No Holds Barred Truth About Online vs. Traditional Education, From Someone Who’s Been There!

online-degree-programs-education.

Ten years ago, I would have bet good money that I would never earn a bachelor’s degree. For more years than I can remember, I wanted to go back to school, and oftentimes even said if I were rich and never needed to work, I would be a student for the rest of my life. The reasons I hadn’t pursued higher education were:

  • I was convinced I wasn’t smart enough to earn a degree. Since I did poorly in high school, it was a “given” that I was too stupid to do anything.
  • I could never afford to pay for a college education, and didn’t know the first thing about student financial aid.
  • I was under the impression my prior credits were only good for 20 years, and had no intention of repeating the “Introduction to Everything” classes, I took after high school.
  • I had no idea what I would major in. I had no goals or objectives in mind; I simply like learning about different subjects and new things.

In short, my wish came close to being true. From June 2005, through March 2010, I was a student, pursuing a degree, online. Had it not been for the innovation of “virtual education,” I could never have made one of my dreams come true.

How it all came about isn’t important. What’s important is the fact that I did it, and did it very well! Of the 32 total classes I completed, I received 27 grades of “A,” and 5 grades of “B.” Pretty good for a gal who barely graduated high school. Besides giving me the credibility I lacked, I gained something much more valuable than just education alone. I finally had confidence in my abilities, and the unconditional sense of self-worth it gave me knowing once and for all, I was NOT stupid!

Whether  Online vs. Traditional Education Is Better, Depends On Your Specific Situation

While it is evident that online education has become extremely popular, especially in the last five years, there is still much deliberation over which is better — online programs, or programs from the more traditional brick and mortar schools.

This is not a situation where the answer is black or white. Furthermore, it’s almost like comparing oranges to apples, because which choice is better depends on the particular person, his or her situation, and the specific type of program. I don’t think I’d want my surgeon or dentist to have received their entire education online! Clearly, there are certain disciplines not at all appropriate to do online. Any program where a considerable amount of laboratory work or “hands on” training is required, is best pursued on a campus, not in front of the computer.  On the other side of the coin, a program such as writing couldn’t be better suited to do online.

Online Education Is More Flexible And Accessible

One of the greatest advantages of online education is it can be done from anywhere, at any time. People who otherwise would never be able to attend school, for numerous reasons, now are as close as the keyboard of their computer. What’s more, even if a suitable brick and mortar university is within your vicinity, going online enables you to apply to any school, anywhere, as you are not limited by location. I am the perfect example. The University of Wisconsin has its main campus within a 10-minute drive from my home. We also have a wonderful private college, in town, and one of the finest technical colleges in the Midwest. Yet, I chose to study online.

The Average Age of Participants Is Higher, For Online Degree Programs

An advantage not found in any of my research, and something I hadn’t considered when I first enrolled; it was more common to find younger, right out of high school students attending campuses, while I was surprised to find the average age group of my fellow online classmates, across the board, to be in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. The majority of online students are “older,” working professionals, people in the military, or mothers with small children, all wanting a higher education, but due to other commitments had put it off, just like I did.

You Can Tailor The Pace Of Online Education To Meet Your Requirements

Most online degree programs can be accelerated, so doesn’t have to take four years to earn a degree. Of course, if you prefer a slower pace, then you do have the option of spreading the courses over a few years.

I went for the faster option. My studies focused on the skill set needed for my profession, in the real world. What is more, both online schools I attended did not follow a typical semester schedule. Instead, each class was six weeks long, which meant I had to take a class each session. After every two sessions, a weeklong break was built in, and twice a year, I had two weeks off.

While the faster pace isn’t for everyone, since they cram a lot of work in that six-week session, I could complete eight courses in a year, giving me 24 credits, instead of four or five classes, on a campus, giving me only 12 or 15 credits. Since it was very difficult for me to focus this intensely on more than one course at a time, taking one every six weeks suited me just fine.

No Exams

Another great advantage, typical of schools providing the accelerated schedule, is they don’t have tests or exams. You heard me. All assignments were project based. I wrote essays, reports, reviews, letters, memos, etc., participated in discussion board conversations, [same as any group forum] incorporated graphic elements into text, and did power point presentations. I never read so much, so fast, in my life. This was probably the most demanding task, since every week was a new unit. With every unit came a new unit’s worth of reading, and one to three written assignments. Often times, it became tremendously difficult to keep up with the work, and because there was hardly a minute of additional time, when I fell behind [and I did quite often] it was almost impossible to catch up.

Many online programs do have exams though. They will typically have a few examination locations around the world and you would need to travel to the location closet to you, to take the exams.

Beware of Online Degree Mills

When looking into online schools you must be careful not to be scammed by “degree/diploma mills.” These are fraudulent institutions (?) that sell unaccredited degrees, for a “small” fee. You answer several questions, and they tell you which level degree you are qualified to earn. I could have a PhD, for $500! They are phony as a three-dollar-bill. Thankfully, they are not as prevalent now as when online education first started.

So make sure the online school you want to attend is fully accredited. There are several different types of accreditation, which I don’t understand, but all you need to do is check their accreditation status and reputation on the Internet. A major clue that a school is not accredited is if they do not have federal student financial aid available. That is a dead giveaway.

Money, Money, Money

Cost is the biggest difference between online and traditional education. While the tuition at some online schools is as much as brick and mortar institutions, you don’t have to pay for housing, travel, time, etc. When I was looking into graduate programs, at various schools, I paid close attention to the cost per credit hour. I found huge variations in charges. Two schools I was particularly interested in had almost identical programs for technical and professional communications. However, one had tuition of $900+ per credit hour, while the other was around the $350 figure. Since most courses are three credits, I would be paying almost $3,000 to take one class, while it was only about $1000 at the other school. The school charging the outrageous costs couldn’t really justify why it was so high.

Pay strict attention to how much tuition is, per credit, as some institutions like to give a cost per program. Break it down, because you may find out you are being ripped off! In all my experiences with online universities, an average cost is somewhere between $350 and $500 per credit. Any more or any less than that, I’d be very suspicious.

The first online school I “attended” included all materials. I didn’t have to purchase textbooks for each class. At first I thought this was great; however, don’t be fooled; those costs are built into the price of tuition. The school where I earned my BS degree, did not include textbooks, and other than specific journal articles, etc. Almost every course required a hard copy book; often several. Another lesson to be learned, never purchase materials through the school’s bookstore. I found every single text I needed on eBay or Amazon, for pennies on the dollar — and I’m not talking about used books, in terrible condition, but new or as good as new books.

I never paid more than $30 for a textbook, which would have cost $150 through the school. You can also resell them; however, I love books; still have every single textbook, and used many of them as reference materials for articles and such.

Student Placement And Services Offered, Is More Comprehensive For Traditional Education

Online schools offer a long list of services to students, however, it can’t be as comprehensive as traditional education. Each student is assigned to a student advisor, who is the “go to” person with any problems, issues, questions, etc. My advisors were indispensible sources of advice and answers for me. I also had access to some of the finest online libraries and sources for research. Most online schools have career centers that help with things like writing a resume, interviewing, and so on, but none had genuine job placement services. So you’re left to yourself for the job search.

No Community, Campus & Extra-Curricular Activities For Online Students 

When people describe their traditional education experience, more than the actual education, they cherish and value all the other activities, people and experiences they were exposed to. It is a very rich experience and one which is missing in online education.

Educational Quality Of Online And Traditional Education Is Similar

The quality of online education vs. traditional education is like anything else. There will always be some that are excellent and others not so good. Even though virtual education is a fairly recent manifestation, the quantity of programs has increased by leaps and bounds (and is as good as traditional schools).  Students who take classes online do just as well, if not better than students who are on campus.

Furthermore, online instructors are highly qualified. They are required to have at least a Master’s degree, but most even have PhDs. What’s more, they don’t need to have teaching degrees, per se, but rather significant practical experience working in the field they teach. I can’t recall one professor I had that wasn’t thoroughly qualified to teach the class.

My feeling is online degree programs students must be more focused, more determined, more motivated, and have a significant amount of self-management and time-management skills. The quality of your education and grades you get are totally up to how committed and serious you are about your education. There is no one kicking you in the butt, making you do anything!

Online Education Has Made Great Strides In Popularity And Recognition

A report about online degree programs stated that during 2008, over 4.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course, an increase of 17% from the previous year, far beyond the 1.2% advancement of the general higher education enrolments.

Not too long ago there was much controversy over whether online degree programs were as worthy as traditional degrees, from an employers point of view. A 2008 survey showed that 83% of employers and hiring managers said they would hire someone who earned a degree online. Many corporations even have agreements with certain online institutions to provide online courses for their employees, at a discounted rate.

There’s been extensive research into the quality of online education, and now it’s finally been proven that there is no major difference between the results of online verses face-to-face education. The studies determined that quality of the education and what the students learned were much more dependent on the merits of teaching and how much effort the student puts into the work. It had little to do with where or how the education takes place.

That being said, all things being equal, I think deep down people will always view traditional education more favourably. If there were two candidates looking for a job and everything about them was similar, except that one person had an online degree and the other a traditional degree –  I think a company would hire the person with a traditional degree.  What do you think?

Help I Can’t Sleep! Causes, Effects & Remedies

i-cant-sleep

Sleep. Just hearing the word makes me want to go take a nap!

I’ve fallen asleep sitting at my desk, while typing on the computer, reading and watching TV. You probably think, what’s the big deal?

No harm done. Most of us have dozed off at one time or another when we shouldn’t have. However, I have also fallen off  chairs, couches or beds, while reading or watching TV, woken up in a different room and not remembered going there, dropped drinks, bowls of cereal, etc. all over the floor because I dozed off for just a few seconds.

Sounds pretty funny, huh?

Let’s see how funny you think these are. I’ve mixed up and taken wrong medications due to being half-asleep, fallen asleep in the lavatory and before I quit smoking, burned holes all over the carpet, blankets, sheets and clothing! I’m not done. Once, I walked directly into a brick fireplace, while it was lit, as I obviously wasn’t quite awake, stubbed my toes on the bed frame, table legs, or anything sticking out, countless times, and dozed off while driving.

I certainly don’t need any articles, surveys, quizzes, anyone, or anything to tell me, I am seriously and dreadfully sleep deprived! It’s been at least 10 years since I slept an entire night, without waking up. I can’t remember the last time I slept for more than two or three hours, continuously.

My family thought it was pretty funny, and even took some incriminating pictures of me, asleep in some rather odd positions; however, it wasn’t until recently I learned about the consequences and repercussions of being this severely sleep deprived. After learning a number of the latest facts (some that I will share), I realized this is not funny at all, and it’s amazing I can even function.

We are a sleep-deprived world and lack of sleep is very common phenomenon. I thought perhaps it was only something that affected the US population, but it’s just as bad in Singapore, or maybe worse. According to  Dr Lim (Medical Director of the Singapore Neurology & Sleep and President of the Singapore Sleep Society), “The biggest problem in sleep in Singapore is one of voluntary sleep deprivation. Most people like to sleep but they don’t feel it’s as important as working on a project or being on the Internet,” she said. “My sense is that over all, awareness (on the importance of good sleep) is not very high.”

Common sleep disorders in Singapore are insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), where a person stops breathing multiple times while asleep because the upper airways are blocked and it is hard for air to enter the lungs. Doctors estimate 10 to 30% of the population in Singapore have insomnia, while up to 25% have OSA.

The Singapore Sleep Society surveyed approximately 400 college students and learned that 97% feel sleepy during classes, and 30% use caffeine to stay awake. Another study, involving gambling conducted in Singapore showed that sleep-deprived people make “riskier decisions based on inaccuracies in perceived gains and losses.”  Study participants were asked questions, such as “Would you choose an option that gives you a 30% chance of making $80, a 40% of losing $50, or a 30% chance of making $0?” They were asked similar questions twice, once after 7-9 hours of sleep, and once after not sleeping for 24 hours. The study revealed when the participants were sleep-deprived, there was increased activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for focusing on positive outcomes when making decisions. They also displayed decreased activity in the anterior insula, the part of the brain that takes negative outcomes into account. Well-rested people tended to look to minimize losses, while sleep-deprived participants looked to maximize gain, took decisions without considering negative outcomes sufficiently and took more risks. This is a reason gambling is so tempting and problematic for many individuals.

Ok, so let’s go through some of the facts about good sleep, causes of sleep disorders and a few remedies.

Why is sleep important?

In the last several decades, although scientists have learned a great deal about sleep through human and animal sleep deprivation experiments, the function of sleep itself remains a mystery. Sleep is believed to be a time of rest and repair for the body, and possibly a time for consolidation of learning and memory for the brain. We know a lot more about what happens when we do not get enough sleep than what precisely the function of sleep is.

What exactly is sleep deprivation or lack of sleep and how do you know if you are a good sleeper?

The amount of sleep we need varies according to age. In adults, there is a wide range of about 6 to 10 hours. However, getting less than4-5 hours of good sleep each night, for a prolonged period of time could be termed as sleep deprivation. A simple way to know how much sleep you need, is to observe your sleep pattern during a vacation, when there are no external pressures dictating when you go to bed and when you have to get up. During holidays we typically allow ourselves to fall asleep and wake up naturally and our normal sleep requirement can be estimated from such non-stressful times.

You are a good sleeper if you fall to sleep and wake up at about the same time every day, including weekends. You get at least 6-8 hours of sleep on a regular basis and when you wake up, you feel refreshed and can maintain normal alertness throughout the day. It is normal to feel a mid-afternoon “dip”, but there should not be overwhelming sleepiness. Toward bedtime, you know how to relax yourself after a busy day, and fall asleep within 10-15 minutes of going to bed. You do not wake up except once or twice to go to the bathroom, and fall back to sleep easily.

What are the most common causes for lack of sleep?

  • Stress is considered the number 1 cause of short-term sleep problems and lack of sleep. Usually when the stress is reduced, sleep returns to normal
  • Irregular lifestyle can contribute to sleep problems
  • Drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol too late in the day, exercising close to bedtime, or doing any mentally or physically intense activity right before going to bed, all are sleep “stealers”
  • Environmental factors, such as a room that’s too hot or cold, noisy, with too much light, and interruptions from family members can disrupt sleep
  • Physical ailments, such as backaches, headaches, arthritis and any kind of pain make sleeping difficult
  • If you, or your partner snores excessively, a true sleep disorder, called sleep apnea may be the cause. It interrupts breathing, causing the person to briefly wake up
  • Various medications, from vitamins and supplements, to medications for asthma, high blood pressure, heart problems and pain, can also keep you awake

How about the effects of lack of sleep, especially from the workplace point of view?

Lack of sleep affects work performance in countless ways. Just reducing sleep one night for 1 ½ hour could reduce responsiveness in the daytime by as much as 32%. Diminished attentiveness and excessive drowsiness during the day harm memory and cognitive ability — the capacity to think and sort out information. Sleep deprivation also doubles the risk of suffering a work-related accident or injury. Lack of sleep is a primary cause of industrial accidents, and has been indicated as a reason for unscheduled absenteeism.

Other things affected include productivity, quality and workplace relationships. Employees who don’t get enough sleep have a harder time concentrating, solving problems, and communicating. They also tend to be irritable, moody, and more intolerant of co-workers’ opinions. As work problems increase, stress levels also increase, which only make sleep problems worse. The combination of sleep problems, mixed with added stress, anxiety caused by worrying about it, leads to a vicious circle that appears impossible to break.

Lack of sleep also impairs other areas of Emotional IQ.  Sleep deprived people have difficulty distinguishing facial expressions and have a lesser ability to quickly assess and react to interpersonal situations.

The following is a general list of useful sleep tips. 

  • i-cant-sleepAvoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late in the evening
  • Exercise regularly, but at least three hours before bedtime
  • Don’t use your bed for anything  other than sleep or sex. If you have a problem with insomnia, you should not read, watch TV or work in bed. Associating the bed with other types of activities, especially if they are stimulating, will make it harder to fall asleep
  • If you have trouble sleeping, don’t take naps during the day
  • Take a look at your sleep environment. Is it conducive to sleeping?
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine that allows you to unwind, and signals your brain that it’s time to sleep
  • If you can’t sleep after 30 minutes, get up and do some relaxing activity, until you feel sleepy
  • Most of all, if sleep problems continue for more than a couple of weeks, are severe, interfere with your ability to function and how you feel, see a doctor!

Healthy Eating Tips For The Workplace: Eat, Drink and be Functionary!

I’m relatively certain that we all understand a car needs gasoline to run. Using the top-quality “premium” grade will make it run much better than filling it with the cheapest, lowest-grade of gasoline we can find. Then why the heck do so many of us think it’s okay to work a 10-hour day, either eat nothing at all, or grabbing a candy bar out of the vending machine, and still be able to function?

We can’t.

Just like cars, our bodies need refueling in order to keep us “running,” both physically and mentally. Furthermore, filling our bodies with low nutritional, unhealthy food choices is equivalent to putting the lowest grade of gasoline in our car. It may run for a while, but not to its maximum capacity, and eventually will putter out and shut down.

In fast-paced societies, like the United States and Singapore, our hectic lifestyles are typically  the culprits for compromising our eating habits. I’m the last one to give advice on this subject, as it is now 1:30 pm, and I haven’t eaten anything yet today!  I did open a can of Slim-Fast (I’m trying to lose weight) about 20 minutes ago, and have only taken about three gulps. I do promise to finish the can, while I write this. I will tell you something though, from my experience, not eating does not always make you lose weight. If that were true, I’d weigh about 76 pounds!

Recently, the New York Times published an article about obesity. They’ve found a new cause — workplace inactivity. Jobs that require a medium amount of physical activity have dropped from 50%, in 1960, to 20% today.  That’s 30% folks. We typically sit on our butts for 8 to 10 hours a day, then get in our car and drive home. I don’t know anyone who stands while driving, so we sit some more. And, what do we do when we get home? Sit in front of the TV, or at the computer. Then, we lie down in our beds and go to sleep. Physical inactivity at the workplace (and outside of it) plays a big part in why Americans are more obese than ever.

When my sons were younger, during summer vacations, they sat in front of the computer, or TV, playing computer games, till late at night long, then slept a lot during the day. When I was a kid I went outside, in the fresh air, and used my imagination. Just for the record, both my boys were considerably overweight at the time.

healthy-eating-tipsEating healthy is essential to feeling good and performing efficiently at work. It can help prevent obesity, heart disease, stomach and metabolic problems. I’m too busy at work,” is the number one excuse for not taking time out to eat a healthy meal. One out of 10 employees never take a lunch break, and those who do usually get only a 15-30 minutes.  Ironically, these people, “too busy” to eat right or exercise are the same ones you typically see outside, having a cigarette break, five times a day!

Scientists have been doing research on how our brains are affected by what we put into our bodies. It is now known that what we eat can sharpen our mental acuity.

The following are some of their findings and healthy eating tips:

  • Fish is called “brain food” for a reason. Tuna and salmon have omega-3 fatty acids called DHA. This is essential for our nervous system and prevents memory loss.
  • Folate, a B vitamin, found in orange juice, green vegetables and cantaloupe improve alertness.
  • Choline, which is in egg yolks, peanuts and soybeans support neurotransmitters.
  • Anti-oxidants, found in many foods, including pomegranates and prunes help fight off stress, and protect cognitive function.
  • A turkey sandwich for lunch has tryptophan, which helps our brain produce serotonin. Serotonin levels are low in people with depression, so this could improve moods and sleep.
  • Your body needs 11 to 15 cups of liquid per day to prevent dehydration, which causes concentration problems and fatigue. Dehydration is also terrible for the skin. Moderate your consumption of caffeine, sodas, alcohol, etc., which do more harm than good. In addition to water and other such liquids, watermelon, peaches and other fruits have high levels of water in them.
  • Eat breakfast! I can’t stress this one enough. You have to “start your engine” before you can go anywhere. Whether it’s cereal, (not Cocoa Puffs) and milk, scrambled eggs and toast (no butter, no bacon) or simply yogurt and a banana, eat breakfast!

To make the most of your work performance, increase alertness and simply function and feel better, here are some more healthy eating tips:

  • Avoid candy, cookies, etc., and other foods high in simple sugars. They will give you a quick surge of energy, but then make youhealthy-living-healthy-diet-healty-food feel less alert, less able to concentrate and less productive, in the long run. You might get a pounding headache as well.
  • Avoid large meals and unhealthy fats. These are usually in fast foods and are energy-zappers. Eat smaller meals more often during the day. The more energy you need, the more frequent you should eat.
  • Eat meals and snacks with protein. As proteins digest, it raises body temperature, which keeps you alert. Nuts, seeds, lean meats, fish, eggs, beans, low-fat dairy and tofu are good choices.
  • One of the best ways to eat healthy at work is to bring food from home. This will guarantee that you have healthy meals and snacks. Stock up on non-perishable foods that can be kept in your desk, locker, etc. These are the items you snack on — not that crap from the vending machine. Make sure to restock, and vary food choices, so you don’t get bored
  • Bring a water bottle to avoid dehydration. It’s easier to have water handy than having to run to the water fountain umpteen times a day
  • Avoid eating at your desk. Desktops can have 400 times more bacteria than a toilet!! Also, when eating at your desk, often you won’t eat your food in a relaxed way and you’ll be gulping it down, which is not good for digestion. Get some fresh air, and a new attitude, by taking a quick walk outside. Read that book you’ve never had time for, but make sure to go somewhere other than your desk. Simply a change in scenery will do you good.

And just so you know, I did finish the Slim-Fast!

What Type Of Boss Do You Have?

dealing-with-a-difficult-boss

No matter whom we are, what we do, why we do it and where we live, 99% of us have had someone we call boss, manager, supervisor, or any other title that makes us accountable to them (to avoid confusion, from here on in, I will refer to this person as “boss”).

Bosses come in various shapes and sizes. While researching this topic, I stopped after finding 40 different types of bosses! Knowing that was ridiculous, I compared all the information gathered, and obviously saw a variety of “names” for bosses with the same kind of traits. After narrowing this down, I found 10 distinct types of bosses that were described in at least three sources. Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly), most of the typical bosses are flawed in one way or another. Dealing with a difficult boss can be quite a painful affair and some of the bosses mentioned below can be a real nightmare.

  1. He’ll “Control your Soul” More commonly known as a control freak, nitpicker, or micro-manager, this boss is my personal nightmare. Nothing you do will ever please the control freak. He will question every decision you make about everything. Anything that doesn’t match up to his standards will automatically be discarded. You walk around on eggshells, afraid to breathe wrong, cough, or God forbid, have an original thought. You lose faith in your abilities, and begin to second-guess all your decisions. Soon you can’t think or function on your own. It’s believed the driving force behind this behavior is anxiety about failing or making mistakes. Controlling others gives them reassurance that the right path is taken.
  2. “BFF,” Best Friends Forever? He must know Paris Hilton! This boss wants to be your best friend, not your boss. He will go to great lengths to avoid conflicts or confrontations, and do anything to make sure his employees like him. He will often tell jokes that aren’t funny, invite you to his kids’ birthday parties, and even pull childish pranks on his staff. For the most part, you’ll have a positive work environment, but since his expectations are never fully clear, you are typically unsure of what do you, and also uncertain if you’re doing it right.
  3. “Just Mean and Nasty, and I Mean it” Also goes by names like monster, bully, the shouter, devil, and the boss from hell! This type of boss is one you want to avoid at all costs. Your life will be miserable. He has a tendency to scream at you, in front of other employees and customers, and typically does this to anyone, anywhere. He is totally unapproachable, and shows he has no compassion, pity, remorse or human decency. He seems to take pleasure in belittling you for no reason. In business he is ruthless; would push his mother under a bus if it benefited him in some way. One source stated her boss was heard to say, “I had to let him go; he wasn’t showing the right level of commitment. He preferred to go to his mother’s funeral rather than come to work. What do they think we’re running here? A holiday camp?” Run for your life, while you still have an ounce of sanity!
  4. “Bumble, Bumble This Boss Will Fumble” This boss is so incompetent and useless, someone must have died for him to get the position! He won’t give you straight answers, because he has none, but refuses to take the blame for anything that goes wrong. He has an alibi or excuse for everything, and even “documented” proof showing he wasn’t around at the time, or other things to cover his a**. He has no ambition or drive, and is so boring and uninspiring, he probably couldn’t motivate a dog to bark! If you have a great idea that you know will work, don’t take it to this lackluster character, because he won’t have the intelligence to understand it.
  5. “All Work and No Play. . . .” — This martyr will work Christmas, Thanksgiving, and can be found at the office at 4:00 am. What’s worse is, he expects you to do it too! Its business all the time; no fun, no emotion, no personal pictures or items allowed. He knows when you’re goofing off, and even knows when you’re just thinking about goofing off. He doesn’t sleep, eat, drink, pee or have a life, and doesn’t expect you to either. He’s been heard saying, “I walked to the office for six weeks after my car crash, even though both my legs were broken. Why can’t you stay another hour each night, without pay? I would.”
  6. “And I Do Mean Demean” This manager is similar to Mr.Mean & Nasty, except he focusses on and takes great pleasure in belittling and humiliating, for no apparent reason at all. His ego is so big, you wonder how he gets through the door. He lets you know each day how much of his time is wasted just acknowledging your existence, let alone answering your questions. Then he’ll poke his head out his office, yell as loud as he can to the rest of the staff, “So-and-so doesn’t know how to . . . .,” does someone want to show this idiot how to do it,” and for good measure he’ll throw in, “if he’s not too stupid to understand!” Every day after this, he has another cutting remark. “Do you know how to turn the computer on?” “Should someone show you how to alphabetize these?” “When the big hand is on the 12 and so is the little hand, you can go to lunch.” He makes you feel so awful and useless, but if you show it upsets you, he’ll only do it more. The only way to get this egomaniac off your back, is to give him a taste of his own medicine.
  7. “Do What I Say, Not What I Do” This hypocrite will say anything to get what he wants from you. You want a raise? A promotion? Time off? No, problem – but don’t hold your breath. His only motive is self-interest, and what’s in it for him. He’ll promise you anything, but never deliver. What’s more, everyone has different rules. This charlatan plays favorites; and like the “teacher’s pet” maybe you’ll get to eat lunch with the “big kids.” Take advantage while it lasts, because as soon as he finds a new patsy, you’ll be dropped like a hot potato.
  8. “Scheme a Little Scam for Me”   He’s so obsessed with protecting his position, he’ll go to any extreme. Smart and shrewd, he’ll manipulate you into believing he genuinely cares. It’s all a big act; he wants you to feel so secure and well liked, you will share your weaknesses and fears. I really had a boss like this. She was the epitome of innocence and selflessness; a do-gooder, who was always willing to help. Everyone loved her, especially the superiors she worked so hard to impress. I don’t remember how I figured it out, but she would give me an important project, knowing I couldn’t possibly finish it. Of course she had the missing pieces, and no one was the wiser. She always swooped in at the last minute and saved the day! The more she took credit for my hard work, the more incompetent I’d appear. Her other trick was to steal/remove part of my work, when I wasn’t around, and watch as I went crazy, thinking I was losing my mind!  You can’t report this manager, because of course, no one would believe you, so you must beat him at his own game. When no one is around, you either find and take back the work he stole off your desk, or remove some of his. He’ll finally realize you’re on to him, but can’t report you, because you’ll spill your guts! The other thing you can do is get one of those hidden cameras and catch him in the act. You’ll be the hero and he’ll be out on the street.
  9. “Shrinking Violet” This boss has no backbone. He avoids any kind of confrontation or discord, like the plague, but unlike the “BFF” boss, this guy is unquestionably too afraid to deal with altercations of any type. As a manager, he is often faced with difficult decisions, such as firing employees. However, because Mr. “Weakest Link,” has panic attacks just thinking about reprimanding an employee, let alone firing him, your office is a free-for-all. Knowing they can get away with just about anything, the freeloaders slack off even more, others join in, and the few of you who actually work, get stuck doing it all. Worse yet, this “fraidy cat” is likely to wet his pants if a senior manger wants to talk to him. Because of this, he is even too scared to back up his own staff, and often winds up throwing them under the bus, so to speak, and getting them fired. The only way to deal with a boss like this, is to take the bull by the horns, march in his office and bluntly tell him, if he doesn’t get firm and do something about the riff-raff, you will! At the next company meeting or if there’s a suggestion box, propose assertiveness training courses for all employees.
  10. “Mr. Wonderful” I’ve saved the best one for last. This manager is too good to be true. You wait for the bomb to drop, the rug to be pulled out from under you, but it never does. He doesn’t just ‘talk the talk,’ but really ‘walks the talk’ as well. This guy is actually real! He is supportive, encouraging, helpful, and believes work can be fun. He motivates his staff in positive ways, and even when he must criticize or reprimand, he will always bring up your strengths before saying anything negative. He’s diplomatic, fair, patient, and most of all H-U-M-A-N! As long as you are doing your job, and don’t take advantage, he understands that people get sick, have family emergencies, and sometimes just need a “mental health” day. Work your butt off, and be thankful every day, because managers like this don’t come along often. On the other hand, don’t get too complacent, cocky, think you’ve got it made, or push your luck, because wonderful as he is, he’s no patsy either. He can be tough if he needs to be, and the one thing that will make him crazy is if you take advantage of his goodness. Do that once too often, and you’ll wonder where Mr. Wonderful went!
So what type of boss do you have? Does he fall into one or more of these categories? Do you have any tips for dealing with a difficult boss?

Age Discrimination: If Old is Gold, Why Can’t I Find A Job?

I am a “baby boomer.” At the age of 56, I should be enjoying my life as an older worker,  basking in the glory of a long, established and successful work history.

My kids are self-sufficient and I should be looking forward to spending my days travelling and taking up hobbies I never had time for. I should be writing this from my home office, in my three bedroom, three bath house, and then cozy-up near the fireplace, to watch TV, in our family room. We should have dinner parties, go to shows or concerts, trade in our cars every few years, and once a year plan a fabulous family vacation, in locations including Hawaii, the Bahamas, Mexico, and even Europe and Asia.

First and foremost, we would have plenty of money put away in ‘retirement plans,’ a 401K and other investments we’ve made through the years. Since we planned well, we’d be all set for retirement, and have plenty put away for our kids, when we pass. This is as close to the “American Dream” as it comes!

However, my real lifestyle is as far from this as Wisconsin is from Singapore! Part of it is due to my husband becoming disabled on the job, some 20 years ago. Because of the severity of his condition, he hasn’t worked since 1995. He receives monthly Social Security Disability Benefits, which are absolutely ridiculous, not to mention insulting, when I think of the amount of money he used to earn, and would have continued to if this hadn’t happened.

We moved from Chicago to Madison, in 1990, and in ’92, I had my youngest child, who is now 18. My other son was 3 ½, and between my decision to stay home and raise my kids, and my husband’s medical problems, it was some years before I could return to the workforce, on a full-time basis.

By the time I could think about working full-time, I had been out of the workforce for nearly 10 years, and was 43 years old. I, the big shot, thought any company would hire me on the spot. I had never been so wrong about anything before, in my life! I honestly couldn’t even estimate the number of jobs I applied for between that time and now, but I’m sure it climbed toward the thousands.

I had skills and experiences, in many areas, and so I thought it would make me an asset, as a well-rounded person. However, I had no degree, hadn’t worked in a professional capacity in almost 10 years, and what made me so in demand before we moved, was now obsolete and technically outdated.  Since I lived in Madison, WI, with the University of Wisconsin [that happened to rank 17 on a list of the top 500 universities, worldwide] a ten minute drive from my home, I believed my lack of a degree was my biggest problem. I was competing for jobs with recent college graduates and didn’t have a chance.

Long story short, after a very time consuming and tiring job search effort, I finally found a permanent position at an insurance company, through an employment agency, in 1999.

I thought my inability to find work easily was because I didn’t have a degree, so I showed them, and went back to school!  Once I had my degree, I thought things would magically be different. With my practical experience, current education, and high GPA, I figured I couldn’t miss. I was wrong, very wrong. Nothing changed from the day before I started school, other than putting myself $100K US in debt.

Searching for jobs was still an uphill battle. I tried every angle I could think of, such as taking out all dates from my resume, always wearing something appropriate and spent a great deal of time getting my hair and make-up just right, for an interview. Since I’m very short, I always wore heels, the higher the better, and had great posture, probably from the years of ballet I took. I looked my interviewer in the eye, had a strong handshake, brought a list of questions, as I did my homework and studied the company, and sent thank you notes to all interviewers, as soon as I got home.

Once this continued to the point of no explanation, it was the first time I seriously considered I was facing age discrimination because I was an older worker.

One reason I had such a hard time considering my age was holding me back — because it just didn’t make sense. Why would any employer not grab an older worker who had the technical skills, a current, relevant education, experience working in relevant environments, knowing how to interact with people, and having the wisdom and insight a person could only get through experiencing life for this many years? It wasn’t logical. I remember only too well how I acted in a place of business 30+ years ago. I certainly didn’t take anything seriously, and in my mind it was more about making social connections, than about doing work. Older workers are much more settled, are serious about the work they do, have no other agendas, and won’t call in sick because they’ve been out getting drunk, the night before! Why is this so hard to understand?

Some of the biggest myths about older workers, is we can’t learn new skills, we don’t stay on the job long and take off too much time, we’re too slow and inflexible, and expect to be treated with “kid gloves.”

I returned to school in 2005, at the age of 50 and graduated when I was 54. Not only was I capable of learning new skills, but I excelled in my courses. I was a very poor student as a child and in high school, so in my case, I actually was able to learn and retain more the older I got! Out of the 32 total classes I wound up taking, in 27 I earned a grade of ‘A,’ and for my bachelor’s degree, I earned a 3.8 GPA.

What’s more, they say older workers not computer savvy, yet all my courses had a big focus on online learning.  As far as not staying on a job long or taking off time, I always joked with my interviewers, saying, “At least I won’t be taking off time to have babies!”

Of course things are changing, and many companies do see the value of mature workers. Retailers such as Home Depot, Sears, Roebuck and Co, Wal-Mart and Radio Shack are just a few companies that are actively looking to hire older employees. You should learn about and seek such employers. However, as an older worker looking for a job, you also need to do what you can to bust such myths and convince employers they are not applicable for your case.

One expert in the field of workforce development and career counseling made a rather startling revelation about age discrimination. She feels many older job hunters are so convinced the reason they can’t find a job is due to age discrimination, they may be unwittingly sabatoging the situation. She calls it “reverse age discrimination,” or “reverse age bias.” Older job seekers often make inferences about younger supervisors and workers, just as younger workers assume things about us, mature workers. It’s particularly difficult when we know our experiences and knowledge are far beyond an individual who has the power to decide if we do or do not get the job, and it’s hard not to let our attitude affect what we say or how we come across. Unintentionally, we sometimes come across as being arrogant, overconfident, or superior; behavior that surely won’t win us any job!

Other things older workers may do that hinder employment are refusing to learn new technology, especially computer skills, and believing job-hunting methods that worked 10 or 20 years ago, will still work today. Don’t let such things hold you back.

As an older worker, your job search will be hard and you might face age discrimination. I have tried to point out some issues which cause this, so that you can work towards overcoming them. I think focusing on these makes more sense, as opposed to more ‘cosmetic’ suggestions you might read about, to hide your age during you job search. One way or another, employers will find out how old you are eventually.

“B” is for Bully

I’m sure we all remember a time when a grade-school bully made the life of one poor kid a regular nightmare. Usually a boy, often with his gang of thugs, targeted a smaller, more awkward child, whose frail and helpless demeanour made him easy prey ­for the bully to intimidate, humiliate, degrade and generally torment, any time, for any reason.

This scenario, of bullying amongst children, is one we are familiar with unfortunately.

However, did you know that workplace bullying is a widespread global phenomenon? While I am familiar enough with discrimination and harassment in the workplace, I wasn’t aware that workplace bullying was a serious global problem as well. Why? Because we think of bullying in terms of the example above; as an issue that only affects children. We typically have a hard time imagining one adult having that kind of power over another adult, in a workplace situation. Furthermore, there must be laws prohibiting this kind of behaviour. After all, there are laws protecting workers from racial discrimination and sexual harassment on the job, yet despite the fact bullying is four times more prevalent, it is NOT illegal in any of the 50 U.S. states and many other countries around the world.

Workplace bullying is the repeated  unjust actions of an employee [or employees], directed towards another employee [or employees], which are intended to intimidate, humiliate, threaten, torment, and generally dominate that individual to the point of jeopardizing his or her health, safety, sanity and job.  It usually involves some type of exploitation, manipulation and insults [including name-calling and swearing] of the target. The bully might also hinder or obstruct the target from getting work done.

Bullies are so successful because they create an atmosphere of fear, anxiety, isolation and unrelenting psychological stress, around their victim. Day after day, you are constantly criticized, blamed without facts, excluded and treated differently than everyone else. You are sweared at, humiliated in front of your peers, micro-managed and given deadlines that are unrealistic. Often times, projects you’re working on, or other materials mysteriously disappear off your desk, making you look unorganized, and in the most serious cases, figures and facts will be changed on your reports, making you appear totally incompetent.

Yet you’re not, and it’s very likely you were targeted because you are smart and pose a threat [real or perceived] to the bully. Studies even confirmed that most targets had better skills, both social and technical than the bully.

Another important fact is that 72% of the bullying is done by managers/supervisors. Therefore most complaints fall on deaf ears, as those higher up are more likely to side with one of their own. Even co-workers start pulling away from the target, and eventually side with the bully. People who weren’t just coworkers, but friends, might suddenly turn on you and become your enemy. Why? Fear — they don’t want to become the next target.

Most people think bullying is the same thing as harassment, and harassment is illegal, so bullying must be too. Think again. While bullying could include harassment, bullying by itself is NOT illegal.

Workplace harassment is discriminatory, offensive conduct, [including sexual] which causes a hostile work environment. Sounds like bullying to me! However, typically there are civil rights laws in place to defend workers from this kind of conduct only if you are a member of a protected class. Protected classes in employment could be for race/color, creed, [religion] national origin, sex, marital status, disability and sexual orientation. For instance, if an employee tells a racist joke, refers to a coworker by using racial slurs, and is told to stop, but doesn’t, this could be considered harassment. A male manager making unwelcomed sexual advances toward a female subordinate, and threatening her job if she doesn’t comply, is a case of harassment.

When harassment or discrimination is reported, the target isn’t retaliated against, etc. and the complaint is taken seriously.  Bullying is concealed more, done behind closed doors, and much more cunning and shrewd.

Workplace bullying takes place all over the world. Monster.com took a survey and approximately 2/3 of those who responded admitted to being the target of some form of bullying. The survey showed the likelihood of being bullied at work varied by region and culture. In Europe a shocking 83% claimed either mental or physical bullying. Surveys conducted in the United States indicated 65% of the population had experienced workplace bullying. Asia had the least amount of it, but still 45% of workers claimed they had been bullied at work. Belgium was the country with the least amount of  workplace bullying, at 38%, with China coming in second at 40%. ChinaHR (a professional recruitment website in China) commented that cultural differences may be a factor in their low percentage of workplace bullying, as the Chinese culture is more unpretentious and humble than in Europe and America.

In general, victims of workplace bullying are affected in many negative ways, including: post-tramatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic fatigue, migranes, financially (because of frequent absence from work), low self-esteem, phobias, high blood pressure, feelings of shame, always anxious, and “on the edge,” trouble sleeping, depression, family problems, just to name a few.

There are actions that can be taken, by both employee and employer to combat bullying. Employees must recognize that they are being bullied, and know they didn’t cause it. Keep a detailed account of ever instance of the bullying, such as date, time, place and nature of the bullying. Make sure you keep any documents, such as emails or even text messages that may contain some disparaging comment, etc. Also, keep hidden back-ups and hard copies of all work documents produced, reviews, etc. to protect yourself in case the bully tries to change or alter documents. Understand that managers and HR are not going to advocate for you, so try to find one person you can trust to corroborate incidents and situations of bullying that are witnessed.

Companies must encourage a healthy culture. Managers and top executives should set good examples and have respect for employees. Employers must create a zero tolerance policy against bullying, that should be part of their code of conduct. Reports of bullying should be addressed immediately and taken seriously. Hold awareness meetings to discuss the subject of bullying. Provide a phone number victims can call, anonomously, just to have someone to talk to. Provide onsite counsellors, if necessary. If bullying is running rampant in the company, you may need to resort to hiring security people and cameras to ensure a safe environment for all.

Workplace bullying is a serious issue that affects everyone. The employees suffer and the business suffers. However, in the end, it should be the bully who suffers most of all.

 

Sources & References: Monster Global Survey: Workplace bullying is a common problem worldwide; Namie, D. G. (2011). Being Bullied? Start Here (Workplace Bullying Institute); Workplace Bullying and Disruptive Behavior: What Everyone Needs to Know (Washington State Department of Labor & Industries)

Unbelievable Phrases Found in Resumes

My recent article on spelling mistakes in a job advertisement made me think of the countless times I’ve been reviewing other peoples’ résumés, and found some of the most ridiculous mistakes. Obviously, some were simply typos, but just getting one letter wrong, transforms the word into something unintelligible or unprintable.

I’m sure you understand what I mean. For instance, in the word “shot,” if you change the “o” it can become a “bathroom” word that no one wants in their résumé.

I thought we could all use a good laugh, so the following are actual phrases, sentences, and words, etc. that have been used in résumés and cover letters [according to the website “Things People Said”].

  • “I have a bachelorette degree in computers.”
  • “I can play well with others.”
  • “Special skills: I’ve got a Ph.D. in human feelings.”
  • “My contributions on product launches were based on dreams that I had.”
  • “Experience: Watered, groomed, and fed the family dog for years.”
  • “Reason for leaving last job: Pushed aside so the vice president’s girlfriend could steal my job.”
  • “Work history: Bum. Abandoned belongings and led nomadic lifestyle.”
  • “I am quick at typing, about 25 words per minute.”
  • “Typing speed: 756 wpm.”
  • “Objectives: 10-year goal: Total obliteration of sales and federal income taxes and tax laws.”
  • “Extensive background in accounting. I can also stand on my head!”
  • “Excellent memory, strong math aptitude; excellent memory; effective management skills; and very good at math.”
  • “I saw your ad on the information highway, and came to a screeching halt.”
  • “Please disregard the attached resume — it is terribly out of date.”
  • “If this resume doesn’t blow your hat off, then please return it in the enclosed envelope.”
  • “I need just enough money to have pizza every night.”
  • “My compensation should be at least equal to my age.”
  • “I’ll starve without a job but don’t feel you have to give me one.”
  • “It’s best for employers that I not work with people.”
  • “My ruthlessness terrorized the competition and can sometimes offend.”

These are the just a few of the better ones I found and you must admit, most of them are pretty funny 🙂 .

Believe it or Not – Errors in Job Advertisements

A year or so ago, while searching for a job, I came across a position that appeared to have all the qualities I was looking for. However, there was not just one but six problems within the job advertisement.

The blatant spelling and typo errors stuck out like sore thumbs in the job advertisement.

All were common, everyday words — not the kind that have similar sounding words with different meanings, or usage, such as “affect,” and “effect,” “allude,” and “elude,” or “complement,” and “compliment.” No, these were ordinary, mundane words that any 10-year-old would know how to spell.

I now had a problem. What was the right thing to do — the proper manner of handling this situation? During all the time I was searching through various job sites, I had never seen anything like this. I knew if I turned in a résumé with so much as one small error, it could very well be thrown in the trash. Therefore, my thoughts were more focused on throwing their ad in the trash. Why would I want to work for a company that couldn’t even make certain that a publicly viewed job advertisement was error free?

This, like many job advertisements, was considered a “blind ad.” They don’t give a company name, or any information that indicates who you are dealing with. I personally view them with scepticism, as many, I had found, were simply scams, or dubious, at the least. Surprisingly, this job advertisement had a big clue, as to where it came from. Usually applications are sent back through the job site, but this actually gave a genuine email address.

After a bit of research and digging, I was flabbergasted with what I found. The job advertisement came from a very well-known and reputable company. Also, the person who wrote the job advertisement was in an executive director-type position!

Once I found these things out, I had another theory. I was thoroughly convinced the errors were put there purposely as some kind of test. I was sure they did this to see how many job applicants would simply ignore it, as opposed to how many would have the gumption to actually comment about it. It had to be handled in a most delicate manner.

Well, me and my big mouth couldn’t leave it that way, so I commented about the errors, in the most sensitive, tactful and non-offensive way possible. I was sure she was going to reply back saying I was one out of “X” number of people who had the fortitude to say something, rather than ignore it, and therefore I’d get an interview. I was way off! This was not some kind of test, as she indicated the job site didn’t have a spell checker, and apologised.

I thought, whether or not the job site had a spell check, she could have checked the spellings in a Word document. This was not encouraging, since to some extent, it was indicative of the quality of employees and culture at this large company.

While I don’t have the job advertisement, or my response anymore, I am talking about simple words such as ‘person’, ‘inside’, ‘require’, ‘distance’ — I think you get the idea. These are not words people usually misspell, but at least the next time I checked the job advertisement, the errors were fixed. Needless to say, I did not get the job, or even an interview.

Moral of the story:

  1. I guess the truth hurts!
  2. Be careful when identifying shortcomings in the strategies or communications of a potential employer. In this case, it may have been acceptable if the job was for a writer or editor – but in all cases you run a risk when offering unsolicited constructive criticism.