Archive for September, 2008

Is Capitalism Dead? Are We?

Monday, September 29th, 2008

The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!

As you must know, the stock market dropped by 777 points today.  Biggest one-day drop ever.  Might go down more tomorrow.

Scary.  Depressing.  What does this mean to you and Working Girl?  How are we, average everyday working people, supposed to react?  You might be feeling helpless right now.  WG does.  So here’s a little big-picture perspective, courtesy of Mr. Working Girl:

1.  If you have a job with a 401(k), your same old contributions are now buying more stock than ever before.  Automatically!  When the economy picks up, which it is bound to do sooner or later (Mr. WG points to historical precedent here), then you’ll have a bigger portfolio.  So sit tight, sweet pea.

2.   All this brouhaha is controlling inflation, which has been high of late.  Yes, Mr. WG is quick to admit, some say that big bailouts are actually inflationery.  But, in general, he is equally quick to add, more prudent investing (see #4) combats inflation.  Let the economists fight it out.  It’s working now.  (You want low inflation so your hard-earned savings & investings [see #1] will actually be able to buy stuff in the future.)

3.  That $700 billion bailout sounds like a lot.  But it is still “only” 5% of our total GDP.  We’ll get some (maybe all?) of it back as the market improves (see #1).  As Mr. WG says, “It’s not a trivial amount but it’s not like we’re betting the whole country on it.”

4.  We may end up with a stronger economy.  This awful experience should make institutions smarter and more prudent.  It better!  Because a lot of institutions, as well as everyday people, were basing their financial decisions on the rather wacko premise that real estate and other markets would keep going up and up and up.  And up.  In the Working Girl household, we’ve often talked about how the day of reckoning was bound to come.  It did.

But we’ll get through it.

Does Your Boss Like You?

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Does it matter?

Yup, it does. 

It can make the difference between having a job and not having a job. 

Example:  In Paris, Working Girl landed a cool little part time job because the boss liked her.  What’s more, after the job ended (it involved attending English-language meetings and taking notes–English is the international language of business, doncha know?). . . . .where were we?–oh right, after the job ended, WG was kept on as a “confidante.”  Turns out the boss needed someone to talk to, someone to be on her side, someone to listen to her–easy work, made more pleasant by the $50-an-hour paycheck.

A boss who likes you can help you grow in your career, can provide you some much-needed (especially nowadays) security, and can make your workday a joy.  The power and potential of a boss who likes you cannot be overstated.  Surely you’ve noted the largess that flows to the boss’s favorites.  Bosses have been known to give jobs to people they like even if they’re not qualified (see Palin, Sarah).

So how do you get your boss to like you?  It’s pretty easy.

Like your boss.

People tend to like people who like them.  Showing that you like your boss is taking the initiative, which puts you in a stronger position, which gives you power at work.  Plus, if you like your boss, you will naturally want to do a good job (and bosses tend to like people who do a good job).

If you don’t like your boss?  Well, then it’s time to start looking for your next job.

When You're Bored. . .Um, Witless

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

LM writes with this problem:

Dear Working Girl,

My job is so boring, day in and day out.  I spend 8 hours a day literally doing nothing.  It’s not that I don’t want to work, it’s just that nothing comes my way.  I have tried asking for more responsibility, and nothing.  I offer to help my co-workers and nothing.  I have been there for nearly three months now, I was unemployed for about six months before that, and my last two jobs were only a couple of months (one I was laid off from, the other one was a contract).  I know this recent history will not look good on a resume, but I have tried to explain to the managers how I am feeling and nothing ever changes.  Any tips?

Dear LM,

True, eight hours doing nothing feels like twelve.  Plus you feel like you’re wasting your life!

So you’re probably not going to like hearing Working Girl’s recommendation:  Keep this job for a while.  You’re right when you say your work history is thin.  That’s why it’s a good idea to stay at this job, provided it is a safe environment for you, for at least a year.

Okay, so that’s nine more months.  What can you do with this nine months?  You’ve already tried to get your boss to give you more interesting tasks.  Do you know why this hasn’t worked?  Try to put yourself in your boss’s shoes.  What are his/her priorities?  What were you told when you were hired?  How do you think the boss views your role in the company?  What’s your reputation like?  Are you much younger than everyone else?  Are you the only woman there (assuming you are a woman)?  Is there political stuff going on (favoritism?  backbiting?)?

Knowing the answers to these questions may help you to understand why this is happening and to come up with ideas for improving your situation.

Try talking with your boss again, at a time when he/she is relaxed.  And don’t just ask for “more work.”  Know what kind of work you want.  Make specific suggestions.  Say, “I have a great idea for revamping our inventory” or “I’ve thought of a way to save on printer ink.”

But suppose none of these ideas helps you.  Suppose that for some bizarre reason your employer WANTS to pay you for doing nothing, or next to nothing, all day.

Well, that just frees up your brain power for plotting your escape.  It’s great news–you have nine whole months to plan the next step of your life.  What kind of job do you really want?  What do you need to do, know, or have to get that job?  Now is the time to reason all this out.  Maybe you’ll need to take a class.  Or get to know people in the field that interests you.  Or research companies.  Or get a certification/degree.  Working Girl suspects you’ll also need to build up your savings.  Nine months is really not too long to do all this stuff. 

Meanwhile, of course, you need to continue doing your job, whatever that means.  At the very least, it means showing up, acting as if you care, and continuing to make yourself available for better stuff.  Hang in there!

P.S.  Check out this great list from Zen Habits on 30 things to do to keep from getting bored out of your skull at work

Telecommuting: A Mistake Right Now?

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

US World and News ReportsYou may be worried about the economy, money, your mortgage, your job, and a host of other things right at the moment.

If you’re a telecommuter you may have one other tiny thing to be concerned about.  Find out what it is and what you can do about it over at WG’s Wednesday post over at the U.S. News & World Report site.

(Hint:  Don’t panic!  It’s not so bad!)

When There's No Home To Return To

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

A wise, inspiring, longish tale from Patti Ghezzi over at Search Logix Group–happy reading!

Many of my close friends as well as my sister recently took voluntary separation packages from the large newspaper company for whom I toiled for 14 years.

I was long gone, but I still kept tabs on the shocking demise of my former industry, so the announcement of a buyout offer for anyone employed in the newsroom for at least five years didn’t take me by surprise.

What did surprise me was how many people had the guts to take the deal—seventy-five—and how many of them, especially my sister, Susan, who had edited the food pages for 18 years, handled the evaporation of their careers.

Yes, there were tears. But weeks before her last day arrived my sister embraced the idea of starting a whole new professional life as a cookbook author, slow food activist, restaurant consultant, recipe developer, magazine writer, Web site entrepreneur and whatever other opportunities should come her way.

How did she manage such a positive attitude when she was losing a job she loved?

She drew inspiration from those who were driven from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Many landed in Atlanta. They were dazed, confused, sunburned and grateful to have gotten out. Several said they wanted desperately to go home, but they had no home to return to, so they were instead planning a new life in Atlanta. A few said they had wanted to make changes for a long time, but it took a hurricane to push them out of their comfortable existence.

My sister and her colleagues were in a stunned state of disbelief as they packed up their desks and said their good-byes. They knew the decision was final. The newspaper business no longer holds opportunities for them. They can’t return to the comfort of the newsroom if life on the outside is harder than they imagined. They can’t go to another paper in another city, because the same problems of plummeting readership and ad revenue have hit all newspapers. This isn’t a cyclical economic downturn, it’s the disintegration of newspapers as we knew them. New media opportunities will take the place of the old, and no one from the old guard is guaranteed a job.

So, what can you do? Laugh, cry, get out the Rolodex, make lists of things you might want to do, set up a Facebook page, hook into LinkedIn, learn some new computer tricks, rework your résumé, join associations, order business cards, figure out how to stretch the severance money and have faith that somehow things will work out. There is no home to return to but, after so many years or writing and editing food stories, winning awards and knocking out cookbooks on the side, my sister has the tools to build a new home. I can’t wait to be invited over for dinner.

About the Author:

Patti Ghezzi is a veteran journalist with 15 years experience covering everything from education to the environment to business. While on staff at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she founded the blog Get Schooled. She now writes about business for publications such as Atlanta Woman and Georgia Trend as well as the Web site DivineCaroline. When not working, she chases after her toddler, watches Yankee games with her husband and tries to figure out how to live green without giving up her beloved Diet Coke. Reach her at pattighezzipr@searchlogixgroup.com.

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

Afraid You'll Get Laid Off?

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Wouldn’t blame you if you were.  But don’t just sit there worrying.  Do something!  Here are five steps you can take today:

1.  Get informed.  Rumors kill (you).  Learn what’s going on in your industry.  Read the newspaper, biz mags, stock analyst reports–anything you can get your hands on.  Get, or get more, active in your industry’s networking groups and/or professional (or whatever) associations.

2.  Be visible.  People, even bosses, find it harder to dump likeable employers they see often.  You may be tempted to “hide,” hoping that out of sight is out of mind.  Big mistake.  Instead, be seen doing good work every day.  If you telecommute, consider ways you can achieve more face time.

3.  Add value.  How does your work add to your company’s bottom line?  If you don’t know, find out.  Start doing more of it.  Make sure your boss notices!

4.  Don’t forget your bottom line.  Spend less.  Save more.  There’s nothing like a pile o’ money in the bank to give you that nice warm cozy safe feeling.

5.  Be a beacon of light.  You may be petrified down to your toes about the possibility of losing your job.  Don’t show it.  Look confident.  Act strong.  Be positive.  People, even bosses, will be drawn to you and will want you to stick around.  (Outside of work, feel free to fret and blow off steam to loved ones!)

How To Give Out Your Biz Card

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

WG’s off to a networking event thingie.  She’s ready because just yesterday she designed new business cards.  They’ve got the title of her book, some illustrations from the book, and polka dots.  We’ll see how they go over. . . .

Anyway, while trolling the Internet looking for cool ideas for biz card design, she ran across this video showing a cool trick for giving out your biz card in a memorable way.  It takes a little practice, but don’t we all need more theatre in our lives?


How To Give Your Business CardAmazing videos are here

The Worst Thing To Do At An Interview

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

US World and News ReportsIt may not be what you think.

Find out what it is at WG’s post today over at U.S. News. 

Can Facebook Get You A Job?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Things people do when looking for a job:

  • wearing a tuxedo to the job interview
  • waiting for the hiring manager at his car
  • bringing a baby gift to a pregnant interviewer
  • giving Yankee tickets to the interviewer
  • doing a stand-up comedy routine
  • coming dressed as a cat

(Really.  These are from a 2007 Careerbuilder survey.)

Now there’s a new twist in what we might call the “non-traditional” job-search strategy:

Running an ad on Facebook. 

In a recent experiment sponsored by the folks over at One Day One Job, five new college grads posted ads on Facebook, targeting them to a specific employer or region.

Did anyone get a job?  Read all about what happened here.  If you’re interested, keep reading because they also include detailed instructions for how to do this yourself.

But keep in mind, it’s a little like putting a message in a bottle.  And it still doesn’t beat that gold standard of job-hunting: personal connections.  So Working Girl’s HO is that you might want to put the bulk of your energy into making and cultivating contacts.  But posting an ad on Facebook probably wouldn’t hurt, provided you keep it professional, and it might be fun. 

Hint:  Use a good clear, crisp, cropped photo.  Of the five in the experiment, Katelyn’s is by far the best. 

(Working Girl learned about this experiment on Lindsey Pollak’s blog.  Thanks, Lindsey!)

How To Be More Intuitive

Monday, September 15th, 2008

At a fab little breakfast last Friday, Melissa Wadsworth talked about accessing your inner decision maker.

How?  Well, one of the tools she discussed was intuition.

What about you?  Do you trust your hunches?  Go with your gut?  Or do you feel that maybe you got shortchanged in the intuition department?

Not to worry.  You can beef up your intuitive powers.  With no further ado, here are seven simple ways to become more intuitive, from Melissa and Working Girl:

  1. The more you use your intuition, the stronger it grows.  Exercise your hunch-making abilities by guessing what’s in wrapped presents, or who will win a football game, or who’s on the phone when it rings.
  2. Pay attention to your first impressions.  Love (or hate) at first sight–for a song, a painting, a job, a car, or even a person–often turns out to be right.
  3. Try meditation.  Contrary to popular opinion, meditation is not “emptying your mind.”  It’s allowing thoughts to pass through your mind unhindered.  Just let the good ones float to the surface.
  4. Pick up pen and paper.  Write down a question.  Then write down the the first answer that comes to you.  Put the paper aside for a day or so, and look at it again.  That answer may be the answer.
  5. Know what you want.  If you have a crystal clear vision of your goals, you are much more likely to see the steps you need to take to attain those goals.
  6. Ask for what you want.  Before you go to bed at night, ask for guidance.  The answer may come to you in the form of a dream or a thought on first awaking.  Heck, it’s worth a try.
  7. Don’t try to “force” your intuition.  Trust that it will come.  Keep in mind that intuition often comes softly, in a whisper, not in a big booming voice from clouds on high.