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September 20, 1993|Nanc Rivera Brooks

What would you do to get a job? Recession-bred desperation apparently is pushing some job hunters to new lows.

"We've heard too many horror stories to doubt that the lingering recession has soured everybody's disposition and wrecked their ethics," Marilyn Moats Kennedy wrote in "Career Strategist," her monthly newsletter for career planning.

Among them:

* Offering to pay for information. High on the list is "dirt" on a prospective boss.

* Paying bribes for good references.

* Altering W-2 forms to inflate past salaries. (The Internal Revenue Service considers this a big no-no.)

Not only are such unethical tactics less than fair to other job candidates, they are a good indicator of future behavior on the job.

"Unethical people don't suddenly get religion at the office door," Kennedy wrote in the July issue of the newsletter, which she publishes out of Wilmette, Ill. "Once hired, they display the same ruthlessness" toward competitors in the workplace, said Kennedy, who is also a career counselor.


With telephones ringing from boardrooms to bathrooms, it should be no suprise that the average executive spends almost as much time on "hold" as on vacation.

Executives polled--by phone, of course--reported that they waste an average of 15 minutes a day waiting on hold, or nearly two weeks a year in "the telephone twilight zone," according to a report developed by Officeteam, a Menlo Park employment agency that specializes in highly skilled temporary workers, including professionals. A total of 150 executives from large companies were surveyed.

"While time on hold may be an inevitable part of doing business, it consumes the same amount of time that the average American worker receives for vacation each year," said Andrew G. Denka, executive director of Officeteam, a division of Robert Half International.

Denka suggested that managers use that time to handle routine tasks, organize files and clear their desks. They should also do their part by not being too quick to deploy the hold button themselves.

No word on how much holding went on during the poll.


Stop whining.

That's the unorthodox advice to job hunters from Tustin-based career counselors Charlene Walker and Sandra Young, owners of Womens Focus/Career Focus. More than 3 million white-collar workers were put out of work in the early 1990s. So get over it, Walker said.

"We're seeing a growing number of people come into our offices who have become permanent victims of the recession," she said. While it is natural and therapeutic to grieve for a lost job, it becomes unhealthy if the person continues to dwell on it, she said.

To help clients send themselves positive messages--on the theory that these lead to positive job results--Walker and Young developed a "No Whining" button that has become a mini industry in itself. The two entrepreneurs get calls requesting the buttons--which are sold at cost plus shipping--nearly every day from all over the nation.

"It treats the issue of people feeling sorry for themselves and it does it with a sense of humor," Walker said. But the button "is just the starting-off point, and then we take it into action."

The two women say an upbeat attitude really works, and is needed now more than ever as the economy gets ready for a turn for the better.

"Professionals should be positioning themselves now for the economic recovery by assessing their strengths, exploring career opportunities, networking and developing a strong marketing campaign," Walker said. "If they wait until the economy improves before starting a career change, they'll be competing with thousands of other applicants who've put their careers on hold."

Walker added: "Gloom and doom is out. Moving forward is in. It's time for America to get back to work."

And if the job search doesn't pay off, there's always the button business.


Corporate ranks continue to shrivel under euphemisms such as "restructuring" and "downsizing." And while some companies are trying to be more sophisticated with the shrinkage, many still slash their work force by a simple head count or percentage, the Conference Board reports.

And many companies, particularly large ones, are not happy with the result, according to the report, titled "HR Executive Review--Downsizing."

Among companies with more than 10,000 employees, 64% found that the downsizing hurt the morale of the remaining employees. Another 46% said that retirees' medical costs rose and 30% said overtime increased. And 22% said the wrong people were eliminated.

Some executives said they like the head-count approach because it is quick, visible and easy to measure. But they acknowledged that longer-term problems from the loss of valuable employees and trouble getting work done resulted in some cases.

"Corporate downsizing has proven to be a difficult and unpredictable phenomenon," said Helen Axel, senior research fellow at the Conference Board and the author of the report.


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