Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Makes A Good Blog?

I started The Working Gal six months ago and as 2009 is drawing to a close, I can’t help but reflect the year that had passes me by – taking stock of what had transpired and whether the goals that I set for myself earlier are met or not. I must confess I’m not a good keeper of goals. I realized some time ago and since then, making new resolutions had never been my thing. But when I set out something new, I do make a mental note of what I hope to achieve. So, there you go…I’m now in a reflective mood.

So, this year is when I really started blogging. I had never put down my thots on writing that much in my entire life until this year - I still can’t believe it myself. I started The Working Gal more like an experiment because I wanted to see the difference between maintaining a blog within a corporate website and a personal blog, but on the same theme: careers (oh well, what else do I know, rite?) But wait a minute…I got carried away and decided to start another blog (oh yes, the blogging flu just got into me)

Seriously, I’m still learning the blogging ropes and I went scouting for clues on what makes a successful blog, specifically a career blog. No tips on good career blog (readers, if you found a real good article, let me know) but stumbled a good one on what makes for a good blog. Well, I hope this inspire you as much as it did to me…

1. Good blogs have a voice.

Who wrote this? What is their name? What can I figure out about who they are that they have never overtly told me? What’s their personality like and what do they have to contribute – even when it’s “just” curation. What tics and foibles fascinate make me about this blog and the person who makes it? Most importantly: what obsesses this person?

2. Good blogs reflect focused obsessions.

People start real blogs because they think about something a lot. Maybe even five things. But, their brain so overflows with curiosity about a family of topics that they can’t stop reading and writing about it. They make and consume smart forebrain porn. So: where do this person’s obsessions take them?

3. Good blogs are the product of “Attention times Interest.”

A blog shows me where someone’s attention tends to go. Then, on some level, they encourage me to follow the evolution of their interest through a day or a year. There’s a story here. Ethical “via” links make it easy for me to follow their specific trail of attention, then join them for a walk made out of words.

4. Good blog posts are made of paragraphs.

Blog posts are written, not defecated. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated by the Owner of Your Plantation. If a blog has fixed limits on post minimums and maximums? It’s not a blog: it’s a website that hires writers. Which is fine. But, it’s not really a blog.

5. Good “non-post” blogs have style and curation.

Some of the best blogs use unusual formats, employ only photos and video, or utilize the list format to artistic effect. I regret there are not more blogs that see format as the container for creativity – rather than an excuse to write less or link without context more.

6. Good blogs are weird.

Blogs make fart noises and occasionally vex readers with the degree to which the blogger’s obsession will inevitably diverge from the reader’s. If this isn’t happening every few weeks, the blogger is either bored, half-assing, or taking new medication.

7. Good blogs make you want to start your own blog.

At some point, everyone wants to kill the Buddha and make their own obsessions the focus. This is good. It means you care.

8. Good blogs try.

I’ve come to believe that creative life in the first-world comes down to those who try just a little bit harder. Then, there’s the other 98%. They’re still eating the free continental breakfast over at FriendFeed. A good blog is written by a blogger who thinks longer, works harder, and obsesses more. Ultimately, a good blogger tries. That’s why “good” is getting rare.

9. Good blogs know when to break their own rules. Duh. I made a list, didn’t I? Yes. I did. Big fan.

Me meeting all that? No, far from it. A good blogger I’ll be in the long run I'm not sure but I know one thing for certain though – the more I blog, the more I learn – not just the subject matter alone but also more about myself. And I think that’s worth it! So 2010, here I come and bloggers out there, I'm still AROUND.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top 10 Work Stressors

Why do you plan to leave your job?

The working hours are very long..

I bet if you are an interviewer, this is one of the common replies you would have heard many times before. This is also a sign that the person is undergoing a lot of stress and when the person has reached the stage of putting himself right in front of you, it’s just short of telling you he had enough and it’s time to move on.

Some time ago, writer David R. Butcher, from a study of more than 3,000 people, reports the top 10 work stresses:

1. Workload

2. Feeling undervalued


3. Deadlines


4. Type of work people have to do

5. Having to take on other people’s work


6. Lack of job satisfaction


7. Lack of control over the working day


8. Having to work long hours


9. Frustration with the working environment


10. Targets


Are you facing any of the above right now?

If yes, it’s not a good idea to let that stress prolong for we all know what stress can do to our health – it hurts us physically and mentally. Therefore, it’s important to recognize it as a work stress and the next step is to see whether there is anything you can do to prevent it from getting worse. If the nature of it is going to be temporary, i..e, heavy workload due to some extra projects that came on board and they will be over soon, then the best way is to learn to manage your stress.

Otherwise, the best way out to save your health or overall well-being is probably a change of working environment.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

10 Most Common Reasons Given For Not Attending Job Interviews

One of the most frustrating moments in a Recruiter's life is to call up the client/employer to advise the job interview arranged earlier has to be canceled.

I encountered that again today. This gentleman is officially without a job as of today because his contract work ended yesterday. As of last Thursday, he was very excited to receive the news that he got short listed for an interview. Over the weekend, something must have occurred that caused the change of mind. Check out his reason: I don't think I should go for the interview because I do not have any transport. My reply was, "No worries. The company is willing to provide you the transport." Stunned by my reply, he went on to justify the true reason why he does not want to attend the interview was that the nature of work that requires field work is just not his thing now. What shall I say? Cliched at best, no? I can probe further and he will continue to justify and this will go on and on. Experience does make a difference and in cases like this, no persuasion is needed because ultimately it is his career and he should be more concerned than I am.

Is his reason one of the common ones? Probably not. My list below is compiled from my many years of experience as a HR Practitioner and now in the recruitment business. Some of them are valid but most of them are really lame, indicating man's worst nature when comes to careers: fickleness.

  1. Just got another offer.
  2. Discussed with my husband over the weekend. He said I should not try for the job. Err...why? It's personal. I can't tell.
  3. Have second thoughts on the location.
  4. Sick. I think I'll just passed this.
  5. Forgotten that I actually have a company training to attend.
  6. I cannot locate the office and had been spending the past half an hour looking for it. Tell them I'm not keen anymore.
  7. Have to go back hometown last minute - parents are sick.
  8. Car broke down. I'll passed this opportunity.
  9. Not so keen about the company anymore. Heard something unpleasant about them from some friends.
  10. The worst: No notice given- just did not turn up and the hand phone line went dead. It's like the guy has just decided to take a vacation out of planet earth. When finally managed to locate him, usually a couple of days later, the common reply, "Oh, I totally forgotten about that. I was outstation."
Giving last minute notices with lame excuses or not turning up at all without any notice are examples of poor job hunting ethics. This can be avoided if you take some time to seriously consider a job interview invitation. Most people unfortunately have the "kiasu" mentality by saying yes to whatever that comes their way and thought it was not a problem to cancel it at last minute.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Only 56% gave out increments in 2009

Employees are not happy this year. Why? Cos’ many did not get their increments. According to Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) salary survey, out of the 212 companies surveyed, only 56% gave out increments this year. It’s a whopping drop as compared to last year at 81%.

Also down was the quantum of increase given. The average salary increase is as follows:-

Non-executives – 5.22% (5.69% in 2008)
Executives – 5.36% (6.09% in 2008)

Read further:-
MEF
The Star

The figure is not really a shock to many as this had more or less expected due to the economic downturn.

Rather, the more pertinent question on everyone’s mind is this: When will the economic downturn be over so that we can have the salary increments and bonuses back?

Is there a silver lining?

There are signs of recovery in the country’s exports with regional trade picking up the slack from traditional export markets, said Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Tan Sri Mustafa Mansur.

Although it may be too early to say that the global recession has ended, numerous indicators are suggesting that the downturn is somewhat subsiding. Massive national fiscal stimuli and monetary expansions have largely aided the gradual recovery….(MIER)

We all hope for a rising, but the only rising we got so far is the floods on the East Coast.

2010, how is it going to be?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Freelancing - Getting Popular

Of late, more people are getting into the freelancing bandwagon. Some opted to freelance immediately after graduation and some decided to give it a shot when they are being laid-off, and some freelance merely for the sake of supplementing their fixed income. Whatever the reason one gets into freelancing, one fact remains….it’s getting increasingly popular.

Why freelancing is getting more popular?

• Companies are wary of hiring full-time workers due to the economy uncertainty. Instead of having to bear the cost of a fixed head-count during slow times, engaging a freelancer helps to keep the overhead low.



• The increase of jobs that are pc or laptop-based makes it easier for employers to outsource to individuals. A lot of work nowadays can be done if you have a laptop and an internet line. Correspondences can be carried out online free of charge and work can be easily transmitted through emails. Besides, owning a PC or laptop has become relatively cheaper nowadays making it easier for individuals to opt for freelancing mode.

• A change of mindset - freelancing as a new working lifestyle is being embraced more positively than before. In the past, you get frowned at if you do not have a full-time job. But now, people envy the freedom and flexibility of those that tread on this path.

• Many freelancers had also testified true job satisfaction and this had persuaded many wannabes to follow their footsteps.

• Freelancing allows people to work from the comfort of their home. With the crazy traffic jam especially in Klang Valley, the idea of earning a living from home is an attractive idea.

• Websites that advertise for freelancing jobs or allowing freelancers to advertise their services had also encourage the trend.

Any freelancers out there – wish to share your experience?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How Do I Protect My Online Reputation?

It’s not what you said that determined your reputation but what Google said... This is the world of digital age after all! Almost every professional cannot escape leaving a digital footprint – some of us bigger than the rest but no one is spared from leaving some marks somewhere.

As the internet helps a person to be famous very fast, one negative comment can likewise spread quickly beyond our personal network to damage one’s life and career.

Scary? Absolutely. So, how do we manage and protect our online reputation?

1. Use social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter wisely. As more recruiters are using these sites to screen new candidates, be careful of what message you post on your wall and profile page. If you do it right, these sites can be your great ally.

2. Search your name occasionally and check for the activity that’s connected to it.

3. Set up news feed for your name so you can monitor when and if your name pops up on blogs or other online articles. For example, create Google alerts for your full name so that whenever your name is mentioned in the net, you get an email alert immediately.

4. Watch out what you post on the web, whether it’s a blog post like what I’m doing now or comments made in other sites. Often, the negatives about you can be something you published yourself. Recruiters may just eliminate a candidate based on something that they have said on the web.

5. If something untrue is said about you, take action immediately. Ask the site owner to remove the article as it’s still out there.

6. Create a google profile since google dominates the search engine market This new tool is recently launched by Google to let us create profiles and direct people to this profile when someone conducts a search. It gives you the opportunity to allow people to get the first-hand knowledge about you and to push other results about you that may be embarrassing farther down in the search list results.

7. If you do not wish to have the world see your tweets or photos, opt to keep your account locked or refine your viewing permissions.

Some of the ideas above are from Forbes.com.

Bottom line: Use common sense when you surf on the net as each activity help to create your online reputation. Are you happy with the results people get back when they Google your name?

I must admit I've so much to learn as I blogged about this subject.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kurzarbeit

Heard of “Kurzarbeit”? It’s a German word that translates to “short work”. German policymakers are rejoicing at present because their strategy of curbing unemployment, or at least minimizing its spread is working well, via “kuzarbeit”.

Firms that face a temporary decrease in demand avoid shedding employees. Instead, they cut down the working hours. If hours and wages are reduced by 10% or more, the government pays workers 60% of their lost salary. This certainly encourages firms to use across-the-board reductions of hours instead of layoffs. The benefit of this program is that workers still have jobs.

Click here for more reading of this program

Laying-off workers should always be the last resort but employers usually do not have much choice when sales and profits are down. But with government intervention, employers are more willing to retain workers. Employers would prefer all else being equal not to lose staff because when recession ends, they need to incur large hiring and training costs. Of course, the other factor is staff morale – when there are lay-offs, it affect not only those that had left but people who are staying too.

So, bravo to Germany!

Kevin Hasset was right to say that US should learn from their friend across the Atlantic. With the recent US unemployment rate rises to 10.2%, surely whatever job-creation programs they had in place are not working effectively. It’s never too late to change and adapt to this work sharing model.

Over this part of the shore, Malaysian policymakers and employers can keep this model in mind too. We may need to adopt it one day.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's Bonus Time...Or Is It?


“Hopes of getting a year-end bonus for civil servants were dashed as the Prime Minister is of the view that it is morally wrong for Cuepacs to make such a request when the Government is making efforts to ride out of the global economic crisis.”
(thestar.com.my)

Civil servants got their answer loud and clear. No bonus equals to a lot of things to many people – it can mean no holiday that you’ve planned some time ago, no I-Phone that you had been eyeing all these while, no year-end party and to some, it basically boils down to deep sighs and making quick plans to ensure enough money is saved to get the necessities for children’s new school next year.

For the private sector and those that do not have a “contractual bonus” in the contract, there is a lot of guessing game going on and different people will be thinking different things…

Employees…
I hope they won't cut the bonus even though business has been slow...(praying hard….)

Employers…
I hope they know that the company is not doing that well this year, and should not expect any bonus.

Recruiters…
It’s the time of the year again…everyone does not want to leave their jobs until they get their bonus…

What about you?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Common Mistakes To Avoid In Your Resume

I’m in the midst of preparing the content of a career talk to be held on this coming Wednesday and Thursday. One of the topics is about the mistakes that job seekers commonly make in constructing their resumes. Although the audience of the talk is fresh graduates, I realized many job seekers with experience still commit such mistakes.



The mistakes that recruiters had often come across are:-

• Overstate the truth in your resume (for example: if you were awarded the top student award for a subject, say Programming, mention that clearly rather than stating it as "Awarded the Top Student")

• Include negative information in your resume (for example: if you were not paid for a freelance job, you don't have to make the fact known in your resume. That should only be mentioned during interviews if the subject was ever brought up).


• Include hand written comments (in the hard copy such as amending the hand phone number or email address)

• Send supporting documents such as letter of recommendation, training certificates that were not required (Overwhelming the recruiter with stack of papers is never a good idea!)

• Not enough white space – text extends from margin to margin, and there are no blank lines between sections, paragraphs and bullets.

• A resume with spelling mistakes – this is most common! The least you want to achieve is to leave the impression that you are careless or not serious enough. Best advice: Get someone to proofread your resume- whether it’s going to be in soft or hard copy. If necessary, enlist the help of a friend with strong English skills to proofread your documents before printing and sending them out.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

7 Training Opportunities We Overlook

When the word training is uttered, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Often, we visualize a classroom of participants with sombre expression facing a trainer, rite?



Though I don’t argue that classroom training has its place but when training is equate to just that, we had missed out many opportunities.

Training and development does help and make a difference to the way people do their work. So, if employers are thinking that training had to involve spending lots of money, perhaps the following may open up your mind to other avenues of getting your staff trained and developed.

1. On the job or OTJ training for short. It has been around for ages and has proven time and again, its successful method. It applies best for technical skills. You watch how something is being done, do it yourself and improve based on feedback given, and the cycle repeats. Over time, the skills became second nature. Good for the trainee and great news for employers because the cost is zero!

2. In-house training. Get a senior to conduct a theory and practical session – again, it does not costs a cent and yet the benefits are tremendous, both to the trainees as well as the trainer. As a trainer, you are required to know your stuff much more and through an opportunity like this, the trainer gets to train herself to be even more familiar with the subject-matter. It applies to both technical as well as soft skills. The employer benefit by having a seasoned senior and well-trained junior workforce at the end of the day.

3. Check with your vendors – the usual type of training you can get is product training but who knows, they may have some in-house training on soft skills such as customer service, selling and etc. – can they include you as well? If you are an important client, they would not dare to charge you..:D

4. Through a Networking Club – join a local networking club in which they invite speakers on regular basis. You can get your staff to join for FREE.

5. Books and Training Manuals – say, you want your supervisor to learn about leadership or management skills, why not get him to read a book that you had read (important!) and write a review or things he can learn. After that, encourage him to apply the principles learnt in the work place.

6. Online education – knowledge abounds in the net now. There is really no excuse for not knowing anything unless you are lazy. Get to know some sites that are of authority in the subject matter and set apart say half an hour a day for your staff to surf and learn from these technical experts or gurus.

7. Social networking sites – leverage the power of these sites. Do not be afraid to get your staff to be hooked up with Facebook and encourage them to get connected with experts of various subject matters. Do you know it is so easy to send a message or better still, write a message on someone’s wall and ask for advice? Learning takes place immediately when people start responding to your question.

So, there you have it – 7 opportunities, yet we so often left out from our radar. The next time, someone in your organization asked, “Is there any training provided?”, I bet you now have a better answer..:)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Employment Landscape Is Changing

The market place as we speak is changing very rapidly. I came across an article, “The Next American Frontier” written by Michael S. Malone and I felt his insights on the new age is so spot-on that I believe this is not going to happen only in America but all around the world.

Newspapers are dying, networks are dying, and if teenage boys playing GTA 4 and World of Warcraft have any say about it, so is television. More than 200 million people now belong to just two social networks: MySpace and Facebook. And there are more than 80 million videos on YouTube, all put there by the same individual initiative.

The most compelling statistic of all? Half of all new college graduates now believe that self-employment is more secure than a full-time job. Today, 80% of the colleges and universities in the U.S. now offer courses on entrepreneurship; 60% of Gen Y business owners consider themselves to be serial entrepreneurs, according to Inc. magazine. Tellingly, 18 to 24-year-olds are starting companies at a faster rate than 35 to 44-year-olds. And 70% of today's high schoolers intend to start their own companies, according to a Gallup poll.

An upcoming wave of new workers in our society will never work for an established company if they can help it. To them, having a traditional job is one of the biggest career failures they can imagine.

We do not have to wait for another five years to see this phenomena taking place locally. This fundamental shift as I blog is happening right beneath our feet whether we like it or not. One clear evidence is that never before had I witnessed fresh graduates that confessed they are “unemployable”. What do we expect when half of their time was involved in creating content for their Facebook pages. Unconsciously, that experience had produced many entrepreneurs in the making. In a way, the internet phenomena has indeed turned our world upside-down and if everyone now has equal footing to access of information, customers and expertise, it looks like making it on my own is not a far-fetched idea anymore. Twenty years ago, no youngster can dare to even dream this far.

With such a shift in behavioral patterns, the employers may have to rethink their hiring and manpower planning strategy. For a while, the idea of outsourcing work to freelancers or contractors do not look very appealing and the solution seems to be a temporary one than anything else. But note this: this temporary solution might as well be your strategic long term plan. And the concept of getting people to work for you needs to be quickly changed to getting the right partner or people to work with you. We are experiencing a water shed moment, and like it or not, the wind of change in the employment landscape is taking place now and the question of whether we will be affected by it or not is mute. More likely, the pertinent question is whether or not we should quickly embrace and take the lead or resist and get crushed by it later.