Blog Archive - August 2013
Is a big change coming? Fast food workers struck today in 60 cities. They are calling for a raise from wages as low as $7.25-$8 per hour to $15, a living wage. While the issue most often cited in the media is hourly pay rate, workers are also protesting work schedules that vary in hours per week. Most importantly, they are calling for the right to join together in a union, just as the super rich join together to achieve their interests in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or ALEC.
Is their request for $15 an hour unrealistic? Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson points out that the minimum wage in 1963 was $2 per hour. Adjusted for inflation, that wage now would range between $13.39-$15.27. Over the last 30 years, the poorest working people have worked hard with less security while falling farther behind. Three cheers to the fast food workers for standing up. May many more low wage workers stand up and demand what is right.
Today is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. While everyone correctly remembers Martin Luther King’s role as a civil rights champion, we should not forget his commitment to workplace justice. King often walked with striking workers. He preached the need for good jobs and good wages. Surely his voice would ring out today as an advocate for those low wages workers who are asking America to wake up. Tomorrow will be a day of strikes and direct action in the fast food industry. If Dr. King were alive, he would be standing with our brothers and sisters who labor at minimum wage jobs with no benefits. He knew that all Americans deserve equal opportunity – and a living wage.
I’ve been a Resume Writer for more than 10 years. In that time, I’ve met very few clients who were offered and accepted a job without meeting their immediate supervisor. However, in those rare cases when an applicant is hired in this manner, employment tends to be short term and ugly.
Most supervisors resent it when their boss makes a hiring decision without their input. They see the new employee as an outsider, maybe even a threat. In a recent case, one of my clients was written up two weeks after starting her job. She asked her supervisor for help, but received no support. A few weeks later, she tried to call her boss about a problem that needed immediate attention. The call was never returned. When she asked her boss about the situation, the answer was curt: “You should have known what to do.”
Needless to say, my client did not last beyond a 90 day probation period. What could she have done differently? Ask to meet her supervisor before accepting the job. As I said above, this situation is rare. But you should be ready if you encounter it. Always know who your supervisor will be. If that person is not part of the interviewing process, ask to have an interview with the supervisor before accepting an offer. If that request is denied, take it as a big red flag about the employer and how it operates. Be very careful about choosing to work for this type of company.
The former Labor Secretary asks a good question: Can one worker or family have too much? This is a moral question, not a legal one. Of course, it is legal for a CEO to make a ratio of 150:1 to the average worker at her company. Is it right? At a time when most of the jobs being created are low wage, we need to think about wages and who benefits most. That is what Reich explores in his commentary.
To put the question another way, how can we justify a situation where six heirs of a man who was a business genius (Sam Walton) hold more wealth than the bottom 40% of all Americans? This is not just a question for the bottom 40% (more than 100 million Americans). Wage disparity makes us all poorer because we have become a society that lives by fear rather than hope. This gap between rich and poor cannot continue to grow as it has over the last 30 years. Sooner or later, the cradle will fall.
Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos points out two levels of exaggeration in Walmart’s recent promise to sell more American made products. First, most of the products will be food products, not manufactured goods. No American factories will open to supply goods to the country’s largest retailer. Second, as Walmart takes over the business of more established grocers, it pays its workers lower wages. Some established grocers have unionized workforces and pay decent wages. When Walmart drives them out of business, it drives down pay. Consumers pay less, and their neighbors are paid less. Under this model everyone loses – unless their last name is Walton.
Are you or a friend having trouble finding a job? Normally, I’m an optimist and try to recommend finding a different way to get the job you want. In some fields, however, we need to admit that there is a surplus of qualified applicants, which not only means that jobs will be harder to find. It will also mean that pay rates will be lower.
Many schools are pushing professional certificates and degrees for fields that have more employees than open positions. In healthcare, a surplus of employees means that more employers are using a “registry” model to take advantage of this situation. Registry means that there is no guarantee of hours and limited/no benefits. Another client is a lawyer who is working at a contract firm because that is what he wants to do. For several of his less experienced co-workers, that is the only job they can find. A friend in social services told me today that some firms are employing licensed clinicians at less than $35,000 a year. How can they do that? So many agencies have closed that there is a glut of employees who will work at a slashed salary.
What can you do to stay out of this situation? Do some thorough research before you pursue a graduate degree or professional certificate. Schools tend to speak a language of hope. They are confident that you will find a job. Don’t trust the happy talk. Check current job postings and forecasts for growth. Try to interview experienced professional already working in the field. Ask this simple question: Would you go into this field if you were starting your career now?
I am not recommending that anyone avoid a certain type of profession. Talented, committed people will always find a way to succeed. At the same time, it pays to think about how difficult it will be to get a job once you’ve completed a course of study. Don’t invest your hard earned time and money if there is not a clear return on the investment.
In writing a resume, it is important to show how you are qualified. In recent posts, I’ve talked about reviewing job postings and speaking to the employers’ needs. At the same time, a good resume will show what makes you better than other qualified candidates. To do that, you need to include relevant achievements and success stories. How do you define these elements? My simple method is to think about what you’ve done that goes beyond the normal job duties and has a positive impact on the company.
Here are some verbs that might help you identify achievements and tell your success stories:
Is your job search stuck in park or, worse still, moving in reverse? Over the last 8 years, I’ve worked with clients who are unhappy with the progress of their search. Often the biggest problem isn’t that a job seeker isn’t putting forth a good effort. The problem is more often preparing for a focused job search.
Before you write your resume or apply to a job, the first step is to do some homework. Start by collecting 5-10 job posts that would be ideal positions for you. Review the job requirements and note how you are a good match for this kind of position. Next, consider how you might have transferable skills and experience that an employer would value. Finally, note the little things such as computer skills, certification, and compliance. These details are very basic and they are also easy to use as a way to scan a resume.
Note all of your selling points and put together a resume that will speak to the employer’s needs. Don’t get caught up in a situation where you have to check off every job requirement bullet. Few if any applicants will be able to do this. Use the gut check test: If you think you can do a job, apply for it. However, be sure to do your homework. That will the first step in making the phone ring.
One clichéd argument against immigration reform is that it will lead to job loss. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos puts the stake to this lie. According to analysis of Congressional Budget Office data, every congressional will gain at least 7,000 jobs if the reform law is passed. Some districts will gain as many as 14,000. Most interestingly, the report was generated by a group that support moderate Republican legislators. Maybe this is good news for immigration reform and the jobs economy.
I was at a café this morning when I overheard a young lady complaining that she could not find a job. First, she told her friend that to get the job she really wants she has to have a graduate degree. The problem is that she can’t afford to pay for school and doesn’t want to take out loans. Then she said that her language skills hold her back because “every job requires Spanish.” Finally, she talked about finding an ideal job that would only require her to work three or four days a week while paying well. That kind of job would let her go to school while working. If we think hard enough, there is always a reason to fail.
If this young woman doesn’t have money for school, she could work for a few years and save money for tuition. Her claim that all jobs need Spanish-speakers is simply not true. In fact, most jobs don’t require a second language. Her dream job of a high-paying part time job might exist, but they are too few to be a realistic goal.
A good job search and good career management is all about finding ways to succeed. Ask yourself: What can I do today or tomorrow to move forward? What are my strengths? What do I have that employers will pay for? These questions all point toward a better future. That’s the direction we all want to go.