employers look at finances in hiring--who costs the least.

And getting fired gets you off your...ass. It's like a graduate degree in life.

He also advises you not to look too much like a job hunter.

Get some job while looking--it's better to say, I am working now but want something better.

I was going to say not to trust someone just because they are old--but all this sounds like pretty good advice to me.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Applying when you already have a job

Sometimes people get locked into a job because they want to keep the one in the hand and not risk it flying off.

Susan Ricker, Career Builder, took this on. Despite fears of being found out as dissatisfied or "looking," people do keep their eyes open for a better opportunity.

Before you do it, though--think, plan. Why do you want to switch? To get more money? To change geographical areas? To do something less boring or more satisfying?

Then sit down and write out all your accomplishments. Then make a list of your skills and education. See how transferable these are to what you have in mind.

If you can, try out the new career--hold on to your job and volunteer. Join a professional organization.

Once you have decided to move forward, try to protect your old job. There will always be risk. Make sure people know your search is confidential. Do not say you are looking on social media. Make sure recruiters do not check with anyone without asking you.

When you discuss your present employer, be discreet and diplomatic.

As the economy improves, switching will be more common. But you still need to think first.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advice from successful people

Susan Ricker, CareerBuilder, asked from people for their job advice.

Margaret Miller, writer/editor, Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation: Think through interview answers. She was asked once what job she was most proud of and blurted: Being a mother. This is not what they wanted to hear. Think ahead, look up the company.

Founder of AKA Network Marketing: Don't listen to doom and gloom. People are getting jobs even in the down economy.

Val Nelson, career guru: Focus on a job you are passionate about--this should show in your resume and interview--a spark.

Ann Latham, president, Uncommon Clarity: Figure out how you can add value--then emphasize this.

Tammy Gooler Loeb, executive coach: Network. (Yeah. that one has been going around.)

Try always to stand out from the crowd.  Have a personal brand.

Also--old marketing idea--translate "features" into "benefits." Say you have a degree in international business (a feature of you), say, "My experience in international business will benefit you in your merger with the London company XYZ"--a benefit. That is also value added.

Bam! See? It's not so hard.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas parties--be careful

The invites are a'comin'. Office Christmas parties.

Note the word "office." This is a business occasion. Remember that.

You cannot count on the bosses being so inebriated they forget your behavior.

--Wear something appropriate, not trashy.

--No one-on-one in the copy room--the story gets out.

--No swearing.

--Two drink maximum.

--Not the time to settle scores or let it all hang out.

--Be gracious to the wives and husbands you may not have met before.

Actually this is prime networking--gab with people from another department, get the lay of the land, but don't complain about your own dept or bosses.

Go out after and have "fun." The party is business.

See? You already forgot.