Career Goodies

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.

THE MINIMUM IS THE MINIMUM …

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!

MINIMUMS AND PRICES …

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).

REAL STRATEGIES FOR REAL WAGES …

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.

BEYOND THE MINIMUM …

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.

CONCLUSIONS …

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!

 

A Different Look At CD Theory

I’ve decided that you can’t really understand careers without understanding some basic career development theory. But the problem with theory — any kind of theory, really — is that you can’t have a theory without making some assumptions. And it’s with the assumptions that the problems begin.

PLANS AND ASSUMPTIONS …

Most professional planners (yes, there are people who make a living making plans) understand that the difference between a “plan” and “action” (implementation of the plan) is that, when you take action steps, most or all of the assumptions go out the window. The assumptions either prove to be valid (and they’re no longer assumptions) or they prove to be invalid (and they’re no longer a factor).

When you’re planning your career, assumptions are everything. When you’re living and doing career, they are all but meaningless. And that should have a big impact on the importance of career development theory since theory itself is assumption-driven.

LIFE MATTERS …

Are we saying there’s something wrong with career development theory? No! Are we saying there’s something wrong with career planning? Of course not! But what we are saying is that, when it comes to career, life matters! Life always seems to have a way of getting in the way of our plans and turning our assumptions into fodder.

THE VALUE OF CAREER PLANNING …

So why have any assumptions? Why plan in the first place? What’s the purpose? What value is career planning and the underlying assumptions in our plans?

The first point to understand is that a good plan has to be flexible. There is, of course, an assumption in that statement. The assumption is that a plan can be changed without having to exchange it for a whole, new plan. But a good plan does much more for us.

A good career plan provides vision for life. It also gives us hope and direction as we step out into the abyss of “later” or “tomorrow.” So we plan. But perhaps even more important than vision, hope and direction is inspiration. A good plan inspires!

Planning is like breath for our lives. It can be fuel for the soul. Even when we fully understand that our plans will never work the way we planned them, still we plan. That’s because the plan tells us a secret. It tells us there is a way to get from here to there, wherever there might be. And the secret also reveals why it’s necessary for us to muster the resources and expend the energy necessary to move forward from where we are now.

A NEW THEORY (MAYBE) …

Let’s close this short discussion on theory with another theory. Our theory is this: career is more than an idea. It is something dynamic! It is as alive as the person associated with it. But career apart from vocation (the distant call we hear in our hearts) can never fully be understood.

In a way, career is meaningless without vocation. And like life itself, we experience career one step at a time. The only step you and I will ever take in our careers is the next step. Career is just one step, but when taken many times over time in a consistent direction suggested by the quiet call we hear in our hearts, it changes our lives. It transforms us from who we are to who we were always meant to be. And that’s part of the secret of career.

CAREER AND LIFE …

What’s wrong with that kind of thinking? Nothing, of course. At least, not until you try to understand the assumptions behind it. In life, it always boils down to the assumptions, doesn’t it. Somehow, that makes career a lot like life! It makes career the adventure of a lifetime!

–Webster

 

An Unplanned Encounter

[Article reprinted with permission from Vocation Works!]

THE STORY …

“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.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS …

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.

 

 

Someone Else

[Article reprinted with permission from Vocation Works!]

We need to bring prayer back to the workplace. We need people of faith at work in our society today! One of the reasons we need to bring prayer and faith back to work is because, over the years, our workforce has shifted to the point that it is now driven by “someone else.”

WHAT IT MEANS …

“Someone else?” you might ask. “What does that mean?”

Think about it for just a minute. It’s gotten to be like the person in the car ahead of you on the highway who throws a cup or a bag or a cigarette butt out of the window of their vehicle. What were they thinking? Who did they think would contend with that later? Who’s yard would it end up in? Who would have to pick it up? You’re exactly right — someone else!

THE HEART OF THE MATTER …

It’s all about someone else in today’s workplace. As long as you’re going to work (which is pretty much the rest of your life), there will be some things that just don’t go your way! In today’s workforce, however, who’s fault is it when that happens? It’s someone else’s? Anyone else but you!

  • When you don’t get the job you had really wanted, who’s fault was that? Someone else’s.
  • When you don’t get the promotion you had hoped for … or the office you had really been coveting … or the vacation schedule this year you had most desired, who was responsible for that? Someone else!
  • When your company is working on a big project and the costs start skyrocketing, causing the customer to ask uncomfortable questions and putting the whole contract at risk, who’s fault is that? Exactly! Someone else’s!

THE TWO WORK GROUPS …

The truth is, in today’s workforce you have two main groups. They are the “Employer Group” (employers) and the “Workforce Group” (workers). These two groups share an important value in common, though most would never readily admit it. They both value “someone else.”

THE EMPLOYER GROUP …

The employers are the people who own or control capital (money). They’re willing to trade their money (at least, some of it) to people in exchange for skills and the time necessary to accomplish whatever it is they want to accomplish. Employers also hold the keys to other benefits (like vacation, retirement, and some types of insurance) that workers want. These benefits are like enticements for people who have skills and time to give (sell to) employers.

From the employers’ perspective, while workers are valuable, it’s really skills and time they want to buy. They don’t buy people (the workforce). So, to the extent that someone else also has those skills and time, the employer is in the driver’s seat. And it’s just not wise for the employer to give all the company’s money away to the workers because the company might need some of that money for other things (like new facilities, marketing to new customers, paying investors a profit for their investments, and other stuff like that).

For the employer, there’s a limit. When it comes to the workers (the workforce), they’re really willing to pay only enough money so their workers will continue to trade skills and time with them instead of going down the street (or to another community) to work for someone else.

THE WORKER GROUP …

The workers, on the other hand, are people who own valued skills and the time necessary to help an employer stay in business. The workers are the ones who are willing to exchange their skills and the time of their lives (which is not endless) for some of the employer’s money and other benefits.

From the workers’ perspective, it’s all about living. It’s a life and death proposition, in a way. The worker needs money to pay for rent and utilities. Workers also need money for food and clothing. And they need money for other things that aren’t essential to life, but that make life more comfortable or more pleasing to live (televisions, new cars, and other stuff like that). But while the worker is willing to trade skills and time for money, they want to live — so they don’t want to exchange all their time for money or there’s no point in working in the first place.

Like the employer, there’s a limit for the worker too. The worker is willing to do just enough so the employer won’t decide to replace them with someone else who has similar skills and some time on his (her) hands.

EXCHANGE THEORY …

It’s all about an exchange. The employers want something the workers have. And the workers want something the employers have. Both are interested in what the other can offer. But each has a primary interest in their own purpose for being in the game (the marketplace) in the first place. So they make the exchange.

THE INDEPENDENT VARIABLE …

The true power holder in the equation is “someone else.” As long as the worker can go to work for someone else, the employer has to keep stepping up to the plate to meet the needs of the workforce. And as long as the employer can replace the worker with “someone else,” the worker has to keep upping his (her) game too. The independent variable is always someone else.

For an employer to truly become special, powerful, or important in the marketplace, he (she) has to become the someone else that attracts the good workers. And in order for the worker to truly become secure in getting the money and other benefits they need in life, they have to become the someone else that employers are always looking for too!

PRAYER@WORK …

Nothing of lasting value, however, is ever accomplished by an employer or a worker who is someone else. Good employers and good workers make communities and societies great. The good stuff in the world is always done by good people on both sides of the equation who are willing to step up to the plate. But that also means that there are people who push beyond their own personal needs and look for the good of everyone involved.

Pushing beyond your own needs is not natural! There’s something very special about it. It’s beyond the ordinary! That’s why we need praying people in the workplace. That’s why the workforce and its employers ought to be people of faith. It takes faith and prayer to move beyond yourself to the good of others.

Who do you want to be today? What do you want for your life to become? What do you want for your community? What do you want to leave behind as your legacy? Someone else will not determine that for you — you decide that!

Pray about it! Blessings!

 

 

Introducing the Entrepreneurial Workforce

We’ve been talking about the Entrepreneurial Workforce for about a decade, but it’s never been more important than it has become today!

THE ENTREPRENEURIAL WORKFORCE …

What is the Entrepreneurial Workforce? It’s a workforce where jobs are defined by:

  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Abilities

It’s a workforce where the worker who owns the knowledge, skills, and abilities actually owns the job.

It’s a workforce where the traditional employer owns the “opportunity to work” because the employer needs someone (or many) with a certain set of knowledge, skills, and abilities.

THE VISION …

In the Entrepreneurial Workforce, the employer and the worker are actually partners who work together to solve a problem(s) or meet a challenge(s) that results in a product or service being delivered to another person or group of people.

The Entrepreneurial Workforce brings traditional employers together with qualified workers in a temporary setting. The timeframe could be short-term (days, weeks, or months) or long-term (many years). But both parties have an expectation that it will not last forever. It will last only as long as the “opportunity to work” exists.

JOB SECURITY …

Job security for the entrepreneurial worker is actually very strong. That’s because it is tied to the worker’s knowledge, skills, and abilities rather than being tied to a single “opportunity to work.”

So long as the entrepreneurial worker is flexible (willing to work for multiple employers in a career) and committed to lifelong learning, there is no reason to believe that an entrepreneurial workforce will not enjoy strong job security!

LOOKING AHEAD …

The Entrepreneurial Workforce is an intriguing topic. We’ll have more to share on this subject in future blogs.

 

 

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The Commander

THE STORY …

An old soldier, who was now a senior officer, was reflecting on his life one day. He never dreamed that it would turn out like it had, though all-in-all, it hadn’t been a bad life so far. But still, the commander wasn’t quite sure what it really meant to be who he was. So he decided to do a little research.

First he went to his teen-aged children and asked them, “Who am I?”

They looked at him a little strangely and said, “You’re our dad, of course.”

Then he went to his wife and asked, “Who am I?”

His wife replied, “You’re my husband.”

Afterwards he went to his soldiers and asked one of them, “Who am I?”

The startled soldier paused a moment and said, “You’re my commander, sir.”

He then went over to the commissary where his family shopped for groceries, and he asked one of the ladies at the cash register, “Who am I?”

Without even looking up, she said, “You’re a customer, sir.”

Finally, he went to the post chaplain and asked, “Who am I, chaplain?”

Expecting to be told he was a child of God (or something like that), he was surprised when the chaplain said, “Sir, you are who you are.

“But the real issue is that you’re going to become whatever it is you decide to do. So think carefully about what you decide to do with today.”

CONSIDERATION …

Don’t rush the self-assessment! Consider carefully your decisions, especially as they impact the work you do .  You will spend most of your life in work-related activities, so you are likely to become what you decide to do with your life.

Vocation works!

 

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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:  Alison.com and Coursera.org.  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 Alison.com 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 branded.me and re.vu.  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!