Diversity in the Workplace is a Win-Win-Win

Corporate America has a long way to go to achieve true diversity, especially at the executive level. Change has come at a snail’s pace for decades. But then the Black Lives Matter protests happened.

By Julie Norwell

BLM protests successfully put the issue of racism and racial prejudice front and center in the national debate in the same way that the #MeToo movement spotlighted sexual harassment and gender bias in 2018. In the wake of these protests, employers will surely feel pressure to recruit and promote more Blacks, as well as other underrepresented groups.

As with women, a redress is way overdue for Blacks in the workplace. Last December a significant study about the status of corporate diversity efforts in the U.S. found that Blacks face myriad obstacles to professional advancement and workplace success that Whites just don’t experience – and don’t even see. The report, “Being Black in Corporate America,” which was produced by the Center for Talent Innovation, a nonprofit group focused on workplace diversity, included these key findings:

  • Blacks, who comprise over 13% of the U.S. population, occupy only 3.2% of senior leadership roles at large companies in the U.S.
  • 58% of Blacks, on average, have experienced racial prejudice at work, with that number reaching as high as 79% in the Midwest.
  • Fewer than 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are Black – at last count there were only five. (According to Fortune Magazine, there have only been 18 Black CEOs at the head of Fortune 500 companies in the past 20 years.)
Diversity in the Workplace is a Win - Win - Win
Diversity in the Workplace is a Win – Win – Win

If you’re a jobseeker, lack of diversity is a critical issue regardless of your skin color, gender, or sexual persuasion. Why? Because studies prove that companies that are racially and ethnically diverse perform better than companies that aren’t. They also show that companies with weak track records on diversity have a competitive disadvantage. Can you say “job security?”

The Covid-19 crisis will likely make or break many companies. Finding solutions to the challenges they face will require innovations and new approaches that a diverse workforce can bring most effectively. Therefore, jobseekers of all demographics would be smart to target diverse companies in their job search.

In short, companies that aren’t diverse may not have much of a future.

Diversity to the Rescue

It might seem an inauspicious time – the middle of a pandemic that has sent the economy reeling – for supporters of diversity to be pressing their case. Companies often lose focus on their diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals during economic downturns as they face other pressing challenges. That was certainly true during the 2007 financial crisis.

But now is exactly the right time for companies to ramp up their efforts to improve D&I

But now is exactly the right time for companies to ramp up their efforts to improve D&I according to global consulting firm, McKinsey.

McKinsey, which tracks corporate diversity, found in its latest report, Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters, that the business case for diversity and inclusion is stronger than ever. When it comes to gender, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile – up from 21% in 2017 and 15% in 2014. It also found that the greater the representation of women, the higher the likelihood of outperformance.

When it comes to ethnic and cultural diversity, the results were even more impressive. Top quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth quartile by 36% in profitability. That is up from 33% in 2017 and 35% in 2014.

On the flip side, companies that ranked low on gender and ethnic diversity faced a steep penalty. They were 27% more likely to underperform on profitability than all other companies.

Diversity Delivers the Goods

So, what’s the secret sauce in diversity? Quite simply, diversity unlocks potential. Novel products and solutions are created when people of varied experiences bring new ideas to the table.

Consider the Broadway hit, Hamilton, for example. A highlight of the Fourth of July weekend for many people was the opportunity to stream Hamilton on Disney+. The show, written by a Latino, featured the original cast, of which nearly everyone was either Black or a person of color.

Diversity Delivers the Goods

That might seem ironic for a show that features the white men that were America’s Founding Fathers. But very quickly skin color takes a backseat to a unique retelling of the country’s nascence, and the West Indian immigrant at the heart of it, because it is performed in an incredibly creative, unconventional way.

The success of Hamilton is a good example of how diversity, and the fresh ideas that accompany it, can take shake up an institution – in this case, the Broadway musical industry – and create a new formula for success. After all, who would ever have guessed that a historical epic about a White man and his penchant for policymaking told through hip-hop and rap – musical styles that originated with young, urban, Blacks – would become one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time?

Inclusion Is Critical, Too

Another key finding in studies about corporate diversity is that sometimes diversity isn’t enough. Workers in diverse environments won’t give their best performance if they don’t also feel included. Inclusion means a sense of fairness of advancement opportunity, freedom from bias, and an ability to be themselves.  

Workers of all stripes who feel a lack of inclusion or belonging will be less engaged in their work, less loyal, and less likely to stay at a company. In fact, they are less likely to even pursue a job at an organization if they perceive that organization to be non-inclusive. Women, LGBTQ+ and racial or ethnic-minorities are particularly prone to feeling a lack of inclusion, but workers in all demographics report a lack of belonging at work.

It’s bad news for everyone at a company when a portion of the workforce isn’t engaged. Imagine trying to execute a project when your team members are thinking more about leaving the company than about their responsibilities.  

As a jobseeker, it’s not easy to ascertain indicators of inclusion at a company from the outside. But looking at the diversity of people at all levels is a good start – especially the executive level. Look for processes and policies that promote equality of opportunity and transparency. You should also look at who is accountable for D&I efforts. Ideally, they will be on the plate of core-business leaders and not just relegated to the HR department. 

A Nexus of Change

A Nexus of Change

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the numerous crises our country faces simultaneously: a pandemic, an economic crisis, and race protests roiling the nation. But it will be a silver lining, to be sure, if the intersection of these events results in employers taking significantly greater steps towards advancing diversity and inclusion goals.

Doing so will benefit not only underrepresented groups, it will also benefit workers of every demographic. Best of all, the innovation and creativity it ushers in will position companies to survive, thrive, and, if necessary, rethink their entire business models.

In short, diversity in the workplace will be a win-win-win.

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Which Industries Will Sink and Which Will Swim in the Post-Covid World?

Here is a peek at the post-pandemic outlook.

By Julie Norwell

The employment numbers for May are still ugly, but by this point they shouldn’t shock anyone. Economists have been telegraphing for the past two months that the economic worst of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic is yet to come. If Goldman Sachs is to be believed, the economic worst has arrived – with GDP shrinking to unprecedented lows and unemployment stretching to unprecedented highs.

But there is a silver lining to bottoming out. Now begins the upswing.

To be sure, the labor market has borne the biggest brunt of the economic downturn. In just eleven weeks the unemployment rate has rocketed from one of the lowest it’s ever been to one of the highest it’s ever been.

We can all take heart in the indicators suggesting that the second half of the year will be better, and that investors expect unemployment to improve relatively quickly.  But, let’s not kid ourselves – business in the post-Covid world is likely to be dramatically different, and some of the hardest hit industries – amusement parks, movie theaters, hotels, clothing stores, and airlines – may not recover for some time, if ever.

Other industries will rebound, however, as will companies that are bold and agile enough to adapt to a new business-as-usual. The employment market, too, will likely transform, with job opportunities growing and declining in unexpected places and ways. Jobseekers who know where to look will have an edge.

Here is a peek at the post-pandemic outlook.

A peek at the post-pandemic outlook.
Which Industries Will Sink and Which Will Swim in the Post-Covid World?

Industries Likely to Swim

The breathtaking speed with which the pandemic swept the globe caught everyone off guard and every sector has been affected. Industries such as Video Conferencing & Software Developers, which enjoyed an overnight surge (growth is up 19.1% in 2020 so far), have even faced unique challenges (think Zoom). Still, the pandemic and the uncertainties about when it will end creates better conditions for some businesses than others.

Top performing industries to date according to industry research platform, Vertical IQ, include liquor stores, fruit and vegetable manufacturers, grocery stores, home centers and hardware stores, internet, TV, and mail order retailers, janitorial services, paper products manufacturers, and pet food manufacturers.

Focus on remote working
Focus on remote working

Going forward, industries and businesses that support the exigencies of social distancing and the practice of spending more time at home – be it for work, schooling, or entertainment – will make out well, especially in the short term.

According to industry market researcher, IBISWorld, which offers specific analysis of the coronavirus impact on individual industries, technology will be a sure winner, especially software and systems that facilitate remote business continuity, unified communications-as-a-service platforms, and cloud computing capabilities.

Other industries with a rosy outlook will include online furniture sales (for remote workers setting up home offices), and Employee Assistance Program Services (for the anticipated uptick in mental health issues associated with remote working and quarantining).

Education

Because many educational institutions will continue remote learning into the fall, online tutoring services and educational consultants (to help train teachers and administrators in online teaching) are expected to see greater demand.

E-Commerce
E-commerce has surged.

Retail stores have shuttered, but online shopping has surged – a trend that is expected to grow. Online grocery shopping, in particular, is booming. Compared to pre-Covid days when just 11% of consumers bought groceries online, in the four weeks ending April 7 more than half of shoppers reported placing an online grocery order – 33% of them first-timers to online grocery shopping!

Besides groceries and tangible goods, people are also consuming all kinds of media online, especially video streaming services and video games.

Business advisory services

Not surprisingly, many businesses will be seeking advisory assistance on whether to maintain operations and how best to do so. Management consulting, accounting services, and other advisory service businesses, therefore, will likely see a boost in demand.

Virus mitigation

Demand for Janitorial Services and other industries involved with the prevention of infection will boom as state and local economies open and try to stem fears by a wary public.

Healthcare management.
Healthcare

Industries related to medical instrument and supply manufacturing, medical services, software, medical supplies, and, especially, labor in the healthcare field will see a rise in demand. In addition, many medical providers can expect to see a surge of caseloads by patients who opted to put off discretionary procedures until after the pandemic peaked.

The pandemic has also supercharged the prospects for telehealth. McKinsey recently reported that “Covid-19 has caused a massive acceleration in the use of telehealth. Consumer adoption has skyrocketed, from 11% of U.S. consumers using telehealth in 2019 to 46% of consumers now using telehealth to replace cancelled healthcare visits.”

Industries Likely to Sink

In the post-Covid world there are many industries that jobseekers should think twice about targeting. In fact, when it comes to sinking and swimming, Forbes contributor Stephen McBride minces no words: “For many industries, this crisis will prove to be the final nail in the coffin. [Three] industries will NEVER return to what they once were,” he writes.

These industries are:

  1. Movie Theaters – Why risk infection when you can stream movies at home?
  2. Department Stores – Many first-time online shoppers will eschew shopping in physical stores now that they know how convenient online shopping is.
  3. Office Space Operators – The growing awareness that widespread remote working will be part of the “new normal” means many businesses won’t renew their office leases.
Leisure & Hospitality

Many industries will take years to regain their former strength, especially if human contact is important to the business. Leisure & Hospitality, for example, was hit harder than any other industry, with unemployment reaching nearly 40% (see graph). And because travel has dried up, demand for hotel rooms and restaurant seats may not rebound for a long time. Individual hotels and major operators are projecting occupancies below 20%, a reality that may force many to close. According to IBISWorld, sector revenue is forecast to decline 11.2% in 2020.

Within this industry are subgroups, such as performing arts, spectator sports, museums, amusement parks and national and state parks. Some will fare better than others, but all will face challenges going forward.

Manufacturing

This sector is victim to substantially reduced industrial and consumer spending. According to IBISWorld, revenue for this sector is forecast to decline 18.4% in 2020. The segment of the industry related to medical supplies, however, will be an outlier in the overall decline.

Construction

This sector is volatile in the best of circumstances, and pre-Covid it was already facing stagnant productivity, low levels of digitization, and low profitability according to global management consulting company McKinsey. It was ripe for disruption, and the pandemic will force it to innovate if it is to fully recover. The sector revenue is forecast to decline 6.8% in 2020.

On the upside, low mortgage rates and pent up demand will kick in once the larger economy recovers. Moreover, public investment and infrastructure projects are sorely needed in the U.S. Initiative on these is unlikely before the presidential election, but if the government moves forward on projects in 2021, it could offer a lot of employment opportunity.

Transportation
Consruction and Transportation

Automakers have started to reopen plants, but continuing supply chain and health safety concerns, not to mention waning consumer demand, will continue to hamper the recovery of this industry.

The air travel industry will be even more vulnerable. Revenue is expected to decline 6.3% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 fallout. U.S. airlines carried 51% fewer scheduled service passengers in March 2020 than a year earlier – the largest year-to-year decrease on record and the lowest level of air travel in almost two decades. Demand is unlikely to recover without a concurrent rise in consumer sentiment and improved economic conditions.  

Accelerating Trends and Paradigm Shifts

It’s important to keep in mind that the pandemic isn’t fully responsible for the trajectory of a given industry. New trends in the global order of business have been underway for years thanks to advances in digital technology. Analysts say the pandemic is simply accelerating these trends.

The result may well be a paradigm shift.

Accelerating Trends and Paradigm Shifts

“Covid-19 will force a rebirth of many industries…, re-assessing and re-imagining modes of consumption, supply, interaction and productivity,” writes Mohit Joshi, president of global technology firm, Infosys Limited, in his article, Who will be the winners in a post-pandemic economy?

As counterintuitive as it may seem, now is a great time for talented workers to consider a career change. No matter the industry, companies will survive based on the choices they make now, and choosing good talent is paramount.

McKinsey notes in a recent report that “forward-looking companies know that…the only sustainable advantage is rooted in harnessing the passion, skills, capabilities, judgement, and creativity that people bring to work…This means getting the right people in the right roles to create value.”

This is good news for jobseekers, but they shouldn’t forget that, like companies, those with a healthy combination of resilience, agility and a willingness to adapt to the new normal will be the most successful.

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Career Management and the New Normal

What will work life and job seeking look like after the Coronavirus Crisis?

By Julie Norwell

The coronavirus crisis has unleashed a maelstrom of uncertainty about every aspect of our lives. It has introduced concerns as disparate as mental and physical health, financial stability, children’s education, screen time, the presidential election, humanity at the end of life – for heaven’s sake, we even worry about where our next roll of toilet paper will come from!

Paramount for some Americans are anxieties about employment. Just six weeks into the Covid-19 crisis, a jaw-dropping 30 million people hit the unemployment rolls. And that number is expected to climb. Economists estimate the unemployment rate may ultimately hit 20% – a staggering figure that is now being compared to the Great Depression, when a quarter of the American population was unemployed.

For now, there are still way more questions than answers about the uncertainty – especially for those who have lost, or risk losing, their jobs. Two questions topping the list are: How do we get to the other side of this crisis, and what will it look like when we get there?

What will work life and job seeking look like after the Coronavirus Crisis?
What will work life and job seeking look like after the Coronavirus Crisis?

The short answer to both questions is that no one knows for sure. This crisis presents the U.S. with two equally harrowing alternatives – a modern day Scylla and Charibdis: Reopen the economy and risk thousands more deaths, or keep the economy closed and risk unparalleled economic damage.

How it ultimately turns out will depend on so many variables, not least of which include when a coronavirus vaccine can be produced, and how effectively our leaders navigate us through this impossibly difficult strait.

But Americans are nothing if not resilient. Somehow, we will get to the other side. And the path forward isn’t so bleak if you resolve to prepare yourself well for work life after the coronavirus crisis. Here are a few observations to help set your expectations.

We Are Unlikely to Get Back to Where We Were

When investors tuned into the most recent annual Berkshire Hathaway stockholders meeting, they were heartened by the optimism of billionaire and financial guru, William Buffett, who dispensed with some folksy wisdom. “Never bet against America,” he said. At the same time the “Oracle of Omaha” was realistic about the changes we face.

We must resolve to study, learn, innovate and adapt to the new normal.

“We do not know exactly what happens when you voluntarily shut down a substantial portion of your society,” said Buffett.

According to McKinsey, our era will be defined by the periods before and after the Covid-19 crisis. It’s clear that not all businesses will survive. McKinsey’s prescription for business leaders and policy makers to get to the “next normal” boils down to five words: Resolve, Resilience, Return, Reimagination, and Reform.

The same prescription is equally apt for workers. To weather this storm workers must develop a new playbook. They must resolve to study, learn, innovate and adapt to the new normal.

Blazing a Path Forward

To be sure, the return to any semblance of “normal” will take time, and it’s unclear whether the timeframe should be measured in months or years. But businesses are already planning for the next phase.

Blazing a Path Forward

Consulting firm KPMG, for example, has published a useful conceptual model for how organizations might safely restart in a way that incorporates infection testing to mitigate the health risks to the workforce.

They’ve also looked at the struggles American workers currently face to understand how businesses can better support them. A survey reveals that 60% of employees say their jobs have become more demanding – even overwhelming. This is especially true of parents who are juggling work and childcare.

And the higher they are on the corporate ladder, the more likely people are to find work more challenging now. Few managers have experience overseeing an entirely virtual workforce. It requires a special set of skills to maintain employee morale, productivity, and a human connection at a distance.

The New Normal Work Life

Again, no one knows for sure what the new normal work life will look like, but it will probably look a lot like what prognosticators were forecasting in the pre-Covid-19 period. The future of work is now standing at the front door.

Most evident, is that there will be a burgeoning role of technology, especially anything pertaining to remote working. Virus or no virus, it will be impossible to put that genie back in the bottle. Now that companies and workers know that remote working works, fewer people will be going to an office.

Instead, business-as-usual will involve working from home, less travel, more video conferencing, and new apps and platforms that enable team communication and collaboration at a distance. In fact, there is a good chance that Covid-19 will trigger a permanent exodus from dense, metropolitan centers to rural and suburban locales. After all, why would city dwellers opt to pay high rents for a small apartment if proximity to an office is no longer a requirement?

Until a vaccine is available, only those for whom it is critical to be in an office will be expected to go. Those that do will find new floor layouts and safe zones in elevators that promote social distancing. Previously open work spaces may have sneeze guard partitions and ramped up cleaning regimens. If they don’t already, businesses will stagger work schedules to minimize contact among office workers.

Some changes may challenge privacy concerns, such as regular temperature scans. According to the Washington Post, PricewaterhouseCoopers will soon launch a contact-tracing tool for businesses. The tool adds an app to workers’ phones that detects the phones of any co-workers that come near.

The Covid-19 Impact on Career Management

To stay competitive in this new work environment, it’s imperative that workers keep up with technological advancements and prepare themselves for imminent changes to conventional modes of work. The rise of the Gig Economy was well underway before Covid-19. In the short term it will expand even more because companies concerned about their bottom line are likely to hire people on a temporary basis until the dust settles.

But a surprising sub trend is also underway at the executive level. The executive coaching team at The Barrett Group is finding that clients with demonstrable performance achievements under tumultuous circumstances are in hot demand.

“In the past month and a half, we’ve had more clients landing than ever before,” says Dan Resendes, chief consulting officer at The Barrett Group. “Companies that are affected the worst are looking to replace leaders that are failing to handle this crisis.”

Recruiters are also actively beefing up their lists of leaders proficient in dealing with crises, transitions, and virtual business. In addition to these skills, a savoir-faire in managing relationships and leveraging social capital outside of the traditional format is more prized than ever before.

Indeed, Resendes notes that the successes of clients at The Barrett Group is due largely to their efforts to check in on people in their network to make sure everyone is doing okay during this crisis. Networking is hugely important in the best of times. During a crisis such as this, where in-person meetings are risky, this kind of soft skill is crucial to building relationships and creating a community.

“We are seeing a fundamental shift in the skills and leadership background required by companies,” said Resendes.

Some Silver Linings for Job Seekers

It is difficult to see past the daily grim headlines, but there are some silver linings for motivated job seekers. Many job seekers are simply deciding to wait out the storm, which means the pool of competitors is smaller than it would otherwise be for those actively looking. Also, many older workers may simple opt for early retirement rather than reinventing themselves for a few more years, which will shrink the pool even more.

It’s important to remember that when a vaccine or widespread testing puts the worst of the health crisis behind us, the employment picture gets much brighter. Because the economy was victim to an exogenous shock and not internal rot, hiring may well be supercharged when it recovers.

Sure, some industries, like travel, hospitality, and tourism, may take a long time to recuperate, but others, like technology, healthcare, construction, and consulting firms, will be catapulted way ahead as innovators race to respond to new social and commercial needs and new consumer expectations.

Going forward, job seekers should highlight different skills and experiences than they used to. Anything that shows an ability to achieve a vision or a mission by leveraging calm, decisive leadership during times of adversity and crises will grab attention, as will skills in managing a remote workforce, an ability to restructure policies and procedures, and distance production.

Most organizations have never experienced a disruption on the scale of the Covid-19 crisis, and they will do all they can to minimize the fallout and ensure it never happens again. If you can contribute to that goal, you will be hired!

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Where Will Your Office Be?

The time has never been better to leverage the power of the virtual workplace

By Julie Norwell

On a recent afternoon, Barbara Hockstader, the vice president of Product Strategy at The Energy Project, and her co-worker finalized some changes to a presentation they were collaborating on and sent it off to the CEO for review.

Then she walked downstairs to her kitchen and started cutting vegetables for dinner. Hockstader often works from her vacation home in Connecticut two hours north of her company’s headquarters in Yonkers, NY.

“Google Docs is the technology that has had the biggest impact on the way I work over the past few years,” she says. “I can edit a document with several other people at the same time and all of us can be in different cities around the world.”

Where will your office be?
Where will your office be?

Working from home is certainly not unique, but, thanks to ever-improving technologies that enhance connectivity and productivity, like cloud-based file sharing and mobile applications, working remotely has never been easier. Indeed, technology developments have expanded the office walls of businesses in ways previously unimaginable.

Educational instructors hold online classes with students in different cities, mobile apps allow colleagues to send large files and collaborate on a document from a half a world away, and videoconferencing technology allows someone to participate in a meeting from his phone while he’s walking down the street.

A shared office space revolution is also underway

A shared office space revolution has, until very recently, been a trend, as well. Co-working businesses, which once catered to start-ups and freelancers, offer amenities and the latest technologies to attract larger players.

The shifting of work outside a traditional office setting will only pick up momentum as businesses increasingly place less emphasis on the physical presence of a worker in the office and more on her productivity and deliverables. The time has never been better to leverage the power of the virtual workplace.

Redefining Remote-Working

Working remotely nowadays is about so much more than working from home. Amir Salihefendic, the CEO of one small software company, Doist, believes that technology changes happening today could lead to a massive paradigm shift for work with widespread implications for the world, similar to industrialization. He calls it “remote-first.”

Salihefendic says that, if not for the ability to source talent from anywhere in the world, he would be out of business. His little company could never have competed in Silicon Valley against the tech giants. But by building up a remote-first business, he and his team could test their ideas, innovate, and grow the company from anywhere in the world without depending on tech investors.

Remote-working isn’t just for office workers

Salihefendic proudly touts that all the processes inside his company, from product development to marketing to HR, is fully distributed around the world. There is no single headquarters and the 53 employees of the company are spread across 23 different countries. He has still yet to meet some of the people he’s hired.

If you think that the lack of personal interaction might weaken company loyalty, you’d be wrong. Doist’s employee retention rate over the past five years is 93%. It turns out that many people really enjoy the flexibility of working when, and where, they want.

Of course, remote-working isn’t just for office workers.

Medical professionals use some eyebrow-raising remote diagnostic tools now to attend to patients in far-flung places. They include smart phone applications that enable patients, themselves, to perform echocardiograms, take blood pressure tests and even count red blood cells. The results are then sent electronically to doctors for diagnosis.

And what 50-year old won’t be excited to hear about the invention of the PillCam Colon? The ingestible, disposable capsule contains a miniature camera that takes detailed pictures of a patient’s colon as it passes naturally through his digestive system. The images are wirelessly transmitted to a data recorder attached to a belt worn by the patient that can be read later by a doctor. It may not be long before this procedure supplants the common, albeit more invasive, colonoscopy.

“Technology enables physicians to see patients outside the confines of their offices,” says Eliza Ng, MD, MPH, deputy chief medical officer at MetroPlus Health Plan. “These emerging new technologies allow traditional diagnostics of healthcare to be used in a more accessible way because patients can use them in their own home. They hold a lot of promise for rural areas where patients have less access to high quality or specialized care compared to urban settings.”

Not Your Parents’ Shared Office Space

For remote workers who still prefer the accoutrements of an office setting, there is a solution: shared office space. To be sure, this is not the shared office space of yesterday. The cutting-edge companies of today offer not only a desk, internet, and a printer, but also a juice bar, beer on tap, a luxury spa, a gym and much more all within a professionally designed and decorated work environment.

Who’s Eating Your Lunch Now

WeWork’s coworking approach includes having a community manager who keeps track of members and organizes social and business events to bring them together – the better to network and inspire each other.

Although freelancers and start-ups represent a majority of its clientele, WeWork has been adding to its ranks such business titans as IBM, Verizon and Siemens. Increasingly, larger companies are renting from WeWork or transferring divisions there because they see an opportunity to limit their financial downside in the event of an unanticipated expansion or contraction. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to hobknob with the chic, entrepreneurial types, either.

American Workers on the Move

Given the changes in the workplace, it’s curious that recent data suggest a declining population growth in big cities. According to William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy research group in Washington DC, there is a broad dispersal of the nation’s population—from large metropolitan areas to smaller ones, from cities to suburbs and from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt. Among 84 big cities, 55 of them either grew at lower rates than the previous year or sustained population losses. The data continue a pattern that began last year.

Changes in the workplace are opportunities

Frey conjectures that the declines may be attributable to high costs of living in some cities and that workers are attracted by more affordable homes in the suburbs. Since 2012 the growth of urban areas has halved and exurban county growth has quadrupled.

The data may merely reflect the continuation of a trend that was underway before the Great Recession disrupted it in 2007. But it will be interesting to see how demographic trends ultimately interact with technology trends.

For Amir Salihefendic of Doist, migrating Americans may be an opportunity to prove a point.

“Remote-first is the first way of working that is truly location-independent. This change has huge potential benefits not just for individuals and companies, but for the world,” he blogged last November.

“Remote work has the potential to keep dollars and young people in communities and countries that have been left behind in the information age.”

No matter what, changes in the workplace are opportunities for all of us to envision how the new environment can shape our lives in satisfying ways.

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Where Will the Jobs Be?

The landscape of the global labor force is changing.

By Julie Norwell

Even before the novel coronavirus outbreak, the global labor force was changing. Developments in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are at the forefront of changes in the workplace and herald a future of automation that will make work drastically different. Technologies can already do tasks that we once believed only humans could do, and this trend will only continue.

Analysts from such august institutions as McKinsey, Brookings and MIT anticipate that the disruption in the labor force stemming from technology will be of a similar magnitude as the shift from the agrarian economic model to the model ushered in by the Machine Age. Some speculate that it might even be greater.

Where will the jobs be?
Where will the jobs be?

Although such dramatic prognostications are fodder for alarmists who warn that robots are killing jobs, you shouldn’t panic. Yes, some jobs will be fully automated in the future. Most, however, are likely to change rather than disappear entirely, and many new jobs that we can’t even imagine today will emerge.

Jobs in Transition

Global Management Consulting firm, McKinsey, has undertaken an ongoing effort to study the future of work. McKinsey’s analysts studied 2,000 work activities across 800 occupations.

They found that, the majority (60%) of all occupations have at least 30% of activities that could be automated, and that almost every occupation has at least some automation potential. However, given current technologies, less than 5% of all occupations can be automated entirely. In other words, more occupations will change than will be automated away.

That doesn’t mean you have nothing to worry about. In a related report McKinsey estimates that 75 million to 375 million people globally may need to switch occupations by 2030.

Not surprisingly, the jobs that will be lost to automation involve physical activities in very predictable environments, such as in manufacturing, food service and hospitality, as well as the collection and processing of data, such as in certain financial work and back office transactions.

The jobs of the future will require technical skills, math, statistics, and logical thinking. Comfort with data will be essential. We will likely see “hybrid jobs” – that is, jobs that combine different disciplines in ways that we haven’t seen before. But they will also increasingly involve humans working side-by-side with machines, using skills that machines cannot match, especially those that rely on social interactions, such as managing people, applying expertise, or research and writing skills. 

The more “human-centric” a job is, the more likely it is to resist absorption by automation. Such jobs are likely to involve four basic competencies – sometimes called the “Four C’s:” creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.

In some ways, older professionals are well situated for such jobs because they have been in the workforce longer than younger professionals. They have more experience and have acquired valuable interpersonal skills and expertise that will serve them well as the work landscape changes. But in the Digital Age no one can afford to rest on his laurels.

Workers must constantly focus on upping their game

In a 2017 Deloitte report, analysts anticipate that the half-life of skill sets will decrease to five years in the future of work. For example, technical skills that are in high demand today will become less sought after as more workers become skilled in those areas. Meanwhile, the demand for expertise in other areas will grow. Above all, workers must constantly focus on upping their game and making their own opportunities.

Factors in Job Growth

Demographics, climate change and global economic forces will all be determining factors in job creation by 2030, too. Our aging society is catalyzing the growth of jobs in the healthcare industry, for example, and climate challenges and rising energy demands will spur jobs promoting energy efficiency.

Investment in technology and infrastructure by government and business will beget jobs in technology, construction and construction-related sectors.

Historically, developing technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed. McKinsey found, for example, that since the advent of personal computers 3.5 million jobs have been lost versus 19.2 million jobs created – a net gain of 15.8 million jobs. Looking ahead, McKinsey forecasts that new jobs will result from growth in current occupations and the creation of new types of occupations that may not have existed before. If history repeats itself, job growth (i.e. jobs gained) could more than offset jobs lost to automation.

Categories with the highest percentage of job growth
Specifically, McKinsey reports, “the categories with the highest percentage of job growth net of automation include:
  • healthcare providers;
  • professionals such as engineers, scientists, accountants, and analysts; IT professionals and other technology specialists; managers and executives, whose work cannot easily be replaced by machines;
  • educators…;
  • and ‘creatives,’ a small but growing category of artists, performers, and entertainers who will be in demand as rising incomes create more demand for leisure and recreation.”

Tours of Duty

To smooth the transition to the future of work, it will be incumbent on government and businesses to implement policy changes to train and retrain people to accommodate the demand of new and different workforce skills, to retool healthcare and income support systems to promote more fluidity in the labor market, and to help displaced workers find employment.

Tours of Duty

By all appearances, these institutions have a long way to go. Andy Wyckoff, director of the Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation at the OECD, writes that governments are lagging behind the need to adapt policymaking to the fast pace of technological developments – and the gap is widening. Businesses aren’t doing much better.

According to a Deloitte survey, employees give their learning and training departments a low -8 net promoter score, complaining of outdated learning management systems and legacy content. The smart worker, therefore, will shoulder the responsibility to continually learn new midcareer skills and adapt to changes in the employment market.

LinkedIn co-founder, Reid Hoffman, views careers today as “tours of duty,” whereby workers stay at a given company just a few years.

He believes the time has come for a new employer-employee compact that acknowledges the probable impermanence of the relationship yet seeks to build trust and investment by way of an alliance that offers both parties value.

In other words, companies should try to attract and retain talent by offering employees real skills, new relationships or the opportunity to enhance their personal brand.

As an employee, if a company isn’t offering you these things, you might do well to look elsewhere because, as long-term job security slips away in the future of work, learning and development opportunities will be the hallmark of a good job and your ticket to a better career.

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Job Seeking During the Coronavirus Crisis

Put your worries to work so you’re ready when we get to the other side of it

By Julie Norwell

Reading the news is depressing stuff these days. In addition to the tragic loss of life that now seems inevitable, the coronavirus health crisis has turned into a full-blown economic crisis that promises to rival every economic crisis in the post-war era.

Bank of America “officially declared” in mid-March that the U.S. economy has fallen into a recession – and that was even before the U.S. Labor Department reported unemployment claims had surged to 3.3 million, up from 281,000 the week prior. In the week ending March 28 initial claims leapt to 6.6 million – an all-time high.

Experts expect these numbers to worsen yet over the coming months.

Video Interviewing

A sobering analysis by management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, estimates that up to one-third of U.S. jobs could be vulnerable. The most affected industries – hospitality, food service, and retail – account for 42% of vulnerable jobs. With Americans retreating to their homes, consumer spending – which comprises two-thirds of the U.S. economy – has narrowed to grocery, hand sanitizer and toilet paper purchases.

The Economic Recovery Will Happen

McKinsey’s analysis find that lockdowns disproportionally affect low-income workers. But unemployment is likely to spread across most industries and income levels until businesses see the economic rebound that invariably follows an economic crisis.

When will that happen?

At this point, it’s anybody’s guess. It depends entirely on the economic policy and the public health responses to the crisis.

But it’s never too early to start preparing for a job search. Whether hiring picks up in the third quarter of this year or sometime in 2021, you should put your worries to work now so that you can hit the ground running when we emerge on the other side of the coronavirus crisis.

This Economic Crisis Is Different

The rapidly worsening doom and gloom news is head-spinning. Events are moving so fast that in the last two weeks of March Goldman Sachs revised its economic forecast of the second quarter three times; first, to a contraction of 5%, then to 24%, then to a jaw-dropping 34%. That’s 3.5 times bigger than any decline in history. Goldman Sachs’ lead economist, Jan Hatzius, says that unemployment will hit 15% by the second half of the year.

Still, this economic crisis is different from other economic crises.

Unlike the 2008 financial crisis, which was the result of complex structural problems in the U.S. economy, the current crisis is the result of an exogenous shock to the economy – that is, an unpredicted event that comes from outside the economic system.

In theory, an exogenous shock to an otherwise healthy economy can absorb the shock and rebound in a classic V-shaped growth curve. That is a big difference from the slow, 10-year recovery after the 2008 crisis.

A quick rebound is exactly what Goldman Sachs forecasts. It sees GDP surging 19% in the third quarter. Likewise, Morgan Stanley forecasts growth of 21% after a sharp contraction of 38% in the second quarter.

To be clear, there is no consensus on what the recovery will look like.

Morgan and Goldman expect a more drawn out recovery than initially anticipated, and some experts foresee a full-on U-shaped recovery. Unfortunately, an L-shaped recovery isn’t out of the question.

There is no consensus on what the recovery will look lik

But economic relief efforts are underway. In the first week of April Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tweeted that community banks have already processed over $875 million in loans of the $349 billion small business Paycheck Protection Program, and big banks will be following suit soon. Treasury officials also plan to ask Congress to commit an additional $200 billion to the program.

Experts do agree that the recovery very much depends on the policy response to the crisis. McKinsey has modeled out various economic scenarios based on the aggressivity of the government’s economic policy and public health responses to the coronavirus crisis. To avoid a grim outcome, it strongly urges quick and bold leadership.

Don’t Let Someone Eat Your Lunch

What’s the bottom line: Should you postpone your job search?

The answer is no. Here are three reasons why:

Don’t Let Someone Eat Your Lunch

1. No one can guess the bottom of this market and it won’t get easier to wait. Back in 2008 many would-be job seekers waited for the market to recover, which took a long time. If current estimates hold, a rebound in the third and fourth quarters would be 3-6 months from now. A typical job search also takes 3-6 months, so starting the process now is the right time to research the job you want and make yourself the best candidate possible for that job so that you’re ready to go when hiring picks up.

2. Hiring managers are always working back channels to place people in open positions, both in good times and in bad. It’s called the “unpublished job market.” If you aren’t job seeking, you won’t know about those opportunities, and hiring managers won’t know about your candidacy.  

Imagine showing up for an interview with your top company choice only to be told that the spot you were gunning for was filled two weeks ago. Don’t let someone who acted more quickly than you eat your lunch!

A much better strategy is to throw your hat into the ring now and politely tell the hiring manager: “I understand that your hiring circumstances may be uncertain at the moment, but please keep me in mind when things improve.” Your candor and consideration will be appreciated.

3. Don’t forget that a crisis is the best time to show your mettle to hiring managers. Anyone can be a leader when times are good, but a crisis is precisely when companies need strong leaders. If you have something special to offer, let people know. You will be in high demand.

Put Your Worries to Work While You Have the Time

Whether you are employed or not, you are probably spending your days at home like most Americans. Since you have more time on your hands than usual, take a break from watching Tiger King on Netflix to reflect on what your skills are. Do some research to figure out how they may be transferrable to another industry or another type of position. Lastly, cogitate on how you can present these skills to a hiring manager in a language that he’ll understand: dollars and cents.

Put Your Worries to Work

Don’t be shy to reach out for professional help. This kind of exercise is a specialty for executive coaching firms like The Barrett Group. If they can help you demonstrate that you can change a company’s bottom line, create new income, or save time and money, you will get hired. In that case, the investment in a coach will have been well worth it.

Quarantining is an ideal time to ramp up your networking. Because everyone is home, they are reaching out to people they don’t regularly communicate with. Exploit this opportunity and make video calls do double duty for you – make it social but with the potential for a future professional payoff. (If you’re nervous, keep it casual by positioning your kids or your dog in the background.)  

Be sure to take the time, also, to review skills that might be missing from your resume and upskill. Read more: In the Digital Age, Upskilling Is Hot!

Lastly, don’t forget that there are many companies that ARE hiring now. Companies from industries spanning technology to online retail to home delivery are hiring to meet increased demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. LinkedIn maintains a regularly updated list of companies hiring right now. And the Wall Street Journal is tracking a long list of companies that are both shedding and adding workers and worker benefits.

Many of the positions in demand now are temporary, but consider being a hero in the short-term. In addition to acquiring a few new skills, some contacts, and making a little more income, you will make a difference. What better way to put your worries to work?

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In The Digital Age, Upskilling Is Hot!

Like it or not, the digital age is the source of a tsunami of change in our lives.

By Julie Norwell

Rapid technological changes are shaping everything from the way we hail a cab to the way we order takeout food. We are forced to adapt to new ways of doing the most basic tasks. It’s no wonder, then, that you may be feeling similar pressure in your work life.

Your calendar is updated by others remotely, your files are stored in the cloud and editable by someone in a different city – or country, and a modern meeting is held by video conferencing technology in a “zoom room” or over a smart phone. Even the staid one-page, paper resume has been replaced by the LinkedIn profile.

In The Digital Age, Upskilling Is Hot!
In The Digital Age, Upskilling Is Hot!

In an effort to keep up with the competition, companies must respond to the never-ending need to upgrade systems, digital platforms, and applications. Naturally, companies value most the employees who can keep up with all these changes. It is incumbent upon you, therefore, to continually develop yourself, to learn new skills – especially digital skills – and to be flexible about learning new modes and patterns of work.

In the digital age, having excellent skills is a more valuable currency than an impressive resume, but the requisite skills are a moving target.

According to a report by the RAND corporation, technology skills have to be updated every three years in order to have continued relevance. 

So “upskilling” is crucial for anyone who hopes to position him or herself for a better opportunity at a new company or advancement within the current one.  But what skills are the most important ones to have? And what is the best way to acquire them?

What Is Upskilling and How Do I Do It?

A scene in “The Intern,” a 2015 film about a retired professional, bored with retirement, who elects to return to the workforce, shows Robert DeNiro’s character, Ben Whittaker, reading the instructions to digitally apply for a job posting to an e-commerce startup company. “I have no idea what you just read,” said Whittaker’s friend in the scene. “It’s like a different language!” Undeterred, Whittaker applies for, and lands, a job at the startup and begins his re-education in the world of modern technology.

Upskilling should be a constant endeavor

These days the experience of those characters may be common to people of all ages who aren’t actively updating their skillset. A 2016 report by the World Economic Forum forecast that within five years over one-third of skills that are considered important in the workforce will have changed. Therefore, acquiring new skills and knowledge that make you marketable in your career – upskilling, in today’s parlance – should be a constant endeavor for everyone.

But what skills you should learn depend entirely on the needs of your employer and, of course, on you.

Would you like to advance in the field you’re already in or pursue a different career altogether? Many company leaders now see a yawning gap between the technical needs of their company and the technical abilities of today’s workforce.

Research firm Gartner reports that “…talent has now been recognized globally as the single biggest issue standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives.” Increasingly, companies are recognizing the value of training their workers in new skills and offering them valuable professional development. If you are offered such an opportunity, jump on it!

If not, you should be exploring ways to develop yourself on your own.

Consulting with a professional career coach, like the ones available at The Barrett Group, is a great first step for getting a fresh perspective on what you might do to boost your career. Other good resources include finding a mentor, joining an industry association, or taking a course at a local university where you can interact with an experienced educator. Speaking to other people who know the industry is a great way to find out what skills are in hot demand.

Once you figure out what skills are important for your career goals, there are endless ways to learn them – and they aren’t necessarily costly or time consuming. Read books, subscribe to technical magazines, or take an online course, of which there are many excellent, free ones, like Coursera or MIT’s OpenCourseWare. It may seem obvious, but do an online search for “How to learn [fill in the blank].” You’ll doubtless get a page or more of good links to blogs, webinars or podcasts to dig into.

The value of online tutorials
Don’t underestimate the value of online tutorials or YouTube videos.

Although they aren’t usually professionally edited and may lack clarity and thoroughness, they are easily accessible and free. What’s more, they often incorporate links, user comments and interactive demonstrations that are incredibly informative.

Finally, set yourself a tech goal, like creating a website or starting a blog. There is nothing better than experiential learning for mastering technical skills. Working on a project is more compelling than reading a book and the task focuses your attention on the practical application of the skills you are learning.

You might also consider joining a tech-related club and volunteering for a technical project. It will give you valuable experience and, perhaps, the opportunity to work with people with more technical know-how than you, who can act as useful resources. Doing this will have the added benefit of broadening your network and possibly opening doors in your career.

Seasoned Professionals Have an Edge

A report by the World Economic Forum on the future of jobs identifies the technology drivers of change that have already impacted industries – mobile internet, cloud technology and Big Data – and those that we can expect by 2020 – artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and autonomous transport. Nearly every industry and every organizational role will eventually require the use of sophisticated technology, but there are huge talent gaps.

There are huge talent gaps in the use of sophisticated technologies

According to the RAND Corporation, two different types of skills are in short supply: digital skills and digital navigation skills. The former are the technical skills required to use digital technologies. The latter is a wider and less tangible set of skills that is less about knowing technological skills than knowing how to find and prioritize information and assess its quality and reliability. It means taking responsibility for figuring out what you need to know and where to find that knowledge.

The good news is that hard, digital skills are defined and relatively easy to learn in a class or a book. Meanwhile, digital navigation skills require experience, judgement and time to acquire, which gives the seasoned professional an advantage in the employment market. The key here is to be able to apply technology within the context of a specific profession.

This means, for example, a doctor knowing how to use health IT tools to better diagnose a patient’s malady, or an auditor knowing how to use data analytics and visualization software to evaluate copious amounts of information on a spreadsheet at the click of a button. Still, it’s an ongoing process because the knowledge base is constantly changing and one must continue to adapt to new technologies and ways of doing things.

In the face of such radical change in the job environment, staying competitive means adapting. But successful people understand that learning is a lifelong pursuit. If you invest in ongoing skills development, you will do your job more effectively, increase your salary bargaining power, and give yourself confidence to set increasingly challenging goals. You will set yourself apart from the crowd and the results will speak for themselves.

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Do You Deserve More Money?

Here are 4 tips to get the compensation you want

By Julie Norwell

Compensation is a fundamental component of employment, but it’s one of the most difficult topics for workers to discuss with their employers. No surprise, perhaps, given that discussing money is traditionally a conversational taboo, along with politics and religion. Nevertheless, if you want to get paid what you deserve, developing a comfort level with this topic and having a good strategy will go a long way towards preparing yourself to ask for – and get – the compensation you want.

Enlisting the help of a career coach is a great way to get started. Their clientele gives them hands-on insight into what works and what doesn’t. A coach can suggest best practices and real practice to help you become more at ease with the process.

As for strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that, when it comes to negotiating money, there are two specific times to do it: during the hiring period and after you’re already employed. Each time calls for a different approach, and it pays (literally!) to learn the following tactics.

Lay the Groundwork During the Application Process

The first step to set yourself up well to negotiate money during the application process is to make the hiring manager believe that you are the perfect fit for the job. That means you omit everything from your resume that is outside the scope of the job description. Scratch all keywords that are unrelated to the company, the industry, and the role that the company needs you to do. Scratch even achievements that you are very proud of if they aren’t related to the job description, and leave only core competencies and skills. This will help ATS software identify you as a highly skilled person, flag you as being worth more money, and secure you more interviews.

How to Talk Money During the Interview Process

When you reach the interview process, pursue the same tactic as above through verbal articulation. Jot down in advance all of your successes that directly relate to the job posting, and discuss only those during your interview. Give examples of what you have done that relates to what the company wants you to do. Don’t bother to bring up anything else, even if you’re proud of it. Why? Discussing your experience beyond the job description might make the hiring manager think that you will negotiate any offer they might extend, which will result in a lowball initial offer.

You should absolutely negotiate, of course, and you want to ensure that the starting point is as high as possible before you do. Surprisingly, about half of all job applicants do NOT negotiate salary during the hiring process. Of those who do, most focus only on base pay, instead of considering the entire compensation package. People who don’t negotiate at all, or who don’t negotiate the compensation package as a whole, during the hiring process inevitably leave money on the table.

In general, if you’re asked what salary you want, try to duck giving a direct answer. Let the hiring manager name the first number. If pressed, offer a range, along with a disclaimer that you will consider a salary offer only in the context of a full compensation package, as well as the people you will work with and report to, and any other pertinent details. You don’t want to trap yourself into the low end of a range, and this disclaimer will give you greater freedom to negotiate.

Start Preparing to Ask for a Raise the Moment You’re Hired

The best way to get a pay raise after you’re employed, says Dan Resendes, chief consulting officer of The Barrett Group, is to accept a job offer with a request that you get your first evaluation in six months instead of in one year. You’ll look ambitious, and it enables you to ask for a raise twice in one year.

“Eighty percent of my clients get a 6-month evaluation when they ask for it,” says Resendes.

Next, ask your manager right away what her goals and objectives are. Find out what the performance indicators are and tell your manager that you plan to give her the best performance possible. In return you, you will ask to be compensated as well as possible. If this makes you feel apprehensive, remember that bosses are impressed by ambition, and asking for money demonstrates your interest in staying at the company.

Don’t wait until your evaluation to follow up and find out how you are doing against the goals you were given. Be proactive and have regular conversations once or twice per quarter to make sure that you’re on track and that the objectives haven’t changed, lest you fall victim to an evolving mission.

Track Your Successes

One unique stratagem that coaches at The Barrett Group counsel their clients to do is to buy a “dream book” when they start a new job. A dream book is a notebook in which you write down all your successes and the ways that you deserve gold stars for meeting your goals. Update the notebook each week. By the end of 10 months, it will be full of contributions you’ve made to the company that can inform the conversations you have with your boss about your performance and bolster your rationale for a pay raise request.

The most effective way to use the dream book is to invite your boss to coffee about a month before your evaluation takes place, the better to have her undivided attention. Tell her that you’ve been tracking your work performance since you were hired and present her with a report that will give her complete, accurate information of your contributions to the company that she can review at her leisure as she considers your upcoming raise.

Offering your boss such written evidence has three benefits:

  1. It supports your argument for deserving more money,
  2. It takes the onus off her to think of reasons, herself, why you deserve a raise when there may be other competing demands on her time, and
  3. It helps her defend to higher ups in the company her decision to give you more money if the need arises.

When you proactively target company goals, track your results, and regularly communicate your efforts and overall ambition to your boss, you strip away all the risks generally associated with asking for a pay raise. You make the best case possible that you deserve a raise. Most people are reactionary with their careers, but those who manage their careers in this way end up more successful, more satisfied, and better compensated.

General Dos & Don’ts

In addition to these four tactics, here are some general Dos and Don’ts to keep in mind as you plan your next raise request:

  • DO ask! You’re more likely to get a raise if you ask for it than if you don’t ask for it. Plus, you’ve got nothing to lose; people don’t get fired for asking for more money.
  • DO consider bonuses, benefits, perks, and other elements of the full compensation package in your negotiations, not just base pay.
  • DO your homework. Know what you’re worth, what you’ve done and what you need to do to set yourself up for success. Make sure that your work priorities are aligned with the company’s, and solicit feedback regularly from your boss.
  • DO your best to appear confident during all your conversations about money.
  • DO take stretch assignments that allow you to interact with people outside your silo. If your boss doesn’t treat you right, these additional contacts will enhance your leverage to secure a better situation.
  • DON’T talk aboutyour personal financial needs when negotiating your pay. Your rent hike isn’t your boss’s problem. Negotiations should always be performance-based conversations.
  • DON’T negotiate money through email! Men especially make this mistake, observes Resendes. If you are communicating via email, you can be sure that you’re up against a team of people whose best interests are hiring you at the lowest possible compensation you’ll accept. Instead pick up the phone so you can speak to one – and only one – person and hear his reactions to your comments.
  • DON’T negotiate pay before you have an offer in writing. Big mistake! If you don’t know what’s in the entire compensation package, you don’t have the full picture. The base salary may be low because of a big bonus, corporate housing, stock options, or any number of other reasons. Wait until you know all the details of an offer before you begin negotiating.
  • DON’T challenge your boss or get defensive if you don’t get the raise you want. Let it sit for a week and then, when you’re calm, circle back to ask what you could have done differently to get the raise you asked for. Use the experience as an opportunity for self-growth.
  • DON’T forget that if you don’t get paid what you deserve, you can always go elsewhere. It’s a jobseeker’s market, so take advantage!

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Leveraging The “It” Factor

And other intangible advantages you should use in an executive job search

by Julie Norwell

You’ve revamped your LinkedIn profile, added new skills and credentials to your value proposition, and practiced interviewing. You’ve re-written your resume for every job opportunity, crafted your cover letters with the care of someone wooing a new love interest, and sent follow-up messages to every hiring manager you’ve met. You’ve even lost weight and refreshed your wardrobe.

If you are STILL getting no promotions or compelling new job opportunities, you need to look beyond the standard checklist of job search activities. You need to leverage the intangible advantages employed by the most successful executives. Sure, skills and experience are essential in an executive job search, but it’s your ability to garner and harness these important, subtle, and sometimes elusive, qualities that will really set you apart from your competition.

One of the most important of these is executive presence.

Executive Presence

The “It” Factor

There is only so high that people can advance in their careers with skills and experience alone. At some point their prospects will level off if they don’t possess a characteristic known as “executive presence.”

Although executive presence has been studied enough to have earned its own acronym (EP), it remains difficult to describe and even harder to obtain. It’s the certain je ne sais quoi that demarcates managers from executives. It’s a manner of looking and behaving the part of an executive that includes a combination of things like a firm handshake, good eye contact, dignified comportment, and appropriate dress. Someone with executive presence also exudes an ease of being, a sense of self-worth, and confidence that is neither arrogant nor pretentious. In short, it’s the “It” factor.

Someone With Executive Presence

You know it when you see it. You also know it when it’s lacking. A senior executive of a New York City-based startup related his impression of a candidate who lacked executive presence during an interview:

I interviewed a guy with 30 years of experience for a position. He comes into the company, which is famous for being a startup, wearing an ill-fitting, strangely colored suit. Someone with executive presence would have understood, at a minimum, that wearing jeans and a sports jacket to an interview at a startup is appropriate. He also exhibited little confidence in himself, carried himself poorly, and lacked authority when he spoke. With 30 years of experience, this guy should have been at the executive level. But it was clear to me he was not an executive – he was a 30-year manager.

Develop Your Executive Presence

Executive presence comes naturally to some people. But it can also be cultivated through planning and preparation. The first step is understanding specifically what you need to do to boost your leadership potential.

In a study done by the Center of Talent Innovation, the pillars of executive presence are defined as gravitas, communication, and appearance, with gravitas being the core characteristic. It includes such behaviors as acting decisively, exuding confidence, and demonstrating emotional intelligence. Indeed, mastering emotional intelligence will put you halfway or more to cultivating your executive presence. (Read Emotional Intelligence May Be More Valuable than Skills in the Job Search for more information.)

Executive Career Coach

If you’re unsure of how to get started, engaging an executive career coach, such as those at The Barrett Group, is an excellent way to get help in targeting how you can up your game and perform at your best. Because they have their ear to the ground in the job market, they are best situated to help you play to your strengths, whatever those are, and exploit them to the best of your ability to yield better opportunities and higher compensation in your job search.

International Experience Differentiates You

Is international experience relevant in your job search? If the job involves interacting with other countries and traveling, then, yes, it’s relevant. But even if you’re seeking a US-based job, having international experience allows hiring managers to tick off the “preferred” box. It shows a little extra value about you.

If you’ve lived outside your own country, it implies that you’re a risk taker and even that you are a higher performing applicant. In addition, people who work in an international environment, where business and cultural customs are different, demonstrate a greater adaptability in carrying out their jobs than their local peers.  

A recent article in CEO Magazine details several other reasons why international experience is important for executives, not least of which is that, in our increasingly globalized, technology-driven world, leaders with overseas experience will be crucial to driving future innovation and expansion.

If you have the opportunity to get international experience, and it’s not a hardship, get it and have it in the bank because you might find yourself looking for a job in the future where it will be important or useful.

Network, Network, Network!

It should be repeated often and vigorously to utilize your professional network (Read Hone Your Networking Skills…and Slip in the Backdoor to Land Your Next Job for more information). Networking is the biggest factor in finding a job for all types of people, and successful executives will tell you that most jobs, or even every job, they ever got was thanks to their network of relationships.

The most important thing to remember about networking, however, is not to wait until you are looking to switch jobs to build those relationships. You should build them when you don’t need them. How? You do it by always going out of your way to help others – that is, you pay it forward. Make it part of your business strategy to help others and extend yourself for others in whatever way you can whenever you are in a position to do so. If you do, when the times comes that you need help in a job search, you will find that people in your network will be willing to help you right back.

Address Issues of Culture Head On

Executive positions are very competitive, so small advantages will make a difference. Some advantages are easy to manage, such as dressing the part for an interview, for example. But job seekers need to know what that means at each different company. In today’s casual workplace, fitting in could mean a full suit, or it could mean jeans and a t-shirt (as the anecdote above demonstrated). If you have piercings, tattoos, or an unusual hairdo, try to tone things down if the environment calls for it. How you dress for an interview is a slight “tell” on how well you did your homework on a company.

If you have cultural differences, give special consideration to how to handle them in your job search. Someone with a thick foreign accent, for example, might need to practice speaking slowly and enunciating well. Orthodox Jewish applicants who need to leave before sundown every Friday should volunteer specific assurances on how this personal requirement will not affect their ability to get their work done.

Companies aren’t allowed to discriminate against applicants, of course. And, at the same time, you need to be yourself. But it shows a level of good judgement if you address these differences head on, which interviewers will appreciate. And it shows a clarity of mind that comes from preparation and forethought.

Mastering this and other intangible advantages will showcase your personal brand, which may well tip the scales in your favor in your job search.

More articles from The Barrett Group:

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Emotional Intelligence May Be More Valuable Than Skills In The Job Search

by Julie Norwell

Knowing how to read clients and colleagues, and understanding what underlying thoughts and emotions are influencing their actions and decisions, have long been useful skills in business.

These and related competencies, including staying calm under pressure, an ability to manage social relationships, being aware of your emotions and knowing how to channel them productively, comprise the rapidly spreading concept of Emotional Intelligence (abbreviated as either EI or EQ). These characteristics are recognized not only as important components of good business practices, but also a critical skillset in the modern workplace.

Emotional Intelligence
Hiring managers have taken note.

A Careerbuilder survey of more than 2600 U.S. hiring managers showed that a whopping 71% of employers value emotional intelligence in employees over IQ, and 34% of them admitted to placing greater emphasis on EQ when hiring and promoting employees. Nearly 60% of them said they’d pass on a candidate with a high IQ but a low EQ.

That survey was published in 2011, but the buzz about emotional intelligence has only grown. Many businesses now study EQ and design programs to educate the masses about its important contributions to organizations and how to harness its benefits. The World Economic Forum even ranked emotional intelligence as one of the top 10 skills in 2020 in the The Future of Jobs report – a skill that didn’t even make the top 10 list for 2015.

It’s clear that when it comes to employment and job seeking, emotional intelligence is now critical to have – perhaps even more so than skills and experience.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is, as it sounds, the intersection of emotions and intelligence. It’s the ability to recognize one’s own emotions and the emotions of others, manage the emotions so that they don’t control your own behavior, and use the information in a way that is productive and beneficial to relationships and circumstances.

For example, a manager with high EQ might recognize a worker’s struggle to make a standing 8:30am meeting because the drop-off time of his child’s school conflicts with it. She changes the meeting time to accommodate the worker. The manager has sacrificed little with the schedule change, but has gained enormous appreciation on the part of the worker and even, perhaps, other witnesses, by the gesture.

The theory of emotional intelligence has evolved in different ways since its introduction in the 1980s. Peter Salovey, currently President of Yale University, and John Mayer, Professor of Psychology at the University of New Hampshire, were early pioneers of the theory, publishing a foundational research article in 1989. Daniel Goleman then popularized the concept with the release of his 1995 best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ.

Goleman identified five core competencies:

  1. Self-Awareness – Your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and their effect on those around you.
  2. Self-Regulation – Your ability to manage your emotions and direct your behavior optimally given the situation.
  3. Motivation – Your ability to channel emotions towards clear goals and work towards them, maintaining focused attention and a positive attitude.
  4. Empathy – Your ability to perceive, accurately identify, and understand the emotions of others.
  5. Social Skills – Your ability to manage relationships with people around you to the betterment of all parties.

EQ Goes Mainstream

Over the last twenty years, many experts have tweaked the concept of EQ for professional, academic, and social applications and run with it.

Travis Bradberry, author of best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and co-founder of TalentSmart, a leading provider of emotional intelligence training for businesses, calls emotional intelligence the “missing link” that explains why “people with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time.” He also claims that “emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.” TalentSmart boasts clients among 75% of the Fortune 500 companies.

The Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute was created at Google in 2007 when a team of leading experts in mindfulness, neuroscience and emotional intelligence developed an internal course for Google employees. It soon became an incredibly popular training program and now serves companies, nonprofits and government organizations worldwide.

And the RULER program, developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, has been sweeping the nation’s schools using an evidence-based approach for integrating social and emotional learning into classrooms.

Global management and consulting firm, McKinsey, has spotted the trend, estimating that, between 2016 and 2030, demand for social and emotional skills will grow across all industries by 26% in the U.S.

Benefits of EQ for Job Seekers

Yes, you still need certain skills and experience to get your foot in the door for many opportunities. But having high emotional intelligence will give you leverage over your competitors. Why? Because hiring managers know that people with high EQ make good decisions, handle change well, respond well to feedback, and are able to effectively solve problems. They stay calm under pressure, support their co-workers, and cultivate relationships that help to create productive work environments.

Hiring managers also know that people with high EQ are more likely to tough out a difficult situation, and direct reports of managers with high EQ are less likely to leave a company –  400% less likely according to one source!

Show Me the Money

Once employed, people with high emotional intelligence continue to be rewarded. The Careerbuilder survey showed that a full three-quarters of employers said they’d be more likely to promote someone with high emotional intelligence over someone with a high IQ.

And, in case you’re wondering, that eventually translates into money. According to a 2017 time-lagged study of emotional intelligence and salary, college students identified as having emotional intelligence turned out to enjoy significantly higher salaries 10 to 12 years later, mainly because EQ helped them acquire the social capital necessary to be successful in their careers.

Emotional Intelligence Can Be Developed

Emotional intelligence comes naturally to some people, but, as with music, sports or languages, anyone can learn it with instruction and practice. If you want to boost your EQ, you can peruse the abundance of literature available or take an assessment test. You can also start with the following steps:

  1. Become self-aware. Learn to identify your emotions as they happen. When you can label your emotions objectively, you can learn how to manage them so that you respond to them productively instead of reacting to them. Figure out your strengths and your weaknesses and learn how to maximize your effectiveness within these parameters.
  2. Stop and think. You may not be able to stop from feeling an emotion, but you can manage your response to it. Pause before you speak or write back to someone in a moment of anger or frustration. In the face of criticism, warranted or not, ask yourself how you might learn from the situation.
  3. Train your attention. Life is full of many distractions, but learning to focus on a goal or a purpose leads to calmness and clarity of mind. You can’t stop negative experiences or life stressors from occurring, but you can choose how you react to them. Daily journaling is one excellent way to process your frustrations and put things into perspective.
  4. Talk less and listen more. The more you understand the perspective of others, the more empathetic you’re likelier to be. You don’t have to agree with the perspective of others, but your effort to see how they see things will result in deeper and better relationships.
  5. Manage your relationships. Offer feedback, extend praise, and make apologies. Observe your surroundings and relationships and make concessions or accommodations to others, knowing that they your active efforts will result in better relationships and a more productive workplace.

It’s important to continue to practice these steps to maintain a high level of emotional intelligence. But the effort will pay off because people with high EQs have an edge – in business and in all aspects of life.

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