Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dissatisfied employees can cause trouble

PsychTests.com did a study of 1,609 employees--on work ethics. They compared employees who liked their jobs with those who didn't.

--51% of the dissatisifed people had stolen something from the employer--10% said it was something of significant monetary value. For satisfied workers, this was 39% amd 3% taking something of value.

--29% of the dissatisfied workers spent at least a half an hour on the internet for personal purposes--this was 22% for happy employees.

--18% of the dissatisfied would not tell on an employee they knew was stealing, compared with 9% of the satisfied.

--If the boss went on vacay, 16% of the dissatisfied would slack off, while only 6% of the others would.

You get the drift.

Hire wisely. By the way, 11% of the dissatisfied had been fired for theft or rule-breaking--while only 6% of the happy workers had.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Judgment of parents makes us scared to leave kids alone

Despite the occasional scare headlines of kidnappings and snatches, kids are safer than ever--yet many parents refuse to let them walk six blocks home from school or take a subway.

As kids, in the Wayback, we ran free as feral cats from after school until dinner.

A University of California Irvine study shows that we are now reluctant to let kids stretch their wings because this has become socially unacceptable.

In other words, said the author of the study, we have exaggerated the danger kids are in to justify our moral disapproval we feel for parents who violate this new norm.

As published in Collabra, the survey-based study showed that children whose parents left them alone on purpose--to work, help out a charity, relax, or meet a lover--were perceived to be in greater danger than kids whose parents were involuntarily separated from them,

 They set up five scenarios--from a 10-month-old child left asleep for 15 mins in a cool car in a gym underground garage to an 8-year-old reading a book in a coffee shop a block from home.

For each scenario, the reason for the parent's absence was controlling. One was an involuntary absence--mom hit by a car. The others were voluntary--work, charity, relaxing, meeting a lover.

Then they participants were asked how much danger the child was in--from 1-10.

Overall, they thought all the scenarios were quite dangerous--6.99 on average.

Those left alone on purpose were judged in more danger. This, despite the fact that the child left alone on purpose was probably in less danger because the parent probably took steps to give the child a phone or go over safety rules.

The parent meeting the lover was thought to have put the child in worse danger than the one who went to work.

In other words, moral judgments entered in to jack up the perception of risk.

The researchers said, at very least, those who enforce the law should not let this bias creep into the situation and invest it with the force of law.

Food for thought, anyway.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Maybe working at home is not best for Millennials

Meredith Bennett-Smith, Government Executive Magazine, Aug 24, 2016, says telecommuting is on the rise. Almost 40% of workers say they have worked from home at some point. That was 9% in 1995.

Companies tend to encourage this now--cutting office overhead and increasing productivity.

In ten years, in fact, new companies may not even shell out for offices.

Still, don't write off the "real" office just yet. Gathering people in a physical space provides intellectual stimulation, collaboration, and better time management.

Sometimes a text or email won't cut it..People face to face feed off each other's energy and enthusiasm.

People get to know each other better--get more interested in the work and the good of the rest of  the team. You can read body language. There is less miscommunication.

You can never get away from home--but you can leave the office behind. Or should be able to without escaping to someplace with no cell service.

When Marissa Mayer--CEO of Yahoo--banned telecommuting, everyone freaked out.

She said most people are more productive at home--but more coolaborative and innovative when they are together.

And she stuck to it.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Five bad interview habits

Excellent start.
Ladan Nikravan, CareerBuilder, says job searching is hard enough without screwing up (I paraphrase).

Some ways you might be sabotaging yourself:

--Negativity. I you think and "see" only the worst outcome, the interviewer may pick up on that. Also--don't be negative about former companies or bosses.

--Embellishment. Lying or exaggerating can catch up with you fast. Today's employers check a lot of sources, Recently in a CareerBuilder survey, 69% of employers said catching a lie was an instant dealbreaker.

--Bad body language. Don't fail to make eye contact, smile, and also don't play with something on the table or desk.

--Phone. Never check it during an interview.

--Homework. Employers can tell if you're interested enough in the company and job to check it out first.

Interest is good. I remember back when I was hiring people (when dinos roamed). If the person did not seem to want the job--didn't express this--I thought, "What the hey, I don't want that person."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Warning--the Louisiana flood scammers are afoot

The Department of  Homeland Security says to be extra vigilant when donating to charities to aid victims of Louisiana's horrible floods (worse than Katrina).

Scam charities get right on it and send emails after such a disasters--these could contain malware. the Federal Trade Commission joins with DHS in warning about these.

--Do not open any attachments!

--Keep your antivirus programs updated.

--Verify that an organization is legitimate by calling a trusted number--check the Better Business Bureau's National Charity Report Index--google or go to http://bbb.org.

--Never assume appeals on social media are legitimate. Before texting money, confirm the phone number with the charity.

In other words--don't be a chump. People are not all good. Some, in fact, are lower than low lifes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

No, no, no--not a good way to get hired

CareerBuilder has done its latest lists of no-nos for job interviews. We can use some comic relief about now, right?

--Candidate asked a priest to contact the hiring manager and recommend he be hired.

--Bought a first class ticket so could sit next to the hiring manager on a flight.

--Came dressed in a Halloween costume (hey, it was October).

--Asked the interviewer to share an ice cream cone.

--Sent embroidered socks with a message that he or she would knock the company's socks off if hired.

--Showed up in camp counselor attire--complete with children--to show leadership ability.

--Sent a shoe with a flower in it--saying trying to get a foot in the door.

--Mailed money to the interviewer.

--Arrived in a white limo, an hour early in a three-piece suit. The position was middle wage and strictly khakis and a button-down.

--Kissed the hiring manager.

--Wore a tie with the name of the company on it.

Me, I like the camp counselor gambit--if the job is as the Pied Piper.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Money issues can distract employees

When people have money issues pecking at them, it makes working more difficult.

Therefore some businesses are promoting the use of software called Your Money Made Easy.

Along with this, they put on seminars and training aimed at  managing personal finances.

Many people think about doing a budget and then it seems too hard and their minds drift to other things--but not necessarily to work...

In the US, half of the households are middle income--but only 30% of households with an income from $30K to $75K have any sort of a budget.

Result: pain, lost sleep, worry.

Your Money Made Easy (yourmoneymadeeasy.com) is a Windows program that creates a framework for day-to-day management.

A company promotes it--the supervisors use it. Everyone is ecnouraged to try it. After the 30-day evaluation period, those who continue get reimbursed for the license fee.

People  in payroll or human resources are trained to help users.

Sounds interesting...I guess the company-based aspect is the unique part.

I would wonder how closely employees would want their fellow employees to be clued into their financial situation.

Monday, August 22, 2016

There are data scientists and data scientists

Ann Irvine, principal data scientist at Red Owl, writing in Government Executive, says the FBI is hiring its first senior-level data scientist. This might be more challenging than they think, she says.

Data scientists have wildly different backgrounds, skill sets, and responsibililties.

Even just at Red Owl, one set of data scientists prevents insider threats such as rogue trading. A second group works with customers. And a third contributes to the core software.

All have  knowledge of math, machine learning, and expertise in cybersecurity, good communication skills and experience in software development.

This is why the FBI or any entity needs to be clear in its requirements.

Data sceintists often need to explain what is possible with data science and what isn't. Could a certain type of data answer a certain question. How much would be needed? What types of algorithms would be needed? How will these be evaluated? What kind of mistakes could the algorithms make? Has this problem been solved before--and how?

As a first timer, the FBI data scientist will have to be incorporated into the culture.  Will he or she get easy access?

And the new data scientist cannot be overloaded--there must be an onboarding process.

I was surprised to learn the FBI does not have a senior data scientist, what with all the data they handle.

Friday, August 19, 2016

How many words do you know?

This is a toughie and has long been considered impossible to estimate.

But, now, in a paper in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers from Ghent University in Belgium used social media among other things to estimate that the average 20-year-old native speaker knows 42,00 dictionary words.

They devised a test that went viral on Dutch TV and 300,000 people took it.

Then they did the same for English and Spanish.

The English test has been taken by a million people to date.

They made up their own list of words--and saw how many people recognized them. The test shows each word and asks if it's a word or not.

As we get older, according to data also collected, we learn a new word every two days. (Not sure I do...)

They are also researching 200,000 people who speak English as a second language. This could have implications for teaching languages.

They are also expanding the English list to 75,000 words.

I don't usually bring politics into this blog, but I was joking the other day that Trump had to repeat so much because he didn't know very many words.

I wonder if  his invention, "bigly," was on the list of non-words.

In all honesty I don't think toughie is a word, either (see above). I probably make up a new word every two days, not learn one.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What should "gig" workers call themselves?

I worked for 35 years as a freelance writer. I liked the "lance" part--a warrior fighting for good, persuasive prose. Often, though, the clients and others zeroed in on the "free" part--trying to get me to write "free" tryouts or come down in price because I was self-employed and supposedly did not have high overhead.

Sabrina Maddeauz takes up this challenge in a story in the
                                                            National Post (Canadian).

She quotes a 30-year-old celebrity photographer as saying freelance is a dirty word now--what you do between jobs.

Yet, the freelance economy is booming.  Freelancers can be anyone from a limo driver to a graphic designer.

In fact, this economy also is dismissed as the "gig" economy. Workers often make no benefits, wait to be paid, and are easily brushed aside as "amateurs."

Millennials, especially, are disrespected as spoiked jerks. They are seen as unable to survive in an office environment.

Freelancing is far from the easy way out, as anyone who had tried it k nows all too well.

Is there any way to improve the image? I used to say I was "self-employed" sometime. Or I was an "independent writer." A friend of mine who had a medical consulting company for many years, had a separate bank account for it, hassled with that, she had checks written to her company name--even though she was never an LLC or corporate entity legally.

I also used company names from time to time--don't know what difference it made.

All freelancers can do is stand tall, insist on their worth, ask for advances on jobs, don't beg, don't cringe, be assured and businesslike.

And be patient. I can't tell you how many people who dismissed me later went broke or died.

So take up that lance--you are hired in the cause of good.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

New medical schools opening

According to Sylvia E. Morris, MD, a former assistant professor at Emory and now a consultant and community health advocate, by 2025, we will need 46,000 to 90,000 new doctors.

Three new medical schools are responding to the call--in Texas, California, and New York.

The University of Texas-Austin, focuses on research and leadership and wants to make Austin a model health city. The initial class of 50 students began in June 2016. It will work closely with the University's business, nursing, and engineering schools as an incubator of ideas.

In New York, the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education will be part of City University of New York. This fall, 70 students will begin studies.

And, California Northstate University near Sacramento seated its first class of 90 students in the fall of 2015--mission more primary care doctors.

Some tips for potential med students:

--Practice MCAT questions daily in each subject. Even in a new school, you need to score high. Take a prep course or form a study group.

--Visit your professional school adviser early and often. This adviser can keep you up to date on new programs and opportunities.

--Update your application if you are reapplying. Ask yourself why you want to be a physician, reflect that in your application. Include volunteer and science or medicine work--such as being a medical scribe, mission work, or new achievements since your last application.

Many school have specific missions. Try to apply to those that suit your mission.

Another tip: Never compare yourself with other applicants...You are the only person involved in your application. For instance, never say, "Unlike other applications you will be reading, I delivered six babies while on a mission in Africa."

This is just a start. Applying to med school is an art.



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Making ends meet

The end of the seemingly never-ending recession, stagnant wages--a lot of people are digging in the couch cushions for loose change at the end of  the month.

Ladan Nikravan, CareerBuilder, gets into this.

Recently a study showed that a sizable portion of the population would have trouble coming up with $400 for an emergency repair.

Three-quarters of Americans, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey, live paycheck to paycheck.

Nineteen percent of ALL workers, at all salary levels, did not make ends meet every month in the last year. Almost a fifth.

Sixty-eight percent of all workers say they are in debt. Most can manage it, but 16% have reduced their 401K contributions in the lasrt year and more than a third do not even have a 401K.

Of those in debt, more than half say they will always be in debt--from credit cards(64%), auto loans, mortgage, student loans, family loans, taxes, or other.

Some tips for retiring some debt:

--Stick to a budget. At least write down where your money goes--see places to cut?

--Save for emergencies. This means 3-6 mos of expenses in case you lose your job or your heat pump goes out.

--Develop a plan to consolidate your debt. Call your creditors--ask for lower interest, special payment plans, or anything they can come up with. Pay the ones with the highest interest first.

--Learn o manage your 401K. At very least, don't borrow from it.

Get a side job. Teach an instrument, write articles, help people write resumes, anything you can think of.

The last thing you should do is bury your head in the sand. That never improves anything. And you get all sandy.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Keeping minorities in science careers

Persistence is the watchword for undergrad programs trying to attract underrepresented racial/ethnic groups into the sciences.

By persistence, they mean translating initial interest into confidence of success, so the students "persist" in their quest to be in these fields.

A new paper in the journal CBE-Life Sciences education, done by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, says some variables relating to persistence are dubbed self-efficacy beliefs.

Among these is the confidence that one can do a task.

They studied 600 undergrads seeing if they could conduct independent research, prepare a poster or presentation, or were being mentored.

Funding agencies want quantifiable data that they will get a return on their investment--that the students will stick and persist.

African-American men self-reported greater anxiety about their research performance. The rates of this group attaining a degree have not risen in the last decade.

This is fine for defining persistence or lack of it--but how does an organization promote it?

Friday, August 12, 2016

How to counter gender bias at work

Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, writes about gender bias in Forbes.

Men outnumber women in many businesses--such as tech startups and engineering firms. But women can survive and thrive even in these with the right techniques.

Morin says that men tend to dominate by the behavior, not just because of their XY chromosomes. Women who exhibit "masculine" traits such as aggressiveness and confidence tend to receive more promotions than even men exhibiting such qualities.

You can ask for a raise, speak up in meetings, not apologize all the time for everything.

In a 2014 study in the Harvard Business Review, women are much less likely to speak up in meetings--and are more likely to allow themselves to be interrupted.

Women should also be direct. Don't say, "I am not sure everyone will agree, but..." or "I hate to ask you to do this..."

If you do get a compliment--accept it. Don't say, "Oh, I got lucky."

Do you think women are less likely to be successful? This will come across.

Whether you wear a suit or dress, come across as confident in your outfit. Don't pull at it or adjust it.

Men network--they play golf, for example, or go to dinner together during conferences. They talk sports. You may not be as successful if you don't join in--or even take time from your family to go to Happy Hour.

And--stop blaming men for your lack of success. Pity parties do not change things.

This does not mean you need to hang out in bars, use profanity, or adopt the less attractive qualities of some males--it just means you need to be on the team, visible, strong, and productive.

And above all, know your worth.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Remember "informational interviews"?

"I am hoping to get into health IT."
These used to be big last century. I just saw mention of them again on CareerBuilder in a story by Amy McDonnell.

Where the job interview is aimed at getting a job--the informational interview is aimed at gaining information on a company, culture, industry, or prospects.

You try to talk an executive into meeting with you face to face to talk about the industry and get acquainted.

For the job seeker, the informational interview helps you lean about the realities of the business and expands your network.

You also improve your interviewing skills and may even uncover an unknown future position.

You find out what is most important to the employer.

BUT--you have to first get the executive to talk to you.

--Identify potential contacts first. Scour the internet, watch your social media, read local papers.

--Reach out appropriately. The first step is an email or phone call explaining your background and what you hope to gain. Make the encounter limited--say 15 mins.

--And prepare like mad. Research the interviewee, read all staff bios on the website, review company literature and annual reports. And finally, set up Google news alerts on the company for the most up-to-date info.

--Be on time, be focused, ask good questions, and leave a great impression.

Sometimes this can turn into a real job offer--but don't count on it. Be relaxed--and the interviewer will be, too--after all he or she is not under the gun to give you a job, just some face time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Is a co-bot coming in your future?

Jason Karaian, Nextgov, August 4, 2016, says some Oxford researchers think 47% of jobs in the US are at risk of  being replaced by robots.

In developing countries, this may be only 10% but is still worrying for those places.

Both repetitive manual labor and higher-level brain tasks may be performed by machines.

The robot companies are trying to soften the fear by talking about co-bots--machines that collaborate with humans.

These same Oxford people are trying to figure out which jobs will put humans in demand in 2030.

To determine what skills humans will need--they asked robots. Of course.

This guy, Michael Osborne, and an innovation nonprofit called Nesta will run workshops this year with academics and futurists to look into the future of work.

An algorithm will cross-reference the skills they (and their robots)  think will be needed with a data-based of job-specific skills from the Labor Dept.

One thing they already think they know: Jobs of the future will require mixes and depths of skills that are currently rare.

Well, let us know what we should be doing...OK?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Standing desk--are you using it right?

That's the latest--sitting supposedly kills you worse than smoking so you need to stand at work. I don't buy it--but plenty do and now these standing desks are "the thing."

Kathleen Hale, founder of Chair Free Project (www.chairfreeproject.com), dedicated to getting people out of chairs, has some tips:

Get an anti-fatigue mat for your feet. These reduce pressure--you may want one for the kitchen and other rooms, too.

Ease into using your standing desk. If you are used to sitting, suddenly standing all day can be a shock. More more than two hours total at first. Try not to lock your knees.

Move. Even people standing need to take a break every 30  minutes and move. Take a walk, something.

Try a leaning stool. This sort of pitches you forward and can be great for rests.

Twist. Even though, you are standing, twist side to side occasionally.

Place your wrists correctly. Some keyboard trays can be an add-on.

Don't lean on the desk. Walk or twist or something.

You might like walking so much, you get a treadmill desk.

Kidding.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Adult learners on the rise

You know what they say--you are never done learning.

And I learned of a fun new site called Education Dive (www.educationdive.com). Check it out.

Anyway, writing on there, Jarrett Carter says adults are expected to grow as a major sector in the undergraduate scene in the next nine years.

This will require more flexible scheduling, new options for payment, and additional chances for business and industries to credential workers.

States like Florida, Tennessee and New York are working on legislation to induce colleges to recruit adult learners.

All of this will change universities for all. Schools will partner with large-scale employers to direct workers to training programs.

Some of this will be online and the rest on-campus.

I have said all along that companies need to be active in education and training--and not just hope students of all ages will come up with the gigantic investments to somehow meet their needs.

.

Friday, August 5, 2016

What if the boss steals your idea?

Deanna Hartley deals with this common issue in CareerBuilder. If the boss suddenly seems all confused over who did what or who suggested what and tries to take credit, what can you do?

First, do not run around telling all your coworkers. This could come back to bite you and your coworkers may start not trusting you.

Talk to loved ones only--your support system.

Pick your battles--Is this one worth it?

Seek the advice of a mentor. Maybe you can come up with a practical approach.

And--you can attempt to talk to the boss directly. Don't let your resentment overflow. If this is a repeated pattern, be calm. Just have clear in your mind the point you want to get across--and the desired action you want.

Keep track of all your ideas in writing.

Also try other ways to keep your name out there--be a guest blogger, maybe, or speak at a function.

Your last resort is to request a transfer. This can have many unexpected consequences.

The worst case of this I  knew of--funny now--was my boss back when I had a "real" job. Our boss above him had a real sadistic streak. They were preparing for a big meeting and I had included an unusual quote into my boss's speech. They rehearsed and rehearsed. When the meeting came, the big boss opened stealing my boss's quote...My boss was speaking next and his talk had been gutted.

Not funny...at all...at the time.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The business pluses of gratitude

Kate Zabriskie, Government Executive Magazine, says thanking people in the business world will keep you from appearing "an ungrateful and uncouth toad." Don't you want to be a non-toad?

Whom should you thank?

--How about bosses who take time to support you, provide you an opportunity or include you?

--Thank "down"--to those on your team who stayed late to finish a project. Or put out extra effort some other way.

--How about customers? Thank them--without them you would not have a job.

--Or suppliers--don't you like on-time and pleasant relations?

--Thank the office cleaning staff. How about the cashier in the cafeteria? The security guard--he or she is there day after day.

What if you expressed gratitude once an hour--would your office be a better place? Someone might even thank you!

Other tips:

--Beyond a simple "thank you," sometimes you need to get specific, elaborate a little.

--Get personal. "You did a great job with Power Point today--I am never that confident with Power Point, I learned from you."

You can use email, a paper card (like the ones you used to send to Grandma), or just go out of your way to take the person aside.

My daughter works at Wendy's and you would be surprised how many drive-though customers take the time to go to the website, tinker around, and send her a compliment for her service. It means a lot. We have them on the wall.

By the way--thanks for reading this!


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Shake, rattle and get rolling

Nick Morgan, author of Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact" (whew long subtitle), writes in Forbes about how to climb out of a rut in the workplace.

He is building on the ideas of Cathy Salit, head of Perfomance for a Lifetime. And I am building on him.

First, embrace awkward growth. Be open to things you are not expert in or even have rejected in the past. If the world were unchanging, you would not need to get out of rut, but it isn't. Try something you feel incompetent at for a week or even a month.

Rebuild teams. We crave connection--we are human. Shake up the old approach. Can you think of one to shake today?

Listen anew. People don't listen--it's a lost art. Listening means getting feedback--evaluation. Paraphrase back what you heard. And try to be empathetic--try to "hear" what isn't being "said."

Create from complaints. Take a disaster and turn it on its head. Most people are good at complaining. Use those.

Improvise endorsement.  Rehearsing is sort of the opposite of improv, but practice using "Yes...and". Add to each idea you hear.

To me the biggest message here is take another look at something you rejected. Ever do that?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Here comes Star again--scolding

CareerBuilder did yet another survey on what you might be doing wrong in job hunting.

Debra Auerbach wrote it up.

She remarks that like on the show The Bachelorette, if you become too confident you know it all you might be a goner.

Basic pitches. The most common error is use the same generic resume and cover letter for everything. More than half of people don't customize their resume to each employer. Find those keywords in the job description--use them.

To Whom It May Concern. This phrase is SO over with. Never use it. Almost 84% don't even find out the manager's name. This is research that will pay off.

Cutting cover letter corners. Almost half--45%--don't even include a cover letter! This is your chance to humanize yourself and your desire for the job.

Bad followup. Thirty-seven percent don't even follow up--applications can get lost in the shuffle. No stalking, but after a week or ten days you can ask is there more information I can provide?

Thank yous. Sending a thank you note right after the interview is a way to make a good impression--good and rare--57% of applicants don't. This is your chance to be gracious, show you are pleasant to work with, and reinforce what a good employee you'd be.

You know all this--right? Do you do it?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Does the applicant have team skills?

I am a huge Vince Vaughn fan and watched that comedy THE INTERNSHIP about two older salesmen who go into Google's internship program and end up pulling together a team of misfits. It has its moments--funny and dumb.

Anyhow, someone had to decide these two had team-like possibilities despite being complete goofballs and older goofballs at that.

Lou Adler, CEO of the Adler Group, a recruiting firm, writing in Government Executive, July 26, 2016, says you can hire for motivation, hire for cultural fit, but asks how do you determine whether a person is a team player?

He says the most important interview question is: Can you please describe the most important team accomplishment of your entire career?

This could be managing a team project or being on an important team.

You might also have to answer follow-on questions:

--Who was on the team and what was their role?

--What was your assigned role--did this change?

--What were the objectives and were they met?

--Describe how the team was managed. Were you a part of this?

--Who did you influence the most--did you coach anyone or get coached?

--What would you change if you could?

--What was the biggest team problem?

If the applicant has thought about all this, he or she may be a good team member.

Think about it if you're an applicant--or an employer.

I am trying to pull together a team to make my one-minute cartoon trailer. I may start asking about other teamwork they have done as I talk to people.

In the movie, the two goofballs with more life experience tended to be more empathetic to their younger team mates and thus inspired their loyalty. And they were clearly a team of two.

The low point came when one goofball--Vince--screwed up on the computer (at Google!) and cost the team a win. Still, they stuck with him and even coaxed him back, where he, of course, found a way to use his sales skills to prevail.

Teamwork!