The first time I had my own company, we ignored Martin Luther King Day. And it felt really bad, like I was not living my own values. Now I am careful each year to do something to mark the holiday. So today I’m posting a piece I wrote a few years ago, before I had a blog…

My husband and I didn’t argue about my son’s first name. We argued about the last name. At first, I didn’t have a strong opinion, so we gave my son my husband’s name, Rodriguez, even though I can’t roll the Rs, which drives my husband crazy.

But then I got cold feet. I worried that our son would face discrimination for his name. My husband said, “Don’t worry, I get it all the time. He’ll get used to it.”

I was surprised to hear that my husband experiences discrimination. Part of seeing someone as a minority is seeing him as other. So, because he’s my husband, I don’t think of him as a minority.

But here’s an example he gave me: He worked with a think tank that researched solutions to homelessness. Sometimes when he met with leaders of homeless shelters, the leaders mistook my husband for one of the homeless. This never happened to his counterpart, Jay Alexander .

But my husband kept telling me it doesn’t matter. He said that to me once a week for nine months until I believed him.

What did I know? I have never had a name that identifies me as a minority, so I don’t know what it’s like. My great-grandfather changed the family name so that it would not sound Jewish and his sons could get through the Ivy League quota system. (The change worked, they got in.) In the family tradition of changing one’s name for one’s politics, I changed my last name when I was in my early twenties because I didn’t want to be part of a patriarchal naming structure. (In this case, I’m not sure if the change did anything.)

My husband always says, “It’s no big deal.” But now I am sure that it is a big deal.

A study conducted at the University of Chicago and MIT shows that people who have names that are typically from minorities are much less likely to get a job. In this study, hundreds of fake resumes with very similar qualifications were sent in response to entry-level job advertisements. A resume from a name like Amy Alexander was fifty percent more likely to get an interview than a resume from a name like Latoya Washington.

This shouldn’t surprise me – of course people like to hire people who are like them. And minorities are not running the show in corporate America. In fact, I am guilty, also. Even though I know that diversity enhances workplace success, I also know that managing someone like myself is a lot easier than managing someone who’s not like me; it’s so much easier to lead people who are already thinking in the same way that I am.

So I can talk until I’m blue in the face about race and discrimination, but I have to admit that I have preconceptions about someone with the last name of Rodriguez and someone whose last name is Alexander. I don’t want to have preconceptions, but we can’t always control those things. So I thought of changing my son’s last name, but then I thought, that’s a cop out.

I want to believe that we can control how we approach resumes so that we mitigate our preconceptions by reading resumes without reading names. Each of us is more likely to interview more fairly if we do not read names. It’s a simple process that will teach each of us something about our prejudices and ourselves.

So give name-blind resumes a try. See what happens. And who knows? Maybe one day, that resume you might have skipped will be my son’s.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was overhauling my time management strategy. And believe it or not, things are getting a little better.

I have integrated my email and my to do list, which saves a lot of time moving information around my computer. And I have consolidated my work calendar and personal calendar so that I don’t schedule any more interviews during date night with my husband.

But it takes time to switch how you do something. And a certain level of self-confidence, too.

This reminds me of when I played professional beach volleyball. I was always working on something new — like being able to make my jump serve hit the left line of the court. But there was a saying, “Don’t practice in a game.” Which means, “You miss a lot while practicing, so don’t do it when it counts.” In fact, when you do something you don’t really know how to do in a game situation, you do it worse than you would do it if you were in a practice situation.

This is all true for work, too. The culprit of my time management situation is how much time it takes to write a good post and run a blog in general. But as I learn to manage my time as a blogger, there is no non-game time because I post almost every day. So I find that I have the stress of trying to do a jump serve I can’t really do, in a well-attended game situation.

What I find myself doing a lot is second-guessing myself about what matters on my blogger to-do list. How often should I link when there’s a blogger I like? How often should I comment when there’s a post I like? Do I need to chill out?

The problem with second-guessing oneself — in blogging and in volleyball — is that it wastes time and destroys focus. When you have a clear plan, you don’t second guess as much.

This weekend I’m going to do what everyone should do when they start a new job: Get very clear on what is important so you know what to-dos you don’t need to do. Instead of worrying all the time about the blog, I’m going to make a list of my blog priorities, and create a new blog schedule.

And I’m going to get some more sleep.

My husband tells me that last night, in the middle of the night, he said to me, “Wake up, wake up. Don’t you hear the baby crying?”

And without waking from my sleep, I said, “Yeah, yeah, okay. I’ll link to his blog in the morning.”

A reader asked this question: Would you mind writing a post about dealing with multiple job offers and declining some of them — politely and gracefully?

This is actually a question about networking. When someone offers you a job, they have identified you as someone they want to be connected with. That you have multiple offers for this type of connection makes you even more desirable. So when you turn down the offer, your number-one concern should be making sure this person stays in your network.

This means that you should remember networking tips that would apply to any situation. And, before I get to them, I want to tell you that Tahl Raz’s article in Inc. magazine about Keith Ferrazzi is one of my all-time favorite things to read about networking, and it applies to you no matter what your situation is.

But here are four things to keep in mind for turning down an offer:

1. Be nice.
When you turn down a job, thank the person for the opportunity. Tell the person that something about them or their company impressed you. Think of something, even if it’s small. Just make sure you are specific, because that’s the type of compliments that matter most to people.

Then explain why the job you are taking is a great opportunity for you. Don’t explain why the other company is a thousand times better than the company you’re rejecting, even if it is. Talk in terms of the opportunity, and how it will allow you make a big difference to the business and grow personally. The aim is to show that what matters to you is learning and contributing to the organization because that’s what you want the person to remember about you.

2. Follow up.
Do something a week or so later to let the person know you plan to keep in touch. This will make the person feel more like you rejected the job offer and not him, personally.

There are a lot of ways to follow up. You can comment on their blog, if they have one. Send them information you find that you know they’ll like. Or you can invite the person to lunch if you want to spend time together. Or, if time together makes you cringe, take a smaller step and send a LinkedIn invitation. (Introduction to LinkedIn. Advanced LinkedIn.)

3. Suggest someone else.
If you are someone who is specialized, and it’s going to be hard for the employer to find someone like you, you can really endear yourself by referring a friend.

Even if the friend doesn’t ultimately take the job, Ian Ybarra points out that introducing someone to someone else is a gift (list item #6).

4. Assess your own conduct.
Of course, none of this will work if you have been being very difficult and demanding during the interview process and stringing someone along for months and are dropping the ball at the last possible minute. In this case, you might think about how your slow and perhaps-incompetent decision-making process is giving you a bad reputation.

It’s hard to turn down a job offer in this situation without looking like a jerk. So if you have already gotten yourself in a muddle, turning down the job offer will be tough. Face the muddle and help yourself to not do that again.

And if you are not in a muddle, congratulations on the multiple job offers!

It’s hard to look at the job you have and the job you’re looking for and figure out if the gap between them is due to bad job hunting skills or to something else. The best way to get the answer to this is to understand what a good job hunter looks like, and see if you look like that, too.

It used to be that there was a two-tiered job hunt — one for knowledge workers who had college degrees and spiffed-up resumes, and the other for auto assembly line workers and people without college degrees.

Today it’s still two-tiered, but the tiers are different. The percentage of people who have college degrees is increasing to the point where it is the equivalent to what a high school degree used to be. Also, blue collar jobs are decreasing and knowledge worker jobs are increasing, so it’s harder and harder to divide the workforce by blue collar and white collar.

So where does the workforce divide today? Networked, nonstop job hunters and solo, just-for-now job hunters.

A good job hunter is always hunting for the next big thing because you don’t know when, exactly, you will need it, or what, exactly will come. So job hunting is not an event, it’s a lifestyle. And a good job hunter will do these tactics:

1. Network all the time. With genuine interest.

2. Blog and comment on other peoples’ blogs.

3. Use social networking software like LinkedIn.

4. Constantly craft stories to decribe oneself.

5. Write resumes collaboratively – with a professional.

Ask yourself how many of these you really do. You don’t need to be doing them all, but if you are not doing at least a few of them enthusiastically, then you will probably fall into the bad job hunter category, and you’ll probably have a tough time getting a job.

You need to connect with people. In most cases sending your resume to blind ads just doesn’t work, so the list of good job hunting is all about knowing what you want and making genuine connections with people to help that happen.

It’s a great market for job hunters. The unemployment rate is low, and businesses in many sectors are stressed about employee shortages. So if you are having trouble finding a job, you really need to look at what you’re doing. Ask yourself if you fit into any of the thought patterns on this list of job hunt sabotage:

1. Do you really want to get another job or do you want to stay where you are?
2. Do you resent how quickly the world is changing? Are you aiming to resist?
3. Are you looking for a realistic job?

At some point, if you are not getting a job, you need to force yourself to do something new. It might be to try things out on the first list. It might be to ask yourself the questions on the second list.

But when you are stuck, you have to change something. Curt Rosengren has a nice post on The Occupational Adventure called Getting Unstuck. So start there, and use the list of good job hunt tactics as a starting point for setting your goals.

There is plenty of data to show that diversity is good for the workplace. But in general we don’t really create it for ourselves, because we like to work with people who are similar to us.

“In terms of innovation, diverse teams way outperform non-diverse teams, but people are very comfortable working with people they have worked with in the past or people who are like them,” says Frans Johansson, author of Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation.

Before you start commenting about how you are the exception, and your office is diverse, let’s be clear on what diversity is. The research about diversity at work is about diversity of experience, perspectives or work styles. This means that teams you might assume are diverse may not be – for example a multi-racial team of prep-school and Ivy-league graduates might have had a homogenous experience. This also means that places we typically think of as diverse, like San Francisco, are actually more homogenous than we realize (#6).

Diversity is a popular idea, but we misuse the idea of it all the time. We can learn a lot about diversity from preschools, by way of politics.

Wisconsin recently voted to ban gay marriage. Voters of Madison, where I live, strongly opposed this measure. The sentiment here is indignanation that their own state passed such a discriminatory law. Yet gay marriage is not about diversity in Madison. Gay people are part of the mainstream here, and are widely accepted.

A better gauge of Madison’s ability to accept diversity is whether their school system is willing to spend the money to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Act at the preschool level. And the answer is a resounding no. The school system violates case law precedents and no one is standing up for the kids who are different and demanding that they receive fair treatment under the law.

Another preschool example: New York City preschools cost more than $10,000 a year. Most offer no financial aid, and on top of that, the admissions process is so difficult and grueling that many parents hire consultants to help get their kid in. (I hired a very popular one for $4000.) Almost all the schools talk about the importance of diversity, but how you can have diversity among people who will pay $10,000 a year for preschool? You have already eliminated 99% of the U.S. population.

Do you know where there are truly diverse preschools? In Head Start, where kids come to school speaking no English, where some kids have parents with Ph.D’s, and some have parents who can’t read. And you know what? These classrooms are very, very difficult to manage, because diversity is very difficult to manage.

And this brings me back to Johansson, who says that truly diverse teams are not easy. “Making diversity work requires a lot of effort up front. So you won’t get results as fast as you’re used to.” People must know this instinctively because we talk about diversity all the time, and create it only rarely. “People talk about it because they know they should,” says Johansson, “But they just don’t believe it.”

So what can you do to change things?

1. Understand that we each have an inherent bias against diversity.

2. Test your team for diversity. Did you mesh right away? Then you’re probably not coming from such different perspectives.

3. Embrace the multi-generational workplace. The reason generation is such a big issue in the workplace today is that in many instances, it creates diversity that you can’t escape. Usually you can decide to not to work with the person who would bring diversity to your team. You don’t need to give a reason, you just choose someone who is more like you. But what do you do when a whole generation is not like you? You have to learn to work with someone who has different pespectives.

So, the bad news is that we’ve been talking about diversity for twenty years, and accomplishing very little. The good news is that the fireworks at the multigenerational workplace are not just conflict, but the first signs of widespread diversity at work.

Forget the idea that networking is a job-hunting tool. Networking is the job hunt. But networking is not just passing out your business card and e-mailing your friends’ friend. Networking is making yourself buzz-worthy so people want to be connected with you.

This is not the old networking that celebrated extroverts and crushed introverts. Building buzz celebrates the diligent information broker and crushes the relentless self-promoter. Build buzz for yourself by processing information in new ways and connecting people and ideas in ways that are interesting and provide new experiences.

Here are four things to remember when you want to build buzz:

1. Be known for good work.
This is the most powerful tool in your career. Even if you start with no reputation and no connections, it’s not unrealistic to get known for doing outstanding work.

“If you’re great, people will notice you,” says Dana Zemack, founder of Zemack PR & Communications.

David Weekly is a programmer who has built such a strong reputation for having good ideas that popular blogs such as Slashdot, BoingBoing, and Lifehacker reliably post links to his new products.

“I want to build a reputation as someone who comes up with interesting things and tries to be useful,” Weekly said. “I use my reputation as a launch platform for my ideas.”

His current company is PBWiki, which offers a service that gives people a simple way to collaborate online, in a wiki, for example.When he announced the company he got 1,000 customers on the first day, just from being mentioned on those blogs.

2. Contribute to the community.
For Weekly, building buzz is not a single project, but an ongoing commitment to giving quality work to a larger community. And this should be how you think about yourself, as well.

The days of just pushing plain old information out to an audience are ending. Stories, not raw facts, are what people can relate to. “A great way to connect with people is by way of stories,” says Zemack. “When you build experiences or create a story around a something, then it becomes more engaging and personal.”

You can do this many ways but maybe the easiest is to add your comments to blogs. This is a way to broker information in a useful way, sort of like inviting yourself to a party, but it’s OK to do so, as long as you make relevant contributions.

Also, give away good information. There is so much information available that hoarding it will get you nowhere. People will just look elsewhere to get ideas. Instead, share as much as you can with the community, to build your reputation into what you’d like to be known for. “Information is not the main ingredient. It’s knowing how to enact it,” says BL Ochman, author of The What’s Next Blog.

3. Shape your own destiny.
How people see you online matters. For example, most young people would not date someone before Googling them, and we do this kind of electronic research routinely before buying products and services as well. Recruiters also use the Internet to identify job candidates rather than sift through piles of resumes. So you need to manage your online identity to make sure people see you as the person you want to be.

Peter Himler is author of The Flack and founder of Flatiron Communications in New York. His decades of experience in the public relations and communications field includes serving as spokesman for major companies, chairing organizations and giving lectures. He is all over Google, but had little control over what Google served up. By blogging, Himler shapes his online image — his “digital footprint” — because his blog now comes up first when you Google his name.

You can also take control of what people see by removing the bad stuff. There are no guarantees, of course, but if you want to clean up your online identity, ReputationDefender has proprietary resources for both finding the dirt and cleaning it up.

4. Think in terms of experience and get off the sofa.
The more types of meaningful connections you can make with an audience, the more effective the buzz will be. “The best way to generate buzz about what you do is to combine an offline and online experience,” says Zemack.

Advertising industry veteran Steve Hall, editor of Adrants, rattles off many fun examples of effective buzz-generating tactics that do not include a computer. For example, Canon paid couples to carry around its new product and ask passersby to take their pictures. That person who took the picture inadvertently learned how to use the camera. And, if things went as planned, the unsuspecting photographer would also hear a few benefits of using the camera: “We just love the zoom lens, could you use that, please?”

This is an experience you could never have online. (Though today the ethics of this particular promotion seem flawed.)

Also, just like people go to blogs to learn something and have a fun engagement with a community, people like to do the same thing offline. Throwing a party is one of the oldest tools in the box for building buzz, and it still works.

Zemack has made a name for herself, and her communications firm, by throwing ice cream parties and chocolate-tasting parties. The exotic flavors described by well-versed wait staff and perfectly complimentary hipster circles mingling over tasty cones allows people to learn something new, and to make new introductions — just the kinds of experiences Zemack wants a reputation for creating.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve interviewed a lot of people about entrepreneurship. The common thread running through all the interviews is that entrepreneurship is different than it was even five years ago. Barriers to entry are lower than ever, and if you measure success in terms of personal growth and flexible work, then the success rates for entrepreneurs is sky high.

Entrepreneurship has changed to become more appealing to a wider range of people. Here’s a list of the old and new ways of thinking when it comes to starting your own business:

Old: Entrepreneurs are born with a specific set of character traits.
New: Entrepreneurship is learned. There is no, single way to be an entrepreneur.

Old: Raise money and spend a lot of it on advertising.
New: Raise no money and spend no money on advertising.

Old: Women will get power in corporate America and change it.
New: Women are getting what they want by leaving corporate America to start their own businesses.

Old: The self-employed are happy because they are doing what they love.
New: The self-employed are happy because they have control over their work and they have a flexible lifestyle.

Old: Climb the coprorate ladder, learn the ropes, then start a company.
New: Start a company to get out of climbing the corporate ladder.

Old: Entrepreneurship is all or nothing.
New: You can test the waters by starting a company while you have a corporate job.

Old: Starting a business is risky.
New: Staying in corporate life is risky. Most businesses succeed, most jobs end.

Old: Do a lot of planning and make sure it’s going to work before you start.
New: Forget the big plan. Just try it. If it doesn’t work, you can just try again.

As thousands of U.S. companies ship jobs to other countries, the resounding response from young people is, “Who cares? I wouldn’t want one of those jobs anyway.” To the new U.S. workforce many of those jobs look boring, routine and uncreative – the equivalent of a manufacturing job to a baby boomer.

Kris Helenek is a software engineer at Student Universe, an online travel resource for students. He’s not particularly worried about losing his job to someone in, say, India, because he’s involved in discussions concerning product features – something difficult to outsource to someone lacking a deep understanding of the customer. But what about his future? Helenek says, “I’m confident that I’ll always be innovative enough and skillful enough that people will want to hire me.”

We are entering a new age in economic history, and it will elevate those who are nimble and creative. When we moved from industrial economy to the information economy, jobs became more interesting; coal miners were unemployed, tech support centers hired like mad, and secretaries became small-time database operators. Now we’re in the early stages of the “conceptual age” in which data will be less important than creativity, and jobs will be more fulfilling.

Daniel Pink presents this one-minute economic history in his book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. He says, “Key abilities will not be high tech but high touch,” and we will value the ability to make meaning and connections in a world where information is a commodity.

According to Pink, the people who will do best in this economy are those who don’t just take and give orders but also move smoothly between boundaries, like the technical guru who understands marketing or the accountant who speaks four languages. “But,” Pink warns, “you cannot get a move-smoothly-between-boundaries aptitude test, so a lot of this is about self-discovery.”

Here are some traits you need to develop to do well in the conceptual age:

  1. Empathy. Think emotional intelligence on steroids. The most empathetic people have the ability to see an issue from many different perspectives. And work that can be done without infused empathy begs to be outsourced.
  2. Aesthetic eye. Pink says, “Design sense has become a form of business literacy like learning to use Microsoft Excel. Smart business people should start reading design magazines.”
  3. Ability to negotiate and navigate. The conceptual age will be filled with possibilities that point to no single truth. Pink says, “People must learn to do something that is not routine, that doesn’t have a right answer.”

Bottom line: You’ll have to be creative to stay employed. But really, who doesn’t want to be creative? It’s inherently more rewarding to be creative than to be an information drone.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, professor of psychology at the Claremont Graduate University and author of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, says that, “Being creative is a way in which life becomes richer.

“But if you want to be creative you must learn to do something well. You need to learn a set of skills, and then, once you feel comfortable you can ask yourself how you can make it better.”

Those with no patience for methodically developing a special talent, pay heed: Innovation without a good knowledge in that area is not creativity but dilettantism. Not that dabbling in topics you know nothing about isn’t fun, but that lifestyle will not create the kind of value that allows you to flourish in this new economy. To find what you love to do, Csikszentmihalyi recommends exploration.

“A richer life is one in which you have access to different aspects of the world.” Sure, you need to find your talents to figure out where you will put your creative energy.

But Pink reminds, “Failure is a part of mastery.” So give yourself room for missteps.

This is good news for Helenek. He invested in Boston-area real estate as a way to hedge his technical career. He planned to live in half his duplex and rent out the other half. But after the deal closed a pipe burst, and now Helenek is working on a fixer-upper. Tough work, but the good news is you can’t outsource floor sanding to India.

My second son was born a year and a half ago with hemifacial microsomia. That means half of his face is deformed. I’m not linking to a description of the birth defect, even though I know you will Google it. I’m not linking because the pictures are always the worst cases. He does not look like the pictures.

Still, I knew he was deformed the minute he came out. The nurse handed him to me, and his face looked uneven. I tried to tell myself that maybe it was because babies’ heads are scrunched right after vaginal birth.

His Apgar score was fine, but after a few hours, when my husband left the hospital to go home to sleep, I went nuts. Summoning every available professional — there were very few that late at night — to tell me a diagnosis.

In the morning, they did emergency tests on his hearing, because his ear was deformed, and on his breathing, because the inside of his mouth was deformed. Then someone came to do a kidney test because the kidney and ears develop at the same time during the pregnancy and when one is deformed the other often is, too.

The baby did not pass his hearing test and one kidney did not look right. The doctor told me that the kidney problem is common and he just won’t be able to play contact sports.

I must have looked really bad because social workers started streaming in. I don’t remember what I said, but my brother remembers my first phone call to him: I am crying so hard it takes five minutes for him to hear that the baby is deformed. Then, when I calm myself down enough, I tell my brother that my husband will die when he hears this so I have to hide it from him forever.

This is when my brother says, “I’m coming there.”

I say, “No. I don’t want you to see the baby.”

The world can publish ten thousand books about how parents love any child they get. And it’s true. But it’s also true that there’s a moment, a short moment, when you think you might die from the news.

Right after the phone call to my brother, my husband came back, and I said, “The baby is deformed.”

He said, “Are you kidding? You think I can’t see that? I know.”

We took the baby home two days later. We diagnosed him by looking at pictures on the Internet. We were absolutely stunned to see a whole population of children who had the same weird deformity.

I brought him to New York University’s Institute for Reconstructive Plastic Surgery. Hemifacial microsomia is very complicated because it can affect eyes, ears, nose, throat, heart and nervous system, all at once. Many specialists work together to come up with a plan for surgery. At my son’s doctor’s appointment, I presented him at the front of a room, with a social worker next to me, while fifteen doctors asked questions and examined him.

Here’s what happened: My son’s surgery was performed by one of the best teams in the world for hemifacial microsomia. All the doctors were incredibly compassionate. The support team of social workers, speech pathologists, and administrators always knew what my son and my family needed before we did, and they figured out how to get it. My son has a scar, and his face is a little uneven, but many people don’t even notice at first glance.

I told myself that I should write thank you notes. The team at NYU changed my son’s life, and helped my family at a time when we really, really needed it. That was six months ago. It’s been on my to-do list for six months. It moves up and down. A few times, when I’ve been really industrious, writing thank you notes has been at the very top, the only thing on the list, and I still didn’t do it.

Last week I admitted to myself that my son will probably need more surgery once his jaw grows to full size. And I thought, Oh my gosh, I had better write those thank you notes or we won’t get into NYU for the next round of surgery.

So tonight, I finally wrote them. There were a lot. Each note made me cry. I thought about how much people did for us. How kind they were. How fragile I was. How tiny my son was. Everything. Every sentence made me cry.

And I learned a bit about procrastination. I had been so angry at myself for waiting so long to write these thank you notes. But I do not procrastinate because I am lazy or unorganized. I am not those things. I procrastinated because I could not bring myself to think about the operation again. I was not emotionally capable of writing the notes until tonight. Sometimes procrastination is the best tool we have for taking care of ourselves.