Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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DR.JOB Q & A: Don't Slow Down in Slow Time

(Q.1) BUSINESS IS VERY SLOW during these summer months and I wonder if I should just shut down my small company for a few weeks and let everyone take a holiday (preferably unpaid) so we can regroup and come back refreshed in fall. What are your thoughts on that? A lot of firms do it.

(A.) SUMMERTIME, AND THE LIVIN" is NOT easy, even though sales may be down and others are taking vacations. Like all challenges, this down time is an opportunity for you to keep everyone working and start to make a difference. Bill McBean, author of The Facts of Business Life doesn't say you have to work yourself and your staff to death during summer. But he does say there are benefits to making a half-year review now, so you can adjust to the market and increase sales to improve profits. He says summer is the best time to do it because it takes a while to implement changes and you'll be ready for next season. Also, he adds, you'll be taking action when competitors are napping. Also, your employees will notice that you are taking hold of the reins and leading them forward in what normally would be a quiet, dull season.

Media Changes Can Be Opportunity---Not Crisis

(Q.2) FOR TEN YEARS I WAS thrilled to work for one of the best and most successful national trade magazines, then suddenly, in the 1990s, management began cutting back on editorial staff. I was changed to part-time with no benefits. Later I started my own business picking up a few other clients. Moving across the country with my husband, I found full-time work on a daily newspaper, but that was short-lived. Soon I was doing free-lance work again, and now am editorial director of a banking newsletter, working full-time from home with a few medical benefits and very limited vacation days. I'm not complaining, because my training and experience in journalism is no longer the ticket to success it once was. And now I'm middle-aged. Where do I go and what do I do?

(A.) UNFORTUNATELY, A JOURNALISM CAREER as you knew it is gone forever, and too many of the jobs that do exist are going to interns and entry-level people who are less expensive then you. Remember it's nothing personal--it's economic and always has been. You are still OK.  But, happily, there is a new world of "media" that, combined with special knowledge of specific fields, as well as extensive IT training, can offer jobs to people with your skills and experience. Also, as the economy improves, so does the job situation. Employers are more willing to add staff, although most are off site as you are, and others are braver about starting new companies. Keep your eyes open to new opportunities to add clients to your home office, working on them after you've finished the work on your client's hours. Also consider returning to school to brush up on IT and specialization, perhaps in that banking industry you've "fallen into." Don't give up planning, dreaming and thinking "out of the box" just because you're "middle aged." That's just the start-up time for your second career.

Degree Doesn't Lock You Into Teaching

(Q.3) LIKE THOUSANDS OF OTHERS I graduated with a teaching degree and although I'm qualified to take over any classroom through middle school, all I've been able to find in the past three years are teacher's assistants or day care teacher jobs. I did have one wonderful post in a private school, but lost that after one year when they lost some funding. I was "last one in first one out." I hear the same kind of thing from most of my colleagues who graduated when I did and I wonder if I should just leave this career and seek something new. If so, how do I start? I am so tired of spending every summer looking for next year's job.

(A.) START LOOKING FOR ALTERNATIVES to a full-time teaching job. Use your ability to teach in other ways. Look at tutoring organizations, consider work as a full-time substitute teacher, willing to sign up at many schools and travel from one to another instantly when called. Most important, check out your local community college to see what training is available in administration, management and marketing for educational organizations and schools. Also, consider turning whatever minor you studied into a major, adding sales and moving entirely into the merchandising or marketing world-marketing and selling educational and learning tools. Get out of that house where you probably spend most of your time at the computer looking at job openings for teachers and posting your own ads. Obviously, you must move out into the real, and much wider, world. Many of the communication and management skills you acquired both in school and in those teaching jobs will work very well on the outside.

Make Review Positive Time for All

(Q. 4) I HAVE BEEN GIVING ANNUAL reviews to my employees for almost 20 years and during the last few I feel as though I don't really know these people well enough to do an honest job because most are working from their home offices-and I don't actually see them on the job. I wonder if there's some way I can be fairer in my criticism and praise. Now I'm pretty much basing all of the review on the bottom line of their performances.

(A) HOW WISE YOU ARE TO recognize that. It's a phenomenon that's sweeping the workplace, as more and more employers don't see all their employees every day and no longer know exactly how they work or interact with colleagues and customers-and how those people feel about them. According to Eric Mosley, author of The Crowd Sourced Performance Review, those traditional reviews you have been giving were created decades ago and are totally obsolete in this era of the Web and social media. He advises moving into this century by incorporating his method of "crowdsourcing" that incorporates informed opinion contributed by everyone with whom each person comes in contact from peers to managers in different locations or departments, on and off line. It then reviews performance in "real time" he contends, because employees and managers are judging by using data bases and management tools, and Human Resources can respond quickly to positive and negative performance information about individuals, groups, and entire divisions of a company.  ###

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