The New Year is a traditional time for predictions. So here are mine, for the workplace. I predict an end of work as we know it, of course. But don’t get jumpy – it’s not going to be here in 2008. It’s going to come sooner than later, as the next generation infiltrates the ranks of workers. The best way to be ready is to start adapting your thinking today, because the way we think about work now is going to become obsolete.

The end of gender disparity
Pay is equal for men and women until there are kids. This inequality will change when Generation Y starts having kids because the men are committed to being equal partners in child rearing. We see already that among Generation X men and women are willing to give up pay and prestige in order to get time with their families. Generation Y’s demographic power will provide critical mass for big change.

The end of the stay-at-home parent
Women have already widely rejected the idea of sacrificing their time with children to a relentless, high-powered, long-houred job, and men are following suit. Women have also found that staying at home with kids all day is boring. Institutions are responding — finally — to these trends. Parents will choose some form of shared care. Each parent will work part-time and take care of kids part time.

The end of the grind
People will choose to work as a way to keep the job of raising children from being dull and alienating. The Washington Post reported that given the choice, most women with kids would rather work part-time than either be with kids full-time or work in an office full-time. People will choose to work because they love what they do. Generation Y is more community oriented and team oriented than any preceding generation. These people will want to work to be part of something larger than themselves. Also, this generation sees work as a path to personal growth – something to look forward to.

The end of “work friends”
Peoples’ networks will be filled with close friends who do not distinguish between work/family/play. As people create more integrated lives, their friendships will also be more integrated. Peoples’ work habits and work connections will make daily life look more like a salon than an office.

The end of office life
People will work from home, from their friends’ homes, from the beach, all the time. The need to have a home office will decrease because Generation Y will never really learn how to work 9 to 5 in an office anyway. They grew up blending homework and friends while they multi-tasked in their bedroom, and once they enter the workforce, they extend this behavior to everywhere — work life and home life will be blended in a way that makes each more rewarding.

The end of consulting
Everyone will be a consultant so the term will be useless. Employers will decrease costs by making almost everyone a consultant. Employees will push for this to get more flexible hours. People already feel no long-term loyalty, and people are already project-focused instead of job-focused. On top of that, everyone wants to be a consultant “if they could just build up a clientele.” One of the best harbingers of this trend is Web Worker Daily – a blog aimed ostensibly at people who do not have cubicle jobs, but appears to apply to every worker in some way or another.

The end of hierarchy
Pecking order really only matters if you are hanging out at the office all day, reinforcing ranks. So the less time people spend at their desk, the less they will care about rank. And the more people are on their own, the more they will focus on their own skill set. There is little point in climbing ladders when you know they won’t be around at one place long enough to hit every rung. The question people will ask managers is not, “When can I get a promotion?” but rather, “What can you do to help me expand my skills set?”

So what does this mean for you? Don’t be constrained by old ways of thinking. And don’t be scared of big change. If you are honest with yourself about what you’d really like for your life, you’ll probably find that you fit in just fine with the future of the workplace. For most of us, it can’t come too soon.

The changes that are coming to the workplace reward people who have strong relationships, entrepreneurial spirit, and a talent to leverage. People who don’t love their work won’t get any. People who don’t have strong personal ties will have no idea what the point of work is. I think this is all good news, even for those who hate change.

But I wonder, what do you guys think of these predictions? Do they seem right to you? Am I missing something? Have some things already happened? Are some things so far off we shouldn’t even be talking about them? Tell me what you think.

The number-one rule, of course, is you should not be flagrant. A new handbook for workplace dating, Office Mate, is full of practical precautions like asking the person out in the parking lot rather than their cube, and trying happy hours for truly fair playing ground.

Why the caution? According to a Gallup poll, people say they are more offended by someone kissing a co-worker than they are by someone stealing from the office or drinking on the job. And Barnes & Noble is so offended that they won’t even carry Office Mate in stores, even though it is likely that about fifty percent of Barnes & Noble employees have hooked up with a co-worker, and surely they could all use a handbook.

Attitudes toward office mating get more lax as you go down the corporate ladder. Younger people expect to hook-up with coworkers. After all, they are working most of their waking hours, so it’s a natural spot to search for romantic opportunities.

It used to be that women had to preserve what little power they had at the office and couldn’t squander power with bedroom antics. Today, though, women are equals for the most part, and in major cities women earn more than men. This parity leaves a lot of room for negotiating in and out of bed.

And women don’t have time to waste. Most want to get married by the time they are 30 so they probably want to have the right relationship in place by the time they are 28. This means they will probably have to date men they work with in order to meet their timetables. (And if you think playing beat-the-clock is unnatural, think again: Scientists surmise that women are so optimized for the game of beat-the-clock that a first kiss is a woman’s biologically attuned tool for quickly weeding out bad mating material.)

Also consider this: We do best when we have limited choices, which makes the workplace is more appealing than say, Karim Kassam studies how we deal with choices, and he found that we are much more satisfied with outcomes when we are picking from four or five things than from many more.

Kassam says we have a “psychological immune system” that helps us to see outcomes as positive. He is at Harvard, so it’s not surprising that he uses the Ivy League as an example: If you get into Harvard but not Princeton, you can say to yourself that Princeton is too much of a country club anyway. But if you get into Harvard but not Princeton, and not Stanford then you can’t say Princeton was too pretentious for me because Stanford is less pretentious than Harvard.

“The more alternatives there are,” says Kassam, “the more psychological maneuvering you have to do to tell yourself that your outcome is the best.”

Apply this to dating. You are much better off choosing from the five people you spend your days with than from the 6000 people available to you online. You might think that you will find someone better online, but in fact, you will have a harder time convincing yourself that it is someone good.

The problem is, workplace romance is a slippery slope, especially because not every hook-up is about establishing a lasting marriage. And some are about disrupting a marriage.

A one-night stand, for example, might improve your health, and, timed right, even make you a better public speaker. But be careful about letting things get too intense, because the human brain in love is like the human brain on cocaine: Totally obsessed.

Helen Fisher is an anthropologist who studies love, and she found that the same part of our mind that looks for more cocaine is the part of the brain that thinks about the person we are in love with. We all know how effective the coke addict is at work; the same can be said of the romantically obsessed.

And, bad news for people who think they will have a quick affair that won’t get messy: the human brain is capable of feeling attached in a long-term way to one person while at the same time in love with another person.

If you are feeling like you want to have a one-time fling, think about forgoing the orgasm. Because Fisher says that, just like the addict who is hooked the first time, you can fall in love from just one orgasm. (Here’s a fun and interesting video of Fisher talking about this topic at TED.)

It’s a different ball game if you travel a lot for work – different ball game as in people play more often.

A Yahoo poll found that most extramarital flings happen while someone is on the road. So it surprised me that only 10% of people on the road take their wedding rings off. But then I was sitting next to a guy on a plane who was wearing a wedding ring, and I told him about that research. He said he thought that women were more likely to hook up with a guy who was wearing a ring, because married men are safer. Then, when the plane landed, he asked me out.

Don’t jump so fast for that promotion or raise you’re about to win. Today’s workplace is largely unstable — people get laid off and job hop constantly, and in general, staying anywhere more than five years is a career liability. Your learning curve flattens out so much that you’re not gaining skills fast enough to stay competitive in the field.

In this environment, training is worth more than a promotion or a raise, and in fact, you’d do well to make a trade if someone offers you either. Training is the new currency of the workplace. Here are four reasons why:

1. Promotions are stressful.
When you get offered a promotion, it’s supposed to be a reward for good work. But in fact, most promotions derail you.

Think about it: You’re creating a career path that’s customized to your skills, strengths, and personal goals. How could anyone else create a path that’s right for you? Unfortunately, most companies structure a single corporate ladder and promote people upward whether it’s good for them or not.

In fact, most people do good work and then get promoted into a position they’ve shown no aptitude for. This is most pronounced when, say, a creative person or technical person gets promoted into management. In fact, most promotions are so misguided they’re more stressful than divorce.

2. Raises are negligible.
What do you get in exchange for taking the huge risk of leaving something you’re good at to do something you’re unproven at? What do you get in exchange for derailing your personal plans to follow someone else’s path? A 3 percent raise (on average), or 10 percent if you’re lucky.

Let’s say you get a 10 percent raise. If you’re earning $50,000, that’s $5,000. After taxes it’s around $3,500 — if you even stay in the job for another year. That amount of money won’t change your life, and even if you think it will, consider all the extra hours you’ll be working because you got promoted.

3. Mentors make a real difference.

What will change your life? Mentoring. People who have a mentor are more successful than people who don’t, across the board. For example, people with two mentors are 50 percent more likely to reach their next career goal than people who don’t have mentors.

So one thing you could do is spend less time gunning for that promotion and more time focusing on what you need to do to get a mentor. For example, ask good questions of the people you admire, and spend extra time getting to know people outside of your core group of coworkers.

It would be great if you could take your money from a promotion and buy a mentor, but life doesn’t work like that. (Although you could take the money and hire a career coach.)

4. Training creates stability.

You can trade money for training, though, and that’s what you should do. Your career trajectory and your ability to create a stable income are dependent on your skill set. There’s no job stability in the workplace today, so you have to count on yourself by being very desirable to employers. You do this by getting lots of training, and mentors to guide you on how to use that training.

There’s a huge range of training available today — you can get trained in how to deal with your email, how to connect better to people you speak to, and how to transition from college to adulthood. Have your company pay for this sort of training — it’s the kind that changes your life.

While a promotion actually makes your life more unstable, training creates more stability in your life. And that, rather than more money or a promotion, should be the real reward for performing well in your job.

This is a guest post from Jon Morrow, who is 25 years old. His blog is On Moneymaking.

By Jon Morrow – I nearly killed myself in college to get straight A’s. Well, almost straight A’s. I graduated with 37 A’s and 3 B’s for a GPA of 3.921. At the time, I thought I was hot stuff. Now I wonder if it wasn’t a waste of time. Let me explain:

1. No one has ever asked about my GPA.
I was told that having a high GPA would open all kinds of doors for me. But you know what? I interviewed with lots of companies, received a total of 14 job offers after graduation, and none of the companies asked about it. They were much more impressed with stuff like serving as Chief of Staff for the student government and starting a radio station run by 200 volunteers.

I suppose a college recruiter from a Fortune 500 company might ask, but honestly, I can’t see any employer hiring a straight-A student over someone with five years of relevant work experience. It might tip the scale in a competitive situation, but in most cases, I haven’t seen that grades are really that important to employers.

2. I didn’t sleep.
Unless you’re a super genius, getting 37 A’s is hard work. For me, it was an obsession. Anything less than an A+ on any assignment was unacceptable. I’d study for 60-80 hours a week, and if I didn’t get the highest grade in class, I’d put in 100 hours the next week.

Translation: I didn’t sleep much. From my freshman to junior year, I averaged about six hours a night. By my senior year though, I was only getting 3-5 per night, even on weekends. I was drinking a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew and 2-3 energy drinks per day just to stay awake. Not only is that unhealthy, but it’s not particularly fun either.

3. I’ve forgotten 95% of it.
I majored in English Literature and minored in Communication Theory. The main reason I chose those subjects was I thought they would teach me how to write and speak, two skills that would serve me well for the rest of my life.

Boy, was I stupid. Instead, I spent all my time reading classic literature and memorizing vague, pseudoscientific communication theories. Neither are useful at all, and I’ve forgotten at least 95% of it.

I’d guess the same is true for most college graduates. Tell me, what’s the point of spending 60-80 hours a week learning things that you immediately forget?

4. I didn’t have time for people.
Being in the student government and running a radio station, I had lots of opportunities to build a huge network. But I didn’t have time. Between studying and doing my job, I had to prioritize the people I wanted to develop relationships with and narrow it down to the handful who could help me the most.

That’s no way to go through school. College isn’t so much a training ground for entering the work place as a sandbox for figuring out who you are and how you relate to other people. You develop your social skills and forge relationships with people that might be colleagues for the rest of your life.

If I could do it all over again, I would spend less time in the library and more time at parties. I would have 50 friends, not 3. I would be known for “the guy that knows everyone,” not “the smartest guy in class.” Not only because it would’ve been more fun, but because I would still be friends with most of those people now and would have access to the networks they’ve developed over the last four years.

5. Work experience is more valuable.
In retrospect, I could’ve probably spent 20-30 hours a week on my studies and gotten B’s. That would’ve freed up 30-70 hours a week, depending on the course load. When I think of all of the things that I could’ve done with those hours, I just shake my head.

If there’s one thing graduates lack, it’s relevant work experience. If you want to be a freelance writer, you’re much better off writing articles for magazines and interning with a publishing company than working your tail off to get straight A’s. The experience makes you more valuable to future employers and usually results in a paycheck with a few more digits on it.

What about Graduate School?
If you’re getting your masters, going to law school, or becoming a doctor, then you’ll need all 37 of those A’s to get into the best school possible, and you can safely disregard this entire post. Just be sure that you follow through. I thought I would go to law school, and then I found out what a miserable career it is and how little it actually pays. All of those good grades are now going to waste.

It also comes down to the question, “What’s the most effective use of your time?” If you can’t imagine living without an advanced degree from an Ivy League school, then reading until your eyes fall out and sleeping on a table in the library is a perfectly defensible lifestyle.

On the other hand, if you want to get a job and make as much money as possible, then good grades aren’t going to help you as your teachers and parents might have you believe. You’re better making powerful friends, building a killer resume and generally having the time of your life on your parent’s dime.

Jon Morrow’s blog is On Moneymaking.


Once you’re done with college, what should you focus on next? It’s clear your grades don’t matter, but what does matter? The most important thing after you graduate college is to treat your 20s like they matter. This is not practice. This is your life. And here: How to Make Your 20s Count

Christmas does not belong in the workplace because it undermines diversity at work. And businesses that promote diversity have more profits in the long run than companies that do not have a diverse workforce.

A big problem with Christmas is that those of us who have no reason to celebrate it have to spend a month between Thanksgiving and New Year’s dealing with Christmas at work. Christmas is the only religious holiday that everyone has to stop working for. It’s the only religious event that offices have parties to celebrate. These practices alienate non-Christians.

Businesses that curtail practices that alienate minorities will see growth to their bottom line as a direct result of this action. And besides, promoting acceptance of diverse backgrounds at work enriches our lives, independent of the bottom line.

But encouraging diversity doesn’t mean diverse ways to celebrate Christmas. Diversity is giving people space to ignore Christmas. Forcing people to take the day off requires everyone to run their work life around this holiday in a way they might not have chosen for themselves. Yet still, Christmas continues to permeate workplaces across the United States.

Do you want to make a difference? Start with yourself. When it comes to discussing Christmas in the workplace, here are five offensive things people say to someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Don’t say them.

1. “Christmas is not a religious holiday.”
The only people who think Christmas is not religious are the Christians. Everyone else thinks, “This is not my holiday.” In fact, only a Christian would feel enough authority over the holiday to declare that it is not Christian.

To think that Christmas is for everyone is tantamount to Americans who think that everyone says bathing suit for the thing you wear to go swimming. In fact, the British say “swimming costume” but you’d never know that if you only hang around Americans. The smaller your frame of reference the more convinced you are that the way you do things is the way everyone does things.

2. “Stop complaining! You get an extra day off from work.”
I don’t want a day off on Christmas. It’s a great day to work. No one calls. No one interrupts me. And in many workplaces there’s great camaraderie in the office on Christmas because only a few people are there, and they all have something in common: They don’t celebrate Christmas.

I want a day off for Yom Kippur, which I usually have to take a personal day for. Why do I have to take a personal day for Yom Kippur but no one has to take a personal day for Christmas? This is not equal treatment for religious groups.

3. “Christmas is about good cheer. Focus on that and lose your bad attitude.”
I know I have a bad attitude. But consider that the fact that good cheer is mandated in December is also a Christian trope. For example, Thanksgiving is the holiday that makes a lot of sense to surround with good cheer. It’s about gratitude. Makes sense that we’d focus on Thanksgiving.

And the idea that we add Hanukkah to the mix is ridiculous. Hanukkah is about a war victory. The good cheer mandates are not coming from the Jews except in a sort of peer pressure way to cope with the Christian insistence that we all be happy because the Christians are happy.

4. “You can also take a day off for Hanukkah.”
First of all, Hanukkah is eight days. Second of all, the holiday isn’t a big deal to us, except that it’s a way for Jewish kids to not feel outgunned in the gift category. Jacob Sullum wrote in Reason magazine last year, “It is inappropriate…to make such a fuss over Chanukah, a minor Jewish holiday whose importance has been inflated in the popular imagination by its accidental proximity to Christmas.”

So look, we don’t want a day off for Hanukkah. Or any other Jewish holiday. We want floating holidays that everyone uses, for whatever they want. It doesn’t have to be religious, or it can be. But we don’t need our work telling us when to take time off. It’s insulting and totally impractical.

5. “We get Christmas off at work because this is a Christian country.”
People actually say this to me. Every year. I’m not kidding. People tell me that I should move to Israel if I don’t want to celebrate Christmas. Really.

I tell you this so that you understand what it’s like to be a minority. The majority of the country is not New York and Los Angeles, and the majority of the country thinks Christmas is actually sanctioned by the government. For example, my son’s public school in Madison, Wisconsin has the kids make a December calendar that includes the birthdays of four saints. Surely this is illegal mixing of church and state, but I don’t hear any complaining from parents.

People want tolerance and diversity but they are not sure how to encourage it. There is a history of tolerance starting first in business, where the change makes economic sense: Think policies against discrimination toward women, and health insurance that includes gay partners. Tolerance and awareness in the workplace reliably trickle down to other areas of society.

So do what you can at work, where you can argue that tolerance and diversity improve the bottom line, and you will affect change in society, where tolerance and diversity give deeper meaning to our lives.

It used to be that authority only came after years of experience. Even then, someone older had to annoint you before you could begin spouting your opinions and advice from a place of authority.

For instance, I climbed the corporate ladder very fast when I was in my 20s, and had a hard time maintaining my authority among people older than me. So my boss became convinced that I needed a coach in order to acquire the trappings of established authority.

The coaching was only moderately successful. But I did learn that authority has a lot to do with having self-confidence in your strengths, and little to do with other peoples’ preconceptions about you.

Today the Internet democratizes authority, and people are judged not by their age or experience but by the quality of what they have to say.

This is great for 20-somethings, especially those who give advice about or discuss their own careers online. As Marci Alboher pointed out in the New York Times, “it’s all about figuring out what you can bring to the table that others cannot.” In the case of young bloggers, their tips and opinions are quirky, fresh, and interesting, even if you don’t always agree with them.

Online, much more so than in print, authority is about voice. Can you tell that a real person is behind the ideas? Do you feel like you know him or her? A strong voice is more engaging, and once you’re engaged with someone you’re more willing to listen to her whether or not you agree. In this way, voice begets authority.

With that in mind, here’s a selection of 20-something bloggers I find irresistible, both in the intelligence of their ideas and the temerity it takes to post them. Most of them write about careers either directly or tangentially, and all of them give people a new way to look at issues we face every day.

Legal Andrew is by Andrew Flusche, the consummate 20-something who focuses on following his passions rather than climbing ladders. He’s got a degree from University of Virginia law school, but is also proficient in the PHP and SQL programming languages. Andrew recognizes that today’s law career isn’t a single slide into long hours for lame partnerships. It’s something bigger, and he’s going to find it.

Kate, who’s between jobs, and her blog, From Boston with Love, have become symbols of the new unemployment as a time for growth. Kate blogs with intelligence and wit about diverse topics, all to show that unemployment actually offers some breathing room to collect ideas, form opinions, and share them in a way that only today’s young people would think of doing.

Nathan Snell takes on tough topics surrounding social media, ranging from which online business models work well to which things you can buy on Second Life if you don’t have any money. He has a distinctive voice, and peppers his blog with I’m-still-in-college reminders, like the post celebrating no homework over Thanksgiving break.

Elysa Rice writes about work and life in her blog GenPink, and even invites boys into the pages “as long as they promise to play nice.” Elysa’s most popular post gives advice to her fellow millennials that they shouldn’t plan their lives based on other peoples’ expectations. Wouldn’t you know, 10 people jumped into the conversation.

This shows, perhaps, the main leadership quality of these young people: They’re great at creating a network of people who want to talk about similar issues, and they’re great at asking the questions that matter right now.

And what is authority but the intelligence and knowledge to ask the best questions? Because no one really has all the answers on subjects like work-life balance and careers. So maybe the people who deserve the most authority are simply those who force us to ask sharper questions.

You can keep talking about old measures of authority, or you can take a cue from these Gen Yers and measure authority by how much someone teaches you about seeing the world in a new and useful way.

In case you are new to the drama that is my marriage, here is the post about our first day of counseling, which now has 235 comments. And here is the post where I blame my whole marriage on the institution of shared-care parenting, and also where I find out that the population of available babysitters in Madison, Wisconsin is reading my blog, and maybe that’s why we now offer the highest paying babysitting job in town.

At this point we’ve been seeing the marriage counselor for a few months, and believe it or not, I’ve learned a thing or two about communicating. We all want to think that our communication problems at home are different from the communication problems we have at work. In fact, though, corporate training companies like VitalSmarts have shown that communication skills are the same at home and at work, just the stakes are higher at home, where getting fired is not just a new job hunt.

So in the spirit of acknowledging that work and home require the same communication skills, here is what I’ve learned so far:

1. Make sure the person you’re talking to is ready to hear what you’re saying.
One reason there are so many comments about my posts about my marriage is that men (it’s mostly men) fear the emasculation of my husband via blogging. There is, of course, little sense of irony among these men that my husband’s masculinity would be very precarious if a few blog posts could derail it.

Regardless, this post is about our marriage. So if these posts bother you, you should ask yourself why you are reading past this paragraph.

2. Instead of complaining, ask for what you want in concrete, measurable terms.
In counseling, my husband and I had the earth-shattering revelation that we are treating each other like crap. So, we each got to ask the person to do some things that would change that dynamic and help us feel better about our relationship.

My husband asked me to stop throwing things, which really pissed me off because I have thrown things twice, in fifteen years, both times at a wall, but he brings it up constantly like I have a track record for throwing daggers at his head.

Please, don’t send me emails about how even one thing thrown is traumatizing, okay? I had about ten million things thrown at me as a kid, and the police were at our house all the time, so throwing only twice, and relatively innocuously, is actually a triumph, and the result of ten years of therapy so I don’t repeat what my parents did. No kidding: Ten years.

Here’s what I asked from my husband: That he say or do one nice thing to me every day. He definitely got ripped off in this bargain. Do not write to me about how this is a metaphor for our marriage. It isn’t. In all marriages that reach a low point, both people are getting ripped off equally, or else someone would threaten to leave. And neither of us is leaving.

3. Give feedback if expectations aren’t met, even if the effort is good.
The first day comes, and he writes me a note to thank me for taking care of the kids. Here’s what it said: Thanks for taking care of the kids. Here’s where he put the note: On my Facebook wall.

I didn’t even know he had an account on Facebook. And before you go to mine, let me confess that my assistant does a lot of my Facebook stuff – which is not uncommon because many professionals are on Facebook only because of peer pressure.

My assistant sends an email to me to let me know my husband says, Thank you for taking care of the kids.

I don’t want to tell my husband that he is crazy for posting stuff like this on my wall where thousands of people see it. But after three days of Facebook-based gratitudes, I remind him that my assistant manages my Facebook page.

He says, “Oh yeah. I forgot.” Then he keeps sending stuff there. He does chocolates. Then flowers. Then plants. By now, my Facebook page looks like a greenhouse.

I count the days until we will be back in a counseling session where I can ask for something different.

4. Take responsibility to make your boundary needs clear.
Then I got an email from Ryan P: “I see on Facebook that you and Nino got married. Congratulations.”

That’s when the Facebook thing became too much. I realized it was my husband’s way of doing our marriage publicly. Mine is blogging, his is Facebooking. So I wanted to tell my assistant to unmarry us because I don’t want to be linked to him online because I’m so sick of him. But Ryan P pointed out that if I do that, everyone would think that we got unmarried, “which would be worse than announcing that you’re married.” So I had my assistant fix it to say I’m married, but not say to whom.

5. You must keep talking. That’s the only way to make progress.
The other assignment we had from the marriage counselor was to have a conversation. Yes, that’s where we stand–we must be directed to talk with each other.

It takes us a while. I have been travelling a lot which throws off everyone’s schedule.

So on Friday night we put the kids to bed and we sit down to have our conversation. We sit on the kitchen floor because it’s already freezing in Madison and our house is hard to heat, but the kitchen is always warm. We sit across from each other on our impractical-for-a-kitchen but squishy-soft pink rugs. There is a soft hum from our refrigerator. There is an orange glow from the Halloween lights my son taped across the wall.

Our conversation topic is pre-selected for emotional safety: A book my husband’s reading. James Kunstler’s The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century.

My husband refers to this book as peak-oil literature. I am shocked to hear he’s reading anything at all because he spends so much time taking care of our kids.

He knows all the scenarios about what will happen if we cannot use technology to replace oil, and he feels strongly that it’s too late to make a difference with recycling. Here are things we talk about:

  • If we cannot transport food then we all have to farm. There will probably be a feudal system because only some people own farmable land.
  • Cuba is a test case for this. When they could not get oil from the Soviet Union, everyone had to farm. It has been deemed a success by agronomists.
  • There is some point when oil gets so expensive that it’s no longer useful for maintaining infrastructure and then infrastructure collapses and oil is worth nothing.

I ask a lot of questions. I find all this fascinating, and so does he. We talk about the author’s blog, Clusterfuck Nation, and I have a moment of blog-title envy. We talk about teaching our two kids to farm. From a book. Because how else would we know? And there really aren’t books like that because historically neighbors have taught each other. Besides, we would need oil to get the books to people.

I tell my husband that I like the idea of not having any oil. It’s a much more simple life, and it’s appealing to me. “We would need to live close to people we love. We’d spend a lot of time sitting on our pink rugs talking.”

There’s a blogger I like a lot, but she never links. I asked her why, and she said, “It takes too long.”

It’s true that linking does take a long time. But it’s one of my favorite parts of blogging. Sometimes I spend a couple of hours on the links – an hour reading the relevant conversations online and figuring out what to link to, and an hour arranging links in the post.

I think all the time about why I am linking, and where I should link, and what should be underneath the link. Here are the types of links that I think about:

1. The respect-gains-respect link
The Internet is very democratic about authority. Authority is up for grabs, and you get authority if you say something smart and interesting. To this end, whenever I am presenting a controversial opinion, I link to as many of my sources as possible. I want people to be able to look at the research that I am looking at and decide for themselves if my conclusion is right. Also, I have found that doing this makes conversation in the comments section more interesting.

2. Easter egg link
When my brother was guest blogging for me, every link he had was a joke. I have a background in user interface design, and at first I told him it was a bad way to link because people should know what they’re getting before they click. But then I realized that it is actually just a style of linking, and people came to expect his links to be fun. I started referring to these as Easter egg links, after the practice programmers have of adding secret messages behind the code. (For example you used to be able to type “zzzz” into a Microsoft Word document and spellchecker suggested “sex”.)

3. Here-are-my-friends links
Guy Kawasaki is the king of this. When Guy links, it is usually to one of his friends, or a friend of a friend. So Guy’s links serve to remind us of how well-connected he is. This is no small peanuts since he is, in fact, very well connected offline – especially for someone who is willing to commit to blogging regularly. Reading Guy’s blog is sometimes like the smart-man’s Page Six of Silicon Valley.

4. True-love link
Sometimes I’ll fall in love with a link and structure a whole post around it. Like this one. And sometimes I’ll save a link for a year before I use it. Usually my links are very serious – to back up some point I’m making. So I think of it as a treat for me and the reader when I throw one in just for fun. Like this one, about how to recharge and iPod using an onion and Gatorade.

5. Self-referential link
Most bloggers have pet topics they go back to time and again. So it’s helpful to a reader if the blogger links to a few of the other posts on that topic to give the current discussion context. I do this a lot, but I learned to do it from the team of writers at Techdirt. Those guys are great at linking to other stories they’ve written on the same topic. I don’t read Techdirt every day, so if I happen to be reading, I can get a history of a given topic by reading their links.

6. Hat-tip link
Sometimes, a blogger finds a very obscure piece of information, and links to it. Then, a blogger who regularly reads that blog also links to the obscure piece of information. It’s pretty clear that the second blogger got the information from the first blogger. And in this case, a nice little hat-tip is a courtesy – to say that actually, the stellar Internet research comes from someone else, not me. I do this often. For example, when I read this woman’s post because she blogged about me, and then I blogged about a link in her post. Here’s an example of someone railing against a blogger who did not follow the etiquette.

7. Link-bait link
When I first started blogging, people told me to link to bloggers who are bigger than I am. I didn’t really believe it would do anything for me, but that’s because I didn’t understand how much traffic a big blogger can send. So, I followed advice, even though I was skeptical. Here‘s the post – and it changed my life as a blogger. Literally. I linked to Lifehacker and they linked back, and for a year, that was the most popular post on my blog. Lifehacker’s audience is breathtakingly huge, and to get linked to from them is a big day for almost any blogger.

8. The friendly link
Blogging is a conversation, and it is much more fun if you are part of it, instead of just talking at people. One of the great pleasures of blogging is linking to someone who I don’t think knows that I read their blog. A link to someone is like saying, “I really like what you’re writing and in fact, I want to share it with everyone I know.” A blogger trades on ideas, so recognizing another blogger’s ideas with a link is a big deal. And it’s so easy to do, considering how nice it makes people feel. So do it.

9. The poetic link
If I write a list, and I have links to two out of three list items, I find a link to the third. I think the symmetry is important. Not like anyone will be upset if I don’t link, but I think that good rhythm to links is like good rhythm to sentences. It makes reading so much nicer. I do this in paragraphs as well – try to keep the linking structure rhythmic as the reader scrolls down the post. I don’t need to do that for meaning, I do it simply for pleasure.

One of the biggest opportunities today is working in overseas markets.

These jobs are rising fast as the trend toward globalization continues, and the Harvard Business Review estimates such positions will skyrocket as baby boomers retire; few of the younger generation are willing to take on the long hours these jobs typically entail.

This means lots of opportunity for people who want to work hard and in exchange benefit from a very steep learning curve that can pave the way for lots of career flexibility in the future.

For some these jobs will be too time-consuming and culturally challenging. David Everhart, regional practice leader for Asia at the recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International, warns that in order to succeed in overseas markets you should probably be a patient person with a high tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity.

But Jamie Sugar-Butter and Morgan Sugar-Butter make the prospect seem like a big party.

The sisters – ages 23 and 25 — work at importing company Acme Merchandising and Apparel. They both do business overseas for the majority of their work. And while they live in Boston, they travel in Asia one third of the year. Here are their tips for working in Asia:

1. Expect weird names.
Funny coming from the Sugar-Butters, right? But in fact, their name, which is actually each of their parents’ last names combined and hyphenated, draws little attention in Asia. First of all, few people they deal with know what the name means. But on top of that most people the Sugar-Butters deal with have selected English words to use as names when dealing with Americans, to make it easier for them. So the Sugar-Butters run into people with names such as Cinnamon, and Apple.

The names are surprising, surely, but it’s a constant reminder how hard people are working to make sure the Americans are comfortable with them.

2. Put respect above everything else.
In China the Sugar-Butters are careful to tell everyone they don’t eat meat. Only seafood and vegetables. “The meals are really long and there are so many courses and it’s so disrespectful to say no,” Morgan says.

So the time they were served platters of what seemed like the fish’s reproductive area …they ate them. Well, Jamie did. Morgan realized Jamie didn’t know what she was eating, so Morgan slid her share onto Jamie’s plate.

3. Get a good translator.
People will not respect you if you don’t have a good translator. Usually the Sugar-Butters use Skype’s messenger system because the people they communicate have software that translates messages in real time. “But you can’t use slang in Skype,” says Morgan. “One word can throw the whole conversation off.”

But when they travel, they handpick their translators carefully.

“We have one who speaks Mandarin and one who speaks Cantonese. You have to have someone you would trust to handle negotiations,” Jamie says.

She said they also always use male translators. “When we walk in the room to do business, everyone expects to see a man come in with us. If we’re alone, they wait for the man to come in the room.”

4. Distinguish between differences in culture and differences in values.
The Sugar-Butters spend a lot of time trying to figure out who will be a good business partner. They have a lot of understanding of cultural differences. For example, they will travel for days to visit a factory in inland China just to show respect to the factory owner.

However they have a good nose for bad values, as well. For example, at a trade show a vendor would not talk to their translator because they thought he was of too low a class. Once the vendor realized that the Sugar-Butters and the translator were with a major company, the vendor was accommodating. But by then it was too late. The Sugar-Butters would not do business with him.

5. Stay healthy.
The hours for working in overseas markets are out of sync with most workers in the US. Morgan, for example, works 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Skype. One of the best ways to cope with erratic hours is to have a set exercise regimen. They spend a lot of time doing pilates at Boston Body when they’re home, and it’s one of the things they miss most when they travel.

Their exercise regimens are also a source of perhaps the greatest culture shock the Sugar-Butters face.

“In Asia they’re not into exercise,” says Morgan. “It’s impossible to find a gym, and if you run outside, people are like, `are you okay? What are you running from?'”

One of the most overlooked skills in the workplace is figuring out when to leave. Of course, there are the obvious situations, like when a boss is losing his mind, or a company is about to go under. But most situations aren’t so black and white.

The best way to figure out what to do next is to envision what you’re trying to accomplish. Then you can see what the process of separation might look like and what you might end up with when you move to another job.

Here some tips on how to do just that:

1. Don’t quit to make yourself happy.
A job can’t make you happy. Happiness doesn’t come from making more money or creating the perfect design or being right about the marketplace. Happiness comes from the relationships you make with other people. So work doesn’t make you happy, but it can make you unhappy.

If your boss is setting goals you could never meet, or not setting goals at all, it could be so frustrating that you’ll be unhappy. Or if your commute is more than 45 minutes, you probably have so little control over it that the uncertainty is adding enough stress to your life to make you unhappy. These are reasons to change jobs.

But if you have a job where you have challenging goals that you’re able to meet, ask yourself if you should be changing your personal life and not your job. Because the connection between work and happiness is overstated.

2. Quit as a personal growth opportunity.
The days of stable jobs and corporate loyalty are over. Today, people change jobs constantly. So the best way to create stability in your career is to depend on your ability to get a new job when you need to. The people with the best skill sets have the most flexibility when it comes to changing jobs.

Which means that you need to be building your skill set constantly. If you’re in a job that has a flat learning curve, try to get a project that will challenge you. Or try to get your boss to pay for training. But if you can’t do that, it’s time to quit.

Personal growth isn’t just the key to getting a six-figure career. It’s also the key to keeping yourself engaged in your work and employable in the marketplace.

3. Use quitting as a networking opportunity.

The minute you quit, your relationship with your boss changes. Now you’re equals. Now you’re two people who work in the same industry and are part of each others’ network. When you tell your boss you just got a better job, you immediately become more appealing to him or her — as a networking opportunity. Manage this moment carefully, and you and your boss will be able to help each other for many years to come.

As I’ve written here before, forget things like exit interviews — those never help anyone. After all, if the company were really interested in what you have to say, they would’ve asked you while you were an employee. So stick to the positive stuff. Be gracious and grateful — even if you’re not feeling a lot of gratitude, you can find something positive to focus on.

Quitting is a great moment in your career to build new bridges for yourself, but you need to have a solid plan for how to manage the situation well.

4. Don’t feel guilty.

Even though today’s 20-something workers change jobs every 18 months, they typically feel guilty about giving notice. This strikes me as a new phenomenon. As a Gen-Xer who graduated into one of the worst job markets in history, I gave notice with glee, because the jobs I had in my 20s were mostly lousy.

Today, though, young people have unprecedented opportunity in the workplace, and often their bosses make a big effort to retain them. So it makes sense that quitting will be difficult. But people who quit don’t need to feel guilty.

If you’re quitting because of a new growth opportunity and your boss cares about you, he or she will congratulate you and ask you to keep in touch. And when it makes good sense for you to take a new job and you’ve been a good employee, quitting is likely to go smoothly.