Can’t Walk and Chew Gum

I reviewed my resume this morning. I’m not looking for another job – I was checking to see if I listed multitasking as a skill set that I possess. Thankfully it was not.

Attention everyone, “I stink at multitasking.”

At home I can do laundry, prepare dinner, empty the trash and check e-mail. What usually happens in the middle of this activity is I’ll lock up and forget what I was going to do. I’ll actually stand in the middle of the living room until I remember that I was headed to get a tissue.

Put me in front of the TV and rest of the world ceases to exist. My wife can ask me a question three times and I’ll not hear her. It’s frustrating to her because she multitasks well. She can have a conversation while reading a book and watching TV.

At work, my lack of multitasking ability is beneficial. Concentrating on one task and doing it well is, in my case, a stronger attribute because when I multitask to get everything done sometimes my work suffers.

When I approach a project, I break it down into multiple tasks. Take this blog post for example. I will research, write, edit, proof and post – five steps. That’s not multitasking – it’s accomplishing one task at a time. I have a to-do list each day of three to five significant work projects that need to be tackled one at a time.

I decided to admit my multitasking deficiency when I read an article in the New York Times that challenged “any man to talk on the phone, send a fax, reply to an e-mail, change a diaper, get a toddler a snack, monitor what your school-age children are watching on TV and add to the grocery list – all at the same time.”

I wasn’t up to the challenge. At best, I can listen to music while working, but that’s like counting breathing while walking as multitasking.

Do you think women are more naturally prone to multitasking? Are you a multitasker or a uni-tasker like me?

Think Before You Ink

tattoos at workDo you remember the episode of Friends in season two when Rachel and Phoebe get tattoos?

It was Phoebe’s idea and Rachel had second thoughts, but then follows through and gets a heart tattoo on her hip. Phoebe is scared of the needle and only gets one pin-prick sized blue dot. It’s referred to as a tattoo of the world (from very far away).

At the time Rachel and Phoebe got their tattoos their characters were 26 and 29 respectively. With 29% of the lead characters having a tattoo, the 1996 show was a snapshot of American society 11 years later.

A recent study by the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology sited that 25% of U.S. adults age 18-50 have tattoos. One-in-three (35%) adults age 18-29 have at least one tattoo.

According to a 2006 U.S. appeals court ruling, Rachel and Phoebe were wise to get their tattoos in easily-coverable areas. The court ruled that police officers do not enjoy First Amendment protection and can be subject to department uniform rules, which required that tattoos be covered.

Employers are beginning to take a hard stance on excessive body art. Companies hire individuals who match with the company image and culture. If that doesn’t include visible tattoos, those who are noticeable inked may be out of luck.

In many parts of the country police officers must wear patches or winter clothes year-round to cover tattoos. Some police forces even turn away applicants with visible tattoos.

Even Uncle Sam is taking a stand on image protection. The Air Force prohibits tattoos that cover more than 25% of exposed body parts and any above the collarbone.

Tattoos are a part of American culture and are firmly entrenched in our society. But your body has a lot of canvas to work with. So, you might want to hold off on that flaming skull tattoo you were planning to get on your neck. I’m certainly glad I wear my art on my back.

What’s the tattoo culture like in your workplace? Have you experienced tattoo regret? What have you done about it?

Baby Boomers Keep On Truckin’ in New Careers

baby boomers jobsBaby Boomers are shaking things up again. While they may not be protesting in the streets or picketing outside schools, their influence is still redefining cultural expectations.

An article in this week’s Newsweek magazine focuses on Boomers who are choosing unexpected career paths. According to the article, an increasing number of the 50+ crowd are saying goodbye to corporate jobs to seek the freedom of the open road as truck drivers. Data in a 2005 study for the American Trucking Association showed that from 2000 to 2004, the number of truckers age 55 to 65 and older increased by about four percent.

As a personal example, over dinner last week, my architect father-in-law told my husband and me that he’d like to drive a truck when he retires in two years. He’s driven Chevy and Dodge trucks for years, so I guess it wouldn’t be such a stretch for him to be out on the road in a big rig.

The Boomer generation is sometimes referred to as the first workaholics and is often associated with aggressively climbing the corporate ladder to get ahead. But, it seems after a lifetime of structure, org charts and board meetings, many Boomers are ready for some freedom.

If you’re a Baby Boomer, what are your career plans for the next five or 10 years? Could you see yourself traveling the country as a truck driver?  Even if you’re not a Boomer, does a desire for a change of scenery tempt you to leave your current job?

Don’t Make Me Use My Patronus On You

harry potter job searchHarry Potter. HARRY Potter. HARRY POTTER.

I can’t get away from him. He’s in the paper. He’s on the Internet, my radio and the television. I can’t escape him at the movies or in the bookstore (which I did not brave this weekend). All weekend I was force fed Harry Potter.

I wasn’t even safe at work, when at 7:55 a.m. Monday, a co-worker asked me if I bought the book and then offered me her copy since she was done with it.

That’s when I started thinking about what Harry Potter character she’d be (Ginny Weasley).

Who would I be? I was intrigued. I took several online quizzes at lunch and the results were inconsistent at best. According to the highly (non) scientific surveys I am the following HP characters:

Hermione Granger: Hermione is a wiz kid, so much so that at times people make her feel ashamed of her intelligence. She is a leader and will tackle anything she puts her mind to. However, she is a bit confused about her romantic interests (does not apply to me). When she goes with her gut instinct she is seldom wrong. In the workplace, Hermione would be ambitious and confident. However, she’d need a strong mentor or boss like Professor McGonagall to rein her in. Her desire to master everything could be her downfall by spreading herself too thin and burning out early.

Harry Potter: He is courageous and very loyal friend. He is not afraid of challenges and is always looking for adventure. Harry loves family but sometimes wishes he was just an average person, which he is definitely not. He is special and important. At work, Harry would be the one to question why something is done a certain way, and then he’d provide a better solution. In his unassuming way, Harry is an innovator. He’s the golden child with a one-way ticket to a corner office.

Draco Malfoy: He tries to influence people, but for all the wrong reasons. Draco picks on his schoolmates. He’s the classic workplace bully. His own insecurities feed his unhappiness and create the desire to harm others. Well, that and the fact that he rides his father’s coat tails and did not have the best family upbringing. One day he will cross paths with the wrong coworker (wizard) and lose his tough-guy status.

When I finished with the quizzes I thought about my high school teachers and how they resembled the Hogwarts faculty: geometry (Severus Snape), drama (Sybill Trelawney) and Spanish (Pomona Sprout).

I daydreamed some more and reflected on some of my past bosses. I ranked them according to how Voldemort-like they were. The list was impressive, but I realized I had never worked for a Dumbledore.

That gave me the motivation I needed. I could become a Dumbledore to my team. I might not ever make it, but it’s a much better path to walk than the path “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” took.

Do you work with a Harry Potter character? Do you hide in fear when your Voldemort-esque boss turns the corner? I’d like to hear your stories.

What Not to Do When You’re Job Hunting

Countless eager job seekers are going to extremes to stand apart from the crowd. But, their efforts, though well-intentioned, can miss the mark. Last year, one video resume from an aspiring job seeker  became a YouTube sensation when it was posted without his consent after he sent it to several Wall Street recruiters. The resume and the buzz it generated subjected its creator to internet ridicule – and didn’t exactly help his job prospects. But in some cases, a video resume has been just the ticket. Another job seeker, featured by Career Journal, actually landed four job offers from his video resume.

Video resumes aren’t the only new trend being used by job seekers to stand apart from the crowd. Recruiting bloggers often post horror stories of job seekers trying too hard to set themselves apart from the pack – from dressing up in costume to sending lavish gifts to hounding recruiters with frequent calls and e-mails. So how can job seekers figure out if these efforts will help or hurt their job search?

The Brand Dame, a professional recruiter, recently posted a list of things not to do in a job hunt – from the perspective of the person picking through resumes. Though it sounds a little harsh, her insights should be taken seriously by job seekers. Recruiters, she says,  “…are looking for reasons to eliminate you.” It’s your job to sell yourself as the right candidate for the job, not eliminate yourself by making a dumb move. And in a competitive job market, it can be hard to find the right balance between not trying and trying too hard. Here are a few top ways you can ensure your resumes gets put in the “no” pile. (Hint: Avoid these at all costs.)

  • Try too hard. Give your job search serious effort, but don’t become a nuisance to the recruiters and hiring managers you are applying with. A unique way to stand out from the crowd isn’t necessarily a wrong move, but whether it’s a right one or not will depend largely on the type of job and industry you’re trying to get into. An off-the-cuff video resume probably won’t appeal to conservative companies or industries, but it might work for creative fields.

  • Oversell yourself. Some people can make themselves sound pretty impressive on paper. Others just make themselves sound self-absorbed and self-important. Present your skills and your abilities for what they are, and keep it at that.

  • Bribe. Recruiters don’t take kindly to being bribed for an interview. Some have legal obligations with the companies they work for to not accept any gifts or outside compensation for their efforts. Don’t go overboard on gestures you send recruiters. Keep your efforts professional, simple and to-the-point.

  • Lie. Don’t say you graduated from Yale, with honors, if it’s not true. It’s the job of recruiters to verify your resume for facts, and these days, a simple Google search or call to a university can quickly uncover the truth and lies behind applicants’ resumes. A recent story on Career Journal highlighted how one woman’s high-powered career fell apart after it was discovered she fudged the truth on her resume when she lied about her credentials.

  • Hassle/harass. Yes, believe it or not, recruiters have been hassled, even harassed or stalked by overly eager job seekers. While a thoughtful gesture can set you apart from the pack, showing up at a recruiter’s front door with a singing telegram and a $100 flower arrangement probably isn’t going to land you a job. Unless you’re applying to be a birthday party clown.

Do you have any stories of job hunting tips gone awry? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Care for a Mint?

Jerry Seinfeld shared the following quote during one of his monologues in season five of Seinfeld.

“I really feel as human beings, we need more training in our basic social skills. Conversational Distance. Don’t you hate these people that talk to you – they talk into your mouth like you’re a clown at a drive-through.”

In this episode (“The Raincoats”), Elaine’s boyfriend is a “close talker” (CT), a man who invades your personal space.

I ran into a close talker this week at a business lunch and it still has me shook up.

The man was the same height as me. We were both dressed in suits and ties, had similar builds and the same color hair and eyes.

He approached me with a question and steadily began entering my personal space like Napoleon plowing through Europe. In about 20 seconds I was pressed up against the wall, and I had yet to say anything. But I could tell he chose the tuna salad.

This experience was exactly like a scenario I read about in the USA Today on Tuesday. The article “Does height equal power? Some CEOs say yes,” offered some good insight into social domination.

In the article, Lara Tiedens, an organizational behavior professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business stated that people often use height, or the appearance of height (high heels or lifts) to look more powerful. She describes these power players who look directly at others, use an open stance and vigorous gestures, speak loudly in a deep voice, interrupt at will, and lean in close or otherwise reduce the space of others and expand their own.

Since “CT” and I were so similar, I contend he chose to invade my space to gain an advantage. I observed him speaking with others, mostly women, and he kept a comfortable distance. Then again he was taller than them.

Have you met a close talker? How do you think height affects power plays at work? Please share you experience.

Next time I run into a close talker, I hope he’ll pick the chicken salad instead.

Who’s Facebooking You?

The social networking site Facebook is now the most used people search engine on the
Web according to data reported by Inside Facebook, an independent blog dedicated to Facebook news. And, according to Wikipedia, the site is now the 7th most visited site in the U.S. and has 30 million registered users.

What does all this mean to you? That friends, acquaintances and employers could be searching Facebook for information about you. If you have a Facebook account, the thought of your boss or a random neighbor perusing your profile may not sit well with you – depending on what you have posted there.

The content on Facebook profiles has created career hiccups for some. For example, Miss New Jersey was recently involved in a blackmailing fiasco that threatened to end her reign as a result of some questionable photos on her Facebook page. 

According to CBS.com research, about 20 percent of employers are routinely scanning the Facebook profiles of applicants. When employers stumble upon racy or questionable content on applicants’ profiles, it can do serious damage to the applicants’ chances of landing an interview, let alone a job.

But just because employers are browsing social networking sites for information on candidates doesn’t mean you should delete your Facebook profile. Online profiles can actually be used to your advantage. For one, they give employers an inside look at your personality, interests and creative abilities – all of which can help you stand out from the crowd.

If you’re actively applying for jobs and you have an online profile, consider including some of your career strengths and interests on your profile in case a recruiter finds you online. Or if you have content on your profile that you don’t want prospective employers to view, make your profile private.

What’s been your experience with Facebook and other social networking sites? Have you searched co-workers, applicants or employees on these sites? How would you feel if you knew a recruiter had looked at your profile?