When news broke of Yahoo!’s decision to require its employees to work at a Yahoo! office instead of from home, bloggers immediately weighed in. (See my own contribution—“Did ‘Yahoo!’ Just Become a Verb?”—at the Community Voices section of Boston.com.)
Comments came in fast and furious about the Yahoo! decision, and broadly speaking, most fell into one of two camps. Those in support of the decision argued that 1) people do not work as efficiently at home, and/or 2) face-time is an integral and important part of the office and work-world experience. People who disparaged the decision argued equally vociferously that 1) more work gets done at home without the annoying and often unnecessary office distractions and 2) axing the commute is better for the environment.
Who’s right? They both are. Success for the people working at-home only comes if they take the responsibility that goes with the privilege seriously. That means:
- Treat the home office as if you are actually at the corporate office.
- Each day mentally, if not physically, transition from home to office.
- Dress for work. (While some may scoff at this piece of advice, you’ll be more mentally prepared to “work” if you also dress for work, at least in casual clothes rather than in pajamas.)
- When at “the office” focus on work and don’t let “home” interruptions distract you. That could mean limiting interactions with kids or neighbors who may think you’re more accessible because you’re at home.
- Clock in your full, contracted work hours.
- Proactively stay in touch with your colleagues and teammates, through email and phone calls as well as virtual meetings such as Skype, iChat, or FaceTime. And actually visiting the office is a great way to reconnect and keep relationships with colleagues positive.
On the other side of the equation, managers of people working at home need to actively supervise the work of their at-home employees just as they supervise employees in the office. Good managers will focus on a productivity issue with an employee regardless of where the employee works. A number of commenters pointed out that an employee who isn’t being productive working at home is not likely to be productive just because he or she is brought into the office environment. So, simply banning all at-home work and bringing all employees into the office may not fix the underlying productivity problem. The key here is that managers shoulder the burden for being a manager for at-home employees as well as for employees who work at the office.
Q. I have a diverse background in law, finance and tax. I would like to apply to multiple positions in a few different large companies. My goal is twofold: I want to "get my foot in the door" and I think I could be satisfied in diverse roles. However, I am reluctant to apply, because I am afraid I will appear unfocused. Is it possible to apply for multiple roles in a company without appearing unfocused?
A. You can apply for multiple roles within the same organization and be taken seriously by the hiring staff, but only if you approach if you position each application according to the position and focu on the contributions you can make to the company. How you apply and how you present your skills can end any chance you have, or can earn you a foot in the door.
To make sure you deliver the message a hiring manager needs to see, first work on your LinkedIn profile. Use a tag line after your name that encompasses your general background. Minimize the titles. Make sure the results you achieved are highlighted, and that each job reinforces your unique blend of skills, and your success. Go through the same exercise for each position you have held and update them on both your LinkedIn profile and your resume.
Next develop a list of large target companies you believe can benefit from the blend of skills you have to offer. The companies should be large enough where they have different departments or groups with people of similar skills, but whose focus may be different. Also make sure your list contains organizations from different industries. You might have a large financial services organization, a college or university, a law firm, and an accounting firm on your target list.
Focus on developing your networking contacts into these companies. Look up each company on LinkedIn to see which employees have profiles. Review the titles, the departments and the responsibilities. Most likely you will see a range of titles with similar skills to yours being leveraged. Arrange a networking meeting with your closest contacts within these firms, or with contacts who can get you introduced to current employees. Your goal in these meetings is to find multiple roles you might be right for within the same company. Remember that you do have focus. Explain “ I am not focused on the title of the role. I am focused on using my skills in tax, finance and law to make contributions to the organization. Can you give me examples of the kinds of roles here where my skills would be of most benefit?”
As your networking meetings move you to more senior people, they are more apt to see the many ways your skill set can be used. They may have you meet with human resources, or introduce you to a hiring manager. Ultimately you may be pushed to declare a favorite type of role, and you will need to make a commitment.
Job seekers may think the easiest way to apply for multiple roles is through online applications to multiple job openings at the same companies. It is easy. And chances are the method will not produce the results you desire.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
While most artists are inspired by a blank canvas, Adie Sprague’s “mixed media of choice” is frosting and batter. As head baker of Treat Cupcake Bar in Needham, she applies her degree in studio art and sculpture to the world of cupcakes. While proper measuring of ingredients is key for baking perfect cupcakes, Sprague finds cupcakes the ideal showcase for her artistry because of their versatility in toppings and flavors. “There are endless combinations of options, and cupcakes are a delicious art form both in taste and appearance,” said Sprague, 27, who is also in charge of menu creation, and serves as Treat’s general manager.
Q: There are reports that the cupcake craze is over. What’s your take on this?
A: There may be cities that are saturated with cupcake shops but in Boston, there’s still plenty of enthusiasm for cupcakes to go around. Cupcakes are an indulgence, a low-priced luxury capitalizing on the love for sweets, without the commitment of buying a big cake.
Q: What goes into making a good cupcake?
A: We’re baking 700 to 1,000 a day, with 15-20 different flavors, including the mini cupcakes. It’s important to not cut corners; our butter bill is the biggest expense that we have – butter is expensive but that’s what it takes to make a good cupcake.
Q: What do you think of off-the-wall flavors, such as bacon-flavored cupcakes or fried chicken and buttermilk cupcakes?
A: While some cupcake brands offer savory cupcakes that feature flavors like bacon or cheese, we specialize in sweet treats. One of our funkier flavors was a spicy and sweet chai tea cupcake; we also did a faux sandwich cupcake – Fluffernutter topped with peanut butter frosting. We try to differentiate ourselves by offering other products as well such as cake pops, cupcake flower arrangements, and of course, our make-your-own cupcake bar.
Q: What’s the biggest challenging in satisfying a wide-range of possible dietary restrictions?
A: Before we opened this store two and a half years ago, I baked a lot on my own. One of the first cupcakes I made was vegan; you can use coconut oil and almond milk and ingredients like that. I work to ensure all Treat customers feel welcome, and mix up special dairy, sugar and gluten-free recipes. The biggest challenge in developing vegan and/or gluten-free cupcakes is making a delicious gourmet product without it being too expensive. Ingredients for these cupcakes are more costly, but we want them to be similarly-priced as our other flavors.
Q: How did you get started in baking?
A: I always pictured myself as a baker and did a lot of side jobs while going to school. For one sculpture assignment, the professor asked the students to take any part of the body and use any medium to make the mold. While everyone else used clay or plaster, I used brownie batter. When I eventually listened to my heart, I realized cupcakes and cakes were my destiny.
Q: What’s the most fun you’ve had with a cupcake?
A: One custom order was making a Mr. Potato Head out of all edible material. The giant cupcake was the same exact size as a Mr. Potato Head, while white chocolate pieces were the arms and accessories. It was pretty fun. An interactive toy but edible.
Q: Is there any innovation you’d to see made to the cupcake that would improve it for you?
A: Cupcakes are such a delicate product. I wish there was a way to make them easier to transport and ship. It would be great to make them bottom heavy as opposed to top heavy, but you can’t change physics.
Q: My son is a junior in high school. He is very indecisive. He does well in math and science. He is also an introvert. He is not sure what he wants to do with this life or his career. I am nervous about writing a big check for college if he doesn’t know what he wants to do. How do we get beyond this?
A: Choosing a college is a major life decision. It is also a time of both anxiety and pride.
I think we place a lot of stress on young adults. How many of us really knew, with conviction, what career we wanted to pursue at that age? We often have a sense of what we like and dislike, which is helpful. But very few young adults know their exact career path with certainty. I work with 40-50 year olds who are still unsure if they made the best career choice.
I consulted Kathleen Hebden, College Counseling Services, former Guidance Director and School Counselor. Hebden currently runs a college consulting firm. Hebden advises, “Although attending college is about securing a job after graduation, it's also an opportunity to self-reflect and get to know yourself...how and where you learn best, your personal strengths and weaknesses, the type of work environment that suits you, etc. Colleges provide internships and coursework to help students determine their career path. Furthermore, this generation will change careers (not just jobs) 5-6 times so it isn't a deal breaker when a student has no idea yet what he/she wants to do. Encourage your son to consider colleges and universities that offer a variety of majors/minors and has a reputable career center. Every student needs to have a plan upon high school graduation. This plan can include vocational training, certificate programs, military service or a gap year. For a viable future in math and/or science, college is a must and there are many places, including state colleges and universities, that won’t break the bank if you do your research.”
Internships and coursework related to career interests are invaluable. If your son majors in engineering and then lands an engineering-related internship and hates it, that’s part of the learning process. Then, you both know that type of engineering is not an ideal choice for him in the long-term. Eliminating career paths is sometimes as important as considering different career paths.
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.
Recently I've been working with managers to run better meetings.
Meanwhile, in my private life, I've been trapped at several bad meetings—the kind where you squirm in your seat—with the dentist. (Luckily, the dentist wasn't actually in the seat.)
Is there a connection between good meetings and bad dentistry? Yes! It's about control.
Mistake #1: Too much control. You talk, but no one's engaged.
One day, I asked my dentist why he didn't have a spittoon. I like spittoons. They let you, the patient, sit up once in a while, spit, and take a break.
"I hate 'em," he muttered, almost to himself, "every single one of them." Was he talking about spittoons or patients? I couldn't tell.
Before I could offer any more advice, he put a suction hose in my mouth. Clearly, this man had a schedule, and there was no time for spitting.
Fine. But you certainly don't want dead silence at your meetings. If you're doing all the talking, that's less like a meeting, more like a bad dental experience.
Why are you talking so much, anyway?
Probably because you've got too much info, too little time. Well, why not send some of that info in advance?
Avoid using your meeting to dump data. Instead, use the meeting to discuss and debate so that you (and/or the group) can decide and act. .
Mistake #2: Too little control. Everyone talks, but nothing gets done.
I once had a dentist—or else it was someone pretending to be a dentist—ask me, "What are your goals for your teeth?"
I didn't really have any, other than to keep them. And I expected the dentist—or this person impersonating one—to provide a modicum of direction.
Same for the meeting leader. Without you steering, everyone may participate, but your meeting goes nowhere.
To maintain control, you don't need to dominate, but you do need to drive the structure. Begin with your purpose. What is it? And what decisions need to get made, and by whom? Be explicit.
Deputize a timekeeper—better if it's not you—to alert the group if the conversation goes off the rails.
And set some ground rules early to prevent trouble later. For example: no cell phones, no side conversations. And no spitting.
Tip: A good meeting is both efficient (uses time well) and engaging (uses people well).
To achieve both, flex control.
© Copyright 2013 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
Here’s a quiz for you: You’ve been asked to come in for a job interview. You want to look your best. What should you wear for the interview if it is at:
1. A dot com company?
2. An ad agency?
3. A private bank?
Remember: What the right attire is for an interview at the dot com can be very different from what’s expected at the private bank or even at the ad agency.
Looking your best is an admirable goal. The real issue is: What is best? Best does not mean always dressed in business formal—a dark suit, white shirt and tie for men or a suit and blouse for a woman. It means being dressed appropriately for the business you are interviewing with and then kicking it up a notch.
Your goal is to look your best while also looking like you fit in. Wearing a business suit to a dot com might be as much of a problem as wearing jeans and a turtleneck à la Steve Jobs to an interview at a private bank. The best way to know what to wear is to find out what is considered appropriate at that business. In some cases, you might be able to stop by and observe what employees are wearing. However, with building security limiting access only to visitors with appointments, a phone call to the receptionist or HR department is a more likely approach.
Certainly for the private bank, dressing in business formal clothing will equate to looking your best. But for the ad agency, it may mean slacks and a more informal jacket, maybe a tie for men. At the dot com, it may even mean no jacket or tie.
Here are some things to be aware of regardless of the venue:
Clean: Clean means freshly laundered and pressed with no stains. It’s unfortunate, but every now and then you’ll get a coffee stain or other spot that won’t come out. In that case the shirt, skirt or pants is simply no longer appropriate as business clothing. A job interview is also the perfect time for a shoeshine.
Neat: One of the best clothing innovations to come along is the “no-iron” dress shirt for men and women. It’s the best. I used to iron my own shirts, and since “no-iron” became available, my iron has remained in the closet. Retire “no-iron” shirts when they lose their right-from-the-dryer crispness.
No Odor: Your clothes and you and your breath should be odor free. The shirt you wore yesterday may still be “clean,” but it may have a stale body odor scent to it. Wear freshly laundered clothing to the interview. Some companies have “no scent” policies, so this is a time to lay-off cologne, after-shave and perfume.
Q. I've been at the same job (with many hats) for the same company since 2001 in a pretty niche market. Now that I'm older and have a family, it really started sinking in that I am underpaid for someone with my tenure, abilities and for the massive amount of work I've done above and beyond my position. There isn't much room to 'move up', or even make a parallel move, so I'm looking in different areas for a new career that will make living easier, and not paycheck to paycheck. I am capable of many things, and have many skills, but my job field (office job in the photography field) doesn't necessarily translate on paper/resume easily, and I think I am often ignored/passed over. I have applied to 50 jobs this year in an array of fields (easily qualified for), and received one call back (then subsequently ignored). Is there a way to get my skill set past the 'he/she works in photography, we don't need pictures taken' stigma, and be seen as a loyal department head with great skills who just happens to work for a company who sells photographs?
A. You have told the story of internal and external job seekers who are challenged by communicating their value. First remember that employers pay you for the value of your contributions to their organization, not based on your family situation, or length of service. Do the research. What do roles like yours pay in service organizations? Reality is the best tool when it is time to negotiate, whether you are faced with an internal or external conversation. Perhaps you are being taken for granted and a more direct review of your contributions could help you maximize your earning potential.
To make that happen, you need to review every word of your resume. If you've had many hats at your current company, you need to define each role in general business terms, not terms just accepted at your company. In each of these roles, quantify the successes you were responsible for or participated in. Most often, companies where you are not considered the main talent but are considered a supporting player often overlook the kind of increases you believe you deserve. You may have already hit your peak compensation at your current company. The resume re-creation you are now tasked with may prove highly valuable if you want to try to renegotiate your current compensation.
Many job seekers use language in their resumes and letters which minimize responsibilities because they tie themselves too closely to the specifics of their current role. To be considered for external roles, you're goal is to remove the “picture taking” from the description of the work you do. Your organization is a service provider. You need to describe the work you do in terms of managing, leading, driving revenue and increasing the success of your company by being able to sell more services, deliver more services at a lesser cost, or increase productivity. All hiring organizations are interested in people who can drive success regardless of what the service or product might be.
Also, consider adding as many project details and results that you can to your LinkedIn profile through the upload and the update feature. Make sure it's completely updated with a recent head shot and communicates what you would like to do as much what you have accomplished.
Once the new resume is complete, change your approach from 50 applications to 50 networking contacts. Develop relationships with vendors and other service providers. You need to develop an external sales force that can speak to your skills and refer you to potential hiring managers, and the new resume will give you the breadth you will need to succeed.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
With two generations of railroad workers in her family, there's no doubt working on the rails is in Chelsea Carr’s blood. But as a locomotive engineer, Carr, 23, is the first female in her family to actually take the controls of a 285,000-pound diesel engine as she operates commuter rail trains throughout Eastern Massachusetts.
Hired as an assistant conductor with Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR) four years ago, Carr quickly worked herself up to the job of conductor, then attended MBCR’s engine school, graduating as a locomotive engineer last year. She now works as part of the MBCR’s mechanical and engineering team six days a week, on-call as a locomotive engineer. “Every set of equipment runs differently; you have to make constant adjustments,” said Carr. “You might have a seven-car double-decker set, which runs differently than six cars that are a flat set. As an engineer, I need to operate at 100 percent and know every rule and how to apply them, no matter what situation I’m in.”
Q: What does it mean to be an on-call engineer with the MBCR?
A: I could be called at any time and asked to show up within two hours to run any train line that originates from South Station. On Monday, I might be called to Providence; maybe Greenbush on Tuesday or Middleboro on Wednesday. I go wherever I am needed.
Q: What did you learn at MBCR’s engine school?
A: This training program included classroom instruction, simulation, and hands-on experience in locomotive operation. We had eight weeks of mechanical training course, then learned how to run trains from different outlying points.
Q: Is one particular commuter rail line more challenging than another?
A: If I’m going to Wickford, R.I., for example, there’s more pressure because I’m dealing with two railroads – Amtrak runs to Wickford. If I’m going out to Worcester, there’s CSX. In either of these cases, there is more traffic and I need to deal with not just my own crew but a different railway’s crew as well. It’s important to get the train safely and efficiently to its destination, but sometimes you need to run around a freight train.
Q: What goes into your job that people might not be aware of?
A: We need to know how to troubleshoot a problem that an engine or train might be having. It could be something really simple, like a governor button, which controls certain mechanisms or systems, or it could be more complex, such as a rescue move for another train.
Q: How challenging is it to run a commuter rail train to its destination?
A: Locomotive engineers are required to not just have mechanical training but also to know all the physical characteristics of a line – where the stations and signals are, inside and out, and all the rules that pertain to that particular place. If I’m going to Plymouth, I need to know the grade of the territory and whether it’s uphill, downhill, or curved, and then run the train accordingly. As I get closer to the Franklin-Dean station, I’ll put a little more power on the uphill to maintain top speed of 70 miles an hour.
Q: What’s it like to be from a railroad family?
A: My grandfather worked in a tower, which is the equivalent of a train dispatcher now. My father is a track laborer. I rode the trains when I was a little kid, so there’s a lot of nostalgia around the railroad for me.
Q: When driving a commuter rail train you must get to see parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island from a different perspective. What’s your favorite scenic view?
A: Watching the sun come up in Warwick, R.I., and seeing all the boats docked is really pretty.
Q: In my first year in an entry-level role at a non-profit, I spent 7 months doing my work and that of another position. I eventually "trained" two new hires for that role. During our recent hire, I learned secondhand that job's salary is $6000 more than I make. This person is not a manager; nor do the responsibilities demand more advanced skills than mine - just a different focus. How do I negotiate a more comparable salary or better benefits (i.e., employer pays full, not half medical insurance)?
A: Compensation is an emotionally-charged topic for many of us, especially if we perceive that there may be inequities in how we are paid. However, there are often logical reasons for employees being paid at different levels.
Assuming you are correct, that your pay is lower than your colleague’s pay, one valid reason may be a difference in skill set. Certain hard-to-find skills may be worth more in the employment market place. As an example, there are many technology firms in Massachusetts with several engineers with similar levels of experience. However, one engineer may have a certain skill which may be very difficult to find. The engineer with the unusual skill set may be compensated at a higher level of pay than his or her peers. Another reason may be experience level. If you have been hired in an entry-level role, your experience may be less than your colleague’s level of experience.
Asking your employer to pay for a greater portion of your medical benefits is probably not a viable option. Most employers do not pay for the full premiums because of escalating health care costs. However, some benefits may be negotiable. One benefit that you might want to ask about is tuition aid. Your employer may be able to provide some type of financial assistance for you to continue your education.
If you decide to ask for a salary increase, you need to be careful. If you learned of your colleague’s salary “secondhand” does that mean someone shared this with you? Most employers assume that employees will keep salary information confidential. Further, you need to make sure that your information is accurate. Sometimes employees embellish or exaggerate starting salaries, salary increases or other compensation information.
You can have a candid conversation with your manager if you believe you are underpaid. Try to get external data on similar roles from other non-profits of a similar size within the same geographic area. Or your company may publish salary ranges for open positions. Explain that you absorbed extra work for seven months before your colleagues were hired. Remain professional, factual and not emotional. Have this conversation in a private setting. Be gracious and thank your manager regardless of the outcome.
Social media is an impactful marketing and public relations tool that companies are embracing. Right now, 77 of the world’s 100 largest companies maintain a corporate Twitter account. While the potential for meaningful engagement with consumers, prospects, employees, shareholders and others makes these spaces a great place to engage, there’s a darker side to business etiquette.
A recent example of how Twitter can suddenly boomerang involves British entertainment company HMV. In an article for Forbes, Susan Adams explains how HMV got into social media hot water. In an effort to right its balance sheet the company laid off 190 employees. Sixty of them were let go in a mass meeting. Unfortunately for HMV, Poppy Rose was one of the employees in this mass firing. It turns out Rose began work for the company a couple of years earlier as an intern who took on the task of posting on the company’s Twitter account. She grew the position into that of community manager.
During the meeting, Rose began tweeting about the firing and created the hash tag #hmvXFactorFiring:
“There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. #hmvXFactorFiring”
One minute later:
“Sorry we’ve been quiet for so long. Under contract, we’ve been unable to say a word, or –more importantly – tell the truth #hmvXFactorFiring
Fourteen minutes later:
“Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask “How do I shut down Twitter?” #hmvXFactorFiring
When asked for the account password, Rose provided it. But once shut off from using the HMV Twitter account, she continued to tweet on her own account.
HMV made a mistake companies make everyday: not taking social media seriously. At least not until damage is done.
Consider the fiasco Chrysler faced when one of the employees for an outside firm that worked on social media with Chrysler tweeted the following on Chrysler’s Twitter feed:
“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity, and yet no one here knows how to *&%#* drive.”
While Chrysler quickly tried to limit the damage by removing the tweet and posting: “Our apologies - our account was compromised earlier today. We are taking steps to resolve it” the tweet obviously hurt its brand image, particularly in its hometown.
Social media is an impactful marketing and public relations tool that companies are embracing. But along with the marketing benefits comes responsibility to manage social media with as much care as traditional marketing and public relations efforts are managed. Anything less will inevitably lead to negative publicity and hurt brand image. Just ask Chrysler and HMV.
If you want to take an inside look at the workings of The Emily Post Institute, visit My Family Business at Yahoo Finance.
Q. What is the proper protocol for correcting a co-worker's mistake? I have been in my current position for a year, but in the field for 5, and work with a women in her 60's that is constantly saying incorrect facts. I ignore non-work related errors and only point out work related ones when I think there may be a consequence or would reflect poorly on her. I try to let her know in private, rather than in front of others, and in as casual a way as possible. My worry is the fine line between genuine concern and alienating her or others as a know it all. Any advice would be appreciated.
A. There are all sorts of mistakes people make every day. Some are minor and can be ignored, while other mistakes offer learning opportunities which can have a significant developmental impact. Then there are the mistakes have a negative impact on people, and business and they need to be addressed.
You say this woman is a co-worker, but is she a peer, a subordinate, or at a more senior level than you are? It sounds like you are junior to her in terms of length of service at the company. The answers to these questions do help to determine the protocol
First, review your motive for correcting this woman. If you are her manager, correcting someone regarding work issues, processes, or practices is part of the job. These communications occur on a regular basis, with respect on both sides, and are typically discussed as a developmental need. If you are not her manager, why do you comment? Perhaps there is no benefit to correcting her. Look at what would happen if you didn’t. Does it really matter if the misinformation she relays in not corrected? Many people believe things you may not believe – whether you consider them facts or not. People have opinions which may differ significantly from yours, and it’s important that you are honest with yourself about why you are correcting her and how important it is to the business.
If her mistakes affect your work, you can have a conversation with her. “”I really need your work to be accurate so that my work will be accurate. I know we can both make mistakes, but I don’t want to be responsible for correcting your work, and I am sure you’d rather I didn’t have to correct you.” Another tack is to share a story where you had your facts wrong and what the implications were for you, your team or your company. Knowing that you have been in her shoes will likely put her at ease about hearing she made a mistake.
Correcting anyone in the work environment can be a sensitive situation. If you are a group discussion and you think she has misstated something, you can say, “Are you sure about that? My understanding is XXX.” This allows her to correct her understanding and avoid embarrassment. It also provides the opportunity for others to voice their understanding of a work related issue.
If there is one consistent mistake she makes which reflects poorly on her and you are truly trying to support her, speak to her privately. “You do a great job and I really like working with you. I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to tell you the word is pronounced anecdote. You tell great stories, and I want people to focus on those and not your mispronunciation of the word.”
Avoid being perceived as a know it all by focusing on your own accuracy and letting others have the opportunity to correct people long before you need too.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Some of the ingredients in processed dog food could be considered almost toxic: Cancerous food dyes, meat by-products, artificial flavoring and colors, sodium, and preservatives. When Newton resident John Edwards, 36, started researching pet brands and comparing labels, he realized that Sasha, his golden Lab mix, might be healthier if she ate the same natural, fresher, and locally sourced foods as humans. With more consumers interested in a more holistic approach to pet food, Edwards saw an opportunity in the $52 billion dollar pet product industry for a pet food made in New England with organic, premium ingredients. He launched The Well Fed Dog in 2010, formulating recipes made in small batches in a commercial kitchen, including beef and sweet potato; salmon and pumpkin; and unorthodox pet food ingredients such as collard greens, blueberries, and celery. “More and more pet owners understand that responsible ownership means making their dog’s health a priority. That means investing in a nutritious, balanced diet,” said Edwards, who said he is part of a new breed of “pet-preneurs.”
Q: What are some ingredients in commercial food that you find particularly offensive?
A: Meat meal is a dried meat product that comes from ground bones and flesh, but it’s a non-specific animal, so it could be a mix of pigs, llama, horses, deer, or anything else. This mulligan stew of junk can’t go into the human food supply chain. Even road kill makes its way into it. Instead, our dog food is locally produced with fresh fruits and vegetables and human grade meat.
Q: How does one break into the pet food market?
A: It is a difficult task, since there’s a lot of oversight from the USDA, FDA, AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), and each state’s department of agriculture. As a former banker, I went from one very regulated business to another, but this background was helpful in picking my way through the red tape. There are regulations on how ingredients can be labeled, what testing needs to be done, preparation and storage, and other best practices.
Q: In your opinion, when does dog food go “over-the-top?” Isn’t it unnecessary to have grass-fed bison, or free-range emu in pet food as some places offer?
A: What’s important to one person might not be to someone else. Some people may think that cruelty-free protein sources like grass-fed bison in dog food is over-the -top, but having options can give you peace-of-mind. Although some of these protein sources may seem strange, multiple allergies in dogs are incredibly common. My own dog is allergic to chicken, which is in almost every major food brand because it’s a cheap protein source. She was very sick until we discovered it and removed it from her diet.
Q: The consumer is often faced with a glossary of pet food terms, ranging from "natural" to "human grade," etc. What advice would you give them to help navigate this maze?
A: Consumers face this with human food too and it’s terribly confusing. The phrases can mean different things in different situations, so it can get pretty complicated. I wouldn’t rely on any of these terms in isolation as a proxy for quality. “Natural” or “Human Grade” could be a marketing gimmick or it could be a true indication of quality. The bottom line is that people can’t rely on these terms to choose a quality food and need to do their own research. Talk to your vet, investigate the manufacturer to see if there is a history of recalls, and shop at stores with knowledgeable staff.
Q: Allergies, obesity, high-maintenance -- what are some other special needs of dogs that you’ve addressed in your dog food?
A: A local vet I work with recently told me about a really interesting patient of hers with a food allergy. The dog had a history of biting people and the owner was getting frustrated with the situation. They’d tried working with trainers and behaviorists with no luck. As kind of a last ditch effort, they switched up the food, and almost immediately the biting stopped. If a dog is suffering from a food related condition they cannot always communicate that and will sometimes lash out. An animal’s wellbeing goes far beyond just providing the minimum level of nutrition.
Q: Obesity in dogs is increasing. Is this an owner problem or a dog problem?
A: Diet and lifestyle are the first victims of our busy lifestyles. The solution for obesity in pets is the same as for people; a little less food in the bowl and a lot more exercise. Losing weight can be a great team project for you and your dog; dogs make excellent walking companions. A dog being overweight is really an owner problem because they rely on us to take care of them.
Q: Are you planning on coming out with a line of cat food?
A: Cats and dogs have very different nutritional needs, although we tend to think of them in the same class. Cats are really carnivores and hunters in their natural state, while dogs have been evolving next to humans for the last thousand years and are perfectly designed to steal food off your counter. They require more diverse nutrients and carbohydrates.
Q: Does your dog Sasha get blueberry facials or wear rain slickers?
A: That’s not my thing. I start to get a little worried about dogs that are dressed in silly costumes.
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 a recent college graduate from Arizona State University who is looking to relocate to the Boston area. I graduated with an art history degree and a minor in anthropology and I have a vast background of customer service experience. I have been applying for jobs in the non-profit, marketing and arts sectors in the Boston area but I am still confused as to how I find a job in a place where I have never lived before. I have a ton of skills and am willing to learn but how do get my foot in the door and find an employer that can trust somebody with entry level experience?
A: Your job search in the Boston area will be a greater challenge but one that can be successful. A few tips that will increase your success:
1. Use social media to your advantage. Create an account on LinkedIn. Learn how it works. Join groups on LinkedIn that further your connections in Boston. Create a Twitter account. Begin following job sites and Boston-centric sites. If you are targeting specific employers, follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter.
2. Research alumni connections and associations in the Boston area. Talk to your professors about contacts that they may have in the Boston area.
3. There are several job posting sites that have a focus on non profits jobs. Idealist.org is one to think about visiting frequently. Check other sites as well.
4. Think about buying a cell phone with a Boston-base phone number for job hunting.
5. Be clear that you don’t expect a prospective employer to pay for your relocation. The thought of a relocation expense may scare them off. Let them know you could relocate quickly.
6. Make sure that you have video chatting capability in case they invite you to interview using this type of technology.
7. Like other job seekers, you should ensure that your resume is crisp, error-free and well designed. Your resume should not exceed one page.
8. Also make sure that your resume includes key words which are desirable for your target industry and/or target employers.
9. If possible, travel to Boston and try to fill that time period with a jam-packed schedule of interviews and/or networking meetings.
10. If you know where you plan to live and can use that address, begin using that address on your resume. A local address conveys that you are serious about relocating.
Job hunting from a distant location can be daunting but not impossible.
"Describe yourself," one CEO asks job applicants, "in 3 words or less."
What would you say? Probably not, "I'm wordy and verbose. Also repetitive."
On the other hand, the U.S. President just hired a new Secretary of State whom he regards, at times, as "long-winded" (NY Times, 12/16/12).
But I don't think that's what clinched the job for the new Secretary, unless, one day, after listening to him ramble on and on, the President got desperate.
"This fellow talks too much," the President may have concluded. "Obviously, the only thing to do is hire him, and then, immediately send him to 112 different countries."
How focused are you?
"You seem to have 29 ideas at once," an exec. told one of his managers. "And I feel like I'm hearing them all, right this minute."
Ever gotten feedback like that?
Sometimes, we get mired in details. "You wouldn't believe what happened to me last Thursday," we say—"no wait, it was Wednesday. Actually, now that I think about it—this thing I'm about to tell you—it didn't really happen at all. I dreamt it. Last Monday."
I work with several companies where executives, after taking a communication assessment, will gladly tell you their preferred style. Each style has its own color.
Let's say you walk into an office and see the color red. That means, in essence, "Get to the point. Then get out."
But most execs aren't that direct.
Your boss probably hasn't asked you to say it in 3 words or less, or given you feedback about your 29 ideas, or flashed the color red in your face.
Maybe she hasn't said a thing about valuing conciseness.
Tip: Assume it.
© Copyright 2013 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
One scenario I present at most of my seminars invariably elicits a lot of discussion.
Imagine you have invited a client to a business meal at a restaurant that has a no cell phones policy. During the meal your client answers his phone when it rings and launches into a conversation. People at near-by tables start looking your way. What do you do?
This situation is awkward to say the least. Last week, one participant at my seminar responded: “Get his attention. Tell him. Point at his phone and make a motion with your hand across your neck.” Another person chimed in: “Do nothing. He’s a client.” Yet another offered, “Go get a waitperson or maitre d’ to deal with the client while you’re in the restroom.”
It quickly becomes apparent that some people would be comfortable saying something directly to the client. “John, no cell phones here. Would you please step out to the lobby to take that call?” At another seminar, a person offered a slightly less intrusive solution: quickly jot down a message like “No cell phones” and slip it over to the client. For every person who is willing to say something to a client there’s another who will express trepidation at saying anything at all.
That leaves us with two possibilities: either doing nothing or asking someone at the restaurant to intervene. Doing nothing is fraught with complications. The situation escalates the longer the client is talking on the phone. Ultimately, for you, the client, and the other patrons, doing nothing really doesn’t work.
So, for the person who can’t directly ask the client to take the call in the lobby, the alternative of leaving for the restroom and asking a waitperson or maitre d’ to enforce the rule becomes a viable option. Of course it’s important to be discreet so the client doesn’t see you making the request.
Etiquette isn’t always about just one correct answer. While the solution to the problem is important, the real point I make is that for every situation, each person has to decide for him- or herself just what they can do and then act accordingly in the best manner possible, both to resolve the issue and to build or maintain the relationship at the same time.
By the way, the best solution is not to get into the situation in the first place. When arriving at the restaurant, the host should take his phone out, turn it off, and let the others in his group know the restaurant has a no cell phones policy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Q. After 2 years of unemployment, I have been offered a position as a marketing data analyst. This is a small career change, and I'm fully qualified (if not overqualified). Research shows salaries from a low end of $49k to an average of $62k/year. They offer a salary that is well below the low end of this spectrum. While I could cover my bills, I feel the offer is almost insulting and taking advantage of my desperate situation. How can I address this disparity? I like the company and would love to work there.
A. Prolonged unemployment is a horrible experience - financially, emotionally and career wise. It’s something that only those that have been trough it can fully appreciate. Unemployment statistics are made of stories of real people and real organizations going through challenging times. And the aftermath of this will invariably impact on how you view any offers you receive.
So celebrate that you have an offer. The people you met value your skills and the contributions you can make. Do your research. Why can the company fill this position now? Is this a replacement role for a recent vacancy? Or did they fill a long vacant position with a newly opened head count addition? Is this a new role based on business growth? The answers here, as well as a look at any type of financial information you can access might help explain more about how the offer came to be and why they selected the salary they did.
You say you like the company and would love to work there, but why? What do you know about the people and the organization that would explain what you consider a low ball offer? Are they the kind of people who would “take advantage” of your situation? Are they a not-for-profit that doesn’t fit your research data? Was the research conducted in a booming economy versus during a recession? Or perhaps they see your experience and qualifications a bigger career change than you believe.
While you have the opportunity, you should try to negotiate for a higher salary. Valid reasons include your experience, and the data you have on the typical salary range for this role. Approach the negotiations with gratitude, “Thank you so much. I am very pleased to get this offer, I am confident in the experience I bring to the organization, and the contributions I can make. I am disappointed in the compensation. Recent research I have done shows the compensation for this position between XX and XX for someone with x years of experience. This offer is below the low end of that scale. Is there flexibility in your offer?“
Hopefully you can add to the offer. If not, consider asking for a six month compensation review. If they cannot or choose not to enhance the offer, are you able to move past your feelings about the generosity of the offer? There are many ways to see the “reality” of this situation. You need to make sure that you can accept this job without bitterness. Should you accept the offer, you will want to be the high performing positive employee you can be, even if you continue to look for opportunities that offer more.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Architect Ethan Anthony claims to have laid the cornerstones for the first true Gothic churches built in the U.S. since the World War II. With graceful stone spires, soaring arches and ornate stained glass windows, they are legacy designs intended to last for centuries. By dedicating himself to the revival of such traditional sacred architecture, Anthony is carrying on the tradition of his firm’s early twentieth century founder, Ralph Adams Cram, who created religious masterpieces such as the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City. “Sacred architecture is architecture of the spirit, and includes all denominations and inclinations, from Buddhist all the way to High Roman Catholic,” said Anthony, 62. “It’s not about the ego or church image but more about spiritual fulfillment,” said Anthony, who completed such structures as St. Edward’s Chapel at the Casady School in Oklahoma City, Okla.; Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church, Houston, and Phillips Chapel at the Canterbury School, Greensboro N.C.
Q: Modern day sacred architecture – isn’t that an oxymoron?
A: It depends on what coast you’re on. Here in New England, it is a contradiction in terms, but most of our work is in the Bible Belt area, including the Midwest, South, and all parts of the heartland. Construction in New England, though, is few and far between. The archdiocese still has far more churches than they wish they had.
Q: You’ve completed a wide range of churches. What project is your favorite?
A: The Syon Abbey, a monastery in Virginia. It sits on the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. We build it with tremendous support from the monks to do the design that they envisioned. They even got their hands dirty and did some of the construction themselves. The building came out beautifully.
Q: Can sacred architecture also be sustainable?
A: We try very hard to be energy-efficent in the way we build, and incorporate a lot of LEED principles in our design, although usually the religious community can’t afford to apply for LEED designation, which is very expensive. We use durable building materials that don’t decay quickly, extra insulation, and other sustainable measures.
Q: Your firm was founded in 1889 by Ralph Adams Cram. How does his work influence you?
A: Cram was one of the founders of the Boston Society of the Arts and Crafts, and his sense of high-quality material, groundness in tradition, and being a part of a long history of classic architecture is very much what I am interested in as well. When I joined the firm, I started going through all the archives – there are maybe a hundred thousand drawings in the Cram collection in the Boston Public Library. I spent many days going through these drawings, and looking at the details. It set a high standard for me to aspire to.
Q: How did you become interested architecture?
A: From the time I was a little kid, my mother taught me about carpentry and talked about architecture with me. She was very interested in Frank Lloyd Wright and modernist architecture. The irony of my interest in traditional architecture is that I grew up in a very modernist house with a flat roof that was a bit ridiculed in our neighborhood.
Q: What will the church of the future look like?
A: Churches and spiritual life are very diverse and constantly changing. We continue to have a range of different solutions to that one question, “What is the best ‘home’?” People continue to fall on one side or another of this question, either modern or traditional. But even in traditional churches, you will see incorporation of technology, such as incorporating sound systems in the liturgy.
Q: Do you ever feel you were guided by divine inspiration when designing a church?
A: "Inspiration" is a critical part of every project. I often despair of finding a solution, then the answer arrives on its own. My best work is done on an airliner tray. Closer to God. I work even better in First Class!
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 am looking for a job in just about any field. I have a degree in English and have worked in many fields including brewing and cell phone repair, as well as customer service. I can learn exceptionally quickly. How can I convey to potential employers that I can learn anything and put forward 100% effort without sounding self important?
A: Great question. Former co-workers, colleagues and managers are an excellent place to start. People that have worked with you in past roles probably know you work hard and produce quality work. Begin connecting and re-connecting with these contacts on LinkedIn and in person. Your contacts can refer you to companies with the following message: “This is a strong candidate. Strong work ethic. Learns quickly. Willing to do what it takes.” It is easier for a professional contact to refer you to another professional in their network especially if that former colleague has observed your work firsthand. It is also less awkward for a professional contact to give you high praise.
If you have a LinkedIn profile, ask some of your former co-workers and managers to write recommendations on LinkedIn. These recommendations can share “real-life” examples of your work ethic and your ability to learn a job quickly. They can also endorse your skills and expertise in specific areas like customer service, graphic design or business development (whichever apply to your career). Employers are often checking a LinkedIn profile before they even invite a candidate in for a live interview.
Make sure that your resume is crisp, error-free and well-designed. I think sometimes English majors are held to a higher standard!
During an interview (either via telephone, video chat or in person), weave some of these attributes in your responses. As an example:
Q: Mary, tell me a little bit about what your manager at ABC Company would say about your performance in your role as a Customer Service Rep?
A: Mike Smith was my manager at ABC. I really enjoyed working for him. I am a high-energy quick learner and he allowed me to learn new skills that were not even part of my formal job description. As an example, I developed a knack of using some of the unused modules available in our software to better troubleshoot customer complaints. I was able to train others on how to use these modules and features. I think it helped us resolve customer complaints more quickly and efficiently.
Lastly, if a cover letter is requested, include some of these attributes in your cover letter.
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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.