Posts Tagged ‘business’

Image courtesy of www.paper-source.com

Image courtesy of http://www.paper-source.com

I picked up these calling cards from the Paper Source on Chicago Avenue last week.

I’m too cheap (now) to create my own business cards – but it beats writing my contact info on scrap notes and post its. If you are a stationary junke (or craft nut) this store will be your orgasmic Utopia.

Also, they have really cool crafting workshops and uber-wonderful discount sales.

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Photo Credit: Lutz-R. Frank @Flickr

Photo Credit: Lutz-R. Frank @Flickr

Creating complexity, meaning and autonomy in your professional life is not done through the 1-2-3 step process. For the best results, steps 1 and 2 may occur simultaneously while step 3 may not be readily achieved until you finish a part of step 4.

Generally, if you are interested in gaining meaningful employment, you will have to do more than utilize brains and talent. Additionally, you will have to create work for yourself that is beyond your usual 9 to 5 job.

Develop a Curriculum

This means that even though you are no longer in a classroom (or…maybe you are), you are not exempt from teaching yourself new skills or honing present ones. There are several ways to touch upon your desired area of expertise.

One way to get an idea on what an industry is studying (or learning) is check out trade magazines and professional associations. Decide what area you want to concentrate on (Research? Sales? Development?).

This doesn’t necessarily mean going back to school formally – but you do need to develop self-discipline (especially if you find yourself in a career rut). Libraries and public lectures are other great ways to connect with (free) learning.

Upside: You get to pick and choose what subjects interest you and focus on learning them

Downside: Reading, listening, learning – rinse, repeat.

The proof is in the pudding

Do work that naturally attracts your interests. This can range from performing projects outside your scope of responsibility at your present job to extensive volunteer work.  Career multiplicity is about juggling the interests with the ideas – don’t be too caught up in specific roles (for example, only wanting to concentrate on marketing or only performing “management” type work).

Set projects up for yourself that reflect what you want to learn and do.  As a result, you’ll have a distinguishable set of work that is tangible to prospective employers and shows evidence of your (extremely marketable) skills.

To begin, develop a Project/Skill Wish List. Essentially, divide your skills and talents into two categories – things you want to create and things you want to learn.

For example, you may want to create a community garden in your neighborhood (project) and want to learn about grant writing and research (skill). Keep writing out ideas (don’t worry about how ridiculous or prosaic they seem). Sort out the ones that seem relevant to your immediate interests -start working on those first.

Upside: You’ll get in the thick of things by creating goals

Downside: Deciding between workable skills and doable projects

Find a Sponsor

You don’t have to create a start-up if you don’t want to (or, aren’t ready). On a smaller scale, if you have an idea that you want to test out – but need financial backing, research opportunities through entrepreneurial incubators.

Also, sponsorship doesn’t necessarily need to be in the form of money – it can be in the form of providing space (a venue/facility), time (mentoring/networking connections) or materials (donating goods/services that will help promote or develop your idea).

Upside: Connecting your work with others  (sometimes on your terms)

Downside: Running into naysayers (who won’t connect with your work no matter what)

Critique Thought Leaders

Emerging fields, old stand-bys and everything in between all have thought leaders. You won’t get far (in your own intellectual thinking) if you nod your head in agreement with every last one of them. Challenge yourself by instigating an alternative viewpoint.

The easiest way to express those ideas? Blog it. And, while you are at it – create a community that can rally around your ideas.

Upside: Becoming a thought leader

Downside: Pissing off a thought leader

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Photo Credit: Aaron Edwards @Flickr

Photo Credit: Aaron Edwards @Flickr


Common opinion: the current job market sucks and employers have all the power.

Truth: employers are just as screwed as you are…kind of.

The world at large would like to wag their fingers and say employers are the almighty powerful ones because they are the ones with the jobs.

Nonetheless, how powerful can they really be when forced to slash jobs and lose labor, thus diluting their market share? The ambiguous, elusive big-badness of a down economy affects employers as well.

True business productivity is invested in how much is created – not how much is deleted.

Companies in a down turn need to seek new alternatives to connect with the unemployed besides creating boring Monster ads. There is a disconnect – a gap – between keeping the job seekers relevant to the market and the employers maintaining  business productivity. 

Just because the job is “gone” doesn’t always mean the work still doesn’t need to get done.

There are ways for the job seeker to keep their skills and ideas fresh while they look for permanent work. As a business, how are you taking advantage of that?

Shut up

Job descriptions say too much.

Or, they don’t say enough.

For the sake of argument, I’m going to opine that employers veer into the former much more often than the latter. Oh no! Employers wring  their hands and yammer with gusto “How else do I attact the right candidate?”

In reality, you probably are not attracting the right anything because your HR manager’s in-bin is flooded with qualified, unqualifed and crazy job candidates.

People are applying in droves to everything, everywhere. So, what exactly is the purpose of  master tailoring  your job descriptions to speak to certain candidates?

None. Zip. Nada. Goose eggs. 

It would be best to revamp how you want to recruit for the downturn instead of worrying so much about keywords and scanable resumes. 

Also, keep your promotion as a teaser. It’s fair to say that you’ll eventually interview someone for a job with your company. Tell me just enough. And, if you’re lucky (or, if I’m lucky) when you interview me, you can talk (ad nauseum) about how great your company is.

And, while you may be sure that a certain job would be great for the right candidate – don’t inundate (or alienate) me with overstuffed descriptions, pretentiousness or fresh vocab from Bill O’Reilly’s Spin Thesaurus.


Perhaps this is a quirk that only HR folks like to use. Numbering a list of responsibilites in a job description makes it look boring and rigidly unimaginative. Why? See below:

  1. Wake up
  2. Brush teeth
  3. Shower
  4. Eat
  5. Blog
  6. Nap
  7. Job search
  8. Nap
  9. Eat
  10. Bed

Wow. All this to be done in one day? I can’t wait. In reality – it’s a lot more fun than it looks.

Don’t embarrass yourself

I recently saw a job description that called for the following (emphasis mine):

The candidate needs to work it and own the front desk.

They also have to be comfortable with hearing the other brokers yell (not necessarily at them).

Also, when the big guys in the office have clients (football players, star athletes, entertainers) the receptionist will need to step up.

Does this company want a receptionist or an In Living Color fly girl running the front desk? Scarily, I think they want the Fly Girl. 

I wonder how seriously such a company takes the jobs of its employees. In this case, they are trivializing the job in question when mandating that the receptionist “own” his/her desk. Trust me on this: owning a desk is not the company’s way of “hipster-izing” job duties or professional accountability.

Just because I’m a twenty something (soon to be thirty something), please don’t talk to me like an idiot.

Better yet, don’t talk like that. Period.


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Photo Credit: Brymo @Flickr

Photo Credit: Brymo @Flickr

Narrowing your scope – keeping your eyes on the (stupid) prize

Instead of broadening your vision for the future, you’re worrying (a bit too much) about finding your next job. Obviously, if you have bills to pay and mouths to feed – your sense of urgency is more immediate.

Yet, even with (or without) those things, the unemployed rigidly stick to making it next to the hurdle. Remember: it’s only during the breaks and stop gaps that we get to recoup, reinvent and restabilize where our career and life are heading.

In the end, a job is what you want – but that narrow focus can cause you to miss other opportunities that may not present themselves again. The problem is not finding a job – it is keeping yourself sane (and satisfied) while you look for one.

The trick: Remembering what you like to do when you actually had this much time on your hands

Expecting more of the same (over and over again)

In other words, your Plan A is also your Plan B, and C and so on. As a seasoned job hopper, I’ve always been able to bounce back. I’m not going to blame the economy or my (lack of) willpower (OK, maybe just a little).  Instead, the disease of my indifference to job hopping  can be a suitable scapegoat for this scenario.

Job hopping is not always hopping up – sometimes you need to slip a rung or two if you want to add to your skill arsenal. If you jump from one professional venture to the other without much forethought, you may doom yourself to unrealistic expectations of the job market (and your place in it).

This is tricky territory because job hopping has a mixed bag of positives and negatives. In this case, if you have been job hopping within an industry in a downturn –  reasonably tweak your expectations. If you are looking for a career change, be prepared to make broad exceptions.

Question to answer: Is it time for career change, industry change or a change altogether?

Embracing Agoraphobia – in a big way

Some of the (un)expected side effects of joblessness is the amount of freedom and time that is suddenly thrust upon you. Nonetheless, you haven’t left the house in days. Maybe, like most job seekers, you are patrolling Internet job sites, mass emailing potential employers, contacts and God-knows-who else.

You’re glued to your computer looking for opportunities that might not be there. Yet, a lot of this activity is solitary in nature and only compounds the reality that you are not in an office or surrounded by other people. 

Life becomes radically different when the usual 8 hours is not dictated by someone else. It feels liberating… at first. Yet, for some, the sheer velocity of trying to maintain and create a centered routine can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to give yourself the task of being active outside your home as well as within it.

If you go somewhere as prosaic as a coffee shop and read The Onion – that’s fine. Immerse yourself in an environment where there will be people, voices, noise and activity.

If you are introverted (like me) you’ll only leave as soon as you get there to relieve yourself of the stress of being in a crowded environment. Don’t. Do yourself a favor and surround yourself with the world outside your home.

Don’t sequester yourself from it.

Today’s Task: Leave the house. Immediately.

You aren’t working for free

Unemployment doesn’t mean unproductive. When given 8 hours to do whatever we see fit – the monkeys start to escape from the cages.  Volunteering while you are out of work can be your saving grace. You already know that the best job development comes at the highest price: your time.

So, don’t waste hours in front of a Monster job board when you could be learning something you always wanted.

Or, if you find the right opportunity, you’re developing the “defining moments” of your career. Usually, this means giving yourself the incentive to move on to something else while working on something new.

Semantics vs. Perspective: Think of it as a job sabbatical

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Photo Credit: Stewf @Flickr

Inspiration is viral – I’ve been bugged.

Nisha Chittal and Aman Sanghara wrote posts regarding the validity and usefulness of Liberal Arts degrees. 

They’re sparking an already long standing debate on whether or not lib arts majors/degrees serve any professional (or social) value beyond having wonderful cocktail conversation at parties.

Essentially, I’m biased. But, I’m going to tell you that there are drawbacks that come with being a math and science brainiac.

My boyfriend was an electrical engineering and physics major in college. He designs light bulbs. He’s quite good at it. And, he constantly nags me about turning off the lights. He hates light.

Don’t ask.

Currently, he’s pursuing his masters degree in product development. What’s that? I can’t really tell you. Yet, from what I can tell, you learn the ins and outs of how to design, market and sell anything.

So far, half of  the curriculum has included classes on communication.

One in particular is the art of negotiation.

Dealing with the abstract frustrates those who manage the concrete – the absolute known. It annoys them in a myriad of ways. They also make no bones about letting you know how useless they think it is.

And, the reason it’s useless?

I can’t argue with your emotions. I can’t measure that,” says my boyfriend. Oh, lord – did you catch that word – measure?

Since there is no immediate and obvious value in the argument, it’s dismissed. Everything’s an argument – there aren’t discussions.  Compromise? Does not compute. And, if you catch them in place where they don’t think the argument can be won – you hear this: “We’ll agree to disagree.”

Technically minded folks are just as apt (if not more likely) to shut down during a negotiation. Concrete thinkers don’t work in abstract because the whole world is in black and white. Well, at least their world. It makes them uncomfortable to venture beyond that.

Unfortunately, that can make them very poor negotiators. When you are constantly seeking a yes or no, wanting either/or and not allowing a but, you lose out on a whole lot more than you bargained for.

Obviously, of course, not all negotiations are abstract. Some are concrete and allow little room for compromise. But, in those cases, technically minded negotiators take everything at face value. They fail at trying to probe for the deeper meaning.

After all, there are no hidden meanings in a math equation. This plus that equals outcome.

Negotiations, however, are more complex than that. But, we already know that, don’t we my fellow liberal arts majors? We have to round out theories with facts, but we aren’t tethered to the terms of right or wrong. Actually, it’s quite liberating when you aren’t limited by finite and measurable data. You’ve got a lot more possibilities.

That’s why they call studies like political science, history, economics, etc.  the social sciences. It involves understanding how people fit into the world, not the other way around. It’s centers on finding the balance (and appreciating it) between the concrete and the abstract.

I’m not saying that the sciences have no value – of course not! I’m only annoyed that science majors want to place competing (or better) value on their education based on something like salary or that they work in “numbers” (or, oddly enough, an intangible idea of validity in the professional world).

It’s lame, quite frankly.

The art of being professionally engaging is negotiating your own talents and interests with relevance to the world and the people in it. I’m hoping my boyfriend is at least learning that in his communication classes.

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Photo Credit: FotoSpawn @ Flickr

1. Never leave the office

The door may even remain shut most of the day. They do this because they hate their job. To avoid confronting this harsh reality on a daily basis, they sit in their office seething. Isolated. Secluded.

And, maybe eating.

2. Never stay in the office

You can never find these people. In fairness, ineffective managers may be forced to travel a lot. Beyond that, they make themselves as unavailable as possible no matter where they are (or aren’t).

3. Communicate at a bare minimum, so they assume people can read (their) minds

Paying attention to office politics is an unheard of skill to the mismanaging boss. They claim they’re so engrossed in their own job – they can’t be bothered with following up with others. They assume somebody would know they’re too busy to come to this meeting or be present for that conference call.

4. Make 3rd party comments in reference to their own employees

If your manager is working well at being ineffective, employees are complaining about each other full blast. So, what does your manager do? They mention comments various co-workers brought to them about other employees and relay such thoughts to you in the form of a performance evaluation.

Don’t be (too) offended. They’re incapable of critiquing your job performance (from their own perspective) in the first place.

5. Have no problem alienating people

This is done through nepotism or cronyism. Either way, their cliquishness drives down employee morale. People perform the bare minimum because they become so frustrated.

By this time, the ineffective manager has lost respect from fellow employees and wonders why the department isn’t pulling the same results from say… 3 years ago (before they became boss)?

6. Coddle rude, difficult or all-around crazy employees

Breeding an environment for bullies, hostile meanies or unstable co-workers is bad news. Folks like that end up setting the tone for the department (instead of your weakling boss). Managers who “ignore” this bad behavior are doomed to suffer high turnover, an unstable work environment and dissatisfied workers.

7. Hold double standards

If the manager makes a mistake, it’s OK – “We’re in the learning phases.” If you make a mistake, you get written up. This doesn’t always apply to the boss. This is also played out amongst their cronies. Thus, managers will have no qualms sweeping certain mistakes under the rug while blasting others who suffer under their ineffective and incompetent management skills.

In the not so long run, these tactics actually cost your company money.

8. No one knows what the boss does and for that matter – no one knows what anybody else does either

Despite job descriptions, an effectively run department includes knowing what people do. This helps any business run smoothly. Coworkers prefacing questions with, “I don’t know if these are your job duties, but…” is a problem. 

And, if people don’t know how their boss spends his/her workday – that’s confusion fueled by crappy management.

9. Train you and get upset when you don’t do your job correctly

Actually, no one is training you if you have an ineffective manager. What happens is that other co-workers (who don’t know what you do anyway) train you on how to operate the copier and show you where the lunchroom is located. You spend a majority of your time wondering why you were hired in first place. Then, you can’t figure out how to make the most of your 7.5 hour work day.


Or wait for #10.

10. Fire people who are under utilized only to replace them with people who will be under utilized even more

Crap managers don’t know how to make the most out of their current employees. They’ll claim they’re firing those poor (under utilized) souls for bad performance. But in reality, they believe they’ll just hire their way to star performers who mind read into effective contributions and meaningful job performances.

Such tactics keep a company out of a steady business rhythm and impede productivity. Ineffective managers, nonetheless, don’t know that.

They’re kind of dumb.

11. Blame the economy

Bad economies and recessions are wonderful performance boosters for awful management. When things are in the toilet, such distractions provide a great scapegoat for otherwise poor performance and less than stellar results. 

It’s to their advantage to use slow business and an uncertain job climate as a dangling measure to keep jittery employees nervous and even more desperate to hang onto their jobs.

I’d love it if you could add to my list – I’m sure this isn’t everything a bad manager can do. What else is there?

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