3 Things Applicants Want Recruiters to Know

Whether you’re an in-house generalist or a boutique head hunter, here’s a few things all job applicants want you to know:

Mobile is a Must

If your application process is not mobile friendly, and I can’t complete it within a few clicks and auto-fill, I’m going to move on. Similarly, cumbersome account set-up (third party authentication!), is something else I can’t do easily on my phone.

If you’re recruiting entry-level, restaurant, retail, warehouse – this is even a bigger obstacle to you finding help. Many in your target demographic only have internet service through their phones.

Finally, keep it honest with Quick Apply(s). There’s nothing quick about an essay question.

Don’t Lie, err “Misrepresent” Duration

I’ve worked as a contractor and consultant for a good deal of my career, so I’m accustomed to project work and short-term clients. Unfortunately, many people who have been let go from long-term “permanent” jobs actually believe you when you say the job, “Could become permanent….”

Worse, some unscrupulous recruiters (not you, of course, but you’ve heard of those types) preface the duration discussion by telling the candidate, “If you do a good job~~” the company could, might (has the right to!) hire you…”

These “Could become ‘permanent'” discussions are disingenuous to the job applicant, and it’s one of the main reasons people feel exploited by contract work. If you are NOT filling a head-count position, and only have money for the next quarter, don’t mislead candidates about how this job “could become permanent.”

All employment is at will; there is no such thing as “permanent” work

Agents need to be clear that contractors are employees of the agency, not the client. Contracts could be extended; however, unless it is specified as part of your employment contract, all employment is at will. Duration is a best-guess-timate of the time needed. Most importantly, regardless of job performance, the contractor may never become the client’s employee.

In my book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker, I stress the importance of not confusing contract work with being an employee. As a contractor, you are an hourly service-provider. You may “feel” like an employee of your client, but you are not.

Publish Under-Market Salaries

If your compensation is below market, publish it in the ad. There’s just no reason to be coy about your budget.

When I accept a interview, I make the assumption that the company is paying a competitive rate for the position. If you’re coming in 30% below market, I’m not interested. Even if I told you I was interested, would you believe me?

Yes, I know that you have limited resources. Yes, I know you are looking for a bargain. I get it. But, don’t spent your company’s money (aka: time), with back and forth emails to up personal interviews just to tell a candidate you aren’t even close to market rate.

Lastly, if you’re recruiting contractors and have been used to hiring FTEs, be ready for a little sticker-shock. Short-term gigs are hard to fill. And, because you’re paying by the hour, not the job, you will pay a premium – just like you would with a plumber or electrician.

***

My book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker offers straight-forward, no-nonsense advice to anyone navigating today’s contingent labor market. If you’ve never worked as a contractor or consultant, it’s essential reading.

Copyright 2020 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

 

Should I Take a Contract Job?

Dear Plume,

I was let go at the start of the Covid shutdown from a job I had for the past eight years. Although they started to recall some of their employees, I’m pretty sure I won’t be one of them.

I’ve been looking at the job boards. There are some positions that seem to be a good fit for me, but the majority of them are only for six months, and most of them are contracts.

I’ve never worked as a contractor before. Should I apply for (and take) a contract job? There’s a lot of them out there, but I feel it’s a step down from being an employee.

I can’t be unemployed much longer, but I dread the idea that I’d have to look for another job in six months. What should I do?

– Unsure

***

Dear Unsure,

I recommend contract work to anyone who has been an employee for a while. It’s a great way to level-up your career!

Downsizing, reorgs, and virtual teams result in a lot of “combined” job descriptions – meaning that the responsibilities listed in the JD were likely accomplished by two or more people. Now, they must be done by one. This is when people are likely to consider someone who could do the job, not just someone who has…

If you’ve been an individual contributor, and think it’s time for you to move into management, or perhaps you want to slide laterally into a space that has more long-term growth, a contract job is the perfect way to do it.

Contract work has a fixed duration because very often contract work is related to a one-time (CapEx) project; there’s a beginning, middle, and end. For example, you hire a carpenter to build a backyard fence. You agree upon a price and anticipated duration, and the carpenter works and bills you according to the terms of your agreement. When the fence is done, the carpenter leaves. Most people don’t need two backyard fences. If you love the fence, and think, “Hey, I need a front fence,” or a neighbor wants a fence, that’s nice. But, for the most part, after the fence is built, the job is done, and the carpenter leaves.

Knowing there is beginning-middle-end allows you to prepare. Employees often have little or no notice of when their job will end.

Depending on the nature of the work, your initial contract can turn into more work or different work (very common). In some cases, the client may wish to hire you (less common, but possible.) If you decide you want to continue working for the client (and you may not), and the client has the money to keep you (often, they do not), great! Mazeltov! If it doesn’t come to pass, no harm-no foul. You made some money, some friends, and gained some new skills.

There are some types of work that must be performed by an employee; however, contract work is NOT a “step-down” from being an employee! In many cases, contract work is more challenging and more lucrative than being an employee, And, if you sell expertise, long-term, you may prefer to work as a contractor.

The only job security is to be employable.

In my book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker, I stress the importance of not confusing temporary, contract work with being an employee. Although you might feel like your an employee, you are not. When you are a contractor, you don’t have a boss. You have a client, an agent, and a lot of teammates — all of whom need to be managed (by you!.)

If you have a specific expertise, and think you might want to consult, I’d recommend working a few contract gigs to see if you can handle managing a client.

Not everyone wants to work full-time for an employer. If you have a special talent, expertise or own special tools, contracting could be the best way for you to make the most money per hour. If you’re young in your career, it can also be a low-risk way to acquire big-buck skills on someone else’s dime. Contractor or employee? There is no right or wrong choice. Only you can determine what is in the best interest of you and your career.

***

My book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker offers straight-forward, no-nonsense advice to anyone navigating today’s contingent labor market. If you’ve never worked as a contractor or consultant, it’s essential reading.

***

Copyright 2020 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

You Just Lost Your Job !

So, you just lost your job (seems to be a bit of that going around). If you’re new to unemployment, being without a job is a huge disruption to a well-established routine. And, if you’ve been a bit of work-a-holic, you could easily find yourself struggling to structure your time and set goals. Here’s a few things to do:

Stop Freaking Out

So, you’ve been working at the same place for 10 years, and thought you were like “family.” You can’t believe they let you go when <your nemesis> is still there doing the same lousy work. Losing that job was like losing a piece of yourself – like a death.

Except it’s not a death, it’s a job. You’ll get another one. Enough with the drama!

Don’t wallow in self-pity about how you’ve been wronged. Don’t think the people who were not let go are somehow better than you are. If you survived previous RIFs and downturns and assumed that your survival was because you were superior to those who were let go, I can assure you that your self-assessed superiority is overrated. People are let go (or kept) for all kinds of reasons. Sadly, most have little or nothing to do with their actual skills or competence.

If you’ve been with the same company for some time (10 years or more), and thought you would NEVER lose your job, I’m talking to you: You’re waay overdue for a bit of unemployment. You’re no better, no worse than anyone else. I also want you to think about the times you may have looked down on someone who was unemployed. Set aside your mistaken and misguided notions of people’s intelligence, competency, or worthiness and practice some self-love and self-enlightenment.

It’s okay to spend time grieving, but losing a job is not a death. People get jobs and lose jobs all the time. Why you? Why NOT you? You may have thought you were better – you’re not – you’re just equal.

Put Together a List and Structure Your Time

I cannot stress the importance of keeping a routine. I recommend structuring your tasks into 1-3 hour blocks for morning, afternoon, and evening with higher-energy tasks at the beginning of the day. In this way, you make progress on a variety of things daily. For example, the AM, when it’s cool and I have more energy, I’ll focus on physical tasks (A run with the dog, yard work, home repairs). The afternoon, computer work, job search, phone calls, writing. Evening: No-brainer food prep, house cleaning, shopping.

Looking for a job is going to take time, but it’s not going to take ALL your time, and when you do return to work, you’re going to be focused on your new gig. Don’t waste this opportunity. Knocking out chores, taking on-line classes, actually getting started on that (blog, certification, novel), losing some weight, will make you feel happier, more confident, and more in control of your life.

Stop Worrying

Eckhart Tolle says that worry is “too much future, not enough now,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Knowing that you are doing everything you can (sorry, worry isn’t action), will lessen the amount of worry and increase your level of confidence. People who are resilient focus on what they can do, and they do it. They don’t worry about things they cannot control.

If you’re worried about finding a job, ask yourself if you are DOing everything you can. If you can confidently say, “Yes, I’m doing everything I can,” then stop worrying about finding a job because you will.

Too often I see people substitute worry for action. They’re worried about losing their job, but not willing to look for another one. They’re worried about their relationship, but not willing to talk about it, or leave it. They’re worried about their finances, but not willing to give up cable or swap out of their $400 a month car payment. But, they’re worried….

No one has every solved their financial problems with worry.

Life is filled with limitless possibilities. As we emerge from this Covid crisis, we see a very different world than the one we left behind. You have changed your health and spending habits. Have you change your thinking or are you confusing worry for action? Are you seeing your unemployment as the end of your career, or as an opportunity to move into something different, more meaningful, less stressful, something that allows you to be all of who you are? Work toward the reward; stop worrying about risks.

Take a Contract Gig

I don’t run into too many people these days who have NOT worked as a contractor – especially in tech or healthcare – two of this country’s major industries. Every once in a while, however, I will meet someone who has only worked as a W2 employee (or only one employer), and of course there are still those who feel that working as a contractor is “beneath” them or that contractors as “less than” employees. If I’m talking about you: Time to move your mindset into this century…

In my book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker, I devote a entire chapter to Misconceptions About Contract Work. One of those misconceptions is that contractors have no job security. If you’re reading this, and you’re unemployed, I think you see that no one has job security. If you have been with the same employer for a long time, you also may see that your years there aren’t particularly helpful when it comes to finding a new job. The truth is that being employ-able is much more important than being employed. It really is the only job security anyone can have.

You never know how long you’ll be employed, but you always know if you’re employ-able.

Working as a contractor is different than being an employee. You have a client, not a boss. The dynamic is different. And there is very likely a beginning-middle-end to your contract. Contract work can be much more challenging and more lucrative than being an employee, and if you’ve been looking to level up in your career, contract work is an ideal way to get the experience you need.

My book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker offers straight-forward, no-nonsense advice to anyone navigating today’s contingent labor market. If you’ve never worked as a contractor or consultant, it’s essential reading.

Final Thoughts

Anytime you lose your job, even if it’s a job you didn’t particularly like, it’s upsetting. You feel rejected. You miss your former colleagues. If you’ve been an employee for a long time, you’ll feel overwhelmed by just the idea of interviewing, and petrified at the thought of starting all over someplace new. All these emotions are very normal, and I can assure you that they are temporary.

You will find another job, and you will get past this, and it will happen sooner than you think, so make the most of your time now that you have some.

***

Copyright 2020 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. 

Covid Changes Us All (for the Better!)

Here’s a few thoughts on what changes we as consumers and employees will be looking for from businesses in a post-Covid world. Things will be different …

Self-Checkout or No Checkout

Ahh, yeah…. I don’t want people touching my stuff anymore.

After I’ve put something in my cart, I’m happy to not have anyone else touch it.  Covid caution has me watching the checkout clerk and every other person in the store. And, what I see is that the clerk touches every single thing every person in line has touched.  Them, and all their germ-y, unmasked kids as well. 

Gloves protect the clerk.  They don’t protect me.

With that said, I need to do my part and not pick up every package of chicken to look for a price difference of 40 cents, or touch every apple in the bin before selecting the perfect two. Merchandisers take note. Label placement, font size and produce shelving changes maybe in order.

I’m happy to bag my own things (packing a grocery bag well is as old-fashioned as counting back change), and pay with a credit card – no PIN required. Of course, who wouldn’t prefer the Amazon approach of associating things in my basket to my account so I don’t have to breath on anyone?

Restaurant Take-Out Replaces Fast Food

Fast food isn’t necessarily fast, and it’s not exactly cheap. More importantly, I didn’t miss fast food during my Covid Quarantine, I missed real restaurant food.

Apparently, I’m not alone in my longing for food cooked by a pro (or at least someone other than me!) This is why I was so thankful that my go-to bistros were able to pivot to take out. They got their website in order; they added a cart. They have text notifications. They re-did their menu so food travels better. They started offering “Family” sizes. (You don’t need a family, you just need to love left-overs or have a freezer). Moreover, now that restaurants are opening again, they’re finding that people would gladly pay a few bucks more for their food than the #2 from Carl Jr’s (who makes a fine burger, and chicken sandwich, BTW)

If I can order it easily, and get it in a reasonable time, there’s no reason I won’t choose the Parmesan Brussel Sprouts and Ahi salad take out.

Fast food and similar chains have a great strength, which is the consistency of their menus. That’s exactly why we go there, but it’s exactly why I don’t want to eat at another Five Guys. When bistros and upscale restaurants can provide take-out and delivery quickly and easily, the market for restaurants in fast-food space diminishes.

For me, this restaurant case study provides the most compelling example of change. GrubHub recognized the need, but even with their success, many eateries were unwilling to change. Why? Change is disruptive, expensive, annoying, time consuming, stressful. Moreover, there was no need to change. Things were good exactly as they were; dining rooms were full.

Now that they were forced to change, many are discovering that 1) It wasn’t as difficult or disruptive as they thought it would would be (in their head) and, 2) Take out is here to stay, it’s easier than they thought, and it will provide a revenue stream that will likely prove more resilient to future disruptions.

Office Commutes = Empty Calories

If commuting were food, it would be classified as “empty calories,” and expensive empty calories at that!

Many of us drive to a big, crowded indoor space to sit in a cubicle by ourselves most of the day. Why? Rather than strategically schedule F2F meetings, business was conducted with the assumption that everyone would be in the same place and available M-F, 9-5.

We can still see each other IRL, but it needs to be planned, purpose-driven, and not ad-hoc.

The cost of commuting: Car, gas, tolls. That’s nothing compared to the time, especially if you use PT. Many people spend 45 – 60 minutes commuting to/from their jobs. This comes to about 10 hours a week – more than an entire workday. Time IS Money and commuting is neither billable hours nor training nor investment. For example: If you picked up a retail job for 10 hours a week, you’d pull in an extra $600 a month. If you worked in the trades, that 10 hours a week could easily be $1200 – $2k a month. Neither is a small amount of money. Ten hours a week is also about two college classes, including homework.

The WSJ reported the Covid crisis resulted in a 30% increase in the individual savings rate. Much of this saving was realized by not having to commute. Filling up your tank at $50-$60 bucks a pop adds up quickly. Not having to do that was a big contributor to people’s extra cash.

If we want to save the planet AND save money, we need to stop commuting into an office everyday.

I Want to Live Someplace Else

I rob banks because “that’s where the money is.” It’s also the reason I live in Southern California – one of the most expensive places on earth. Sure, it’s pretty here, but it’s pretty in lots of places. However, the reason I’m here has nothing to do with pretty: I’m here because that’s where the money is.

The majority of us live where we do because if we lived further away, it would be impossible to commute.  Even if we were willing to make the commute, many companies simply will not hire you if they feel you live too far away (or if they don’t like your neighborhood, but that’s a topic for another day). My hope is that Covid makes the requirement all workers reside within a certain geographical radius of some office building as old as the rotary, corded phone.

Where I live, just like my age, gender, or race, shouldn’t be considered when hiring talent.

I want to live where it suits me, my family, and my current life circumstances. I don’t want change my personal and financial priorities just to be 30 minutes away from some leased office building.

I Want to Work for Whomever I Want

Similar to where I live, I don’t want to be limited to working for companies within a 50 mile radius of my home. I want people to be able to hire me and work with me even if I don’t live in St. Louis or Chicago or Puerto Rico. I want to pursue jobs with growing companies, and opportunities that use my skills and experience. I don’t want my career and earning potential to be limited to a few employers with physical offices in my city. 

People will be able to find better jobs and better employers if they are not limited by geography.

Companies who have embraced virtual workers prior to Covid can attest that they are able to attract better talent than they would if they limited themselves to hiring someone who lived within a 30 mile radius (even less for places like NY, LA, and Chicago). It seems logical that if companies can find better talent, talent will find better companies if they, too, are not limited by geography.

Choose How Covid Changes You

A little more than six years ago, I suffered a sudden, and major illness. It required several hospitalizations, and more than year to fully recover. Like most people who come through something like this, they find their life and all the little routines and assumptions upon which it was built have changed – forever. In retrospect, I can say that I would not have chosen my health crisis, but I would not change it either because it has given me a focus and perspective and strength I would not have gained otherwise.

Covid – our collective health crisis — has brought so much change, with so much more to come. I wouldn’t have chosen it, but I don’t think I would change it either…

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Copyright 2020 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Leadership 101: The Loose Matrix

Those of us who work in project management or consulting are intimately familiar with the loose matrix. Leading a loose matrix effort requires the unwavering support of project sponsors and a dedicated team. Even in the best environments, loose matrix projects compete with the priorities of functional managers. Ultimately, the resource will chose to align his/her work to the desires of their real “boss.” This is constant source of project conflict and often the root-cause of project failure.

If you’re not 100 percent sure what loose matrix is, here’s a clue:

You’re responsible for accomplishing something — some project, task, or managing some program. You’re not anyone’s boss (you might be a contractor), no one reports to you, you can’t fire or hire or replace anyone or change any of the workload or priorities.

You’re supposed to have people do things for you to support this project or program, but no one really does, and when you ask for assistance, no one really cares. What’s worse: the quality of any work that is done is so poor that you have to (1) Do it yourself, or (2) Ask them to redo it, in which case you catch a rash of shit about how the work is just fine, they don’t have time for your ridiculous nit-picking followed by an outright refusal or a stall in rework, so you probably should have done it yourself, which is what everyone is hoping you’ll do anyway.

You’ve spent a lot of late nights and a couple weekends doing stuff that should have been done by others. You aren’t paid overtime but work for free because you’re afraid of failing, getting yelled at, getting fired, or letting down a whole bunch of people who are depending on you. So, that’s why you’re in your cubical stifling tears of rage while everyone else left early for Miller time.

Does this sound like your life? And on top of all of “help” you don’t receive, and all the work you need to re-do, and all the “you’re-not-the-boss-of-me” back-talk you get, none of this makes any difference to your boss (who doesn’t know what loose matrix is, either).

He just doesn’t get what your problem is. You clearly have no leadership or management skills, and you can’t seem to garner the respect needed from the team to get anything done. He’s been working with these people for years, and hasn’t had any issues. When he says jump, they jump! The problem is clearly: YOU. Your style, your approach, YOU.

Au contraire: Charisma and chocolate chip cookies only go so far. The carrot doesn’t make up for the stick, and in a loose matrix you have neither.

The most frustrating thing about loose matrix is that oftentimes leadership doesn’t recognize that the problem is the matrix structure, not the people. This is where you can help your client/manager understand exactly what you need to be successful. If you find yourself in a loose matrix that isn’t working, muster some courage. Here’s what to say:

“I cannot accomplish <thesegoals> without the time of <name(s)>. I need to have <#ofhours/days> from <names> every week dedicated to me and this project. If <person> cannot accomplish the work within the timeframe needed, I must have <budget/recourse> to replace the resource on my project.”

This is where everyone starts to eye roll, grunt and groan about how they agree, but can’t we do this more “informally” and that this “structure,” is too much, and let’s not, like, harshen the mellow with things like “deadlines” and “objectives.” In other words: Why can’t you just be less high-maintenance, get off my back, and continue to do the work for us, like the girls used to in college group work?

If people don’t report to you – in other words — you cannot get rid of him/her — do not accept responsibility for them or their work. Nagging and harassing people to do their jobs are what a boss does. And, you’re not the boss. If you can’t hold your ground in this kind of situation, you really shouldn’t be managing anyone or anything anyway, so don’t be afraid to put your job on the line. Here’s what to say:

“I’ve documented for you, my <client>, what I need to accomplish <thistask>. Of course, it’s your prerogative to find another resource to do this, but if you want ME to do it for you, this is what I need.”

If you’re in a loose matrix and you don’t have the authority to make decisions, get rid of people, and you don’t have the unwavering support of management, start looking for an exit strategy sooner rather than later. Here’s why:

If you aren’t supported, and you don’t pro-actively leave, be assured your poor leadership will be associated with a failed or poorly executed project (trust me: no one will remember all the help you didn’t get). And, if by chance the project is not a failure, you’ve perpetuated the dysfunction by signing up for more free weekends, more resentful afternoons, and more shiftless work ethic from your “team.” Congratulations. Well done.

I’m not ashamed to say that I have spent more than my fair share of time crying in the ladies’ room and working late nights and weekends because of lazy, disrespectful co-workers and clients in these poorly conceived project structures. No more.

If you are stuck in the matrix, wiggle out and do it quickly. Spend less time being a big coward, covering for others, and working for free. Take your dedication and hard work to a job where you’ll get the money and recognition you deserve.

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Excerpted from The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker, 2017 Available on Amazon Kindle or hard copy

Copyright 2020 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

So…You Want to Be a “Consultant”?

I’ve worked as a contractor, consultant, and direct employee. Each of these relationships is different; none of them is perfect. Are you ready to ditch your FTE and become a consultant? Here’s a few things to think about….

Can You Run a Business?

I’ve met hundreds of talented individuals who are terrible business people. Consider the great doctor who can’t manage or afford his/her private practice. The finish carpenter who can’t accurately bid out a project or generate an invoice. The full-stack software architect with no ability to write a statement of work or manage a project.

This is where I hear, “Ohh, puh-leeze, I’ll hire someone for that!” to which I respond, “Oh, puh-leeze, no one is interested in working for you!” (Small shops are not competitive employers – don’t think you can hire “some kid” to manage your website). Moreover, hiring help entails huge legal and financial responsibilities, and BTW, where are you going to come up with a weekly salary and benefits and pay taxes when you have one client and can barely support yourself?

Consider the following activities:

  • Marketing/Sales: Finding, qualifying, and pipelining new clients; promoting the business. You.
  • Legal: Licenses, in$urance, banking, taxes. You.
  • $oftware: Updates, equipment, desktop troubleshooting, web page(s), WiFi, Cloud storage. You.
  • Finance: Contracts, proposals, invoices, time cards. You.
  • Overhead: Office rent, supplies, printer cartridges, computers. You.
  • Benefits: Vacations, holidays, sick days, medical insurance, family leave. You.

And that’s before you do any real “billable” client work – which is often >40 hours per week, more if you are juggling multiple projects.

If you read that list and thought, “Ugh!” stay an employee.

Can You Run a Project?

Do you track your time? Do you track your money? Are you disciplined and organized in your personal life? Can you put together a schedule? Can you write a contract? What about a statement of work? Can you track, measure, and demonstrate progress? Can you make a deadline? Can you manage change and say no to difficult people?

When I meet with clients who are dealing with failed projects, high turn-over, and assorted other maladies, my first question is this: How does the team track their time? (They don’t.) Do YOU track your time? (Answer: I’m an “executive.”) Then, I get a big lecture about how hard everyone works, and they don’t have time to track their time.

Here’s my point:

I wasn’t questioning their work ethic, I was questioning their activities.

The inability to assess the value of activities as it relates to time expended is why people fail at consulting – and fail at a whole bunch of other stuff as well.

When you’re a consultant – time is EVERYTHING. Billable time, bizdev time, vacation time, career development time, commute time. And, there’s other things that take your time: Laundry. Food prep. Cleaning. Video Games. Your relationship(s). Did I mention the kids? You’ll need to manage ALL your time like the precious, finite, resource it is. That means you need to say, “I’m sorry, but that’s not a good use of my time,” even to your spouse.

Are You a Push-Over?

If you suffer from people pleasing, or have a hard time saying no, I beg you: For the sake of your personal health, personal finances, and happiness do NOT become a consultant!

Consulting is not all Power Point presentations and conference rooms with killer views. Consultants are small business owners, project managers, and buzz-kill realists. To be one requires a certain amount of cold, capitalist, callousness. How will you handle scope creep? Can you give bad news? Can you graciously deal with getting fired? (coz you will be). What about your ethics? Can you graciously dump a client (coz you’ll need to).

You want to run with the big dogs? You’re going to get pissed on. Consultants don’t have a boss, or HR, or a union, or labor laws – you have client and a contract. What are you going to do if they don’t honor it?

Are You Just Assuming You’ll Get Paid?

Very early on in my career, I worked for a couple of unscrupulous salesmen who refused to reimburse me for almost $2K in travel expenses I had foolishly put on my personal American Express card. This was back in the ’90’s, so that was a LOT of money then, and even more for an irresponsible 20-something who didn’t even have a savings account.

Although I eventually got my money, this whole thing was a huge financial fiasco, and it took me a l-o-n-g time to recover from it. These guys had let me go on Christmas Eve (for real), no severance, no final paycheck. I had to borrow money from family to pay AmEx and rent and bills. I had to go to court to get commissions, expenses, and back wages due me; and I had to freeze their bank account to collect. All of this taught me very important lesson:

No one is more unpleasant than someone who owes you money.

When you are a consultant, you’re a vendor. You don’t have the same legal protections that you would as a W2 employee. Consider the Crystal Geyser guy. If the customer decides to go with Sparkletts, Crystal Geyser doesn’t file for unemployment. If the delivery truck gets stolen, Crystal Geyser still has to service their accounts. They don’t call and ask their customers to buy them a new truck and front them for water.

An employee must be paid no less than twice a month. But you’re not an employee, so your clients will want you to bill every 30 days, and then pay you in 30 days – just like they do all their other vendors. But, what if they don’t pay you? What if they’re late? What if they disagree with the invoice? How long are you prepared to work without being paid? A week? Two weeks? A month? Three months? What if they claim your work is defective and refuse to pay? What about travel? Are you putting that on your personal credit card? What if they don’t reimburse you or take months to do so? What are you going to do about it?

I’ve worked for big, corporations my entire life.

You’d be amazed how many rich companies don’t pay their bills on time.

When you truly work for yourself, you can’t put up with excuses. Other people’s bills, emergencies, sick kids, corporate “process” and vacation time is NOT your problem. If you can’t write clear acceptance criteria for your work, can’t say no, or could never see yourself suing someone, don’t waste time trying to be consultant. I’ve listened to lots of people (mostly women, I’m sorry to say), who thought they could handle this kind of relationship, and ended up being taken advantage of by someone who was really, really, going to pay them when <crisis> passed.

When you consult, you need to track your time and tasks, keep copies of all your work, be prepared to withhold work until you’re paid for it, be prepared to walk out if you’re not paid, and be prepared to sue.

If you have a tough time sticking up for yourself, can’t handle people’s anger, or just can’t be “mean,” being a consultant is absolutely NOT for you!

Final Thoughts

Do you want to consult, or do you want more control over your scope and the direction of your career? Do you want to consult, or do you want more free time?

If you’re a full-time employee, and if you’re wondering if consulting could be for you, I strongly encourage you take a few contract, “temp” jobs. This will give you a feeling for what it’s like to have a client instead of a boss, and also give you some practice at managing the scope of your work and duration of your project.

My book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker offers straight-forward, no-nonsense advice to anyone navigating today’s contingent labor market. If you’ve never worked as a contractor or consultant, it’s essential reading.

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Copyright 2019 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

You JUST Lost Your Job* How NOT to Freak Out!

When you lose your job, you lose control over a big part of your life.  It’s this lack of control that feeds the anxiety we all feel when we are between gigs.  We don’t have a daily routine. We don’t have control over our finances.  We don’t know how much time we have before we start back at work.  It’s hard to make plans.  Being in a state of limbo is frustrating; being worried about money doesn’t help.

If you’re new to unemployment, the loss of control is a much bigger emotional challenge than the task of finding a new job. Trust me, you WILL find another job!  Nevertheless, being without a job is a huge disruption to a well-established life routine. Without a job, people struggle to structure their day, some find they can’t, and so begins the downward spiral. The time passes quickly (another thing over which you have no control).  You become more anxious and irritable (or blue and withdrawn), which only compounds the feelings of helplessness.

If you can control it, do so. If you can’t, let it go.

Worrying isn’t action.

Of course, you can – and should – do everything possible to look for a job but you cannot control when you’ll actually go back to work.  Focus on what you can control – which is everything else in your life.

Keep Your Routine

Get out of bed the same time you did when you were employed; it’s too easy to let the morning slip by sleeping in.  Get up, clean up, get dressed. Use the time you would have spent commuting to take the dog out for a walk, hit the gym, or an early morning yoga class before settling down to your computer.

Don’t lie to yourself that you have time, and will do it “later.” We know how that conversation ends, right?  Keep your morning routine. It ensures you are more productive when you’re unemployed, and the structure will help you easily settle back into your new routine when you get back to work.

Lose Some Weight

You can’t make any excuses for being a slug. You didn’t make it out for a walk today because…. You didn’t go to the gym because…. Why? You’re sooo busy? Really?  Busy doin’ what? You DON’T have a job!

Similarly, the largest part of our discretionary income goes to food.  If you’re between jobs, you have zero reason not to prepare food from scratch.  Pull out the recipe books, plan your menu(s), prepare your food, and actually do some cooking! Eating well is good for your weight, good for your budget, and good for your relationship.  If your SO is working, coming home to a nice meal (rather than you lying on the sofa playing Fortnite), will make arguments about how you spent your day far less likely.

Similarly, resist the temptation to party like a rock star on school nights.  Having an occasional late night is small consolation for being out of work, but don’t make it a habit. Hangovers make you sluggish, irritable, and if you’re blue about being unemployed, it will make it worse.

Nothing will make you feel less confident and more out of control than being bloated, over-weight, hung-over, AND unemployed! You have the time to develop better habits, and zero reason not to do so. Don’t drink too much; don’t sooth yourself with food.  You’ll feel and look a LOT more confident if your energy is high, and your interview clothes are a bit loose.

Clean that !@#$%!! Up!

Looking for a job is going to take a decent amount of your time, but it’s not going to take every second of your day.  Put together a list – yeah, write it down – of stuff you need to do in your home.  Rank things by cost and level of effort.  Do all the cheap/easy stuff first.  Cleaning, organizing, and painting just about anything is always good.

Whether you get your inspiration from Hoarders or Marie Kondo, knocking out chores around the house is a great use of downtime.  Nothing will make you feel better about yourself and more in control of your world than walking into a clean, tidy and organized room. #focus

Taking care of things around your house is great, but so helping out a friend or family member. You’ve got time. Go see your grandmother.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of whether you knew it was coming or it was unexpected, anytime you lose a job – even if it was a job you hated – it’s upsetting.  If you’ve been working at the same place for a long time, you’ll feel overwhelmed by just the thought of interviewing for work and petrified at the idea of starting all over again.  All of these emotions are very normal, but I can assure you that they are temporary. You will find another job and you will get past this.

Focus on what you can control.  By doing this, you’ll find that your down-time is more productive, more enjoyable, and when you go back to work, you will be, too!

Capture

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Excerpted from: The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker. Copyright 2019 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC.  All rights reserved.  No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Are you new to the job market or considering contract work? Have a question for me? Email at info@piercewharton.com.

Four Ways to Blow your Interview (*for employers)

Applicants aren’t the only ones who screw up interviews; employers can blow it — big time. I’ve gone on lots of interviews where – at first – I was very excited to be there, but as I watched, listened, asked questions (took and compared notes), that excitement quickly fizzled.

Twenty years ago, there wasn’t much to do about it. There were few jobs and many people who wanted them. It was incumbent upon job seekers to convince employers to hire them; the applicant’s opinion of the job – for the most part – was of little concern. That’s not the case anymore. Now, employers are dealing with both a cultural and economic shift in the global market for talent. For the first time (ever), labor actually has a bit of an advantage in the labor market. The shoe is finally on the other foot: Employers (who used to interview applicants), are now being interviewed by applicants, and a lot of them are blowing the interview!

Are you an employer who can’t close on good help these days? Is it possible that you’re blowing the interview? Consider the following:

1. What Employers Say…

“This is a tough place to work; you have to have a thick-skin to work here…..”

~What the Applicant Hears…

We foster a culture of disrespect and verbal abuse. Expect to be run over because having an opinion or self-respect will get you fired.

I get the “thick-skin” comment in about 30% of my interviews. This tells me “Bro-House.” Women are subordinate, fart jokes abound, loud voices win, bullying is leadership.

At first I thought thick-skin comments were gender specific (or maybe I seem delicate), but I decided to asked around, and I’m happy to report that guys get the “thick-skin” comment about as often as I do! Whoo-whoo! Hooray for equality! It’s good to know that some companies treat everyone poorly, not just women!

Respect is like air. When there’s enough of it around, no one notices. If there’s a shortage, it’s all you’re gonna think about….

2. What Employers Say…

“I see you’ve changed jobs every couple years. We want someone who will stay….”

~What the Applicant Hears…

This is a dead-end job, and we churn through a lot of people. We’d prefer to hire someone with little ambition who’s happy just to have a paycheck.

Are you ambitious? Do you care about your career and remaining current? Are you interested in learning new skills and growing? Because if you are, this isn’t the place for you.

3. What Employers Say…

“I see you haven’t worked in this <domain>…”

“I noted you don’t have this <credential>…”

“I saw you don’t have this <skill>…”

~What the Applicant Hears…

I’ll need to deal with nit-picky criticism and being dismissed because I’m not good enough. If this employer does make an offer, it will be under market because, well, I’m hardly qualified to work here in the first place! If I’m desperate enough to take the job, I’ll be reminded that I’m less than, and that everyone generously looked passed my woeful credentials.

Note to Interviewers: You went through the trouble to bring someone in for a face-to-face (sometimes in front of a panel). Now, you’re going to call out – one by one – all their perceived shortcomings? Focus on what they can do. You had their resume, you saw their LinkedIn… if they’re not qualified, why did you bring them in?

4. What Employers Say…

“I see that you have some gaps in your employment. For example, in <randomyears>, you only worked for part of the year. What’s that all about….?!?”

~What the Applicant Hears…

I’m more interested in your personal life, and nosing around your health, family, and finances than I am in your work experience, skills, education, and how those qualifications are applicable to the opportunity I have available. Your professional background is less important than my moral approval of you and your life choices.

My father died, I wanted to take some time off. I had a baby, I wanted a more flexible job. I was laid off, I wanted to spend time with my kids and re-think my career. I spent a year designing and building my custom home. I was working on a patent. I had major surgery. My mother has Alzheimer’s, and I needed to care for her…

At best, my personal life is none of your business, at worst you’re seeking to circumvent employment laws that prohibit questions of this nature. An interview is to discuss work – stay on topic…

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For employers: Whenever you are in a position to hire (and pay) someone, it’s natural to feel a little entitled. And while we all seek qualified labor, remember that you’re not the only game in town. If you want the best people, your hubris is counter-productive to building a high-performing team. Your culture needs to be one of partnership, not entitlement.

For applicants: A job is a relationship, and the interview is like a first date. Spend less time thinking about how to impress people and pretending to be someone you’re not, and more time listening and asking thoughtful questions. That way if the position is offered, you and your client/employer can feel confident that you are both making the right decision.

running away

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Copyright 2019 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

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