Sunday, January 29, 2012

Career Book Recommendations and Advice from FrauTech

Frau Tech works as a Mechanical Engineer in industry. She blogs at Design. Build. Play. covering a variety of topics including aerospace, aviation, autos, economics, personal finance, her work, her cats and just about everything from the perspective of an engineer. My favorite posts are those where she provides insight and perspective from her experiences at work.

She recently left the following comment on my post Making a "BIG" Mistake at Work:
I sort of disagree with the advice to apologize. I think women have to be careful especially because we have a tendency to apologize for things in ways that our male colleagues would not. There's a way to take responsibility without really accepting blame. I ranted about this a long time ago, but the incident that inspired the rant is still fresh in my memory: Why Women Apologize and other ridiculous generalizations.

She's right you know. I should not have recommended apologizing and am removing it from my post. It is bad advice. Years ago when I was a young woman just starting out in the work world I cried after an engineer yelled at me for not paying his contractor bills in a timely fashion (the company did not have the money). After that episode, I did a lot of reading on women in the workplace. I repeatedly read advice discouraging women from apologizing in the workplace. On the day of my "BIG" mistake my boss just looked at me when I said I was sorry. Instead of apologizing after making a mistake I need to own them, don’t make excuses, fix them and move on.

I was so impressed with Frau Tech's advice and support I asked if she would recommend a couple of career books.  She did so in her post A Little Light Reading.  She recommended:

Games Mother Never Taught You by Betty Lehan Harragan:
I read this book originally published in 1978 when I was in my twenties.  After reading Frau Tech's posts covering the book here, here, here and here, I plan on rereading this book. I also think the book would be a great book club selection for a group of working women.

It's Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace by Anne Kreamer
While reading Daniel Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, I was surprised to learn my emotional IQ was not nearly as high as I had thought.  I am definitely going to read Anne Kreamer's take on the subject.  And yes this is the same Anne Kreamer who wrote Going Gray: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else That Really Matters which I blogged about here.

Thank you Frau Tech. I do have one regret though – not discovering your blog sooner.

One of my goals for 2012 is to put together a list of career books for women.  Do you have a favorite career book to recommend?


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Making a "BIG" Mistake at Work

We’ve heard it before, “We all have off days,” “We are only human” and “Everyone makes mistakes.” Just knowing these facts does not make one bit of difference when you/I am the one who makes the “Big” mistake at work. When I was younger I used to stew over my mistakes for days; I’d contemplate whether I could hide them or how to tell my supervisors what I had done with the least amount of repercussion.

A couple of years into my career, I attended a seminar where the speaker offered the following advice when you’ve made a mistake at work:

1. Inform your manager as soon as you discover the mistake. The longer you wait the worse it will be for you and the company. The sooner management is aware of the mistake the sooner they can fix it or make plans to lesson the damage. Also, the longer you wait the longer you carry around all that stress. It isn’t good for you.

2. Do whatever you can to minimize the damage.

3. Put the mistake into perspective. Consider will this matter a year from now.

For many years I followed this advice and it has always made a difference.

On the last working day of 2011, I again had the opportunity to put this advice into play. I wired too much money to a vendor. This was a big mistake. It was the last day of the year and we were managing every penny in our company’s bank account in order to have a positive cash balance on our year-end financial statements. Plus, wires are like sending cash, once the money is gone from your account it is gone. Here is what occurred after I made the mistake:

I did not discover the error. My boss did. He called me after I emailed him the wire confirmation, informing me I wired the wrong amount. I immediately went online and tried to cancel the transaction. It was too late. I tried calling my bank representative. She was on vacation. I called our bank’s wire division. I wasn’t allowed to speak to them without a password. My boss gave me his. By using his password I compromised it and it became invalid. They would no longer speak to me or my boss. I called our bank manager. He was able to verify the wire had gone through and that he was unable to call it back. He would have the bank contact the wire recipient and ask them to reject the wire. He did tell me the vendor did not have to do this. While I waited:

I contemplated whether this will matter a year from now - probably not if we were able to get our money back today. I thought about the woman in North Korea I had been reading about in Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick the book I was currently reading:
Friday nights she stayed especially late for self-criticism. In these sessions members of her work unit – the department to which she was assigned - would stand up and reveal to the group anything she had done wrong. It was the Communist version of the Catholic confessional. Mrs. Song would usually say, in all sincerity, that she feared she wasn’t working hard enough. (Page 43)
I was comforted knowing that I did not live in North Korea.

Our bank finally contacted me, the vendor had rejected the wire, the money was back in our account and I was able to resend the wire with the correct dollar amount.

What did I learn from this?
When I am not sure about something I need to ask questions and not assume.
I was confused by the voided check I had been provided as backup for placing the wire. It was not the standard format I use to wire money. I wired the amount of the voided check rather than scribbled amount hand written at the bottom of the check. I should have went back to the manager and said, “I am to wire x amount to account # blah blah blah and use routing number x correct.”

I need to stay off social networking sites while at work.
In Alison Green of Ask A Manager's post 8 New Year's Resolutions for Your Career she writes:
Stop playing online. If you’re using social networking sites or instant-messaging with friends throughout the workday, it’s impacting your work. Sure, maybe you’re still getting the basics done, but you don’t want to just do the basics—you want to build a stellar reputation as someone who routinely exceeds expectations, because that’s what will give you job security and open up future opportunities.
Now I am not on Facebook or Twitter while at work, but I do spend time reading blogs and articles online. The problem is I spend time thinking about what I read and not concentrating on my work, which has led to mistakes.

Have you made a "Big" mistake at work? Do you have any additional pointers to help prevent mistakes or advice on how to bounce back quickly? If so please share.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

SWG Coffee Social: Book Lists

Since I am one of those people who enjoy a good book list from a trusted source, I would like to share a few lists I have come across recently:

Citizen Reader's Best 100 Nonfiction Titles that People Might Actually Enjoy Reading
In response to Time magazine’s lackluster list of ALL-TIME 100 Nonfiction Books Sarah at Citizen Reader has taken on the daunting challenge of creating her own list which she is calling Best 100 Nonfiction Titles that People Might Actually Enjoy Reading. Since I have always wanted to ask Sarah for a list of her all-time favorite nonfiction reads, I was delighted when she announced this project. She is taking it in sections posting the Time picks, her picks, and asking for our picks in the comments. At the end she will post the master list of every one's titles which I will link to when finished.

I have already read Iris Chang's The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II from the list of 100 Bestish Nonfiction Titles: History which ended up on my list of favorite reads of 2011. Also I have selected Kay Mills book This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer from the 100 Best-ish Nonfiction Titles: Biography to be my read for women's history month. Please go to Sarah's website and check out the sections she has posted to date.

Kim Ukura's Favorite Nonfiction Reads of 2011
I have already read two of Kim's picks: Rebecca Traister's book Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women which I mentioned in my post Making Women Count: Ending the Year on a Low Note and Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. Since Nothing to Envy was one of my all-time favorite nonfiction reads ever, I am adding Kim's other three selections to my 2012 reading list.  Also, if you have an interest in learning more about North Korea, I highly recommend reading Demick's book.

Ms. Readers' 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of All Time: The Top 10 and the Complete List:
This is a list of the 100 best feminist non-fiction of all time selected by the readers of Ms. Magazine.  I have read nine of the listed 100. Throughout 2012 I plan to use this list to continue reading for my Make Women Count project.

Ann Daley's Recommended Reading for 2012
Ann provides us with her top-10 favorite career advancement titles for women. From Ann's list I've found my next career read:  Herminia Ibarra's Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career. It is described as a book aimed at mid-career professionals who have invested much in careers that may no longer fully satisfy.

The Real Help
I discovered The Real Help when Amy mentioned the reading project she co-founded with Amanda to read the books recommended by the Association of Black Women Historians in their statement on The Help. I actually read and enjoyed Kathryn Stockett’s book The Help finding it to be highly entertaining and at times funny; the characters reminding me of the women on the TV show Desperate Housewives.  That along with the abundant stereotyping is precisely the problem ABWH has with this book.  To obtain an accurate depiction of the real facts behind the history of black domestic workers in the United States I hope to read a couple of books this year from the above list.

Do you have a favorite book list you would like mentioned?

Please note, I am an Amazon affiliate

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy:
A Perfect Book for Women's History Month
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50 Books Every Young Woman Should Read
Nonfiction Books Every Woman Should Read

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How to Avoid Being Conned on a Dating Site

Okay, all of you single ladies out there—listen up! We live in a scary world…and if you’re looking for love online, it can be even scarier. As great as those couples in the commercials make online dating out to be, the marketers behind those ads forget to tell us about the side of online dating that isn’t so great…

Because the internet provides such anonymity, it also unfortunately provides a breeding ground for some serious creeps—many of whom use online dating sites to prey on innocent women looking for love. So that your online dating escapades aren’t marred by such an experience, be sure to learn how to spot romance scams, married men, and then arm yourself with tips for safe online dating:

Watch out for romance scams. More and more online singles are falling into the traps of romance scammers—don’t fall yourself! These scammers are infamous for tricking their victims into believing that there is a true romantic connection in order to fraudulently access their money, bank accounts, credit cards, and more. So that you aren’t left with a broken heart as well as broken bank, ask yourself the following questions to help determine if your new cyber romance is legit or not:

• Does the guy seem too good to be true?

• Does he have an online dating profile picture that looks like it fell out of the pages of a magazine?

• Is he working overseas? Possibly in Nigeria?

• Does he profess his love and undying devotion to you almost immediately?

• Is his spelling/grammar atrocious and not aligned with his alleged education or life status?

• Is there a dire situation related to family troubles, business affairs, medical problems, etc. for which he requests money from you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may just have a romance scammer on your hands. Cease all communications immediately, alert the dating site on which you met, and if you have already given money to this person, contact the police.

Watch out for married men. Sadly, the internet is full of men subscribed to online dating sites who just happen to have wedding bands around their left ring fingers. These men tend to seek out online women who are trusting, na├»ve and can be easily manipulated so that an affair can be carried through. To make sure that you don’t become the target of a lying, cheating, no-good man with a wife, keep an eye out for the following red flags:

• He has no profile picture. This is so his face isn’t out there heightening the chances of him getting caught.

• He asks for your number but won’t give you his. If the guy is married, he can’t have you calling in case his wife answers.

• He won’t share information with you such as his last name, where he works, where he lives, etc.

• He contacts on an irregular basis. This is because married men usually have schedules filled up with other things—like marriages!

• He won’t invite you over or introduce you to his friends and family. A married man obviously can’t have you blowing his cover—if you meet the people close to him, the jig is sure to be up.

Follow online dating safety tips. A great way to safeguard yourself from encountering con-artists like scammers and married men is of course to educate yourself about them. But for further protection and to ensure that you don’t ever find yourself in a dangerous situation on your quest for online love, check out the general online dating safety tips below:

• Never give out personal information. Until you are confident that the guy you are mingling with online is worthy of your trust, never disclose your last name, home address, place of business, phone number, financial info, or any other identifying details.

• Don’t rush into things. No matter how excited you may be to meet an online match in person, it is imperative to take things slowly. Reputable online dating services offer tools such as email, chat rooms and voice chat through their websites to allow singles to get to know each other before meeting—utilize these!

• Plan a safe first date. If your online relationship has reached the point of a face-to-face meeting, that is great—just as long as you hold safety as your number one priority. For the first couple of dates use your own transportation to meet your match in a public place, let a friend know where you’re going, be aware of your surroundings, forgo alcoholic drinks and listen to your intuition!

Guest post author, Ellie Stevens, shares with us her tips on how to avoid being conned when dating online. In addition, Ellie also owns Free Senior Dating Sites where she offers more safe online dating advice for single seniors.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Lesson of the Day

Today I learned I should never use a small round brush with stiff plastic bristles on my superfine hair. That is not unless I want my husband to spend the next hour and a half picking my hair out of the brush with a pencil.*

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I have a fabulous husband who continues to amaze me. (While sitting still as he tried not to pull my hair, I couldn't help think if it were me I would suggest cutting the brush out with a scissors).

*My first change of the year - a new hairstyle is not going well.

Monday, January 02, 2012

What worked in 2011: Learning to slow down and take care of myself

My husband and I have an annual New Years Eve tradition; we each list our top “ten” memories/successes of the year then read them to each other over a glass of wine. This year I struggled to come up with ten memorable items. 2011 was a year filled with melancholy moments including a friend being diagnosed with melanoma then lymphoma, my 25 year old future nephew in-law had to be rushed to the emergency room with a pulmonary embolism, my husband rolled his vehicle on black ice in March (thankfully he was okay), I had bronchitis for three weeks in July, even one of my dogs was so sick he had to be taken to the vet.

This not being a typical year is what worked for me:

I got a prescription for bifocal contacts:
I have had to wear reading glasses in addition to contacts for at least five years now. The problem was I was constantly misplacing my reading glasses, breaking them, forgetting them or was too lazy to search for them in my purse. I couldn’t read prices at the store, coupon expiration dates, menu items at restaurants or actually see the photos my friends showed me on their iPhones without them. When my “new” optometrist recommended I try bifocal contacts I consented. The decision to switch to Air Optix multifocal contact lenses was the smartest thing I did all year and I am not being paid to write this. I now have perfect vision which is important for an accountant (mistaking 3’s for 8’s doesn’t work well in my profession).

I lost weight:
I have been talking about losing that extra ten pounds for at least five years with no success. Last spring after realizing both the dress I purchased for a wedding and the outfit I bought for a bridal shower were a little too snug I decided it was time to get serious about losing weight. I asked a friend who had lost weight what had worked for her. She had joined Weight Watchers and gave me suggestions which I followed. I changed my breakfast to low sugar oatmeal, my snacks to fruit and 90 cal granola bars. I moved my salad from lunch to before dinner and began eating Healthy Choice meals for lunch. I also switched my workouts to a high-intensity boot camp class. It all worked and I ended up losing eight pounds. Enough weight to fit into some of my old clothes and to feel much better.

I learned to say no:
After too many sleepless nights (perimenopause), I started considering what is important to me; spending time with friends, going to the gym after work, actually using my vacation time and getting a good night’s sleep. To do this I had to start saying no to extra projects, volunteer work and excessive entertaining.

For 2012:
I want to maintain my weight loss. As Betty White wrote in her memoir If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won't), it is much harder to lose ten pounds than one or two. She recommends weighing yourself every day and if the scale begins to tip up cut back on what you eat for a day or two. I have been practicing this throughout the holidays and so far so good.

I want to continue discovering who I am. Hey I turn 50 this year it is about time. I had another bad week at work then was strongly encouraged to go in on Saturday (its year end). While sitting in my office miserable, I decided it is time I get serious about figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life.

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