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How tech is helping to build better buildings

Advances in sensors, concrete, nanotech are making structures – from bridges to office towers – safer, stronger and better looking.


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You can buy all your gifts with a few clicks of the mouse…but should you?

Here at The Work Buzz, we don’t judge. Nor do we lie. Therefore, when CareerBuilder’s new survey reports that 32 percent of workers plan to holiday shop online while on the job, we’re not shocked. That figure is up from last year’s 29 percent, by the way. Believe it or not, you boss knows you’re shopping online, and for the most part he or she doesn’t care as long as you’re still doing your job. But don’t take advantage of your employer’s generosity. Nearly half of surveyed employers monitor their employees’ online activity, which includes e-mails and browsing. You don’t want to lose your job, well, ever, but especially not during gift-giving season, and especially not due to something as preventable as online shopping.

Of course, you and I both know you’re not just spending a few minutes buying Grandma a new toaster. You need to log in to one (or all) of your social networking sites to see what friends are up to. After all, the survey found that 61 percent of full-time workers have profiles. Here are other facts the survey discovered about workers with social networking profiles:

  • 51 percent spend time on their social networking page during the workday; 11 percent spend one hour or more.
  • 25 percent include information about their employer in their communications on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace; 15 percent include company information on Twitter; 13 percent of workers with personal blogs say they blog about their companies.
  • 13 percent of workers are “friends” with their boss on their social networking profile.
  • 22 percent of workers have separate social networking profiles for personal and business use.

Companies know that you’re out there talking about them, so many have implemented policies regarding this messaging:

  • 37 percent of employers have a policy on whether workers can communicate about the company on social media sites; 17 percent have implemented a stricter policy on employees communicating about the company on social media sites in the last year.
  • 21 percent prohibit employees from communicating about the company. Thirteen percent have designated certain employees to post on behalf of the company.
  • 16 percent monitor social networking profiles of employees and 14 percent monitor blogs.

Now, just because they know you’re doing these things doesn’t mean they’re OK with everything. They understand but they’ve still got a business to run. I mean, 58 percent of workers claim to spend some of their online time doing non-work activities, so that adds up to a lot of unproductive hours. So you’re probably not shocked that 20 percent of employers have fired someone for online activities not related to work. (And if you are shocked, stop reading this blog and get back to work!)

Other notable results:

  • 32 percent of employers monitor emails and 16 percent monitor instant messaging.
  • 8 percent have fired someone for non-work related emails.
  • 5 percent of employers have fired someone for holiday shopping online at work.

So the moral of the story? Your boss understands everyone’s a little distracted during the next few weeks of work, and if you spend a few minutes adding a new video game to your shopping cart, you’re probably fine. But don’t take advantage of your boss’ generosity. You still have to get work done and you can take care of your shopping once you get home or during your lunch hour.

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What’s Your Most Embarrassing Interview Moment?

monkey-embarrassing-momentWe’ve all had embarrassing moments. (I’m going to keep it professional and not share mine with you here, but I assure you, it’s one for the books.)

Anyway,  as I was saying, we’ve all had embarrassing moments. For some people, it unfortunately happened in the worst place possible: the interview.

If you’re sick of recounting your embarrassing interview moment in exchange for nothing more than a bunch of laughs from your friends and family, now you can tell it for a good reason: You might be able to win an 8-GB iPod Nano with built-in video camera.

BriteTab, a resume writing service, just launched, a site that encourages users to post their embarrassing or funny job interview moment that they may have experienced, seen or heard about. Just by sharing your story, you’ll have the chance to win an iPod Nano with built-in video camera. Plus, you can promote your story however you want — through your Facebook page, Twitter account or your personal blog.

Visitors to the site will be able to vote for their favorite stories; the person behind the story that received the most votes win. There is a winner every two weeks for six weeks, which means you can submit your story up to three times for a chance to win.

From all of the things I’ve heard from hiring managers, I have about 100 stories I could enter in this contest. But, I’ll leave it you guys.

Before you share your embarrassing interview moment on InterviewFollies, share with us here. You won’t win an iPod Nano, but maybe if you’re story is funny enough, we can use it an upcoming article.

In the meantime, here is some reading on interviewing to keep you busy:

The Worst Interview Faux Pas
7 Ways to Wreck Your Interview
10 Signs Your Interview Went Well
You Said What?!

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A good boss is …

Young business woman posing over white backgroundOur friends over at The Hiring Site recently asked recruiters and hiring managers to explain what makes a good leader. They compiled the responses and created an excellent, 11-point list of qualities that define a true leader. Among the many traits are integrity, communication, confidence and passion.

Not surprising, right? However, just because we know what a leader should be doesn’t mean all leaders — or supposed leaders — possess these qualities. (The situation is similar to knowing what makes a good employee. We all know hard work and ambition make good employees, but not everyone acts accordingly. )

I thought it would be interesting to hear what you have to say about what makes a good leader or boss. Is leadership a necessity to be a good boss? What are the must-haves of a boss? What qualities are nice but not necessary?

I recently wrote an article discussing what makes a good boss, and here are some responses:

· “Be consistent and predictable. It is hard for subordinates to make the boss look good when the boss behaves erratically and every situation seems to result in a unique decision.” — Wayne Botha of Botha Consulting

· “They are able to get you to do something without using coercive tactics or bullying. They’re able to frame the discussion in the same way a good basketball coach tells you what the best play will be.” — Andrew Lee, co-founder and CEO of

· “Promote from within. Develop your subordinates and then promote them when the opportunity arises. Subordinates will quickly understand your intentions when you always hire people from outside your organization for top positions.” — Botha

· “A good boss will defend your actions (when they are defensible) and will help you when there is a problem.” — Deborah Graham

· “A good boss understands that every task given to you cannot be your No. 1, top priority and will work with you to readjust priority lists if necessary.” — Graham

· “A good boss knows the overall value each employee brings to the organization, and keeps that in mind. So, a single transgression by an otherwise excellent employee doesn’t demand the same response as the same transgression by an employee who consistently makes mistakes.” — Bruce Campbell, vice president of marketing at Clare Computer Solutions

· “A good boss keeps you informed about what is happening at the higher management levels and what projects might be coming down the road.” — Graham

So tell us, what do you think makes a good boss?

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More Companies Hiring for the Holidays

In the past few weeks, we’ve talked  a lot about seasonal hiring and we got a huge response to the blog where we posted 10 companies hiring for the holidays. Based on all of your comments, it sounds like a few of you are looking for some more options.

Ask and you shall receive, my friends.

Here are six more companies that are hiring seasonal workers. If you’d like even MORE results, please go to and search “seasonal” or “holiday help.” You can search more specifically within your preferred industry.

Durham School Services
Industry: Transportation
Positions hiring: Bus drivers
Number of position: 250

H&R Block Tax Services
Industry: Accounting and finance
Positions hiring: Office manager, client services,
Number of positions: 500+

Industry: Retail
Positions hiring:Various
Number of positions: 25+

Tiffany & Co.
Industry: Jeweler
Positions hiring:Sales associates
Number of positions: 25+

U.S. Cellular
Industry: Wireless
Positions hiring: Cashier, greeters, retail wireless consultants, sales managers, store managers, bilingual (Spanish speaking) retail wireless consultants and cashier greeters, service technicians, customer service representatives, customer service operations , bilingual (Spanish speaking) Customer Service Representatives; marketing, accounting, finance, project management, public affairs, human resources, engineering, IS/IT, sales operations
Number of postions: 550+

Veolia Transportation
Industry: Transit
Positions hiring: Safety managers, maintenance managers, general manager, drivers and mechanics
Number of positions: 150+

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“Can We Have Bikini Fridays?” And Other Strange Requests…

say-what-2Thankfully, for everyone in my office, one of my co-workers did not request to institute bikini Fridays — but someone else did. And that’s not even the weirdest thing!

In a new survey by CareerBuilder, hiring managers shared the most memorable requests or recommendations they have received in the office suggestion box.

We had to censor them a little bit, but here are a few that had us in stitches:

  • Request to allow people to change clothes in their cubicles.
  • Request to add a tanning bed to the break room.
  • Request to put beer in the vending machine.
  • Request that jail time be covered under family medical leave.
  • Request to institute bikini Fridays.
  • Request to only be required to work during daylight hours because employee is scared of the dark.
  • Request for a special smoking area for medical marijuana.
  • Request that the HR person wear nicer shoes.
  • Request for more time off to pursue side business as a clown.
  • Request to replace his desk with a futon so employee could lay down and work.
  • Request that the lactation room with gliding chair be used for naps, so everyone can use it.
  • Request to install a swimming pool for employees to use.
  • Request to have the team meeting to be held in Hawaii.

Have you ever made or received a strange suggestion in the inbox? Share them with us!

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Walking and clean air

A new study done for the metropolitan area of Vancouver, British Columbia (host of the 2010 Winter Olympics) , compares neighborhoods' "walkability"—the degree of ease for walking—with local levels of pollution, and reveals some interesting findings.


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How to prove you’re needed

ProofreadingIf you’ve read our posts before, you know we encourage workers to make tactful departures. We also encourage workers to be direct with their bosses and be confident in their abilities. Now, what happens when these two situations converge? You get a memo dripping in red ink.

As regional blog Torontoist explains, publishers at newspaper Toronto Star recently announced editing positions–possibly as many as 100–would be outsourced. This news naturally upset the editors. As a result, one editor decided to take his or her red pen to the memo announcing the outsourcing and make a point. The editor marked up the outsourcing announcement to show why editors are necessary in-house members of the paper’s team. [I should point out that the pen-wielding editor sent this memo directly to Torontoist anonymously--or at least they're not printing his or her name. So we don't know who did this.]

The bleeding memo is here.

We can all learn a few lessons here, I think. Though I’m sure you can add even more (and please feel free to do so in the comments). The lessons aren’t just about leaving a job gracefully, either–they’re about dealing with workplace conflicts and conversations with your boss.

  1. Keep discussions in-house
    I’m not taking sides in this debate, but making your case to a third party and in public can backfire on you. This person’s goal might be to pressure the boss into rethinking his decision, but few people give in to public embarrassment.
  2. Quantify your contributions
    Public airing of grievances aside, this editor did successfully make the case that he or she and presumably the rest of the editors know their trade. When you tell the boss you deserve a raise or a promotion, don’t just say, “I deserve it.” Have proof.
  3. Keep the focus on the job, not on the boss
    If you’re frustrated with your boss because you’re not earning as much as you think you deserve, you haven’t received a promotion in a couple of years or you’re experiencing some other disagreement, don’t take it out on him or her. While this memo’s intent is about preserving editing jobs, the decision to choose the publisher’s letter to mark up makes it more about attacking his writing skills than about the outsourcing. As stated on the Torontoist, the union leader described the benefit of on-site collaboration between editors, writers and other staff members. That point gets lost in this example.
  4. Don’t ruin your reputation
    Again, without taking sides, I can say that the eager proofreader was smart enough to remain anonymous (or at least remains anonymous thus far). When we feel jilted, we all say some pretty crude things. Haven’t most colleagues complained about their bosses during happy hour? But we also know that when we’re interviewing for a job, we don’t badmouth our previous employer. Had this editor proudly signed his or her work, you can assume few employers would’ve ever wanted to hire someone willing to publicly bash the company.
  5. Don’t be afraid to make your case
    As explained in the above post about connecting with your boss, you shouldn’t be afraid to talk about what you want at work. If you’re confused or concerned about a decision that affects you, have a discussion with the boss. If you approach the conversation with a respectful attitude, your boss won’t view your concerns in a negative way. You might even be seen as someone who is proactive in his or her career, and that could benefit you in the long run. If you always keep your concerns to yourself, you could end up regretting your silence for the rest of your career.

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The flu season and you

Businesswomen With ColdH1N1 is to 2009 what El Niño was to 1998. Granted, H1N1 is more serious and seems to be an actual issue to care about, but because we’ve been hearing about it since early spring, we’re almost numb to the issue. Whether or not you decide to get the vaccine for you or your child or if even if you’re perfectly healthy, you can’t ignore that the flu is something we’re all going to deal with this season. Whether we get sick or someone at the office or in the family does, it’s going to be an issue for a few more months. Both the regular, seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu. And just like any season filled with sniffles and contagions, you’ll inevitably find yourself wondering, “Do I go to work even though I’m a little under the weather? Or do I stay home and use up a sick day?”

Maybe the dilemma’s not even that easy. Let’s be honest, the job situation has people worried about getting laid off or fired for missing too much work. Some companies also classify sick leave and vacation days under the same pool of accrued time, so taking a sick day today means a shorter vacation in a couple of months. Or a sick day today means having to find a sitter when your child gets sick later this season. Unfortunately, the issue isn’t as simple as don’t go to work if you don’t feel 100 percent.

This article in the Chicago Tribune discusses how employers are trying to balance business needs with sick workers reluctant to stay home.

From the article:

Some employees have to ration their sick days carefully or may not have any paid time off. Others weigh the fear of making a bad impression against the risk of prolonging an illness and feeling worse.

“It’s very hard to take off of work at my job,” said Noor Aweidah, who works for the president of a marketing firm and helps bring in new clients. “Things being the way they are today, new business is a real priority. If I’m not there, meetings are not happening, calls are not taking place.”

Even with her concerns, Aweidah recently had to take a rare day off to keep some incipient flu-like symptoms from worsening. She canceled a client meeting and made sure the interns under her supervision knew their daily tasks, then lay down on her couch to watch bad movies and drink tea.

The client was understanding about needing to reschedule, she said.

“It’s hard being in a creative environment to not be on your A game, especially when you’re interfacing with clients,” Aweidah said. “But they don’t want to meet with someone who’s coughing or sweating.”

And on last week’s Harvard Business Ideacast, experts ask Is Your Business Ready for H1N1? (Even if you’re not an employer, it’s worth checking out to hear what companies are doing for their employees and what they want to see happening in workplaces.)

When you’re deciding whether or not to come in to the office, or even if you’re not sick but are wondering what you’ll do if you do get some form of flu this season, here are some tips:

  • Talk to your boss now.
    Find out what the company’s doing about the flu this year. Is it the same policy as last year or are they asking you to take different precautions?
  • What are your work-from-home options?
    If you have the kind of job where working from home is possible, see what the policy is. Do you need permission before doing it or can you call in one morning and say you need to work from home? Does it count against your time off at all?
  • Do you need a note if you miss a certain amount of consecutive days?
    Let’s be honest, most of us don’t know the details of every company policy. Many employers require a doctor’s note for anyone who stays home for more than a certain amount of consecutive days, so you don’t want to show up after a week out and be told to go home until return with a note.
  • Do you  really need to go in today?
    If you’re in that gray zone where you  might be getting sick or you might just have a 24-hour bug, you could be wondering if you should go to work or stay home. There are pros and cons to both, and you might have your own reasons for wanting to go in. Just remember that if you are contagious and you end up getting the whole office sick, no one will be pleased with you, especially if it means half of your group is out and everyone else has to work twice as hard.
  • Do you have any other perks?
    Some companies pay for their employees to get the flu vaccine (the regular one, not the H1N1 vaccine, since it’s being offered free). If you want the flu shot, see if your company covers the cost or will reimburse you for it. Also see if they’ll be providing hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to people in the office.

Also check out this article from fellow blogger Rachel Zupek.

Have you dealt with any of these issues this flu season?

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U.S. loses 190,000 jobs in October

Job MarketToday the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released new data and reported 190,000 jobs were lost in October. Although that figure means 190,000 people lost their jobs–a reality no one can be pleased about–it is a better figure than the 219,000 jobs lost in September. Look back to a year ago, when the numbers hit 597,000 in November 2008 and only got worse for the next five months. In that regard, the outlook is definitely more positive than it was only a few months ago. The unemployment rate also came out today, and at 10.2 percent it set a record for the highest rate since April 1983.

So are there any bright spots?

Yes, actually. Health care added 29,000 jobs in October. Temporary employment services had steadily lost jobs in the beginning of the year, but in October they added 34,000 jobs. Companies have the need for more workers, but they’re cautious of adding new permanent employees. If the economy struggles again, they’d prefer to not renew temporary workers’ contracts rather than layoff a group of employees.

Two experts were on TV to discuss the job numbers and the job outlook this morning.

First up, watch CEO Matt Ferguson on CNBC.

And senior career adviser Michael Erwin was on CBS 2 in Chicago. Watch that clip here.

You can also read the detailed, full report from the BLS on its site.

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