Small Business IT Project Analyst, Office Automation Expert
Herbert, McCrumb & Associates
I recently had the thought: “How safe is your job? How safe is anybody’s job?”
Then of course, our mentor Seth Godin recently posted: Thirty Years of Projects.
He makes the point that he has always thought of his career as a series of projects.
I have been thinking about this idea for the past year, and should have published earlier (that way, I could have stolen HIS thunder!)
Live and learn.
I believe that project work is a big part of the employment model for the present and future.
I think the model is: Projects (Consulting), Contracts, W2 (Full-Time), and Part-Time work.
Following, is a list of (semi-disjointed) items that I think will be important as we work our way(s) through this model.
GET USED TO LOWER PAY
If you are over 40, you will start seeing W2 employment disappearing, either among your friends and acquaintances or personally. The grand experiment in W2 employment is over. Many companies (all sizes: large, medium-sized, and small) don’t want to pay big salaries and big benefits to employees.
When a résumé show 20 years or more experience in “X”, the employer (or recruiter) DOES NOT THINK:
“Wow! That is just what I need!“.
INSTEAD, HE OR SHE THINKS:
“Old person. Wants a lot of money.”
They are RIGHT!
YOU (and/or I) AM AN OLD PERSON, AND DO WANT A LOT OF MONEY!
We are all in this together.
If you are not old now, God willing, YOU WILL BE!
That doesn’t make it right or fair, it is just TRUE!
None of this is consistent either, which makes it even more frustrating: You never know where age-discrimination will rear it’s ugly head.
You’ll eventually (or sooner) be made an offer that will insult you. It will be W2 work that is beneath you, and for far less money than you were getting previously. I cannot tell you what to do here. Before acting on it, give it a day to sink in. What will be the opportunity costs (a better offer coming in, your side-business picking up, etcetera) vs. Just getting some income?
In general, all jobs are being commoditized.
Old and young… THAT’S GOING TO AFFECT ALL OF US!!!
When every job is a commodity, like coal, grain, pork bellies, etc., the lowest bidder wins.
Until there’s an emergency!
Then, no price is too high to fix the problem. I am reminded of the phrase:
“You think a professional is expensive? Wait ’til you hire an amateur!”
THIS REASON is why you need to specialize, so you can get out of the W2 model!
Now, you may only be working on “Emergencies“, and your expertise may repeatedly be called into question, and your fee may be disputed, but take heart. Deliver a quote, then if the client balks in any way, politely leave (“I’m only delivering a quote today, I need to check on another client, blah-blah”). If you are in fact the “go to” person, you will get a call back, when the “Emergency” becomes intolerable, whether it’s within a day, a week, or a month later, and they’ll agree with your terms.
GET USED TO DRIVING FARTHER THAN YOU EVER THOUGHT YOU WOULD
If you’re over 40, you will likely drive A LOT farther, for less money. There can be a slight benefit to this if you are doing 1099 work (Contracting/Freelancing), as you are able to write-off from your taxes this mileage as “expenses incurred while trying to make some money”. If it is W2 work, you’re kind of screwed for that, but hopefully the benefits will make it worth the ride.
Either way, your backside is going to feel the effects. Your temperament will be tested too. Look at it as an exercise in Zazen (seated meditation).
THERE WILL BE JOBS, PROJECTS AND CONTRACTS THAT YOU WILL HATE
I am recently working on a long-term contract that, quite frankly, doesn’t make me feel good. Not about my self-worth, not about my business, not about their business (that I am trying to make better), not about the people there. Not about the drive. None of it. Do I feel right about taking their money?
I am certainly EARNING it, but not in a way that makes me feel any kind of good. There are certainly lots of loud arguments going on.
People in the area of psychology have learned that it takes at least 5 good interactions (i.e. joking around, “Good job”, “Good morning, nice to see you”, etc.) to erase a single bad interaction (yelling about screw-ups in production, hollering at vendors, etc.). It doesn’t even matter if YOU ARE NOT THE FOCUS of the problem, if you hear it, YOU FEEL IT!
There seems to be some debate on the exact ratio (100:1 vs 5:1)
When Angry Disengage
The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations
Still: even a 5 to 1 ratio is a terrible ROI (Return On Investment, for those that don’t know).
Mindful kindness matters.
This client’s culture, has raised voices EVERY SINGLE DAY. That is not good. It is not good for any business. If there’s a problem, and yelling is always the way it is dealt with, people will naturally hide problems until they reach critical mass, leading to (you guessed it) more yelling.
That’s not effective management, and it’s certainly burning bridges with the goodwill of people that you will likely need again at some point in the future (à la Seth Godin’s recent post: Weight thrown and the slippery slope).
Are the business’ customers hearing any of that yelling?
The employees certainly are, which brings up the next point.
There is a recent experiment that shows that stress is contagious!
Because of this, it is almost certain that the business I am helping’s clients can FEEL what is going on. They may not know what is actually happening, but just walking in, they will FEEL that something is not right.
You want your business to feel GOOD to your clients. You want them to feel safe, and to know that you can handle their needs. THAT is going to be the only thing that differentiates many commodity and finished goods businesses from each other.
If you can deliver the exact same product as another company, that’s possibly closer, why would a purchasing manager ever choose YOUR company?
On to the next item.
THE CULT OF YOUTH
Craig Ferguson (his writers) figured it out:
We Deify Youth
After watching and listening to this monologue, I’ve realized that Craig, (et al), is absolutely right. Beyond that, there is the implication that, living long enough to be old isn’t a reward anymore. It used to be much, MUCH harder to get over the age of 50!
Honestly, white hair and beards are still revered in older cultures, but that’s changing too with globalization.
Living to be older is actually the natural goal, but we’ve corrupted it. Now, even if you do everything “right” and manage to reach old age (an objective opinion as to what is old, let’s say 70), you can still be “Behind the 8 ball” (screwed!).
Aren’t we all trying to get OLDER?
- If employed (or even unemployed), start your side-business NOW!
Start saving money on your taxes on things you are already using (Internet, cell phone service, software, etcetera). Then if, and/or when you have no W2 employment, either from being fired or downsized (or the new and clever marketing phrase “workforce reduction”), you’ll have something to grow!
If you have enough clients that you can voluntarily leave, even better!
- If you are in school, don’t spend too much money on it (you’ll put yourself in debt for half a million dollars! Really, do the math…). Get enough education that you feel confident enough to start a business, only acquiring enough information and confidence in your abilities. If you can get these things and experiences elsewhere, that’s fine!
This has NOTHING to do with being degreed (which is a different game)!
- Find something you like and/or are competent to do, and become the “expert” in that field. That way, you become the “go to” person for that specialty, and can command a lot of money for your products and/or services. You may need to do this several times, for many projects. Eventually, something will stick, and you’ll be the person everyone wants to talk to and hear from.
- I can’t emphasize this enough: STAY IN CLOSE COMMUNICATION with friends, colleagues and vendors from school, past jobs, projects and contracts. When one of your friends or colleagues makes it big, they will remember that you were on their side before they went large. If and when YOU make it big, you’ll need people that you know and trust.
Be friends, and stay in touch with people that are experts in what THEY do! It is easier than ever these days, using LinkedIN, Facebook, texting, email, etcetera. Later, I may post on how to do this from Evernote and other mobile applications.
- Work your “career” as a series of projects. Successful or not, you will learn from each experience, making you worth more in terms of getting it right. I wish I had worked my early career this way. Alas, it’s not too late to get it right!
That’s all I have for now. If I think of anything else, I’ll post “Part 2”. Please post back (the contact form at the bottom) for any omissions or deletions that I may have missed.
Charles McCrumb, Office Automation Expert
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