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CareerNews: Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Volume 3, Issue 14: Tuesday, September 25, 2007

ACM CareerNews is intended as an objective career news digest for busy IT professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of ACM. To send comments, please write to

Five Ways to Make Yourself a Workplace Superstar

Making a Good Impression When Networking Online

Ten Ways for a Web Worker to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Job Fair Finesse

ACM Joins MentorNet Partnership to Expand Career Resources

Seeking Loyal, Devoted Workers? Let Them Stay Home

Tech Executives Lead Richest Americans List

Stock Still the Holy Grail of Executive Compensation

Remote Leadership: Meeting the Challenge of Working for a Virtual Boss

I Love My Work

If Leaving the Company, Do So in Good Standing

"Five Ways to Make Yourself a Workplace Superstar"
Information Week, September 21

Columnist Penelope Trunk shares her views on how to become a workplace superstar. Workers who achieve this goal will have more options in their career for creating the type of life they want, as well as access to all the benefits and accolades that high-performing workers usually receive. Once they recognize that not all opportunities are appropriate for creating a superstar career path, workers will not be afraid of turning down promotions or taking time off to pursue personal ambitions. In addition, workers can create additional opportunities for career advancement by starting a side business or writing a blog about their particular area of interest.

In order to become a workplace superstar, you may need to change your thinking about career advancement. First of all, do not be afraid of resume gaps. If you feel confident that you can get another job, then taking time off to think, get perspective, or try something totally new can be a way to make you more employable. Secondly, find time in your personal life for the gym. People who exercise perform better at work than people who do not exercise. Finally, have the self-confidence and vision to turn down promotions that may not advance your chosen career path. Instead, think about mentoring, training, lining up a really interesting project, or asking for flexible hours.

One of the best ways to stand out in your career is to make sure you always have a lot of options. Starting your own side business is one way of doing this. Entrepreneurship is often about micro-businesses you can do at home, while you have a day job. Success is also about keeping your learning curve high, no matter how much money you make. Think about starting a blog. Superstars distinguish themselves from everyone else by being known for their ideas. A good blog presents your opinions on a wide range of issues within your chosen specialty.

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"Making a Good Impression When Networking Online"
Career Journal, September 5

An assistant professor at Harvard Business School provides five suggestions for maximizing the value of social networking sites for professionals. As he explains, when used correctly, online networking sites can enhance professional relationships, broaden career opportunities, and provide access to new career insights. In order to avoid leaving co-workers and customers with a negative impression, workers should update their profiles regularly, maintain ties with people at all levels within their industry, and make efforts to reach out to past associates online.

When participating on any social networking site, it is important to update your publicly accessible online profiles. Business colleagues may form the wrong impression if your work experience is not current or you have not uploaded a new picture of yourself since college. Next, be sure to develop online relationships with people at all levels of skill and experience. Instead of augmenting your online friends list with names guaranteed to impress, add the names of people you actually work with on a daily basis.

From time to time, be sure to reassess how many people should be in your network. If you have too many online contacts, people may wonder whether you have time to get any work done. On the other hand, having too few contacts may send the message that you are difficult to get along with. You should also use social networking sites to stay in contact with old colleagues when you move on to a new firm. If your contact list does not include any links with people from your previous job, those browsing your profile may assume you left on bad terms or failed to establish connections.

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"Ten Ways for a Web Worker to Achieve Work-Life Balance"
Web Worker Daily, September 14

For any Web worker, it is often difficult to draw a distinct boundary between work and life. The Internet is always on and accessible from just about anywhere, meaning that the line between work and play is often blurred. There are 10 ways, though, to keep work under control and reach a suitable work-life balance. Some of the steps are as simple as disconnecting from a Blackberry during time away from work, while other steps take more time to implement, such as re-configuring a schedule to batch similar tasks together.

To begin with, allow yourself to be disconnected from your Blackberry, laptop or other mobile device. Next, limit the amount that your work encroaches on your personal life by setting strict boundaries. You can not work around the clock, from early morning to late at night, or you will have no life away from work. Make life a priority, and that means exercising, reading, spending time with family and friends, or taking part in hobbies and sports. When it comes to new assignments, do not be afraid to say no.

In terms of scheduling your work, try to batch similar types of small tasks together. Instead of checking email throughout the day, check it at certain predefined times. Define what you want to accomplish each day and do the hard stuff first so that the easier stuff will remain at the end of the day. Schedule your day in blocks, so that it is compartmentalized and there is time for everything. There might be a block for important tasks, for smaller tasks, for routine errands or chores, and for the non-work stuff you really want to do.

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"Job Fair Finesse"
California Job Journal, September 9

For job seekers, there are several ways to maximizing the time spent at job fairs. If handled properly, job fairs can provide access to influential personal business contacts, each of whom might hold the key to an exciting position with a great company. Before you can jump into networking at job fairs, though, you need to build your foundation for making these career-advancing contacts. Before the job fair, for example, you need to identify and research potential targets. By doing so, you will be able to make a great impression at the event and perhaps even arrange appointments for future interviews.

Before the job fair even starts, you need to do your research. Figure out what the focus or theme of the event will be. Identify the companies participating by examining promotional literature, Internet postings, radio, TV or newspapers. Determine the industries being represented and the number of companies attending. Next, identify and research target companies so you can maximize your time during the event. Select the companies you are most interested in based upon your industry preferences and position, and find out basic information about each of them.

During the event is your chance to make a great impression. If you are organized and prepared, you might even be able to set appointments for future interviews. Once you arrive, start by visiting the companies you have prioritized on your list first. While making introductions, attempt to connect on a deeper level with the company representative and obtain contact information. After the event, follow up with your company contacts. Think about the people you met and prioritize the contacts at the companies where you feel you have your best employment opportunities.

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"ACM Joins MentorNet Partnership to Expand Career Resources"
Ascribe Newswire, September 18

ACM is partnering with MentorNet in order to provide 20,000 ACM Student Members from around the world with free mentoring advice from professionals in industry, government and higher education. Student Members will be able to receive coaching advice tailored to their needs, participate in Web-based discussion groups and receive access to special events and promotions. Going forward, the new partnership with the MentorNet Program should provide a career boost to ACM members entering the job market for the first time and help students chart a successful professional career path.

The type of individual mentoring provided by MentorNet provides the personal attention that helps students discover their passions, expand their opportunities, and learn more about certain career paths. Since the MentorNet Program emphasizes expertise in engineering, technology, math, science, and computing, the program could become a real attraction for students considering careers within any technology-related field. Eligible participants can be undergraduate or graduate students, post-doctoral candidates or untenured faculty.

Responses from both mentors and students who have participated in the program have been overwhelmingly positive. Students point out that mentors inspire them to challenge their own assumptions and to approach their future career in a new way. The relationship is most capable of having an impact when it can help students with difficult career decisions at a critical juncture in their lives. From a networking perspective, the mentor can become a valuable, prominent contact within an expanding professional network.

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"Seeking Loyal, Devoted Workers? Let Them Stay Home"
Wall Street Journal, September 11

The most loyal employees of an organization are often those who telecommute from home or other locations, according to a recent survey of 10,000 U.S. workers. Telecommuters, while still representing a very small fraction of the overall work force, report the highest levels of satisfaction with their jobs and loyalty to their employers. Overall, 73% of remote and home-based workers said they were satisfied with their company as a place to work, compared with just 64% of office workers. There are several reasons for the higher satisfaction scores, including a heightened sense that their employers trust and respect them and have confidence in their final work product.

In the Kenexa Research Institute survey, some of the statistical differences between office workers and telecommuters were striking. For example, 54% of telecommuters said there is open two-way communication at their company, compared to only 44% of office workers. 53% of the remote workers said they were not considering leaving the company within 12 months, while only 46% of the office workers said leaving was not a consideration. In addition, 58% of the telecommuters said senior management demonstrates that employees are important to the success of the company, compared with 51% of the office workers. And 53% of the telecommuters said they believed senior management speaks honestly, versus 44% of the office workers.

Despite their higher rates of job satisfaction, only a very small portion (less than 4%) of the 10,000 workers surveyed actually work outside the office. There are several reasons to explain this, such as the simple fact that many companies do not yet embrace work-at-home policies as the result of a command-and-control mentality. Companies may also worry about how they administer a policy like this in a fair way across the board for employees. Other factors include the costs involved, such as the expense of buying laptop computers and other equipment. As the article points out, however, these perceptions are starting to change as companies understand the link between job satisfaction and productivity.

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"Tech Executives Lead Richest Americans List", September 21

According to the annual list of the 400 richest Americans prepared by Forbes magazines, five of the Top 10 richest Americans are technology executives. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, with an estimated worth of $59 billion, tops the list. Larry Ellison from Oracle, with a net worth of $26 billion, and Michael Dell from Dell, with a net worth of $17.2 billion, were ranked No. 4 and No. 8, respectively. The two co-founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both shared the No. 5 spot with a net worth of $18.5 billion each.

Tech executives also were well represented within the Top 50. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, worth $16.8 billion, came in at #11 this year after making the Top 5 last year. Current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, worth $15.2 billion, was ranked #16 this year. Other high-tech executives who made a strong showing on the 2007 list included eBay founder and Chairman Pierre Omidyar (#32), founder Jeff Bezos (tied for #35) and James Goodnight of the SAS Institute (also tied for #35). Google CEO Eric Schmidt came in #48 with a net worth of $6.5 billion.

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"Stock Still the Holy Grail of Executive Compensation"
Management Issues, September 17

Equity ownership is the primary factor in attracting and retaining the highest-quality executives, managers and employees, according to a new survey conducted by consulting firm Syzygy. While start-up companies have always used the inducement of equity ownership as a way to hire away the most talented software developers and Web programmers, it now appears that privately-owned companies are using stock options and restricted stock grants as a way to compete with their publicly-traded rivals. The article takes a closer look at the role of equity ownership as a compensation perk and provides an overview of the various ways that firms can provide employees with equity.

When it comes to offering equity ownership, publicly-traded firms are increasingly unable to keep up with private firms. As a result, they are more likely to lose key technical and executive talent. While high profile public companies like Google have a strong equity culture, private companies can sometimes be more attractive, since they can still offer pre-IPO stock to their employees. A CEO of a public company must actively convince his or her best talent not to jump ship for the potential huge rewards of a start-up. At the average company, employees now own more than 16% of the total outstanding shares.

Stock options remain the most popular means of providing employees with equity, with nearly 50% of all companies offering some form of stock option grants for their employees. Restricted stock, or outright grants of stock to employees, is also growing in popularity. The biggest increases in stock ownership were in the software industry, where overall employee ownership has so far jumped by 20% in 2007. As equity ownership increases, other areas of compensation are also being ratcheted up. For example, comprehensive healthcare benefits packages are becoming much more commonplace as a retention and recruitment tool, as are generous tax deferred retirement plans.

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"Remote Leadership: Meeting the Challenge of Working for a Virtual Boss"
Harvard Business Online, July 20

A virtual relationship between a boss and direct report can often lead to problems in communicating effectively, staying aligned with the goals of the organization, and achieving desired goals. The primary challenge of successful remote leadership, then, is keeping subordinates updated on the priorities and expectations of the organization. When the relationship between virtual boss and subordinate is handled properly, coordination and control will work as well from a distance as it does within an office. With that in mind, the article provides some basic guidelines for effective remote leadership.

To have a successful virtual working relationship, find a way to spend some time with the new boss as soon as you know you will be taking on a new virtual relationship. Regardless of how far away you are and how much you feel you need to do back home, force yourself to spend some time in the same room. This is important if you hope to lay the foundation for a strong working relationship solely through the Internet. Email and instant messaging have changed business communication, but they can never convey the sorts of contextual cues and emotional subtleties that are exchanged in conversation, either in person or over the telephone.

Also, take the time to figure out the schedule of your boss and identify times when he or she is more likely to be available. Discipline yourself to make the connection. Think of yourself as having 100% responsibility for making the relationship work with your virtual boss. Force yourself to take the initiative to reach out regularly. Put reminders to do so into your calendar. Ultimately, the success or failure of the relationship will be a result of the effort that you put into the relationship.

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"I Love My Work"
The American, September 2007

While many workers complain about their long hours and difficult work conditions, researchers have found that work is a source of pleasure and value for the majority of Americans. The findings could have far-reaching consequences for companies attempting to attract the best and brightest. Instead of focusing on extrinsic rewards such as shorter workweeks, longer vacations, and earlier retirements, they may need to start focusing on intrinsic rewards such as providing work that is meaningful. Believing in a job and employer is critical to satisfaction, as is job security and a personal sense of control over day-to-day work.

Within the bounds of normal work life, the data overwhelmingly point to work being a source of happiness for Americans. According to a recent survey from the University of Chicago, among adults who worked 10 hours a week or more, a surprising 89% said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their jobs. Even more surprisingly, only 11% of American workers said they wished they could spend much less time on their paid work. For most Americans, job satisfaction is a reliable source of happiness, even more so than leisure. Among those who say they are very happy in their lives, 95% are also satisfied with their jobs.

There are several plausible explanations for these findings. Most researchers point to the meaning that work places on our lives. Money and time off matter far less to people than one might think; less tangible rewards, such as recognition or the opportunity to do meaningful work, matter more. People who think their work allows them to be productive are about five times more likely to be very satisfied with their jobs than people who do not feel they can be productive. Moreover, those who are proud to work for their employers are more than ten times as likely to be very satisfied with their jobs as those who are not proud. Finally, it appears that people have an intrinsic need to be self-determining. To the extent that work gives people a sense that they are in charge of their lives, it will bring them joy. Control is the reason that job security is so important for predicting job satisfaction for many workers.

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"If Leaving the Company, Do So in Good Standing"
Washington Post, September 6

At some point in their career, every worker is presented with the option of leaving their current employer for a better offer somewhere else. Accepting the new offer, though, is often easier than leaving in good standing with your current employer. Even if you dislike your job, you should still make every effort to leave on good terms. How you exit from your job could have consequences later. With that in mind, the article provides a few tips that will help any worker remain in good standing with a former employer.

When you have decided to quit, think about how you want to break the news to your employer. Compile a list of people who you want to personally tell the news first, including your direct supervisor and any mentors you have at the organization. After telling your manager, submit a brief resignation letter explaining why you are leaving and when your last day will be. You will also need to talk with your supervisor about how the news will be shared with the rest of the company. Unless you and your supervisor rarely see each other due to geographical reasons, all of this contact should occur face-to-face.

In order to avoid burning any bridges when you exit, think about what you will tell your co-workers. When citing your reasons, focus on the allure of the new opportunity. During your remaining time at the company, you will need to tie up any loose ends and provide a solid transition plan for the next employee. Make a detailed list of projects and their status, draft a memo describing important technical facts about your job, leave behind a list of key contacts and organize the files on your desk and computer. During the exit interview, make sure your comments are constructive instead of using the meeting as a venting session.

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