Posted by Erik Even on Mar 31, 2009 in Careers
Today, a joke:
One day while walking down the street, a highly successful Human Resources Director was tragically hit by a bus and died. Her soul arrived up in Heaven where she was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter himself.
“Welcome to Heaven,” said St. Peter. “Before you get settled in though, it seems we have a problem. You see, strangely enough, we’ve never once had a Human Resources Director make it this far and we’re not really sure what to do with you.”
“No problem, just let me in,” said the woman.
“Well, I’d like to, but I have higher orders. What we’re going to do is let you have a day in Hell and a day in Heaven. Then you can choose whichever one you want to spend an eternity in,” replied St. Peter.
“Actually, I think I’ve made up my mind, I prefer to stay in Heaven”, said the woman.
“Sorry, we have rules…” And with that, St. Peter put the executive in an elevator and it went down, down, down to hell.
The doors opened and she found herself stepping out onto the putting green of a beautiful golf course. In the distance was a country club and standing in front of her were all her friends – fellow executives who she had worked with. They were well dressed in evening gowns and cheering for her. They ran up and kissed her on both cheeks, and they talked about old times. They played an excellent round of golf.
That night they all went to the country club where she enjoyed an excellent steak and lobster dinner. She met the Devil who was actually a really nice guy (kind of cute), and she had a great time telling jokes and dancing. She was having such a good time that before she knew it, it was time to leave. Everybody shook her hand and waved goodbye as she got on the elevator. The elevator went up, up, up and opened at the Pearly Gates where she found St. Peter waiting for her.
“Now it’s time to spend a day in heaven,” he said. So she spent the next 24 hours lounging around on clouds and playing the harp and singing. She had a great time. Before she knew it, her 24 hours were up, and St. Peter came and got her.
“So, you’ve spent a day in Hell and you’ve spent a day in Heaven. Now you must choose your eternity,” said St. Peter.
The woman replied, “Well, I never thought I’d say this, I mean, Heaven has been really great and all, but I think I had a better time in Hell.”
So St. Peter escorted her to the elevator and again she went down, down, down back to Hell. When the doors of the elevator opened, she found herself standing in a desolate wasteland covered in garbage and filth. She saw her friends were dressed in rags and were picking up the garbage and putting it in sacks.
The Devil came up to her and put his arm around her. “I don’t understand,” stammered the woman, “Yesterday I was here, and there was a golf course and a country club. We ate lobster, and we danced and had a great time. Now all there is a wasteland of garbage, and all my friends look miserable.”
The Devil looked at her and smiled. “Yesterday we were recruiting you, today you’re staff…”
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 30, 2009 in Careers
, Job Search
Just about everyone has had to deal with a bad boss — a supervisor who is mean, incompetent, manipulative, inappropriate, unprofessional, or all of the above. It’s like they say: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; and those who can’t teach, manage.
But how do you deal with a difficult boss, when you job relies on keeping this insane person happy?
The best advice is: find a new employer. You shouldn’t have to put up with an unprofessional supervisor, and a clean break is the best cure.
Unfortunately, for a lot of people, this is not an immediate option, not in this economy.
Be unfailing professional. In the face of whatever bad boss behavior is driving you crazy, be calm, businesslike and mature. Of course, any employee or employer should behave this way anyway. But by being aggressively professional despite your boss’ antics, you will (1) impress other people at the company, including someone who might be in the position to get you out from under this bad boss, and (2) you might — might– actually influence your boss to behave better.
Some people call this “managing up,” a term I hate because it implies it’s your job to fix your boss. It’s not — but any positive steps you can take will just make your life easier.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. If your boss ignores your emails, gives contradictory instructions, or plans meetings during lunch without providing food, you’re just going to have to live with it until you get out of there.
Report the big stuff. If your boss is sexually harassing you, or physically or emotionally abusing you, you do not have to put up with this, nor should you. Go straight to your HR manager, if the firm has one. If you work at a small firm, consider speaking to a lawyer or a government agency. But this kind of thing is not okay.
Don’t badmouth your boss to other people at the firm. Everyone probably already knows your boss is insane, and will show you sympathy and may even be able to help you deal with him or her. But if you go around criticizing your boss to everyone, this will be noticed by management, who may come to see you as more of a problem than your supervisor. If you have to vent, vent at home. And don’t write criticism of your boss in IM or on email at work –your company can read that stuff!
Have any more advice about dealing with bad bosses? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 27, 2009 in Careers
We’ve all seen those signs by the freeway offramp, advertising work-at-home jobs for big, big pay. But seriously, do you really want to work for someone who advertises on a plastic sign stapled to a telephone pole?
As the economic meltdown continues to melt, more firms are saving money by allowing employees to telecommute. Here are some tips on working from home.
1.) Don’t let your home distract you from work. It’s easy to wander off for “just a few minutes” to see if the SciFi Channel is showing that episode of Star Trek: Enterprise where Jolene Blaylock takes her top off. Next thing you know, you’re behind on your work.
Create a home office. You don’t need to build an addon to your house; just create a workspace that contains nothing except what you need to do your work. Make sure you can’t see a TV from where you sit. During work hours, keep your mind on work. It’s the same thing with family issues and the cable guy stopping by — you’re not at home, you’re at work, even if you’re physically at home.
2.) Back up all of your work. If your computer at work goes down and there aren’t any backups, that’s IT’s fault. If it happens at home, it’s your fault. Back up all your work files and emails to an external drive or an Internet data storage service; and use one of several free online services to store your work-related browser bookmarks.
3.) Don’t call yourself a “cloudworker.” It’s fatuous.
4.) Let your employer know where you are and what you’re doing. Employers’ biggest problem with telecommunitng is not being able to directly track workers.
Stay in communication with your boss and coworkers. If you have to do something during the day, like a doctor’s appointment or a personal emergency, treat it the same way you would if you worked in an office. Let the right people know. Don’t just sneak off.
If you want to be trusted, you have to be trustworthy.
5.) Write off all your at-home work expenses. Keep all your receipts. It’s worth the hassle.
Got any advice for telecommuters? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 25, 2009 in Careers
Attending a business lunch seems simple enough — eat, talk, get back to work. That is, until you’re written up, fired, or even just embarrassed about a faux pas.
Here are some rules for business lunches (and dinners, breakfasts, brunches, afternoon snacks, elevenses and drinks after work):
Be on time. Of course, this rule applies to everything in business. Just because your schedule is messed up doesn’t mean you get to share yor tsuris with everyone else. It’s rude and unprofessional. Canceling at the last minute is bad, too.
Treat the meal like a meeting. Yes, a meal is intended to be more casual than a formal meeting. Feel free to discuss things other than business. But at some point, there’s business to be done, so do it. Don’t get distracted by the food, the atmosphere, or that super sexy server of the opposite sex.
Be careful what you say. You don’t have a Get Smart-style Cone of Silence. You never know who’s listening. Discussing firing that secretary while she’s sitting at the next table is unprofessional and betrays a real lack of class and tact. Sensitive conversations should be held behind closed doors at the office, not at Daily Grill.
Kill your cell phone. You’re outside the office, and you’re supposed to be concentrating on your lunch guest, whether it’s a client, vendor, competitor, headhunter or that employee you’re firing in public so he or she can’t make a scene. Turn your cell phone off. In fact, you should do this whenever you visit a restaurant, even on your personal time. Theaters, too. But feel free to use your cell phone in a hospital — that stuff about affecting the medical machinery is total BS.
No three martini lunches. Don’t drink alcohol at lunch. Remember, you have to go back to work. Showing up drunk is a career killer.
Who pays? The person who called the meeting picks up the check. If that’s you, pony up. If it’s not you, avoid the lobster. Never order anything more expensive than what the person paying is getting.
So get out there and have a great lunch!
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 24, 2009 in Employment
, Job Search
Want to help out total strangers by letting them have that job for which you applied? Do you enjoy living in your mom’s basement eating Hot Pockets? Have you decided to move to Berkeley and live in a van down by the river?
Then here are ten ways to assure you don’t get hired.
Send a resume that gets noticed! No, not by clearly laying out your qualifications, silly. Print it on thick pink paper, with a piece of candy tied with a ribbon in one corner. And clip a photo of yourself to it, maybe that great Halloween costume shot from last year. Human resources managers love that kind of thing. They’ll eat the candy, show to photo around the office for mockery, and then file your resume — in the round file.
Ignore directions. The company may ask for your resume in a certain file format, or ask that your cover letter be a separate file. They may instruct you to send a writing sample, or just a link to your online portfolio. Whatever they ask you to do — they don’t mean it. Just do what’s convenient for you. You can be certain they’ll interview people who know how to follow instructions. And not you.
Call the employer every day. There’s nothing a human resources manager enjoys more than a job applicant who won’t leave them alone. Calling every day, even when asked to not call, tells the employer you are (1) motivated, (2) annoying and (3) possibly a psychopath.
Lie about your education and qualifications. Of course you’ve been through Harvard — by car! Yes, Denzel Washington is one of your references — you got his autograph back when he was on St. Elsewhere! Sure, you can operate 80-ton capacity rail crane with 5000kg chain hoists — how hard could it be? And there’s no way to check these things, right? Right?
Be late for the interview. The employer gets it — bad traffic, car trouble, bus was late, your water broke. No problem! Why should you be constrained by a repressive white male idea of linear time, anyway? You made yourself look bad next to all the employees who arrived punctually, but I’m sure that won’t hurt your chances.
Dress like a teenager for the interview. It tells the employer you’re fun! And I’m sure “fun” is eaxctly what they’re looking for in a new employee.
Go into details about your personal life and hobbies. Seriously, it’s an all new Klan nowadays. It’s like the Rotary Club, but with hoods. We even have black members! Well… members named “Black.”
Learn nothing about the company. That way you’re a fresh slate, a tabula rasa if you will. Employment is like being on a jury — the less you know, the better.
Badmouth your old company. Everyone enjoys humorous stories about how terrible your old job was. I’m sure the new employer won’t assume you’d badmouth their firm behind their back.
And if you do somehow manage to get hired, call in sick your first day. Just let them know you were feeling a bit woozy and decided to stay in bed. Don’t call in sick too early — around 11 or 11:30am should be fine.
Good luck not getting hired! See you in the dole queue!
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 23, 2009 in Job Search
Some people think they can get away with submitting a resume, without including a cover letter.
These people are usually referred to as “unemployed.”
Of course you need a cover letter, even if a job ad doesn’t specifically ask for one. (On the rare occasion when you are asked not to send one, then don’t!) Including a cover letter that has clearly been personalized for the specific company and position tells the employer you care enough to take the time.
Also, the cover letter is the first thing an employer sees. It’s your introduction. Don’t mess it up!
Never send a generic cover letter. Sure, you may have some basic text you always include. But be sure to mention the company and the position by name in the body of the cover letter. And tweak the description of your experience and skills to match the requirements of the particular position. Use the same wording as the job ad.
Mention how you learned about the job. If it was passed along by a person at the firm, then name that person.
Describe the most important aspects of your skills and experience that pertain to this position. This is how you convince the employer to take a real look at your resume. Also, resumes are very formally structured — here’s your chance to lay out, in plain English, exactly why you’re right for the job.
Reflect your attitude. If you’re excited about the position, then tell them! The cover letter is also your opportunity to demonstrate that you are a professional person — by writing a very professional cover letter. Typos, misspellings, bad grammar, and a casual tone will not help you.
Provide anything else mentioned in the job ad. This may include a salary history, or a writing sample, or a link to your web site. (You don’t have your own web site? Hey, they also have this new thing called a “horseless carriage,” you should look into it. Also, did you know they cured polio?) Be sure to explicitly follow every instruction in the job ad.
If attaching files to an email as documents, keep your resume.doc and your coverletter.doc separate. Don’t combine them. This goes for uploads to company job sites as well.
Got any cover letter advice of your own to share? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 19, 2009 in Employment
Unless you’re a $3-an-hour slave laborer in a downtown Los Angeles garment factory, you probably have the opportunity during work hours to deal with issues from your personal life. Largely, these issues are dealt with online or via email.
Unfortunately, your personal business on your work’s computer network may not be as “personal” as you would like.
Of course, if you conduct business using your work email, your company can archive and read everything you send and receive. You would think this was obvious to everyone, but news stories pop up all the time about employees conducting inappropriate business via their work email address and getting fired or sued over it.
What’s less obvious is that your company may have the right to track everything you do over their computer network, even if it’s your own personal private business. If you’re checking your own personal email account, perhaps through Gmail, your company can read over your shoulder because you’re using their network.
They are also free to track your web surfing, and to hold you over the coals for anything they don’t like — or, more importantly, anything that can get the firm in trouble, like adult sites or questionably legal gambling sites.
The best thing to do is to ask about your company’s Internet policies (and look at the contract or NDA you signed when you were hired), and then don’t violate them. If your employer allows a certain amount of personal Internet use, you still need to be smart. Don’t discuss sex, race or religion if you’re on the company network. Watch out for inappropriate humor, or “NSFW” web content. You can indulge in all of these activities freely at home.
Be sure to watch for inappropriate communications via instant message, as well. Not only can your IT department monitor what is said, but most IM programs store a log on your hard drive of all conversations. If your boss has dome something to piss you off, wait until after work to tell your buddies all about it.
Just follow common sense rules of professionalism, and you should be fine.
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 18, 2009 in Employment
Read part one.
If you see layoffs coming, negotiate with your company. If things are going badly at your company, you probably think the worst thing you could do is go bother your employer. But this is not the case. If layoffs are on the horizon, your employer may be happy to negotiate with you, to compensate you for leaving voluntarily. Most employers would be happy to see an employee leave voluntarily, rather than being laid off — and they’ll offer money and severance packages. Worst case scenario — your employer makes no offer, and you get laid off with everyone else. Best case scenario — your employer wants to keep you, and your worries disappear. In fact, maybe they’ll even offer you something to encourage you to stay!
Refinance loans, and cut expenses. Lost your job and can’t pay your bills? Call your creditors. Let them know your situation. Some will work with you, and even the ones that won’t will look more kindly on people who bother to call. And, heaven forfend, if you ever end up in court, judges and arbitrators will look more kindly on you as well. If you pay rent, then be sure to pay that before anything else. And cut your extraneous expenses — eating out, movies, cell phone data charges. But don’t cancel your World of Warcraft account- that’s sacred, and you can get a lot of leveling done while you’re unemployed.
Get health insurance. If you’re like most people, you’ll lose your health insurance the second you’re laid off or fired. Sure, COBRA offers continuation of your existing insurance, but even the people who run COBRA admit it’s waaaaaay too expensive. Lots of companies offer personal health insurance plans. They’re expensive too, but often not as expensive as COBRA. And don’t take the chance of going uninsured — disaster can strike anyone at any time. Angry that all this costs so much? Then support national health care.
Don’t dip into your 401(k) or other retirement accounts. Just don’t.
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 16, 2009 in Job Search
New to unemployment? Don’t beat yourself up, with the economy the way it is, it’s happening to everyone.
Here are some tips to think about:
Don’t waste any time responding to your new situation. Don’t take a week off to mope or to give in to depression — the week will turn into a month, then six months. Sign up for unemployment benefits immediately, the same day if possible. Start your job search at once. Rewrite your resume at once.
Learn everything you can about the unemployment benefits for which you qualify. Employment Development Departments offer many services, often for free, and you may qualify for those even if for some reason you don’t qualify for payments. You may be able to get high-quality, free training in your own field or a new profession. You may qualify for partial benefit payments if you work part-time. And your EDD may have job placement services. Your taxes pay for these benefits — use them!
Work hard on your resume. Is it complete? Easy to read? Printed on nice quality, white or off-white paper? One page, both sides? No images or wacky fonts? Do you tweak your resume for each position for which you apply? Do you include a cover letter every time?
Don’t try to use your “free” time for other pursuits. Everyone says they’ll use their time while unemployed to write that novel, or build an addon to the house, or learn to play bass guitar. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. You’re just avoiding what you need to be doing — searching for a new job. You need to work on your job search every day. Finding a job is your new job.
Sign up for a temp agency. Even if you don’t want to do temp work, it’s a great way to find a permanent job. But don’t sign up, and just sit back and wait to hear from them. Call the temp agency every weekday.
Good luck with your job search!
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 12, 2009 in Job Search
Here in the first decade of the 21st Century, we may be lacking flying cars, personal teleportation and household robots. But what we do have is the Internet, which is taking over every aspect of our lives.
That’s why today, if you’re going to hear from a recruiter, you’ll most likely have your first contact by email, rather than by phone. Your email address needs to be on your resume and cover letter; it must be associated with any info you have posted on job search sites or company career pages; and it should be on your personal web site.
You don’t have a personal web site? What are you, Amish?
But it’s important what email address you provide to possible employers. Create an email account specifically for your job search, separate from any other accounts you use in personal life or your work.
Absolutely DO NOT use your current work email. Not only may your company be monitoring your email, they actually own any information you share via that account. Also, if prospective employers see you using your current company’s email for job searches, they’ll assume you would do the same thing to them.
Who hosts your email is important. If you have your own web site, let’s say jennywilson.com, then having the email address firstname.lastname@example.org is pretty impressive.
If you can’t host your own email, the only real option for a free account is through gmail.com. Nobody will think less of you for using Gmail.
But on the other hand, DO NOT use any aol.com address. People who still use aol.com email come across as unprofessional. Maybe your grandma still uses AOL, but professional people do not. If you are still, for some unfathomable reason, using AOL as your service provider, then use AOL to sign up for a Gmail account.
Make sure you choose a professional-sounding email address. You’re not going to get an interview if the recruiter has to type in “email@example.com” in order to contact you. Likewise, no one wants to hire spongebobfan@ or tonylovessylvia@.
Stick to your real name: johnsmith@, john_smith@, johns@, jsmith@. Lots of people like to add their birthdate (johnsmith1963@), but are you sure you want to advertise your age up front?
Don’t get cute. The address firstname.lastname@example.org might get a laugh – and then your resume hits the round file. Keep your email address short, easy to spell, and directly relevant to you as a professional.
Good luck with your search!