What Type of Career Insurance Do You Have?

Posted on December 3, 2013. Filed under: Career Management, Job Market Trends, Work Issues | Tags: , , |

career insuranceOne issue that has been on my mind a lot lately is the concept of insurance, particularly when it comes to our careers. It’s not a very exciting topic, I know, but when you are advising on technical career management day in and day out, it is hard not to think about it, especially when you understand (and relate with) the concern that people have over job security and income protection.

And it is a legitimate concern. For although there are all kinds of insurance policies out there, you will be hard pressed to find a private sector company who will offer you career insurance. (That alone should tell you how risky our employment really is…)

I mean, here we think buying a home is one of the riskiest things we do and have to protect, and we groan about the high cost of health care insurance (for good reason), but at least they offer insurance for those things!

When it comes to our jobs and, coincidentally, our retirement packages (401ks, IRAs), no one wants to insure them….

Oh, I know, there is unemployment and disability programs, but have you ever had to live off of that? And just how sure are you that Social Security will be there for you?

Thankfully, we do have some options available to us to help build in some financial protections. They may not be as traditional, or as easy, as simply buying a policy, but let’s face it, peace of mind rarely comes that easy.

1. Put your earned income to work for you.

For so many of us, it is the other way around. We earn money and then work to earn more money and then work to earn more money. What happens, then, is that at whatever economic level we achieve, we are beholden to the money we earn. Take away the earnings, and we are left with nothing, or next to nothing, or with what little we saved.

Many advisors suggest savings as the wisest option. Put away a year or two of expenses, they say, and have $X millions stowed away in retirement. And although it sounds wise, it is tough to do, especially when inflation is right around the corner and our savings earn us nothing in interest.

The better approach, in my mind, is to begin investing…and not just in stocks…make the earned income work for you. In other words, make it grow. Personally, I like investments that have some velocity to them, they pay out dividends over a period of time and then you sell off your original investment for more growth at expiration (it is especially great when there are tax advantages to doing so (like when you invest in energy, real estate, etc.!). The management does not have to be tedious of these investments, the income is often considered passive (and less exposed to taxes), and you did more than just “saved,” you “built.”

Now, learning about these investments requires due diligence, of course, and most likely you will have to venture outside of your comfort zone, maybe even away from your financial advisor. So you will need to invest time into learning. But the idea is that you create a pipeline for yourself that involves more than just your manual labor. It may not pay all the bills, but it might pay some…and that is the point. It’s protected income outside of your earned income from your job.

2. Pay attention to taxes.

As professional income earners in the United States, taxes affect us the most. Period. And unfortunately, we do very little other than complain to try to ease this burden. But one thing is certain, middle-/high-income workers pay, pay, pay. (Remember, even if you received a refund last year…you still paid up first! In fact, it means you overpaid…your refund is not a bonus back to you but money you should have had all along…)

So learning a little something about the tax code can help put some of our earned income back in our pockets. And we don’t need a massive overhaul of our tax code to do it (although that would be nice). Taking the time to understand that our government rewards certain types of earnings/expenditures with credits and tax breaks (such as job, energy, and housing investors) and then (with the help of a wise tax advisor) figuring out how you can take advantage of some of these rewards makes a lot of sense.

Too much sense actually, but instead we often think our issue is more an earnings problem. “I just need to earn more!” Instead of “how can I make the money I have be more productive?”

3. Stop worrying so much about losing.

A lot of us refuse to invest beyond our 401ks. It’s understandable. Most of us have little we can afford to lose, and the markets, especially the stock market, is volatile and confusing. As a result, we willingly turn things over to someone else, who even at his or her best rarely holds much stake in how well we do. (This person doesn’t lose when we do; he or she just makes less off of us.)

Not to mention the fact that we handcuff our money into accounts that penalize us if we try to touch them before a certain age. So no matter how good or bad they do, all we can do is sit by and hope our unaccountable financial person is securing our future anyway. (My point is not to bash financial advisors certainly but to point out the simple truth about the industry: It still makes money even when you don’t. Period.)

Meanwhile, we somehow continue on our way feeling more secure as consumers than we are as investors.

“Investing is risky,” we say, while we spend, spend, spend on things that will likely never provide us with growth or returns. It seems to me, then, consumerism is really what is risky. We work hard to earn money to spend it on things that are devalued almost as soon as we buy them…that is losing over and over again.

At least with alternative investment (outside of retirement) losses, we can write some of it off on our taxes, take what’s left and try again, and have at least the hope of building in passive income or protection of our hard-earned money.

Listen. My goal here is not to give you financial advice but to get you thinking about ways you can build in some protection against career losses because, let’s face it, no one else is going to do it for you. Wise career management in today’s market should not just focus on getting ahead in the daily grind but also on building in layers of protection that help you secure what you have worked so hard for.

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Career Management and Your Domain Name Do Go Together

Posted on November 22, 2013. Filed under: Career Management, Executive Job Search, Job Market Trends, Job Search Tips, Personal Branding | Tags: , , , |

toon924OK. So you might be thinking, “what does my domain name have to do with career management?”

Answer: More than you might think.

Owning your domain name will soon become more important than ever.

If you’re like me, you probably never gave it much thought. I mean, who cares about “stephenvanvreede.com”? Why would anyone want to own that? Why would I want to own that?

Answer: Because as social recruiting and social networking continues to rise, having your own domain name will be the new business card, and it will be the hub of your online “community.”

Sounds a bit much? I don’t think so.

We have already entered a mindset in hiring that candidates who are unsearchable online are becoming increasingly suspect and that there is a demand for more authenticity in a candidate’s online bios and profiles.

Translation: They claim to want more content marketing from job seekers. They want to go online, read your profiles, check out your activity, see what content you are sharing. And they are going to want to “Google” you and find a central hub for all of that…your domain name. (And, by the way, that is becoming true even when you aren’t actively seeking. The concept of “social” engagement among a company’s employees is a hot topic right now.)

Now, I have to admit some skepticism here. These are all the same people proclaiming that they can’t spend more than 6 seconds reading a resume because the “resume is dead” (yet when repeatedly asked what they would prefer to read, they respond with “LinkedIn profile”…essentially a resume in narrative form; of course, after they “read” your profile, they then ask you to do what? Yep…submit a resume!). So it is somewhat a stretch to believe they are going to wade through layers and layers of online content.

I think what they are really saying is that they want to get a “sense” of who you are as a candidate. They want to feel that you have embraced the social era (like it or not!) and that you are establishing yourself as a subject matter expert of some kind.

That’s why you need to take control of your domain name before someone else does.

Crazy as it may sound, as people become more and more aware of the power they can have over someone else’s reputation, there is nothing stopping them from purchasing your domain name and either pretending to be you or using it to damage your name. (I’m just thinking of what an ex-spouse or disgruntled co-worker could do!)

It might be crazy, but it is worth the few bucks a year.

It doesn’t cost much to buy it now, but it could cost a lot later on down the road as the trend increases. So, take some time today and add your domain name to your career management portfolio. Use it to build that central hub where your web bio, social media contact buttons, and blog are all located. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming; just keep it current. And most importantly, keep it under your control…not someone else’s.

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Waiting Around for Technical Career Advancement Is Time Consuming!

Posted on November 20, 2013. Filed under: Career Management, Personal Branding | Tags: , , |

career managementIn two previous posts (“Who Sets the Rules in Your Career?” and “The Top 2 Technical Career Motivators“), I focused quite a bit on what motivates us the most when it comes to our careers. In this post, I am going to discuss what seems to be the least thing that motivates us: time.

Obsessing about time is not the same thing as being motivated by it.

If there’s one thing that all professionals seem to have in common it is our obsession with discussing time. We are constantly trying to get the “timing right,” waiting for the “right time,” when the “time is right.” In fact, there is so much discussion about this scarce resource that you might be fooled into thinking that we really did care about it! Or that it really did motivate us to take action!

Techies are no different. When it comes to technical career advancement, they too seem to be waiting around for their “time.”

Time is more of a de-motivator than a motivator.

Think about it: It’s not what we say, it’s what we do. So although we might “say” a lot of things about time, how does that affect what we do? In many, many cases, the more we talk, the less we actually do.

The time is rarely right…until afterward.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I guess the time was just right”? More often that not, it’s a great line to use after we’ve made a change AND everything has worked out well. But typically, when you make the first move, you generally aren’t sure. You’ve read all the signs, prayed for a miracle, and started making a few calls…and you’re just hoping that you’ve timed it all perfectly! But what we’re really saying is that we just don’t want to try and fail…

And even if the time is right…you’re not ready.

Unfortunately, because we’ve been waiting and waiting for the right time, when “it” does come (whatever “it” is), we’re not ready because preparation didn’t seem necessary (it’s rarely a sexy buy). And pretty soon we’re scrambling to get ourselves presentable for that opportunity.

Don’t let time be your reason and your excuse for poor career management.

In the world of sales, there is an argument that a person needs to have both a reason and an excuse to buy something (or NOT to buy something). I would argue that more often than not we will ignore the reason (logic) in favor of the excuse (emotion).

For instance, it often doesn’t matter that we know we should be managing our own career advancement. We have a ton of great reasons to do so! The logic part is easy.

BUT, just because we aren’t sure about the timing, we’ll let that be a good excuse to get out of actually doing anything about it. And, thus, what we are really saying (but not saying) is that our emotion doesn’t line up with our reason. So we don’t make the investment.

Listen. There’s not a lot of fun in the idea of career management. And the thought of constant career management is daunting, at best. It would be really nice if the stars all aligned and the right timing was always clear.

But there is nothing so time consuming as waiting around for nothing to happen.

So what should you be doing?

  1. Maximize your potential with your current engagement: Are you tracking and building a project highlights portfolio? As I mentioned in an earlier post (“The Era of Promotions Will Return“), internal promotions will be on the rise within the next few years and the competition will be tight. It’s tough to go back and remember. You need to be documenting now.
  2. Position yourself to attract recruiters now BEFORE you need them: Recruiters will not admit it, but they much prefer to chase you rather than the other way around. They like finding hot prospects they can “steal” away from competitors. Remember, you can always turn them down…so why miss out on potential opportunities? Isn’t it nice to be wanted for a change?
  3. Begin building a network pipeline: In the world of online businesses, content marketing is key right now. And “engagement” is the word of the hour. Professionals need to take some tips from this world. Are you referable? If so, does your network show that? And I am not just talking about LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements…have you built a credible online brand? It’s better to consider these things NOW before you need them…because you will need them…the job market is changing, and social recruiting is here.

If you can start making strides in these areas, then “timing” will be less of a discussion because you will begin creating opportunities for yourself, and the “time” will almost always be right!

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