Alchemical Thoughts

Thinking some more about jobs and the workplace

Posted on: February 16, 2011

These are some items about work and jobs that I have found thought provoking and/or useful. These are things I have shared individually now and then with others via Facebook or Twitter (though I am not a big Twitter user). I wanted to compile some of these things I have been reading lately to have them for reference purposes. Maybe I am also compiling them to spur further thoughts for blogging down the road.

  • Bob Sutton’s book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, has been on my TBR list for a while. I enjoyed his previous book, The No Asshole Rule very much, so I am looking forward to the new book. So until I can get my hands on the new book, Professor Sutton points to a pretty good summary of it (warning PDF). The summary is pretty much something that I think is worth sharing more, and I wish I could put it in my office door. However, I don’t think some of the locals would appreciate the honesty. And by the way, simple concepts like a boss who watches your back and knows when to get out of way are often missing in librarianship as well. Mentioning that though often gets the managers of Librarian Blogsville in a snit.
  • Dumb Little Man offers advice on “How to Stay Motivated When You Hate Your Job.” We all have our good and bad days. For some, the bad days may outnumber the good. In this economy, you may not have the luxury to just pack up and leave a job that you hate. You may have to hang in there a bit longer. So these tips should make things bearable until the moment when  you get to your release date and can leave that bad job.
  • When leaving a job, you definitely should not burn your bridges no matter how good or bad the job was. As tempted as you may be to just tell the boss to take the job and shove it, that is not a good idea. Odds are good you are going to need him or her as a reference. So leave in good terms. Lifehacker did a post on “How to Quit Your Job With Your Contacts, Credentials, and Class Intact.” Basically, you be the classy one taking the higher ground.
  • Via CNN Money, “Top 10 Myths About Job Interviews.” One common myth they discuss is that interviewer may be fully prepared. Sure, you prepared hard for an interview, but guess what, it does not mean the interviewer did the same. I can certainly attest to the fact that many interviewers simply did not do enough preparation to interview with the candidate. I have also been stuck in places interviewing where minimal preparation was made (usually part of some hiring committee where things like questions to ask a candidate are just hastily put together at the last minute). Still, if you are interviewing, it does pay to be prepared. Don’t slack off just because they do. You get to do better and shine. A hat tip to Lifehacker.
  • Something that bosses often forget is minding the little details. Things as simple as saying “thank you” often escape bosses and managers. The folks at Anecdote say that “Thanks is Good Business.” They also point out to a book, The Upside of Irrationality, that I am going to add to one of my “Books I Want to Read Lists.” And by the way, a half-assed “thanks” is not that much better either.
  • The Effing Librarian (who has sent his blog to the Great Ether in the Sky) had a post that also looks at interviewers’ lack of preparation in a more humorous way. The post is “Why Would I Hire You. . . ” Mercifully, he did archive the stuff.
  • Another thing that I have observed is bosses who get a bit hysterical (to put it mildly) if heaven forbid a worker says something that is less than flattering about their workplace. The temptation of these bosses (who often do not understand how social networking works) is to just try to clamp down access to the Internet and get all restrictive. Not the best approach. Mashable offers some tips on “HOW TO: Handle an Employee’s Controversial Online Behavior.” I am not saying your employees should have carte blanche to court controversy, but a sense of balance and perspective is in order. Besides making things too restrictive simply means your employees will seek out ways around the restrictions (say using a smartphone), and it will likely lower morale in the workplace. Related to this, also from Mashable, bosses may want to read “HOW TO: Avoid a Social Media Disaster.
  • Laura Crossett of LIS..Dom offers some notes “On Reading Cover Letters and Resumes” from the point of view of someone doing the hiring.
  • Now this is something you don’t hear about much in job seeking literature and advice, considering your future coworkers. This is another one of those signs you have to look for when you go interview someplace: the people you may end up working with. The key is to ask about the people in that workplace. So, from It’s all about the ecosystem, here are “5 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Job.” They focus on the people in the prospective workplace. I do find the questions intriguing; however, at least in librarianship, I am not sure how a candidate could get away asking some of these without some consequence. Librarianship is a small profession (or acts like one), so asking about people may seem a bit personal for some employers. However, I do find the questions to be very honest and direct. I only wish more potential employers valued honesty and directness instead of the usual dance of phony questions (like the “where will you be 5 years from now” or some “creative” hypothetical) that often encourage lying or at least circumvention. A hat tip to Lifehacker.
  • On a different direction, another simple thing to consider when  you are in the job market: local taxes (if any) and cost of living. Librarianship is a profession where you have to be very mobile to find a job. It will be to your advantage to know about cost of living before you go forth so you have an idea if a salary advertised is actually worth the move. As for taxes, something as simple as a place with no state taxes may make a difference too. I may not like Texas on a lot of days, but I do like there is no personal state income tax. Via Free Technology for Teachers, a couple of hints on “Comparing Taxes and Cost of Living.” Remember just because a job may say, for instance, $45,000 a year (and I am being generous. You should see some of the shameful salaries some libraries advertise), it does not follow you can live on that if the salary offer is in an expensive place.
  • Leadership is a word that gets bandied about quite a bit in Librarian Blogsville. The distinction is not always made between “leader” and “manager,” which is something I have considered before (here, here and here for instance. In addition, this blog has a tag on leadership and management). Over time, I have discovered that one has to tread lightly when discussing such topic. Again, this goes back to what I mentioned earlier about Librarian Blogsville denizens who happen to be managers getting in a snit because you raise a question or two. At least in one occassion, the few comments I attracted was someone trying to defend management and taking offense (because heaven forbid they have the humility to admit that the possibility of poor management is there). At any rate, the post I want to jot down now is this one from ACRLog on “Humility is a Form of Presence Too.” We could use some more humble leadership these days.
  • Escape the Ivory Tower has a piece on “Do You Need a Job or a Calling?” Yes, there is a difference, and if you are going to be happy and do well, you need to learn what that difference is and why it is significant. While the post is mostly applicable to academia (and mostly to folks in doctoral programs), I think there are some insights even us in librarianship can use as well.


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February 2011


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