Today’s Chicago Sun-Times features an interesting article by Paul Davidson (USA Today) on the problem of moving back in a career, taking a lower level position, to stay employed. Davidson cites experts who say that a person who tries to take a few steps down on the career ladder is actually less likely to get hired. Applicants who were unemployed but seeking jobs at their current level were more likely to get hired.
That doesn’t surprise me. It’s not a matter of being employed or employed. It’s a matter of being qualified. Candidates who dumb down their resume or take a lower level job often show themselves as overqualified. They are less likely to get hired for lower level jobs because employers are worried that they would be bored or constantly looking for a job at their level. Worse still, as Davidson notes, if job seekers are “lucky” enough to land a lower level job, it’s very hard to climb back up the ladder. The article features the story of a former executive who took a job as a front line employee to keep from having a gap in her resume. Now she is having trouble getting interviews for executive positions.
My advice to clients is to take a lower level job only in two cases. First, if you need immediate income, take whatever job will give you the income you need. Second, if clients are looking to downshift and work at positions with less responsibility, they should pursue those jobs. In both cases, I inform them that moving back up the ladder will be difficult. Don’t move down the career ladder without considering the consequences.
USA Today reports that wages may be going up. The problem is that increases tend to be in certain professions and areas. Following an analysis by payroll processor ADP, the article claims that key trades are seeing pay increases between 3.8 and 7.2%. Interestingly the biggest pay increases have come in companies with 1,000 or more employees (5.9%). Smaller companies have offered lower raises: 500-999 employees (2.9%), 50-499 employees (2.5%), and 49 workers of less (2.9%). By region, the Midwest (4.4%) and West (4.4%) are earning more than those in the Northeast (3.0%) and South (2.6%). If these numbers are accurate, it's good news for workers in the right trade in the right area. Hopefully the good news will continue to grow and spread.
USA Today asks a very troubling question: “Is the annual pay raise dead?” When clients ask me about the job market, I tell them that the problem isn’t jobs. It’s getting paid. Wage increases have ticked up at about 2%, which for most people is not enough to cover increased costs. Bob Sullivan of CNBC, the author of the USA Today article, cites an expert from AON Hewitt, who said, “Base salary increases are flat. We don't see the prospect of that changing much at all in the next several years.” Rather than annual salary increases, many companies are turning to bonuses as a way to reward productive employees while better controlling labor costs.
The article goes on to state that employee turnover is high and “critical-skill” employees are hardest to retain. Go figure. Why should employees be loyal to companies that only care about the bottom line? They are following market forces just as their employers are. I agree with an expert quoted at the end of the article who urges workers to know and refine their most marketable skills. But I’ll take it one step further: Rather than hope that your current employer rewards you with a bonus, always be ready to find a better employer if your compensation is not fair or if a better option is available. Treat your career like a business.
USA Today offers a great article on people to have to move for a new job. 15% of executives and managers had to move to take a new position. The article attributes this situation to two factors: an improving economy and job seekers’ willingness to move. Many of my clients can’t move because of family commitments. Those who can expand the market for their services. In a job market where salaries are still tight, moving to another city can be a way to earn more money. Relocation should be an option in a good career management strategy.
USA Today’s Susan Page recently interviewed Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. She asked Perez about a paradox in the current economic recovery: unemployment is down with little increase in wages. Perez said that there is still “slack” in the market, which would mean that unemployment would have to go even lower to drive increased wages. He also discussed a White House Summit on Workers, which will take place on October 7, 2015. This sounds like good news, but what results will it bring? Perez captured the general mood of American workers this way: “They’re hard and falling behind.” Page cast this as a “disparity between the wealthy and the middle of the workforce.” I would respectfully disagree. From the Occupy protests to the ongoing Fight for 15, low wage working people are voicing their frustration and demanding justice in a way that the middle class is not. That said, most American (I’d guess 70-80%) are feeling anxiety and a lack of security. President Obama put it best when he said, “America needs a raise.”
USA Today had some good news: benefits are on the rise. Companies offering paid maternity leave have increased over the last year from 12% to 21%. Over the same period, paid sick leave has increased from 33% to 42%. Family leave is up from 19% to 24%. The article even cited some companies that are offering “unlimited vacation.”
This all sounds good. However, as I’ve noted in recent posts, income is not rising in a significant way for most Americans. Payscale offers an informative chart that demonstrates how little pay in the U.S. has changed from 2007 to the Present. Benefits are good only when they are needed. Wage increases give people more control over their lives, more of a feeling of security.
Pat Fitzgerald is a great football coach. He also seems to be a good man who wants to teach his players values. However, in coming out against his players joining a union, he is acting in a way that raises some hard questions that the coach does not answer. According to the players, their goal is to improve health care and academic opportunities, not salary. Coaches like Fitzgerald often make more than a million dollars a year. Fitzgerald said that unionizing is not in the players’ “best interest” and that all issues could be worked out through “communication” and “trust.”
The problem with this approach is that it leaves the individual player at the mercy of two powerful institutions: the university that grants his/her scholarship and the NCAA. It’s easy for the employer or the school to say, “Trust me. I’m doing what’s in your best interest.” According the Collegiate Athletes Players Association (CAPA), players have been punished by the NCAA for accepting food. Some universities have done little to help players who suffered injuries that will affect them for the rest of their lives. According an article in Huffington Post, Northwestern recently opened a $225 million athletic facility. According to USA Today, Coach Fitzgerald’s annual compensation is $2.2 million. College sports generates big money. College sports has a union to protect its interest: the NCAA, which generates $433 million a year in revenue just by selling rights.
In this system, shouldn’t the players be allowed to have a unified voice that lets them protect their interest? Then again, most workers in America today have no protection. Maybe the young men on Northwestern’s football team will set a good example for the country. Until working people find a way to support each other, we will all be at the mercy of a system based on “trust.”
PS: In 2011, South Park put much of this debate in a hilarious perspective, especially the definition of student-athlete.
Today’s USA Today featured a claim that over 18% of Americans are relying on “entitlements” to survive. There’s just one problem: working people paid for these alleged entitlements. Because of the Social Security reform enacted under President Reagan, some of us have paid for our parents’ generation as well as our own. Now, alleged reformers want to transfer the money we have paid into these programs to insurance companies, banks, and financial services firms. They also want to introduce limits and means tests. This is a joke. No, it’s not a joke. It’s a crime.
It’s a crime that has happened before. Both private and public employers have failed to make their contributions to pension funds. Workers made their contributions, which were deducted from their paychecks. However, when a pension fund fails because of an employer’s failure to meet an obligation, it is the worker who receives a smaller pension. How is this a matter of entitlement? A contract was made and broken with no consequences to the party that failed to live up to its obligation.
Too many working people in America are first class suckers. People who will lose their retirement income and health care cheer Paul Ryan’s plan because it is labeled “conservative.” Please tell me what is conservative about cutting Medicare and transferring funds to insurance companies? What is conservative about giving greater tax cuts to the most wealthy individuals and corporations? Ryan’s plan is a redistribution of wealth, and it is class warfare. Bernie Sanders has put it best in calling it “Robin Hood in reverse.” Ryan’s plan takes from the poor and gives to the rich.
Don’t buy this Frank Luntz-inspired nonsense about “entitlements.” What about the entitlements for companies like GE or BP that make billions and pay no taxes? What about entitlements for billionaires who manipulate the tax code so they pay a lower tax rate than a person making $50,000 a year? (Yes, my good conservative friends, the rich do pay more taxes. But they are paying less on a dollar than they have in decades, and they are often paying less per dollar than middle class and working Americans.)
Whenever you hear a word being repeated again, again, and again, it’s time to ask why this word is being repeated and who is behind the message. Our political leaders are weak, and they owe their existence to special interests that want to transfer public funds to support private interests. We as working people have paid for Social Security and Medicare. We are entitled to what we have paid for. Let’s send a simple, direct message: Hands off!
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.
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