Thursday, 29 December 2011

Babysitting Your Gen-Y Employees


As a Gen-Y professional in Human Resources, I’m often confronted with a lot of research on how I am supposed to be managed. A lot of this research is not written by Gen-Y researchers, and they make it sound like they’re babysitting. Chances are, if you start “babysitting” your employees, they’re going to hate you…in the face. I wanted to take a couple of minutes to explain what we’re looking for from our perspective.


Employee Recognition: As a Gen-Y, I will go ahead and let you know that most companies are terrible at this. We don’t need a little trophy, certificate or a coffee mug every time we do our job. We do like to be acknowledged for things we do that have a positive impact on the organization, and if we create something impressive, it would be nice to have our names on it. Don’t go overboard. “Hey Scott, thanks for doing that thing I said you had to do in order to keep your job. That was great of you.” This makes us feel more patronized than appreciated.

Feedback: I have been told that I’m a typical Gen-Y because of this one. We’re not asking for you to stand behind us and hold our hands. We don’t need constant supervision, but we are incredibly efficient and we don’t like to waste our time. Spending a week on a course of action that you are eventually going to shut down is not on the top of our to-do list. I just want to know if this is right before I do it 80 more times. Asking for feedback is not a genetic deformity. It means we WANT to do a good job the first time. Go ahead and be happy about that.

Flexible Work Hours: Do you expect your employees to clock out at exactly 5pm regardless of what needs to be done? If you answered yes, then by all means continue what you’re doing. One hour is not long enough to go out and eat lunch at a restaurant and come back. If there’s no operational requirement for me to be in my seat in exactly one hour, perhaps I could make that extra time up at the end of the day. Employees have varying schedules. If you’re trying to attract a super-ambitious employee who is part of an association, is learning a new language and plays a sport, you better be prepared to send some work home with them.

Also, some people are more effective at weird hours of the day. I have an efficiency burst between 10am and 12pm and another one between Midnight and 2am (That’s when blogs get written). Making me plow through a sluggish afternoon instead of letting me take a nap really only hurts you. If you need me to write something by a specific date, why do I have to sit in my office all afternoon to do it? … Oh yeah, and some people have kids or whatever.

Important: Avoid Unnecessary Rules (Like A Dress Code): We need reasons for why things are the way they are. “That’s the way they’ve always been” can’t be one of them. First think about why you have a dress code. Does anyone even see your employees?

“The company would like to project a professional image. Therefore, it is required that all employees dress in business casual attire.”

This is perfectly acceptable…unless one of your Senior Managers routinely shows up in pleated khakis and a tie that looks like he keeps it in his pocket. This no longer says “professional.” If people aren’t going to be required to iron, wash or coordinate their outfits, I should be able to pull off a nice pair of jeans and a dress shirt.

This also includes unnecessary rules regarding internet usage. However, I've already expressed my opinion on this one here: http://educatedandinexperienced.blogspot.com/2011/10/social-networking-at-work-why-banning.html

Practice What You Preach: Culture is a top down thing. We see what you do. Don’t impose rules on your employees you wouldn’t want to impose on yourself. Like most people in the Fredericton region, I have worked in a call center. You are required to be plugged in and taking calls for your full 8 hours. You have breaks that are scheduled for you (normally not at the same time as your friends), and you have 10 minutes per shift of unscheduled breaks (to go do your business). There are operational requirements that merit treating employees like cattle. However, when one of the cattle sees the entire management team out having lunch together at a picnic table at the same time, they can’t help but time them. Commence job apathy and absenteeism.

The “problem” with Gen-Y employees is that we just don’t accept things at face value. “Because I said so” only works on children. If this is going to be your philosophy, be prepared to lower your standards, because the only employees you’ll retain are the ones who can’t function in an environment where they’re treated like adults. 

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Educational Requirements: Overrated


Isn’t it weird that you can’t prove to an employer that you are able to do something unless you pay someone to give you a piece of paper to make it real? Have you ever applied to a position where they asked you to be fluent with Microsoft Office? I can understand that this is a requirement, but when they ask you in the interview “what is your experience with MS Office?” don’t you want to patronise them a little? Um…I’m under 100 and I live on Earth. What if they required you to have a certificate demonstrating that you had taken a course in MS Office? If you needed a course to figure it out, you probably shouldn’t be applying for the job. There’s going to be a new version next year, and you may not have time to take a course on it.

For certain positions, it used to be kosher to step right out of high school into a company and learn how to do the job. We’ve developed so many different specialized titles and certifications that someone with no letters after their name might as well be deemed incompetent. Was everyone “back in the day” pretty much useless? Nope! What happened is we all got lazy. We don’t want to take the time to look into a candidate who hasn’t sunk tens of thousands of dollars into education to become our employee. Does spending too much money on a course of action make you more likely to want to pursue it? It sure does! It’s also called “escalation of commitment” and it’s a flaw, not a desirable attribute in an employee.

If you start adding educational requirements you could eliminate entire generations from the workforce. Why would an administrative assistant need to spend two years at college to learn how to be a receptionist?  I know you have 30 years of experience, but where’s your piece of paper? If you talk to someone in the IT industry, they’ll tell you that when it comes to programmers, it doesn’t matter how much or little education they have. Learning how to program out of high school doesn’t make you any less qualified than someone who took computer science. Remember, Zuckerberg didn’t wait until he graduated to create Facebook, and people didn’t wait until he got his degree to think it was awesome.  

We use education as a heuristic. Basically we say someone with a degree in something, should have “entry level knowledge” about that topic. For example: Someone with an Arts degree should have the ability to do research, and think critically about things. Isn’t it possible that some people learned to do research and think critically about things on their own? Also, if you graduated from a Bachelor’s program with some of the people I did, you would not make this assumption.

Educational Restrictions Can Come Back to Bite You

Scenario: You have an account manager who goes out on sick leave. Your receptionist is the only person who knows enough about the accounts to effectively take them over for the time being. You put the receptionist in charge of the accounts (watching her closely) and hire a temp to help with the administrative work. Your former receptionist turns out to be a genius. Your clients are very happy with her and she has shown she is ready to be a full account manager. The new receptionist is also working out well. After six months the account manager on leave ends up quitting because….well….he secretly hated you and found another position. Don’t take it personally…it happens.

You look at the resumes of your two employees. Your former receptionist has high school equivalency and 10 years working as an administrative assistant in marketing firms. Your new temp has a 2 year community college degree in marketing including a 1 year marketing internship and this is her first job since then.You check the classification specs for this position.

Account Manager: 2 year marketing degree or related field plus 1 year experience.

….do you see where I’m going with this? Your brand new receptionist qualifies for your newly vacant position, but your superstar employee that all your clients love does not. Here’s how this plays out if you stick to your classification specs. Your new employee gets the account manager position and your receptionist poisons your coffee. I wanted to point out (again) that you died in this scenario.

If there’s no legal reason why someone needs a specific degree or designation (like an accountant would) then adding educational requirements to a position’s classification is basically like shooting yourself in the foot (or poisoning your own coffee). Obviously if you are running a competition for a position and don’t have any mind succession planning in place, you could add the educational requirement for the sole purpose of reducing the amount of eligible applicants to a manageable number. Just keep in mind that when you create your job description, the educational requirements should be somewhat flexible. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Stirring It Up With Cocoamotion

When I showed up to Leo Hayes High School to interview the staff of Cocoamotion, I was certainly not expecting a group of enthusiastic students working hard on a Wednesday night. (Having watched Mean Girls four times, I consider myself an expert in teenage culture.) The room was full of mugs in the process of having a chalkboard surface applied, and the atmosphere put most corporate cultures to shame. They were genuinely excited about their product, and even over the course of the interview they were coming up with new (good) ideas.

Cocoamotion is one of four companies from the Junior Achievers Company Program in Fredericton. Junior Achievement is a Not for Profit Organization that provides youth with experiences that promote financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness skills. The Company Program teams high school students with professional volunteer consultants to design, organize and operate a real business. It basically blows your typical high school entrepreneurship class out of the water.

The team sells $7 specialty mugs with 2 mugs worth of hot chocolate and marshmallows and a stick of chalk. The face of the mug has a rectangular chalkboard surface that allows you to doodle, erase, and re-doodle.

When asked about the idea, the team responded that they wanted to “make” something versus buying an assortment of things, repackaging them and selling them for a profit. Mugs had been done by teams in previous years, but no one had ever made it possible for the consumer to personalize them.

Cocoamotion could have appeared to be somewhat of an underdog in this competition. They have the fewest members AND the fewest number of consultants. They also have a fairly young team. Of the 22 members there are 2 in grade 11, 1 in grade 10, the rest are in grade 9 and none of them have ever taken part in the Junior Achievers program before. When asked about how they feel their numbers affect their sales, they noted that they all have to work harder, less people can slack off and everyone has to pull their weight. However, they did note that it might make it a little easier to coordinate amongst the group. In addition to the three hours per week they dedicate to the project, they’ve added a few extra hours to keep up with demand.

In week 10 of an 18 week project, the team has already broken even. Out of 14 teams across New Brunswick they are one of three who have been able to accomplish this. They also noted that while other teams’ sales appear to be slowing down, theirs are picking up. When asked about the pricing they noted that they wanted to charge $5, but they wouldn’t be making much off it. Most teams were charging $10, but at $10 people start thinking more critically about their purchase, and so they settled on $7. They also had the foresight to purchase a food license so they could sell their products at the market, exclaiming that their product fit well with the market clientele.

The entire process has been a learning experience for the whole team. They admitted they didn’t really know what they were doing at first and a lot of what they know now came from trial and error. When I asked about the communications strategy they noted that it kind of developed on its own. They knew they were going to use Facebook, and they created some posters to put up around the school. Since then, they have added a kijiji ad that has received almost 200 hits since December 10th. All of the members have been using their own social networking sites to promote the product as well. Also, in the near future they plan to launch a twitter site.

I know what you’re thinking …and you are correct. The bovine steroids in our meat have mutated our children into successful capitalists much faster than previous generations. I would have loved to have sat there and listened to them continue to come up with new ideas, but they kicked me out at 8pm so they could spend more time working.

Cocoamotion will be at the W.W. Boyce Farmer’s Market this Sunday from  10am to 3pm. If you can’t make it to the market, track them down on Facebook 


Or respond to their kijiji ad 


I want to thank all of the members of Cocoamotion who met with me.

Katarina (Co-President)
Amber (Co-President)
James (VP of Production)
Juno (VP of Marketing)
Alec (VP of IT)
Kyusung (VP of Finance)

See you at the market on Sunday!!!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Dude Where’s My Job? Episode 1 – Where to Look

Congratulations on completing your post-secondary education that was supposed to make you super-employable. Now forget your government-issued GenY sense of entitlement and realize that you are at the absolute bottom of the food chain. Unless you somehow managed to accumulate three to five years of experience in your desired field you’re about to be super-disappointed. When you begin the job hunt, it can be slightly overwhelming. There are so many different ways to be rejected. Which do you focus on?

Applying to Vacant, Advertised Positions

Identify the job sites that are most used by businesses in the geographic location you are looking. Also, find sites that focus on career opportunities in your industry. This is your primary source of vacant, advertised positions and is where you will spend most of your time. Be ready to fill your days writing cover letters and sending resumes that never get answered or possibly even read. The job market is a touch awful, and overqualified candidates are applying for the positions you just qualify for.  The people running competitions for positions you are overqualified for are hesitant to look at you, because they’re scared you won’t be around long. Job banks are pretty much a graveyard for the resumes of the inexperienced. Remember, rejection is part of the process. It’s like dating, but you don’t waste time sending drunk text messages to businesses that didn’t call you back… if you did, that’s probably why you’re unemployed…wait….is that why you’re single?

Filling Out Online Profiles

Larger companies, like the Irvings and McCains of the world, will want you to fill out online profiles on their websites. These will be the most frustrating things you will EVER fill out! I understand that it makes it easier for the company to organize their competitions, but it’s a serious pain in the ass for the job seeker. It’s never an efficient system for the user. Especially when there’s a glitch in their software or when your letter head was fine for the resume, but the cover letter exceeds their maximum size (KB) and you have to delete the graphics from it so you can upload it to their system. When you’re reading a job ad that looks interesting and you get to the bottom where they tell you to apply on their website, you WILL want to kill yourself. Take a deep breath and look at the closing date to see if it needs to be filled out now. Try and limit these to one per day to stave off urges to hurt yourself.

Side Note: Dear Staffing Companies. You are the worst offenders. Especially when you release multiple Ads and I have to start all over again every time! Yeah I’m talking to you David Aplin Recruiting.

Go Back in Time and Start Networking

What you should have done, like forever ago, is join a relevant association or special interest group that is directed at professionals in your field. If you’re in a small city (like Fredericton) most of the jobs are not advertised. You get them through connections. Now that you’re kicking yourself for not having been proactive, start networking. In addition to attending physical networking events, you should also be reaching out to people online.

First go through your Facebook account and delete (or ask friends to delete) all of the pictures of you in compromising positions. You “could” attempt to leave them up and manage the privacy settings, but even Zuckerberg can’t keep that stuff private. Develop a wholesome online presence and start following (stalking) all of the companies you want to work for on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,  and whatever other networking site becomes popular in the future. (Seriously guys... Google+ is gonna be awesome as soon as everyone gets it.) 

Make sure you have updated your online resume or LinkedIn account and have the link displayed prominently somewhere accessible to potential employers. Then start interacting with these companies by retweeting , sharing and commenting on their posts. Not only does this introduce you to important people in the companies you would like to work for, but it creates the delusion that your afternoon on Facebook was productive. (I got all kinds of high scores on Bejeweled!)

Volunteer

Even while you’re working, if your intent is to move up, you should be doing something outside of work. Chances are your current employer is more focused on making sure you have the tools to do your current job than developing your skill set so you can move into higher positions. The right volunteer positions will allow you to develop leadership and project management skills that will be necessary for management positions. While completely satisfying, walking dogs would not provide that opportunity. Choose wisely.

Part Time / Temporary Work

If you’ve spent four to six years in University and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, you might think that temporary work is beneath you. Unless you saved several months’ salary so you could comfortably look for your dream job, it’s not. Working part-time in an office that has some relation to your desired field is an excellent networking opportunity. Try contacting a local staffing firm and letting them know your intent. No! Don’t fill out their stupid online profile. I’m pretty sure they just throw those in the garbage. Call and make an appointment to go talk to an actual person. Then follow them on every social networking site available and start interacting with them. They need to remember you exist.

…Stay tuned for future episodes

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Financially Illiterate: What is Wrong With Us?

Did anyone notice a slew of new shows on television surrounding debt reduction in the past few years? Were people always this terrible with money or is it a new thing? Our parents grew up thinking you were supposed to have the money in the bank before you purchased something with the exception of a car and a house. Some of our grandparents grew up not ever needing a loan. They paid for everything with cash and stored it in a mattress. We don’t have that option anymore. Not ever having any debt or credit to pay off is actually a hindrance now. Try getting a loan from the bank for a house without any actual credit history…go ahead, I’ll wait.

Our current problem is the availability of credit regardless of how irresponsible we are. You have to get into real trouble before people stop giving you the opportunity to destroy yourself financially. Much like our obesity problem, we have issues with short-term and long-term results. Instant gratification generally overrides long-term goals. This can be corrected by changing the way we socialize with each other around the topic of money.

How Do We Counteract The Purchase High?

We need to assign some non-financial accountability to purchases. Apparently, it’s taboo to talk about money with anyone but your spouse. If you’re single, no one even knows you’re financially retarded unless you have to ask them for money. We’re not allowed to ask people how much they make or how much they spend on things. This is what we need to change. We get the instant gratification from purchasing something we can’t afford, and the additional gratification of having other people compliment us on our things. The messy business of severe debt doesn’t become a problem for at least a month, if not longer.

Example: When you walk into someone’s newly constructed home and see a large flat screen mounted on the wall with brand new furniture being dusted by a cleaning service, we automatically think “Hey, this guy doesn't really make a lot of money. I am super impressed that he has these things.” Instead of “Hey, this idiot makes minimum wage, what the hell is wrong with him?”

Then we ask them questions like “how big is that TV?” and “What’s the definition on that?”

Then they reply with all of the enthusiasm of someone who’s cured cancer.

“65 inches” and “it’s a new form of HD that’s actually clearer than real life.”

He has now been rewarded for his irresponsible behaviour.

Changing the way we talk about money will make this guy think before he makes a purchase like this. His current thought process can be mapped out as follows:

Step 1: I would like a big TV

Step 2: Decision made, TV purchased. I’m gonna watch Nickelback videos on it as soon as I get home.

Next time you see a TV this size ask “How much did that cost?” and “How did you pay for it?” and “How long until it’s paid off?” This will eliminate any positive feelings this person had about his purchase unless he purchased it responsibly. He will respond “way too much” and “well I put it on my credit card” and “probably never as I always carry a balance on my card” or “I’m leasing to own it. I only end up paying three times as much as it costs.” Don’t worry about offending or embarrassing these people. They need it. You’re helping!

Look at his new thought process after we fix the way we think about money.

Step1: I would like a big TV

Step 2: How stupid am I going to look when people ask me about the price and they compare it to my income and debt level?

Step 3: Math

Step 4: Frowny-face

When people walk into my apartment and see my mismatched furniture and tiny entertainment system, they think “Oh look at the little twenty-something with his little tv/dvd player combo…adorable.” Instead of “Wow, I bet that guy has a credit card with a zero balance.”…then of course they would see the shoe boxes and tie collection and those thoughts would dissipate.

This shouldn’t be merely related to purchases either. We should be able to ask people how much they’re putting in their retirement funds and savings accounts for trips and toys. It’s going to be uncomfortable at first, but I think we can do this. Imagine if someone had been able to ask your parents how much they were putting away for your college fund. If the accountability aspect doesn't do it, the shame of admitting to their friends that even though they can afford it, they’re not planning on supporting their child’s post-secondary education could result in a lot of new accounts being opened. 

I know a lot of you think that educating people on their personal finances would solve these problems, but convincing them to save money takes more than showing them what they will have accumulated in 25 to 30 years. It's not that we don't know it's good to save money, we just don't care. Remember, guilt and shame are more powerful than education.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Please Stop Ruining My Christmas With All Your Complaints

If you’re like me you have been reading a slew of Facebook statuses and Tweets by angry Jesus enthusiasts and Atheists complaining about the presence and/or lack of Christ in Christmas.

First of all, I write Xmas because my phone is awful for tweeting, Facebooking and texting. (Damn you LG Bliss!!!! You cost as much as an iphone two years ago.) You can’t have your religious holiday recognized nationally in a country that promotes multiculturalism without having its message slightly diluted. You win some, you lose some. I don’t want my tweets to be scrutinized because of an omission or addition of the name of a religious figure. I just want my followers to know what kind of party I’m getting sloshed at.

Side Note: This isn’t even limited to Christmas. I just want to point out to all of my Christian friends that adding a picture of Jesus and a prayer to it does not make the chain letter any less irritating. Also, if Jesus is testing me by asking me to copy and repost your Facebook status, he clearly doesn’t think much of either of us. Remember when he use to ask you to do difficult things like kill your first born…or he’d just have a whale eat you? If this is what he’s resorted to, the end of days is near.

A lot of Catholics are a little defensive, because they feel that modern society is attacking them by exploiting and sensationalizing everything they do wrong. I would just like to point out that…this is exactly true.

The reason people don’t like you is that you’ve changed your opinion on issues throughout history, but still insist you are the authority on what is right and wrong. Remember when you didn’t like inter-racial marriage…or science… and currently Spongebob (until he meets the right girl)? People remember that stuff. From an outsider’s view, your constant flip-flopping kind of makes it look like you follow Wikipedia rules. If enough people agree, it becomes a fact. You want to save people’s souls? Get enough Catholics to clap their hands and believe that Jesus loves everyone despite their religious beliefs. It worked for Tinkerbelle.

You keep quoting “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” as your reasoning behind eliminating the word X-mas… Two things:

1. Some historians who follow the life of Christ don’t even believe this was the day he was born.

2. Jesus is not the only deity born on this day…he’s not even the first.

This leads me to believe that if we didn’t celebrate Christmas on December 25th, we’d find something else to celebrate. Now that your stockings are hung by the fire I started with the shattered remains of your soapbox, and your high-horse is safely tied to a tree outside, I turn my attention to the other people who ruin this season for me.

Atheists
You are equally as irritating. As much as you hate to admit it, the North American population is predominantly Christian. Also, people have freedom of religion, which means if I want to put a Christmas tree up in the airport, a menorah in my government office, or just hang a crucified Jesus around my neck, I’m pretty much free to do so. Stop complaining every time someone wishes you a Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays. If you’re not Catholic YOU wish people Happy Holidays.

Side Note:  If you’re Christian and reading this, allow me to put this into context for you. Going to an Atheist’s place of employment and wishing them a Merry Christmas is the equivalent of someone getting gay-married and adopting children on your front lawn. The way you celebrate the holidays shouldn’t affect the way they celebrate them, but some people just can’t let things go.  

So for the rest of the season, keep your opinions to yourself. I like Christmas because you get stuff, and people look at you less condescendingly when you’re drunk on a Wednesday afternoon. It doesn’t bother me if you tell me Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, whatever the Kwanza greeting is, or you just feel like telling me right where to go. I’m still going to enjoy myself the same way I do every year…by running up my credit card bill and drinking to forget about it.

To all my Christian Friends – Merry Xmas

To all my Atheist Friends – Happy Holidays…and Jesus loves you. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Scott Keenan's Guide to Gift Giving

I’m going to start this post by admitting that as an incredibly selfish person, I don’t have this mastered at all. As the Christmas season approaches I thought I would share some tips and tricks that I have picked up in hopes that I can get some help from the tens of people who read this blog. I always try to pick a gift that has some thought put into it, because those gifts are generally less expensive. This is difficult as I’m not really a very thoughtful person. Also, you don’t want to get something too thoughtful, because some sentimental people tend to cry…I don’t deal well with that.

Children
Don’t waste your time thinking about what the child wants. They’d be happy with a couple boxes to build a fort out of. Until a child is 5 or 6 the gift is really for the parents. You might think this gives you a free ride on gift-giving for a few years. Have you even been to a baby shower? When it’s time to open the gifts, the women stop eating and form a “shame-train.” First the gift is opened in front of everyone, and the expecting mother hands it around for everyone to “get a closer look at” or “judge.” At a baby shower it’s easy to fly under the radar with a gift card or a combination jumpers/baby-blanket package, but at Christmas, you have to step up your game.

Suggestion:

Books – Don’t buy ones the kids will read by themselves. The parents will tire of them quickly. Buy something that a 6 year old would read, so the parents can read it to them. It’ll definitely get read (provided the parents do that kind of stuff) and at the very least it will be more entertaining for the adults.

Brand-name baby clothes – Nothing says “I have a gay uncle” like a vintage tee and jeans with a lot of distressing.

New age toys for children - They are incredibly over-priced, but have a pretentious explanation to accompany them about how they’re made from all-natural products, or painted with colors that engage the baby and make it smarter so it can grow up to be a genius with ADHD.

Once the children hit a certain age, apparently you have to start thinking about what they like? When they were 3 or 4 you could go into a toy store and tell them you need a gift for a three year old boy and the clerk was all kinds of helpful. When you say seven year old girl they start asking you questions. “What is she into?” After a few minutes of awkward staring you realize this was not a rhetorical question the clerk was asking while he thought about it. “You work at the toy store…you tell me.” Then he gives me attitude like I’m that guy who left his kid in the car with the windows up. Kids this age are weird. All of the toys in their category kind of look stupid and cheap, or they’re out of my price range. Apparently they’ll like a piece of cardboard that has their favorite cartoon character’s face on it…but who knows who that is? A few weeks before Christmas is too late to admit that you don’t.

Suggestion:

Classic toys for children – Even if the kid never touches it, the toy will have some camp value that will engage the adults a little bit. Kites, Dominos, etc.

Teenagers
 …Cash?

The Elderly
They already have everything. Chances are they also have a storage shed full of the crap you bought them last year. Unless you are absolutely sure they need or want something specific or you can afford to send them on a trip, buy something disposable.

Suggestions: Cards, pictures, lottery tickets etc.

Parents
My dad never knows what he wants so every year he gets a combination of leather mittens and/or some kind of flashlight. I pretend it’s thoughtful. He pretends he likes it. We both win. Mothers are obligated to enjoy any piece of garbage you give them. I’ve been looking through her cupboards and replacing low quality cooking tools with higher-end, Paderno-style goods for the past few years. My favorite part is the stuff she doesn’t end up using is given to someone after a few months….last year that someone was me :D Now I’m in the process of finding other things that look like perfectly legitimate presents that could eventually find their way to my house.

Friends
My friends that I buy gifts for get incredibly thoughtful gifts. Of course by thoughtful, I mean cheap. Nothing says “thanks for hanging out with me this year” like a crappy Christmas tree ornament with an elaborate story attached to it. They also happen to be my favorite gifts to receive from friends.

If you have friends who thought “Hey, you know what would be a really good idea? Let’s also force our friends to get wedding presents for our New Year’s Eve wedding on top of all of their holiday purchases.” I have some wedding gift ideas below.

Weddings
… Nope

My rule used to be that because I don’t plan on ever having a wedding where I force people to bring presents, I don’t buy them for other people. I make an exception to this rule when there’s an open bar, because I know I can make my money back. Buy strictly gift cards or something from the registry. If you are thinking of ignoring the registry so you can get them something personal….don’t. You’re the reason people end up with four toasters. You could do something slightly sentimental to COMPLETELY make up for the lack of gifts...like mentioning them in a blog post ... Congrats Jess and Jimmy.

Ok people, this is the extent of my knowledge. There is just over a month to Christmas and I clearly have no idea what I’m doing. Post comments below or find me on Twitter or Facebook and send me your suggestions. 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Top Five Ways to Procrastinate but Still Feel Good About It. By Scott Keenan

Procrastination does not have to make you feel like you’re a failure. As an Olympian of putting things off, I've found several ways to procrastinate that defy the actual definition of the word. The key to not feeling like you’re wasting time is to find something that creates the illusion of progress without actually helping you get whatever it is you’re trying to do, done.

1. Cleaning
This always needs to be done, no matter how much of it you’ve done recently. If you run out of space in your house, there’s always the car, the lawn, and small closed-in spaces you wouldn’t normally clean. No time to get any work I would get paid for done today. I need my house to be spotless!

2. Planning
This is genius. You make a list of all of the things you have to do. Then you prioritize them in the order you’re going to complete them. Depending on how many things you have…this could take forever. Especially if you think really hard about each one, and then make sub-lists of all the steps involved in each item of the original list. There’s no limit to the amount of planning that can be done before the actual execution of something. For example: Are you applying for jobs? First, identify all of the jobs you are going to apply for and make a list of them. Then list them in order of which ones you want the most. Then list them in chronological order from the one that closes first to last. Do you know how long that takes? ALL AFTERNOON!!...if you do it the way I do.

3. Baking
You know what would save sooo much time? Already having meals prepared and divided into portions. 

Step 1: push everything you needed to do today aside. You’ve got to spend all afternoon making something so you will have more time to do all those important things. 

Step 2: Pick something you’ve never made before. Make sure it’s some kind of 3 part jigsaw puzzle of a recipe where you have to make one thing, then make another thing, then put the first thing in the second thing  and fold it into the shape of a swan or equally complicated ornithological creature, and bake it….TWICE! To take up additional time, you could put all of the ingredients into small Pyrex bowls first, like they do on cooking shows. Then if a camera crew stops in, you are all ready for your cooking show, which is super productive because of all the money you’d make from it. 

Step 3: Tweet about how you spent all day cooking.

4. Saving Money
First thing every morning you should check your bank account online. Get really angry about some of the purchases that you didn’t authorize, stomp your foot….scratch your head….yeah you bought those….never mind. Then think about all the money that has to come out of your account this month and make sure there is enough to cover everything. Then look at how much you spent on stupid stuff like coffee and restaurants. You don’t have anything to show for all that money now. Think of ways to avoid doing that in the future, like taking your own coffee to places…or baking. Look at how much you spent on groceries. Did you feed a team of athletes last week? Start looking at flyers to find out what’s on sale this week. Make a list of all the things you need to buy and all the places you need to go to get them. Sound familiar? That’s right…you’re planning again. Spend some time thinking of the most effective way to go to all the places you need to go to get all of the things that will help you save money. There is no distance too far to travel to save 50 cents on a tube of toothpaste.

5. Increasing Your Klout Score
If you’re ever going to be taken seriously by the internet, you need a pretty decent Klout score. For those of you who don’t know, Klout.com is a site that tells you how cool you are on a scale of 1 to 100. Seriously though, it is supposed to tell you how much influence you have based on your social network followers and their engagement with your posts. You can tell it’s super legit because it gives you more points for visiting their site more frequently. Also, people can give you K+’s if you influence them. I’m sure there is a super complicated formula that measures how high your klout score should increase per K+. Once you get super popular and move to a bigger city, there are all kinds of “perks” for having a high klout score like free sandwiches and coffee. To increase your score you need to engage with other people with high klout scores. First you need to identify the people you know with high scores. Then you need to talk to them (Online though…if you call the on the phone it doesn’t count…unless you post that you talked to them on their Facebook wall and then they agree by commenting and/or liking your post). Also, engaging with people who have low scores really doesn’t do anything for you, so don’t waste your time “Liking” your mom’s post about supper….even if it's homemade spaghetti, which I haven't had in a while (just saying). Then you have to read the news and post interesting articles that will generate discussion or that other people will “Like” or share or retweet.  In turn, you should comment, “Like” and retweet other people’s posts, because they will remember that you helped them and may help you back. It’s pretty much a vicious circle of time-wasting that results in other people also wasting their time.

The most effective methods of procrastination involve doing all of these things in succession or some sort of circular pattern that brings you back to the original form of procrastination. Of course, eventually you need to get actual things done, but using these methods will make you feel less crappy about not doing them than spending the afternoon playing Angry Birds.  

Thursday, 3 November 2011

How is Your Online Recruitment Strategy Working for You? By Scott Keenan

Do you recruit online? Welcome to the bandwagon. Everyone recruits online so you can go ahead and stop feeling special about how technologically advanced you are because you were able to maneuver Monster.com… no one even goes there anymore. If you’re having trouble attracting qualified candidates, it could be due to the ineffectiveness of your recruitment strategy and not that you’re a horrible employer.

Most companies will post their job ads on the company website and a few other choice job sites and call it good. This is certainly effective for attracting the attention of active candidates, but neglects a much larger pool of qualified candidates.

Some Definitions:
Active Candidates – These people are currently looking for jobs. They can be unemployed or working in a position they’re unhappy with. They habitually check online job sites, newspapers, etc., for new job ads.

Passive Candidates – These people are not actively looking for work, but could still be swayed to apply if something caught their eye.

Step 1: Make it Easy
The first step is to create the ad itself. Break it down into parts and be specific about what you’re looking for. Clearly note your “Must Haves,” your “Nice to Haves” and your job description in separate paragraphs (bullets would be even better). No one wants to read a short novel about a position they’re not currently working in, nor do they want to go through line by line and decipher what is essential for the position, and what are just assets. Being clear about what someone “Must” have in order to be considered will allow the applicants to self-screen.  This means your administrative assistant will not have to go through quite as many resumes for candidates who clearly do not qualify for the position, and s/he might stop having daydreams where s/he cuts your brakes. Also, candidates will not waste their time applying with no chance of employment. If you have a pay range for the position, put it in the advertisement. This eliminates the additional time you spend reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates who wouldn’t work for the salary you’re offering.

Job applications are time consuming by nature. Try not to make it worse. Some companies require you to fill out an extensive profile on their website, and then submit a resume and cover letter anyway. Why would you WANT to make applying for a job MORE of a pain in the ass? Further, if I filled out a profile on your website when I was looking for work a few years ago and I heard nothing back, I will be reluctant to take the time to update it now. Unless you’re getting a large volume of applicants and can afford to lose candidates who aren’t interested in filling out another form and getting another password, lay off the online system.

Step 2: Make it Sexy
A colleague recently sent me a job ad simply because of how creative it was. It was forwarded to her by a former co-worker, who found it on a blog that discusses innovative graphic design. Did someone say free marketing? This company posted their job ad on their website and it made its way to me on its own, free of charge.

A new trend in job advertisements is a short description of the type of person the company is looking for. Listing suggested personality traits reduces the risk of hiring someone with no personality. If you have an amazing corporate culture and a positive work environment, why would you keep it a secret? Sprinkle some of your personality in your job ad. If it’s entertaining enough, it will get “Liked,” tweeted and reposted reaching exponentially more active and passive candidates than traditional job postings.

Want to make it easier to share your job ad? Work it into your social media strategy. Posting and tweeting capitalizes on all of your current clients and followers, who are already somewhat familiar with your services. It also makes it much easier for them to share it with their friends and clients increasing the number of views your ad gets.

Step 3: Make it Personal
My favorite response to a job application was an email I received letting me know that I would not be considered for the position. The Human Resources Coordinator took the time to read my resume and wished me luck on the job hunt and on moving forward with my CHRP designation. She took a PFO and turned it into an electronic hug. Do you know who wins in this scenario? That’s right, the company that just told me to go pound sand.

Obviously, it’s not feasible for most companies to go to this degree of personalization for each applicant, but it is certainly appreciated when the applicant is kept up to speed on the competition, even if it is just an automated email that says “your application has been received” and “the competition has been closed.” Not sending them anything is the equivalent to receiving an acknowledgement email that says “sucks to be you loser.”

Friday, 28 October 2011

A Guide to Thrift Store Shopping - By Scott Keenan

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to cut your spending significantly? Whether it happened because of an unexpected expense, unemployment, or your parents just took their credit card away, be prepared for a tailspin of depression. Once you hit rock bottom, you basically have two options. Marry someone rich or start enjoying simple things that previously caused you to turn your nose up. These can include, but are not limited to, coupon clipping, sale searching, air miles collecting, and thrift store shopping. Before the universe caved in on you because of whatever caused you to be poor, the thought of wearing something that once belonged to someone else might have made you vomit a little, but now it can be an exciting extra-curricular activity…you can’t afford yoga anymore anyway.  The outfit alone is one month’s rent. Once you have come to terms with the fact that you’re not in a position to run to a store and purchase a brand name at retail prices you’ll need a little help to get started.

Determine Your Quality to Price Threshold
This is the amount of money you are willing to spend above certain classes of items for additional quality. Before you fell below the poverty line and became a burden to society, you might have decided that it was within your budget to purchase a pair of $60 jeans for the additional quality they had over the ones you could have bought at Walmart, but could not justify the $200 as the denim was not made of adamantium.( If they were, they wouldn’t be jeans… they’d just be AWESOME.) Now you have to decide whether you’re going to find a thrift store that hangs its used goods on racks or just dumps them in bins. The price difference is spending $10 on an item vs $2.50.

Bin Land
If you have absolutely no quality threshold, you can venture to “bin-land.” These are the skeziest of all the thrift stores. They just take bags of clothes and dump them in bins marked “pants” and “shirts.” If your allergies don’t immediately flare up upon entering the store, drop to your knees and thank God for your ridiculous immune system. Pick a spot in the bin to start. Get in there and push all of the clothing to one side. Go through each item one by one, but do it quickly. Most of what is in the bins is garbage. Every now and then you will stumble upon a brand name in your size that still has the tag on it. One or two of these finds will make it worth whatever disease you contracted digging through these piles of filth.

 A note on etiquette: Never start searching in another person’s path in the same bin. It’s the thrift store shopping equivalent to flipping them off. Always start with the clothes they have already gone through. If someone starts looking at the clothing in front of you it is important to immediately flare your nostrils, curl your lip and glare until you’ve initiated a fight to the death or they move. (Fights to the death are common in Thrift stores, bring a knife or something)

Classy Thrift Stores
If you’ve decided that you still haven’t quite reached “bin-land” level poverty, you can opt for a more upscale used clothing store. These places disguise themselves as regular stores by hanging their clothes on racks , but still have a vast selection of suits from the 80’s, leopard print things for men and women and clothing that looks like it has leprosy or other assorted diseases. Because of its more convenient layout, these stores typically charge more for goods, regardless of the quality. They typically have a larger selection, with a higher probability of finding something that closely resembles what you would have worn pre-poverty. You just end up paying a little more for it here.

Outlet Stores
These are not thrift stores. If you’re shopping here, you’re not poor enough yet or you’re over budget. You definitely won’t find anything that has been worn by anyone else. You’re just looking through slightly damaged goods, or last season’s overflow. You are much less likely to run into a friend who is shopping for their Halloween costume though. You can go ahead and save face…but not much money.

Bringing Your Amazing Finds Home
This is the part of the experience where it’s important to note that you have just purchased things that belonged to a person you don’t know anything about, including their hygiene habits. It is entirely possible that they had some parasite living on them that will eat you in your sleep. You may think that because this article of clothing still has the tag on it, it’s safe….it’s not. Remember all the sad and decrepit clothing you saw in the bins reaching out to you yelling at you to either buy it or set it on fire and put it out of its misery? They touched it.

Seal the clothing in the plastic bag and bring it back home. Keep it sealed until it is ready to be thrown in the wash. Wash everything in boiling hot water or molten lava regardless of what the tag tells you to do. Put it in the dryer on the “Kill” cycle for “practically forever.” If your dryer has a “fumigate” setting, use it.

Like most things you’ve never tried before, it’s possible to start getting excited about thrift store shopping. You simply find an irritating way to bring up how much you spent on your clothing. You can be creative and try and work it into the conversation… or just be a tool about it and randomly ask people how much they think you spent on your outfit. Once you have felt the high of finding something expensive, with the tag still on and only paid 2$ for it, there is the risk of addiction. Thrift shopping is also a gateway drug to tailoring your own clothes (especially if you’re not good at it) and dressing like it’s the 80’s including wearing cords and bedazzled things. It’s important to have a sane friend nearby to make sure you’re not dressing and acting like a complete tool after the experience. Parents and siblings are most likely your best bet for this type of feedback. 

Friday, 21 October 2011

Budgeting For Beginners by Scott Keenan

You mean you’re supposed to pay for things BEFORE you get them?

TV has lead me to believe that it is my duty as a young person to party every weekend, wear couture and take trips to tropical locations on a regular basis. The only thing getting in my way is my bank account.

I have a hard time believing most people my age are able to afford all of the things that they do. I’m often flipping through my Facebook account only to see many of them with jobs that pay much the same as mine are off in tropical locations, impeccably dressed, purchasing new homes and filling them with big screen TV’s and other assorted gadgets. The truth is most of them can’t. Welcome to the age of entitlement, where working hard (or not) means you deserve a nice trip or something nice for yourself regardless of your ability to pay for it

I’m not singling anyone out here. When I’m on vacation, I tend to deserve everything and I worry about the cost of it when I get back home. I’m also not singling out young people. It’s easier to refer to them, because I know they probably aren’t making enough money right out of University to live in a $200,000 home with a full entertainment system, brand new vehicle, bedroom set, and every unnecessary attachment that has ever been created for an iphone (including the circular saw).  I definitely know a lot of older people who go severely into debt at Christmas and have barely paid it off by the following Christmas.

Most of your problems can be solved by being a little thrifty for a few months, and being realistic about what you can afford. Other problems can be solved by going back in time and wearing some form of contraception. Also, winning the lottery wouldn’t hurt.

Step 1: Find Out How Much Money You Make.
Let’s pretend your salary is $40,000 per year. That’s not how much you’re worth. Check your pay stub. You make significantly less than that. If your bi-weekly paycheque grosses $1,500, you make about $1,200. Thus, your monthly budget should be for someone who makes $2,400/month not $3,000. Depressed yet?

Step 2: Determine Your Current Expenses.
Look back through your bank accounts and your credit statements. Add up your monthly expenses and find out how much you actually spent last month (or the average of your monthly expenditures over the past three months). Separate these expenses into needs and wants. Make sure you get them all. Try using budgeting software that links up to your bank accounts so you catch all the expenses. Sometimes you don’t actually realize you’re spending money on certain things (like all of your bank fees).

Writing down all your expenses really hurts your self-esteem. You realize how incredibly stupid you are with your own money. A couple coffees per day doesn’t seem like a lot, but a 2$ coffee twice a day works out to 120$ per month. A nice coffee maker would pay for itself pretty quickly. Now think about how many times a week you go out for lunch, and how much that adds up to.

Note: Don’t be too ambitious to cut things if you’re not actually committed to cutting them.

For example: Deciding to spend less on beer is only good if you do it. If you plan to spend less, and then you end up going over-budget you just screw yourself over.

Step 3: Talk to an Adult
You’re supposed to be saving 10% of your income and using 10% to pay off debt. These percentages could be higher, depending on you. This is the part where I will digress and tell you to speak to a Financial Planner. You need someone to look at your current situation and determine what is best for you. Also, you need to find one who’s not a complete moron. All of them will encourage you to buy some kind of insurance. It’s how they make their money. You should have a little insurance as long as you can afford it, just in case something happens. You’ll know how much of an idiot they are by the number of questions they ask you.

Terrible Financial Planner: After coming into some money I went to a planner at my bank and told him I was looking to put it into an RRSP to save it for a down payment on a house. He said that is a good idea…end of discussion. He didn’t ask me what I did for a living or how much money I made or even open my account to look at it. At the time, I was working for the government and I knew that if I planned on staying there long term, there was no reason to put money into an RRSP because when I went to draw my pension, my RRSP would actually result in me paying more in taxes.

Good Financial Planner: I went to a much better Financial Planner with the same question. She went through my bank account and asked me about every expenditure I made. After I showed her my budget, she challenged me to save the extra 300$/month I said was leftover in a separate account. She also had a mortgage broker in the office speak with both of us to give me a better idea of how much I should be looking to spend on a down payment, and a mortgage. Her distrust in my ability to identify how much money I actually spent, coupled with the anal retentive attention to detail when going through my bank account made me much more comfortable with her recommendations.

Step 4 Create Savings Accounts for Big Items
Most banks now have some sort of e-savings account, where you can have as many as you want for free. These are useful to keep your savings separate. Personally, I have separate accounts for gifts (including Christmas), toys for myself (including clothes and a new phone that doesn’t suck when my current contract runs out next year) and a TFSA for travel. I put 50$ per paycheque into gifts and toys, $25 into the travel account and 25$ into RRSP’s. This way when I have to buy gifts or decide to get something for myself, it doesn’t affect my monthly budget.

Obviously, you can’t go anywhere nice saving just 25$/pay. If you’re being paid bi-weekly, there are two months out of the year where you get three paycheques for the month. If you stick to your monthly budget, these cheques are just additional cash to drop into any one of your additional savings accounts. A couple 1,200 cheques in your travel account make for a nice vacationJ. (Grammatically speaking… does the period go before or after the smiley face?)

Step 5 Credit Cards Are Your Friend….Unless They’re Not.
Most financial planners will encourage you to use cash. That’s because by the time most people go see a Financial Planner, they’re already in trouble. Credit Cards can be your friend if you can use them properly. Get something that has points or air miles and go nuts. If you can use your card for all of your expenditures, stick to your budget, and pay it all off at the end of the week, the card is your friend. It’s like getting paid to spend money! You do have to have some self-control to do this.  For some people, the idea that you don’t actually need the money in your account to purchase something drives them crazy and they end up buying ridiculous things like sweaters for their pets.  If you can’t pay the card off at the end of the week, you’re not using it right. You should cut it up immediately, cancel it and stick to jars with your monthly budget in cash.
If you get really into it, like I did, you’ll find creative ways to decrease spending and increase your points.

For example: I used to buy the office lottery tickets every week. I would collect everyone’s money and purchase the tickets with my credit card. I got points for using the card, and didn’t have to use one of my transactions to withdraw cash for the week, because I kept theirs. I also offered to pick things up for friends like movie tickets or snacks and had them pay me cash in return. This is convenient for them, and I get points for doing it….did someone say win-win? It certainly makes you less bitter about the fact that your dentist doesn’t do direct billing.

Step 6 Get Married
Marry someone rich or who at least makes as much money as you. Simple math would agree that paying rent or a mortgage is easier with two people than with one. Also, if you have a super cheap wedding, people will still buy you presents and give you money… Think about it.

A lot of people don’t budget, and end up overspending on things they don’t really need. They also fear that the budget will impede on their ability to do things that cost money. It actually does the opposite. Once you’ve put together a realistic budget, you realise how much money you were wasting before, and how much more you can do with your savings. It also relieves a lot of stress when it comes time to pay bills. If you stick to your budget you never have to worry about being able to afford your rent at the end of the month, or going into debt buying gifts for the seven weddings you went to this summer. You also get to splurge on yourself once in a while and get something new completely guilt free. 


Side Note: Rich people stay rich because they stick to their budgets.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Google Is Not a Doctor - By Scott Keenan


As a high functioning hypochondriac, I outwardly ignore all symptoms of illness unless they become so persistent that I’m required to acknowledge them. Though, I know that most mild discomforts are usually the symptoms of much bigger problems like some kind of impending death or terminal illness. Ignoring this knowledge allows me to function like a regular person, but every now and again I slip up and google my symptoms. Google is the worst doctor ever. It knows all of my worst fears and multiplies them by ten. Below are a few of my recent Google searches.

Itchy eyes – Pinkeye, put on some sunglasses and head to the clinic to get a prescription.

Mild cough – Pneumonia, see doctor immediately.

Headache – Terminal Exploding Cancer Aids. Make peace with your enemies….there’s not much time left.

Sore throat – Evil parasitic aliens have hatched inside of you. They are attacking your throat and will most likely erupt out of your face. Just panic!

Sharp pain in my side – you are being eaten by a bear, play dead.

Dramatization


For about ten years I have been experiencing what may or may not be sleep paralysis. I kind of half wake up unable to move. I was pretty sure that I was actually having a dream where I am awake but am paralyzed. Then I struggle a little and finally jolt awake still in the same position as when I was dreaming. I usually have these nightmares during times of stress like exams, periods of unemployment, and that time in the summer when all the shows you like go into re-runs and the only new ones are the terrible summer reality shows (shiver). Recently I discovered what sleep paralysis is and I have all of the symptoms, including the feeling of impending doom. Not always, but sometimes I dream that there is a person in the room watching me lay there, or something is holding me down vs me just not being able to move. When I wake up, whatever it is has disappeared. I fully intended to continue believing that I am just dreaming.

 However, I did wake up around 3am one morning after having this nightmare. I opened my laptop to google my symptoms, and I began to read what appeared to be a credible source. It outlined the scientific explanation of not fully waking up; therefore, some sleep phenomena occur during wakefulness. This includes dreaming and paralysis. This is where the article stopped being helpful.

The site then went on to explain what the “actual” cause of sleep paralysis is, which is an attack by a ghost, demon, devil or negative energy. Super! This, in hindsight, is hilarious. However, at 3am alone in my room, it’s not the most helpful sleep aid. A very convincing pie chart reveals that 60% of all sleep paralysis incidents are the result of an attack by an evil spirit.

Upon further inspection, my specific incident was the result of sorcerers from the 4th region of Hell using their supernatural powers to tie my body with chords of black energy. First, I would like to know how many regions of hell there are. If there are only 4, then it can be assumed that these sorcerers are pretty bad-ass and I should be concerned. If there are like 10, then who cares? These guys are only in region 4. I’ll start to worry when I start to see signs of 6 or 7.

According to Paranormal State, most supernatural activity occurs around 3am. Therefore, this site’s analysis of my situation must be completely valid, as it coincides with a theory from an A&E reality series. I decided that if the problem persists I will need to take action. In consultation with Engineers I have created “to-scale” plans to trap the entity.

Evil Spirit Trap

I am still in the planning stages, but hope to have a model up and running shortly. I will keep you posted. Here is a link to the site I found if you're in the mood to either mock me or terrorize yourself a little. 


Thursday, 6 October 2011

Social Networking at Work: Why Banning Facebook Makes You Like… the Oldest Person Ever. By Scott Keenan

Many organizations have banned Facebook, LinkedIn and other sites to combat work avoidance and increase productivity. This might work for some companies for now, but seriously….how old are you? I tried to explain to one of my superiors that I still check facebook on my phone, and it ends up taking longer than if I could just do it on the computer. She then expressed concern that I would run up a large phone bill. At first I was a little puzzled at why she thought I wouldn’t have purchased a data plan with my smart phone (does she think I’m stupid?), but then I realized she thought I was checking it with my office phone… the touchtone phone on my desk.

What Banning Social Networking Says About You

1. You don’t think much of your employees - You know who puts parental controls on things?...Parents! Treating your employees like children will naturally result in your employees acting like children. Giving an employee a computer and limiting what they can do with it lets them know that you don’t trust them to work efficiently on their own. In turn, you will retain many employees who are unable to work efficiently on their own. Congratulations??

2. You’re not interested in exploring innovative ideas - The ban can also stifle creativity. Social Networking has proven extremely effective in marketing, promotions and other areas. However, your staff will need access in order to use it effectively, or come up with ideas on how it can benefit the organization. Have you ever tried to research how social networking can improve your recruitment process using a computer that does not have access to social networking sites? It’s basically like making a peanut butter sandwich without peanut butter, knowing you will have to present this sandwich to the very people who banned peanut butter in the first place, and convince them that peanut butter is great. (I just won an award for using peanut butter the most times in a single sentence…it’s not a Pulitzer, but it’ll do for now).

3. You’re just lame - An inability to understand and follow technology just makes you appear out of touch. Even my mom can go on "the Google" or “Like” all of my Facebook statuses. (She doesn’t tweet yet, so that’s still cool.) If you do plan on blocking sites for anything other than security issues, make sure you block all of them. If you blocked LinkedIn to stop your employees from looking for work, why didn’t you block Career Beacon or other job banks? If Facebook is blocked why isn’t Twitter? You know I can link all of those together and still update my status every ten minutes right?  If you’re trying to block these sites to increase productivity, because you’re super-old and kind of lame, your main concern with these sites is the amount of company time your employees will waste using them. Newsflash: The internet has millions of different ways to waste my time. Social networking is but one of many. Remember when you tried to block msn messenger, and then they just created e-buddy and a slew of other similar sites? Aren’t they just going to do that again? Here’s a neat idea! Why don’t you check on your employee’s progress with the projects they’re working on and evaluate how they’re coming along? It’s called performance management….it’s kind of your job. If they’re not performing adequately you can look in to how much time they spend on these sites to see if work avoidance is the issue. You cannot look in to how long they spend on these sites on their personal phones or how long they spent staring off into space this week. Employees will rarely track this information for you. At least if they do it on your computer, you have some evidence of the work avoidance.

What to do with Gen Y

Young employees are rumoured to have a strong sense of entitlement, so you need some concrete reasoning behind why you’re removing these entitlements. Remember that this generation has grown up using social networking as a form of socialization. Prohibiting its use is just like telling them they can’t stop and chat with each other in the hall on company time. I’m not saying that there’s never a reason to ban these sites. There’s always the issue of bandwidth constraints or security issues. Just make sure when you’re imposing the ban, you’re doing it for a legitimate reason you can communicate to your staff so they don’t feel as though they’re being treated like children. Also, make sure you’re doing it in a smart way that doesn’t make you look old and out of touch. Alternatively, a much more effective approach would be a policy regarding internet use. Tell them their internet use should not affect their ability to do their job, and follow up if there are performance issues.

Side Note: When the phone bill comes in, you should be able to check how many times your employees tried to call facebook on their touchtone phone. Refer these ones to your EAP, and pray for their families. 

Monday, 26 September 2011

Hindsight...Still a Little Blurry When it Comes to My Undergrad - 4 Things I Wish I Had Known BEFORE I Started University – By Scott Keenan


Have you ever heard of conversation cards? They’re little cards that ask questions to generate conversation. They say something like “what was the last thing you regret buying?” or “which celebrity (dead or alive) would you like to have dinner with?” If you hate talking about the weather as much as I do, when you first saw them you thought they were fantastic. Finally, when I see someone in the elevator I won’t be obligated to agree with them about how cold it is. We both have coats on. We clearly just came from outside…I am aware it is chilly. You don’t need to tell me. Also, I may have taken a few of them on dates to try to plow through the awkwardness…if you guessed I was still single, you guessed correctly. One of these cards made me think a little.
“If you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at 17, what would you tell yourself?”
I thought of a couple of things.
1.  If you live on Kraft Dinner and double doubles, you will get fat.
2. If a drunk girl in heels wants to race you in front of a bunch of people, don’t do it. She practiced and you will fall. She’ll get the cab and you will get a scar.  
3. People know you are pale. If you wear bronzer one day, they won’t forget. Don’t worry about it though, vampires will be really cool shortly.
4. Your student loan will eventually need to be repaid.
Then we’d have a short conversation about how good we look for 27 and how our hairline did not recede as quickly as we had anticipated.
Still thinking about the student loan, what would I tell myself about it? A 17-year-old cannot afford tuition. It’s just not feasible. I can’t go back in time and tell my parents how much money to save…there’s no card that tells you that’s a possibility. I went through the whole deck… nothing about your parents. I thought of hundreds of things I could have told myself, but narrowed it down to four for your convenience.
Return on Investment
If your parents are hippies they probably told you that you could be anything you wanted. Teachers are contractually obligated to tell you that. What they should be telling you is that most people don’t end up becoming millionaires. You need to think critically about the program you’re taking, and how much money people who graduate from that program make. For example: My undergraduate degree was in English Literature. I absolutely loved the experience, and from that aspect it was definitely worth 4 years tuition + books. However, from a financial or “real” perspective, English majors generally make the same amount of money as people who work in coffee shops. This is not a coincidence…most of them actually work in coffee shops. Go to the mall and ask the clerks what their backgrounds are. They’re either students or they have bachelor degrees. This is not to say that English degrees do not provide you with a valuable skill-set. It’s just not a marketable one.
Identify your career path before you pay your tuition and ask yourself some important questions. How much money are you going to have to borrow? How much money do people in your desired line of work make? How much will your student loan payments be when you have completed your program? Can you afford those payments and still live comfortably? What is the probability of you working in this field? What else can you do with this degree?
If you have your heart set on becoming a famous actor, writer, dancer or unicorn, go ahead and shell out the cash, but do it with the realization that you’re going to have to pay for it at some point. From the employer’s perspective, people with degrees are a dime a dozen. Spending four years at University does not make you special. It makes you the same as everyone else. Disenchanted? Good! Now you can start thinking realistically.
Networking
Unless you’re taking business, your professors will not stress the importance of networking enough. If you are not in a program that provides you with a specialized degree (or internship/coop program) that tells employers you are qualified to be their employee, networking is your only means of finding gainful employment.
Good Grades Good Job …Damn you math!
Shutting yourself up in a library with a coffee and a laptop, reaping the benefits of being anti-social (like not catching colds from people, or having to talk about the weather) may increase your GPA but not necessarily your employability. How many job ads ask you to submit a transcript of your marks? Having spent some time networking, while still studying, can give you a leg-up when you graduate. You’ll also meet people who know more about how to get into the field than your career services counselor. I bet if she had networked more in school, she wouldn’t have become a career services counselor. If I had taken the time to socialize with my professors, and meet some important people in the industry, perhaps I would have stayed and written a “creative thesis.” Instead I opted to work in a call centre for a year, and then go back to get a Master’s degree in something completely different.
Note: A creative thesis is a piece of fiction written in lieu of a regular thesis. It is not, as many of my friends refer to it, a “pretend thesis” or “not a real thesis.” Seriously, I could have published Dr. Weigo’s Notes: A psychological /psi-fi thriller about a Papal conspiracy to prevent the apocalypse by detaining all humans suspected of being re-incarnated Angels and ensuring their souls do not make it back to Heaven. I’m sure I would have made millions. Instead, I work in Human Resources.  
Tuition Credits
Let’s just go through the basics. When you pay tuition, you have to record them on your taxes. When they are recorded they are transferred into” tuition credits,” which can result in a higher payout. If you take your taxes to a “tax specialist” who doesn’t know you or really care about you, they will automatically cash these out for you every year so you get what they call “the maximum payout.” This is NOT in your best interest.
Take your taxes to an accountant who you trust and who loves you. Caution: Accountants generally have difficulty expressing emotion. If they didn’t spit on you when you asked them to help you, it means they love you… Or you could just tell them to carry your tuition credits over. This means they will be available for use the following year. Continue to carry your tuition credits over until you have completed school and are actually paying taxes. If you are assessed and end up having to pay more in taxes than what was taken out of your pay, you can use the tuition credits to balance it out so you won’t have any expense out of pocket. You can also use them immediately following graduation and get a ridiculous payout…like enough for half a down payment on a condo ridiculous.
Tuition credits can be transferred to your parents only in the year you paid the tuition. Once you carry them over, they’re yours.  If you are a nice person and your parents have to pay additional taxes, this could be a nice thing to do for them. Some parents will feel a strong sense of entitlement to your tuition credits. If they paid for your tuition, those feelings could be valid. If they did not…screw’em. Any moron can keep a baby alive long enough to go to University. Hell, after a certain number of years they pretty much raise themselves. (Can you tell I don’t have kids?)
Budgeting
Remember when you got your first installment of your first student loan? There was almost $5,000 in your bank account for the first time ever. “Oh my god, I’m rich and I’m only 17!” Your first instinct was probably to go out and buy an Xbox, some Red Bull and a keg of beer. What you should be doing is investing some of it. You don’t need all of it sitting in your checking account no matter how “tuff” it makes you feel. Putting as little as 20$ per month in a savings account will eventually accumulate into something substantial. You won’t even notice it’s gone except for in December when you’re Christmas shopping and the second half of your loan doesn’t come until January. Then you may notice. Feel free to stick your head out the window and shake your fist at me when this happens (I’ll probably be stopped in an added lane trying to merge on a bridge if you’re looking for me).
The first thing you should do is meet with a Financial Planner. If you don’t trust the ones they provide at your bank, you can meet with one from any other company. Warning: They will try to sell you life insurance. You should get it while you’re young, but don’t feel super pressured if you’re not ready to start making monthly payments on things. Identify a budget you can live with while you’re going to school that includes partying money. Identify how much you can realistically put into a savings account and do it. If you aren’t realistic, it won’t work. When you graduate, you’ll have enough to cushion yourself from the payments of the loan until you can find work. If you planned properly and don’t need the cushion, you just have a nice savings account to start with.
To The Parents: It is physically impossible to convince a 17 year old, who is not making enough money to cover all of their expenses, to put money away for the future. Even in my fictional conversation with myself I couldn’t do it.
I hope this was helpful to someone who still has time to take this advice. Forward it to anyone you think needs to see it. Also, if anyone has mastered time travel, please email this to me 10 years ago.
Cheers,
Scott

Monday, 19 September 2011

Jesus Take the Wheel – A Guide to Driving in Fredericton
Good Morning Everyone,
I arrived at work today unharmed. I did however, honk my horn a lot. I also needed to sit in my office by myself to calm down a little, as I do most mornings, because of some miscommunication regarding traffic rules in Fredericton. I have come to the conclusion that this is completely my fault and I do apologise. I have been driving in Fredericton for years, and have discovered that Fredericton has its own rules that I should just learn to follow. I have written a few down to share them with the rest of you so we can all make it safely to where we need to be. These are the rules I encounter on the way to work in the morning.




The Rest of the World: Green Light – Proceed
Fredericton: Green Light – Make Car Go!









The Rest of the World: Yellow Light – Slow down, I could turn red at any minute.
Fredericton: Yellow Light – Hurry up, it could turn red at any minute.








The Rest of the World: Red Light – Stop
Fredericton: Red Light – Go More Fasterer! It’s still legally yellow for 10 seconds or until another car gets in your way. Go now!



 The Rest of the World: Added Lane – Congratulations, you are approaching an added lane. Speed up to the flow of traffic, indicate your intent to merge with your signal light and merge with the traffic already in the desired lane. You should not have to reduce your speed at all.
Fredericton: What’s a merge? – This is a German word that means act like a complete tool. Slow wayyyy down like you’ve driven into a foreign city that you’re not familiar with, even though you’re on your way to work on the same route you take every morning. Come to a complete stop and wait for all of the traffic to go by unless someone as clueless as you is approaching and also stops in the middle of the road to let you in. If anyone honks their horn, make sure to flip them off and act surprised that they don’t understand our customs.

 The Rest of the World: Traffic Circle – Huzzah! You’re approaching a traffic circle. They are the most efficient form of intersection. Remember to always go counter-clockwise, yield to the traffic already in the circle, and signal when you would like to exit.
Fredericton: M@#%$@ F#%^#$^!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – Panic! You are entering international waters. There are no longer any rules. It’s basically like playing Rollerball in a Rubik’s cube. Flashing lights will provoke the evil arrow sharks that live in the circle, leave them off. Push your way into the circle, then stop at random exits to let other people in. If you made it out alive, pat yourself on the back. Stop randomly in an added lane later (Preferably on the only bridge to the South Side) and have a moment of silence for those who didn’t make it out. 

 Thanks for reading..... and if you didn't. I'll be sure to flip you off tomorrow!

Cheers Everyone!