The Desk

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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June 9, 2014

The Growing and the Going

Here’s some interesting news. The job market is opening up again. Unemployment claims are down from the April 2014 statistics. “Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons declined by 1.2 percentage points and 1.9 million, respectively.” (Employment Situation Summary of June 6, 2014) Nonetheless, the critical questions are

  • In what industries is there positive growth?
  • Are there age limitations on these opportunities?
  • What is the average salary?
  • How much education is required?

Growth Jobs

Now these are some excellent things to take into consideration. The first article I found lists seven careers that are growing while offering compensation at significantly more than a minimum wage. All of them require at least an Associate’s degree. But the average pay starts at approximately $22 (computer support specialist and paralegal) and increases to just over $34 (diagnostic medical sonographer and dental hygienist). Sandwiched inbetween are occupations such as police officer, web designer, and registered nurse.

It’s important to also state that “all wage information [is] from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Employment and Wages data, May 2013.”

A police officer is going to have age (35 years) and physical agility restrictions. The LAPD puts their officers through their specialized training and schooling. For some reason, it seems they are also required to learn penmanship. This would be a good occupation for someone who knows how to take orders, show restraint, know the difference between a situation that requires active intervention and when just talking the individuals into calmness is appropos. This occupation also requires good listening skills and being objective.

A dental hygienist is also going to have physical demands on their abilities. Standing for long periods of time and the ability to reach, especially at odd angles, are things that should be considered.

The jobs that require personal interaction with people will also require good listening skills, sensitivity to what’s happening with the person with whom you’re dealing, and the ability to tactfully and accurately give instructions. Where reports need to be prepared as part of the follow up, good grammar and spelling are imperative.

Take a look at the occupations that are enumerated. Some of them can be accomplished while seated, even seated at home. So don’t rule out web design just because you can’t sit in the traditional cubicle. (In fact, maybe you want to celebrate that one!)

Shrinking Demand

The next five occupations are noted as having “salary information and projected job growth rates from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012.” The growth rates between 2010 to 2020 are low, in some cases only 5%, in one case as low as 0%. In other words, these are jobs to be avoided if you’re looking for long-term opportunities.

But I began to scrutinize the jobs a little closer and paid closer attention to the descriptions. Perhaps it isn’t so much a matter of the jobs dying as much as the titles are changing to something else. While a teller may be a job that holds little promise of a future (and low pay), it is a starting point in the world of finance. There is some merit to considering it as a job to get you through school at night while earning your degree – and the qualifications for the next step. That occupation is compared to opportunities as a financial analyst which requires more sophisticated skill sets and more advanced education.

Likewise, it was surprising to see that fashion designer is a fading occupation. However, the article attributes a number of factors such as competitiveness and allure of the trade contribute to its low pay. On the other hand, a position as an art director is a much more lucrative situation as far as compensation, growth, and opportunity for career diversity – not to mention prestige.

What’s in a name? It seems, quite a bit. The dental lab technician is a low paying job with little growth prospects. But turn that into being a dental hygienist and the options explode. Much like the teller jobs, it appears the lab tech is an entry-level situation that can be done while gaining education in order to take the next step.

A craft and fine artist has a lot of competition going against it in addition to poor economic conditions. However, before leaping into a career as a graphic artist (much more lucrative), consider the markets that the fine arts and crafts fields offer. Rehabilitative services can be delivered to those whose motor skills are impaired or in need of development. That creates opportunities for a broad age spectrum from small children who need to learn how to hold and manipulate instruments in order to do many things all the way to seniors who need to maintain their motorskills – and all the folks on the spectrum inbetween.

Which leads me to the last category of jobs that are fading – credit authorizer compared with actuary. While the availability of online credit reports is creating pressure on the life of the credit authorizer, there will still be banks and real estate businesses (title companies, for example) that will rely on the authorizer’s collection of data. Again, it’s a starting point; it doesn’t have to be done in a cubicle; there are low physical demands although the need for care in collecting and interpreting data for the correct individual or entity is paramount.

There for the Taking

These forecasts aren’t in a crystal ball. Anyone can access them for free by using the Occupational Outlook Handbook, a comprehensive tool published by the federal government. Portions of the information is available by using the salary calculator tool on any job website. And there are also salary websites (whose calculator tools are usually part of the job websites) such as Salary.com or PayScale.com. Use them in combination with other tools or just use one. Do your research. Keep yourself on a positive plane.

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July 23, 2012

Qualified and Disabled

QUESTION:

After making formal application for an advertised opportunity, I was invited to interview. When the interviewer saw that I am blind and use a wheelchair, she exclaimed that she could not see how I would be of benefit to that company [in light of my disabilities].

I got the job but I would like to know what to do the next time I interview and face a similar negative attitude.

ANSWER:

I’m glad that this sounds as though the outcome was positive. It shows that you demonstrated some excellent skills and ability to do the job. Congratulations. It also sounds as though you did a very good job of creating a sense of credibility for yourself through doing well during the interview. Possibly, you said empowering things that you did not even realize you were saying.

In answering your question, let me start then by discussing the most essential presentation during an interview.

  • your skills and qualifications for the opportunity
  • quantifiable evidence of how you are qualified
  • how those skills and qualifications will help the business function as well or better with you in the position.

You already pointed out that you were early for the appointment. That is good. It shows that you appreciate timeliness and that worked in your favor. No doubt, you took with you two extra copies of your resume so that they were ready in case your interviewer did not have it on top of her desk and you had one for yourself to pull out and discuss with them. You demonstrated being well prepared and skill in foreseeing and making contingency plans for unforseen circumstances. You showed diplomacy and tact.

The focus should not be on your shortcomings nor your disability (please note that those are two different things) but on you, how and why you are qualified. Discuss your direct, on-the-job experience that relates to the new opportunity. Discuss how well you performed in your last situation and how your input was beneficial to the customer and the company. If there were things or situations that were done better because of your involvement, talk about them.

Your speech should be cordial, business-like and professional. It should be at a good volume – not loud nor apologetic. Make certain your voice does not sound whiney – don’t be a martyr nor a cry baby. You are a strong, intelligent professional person. Show that in your deportment and presentation.

Finally (for this writing), openly discuss your disabilities. However, do not apologize for them. Discuss how adaptive you are to many situations and in short order so that you have several approaches to situations. These are not disabilities; they are opportunities for new ways of doing things. They are abilities that others do not have. Sometimes being in a chair makes you better suited for doing certain things better or more easily than others. Having low vision or no vision affords you with still other advantages. Point them out.

And having a disability is not the same as not being able. It is merely a different way of handling life and business situations. Two of your fellow South Africans have discussed coming into meaningful contributions to business and society by realizing how those “disabilities” proved to be assets and empowerment. Likewise, they point out how that South Africa’s (as well as India’s) relatively recent affirmative action legislation has created new legal bases for opening doors.

Although it positively states that those with disabilities are entitled to vie for opportunities, there is still a long way to go as far as making that new legislation meaningful for there is still the critical element of educating employers about the opportunities that are available to them through using all of the diverse population – diverse in age, sex, race and abilities. Likewise, there is still the matter of educating employers about the fact that employing those with “disabilities” is not a costly proposition and does not mean extraordinary expense to include that segment of candidates in the considered roster of candidates and personnel.

You did well and it appears you did so without realizing you did so. Focus on how you will be an asset to the company and will save money, enhance the business opportunities, have abilities that your co-workers may not have because of the issues that others see as shortcomings. Affirmatively show how you are qualified and “disabled.”

About the Author:

Yvonne LaRose was a Disabilities Accommodation Provider in the Bay Area of California from 1993 to 1997 as well as one of the founding members of Bay Area Disabilities Coalition (BADC). In addition, she was a news reader for Broadcast Services for the Blind (BSB) (a private band radio station based in the Rose Resnick Lighthouse for the Blind that reaches 13,000 listeners in 13 counties) from 1993 to 1997. From BSB, she produced and hosted her bi-weekly radio features and newscast, “Legally Speaking” from 1994 to 1996.

Originally published December 25, 2001

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September 4, 2011

10 Best Value Places to Live

When it comes to knowing where to live and find work, it’s difficult to find a place. We normally think of the typical big cities with large populations. We believe those meccas have a lot to offer in terms of things to do, job opportunities, nearby vacation and normal entertainment, education, and so on. This is not necessarily true.

This morning’s Wall Street Journal Report shared the 10 best value places (the slide show) to live according to a study in which Kiplinger’s Personal Finance participated. The folks at Martin Prosperity Institute came up with a list of 100 cities and then asked the Kiplinger’s team to visit the sites and narrow the list down to ten.

They came up with a surprising list. Who would expect to find a cornucopia of job opportunities, affordable living (in terms of square footage for houses), reasonably priced goods, good education, and good entertainment. Even Colorado Springs, mostly military in nature, has some great things to offer and made the top ten list, as did Wichita, Cedar Rapids, and Omaha.

If you want a little more detail than the slide show provides, you can also click into the details provided in the guide.

Good searching! Take a little pressure off of those seemingly glutted markets and open the door to some treasure troves of opportunities.

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