July 31, 2007
A Job Search Tool Kit
Sometimes, you just need to get down to your job search. If you’re wondering where to start, we’ve got some suggestions.
First comes creating your resume. Check out these articles for help and inspiration:
Once your resume gets you the interview, these articles can help you present yourself properly -- and hopefully get a job offer:
Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for -- the offer. These articles can help you evaluate if it’s for you, and if it is, get the salary and benefits package you deserve:
July 30, 2007
What Do Your Annoying Coworkers Do?
Last week, Christine passed around this Forbes.com article on annoying coworkers. It talks about how office loud talkers and obnoxious cell-phone rings are two of the most irritating pet peeves in the workplace today.
And boy, could I sympathize. Years ago, I sat near a woman who constantly -- and loudly -- discussed her and her husband’s ailments. And more recently (try 5 minutes ago), I got to hear a coworker speaking on the phone with her boyfriend on the other side of my cubicle wall. I sit right on the hallway and have a bookcase outside my cube. For some reason, people think the purpose of the shelf is to give them a place to put their coffee while they have a personal chat rather than storage for my team’s reference materials.
Alas, I can think of even more annoying workplace habits, like polishing your nails (I admit I did this once, but I was young and just not thinking) or -- much worse -- cutting your nails.
What do your coworkers do that really annoys you at work? Post a comment and let out some steam about it.
And check out these articles on how to make sure you’re not an offender:
From the Monster Blog:
July 27, 2007
Summer Hours Keep Employees Hot for Their Jobs
Remember summer vacation when you were a kid? Long days, cool nights and lots of time with your buddies -- and away from school. What could be better? I fondly remember marathon games of hide-and-seek that would go on until our moms called us all in for the ninth time.
I was reminded of the fun of summer vacation yesterday when I had an unexpected day at home and heard the kids next door laughing and splashing around in their pool. I got a little wistful, and then I remembered that while I work full-time and won’t be getting the whole summer off anytime soon, my company is one of the few that offers the option of summer hours.
Summer hours at Monster mean that as long as you cover your schedule, you can take a day off a week and not be charged against paid time off. A former company offered a similar setup: You could take every other Friday off as long as you worked it out with your manager and made up the time.
I’ve been lucky; not everyone offers this benefit. In fact, only 10 percent to 12 percent of large companies do, a number that has stayed consistent for the last seven years, according to a survey of 900 companies by Hewitt Associates. Hewitt’s research over the years has found that compressing workweeks is a way to keep employees happy without spending a lot of money, so it’s surprising more companies don’t offer such a perk.
As for me, I plan to take advantage of summer hours next week for something grown up: A doctor’s appointment. But I’ll be sure to leave some time to splash around in my pool.
For more information on flexible schedules, check out these articles:
July 26, 2007
New Media Matters in Politics -- and in the Workplace
While you can certainly question whether Monday’s Democratic presidential debate took full advantage of the YouTube platform, what you can’t question is whether politicians are actually paying attention to new media communication channels.
- Hillary Clinton put her campaign theme song selection in the hands of YouTube voters.
- John McCain has created an online community for his supporters called McCain Space.
- John Edwards is sending and answering Twitter messages.
- Mitt Romney has photos on Flickr.
And many of the candidates’ Web sites feature groups and user-created blogs, too.
So if politicians, who would seldom be described as cutting edge, have recognized that people are connecting in meaningful ways through online social media, what about your employer?
Here are some options that your company may want to consider for strengthening internal communications:
- A customized Facebook-like application, where coworkers can see photos of each other and learn more about each other’s personal interests
- A tool that enables employees to tag content on the company intranet (imagine a customized version of del.icio.us), making it easier for everyone to find relevant content quickly
- Employee blogs with open comments -- even if they’re behind a corporate firewall -- where workers are encouraged to write about challenges they’re facing on the job and offer suggestions for making the company stronger
- Internal wikis, both for brainstorming and project collaboration
None of these suggestions is revolutionary, but it may take an internal evangelist -- such as you -- to demonstrate how and why incorporating new-media tools will ultimately make your organization a better place to work.
Here are some Career Advice articles that may help you make your case:
- “Blogs, Podcasts and Wikis: A New Technology Primer”
- “How to Use Blogs Effectively in PR”
- “Social Software and Your Career”
July 25, 2007
What Does It Take to Go Part-Time?
In 1989, Felice Schwartz, the founder of the women’s nonprofit group Catalyst, wrote a paper advocating that companies establish nontraditional career paths for women, such as part-time and flextime. For her suggestion, she was pilloried by women. Believing she had been championing women’s workplace rights, she was devastated.
Fast-forward 20 years. A national survey from the Pew Research says that fully 60 percent of working mothers now say part-time work, rather than full-time, is their ideal. Still, notes the report, the percentage of working mothers who actually work part-time -- 24 percent -- has remained steady since 1997.
Why the low numbers when, according to a 2006-2007 Hewitt Associates survey, 47 percent of major US employers offer part-time employment? One reason for the disparity is the penalties associated with part-time work. Among these are lack of benefits, barriers to career advancement and reduced job security. Also, many traditional part-time jobs, such as those in retail, are often the lowest-paid, rendering the reduced earnings that come with part-time work even less desirable.
Some jobs too just don’t seem to lend themselves to part-time work, such as those that require continual client contact. Many of these are higher-paid, among them jobs in finance and sales.
Still, even in finance and sales jobs, one can find examples of people who have, despite the challenges, managed to secure part-time work.
The bottom line is that in order to reduce the penalties associated with part-time work, perceptions need to change, and the best route to change is through the top. According to the 2004 Catalyst report, Women and Men in US Corporate Leadership: Same Workplace, Different Realities? utilization rates of senior-ranking men and women of part-time arrangements are disproportionately low as compared to the general population. Their survey showed that a mere 1 percent of senior-ranking men and women worked a reduced workload or part-time.
So how can these and other people make part-time arrangements work? By following the lead of those who have successfully done it themselves. In my research of hundreds of women who have negotiated nontraditional arrangements, I have received the following pointers on how to make part-time work:
- Establish Limits: Be sure your job can be done on a part-time basis, setting clear parameters.
- Underpromise and Overdeliver: Exceed expectations. Don’t overpromise, or you’ll disappoint.
- Manage Yourself: Block out interruptions. Work as close to 100 percent productive as possible.
- Think Teamwork: Establish open channels of communication with your colleagues, and provide support when and where you can.
- Communicate: Communicate your schedule, and keep colleagues abreast of what you’re doing.
- Be Visible: As you will be at work less, work harder to stay connected.
- Find an Advocate: Find someone who will pound the table for you. Because you’re not there all the time, you’ll need it.
- Establish Your Competitive Set: Define yourself as a part-time employee who performs, not as an employee who doesn’t get a full-time job done. Do this by finding where you add value and adding it.
- Review and Assess: Set up regular reviews with your supervisor. Be willing to discuss changing or altering your approach when necessary.
For more on this subject, check out these related articles:
- "Ready to Go Part-Time as a Working Mom?”
- "Negotiate a Flexible Schedule”
- "More Working Moms Dream of Going Part-Time”
July 24, 2007
Career Change: Is That a Bend or a Crossroads Up Ahead?
What does pursuing a second career mean? For me, it means more than just changing jobs. I've had a number of different jobs over the years, working for various companies and handling a wide variety of tasks, but I still think I'm pursing more or less the same career path. It hasn't been straight, and it certainly hasn't been smooth, but it still feels like I'm going in the same direction. I'm very lucky.
Other Baby Boomers face more drastic career change issues. Changing technologies, downsizing, offshoring, "wage management initiatives" and even plain old boredom can all force someone to make significant career changes.
I see a lot of questions about midlife career changes on Monster's Age Issues message board and in our email feedback. Some questioners want to know how to pursue a specific kind of career change; other inquiries are more open-ended. Some are upbeat and positive; more than a few sound discouraged and disappointed by the frustrating and seemingly endless search for a second career. Some even say they feel stuck.
But there are others for whom a career change is an invitation to "head out on the highway" (audio link) and try something new. In fact, some Boomer couples have gone out on the highway in a big way -- driving an 18-wheeler together as a second career.
Piloting long-haul trucks may not be your career change choice. But knowing the road you've traveled thus far is a big help. One benefit that age confers is self-knowledge. If you are at a crossroads, forced by circumstances to take a new career direction, pay attention to what you know about yourself and look for guidance and advice from your circle of contacts and resources like Monster. If you are lucky enough to have the freedom to choose a new career path, use that self-knowledge to select your new direction wisely, and remember what you learned along the way.
Here are some additional resources for your consideration:
- "Jump-Start Your Career Change"
- "The After-50 Career Change"
- "One Person's Career Change from Advertising to Counseling"
- "Resume Dilemma: Career Change"
- "Career Change Cover Letter Sample"
- Evolution Shift: "Midlife Career Change"
- Brazen Careerist: "Career change Is Inevitable, So Plan for It"
July 23, 2007
Should Instant-Message Slang Be Used in the Workplace?
Because teens are on a never-ending quest to cut down on the amount of keystrokes, thus allowing them to send instant messages sooner and say what they want to say in less time, their chats consist of abbreviations, acronyms and poorly spelled words. So by the time today's teenagers reach the professional world, will everyone be speaking with the acronyms and abbreviations commonly used during instant-messenger conversations? Will these slang terms be considered acceptable?
Most definitely not. By the time the current generation of instant messengers have completed their high school and college educations, they will know very well that such slang is undesirable and intolerable in business communications, and it will be completely flushed out of their professional vocabulary. Some of this knowledge may come from witnessing coworkers' negative reactions to this language during internships and co-ops. As an intern at Monster, I am yet to observe any of my coworkers using slang in their formal communications or even their instant messages.
But the real issue is not so much that slang won't be accepted but that many teenagers only know this slang. As teens progress through school, these bad spelling habits are staying with them. Eleventh- and 12th-grade teachers are forced to teach elementary grammar and spelling, because they are receiving English papers from their students where "you" is spelled "u," "are" is spelled "r" and the incorrect homonym of a word is used all too often.
In my 12th-grade college-prep English class last year, we would spend 10 to 20 minutes going over common grammar, homonyms and spelling. Most of what was taught (or should I say retaught) I already knew. However, I did notice the students who spent a majority of their free time on IM struggled to grasp these "new" grammar concepts and unheard-of homonyms.
So while instant messaging can help us communicate, let's remember to keep its associated slang and abbreviations where it belongs: On the home computer.
For more on this subject, check out these resources:
- "Office Netiquette: Instant Messaging"
- "Intergenerational Miscommunication in the Workplace"
- "Six Sloppy Speech Habits"
- "Beat Business Jargon"
July 20, 2007
Harry Potter Not So Magical for Small Businesses
“He couldn't know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: ‘To Harry Potter -- the boy who lived!’” So goes a quote from chapter one of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Nearly 10 years later, and hours from the release of the seventh and final Harry Potter installation, few people can know if Harry does in fact end up living, but it’s certainly no secret that people are meeting all over the country, and all over the world, to celebrate the young hero. Tonight, not only bookstores but grocery and department stores will host release parties, inviting anticipatory Potter fans to join the fun and of course, buy the book.
An estimated 27.7 million Harry Potter books have been sold in the US since 2001, and online retailers like amazon.com have disclosed that the book has already broken prerelease records.
So no wonder retailers are throwing parties at midnight. They must be making insane profits, right? Not so fast: The high demand of Potter books forces retailers to implement steep discounts -- so Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which has a list price of $34.99, will actually sell at 30 percent to 40 percent off that at chain bookstores. And with retailers selling the book at a few pennies more than they paid for it, profit outlooks aren’t looking too good.
Worse off are the small, mom-and-pop bookstores that generally can’t afford to lower prices by almost half. And at Wal-Mart and Target, where you can pick up the book and the beach chair you’ll sit in while reading it the next day, what is the small bookstore to do?
And therein lies the cruel irony of the Harry Potter phenomenon: The very story that made children love to read has also made it tough for booksellers (that actually foster reading in youngsters) to make money. So as we all wait to see what will become of Harry and his friends at Hogwarts, booksellers will also be awaiting their fates, in many cases, hoping to break even.
While you’re at the bookstore tonight, check out these hot business books for 2007.
This Parents’ Day, How Have Mom and Dad Helped Your Career?
When I was in college, I had a weekend job as a housekeeper at a local hospital. My mom worked at the same hospital full-time. On the elevator one day, I got talking to my new boss and revealed who my mother was. He took a step back and said, “Well, if you work as hard as she does, we won’t have any problems.” I remember flushing with pride.
I thought of this story because this Sunday is Parents’ Day. In my case, both my mom and dad were instrumental in developing my work ethic and career path, in large part by example but also by their teachings.
In fact, it was my father who encouraged me to become a journalist -- even back when I didn’t know what a journalist did. He was the one who told me to write down the ideas for stories (fiction and non) constantly floating around in my head, and he pushed me to intern at the local paper when I was in college.
As for my mom, she taught me to work hard but realize there’s more to life than the 9-to-5, and to watch out for myself in the world of work, because companies aren’t about your best interests. At the same time, she cheered my writing and even gave me the contact information for one of the biggest story ideas of my career.
How have your parents shaped your career, both positively and negatively? And how have you prepared your own kids for the world of work? Post your thoughts in the comments below. And for more on the subject, check out these resources:
- From CareerJournal.com: “Use Caution When Discussing Your Career with Your Children”
July 19, 2007
Gen X? Gen Y? Doesn’t Matter to This Guy
I’m confused. I can’t figure out whether I belong to Generation X or Generation Y, and a search on the Web over the last few days is making me dizzy.
Here’s the easy part: I was born in 1976, which, as of last November, means I’m now a 30-something. But putting myself into a generational category based on that particular year is a bit messy.
An academic article from the 2002 book Mobilizing the Audience that I’ve kept from my postgraduate days in Australia says that author Douglas Coupland’s Generation X was about people born between 1961 and 1972, meaning I’m no Xer. But wait: This Generation X Wikipedia entry tells me that many view 1965 to 1976 as the more appropriate range. So, maybe I’m back in after all.
But then what about Generation Y, or that group of people born “immediately after Generation X"? Maybe I belong there instead. This eWeek story says Gen Y began in 1977, but Wikipedia says it was 1976. Other researchers mark the generation with the year 1982.
Are you getting a headache yet?
But what if there were a different way of looking at the question? What if your generation weren’t based on your year of birth at all but instead on the extent to which you use digital media -- blogs, IM, online video and social networking sites -- a notion posited by Margaret Weigel and expanded on by Penelope Trunk?
Trunk came up with a 16-question quiz that tests your new-media savvy and assigns you a corresponding generation -- ranging from the least plugged in (Baby Boomer) to most (Generation Y).
Using this measuring stick, I can answer my original head-scratching question in the mere two minutes it takes to complete Trunk’s quiz: I’m a Gen-Y guy, and that’s fine with me.
New media has changed and will continue to change the way we work. Blogging, contributing to departmental wikis, following dozens of RSS feeds and sharing links in del.icio.us are all part of my necessary day-to-day work flow here at Monster.
I’d prefer not to be defined as belonging to any generation at all -- I often think the practice is one big sales and marketing ploy. But if I must have a label, then slap me with the one that shows I want to use the tools that make me the most productive, offer me the best means for collaborating with my coworkers and keep me connected to industry issues.
Here are two Monster stories that cover the generation question and our evolving approach to getting things done in the workplace: