Career Calling

July 31, 2014

Fast Food Workers Win a Round

 

Writing in Huffington Post, Amy Traub, an Analyst at Demos, notes that the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that McDonald’s workers could organize as one union because of the corporation’s rules for franchisees. This ruling will be appealed. However, if it is maintained, fast food workers have won a great victory in their fight for a living wage. Traub also notes efforts in the U.S. Senate and House to introduce new legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize. Given the current structure of the Congress, it’s hard to imagine these measures becoming law. That’s the bad news. The good news is that strong progressive voices like Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Keith Ellison are speaking out and presenting alternatives to “right to work” [for less] schemes. As Traub states, this has been a good week for workers. May there be many more.

 

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July 30, 2014

Balancing Multiple Job Offers

 

One of my clients just called with good news. He received a job offer two days ago and another one today. Better still, he interviewed for a third time with a potential employer who will probably make him an offer tomorrow. What should he do?

Take the time to make the best deal. He’s already gotten both of the companies that have made offers to wait until Friday to let him make a decision. He’s asked the company making a lower offer to raise it. And he’s informed the company that has not made an offer that he has two other potential employers waiting for him to make a decision.

This is the ideal situation, and it doesn’t happen often. Be sure that you are communicating clearly and honestly with your prospective employers. If you’re going to use multiple offers to ask for more money, know that there is a risk that an employer will retract its offer. However, if that employer really wants you, they will pay more or find some other way to compensate you.

When you’re in a position like this, be calm and strategic. Make the deal that works best for you.

July 29, 2014

Debt and Flat Wages

According to a report in Huffington Post, 35% of American adults with credit records have had a debt taken to collection. While this is a problem for the economy, it is related to a topic I write about frequently: stagnant wages. Since the crash of 2008, many Americans have seen small or no raises. This article cites an expert from the Urban Institute who makes the same point. It’s not enough to talk about raising the minimum wage. Many middle class workers are struggling to make ends meet. Too many people live from paycheck to paycheck. An unexpected medical emergency or car/house repair can lead straight to collection calls. America needs a raise.

July 26, 2014

Time Off and Wages

 

Huffington Post offers an interesting take on Americans’ attitude toward work and time off. 16% of people worked would trade 20% less pay for 20% less work. While this statistic is interesting, it reveals two big problems in our current work economy:

  1. So many people are living so close to the edge that they can’t even pretend to be to do this.
  2. Some people still have good jobs, or they could not answer the question in the affirmative. For a person making $50,000 a year, 20% is $10,000. Not many Americans could give that much up and still continue to live in their current manner.

The question is interesting. What it tells us about American workers is even more interesting: We’re overworked, underpaid, and highly stressed. America needs a raise.

Fast Food Workers Fight for $15

 

Aljazeera America reports that 1,300 fast food workers from across the U.S. have gathered in Chicago to organize and fight for an increased minimum wage. They want more than more money. The workers are also seeking the protection that comes from being part of a union. Their efforts will set an example for workers in other industries, even middle class professionals who have seen small salary increases over the past few years. Low wage workers are leading the way.

July 24, 2014

Canned, Scripted Answers Won’t Land the Job

 

One of my friends runs a small business. He is currently looking for someone he can rely on to manage the business when he is out of the office. He showed me two resumes and asked me which candidate was superior. I chose the candidate who claimed to have had a similar position for five years. My friend laughed and said he did the same thing, which seemed to make sense until he interviewed both candidates.

The candidate with more experience gave canned answers and often contradicted himself. When my friend asked him what accomplishment made him proudest, he talked about being trained to work as a manager. The other candidate had less experience, but she listened to what my friend was saying and answered his questions in a manner that sounded sincere and honest. She said she was proudest of her ability to take on extra responsibility. My friend was impressed by the kind of detail she used and the level of passion she showed. He felt that she really wanted to work for him. The candidate with more experience just wanted a new job that paid more. Guess who got the job? The person with less experience who presented herself as somebody who could do the job and wanted to do it.

Beware of scripting answers when you prepare for a job interview. Good managers see through this trick. Know your strengths and be able to sell them in your normal speaking voice. Show why you want to do the job and why you’ll do it well.

July 23, 2014

Using Bullets on Resumes

 

I was discussing revisions with a client, and he said, “Clay, I want to add some bullets.”  I asked why and he didn’t have a good reason.  Many resumes are nothing more than point after point, bullet after bullet.

When I write a resume, I use a paragraph to describe job duties and bullets to call out achievements.  I’ll also use bullets at the top of a resume to call out key words/skills.  My problem with the all-bullet resume is that it gives an illusion of order when the opposite is often true.  Some people have told me, “bullets are easier to read.”  That’s not true.  When we read a paragraph, we know how to move from sentence to sentence quickly, skimming a document.   We’ve been reading that way since the second grade.  Bullets meant to make us stop.  A resume that has too many bullets is actually harder to read because it is constantly telling the reader to stop, stop, and stop.  If all bullet documents were easier to read, why are books, newspapers, magazines, and letters still written in a paragraph style?

Well used, bullets are a good tool for formatting any document.  They should be used to call out as items of equal or similar performance and used to make it easier to read a document.  If you’re using a bullet to format a document, know how and why you are using it.  Have a reason.  “I read it on the Internet” is not a good reason.

July 22, 2014

Starting at the Bottom and Eating Dog Food

 

One of my clients has had an interesting career. While he has been very successful in retail sales, he has always filled a role in IT, which is fitting for a person who majored in computer sciences. He recently earned a major certification and now wants to focus his career in IT.

He asked a question many career changers face: “Do I have to start at the bottom?”

Before I could answer, his girlfriend, who accompanied him to our meeting, snapped: “You don’t have to eat dog food.” I smiled hearing her words.

Many career changers assume that going into a new field means starting at the entry level. This assumption is flawed because it ignores the direct experience, transferable skills, education, or certification that makes the career change possible. My client has skills and experience that will let him be a system administrator or IT Manager. If he applied to positions like Help Desk 1 or Technicians, most employers would say he was overqualified.

People change careers all the time. Some transitions are easier than others. However, in many cases, it is not necessary to go to the bottom of the ladder and start climbing all over again. There is always an employer who is looking to higher talent and pay a low wage. They’ll feed you dog food if you’ll eat it. Now your value and respect yourself. Find a job that meets what you have to offer.

Winner Billionaire Sports Owners and Loser Workers

 

Investigative reporter David Sirota has a new home at International Business Times. Today he reports on a trend in city and state government: cut worker pensions while giving aid to billionaires who own sports franchises. Sirota quotes the Emergency Manager [Dictator] Kevyn Orr who calls money put toward the stadium “economic development.” Orr did not address how a reduction in pensions would hurt the economy. Somebody has to sacrifice. It might as well be working people. Their used to doing with less. Billionaires need our help.

Fining Bad Businesses that Pay Poverty Wages

 

Sarah Jaffe of In These Times reports on an effort in Minnesota to fine companies that pay wages so low that employees have to be on state aid. Take Action Minnesota is promoting what it call the “bad business fee,” a fine for each employee who is working while on some form of federal or state support. Jaffe cites a study that claims Walmart employees receive $6.2 billion per year in some form of assistance. That’s $6 billion the American taxpayer is paying to subsidize the nation’s largest private employer – corporate welfare. Jaffe gives several other compelling examples, and I urge you to read her article.

As progressive radio host Thom Hartmann is fond of saying, a business that can’t pay its employees a living wage shouldn’t be in business. People who work for a living shouldn’t have to rely on services that are meant for the poor or unemployed. If we want to promote the work ethic and the dignity of work, we should be as will to say that all workers deserve a living wage. America needs a raise.

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