05.29.09

Qualified to Make Tacos

Posted in Jim at 9:14 am by livefood

I was once in a position that I don’t want to be in again. I was unemployed and looking for work. Although I had been self employed previously and owned my own business…I did not have a lot of skills that were easily translated into a more-or-less normal job situation. I was looking for something new to do.

The agency I was working with had referred me to a fast-food-taco-establishment. It was an applicant paid position meaning if hired, I was going to pay for the referral. I had been told that the position was for a “manager trainee” so dressed appropriately and went for the interview.

Ha ha ha…some interview. We do interveiws during lunch now, but it is a whole lot different that that day in the taco joint. Sitting in one of the side booths (I chose one with the fewest smears of goo), I filled out the detailed application, handed the document and a copy of my resume over to one of the “associates” and waited…and waited…and waited some more.

When the young manager came out from behind the door to the back we said our hellos, he sat down and started to read the application. After a little bit of time, while continuing to look down at the paper, he mumbled that the positon he needed to be filled was to make tacos (and burritos, enchiladas and tosados even). He then informed me that I was over qualified. He looked up.

I looked him in the eyes and said to him, “How can I be overqualified, I have never made tacos before in my life.” I stood up and left.

What he really meant was that he didn’t think I would stay. He was probably correct. He might have meant that I would not be happy in the positon. He was probably correct about that also. He could have meant any one of a number of things, and he was probably correct about all of them.

He didn’t know it, but he was using a classic push back. I was hearing “over qualified” but really he saying I didn’t fit the qualifications to be successful in the long run. I’m pretty sure the 18ish looking young man didn’t know the wisdom of his words, but he might have understood the position a little better than I.

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05.28.09

The Beat Goes On

Posted in Jim at 10:43 am by livefood

Almost everyday a report is revealed or an article is written that points in the same direction…

Report: I.T. Vital to Care Management

While the bulk of the written material tends to lean towards information about EMR, there is a huge need being revealed in the “shelter in place” world. Especially in the elder care arena, the growing cost of sheltering medically dependent elders outside of their homes is skyrocketing. My mother’s care is approaching $5K per month for a minimal amount of hands on care. A friend spent between $12 and $20K a month for the same sort of care in a nearby region. The cost vary greatly, but all can be significant on the family and it’s ability to pay OR the level of care will be compromised.

However, let’s say for the sake of an argument, that the IT system to assist with care for home bound elders is in place. Will the elders take advantage of the care system or, in the case of my father, will the technology be so frightening, that the care will be refused or simply ignored? It’s pretty hard to tell an elder to take a pill over the phone and insure that it’s happening. It’s one thing to know there’s a problem and quite another to fix it sometimes.

Beyond the technology lies a cultural challenge. When will the general population take advantage of any technology that is developed? How long with it take for the technology to be accepted by the critical mass of people that will be required to truly lower the costs of care?

My guess would be that al least in part the answer will be more of a generational one. I would be looking at the younger sub-set of “baby-boomers” to really reap the benefit of the “shelter in care” technologies. I hope I’m wrong. If I’m right, it would push the significant savings out perhaps 20 years or more. Right or wrong, there will be a significant role to be play in the IT world by non-IT folks…those who will be able to work on the cultural and generational issues of practical acceptance and implementation.

The good news is that technology does help increase the quality of patient care. Now if we can just get the economy back on track, we will see some movement in implementations.

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05.27.09

Let’s Be Realistic

Posted in Jim at 8:51 am by livefood

Have you ever seen a job description that required five years of experience in a technology that has only been out for 2 years?

What about those descriptions that ask for combinations of skill sets like data mining and reception?

Part of our job is to ferret out the realistic possibilities of finding a person with a selected set of skills. I’m pretty sure most us would think this is part of our job. But one of the things that we also do is to determine the validity of the job description. We need to know if the client has really put forth some sort of effort to actually determine what the firm needs for the position in question. Sometimes a firm simply cuts and pastes their favorite phrases from past efforts and broadcasts this new document without having checked the requirements. Sometimes they are fishing.

There is a difference between fishing and catching. You can fish all day with the wrong “bait.” You catch when you have done the work up front and use the right equipment.

It leaves a negative impression of the firm to set interviews with candidates, change the description, interview another, change the desciption again…who can deal with that. The position takes forever to get filled, production is off and there are recruiters and candidates who are frustrated by the experience. Some of those frustrations will be spread by the candidates. Remember too that we are in a pretty compact field so shared experiences can hurt or help the long term effort.

This past weekend (Memorial Day), I was at a BBQ. There was a DJ and food and frisbees and food and dogs and food…lots of food (and drink). The DJ and I briefly talked about his equipment but when he realized that I do production (compostion and performance) and he does delivery, he understood that his technical and my technical were so different it was best if we just talked about music. We sort of chuckled about it. While we knew what the other person did with the wires and software, we didn’t know enough about it to enjoy the conversation.

The same sort of challenge comes up from time to time when a firm is looking for a “Programmer.” With all the variation in equipment out in the market, unless one is pretty specific in what is going to be required to perform the job you might find yourself inundated with responses that are wholly inappropriate for the position. Two programmers might not be able to even talk about their software background…and would have to demure to a more common topic. Like in my example, less technical and more music.

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05.26.09

Same Advice…one more time

Posted in Brenda at 10:41 am by livefood

Of course you would think that members of the family turn to us for career advice. That should be the case and of course it is. So when our nephew, Michael, called to talk through the recent graduate job search concepts we gave him the same advice that we give to everyone.

His resume was surprisingly “clean” for a person just now getting into the career market. He had done his homework, examined his skill set and articulated it well. He was a little short on the key words and key phrases, but that was easily addressed. I was very happy to see him take to the document production aspect of the job search so well. The position he wants to get is that of an analyst. Although he knows the firm he wants to work for and knows what they might want him to do…and he is qualified to do any variation in that particular job/roll he is also prepared for the rejection that might happen. He will do well.

So what’s the point of today? Just to remind you and me that the advice given should be good, no matter who the recipient. If we give advice to someone we don’t know that well or to a family member who we know a great deal about, shouldn’t the advice be the same? Sure it should. Searching for a job doesn’t vary too much from person to person or position to position, the basic concepts stay the same…focus, research, action and follow up.

The market seems to be loosening up a bit. We’re definitely seeing more promise of good things to come and less of the “please don’t call me again…I’m wallowing in self doubt” type of calls.

During any given year there are slow periods and busy periods. This one seems to be shaping up in a similar way. We expect that the peaks will be a little shorted and not quite as tall as in the past years, but we know that peaks (and the valleys in between) do and are taking place. It’s then a matter of putting oneself into the right place at the right time.

We told Michael the same thing…make sure you are in the right place at the right time. He might not be able to control the right time…but he certainly can take care of the right place part of the equation.

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05.19.09

IT Can Have An Impact

Posted in Brenda at 1:50 pm by livefood

I get pushed and pulled all over the internet as I read news feeds and such. Most of the time the information is a repeat from another web site or another news source. Also, most of the time, I don’t find the “news” very interesting. One site that I find interesting from time to time is from HIMSS. It’s a site that they call “Government Health IT.” A couple of days ago they had an article that was an exception to the above. It was an article published on May 15 by John Brown, titled, ” New York City public hospitals credit IT for health boost

The Article

In the article Brown talks about the improvement that NYC officials attribute to their health management teams and their use of current data and records. NYC has invested in software that allows them to pull data from their warehouses and compile it for use by their case managers. They are very focused on diabetics and the article cites examples of improvement in diabetic metrics by using the data.

While I was reading the material it occured to me that this system had to have been developed prior to the stiumulus package (now referred to as TARP money). HIT is not a new idea and it has worked on a fairly wide variety of installs with a cross section of user/groups. I’m pretty sure that HIT is and was going in the right direction (too slowly perhaps…a function of funding more than anything). If the economy hadn’t tanked, we would be farther ahead. With the stimulus money, the opportunity seems to be gelling for some serious standards to work within and towards.

The other day I was watching a show on the TV and up popped an ad for “affordable healthcare insurance”…and by-golly is was certainly affordable. It was advertised at only $300 (or so) a month for a family (not talking about a particular size) and was only $180 for individuals. That’s cheaper than the healthcare we paid for our employees a decade ago! I’m sure that there is some fine print somewhere in that plan that will drive prices more towards a market rate.

A kink in the government plan is that even as I write this, some folks are choosing not to go to their physicians for a lack of money to pay the “copay”…in my case it’s just $30. Just how affordable does healthcare need to be for people to use it? That’s a question that I have not heard an answer too…but if $30 is too high…affordable is cheaper than we think it is.

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05.18.09

A Mixed Message

Posted in Brenda at 10:00 am by livefood

I read with little surprise that Kaiser (through the Bellflower Hospital) has been fined money for employees illegally tapping into Octomom’s medical information. Kaiser discovered the problem themselves, displined 8 employees and fired 15 and SELF REPORTED the situation to the State…who then turned around and fined them $250.000 for the infraction (the maximum allowed by the law).

Now there’s a creative way for folks to look for problems within their own organizations. If you find it yourself you might as well wait and let the State find it for themselves…you won’t be fined any more or less. Is the State of California really solving any issues in this case? Do they really think that these 15 former Kaiser employees would have acted differently? If they believe that I wish they would call me…I have a bit os swamp land in Nevada I would like to sell.

I do thank companies like Kaiser that work on solving their own problems. Too bad they had to have “The Arnold” make a statement effectively trying to make an example of having done the right thing.

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05.13.09

More On Resumes

Posted in Brenda at 9:57 am by livefood

How long is too long when it comes to your resume? Well, we have talked about this before and the answer still remains the same. It depends.

I you are running a page just as a list of keywords, you might have a few too many on the list. If the resume is 3 or 4 pages and is a compelling read, you probably are in good shape.

A well written document will take you further, regardless of length, than a poorly written one. So the length is somewhat related to the space regauired to document all fo the experiences that are relivant.

With the proliferation of lon line resume searches, the length has become less o f issue. Well, sort of anyway. Longer in the “old days” was to some degree of function of the weight of the pages and would determine postage. When I would calculate the numbers of file cabinets that it took to support our resume files, a single page added to each resume would have increased my file room by another 2 cabinets. Of course, the old days that I’m think of also had people staying with single companies, perhaps 2 or 3, for their entire career. So things have changed and the length of resumes can also.

Longer is not beter mind you, it’s just allowable. Try to remember that resume readers (like my partner Jim) just really get a bit put off by “fluff.” You might think about how many times you have done the same tasks and not have the same words written under each position.

We still amazed at how many people assume that the person reading the resume will know what the employer did, provided or produced. A simple sentence that puts “ACME” into some sort of perspective would help. If one is reading 2-300 resumes a day there will be no time to look up all the “ACMEs” of the world. Those resumes are put in the “iffy” pile and if it ever gets slow, maybe some time can be spared to look up more about the employers. There hasn’t been any extra time in the past 20 years, so I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.

Another curious assumption is that the reader will know what ACKSMAK means. If one only lists one’s last position as ACKSMAK Monitor, how can the reader possibly intrepet that as the Lunch Room Monitor who’s role it is to make sure students don’t chew with their mouths open? It’s truly amazing at how many company specific acronyms are used on resumes. Sometimes industry specific acronyms can be used (if they are common), but if you are in a niche industry or profession (like the lunch monitors), don’t use acronyms without some indication as to what theat might mean. The limited use of acronyms is especially important if you want to, need to or would consider changing industries were the people reading your resume might have no clue or idea what you are talking about if the resume is full of words and phrase that they can not know.

Try to use common phrases or job titles to help a reader or recruiter understand what you did and what you do. Many groups use resume scanning technologies to look for keywords. While the scanner might be set to read “janitor” it might not read the far cuter, “sanitation engineer” as the equivalent. It’s important to use terms that the industry will recognize and understand rather than fill one’s resume up with “insider” catch words and phrases. This is expecially true when you think about those phrase and words being from a group you DID work for…they’re not likely to be important to you anymore.

Oh, and one more thing. If the only experience you have with MUMPS is as a child or you once worked in the same room as the cousin of your aunt’s uncle who drove the taxi for someone who thought they did some work on MUMPS…don’t put it on the resume as a keyword. Only put those programs and softwares down that you can actually use and feel comfortable with.

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05.12.09

Job Search Angst

Posted in Brenda at 11:56 am by livefood

One of our daughters is just finishing her teaching credentialling program and will be looking to start her new career in the Fall. While some of us are wrapped up in the economy and blaming that for the lack of job opportunities, she is finding it a bit different in the teaching world.

Most of the positions in classroom education are not funded yet. The district and school budgets are not completed as the states are not finished pushing numbers and whining for money. So positions which will surely be available in the Fall are not yet known. Some 30K teachers receive their “pink slips” every Spring so that the school districts can let them go or rehire them as the need may be…if they don’t get a pink slip it’s a different situation…so 30K (or so) are given out each year.

It also gets a bit crazy when school opens and there is an unexpected increase in say, third graders…and the search goes manic for a teacher to start immediately.

Talk about angst. To spend 5 years going to school to get to a hiring window that is 60-90 days long…to should be able to get a job, might be able, could be available, shoulda, coulda, mighta…you think you have it bad?

She wonders if she has done the right thing. Sure she has. She is pursuing a career that she is passionate about. She has had good jobs in the past and will be taking a pay cut to teach, this is a decision to do something she wants to do. She wants to teach. We tell her that she has absolutely made the right choice. You should do what you feel good about. It helps that she’s good at it.

It’s unfortunate that nearly all of the positions become available in such a small window of time. It sort of seems like playing a game of “musical chairs.” You really have to be in the right place at the right time and be motivated to scramble at the end. It’s also unfortunate that the game doesn’t allow a place in the game for everyone.

We keep our fingers crossed that all of the positions that will be filled (including that one for our daughter)…we hope that all of the positions will be filled with the best and brightest and motivated and inspiring educators possible.

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05.11.09

More Good(ish) News

Posted in Brenda at 9:24 am by livefood

So the April unemployment filings have come out. Once again, we’re seeing a large number of people filing for benefits. The good news is that April is lower than March…is lower than February…the trend line is moving upwards.

Now this may not seem to be such a big deal, and we should keep our eye on the ball with another 1/2 million people filing for the first time, but it’s getting better. I think we can see that we’re in a tunnel and can at least begin to look for the light.

We might not see the light quite yet, but at least we’re getting a lay of the land and we know we’re in the tunnel.

My guess is that we’re in a shorter tunnel that we though a few months ago. We had some very good indications from clients that they will be increasing staff numbers this year…so the calls on clients of late have been better than a month ago. While I might be repeating this “better than a month ago” mantra, that is good. If we continue to build good news month over month, like the unemployment numbers, we should feeling pretty good about now.

We’ve been hearing folks refer to the “dot com bubble” in reference to the current situation. While the end result of an economic down turn occurred both then and now, we need to remember that the causes were not the same…and one was a bubble which popped and went away quickly. This is not a bubble.

This situation didn’t build quickly and even thought it has been popped like a bubble, it’s going to linger for a significant period of time.

Don’t look to the stock market as a good indicator of the general economy. Investors are seeing a bottom and want in so that they can maximize gains. They will sell off when they have made what they through thought they could…buy low, sell high…you know the drill. So if the stocks continue their record pace of gains…the employment indicators and the underpinnings of the economy will take a bit more time to piece back together.

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05.08.09

Swine Flu…the beginning

Posted in Brenda at 10:07 am by livefood

…love started the H1N1 virus…

kissingpigs

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