Best of 2015

Dear Readers,

We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience. ― George Washington

Let’s take a look back to see what lessons we have been able to put to use in the past year. Here are the most popular articles of 2015, in order of views:Two business people

#1: Asking for Vacation Time Do you ASK your supervisor or TELL her when you are taking vacation? What’s the best strategy?

#2: Crimes & Misdemeanors It’s no surprise that this post about finding a job with a criminal record made the top of the list, since nearly one-third of Americans have been arrested by age 23.

#Hiding_the_Gray_0000122551363: Hiding the Gray on Your Résumé (and Beyond) Tips for graying triathletes (and the rest of us mere mortals) on how to compete with younger job seekers.

#4: Functional Format for Résumés Not just for the greybeards the functional résumé can work for people with gaps in employment, caregivers returning to the workforce, or recent grads with little experience.

#5: How Long to Find a Job? I am often asked by discouraged job seekers of all ages some variation of the question, “How long does it really take to get a new job?” After reviewing the statistics, see what you can do shorten your search.

On_the_Fence_iStock_000009524325_Small#6: Stay or Quit? Follow this advice if you are asking yourself on the job, “Should I stay or should I go?”

#7: Bypassing Human Resources When to try an end-run around HR, and how to cooperate with the human resources department as a job seeker.

#8: Texting on the Job In this day and age, is texting on the job OK? Check out the data on cell phone distractions in the workplace and see if the facts change your mind.

Woman_Cell_Phone_iStock_000000292386_Small#9: How to Get Past the Phone Interview Learn how to put your best virtual foot forward during the initial telephone screening.

#10: Overcoming Negative References Steps to take when you think a former boss is giving you a bad reference.

Readers: What Anita Clew article was most helpful to you this past year and why?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita. Your question might make next year’s Top 10 list!

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Happy Holidays

Happy_Holidays

Thanksgiving Joys

Readers,

Whether you choose to spend the day with family and not darken the door of a single store (see the list of chains closed on Thanksgiving Day) or rush through the traditional turkey dinner to line up outside of the stores opening on T-day for early Black Friday specials, I encourage you to pause to count your many blessings.

Happy ThanksgivingWith a grateful heart for your continued readership,
Anita Clew

Readers: Will you, or won’t you, shop on Thanksgiving Day?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

 

Exit Strategy

Anita,

I have finally made the decision to leave my job of 8 years, but have not sent out résumés or contacted any potential employers yet. My decision is not based on anything negative – I love my bosses, co-workers, etc., but want a career change. I work at a fairly small (25 employees), family owned business and lead one of their four departments, though the dept. only consists of myself and a newly hired assistant (who won’t be able to take over). I want to leave on good terms with the company and I know they will have an extremely hard time finding a replacement. I do not want to commit to staying until said replacement is found, but planned on offering 1 month notice and staying until I have completed those clients that have already booked (I am a dog trainer). Additionally, the gal who does the sales for me is leaving in less than a week and I will now be expected to take on these appointments. My question is: knowing that I will be leaving, is it appropriate for me to not give notice to my employer until I have secured a new job and complete my sales appointments as if I AM staying, or should I notify them of my intent to start looking for alternate employment so they are not then having to cancel clients who may book farther out than 1 month and run the risk of them excusing me before I find new employment. Thanks in advance!

Exit_000017488442_smallDear, On Short Notice,

Searching, applying, interviewing, and finally landing the right job may take a while. By the time you are ready to give your standard two weeks notice, it could be months and the salesperson may already be replaced. But since you have worked with this small company eight years, you may wish to inform your bosses of your career goals to allow them the extra time to find a replacement for you and the salesperson.

While you may not harbor ill feelings, when leaving a less than satisfactory job, some people may be tempted to quote country music singer Johnny Paycheck and tell the boss to “Take this job and shove it; I ain’t working here no more.” Here are tips to create an exit strategy that won’t have repercussions down the road.

  1. Update your résumé, including career highlights from your current position. Review my post, “Importance of Annual Résumé Updates.”
  2. Start networking – discreetly and on your own time. Put out feelers to find open positions and companies in which you may be interested.
  3. Stash away an adequate emergency fund. You never know when your boss may catch wind of your plans to leave and fast forward your decision. There may also be a period of time between your old job end date and your new position start date, and bills still need to be paid.
  4. Use Paid Time Off (PTO) or vacation time judiciously to save enough for interviews. Be sure you know your company’s policy for unused sick time or vacation time. You don’t want to lose any time that you’ve worked hard to earn.
  5. Once you have a firm job offer (preferably in writing), tender your letter of resignation. Two weeks’ notice is the professional minimum. However, if you have a management or key position, consider staying a while longer to train your replacement. Some companies don’t like “lame ducks,” however, and may whisk you out the door that very day. See why #3 is important?
  6. During your last weeks on the job, maintain your work ethic. Organize and delegate your projects and workload with adequate instructions and documentation.
  7. If your company does an exit interview, keep your comments positive. There is a better chance that your criticisms will negatively impact you than bring about any lasting changes in your company.

Readers: How many weeks notice did you give your last employer when you quit?

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Family Leave Options

Anita,

My dad who lives in Florida just had a massive stroke. I need to help my parents arrange for long-term healthcare and sell their house to pay for it. Is there a way I can assist them temporarily without quitting my job in California and moving across the country?

Dear, Worried Daughter,

I’m sorry your family is going through this difficult time.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted to assist in situations such as yours. The FMLA allows eligible employees at companies with 50 employees or more to take unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons without losing their jobs or health coverage. Covered employees who have worked at least one year and have accumulated 1,250 hours within that year are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

  • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
  • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
  • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
  • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty” (military caregiver leave allows servicemembers themselves 26 workweeks of leave)

California also has a similar California Family Rights Act. The CFRA would run concurrently with the FMLA, but there are some differences (for instance, pregnancy is not covered as a serious health condition by CFRA, but is under FMLA). View the California Department of Human Resources’ chart for a comparison.

Your employer may require you to use any paid time off (PTO) before taking FMLA leave. And just like the requirement to get out of gym class back in school, you’ll need the customary doctor’s note to be excused from work under FMLA.

Note also that if you make a contribution toward your group health insurance premiums that is normally deducted from your paycheck, you will have to pay for this out of pocket while on leave. In fact, if you don’t have an emergency fund, 12 weeks of unpaid leave may not be feasible. Unemployment is generally not an option, as you voluntarily went on unpaid leave and you must be available to work to qualify. (Tip: Some utilities such as cable providers may allow a “seasonal hold” while you are away from home, which can be less costly than turning off and then having to pay to reconnect when you return from your leave. Mortgage lenders and landlords may or may not be as willing to defer payments.) If your parents are financially able, they may be able to compensate you for your caregiving time with a personal care agreement. For elderly parents with few assets other than their home, Medicaid’s Cash and Counseling program (available in about 30 states) may help them pay for home health care services – including cleaning, meal preparation, or transportation – from whomever they choose.

Four states have approved paid family leave programs – California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington (whose program has been deferred due to budget shortfalls). If you are eligible, you may receive a percentage of your base wages for a period of time. Here’s a handy chart showing eligibility and coverage by state.

Readers: When and how has the Family Medical Leave Act benefitted you?

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Earthquake Preparedness

Anita,

I recently moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles to take a great management job. As part of my initiation, my new team took me to see that movie “San Andreas.”  I have to admit, it made me nervous! Do you have any earthquake safety tips that will soothe my fears?

Dear, Shaking in Your Boots,

Seismic_Building
Every region has its natural disasters. If you’re from the Midwest, tornadoes were probably your biggest threat. The southeast has hurricanes (the “best” of all natural disasters, in my opinion, because you get plenty of advance notice.) Wherever you live, learn how to prepare for a natural disaster, and then try to stop worrying. As the saying goes, “Most of the stuff people worry about never happens.”

Building_EarthquakeMillions of people worldwide will participate in the Great Shakeout Earthquake Drill on October 15 at 10:15 AM. You can register your company to, as the website says, “have peace of mind that you, your family, your co-workers and millions of others will be better prepared to survive and recover quickly from our next big earthquake.” Go directly to the Resources page to peruse the appropriate manuals, posters and flyers for an earthquake drill.

The most important thing to remember is Drop, Cover, and Hold On if you are indoors during an earthquake.

  • DROP to your hands and knees.
  • COVER your head and neck under a sturdy table or desk.
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops.

In a high-rise building, stay away from windows, and don’t use the elevator. To avoid collapsing windows or building facades, remain inside if you are inside. If you are outdoors, find a safe area clear of buildings, power lines, trees, and signs.

To prepare for any disaster, keep an emergency supply kit on hand. Visit Ready.gov for a list of recommended items.

Readers: Will you be participating in The Great Shakeout?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

RELATED POSTS:
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Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

Police officer on radioReaders,

In light of the recent Umpqua Community College shootings in Oregon, I wish to express my heartfelt sympathy for the victims and their families.

Sadly, active shooter incidents are becoming more frequent. Having a preparedness plan for workplace violence could help save lives.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notes that there is typically no pattern in the selection of victims in an active shooter incident. There are three basics to remember if a coworker or stranger opens fire in your building:

  1. Run: If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Call 911 when you are safe.
  2. Hide: If evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you. Lock and blockade the door, hide behind or under large items like file cabinets or desks, and remain quiet (mute your cell phone). If possible, call 911 to alert police to the shooter’s location.
  3. Fight: As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter.

It’s just as important to react appropriately to law enforcement when they arrive, so they know you are not the threat.

This 3.5-minute video, while dated, is a succinct visual reference for an active shooter situation:

For further resources, consult the extensive DHS Active Shooter preparedness list. The U.S. Department of Labor plan covers the broader scope of workplace violence, including early warning signs of violence from an employee.

Readers: Does your company include Active Shooter Response in its Emergency Action Plan?

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Dog-Friendly Jobs

Dear Anita,

After reading about Take Your Dog To Work Day about a month ago, I’m obsessed! I would love to find a job where I could bring my Schnauzer with me! How can I find companies that permit pets in the office?

Dear “Must Love Dogs,”

Payscape_Dog

Payscape

Pet lovers, rejoice! Some businesses make “Take Your Pet to Work Day” not just one day in June,  but every weekday. Pet Sitters International offers tips for successfully bringing dogs to work, such as making sure coworkers are not allergic and puppy-proofing your workspace.

The Nerdery

The Nerdery

While dog-friendly offices are becoming a company culture selling point in job descriptions, all pets are not treated equally. The neighborhood bookstore may have a lounging feline, but Google’s pet policy does not include cats. “Google’s affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture. We like cats, but we’re a dog company, so as a general rule we feel cats visiting our offices would be fairly stressed out.”

Eventbrite

Eventbrite

Many younger, hipper companies may be known for the cool perk of a dog-friendly workplace. But don’t discount old-school mom-and-pops operations, either, with less bureacracy and grassroots attitudes.

Glassdoor published a blog, 10 of the Best Companies for Dogs (and listed itself, but that’s forgivable). Here in no particular order are 10 of the Best Companies for Dogs:

Eventbrite
Company Rating: 4.7

 “I love that I can bring my dog to work and know that he loves it at Eventbrite too.” – Eventbrite Employee (San Francisco, CA)

Nestle

Nestlé Purina PetCare

Nestlé Purina PetCare
Company Rating: 4.6

“Love love love it! The atmosphere, people, longevity, stability, reputation, culture, opportunities…. and bringing your dog to work. What’s not to love?” – Nestlé Purina PetCare ORM Team Leader (Saint Louis, MO)

Rover

Rover.com

Rover.com
Company Rating: 3.5

“I love working at Rover! There are so many great pros: the people, the dogs, the work, it’s all great.” – Rover.com Employee

Payscape
Company Rating: 4.4

“You can bring your dog to work on Fridays!” – Payscape Employee

Petplan
Company Rating: 4.4

“There are always pets in the office and it is nice to have the ability to bring them to the office with you.” – Petplan Employee

Indiegogo

Indiegogo

Indiegogo
Company Rating: 4.5

“Dog-friendly office, ping pong, happy hours, team dinner, and other perks of startups.” – Indiegogo Employee (San Francisco, CA)

The Nerdery
Company Rating: 3.3

“Having dogs at work is great for morale.” – The Nerdery Employee (location, N/A)

Specialized Bicycle

Specialized Bicycle

Specialized Bicycle

Company Rating: 3.5

“The culture of the company and office (the people, bikes everywhere! dogs welcomed, all the great coffee you can drink, lunch rides, on site bike shop, yoga classes, etc) is really special and worth the hard work.” – Specialized Bicycle Administrative Employee (Morgan Hill, CA)

Procore Technologies
Company Rating: 4.8

“Super friendly environment, free lunch on Wednesdays, open-door policy, and dog-friendly.” – Procore Technologies Employee (Carpinteria, CA)

Procore Technologies

Procore Technologies

Glassdoor
At Glassdoor, we’re lucky enough to have a dog-friendly workplace and couldn’t resist including sharing a few shots of our canine coworkers here in Marin County. By the way, we, and many of the companies listed above are hiring!

Company Rating: 4.6

Glassdoor“Aside from all the awesome perks like a gym, catered lunch, unlimited vacation and the ability to bring my dog every day, I just love being at Glassdoor. I’m consistently in awe of the good ideas, smart people and a lovable culture we have here.” – Glassdoor Public Relations Employee (Sausalito, CA)

Search Indeed.com and other job boards using “dog-friendly office” or “pet friendly” in the keyword field. You’ll find job postings that list this drool-worthy perk.

Readers: Would a dog-friendly office be a deciding factor when accepting a position?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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Four-Day Work Weeks

Dear Anita,

I just love 3-day weekends! How can I convince my manager to adjust my schedule to a 4-day work week permanently?

Dear, TGI Thursday,

Back in 1914, Henry Ford reduced The Ford Motor Company’s work week from 48 to 40 hours, believing that long hours decreased productivity. Is it time, 101 years later, to decrease the work week even further?

Not every company can embrace the four-day work week. Weekends (at least Sundays) were once sacred with the vast majority of businesses closing up shop. But in the late 1960s and early ’70s, more retail enterprises started opening on Saturdays and eventually many added Sundays to their schedules to increase or maintain profitability. Can your company’s business survive with a four-day week?

It’s a rare company that would offer you a 32-hour week for the same wage as your 40-hour week. One way to maintain productivity (and salary) is with a “compressed” work week, where 40 hours are scheduled into four days. Adjusting to a 10-hour day can be a challenge at first, but it does have its perks. If you’re getting to work an hour earlier and leaving an hour later, this may decrease your commute time since you’ll be driving during off-peak hours. A four-day week also cuts the cost of commuting, potentially saving employees 20% in gas. If you have kids in daycare, you may be able to cut childcare expenses as well (though finding a facility with extended hours could prove difficult).  While you’re compressing your work week, you’re also compressing your evenings. There will be less time to cram in all after-work activities — cooking, errands, kids’ homework, and — oh, yes, — pleasurable leisure activities!

4-Day_Week_000017443240If an entire company could go to a four-day work week, the business could potentially save 20% of its energy costs. However, some companies that implement four-day work weeks stagger employee schedules to provide adequate phone and email coverage for customers during the traditional five-day week. That can create logistical challenges for scheduling meetings and keeping all employees on-track. Businesses that operate 24/7 may find three 10-hour shifts creates unprofitable overlap.

After pondering the pros and cons yourself, approach your boss outlining the benefits to the company as well as employees. If management says no, you can always move the Netherlands, where the four-day work week is standard.

Readers: Would you prefer a compressed week in order to have year-round three-day weekends?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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Thermostat Wars

Anita,

The women in my office are at odds with the men over the temperature. If we dress appropriately for the warm weather outside, we freeze to death in the office. It’s hard to concentrate on your work when your fingers turn into blue Popsicles! Can you help us find a happy medium?

Dear “In a Cold Sweat,”

Adjusting the heating thermostatAfrican american man push button digital climate control

 

It’s a tale as old as… well, the invention of modern air conditioning, circa 1902. The gender divide is apparent when it comes to the preferred thermostat setting. I’ve known women who keep a polar fleece jacket or blanket at their desks, or who sneak a space heater next to their feet (Smokey the Bear would definitely not approve). While I won’t go so far as to call it a sexist conspiracy, the predicament does seem to affect women more than men – except for those unfortunate males who work for a female supervisor in the sweltering throes of a hot flash, jealously guarding the key to the AC.

Clothing, age, even your weight can affect how you experience temperatures. If your office has a suit and tie policy for the men, the extra layer of clothing is going to make the guys hotter under the proverbial collar. To be fair, guys can’t really strip down to the sleeveless tops that are acceptable for women to wear at work. It is easier to add a clothing layer to warm yourself up than it is to cool off when you can disrobe no further!

If Team Cold and Team Hot can’t keep their hands off the thermostat, your company may have to institute a climate control policy. OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) recommends indoor temperatures between 68-76° F, which is a pretty broad range. Most building thermostats follow a thermal comfort formula that was developed in the 1960s. Researchers at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands claim the formula is based on a 40-year-old, 154-pound male, not an average female office worker with a lower metabolic rate. Women and men generally have a five degree difference in temperature preference, the researchers found. But, alas, “personal environmental modules” with individualized temperature controls in office buildings haven’t gone mainstream yet.

Over a decade ago, Cornell University put the thermostat wars to another scientific test, finding that warmer office temperatures improve productivity. Researchers increased office temperature from 68° to 77° F, and found that typing errors decreased by 44% and output jumped 150%.

Finnish counterparts at Helsinki University of Technology ran their own study. Their findings: The highest office productivity occurs at temperatures around 22° Celsius or 71.6° Fahrenheit. Hmm, those test subjects closer to the Arctic Circle seem a bit more tolerant of lower temperatures.

If the productivity arguments don’t convince your facilities manager to set the temperature above polar levels, hit ‘em in the pocketbook. Most energy companies recommend keeping the AC set no lower than 78° in summer. According to MyEnergy.com, your company can save 1-3% in energy costs for each degree the air conditioning is set above 72.

Readers: Are you “hot and bothered” at work, or given the “cold shoulder”?

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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