Four Reasons No One is Responding to Your Job Posts

The job market is on fire. Not only are we experiencing the Great Resignation, we’re in the middle of The Great Reshuffling, which will result in The Great Consolidation. If you’re serious about keeping your doors open, a “post and pray” recruitment strategy isn’t going to cut it. Want to get people in the door? Here’s four reasons no one is responding to your job posts:

Your Application Process

Every job site allows employers to choose a “quick apply” or “one-click-apply” option. Use it. Being user friendly and mobile-friendly is a must. A huge number of people ONLY have internet access through their phone. Any company that is insisting applicants go to their site, set-up an account, (some with multi-factor authentication! Really?!), and then populate several forms (with mandatory fields like month and date of my degrees and jobs), is likely to have very, very few applicants.

Also, if you’re going to use Quick Apply, use Quick Apply! Employers who embed additional questions into their quick apply aren’t clever, they’re disingenuous, and it makes me not want to work for you.

Finally, there isn’t a single recruiter out there who thinks AI screenings are helping your efforts. There’s a reason people went to college! Read the resumes! Most importantly, focus on what the applicant has to offer, not poking holes into their background and creating a checklist of what they don’t have.

Essay Questions

I know it’s super-easy and awesome to have each applicant write an essay on how they would deal with difficult stakeholders, or describing their last project, or even telling you why they want to work for you (why not all of them?) That way, you can review, discuss and critique each response and each candidate at your leisure — you don’t want waste your precious time calling or emailing anyone. Essays are perfect for you…but here’s the problem: It’s all about you, and it smacks of entitlement. Worse, it tells me that you don’t see writing as work, which it is. To do it thoughtfully and well takes (my) time, which is the same as (my) money.

Essays are perfect for you…but here’s the problem: It’s all about you, and it smacks of entitlement.

Essay questions embedded in ‘quick apply’ options are infuriating because you can’t opt out of the question or skip ahead. So, since I can’t opt-out of the question, I close the browser and opt-out of the application. It’s usually too late, though, because they’ve got my email, and I’ll be hit with a ton of notifications reminding me to complete my application (which I don’t).

Interestingly, you’d think it would be the big enterprises, and the highly-coveted employers who insist on the “tell me why I’m so beautiful” essays. Nope. It’s the small shops and public employers who have the most hoops when it comes to applying, and that’s why no one does.

Your JD Lacks Focus

A lot of JDs are a laundry list of nice-to-have experiences intermingled with tasks and requirements. Many applicants – especially women and “freshers” – disqualify themselves because they don’t meet all the requirements. More experienced applicants, note the confusion and disconnect with reality, and pass on applying.

If your JD is a laundry-list of tasks, requirements, and nice-to-haves thrown together in no particular priority, your lack of focus and thoughtfulness is a BIG red flag to any quality applicant.

A good JD should be no longer than a page. It should clearly describe the core responsibilities, and to whom the position reports. Education, credentials are clearly stated, and requirements are listed in order of priority. The Must have Security Clearance line should be at the top of the list of requirements, not the bottom! Don’t use the “Preferred” section to obfuscate real requirements (Mandarin speaking “preferred” when your entire team is in Hong Kong? Stop already!)

Most importantly, stop looking for unicorns and purple squirrels; you are not the prettiest girl at the dance, and your hubris is counterproductive to building a real team. Whenever you hire anyone, you need to be prepared to compromise and change both yourself and your organization based on the talent available in the market. If you don’t want to change…..

Bad Habits

Why are so many employer’s struggling to hire? The answer: Bad habits. Zero training on how and what to hire. Zero training on how to interview. Toxic managers with high-turnover permitted to hire and fire “at will.” With human resources the most important asset a company can have – in 2021 – how could this be?

First, let’s recognize that for the past 100+ years, employers have never had to compete for labor. Sure, they said they wanted to be “attractive,” but that’s not the same as being competitive. We know lack of competition stifles the invisible hand of the market, and the over-supply of labor verses limited jobs has resulted in a ruling class of corporate executives — America’s Royalty — whose every want and need must be accommodated because they are “job creators.”

Historically, businesses never worried about competing against one another for talent. Now that they must complete, many simply do not know how.

Labor, unlike employers, has been forced to be nimble and adaptable. We’re used to fierce competition, no safety net, and changing direction quickly. Workers have had decades of practice and advice on how to compete for work, how to write good resumes, how to answer questions in interviews, and most importantly, how to be a subordinate and compliant worker. What training do employers have in how to hire people and how to be a good employer? None.

Employers need to act quickly and level-up their hiring game. How? Create hiring committees, dump toxic managers, bottom-up your culture, hire professional recruiters and coaches, finance real retention strategies. Most importantly, understand that your interviewers are brand ambassadors, just like your salespeople. They represent The Company, The Culture, and The Brand. A bad interview experience can damage your brand – permanently – and that is not something you can afford in this highly-competitive labor market.

Final Thoughts

This labor shortage didn’t just happen – it’s been coming for decades – the perfect storm of Covid, bad corporate behavior, retirement/death, and this ubiquitous social media has weakened the stool upon which capitalism has balanced for centuries. Covid’s timing could not be more remarkable. It has jolted our attention to the global economy, our reliance upon technology, the importance of essential workers, and a Kafka-esque understanding that we are more than our labor.

No workers = No customers = No business

If you’re still clinging to the notion that the tight labor market is about lazy millennials or enhanced unemployment benefits, and any minute we’re going to “go back” to the way it was, you’re flat-out wrong. Our world, has fundamentally changed, and if there’s one thing we know about change is that it never changes back!

When it comes to sales, businesses understand competition. That same focus and concern must carry over into resource management. If they can’t compete, just like in sales, they will be out maneuvered by those who can.

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If you enjoyed this article, check out some my posts and podcasts on employment, interviewing, and the contingent job market. Thanks for reading!

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Copyright 2021 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Tight Labor Market is Here to Stay

If you’re clinging to the notion that enhanced unemployment is the reason you can’t hire help, let me be the first to say you will find yourself short-staffed – if not closed – come this time next year. Here’s why….

A LOT of People Died; They’re Not Being Replaced

Covid has cost us more than 600,000 lives, and it’s not over yet. The ripple that those deaths have caused throughout our country and culture hasn’t even been examined never mind calculated. The loss of a parent has enormous repercussions on a family – not just for a few months, but for years. Worse, we’re all getting old. Our crap diets, epidemic of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and a variety of other “behavioral” and “non-compliant” health issues will contribute to the rapid exit of many from the labor market.

Declining birth rates, along with a declining sperm count, has been a back-burner socio-economic issue for decades. China’s lifted the one child rule. There’s a huge shortage of women in both China and India, and some countries are now encouraging motherhood via subsidies and other programs.

I’m not sure this will make much of a difference in the birthrate, though. Seems that regardless of incentive, wealth or opportunity, women choose to have fewer or no children, and that trend will likely continue. Maybe motherhood isn’t the greatest job a woman can have.

Wealth Transfer

You think millennials are spoiled and entitled now? Wait until they inherit a ton of money….

We are on the cusp of the greatest generational transfer of wealth in our nation’s history. As Baby Boomers die, they are transferring their wealth — not necessarily to their children — but often to their grandchildren. According to the WSJ, the average inheritance is a little over $200K. That is a life-changing amount.

Money gives you freedom. Money gives you options. Money gives you the ability to take risks. Money makes it whole lot easier to tell people to fuck-off.

Business owners take heed: If you’re difficult to work for and/or your business depends on a never-ending supply of people who are poor, desperate, or have few economic options, you may need to reconsider your business model.

Retirement

The tail end of the Baby-Boom generation (those born in the late 1950s early 1960s depending on who’s talkin’), is nearing retirement age, which can range from 62-72, or earlier, depending on how much money you want to pull from Social Security and your other accounts.

It’s estimated that Covid “forced” about 2 million people into retirement. Some could be enticed back into the job market, but most of these are permanent life changes – they will never return to the labor market.

Money managers are quick to point out that people can’t “afford” to retire, and you are likely to outlive your money, but that’s mostly their commissions’ talkin’. You’d be surprised how little you need to live on when you only have two old people to feed, and all your stuff is paid for.

Nevertheless, depending on the nature of the work and people’s health, some of boomers, of course, will continue to work. However, those are more likely to be at the very top-end or very bottom-end of the income spectrum. The rest of us will sell our homes, move to someplace cheaper, and be done with working for “the man” every night and day.

Small City Employers are at a Disadvantage

Gone are the days that a company in Des Moines or Charlotte or Salt Lake could pay less than a company in San Francisco or New York. If your profession is in demand, and you can work virtually, no longer does your compensation and career path need to be stifled because you want to live in a smaller city.

This is the start of a golden age for labor. Companies that pay more and support virtual workers will suck talent out of smaller markets – to the detriment of those companies headquarter or office-ed there.

Regional pay scales are on the shelf next to the fax machine. No one cares where your office is. If you want IT talent, other highly skilled, gold-collar workers, you’re going to need to level-up your compensation, or you are not going to be able to compete. And, if you can’t compete? You’re not going to be in business.

The Commute? That’s Comin’ Outta YOUR End!

Jamie Dimon, a champion of capitalism (until he’s short on cash, then he’s first in line at The Fed), has “demanded’ JPMorgan/Chase workers return to on-site work and Jamie’s “culture,” adding that if people didn’t like the commute, that’s “too bad.”

Maybe Jamie isn’t good at math? Let’s say you have a 45-minute drive to work, and are on-site five days a week (eight hours working, one hour unpaid lunch), that’s 52.5 hours a week “dedicated” to work – minimum. Men, add in an additional hour of “prep” time; women 1.5 hours of prep each day and now you’re up to 78.75. In other words, almost double the amount of time compared to the hours you are paid for….!!

So, if you’re making $35/hr your real hourly is closer to $17/hr – before taxes and before other expenses and lost opportunity costs, like your side hustle or education. That’s why the poor stay poor. And, that’s also why I’m not going to drive to your office, or commute to a restaurant, or hire a sitter (if I could find one). I think I’ll just stay home, cook from scratch, take on-line classes, and look for job where I contribute 40 hours and get paid for 40 hours. That’s just a smart business decision. It doesn’t make me an entitled ass-hole who doesn’t want to work.

It’s not about the commute — it’s about being paid for all my time. I’m contributing time (which, I believe, is the same as money), to enhance Jamie’s “culture” – whatever metric that is. However, all that good culture money is coming out of my end, not Jamie’s. He’s all up for the “free” culture, but I’ve yet to hear him say that his culture is important enough that he’s going to part-with-some-cash for it.

I believe in karma (and capitalism), so I feel confident Jamie and his other banking buddies will receive a big message about onsite work (probably when one of their cloud APIs goes down in a smoldering heap of technical debt). At that moment, they will see that labor isn’t as forgiving as The Fed. I think Jamie will also learn that he’s not a home-town hero, a lot of employers are more than willing to hire talent from Ohio.

Finally….

Here’s a universal truth: When you’re rich, life doesn’t change very quickly or very radically. For the affluent, things roll-along, even in the worst of times. Because many wealthy capitalists haven’t personally “felt” the change Covid has brought to the labor market, they don’t think that it’s real. They don’t understand this “entitlement” of labor, or that the world is fundamentally different now, and why we just can’t order people to “go back” to our good-old pre-Covid cubical culture.

Even before Covid, the rise of gold-collar, knowledge workers was beginning to reverse the employer advantage in competitive labor markets like tech and healthcare. Crisis, as a cultural accelerant, has firmly flipped the advantage to labor – and economists predict it’s going to stay that way for a l-o-n-g time….

Labor has had decades of opportunity and advice on how to be a good employee. That cannot be said of employers. Most employers are spoiled, entitled, and have a long history of a “Doritos” style of talent management (“They’re just people, we’ll get more…”). And because so many employers historically have shown zero interest in being a good employer, now they can’t seem to hire anybody.

The tight labor market isn’t about lazy millennials or enhanced unemployment benefits. Things have changed, even if they haven’t changed for you personally. Employers need to accept reality, and level-up their hiring game or they’re going to be out maneuvered by those who will.

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If you enjoyed this article, check out some of my other posts and podcasts on employment, interviewing, and the contingent job market.

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Copyright 2021 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Why You Can’t Hire Anyone

The Great Resignation and The Great Reshuffling have converged. It’s official: There’s a shortage of labor. And, the labor you do find wants to be paid more, and if you don’t pay them more, they’re going to quit.

If you need people to run a business, and you want to continue to run a business (because, the thought of you being someone else’s employee (gasp!) is just too horrifying a scenario for you to consider!), here’s where to start:

Lose the Attitude

The “Impress Me” Interview

My headhunter friends are fond of reminding their (predominately white, male) clients that they are, “~not the cutest girl at the dance.” But, even if you’re smokin’ hot, there’s nothing more off putting than someone who thinks they’re better looking than they really are. And, it’s amazing how quickly those killer looks become invisible when you’re in a relationship with someone who is patronizing and entitled.

Too many employers grossly mis-over-estimate their attractiveness at the Employer Cotillion. They think everyone wants to dance with them. They don’t. You’re not doing anyone a favor when you hire them. This is a transactional relationship, not personal one. You’re simply buying time from a service provider to perform a service that you need. And, often times, it is a service that you cannot do yourself. Your hubris and entitlement is counterproductive to building a high-performing team.

Sadly, attitude and entitlement seems inextricably intertwined with implicit/explicit bias. They’re not dismissing you because of your gender, your accent, your age, your college, your clothing, your life choices. They’re dismissing you because you’re not a purple unicorn, and because they’re paying you (!) they WANT A PURPLE UNICORN, dammit! (Note: they have no barn, no feed, and no idea how to care for a unicorn, but they want one nevertheless)

Let me assure every employer, big or small, prestigious or unknown, that your “impress me,” entitled hiring manager interviews are killing your recruitment program, and your brand.

You’re Lookin’ for Love (in all the wrong boards)

I Don’t Feel a “Connection” Interview

Liking the help isn’t listed on the job description as a requirement, but it’s always the #1 requirement for every job. I’ve lost count of the number of folks I’ve listened to grumble about how they’re short staffed, how they can’t find anyone, and how they’ve interviewed sooooo many people, but well, they don’t know, but, ahh, err, I just didn’t feel, aahh, err, a “connection” with anyone.

Enough with the “connection”! This isn’t Tinder. You need someone to manage your SAP implementation, not marry your daughter. You want connection with someone? Post on Match, not Monster.

Looking for love is the root cause of enumerable workplace disfunctions. Too often likeable incompetents (“Someone I’d like to get a beer with…”) are hired rather than awkward, aloof experts. When you consider the competence/congeniality axis, incompetent sweethearts can suck the life out of your company’s bottom line faster than any irritating high performer.

You want to stay in business? You want to grow your business? Focus less on finding a love connection, and focus more building a team with solid skills.

BTW: If you want to hire talent, you need to learn how to manage and retain talent – they have options. When’s the last time you went to a seminar or picked up a book about how to be a better boss?

Your Dream Doesn’t Pay My Bills

What about MY Dreams!

NOTE: Entrepreneurs and small shops: People work for the money. Stop looking to them to finance your “dream.”

The my-dream-must-be-your-dream types generally start their interviews with questions like, “Why do you want to work here?” “Why should I hire you,” (also part of entitlement), or the puppy-dog eyes, and deep, soulful, sigh, “So, tell me, why [companyname]???”

It’s like meeting a blind date, and the first question asked is, “Why are you soooo into me?” Or getting a bid from a plumber, and then asking him, “Sooooo why my garbage disposal??” Nothing could be more irritating.

Am I some kind of dream-killing Nazi? No. I’m a person who is paid to manage time. And, when I hear someone ramble on about the “dream,” what I hear is “~~there’s lots of long days, unpaid overtime, and probably a few unpaid weekends as well.” At no time does anyone ask about MY dreams…

More than 90% of start-ups fail in less than five years. Those that make it past the five year mark don’t catapult to the top of the NASDAQ. More often, they continue to struggle with cash flow, sales, and customer retention. You know: the stuff dreams are made of….

When I look back at the thousands of hours donated to someone else’s “dream,” I realize that what I was really doing was compromising my own dreams, my own career, and worse, my own finances for an “entrepreneur” with a corporate AmEx card and a BMW that never ran out of gas.

My dreams are different now. Now, I dream of a matching 401K.

It’s All About The Benjamins

I Work for the Money!

You can couch it however you’d like, but people work for the money. Period. And, your dreams, ping-pong table, and Thirsty Thursday’s Kombucha pizza parties aren’t going to make up paying 30% below market.

While gold-collar workers may chose more cutting edge or risky work over compensation, they are the few and the lucky rich. Most of us, and especially those at the lower end of the pay scale, we don’t have that choice. For us, it’s all about the money.

Interestingly, I’ve noted that the CEOs bitching the loudest about the Invisible Hand of Capitalism aren’t losing people because they got an extra $30k at their new gig – they’re losing people for an extra $1-2 an hour! Less than $100 bucks a week! That’s not a lot of money for someone who routinely picks up bar bills bigger than that, but let’s pretend you’re not spending your money on $10 beers. An additional $400 a month is enough to cover a car payment, utilities, and a cell phone bill. An extra $5 an hour is more than $10K a year, and while it’s not a life-changing amount, it’s almost an extra $1K a month – half of an average mortgage payment. If you add in a boss who isn’t an entitled asshole, you can see why people are saying, “I’m outta here!” Cleaning hotel rooms, restaurant work, customer-service — those jobs are pretty much the same no matter where you go.

It’s Your Brand

Are you ready to accept reality, and up your hiring game? Here’s what you can do: Hire a professional recruiter. Listen to his/her feedback, and then DO to what s/he says. Be courteous and respectful to all applicants, even the ones you don’t want to hire. One bad interaction can sour a person on a company for the rest of his/her career! AND, if you’re going to be an entitled jerk to your applicants, don’t think for a second that they’re not going to tell their friends, family, and social media contacts about it.

Every interaction, every touchpoint is a chance to enhance or damage your brand. No where is that more important than in the hiring process.

Ensure all hiring managers and interviewers are trained. No one should be a “Brand Ambassador” for your company or be involved in hiring decisions until the are trained. Feedback and mentoring is required. A lifetime of bad habits isn’t likely to change after one training class.

“The world doesn’t owe you a living,” and it most certainly does not owe you a business!! If you’re going to be entitled, insist on free labor to finance your dream, and only hire people you want to have a beer with, finding labor will be very, very difficult for you.

When People Quit, They’re Firing You!

Employers Need to up their Game

Since the dawn humankind, capital has had the advantage over labor. Revolutions, strikes, unions, labor laws, and even unemployment insurance have helped to level this advantage – but the scales were always tipped in favor of the capitalist employer. Those days are over.

Pre-Covid, the rise of gold-collar, knowledge workers was beginning to reverse the employer advantage in competitive labor markets like tech and healthcare. Crisis, as a cultural accelerant, has firmly flipped the advantage to labor – and economists predict it’s going to stay that way for a l-o-n-g time….

Labor has had lots of opportunity and advice on how to interview and how to be a good employee. That cannot be said of employers. Most have zero training in how to interview and little interest in being a good employer – which is why, now, they can’t hire anyone. I won’t be the last to say it: You need to level-up your game or you’re going to be out of business.

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Copyright 2021 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Ghosting: The Unrequited Love of Today’s Job Market

I see a lot of social media posts from people in angst over unrequited love. However, that love isn’t for disinterested romantic partners, rather it’s for jobs – jobs they never had.

Interviewing is a lot like dating, and the world is filled with bad advice on how to do both. Here’s mine:

Consider the Ubiquity of this Post

“Not hearing back from <prospective employer> is really hard. There is no closure or feedback, and it makes it incredibly challenging to gain insights to improve. It would be great if <prospective employers> were able to tell me why I wasn’t their best candidate, or that there were better candidates, or any kind of constructive feedback. Even if it’s harsh or disappointing, it will help me to be a better candidate.”

Signed: Every Rejected Job Candidate Ever

Now, let’s replace <prospective employer> with <blind date>, and let’s consider the absurdity of this same post:

“Not hearing back from a <blind date> is really hard. There is no closure or feedback, and it makes it incredibly challenging to gain insights to improve. It would be great if each of my <blind dates> were able to tell me why I wasn’t their top candidate, or that there were better candidates, or any kind of constructive feedback. Even if it’s harsh or disappointing, it will help me to be a better <blind date>.”

Signed: Seeking Validation from Strangers

Were I to publish the above is any self-help feed, no doubt I’d be hit with an avalanche affirmations to “be yourself,” and not to waste as single-second feeling bad about not hearing from my blind date, and that I should move on to someone who deserved me. Why don’t we feel the same about job interviews?

Interviewers Are NOT Better than You!

I’ve been on literally thousands of interviews over the course of my career. I’ve also had the misfortune to interview applicants. Let me assure you of one universal truth: The notion that the person who is interviewing you is somehow superior, more knowledgeable, more insightful, or “better” than you are is completely false.

We have been programmed to believe that any employer or anyone interviewing or evaluating us for employment is somehow a superior being. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, many of the interviewers I’ve met over the years really have no business interviewing anyone! They have zero training, are terrible judges of character, and most are completely unaware of their implicit biases. Often they have little to no understanding of the job for which you’re interviewing, they’re unprepared, most know nothing about you, many haven’t even looked at your resume.

Worse, in far too many cases, an interviewer’s hubris and poor manners reflect poorly on the company and brand. As a result of this negative interview experience, the job applicant feels, “These guys are a bunch of ass-holes; I’m never working here…” Worse, that feeling is often shared with their friends and associates. This is why many companies now find themselves unable to attract talent.

People get rejected for jobs all the time. It has absolutely nothing to do with your qualifications or your worthiness, or your answer to this question or that question. Similarly, people get hired for jobs, and often it has nothing to do with their qualifications or worthiness, either. Stop internalizing rejection. It’s a number’s game. Keep throwing chips out on the board. Your number will come up.

Stop Dreaming

“I have to fight the urge to stop looking once I’ve applied to a dream job. It’s a tough market and I need to keep looking and keep applying while I wait to hear back.

Signed: Living in a Dream World (It’s cozy inside)

Applying for a “dream job,” isn’t the same as being hired for your dream job. You should never be “waiting to hear back,” from anyone unless you’ve countered their offer of employment. Applying (even if you’re “perfect” for the job), and “waiting” for them to call you? That’s akin to buying a lottery ticket, and then not doing your laundry because your winnings will allow you to hire someone for that.

Keep in mind, even if a job description seems perfect for you, that doesn’t mean you’ll be interviewed. Once interviewed, it doesn’t mean you’ll be hired. Also, just because someone offers you a job doesn’t mean you’re going to accept it. And, just because you’re hired, it doesn’t mean you’re going to stay.

In my book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker, I recommend to never stop looking for work. I think we have all seen that life is very unpredictable, and jobs can change very quickly. Being employed is great, but in the long-run, it’s much safer and better to be employable.

You’re Mourning the Life You Thought You’d Have

Like buying a lottery ticket, whenever you interview for a job, it’s only natural to dream about your future life and the possibilities. If you’ve been out of work for a while, these emotions can be even more intense. Perhaps the gig is exactly what you’ve been seeking. It might be in a more desirable city or location, the building is in a swank area of town, you’re looking forward to making new friends. Maybe you are in a awful job now, and this opportunity seems like the golden ticket to the chocolate factory. You go to sleep at night with sugar plum fairies dancing in your head, and awaken to a world that is shiny and bright and full of possibility.

And then? You never hear from them.

You call, no response. You email, crickets. And, poof! The perfect life you imagined for yourself is gone, and you are left in disgust, despondency, and despair.

Consider that ghosting is really less about the employer, and more about lotto fever. You’re not upset over the loss of a job — a job you never had — you’re suffering from the loss of the “perfect” life you imagined this job would bring you.

But why, why??!! Why no call? If you consider that question in the same context as you would a blind date, you can easily see the answer: They found someone they liked more OR they’re not ready for a relationship. Those are the only reasons. Do I have to send you a letter? What else is there to know?

It’s a Conversation

“It’s difficult to maintain motivation when there’s a complete lack of responses and reactions to the vast majority of applications. Searching for a job can feel like pouring time and energy into a black hole never to see a return on the investment.”

Signed: Confused about Investment v. Conversation

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received from a professional head-hunter was this, “It’s a conversation, it’s a little bit of your time, you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain,” and he’s 100 percent right!

Stop looking at applications and interviews as something you are entitled to receive a return on, like stock or real estate. Instead, look at every interview as if it were a conversation with friend or neighbor. I wouldn’t walk away from a cocktail party or conversation in the park thinking, “I spent so much time taking to her. I hope I’m not pouring my time into some black hole!”

If that doesn’t work, try to see your interviews as less of an evaluation of your worthiness and your credentials, and more of a low-pressure sales call. All great salespeople know the chance of rejection is high, but they also know that there’s a pipeline: You’re forming relationships, making an impression. Sometimes you make sale that day, most times you don’t. It doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time. You got to meet people who are in your business. You got to practice interviewing, asking questions, listening, and evaluating jobs and companies. It’s a little bit of time that you spend paying it forward. I’ve had people call me y-e-a-r-s later after no-go interviews to ask me to join their team. I’ve had interviewers refer me to other companies. I’ve met friends and networking contacts. I’ve gotten referrals for hairdressers and restaurants and other services people. I’ve seen new areas of town, new cities, and learned new things. It’s just a conversation – go!

Ghosting is the Norm, Not the Exception

Life has changed since 1970’s when a secretary typed out rejection letters on her (never his) IBM Selectric, then, typed your address on an envelope, and then folded up the letter, put it in the envelope, and then ran the envelope through the postage meter, hoping the envelope wouldn’t catch on the flap, and rip the envelope. In which case, they would need to lather, rinse, and repeat. And why did they do this? To let you know that they were NOT going to hire you? Who in 2021 thinks this is a good use of anyone’s time?

I can hear all the, “Yes, but(s)” from here! Tough love time: We don’t live in that world anymore. Understand and accept that you will NOT hear from a prospective employer or staffing agent unless they’re interested in hiring you. If you can do that just much, you’ll save yourself a lot of ghosting angst.

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

Your job isn’t just a revenue source; your job is a relationship. And, interviewing for a job is a lot like dating. It’s 100% natural to be a little nervous and want to make a good impression, but not every date is going to result in a relationship, and that’s okay!

When interviewing, just like dating, focus less on yourself and more on your date. Spend less time thinking about what you want to say, and more time listening attentively, and asking thoughtful questions. In this way, both you and your prospective employer/client will feel comfortable pursuing a long-term a relationship.

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If you are unemployed, DM me for a free copy.

Copyright 2021 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

11 Things that Are Better Because of Covid

We are changed by every failure, set-back, disaster, or crisis we encounter. Covid is the most profound of events because it has affected each of us personally, and our communities and nations globally.  No one has escaped. No one is immune.

As vaccines are distributed and the smoke begins to clear, we need to ask, “What is the gift?”  Here’s 11 of ‘em…

~ 1 ~ Our Neighbors

I’ve met more of my neighbors in the past eight months than I have in the past eight years. People are home. They have time to chat.  The want to chat…! Pre-Covid, I would be socializing with my co-workers at after-work happy hours, but that’s not going to happen when you’re on Zoom. 

There’s little doubt we will see our social lives shift from work-centric to community centric. Maybe that’s why we’re all moving someplace else….

~ 2 ~ Our Technical Prowess

We’re using our laptops, pads, mobile and Bluetooth devices more effectively, and for things we never did before.  This is important because technology doesn’t improve without user feedback.

User feedback allows technologists to improve software quickly and more meaningfully.  Be prepared for a big leap forward in our quality of connectedness.

The great thing about technology is that the more people use it, the better it gets.

~ 3 ~ Our Cooking

Tearing up your own lettuce at .89 cents a bunch isn’t as burdensome as once thought. Kids are cooking real meals, planning menus, using fractions, and everyone is wondering why we weren’t doing this before.

Don’t get me wrong: I love eating in a restaurant and having people bring me stuff. But, I also realize that eating out used a lot of my disposable income that probably could have been spent on investment, not, literally, consumption.

~ 4 ~ Our Savings

Not eating out, not commuting, no coffee snacks, dry cleaning, happy hour(s), multiple vehicles, soccer fees, miscellaneous mall trips….Perhaps Wall Street is doing so well because there’s not much else to buy?

For those who have escaped lay-offs and can work virtually, the cost of going back and forth to an office is abundantly clear. And, after a year of gitn’ er done from home, it’s doubtful anyone is going to cough up a big chunk of his/her net income just to commute into an office again every day.

~ 5 ~ Our Employers

Employers now realize they actually need their employees! They’ve become obnoxiously pro-family – almost to the point of being anti-single — and many (sheepishly) admit that their 1950’s insistence that everyone be on-site every day was more about tradition (and control), not so much about collaboration and teamwork.

The more people work virtually, the better they will get at it. 

Virtual work has its advantages (and challenges), and not everyone is going to survive (or thrive), in a cyber office. But, make no mistake, those without the self-discipline to meet deadlines and the responsibilities of a virtual team and managers who cannot manage virtual teams or projects will soon find themselves on the shelf (next to the thermal Fax machine).

~ 6 ~ Our Weight

At the beginning of this pandemic, I saw a big increase in people on the hiking trails and local jogging routes.  Many were clearly new to exercise.  A few months in, some potatoes have returned to their couches, but not all. 

Exercise isn’t about motivation; it’s about habits. And bravo to those who have changed theirs to reflect a commitment to their health.

~ 7 ~ Our Compassion

Racial inequities, disconsolate healthcare workers, grieving families, food lines that stretch for miles.  Pain has a unique way of stripping away all the bullshit and exposing the true essence of humanity.

Covid has been an accelerant of social change.  With sickness and death all around, we’ve been forced to see parts of ourselves and our lives, and others, in a way we never did before.  We’re all better for it.

~ 8 ~ Our Supply Chain

While military logistics plays a huge role in vaccination efforts, companies like Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, CVS – millions of restaurants, processors, growers and the myriad of private delivery services pivoted in a way that could never have been accomplished by a government bureaucracy.

Urban warehousing, drones, and delivery-o’-everything will improve to provide for our just-in-time toilet paper needs.

~ 9 ~ The News

At first, everyone was grappling with how to produce a show using just video.  But, they figured it out, and it has a lot of advantages.

Because there’s no need for the guest to physically be there, we’re able to hear voices, insights, and opinions that probably would not have made it to the “lame” stream media. Audio and video quality that would have been unacceptable 12 months ago isn’t even questioned now.

More of us are actively seeking unfiltered information. We want to hear exactly what was said, not some politically spun version of alternative facts.  That doesn’t mean anyone will change her/his mind, but it’s good to know that real information is out there, and lots of bona fide journalists are, too.

~ 10 ~ Our Homes

If you drive for a living, and you would need a different vehicle than you would for occasion use.  The same is true for the home office.  A small bedroom was fine for the random WFH day or to check email on Sunday.  Eight-to-nine-hours-five-day-a-week-and-weekends.  Now, you’re under house arrest. 

The connected home, IoT, learning centers and the need for multiple home offices will force a change in residential architecture. The need for both functional and attractive family “business” centers has just begun.

~ 11 ~ Our Government Services

Yeah, I said it.  Bravado and bluster are part of America’s global bad rep’ (We’re #1!), But, when people are sick, dying, afraid, and the economy is in shambles, you begin to recognize that integrity, hard work, and statesmanship is the social compact we really entered into.  We pay taxes for leadership, macro- planning, infrastructure, and services that cannot be provided by the private sector. I’m happy that Amazon can deliver my socks.  I think I still want the CDC or NIH to be in the public health business. 

Finally, I think this pandemic has ended the, “Teachers don’t work very hard,” fantasy.

This has been a difficult year for everyone – no one has escaped loneliness, sadness, and at times, the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.  Perhaps a moment to reflect on the good that has come from this can help ease these pains. We will never return to where we were, but now that we can see where we’re going, it looks to be pretty okay….

Happy Holidays!

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

How Would YOU Caption This?

This cartoon and it’s original caption, “Describe what you can bring to this company,” has gone viral on Twitter and FB. I’ve collected a few hilarious – and a few very pointed – responses off the various feeds, and I would like to hear….

How would you caption this?

~Well, you are the most qualified, but I’m not sure I want to get a beer with you.

~I don’t disagree with your recommendations, but you need to tone down your presentation. You don’t want to sound bitter.

~We are ready to begin the inquiry into the sexual harassment complaint you filed.

~If you work really, really hard and prove yourself, we might consider hiring you full time.

~I’m not sure that the team will respond to your management style.

~The most important thing is we hire someone who reflects our culture and values.

~I’ll have the turkey wrap, and make sure there’s enough cookies and water for the afternoon.

“~~my life debating Republicans in committee each week.” – AOC

~I’m not sure you have the leadership skills for this job.

~We’re looking for a team player. Are you a team player?

~If all you bring is your gender and skin color, then you aren’t worth very much.”

The Vol-en-Told Analyst: Three Things NOT to Do

So, your <checkwriter> has determined you can’t afford an analyst for your technology project.  Instead, they want you to do it. (You? Have they met you?)  After Googling “business analyst,” and “elicit” you realize you’re even more clueless than you thought.  Worse, your PM and development team just asked you what the team should start working on….

I can’t teach you to be me, but I can tell you a few things I definitely would NOT do…..

Don’t Become Immersed in Current State

Resist the temptation to become (another) subject matter expert (SME). Chances are you’ve got lots of people in the weeds.  Ask them about the swamp; do not get in there with them. You’ll learn along the way…

Too often novice analysts (and insecure project managers) focus on mastering (and tirelessly documenting) the current state – as if having a Visio now makes it okay to finally get rid of it!  Business process owners are also guilty of the “let me show you ….” instead of providing an answer to your question. Steer clear!  If not, you’ll find yourself burning week(s) learning and flowing out someone’s job when all you really needed was agreement on a data set for the cloud architect.

Unless current state flows and docs are a specific deliverable in the project’s SOW, don’t waste time documenting system’s past. Focus your efforts on eliciting the information you need from your SMEs to define, build, and document future workflows, future components, future interfaces, the future.

Don’t Be Afraid to Assign Deliverables

One of core responsibilities of the team’s analyst to provide the infrastructure and artifacts needed by the appdev (and devops) team so they can build (and test) software.  That doesn’t mean that the analyst is the only person who has to write stuff down.

Every team has a different division of labor, and each analyst has a different style and approach.  Style notwithstanding, we can all agree that I cannot do a Vulcan mind-meld with the DB architect.  I need a schema and component diagram (regularly updated) regardless of how busy you are. Similarly, business process owners aren’t exempt from writing stuff down, either.  I need a list of the exact data points everyone wants retained.  Another demo of “how I do it now,” isn’t a deliverable.

The beauty of a Waterfall effort is that there are clearly defined inputs and outputs. The Gantt is not forgiving.  It shows everyone in the room if a gate is open/closed, and who/what is keeping that gate from closing.  The beauty (and curse) of Agile is that it’s much more flexible. Things requiring more discussion, bigger decisions, “grooming and refinement” can easily be re-prioritized in favor of backlog items upon which there is violent agreement.  As an analyst, you offer insight and best practice advice, but at the end of the day, deliverables codify key business decisions. I can’t make those for you.

Don’t Forget Whose Side You’re On

Whose side are you on?  The Development Team. Period. Why? Because that’s the team you’re actually a part of, and they’re the people doing the work (for you.)

If you’re new to being an software analyst, you will quickly see that your seat in the development team is to articulate the client/business vision.  That doesn’t mean you’re the client.  Conversely, when you sit in client meetings, your role is to be a relentless advocate for the development team.  But, that doesn’t mean you can make decisions or agreements on their behalf.  Being the “creamy filling in the Oreo,” can be difficult.  Empathy, and helping others to have more of it, is an essential skill.

The reality is that no matter how smart you are and how much you’ve thought about something, you’re going to make a mistake or mis-assumption.  Analyst’s mistakes are built into the code, seen in public – sometimes in really big meetings.  You can’t let your client blame the “stupid developers,” when you know full well your poorly written acceptance criteria was the cause.  If you throw your team under the bus – even once – you will quickly regret your lack of courage.

Final Thoughts

There’s a certain amount of frustration involved in the analyst psyche. You’re usually on a steep learning curve, and time is not endless.  You have to accept ambiguity (sometimes a lot of it) and push forward despite unknowns. Learn to say, “I haven’t gotten there yet,” “That was my mistake,” and “We can do it, but it will take more time and money,” and you’ll be just fine.

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Copyright 2017 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC.  All rights reserved.  No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. info@piercewharton.com.

Where are my RFP Responses?

In one of my management classes, a group activity was to prepare a Request for Proposal (RFP). The purpose of the RFP was to hire an event company to create and manage a 300-person company picnic. No other specifications were given — kind of like real life.

The teams set to work creating the RFP. Most assembled a list of basic information for the vendor such as a date, number of people, and budget. A few of the groups had specific requests such as a special theme or specific venue. After a half-hour of discussion, the groups were beginning to disband, all except for Detailed Dina’s group. Detailed Dina was the project manager for her team, and she was not going to be so sloppy.

Keeping her group well past the time allotted, she insisted that the RFP include a questionnaire, which asked for references, sample menus, descriptions of other events done, for whom, when, what was the cost vs. the final budget of these events. What type of picnics had the vendor done before? What kinds of themes? For how many? She also asked for credit and banking references, and a list of their subcontractors. Dina assigned each team member a portion of the RFP, and then offered to assemble the final product herself (so it was up to her quality standards). An hour after everyone else left, Dina was satisfied and exceedingly proud of herself. She demonstrated collaborative leadership, and was a team player by taking on the task of assembling the final RFP. Dina was confident her outstanding RFP would result in a superior picnic.

The RFPs were farmed out to the vendor groups. Among the ten RFPs presented, the teams needed to choose five to meet and three to respond.

After all the presentations and discussion were completed, Detailed Dina’s RFP was not selected. Aghast at the slight, Dina demanded to know why no one selected her event. The answer was simple. There were other clients, and her application was too much. Said one team, “I know it’s a game, but it was just so ridiculous….” The instructor tried to mix it up bit. Everyone knew that Detailed Dina has no interested vendors; therefore, whomever bid on her contract was guaranteed to win the business. Wouldn’t that be easier than competing against so many others? Would any team trade creating three proposals for her one?

Lesson #1

First, Detailed Dina made an amateur mistake: She refused to scale. It’s a picnic, not a shuttle launch. Dina was so fixated on her emotional need for data because she felt that more data would help her to secure a quality vendor. Unfortunately, this project wasn’t about data, it was about teamwork and goals. Dina lost sight of the goal, which was to form a relationship with a vendor (which she failed to do), and then manage the relationship (which she was unable to do), for the company’s benefit (which never happened).

This project wasn’t about data; it was about teamwork and goals.

And, while Dina was adamant that she had a far superior RFP, and was friendly and collaborative with her team, no one could argue that if this were real life, her leadership was a failure. Bottom line: They needed a team to do this event, and she was unable to assemble a team.

Lesson #2

This story is also illustrates the shift in the American labor market. You’re hiring a <jobtitle> to do <somethingforyou>, you’re not marrying the guy! Because Dina was in a position to choose and pay the vendor, her attitude was one of entitlement. They needed to “prove” themselves to her.

Your hubris is counter-productive to building a team

And, while we all seek qualified vendors (and it’s natural to feel a little entitled when you’re writing the checks), remember that you’re not the person actually doing the work. If you’re an employer, your attitude needs to be one of partnership, not entitlement. You’re hiring someone because you CANNOT do the work yourself. Your hubris is counter-productive to building a team.

The Conclusion

Dina was surprised by the silence that followed the easy offer of her business.

Dina immediately offered explanations of the rationale behind the formulation of her RFP. The teams quietly discussed the trade-offs of a relationship with Detailed Dina. With fewer clients it could be less work – initially – but since this was a “fixed-price” bid, what was the risk that Detailed Dina would be a difficult client who needed lots of attention, extras or changes? How would that effect the time they spent on this class project?

I think we all know what happened here.

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Excerpted from: The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker. Copyright 2017 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC.  All rights reserved.  No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. info@piercewharton.com.

How Perfectionistss Ruin Quaity

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In the early days of software (when every application came with manual), I took a class for technical writers.  Our first homework assignment was to write directions for how to make tea.  Several of my classmates had questions such as what kind of tea? Was it in a bag or loose?  The instructor said he would provide no other details except for the original task: Write directions for how to make tea.

When class re-assembled the following week, the instructor asked the students to turn in their homework.  He shuffled through the responses and chose several to present to the class. Before presenting, he requested the class hold all comments and questions until after all the submissions were reviewed.  Then, he placed the first page of Paul Perfectionist’s directions on the projector. “That’s mine!” You could see him visibly puff up. Because his directions were first up, they were likely the standard.

Paul had put together an exhaustive set of detailed directions. No detail was too small, no action overlooked, no exception left out.  Paul wrote step-by-step how to unwrap the box of tea, what size pot to select for boiling water, how to turn on the faucet, how to put water into the pot, how to turn on the stove (or light a stove, if necessary), how to set a timer for boiling water.  He created a branch for the benefits of a tea kettle verses a pot, how to choose a cup, how to lay the tea bag in the cup.  He had an alternate scenario for loose tea, including explanations of tea balls, strainers, and cozies…a couple shots of images for tea…all-in-all, there were more than five pages of directions for making tea.

The instructor continued with the next set of directions, which was also lengthy, but not nearly as exhaustive as Paul’s.  The instructor slowly continued on replacing page-after-page of instructions offering no comment on any of the efforts.

I’ve spent a lifetime as a teacher and corporate writer; I knew where this was going.  I sat back and began to look around the room. I could see some of the students’ body language had already changed. Shoulders hunched, furrowed brows — they looked confused, worse ashamed.  Had they misunderstood the assignment?  Was this more complicated than they originally thought?  Self-doubt descended like a fog.

As the presentation continued, the directions became significantly briefer.  One student (who had asked about loose or bag), wrote “One bag = 2 Tbls,” which I recall thinking was exceedingly clever copy for tea packaging. I remember Paul rolled his eyes when I complimented the writer on the usefulness of that line, “That doesn’t even tell you how to make tea!” he scoffed.  The last submission displayed was, “Add hot water. Enjoy.”

The projector went off. The lights went on.  Paul was beaming with pride.  “So,” the instructor began, “Which of these directions do you think is the best?”

“The last one,” I said quickly and with conviction.

“I agree,” the instructor responded.

Now, if you thought that Paul had a “ah-hah!” moment, you have little experience with the detail-obsessed, perfectionist disorder.  On the contrary, Paul was PISSED OFF!  Without a second of reflection, he launched into a full-scale attack on his classmates and the instructor.  The others didn’t understand the complexity of tea, and that’s why he detailed out every approach to it. These brief responses indicated his colleagues were lazy and didn’t want to do the homework.  It’s clear they took a short-cut in the assignment, which is why they wrote so little. Paul assured everyone that he had spent a lot of time working on this, and making tea was much, much, more complicated than we really knew.  No one had even thought to include images!  What if someone didn’t know what a teabag looked like!

My personal impatience with the narcissism of perfectionists notwithstanding, I gleefully threw coal in his furnace and offered that I wrote no directions at all; rather, I documented an audience assumption that tea – a staple of every kitchen in every culture – is something the audience or purchaser would already know how to make.  It’s not an enchilada.

Other real-world rejections of Paul’s work quickly followed: Tea does not come with directions now, why would we need them in the future?  No tea company would ever create collateral or change packaging to accommodate five pages of directions. No one buying tea would ever read a five-page insert if they did. Another pointed out that Paul’s directions (literally) included a section on how to boil water! Knowing how to boil water was the same reason light bulbs didn’t come with directions. Ha-ha. The class chuckled, the fog of self-doubt lifted, and there was a sigh of relief from those who had not crafted lengthy directions. Paul, however, was not amused.  He insisted that it was possible some men could not know how to boil water or turn on a stove (although most women were likely to know this, he conceded). Then, finally after all his other defenses were exhausted, Paul played the “safety” card (aka: the Hail Mary of all corporate disagreements), and strongly asserted that without directions someone might burn themselves or ingest the tea bag, which could result in a law suit…

The Lesson

Paul was a student in a class of colleagues, so the ability to critique his work is assumed.  That is rarely the case in real-life. Imagine if Paul Perfectionist were a manager, lead or (heaven forbid) stakeholder?  Given Paul’s predilection toward perfectionism, if he were someone’s boss do you think he would be open to a less-detailed approach or would he just see that as sloppy?  What are the chances that a peer – never mind subordinate – could call Paul out on his emotional need for detail?  Even if some courageous person did tell Paul he was being ridiculous, do you think the rest of the group would jump in and support their colleague’s “sloppy approach” compared to Paul’s exhaustive completeness?  Lastly, with so much ego and emotion displayed by Paul, even if the group felt that Paul’s directions were expensive or might result in a negative outcome, how likely is it that they would coalesce to fight actively against him?  Or do think it’s more likely the group would just “deal” with Paul because they have families to support and just don’t have the energy to argue with him anymore….?

Paul and Polly Perfectionists exist in every business. What all these perfect people have in common is the same narcissistic misconception that they – alone – can assure quality.  We euphemistically call them “bottlenecks” or say they need “special hand-holding.”  In private, we call them high-maintenance PITAs, and tell colleagues to circumvent them because do nothing but cause spin and churn.

Perfectionists are the most destructive of leaders and teammates because they talk non-stop about quality, but they don’t listen to quality. Quality is not a person. Quality is not a checklist. Quality is a process.  A quality processes requires a team, and the perfectionists of the world never have a good one because teams require honesty, communication, and trust.  Perfectionists don’t understand that state of being.  Their lives are filled with fear, suspicion, and distrust.  It haunts them at work; it strains their personal relationships. A Paul Perfectionist may run a team, but he rarely considers himself a part of that team because – qualitatively – he is sure he is above the others and perfectionism is not a flaw.

Excellence is a value; Perfectionism is an insecurity.

Everyone should take pride in his/her work, everyone should have input, but when I see over-engineered and voluminous solutions, I don’t think, “Ahh, so smart!” Rather, I corner my teammate(s) 1:1 and ask questions.  Inevitably, I’ll hear “Yeah, we had to do <whatever> because <controlfreakperfectionist> is a PITA, which is why we’re <late/over budget/short staffed>. Avoid them if you can….”

Over the course of my career, I have been amazed at the number of high-priced consultants and internal project teams who churn away days and weeks of expensive time adding linguistic dandruff to presentations, plans and proposals whose only goal is to sooth the emotions and ego of someone who is sure they’re adding quality.  CapEx budgets become bloated by stakeholder reviews and timelines are delayed all because no one going to jeopardize the financial stability of their family by telling Paul Perfectionist that we don’t need five pages of directions on how to make tea.

The Conclusion

The instructor cornered Paul during break and tried to talk him down, which was not easy because perfectionists are quite sure that you aren’t smart enough to see the world as clearly as they, and who are you to criticize their drive for perfection anyway?

The instructor explained to Paul the purpose of the class (and education, in general) was to challenge pre-conceived notions. Audience is the most important consideration in any communication, and Paul did not consider his when writing his directions.  Although Paul reluctantly agreed that perhaps boiling water was a bit much, he would not relent on the other stuff.  Besides, even if fewer directions were acceptable, more paperwork and detail is always better. I mean, this is tea, sure, but in real-life, in business, there would never be a time where more documentation or direction would be worse, right?

The instructor asked Paul to keep an open mind, and then politely turned to another student who had been patiently waiting.

Paul never came back to class.

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Excerpted from: The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker. Copyright 2017 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC.  All rights reserved.  No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. info@piercewharton.com; Follow on Twitter and Facebook @TheTempJob

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