Chronicle of Philanthropy Live Discussion – Career Preservation: Become an Indispensable Asset

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

“The Recession and Your Career: How to Become an Indispensable Asset” – a live text-based discussion held January 13, Noon – 1pm

Review the complete transcript of this Question/Answer session at <>

Join the next Live Discussions on January 20 @1pm, a special time.  The topic will be: “Making Your Marketing Message Matter”

Discussion points for January 13 program:

As the recession deepens, an increasing number of nonprofit
organizations must look more closely at cutting costs — and at the grim
possibility of laying off employees.

In turn, many employees who have felt safe in their positions are now worried about the stability of their jobs.

What can employees do to prove that they are indispensable? What steps
should they take to bring more value to their organizations?

What can employers do to ease the fears of staff members and inspire them to improve their performance at this critical time?

Guest Panelists who contributed to this discussion:

Nick Fellers
is president of For Impact-The Suddes Group, a training and consulting
company in Ostrander, Ohio, that helps nonprofit groups and their
executives with organizational development, career development, and
fund raising.

Karen Katz is founder of the Career Acceleration Network, (CAN), LLC, a
career strategies company in Philadelphia. She is an active supporter of Net Impact, an international nonprofit organization whose mission is
to make a positive impact on society by growing and strengthening a
community of leaders who use business to improve the world.

Lynne Sarikas is director of the M.B.A. career center at
Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration, in
Boston. She previously worked as vice president for development at the
United Way of Massachusetts Bay.

Are women in the workforce more vulnerable during a recession?

The Wall Street Journal (Career Journal) recently posted an interview suggesting that women are more likely to experience difficulties with job retention, promotion, and transition during a recession than are their male counterparts.

The interview suggested that the high cost of childcare and commuting has a disproportionate affect on women, cutting their real wages below the differential that already exists. (On average, women with children earn $0.76 for every $1.00 earned by men; women without children are likely to earn close to $0.90 compared to their male counterparts). 

Certainly economic downturns exacerbate the factors affecting the most vulnerable in the workforce, e.g. working mothers,  fathers who are primary caregivers, as well as Boomers who are caring for disabled family members.  The prevalence of cases related to family responsibilities discrimination prompted the EEOC to issue guidelines for employers in May 2007:

“These EEOC
family responsibility guidelines condemn stereotypical perceptions of
employees, sex-based stereotypes of working women and pregnant women,
and discrimination against working fathers. The EEOC
also makes it clear that an employer’s “benevolent” stereotyping, such
as assuming a mother would not want a promotion if it meant moving to
another city, still has adverse effects and may be illegal under Title

Clearly, the recession affects all of us; to paraphrase George Orwell, it may affect some of us more than others.  What is your experience or opinion?


Compete with the Recession: Continuing Education offers an edge

Education is a job search strategy – one that may offer you a competitive edge during gloomy economic times. Some groups who may want to consider continuing their education as a job search strategy:

  • Disaffected college graduates, e.g., Liberal Arts  majors and those unhappy with vocational majors…
  • Experienced employees whose jobs have become obsolete or have been off-shored…
  • “Second- or Third-Act:”  those who are seeking a transition to another career, likely to be one that will offer more personal and/or societal meaning than their previous career…

If you identify with one of these groups, you should know that there is a bevy of educational administrators who want YOU to enroll in their classes. Programs are offered by vocational schools, community colleges, and 4-year institutions.  Why are these choices different from and perhaps better than traditional approaches to education?

  • Admission is likely be based on “open enrollment,” meaning that few programs will require transcripts or aptitude tests.  Desire to learn and participate is the only requirement.
  • Courses are more likely to be taught by those who actually work in the field; students are also likely to be working in related fields.  These people can become part of your professional network.
  • Student work is evaluated based on participation and results – without grades, papers, or tests.  The idea is to learn and apply your knowledge to the workplace.
  • Continuing studies programs are usually offered at a fraction of the cost of credit classes – fees are determined by actual costs and profit margins, not per “credit.”

Continuing education provides “cover” for periods of unemployment, and is always indicative of your willingness to learn new concepts and adapt to new technology.  These programs grease the wheels of career transition, permitting candidates to move into “demand occupations,” e.g. project management.

This month, one of the candidates I have worked with for nearly nine months landed the job he prepared for over a 4-year period. Before working with me, he had leveraged his experience as a technologically-competent Distribution Manager to land an intermediate job as an IT Manager with a small organization, a job he held for 3+ years. While employed in this intermediate position, this bilingual candidate completed a Project Management Certificate Program through a Continuing Studies program offered by a local 4-year institution; this program supplemented his degree earned from a South American university.  He recently started the job he had prepared for through a series of strategic career moves and validated by continuing education preparation.  Kudos to him!

Continuing Education is a proven strategy for job seekers and career changers; take advantage of the edge…

WSJ view of Second Act served-up like cold mashed potatoes

A well-meaning friend sent me today’s Wall Street article, Second Acts: Career Paths For Worn-Out Executives.  Not only does this article present an elitist view of the type of career transition available to older workers, the vignettes offered are not even newsworthy.

The article profiles senior executives who can afford to follow their avocation, like Mr. Orner (Bank Vice President to Executive Chef at a Yacht Club).  It is true that many Traditionalists and Boomers want to have another chance to give back to their communities; many are willing to sacrifice compensation to do so: this is yesterday’s news.  But the profile of the Traditionalist who sacrifices by making her own copies and travel plans is demeaning.  An older worker who transitions from corporate to nonprofit must surely understand and respect the non-hierarchical and self-sufficient culture of nonprofit organizations. Indeed, the personal assistance "sacrificed" by Ms. Shillings has gone the way of the electric typewriter, even in the corporate world. It is these profiles, not the executives, who are "worn-out."

I’m disappointed that the esteemed WSJ does not look into the more urgent generational issues of the day. I’d like to read about middle-managers, professionals, technicians, and working people who have successfully transitioned from their long-standing careers. Regardless of their status on the rungs of the ladder, Boomers and Traditionalists share membership in the "Sandwich Generation." They are likely to shoulder tremendous financial and emotional responsibilities for their parents and children. Financially, they cannot afford to leave or lose their "First Act," much less take on a lower-paying "Second Act." 

The issues are vital to our economic well-being: the discussion needs to go beyond "worn-out" profiles of well-heeled people. Among other things, we need to discuss effective cross-training, an acceptance of digital natives and digital immigrants, and a campaign to promote family-friendly corporate policies.  It would be fascinating to examine the synergy that exists between the values of Milliennials, Gen X’ers and Boomers, and harness that synergy to achieve a change in social policy.

The dynamic between generations in the workplace will be discussed at the upcoming Kennedy Conference: The Annual Gathering of Career Management Professionals, in Minneapolis, MN on May 2.  Two Boomers and One Millennial will present, "Mind the Gap: Connecting the Generations."  We hope to generate some buzz about this topic among our colleagues in the careers profession.  To weigh-in before the presentation, please comment here…  Look for blog posts from the Conference…

Fast Company blazes a trail for re-branding: Al Gore’s $100 Million Makeover

Fast Company has marked the 10th anniversary of Tom Peters’ The Brand Called You
with a puffy, but motivating piece on the re-branding of Al Gore.
Ellen McGirt’s cover story in the July/August 2007 issue of FC (Al Gore’s $100 Million Makeover) is required reading for anyone involved in career transition. 

Gore has integrated  his geeky penchant for research, his access to
well-heeled connections, and his willingness to speak passionately
about issues: the result is a transformation from failed politician to
successful entrepreneur.  No longer the butt of late-night TV jokes, he
is now an aspiring media mogul as the co-owner of Current TV.  He has become an adviser to two of the World’s Most Innovative Companies, Google and Apple;
co-founder of an investment firm that promotes a new definition of
sustainability; and, he is also involved in other enterprises that have
raised his net worth from $1-2 million to more than $100 million in
less than seven years.  Politics aside, this transition from "almost
got the job" is a story that can inspire the success of others, even
those with more moderate goals than Gore’s.

Al_gore_tee_shirtA few learning points: 

  • Be purposeful in defining your brand:  find your passion.
  • Dare to be different:  innovation is not as intimidating as invention – You CAN do it…
  • Connect with friends, family, colleagues:  "to network" can be
    conjugated as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb – it works at all levels
  • Use technology:  aside from promoting your ideas, technology allows you to listen and learn from your customers/audience

There is a lot of buzz in the careers community about this topic of branding (the book by Kirsten Dixon and William Arruda is
a must-read).  While Gore may not have participated in an official
branding program, the transformation of his image and financial outlook
speak volumes for the value of thoughtful and guided transition.

Posted by Karen P. Katz

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