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12 posts from March 2009

March 30, 2009

Insights from women who lost their jobs

    I feel like there's a lot of worried workers out there. You know it's bad when Glamour Magazine, known for fashion and beauty, takes on the topic of job security. If you are one who is worried about losing your job, or if you already lost it, here are some insights from women who have been there from this month's Glamour with some of my own input added in.

What I Would Have Done Before I Lost My Job:

      "I Wish I'd Asked for Extra Work" Brooke Gorman of Dallas feels she should have raised her hand for more projects and established more work relationships. You should put yourself out there and create a name for  yourself, Gorman says.

     "I Wish I'd Kept Track of My Network" Marivel Mendoza of San Francisco says since she never thought she'd lose her job at a cosmetics company, it hadn't occurred to her to create a database of work contacts that she could download to her home computer. When she left the office, she left all of her e-mail address and phone numbers. She says if she was more careful, she could be using those contacts in her search now. (This point was hammered into all journalists during a Webinar I participated in last week.)

    "I Wish I'd Had An Emergency Fund"   Amanda Johnson of New York City says before she got booted from Lehman Brothers, she was putting away money for big purchases and kept digging into the fund. Now she's temping to get by. She wishes she put the money in a fund that she couldn't touch.

    "I Wish I'd Paid Off Debt When I Could"   If you're still getting a regular paycheck make an effort to pay down debt. Isadora Quintanilla of California says she hadn't and then got let go from a healthcare company. "It's hard to make payments on your credit cards and loans when you are on unemployment," she says.

     "I Wish I Hadn't Been in Such Denial" (I hear this so often from people I interview for articles) Amy Richter of Scottsdale, Ariz, says she was in the subprime mortgage world and scared to try a new line of work. She kept jumping to different sinking ships. Finally, she went into medical marketing (using her existing skills) and is doing well.

    "I Wish I'd Known That I Would Be OK"   I find this the most insightful and inspiring. Jessi Walter of New York City says she was a casualty of a merger. For a year beforehand, she had run cooking classes for kids and decided to try it full time. She says it's hard, but also fun and exciting.

   Here's My Addition to the list --- I wWish I had Spent Less time Worrying About Being Laid Off  As I venture out on my own to become a freelancer or contractor with my newspaper instead of an employee, I see so many opportunities I never really considered in the past because I was worrying about the state of the newspaper industry. My eyes are open now and I have enthusiasm that I haven't had in many years.

    What do you wish you knew or did differently during this time of upheaval in the workforce?


March 26, 2009

Let Serena Williams Multitask

      My colleague at The Miami Herald, sports writer Greg Cote, says he is personally thanking Serena Williams for taking time out of her busy schedule to dominate women's tennis in Key Biscayne this week.

     In a column today, Greg marvels that Serena can dabble in fashion design, act and introduce a brand new line of Serena jewelry, while still winning tennis games. He calls the five-time Sony Ericsson winner sports' most successful multitasker and says she has an ability to be better than anybody else "despite a casual commitment to blinders-on devotion." Wake up Greg, many female athletes are multitaskers. Women for years have excelled at running businesses, achieving success in sports and even...raising families. Does the name Chris Evert ring a bell? Women don't have to pin our entire self-worth and net worth on one source of income. No one picked on Dan Marino for attaching his name to restaurants, doing car commercials and playing football. We should be impressed that Serena unveiled her new jewelry line when the spotlight was on her at the Sony Erricsson week (a smart business move). She's showing the world that women can have our hands in many different things (including sports) and be successful at them all. This recession has taught us it's smart to do just that.

     Serena                           Greg suggests Serena squeezes in some writing time for her first book, which he thinks should be called Mastering a Hobby. I'm suggesting Greg write a book called Wake Up and Realize Women Can Do It All -- On and Off the Court.

   I love that the Williams sisters don't even consider playing tennis "work"  Venus Williams told Greg: "We're just like regular sisters. We talk a lot about work" -- quickly adding with a smile: "If you want to call it work!"

   Good for you Serena for putting work and life in perspective. Good for you Serena for challenging the purists and showing young girls they can pursue several dreams at the same time. Good for you for redefining success. You go girl! 

March 25, 2009

Marketing to us on our mobile phones

Iphone     I'm lovin the idea of being able to do a million things from my mobile phone. The gadgets quickly are becoming crucial to keeping us organized and giving us the info we need on the go. I'm told some people are against companies marketing to them on their mobile phones. Not me.

      I'd love a coupon from Publix sent right to my phone -- no more clipping and cutting. What a great way to save time! Recently, Kraft Foods came out with iFood assistant, an application for the iPhone that lets you locate supermarkets, peek at your shopping list, access your recipe box or tap into the recipe of the day all from your mobile. Now, all I need is an iPhone.

    I spent the earlier part of this week at the Custom Content conference (sponsored by the Custom Publishing Council) learning about ways that brands are going to reach out to their consumers in the digital age. One of the most interesting presentations was from Nielsen Mobile. Of course, most of us think of Nielsen as the company that tracks our TV watching. Not anymore.

      Nic Covey, director of Insights for Nielsen Mobile, is convinced that text messaging is the future for businesses to market their product or service to customers. Teens already make the perfect target market. They text an average of 2,220 messages a month, compared with the 150 calls they make. But I would imagine all of us are a target as we try to juggle all the demands in our lives and more of us get mobile phones equipped to send and receive data. The future is mobiles that track where you are and send you a text about the nearest sushi restaurant with a coupon attached. "Mobile advertising already is happening," Covey says. "People already see the trade off between ads on their phone and greater content." 

     As it is, if I forget my mobile at home, I feel completely out of sorts. Surely, the future will make me even more dependent as my smart phone becomes critical to helping me juggle work and family. But it's a risk I'm willing to take. How about you? Are you turned off by the thought of a brand marketing to you on your mobile. Or do you, like me, see it as a convenience, a survival tool for us busy people?

March 24, 2009

Burger King women doing something right

SherryUlsh2 (2)       We all know how hard it is for females to advance in Corporate America. That's why I love what is going on at Burger King. Ten years ago, Sherry Ulsh and a few other women at Burger King Corp. got the great idea to form a women's affinity group to help advance female executives. Tomorrow, the group, Women's Leadership Forum,  celebrates its 10th anniversary with an evening party. It's become a powerful networking opportunity, allowing women at the company to meet colleagues they otherwise would never get to know. 

    I wondered how this forum for BK women has thrived for 10 years when so many other companies have struggled with the concept of a women's initiative. Here's my Q & A with Ulsh.

    Me: What do you think your Women's Leadership Forum has done right?

   Sherry: We were founded as a grassroots group by the women here, not by the corporation. A group of us attended the Women's Foodservice Forum conference back in 1998 in Chicago. We were really energized by the whole idea. We came back here to Burger King and spoke to the head of the U.S. group and our diversity people. We said we wanted to start something to promote leadership and networking. The directer of diversity, a male, championed it. We also got the highest ranking women in the company to support us. We also branded ourselves as quickly as we could. We had a  logo and asked everyone to come in business suits. We created the image of a professional organization so we were not just seen as women getting together for coffee.   

   Me: Still how have you lasted 10 years with all the changes in the company management?

  Sherry: Our mentor program has really been our core. It's a world-class program. We now have 110 matches. It gives women exposure to different parts of the business and an opportunity to network and connect across departments.

   Me: How many members does the group have?

   Sherry: 376. About 15 percent of them are men. Initially it was open to anyone at our restaurant support center. When we opened the mentor program, we opened to include field members throughout the U.S. above restaurant level.

   Me: What have you personally gained from being part of the group?

   Sherry:  A great sense of achievement.  We look back now and say it grew to what we thought it could be. I've developed friendships. Personally, I've been able to broaden my own skill sets and I've become comfortable as a speaker.

 This is the group's mission statement "To develop the potential of emerging leaders at Burger King Corp. with a primary focus on women, by creating opportunities to learn, lead, and network within the organization and the community, thereby furthering the objectives of the strategic plan."

   What questions would you like to ask Sherry Ulsh?   

March 19, 2009

Forget conversation, text your kid

Texting      You know your kids are text messaging their friends about EVERYTHING.The Neilsen Co. says the average teen sends and receives 1,742 text messages a month. That's exactly why time-pressed working parents are giving up on calling their kids and texting them instead.

   Which brings me to a Sentinel article I read suggesting parents get kids back into the routine of family dinner and get them involved in what goes on the dinner table by texting them. (This could work for spouse's, too)

   The article offers 10 ways to use texting:

    1. Get kids involved in the dinner prep by sending them to the store and texting them what ingredients to buy. Get chkn.

    2. Text your kids with coded versions of what you are making for dinner and see if they can guess what it is.

    3. Guess who's coming to dnr. Text your teen and ask him if he'd like to bring a friend home for dinner.

    4. Suggest a recipe xchng. Find a simple recipe and text it to your kid. If they like it, encourage them to forward it to friends.

     5. GIWIH:(Get it while it's hot) Start texting a dinnertime countdown an hour before the meal.

     6. Think of ways to reward your teen for consistent nutrition-related texting. (just 8 an apl)

     7. Everyone loves pza: Have your kids text your order to a restaurant like Papa John's and Pizza Hut.

    8. Keep them in the lp. Text your kid to get quick answers to questions. Feel like meatloaf 2night?

    9. No LOL Matter: if your teens are skipping dinner, use texting to set up a time to talk. But address the issue in person.

     10. Keep the table a text-free zone. Everyone, even parents, should turn off their cells during dinner.

     I'm going to try someof these tips. Are you finding texting the best way to communicate with your teens? Do you like when they text you while you are at work or do you prefer hearing their voices?

March 18, 2009

Spring Break: beach or job hunt?

Beach       Wow, I can't believe the huge shift in mindset over the last year. Instead of hitting the beach, college students are preparing for the tough job market they face upon graduation.

     At Barry University in North Miami, some students are spending spring break on campus networking for job and internship opportunities at industry-specific career fairs and events. Students also are going to résumé workshops and mock interviews.

 That's the sad reality in 2009 -- no time to frolic in the sun when job prospects aren't  great!

   It not just college students....I  just spoke with a Chicago man yesterday who planned to come to Florida with his son for spring break -- using frequent flier miles. He told me he canceled his trip because he needs to job hunt and doesn't want to spend money on the hotel.

   I'm sure there are plenty of people taking time off for spring break, but anyone trying to find a job right now must be weighing their options with lots of caution. Do you think there's too much pressure on soon-to-be college grads? Should they be enjoying their spring break the way so many of us did?



March 17, 2009

Don't let Facebook Cost You a Job

     Like most people my age (40s), I've discovered the joys of Facebook. Every party I've been at lately, friends ask me to take photos to post on Facebook. (It's become a brag book of sorts!) While I love using Facebook to stay in touch with friends, old and new, I do think carefully about what I write on my page because I have a number of co-workers and even a boss as a friend.

      Here's the risk: A Facebook post criticizing his employer, the Philadelphia Eagles, cost a stadium operations worker his job, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I shouldn't have put it up there," Dan Leone said, according to the Inquirer. "I was ticked off, and I let my emotions go..."

     Yes, employees really are getting sacked for venting about their jobs on Facebook. The Movin' On Up blog has some great tips for using restraint on Facebook. The key bits of advice are know your friends (choose carefully), avoid talking about workplace specifics, and control your emotions. My tidbit of advice is know the difference between sending someone a private message and posting a message on their very public wall. (I've seen some pretty embarrassing stuff lately.)

    While you and I are having fun on Facebook, employers increasingly are using it to check up on current and potential employees. People are being disciplined at work and have missed out on job opportunities due to comments they have left on Facebook. Here are some suggestions from the DumbLittleMan blog for cleaning up your Facebook profile: Check your privacy settings, consider limiting access only to friends, consider removing tags from photos, keep your language clean, refrain from using Facebook at work (your actions are time-stamped).

      The next time I get ready to post something to my profile, add a co-worker as afriend, or vent online, I'm going to think twice. How about you? Have you had any Facebook disasters?

March 12, 2009

Birthday gift -- a pink slip.

      Happy Birthday to me! My gift: a pink slip.

     My employer cut 175 jobs yesterday, including eight part-timers. I was one of those part-timers. Did my desire for work/life balance hurt me? Maybe. I'm fortunate though, the paper has asked me to contract with them as a freelancer.

     But, I certainly can feel the numbness that so many others have felt in the last year as they, too, receive pink slips. Maybe I will join the crowd and attend a pink slip party. Todayshow.com reports pink slip parties are popping up in big cities around the country. Hundreds of axed employees are shirking traditional job fairs and on-line applications in favor of happy hour meet-and-greets where one can down beers and discuss career prospects with recruiters and company reps. I love the way people are becoming more creative about job hunting.

     Meanwhile, my pink birthday gift came on the heels of a press release about a new study by FSU Professor Wayne Hochwarter who sought to find out how the financial crisis is affecting people in and out of work. His big discovery: People more stressed, downright scared, and starting to become less civil. 

  • More than 70 percent of both men and women in the survey confirmed that the recession has significantly increased the stress levels of employees in recent months.
  • More than one-half (55 percent) reported that management has grown increasingly demanding over this period.
  • More than 65 percent predicted significant job changes to occur within one year, causing employees to grow progressively more concerned about job status; 80 percent of employees reported being nervous about their long-term financial well-being.
  • More than 60 percent were asked to find ways to cut costs on a weekly basis.   
  • More than 40 percent of employees reported increased incivility (i.e., "backstabbing," "sucking up" and politicking) as a means to stay employed in the event of a layoff.

I didn't see the incivility in my workplace, but with pink slips flying in all directions, I'm sure it's out there. Have you seen it in your workplace?


March 10, 2009

Are we failing our teens?


   Teens Over the last week, I'm seriously beginning to wonder whether parents, teachers and lawmakers are failing our teens.

    First, as a judge of the prestigious Silver Knight awards given to high school students, I interacted with about two dozen high school students. These were sharp kids who are using technology to change their schools, community and even help with international problems. I asked every one of them how they learned the skills to build websites, animated computer programs, even create programs for the I-phone. Their answer consistently was "I taught myself."   It doesn't take a genius to figure out these kids have  time, patience and confidence to teach themselves skills their teachers don't know and aren't making enough effort to learn. Are teachers failing teens?

    Then, I saw a spot on the Today Show this morning about sexting -- the new craze that has teens sending naked or revealing photos of themselves to each other on their cell phones. One teen is doing probation and had to register as a sex offender for sexting, another is in jail on child porn charges after forwarding nude photos of his ex-girlfriend to 70 other teens.  Larry Walters, an Internet attorney, says teens don't see what they are doing as child pornography.  He agrees we need to convince teens not to sext, but says our laws aren't keeping up with how teens are using technology. We are punishing kids with laws intended for adults using technology to molest children. Are lawmakers failing teens?

    I must admit I am constantly trying to look over my preteens' shoulders to see who they are texting and who is texting them. Still, I can't keep up with them and in some ways, I've given up trying. I have all kinds of excuses, including lack of time. My kids know they are more tech-savvy than I. We all know teens are getting into all kinds of trouble on the Internet. Should I be doing more to make sure I know more about how to use technology than them?

     What do you think parents, are we failing our teens?     

March 05, 2009

Things Never to Say to Women Executives

Computer You would think most people use common sense in the workplace. Not so. Which is why Diversity Inc.is kind enough to clue people in by providing a list of eight things you should never say to a women executiveve or co-worker. Hard to imagine in today's business world that these seemingly obvious reminders are still so relevant but speaking from experience, they are.

  • Avoid any kind of sexual comment. Karen Brown, chief diversity officer for Rockwell Collins,one of Diversity Inc's 25 Noteworthy Companies, says she once was asked to join a co-worker alone in the copy room. "The best way to deal with these things is to consider it as a perfect awareness opportunity to teach that individual something that they never would have had the chance to learn before then."
  • "You don't really want that promotion. You'll never see your kids." Don't assume that a woman's career isn't as important to her because she has children at home. Her children may be what's driving her to excel to her highest potential.
  • You'll get the job because you're a woman" or "You must be the token woman" Suggesting to a female coworker or executivee that she is where she is because of gender is nothing short of disrespectful. It demeans that woman's experience in the field and expertise as a leader. It also indicates, to a woman from an underrepresented group, that she was selected not only because she is a female but also because she is Black, Latina or Asian.
  • What's the matter, is it that time of the month?" (This one is infuriating!) When a female executive is forceful or aggressive, she is often received in a negative way, while a man in the same position is perceived as doing his job. One of the ways that negativity can be expressed is by attributing the behavior to hormonal changes.
  • You're very attractive [or pretty, or beautiful, etc.]" Athough women as well as men may enjoy a compliment on their looks, saying this to a female coworker or executive can leave the coworker feeling marginalized--as if her looks are more important than her skills or what she has to say. (Better to compliment her suit or new purse)
  • "You look great for your age" or "Do you use Botox?" Especially inappropriate in the workplace, a woman's age should never be discussed unless she brings it up first. And if you suspect her great look is the result of a surgical procedure, keep it to yourself, unless your coworker volunteers that information to you.
  • "You do that so well … for a girl." Even if said in a joking way, the phrase implies that women are inferior to men, and the recipient may not receive it with the best of humor.
  • "When are you due?" If you are not absolutely certain that a woman is expecting, do not, I repeat, do not ask this question.
  • Why did they give YOU that assignment? This is my addition to the list. Said in a condescending way, this is one of the most obnoxious comments I hear made to women in workplaces.

If you have anything to add to the list, let me hear it!