Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were
prepared for the
September 5, 2001 edition of U.S. Newspaper. All rights reserved.
What’s a `Good Employee?’ The Definition Has Changed
Just back from the Princeton Chamber’s annual trade
show, held last Thursday, August 30, Mary Jane Stofik has this
observation: "I was talking to tech people. They’re absolutely
nervous wrecks." Stofik is regional sales manager for Bryant
and Bryant Technology, working from their Jamesburg and Piscataway
offices. She is seeing, close up, that "definitely, a correction
She speaks on a panel discussing "How to Find Good People and
Keep Them" at a meeting of the Middlesex Chamber on Thursday,
September 6, at 8 a.m. Cost: $28. Call 732-821-1700.
Before switching to the personnel industry two years ago, Stofik spent
20 years in the insurance industry, most of them selling property
and casualty products to Fortune 500 companies. During that time,
she went through 13 acquisitions, two of them leading to layoffs,
and a number causing remaining employees to wonder "Was it a good
thing to be kept on?" So, naturally enough, she is philosophical
about the ups and downs of the hiring game. "It goes in
Minutes after saying this, however, she put her interviewer on hold
so that she could accept an incoming call. Coming back on the line,
she sounds at least a little shaken. "That was my friend,"
she says. "He was just laid off. He has a son starting
She says that her friend was an HR manager, and that he saw the irony
is his own dismissal, commenting "I’ve had to do this to other
"That’s the second friend this week," she says. "The other
was a big computer person in D.C." Still, speaking from
Stofik says, "Everyone should be downsized once." What it
teaches, she says, is that, while employers hold great power over
individuals, their pink slips "don’t kill you."
Stofik, a native of Union who studied business at Rutgers, now lives
in Ocean Grove, a seaside town in Monmouth County. It’s Lucent
she says, and it is "seeing a lot of that terror." The end
result, though, she predicts, will be a lot of creativity migrating
to other fields. "Those people aren’t going away," she says.
"It’s like a mattress. You push a lump down, and it pops up in
Despite the layoffs, and an economic uncertainty that is leading to
what she calls a certain "paralysis" in many industry sectors,
employers still are looking for good people. The definition of
people" has changed over the years, however. This is what the
employers Stofik visits are asking for now:
changes in the job market, Stofik says, is that employers no longer
stress loyalty as a top quality in their hires. "The vice
I report to has been in the industry for 15 years," Stofik says.
"She struggles with this." Given her own, possibly record
breaking, history in recently-acquired companies, she understands
why the promise of long-term service is not uppermost on employers’
minds as they search for new employees. Flexibility — the ability
to move around and adapt quickly — is now more important, by far.
"It used to be that you would look at a resume with a lot of jobs,
and ask `Where’s the stability?’" says Stofik. "Now, if
has been there more than five years, you say `Weren’t you good enough
to get another job?’"
are looking for experience, maturity." The mentality not long
ago, she says, was "We’ll get rid of you, and hire two
for less money." No more.
that off-color jokes and teasing co-workers about their religion,
gender, ethnicity, religion — or just about anything else —
is not funny. At least not if it lands them in court. Hiring
who respect others from a wide variety of backgrounds has become
who haven’t kept up with technology," Stofik says. This is no
good, from an employer’s point of view. Expertise at a wide range
of software applications is a must for the administrative assistant,
and for the manager too. Stofik gets people who give "I made lots
of money at AT&T" as their main job qualification, and storm out
when they are told it is a good idea to brush up on their computer
skills. Often, "They come back in six months," she says.
by a no-exceptions rule of technology literacy, many take advantage
of her agency’s offer to use its computers and software to learn
skills like Access, Excel, and Powerpoint.
idea. So, says Stofik, is "keeping a resume current, as though
it’s your last day on the job." As two of her friends just found
out, it very well could be.
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
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