By Cindy Atoji Keene
Cytotechnologist Kelly Flora admits that her last name is a bit serendipitous. As a medical laboratory professional who studies cells and cellular anomalies, one of the diagnosis she gives out is bacterial flora, the proliferation of microorganisms in the body. “When I got married and got my husband’s name, everyone got a good laugh,” said Flora, who is supervisor of the cytology department at Winchester Hospital, one of the many small departments that make up the hospital lab. The lab performs about about 275,000 tests a month – of that, about 2,500 are pap smears, a screening test used to detect potentially pre-cancerous and cancer cells in the female reproductive system.
Q: What is Cytology?
A: Cytology is the study of cells for the detection of cancer. In addition to cancer, we look for different organisms that might be present, such as fungal infection. We also look at specimens that are considered non-gynecological, such as biopsies from patients who have an enlarged thyroid.
Q: Take me step-by-step as far as how you conduct a lab test such as a pap smear.
A: If you’re a woman, you’ve experienced the lovely pap smear – I say that tongue-in-cheek of course. The patient goes to the OBY/GYN or regular PCP and has the sample taken. Once the specimen is collected using a special cervical brush, it’s placed in a vial that preserves the specimen. At the lab, it’s registered with a number then goes to processing, where the cytology prep technician makes a slide. We have a machine that removes the specimen cells and sticks them on a slide. Once that slide is made, it’s put through a stainer. The various cells stain certain colors so they can be viewed under the microscope. Then the cytologist views them and signs them out as either negative or abnormal.
Q: How do false negatives or positives occur in a test?
A: Erroneous test results can sometimes occur if there’s an issue with a specific instrument we are using and we don’t catch it in time.
Q: How powerful is the microscope you use?
A: It’s very powerful – we can really zoom into the cells. We use the 10x and 40x objectives most often in our work, so it's 100 and 400 times more powerful than the naked eye respectfully. We also have special microscopes called review scopes. This imager picks up fields of view on slides where there is most likely to be an abnormal cell. This aids in making a clear-cut diagnosis and potentially avoids missing a subtle change in cells.
Q: Is it difficult for medical technologists to work with urine and stools?
A: You need to have a different kind of mindset, and not think, ‘This is feces.’ I separate myself from the unpleasantness, although sometimes it’s hard when a sample smells so bad that you just want to vomit. But then I also realize, yes, this is bodily fluid, and there must be something seriously wrong with the patient when such a terrible odor is present. This brings you back to, ‘I need to find out what’s wrong with this person so they can be cured.’
Q: For the first time ever, and for a period of several months, I have been unemployed. In the past, I always performed well in face-to-face interviews, but I am less confident with phone interviews. What one skill would you recommend strengthening before receiving the call?
A: Telephone interviews have become a popular screening tool, and are now equally as important as an in-person interview. A candidate can either advance through to the next step of the interview process based on the phone conversation or be eliminated.
Here are some tips to help boost your confidence:
1. Confirm the telephone interview in advance, preferably using email to have a record of the date and time.
2. Ensure you have good phone reception. If you are using a cell phone, make sure that you test your reception in advance.
3. Print a copy of your resume and have it accessible during the call.
4. Be on time and prepared. Sometimes candidates take an informal approach to telephone interviews. Don’t make that mistake. Be as prepared and professional for a telephone interview as would for an in-person interview.
5. Rehearse possible responses to questions. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to conduct a mock telephone interview with you.
6. Eliminate distractions. Crate your dog, turn off the radio and, if in your car, pull over to a quiet spot so you are able to talk in a focused way.
7. Don’t forget to ask about next steps. For example, you might close with, “Jane, thanks for taking time to talk to me about the Research Scientist role at ABC Company. Can you tell me what the next steps are in your process? I am really interested in this position.”
8. After the call, follow up with a thank-you email.
9. Stay close to email. You want to be accessible if the employer is trying to reach you after the call.
Telephone interviews are a common first step in the interview process. Like with any skill, your performance will improve with practice.
- editing expertise provided by Ms. Sloan's 6th grade classes, Hopkinton Middle School
Meeting seating can be as informal as choosing to sit in the first available seat to making a highly structured seating plan. Most of the meetings I take part in don’t have a hierarchical seating order, but there surely are times when who sits where really matters, and in that case you want to be sure to sit in the right place.
What are the considerations for seating when it isn’t every person for him/herself?
- The most important seat is typically reserved for the host, chairperson, or most senior individual at the meeting. That seat is at the head of the table. At a rectangular table, the head of the table is at the end that looks toward the entrance as opposed to the end next to the entrance. Interestingly, this seat commands a direct view of everyone at the table, as well as everyone entering the room, making it a position of strength in conducting and participating in the meeting.
- The second most important seat is the position at the opposite end of the table. Likewise this person has a view of everyone at the table. Sometimes there is no seat available at this position, which, of course, only enhances the position of the head of the table.
- The seat to the right of the head of the table is also a premium position. In social situations it is the position given to the guest of honor. In business meetings it is considered valuable because the occupant has the ear of the person sitting at the head of the table. The person seated here may be a key confidante or advisor to the person at the head of the table. Similarly, the person to the left of the head of the table is in a strong position.
- People seated to either side of the person at the opposite end of the table are in positions of strength as well.
- People who fill the seats along the side are in the less favorable seats. They cannot see the other people at the table as easily and their influence with the key decision makers is diminished by not being near the most important people.
All that said, people can get too wrapped up in the symbolism of seating. More important is that you are a contributor to the meeting. Your primary goal should be to leave the impression with the host, your boss, or the organizer that your presence positively affected the meeting, convincing them to want you at the next meeting. Do that and your particular seat at the table is of much less importance.
Q. I am a college student who just completed my freshman year. I've been looking for a summer job ever since I returned home for break. Employers are telling me that in order to be considered to work, a.) I either need experience or b.) I cannot be a college student. I am starting to get extremely frustrated and am afraid I won't get a summer job. Please advise.
A. Summer jobs, as with all jobs, are in demand and the market for these opportunities is highly competitive. What are your expectations for a summer job? Students often have a long wish list; a great job, with cool people, making great money, getting terrific work experience and being highly appreciated by their employer.
The reality is more like this; do you need to make money or gain experience? Certainly if you can get both from the same job you are one of the lucky winners of the ideal summer job. For many others, especially those starting their summer job search now (as opposed to over March break), putting together a few different jobs, each with a different purpose may be the only way to achieve both goals.
So where are the summer jobs? Employment is based on the economy; looking at the seasonality of the economy offers opportunities in industries that thrive during the summer. Tourism; including hotels and restaurants (fast food and upscale); retail companies in high traffic tourist locations all experience business growth during the summer. Camps, beaches, parks and vendors who support these activities may also be looking for summer help. Many of these employers will accept walk in applicants with resumes in hand. Dress well and ask to speak to a manager. If a manager isn’t available, chat up the staff to see if there are potential openings. Leave a resume and get the manger's name and number so that you can follow up. Don't forget to get the name of the staff member you spoke with!
Networking continues to be the best way to secure any job. If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, create one. If you have a LinkedIn profile, communicate with your contacts about your need for a summer job after you add to your contact list. Invite all your faculty members to connect, administrative staff from your college who know you, former employers, neighbors and family friends. Cast a wide net and let everyone know you are looking for an opportunity.
Use Facebook for the same activity. Make sure you describe the special skills you have to offer. Were you a great receptionist at the student union? Say so! Companies may need people to cover vacations. Did you build a website for your fraternity? Showcase the technical abilities you have. Many organizations have one job (not many jobs) which they offer to one person they were introduced to by a current employee or close fiends of managers. Make sure you are the person shaking social media hands with anyone who can introduce you to a hiring manager.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
For solar energy project manager Eric Lorenz, his favorite part of every installation is the familiar “thump” sound when flipping the final switch. It’s the moment when solar panels go online and begin operation, converting sunlight into electrical current. “It’s a reminder that there is one more renewable energy system harvesting solar energy,” said Lorenz, who is part of S+H Construction’s Renewable Energy Division, where he collaborates on the design of residential and commercial photovoltaic and solar thermal systems.
Q: How did you get interested in solar energy?
A: My interest in solar began while forming a solar startup in Maine with two college buddies during our final summer co-op. My friends had come up with the idea after having trouble finding a summer job. Our very first project was quite large for a startup. We installed two solar tracking arrays mounted on steel poles in a field abutting a lake. Up to this point, I was having a great time working with two good friends, but the best was yet to come. Due to the safety built into these systems, we each had an opportunity to ‘flip’ a switch. Standing at the house, we looked into the field and witnessed the two large arrays slowly align themselves with the sun. It was this moment that hooked me on solar.
Q: How has the technology of solar panels improved?
A: Solar, like any other technology, has advanced greatly over the years. On the performance side, photovoltaics (PV) panels, or modules, for residential applications were first available well under 100 watts and had ratings well below 10 percent efficiency. Current modules are available at 230-260 watts and are rated with efficiencies up to 17 percent. In recent years, panels have become more aesthetically appealing, available with black frames and black backings, allowing them to blend in more with most roofs. A few manufacturers are producing framed and frameless transparent modules that can be used as vertical or sloped glazing. My favorite application for these modules is for solar awnings. Just imagine sitting outside under a solar awning enjoying the outdoors and knowing that the roof just above you is harvesting energy and delivering it to your home.
Q: Geographically, is Massachusetts a good solar energy location?
A: Massachusetts is considered a good location for solar because it receives on average approximately four to five kilowatts a day of solar energy at ideal conditions. (Typical energy efficient homes use anywhere from five to 15 kilowatt hours in a day). In comparison, the Southwest, which has the highest solar density in the U.S., receives approximately six or more kilowatts. Although Massachusetts is not on the top of the list, we have weather working in our favor. One thing that certainly helps us is that our temperatures are milder, which results in better performance of the equipment we install on roofs.
Q: What was one of your more challenging projects?
A: Rebuilding an old solar thermal system and creating solar collectors that supply heat to both a swimming pool and the home’s hot water system. Since the pool isn’t used in the winter, I needed to figure out how to be able to turn that off in the cold weather and vice versa; during the summer, the pool becomes the priority. Figuring out how to manage that was a difficult task, but it was finally achieved through different control systems.
Q: How is extreme weather affecting solar energy installations?
A: A few years ago, the roof snow-loads in the state increased, which now requires us to strengthen our racking systems. In areas where there’s higher likelihood of hurricanes or tornados, there are similar ramp-ups in structural requirements. But generally speaking we don’t see wind damage very often – but we do see squirrels chewing wires, or near a golf course, balls hitting panels. One of the funniest things I’ve seen is in coastal regions is having a lot of birds defecting on the arrays.
Q: You recently installed a solar hot water system in your house. How’s it working?
A: It’s awesome; the type of system I have has a drain back, which means that when the system isn’t running, the water flows into a tank reservoir where it can be heated by the sun. I’m getting an average of 90 degree water before the water even enters the hot water system. And when there’s a lot of sunshine, the water sitting in our storage tank is 130 degrees, so the supplementary conventional hot water heater probably won’t need to even turn on. It’s very efficient. I believe in solar and I work with it, so I want to live with it and understand it better.
Q: Is solar energy a do-it-yourself proposition?
A: The technology can be easy enough for someone who knows what they’re doing, but a licensed electrician needs to deal with the electrical components. Laying out the panels in an efficient and attractive way can be difficult – the racking that holds the panels needs to be structurally sound and everything needs to be level and plumb.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: How do I combat age discrimination in hiring? I am 61 and I know that it is happening to me.
A: Unfortunately age discrimination does exist. A 2012 survey conducted by the AARP reported that almost one-third of Massachusetts residents report that they, or someone they know, has experienced some type of age discrimination. AARP is a non-profit advocacy group with a focus on those 50 years old and over.
Here are some suggestions:
• Ensure that your skills are current. Dated skills can hinder your search.
• Be tech savvy. Use social media as part of your job search. You should have a basic understanding of tools like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter.
• Use technology to your advantage. Make sure that you research prospective employers in advance of any interviews.
• Consider a functional resume, which highlights your skills and accomplishments rather than dates.
• If using a chronological resume, consider summarizing your early career roles and focus on the last 15 years or so.
• Think about what age biases exist. Maybe they include inflexibility or an inability to learn new tasks? Within your responses to an interviewer’s questions, weave in examples that counter those assumptions. An example:
Interviewer question: Anne, tell me about a time when you had to train a new employee while you worked at ABC Company?Finally, I asked Career and Executive Coach Tammy Gooler Loeb of
Your possible response: At ABC, I was often asked to train new employees based on my knowledge of XYZ software. I realize how important flexibility is when you are a member of a growing team. At ABC, we had a period of incredible growth in 2011, so I probably trained about five new employees during that period of time. (Then provide specifics on the process of how you trained new employees).
Tammy Gooler Loeb Coaching & Consulting what advice she would offer. Loeb offers, “Most people underestimate the scope of their network and its ability to be helpful in their job search. These can be both professional and personal connections. You are not only connecting with them, but also with the people in their extended networks who may be of assistance as well.”
My daughter's boyfriend, post-college, is trapped in a room with me, which is not good. I'm interrogating him. We'll return to him later.
"Empathize with the enemy," said Robert McNamara, former U.S. Secretary of Defense. You'd expect a Defense Secretary to be tough and, well, defensive. But for McNamara, empathy was a major life lesson.
What is empathy, anyway? It's not sympathy. In war, after you empathize with the enemy, you might kill him. Empathy means, like a good chess player, you study the board from all angles.
How do you do that?
"Be the other person," said psychologist Fritz Perls. Pretend, for a minute or two, you're him or her.
Suppose I'm having trouble with my graphic designer, Maxine. Her output is late and doesn't meet expectations. Maxine and I need to talk.
But first, following Fritz Perls's advice, I imagine being Maxine: "Ok," I say, "I'm Maxine. And Paul's right, I'm a complete screw-up."
No, no, no. That's not Maxine, that's me.
Maxine might say, "Paul doesn't give me enough time. And he's not clear; I'm never sure what he wants."
Is she right? Well, maybe. And even if she's not, it helps to anticipate her perspective.
Usually, we're so trapped in our own perspective, we don't even consider it a "perspective." We just assume we're right.
Let's go back to that boyfriend in the living room. How'd he get there?
One Sunday, my daughter, Becca, and her boyfriend, Max (yes, an alias) came for lunch, and I agreed to help Max prep for a job interview.
If you're a father, that's a wonderful assignment. You get to take Max into the living room, and ask him anything.
I could say, "So, Max, what are your intentions with my daughter?"
Max (puzzled): "Are they really going to ask that?"
Me: "Max, they could ask you ANYTHING."
Max and I rehearsed for a few hours. Then, as he and Becca got ready to leave, I wished him luck, and asked him to email how it went.
"Ok," he said, "but if you don't hear from me, I'm sure Rebecca will keep you posted." Then they drove off.
I was surprised by Max's response. "Is it so hard to email?" I asked my wife.
"Well," she said, "imagine you're him, and your interview goes badly—do you really want to tell Becca's father?"
Turns out, Max got the job.
But not the girl. My daughter just married a lovely man, very empathic, who understands many things, including email.
Tip: Shift perspective. (You can always return to yours.)
© Copyright 2013 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
Just last night I watched a television commercial which featured several people who own their own small business (really small, like one-person shops or a business with fewer than five or six people). They talked about their customers or clients who were just down the street.
Their experience got me thinking that their clients can easily be people they know outside of a work relationship. They may, in fact, also be friends. Doing business with friends adds to the complexity of the relationship. It's harder to ask for money from a friend. It’s the primary reason we counsel people not to lend money to friends. Getting paid back can be risky, and resentment over an unpaid debt often ends up ruining the friendship.
In business when you do work for someone and they owe you money for that work, they have, in essence, borrowed from you and now owe you. Businesspeople will tell you that clearing accounts receivable is one of the nastiest, most unpleasant parts of being in business. Many businesses actually build in an expense line in their budgets to account for people who don't pay their bills.
Now, add in the complication of the client being a friend and the money problem gets even trickier. Yet, in spite of that complication, people do business with friends. Here are three tips to help make that business relationship successful, help you keep the friendship and still get paid for your work.
- Bids. Make sure you spell out the scope of the work very carefully. When dealing with a friend, the danger is to be loose with how the work is defined. That lack of specificity is the start of having the work not go well and payment may not be commensurate with the work done.
- Contract. When you go to a service area for work on a car, they routinely look at your vehicle and then give you an itemized proposal for the work that needs to be done. You sign on the dotted line for that work. Similarly, you need to draw up a work order, a contract with your friend that identifies the work, the deadlines, and the payment schedule for the work. Have your friend sign the contract to indicate his agreement to its conditions.
- Payment. Getting paid is the hard part, especially when a friend drags her feet. It's amazing how fast money can become a problem between friends. Be firm, but not angry in any communication with your friend. One option to help mitigate the problem of payment at the end of a job is to have payments due at specific completion points throughout the job.
Finally, even though this is your friend, avoid the temptation to make any promises that you can't deliver on. It's better to say “No" up front than risk serious harm by not delivering
what you promised.
Q. If I am using a Headhunter to search for a job, what do I owe them in terms of exclusivity? How do I ethically work with two or more headhunters? Thanks.
A. First, unlike a romantic relationship, there is no exclusivity with a headhunter or recruiter and you aren't cheating on them if you select to see another one on the side. That should help put aside any guilty conscience or ethical dilemmas you are struggling with. However, there are some important considerations to make when working with recruiters, including how many you should be aligned with at any one time.
You need to be clear on what type of recruiter is right for your job search. Executive or retained search firms are paid up front by companies to fill a very specific role. If you are in a senior role, you should make contact with many retained search firms that specialize in your industry and role; there is no overlap with retained search firms trying to fill the same positions.
Contingency search firms are paid by the company after they fill the position and a few firms may be working to fill the same job at the same time. In general, it is expected that a job seeker will work with multiple recruitment firms. Partnering with only one limits the scope of your job search and puts too much emphasis on just one source. Just like you wouldn't respond to only one job posting, you shouldn't put all your eggs into one recruitment basket. On the flip side, by engaging with a plethora of different headhunters, you run the risk of them not taking your search seriously. Going back to the dating analogy, you will get more attention from someone who knows you are committed to them, even if it's not exclusively. I generally advise candidates to have two or three trusted recruiters in their job search circle.
According to Dave Sanford, EVP of Client Services for WinterWyman, a search and contract staffing firm headquartered in Waltham, “More importantly than the number of recruiters helping with your search, though, is the relationship you have with them. No matter if you are working with one headhunter or two, you want to be partners with them.” You have to trust in their ability to listen to you, learn about you, guide you and be truthful (whether good or bad). Seek out someone who is honest, open and well-connected. Ask if they can help you. If they tell you they can not help in your search, appreciate the honest response and look for other recruiting firms who can. Continuing to call or Email a recruiter who can not assist in your job search efforts will only frustrate you and it won’t change their response.
Finally, if your expectations aren't being met, don't be afraid to change partners mid-dance if you aren't seeing the results you are looking for.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
It’s called the “shelter shuffle” – the unstable life of the chronically homeless as they move from one place to another in a transient street life. For Deborah Conway, a longtime worker at Rosie’s Place, homelessness is also a state of vulnerability for violence, health risks, and emotional despair – especially for women. “If we are just able put a roof over their head, provide clothing, and a warm meal, this is a huge step toward giving them dignity as a human being,” said Conway, 48, who is the overnight manager at this Boston resource for poor, homeless or abused women to seek services or help. “We call it a ‘sanctuary’ for over 12,000 women who come through our doors every year, whether for just a bed to sleep in, legal advice, or safety from domestic violence.”
Q: You’ve been with Rosie’s Place for 14 years – what sort of changes have you seen in population that you serve?
A: I never imagined I’d see this many single homeless women. And they’re getting older and older– many are 45-55 with no housing. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s a rise in young girls, some whom have aged out of Department of Children and Families (DCF). Many of the women are mentally ill, maybe because of deinstitutionalization, early discharge or denial of benefits.
Q: With many women fighting addiction or, increasingly, under the care of the Department of Mental Health, how do you find ways for everyone to peacefully co-exist as overnight guests?
A: Most shelters require guests to leave each morning, while our program allows women to stay for three weeks or more if needed. Some are like long-time roommates, so conflicts are bound to arise, whether it’s keeping bedroom windows open or closed or agreeing on a television show. Sometimes the solution is as simple as providing ear plugs if another woman snores. And with many disputes, I tell them, ‘The majority rules.’
Q: Among other services, why does Rosie’s Place provide clothing if women need it?
A: Feeling good about oneself is one of the first steps toward making positive changes. Some women come here with virtually nothing, and we provide free clothing to over 400 women a month, including coats during the winter. The clothes are carefully sorted but we have almost constant shortages of size 16 and up. If we have nothing that fits, they’re given a voucher to go to Goodwill.
Q: Another one of your roles is creating a homelike environment to ensure that all the women staying at Rosie’s Place feel comfortable and safe. How do you do this?
A: I tell them, ‘This is your home; keep it clean and don’t mess it up.’ It’s all part of respecting dignity. Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you’re destitute. Women share responsibilities, whether cooking, cleaning, watering the plants, or emptying trash.
Q: You were once homeless yourself. How does that help you understand what others are going through?
A: I was pregnant and went to live with my boyfriend’s family. They didn’t want me in their house – it was too many people, so for about a year and a half, I moved around to different places. I sometimes wondered, ‘Where am I going to sleep tonight?’ Then after the baby was born, I now had an infant and still no home. Finally, I was able to able to get an apartment with my now-husband and eventually even buy my own home.
Q: Throughout the years, have you had any encounters that have stuck with you?
A: I've developed a close relationship with a woman named Linda, who was comfortable in her situation of homelessness. She was not on drugs; she was just someone who didn’t want to make a change. Over time I would gently bring up the idea of applying for housing. About five years ago, when she was in her late 50’s, she finally agreed to apply, and she recently got her own apartment. That’s very gratifying because I consider her a friend. I also have been working with Moira over 12 years, and am getting close to her considering to apply for food stamps.
Q: How have you seen attitudes toward the homeless change through the years?
Many people are sympathetic to homeless women if they feel it’s not their fault – if they’re fleeing domestic abuse or have lost a job. But if a woman has mental health or drug issues, there can sometimes be a lot of judgment. They don’t realize that it can just be a matter of the “cards you’re dealt.” I never assume I know what has happened in a person’s life. Homelessness doesn’t discriminate.
Q: I have been working for 15 years in one profession but only have an associate’s degree. I was transferred to North Carolina for a job several years back and am trying to return to Massachusetts. Do you think employers would be willing to take my years of experience in lieu of a bachelor's degree?
A: You raise a common question in the world of career management: experience vs. education. Usually experience, and relevant experience, wins out. However, some industries still have expectations, and even requirements, around degrees.
In the field of education and higher education, degrees matter and a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or even higher may be required or preferred. In many knowledge-rich industries like biotech, life sciences or health care, degrees are also important and in some cases may be required. In many consulting roles, the firm employing consultants would like to be able to tout “MBA with 12-plus years of experience in pharmaceuticals” or “BSN with 10 years working within Boston’s finest health care institutions.”
Conversely, there are some industries in which degrees may be preferred but related work experience often trumps the degree. These industries would include manufacturing, retail or construction.
Massachusetts, as a state, can be a challenge for those who don’t hold bachelor’s degree. Massachusetts beats out all of states when comparing the percentage of residents who hold bachelor’s degrees. Almost 40% of Massachusetts residents hold a bachelor’s degree.
It would be wise to start networking in advance of your relocation back to Massachusetts. Connect with friends, family and colleagues and let them know of your plans to return. Often times a vibrant professional network delivers valuable information that could lead to job leads or at least intelligence about your field (i.e., who is hiring and who is not). Job boards can provide information about hiring trends and skills which are in demand.
Visit www.boston.com and click on the jobs section. There is information on hot jobs in Massachusetts, job postings, interview tips and other career resources.
For twenty years I owned an advertising agency. Several times during those twenty years I would get a phone call from a client. “I just wanted to let you know that when Bruce (who was one of my art directors) answers your phone, the way he does it makes me feel so appreciated.” Clients actually took the time to call me to let me know how impressed they were with Bruce and with the company just because of the way he answered the phone.
Now the first thing to realize about this compliment is that Bruce, as an art director, was more than willing to answer the phone if it was ringing. Not his job, but he did it, and he did it in a way that built relationships and impressed people enough that they would call just to let me know what how great Bruce was and how good he made them feel just by how he answered the phone.
I was curious enough about the situation that I listened to what Bruce said and how he said it. The “how” was impressive. Invariably, he’d put down whatever he was doing and concentrate on the call. Then, as he answered the call, he’d smile. It’s amazing how people can actually hear a smile on the phone.
When he started speaking, he always included four elements: a greeting, our company’s name, his name, and then he’d ask how he could help the caller. His greeting wasn’t just a hello, it showed gratitude for the person calling: “Hello, thank you for calling PostScript” he’d start out. Then he’d give the caller his name: “This is Bruce.” And he’d complete the greeting by asking how he could help the caller, “How can I help you?”
So that’s it. Six simple steps to building relationships when you answer a phone.
- Take a moment to focus on answering the call.
- Smile just before you pick up the receiver.
- Say hello.
- Give your company’s name
- Then say your name
- And finally, ask how you can help the caller.
Why does it matter how you answer the phone? Because, first impressions matter. You can answer with a dull monotone “Hello” or “Ace Corp,” or you can answer the way Bruce did. The monotone “Hello” does nothing to engage the caller. Instead it leaves him wondering why he bothered to call at all. On the other hand, Bruce’s greeting not only makes Bruce look good, it makes your entire business look good.
Take a moment to call your office and listen carefully to how the phone is answered. Is it welcoming? If it is, great. But if it’s not, plan to do some basic phone answering training. It’s worth it.
Q. What are some tips on dealing with a layoff? I have a great education and seven years of experience in the education industry. I'm not "entry level," but I'm seeing numerous positions at this level and nothing at the mid-manager level. I worked so hard to get to my current salary level and many positions I'm seeing are substantially less. Is it crazy not to pursue a job because of the low salary?
A. After having been laid off from an organization, many people think they need to accept taking a step back in responsibility and compensation to find a new job. This does not need to be the case. Many years ago, people impacted by a layoff were often considered "suspect" regarding their skills and talents. This has changed as many layoffs are financially driven and not all performance driven; great employees are affected by layoffs.
Tips for dealing with a layoff include taking advantage of all support offerings your former employer will provide. These benefits most often include financial support (severance), benefits continuation (COBRA) and career transition support (outplacement). If these services are not offered, ask for them. Employers may need to be educated on what is available to support employees. Most often people see the immediate value in severance and benefits, but not in outplacement. They choose to walk away from the valuable benefit, with notions of "doing it myself," or a limited knowledge of the wealth and diversity of services available.
The kinds of issues you encounter are the types of job search questions that can be faced by developing a strategic job search plan. After a layoff, one of the most important parts of your job search is your "public statement." You need a strong answer to the questions of why you are in the market and what happened at your former employer; it can't be apologetic or a long explanation of your entire career history. Your answer needs to be a short statement that says, "The organization changed direction (or had budget cuts) and my position was one of XX eliminated. I enjoyed working there, did well and recognize the business situation they are dealing with which led to the reduction. I'm now looking for opportunities using my XXX skills." Practice this statement until you are VERY comfortable saying it to anyone you meet.
If you are only looking at posted positions, you are focused on one of the least effective job search strategies- posted openings. Posted openings can be clues to other opportunities within the organization; by using a networking approach, you may be able to find your way in to gain information about other opportunities and compensation structure. You can respond to postings and know what your bottom line for compensation really is.
Make sure your resume showcases the middle management and leadership skills you have utilized; this will differentiate you from the entry level roles. Be prepared to respond to salary questions and be sure to give a range to any potential employer. You have earned your compensation and have the experience to show for it. Be committed to the amount of work it will take to the find the right job, at the right pay.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Etsy vendor Dara Cheek wants to encourage the “buy local” craft movement in the Boston area. She’s a new breed of artist curator who aims to bring online artisans into collaborative communities, including assembled marketplaces that showcase some of the 58,858 items sold by Etsy members in the Boston area. “Even as the Internet opens up new connections and opportunities, it becomes even more important to bring the world of Etsy outside to the people,” said Cheek, who makes natural and global inspired jewelry.
. Q: What’s the learning curve for a craft-prenuer such as yourself?
A: It’s definitely a new approach to first build an art or craft business online using e-commerce websites such as Etsy. It’s forcing artisans such as myself to be not just smart at artsy endeavors but also tech wizards who can master keywords. It takes technological knowledge to make yourself visible in a very saturated space. It took me two years to get up to speed and understand search engine optimization, tagging, titling, and other ways to display and categorize. I’ve also had to embrace blogging, promoting on Facebook and Myspace, tweeting products, , participating in blog giveaways and charity donations, utilizing Pinterest, Flickr, and Tumblr, and most recently, making use of new crowd-sourced shopping/curating sites like The Fancy, Luvocracy, Svpply, and Polyvore.
Q: What’s the holy grail for Etsy sellers?
A: There are millions and millions of items for sale, so to get on the website’s front page and be featured in the highlighted collections is one of the best ways to get found. I’m constantly trying to master their search algorithms, which is tricky because it changes all the time. It’s all optimized for how a buyer would search for an item, and not for the sellers.
Q: How do you take an “Etsy-style” photo to highlight your listings?
A: There’s a lot of debate about photos on Etsy forums. When I first started out, I tried to take interesting photos that showed off my personality. I framed my jewelry in a natural setting and used moss and branches as ornamentation. But now there’s been a shift from staging of items to simple, clear close-ups of objects on a white background. I use a large white box and fill it with cotton filling so it adds texture and shadow, and then zoom in as much as possible.
Q: What other online craft marketplaces are gaining traction?
A: I also sell on Scoutmob, another site for independent artists. They have a special focus on searching websites by locale, so it’s popular among the younger crowd and folks looking for deals. I also like the Daily Grommet, Handmade Artists’ Shop and Fab.
Q: After factoring all your Etsy fees, PayPal fees, materials, and time, do you make a profit?
A: It's really difficult to say. I'm still in the process of building my business. All the fees do add up. Etsy recently changed the way they accessed fees; they take about 3 percent of the sale and it cost 20 cents to list an item and another 20 cents if you need to renew your listing. Paypal fees are similar; they charge for every sale as well. Of course, you have postage and shipping expenses and any ads for Facebook or Google advertising.
Q: What do you do about shipping?
A: I sell small jewelry pieces so I try to keep them affordable and still provide shipping in a method consistent with my brand. Etsy encourages sellers to ship in a thoughtful way as opposed to just throwing something in a box. I ship everything in a silver foiled gift box and a bit of ribbon so recipients recognize they’re getting a handmade piece from an individual seller.
Q: Why are you producing shows like “Assembled,” the handmade arts market at Assembly Row?
A: “Assembled” will showcase handmade arts and crafts at Assembly Row on May 18. It’s the first of an art series in Somerville, every Saturday through September. The first one features Boston Etsy artists and I’m responsible for collecting a curated group of handmade artisans to participate. I am focusing on diversity with a goal to have a broad range of styles, cultures, and media represented in the artwork being displayed For online artists, it’s just nice to get to talk to the people who buy your pieces and build a community with other vending artists.
Q: Etsy scandals have been in the news because of the controversy between "handmade" and "factory made." What's your view on all this?
A: There will always be unscrupulous people out there who just view Etsy as another virtual marketplace to take advantage of. It is so incredibly frustrating to have your handcrafted jewelry listed alongside an item that was stamped out by the thousands in a factory, both with the designation “handmade.” But I think my customers want something special – they want something with a great story behind.
8. How often do you work in your pajamas?
When I wake up, the first thing I do is finish pieces that were in progress the night before so I can get them off to the post office. In an effort to save time, not only do I not bother changing clothes, I drive to the post office in my pajamas to make sure those shipments get out in time.
Q: Could you tell me how to go about finding employment in the Boston area when you live in the Midwest? I live in Chicago. I do not want to come to Boston without a job.
A: Finding a new job from afar is a challenge. However, you can be successful with a plan. Some recommendations:
1. Connect with any area Boston contacts that you may have including friends, family or other professionals. LinkedIn is a great way to jumpstart these connections. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is complete and includes a photo and recommendations. Add new contacts daily. On LinkedIn, you can join Boston-area groups that are related to your profession.
2. Most of the job boards allow you to fine-tune your search by geographic area. This will be especially helpful to you since you are focused on a Boston-area search.
3. Find out if your college or university has networking events in the Boston area.
4. Research professional associations in the Boston area.
5. Make sure that you clearly communicate that you expect to relocate at your own expense. Sometimes hiring professionals see an out-of-state address and assume that a costly relocation might be required.
6. Consider securing a phone number with a local area code.
7. If possible, consider planning a trip to the Boston area and plan several face-to-face meetings during these visits.
8. Don’t rule out temporary or contract roles. Often these roles lead to full-time employment opportunities.
9. Be responsive to emails and phone calls placed to you. You should try to respond to all of these inquiries within 24 hours.
10. Use Twitter to follow job hunting experts and companies. There are quite a few related to job hunting (and even specialized industries) which are Boston-centric.
11. Never say no to an introduction. When you are introduced to a new contact, you are also introduced to that individual’s entire network of contacts.
Finally, write a quick thank-you note (by email or mail) to anyone who has been helpful to you during your search.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
How do you handle references?
Last week, I got an email with a fresh, new approach: "DON'T call any of my references!" the marketing consultant wrote.
That got my attention, but seemed harsh. Suppose I hired him, and he created a hostile marketing campaign? "STAY AWAY from our products and services. And NEVER try to contact us. DON'T even think about it."
More about the consultant later. Meanwhile, consider three other approaches to references:
1) Bad: You use that tired, old resume line, "References provided upon request." Perhaps you imagine the recruiter is about to toss your resume. But then she reads that line:
"Hire him!" she says. "Because he'll provide references—and he doesn't even care how we request them. We could ask really nicely, or we could just try to beat the names out of him. He'll provide them either way. He just needs a request."
2) Better: Don't wait for a request. Show up at the interview with a list. (And of course, stay in touch with the people you list.)
3) Best: Prep a one-page list of testimonials called "As seen by others."
Back to the consultant: he sent his email out of impatience. Weeks earlier, he'd sent me a list of references, and when he discovered I hadn't called any of them yet, he figured I never would.
In fact, I'd already called someone—not on his list. You can almost always, in a linked-in world, find someone who knows someone. The person I called was lukewarm about the consultant.
Still, I was planning to make a few more calls. Then the consultant lost his patience, and lost my business.
But that's not all: I'm now a reference.
Suppose I'm talking with colleagues, and someone asks, "Does anyone know a marketing consultant named X?"
I'll say, "Yes! And whatever you do, don't call his references. He really dislikes that."
Tip: Treat everyone as if they're a valued reference. Because they are.
© Copyright 2013 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has (inadvertently) touched off an internet firestorm of opinion simply by how he conducted a handshake while greeting South Korean President Park Geun-hye last Monday. Here’s what happened:
Gates was on a “a visit to build business ties and boost nuclear energy plans” according to an NPR.org blog about the incident. The picture accompanying the blog shows a smiling South Korean President warmly greeting Gates as they shake hands. Gates clearly is giving the President his complete attention and respect. Except for one minor mistake: his left hand is buried deep into his pants pocket. And that is a breach of etiquette in South Korea.
The blog quotes a story about the incident in the Korea Herald which explained the faux pas succinctly: “Among Koreans, it is considered disrespectful to put one's hand in your pocket while shaking another person's hand.”
The NPR.org blog goes on to point out that this isn’t the first time Gates has had his left hand firmly embedded in his pocket while shaking hands with a head-of-state. Apparently, he did it with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, France's former President Nicolas Sarkozy, and France’s current President François Hollande.
Etiquette is important because it gives you strategies for handling situations so the focus is on the interaction and building the relationship and doesn’t get side-tracked by a mistake that instead directs attention to the blunder. In business this is particularly important as business is built on relationships. In Gates’ case it is important because the focus of the public’s attention should be on the reason he is visiting a head of state and not on how he shakes hands. One would expect that he would want to conduct himself in such a way that it doesn’t cause the person he is greeting to have to respond to questions about his error rather than focus on the reasons for the meeting.
It is not acceptable to excuse his mistake because this is just the way Gates is or that because of who he is people should accept it. He’s visiting South Korea for a reason: “to build business ties and boost nuclear energy plans.” Whenever anyone visits another culture, it is respectful to learn basic customs such as greetings. The people you are visiting will appreciate your efforts, and whatever the purpose of the interaction, it will go more smoothly because you have made the effort to respect their customs.
Fortunately for Gates this incident is not a deal-breaker. Even the Korea Herald acknowledged this: “It is unlikely that the handshake is to become a diplomatic issue, as the president’s office reportedly was unconcerned about Gate’s handshake regardless of the heated discussion online.” While it isn’t likely to be a diplomatic incident, it is a shame that the start of a visit to promote business is waylaid by an avoidable mistake.
Q. I am applying for a new position, but do not want my boss to know. Is there such a thing as a confidential job search?
A. You are wise to be concerned about confidentiality in the job search. Looking for a new opportunity while employed can put your current role at risk. As cautious as you may be, you need to be prepared for your search to be exposed. Develop the response you would use if your boss was to find out; why are you looking for a new job, and why? You should also be prepared for colleagues to ask you should they find out.
Many people want to tell office colleagues that they are starting a search. Sharing this information can put colleagues in a difficult position if they are approached by a manager. Decide if it is in your best interest, or theirs, for you to go public prior to accepting an offer.
As you update your resume, make sure to use a personal Email address and your cell or home phone number. Complete this work on your own time and don't make copies of your resume at the office. If you do, it will end up on the office copier; it just will.
LinkedIn can be used effectively for people who have jobs that are looking for jobs; make sure to update your LinkedIn profile. Add references as long as you move ahead with discretion. Try to make as many changes as possible at once; every time an update is made, your connections get alerted. Readers of your profile may see these updates as a "tell" that you are a new job seeker making many new updates over just a few weeks, especially if you had a previously dormant profile.
In all of your communications, you will want to make sure you use "confidential" in the subject line of your Email. Title it, "Confidential resume of Job Seeker," or "Resume for Confidential Job Search." Use similar terminology in any letters or Emails sent.
In networking meetings, you will need to entrust your contacts with the confidentiality needed for your search. Your contacts will need to make sure they communicate the sensitivity and confidentiality of your job search every time they make a call or send an Email on your behalf.
Posting a resume sans name and company name has been attempted, but employers may find out. They may call to see if they know the employee; it is best to skip this activity.
When you are asked for references, you can provide trusted former employers. If your potential employer wants to speak with the person you report to, you can let them know that you will be happy to discuss that after the offer has been made. At that time, the choice to talk to your manager, or not, is yours.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
As the director of a small public library, Nathalie Harty gets into the nitty-gritty every day, whether helping patrons download e-books onto a tablet or creating an library wish-list for Amazon. With a staff of six and a building of 4,900 square feet, the Langley-Adams Public Library remains an information hub for Groveland and is busier than ever, said Harty, circulating about 5,000 books, DVDs, music CDs and magazines monthly. Despite sequestration cuts that threaten the library’s funding. Harty has been creative in juggling resources, keeping programs thriving and adding new technology.
A: What are the most popular books currently being checked out or requested at your library?
Q: Books mentioned by Oprah and other media outlets such National Public Radio bring patrons into the library to request those titles. Right now, we can’t keep the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn on the shelf – the wait list for this suspenseful thriller is quite long. Another popular novel is The Good House by Anne Leary, which is set on the North Shore. We have also had to purchase multiple copies of Francona: The Red Sox Years by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy.
Q: What are the most common type of reference questions?
A: It’s a toss up between high schoolers working on their research paper and genealogy questions from adults. I love challenging questions – one patron recently asked for peer-reviewed articles about a certain type of rare bird. It was fun to guide him to our electronic full-text journal database that anyone in Massachusetts can access.
Q: Is the Dewey Decimal System is still relevant?
A: I have mixed feelings about this. Most small and medium public libraries still use this classification system, since it’s a great way for librarians to organize and catalog their collections. But the Dewey Decimal System is not necessarily an easy way for our patrons to easily find what they’re looking for. At our library, the previous director adopted the BISAC (Book Industry Systems Advisory Committee) for the adult nonfiction collection. This is a system that the publishing industry uses for subject headings. It’s more “browser friendly” for patrons.
Q: How did you decide to become a librarian?
A: I didn’t become a bookworm until I was in middle school when I discovered romance novels. Later, my college library inspired me to become a librarian. I was supposed to be studying, but instead wandered around the aisles, amazed at the book and journal collections. After getting my undergraduate degrees and working in the corporate world for a few years, I decided to explore library school. But first I did some volunteering at the Chelmsford Public Library and was immediately hooked. The rest is history.
Q: What are reader's response to controversial books, like Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James?
A: We do carry the Fifty Shades trilogy. I didn't know anything about it until patrons starting coming in asking for it and really talking it up. So I ordered the series in regular print, large print and audio.They are a huge hit and almost never on the shelf. I did read them myself to better understand what all the talk was about. To date we have not had any formal complaints about this series.
Q: There are some reports of books as the favorite carrier of bed bugs. Any at your library?
A: Thankfully, we don't have bedbugs in our books and there have been no reports of any library in the Commonwealth that does have them. I recently attended a very informative webinar about bedugs and what to look for.
Q: What’s one of your all-time favorite books and why?
A: I have many favorites, but I love 19th century novels. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is close to the top. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it – I seem to pick it up every five years or so. Pride and Prejudice has so much between its covers: humor, wit, romance, sarcasm – plus, it’s beautifully written. There is a reason why there are so many film adaptations of this novel, not to mention all the current novelists writing spinoffs.
Q: How many books do you have at home?
A: I actually don’t have many books at home any more. I used to own scores and scores but when I moved from place to place, they got very heavy. I donated most of them and now borrow books from libraries. One caveat: If I borrow the same library book more than twice, I buy a copy for home. Case in point – I need to purchase my own copy of Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle, by Diana Sanfilipo.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.