jump to navigation

That Guy’s Tips For Not Looking Stupid On The Internet, #4 October 29, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Did I Hear That Right?, Technology Trouble, Tips for Not Looking Stupid.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

Don’t type when you’re frustrated.

funny pictures of dogs with captionsAs a writer, I know that writing is one of the best ways to work out frustrations — you can put together a fantasy e-mail, do a quick story where your character kicks your boss’s character in a very uncomfortable place, whatever — as well as your fantasies. Some of which are driven by your frustrations.

But remember this: if you’re at work, you’re likely using a computer owned by the company. You’re probably complaining to a co-worker about how annoying or stupid someone is. You might even be doing it via IM instead of e-mail.

Don’t. Just stop. Step away from the computer.

Example: over the last two weeks, a client asked my department to mount a logo onto one of our pages and send them the mockups. I did so. They sent it back, saying they weren’t pleased with the amount of space around their logo. I increased the space (by decreasing the size of their logo — the area available has hard boundaries around it) and sent it back. They said it still wasn’t enough. Finally I e-mailed back my client representative (the person who is a co-worker of mine who actually talks to the clients so my department doesn’t have to) and said “please ask them to tell us exactly how much space they want, and warn them that, as I increase the space, their logo will get correspondingly smaller”.

Finally, after three more days, they gave me an exact measurement and I was able to provide them with a mockup they liked. But instead of going back to my CR and saying “this has been an exercise in futility”, I mentioned it to her during a meeting we were both in. I didn’t commit it to anything electronic because it’s perfectly within the company’s policies to hold such words against me — and in this economic client, you really want everything that reflects upon you to do so positively.

By the same token, proofread your “to” and “cc” fields; if you’re discussing something a client sent, make sure the client is removed from the chain. Before the reorg, whenever people replied to customer comments, they often did not remove the “all-production-employees” e-mail address, and we were just lucky that very few people realized exactly what they had.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Advertisements

That Guy’s Tips for Job Seekers October 14, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Economic Downturn, Getting Fired, Tips for Corporate Success.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
3 comments

cc-licensed photo by Dani Lurie

cc-licensed photo by Dani Lurie

Yesterday I mentioned a friend of mine who was having trouble finding a job. The short explanation of her problem was that she was poorly qualified for a lot of jobs out there — not because she’s uneducated or unintelligent or unwilling, but because of the exact opposite: she’s very smart, she’s very educated, and she’s very willing to work.

So are a lot of people. A lot of people who are getting out into the job hunt for the first time in 10, 20, or even 30 years. A lot of people who are smart, who have advanced degrees, who need to work because their companies raided their retirement accounts and failed miserably at putting the money back.

I wish I had good advice for job-seekers. I really do. I have some advice… whether it’s good or not is completely up to you.

  1. Find a recruiter. This is the biggest one. Recruiters get paid when you get hired, so it’s in their best interest to find the best job for you. I can’t guarantee the jobs will be there, but if there’s a perfect job for you, your recruiter will know and will send you for an interview. Plus, recruiters can get their feet in the door much more skillfully than you, unless you used to be a recruiter yourself.
  2. Treat the job hunt as a job. Don’t just dink around on your computer for half an hour a day. Sign up for as many job boards as you can. Get alerts via e-mail or RSS. Apply for jobs. And if you come across a position being represented by someone else in your recruiter’s group, don’t just apply; go to your recruiter and ask for information. Spend a lot of time trying to find a job. It’s hard work.
  3. Learn a technological skill. I recommend learning web programming — specifically JSP. At least where I live, everyone seems to be looking for people who can code JSP.

    NOTE:
    Commenter Alphager says that JSP is pretty complicated and really can’t be learned properly by just picking up a book. As I am not a JSP programmer, I can neither refute nor confirm his statement, but it looks pretty good to me. So, perhaps you shouldn’t learn JSP right away. Instead, read on for other suggestions. I still recommend learning at least one web-based programming language, although know that you will need to spend more than just a few days to get it right (I’ve been building websites, doing both design and development, since 1995).

    If you’ve never done any programming, start with PHP, which is a pretty easy language to learn. Build websites, play around in APIs (Twitter and Tumblr, for starters), get good at CMSes (WordPress to start, but Joomla and Drupal are the biggies these days), and shell out for the good books. I recommend O’Reilly Media — the white books with the animals on the cover. The red ones from Wrox are fine too, but O’Reilly, in my experience, is a little more accessible.

  4. Don’t sell yourself cheaply. You may not get as much money as you used to make, but don’t lowball just to ensure you get the job. Make sure you’re paid fairly. You’ll probably get the low end of the pay scale no matter what, but you definitely want to be somewhere on it. Also, remember that people are willing to pay for things they perceive to be high-quality, even in a down economy; if you’re a high-quality human resource, you can still ask for a good salary and you’re likely to get it if you’re worth it.
  5. Be prepared to wait. I’ve read that you get one callback for every 50 resumes you send out (not necessarily an interview; just a phone call), that it takes six months to get a new job, that there are a ton of qualified candidates and very few jobs overall, that the only fields hiring are education and medicine… I’ve heard it all. Some of it’s true. Just be patient; it’s going to suck while you don’t have a job, but believe it or not, absence really does make the heart grow fonder and once you get that new job, you’ll really appreciate it.

So, y’know, good luck in your job hunt. It took me 18 months to find my last job. I was employed at the time, and I know it’s harder now than it was, but I waited long enough and I got the right job — it pays well, it’s in a good location, I’m doing stuff I like, and the company is a great one to work for (trust me, if I told you the company’s real name, you’d know it… it’s that well-known). Even in a down economy, there are good jobs to be had. You just have to work hard to find them.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

That Guy’s Tips for Corporate Success, #20 September 4, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Tips for Corporate Success.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Your customers will make threats to stop using your product or service. This is normal, and is not cause to spring into action.

CC-licensed photo by Tim Samoff

CC-licensed photo by Tim Samoff

Recently, a TV show my wife watches fired their host and hired someone new. My wife does not like this new host. She has threatened to stop watching the show. She has threatened to send e-mails or make phone calls.

She has done none of these things. Every day when I get home the show is on my DVR. Every day she complains about how much she hates the new host. But she keeps watching.

I’m sure she’s not alone.

I see lots of angry e-mails from customers appended to frantic requests for changes or updates to websites. I — and my salespeople — often go back to the customers and try to calm them down. People fear change, and anything that changes on their favorite website is automatically a bad thing. Even something as simple as a color or font update can turn the most loyal customer into one of the loudest detractors. Companies are scared to death of bad press via Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, and they should respect people on those sites, but you don’t have to change everything just because someone complained. Why mess up your tested, planned, approved business model just to please a loud, annoying social networker?

The better option is to treat those vitriolic e-mails as just that: vitriol. People often have to express their frustration in order to calm down and move on. Let them be frustrated. Then, if you want, send a polite letter back thanking them for their opinion. If you feel like it, tell them why the change was made — or just blame it on the corporate office, as I’ve done on more than one occasion.

Most of the time, angry customers just want to know they’re being heard and acknowledged. Do that and save yourself a lot of trouble.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

That Guy’s Tips For Not Looking Stupid On The Internet, #3 August 26, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Tips for Not Looking Stupid.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Use professional fonts.

fonts

I couldn’t even use those fonts in WordPress because WordPress knows that you shouldn’t use them for professional communication. I could probably hack the stylesheet, but why?

Professional fonts include, but are not limited to:

  • Arial
  • Calibri (default font for MS Outlook 2007)
  • Courier/Courier New
  • Helvetica (the new hotness)
  • Myriad Pro
  • Tahoma (what I use in my own e-mails)
  • Times New Roman (falling out of favor, but still acceptable)
  • Verdana

What do all of these fonts have in common? Simple: they’re all easy to read. You have to make your e-mailed communications easy to read or people won’t read them.

The CorporateSpeak research director uses TwCen/Century Gothic, and in that light-blue color. It’s almost impossible to read her e-mails, and they’re not the kind I can ignore easily because I need that data. Some of our marketing people use this version of Bodoni on their meeting handouts, which seems nice on the screen but doesn’t translate well into print.

Think about what your favorite books and websites use. Even humor sites use the fonts above. You should too. Follow this rule: if someone’s used it in a brightly-colored or sparkly MySpace layout, you probably shouldn’t use it at work.

And, for the love of all that’s holy, avoid Comic Sans like the plague.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

That Guy’s Tips for Not Looking Stupid on the Internet, #2 August 5, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Did I Hear That Right?, Economic Downturn, Getting Fired, Getting Hired, Technology Trouble, Tips for Not Looking Stupid, Unsociable Networking.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

Don’t ignore the power of social networking while you’re still employed; the moment you get fired, you’ll need it.

For the last six years or so, CorporateSpeak employed a long-term contracted freelancer named Ivy. Recently, though, it was decided that Ivy’s contract was not going to be renewed and her duties would be assumed by an existing full-time employee. Ivy was unhappy about this, but I think we all understood the economic reality of the current U.S. market.

One of the first things Ivy did when she got home was update her Facebook thusly:

Ok, I am gonna be better about updating my status. Ok, I am actually going to start updating my status. The pressure to be relevant.. sigh.

Ivy used her Facebook a little bit before this, but not as much as her co-workers did — even her partner, who was let go at the same time. She would occasionally post about what she was doing, or put up some photos, but she wasn’t active on Facebook (or, to my knowledge, any social network). Now that she’s unemployed, though, she’s got to find a new job, and she’s figured out rather quickly that networking is the way to do it.

Just don’t tell everyone. It makes you look like you’re better than everyone else, like you’re saying, “well, I had a job for a long time, and now I don’t, so I’m going to do what all the cool kids are doing and use Facebook to find a job.” Coming across as elitist on a social network is a sure-fire way to lose regard with a potential employer, especially one that you want to hire you for a high-profile or high-paying position.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

That Guy’s Tips for Not Looking Stupid on the Internet, #1 July 30, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Did I Hear That Right?, Technology Trouble, Tips for Not Looking Stupid, Unsociable Networking.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Your Facebook status update is not the place to have a conversation.

Everyone’s on Facebook. Odds are good you’re on it right now — or you at least have a FB tab open somewhere on your browser, even if you’re not looking at it at this very second. And odds are even better that you’ve got a relative on Facebook who doesn’t know exactly what s/he should be doing right now.

My mom’s best friend joined recently. Here’s two recent status updates of hers, with her name changed to protect her identity:

Patricia Smith Zimmerman Thursday it is. Hopefully the weather is good for the pool after as well We will speak tomorrow to confirm what we are doing and a time.

Patricia Smith Zimmerman Hi just touching base and wanted to know if you located Rachel’s address. Let me know when you can get together. Hope all is well Patti

So, what did Patricia do here? Simple: she posted a status update that should have been a personal message or at most a wall post. If Patricia is concerned about the weather (“Hopefully the weather will be good for my pool day tomorrow.”), then she should post that. And no one wants to know if “you” — whoever “you” is — located Rachel’s address. Who’s Rachel? Why should we care?

I suppose the argument there is “why does anyone care about the minutiae of your life?”, but then, you could just un-friend someone who’s not interesting, right?

Anyway. As you begin using Facebook for job-related purposes or trying to find a new job, remember that you not only need to keep track of what you’re posting so it doesn’t embarrass you but also so you don’t look stupid.

I’m not sure how many of these “Tips for Not Looking Stupid” I’m going to do, but just in case, here’s the first.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

That Guy’s Tips for Corporate Success, #19 June 18, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Technology Trouble, Tips for Corporate Success.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Don’t make it difficult for me to respond to your e-mails.

I get a lot of e-mail, some of it from customers or people who work with our clients. I don’t mind sending helpful responses, either; often people are so surprised to hear from me that their opinion of the company goes up a few notches.

Some of them, though, never get my replies. Here’s why:

I apologize for this automatic reply to your email.

To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand.

If you would like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (see link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience.

Click the link below to fill out the request:

(link)

Look, I get it: you get a lot of spam, and you want people to prove they’re humans. I get a bunch of spam too, and some of it even gets past my filters. But if you’re going to e-mail a corporate entity, or representative thereof, would it kill you to put my e-mail address on your whitelist?

Because no one in the business world has time to fill out your form and give their personal information to the company who maintains your whitelist. No one.

And now you don’t get the benefit of an answer to your question.

Don’t make me do this to e-mail you:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

That Guy’s Tips for Faking It: Research Thoroughly May 1, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Tips for Corporate Success, Tips for Faking It, Wasting Time.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

This is the fourth and final entry in “That Guy’s Tips for Faking It”, a week’s worth of useful tricks to get out of working too hard while also looking like you’re worth keeping around. I may do more of these again in the future.

Research Thoroughly

Randall Munroe, artist/author of the webcomic XKCD, explained how to waste time with research via this useful illustration:

Before you start any new project, it’s important to know if any new techniques have come along for you to make it work better, faster, or smarter. It’s also important to do market research; it’s highly likely you’ll still have to do the same job, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and, if you believe Stephen King, there are only six themes anyway, so you’re bound to copy one. Obviously, King was talking about writing, but let’s be realistic: how many different ways can you mock up an ad? Or fill out an expense report? Or lay out a website in a way that your boss (and, more importantly, his boss) will say “great idea” instead of “dude, WTF?”

You’ve got the internet at your desk, right? If you don’t, you certainly should. And if you haven’t got a whole folder of bookmarks, then you’re doing something wrong. Before you start, hit the internet. Do your research. Check your Google news keyword catcher. Review your RSS feeds. Look around at what other people are doing. And if you happen to see a link to an unrelated site, don’t avoid it. Click it. Check out that site. Link farther and farther away from your comfort zone until you can’t see it without a telescope.

If your boss happens by, you’re doing research and trying to find new ideas.

See? That was easy. And fun, too! You might even have learned something about William Howard Taft along the way.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

That Guy’s Tips for Faking It: Plan Lunch Carefully April 30, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Tips for Corporate Success, Tips for Faking It, Wasting Time.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

This is the fourth entry in “That Guy’s Tips for Faking It”, a week’s worth of useful tricks to get out of working too hard while also looking like you’re worth keeping around.

Plan Lunch Carefully

While your boss is doing this, you could be surfing the net with impunity. (Photo by Tim Schapker)

While your boss is doing this, you could be surfing the net with impunity. (Photo by Tim Schapker)

When it comes right down to it, you report to one boss. Maybe two. But you’re not a manager. You’re a peon. Managers go out to lunch for more than an hour, pay on their corporate cards, stroll back in, and take half an hour to get back up to speed from all the e-mail accumulated in their inboxes. You, on the other hand, eat at your desk, in the break room, or (if you’re lucky) out on the patio, or you zip out to Wendy’s for a burger that you know you’ll regret later. But if you plan your lunch carefully, you can gain almost a full hour of down-time and still get paid for it.

First and foremost, keep a granola bar or two in your desk; you may end up going to lunch far later than you’d like to pull this off. Don’t forget that.

Now… watch your boss. Watch what time he* leaves for lunch. Watch what time he comes back. Figure out where he goes — is he more likely to eat fast food, medium food, or a real restaurant meal? Does he go by himself, or with the same crew, or with different people each day? Does he go early or late? Notice and record all of these things.

Then start planning.

The key here is to either leave within five minutes of your boss’s return to the office or vice versa. When your boss isn’t around, it becomes exponentially easier to goof off; all you have to do if a co-worker drops by is have a tab with Cute Overload or CNN open and flip to it. If the co-worker asks what you’re doing, show a cute picture of a kitten or a news story about the President**. Other managers probably don’t care as long as you look like you’re working, so as long as there’s not nudity or YouTube on your screen, you should be fine.

One more thing: bosses are known to change things up. Don’t lose track of your boss’s habits, or you could find him over your shoulder when you least expect it, and that defeats the purpose of faking it.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

* Or she, but typing s/he always takes so long. Just go with me here.

** Whether the target is a Republican or Democrat, this will instill confidence in you as a peer that you’re taking an interest in world events. This sometimes works on bosses too. As for the kittens… well, cuteness releases serotonin, and most people in offices need to relax anyway.

That Guy’s Tips for Faking It: Underpromise and Overdeliver April 29, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Tips for Corporate Success, Tips for Faking It, Wasting Time.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

This is the third entry in “That Guy’s Tips for Faking It”, a week’s worth of useful tricks to get out of working too hard while also looking like you’re worth keeping around.

When it Comes to Deadlines, Underpromise and Overdeliver

You’ve probably figured this one out — hell, my boss has made this the watchword of our department — but if you’re not underpromising and overdelivering on your deadlines, then you’re doing it wrong.

See, here’s the thing: you may do great work. You may do fast work. But if you consistently work fast and exceptionally, people are going to set that as the baseline and force you to do even better. You got hired, though, by showing off your very best work. Why should you have to do that all the time? You certainly didn’t do it at your old job.

But you don’t want to do crappy work, either. That’s the fastest way to get canned short of budget cuts or grabbing someone’s ass.

James Doohan as Captain Montgomery Scott

James Doohan as Captain Montgomery Scott

You may remember in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Scotty says “but you dinna have eight weeks, so I’ll do it for ye in two” and Admiral Kirk says, “Mr. Scott, have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?”

The answer?

“How did ye think I kept my reputation as a miracle worker?”

Around CorporateSpeak, I’m known as the resident miracle worker — if it needs to be designed fast or well, I pull it off. If it needs to be something new that still conforms to our existing workflows, I’m your man. But I never deliver too soon, even when we’re at the last minute. I always know when the last minute is — and you should too — so that you can deliver about an hour before that. Not only does it give you the reputation as the person who gets it done right and gets it done on time, but it also gives management less time to make changes. And hey, if they do, it’s not your fault the project was late, right?

Be the miracle worker. It keeps people happy about you being there in the first place.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine