Thursday, February 25, 2010

What to do when you are unhappy with job offer?

Marcie asks about a recent job offer:
My company closed last summer putting me out of work for the first time in eighteen years. I recently interviewed for a position that was almost identical to the job I held at my previous company. The interview went well and I was given a job offer. Unfortunately, the offer was not for the position I applied for, but for a lower-level position. The recruiting firm I worked with told me the company decided not to fill the original position opting to create this new position instead.

I don’t understand why a company would do this? The company will still need the work completed for the position I applied for. Why didn’t they hire me for the appropriate position?

This is an easy one:
The company didn’t want to pay you what the original position was worth, so they created a scaled down version of that job. This new position probably includes many of the duties from the original opening, but pays less.

Did the company think I was so desperate I’d settle for a lower-level position?
Apparently they did. In the current economy, the main objective for most companies is a positive bottom line. They know if you turn down this offer there is another qualified candidate out there who will be desperate enough to accept it.

What happened?
Marcie decided to take the lower-level job and then continue searching for a more appropriate position. When she called the agency to inform them of her decision she was told the company had rescinded their offer; they thought she would leave at her first opportunity.

What really occurred here?
A recruiter is not an employment counselor. Their loyalties lie with the hiring company who pays their fees. To entice customers, many recruiting agencies are currently offering additional guarantees on their placements. This means if you accept a position only to resign after working a couple of months, the agency will lose all or a portion of their commission. When Marcie entrusted her true plans with her recruiter they no longer wanted to place her and are probably responsible for the rescinded job offer.

My opinion:
If you are unhappy with a job offer and are in a position where you can be picky you should turn it down. You lose credibility when you accept an offer only to resign a couple of months later. Plus, it’s difficult to continue a job search once you have started a new job. Instead of taking a lower-level permanent position, consider temporary or contract work until the job market improves. If you are not in a position to turn down a job offer, accept it immediately and keep all plans of a continued job search to yourself; you may end up working there longer than you anticipate.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Packaging Girlhood; a book I wanted to like

I wanted to like Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown’s book, Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes. I really did. I mentioned previously, I am working on a series of posts called "Getting a Clue" where I attempt to disclose aggressive marketing techniques. I was hoping this book would provide insight into the marketing schemes that target young girls. Unfortunately, after about 150 pages I can’t bring myself to read another page. For me, this book is too focused on gender stereotyping, mired in detail and repetitious. I can no longer sift through example after example of gender bias in search of the actual marketing scheme.

This is a shame because I do believe the authors had important information to share; before abandoning I came across these interesting points:

-Until about the age of six, children can’t separate TV shows from commercials. To them it’s all the same and it’s all reality. Your young child can’t distinguish between a TV show's positive message and a commercial selling them a happy meal.

-Advertisers are aware of TIVO and the option that DVD movies provide of skipping trailers and ads; it is the reason that immersive advertising and product placement in kids shows are on the rise.

-Despite the movie Shrek's anti-fairy-tale message: “looks don’t matter,” Fiona the princessis featured over Fiona the ogre in most merchandising campaigns. Why? The human princess Fiona has a product selling face and marketers always choose pretty over ugly, ignoring the story line. Changing beloved movie characters slightly in order to sell products happens all the time.

What could the authors have done to make this book more readable?

I recommend beginning with a strong paragraph similar to this one found in Anne Lamott’s book Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith:

This culture’s pursuit of beauty is a crazy, sick, losing game for women, men, teenagers and with the need to increase advertising revenues, now for pre-adolescents, too. We’re starting to see more and more anorexic eight-and nine-year olds. It’s a game we cannot win. Every time we agree to play another round, and step out onto the court to try again, we’ve already lost. The only way to win is to stay off the court. No matter how much of our time is spent in pursuit of physical beauty, even to great success, the Mirror on the Wall will always say, “Snow White lives,” and this is in fact a lie ~ Snow White is a fairy tale. Lies cannot nourish or protect you. Only freedom from fear, freedom from lies, can make us beautiful, and keep us safe.

Follow this paragraph with actual concrete marketing schemes, including only "one" good example. Close with (what I consider the strongest feature of the book) the lists of alternative books, Web sites, movies and magazines that provide positive role models that help both parents and daughters make better choices.

Perhaps, if I had a daughter of my own I would have found this book more readable. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Target’s Elimination of Farmed Salmon is a Smart PR Decision

Target announced last week it has eliminated all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen, and smoked seafood offerings in Target stores nationwide. This announcement includes Target owned brands – Archer Farms
and Market Pantry – and national brands. All salmon sold under Target owned brands will now be wild-caught Alaskan salmon.  Target is taking this important step to ensure that its salmon offerings are sourced in a sustainable way that helps to preserve abundance, species health and doesn’t harm local habitats.

Why is this important?

I became aware of the realities of salmon farming while reading Charles Fishman’s book The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--and How It's Transforming the American Economy. Fishman writes Wal-Mart, whose company sells more salmon than any other store in the country, buys all its salmon from Chile:

“Atlantic salmon are not native to Chile (its coastline runs along the Pacific). It's an exotic species that is literally farmed and processed by thousands of Chileans. The labor conditions are certainly a concern (long hours, low pay, processing of salmon with razor-sharp filleting instruments).

Another concern is the environment. Salmon farming is already transforming the ecology of southern Chile "with tens of millions of salmon living in vast ocean corrals, their excess food and feces settling to the ocean floor beneath the pens, and dozens of salmon processing plants dumping untreated salmon entrails directly into the ocean."

He then asks:

"Does it matter that salmon for $4.84 a pound leaves a layer of toxic sludge on the ocean bottoms of the Pacific fjords of southern Chile? After all, these salmon are raised in pens (with as many as one million per farm). They are fed antibiotics to prevent disease. As a result, you have quite a mess. One million salmon produce about the same amount of waste as 65,000 people. And add to that additional waste from unconsumed food and antibiotic residue. In essence, the current method of salmon farming creates a toxic seabed.

So how do we change this? His answer is simple: by changing consumer behavior. If shoppers won't buy salmon until Wal-Mart insists on higher standards, Wal-Mart will insist on them. The same company that created this huge market for salmon can also change it. But this will only happen if consumers voice their concerns and back it up with their behavior."

I have never been a fan of Wal-Mart always preferring to shop at the more sophisticated higher priced Target.* Family members who are fans of Wal-Mart loved to bait me with statements such as “Target’s business practices are no better than Wal-Mart's.” “What’s wrong with you; don’t you like to save money?” This latest move clearly places Target ahead of Wal-Mart and many other retailers in the environmentally conscious arena.

* In actuality, I’m really not much of a Target shopper either, but after reading "The Wal-Mart Effect" I will defend almost any store against Wal-Mart.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Did your sweetie have a star named after you this Valentines Day? If so, was he or she scammed?

Prior to each gift giving holiday, International Star Registry advertises heavily on Milwaukee radio stations:

This Valentines Day give the most romantic gift ever received. Name a star after them.
According to their website, they offer gift packages starting at $54:

• Dedicate a star to someone special. We offer a Gift Package where we select a special star in the sky and record your Star Name and Star Date. The Gift Package includes a beautiful parchment Certificate, a Sky Chart with your name and the star's coordinates and an informative booklet on astronomy. We publish all names in the astronomical compendium Your Place in the Cosmos©, which is registered in the U.S. Copyright Office.
Personally, I have always thought naming a star after someone was a pretty lame gift, plus after digging deeper I realized your star’s name means nothing to the scientific community. Also on their website:

Will the scientific community recognize my star name?

• A: No. We are a private company that provides Gift Packages. Astronomers will not recognize your name because your name is published only in our Star catalog. We periodically print a book called Your Place in the Cosmos © which lists the stars that we have named.
So for $54 to $489, you receive a fancy certificate with your star’s name, a booklet on astronomy and a locater chart with your star’s coordinates.

Was your sweetie scammed?

According to Tammy Plotner's post "name a star:"
When you buy a star for someone, you are paying for the entertainment you will receive for learning a little about the night sky. If the agency is misleading about what you're getting in any way, then you should rightly feel that you're being scammed. But if they're up front that the name isn't official, and is only kept in their own catalog, you can know what you're getting.

This post is part of a new series I’m working on called “Getting a Clue” where I attempt to dissect aggressive advertising and marketing campaigns to understand exactly what we’re purchasing.

If you liked this post you may also like: Duped by Pottery Barn's aggresive marketing campaign

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Is a book about Marie Antoinette’s fashion choices really a book every woman should read?

I recently read both Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette: The Journey and Caroline Weber’s Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution for the Women Unbound Challenge.

Motivation for reading:
I’ve always been intrigued with all things French, had a vague recollection of Marie Antoinette from my French classes (she was the Queen guillotined for saying “Let them eat cake” right) and was curious to learn more about the French Revolution, so when I saw Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution listed as one of the non-fiction books every woman should read I decided to give it a try. Prior to reading, I read a review recommending readers begin with a more thorough biography such as Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette: The Journey because Queen of Fashion is not a definitive biography. Despite fears that reading two books on Marie Antoinette might be a bit much, I decided to tackle them both and was ultimately glad I did.

Marie Antoinette: The Journey is a comprehensive biography of Marie Antoinette’s life from birth ‘til death whereas Queen of Fashion chronicles her life through her fashion choices upon her arrival in France ‘til her death. By becoming familiar with her upbringing in Austria, the intricate details of her life at court and those who surrounded her, along with learning the politics of the time I came away with a better understanding of who she really was and what caused her downfall; she was more a na├»ve victim of circumstance (a scapegoat) than the spendthrift, heartless queen she was accused of being.

It was interesting to note:
~ The Austrian court was much more informal than the French court and allowed young Marie Antonia to basically do whatever she pleased; she learned to play the harpsichord, dance ballet and enjoy games. She had an idyllic childhood with little formal education. When she was tagged to be the next queen of France it was discovered she could barely read or write. This lax of formal training did not adequately prepare her to be the Queen of France; she arrived politically ignorant and inept.

~ Marie Antoinette never really uttered the phrase “Let them eat cake!”

~France was governed by Salic law which banned widowed royal wives from succeeding their spouses on the throne. At the time of her arrival three things were important at Versailles – the King, his mistress and his court. A Queen was nothing.

While reading Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, I couldn’t help but think is a book about Marie Antoinette’s fashion choices really an important read, if so why?

In making my decision I considered the following:

What she was trying to achieve?
She was attempting to make a statement and strengthen her position in a hostile court where as a foreigner and a woman she had no power. Not to mention the fact her husband, the future King of France Louis XVI refused to sleep with her for the first seven years of their marriage. The book describes how almost immediately upon arriving at Versailles M.A. began bucking the rigid court code of dress. She refused to wear the corset, introduced the English-style riding coat and wore trousers while riding. She dressed and played like a commoner at the Petit Trianon. It was only after the fall of the Bastille that she began dressing like a royal.

How radical her clothing choices really were:
If early American feminists were taunted and ridiculed for wearing bloomers in the19th century, can you imagine how shocking it must have been for the future queen of France to wear men’s riding clothes and to ride astride?

What was or wasn’t she thinking?
Her hairstyle of choice the pouf, a thickly powdered, teetering hairstyle that re-created elaborate scenes from current events, was coated with animal fat and a powder mixed from flour. Was she not aware France was undergoing a flour shortage? Her headdresses, when seen by the population on fashion engravings and newspapers, led to the flour wars after her subjects concluded the Queen was taking flour and bread from starving people’s mouths to use for her own adornment.

Also think of the inconveniences-
Carriage interiors were not high enough to accommodate the monstrous three feet high constructions, so women had to travel crunched over crumpling their full skirted silk gowns because their hair would not travel upright.

Not to mention the vermin-
Since the hairstyle was costly, women would keep them for a week or two. The animal fat and flour would become rancid and attract vermin.

By not dressing like a queen she gave her enemies fodder to conspire against her?
At the Petit Trianon - the private country retreat she received as a gift from her husband shortly after their accession - she adopted unstructured chemise dresses that facilitated distinctly nonroyal shenanigans such as picnics on the grass, blind man’s bluff, and frolics among pretty, perfumed flocks of sheep. Conservative courtiers protested that the dresses made their noble wearers indistinguishable from serving wenches. Furthermore, by allowing only a small close knit group of friends including a couple foreigners access to her private palace she alienated important members of the Court. Exaggerated, scandalous images of her life at the Petit Trainon became regular features in underground pamphlets and caricatures.

She maintained an aura of grace and self-possession right up to the end:
Reading the final chapters of her life was heartbreaking; the death of her first son, the murder of her friend Princess de Lamballe, the execution of her husband, her imprisonment, brainwashing her second son to testify against her, her trial whose outcome was decided before it began and finally her own death at the guillotine. Even at the end she controlled her image by wearing a radiant white ensemble.

Who is the Marie Antoinette of our time?
Queen of Fashion’s author Caroline Weber answers this question in an interview on Big Think:
We don’t have anybody like that nowadays because, again, the political context is very different. But I think that we could look at a figure like for instance, Madonna. Somebody who succeeds in capturing the world’s attention time, and time again by refashioning her body, by changing her hair styles, by changing her appearance, by changing her identity through clothes. This is how she sells records and we all know that Madonna has relatively little talent. I think it was the shoemaker, Manolo Blanic, said that he was shocked that somebody with as little of the singing voice as she has good sound harsh and enormous star, and stay such an enormous star. And I think that's a testament to her genius as a chameleon. And this is been talked about by a million people before me, but I link her to Marie Antoinette because Marie Antoinette similarly was able to manipulate the public and stay in the public eye by changing her costume and this really flamboyant way, and doing it constantly.

Which brings me back to my original question: Is a book about Marie Antoinette’s fashion choices really a book every woman should read, if so why?
The book did cause me to think about my own appearance, the clothing choices I make and about such things as:
How much power can you really wield through your appearance? I know it is important to consider the image you want to portray. We’ve all heard the advice: Look the part. Dress for the job you want to have, but in the long run if all you have is your appearance is it enough? Many of the best & brightest women I have worked with don’t care at all about their appearance. Does it hurt them in the long run?

Would I want my daughter (if I had one) to read this book and then emulate Marie Antoinette? Would I want her to emulate Madanna?

Or consider this passage from Sharon Lamb's Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes?
Image protects high school students by giving them a sense of belonging, but it also gave them a premature identity while they are insecure or struggling to forge something unique and personal. While this may be okay for someone who can move beyond image during or after the teen years, others become trapped and stuck in this superficial world. For those who can preserve a self apart from image, the divisions and unhappiness that come with focusing too much on image in the teen years creates too much stress and too much of a diversion from what they could be doing and creating for themselves.
What do you think? Is a book about Marie Antoinette’s fashion choices really a book every woman should read, if so why?