Sunday, May 30, 2010

Most desirable careers in the future will stress people skills, not to everyone's taste

AOL keeps flashing (or is it “streaking”) before us “10 most desired …” jobs, or behavioral interviews, or online reputation trips, or whatever. So do Techrepublic and MSN.  Here's the latest list from a site called Workbuzz (link).

Today (Memorial Sunday) it’s “the Future’s 15 Most Wanted Workers”. (It’s up from 10 to 15).

It’s true that a couple of them are intellectual in nature (business operations specialists) but people-oriented jobs are much more prevalent now than on any list since the 1960s. Note jobs like “clergy”, “teachers” (despite the layoffs), but particularly child-care workers and home health aides.

That may partly reflect the modern reality that such jobs can’t be outsourced easily.

It may reflect a trend toward more “social responsibility” as part of a sustainable society.

On the other hand, there is a need for big-time brainstorming on how to solve some of the enormous problems that will certainly affect communications, on the web today. For starters, understand what’s at the heart of the social media privacy debacle(and “online reputation” debate) and what the public really needs to do to manage the risks created by social media technology, while still allowing productive communication and freedom of public expression.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The "lack" of online presence could hurt you in a job search (you still can be mixed up with someone else); would abstinence even work?

Here’s an MSN story on online reputation and job hunting, “Brand or BE Branded: Are you willing to risk it?”, by Career Expert J.T. O’Donnell, link here.

We used to think of branding as a concern of big companies, enforcing their trademark rights from domain name squatters, No more.

O'Donnell's piece is a sobering article. It tells a story of a young woman with great academic credentials getting no traction in the job market after graduation. It then talks about her Facebook page. Her Facebook photo was homely, but not distasteful. But there was nothing positive, about her field of study, about volunteering, or anything professional.

What’s worse, in this commentator’s account, is that a search engine call on her name returned her Facebook profile with controversial (and workplace inappropriate) blog postings from someone with the same and first and last name, but different middle initial. He thinks hiring managers don’t notice that this is from a different person.

Is this “fair”? Of course not. What does Donald Trump always say on The Apprentice, life’s not fair.

Certainly, HR departments ought to grow up. They shouldn’t judge candidates on incorrectly done searches, or on Facebook Wall contents, largely written by other people. (Right now, I’m pretty permissive about what’s on my Wall.)

But we have a real world, where technology moves more quickly that does the ability of people to even begin to grasp the implications of it.

There’s also the “abstinence” question (raised by Mayer-Schonberger in his recent book “Delete” about digital memory; see my Books blog May 13). Some years back, I proposed the idea of “online abstinence” for people in certain sensitive positions. That seems totally infeasible if everyone needs to brand himself online. Yet the current furor over Facebook privacy controls and Facebook’s just-announced plan (as per Mark Zuckerberg yesterday) to offer a “private” presence for those who want one, could bring the concept back.

O’Donnell suggests putting up enough professional-related content in searchable areas (respecting confidentiality and trade secrets, of course) to make sure the first six to eight search engine results on your name are “positive”.

No wonder companies like Reputation Defender (Michael Fertik)are around. Online reputation management might become a growing “IT field”.

Friday, May 21, 2010

AOL offers advice on how Windows users should troubleshoot BSOD's; also advice on slow bootup

AOL has a useful article today (Friday May 21) on how to fix a Windows computer that gives intermittent
BSOD’s (blue screen of death).  The article is called "How to fix a crashing computer."

The recommendation is to reboot in safe mode (f8) and then looking at the Event Viewer, or looking at System, Hardware, Device Manager, Properties for errors, and disabling the driver from the startup or not using the item.

AOL also says that it is offering a PC troubleshooting service over the phone, news to me.

Last fall, Microsoft issued a “bad update” that caused intermittend BSOD’s in Vista and had to be backed out.

The tips seem to apply to XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

On a Dell desktop, last year I experienced progressively slow bootups (in XP), which turned out to result from a failing hard drive (6 years).

Some errors might result from accumulating registry errors, which products like Regcure are available to fix.

Also, check this reference on slow bootup (eliminating unecessary processes and fonts) on AOL here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

1999 was my last year of mainframe

I’ve often thought that the year 1999 marked the time my career went off-track. Yes, we spent time testing some mainframe applications (COBOL and Assembler) for Y2K and that was pretty straightforward and really going through motions (including boxing up the printouts of the parallel tests for iron mountain storage somewhere and filling out the paperwork).

No, the year before (1998), in which I recovered from an acetabular hip facture while missing only three weeks work and never looking back, I had implemented a new NCOA (National Change of Address) interface, with mainframes, a feed from the USPS and a Windows NT PC (good technology for the time), and the year had been a success. (Okay, I could have done a better job of paramterizing some IMS PSB’s so there would be no hard-coding.)

But in 1999 I was part of a conversion from IMS to DB2, and because of a family matter back home 1000 miles away, I lost my edge. I really needed to get into the DB2 and get good at it, specialize in it, so that there would be gigs in a post-downsize, post-9/11, post-Y2K world.

Instead, in 2000, I moved over to supporting the mid-tier and end user customer GUI, which I had not developed. I never got good enough at the Powerbuilder and java to be able to sell it. I should have stayed in the mainframe. I’d probably be working in it today (even at 66) if I had.

It turns out you have to specialize in something, let it be DB2, MMIS, welfare systems, or even older databases like IMS and accumulate years of experience and go around the country, living in corporate extended-stay apartments and sell yourself on gigs to make a living with a mainframe background.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Federal government to speed hiring process, give more weight to resumes and cover letters, less to KSA's

On Wednesday, May 12, on p B3, the Washington Post ran a story about speeding up the federal hiring process (as through USA Jobs), by Ed O’Keefe, “A move to streamline the hiring process: Frustrated job seekers cheer as new rules are announced,” link here. The online title of the article is “For applicants, federal hiring reform a relief”.

The news story presents the chronicle of a midwesterner who paid several round trip airfares to Washington for repeated interviews. Currently, the typical hiring process takes 140 days or more.

Friends tell me, however, that “USA Jobs works”.

The new rules will allow more consideration of resumes and cover letters rather than just answering KSA’s, which have become an arcane world of their own. KSA’s tend to repeat the same material in different dress and tend to be very general, but applicants need to make specific points in them and answer the questions asked.

I have a review on my books blog Dec 19, 2008 on the book on federal jobs by Dennis Damp.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Excess overtime can be bad for the heart!

A study conducted in Britain and published in the European Heart Journal shows that people who work heavy overtime consistently, more than 10 hours a day, may be much more likely to have heart disease and shortened lifespans. There is a typical report in Virgin music here.

In information technology jobs there is a problem with a culture of expecting heavy overtime to meet deadlines from salaried employees; contractors who bill hourly may have more leverage. There has also been a problem in that salaried people provide on-call production support (for those batch nighttime S0C7’s!) on their own dime.

BBC News has a similar account here.

The Journal cannot be browsed even for abstracts without an account.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why does my PC boot up too slowly?

I saw this article on AOL “My Computer Takes Forever to Boot Up”, today, link here.  There are stories of older machines taking 20-30 minutes to boot up. My Dell 8300 behaved that way for a few months until the hard drive (6 years old) crashed completely, a good job for the Geek Squad.

My Dell XPS on Vista sometimes takes longer than it should; the pre-me D recovery disk has to be canceled before the computer will allow programs to be executed from the start menu, and once in a while IE stalls once for about a minute (requiring Vista to fix it once), then everything works.

Anti-virus software will slow down the bootup slightly.

One of the interesting tips here is to remove unused fonts.

Most people’s computers have many programs that are rarely used that load into memory at startup. And the order of load seems to be random.

I still will probably look into Windows 7 soon. I’m supposed to get it free.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Should laptops not be left plugged in?

AOL today had a piece on “extending your computer’s lifespan” and suggested that the typical home computer lasts 2-5 years. I thought we were doing better than that. But a store-brand computer in Minnesota’s hard drive lasted only two years, and my Dell 8300 started having serious trouble after fice years, eventually leading to hard drive replacement. The link is here.

On laptops, manufacturers (especially Apple) recommend not keeping the computer plugged in all the time, so that the battery will last longer with occasional use. It should be allowed to run down sometimes. But then the screen isn’t as bright. On “always on” desktops, it does recommend occasional reboots.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Economy is really starting to add permanent jobs now

The economy has generated about 500000 new jobs since the beginning of 2010. Only about 100000 of these were temporary census jobs. 290000 new jobs were added in April.

NPR (National Public Radio) published an interview on “All Things Considered” hosted by Robert Siegel with Tamara Keith, mechanical engineer Brian Silverstein, and Bernard Baumohl of the Economic Outlook Group here.

The unemployment rate may remain high, however, because more unemployed candidates are reentering the workplace and are being counted. 

Lisa Sylvester on CNN discusses the significance of the employment improvement for the economy, starting with Home Depot, which has worked with AARP to hire seniors. UPS is hiring, as is Best Buy and Google will add to its sales staff.

The percentage of employers saying they will hire is also rapidly increasing.

Still “people oriented” jobs that cannot be outsourced, like in health care, may be the fastest to grow.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Employers squeeze more hours out of current people, especially the salaried, rather than hire

Companies may not be adding workers when they can increase productivity per worker as the economy slowly improves or W-bounces, according to a story in the Washington Post May 4 by Theresa Vargas, link here.

The title of the story is “Alexandria company highlights human cost of increased worker productivity.”

The story concerned a printing company in Alexandria VA but it could have been any number of small businesses.

But in information technology salaried workers began to feel this kind of pressure in the late 1980s, when leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers put a lot of pressure on corporate management, which could squeeze more onto the bottom line from salaried employees, by requiring free on-call production support without even paying extra expenses some time.

Gradually the practice could collide with “family values”; single people or those without dependents could “volunteer” to work longer, sometimes to keep their jobs, a practice informally called “lowballing”. Or, turn this upside down, they could be expected to work longer for the same money (getting singles, or sometimes LGBT people “at a discount”).

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tip for independent workers: No contract, no work

The “no contract no work” mantra of the union world has some meaning in the independent contracting world, as the Jobs Section of the Washington Post Sunday Mary 4 led off with an article by Vickie Elmer, “Play it safe; don’t start a job without a contract”. The item does not seem to live online yet.

The tips include getting the terms of the job in some written form, even if an email. Independent contractors have little protection from labor and non-discrimination laws, although they have some protection if employed through a staffing company. And contractors can run into problems with non-compete clauses, which should be limited.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Cardinal rule for job interviews: There can't be anything negative!

Last week AOL had a piece on “5 things not to say” in an interview, and I lost track of it. But the big tip was, never say anything negative. The paper referred to rude gaffes or comments about the company, the interviewer or other people, but also be very careful about what you say about yourself!

I recall an “incident” in 1971 when I was going to be laid off by the RCA Operations Career program (the only layoff in my career until the end of 2001), when we were trying to set up interviews with distant areas of the company. Some of these were connected to defense, requiring security clearances; in those days, that was a dicey issue given what had happened my freshman year in college (see the “BillBoushka” blog Nov. 28 2006). But I remember an interview in Moorestown NJ, about 30 miles away from where I was living at the time, at a defense subsidiary where I made some kind of comment showing lack of confidence.

I wound up getting a job at the Naval Command Systems Support Activity in the Washington Navy Yard shortly thereafter anyway.

There is a link on MSN-careerbuilder this morning by Joe Turner, “Seven things to tell an interviewer,” link here.  The most striking if these tips is the last one, to mention “Any seminal events that happened during your career to cause you to change direction and how that worked out for you.” But you have to be very careful that this doesn’t sound negative. There can’t be anything negative, really!