Thursday, December 20, 2012

The essay job interview (it's not like "The Apprentice")

I recall a strange interview in April 1989 at Tysons Corner VA with a company named Legent.  The job would have involved telephone support of clients for the company’s mainframe clients.

During the course of the interview, I was asked to write an self-assessment essay, long-hand, cursive.  I’ve never had to do that for an interview at any other time.

I had to get into the fact that I had spent about six years (at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Consortium “CABCO” and then at Chilton) before I “implemented” anything. I also had some kind of question about the integrity of my goals in taking a job.  I also had to address my apparent disinterest in "advancement" into "management" in conventional thinking.  That can connect up to discussions on moral issues (how we use personal freedom) that I am exploring on my main blog.

Actually, now that I think about it, I do recall one other written essay portion on an interview, three short paragraphs when I interviewed to become a substitute teacher in Arlington VA in 2004.

And, for my first job in 1970 in “Operations Research” at RCA in Princeton, I had to give a technical talk on my Master’s Thesis.  Times have changed. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Census will offer Internet access for some surveys

On Tuesday, December 18, 2012, the Huffington Post reported that the US Census Bureau is moving toward offering an Internet option for future census surveys.

The specific survey in the story is the American Community Survey, which affects federal funding of some programs. This survey is done every year.  I was employed by the Current Population Survey (CPS) for about eight months in 2011.

I had gotten the job as a result of working the diennial survey in 2010.  Surveys like CPS and ACS are done on randomly selected addresses that are revisited or followed up for a period of time by survey employees. There are also health care surveys used by the CDC.
The CPS is used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to generate unemployment statistics.  There is an elaborate software technology, based on statistics, to manage the sampling and classification of addresses. 

I started the job right after my mother died at the end of 2010, and immersion into the job was a bit of cold splash dive.  We did carry laptops and had elaborate software.  We had a week of paid training in Charlotte, NC  (I believe that the regional office has moved to Philadelphia); three weeks after Mother’s death, I was “on the road” in a new life. 

But some respondents (only a small percentage) resisted being contacted by personal visit and phone.  A few suggested that they would be much more cooperative with Internet options.  Of course, by oath,I cannot identify or disclose any information about any specific respondent or address. (Census cannot even share any personal information with other agencies, like law enforcement.)  I did stop after eight months (at the end of August 2011) partly because I was not as convinced about their “need”, partly because of discomfort in having to contact reluctant respondents, and partly t move on to other things.

It’s not clear how soon Internet could affect the CPS or diennial.  It would seem that use of Internet response would reduce the need for as many hourly part-time employees.  However, some employees worked several surveys (which take place during set weeks of the month) and effectively worked full time, and people could advance into supervisory positions.

As I've noted with telemarketing, the public is continuing to resist the idea that it is OK for others to contact people door-to-door or by phone, a major cultural shift that affects employment.  
 The link for the Huffington story by Hope Yen is here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

11 years ago today, an I.T. career dies; new life starts; are phone bank jobs any good at all now?

It was eleven years ago today,  in a cold Minneapolis morning with snow flurries, Thursday, December 13, 2001, that my conventional I.T. career came to its cardiac arrest, on the same day of the week, even – and never quite resumed.  I’ve covered that before.  People over 55 came out of this quite well as far as severance and buyout were concerned.  Still, I can replay the entire day in my mind.  The night before, ABC Nighline had talked about Enron ("Ask why?") .  That morning, I had been more concerned about my own home PC crashing than with the impending layoff.  When they tell everybody to come to work and not work from home, you know something’s up.

The next job that I would take (four months later) would be a part-time evening job calling for contributions for the Minnesota Orchestra Guaranty Fund.  I even saw an ad for the job in a magazine I had picked up in a gay bar. They say it's "telefunding";  in practice, it's telemarketing.  (In late 2003, after moving back to DC, I tried selling National Symphony subscriptions through a company called Arts Marketing. Again, there were both government retirees and laid off professionals trying to get back on their feet selling things for commission that consumers can order for themselves on the Web.)
I was actually pretty successful at it, getting some “blue money on credit” for a while.  It helped to know something about classical music.  I worked there for fourteen months, giving me a sense of stability – then I went on to debt collection.  I actually had two jobs for a couple weeks in May 2003.

Now, my land line phone (an artifact from my Mother’s life) rings about ten times a day. I don’t pick up on all of them, but a lot of them are small organizations (like firemen’s unions) looking for contributions.  There are so many of these,  that I have to cut them off and handle all my contributions in an automated way at the bank.

I even heard people working in this evening job, “You’re working in a phone bank…. These aren’t bad people, but for some people, this is the only kind of job they can get.”  It wasn’t so bad in 2002, but it would be terrible now.  People are even more disconnected socially than ever before.  There was even a time when door-to-door selling was socially acceptable.  Now it poses a security problem.  These changes, a lot related to technology and automation, are not good for some people.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More employers pressure associates to join corporate wellness programs

I get an unsolicited subscription to "Business Insurance" at my "business" address (a UPS store in Ballston), and the Dec. 10-17 2012 issue is dedicated to "Investing in Wellness" by employers (link).

When I worked for ING (through the end of 2001), we got a small bonus for having an "annual physical".  I remember undergoing this physical in Minneapolis on Dec, 7, 2011, just six days before learning of the layoff (the 11th anniversary of it is tomorrow, on the same day of the week).  I remember soaking in the warm (enclosed) "rooftop" pool at the Churchill Apartments, overlooking downtown Minneapolis, in order to be "relaxed" for the physical, but I still had hypertension.   I had my first EKG since 1998 (only then for the accident breaking my hip).

I wonder if this practice could get intrusive.  Associates would spend more time in company-sponsored activities than in facilities that they choose on their own (like LA Fitness, formerly Bally's -- and I need to make another visit soon).  Associates might be expected to undergo monitoring that could become physically intrusive (like stress tests or even Holter).

That takes me to my next sci-fi scenario -- being monitored opens you to telepathy, and selection.  But that's a topic for another day!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

"Code Academy" enables people to learn website coding skills at home on their own

There is a new startup that enables people to learn some web programming, specifically in  Javascript, HTML, CSS, Python, and Ruby. The “learn to code” site is called “Code Academy” (maybe in the spirit of Khan Academy), and has the logical name, link here.

The website tracks a customer's progress with lessons, and could be included in a resume package in a job search. 
I would need something more like java (itself), Visual Basic or C#, in the appropriate environment, reading a database, as for my knowledge management and opposing viewpoints ideas (“BillBoushka” blog, Feb. 29, 2012).  This would all require the appropriate environment with ASP and ADO.

The founder of Code Academy is 21-year-old Zach Sims, with a typical story here. Sims says that "Coding is 21st Century literacy".  

CNN reported today about an innovation that would allow people wearing certain kinds of contact lenses to see text messages from their smartphones on their contacts.  How would that affect the “distracted driving” issue? 

Sunday, December 02, 2012

NBC Today reports that seasonal delivery jobs "go begging": They're hard work!

Interim jobs, anyone?  How about manual labor?

The NBC Today show today reports that thousands of seasonal jobs for Amazon and UPS, and other retail delivery companies (I suppose they include Laser Express and FedEx) are going unfilled.  Many of the jobs are around Seattle or around Louisville KY. 

People might find their unemployment runs out, and then becomes a problem after the jobs end, depending on what Congress does this month regarding the “Fiscal Cliff”. 

These sorts of jobs are physically demanding, as UPS puts drivers through a week of intense “PT” to learn to do the job efficiently.