Pam's Favs

Changing the World with Guy Kawasaki

June 10th, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

guy kawasakiI am thrilled to report that the legendary Guy Kawasaki has posted an interview with me on his blog, How to Change the World.

I have been a Guy Kawasaki fan for a long time and highly recommend both his blog and his latest book, The Art of the Start. (essential reading for all entrepreneurs)  Guy is also the man behind Alltop.com and Truemors.com.

He is a truly extraordinary person — brilliant, creative, and also nice enough to take the time to chat with a first-time author like myself. Go and check out my Q&A with Guy Kawasaki.

My Escape Story in The New York Times

June 2nd, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

I had the incredible opportunity to write a piece for The New  York Times about my struggle to walk away from my job (and most importantly, my salary) to start my own business.

The story ran in the Sunday business section this weekend: Do You Love the Job, or Just the Paycheck?

I have always dreamed about seeing my byline in The New York Times. I might as well admit it — even though I know how earnestness is frowned upon in the blogosphere. :  )

After all, I’ve already written about my financial neuroses and job angst (as you’ll see if you check out the article).

Robert Scoble Interviews Pamela Skillings: The Importance of Finding Work You Love

May 21st, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

On Monday, I had the opportunity to meet super-blogger and author Robert Scoble for an interview at the beautiful FastCompany headquarters in 7 World Trade Center. We talked about Escape from Corporate America, his dream job with FastCompany, and the importance of finding work that you love.

Last week, I also had the opportunity to record a segment for ABC News Now and talk about financial planning tips for people changing careers.

Going Around in Circles — Why Your Job is Like Spin Class

April 15th, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings


Yesterday, I decided that spin class is a lot like a bad corporate job. For those of you not familiar with this particular type of exercise  torture, spin class involves a bunch of people pedaling madly on stationary exercise bikes to music for an hour or so, following a lunatic instructor’s orders to go faster, increase resistance, stand up, sit down, sprint until you want to throw up, etc. Sounds like fun, right? In a sick way, it kind of is. Plus, you can burn 600-800 calories in an hour.

But as I was pedaling frantically in place yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of my last corporate job. That’s mainly because one of my biggest complaints in my corporate days was that I often felt like a hamster on a wheel. There was just SO much frenetic activity — so many documents, meetings, conference calls, and email trails –  to achieve very  little. Often, by the time I would receive all of the approvals and "buy-in" I needed for a particular project, there would be some kind of reorganization or budget cut and I’d have to start over from the beginning. It once took me more than nine months just to get the approval to redesign a brochureware web site. That was just to get started. The actual design process was a study in endless torture that I don’t want to get into. Spin class is similar in that you expend a lot of energy and work up a real sweat, but you never actually move forward.

Then there’s the instructor. See, in spin class, I don’t really mind when the instructor yells random instructions at me or seems to get great glee out of causing me pain. I’m definitely not as forgiving toward corporate bosses that do the same thing at work.  At least I know that spin class will only last for an hour and I’ll leave in better shape. (Shout out to Chris Murdoch, brilliantly evil trainer and spin class instructor at Equinox in New York and a corporate escape artist himself).

But the biggest reason that spin class is a lot more fun than a bad corporate job is because it’s actually challenging in a good way. Spin class forces you to  push yourself, to get stronger and better every day that you do it. Similarly, when I was working in the corporate world, I was able to put up with a lot of annoying stuff if the job actually allowed me to learn and grow. Most of us don’t mind sweating as long as we’re sweating for a good reason.

Now if only bad corporate gigs burned 600-800 calories per hour. Then, even if we were aggravated and frustrated, at least we’d be in great shape and could eat all the Krispy Kremes we wanted.

The Cost of Useless Corporate Meetings

March 12th, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

useless meetingsSick and tired of long meetings that accomplish little? Wish there was a way to show your manager just how much time is being wasted by his obsession with meetings? Check out a nifty little application from PayScale.com called the Meeting Miser.

The application first asks you to enter your location, then the number of meeting attendees and their job titles. Then it’s time to start the timer and watch as the dollars in wasted salary add up as the seconds tick by.

I punched in the details for a recent sales and marketing meeting that I attended and the cost was $3.10 per minute (not including the consultants in the room, which probably more than doubled that rate).

For employees, meetings continue to suck time after they leave the conference room and return to their desks. Once the meeting’s over, they have to make up for lost work hours and catch up on emails.

That’s not to say there aren’t times when a meeting is justified. Some issues just can’t be resolved effectively via rounds of emails and phone calls. Sometimes you really do need to get everybody in the room and hash things out. But let’s face it, even necessary meetings are usually too long and constantly wander off-topic.

Here’s an idea for the next time you anticipate being trapped in a long and unproductive meeting. Launch the Meeting Miser surreptitiously and make a note of the final dollar tally. Later, share the horrifying figure with your boss in a diplomatic and non-confrontational way (remember — none of this is his fault in any way, of course) and offer to help brainstorm ideas for streamlining meetings (like canceling most of them and keeping the rest focused on more specific agendas).

There’s nothing managers like more than an employee with a keen respect for the bottom line. You might just be able to reduce your meeting load and boost your reputation with the boss at the same time.

More Advice on Meeting Management


7 Ways to Avoid Pointless Meetings from Ben Yoskovitz at Instigator Blog  — Great tips on how to make your meetings more effective (and, most imortantly, shorter)

How to Kill Meetings at Lifehack.org — Leo Babauta offers advice on avoiding time-suck meetings.

Meeting Tokens at 43 Folders — Merlin Mann at 43 Folders introduces a brilliant new concept — meeting tokens good for just 15 minutes. On a related note, Merlin and the creative people at The Mule have collaborated on this great t-shirt for members of the anti-meeting movement.

Top 7 Job Ideas for Hillary Clinton (Just in Case that Presidential Thing Doesn’t Work Out)

March 4th, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

The battle for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States is almost over. It has been a tight race, but one of our esteemed candidates will soon have to admit defeat and, as they say in corporate resignation announcements, “explore other opportunities.”

Just in case Hillary happens to be that candidate, I have taken the liberty of brainstorming some fall-back career ideas for her. Sure, she’ll still be a United States senator regardless of her delegate count, but we can hardly expect Hillary to stay satisfied with that job for long. Besides, it’s pretty clear that a couple of years as a U.S. senator is not enough to get you into the Oval Office. Maybe it’s time for Hillary to try some more adventurous career paths that will position her better for her next presidential campaign.

(I will helpfully provide the same service for Mr. Obama, Mr. McCain, and Mr. Huckabee in future blog posts)

1) Become a Fashion Icon

Hillary Clinton Pant Suit Fashion Icon Simply Hillary

Nobody rocks a pantsuit like Hillary Clinton. Now is the perfect time for her to launch her own line of fierce but professional pantsuit ensembles for the modern gal on the go. When you need to look authoritative yet approachable, you need to wear Simply Hillary.

2) Follow Al Gore’s Lead

Hillary Clinton Inconvenient Husband Truth

No other failed presidential candidate has managed to reinvent himself (and until now, they have all been hims) like Mr. Al Gore. The man has an Oscar, a Nobel Peace Prize, and lots of fawning celebrity friends. If Hillary can find her own Inconvenient Truth, she might just be able to parlay it into similar icon status. There’s no need for Hil to gain forty pounds and grow a lumberjack beard like Al did, though it wouldn’t hurt to try out an edgier look to go with her new image as an activist.

3) Team Up With Rudy

Hillary Clinton Rudy Giuliani Partners

Who needs politics when you can make a lot more money as a consultant? Just ask Rudy Giuliani. After leaving his post as mayor of New York City, Rudy established Giuliani Partners to provide high-priced consulting services to companies and governments. If Rudy can do it, why not Hillary? In fact, why not team up and do it together? A little bipartisan bridge building would make for good press for both of them and Hillary’s stake in Clinton Giuliani Partners would earn her plenty of green to pay for future campaigns.

4) Make Lattes

Hillary Clinton Starbucks Barista

If Hillary really wants to know what makes Americans tick, there’s no better way to learn than spending some time behind a Starbucks counter. Shaking hands at American Legions on the campaign trail is no substitute for really getting your hands dirty at the espresso machines. Just ask Michael Gill, the author of How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else, who says his time as a barista taught him valuable lessons about race relations and the life of the working class.

5) Get Lost

Hillary Clinton Lost Sawyer Freckles

What better way to connect with that key youth vote than by playing a featured guest star role on a popular prime time TV series? Hillary’s recent appearance on Saturday Night Live showed she’s not camera shy. I’d love to see Hillary show up in a recurring role on Lost –- perhaps as Mrs. Alvar Hanso or as a new Mrs. Robinson love interest for Sawyer. Then again, according to a recent New York article about Chelsea Clinton, Mrs. Clinton is a big fan of Gray’s Anatomy, so maybe she’d prefer to trade lines with McDreamy.

6) Get Real

Hillary Clinton Rock of Love Brett Michaels

If Hillary’s acting chops aren’t ready for prime time, there’s still a way to get TV attention and develop a following with younger voters. She can follow in the noble tradition of so many others with little performing talent and make an appearance on a popular reality show. After all, maybe Hillary’s tired of acting like a dignified, trustworthy public servant and is itching to bust loose. Maybe she’s ready to throw all of that dignity out the window and put on a show. She could strut her stuff in a sequined pantsuit on Dancing with the Stars or even mud wrestle for the affections of 80’s hair band stud Bret Michaels on Rock of Love.

7) Start a Magazine

Hillary Clinton H Magazine Cover Oprah Parody

If she opts not to rock Bret’s world, Hillary can always follow the example of the richest woman in entertainment and extend her brand by launching her own magazine. Hillary can become an even bigger household name by putting her smiling mug on the cover of H Magazine every month. She can even use the magazine as a platform for talking about important issues. Of course, if she wants to land the big advertisers, she’ll probably have to throw in a few features about her favorite lip glosses and Lindsay Lohan in order to keep things interesting.

Do you have thoughts on other alternative careers for Hillary Clinton? How about ideas for Obama, McCain or Huckabee? Which candidate hast the most promising career alternatives outside the Oval Office?

Your BlackBerry is Making You Stupid(er)

February 11th, 2008

Written by Pamela Skillings

Did you know that your obsessive BlackBerry habit could make your thinking fuzzier than if you had just smoked a joint?  Dr Glenn Wilson, a psychologist at King’s College, London University,  conducted a survey on this subject back in 2005 on behalf of Hewlett Packard. According to Dr. Wilson, "Workers cannot think as well when they are worrying about e-mail or voicemails. It effectively reduces their IQ," says Wilson.

The tests conducted on 1,000 volunteers showed that those distracted by a mobile device or computer saw an average drop of ten IQ points while the stoners saw only a four-point drop. Interestingly, the impact was more pronounced in men than in women. Wilson also suggested that ongoing exposure to our  "modern culture of information could cause a permanent drop in intelligence."

Just thought you should know about yet another good reason  to learn to disengage from our technology when an important task is at hand. If your boss complains, just tell him you need all of your IQ points today.

And whatever you do, don’t check your BlackBerry while smoking a joint or you’re liable to do something truly moronic.

Do Your Emails Suck?

December 19th, 2007

Written by Pamela Skillings

Overloaded with email? Even the best email productivity tips won’t help much if you don’t know how to write emails that get results. Check out my post today on Lifehack.org for tips on writing better emails.

Telecommuting Is Good For You (And Your Company)

November 28th, 2007

Written by Pamela Skillings

Your dilemma: You’d love to work from home a few days a week but your boss thinks telecommuting is just an opportunity to slack off and watch Oprah. Well, I’ve got just what you need to make your case: Real numbers from an academic study that shows that telecommuting is better for both workers and bosses.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University looked at data on 12,833 telecommuters and found that telecommuting programs have beneficial effects for both the workers and their employers. Study results showed that telecommuters reported more job satisfaction, less motivation to leave the company, less stress, improved work-family balance, and higher performance ratings by supervisors. Managers supervising telecommuters also reported that their performance was not negatively affected by working from home.

And if your boss argues that face time at the office is necessary to foster good work relationships, you can oh-so-diplomatically beg to differ. Telecommuters who worked away from their offices for less than three days per week did not see their work relationships suffer Those who were out of the office for three days per week or more, however, did see their bonds with co-workers diminish.

If you have been fantasizing about telecommuting, now may be the time to pitch the idea to your boss. Approximately 45 million Americans telecommuted in 2006. If you want to join their ranks, your best bet is to put together a written proposal for your boss. Address any of her potential concerns and explain the business value of the arrangement for the company. Perhaps you will be able to start work earlier or work later because you can cut out a long commute. Or maybe you can deliver higher-quality work in an environment away from the cubicle-farm distractions where you can focus. Cite the results of the Penn State study to help make your case and show that you’ve done your homework.

Be prepared to compromise. If your manager remains skeptical, offer to do a trial run for a few weeks and see how it goes. Then bend over backward to show that you can be even more productive from home than you can be in the office.

If all goes well, you will soon be be enjoying the benefits of the telecommuter’s life. Of course, there are also challenges to making telecommuting work, but most find that the increased flexibility and the reduced commute time are well worth any effort required to adapt. Just ask those guys from Penn State.