Blog Posts by Marci Alboher, Working the New Economy

  • Final post, but still working this new economy

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesWhen I started this blog in April, I knew it had an expiration date. I signed a short-term contract. I referred to myself as a guest blogger on Yahoo! Even the title, "Working the New Economy," suggested that this was a project of limited duration. After all, how long could this "new economy" last?

    Now that it's time to wrap up, it's pretty clear that the new economy has become the new normal. And I can't say that I have figured out exactly how to work it. Unemployment has now topped 10%. Counting those who are underemployed, it's closer to 20%. Mass layoffs are still happening, including a round at BusinessWeek last week where several of my most respected colleagues were shown the door.

    One defining feature of this not-so-new-anymore economy is that we will all need to flexible and nimble. I've worked independently for nearly a decade. And now it seems that my usual mix of contract work, freelance relationships, consulting and other kinds of affiliations has become standard in what

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  • Facebook: Are your friends trusted sources or naggy noisemakers?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesPeople have been worrying for a long time about mixing business and pleasure on Facebook. Much of the conversation centers around how much of their personal lives people want to reveal to colleagues and bosses. But lately I've been interested in the flip side of this. How and how much should people talk about their businesses, their work, or their causes on Facebook or other social networking sites?

    The answer depends on how interesting your work, your business and your causes are to your friends. If what you post is interesting or useful, your friends will view you as a trusted source, someone they turn to for inside information, much like a personal news service. But if it's all self-promotional blather, your friends will vote with their mice by either silencing you (using the handy Facebook "hide" feature), or worse, hitting the "unfriend" button on the bottom left of the page.

    It's one thing to see friends promoting their own interests, but now companies are paying people with

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  • 4 reasons to share your ideas

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesWe are living in an age where the power of crowds is accomplishing big things. Writers, who used to guard their ideas now hone their thinking through blogs, build and audience, and then publish their books for a group of expectant readers. Every day experts spend their free time contributing to Wikipedia. And lately I've noticed a lot of folks encouraging would-be entrepreneurs to share their ideas.

    Of course, there are times to be guarded. If you've got a concept or invention which might be patentable, then the only person you probably want to talk to is a lawyer. There are also times you want to be first to market a product or service (you don't see Coke running to Pepsi about its latest product before it hits the shelves). But in many situations, sharing ideas with people you trust and respect is a good idea and here's why:

    1. Original ideas are hard to protect. Most businesses don't qualify for any legal protection and you really have to come up with a novel way of doing

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  • How to critique someone's writing

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesAs a person who makes my living with words, I'm regularly asked to read people's writing and give feedback. A business plan. A resume. Website copy. A grad school application essay. A profile for an online dating site.

    I usually say some variation of yes to the request. But giving feedback is complex. Sometimes the person really wants me re-write the piece, not just give feedback, which makes me feel uncomfortable. People are also vulnerable when they ask for feedback. So I have learned to tread the line between honesty and brutality.

    Writers aren't the only ones who are asked to give this kind of feedback. Everyone gets to play editor from time to time. As friends look for jobs, they need help with resumes and cover letters; children ask for help with essays and papers; bosses and colleagues need to know if a speech or report is up to snuff.

    When I'm asked to give feedback, I try to follow the following few ground rules. These guidelines have helped me to be honest yet mindful of

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  • In "Ten9Eight," urban kids choose business, not drugs

    Anne Montague shows off her dance moves. Photo by Richard Schultz.Anne Montague shows off her dance moves. Photo by Richard Schultz.Macalee Harlis, a high school football player from Fort Lauderdale, had one of those aha moments while playing football and looking at his coach's transition lenses. He thought about how difficult both sun glare and stadium lights can be for players on the field. That's when he came up with the idea for MAC Shields, football helmet shields that function like transition lenses. Anne Montague runs a dance school in Baltimore aimed at keeping urban kids off the streets. Amanda Loyala manufactures and sells vegetarian, eco-friendly dog treats that she whips up in her kitchen in New York City. She was inspired to create the treats after her dog died from cancer and she learned that red meat has been linked to cancer in dogs.

    These entrepreneurs are trying to solve big problems with their businesses. And they are part of a bigger effort to keep urban kids from dropping out of school. They all started their businesses through the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), a program that

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  • How to deal with post-conference overload

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    Last week I returned from a conference, which put me into my usual state of post-conference overload. My bag was busting with business cards; the conference agenda and my notebook were filled with notes I must have thought important at the time I scribbled them; and a tsunami of to-dos had landed on my desk and in my inbox. I spent my first day back trying to process what I learned at the conference while muddling through the rest of my work. I started thinking about what I'd tell myself if I wanted to make the most out of my conference experience. Here's what I came up with:

    1. Try to have a light schedule on your first day back. {This is really something you need to do before the conference to make your life easier afterwards. Because I violated this rule, I lost nearly a full Saturday playing catch up.} If you can keep at least the morning blocked off for conference follow-up, you'll have the best chance of doing the other things on this list. The more time that passes after the

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  • The secret to good introductions

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesAs a congenital connector, I make introductions all the time. Usually I have good results. I've had an uncountable number of successful career matches and even ignited a few romances (one of which resulted in a strong marriage.)

    But sometimes I mess up and when I do, it usually boils down to one thing: I made an introduction where I thought two people would want to meet, or accepted a request from someone to get an introduction to someone else, but in the end both people weren't interested in the introduction.

    Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist who writes the excellent blog A VC, recently wrote a post that distills everything you need to know about introductions into one simple rule: "When introducing two people who don't know each other, ask each of them to opt-in to the introduction before making it." He calls it the "Double Opt-In."

    The double opt-in is easy when you're dealing with peers. But when you're dealing with people who want to get to big shots like Wilson, the most

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  • Choosing good work instead of good exits from work

    We're used to a familiar path of life. You get educated. You work. And by the time you enter mid-life you probably juggle a few things. You still work. Maybe you have a family. You take care of your aging parents. At some point, you retire. And then what? Years ago, when retirement was pegged at 65, retirement consisted of a decade or so of idle recreation. But now if you retired at 65, your retirement years might last another twenty-five years.

    But what if that were all flipped on its head? What if, instead, you studied throughout your life and only settled into your true career somewhere around midlife? And what if it was considered normal to work into your 80s instead of into your 60s?

    Laura L. Carstensen, a Stanford professor and the author of A Long Bright Future offered these provocations during a panel at a conference last weekend in Palo Alto celebrating the Purpose Prize awards, cash prizes totaling $750,000 to social innovators over the age of 60. The awards are given by

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  • How to cope with a bad boss

    To mangle Tolstoy, good bosses are all alike. They are good mentors; they care about your happiness and advancement; their interests seem aligned with your own.

    Bad bosses, on the other hand, come in many flavors. And a new book, "Working for You Isn't Working for Me," by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster, provides a field guide to the many species of bad boss. There's the "checked out" boss (can these really survive in this kind of job market?), the "rule changer" (who tells you to take a lunch break then seems surprised you're not at your desk), the "underminer" (who asks you for help and then makes it impossible for you to assist), the "chronic critic" (needs no explanation), and a slew of others. For each bad behavior, the authors give sample scenarios to help you recognize your situation, and then walks you through a process to take back power and correct it.

    This is is a book that should sit next to all your other reference bibles so that you can consult it as difficult

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  • How to work a conference, even before it starts

    You know the feeling. You sign up for a conference, scan the list of panels and keynotes trying to find out which you'll go to, which you'll snooze through, and when you'll escape for some alone time or a workout.

    But how often do you have a strategy for meeting the few people you are really hoping to meet? You know, the ones who have a crowd of people surrounding them and then zip off for a pre-arranged coffee date with some other person who looks important.

    Basically, how do you become the kind of person who has those pre-arranged coffee dates (or at least a good shot at some spontaneous ones) with the interesting people at conferences.

    Here's a few ideas:

    Spend some time online. Visit the conference's website and start studying the speaker list. If the conference is using a social networking tool like Crowdvine to encourage people to meet one another, take the time to fill out your profile and see who else is attending. Find out the conference's Twitter hashtag and start checking

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