Monday, April 23, 2012

Now what Facebook?

Today, it was announced that Facebook now has 900 million users.

Now what?

Obviously, the growth that the company has seen since it's inception is going to slow then at some point stop and even decline. The world only has so many people with an Internet connection. In addition, since the company is going public sometime within the next month, they are going to have to find ways to grow.

Since the user base has a ceiling that they are most likely closer to, than further away from, they have to find a way to keep increasing revenues and growing.

Their acquisition of Instagram is one way of helping. Expect to see a lot of that in the months and years going forward. Buying up companies that are doing things that either compete against or complement what you do can not only stave off the competition, but allow you to move into new areas to stay fresh and relevant.

But they must also keep innovating. Sure, a lot of people get mad when they make cosmetic changes, or introduce new ways of displaying your information, but they must keep doing this.

Facebook must avoid becoming the next Kodak, AOL or even MySpace. My personal experience with MySpace largely ended when pages became too clunky and would not load properly - if they loaded at all. I don't see that becoming a problem with Facebook, but you never know.

In the case of other large, infamous and seemingly unable to be conquered companies, becoming stagnant and arrogant is what dooms those companies. There are always smaller, more nimble companies looking to take the big guy on the block down. They can't all be acquired. A lot of them fail and fall by the wayside.

However, at some point, Facebook will become the next MySpace. Technology changes. Personal interests and desires change. Facebook won't be able to keep up with that, but someone new in town will.

But to stave that off, they must remain nimble and make smart acquisitions along the way. I think Facebook can, and therefore, they have a pretty good future in the short term.

Friday, April 20, 2012

It does get better

I participate in several Twitter chats each week, and while one was going on, I saw someone who said something to the effect of 'I'm jobless and depressed.'

It was a short tweet, but it got the message across. I don't know what the particulars of this person's situation was, and my attempts to find out more to try and assist went unanswered.

But my personal experiences can help you, if you find yourself in a similar situation. The loss of a job or business may feel like the worst thing to ever happen in the moment, but it can be a great opportunity to move on!

I lost my business a bit over six months ago. I was crushed, but I'm only in my 20s. I have a long life ahead of me. I just didn't know where to next proceed. I took a couple of months to not only unwind, but make sure all my legal obligations were taken care of. Once I had that all finished, I needed to figure out what to do next.

If you also lose your business, do the same thing. Make sure your legal obligations are fulfilled before moving onto the next thing. If you lose your job, take a week or two to just unwind, decompress and run through the five stages of grief.

From there, make sure you get your resume in order. In my opinion, a functional resume is best as it puts your skills up front and most likely to be seen when recruiters scan your resume. But what else do you do with your time? It may take months to find your next gig, especially if you are trying to change industries.

The answer is simple: Volunteer.

Find a non-profit that is operating near where you live. They are always looking for help. Whether it is making phone calls, raising funds, trying to reduce costs, public relations and the list goes on and on. Just 10 or 15 hours a week can make a difference not only for that group or organization, but it can help put you in a better mood if you are still down!

In addition, it is a great way to network locally! In addition, you keep your skills fresh and perhaps pick up some new skills you can use moving forward. You may find your next career through the work you do as a volunteer, especially if you meet local business leaders. Or, you may find that the work you are doing for the non-profit is fulfilling and perhaps that becomes your next career. You just never know.

I am currently working for a local non-profit. I certainly enjoy the work, and I have been able to network significantly. I also am keeping my skills fresh and current. I'm not quite sure yet where all of this will lead me, but I am moving on and by doing what I am doing, you can too!

Monday, April 16, 2012

40 hours a week is enough

CNN has an interesting article out today regarding Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The article goes on to explain how and why it is OK to have a tech job, yet only work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This is something I have been thinking about, not only based on what I see others post about on Twitter, but my own experiences.

I've come to the conclusion that outside of a few exceptions, there is no good reason to work beyond 40 hours a week. It doesn't matter if you are the CEO of a major corporation, in an entry level position or somewhere in-between.

Those exceptions could include some kind of disaster to the place of work (fire, flood or other natural disaster) and many many hours are needed to get the business back up and running. Or there is a chance to add a client or other business to your company and you want to make a great first impression.

But these should be exceptions and not the rule. If you are putting in more than 40 hours a week, you need to examine why. Is your boss being unreasonable? Do you need to hire more people to handle an increased work load? Can you not trust the people who work for you and as a result, you need to put in more hours (and replace those you can't trust)?

If you are working more than 40 hours a week on a regular basis, what is that doing to your life outside of work? It's widely reported that people need eight hours of sleep per night, so right there, that is 1/3 of the day. Then you have to not only get to the job, but get home (assuming you don't work at home). After that, what about family life, friends, and anything else just to maintain a normal sense of balance.

The more you work, the more all of that gets cut into. A quick google search will tell you about the lives and families that have been destroyed because someone worked too much.

Think about it. You only live once. Do you want to live to work, or work to live?

Why is everyone so offended?

There is a trend going on that is confusing to me. It is something that seems to have been building over the last 10 years or so, and in my opinion, is just out of control.

Everyone takes offense to anything anyone says anymore.

Got that? It's a bit of a mouthful, but let me give an example about what I am talking about, why I think it is happening and what can be done about this problem.

First, Person A gets asked a question about something, or is talking about something that either directly or indirectly attacks person/group/organization B.

Second, Person/group/organization B, or people who are affiliated with or identify with B get all up in arms about what person A said, claiming it to be amongst the worst thing they have ever heard and want boycotts or that person to resign/be fired from their position.

Third, Person A backtracks by giving a half-hearted apology (or if it was 'agregious' enough, they do resign) and then Person/group/organization B is largely over it.

But finally going forward, you usually hear Person/group/organization B taking shots at Person A whenever they get mentioned.

Why is this happening? It is largely a culture of the 24-hour per day news cycle and the explosion of social media. News organizations need material to fill their shows (and to justify their existence). Everyone has smart phones, so anything that used to be said in private or in confidence, ends up on the Internet almost immediately, which then gets picked up by the major news organizations.

In addition, with major cuts being done in the media, plus the rush to 'be first,' many in journalism just go for the lowest hanging fruit. Making scandals seem much more of an issue than what they really are is something that helps keep people going.

The most frequent thing I see, is in politics, whenever a politician or someone in the political arena says something and it manages to 'offend' someone else. The Hilary Rosen 'controversy' from last week is just the latest. I'm sure there will be two or three new things to come along this week, and what Rosen said last week will be forgotten before too long. Sports and other newsmakers are also areas that attract a lot of this type of attention.

So what can be done? First, grow a backbone! If you are in the public eye, you better have some thick skin. If you don't you are in the wrong place. I know people say stuff about me behind my back (even sometimes in front of me) and I just don't care.If it's a difference of opinion, I respect that. If people try to offend me it won't work, because I don't get offended easily. I like to think I have a thick skin and other people need to develop one.

In addition, as I said earlier, a lot of what people say now gets made public. People have been saying these things since the dawn of time, but with technology, people now know about it. It won't change going forward, so just get used to it.

Finally, don't worry about the latest controversy! If you have nothing better to do than just worry about what someone in the public eye said that might be interpreted differently, then maybe you need to find something else to do with your time. Perhaps even work to expand your horizons and views! Don't worry. At the end of the day, everything will be okay!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The coverup is worse than the crime

It's said that character is defined by what you do when nobody (or most people) are not watching.

For those that don't pay attention to sports, former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was fired on Tuesday. In the world of sports, most coaches get fired for the team not doing well. Quite the opposite in this case as Arkansas was one of the top teams in the country the past several seasons.

So why would a university fire a coach who was doing so well? By lying to his boss about the details surrounding a motorcycle accident he was involved with.

Sure, it was embarrassing that it was discovered he was riding with a woman half his age, while his wife and four kids were some place else. But a lot of people in high profile positions have affairs and survive.

But when the boss started investigating and asked Petrino what was going on, Petrino should have told the truth, but he didn't. Then when it was revealed that Petrino hired the woman he was having an affair with, over 158 other applicants, that raised some serious red flags (not to also mention the throwback to the days when the boss would hire the secretary who couldn't type).

At that point, the athletic director didn't have choice but to fire Petrino. Having been discovered that he hired his mistress would have probably come out at some point (if not publicly, people within the program would have found out - if they didn't know already). But the athletic director was also lied to about what really happened.

Had Petrino come clean to his boss early in the investigation (or even before one was started), he may not have saved his job. But he would have been able to at least take the high road - if there was much of one in this case. By trying to cover up his actions, it made the final decision to be fired that much easier.

As the links to the articles above showed, his character was largely questioned already. By now, his character is in tatters and he may never coach again. Learn from this, so that you don't kill your career. The lesson, as always, is that the coverup is indeed worse than the crime.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Self sensor...but to a point

There is a ton of information on the Internet regarding your online image. Everyone has heard about not putting anything 'risky' on your Facebook, Twitter, ect. accounts. But how far should you go with not making certain information available?

I think we all can agree that putting pictures of yourself doing who knows what at that kegger you attended while in college is not the best of ideas.

But what about your personal thoughts and opinions? This blog post is my own opinion on the subject, and I'm sure there are people who will disagree with what I have to say in it. Should it disqualify me from a potential job as a result?

No, and here is why. I'm a person, not a machine. I have thoughts, opinions, dreams and desires. The whole package that is me is unique. Nobody else is the same. Sure, I have similar thoughts on things as other people, but nobody thinks the exact same way on all subjects as I do. It is what makes me an individual.

As a result, I don't mind sharing my thoughts on the latest political happening, sporting event or news making item. If I make a snarky comment about a politician, or a team that is the rival of my favorite team, why should that matter to an employer? If I have to be a drone and keep those thoughts to myself, chances are, I'm not going to be happy at your place of employment (and you likely have an unhappy group of employees).

Keep in mind, I'm not going to be showing up to work on a daily basis and telling everyone and their brother what I thought about last night's election results or my latest thoughts on religion. There is no need for that in the workplace. Idle water cooler chat about a team blowing a 3-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning? That happens everywhere all of the time and to pretend it doesn't happen at your place is naive at best.

As a manager or HR director, if you run across a potential candidate who may share some political/sports/news opinions on social media outlets that are different than yours, don't dismiss them out of hand. You likely already employ someone who has different opinions than yourself and they are a good employee. If you are a good manager or HR director, you will know before you hire them how they will fit within their organization based on many many other factors then some random thoughts on social media sites.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Here is how to lose a large pool of potential candidates

In an effort to network and reach out to others, I participate in a few Twitter chats. I do this not only to learn about what other people are saying and thinking, but to also share a few nuggets of knowledge that I have.

I was in one last night and notice some excellent answers being given by someone who works in HR at a US based automaker. Following the chat, I exchanged a few tweets back and forth with her, and she provided a link to the career website for that company.

After not having the best experience at the last conglomerate that I worked for, I was not expecting to find much of anything that I may have liked. However, I encountered a major problem before I could even see what kinds of jobs they had to offer.

When I pulled up the webpage, I noticed that nothing was formatted correctly, poorly laid out and just a major mess. Since I use the Safari web browser, I occasionally encounter this problem. So, I tried Firefox, since that will fix all problems I come across with Safari.

Except I then had the exact same problem.

Since I was not sure quite what the problem was, I sent a tweet to my contact at this company, and explained the problem. Her response: "Hi Rob, currently our ATS for job openings works best with Internet Explorer right now."

Seriously? This immediately brought back my failed attempts to apply for another major company that handles prescription drug plans when I had similar issues with viewing and applying for jobs within their company.

But with web browser usage somewhere around 53 percent being Internet Explorer...these two companies are missing out on up to 47 percent of their talent pool by letting their jobs sites be only accessed by IE. I'm not sure who is making these decisions within the companies, but if I were CEO, and I discovered this, someone would have some explaining to do!

So if nothing else, make sure your job website can be accessed by multiple web browsers. If this was 1997, I might understand. However, being 2012, access by multiple browsers over multiple platforms is a requirement!

Monday, April 2, 2012

You and your management team are killing your company

Yes, you and your management team are killing your company.

By no means does that mean your company is in imminent danger of collapse or failure, but you must take a hard look at what you are doing to improve your companies long term chance of success.

All too often, I see managers doing what they think is best by toeing the company line by checking the box when it comes to how they manage their teams. From being a gatekeeper regarding information going up or down the management ladder, doing what is required regarding employee evaluations or just hanging out in the corner office and not engaging your team.

By living in the box, you don't see the forest through the trees. You really have no idea what your employees on the front lines are experiencing on a day to day basis. Sure you see the numbers, but you don't see what is really going on. C-level executives never see what is going on because they rarely see the front lines, if they ever even go see what goes on at the ground level. First level managers are too busy fighting one fire after another to truly see what goes on with their people. Middle management tends to act as a go-between.

Here is what you can do to help get through that mess: Meet with your people! Far more often than you are doing now!

If you are C-level, especially in a large company, go meet with your front line workers. I'm not talking by sitting in a room with 200 of them and have a Q&A session once a month or quarter (but if you are doing that now, keep this going). Go on the front lines. Work on the assembly line. Sit in a cubicle with procurement. Engage those workers. They are the ones who know what happens on a daily basis and you need to know what they are experiencing. They have the answers to the problems your company doesn't know it has. Try to spend 8-10 hours a week by meeting and working with these employees. Your time will be well worth it in both the short and long run.

If you are a first-second level manager, not only should you have a brief conversation daily with each of your employees, but you should sit down to review goals and aspirations far more often than once or twice per year (mid-year and end-year reviews). Have a half-hour meeting every two weeks to discuss issues and see how personal and organizational goals are progressing. This keeps those goals front and center and it makes it much more easy to make changes as the year progresses if necessary. In addition, you will have a greater working knowledge of what is going on, and will have to go fight fires less often.

Middle management needs to take a hybrid approach to the above. Meet and work with the front line workers, but also engage regularly with the managers you oversee. Make the changes you learn about from those engagements and meetings, and use your position to make sure those above you are able to make those changes happen. By being actively engaged in your company, you make yourself that much more valuable and more likely to move up to the C-level. Just passing emails back and forth and not getting out there doesn't makes you less valuable to the organization and more likely you have hit your ceiling.

So get out there and engage your people. Checking the box and doing the minimum might be enough to make everyone happy. However, it won't let you be informed and aware of things that could be going on that need your attention can make your company suffer. Engagement can make your company better, make current and potential customers take note and improve your company's long term prospects!