Stuck in the Rat Race Mentality

Posted on May 29, 2013. Filed under: Career Management, Retirement, Salary | Tags: |

rat raceIn my last post, “Are You Just a Worker? Or Are You an Investor?” I talked about making a shift from a worker mindset to an investor mindset.

The idea is that we become less dependent on our earned worker-bee income and more focused on turning that earned income into passive investment income, which is where we place more of our dependence. The goal is not necessarily that we stop being worker-bees, unless we want to, but that obtaining real freedom over career management is in understanding who or what butters our bread, so to speak.

Of course, this is a concept we all nod in agreement to, but very few of us actually do anything about because, let’s face it, although it sounds nice, it also sounds “risky” and we are quick to say that we often don’t have the “luxury” of taking those kinds of risks. Or we just don’t feel “comfortable” with it.

So instead we spend our workdays (years) playing the same old game, focusing on how we don’t earn enough income or haven’t found the right place(s) to work for to help provide the security we so desperately want. The result, typically, is that we end up working harder and harder and not getting too far. Sure, our earned incomes might grow (as do our spending habits and hours on the job), but our level of security never really changes. We just add up more years of experience that we hope translates into a solid retirement package when the time comes.

Now there’s certainly nothing risky about all that, is there?

Hmm, welcome to the rat race.

A lot of us hear the word “investor” and we think of power players who have wads of cash to toss into this venture or that one, never really knowing which one will pan out. We think of Wall Street suits who always seem to be walking on the edge between millions today and broke tomorrow. Basically, we think about people we admire for their willingness to take big risks…essentially people not like us…but the idea of becoming one of them, although thrilling, really just scares us into inaction.

We might not get rich, we say, but at least we’ll be “safe.” We’ll go to school and get the good grades, so we can start a career/family, save up some money, and hope to retire with enough to relax doing something we enjoy. After all, if we work hard and do all the right things, it is a guarantee to work out that way for us because it is the safe plan, right? And money isn’t everything, right? Work-life balance…that’s more important.

In theory, it all sounds perfect. Work hard, get good grades, become a model employee…and you’ll be rewarded with the income, security, and work-life balance you’ve dreamed of…

Hmm, welcome to the rat race mentality.

The problem, of course, is that the lure of this mentality is more dream than reality. In fact, we could argue that this seemingly simple formula is one of the riskiest paths because it all relies on us expecting a reward from someone or someplace else on something we’ve “earned”…no matter what level of worker we become. In other words, we put in the time and effort and we are told we will be given the comfort and security we deserve.

We’re missing one last piece to the puzzle, though…how to protect the income we earn.

As I sit here, living in the Rochester, NY, area, I see this rat race being played out over and over again as I am wedged between two former giants of industry, Eastman Kodak and Xerox. When I was a kid, if you worked for either one of these companies, you were on the road to comfort and security. Kodak was famous for its yearly bonuses and its “guaranteed” pensions that not only covered you but your spouse too…forever! Even the initial layoffs, when it became obvious that the company was no longer what it once was and that it could not sustain its promises of comfort, came with lucrative packages, replete with multiple years of salary and of course never-ending health-care benefits. Or so it all seemed. That is, until last year or so, when the company started taking away some of these benefits, especially those for spouses, and leaving people who are now retired left in a lurch, fearing for their future and the future of their spouse who is now no longer covered.

I mean, these workers did everything they were asked, put in their years of faithful service, etc.

And what about the younger workers, like friends of mine, who both work for Xerox and have to endure biannual layoffs, never knowing whether this time it will be their turn. And these are people in management…with good grades and good credentials and good track records and 4 kids.

You know, as I think about this rat race we are in, I am reminded of that saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Yes, being an investor has risk, for sure. There’s an education that’s needed and we can/will make mistakes. But at least they are my mistakes…and at least I can take control of where I place my dependence. After all, isn’t that the true meaning of work-life balance…financial security…giving yourself an ace in the hole or, at the very least, trying to?

Investing isn’t necessarily about getting rich, if that’s what’s bothering you; it’s about building insurance. We’ve got to protect all that we’ve worked for. That’s called playing it “safe.”

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Social Media Engagement for Retirees Re-Entering the Workforce

Posted on September 28, 2012. Filed under: Job Search Tips, Resumes, Retirement, social media |

by Stephen Van Vreede (@ITtechExec)

A Growing Trend

Over the past several years, more and more retirees are re-entering the workforce. Some are getting part-time jobs while others are attempting to get back into the field the left upon retiring. Boy how things have changes, and quickly too! Social media is now a major player in the job search and hiring process.

What Is Social Media?

Social media simply refers to online platforms that bring folks together on a wide range of issues. Some of the most popular social media sites include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. However, there are hundreds more. But for the purposes of this discussion, let’s stick to the main social media players.

Are There Really Rules?

No. Social media sites don’t have “formal” rules that job seekers must follow. However, etiquette is important and following certain principles can make your time spent in the social world much more productive. A few key principles to keep in mind in the social media realm include:

  1. Don’t get carried away by the hype
  2. Just like your real-life network, it’s quality that trumps quantity
  3. Consider the Golden Rule: do unto others…
  4. People join these forums to connect with others, so don’t be shy
  5. Don’t go into the process solely focused on what you can get out of it

What’s the Point?

OK. So we have listed out some of the “rules” when using social media sites. One of the rules was to not focus on what you can get out of it. Really? Then what is the point? Well, it’s simple. You’re looking to engage with your audience in an area of common interest.

I’ll offer an example of this in action with LinkedIn. If you were a manage of software engineers upon retirement and you’d like to get back into a similar role, how do you get started? On LinkedIn, you can join Groups, of which there are thousands. You’ll want to search on groups that match your interest in software development. Once you join, you’ll have an opportunity to connect with many others involved in or interested in the software development field. LinkedIn allows you to contact the person directly if you’re part of the same LinkedIn Group. You can also post content that can be viewed by everyone in the Group. Again, when you follow the principles, you’ll know not to post something like “Back in the game and looking for a software development leader position.” No! You’ll start out by “listening” to what others in the Group are saying and attempting to engage them directly. Once something is established, you can identify if an opportunity exists.


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Retiring from Retirement: Resume Tips for Re-entering the Workforce

Posted on March 9, 2009. Filed under: Resumes, Retirement | Tags: , , |

Returning to workby Stephen Van Vreede (@ITtechExec)


Baby Boomers Working Longer or Returning to Work

It is very common today to hear about folks making the decision to return to the workforce after retiring within the past few years. In almost all cases, it comes down to a lifestyle decision of some type. For example, some elect to return to work because they are absolutely bored out of their minds and want to stay active professionally after a brief time away. Many others have had their investment portfolio slammed by the market, losing considerable value, and necessitating a return to work so that they can maintain a certain standard of living. Still others may have protected their assets and sustained their retirement portfolio but have the cash locked into areas in which it is not very liquid, requiring them to return to work for spending cash.

Regardless of the particular scenario for you, your time in “retirement” has likely translated into what many would consider to be a “gap” in your employment history. This is particularly true if you have been out of the technology, engineering, or manufacturing sectors. I (@ITtechExec) would like to offer some suggestions and words of caution about how to address employment gaps and other types of situations on your resume.

Consider Your Target

The first order of business is to identify the type of job you will pursue. Depending on your situation, you may be looking for a job that is exactly the same as your most recent position or one that is completely different. If the job is similar, you will want to play up your experience and accomplishments as well as your time in the industry. If you are going for an unrelated position, you will want to position your work history and your achievements so that they are translated into terminology that someone in your new line of work will value and understand.

Don’t Try to Hide Any Gaps

A common error made by folks in your situation is to attempt to cover up the fact that you have not been employed for a period of time, whether a year or 5 years. Now, if you retired in late 2011 and are putting together your resume early in 2012, I would not consider that a “gap.” As such, simply begin your work history with your most recent professional role. If you have more than a full calendar year gap, list “Family Sabbatical” or “Early Retirement” with the corresponding dates and location next to it. No other information is wanted or needed here. Keep in mind, the purpose of this entry is to overcome the method in which many HR reps view resumes—looking for unexplained gaps in employment.

Don’t Attempt to Explain

I do not advocate using space on the resume or the cover letter to explain away why you left the workforce or why you want to get back in. At this stage of the game, hiring managers, recruiters, and HR reps are not interested in this information. They really only want to know whether you have the skills, experience, and track record of someone that can be effective in this position. You can discuss this information in an interview setting, although much will not even be appropriate to talk about in that setting either.

These tips should help you be able to structure your resume in a way that addresses your time as a retiree without being left out in the cold as you launch your job search.

About Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (check out his exclusive offer). Contact Stephen directly at or send him an invite at To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) 1-minute compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You?

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