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Travel Tips for the New Business Grad June 30, 2006

Posted by Amanda in The Job Maze.
2 comments

Travel is a part of business life these days and I’ve certainly schleped my stuff to the airport and back a few times. Here are some little gems of wisdom that I’ve found in my travels.

Pack clothes that do not wrinkle. Polyester blends, wool blends, microfibers, silk, and rayon are things to look for. Avoid 100% cotton or linen! Bring one suit and several pieces to change its look. Men can wear the same suit with varying color shirts and ties. Ladies can create several different outfits from a three piece suit and a few blouses to rotate underneath. Mix and Match to save on laundry.

Ladies, if you’re wearing pantyhose, include a small bottle of clear nail polish in your travel kit. It really is the best thing for runs. If you pop a button, most hotels have a small sewing kit. Tide to go pens work well if you’re prone to stains.

Carry on your important documents, toiletries, medications, and one change of clothes in case your luggage gets lost. Also, Keep a spare credit card somewhere safe and other than your wallet. You do not want to be stranded. I recommend that you have a card just for emergencies.

When flying never check your laptop with your luggage, even if you don’t plan on using it during flight. I’ve seen baggage handlers toss luggage from the cart to the conveyer belt. I wouldn’t trust my laptop to withstand it, and I wouldn’t recommend you try it either.

Get sturdy hard-sided luggage, with reinforced sides. Pay special attention to wheels and handles to make sure they are sturdy and well built. Also, look for luggage that is weather proof. You never know what could happen!

Take your own Ethernet cable with you. If a hotel has internet, it usually has a cable, but it could be broken or missing thanks to the last guest. Also, don’t rely on your hotel having free internet. I always stick a short one into my laptop bag.

Carry a lot of business cards and keep them somewhere accessible. You can meet a lot of people on airplanes, plus you never know if you’ll be meeting new business contacts.
Buy a small travel alarm, or you can use your cell phone. Most hotels have wakeup calls, and I use them, but you don’t want to rely on them. Always have a backup!

I hope these tips will help make your travels easier! If you have any to add, feel free to post a comment.

Sources for some of the tips: Sideroad Silicon.com

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Tips for the Graduate June 29, 2006

Posted by Amanda in The Job Maze.
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My friend Deirdre over at Peon 4 Life wrote a great post about what college graduates should expect when they’re trying to get their first job. I have several friends who’ve struggled with these realizations.

So, Mike and David there are a few here just for you!

–Obtain an internship–Either during your college years or right after graduation. Usually this will land you a job. It happened to most of my friends. If they didn’t get a job from the company they interned for, they got a good recommendation and a job somewhere else because of the experience they gained. This is crucial, this will show you have more than the average graduate that just went through college hoping to get a job after the party years are over.

–When you have your interview, send them a thank you note afterwords.– I don’t think a lot of people do this in general. This will help them remember you and notice you care about this position. Maybe even send them a little box of candy. A little bribe never hurt. It shows you have the cajones to go after what you want.

–Practice your interview–Practice what you are going to say. You don’t want to just sit there and appear uninterested or dumbfounded. Ask questions, talk conversationally, and talk about the business/field itself. Know about the place you are interviewing. Just practice on the way to the interview. Appear relaxed on the outside even if you are nervous on the inside. Never let them see you sweat.

–Don’t get discouraged–You will go on tons of interviews and probably won’t hear back from most of them. If you go on 20, you’ll be lucky to hear back from at least 5. And be lucky if they call you back for a 2nd interview. It’s a rough business and you aren’t the only one looking for their first career.

There are a few things that I would add to this post.

– Get a Head Start – Don’t wait till the end of the semester to start working on finding a job. The old adage, Early Bird Gets the worm applies here!

– Print your resume on good paper – No cheap stuff here. Although some may think it makes little difference what type of paper your resume is on, first impressions really count. If your resume is printed on cheap off-white paper, they may think you are desperate or just don’t care. A nice crisp resume with a simple elegant design will seperate your resume from the rest of your class.

– Pay attention to the details. The resume idea kinda falls under this one. The little things, like clipping your fingernails and polishing your shoes, may seem insignificant, but they add up to make a big impact on your overall impression.

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Vroom Vroom June 29, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Clear Tracks.
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This has been on my list of things to write about for a while now… John Moore over at Brand Autopsy wrote about how he thought Gas Station TV was a horrible idea.  I disagree.  I’m often bored when I’m waiting for that $40 dollar tank of gas to fill up, and I would welcome something of the sort.

That’s a picture of the latest brilliant marketing idea – showing television commercials to people pumping gas. Gas Station TV has been testing this marketing idea in Dallas and is expanding the test to more markets with an eye towards having 1,000 gas stations in 21 states by next year. Airing on GSTV will be 15-second commercials as well as news/entertainment content from the ABC television network.

 If chosen correctly, I think marketing on Gas Station TV could work.  News and weather would be the two things I would want to see.  Advertisements could be for items that are in the gas station, and should be short (no one really likes advertisement, but if they’re paying for the tv).  What do you think?

Jennifer Koretsky over at the ADD Business Owner had some great ideas in her comment.

I think some of you may have it all wrong. What if these Televisions started showing five minute preview clips your favorite ABC show. These could be exclusive clips that can only be viewed at gas stations as you pump gas.

I think Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Grey Anatomy fans might be lined up to view the exclusive clips. My girlfriend can not stop talking about Dr. Mc Dreamy…I might as well give her an excuse to pump her own gas. Somewhat kidding…

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Here Fishie Fishie! June 28, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Clear Tracks.
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There are very few commercials today which I would classify as being innovative and creative, but this is one of them.

And I’m not sure what this video is suppose to be, other than a really cool product demo. File it under Innovation! I can think of a few ways it could be used just at the office where I’m working.

Sorry for the formatting issues I had earlier. This was my first youtube wordpress post 😉

Disappointment June 28, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Mouse Clicks, New Squeaks.
1 comment so far

I was very disappointed with Staffmarket.com recently. Someone from the website (I assume it was someone from the website since it was an advertisement) posted a comment on my first post about PEO’s. Since it was caught by my spam blocker, I approved the comment, thinking what the harm, their service wasn’t that bad. But then, I was given the assignment to find all the PEO’s that were based in specific cities. Not every PEO is a member of NAPEO, probably due to the cost, in some part, so I began looking at other sites.

At Staffmarket, in order to get PEO’s that are actually BASED in a specific city, you have to sort through a humongous list of PEO’s that say they serve the area. So if you’re looking for a local PEO, good luck! I tried contacting Staffmarket, to see if they could help save me hours of work. Seems like a simple task, no? The descriptions already say where the home base of the PEO is, and Staffmarket should have a database of this simple information. I started with the email address they posted the comment/advertisement with. No answer from them for days. Then, I emailed the same message to their main info email. After several back and forth emails with Jim, I still did not get the information I needed.

I managed to overlook a horrible website design, mountains of hard to digest text, and abysmal search capabilities, but horrible service is something else all together!! The sad part is, I haven’t found anywhere that’s any better. Other PEO searches have a better website setup and search capabilities, but just don’t have the listings.

On the other hand is NAPEO. I recently posted a comment about how little NAPEO members are getting for their buck. I also emailed this comment to Edie at NAPEO. He was prompt in responding to my concerns and made sure to forward my email to the membership director.

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Brawny Man! June 27, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Clear Tracks.
2 comments

There has been a lot of talk about viral marketing lately. Here’s one business that I think is doing it right, Brawny! It’s an unusual concept, but they’ve created a show where the Brawny Man teaches 8 men how to be men, and good husbands. What I like about the show is that they offer all the options an internet savvy person could want. You can add it to your rss feed, you can have them email you updates, high and low bandwidth viewing, and even send to a friend.

http://www.brawnyacademy.com

There are a few things that I would add though. Perhaps a blog, posted by the brawny man, and a place for watchers to converse.

Here’s some other fun things they have on their http://www.brawnyman.com website.

Brawny Man Fun Facts

He’s not over the hill yet: the Brawny Man™ turns the big 3-0 October 2, 2004.
He’s still a hit with the ladies: in 2002, more than 30,000 women logged on to http://www.brawnyman.com to create a virtual Brawny Man. That same year more than 4,000 women nominated someone they thought to be a real-life Brawny Man in the brand’s “Do You Know a Brawny Man?”™ contest.
He owns more than one shirt: While most people associate the Brawny man with his red plaid shirt, he has, in fact, worn six different shirts ranging from purple plaid to blue denim.
He knows what looks good on him: Okay, he’s worn different shirts, but in the end he went back to the tried and true red plaid shirt.
He never had an ax to grind: This lumberjack may have looked like he was carrying an ax in the 1970s but, in fact, he carried a peavey, a wooden lever used by lumbermen to handle logs.
He’s had hair issues: The original Brawny Man underwent two makeunders during his nearly thirty year tenure. The first, in 1984, was a slight haircut; the second was a side part in 1991.
He’s a fan of NASCAR: Involvement of the Brawny Man with the sport dates back to 2001 when the brand first sponsored a car. Since then, the Brawny Man has been prominently featured on car #45.
He doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight: In nearly thirty years of service the Brawny Man has happily stepped aside twice, allowing other deserving men to appear on the packaging. The first was NASCAR superstar Richard Petty who appeared on the “Petty Pack,” a commemorative pack of paper towels in 2002.

The second was Mario Cantacessi, a Los Angeles County firefighter who won the “Do You Know a Brawny Man?” contest and appeared on the packaging in 2003.
He’s as strong as he is sensitive: 40 percent of women who created their “virtual Brawny Man” online in 2002 say their ideal Brawny Man spends his free time helping around the house.

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The Benefits of PEO’s June 22, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Business Tails.
2 comments

For those of you who are interested in Professional Employer Organizations (PEO’s) and would like some more information about what they actually do and what they can help you with, I recommend a presentation from Resource Mangement Inc, a PEO out of Salt Lake City. Although it does have a small blurb promoting RMInc, which is to be expected, it cover all of the main benefits of PEO’s.

  • Freeing up time and resources to focus on your core competencies
  • Reduce Risk and Liability
  • Better Benefits
  • Advice when you need it

http://www.rminc.com/marketing_presentation.html

They also have some pretty funny radio spots you can listen to.

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Better Websites June 21, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Business Tails.
2 comments

I’ve found another great resource to add to my e-commerce file:

Five Steps for Building a Better Website I consider these more of things to keep in mind instead of actually steps to build a website, but it’s good advice all the same. If you’re a tech person, you may also check out the rest of this blog as well. Building A Better Website link

My favorite tip is #5

5. Own It

As you have seen, there is a great deal that goes into the development of a successful website. While there are proven steps and methods that can guarantee your success, someone has to own the responsibility of making it happen.

Whether you are a one man/woman show or you have a team at your disposal, a desire for consistent improvement is the most important element of this equation. Sadly, there are no shortcuts to success on the web. Like any other venture, it takes dedication, passion and vision.

If you outsource a company for the development of your website and they give you the best possible solution, just remember that in the end you have to “own it” for the long term to ensure continued success. While this process is not profound or innovative, it does work. Follow these simple steps and you are on your way to a successful web project.

Too many businesses have websites that they do not keep updated and do not keep involved in.
I’ve also added Jim to the blog roll. Welcome Jim 😉

Microsoft Small Business +: Plus what? June 19, 2006

Posted by Amanda in Mouse Clicks.
3 comments

Plus a lot of yawns. It sounds like a good deal at first. Microsoft Small Business + offers free training and video interviews, along with support for your Microsoft software. FREE! I, and I’d assume the majority if not all of small business owners like this word. Free is good!

Ok, so you have to have a Microsoft Passport. Not a problem, almost anything requires a signup these days. So here we go. I’m ready to watch the videos from the Small Business Summit. What do you mean I have to watch them on the 3inch by 3inch screen? Ok, so I have to wait for it to buffer. I can do some laundry. Alright, video’s ready. Once I get past the intro I get to watch a guy who’s about as interesting as watching paint dry. Some of the people, I wonder why they chose. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t great at their job, it just means that they aren’t good public speakers.

Ok, perhaps it’s just this one interview. Well, they have some great topics in here. I mean, I always wanted to know everything there is to know about Microsoft Update. And while some of these may be relevant if you’re looking into purchasing the product, for the majority of us, why would we WANT to watch a sales pitch, when we’re not interested in the product?

So, I’m tired of the product plugs and decide to check out their individualized training. Oh, wait, I have to use internet explorer. Nothing else will work with it. (I have both Safari and Firefox on my Mac). Alright, fine, I switched to a PC and was ready to get my first training. I was impressed by the tutorial which told me I would see text, animations, videos, interactive learning games and have exercises to complete. It sounded pretty cool, but when I loaded up my first lesson, almost the entire thing was just text for me to read. The one little part of “interactivity” they had was a business scenario recording, set to an animation. So as I listen to Bob tell Jack that he needs to keep a budget, I got to watch Jack’s face change from Happy Jack to Sad Jack to Thoughtful Jack. (These are not the name of the characters they used, but I think you can get my meaning)

What could’ve been a great promotion tool for Microsoft comes off as too much of a promotion for what the Small Business owner is getting. So as far as Microsoft Small Business plus, I left the site with the strong opinion, “You get what you paid for”
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To Vista or not to Vista June 16, 2006

Posted by Amanda in A Better Mouse Trap.
4 comments

Thanks to Davie Boy 😉 who wrote this review. I apologize to my readers for the wordiness of it, although I did try to chop it down a little bit. I also apologize for the technical advancement it may require to read this.

“Being a Windows program developer, I need to keep on top of changes in Windows. Windows Vista (Longhorn), being the next generation of Windows after its 5-year old Windows XP ancestor, is one of those changes. So when Microsoft released a public beta of Windows Vista Ultimate (the version with EVERYTHING in it), I jumped at the opportunity to take it for a spin.

After downloading the 3.2GB image, it was easy to burn to a DVD. From there, I started the installation, which I must say appears to me to be the most improved part of the new Windows. The XP installation would copy files, then ask a few questions, then install things, then ask more questions, and continue asking questions at random times, which makes doing other things during the hour long install a little difficult. With Vista, you answer a few questions at the beginning, it copies files, extracts and installs them, all with a nice progress bar that shows you where your input is needed at the beginning and when it will continue by itself. And of course, the nice graphical install makes it easier than ever to install.

Once installed, it guides you through doing a few more things like creating an Administrator account. I find it interesting how Microsoft is so worried about security, that yet they don’t force users to create a non-administrator account during installation. Creating a non-administrator account increases the likeliness that the user will use the non-admin account and be more secure. Many Linux distributions have been doing this for years.

Moving onto the Start menu, they appeared to try a new technique to make it easier to use (remember trying to keep a folder open in the start menu while moving your mouse to something inside it?). When you click on All Programs, you get a scrolling list of programs and program folders, which is easier to navigate through. But considering that it uses only a portion of the screen, it seems like it’s a bit smashed into the corner, when it could spread out and show more programs at once. Maybe I’m too used to not having to scroll to get to programs on the Start menu.

To the right of the list of programs on the Start menu is other shortcuts and buttons, such as Documents, Pictures, Search, Control Panel, and the various log off/shutdown options. At the bottom is a button that appears to be shutdown, but is really standby. This is a bit annoying, and can’t be changed. The more commonly used Shutdown and Restart are more difficult to get to.

One thing I was really looking forward to trying was the more visible and useful features, such as live taskbar previews and program previews when pressing ALT+Tab to switch programs. However, my graphics card with 64MB of video memory is either too old or unsupported, so these features are automatically disabled, with no way to enable them. The media center looks nice and relatively easy to use (it’d be easier if I could get my remote to work), but since my TV tuner apparently isn’t supported on Vista (at least yet), I wasn’t able to watch TV with it.

I’ve had a few hard drive crashes in the past, so for the past several years, I’ve been making backups of all my important data every week onto CD. Currently I do this with the Windows Backup in XP, and it allows me to select individual folders that I want to back up. This is nice since I have all of my data isolated on a separate hard drive, so everything on there is my data and not part of the system. I had heard Vista had improved backup capabilities, so I had to try that out. What I found was a one size fits all program for backing up data. The first screen presents the option of where to make the backup, either to a local drive (other than the Windows drive), a CD/DVD, or a network drive. This part seems nice. However, there’s no option of where to back up files from, just 6 check boxes on what file types to back up. This scares me, as being a programmer, I have odd file types that need backing up. I was amazed when it managed to find and backup my test .cgi and .pl files, even those I put in a separate folder in C:\MyData, not in the usual Documents.

But why is my backup over 200MB, when all I created was a few little text files totaling less than 1MB? It seems to have backed up random things, of course from everywhere, based on file type. Apparently, the majority of this extremely large size came from demo video, audio, and pictures that are included with Vista. Why would I want to back those up? Apparently media files, text files, and log files from installed programs had been backed up, which is completely unnecessary as they can be reinstalled (and would need to be since the programs themselves are not backed up). I had downloaded driver installers to my desktop, and unzipped them into folders. Some of the files from there were backed up, but some weren’t. What if I wanted it to back up an exe installer for a program I paid for and downloaded? I don’t see a way to do that. Apparently .exe files aren’t backed up, which generally is ok, but not if it’s something I need. So the new Windows Backup is simpler yes, but definitely not near as good as it used to be.

Since this is the Ultimate edition, it includes tablet pc programs, such as handwriting recognition. Even with my horrible handwriting, combined with using a mouse to write, it managed to figure out what I was writing. That was rather impressive.

Speech recognition was a bit more tricky. I took the 15 minutes or so to complete the tutorial, which shows you how to use commands to do common tasks, while it learns how you speak. However, trying to dictate a note using it would be a bit annoying, as it manages to hear words incorrectly, combine words, or throw out random similar sounding words when it can’t quite understand. Navigating the Start Menu, opening programs, and switching programs is relatively easy with voice, but doing much inside them really requires a mouse and keyboard. Maybe with more training it would get things correct more often, but who wants to spend time teaching their computer when they can just use another method like the mouse and keyboard?

The games apparently got a nice facelift. I noticed better graphics and animation in the card games such as Solitaire and Hearts. There are a few new games, which can be learned quickly, as most preinstalled games can.

One security “enhancement” that I noticed throughout my testing of Vista was that even while logged in as admin, I was asked if I wanted to continue when changing any type of system setting or installing a new program. In theory, this is supposed to stop a virus from being able to change the system without the admin’s approval. However, it seems to me that if a virus were to someday run and it were to ask me if I wanted to let it continue, that I’d end up clicking yes simply out of habit, as I’ve done so hundreds of times during the short few days I’ve been using it and installing/tweaking/setting up a few things. It’s a good idea in theory, but in practice I see it being just another annoyance with no benefit.

So would I upgrade from my current XP Pro to Vista? Right now I’d say no, since there’s nothing that I need or want in Vista, and XP seems stable enough to complete my daily tasks. If I were able to get some of the more advanced features, like program previews in the task bar, with my current hardware, it might be a little incentive. And all of the features of my graphics card, including watching TV and video capture, are inaccessible due to a lack of drivers. Possibly by the time Vista is released in early 2007 there will be more support for older hardware such as my graphics card. Until then, I’m relatively happy with my Windows XP Pro and see no major benefits to upgrading to Vista.”

Note: Immediately after writing this, David tried to switch back to Windows XP and had issues with his network card (which he says isn’t related to Vista). Still, this is why I told him to preview the program and write a review for me, rather than having me crash my precious baby *g*

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