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Greetings from Sydney

Hello! I’m 17 hours off from my norm, so all apologies for not keeping to a normal blog schedule this week. Also, greetings from the future. For the record, it’s sunny here.

We spent the first few days in a town about 70mi NW of Melbourne, Ballarat. It’s an old gold mining town–apparently Americans made passage to Ballarat during its gold rush period; the botanical garden contains sequoias brought over by the miners from California.

I had the opportunity to hang out with a few kangaroos

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As well as a Koala or two

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After the wedding we were here to attend, we flew to Sydney.

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Sydney is a cityof approximately 4.5 Million. Easily one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited thanks to it’s setting on this extraordinary harbor just inland from the ocean. It has tons of beautiful vistas, water and beach access everywhere, world-class coffee, food, drink, culture, art, and very nice people.

It’s early-mid Spring here, and the weather is more than a bit unpredictable. One day it was like this:

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Cold and 60+mph winds that closed the exhibit we were hoping to see, Sculpture by the Sea at Bondi Beach

The next day it was like this:

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Sunny, high 70’s, a light breeze at Manly Surf Beach.

Tomorrow we head to the Northernmost point in Australia to the Daintree rainforest. I am excited for that, but also look forward to what Sydney has in store for us today.

A few observations on Australian employment. The current unemployment rate nationally is 5.6%. That seems like a strong number–but similar to the US, their workforce participation statistics are troubling. The percentage of Australians participating in the workforce fell to the lowest number since 2006 in October. Not great.

This is an expensive country to visit. A typical lunch out for two is rarely less than $50. A latte and a muffin is $12. The AUS national minimum wage is $16.37/hour, and everyone has health benefits. You’d think the high cost of eating/drinking out would deter people, but it hasn’t seemed the case. In doing a little benchmarking, it seems that other salaries are fairly comparable with Seattle–but cost of housing (in Sydney at least) is a fair bit higher. Makes me wonder how people afford to live here.

Hope this finds you all well. I’ll update again likely next week as we’ll be hiking in the rainforest on Saturday (your Friday).

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Greetings from Austalia!

I’m writing this from the Adelaide airport, where we are connecting to Melbourne. 23 hours of flight time behind us now, passing through Vancouver BC and Hong Kong en route.

Are you reading–and learning from–the blog links I posted Monday? Hope so. I’ll try to work in some interesting content while I’m gone, but this is a vacation so who knows what the coming weeks will bring.

We’ll do our best to avoid the parts of the Blue Mountains that have been on fire in the past week or so, and also all of the things that try to kill you. Have a great rest of the week!

Embarking on an adventure & your reading list

Happy Monday, everyone.

As i write this, I’m sitting at the airport getting ready to board one of many planes on which I’ll spend the better part of the next two days traveling.

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Am I excited about that? Not really. I don’t particularly enjoy flying. The state of domestic passenger airline travel today is just utter misery from the moment you arrive at the airport to the moment your luggage is (or is not) disgorged from luggage claim at your destination. Airports are filled with poorly paid, marginally trained, overworked, stressed out employees. TSA security checkpoints are a minefield of potential time sinks (on one of my recent flights, the woman directly ahead of me spent 10 minutes arguing with the TSA screener about why she wasn’t allowed to bring quart-size containers full of soup through security). Flights are almost always overbooked. Everyone rushes to board, trying to claim as much of the precious overhead bin space as they can. Seat space has been reduced to the point that, on a 9.5hr international flight last year, I dropped my Chapstick on the floor–and no matter how I attempted to contort myself I could not pick it up. (Clearly I need to start taking yoga.)

A majority of this itinerary is on a carrier that is ranked #6 in the world. I’m hoping that means it won’t be quite as much of a flying cattle car as all domestic US carriers have become.

There’s still the issue of what to do with all of that time, though. I’ve never been able to sleep on planes, no matter how long the flight, for more than about an hour. One of our legs is 14 hours, so here’s hoping I can get more than an hour of shuteye. The iPad was kept busy this past weekend downloading a couple of TV series I’ve not yet watched and books I’ve been meaning to read.

Speaking of reading, I told you that I’d be giving some alternate reading during my sabbatical. Here it is:

  • The Cynical Girl: Laurie Ruettimann is an extremely smart, articulate, non-PC former HR professional who rose very quickly through the ranks of corporate HR leadership–and then realized that she had to get the hell out. She started blogging many years ago as Punk Rock HR, then retired that brand for her current blog. She’s funny, political, unafraid to be controversial, but always has an extraordinarily big heart and a ton of empathy. Always my first blog read.
  • The Tim Sackett Project: Tim is a smart, funny guy who also tends to be very right on about HR a great deal of the time.
  • China Gorman: China isn’t as regular a blogger as Tim or Laurie, but she presents very interesting data-driven blog posts. Search through the archives; I guarantee you will learn something.
  • LinkedIn Blog: Some of this is a thinly veiled sales pitch for LinkedIn products. But LinkedIn has a phenomenal data warehouse thanks to their 238,000,000+ worldwide members. The analytics they pull from this data can be very eye opening. Check out the 100 most in demand employers of 2013, for instance.
  • WANTED Analytics: WANTED is a company that compiles a lot of data sources to provide market competition insight to companies. Their blog can provide some very interesting analytics to both recruiters and job seekers alike.
  • ERE.netWant to learn about recruiting? Or learn how recruiters and sourcers work? ERE posts new articles each day by some of the best minds in the recruiting and sourcing community.

That should be enough to start you off. There might be a quiz later, so you best get to reading.

TGIF! And see you soon…

Hello and Happy Friday!

My posts will be not as regular for the coming couple of weeks. I’m going to be out of pocket for a good deal of that time exploring new places and meeting some new people (as well as some people I haven’t seen in a very long time).

Ahead of our impending departure, I managed to achieve this at the end of yesterday:

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For the first time in nearly three years, I got my email inbox down to zero. I only keep items that require follow-up or near-term/immediate action in there, but that number almost never drops below 20 and is usually a fair bit higher. I couldn’t quite believe it myself; for a moment I thought I’d broken Outlook.

This is a fleeting victory. I didn’t win the Internet. (I already have 2 emails in there that require action tomorrow morning.) But for a moment, it sure felt like I had won. I’m sure most (if not all) of you can appreciate this.

Isn’t it sad how one of the biggest jobs we have is managing all of the crap that comes into our various inboxes each day? It’s like shoveling a big pile of sand with a kiddie shovel. There is a big pipe constantly disgorging more sand into the Inbox pile from a seemingly never-ending supply. Some of the sand requires much more complex handling, taking a much greater amount of time and energy to move. And at the end of the day? It pretty much looks like the same pile of sand you started with.

Why have we allowed technology to create a cultural norm where we are expected to be ubiquitously available? I’ve had people saying, “. . .but you’ll be on email?” or “. . .you’ll have phone service?” as if it’s taken for granted I will. My answer: “I will try to check email occasionally, but not daily. And no, I don’t plan to have phone service.” These answers have caused either confusion and/or concern. It’s vacation, people. The idea is to unplug for a bit–to be present somewhere new, to fully experience it. And even better, to share it with the people that matter most to you.

I plan to do this in the coming weeks. I’ll give you some reading assignments on Monday–they should keep you busy for awhile.

Have a great weekend! More Monday.

8 Ways the government shutdown impacts jobs, job seekers, and the economy

This is day 16 of the government shutdown. Unfathomably, our leaders have failed to effectively govern for more than half a month–and now we are one day away from default.

Nobody is entirely sure what the implications are of us defaulting on our debt–but everyone is in agreement that it won’t be pretty.

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But how else is the government shutdown impacting jobs, job seekers, and workers?

  1. The IRS isn’t issuing replacement W-2’s. If you need to provide proof of employment for a prior employer as part of being hired for a new job, said prior employer isn’t verifying or is no longer in business, and you’ve lost that old W-2? You may be out of luck. This scenario is very common–and could result in an employer not hiring someone, at least until the shutdown ends..
  2. The DOL isn’t allowing employers to file labor certifications. This means that if you have an employee that does not have permanent US work authorization, you have hit a roadblock. Further, companies that employ law firms to facilitate labor certification recruitments may have spent $10-15k per employee on this process–money that may be evaporating as there is a limited window of time to complete the labor certification process.
  3. Low-wage contracted government workers aren’t receiving paychecks. Many people who work for the government may do so through a contractor (ex: mailroom clerks). While Congress has pledged to provide back pay for full time government employees, there is no such guarantee for some contracted employees–and they are often the people living paycheck to paycheck.
  4. Government-funded job training programs for food stamp recipients may be cut. These programs, funded by the USDA and called SNAP E&T, are not receiving funding during the shutdown. It is up to the states to determine whether they have sufficient budget available to continue the programs. Several states require unemployed people receiving food stamps to be actively looking for work, in many cases requiring them to be enrolled in a SNAP E&T program. If these programs run out of money, it’s possible that could lose their food stamp money.
  5. Factory workers are at greater risk. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has halted regular safety inspections of factory work environments.
  6. The E-Verify program is offline. More than 400,000 U.S. employers use E-Verify each week to verify employment eligibility of prospective new hires. E-Verify being offline may cause certain new hires to be in a limbo status until the system resumes operation.
  7. Closing national parks has a massive cascade impact on local tourism-based businesses. Major national parks often are the major economic driver for the small towns that surround them. Many of those towns (and the workers who live there) are being devastated; projected losses nationwide estimated at $76 Million a day.
  8. The Small Business Administration will not be issuing the following types of loans or providing the following services to current/prospective small businesses seeking to create or expand employment:

• 7(a) Loan Guarantees
• 504 Certified Development Loans
• Microloan
• Surety Bond Guarantees
• Procurement Assistance Program
• Small Business Procurement Set-Aside
• 8(a) Business Development
• 7(i) Technical Assistance HUBZone
• Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting
• Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Procurement
• Size Standards
• Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
• Women’s Business Centers (WBC)
• SCORE
• Veteran’s Business Development
• Small Business Investment Companies (SBIC)
• Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
• Small Business Technology Transfer Program
• International Trade
• Federal and State Technology Partnership (FAST) Program
• PRIME Program
• Regional Investment Clusters
• Native American Outreach
• BusinessUSA
• Ombudsman Program
• Secondary Market Guarantee
• Emerging Leaders
• Inspector General (excluding disaster-funded and investigatory activities) Advocacy
• Program Management and Administration

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