Archive for October, 2008

How To Be "Pretty" At Work

Friday, October 31st, 2008

You may have heard the research.  Good-looking people get higher grades in school, get better care at the doctor’s office, and get higher salaries on the job.  Unattractive men and women earn 5-10% less than people deemed attractive.  “Pretty” women marry richer men than do plain women.  Heck, handsome criminals even receive lighter sentences than ugly criminals.

It also helps to be tall.

So, say you are ordinary looking and short.  What can you do?

According to Gordon Wainwright, author of “Teach Yourself Body Language,” it is possible to appear better looking to others.  What you have to do:

  • maintain good eye contact
  • act upbeat
  • listen
  • dress well
  • stand up straight
  • smile

Is it so simple?  Why not try it and see?  There’s no downside….. 

(On a somewhat related note, a few people are claiming that “ugliness” is coming into style, sort of, at least according to this NYT article from Wednesday.

Which could lead to a big philosophical discussion of what-is-beautiful and what-is-ugly.  But you know what?  Real beauty is inner beauty.  Inner beauty shines out, thus becoming outer beauty.  Did your mom tell you this?  If not, WG is telling you now.) 

Last thought in an attempt to settle things:  Most people, most of the time, are not thinking about you and your beauty/ugliness/whatever.  They are busy thinking about themselves.  Focus on them, engage with them, pay attention to them, and nine times out of ten they are going to conclude that you are quite good looking indeed!

Pick The Right Career & Get Rich

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Engineering.  Accounting.  Pharmacy.  Medical care.  Railroading.

These are all flourishing industries where jobs are plentiful right now.  Pick one and you’ll be sitting pretty, right?

Maybe.  After all, look at Cody Bass, an engineering major who snagged a $100,000+ job his first year out of college (whole story here).  

But before you sign up for engineering, accounting, or nursing school, you might want to consider one key thing:

What kind of work do you want?

Because if you don’t want to do a certain work, you’re not going to like it.  If you don’t like it, you won’t do well.  If you don’t do well, you’re not going to have job security no matter how flourishing the industry is.

We’re all a little (or a lot) worried about money right now.  And there’s nothing wrong with being “a little” worried (it makes us save, remember?).

But we can’t let it rule us.  Money is important.  But not the most important thing.

How To Get Fired

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Last February, a woman named Jenny Hourihan Bailin got laid off.

She still hasn’t found a new job.  But she’s providing a pretty wonderful example of how to act and what to do in the face of a lay-off.  Here’s what Jenny has done (all of this from a column she wrote in Sunday’s NYT):

1.  She didn’t slink away.  When the news got out about her lay-off, people avoided her (people do this).  But she made a point of going around and saying goodbye to everybody.  Classy.

2.  She went straight to the love.  When she left the office she went directly to a girlfriend’s house, a friend whose sofa she knew she could collapse on.

3.  She had the moola.  Hey, guess what, Jenny had savings!  Being fired didn’t throw her into a panic because she had been, as she said, “conservative with money.”

4.  She stuck with the love.  The first few weeks, she had lots of lunches with friends and spent tons of quality time with her kids and husband.

5.  She took advantage of the help offered.  Her company offered outplacement assistance.  She took it.

6.  She had some fun.  She gave herself the summer off.  Went to the beach, took yoga, read “War and Peace.”  Learned Spanish.  Organized family outings.

7.  She got out of the house.  Jenny has started volunteering.  She continues to expand her network.  She meets with recruiters.

8.  She’s looking forward, not backward.  At first she thought she wanted to find another job in her old field (investment banking), but the volunteer work got her interested in working for a nonprofit.  She’s not there yet, but she’s excited about entering a new field.

All told, a pretty super example.  Way to go, Jenny.

What Not To Do After A Lay-off

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

US World and News ReportsLast week’s U.S. News Wednesday post was all about what to do the day after you’re laid off

Today, it’s about what not to do

(And you’re right, it’s Tuesday, not Wednesday.  Just trying to keep you on your toes!)

A Little Fear Can Be Good For You

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Last week Working Girl visited Phoenix.  In her suitcase: socks, long-sleeved shirts, and a sweater.  Temperature in Phoenix: 90-ish.

Huh?

Why did WG pack Pacific Northwest duds for the desert?  Because her bedroom, where she was packing, was cold.  She couldn’t visualize the Phoenix heat & the need for sandals and sun dresses.

It’s the same with saving money.  When all is well–when we’ve got a job and our 401(k) is going up–we can’t visualize that the world might change, that there might come a time when money will be tight.

Saving money doesn’t come naturally to most humans because it’s so hard to visualize a world different from the one we’re in right now.   

In yesterday’s NYT magazine, David Leonhardt wrote a piece called “The Price of Optimism.”  Go and study the graph showing the U.S. savings rate since 1970.   It ain’t pretty.  And if you read the column all the way to the end, you’ll see this quote: “A little fear can often be a healthy thing.”

And this is true, if fear makes you intelligently cautious and rationally provident (as opposed to nutso and panicky). 

Along these same lines, and also in yesterday’s NYT, columnist Ben Stein relates this recent conversation (it’s so good that WG is retyping it here):

And, closer to home, a talented make-up artist who works with me almost daily in my TV appearances asked what happened to people in a recession.  (She is young.)  I said that fear and insomnia happened to most people but that a few million would actually lose their jobs and millions more would lose income.

“What do they do?” she asked, looking worried.

“They find other work or live off their savings,” I said.  “They certainly cut back on their spending.”

“What if they don’t have any savings?” she asked.  “I don’t have any savings,” she said.  “No one I know except you has any savings.” She looked extremely worried.

This is perhaps the main lesson of this whole experience.  It is basic but still unlearned: human beings must have savings.  This is not just a good idea.  It’s the difference between life and death, terror and calm.  So start saving right now, and don’t stop until you die.

Now there’s some really super advice.  (The whole column is here.)

P.S.  You don’t have savings?  Start now.  Even if only in an itty bitty way. 

Does Happiness Lead To Failure?

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Okay, get ready for this.  There’s evidence that being too happy may be detrimental to your life success.

Exhibit A:  University of Illinois psychologist Edward Diener (he’s studied happiness so long that he’s known as “Dr. Happy”) has research indicating that extremely happy people get lower grades in school and earn lower salaries at work than more moderately happy people.

Don’t you love it?  Now even happiness is bad for you.  What’s next?  Spinach?  Long walks on the beach?

But look on the bright side (if you dare).  If you are one of those “less happy people,” you probably do better at work and thus earn more money.  Not only that, but the more pessimistic among us may be healthier (optimists being less vigilant about taking care of their health), safer (them optimists don’t worry their pretty little heads about seat belts and whatnot), and richer (remember the grasshopper and the ant?).

(Don’t know if you’re happy?  Take this test.)

It’s all kind of refreshing, really.  It’s enough to make Working Girl feel, um, happy.  And she has the test scores to prove it.

(Inspiration, and some information, for this post came from a recent WSJ article by Steve Salerno called “Happy Talk.”)

Happy Days

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Okay, Working Girl just got back from Mr. Working Girl’s high school reunion.  These are people who look back on their teen years with a touching fondness.  A major topic: How fortunate they feel to have grown up in a happy, abundant period of U.S. history.

First headline seen upon return: 

MARKETS FALL AS FEARS OF SLUMP SPAN WORLD.”*

Sigh. 

Is it possible to be happy on a day when Alan Greenspan says you might lose your job, and you might lose your house, too, and the holidays are coming but you don’t feel like celebrating?

Last month, WG wrote about how to face the downturn without feeling down.  Then in the Sunday NYT, Nicholas Kristof tackled the same subject in “The Downturn’s Upside.”  Here’re a few of his better points:

  • Some scientists claim that recessions are good for your health.
  • Because stocks are cheaper, your 401(k) is buying more stock than ever before.  This is good as long as you don’t need to sell right now.
  • News flash:  Money doesn’t buy happiness!  (It’s called the “Easterlin Paradox” and it makes a lotta sense, even though some quibble.)

Will anyone look back at this era and call it “happy”?  Maybe not.  But the point is, all we really have is this moment.  So turn off the news for a while.  Go for a walk.  Chat with a friend.  Take a nap.  Remember Abraham Lincoln, who said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

He had a point, you know?

*Banner headline on today’s print edition of the WSJ.

Outta Town

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

WG is off at oh dark thirty tomorrow morning to Phoenix.  Maybe she’ll blog while there.  Maybe not.

Most likely not.  See ya next week.

The Best Way To Find A Job…

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

….is through connections.

Of course, you already knew that, didn’t you?  The big question is:  How to get connections?

Hey, you’re smart, you knew this one, too:  You get connections through networking.  Do you feel as if you’ve heard all this before?  You may have.  The NYT covered this familiar ground on Saturday, trying to address the problem of “how.”  And there’s some good advice in there so give it a look.

But the article fails to make one important point:

The key to successful networking, to making any kind of connection really, is to focus on the other person, not on yourself.

Of course, the very reason you’re making this connection is for yourself.  You’re trying to find a job!  Working Girl gets this. 

But if you’re going to form a strong-enough relationship for that other person to want to help you, then at first you need to make it all about them.  It’s quid pro quo.  You do something for them, they do something for you. 

This “something” you do can be as simple as truly listening to them when they speak.  Too often when we are networking we are so busy formulating our pitch and waiting our turn to speak that we don’t really listen while others are talking. 

The gift of your attention is not an insignificant gift.  People love to be paid attention to.  It’s a turn-on!  So listen with your whole attention, earn the regard (maybe even affection) of your potential contact, and when it comes your turn to ask for a favor, your chances of being granted that favor will be strong.

And you know?  It doesn’t cost you anything.  So why not try it…….

The Frugal Résumé & How To Get One

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

US World and News ReportsStill harping on résumés. 

If you need to redo yours and you’re counting your pennies (who isn’t nowadays?), there’re a few tips for how over at WG’s regular Wednesday post at U. S. News & World Report.

Plus, there’s another interesting idea in the comment trail from Monday’s post.  Thanks, Rita!