Paul Tasner is my new hero. After getting fired, he decided to build his own business, “designing and manufacturing biodegradable packaging from waste”. He was 66 at the time. It’s easy to imagine how intimidating it must have been – learning how to start a business after working for companies for over 40 years; competing for funding with tech whiz kids (Paul says he has pairs of shoes older than some of them).
Paul’s business is doing well, and he is doing the most meaningful work of his life. Paul wants to encourage more seniors to become first-time entrepreneurs. He points out that the lists of successful entrepreneurs and startups are almost always: “30 Under 30”. He’d like to see more lists for “70 over 70”. Love it.
Paul’s story really made me think: maybe we really don’t need to put so much pressure on ourselves to follow our dreams, get out of the corporate world, and start our own businesses in our 20s, 30s, or 40s “before it’s too late”. Clearly 66 isn’t too late. Like wine and cheese and Pokemon, many of us will keep getting better with age.
An inspiring TED Talk (in under seven minutes) from an amazing guy.
Earlier this week, I received this email. It was unsolicited, so I guess you might call it “spam”, but I call it “a gift”. And a reminder that there are people (well, bots / hackers) out there like Robin from Blackout Knitting Co Ltd. People who are passionate about their work and their company and their place in the world – easy enough when you are working in “the socks capital of the world”, I know.
Anyway, I am not sure what tipped Robin off to the fact that I might be looking to import sublimation socks, or soccer socks (just because they sound like Dr Seuss would appreciate them). But her enthusiasm for her work is somehow contagious. And I have placed an order – socks for everyone this Christmas!
I think Lucy Cooke has an amazing job. Or amazing jobs, plural, to be more accurate. Lucy is, “a National Geographic explorer, award-winning TV producer, presenter and best-selling author”, with a Masters in Zoology and a great love for sloths. So much love, in fact, that Lucy has filmed several successful documentaries and television series to give an insight into the wonderful world of the sloth.
Lucy has even founded the Sloth Appreciation Society and a fantastic site called Slothville so that you can stay up to date with sloth-related activities. You can join the Society – your induction is approved with a certificate, authorised by Buttercup (apparently the Queen of Slothville). (Adding it to my CV under, “Professional Associations” as we speak.)
The site has a lot of interesting info and things you can buy, but the highlight is surely the sloth videos. People call Lucy, “the Spielberg of sloth videos”, and it’s easy to see why. So many great options for when you need a dose of cuteness, or you’re looking to procrastinate at work. You might want to start with this adorable video of squeaking baby sloths – orphans in the sloth sanctuaries of Colombia and Costa Rica.
Now I’m off to refine my pitch to keep a sloth (or a whole family of sloths) in the office…
Did you know that there’s a “taxonomy of hugging”? No, me neither. But according to this Wall Street Journal video on hugging in the workplace, there’s an American lawyer who takes employees through what’s ok and what’s not ok in the world of workplace hugging. It’s pretty weird, to be honest.
But I think the key points are: not everyone likes to be hugged; and there is nothing wrong with a good old high 5 with your colleagues. I would also add: don’t be creepy. As general HR guidance, I’d say don’t hug someone at work unless you know them very well and know that they want to be hugged – and even then, don’t linger, or be creepy or handsy. Honestly, I’d actually prefer it if you just gave the other person an affectionate (and gentle) pat on the head instead. As long as the recipient is ok with head pats.
I still remember the time during the GFC when someone complained to me about the removal of the “good” biscuits from the kitchen. (The chocolate and cream-filled biscuits had been replaced by plain biscuits = human rights abuse.) And in a Braveheart-style speech, they said they could take the good biscuits, but they’ll NEVER TAKE OUR FRUIT BOXES. (I think we did, from memory.) And by doing so, we could maybe save some jobs, but more likely just send a strong message that times were tough and we all needed to try harder and do more with less. Then I had someone complain that they were worried about maintaining their three investment properties, so they really needed a pay rise. I remember having to grit my teeth so I didn’t yell, YOU ARE LUCKY TO HAVE A JOB. (Also, thank you for trying to make your problem my problem.)
Speaking of problems, this video is not a new one, but I saw it for the first time earlier this year and loved it. I would like to show it to all workplaces and high schools to get the message out there. Sometimes, the best HR advice I can really give is shut the full cup. (Also around the GFC time, I had a similar conversation with a senior lady who came to discuss her salary review concerns with me – she was significantly overpaid and underperforming, yet somehow convinced herself she was worth a lot more. My advice was, literally: DRY YOUR EYES, PRINCESS. But I delivered it in a super charming way, obvs, and she got the message.)
Consultants tend to get a hard time. But I’m sure it’s the case (at least some of the time) that the problem really starts with the client. If they’re not sure what they want, or they have mistaken the consultants for magicians, or the company’s leaders are basically dumbos, there’s a clear limit to what consultants can achieve. This video nails it, and also makes me incredibly agitated. Mostly because I’ve been in these meetings, and I’ve met these people, and it’s painful…
I’ve seen a lot of CVs during my career in HR. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re really bad, and sometimes they’re completely mystifying. I remember back in the day when we were reviewing applications for a graduate program, some of the kids used abbreviated words – as if they were sending us text messages, instead of trying to get a job at a leading global firm. And then there are the CVs that run for 10 pages – no one’s that impressive, honestly.
Our lovely friend JJ recently told me about a website called enhancv. At first, I thought she had messed up the spelling (because engineer), but then I had a look and realised it’s an actual thing. Apparently it’s the human-centric resume that actually works. It helps you build a CV that looks good, includes relevant info that makes sense, and doesn’t waffle on with the crazy. “HRs love it”, they say, and I think they might be right.
Their blog features CVs for celebrities, which made me laugh. That’s where I found this video of Elmo getting fired – a tragedy that they turned right around by helping Elmo with a CV, so the little fella can get straight back on his feet. Or hands.
I don’t really like talking on the phone. I like to be able to see people and gauge their reactions, rather than just listening to them agreeing or saying whatever it takes to end the call. I also like to make sure people are actually paying attention, and not distracted by a crossword or cat video or Jenga tower.
So it follows that a conference call at work is basically my worst nightmare. I know I’m not alone – with the dial-in requirements that always manage to confuse; the people forgetting to mute; the people forgetting to un-mute; the cross-talk; the awkward silences. It’s basically the worst idea ever. Which is why this video makes me laugh, but also makes my blood pressure rise as I watch it, as it’s spot on.
Even if times are tough, this song can be played to convince yourself (and all others) that EVERYTHING IS AWESOME. You won’t read about it in an HR text book, but I strongly suggest you consider using it as a motivational tool in your workplace.
I have been known to blast it on my laptop in an open plan office as a reminder to everyone that they should pipe down with their grievances and be grateful that they have a job. Because that’s just the kind of HR person I am. (I have tried to find a motivating song that references a global recession, but no luck so far.)