Saturday, December 31, 2011

Career, Workplace, and Economic Predictions and Trends for 2012 and Beyond

My latest TheAtlantic.com article (republished on yahoo.com) offers my career, workplace, and economic predictions and trends for 2012 and beyond. HERE is the link.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Two Keys to Achieving Your Goals and Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions

You can set goals and make New Year's resolutions but you'll probably fail unless you remember one thing: stay conscious.

Let's say you want to lose 20 pounds in six months. That meets all the usual criteria for a good goal: realistic, specific, and important. But you will fail unless you stay conscious of the importance of your achieving your goal, from the moment you start thinking about eating through the moment you finish or get distracted by something else. Without that vigilance, it's just too easy to succumb to "Ooh, that food will taste good." It may also help to break your goal into a small step:one pound in the next four days, for example.

Another example: You want to land a job within three months and, to that end, you want to put in 30 good hours a week. During those 30 hours, you must stay conscious that you must put in the time, reminding yourself of all the benefits you'd get from landing a job. Again, it can help to break it down into smaller goals, for example, I'll make five calls today.

If staying conscious isn't enough, tell one or more people your goal and deadline and, if necessary, ask if you could check in daily. For example, ask if you could email them the letter grade A through F you'd give yourself for your day's work.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Three tips from my new book: How to Do Life: what they didn't teach you in school


Here, I present three tips from my just-published book, How to Do Life: what they didn't teach you in school. It's available on Amazon for $15.00. HERE is the link. I'd welcome your writing an honest review of it on Amazon.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Career Advice: What I said to a panel of student interviewers

A group of broadcast journalism students did a series of six six-minute interviews with me. Most of the questions were on how to be a career success in these tough times. Here are those interviews.

Note: The first minute is pre-interview fooling around. And the following minute or so has a few audio squeaks--they are student engineers. But the other 33 minutes are okay.


My new book, "How to Do Life" is now available

I've just published my new book, How to Do Life: what they didn't teach in school.

Perhaps it's author bias but I believe it is an invaluable assemblage of ahead-of-the-pack ideas on career, relationships, money, health, education, and life's big questions, all in 142 crisply written, even mildly entertaining pages.

Many but not all of its ideas have been presented on this blog and on my website. The book presents them in a coherent package.

I've priced it at just $7.99 because I'm far more interested in being helpful than in making money.

I believe How to Do Life would be of great benefit to people of any age but particularly appropriate for someone just starting out.

HERE is the link to the Amazon page where you can buy it. Do note that the cover may be the one above or the one pictured on the Amazon site. (I can't control which.)

Both a printed-book and Kindle version are available.

I welcome your writing an honest review of it on Amazon.

You Can Vote For or Against Staycations in The Atlantic

I've long felt that vacations longer than two hours aren't worth it. If your worklife is so unpleasant that you need longer breaks, maybe you'd be wiser to try to get your job description changed, get better at your job, or if you can, find better a better job or self-employment.

And if you or your honey feel you need a longer break, you'll probably get more restoration and even novelty with far less hassle and cost with a staycation: using your home as the base of your vacation operations: You can go to that restaurant you know is great, see those friends you keep saying you want to see, and make that Grand Marnier souffle you've been dying to try.

And unless you're one of those spiritual souls for whom stepping into the Parthenon makes you feel so one with history that it's worth the $$$ and hassles getting to and fro, you may feel you've derived more pleasure per buck and minute by watching high-quality travel videos without cost or hassle on YouTube. For example, HERE is a free five-minute tour of Malaysia. The company that produced that video has created dozens of other free video tours of vacation destinations. To see more, HERE is the link.

I've made the case for staycations on this blog but not elsewhere...until now. It's my Question of the Week in The Atlantic: If and when is it wiser to have a staycation than a vacation? If you'd like to weigh in, just click HERE.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We're All Miseducated

We are educated by the wrong people: teachers, professors, journalists, filmmakers, fiction authors.

Teachers score lowest among all professionals on the SAT, and qualitatively, spend time with K-12 teachers and, unless you're a dullard yourself, you'll find most of them, well, dull: usually caring but unlikely to educate beyond a minimum, let alone inspire or elevate their students.

Professors are people who opted out of the real world so they can study arcana for a lifetime--not the best people to abet students' real-world functioning. And because there is a near litmus test for hiring professors in the humanities and social sciences, college and graduate school education is truncated: right-of-center ideas will usually be absent from the curriculum except as whipping boys. Some but not all wisdom resides left-of-center.

Journalists disproportionately self-select into the profession because they want to change the world--in the leftist direction their professors monolithically extolled. And most journalists have little real-world experience to temper their being True Believers in leftist theory: that the privileged white male capitalists are destroying society, especially women and people of color. In previous generations, that was tempered by journalism school professors urging students to strive to be fair and balanced. Now, many journalism professors urge "advocacy journalism," even in supposedly straight-news pieces.

Films nearly always have a leftist bias. For example, filmmakers generally portray corporations as evil --even though, for example, if not for corporations, you'd have no medication, no refrigeration, no TV, no computer, no car, no public transportation, etc. And corporations' efficiency enables even most low-income Americans to afford all of the above. Not to mention that big corporations offer some of the more secure, well-paying, well-benefited jobs, with ongoing free training, all in a safe, pleasant environment. But you'll rarely see that message in a major film. The hero is much more often a have-not.

I've been taking a number of literature courses through The Great Courses, for example, THIS, (taught of course, by leftist professors) and I've learned that the authors of most of our revered literature are misfits, so offbeat (depressed, alcoholic, or simply downright weird,) they nearly always honor the weird person over the straight arrow. And, like journalists, most fiction writers, holed up in their atelier most of their life, have little real-world experience to provide a reality check for their dreamt-up ideas.

I'm not in a bad position to assess the extent to which the above arguments are true. I've trained student teachers and observed many so-called master teachers. I've been on the faculty of the University of California and the California State University and been a consultant to 15 colleges, so I know lots of professors from the inside. I've been a journalist at the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Kiplinger, U.S., News, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic. So I know journalists. I'm always looking for the metamessages in books, movies, and the news media's reporting. And as a career counselor who has worked with 3,900 clients over the past quarter century, and someone who, even at parties, loves to talk with people about their worklife, I have a pretty good sense of what our society's mind molders are like compared with other intelligent people.

As a result of all of this, I have concluded that we would be better educated if we were taught mainly, although not exclusively, by society's doers: businesspeople, those who work in nonprofits, tradespeople, as well as in the government. The older I get, the more I believe in a variant of the old saw: those who can, do; those who can't, teach, write, or make movies.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Overcoming Shyness: An inspiring story (with music)

Here's the one-woman show I wrote with Jeffrie Givens. She's the performer and I accompanied her on the piano.

It's called Big, Black, and Shy. It's the improbable story of how she went from being extraordinarily shy to, well, I don't want to give away the ending.

We performed it for the first time yesterday at my home to a packed house of 22 people. I was pleased with how it went.

Here is the video:

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Case for Economic Agnosticism


What's the best economic system: Socialism? Communism? Capitalism? A hybrid?

So many factors affect an economy that history nor theory provide adequate basis for dispositive judgment.

Thus, despite today's era of polarized opinions, it strikes me that the only responsible positions on the subject are agnosticism or advocacy of some sort of capitalism/socialism hybrid.

What do you think?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Changing Careers in Midlife and Beyond

This is my next column in Germany's Spotlight magazine. I thought you might enjoy an advance look.

It's not easy to change careers, especially if you're older and especially in this economy, but it can be done. These are the ways my career coaching clients have most often done it:

1. Ask all your relatives and friends, real-life and online, for example, on Facebook and LinkedIn. Unless it's a very low-level job, most often it's only a friend who will be willing to hire someone with no experience, which by definition, is what a career changer is. Tell your relatives and friends in ten words or less what you're looking for. Examples:
  • I'd like to combine my law degree with an interest in health care.
  • I'd love a job working with my hands, especially outdoors.
  • I'm not an artist but I like working with aesthetic products: fashion, decor, art.
  • I've very social so any professional job where I work on teams would be fine.
Note that you needn't be highly specific. If you're too specific, for example, "I'm looking for a job as a project manager in a fuel cell fabricator," the odds are too small that your friends will have leads for you. On the other hand, it's usually wise not to say "I'm open to anything." That makes you seem desperate and unskilled at anything.

2. Train with a short program. Most older people don't find it worth the time to complete a multi-year degree program. And remember that older people tend to take longer than the expected time to complete their degree. So look at short job training programs offered by your professional association, a community college, etc.

Examples of careers with relatively short training: fundraising, project management, sales, iPhone technician, piano tuner, home stager, bookkeeper/tax preparer, irrigation designer/installer, locksmith, auto body repairer, baker, bus or truck driver, massage therapist, nanny, and database administrator. Not only are such programs a source of fast training but often of job leads from your instructors and your fellow students.

3. Become self-employed. It's tough to convince an employer to hire an older person even if s/he has much experience. It's harder still if you're changing careers--no experience, no contact list, nothing. So, if you're a self-starter and cost-conscious, you may wish to start your own business. You instantly go from disgruntled employee to CEO, where you run things as you like.

Key to maximizing your chances of success is to copy an already successful simple business: Don't innovate; replicate. Rather than be a guinea pig for some untested idea, it's far safer to replicate someone else's successful business in a different location. For example, let's say you notice gourmet soup/sandwich/salad trucks have long lines. Visit the few busiest ones and incorporate their best features into your own, of course, in a busy location.

4. Decide you don't need a career change, just a career tweak. Might you be happy enough if you did the same work but for a different boss? Different work for your current employer? If the latter, give your boss a proposal for a revised job description that would emphasize your strengths and preferences while meeting your employer's needs.

I should warn you that many of my clients find themselves no happier in their new career in their old one. They bring their weaknesses or bad attitude with them to the new career. So look inward and ask yourself, "Honestly, am I likely to be so much happier and more successful in my new career that it's worth the time, money, and hassle of starting over?"

If so, great. I have indeed seen people become happier in both their professional and personal life from a career change--even if it means a decline in status. One person was a Ph.D. school psychologist but was frustrated at the slow progress of special needs children. She quit, became a pediatric nurse, and is ecstatic!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Our Justice System Reinvented

Our justice system is laborious, expensive, and too often, what prevails is not justice but the better lawyer.

In my latest Washington Post column, I propose a reinvention of our justice system.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Do Christmas Trees Belong in the Workplace?

I've just been hired as a columnist for TheAtlantic.com. The column is a bit unusual in that, before writing it, I ask TheAtlantic.com's readers to opine on a question. I then write the column based on their answers and my own thinking.

The first question is, "Do Christmas trees belong in the workplace?" If you'd like to weigh in, HERE is the link.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Communicating Honestly... without getting your head chopped off

I gave a pre-conference workshop today: Communicating Honestly... without getting your head chopped off.

I thought you might like to see a list of the main points:

To be effective, you must be a detective and a chameleon, changing your style depending on who you're talking with: High or low energy, intellectual or simple, emotional or fact-centered, nurturing or tough-love, closed-ended vs. open-ended questions, give advice or be a facilitator of their thoughts, etc.

Showing you care is among the most important things you can do.

In a particular situation, if you think it's wise to reduce the power imbalance, share a weakness, e.g., if they're sitting, you sit. Say things like, "This is hard for me."

There's usually no need to burst someone's dream. Going for their dream will likely fuel them to do the work needed to get there. Even if they don't succeed, they probably will have learned more and accomplished more from having tried than if you squelched their dream. And of course, they'll more likely like you.

If possible, avoid arguing. For example, if your client, a high school student, says, "I don't need math to be an actress," briefly acknowledge them without starting a conversation about it, e.g., "I understand," and move the conversation to somewhere you'd like it to go. For example, "You haven't been in any school plays. Would you like me to introduce you to the drama teacher?" Similarly, when a student goes off on a tangent, briefly acknowledge their point and bring the conversation back to the topic.

To keep the conversation moving where you want, give the person two or three choices, all of which you're okay with.

To minimize defensiveness, use California couching: "I'm wondering if it might be a good idea to do X. What do you think?"

When you're annoyed with a client, it's safer to say "I" than "you," for example, "I'm getting confused. Can we slow down?"

Be time-conscious. There are tools that can enable you to make a difference in just a few minutes. For example:
1. Ask the student if s/he's better with words, numbers, people, working with her hands.
2. Give her two disparate career choices within that category.
3. Based on which one she prefers, offer choices you think will be more on-target.
4. When she seems to like a career, ask her where it scores on The Meter from 0-10. If it's less than a 10, ask her, "What keeps it from being a ten?" Then propose a better-fit career.

Don't expect them to agree to do what you ask--planting a seed may be all you can reasonably expect.

Sometimes, all you can do is give them a resource: someone to talk with, a website, an article, book, etc.

Give career-finding assignments based on the student's abilities and motivation. For many special-needs students, you might want to keep it very simple: read this article, visit this site, ask your mother, etc

The perfect is the enemy of the good. Help your client take a step in the right direction. Sometimes that's all you can realistically do. Remember that you are but one influencer over another person. They are a product of their genes, their homelife, their peers, all the educators they've had, etc.

Forgive yourself. You're dealing with a challenging population. Do what you can, in the moment, and when they leave, let it go. You can only control your behavior not its outcome.

Websites listing California apprenticeships: www.calapprenticeship.org.

Remember my dad's story: Never look back; always look forward.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Recreation for a Hermit

I'd like to tell you my favorite recreation. Even if you're quite social, you might want to add my hermitic pleasure to your recreation repertoire.

It's free, endlessly varied, and fascinating to me. And for you environmentalists, it has a zero carbon footprint.

My favorite recreation is simply to sit in front of my computer and pick one of these:
  • Watching YouTube videos. That enables me to see, on command, for example:
-- a jaw-dropping version of a magician cutting a man in half
-- a flash mob in a food court singing the Hallelujah Chorus
-- Susan Boyle auditioning for Britain's Got Talent
-- memorable movie clips
-- Bach's Air on a G String while watching beautiful images of deep space
-- Julie Andrews singing "In My Own Little Corner"
-- and, okay, my own crude videos, e.g., this one on how to live the life well-led.

I particularly enjoy listening on my computer since I bought Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 computer speakers. They're $180 new but available in like-new condition for half that on Amazon, and to my ears, they sound as good as a fine home system.
  • Googling. I can read world-class articles on virtually whatever I want. Finding one is usually as simple as picking one of the first few Google search results. For example, I recently wanted to learn about the future of electric cars. Here's what I found. Yesterday, I wanted to pick a better hair conditioner. A two-second Google search revealed THIS.
  • Writing. I love to share what I know. If it can be said in a sentence or two, I write it on my Twitter page. If it requires a few hundred words, I write it on this blog. If it's longer, I post it on my website, www.martynemko.com.
  • When I want recreation away from my computer, true to my hermitic preferences, except when I'm hanging out with my wife, I usually play the piano or in my garden, and six days a week, take a vigorous hike with my doggie, Einstein.

    I recognize that my style of recreation isn't for most people.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    You're invited to "Big, Black, and Shy," a one-woman show at my home

    You're invited to a one-woman show I've helped create: Big, Black, and Shy.

    Jeffrie Givens' (pictured right) will tell her story, which is poignant, funny, and most of all, inspiring. I'll be accompanying her on the piano.

    It will be on Dec. 18 at 2 pm at my home in Oakland, CA. Seats are free but there are only 22 seats.

    If you want to attend, just email me at mnemko@comcast.net. I'll email you back to let you know if you got seats and directions to my home.

    In case you'd like a bit of a sense of what the show might be like, I did a one-man musical show at my home about my own life. HERE is the link to the video of that.

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Radio Reinvented

    KGO, one of the nation's most successful talk radio stations has just changed its format to all news. Just what we need: yet another news outlet.

    I believe the era of traditional talk radio, with expensive headquarters and expensive talk show hosts is obsolete. The question is: What should replace it?

    If I were starting a radio station, I'd crowdsource my programming: Each day, I'd search the podcasting world and broadcast and podcast the very best shows I could find. It would seem that such curated crowdsourced radio would offer fresher, better content, far less expensively than any one station's set of talk show hosts could provide.

    Of course, changing programs every day will lose listeners who tune-in specifically because they like a specific show or host. But net, I think it would improve radio and allow it to survive in a world of too many new outlets for interactivity, for example, online forums, Amazon and Yelp reviews, and, of course, Facebook.

    What do you think?

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    It's Time to Hold Colleges Accountable

    The Occupy Wall Streeters are certainly justified in railing against their student loans. College recruitment efforts manipulate students into thinking for the enormous time and money, they'll learn a lot and be professionally employable. The truth is far different.

    Perhaps most insulting, the powerful higher education lobby has pressured the government to make student loans the ONLY loan that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. Indeed it is time to rage against the higher education machine.

    My latest Washington Post Big Idea column argues that we must shine a light on what colleges actually do: that is, to prominently post a Report Card with such items as:
    • What percent of freshmen graduate in four years, broken down by high school record?
    • What percent of graduates are, within six months of graduation, professionally employed, broken down by major and high school record?
    • How much do students grow in critical thinking from freshman to senior year, disaggregated by high school record?
    Not only would that inform consumers, it would likely finally pressure colleges into spending less on ego-driven new buildings, fat administrations, and silly-research-focused professors and more on transformational undergraduate instructors, mentoring, and a career center that actually is helpful. It might even push colleges to replace lackluster lectures with courses taught on video by a dream team of the world's most transformational instructors.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Direct Evidence that Intelligence is Half Genetic: New Hope for Closing the Achievement Gap?

    Many people believe that intelligence, like most human characteristics, is affected both by genes and environment.

    Indeed, studies of fraternal and identical twins, especially those of identical twins raised apart, summarized in the chart above and, for example, THIS, provide strong evidence that intelligence is roughly half genetic. A survey of 661 experts on intelligence found that the large majority believe intelligence has a significant genetic component.

    But there hasn't yet been an analysis of actual genomes to prove that...until now.

    THIS study of 3,511 people's genomes was published on the prestigious Nature.com last month but remains largely unreported by the media. The abstract reports, "Our results unequivocally confirm that a substantial proportion of individual differences in human intelligence is due to genetic variation."

    What are the implications?

    The bad news

    This has to be a blow to educators and social policymakers, who, for a half century now, have been betting billions of tax and charity dollars that the achievement gap could be significantly reduced or eliminated by redistributing resources to improve the environments of low-achieving children and adults by more spending on education, job training programs, self-esteem programs, etc. But just as in a long-distance car race, tuning-up a VW Bug that's running miles behind a Porsche doesn't make it likely to catch up, it appears ever less likely that tuning-up low achievers' environment will close the achievement gap to the extent we all hope it will.

    Indeed, that study may help explain why, despite massive expenditures on the widest range of such programs, from Head Start (which, in the definitive metaevaluation, alas has been found to have no impact on the achievement gap) to Stop Drop, the achievement gap remains as wide as ever.

    Especially in this era of massive federal, state, and local deficits, we might want to ask ourselves how wise is it to continue to reallocate billions of dollars from gifted education to special education, from regular education to compensatory education. Indeed, our core federal education mandate, No Child Left Behind, and other major programs such as Title I, plus much nonprofit funding do that.

    The good news

    The good news is that the Nature study would seem to point to a new direction and new hope for reducing that achievement gap. In light of that study, the next steps would seem to be to discover the specific genes responsible for intelligence (something China is already doing) to develop a safe and ethical way to replace defective genes and then making available, on a purely voluntary basis, the option to have that gene therapy so prospective parents could help ensure that their kids don't start life with a genetic strike or two against them.

    To ensure that option doesn't exacerbate the gap between rich and poor, it should, like most medical services, be fully covered under MediCal (the free health care program for the poor,) and under ObamaCare. In addition, special outreach to low-income communities should be provided, emphasizing both the therapy's availability and its being completely optional.

    I would imagine that the therapy would most benefit families of multigenerational low achievement. If my parents were low achievers, I were a low achiever, and now I heard that intelligence was half genetic and there was a free, safe, and effective therapy that would improve my children's chances of having high intelligence and, in turn, be more likely to be successful in school and in career, I'd sign right up.

    Here is the study's abstract.

    Genome-wide association studies establish that human intelligence is highly heritable and polygenic

    G Davies, A Tenesa, A Payton, J Yang, S E Harris, D Liewald, X Ke, S Le Hellard, A Christoforou, M Luciano, K McGhee, L Lopez, A J Gow, J Corley, P Redmond, H C Fox, P Haggarty, L J Whalley, G McNeill, M E Goddard, T Espeseth, A J Lundervold, I Reinvang, A Pickles, V M Steen, W Ollier, D J Porteous, M Horan, J M Starr, N Pendleton, P M Visscher and I J Deary

    General intelligence is an important human quantitative trait that accounts for much of the variation in diverse cognitive abilities. Individual differences in intelligence are strongly associated with many important life outcomes, including educational and occupational attainments, income, health and lifespan. Data from twin and family studies are consistent with a high heritability of intelligence, but this inference has been controversial. We conducted a genome-wide analysis of 3511 unrelated adults with data on 549692 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and detailed phenotypes on cognitive traits. We estimate that 40% of the variation in crystallized-type intelligence and 51% of the variation in fluid-type intelligence between individuals is accounted for by linkage disequilibrium between genotyped common SNP markers and unknown causal variants. These estimates provide lower bounds for the narrow-sense heritability of the traits. We partitioned genetic variation on individual chromosomes and found that, on average, longer chromosomes explain more variation. Finally, using just SNP data we predicted ~1% of the variance of crystallized and fluid cognitive phenotypes in an independent sample (P=0.009 and 0.028, respectively). Our results unequivocally confirm that a substantial proportion of individual differences in human intelligence is due to genetic variation, and are consistent with many genes of small effects underlying the additive genetic influences on intelligence.

    Deathbed Courage

    May deathbed courage yield a 10.3.

    And a tsunami.

    ***************
    Note: No, I'm not dying.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    The Holiday Season is the BEST Time to Find a Job

    Many job seekers make the mistake of stopping their job search during the holidays. There are terrific opportunities that could get you a job offer as a Holiday present:

    I'm not social and so I avoid parties but if I were looking for a job, I'd make myself go to as many Holiday parties and fundraisers as possible.

    There, I'd introduce myself to the people most likely to help me, and be my most engaging self: asking about them, listening well, asking follow-ups and talking about myself just enough that it doesn't seem like I'm interrogating them. My rule of thumb: talk 25-40% of the conversation.

    Before asking for a job lead, I'd try to find an opportunity to help the person, for example, volunteer to help them with something, introduce them to someone they might like to meet, or even just give them some information they'd like to know. For example, if they love Thai food, I'd tell them about my favorite Thai restaurant.

    That said, I would mention that I was looking for work. I'd keep it brief and positive, for example, "I'm looking for my next job. This time, I'm going after what I really want." (insert target work.)

    If appropriate, at the end of a conversation, I'd hand the person an understated business card. VistaPrint offers great cards and THIS special discount link to VistaPrint offers unbelievable prices.

    A day or two later, I'd send a hand-written note card to people with whom I've had a good conversation.

    Send Holiday cards. Non-religious, peace-and-good-will-types are safe. If you insert a Holiday letter, mention your job-seeking only briefly and positively, per the above. Mail or email your cards early so people receive them in time to invite you to Holiday parties.

    Volunteer. There are many opportunities during the Holiday season. It's a great way to meet other charitable folks as well as to make career connections.

    The day after Thanksgiving and during the few days before Christmas right up to Christmas Eve afternoon, contact prospective employers. They're less likely to be busy and more likely to be in the Holiday spirit.

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Is it Too Risky to Advocate for Men and Boys?





    I have written much on the terribly unfair--relative to their merit-- treatment of white men and boys.

    Just one example: the longevity gap between men and women has increased from just one year in 1920 to 5.2 years now. Yet 95+% of the gender-specific medical research over the last 60 years has been on women's health. There's a federal agency and 39 state agencies on women's health, none on men's.

    The Obama Administration has created a powerful White House Council on Women and Girls but rejected our compelling proposal for a White House Council on Boys and Men. Forbes recently did a long article on it.

    Perhaps even more frightening are the distortions on race and gender issues. For example, the media and even the president continue to promulgate the misleading statistic that women earn 77 cents on the dollar, when there is solid evidence, for example, THIS, that for the same quantity and quality of work, women earn--depending on the study--only slightly less or slightly more than men. And that when women earn less, while there of course are a few Neanderthal sexists out there, the main reason is not prejudice but the choices women make. For example, see THIS National Academy of Sciences study about why women scientists are "underrepresented."

    An easy way to access some of my writings on race and gender is to click on "men's issues" and "race" in the label cloud on the right side of this blog.

    The unfairnesses to men and boys are terrible not just for them but for society. My most deeply held belief is that meritocracy is more likely than egalitarianism to yield the greatest long-term good.

    But we must know which battles are worth fighting lest we squander the precious little time we are given. As the Serenity Prayer wisely says, "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

    Alas, after fighting this fight for two decades now, I'm forced to conclude that the net impact of my efforts to bring merit-based fairness to men and boys has been negative. I have written perhaps 100 articles, op-eds, letters to the editor, and a book, The Silenced Majority, submitting each to 10 or more media outlets and they're almost always rejected. HERE is one reject that particularly disappointed me. Perhaps their being rejected is simply because my work is inferior, although somehow when I write about politically correct matters, my work is routinely published. I'll leave you to judge my work's quality, but certainly my long-sustained efforts seem not to have helped the situation at all. Indeed, white men and boys are, net, treated more unfairly than when I began writing and speaking on the topic. The main effect of my efforts seems to be damage to my career.

    So I've concluded, subject to revision, that this is the wrong era to write honestly about race and gender. It seems that today, we can hear only that women and minorities are victims or heroes. And in my judgment, that is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.

    So if you notice that my future writings discuss such issues less or not at all, that's why.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Reinventing Federal Taxation

    HERE is the link to my latest Washington Post "What's the Big Idea" column. It proposes replacing the federal income tax with a progressive national sales tax. It would likely end up being only around 10% because I would legalize and tax prostitution and would tax internet sales--it's unfair that local retailers must charge tax while corporations like Amazon needn't.

    On this blog, I mentioned that the Post had only committed to my writing five columns, but now, they've extended it to being an ongoing column. My next one will advocate requiring all colleges to post an externally audited, substantive report card on themselves, including student growth, graduation rates, employment of graduates by major, etc. That would both help students pick a college wisely and embarrass colleges into reallocating resources from fancy new buildings and fancy-salaried administrators to better teaching, mentoring, and career services.

    The column after that, unless something more news-pegged emerges, will be on reinventing our system of criminal justice.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Getting Motivated, Staying Motivated

    Tomorrow, I'll be giving a talk to a large group of long-term unemployed professionals. My topic: getting and staying motivated.

    Today, for many people, even many solid professionals, a job search has become a marathon. The willpower to stay that long course has become essential.

    Whether or not you're looking for a job, perhaps you might appreciate seeing a draft of the handout I'll be distributing to them. Feedback welcome.

    Getting and Staying Motivated

    If you haven't already, redo your resume. Inventorying yourself usually increases your confidence.

    Do it the fun, easy way. Is it more fun for you to network, e.g., always lunch with someone? Cold contact? Answer ads?

    Try something new: For example, if networking events haven't worked for you, try a professional conference or trade show, especially the exhibitors. Or answer ads--but only if you can write a top-of-the-heap application.

    Break it down into baby steps. Use the fundraising thermometer my wife used?

    Choose a narrow focus and become expert at it. Remember my client who decided to specialize in software product management.

    Commit publicly. Tell everyone you're looking. Your fear of embarrassment may motivate you.

    Get confronted. I'm finding myself more motivated to lose weight since my doctor said, "You're not cosmetically fat but you're getting medically fat. Your BMI is 27."

    Daily check-in, perhaps with a ProMatch colleague, perhaps using a reward and/or punishment for each daily goal. Or use Stickk.com.

    Establish a deadline. For example, wife said, "No job in six months? I'll take over your job search."

    Volunteer or take a low-level job to put structure in your life, get you moving, and meet people. Particularly good are organizations in your field--that makes you more knowledgeable and connected.

    Afraid of admitting you're looking for a job? Remember, today, so many are looking. Also, frame it as a positive: "This time, no settling. I'm going after what I really want (insert your target work.)

    Afraid of sounding stupid? Practice, then start with your least desirable leads. And realize that with each subsequent contact, you get a fresh start.

    Afraid of rejection? Successful people are rejected a lot. They learn from failures and move right on. No wallowing. And remember: being ignored is the new rejection. It's not that you're not worthy even of a rejection.

    Afraid of imposing? You're asking for no more time than in asking for directions. If the person wants to give you more, that's his choice. Too, you're not asking for a handout; you're asking to work for fair pay.

    Ambivalent about success? 1. Even bad people deserve a shot at redemption--honest work redeems. 2. If your success gets you more work, you can set limits. 3. Is it right to sabotage yourself because someone wishes you ill? Perhaps that person shouldn't be part of your life.

    Find inspiration: a personal role model? A book? A quote? Religious faith? A famous person? Remember Churchill's so-frequent failures.

    Make your job search not a choice. Simply force yourself to start working. No excuses. This is so basic, but for many people it's what most-often works. If necessary, just start with a one-second task. My father didn't think about whether it's pleasant--Snow or shine, he took a bus, two trains, and a six-block walk to open that miserable, little store every day.

    One-minute struggle. If you haven't made progress over a stumbling block in a minute, you're unlikely to. You'll just get frustrated and be less likely to job-search. Get help or do it without solving the stumbling block.

    Procrastination is a career killer. Remember: 80% of unemployed people say they're procrastinators versus 25% of employed professionals.

    Stop abusing drugs/alcohol. Some people are helped by a 12-step programs, others by behavioral therapy, others by support from friend(s) and family.

    Might you be clinically, not situationally, depressed or be bipolar? If so, exercise, music, and some cognitive-behavioral therapy, perhaps without drugs, may help. HERE is a link to solid information on depression. HERE is a link to solid information on bipolar disorder.

    Might you have ADD/ADHD? If you're highly distractible, try eliminating distractions, and exercising. If that's insufficient, it might be worth asking a specialist if ADD medication is worth a try.

    Embrace work. S/he who tries to accomplish as much as possible rather than as little as s/he can get away with is much more likely to stay employed, avoid depression, feel good about himself, and make a difference.

    Remember my dad's story: Never look back. Always look forward.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Is it Time to Diminish the Importance of Sex "Scandals?"

    Why is humankind so silly as to continue to judge our candidates based on issues so marginal to their ability to lead?

    I would never vote for Herman Cain, mainly because I've found him to be unintelligent, vague on the issues, and more evasive even than the typical politician. But before accusations of unwanted advances, he was on top of the GOP heap. Why in the world should he said/she said, old accusations about such matters bring down any human being, let alone a leader?

    For me, the most outrageous example is of course, is Bill Clinton who was impeached, yes impeached, because he lied about having had consensual sex with a temptress. And smart up-and-comer Elliot Spitzer had his political career ended merely because he saw a high-priced prostitute and didn't admit it. Would you?

    How ironic that is in an era in which sexuality from gay marriage to open marriage, YouPorn to transexuality have become matter-of-fact. HERE is a list of 20 such U.S. politicians merely since the sexual revolution of the '60s. *

    In part, this is yet another feminist power grab: Women milk a slight--real or trumped-up--for all they can get: "You played around with me? Okay, now give me what I want or I'll bring you down." And among journalists, a man refusing to write about such "invasions," risks being called insensitive by his female colleagues, which in this terrible job market for journalists, is enough to ruin his career.

    Feminists say that women have what it takes to rise to heights in the workplace, yet some of those same people can't seem to endure an "unwanted advance," or the psychological aftermath of consensual sex with their boss without running to their lawyer or to the press.

    Let us take this Herman Cain "scandal" as an opportunity to look inward and ask ourselves whether we're viewing sex "scandals" fairly. More important, shouldn't we redouble our efforts to select and judge our leaders based on factors more central to their ability to lead than whether they propositioned their secretary, oops, "administrative assistant?"

    Update: I've just become aware that Cain is now being accused of having offered a woman a job if he had sex with her. If that is true, in my opinion, that rises to the level where it should be considered in assessing his fitness to lead.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    I'll Be on the Ronn Owens Program TODAY

    Today, Tuesday, Nov 1 from 10:00 am to 11:00 am, I will be the guest on KGO AM-810's Ronn Owens Program, among California's most listened-to shows.

    I've been his regularly appearing career expert for 25 years now, so unless he changes things, he'll ask me a few questions about work issues and mostly, I'll answer callers' questions about work.

    You can hear it live on KGO-AM 810 in the San Francisco Bay Area, or anywhere at www.kgoam810.com. The show will be archived on that site for a week afterwards.

    I invite you to call: 80-80-810 from anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area. Or 415-80-80-810 from anywhere.

    Don't Elect. Select: a better way to pick our legislators

    In the latest installment of my "What's the Big Idea?" series in the Washington Post, I make the radical proposal that we'd have better legislators if they were not elected but selected using passive criteria, like the way stocks are included in an index fund.

    That may seem crazy. After all, electing our leaders is a hallowed tradition, foundational to the democracy created by our Constitution. But I invite you to read the column and then decide. HERE is the link.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    How to Do Life: what they didn't teach you in school

    I've just written THIS article for Mensa's national magazine, the Mensa Bulletin. It contains some of the best ideas from my recently completed book manuscript, How to Do Life: what they didn't teach you in school.

    It offers not-obvious but helpful ideas on career, recreation, money, education, coupling, parenting, spirituality, plus a few all-purpose tips for living the life well-led.

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Create Jobs: Replace Geometry with Entrepreneurship

    I'm writing a series called "What's the Big Idea?" for the Washington Post.

    It will offer fresh solutions for big problems. The first is a way to create jobs: Replace Geometry with Entrepreneurship.

    If you'd like to comment on it, you'll get more readers if you write your comment on that Washington Post page and then copy and paste it onto this blog.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    How to Land a Good Job in a Bad Market

    Here's my next column for the Mensa periodical, The Intelligencer. I thought you might like a look:

    Landing a Good Job in a Bad Market

    Of course, most want ads get hordes of applicants but most of those don't stand a chance: They're jargon-filled, generic, utterly undistinguished. I'm certainly not advocating silly ploys like including a jar of jalapeno preserves saying, "I can get you out of the hottest jam."

    I'm asking you to create an above-average application. Start by playing detective on the employer's site: That's a way to learn its priorities and how it likes to portray itself. Dirt on the employer is more likely found by Googling it--Don't forget Google's blog and news searches. Use LinkedIn, your alumni directory, etc., to find people at the organization with whom you're connected. Try to set up an in-person or phone chat on what the employer is like and what to emphasize in an application.

    In applying, if your resume is unlikely to be top-of-the-heap, for example, you're a career changer or have a gap in employment, consider substituting a bio. That allows you to highlight only what you want. A resume is a tool to help employers--it lays all of you bare. As with clothing, most of us look better with some parts hidden.

    Your cover letter and resume should be devoid of clich├ęd job-seeker language such as "I'm a self-starter seeking an opportunity with a dynamic company." That leaches all chemistry and credibility from your application: The employer will feel s/he's reading from a job-hunting book not from the candidate. Do tell PAR stories: a problem you faced, how you approached it, and its positive resolution. Choose stories that would impress your target employer. That's a key rule: Everything you do in the job search should be subjected to this test: "Would this make this employer more likely to hire me?"

    Do put your Mensa membership on your resume. The right employers will like it; the wrong ones won't.

    If possible, with your application, include one or more pieces of collateral material . One of my clients applied for a sales job with a government contractor. He included a list of 50 federal decisionmakers he'd call if he got the job. Another client, a career changer, to show the employer that he knew a lot about hospital management, wrote a three-page White Paper called, Keys to Effective Hospital Management in 2012 and Beyond. He did the research for that paper just as he might have a term paper in school: by synthesizing articles he found on Google.

    Of course, at least half of jobs are obtained through a connection. List the people in your network. Twenty-five is good, 50 is better. Next to each name, decide if it's best to just email them, invite them for coffee, dinner, to a party, visit them at their office, etc. When you contact them, ask if your resume makes them want to hire you. Then ask if they know of anyone you should talk with. If not, ask if they'd keep their ears open and if you're still looking in a month, would they mind if you followed up. That recruits them as a scout--they're more likely to hear of something during the month than just when you contacted them.

    If your network is paltry or used up, you'll need to expand it. Could you volunteer somewhere you'd have face-time with potential employers, for example, on a non-profit board? Get active in a church? Join a service club such as Rotary? A hobby group such as an investment club or dog-owner's meetup? A political organization? Of course, go to more Mensa events--Hey, even the Intelligencer Peel-and-Stick party might help!

    Importantly, even in a lousy job market, it's important to vet potential employers. During the interview, ask questions such as, "Why is this position vacant?," "What kind of problems would you most hope I'd solve?," "What would you hope I'd accomplish in the first 90 days that would help my boss get a gold star?" After being offered the job, ask to visit the workplace. There, assess the vibe: Do most employees seem content? Hang out in the break room. Ask questions like, "What should I know about working here that might not appear in the employee handbook?

    Especially in this job market, there sure are no guarantees, but those are my best bets for landing a good job in a bad market.