Tuesday, July 27, 2010

In periods of economic distress, can workers get back to their old salary levels?

A New York times columnist talked about the loss of wages today, and the length of time it takes people to get back to their former earnings levels, and the enormous loss of wealth in the meantime.

I took pay cuts twice in my career. In 1981, I was making about $36000 as a systems analyst in Dallas for a Blue Cross / Blue Shield consortium, which was falling apart. I resigned before the end came, and took a salary of $28000 at Chilton as a programmer/analyst with COBOL and learning ALC (in a DATACOM/DB/DC environment). By 1988, when the company was being sold to TRW and I was leaving again to go back East, my salary had risen to $43000. I took a job at $40000 in Washington DC, got no raise when I moved with a lateral sale of a small consulting business to Lewin/ICF, and then took a $40000 at USLICO, which would eventually morph to ReliaStar and then ING. When I got laid off and forced to “retire” at the end of 2001 at age 58, my salary was about $72000 (including the effect of a transfer to Minneapolis). With bonuses, somehow, unemployment based my benefits on it’s being $83000 in Minnesota.

Salary compounding with annual raises can recover an income level pretty quickly. The problem is getting the stability it needs to get the raises.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tory Johnson discusses using your blog or personal website to sell

On Monday, July 26, Tory Johnson gave a report on opportunities to earn substantial money by selling ad space on personal websites and blogs. She made particular mention of the Open Sky Project, which is (website url) here.   This facility is more about selling specific products and services. As for a more general approach, she first suggested approaching local businesses to sell advertisements on your blog, rather than depend on national advertising platforms.

Most of us have heard about the spectacular success of a few “mommy blogs”, most notably Heather Armstrong, who started “dooce.com” in 2002 after she was fired for making unfavorable comments about her workplace on her blog without naming the company or people (but they still could be identified). Blogs about “practical concerns” shared by many people (gardening, cooking, or especially job hunting) sometimes do well, as do some blogs about technology and particularly Internet security and various technical subjects such as in video or filmmaking. You don’t expect a blog about abstract matters such as social or political “ideology” to do was well. (Religion and faith is a mixed bag.)

Tory Johnson is scheduled for many appearances on this website, the “Work at Home Woman”, here.

I am somewhat familiar with another advertising exchange called Linkshare, here, which I used a few years ago (from 1999-2005) on my old Hppub site. I found that some kinds of companies, like airlines, would not (post 9/11) advertise on sites that deal with political controversies, and would “pre-eliminate” them. I also worked with specific vendors on Hppub and a few did advertise on my site.

There used to be some free news feeds like “7am news” that could make a site more attractive then; now one uses social media instead for news currency.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

ABC GMA: Tory Johnson provides more tips on using social media (esp. Twitter) in job searches; a long way from the days of "digital dirt"

Tory Johnson did another report on using social media for job hunting on Wednesday July 21, in a report “Social Media: get your foot in the virtual door: use social media like Twitter and Facebook to get ahead in the jobsearch”, link here.

She suggested researching a company you’re interested in and “following” key persons in the company on Twitter. She says this is not “stalking” if you keep the tone conversational.

My own experience is that Twitter is particularly effective among artists, as to concerts, showings, readings, and general impressions of trends.

People do make impressions from one’s tweets. It can be positive. For example, tweets can leave the impression that one likes to cook healthful or low-fat foods or ethnic, particularly if one uses terms for unusual items (like “gravlax”).

Tory also mentioned  tweetmyjobs.

She recommends checking the openings where your Facebook friends work, and using company profiles pages on LinkedIn.

Tory has hit the online reputation issue pretty hard. Back in 2006, before many people talked about it, she wrote an article “cleaning up your digital dirt”.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What the mainframe world used to be like -- tedious! (Is the "New World" different?)

One Sunday afternoon in late September of 1987, I ran into my high rise office in Dallas (it was very hot) and noticed a red sports car in the parking lot. The office building didn’t have air conditioning on weekends, and it was a pain to work overtime there.

The car belonged to a woman who was having some difficulty with getting all of her assigned work exactly right as we ran full month parallels before an implementation of a new daily and WOM billing system at a credit reporting company. We had been running all the statements and details every day, printing them, and comparing them by hand, and keeping them in a conference room for the QA team to inspect. So a phrase flashed through my mind as I saw the car, “The Problem.”

That’s what mainframe work was like in those days. The boss, who had turned tough compared to his kinder and gentler reputation in the past, was picky with some people about getting everything exactly right. The company was being chased by corporate raiders in a leveraged buyout environment common in the late 1980s. The Boss would say, “in this economy, people who don’t do their jobs don’t have jobs.”

True. And we had a less desirable technical mix, to go out and sell: Datacom DB and DC (compared to IMS and CICS, the desired background in the job market at the time, particularly in Dallas).

That’s what work was like then. You became a guru in your own little area. One of my expertise areas was the packed unsigned coding of bureau and satellite numbers, particularly as you read the record layouts and debugged. Another was the coding out of addressability (off of R15) in many of the ALC programs.

The 14 or so years of my mainframe career that remained would often be like that. File-to-file compares (although not always printed – we learned to use FileAID), meticulous attention to the correctness of elevations (following vendor procedures for properly staging and locking code is essential). You lived this world where everything had to be perfect, and developed best practices so you could go on vacation and not deep-six your career. You got good at it. But it wasn’t a maturity that translated easily into the new job markets that the Internet would evolved, first in the dot-com boom and later with the empire of social networking and search companies that dominate the world today (we know who they are).

In life insurance shops, after all, Vantage still Rules the World!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It really may be better to train your laptop battery to run down!

A little tip: I forgot to plug in the XPS Vista laptop today. A storm came, when I would normally disconnect it to protect it from any lightning risks. Coincidentally, the Dell battery got down to 6%, and flashed a warning on the status bar. Then it went dark, into sleep mode. Discarding caution, I plugged in the battery to the UPS, giving it current, but the Dell still remained asleep. Then the power light went out.

I unplugged the laptop, waited for the storm to pass, and replugged it. After a wait of one minute, it seemed that the Dell machine would recognize it was active but asleep. It brought up a warning screen, said resume windows. It took about one minute for Windows to resume, with the user accounts locked. After unlocking, the machine worked normally.

It seems as though the firmware knows how long it has been powered down. You must pull power and leave if off for a specified time, as is the case with cable modems sometimes. Car batteries and starters sometimes work this way.

I guess I’m in the habit of using the house current too much. The battery lasts about two hours before running out. It probably does better if train it and let it run down more often.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Musicians often have a hard time making a living (MSN story)

MSN ran an article from “The Root” about the financial life of a musician, showing how difficult it would be for the average music band member to make a living off of CD and MP3 sales. P2P piracy (whatever one thinks of the past tactics of the RIAA) can make the problem for musicians worse. Read Cord Jefferson’s article “The Music Industry’s Funny Money” here.

So, yes, musicians do other things, like wait on tables, clean apartments (I used to hear that a lot in my days at the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s) and, for the more physical ones, model. Oh, some do work as actors, maybe even in SAG.

So the life of the artist is no easier today than in the days of “Copying Beethoven.”

I like the name of the source publication. I used to argue with my father by "taking things to the Root".

Friday, July 09, 2010

Carbonite works, after a couple of tricks

I went ahead and tried Carbonite backup on my laptop. I found it pre-installed, but the icon would say “trying to establish Internet access” and die. So I went to the site and reinstalled it.

I found I was not able to preselect the directories that I wanted. The product would die.

But the default settings worked. The backup was very slow at first, but in time gained speed. It probably took about 24 hours to back up 6 Gig. I found that I could disable or “dismiss” it before turning off the laptop, and resume it on restart. There is a green oval icon on the system tray (it’s gray until the initial backup completes). It seems to back up new files pretty promptly. It allows a 14 day trial and then $55 a year.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Tory Johnson on ABC covers employers checking credit reports of applicants

Tory Johnson, on ABC Good Morning America, provided a discussion on July 6 about employers checking credit reports of job applicants.

Further some employers have baldly said they will not consider people not already working,

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Johnson said that candidates who believe they have credit problems, particularly because of the current unemployment and economic crisis, can “butter up” or reinforce to the interviewer that the employer considers them a good fit and can prepare them for the possibility of adverse information on the credit report.

Back in 1987, Chilton Credit Reporting in Dallas (where I was working) decided that all current employees have acceptable credit, although TRW dropped that requirement when it acquired Chilton (now the company is Experian).

The television interview did not consider an even more abstruse problem, employers checking applicant’s “online reputation” (as with Facebook profiles) before making employment decisions.

Joe Davison has a column on p B3 "The Federal Worker: Haunted by their checkered financial histories", July 8, 2010, link here  about firings of employees in DFAS, the Defense Finance  and Accounting Service for bad credit.  "Outside activities" could also lead to firings .

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Facebook use at home for people who already have jobs (there are many mistakes!)

Here’s a good one on a site by Mike Volpe, “To 10 Career Facebook Mistakes”, although I see the original list was old (posted in Jan 2008), before Facebook made many important innovations on its services. Still Bing brought this file to my attention when I logged on this morning, for whatever reason. Actually the counted number of mistakes is 8.

The emphasis here is for people already employed. Facebook seems to be all too miscible with the workplace.

Here’s the link.

I wonder why it matters if you post party pictures the same night, rather than the next morning.

True, you shouldn’t say you don’t like your job on Facebook, even if you don’t identify the company. People have been fired for that. But I remember an incident in pre-Internet days back in 1977, when I had gone to work for a Medicaid contractor (Bradford), and another programmer simply told someone he was already looking for a different job with the NYC Transit Agency. He was fired immediately when it got around.

It seems to me that the general comments about online reputation apply to all media, not just Facebook.

There is also a “Facebook for Business Marketing Kit” with link here.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Older workers: Dye your hair, use Rogaine, and whiten your teeth (really?)

I caught an interview on CNN today from a female spokesperson (didn’t get he name), about job hunting for people whose resumes that go back to the 1970s.

Leave out that experience with the company that no longer exists. (It probably exists as part of something else.) Your resume is not your autobiography. (Should you have one at all on the Net?)

If you’re older, your “maturity” may scare younger managers. So may your previous incomes. So may your lack of non-linear tech savvy.

But I was taken back by her recommendation to dye your hair (or get a toupee, or use Minoxodil or Rogaine) or get a tooth whitening job. I don’t need that. If you’re getting older as a male, don’t wear shorts in public and show up on the Web that way. Of, you shouldn’t worry about things you can do nothing about! I guess you're going to be scoped on the job interview, and even before on the Web.

Here is CNN’s “Job Blues for Gray-Haired Workers” link.

Update: July 21

Check this recent story on Newsweek on "lookism" and the workplace, here.  Maybe it doesn't matter too much in IT.  The article is rather strident to say the least.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Federal government should encourage more telecommuitng (report)

Booz Allen Hamilton and the Partnership for Public Service have issued a report (link) encouraging the federal government to look much more vigorously into opportunities for worker telecommuting. Up to 80% of jobs could be done partly from home in emergencies. The report also encourages breaking down the “presenteeism” mentality and evaluate work on quantifiable results only.

Joe Davison has an article on the report in the July 1 Washington Post on the Federal Page.

Again, a few companies have developed customer service business models where the workers perform entirely from home on their own equipment.

Carpooling and the use of "slug lines" has always been problematic in salaried IT work, where production support requirements can become unpredictable.

In the early 1990s, it became common for companies to lend IT employees terminals and then laptops for on-call production support from home.

Judging from the picture, the one career where people really work from home,or from the field, is journalism.