Friday, April 29, 2016

Life lessons from the restaurant biz

Ten percent of the workforce is in the restaurant business. What lessons does this sector have to teach us? CareerBuilder checked.

Words can never hurt you. The people in this business are not all sunshine and unicorns. The chefs, supervisors, the customers--all can be pretty terrible. Many are "hangry" (hungry and angry). If you work there, you have to let this wash over you and focus on the job at hand. Like anything, this can be learned with practice.

Teams can do amazing things. In this business, everyone is a cog in the machine. If one cog screws up, it affects all. Think about a busy Mother's Day rush--you could never handle it alone.

Stress is inevitable, but can be handled. Shift work, overtime--stress levels rise. Take up running, try meditation. This is probably the highest stress job you will ever have. Learn to cope now and you're good for life.

Creativity can bring great rewards. The culinary world is more than plopping a protein, starch, and fiber item on a plate. It is constantly innovating and changing. Fusion, flavor foam, one-bite meals, etc. Bring your ideas.

The value of preparation should never be underestimated. Restaurant workers know the value of "putting in place" (mise en place). This is the work that begins often before dawn, but long before any diners arrive. Portioning, defrosting, peeling, chopping, making stock. Even if a restaurant worker moves to another sector, it will be second nature to have a plan before a presentation, a roadmap.

Education and background don't determine success. Although the business is full of people who have gone to exclusive culinary schools, others have apprenticed for years. Talent, stick-to-it-tive-ness, creativity, stamina all of these can transcend technical ability.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Gauging the tone of an interview

Have you ever caught a car
you chased?
Matthew Tarpey, CareerBuilder, says you need to accomplish several things in a job interview.

--Show you're capable

--Show you're respectful

--But also that they will enjoy working with you

This means finding a mix of professionalism and personality. Both. Being too formal can prevent the interviewer from getting a feel for you. Being too casual can seem out of step and make the  interviewer uncomfortable.

So...wait for your cue, Tarpey advises. See what tone the interviewer sets. Watch body language and word choice. Some employers have no interest in your personal life, others do. If you share personal details, keep it light.  If this door opens, show an interest in the interviewer. Nothing creepy.

Find common ground. I used to do this by asking what other jobs the interviewer had had. If they clam, move on. You can check them out ahead of time--but don't come off as too interested or stalky.

One employer said she remembered people with an offbeat hobby or interest--not just going to the gym. (I was on a web-based networking session yesterday put on by my alum assn--and everyone wanted to know about how I got from a tony subschool in international affairs to  developing cartoons--this stuck. I then sequed into their reasons for being in the session--were they looking for  job?).

But you must avoid sensitive topics--say politics. Also keep religion out of it.

I once hired someone who said she had been to lunch with Mick Jagger. Yes, that came up in the interview. My interviews tended to be wide-ranging... Maybe it was a dumb reason to hire someone, but she lasted many years and is still there--and I am long gone.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Take heart, June grads

Mary Lorenz, CareerBuilder, reports that 67% of employers in their recent survey say they plan to hire recent college grads this year.

This is the highest since 2007. Up from 65% last year.

A third of these employers will pay more than they did last year--and 28% will pay $50,000 or more.


What are the skills that make you stand out?

Leadership--48% of employers surveyed want this.


Written communication--39%

Oral communication--37%

Creative thinking--35%

Project management--27%

What are the hot fields?

Info technology--27%

Customer service--26%


Business development--19%


On the money side, 2/3 of the employers said they were willing to negotiate--so don't feel like you must take the first offer.

So get moving. Check with the school's career office--they have listings you will not find anywhere else.

Follow companies on social media.

Join professional associations.

Join the alumni association.

Attend job fairs.

I am "attending" an online networking thing today--courtesy of my alumni association. I would love to network with movie people in the animation business, but if because of my advanced years, I am asked for advice, I will give it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Drawing locks info in memory

I am not quite sure what relevance this has to office life, but researchers at the Univ of Waterloo (IA) have found that drawing pictures of information enhances memory of it. (Quarterly J of Experimental Psychology)

They pitted drawing against a number of other "encoding strategies" and drawing always came out on top.

They gave their test subjs easily drawn words--such as apple--and then the students had 40 secs to draw the word or write it repeatedly. Then they got a filler task of classifying musical notes to help the retention process. Finally they were were asked to recall as many of the words as they could in 60 seconds.

The students often recalled twice as many drawn words as written ones.

Drawing the words repeatedly or enhancing the written words with doodles and shading did not change those results.

Of course, remembering the word apple is not often called for in business...How can we draw say the results of a spreadsheet?

Or--maybe--this is is accounting for the rise of infographics...? I have no idea. Do you?

I know other studies have shown that taking hand notes is better for memory than typing notes on your laptop. I would guess the wonders of the brain are involved in all this.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Senator Marco Rubio--remember him?

I try to keep politics off this site, but I noticed that Marco Rubio--late of the presidential follies--says politicians should talk more about the jobs being erased by technology.

Rubio, who received a tech policy award last week, said long-time employees are worried about their jobs being replaced and no one cares.

Of technology, Rubio says, "We can't fight it and we can't fear it."

Within the next few years, touchscreens may replace your favorite fast food worker (such as my own daughter).

But--Rubio adds--each job erased will be replaced with better paying ones--say, inventing better touchscreens. These jobs also will pay more.

I say people both try to fight this and do fear it. In reality, where people have to eat and shelter, such shifts are awful, scary and threatening.

Will my daughter move to Silicon Valley and write code for touchscreens or an app to order Wendy's from India? I doubt it.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A bad job can lead to bad health

Some jobs, says Sarah Landrum, on CareerBuilder, are not meant to be loved. And over time, if you hate your job, it will hate you back.

You can experience an increased risk of illness. Did you have more colds than usual last winter? Crushing deadlines, everyday stress can blow your immune system. Plus--public areas, keyboards, and so on are breeding grounds for germs.


A bad job can also cause you to gain weight. A bad environment can lead to bad choices--such as getting less exercise than is ideal. You may stress eat. Cortisol from stress makes you crave high calorie foods.

A bad job can also age you. If you are hassled and overworked or constantly duking it out with toxic people, wrinkles can appear. And heart disease (excessive workplace stress can up your chance of developing heart disease by 40%). And cancer. Not to mention fatigue, leg cramps, back problems...OK, I will shut up.

Along with these can come depression, feelings of hopelessness. Showing up at a place you hate can take a toll.

And what about the air quality? This can be a low priority in small businesses--which account for almost 90% of all jobs.

If you are recognizing yourself here, maybe it's time to look for something else.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Us poor old geezers

Should old-timers be part-timers?
Ashley Rodriguez, Government Executive Magazine, says researchers at the University of Melbourne have shown that after age 40, three days of work a week is ideal.

This, they said, is when workers of this advanced age show the highest level of brain functioning.

They did a study--naturally. They looked at 3,000 men and 3,500 women age 40 and up, living in Australia. They did three tests--memory, a reading test, and an attention/visual comprehension/motor skills test.

Those who worked part-tme--25 to 30 hours a week--fared best.

Cognitive abilities were worse for those who worked more hours--and interestingly, for those who worked fewer. They scores were the worst for those who worked over 60 hours or did not work at all.

Women needed to work a few fewer hours than men to stay sharp.

Great--another reason to cut back on workers' hours or ease the older ones out.

There can be many reasons you want the more professional and experienced older worker there even if he or she gets a little tired.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Surviving networking

Yesterday (troll down), I talked about how some people don't have great connections--which raised the dreaded subject of networking. Networking, networking--it's all you hear if you are unemployed. There are networking groups that cost hundreds to join, all kinds of networking advice--how often to bug people, is it bugging, how to get people to recommend you to someone else, and so on.

Matthew Tarpey talks about this on CareerBuilder.

He says you need to start someplace--so this brings us to your first networking event.


When I was starting as a freelancer, we used to go to free chamber of commerce "mixers" to meet possible clients. Even that was threatening and chamber people are nice nice nice.

Tarpey advises:

Know why you are going to the event. You don't want to wander around aimlessly. Set a reasonably obtainable goal. This would NOT be to get a new job. It could be to introduce yourself to five people.

Dress the part. This amounts to making a bunch of first impressions. Probably business casual is best.
It depends on the event.

Introduce yourself. Have a short pitch about yourself--the so-called elevator pitch (the time it takes to go up a few floors). It need not be all business--you are also demonstrating personality.

Listen. You will make a good impression if you are a good listener.

Be sincere. Ask the person some followups if they say things about themselves. (I have even asked people right out--"Do you like your job?")

And...follow up. If you don't tag back up in email or with a quick call, you've wasted your time. Maybe you could send a clip..."I remember you said you liked model trains--look at this guy's layout, do you know him?"

It isn't that hard--it can even be fun.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What jobseekers are SICK of hearing

Come on, you'd be a great nurse.
Nothing like good intentions to irritate the pulp out  of ya.

Debra Auerbach, CareerBuilder, talks about what you might consider NOT saying if someone you know and love is job hunting.

ANY UPDATES? Sometimes in a job hunt, there are flat times, no action. If you constantly ask how things are going, it's embarrassing to have to say nothing is going. Or the jobseekers feels like he or she must come up with some excuse.

YOU HAVEN'T FOUND A JOB YET?  This is like the above--but worse. Some people get hired right away, some don't--there is no timeframe.

MUST BE NICE TO HAVE SO MUCH FREE TIME. Job hunting is full-time thinking, worry, doing. This person does not consider this free time.

ARE YOU SURE YOU ARE REALLY QUALIFIED FOR THAT JOB? Say your friend is excited about a job that is a little different from their usual--don't rain on that parade, Auerbach says. Soft skills, transferable skills may be coming into play. Clam up.

DON'T YOU HAVE ANY CONNECTIONS? Not everyone has these. You make the person feel like a friendless loser.
YOU SHOULD REALLY LOOK INTO (name an unrelated job). Example Auerbach states: You might say health care is in now. But your artist sister may not WANT to return to school to be a registered nurse.

I AM SURE YOU WILL FIND SOMETHING--EVENTUALLY. Oh, good grief, why not just say, "It will happen when it's meant to happen." So meaningless.

You know what may help? "Let's go for a drink--my treat."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Which type of grad are you?

Jeffrey J. Salingo, author of There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow. Check Amazon.

Recently he posted a long article on Linked In about how crazy hard it is to get an internship these days. They are interviewing now for slots summer after this coming one.

Another interesting aspect was his take on the three ways college grads launch into a career. He says there are three types of grads:

SPRINTERS. These move directly into full-time work related to their major or go to grad school with specific plans in mind. Seventy-nine percent had an internship during the college years. Sixty-four percent knew what their major would be before going to college.

WANDERERS. These take half of their twenties to get started in a career. Women outnumber men in college and also in being Wanderers, which are 69% women. Forty-seven percent had an internship in college or were sure of their major before going off to school.

STRAGGLERS. These spend most of their twenties trying to get going. They are indecisive and often take off time from college or go part-time. Three-quarters had no internship. Nine-nine percent have earned credits, but no degree.

Recognize yourself or your child or anyone you know?

I would say many roads lead to Rome (well, I didn't say that, SOMEONE did). One is not necessarily better or worse than the others. But you need to know the costs and outcomes of each.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Managers: These are not leadership tools

Liz Ryan, CEO and founder of Human Workplace, writing in Forbes, says she was approached at a conference on leadership by a guy who said he had a wonderful leadership tool.

She asked what it was.

Software--he explained--it tells the manager which websites each employee has visited and how much time they spent there. At the end of the day, the manager gets a full report.

Ryan said, this is not a leadership tool, it's a sneaky, Big Brother-type tool that lets managers bust employees for taking mental health breaks.

If an employee is getting the work done, who cares how many YouTube breaks he or she takes, Ryan continued. If the employee is a success, then YouTube may be a tool of success.

It's easier to trust people if you know what they are doing, the guy insisted.

That isn't trust, Ryan said, it's fear-based control.

She added that if someone could make software to monitor the employees' thoughts, some managers would buy it.

Some other crutches for weak managers, according to Ryan:

--Keystroke counting software.

--Software that tells when a worker is logged into the company network or isn't.

--Forced ranking or "stacked ranking" software.

--Software that monitors each eomployee's time on a call and dings if they go over a time limit.

Our obsession, Ryan says, with pointless metrics is a sickness.

Bam. Think about that one.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Is your company looking out for your safety?

Not strictly relevant, but one of
my favorite pix.
A new CareerBuilder survey--reported on by Rob Zaldivar--says of 3,000 workers surveyed, 93% thought their office was a safe place to work.

But then many participants expressed concern when asked about specific threats.

Most businesses do develop plans for fire, floods, and weather disasters (according to some statistics, a quarter do not reopen after such events, so this is crucial).

But when it comes to threats from people or digital hacking, nearly a third of those surveyed (31%) said their office is not well protected. About 40% said they did not think their employer had planned for such attacks.

What can you do? You can ask--and speak up. The life or job you save might be your own.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How to craft a super-duper apology

Everyone is apologizing for everything these days. They say or do something, wait to see who's upset, then walk it back...

But even if you are not into capturing news cycles, you may, in good conscience, need to apologize sometimes.

Roy Lewicki, professor emeritus of management and human resources at Ohio State's Fisher College of Business, says an apology should contain six elements:
1. Expression of regret
2. Explanation of what happened
3. Acknowledgment of responsibility
                                                      4. Declaration of repentance
                                                      5. Offer of repair
                                                      6. Request for forgiveness

You can read all about this in the May 2016 J of Negotiation and Conflict Management Research.

The six aspects are not equal--the most important is the acknowledgment of responsibility.

The offer of repair is second most important. Talk is cheap--fixing something takes effort.

The least important is the request for forgiveness. You can even leave that out.

Remember, though--when apologizing face to face, make eye contact and look sincere--heck, BE sincere.

One thing I hate and you should never do is say, "If you were offended, I apologize." The person was! Offended! No "if."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

High tech sweatshops?

Dan Lyons, author of Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble," says he worked at the software company HubSpot for two years, then got fired. But they didn't call it fired, they called it graduation.

As in..."So-and-So has graduated...We're all excited to see how she uses her superpowers in her next big adventure."

The employees, Lyons said, were told they were rock stars, but they were really disposable.

Many tech companies, he says, are proud of this sort of culture. Amazon is another example.

In the early 80s and 90s, companies wanted to retain people--not so now, Lyons says.

HubSpot, he says, was founded in 2006 in Cambridge, MA. It went public in 2014. It was a so-called corporate utopia--unlimited vacations, all the amenities. Mix a frat house with a kindergarten and add Scientology, he says, and you have an idea of what it's like.

He left Newsweek and went to work there and what did he find? A digital sweatshop--people hunched over computers, selling software through headsets.

People served a tour of duty of a couple of years. The tech companies, according to the founder of Linked In, Reid Hoffman, burn you out and churned you out.

Netflix was one of the first to discard the "company as family" idea. It became "the company as sports team." At some companies, including HubSpot, workers are reviewed by VORP--Value Over Replacement Player." Would someone else do better? You're out.

Working at a startup, Lyons and Hoffman say, means being undertrained, fireable on a whim, and subject to age, race, and gender bias. Sexual harassment is also common.

 These companies sell shares while losing money--the top people line their pockets.

Meanwhile, at HubSpot anyhow, the workers were glorified telemarketers--making about $3K a month, or $18.75 and hour for 40 hrs--most worked more, though, forced on by machines watching them work and killer quotas.

So, upcoming grads...take note. You will find, by the way, that almost everything has a dark side. Be warned.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Woofers amongst the tweeters

I get a newsletter called DC Tech and recently a writer named Ali Follman wrote about startups that allow pooches at work.

She says work can be dull--even at a startup. Dogs boost morale and get people moving around, which can stimulate thought.

She quotes a venture capital exec on this--her CEO encourages bringing dogs to work.

Also--what dog wants to stay at home alone when he or she could be trotting around halls, getting lots of pets, and rifling the lunch trash?

Not all dogs are cut out for the bureaucratic life, of course. Too much barking may mean reassignment to home.

But as one exec said--it can be like having therapy dogs all day long.

Sad face. I want another dog now more than ever.

By the way--see how that dog is splayed out--I learned this is called "splooting."

You CAN teach an old writer new tricks...

Friday, April 8, 2016

A lot goes into creating a virtual assistant

Virtual assistant--nice words for a robot pal. Elizabeth Dowskin, Wash Post, Apr 7, 2106, wrote about what is involved in creating an artificial "person."

You start with a screenwriter--so this caught my interest, being one. The screenwriter was working with engineers to create a program for a virtual nurse named Sophie to check with patients on their smartphone and ask about their pain and medications.

Unlike the nonexistent people screenwriters usually write about, virtual assistants do boring tasks such as sending meeting reminders and turning off lights.

Still, they have to feel natural. Amazon's Alexa puts "ummms" and "hmmms" into her speech. Apple's Siri makes wry jokes.

Artificial Intelligence writers--AI to you--think up a life story...Is the assistant a workaholic, eager beaver, self-effacing?

Last year investors threw $35 million into AI startups.

All this is aided by strides into the ability of a computer to understand speech. Word recognition has gone from 80% in 2009 to 95% today.

By 2025--12.7 million new jobs will involve building robots or automation hardware.

Microsoft's Cortana has six writers. A poet, a novelist, a playwright and a former TV writer. They even tried to decide if Cortana was for Trump or Hillary--but decided "she" was aware of both good and bad info on each.

Do these entities ever morph away from the masters? You know--get a mind of their own? Tay, a chat bot Microsoft recently released, was terminated in a week when it began talking like a Nazi--parroting comments from the internet.

Should a bot sound businesslike or try for an emotional connection--that is the question.

What a world.

I remember a toy my sister's grandson had 20 years go. He had to pick letters and numbers for some board pattern...The female voice would say, "Please pick a number..."  PAUSE. "Could you pick a number?" THEN "PICK a number" would come out shrewlike and grating. The poor kid would jump a foot.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

How to ace customer service

CareerBuilder has some suggestions for how to be a great customer service rep.

But first, a joke I heard a comedian tell. He was on the line with one of those crazy-awful robot voices and started yelling AGENT AGENT into the phone. "I understand you want an agent, is that correct?" YES YES. Finally he got one, but her accent was so murky he could not understand a word and started yelling ROBOT ROBOT.

But, as always, I digress.

Some tips for being a better AGENT (or any form of customer servant).

Understand your customer's expectations. Ask yourself what you are offering for a set price--can the customer expect something in return for this in terms of good treatment?

You are an ambassador. Don't forget this. Are you putting the company in a good light?

Give customers your respect. Remember, without customers, you are out of a job. Treating them with respect (and not this irritated "Ma'am..."ma'am..." stuff) means they may come back--even more job security for you.

Use CARP with angry customers. CARP means control, acknowledge,, refocus, problem-solve. Show you can solve the problem, say that...acknowledge the problem...refocus into a more positive light...and come up with some solution.

Create memorable experiences.  If you can, throw in an extra.

Communicate clearly. Eye contact if in person, speak directly to the issues, active listening, no interruptions.

Just in the last week, I have learned my new health plan is not "open" on weekends and does not take calls directly but says it will call back. Bah to that.

In a second instance, in trying to order an ink cartridge, I got tangled up with no PayPal option on the payment page, went to live chats twice, got frustrated, signed off...then tried again today, and the live chat person said SHE had a lot of calls, please wait. But she was really thankful for my patience of course. Darn robot. I bought it elsewhere.

Also this week, I learned the nice "extra" of a promised price on my internet/TV bill was only for one month--gee, no one mentioned that.

Some places have a way to go before the word customer service even applies.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Psst, wanna be a spy?

Mohana Ravindranath, Nextgov, Apr 4, 2016, says the intelligence community (17 govt groups) recently unveiled a recruiting website -- -- which lets users search and apply online for analytical jobs based on their individual skills.

High schoolers and undergrad students can also search there for internships.

The intelligence people alsos prowled South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX, emphasizing that LGBT applicants were welcome.

A spokeswoman for the intelligence community said diversity, talent and skills are needed from every corner of the workforce.

Is this just aimed at getting more "young" people? They aren't supposed to say that, but I suspect yes.

Still, anyone can apply. Interested?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tips for shortening your search

Bob McIntosh is a career and LinkedIn trainer who leads more than 17 job search workshops.

He cannot guarantee you will find work in three weeks or something, but he does have some ways you can make the search less tiresome.

First--don't be afraid to ask for help. People  like to be of help. But don't just seek out people you think have connections and ask about openings. First you must help yourself--with an attitude adjustment. No one wants to help someone who is sullen and defeated.

Of course, McIntosh says, your resume and LinkedIn profile should be the best it can be. If someone on the website contacts you, don't bring up wanting a job first thing. Think connecting, not networking.

You also need to prepare. Reading the intended company's website is not enough. Try to find someone who works there.

And of course--follow up. This means a thank you note--even one on a piece of stationery that says THANK YOU from the drugstore.

And the best way to shorten your search is to volunteer, Yes, work for free. Be sure it's a place that uses your skills, not just a place you like such as an animal shelter.

Volunteering gets you into the given "industry." You will learn, meet people.

You may even get hired by the place where you voluteered. Stranger things have happened.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A little caution, please, when going abroad

Even after Paris and Brussels, many people are pretty casual about flitting to Europe and traveling overseas.

Karen Workman, New York Times, March 30, 2016, says the State Dept does suggest a few precautions.

The federal Office of Overseas Citizens Services says the State Dept is not saying don't travel, but it is saying be careful if you do.

--Log in with the State Dept. Google the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program--you will get travel alerts about your intended destination.

--Know how to contact the American Embassy wherever you go. You can get embassy info on the State Dept website.

--Find out how to contact local authorities. You can get each country's version of "911" on the website. Look under Safety and Security on the pulldown menu.  In Britain, it's 999, in France 112.

--Those numbers are only good if your phone plan works overseas. You should probably get an International Sim Card--and this may involve getting your carrier to unlock your phone. Or you could rent a phone.

--Be watchful in public places. Always see where the exits are.

--Give a copy of your itinerary to family and friends.

--If you get a travel health policy, know what it covers. Ask if you are covered for force majeure--things that cannot be planned. That may involve a terrorist action.

I always carry a few American hundred dollar bills. They are accepted everyplace and quite eagerly I might add.

This website should start you off in preparing...

Friday, April 1, 2016

Maybe you and the corp culture are not a match

Ask any temp--in some offices, they fit in, in others, no.

When an organization is misaligned, says Danielle Blumenthal, Government Executive Maazine, Mar 29, 2016, it is unhealthy--and individual employees feel it.

Some signs all is not well:

--Decisions are delayed or are based on personal "gut" instincts.

--Employees are second-guessed constantly and not trusted.

--Projects are not prioritized. A lot of what takes up the day can be dumped and the company would not suffer.

--Things are not positive--everyone bitches and gossips and complains.

--In meetings, everyone plays with their phones or makes faces, while someone drones on with no agenda.

You can't fix these things on your own--but you can show a different way, set an example, according to Blumenthal..

I would say somewhat easier said than done...but you can try.