Saturday, April 5, 2014

Finding a Job in Difficult Times

I hope the following guide can provide you some help if you are looking for work, or think you may be in the near future.

Before You Lose The Job

First, it is important to mention some things you can do if you can do if you haven't yet lost your job.
  1. Prepare financially to the extent you can. This means getting on a strict budget, paying off debt and building savings (see my three-part series Get Back To Basics for more ideas and tips). Building up an extra supply of food and other needed items could also come in handy.
  2. Get ready to look for a new job now, don't wait until you are fired. Update your resume. Make some phone calls to your friends and contacts to see if their companies or industries are hiring. Be discrete - some companies frown on their employees job hunting, but what they don't know won't hurt them.
  3. Take steps to protect your job. Check out Fifteen Commandments of Keeping Your Job. Don't give your employer a reason to fire you.
  4. Learn new skills. Take some classes at a local community college. Brush up on your computer skills. Learn bookkeeping/accounting. Learn Spanish for the workplace. The more you know, the more employable you will be.
You're Fired. Now What?

Okay, you've been downsized, laid-off, restructured, or whatever euphemism for being fired that your company choose to use. Now what? How do you find a job during the middle of an economic crisis? Your job-hunting strategies will be much the same as during the good times.

  1. You are much more likely to find a job through a friend or family member than through the classifieds. So get out there and work your "network." Call or email all your friends, family, former co-workers, fellow church members, old college roommates, neighbors, industry colleagues and anyone else you know. Tell them you are out of work and ask them if they know if their company or industry is hiring. Ask them to let you know of any openings they hear of.
  2. Step away from your computer. Job hunting sites like monster.com and careerbuilder.com are useful job hunting tools, and you should use them. However, you are still more likely to find a job through your network of contacts than though the Internet. Don't let your Internet search consume all of your job hunting time.
  3. Take advantage of any job-hunting help that may be offered by your former employer or your local government. I've noticed that my local government has been conducting job fairs specifically for people laid-off in several recent plant closings in my area. Local governments, and occasionally the companies themselves, will often try to help people left unemployed by large-scale lay offs by conducting job fairs, holding job-hunting seminars or even offering special training.
  4. If you are a college graduate, get your college to help. Most colleges and universities have a career development office to help both current students and alumni. These offices offer everything from aptitude testing and resume help to job boards listing openings provided by other alumni.
  5. Check out the resources of you local community college. Many have career development centers that offer everything from free and low-cost training courses to aptitude testing to skills assessment to help writing your resume. Best of all, these resources are available to the community as a whole, not just current or former students.
  6. Consider temporary or part-time work while continuing your job hunt. The extra income will help. Be aware of how this may or may not effect any unemployment benefits you might be receiving.
  7. Consider learning a trade. Demand seems soft for many so-called "white collar" professions, and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future. But there is an actual shortage of qualified trades people. Training can be had for low cost at your local community college, and you may even qualify for reduced rates (or even free) if you have been recently laid off or are currently unemployed. For more information of the trades, see the wikipedia article Tradesman, the website of the Center For America, and the mikeroweWORKS Foundation.
  8. Don't be a "Job Snob." Be willing to settle for less until you can find more. You may have to take a job making less money, or with less prestige, then your old job. Be willing to work outside your preferred industry. Don't despair, you can always find a new, better paying job once the economy turns around.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fifteen Commandments of Keeping Your Job

The following is from the website of the Texas Workforce Commission:

TEN (MAKE THAT 15) COMMANDMENTS OF KEEPING YOUR JOB


(This first appeared in Texas Business Today, 2nd/3rd Quarters 1998 issue. Since then, it has appeared on a lot of company bulletin boards and employee break room walls. The last five are new for 2010.)
  1. Be on time, whether it is with showing up for work, returning from breaks, going to meetings, or turning in assignments.

  2. Call in if you know you will be tardy or absent. Most companies treat absences or tardiness without notice much more seriously than simple absence or tardiness.

  3. Try your best; always finish an assignment, no matter how much you would rather be doing something else. It is always good to have something to show for the time you have spent.

  4. Anticipate problems and needs of management - your bosses will be grateful, even if they do not show it.

  5. Show a positive attitude - no one wants to be around someone who is a "downer".

  6. Avoid backstabbing, office gossip, and spreading rumors - remember, what goes around comes around - joining in the office gossip may seem like the easy thing to do, but almost everyone has much more respect - and trust - for people who do not spread stories around.

  7. Follow the rules. The rules are there to give the greatest number of people the best chance of working together well and getting the job done.

  8. Look for opportunities to serve customers and help coworkers. Those who would be leaders must learn how to serve.

  9. Avoid the impulse to criticize your boss or the company. It is easy to find things wrong with others - it is much harder, but more rewarding, to find constructive ways to deal with problems. Employees who are known for their good attitude and helpful suggestions are the ones most often remembered at performance evaluation and raise review time.

  10. Volunteer for training and new assignments. Take a close look at people in your organization who are "moving up" - chances are, they are the ones who have shown themselves in the past to be willing to do undesirable assignments or take on new duties.

  11. Avoid the temptation to criticize your company, coworkers, or customers on the Internet. Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and blogs offer many opportunities to spout off - remember that anyone in the world can find what you put online and that employers may be able to take action against any employee whose online actions hurt the company or its business in some way.

  12. Be a good team member. Constantly focusing on what makes you different from others, instead of how you fit into the company team, makes you look like someone who puts themselves first, instead of the customer, the team, or the company.

  13. Try to avoid ever saying "that's not my job". Many, if not most, managers earned their positions by doing work turned down by coworkers who were in the habit of saying that, and they appreciate employees who help get the job done, whatever it is.

  14. Show pride in yourself and respect toward others. Never let yourself be heard uttering minority-related slurs or other derogatory terms in reference to yourself or to others. Use of such terms perpetuates undesirable stereotypes and inevitably disturbs others. It also tends to make others doubt your maturity and competence. The best way to get respect is to show respect toward yourself and others.

  15. Distinguish yourself. Pick out one or more things in your job to do better than anyone else. Become known as the "go-to" person for such things. That will help managers remember you favorably at times when you really need to be remembered.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Indoor Air Pollution

Worried about indoor air pollution?  Perhaps you should be, especially if you've taken steps to make your home more airtight in order to improve energy efficiency:

In the past, I have often recommended sealing your home's envelope as part of your energy efficiency efforts. Your home's envelope (walls, windows, doors, foundation, roof, attic) makes a big difference when it comes to heating and cooling.

Leaky envelopes allow winter cold air to easily seep indoors and your home's hot air (which you paid for) to seep outdoors. In the summer, a leaky envelope allows hot air from outside to leak inside, and your home's cool air (again, which you paid for) to seep outside. A very inefficient use of energy and a waste of money. Studies show that 25% to 40% of a typical home's energy bill is due to this waste.

But having an air tight home can potentially lead to air quality problems. Here is what the Rocky Mountain Institute has to say about this issue:
"An important part of making your home energy-efficient is eliminating air leaks. But does an airtight home have to mean a high concentration of indoor pollutants? Not at all.

First, don't introduce pollution sources into your home. Many common products "outgas" (give off) toxic fumes. Radon, lead, formaldehyde, cigarette smoke, organic chemicals used in furnishings, and carbon monoxide from ranges, fireplaces, and heating systems are some of the common indoor pollutants. Drapery fabric, cleaning products, carpeting, paints, and furniture can all contain harmful chemicals. Simply keeping them out of your home is the best way to avoid indoor contamination. Instead, choose household furnishings that are made with natural or non-toxic materials. These products are available, but you have to ask for them.

Many people assume that having a leaky house will flush out any pollutants. In fact, unless the wind is blowing hard, pollutants will accumulate in the still, indoor air and harm you and your family. The answer is to have a very well ventilated house, but to have the ventilation under your control. A leaky house is unpredictably and irregularly ventilated. On the other hand, a well-designed, energy-efficient house will use air-to-air heat-exchangers to flush out the stale air and recover the heat (or in a warm climate, the cool) from the outgoing air to warm (or cool) the incoming fresh air. In this way, you can have lots of fresh air but not pay for "space" heating — heating outer space." -- RMI webpage
Another idea, one that is literally quite green, for your consideration is the use of houseplants to filter your home's air. NASA has studied which plants best filter the air, not only producing oxygen from CO2, but also absorbing benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. Here is a list of the best air-filtering houseplants based on their studies:

* English Ivy (Hedera helix)
* Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
* Golden pothos or Devil's ivy (Scindapsus aures or Epipremnum aureum)
* Peace lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa')
* Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
* Bamboo palm or reed palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii)
* Snake plant or mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii')
Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium, syn. Philodendroncordatum)
Selloum philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum, syn. Philodendronselloum)
* Elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum)
* Red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata)
* Cornstalk dracaena (Dracaena fragans 'Massangeana')
* Janet Craig dracaena (Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig')
Warneck dracaena (Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii')
* Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
Gerbera Daisy or Barberton daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
* Pot Mum or Florist's Chrysanthemum (Chrysantheium morifolium)
* Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Raised Bed Gardening

A raised garden bed is exactly what it sounds like - a garden bed that is intentionally built up so that it rises above the surrounding ground. These garden beds can be made in a variety of styles using a variety of methods.

Many bio-intensive gardening techniques, such as square-foot gardening, make use of raised garden beds. Sheet-mulch gardening techniques, such as lasagna gardening, in essence become raised garden beds as the layers are built up.

Click here for photos of various styles of raised garden beds.

Done right, growing herbs and vegetables in raised garden beds can offer a number of advantages.

  • Reduced soil compaction.
  • Improved soil quality.
  • Better drainage.
  • More intensive plantings (more plants, less space)
  • Less work than a traditional garden (less weeding, easier planting & picking)
  • Longer growing season (warm earlier in spring, productive longer in fall)

Most importantly, studies have shown that raised bed gardening is more productive than traditional gardening, yielding as much as twice the number of vegetables. Combined with bio-intensive methods, they may be even more productive.

The Popular Mechanics website has a couple of great articles on raised bed farming for those wanting to try the technique:

How to Build and Install Raised Garden Beds

How To Irrigate Raised Garden Beds

Happy Gardening!

Friday, March 28, 2014

About the Modern Victory Movement

A lot of people are concerned about what they future may bring. We see multiple problems on the horizon - massive government debts, geopolitical dangers, economic problems, political turmoil, loss of individual liberty, terrorism, and risks of pandemic disease, to name but a few.

The Modern Victory Movement (MVM) is about teaching people how best to navigate these difficult times of change. The core of MVM is not waiting around for the government to solve problems for you, but rather to take the steps necessary to solve your own problems, to become much more self-reliant. Not only will doing so benefit you and your family, but also your friends, neighbors and community.

For more information:

Introduction to the Modern Victory Movement

The Eight Main Points of the Modern Victory Movement

History of Victory Gardens