Archive for the ‘Jobs’ Category

Service of Running Late Before and After Mobile Phones

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

Photo: cbn.com

It seems increasingly hard to get to places on time.

A friend takes New Jersey Transit to work in Manhattan. Service has been atrocious and promises to get worse. One morning last week it took cars 90 minutes to cross the George Washington Bridge from N.J to Manhattan. Subway service can be iffy–trains zoom past stops unannounced or are delayed.

George Washington Bridge Photo: en.wikipedia.org

I got an email from another friend this week—I’ll call him Phil. He wrote: “We are interviewing computer color tech people to fill the job of someone who just left. So far, all candidates have been late, one by 45 minutes. Not one called to warn about their travel circumstances nor did they apologize.” Phil remembered that he’d previously fired someone when the man arrived late on his first day.

Long before mobile phones I was almost late my first day on a job at a startup because I’d been sent an address that didn’t exist. The street number would have landed a building in the middle of Madison Avenue. I can still feel that twinge of “Uh-Oh–something’s very wrong!” I found the right building by entering each one on either side of Madison. Lucky the employer got the street right. [The business lasted one year.]

Phil recalled the one time he was [very] late for an interview. He’d left earlier than usual for his commute to NYC and “wouldn’t you know Grand Central Terminal was closed because of a smoky fire. No cell phones. Trains backed up. The prospective employer understood of course.”

His story took a curious turn. He said: “I didn’t take the job. Something didn’t seem right. Two weeks later the entire group was fired. I would have been out of a job.” Kismet.

I hate being late and admit that having a phone takes the pressure off when transportation or other glitches happen so I can alert clients, colleagues and friends. Do most people use theirs for this purpose? Do you have memorable experiences of being late to an appointment before or after cell phones? Can you imagine sailing in late to an interview without a word about the time as the candidates for a job in Phil’s office did?

Photo: rebelcircus.com

Service of While We Were Distracted by Stormy, Omarosa, a $15K Jacket & Michael Cohen…

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Photo: nationofchange.org

Cable and social media are obsessed with Stormy, Omarosa, the $15K Paul Manafort jacket, the Cohen admissions and other almost daily forehead-slapping bits that distract from and mask crucial changes by the current administration none of which are topics around the water cooler.

Daniel Nelson wrote in sciencetrends.com that the administration cut out the yearly budget for NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System which measures greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and “will likely stymie efforts to combat global climate change.” The savings was $10 million/year. [By comparison, the Mexico wall is estimated to cost $70 billion to build and $150 million/year to maintain.]

Photo: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory

According to Nelson, “Kelly Sims Gallagher, the director of the International Environment and Resource Policy Center at Tufts University says that the decision was ‘a grave mistake.’”

The program supported research big and small. It:

  • ensured that countries adhered to the Paris climate accord because it measured reductions in emissions
  • provided data for 65 projects to understand how forests keep carbon out of the air
  • prevented deforestation of tropical forest in developing nations
  • tracked dissolving carbon flowing from the mouth of the Mississippi River into the Pacific Ocean
  • helped Providence I. reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Meanwhile Betsy DeVos was busy unraveling consumer protections in another sector—for-profit colleges. [Examples: chains which train automotive mechanics, cosmetologists, cyber security techs and, like the now defunct Trump University, real estate investment specialists.]

Photo: economicdevelopment.org

According to Erica L. Green, DeVos “formally moved to scrap a regulation that would have forced for-profit colleges to prove that the students they enroll are able to attain decent-paying jobs.” In her New York Times article, Green described the sector as “scandal-scarred” noting that the now rescinded gainful employment safeguard was made during the previous administration.

Photo: autotraining.edu

The rule under Obama “revoked federal funding and access to financial aid for poor-performing schools” where graduates were left drowning in debt with poor job prospects. Green reported that since 2010, when the Obama administration began to tighten the rules, almost half the career programs and schools have closed and the student population shrank by more than 1.6 million. The president of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the industry’s trade group, admitted “The sector today is so much better.”

Who will be left holding the bag to pay defaulted loans under the DeVos change? Taxpayers.

“‘The Trump administration is once again choosing the interests of executives and shareholders of predatory for-profit higher education institutions over protecting students and taxpayers,’ said John King, the Obama-era education secretary charged with enforcing the rule, who called the move ‘outrageous and irresponsible.’”

Attorney generals of 18 states have sued to delay enforcement of the DeVos reversal.

Here are the reasons her department gives for rescinding the gainful employment rule:

  • Research ignored by the Obama administration “undermined the ‘validity of using the debt and earnings comparisons.’”
  • They found that “‘a troubling degree of inconsistency and potential error exists in job placement rates’ that ‘could mislead students in making an enrollment decision.’”
  • It was “burdensome” for schools to disclose their data.
  • “the Obama regulations ‘reinforce an inaccurate and outdated belief that career and vocational programs are less valuable to students and less valued by society, and that these programs should be held to a higher degree of accountability than traditional two- and four-year degree programs that may have less market value.’”

Maybe someone can explain these arguments to me.

Is there a chance that these reversals—and their negative impact–will be part of voter decisions at the November midterm elections? Do you think that they are widely known? Are the extraneous headline-grabbing distractions deliberate to keep our eyes off the many far bigger birdies? They sure are working, don’t you think?

Photo: pinterest

Service of Recommendations That Make it Easy on Recruiters

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Photo: roberthalf.com

Recently headhunters have sent me electronic forms to fill out on behalf of a job-seeking colleague. One reminded me of what CVS sends after I’ve visited a branch or used the online ordering system. To answer questions I graded the candidate from 1 to 10. I was appalled. The recruiter got numbers from the program all neat and collated in seconds but learned little about my colleague. Sometimes my answer didn’t fit any number without explanation. I grade the effectiveness of this system 2 out of 10.

A second one took me longer to do but I felt gave me a chance to describe the candidate. It also took the reader longer to absorb but the information was more valuable. I imagine that some of the copy, if well written, is used by the headhunter to describe a candidate to prospective employers, saving him/her time in the end.

Photo: workitdaily.com

My colleague said she met one of these recruiters and filled out forms for the company. She spoke to the other on the phone, no forms required.

I posit that some recruiters will learn the most from a phone call interview as inefficient and time consuming as that is for them. The New York Women in Communications scholarship vetting process includes phone and in-person interviews for finalists. The phone interviews require time to prepare for, conduct and write up but the results tell plenty about a candidate.

Francesca Fontana wrote about recommendation letters requested of MBA candidates’ friends this summer by NYU’s Stern School of Business. They are “trying to get a better sense of what its applicants are really like.” Where most such letters “focus on analytic acumen or leadership skills,” they expect a pal or co-workers letters will “comment on the applicant’s social skills or emotional intelligence.”

Photo: bcgsearch.com

She reported in “Dear Friend, Tell Us More” that “about 40% of MBA applicants said at least one manager asked them to draft their own recommendation letter.” This statistic came from an Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants 2014 survey. I believe it. Another job-seeking colleague is often asked to write letters about herself by former managers and bosses.

Fontana reported that 24 business schools “collaborated with the Graduate Management Admission Council to create a common recommendation form.” This is easier on recommenders and as they are asked to keep their answers short, means that readers don’t have to pour through pages of copy.

One of the questions was smart: “Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant.”

Can you learn much from a recommender you’ve not spoken with? Have you been asked to write your own recommendation by a boss or colleague? How secure would you be in evaluating whether you wanted to meet or interview a candidate by phone based largely on responses to a 1 to 10 system? Are there valid shortcuts in the recruiting process?

Service of Difficult Jobs

Monday, December 19th, 2016

Hard jobs old people turned

Two years ago about this time of year I wrote “Service of Challenging jobs.” Walking around town I see plenty of people who perform uncomplicated jobs that don’t require a lot of training but boy: Are they hard to do!

I thought I was finished drafting the post when I saw this ancient couple inching along First Avenue after Saturday’s snowstorm [photo above]. They were under scaffolding on a clean sidewalk but it was early and most—crosswalks too–were still slushy, icy nightmares. For them simple everyday activities and chores are difficult.

What this photo doesn’t show is what happened next. A kid on his bicycle came up to the old man and holding his bike with one hand he steadied the elderly fellow’s arm with the other to help him over slush and across the street. Such unexpected kindness by someone so young brought tears to my eyes.

Hard jobs up high with poster turnedLook at the top of the building facing 45th Street just off Third Avenue [photo right]. You’ll see a crane with two men putting the finishing touches on a poster. Pedestrians pay no attention: Employers expect these men to be sure-of-hand so as not to drop any tools on the folks below.

Hard jobs heavy lifting of grocery carts turnedThose palettes get plenty heavy when full of cartons holding cans, bottles and boxes of detergent. The man in the forefront isn’t wearing a jacket and the temperature was in the 30s the day I shot this in front of a D’Agostino grocery store.

Hard jobs up high at Javits turnedThe brightest of the lights–third from the left–is on the cart of some men working high up in the Javits Center late at night in a largely empty building. I wasn’t able to tell precisely what they were up to but it looked like they were replacing light bulbs. Acrophobia is not in their DNA.

Look at the tree branch reaching out over Third Avenue and you’ll see a pair of arms tying lights on it to dress the avenue for the holidays [photo below]. What you don’t see is the wall-to-wall traffic behind the van. If the branch decorator falls on to the avenue from the cherry picker he’s in trouble.

Have you noticed any people with precarious jobs in and around where you live and work?

 hard jobs placing lights on trees turned

Service of Seeds: What You Admired As a Kid May Be What You Do For a Living

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

seeds

I envied students, when I was one myself, who knew they wanted to be a teacher, nurse, doctor, journalist, artist, dentist or dancer—to name a few careers. In college, I still had no clue, but with the benefit of hindsight, the seeds were there long before.

A casual conversation with strangers on a railroad platform underscored how this might work for people lucky enough to be choosy in how they make a living. In Dover Plains, NY the other evening a crew of electricians was upgrading the lights at the railroad station. David, the team leader, was enthusiastically describing to another passenger and me what to expect when the project was done. He said we’d be getting “circus lights.”

We looked puzzled and he explained, “You remember when you were a kid and wentDover Plains RR Station to the circus? Those lights.” I said I remember piles of clowns squeezing into a small car, the lions and trapeze artists and cotton candy but don’t remember the lights and he laughed and said, “I guess that’s why I became an electrician!” [Once I Googled “circus lights,” I knew what to expect, but the image didn’t immediately come to mind.]

Circus lights

Circus lights

David got me thinking about what caught my attention as a child: attractively decorated apartments and homes, well dressed women and fashion in magazines and stores, hair styles, the way my aunt and a friend’s mother set a table and entertained and how great some stores looked and what fun it was to visit them and finding treasures in less appealing stores, to name a few things. In lower school, with friends during rest period, I put together a “magazine” [currently misplaced or tossed]. With the exception of fashion and beauty industries, I’ve been professionally involved in some or another way with the others and worked for two magazines.

Thinking back, do you see seeds and clues from your youth that translated into the work you do–or did–or did you know all along what you wanted your future to be?

 Student thinking

 

Service of Challenging Jobs

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Photo: Yahoo

Photo: Yahoo

electrician

The story of the window washers dangling from a collapsed scaffolding on the 69th floor of the World Trade Center recently reinforced my admiration for those who do these jobs. Too bad there are no self-wash windows or windows that you could swing inside safely in skyscrapers and not be sucked out by the draft.

I couldn’t do this job nor would I want to learn how. Heights are scary.

Next my thoughts jumped to a list of so many other essential jobs that I’d not do well but wish I could such as statistician; hospice care staffer; electrician; plumber; surgeon; clinician; artist; computer/tech guru; carpenter; furniture maker; handyman; dentist and pharmacist–for starters. I can’t look when I get a shot and if I had to give one as pharmacists do these days, my eyes would have to be open.

Are there jobs you admire, could never do but wish you could and others you wouldn’t want to try?

carpenter

 

Service of Credit History

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Credit report

Andrew J. Hawkins wrote “De Blasio, council urged to ban credit checks in hiring,” in Crainsnewyork.com. The Mayor and City Council are working “through the details of a bill that would prohibit employers from reviewing the credit histories of potential hires,” he wrote and that “liberal advocates are pushing for passage of the strongest possible version of the legislation.”

job interview 1I clicked the Dēmos link in the article—what Hawkins described as a “progressive think-tank.” Its members believe there is no relationship between a person’s credit and their potential to misuse information, steal or commit fraud. In a memo to the Mayor and City Council Speaker Dēmos quoted a credit reporting company’s spokesperson as telling the Oregon State Legislature: “We don’t have any research to show any statistical correlation between what’s in somebody’s credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud.”

The group wants no exemptions and disagrees with state laws that permit credit checks for staff with access to valuables or cash. The memo reports that “Senator Elizabeth Warren and 18 co-sponsors have introduced legislation in the United States Senate that prohibits credit checks for all positions except those requiring national security clearance or where required by state or federal law.”

job interview 2I was bonded by several employers. One, who had been burned by the head of the accounting department who stole $hundreds of thousands, would look for signs to indicate that other employees might be spending far more than their incomes would support. He’d want to find out who gave that administrative assistant her fur coat or what’s in those shopping bags that an account exec brings back from lunch break? I have no idea what the credit rating of the accounting scoundrel was or whether checking a person’s credit rating was routine nor do I recall the information required by the company that bonded me.

Looking at a credit rating, how would a potential employer know whether a person had excessive shopping habits which might indicate instability or irrational thinking? Maybe it was a spouse or child. Perhaps they’d been adversely hit by the economy, owe more on their mortgage than their property is worth, replaced a good job with poor paying part time ones and maxed out credit cards to pay for essentials. Would this automatically mean they’d cheat or pilfer? On the other hand should an employer’s hands be tied and kept from such information?

Job applications

 

Service of Gut vs. Fact

Monday, April 29th, 2013

 Help wanted

In some fields, such as human resources, “New research calls into question other beliefs,” wrote Steve Lohr in “Big Data, Trying to Build Better Workers,” in The New York Times.

This research, called workforce science according to Lohr, “is what happens when Big Data meets H.R”

Lohr continued, “Employers often avoid hiring candidates with a history of job-hopping or those who have been unemployed for a while. The past is prologue, companies assume. There’s one problem, though: the data show that it isn’t so. An applicant’s work history is not a good predictor of future results.”

Email with magnifierThe next bit is scary: “Today, every e-mail, instant message, phone call, line of written code and mouse-click leaves a digital signal. These patterns can now be inexpensively collected and mined for insights into how people work and communicate, potentially opening doors to more efficiency and innovation within companies.” Rather than basing conclusions on hundreds as before, research can involve hundreds of thousands of employees.

Tim Geisert, the chief marketing officer of Kenexa, a recruiting, hiring and training company that IBM recently acquired, reported that “the most important characteristic for sales success is a kind of emotional courage, a persistence to keep going even after initially being told no.” This compares to the trait of outgoing personality that most people used to rely on.

I question the novelty of this “finding.” Persistence is the key to success in almost every specialty and task. Who needs a survey?

job applicantsEvery year, according to Lohr, “Kenexa surveys and assesses 40 million job applicants, workers and managers.” IBM bought Kenexa for $1.3 billion, he wrote, because of its data and strong qualified staff.

There are other companies in the Big Data business such as Google. This company no longer equates high SAT scores and college GPAs as it once did to determine a candidate’s success as a Google employee. Studies of its workers showed that “the most innovative are those who have a strong sense of mission about their work and who also feel that they have much personal autonomy.”

In yesterday’s Sunday Business section in The New York Times Matt Richtel wrote about the same subject in “I Was Discovered by an Algorithm.” He quoted Sean Gourley, co-founder and chief technology officer of a Big Data company, Quid: “When you remove humans from complex decision-making, you can optimize the hell out of the algorithm, but at what cost?”

big dataRichtel also writes about Vivienne Ming, the chief scientist at another such company, Gild. “Dr. Ming doesn’t suggest eliminating human judgment, but she does think that the computer should lead the way, acting as an automated vacuum and filter for talent.”

Do you see any place for instinct in big business hiring anymore or will gut-made decisions only be the realm of small businesses that don’t have access to or budgets for workforce science? Will it be easier or harder for people to get a job? How do you feel about having employees’ every action captured and analyzed?

Gut feeling

Service of Matching a Person to the Job

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

job-interview

In a response to a previous post, Mervyn Kaufman explained inadequate service by retail staff by pointing to lack of motivation, inexperience, poor pay and/or little to no training. He especially resents  it when sales associates don’t know their inventory. Mervyn also blamed a store’s cynical management that believes it can get away with such poor performance and maintain business levels. I agree with him.

Short of asking each person who provides lackluster/inadequate service at retail or in a service job or restaurant, it’s impossible to know all the reasons. In some cases the reason is as simple as the wrong person has the job.

office-lobby-reception1In the New York Times “Social Q’s” column, columnist Philip Galanes advised a Houston man who staffs the desk in the lobby of a big building. The receptionist, Joseph Z, told Galanes that it was exhausting when he had to smile, nod or wave back each time someone who’d just passed his desk did so again within minutes. “I’m sure it’s annoying to be cheery all day, but short of a large ‘One per Customer’ plaque, I’m afraid that smile fatigue is simply a peril of your profession,” wrote Galanes. I asked the guard/door person in the lobby of my office building whether it annoys him when people say “hi,” “bye,” wave or smile at him even if it happens within minutes. He said he liked it. I think that Galanes might have told “Joseph Z. in Houston” to get a job better suited to his personality. Maybe he could ask for the night shift.

In another instance, I dropped by a high-end deli near my office to buy a pound of ham. I wanted it cut very thick and held up two fingers, at least a quarter inch apart, to illustrate just how thick. The ham here is baked with bone in and is unrelated to the lumps of pressed meat you see at many delis.  My heart sank when the counterman turned in my direction to weigh a pile of very thin slices. He’d used the slicing machine, not a knife. Did he hear me? Did he understand English? Listening carefully and giving customers just what they ask for determines the success of a place that sells special things and charges appropriately-i.e. plenty–for them. Did the manager check for this trait when he hired the guy, even if he’d had umpteen years experience at a supermarket deli counter?

turkish-food1New York has great ethnic restaurants and many are value priced. I’ve noticed no relationship between the level of service and the price. I’ve enjoyed the most elegant and cheerful dinner service where grilled chicken shish kebab served with rice costs $12. Imagine being a waiter here, standing and walking all day long with enough energy at night to be pleasant when tips, based on a negligible total, won’t stretch far?

Can you think of instances where a person’s personality, rather than or in addition to skill, determines their success or failure at a job?

good-personality

Service of Dependability

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

watchdog

I have mentored amazing college and grad students for years and have been impressed by hundreds of accomplished scholarship applicants since I’ve served on the New York Women in Communications Foundation scholarship committee. This is why I was distressed by the observation of a person I met over the holidays who described his experience hiring assistants.

onthephoneWhen an applicant calls him, he’ll say, “Please call me next Wednesday between noon and 2 and I’ll be able to speak with you then,” [or whatever day and timeframe they agree is convenient for both]. He said that he never again hears from 75 percent of job seekers. He explained why he always does this. “I can teach almost anyone what they need to know to help me, but I require a dependable person.”

I mentioned this to a friend who wasn’t surprised. He said that an assistant he’d recently hired arrived late his first day at the ad agency. He immediately called the young man into his office and said: “This isn’t going to work. Goodbye,” and noted, “Can you imagine arriving late on your first day at a new job?”

clockI was almost late for my first day at a new magazine. I couldn’t find the building! [Interviews took place at a borrowed office elsewhere.] The address would have put it in the middle of Madison Avenue. This happened long before cell phones. Turns out the publisher had given everyone the wrong street number–and because I’d left home in plenty of time, I was on time after dashing into every building on either side of Madison Avenue until I found the right one.

We have a furnace contract with the company that sells us fuel for the house yet we are insecure every time we call the company in an emergency because while the repair people might seem to fix the immediate problem, they inevitably create other ones. Meanwhile, we’ve found a young man who knows his boilers and furnaces and we sleep well after he’s installed the correct valves and reversed some of the incomplete “fixes” that the oil company staffers have made.

furnaceYou may wonder why we know that something’s wrong. Last week, after an emergency visit by the oil company repairman, the wall next to the furnace room shook violently when the furnace kicked in, something it had never before done, and we heard a new noise–that turned out to be air–that sounded like spitting water. We called in the specialist. He identified and fixed the problem in minutes and told us we can safely hold off on a major repair that the oil company person told us we must tend to ASAP.

Why doesn’t this articulate, knowledgeable and reliable young man have an assistant? None have worked out, he said. He hires his brothers or Dad when he needs a hand.

And it’s not just young people and assistants these days. When criticized for not returning to NJ after the late December blizzard snarled roads and highways, Governor Christie [whose Lt. Governor was out of state at the same time] said he’d promised to take his children to Disneyland and his children come first. He was in a rush to leave before the storm so he moved up his departure time. He could easily have sent his kids along with his wife and gone to be with them when the emergency was over. He obviously thinks it was an emergency–he requested Federal aid as a result of the storm. Think he’d fire an assistant or subordinate with an approach like his?

Has the Valley Girl-inspired “whateverrrrrr” word misled some people to think that any old how or any which way and/or time is acceptable? Is dependability perception or reality? Is dependability overrated? Please share some examples of reliable and dependable people and/or those who act less so.

 valley-girl

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