Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Watch the Unemployment Number Go Down

Yesterday, Fox News reported that Starbucks will create 700,000 jobs. The company will spend $581 million on these jobs, which range from restaurant workers to senior managers.

This will have a material impact on the unemployment number.  You'll see it go down.  It really doesn't mean that the situation will have changed much.  There are still 14 million Americans who are not working.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Where have all the jobs gone?

We're all wondering...

Where have all the jobs gone?

In the last 10 years, the United States has lost 1/3 of its manufacturing jobs.  We know that many of them have been outsourced and moved off-shore.  They've gone to India, China, Malaysia, and Mexico.  And, they're not coming back.

Some have been lost to automation, computers, technology.  Recently I had a client who was working on a manufacturing line whose job was replaced by...a robot.

It's not just manufacturing jobs that are disappearing.

14 million people are unemployed in this country, giving us an official unemployment rate of 8.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics March report.

We also know that this statistic, as horrible as it seems, represents an under-reporting of the real situation.  That's why the Department of Labor has engineered a new statistic -- the Underemployment Rate -- which includes the "discouraged" workers, those who have given up looking for a job and have fallen off the unemployment rolls because of chronic long-term employment and the "underemployed," those people who have taken part-time jobs or projects because they are unable to find a full-time position.

The underemployment rate is 20%, or 1 in 5 workers.

That's pretty bad.  One in five American workers can't find an appropriate full-time position.  Is that because we are still in the Great Recession, or is there another explanation?  Is there a silver lining amidst all this dire economic news?  I believe so.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Technology & Change: From Kodachrome to Twitter

There are two articles of note in today's New York Times.  While at first glance, these articles seem to be completely unrelated, they are intricately connected.  Keep reading...

In the first article -- For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas, you'll read about how the last photo lab to develop Kodachrome film is about to close.   How can that be?  I think I still have a roll of film in the back of my top drawer that I was hoping to develop someday.  Think about that:  in a very short period of time, digital cameras have so dominated the market that Kodak has stopped producing the chemicals needed to process the film.  Certainly this marks the end of an era for those of us raised on Kodachrome color film.  

The second article -- For Some Travelers Stranded in Airports, Relief is in 140 Characters -- relates how those air travelers who used Twitter to rebook cancelled flights had a much higher likelihood of getting new reservations successfully.  For people who tried to reach the help desk by phone, it took 2 days.  Calling is old-fashioned.

Just think about the speed of change that technology brings, and the demand for us to adapt quickly.  Out with Kodachrome and in with Twitter!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Work is Play...Or Can Be

When Emily (my niece) was three, she made up this rhyme for me:

Can't play today.
Have to work during the day.

Wow, at three years old, she knew the difference between work and play. Play was fun.
Work kept you from playing and having fun.
One or the other. Either/or.

Yesterday I posted a video on Facebook and asked the following question: If I am at the pool, getting ready to swim, and planning out an article in my mind as I prepare to get in the water, am I at work...or play?

I loved the responses! Some of you said "both work and play," that I was working while having fun and having fun while working. Others of you said, it could be neither, depending on my frame of mind, as it could be stressful for me to swim! Good point. Most of us make a clear delineation between work and play. It's one or the other. So, here's the real question: why can't work BE play?

Why can't work be so much fun that it not only feels like play, but becomes play? Work can be fun. I have a friend who says: "Work is something adults made up as an excuse to play with each other."

What is work? When I looked it up in the dictionary, I found these words: drudgery, labor, and toil. Yuck. That doesn't sound good.

What does work mean to you? Does it mean performing a task or a collection of tasks in order to collect a salary so that you can pay your bills? Most of us are told, at a young age, that if we're to be successful, we need to get serious, be practical and work hard. For most of us, work means having a job.

Work will always require effort towards some end state or goal. It usually involves desire, commitment and discipline. At the same time, work can be play. Play is fun, creative, and imaginative; it's an activity that energizes, refreshes and inspires. It doesn't have to deplete or exhaust. Work is the ability to express who you are in the world -- all your talents, innate abilities and gifts -- and get paid for it. Work is a spiritual act.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Challenge Conventional Wisdom

“The conventional wisdom is often wrong…conventional
wisdom is often shoddily formed and devilishly difficult to see through, but it can be done.” (from the book

Conventional wisdom is a commonly-accepted set of beliefs, assumptions, and interpretations of data to which a majority of people subscribe, usually without thinking, and often unquestioned. It plays a large part in how we see and interpret our world.

Much of it is created by fleeting observations, which we accept at face value, seeing only external manifestations or symptoms, rather than diving down to find fundamental causes. This is followed by applying superficial assumptions, based on simplistic reasoning, which, we blindly accept. Whether it’s because of our caffeine-enhanced, hurried lifestyle, our steady diet of prefabricated news bites, or our general lack of intellectual curiosity, we fail to question, try and probe.

These flimsy assumptions form the basis of conventional wisdom, which becomes insulated by interpretations that are repeated over and over and over until they are accepted by most as fact. And, there we have it – the birth of conventional wisdom!

On this blog, I am going to create "Conventional Wisdom Challenges" or CWCs.

Here's how it will work: On the days of a "Conventional Wisdom Challenge", I will put in the Blog Title CWC: and the name of the post. That way, you'll know when it's a "Conventional Wisdom Challenge."

On those days, I will submit pieces of data, along with the commonly-accepted interpretations, based in conventional wisdom. The, I will post a question designed to help you think for yourself. Challenge assumptions. Intuit. Create your own interpretions. Think of it as a game. It will be fun!

My job is to provide the data, the conventional wisdom surrounding the data, and to pose the question which inspires you to see outside-the-conventional-wisdom-box. Your job is to come up with your own interpretation based on what you see and how you think, independent of others. Any questions? Let's get going!

Friday, January 8, 2010

First Friday -- Unemployment Numbers

Hot off the press...

According to MSNBC: Economy Sheds More Jobs Than Expected
Nation lost 85,000 jobs in December; unemployment rate flat at 10 percent

Let's talk about what this means, find our own interpretation, and challenge the explanations of the "experts." Certainly, it doesn't look good when we "lost" 85,000 jobs in December. Traditionally, the holiday season has been a great time for seasonal hiring in retail, which usually creates a kind of spike in "job creation." But, we lost jobs. So, what does it all mean?

"The economy lost more jobs than expected in December while the unemployment rate held steady at 10 percent, as a sluggish economic recovery has yet to revive hiring among the nation's employers. "

The question is: why did the economy "lose" more jobs than expected in December when the economic indicators point to improving conditions? No one seems to know. That's why experts have coined the term "jobless recovery." As you know from what I've written before, I believe that we "lost" more jobs because not only are jobs disappearing, but because the whole concept of a job, as a way to package up work, a form of work, is disappearing. Jobs are devolving, unraveling, into project-based work.

Next, we read that "the unemployment rate held steady at 10 percent...followed by the explanation that "a sluggish economic recovery has yet to revive hiring among nation's employers." The assumption is that along with an economic recovery comes an increase in job creation. That makes sense. Economic conditions improve, businesses get more orders, need to hire more people to fulfill the orders to make the products, and so begin to start hiring again.

Except that we don’t really make a lot of things any more. We have moved away from predominantly a manufacturing-based economy to service-oriented economy. We continue to offshore our manufacturing jobs, and, in fact, have lost one-third of this country’s manufacturing jobs since the year 2000. That’s incredible. These jobs are not coming back, no matter how great the economy gets.

We need to watch the tendency to interpret data through a traditional lens, trying to make sense of data points as though they were static, without taking into account the shifting social and economic landscape swirling around us. We need to look at economic indicators within the context of change. Statisticians have a propensity and preference for benchmarking data points against markers from the past, called past predictors, but this method doesn’t work in a dynamic marketplace where the past is no predictor of the future.

Why aren't jobs being created? Let’s suppose that even within a service economy, there is plenty of work that needs to be done...but it's not getting packaged up in terms of jobs. There are large disincentives for employers to create new jobs, the largest of which is cost. It's expensive to create jobs. Typically, it costs an employer 38% above a new hire’s salary just to provide benefits, most of which is health care cost. And, that number doesn’t take into account the rising costs of unemployment and other types of insurance.

Bottom-line: employers are not in the position to create jobs. It's too dang expensive. It’s easier to hire temp workers. And, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The Labor Department said Friday that employers cut 85,000 jobs last month, worse than the 8,000 drop analysts expected."

Why are employers continuing to cut jobs? One reason is that business credit continues to be tight, despite what you hear from Washington.

Banks aren't lending, and even if they want to lend, they are being prevented from doing so by overzealous regulators who have been given orders rigidly to enforce existing rules and procedures, a kind of over-reaction to lax regulation of the past, and without taking into consideration the exigencies of the present. While this may sound good because we need strong enforcement of existing regulation, it's not. What this means is that banks cannot be flexible with their customers and are foreclosing on customers who have just hit a "tight corner" on liquidity and need some flexibility. More on this tomorrow...

Against this credit backdrop, to prevent bankruptcy and cash flow problems, companies are being forced to cut expenses, drastically, just to stay alive. One strategy is to cut back on employees' hours. The average American work week has been reduced to something like 33 hours. If more severe measures are needed, employers are being forced to cut jobs, which usually include benefit packages costing 38% over salary costs. Wouldn't you eliminate a job and hire a part-time person, at a lower cost and with no benefits, in order to keep your company afloat?

"A sharp drop in the labor force, a sign more of the jobless are giving up on their search for work, kept the unemployment rate at the same rate as in November. Once people stop looking for jobs, they are no longer counted among the unemployed. "

Gee, this is interesting. Most people I know don't just "give up" in their search for work. They are unable to find work, usually because they can't find jobs that were similar to the ones they left. This is true for two categories of workers: 1) skilled manufacturing jobs, people who worked on a manufacturing line that moved offshore. These jobs aren't coming back and until we start getting the "green" jobs funded -- solar energy, natural gas exploration and "green" construction, there won't be much employment, and even then, these jobs will be limited. 2) Middle level management, white collar workers whose jobs either have been eliminated permanently as companies go leaner in their management structure, or whose jobs have been replaced by skilled workers overseas in Dublin, Mumbai and Singapore. These people are in a bind as they are overqualified for the jobs that are being created -- at Taco Bell, Wal-mart and Chucky Cheese. It's no wonder that they appear to "drop out" of the job market.

Despite the dire picture…it’s not all bad news. It’s just gonna look a whole lot different from before. Keep reading to find out how to uncover opportunities today...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

More than One Career?

Question: Can you pursue more than one career path at one time?

Last night, I had supper with a friend, who wanted me to meet her daughter.
It seems that her daughter has several career paths from which to choose -- fashion designer, singer and actress. She asked me which one I thought she ought to pursue. I told her to focus on the one for which she had the greatest passion. She said she liked that answer.

But, the truth is, she can try to pursue all of them simultaneously. Today I received an email from a friend who has invited me to her art opening. She paints and she makes jewelry, but she is also a business coach.

Since when do you need to have one, all-encompassing career? You don't.

As a career coach, I have often heard my clients say that they wish they knew what they wanted to do from a young age, that they envied people who knew from the time they were 5 that they wanted to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a teacher, or whatever. It would be easier, they said. These clients told me that they had multiple interests, and were often told by others that they were "all over the place."

So, where did we get the idea that we had to pick just one? That's what conventional wisdom says. But, it's not true any more. Here are some examples:

Oprah - she is a talk show host, an actress, a TV show producer, magazine founder and owner

Rachel Ray - television personality, author, chef

Serena Williams - tennis player & fashion designer

Of course, these are just 3 examples of highly-publicized celebrities. What they share is their ability to leverage a brand -- their own brand.

So, my question is: why can't the rest of us have a brand in the world and work on activities that reflect and support our own brand? We can.

I have helped hundreds of clients find ways to pursue more than one interest -- and to make money from each. Stay tuned...