Saturday, November 28, 2009

Using humor during phone interview

Abby writes:
I have a phone interview scheduled for a tenured teaching position with a private college. My husband has advised me against using humor during my interview. He said, "You are funny. I think you are funny, all of your friends think you are funny, but don't be funny during this interview." But funny is who I am. I want to show the interviewer I have a personality. Wouldn’t humor make me more memorable? What do you think?

I agree with your husband on this one; save the humor for the face to face interview or better yet 'til after you are hired. There is such a large margin for misinterpretation of humor; I wouldn’t take the risk. Not everyone has a sense of humor. Plus, because it is a phone interview you will miss any visual cues indicating your interviewer did not realize you were joking. A phone interview is serious business especially in the current job market where there are more qualified candidates than positions available. The purpose of your phone interview should be to get an in-person interview; focus on promoting your job qualifications and teaching ability not your sense of humor.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The culture of patriarchy continues to be an obstacle for women

Last week, when I answered the question for the women unbound challenge meme: What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? I went with the first answer that came to mind. I did this because I wanted to see how my views evolved as the challenge progressed. I’ve subsequently came across a blog post that so truly captures the essence of my beliefs I must share. Ann Daly, who describes herself as a fem-evangelist, devoted to the success and advancement of women, wrote in an article for

First she provides the statistics:
The glass ceiling remains firmly in place: Although women hold 50.8% of managerial positions in the labor market, they represent only 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs. Women remain grossly underpaid, taking home 78% that men do.

Then she answers the questions:
Why, then, are women still lagging behind? Why are women’s success stories still the exceptions that prove the rule?
Because beyond laws and regulations and attitude is the deepest, most pervasive, most unconscious and ingrained layer of our lives: culture. All of our laws and all of our diversity training won’t close the gender gap, because it’s the culture, sweetheart.

It’s the culture that insists on coding babies as blue or pink. It’s the culture that assumes men in the public sphere and women in the domestic sphere. It’s the culture that defines active qualities as “masculine” and passive qualities as “feminine.” It’s the culture of patriarchy, in which power and privilege accrue to the men.

If you doubt that male privilege endures, just replay to Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.

This is exactly what I was alluding to when I wrote:
Just last week my friend Kate, who works for a Milwaukee manufacturing firm, asked a male colleague, "What do you have to do to get promoted around here?" She was told you need to be a male who puts in a lot of face time. Kate was describing “the good ole boys club”.

She then lists:  The Top Ten Hidden Rules That Can Sabotage Your Career

Here are two I find pertinent to my situation:
- Actually, it is personal. In mid-career, at the point where everyone brings comparable talent to the table, it’s who you know, not what you know, that gets you promoted. As HR pros will tell you, you don’t push yourself to the top, you get pulled there. Men knew what they were doing when they invented the old boys’ club. From the get-go, women need to be just as savvy, cultivating loose ties, close ties, mentors, allies, and champions.

- Men are bred for self-confidence. From Little League to fraternities to the golf course, men’s lives emphasize competition. By the time they get to the workplace, they are seasoned competitors, with all of the self-confidence that comes from having successfully weathered both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Consider the consequences: one internal corporate study showed that women will apply for an open job only if they meet 100% of the criteria listed, while men will apply if they meet just 60%. In order to assume that same level of self-possession (and entitlement), you have to design your own path to self-confidence.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately, if I continue to hold off applying for jobs because I don’t have 100% of the criteria I will never get where I want to be.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Getting a Clue about Feminism

I originally concluded, I needed to read more books about woman and feminism after reading  Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness claim Susan Jane Gilman's book Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy and Clueless inspired her to meditate on what it means to be a feminist and whether she could consider herself one. It has been a long time since I considered my own views of feminism, and am intrigued with the idea of renewing my feminist meditations through reading.

I was again reminded of this goal when Grace of GRACEful Retirement commented on my blog post: Ten non-fiction books that help us understand the world, that Betty Friedan's book "The Feminine Mystique" helped her better understand the world.

Now, I may have finally stumbled upon the motivation to actually fulfill this goal; I’ve discovered the reading challenge Women Unbound. The challenge runs from November 1, 2009-November 30, 2010. Participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad idea of ‘women’s studies.’ I am signing up at the Suffragette level: which requires I read at least eight books, including at least three nonfiction ones.

The challenge begins with the following meme:
1. What does feminism mean to you? Does it have to do with the work sphere? The social sphere? How you dress? How you act?
2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?

What does feminism mean to me?
I grew up in a household where my dad controlled my mother’s every move. She was a housewife living in the country without a driver’s license. She had to ask for every penny she needed (not to mention a ride to the store); justifying each purchase whether it was a card for a sick friend, a birthday present for one of her six children or a tube of lipstick for herself. I vowed at a young age my life was going to be different; I was going to have my own money and control my own destiny. As I’ve gotten older, my feminist ideals have broadened to include all women; no woman should have to live a life of oppression.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
I was a feminist from the moment I was exposed to the idea; I grew up in the 70’s in the midst of the “women’s movement.” I thought a lot about equal rights for women throughout high school and college. Actually I considered myself a feminist right up to the moment I was hired at my first “real” job which I attained only after I proved I could type. After that, all thoughts of feminism took a back seat to actually working, my marriage and just living life.

What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?
Most recent media accounts list "lack of time" as the modern women’s biggest obstacle. Statistics have shown, not only do many women work outside of the home but continue, despite their male partner providing some assistance, to perform the majority of child rearing and housecleaning duties including staying home with sick children, leaving little time for themselves.

Despite Penelope Trunk’s claim the gender pay gap no longer exists, I think the reality is women still need to fight for equality in the work place. Just last week my friend Kate, who works for a Milwaukee manufacturing firm, asked a male colleague, "What do you have to do to get promoted around here?" She was told you need to be a male who puts in a lot of face time. And as to Penelope’s claim the pay gap no longer exists; check out this business week article, this article and this one.

I think part of the problem is most women; including myself, do not promote themselves and their abilities as confidently as their male co-workers do. If they do happen to be one of the rare women who does promote herself they are labeled a B----.

Footnotes to this post:
1. I titled this post "Getting a Clue about Feminism," after reading an interview where Susan Jane Gilman described her book, Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, which is actually a collection of personal essays, as “getting a clue” on race, sex, injustice what makes other people who they are.
2. The Woman Unbound challenge is my first book challenge.
3. This post includes my first meme.
4. It will be interesting to see if my answers to the above meme questions are different at the end of the challenge.

Can you recommend a book that helped you meditate on feminism?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Are you a fan of LinkedIn?

I received my first invitation to connect on LinkedIn about a year ago from an insurance salesperson. My second invite came from a recruiter a couple of months later; curious to learn what this networking site was about I created a LinkedIn account and entered basic job information into my profile. To date my profile remains lacking; it consists only of my name, current company and job title.

Throughout the year, I received additional invites resulting in 12 connections. I also joined two groups affiliated with my profession, but I have not been convinced a LinkedIn account holds any real value for me. So far, the most useful LinkedIn message I received was a colleague recommending her interior designer.

Here is what Penelope Trunk writes about LinkedIn:
LinkedIn is great. I’m on LinkedIn. I have 650 connections. At first I wondered, why do I need this list of connections published on LinkedIn? What was the purpose of it? But now I get it. With LinkedIn, people can tell that I am a very connected person.

Potential employers like LinkedIn because they can glance at your LinkedIn profile and get a sense of how connected you are and how much money you make. (Yes, large networks correlate to large salaries.) That's the utility of the scorecard.

But what you cannot do on LinkedIn is build a network. Networks are built on relationships, which grow from conversation. LinkedIn is not for conversations. So you need to go somewhere else to build your network, and then, when it’s big, display it on LinkedIn so you’ll look great.

I recently attended a continuing education session titled, “New ways LinkedIn can benefit you.” After attending, I remain unimpressed. As a fellow seminar attendee stated, “This is basically a resume on steroids.” And to Penelope’s well connected comments, LinkedIn caps your public profile connections at "500+", meaning Penelope may have 650 contacts, but profile viewers only see she has 500+. I think the value of a large number of contacts is profession specific, it is important for someone who is promoting their business or works in sales, but for a bean counter like me I think future employers would prefer to see quality contacts over quantity.

Then there is the LinkedIn message I received from a contact asking me to endorse him. I was a little taken aback; I don't know this person well enough to endorse him. As a viewer, I don't see value in reading pumped up recommendations written by acquaintances.

And here is a bit of caution for employers found on Anita Bruzzese's blog:
She quotes Shanti Atkins who says "Even LinkedIn, which is considered the “professional” online networking site, could get managers in trouble because of the feature that allows you to “recommend” someone."

“Ninety-nine percent of companies have a policy that says you can’t give a letter of recommendation for an employee because it’s a liability and a risk if the employee doesn’t work out for the other employer,” Atkins says. “But if you recommend someone on LinkedIn, you’ve just published one.”

Thoughts on LinkedIn from others:

A colleague working in the recruiting industry tells me LinkedIn was initially designed as a tool for recruiters. She became disenchanted with it when a fellow recruiter offered to share her network if my colleague shared hers. After doing so, she felt it was an unfair trade; the connections she received were sub par in both quantity and quality to her own.

From an overtaxed friend and fellow seminar attendee:
Having a LinkedIn account would mean I’d have one more thing that needed to be maintained. Plus, LinkedIn seems like an on-line popularity contest, I thought high school ended a long time ago, no thank you.

What am I going to do?

The worst impression I can give is to continue portraying a LinkedIn account with a weak profile; it screams I don’t care about this. Since I've gone to the trouble of creating an account and accept connections, I might as well put in the extra effort to create a quality profile. As to whether my account will incur any real value, it can’t hurt.

How about you, do you find value in LinkedIn?