Real Wage Enhancements

We understand the outcry for a higher minimum wage in America today. The intent is a compassionate one, but the fact is, the “real wage” (spending power) and not the minimum wage, is the real problem for most workers today.


Here’s an open secret that doesn’t get a lot of attention: “The minimum will always be the minimum — no matter what level the minimum wage is set at.”

The minimum wage, by definition, is the very least an employer can legally pay their employees (our customers and clients). Should that really be anyone’s goal in the workplace — to be at the minimum? And is that really what career development professionals should be advising their clients to do: “Go out and use your time, talents, and energy to find that perfect, minimum wage job?”

Of course, not!


In general, business and manufacturers set prices based on what they perceive they can get for a product or service in the marketplace. If (and when) the minimum wage goes up, so too will the price of goods and services. The rationale is simple: “If there’s more money available in the marketplace, they can charge and get higher prices.”

The outcome of a minimum wage increase is almost always higher prices. And the ones who lose in the end are the minimum wage workers. That’s because the raise in minimum wage had little or no increase on their “real wage” (buying power).


Career development professionals are at the center of the debate, whether we realize it or not. We should be promoting strategies with our clients and customers that help them get ahead based on real wage growth. We don’t have to become “politicos” to do this.

This dynamic change starts when we realize that increased buying power (real wages) doesn’t happen among any group of people focused on the minimum as their career wage. But when the conversation shifts to increasing real wages, our clients and customers encounter an exciting, new vision for a wage that goes beyond the minimum and has the potential to keep growing. That’s when meaningful progress is really made in the workforce.


If we want our customers and clients to enjoy an increase in their real wages, we have to help them cultivate a lifestyle that moves them beyond minimum wage careers. This happens through skills enhancement, establishing and maintaining a strong work history, and developing a pattern of lifelong learning in their careers.


Lobbying to raise the minimum wage is truly a compassionate act. But the problem we identify is the problem we will solve. Is the problem really the minimum wage, or is it the real wage (buying power)?

We need to be keenly aware that a minimum wage focus results in basement careers for the people we serve. We need to be prepared to shift the conversation to improving skills, maintaining a strong work history, and establishing a career that embraces lifelong learning as a vital success strategy.

Let’s do these things so we can make increasing the “real wages” the real goal!


An Unplanned Encounter

[Article reprinted with permission from Vocation Works!]


“Yes, I have a few minutes,” I replied. “What do you need?”

This was a bit out of the ordinary, even for me. I was at this particular workforce center for the day to do a training. We’re often asked to go on site to train workforce and career development professionals. But this man was not on staff there. He was a customer. He was a client. He was one of the many locals who use workforce centers all across America for help with finding a job or surviving a layoff or something else like that.

“You’re the teacher for the people who work here. Right?” the man asked.

“Well, yes …” I replied, drawing out my response as I tried to anticipate what this man might actually want to talk to me about.

“These people need to know something,” the man went on. “Whenever I come in here, I’m thinking they’re really missing the point. Do you know what I mean?” he asked. “Do you get what I’m saying?”

“Honestly, no!” I said to the man, trying to be both polite and professional. “I don’t understand, but please tell me.”

“You know what a career plan is — right?” he asked.

“Yes, of course.” I said. And then, as if to make the point that I have some expertise with career planning, I went on to tell him, “I travel all around the country teaching career planning.”

“Oh,” he said. His eyes suddenly looked down and his disappointment was impossible to miss. He said quietly, “I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need to be sorry” I said. “Why would you be sorry?”

“For a moment, I thought you might be able help, but then,” he said, “when you said what you said, I thought you could actually be the reason they got this problem in the first place. I mean, after all, you are the one teaching them this stuff.” 

A bit surprised, I tried hard not to react to his unexpected response. I asked as professionally as I knew how, “Why don’t you just tell me about the problem. Let me try to figure out if there’s anything I need to do about it.”

The man stood quietly for a moment and then said, “Okay! I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but this stuff you’re teaching these people, well … it just don’t work.”

“Of course, it works,” I said with a smile on my face. “You’ll have to tell me what you’re actually talking about though. What exactly doesn’t seem to be working for you?”

“Fair enough,” the man replied. “The whole thing! This whole career planning thing! It just doesn’t work. It ain’t for real! That’s what I’m talking about. The career plan they make us do ain’t real.”

Now I was intrigued. I really did want to hear more.

“You gotta have a plan!” I told the man. “Plans are important.”

“But these plans don’t work,” the man answered. “They never work. At least, not the way they make us do them. Nothing ever happens the way you plan it. Most of us who come in here already know that. We know the career plans don’t work. But the people working here — either they don’t know it, or they don’t care! They just keep making us work on these stupid plans. I don’t know nobody who ever got a job because of their career plan. And I was thinking that, well … maybe, if your job was teaching them, then you might be able to tell them to start having us spend more time on things that really do work.”

The quiet that followed lasted only a moment or two, but it seemed longer. The man finally broke the silence by asking, “Does that make sense to you, sir?”

“Yes,” I answered. “It makes a lot of sense. And I agree with you.”

I went on, “I agree that nothing ever seems to work the way we plan it. But still, we have to have a plan. As long as it’s flexible, your plan will actually give you the vision and direction and hope and inspiration you need to take those important, next steps in life. That’s what I teach the people who work in this workforce center. And I hope it’s something you might understand too.”

The man slowly turned and started to walk away. I called after him gently, “Does that make sense to you? Is that something you think I should tell the staff who work here?”

He stopped and turned around again.

“Maybe,” he said. “But why don’t you tell them that, in life, stuff happens. It don’t matter how good we plan! Stuff always happens. Tell them there’s more to life than the stuff we put in our career plans. So tell them not to fall in love with their plans. People and life! That’s the only stuff that really matters in the long run!”

With that, we parted company. We went our separate ways.


We learned a lot from that brief, unplanned encounter with a client (customer) in a workforce center. Here’s what really stuck with us:

  • While it’s true that most plans don’t work the way we plan them, it’s still important to plan.
  • Because plans never work out exactly right, a good plan is flexible. The easier it is to make adjustments, the more likely we are to succeed.
  • To make a good plan, we have to know (1) where we’ve been, (2) where we are, (3) where we’re going and (4) how we’ll get there.
  • A good plan delivers four great benefits: (1) vision, (2) direction, (3) hope and (4) inspiration.
  • Remember, it’s easier to adjust a good plan than to succeed with no plan.



Upgrading Work Skills – Some Amazing FREE Resources

We are in the age of credentialing! Skills development…professional development…regardless of your work or career goals, every worker and student needs to up their game!  The thought of “going back to school” can be overwhelming and discouraging.  No time…no money…no access!!  Think again!!

Check our two amazing online training resources: and  You’ll see their list of courses has everything from technical skills,  like microsoft office, photography, carpentry, to career development, time management, customer service, safety and health….and the list goes on and on.  And these courses are FREE and include course completion documentation.  There is an optional charge for a certificate personalized with their name for about a $25.

We just learned that Maryland’s workforce system has partnered with to received documentation on completed courses that are entered into Job Seeker profiles…how great is that!!

Lifelong learning at your fingertips!  You’ve got to love it!

Career Portfolios-Traditional or Online?

Or Both!  The true value of a career portfolio is to help your students and/or job seekers better know themselves and help them market themselves during an interview (for a job, internship, or scholarship).  Starting with a traditional portfolio is usually good practice…it’s a great place to collect all those pieces of paper that are relevant but often scattered all over the place (certificates, assessment results, awards, achievements, thank you notes, and the list goes on and on).  TIP: google “Career Portfolio” to discover examples of suggested content since it may vary with specific career goals and life stages (high school vs encore careers).

Once you have a traditional portfolio started, an e-portfolio is easier to create.  The simpliest way to think of an e-folio is as a personal website that promotes a person’s career potential.  There are so many great free resources available…again “google” it.   e-Portfolios are becoming more and more popular in the Career Development-Job Seeking environment. An HR student of ours told us that she gets links to e-Portfolio’s in emails and thank you notes from people she has interviewed all the time…just another way to raise the bar!

Two great (free) examples of options that will connect with LinkedIn are and  They will use your profile and create your e-folio in a snap! See what you think!

Above all, encourage those you work with to recognize that what they do in their life (volunteer work, hobbies, etc.) can contribute to what they can do in their future.  Help them write their story  by starting with a career portfolio.

Informational Interview–Go Virtual!

We talk about the value of “Informational Interviews”, but how are you teaching your customers to do it?  And how do those of us that work in Business and Employer Services do them?  Do you want to learn about a particular business? Is it hard to find time to visit in person? Use YouTube!! No kidding!! You will be surprised how many businesses and industries use this tool.  We did a little research and it’s amazing how much information they post on their YouTube page.  If you want to learn about a business or employer quickly and uncover what their interests and concerns are, check out their YouTube page.  It’s like conducting an Informational Interview without every leaving your office. That’s why we call it the Virtual Informational Interview ….you can add to your toolbox today!