When You’re Finished Changing, You’re Finished

when you're finished changing you're finishedIt’s taken some work for me to be able to embrace change.

Naturally, I think I was wired to value consistency.  Meaning, being inclined to value security and stability with income, relationships, health, surroundings, etc.   The more things around me were stable, the more I would feel in control.

As I’ve gotten older, I realize that there is simply an element of unpredictability in things.  As much as we would like to plan out everything to a high degree, things don’t always go according to plan.  Sometimes that’s because we don’t do the necessary things to reach goals that we have set, but other times it’s because things outside our direct control may have changed.

I’ve been thinking about this because many of us are eagerly working on our brand new goals for the new year, which have just been set.  Some of them are quantifiable and specific, which is great! Admittedly, I do this too and really enjoy doing so.  It’s fun to set ambitious targets and then actively work toward them.

That being said, we have to remain flexible and adaptable.  Not only for the new year, but just in general.  Things are always changing, and it’s great to be able to recognize this and embrace the reality of it.

I’ve seen people encounter different types of change over the years, with varied reactions.  Some embraced and accepted change, while others didn’t.  Seeing how those who were able to adapt went on to more success – financial and otherwise – makes me further appreciate this saying that’s supposedly to have originated from Ben Franklin

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished”

Here are some examples of change that I’ve seen people encounter.  Some took a positive approach to change, and others didn’t.

Changing Economy

When I was in high school way back when, most of the people were on the college track.  However, some people thought that it would be no problem to work in a factory as labor, since this is what many people in their families had done.  This was the approach despite the macro-level evidence that we were going away from a manufacturing/heavy industry economy.

I ran into one such guy about a decade after graduation, a guy who was a stud athlete who could probably bench press 350 pounds back in the day.  We chatted for a short while, talked about a few people we graduated with and caught up in general.  He seemed down about his work situation and career, which was basically a labor-intensive manufacturing job.  It seemed like he couldn’t adapt, and a guy with a lot going for him was stagnant as a result.

On the other hand, I’ve known a few others who have changed and retrained as market demand evolved.  One guy went from hard-core labor work in a dying industry to becoming an IT professional carving out a very nice living for himself.  By being willing to totally drop the vocation that he had – which was likely what his father and grandfather had too – he adapted to the situation.

Changing Work Environment

Sometimes life can throw you a curveball.  Two people I know dealt with situations where they had a new boss.  They were in different companies, but things turned out differently for each anyway.

One guy ended up reporting into a new boss who was previously a peer.  This guy felt that he was smarter than the former peer/new boss, and apparently that feeling was given off back when they were at the same level.  He had difficulty accepting that he was now lower on the organizational chart than that other guy.

A good move might have been to accept reality and deal with the new situation.  If this was a big problem, then find another job ASAP.  But that’s not what he did.  Ultimately, he left the company involuntarily and he ended up relocating to a different part of the country.

Another guy I know was in a situation where he was brought into a job based on a friendship he had with the hiring manager.  The guy wasn’t qualified for the job, and this was apparent to most people working for him and with him as peers.  Fair or not, this does happen.  People get jobs sometimes based on who they know.

Anyway, when his friend – the boss – ended up getting a promotional opportunity in a different department, this guy was left vulnerable.  After all, it was known he wasn’t very good (nor was he easy to work with), and now didn’t have his protector at his side.  Smartly, he adapted and found a new job with another company within a matter of months.

Amazingly, the job seemed like a step up! I don’t know what happened to the guy after that, and he may have simply risen way beyond his level of incompetence.  Regardless though, he was resilient enough to adapt.  Thus, he accepted change and made the most of it.

Bottom Line:  Accepting change, embracing it, and working on it proactively can help us prosper.  Actually, it can protect us.  Going back to the notion of security, maybe the way to financial security is by taking the path of change.

My Questions for You

Are you naturally inclined to embrace change, or is it something that you have had to work on?

Have you observed examples of people embracing change well? Or, not so well?

 

 

 

In a Shrinking World, You Need to Outhustle the Competition!

what_can_you_get_for_$5_When it comes to money, there are two sides of the coin.

Literally, there really are two sides!  Yeah, you know that already.  What I mean there are often two sides to things when it comes to money topics.

Examples:

  • Some people are savers and believe in total responsibility, while others are spenders and want to enjoy every minute
  • If you spend money your net worth decreases, but another person’s net worth will increase
  • Working long hours might result in a raise, but will cost you precious time, energy, and maybe sleep
  • There are times to be patient with money, and times to have a sense of urgency (patient = not panicking with stocks; urgency = saving for retirement)

This all came to mind (eventually) after I checked out some of the things people can buy for $5.  If you have never checked out Fiverr, you just might be surprised and even entertained by what people are offering for $5.  Here is a sampling of what I saw in a quick 2 minute search:

  • Holding up a sign with a “cute” look
  • Sing a punk rock happy birthday to you
  • Create a cartoon character from a photo
  • 15 minutes of Mandarin Chinese instruction
  • Create a blog headers
  • Record a professional voiceover
  • Illustrate a book cover
  • Record a birthday party invitation video
  • Write a marketing message on her lips – see picture above :)

Consumer Viewpoint

Personally, I think this all pretty cool.  There are people all over the world that are willing and able to do all kinds of creative projects for a very reasonable $5 fee.    Just go online, and within 10 minutes you could order something like this.  Within a few days most likely, the project will be done.  Very little time or money invested on your part!

I’ve gotten just a few random tech-related things done for $5 in the past, and they were really well done.  That was a huge plus for someone looking at it from the perspective of the customer, and I totally respect those who provide such work.

Takeaway: there is a lot that can be accomplished for very little investment, with the advent of a global market!

Worker Viewpoint

Well, I’m guessing that if someone is living in a place with either very low cost of living, or where there might not be as many opportunities at hand, it could work out well.  That’s cool!

That being said, it’s also worth paying attention to how a global market can open up the market for things at a low price.

Sure, maybe you aren’t singing birthday songs for a living.  But perhaps your work – or that of someone you know – could be done easily by someone else for a much lower price.   Someone who won’t ask for nearly the amount of money that a person here in the U.S. would for the same work.  Offshoring work isn’t exactly a new thing, and it seems (anecdotally) to be increasing on a macro level.

At the recent FinCon (Financial Blogger Conference), I had a few conversations with fellow bloggers about virtual assistants.  I don’t have one, and therefore it was quite eye-opening to find out how little some people were paying for a VA that did a ton of work.

Really, that concept goes back to the notion of supply and demand when making money that I talked about recently.   We aren’t entitled to make a certain amount of money now or at any time based on our education, where we live, who we are, etc.  Dang, I wish I could look at things the other way as it would make life so much easier!  But, it’s better to be real.  And I think that reality is that the world and employment market seem to be evolving at an ever-increasing rate of change.

It’s best to adapt, hustle, and always work to differentiate ourselves by adding value.  Also, young people should invest wisely in an education that will help increase wealth.   That’s an investment in a career, and having high earning power is a tremendous “asset” by itself.

After all, there are plenty of hungry, bright, motivated people in different corners of the world who are hustling for a lot less money, and more accessible than ever.  That being said, education alone won’t necessarily insulate someone from changing market dynamics.  It’s important to embrace life-long learning to keep up, before even getting ahead in your career.

Takeaway:   $5 gigs are a lot better when you’re paying for them, as opposed to being boxed into doing them!

My Questions for You

Have you ever  outsourced, and gotten something really useful or cool at a great value?  Feel free to share any success stories.

As a wage earner, have you given thought to the implications of the world “shrinking”?  By this, I mean in terms of the ability of employers to find much cheaper alternatives based elsewhere?

 

Speaking Up in Meetings or Class is Important!

When I was in college, back in my undergraduate days, I have to say that I was a pretty good student!  In some classes that were important to my major or ones in which I happened to really like the subject, I might speak up or ask a question here or there.  That said, I wasn’t particularly interested in speaking up in class just to do it.  Like many students, I attended class to get valuable information that might be on tests, and that was about it.

Fast forward to graduate school, where I was super motivated to do well while getting an MBA.  In this case, I usually soaked up as much information as I could in class.  My approach started out the same as it was during undergrad days, but I was even more motivated.   Yet, I still wasn’t consciously thinking of the need to speak up in class.

Then, I came to fully realize how the class grades would really be administered.  25% of the class grade was based on class participation!

At the time, I found it to be absolutely baffling.  My entire life, grades were based on tests, homework, and projects.  I’d never experienced a situation where grades could actually be determined by simply the quantity and quality of your comments in class.  But here it was, clearly spelled out to us: speaking up is important. So do it.

It took me a long while to adjust to this, and at the time, I really thought it was ridiculous.  Grades should be based on what you know, not based on how you talk! That was my mindset, but of course I had to go along with the setup and force myself to speak up in order to help my grade.

Let’s fast forward again to the working world.  Years later, I get it.  I now agree that academic success and grades shouldn’t be strictly based on how well you do homework or projects, or how hard you study for tests.  Those things are very important, but it’s important to also be able to speak up and communicate your knowledge confidently, since that’s how things work in the real world.

This can be important in terms of public speaking skills and your career.  But it matters in meetings too.  If you’re in a meeting, and you don’t speak up, you’re simply not adding value.  If you don’t say anything, it can be implied that you don’t know anything about the matter at hand. Or, you’re not interested.

It’s one of those things that I think can hold true in the workplace, and life in general.  Sometimes, perception is reality.  Fair or not, it’s the way it is!

I now get the value of the 25% weighting of the class grade coming from class participation.  I didn’t get it back then, but years later I do now.  Learn how to speak up in meetings, and make sure to do it!

My Questions for You

Do you think it’s important to be able to speak up and make your presence felt at work?

Have you seen instances of this helping someone, or the opposite – where someone didn’t speak up and it negatively impacted them?

Do you have any tips on how to succeed with this?

 

Do You Hoard Vacation Days?

Some of us who are savers tend to have the mentality of putting away money for the proverbial rainy day.  Obviously, having a blogVacation header with the words “Squirrel Away Your Money”, I’m one of those people. 

There’s something about peace of mind, knowing that you’re helping to take care of your needs in the future. I’ve talked before about financial motivation, and for me it’s to some degree about making sure that I’m not old and needing money.  Better to err on the side of comfort in old age versus when younger, a time when it’s easier to do without certain things.

Speaking of taking care of future needs, I tend to keep a similar mindset when it comes to vacation days.  You know, when we work so hard, it’s good to take those days off to recharge.  I really think that consistently working long hours can be unhealthy, so for health’s sake it’s smart to disengage and chill.  Plus, we all want to have more time to spend with family or simply just travel and have fun, depending on where we are in life.  All work and no play is no fun!

So, I do value vacation days.  I’m fine with what I currently get, though in terms of vacation days by country, the U.S. and Canada tend to trail developed countries in the word.  We’re not lazy here.  We probably work harder than we give ourselves credit for. 

This is why I tend to carefully manage my vacation days.  They’re important.  In terms of needing days off for family, getting personal things done (doctor, etc), and taking time off to visit people, there aren’t a ton of days available to do everything you want to do.  Not to mention that unwinding and relaxing that I mentioned above, which is so important for us.

Here is my pattern: I’ll take very few days at the beginning of the year, maybe 1 or two in the first 6 months.  Then, I’ll take 4 days in the summer, to coincide with the 4th of July week. Kids aren’t in school, and with the national holiday, I can have the week off with just 4 (or sometimes 3) days off actually used.  Then, I’ll back-load the latter part of the year with more days off.

It’s almost like delayed gratification, and saving money so that I can pay the price first and relax later.  There’s something about having peace of mind knowing that you can get through the hard work, to get to your “reward” later in the year.

If we could figure out a way to earn “interest” on those days off that are saved much of the year, that would be even better :)

My Questions for You

How do you handle your vacation days?

Do you allocate them evenly though the year, or do you save them for any particular time period?

Do you feel like we get enough days off here in the U.S. and Canada, or are we an overworked society?

If You Plan to Work Until Old Age, Change Your Plan

Over the last few years, I’ve read a ton of articles related to personal finance.  Actually, I’ve written quite a few articles as well, so clearly this is a topic that captivates me.  Most of it is quite interesting to me: the math behind it, and the strategies that can be taken on to both make, save, and protect money.

What’s also interesting is the psychological part of it, in terms of how we view money.  Some people are inherently afraid of losing money, and pinch pennies to the extreme.  Others are simply obsessed with materialism, and just love spending without worry for the future.  One group that interests me is the set of folks that fully expect to work until well past 65.

Now, if someone is 60, for example, I would believe them if they say they expect to keep working.  They would probably know defnitively if they were in financial trouble, and would have a good sense of what their general health would be like at the time.  One would think, anyway. Or at least hope.  The fear of having to work in old age is huge financial motivation for me, to get me to save. 

However, if somebody 35 said that they plan to work until old age, I would wonder what would make them so confident in being able to do so.  Perhaps it’s that it seems so hard to relate to what it would be like to be older?

The best way to handle this potential blind spot for many of us is to simply look around at people of that age.  Some, happily, are very successful and doing some amazing things in the world.  We have had presidents over that age here in the U.S., and in recent years have had serious presidential candidates in that age group as well.  However, that’s not exactly the norm.

Look at people you know.  I know friends whose parents died in that age group.  Others simply pass due to unexpected illnesses.  Beyond that though, many people come up with all kinds of health issues.  Even if there are no major issues, there might be some minor problems or – if nothing else – a lot of aches and pains that didn’t occur in one’s 20′s.  I’m not of that age, so I can’t speak from personal experience of course, but I just think that the life experience of people can be different at various stages in life.

So, why would anyone expect to be able to work until later in life? Confidence, as a part of a very positive attitude? Naivete? Evidence that if some people can do it, why can’t anyone do it?  I don’t know.

There is also the issue of ageism in the work force.  Look at many corporate-type jobs out there, and try to assess the percentage of workers that are in each age bracket: 20′s, 30′s, 40′s, 50′s, and 60′s.  Personally, I see that the younger decades tend to be a bigger portion of the workforce.  Also, when looking at new hires, how many are younger versus older? Think about what you tend to see.

I would say the safe bet is to assume that we will be unable to work in old age, perhaps unable to find work, or maybe really not wanting to spend our time needing to work.  Plan on saving for being out of the workforce out at a certain age well before 60, and then not having a job for many years while you live a longer lifespan than prior generations. 

If we are lucky enough to have an opportunity to work while in that age group, and enjoy what you could do, then working because you want to is a different story.  But planning on working because you think you’ll have to, and banking on that income to support us then, seems very risky to me. 

Best to plan for what might seem like the unexpected, and set a target date for retirement savings which is much earlier than standard ages.  Then, save and invest accordingly :)

My Questions for You

What do you think about the notion of people planning to work until later in life?

Does this bother you or cause any concern?

At what age are you targeting to be out of the workforce – by choice or force?

 

You are a Salesperson!

Do you consider yourself a salesperson?

While some people have that actual occupation (not me, by the way), I’m guessing that most of us would answer “no” to that question.  Our day job, if we have one, is probably something functionally different than that, and doesn’t involve the word “sales” in it.

So the first answer is no, a good number of us are not technically salespeople.

When thinking about it further, I would say the bigger picture answer is yes.  At some level, everyone is a salesperson.

I think we are always selling ourselves, whether we consciously realize it or not.  I don’t always think about it in these terms, and frankly I haven’t thought it about it a whole lot in general anyway.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize that this is the case.  We really are selling it at all times.

Here are two examples:

Work

Let’s say your job is not directly involved in sales, as we alluded to before.  You’re still indirectly selling.  Ultimately, you have to sell yourself internally to your boss and his or her bosses.  Not only that, but you must sell yourself in different ways and for different reasons to your peers and subordinates.

Perceptions and reality can often be two different things.  To that end, how you sell yourself can play a role in your chances to succeed and earn income.

Personal Life

Suppose you are dating someone, or looking for Miss or Mr Right.  You’re not going to dress in your old, worn out clothes.  You’re not going to show your, shall we call them, “developmental” traits.  Rather, you will conscientiously put your best foot forward.  In effect, you’re selling yourself in order to create the best impression and to attract a good match for you.

Bottom Line: I’m sure when we think about it, we could probably come up with many other examples of when we selling ourselves.  This can be the case in many aspects of our lives.  One can say that at least on some level, you are a salesperson!

My Questions for You:

Have you ever considered premise that we’re all salespeople.  What do you think?

Do you have any examples of when you’ve had to be a salesperson, unrelated to your work (like examples above)?

Has Fast Food Become Socially Unacceptable?

At lunch, during the work day, many of us have different options for what we can do.  Some people regularly bring lunch from home every day.  Other people might work someplace with a cafeteria on premises, and might go that route occasionally.  Still others might go out to eat once in a while.  Clearly, there are many different ways that we can handle lunch during the work week, and many combinations of how our weeks might look in that regard.

With respect to the latter option - going out to eat – we might also have a variety of options from which to choose.  One of these options is fast food.  However, in recent years, I haven’t seen as many coworkers eating fast food at lunch – or, at least, making it known that they eat it.  It leads me to ask the question: has fast food for lunch become socially unacceptable, and something to avoid for your career?

It might sound silly, but in the workplace, perceptions often matter more than reality.   While people are generally entrusted with responsibilities based on qualifications and past performance, one’s image at work can matter – even if it shouldn’t.  In a white collar, corporate setting, multimillion dollar decisions are being made all the time.  Would you think more favorably about the guy or gal who brings a healthy lunch to work every day or buys a salad from a quick casual place, or the person who regularly dines on an unhealthy value meal of a burger, fries, and soda from the local fast food joint.

Keep in mind, I’m not saying it’s fair, and it’s not necessarily how I view things. However, people can be fickle, and personal impressions do have an impact for better or worse.

I liken this to how smoking was once viewed in society.  Supposedly, news broadcasts way back in the past had cigarette smoke swirling about, as a fairly decent percentage of the overall population smoked.  It wasn’t unusual or a big deal.  I vividly recall years of going to restaurants that offered both smoking and non-smoking sections.  Smoking even happened on airplanes!

Now, smoking doesn’t happen on the news, or in restaurants where I live, and certainly not on airplanes.  People don’t smoke in the office, at work.  While it isn’t fair to judge the character of a smoker vs. a non-smoker, in the professional world it’s simply not socially acceptable.  Smoking is simply not a part of the workday.

Keep in mind I’m not equating smoking to eating fast food, just thinking about perceptions of social acceptabilty.  I wonder if this concept is starting to apply to fast food lunches?  Maybe it’s a stretch, but I just don’t see people eating these lunches, or talking about how much they like fast food.  They may eat it otherwise, but it seems to be less accepted.

So as funny as it might seem that flaunting an affinity for fast food lunches might be bad for your career – and your finances – well, it just might be.  Not to mention the health impact, which in the long run hurts our finances too!

My Questions for You

What do you usually do for lunch during the work day?

Do you notice people eating less fast food these days, or being less anxious to admit to it, with co-workers?

Do you think that fast food for lunch during the work day has become less socially acceptable, and something that can be detrimental to how one is perceived?

 

Higher Salary or Better Experience?

When I was younger, in grad school, I was fortunate enough to have a number of internship offers. These were major companies, Fortune-500 types.  It was one of those things that I somewhat took for granted at the time, though now I look back and can appreciate how a better economy could bring nice opportunities for people.  What would be simply amazing today wasn’t that unusual at all back then.

Anyway, when I was evaluating the offers, I had different variables to consider.  For one thing, each job was in a different city. In fact, the four positions were in three different states.  This might matter, as someone could ultimately try to work for that company, so you might want to think about the long-term fit of that area for you.  Another variable to think about was the industry I would be joining.  The type of business in which you work can have a big impact on your career direction, even if the purported functional experience might be classified as being the same.

The one that I also paid attention to at the time was salary.  Now, of course salary matters for most of us.  Would you go into work every day if they all of a sudden paid you 30% less? Well, maybe – but you would be actively looking to get out and get your market value ASAP.   There is a point in time when this starts to matter more and more.

That being said, when you are in the early stages of your career, I think your salary matters a bit less than quality of experience.  You have the ability to take a few risks, and the latitude to explore what you like and in what direction you want to go.  Of course, you can do this later too, but it’s much easier when younger and new in your career.

I actually should not have focused so much on the salary of the internship at the time.  It really did play a role in my decision, as it felt good to get paid more. Simple as that.  However, that was only a 14-week time period, and certainly didn’t define my career.  It did turn out to be a really good experience that I learned a lot from, thankfully.  But I now realize that salary wasn’t truly important in the long-run.

Later in life, salary does matter more. Sure, it might be because you’re older and have more personal responsibilities.  However, it also matters because your salary is often a basis of how the market values you.

I say this based on what I’ve seen from people looking for jobs.  One question that is asked, of course, is something to the effect of “what is your current salary?”  This establishes, or to some degree anchors in the person’s mind, what your current market value is.  If you get a job offer, they might try to match your salary or perhaps increase by some percentage.

What Do You Think?

At what point do you think that salary becomes more important than experience, or vice-versa?

Have you or anyone you know had to make such a decision in the past?

What things do you look for when considering a potential job?

6 Simple Ways to Impress the Boss and Help Your Career

Let’s say you have dreams of succeeding big time in your new job.  You might be motivated and you might be working hard. Perhaps you may think that you’re doing a great job, and are capable of moving ahead in the organization.

That’s all great. But we must also remember that aside from our own interests and self-evaluation, there is something else that matters: what the boss thinks.

Now, even if you’re an entrepreneur who isn’t reporting into anyone, you still have a boss: the customer. So it’s tough to get away from the concept of having a person or people who need to be impressed by what we have to offer. Having said that though, let’s go back for now to the paradigm of working within a company or organization where you ultimately report into somebody on some level.

You may be working extensively with a variety of stakeholders, and might even feel like you’re impressing your boss’s boss.  But ultimately, the person to whom you report into can really influence the perception of you within an organization, and will be the one reviewing you.  If we don’t get along with this person, stress could potentially be added to day-to-day life.  So we need to create a favorable perception.

With that in mind, here are 6 simple ways to impress the boss:

1) Understand your boss’s motivations

What motivates your boss? What contcerns him (I say him for convenience, but of course it could be “her” too)? Demonstrating an understanding of what the boss truly thinks is important is a good way to earn his trust. I’ve been able to tell the difference when someone has been able to hold his/her own in a conversation and “get” what we are really trying to accomplish with a project or initiative.  When an employee thinks beyond the immediate job description and works to understand what the boss is really focused on, it’s a great way to build credibility.

2) Beat deadlines

If you have a certain deadline to meet, try to beat it. This isn’t always possible, but proving that you can take a given time frame to complete something and get it done ahead of time can show your boss that you can be trusted and counted on.

3) Overdeliver

Find a way to do more than what is expected.  For people who exceed expectations – which is often a path to promotional consideration – simply doing the required work is only part of the story. Being able to do what’s expected, and then offer up even more, is a way to show that you’re capable of higher level work.  Now, that next position up may involve different skill sets (worker vs. people manager, for example), so part of over-delivering might be finding ways to show that you can take that step.

4) Innovate

I’m finding that more and more, the ability to be innovative is being increasingly valued by employers. I base this on my own experience as well what I read and what I hear from others within different industries.  If you can break out of the mold and think of different ways to improve business, you stand a better chance of making a great impression.  It’s those value-added projects that go beyond the normal functional job description that can set somebody apart.

5) Communicate Well – and don’t hide bad news

Being able to effectively communicate is essential in most workplaces.  This includes keeping your boss updated on important projects, tasks, customers, or whatever might be salient to your line of work.  Often times, we must be able to communicate “bad” news, or at least make sure that the boss is aware of any roadblocks or issues you may be facing. What you don’t want to do is to surprise him with issues when they become problematic. Rather, by keeping him appraised of things, you can be seen as straightforward, reliable, and trustworthy. All important traits in the eyes of a boss.

6) Be respectful, and try to “like” the boss

I don’t mean that we should like the boss as in liking him on Facebook! Rather, show the boss that you can get along with him and respect him – along with his position. This doesn’t have to reach the level of kissing up or losing self-respect. Just do it at a basic, professional level to be sure.  It’s human nature that we often like the people that like us.  If you work to have a friendly vibe with the boss, it can only help. If you detest the boss (I have had one or two horrendous ones), try not to let it show, and work hard to see the positives while at work.  Vent about them and blast away at home :)

Overall, there are myriad ways we can impress the boss, and help our own cause. I’m sure you can think of other approaches that have also worked for you as well as others.  Having said that, I think that these 6 above are good ones to incorporate as a foundation for success at work and with performance reviews, promotions, and your professional reputation.

My Questions for You

What do you think of these 6 ways to impress the boss?

Have you tried to incorporate these into your own efforts on the job?

What other recommendations do you have? I know there are probably many, so please feel free to add to this list by sharing other ideas that you believe are effective.