Archive for January, 2007

Is "Leaving the Nest" Flying the Coop?

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Some fun statistics from MonsterTrak: 

  • 48% of 2006 college grads moved back home after graduation
  • 44% of 2005 grads moved back home, too, and are still there
  • 1/3 of all college grads under 24 live with their parents

Why? 

Are today’s twenty-somethings lazy?  Scared?  Co-dependent?

Are today’s parents over-protective?  Meddling?  Helicopter-ish?

Maybe it’s as simple as dollars and cents.

Think about these numbers from the Sunday Seattle Times:

  • Inflation-adjusted earnings for young men with high school degrees were $42,630 in 1972.  In 2002, they were $29,647.
  • Inflation-adjusted earnings for young men with college degrees were $52,087 in 1972 and $48,955 in 2002.

Better for college grads but still—yikes.

A piece in Sunday’s New York Times sort of confirms this with a graph showing that average earnings, again adjusted for inflation, were $19 per hour in the seventies and less than $17 in this decade. 

Maybe college grads live at home because they can’t afford to move out.

The Bottom Line is. . .the Bottom Line

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Yesterday‘s sweet and positive post:  Be nice at work and you will be rewarded with good things.

Today‘s hard-nosed, filthy-lucre-worshipping post:  Jerks at work are a pain and bad for business, too.

The latter sentiment brought to you by the business-of-America-is-business crowd at the Wall St. Journal.  Since the WSJ has a paid site and a link probably won’t work for you, here follow a few quotes from yesterday’s edition:

Along with the usual reasons, there is a business justification for hating jerks.  They drive up costs with their constant need for attention and drive less irritating employees out of the company, says Stanford University professor Robert Sutton in his book, “The No [expletive deleted] Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t”.

(Working Girl being much less delicate than the WSJ, she will simply tell you here that the deleted expletive is “Asshole.”) 

He tells Inc. magazine in an interview how a Silicon Valley company estimated that one jerk’s behavior cost it $160,000 a year to pay for anger-management training, fielding his constant complaints to human resources about his benefits, and the external searches for his secretaries.  (No secretary within the company would work for him.)

(Poor outside secretaries.  Someone should warn them.)

Finally, this little gem:

Mr. Sutton also recommends that people from more than one group interview a candidate, since jerks tend to like working with other jerks. . . . .

Herein lies the solution.  Put all the jerks together.  Why has this not been thought of before? 

I Like You, You Like Me

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Got up this morning thinking about Melissa’s interview.

Remember the part where she said people hire her because they like her?  Did that seem weird to you?

News flash: the “nice to be around” component is much much much more important than anyone thinks.  If you are a pleasure to work with, if you make people feel good about themselves, if you can convert work into something more like fun—people will want to be with you and you will get jobs. 

Example:  Working Girl once had a super part time gig (in Paris!) based on nothing more than that the employer, a American woman about her age, wanted someone around she could talk to.

Working Girl’s duties—xeroxing, attending meetings, the occasional phone call—could have been performed by any of the regular minions in this woman’s employ.  But instead she was brought in as an outside contractor, at her regular billable rate of fifty bucks an hour, to be a sort of confidante.

Working Girl didn’t mind because she liked the woman.  The money was nice, too. 

So, be nice to be around.

Also, be good at what you do.  That goes without saying.  Doesn’t it?

Working Girl of the Week

Friday, January 26th, 2007

This week we talk with Melissa, a marketing and PR writer.  She produces brochures, bios, press releases, and newsletters for both small businesspeople and big corporations.  She’s the girl with the golden pen.

WG – You work freelance.  How do you find jobs?

Melissa – Mostly through networking.  It’s a personal thing.  People get to know me and then they want to work with me.  Writing comes along with the package.

WG – Interesting!  You get paid because you’re nice to be around?

Melissa – Well, I do know how to write!  And people who don’t feel confident writing or who find out it’s a lot harder than it looks are buying a specific service.

WG – But a lot of it is about relationships?

Melissa – It’s surprising.  I didn’t realize earlier in my career how important that component is.  People respond in some amount to how much fun it would be to work with me.

WG – I agree.  People could put off the project, or decide to work with someone else, or take a stab at it themselves.  They choose you because you’re you.

Melissa – This is true, mind you, mostly for individual small businesspeople.  Corporate clients want to see my portfolio and know about my experience.

WG – Lots of people are intimidated by the writing process.  Do you use grammar to scare people? 

Melissa – I don’t even talk about grammar!  When I talk about writing, I talk about what’s the right information or approach.

WG – When I was a business writer I often made up grammatical rules so people wouldn’t challenge what I had written!  What do you do with “problem clients”?

Melissa – Fortunately I haven’t had any!

WG – Really?

Melissa – I’ve been freelance since 1995.  For most of that time I had one or two huge corporate clients and I was on contract for a monthly retainer. 

WG – Ah, yes, the old corporate cash cow.  But now you work more with individual people?

Melissa – Yes.  The diversity of business makes it constantly interesting.  I’m meeting some wonderful, fun, energetic people who are trying to make something happen in their lives.  They’re very good about letting you know how grateful they are, which is so emotionally rewarding.

WG – How did you get into PR work?

Melissa – I’ve always liked to write.  I was an editor for my high school newspaper!

WG – So why didn’t you become a reporter?

Melissa – I did a PR internship in college.  Working with Indo-Chinese resettlement agencies I wrote how-to articles to help them assimilate.  Also, I felt that PR would give me much more of a chance to be creative through the writing, event planning, media events, and so on. 

WG – And there’s a lot of scut work in journalism, especially at the beginning.

Melissa – So true.  My first PR job was in the entertainment industry!  Much more fun.

Kids Nowadays

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Overheard last night at a restaurant:

“You wouldn’t believe the new hires at work.  Useless!” said Diner A, an attractive woman in her thirties.

“I know!  They do such sloppy work.  I can’t believe it,” said Diner B, who herself could not be older than 28.

“No attention to detail!” railed Diner A.

“When you correct them, they’re like, ‘Whatever, dude.’”

“No work ethic at all.”

“Lazy.”

“Can’t spell.”

“Chronically tardy.”

“Disrespectful.”

“And a sense of entitlement as big as all outdoors.  They think they’re God’s gift to the universe.”

At first Working Girl found it refreshing to listen to people she thinks of as the younger generation complain about. . . .the younger generation.

Later she wondered:  Are these new young people (the Millennials) really that bad?  Or was this a case of every generation thinking the one beneath it is hopeless?

Voting for #2 here.  Look around.  You’ll see plenty of hard-working, smart, diligent, non-entitlement-feeling people in their twenties.

These (still young!) women are forgetting what they were like at that age.

The Magic Bra

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

Cute article in the NYT yesterday about “magical thinking.”  We all do it.

We cross our fingers.  We wish upon a star.  We knock on wood.

It’s not crazy.  It makes the world less creepily random and uncontrollable.  Don’t we all have a lucky something?  Working Girl used to have a magic bra she wore to job interviews.  If she wore the bra, she was offered the job.  If the bra was in the laundry, well, you know what happened.

Is this related to previous post, “Sex Sells”?   Oh, Lord, no.  Say it ain’t so. 

Sex Sells, I Guess

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

“Sexpresso” is the latest gimmick for marketing expensive coffee drinks.

In a short, sheer, baby-doll negligee and coordinated pink panties, Candice Law is dressed to work at a drive-through espresso stand in Tukwila, and she is working it.

So begins this Seattle Times story revealing that, apparently, some men prefer to buy their morning lattes from scantily clad, flirtatious females.  Stop the presses!

Outraged letters to the editor have already appeared. 

Are they right?  Has the cause of women’s rights been set back 50 years?

True, dressing as a stripper is “objectifying.”  Not to mention manipulative.  Even tacky.  Still, Working Girl is having a hard time getting her knickers in a twist. 

The dance between men and women is as old as….forever.  This dance takes many forms.  And while Working Girl would not display her own personal bosoms for the extra buck in tips, she knows how hard it can be to get some power in this world. 

Sex is power.

Queen of Working Girls

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

The Queen, starring the fabulous Helen Mirren, is nominated for best picture.

It’s about the week following the death of Princess Diana (in a car crash in Paris), the royal family’s reaction (or lack thereof), the British people’s outrage over what they felt to be an excess of royal stiff-upper-lip-edness, and the belated “coming round” of Elizabeth, who at last recognizes (begrudgingly, some said) the extraordinary (if inexplicable) love Diana inspired in her countrymen.

If the movie is to be believed, Elizabeth regarded the sobbing-in-the-streets, flower-amassing, placard-waving, gob-smacked grief that followed Diana’s death as, gosh, un-English. 

Not that E., at least as played by Mirren, is without feelings.  She just prefers to keep them private.  Elizabeth was crowned at age 18 in 1952.  Her values were formed during the war.  She has worked hard at her job all her life.  It isn’t easy being queen!
 
As working girls, what can we learn from Elizabeth?
1.      Be your authentic true self.
2.      Be able to recognize new realities.
3.      Be able to change.

Elizabeth is a pretty darn okay role model for working girls. 

P.S.  Did you notice the pearls she wears in every scene?  As a signature look, not bad.

Wanna Get Married?

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Women who want to get married should get a college degree. 

That’s the upshot of this New York Times story discussing the latest shocking-statistic-du-jour, that 51% of American women live without a spouse. 

For the link adverse, here are a few interesting quotes:

“Statistics show that college educated women are more likely to marry than non-college educated women.”  (sic on those missing hyphens—naughty NYT!)

Further:  “Women with more education also are becoming less likely to divorce, or inclined to divorce, than those with less education.” 

And finally, though by all appearances a solecism, the kicker:  “They are even less likely to be widowed all in all, less likely to end up alone.”

The NYT’s conclusion is that the old paradigm, that the well-educated successful female ends up alone, embittered, and living with a cat, is fading away.  For every age group, women with degrees are about 10% more likely to be married then women without.

Working Girl wonders:  Is it just the degree?  Or is it the fact that the college-educated earn more?  Historically, women aimed to marry men with good salaries, or the potential for good salaries.  Nowadays, mightn’t this be working both ways?  Might not men be looking to marry a woman who can pull her own weight?

Getting a college education is never a bad idea.  But it’s not the only path to happiness and fulfillment.  In fact, Working Girl would go so far as to say that a college degree rarely prepares you for an actual job, and that it’s often just another screening device for employers. 

It’d be nice to see a study showing marriage rates by income.  Is a woman earning $50,000 and up more likely to marry than a woman earning minimum wage?

Money is the reason lying beneath a lot of things.  Maybe this, too.

Working Girls Speak Out

Friday, January 19th, 2007

This week our Working Girl Interview is with Joanne, a wonderful watercolor artist.
 

WG – Being an artist sounds glamorous.  Is it?
 

Joanne – I guess it is.  It’s sort of glamorous to be creative.  You are like a volcano spurting with ideas, leaping around making whatever you think and whatever you want.
 

WG – Is that the appeal?  I mean, what does painting do for you?
 

Joanne – I get a huge incredible amount of satisfaction from the act of painting.  Being so lost in a process that you don’t come up for air for hours at a time is a wonderful feeling.  It’s only between you and the canvas, there’s no other world.  The other part is fun, too—thinking how you want to frame the piece, presenting it to the world, selling it.  When a painting is purchased it’s a fabulous feeling.  It’s addictive.  It’s not just a friend giving you a compliment, it’s cold hard cash!
 

WG – So do you feel that a painting is not really complete until someone has bought it?
 

Joanne – No, I feel it’s complete.  Selling it is just the icing on the cake.
 

WG – Let’s look at this another way.  If a painting never sells, do you start to feel differently about it?
 

Joanne – Yes, I do.  By the time I put out a painting to the public I’ve made the decision that it’s good.  But then if I show it several times and it hasn’t sold I start to wonder.
 

WG – In that case the temptation would be to purposely paint only paintings you think people will buy.
 

Joanne – I have considered that—to paint what sells.  But it’s only after I’ve started with an idea that interests me.  Then I might think, Oh, bamboo’s popular right now, maybe it will sell.  But the initial idea has to be something that moves me.  I’ve painted pieces that I’m pretty sure will never sell.
 

WG – Like what?
 

Joanne – I’ve done a series of nude women on dark backgrounds.  They aren’t very retail.  I don’t know if I will ever exhibit them.
 

WG – Are there paintings you would in fact never show to anyone?
 

Joanne – Just the really bad ones!
 

WG – What do you do with the bad ones?  Burn them?
 

Joanne – I keep them.  I don’t know why, but I do.  I have the idea that someday I’ll cut them up and make a mobile or something.
 

WG – Hmmm.  How many are there?
 

Joanne – Hundreds! 
 

WG – Really?  But how do you tell if a painting is good or bad?
 

Joanne – Oh, it’s hard!  After you finish a piece you have to let it sit around for a while, mature.  After weeks, sometimes months, you will start to see the painting the way someone else sees it, not as the artist.  It’s like you and the painting are connected by an umbilical cord and until that cord is broken you can’t really see it.  Later you can identify the weak spots, where you need to make corrections, or whether it’s not going to be good no matter what you do. 
 

WG – Could you paint a portrait of something or someone that you really disliked?
 

Joanne – You might start out disliking it.  But it’s weird.  The act of painting a person or a thing makes you fall in love with it.  Like in figure painting, when the model first disrobes you might find yourself thinking, Oh, he’s a bit pudgy, or, Hmmm, she has stretch marks, but once you’ve begun to paint, all the shapes and colors you see before you become wonderful.  You start to love that person. 
 

WG – I guess this is why so many artists have affairs with their models.
 

Joanne– I guess!
 

WG – Back to the beginning.  What does painting do for you?  Why do you paint?
 

Joanne – What every artist wants is to have people stop and look at their work.  And want to stand there and look at it for a length of time.
 

WG – You don’t want them to feel something?
 

Joanne – Yes, you do want them to feel some emotion.  You even want them to look at technique.  But the thing you want most is for them to stop and look and linger.