Blog Archive - April 2015
Today's Chicago Sun-Times reports that Sam Zell has donated $4 million to a PAC that supports the agenda of Governor Bruce Rauner. Columnist Mark Brown sees this donation as part of a movement that he describes this way: "Rich people, no longer satisfied with the privileges of being rich, are going for complete control." This isn't simply a matter of politics. Much of Governor Rauner's agenda targets union employees. Brown quotes Zell as saying, "The 1 percent work harder." That may be true, but in a time when most American face flat wages and poverty is growing, it's hard to see how the hard working 1% are helping the rest of us. Working people need to decide if they support making people like Zell even richer or if they want to have a society where children from the middle class and the working class will have opportunities to be successful. Rich people have always had disproportionate control. Are we moving to a point where their voice is the only one that matters?
Bloomberg has surveyed corporate recruiters regarding what skills are lacking in current MBA graduates. According to the survey, industry experience is less important than analytical and communication skills. Collaboration is more important that risk taking and decision making. The article breaks out which MBA programs do the best job of teaching the most desired skills. If you’re considering an MBA, this article is a valuable resource. However, if you’re a manager who already has an MBA or does want the degree, it is very informative to think about what skills are most desired and how those skills are areas or strength or weakness. Career success begins with self-evaluation. Take some time to think about where you are strong and what skills you still need to develop.
Over the past few months, I've noticed that some employers (5-10%) are asking for applicants to put specific information in cover letter. Usually the request is for the applicant to give specific reasons why she is a good fit for the company. Today, I found a requirement that demonstrates the importance of reading job postings carefully. A company recruiting a Data Analyst lists this requirement as it's last bullet in a job post: "High attention to detail - mention the Rolling Stones in your cover letter to display your skill." This request might seem silly, but it is simple test to see how well applicants follow directions and pay attention to detail. It's easy to mock such requests. But, if you want to apply for the job, you have to jump through the employer's hoops.
A client called today to tell me she'll be leaving a job after less than six months. She was very anxious about how this would look on her resume. For some employers, a short term job will be a very large red flag. I told her to be prepared to talk about her reasons for leaving a job after less than a year. I also recommended that she always remind potential employers that she had been at her previous position for more than ten years with a strong record of achievement. If an employer has a closed mind, no explanation will be sufficient. Most employers, I think, will be more open minded. If my client can focus on her strengths and what she will bring to the new employer, a short term job will not be deal breaker.
A good job search should focus on why you are good at your job. Many of the clients who work with me on interview skills focus too much on what they don’t have. They worry that an interviewer will ask a question that they will not be able to answer. Here’s another way to approach interviewing: Focus on your strengths.
No employer will ever hire you for what you don’t know or can’t do. They want to know why you will do a good job. The best way to impress an employer is to play up your strengths. To define your strengths, start with your resume. Use the margin to note key words that will make you an asset to the employer. Look at your achievements and think about how each of those examples reflects a strength. What makes you good at what you do? That’s the key question to answer.
Today’s Chicago Sun-Times reports that Governor Bruce Rauner is recommending that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) use bankruptcy as a way to solve a $1.1 billion debt. If we only look at the debt, this solution might seem logical. It’s done all the time in business. No one seems to care when retired employees lose part of their pension. I hate this solution because it is a form of wage theft. In this case, I’m outraged by what the governor’s real motive seems to be.
Bankruptcy would let CPS terminate its contract with teachers. It might even let school administrators and the mayor avoid negotiating a new contract. Rauner claims to be a man of the people in saying that the people should decide if teachers have collective bargaining rights. His real goal seems to crushing one of the city’s strongest, most prominent unions.
What didn’t the governor say? He never addressed the question of recruiting and retaining good teachers. Conservatives often point to “bad teachers” as the cause of poor student performance. If that is true, the governor’s solution would seem to a blueprint for making education worse. Teaching is a very difficult job. Teachers’ salary is not that good given the pressures and hours that are required to do a good job. Take away the pension and union protections, who will want to pursue a career in teaching? We need to decide whether we are serious about having schools staffed by good, professional teachers. If we want good teachers, they need to paid well and treated as professionals.
Companies like McDonalds and Walmart have raised their workers’ minimum wages. While it is a step forward, Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos has documented that these raises still mean that workers need to rely on government support for child care, housing, medical insurance, breakfast/lunch programs for children, and heating assistance. Clawson then shows that none of these subsidies would be needed if employees were paid $15 an hour. As I noted in my last post, a small increase in price will have great benefits for all. As President Obama said, “America needs a raise.”
Daily Kos reports that Ivar’s Fish Bar, a seafood restaurant chain in Seattle, will stop taking TIPs from customers and raise its employees’ minimum wage to $15 per hour. Of course, they will have to raise prices, which many critics of an increased minimum wage claim will kill small businesses. Not really. The price increase will be 4%, which is much less than most customers would leave as a tip. Rather than paint this as a situation where one or more parties lose, it’s a win-win for all concerned. Employee get a raise. Customers pay less. Finally, the business earns good will with its customers and employees. Ivar’s Fish Bar shows that American businesses can pay a living wage.
The New York Times reports that 1,500 McDonalds restaurants will raising employees' pay by $1 over local minimum wages. The company will also offer paid time off to employees who stay with the company more than a year. This move comes just a day after another round of major protests. The raise is not enough, but it shows that employers will listen when workers stand up. May many more workers stand up for their rights and to be paid a fair wage. There is still a very long way to go.
P.S. I should have noted yesterday that only McDonalds-owned franchises will raise their minimum wage. There are over 14,000 McDonalds restaurants that are owned by franchisees, who make their own decisions about salary. To their credit, the corporation has set a good example for them - as far as it goes.