Trials and Tribulations of Finding Employment

Several years ago, I learned to program PHP. After developing a couple web applications for the bank, I got ridiculously excited about the way that technology integrates to improve (or sometimes not…) business and our lives. So, armed with this passion, I did what any good member of Gen-Y would do… I quit my job and went back for another degree.

Secure in the fact that an MBA would make me infinitely more employable, I scoffed in the face of concerns by friends and family about “…not having an income” and “…how are you going to find a job – the economy sucks” or “…you know what’s nice? Not eating ramen“. Well, a year and a half later and I can safely say that ramen is not too bad but, given the sodium content, is basically like eating a beef or chicken flavored salt lick; I’m developing real concerns about my health. Now, as the education ride draws to a close… it’s time to find a job.

However, as it turns out, I seem to pretty much suck at finding a job or internship. I have sent out resume and cover letter after resume and cover letter to an unresponsive void. Admittedly, I have gone through a couple interviews but obviously with no success. Being that I am always trying to improve, I’m reflecting on the past to determine what is holding me back so that I can find a job and subsequently add “awesome job seeker” to my list of already awesome skills.

A large part of this blog will be a series of posts detailing the trials and tribulations of finding work today because, while I am awesome at a lot of things, I am also supremely awesome at failing but, at the same time, good natured about it as well.

I am open to job-hunting and interviewing tips or quips (see what I did there?) in the comments so I invite you, dear reader, to help me improve my skills and ultimately find a job.

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I’m Back…

It has been a long time since I posted on this blog… we’re talking years but I felt it was time to resurrect it.  I have changed the name because, despite my pride of the original name, “Confessions of a Young Professional” seemed a little limiting.  It now the horribly un-creative “Brennan Meadowcroft Blog” or “BMB”.  This might change in the future, we’ll see what I can come up with.

Anyway, I’m back and posting about technology, business and my attempts at finding a job during and after my final semester in grad school.  Hope you enjoy…

Oh!  By the way… I’m trying out the background but am not convinced.  Since the user experience is hugely important to me please comment if it is problematic (hard to read text, doesn’t look good, etc…)

The Black Market of Business Activities

With the election recently passed and the speculation of Obama’s first 90 days, it is a good time to discuss unintended effects of legislation.  Now, this isn’t about the merits of health care reform, etc…  Actually, I am referring to the effects of over-legislation.  This is a concern at the forefront of any good legislator’s mind when producing a bill: the creation of a black market.  Now, given my background and strange (potentially unhealthy) obsession with describing everything in economic terms, I will spare you the math and equations.  You can, however, request graphs; they are pretty colorful…  In a nutshell, it is possible to create too harsh of legislation and force behavior into a black market.  What does this have to do with management and young professionals, you ask?  Well, management may implement certain policies which, skin deep, appear to be working but really are not curbing targeted behaviors.

While I am sure that everyone can come up with a host of activities this could possibly refer too, I am thinking specifically thinking about monitoring an employee’s computer usage.  It is true that a chunk of employers monitor employee Internet and email usage.  This is common and most employees, I think, expect it.  If this is a surprise to you, here it is in bold letters:

Many employers monitor your email and internet usage.  Regardless whether this practice is pursued at your office, you should consider anything on your work computer property of your employer.

Just to clear the air of the obvious question: I don’t have a problem with this… in theory.  It makes sense, you want to ensure that your employees are at least maintaining a respectable level of productivity and not constantly surfing Facebook or Myspace on your dime.  There is a level where you can have too much monitoring, however.

Too much monitoring, you say?  Shenanigans!  Employee monitoring to an employer is like analytics to a stats nerd… you can never have too much!  Now, being a nerd myself (I have played drinking games in college and calculated the probability of having to take a drink; you’re hard pressed to get much nerdier), I definitely understand this position but too much monitoring may push your employees to move their behavior to a black market of sorts.

For managers, there is a takeaway here: no employee is ever 100% efficient.  The closer you get, the better off you are but, like truly understanding what women want, it will likely be forever elusive.  These systems and policies can only reduce the time employees spend on non-business activities.

There are many negative results of implementing overly invasive screening programs beyond creating this black market:

  • Reduced efficiency – employees will begin to adjust their work habits to accommodate the new systems and policies.  Sometimes, the very thing that is being combatted is what makes the employee as effective as they are (i.e. blocking LinkedIn for a job function that benefits from networking…).
  • Entrenched management – if there is an employee who is monitoring everything, that employee is going to be “unfireable” since they can see any problems coming their way and leverage the information.  Also, this employee will have more information to reduce and possibly even eliminate workplace threats.  An employee they decide they don’t like?  They have the information to get them fired; we won’t even discuss the potential for falsifying records against a targeted employee…
  • Greater IT risk – the more information you collect, the more information that can be stolen.  Keystroke logging is especially dangerous.  True, it helps to better understand behavior (i.e. an employee is running Excel for four hours but has not typed a single keystroke?  Could be a problem…) but if your employees do anything personal from a work computer such as checking their bank account (not an uncommon practice), you have just logged their user name and password.  This information must then be safeguarded… what protections do you have in place?  Granted, a work computer is never expected to be private but there are potential liability issues if this information is stolen from your database.  Also, the administrator has access to everyone’s corporate login information… this eliminates the protections of having separate job functions required to process a transaction or make a change… *cough* SocGen *cough*…
  • Reduced view of true activity – employers will not be able to see what their employees are truly doing.  This means that they can’t effectively identify where productivity is lost.

If you set unreasonable barriers, your employees will seek to circumvent them.  There are many options available and for every person seeking to put these systems into place, there is at least one person figuring out how to get past them.  It would be impossible to list them all but needless to say, they are numerous and range from a plugin on the employees browser to shifting all illegitimate internet usage to a smart phone.

Technology provides some really cool solutions to some really complicated problems but these solutions need to be taken with a grain of salt.  Don’t simply install these types of programs without first asking questions and understanding the implications of the action.  In some cases, the lost productivity associated with work computer usage is minimal to the costs of installing software designed to combat this loss.  It is up to you, as an employer, to analyze the costs and benefits of these systems and decide on an appropriate course of action.

As an employer, you should seek to achieve a happy medium – enough for you to feel comfortable, not so much that your employees feel violated and not trusted.

Generation Y: Disruptive To A Fault?

Generation Y is the generation just now beginning to enter the workforce. Born between 1980 and 1994, they range from ages 14 to 28 and numbering approximately 70 million strong stand to alter current workplace standards; though whether for good or for bad remains to be determined…

Unlike earlier generations, computers are not a disruptive technology that required adaptation. In fact, members of Generation Y have been able to fully integrate them into their lives offering a unique perspective and affording an unprecedented ability to multi-task. Some have even called the Millenials (another term for Generation Y) the most productive generation in history. This is a group simultaneously able to text message, listen to a podcast, write a memo, build a website and read blogs all while downloading copyrighted content (legally, of course…).

Many companies are looking to harness the energy and skills of Generation Y and even altering management structures to receive the full benefit. Since the Millenials don’t have much loyalty to a specific company or job, firms are seeking to get as much from their young employees while they are available.

However, growing up under the hand of the Baby Boomer generation, they have questioned authority their entire lives and now this skepticism of the “correct way” has pushed its way into their work lives as well. This, obviously, causes frustration among older managers more comfortable working within the standard command-and-control structure.

In the working world, current young professionals are the tip of the sword for the Millenials and already tension is beginning to form with young employees flippant over the skills of older employees and vice versa. In trying to manage this potential conflict, the question boils down to: what is a reasonable middle ground?

What can employers do?

  • Be more lenient regarding working hours – These young professionals place a lot of utility on social time and so unless a specific business requires operations during a specific time (e.g. a retail store), providing your younger workforce the freedom to vary their work schedules according to their personal schedules will help maintain morale.
  • Foster a more social, creative working environment – Through social networks, cell phones and instant messaging, Millenials have never been very far from their peers and thus, are very social and collaborative. By mimicking the environment in which they work on their own personal projects at the business and allowing this generation to take on their workload their way, you can coax the greatest level of productivity.
  • Don’t worry about the blogs and MP3 players – Allowing your younger employees to surf the net, listen to music or possibly text while working just allows them to take advantage of the multitasking skills they have been honing since kindergarten. Of course, certain sites are likely to generally be detrimental when used incorrectly such as YouTube, Facebook and Myspace to name a few and it is probably good practice to be monitored for abuse.
  • Communicate regularly with your employees – Millenials have grown up receiving constant feedback from teachers, parents and peers. If placed into a situation where it is not provided by a supervisor, they will begin to resent their environment.
  • Rest assured, your younger employees are more capable than you might think – Armed with a viewpoint that anything is possible, impressive computer abilities and an almost freakish comfort level with the internet, Generation Y is capable of accomplishing tasks outside their immediate skill set and can function as a sort of “Swiss Army Knife of the workplace” when needed.

I would like make a note here to any employers reading this blog. While implementing these changes would be great to help retain your Millenial employees, certain business models are not conducive to these changes and understandably so; imagine walking into a retail store and not being able to talk to a sales person because they are listening to music and surfing the net on their iPhone… It just doesn’t work and these suggestions would most likely be detrimental to your business. Take them on at your own risk.

This is certainly a two-way street much to the dismay of some members of this cohort; so, what can members of Generation Y do?

  • Be respectful of current management structures – Despite being labeled as incredibly productive, you are still working in a system run by people who are comfortable with this type of structure and over the years, this system has proven extremely effective considering the US economy’s place in history.
  • Pick up the phone – email and IM (when available) are quick and easy and you are most likely comfortable with these mediums but older generations often prefer a phone call. Granted, this depends on the person but try to avoid sending an email at least every once in a while when a phone call will serve equally well.
  • Be considerate of the skills of your older colleagues – our generation has a habit (nasty or not…) of being somewhat… dismissive… of those that we believe are not up to the level we feel we are. Relax and learn. Those with seniority have at least one valuable skill you do not: experience. You may think you know how something is going to turn out but those older peers most likely have been through it and know what to do. Take a back seat the first time and be better prepared the next time.

Before ending this installment, a point to think about: despite the size of Generation Y (keep in mind, the size rivals the baby boomers and is roughly three times that of Generation X), are the benefits placed on the workplace to accommodate this high maintenance/high performance group beneficial through increased productivity and a unique world view or detrimental from the disruption to a economic system that has proven to be one of the best in recorded history?

Cheers,

-B

Hello world!

I’m told that the first confession is always the hardest… like trying to break through the writers block and let everything flow.  Whoever said that to me wasn’t kidding.

This is to break the ice.  Putting the page together, building the “About Me” and creating the very first blog is a little intimidating to complete all in one night but, hey, I don’t need sleep so long as there is a Starbucks on every corner, yeah?  Well, every corner but 600 anyway…

Cheers,

-B