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For a nation supposedly built on the backbone of Capitalism, we sure have a lot of companies who want you to work for free.
If you are (1) a recent college graduate, (2) a creative professional (artist, writer, web designer), or (3) trying to break into a heavily-impacted industry (entertainment, fashion, advertising, music), then someone is going to ask you to work for free. They may call it an “internship” or an “apprenticeship” or “on spec” or a “contest.” But the practical upshot is that you work, the company makes money off you, and you get nothing.
You’ll be told that you will gain experience, and will expand your reel or portfolio. This is true. But people who get paid also gain experience and a thicker portfolio. So when should you give away your work?
Don’t participate in “contests.” This scam is especially prevalent among web sites and online t-shirt sellers. You’re asked to design web graphics or a t-shirt, and then submit your work as a “contest entry.” If you win, you get a “prize” — like one t-shirt, or $50. Meanwhile, your design goes on to make the company a ton of money. You have just gotten screwed. Never fall for this scam.
Don’t do free work just to get an interview. Lots of job ads out there now require applicants to actually do work on their behalf just to get an interview. Your existing portfolio is not enough — the ad describes a specific assignment the company wants you to complete and submit before they even look at your resume. This is unethical, and blatantly exploitative in the current job environment. You do not want to work for these people — they will never value your time, energy or talent.
Some internships can launch your career. If you’re trying to get into fashion or publishing, you may have to just bite the bullet and spend six months or so working for free. Make sure the internship is with a reputable firm, and find out what happened to previous interns. Were they offered jobs? Did the firm give them a solid recommendation? Only work for free if there’s good reason to believe the donation of your time and talent will turn into a real job, either with this company or another one.
If you’re trying to get into the entertainment industry, be very careful. Once you establish that you write scripts on spec, or work crew in exchange for lunch, you’ll get nothing but offers for free work until you get sick of it and go back to Nebraska. Don’t work for free for the same person twice. Donating your labor is a favor — and eventually, you need to expect the favor returned. Remind producers and filmmakers that you helped them out, and now you need a paying gig.
What about giving my own work away for free online? Absolutely do this. Work on your own projects and make sure people see them. It’s your own work, and you’re giving it away of your own free will. No one else will make a profit off of it without sharing a cut with you. Look into Creative Commons licensing. But if someone steals your work and uses it for profit, make a lot of very loud noise. Even if you can’t afford a lawyer, the Internet community may very well rally behind you.
Got any more advice for readers contemplating internships and spec work? Let us know in the comments!
If you’re important enough at your firm top score your own administrative assistant, you’re very lucky. But is your administrative assistant?
Here are the requests your assistant wants to make, but dares not:
Always leave without telling anyone where you’re going. It gives me a chance to be creative when someone asks where you are.
Do your best to make me late. I adore this office and really have nowhere to go or anything to do. I have no life beyond work.
If a job I do pleases you, please keep it a secret. If that gets out, it could mean a promotion.
If you don’t like my work, tell everyone. I like my name to be popular in conversations.
Don’t ever ask me to lunch. I love it when you run off for a three-martini binge at noon, while I munch on dry ramen at my desk.
If you have any job responsibilities you don’t enjoy, just delegate them to me. In fact, why don’t I just do your job, at one-third of your pay? Then you can sit on your ass all day and play fantasy football.
If it’s really a rush job, run in and interrupt me every 10 minutes to inquire how it’s going. That helps. Or even better, hover behind me, advising me at every keystroke.
If my arms are full of papers, boxes, books, or supplies, don’t open the door for me. I need to learn how to function as a paraplegic, and opening doors with no arms is good training in case I should ever be injured in a luge competition.
If you give me more than one job to do, don’t tell me which is priority. I’m hoping if I concentrate hard enough, I’ll become psychic.
If you have special instructions for a job, don’t write them down. In fact, save them until the job is almost done.
Never give me work in the morning. Always wait until 4:00 pm, and then bring it to me. Better yet, wait until Friday.
Never introduce me to the people. When you refer to them later, I’ll rely on my psychic powers again.
Tell me all your personal problems. No one else has any, and it’s nice to know someone is less fortunate. I especially like the story about you having to pay so much taxes on the bonus check you received for being such a good manager.
Got any more secret requests for your manager? Let us know in the comments.
Job applicants often give thought on how to maximize the positive impact when they first meet a recruiter or interviewer.
But by the time you meet the person who decides whether or not to hire you, you have probably already interacted with at least one other firm employee, and been seen by several others. You need to start making a good impression from the moment you arrive.
Walk into the office exactly 15 minutes early. By which I mean, leave an hour early. Employers don’t care about traffic, cars breaking down, and buses off-schedule. Leave extra early to ensure you get to the appointment early.
But don’t go into the office too soon before the appointment. Fifteen minutes early says “I’m taking this job interview seriously,” without saying “I have nothing better to do than loiter in your reception area for 45 minutes.”
Arrive at the office an hour early? That’s why they have Starbucks.
Be fully prepared before you enter the office. Make sure your clothes are taken care of before you arrive. Check your hair and makeup. Use a restroom — but not the one at the company! If you have to, plan ahead. Does the office building have public restrooms? Is there a fast food place nearby where you can spruce up?
Also, be sure to TYCPTFO. That means “Turn Your Cell Phone The F–k Off!”
The receptionist may not be a receptionist. Never assume the first person you see sitting at a desk by the front door is a receptionist. Treat this person with the same respect you intend to show the interviewer. Apologize for bothering them and ask for the person you’re there to see. Don’t ask this person for a drink, or the location of the bathroom, or if they can validate your parking — even if they ARE the receptionist. You can ask about the parking validation on your way out.
Don’t pace in the reception area. If there is a reception area, just sit quietly. You should be able to sit still for 15 minutes. Don’t mess up the magazines. Don’t bother the “receptionist” — he or she has work to do. Don’t chat with anyone unless they initiate the conversation. Smile politely at anyone who walks past.
Don’t bother anyone if your interviewer is late. If it’s 20 minutes past the time of your appointment, you’ll feel like asking what the heck’s going on. Be patient (but make a mental note that this company may not be the place for you, if its employees miss meetings and/or don’t value people’s time).
If you haven’t heard anything in a half-hour, then you may wish to bug someone. A receptionist is the perfect person to bother. If they do not have one, maybe you can turn your cell back on and call whoever you have dealt with up to this point (a recruiter, HR manager, etc.).
And if no one helps you at the 45 minute mark, you should probably walk.
Got any other advice? Let us know in the comments!
It can be confusing, sometimes, to figure out what a human resources manager does. Is he or she a representative of management, a manager, or an employee advocate? (Yes.) Is he or she involved in payroll, hiring, and benefits? (Yes.) Can you go to your HR Manager if you have an issue with your superior? (Yes.)
The HR person’s role can vary between companies. But here are some basic responsibilities:
Hiring: Often, managers at a firm will write up a description for a position they need filled. The HR manager will then act as a recruiter — placing the job ad, evaluating responses, and setting up interviews with potential employees. If the HR manager is happy with the outcome of that first interview, he or she will set up one or more interviews with the actual manager and other executives, sometimes on the same day.
In my experience, especially concerning technical and new media positions, an HR manager will happily pass you along to your potential supervisor, who will decide you are not a fit for the position at all. What’s the disconnect between the HR manager and the supervisor? Usually a lack of communication, and a poor understanding on the HR Manager’s part of what the position entails.
Member of management: One of an HR manager’s primary duties is to ensure professional business practices in all human resources decisions and communications. Usually this involves creating an employee manual, and then enforcing the rules of the manual. In a growing company, the HR person may need to demolish the fun, freewheeling atmosphere of a small company in order to protect it from lawsuits as it becomes a medium-sized or large company.
HR managers must be on the lookout for inappropriate behavior — sexual harassment, inappropriate jokes or pranks, racial or religious remarks, unsuitable work clothing, dangerous work practices that may lead to injury, etc. This applies to both management and non-management employees. At a well-run company, the HR manager has the authority to force management into behaving properly and treating employees with respect.
Employee advocate: When an employee is not getting what they are due — a raise, bonus or promotion, job resources, respect — the HR person becomes his or her advocate, working with the employee and with management to reach a solution. But if your HR manager has no pull with management, then they are ill-suited to advocate on your behalf. This is why unions exist.
Posted by Erik Even on Aug 12, 2009 in Advice, Jobs
Unless you’re a high-powered partner at a Big Four accounting firm who routinely charges $1000 lunches and dinners to your clients, you probably sometimes bring a bag lunch to work.
Fighting over lunch times, lunch locations, and even the lunches themselves is a major source of interpersonal friction at offices. But it’s totally unnecessary. Just be polite!
How long should someone else’s food sit in the office fridge before I can claim it? Um, never? Theft is theft, even if the food has been abandoned. Go buy your own food, Oliver Twist.
Someone stole my lunch. What should I do? Here’s what not to do. Don’t make a scene. Don’t try to turn it into a big deal. Don’t go around the office “investigating.” Calm down, and go buy another lunch. Eat it. Then mention to either your superior or the HR manager what happened. If it keeps happening, let them handle it. If it’s not getting handled, hide your lunch in your desk.
Right now, a thief is stealing lunches, and he or she is the problem. Make the issue bigger than it needs to be, and you become the problem.
Everyone is complaining that my lunch is too smelly. Don’t I have the right to eat whatever I want? Sure, that’s what the Revolutionary Army fought and died to protect — your right to make your co-workers miserable with the stench from your Haggis and Vieux Boulogne lunch plate. Have your Tony Bourdain-ian adventures in eclectic world cuisine at home.
How long should that old, mold-covered Subway foot-long tuna on Italian herbs & cheese bread sit in the fridge before it’s thrown out? Someone should clean the fridge every Friday. This can be hard if no one in the office has “housekeeping” in their job description. I say get the HR manager to do it. But don’t try to rotate the responsibility — it’ll never get done.
Someone is sitting in my spot in the break room. How do I politely make them give up my seat? What is this, 9th grade? You don’t have a personal “spot” in the break room. If you want absolute control of your dominion, eat at your desk.
I’m going out to lunch. Do I have to invite everyone in the group? Yes. You do. It’s not cool to grab four of the five people in your group and head out for lunch. If you’re going to be selective about your lunch partners, then be discreet. Otherwise it’s like Elementary School – everyone get invited to the party.
My boss loves to hold meetings at lunch time. Shouldn’t he feed us? First of all, if you murder this boss, no jury will convict you. That said, yes — if your asshat boss is going to steal your lunchtime, then he or she should provide a catered or delivered lunch, enough for everyone, either on the company’s dime, or his or her own.
Got more office lunch advice? Let us know in the comments!
Under the best of circumstances, it can be nerve-wracking to tackle the topic of compensation with a new or prospective employer. You worry that if you don’t negotiate, you’ll end up with the lowest possible salary (true); but if you play hardball, you may not get the job at all (usually untrue, but who knows?).
In this economy, employers are particularly keen to get you to accept the lowest end of whatever range of salary they are prepared to offer. And some employers won’t negotiate at all.
So what to do?
Don’t bring up salary until you get a firm job offer. That isn’t to say that the employer won’t bring it up sooner. But don’t mention it yourself until offered a position. Sometimes, an employer hasn’t even seriously considered salary — they wanted to see who they would hire first. Others are waiting for you to broach the topic, and you will have given the impression that you want the job for the job, and not just for the money.
Of course, this is all unfair — you’re putting in all the time and work of the interview process, and have no clear idea of how much the job pays. I once interviewed for a great job with a great company — and was told at the very end of the process that they really wanted me, but didn’t think I would like the pay. It was half of what I could conceivably live on, and I was forced to turn it down. If I’d known what the job paid from the beginning, I would have politely turned down the interview.
Find out what other people are paid for the same position at similar firms. This research is very easy to do online. In my experience, what websites list as the average salary for various positions is much higher than what employers actually offer. But if you can say “whatpeoplegetpaid.com says the average wage for a widget comptroller is $80,000,” the employer is put in the position of having to offer you something near the higher end of what the firm is willing to pay.
Don’t lie about past salaries. Often, employers ask what you made at your last job, and tack on 5% or 10%. If that total is within their acceptable salary range, that’s what they offer. This might tempt you to lie about your past salary. Don’t. Lying about something that can easily be fact-checked is a great way to end up back in the dole queue.
Don’t use your personal life in salary negotiations. Your prospective employer does not want to hear that your kid needs braces, or that your mortgage is past due. You haven’t even started yet, and you’re already dragging your home life into the office.
When negotiating salary, talk about the professional credentials and skills that will make you valuable to the firm. Make clear that by hiring you at better pay, they will in fact save money, and may just be snatching you away from other prospective employers. Don’t bring your personal life into it.
Got any more advice for negotiating salaries? Let us know in the comments!
I return now to my lone, quixotic campaign to help stop dumb people with business degrees from trying to sound smart by using heinous business jargon.
Plug-and-play. This term has a technical meaning we need not worry about here. Microsoft introduced the term as marketing jargon in the ’90s, to imply that you could plug a printer or modem into a Windows PC, and have it work automatically, without loading software or changing settings. You know, like a Mac. On rare occasions, Windows plug-and-play actually works.
Business folks use the term to mean a process or product that is easily initiated or installed, and that works right away. Now think — have you ever experienced such a thing? Of course you haven’t. It doesn’t exist.
“Plug-and-play,” when it comes to business, is a lie. Don’t use it.
Turn-key solution. Means the same thing as plug-and-play. Does not exist, no matter what the salesperson tells you. The closest thing I ever encountered to a “turn-key” solution was WordPress — and it still took me a week to get a blog properly going.
Dynamic metrics. This also may have a highly technical meaning, but business people use it to mean “measurements taken while a process (such as online advertising) is operating,” as opposed to taking measurements when a process is ended. I hereby grant permission to IT pros and data analysts to use this term. Anyone else — you sound like an idiot. In fact, the next time you hear a non-techie use this phrase, ask him or her what it means. It’ll be amusing.
Right-sizing. Right-sizing = downsizing = FIRED. Never let anyone euphemize firings. Make them feel the guilt.
Synergy. The absolute nadir of corporate buzzwords. It means “different entities that cooperate, and become more than the sum of their parts.” This word has been overused to the point of meaninglessness. In practice, it means Company A bought Company B, and now the employees at Company A are not allowed to use any product made by Company B’s competitors. But they will pay full price.
Instruct your secretary or assistant to stab you in the hand with a fork every time you say “synergy.” You’ll learn. Same thing goes for “mediums” and “irregardless.”
Got any hated corporate gobbledy-speak of your own? Let is know in the comments!
You Found Employment Crossroads — Now do something with it.
In the miracle that is cyberspace, you've no doubt read a zillion blogs and websites about how to improve your employment picture. It's kind of sick and ironic that employment among employment "experts" seems to be doing just fine. Dubious at best.
Well, we do things a little differently here, and it boils down to basically two options:
A) Keep going to employment sites that only feature ads paid for by employers; or
B) Try something that works.
This blog is published by EmploymentCrossing.com. We feature the most comprehensive websites on the PLANET that don't charge employers to post their jobs with us. Think about that...And as we say during our elevator pitches to people who don't quite get why that's important: