Category Archives: Work

Looking for Work? Be a Kid!

Tomorrow will mark the fourth week of searching for a new job after my lay-off. No luck so far.

But in my online prowling I ran across this article that offers good advice on how to maintain the right perspective when looking for a job: Learn to be a kid again.

Kids believe in the best. Adults expect the worst so they won’t be disappointed.

As a mother of a toddler son, I watch a lot of kid’s shows. What strikes me about these shows is the positive messages that come across; messages of hope and encouragement.

Why is it that as adults we lose hope when it comes to our careers? Did career setbacks or the economy make negativity more prevalent than being positive?

Remember back to a time in your life when you believed that anything was possible? A time when you looked forward to the day and all you could do and learn. What happened to that belief? What happened to that person? Do you want that person back?

Frequently when things go bad, we blame it on other people or their childish ways. But in some ways, being childish is not such a bad trait. A lot of things that kids do can be applied to your career.

The author suggests five “childish perspectives” that job-seekers should adopt in order to improve their chances:

  1. I will try, try again.
  2. I know it all works out.
  3. I will ask for help.
  4. I will have a good attitude.
  5. I’m growing and learning.

Read the whole article for the details on each of these perspectives. Great advice!

In Praise of Manual Labor

Once upon a time, between careers, I worked as a trim carpenter for a few years. The experience taught me a great deal about wood and tools, but more importantly it taught me the dignity of manual labor. To this day, I have a deep respect for tradesmen who make a living working with their hands.

So I read with interest this article by Jazz Shaw, who argues that our society’s shift away from skilled trades toward a knowledge-based economy is a bad move.

Is it any wonder, then, that our nation’s manufacturing base has been in decline for so long? It’s easy enough to blame external market forces, but the fact is that a once proud tradition has fallen into a shameful state of disrepair and blatant disrespect. And yet physical work will always need to be done – at least until Skynet’s robots are nearly ready to take over our society. Might some of us find more satisfaction in washing the dirt or grease off our hands at the end of a long day, seeing the fruits of our labors in fully functional use by others? Would it be so terrible if more of our children sought out these “useful trades”?

Being a “handyman” is another description generally employed with scorn, much like the tinker of old. But a man who is handy will likely find work no matter where the Dow Jones closes tomorrow. The real world is full of things, and they impact our lives on every level. Treating them as if they are magical beasts beyond our comprehension represents losing something which our society once held precious.

Hmmm. I’m still looking for work after being laid off from my white-collar job. Maybe I need to go back to carpentry.

The Recession Just Got Personal

I lost my job this morning.

Over half the department got laid off, along with a good chunk of the rest of the company.

So when you hear the next unemployment numbers, know that my name is buried in there somewhere.

Thank you, President Obama. Your stimulus plan is just peachy.

Boomers Enter Retirement Years

As the baby boomer generation approaches retirement age, demographers ponder what impact their exit from the workplace will have on the nation’s economy.

The conventional wisdom is that millions of new retirees will put a strain on the system that cannot be sustained.

But some are not convinced that the boomers are all that eager to retire. There is evidence that many are “re-careering” at the age when their parents were settling into their rocking chairs. This trend is aided by longer life spans that make the traditional retirement age seem younger than it used to be.

Megan McArdle conducts a careful examination of both sides of this equation, and comes to this conclusion:

If we will be worse off than we could be in an ideal world, we will still be better off than we are now, workers and retirees alike. We’ll not only be at least somewhat richer; we’ll also have years and years more to enjoy our health and wealth.

As a boomer myself who is sees retirement age creeping up on me, I can honestly say I really have no desire to retire. I enjoy what I do for a living, and look forward to many more productive years ahead.

Of course, it’s probably genetic. My 81-year-old mother — long retired from her “real” career, but still healthy and sharp — is still working at a part time job. Not because she has to, but because she’s bored sitting around the house.

Back In Town

The blog has been quiet this past week because I was in Lowell, Massachusetts, for a business conference. (See map here, and the city’s home page.) In case you’re interested, this is the conference I was attending.

It will take me a few days to get caught up on things.

Clueless Bosses

The Wichita Eagle carried a front-page article in today’s edition about an ex-FBI agent, Dan Jablonski, who has established a second career advising corporate clients. In this new role, he has learned a lot about good and bad corporate managers. I was especially interested in his description of the bad ones.

Bosses ask for efficiency evaluations because they want to know how their companies can be more efficient, or whether they have problems. Sometimes their numbers aren’t adding up, or customers are complaining.

After a few such jobs Jablonski noticed patterns. That’s what the FBI teaches: Look for patterns.

He saw problem employees. But he also saw problem bosses isolating themselves, staring at computer screens, deluded about how things were going.

He saw that this was costing buckets of money.

“A lot of these bosses don’t know what’s going on outside their own office doors,” Jablonski said. “They sit in their offices feeling confident that everybody in the company is on the same page. And then I talk to employees and find a completely opposing viewpoint.”

The root problem, he says, is a simple one: The boss is out of touch with his people.

Many employees know about these problems, but no one tells the boss, and the boss doesn’t ask.”Oftentimes, all the boss needs to do is just ask how things are going. But they aren’t doing it. They sit in their offices,” he said.The gulf between reality and delusion surprised him.

“I saw places where everybody in the company knew what the problem was,” he said, except the bosses, who seem surprised by the results: resignations, loss of contracts, sabotage, customers going elsewhere.

“Do they talk to their employees one-on-one once in a while? I was surprised to learn they often don’t,” Jablonski said.

“One thing the FBI teaches you to look for is a culture, such as a culture of thought,” he said. “I think after the Internet started, a whole culture developed where a lot of bosses drifted into a mistake. They think their job is to manage their computer terminal.

“That’s not what a boss is supposed to do. A boss is supposed to manage the people.”

This further reinforces the age-old axiom that good management is simply a matter of basic interpersonal skills.

Meaningless Mission Statements

I’ve worked in the corporate world long enough now to develop my own cynicism regarding mission statements. Every new re-org or CEO seems to require a new mission statement — while the vast majority of the worker bees just keep on doing their jobs, oblivious to the high-falutin’ corporate mumbo-jumbo being foisted on them by the demigods above them.

So it was with great pleasure that I read this critique on “the plague of mission statements” by Kati Irons.

I wanted to write a piece about funny mission statements, but what I quickly realized is that while almost all mission statements are laughable in some way, they’re rarely funny. A perfect example is the Mission Statement Generator found on Dilbert.com. The idea of the Generator is hysterical. They’ve programmed in every business buzz word you can imagine like “proactively”, “seven-habits conforming”, “empowerment”, and “paradigm shift”, and then the little generator spits out complete mission statements, ready for cutting and pasting into your annual report.

Getting to the bottom line:

If a company really expects their employees to “live” their mission then they need to make a mission statement their employees can actually DO.