Tuesday, December 31, 2013

13 Career and Workplace Trends and Predictions for 2014 and Beyond. Part I

HERE, on USNews.com, is Part I of my 13 career and workplace trends and predictions for 2014 and beyond, including a rundown on how accurate my 2013 predictions were.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Can Planting A Garden Get You Unstuck?

I met yesterday with a client who had been dispirited for a long time and felt unable to make himself look for a job.

Far from the standard career advice, I suggested he plant a garden. I felt he needed an inspiring win to get him moving again.

He was excited, but moreso than I realized. He emailed me today that he was up all night thinking about his garden.

If starting a garden intrigues you, here are some suggestions:

Plant in winter for a spring crop: Allstar gourmet lettuce mix, Estella Rijnveld tulips. (The latter won't work in climates that don't get frost in winter.)

Plant in early spring after last frost: Early Girl tomatoes (matures early,) Big Beef tomatoes (matures later,) Tendersnax carrots, Honey Select corn, Uproar Rose zinnia.

Plant in late spring/early summer for a late summer/fall crop: Packman broccoli, Super Sugar Snap Pea-6-feet tall, mildew resistant) or Snow Pea Norli (2 feet tall), Magellan Coral zinnia.

To create a good environment for growing, pick a sunny patch of soil. Unless the soil is very clayey or very sandy, just spread 2 to 3 inches of a good compost and a handful of general-purpose granular fertilizer over each square yard of soil and spade it in thoroughly.  If your soil is very clayey or sandy, do the above but you might want to lay a raised bed over it. That's simply a box made, for example, of  2 x 8 to 2 x 12 untreated heart redwood or cedar with metal corners to connect the pieces. Those are available at any hardware or home improvement store. Fill that with 2/3 garden soil, 1/3 compost plus a scant handful of fertilizer per square yard.

Friday, December 27, 2013

I'll be on KQED's Forum today: The Present and Future of Jobs/Workplace

I'll be on KQED's Forum (88.5 FM in San Francisco, worldwide at KQED.org) today from 10:30 AM to 11 AM to discuss the most important changes in the job market in 2013 and likely changes in 2014.

Update: HERE is the link to the segment.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The U.S. Job Market is Improving? Bah, Humbug!

The government tries to convince us that the job market is improving by citing that the unemployment rate has declined.

That's grossly misleading. I prove so in my deeply pessimistic AOL.com article today.

To read it, click HERE.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The U.S. Workplace: NOT Bah, Humbug!

Since November 4, I've been devoting my U.S.News writings to a Bah, Humbug! series. Each week, I find something to criticize about employment in America.

But perhaps because Christmas is nigh, I've decided to, like Scrooge, find a little last-minute Christmas spirit. So my USNews.com contribution today is: The U.S.Workplace: Not Bah, Humbug!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dealing with Holiday Stress in a Harsh World

When I asked readers what they'd like me to write about, Doug Skinner sent me the following email. (He has given me permission to reprint it.)
What's on my mind, Marty, is handling stress from the holidays. I'd love to find a place of peace and joy in a world that's pretty harsh.
Okay, Doug, here are my thoughts.

It seems you're asking about two separate things: how to handle holiday stress and how to deal with a harsh world. I'll try to address both:

Dealing with holiday stress

We'll feel stressed or sad if the upcoming holiday season is unlikely to live up to the stereotype, for example, a party with the happy extended family laughing and bonding. Here are four ways to address the situation:
  • Create Christmas: Gather hand-picked relatives and friends or make new ones by taking out a Craiglist platonic ad or even people you like at work, in an avocation, or even at a bar. Invite them to a Christmas party at your place, the community room at your apartment complex, wherever. Invite a lost soul to spend New Year's Eve with you. 
  • Volunteer your butt off. A great way to deflect feeling sorry for yourself is to turn your attention to helping others. 
  • Forget the norm and enjoy the holidays in solitude. Music, TV, your favorite foods, a glass of wine, contemplation or writing, can make a Christmas that's more rewarding and less stressful than what many people experience.
  • Resolve to make more friends or build family relations so next year's holidays will be better.
Of course, a major source of Christmas stress is gifting. Except for a present I bought on Amazon for my wife and one for my best friend, I've forgone gifting and instead created a musical and storytelling holiday e-card that I sent broadly. If someone likes me less for not buying them a present, I believe it's their failing, not mine. For years, I've been sending only an e-card on which I read or play piano and haven't lost one friend as a result.

The harsh world

True, the world seems to be getting harsher. People don't keep their promises. They don't return phone calls. Job applicants often don't even get the dignity of a rejection letter-- they must wait indefinitely hoping, in vain. Even family members may screw each other, especially for money. As my father said, "Respect but suspect."

But there are many good people plus many more who are good when treated well. Easier said than done but I believe it's worth working hard to be a good person. Also, maximize the amount of time you spend with good people and minimize time with lesser lights. Do those things and your stress will likely diminish and somehow the world won't seem so harsh.

I hope that helps, Doug.

Should You Retire?: 10 Questions to Help You Decide.

My USNews.com contribution today: Should You Retire?: 10 Questions to Help You Decide.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Is there anything you'd like to see me write about?

Is there anything you'd like to see me write about?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Greatest Publicity Stunt of All Time?

This is  the greatest publicity stunt I've ever seen! I believe WestJet will reap 1,000 times its cost in new business---and as far as I'm concerned, it's just fine. When deciding among two similarly priced and scheduled flights, this would make me choose WestJet.

What Would You Like to Occur at Your Memorial?

I just saw the play The Dining Room. In one scene, an older man told his son what he wants to occur at his memorial.

My mom is in hospice now. She has not said what she'd like and now isn't in good enough shape to tell me. That's unfortunate.

So I thought I'd write this blog post encouraging you to let your closest person(s) know what you'd like for your memorial get-together.

To encourage your thinking on this, I thought it might be helpful if I shared what I'd want:

I don't want a funeral home or even cemetery involved, nor a cleric. I've signed up for cryonics so my body will be frozen and taken to Alcor for storage in hopes of reviving me if at some point, medical science has advanced enough for that to be possible. Despite such recent discoveries that there may be a true way to dramatically reverse aging, I'm well aware that it's a very long shot but there was little to lose in signing up. It gives me a little peace of mind knowing there's at least some possibility I might come back.

I'd want a very simple memorial get-together. My wife or, if she's gone, whoever, would invite 10 or 20 people who knew me to come to their place or mine for a bite to eat and a glass of wine, and to share, honestly, how I've affected them, for better or worse. The truth. It wouldn't be a drawn-out affair. An hour or two, no more. End of story.

May it be 30 years from now.

So, do you want to make known your desires for your memorial? Feel free to post it as a comment on this blog post.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Musical and Storytelling Holiday E-Card for You

Here's the holiday e-card I sent to my friends, clients, and colleagues. I thought you might enjoy it too. 

Dear Friends, Clients, and Colleagues,

I'm grateful for another good year: I continue to enjoy career coaching, writing weekly for USNews.com, hosting my NPR-San Francisco radio show, my marriage to my dear Barbara, and my canine love-muffin, Einstein.

HERE is my friend, Jeffrie Givens, singing Silent Night with me accompanying on the piano.

And HERE is the  link to a video of me reading the children's story I just finished writing: Venus and Iris: A Children’s Story…But Not Really.

May you have a rewarding holiday season.


Work-Life Balance is Overrated

Work/life balance is overrated. That's the contention of my USNews.com post today.

Some of the most contented, contributory and not-burned-out people I know have worked 60+ hours a week for a lifetime.

HERE is the link.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Should You Stop Trying to Change Yourself?

Change is much harder than the change industry would have us believe. Many shrinks, how-to writers, and TV exhorters from Oprah to Suze Orman to Rick Warren make it sound easy: "Just do what I say."

It ain't that easy, at least for my clients and for me:

My cold-call reluctant clients rarely get comfortable cold-calling. My math-challenged clients rarely become good at math. My shy clients rarely become social.

I know I should eat broccoli not cheese, be laid-back not intense, cheerful not dour, but I can't make myself do any of them for very long. Nothing helps: reminders, accountability, looking at supposed childhood roots, nothing.

We are mainly a function of our genes and early environment. Defying those ain't easy. So might we all be wiser to  accept ourselves basically as-is and simply find the work, relationships, and recreations that don't require us to make major changes?

You can tune-up a Prius all you like but it will never win a race against a Porsche.  But a Prius, in its context, is most worthy in itself.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

On Boredom

This morning, a couple of my clients rescheduled last-minute so I found myself with a rare not-busy few hours. Boredom set in instantly.

So I decided to pace the room and see what thoughts emerged. Here's what emanated. Perhaps you might find something of use:
  • It's amazing how important being needed and busy is, at least for some people. 
  • Relaxing and smelling the roses for more than a little time feels like a waste, not restorative, a waste. Life feels like it should, as much as possible, be about productivity, contribution.
  • Busy people contemplating retirement, beware. It may be enticing to envision mornings lingering over a cup of coffee, reading the news, and organizing your living space, but that well may get old. Retirement tends to be like the roach motel: you can check in but you can't check out. 
  •  Do I want to write another how-to book? No. I think people get more benefit per hour from reading article-length advice.
  •  Do I want to do more volunteer work? No. My seeing pro-bono clients, speaking for free to groups of unemployed people, and significant cash donations feel like enough. 
  • I worry that my charitable donations won't do enough good. I like funding unpopular causes that hold promise of making a huge difference, like education for the gifted and understanding the biological basis of intelligence. But my money is merely a drop of water into an ocean. Is there a better use of my money? 
  • Is there something new I want to do? No, I just want to do a good job at what I already do: career and personal coaching, writing my USNews.com column and this blog, my radio show, being a good husband, answering all my email, being kind where I can, direct when it's wiser. Yes, that's enough.
  • The New York Times reported yesterday that hospitals kill 440,000 people a year. In a few years when all those millions of high-need, low-paying people join the health care rolls thanks to ObamaCare, including the 11 million illegals when they become legal through "comprehensive immigration reform," many more will die--not just from the hospitals being overwhelmed but from lack of access to doctors, MRI machines, operating rooms, etc. Ironic that not only am I subsidizing their health care, I have a greater chance of dying because masses of people came to the U.S. illegally.
  • Despite being so disciplined about everything else, why I can I not stop overeating? I really should lose those 20 pounds, dammit.
Those are my musings during today's boring few hours. Care to share yours?

Monday, December 2, 2013

(Some) Employees: Bah, Humbug!

My last week's contribution to USNews.com was (Some) Employers, Bah Humbug!  This week, it's (Some) Employees: Bah Humbug!