Jeanine Hamilton is president and founder of Hire Partnership, a Boston-area staffing firm.
Shoes today are more than footwear -- they're high-tech gear with specially engineered components for fashionable and functional designs. Within this $2 billion industry, many companies, like Vibram USA, based in Concord, are looking for a competitive edge by deploying shoe testers who help assess new technologies. "We put our products in the most extreme conditions by executing tests directly in the field," said Steve Ellis, who not only actually tries out shoes himself but also oversees the lab and wear-testing. Every day there is a new problem he is trying to solve in conjunction with the product engineers and designers, whether it's "hot spots" in the shoe that may cause blisters or a sole that starts to separate from the upper.
The Vibram Tester Team is responsible for testing the FiveFingers line but also completes thousands of tests on products that have a Vibram sole on them including cycling, skateboarding, rock climbing, snowboarding, trekking and fly fishing. "One week we may be hiking mountains in northern Italy, the next we're fly fishing in Montana or mountain biking in New Hampshire," said Ellis, 26, who has a physics degree as well an MBA focusing on the commercialization of technological innovation. He creates tests that evaluate fit and comfort, durability, shock-absorption, and more. "The shoe soles are used on different terrain, from rocks and soft terrain to snow or ice, depending on the final consumer use," said Ellis.
Q: Give me an example of a recent test that you conducted?
A: One of the Vibram designers recently made a sole for a mountain bike shoe and wanted to know how well it would work on the hills themselves. So we asked pro or semi-pro bikers to try them out at Highland Mountain Bike Park in New Hampshire. They gave us feedback that we compiled into a report. With mountain bike soles, it’s all about seeing how well the design locks into the teeth of the pedals.
Q: How do you structure your tests?
A: They are like other scientific tests, with benchmarks of past products, a control group, and a double blind format whenever possible. If our chemist creates a new compound targeted towards road running applications, first we perform a battery of lab tests to understand the compound's physical properties. Next, we bring natural environments and surfaces into the laboratory and calculate information. Then lastly shoes are distributed to our tester team who will document things like weather/temp, distance, location, and running surfaces, etc. They'll on comment on the differences in the grip of the soles. We then compile the results and make a decision on validation.
Q: You have a physics degree specializing in experimental physics and data analysis. How does that help you with the shoe testing?
A: Whether it's the static/dynamic coefficients of friction, pressure testing, balance, or forces, these are all concepts from physics. For example, if there's an issue with a snowboarding boot, I can place the shoe inside a mechanical abrader that stimulates a certain amount of force over time against the sole. Vibram has a major shoe-testing complex in China, where we do in-vivo testing, which is recreating outside environments in an indoor setting to conduct tests.
Q: How do you find your testers?
A: Right now, the focus is mostly on athletes and sports professionals, such as a group of fly fishermen in Montana. The rivers in that area have different moss, rocks, and ecosystem than here in New England, so we were very interested in how our product worked out there. Another recent group of testers were hunters who wear the Vibram Five Fingers because they're stealthy and give a better ground feel. We're testing new compounds with these guys. But we are also looking to expand our group of testers to consumers by creating an online data base, but that's still in the works.
Q: What have you done to address the complaints that Five Fingers retain odor?
A: We are always looking for new solutions, whether it's new anti-microbial fabrics or rinsing solutions. Working at the office, where all of us wear Five Fingers, there's a fair share of people with the stinky foot problem, so we're constantly working on it, even trying coconut shell shavings, which are supposed to stop microbes.
Q: Have you had any unusual reactions when you wear your Five Finger shoes in public?
A: It's always interesting going to the airport, taking my shoes off and putting them in a scanner, especially if it's an international destination. They're a good conversation opener, especially if people have never seen them before.
Q: How many pairs of Vibram shoes do you have?
A: I have so many pairs they won't fit in the closet. There are piles in the basement as well. I'm giving my shoes away to people at this point.
Q: I had a successful career in technology sales for many years. I left the workforce about ten years ago. I have three children who are all under 10 years old. I want to return to the workforce but I need a lot of flexibility. I also don't want a traditional corporate sales career. Can you suggest any options?
A: Congratulations on your decision to return to the workforce. You raise an interesting point at an interesting time. With such economic uncertainty, we might assume that flexible work arrangements have decreased in the US. However, Families and Work Institute's 2012 National Study of Employers (NSE) has reported that flexible work arrangements have increased in some areas since 2005. These areas include flex time, flex location and taking daily time off for urgent matters when needed. Some other flexible work arrangements have decline though, including transitions to part-time schedules or career breaks for family and/or personal reasons.
The Families and Work Institute also reports that employees with flexible workplaces report higher levels of engagement and job satisfaction, better mental health and stronger intentions to remain with their employers. For more information about flexible work arrangements in the workplace, visit http://www.familiesandwork.org/.
There are many flexible work options available. A part-time schedule with a reasonable commute, a role which offers telecommuting or even starting your own business are all options you may want to consider.
As with any job search, do your research before embarking on a new career. Consider the location, job responsibilities, benefits and the potential income.
"I started at a temp job a few weeks ago. I feel confused about how I should approach this job in terms of my professional appearance. I assumed I should dress up a little (it is business casual) so I generally wear black pants and a button-up shirt. Many of my co-workers wear flip-flops and do not dress professionally, clearly breaking the dress code. Even my boss wears a zip-up sweatshirt over her dress clothes. My question is this: As the temp (hoping to get a job with the company when the temp position is over) should I dress well and follow the dress code or blend in with my co-workers and dress down? My worry is that I will seem arrogant or unapproachable (especially since my education level is above most of my co-workers) by dressing nicely but at the same time I do not want to damage any opportunity to further my position at this company."
While normally I'm not a fan of assumptions, you did make the right one here. It's always a good idea to dress one notch up than the office standard when applying for and taking on a new job. Your dress style sounds like a good match for a casual office, even for one whose standards may have slipped over time.
As a temp, you need to meet the standards of two companies: the one you temp for, and the temp agency itself. While part of your job as a temp is to respect the office culture you're entering, you also need to represent the professional standards of the agency. As a representative from the agency, it would be expected that you follow the official dress code of the company you're temping for. So, sticking to your basic business casual attire is a better choice than busting the dress code and dressing down to fit in. At the end of your stint at this company, you’ll be rated on your professionalism, including your appearance. Positive ratings are only to your advantage, especially if you move on to temp at another company.
Do you think people at this office find you approachable right now? If that's the case, then your clothing isn't an obstacle to fitting into their culture. No matter how your coworkers or your boss dress, when it comes time to make a hiring decision, the company is more likely to choose someone who looks professional (which subliminally translates into "capable") than someone who doesn't.
Q. What is your opinion of counter-offers? After I gave my notice, my employer beat the offer from my new employer by $5K and 3 additional vacation days. I left anyway and I am very happy in my new position. My family thinks it was a mistake, and I should have stayed, and taken the increased offer. I don't think so because I know I wouldn't see another raise for years. What do you think?
A. Counter offers are an employer's last ditch effort to get an employee to change their mind about leaving the organization. Most people who get to the point you did (giving notice), are ready to leave their employer for many reasons and not just because of compensation.
As people start to evaluate their job satisfaction, they take many points into account. In the most basic way, people ask themselves if they are happy. Employees typically consider the level of engagement they have with their job, dedication to their employer, the understanding and alignment with the vision or mission of the company. They consider the challenge in the job, the amount of development the company provides, and the relationship they have with their immediate manager. Compensation, benefits, advancement and recognition also play important parts in an employee’s decision to stay or to look for new employment. When some or all of these points of consideration don't provide positive reactions, the disengagement begins.
Most often the decision to leave an organization is a thoughtful process. Employees also look at the potential financial increase which would make changing jobs worthwhile. A career changer may consider a lateral financial move acceptable. Other people wouldn't consider a move for less than 20% over their current compensation. Changing jobs has many implications, and conducting a job search is time consuming and filled with rejection. People also recognize the challenges in starting a new job and learning a new role.
There are many employees that companies don't want to lose for a variety of reasons. An employee's contribution may be extremely valuable. The organization may have moved more slowly than they hoped to in promoting an employee. The timing of an employee leaving could be bad based on pending projects. Not all employees will get counter offers. There is a benefit to the company and employees must recognize that.
Many HR people will tell you counter offer situations do not work out for the long term. Current employers often wonder if they are put into the position to make a counter offer so that the employee can maximize their compensation, and have the option of not leaving. Employees have tipped their hand about their desire to leave, and employers are convinced the employee stayed for the money alone and will leave at the next chance they get. If you went to a job you wanted and didn't just run from a job you disliked, then don't let anyone second guess your decision.
The smallest details count in landscape design, from storm water drainage systems to paving materials and seasonal plant color. It is not unusual, for example, for landscape architects to spend an entire day just planning the placement of trash receptacles and making sure a garbage truck can back up into the site to remove waste, said Michael D'Angelo, 27, a landscape architect at Copley Wolff Design Group in Boston.
"When designing spaces and the elements within the spaces, it is vital to ensure that all of the details have been given a thorough review. For instance, do we have enough seating? Will it accommodate those with disabilities? Are the materials suitable? And even: how will we prevent skateboarders from 'grinding' on the seat walls and benches and destroying the surfaces? Of course most changes can be made all the way up to construction, but there is surely a cost associated with that."
D'Angelo's experience spans from green roof decks to college campuses. A LEED professional in building design and construction, he is currently working on the penthouse terrace at The Clarendon, a 33-story luxury residential tower located in the Back Bay. He is also working on the headquarters expansion for an insurance company, which includes nearly a city block of streetscape revitalization, and the addition of two public parks. "I strive to make landscaping memorable by including a unique feature that draws people there, whether it’s a quiet corner to sit and read, or a beautiful garden terrace," said D'Angelo.
Q: You're currently designing a fountain for a park -- what's the thought process behind it?
A: This is a 36-foot long, 18-foot-high water feature that will be an iconic focal point. Large buildings surround it, so from a design aspect, the fountain needs to be scaled correctly or it will look 'off.' We develop actual physical models as well as computer models and look at it from all vantage points to make sure it’s the right axis and size. In addition, there are safety concerns, such as worries about people slipping and falling, so mechanical devices need to be built-in to shut the water off if it's too cold or windy.
Q: Urban architects such as yourself are often creating 'streetscapes.' What is a streetscape?
A: This is a phrase we use in the industry to talk about an area adjacent to a building, whether it's a concrete sidewalk or a seating area. The site-planning looks at adjacent use, whether retail or a restaurant, and whether pedestrian access is needed. If trees will be planted in a sidewalk, there is a lot of science involved, such as using soils developed by different universities that provide both structural support for sidewalks as well as nourishments for the trees to grow.
Q: What some of your favorite plants?
A: I really like working with a really simple color palette. I prefer using a handful of plants, versus 50 to 60. This gives a strong vivid impact when looking at the landscape from afar.
Q: Why the increasing popularity of green roofs?
A: Green roofs create insulation for buildings, which lowers heating and cooling costs and absorbs run-off from the rain. When designing a green roof, it's important to consider the roof's weight limitations, so only a minimum amount of soil can be used. For example, if only four inches of soil is used, then succulent plant material such as sedums are one of the few options.
Q: What do you think is an example of excellent urban landscape design?
A: Chicago has a lot of really cool public spaces, such as Millennium Park. I love to travel around the country and study what other people are doing. That’s what inspires me.
Q: Who is your architectural role model or hero?
A: Frederick Law Olmsted, who is widely considered the father of American landscape architecture. It's amazing how many thousands of projects he did, including park design and public spaces. He had a very simple and natural style that I try to reference in my work.
Q: What does your own backyard look like?
A: I have a 10x12 backyard in South Boston. I have four very nice planters, a grill, and a table squeezed in there -- but I really enjoyed planting those four planters!
Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners in Boston, has over 20 years experience in career consulting, executive development and coaching. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: My husband and I are planning to have a baby in 2013. I don't think my employer has ever had to deal with a maternity leave in our office. I know there are laws out there. But what are they? Do they only apply to just some employers or just some employees? I live and work in Massachusetts.
A: You are wise to research internal and external maternity leave policies and laws before you have a baby. It is helpful to know exactly what your benefits are before you apply for a leave of absence.
There are a number of factors that could influence how your employer handles such a leave. In Massachusetts, one factor is company size. If your company has six or more employees, your employer must comply with the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA). In short, MMLA requires employers with six or more employees to provide eight weeks of leave for the birth of child. The employee must have completed the company's probationary period if the company has such policy. If your employer is larger than 50 employees, you also might be eligible for a leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Both the MMLA and the FMLA have "time off" requirements. However, pay is not required. You would need to research how pay works for leaves at your company. You may have disability policies in place, which may provide you with some pay during your leave. You also may have vacation, sick or personal time which could be used during your leave.
MMLA also requires your employer to restore you to the same or similar position when you return from your leave of absence. For more information, visit http://www.mass.gov/mcad/maternity1.html. This link provides a comprehensive overview of how most Massachusetts employers must provide time off to eligible employees for leaves associated with a birth of a child. For more information about the FMLA, visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/.
You should also consider reviewing your company's employee handbook (if one exists), employee benefits summary or summary plan descriptions for benefits plans. The more information you have, the better.
Whenever there's an earthquake - there was one here a few days ago - the first thing you wonder is, "How bad was it on the Richter scale?"
I'm a big fan of the Richter scale, even though I don't really understand it. The scale goes from 1-10, but the smallest earthquake "that can be felt" (Webster's), only gets a 2.
If I were in an earthquake that could be felt and it only got a 2, I'd be extremely disappointed.
"Obviously," I'd say, "whoever gave this thing a 2 is nowhere near the epicenter." (I'd definitely say the word "epicenter" to indicate that I know a thing or two about earthquakes.)
But most earthquakes aren't 10's. This week's tremor was a 4.0. Our house shook for 10 seconds, then nothing.
Most problems aren't 10's either. That's why we ought to use a 1-10 scale for everything.
Let's say you’re stuck in traffic on the way to work. It may feel like a big deal at the time, but it probably isn't.
In terms of problems, traffic is a 1.
The rational part of our brain knows that. The rational part is like a calm seismologist, unimpressed by most emotional tremors. We need to cultivate this part.
Stuck in a long meeting? "WHEN WILL THIS END?" you want to shout.
"Hold on a minute," the calm seismologist says. "There are only a few thousand PowerPoint slides left. Therefore, we should be out of here, at the very latest, by next Wednesday. On a 1-10 scale, this meeting is a 1.2."
Sometimes, our response to a problem is worse than the problem.
Tip: As soon as you feel triggered by a problem, score it on a 1-10 scale.
And if you're going to imagine the worst, exaggerate. Then, realize how improbable the worst really is.
© Copyright 2012 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
This upcoming week is my last week at my current job. I was given lovely little gifts and notes by the teens with whom I currently work, and I have written out thank-you cards. I am wondering, do I use my home address as the return address, or should I use my employer (a public institution) as the return address. I am using personal thank-you cards and my own stamps for the thank-you cards.
J.M., Mineola, NY
First, with all the talk of incivility and rudeness, especially about teens, I revel in your story: teens writing thank-you notes and giving small gifts showing their appreciation for what you have done for them. For all the good things teens - and for that fact people of all ages - do for each other, what we usually hear about is the one story of rudeness that, like a bad apple, spoils all the good ones that are out there.
Your choice to send a thank-you note to each teen is admirable. Receiving a thank-you note from you is a great object lesson for them. It is much better than someone simply telling them that writing thank-you notes is an important way to show appreciation. Teaching by example, by emulating the behavior you expect, is by far the most effective way to teach.
In your situation I would recommend using your current business address as the return address. Assuming that you have used the correct addresses for your recipients, the return address is nothing more than a formality. In addition, even though these notes are from you personally, you are sending them from your business as part of your job. Therefore, it is appropriate that they come from your current place of business, even if you will only be there for a short while more. Finally, for a variety of reasons, many people prefer not to share or mix their business and personal lives.
The thank-you note is really an easy and effective way to connect with people and make a positive impression. It can be short - three to five sentences is more than enough. As you have done, write it right away; the next day is perfect. Stick to the point: comment about the person, the event or the gift; offer an expression of thanks; and suggest any follow-up you plan to do. Best of all, as you have done, handwrite it on a note card and put it in the mail. If you email it instead, once it's received and read, it's deleted. Would you rather be deleted or remembered? A note in the mail is read and appreciated and then remains on the counter or desk or refrigerator where it reminds the recipient about you for days or even weeks.
Q. I've requested a recommendation from two of my old bosses (both from the same company) through LinkedIn. Both have ignored my requests. I did great work at this company and left on very good terms, so I think this is an issue of time for both of them. Do you have any suggestions on how I can follow up with them without seeming like a nag?
A. Having LinkedIn recommendations are of great value to job seekers, people looking for consulting assignments, and those in business development. Many other people find them valuable, or just nice to have. Recommendations, when done well, can be very time consuming to write.
First, when you are asking someone to do you a favor, which writing a recommendation is, I would suggest making a phone call. Without that effort, you have no idea what is going on for the person you are asking. Are they traveling extensively? In the midst of a major project? Dealing with personal issues? They many reasons which would impact their ability to write a recommendation for you, in the timeframe you had hope for.
A conversation also lets you explain why you want a recommendation, and what you hope to have highlighted regarding the work you did, the skills you demonstrated, and how you worked with others. Without your input, recommendations can be very flat and read as if they are a generic set of nice words about anyone. If you don't really need the recommendation (you aren't in a job search) perhaps they don't believe it is worth their effort to write one.
How long ago did you work with these former bosses? Have you waited so long they have a foggy memory of the work you did, or perhaps the strength of your relationship?
If you are confident in the relationships, I suggest you call each person, ask about them, and ask if they would be willing to write you a good recommendation. Let them know why you need it, what you would like it to highlight, and offer to draft or outline some materials for them to make it easier. If they agree, make sure to thank them, tell them when you will get the materials to them, and when you hope to have it back. Before you get off the phone, ask them what you can do for them. Ask how you can help them in their job, or in their personal life, and mean it.
Developing a strong, responsive network is all about mutuality, not nagging.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
As a ferryboat captain, Sean O'Connor regularly transports passengers and cargo between Martha’s Vineyard and Woods Hole, commanding the vessel Katama, a 220-foot converted freight vessel. His 11-hour voyage back and forth through the Sound can be monotonous, "just two rights and two lefts" but the hours of boredom are sometimes punctuated by moments of sheer terror. "Fog, high winds, and high seas can turn into a boating nightmare, especially during the summer, when there is high traffic density," said O'Connor.
O'Connor begins his 11-hour day at 5:30 a.m., the first of four round trips, powering up and testing the boat's generator, electronics, and steering system, then heading over to the transfer bridge to load the initial cargo, usually hazardous propane and gasoline to power Island homes and vehicles. The Katama also moves recycling trash off the Island, as well as food service and delivery trucks, and serves as the back-up passenger and vehicle ferry. O'Connor, 56, has been with The Steamship Authority for almost four decades, and remembers a simpler time. "It used to be that there were no shore lights at night till you were inside the Vineyard Haven harbor, but now the whole island is lit up like a Christmas tree."
Q: Do you need to navigate any tricky waters during your journeys?
A: Woods Hole is one of the most treacherous harbors on the East Coast because of the current and rock formation. The Steamship Authority, in their infinite wisdom, put a ferry slip right in front of the main pass of Woods Hole, where the current runs from 3.5 to 5 knots, depending on what cycle of the moon you’re in. This affects the steering of the vessel, pushing it one way or another; the ship doesn't just stop where it is.
Q: How did you first get into maritime work?
A: I was an accounting major and quit after two years of college when I realized I couldn't stand accounting. I decided I should get a job, and started washing dishes on one of the old steamers. So now I've spent my whole career on the water, beginning as a mess man in the galley as a teen, and working my way up the ranks to Captain.
Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve carried on your boat?
A: That first summer when I was washing dishes, the shark from the movie Jaws came on the vessel. It had wires sticking out of it, and I thought, 'There is no way they can make that thing look real.' But the next summer, watching the movie in the theater, when the shark came out of the water, I almost jumped out of my seat.
Q: Do you ever get seasick?
A: Not since I worked in the galley. My first few years, working down below deck, with all those pots and pans swinging back and forth and the dishwater hitting me in my face, I realized it's better to be dead than seasick. First you're afraid you’re going to die from being so sick, then you're afraid you're not going to die.
Q: What are some misconceptions about your job?
A: The captain's job can seem very easy until something goes wrong - and then it’s all on you. It could be a car fire, an injured passenger, or a grounding or collision. Then you have to figure your way out of it.
Q: Do you own your own boat?
A: No. I don't go anywhere near the water on my day off. I have golf clubs. You can't have both a boat and golf clubs and do justice to either one.
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: I have been applying for many jobs in the computer/IT field. I have decent experience and do consider myself a good fit for many of the jobs. I have my associate's degree in IT and am currently enrolled in a bachelor's program. My question is, how do I address the fact that I do not meet the requirement of having my bachelor's but think that I still could do the job?
A: You are smart to ask this question. Enrolling in a bachelor's degree program is also a wise investment in your career.
Many companies will request a bachelor's degree, especially for technical roles. Often times a bachelor's degree may be preferred but technical skills are far more important. Make sure that your resume (especially the top half of your resume) includes all of your technical skills. Many recruiters sort through piles of resumes and you want to make sure that you feature your technical skills prominently. A recruiter should not have to “dig” for these skills.
Additionally, it is important to be candid about your educational achievements. You should certainly include that you have earned an associate's degree. However, it is important to accurately describe that you have not completed a bachelor's degree but you are currently enrolled in a bachelor's degree program.
One option is to consider the following:
Community College - Associate's, Information Technology Boston, MA
University - Bachelor's, Computer Science - expected May, 2013 Boston, MA
The format I have used above informs the reader that you have completed an associate's degree but you are enrolled in a bachelor's degree program. It clearly states that you expect to complete your bachelor’s degree in May of 2013 but you have not completed it as of yet.
A bachelor's degree is important in the field of information technology. For more information about the link between earning and education, read Megan Woolhouse's article from October 11, 2012 - http://www.boston.com/news/nation/2012/10/11/report-links-earning-power-college-degree-engineers-top-list/JY9ft22NbkppcgoFOHhPYK/story.html.
When Obama watched video of the debate, "he grimaced. 'It's worse than I thought' ran through his mind."
That was 2008. Obama was just beginning his run for president ("Game Change," John Heilemann, Mark Halperin).
Four years later, after his first debate with Romney, President Obama was probably thinking the same thing.
A few observations:
1) Anyone—even the President of the U.S., even a masterful speaker—can have a bad night.
2) Lots of people will tell you, "anyone can have a bad night," especially when you've just had a really, really bad night.
3) Knowing that "anyone can have a bad night," does not make your night any better. Or your next day.
Still. When President Reagan lost his first debate against Walter Mondale in 1984, he looked tired and confused, noted the Wall Street Journal (10/5/12).
And "in 8 of the 10 election cycles since 1976, the polls moved against the incumbent" after the first debate (Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight, NY Times, 10/8/12).
Why do U.S. Presidents often lose the first debate?
One reason: lack of practice. Romney had 19 debates on his way to the nomination; Obama, 0.
Practice does not make perfect. It only makes you better.
But didn't Obama prepare? Sure, but how long, how well?
"Hours before the debate . . . (his advisers) were nervous that he was underprepared" (NY Times 10/4/12).
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney and his sparring partner, Senator Rob Portman, practiced relentlessly.
Senator Portman had been playing Barack Obama in mock debates since 2008. That year, rehearsing with John McCain, Portman was so fierce that McCain's wife, Cindy, started crying.
"You have to be mean," Portman told CNN (10/3/12), "so the candidate you're helping is ready for the worst of it."
In 1984, after Reagan's weak first debate, he roared back in the next one.
And in 2008, after Obama grimaced, he resolved to "to get this right" ("Game Change").
Tip: Anyone can have a bad night—what matters is what you do the next day.
Commit to continuous, unrelenting, keep-practicing-forever improvement.
© Copyright 2012 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
I have been invited to a wedding that is two weeks away, from a former coworker, whom I have seen once in the past eight years. The invitation wasn't even mailed to me, it was scanned and emailed! Am I still required to send a gift? I feel like that may have been the only reason I was invited!
L.D., Charleston, SC
Wedding invitations and business connections can be tricky. Sometimes people end up getting invited to a wedding and wonder why on earth they were included. And that inevitably leads to the way you feel: Were you invited just to get a gift?
Perhaps, the best course for you is to give your former colleague the benefit of the doubt, both for the reasons for inviting you and in the way the invitation was delivered. Your perception of the relationship you had with this former colleague may be very different than the perception he or she has. In their eyes, you may have been a very important person and helped in ways you may not even realize. So it's better to think of them that way than as a gift-grubbing ex-colleague.
The scanned invitation sent as an email is a bit strange. But again don't read more into it than is there. The wedding is only two weeks away and for whatever reason the person sending it may have felt that time was of the essence and emailing would get it to you more quickly.
How do you handle the situation? Regardless of their motives, your response can and should be gracious. That means send a note - by email since it's so close to the wedding - saying how surprised and pleased you were to hear from them along with your regrets or acceptance. Thank them for thinking of you and wish them the best in their married life.
And the issue of a present? It's not necessary in this case (unless you attend the wedding). You've lost touch with this person, and it is highly unlikely that you will be renewing the friendship in the near future. Your situation is a reasonable "exception" to the rule of giving a gift when invited to a wedding. Instead, your gracious note with your best wishes is an acceptable substitute for a gift.
Should you invite business colleagues to your or your child's wedding? The litmus test for choosing whom to invite should be how well you know the colleague personally. A wedding shouldn't be a business event. You can always send an announcement to those business associates and personal friends whom you don't invite. That way you include them, but don't obligate them to a gift.
Q. I was told my company will be eliminating my department in Q2 2013 and that while I am needed on the job until then, I should begin looking for a new job. I appreciate the advanced warning, but I am incredibly stressed out about my job search. Any advice for those of us who are looking forward (not by choice) while working full time?
A. The good news is you still have a job. The bad news is you know when it will be over. People with a working notice know how hard it can be to stay positive during the notice period, and at the same time, have the emotional stamina to conduct a job search. There are a few pieces of advice that can make the transition time work to your advantage.
Be angry, sad, disappointed, and every other emotion you have to the separation news - away from the office and away from colleagues. With your family and most trustworthy friends, talk about the experience and impact and start looking forward. You will most likely revisit these emotions, and you may want to schedule meetings with your emotional support team.
Develop your marketing materials. You may want to consider that you have two full time jobs at this point. You'll need to develop an effective resume, update your LinkedIn profile, and research the right recruiters to contact. And you know that is only the beginning.
Develop a project plan and timeline. Your project plan to reemployment may be an equation. Take the estimated number of people you need to meet (140) to get a job and divide by the number of months of notice that you have and outline how many people per week you will need to meet. Follow the plan.
Keep a professional, positive, attitude, demeanor and schedule at your current job. Stay committed to the work you need to do. Everyone will have something to say about how people are "dealing with" the news. Make sure all comments about your professional contributions, your support of the organization's challenges and your colleagues are positive.
Be flexible. Your manager needs things from you, and you need a great reference. Staying positive and committed may lead to flexibility about the job search activity you would like to conduct during your working notice. You may also see the opportunity to enhance your resume by gaining additional internal experience. Volunteer to help; ask your manager for the opportunity to learn a new skill.
Hopefully you can ease the stress of the situation by controlling what you can and capitalizing on the positive aspects of the situation. One of the benefits of the working notice is that your "public statement" can be very clear. As a business decision, your department has been eliminated. Your employer needed your help and expertise to make the transition. There is a high degree of trust which your employer is demonstrating in you and you will deliver what is expected of you, and more - just like you will for your new employer.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
While hunting for waterfront property for his real estate clients, Scott Freerksen quickly discovered that it was difficult to sift through multiple listings to find homes directly situated on a lake. With terminology such as “across the street,” “within walking distance,” “riverfront” and “oceanfront,” it was hard to find actual direct lakefront property– in fact, said Freerksen, one such advertised listing merely had a pool. So nine years ago, the Mansfield broker created Lakefrontliving.com as an agency specializing solely on the purchase and sale of pond and lakefront property in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. “There are 15,000 properties coded as lakefront in the Multiple Listing Service, but of those, just 2,000 can be considered direct lakefront,” said Freerksen. Freerksen, who lives on Bungay Lake in Mansfield and North Attleboro, a 110-acre private lake, said that nothing compares to lake living. “It changes the way you live. Every morning, the lake provides a backdrop to recreation, wildlife, and pure relaxation.”
Buying lakefront property is unlike any other real estate, from conservation and water quality issues to flood insurance and dock maintenance. “You don’t want to find out after the sale that someone else has control over draining the lake, or that your favorite sport isn’t allowed,” said Freerksen, who has created a searchable public database of freshwater information to help with more precise property searches, compiled from MLS (Multiple Listing Service), conservation commissions, lake associations, and fish and game data.
Q: What are the hot lakefront properties at the moment?
A: Webster Lake is really popular. It’s the one with the crazy long name, also called Lake Chaubunagungamaug. This lake was mostly undiscovered for a long time but now is one of the largest fully recreational lakes in Massachusetts, with restaurants and marinas and a plethora of recreational activities. In New Hampshire, Lake Winnipesaukee gets a lot of attention, but there are two to three lakes that are just as spectacular and smaller and more intimate, such as Newfound Lake and Lake Wentworth.
Q. If you buy a lakefront home, do you also own a part of the lake itself?
A: Usually your property would end at the “high water line.” This height is usually determined by the top of the dam spillway. But there are certainly lakes where you have a deeded extension into the lake, sometimes 25 to 50 feet. There are also a couple lakes in Massachusetts where the lakefront residents own the lake in common.
Q: What’s the most unusual lakefront home that you’ve seen?
A: A really cool house on Big Spectacle Pond in Lancaster had a deck design and was really unique. It was very Frank Lloyd Wright-ish with an open design, exposed beams, and extended balconies.
Q: You helped location scouts find an isolated lake setting for the Martin Scorsese film, Shutter Island. How did that come about?
A: They found me from a Google search and asked me to help them look for a particular period piece. They wanted an isolated lake setting with shallow water and no modern houses in the background. I took them around to various lakes, and it was fun to see their selection process. They choose a little stone cottage on Borderland State Park in Sharon.
Q: How has real estate for lakefront property changed in the last few years?
A: Five or six years ago, it was out of reach, since prices were out of the world. Now it’s more affordable, and some buyers are purchasing and hold a lakefront cottage for future retirement. We’re also seeing a strong interest in seasonal lakefront resorts, such as small, but upscale single-family homes (cottages) in cluster developments with a condo format.
Q: How did you discover the lake that you live on?
A: I was born and raised on this lake; my wife also grew up here. You’ll find that once people move onto a body of water, they tend not to move away. It becomes an intergenerational family compound.
Q: What’s the biggest fish that you’ve caught here?
A: A five-pound, large-mouth bass. There are bigger ones out there – I just can’t seem to find them.
Q: I am applying for a new job, at a new company, after 20 plus years with the same company. I am so nervous and anxious. I have not been on an interview in years. I feel like I am a kindergartener on the first day of school. The thought of sitting across a desk from someone who will ask me questions about my background is nauseating to me. How do I get over this? What can I do to prepare?
A: You get an A for being brave and candid. Many others have probably been in your shoes but instead just muddled through the process. Here are some tips:
1. Research. Research the company and research the opportunity. Information is power. You will want to be able to speak confidently about the company, the industry, competitors and the opportunity. The more you know, the better.
2. Update your knowledge on how the interview process has changed since you last interviewed. Visit www.boston.com and click on jobs. There is a lot of valuable information available on the site, from what to wear to how to do well on a phone interview.
3. Practice. Practice with your spouse, your partner, your dog. Practice some tough interview questions. Be ready to provide tangible examples of your achievements. The more metrics the better.
What do I mean by this? Instead of “I am a people person,” consider: “I work well with customers who are really angry. I am often able to effectively address their concern and offer a reasonable solution, like express mailing a new device to them. I am a good listener and try to give them the opportunity to vent. I can empathize. I would be frustrated too. I often receive the most disgruntled customers. My retention rate with these customers is about 87%, one of the highest within ABC Company.”
4. Use social media to help you learn more about how candidates land jobs. Social media (e.g., Linkedin, Twitter, etc.) has changed the world of recruiting. This expertise will also demonstrate how you have remained current.
5. Lastly, be gracious and authentic. Thank all those who meet with you or spend time with you.
"What kind of underwear do you wear?" Jerry Seinfeld asks Larry David, his friend and co-creator of TV show, "Seinfeld."
You expect Larry David to answer - he and Seinfeld are goofing around (http://www.comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com).
"Briefs," says Larry David. "I couldn't make the transition."
But when President Bill Clinton was asked the same question, "boxers or briefs?" back in 1994, you expected him to decline. Unfortunately, he responded.
The 17 year old girl who asked Clinton, at an MTV town hall, said, "All the world's dying to know."
But all the world wasn't; most of the world didn't even want to think about it.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was asked what he wears to bed. "As little as possible," he said.
Most of the world didn't want to think about that either.
Why do leaders answer these questions?
Well, to appear approachable, or likable, or real.
The message of the Clinton presidency, wrote columnist Bob Greene, was that, "The president is just a guy. There's no distance between the president and the people."
But a leader needs distance. It's hard to imagine a U.S president before Clinton talking about underwear. Now, these questions are routine.
I usually advise business leaders to welcome questions, to step into them - literally, take a step forward - and to stay loose and relaxed.
But when the question is inappropriate, do the opposite: hold back, even step back.
You can be light, but firm. "Thanks for that intriguing question," you might say. Then smile, and say (in a friendly tone of voice), "I'm not going anywhere near that one."
Or, even simpler: "Thanks. Next question."
The other day, Jerry Seinfeld was interviewed on radio. "How many Porsches do you own?" he was asked.
Seinfeld has a sizable collection, but he refused to answer.
He told the interviewer, basically, "You're a man of stature and reputation, and I hold you to a higher standard than that question."
Tip: When asked a question, you've got options. One is to decline.
© Copyright 2012 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
This column often examines ways bosses and managers can engage employees and establish a positive work environment. Similarly, employees can take proactive steps to foster a positive relationship with a manager. Here are six tips for growing that relationship with your boss:
Speak up and offer ideas. The idea street isn’t one-way. You may come up with an idea your boss hasn’t had or a variation that adds value to an idea of hers. Contrary to popular belief, bosses don’t want to be the only people to have a brainstorm and will appreciate that you are thinking of the bigger picture beyond just getting your job done.
Be prepared for meetings. This not only means completing any assignments on time whether it is your work assignment or a to-do for a meeting, it also means gathering information and knowing what you are talking about rather than just shooting from the hip.
Ask for help when you need it. It sounds counter-intuitive because if you ask for help you’re implying you can’t get your work done. Unfortunately, if you don’t ask, the outcome is either not getting the work done or not doing it well. In either case you would have been better off approaching your boss with your problem.
Be a team player. Teams are here to stay. The success of the team depends on the team being a cohesive group rather than a bunch of individuals all acting independently. Ultimately, the success of the team reflects directly on the boss. Being a team player ensures not only the team’s success but also provides a positive reflection on the boss.
Show acceptance. Making decisions is a boss’s most crucial function and is also one of the most difficult. While your boss may ask for input before a decision is made, once it has been made, your acceptance and support of that decision is important.
Do not undermine. This is one of the cardinal pieces of advice I offer for the boss-employee relationship. When you are frustrated with your boss, do not go behind a boss’s back or over his or her head. It rarely turns out well for the employee. Keep in mind that generally management has a positive view of the boss and is likely to stand behind her. The result: the boss wins and you develop a negative reputation not only with your boss but with your boss’s boss as well. Try to work with your boss to resolve the situation. And if that goes nowhere remember: There are times when it is simply better to let go of a situation than to pursue it and undermine your own position.
Q. I applied at a company three years ago for a position and never heard anything. Is it appropriate to apply again for another position they are advertising now?
A. Absolutely. Three years ago or even three months, if you haven’t heard back
from a company, and they have opportunities which interest you, and for which you are qualified, apply! Just because you didn't hear back before, doesn't mean it will happen again.
There are many reasons applicants don’t get responses from companies but there are things you can do to market yourself and help you stand out against other applicants. For instance, If you applied online, you may not have made it through the initial screening tool. Make sure you have plenty of key words which show just how qualified you are for the position and reflect the breadth of your skill sets.
Perhaps you responded to an ad, and were just one of many cover letters in the pile. If your letter was addressed “To whom it may concern, Dear Sir or Madam or Attn: Hiring Manager”, chances are you didn’t make the cut. Do the research and determine the name of the hiring manager and adress your cover letter accordingly. If you can't find the hiring managers name, get the name of someone who may know that person, and include that persons name in the letter and the subject line of the email as a 'referred by' reference.
You can also leap frog the whole pile by having an employee you know or someone familiar to a person in your nerwork who can hand carry or email your resume or even make a call to the person running the process. You may think you don’t know anyone, but invariably someone you know is likely to have a connection.
Get on LinkedIn, carry your target list of companies with you, and ask everyone you meet if they know anyone.
Finally, if by some chance, you are not qualified for the role, and that is why you didn’t hear back, do everything possible to get noticed by the hiring decision makers. You can do this by connecting with them on LinkedIn and writing thank you notes for considering you application. If they hadn't seen your resume, a personal note may prompt them to take a look. You never know when an oppportunity more appropriate for you will open and leaving a lasting impression puts you in a better position to have them contact you the next time. Good luck!
By Cindy Atoji Keene
With less than 2 percent of the U.S. population involved in farming today, there is a lot of misinformation about dairy farms, said Doug Stephan, owner of Eastleigh Farms in Framingham, one of the few raw milk dairies in eastern Massachusetts. With a herd of over 200 Jerseys, Guernseys, Holsteins, and Brown Swiss cows that graze on pastures surrounded by suburbia, Stephan said he bought the 114 acres over a decade ago to stop proposed development. “I remember when this area was mostly farmland. Now people love to visit the bucolic setting of a farm but many are clueless about what it takes to run a farm, including the smell of manure as well as the dust, noise, and running of loud equipment that is needed,” said Stephan, who uses the cows to naturally improve the soil and sustain the land.
It is far from easy to run a farm, said Stephan, who on a typical day might fix a tractor with a broken hitch; mow acres of hay before dusk; and move cows from one barn to another. Providing the best care possible for his cows, of course, is an around-the-clock job. “I love looking at the cows and seeing that they’re healthy. Cows are sensitive, kind, loving and smart animals. Most famers look at them as machines that give milk, but I have become very connected with them, which I think leads to quality milk.”
Q: What is the most difficult part of farming?
A: The hard physical labor is no surprise to me but because I am selling raw milk, I am amazed at the amount of government intrusion and the state and federal regulations which make it difficult to survive as a business. We have become so far removed from where food comes from, and the maze of food safety controls makes it difficult for the ‘little guy’ like me – and then consumers wonder why food is so expensive.
Q: Why did you decide to become a farmer?
A: I’ve been around cows all my life. When I was a kid, my first job was sweeping out a local farmer’s school buses for 50 cents a piece. It was a tradition in New England that most farmers took time off chores to drive buses. I spent every waking moment, when I wasn’t in school, at my neighbor’s farm. Most of my values in life came from farmers who were my mentors, so I can’t imagine not living on a farm and having animals.
Q: What ensures the quality of raw milk that you produce?
A: Raw milk from grass-fed animals has a lot more nutritional value if properly produced. It takes constant vigilance over the cleanliness of the animals and the bottling plant. The cow’s milk goes down a pipeline into a holding tank, then into a cooler. In minutes, the milk goes from the temperature of a cow, which is about 101 degrees, to 34 degrees. This is how the milk is preserved and bacteria is prevented.
Q: Who is your favorite cow on the farm?
A: Our cows all have a personality and names based on their lineage.
The grand dame, Peaches is the oldest. She has a wonderful intellect and curiosity. She follows me around and watches everything and if she doesn’t like a pasture, she’ll make a lot of noise and let you know.
Q: You’re also host of a syndicated radio program called Doug Stephen’s Good Day. How does that fit into farming?
A: Everyone who listens to me knows that I’m a farmer in addition to being a broadcaster. The spirit of the show is flavored by my agrarian background.
Q: The farmer look has become vogue – canvas coats, plaid shirts, and work boots – is that your attire?
Q: I’m not campy and don’t want to set any fashion trends. I don’t want to look the part but just be comfortable and warm.
Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners in Boston, has over 20 years experience in career consulting, executive development and coaching. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q: I am working on my associate’s degree in Biology. I was going to pursue my bachelor’s, however I am afraid that I will not find a good job because of all the rumors I've heard about this degree. Eventually, I want to pursue a higher degree but wanted advice as to what to do next. Should I keep going with a bachelor degree's or should I major in something else, like nursing or something specific? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
A: Congratulations on furthering your education in one of the expected growth areas within the US. It is probably better to rely on facts, rather than rumors, about the job prospects for a biology major.
According to a May, 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, STEM occupations (jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) represented nearly 8 million jobs (or 6%) of the jobs in the US. Also according to the May, 2009 BLS report, STEM occupations were high-paying. For all STEM occupations the mean annual wage was $77,880. STEM occupations are often in knowledge-rich fields where education-level matters. You are smart to consider furthering your education beyond an associate’s. Most of these knowledge-rich fields will require a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree. In some fields, a doctorate may be preferred or even required.
I believe there is a mix of factors when considering what is the best path for you. Consider the following:
1. What courses do you like? What courses do you dislike?
2. What are your strengths? Are you a strong writer? Do you enjoy building spreadsheets?
3. What areas are expected to grow within the field of biology? Is there a specific field within biology which appeals to you?
4. Try to work in a few different roles through internships, summer jobs or volunteer roles. If you don’t enjoy a particular role, that’s ok. It is better to discover that now than later.
5. Research pay scales for different roles.
A biology degree could open many doors for you. A bachelor’s in biology could lead you to working in a pharmaceutical company or in a university. Or if you enjoy writing and biology, technical writing might be a path worth considering. Biology majors have landed jobs in zoos, aquariums, hospitals, labs, environmental organizations, colleges and universities, government agencies, research organizations and museums.
Registered nurses are in demand and this demand is expected to continue. As we, as a country, grapple with healthcare, including healthcare reform, obesity and living longer, nurses will continue to be in demand.
Neither path is wrong. However, you have to find out which path you would enjoy. Many of us spend 40 or more hours per week working at our jobs. Make sure you like most of what you do.
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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 Senior Vice President and Partner 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.