Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top 5 Reasons to Enjoy Work - and Working! - This Summer

Anyone else besides us take a look at the calendar recently and realize it's almost SUMMER?! How did that happen? When you work for yourself, there's often a tendency to lose track of time (seasons, dates....). Our work calendar is marked with many significant dates, but rarely are they tied to the rest of the world's calendar.

But yes, it's almost summer, which means, even those of us with the busiest of schedules need to find some time to enjoy.

So, as we approach Memorial Day Weekend, we've taken a minute to think of the Top Five Reasons to Enjoy Work this Summer:

5. While the rest of the world may slow down, start-ups stay busy. Proof point number 1-- one of the most active times on Urban Interns is Saturday night, followed closely by holidays. Startups work on their own calendar, and that includes staying focused throughout the summer.

4. The Days are Longer. While technically summer days don't include a 25th hour, it sure is nice to feel like we have some more time and energy in each day.

3. No More TV. That's right. There's nothing on television to distract us. No more endless discussion of Gossip Girl, 24, Lost. Our dvr's go into hibernation while we come up with other ways to fill our "down" time (unless of course something great is starting soon- if so, let us know!)

2. Company Picnics. Just kidding. Our idea of a picnic is sitting outside our office while we eat lunch, but still, it's good to mix up the routine from time to time.

1. It's Time to Take a Break. While you may be thinking this contradicts Number 5 and the idea that entrepreneurs are all work all the time, the truth is we all need some time to recharge our batteries. Taking a step away from the routine and approaching your business with fresh eyes actually makes you more productive, not less. So whether your idea of a break is an hour, an afternoon, or a month (and if it's a month, can we work for you??), find some time to make it happen. After all, you'll have some great Urban Interns keeping things going while you're gone.

...and of course, the corollary...the Top Reasons to Enjoy WORKING This Summer!

5. Air conditioning. Seriously. While it might be 90 degrees outside (and in your apartment), you can usually count on most office buildings - even startups - to have A/C. It may just keep you sane!

4. The Days are Longer. This goes for those in workforce too, but for different reasons. You need to fill your days. May as well do something productive and fulfilling!

3 & 2. No More TV & Company Picnics. Guess these are true for everyone as well!

1. Break Time! It's well documented that at businesses of every size, summer is the time when employees take the time to get to know each other outside of the office. And restaurants and coffee shops are thrilled to oblige with happy hours and specials (we personally are loving the Frappucino Happy Hours at Starbucks). Not only is socializing with your co-workers fun and refreshing, it is a networking tool, AND it makes you more productive by getting you out of the office for a little while. So enjoy!

Let us know what's on your list, and have a very Happy Memorial Day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

meet the urban interns!

Who are these multi-talented job seekers? Learn more as you read about this month's featured Urban Intern.

Meet Molly Aaker.

"I graduated from Skidmore College with a B.S. in Studio Art. Since graduating, I have worked in stock photography sales, Clinique retail, have temped at a top building management company, top PR firm and very well know yearly conference with an award winning website. Most recently, I worked as an Art Buyer at an ad agency, securing and negotiating photography. I was also the office photographer, videographer, and assisted other departments with strategy and social media. I'm also an avid blogger, a babysitter and fast learner."

1. What was your first job?
My first office job was working at a celebrity portraiture photo agency, coordinating the syndication sales between the New York office and various international sales associates around the world. I learned the art of negotiation from the sale side and worked with a variety of people from celebrity publicists to Japanese sales agents.

2. Why do you want to work for a small business or startup?
I am the "Jill" of all trades and enjoy being constantly challenged, learning new skills and getting my hands in everything from marketing, to the day to day of running a business. I'm innovative, think about the big picture, and am consistently up to date on the latest technologies and happenings in business. One needs passion, ingenuity, and drive to lead their small business or start up to success. These are the people I prefer to work with.

3. What’s the one skill that you’re best at?
Asking the right questions to approach any task or problem.

4. What’s one word that describes you perfectly?

5. What’s your favorite TV show?
Is there any show that can compete with 30 Rock?

Interested in talking to Molly or meeting some of the other Urban Interns? Log in here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

it matters how you market

...and that applies to your job description.

Fact: How you write your job description can directly impact the number of responses you receive.

Don't believe us? Try it yourself. Go back and edit the title of your job or maybe even the entire thing and watch to see if you receive an uptick in responses.

Yes, by offering someone a job you're offering them an opportunity. But job seekers won't know just how unique your position is (compared to the many others on Urban Interns) unless you showcase it.

So what are some elements of a good job description? Heed our "Three P's":
  • People: This is where you brag about how great your company culture is, the amazing results you achieve together, the exciting team you're building and how the open role fits into it, including who your hire reports to and who he or she will be working with.
  • Perks: While the People are sure to be amazing, don't be afraid to entice with the other characteristics of the position, i.e. the pay situation, opportunities for career advancement and future employment, travel or work from home, access to great contacts, parties, and even free food.
  • Pizzazz: This is the "stand out from the crowd" factor. You can be hiring for the least glamorous position but surely you're working on interesting projects or are developing a top notch brand or have the BEST founders (don't all entrepreneurs think that about themselves?!) Don't be afraid to flaunt it.
And while it should go without saying -- don't forget to describe in detail the duties and qualifications of the position. Try to squeeze all of this into less than 300 words, or else you might lose people.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lessons from Rework: Our latest post on Entrepreneur.com

See below and here for the latest article in our column on Entrepreneur.com, Hire Up!

We recently started using BaseCamp, the project-management website from 37Signals. We love our Excel spreadsheets and to-do lists, but it was finally time to move to something a bit more, well, cohesive. The folks at 37Signals really understand the needs of small businesses--primarily the importance of keeping things simple. The 37Signals programs are easy to use. They eschew unnecessary bells and whistles and are easy to figure out-- even for those who don't self-identify as tech savvy.

Coincidentally, we started using BaseCamp about the same time the 37Signals founders released the book ReWork, which applies the "keep it simple" philosophy to a variety of business situations.

In particular, the chapters on hiring caught our eye. Hiring decisions are among the most challenging for a business owner. And with good reason--each time you add someone to your team, you need to invest time in training. And, as we all know, time is money. ReWork provides a refreshing framework for thinking about taking this step.

  1. Do it yourself first. The writers suggest that before you hire someone for a job you spend some time in that position yourself. For example, the founding team spent three years doing customer support before hiring someone for that role. They argue that in order to effectively hire for a job, you need to know exactly what the job requires. And, they say, the only way to gain that perspective is to do it yourself first.

    The good news is that in the early days of a business, most of us wear so many different hats that we genuinely understand the requirements for success in a given role. We love the "roll up your sleeves" mentality, but the one caveat we'd add is that as you grow and scale, you can't possibly (and shouldn't) be doing all the functions that you hire for. The very reason you're hiring is so you don't have to do every single thing.
  2. Resumes are ridiculous. Well, maybe not ridiculous, but they're really a one-dimensional way to assess whether a candidate is right for you. You can learn just as much (if not more) about someone by how she communicates with you, including whether she's passionate about your business, as you can by looking at a list of credentials. Another important piece of information about a resume: How does it look? That's right. It might seem superficial, but a candidate's resume is your first and best example of the candidate's finished work product--and a good indication of what her work on the job will look like.
  3. Delegators are dead weight. We think this applies in small businesses even more than it does in big companies. On a small team, everyone needs to do the heavy lifting. There is absolutely no room for someone who needs a lot of support and resources to accomplish his or her goals, particularly since you're hiring so someone can support you. You simply can't be working with people who pass the buck.
  4. The best people are everywhere. We couldn't agree with this point more. Thanks to all the modern communication tools out there, geography is becoming less and less important in making hiring decisions. Virtual work is no longer a novel concept, and there are many benefits to it. You don't need to increase your overhead by adding additional office space, and you can choose to work with someone in your time zone or someone who burns the midnight oil while you sleep. Most important, you can hire the best candidate and not just the one that's best for you given your location. However, make sure you've got the tools in place to properly manage and communicate with your virtual team--Skype, text, webconferencing, etc.

As an entrepreneur, you're always looking for ways to be more productive. Leave it to the productivity experts to come up with these great hiring tips. We'll definitely be paying attention to whatever they come up with next.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Info to Know on Independent Contractors

Do you have independent contractors working for you? If you're a small business, the answer is probably yes. And therefore, you probably already know that the classification of a worker as an independent contractor or an employee is dicey business.

But in case you missed the article in Business Week last week, it looks like it's about to become even more of an issue as the IRS and state agencies across the country are "redoubling" their efforts to crack down on businesses who have long-term workers that are misclassified under the Tax Code. It's true- employers can save as much as 30 percent on wages by avoiding payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, workers compensation coverage and benefits they provide to employees. And while independent contractors can play a vital role to you in building your team, now more than ever, you want to keep the distinction between these two concepts (independent contractor vs. employee) top of mind.

And as a sidenote- is it just us or does it seem that at the same time that everyone is hailing small business as a powerful engine to stimulate our economy, the regulatory environment surrounding small business seems to be tightening. From raising the accreditation thresholds for angel investors to employment issues-- what gives?!

Okay, back to the topic at hand. We're not about to give you legal advice on this one-- that's why you pay your lawyer the big bucks. But we will note that the distinction between independent contractors and employees turns on the notions of "independence" and "control," or how much you directly manage the manner and method that work is completed.

The IRS website talks about three categories of facts that provide evidence of independence and control-- behavioral, financial and type of relationship. And as each working arrangement is different, there's no magic set of facts. Instead, determinations are made by looking at the totality of circumstances.

So what does this mean for you? The bottom line is this-- independent contractors are valuable and play an important role in business. But like many, employment situations, the relationship is not without regulation and needs to be managed carefully. So take a minute, digest this blog post, review the IRS website and Resources page, and then get back at it.

Multi-taskers: A New Breed of Part-Time Job-Seekers

“art buyer at an ad agency, securing and negotiating photography; was also the office photographer, videographer, and assisted other departments with strategy and social media.”
“currently work 13 hours a week on campus as a computer lab assistant while balancing 15 credits”
“professional with over 14 of experience in sales, management, and business development”
“specialized skills in interactive media, 3D modeling, video graphics, post production and web development”
“health and wellness enthusiast with a background in advertising and publishing”
Look at all of the above excerpts from profiles on Urban Interns. What’s the underlying theme? This last one probably sums it up the best:
“someone who can multitask with a smile!”
Multi-taskers. This new breed of part-time job-seekers has their toes dipped in a lot of different pools. Why do we think this is?
  • Necessity. The job market is still really tough. If you are looking for work, you’ve got to be flexible and open to as many opportunities as come your way.
  • Inherent ability. The mind’s ability to process many different types of information has expanded as a result of that information being available in so many different forms: internet, TV, mobile, and lest we forget, the printed word. We are so used to processing data from multiple streams – ie, having 20 applications open, answering phone/email/skype at the same time – that job-seekers are just better at learning what they need to in order to “be dangerous”, so to speak, in a variety of areas.
  • Demand driven by growth in small business. Startups are leading the way out of the recession. And entrepreneurs need staff that can handle multiple functions. They can’t afford to hire specialists in every field, so they’ll take a few scrappy self-starters that can handle whatever’s thrown at them. (Editor’s note: just yesterday we met a candidate for one internship position that we knew immediately could handle not just that role, but another open role – so we hired her for both! Why manage two people when you can manage one?)
So what do you need to know in order to use this to your advantage as an employer, and how can you manage these multi-taskers?
  • Accentuate the positive. Multi-taskers can’t possibly be experts in every field. It’s great that they’re positioning themselves as such – and that they have so much self-confidence that they actually believe that to be true! – but you’ve got to find out what they’re best at and what they have aptitude to learn. Really study their resumes. Ask them what roles they’ve enjoyed the most and what their passion is, as sometimes what we love the best is what we’re best at. Talk to former employers to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Then set them loose on the tasks that they truly have experience and knowledge in, and establish training for what they need to learn.
  • Track progress. As we’ve talked about in the past, check-in, check-in, check-in. By definition, multi-taskers will have 100 things going at once. Heck, they may be job-searching while they’re working for you. So it’s your responsibility to know exactly what they’re up to, every minute, and to track progress has been made on all of their projects. Involve them in the process by having them analyze their own results. It will make them feel good that you care about their work and their role.
  • Refine, redirect, and repeat. The best thing about multi-taskers is their ability to change and take on new responsibilities. Let’s say you hire someone who’s a clear social media guru, but also has good writing skills. Once your social media execution is chugging, have that person manage another social media intern so they can focus on taking your content creation strategy to the next level.
Multi-taskers are not the easiest to reign in, but by effectively hiring and managing them, you’ll be building your team while building your business at the same time.