iPad + Barbie + Career = Awesomely Pink

Barbie digs the iPad too!

Watch out Windows, this Barbie is a Mac.
“That is not an iPad carry case.”
-the fake Steve Jobs

Fueling suspicions of a Barbie and Steve Jobs collaboration, Apple remains decidedly quiet on the question, “Is that an iPad carry case in Barbie’s hand and did she get it before April 2?”

Barbie is pictured here with the secretive carry-case almost 2 months before other users were allowed to carry the device. Do super model good looks get early Apple products? Did Heidi Klum get an early release iPad? Are there scores of Russian and Brazilian models walking around NYC right now with the pre-release iPad?

No one knows for sure. When asked what was in her bag, Barbie replied that it was just a hot pink laptop. She proceeded to pull the hot pink plastic laptop out of her bag only to forget that it won’t turn on because it is plastic. She concealed the rest of the contents of the bag….

One thing is for sure, Barbie is now digging the geeks. If she were wearing a black turtleneck the Real Steve Jobs would’ve sued for trademark infringement.

But this is no joke. Barbie is now a Computer Scientist. The Wall Street Journal reports that the popular vote for Barbie’s next career is that of Computer Scientist. And none too soon,

“In 2008, women received only 18% of computer science degrees, down from 37% in 1985, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology.”

As a former little girl with career aspirations, Barbie left a lot to be desired as a kid. Then again, I wasn’t really into dolls. I was a tree house and book kid. But I’m totally buying this one. She’s the new office Mascot once I put some proper heels on her. No one who looks that good should be in shoes that bad. Pink jellies, I don’t think so. But I digress, back to the issue at hand.

What about that iPad? Check out the carry case. That’s no Targus bag, that’s a case built for an Apple Product. It’s pretty, it’s streamlined, it’s silver. That’s mass produced high fashion. You don’t get that with a windows product.What more do you need to know?

Given Computer Scientist Barbie’s launch just after the Jobs iPad announcement . . . I’m betting on a behind the scenes collaboration between Barbie and Jobs.

Kate McKeon writes about basic economics and education at KateMcKeon.com and teaches math for fun. She fully admits that she flirted with the TAs to get her Fortran programs written quickly in college. She is not a computer scientist.

Ask Miss Mentor

It’s here! Miss Mentor is back to answer your questions. After a “brief” vacation (work-over-whlem with her consulting practice) Miss Mentor is available again to help you sort through career and personal finance questions.

How should you ask your boss for a raise?

How should you tell your boyfriend to pick up his socks?

To 401k or not to 401k? What might be better for your situation….

Need some help with cocktail conversation – brush up on topics you know the dinner party will be discussing, look like the belle of the ball!

When you ask a question you can request to remain anonymous, but please consider keeping your name public. We like for you guys to know that it’s real people asking real questions. This ain’t no corporate beast cranking behind the scenes.

Send your questions to

Kate (at) MissMentor (dot) com

If we use your question, you’ll get a copy of our new book (e-book that is) due out June 1.

Get what you want!

Passive? Aggressively Not!

Employees tend to wait for some catalyst before expressing the need for a pay raise. Unfortunately that ends up looking more like passive aggressive behavior (not attractive) than “logical” though the hope is that explaining to the boss you need a pay raise because – choose any: baby is coming, getting married, buying house –  will appear logical.

It’s never logic.

You have needs – social, emotional, physical, mental, spiritual . . .

So trying to fit your need for more pay into the “logic” mode just doesn’t really cut it.

Instead of waiting, why not build the case on actual logic – like the value you provide to the company.

This is far more effective and if done well can’t be turned down. There is however one major potential problem. What if you are not actually generating value for the company . . . well, the following exercise will bring that to light so, don’t go there. Seriously.

First determine the key metrics for your company. How does your company make money? Who are the key customers? What are the most profitable products?

Are you facilitating these relationships? Are you supporting those who do? Are you making it easier for your company to generate more revenue? Are you the one generating more revenue? Get clear about your role and how directly you impact the bottom line. It is always easier to make a case when you directly generate the profit, but even a person in accounting (for non-accounting firms) can make a good case by observing how much contribution she adds to the process.

Let’s take the case of an accounting person at a construction firm – definitely not a “core” competency for a construction firm. So how does an accountant justify higher pay?

As an Accountant she will have access to the billings most like both those to vendors and those from clients. Doing her job of accounting is important and primary, but beyond that, she can extend herself to making suggestions about cost savings, ways to streamline vendor billing, (more importantly) client collections (nothing like getting cash in on time!), automated job site work-flow or wherever her imagination takes her. Any one of these ideas can drive additional profit to the bottom line.

But wait, those activities are already happening – how does that generate more profit?

Using the case of client collections, did you know thtat the faster you collect, the more likely your client is to pay in full? In tough economic climates, giving an incentive for a client to pay your bill first may mean you are the one who gets cash whereas the other folks your client owes get paid next or never. If you are totally on top of client billings you can make sure that your company receives the cash when it is needed, now.

And cash is always needed now.

Collecting quickly also means that even if your client will pay eventually, any short term loans you have on your books to complete the project must be carried as you wait for your client to pay. In other words, every day you wait for your client to pay is an interest payment out of your pocket.

It is also the case that every day you wait for a client to pay the less likely the client is to pay and the less the client will actually pay. And this isn’t just for delinquent clients. That’s true of good clients as well. You want to be the one they think of when they are cutting checks. You as the accountant can be that link.

So gather your data.

How many more clients paid on time because of a billing incentive you initiated? How much more did they pay on average? How much did you save in interest fees on your line of credit at the bank?

Make sense?

It all adds up to your ability to create additional profit dollars for your company.

So don’t wait for a personal event to determine what you want out of the company, build your value proposition from day 1. What are you giving that benefits the company. Then you will make your own market and may be able to get around the stratification that comes at many companies (level 1 accountant, level 2 accountant…), you might even get yourself your own title so you can set your pay independently. Nice!

Work hard!

The Best Kept Secret for Career Planning – The Informational Interview, Part 3

6. What characteristics have you noticed that enable a person in your field to succeed?
7. What kind of education and training is needed for this job?
8. Where do you see this industry going in the future?
9. How do you stay current in your field and “on top of your game”?
10. Is there anyone else you recommend I can talk to in relation to this career/field?

These are by all means just suggestions, so feel free to choose the ones you like and add your own. It is a good idea to ask one or 2 questions to demonstrate you’ve done your research and therefore prove your sincere interest. Asking something related specifically to the field or a related article about the person are a couple ways to do this.

After the Interview

So you asked some great questions, got some invaluable insights, and thanked them for their time. Now what? Send another thank you! They’ve done you a great service, show your appreciation. An e-mail is one way to do this, but according to Darren at www.darrenbarefoot.com, a thank-you card is “extra classy”. That sounds like a lot of brownie points to me. (If you want more great tips on informational interviews, click here.)

Another good idea is to jot down any notes immediately after the interview – especially things that struck out at you. You can take notes during the interview if you like, but as it is quite brief, it’d be better to devote your time building that relationship and getting to know your interviewee and their position.

Self-reflect. It’s not cheesy! Think about what you’ve learned from the interview. After all the aim is educational. Are you still interested in the position? Why or why not? Did the interview dispel any preconceived notions you had of the position? What skills and training do you need to gain in order to make yourself competitive? The list goes on.

Just a few more tips and reminders…

I know I said it at the very beginning, this is NOT a job interview, but please do keep this in mind. Be sincere and honest. At the same time, this still has a potential to become a job interview later. If you are truly skilled at being subtle, you may even be able to do it during the informational interview. Be careful – You can really turn people off if you make them feel deceived.

Send a follow-up of some kind: handwritten note, e-mail, a card. In a job interview, those who get remembered and eventually hired do this. It’s also so helpful when trying to be remembered after an informational interview.

Dress professional. This is not as formal as a job interview, but it is still important to look nice. Business casual should be fine.

An informational interview is a great educational tool in learning more about your career and field of choice. If you are considering a job change or are unemployed, seriously consider an informational interview. Now that you know, try it!

The Best Kept Secret for Career Planning – The Informational Interview, Part 2

Dear Mrs. McGregor,

I recently graduated from the University of Miami, and after my good friend, David Johnson, learned that I was interested in a career in marketing, he suggested I contact you to request a brief informational interview.

While at the University of Miami, I majored in marketing. In addition, I had an internship last summer at Razor Corp, where I assisted media buyers on several high-profile interactive marketing campaigns. I now plan to apply both my education and my work experience to a career in marketing. At your convenience, I was hoping to learn what types of positions you suggest for a recent college graduate, and also to hear your thoughts the future of the industry as a whole.

Thank you very much for your time. If you are available to speak with me, we can talk over the phone, or I can meet you at a location of your choosing. I can be reached at 646 402 5557or by e-mail at mike@gradspot.com.

Appreciatively,

Michael Humphrey

For an example from www.gradspot.com of how to do a phone call, click here. I would also attach your resume because HR will generally keep this on file, and who knows, there’s a chance they can end up contacting you if a position opens. Also, the interview doesn’t have to be face-to-face, but it’ll be a better learning experience versus over the phone.

Questions to Ask

The most important thing here is to prepare. It may not be a job interview, but you are the one asking the questions. Think about what you actually want to know. This is not a time for you to ask about vacation time, 401k, salary, and so forth. You are still representing yourself, and your questions will reflect back on you. It may not be an employment interview now, but it has a strong potential to be one down the line. Prepare, prepare, prepare. It’s so very important. Do your research, know what you are looking for when asking a question, and be yourself and professional. As optimistic and supportive as we all like to be, we also know that there is such a thing as a stupid question.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Why did you choose this field?
  2. How did you get started in it?
  3. What is a typical work day like?
  4. What aspect do you enjoy the most in your job? the least?
  5. How would you describe the company culture?

click here for part 3 on informational interviews

The Best Kept Secret for Career Planning – The Informational Interview, Part 1

A look at informational interviews, how to arrange one, questions to ask, follow-up and other helpful tips.

Never heard of this? You wouldn’t be the only one. Informational interviews provide a wealth of information when it comes to career planning, yet so many people are unaware that it even exists. It’s nothing new, in fact far from it. Richard Bolles, author of “What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career Changers”, first coined the term over 35 years ago. With the downturn in the economy, job hunting is having a revival and the informational interview is a trick in the trade you may not want to overlook.

First things first, what is it? An informational interview is an interview aimed at gathering information about a job or position at a company of your interest. Most people set out to do these before graduation or when they are considering a job or career change. It is NOT an interview for employment. Think of it as a non-committal conversation starter. The idea is to “feel” out a job – What do you like? What don’t you like? – so that you can integrate your thoughts from this into your career or grad school planning. Typically, 15 – 30 minutes is sufficient time. Remember, this is not a sneaky way to try to get a job; the person interviewing you is genuinely doing it to help you out, so be considerate of their time. With an informational interview, it is all about you, and you are the one asking the questions.

Arranging an Informational Interview

Before you begin calling all the people you admire and sending out your e-mails, it’s important to do your research.  Find the people who are path finders and inspirational to you in your career of choice, research them, see what their network is like through social networking sites like LinkedIn Also, look at your own network. Ask friends, colleagues, family members, relatives, neighbors, anyone who may be able to assist you in finding the right candidate for your informational interview.  HR is usually the one to set up an informational interview, but each company is different. Sometimes it may make sense to contact the person directly. It can even be flattering for them, after all, you have singled them out as a person full of valuable information and in a position you may want to aspire to one day.

There are two options: e-mail or phone call. And thankfully to www.gradspot.com, here’s an example of how to do one:


click here for part 2 on informational interviews