Can I make you some bucks?

how the net is transforming the way we work and earn

Why it pays to be a slacker August 17, 2008

Filed under: Work culture — Nicole @ 7:02 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Today , for the first time in a long time I felt like a school girl complete with carefree giggle and that all important packet of chocolate coated raisins. And it had nothing to do with tying my hair in pig-tails or shining Toughees weary from too much hop-scotch. It was because after much pleading and moaning my 7 class mates and I convinced my lecturer to let us go on a BP run. Don’t bother looking it up. BP run is not something you’ll find in a dictionary. But mention it to just about anyone in Grahamstown and they will have an understanding of the adventure that awaits those who embark on one of these infamous runs.


See, in Grahamstown very few shops remain open at night. In fact, after 9 o’clock it is only at BP, a small 24-hour convenience store, where one can find the necessary snacks, treats and things to nibble on. But visiting BP after hours is never just about what you can buy. It’s about the break. About strolling up one of the store’s three very short isles, immersed in the world of retail therapy suspending any thought of work.


And so that is what my classmates and I embarked on. Okay, so we didn’t actually go to BP. There was no need. It was still morning and other stores were open. But it gave us a bit of a break from our seminar. And so for about 15 minutes I got to think about whether I wanted apple or peach juice to go with the packet of chocolate coated raisins I had picked out. Then it was back to the labs where the lecture continued.


You probably think we are a bunch of slackers. But you try sitting cooped up in the artificial environment that is our lab for three hours with only the odd 5 or 10 minute break. I imagine you’d be begging to go on a BP run too. I can tell you I certainly felt more alive and I doubt I am the only one.


For those of us we aren’t lucky enough to telecommute it’s important to schedule some BP run time into your work schedule. And no, I am not joking. There is evidence which suggests that your working environment can affect your productivity. The 2008 ITWeb salary survey indicates that the second most important thing for job satisfaction after being challenged at work is the job environment.


And employers need to keep this in mind for often the success of their business depends on the people they employ. Which makes me wonder, why employers would deny access to Facebook and other social networking sites? Yes, some employers actually use Sophos’ controlled applications, for example, to block or limit internet access to social networking sites.


OK, so there are employees who may sit at their desks from 9-5 doing nothing but updating their Facebook status or perhaps searching for porn. These are individuals known as cyberslackers and they should be dealt with. But there must be a more constructive way of curbing cyberslacking without an outright ban on social networking sites.


See what employers fail to understand is that social networking sites, when used in moderation, are the best type of BP run. Think about it. A virtual BP run which revives without the mess or fuss of leaving the office. It seems counter-intuitive to ban sites which can stimulate creativity and this is unlikely to solve the problem. According to some research published by Ohio State University :


Just as very short naps have been demonstrated to revive mental activity, perhaps short virtual breaks for a quick hand of solitaire, a note to a friend, an exploration of the online deal of the day, or a check on a sports score might refresh and invigorate many individuals’ work and productivity.


Interestingly enough, this research paper from Ohio State University also indicates that it is higher-status employees who are more likely do engage in cyberslacking because they aren’t supervised and have more work-privacy. It’s therefore ironic for those in more senior positions to be policing other employees. And all these bans on internet access do is foster an environment of mistrust something that’s not conducive to being productive.


But employers need to realise that allowing employees to access sites like Facebook is not just about virtual BP runs or company camaraderie. Oh, it’s so much more than that. Social networking sites, like Facebook, are likely to become essential tools for the office of the 21st century. These tools allow employees to network with others from different companies – and that could come in handy. And then there is the question of being with-it. See, allowing your employees to use social-networking tools means they won’t be left behind. And some companies, like KPMG , are starting to see the light. KPMG’s director of marketing, communications and corporate social investment, Carl Ballot says:

Initially, we blocked access to these Web sites over concerns of security and productivity loss. However, we are seeing a new generation entering our workforce, which interacts in a whole new way. They are a product of a changing world, which we are eager to recognise and adapt to.


So it shouldn’t surprise you to discover that over the last two weeks, in the UK alone there has been a 500% increase in streaming traffic as office workers watch the Olympics online. The modern office is not just about the humdrum of work. And employees need to face facts: distractions and procrastination are now part of the modern 9-5 working day. But have no fear. I managed to it quite successfully. Yes, I ate my chocolate coated raisins, drank my juice, took lecture notes and even did some IM (instant messaging) on the side. And in all honesty, I’d recommend taking such a BP run to an office worker any day.


Is Google hampering your chances of getting a job? July 22, 2008

I discovered some interesting things about myself the other day. It turns out that I am 21 years old and come from a city in Virginia called Chesapeake. I also seem to have a fetish for books to do with Wicca and am the Senior Marketing Coordinator at HTC. Who knew? I certainly didn’t.


That’s why when faced with self-doubt or a mild existential crisis it is best to look no further than Google. Yes, I unashamedly Googled myself. It took only 0.27 seconds and produced 2, 280 results for “Nicole Hyman” – aren’t I lucky? And some of the results were just too amusing, like this one:


Ask the Magic 8 Ball

Will Nicole Hyman ever go out with Dillon Campbell? yes or No? Will Jessica Pupu have the same lunch as Lauren Kellers & Nicole Hyman in sixth grade? – 18k –

CachedSimilar pagesNote this


Well, it seems that neither I nor the magic 8 ball are certain whether Nicole Hyman will go out with Dillon Campbell. I have never heard of a Dillon Campbell and the Magic 8 ball had this to say when I clicked on the link: You were very bad and the Ball is mad at you.


While this is very amusing a part of me wishes I could copyright my name. I can see it now, with one simple symbol © I would be safe from the empty riff-raff intent on hi-jacking my brand. I would own my own identity.


Impractical, I know. But you must understand, it feels as though someone has stolen my identity. For I am not 21 years old , don’t live in Virginia and have no interest in Wicca and yet these individuals all go by the name Nicole Hyman, or at least Google says they do.


And before you jump to conclusions, the two month break from this blog has not muddled my mind and I haven’t forgotten the topic of my blog. Identity theft and your online behaviour can severely impact on your ability to get a job.


Think about it. You apply for your dream job with what you think is a flawless CV. You go for an interview. And while that may go well, your future employer may want to know a little more about you. About the ‘real’ you.


And so they turn to one of the many search engines. And be afraid, because there are search engines designed specifically to search for people like Wink , Pipl and Spock. This doesn’t only lend itself to your identity being stolen but also means that you can be defamed. Last year, blogger John Aravosis was accidentally tagged on Spock as being a paedophile because of a blog post he wrote about Congressman Mark Foley.


But it doesn’t end there. Have you ever thought that your future employers might decide to look you up on Facebook? That is, after all a perfect way to do a quick background check on a person and their online lives. For a second ignore any questionable photos or messages you have been meaning to delete from your profile page.


Imagine that someone registered on Facebook under your name. That they then went to the trouble of finding a picture of you somewhere online , oh believe me these are available , and then used this picture as their profile picture. Is there anything to stop them?


This actually happed to a to Mirror writer, Samer Elatrash. The fake profile which was set up under Elatrash’s name made all sorts of false and potentially damaging claims about him including adding a Facebook status which read: Samer is in hiding because Yoni Petel has sent the Israeli Mossad to terminate him. Facebook eventually did shut this imposter’s profile down. But the damage had already been down with the imposter Elatrash adding many people as ‘friends’ on Facebook.


Then there is the case of a top Yale Law graduate who struggled to get a job because of defamatory comments posted about her on an online forum called AutoAdmit. Another Yale graduate discovered that the forum featured her name and a discussion of her breasts. According to a December survey by the Ponemon Institute,


Roughly half of U.S. hiring officials use the Internet in vetting job applications. About one-third of the searches yielded content used to deny a job.


So, as I have discovered online identity is such a precarious thing. And while there are services to help protect it, like Reputation Defender , it never really belongs to you. There is nothing to stop someone commenting on a forum or blog using your name and tarnishing your reputation in the process. That’s why you should Google yourself as habitually as you brush your teeth. Or at the very least, do so before you go for a job interview.


Why is begging acceptable? April 13, 2008

Filed under: Using Facebook to find a job — Nicole @ 9:55 pm
Tags: , ,


You may have noticed that my first post, which outlined an experiment I’m going to document in this bog, got quite a few responses. I’d like to comment on one of those responses specifically :


Angie Says:

hey nicole

this idea of yours seems a bit odd… firstly; i assume this domestic worker is poor right? how exactly is she gonna access the internet and see all these job opportunities that await her??? provided any exist in the first place.

another thing, even the big cities have lil notices outside their local shopping centre which appear to be quite useful. perhaps it’s because people need jobs in their local area and this is the easiest, cheapest and possibly only way to find employment near by. opening up a facebook site leave this woman with possible opportunities that may be completely useless to her for numerous reasons, such as transport problems. perhaps this method that you are so against isn’t necessarily bad, perhaps it works and that’s why it’s used!

and do you think it’s fair to refer to this small city as a ‘dorpie’?

also for someone so ‘concerned’ about the unemployed you seem very flippant about the beggars on the pavement with their sad faces!

think about your project and your choice of words!”


Perhaps I do have a “flippant”, dismissive way of referring to beggars. But I am sick of their sense of entitlement.


Because I walk everywhere in Grahamstown I am continuously being nagged by beggars: “Oooh Sisi … some bread … bring back”. They seem to book certain sections of the pavement from which they never move.


On my route to and from the journalism department I pass a minimum of three beggars everyday. I do feel guilty that I have seemingly so much while they seem to cling to life by tatters.


But a part of it is too easy to me. They just sit there and make passers-by feel guilty. They ask for money and bread and one even told me she needed my water. Well I hate to break it to you but I paid R5, 00 for that water and I need it too.


Does that make me flippant, arrogant, elitist, and not-politically correct? I don’t care. When did it suddenly become acceptable to beg? We’re so quick to dismiss people who come to us with their CVs and ask for jobs, as I describe in my first blog post, and yet they are the ones trying to make something of themselves. Why are we happy to just walk past those who just sit there and allow them to profit from our guilt? If my words arouse offense, then challenge me or better yet go out and do something about it.


I’m not saying begging doesn’t degrade one ; that it doesn’t rob one of dignity but it has somehow become something that’s socially acceptable and because the currency of begging is guilt it becomes more lucrative than looking for a job in places like Grahamstown. A sick reality.


So, I hope you did feel horribly offended by my first post and the ridiculous idea that unemployed domestic workers should “book a pavement corner; practice putting on their sad faces and wait for the passers-by to empty their pockets”. Because then I have achieved something; no matter how small.


As for my actual project, I have decided to modify it slightly. I came across a website which acts as a type of online employment agency for all sorts of workers from domestic workers to painters. Though it is a South African website , they only offer the service in the Pretoria, Centurion, Midrand, East Rand and North Rand areas.


I thought a service like this could be very effective in Grahamstown. It would work in a similar way to the notice boards in Pick ‘n Pay except it would be electronically available and searchable. A break down of the project follows:


  1. Set up a blog which will host this online classifieds. This will only deal with domestic workers seeking work in the Grahamstown area.
  2. Contact the domestic workers whose notices appear on notice boards around town and ask them if they would like to have their details registered on the blog. There will be no registration fees involved and I will be responsible for entering the information and for the maintenance of the blog.
  3. All those who register on the blog will be registered on a Twitter group – this will give prospective employees an easy and effective way of contacting domestic workers. They will also be made members of a Facebook group.
  4. I thought it might be useful to register the domestic workers on The Grid but it doesn’t seem to be used in Grahamstown.
  5. This blog will then be advertised offline at places like Pick ‘n Pay.


This would be more sustainable than my initial idea and it could provide a service, in the form of the blog, which could outlast the actual experiment. The experiment will still be exploring the utility of social media in the form of facebook. I don’t know how effective the facebook group will be but perhaps that is the point; perhaps it will indicate that social media is not as inclusive as it is made to seem.


Any thoughts?


A town where it’s easier to beg April 7, 2008

When in a dorpie you take what you can find. If it’s a salmon coloured bra you want , be prepared to settle for the drab, old black or white nylon lace specials. Or maybe it’s a tin of Chickpeas you’re after as I often am. Well, be prepared to hunt or compromise. Baked Beans aren’t too bad – or so I keep telling myself. On this particular day in the little Eastern Cape dorpie of Grahamstown, my best friend and I were not searching for bras or chickpeas. Scatter cushions. That’s what we were after. You see, she’d recently bought a burnt orange duvet cover with splotches of maroon and now the appropriate cushions had to be found.


And it was on that day, whilst looking at cushions and discussing colour schemes in PEP, that I met someone who I now think would have an easier time begging. I don’t remember her name. I was so taken aback. I remember the bits of small talk: “Hello Sisi … So you live here or you stay at the University?” She asked about our work and seemed liked a distant friend trying really hard to rekindle a friendship. The catch was the piece of paper she soon took out of her bag. It was a reference letter. She was an unemployed domestic worker and while we were looking for scatter cushions she was trying to find what in Grahamstown can almost be considered the impossible: a job.


The reality of Grahamstown is that there are more people who are unemployed and searching for a job than with one. And with no employment agency, notice boards at local supermarkets are full of mostly unemployed domestic workers’ contact details (see flickr photos in sidebar for some examples). To be honest, I rarely read these notices partly because I don’t need a domestic worker but also because if I did, I’d ask a friend to recommend one. I may be wrong, but I think most people would rather go that route. So maybe all unemployed domestic workers in Grahamstown should book a pavement corner; practice putting on their sad faces and wait for the passers-by to empty their pockets? Or they could turn to the internet.


The internet? It didn’t cross your mind, did it? Well why not? There are many online employment agencies – too many to list. There are also useful directories like gumtree which allow you to post and search for jobs. The problem is domestic workers don’t feature here. Enter Facebook.


Part of my aim in this blog is to see if it is possible to find a Grahamstown domestic worker a job through a Facebook group , still to be set up, called “Need a reliable domestic worker”. Welcome to a different way of finding work. Where the contacts you make online can stand you in good stead for that job you want. But does this apply to everyone? For example , there is a Facebook application , careerbuilder, which is designed for people looking for jobs. But it’s only really aimed at university students. Is there space for Grahamstown’s unemployed domestic workers or should they continue putting notices up at Pick ‘n Pay? Or better yet, maybe it’s time for them to seriously consider begging?


Any comments? I’ll periodically document my progress on this blog as well as on my Twitter page – feel free to comment and join the Facebook group once it’s set up … I’ll keep you posted.