Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Don't let workplace bullies get you

Liz Ryan, Forbes.com, writes about office or working bullies--yup, you will run into them just as you did in school or on the sports field.

Bullies try to put you down to shut you up, she says. They do this because they think you are a threat--so this is a compliment, really.

Ryan calls this Weenie Behavior. Weenies love rules. Rules keep them from stepping outside the lines, which they fear doing. You can get on a weenie's radar by being funny, popular, praised.

They try to knock you off balance--you sure don't know much about this business, do you?

Say a recruiter insists on your salary history and your last job was a low salary for some reason. Don't be intimidated. You don't need thi guy. Or gal.

They try to make you feel like a nobody--Only senior people need to know about THIS...That kind of thing.

Sometimes they try to convince you you need them--but the first time you question a piece of advice, WHAM!

They sometimes steal ideas--I thought of that before you were born!

My advice--shine them on. Try to avoid them. But don't hand over your lunch money.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The more benefits, the more job satisfaction

Makes sense, right? You feel valued. US News had an article on this. What if--they asked--you made six figures, but worked in a dark office and were given no time for dental appts or other needs.?

No, studies show there is a direct relationship between perks and satisfaction. A MetLife survey showed those happy with their benefits are more than twice as like to be happy with their work.

The standard benefits package has changed in the last 10 yrs.

The big, established companies provide health, paid vacay, sick leave, holidays, disability, and an option for a 401(k).

Startups included at a minimum a bonus or some sort of equity--like stock options. Also--retirement options (bye-bye to pensions).

The negotiables now also include vacation and telecommuting, Some new companies even offer unlimited vacation time--of course, your work has to get done.

You may find treadmill desks, standing desks, lounges. Some companies have gyms, bars, even a music studio.

At one company, you get $100 a mo for nutrition counseling, yoga or massages. Paid time to work out is common.

Revisit your package once a year. Ask for adjustments.

New world, my babies.

Friday, June 26, 2015

You can be unqualified and still get the job

Debra Auerbach writes about this on CareerBuilder.

The key is sell the skills you do have.

First, do your research--hirers like people who are interested in their company.

Get someone influential to put in  a good word for you.

Show you can change, can learn, are eager.

Show how you can solve the company's problems. People like having their problems solved.

Decide ahead of the interview how to show you are the right person. Be confident, interesting---not pushy and arrogant, just smooth and interesting.

I used to joke around, back when I read want ads (remember those?) that I would not apply to a job that I had no idea about.

Yet, I did sometimes--and got them!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

This is how we solve First World problems!

This morning, across my back door, a wire looped down.

Could it be from the DirecTV dish on the roof? They left it there when I switched away from them to a company I (now) like to call Century Stink. I hate them, too, based on the countless promises they have broken.

Are you like me? Still harboring the quaint notion that companies that get paid to provide a service should provide it?

Yeah, I know--how naive.

You must clean before a house cleaner comes. Wash the dishes before the dishwasher. Wait on hold for half an hour to be dropped--"If you'd like to make a call..." Puzzle things out in pigeon English. Turn over your computer to someone more competent to move your cursor around to do something...

And now--apparently--according to three DirecTV reps, at least, I should just go on Craigs to find someone to remove the dish and wire--sure, they do it free!

Yeah, free. I bet. For giggles, I went on Craigs--surprise, not free.

I will get my kid to put a nail over the door and loop the wire over it. Sure, it's tacky. But what if it's attached to our present TV system...wouldn't want to cut it.

Well, is it attached to the present system? DirecTV--wait for it--says call them and ask.

Thanks, but could I plunge needles into my remaining eye instead?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The value of storytelling in the workplace

Work guru Robert Half, writing on CareerBuilder, says storytelling is a great attribute to your career. No--not as in lying, as in building an interesting narrative.

Candidate A: I recently moved into IT. I enrolled in and finished a two-year training program then two internships. Now I hope to apply my knowledge in the workplace.


Candidate B. I am a former architect, but now instead of designing buildings, I create powerful IT infrastructures. I am just as at home with computer codes as building codes.

Which sounds more interesting?

Storytelling brings your res and cover letter to life. It makes you a person.

Storyteller also makes you hard to forget (or toss).

It builds your personal brand.

But be concise, authentic,  Try to craft a plot--some transition you underwent, something that happened to you.

Include specific details. One person had a Magic 8-Ball on his desk to remind him to ask for feedback. (I wonder how many responded with the 8-Ball's classic "Try again later").

Back when I sold my writing services, I used to say, "I started at the top." This got their attention. I did--my first published piece was in Washingtonian Magazine--a cover. Long story about how, but it made me look interesting and competent.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Say you are a touchy-feely leader

You consider yourself open-mind, collaborative. You have a great team. But when you hold a meeting, everyone just sits there. You are not getting  info on trouble spots. You are not getting brainstorms or new ideas.

Mary Jo Asmus writes about this in Government Executive magazine, June 19, 2015.

It is up to you as the leader to get this going.

Have you let them know what info you need?

Do you shoot the messenger? Take a deep breath before talking about a trouble area or missed deadline.

Do you really listen?Don't always add your take a second into what they are saying.

Thank them for informing you!

As them how they would get more input.

If they need information, give it. If they need training, provide it.

Try a few changes, see how it goes.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Password nuttiness

Wrong finger, but thanks for playing
This password deal is out of control. Matt Phillips writes about this in Next Gov, June 17, 2015.

You have a passel of passes after 15 m ins on the internet. Oh--don't use the same one for everything. Huge no-no. Plays right into Russian and Chinese hands. Change every one daily or at least weekly.

Use a phrase and the password is the first or second word of each word in the phrase. Different phrases for every site. Don't write anything down.

Oh--be sure to have a capital letter, preferably in the middle, a number or two, a symbol but not the ampersand (the US Copyright Office hates those, I learned).

Or let some company store all your passwords--ouch, they just got hacked.

Even with all this, hackers have blasted into the president's email, stolen federal employee info, even breached Pentagon computers. And this doesn't even count the St Louis Cardinals--jocks hacked!

The human mind can only hold seven numbers or letters or thereabouts. Easier if they spell something.

When we get to more biometrics--can we reset our fingerprints? Retinal scans...don't even say retina to me!

I once said something like this on a blog comment thread and some nerd took me to school--I was not fit, apparently, to even participate in this century. Aw shaddup. At least I don't code and eat Cheetos all day!

Friday, June 19, 2015

You can look more trustworthy, but not more competent

A team of New York University researchers are studying facial expressions (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin) finds that facial cues conveying trustworthiness are malleable, but the ones denoting competence and ability are less so.

Trustworthiness can be conveyed by a neutral face seen as "happy," while untrustworthiness is conveyed by a neutral face seeming angry. The precention comes from the facial structure not the expression the person puts on.

They ran faces by study participants in a number of formats--photos and computer-generated. They also asked which person would the participants hire as a financial adviser. When asked who would most likely win a weightlifting contest--ability--they chose the wider face identified with more testosterone.

So basically--people trust you more if your resting face or usual expression is a little happy-looking.

To look more competent--maybe put on glasses?

Also, don't people with a "duh face," you know, mouth slack, expressionless--look less competent, at least?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Unexpected promotion can cause turmoil

You may suddenly be elevated, but this can be a negative if you feel you did not earn it.

In one example, American employees at a Japanese firm had mid-level jobs, but when the company adopted English as the language of the company, the Americans were at more of a premium.

Tracy Dumas, a researcher who did a study on this at Ohio State, said they knew they had lucked into their position and it was not tied to performance. They felt another policy could come along and unseat them.

Status in a company may not be forever,

The Americans in this example said they were nobody one week, then somebody. The Japanese workers came to them to check their English memos--but they kept worrying that this status could be taken away.

Steve Jobs, it is said, elevated designers over engineers.

Or a boss can elevate employees more like him or her--maybe introverted, or outgoing.

I know this feeling. Back when I had an office job, some male executives resented the CEO's joking relationship with me, then a woman in her twenties. They called me "the pet."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bad job search advice

Everyone has an opinion when you are out of work. You will hear a lot of malarkey.

Robert Half--job guru--says one thing that will be said is that resumes are obsolete--use your phone, dude. Nope, a well crafted resume is still critical.

Everything happens online now. That's another. Nope. Tagging up online should lead to in person.

The good jobs are never listed--heard that one? Some are online--some are through networking.

If you are not scoring, knock on more doors. OK if they are appropriate doors--if you are only half-qualified or half-interested, it's a waste of time.

The people you know best are your best sources--this may not be true if they are after the same prize.

No matter what, keep at it. Well, sometimes you may need a break--it will make you more effective.

Stick to your strengths, people say. But sometimes going a little afield can be more effective. A corollary of this is--seek your bliss. some advise. Sometimes the bliss thing isn't your first step.

The interview must be a knockout. Of course, you want to be properly dressed, on time, make eye contact, firm handshake and all that jazz, but let it be a conversation--not you boring in with your elevator pitch.

I would say you should come away knowing as much about the company, the interviewer, the job, as they know about you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Are you taking time off?

Americans are the worst at loafing!

In a CNN article it said workers forfeited $52.4 billion in time off benefits in 2013.

This amounts to providing employers with an average of $500 of free labor.

The result--burnout, stress, and a financial liability for companies that have to pay for the leave when the employee leaves.

In Japan--this is not voluntary--you must take the time. They call it "workaholic intervention."

When I worked in a "real job," I did not take much time off. It broke up my momentum. It cost money.

But maybe there are reasons to do it. Wisdom of age? Nah.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Productivity killers

Susan Ricker, CareerBuilder, says many things can interrupt work, waste time, and cut your effectiveness.

Most employers don't expect you to be a stern robot, but they do know certain things can really throw you off.

First--your phone. Followed by the internet. Gossip. Email. Meetings. Chatty coworkers.

A third of employers have blocked certain internet sites, for example. Twenty-three have banned person cellphone use.

They schedule lunch and break times.

Monitor emails and internet use.

Limit meetings.

Allow telecommuting.

Have an open space, no cubicles.

You can do things, too...

Schedule play breaks.

Surround yourself with serious, productive people if you can.

Go on Facebook and say I am going to do this--and do it.

Go for a 10 minute walk to reset your brain,

Still, employees have been caught

Taking a spongebath in the bathroom (it's only CALLED a bathroom).

Hypnotizing other employees to help them stop smoking.

Getting a tan in a tanning bed while out.

Drinking and watching Netflix.

Sleeping on the CEO's couch.

Posting inappropriate pix--you know what I mean.

Flying drones inside the office.

All in one office? I want to work there!

Kidding, kidding.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Coping: Don't let kids play on a wet deck

You know what? I got up and didn't feel like writing about job interviews and social media. It takes more than that to cope and raise a family.

An expert at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science says wet wood containing the pesticide chromated copper sulfate loses arsenic more than dry wood.

So if your deck gets wet, it can be dangerous to children and pets.

This researcher collected arsenic from a 25-yr-old South Florida deck. Many wood decks built before 2004 contain the pesticide.

Using water alone, they got three times as much arsenic than on dry wood. Bleach water even caused another carcinogen to form.

The levels were higher than allowed.

This sulfate stuff was used on decks before 2004 to prevent termites. It was outlawed by the EPA in 2003.

And it's not just decks constructed before 2004--it's also picnic tables, fences, and children's play ground equipment.

Ten years ago, the wood industry estimated that half of single-family homes had a deck or porch treated with this stuff.

What can you do? Get kids to wash their hands after playing on the deck after a storm, I guess. As for the dog--you are on your own.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Social media and your job hunt

Matthew Tarpey, CareerBuilder, says 52% of employers check applicants' social media presences before hiring. me. This has been steadily growing.

In fact, if a candidate has no such presence, this can be a red flag.

 A third of hiring managers said they would be less likely to interview someone who was not online.

Sixty percent of the hiring managers who check the internet are looking for support of the candidate's qualifications for the job.

Fifty-six percent are trying to gauge the online persona.

Thirty-seven percent want to see what others say about the person.

Only 21% are seeking reasons not to hire.

Still, 48% of those who do screen online info found reasons not to hire. Some of these:

Inappropriate photos (46%)

Info on the candidate's drinking or drugging habits (40%)

Badmouthed previous company or an employee online (34%)

Poor communication skills (30%)

Discriminatory remarks (29%)

On the bright side, almost a third found reasons TO hire. Good qualifications, pleasant personality, professional image, good communication skills, and creativity were reasons to hire.

In over a third of cases, the would-be employer friended the candidate. You can decide on that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Keeping women interested in STEM

Many people are attracted to technology because they can develop innovations and of course, make money. But most of these people are men.

Susan Galer, from SAP, writes about this in Forbes.

Women, she says, earn only 18% of the undergrad degrees and fewer than 4% of the doctorates in computer science and engineering.

In 2015--women held only a quarter of jobs in technology fields.

Rathna Kedilava, head of SAP financial services, was quoted as saying this was surprising--because women pioneered computer programming. Women need to believe they can achieve great things, she says.

Sarah Allen, founder and program director of Bridge Foundry, said 2/3 of women leave technology with a few years of getting a computer science degree. She says the work environments are "difficult." Misogyny is pretty well known in the big technology areas, such as Silicon Valley. The Old Boys and all that stuff.

Startups, Allen says, should push diversity from day one.

Nicole McCabe, senior director of global diversity and inclusion at SAP, says we need to quit saying "the first woman" or "for a woman." Focus on the achievement.

I once edited a book on women in technology--this was 30 years ago. More women were coming in, it said hopefully--we don't want this to always be the prediction of the future, do we?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Writing a government resume

Applying for work with the Federal government differs in some ways from private industry.

Lindy Kyzer, Government Executive Magazine, Jun 5, 2015, says, first of all, forget the one-page rule. Five pages is a good goal for a Federal res. This is going to cover a minimum of 10 years.

In general, stick with chronological order. But you can make it "functional" highlighting skills rather than company or agency names.

You are writing for human eyes--but those human eyes will scan only six seconds. It will be a screen shot and on paper. In either, make sure the skills for THIS JOB pop out. These can be keywords or maybe an award or certification.

Repeat the keywords in the listing, but make this sit your unique skill set. Don't just paste them in.

You also need to prove your Federal grade--there are certain levels of education and experience for each grade in the government. Know if you must wait due to time in service requirements.

Veterans especially need to meet the minimum educational requirements--or show equivalent training and experience. Be sure to list your veteran's preference.

Use headers, employ formatting. Include social media links if you want.

You do not have to apply through USAJobs.gov.  Some agencies use their own processing systems or listing site. See if your non-Federal res might be  better. If in doubt, contact the person in the listing and ask.

It's OK to pick up the phone--that is why the person is listed. And it shows you are serious about the job and eager to get it right.

One more thing. Federal apps often ask for KSAs--this is a statement of Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities--it's separate from the resume. To learn to write one, go to:

Monday, June 8, 2015

How to handle grief at work

Laura Shin, Forbes.com, writes about how to react at work if someone's spouse dies or if a coworker dies.

One woman, whose young husband died training for a marathon, asked that coworkers go on as usual--but then she felt shunted aside.

Workplaces are usually more formal--not so much hugging--yet people may want to cross that boundary in a time of tragedy.

If you have a loved one who has passed, go to your supervisor and give them the details or when you are leaving, when you will return (if you know), and the funeral. You do not need to email people--set up an autoreponse saying there has  been a death.

HR will tell your team and coworkers. The company can make a donation or send appropriate flowers.

Don't post about it on social media right away--family members may not have been informed.

Companies should try to be flexible. Don't force people to use vacation days. Offices often give a short period for grief--4-5 days. That is not realistic.

Another situation can be a close relative with a terminal diagnosis. Again tell your boss and HR. In this case, you could say, "Here is who will be helping with my workload for a couple of months."

If you are just hearing about such a case, don't offer medical advice unless it's asked for.

But you can offer to help with the workload--ask if they need meals or child care. Some companies will even let workers give their own vacation time to a coworker in need.

And--when the person returns to the office after a death, say something, don't just ignore the event.

Sometimes people are so afraid of opening a flood gate or saying the wrong thing, they ignore the grieving person. Maybe you can leave a card on the person's desk.

After a time, many people want to work, want a distraction, they can't cry all the time.

So don't always pull a long face or be overly solicitous.

Time will ease things--but it does take time and sometimes a lot of it.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Networking can be awkward

When you network--you are putting yourself on the line, letting or even inviting people to size you up.

It can be "threatening."

Susan Ricker, CareerBuilder, writes about this. First, you may only speak to someone a few minutes. The "experts" recommend you have an elevator pitch--a short outline of you, where you are, your interests and so on. Spouting this out can be pretty deadly conversation-wise.

I think of it more like a date--ask about the other person, try to find interests in common. You can even play who do you know a little--"Oh, you went to Harvard--did you know Tom Blah Blah?"

Ricker recommends getting to the point--asking why the person came, what takeaways did they hope to get?

Usually, the other person will not say, "I am looking for an executive vice president--what executive experience do you have?" It is never that pat.

If the conversation stalls, it's probably time to move on.

Be natural--if you feel awkward, the other person probably does, too...Cut it off. It is probably not a future lunch.

Win some, you lose some. Other times, you may click--and feel comfortable handing over a card. Why don't we grab coffee--maybe Thursday?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

"Cool cities" no longer key to attracting grads

Time was, grads flocked to "cool" cities with big tech industries--but the 1990s are over.

Now grads go to cities with the biggest labor markets and best chances of finding a job.

City population size now rules--more so than the startups and household word companies there.

Those with graduate degrees, though, tend to still seek out the niche cities.

So--city planners--it's not the loft space, the outdoor cafes, the hipster clubs, the galleries, the young age skew--it's how many jobs people can choose from.

So let's get those tax incentives going so new companies come in and serve up jobs and not just coffee.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Are you the smartest person in the room?

I am--if you don't count the cat. Seriously, I think I sort of suffer from wanting to be the smartest.

Art Petty, writes about this in Government Executive magazine, June 1, 2015.

This is considered a defect in a leader--always wanting to be smartest. It can stifle creativity, innovation, morale.

See if you do any of these things.

Do you always have to have the final word? Some "smartest" types think they must always fix things or have the answer. People shut up and wait for the word from on high.

You show impatience in your body language, eyerolls, fidgeting. Sometimes the "smarties" show disdain by interrupting.

Or maybe you do listen, then immediately trump a decent idea with what you consider a better one.

Okay, you are being a jerkwad. What can you do about it?

Ask more than tell, Petty says. Respond with questions, not curt sum-ups and your own ideas.

Have the courage to let others decide sometimes.

Look for the starting points in ideas, not the flaws.

But what if it's your boss being a jerkwad?

Don't argue, ask clarifying questions yourself.

If the boss isn't open to "constructive approaches," strengthen the boss's ideas. Maybe you can also bring up possible risks. These are negatives, so see how thick the ice is.

I try to take the advice of others more now than I did when I was younger--or at least consider it.

Maybe because I see how many things I decided--stubbornly--on my own did not work out as planned.

I even let the cat have a say...er, meow.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Working parent, 2015 style

Can parents work full-time and do parenting justice--or the other way around? CareerBuilder did a survey.

Yes--you can have it "all"--men and women. Amazingly 78% of working Moms said yes, 83% of working dads.

A third of women (34%) said they were "successful" parents, and 32% of dads agreed.

But what does successful mean? Eighty-one percent of moms and 80% of dads said success was being able to provide. Women were more like to emphasize the enjoyment of work.

One breadwinner families are on the increase. But in 39% these days--this is the mom.

In the end, women spend more time with family than men do.  Yet they are twice as likely as dads to say working has negatively impacted their relationship with their children.

As a bonus--employers seem to be seeking parents--they think parenting is relevant experience.

Parenting, it seems, increases patience, enhances multitasking and time management.

So it's OK to mention it in your cover letter.

Just make sure there are no jelly stains on it.

Monday, June 1, 2015

How to get new hires fast and get them up to speed

Donna Wells, Government Executive Magazine, May 28, 2015, said finding talent and getting them in place takes time and money.

Employers are taking longer--25 working days--to fill open positions. If a company has 5,000 or more employees--this averages at 58 days.

If you have a limited amount to spend and no time to train, you keep looking for the perfect person to slot  in.

But since you will end up hiring for "attitude"--how the person comes across--all this time on the minutiae of their skills is wasted.

So hire for attitude, train for skill. Look for people with passion and energy and who fit in culturally.

Train from Day One! Some new hires get no training. You need to telegraph that employees are expected to do certain things. Have the new person shadow someone. Have an introductory course in the company. Tell them, "This is how your first week will go."

Help people FEEL productive.

Training is mutual--one has to do it, the other has to receive and incorporate it..

When you expect something from someone, they are more likely to produce it.

If you just wave your hand and say, "You'll get the hang of it--welcome aboard," the new person feels like a kid on the first day of school..."Uh, sir, where is the bathroom?"