Friday, May 29, 2015

Workarounds can increase your sense of control

Erik H. Helzer, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, notes that there is a traditional view of life where you exert "primary control" over events in life by striving for goals and asserting your will.

But--he says--there is also an another method--secondary control--where you adapt to facts of life that cannot be bent to human will.

Both contribute to a sense of well-being.

They set up an experiment where people exerted primary and secondary control. Primary control was the only one associated with negative moods. Viz: Gal in the picture.

Looking at the big picture, they decided, being more reflective promoted more feelings of daily happiness, warmth, and peace--even in the presence of negative experiences.

You can have satisfaction with how you handled things--even if you are not deliriously happy.

Secondary control does not have to be passive, second-best, it is often depicted.

In other words, it's like I always say--"You can't write a script and get people to read it--except in the movies."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How about this new type health job?

People are always going to be sick--job security. So maybe you should consider becoming a Medical Scribe.

There is a company called ScribeAmerica that recruits and trains people to take notes and keep records during medical encounters in ERs and elsewhere. Instead of the physician hunching over the computer or chart, the Scribe does it.

Often pre-med students sign up--it can be good exposure. Hours are counted toward a Physician Assistant degree.

After you contact the company and are accepted, you complete hours of training tailored to specific client medical facilities--such as ERs, Urgent Cares, doctors' offices, and so on.

Step two is sort of a 4-5 day internship under the supervison of a more experienced Scribe. And Step Three is continuous evaluation as time goes on.

This training--which can be 120 hours or much more--is not something you pay--the clients pay for it.

The initial training includes videos, Medical Spanish, HIPAA compliance, chart reviews and feedback, and similar coursework.

If you don't want to take medical assistant training or the like on your own nickel. check this out.

You need confidence, a sense of responsibility, maturity, ability to multitask, and you must be punctual. Good computer skills are also required.

They do ask for a certain commitment of hours. Sound interesting? Go to

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Color green can improve concentration

Some scientists at the University of Melbourne published a study in the J of Environmental Psychology where they tested the idea of "microbreaks"--under a  minute--and how these can boost concentration.

For these "breaks," they found glancing at a grassy green roof scene restored concentration more effectively than looking at a ratty concrete roof.

They found 150 students carrying out a boring task (watching a screen while numbers flashed on and for each number, pressing the key for it--unless it was a 3).

They got a 40-sec break where they could look at a rooftop scene.

View of the grassy roof led to fewer mistakes and resulted in better concentration to complete the task.

Basically, people like nature--they look out windows at it.

They have even tracked people for five years after they moved to a greener place--not only did the move improve mental health, but the benefit lasted long after the move.

One of my favorite factoids is that diamond cutters keep an emerald on a stand near them and gaze into it--to restore concentration.

Green is just a brain color.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How to explain unemployment periods

Not finding a job, not finding a job you want, changing career paths, getting downsized, going back to school--there may be gaps in your resume.

Susan Ricker, CareerBuilder, says how you account for this is worth some forethought.

Usually, what you were doing--taking care of a loved one, or going to school, are OK reasons in themselves. Quickly switch to all the job-related things you did. Did you work temporarily for a friend? Did you get certified in something? Manage a household. Corral volunteers and schedule them?

You need to reassure the hiring party that you are reliable.  Don't overdo it--a few sentences.

Stay positive, Ricker advises. Don't bash your past employer, even if you have reason.

Emphasize your passion for the work at hand. Show your readiness--you could start immediately.

Try to talk about the future. Everyone has things in the past that are not so great. You need to put the best face on them.

If you are just a big old job hopper and think you are entitled to this cool job or that one, or maybe the other one, this will not be easy to hide.

No employer is eager to pay you to work out your personal issues.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Worth doing well

I am not cut out to be a homeowner, but I live in a house anyway. This means hiring people (usually men!) to do some chores, such as yard work, plumbing, painting, fixing--that stuff.

Twenty years ago, I was naive about this--I earnestly considered outrageous bids of hundreds of dollars for what I knew to be an hour's work. Everyone, it seemed, was out to play the old gal here.

Now, I negotiate--if they say one hundred and fifty, I say, I maybe could pay a hundred or maybe one-twenty-five--only a few times has anyone turned away and left.

But I do think sometimes they use this as an excuse to do a half-done job. The old adage of "underpromise, over deliver" is rarely in evidence.

Let me tell you from my life experience--don't do that! If you accept a job, do your best.

Why? Because you have integrity. Because that is how you roll.

Clean the job site. Don't leave parts and packaging around and drive off. Don't, as one guy did, lean a broken fence up and drive off with $200 as the thing slowly sinks to the ground. Don't--as did some roofers across the street--put new shingles on top of old and call it a day. (A few weeks later, another company came and tore everything off and started over.)

I once paid quite dearly for some weedeating and asked could they also take a couple of bags of yard waste already stacked up. Sure--for $50. I said well, OK, never mind. They left it there. No way would they toss them on the truck parked next to them--even though I was a repeat customer--without that $50.

You maybe thinking I am a cheap old bat. I have been self-employed my whole life--I know how the game works. But I never did this...barely met expectations and expected to be hired again.

One thing men do without being asked, though, is coil up hoses...what is it about an uncoiled hose they can't stand?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Govt going for quality candidates

Everyone complains about govt, but like weather, nobody does anything about it.

Well, not quite nobody. Liz Joyce, writing in Government Executive Magazine, May 14, 2015, says more and more people are applying for govt jobs on sites like USAJobs, but this is leading to more work for agencies weeding out the unqualified.

They did a survey recently and only 40% of workers thought their team was capable of finding the right people--down 5% from 2010.

The private sector is also up 30% on applicants per listing.

Bigger haystack--but not necessarily more qualified needles.

Many agencies are trying to shorten the hiring process-push people through. This does not result in better applicants, though.

To get better people:

Expand the job definitions. Help HR understand exactly who is needed.

For hard-to-fill positions, target candidates, rather than letter candidates dribble in. This can improve qualifications by 22%.

Make the agency culture known--be upfront. Don't just say "great place to work." Let people weed themselves out, basically.

Back in the day, when a listing was too detailed, we assumed it was "wired" to a certain person who was supposed to get it--say the person in the job as "acting" director or something. Maybe we can't assume that anymore.

I am sure it still happens, though.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

You need a double grande password

Adam Pasick, Nextgov Magazine, May 14, 2015, says there are many ripoffs of people using their smartphones to pay for Starbucks treats.

First, I have no smartphone--I never go anyplace. But some big name people have been taken for a ride--their phones charged for gift cars that are then sold on the black market.

A thief got one woman's password, changed it, stole her existing balance and then waited for the auto-fill to plunk in more money from her checking acct and stole that.

Apple smartphones account for one in six transactions in US Starbucks.

The company says not their problem--the thieves try other passwords the person has used and sometimes--bingo!

The moral: Use different passwords for everything.

Another crazy nightmare. I need caffeine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

We have goldfish--and they are not focused

Maybe not so genius move...
Medical Daily, in a story by Lizette Borreli, says a recent study by Microsoft says our attention span has gone from 12 seconds to 8 seconds in a decade.

A goldfish can stay concentrated on finding the food flakes longer than that! Nine seconds, people!

This study was 54 pages--guess they knew no one would read the thing. They looked at 1,000 Canadians over 18 and also monitored the brain activity of 100 other people in the lab.

Heavy multi-screeners had problems filtering out irrelevant stimuli.

Upshot: The ability to stay focused is now a superpower.

What can you do to keep up with genius goldfish?

Drink more fluids--mild dehydration can cause a lack of concentration. Makes sense--fish are petty hydrated all right.

Exercise--ditto--fish never stop moving.

Avoid electronic devices--easy peasy for fish--water shorts out their phones.

It's a wonder fish even take the hook, cool as they are.

I am going out back and give mine a treat.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Do you have HDD?

Holiday Deficit Disorder. I sure do.

HDD is a global epidemic induced by a lack of sufficient vacation time.

Symptoms and causes:

Creators' fatigue

Meetings that could have been emails

Too many meals "al desko" instead of " al fresco."

If you type LOL without laughing--you may have it.

Likewise--if you volunteer for jury duty to meet new people--yup, could be it.

Do you freak because your charger has too short a cord to text from the bed? Uh-oh.

A riff along these lines was an ad for the MHG hotel chain. If you are feeling HDDy--check out

Yes--they get a mention because they were amusing. I am easy.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Leaders need to lead themselves

Poor leadership moment.
Drew Calvert, Govt Executive Magazine, May 13, 2015, quotes Harry Kraemer, of the Kellogg School and author of Becoming the Best, on leadership.

Leaders need to know things, communicate well, build teams, inspire cooperation--but also master themselves.

Leaders need to be self-reflective, he says. Most leaders have no time for this, Kraemer says.

Self-reflection can also be uncomfortable--they may recognize they are not paying attention to the things they claim are vital.

But self-reflective people, on the positive side, don't get surprised that often, which is good.

You need both self-confidence and humility. More of both--not one or the other.

The more self confidence, the more matching humility--the more people will want to work with and for you.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Enquiring minds want to know

There was a story in the Wash Post on May 14, 2015, about a young woman with a far-reaching intellect--she was interested in so many things, graduated from college at 19, and was trying to decide whether to be a cancer researcher or an astronaut. There are many people like this, despite what you see about dense young people who only care about the Kardashians.

The founder of Imagine Entertainment, Brian Grazer, has a book out called CURIOUS. He credits his station in life to being curious about everything. This has led, he said, to being in the right place at the right time in many instances...including how he got into show business. He overheard a guy out his dorm window who had quit an easy job--turned out to be at a studio and Brian hopped on the horn and tagged up with the boss and got the job, which he then parlayed into meeting many famous people.

He then, even as a relative unknown, talked himself into many short talks with famous people from Edward Teller to Princess Diana.

He also says being curious helps him shape stories for movies. Imagine, his partnership with Ron Howard, has made Splash, Apollo 13 and many other iconic films. He does this by asking questions and listening to the answers. He says being curious is a precursor to creativity and innovation, the big buzzwords these days.

Although he comes off in the book as a tad pompous, he has a point about the questions. You can ask yourself questions--I do it. What is this project supposed to accomplish? Who can use it? Who is the audience...that sort of thing.

If you are curious to hear more--get the book.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Do you want a mentor?

Years after my formal career (before freelancing), I realized I had been a mentor. Who knew?

Now, I learn from CareerBuilder that people don't need to formally ask someone to be their mentor.

Maybe you are facing a workplace challenge and need advice. Or you want to learn more about your industry as fast as possible. Or you want to see if your personal plan is on track.

Think about who is in your network. Who really enjoys their work? Who would it be fun and beneficial to touch base with?

Who do you look up to? Maybe this person is a few steps ahead of you.

Some companies even match people up--mentor/mentee.

Ask a lot of questions. Be enthusiastic. And don't expect this person to open doors--just tell you where the locks are.

And make it two-way--if you see an article the person would be interested in, send it. That sort of thing.

This is from The Career Contessa.

If you can't trust royalty, who can you trust?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Five questions to ask before saying yes to a job

Katharine Brooks, executive director of personal and career development at Wake Forest Univ in Winston-Salem, NC, says new grads, especially, take one look at the economy and tend to accept the first offer they get.

Some questions to ask first:

How much income is enough? Look at your needs--and the TOTAL package, including flex time, ability to work off-site, an open v hierarchical setup, health benefits, education benefits, and so on.

How will you feel about yourself if you work there? What if it's a tobacco company and you loathe smoking? You don't want a job where you have to hold your nose. Either can be OK--just see what you think.

How will you use your special talents? You should know your five top talents--will the position build on these or make you leanr new ones?

How does the work fit with your passions and interests? At first, your duties may not be exciting--but do they stand to gain in excitement?

Can you make a meaningful difference? This need not be a nonprofit--it can be a place where even the most mundane tasks contribute to the whole.

Brooks reminds us: There is something to learn in every career step.

I would say think about what at least a year in the job would be like--can you see yourself there a year or more?

Monday, May 11, 2015

How not to be a big Bossy Cow

If you are a boss, do you drop by people's desks 10 times a day? Do you ask for daily reports?

If you have ever been micromanaged, says Maria Gottschalk in Government Executive Magazine, May 8, 2015, you know it can undermine your confidence and create daily dread or even anger.

Still, if you are the type that thinks only you can do things right--you may micromanage others.

To prevent this, you must bear in mind the potential consequences of butting in all the time. You are squelching independent thought--even the holy of holies--creativity.

If someone's performance is lacking, see if the tasks match the skill set.  Just ragging on the person won't do the trick.

Make your expectations known.  Make sure the report knows how the company "does it" and wants it done.

Discuss and implement feedback mechanisms. What level of day to day does the employee think they need.

And keep up advanced training as tasks get more complicated.

When I was freelancing, what I really hated was an editor emailing me a week before the deadline and asking would I make it. At least trust me to tell you if I won't.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Best thing to do when job hunting

Writing on, Nancy Collamer says your #1 best bet is to get a referral to the company from someone. It takes 14 times as much work to get a job without one.

Fourteen? How is that calculated?

Anyway--she quotes the founder of CareerXroads on the subject. He says if a company gets 100 responses to a posting, 50% (or more) are not qualified. Of the other 50--only two will be referred. These will almost always be sent upstairs.

Therefore it pays to spend your time getting referrals rather than broadcasting resumes all over the place.

But how?

First see if you know anyone at the company. Search the website.

Then ask around alumni organizations, fraternal groups. Anyone?

In related news, Collamer says companies are getting more civilized. They are more apt to tell you what stage of the interview you are in.

Some even set up chat rooms to discuss their applications.

Some even have phone apps discussing their hiring process.

So with small improvements in the economy, job seekers are gaining a little leverage. Enjoy it.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Don't pick a dying profession

Seems like common sense, doesn't it? Yet, workers are rapidly facing different mixes of viable professions and jobs.

Susan Ricker, CareerBuilder, says publishing, for one, has radically changed. Remember that genteel job as a book editor you wanted in college? Well, that and other publishing areas--such as printing press operator, data entry keyers, print binding, reporters, and typists--are declining.

Instead, in the publishing area, you may find a niche in marketing jobs, web developers, tech writing, PR, fundraising, and communications.

Also down--postal jobs and door-to-door sales people.

On the bright side--up are human service assts, taxi drivers and chauffeurs, exercise physiologists, trainers, dietitians, and sales reps,

Textile and apparel production is way down in the US. This includes jobs such as knitting and weaving machine operators, shoe machine operators, sewing machine operators, and patternmakers.

BUT--there will be more call for bicycle repairers, welding, mechanical door repair people, machinists, inspectors, and other industrial jobs once thought almost dead.

I sure know the profession of reporter has had better days. Sad. And nobody wants to hear from us old cranky dinosaurs about how cool it used to be.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Yoh-boy did you goof!

It wasn't a workplace event, but I remember once as a tender young woman I went to dinner with a boyfriend's parents--and wiped my lips on a nice white tie hanging down from my blouse. Those darn ties--remember those? I turned red as marinara!

Rachel Weingarten writes about a similar incident she experienced on her first job ( She bit into a cherry tomato--paused--then saw the contents dribbling down the boss's wife's cleavage.

She laughed. No one else did.

Sometimes what seems career-ending may not be. Weingarten survived the tomato. A friend of hers spilled hot tea all over a CEO--but the man just got some paper towels and cleaned it up, trying to put her at ease.

Another guy she talked to had sent "personal" photos to a girl friend--he thought. Instead the entire staff got them. He and his boss wrote a co-email explaining.  The CEO's backing kept teasing to a minimum. And firing.

Another woman gobbled a pastry before hosting a job candidate around the office--and THEN saw her dark suit was covered in powdered sugar. Pure class.

I think the naked pic probably left the longest impression--maybe forever as it wandered around the internet.

Is anyone really that hot to see you in the buff? Wouldn't seeing you in person be more fun?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

All projects are not equal

Elizabeth Grace Saunders, Govt Executive magazine, May 1, 2015, says many people like to do things "ideally." They care--even obsess--about quality and often are dissatisfied with almost all outcomes.

Sound familiar?

This is fine for your most important projects--but if you take this approach with ALL projects, you will never get done and never be happy with what you do get done.

The key is put your quality time against your most important projects.

Some things give back what you put in--such as reading for pleasure. You need to decide how much time to allot.

And then there are the projects where the more time spent decreases benefits...Such as routine email. To this I would add--commenting on websites, my personal weakness--I learned the other day I had 3500+ comments on Disqus alone.

Complete the latter as quickly as possible. Limit the time on the second category. And concentrate on those categories that pay you back the most.

This seems obvious until you try it.  Like a lot of things.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Whoa--red flags in an interview!

Susan Price, CareerBuilder, says often job seekers are so focused on getting a job they don't notice that company may not be all that great.

Usually you can pick up signals during the interview. Some signs...

Say the interviewer is late. A few minutes is OK, but 15 or 20 may show a lack of respect for you. Rescheduling a few times--same signal.

If the interviewer has not looked at your resume until you sit down--not good. Usually they will call you in--taking your time--if they saw something in the resume they liked. But--they at least read it!

If they interview you just because of a referral, the job they come up with, if any, may not be for you.

If the interviewer checks his or her phone during the session--well, do the math.

See if the dept has a lot of turnover--this can be a sign.

If the interviewer criticizes the person before you, also a bad sign and very unprofessional.

Also beware of bad online reviews of the company. If terms like "endless hours" come up--believe it!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Does job stress make you feel fat?

Or--better stated--does this desk make me look fat?

According to a story on CareerBuilder by Deanna Hartley, six out of 10 workers--57%--think they are overweight. Last year, this was 55%.

What did they think caused their gain?

--Sitting at the desk (56%)

--Too tired from work to exercise (43%)

--Stress eating (37%0

This should be of concern not only to workers--but also to employers. They need a health workforce.

I am not sure all these wellness programs that either fine you or reward you for losing a few lbs or turning over your medical records to the company are the answer.

What can you do on your own?

--Snack and eat out less. Bring lunch--and walk before you eat it, or afterwards.

--Exercise more--get up from the desk every hour or oftener.

--Take advantage of employer-paid gym memberships or yoga. Try out for the softball team.

--You know the oft-cited drill--park far from the door, stairs not elevator...

Should you go as far as a "standing desk" or a bike-powered computer? That's up to you.