Archive for February, 2008

Are You Using An "Elevator Speech" In Your Job Search?

Friday, February 29th, 2008

This guest post comes from Marilyn J. Tellez, M.A. at

Here’s my description of an elevator speech.  It is:  A short description about what you do well and who you are.  Using it in an elevator is why it’s labeled this way.  It is just a short, verbal exchange between you and another person, usually done in a short amount of time.

The way it can be useful in a job search is because it is a quick and easy way to get people to know you, the job seeker.  It is superficial, but its superficiality can be overcome later.

Here’s an example.  Suppose you are at a school performance because your child is in a play.  You tell the person seated next to you about why you are there and add that you are an……. ………(fill in the blanks) and that you are looking for a job.  It can be the beginning of how you can use a “mini-dialog” to introduce yourself, get information about someone else and probably exchange other news.  (You already have something in common as you are at a child’s play.  The person next to you is probably a parent, or a relative of another child performing in the same play.)  A social relationship can begin on the spot.  An “elevator speech” is born!

This example is a good one to use if you are shy about approaching strangers.  Practice at other places too.  Prepare a list of what you want to say or respond to someone else in a short space of time.  (The list or mini-script can keep you, as a job seeker, on track to mention you are job seeking instead of letting these spare moments go to waste by talking about the weather)  My advice, too, is to make sure your attitude and “speech” is upbeat and genuine. Ask questions as well if the other person responds to you.

You, as a job seeker, have a lot to gain and very little to lose in using genuine “elevator speeches”.  Try one on your partner if you have one or just practice with anyone!

Article courtesy of the Recruiting Blogswap, a content exchange service sponsored by, a leading site for college students looking for internships and recent graduates searching for entry-level jobs and other career opportunities.

Home Alone No More?

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

And here we thought telecommuting was for absolute 100% sure the wave of the future.

It boosts productivity, saves time, lowers costs for both employees and employers, and is good for the planet.  What’s not to love? 

Maybe it’s only one of those sky-is-falling stories but according to this WSJ article enough large employers are pulling enough telecommuters back to the office to call it a trend.  Or at least a trendlet.  Namely, AT&T, Intel, Hewlett-Packard (“the company that invented flextime”!), and some parts of the U.S. government are “consolidating” their home workers, which is corporate-speak for get dressed, get out of the house, and come in to work. 

Why?  Possible reasons:

Money.  The main reason companies do anything is money.  Are they finding that telecommuting is slicing into the bottom line?  Have people been abusing it?  Because in order for telecommuting to cut productivity, it would have to be abuse.  Feel free to disagree.  (But when Working Girl shifted from being a regular corporate employee to being a free-lance at-home toiler, the first thing she noticed was that tasks that used to take her a week in the office took her half a day at home.)

Emotion.  Yes, they would have you think otherwise but even mammoth, to-all-appearances inhuman corporations can base policies on emotion.  If they see your smiling face at the office, working, they know you’re working.  Plus you are around for “team building” and whatnot.  And it makes bosses happier knowing you are not “abusing” your telecommuter status by moving to, say, Hawaii, “a behavior sure to irk managers,” according to the WSJ.

All in all, it’s a pity.  The work-at-home trend was so very encouraging, so very adult.  Let’s hope this is all a false alarm.  One good sign:  The number of telecommuters in the U.S. is still moving in the right direction, up 30% from 2005.   

How To Be Fabulously Successful

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Today Working Girl tore herself away from her computer long enough to attend a Seattle Graphic Artists Guild luncheon.  Well worth the time. 

The featured speaker was Mr. Edwin Fotheringham.  You’ve seen his old fashioned-y art with the blotty lines in The New Yorker, Fortune, InStyle, Vanity Fair, House & Garden, Audubon, Reader’s Digest, Sports Illustrated, Ladies Home Journal, Condé Nast Traveler, Worth, Food & Wine, the New York Times and Wall St. Journal, as well as many other venues.

He’s produced so much work you’d think he’s an elderly gent of 79 but he’s a mere 42 (not to mention kinda hot). 

How did he come so far, so fast?  He tells a cute story about how in the early nineties he made one 8-day trip to New York City, showed his work around, came home to Seattle with a commission from The New Yorker, and that’s all she wrote.  Success! 

Jealous?  Of course you are.

But let’s take a closer look at Mr. Fotheringham’s illustrious career to see what we can learn:

  • Ed put himself out there.  He made the trip to NYC, shopped his wares, and risked rejection.
  • Ed works hard (and, apparently, fast).  Take a look at his site.  He’s created a LOT of art.
  • Ed doesn’t turn up his nose at smaller projects.  The above star-studded list of periodicals is a little misleading.  Ed’s work appears in smaller venues (e.g., The Stranger, a local weekly).  Nor does he limit himself to magazines.  He does advertising work, book covers, CD labels, annual reports, Christmas cards, posters, and brochures.  Etc.
  • Ed has figured out what he does well and then does that, a lot.  His art is instantly recognizable (i.e., the blotty line).  He uses a distinctive color palette.  People remember him.  That’s called (buzzword alert) “branding.”
  • Ed, judging from his talk, is easy to work with.  He’s flexible, willing to take direction, and maintains a sense of humor.  So his clients keep coming back.
  • Ed is always willing to try something new.  He’s just illustrated his first book, What To Do About Alice?, in bookstores as of now.

A pretty good formula for fabulous success.

P.S.  It also has to be said that Mr. Fotheringham is a VERY GOOD artist.

Help! My Boss Is Too Nice!

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Jared Sandberg’s always interesting Cubicle Culture column in today’s WSJ proposes that a overly caring and gentle boss is just as bad, if not worse, as a boss who screams like a banshee.

To find out why, check out “Avoiding Conflicts, The Too-Nice Boss Makes Matters Worse.”  In passing, Jared makes the interesting point that in fact screamers are becoming rare nowadays.  “Far more common,” he says, “and more insidious, are the managers who won’t say a critical word to the staffers who need to hear it.” He doesn’t explain why but Working Girl postulates it’s fear of lawsuits combined with a general piteous lack of anything resembling training in how-to-be-a-manager. 

Other suspects:  political correctness run amok and the natural consequence of today’s “everybody gets a trophy” culture of self-esteem.

Working Girl would like to work herself up to a good rant, but while the lawsuits are a (relatively) recent development, the wimpy criticism-averse manager is really nothing new.  Bad managers either way, too naughty or too nice, have always been with us.

Part of the reason is that it’s just plain hard to manage but mostly it’s that few companies want to spend enough time and money to teach managers how to manage.  Unless you serve in the military, where good management is a life-and-death deal, you will probably never receive a decent education or even adequate coaching in how to manage.  It’s the old story of you do a job well so you get promoted to manage others to do your job well.  You’ll be flying by the seat of your panty hose, kiddo.

Managing people to do your former job is ten times harder than doing your job.  While you may perhaps not care now, it’s something to consider when/if you are offered a promotion.  We here in the U.S. of A. are conditioned to believe advancement is automatically a good thing BUT it may be the worse thing that ever happened to you!

Proceed with caution.  A little more advice here

Tuesday, True, But. . . . .

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Hate to leave the below “Monday” post when it is clearly not Monday.  Happy Tuesday.  Working Girl is preoccupied at the moment with, um, work.  A très bientôt…….

It's Monday. Are You Loving It?

Monday, February 25th, 2008

You are if you are one of the elite 9%.  That’s the percentage of workers who, according to a survey commissioned by Taleo Research, love their jobs enough to marry them.  Only feel like dating your job?  You have more company–34% of respondents checked that box. 

Here are the numbers:

  • 9%—-you love your job so much you’d marry it
  • 34%—you like your job enough to date it seriously
  • 43%—you’d date your job casually
  • 9%—-your relationship with your job is on the skids
  • 5%—-you want to break up immediately

What does this prove?  That if you publish a fun-sounding survey you’ll get media attention, not to mention a goodly amount of web linkage?

Hating to be cynical (especially on a Monday!), but Working Girl wonders if a question such as, “If your job were a person, would you marry it?” can possibly garner any real insights. 

Because–hold onto your socks here-your job isn’t a living breathing warm cuddly human.  And, um, the love you’d feel for a human is entirely different from the love you’d feel for your job.  What’s love got to do with it?!

Not that you can’t or shouldn’t love your job.  You can.  You should.  But finding that love is an entirely different process from finding a spouse.  For one thing, you have a lot more control over finding a job you love.  (It’s trickier with people.)  And, once found, expecting you will get the same emotional charge from a job as from a human is setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.

The survey did have one interesting result.  Half of married respondents said they loved or liked their jobs, whereas only 29% of single workers did. 

Are married people more realistic about what love is?  Are they more together than the unmarried?  Are the kind of people who get married the kind of people who are more capable of love, and thus more open to loving their jobs?  Or is it the other way around–people who love their jobs are more likely to be married?  Or maybe when you get married you have lower expectations of your job because you’ve got a real live person to keep you warm at night.  Or, hey, maybe married people just say they love their jobs because it gets them out of the house.

That’s what’s so fun about numbers.  You can make them say anything you want them to say.

Recipe for "Little Happiness"

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Special treat today.  Here’s a guest post from Terrell Meek.  Terrell, a student of happiness, was one of the astute commenters during last week’s “Happiness Project” thread.  Welcome, Terrell!

I am a left-brained introvert, a self-described realist, and a glass-half-empty type of gal.  I’m also extremely happy.  At least, I am right now.  Ask me in a few hours and my answer might be different.

In all this talk of happiness, let us not forget that it is an emotion, which according to Wikipedia is a “complex evaluative (postive or negative) reaction of the nervous system in response to external or internal stimuli.” In addition to happiness, other emotions we feel include fear, sadness, anger, surprise, and ambivalence.  Why is it that we seek balance in other areas of our lives, but when it comes to the way we feel, we only want to be happy, 100% of the time? 

Not only is the notion of being in a constant state of happiness unrealistic, it’s also unhealthy.  Fear can keep us safe; sadness lets us heal; anger can be a catalyst for change.

Having said all that, I do believe the pursuit of happiness is important.  I use the word pursuit because one of the key points I’ve learned from reading scientific happiness research is that the majority of humans are not wired for it, it takes work.  Blame it on the brain!

Here is my recipe for feeling happy more often: 

  1. Recognize what makes me feel good.  I take the time to register my emotions so that I don’t pass by a moment of happiness unnoticed.  This sounds absurd, but we’ve all ruined a perfectly good moment by worrying about future events.  The classic example is the feeling of dread you may get on Sunday evenings as you start to think about work the next day.  This practice also helps me identify what it is that actually makes me happy, which keeps me from repeatedly doing things only because I think they should make me happy.
  2. Record what made me feel good.  Because the human brain is really bad at remembering past events and feelings correctly, I like to make a record of happy times, either through writing or photographs.
  3. Repeat.  The entire premise of the book Stumbling on Happiness is that we are really bad at predicting what will make us happy.  If we have a record of what has made us feel good in the past, we can more accurately predict what will make us happy in the future.

One of my favorite quotes on happiness comes from French psychiatrist Christophe Andre: “Striving toward absolute, huge, oceanic happiness, le bonheur fou, can be discouraging and distract you from little happiness.”

Little happiness.  I can deal with that.

Now if that doesn’t make you happy, nothing will.  If you’d like to read more, here’s a suggested reading list from Terrell:

Earn Your Worth

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

That’s the catchphrase made popular by Mikelann Valterra and her Women’s Earning Institute.  Mikelann gave a talk a whle back at a luncheon Working Girl attended and said some good stuff:

  • Look for a “pattern” of underearning–that’s the key to see if you have a problem or not.
  • Underearning comes from not only setting fees too low or underbilling or accepting a too-low salary, but from giving away your time.
  • If ending the pattern of underearning is hard for you, break down the process into First and Second Successes.  First Success is simply asking for what you want.  Second Success is getting it. 
  • When someone asks you what your fee is, or what kind of salary you’re looking for, never answer right away.
  • Don’t base your fee or salary requests on “what you’re worth” or, worse, what you think you’re worth.  Do the research.  Find out the market price.
  • Find your “resentment number.”  This is the dollar amount you need to charge to not resent the work.  Mikelann says to double this figure and ask for that (Working Girl says to triple it!).
  • For self-employed types:  Don’t discount your services.  Better to do it for free than for less than your full fee.  (For more inspiration, here’s a great post from Freelance Switch on how to set your dream rates.)

Inspiring talk!  The Women’s Earning Institute offers a whole program to help women break the cycle of underearning. 

Are You Underpaid?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

In’s 2006/2007 Employee Job Satisfaction and Retention Survey (from last year but still relevant), half of people who said they were looking for a new job were doing so because they felt they were underpaid.  It’s the money, honey!

The question is, how do you decide if you’re not getting the compensation you deserve? 

You can use Internet searches ( is a start) but it’s harder than it seems.  Some tips:

  • Use job descriptions, not job titles, to compare your salary.  A lot of titles don’t accurately reflect the job.  Sometimes a boss gives you a title that makes you sound more important than maybe you really are (yes, it’s true!–they do this to (a) make you happier and (b) make you more credible to clients).  A title that is more important-sounding than the job makes you look underpaid.
  • If you work for a small company, compare your salary to similar jobs at other small companies.  If you work for a large corporation, look at what people like you are getting paid at other large corporations.  Don’t compare your small-company paycheck to what your colleagues at the big companies get. It will only make you crazy.
  • Similarly, if you live in the Midwest, compare your salary to other jobs in the Midwest.  If you live in New York City, compare yourself to other jobs in NYC or other big expensive areas.  And so on.  (A great resource if you live in Washington State is Workforce Explorer.)
  • Experience counts.  If you’ve worked at a position for two years, you should count on earning less than someone doing the same work but who’s been doing it for ten years.
  • So does education.  If you have  four-year degree, compare yourself to other college grads.  Same goes for master’s and Ph.Ds.

Do all this and you may find out you’re actually overpaid.  It can happen. did a big analysis of their survey and found out that of their respondents, 22% were underpaid, 15% were overpaid, and 33% were paid just about what was fair.

P. S. You may be tempted to compare your salary to that of your co-workers.  If you do, keep in mind there are dangers

Your Money Or Your Life

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Last week:  happiness.  This week:  money.   

Let’s face it.  Money is certainly very very important.  It’s like that scene from It’s A Wonderful Life.  Clarence the would-be angel comes to George Bailey in his time of despair.

Only one way you can help me,” George says.  “You don’t happen to have eight thousand bucks on you?

Clarence:  “Oh no, no.  We don’t use money in heaven.”

George:  “Oh, that’s right.  I keep forgetting.  Comes in pretty handy down here, bub.”

Clarence:  “Oh, tut, tut, tut.”

So very true.  If we don’t have enough it’s all we can think about.  Worry about money is corrosive; it can cast a shadow over everything.  Working Girl knows! 

But money is funny.  Once we DO have enough, it loses its power to make us happy (happiness again–can’t get away from it!).  Beyond a certain point (some say that point is $40,000) money becomes all about stuff.  Whatever.  The trick is to get some of it and then work out a balance of some kind. 

Tomorrow:  What to do if you think you are underpaid.