Blog Archive - May 2015
“High expectations are everything.”
My most successful clients have been those who believe in themselves. These people are always looking to take the next step in their career. They are not afraid of failing. They don’t let unfair criticism from a boss or co-worker doubt their ability. The first step to being successful is believing in yourself.
Bloomberg recently surveyed economists regarding career advice for new college graduates. I highly recommend that you read this article if you’re a new graduate or someone who cares about one. Every point is well made. I want to focus on two of them.
Be willing and able to relocate: The economy is better than it was in 2009, but it’s still not great. To have the wide range of opportunities and the best chance for an optimal salary, be open to moving. Study the industry you want to work in and identify where it is strongest. I’d recommend looking at 3-5 cities. Find ones you would want to live in where there are opportunities in your field.
“Don’t be a lifer”: Loyalty is a virtue. However, it can kill a career. Staying with the same company for 10 or 20 years sounds like a good thing, but it often limits your earning potential and chances for advancement. As the article demonstrates in a graph, loyalty makes sense for people between the ages of 45-70. It is easier to change jobs and industries early in one’s career. Explore the options that work for you and be open to relocating for new career opportunities.
If you learn to manage your career early rather than just looking for a job, you will earn more money and have more control over your destiny. Again, this article in Bloomberg is a good starting point
Today the U.S. Senate voted to give the President “fast-track” authority to pass a new, comprehensive trade agreement with Asia-Pacific countries (better known as the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership/TTP). U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has fought this measure. He notes that similar trade deals have led to a decline of the middle class and wealth inequality in America. TTP could make these problems worse. Sanders notes that American workers will now have to compete with workers in Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 56 cents an hour. Who wins this game? Major corporations and the billionaires who invest in them. Who loses? Look in the mirror.
The TTP has not been approved by either the Senate or the House. What happened today means it will likely pass the Senate. One thing we can count on: Bernie Sanders will keep fighting for working people and the middle class.
In today’s Daily Kos, the great labor reporter Laura Clawson examines the wealth of an average worker compared to Sam Walton’s offspring. According to research by the AFL-CIO, the six Walton heirs total wealth is the same as that of 52.5 million American families (42.9%). The study points out that some families have negative wealth. Adjusted for that, the number of families needed to equal the Walton wealth drops to 1.7 million. However, that adjustment also indicates that many American families have issues with “negative wealth.” Clawson also notes that a Walmart worker being paid $9 per hour would have to work 1,036 hours to make what the company’s CEO Doug McMillon makes in one hour.
Do the Walton heirs deserve to be very rich? I believe they do. Their father created an innovative business model. The bigger question is how much wealth should anyone – rich heir or CEO -- have. What is the cost to society of an economy where a few are very rich and secure and many working class and middle class families are falling behind and less secure?
I was working with a very accomplished client today. He’s held roles in senior management in several industries. When he describes himself, he presents his versatility as an asset. The problem is that few employers would need his full range of skills.
His challenge is to learn what the employer needs and present himself as the solution to that company’s problem. How can he do this? Listen carefully, and ask questions. I urge clients that I coach for interview preparation to ask these two questions
- What are the top three challenges I’ll face in this position?
- Describe someone who has been successful in this role?
These questions will let you understand what an employer needs and present your skills and experience in a way that fits what the company is looking for. Put the employer first, and it will be more likely that you’ll receive good job offers.
I love this quotation from Lincoln: "Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today." The worst enemy in a job search or career change is inaction. Whenever you tell yourself that you'll do it tomorrow, ask this question: "What's stopping me from doing it today?" If you have a good reason for delaying action, then you should wait for tomorrow. However, if you keep putting off what you should do today, that will limit your opportunities to find a job. Set written goals and note when you are delaying action. If "I'll do it tomorrow" is a habit, it's one you will need to break to be successful.
I recently met someone who spent ten years managing a small organization. He had to leave the position after suffering a stroke. Now, after two years of rehab, he's ready to go back to work full time. During his recovery, he was able to work part time as a consultant. The gap in his resume is short, not significant. Still, his first question to me was, "How do I deal with my deficit, my health condition?"
My advice was to flip the coin: Demonstrate your strengths. I definitely think we all need to be able to answer questions about our weaknesses, but we should spend twice or three times as much time thinking about our strengths. I told the man who was worried about his health issues to start with these two questions:
1. Why are you good at what you do?
2. How will you bring value to the employer who is interviewing you?
No one will ever be hired because of their deficits. We need to be able to put potential employers at ease about them, but it's more important to know and promote your assets. Practice interviewing by focusing on your assets and strengths, not your deficits and weaknesses.
I often caution against making too much of broad news about the job market. At the same time, some good news needs to be told. The latest Department of Labor job reports shows growth in higher paying jobs in professional services. It also features a spike in construction jobs. This is the kind of news that might be a sign of a growing economy, which would mean strong, lasting job growth with better wages. My fingers are crossed.
I've blogged in the past about how politicians in both parties say they want good teachers and then do everything possible to drive educators to change careers. The latest example of this trend is found in my sweet hometown of Chicago. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have opted not to extend a contract with its teachers that would have given them a raise of 3%. Instead, CPS has said it will ask teachers to take a 7% cut in pay. Mayor Emanuel is quoted in today's Chicago Sun-Times that teachers are "working hard" and that schools are achieving "incredible results." At the same time, the mayor cites "serious fiscal challenges" as a reason for CPS' actions. Teacher's union president Karen Lewis call this action an "insult." There is good chance that the teachers could be forced to go on strike again.
For me, the real problem in this story is how it will affect teaching in the future. If we really want the best and brightest students to go into teaching, we need to think about how they react to stories like this. What intelligent, ambitious student would pursue a career that would cut the pay of people the mayor calls hard working and successful? Politicians and citizen need to ask themselves a difficult question: Do we care about saving a few dollars in taxes or educating children?
Bloomberg is a great source for news. One of many things I like about the website is its focus on issues that affect working people. Today it offers five graphs that make a sad argument: “Work-life balance is dead.” First, managers in developed countries work more than 40 hours a week. Interestingly, the company listed where the fewest managers who work over 40 hours is China (19%). Second, millennials are trapped between responsibilities at work and home. Third, flexible hours are often a euphemism that gives the employer an option to keep workers on the job at any time and anywhere. Fourth, many people have stayed at their current jobs because they remember what happened in 2008. They are afraid to make a change. Finally, U.S. companies are among the worst in developed countries for giving parents time off to care for family needs.
Is work-life balance dead? Maybe. The points made in this article are very compelling in what they say about the current economy, especially for workers in their twenties and thirties. However, these conditions are neither necessary nor permanent. Working people – union and non-union – need to press federal and state legislators to pass laws that guarantee rights in the workplace. FMLA was a tepid step in that direction. On the other side of the coin, we have seen state after state cut weeks that laid off employees can collect unemployment insurance. Several states have passed “right to work” (for less) laws that hamper unions and lower wages. We need national standards to protect workers and stabilize the economy. We will not get such protection until working people vote for candidates who support labor.