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The technical and collaborative side of Etsy

Posted by Cindy Atoji Keene April 30, 2013 07:50 PM

By Cindy Atoji Keene
Etsy vendor Dara Cheek wants to encourage the “buy local” craft movement in the Boston area. She’s a new breed of artist curator who aims to bring online artisans into collaborative communities, including assembled marketplaces that showcase some of the 58,858 items sold by Etsy members in the Boston area. “Even as the Internet opens up new connections and opportunities, it becomes even more important to bring the world of Etsy outside to the people,” said Cheek, who makes natural and global inspired jewelry.

. Q: What’s the learning curve for a craft-prenuer such as yourself?
A: It’s definitely a new approach to first build an art or craft business online using e-commerce websites such as Etsy. It’s forcing artisans such as myself to be not just smart at artsy endeavors but also tech wizards who can master keywords. It takes technological knowledge to make yourself visible in a very saturated space. It took me two years to get up to speed and understand search engine optimization, tagging, titling, and other ways to display and categorize. I’ve also had to embrace blogging, promoting on Facebook and Myspace, tweeting products, , participating in blog giveaways and charity donations, utilizing Pinterest, Flickr, and Tumblr, and most recently, making use of new crowd-sourced shopping/curating sites like The Fancy, Luvocracy, Svpply, and Polyvore.

Q: What’s the holy grail for Etsy sellers?
A: There are millions and millions of items for sale, so to get on the website’s front page and be featured in the highlighted collections is one of the best ways to get found. I’m constantly trying to master their search algorithms, which is tricky because it changes all the time. It’s all optimized for how a buyer would search for an item, and not for the sellers.

Q: How do you take an “Etsy-style” photo to highlight your listings?
A: There’s a lot of debate about photos on Etsy forums. When I first started out, I tried to take interesting photos that showed off my personality. I framed my jewelry in a natural setting and used moss and branches as ornamentation. But now there’s been a shift from staging of items to simple, clear close-ups of objects on a white background. I use a large white box and fill it with cotton filling so it adds texture and shadow, and then zoom in as much as possible.

Q: What other online craft marketplaces are gaining traction?
A: I also sell on Scoutmob, another site for independent artists. They have a special focus on searching websites by locale, so it’s popular among the younger crowd and folks looking for deals. I also like the Daily Grommet, Handmade Artists’ Shop and Fab.

Q: After factoring all your Etsy fees, PayPal fees, materials, and time, do you make a profit?
A: It's really difficult to say. I'm still in the process of building my business. All the fees do add up. Etsy recently changed the way they accessed fees; they take about 3 percent of the sale and it cost 20 cents to list an item and another 20 cents if you need to renew your listing. Paypal fees are similar; they charge for every sale as well. Of course, you have postage and shipping expenses and any ads for Facebook or Google advertising.

Q: What do you do about shipping?
A: I sell small jewelry pieces so I try to keep them affordable and still provide shipping in a method consistent with my brand. Etsy encourages sellers to ship in a thoughtful way as opposed to just throwing something in a box. I ship everything in a silver foiled gift box and a bit of ribbon so recipients recognize they’re getting a handmade piece from an individual seller.

Q: Why are you producing shows like “Assembled,” the handmade arts market at Assembly Row?
A: “Assembled” will showcase handmade arts and crafts at Assembly Row on May 18. It’s the first of an art series in Somerville, every Saturday through September. The first one features Boston Etsy artists and I’m responsible for collecting a curated group of handmade artisans to participate. I am focusing on diversity with a goal to have a broad range of styles, cultures, and media represented in the artwork being displayed For online artists, it’s just nice to get to talk to the people who buy your pieces and build a community with other vending artists.

Q: Etsy scandals have been in the news because of the controversy between "handmade" and "factory made." What's your view on all this?
A: There will always be unscrupulous people out there who just view Etsy as another virtual marketplace to take advantage of. It is so incredibly frustrating to have your handcrafted jewelry listed alongside an item that was stamped out by the thousands in a factory, both with the designation “handmade.” But I think my customers want something special – they want something with a great story behind.

8. How often do you work in your pajamas?
When I wake up, the first thing I do is finish pieces that were in progress the night before so I can get them off to the post office. In an effort to save time, not only do I not bother changing clothes, I drive to the post office in my pajamas to make sure those shipments get out in time.

Job hunt in Boston, while living in Chicago

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole April 29, 2013 06:48 AM

Q: Could you tell me how to go about finding employment in the Boston area when you live in the Midwest? I live in Chicago. I do not want to come to Boston without a job.

A: Finding a new job from afar is a challenge. However, you can be successful with a plan. Some recommendations:

1. Connect with any area Boston contacts that you may have including friends, family or other professionals. LinkedIn is a great way to jumpstart these connections. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is complete and includes a photo and recommendations. Add new contacts daily. On LinkedIn, you can join Boston-area groups that are related to your profession.
2. Most of the job boards allow you to fine-tune your search by geographic area. This will be especially helpful to you since you are focused on a Boston-area search.
3. Find out if your college or university has networking events in the Boston area.
4. Research professional associations in the Boston area.
5. Make sure that you clearly communicate that you expect to relocate at your own expense. Sometimes hiring professionals see an out-of-state address and assume that a costly relocation might be required.
6. Consider securing a phone number with a local area code.
7. If possible, consider planning a trip to the Boston area and plan several face-to-face meetings during these visits.
8. Don’t rule out temporary or contract roles. Often these roles lead to full-time employment opportunities.
9. Be responsive to emails and phone calls placed to you. You should try to respond to all of these inquiries within 24 hours.
10. Use Twitter to follow job hunting experts and companies. There are quite a few related to job hunting (and even specialized industries) which are Boston-centric.
11. Never say no to an introduction. When you are introduced to a new contact, you are also introduced to that individual’s entire network of contacts.
Finally, write a quick thank-you note (by email or mail) to anyone who has been helpful to you during your search.


Job Doc live at noon: Pattie Hunt Sinacole

Posted by Julie Balise April 26, 2013 04:56 PM

JobDoc-Pattie-Hunt-Sinacole-100.jpgPattie 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.

Don’t provide references upon request

Posted by Paul Hellman April 26, 2013 11:00 AM

How do you handle references?

Last week, I got an email with a fresh, new approach: "DON'T call any of my references!" the marketing consultant wrote.

That got my attention, but seemed harsh. Suppose I hired him, and he created a hostile marketing campaign? "STAY AWAY from our products and services. And NEVER try to contact us. DON'T even think about it."

More about the consultant later. Meanwhile, consider three other approaches to references:

1) Bad: You use that tired, old resume line, "References provided upon request." Perhaps you imagine the recruiter is about to toss your resume. But then she reads that line:

"Hire him!" she says. "Because he'll provide references—and he doesn't even care how we request them. We could ask really nicely, or we could just try to beat the names out of him. He'll provide them either way. He just needs a request."

2) Better: Don't wait for a request. Show up at the interview with a list. (And of course, stay in touch with the people you list.)

3) Best: Prep a one-page list of testimonials called "As seen by others."

Back to the consultant: he sent his email out of impatience. Weeks earlier, he'd sent me a list of references, and when he discovered I hadn't called any of them yet, he figured I never would.

He miscalculated.

In fact, I'd already called someone—not on his list. You can almost always, in a linked-in world, find someone who knows someone. The person I called was lukewarm about the consultant.

Still, I was planning to make a few more calls. Then the consultant lost his patience, and lost my business.

But that's not all: I'm now a reference.

Suppose I'm talking with colleagues, and someone asks, "Does anyone know a marketing consultant named X?"

I'll say, "Yes! And whatever you do, don't call his references. He really dislikes that."

Tip: Treat everyone as if they're a valued reference. Because they are.

© Copyright 2013 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

Live chat: Stu Coleman from recruitment firm WinterWyman

Posted by Julie Balise April 25, 2013 11:29 AM

stu-coleman-100.jpgStu Coleman, a partner at Waltham recruiting firm WinterWyman, is a hiring and contracting expert.

Gates’ Handshake Blunder Sparks Internet Firestorm

Posted by Peter Post April 25, 2013 10:30 AM

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has (inadvertently) touched off an internet firestorm of opinion simply by how he conducted a handshake while greeting South Korean President Park Geun-hye last Monday. Here’s what happened:

Gates was on a “a visit to build business ties and boost nuclear energy plans” according to an NPR.org blog about the incident. The picture accompanying the blog shows a smiling South Korean President warmly greeting Gates as they shake hands. Gates clearly is giving the President his complete attention and respect. Except for one minor mistake: his left hand is buried deep into his pants pocket. And that is a breach of etiquette in South Korea.

The blog quotes a story about the incident in the Korea Herald which explained the faux pas succinctly: “Among Koreans, it is considered disrespectful to put one's hand in your pocket while shaking another person's hand.”

The NPR.org blog goes on to point out that this isn’t the first time Gates has had his left hand firmly embedded in his pocket while shaking hands with a head-of-state. Apparently, he did it with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, France's former President Nicolas Sarkozy, and France’s current President François Hollande.

Etiquette is important because it gives you strategies for handling situations so the focus is on the interaction and building the relationship and doesn’t get side-tracked by a mistake that instead directs attention to the blunder. In business this is particularly important as business is built on relationships. In Gates’ case it is important because the focus of the public’s attention should be on the reason he is visiting a head of state and not on how he shakes hands. One would expect that he would want to conduct himself in such a way that it doesn’t cause the person he is greeting to have to respond to questions about his error rather than focus on the reasons for the meeting.

It is not acceptable to excuse his mistake because this is just the way Gates is or that because of who he is people should accept it. He’s visiting South Korea for a reason: “to build business ties and boost nuclear energy plans.” Whenever anyone visits another culture, it is respectful to learn basic customs such as greetings. The people you are visiting will appreciate your efforts, and whatever the purpose of the interaction, it will go more smoothly because you have made the effort to respect their customs.

Fortunately for Gates this incident is not a deal-breaker. Even the Korea Herald acknowledged this: “It is unlikely that the handshake is to become a diplomatic issue, as the president’s office reportedly was unconcerned about Gate’s handshake regardless of the heated discussion online.” While it isn’t likely to be a diplomatic incident, it is a shame that the start of a visit to promote business is waylaid by an avoidable mistake.

How to Conduct a Confidential Job Search

Posted by Elaine Varelas April 24, 2013 10:00 AM

Q. I am applying for a new position, but do not want my boss to know. Is there such a thing as a confidential job search?

A. You are wise to be concerned about confidentiality in the job search. Looking for a new opportunity while employed can put your current role at risk. As cautious as you may be, you need to be prepared for your search to be exposed. Develop the response you would use if your boss was to find out; why are you looking for a new job, and why? You should also be prepared for colleagues to ask you should they find out.

Many people want to tell office colleagues that they are starting a search. Sharing this information can put colleagues in a difficult position if they are approached by a manager. Decide if it is in your best interest, or theirs, for you to go public prior to accepting an offer.

As you update your resume, make sure to use a personal Email address and your cell or home phone number. Complete this work on your own time and don't make copies of your resume at the office. If you do, it will end up on the office copier; it just will.

LinkedIn can be used effectively for people who have jobs that are looking for jobs; make sure to update your LinkedIn profile. Add references as long as you move ahead with discretion. Try to make as many changes as possible at once; every time an update is made, your connections get alerted. Readers of your profile may see these updates as a "tell" that you are a new job seeker making many new updates over just a few weeks, especially if you had a previously dormant profile.

In all of your communications, you will want to make sure you use "confidential" in the subject line of your Email. Title it, "Confidential resume of Job Seeker," or "Resume for Confidential Job Search." Use similar terminology in any letters or Emails sent.

In networking meetings, you will need to entrust your contacts with the confidentiality needed for your search. Your contacts will need to make sure they communicate the sensitivity and confidentiality of your job search every time they make a call or send an Email on your behalf.

Posting a resume sans name and company name has been attempted, but employers may find out. They may call to see if they know the employee; it is best to skip this activity.

When you are asked for references, you can provide trusted former employers. If your potential employer wants to speak with the person you report to, you can let them know that you will be happy to discuss that after the offer has been made. At that time, the choice to talk to your manager, or not, is yours.

Librarian believes there's a long shelf life for this institution

Posted by Cindy Atoji Keene April 23, 2013 05:00 PM

By Cindy Atoji Keene

As the director of a small public library, Nathalie Harty gets into the nitty-gritty every day, whether helping patrons download e-books onto a tablet or creating an library wish-list for Amazon. With a staff of six and a building of 4,900 square feet, the Langley-Adams Public Library remains an information hub for Groveland and is busier than ever, said Harty, circulating about 5,000 books, DVDs, music CDs and magazines monthly. Despite sequestration cuts that threaten the library’s funding. Harty has been creative in juggling resources, keeping programs thriving and adding new technology.

A: What are the most popular books currently being checked out or requested at your library?
Q: Books mentioned by Oprah and other media outlets such National Public Radio bring patrons into the library to request those titles. Right now, we can’t keep the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn on the shelf – the wait list for this suspenseful thriller is quite long. Another popular novel is The Good House by Anne Leary, which is set on the North Shore. We have also had to purchase multiple copies of Francona: The Red Sox Years by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy.

Q: What are the most common type of reference questions?
A: It’s a toss up between high schoolers working on their research paper and genealogy questions from adults. I love challenging questions – one patron recently asked for peer-reviewed articles about a certain type of rare bird. It was fun to guide him to our electronic full-text journal database that anyone in Massachusetts can access.

Q: Is the Dewey Decimal System is still relevant?
A: I have mixed feelings about this. Most small and medium public libraries still use this classification system, since it’s a great way for librarians to organize and catalog their collections. But the Dewey Decimal System is not necessarily an easy way for our patrons to easily find what they’re looking for. At our library, the previous director adopted the BISAC (Book Industry Systems Advisory Committee) for the adult nonfiction collection. This is a system that the publishing industry uses for subject headings. It’s more “browser friendly” for patrons.

Q: How did you decide to become a librarian?
A: I didn’t become a bookworm until I was in middle school when I discovered romance novels. Later, my college library inspired me to become a librarian. I was supposed to be studying, but instead wandered around the aisles, amazed at the book and journal collections. After getting my undergraduate degrees and working in the corporate world for a few years, I decided to explore library school. But first I did some volunteering at the Chelmsford Public Library and was immediately hooked. The rest is history.

Q: What are reader's response to controversial books, like Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James?
A: We do carry the Fifty Shades trilogy. I didn't know anything about it until patrons starting coming in asking for it and really talking it up. So I ordered the series in regular print, large print and audio.They are a huge hit and almost never on the shelf. I did read them myself to better understand what all the talk was about. To date we have not had any formal complaints about this series.

Q: There are some reports of books as the favorite carrier of bed bugs. Any at your library?
A: Thankfully, we don't have bedbugs in our books and there have been no reports of any library in the Commonwealth that does have them. I recently attended a very informative webinar about bedugs and what to look for.

Q: What’s one of your all-time favorite books and why?
A: I have many favorites, but I love 19th century novels. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is close to the top. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it – I seem to pick it up every five years or so. Pride and Prejudice has so much between its covers: humor, wit, romance, sarcasm – plus, it’s beautifully written. There is a reason why there are so many film adaptations of this novel, not to mention all the current novelists writing spinoffs.

Q: How many books do you have at home?
A: I actually don’t have many books at home any more. I used to own scores and scores but when I moved from place to place, they got very heavy. I donated most of them and now borrow books from libraries. One caveat: If I borrow the same library book more than twice, I buy a copy for home. Case in point – I need to purchase my own copy of Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle, by Diana Sanfilipo.

Days off to address personal issues

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole April 22, 2013 08:20 AM

Q: I own a small company (less than 10 employees) and am struggling with how to deal with how to give my employees time off for personal reasons. I am not sure if I can afford to give everyone all the days that they need. How does a company balance this? I want to be fair but I also have a business to run.

A: Just a week after the Boston Marathon bombings, you raise a timely and important question. Most small business owners want to be reasonable and supportive.

Consider establishing a guideline to offer some time off (maybe 1-2 days per year?) for personal issues. You can communicate that these days should be used to attend to personal concerns or emergencies. As an example, you can explain to your employees that these days can used for a wide variety of reasons, including moving from one apartment to another, to wait for an appliance delivery or to attend the funeral service of a loved one.

Another option, especially common in retail work environments, is to ask your employee to find a co-worker to fill in for the specific shift. Often times, another co-worker can trade a shift with the employee needing a specific date and time off.

Some employers will allow the employee to take the time off but without pay. Most employers, however, will provide 1-3 days off per year with pay, especially if the need is serious (e.g., a personal health concern, funeral of a close family member or some type of natural disaster).

What you will find is that most of your employees will only use this time off when the time off is really needed. There may be a select few that take advantage of these days but those are usually a rarity. When your most loyal and valuable employees come to you with this request, you will want to give them options for taking the time off. Having guidelines in place will help you respond to these requests in a fair and supportive way.


Chat live with Job Doc Elaine Varelas

Posted by Julie Balise April 19, 2013 05:19 PM

Elaine-Varelas-100-new.jpgElaine 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.

Texting Is Becoming A Preferred Method of Business Communicating

Posted by Peter Post April 18, 2013 07:00 AM

My wife and I send our thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families and the people of Boston. The resilience and strength of the community is inspiring in the face of such a tragedy.

Texting is growing as the preferred means of communication, most certainly in our personal lives but also in our business lives. When used appropriately, it benefits sender and receiver with ever quicker communications. For instance, if I know someone is busy at the moment, a text is a great and a discreet way to ask them to call me when they are available.

But, when used inappropriately, texting has the potential to harm your image and your relationships. In business that co-worker who has seen you texting your friends may one day soon be the person who is promoted and becomes your boss. Not a good image for him or her to have of you.

What and when is it appropriate to text? Here are six tips for business texting.

  1. Don’t text friends while you’re on the job. It may seem you can get away with it. After all, you’re not talking on the phone, so a little surreptitious thumbing isn’t going to get noticed. Yes, it is. By colleagues and by bosses. Use your break time or lunch break to respond to texts just as you should use those times to respond to voice messages.
  2. Watch out for autocorrect. Inane mistakes abound. Avoid getting caught in an autocorrect mistake by always rereading your text before sending it.
  3. The Bulletin Board rule applies to texts as well as to emails. If you wouldn’t put that message on a bulletin board for anyone to read, then you shouldn’t be sending it in a text. For sure, the time you send that private text is the time it suddenly goes viral, at least viral within your office, and you’re stuck trying to do damage control.
  4. What is acceptable content for a text? Apply the Who, What When, Where rule. If it’s something factual about who, what when or where, it’s fodder for a text, but if it’s about why or opinion, then it may be time to pick up the phone or ask to meet in-person.
  5. Focus on the person you are with. Whether you’re meeting with a client or having lunch with a colleague, put your phone away and put it on vibrate so it won’t disturb your conversation. Your colleague or your client will appreciate that you think he or she is more important than your phone.
  6. Finally, no texting while driving. Period.

You can follow me on Twitter at @PeterLPost.

The Basics of a Job Search

Posted by Elaine Varelas April 17, 2013 10:00 AM

Q. I am interested in finding work in Boston and was wondering what jobs you would suggest I look for as an English undergraduate with limited job experience. I am currently unemployed and looking to move to the Greater Boston area with an easy commute. Please get back to me as soon as possible.

A. Many job seekers approach the job search just as you are, with little focus on what they want, and even less focus on what they have to offer. Before you start getting frustrated with the hiring process, take the time to step back and develop a strategic approach to the job search. A liberal arts education can be very valuable when presented to hiring managers in the right way.

Focus. Focus on any one thing. You can't run a successful job search if you're looking at any job; in any industry; in any position; with an easy commute. Pick an industry and a position that requires the skills you consider valuable.

Identify your skills.
Who would want to hire you? As an English major, assess whether you have good writing or presentational skills, analytical skills, organizational abilities, data entry skills or any others that organizations have a need for. You have limited experience, but at least you have some! Look at organizations that you are familiar with - maybe a college or university. Identify the environments you have had some experience with and build a list of similar firms.

Resume. Your resume must answer the question, 'What can this potential employee do for me?' If it doesn't, keep working on it. Your resume must show responsibility, dedication and a skill set that can translate into work that needs to be done.

Communicate. Talk to people about what you can do in the work place. Let everyone you know you are eager to find a job using the skills you have identified. Post this on your LinkedIn page, your professional looking Facebook page and start networking. Not only will you be building your professional brand, but this will help develop and improve your interview skills as well.

It's all About the Employer.
Do not focus on your desire for an easy commute, this does not promote the impression of a hard worker interested in a great job opportunity. It may be important to you, but leave that part out of your search until you have an offer. After an offer, you can decide if the location meets your criteria. In all interviews, tell the potential employer what you can do for them.

Time and Numbers.
The job search takes time and a number of people, opportunities, connections and rejections before it all works out. Typically it is not fast, and I encourage you to dedicate yourself to the process.

Wine Wholesaler Uncorks Her Spirit

Posted by Cindy Atoji Keene April 16, 2013 09:38 AM

By Cindy Atoji Keene

"Wine is Sunlight, held together by water” – this is the email signature used by Judith F McDonough, a Boston-based wine wholesaler who last year founded Mariposa Fine Wine and Spirits. McDonough is one of the few female wine wholesalers in the state angling her way into a traditional male-dominated market. “With the state's byzantine regulations, it hasn’t been an easy road but I’ve persevered and gotten my fine Italian wines placed with restaurants and retailers and the future is looking bright,” said McDonough, a former national sales rep for gourmet food products who decided to expand her portfolio to include wine.

Q: What type of wines from Italy do you represent?
A: Italy has 3,000 indigenous grapes and many of these regions are identified with specific wines. I represent award-winning wines from small vineyards; elegant boutique wines of great value not previously sold in the U.S. My niche is currently five Italian regions, Friuli, Lombardy, Calabria, Piedmont and Puglia. I have wines like Franciacorta, which is refined sparkling Italian wine – Italy's answer to France's champagne.

Q: What do you do as a wine wholesaler?
A: Massachusetts is the fourth largest consumer of Italian wines in the U.S. I’m sanctioned by the Commonwealth with a license to sell wine – not directly to consumers, but to hotels, restaurants, convenience stores, specialty grocery stores and caterers with a liquor license. I get my wine from the winery, supplier or vendor and then call on sommeliers, chefs, managers, and other distributors. It’s hard work, but I also get to taste wine and talk about it for a living. I also organize wine tastings, and other events to promote wine.

Q: Describe a typical sales call.
A: I carry a nice segmented tote bag that holds 12 bottles of wine and I am also permitted to transport up to 10 cases in my vehicle. I’ll recommend wines in my portfolio that best enhance a client’s menu. When we begin tasting, I uncork the wine and am the first to sample. I look at the work, smell the wine, pour it in the glass and aerate it by swirling – it’s called snuffing – then spit. I’ll make sure the wine is showing and tasting properly.

Q: How does one get a license to sell wine?
A: The Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) requires a copious amount of documentation to be filed, as well as an interview, financial review, criminal background check, and necessary fees. They want to know where the wine will be stored; how you’re being funded; origin of the wines, and other details. I am storing my wine in a public warehouse in Mansfield that has been approved by the ABCC; according to blue laws, this warehouse must be three miles from a church or school.

Q: Why has wine wholesaling been a male-dominated market up till now?
A: I have no idea but it’s been all about the old boys club. A lot of businesses are very loyal to their current distributor and won’t consider a new face. It’s very difficult as a female to bring in wines that have never been tried before. A lot of New Englanders don’t like change. But you have to be tough, and you can’t take “no” for an answer.

Q: What’s your favorite wine?
A: That’s a very tough question. I love Old World wines that have a varied character, balance of components, complexity and a sense of place, such as Ugo Lequio, Barbaresco, Chiaromonte, and Riserva.

Q: What’s your go-to sales outfit?
A: Always an elegant dress and great shoes (La Petite Robe di Chiara Boni, Elie Tahari). If I’m delivering wine, I’ll wear leggings or jeans, a great shirt and leather jacket and boots. I like effortless ease.

Where to find free career services

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole April 15, 2013 07:49 AM

Q: Are there community career services where people can go to talk to someone about their career options? This is for someone who has been working for over a decade, does not have a college education (so no alumni career services), is employed (so I don't think he can go through unemployment services), but is extremely unhappy in his career. He needs to talk to someone about how his skills can transfer to another field, but he doesn't have money to throw at a fancy boutique service. Any suggestions?

A: Great question. One major point to clarify: the Massachusetts One-Stop Career Centers are an option. These centers primarily assist job seekers who are unemployed but their services are also available to those looking to change jobs. They have offices throughout the state and run a variety of workshops on resume writing, interviewing skills and even using LinkedIn during a job search. Attending some of their workshops and events may be a challenge for a working person because many are scheduled during the day. However, there are services available through their website. Check out www.mass.gov/lwd/employment-services/.

Additionally, many public libraries, including Newton Free Library, offer free workshops which may be more convenient for a job seeker currently employed. Tammy Gooler Loeb, career and executive coach and contributor to the library’s career development series, explains, “The Newton Free Library offers a monthly Job Seekers and Career Development Series, free to the public. Upcoming programs include Interview with Confidence in April and Social Media and Your Job Search in May. The library offers many resources for job seekers, including a reference librarian who specializes in career services. For more information on this series and additional events at the library, visit www.newtonfreelibrary.net/events/talks.asp. Reading Public Library has a similar program. On Wednesday evening, May 8th, I will be speaking as part of the Job Search Skills series at the Reading Public Library. For more info, visit www.readingpl.org.

Lastly, explore www.boston.com/jobs. There is a wealth of relevant and contemporary information for job seekers. Under “advice,” there is even more information on job-related topics, including common resume blunders to a discussion of what occupations are expected to grow. Thankfully there are quite a few resources available at low or no cost.


What Can Managers Do To Change A Company’s Culture

Posted by Peter Post April 11, 2013 07:00 AM

One concern managers have about a training seminar is what happens the next day, or the next, or the next. How do they keep the learning experienced in the seminar alive? In my field, how do they make the etiquette training a part of their workplace’s culture?

It’s not easy to change a culture, but it can be done. I had one client who had about 250 individuals scheduled to attend my business etiquette seminar in groups of about 30 people. The first group comprised all the senior staff including the CEO. At the appointed hour, no one was in the room. It took about twenty more minutes before all of the participants were present. There was much apologizing and hemming and hawing about the culture of the business and how it was routine for people to arrive late to meetings. Interestingly, management was interested in changing the company’s culture but weren’t sure how to go about doing it. I suggested that from here on, everyone from the CEO on down would be expected to arrive on time and meetings would begin on time. No one would be held accountable for past transgressions, but from here on in “on time” was the rule. And I pointed out that for the etiquette seminars I was teaching it was really important that people arrive on time. We only had two hours to teach and losing twenty minutes to lateness was a real problem—not to mention a dollar loss to the company.

A couple of days later, I held the second session. I was pleased that about 80% of the people were in their seats at the appointed time. They were quick to point out that the message had gotten out that they should be on time. I started the seminar as scheduled and the rest of the group trickled in after the seminar had begun. For them, entering a session that had already started was uncomfortable, but it was a good object lesson about being on time. By the third session, everyone was on time. And it continued like that for the remainder of the seminars.

The key here is to set standards and expectations. Certainly, those standards and expectations ought to be reasonable, and, they need to be explained clearly and in a positive manner.

Once the standards and expectations are established, it’s important that the rules are followed by everyone from the CEO on down and enforced consistently. It does no good to set expectations for employees that management are not held to as well. That only fosters discord and creates a negative workplace atmosphere.

By clearly stating the expectation, following through on the expectation, and holding everyone accountable, the company was able to change it's culture. Being on time became a company trademark.

Is my Job Search Really a Full-time Job?

Posted by Elaine Varelas April 10, 2013 10:00 AM

Q. I am unemployed, and don’t have a manager to assign my work, my deadlines or even to set my expectations. I’m not doing a great job of holding myself accountable to anything. How do I manage my job search so that I can actually find a job? Is it really a full time job?

A: Yes, an effective job search is a full time job, and if you think you need help managing your time during the job search, then you probably do. Recruit your most organized friend or family member to help establish a schedule and plan for how you will complete job search activities each day. Even with friends to support you, you can probably benefit from job search management tools like jibberjobber.com. It's a free and easy-to-use tool that allows you to manage your job search information, activity and your career when you land your next great opportunity.

As with any full time job, you don’t spend 40 hours doing one thing. There are many projects; some are higher priority than others, and performing high value tasks is the best way to be successful. After you develop a great resume and cover letter, develop your project plan and follow it. Start and:

Set a schedule: Decide how much time you are realistically willing and able to dedicate to your job search and set a daily schedule that maps to that plan. The most successful job seekers dedicate at least 25 hours a week to job search activities and they stick to it.

Put yourself out there:
Effective job seekers do not sit in front of computer all day and apply for jobs. They schedule at least three face-to-face networking meetings a week and the phone time it takes to make that happen. The more you network and sell your talents to people in person, the more memorable you will be and the more likely these contacts will refer you to others.

Get Out of the House: Laundry, rooms that need to be painted and dust bunnies may be calling you every minute you are at home. Ignore all that noise and find a job search support group. Civic and religious organizations offer these, as well as outplacement firms. Surround yourself with people doing the same kind of work.

Take a time out:
Take time out during the week to schedule social time and time to enjoy not working. Schedule breaks for yourself each day to do things like exercise, read the news and eat well. As important as it is for you to be diligent in your job search, it’s also important to take the same kind of breaks you would allow yourself during a workday so that you avoid burning out.

Avoid Avoidance: It’s easy to spend time on unimportant details like the font style on your resume to avoid high-priority tasks, but committing to the hard work is what pays off; it’s a must. If you don’t like making calls to schedule networking meetings, start your day with at least 30 minutes of that activity. Avoid the trivial and easy activity, and push yourself to complete the challenging high value activity that may make you uncomfortable, but will make you employed.

Live chat: Judy Shen-Filerman from Dreambridge Partners

Posted by Julie Balise April 10, 2013 09:37 AM

judy100.jpgJudy Shen-Filerman is founder and principal of Dreambridge Partners in Arlington, a cross-cultural leadership development firm.

Sleep researcher examines the mystery of shut-eye

Posted by Cindy Atoji Keene April 9, 2013 09:23 PM

By Cindy Atoji Keene

In the quest to understand the mystery of sleep, researcher Erin Evans has studied the effects of sleep deprivation in high stress work situations, from astronauts to police and doctors. “Sleep is more complicated than most people realize,” said Evans, a sleep medicine fellow at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The effects of disrupted circadian rhythms – or the sleep-wake cycle – has been linked to everything from forgetfulness to obesity and heart disease. In addition to her sleep research, Evans is a sleep consultant at Isis Parenting, helping hundreds of families improve the sleeping habits of their children. As a mom of two children, though, Evans admits that even as a sleep expert, she’s constantly challenged by her 2-year-old son, who is a textbook case of a “poor sleeper.” “I thought I knew everything about sleep, but he’s putting me through the wringer.”

Q: You recently gave a seminar on how to help your child and yourself sleep better – what was the gist of the information you presented?
Q: I think many parents don’t know where to begin to address sleep issues. It’s only when sleep is being taken from you that it becomes an all-consuming concern. We imagine this peacefully sleeping baby but don’t know how to get to this reality. Sleep in a young infant is a moving target and while one 4-month-old might sleep through the night, another may need to nurse a few times a night. I firmly believe that there is no "one-size-fits-all" strategy. The most important thing is to develop a plan that is realistic and that the family can implement with consistency.

Q: How did you get interested in sleep as a research topic?
A: Sleep takes up a third of our lives. But why do we need to sleep so much? What is the point? We know now that sleep plays an important role in memory, learning, and cognition, but 10 years ago, when I first started studying sleep, it was more of a huge mystery. There continue to be many unanswered questions about sleep that intrigue me.

Q: What are the different ways to test sleep?
A: It depends what you're looking at. For insomnia, for example, people may not necessarily report sleep accurately – often they ‘misremember’ the amount of time they actually sleep. Sleep duration can be studied with a watch-like device that has an accelerometer inside. Because sleep and wakefulness differ by the amount of body movement, this wrist actigraph measures motion. If we have more extensive question, such as what does caffeine or light exposure due to sleep, we might use electrodes to look at brainwaves.

Q: What did you find out in your study of astronauts?
A: I went to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to speak to astronauts before and after space shuttle voyages. This was part of the largest study of sleep in space ever conducted. Astronauts sleep a little less in space and we wanted to find out why, and whether we can control this. We are now analyzing that data.

Q: Do you ever take naps?
A: I do, because I work the night shift, monitoring sleep studies. There’s a saying among sleep researchers, ‘Some must watch, while some must sleep.’ As a result, I often need to take a nap to set myself up for optimal cognition during the night.

Q: When there are sleeping scenes in movies, what do they usually get wrong or right?
A: They are almost always wrong. I find myself yelling at the television every time that happens. If someone is doing a sleep study, for example, they’ll put electrodes on someone to find out about their dreams. This cannot happen – we look at brainwave activity, but can’t know what someone is thinking or dreaming about.

Same name, not same person

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole April 8, 2013 08:51 AM

Q: I love my married name. It's a rhyme-y, memorable name, which is a vast improvement over my maiden name, and I feel it's a nice fit for my line of work. Unfortunately, someone in the entertainment industry also feels the same way. If you do a quick internet search of my name, the majority of the hits on the first page refer to an elegant and demure entertainer. I have recently started looking for a new job and I'd hate to miss out on an employment opportunity just because the hiring manager thinks I'm someone else.

What's should be my plan of action here? I've thought about including some sort of disclaimer on my resume, maybe a light-hearted joke about not googling my name from a work computer, making sure the safe search is on, and rest assured, I am not THAT (insert name here). I'm a designer, and we designers get a bit more, uh, creative freedom with our resumes. Or is it best to just ignore the issue and count on the intelligence of my future employer to know the difference?

A: Your problem is more common than you would think. Several years ago, I answered a similar question in this column. As I recall the details of that question from a few years back, the job seeker was concerned about being mistaken for a famous convicted felon with the exact same name from the exact same town!

First, think about how you can alter your name so it is bit different than the exact name of the well-known entertainer. If the famous person’s name is John Robinson, consider using John R. Robinson, III or Jack Robinson. Or you could also consider attaching an acronym like BFA after your name to clearly designate that you hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Some may still ask you about your name, but it sounds like you are ready to respond with a little dose of humor. Also, consider developing a Linkedin profile and adding the URL to your resume. The reader can then look at your profile, including your photo, and be assured that you are not the famous individual.

Those who share names with the famous carry a bit of a burden. However, usually after the initial comment or joke, the focus is on the candidate’s ability to do the job.

On a related note, I had a client several years back that had a small department of four employees. Three of the four employees had the first name of Sara or Sarah. When hiring additional staff for this team, they hoped they could find talent with a different first name.

Good luck with your search!

Your expectations impact everyone. Even rats.

Posted by Paul Hellman April 5, 2013 11:00 AM

If you ask my wife about my best traits, "flexible" won't be on her list. So I couldn't wait to tell her, one day, what a long-time client said.

"Apparently," I said, "I'm the most flexible consultant she's ever worked with."

"Apparently," my wife said, "she's never had lunch with you."

My wife has a point here. I'm the sort of person who orders salad "with dressing on the side," a tuna sandwich "without extra mayo," and iced tea "with very little ice."

But my client wasn't talking lunch. And she wasn't just complimenting me, she was subtly influencing me. "I value flexibility," she was basically saying. "Keep doing that."

How do you communicate expectations?

There's a big difference, for example, between telling a child, "if you go to college," versus saying, "when you go to college."

Suppose, as a manager, you believe in Theory X. That's what Douglas McGregor, years ago, called the expectation that employees are lazy and unmotivated.

Theory Y, according to McGregor, is the opposite expectation. And a Theory Y manager will create a different climate and get different results than a Theory X manager.

Sometimes, you and I convey our expectations nonverbally, without even realizing it.

One disturbing study (take a breath here) involved rats. Lab technicians were given some rats, and then told they had to learn to run a maze.

Note: It was the rats who had to run the maze, not the lab techs. But if I were a lab tech, I'd definitely learn to run the maze, or run the hallways, or run for my life—anything to escape the rats.

Some lab techs were told their rats were super-smart and would learn the maze quickly. Other techs were told the opposite. And, sure enough, the smart rats outperformed the stupid ones from day one.

But both groups of rats were the same. The only difference—in a Theory X, Theory Y way—were the lab techs' expectations ("Expectations May Alter Outcomes," Wall Street Journal, 11/7/03).

Tip #1: Pay attention to your expectations. They influence behavior, yours and others, more than you think.

#2: McGregor's point wasn't to be a Theory Y manager 24/7. Sometimes Theory X is justified.

#3: For lunch, California Pizza Kitchen makes an excellent tortilla soup. But hold the extra tortilla chips.

© Copyright 2013 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

Job Doc live at noon: Pattie Hunt Sinacole

Posted by Julie Balise April 5, 2013 07:00 AM

JobDoc-Pattie-Hunt-Sinacole-100.jpgPattie 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.

Hosting A Business Meal Is An Opportunity To Shine

Posted by Peter Post April 4, 2013 07:00 AM

The opportunity has finally arrived. You’ve attended business meals with your boss and with clients, but you haven’t hosted one yourself. This is your chance to shine.

But it can also be your chance to flame out. You might choose a restaurant that is so noisy you can’t hear or you might try that new place in town only to discover that the food is only adequate at best. What can you do to make sure your business meal comes off without a hitch? Here are seven tips:

  1. Know your guest. What kind of food does he or she like? The best way to find out is to ask your guest or an assistant when you call. If asking directly feels too awkward, you can suggest two or three different types of restaurants and ask the guest which she prefers.
  2. Choose a restaurant you know. You should always check out a restaurant first. Poor food will quickly put a damper on any event. Food quality and noise levels are important. But so, too, are comfortable chairs and at least some spacing between tables to allow for confidential conversation. Location matters as well: Choose a place that is relatively convenient for your guest.
  3. Invite in advance. Last minute invites stand a much greater chance of being turned down—one week’s notice at a minimum.
  4. Who’s paying? Traditionally, the person dong the asking is the host and is the person doing the paying. You should be prepared to pay the bill, so choose a restaurant that’s within your budget. If you can do it, arrange to pay the bill ahead of time so a check never even comes to the table. That way your focus remains on your guest and not on checking the bill and figuring the tip.
  5. Establish the “Why”. Let your guest know the purpose of your getting together so he can bring pertinent materials with him. Or, it may simply be a friendly meal, an opportunity to get to know each other better. As the host, it’s your decision as to whether any business will be discussed during the meal.
  6. Reserve ahead of time. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Make a reservation, and make it early. Arriving without one is a sure-fire way to end up embarrassed.
  7. Reconfirm. That means check with your guest again on the morning of a lunch or dinner event. For a breakfast meeting, check the afternoon before. And while you’re at it, check with the restaurant, too, just to be sure your reservation is in order.

What to Know About Your Personnel File

Posted by Elaine Varelas April 3, 2013 10:00 AM

Q. My manager has just given me a pretty bad review, and has said it will be put into my personnel file. I’d like to know what’s in my file already. I asked Human Resources to see it and they seem to be stalling. Am I allowed to see this information?


A: The concept of a “permanent record” has worried students forever and the employee version can be found in the personnel file. Massachusetts has a personnel records law that gives you the right to see what is in your personnel file. I consulted Margaret Paget, partner in the Litigation Department of Sherin and Lodgen LLP and co-chair of the firm's Employment Law Group in Boston who explained that most Massachusetts employers are required by law to maintain a personnel record for every employee.

According to Attorney Paget, These files must contain: “all employee performance evaluations, including but not limited to, employee evaluation documents; written warnings of substandard performance; lists of probationary periods; waivers signed by the employee; copies of dated termination notices; and any other documents relating to disciplinary action regarding the employee.” The statute does not require employers with less than 20 employees to include all of this information in a personnel record, so depending on the size of your employer, you may or may not find all that you seek in your personnel record.

You are entitled to review your personnel record when you receive notice that your employer has added information, Attorney Paget continues, “that is, has been used or may be used, to negatively affect [your] qualification for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation or the possibility that [you] will be subject to disciplinary action.” In addition, you have the right to review and receive a copy of your personnel record up to twice each calendar year. Your employer has up to five business days following a written employee request to provide that to you, so if you have not yet requested your personnel record in writing, you will need to do so to see a copy.

Having a conversation with your manager about the contents of the negative review, and looking for ways to address the issues is in your best interest as an employee. Ask for the opportunity to work on a developmental action plan to show improvement, and clear up any misunderstandings which may be part of the negative review. Attorney Paget also explains that if you disagree with information in your personnel record, you may request that it be removed or corrected. If your employer does not agree, you may submit a written statement explaining your position as it relates to the information you wish to correct. By law, that statement will become part of your permanent personnel record and must be included when the related information is transmitted to a third party. There are also procedures for an employee to seek removal of information the employer knew or should have known to be false which would be a reasonable expectation of any employer.

Your goal as an employee is to prevent anything from going this far, and keeping lines of verbal communication open before a manager feels the need for negative documentation.

Squash Pro Scores with Strategic Coaching

Posted by Cindy Atoji Keene April 2, 2013 03:16 PM

By Cindy Atoji Keene

Squash is considered one of the world’s most aerobic racquet sports, said Paul Mathieson, head squash pro at Dover Squash and Fitness. In a four-walled indoor court, players rally as they try to score with a small, hollow rubber ball. “It’s a very strategic game that also requires mental tactics – like a physical game of chess,” said Mathieson, who has traveled to every continent playing squash while competing in several world championships. He is now coaching up-and-coming players, from four-year-old beginners to collegiate players, as the Dover club attracts an increasing number of junior players.

Q: Why has squash has exploded in popularity in the state in recent years, particularly among young people?

A: There are more facilities being built, including more courts in private middle schools and high schools. This has increased the number of squash courts in universities, with more varsity programs and club teams. And as more pros like myself come from overseas, the game gets promoted from a local level.

Q: Why is squash such an aerobic racquet sport?
A: The court is quite small and the ball doesn't bounce much so it requires a lot of energy and effort to get to the ball before the second bounce, as dictated by the rules of the game. Players have to lunge for the ball, which requires flexibility and speed, as well as hand-eye coordination and good concentration and patience.

Q: You’ve played squash around the globe. Are there any differences from country to country?
A: The dimensions of the squash court are identical no matter where you go. But because of different coaching styles and weather conditions, the game does change depending on where you are playing. In Egypt for example, players tend to attack more because it helps to finish off rallies faster – you don’t want to be going on for hours and hours in the heat. In England, it’s colder, so the rally is more prolonged so you try to outlast your opponent. And Australians are strong power hitters.

Q: How do you teach players to think strategically?
A: It takes a year or two just to develop shots and technique, then after that, I try to get kids to focus on strategies. There’s no secret formula, but one important tactic is to hit the ball in such a way that your opponent is forced to move back and forth on the court, tiring them out. There are also ways to take advantage of an opponent’s mentality; if they lose their temper, for example, then you can manipulate that.

Q: How did you start playing squash?
A: My father played in squash leagues, and one day, at age 14, when I went to watch one of his matches, I got on the court myself. I took to it very quickly and from that point on, went to the best squash schools in England, and trained with the most elite coaches and players in the country. There were four squash courts within a two-mile radius of where I lived, so it was very accessible, and I trained all the time.

Q: How many squash racquets do you have?
A: About 60 racquets. I have so much squash equipment, my wife had to throw out some of my squash equipment just to make space.

New background check law in Mass

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole April 1, 2013 06:57 AM

Q: I am a child care provider and I am hearing a lot of information about a new fingerprinting law in Massachusetts for child care providers. It is hard to tell what is required and what is not. Do you know? I heard it also applies to bus drivers and teachers. Thanks.

A: Kudos to you for being aware of new legislation! On January 10, 2013, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law H4307, An Act Relative to Background Checks, which requires early education providers and school districts to conduct fingerprint-supported national criminal history background checks on all teachers, school employees and early education providers in Massachusetts. Previously, school districts and early education providers were only allowed to conduct name-based Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) checks covering criminal history record information for crimes committed in Massachusetts. The CORI search had serious limitations, in that it did not include any criminal history record information for crimes committed outside Massachusetts. I contacted Jeffrey Dretler, a partner in the Employment Law Group at Prince Lobel Tye LLP. Dretler explains, “Under the new law, all newly hired teachers, school employees, bus drivers, early education and care and out-of-school time providers and even subcontractors who may have direct and unmonitored contact with children, must undergo state and national background checks prior to the start of the 2013-2014 school year. All current employees must undergo national background checks over the next three years, prior to the start of the 2016-2017 school year. The law also requires that fingerprint-based national background checks be conducted on household members (age 15 and older) of applicants for family-child care licensure; on all in-home non-relative Department of Early Education and Care (DEEC) funded caregivers; and on all applicants to be adoptive or foster parents. The law even requires that the school committee, superintendent, principal or other administrator also submit to the fingerprint-based national background check.”

The information obtained from these background checks can be used by the DEEC in connection with licensure issues and investigations of alleged misconduct by educators. For further information, visit http://www.mass.gov/governor/pressoffice/pressreleases/2013/0111-background-checks-legislation.html.

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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.

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