Friday, July 31, 2009

The Fear of Change, a poem by James Baxter.

When he was eleven years old, New Zealander James Keir Baxter wrote the following inscription with a rooster quill on the first page of a new notebook:

Book 1
Original Poetry
J. K. Baxter
Born 29th June 1926
Will die when he and nature sees fit.

For the rest of his life Baxter remained faithful to his vocation and wrote more than 2600 poems. He died in Auckland at the age of 46 in 1972. In the last four years of his life, he worked to alleviate the condition of drug-addicts, alcoholics, the homeless, the unemployed and the native Maori people. He said he was was "steadily dying in the comfort of home, smoking cigars and watching television" ... while there existed "an obvious need for some of the people getting pulled to pieces in the towns to have a sanctuary..." Baxter believed that "one of the great crimes of society is to be poor" and as a consequence, he took the idea of Personal Social Responsibility very seriously.

The Fear of Change by James Baxter.

If you and I were woken suddenly
By the drums of Revolution in the street -
Or suppose the door shot open, and there stood
Upright and singing a young bullfighter

With a skin of rough wine, offering to each of us
Death, sex, hope - or even just an
Earthquake, making the trees thrash, the roofs tumble,
Calling us loudly to consider God -

Let us admit, with no shame whatever,
We are not that kind of people;
We have learned to weigh each word like an ounce of butter;
Our talent is for anger and monotony -

Therefore we will survive the singers,
The fighters, the so-called lovers - we will bury them
Regretfully, and spend a whole wet Sunday
Arguing whether the corpses were dressed in black or red.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

CSR initiatives in developing countries.

Sweden was the first country to require sustainability reports from state-owned companies. This is just one example of how seriously Sweden takes Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The sustainability reports of state-owned companies are required to comply with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines. GRI seeks to uphold global standards in sustainability reporting and make it easier for outsiders to assess and compare companies from a social, environmental and economic perspective. Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, which specializes in analyzing companies for their environmental, social, and governance performance, ranked Atlas Copco, Fabege, H&M, Holmen, SCA and Scania among the 100 most socially and environmentally responsible companies in the world in 2008.

Examples of CSR in other Swedish companies:

- The IKEA Social Initiative supports, among other projects, a Unicef initiative to promote children’s rights in Uttar Pradesh, northern India, an area from which Ikea buys many of its carpets. Child labor is prevented by addressing the root causes, including poverty, lack of schools, disability and disease.

- Coop
The supermarket chain has expanded its range of organic products, and the sale of these increased by 18 percent in 2007. Coop is also working to expand its range of fair trade goods. It recently started an energy saving project, Energijakten (The Energy Chase), where refrigerators, freezers and lighting are under review to see how new technology and procedures can reduce energy consumption.

- Akzo Nobel
This industrial giant is working to reduce emissions of chemical waste. One example is a biodegradable paint for freighters that stops the formation of algae, which impedes ships’ progress and wastes fuel.

Approaches to CSR practiced by European companies often involve community-based development projects. The majority of these are established in Africa, such as the Shell Foundation's involvement in Flower Valley, South Africa. Here Shell has set up an Early Learning Center to help educate the community's children, as well as to develop new skills for the adults. Marks and Spencer is also active in this program through the building of a trade network with the community, guaranteeing regular fair trade purchases. Allied with these approaches is the establishment of HIV/AIDS education programs.

One of the leaders working to transform impoverished communities in developing countries is the Grameen Foundation based in Washington D.C.. This organization builds on the initiatives started by Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder and managing director of Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. The Foundation's mission is to enable the poor, especially the poorest of the poor, create a world without poverty. It’s a leader in the fight against poverty in Sub Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab World, and the Americas. Since its beginning in 1997, programs, resources and fresh ideas have helped more than 45-million poor people, mostly women and children, improve their lives.

Building strong local institutions in the poorest communities is a cornerstone of Grameen’s work. It helps microfinance institutions (MFIs), credit unions, cooperatives and poverty-focused organizations secure financing, develop strategies to attract and maintain a talented and dedicated workforce, and better track how quickly their clients are leaving poverty. Its technology initiatives focus on helping MFIs work more efficiently and serve more people and on providing new business opportunities and access for poor people.

Large and small companies throughout the world fulfill some of their CSR commitments by donating a percentage of their profits to the Grameen Foundation. Many private individuals, including yours truly, do the same.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Examples of CSR in action.

Here are some examples of local and national CSR initiatives:

REEF Sandals in Carlsbad, California, a premier surf brand, believes it is the responsibility of every company to make strides toward creating less waste, and to improve their processes accordingly. The REEF Redemption Program is a part of REEF’s commitment to employing what the company believes to be environmentally conscious and socially responsible business practices. This initiative is defined through three components:

- The company has introduced a new product series that incorporates, wherever reasonably possible, renewable, recycled, and/or organic materials to produce a unique REEF product.

- REEF also champions a culture of giving. The company contributes 1% of the sales of this product series to non-profit foundations in support of environmental and humanitarian efforts around the world. It states, "We feel that, as surfers and business people creating products relative to the surfing lifestyle, we have a distinct responsibility to act as stewards of the environment and the surrounding communities. It is imperative that we contribute toward the preservation and restoration of our natural world."

- In addition, more than half of the company's employees have volunteered to be a part of an initiative to evaluate REEF’s day-to-day business activities. Their goal is to find ways to reduce their energy and material usage. They've employed some innovative environmental strategies in the company's new global headquarters and are constantly striving to improve their processes.

In the spirit of REEF’s growing culture of giving, members of this committee are constantly looking for ways to give back to the community through outreach and volunteer programs. As an example, for two years now, star REEF surfing team rider, Ben Bourgeois, and global team manager, Heath Nutty Walker, have been giving back to the community by teaming up with Temple Heights (Oceanside) school teacher Yvonne Obrite with a reading program called Reading Dragons. Ben and Heath have donated all there extra REEF products to the program that Yvonne teaches. From clothing to sandals. Yvonne awards the kids in the program when they achieve goals with there reading skills with REEF stuff from Ben and Heath.

Walgreens drugstores, founded on the south side of Chicago in 1901, opens 425 new stores each year and should reach 7,000 stores by 2010. Walgreens also has a conscious philosophy of CSR which it defines as:
- caring for our neighbors
- caring for our dollars
- caring for our planet
- caring for our people

Believing that good citizenship leads to good business, one of these initiatives is Take Care Clinics, a part of Take Care Health Systems (, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Walgreens, open 7-days a week to provide routine physicals, vaccinations, diagnosis and prescriptions. These convenient care clinics are located at 330 select Walgreens drugstores nationwide. Patient care at each of the clinics is provided by Take Care Health Services, an independently owned state professional corporation established in each market.

In addition, take Care Employer Solutions (, provides worksite-based health and wellness services, from primary care and pharmacy to occupational health and comprehensive wellness and fitness services. The company combines best practices in healthcare and the expertise and personal care of our trusted community of providers to deliver access to high-quality, affordable and convenient healthcare to all individuals. Take Care Employer Solutions manages health centers at nearly 370 employer campuses across the country.

Since its founding, Walgreens and its employees have recognized the connection between strong communities and good business. Its motto, "The Pharmacy America Trusts," reflects a belief in ethical business practices and a respect for employees who work to improve their communities.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why interest in Coorporate Social Responsibily (CSR) is growing.

In the early 1970s, I was a founding member of The Center for Quality of Working Life at UCLA. Our belief was that work that didn't develop people's potential and use their full capabilities was bad for the people involved, was bad for the performance of the business, and bad for society at large. We got a mixed reception at the time as these were new ideas to most executives. I remember making a presentation to the executives who were running Frito Lay in the late 1970s when I was working to improve how work was done at a plant of theirs in Casa Grande, Arizona. As I started to make a case for CSR, a group of vice presidents got up and left the room - which I took as not a particularly positive signal! Interviewed later on, it was clear they viewed any focus on social agendas as distractions from their main business goal which was making as much money as was legally possible.

However, much has changed in the intervening 30-years. Here are some factors that are driving widespread consideration of CSR today:

• Consumers & employees worldwide are demanding more corporate social responsibility.

- 92% of consumers have a more positive feeling for companies that visibly support good causes

- 87% say they would switch brands (price and quality being nearly equal) to ones associated with good causes.

- 80% of employees want to work for companies that directly contribute to society - but aren’t sure how to find them.

- 83% of employees say they’ll only trust companies that are environmentally / socially responsible.

Research from the Human Performance Institute shows that more than 50% of the workforce, including professional management, is presently not fully engaged. The most important source of disengagement is the lack of connection between people's work and their values; what they do and what they feel isn't properly aligned. Surveys of employees at major companies report that almost 80% don't believe in their company's brand promise.

This is why Corporate Social Responsibility has become a strategic imperative for organizations who seek to attract top talent. As a key employee commented to a colleague in a recent interview, "I want a job where I can save the world and still be home in time for dinner."

Baby Boomers (ages 50+) and Generation Y (ages 20-32) employees are substantially in agreement on the following issues:

- They want work that has meaning (86% - Y, 85% - Boomers)

- They want flexible working arrangements (89% - Y, 87% - Boomers)

- They want work that provides personal growth (88% - Y, 81% - Boomers)

- They want work that has a social connection (48% - Y, 45% - Boomers)

They also want employers that provide autonomy and opportunity, act in an environmentally responsible way, and in general, do well by doing good. In other words, the most attractive employees are attracted to companies like Nestle, who publish a yearly report on their progress toward Creating Shared Value. In the 2007 report, it states, "This is based on the simple truth that business and society are interdependent. As a profitable, responsible business, Nestlé respects people and the environment. We put long-term business development before short-term profit, with our investments bringing sustainable value for our business, our shareholders and society."

Monday, July 27, 2009

What's the triple bottom line?

A recent McKinsey and Company survey revealed that nearly 85% of global CEOs and senior executives from 116 countries believe that business must take more responsibility for the public good and fostering a sustainable future. But a majority of those stated they weren’t sure what to do. Young Americans (18-25) have the same appetite to change the world. 80% want to work for companies that directly contribute to society and a similar amount want to do something in their community right now. But the vast majority says they don’t know how. Isn’t that true for most all of us? We want to change the future. We just aren’t sure how.

So corporate social responsibility or CSR is a relatively new and increasingly large concern for corporations and small businesses alike. CSR is also known as corporate citizenship, corporate responsibility, sustainable responsible business (SRB) and corporate social performance. Simply put, corporate social responsibility is self-regulation built into a company’s business plan so that it pursues the triple bottom line that’s good for profits, people and the planet.

In today’s competitive world, businesses need to leverage every differentiating advantage they can imagine. Business Week reports that “about 60 percent of consumers indicate that when they make purchase decisions they do take into account social and environmental factors.” Business Week went on to say, “The second point is that about a quarter of them (the 60 percent in the above statistic) don't feel they have a socially responsible alternative and if they did, they would switch brands.”

A socially responsible company proactively encourages community growth and development, as well as taking significant and meaningful strides to eliminate their negative effects on the community and world due to their business practices. Typical initiatives including recycling, telecommuting, low-income housing projects, green awards and many others, have all been part of one or another company’s pledge to act responsibly. In March of 2008, T-Mobile ran a campaign that pledged a new tree to be planted for every customer who switched to paperless billing. Companies like, McDonalds, Starbucks, Sony and many others have dedicated Web sites with information regarding their corporate social responsibility actions.

Coffee giant Starbucks is among the social responsibility leaders. A look at Starbucks’ global responsibility page reveals little content, but key CSR tools. First, Starbucks uses two elements of the triple bottom line, planet and people, to immediately let their customers know they care about being socially responsible. Next, Starbucks ingeniously created their CSR reports that, although extraordinarily long, can convince almost anyone that Starbucks truly does care for the environment.

Disney has created more than just an impressive CSR reporting Web site. Disney is leveraging its branded stars to communicate Disney’s message of social responsibility to even its younger audience. Teen idols Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers are key celebrities of the “Friends for Change: Project Green.” Through Project Green, Disney is pledging up to a million dollars to be donated, invested and spent based on ideas from the teens that join and submit suggestions.

By acting responsibly with employees, communities, and consumers a company can make deposits to their piggy banks of positive brand sentiment. I hope to explore more of the whys and hows of CSR this week.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Eating Poetry, a poem by Mark Strand.

Mark Strand was born on Canada's Prince Edward Island in 1934. He received a B.A. degree from Antioch College in Ohio in 1957 and attended Yale University, where he was awarded the Cook prize and the Bergin prize. After receiving his B.F.A. degree in 1959, Strand spent a year studying at the University of Florence on a Fulbright fellowship. In 1962 he received his M.A. degree from the University of Iowa. He's the author of numerous collections of poetry, two books of prose, several volumes of translation, several monographs on contemporary artists, and three books for children.

His honors include the Bollingen Prize, three grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, the 1974 Edgar Allen Poe Prize from The Academy of American Poets, and a Rockefeller Foundation award, as well as fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation. He's served as Poet Laureate of the United States and is a former Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. He currently teaches English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York.

Strand believed that "a great many people seem to think writing poetry is worthwhile, even though it pays next to nothing and is not as widely read as it should be." This blog is working to remedy that in its own small way.

Eating Poetry by Mark Strand.

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

How to manage your boss.

“A man should live with his superiors as he does with his fire, not too near, lest he burn, nor too far off, lest he freeze.” – Diogenes

The rewards of managing your boss more effectively include:
* An easier working relationship.
* Reduced stress.
* An improved image.
* Increased receptiveness to your concerns and needs.
* More support for your career development.

• If your boss loves to talk,
- have a set agenda when you meet that specifies the outcome of the meeting.
- keep him focused on the agenda.
- start the meeting on time and end it (or leave it) on time.

• If you work for an entrepreneur, you’ll probably have very little time to get his attention. It helps:
- to initially present the issue in summary form (less that one page).
- to respect his personal style.
- if you’re dealing with visual person, use pictures and graphs.
- if your boss isn’t detail oriented, quickly present the facts - no big stories.
Realize you won’t change the boss’s behavior but you can change your mode of influence.

• If you work for an analytical boss, let her hear it, see it, think about it, and have time to process it before you get into a discussion to influence the outcome. It’s not very productive to present the answer first and then argue about it later.

• If your boss is unfocused and all over the place, define the priorities that you want covered first before attending meetings with her. Give direct, respectful feedback pointing out where time is being wasted and where the meetings are getting off-track.

• If you need your boss’s approval, work on your presentation until you’re convinced that you’re convincing. Respect the value of your boss’s time when you ask for some of it. When you propose a plan or make a request, package it in terms of the outcomes your boss cares about. Your suggestions are more likely to be approved if they lead to something she wants, or does away with something she doesn’t want.

• Build some goodwill with your boss at the start of a potentially contentious meeting by giving him some positive feedback at the very beginning. Start off by affirming,
- You know I’m on your team.
- I’m here to help, to make life easier for you anyway I can.
- Once we’ve talked this through, I’ll do whatever you decide, irrespective of my own personal feelings.
- This will allow you to express your opinions more freely during the meeting. If your comments are constructive, made in a professional manner with the best interests of the business in mind, and are fact-based, clearly showing that your opinions are well thought out, you should be able to speak out without fear of negative repercussions.

• Often, it’s easier to get the boss’s attention and cooperation early in the morning, before something has gone wrong and spoiled his day.

• Position yourself as a coachable employee. Give your boss feedback in this regard such as, “I heard you say that I was ....... I wouldn’t have thought about that on my own and I’m thankful to you for pointing it out to me. What else should I know?”

• Don’t go over the boss’s head or behind her back as this can permanently ruin
your relationship. Discuss the issue with her first. If it’s something very serious and she does nothing about it, then you may have to go over her head. In some cases, she may be the problem and you don’t feel you can confront her about it.

• But if you do decide to go over her head, this should be a last resort, engaged in only if,
- a very important project is on the line, and there’s an urgent problem your boss continues to ignore.
- your boss is doing something illegal.
- you’ve reason to believe your boss has a serious physical illness, mental illness, or substance abuse problem..
- your boss is doing something (sexual harassment or contracting irregularities) that could lead to a lawsuit.

• In cases like this, be careful to keep your information confidential and discuss it with another only on a need-to-know basis. Document your conversation in an e-mail or a memo for the record, and save a copy for yourself. And always proceed cautiously. You just could be mistaken.

Try using the ideas outlined above to bring understanding and cooperation to a relationship between two people who often have quite different perspectives on the same situation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How to manage job stress.

Working can be very stressful these days. Living with constant stress can disturb your emotional and physical health. It can narrow your ability to think clearly, function effectively and enjoy your life. To bring your mind and body back into balance, you need to change the way you deal with stress in order to reduce its hold on your life.
Some causes of stress are obvious - job loss, a divorce, the death of a loved one. But small, daily hassles and demands such as a long commute or trouble finding childcare also contribute to your stress level. Over time, small, persistent stressors can wreak more havoc than sudden, devastating events. The ultimate goal is to have a more balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation and fun - and the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet life’s challenges head on.

Here are some helpful suggestions:

- Be more assertive.
Take charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, and the way you deal with problems. If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off. If traffic makes you tense, take a different, less-traveled route. Cross subjects that upset you off your conversation list. Tackle your problems head on and do your best to anticipate and prevent them. If you’ve got an interview to prepare for and your chatty friend calls, tell him that you’ve only got five minutes to talk.

- Learn how to say “no.”
Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, refuse to accept added responsibilities when you’re close to reaching your limit. If you take on more than you can handle, it’s a surefire recipe for increased stress.

- Pare down your to-do list.
Analyze your schedule, and examine your daily tasks. If you have too much on your plate, separate the “musts” from the “shoulds.” Eliminate any tasks that aren’t really necessary.

- Connect with others.
Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. Talk with family, friends, clergy or other trusted advisers about your concerns and stresses and ask for their support. Spend time with positive people who enhance your life. Talking to a trusted friend about what you’re going through can be very helpful, even if there’s nothing they can do to alter your situation.

- Focus on the things you can control.
Many things in life are beyond our control - particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on how you choose to react to the problems they created. We live in an imperfect world where people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy - forgive and move on.

- Avoid people who stress you out.
If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship entirely.

- Manage your time better.
When you’re stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead, you can avoid these stress-inducing pitfalls.

- That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Look at major challenges as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices have contributed to your stressful situation, think about them and learn from your mistakes. Focus on the positive and look for the good in situations instead of the bad. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts.

- Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule.
Take 15-minutes each day to sit quietly, breathe deeply and think of a peaceful scene. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the guitar, or working on your bike and don’t let other obligations interfere. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.

- Keep your sense of humor.
Especially the ability to laugh at yourself. Laughing enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughing also releases neuropeptides that help fight stress and increase a particular cell activity that's beneficial in fighting diseases such as HIV and cancer. So, find some photos or comic strips that give you a chuckle and hang them at home, in your office, or even on the visor of your car.

- Exercise regularly.
Virtually any form of exercise can decrease the production of stress hormones and counteract your body's natural stress response. The same regular exercise routines that help prevent disease and build muscle can also help you better manage stress. Do something you enjoy every day, like swimming, jogging, golfing, walking, or cycling. Check with your doctor to determine what activity level is right for you.

Finally, don't use smoking, drinking, overeating, drugs or caffeine to cope with stress. They’ll only make things worse. Talk to a mental health professional or counselor if you can't cope on your own. Ask your doctor, family or friends for recommendations. If they can't help, ask a hospital social worker for some names.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to get a pay raise.

Supposing your fellow workers think you’re terrific. They always come to you first for advice, you’re constantly busy, the CEO knows who you are (at least, you’ve been introduced to her at the Christmas party!). That, however, is seldom enough to get you a raise. Here are some ideas to help you craft a pitch asking for an increase in your pay packet:

What does the boss think?
First, be clear why you think you’re worth more than you’re currently getting. Then ask yourself why you’re worth that much to your boss? Addressing the issue from the boss’s perspective will help you put together a more persuasive case.

Have you done your homework?
Find out what the salary norms are for your job and the industry you’re working in. Compare roles and activities, not job titles, within the company. Ask your HR department to explain how your role is currently benchmarked.

Don’t mind what others earn.
What other people earn isn’t relevant in this situation. Measuring yourself against others is just a prescription for unhappiness. Your value is all about your individual performance, your competencies, and your experience on the job.

Focus on achievement.
Our lives improve only when we take chances - and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves. Don’t confuse effort with achievement - the two are quite different. You may be working your socks off, but if you still haven’t achieved the objectives you agreed to at the beginning of the year, you won’t be viewed as a success. A large consideration in any discussion about a pay raise will be your current and past performance.

Think ahead.
Consider how you’ll respond if your manager says yes, no or maybe. Play the conversation over in your mind. Crying, screaming or slamming the door on your way out shouldn’t be part of that script.

Timing is everything.
Be sensitive to how much stress your manager is under and the severity of his workload. If he’s overloaded already, your demands are likely to be viewed as an unwelcome distraction. If your company uses an appraisal system, that’s the right time to negotiate pay and benefits.

Be cool.
Don’t plead or be too aggressive when you argue your case. And don’t issue any pay-up-or-I-quit style ultimatums. Any manager worth his salt won’t give in to that kind of blackmail.

Be prepared.
Most managers like to deal with employees who’ve done their homework beforehand and who get to the point quickly. Under those circumstances, they’re much more likely to engage in an open and honest conversation with you.

Consider other alternatives.
Since pay is the issue, put that on the table first and foremost, but be open to considering other alternatives as well. Think about proposing additional rewards that the firm might find easier to provide, such as additional time off and/or more flexible working hours.

Ask for a new challenge.
If the answer to all of the above is no, ask for a target that will stretch you or ask for new responsibilities to justify the pay increase you want. Most good managers I know say they’d love it if employees asked for that more often than they do. Nine times out of ten, it’s left up to the manager to suggest it, and since the petitioner didn’t take the initiative, they seldom do so.

Finally, if you get a no, that doesn't mean it's no forever, it means not right now. The path to yes is littered with no's. According to the writer, W. Somerset Maugham, "It’s a very funny thing about life - if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ten ways to get promoted.

The following suggestions are in no particular order and work best when combined:

1. Work very hard.
Always think two jobs ahead. If the second job will get you what you want, take the first job. Then do the work you were hired to do. Do it without being asked a second time and work harder than anyone else. Don't tell people how hard you work. Show them how much you get done. Under-promise and over-deliver. As the film maker Arthur Freed advises, “Don't try to be different. Just be good. To be good is different enough.”

2. Understand what’s expected of you.
If you don’t know, ask. It’s not weak to ask for help. Studies show people with strong support networks not only move higher in their companies, but live longer and are healthier than their self-sufficient counterparts.

3. Build an internal support network.
If no one knows how great you are, you’re unlikely get ahead. The more people who know who you are, your strengths and abilities, your value to the company and your ambitions, the more likely your name will surface when opportunities come up. Find a mentor - an older, more experienced person a level or two higher in the company, someone you can talk to freely about career and workplace issues. Look for someone with similar values that you can have a good rapport with. Use your mentor to assess your strengths and weaknesses, develop a long-range career plan, and to get the skills you need for success. Your mentor can also give you insight into the company’s culture and warn you about the hot buttons of the key political players.

4. Be unfailingly positive.
Look for ways to get things done rather than complaining they can’t be done. Don't whine or blame others if things don't go your way. Don’t bad mouth other people. Learn how to be right without making others wrong. And don’t spread company gossip. Remember Dale Carnegie’s advice; “If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive.”

5. Volunteer for extra duties.
Ask for more responsibility. Seek out those tasks that have a significant impact on the company’s success. Asking for more work shows your interest and desire to help your department and company prosper. If you see an area that’s been neglected and you have key talents in that area, submit a proposal for a new position. That way, even if your proposal is turned down, you’ll get noticed in a good way.

6. Make your boss’s job easier.
Consistency of action and depth of talent are two key elements of a promoteable employee. Be a reliable go-to person for your boss. If you bring problems, offer solutions as well. And never let your boss be blindsided by bad news. If you think you’re going to miss a commitment, let it be known as soon as you find out. When communicating with higher-ups, be concise and get to the point quickly. Follow the army maxim - BLUF - “bottom line up front.”

7. Take every opportunity you can to keep learning.
Expand your knowledge and skill sets in areas that are critical to the business. If you’re not in a supportive environment in this regard, leave.

8. Be a leader.
Aspire to be a leader at whatever level you operate. Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers. They don't lead by pointing and telling people where to go. They lead by taking a risk and going to that place and making a case for it. They also look over their shoulder every now and then to make sure they’re being followed.

9. Build a reputation for being a team player.
Be cooperative. Check out what others think before you act. Keep other people informed about what’s going on, both the good and the bad. Keep your commitments. Be someone that other people know they can count on. Be honest and truthful, and don't betray confidences. Share the credit for success with everyone involved.

10. Be open to correction.
The first rule of getting ahead is that everything is your fault. It’s through our mistakes that we learn. As Confucius said, "A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it is committing another mistake."

Friday, July 17, 2009

There is no God, a poem by Arthur Hugh Clough.

Arthur Hugh Clough's father was a Liverpool cotton merchant who emigrated with his family to America. In 1828 Clough was sent back to England to be educated. He attended Rugby school and then Oxford University, and he eventually became a fellow of Oriel College. At that time, Oxford dons were required to subscribe to the Thirty Nine Articles detailing the beliefs of the Church of England. Clough's religious doubts meant that he felt unable to do this, and he resigned his fellowship in 1848. Following his resignation, he became Head of University Hall, London, for a short while, and also lectured in America, before eventually taking up a post as an examiner for the Department of Education. He contracted Malaria on a visit to Italy in 1861 and died in Florence.
Clough's religious difficulties were part of his general dislike of the established political and religious establishment of his day. His sensitivity to the limitations imposed by class barriers provides a recurrent theme in his poetry.

There Is No God, the Wicked Sayeth by Arthur Hugh Clough.

"There is no God," the wicked saith,
"And truly it's a blessing,
For what He might have done with us
It's better only guessing."

"There is no God," a youngster thinks,
"or really, if there may be,
He surely did not mean a man
Always to be a baby."

"There is no God, or if there is,"
The tradesman thinks, "'twere funny
If He should take it ill in me
To make a little money."

"Whether there be," the rich man says,
"It matters very little,
For I and mine, thank somebody,
Are not in want of victual."

Some others, also, to themselves,
Who scarce so much as doubt it,
Think there is none, when they are well,
And do not think about it.

But country folks who live beneath
The shadow of the steeple;
The parson and the parson's wife,
And mostly married people;

Youths green and happy in first love,
So thankful for illusion;
And men caught out in what the world
Calls guilt, in first confusion;

And almost everyone when age,
Disease, or sorrows strike him,
Inclines to think there is a God,
Or something very like Him.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Twelve ways to get fired.

After spending weeks - or months - searching for the perfect job, the last thing you want after you get it is to be forced back into the job market. A few wrong steps, however, really can put you back on the street without a paycheck. If you want to guarantee your spot in the unemployment line, try making some of these moves:

1. Don't do what you’re expected to do.
Check to be sure you understand exactly what your job entails, what deadlines you’re expected to meet, and any applicable departmental policies you should know about. This eliminates ambiguity and ensures you'll know how your performance measures up.

2. Keep saying "that's not my job."
It’s important to set limits, but doing no more than the absolute minimum sends a clear message that you're just interested in the paycheck. Sooner or later, your boss will start looking for someone who’s willing to take more initiative.

3. “Borrow” the firm’s tools and supplies.
While you're at it, run some personal errands with the company car and pad your expense report as well. Getting caught stealing from the company is the best ways to guarantee your immediate dismissal.

4. Misuse your computer.
If you think your boss won't notice that you spend more time instant messaging your friends than you do working, think again. Most companies nowadays monitor their employees' e-mails and internet usage - and that includes what you do with your laptop after hours. So never use your company computer for anything that’s illegal or X-rated.

5. Be a constant complainer.
Whether you think you’re paid too little, the work is boring and stupid, or your boss is a total cretin, be careful who you complain about it to. If your comments get back to your boss, she may just put you out of your misery.

6. Look out for yourself, first, last and always.
No one wants to work with an arrogant employee who steals other people’s ideas or an egomaniac who puts everyone else down. Helping your co-workers when they ask for it or need it, is always a smart move. Employees who are well-liked and respected tend to move up the corporate ladder faster. Plus, your coworkers will be more inclined to give you good leads and references during your next job search.

7. Talk about your personal life at work.
It's normal for personal business to pop up every now and then during work hours. But keep in mind that crowded offices today don't provide much privacy. The whole office can hear - and be distracted by your conversations - as you make those appointments to get your body waxed or your car serviced. Keep personal calls and errands to a minimum during work hours.

8. Come in late and leave early.
Want to show your boss how little you care about your job or career progress? Regularly come in late and leave early. If your boss can't trust you to show up on time and stick around, he’s unlikely to trust you with more responsibility.

9. Treat deadlines as guidelines.
When you procrastinate, everyone suffers. Your missed deadlines reflect poorly on you and your boss, and they can delay many other employees, since they can't finish their work until you do yours.

10. Become romantically involved with your boss.
A boss / direct-report romance isn’t encouraged in most businesses and frequently ends up with someone out of a job. (Hint: It's usually not the boss).

11. Drink alcohol or take drugs at work.
One of the quickest ways to get shown the door is come to work under the influence of alcohol or showing some signs of substance abuse. Businesses run well when employees keep things organized, and are clear and efficient in what they do, so maintaining your own clarity is extremely important. Staying on top of the many details that make your business function requires focus - and sobriety.

12. Make a lot of personal calls.
You never know who’s listening, and office walls really do have ears. Keep gossip to yourself, and don’t repeat everything you hear. Winding up on the wrong side of the rumor mill can cost you more than somebody's trust; it can cost you your job as well.

I read somewhere that approximately15,000 people in America are fired every day. Make sure you do all you can so you don’t end up being one of them. As Vince Lombardi used to say, “Those who aren’t fired with enthusiasm will be fired - with enthusiasm.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How do you know when it’s time to move on?

• When you're romantically involved but can't stop thinking about other people, that’s usually a signal the relationship is weakening. The same holds true for your job. If you’re spending your time at work fantasizing about quitting, then you're ready to end the fantasy and just do it.

* If you watch the clock like a student waiting for recess … If you’re concentrating more and more on your hobbies, vacations and outings, it may be a sign that you're looking to replace something that you're not getting at work.

* If you don't have at least one conversation a year with your boss about your career prospects and progress in the company. Or it’s always you who has to initiate this, and then nothing further gets done about it. If conversations with those you report to are only about your shortcomings and areas that need improvement. Or you just got a poor performance review unexpectedly, right out of the blue.

* If you’ve no longer invited to important meetings or canvassed for your opinion (this usually means you're out of the e-mail loop too). If your colleagues know more about what’s going on in your area than you do. If some of your responsibilities have been taken away and given to others. Or your job title's changed so many times that the people you work with don’t know what you do anymore.

* If you’ve been discouraged from joining professional associations or attending conferences.

* If you’ve resigned yourself to keeping your head down and staying out of trouble. Technology changes every day and unless your technical skills are evolving, too, you run the risk of becoming obsolete – and eventually unemployable.

• If you keep applying for other positions, but keep getting passed over for people with less seniority and/or experience. If it seems that everyone is getting promoted but you, then it’s time to do a major job assessment. Ask yourself: “How do I make it to the top of the ladder if I’m stuck on the bottom rung?” If you can’t see a way up, then start looking for a new ladder. It’s time to move to where you’ll be appreciated and rewarded for your knowledge, skills and effort.

* Is your current job a necessary stepping-stone to get to the place you plan to be five years from now? If its not, then ask yourself why are you still there? It doesn't matter how fast you’re going if you're heading in the wrong direction.

* If you’re watching your back all the time. When other employees take credit for your contributions or steal your ideas, this is usually symptomatic of an unhealthy workplace. Most companies have minor rivalries, but if the day-to-day competition seems more fierce than friendly, leave before it gets worse.

* If your boss isn't boss material and watching the sitcom The Office seems like reality TV. Studies show that 80% of employees leave their jobs because of bad bosses. You don't need to adore your supervisor to feel good about your job, but there's a difference between the occasional screw-up and consistent hypocrisy. Bosses who don't walk the walk by meeting the standards they’ve set for others may signal bigger organizational problems with accountability that won’t change even if they’re eventually replaced.

* If you have a good boss but you’re in a bad company. When the company's in financial trouble, your job is too. If your boss starts to talk about how the company's willing to do anything to reduce costs and boost profitability, this often mean layoffs are imminent. If you think your job's on the line, start interviewing immediately. You can't lose. You get a new job, your boss wishes you well, and you go on to a new company (proof that your job really was in jeopardy). Or you resign, your boss offers you a raise and a promotion, and you decide to stay on.

* Money is a very common reason for moving on, especially if you know you're underpaid for your present position, can't make ends meet on what you're making, or have financial goals that require more income.

* Maybe you're burned out. You’ve grown tired of driving the same daily commute and solving the same problems over and over again. Or maybe you have a very stressful position where your decisions can mean life or death and, you’re suffering from job-induced traumatic stress. Whatever the reason, if you find yourself avoiding work and making or taking any excuse not to go to the office, then you need to find a new job.

* In this age of mergers and acquisitions, consolidation often leads to redundancies. Cost cutting opportunities due to overlapping responsibilities or centralization of functions may signal future job reductions in your company and/or your department. In this situation, keep your options open and start looking for safer alternatives. Consolidation also frequently means new leadership and changes in accepted policies and work practices. If the new regime brings conflicting goals or abrasive personalities, it may be time for you to consider a change as well.

* If you get unpleasant physical symptoms on Sunday night because you aren't looking forward to working Monday. The mind and body are one, and if you're not happy in your job, your body will eventually be unhappy as well.

But a chronic case of ‘the Monday disease’ doesn't necessarily mean that you dust off your resume and begin looking for greener pastures. In some cases, the workplace blues can be fixed. The challenge is knowing which ones are correctable - and how to correct them. In this situation, take a hard look at your current situation: Begin by tapping into what you originally liked about your job. Remember why you went to work for this company in the first place. If you still think you like what you see, look into a department transfer. Sometimes, a change of scenery or a new challenge are all you need to fall in love again.

Quick tips for moving on:

* Line up a new job before you quit. Employed people have more bargaining power when it comes to negotiating salary. Candidates looking for their next paycheck are likely to accept lower wages, and hiring managers know this.

* Even if you've got a good reason for moving on, don't jump at the first thing that comes your way. A good job search will uncover more than one opportunity and it’s wise to weigh the pros and cons of each one before you decide. You don't want to jump from the frying pan into the fire. That first offer may eventually end up being the direction you head in, but try to get a few more offers on your plate before making a decision. Caution is a wise choice when you're deciding your future.

* On the other hand, don't let caution and fear of change hold you back. Yes, you could fail in a new position or get a rotten boss, but you also take a risk pining away in your present job. If you’re afraid of losing a new job to corporate maneuverings, remember there’s no job security any more. In an uncertain world, you could lose your current job unexpectedly as well. The only security you have is your self – your skills, experience and willingness to learn and contribute. There will always be risks and uncertainties, but embracing risk sometimes brings the greatest rewards.

Finally, as you consider moving on, remember, "The great thing to learn about life is - first, do not do what you DON'T want to do, and second, do what you DO want to do."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What to do if you get laid off.

In today’s economy, employees lose their jobs for all kinds of business reasons that have nothing to do with their performance, skills or personal ability. So don’t let it eat at your self-esteem. It hurts, but it’s not personal. When you’re young, you really care what people think about you, when you get to middle age, you don’t care anymore what people think about you, and when you’re older like me, you find out people weren’t really thinking about you at all. Here are some actions to consider if and when the ax falls:

• Cut out any unnecessary expenses and prioritize your bills.
Mortgage and utilities should be paid first. If you fall behind on your mortgage, you could face late fees or even the loss of your home. Review your insurance policies for sources of short-term cash. If you have a permanent life insurance policy, you may be able to borrow against it. If money is tight, you may also need to make just the minimum monthly payments on your credit cards. If that's a problem, ask your creditors to reduce your minimum payments or waive interest until you have a job. A credit counselor may also be able to help. Contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at or call 1-800-388-2227 to speak to a counselor in your area.

• Liquidate your stock portfolio before turning to your credit cards or to your 401(k).
Tapping into your retirement account should always be a last resort as there are significant tax penalties when you withdraw money prematurely. Consider rolling your 401(k) money into a personal IRA so you can withdraw some of it now and defer the tax consequences until next year. Ask the financial institution that manages your plan what exit fees, if any, you have to pay. Once you leave your job, you can't borrow against your own 401(k) plan. But if your spouse is still working and has a 401(k), you may be able to borrow from that plan.

• File for unemployment benefits as soon as you can.
Since you're unemployed through no fault of your own, you’ll probably qualify for unemployment benefits if you meet state requirements for wages earned and time worked over a certain period. If your company plans to continue paying your salary, you probably won't qualify for benefits until the paychecks stop. So ask for the same amount in a lump-sum severance package instead so you can start receiving unemployment right away. You can apply for unemployment in California by calling 1-800-300-5616, or you can do it on-line at

• Remember to change your tax withholding.
If your spouse is working, adjust withholding on that paycheck to reduce the amount of tax withheld. With only one wage earner in the family, you'll probably fall into a lower tax bracket with a lower deduction.

• Assess your health-insurance options.
If you can't join your spouse's employer-sponsored health plan, consider extending your previous coverage through COBRA or buying an individual policy. COBRA is a federal law that lets you continue your health care coverage after you leave your job. However, you’re responsible for paying the cost of the coverage, and there’s a maximum continuation period of 18-months. You have 60-days to decide if you want to elect COBRA, and during that time, you can elect retroactively. So if you break your leg on the 59th day, you can elect COBRA and you’ll be covered. If you break your leg on the 61st day, that’s unfortunate because you'll have to pay for it yourself. Generally, people don't elect COBRA in the initial 60-days unless they need it since they hope to find a new job in that time that will provide new insurance coverage.

• Waiting the 60-days may not be appropriate if:
- you have a serious pre-existing medical condition, you may want to elect COBRA right away. A new carrier can exclude you from coverage for a pre-existing condition for six-months to a year if you can't show that you've had continuous coverage.
- you plan to go overseas. It can be difficult to get COBRA activated retroactively if you're trying to make arrangements from another country.

• If your firm offers the use of an outplacement service, take it.
Although it probably won't find you a job, it will help you get organized, refresh your resume and practice your interviewing techniques. You'll also meet other people in the same boat as yourself who can provide you with a strong support network.

The job-hunting bible, What Color is Your Parachute, says there are three primary themes to job-hunters’ success stories:

1. If you want a job, you’re going to have to work really hard to get it.

2. Success will come in direct proportion to your job-hunting efforts.

3. Successful job-hunting requires a willingness to change tactics if what you’re currently doing isn’t working.

So, don’t panic. Gather your wits about you and move forward. And remember that striving and struggling come before success even in the dictionary.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Job-search tips for older workers.

The percentage of workers in the American labor force aged 65 and older climbed to 17.3% in 2008 from 12% a decade ago. And the oldest of the nation's 78-million baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) turned 62 in 2008. However, the vast majority of these Americans don’t have enough saved to get out of the workforce at age 65. Tim Driver, who founded, an online career site for people over 50, said the site has seen traffic triple in the past year. And several federal bills now make it easier for older Americans to either re-enter or remain in the workforce and to provide tax incentives for companies that hire them.

If you’re currently over 50 and unemployed, you’re in effect ‘starting over.’ So, now's a good time to think about what you really want to do at this stage of your life. Would you be happier doing what you do on a part-time basis? Maybe you’ve always wanted to try something different instead? Finding a new job takes longer when you're older, so it's worth making sure you're committed to the path ahead. Here are some ideas to help you go forward:

• Through your networking and research, seek out employers where the leadership team skews older. These companies are less likely to view you as a fossil simply because you qualify for AARP. If a company's executives are in their 30s, you might be out of luck.

• Seek out age-friendly employers such as Borders, H&R Block, Staples, Target, AT&T, and Comcast. Look for job postings that use words like 'maturity', 'good judgment', and 'work experience.' Check out AARP's Best Employers for Workers 50+ at

• Alternatively, don’t think about your age. Focus on "making a connection" with the interviewer. In situations where you're seen as an individual rather than a demographic, you'll have a much better chance of being hired.

• Initially, your job is to persuade the interviewer that you have the enthusiasm and skills, plus the interest and ability to contribute. I have a friend who tells potential employers that her age is an asset – she’s stable, hard-working, responsible and healthy.

• Consider "dumbing down" your resume. It's unfortunate, but age discrimination is still alive and well. Plus you don’t want to be viewed as overqualified. If a company says it wants 10-years of experience, it might not want to pay for 20+ and may screen you out on that basis without even asking about your salary requirements.

• Prepare two resumes you can send out, one with all your experience, and another that’s shorter. It helps to always look like you're less experienced and knowledgeable than the person you're interviewing with.

• Don't put graduation dates on your resume. Present only the most recent 15-years of employment and summarize prior work in a single paragraph without dates or durations.

• Emphasize your capabilities, not your experience. Focus instead on the capabilities you’ve acquired during your worklife.

• Renn Zaphiropoulos, the founder of Versatec and later a Sr. VP with Xerox says, “Don’t tell me how hard you worked, don’t tell me how long you worked, tell me what you accomplished. Tell me what you can do for me. Don’t tell me you’re a self-starter or creative. Show me what you did to demonstrate these characteristics. Let the data speak for you.” And that’s exactly what your executive summary should do.

• Buy a computer and a smart phone or a PDA: That way, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you’re up-to-date and technically savvy.

• Practice answering awkward questions such as, "How long do you plan to work?" and "Do you believe you’re overqualified for this job?"

• Reach out to former employers to find out what non-traditional work arrangements (job-sharing, part-time and seasonal work) might be available to you.

• Contact agencies that specialize in placing people in contract positions. These jobs are typically for a set period of time at a set rate of pay where you’re self-employed as an independent contractor. Typically, no benefits are provided.

• Use Social Networking Web sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo to further your job search.

And finally, be patient. When you're over 55, finding a new management or executive job generally takes twice as long as it does for younger people. Perseverance is the key to success - and this is increasingly true the older you get. “Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” – Ovid

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ostpolitik, a poem by Eugene O’Connell.

Eugene O’Connell was born in West Cork. He’s a primary school teacher by profession and had published four books of poetry. He’s the editor of The Cork Literary Review and this poem is from his latest book, Diviner, published by Three Spires Press.

Irish folklore has many stories about strong, independent women, most of them with sad endings, and this is no exception. Deirdre of the Sorrows is perhaps the foremost tragic heroine in Irish mythology. She was so beautiful, all the kings wanted her. She met, fell in love with, and eloped with Naoise, a handsome young warrior, hunter and singer. Accompanied by his two brothers, they fled to Scotland, but wherever they went the local king would try to kill Naoise and his brothers so he could have Deirdre. Eventually they all went to live on a remote island. However, the king of Ulster tracked them down and offered them safe conduct home. When they returned, he had her brothers killed and insisted that Deidre marry him. But although he possessed her body, she gave him nothing else. He realized that she’d never love him so he gave her away to one of his warriors. Deirdre subsequently committed suicide by hanging out of her chariot and dashing her head against the rocks.

Ostpolitik by Eugene O’Connell (after a 9th Century Irish story).

Deidre put her eye on Naoise
A young fellow of her own age
Who let on to be immune to her charms.
‘Heifers pine where there’s no bull,’ she said.
‘You have the mother of all bulls at home,’ he said,
Meaning Laoghaire, the elder, she was promised to.
‘I’d go for a strapping lad if I had choice,’
She said, eying the full length of him.
‘No can do,’ said Naoise, quoting something
From Cathbad the shaman of his own tribe.
Miffed at the lame excuse, she caught him
By the ears and lifted him off the ground.
‘Unless you want to be an earless mute,
The talk of the western world, you’ll marry me.’
‘Right so,’ he said, once the color drained
Back into the ashen lobes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Conducting an e-job search.

Over half of all U.S. workers now say they’re either looking for a new job or intend to do so in the next year. Most will also undoubtedly make the Internet a central component of their search. Here are some suggestions to make the time spent online more effective.

• Get prepared.
Who are you and what do you want? It’s estimated that 95% of the world’s population goes through life without ever answering this question. If you don't set targets for yourself, you’re going to end up chasing someone else’s goals. Before searching job websites, consider what you’re looking for, where you’re likely to find it, and how you’re going to get it. When you start, have a clear goal in mind, have your resume ready, and be willing to tailor it and your cover letter for each prospective employer.

• Customize your resume.
Make sure you include key words and phrases mentioned in job postings in your resume as this will increase your chances of finding a match in the employer’s applicant database. Using industry-specific terminology and tweaking your skills to include those repeatedly mentioned in the job ad can potentially double your chances of success. Use all lower case letters because capitalization makes them case sensitive. If you capitalize a key word, the computer will identify only those jobs where that word is capitalized. If you use all lower case letters, the computer will identify every job that contains the word, whether it’s capitalized or not.

• Read the fine print.
When responding to an online job ad, be sure to include everything they’ve asked for in your application. Remember, an e-mail with a virus is usually quarantined and deleted. Plus, it leaves a very bad impression of the intelligence, computer-skills, and Internet-savvy of the sender. Buy and use anti-virus software, and keep it up to date!

• Get names of key people.
Many employers post job openings on their web sites, but emailed resumes are probably directed to the human resources department. This is usually the last place you want your resume to go unless you’re interested in a position in that department. By exploring a company’s web site, however, you can sometimes find a name and phone number or e-mail address for the executive who’ll ultimately make the hiring decision. That’s the person you want to contact. The web sites of national trade associations may also contain contact information for local executives. There’s often lots of information about company management and recent developments on personal blogs, so it's worth typing the company name into a niche search engine such as Google Blog Search to see what you’ll find.

• Keep it short and sweet.

Reading online is 25% slower than reading from paper, so make things easy for prospective employers by keeping it brief and to the point. Keep your cover letter to three short paragraphs, and provide key information only: an introduction, a summary of your relevant skills and background, and a closing statement.

• Protect your privacy.
Post your resume on job search websites so potential employers can find you. However, if you’re currently employed, protect your identity by limiting access to your contact information (name, address, and phone number). Consider setting up a free email address (like Yahoo or Hotmail) just for your online job search. Don’t use a cute, or weird e-mail address (I’ This will just be deleted or ignored by recruiters or employers.

• Focus your search.

Many niche job boards now cater to specific professions; in the healthcare field, for example, search on and Posting your resume on too many job sites or sending it to hundreds of recruiters and employers doesn’t work. Most recipients have a spam filter screening e-mails from people they don’t know. So, always follow-up your e-mail with a phone call to be sure it was actually received.

• Use social networks to get connected.
If you already have a Facebook account, tell your network of online friends that you’re looking for a job. Most of them won’t be able to hire you, but they may know of opportunities or spread the word to their contacts. Consider summarizing your career achievements on LinkedIn and Plaxo, and using these sites to build, expand and mine your network of business contacts. You can also broadcast your availability and search progress on Twitter. When a prospective employer types your name into a search engine like Google or Yahoo, having a positive online presence can be very helpful. Also, try and see how you're connected to an employer of interest - this is easy to do using the company search feature in LinkedIn. You might have a friend who knows the hiring manager or can get first-hand information about the company.

• Be organized.
Don't submit your online job applications and then forget about them - print them out and save them for reference later. Print details of the jobs you apply for too. That way, if you ever need to review selection criteria before an interview, you can look it up. Passive job seekers get left behind in the current economic climate.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What to look for when changing jobs.

I read recently that only about 6% of employees truly love the work they do! If that’s true, then 94% are in various stages of disinterest, disillusion or despair during most of their waking hours. If you’re changing jobs, why not try to join the 6%.

Look for a company that matches your interests and utilizes the best aspects of your personality and skill set. Put yourself in an environment where you’ll be happy and engaged. Don’t apply to an employer whose integrity, character and culture are very different from your own or you’ll likely be unhappy there.

A successful job search starts with a candid self-assessment. Start by answering the following questions:

* What are your personal goals and how do they relate to the position you’re seeking?

* What work-related skills does the position require? How can you demonstrate these skills to a potential employer? What kind of previous job-related experience do you have?

* Does the position require leadership skills? How can you demonstrate these skills to an interviewer?

* Does the position require team-based collaboration, individual initiative, or a combination of these skills? Will this be a good fit for you?

* Is the business in a location where you’d like to work? How expensive and how long will your commute be? Does the company have a carpool serving your area?

* Can you work some of the time from home? Do employees work flexible schedules? (When a company tells you they offer flexible schedules, ask to talk to people who’ve taken advantage of them to be sure that it's not just a marketing ploy).

* How relaxed or formal is the culture? Is there a dress code? Can you bring your pets to work?

* Will you be required to travel for your work? If so, how far, how often and for how long? Is this something you want to do?

* Pay and a good benefits package are important, but they’re not everything. The best employers offer opportunities for career advancement as well. So, find out what kinds of training and professional development programs the company offers. Ask about the performance review process. How often are you reviewed and by whom? Always ask, “What happened to the person who had this job before me?”

* You don’t want to hitch your wagon to a falling star so evaluate the financial health of any company you’re considering joining. Look for an employer that’s likely to keep growing in the future, especially in the near future. Economic projections for the next few years suggest the present economic downturn is likely to continue through 2010. Therefore ask about the company’s track record of stability and growth during previous downturns.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How to quit your job.

When the time comes to leave your job, start by reviewing a copy of your company’s policy regarding giving notice. Then think about what you can do to minimize the dislocation for your employer and for your own career.

• Just walking away can be a big mistake.
In case you’ll need a reference later, it’s best to part on good terms. What people don’t say about you in a reference can be as telling as what they do say. People are always moving around within their industries so you never know when you’re likely to have to deal with them again. Make sure to keep your good relationships intact and don’t give previous employers any reason to badmouth you.

• Give notice first.
Most employers require you to give a certain amount of notice before you leave. They may not want you to stay once you make your intentions clear, but you’ve done the right thing and given them the choice. Stay or not, you should be paid for the contractual period of your notice.

• What does your new employer want?
Your new employer may want you to start right away but you may not be able to leave that soon. Most employers should be willing to accommodate your desire to give an appropriate amount of notice. Two weeks is usually the minimum, but four weeks or more may be more realistic in some professional situations. If you’re leaving to join a competitor, your employer may decide to end your employment effective immediately. Make sure you’re financially prepared for this.

• Write a formal resignation letter.
Your letter should be in a business format, and should include the following items:
- your intent to leave.
- the date you intend to leave.
- the date you’re submitting the letter.
- your signature.
That’s it. You don’t need to explain why you’re leaving. All that needs to go in your personnel file are the bare facts. Give your resignation letter to your direct supervisor. Keep it positive and remember that the intent is to maintain a positive relationship with the employer.

• Tell your boss.
This is always an uncomfortable situation. You may want to write down what you want to say to your boss and bring these notes to the meeting. Lay out your reasons for leaving. Don’t lie, but be sparing with the details - don’t let emotion lead you into revealing too much. Resigning should never be a negotiating tactic to get a pay raise. If you have to resort to this to get what you deserve, your current employer probably isn’t a good long-term fit for you anyway.

• Don’t be a pain before you leave.
Badmouthing the company and constantly reminding others how lucky you are to be leaving gets old real quick for those who have no plans to leave. When coworkers ask why you’re leaving, focus on the attraction of new opportunities.

• Try to finish up any outstanding work.
If others are depending on you to complete your work so they can meet a deadline, let them know what you’re planning to do before you go. Make a list of incomplete tasks so it’s easier for someone else to take over your role. Don't take anything with you, especially customer lists or product drawings. If you do, you’re likely to be sued for stealing "trade secrets."

• Exit interview.
If you agree to do an exit interview, avoid criticizing your employer or repeating suggestions you’ve offered in the past. You’re no longer responsible for anything other than wrapping up your current work. Criticisms may be misinterpreted after you leave, and you may end up accidentally burning bridges after all.

• Work hard until the very end.
It’s tempting to mentally check out of your job before you actually physically leave. Resist that urge and understand that your last impression is how you’ll be remembered. That way, you’ll end up leaving a job but you won’t end up stepping on toes, offending people, or cutting off past relationships.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hiring resources.

Books I'd suggest that provide more helpful detail on the recruiting and hiring process include:

You're Not The Person I Hired!: A CEO's Survival Guide To Hiring Top Talent
by Janet Boydell, Barry Deutsch, and Brad Remillard

Hire With Your Head : Using POWER Hiring to build great companies
by Lou Adler, Published by John Wiley & Sons

Hiring and Keeping the Best People
by Harvard Business School Press

High-Impact Interview Questions: 701 Behavior-Based Questions to Find the Right Person for Every Job
by Victoria A. Hoevemeyer, published by AMACOM

All of these are available on Amazon.

You can also follow Barry Deutsch on Twitter where he posts many useful references.

You can follow me on Twitter too - however, I'm not as focused as Barry :-)

Finally, in Professor Nitin Nohria’s book, What Really Works, published in 2003, his team found over 200 characteristics in their research and boiled them down to twenty. He reported that there were six to eight characteristics that really mattered in distinguishing winners from losers.

His team's research indicated that there are four critical elements that winners must have:
* Having a well-defined, clearly communicated strategy
* Consistently meeting customers’ expectations via superior operational execution
* Creating a high-performance, high-values culture
* Enabling a structure that simplifies working in and with the organization

There are four more, any two of which winners need to posses:
* Hiring superior talent at all levels
* Having a great leader
* Driving innovation in your industry
* Developing a strong mergers & partnerships capability

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Singing Bichon, a poem by Patrick Cotter.

The Irish poet Patrick Cotter was born in 1963 and educated at University College, Cork. After leaving college in the mid 80s, Cotter worked as Literature Officer at the Triskel Arts Centre before embarking on a career as a bookseller which ended in 2002. He continues to live and work in Cork as director of the Munster Literature Center. His poems have been translated into Estonian, Italian, Norse, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish and he's given readings of his work in Ireland, California, Germany, Estonia, Norway, Italy and India. He's been shortlisted for both the Hennessy Award and the Patrick Kavanagh Award. Today's selection is from his first full-length collection of poems, Perplexed Skin, which was published by Arlen House in 2008.

The Singing Bichon by Patrick Cotter

My dog sings arias but only to me.
Mahler's Kindertotenlieder he knows
imperfectly. The In Paradisum
of Faure's requiem he renders
with a strong nasal strain.
He can't quite reach all the notes
of Purcells's The Plaint,
but hey, he's just a dog.

He began to sing
when I began to ignore him.
Neither of us can stand each other's company.
When he shakes his Bichon curls,
doggy whiffs tinged with bitter fermentations
assault the upper reaches of my nostrils.
His piss perfumes the corner of my living room
with a pungency made worse by the addition
(without obliteration) of the mop-bucket's
ammonia-based floor fluid.
I can't stand him because he smells.
He can't stand me because I'm impervious
to his plaintive, glistening eyes.

Regularly we each need to elude
the secret inner lives of our separate solitudes.
I, by listening to my music,
he by stepping outdoors to sniff
the arses of other dogs
or to beg attention of passing children.
After I ignored his whines to be let outside
he learnt to sing. That first night
I could not avoid paying attention
to his original interpretation
of Raphael Courteville's Creep, creep, softly creep
I released him. He arse-sniffed.

The following night I ignored his Courteville
and he sang something by Durefle.
I once tried to arrange a soiree
where I planned to accompany him on cello,
my living-room is too bijoux for the pianoforte,
but with the house full of guests
he had no solitude to escape
and no need to sing.
He doesn't know I know
he sings Rufus Wainwright
when he thinks I'm not around.
Smelly bastard.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

When to terminate or demand a resignation.

It’s been 30-days since the conversation I described yesterday. However, there’s been no improvement in the employee’s performance or behavior. What to do?

It's time to have a second meeting, similar to the first, but this time spelling out the consequences for the employee and the company if the pattern continues. Consequences should include a written warning that continued non-performance or unsatisfactory behavior will be grounds for demotion or termination if not corrected in the next 30-days. Again, keep this meeting positive and to the point. Offer to assist in any way you can. After all, your job is to help the employee be successful, not to punish them or make them fail. And you should have some ownership of the issue since you hired this person in the first place. Good employees will appreciate the feedback because they really want to do a good job. Weak employees will give excuses time after time about what got in the way. So you have to be clear and get agreement that next time the desired results will be achieved, no matter what - or else.

If there’s no further change in the next 30-days, it’s time to act decisively. But first, I suggest reviewing the following checklist:

• Was a specific rule or policy violated and does the violation warrant termination?
• Was the employer’s rule or policy reasonable?
• Can you produce a copy of the rule or policy?
• Have other employees been held accountable for the same rule or policy? Has it been consistently applied in the past?
• Can you prove the employee knowingly violated the rule or policy?
• Has the employee complained of harassment or unfair treatment?
• Has the employee recently filed a workman’s compensation claim?
• Is the employee about to vest in certain benefits?
• Has the employee recently complained about a company wrongdoing or safety issue?
• Are there any current grievances or complaints pending?
• Were any promises made verbally or in writing to this employee by senior management?
• Is there any evidence of discrimination based on age, sex, race, religion, national origin, disability or any other legally protected characteristic?

Discharge interviews should be prompt, private, without blame, and should include a witness to confirm what took place. Don't say too much. Above all, avoid inflammatory language or anything you can't document. Certain terms sound inherently defamatory, such as "thief," "stealing," or "drug abuse." Use non-inflammatory descriptive terms that can be documented, such as "failure to properly account for items entrusted to his care", or "violated drug-free workplace policy by testing positive for [whatever]." Most states don't require an employer to give an explanation of the reason or reasons for discharge, and an employee isn't required to give an explanation for a resignation. If given, make the explanation brief and to the point. It's good practice to let one specific person in the company carry out all terminations so you minimize the risk that individual hard feelings might inadvertently result in statements that end up sounding defamatory in court.

In many cases, especially with professional employees, a negotiated resignation is better than a termination. In these cases, make sure you get a signed agreement that includes:

• a release of liability
• employee can’t reapply
• confidentiality of business information
• assignation of patents
• signed non-compete
• agreement not to steal staff

Termination or resignation is always a last resort remedy. You take it because the employee gives up on you, not because you gave up on them.

It’s my experience that employers tend to wait too long to deal with sub-standard performance issues, hoping they’ll somehow fix themselves or the problems will go away. This very seldom happens. If the desired behavior doesn’t change and you don’t give feedback, feedback was received anyway. Most people know when they’re not meeting expectations. When nothing is said, it’s interpreted as 'it isn’t a big deal.' By failing to address repeated failures, you set a bad example for others and discourage your best employees who are wondering why you don’t take appropriate action.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On-boarding new employees.

OK, you’ve hired the candidates and they’ve reported for work. What next? Very often, companies act like they’re no longer really interested in them. They’re shown where their desks are, where the toilets are, and given a copy of the employee handbook together with an explanation of the company’s benefits. Then they’re left to fend for themselves. Leaving new employees to their own devices at this stage risks inefficiency and eventually turnover.

I’ve found many successful companies instead provide each new employee with a coach or mentor on day one, someone who’s senior to them in the company to go to for answers, information and assistance. They meet with this mentor once a week for the first six-weeks to see how they’re doing and to find out how they view the company’s operations. They have a formal performance review after 90-days and again after 180-days to be sure their contributions are on track and to share feedback about goals and resources. By then, they should be well integrated into the new business.

However, sometimes new employees don’t appear to be working out. When this happens, you (their manager or supervisor) should meet with them and provide assertive criticism as follows:

• Name the issue. Be specific and direct – don’t beat around the bush. Identify the issue specifically and succinctly. This opening statement should take no more than sixty-seconds.

• Select a specific example that illustrates the behavior or situation you want to change. Use the brief, CNN version – drop most of the rest of the story around the example.

• Describe your emotions around this issue. Describe the emotions rather than being the emotions or expressing these emotions in this conversation. Deliver the message without the load.

• Clarify why this is important – what’s at stake to gain or lose for you, for others, for the unit, or for the company.

• Identify your contribution(s), if any, to this issue.

• Indicate your wish to resolve the issue.

• Invite the other party to respond.

Then be quiet! Insight occurs in the space between words. Let silence do the heavy lifting.

• Inquire into the other party’s views. Use paraphrasing and perception checking. Dig for full understanding; don’t be satisfied with just scratching the surface. Make sure the other party knows that you fully understand and acknowledge his/her position and interests.

• What was learned? Where are we now? What’s needed for resolution? What was left unsaid that needs saying? Are we ready to move on? What’s our new understanding? How will we move forward from here, given this new understanding?

• Make a new agreement and create a way to hold each other accountable for it. Clear agreements without effective follow up just won't work.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss what to do if the issue continues to be unresolved.