June 29, 2007
How Do You Talk to Your Employer?
Last week, Monster employees from all over the globe finished completing an employee survey, touted as a way to help shape corporate culture. At last count, more than 80 percent of worldwide workers had filled out the survey, a pretty impressive number. We’ll see the results in a month or two, and I for one am anxious to see what my coworkers think of working here.
Monster isn’t the only company taking the pulse of its employees this way. According to one statistic, 70 percent of all US employers regularly conduct employee surveys. These are usually sweeping questionnaires that can cover everything from communication (a common sore spot, according to this article) to choices in the cafeteria. As an employee, filling out the survey honestly is your chance to address what’s going right and wrong.
But what if you work for a company that doesn’t conduct regular surveys? Or even if it does, you may need to talk to your employer about something now, not in six months when the new survey comes out. How do you get your voice heard? Here are some common communication channels and how to make the most of them:
- Regular Meetings with Your Supervisor: Here at Monster, many employees have weekly or biweekly one-on-one meetings with their bosses. These are scheduled opportunities to check in and raise issues of importance.
- Company Meetings: Bryan thinks they are a waste of time. If you don't participate, they definitely can be. Make sure you take advantage of any Q&A sessions offered to bring up the important stuff.
- Performance Reviews: Like employee surveys, your performance review can be highly ritualistic. Go beyond the yearly obligation to give your boss upward feedback, both on how he supervises you and the company’s direction and policies as a whole.
- Exit Interviews: Hopefully, you’ll use other communication channels before this one, but sometimes, on the way out the door is the only chance a worker has to let the powers that be know something’s wrong.
So how do you talk to your employer? Let us know in the comments below. And in the meantime, check out our articles on how to build your own communication skills.
June 28, 2007
The New iPhone: Productivity Tool or Killer Distraction?
Ever been in a meeting and watched in horror as your colleagues pounded away on their BlackBerrys, catching up on email or making appointments for the next day rather than paying attention to the proceedings? Well, come tomorrow, they might just be doing so on a whole new device: The iPhone.
If you’ve been paying attention for the past few weeks, then you know that Apple’s much-hyped iPhone goes on sale across the US tomorrow -- at 6 p.m., to be exact. Prepare for the predictable news coverage, too, of scuffles among customers who camp out in line at retail locations overnight tonight and then skip work tomorrow in hopes of becoming the first owners of the new device.
But how will the iPhone impact the modern worker? Here are a few possibilities:
- Goofing Off: With a 320-by-480 screen that enables you to zoom on a Web browser or watch YouTube videos, the iPhone will offer options galore when you need to take a break from your hectic workday.
- Swapping Photos: When you’re at an office cocktail party and want to impress your coworkers with your latest family pics, you’ll have them on your handy iPhone.
- Emailing from Anywhere: Like other smartphones, the iPhone supports Web-based as well as some corporate email systems. You’ll be equipped to answer a message or two as you wait for a flight or a tardy colleague.
- Grooving Through the Day: The iPhone includes a built-in iPod, so you can crank up your favorite tunes as you toil away in your cubicle.
So will the iPhone ultimately improve your productivity, or is it yet another tool for distraction? Hey, if you have at least $499 to spare and do pick up an iPhone this weekend, you’ll have to let me know. I’m staying on the sidelines for now.
June 27, 2007
Breast-Feeding in Public?
"Since the general testing room is shared by multiple examinees, the use of a breast pump inside the testing room during the examination would be disruptive to other examinees and is not permitted. Furthermore, the testing rooms do not provide privacy since they are visually monitored.”
So said Catherine Farmer, the manager of disability services for the National Board of Medical Examiners, to the Boston Globe. Farmer was defending the board’s response to a now widely publicized request by Massachusetts-based Sophie Currier to breast-pump during the nine-hour-long clinical knowledge exam that’s required for a medical degree. The exam allows a total of just 45 minutes in breaks, and the exam’s board has refused to give extra time to Currier -- mother to a seven-week-old -- despite the fact that she needs to pump every two to three hours to reduce the chance of blocked ducts, the discomfort of hard breasts or even the possible risk of infection. The reason for the decision, says Farmer, is breast-feeding is not considered a disability.
Correct me if I’m wrong, nursing mothers out there, but sometimes, it sure feels as if you have a disability based on the difficulties you face. Feed your infant in a public place, and not only do people stare, but some go so far as to suggest that public places shouldn’t accommodate you. That’s what one talk radio announcer was advocating the other morning as I drove into work. Do me a favor, moms, he said. Do that sort of thing at home.
Do me a favor, radio talk announcer, and get off the air. At least, that’s what I told the radio.
It is true that progress is being made. Fourteen states, New Mexico the newest among them, now require both public and private employers to create a clean place for breast-pumping near a mother’s work station. And as the Globe article and other articles point out, some 47 states have laws that protect the rights of nursing mothers in varying capacities. Many of those laws protect the right of mothers to breast-feed in public. Massachusetts, however, has no such law.
Personally, I’m grateful for people like Currier who go further than yelling at a radio in the isolation of their car. Admittedly, this woman is not shy about putting herself in the limelight. She was reportedly featured in a Globe column last year about adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and, due to her ADHD and dyslexia, she requested and has been granted twice the usual time to complete the test.
I think Currier should go further still. During those early weeks, if I skipped two feedings, I carried the equivalent of two milk hydrants on my chest. My suggestion to Ms. Currier is to use the extended time to avoid pumping altogether. The result could lead to a very persuasive chorus of complaints advocating for change.
For related information, check out these Monster resources:
June 26, 2007
Are Your Career Plans a Secret?
Wednesday, June 27, marks an important transition: British prime minister Tony Blair moves out of 10 Downing Street, and new Labour Party leader and soon-to-be-former chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown moves in. What's unusual about this is a sitting prime minister was not voted out of office but, instead, voluntarily stepped down at the urging of party leadership and handed the role of party leader and prime minister to Blair's ambitious colleague Brown.
One wonders about the private conversations between these two over the 13 years since Brown and Blair reinvented the Labour Party in response to Margaret Thatcher. In politics, at least, career ambitions are a fairly open topic of conversation. Just ask Segolene Royal or Hillary Clinton.
But it's a different story at work. Have you told your boss you're angling for her job? Or that you'd really rather work in a different work group, department, company or in another field altogether? No? Well, you're not alone. A recent survey of US employees by research firm BlessingWhite indicates "Fifty-six percent reported that they seldom or never share their career plans with their employer."
So what? Well, in a world where more and more of the economic value of a company resides in the brains of its employees, employers spend a lot of time worrying about to keep those employees working for them and not a competitor. Yet, if employees are unwilling to share their personal career goals with their employer, how can an employer hope to match employee goals with company needs? As BlessingWhite CEO Christopher Rice puts it: "Companies devote considerable resources to career development, but if the great majority of employees won't share their goals one wonders how effective such programs can be."
The BlessingWhite survey notes age is the "strongest predictor of career reticence," with a rising percentage (61 percent or more) of employees 45 and older unwilling to talk about their career goals. Perhaps not surprisingly, men (58 percent) are less likely than women (53 percent) to share. Another factor is that some employees don't think career plans matter.
If you're a manager, it may be up to you to get the conversation started. If you don't ask, your employees won't tell. And as an employee, reconsider your reticence. After all, if management doesn't know your plans, they may plan around you instead of with you.
Take our poll: "Will you tell the boss your career plans?"
Here are more Monster career planning resources:
- "Career Planning Step-by-Step"
- "Reach Career Success"
- "What Are Your Long-Term Goals?"
- "Prep for Your Performance Appraisal"
- From the Monster Blog: "It's Annual Review Time"
- From the Monster Blog: "Get Your Career Fit for Summer"
June 25, 2007
The First Job Postgraduation: Gen-Y Style
Today is my roommate’s first day of her first job out of college. And this is a “job” job -- 9-to-5, 401k, benefits -- the whole shebang. By the time I woke up at 7:15 this morning, she had already left.
Yesterday, when I asked her how she was feeling about starting, she said she was nervous, not about meeting new people or not being able to perform an unfamiliar set of tasks; she hoped more than anything that she would like her job. She expressed to me the need to feel useful, the desire to be challenged and well, busy. And it occurred to me that I agree. And so would many other postgrad Gen-Yers, I believe.
Ever since we were little, we Generation Yers have been told to go after what we want, to be creative, to do what makes us happy. And while promotions should be a goal, for my roommate and me, right now they are not the number-one priority. At present, the focus is on feeling engaged. Penelope Trunk addressed this in a recent blog post.
Yes, our place at the bottom of the totem pole comes with some monotony and grunt work. This is to be expected, as long as the filing, data entry and copying are supplemented with larger projects and opportunities to work with others in the company to learn more about where we ultimately want to be.
So, after thinking about it, I told my roommate she should focus on finding the middle ground between accepting the entry-level work and feeling excited about what she is doing each day. If she can spend even a little time every day doing work she finds interesting, she will be able to set definitive goals for herself. Being goal-oriented is one of the fastest ways to productivity. And productivity, after all, is what so many of us strive for.
To learn more about finding the right job and adjusting to it, read these Monster articles:
- “Map Your Way to Your First Job”
- “Avoid These First-Job Traps”
- “Work Values Checklist”
- “Adjust to Your New Job”
- From the Monster Blog: “At 10 Years Gone, What I’ve Learned About Work”
- "Guest Post: Making My First Post-College Career Decision”
- “A Conversation with…'New Girl on the Job' Author Hannah Seligson”
June 22, 2007
How to Dress for Success
Picture this: It’s a hot summer day, and you’re beating the heat by strolling around your favorite store, looking for a new something special to wear to your job interview next week. You want to look presentable, polished and professional. So what should you wear?
All the clothing choices available can be super-confusing. And in a business-casual world, no matter what the industry, you may be wondering how dressed up you should get.
Well, we’re here to help with your wardrobe questions. Check out these articles on professional interview attire:
And why not share your own interview dressing tips and tricks on our Interview Tips message board?
June 21, 2007
Is it OK to Facebook at Work?
Do you find yourself casually browsing your neighbor’s MySpace page at work? Has your cubicle become a mini-theater for the latest YouTube video? In an age where it seems everyone is tuning into social online media Web sites, it is no surprise that people incorporate them into their workdays. According to a recent Clearswift survey 87 percent of office workers spend time on social networking sites every week.
But for a growing number of employees, this is no longer an option. Last winter, the US Department of Defense blocked its employees from using MySpace, and the Canadian government in Ontario did the same with Facebook and YouTube this past spring. More and more companies are barring access to Web 2.0 sites, claiming that they slow down both employee productivity and the corporate online network.
But do they really? I suppose if you are spending hours getting lost in the Facebook abyss (there should be some sort of disclaimer on these sites) then you should reevaluate your current job situation as a whole. But if you are getting your work done and taking a small break to check out a picture or read a message a friend sent you, then some could argue that those small distractions might actually increase productivity and motivation at the office. They certainly present the opportunity for distraction, but should it be up to the employees or the employers to decide how to handle those distractions?
Is online social media appropriate for the workplace? If yes, then how much is too much? If not, is it unrealistic to think that employees will comply?
Check out these Monster resources on the subject:
- “Get to Know Web 2.0”
- “Office Netiquette: Instant Messaging”
- “Beware the Wandering Mouse”
- From the Monster Blog: "Wasting Time?"
June 20, 2007
Summer Solstice: School’s Out, Work’s Not
As of 11 a.m. yesterday, all three of my children were on summer vacation. Part of me is delighted. No more frantic evenings trying to get homework done, backpacks organized and lunches packed. No more midmorning conferences and late-night sports games. No more pestering my husband for not realizing the importance of getting the children into bed on time.
As of June 21st, summer begins. But just as the glass-half-empty side to the summer solstice is that the days are getting shorter, the downside to school vacation is that while the children might be out, work is still in. Due to childcare expenses, my normal weekly ATM withdrawal has been depleted after only three days. Demands for increased television time are already kicking in. By the end of the day today, I’m quite sure “I’m bored” will have been voiced at least once. Not that I’ll be home to hear it.
Several years ago I interviewed and surveyed more than 200 women on what made family-friendly work. My presumption was that I’d find a large number of commonalities among those women who said they had very or extremely family-friendly work. I thought women with family-friendly work would identify common professions, schedules, even ways in which they balanced responsibilities at home and work.
I was wrong. The only commonality among every woman who said she had very or extremely family-friendly work was a supportive boss.
I’m lucky. I have two supportive bosses, and I too would consider my job very or extremely family-friendly. My big challenge, however, is not my employer. My challenge is the way the rest of the world works. School calendars are still constructed as if one parent were not employed. And most volunteer meetings occur midmorning, when both my husband and I are at the office.
I consider myself among the fortunate. I work reduced hours. I have flexibility. I earn more than minimum wage. And still, it’s difficult for me.
In our quest to make workplaces more family-friendly, I firmly believe that we are still overlooking an important piece -- schools. As much as I love summer and the slower pace it affords, the two-and-a-half-month vacation is a relic of an outdated era. Yes, workplaces need to adjust, some more than others. But so do other institutions, like schools and even town halls (mine still requires you appear in person to pick up a multitude of forms). Improving teacher compensation may help in getting schools to stay in session longer, but what else will it take to affect change outside of work?
For more on these issues, check out these Monster resources:
- From the Monster Blog: “Working Mothers Stop Feeling Guilty”
- From the Monster Blog: “What’s a Mother’s Work Worth”
- From the Monster Blog: “‘Hurray for Snow Days?’ Asks This Mom”
June 19, 2007
Don’t Take Your Dog to My Work
But if you ask me, it’s all a bunch of nonsense -- dogs simply don’t belong in the workplace.
Picture this nightmarish scenario: You’re in the middle of writing an important report for your boss -- in fact, you’re just getting into your work productivity groove -- when there’s a tug at your pant leg. You look down in horror to see Rover looking up at you and drooling all over your shoes. Now sufficiently disrupted from your work, you stand up, extricate yourself from the furry creature at your feet and head for the bathroom to clean up. But before you can even get there, you find that someone’s canine has used the hallway as a dumping ground.
Further disgusted, you make a beeline for the cafeteria to escape the madness. But there will be no peaceful lunch on this afternoon, because a few colleagues, in their infinite wisdom, have decided that Take Your Dog to Work Day also means Take Your Day to Lunch Day. Ugh.
OK, so I may be weaving somewhat of a tall tale here, but you get the picture: Dogs can be very disruptive in a traditional office environment. They also just flat out make plenty of people uncomfortable, in addition to being a potential workplace health and safety hazard.
But don’t just take my word for it. A whopping 68 percent of the Monster voting public also said no when asked whether pets should be allowed in the workplace.
The good news for me is that even if Monster does allow its employees to bring their dogs to our HQ this Friday, I won’t be here to see them. I’m taking a vacation day.
For complete Take Your Dog to Work Day coverage, check out these links:
- "Take Your Dog to Work"
- "Doggone Office Tales: Monster Members Unleash Their Thoughts About Dogs in the Workplace"
- "Audio: Is Your Dog Ready for the Office?"
- "Work with Animals Outside the Vet’s Office and Zoo"
- "Quiz: What Breed of Dog Are You at Work?"
- "Message Board: Post a Photo of Your Pet at Work"
June 18, 2007
Get Your Career Fit for Summer
By now, you’ve likely started getting your body in shape for the beach. But make sure you don’t leave your working self behind. You can take advantage of the positive energy that accompanies long summer days to get your career fit, too.
If you decide that you should be making a move, be sure your resume is ready to compete. And you’ll also need to brush up on your interviewing skills. You can try our Job Search Boot Camp to guide you in how to prepare for a job search in seven days.
But even if you don’t want to switch jobs, you can still get your career in shape. Is there a course you could take that would help you get to the next level? Or maybe an association you could join to make valuable contacts?
The summer will be over before you know it, so get started before it’s tempting to hibernate for the winter.