Friday, September 28, 2012

What's It All About Al-friday - Rebuilding the World Trade Centre, Politics, and Surrendering



You know - what's it all about Alfie?

Why do we do what we do? Why do we go to work? Why do we practice HR?

Lots of important questions to answer on Fridays, as a reminder at the end of the traditional work week of why we are working, and what our life is really all about, before entering the weekend.


Have you read this article "The Truth About the World Trade Centre"?

It reads like a thriller of just how disgusting money, power, greed, politics and unethical behaviour can be. It shows the destructive force it brings upon the common good. It is like reading a real life version of "Wallstreet Money Never Sleeps", but instead it's about the rebuilding of the World Trade Centre.

Mike Pinelli and Marc Becker have been here from the start, supervising the Freedom Tower's construction. The politics mean nothing to them, nothing worth saying.

"I know it's gonna happen," Marc Becker said in 2005, standing at rock bottom of the empty pit, where construction had stopped dead before it ever really got started. "I just don't know when. It's very personal to me — I saw what the poor souls looked like after they jumped out of the buildings. What they pulled out of the debris, I saw it. It's personal. We're ready to go. We're ready to build."


And at the end of the article, you see what it's all about really.

Humans are survivors, and rebuilders. We all live with this political crap in our workplaces every day, but we persevere to get that pay cheque or see that task complete. We may be below the political noise, but we rise above it in our pursuit of real accomplishment.

Here's to you and your week. Whatever your political play has been, I hope it gets left at your workplace's door and you enjoy a wonderful weekend experiencing the real joys of life. Because power isn't joy, joy is love, and love doesn't keep record of wrongs - love is total surrender, release and freedom.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Has University Replaced Unions?

An article from Australia recently listed that "in August 1992, 43 per cent of male workers and 35 per cent of females were union members in their main jobs. The figure [in May 2012] is now 18 per cent for both male and female workers." That's a marked drop in union membership numbers, and it's clear that the new generation of workers have even less interest in joining a union. Do we think our university qualifications have replaced the need for union representation?

Personally, I've just never known what the benefit was. I've worked in places where individual employment contracts were used, rather than a collective bargaining process. I have always perceived unions to be redundant for employees who hold degrees and aren't public servants. I never knew what the benefit was.

Until I moved to Singapore.

Then it became very clear what the power of unions are. Because when they are effectively muted (i.e. Singapore's 'National Trades Union Congress' is very good at running a supermarket chain, not so great at getting minimum wages for Singaporeans), workers are individualised and isolated completely. And it's not like all the Singaporeans holding degrees are entering a better job market because of their qualifications. The absence of a minimum wage means the starting rate for a degree holder is bargain basement low.

Yes, there are very low participation rates in Australian unions. But they still hold power, and can create a voice that applies to employees who aren't even in the union. No, I don't agree that all union action is positive - I prefer people in jobs over meeting every principle of good employer/employee dynamics. But yes, I do attribute a lot of Australia's workplace culture and rights to the work of unions.

A large number of qualified individuals may be effective at their jobs, but pretty useless at bargaining on a national level about their expectations of work life in general, unless they speak as an organised group. So although we may think we are powerful through our skill set, it's clear to me that university most certainly hasn't replaced the role of unions

Here's to the minimum wage - it's a bloody nice thing to have.

Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Movers, Shakers & Monday Game Changers - Johnny Cash, the Truth, and the Next Gen

Monday is about remembering the movers, shakers and game changers, of things that look incredibly trivial now, but challenged many on arrival.


Scaremongers like to write a lot about the insane changes the next generation will bring. Here's some changes already brought, against all odds and discouragement, and it all turned out alright.


Some perspective for your back-pocket, to think about when the times are getting tough as a change maker.



The Man in Black - what an absolute legend. This song says it all for me. Generations are different, it's met with opposition, but the fear is often unfounded.

And I love his introduction to the song, about him and his wife seeing all the hippies and how peaceful it all was. Yes, they dressed differently and had funny hair, but they were just kids finding their own truth in this world.

The old man turned off the radio
Said, "Where did all of the old songs go
Kids sure play funny music these days
They play it in the strangest ways"
Said, "it looks to me like they've all gone wild
It was peaceful back when I was a child"
Well, man, could it be that the girls and boys
Are trying to be heard above your noise?
And the lonely voice of youth cries "What is truth?"

A little boy of three sittin' on the floor
Looks up and says, "Daddy, what is war?"
"son, that's when people fight and die"
The little boy of three says "Daddy, why?"
A young man of seventeen in Sunday school
Being taught the golden rule
And by the time another year has gone around
It may be his turn to lay his life down
Can you blame the voice of youth for asking
"What is truth?"

A young man sittin' on the witness stand
The man with the book says "Raise your hand"
"Repeat after me, I solemnly swear"
The man looked down at his long hair
And although the young man solemnly swore
Nobody seems to hear anymore
And it didn't really matter if the truth was there
It was the cut of his clothes and the length of his hair
And the lonely voice of youth cries
"What is truth?"

The young girl dancing to the latest beat
Has found new ways to move her feet
The young man speaking in the city square
Is trying to tell somebody that he cares
Yeah, the ones that you're calling wild
Are going to be the leaders in a little while
This old world's wakin' to a new born day
And I solemnly swear that it'll be their way
You better help the voice of youth find
"What is truth"


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What's It All About Al-friday - Pam Poovey, Director of Human Resources at ISIS




You know - what's it all about Alfie?

Why do we do what we do? Why do we go to work? Why do we practice HR?

Lots of important questions to answer on Fridays, as a reminder at the end of the traditional work week of why we are working, and what our life is really all about, before entering the weekend.


You've seen the TV Series Archer right? Please tell me you've seen this series, because it is AWESOME.

But the best thing about it is Pam Poovey, Director of Human Resources.



She is the epitome of the anti-HR-cat-lady.

"Pam grew up on her family's dairy farm known as Poovey Farms, where she helped raise Holstein cows and produce dairy products like milk and cheese. She is an extremely tough person, probably because she grew up on a farm and paid for college by participating in an underground fighting ring. Pam has an opportunity to demonstrate her strength when a group of kidnappers try to force her into a van. Later, while they are beating her, she taunts them for being weak. She kills the last surviving kidnapper by snapping his neck.
Pam is generally not a good human resources director, doing such things as gossiping around the office, and constantly trying to sleep with co-workers, or keeping tons of dolls around for suspect identification in an office gang bang(with her fingers crossed). "
Check out the details at Pam Poovey's Wikia page 

She also has a healthy appetite for tagging her name around the office, is a highly accomplished drift car racer, can fit four pool balls in her mouth, and can consume incredible amounts of alcohol.

She lives, she parties, she rorts the employer health insurance for her colleagues.

She knows what it's about.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Wish I had Done Less, It Would Have Given Me More

Don't we always aspire to be someone who conquers huge challenges and reaps rewards for it? I do, and I used to think that required me to push myself in things I'm not very good at. And yes, some of the time it is rewarding, but a lot of the time I have found concentrating on strengths is far more effective.



My mistake was at highschool, when I studied Mathematics as my final year subject, along side French, English, Music Theory/Piano Performance/Clarinet in Orchestra and Visual Art. Seriously, if I needed the science unit so badly, I should have done biology because I SUCK at chem/physics/pure math. SUCK I tells ya!

But I pushed myself to continue in Maths at the 2nd level of difficulty - the state offered four levels of Math, 1st being specialist, 2nd level, 3rd level and then 4th level which was called 'Maths Applications' ie. maths you will use in daily life.

And it was a really stupid thing to do, because if I failed, I would have drastically affected my university entrance scores. But no, I kept at it, and with the amazing support of my parents who cheered for me to get a 'scrape your ass pass', I finished with a 13/20 (12 being a fail).

Looking back on it now, I can only wonder why. Why push myself to do something that was a complete up the hill battle, and had no real benefit other than pride? It certainly bruised my pride to see the results on my score sheet when I scored above 17/20 for everything else.

But you know what really stung? The only math I needed to do my Bachelors of HR Management - study that is meant to be far beyond my high school education - was math I covered in year 10 as a 15 year old. I completed my first year uni course using math I had learnt 3 years earlier, and got a High Distinction.

What a waste of tears, angst and energy in my last 2 years of high school! All for nothing!

Ah well, now I'm a little more strategic about what I forcefully apply myself to. I like to understand if it is something I'm doing just because it's a pride thing, because everyone else is doing it, because I have some natural flair for it, or because I genuinely need it? Perhaps I'm also more willing to cut my losses earlier too.

Hahaha I have to laugh at it all now, but I wish I could tell that poor crying teenager stressing about it all - "Give up! It's ok! Do something you're good at!"

Have you ever applied yourself to something incredibly difficult that you could have done without? Do you regret it, or are you glad for the experience?


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I'm Calling Out This Gen Y Bullshit - The Job Security Myth


You know what's great about being a millenial or Gen Y professional today? Everyone gets to talk about what we want and what drives us - because they've spoken to some of us and they 'get us'.

Ugh. No.

The latest article to tout next-gen insights says "Young people don’t think like we do about work, [and] they don’t want a full-time job for the next 20 years. Young people [want] work to be fun and they [are] less concerned about material wealth than their parents."

Apparently we believe as long as we've got the skills, we will pay the bills. Or, as the expert said “increasingly, job security comes from having a lot of skills and a flexible attitude.”

Holla back at me if you're a uni graduate who couldn't get secure employment, and thought "awesome, my skills and flexibility in working bit piece jobs is a great way to pay the bills." Seriously, get back to me so I can stuff your mouth with marshmallows, shine a bright light in your face and scream into your ears "STOP TALKING TO PEOPLE WHO THINK YOU REPRESENT ALL OF US!"

No - the people who represent all of us are my friends who have the same ambition as their parents did and their grand parents did. They want to be surrounded by people they love, do something that provides for them and the people they love, and live a lifestyle that they desire with those people they love.

Gen Y is just a group of people who need to set themselves up. They are adults trying to start their independent lives. I have a sneaking suspicion that Gen Ys giving feedback about wanting “work to be fun” are financially supported by their parents and aren’t contemplating mortgage payments.

In order to set myself up, I need to: 
  • save for a housing deposit, and start on a mortgage;
  • put as much extra money in my retirement fund as I can, because let's be realistic here - by the time I retire, there will be no pension;
  • pay off my tertiary education debts; and
  • get financially stable so I can start popping out the little-uns.

I need a secure job. A job that provides stable income. A job that enables a bank to loan me money. A job that gives me an assurance that if I start making the big investments to start my adult life, I will be able to meet the costs. I need job security.

Gen Y, Millennial, Gen X, Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation, we're not so different. We work to gain better financial security, and the first way we hope to do that is with job security. If it's not available, then we adapt to whatever is required. But we, and everyone before and after us, recognise job security as an immensely important part of setting ourselves up in life.

This whole Gen Y is so different thing is just so wrong, and our disinterest in job security is simply a myth employers like to hear to justify their cost-cutting staffing options. So in case you didn’t know - it’s bullshit. I called it.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Youth Unemployment Rate Predictions Don't Have to Reflect Your Employment Status

The International Labour Organization just released its Global Employment Outlook, and stated the youth employment rate is looking bleak as the Euro crisis spreads. Unfortunately, the trend of graduating from University and not finding employment is very real. But it doesn't have to be you.



My career hasn't even been all that glamorous, which I have alluded to earlier. I've worked in Subway, sandwich bars, nannying, English tutoring, microeconomics tutoring, swimming teaching, and reception work. (And above, that's me house painting while I was unemployed after just moving to Singapore). Every single job gave me something towards my character, and knowledge. In fact, when a previous person in my life refused to get a job while they waited to work in something they were qualified for - we very quickly lost contact. The drive to work and earn for yourself is an essential character trait in the friends I choose to hang out with - and coincidentally, is essential for most employers too.

Yes, the ILO is right, the difficulty to find more gainful employment is our reality. But employment is employment is employment. We all gotta pay the bills. We all need to treat ourselves with ridiculous purchases because we earned it. The word employment does not factor in whether it is appropriate to your field of study.

Do you know what the good thing about employment is too? It makes it easier to get another job! Sad but #truefact, recruiters prefer to employ people who are in jobs than unemployed people.

You need to be employed, and there are crappy jobs out there for you to fill. That crappy job will be your ticket to a better job. Your parents' financial support will not enable you to answer interview questions about past work experience.

Now, before you go all worst case scenario on me about getting stuck in a crappy job because it gives an employer the wrong impression about you - let me ask you this: Do you want to work for someone who does not understand the basic concept of needing to pay the bills? Explain it to them that this is something you didn't want to do, but something you needed to do - however, you are still qualified and ready to take on their job. If they don't get it, I anticipate they will also not understand things like looking after sick parents or mid-day appointments with specialists. Hmmm....

You can be employed - perhaps just not in what you want. The path to your field will be windy and bumpy, but it will emerge.
And if you're doing that crappy job for the moment, please take this as a token of my major respect and admiration of you. You rock. Seriously, just awesome.

What's the worst job you've ever done to pay the bills? And did you get stuck in it, or find your way to your chosen field?

Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Movers, Shakers & Monday Game Changers - Suzi Quatro and Women Who Don't Just Sing

Monday is about remembering the movers, shakers and game changers, of things that look incredibly trivial now, but challenged many on arrival.


Scaremongers like to write a lot about the insane changes the next generation will bring. Here's some changes already brought, against all odds and discouragement, and it all turned out alright.


Some perspective for your back-pocket, to think about when the times are getting tough as a change maker.




Suzi Q - she's one cool girl. And oh.my.god is 48 Crash the catchiest rock song ever?! Not to mention, those leather pants. I'm still kinda lusting after a pair of leather pants, if only I could first afford liposuction!

But what makes Suzi Q so damn special?

"I was a me-ist. I believed in the right to do whatever I wanted to do regardless of gender. Still do."
Fantastic Guardian article here.

She was the first ever female musician (not just a singer, but an instrument player) to make it big in rock'n'roll. Her biggest musical hero was Elvis Presley, and like I talked about last week, he smashed the racial barrier of who could sing rock'n'roll. Suzi carried on his legacy, and smashed the gender barrier of who could be a rock'n'roller. Yeah, there were female singers, but she was the first to play - and a damn good bass player at that.

As she said in a radio interview "Somebody had to set the way". And set the way she did, with a blazing light for other hard rock chicks, like Joan Jett. Joan was so in love with Suzi her wooden platform shoes had Suzi Quatro carved into them.


Have you ever been presented with the opportunity to be the first at doing something? Did you go for it, and how did that work out for you?


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What's It All About Al-Friday - The Innate Need to Work



You know - what's it all about Alfie?

Why do we do what we do? Why do we go to work? Why do we practice HR?

Lots of important questions to answer on Fridays, as a reminder at the end of the traditional work week of why we are working, and what our life is really all about, before entering the weekend.


Once I had to write an essay for my first year university subject "Intro to Management", and the topic was 'the value of work for an individual'. It was the first time I ever really thought about how we really appreciate the opportunity to work. We love to have a task, accomplish its completion, and get a reward for it. It's so innate in our beings to want to work.


I don't pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who does not work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being.

-Theodore Roosevelt


At the end of another week of work done, we most certainly find ourselves weary, looking forward to time off, and probably fantasising about winning the lottery. But let's be grateful, despite however shitty our jobs are, that we have been afforded the opportunity to work this week. Spare a thought for all those others who cannot find paying work, or for those lost, aimless and empty from not finding the rewards of work in their lives. It's nice to be grateful for meeting an innate need within ourselves.

Bon weekend!


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

No Career Development For You! (Says Small Employer to Employee)

Not many of us enter the workforce with a desire to become a private sector small business employee. But in Australia, small business employs about 50% of the private sector. And let's be real - the job market is an unforgiving mistress - sometimes you just gotta take what you can get.

So how do you escape to organisations with international opportunities and a training budget that will pay for your Masters?



Some statistics about small business in Australia:

2 out of 3 small business operators are male, and 1 in 3 are female. But only a 3rd of female small business operators are working full time (i.e. the business is big enough to support them in a full time role - I imagine very few part time operators employ someone to run their business while they work part time). And 4 out of 5 males work full time in their business.

So when you look at the pool of small businesses, about half of the men in the pool are hiring, and about 1/8 of the women are hiring.




What it's like to work in small business:
  • The attendance fee of a conference would wipe out a small business training budget.
  • The small team sizes prohibit flexible working arrangements, but encourage an impressive range of skills covering all of the organisation's functions. 
  • The tight financial arrangements mean little investment in nice things like office decoration, gym memberships or bonuses. 
  • Finally, the employer probably entered the business because they have a skill or good to sell, not because they are a good manager - management is often under trained in running an actual business and uninterested in good people management practices.



What this means for your career:

If you enter small business as an employee - the only way you will exit is if you make your own opportunities. Seek out free training, get a mentor, attend networking events, and read, read, read. Join a LinkedIn group with good discussion. Pay to be in a professional group. Follow blogs, buy books and read industry news.

Your small business employer probably isn't interested in your career development, so if you are, make it happen. That is the reality of 50% of the workforce, so quit wishing and start working out-of-hours on yourself.

Yes. It sucks.

Do / Have you worked in small business? What have your experiences been with career development? What tips would you give to the small business employee with big career aspirations?


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Yes, You're In Asia - No, Don't Put a Photo on Your Resume





It's a big no-no in Australia to put a photo of yourself in a job application, but you do see a lot of advice  given that it's standard practice to include a photo of yourself for an Asian resume. But hells-to-the-no do not include a photo.



I followed that advice when I first arrived in Singapore, but now I see how incorrect it was. It's following a stereotype of Asian employment law being in the favour of employers - "they can't be sued, so it's ok if they see your photo - the more information the better". No, your photo will work against you. Because whilst Asian employment law may allow for photos, human behaviour is the same worldwide.


My top 5 reasons for not putting a photo on your resume:
  1. HR women are petty, jealous bitches - #truefact. I include myself in that group. You really want to show us how pretty and perfect you are? No, you want us to think you're another person we wouldn't be intimidated by when we have to lie about how much the organisation cares about you. Don't piss us off, and just.get.to.the.interview.

  2. The only time a photo can enhance your application is if the job requires you to be able to smile. Maaaaaaayyyyybe, a photo of yourself doing your skill could help - you know, like a speaker in front of a conference - but not of you processing the payroll. Otherwise, it's like 0 points of value in your most precious real estate space of your resume. Use the space wisely and just.get.to.the.interview.

  3. Like a picture speaks 1000 words, a photo lets me know in .5 seconds what I think about you, in what I would need to spend 5 minutes finding on a resume. Make your impression at the interview, not with a grainy 5cmx3cm photo. 

  4. If you're applying to a recruiter, they use software to scan your resume for keywords. If you get through that first human-less process, don't screw it up with the humans. Just get.to.the.interview.

  5. Most of us don't have professional photos of ourselves appropriate for resumes. Don't bother photoshopping a photo of yourself when you were out drinking. Everyone can tell what your photo is. Spend the time polishing your resume and application instead. Just.get.to.the.interview.
I guess my point is - just.get.to.the.interview! Don't screw it up with a photo.

On the flipside - if the organisation explicitly requested a photo as part of your application, would it make you think twice about working there, and the kind of HR practices they have?


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why You Should Give Up on Finding Great Career Advice From Women For Women

Let's be straight ok? Most of the advice for women to get ahead in the workplace SUCKS! You are not alone if you're still struggling to find a great female leader with applicable advice for you.

My solution? Give up.

I decided to give up after listening to a female Senior VP of an electronics company in Singapore. And instead of leaving feeling empowered and enthusiastic, I left furious. A little illustration of her advice:

"Men don't know how to manage women, so they have trouble promoting women - what would they do once the women is promoted? That's why it's up to us (as women) to show men how to work with us."

Ugh - such BULLSHIT!

Diversity is beneficial, so set quotas and meet them. We know racism isn't beneficial, so we set equal opportunity laws and keep them. We didn't wait until everyone felt ready and had seen the merits of equal opportunity proven. We enforce the law even if the employer is a racist.


So why did this make me give up on searching for a great female leader and her advice? 

It was the straw that broke the camel's back, and I finally understood it.
The advice we need won't come from one female leader, one book, or one speech. We had the crazy, overtly sexualised feminism of Helen Gurley Brown up against the militant, man repelling feminism of Gloria Steinem in the 70s. And neither of them had it right! Today, woman practice feminism from all of the spectrum, having equal expectations of great sex, great career, equal rights, and equal pay.

We need to do the same in our search for advice on our careers. No one leader has the answer, but we can certainly piece together an answer that works ourselves.

Give up on finding the key - start finding the pebbles to smash the glass.

What is some of the worst advice you've ever received from a female leader?
Or if you're a guy, what is some of the worst advice you've ever heard, given by a female leader to women, that would just never work?

Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Movers, Shakers and Monday Game Changers - Elvis, Rock 'n' Roll, and Race


Monday is about remembering the movers, shakers and game changers, of things that look incredibly trivial now, but challenged many on arrival.

Scaremongers like to write a lot about the insane changes the next generation will bring. Here's some changes already brought, against all odds and discouragement, and it all turned out alright.

Some perspective for your back-pocket, to think about when the times are getting tough as a change maker.



Oh.My.Gosh. did I looooove Elvis as a kid! When I was particularly sick and only able to do half school days, I would always catch the late afternoon tv movie. It was a good day when it was an Elvis movie.

So we all know his performing style wasn't favoured by parents of young girls. Yes, parents didn't like their little girls screaming at a man's swaying hips. He played "devil music", and corrupted youth into having sexual thoughts. My oh my.

But did you know what was one of the biggest impediments to Elvis' career?

"The white disc-jockeys wouldn't touch... Negroes' music and the Negro disc-jockeys didn't want anything to do with a record made by a white man." wiki

His music was released at the pinnacle of racial tension in the US, and both sides of the debate weren't quite sure how to react. But the kids knew - and the kids put their money where their ears were.

Elvis became the king.


If you were Elvis, do you think you could have stood the heat for being so different and daring? Would you have had such conviction in the joy your change could bring?


I really hope I could have, because the world without Rock 'n' Roll would suck hard.


Cheers,
Sarah

Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.
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