Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Possible freelance opportunities for Ebay trade assistance advertised

I got an email from a group called “The Experts in Time” today, offering the possibility of becoming a Trade Manager Assistant for "Trans Bridge". The website that it directed me to comes from Yahoo! groups and was this or this Yahoo! address this (requires Yahoo! registration and logon). The site describes itself as an Ebat Drop Off store, and mentions that it has trading assistants that research and post the items.

The implication of the email is that people can make money at home in the United States or United Kingdom (probably other countries like Canada, Australia, etc) as assistants, in freelance mode.

I don’t know how well this works. Perhaps the idea will show up on one of the morning news shows (like Tori Johnson’s Women for Hire on Good Morning America). Certainly, this does sound like another new kind of opportunity.

If others have tried it, please feel free to comment.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Jobaphiles offers job auctions

Here’s another wrinkle: auction yourself for a job, or go to an auction to purchase contracting work. The site is called “Jobaphiles”, with link here. It appears to be in Beta Test. The site was described on NBC Washington today.

I saw jobs there varying from academic tutoring to nannies and dog walking (a long way from IT). I even saw a listing for “entry level equity traders: start your career on Wall Street”. Really? Now?

I guess a piecework auction is one way to find out “the market demand for your services.” We do seem to headed for a free market cultural revolution.

Maybe afacionados of job auctioning would enjoy the movie "The Red Violin."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

HR departments struggle with waves of layoffs

Workforce Management has a somewhat alarmist letter about HR Management these days, about the strain on Human Resources departments in going through waves of layoffs.

In the past, this would occur with consolidations after mergers, with elimination of redundancies of function. Now it’s just leech and bloodletting. The article is “Harsh Reality: HR on the Edge as Economic Downturn, Layoffs Generate Stress, link here.

The article doesn’t mention that often companies hire HR contractors to manage downsizings and severances and reorganizations.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Should you tweet that you were laid off?

Here’s a good one from Toni Bowers on the Tech Republic blogs: “Should you avoid tweeting that you’ve been laid off?” A question for "strange days." The URL link is here.

She says, if others are going to follow you around anyway (it sounds like a security problem to me), why not appear desperate if you get fired? Misery loves company.

I suppose there’s an issue if you tweet about your all-nighter before a major implementation at work, or an end-of-month closing. Maybe that could even give away quasi-confidential information about where you work (or worked).

What I recall is a story about a Prudential layoff near Minneapolis in 1999: people came in at 6 AM and no one could log on. “We knew”. So, after the low-key announcement, everybody adjourned to a Ruby Tuesday’s for drinks at late morning and that’s when all the networking began, en masse. Where I worked, we got a project leader from the process.

It seems that with Twitter the lemmings can all disperse. Why not enjoy the drinks first?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

IT employment (especially contracting) and "family responsibility discrimination" (FRD): a troubling problem

While in a doctor’s office recently, I noticed a June 2009 HR Magazine (SHRM) article in print on the law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of family responsibility – not just pregnancy or motherhood, but various other situations, including eldercare or the presence of a disabled dependent in the home.

The University of California Hastings College of Law has a paper “Work Life Law” dated 2006 on FRD discrimination, or “family responsibility discrimination”, link here. Discrimination issues might occur more often in the future with single or childless people who wind up taking care of an elderly parent, because of demographics and rapidly increasing life spans.

In practice, information technology can find this challenging. Many jobs require on call responsibilities, and many jobs are short term contracts where work can be severely disrupted by an absence, such as unpaid leave taken under the FMLA. In many cases people are not hired for “no reason”, as employers or clients can never admit to “illegal reasons.” The sad truth is, when applying for a job like this, it’s probably better not to mention the home situation. But then you will have to deal with it later.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SHRM says employers should have Twitter policies

HR Magazine (from Society for Human Resources Management) has a brief article on page 30 of its June 2009 issue “In a Dither over Twitter? Get a Policy”. It’s not available online to non members, but, yes, you can find it in the public library -- like this was the "good ole' days".

The basic idea is the same as most blogging policies. You can’t give away confidential information, or use the company brand without permission. That’s pretty much common sense. But people could do the same thing from home.

Companies do need policies on whether they want their associates or agents to be “followed” in connection with their work.

But other than that, it seems like this is getting closer to the “online reputation management” problem we have seen before.

Monday, June 22, 2009

5 Applicants for every job?: online reputation has never been more important

The June 22, 2009 issue of “Career Digest” reports a story from the Kansas City Star, that the ratio of job seekers to openings is now 5:1, with link here. The report is based on a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Labor Turnover Survey. The BLS latest survey is here.

The reports suggest a certain paradox: employers, who can’t offer steady careers along the old-fashioned paradigm, no longer have the moral right to monopolize an associate’s public presence, but an integrated online presence and “reputation” may never has been as critical as it is now. Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard friends probably had no concept that this would happen when they initiated Facebook just five years ago. It’s funny how the grown-up economy and job market is partly driven by what “our kids” do, before we even notice. That’s part of the “creative destruction” that’s necessary for any recovery.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Job transfers may be complicated by mortgage mess, esp. when there is a "trailing spouse"

Corporate transfers may slow down for other reasons besides the job market. Mortgage lenders are much less willing to give qualification credit for “trailing co-borrowers”, usually spouses, unless they also have secure jobs in new locations.

Fannie Mae now gives now credit; Freddie Mac has complicated rules, allowing 1/3 of total qualifying income, but not allowing self-employment (that probably means blogging, even if you’re someone successful like Heather Armstrong), requiring employment at the same place for two years (uncertain what happens with IT contractors employed by staffing companies), and evaluating the job marketability of the trailing spouse in the new area.

These problems could reduce opportunities for job retention, as in many cases after a merger or downsizing, employees who are willing to relocate are more likely to be retained. In fact, there is an art of selling yourself to the acquiring company – which may be impressed by an associate’s eagerness even though the interviewing and travel occurs on the acquiring company’s dime. I have seen this happen myself – acquiring employers love to see this kind of flexibility and interest in the new organization from “acquired” employees. I took advantage of this myself when I relocated to Minneapolis in 1997. It was one of the smoothest transitions in my career.

The Washington Post story appeared in the Real Estate section today, Saturday June 20, p E1, in a column called “The Nation’s Housing” by Kenneth R. Harney, “Getting Transferred? Securing a Mortgage Could Be Harder,” link here.

There is even one more wrinkle to this story. It seems that mortgage underwriters (especially those at Freddie Mac) will have a lot of discretionary authority, a situation that can invite “conflict of interest” and other business ethics problems that I have written about a lot before.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Vantage One still seems to rule the mainframe market!

Just in the past few weeks, I’ve noticed an upswing in a few mainframe jobs, particularly Vantage One programmers for life insurance legacy policy administration systems. I also got an request for a CICS systems programmer, an odd request since nothing in my resume justifies such a focused job.

Vantage One seems to have kept paying the mortgages (even subprimes!) for a lot of programmers; in a generally bleak and uncertain market Vantage has held up well. Vantage, they say, rules the world! Because of some mishandling on my part, I missed a chance to switch over to Vantage as far back as 1991, before it was a certain thing (in those days, VLn was almost still legitimate – both systems had a heavily “paramaterized” architecture [like schedule records] expressed in VSAM files or DB2 tables).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Employers turning to lobbyists and "K Street" to deal with benefits issues during hard times

Mark Schoeff has an interesting article in Workforce about the use of “K Street” lobbyists by employers to influence policy changes contemplated by Congress or regulatory agencies. For example, some groups are resisting plans to guarantee continuing health care coverage to workers laid off at age 55 or over. (I was lucky enough to keep coverage through a severance period and supplemental period, before converting to a retiree plan, but I did work for an insurance company that had plenty of reason to behave and set a good example.) The link is here and requires free registration to see.

Employers depend on the Society for Human Resources Management and its American Benefits Council (link) to maintain an “artillery” listening post in Washington. Another important group is World At Work (link). Some groups do not lobby formally but simply collect information. A number of “Beltway bandit” consulting firms collect data on various benefits issues (like Lewin for health insurance) and make data available to lobbyists.

Various organizations representing culturally competitive interests ranging from “parents” to singles and gay rights sometimes lobby for workplace policies.

But what is valuable from my perspective (as an independent blogger) is the capability to put all the arguments down about a particular workplace policy down on one page for all to see. We shouldn’t depend on lobbyists and special interests as much as we do.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Hostile workplace rules may be narrower than most people think

Lily Garcia has a critical column about workplace HR law in the “Jobs” section, p H1, of the Sunday June 7 Washington Post, about the hostile workplace issue. The column is “How to Deal” and the specific article is “In determining if profanity is legal, there’s no test to swear by,” link here.

The article talks about the “equal harasser defense”, and points out that “hostile” behavior has to result on a deleterious effect for a class protected by law (such as by race -- sexual orientation is protected in some states and communities and countries, so most large corporations include it in their anti-harassment and hostile workplace policies).

I have wondered about a situation like this: suppose a manager blogs at home, and coworkers find the blog with a search engine, and the blog expresses a hostile attitude about a particular race. Could that contribute to a hostile workplace? I wonder. If the manager never mentioned that she had the blog, maybe not (if the blog is never mentioned, even though it is public, there is less of a case that the blog shows a propensity toward future hostile behavior – which is why a few school districts have told teachers “do not mention” if you have personal blogs about anything).

What if the blog simply were potentially objectionable to some people only in an existential sense? For example, the blog opposes affirmative action, which objectively is not hostile, but some people could perceive it to be. One can even draw existential inferences from discussions about “equality” and “second class status” so common now in the gay community in discussions of gay marriage.

I think that these questions are important for bloggers, especially for those with prominent positions in the workplace, to the point that the Human Resources world needs to consider them in developing blogging (and social networking) policies. But the actual threat of litigation, even theoretically, is not is great as many people think, if Garcia’s article is properly understood.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

More on polygraphs: retesting, failures

Derrick T. Dortsch (CEO of the Diversa Group {see link on Feb 22 2009 on this blog] has another conversation on polygraph tests in the Washington Post Jobs Section, Sunday, June 8. “Relax, Be Honest on Polygraph Tests” the article reads, here.

He talks about whether polygraphs can be retaken when failed (they usually can), and whether they can lead to withdrawal of a job offer (they can). But they don’t compromise existing clearances.

He discusses that polygraphs look for physiological responses to questions, and then can get into the area of a person’s “existential integrity” – what makes him tick or where his motives lead.

Here is a recent posting by Christopher Intaglia from Science Line on the MRI Lie Detector (link). Two companies in this business include the new Cephos Corporation and No Lie MRI. But it doesn’t sound like the federal government is requiring this (yet).

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

How to prevent flu in the I.T. workplace -- really?

The IT Dojo, Bill Detwiler, has a Tech Republic blog and video “How to Protect Yourself from Colds and Flu at Work,” link here.

I’ve written before about “presenteeism” in the workplace, especially in a salaried environment with unpaid nightcall. And in a bad economy there is a tendency to “lowball” others.

It does seem a bit prudish to worry too much about germs on computer surfaces, even in a world with H1N1. But it wasn’t too prudish for IBM to require stocking garters back in the 1950s.

And if you travel to China (The Peoples Republic of Capitalism) on your job, watch out. They take your temperature by remote scan at the airport and lock you up if you’re half a degree too warm.

Picture: a typical “local bank”.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Siemens: overview of a global engineering and IT company

I heard ABC GMA this morning mention “Siemens” in connecting information technology jobs related to automating health care, and I thought I would pass along the correct URL.

There are other sites with varied spelling that offer ads; one of these parked domains came up Green on McAfee Site Advisor but was blocked by Spysweeper, so be careful with deliberate misspellings of popular corporate sites .

The company appears to have a wide variety of business and government services typical of large information technology consulting firms (as well as engineering).

The employment FAQ page is interesting (look here) The company advises emailing passport photo and testimonials, with specificity that I don’t see often on corporate employment websites. Another interesting answer is that the company offers distinct career paths “management, specialist, project management”, and realizes that hierarchal management is not the right measure of career progress for everyone. The tone of the questions and answers seems to suggest that the company would be concerned about a candidate’s “online reputation” but I don’t see anything really specific about that. The FAQ page has a link to a Testimonials page (mainly for more recent college graduates, especially overseas) and I recommend visitors study these. Again, I haven’t seen this often on corporate employment websites, and more companies ought to look in to this kind of innovation in the HR interface on the Web.

The international company is headquartered in Berlin and Munich, Germany.

Attribution link for picture of the Brandenburg Gate (Creative Commons and Wikimedia), here. I was there in May, 1999.