Blog Archive - February 2011

Posted: February 10, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

The Chicago Tribune reports that John Rowe, CEO of Exelon, will receive a 14% raise, making his new salary $7.2 million.  The article lists Mr. Rowe’s extensive gifts to charity.  That’s a good thing to know about this man.  But the article fails to address bigger questions:  What was the average pay increase for all employees at the company?  What is the average pay increase for American workers? 

14% is a big number.  Most of the clients I’ve worked with have lost salary and benefits:  pay cut, hours cut, furlough days, high health premiums, no 401K match, and fewer (if any) benefits.  It’s nice to be a winner.  It’s just a shame that this country seems to have fewer and fewer winners.

Posted: February 9, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

USA Today reports that the number of advertised jobs has fallen for two consecutive months.  There are 4.7 people looking for each available job, which sounds bad until we see that the number in November 2009 was 6.3 people for every opening.  The article says a “healthy” job market would have only 2 people per every opening.  So what does two bad months tell us?  Who knows?  We are fed statistics on top of statistics until we’re sick with confusion.

My advice as always is to focus on your career and follow the 100% rule: Do you have a job?  Do you have the job you want?  Those are the real questions.  It will take time for our national economy to recover.  Focus on your career.  That’s what you can control.

Posted: February 8, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

I met a client today who had two very different careers.  He had held 5 jobs as an editor and 3 jobs in fields related to accounting and financial management.  His resume jumped from one kind of work to another.  It was difficult to stay focused on what skills he could bring to a new employer.

What’s the solution?  Two resumes.  One will focus on his work as an editor, the other on accounting and finance.  We will still mention his finance and accounting work in his editor resume, but that information will be downplayed and subordinate to his experience as an editor.  Likewise, his accounting resume will note that he has worked as an editor.  However, the main focus of that document will be skills related to working with numbers and money, not words.

A good resume quickly shows the reader/employer why you are qualified for an opening.  Don’t list everything you have ever done and expect a busy HR recruiter or a manager to figure out what you can do.  Your job is to sell yourself.  Play up your relevant skills and achievements.  Focus the reader’s attention on what you have to sell – what she needs to get the job done.

Posted: February 7, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

The February edition of Inc. magazine provides these interesting numbers.  Since the fourth quarter of 2008, U.S. corporations have earned $609 billion in profits.

Over the same period, the same companies have cut wages and benefits by 171 billion.

If this is the worst economy for the Great Depression, it seems to be pretty good for a few people.  The rest of us are waiting for the recovery.  We might be waiting for a long time.

Posted: February 6, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

[On Sundays, Career Calling ponders work and life beyond career.]


The newspapers and TV weather hucksters made last week’s snow sound like the end of the world: “Snowmageddon,” “Snowpocalypse.”  Chicago was hit with 20 inches of snow, the third largest amount in the city’s history.  The wind blew some drifts 3-4 feet.  But it wasn’t the end of the world, not even close.

On Wednesday, I shoveled the front walk and went to work for half a day. At that point most of my neighbors had not faced the problem yet.  Sidewalks were blanketed and cars buried.  However, by the time I came home at four o’clock, almost every sidewalk was cleared and most cars were dug out.  It took the city another day to run a plow down the side streets, but the main streets were kept pretty clear.  Chicago’s not perfect, but it knows how to deal with snow. 

The media wants to tell another story.  It focuses on the problems.  Some drivers were stranded on Lake Shore Drive and had to be rescued.  Their cars had to be towed.  A CTA bus got stuck and the drivers also had to be rescued.  Should the media report such stories?  Sure.  But, to my knowledge, no one was hurt or died in these incidents.  Broadcasters and editors are so desperate for the big story that they’ll blow up any event to generate interest (and ad revenue).

The city was shut down on Wednesday and many businesses were still closed on Thursday.  Friday was back to normal.  Yesterday, I went with some friends to enjoy the Lunar New Year Parade on Argyle Street.  The crowd was as big or bigger than last year.  Some people climbed on snow banks to get a better view of the parade.  No one complained.  Happiness – and firecrackers – marked the New Year. 

I woke up this morning and saw that it had snowed a few more inches.  I grabbed the shovel and cleaned the sidewalk.  Big deal.  I’ll still take Chicago winters over Florida summers anytime.  We can put on coats, gloves, and boots to survive the cold and snow.  Humidity?  Let them keep it in the Sunshine state.  Give me four seasons.  And a shovel. 

Sunday Extra Helpings

Jack Higgins of the Sun-Times captures the event in a self-deprecating cartoon.

 His paper provided breathless coverage, a sign of the times in our excited media culture.

Posted: February 5, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Writing in Uncommon Dreams (via In These Times), Michelle Chen examines how the role of labor in the Egyptian democratic uprising could have international ripples.  She cites several experts on the role of labor in what has been a “non-ideological” movement. Chen also contrasts Egypt with Iran, which is something PR flaks who dominate the corporatist media have not done.  They’re too busy spreading fear.

Posted: February 4, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Writing in the Chicago Reader, Christopher Flores recounts his experience almost applying for a job as a writer with Groupon.  Flores decided not to apply when he learned that he had to sign a non-compete agreement before he was hired.  Other writers cited in the article signed the document because they were desperate for work.  The document stated that a writer could not work for a “competitor” for two years.  An earlier version of the agreement was for an “indefinite” period.

The consequences for a worker who signs such an agreement can be severe.  An employment lawyer cited in the article says that it cost thousands of dollars to fight the legitimacy of such non-compete agreements.  It also says that courts are leaning even more in favor of defending the employer’s rights against those of workers.

Groupon no longer requires applicants to sign a non-compete, but said they might do so again in the future if the company’s needs change “down the road.”  The bottom line for working people is to beware of any kind of contract.  Think about what this article says: A job seeker could sign an agreement with a prospective employer that blocks employment from any kind of “competitor” for an “indefinite” period. Like most things in America today, the deck is stacked – against working people.

Posted: February 3, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Writing in the February issue of Psychology Today, Carlin Flora explores “slashers,” people who have two careers at the same time.  For some people, working two jobs is a great way to get through hard economic times.  For others, it’s a strategy to ease into a career change.  Others use their slash careers as a way to balance the job that pays the bills with the kind of career that feeds their passions.

What does it takes to have two careers?  Flora says that “hustler personalities” are best fit for this role, since it often involves marketing one’s skills.  She also says that good time management and organizational skills are need to balance both responsibilities.  The article profiles the following types of slashers: computer geek/comedian, corporate recruiter, water aerobics instructor, PR coordinator/horror writer, and investment banker/bird trainer.  These combinations tell us that people can balance the 9-5 with some other interest that will feed their minds and, in some cases, help fill the wallet.  Think about “slashing.”  It might be a new way to manage your career.

Posted: February 2, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Chicago’s been hit by a blizzard.  Schools and many business are closed (probably for a couple of days).  Even so, some people still have to work.  Francine Knowles of the Sun-Times interviews experts on the role of managers during such crises.  If most of the leadership staff makes the struggle to get to work, those who stay home might be looked upon as less dedicated.  If managers expect front line workers to show up and do their jobs, it is essential that the leaders are also on the job.  If you're a manager and your company's not closed, you're late!

Postscript:  The Sun-Times online edition has a great story about how people go to work on this almost-impossible-to-commute day.

Posted: February 2, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Writing in Huffington Post, Robert Reich examines conventional wisdom on the economy.  We hear again and again that the economy has recovered because the stock market is over the (new) magic number of 12,000.  Reich points out that this is great news for the top 10% of income earners who benefit most from stock ownership.  The rest of Americans hold a very small share in this type of investment.

For Main Streeters, the biggest investment is put in their homes.  Reich writes, “Things could easily get worse on the housing front because millions of owners are in various stages of foreclosure or seriously delinquent on their mortgages. Millions more owe more than their homes are worth, and, given the downward direction of the housing market, are going to be sorely tempted to just walk away. This means even more foreclosure sales, pushing housing prices down even further.”

The government bailed out banks that caused the crisis.  It gave loans to save the auto industry.  Why can’t a program be put in place to help home owners?  I can hear the answer from Fox and the right wing echo chamber:  “That’s socialism.”  Why wasn’t it socialism when we bailed out big corporations and the very wealthy people that benefit from them?  Many middle class and working class American poured their income into bogus mortgage deals.  They lost.  We need to look at who won this game – they’re the same people that rigged the rules.