Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Gemologist Interview - Q & A with Gillian Griffiths, G.G.

Today begins my first post in a series of career interviews. My goal is to provide insight into a variety of careers from an insider's perspective. Today’s interview is with Gillian Griffiths, G.G.; Gillian is a gemologist and business owner. Her shop Goldadore.com can be found on Etsy. Gillian gives us an honest informative look into her career as a Gemologist.  Enjoy:

How did you get into gemology?
I’ve always loved jewelry, and I’ve always loved estate sales. One day I was at an estate sale looking at a ‘diamond’ ring and I remember turning it over in my hand wondering if it was a real diamond. At the time I was selling my small business and considering a new career, so it was really like a light bulb going off in my head! I decided to go back to school and become the person who could the difference between real and fake.

How long have you worked in this field?
I got my Graduate Gemology degree in 2002 and had been working in the business for about a year prior.

Why did you decide to start your own business?
When I first got into gemology, I knew that owning your own business was the way to go! It was always my goal. I just didn’t know how to make it successful. I spent years grading diamonds and directing the manufacture of many, many, many engagement rings. After having my daughter, I went back to work at my old job thinking everything would be the same as before my maternity leave. But it wasn’t. While I had been out, my assistant had been let go. Another employee had left. My workload had grown considerably. I constantly felt torn between work and home. I would be overworked at my job all day, and then would literally run to my car to get home for a few precious hours with my baby. It just wasn’t working anymore, so I left. Leaving my old job was just the push I needed to follow my dreams and start my own business.

Within six months, I started GoldAdore.com with Etsy. Really it was just very natural. I’m that same person standing at an estate sale with a diamond ring in my hand – but now I know exactly what it is, what it’s worth, and who would look fantastic wearing it!

What kind of experience and preparation helped you the most?
Obviously for a gemologist the Graduate Gemology degree is crucial. You can’t be a gemologist without the degree! But for starting my own company, the most invaluable lessons were the one’s I learned just working in the business for so many years. All that hands on experience with grading stones, jewelry, manufacturing, appraising, and dealing with customers, teaches you how to handle any situation.

What are your duties/functions/responsibilities? or What is a typical day like in your work?
My typical day is one big juggling act. With a two year old at home, my work schedule is dictated by playdates and nap times. I get up before dawn to get back to clients, check my shop, make sure all my shipping and orders are going out properly. In the mornings I take care of sizing’s, cleaning and repair new inventory, etc and going to the Post Office. Afternoon light is the best for grading (and how GIA sets their standards on grading), so in the afternoon I tend to do the bulk of the real gemological work – grading, photographing pieces, valuing, and listing. Then at night it’s more customer service – emailing clients, packing up the days orders. Oh, and I’m constantly buying. All day I’m looking to see what estate sales might be happening, talking with people who want to sell their jewelry for whatever reason, talking to other dealers about what they might have for me, scouting where there might be a jewelry auction, etc.

What do you like best about your work? I love to buy, and I love to sell.
And in between I love to appreciate the craftsmanship of the pieces I sell. There’s something really fantastic about finding a diamond ring no one’s worn in 50 years covered in 10 layers of dirt and bringing it back to life. I find it equally as rewarding to help someone find “the perfect ring” that they’ll wear for the next 50 years! Even if I don’t get the pleasure of wearing a lot of the fantastic items I see, it’s great to be able to be a part of such a happy occasion.

What is your biggest headache?
Problems. As good as you are, as honest as you can be, as high as you can hold your standards, some people just won’t be happy. I recently had client who purchased a band, and decided later she wanted the inside of the band inscribed. It was to be a wedding band for her son’s finance. When she got it back after the engraving, she claimed the inscription wasn’t readable. Well, the band was only 2mm wide, I made the engraving as big as possible, and I could read it just fine. It was exactly the same as the hundreds of other engravings I’ve done. But she was overly upset. I offered every remedy possible, from a full refund on the engraving, a refund on the ring and the engraving, I offered to pay ALL her costs associated with ring – shipping, gas, etc. She even took it to her local jeweler, who she admitted told her the engraving was just fine and total readable. But she refused to return the ring, and ended up taking a full refund on all her costs associated with the engraving, but she made it clear that nothing I did would make her happy. Which just makes me feel awful. I want all my clients to be ecstatic with the high quality of work I do. Luckily almost all do! At the same time, I think it’s important to remember that it’s just jewelry. The jewelry might be a symbol of love, marriage, a special event – but in the end it is just a symbol.

What are the important personal qualities or abilities necessary for a person to be a successful gemologist?
It really depends on what kind of gemologist you want to be. There are different career paths of this profession that will appeal to all. If you’re really outgoing, sales are perfect. If you’re more of an introvert, being a diamond grader would be a good choice. If you like travel and adventure, you can become a sourcer. Want to work with your hands? Become a bench jeweler. Creative? Jewelry designer. For me, the most important thing is to be a good multi-tasker, and to only accept the highest quality. At any time I have multiple orders/ clients/ rings / etc that I need execute perfectly. A small mistake to a jeweler, like sizing the ring to the wrong size, is really a huge mistake to the client – and just can’t happen. I’ve seen plenty of jewelers go out of business because they lacked that precision to detail.

How many hours do you work each week?
A lot. Every day. Seven days a week. Constantly pretty much. It’s a good thing I love it!

How do you stand out from other gemologists?
In the jewelry industry, just being a gemologist makes you stand out. Most people don’t realize that the vast majority of jewelers/ jewelry store employees in the US have no formal training whatsoever. So that lady standing behind the counter at Tiffany, telling a couple all about the four C’s and advising them on what diamond to buy, really has no qualifications to be giving such advice! I like to shop in other jewelry stores a lot - just to see what’s out there, what’s selling, what’s new and exciting. I almost never run into another gemologist. I also hold a few college degrees (go Hoo’s) and am rather un-corporate – so large employers like Zales or Robbin’s Bros. never would have been a good match for me!

For someone who is considering this field, what would be you advice?
Go for it! Especially for women. Even though almost all jewelry is produced for women, it’s still an industry run by men. There are fantastic career opportunities for women with a Graduate Gemology degree.

Are there any books you suggest reading, training courses that would be beneficial or professional organizations aspiring gemologists should consider joining?
The first thing would be to check out the Gemological Institute of America’s website (GIA.edu). They are THE institution in the US to get Graduate Gemology degree. You can even do some classes online these days!

How much can a gemologist expect to earn?
This really depends on where you live, and what career path you want to take. Intro level diamond graders make very little (25K) while intro level sales people in a big city can make quite a bit (50K-90K).

Are there any scams to watch out for (training, suppliers, customers)?
Yes, all the time! Constantly! We are dealing with diamonds, gold, platinum, etc. Everyone wants a little bit of everything – and there is a constant push and pull. You have to be a hard negotiator to be a buyer or salesperson. And while most people are honest, there are those who aren’t and it’s buyer beware. I think one of the reasons I have been so successful is that I am so honest! I give honest opinions on pieces of jewelry (wanted or not), I negotiate fair prices, and sell at equally fair prices. I stand behind each piece I sell, and try to make everything as transparent as possible.

How is the economy affecting your business?
Honestly, I don’t know. I only opened my shop in September with a few pieces, so the economy was already quite depressed. I can say that I’m very happy with my sales for far – I have over 60 items in inventory at any time, and this month have had over 40 sales. My revenue is up over 25% from February to March, which are traditionally pretty slow months in the jewelry industry. I can say that the smaller traditional jewelry stores are hurting. Without a change in business model, I think many won’t make it in the long run.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know about yourself or your business?
Success doesn’t happen overnight. For me, it took lots of education, years of experience, and the constant support of my husband, family, and friends. I’ve found that the most important thing is to do what you love, and never compromise your values. I never really feel like I’m “working” because I adore what I do. And if a ring (or repair, or sizing, or engraving) isn’t good enough for myself, it isn’t good enough for my clients. I hope everyone loves my shop as much as I do!

Where can we find you?
My shop is http://www.goldadore.com/. Please stop by and say hello

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Joining Classy Career Girl’s Networking Challenge

Ever since I read Frau Tech's post Blaming Women Entrepreneurs, I haven't been able to stop thinking about networking.  Here is the section of her post that had the greatest impact on me:
Starting a business is like getting a job. It’s more about who you know than what you know. Many of my male colleagues have networks and contacts built up within the industry. Their opinions are trusted more on technical matters than mine are.
I even asked Anna Runyan of Classy Career Girl to write a guest post for me on Why Networking is Important which ran earlier this week.  Anna mentions some interesting points about barriers that hold you back from networking. I could relate to all of them. Her post also got me thinking about another networking fallacy:

Networking is only important when you are looking for a new job
The truth is you should be developing and nurturing your network on an ongoing basis. And networking is a two-way process. The most successful networks are ones where you give your network more than you receive.

I realized I have been neglecting my own network. Over the past couple of years I have become increasingly disillusioned with my accounting career. So much so, that I have been contemplating a career change.  The practical side of me, however, realizes I still need to support myself and a career change is most likely a pipe dream.  Not wanting my accounting network to know I want out I have been ignoring it. Also being an introvert, it is easy for me to sit in the corner allowing others to sit at the table.

It is time I get back in the game:
I have decided to join Anna Runyan's Networking Challenge. Here is the challenge Anna created for herself:
Every month I would meet with four people I already knew but would like to get to know even better. I also made a point of meeting with four new people.  My goal was to learn from each person I talked to and ask questions about how I to get to the next step in my career.
Anna says we don't have to start with 4 people right away she recommends we begin with just a couple of people the first month and grow from there.  Her most important tip is to plan ahead, write down who we want to meet with and email them before the month starts. Her second tip is to find someone to keep us accountable.  For her accountability, she shares her progress with us on her blog and we keep her accountable.

My Networking Challenge:
I am going to begin with meeting two people I already know and two that I don't each month. These will be people in my community. I too, am going to use my blog audience to keep me accountable. I am also going to try to attend two local events each week.  These could be meetings at trade associations or book events at book stores or libraries.  Lisa Bloom author of the book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World (which I wrote about here) has challenged us to attend one book event a month.  I am going to take her up on it.  On a side note you may be interested in the following offer Lisa made to her twitter followers @LisaBloom:
Special Offer! Anyone who goes to an author event at your local bookstore or library and tells me about it gets a retweet.
My new blog series:
I am starting a new series on my blog - interviews with other female bloggers who have interesting or unusual careers they are passionate about.  My first interview will appear later this week. My ultimate goal will be to run two interviews each month. In order to achieve this I will have to establish several new social contacts each week in addition to maintaining my current network. My biggest fear is that without prior contact my interview email requests will be considered spam. My challenge will be to make 4 new social contacts each week in addition to keeping up with 4 current contacts.

On being accountable:
As part of this post, I was going to link to Getting my Ducks in a Row, a previous blog post where I introduced a similar challenge. In rereading that post, I noticed how similar it was to this one. As I recall, that particular challenge did not last very long, which just goes to show how hard networking can be for people like me. I think by actually joining Anna’s challenge and having this post listed on her site I will feel much more accountable this go-round.

Do you need a networking challenge to push you out of your comfort zone?  If so head over to Classy Career Girls' site and join us.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday Inspiration: Ruth Stout

Thanks to Ann Daly for posting this video of Ruth Stout on her website earlier this week.  I watched it over my lunch break and I must say it took the edge off my day. Ruth is a genuine free spirit who has inspired me to rethink how I live.  Or if nothing else has inspired me to get out and work in my garden. Enjoy:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why Networking is Important

A guest post by Anna Runyan:

It’s not what you know, but who you know.  Who you know can mean the difference in whether or not your end up reaching your future dreams and goals. There are so many reasons why networking is important, personally and professionally.  Whether you want to stand out from the crowd during your job search, rise the ranks at your current company or just have a good support network to be there for you when you need it.  I know that I would not be where I am today in my professional journey if I had not made networking a top priority in my life when I was graduating from college and as I started working at my first job.  Networking helped me land an internship during college that turned into a full time job and helped me get promoted at my first job.  I also built a great support network at my church and that network helped me  through a tough time that I went through. No matter where you are in life, you can’t get around the fact that networking is crucial to your success and personal well being.

So what are the barriers that might be holding you back from networking?

1.     The first barrier that might be in your way is that you never know what to say.  I hate that awkward introduction and I not knowing what to say to people I don’t know.  The key here is to be genuine, not think about yourself and what you are going to talk about and instead think about what you want to ask and learn about other people instead.  People are just as scared as you in the room and why not make others feel better and take the focus off of you and onto them.

2.     Another barrier may be if you are an introvert. An introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.  If you are an introvert like me, it is hard to be open and let strangers into your life.  To network, you have to be open and curious.  You must also show up and be present in all conversations.  Sometimes the hardest part is getting to the event but you will be glad you did once you get there.  Meet one person and start speaking with them and asking questions.  This way, it will be easier to meet others since you know one person very well.  Also, don't be afraid to speak up if you have something to say. 

3.     Another barrier is thinking you are way too busy to network I know I am exhausted after work. This was my biggest pitfall.  I am often too busy with work and school to reach out and connect with someone over lunch or a quick dinner.  You have to make networking a priority, which is why I always scheduled networking events and meetings into my calendar so that I got in the habit of meeting people for lunch or dinner and not going directly home after work.

How did I get over my networking barriers?  It all stated at the beginning of 2011, when I was preparing to graduate from business school and trying to figure out the next step in my career. I knew that networking would be a key to success in the job search, but I also knew I was—and still am—an introvert, and the prospect of meeting new people has never been easy for me.  Still, I was determined to knock down my barriers to networking and meet the people who would help me reach my dreams and goals. So I decided to embark on a networking challenge where every month, I would meet with four people I already knew but would like to get to know even better, as well as four completely new people. I called it the 4×4 Networking Challenge.

And at the end of 2011, I added 48 new people to my network and strengthened relationships with 48 friends, co-workers, and family members. Not to mention, a year of networking like crazy gave me a lot of valuable insights on what it takes to be a good networker—something I never thought I’d be able to claim.

If you are ready to reach your dreams and goals and take your networking to the next level, challenge yourself to a networking challenge. Write it down, find an accountability partner and start today!
Classy Career Girl, a blog written by Anna Runyan, provides advice to young professionals on how to be classy as they climb the corporate ladder.  Her blog covers topics such as business chic fashion, career motivation, personal development, networking, and office etiquette. Connect with her at http://www.classycareergirl.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Manager accuses me of falsifying my “Travel Expenses”

I received the following question from a reader:

I recently resigned from a role in a very male dominated environment. I had been on the fast track to promotion, but as my knowledge and confidence grew my boss/mentor seemed to use every opportunity to undermine and belittle me in front of my male counterparts. On numerous occasions he stated "Oh you're just a woman what do you know.” This even became the Friday sport.

Bullying is a common occurrence. I was sent interstate to work and thrown into a role I had no experience in. I worked directly with hostile customers and internal management. I tried discussing it with my boss on numerous occasions. After one incident, I called him to report the bullying. He responded by telling me to modify my behavior when dealing with this particular manager. Fed up I accepted a job in another industry.

Upon receiving my resignation, my manager accused me of not performing (which was a complete contradiction to the performance appraisal given to me two weeks prior.)

The following weeks have been difficult ones with my manager isolating and ignoring me. Now I wish he would have continued this behavior. With one week remaining, I submitted my expense claim and Amex reconciliation which turned out to have errors. He brought it to my attention and I offered to fix it immediately. He refused, involved HR and launched a massive investigation into my claims. I spent 3/4 of last year interstate with no support or guidance in what the travel reimbursement or reconciliation process was. So I did the best I could. With one day left working there, I will be presented with further 'evidence'. I admitted to making the mistake, I offered to rectify the issue and even repay monies owed however he insists on digging further.

I spent the afternoon in the doctor's office having an anxiety attack (never had one of these before) and await another interrogation tomorrow which is meant to be my last day. I have worked there 4.5 years and have achieved a great deal. To have my reputation tainted by a mistake made due to lack of education, support and guidance upsets me a great deal.

I have owned the mistakes and will continue to do so, I have offered solutions to avoid this sort of error happening again, but I'm afraid he's not going to stop. He even suggested not letting me leave after the four week notice period expires.

Can anyone offer any advice?

First, I want to congratulate you on finding a new job. Your current company sounds at the very least mismanaged. Lucky for you, you only have to work there one more day. Your manager under no circumstances can require you to work past your notice period. So you are done, finished, out-of-there.

As to your expense reports, I question that there is truly no policy or guidance on this. How do other similarly situated employees handle their reimbursements? It’s unfortunate that you “guessed” rather than researching further first. Did someone approve your reports, if so why didn’t they question your expenses at that time? What about accounting? The accounting group at my company audits every expense report and returns them to the manager if there is a question.

What happens next most likely depends on what you submitted incorrectly (was it obvious you submitted things you shouldn’t have – i.e., did you purchase clothing or personal items and expense them?) Or were your expenses all work-related (you spent $25 on dinner while traveling when your company didn’t want you to spend over $20, but you didn’t realize that?). If there’s truly no policy, I think they will have to pay you for work-related expenses. If you charged anything personal, it’s a problem and will likely be viewed as intentional. You will at the very least be required to reimburse the company for these items. Depending on the dollar amount they consider personal I think they could even press charges.

Does anyone else have any additional advice? Did I miss anything?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer: A study in strength and leadership

Motivation for Reading:

I selected Kay Mills book This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer for my Women's History Month read when Sarah at Citizen Reader wrote the following comment about the book in her post 100 Best-ish Nonfiction Titles: Biography :
Fannie Lou Hamer, born in 1917 to a sharecropping family with 20 children, lived through enormous hardship and poverty and still overcame to become a leading figure in the fight for civil rights. THIS is a book they should be teaching in history and women's studies courses.
My Thoughts:
If every biography was as good as This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, I would definitely read more biographies. The life of Fannie Lou Hamer is an amazing story.  What makes it so remarkable is that from the outside this poor, short black woman seemed like an unlikely candidate to become a civil rights icon. How did this woman who risked everything including her life become so fearless? Kay Mills provides an excellent study of the factors contributing to Fannie Lou Hamer’s strength to carry on despite so many obstacles, set backs and ill health.  Fannie Lou's sources of strength included:

Her mother:
Fannie Lou’s mother was one of the strongest influences of her life. My mother was a great woman.
She went through a lot of suffering to bring us up, but she still taught us to be decent and to respect ourselves. (Pg. 17)
Her faith:
One of the most important principles she was taught was that hating made one as weak as those filled with hatred. The church in Mississippi was one of the most segregated institutions in the state, and still is. Fannie Lou sought to understand, expose and destroy the root cause of oppression. She questioned many things about the misuse of power in this land.

Fannie Lou had learned how to reach down to some deep consciousness, a deeper place inside her in order to survive. As June Sugarman recalled:
I have never been in the presence of someone where I felt that person was so connected to her faith and that was her stability. (Pg. 178)
She loved her country:
Fannie Lou had this knowledge of the constitution, what this country was supposed to be. She believed in her countries promise despite her personal experiences.

There are many examples throughout the book where at just the right moment Fannie Lou would start singing. Music helped her overcome her fears and calm those of others. One of her favorite songs was “This Little Light of Mine.”

Her anger was touched with sorrow, about her lack of control over her life. Her anger after her arrest and subsequent beating at the jail in Winona made her even more determined to become a first-class citizen

Another teaching point of the book is her role as a leader:
Fannie Lou Hamer was also a natural leader with the ability to rally people around her. She was an organizer. She delivered. She prodded people to take an extra step, to think for themselves about their own problems.
When you are talking about important roles, you have to ask which person has the most important role – the one who speaks or the one who got the people there? Fannie Lou Hamer could do both. (Pg. 202)
Bottom Line:
In addition to being an excellent choice for Women’s History Month, this book provides a study of the civil rights movement, the history, culture and politics of Mississippi, and the economic programs and human rights Fannie Lou fought so tirelessly for. Sarah was correct: THIS is a book they should be teaching in history and women's studies courses.

What are you reading for Women's History Month?  Can you recommend additional female biographies that provide a study of strength and leadership?

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

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How to find work when you don’t have experience?

Kelly writes:

I am a college student working towards an accounting degree. Without job experience in accounting, how do I get ahead in this field? Where do I look for entry-level positions? Don’t recommend that I check into internships. I’ve already done so and all of the ones I’ve seen are for students in traditional schools. I am a non-traditional student and I don't have many contacts. I also have children, so I need to work to live. If you know of any alternatives or how to network being a non-traditional student please let me know. Any advice would be appreciated.

Your question is such a catch-22; no one will hire you because you don't have experience, but how are you supposed to gain experience if no one will hire you? Years ago when I was starting out, the only work I could find was typing. After I typed checks I added accounts payable to my resume. After typing invoices I added accounts receivable. My first real job was working in an accounting department entering work order data into an accounts receivable database. From there I was hired as a staff accountant at a brokerage firm. Unless you are lucky or have contacts you usually have to start at the bottom.

I recommend:
Apply for any type of administrative job at an accounting firm or in accounting department to get your foot in the door. I know someone who spent a summer scanning client work papers into an accounting firm’s computer system when the firm went paperless. She now works at the same firm as a full-time tax accountant.

Apply for jobs working with accounts payable and accounts receivable.

Don’t discount jobs with low pay:
You will most likely have to take very low pay for at least 6 months or until you prove yourself.

Sign up with every temporary job search firm in your area:
Go through their registration/interview process. Some firms will offer free on-line training. Take advantage of these programs especially if they provide training in Excel. Also, many firms offer benefits after you have worked a certain number of billable hours. Working for temporary firms is an excellent way to build your resume while gaining experience and discovering what type of work/industry you enjoy.

Work hard, be likable and have a positive attitude:
If a company likes you they will request your services when they have future work and may offer you a permanent position when one becomes available.

Join one or two of the professional organizations in your area:
Most professional organizations will offer reduced annual dues and subsidized meal costs for students. Some may even sponsor student dues and/or cover the cost of a dinner or two. Really network with these people. Let them know you are looking for entry level work. Dress professionally; a nice pair of dress pants and a sweater or blouse would be perfect. Act interested and engaged. Ask questions. (At a recent professional organization meeting, I witnessed a student looking extremely bored as a member discussed the death of her father. Two other students rolled their eyes as we discussed the qualifications of an upcoming speaker.) We do notice this behavior and will not recommend someone we think has a bad attitude. Our reputation is more important than helping you find a job.

Do volunteer for tax preparation work:
Seek out local tax preparers. Offer to complete basic returns and to help keep the tax preparer organized during tax season for free. Next year offer to help again, only this time ask if you could be paid.

Do not lie or exaggerate on your resume or during an interview:
Your reputation is on the line. Nothing will get your new job off on a worse note than asking your employer how to make a basic change to an excel spreadsheet after you've told them you were an excel expert during the interview. To read more on this topic see Anita Bruzzese's post Is it okay to fudge the truth on a resume?

Good luck to you.  If you are persistent, I am confident you will eventually get the job experience you are looking for. Do keep working towards your degree though.  I was a non-traditional student myself and I know how hard it is to work full-time while taking classes. Once you've earned your degree, you will have more opportunities available to you.

Readers - How did you get that first job in your field? Do you have any additional advice for Kelly?

If you liked this post, you may also like:  Do you type? where I wrote about my career as a typist.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

SWG Coffee Social: New Perspectives

“New Perspectives,” my theme for February's SWG Coffee Social began when Monica of Monica's Tangled Web convinced me to add a "subscribe by email" option to my blog. I had an AHA moment when I realized just because I prefer reading my favorite blogs in Google Reader others may prefer different options.

The "New Perspectives" theme progressed throughout the month as someone in my circle was forced to retire before he was ready. It is a hard lesson and one all of us as should be aware of as we (or are loved ones) continue to work after full-retirement age. Despite feeling as though we are physically and mentally able to work our employers may feel otherwise. Once 65, if we haven't done so already, we need to begin preparing ourselves financially and emotionally for retirement. This particular person was not prepared and it has been hard on all of us. I contributed by doing what I do best: assisting with retirement paperwork and financial decision making.

 Here are a few posts/articles from around the web that changed my perspective in the month of February:

In Blaming Women Entrepreneurs Frau Tech writes about why she hasn't gone out and started a highly technical business:
Starting a business is like getting a job. It’s more about who you know than what you know. Many of my male colleagues have networks and contacts built up within the industry. Their opinions are trusted more on technical matters than mine are.
This was a real eye-opener into the importance of building a strong network early in your career and the differences between male and female networking opportunities. I was reminded of two engineering grads, one male and one female, the engineering company I worked for in the mid-nineties hired at the same time. The male was highly touted by his manager as the guy who is going places (I wrote about him in How to be more confident at work) while the female was mistaken as the coat check employee at a popular conference.

In could I work for a manager with a degree from an online school? Alison recommends the reader not put so much weight on an online degree without knowing the person. More interesting for me though, was the conversation in the comments on what term to use when referring to other females. The commenter's were opposed to girl, gal, lady and ma'am. I remember being chastised for referring to my female co-workers as girls at one of my professional association meetings; again just because a term like "girl" doesn't bother me doesn't mean others won't be offended. I was told to use the term "ladies" instead. Now after reading Alison's comments, I plan on using "women" or the gender neutral term "co-workers." Coincidentally, my new hairstylist calls me "Missy." I am sure she does this when she can't remember a client's name, but it sounds inappropriate. I suggest she brainstorm tricks for remembering names instead.

I am currently reading Annie Leonard's book The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change. After reading this book I may never be able to look at the paper my company throws away, a frozen meal (all that packaging) or aluminum can the same way again.

For a shortened version of the above book's message, I suggest reading Robert Reich's article in Christian Science Monitor: The biggest risk to the economy in 2012. It was recommended by Sarah at Citizen Reader in her post Tuesday Article: The real problem with the economy. In case you don't have time to read the article Sarah includes one of her favorite paragraphs:
The crisis of American capitalism marks the triumph of consumers and investors over workers and citizens. And since most of us occupy all four roles – even though the lion’s share of consuming and investing is done by the wealthy – the real crisis centers on the increasing efficiency by which all of us as consumers and investors can get great deals, and our declining capacity to be heard as workers and citizens.
Lastly if you are on Twitter, Bob Lowry's post I've been Twacked! (My Twitter Account was Hacked) is a must read. He writes of opening a Direct Message from a blogger he is friends with just before going to sleep, and all heck broke loose while he slept. His Twitter account was hacked. He gives advice on what to do if your account is hacked and suggests never opening a link in a direct message ever again.

I was feeling pretty lucky after reading Bob's post because I too had clicked on a link in a direct message; only my computer's virus protection software removed the virus before my computer became infected.

Then a couple of days after reading Bob's post my own personal hell broke loose. When I clicked on a blog I hadn't seen activity from in a while, my computer's virus protection software started going crazy and became inundated with pop-up screens. As I attempted to have Window's Security Essentials block the virus, my computer was taken over by Strong Malware and shut down. Luckily I had read Bob's post earlier and knew to immediately change my blogger, twitter, Google and email passwords. It took five days and a lot of swearing to get that computer up and running properly again. This consisted of booting my computer up in safe mode, restoring programs and settings to a prior day (restore wizard helped with this). Then removing the Trojan Downloader win 32/claret ore virus. After several security scans later, I believe my computer is finally virus free, though I am staying off the internet for the time being. In the future instead of seeking out a blogger/twitter who has dropped off of social media, I am going to assume they've been hacked and wait for them to reappear on their own.

And if my month couldn't have been any crazier, my two dogs encountered a skunk at 5:30 a.m. on a work day. After much cleaning and shampooing we are almost free of the horrendous skunk smell.

My only hope for March is that it is less disruptive. How about you? How was your February? Did you have any "New Perspectives?"