Student Loan Forgiveness? Where’s MY Check!

The Biden administration is floating the idea of forgiving up to $50K of student loan debt per individual. Not surprisingly, this news did not bring hoorays for the unprecedented economic and entrepreneurial boost this would provide to our struggling economy, rather it brought a deluge of “Where’s my check?!?” demands from anyone who doesn’t currently have a student loan.

The “Where’s my check!” crowd are filled with Horatio Alger tales of Herculean sacrifice and even more abundant lessons on thrift. If only everyone were more like they. With each comment comes a demand that others take the same road, make the same choices, live the same life. From none come the slightest recognition that each has benefitted from our “socialist” state and that, perhaps, they might think of the state benefitting others not just themselves?

Privilege is when you think something isn’t a problem just because it’s not a problem for you. Similarly, good economic policy is not just about what benefits you, it’s about the greater good for our country, economy, and our society.

Consider the following:

  • My neighbor deducts $6,000 per year off his income for his three children. I don’t have any children. Where’s my check?
  • My brother deducts $38,000 each year for mortgage interest on his two homes. I rent. Where’s MY check?
  • My marginally-employed brother-in-law just got a $600 stimulus check. I’ve been working two-jobs all year. Where’s my check?
  • My property taxes fund public schools and playgrounds. I don’t have children. Where’s my check?
  • My neighbor just picked up free groceries from a local food bank. I just paid retail for all my groceries at Kroger. Where’s my check?
  • My state taxes subsidize public universities. I went to a private school in another state. Where’s my check?
  • My brother died of cancer at 54, and never collected social security. Where’s his check?
  • I’m a teacher; my husband is a nurse. My sister manages a hedge fund. She makes a lot more money than we do even though we are essential workers. Where’s OUR check?
  • My co-worker took a leave of absence to attend to his sick mother. My mom died in a car accident? Where’s my check?
  • I always wear a mask. My co-worker refuses to mask up. She just got Covid and was hospitalized. Where’s MY check?
  • My sister deducted almost $20K in child care expenses last year. I’m a stay-at-home mom. Where’s my check?
  • My city just opened a recreation center with a pool. I don’t swim. Where’s my check?
  • My retired neighbor just got a free a cell phone and a discount on his utilities. I work full-time and pay full-price for all of my utilities. Where’s my check?
  • I’ve never called the cops or fire department. Where’s my check?
  • My brother just got into college. I don’t want to go to college. Where’s my check?

Too often we view education as a “thing” that you “get” and it “belongs” to an individual, like a car, or a necklace. But unlike a vehicle, or a piece of jewelry, an education is not an item of private property – it is something that is shared – whether through work, school, or raising children – and, it is something that benefits everyone. From the cell phone in your hands, to that vaccine going into your arm, to the sneakers on your feet, all of these things were created, maintained, and improved by individuals who borrowed money, worked hard, and made sacrifices to EARN an education. It wasn’t “given” to them. And, in many cases, these educated people commit themselves to a lifetime of learning so that they can continue to contribute to their communities and professions.

From the cell phone in your hands, to the vaccine going into your arm, to the sneakers on your feet – even if you never went to college, you directly benefit from those who did.

Wealth is not a zero-sum game; wealth is created by individuals whose hard work and innovation bring the tide that raises all boats. While an educated and examined life is important to personal well-bring, it is the work that college-educated individuals do in the decades after college that has resulted in our unprecedented prosperity, and a plethora of social benefits too numerous to count. Even if you never went to college, your life, your family, and your well-being is improved by those who did. This is no different than a college graduate benefitting from those who chose jobs and professions that offered a different path. We all need each other.

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This country doesn’t have a money problem, we have a priority problem. And, for those of you who contend that we really DO have the money, take a look at graph below, and then let me know if you have any suggestions.

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

The Truth of Life

  1. Everyone you love, including you, is going to die. Worry less about dying; worry more about living in poor health.
  2. We give our lives’ meaning.  If you feel that your life is meaningless, it’s your own fault – do something about it.
  3. The perfect partner, perfect relationship doesn’t exist. Focus on finding someone who has a lot of qualities you like, and the same values, and work together to build a fantastic relationship. Love is a verb.
  4. Life is filled with games and players, and you are going to have to play some of them. Find the games you like, learn the rules, know when to follow them, when to break them.  Making money doesn’t make you a sell-out.
  5. Everything has an end: youth, jobs, relationships, love, life – it all ends.  That’s why it’s valuable. Your time is limited; don’t waste is living someone else’s life.
  6. Be romantic, be hopeful, be loving.  Affection is never wasted.
  7. Be realistic about big things. Life isn’t an after-school special. You need a plan, you need to change that plan, and you need to keep at it. It’s okay to have an artistic soul, but you need an engineering mindset.
  8. Figure a way out. If you can’t or won’t, stop complaining.
  9. You’re not immune from life’s disappointments. Sometimes you deserve them, sometimes you don’t. It doesn’t make you any better or any worse than anyone else.
  10. The world doesn’t owe you the job of your dreams at the time and place of your choosing. Success is hard work and difficult choices. If you want it, it means you will leave others behind.
  11. Be resilient enough to make the climb, but don’t die on the hill.  The landscape of your life is filled with other hills, valleys, mountains, and vistas. No one view is more precious than another.
Copyright 2021 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. info@piercewharton.com.

The Winter of our Discontent

To most of the world, success is never bad. When Hitler moved unchecked and triumphant, many honorable men sought and found virtues in him. And Mussolini made the trains run on time, and Vichy collaborated for the good of France, and whatever else Stalin was, he was strong.

Strength and success – they are above morality, above criticism. It seems then, that it is not what you do, but how you do it and what you call it.

Is there a check in men, deep in them, that stops or punishes? There doesn’t seem to be. The only punishment is for failure.

In effect no crime is committed unless a criminal is caught ~~ some men get hurt, some even destroyed, but this in no way deters the movement.

John Steinbeck, The Winter of our Discontent, 1961

How to REALLY Keep your Exercise Resolution

I’m a regular power-walker. Out-the-door before 7, back before 8. I do about two and a half miles each day – half flat, half hills. More on weekends if it’s cloudy. I allow myself one day a week to skip my AM walk. Usually Friday; never Monday. I started in my 40’s, and have kept it up for more than a decade.

Here’s what I’ve learned about exercise…

It MUST be a Morning Routine

Exercise is not about discipline, not about strength, not about willpower. Exercise is about routine. Change yours to include 30 minutes of walking in the morning. The routine will change your life.

“I’m NOT a morning person…” (Already with the excuses?) No one is asking you to host a TV talk show. You don’t need to be “on.” You need to get your ass out of bed.

Mornings are the only time you truly have control over your day. Once your day starts, you will be overcome by events. You’ll go after work? Liar. You can do more exercise after work should you choose (and eventually you will, like I did with my yoga practice), but as a minimum, you must commit to a routine of regular AM walks.

No One is “Motivated”

I hear this all the time, and it irritates the hell out of me. “I’m just not motivated to exercise….” What is it about Americans that we feel entitled to be “motivated” before we do anything? I’m completely unmotivated to clean the bathroom, empty the dishwasher, paint the house trim, or pick up dog poop. I also have zero motivation to be at work on time, but I do it anyway.

Anyone who sticks with an exercise routine has accepted that they will never feel motivated to do it. Ten plus years, I still don’t feel any more motivation than I did day one. Is it easier? Yes. Do I enjoy it? No. I tolerate it. There’s no joy; it’s not fun. As a grown-up, you need to accept that not everything you do in life is enjoyable. I accept that exercise is an unpleasant chore, and it’s a chore that only I can do. If I could hire someone to do it for me, I would.

Think of your AM power walks like the bus. No one is motivated to take the bus. But, if the bus is the only way to get to work, and your choices are 1) take the bus or 2) live under a bridge, you’ll change your schedule, and find a way to take the bus.

Forget an Exercise “Buddy”

Another piece of worthless advice given annually by skinny bitches on talk TV. You want a buddy? Get a dog. You and your chubby friends are NOT good motivators for each other (see above). What is more likely to happen is that you will talk each other out of going, or worse, talk each other into indulging your mutual bad habits (“Sandy was late, and I just wasn’t motived, so we went to Starbucks ….”)

It’s difficult enough to keep your own routine. If you attempt to intertwine it daily with another adult, you will fail. Focus on your time, your schedule, your needs. If you truly want a buddy, hire a trainer. They’re always happy to take your money, whether you show up or not.

Don’t Waste Time Looking Good

Every January, I see a big increase in the number of people on the trails, in the gym, and at the studio. When I attempt to predict who will still be there in March, my first cut are the ones who are dressed well.

People with real exercise routines aren’t interested in looking good (see: lack of motivation); they’ve expended all their energy just getting there. They’re dressed in shitty sweats, ripped tee shirts. Myself included. I roll out of bed, use the bathroom, and immediately put on the shorts, tee shirt, socks, and the hoodie I laid out the night before. Sneakers, ponytail, hook up the dog, and out the door. No makeup. No teeth brushing. No coffee. No cell phone. No internal bargaining. No distractions. No excuses.

The folks you see out at 6 am look just as shitty as you do, and they’re not interested in chatting. They’re tired, grumpy, and want to get it done so they can start their day.

Don’t Bring Anything with You

Poop bags are attached to the leash. No cell phone, no keys. Water? Plu-eeze! You’re not going to dehydrate in 30-60 minutes. Coffee, nope. Have it when you get back.

Why take nothing? Because it’s distracting. If I take my phone, I’m checking every single beep. If I turn off the beeps, I’m checking anyway. If something comes in, I’m tempted to respond. Keys? Don’t need ’em. Why take the chance of losing them? Water, coffee? I don’t want to carry anything.

Anything you take with you is a distraction. The longer you’re distracted, the longer it takes. Don’t dawdle. Get it done.

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Now the good news: Once your routine is established (which takes about two weeks, couple months to seal it in), exercise will become easier. Easier is not enjoyable, however, easier is just a less painful. Other good news: As your body becomes more fit, it calls you toward foods that are less detrimental to your health. It will also call you toward longer walks, and bigger hills. This is about a lifestyle, not a goal. Honor your body, not your ego.

Most importantly, be mindful of negative self-talk. Replace “I’m so fat, and out of shape,” with “I’m out here doing it, not just talking about it.” Replace “I’ll never be able to climb that hill,” with “I’ll take the hill little-by-little, and stop whenever I want to catch my breath. It’s not a competition.” And, finally, replace “I can’t wait until I’m thin, and I don’t have to do this anymore,” with “I’m committed to a lifetime of health, and I start every day renewing that commitment.”

Happy Wandering!

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.

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.

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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.”

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 2021 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!

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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.

How to Evaluate Your Boss

People leave managers, not companies. Be sure you hire a good boss. When workers have a good manager, they will often accept lower wages. When people quit, they’re firing you. You can’t put a price on a great boss…..

Nothing I just said is new. But, despite all the well-intentioned talent acquisition and retention initiatives embarked upon by company recruiters, I’ve yet to encounter any organization who routinely surveys a manager’s direct reports for feedback on his/her performance.

The answer as to “Why?” staff don’t evaluate managers ranges from the complex (cultural of hierarchy, management v. labor, men v. women), to the paternalist notion that a job is a “gift” that your corporate “family” gives you and you should be grateful for their kindness (versus the negotiated sale of your labor to a disinterested company who then sells the fruits of that labor to a 3rd party for a tidy profit), to the simplistic — but very real possibility of – retribution. All topics for another day.

Most of us are given a boss; we don’t get to choose one. However, if you find yourself in a position to evaluate your potential manager (or feel the need to leave an anonymous note on someone’s desk), here are ten questions to help focus your review:

True or False

~I know my boss always represents me and my skills in the best light.

~I trust that my boss is a strong advocate for me and my career.

~I believe that my boss is an effective advocate for my team.

~If there are changes or meetings with my client/workgroup, my boss informs me of the nature of the meetings so we can discuss how it might affect me or my work.

~My boss seeks to understand fully my situation or problem before s/he offers advice.

~My boss respects my work and appreciates the role I play within the company.

~My boss seeks my advice or input before making decisions that directly affect my job or affect our clients/customers.

~When I have a problem or situation I cannot handle, I am comfortable seeking advice and mentorship from my boss.

~If I were traveling with my boss, and we were stuck in an airport, s/he would make the time there better and easier.

~If I were in a position to hire my boss, I would.

What do all these questions have in common? Integrity. Respect. Leadership. These aren’t skills, they’re qualities, values. You got ’em, you practice them, or you don’t. Leaders inspire others to follow, they don’t tell people what do do. There’s no such thing as contextual integrity. You don’t get to be a great boss being respectful most of the time……

Whenever I interview with a prospective manager, I always ask, “If I were with your team at a happy hour, what would they say about you?” I’ve gotten answers that range from the hostile to obtuse…few have shown any genuine insight in one’s character, never mind management style. We all know how important a good boss is. Maybe the time has come to finally shift our focus from top down to bottom up?

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Copyright 2018 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. info@piercewharton.com.

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