Creating an Alexa skill as a content marketing channel: Job Complaints

I’m continuing my series on designing Alexa skills right now. I’m experimenting with building different types of Alexa skills by using my creative writing skills and stretching my technical skills.

When I got started with Alexa skills, there wasn’t a ton of documentation on Alexa skills for conversation designers. So I’m documenting (read: dumping thoughts!) on my conversation design process for Alexa conversation designers. I’m using Voiceflow as my no code conversation design platform.

This is the second of five Alexa skills in development. (see the first here)

My Background

I’m was laid off in March from a UX researcher and conversation designer job. I was previously working on a chatbot. Now, I’m interested in working on non-linear conversations for voice applications.

The birth of a second Alexa skill 

This idea for an Alexa skill started as a book marketing challenge. I was looking for ways to promote my new career book, Punch Doubt in the Face: How to Upskill, Change Careers, and Beat the Robots. Cutting through the noise to get your book in front of the right audience is always a challenge. I was brainstorming non-traditional marketing ideas. That’s where the idea of Alexa as career coach came in.

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6 online tools to make job searching during coronavirus less difficult

Let’s be honest: Job searching during coronavirus is brutal. Job searches in normal times aren’t easy. Job searching during COVID and mass layoffs adds a new layer of complicated: companies ghosting candidates, more competition for fewer jobs, and a newly remote workforce.

Add to that the general low level anxiety of doing anything during a pandemic and job searching during coronavirus is enough to beat down the most optimistic of job seekers.

So here’s a list of my favorite digital tools to make job searching during coronavirus less painful.

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Companies still hiring during COVID

If you’ve been recently laid off, get more resources from the podcast 50 Conversations.

Finding companies hiring during COVID is a huge challenge. If you’ve just been laid off and need a job ASAP, you need to be able to quickly find companies that are still hiring during this pandemic.

Thankfully several websites are keeping lists of companies that are hiring during coronavirus. I’ve been sharing these lists on my podcast for layoffs, but I’m putting my favorite ones below.

Here’s where to look for companies that are still hiring during our global pandemic. Share with anyone you know who has just been laid off.

LinkedIn’s list: Here’s who’s hiring right now

The first is LinkedIn, which offers a daily, continuously updated list of companies still hiring during COVID. Log in to LinkedIn, and find the list of companies still hiring in the top right hand corner box. Under Special Report: Coronavirus, click on Here’s who’s hiring right now

list of companies hiring during coronavirus from linkedin
LinkedIn’s list of open jobs during coronavirus

LinkedIn’s list of companies still hiring during COVID cuts across industries, listing major hiring sprees like Instacart’s push to hire 300,000+ contractors to Squarespace hiring 100 workers.

If you’re looking for a job after a layoff, start with this list.

Jobscan: Ultimate List of Companies that Are Still Hiring is keeping an updated list of companies that are hiring during covid. Jobscan is resume optimization tool that helps your resume get past the ATS machines (listen this podcast episode where I discuss how to update your resume using automated tools).

Jobscan is keeping an aggregated list of companies that are hiring during the pandemic pulling data from, and StartupHireMe.

The list includes filters like “still hiring” and “hiring freeze,” as well as the option to filter by type of job.

list of companies hiring during coronavirus from jobscan
Jobscan’s list of companies that are still hiring during COVID

The Muse: 94 (and counting) companies that are still hiring during COVID

This Muse is also keeping an updated list of companies that are still hiring.

Each list offers a summary of the company with links to a company profile on The Muse and an option to explore open jobs. This kind of list makes it easier for job seekers to learn a bit more about the company to learn if it’s a fit before searching for jobs.

In a time of mass layoffs, a lot of consumer facing companies – the brands that job seekers know best – aren’t hiring. Instead, software and enterprise brands dominate. For many job seekers, it may be the first time they encounter a company. Reading a quick overview of a company is a bit more inviting than reading a company name on a spreadsheet.

list of companies hiring during coronavirus from the muse
Profile of a company that is still hiring during the pandemic from The Muse

FlexJobs: 70 Flexible Companies Currently Hiring Remote Jobs

Flexjobs, the paid job search platform for remote jobs, has a list of 70 companies hiring during COVID. While the list is from April, and there is no indication of whether it’s being updated, it’s useful as a starting point for finding a remote job during COVID.

list of companies hiring during coronavirus from flexjobs
Flexjobs offers a list of companies hiring remote workers during COVID

Flexjobs is a paid website. To avoid paying for flexjobs, simply Google the company name and the word “careers” and save your dollars.

Want a guide to the remote job search?

In the guide you’ll get:

  • 250+ companies that hire remote workers
  • A mega-list of remote job boards
  • Reflection questions to clarify remote job search goals
  • The Remote Job Toolkit
  • Tips to stand out in the remote job search
  • Curated career resources to support you in your search

Let’s talk about layoffs

The layoff news is bleak. Last week, 3.3 million people filled for unemployment, as COVID-19 spread and states issues stay-at-home orders. We are in a period of mass layoffs. Seeing those company layoff numbers are brutal but this chart from CNBC is what really put it into perspective:

As someone who graduated into the 2008 recession, that chart blew me away. I didn’t get laid off in 2008 but it was nearly impossible to find a good job in those years. I ended up taking loads of random jobs, mostly temporary, to get me through and pay my bills. Family and friends were laid off then too.

Seeing a chart like that just hurt my brain. Most of us know what it felt like to job search or work in crappy jobs during the 2008-2010 period. I’ve been talking with friends and we’re wondering if it’s going to feel like that again. Some say it’s temporary. Others can’t say we can be sure at all because global pandemic!

On top of that, I was laid off two weeks ago. I was contracting as a conversation designer for a conversational AI startup. So I’m joining the ranks of job seekers looking for work. It’s an odd position to be in – a career expert with a new book who has recently been laid off. It’s an identify shift for sure.

Book plug!

So I’m doing something a bit different for the time being. I’m interrupting interviews with career changers on my podcast to talk about layoffs. Instead of interviewing people about their career changes, I’m putting together a series to help job seekers navigate layoffs. Ironically, the last episode I did before our

We don’t talk much about layoffs as a society. Unless a family member or friend goes through it, layoffs are simply a number on the screen as we scroll through our daily news.

I want to change that. I want to talk about layoffs and more importantly I want to talk about how to get through it. From dealing with the initial shock after a layoff, to making a new budget, to finding a new job in a very competitive market, people need help finding their way after a layoff.

I intend to help them. If you know someone who has been laid off, send them my podcast, 50 conversations.

Here’s the first episode in the new series: An intermission: I just got laid off and everything is weird

If you work in higher education you need to push back against facial recognition on campus. Here’s how.

Beyond being abused, there are many ways for this technology to fail. Among the most pressing are misidentifications that can lead to false arrest and accusations. … Mistaken identity is more than an inconvenience and can lead to grave consequences.

Joy Buolamwini, “Coded Bias”: New Film Looks at Fight Against Racial Bias in Facial Recognition & AI Technology

tl;dr: Support students and alumni on March 2, a day of action against facial recognition on campus. 

If facial recognition technology is being used on your campus, would you know about it? If it is being used, do you know how it’s impacting the communities you serve?

It’s easy to check out when you hear about facial recognition technology. The term still conjure up images of Minority Report or more recently, thoughts of China. Facial recognition use in every day life feels kind of far off if you’re not working in AI or security industry spaces.

But I’m asking you to check in. Because facial recognition technology is being deployed rapidly here in the US with little to no oversight into how it’s used or who it impacts. Facial recognition technology is being used in school districts, in churches, in restaurants, in grocery and retail stores, in job interviews, in the workplace, in public housing, on flights and cruises, and by police departments.

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Thinking about a career change in 2020? Pick one of these conversations to fire you up

“It’s insane to think that we should know what we want to do forever or that it’s somehow a better life or we’re a more successful person if we’ve done one thing. I mean, it’s really just outdated. It doesn’t make any sense. You know that’s not true.” – Alexandra, episode 5 of the 50 Conversations podcast for career changers

In my podcast for career changers, there’s a reoccurring theme when it comes to our careers: lifetime careers no longer exist. And while we all kind of know that, it’s so damn refreshing to hear people talk about it openly. It’s even better to hear how people have adapted to this new world of multiple career changes.

I’ve been slowly releasing episodes from my podcast for career changers over the past four months. The goal of the podcast is to both normalize career changes and show the many ways people make a career change.

In the podcast, I ask guests who have changed careers exactly how they did it. It’s a casual conversation, usually under 20 minutes, and perfect for a commute. We chat about the ups and downs of career changes, the many ways to learn new skills, the process of upskilling, and always end with outstanding advice for career changes.

podcast for career changers

My podcast for career changers is like having a career coach in your pocket; you’re sure to find something in these episodes that resonates with you. It’s better than taking a career assessment any day.

So I’m sharing a round up of episodes that shows you the many ways to change careers. Whether you’re the person who needs a career change but don’t know what to do or someone who just needs career change help these are the podcast episodes for you.

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The new world of work: Skills > Tenure

Here’s a quote that should light a fire in any mid-career professional who’s been on a corporate treadmill the past five years:

Constant upskilling and digital dexterity will outweigh tenure and experience

6 Ways the Workplace Will Change in the Next 10 Years

We’ve all been raised and educated to think that tenure and experience will keep us employed and indemand as we grow in our career. It appears that is no longer the case, at least according to research from Gartner. More on that:

By 2028, the most high-value work will be cognitive in nature. Employees will have to apply creativity, critical thinking and constant digital upskilling to solve complex problems. “The demand for digital skills has grown by 60% over the past several years. In today’s digital economy, the demand for new ideas, new information and new business models that continually expand, combine and shift into new ventures and new businesses will increase,” says Griffin. “Employees must consistently refresh their digital dexterity to meet these needs.”

Predictions are never for sure but one thing that is for sure is that we’ve already seen tenure become less valued in the workplace. We saw it after the crash in 2008 when our friends and family were laid off without any regard for experience. We see it in older workers who struggle to get work despite having decades of experience in our industry. We see it in discussions about the future of work, as employers debate whether to train their existing workforce or hire new people with the digital and data fluency to thrive in digital transformation (the implication being that the old workforce will simple be laid off).

As I write in my book, skills are the currency in our new world of work.

The brutality of work as a content moderator

We talk a lot about emerging jobs in the future of work. One job that has emerged in the last decade is content moderator. Content moderators work behind the scenes – invisible to most – to help keep horrific content out of our social feeds.

And they suffer greatly for it. A new report by The Verge, The Terror Queue, presents the horrible reality of content moderation. In the article, they share that moderators are often underpaid and subjected to horrific mental working conditions. This quote puts it into perspective:

“Every day you watch someone beheading someone, or someone shooting his girlfriend.”

Imagine that were your job. Then imagine this is how management supported you:

Google content moderators in Austin are required to view five hours of gruesome video per day.

Managers for Accenture routinely force employees to work into their break time, deny them vacation time

Google offers one standard of medical care to full-time content moderators, another for contractors. Contractors get almost no paid medical leave. –

Workers at Google are often not informed about the potential mental health consequences of content moderation when they apply for jobs.

Content moderators, according to the article, make roughly $18/hr, or $37,000 a year. And not all of them have the same access to medical care, with contractors having little to no access.

In one example, moderators with rare language skills, are immigrants trying to become US citizens. They’re employed as contractors to review Middle Eastern content:

Peter, who has done this job for nearly two years, worries about the toll that the job is taking on his mental health. His family has repeatedly urged him to quit. But he worries that he will not be able to find another job that pays as well as this one does: $18.50 an hour, or about $37,000 a year.

Like many of his co-workers working in the VE queue in Austin, Peter is an immigrant. Accenture recruited dozens of Arabic speakers like him, many of whom grew up in the Middle East. The company depends on his language skills — he speaks seven — to accurately identify hate speech and terrorist propaganda and remove it from YouTube.

Several workers I spoke with are hoping to become citizens, a feat that has only grown more difficult under the Trump administration. They worry about speaking out — to a manager, to a journalist — for fear it will complicate their immigration efforts.

There’s a cruelty here that is hard to reconcile. I don’t know if the managers at Google and Accenture know what content moderators deal with, or if they’re happy to just ignore it.

In all honestly, I don’t even know what the answer is for this type of work. The article profiles other content moderators who are making more money, and even they are having breakdowns and PTSD.

The brutality of this type of work can’t be overstated. Yet it’s invisible to most of us as we carry along scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through our social feeds.

I wrote a career change book thanks to #NaNoWriMo

Last year I participated in National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo) to kickstart the process of writing a nonfiction book. In November 2018, I wrote just over 35,000 words!

Fast forward 11 months and I just got the final cover for my book that helps career changers navigate the #futureofwork.

Career change book
A new book for career changers and the future of work with a bit of a twist

While NaNoWriMo is geared towards fiction writers, I found the community, tips, and single focus on writing for volume super helpful to beat procrastination and make writing a priority.

But here’s the fun part: my nonfiction career change book has a touch of fiction in it. I put a dystopian choose your own adventure type story in it.

Putting a fictional interactive story in a nonfiction career change book isn’t traditional. But the #futureofwork isn’t traditional. And in truth some of the things happening in the workplace look quite dystopian.

I aim to help workers navigate it all. So this isn’t your average career change book. The word of work has changed and so too should the career advice.

Curious? Join my virtual book release party.

And if you’re thinking of writing your own book, check out NaNoWriMo:

And see how to get started writing your first draft.

Workaholics, burnout and the false promise of following your passion

Everyone in my generation has been raised with the idea that all we needed to do was follow our passion and everything would work out just fine in our careers. Finding your passion is the ultimate end goal in the quest for a career (that and paying off student loans).

In all this talk of passion, nobody mentions burnout. Or the fact that jobs come is many different crappy, boring flavors.

If you’re nodding along to the sentence above, watch this video. You’ll appreciate the honesty about careers, and get a small does of history about how we as a society shifted from the notion that a job is a job, to the idea that a job is a career and it should be a calling!

It time for a new career narrative, one that’s more honest and aligns with our new world of work. In my book I write about how telling people to follow their passion is unhelpful. We’re not longer working life long careers. Our passions, interests, needs all shift over the course of a lifetime. So the idea that we will follow a single passion until our dying day is simply outdated. The advice keeps people stuck, especially career changers.

Instead, people need to follow their curiosity, exploring different jobs and paths that align with their needs and interests as they grow.