Posted by Erik Even on Feb 26, 2009 in Employment
A recent study established what are the best and worst jobs in the US.
The best job in the US is… drumroll please… mathematician! Indeed, nine of the top 20 jobs listed were in academia, including biologist, historian and astronomer. Also, philosophers made the list. So if you’ve been thinking of dusting off the Sartre and looking for a philosophy job, now is the time.
According to the study, mathematician jobs are low stress and require little physical labor, and score high on work environment and pay (average $94,000 a year).
Other top jobs include software engineer, motion picture editor and parole officer. Parole officer?
The worst job in the US? Lumberjack. As you might expect, most of the low-rated jobs are manual labor jobs, like dairy farmer, garbage collector, and roustabout. Roustabout is a great job title, and sounds like it would be a blast. “What do you do for a living?” “I’m a roustabout!” But in fact, a roustabout is a manual laborer on an oil rig.
Still I love the word — roustabout! Roustabout roustabout!
Lumberjacks are low rated for stress, labor, injuries and pay. But at least you get to work outside. And you could even have a sports career.
What’s the point? It’s that whatever job you have, it’s not the worst job out there. It’s not the best, either (unless you’re a mathematician), but it’s not the worst (unless you’re a lumberjack).
Oh, and one word before I sign off:
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 25, 2009 in Employment
Most Americans a very worried right now about their economic and career prospects.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama spoke to a joint session of Congress, but also spoke to the American people, to help allay those fears.
I have come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.
I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others, and rightly so. If you haven’t been personally affected by this recession, you probably know someone who has: a friend, a neighbor, a member of your family.
… It’s the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It’s the job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost, the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread, the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope.
The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere.
But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before…
Now is the time to act boldly and wisely, to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.
Now is the time to jump-start job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do…
And tonight I am grateful that this Congress delivered and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.
Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector, jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines and solar panels, laying broadband and expanding mass transit…
Because of this plan, 95 percent of working households in America will receive a tax cut, a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1.
Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college.
And Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage to help them weather this storm…
You should also know that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe, your insurance is secure. You can rely on the continued operation of our financial system; that’s not the source of concern…
First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans, and small-business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running…
Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and refinance their mortgages…
Third, we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more difficult times..
We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again…
So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.
And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself; it’s quitting on your country. And this country needs and values the talents of every American.
Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 24, 2009 in Employment
Here’s a test that’s been floating around the tubes. It’s a four-question management test, apocryphally attributed to Anderson Consulting (now Accenture). Don’t cheat!
Question 1: How do you put a giraffe in the refrigerator?
Correct answer: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe and close the door.
This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.
Question 2: How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?
Wrong answer: Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant and close the door.
Correct answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door.
This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your actions.
Question 3: The Lion King is hosting an animal conference; all the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend?
Correct answer: The elephant. He’s in the refrigerator.
This tests your memory.
Question 4: There is a river you must cross. But it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it?
Correct answer: You swim across. All the crocodiles are attending the animal conference.
This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.
The claim is that about 90% of the professionals tested got all questions wrong, but pre-schoolers tended to get several correct answers.
How’d you do?
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 23, 2009 in Careers
, Job Search
If you’re looking for work in this disastrous economic environment, there’s a good chance you’re looking to change fields. But with so many people unemployed, are there any opportunities for inexperienced workers? Won’t a firm try to hire the most experienced person that can find?
A study of telephone call center employees conducted by Ohio State University suggests that previous work experience isn’t always a positive for new employees. Workers may have old, ingrained habits that go against the way their new employer wants to do things — and it’s easier to train people new to a field, rather than retrain an old hand.
“Organizations pay a premium for workers with job experience that will allow them to just step in and start contributing immediately,” said Steffanie Wilk, co-author of the study. “But what employers don’t realize is that some of what their employees learned in previous jobs will end up being a negative.”
The researchers examined data from 771 employees and job applicants of two call centers for a major US insurance firm. They examined the employees’ job performance evaluations, and separate ratings of the employees’ work-related skills and knowledge.
The researchers compared these performance and skills evaluations with the employees’ prior work histories and experience at the current firm, to find any relationships.
As expected, the results showed that prior work experience at other firms did lead to higher levels of skill and knowledge, which led to better performance reviews at the insurance company.
But — when researchers took into account the higher levels of skill and knowledge brought from former jobs, previous experience actually led to lower performance.
In other words, the positive effects of knowledge and skill brought by experienced employees were being at least somewhat balanced by negative factors.
The researchers believe that workers brought old habits and ways of doing things from their previous jobs that didn’t necessarily work at their new jobs. Employees need to adapt to their new surroundings by accepting new ways of doing things and shedding their old, ineffective habits. Workers without such habits might find this easier to do.
To measure this, the researchers surveyed supervisors at the insurance company, asking them to rate their subordinates on measures of adaptability. They found that workers who scored high on adaptability were less likely to suffer from the negative effects of prior work experience.
In other words, don’t worry if you’re new to a career field. Sell yourself as a blank slate, a tabula rasa ready to learn to do things your new company’s way.
And if you’re a veteran in your field, be prepared to adapt and learn new ways of doing things — and make this willingness to change clear to potential employers. The best possible employee is one with experience, but who is willing to adapt to a new work environment.
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 19, 2009 in Careers
, Job Search
So you’re researching job prospects — making use of job search sites, working the social networking sites, keeping in touch with former colleagues. You’re using every weapon in your arsenal to get your name out there. Or are you?
What about your nourishing mother?
You went to college. You earned the degree. You probably still owe on the loans. Why not let your alma mater help you get a great job?
And I don’t mean just joining the alumni association, although that will definitely help. Through the UCLA Alumni Association, I get invites to networking groups and career symposia.
With a little research, you can locate other graduates of your college or university who may be able to help you find employment at their firm. Just reach out to them — send a letter or fire off a quick email. You don’t have to ever have met — just the fact you went to the same school will induce a lot of people to take a second look at your resume.
Even if you graduated in 1994 with a degree in Old Norse Languages while your contact graduated in 1963 with an MBA, you still have something in common — love of your old school — and it may be enough to move your resume to the top of the list.
In today’s career environment, you need all the help you can get. Find out what services your alumni association offers — many will actually set you up to meet with successful alumni!
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 18, 2009 in Employment
Speaking of business jargon, here are some new words you might not be familiar with:
BLAMESTORMING: Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.
SEAGULL MANAGER: A manager, who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then leaves.
ASSMOSIS: The process by which some people seem to absorb success and advancement by kissing up to the boss rather than working hard.
SALMON DAY: The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed and die in the end.
CUBE FARM: An office filled with cubicles.
PRAIRIE DOGGING: When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm, and people’s heads pop up over the walls to see what’s going on.
MOUSE POTATO: The on-line, wired generation’s answer to the couch potato.
SITCOMS: Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage. What yuppies turn into when they have children and one of them stops working to stay home with the kids.
STRESS PUPPY: A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny.
XEROX SUBSIDY: Euphemism for swiping free photocopies from one’s work place
PERCUSSIVE MAINTENANCE: The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again. (also called APE DYNAMICS)
ADMINISPHERE: The rarefied organizational layers beginning just above the rank and file. Decisions that fall from the adminisphere are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve
404: Someone who’s clueless. From the World Wide Web error message “404 Not Found,” meaning that the requested document could not be located.
OHNOSECOND: That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize that you’ve just made a BIG mistake
And just a couple of IT-related words:
ID10T ERROR: A technical-sounding term used when a computer problem was caused by the idiot using the computer.
PEBKAC: “Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair.” Same as ID10T Error.
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 17, 2009 in Careers
In this economy, everyone is in a precarious position career-wise. But there are ways to tell if a firing or lay off looms on your horizon.
You don’t have enough work.
Symptoms: Your boss isn’t assigning you enough work to keep you busy all day. This could be because he or she doesn’t want to give you an assignment you won’t be around the finish. Or, maybe he or she no longer trusts you. Or the reasons could be innocent — maybe the whole company doesn’t have enough work. Perhaps your boss simply isn’t aware you have free time.
The cure: Don’t be afraid to go to your boss and ask for more work. Even if you really are on the short-list for a layoff, asking for more responsibility may change management’s mind. And if they won’t give you more work, it’s time to start updating that resume.
You’re out of the loop.
Symptoms: You used to get invited to all the good meetings. Your boss would stop by to chat. People asked for your opinion, and not just about whether last night’s Lost made any sense. Now, you’re not in the loop anymore. If you hear about important office issues, it’s through the rumor mill and not through official channels. You’re feeling isolated.
The cure: Again, go to your boss. Or if he or she won’t help, then your boss’ boss. Maybe there’s a good reason you’re out of the loop — to help give you more time to get your work done, for example. But simply asking to get back in the action may be enough to deal you back in.
Your boss gets fired, or quits.
Symptoms: One day you get to work, and your boss is gone. You’re assigned to a different supervisor (or if you’re very unlucky, multiple supervisors). But you’re still associated with your old boss, and to some people, this makes you expendable. And if they replace your superior with a new hire, he or she may wish to fill your position with someone of their choosing.
The cure: Communicate directly with your new supervisor. Don’t try to be “loyal” to your old boss — who does that help? Not your old boss, he or she is gone! Make sure your new boss knows you are on their team.
Your firm is recruiting to fill your position.
Symptoms: The company keeps bringing in people to fill a position suspiciously similar to yours. They may even ask you to interview the candidates! And if you’re skimming through craigslist and see your job up for grabs — well, how much evidence do you need?
The cure: Get out. Now.
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 16, 2009 in Careers
, Job Search
It’s just an unavoidable fact — the stress of a prolonged job search can cause physical illness, that makes it even harder to find new work.
If you have ever been unemployed for more than a few weeks, you know what I’m talking about — cold and flu, depression, headaches, chronic tiredness. All these symptoms are triggered by the stress and worry of your job search, and the economic problems that come with being unemployed.
But there are ways to fight back.
Take care of your physical health. Concentrate on eating right and exercising. Take a walk every day — this will help with both stress and keeping your immune system strong. If you already exercise regularly, then keep it up! And eat right — this is not the time to be vegging on your couch eating Doritos all day. Stick to three healthy meals, and you’re likely to improve your health and save money in a difficult financial time.
Take care of your mental health. Stress reactions that worked so well for our evolutionary forbears on the Serengeti — panic, anxiety, fear — don’t help us so much with modern problems. It’s one thing to be concerned about your career and financial prospects, and quite another to paralyze yourself with negative emotions. Don’t pretend you can deal with this on your own. Talk to friends, family members, clergy or professional advisers about your fears. If it’s really bad, see a psychiatrist — you don’t have to be crazy to seek medical help. If your emotions are getting in the way of your job search, then please see a doctor. If you have no insurance or benefits, then look online for free help in your area.
Don’t exaggerate your problems. Yes, this is a very difficult time to be looking for work, and it’s not helpful to pretend that it isn’t. But if you convince yourself this is the end of the world, it may become a self-fulfillng prophecy. Commit yourself to your job search — work on it every day. Open yourself up to the prospect of relocating, or changing careers, or taking on work outside your field that you may see as beneath you, even if just temporarily. America will get through this economic downturn. Your family will get through it. You will get through it.
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 12, 2009 in Job Search
So you’ve got that big interview for a great job.
You know exactly what to do — research the firm, dress appropriately, bring with you everything you need (including a pen and extra resumes), show up on time.
The interview goes great. You’re confident and have answers prepared for the toughest questions. You’re able to show off your knowledge, your skills and your personality. You get a great vibe from the interviewer(s). The meeting is actually fun.
It’s your best interview ever!
You go home, send a thank you note, and then wait. You worry — did you come across as confidently as you felt? Did you say anything foolish? Did they really like you?
Then the bad news comes — they gave someone else the job.
The worries turn into self-incrimination. Obviously, you did screw up, right? Or you would have gotten the job!
Wrong. You gave a great interview. You couldn’t have done any better. The fact is, when it comes to getting a job, there are far too many factors outside of your control.
Maybe it was a so-called “courtesy interview,” and they never had any plans to hire you. Or they might have already chosen someone internally, but company rules require a certain number of outside interviews.
The position might be canceled, or delayed. And of course there’s office politics. Mr. Smith wanted to hire someone last year, but got shot down — so now he’s sabotaging Mr. Jones’ attempt to hire you.
The truth is, you have no way of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. All you can do is give a great interview and hope for the best.
It’s hackneyed but it’s true: accept the things you cannot change, have the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Posted by Erik Even on Feb 11, 2009 in Careers
Businesspeople sure love to make up new words.
There is nothing wrong with new words, as long as they (1) fulfill a need, (2) don’t replace a perfectly good existing word, and (3) are clever and well conceived.
For instance, “emoticon” is a necessary new word, as it gives a name to something that did not have a name before. It’s easy to remember (emotion + icon) and describes what it’s describing.
But “irregardless” is a terrible word, as it means the exact same thing as “regardless.” This is a word coined out of ignorance, and it should be abolished from usage.
New words coined for use in business are added to dictionaries every year. But these words should be examined before we adopt them into standard usage, even at work.
For example, “actionable,” meaning “capable of being acted upon,” is a useful new word. There isn’t a preexisting word — one would have to say “this item can be acted upon,” rather than the shorter and easier “this item is actionable.” “Actionable” is also a legal term meaning “subject to or affording ground for an action or suit at law,” but it’s easy to differentiate the two uses in context.
As of 2009, if you use “actionable” outside of a work or legal environment, you’ll just sound like an ass. But in 20 years, who knows? “I want to you to go to the store.” “Well, I’m busy, but that’s actionable.”
On the other hand, there are absurd, unnecessary business words that just cause confusion. Like “buy-in,” as in “if you want to do this, you’ll have to get the boss to buy-in.” It just means the same thing as “agree” or “consent.” It’s unnecessary jargon, used in an attempt to sound smart. It fails.
Some business words make no sense at all. “Componentize?” As in “to make something a component?” Who uses this? What does it even mean?
Business people love to turn nouns into verbs. “Let’s dialogue with Joe about the projects he’s been tasked with managing.” What, business people don’t know how to “talk” or “assign?” Let’s just let nouns remain nouns.
Other goofy, unnecessary new words from the world of work include disintermediate, disambiguate, facetime, instantiate, mindshare, operationalize (gack!), productize (double gack!), and the entirely meaningless buzzword “value chain.”
Also, don’t misuse real words: paradigm, offline, proactive, synergy, granular, interface. If you want to meet with someone, then meet. Don’t “interface.”
In business communications, it’s a good idea to, as the saying goes, eschew obfuscation. If there’s simpler way to say what you mean, say it that way. Heavy use of jargon takes more effort, and will confuse anyone outside of your own profession.
That said, you can’t be ignorant of the jargon used by others in your work. If you don’t know what a commonly used business term means, even if you never use it, you’ll come across as if you don’t know what you’re doing. But the next time someone says “I’ll ping you with a value proposition that will drive our critical path to establishing core competancies,” just reply “yeah, you can email me with your idea how to figure out what the hell our company does.”