Farewell to My Yahoo! Blog

When I started the “Working the New Economy” blog in April, I knew it had an expiration date. I signed a short-term contract. I referred to myself as a guest blogger on Yahoo! Even the title, suggested that this was a project of limited duration. After all, how long could this “new economy” last?

Now that it’s time to wrap up, it’s pretty clear that the new economy has become the new normal. And I can’t say that I have figured out exactly how to work it. Unemployment has now topped 10%. Counting those who are underemployed, it’s closer to 20%. Mass layoffs are still happening, including a round at BusinessWeek last week where several of my most respected colleagues were shown the door.

One defining feature of this not-so-new-anymore economy is that we will all need to flexible and nimble. I’ve worked independently for nearly a decade. And now it seems that my usual mix of contract work, freelance relationships, consulting and other kinds of affiliations has become standard in what Tina Brown so aptly dubbed the gig economy.

Getting the timing right while moving from gig to gig can be challenging. Between consulting projects, gigs, or temporary assignments, there are often long gaps with no work and times of too much of it. Which is why I’d like the bickering in Washington to include some discussion of providing health care for the self-employed. (Great analysis of this issue by Zeba Kahn here.) But I’m getting off track. {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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4 Reasons to Share Your Ideas

We are living in an age where the power of crowds is accomplishing big things. Writers, who used to guard their ideas now hone their thinking through blogs, build and audience, and then publish their books for a group of expectant readers. Every day experts spend their free time contributing to Wikipedia. And lately I’ve noticed a lot of folks encouraging would-be entrepreneurs to share their ideas.

Of course, there are times to be guarded. If you’ve got a concept or invention which might be patentable, then the only person you probably want to talk to is a lawyer. There are also times you want to be first to market a product or service (you don’t see Coke running to Pepsi about its latest product before it hits the shelves). But in many situations, sharing ideas with people you trust and respect is a good idea and here’s why: {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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Does thinking about happiness make you happier?

Happiness is having its moment in the sun. And the darkened economy doesn’t seem to have cast much of a shadow over it.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I joined a packed auditorium at the Hilton New York for a lecture on positive psychology by Shawn Achor, a popular professor at Harvard. (This was part of One-Day University, a cool program that assembles a group of lecturers from top universities for a day of public lectures in major cities.)  Achor took the audience through the greatest hits of the science of happiness, covering a wide swath of material in his alotted 70 minutes. He explained how positive psychology developed as a field of study. Instead of focusing exclusively on mental troubles like depression, psychologists like Martin Selgiman started focusing on people who are happy to figure out what we could learn from them.

Achor took us through a host of nifty experiments, like this one: Pair off into a group of two people, preferably people who don’t know one another. Call one person A and the other B. A and B should spend seven seconds looking at each other with A smiling the whole time and B keeping a totally neutral expression. Person B is virtually guaranteed to have a difficult time, as all of us in the audience realized as we tried out our A and B roles. Voila: smiling is contagious. And the theory goes that happiness is too. At the end of the session, Achor left us with a few simple activities we could use to boost our own happiness levels (journaling for twenty minutes a day, exercising for as little as ten minutes a day, practicing random acts of kindness, and my favorite — sending out one kind, positive email to a friend before looking at any other messages.) {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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White collar/blue collar: My chat with Jessica DuLong

In a black silk blouse with skinny jeans and stylish black boots, Jessica DuLong doesn’t look like she spends her days in the bowels of a 78-year old fireboat. That’s because I met her on a day when she was inhabiting her other job, that of the author of a newly released book.  A former dotcom executive and freelance journalist, DuLong had an accidental career change after spending some time volunteering on The the John J. Harvey, a retired 1931 New York City fireboat that has become a living museum. Now one of few female fireboat engineers in the world, DuLong’s newly published book, “My River Chronicles,” is both a tale of career transformation and a compelling narrative about a time when working boats and industry played a large role in America’s economic and civic life.

DuLong never left the world of words. And she is using her new book as a vehicle to get white- collar and blue- collar folks to talk to one another.  DuLong isn’t the only one thinking about this subject. Another book praising the virtues of making and fixing things, “Shop Class as Soulcraft,”  has been getting a lot of buzz lately.

I had tea with DuLong to talk about class divisions surrounding work, why she left her dot com job to work in the engine room of an old boat, and why she thinks the perfect career is one that mixes brains and brawn. Here is a condensed version of our chat: {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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5 online job search tips

Now that so much of the job search process happens online, the most common complaint I hear about is the “black hole” — that mysterious place to which resumes seem to travel from the moment an applicant hits the “send” key. If you’re involved in a job search where you feel like you repeatedly send out resumes in response to ads and rarely hear back, then it might be time for some new online search techniques. Try these 5 tricks to shake things up:

Answer questions on Linkedin

Your strongest chance of being hired is to find ways to show off your expertise and build relationships in your field. One easy way to do this is to troll the “Answers” section on LinkedIn and start responding to questions where you think you can be helpful. People whose answers get high ratings show up on a list of experts. Nabbing one of those spots is a terrific way to ensure that people using the site to fill a position will find your profile. {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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Getting a self-employed mindset: 5 questions for Pamela Slim

I was raised with business in the background and the foreground. When I was in middle school, my parents bought their first motel — a small beachfront property on the Jersey Shore — and moved our family into an apartment on the second floor. We lived like that, alongside my parents’ work, for the rest of my teen years until I went off to college. Working for yourself feels natural to me, so it’s not all that surprising that I followed their path. But the model of self-employment I’ve chosen is worlds apart from theirs. They ran a physical business with employees and property. I work entirely on my own, with a laptop, a phone, a virtual assistant and a rotating group of colleagues and clients.

Like it or not, more people are going to be joining the ranks of the self-employed whether they do it in my parents’ style, in mine, or in some other way altogether.

If you didn’t grow up with entrepreneurship in your DNA, one way to catch up is to study at the heels of Pamela Slim, a consultant, life coach and blogger whose new book, Escape from Cubicle Nation, is a roadmap to self-employment. I chatted with Slim about how the current economy is affecting people striking out on their own, how to launch a business on the side, and whether it’s possible to warm to self-employment when it’s not your natural inclination. {Read the rest at Yahoo!}

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Where Are They Now: Jonathan Fields

Jonathan Fields, lawyer/serial entrepreneur/author/marketer

Jonathan Fields

I’m starting a new interview series where I’ll be catching up with people at various stages of a career transition or reinvention. In some cases, the subjects will be folks I’ve profiled before, as is the case with my first guest, Jonathan Fields. I met Jonathan in the Fall of 2001 when I interviewed him for this New York Times article on businesses that were thriving in post-9/11 New York City. At that time, Jonathan had recently left a position as an associate with Debevoise and Plimpton to open Sonic Yoga, a yoga studio in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen.

In 2003, I wrote a follow-up story on him for the Times, this time focusing on Jonathan’s path from corporate lawyer to entrepreneurial yogi.

Jonathan is in the midst of yet another identity shift as he has just published his first book, Career Renegade, which is steadily climbing the Amazon rankings.
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Your Brain on Google

Cyberspace allows us to digest information in bite-sized nuggets. But an author ponders the effect of all this mental hopscotching on our ability to read books and engage in sustained thought.

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What’s a meme?

The first time I saw the word, “meme,” was on Dan Pink’s blog, causing me to realize that it is probably a word I should know.

I like learning words by seeing them in context. Here’s the blog entry where Pink used it:

6 words, 6 sentences, no waiting

The ultra-short story meme continues to thrive. Virginia Backaitis has launched a blog devoted to mini-tales that asks, “What can you say in six sentences?” Also, if you haven’t seen it already, Wired‘s November issue asked a bunch of novelists to try their hands at 6-word science fiction. Margaret Atwood’s is my favorite: Longed for him. Got him. Shit.

Posted on 01/03.

{CORRECTION 08/20 – The “Six Sentences Blog” was actually created by Robert McElivy. Virginia Backaitis is a contributor.}

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Blogging to Career Change (NYT.com)

This week’s Shifting Careers column online at The New York Times, Blogging Your Way Into a Business, is about using blogs to build a business or make a career change. I wrote this piece because I was tired of reading stories about how blogs can harm one’s career — and while I know that blogs can do damage, they are also one of the easiest, most-effective ways to test out an idea, get a business off the ground, or build a following in your niche.

Jeremy Blachman, one of the bloggers I profiled, wrote a great piece (available through Times Select) for the Times about why employees blogging about their is good for the public good. It was a bit off-topic for the column, but it’s relevant to the whole “are blogs good for your career?” conversation.

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