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Is it OK to spend time at work on non-work stuff, like Facebook or YouTube?

The Real Question: Are you coming here to work or play?

Bottom-line Tactic: Their house, their rules. If you don’t like it, don’t take their money.

Nothing gets older employers foaming at the mouth quite like the topic of workplace distraction, also known as a morbid and sometimes irrational fear of millennials looking at YouTube all day, on the employer’s time.

In truth, it’s not just millennials who are bunking off in the office. Pretty much everyone is, although the issue is best illustrated by the gulf between boomers and digital natives, not least because the baby-boomer demographic holds most of the money and power in the developed world. Consequently, their views on this are best not ignored, even if they’re not universally accepted.

As the employer sees it, you are not paid to look at YouTube videos of cats falling into custard. But go into any office and it’ll often seem that some people do little else.

Certainly, there is a great deal of research to back up the fear that workplaces have become giant hubs of bunking off, with everything from Facearticle to porn being fair use of bandwidth to some. And the data for this research usually comes straight from the pipes and, as such, can’t be challenged: there really is a lot of bunking off going on. One study into browsing habits, from ContentWatch, quoted by Forbes magazine, put it like this:

  • Baby Boomers: born between 1946 and 1964—waste 41 minutes a day at work.
  • Gen X’ers: born between 1965 and 1981—waste 1.6 hours a day at work.
  • Millennials: born between 1982 and 2004—waste 2 hours a day at work.

For their part, nothing makes young people fume more than the thought of being forcibly separated from their social browsing during the working day. As a millennial sees it, they’ve managed to get this far in life by seamlessly combining their browsing habits with their external obligations, so there is no harm in them multitasking their way through the rest of their career either.

So how much browsing is too much? Well . . . you can forget trying to come up with a number. Here, the number is not the important thing.

Instead, you ought to be seen to accept that the issue is hugely important to employers, and that any time you spend doing something other than what you’re being paid to do is likely to be viewed as misconduct, regardless of whether you think that’s reasonable or not. In short, you need to abide by whatever workplace policies are in effect.

Your employer doesn’t want to be reminded that everyone bunks off now and again. They already know—it’s why they’re bringing it up with you in the first place—so you’ve nothing to gain from being seen to consider both sides of the issue.

You’re being offered money in exchange for a certain set of specified behaviors; if you take the money but don’t deliver on the behaviors, you’re being dishonorable. In most workplaces, social browsing is explicitly banned or severely restricted. If you think that’s an unreasonable demand for an employer to make, don’t take their money.

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Looking For Work

Are you looking for work? If so I have some tips for you with networking to help you get a job fast!


The final piece of The Networking Trifecta of Triumph is your reputation. In a nutshell:

Your reputation is your most important asset.

This is almost contrary to what we are taught in academia, where for the most part people attest that it’s what you know that will get you the job. But truth be told, it is not what you know, it is what people know about you and your knowledge, abilities, brand, and attitude that will get you the job and other game-changing career opportunities.

Your reputation is what people know about your brand and your attitude. It is an extremely important piece of networking because it is the carrier across time, space, and extra dimensions of what value you can provide other parties, teams, and institutions.

TIP: Decision-makers want to hire “known quantities,” because it reduces the risk associated with bringing in talent.

The reason surrounding this makes sense; people want to engage or hire “known quantities” – people whose brands and attitudes are already known in the community. Your reputation is how others confirm that you are a known quantity. The more you are seen and the more positive bits of information people know about your brand and attitude, the lower the risk they have in engaging or hiring you. Given a choice, I would rather hire someone whom I either know personally or by reputation, or who others in my networks know and can vouch for by either personal knowledge or reputation. I would prefer not to engage someone who is a stranger to me and whose reputation is either unknown to others I trust or is negative in some form.

About 10 years ago, I was attending the monthly meeting of the Southern Arizona article of the Public Relations Society of America. This was a regular event for me – to meet new people, to exchange information, to learn new ways of solving PR problems I might find in my job. Each meeting incorporated an invited speaker as well as time before and after the meeting to freely chat and network with those in attendance. At this particular session, the presentation consisted of a panel of editors from local publications offering tips on how to pitch them stories. One of the speakers was in a new job – he had just taken over as the editor of the regional business newspaper, to which I subscribed and read regularly.

TIP: When there’s new blood in an organization, this is often the best time to pitch new, or even create, opportunities.

When the formal part of the meeting concluded, I practically jumped from my chair and pushed my way across the room to introduce myself to him. I thanked him for his speech, congratulated him on his new position, and offered him my business card. I then blurted out that I had an idea for a column that I would like to write for him and inquired whether he would be interested in meeting with me to discuss it. Perhaps because he was so new on the job, and perhaps because he himself wanted to get to know other professionals in his sector, he granted me the appointment.

I approached the meeting as if I was going for a job interview – which of course, it really was. I took with me a portfolio that included an example of a potential column, previous writing samples, my résumé, and other projects that demonstrated my proficiency in public relations and my ability to solve his problems (relating to upping his readership and ad revenue) with finesse. What I specifically did not include was a list of references.

We had a very pleasant conversation and, of course, after I left I sent him a follow up email to thank him for meeting with me and to tell him I was looking forward to working with him. And then I waited. I waited in fact, several months. And then one day, I received an email from the gentleman stating that he wanted to move forward on the column idea, and that I have “an excellent reputation.”

Of course I was thrilled. Of course I was excited. But I was also completely perplexed. How did this guy, who although not new to the city was new to his job, know that I had an “excellent reputation”? How did he find out and then conclude that I would be an asset to his publication? The answer was obvious once I thought about it: He clearly spoke with people in his own networks, professionals he trusted, and they must have assured him that my brand and attitude were something that would bring him benefits. Our networks clearly intersected and my reputation was carried from one to the other to him. And since it represented me as someone who could be an advantage to his company, he made the decision to hire me.

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