Most of us have had ups and downs in our career, which Winston Churchill summed up in these great words: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is courage to continue that counts."
Persistence might be the greatest strength, and -- as Churchill says -- it takes courage to move forward when we doubt ourselves. However, every success we have had was a time we could have failed. The only way to change is to take a change and move forward with courage. I'm not the biggest fan of Churchill. But, in this case, his words are great advice for anyone who is frustrated with their career or unhappy in their job. Find your "courage to continue."
Where’s the best place to look for a career? Technology. According to an article in Bloomberg, six of the top ten industries that hire career changers involve technology. As the article notes, these companies are not just looking for employees with technical skills. They need employees with a wide range of skill sets. The trick in a career change is to identify and leverage your transferable skills. For example, negotiation is a skill that can be used in sales, purchasing, and management. It will be used differently in each job function, but the skill will transfer from profession to profession. In some cases, a career changer will need to go back to school for a new degree or certificate. More often, if you can align your transferable skills and experience with an employer’s needs, you can make a career transition. With the unemployment rate going down, now is a great time to make a change.
One of my clients, we’ll call him Nate, recently interviewed for a managerial position. He said the company owner was charming throughout the interview. An employee politely interrupted the interview to ask a question that sounded important. The owner order her out of his office, slammed the door shut, and told Nate, “Some people don’t know how to behave.”
Does this mean Nate should not take a job with this company? Not necessarily. He should so with some caution. I recommended that he do a little background research on the company owner. Has anyone written anything about him online or social media? He should also ask to talk to employees before accepting an offer. Talking to them might give him a better idea of what it would be like to work for this person.
Pay attention to such cues when you are interviewing. Taking a job with a bad boss usually is a path to unhappiness. Such bosses also tend to be misers when it comes to pay.
Bill Simmons was recently suspended by ESPN for comments he made about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Whatever you think about Simmons, Goodell, or any of the players recently suspended by the NFL, here’s the thing to remember: Doing or saying something that hurts your employer’s reputation can lead to being terminated. The same is true of another type of speech: social media. Many people have taken to Facebook or Twitter to be critical of their employer or supervisor. In many states, such action is grounds for dismissal. Be careful before you do something that can put your income at risk.
One more word about Bill Simmons. I often find him funny and sometimes insightful. He is also a good businessman. If ESPN decides to get rid of him, he will have other opportunities. We should all follow his example. Have a Plan B for your career and build a reputation that will make other employers want to hire us.
According to a national poll of HR managers, the minimum wage needs to be increased. 58% thought the minimum wage should be increased. However, the level of increase varied from $8 to $15. Incredibly, 9% actually said there should be no minimum wage.
What surprises me about this poll is that HR managers haven’t done more to address this problem. Maybe it shows that their opinion doesn’t matter to executives, whose first goal seems to protect their own compensation. As I’ve written in the past, many of my clients who make middle class incomes report not receiving a raise or only incremental raises over the last 6 years. The working poor and middle class are being squeezed like a toothpaste tube that is nearly empty. What will the investor class and the executive class do when there is nothing left in the tube?
A client recently told me that he was checking several major job boards for openings. He asked what else he could do. I asked about networking, which he was doing. Then I asked if he was checking the websites of companies he wanted to work for. He wasn’t doing this. Can you assume that the company you want to work for is posting on job boards? Are you looking at the job boards where they are posting?
Checking company websites is also a good way to learn more about your industry. The more you know about your employment market, the easier it is to network and target the best employers. There is no magic trick that will let you find a good job. What work in your most recent job search probably won’t work in the next one. Try to find different ways to look for work. Better still, build the kind of knowledge about your industry that will let you manage a career.
A client called me with good news last week. He had received a job offer to work as an assistant at a doctor’s office. His voice didn’t sound good, so I asked what was wrong. He told me that he didn’t want to sign an employment agreement. The language scared him. He sent a copy to me, and he had every reason to be afraid.
The business manager told my client it would be a full time position with benefits. The employment agreement said something very different. It stated that the employee would work when the business manager said work was available. If work was slow, he could be sent home or have a day cancelled. The employment agreement also contained a non-compete agreement that limited my client from working with a 15 mile radius of the doctor’s office for a period of 18 months. This clause would limit my client’s ability to find work close to his home. He asked the business manager if this language could be changed. She told him not to worry about it. She said that they just get this form signed to make the lawyers happy.
My client talked to a lawyer who warned him not to sign the agreement and keep looking for another job. I agreed with this advice. This kind of agreement is all one way. When there is work, the employer expects the employee to come in and do a good job. If there is no work, the employer saves the cost of paying employees. All the risk is borne by the employee. The non-compete is often used by such employers to keep employees from leaving.
Be careful. Only sign an employment agreement after you have read and understood it. If you have any doubts, ask your prospective employer to let you take the document and think about it for a day. Anyone who tries to force you to sign the document and take the job right away is clearly trying to trick and control you. Don’t be fooled. Take the time to know what you are signing.
Several companies have instituted policies related to the use of social media. I’ve met people in the insurance and financial service industries who are not allowed to have Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn accounts. In some cases, the company is afraid that employees could give advice or make statements that would open the company to litigation. In other cases, disgruntled employee has post rants about their boss or company. Employees have been fired for making disparaging comments or violating policies. Be careful about what you post on line. Don’t let a moment of anger or the need to give advice cost you a job.
I’ve written in the past about the danger of signing non-compete agreements. A client recently told me a new tale of non-compete woe. He was working in a technical position for a company that was sales focused. My client’s position had no function related to sales, so he could not steal any accounts or clients. He applied for a job with a company that purchased from his current employers. The hiring manager informed my client that they would love to hire him, but could not do so because of the agreement he signed. In most cases, non-compete agreements last for one year. The one my client signed lasts for 18 months. There is currently a position open at the company that wants to hire him, but he will not be free for another four months. He has lost two opportunities to work for a company that wanted to hire him.
If you are taking a new job, think carefully before signing any non-compete agreements. In a profession with limited opportunities, a non-compete agreement could keep you from working. If you don’t understand what an employment document is saying, take it to a lawyer before signing it. Be very careful before signing any employment document. Don’t limit your future.
Last week The Chicago Tribune reported that several large companies are bringing their call centers back to the U.S. While more Americans will be employed because of this shift, the news isn't all good. Many call centers pay low wages and offer little in the way of benefits or career path. Call center workers need to be smart and articulate. They have to solve problems while an angry customer often lashes out at them. How much are they paid for this service. According to the Tribune article, the average pay is $22,000 to $45,000 per year ($11 to $22 per hour). America needs these jobs. It also needs a raise.
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