May 31, 2007
Business Etiquette for Online Introductions
That was the subject line of a message in my email inbox last week from a Washington, DC-area media maker who wanted me to become a follower of his daily Twitter updates.
While I’m generally accepting of the informal nature that characterizes most online communication, this was one introduction that rubbed me the wrong way. As easy as a first email friend request through MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn or fill-in the-blank social network may be, isn’t some level of greeting etiquette still needed, particularly when done under in a potentially professional context?
Here are my three suggestions for crafting an effective -- and polite -- introductory message for someone you want to connect with online:
- Address the Recipient by Name: Most people love to see and hear their own name -- it’s only natural, right? -- so make sure to include it in your note. Bonus tip: Spell it right.
- Personalize the Message: Social networkers who value the quality of their contacts want to know why they should connect with you in the first place. Write a few sentences that explain who you are, where and how you found the person and why you’re interested in what they have to say.
- Provide a Clear Action Request: What is it, exactly, that you want the recipient to do after reading your message? Add you as a friend? Join your online group? Add a link in the message that makes your request drop-dead easy to execute.
And if you need some more tips on good business etiquette, check out these Monster resources:
- Business Etiquette articles from Monster Career Advice
- "Office Netiquette: Instant Messaging"
- "Your Professional Image"
- From the Monster Blog: "Five Workplace Email Etiquette Commandments"
- "The Etiquette of Professional Social Networking"
- "Answering Your Questions: Social-Networking Etiquette 101"
May 30, 2007
Don’t Write Off Michelle Obama Just Yet
The cum laude graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, who is a former associate dean at the University of Chicago and vice president of University of Chicago Hospitals, is stepping out of the workforce during her husband’s run for president.
I don’t blame her. She has a fuller plate than most any man I know. Michelle Obama sits on six boards, including the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. She’s raising two daughters solo four days each week while her husband tends to his senatorial post in Washington, DC. And according to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, “She coordinates playdates, ballet, gymnastics, tennis and piano lessons with what (Barack) Obama calls 'a general's efficiency.'”
In short, she’s no slouch.
But nor is she alone. According to author and economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett whom I recently interviewed, 37 percent of highly qualified woman voluntarily leave the workforce for a period of time. Thirty-eight percent step back or follow what Hewlett calls a “scenic route” by taking a part-time job, flexible work arrangement or telecommuting option, or turning down a promotion.
Hewlett argues that it’s time for corporate America to start recognizing these nonlinear or nontraditional paths during which women scale back their careers precisely when they are meant to be stepping them up to advance. I agree. But personally, I believe there’s reason to be hopeful, with or without corporate America. With retirement occurring later, many women may have 10 to 20 years left in their professional lives past the intensive child-rearing years. (Those that have their children later may well have established their careers well enough to avoid the same degree of penalization when they on-ramp.)
Yes, the corporate world may be notoriously slow to promote women. In 2005, only eight of Fortune 500 companies were led by women, according to the nonprofit group Catalyst. For the math-challenged out there, that’s less than 2 percent.
But with women starting businesses at twice the rate of men, these new entrepreneurial women are unencumbered by traditional perceptions of what a career path should be. My question: What sort of influence will these women have in the workplace, given 10 to 20 years to excel?
Perhaps nowhere is this late career ascent more visible than in politics, where the people rather than corporate America decide who will and who will not succeed. You need only look to mother-to-five and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for evidence of late on-ramp success.
As Hillary Clinton said in 2003 of her senatorial position: "It is actually a kind of job rotation. First, Bill focused on his career; now it's my turn. Bill supports me and gives me tips; he's my best advisor, as I tried to be for him when he was fulfilling political office."
So whatever you do, don’t write off Michelle Obama just yet.
· From the Monster Blog: “Female US President in Our Lifetime?"
· From the Monster Blog: “Why Not More Women Leaders?”
· From the Monster Blog: “Too Old to Parent? Too Old to Work?”
May 29, 2007
Summer Movie Economics
The last few weeks in May mark the start of the summer movie season, when Hollywood places big cinematic bets and hopes the seats in front of the screen will be filled with the likes of you and me.
The business of the movie business has always fascinated me, especially after my stint as a theater usher a number of years ago. In fact, I was present for the first great summer movie event -- Jaws -- which began the current summer blockbuster movie approach to filmmaking. I learned that while movie ticket revenues mattered to the studios, sales of popcorn, candy and soda mattered to the folks who run the theaters.
According to this index, the average cost of a movie ticket in the mid-’70s was about $2. Last year's average was $6.55 -- though most of us can't get in to see a film for less than $9 or so. So how long do you have to work to afford a movie ticket?
According to blogger Gary Picariello (looks like I'm not the only person interested in these statistics), the Cinema Index shows the US is the second-cheapest place to go to the movies, after India. It takes just 24 minutes of work to pay for a ticket, based on an average US net hourly income of $15.20. Hmmm.
How about comparing to the minimum wage? Back in the mid-’70s, the minimum wage was $2.10 per hour, so a ticket cost just about an hour's work. But at 2006 prices and minimum wage rates, the average ticket costs more than an hour and a quarter of work time. Add in those snack bar goodies, and the total could be three hours or more.
With budgets now exceeding $300 million per film (or more than the entire GDP of a small country like the Federated States of Micronesia), it's worth considering what a movie is worth to you.
So here are a couple of plugs: You can find the blockbusters everywhere -- but try to go and see Away from Her and The Lives of Others before they leave your neighborhood art cinema. Both are worth the ticket price, no matter how long you have to work to pay for it.
If you'd like to work less to earn the cost of a ticket, consider these salary negotiation resources:
- “Power Relationships and Negotiation”
- “Salary Negotiation Know-How”
- Salary & Negotiation Tips message board
May 25, 2007
It’s Vacation Time: Go Ahead, You Deserve It
We’re just a few short hours away from the unofficial kickoff to summer: Memorial Day weekend. This holiday weekend traditionally means cookouts, yard work and, of course, vacations. The highways will be clogged tonight with those wanting to get out of Dodge.
The question is, with vacation season stretching out before us, will you take time off or simply work through the summer months? I urge you to take your hard-earned vacation. And I speak from experience.
My husband and I just got back from Stowe, Vermont. We really enjoyed being three-plus hours away from home in a beautiful place. A highlight of the trip was a special dinner at an English pub, complete with spotted dick (don’t laugh; it was delicious) for dessert. And I can tell you that after four days in the mountains, I returned to work with a clearer head and a renewed perspective.
Need more convincing that vacation is important? Check out these articles to be inspired. And no matter what you do this long weekend, stay safe and enjoy:
May 24, 2007
Social Networking Resources for Professional Development
Facebook is not just for college students. Last fall, the site opened its membership to anyone with a valid email address, meaning you can join today.
And Facebook and other social networking sites aren’t all about posting or viewing scantily clad or drunken photos, weekend war stories or the latest gossip -- although there certainly is plenty of that if you’re looking for it. Instead, as I’ve found out in the last month, Facebook offers the very tangible benefit of professional networking
My own list of 73 Facebook friends includes dozens of colleagues who share my interests in marketing, PR, social media and online communications. We can send short messages to each other, engage in threaded discussions and find out about upcoming events that directly impact our day-to-day jobs. I’ve also joined 20 Facebook groups and a pair of networks, each of which offers news on topics that I care about -- both personally and professionally.
LinkedIn is another networking site that delivers value to the working professional. Keep up with the comings and goings of your colleagues, use the site’s Answers feature to help solve a particularly vexing work problem and connect to previously unreachable experts in your industry.
Want to explore or create your own professional social network about any other niche topic under the sun, such as healthcare marketing or Web 2.0 programs for librarians? Give Ning a try.
And don’t forget about one of my favorite social media sites of all: Twitter.
Ultimately, online social networks provide you with the platforms to both develop new professional connections and strengthen existing ties. So if you haven’t started using one yet, what are you waiting for?
Here are some additional Monster resources to help you make sense of the latest new-media tools:
- “Get to Know Web 2.0”
- “Blogs, Podcasts and Wikis: A New Technology Primer"
- “When Work Time and Personal Time Mix"
- "Social Networking as Professional Development"
- "The Coming Battle: LinkedIn vs. Facebook"
- "Falling for Facebook"
- "Facebook vs. LinkedIn for accounting professionals"
May 23, 2007
Monster Blog Readers’ Creative Ways to Look Busy at Work
All of your comments to my recent post about goofing off at work -- especially on those uninspiring and slow days -- are all the evidence I need to pronounce you, our Monster Blog readers, a very savvy bunch indeed.
If you work for the kind of organization where looking busy is more important than actually getting work done, then you’re undoubtedly a pro at many of these tactics already. If you don’t, then you might want to keep these suggestions in your back pocket for a rainy day:
- Charlie on the PA Turnpike: Never, ever walk anywhere without carrying a file folder. Keep at least one sheet inside it; in a pinch, scribble a note on it, and mumble, “Must not forget that.”
- Wilma: If you like to arrive late in the morning, leave a cup of coffee and a bakery bag on your desk the night before, and keep your computer on. Everyone will think you're there already.
- Etepsnewo: ALWAYS carry a work-related paper or item in your hand, and have your work-related question or statement ready to execute at a second's notice when shooting the breeze with a coworker. When you detect "management," switch smoothly to these work-related questions and responses.
Why Is Pregnancy Discrimination on the Rise?
When I was pregnant with my third child, a senior executive turned to me, clearly niggled, and said, “You’re not pregnant, are you?” I hadn’t told my employer of my pregnancy and was at a loss as to how to respond. We were a startup, and a lot was at stake at that stage of our development. No one, particularly this executive, wanted to hear of yet another development that might impact our company’s push toward success.
Fortunately, another colleague, a 30-something bachelor, stepped in. “What are you talking about?” he asked. “She looks the same.” The executive, a father to four, knew better; he’d noticed the extra weight below my jawline and my sudden lack of waist. But sensing he was on sensitive ground, he recanted, returning the conversation to work.
It’s odd that pregnancy is still such a delicate issue, fraught with so much defensiveness and concern. Getting pregnant is not some new workplace phenomenon. (Nor, for that matter, are women.)
Still, discrimination (or the reporting of it) is on the rise. According to a statistic reported in an MSNBC article, pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), state and local agencies jumped nearly 19 percent to a record 4,901 last year, from 3,977 in 1997. And according to this article and others, those numbers have been rising for a good half-dozen years, particularly among high-level executive women.
Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, women affected by pregnancy or related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations. Women can’t be fired for being pregnant. Nor can they be demoted. And, if they’re eligible under the Family Medical Leave Act, they’re entitled to time off.
But pregnancy can be unpredictable, as can time off. I’ve known mothers who have opted to take longer leaves than anticipated, leaving employers feeling disgruntled in their absence, and employers who’ve shifted job responsibilities and organizational charts, leaving mothers feeling disgruntled on their return.
What I don’t understand is why we still can’t seem to cope with pregnancy at work. If the lawsuits are anything to go by, we’re getting worse rather than better at handling it. Yes, the amount of leave taken may vary, but what is predictable in life? In fact, if one thing is predictable, it is that women get pregnant and men, let’s not forget, get them that way.
Check out these related results:
- From the Monster Blog: “Too Old to Parent, Too Old to Work?”
May 22, 2007
Immigration Reform -- Take One
The proposed immigration reform bill hammered out in the Senate last week is starting to draw fire from all sides. That may be a good thing -- legislation that makes everyone equally unhappy is preferable to legislation that only one side likes. But I've blogged about immigration reform before. I know it's very difficult to find consensus on the issues. If only for my own benefit, I'm going to try to itemize the key elements of the bill as they affect employers and employees -- recognizing that the additional issues of border security, amnesty, family continuity and establishing legal status must also be considered.
Employer Verification of Legal Status
A big expansion over current verification practices, the bill proposes an Employment Eligibility Verification System (EEVS) that requires employers to certify the legal status of all employees (some 146 million at last count) every three years. CEOs will sign off on the certification. In a Wall Street Journal article (log in required), Randel Johnson, a US Chamber of Commerce vice president, termed the plan "throwing a huge net to catch a few minnows." Highlighting the strange bedfellows this legislation may create, the same article quotes American Civil Liberties Union spokesperson Tim Sparapani: "The threat this poses to our privacy is extraordinary."
H-1B Visa Changes
The controversial H-1B visa program for high-skilled foreign workers also gets an overhaul. The plan raises the number of H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000 annually and could increase further based on demand. This year's entire quota of H-1B visas was filled the first day. An additional proposal offers "unlimited" H-1B visas for non-citizens who have earned advanced degrees from a US university or from overseas institutions, in the case of those who earned advanced degrees in math, technology or engineering.
On the other side, the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers is raising money to run an ad in Congressional Quarterly, seeking to block any increase in H-1B visas. The ad states: "Thousands of highly educated and skilled U.S. hi-tech professionals have lost jobs and are unable to find new work because companies like Microsoft want to hire cheaper foreign labor."
New Rules for Low-Skilled and Guest Workers
For less-skilled workers, there are two new visa categories -- Z and Y. The Z visa provides current illegal immigrants with a path -- albeit convoluted -- to green-card status, and attempts to avoid disrupting those industries, such as food processing, restaurants and construction, that heavily depend on immigrant labor. The Y visa is a guest worker program that, together with a separate program specifically for agricultural workers, would provide legal status for low-skilled workers in some targeted industries.
The legislation is just starting to make its way through Congress. We'll see what develops over the next few weeks. For more background on immigration policies and issues, try these articles:
- "Immigration and the US Workplace"
- "Is the Melting Pot Boiling Over?"
- "Hiring Rules for Non-US Job Seekers"
And these blog suggestions:
- The H-1B Visa -- Everywhere You Want to Be Working?
- Immigration, Workers and the Blogosphere
- A Workday Without Immigrants
- The Border Line -- a blog on immigration issues offered by the Austin (TX) American-Statesman
- ImmigrationProf Blog -- authored by three professors at the University of California, Davis, School of Law
May 21, 2007
48% Stretch the Truth, 10% Outright Lie on Their Resumes
We are running a poll on our Resume Tips message board, asking Monster members if they have ever lied on their resumes. Here are the results as of today:
- 10% chose “Yes, I told a whopper.”
- 48% chose “Not really, though I may have prettied-up the details a bit.”
- 42% chose “No, my resume is the stone-cold truth.”
Now let’s look for a moment at the purpose of your resume. Your resume’s job is to get you an interview. It is not a complete recount of your job history; it is a marketing piece that should sell your relevant accomplishments, skills and experience to prospective employers -- at least enough so that they want to talk to you to learn more. But remember, there are ethics in marketing, and you need to have ethics in your job search, too.
Do you know how annoying it is to see former coworkers’ resumes that set their work and experience in a completely different light than the truth? It’s a small world, and the industry you work and look for jobs in makes it even smaller. On more than one occasion, I’ve been casually asked to verify the information on resumes once someone sees I’ve worked with the candidate before. It’s always disconcerting to see someone taking credit for another’s work or inflating a title to encompass responsibilities well out of the person’s domain.
If you feel forced to lie on your resume, it is likely that the document is not doing its job. Before taking drastic measures, you should probably have some people take a look at your resume to provide feedback.
Check out these resources for more information and to get your resume in the best condition without making false claims:
- “Lying on Your Resume”
- “Understand Smart Resume Packaging vs. Exaggeration”
- “Resume Readiness Quiz”
- “Top 8 Resources for a Resume Critique”
- “How to Ask for a Resume Critique”
- “Resume Critique Checklist”
- From the Monster Blog: Is Honesty the Best Policy?
- From the Monster Blog: Let’s Be Honest
- From the Monster Blog: Lying on Your Resume
- Are Resumes Bogus in Principle?
- Lying and Job Hiring: A Contrarian View
- Lying to Get a Job?
- Is Marketing Everything?
- The Trump Blog: Lying on Your Resume
May 18, 2007
Bullied at Work? Recourse Is Coming
Workplace bullying is a huge issue. Here’s how I know: A few years ago, we commissioned a piece, which turned into several, on the subject. Every time we feature this content, we get scores of letters from bullied workers, thanking us for talking about the issue and recounting their horrific stories. Many have suffered in silence, dealing with the fallout to their personal lives and careers.
Well, these long-suffering workers may now have some recourse. According to this BusinessWeek article, six states are considering laws that would make bullying “an unlawful employment practice.” That means it’s legally actionable.
I really hope the threat of being sued prompts companies to stop sweeping this important issue under the rug and deal with it directly. If you’ve got a bully worker on your team, these articles can help:
- “Manage a Toxic Employee”
- “Help Your Toxic Worker Change”
- “Stop Toxic Managers Before They Stop You”
And if you’re a worker who’s being bulled, check out these resources:
- “Workplace Bullying: What Can You Do?”
- “Workplace Bullying: Who's Your Bully?”
- “Expert Answers on Workplace Bullying”
- Monster’s Workplace Bullying Message Board
- Bully Busters: Includes the status of various bullying laws around the country as well as signs you’re being bullied at work.