Category Archives: Corporate Life

Picking Out Business Cards

Recently I have decided to print up some business cards for personal use and was confronted with what should be the simple task of putting your name on the card. For me this is infinitely more complicated. I can’t decide what name I should use because I have several. Let me explain:

Doomed From Birth

People have always had problems with my name. When I was a born, my Asian grandmother had trouble pronouncing the name my father had picked, Jacquelyn, because of her accent, so she called me Jackie (or more accurately, Jeckie). The name stuck and is what I go by. The only people who call me Jacquelyn are telemarketers.

As I was learning to write, my mom decided to go with the less conventional spelling of Jacqui thinking that it would be an easier transition for me from learning to spell Jacquelyn and then replacing the “-elyn” with an “i.” Sure, it’s been easy for me but incredibly, devastatingly, horrendously difficult for everyone else.

I’ve gotten cards (some from my own family) addressed to Jacquie, Jacque, Jaqui and Jackie. It’s also proven to be a pronunciation stumbling block for a lot of people and consequently I’ve been called Jacques, Jackoi and constantly asked if my name is said “Jackie” or “Jackwee.” If anyone out there is actually named Jackwee, please email me because I’d really like to meet you.

Neither Heads Nor Tails

To make things even more complicated, I’ve been saddled with the last name of Tom. While I can assure you that is a legitimate, Chinese surname, people still find the idea of having two “first names” (even though Tom is traditionally a man’s first name) very confusing.

I’ve shown up for classes and the instructors were expecting a male (apparently they didn’t notice the comma between the names). I’ve also had people ask me right to my face whether Tom was my first name or last name. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m pretty clearly a female. Take a look at my bio picture and judge for yourself. And if there’s anyone out there who actually has Jacquelyn or Jackie as a last name, please email me because I’d really like to meet you too.

Nicknames At The Office

How has this nickname/last name/legal name quagmire affected me professionally? Well, whenever I start at a new company I miss a lot of emails until people learn to spell my name correctly. But more importantly I always have to re-introduce myself to people as “Jacqui” not Jacquelyn and make sure that Jacquelyn is spelled correctly on all my legal documents. I recently had to deal with a spelling error on my pay stubs that has been printed on my recent tax forms. Fingers crossed that the IRS realizes that Jacqueline Tom is the same person as Jacquelyn Tom.

So now back to the business cards. Should I use Jacqui Tom, which sounds hipper but is harder to spell? Should I go with Jacquelyn because that’s the name checks should be made out to? I was also going to set up an email with but can’t decide if I want to be tied to Jacqui Tom forever. What happens when I get married? I had planned on taking my husband’s last name no matter how horrible it is simply because I don’t want to constantly be questioned about my gender for the rest of my life. New business cards are easy enough to print up, but email accounts can last forever.

Any Advice?

How do other people handle this? Do you go by a nickname at work? Does it affect you professionally? What do you put on your business cards?

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Wanted: Smart Students With No Experience

In light of a record number of layoffs at U.S. companies in just the past few months, you’d think that businesses who still had money to hire new recruits would be overjoyed with an abundance over-qualified, experienced candidates, desperate enough to work entry-level jobs for entry-level wages.

Not so at one popular online real-estate firm.

They’ve decided to take an alternate approach, foregoing the usual “experience=quality” theory in favor of a “quality” educational background. Here are some of their required qualifications (taken directly from their website):

Strong academic record: we are looking for people who excelled at a top-25 university.

Liberal arts degree: we want someone who not only writes clearly and precisely, but has some intellectual interests, and panache too.

Entrepreneurial energy, creativity: in your interview, we’ll ask you for three or four ideas on how our website could be better. Come prepared!”

Top-25 Student

As a graduate of a top-ranked state university (Go Huskies!), I take offense to the implication that a strong academic record can only be achieved from a so-called “top 25 university.” What exactly is a top-25 university anyway? A google search turned up nothing conclusive. Does this mean ivy-league? Does this mean US News & World Report ranked? Does this mean nationally-ranked? Regionally-ranked?

Does an ivy-league education always equate to quality academic achievement? Not in my experience. Sometimes smart people can’t afford to go to the best schools and have to (gasp!) attend a local university. But they do well in their classes, learn a lot and go on to be successful. And sometimes people go to ivy-league universities and whittle the time away drinking and majoring in a subject whose department only scheduled classes after 10am.

I suppose that academic achievement is one of the few measurements an employer can use to gauge an employee’s potential when interviewing, but in this economy, why would you take a chance on an unproven work history (note that internships are not even mentioned, just the quality of educational institution) when you have so many other experienced candidates out there?

Liberal Snobs

I’ve written before about how liberal arts degrees can be valuable in the workplace. But as a liberal arts degree holder myself, I don’t think liberal arts majors hold the monopoly on “intellectual interests.” Is this company implying that a business major is incapable of writing well and being intellectually stimulating? My boyfriend majored in business and he’s one of the most tuned-in, well-read, intellectually curious people I know.

And if liberal arts majors as a whole are more “interesting,” is there a hierarchy within academia that elevates certain subjects as more intellectual? Does the intelligence quotient go up the more obscure your area of study? Medieval history majors above political science majors above run-of-the-mill English majors?

Also, I find it funny that the job ad equates writing “clearly and precisely” with liberal arts majors. Don’t they realize that your grade on an essay is mostly based on length and depth and not necessarily on clarity or brevity?

Entrepreneurial Desk Job

What strikes me as so funny about this particular requirement is that Generation-Y is often labeled the “entrepreneur generation,” with many successful people under 25 starting their own multi-million dollar business. If I were a successful liberal arts graduate from a top-25 university and was entrepreneurially-minded, why would I come work for your company? Why wouldn’t I just start my own?

No truly intellectually-minded student would want to work in an industry that is rapidly shrinking, is suffering from negative PR because it just played a huge part in the worst economic crisis in close to a century, and for a company that just laid off 20% of its workforce.

I also find it ironic that this online real-estate company asks the candidate to come prepared with ideas on how to improve the site experience. What recent graduate just out of school has the money or wherewithal to buy real-estate? They might be able to suggest the latest and greatest social media technology. The truly tech-savvy ones might be able to give suggestions on how to improve the design for better usability. But I highly doubt that any fresh-faced 22-year old would have the occasion to use the site as a consumer, and isn’t the key to a successful service business providing the most useful service to customers?
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Why I Hate “Best Places To Work” Lists

Last week I was surprised to receive a press release from Fortune Magazine announcing the publication of their annual list of “100 Best Companies to Work For”. (How did they find me? Was it from the post I wrote blasting their Gen-Y expert? ). This instantly stirred up some negative feeling on my part because frankly,

I think “Best Places To Work” lists are a HUGE SHAM!

Why do I feel this way? Because I once worked for a company that would routinely end up on these “Great Places to Work” lists and let me tell you, it was anything but great. My company’s placement was more a testament to how skilled our PR person was at promoting the company than a true representation of the company’s quality of life.

However, most of the publications who publish these types of lists boast about how comprehensive their survey criteria are. For example, here is what was listed in the Fortune press release:

“To select the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” FORTUNE works with Levering and Moskowitz of the Great Place to Work Institute—a global research and consulting firm with offices in 30 countries—to conduct the most extensive employee survey in corporate America. More than 81,000 employees from 353 companies responded to the 57-question survey created by the Institute. Two-thirds of a company’s score is based on the survey, which is sent to a minimum of 400 randomly selected employees. The remaining third is based on the Culture Audit, which includes detailed questions about demographics, pay and benefits, and open-ended questions on philosophy, communication and more.”

Note how only “two-thirds of a company’s score is based on the survey” of its employees, while the extra third is based on some nebulous “Culture Audit” which is most likely a buzzword-infested love fest where management and HR get together in one room and espouse how they promote “work-life balance” and “family-friendly” policies (when in reality, they probably offer neither).

If a company offers such great perks and benefits, wouldn’t it show through in an employee survey?

I remember one such survey I was forced to take on behalf of my company (and when I say “forced” I mean they mass emailed us every week to “remind” us to vote and put up fliers all over the office about the survey. They even posted them in the bathroom stalls!), where I literally gave them negative values (on a scale of 0 – 5) and they still managed to make it onto a “Best Places To Work” list. And this was after my company “extended” the deadline to vote because they didn’t even garner the 50% response rate on the survey needed to submit to the publication.

It’s also interesting to note how many companies made it onto Fortune’s list who are now suffering from mass layoffs. In my home-state of Washington, 2 of the 6 “Best Corporate Headquarters” based in Washington (Microsoft  and Starbucks) just announced massive layoffs. Other struggling companies that made it onto the Top 100 list also included Whole Foods Market and eBay. Are layoffs not considered to negatively impact employee morale or company perks, bonuses and performance?

So when it comes to “Best Companies To Work For” lists, I take the advice of Brazen Careerist, Penelope Trunk:

“You can forget the lists. The bar is so low to get on the lists that which company is on and which company is off is statistically irrelevant.”

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