Article 43

 

Job Hunt

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Shift Change

image: millenials and boomers

...the plan announced October 13 by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to hand over $250 billion in taxpayer money to the biggest banks, in exchange for non-voting stock, was never really intended to get them to resume lending to businesses and consumers--the ostensible purpose of the bailout. Its essential aim was to engineer a rapid consolidation of the American banking system by subsidizing a wave of takeovers of smaller financial firms by the most powerful banks.
- The Dirty Little Secret Of The US Bank Bailout, October 29, 2008

Economist Richard Wolff is a proponent of democracy at work: an alternative capitalism that thrives on workers directing their own workplaces. In the documentary film Shift Change, producers Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young tell the stories of successful cooperative businesses from Spain to San Francisco. We caught up with Dworkin and Young to find out what makes cooperative businesses work. 

Theresa Riley: What drew you to this topic as filmmakers? Why did you want to make this film?

Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young: As filmmakers we don’t just expose problems. We want to help people find solutions. In 2002 we were in Argentina at the height of their economic crisis, and in hundreds of workplaces which had closed, workers took over the company, went back to work, and made a go of it. These examples made quite an impression on us, and we featured their stories in two films: Argentina - Hope in Hard Times and Argentina Turning Around. A friend who saw the Argentina documentaries suggested that we learn more about the Mondragon cooperatives in the Basque Country of Spain. When we did, we were moved and inspired by this successful model of worker ownership and its potential to change the culture of work not just in Spain but around the world. Our investigations revealed that there are hundreds of thriving worker cooperatives that promote economic democracy right here in North America, but they are little known.

Riley: How many businesses in America are worker-owned?

Dworkin and Young: Employee ownership in the U.S. is much more widespread than usually understood, with at least 11,000 such businesses in operation. Many are Employee Stock Ownership Plans or ESOPs, where employees own part or all of the company. Introduced under President Nixon, this is one way for private companies to transition to employee ownership. ESOPs may or may not be democratic and participatory places to work. Worker cooperatives are both owned and managed by their workers - one worker, one vote. According to the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, currently there are about 400 worker cooperatives in the U.S. They operate many types of businesses, mainly services, and are growing especially among Latino immigrants and in working class communities.

Riley: Most of the businesses you visited in the film seemed to have weathered the economic downturn of recent years. But have some co-ops failed? How do privately-owned small businesses and worker-owned businesses compare? Do they fail less often?

Dworkin and Young: One of the challenges faced by cooperative businesses is that they have to survive in the larger economic system, over which they have little control. Worker co-ops in Mondragon and in the U.S. have done better than other similar sized businesses in the current economic crisis. When sales and profits are down, worker owners dont just close the doors. People take a hard look and try to figure out what they can do to make things better - such as adding new products or finding ways to improve efficiency and productivity. At any given time some co-ops are doing better than others, depending on the industry in which they operate. So in Mondragon each year co-ops that are profitable pay into a “rainy day fund,” and co-ops that are going through hard times are able to withdraw funds to help them out. In co-ops where business is slow, members can often find temporary work in co-ops that are doing better. And since workers own and manage the company, they may agree to reduce their pay on a temporary basis until business picks up again. That way nobody has to lose their job. Cooperative networks that function in a similar way are just beginning in the U.S.

Riley: The film makes it look like co-ops are pretty smooth operationally.

Dworkin and Young: Most of the co-ops we chose have proven themselves. They’ve had decades to learn how to operate smoothly. New employees go through a probationary period, from as little as six months to a couple of years, during which they discover if they like working in a cooperative environment, and current co-op members can decide if they think the new employee would work out. After this trial period the person generally has to apply for membership and be voted in by existing members. At that point the new member needs to make an investment in the company, usually ranging from $500 to $20,000, with about 10 percent paid in cash and the rest from payroll deductions. People who would not feel comfortable in this environment weed themselves out. People who have shown they donҒt work well cooperatively are not asked to join. New members then get training in co-op management. So there are various stages of selection and development to make sure that co-op members have the temperament and the skill to work together smoothly.

In the U.S. we learn from an early age to navigate hierarchical social structures, and we have lots of practice competing but little practice cooperating. So we have a lot to learn in order to make cooperatives a success. But many people are willing to make the effort. We have participatory instincts that are stifled in the dominant economy. One friend lit up when I told him that in worker cooperatives, people are encouraged to put forward their ideas about how to make the company better. Thats sure different, he said; everywhere I have ever worked you’re best off if you keep your head down and your mouth shut. So I wouldnt say that workers are resistant to cooperation, but rather our cooperative instincts are suppressed and trained out of us. To help overcome this, all of the co-ops we visited place a high priority on initial training and ongoing leadership development of their members. And it works.

Riley: What happens when agreement can’t be reached? Or when consensus leads to failed strategy?

Dworkin and Young: Worker co-ops are organized and run by their members and they have very different management structures. Those that manage by consensus, such as the Arizmendi Bakeries profiled in our film, tend to be small. Members can meet with one another face to face and on short notice to deal with problems and correct them. Most co-ops around Mondragon and the larger ones in the U.S. tend to have professional management that operates much the same as management in a conventional enterprise. The key difference is that the co-op board of directors is elected by the employees. Nobody who does not work in the co-op has a say in how the business is run, so the co-op tends to serve the needs and wishes of its members as opposed to absentee owners. Everyone has an incentive to work constructively together and help the business succeed.

But as Fred Freundlich, a professor we interviewed at Mondragon University offered, Broad democratic management doesn’t solve all human problems. When major disagreements do arise, “The ownership and governance structures in those enterprises, that they’re democratic, that they’re more participatory, helps ameliorate these problems, even if it doesn’t make them go away.”

Riley: What can we learn from places where it has not worked?

Dworkin and Young: The history of worker co-ops in this country is mixed. Many got started in the late 19th and early 20th century with the arrival of immigrant groups. In our region of the Pacific Northwest, there were a lot of cooperative plywood mills. Many of these failed because they had not made provisions for the business to survive as a cooperative long term, after the original members retired.

Weve heard of companies begun in a wave of optimism in the 1970s that failed for either of two basic reasons. Some were not businesslike enough (there was not a good market for their product, their product or service was not of sufficient quality, or they didn’t manage finances, time, and materials well). Others were not cooperative enough (they were such successful businesses that they were bought up by a large corporation and ceased to be a part of the cooperative economy). Newer co-ops have learned from past co-op failures and designed programs to overcome them. They have become sophisticated businesses that are more agile and nimble than conventional firms while retaining their co-op purpose. Technical assistance is available from experienced experts in terms of how to convert a regular business to one that is employee owned and even more successful in the future. And to discourage co-ops from selling out to corporations for a big profit, in many cases, if the co-op should be sold, members can only recover the funds they have invested with a modest return, but any profits above that have to be given to other co-ops or public interest organizations.

Riley: What aspects of co-op workplaces can non-co-ops adopt? How would we get started here at Moyers & Company, for instance? Any tools we can share with our audience?

Dworkin and Young: Nearly all workplaces, even those which are not owned by their employees, can still be more democratic. They can invite ideas and criticisms from staff without penalizing someone who challenges (constructively) how things are currently done in an effort to do things better. Decision making and finances can be more transparent, so every employee has an idea of the risks and limitations that the enterprise faces and their own contribution to that. Performance evaluations which are traditionally between an employee and a supervisor can also include peers, customers, etc. And even a non-cooperative institution can be devoted to the common good above and beyond the short term gain for that enterprise. We now have B corporations in various states where a commitment to solving environmental and social problems is enshrined in the corporate legal structure alongside financial profit. Many employee-owned businesses allow workers to spend a given percentage of their paid work time either improving their own skills or examining ways to improve the business. That is also something conventional businesses and non-profits could do.

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Posted by Elvis on 10/11/17 •
Section American Solidarity • Section Job Hunt
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Thursday, May 04, 2017

Book: Down and Out in the New Economy

image: Down And Out in the New Economy

Homeless and Unemployed in an Economy We’re Supposed to Think Is Liberating
In Ilana Gershon’s new book ”DOWN AND OUT IN THE NEW ECONOMY,” the employer power dynamic is called into question.

By Ilana Gershon
University of Chicago Press
April 27, 2017

The following is an adapted excerpt from the new book Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or Dont Find) Work Today by Ilana Gershon (University of Chicago Press, April 2017):

Chris, an independent contractor in his midfifties, knows a lot about what it means to deal with an unstable job market, especially during those moments when you are between gigs and don’t know when you are going to get the next one. There was a period in 2012 where he hadn’t had a contracting job for a while, and he had no idea how he was going to pay his rent. He realized he might be able to make his rent for another month, but if he didn’t get a job soon, he might be homeless. He decided that he needed to get his body ready for this very likely possibility. I started to sleep on the floor a few hours each night, as long as I could take it, so I could get used to sleeping on a sidewalk or on the dirt. That’s how bad it looked. It just seemed hopeless, Chris said. Out of the blue, a staffing agency based in India contacted him and offered him a contract in the Midwest, giving him enough money to make it through this bad patch. But this stark moment, in which he saw homelessness around the corner, is part and parcel of the downside of careers made up of temporary jobs. Chris responded to this possibility in the way that you are supposed to if you are constantly enhancing yourself. He began to train his body for living on the streets, realizing that he needed to learn how to sleep without a bed. He was determined to be flexible and to adapt to potential new circumstances. Seeing the self as a bundle of skills, in practice, means that for some people enhancing your skills involves training yourself to survive being homeless. This too is a logical outcome of our contemporary employment model.

I have studied how people are responding to this new way of thinking about work and what it means to be a worker. In the United States, people are moving away from thinking that when they enter into an employment contract, they are metaphorically renting their capacities to an employer for a bounded period of time. Many people are no longer using a notion of the self-as-rented-property as an underlying metaphor and are starting to think of themselves as though they are a business, although not everyone likes this new metaphor or accepts all its implications. When you switch to thinking about the employment contract as a business-to-business relationship, much changes - how you present yourself as a desirable employee, what it means to be a good employer, what your relationships with your coworkers should be like, the relationship between a job and a career, and how you prepare yourself for the future.

The self-as-business metaphor makes a virtue of flexibility as well as the practical ways people might respond in their daily lives to conditions of instability and insecurity. As Gina Neff points out in Venture Labor, the model encourages people to embrace risk as a positive, even sought-out, element of how they individually should craft a career. Each time you switch jobs, you risk. You don’t know the amount of time you will have at a job before having to find a new one, and you risk how lucky you will be at getting that job and the next job. And with every job transition, you risk the salary that you might make. If there is a gap between jobs, then some people will find that they no longer experience a reliable, steady, upward trajectory in their salaries as they navigate the contemporary job market. Yet this is what you are now supposed to embrace as liberating.

Chris’s experiences cycling between employment and increasing periods of unemployment was a familiar story for me. I interviewed so many people in their late forties to early sixties who had a few permanent jobs early in their careers. But as companies increasingly focused on having a more transient workforce, these white-collar workers found their career trajectories veering from what they first thought their working life would look like. They thought that they might climb the organizational ladder in one or maybe even three companies over the course of their lifetime. Instead, they found that at some point in their mid to late forties, they started having shorter and shorter stints at different companies. The jobs, some would say, would last as long as a project. And as they grew older, the gaps between permanent jobs could start growing longer and longer. They struggled to make do, often using up their savings or selling their homes as they hoped to get the next job. Some started to find consulting jobs in order to make ends meet before landing the hoped-for permanent job, and then found themselves trapped on the consulting trackliving only in the gig economy. True, not everyone felt like contracting was plan B, the option they had to take because of bad luck. In their book about contractors, Steve Barley and Gideon Kunda talk about the people they interviewed who actively chose this life. I met these people too, but they weren’t the majority of the job seekers I interviewed. Because I was studying people looking for a wide range of types of jobs, instead of studying people who already had good relationships with staffing agencies that provided consultants, I tended to meet people who felt their bad luck had backed them into becoming permanent freelancers. These were people who encountered the self-as-business metaphor as a relatively new model, one they felt they actively had to learn in order to survive in today’s workplace, as opposed to the younger people I interviewed, many of whom had grown up with the self-as-business model as their primary way to understand employment.

When you think of the employment contract in a new way, you often have to revisit what counts as moral behavior, since older frameworks offer substantively different answers to questions of moral business practice. People have to decide what it means for a company to behave well under this new framework. Consider the self-as-business model. What does a good company do to help its workers enhance themselves as allied businesses? What are the limits in what a company should do? What counts as exploitation under this new model? Can businesses do things that count as exploitation or bad practices now that might not have been considered problems earlier, or not considered problems for the same reasons (and thus are regulated or resolved differently)? Businesses are certainly deeply concerned that workersҒ actions both at work and outside of work could threaten the companys brand, a new worry - but this is the tip of the iceberg. And the moral behavior of companies isnt the only issue. Can workers exploit the companies they align with now or behave badly toward them in new ways?

Yet while these two metaphors - the self-as-property and the self-as-business - encourage people to think about employment in different ways, there are still similarities in how the metaphors ask people to think about getting hired. In both cases, the metaphors are focusing on market choices and asking people to operate by a market logic. Deciding whether to rent your capacities is a slightly different question than deciding whether to enter into a business alliance with someone, but in both instances you are expected to make a decision based on the costs and benefits involved in the decision. In addition, both metaphorical contracts presume that people enter into these contracts as equals, and yet this equality doesn’t last in practice once you are hired. In most jobs, the moment you are hired, you are in a hierarchical relationship; you are taking orders from a boss. Some aspects of working have changed because of this shift in frameworks, but many aspects have stayed the same.

Avoiding Corporate Nostalgia

I talked to people who were thoughtfully ambivalent about this transition in the metaphors underlying employment. They didn’t like their current insecurity, but they pointed out that earlier workplaces weren’t ideal either. Before, people often felt trapped in jobs they disliked and confronted with office politics that were alienating and demoralizing. Like many people today, they dealt with companies in which they were constantly encountering sexism and racism. Not everyone had equal opportunities to move into the jobs they wanted or to be promoted or acknowledged for the work that they did well.

However, as anthropologist Karen Ho points out, when you have a corporate ladder that excludes certain groups of people, you also have a structure that you can potentially reform so that these groups will in the future have equal opportunities. When you have no corporate ladder, when all you have is the uncertainty of moving between companies or between freelance jobs - you no longer have a clear structure to target if you want to make a workplace a fairer environment. If there is more gender equality in the US workplace these days than there was thirty years ago, it is in part because corporate structures were stable enough and reformers stayed at companies long enough that specific business practices could be effectively targeted and reformed. Part of what has changed about workplaces today is that there has been a transformation in the kinds of solutions available to solve workplace problems.

I see what people said to me about their preference for the kinds of guarantees and rights people used to have at work as a form of critique, not a form of nostalgia. People didn’t necessarily want to return to the way things used to be. When people talked to me nostalgically about how workplaces used to function, it was often because they valued the protections they used to be able to rely on and a system they knew well enough to be able to imagine how to change it for the better.

Many people I spoke to were very unhappy with the contemporary workplace’s increasing instability. They worried a great deal about making it financially through the longer and longer dry spells of unemployment between jobs. I talked to a man who was doing reasonably well that year as a consultant, and he began reflecting on what the future would hold for his children. He didn’t want them to follow in his footsteps and become a computer programmer, because too many people like him were contingent workers. He wanted them to have their own families and reasoned: “If everybody thinks they can be laid-off in two weeks, how would they feel confident enough to be a parent and know that they’e got twenty-one years of consistent investment?”

It is not that the people I spoke to necessarily wanted older forms of work. What many wanted was stability. No matter how many times people are told to embrace being flexible, to embrace risk, in practice many of the people I spoke to did not actually want to live with the downsides of this riskier life. The United States does not have enough safety nets in place to protect you during the moments when life doesnt work out. Because you are supposed to be looking for a new job regularly over the course of a lifetime, the opportunities when you might become dramatically downwardly mobile increase. There are more possible moments in which you have to enhance your skills at surviving on much less money or even living rough.

Changing Notions of What Counts as a Good Employment Relationship

When people are thought of as businesses, significant aspects of the employment relationship change. The genre repertoire you use to get a job alters to reflect this understanding as you use resumes, interview answers, and other genres to represent yourself as a bundle of business solutions that can address the hiring company’s market-specific temporary needs. Networking has changed what it means to manage your social relationships so that you can stay employed has shifted. Some people I met are now arguing that you treat the companies you are considering joining in the same way you would treat any other business investment: in terms of the financial and career risk involved in being allied with this company.

It is not just that you evaluate jobs differently when you know that your job is temporary - deciding you can put up with some kinds of inconveniences but not others. Instead, you see the job as a short-term investment of time and labor, and the job had better pay off - perhaps by providing you with new skills, new networks, or a new way of framing your work experiences that makes you potentially more desirable for the next job. What if this new framework allows workers to have new expectations of their employers, or can safeguard workers’ interests in new ways? If you have this perspective, what are the new kinds of demands that employees could potentially make of employers?

For Tom, this new vision of self-as-business was definitely guiding how he was judging the ways companies treated him and what was appropriate behavior. I first contacted Tom because I heard through the grapevine that he refused to use LinkedIn. I was curious, as I had been doing research for seven months by that point and only came across one other person who was not using LinkedIn (and has since rejoined). We talked about his refusal, and he explained to me that LinkedIn didn’t seem to offer enough in return for his data. He clearly saw himself in an exchange relationship with LinkedIn, providing data for it to use and in return having access to the platform. Fair enough, I thought: as far as I can tell, the data scientists at LinkedIn and Facebook whom I have met see the exchange relationship in similar ways. Yet Tom decided that what LinkedIn offered wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t worth providing the company with his personal data. So I asked him about various other sites that he might use in which the exchange might be more equitable, and he lit up talking about these other sites. For Tom, because he saw himself as a business, and viewed his data as part of his assets, he was ready to see LinkedIn as offering a bad business arrangement, one he didn’t want to accept. The self-as-business framework allowed him to see the use of certain platforms as instances of participating in business alliances. Some alliances he was willing to enter into, but not all.

This wasn’t his only encounter with a potentially exploitative business arrangement. He typically worked as an independent contractor, and a company asked him to come in for a job interview. When he got there, his interviewer explained that the position was a sweat equity job - Tom wouldn’t get a salary, but rather he would get equity in the company in exchange for his labor. “Okay” he replied. “So what is your business model?” His interviewer was surprised and discomforted to be asked this. He refused to answer; employees don’t need to know the details of the company’s business model, he said. Tom felt that this was wrong; because he was being asked to be an investor in the company - admittedly with his labor instead of with money, he felt should be given the same financial details that any other investor in a company would expect before signing on. It sounded to me like Tomגs interviewer was caught between two models: wanting the possible labor arrangements now available but unwilling to adjust whom he told what. The interviewer was not willing to follow through on the implications of this new model of employment, and as a result, Tom wasnt willing to take the job. This is one way in which the self-as-business model offers a new way to talk about what counts as exploitation and as inappropriate behavior - behavior that might not have been an issue decades ago, or would have been a problem for different reasons (perhaps because a couple of decades ago, few people found sweat equity an acceptable arrangement).

But this new model also opens up the possibility that companies can have obligations to their employees that they did not have in the same way before. Since companies often dont offer stable employment, they now provide a temporary venue for people to express their passion and to enhance themselves. Can this look like an obligation that businesses have to their workers? Perhaps - businesses could take seriously what it means to provide workers with the opportunities to enhance themselves. Michael Feher argues that if people are now supposed to see themselves as human capital, there should be a renewed focus on what good investment in people looks like - regardless of whether workers stay at a single company.

SHOULD COMPANIES now help provide TRAINING for an employee’s next job? Throughout the twentieth century, companies understood that they had to provide their workers training in order for them to do their job at the company to their best of their ability. Internal training made sense both for the company’s immediate interests and for the company’s ability to retain a supply of properly trained workers over the life of the company. Now that jobs are so temporary, who is responsible for training workers is a bit more up in the air. Yet some companies are beginning to offer support for workers to train, not for the benefit of the company, but so that workers can pursue their passion, should they discover that working at that company is not their passion. Amazon, for example, in 2012 began to provide training for employees who potentially want radically different jobs. Jeff Bezo’s explained in his 2014 letter to shareholders: We pre-pay 95% of tuition for our employees to take courses for in-demand fields, such as airplane mechanic or nursing, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon. The goal is to enable “choice.” It makes sense for a company to support its workers learning skills for a completely different career only under the contemporary perspective that people are businesses following their passions in temporary alliances with companies.

This model of self-as-business might give workers some new language to protest business practices that keep them from enhancing themselves or entering into as many business alliances as they would like. For example, just-in-time scheduling in practice is currently preventing retail workers from getting enough hours so that they can earn as much as they would like to in a week. This type of scheduling means that workers only find out that week how many hours they are working and when. They cant expect to have certain hours reliably free, and they need to be available whenever their employer would like them to work. Marc Doussard has found that good workers are rewarded with more hours at work. While white-collar workers might get better pay in end-of-the-year bonuses for seeming passionate, retail workers get more hours in the week. If workers make special requests to have certain hours, Doussard discovered, their managers will often punish them in response, by either giving them fewer hours to work or only assigning them to shifts they find undesirable. In practice, this means that workers have trouble holding two jobs or taking classes to improve themselves, as unpredictable shifts will inevitably conflict with each other or class times. Predictable work hours, in short, are essential for being able to plan for the future - either to make sure you are working enough hours in the week to support yourself or to educate yourself for other types of jobs. Since companies are now insisting that people imagine themselves as businesses, what would happen if workers protested when companies dont allow them to “invest in themselves” or when they are thwarted from having as many business partnerships (that is, jobs) as possible? Perhaps employees should now be able to criticize and change employers’ practices when they are prevented from being the best businesses they can be because of their employers workplace strategies.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/04/17 •
Section Bad Moon Rising • Section Revelations • Section American Solidarity • Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy • Section Microsoft And Windows • Section Job Hunt • Section News • Section Telecom Underclass • Section Dying America
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Monday, August 15, 2016

How to Approach the Generation Gap in the Workplace

How to Approach the Generation Gap in the Workplace

NY Times
August 9, 2015

A generation gap is widening in the workplace. As baby boomers (ages 51 to 69 or so) express reluctance about retiring, so-called millennials (roughly ages 18 to 34) have become the single largest demographic in the American labor force. Because of this, more older workers have found themselves being hired and managed by people much younger than they are.

The Workologist hears fairly frequently from people who have experienced fallout from this reversal of expectations including cases that might run afoul of age discrimination laws. But often the problems are more subtle and ambiguous, which makes them harder to address. So on the second anniversary of this column, I asked readers to help me get a handle on the issue. I was inspired by a query from a 52-year-old job candidate who wondered, after a baffling interview that did not lead to a job, about the thinking of hiring managers who were significantly younger than her. I sought to offer practical suggestions for applicants looking for work in a job market that often prizes youthful qualities over experience, or to help workers reporting to a manager a couple of decades their junior. So I reversed this columnגs traditional formula and asked readers for their thoughts and tips.

You had plenty to say, offering hundreds of thoughtful, useful and insightful replies. The overwhelming majority of respondents who revealed their ages were 50 or older. While their advice encompassed a range of attitudes and experiences, several common themes and suggestions emerged. My thanks to everyone who responded.

CHECK YOUR OWN BIAS. “For starters, it’s worth remembering that making age-based assumptions works both ways,” wrote Julianna Warren, echoing a point made by several other readers. “Don’t assume that bosses or co-workers who lack your experience need a lecture about how things were done back in the day: A co-worker, no matter how young, may know more than you do about some things, and information-sharing can be a useful two-way street.”

Keep in mind that any manager or potential employer is likely to pick up on a lack of respect, and behave accordingly. Jack Terry proposed a few questions worth asking: “Are you dismissing the millennial in the workplace? Do you roll your eyes when they talk about student loan debt? Do you poke fun at their use of technology? If so, step back for a moment and rethink your approach,” he wrote. “What was life like for you at that age?” His advice is to build a bridge and connect with the people you work with.

“Be open to learning from younger people,” said Mary Jacobs, who described a “great experience” with a boss 23 years her junior. “She saw how I could help her,” Ms. Jacobs wrote, “but that didn’t mean she always wanted the hard-earned-wisdom point of view. If she didn’t follow my advice, I let it go.”

SEE IT THEIR WAY. “It’s possible that some younger managers don’t want talented, energetic older people blocking ambitious career paths,” wrote Jim Rowbotham. In short, a perceived slight may spring from fear rather than disrespect.

William Cannon also pointed to that possibility, and suggested allaying that concern by clearly signaling that “you respect the authority of your boss. Be strategic about demonstrating your experience and wisdom,” he said: “Hold your tongue and allow your expertise to slip out a bit at a time,” and work toward consensus with your boss and larger work team.

Show the same respect you did for more seasoned bosses in the past, JMG (who did not want his full name used) wrote: “Your knowledge and experience will be valued if the younger boss is not threatened, and knows that you have his (or her) back.”

AGE, AND HOW TO ACT IT. One of my favorite responses came from Robert Goldfarb, 85, a working management consultant. “The moment I enter the office of a prospective client, there’s an elephant in the room,” he wrote. “My age.” He says he makes sure to skip allusions to Grace Kelly or Sugar Ray Leonard (much less Sugar Ray Robinson). But more seriously, he seeks to demonstrate immediately, through conversation and attitude that “what I have become is more important than a number,” he said. “I’m there to talk about tomorrow, not yesterday.”

Many readers made similar points about projecting the right attitude, and a word that came up over and over was ԓenergy. A surprising number of self-identified ԓolder respondents also emphasized fitness and other elements of physical appearance. I have mixed feelings about that: ItԒs obviously good to stay healthy, but Im not sure what to make of, for instance, one suggestion involving a Facebook video ғof me dead lifting 275 pounds last month.

The more useful framing is probably less extreme. ԓYou dont have to dress or talk like someone whoҒs 20 or 30 years younger, Leslie Wengenroth wrote, ԓbut you need to negate the stereotypical views that people often have of an older person. Project enthusiasm and engagement. People who seem to be looking to mark time until retirement arenԒt going to make a great impression, whatever their age. If youre not sure how you come across, Ms. Wengenroth said, record or make a video of yourself, ғor ask a friend for honest feedback.

Mr. GoldfarbԒs experience certainly suggests the right presentation trumps the stereotypes: One of his recent jobs was for a marketing firm where he was interviewed by staff who appeared fresh out of nursery school,Ӕ he wrote. I told the firmӒs C.E.O. I was surprised his young team selected me. I was, too,ђ he said, but they told me they wanted your wisdom.ђ

NUMBERS GAMES. Multiple readers had related rԩsum suggestions for job seekers of a certain age. You do not need to list every single job you铒ve ever held, all the way back to the 64 WorldҒs Fair, Cathi Venis said. Several others advised omitting the year of a college degree if youԒre concerned it might date you.

Jane DeWitt had an interesting perspective on this, having been a young hiring manager in the past, and an olderӔ job seeker today. She has added one of the younger ex-colleagues with whom she had a terrificӔ relationship to her list of references.

TECH TECH TECH.I doubt anyone will be surprised to hear that many readers emphasized staying current with technology. Many also pointed out that this is easier to do than ever: From instructional YouTube videos to courses at your local library, the resources are endless. Be conversant in tech-tool developments in your field; be curious about (not dismissive of) such developments in general; and be proactive, so youre not just promising that you are willing to keep learning, but demonstrating that you do so all the time.

Readers also stressed the importance of social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. Your future may not depend on obsessing over a digital ғfollowing, but the fact that these tools are so popular makes them worth exploring ԗ and some can be useful networking aids. Dismissing the entire category out of hand can, intentionally or not, send a message that youre closed-minded and resistant to change.

THE GOOD NEWS. The last of the recurring themes that I have space to mention boils down to: DonҒt assume victimhood,Ӕ as one reader, Lance Tukell, put it. I coach those wishing to obtain employment to focus on things that they can control, chronological age not being one of them.Ӕ

And while the reader response has made it clear that age bias can be a real challenge, there are many counterexamples that demonstrate how its being overcome. Consider Tony Maramarco’s description of a work team whose members range in age from 24 to 68: Those on the “younger side” acknowledge our decades of experience and respect us for our competence. We on the “older side” don’t preach or pontificate and remain open to new ideas.

“Have confidence, be curious,” advised A. Lucas, who is 62 and working happily with colleagues half her age and younger at a start-up. “And if they don’t want to work with you because you’re ‘too old’ perhaps you don’t want to work with them either,” she said.

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Posted by Elvis on 08/15/16 •
Section Dealing with Layoff • Section Job Hunt
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Sunday, November 08, 2015

Older Workers Find a Way Back In

After Years Out of a Job, Older Workers Find a Way Back In

By Harriet Edleson
NY Times
November 6, 2015

After five years of being unemployed or underemployed, Rosanna Horton, 55, is back where she wants to be: working full time.

In July 2007, Ms. Horton left her job at the University of California, Irvine, and moved north to San Francisco to take care of her mother and finish her dissertation. She sold her condominium, intending to live off the proceeds. She figured she would have no problem going back to work in a better position.

A year and a half later, she had completed her dissertation and received her doctoral degree in education. But the job market was a disaster.

Even with her new doctorate in hand, she found nothing suitable, setting in motion an unexpected downward spiral. At times, Ms. Horton, said she was sofa “surfing,” or sleeping on a relatives or friend’s couch.

It put you in a position of thinking, “I should not have left my job,” she said. “I am the kind of person who thinks things happen and you take responsibility and you move on.”

Ms. Horton barely scraped by, she said, making it through a long period without much income only with the help of a very small “circle” of family and friends. She worked in unpaid fellowships, temporary and contract positions before finally turning, in September 2013, to the San Francisco Jewish Vocational Service, an organization that helps people build skills and find jobs.

The recession was over, but it was still a challenge to find a decent job in a rapidly transforming economy. In what she calls her “aha!” moment, Ms. Horton decided to take her degrees off her resume all of them - so as not to be perceived as overqualified, and to get her “foot in the door.”

At the beginning of 2014, she was hired as manager of radiology and biomedical imaging at the University of California, San Francisco, where she has been working ever since. She is making more money now than she was when she left her job in 2007. “What better way to end your career than doing something you care about and can affect others in a positive way?” she said. Her goal now? “Im working till I’m 70.”

Long-term unemployment ԓis a challenging and often hidden problem, said Abby Snay, executive director of the San Francisco Jewish Vocational Service, which is part of a larger network, the International Association of Jewish Vocational Services.

In the economic downturn that began in late 2007 and persisted through the middle of 2009, millions of people in their 50s and 60s were laid off, bought out, downsized or otherwise left without a steady paycheck. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, in a report titled, ԓHow Will Older Workers Who Lose Their Jobs During the Great Recession Fare in the Long Run? found that the recession hit many more workers over 50 compared with previous downturns.

“By 2012, many of these people were still out of work,” said Matthew S. Rutledge, a labor economist at the Center for Retirement Research and a co-author of the paper. “It was really difficult for them to get back in,” he said. “It didn’t matter if they had retired or were laid off.”

The stock market decline and the collapse of the housing market also took a huge toll on the financial resources of older Americans. For those without jobs, that put even more pressure on them to return to the work force and impelled many to keep working well past their original target for retirement.

One result is that the work force is growing older. According to Andrew G. Biggs, an American Enterprise Institute resident scholar and a former top official at the Social Security Administration, there are 3.9 million more workers ages 60 to 64 today than in 2005, the last full year before the beginning of the economic slowdown. By comparison, he noted in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, there are fewer Americans ages 20 to 55 working today than in 2005.

For older Americans, paths to returning to full-time work vary. Some go into consulting, others seek specialized knowledge and new contacts by working as a volunteer. Still others resume their education through courses online or at a for-profit or community college, while some enroll in professional association courses. Many decide to start a business.

The biggest challenge for those seeking a new job after an extended period of unemployment is updating their skills for the current workplace.

“If you have been laid off or retired for a couple of years, skill sets may have moved on quite rapidly without you,” said Mark Schmit, executive director of the SHRM Foundation, a research affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management. “This puts you at a disadvantage to the people who are working, including peers who are the same age.”

Rich Feller is a professor of counseling and career development at Colorado State University, past president of the National Career Development Association and a thought leader with AARP Life Reimagined. Dr. Feller said a key credential for returning to the work force is the ability to documentyour technology skills. “If you can,” he said,” employers will overlook your age.”

He suggests community college or online courses as a way to master new skills.

The popular belief that younger workers are more productive than older workers is largely a myth,Ӕ Mr. Schmit said. The only evidence we have of that is in physical labor. ItӒs absolutely true that older people can learn and are motivated to learn just as younger people are.

Rick Dottermusch, 58, began taking courses at Montgomery College, at first as a ԓdiversion until he found his next job. Five months ago, he began working in web development at a technology company in the Washington area, moving out of sales, his job for 30 years.

ԓThe students whether high school graduates or those with a masterגs are looking for current skills and theyגre willing to spend their time taking courses if they are courses aligned with the market, with what employers need, said Steve Greenfield, dean of work force development and continuing education at Montgomery College, a community college outside Washington. ԓWe do labor market research before we even run a class.

But just getting the training is not enough. ԓNetworking is an important part of a job search, Mr. Dottermusch said. ԓIf you know someone who can provide an entree, anyone who can tell you more about the company, if nothing else pick their brain what is the best way to approach that company?ה

And those seeking a change in the type of work they do must be prepared to lower their expectations, at least initially. “If you have retrained for a new career and learned a new skill, expect to start at a lower level, lower pay grade,” Mr. Schmit said.

For Dave Gustafson, 61, moving from working as an employee for 30 years to working as a real estate broker on a commission-only basis has been taxing. “It takes a certain amount of courage,” he said.

He took a five-week class to prepare for the real estate brokers exam in Colorado, passed it in late July and joined a regional real estate firm.

Even though he had worked in sales in the past, he found that he had to throw away the habits of a lifetime to learn the techniques the new company uses.

His advice for others starting on a new career path?

“Be pliable.”

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Posted by Elvis on 11/08/15 •
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Monday, July 21, 2014

For Job Seekers Who’ve Tried Everything

7 practical ideas if you think you’ve exhausted your job-search options

By Marty Nemko
AOL Jobs
July 13, 2014

Ben has reason to be depressed. Laid off twice, not sure how strong a reference his ex-boss will give him, he’s 50 years old and overweight, been job-hunting for eight months, having gotten a total of three interviews and batting 0 for 3. He blames it on his having mainly soft skills, a widely held skill-set.

His wife, too, is struggling despite great credentials. She’s tried to snag a full-time college teaching job but the best she’s ever landed has been a part-time community college instructor position, with no benefits. She said, “It’s ironic that I teach a class in which I champion worker rights yet my own employer pays me what ends up being little more than minimum wage and hires me for 49 percent of the time to avoid paying benefits.”

At 50, they feel the need to pay for health insurance. They’re behind on their rent and their landlord is making eviction noises. Ben has networked, answered countless ads, even cold-called employers that are not advertising a job, all to no avail. He feels he’s run out of options. He’s beyond depressed; he’s thought of suicide.

Indeed, the SUICIDE RATE among middle-aged people is up 30 percent between 1999 and 2010, more than the number that die in car accidents, with men being more than three times as likely to kill themselves. While there are many causes, the researchers specifically cite the economic downturn and resulting financial stress.

But long-term unemployed job seekers have more options than they may think, and Ben and his wife could try some of these approaches:

1. Circle back. The odds of your network having a job lead for you at any given moment is tiny. If it’s been more than a month, circle back to everyone. Here’s sample wording you can use to check in with a contact:

“Susie, I appreciate your having offered to keep your ears open for me. By any chance, is there someone you think I should talk with? If you’ll recall, I’m looking for a people, or project, management job, especially in the health care or environmental space but I’m flexible. I’m even open to a launchpad job, one that’s lower-level but when I prove myself, I could move up.”

If your contact doesn’t have a lead for you, ask, “Would you mind continuing to keep you ears open, and if I’m still looking in a month, may I circle back to you?”

2. Change job targets. Perhaps you’ve been overreaching. If so, maybe you should you drop down your search, say from management to individual contributor positions. Have you been pursuing a job in a field with too few openings or with great competition? For example, sexy fields like the environment, entertainment, biotech, fashion, and journalism tend to be tougher than, for example, the transportation, food, or housing industries.

3. Consider interim jobs. Sitting at home may make you more depressed. So you might want to apply for jobs where the employer would be lucky to have you. Even some low-level jobs can be quite enjoyable. Here are a few ways job seekers can match their interests to a position while they look for something more challenging or better paying:

Sports fans might enjoy selling beer and hot dogs at the

Book lovers might enjoy working at a bookstore or in a library, even if just shelving books

Fashionistas might enjoy working at a favorite boutique or department store

Plant lovers might try landscaping or garden maintenance

Cafe lovers might seek a job as a waitperson or even busser

The most fun job I ever had was as a New York City cab driver. I got to meet all sorts of people, I enjoyed driving and I got to double-park when I wanted to grab a great slice of pizza.

4. Walk in. If someone phoned you asking if you wouldn’t mind taking care of a newborn temporarily, you might well say no. But if the doorbell rang and there was a cradle with a newborn, wouldn’t you be more likely to take it in?

The same is true of job seekers. It’s easy to say “no” to a voice on the phone and or ignore an email. It’s harder to brush away a flesh-and-blood human being, especially one who politely asks for help. That probably won’t work at a large organization where there’s a phalanx of security to keep you out but, for example, in an office building in which many businesses have an office, it might be worth going door-to-door.

Imagine how you’d feel if you were the receptionist and someone walked in and said, for example:

“I’m an accountant or I should say I was. Although I got good evaluations, I got laid off. So I’m looking for a job. I know the standard way is to answer ads but I live near here and so I thought I’d drop in and see if I could get some advice and maybe even an interview. I’m wondering if you might allow me to speak with someone?”

Is it not possible you’d say “yes?” Certainly, if you’re a job seeker, you have nothing to lose. You can survive no. You can survive 20 nos. And all you need is one decent job offer.

5. Start a low-cost business. At least as an interim, you could start a service business with near-zero startup costs. Examples:

Relationship ad consultant. Help people craft their matchmaking ad - how they describe themselves and the sort of partner they’re looking for, then take photos likely to attract their desired type of partner.

Grief coach. People who lose a loved one, even a pet, may want support in getting past their sadness. They may not need a psychotherapist. They may just need a good listener who’s gently encouraging.

Sports tutor. Many high school athletes want to up their game, to compete better or perhaps to win a college sports scholarship. And parents will spend to boost their child’s chances.

6. Find support. For some people, support is the only thing that keeps them from giving up. Here are some options:

Ask a friend to check in daily or weekly with you on your job search.

Join a job-search support group. Here’s a link to a directory of them.

Seek faith-based support. It helps some people to surrender some control to a higher power. They feel, “If I’m doing my part and still am not finding a job, maybe it’s God’s will. When God decides it’s time, I’ll land a job, perhaps a better one than I would have gotten earlier.”

7. Practice persistence. It’s cliche but true that even the most successful people fail and usually have failed a lot. The key is HOW THEY RESPOND to FAILURE: curl up in bed or be resilient. Here are a few quotes that may drive that home:

“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”
- Bill Bradley

“When you feel tired, it means you’ve tried. It doesn’t mean you quit trying.”
- Constance Chuks Friday

“I tried and failed. I tried again and again and succeeded.”
- Epitaph on Gail Borden’s gravestone.

“To make our way, we must have firm resolve, persistence, tenacity. We must gear ourselves to work hard all the way. We can never let up.”
- Ralph Bunche

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
- Calvin Coolidge

I can leave you with no better advice.

Marty Nemko blogs for AOL JOBS and PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. He is in his 25th year as host of Work with Marty Nemko on KALW-FM (NPR-San Francisco.) His most recent books are: How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School and What’s the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. Read more from Marty Nemko HERE.

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Posted by Elvis on 07/21/14 •
Section Dealing with Layoff • Section Job Hunt
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