The Desk

June 30, 2016

Troubled Landscape: Generations

So much of the time the typical comments heard about the new work force is in relation to generations that are post Baby Boom. There are comparisons. There are complaints. There are acknowledgements of positive attributes. There are concerns about the pressures they are already beginning to endure and sympathy for their conditions. There is awareness that they are deferring many of the usual inroads into adult life.

The majority of the complaints are with regard to whether the younger workforce is actually qualified to manage the needed tasks in a responsible way. Indeed, there are many instances wherein the complaints are justified. Quality of service and quality of workmanship is missing. The customer winds up needing to explain the concepts to the one doing the serving when the situation should be the reverse.

But the stream of soft, dewy faces continues to bombard the large and small silver screens. The older faces that either bear white hair or none at all become more faint and then drop out of view. Finally, a storyteller (read scriptwriter) allows us to be part of the scene being painted and we begin to see the cycle of life happening whereas we thought we were standing in a timeless environment. We are aging; it is time for the younger, newer to prepare to over the positions we once occupied. Our roles need to change.

At one time, we considered the younger generation as self absorbed and like a petulant child that demands what has yet to be earned. In a more reflective moment, we realize the Millennials are mimicking what we ourselves did some 40 to 50 years ago. We considered ourselves quite sophisticated and adult. We knew everything and were exquisite. We deserved not only what we had but had earned (and were entitled to) even more. Not only that, today’s Millennials and every generation before them feels their compensation should be much higher so that there is the ability to put their foot out of the nest in order to create their own.

And there’s the difficulty. The compensation seems misaligned in many instances. Not only that. There seems to be too little money available to be paid to the growing numbers of those who would like to be employed. Compounding that situation is the fact that inflation continues while the dollar’s buying power continues to shrink. That phenomenon is not merely because of inflation. It is also impacted by the fact that we now live in a global economy. It is simply good business to manufacture as cheaply as possible in order to sell at the highest possible markup and reap the best profit for the efforts to get to market with quality product or service.

And then there’s the issue of quality service – and training. In the rush to fill the orders and seats that are needed to create delivery, there’s something that’s being overlooked or given short shrift. It’s a precious asset. Few appreciate just how valuable it is. It’s called training. It’s sibling is mentoring. Good training will bring about quality service. Good training (and quality practice) will bring about quality product. And good mentoring will provide the insights not available in the textbook. That mentoring will also be the barometer of when the next plateau of development needs to be approached.

There's a mixture of generations working as one entity today

Previous roles are changed as life cycles evolve.

The difficulty with this easy-to-read picture is that the workforce is now a collage of generations. Some are just commencing Life. Others are in reboot mode because their previous industry collapsed or because they were downsized and cut out in order to cut costs. Difficult as it may be, there are many who are willing to subsume their ego and thoughts about their previous status in order to be included in the numbers who are employed and actually earning a living rather than being supported by government stipends or the kindnesses of strangers and family. Everyone is going through the spin cycle in order to come out still fresh and sparkly and equipped to produce because of the quality of knowledge, skill, education, experiences, and eagerness to be all they can be – and to help the business get there.

Today’s world of work is a difficult landscape.


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June 3, 2016

Gender Pay Gap Effects on Ethnicities

In 2014, a American Association of University Women (AAUW) study found there was a 78% difference between compensation for men compared to women. The study also looked at pay differences by ethnicity based on gender. The numbers were historic, meaning the rates of difference are essentially the same over the past 10 to 15 years of measuring such data.

Also in 2014, AAUW announced its acquisition of $tart $mart and Work $mart, “workshops empower college and professional women to negotiate better salaries and benefits,” Work $mart being the program for women already in the workforce.

In April 2014, AAUW looked at the wage gap as a function of race and gender compared with white men as well as a function of within women’s ethnicity. The broader spectrum was more disheartening by showing a deeper cut in earning power.

Bound by inequality

Not isolated to women, pay disparity impacts Black men to the same degree

An article in the June 2014 Harvard Business Review agreed with the findings of AAUW. According to an item at, it isn’t expected that women will reach wage parity with men until 2059. A Washington Post article from March 8, 2016 paints a more dismal picture by saying a study projects it will be 177 years before equity is reached.

You would think that with all this talk about lack of pay equity between men and women that there would be little disparity along ethnic lines for men. Not true. On June 1, 2016, a new study was released that found Black men are paid 73 cents to every dollar earned by White male counterparts. Even in 2011, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found the disparity was 71%. So it can be said that there’s been some improvement. The 2011 article analyzes why there is a difference. A June 2015 Pacific Standard article looks at the pay disparity of Black men to White and points out several factors contributing to its existence. It also asserts that even though there may be some progress toward closing the gap for men, it may not be a result of gaining positive inroads as much as it represents losing ground.

On a positive note, being a Black gay male means a better chance of earning more than even a White straight man (study published in April 2015).

CBS Money Watch looked at the 12 professions where disparity is the worst and did a slide show of them in a story from March 2016.

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May 4, 2016

Interests and Hobbies for Distinction

Filed under: Hiring,Job Search,Recruiting — Yvonne LaRose @ 3:38 PM
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An article recently came to my attention. The recommendations were dubious. Then an opportunity to share the knowledge with a group of recruiters arose. The group shared my reservations. The recommendation was to include one’s interests and hobbies on the resume and profile in order to distinguish special skills and stand out among the competition. The article proposed that the interests and hobbies would indicate particular strengths and abilities that can be used as indicia of success in the job that needs to be filled. dreamstimefree_14073429

The group of recruiters voiced opinions on the matter:

  • “I don’t normally pay attention to that section.”
  • It doesn’t really have any relevance to the job that’s on my desk
  • “I don’t use it.”

Job seekers are looking for whatever they can use to set themselves apart in a positive way. No doubt they will read that same article and believe that the advice applies to all job searches of whatever type and all manner of positions. After a lot of research in order to re-locate the correct article, one rose to the surface that made some distinguishing points about using hobbies and interests. They are helpful when the position is in a more esoteric area that requires unique skills that indicate traits such as perseverance, attention to detail, impervious to high levels of stress.

But what about the company that needs to fill a vacancy for a position in a special needs school? The person who knows and is able to use sign language may list that as a language skill and hobby in light of the fact that they do volunteer work at the John Tracy Clinic.

When we speak of job search, there’s an automatic default to ideas about jobs in the office. However, there are many types of jobs in different industries. A person could have a strong interest in health and medicine but they don’t want to be involved in working on people. There are also animals that require similar services. What about forestry as an option. Or that same person simply doesn’t want to be involved in health services but has a strong interest and keen skills in computers and programming. Perhaps their path to success is in the health sciences arena at a hospital or health facility.

So the candidate loves DIY projects. Could that mean they’re good a analysis, have strong concentration and focus skills, and are good at interpreting diagrams? Maybe there’s a niche for them in some form of construction or machine work.

The world of work is becoming increasingly complicated in regard to qualifying for a position and simply getting in the door. Occupations that you wouldn’t think of as requiring a resume now use that tool as part of the entry point. Do hobbies and extracurricular activities have a place and purpose on the resume or application? At times, they do. But they need to be used strategically if they are used at all. Sometimes they can become the bullet that shot the high school cheerleader who is applying for a mid-level management position in the foot. She’s remembered decades after leaving her application but not for the reasons she intended.


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March 9, 2016

Taking Charge

One thing that can lead to marginalization is turning the human into a non-thinking, uncreative entity (as compared with a sentient being who is capable of making meaningful contributions). There is very little to nothing that’s rewarding and motivating about existing in PVS (persistent vegetative state), except perhaps the appreciation that the speed at which activities are successfully executed is at a stellar rate that can be matched by few, if any.

Some grow weary of the monotony. They see the value is automation and encourage use of robotics so that the opportunity to challenge their minds is more available. Even those with the most minimal level of intelligence delight is being able to conquer a new task. Having that reasonable task put before them is exciting.

There are some people who have been conditioned to believe they will be punished for attempting to stretch their role in an organization beyond being PVS. They fear the unknown realm of persecution and retribution for daring to do more than the repetitious. They have experimented with new endeavors and found success nearly every time they’ve done so. Having been exposed to the sweet taste of adventure and new challenges, they want to emerge into the areas where their friends and colleagues are similarly nudged into more involvement – and recognition.

Use Your Skills

Use Your Skills

That fear of retribution is the inhibiting factor. It needs to be overcome. The only way to do that is to take charge of the situation. If the path of asking permission to be included in the next endeavor doesn’t work out, there are other ways to get from Point A to Point B. Some of them take a little (and some a lot) more effort.

The supervisor or manager seems to have favorites for the project. Sometimes it’s because the manager has been watching the progress of their workers and knows what to expect. They know the quality of the work that will be produced, the amount of attention to detail, the speed at which the work will be done, how well the worker interacts with others, how smoothly things blend. Sounds like networking to me.

How much of a challenge is that task compared to today’s mashed potatoes same as? If it’s the equivalent of going from boiling an egg to preparing a nine-course meal overnight, this may not be the time to experiment. If this is merely turning a boiled egg into an Easter egg (or a deviled egg), this may be an opportunity waiting to happen. How to broach that stupid roadblock of being allowed to get involved is the issue.

Perhaps a facsimile is the answer. “Hey, Boss. I’ve been watching the others working on the [deviled egg] and I’ve been experimenting with making them on my own time. Here’s a sample of what I did on my own. I’d like to do it with the others so I can be involved in doing it in the company style.” Mind you, this is the prime sample that’s being put forth. The BETA version is just not the version that should be used as an example of what’s your best.

Was it accepted? Great! It wasn’t? Get permission to work with the others to learn their technique. Better yet, sidle up to one of those who’s a “friend” and ask them to show you how to make yours better. Sidle up to another chum so that they’ll ask to have you included in their group for the next batch of [deviled eggs]. Or just go to an outside group and make some [deviled eggs] they way they do so that you have practice doing it and an audience that benefits from the fact that you were involved in making [deviled eggs]. No matter which way you go – direct or indirect – you have at least one new skill to append to your resume accomplishments.

It’s one thing to aimlessly drift from one boring and uninspiring situation to the next while waiting (and that’s the critical concept here – waiting) for something better to come along and take you with it. Having a mentor who can push you forward at Opportunity’s knock is great. But sometimes it’s necessary to take charge of your situation and do something to spur your opportunities to open to you.

There will be times when taking charge means quietly looking elsewhere for what’s going to be better in terms of many things you desire and have long-term positive payoffs. There will also be times when taking charge simply means becoming more assertive. Mind you, I said “assertive,” not “aggressive,” that is, demanding what you want instead of stating your case about why you are a great option.

Wait! What was that I heard? Was it Opportunity knocking at your door?

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January 2, 2016

Exposure and Expertise

Businessman giving an used book to another businessman, learning to survive

Businessman giving a used book to another businessman, learning to survive

There’s a constant search for the best qualified candidate to be added to your workforce. They come to the table with all the education that’s required by the job description. They have the right amount of experience performing the tasks that need to be done. They are aware of the terminology and use it in appropriate context. They are wonderful when it comes to timely execution and speed. Why do they have all of these gifts? Where can you find more of them?

No doubt some of these skills were gained in the classes they took. Still others were developed with exposure to various technologies. Still other things were learned through conversations and reading all manner of trade and recreational content.

How useful all of this knowledge proves to be depends on its source and the amount and type of education that accompanied it. If it was merely parroting something without any appreciation of what the expression means or its history, not to mention the why of its use, then it’s simply doing because you were told to do so when x, y, or z occurred.

You can break a contract but taken literally, it’s difficult to see how a piece of paper can be broken. How many who don’t have exposure to that term understand that violating the terms of the agreement can result in losing the benefits of the association? We can talk about algorithms. That’s a fine and fancy name for having different bases of measuring things that are already in daily use. We count denominations of money using a base of 10. However, we measure distances, space, and time with a base of 12. All of those are algorithms. Does the neophyte realize this? Perhaps not. They’re simply intimidated by this new word and concept that’s been put before them with no explanation.

Taking a skills test can be similar to taking a classroom evaluation of the last section that was taught. However, screening and selection tests such as the LSAT or the SAT are an entirely different thing. If the applicant has never experienced an evaluation process of that type, it shouldn’t be expected that they will perform well on literally their first exposure – unless, of course, there’s some form of genius lurking in those brain cells.

Scalia recently opined that Blacks should not be put into the better educational institutions because they have poor learning skills. That might be true were it not for the fact that educating Blacks has historically been an after thought (if that much). Like women, they were to be kept uneducated in order to have better control over the population and keep them in a state of being disenfranchised. And even in that ethnicity, plus the combinations that created racial and ethnic Creoles, there have been those who found patrons who saw the benefits of providing quality education to them. In the alternative, the population found ways to gain even the rudimentary gems of education in order to propel them into something more.

Education is a prized aspired to by all races and ethnicities. Each family sees it as the tool that will bring fulfillment of the promise of a better life and empowerment. But that promise cannot be realized if the mentoring and educating to create the employable candidate is not provided.

So develop your employee education programs to your advantage. Also develop mentoring programs with an eye toward reducing apathy while increasing engagement and productivity. The exposure to the concepts and terminology will provide you with more than just the ideal candidate for the next step on the ladder.


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October 9, 2015

Not the Right Time

Filed under: Hiring,Job Search,Networking — Yvonne LaRose @ 3:21 PM
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The email header read, “The State of Screening.” It’s an article about screening applicants with a criminal background. But just looking at the words of the header brings to mind the many different types of screening situations that arise in the employment as well as social fields – situations that have nothing to do with a criminal background. And the words also bring to mind the various attempts to be included in something. In the past, having a criminal background meant not getting hired; it meant learning how to deal with rejection and how to overcome it.

Excluded from access, but why?

Excluded from access, but why?

The New Millennial form of rejection and saying “no” has taken a new form. It’s also a new bend in the exclusion (even discrimination) formula on how to do it without it seeming to be so.

Tell the one seeking admission to the venue, or opportunity, that it’s reached the maximum number of participants (no quota was ever stated) and the next time the opportunity will be available again will be in 9-12 months. That’s a good way to make them go away and keep quiet. In fact, with that much of a window to the next admission phase, the person will no doubt have forgotten about the opportunity or will have found a better substitute. Some are diligent and will show up for the next opportunity. There’s a remedy for that similar to the old fashioned way of handling the rejection.

A variation on this form of exclusion is to tell the aspirant that the opportunity was just concluded. Again, the next opportunity to become part of the situation will be in 6-12 months.

The pattern used to be prerequisites that needed to be satisfied before admission was granted. The prerequisites can be a great as performing some task or as minor as paying an admission fee that is slightly outside of the expected capabilities of the one seeking admission. Or there are materials that are required before there can be inclusion. Do we know the purpose and use of the materials? Ask about those things. Typically, there will be no response – just dead silence. The underlying message is, “We don’t want you. The requirements are merely shams in order to exclude you. We thought you understood that we don’t want you among us. Your being dense only proves that you don’t belong.”

Some of the old pattern still survives. If the aspirant wants to climb in the environment (and has somehow managed to get in) and has produced useful content that demonstrates their value and insightfulness, simply store it in a remote location where few, if any, are likely to find it. In the alternative, simply delete it on the basis that there have been changes and it no longer has congruence with the rest of the venue.

All of these are also part and parcel of the unanswered phone message or email; the lack of response to the application; the MIA acknowledgement of a submission.

And, of course, when the new window opens (6 to 12 months later), there’s no notice of the event. Meanwhile, many others who also had an interest seem to have been able to enter the venue much sooner (within one month or less) than the protracted waiting period for the excluded one.

Access is also used as a means of exclusion. Those who are confined to wheelchairs and cannot enter a building via stairs are also subtly removed from the pool of participants. The situation is aggravated by virtue of the fact that there is no elevator nor incline. Yes, there are other forms of apparatus that can substitute for the elevator and incline. Crutches or a walking cane are just two alternatives. But why create the barriers to something that’s supposed to be open to all who want to be members of the venue? It sends a message, not a very favorable one, that the person is unqualified or incompetent in some way and therefore does not deserve to be included.

There are other examples of exclusion. An example is when things that are suggested as desirable for a special event or consideration. Content is submitted but there are some faults that result in it not being used; maybe next time. But the rejection becomes chronic. It isn’t isolated to the first, single rejection but becomes the constant for anything and everything proffered. It’s enough to be a discouragement to the faint of heart. They will become disappointed, even dejected, and eventually will go away.  Those who are naive to the dynamic will conclude that they are inferior in every way and opt for either sublimated existence through drugs or alternative lifestyle or escape the discomfort through suicide.

One positive from this exercise in futility is that each rejection can result in fine tuning the content, whether personal or physical. That results in practice that leads to perfection and could mean that it will be accepted in a better place that will display the content to the advantage of the piece and its creator.

Will the one who originally rejected the content be displeased? No. They won’t even pay attention. Meanwhile, the one who was rejected has come to the conclusion that they are not the one who is unqualified – it’s the venue that has the problem and it isn’t a healthy place.

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September 2, 2015

The Single-Word Image Maker

Filed under: Career Tips,Newsletter — Yvonne LaRose @ 5:43 PM

Ah, the professionalism declaration, saying “Huh” in response to anything, everything, and then repeating it to the point of insanity – or the other person simply walks away (which was the original intent). Who has suggestions for curbing the propensity to do this? Some youth use this in order to have their way without showing blatant defiance. Others simply have a hearing problem. No matter what the explanation, “Huh?” or “What?” is a real image breaker.

August 27, 2015

Fitness Careers

Not to be outdone, it would be wise for a person who’s planning to enter a particular industry and career to start building connections and doing some strategic planning about building credibility and references. These are a few suggestions I want to offer to the blossoming fitness guru. I’m certain there are other things that have been overlooked.

July 23, 2015

About Anna’s Linens

A few days ago I passed by an Anna’s Linens store. To my surprise, the window walls were covered with “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS” signs. Goods and store fixtures were still behind the signs, which indicated the move was recent. I wondered whether it was merely the one store or the entire chain and made a mental note to check news about the business before I spoke of the siting.

Planning for success

Planning for success

Yesterday I found the answer to my question. There are quite a number of news stories about Anna’s attempts to be bought out by a stronger entity rather than file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The talks fell through; bankruptcy papers were filed; the entire chain is closing.

Before reading the news accounts of the business’s status, I speculated about what may have led to the closing. Their target market seemed to be a particular demographic by virtue of the location of their stores. It was typical to find them near or renting space from a discount grocery store in a heavily Hispanic and/or Black community.

Perhaps economic pressures contributed to the downfall. Although in the early days, goods were at bargain or reasonable prices, that practice did not hold true as time passed. The new order showed that the prices of goods were very much comparable to other similar vendors. In fact, it was entirely possible to get the same goods at a Target or Walgreens for a better price.

In addition to pricing, there was the matter of misleading advertising. The print ads lured customers in for the (for example) standard-sized pillow at 30% off. But once the customer entered the store, either the pillows were all sold out or the actual goods on sale were the over-sized pillows that were not on sale and at a higher price point. (A little bait and switch brought back to life.)

With the typical bait and switch, it appeared that was the lead-in training for questionable practices by the staff. They were helpful but it seemed they were too willing to look for that item the shopper really wanted while they no longer had it but something similar for a little higher price. After working in that type of environment, how much of the sales and business ethics practices became a part of the workforce psyche and how far was that cast? Second-hand learning could be passed on to children, friends, and siblings of the workers. Associates of the workers may have fallen victims of the practices used outside of the store, things such as trade items, collaborate on activities, or build terms of relationships. It became an environment much akin to “Big Brother” or “Survivor” and I finally had enough. I stopped shopping there and sought better bargains at places I felt were much more ethical.

News accounts say the company over expanded too rapidly. The act of gaining more funds and committing oneself to to many financial obligations stretched resources too thin. Most likely economic factors such as people no longer in possession of discretionary spendable dollars also contributed to the downfall. The fact that many of those in the business’s target demographic are existing on slightly more than minimum wage incomes probably didn’t help the circumstances for anyone. And now, as a nation, we’re talking about incrementally raising the minimum wage to $15 over the next five years.

The shelves and racks, the counters of every store, no matter the size, were always filled to overflowing. There was even more in the back in the unlikely happenstance that a particular style, size, or color was not on the sales floor. Perhaps that was yet another factor that played into Anna’s demise – too much held in inventory. It costs money in terms of plant space in order to store quantities of things that aren’t being sold. After a time, items become shelf worn and need to be cleared, even at a slight discount, in order to make more space. But when your inventory isn’t moving, that should be a major indicator that you need to re-order in smaller quantities and at less frequent intervals. It seems someone at Corporate wasn’t using that philosophy.

It’s good that they have been responsible and made arrangements for paying last wages to all of their 2,500 employees.

The question in the back of my mind is how to interview those people to legally screen them for the types of ethical practices one should use in your own business. It would need to be the type of screening administered to every person who applies for and is interviewed for a job with the business and at any rung of the hierarchy of the enterprise. That will take some consideration and conclusions based on decisions from HR, management, and legal departments.

So Anna’s Linens is joining the ranks of many other businesses across the nation and adding to the number of empty building walls abutting one another. Anna’s Linens is closing.


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July 1, 2015

On Your Shoulders


Reliability Definition Magnifier Shows Trust Quality And Dependability

Taking responsibility for failure to deliver is essential to reaching maturity. Recognizing when circumstances begin to build toward a failed commitment and making necessary, satisfactory adjustments is essential to having the right leadership ingredients. Those involve planning and foresight. Those involve being able to make contingency plans.

Compensation and resourcefulness are important to remember for the sake of projecting professionalism.

Whatever the dynamic, the “slippage” is not the fault of someone else or something else and responsibility for it is On Your Shoulders. Read more about it in the Career Coach Corner.

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