Posts Tagged ‘Jobs’

A couple of days ago, a young student approached me and asked me for some career advice. The student wanted to understand a little more about what banking and finance is about, and how it measures up in terms of their “dream job“. I was very impressed with this young student, because unlike many of their peers, they were actually trying to look at their future and start planning. This student, to be fair, is part of an advanced group of students. They get tutoring as part of their regular school day, they have additional instruction in note-taking and other study skills, and they are in advanced Math and English classes. They have a leg up over many students already. This young person seemed to have a leg up on even this group.

There was another teacher in the room at the time, who had worked in a similar field in her younger years, and we both shared some of the upsides and downsides, many of the really funny incidents, and some of the sad, sobering, almost depressing parts of our former jobs. See, no job is truly perfect. There are some good parts and bad parts, and much of adult life is about learning to deal with the bad parts while preparing for, waiting for, and whenever possible working to create the good parts.

And while just that much would have been a good enough lesson, that isn’t the main point of this post.

If you have been doing your job as a parent or concerned party of a young person, there is likely to be a point where they will ask you about career advice themselves. How you respond, what you say and how you say it, and your timing are crucial.

Once a young person asks your advice about future careers, they are putting the trust of their future in your hands!

So how do you respond?

“Follow your bliss!”

Some parents think this is great advice. They want their children to be happy in whatever they do. I’m not going to say that this approach doesn’t have any merit because I know that all parents want their children to be happy. Hell! I’m not even a parent, and I want other people’s children to be happy in their career. Happy people generally don’t make as many mistakes, and tend to do their jobs much better overall than their less happy peers. If that’s all it takes to be able to go to Taco Bell and not get my order screwed up or just ugly, then follow that bliss.

But there is a slight downside. For many kids, their bliss is playing video games or taking obnoxious pictures of themselves for Facebook. True, with a little creativity and some luck, you can make a career out of either of those, but neither has that ring of career aspirations that would make a parent proud.


 

“Follow the family!”

Okay, if “the family” is really The Family, I’m staying out of this argument altogether! But assuming that we’re talking about parents like my mom, who truly believe that following in the family business or doing the same job as your parents is a good thing, there’s a lot to be said for this method too. There is nothing wrong with upholding the traditions of your family, taking advantage of the skills and training from what may be generations of people who have done a job with love and with pride. I kind of like to believe that I’m in my family’s business as a teacher because my grandfather was a teacher in his home country. I get that I’m probably stretching a bit, but it makes me feel good.

But what if, like me with my mom, the family business just isn’t a good fit? Even if I went into my mom’s business of nursing and caring for the sick, that isn’t me either. One of my brothers works construction. He has three daughters that all together probably don’t have the upper body strength required to do what he does, plus it isn’t a very feminine job, and his daughters are very feminine girls. Should they, and I, have taken a job that we don’t enjoy? Even if it means that we will suck at it and embarrass the very people we were trying to please by doing the job in the first place?

“What’s important to you?”

The way I approached my student was to ask what was important to them. What are they looking for in a career? We also talked about what skills they felt they might want to strengthen. As we talked, I was able to throw a few different ideas their way, and as what they said changed, I was able to change my suggestions to fit their evolving priorities. Keeping in mind that this student is very young, and their priorities will change several times between now and when they become an adult, it was more important to get them to think in terms of what they want out of a job than it was to try to stuff them in a hole that might become a bad fit later on.

Is there a downside to this? Sure, I guess that the student might have felt a little unfulfilled when they came to a trusted advisor with the hopes of getting a concrete suggestion. I guess that walking away from a conversation where you hope to get answers with nothing but more questions can be annoying. I’m okay with that because this student needs the opportunity to decide things about themselves before they are going to be ready to plop down for a career that might last them the rest of their lives.

I don’t know why, but as I was having my conversation with my student, I kept thinking that someday they’d be alright.  Of course, one of my favorite songs about someday is this one, and while it is a sad song, and possibly a little depressing, I’ve always enjoyed it and I hope you do too.  Enjoy!

 

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Let me start by apologizing for this being a longer post. I’ll try to keep it short, but I am covering like 30 years of history, so I beg a little grace from my awesome readers!

 

When I was young, from a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I knew I was GOING TO BE A TEACHER. This might come as a bit of a surprise to many of the teachers when I was in school, but I knew that someday I would be among them as a peer, and not as a student. Because I liked to read, was good at writing, spelling, and grammar, I was sure I would be an English teacher. Like I said, my teachers didn’t have as much faith in my ability to become a teacher as I did, but more interestingly, my parents would frequently throw out alternatives to try and tempt me away from following my dreams. My dad was an X-ray technician who transitioned into being one of the very early MRI technicians when the technology was just becoming available. My mom would encourage me to follow in his footsteps, regardless of how loudly or excitedly I would protest that I wanted to forge my own path. I guess old habits are hard to break, because it was only in the last 4 or so years, when it was obvious that I was actually, no-kidding around, for reals, becoming a teacher, that she stopped with her brand of “encouragement”.

When I left high school, I was a little disillusioned about higher education or the prospect of being a teacher. I figured it would happen, but I was young and I wanted to take a little time to enjoy being outside of a classroom before I committed myself to being inside one again for the rest of my life. So I went into the exciting world of finance. I took a brief (15 or so year) sabbatical from my childhood dream, and I kind of dug it for a while, until I didn’t. Then I went back to school and was convinced that I was going to be a teacher again.

A strange thing happened during those 15 years. I got to enjoy other subjects. I was into economics of course, but tied in with that was government and history. I still say that each of those three have to be taught in tandem in order to be taught correctly. Currently our school system teaches one at a time, and almost in a vacuum, which has a chilling effect on the interest levels of students. But that’s another argument for another time. I decided that I didn’t really want to teach English after all. I decided that I was going to teach economics.

Over the past three years, I’ve had some very interesting teaching assignments. I’ve been able to teach incarcerated youth; I’ve taught in regular schools; I’ve even taught at some alternative schools that would break most peoples’ hearts (mine included). I’ve taught every subject, including subjects that I wasn’t able to pass when I was in school. I wound up avoiding those classes in favor of teaching subjects that I was good at.

Except one.

Never in my own academic career was I good certain subjects. I sucked at Woodshop, a fact that those who know me well understand. But worse than my ineptitude with carpentry was my absolute idiocy when it came to math. I could not do math. It was my worst subject ever. People used to ask me when I was in banking how I could do that job and still be bad at math. Luckily, there is this thing on top of most desks, called a computer, that does the math for me. Once, by pure luck, I was assigned to teach a math class at a school. Apparently, I did something right, because teachers at that school and others in the district have been passing my name around as a great math teacher because of the way I teach. It has gotten to the point where many people in the district think that I actually am a math teacher, and not a history, economics, government, or whatever teacher like my credential says. So I’ve made the decision to do what I need to do to actually become a math teacher.

I told my story because I hear from people every day who tell me that they are in situations that they never thought they would be in. They had a view of what their lives would be like when they grew up that wound up not matching reality.

I also see people with their noses stuck in books written by some very intelligent financial advice sales people. They make all their decisions based on what they believe this writer or that TV personality would suggest. They do all this to the exclusion of everything else that is going on in their lives. For some, it works as they hoped. For others, like those who try fad diets, fad financial advice is a round trip proposition. You get yourself into the position you planned on getting yourself into, only to relax back into your old habits. This leads to you getting into a deeper hole than the one you started in.

The answer is to be open to different paths while still keeping your eye on your overarching goal.

Is your goal to be able to send your kids to a college you couldn’t afford for yourself?

How about to be able to retire and live out your remaining years in a bungalow in Disney World?

Maybe your goal is as simple as being able to pay off your credit card and possibly taking your kids to Disneyland during spring break. It is important to have a plan, but when something comes around that messes with that plan, you have to be able to reevaluate your plan from the new point of reference instead of the original, where you started.

Whatever your goal is, life will sometimes get in your way.  Sometimes your own decisions will get in your way, and sometimes the decisions of others will be responsible.  Whether or not you make your goals depends in large part on how you react, on what decisions you make, and on your own ability to assess and deal with changes as they come up.

Whenever I think of my life, and all the twists and turns it has taken over the years, I think of a river.  Whenever I think of a river, I think of this song.  Because the original is somewhat sad and this is a weekend, I’ve also included a more up-beat version that always makes me laugh.  Enjoy!

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“I don’t get it. I should have gotten the promotion. I’m better than he is.”

“She never notices all I do for the company, she sucks as a boss!”

“It’s not like it was my fault! WTF was she doing checking up on me?”

“He got me written up for being late a bunch of times.”

I used to hear stuff like this all the time when I was in banking and dealing with so-called “adults“. To be honest, it was mostly the younger adults, but not always. Now that I’m out of the business of dealing with adults, I hear a lot of complaints from kids that sound eerily familiar and worry me about the future.

“She got me in trouble for dress code violation!”

“I got yelled at because I had my phone out during a test. I was just checking the time!”

“He gave me Friday Detention because I didn’t turn in my homework on Tuesday.”

“Stupid Principal, called my parents because I didn’t go to school yesterday, now I’m in trouble at home too.”

What are all these people really saying? Really, they are expressing their own disappointment in their jobs or in their performance at school. The adults know, however deep-down, that their setbacks are not the fault of the other person. They know that their own behavior led to the situations about which they are reacting. It just feels better to bitch about who wronged you were. They know that there are probably reasons why one person will get a promotion over another. Sometimes these decisions are unfair, but most of the time they are justified. They know that bosses have a lot on their plates, and sometimes don’t have the ability to see everything they should. They know that part of their bosses’ responsibilities might be to make sure that they are doing the job they are paid to do. They know that they are held accountable to be at work on time every time.

My kids at school are at a precipice. I want to believe that they also know that they can’t blame Teacher X or Principal Y for their own misfortune. I want to believe that they really understand that they chose to violate the dress code. I want to believe that they know that they can’t pull out their cells during a test without opening themselves up to the possibility of being accused of cheating. I hope they understand that there are consequences for actions, and in the case of not doing homework, for inaction. I want to believe that they understand that cutting class is a big deal, and parents get a little pissed about these kinds of things.

But should I?

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I put it together in my head that the parents of the kids that complain about the world being against them are the same people who are complaining about how the world is against them! This is a learned behavior.

So how do we fight back?

It starts with me: If you are a parent, or like me, a teacher, or any other kind of role model, you need to let it start with you. We all have bad days at work, bad months even. We need to be honest with ourselves to recognize that sometimes stuff just happens. Sometimes we contribute to the problem by our reactions, and sometimes we create the problems. We need to act and react in a proper way so that those watching us with little eyes can learn the correct way to handle adversity.

Take control early: All of the above statements share one thing. They are all statements of reaction. Too often, we get busy, or bogged down in day-to-day details to think about proactively attacking situation. If my boss isn’t prone to notice the contributions I make to the company, maybe I should take some time to point out, in a respectful way, how valuable I am to the company before I get frustrated.

Be your best you: I get that it can become tough and monotonous to come in to work every day and give your absolute best. That’s what vacations are for. That’s what time off (weekends or just time between shifts) is for. I’m sorry, and I know full well how hard it is for me as well, but you have to be the best you possible whenever you go to work. Not just because your boss will like it, not because it is your job to do your best, but because doing so can motivate others around you to up their game as well.

These are just three of hundreds of things that you can do to deal with many of the setbacks that seem to creep up when least expected and least wanted. I’m sure there are more ideas, and I look forward to hearing what your ideas might be.

Of course we don’t just try to shift blame when it comes to work. Dylan wrote this song, but I firmly believe Mr. Cash did it best.  Enjoy!

 


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Last week, I was called in to teach a group of kids that are more difficult to teach than most. Many have already graduated from school, but are still forced to go because of their age. Many will never see the outside world as free men or women. Very few of them care about school at all. In short, they have nothing to lose by missing school, and not much to gain by going. The teacher that I was replacing had given a stock lesson in writing a specific kind of poetry.

School

Pointless wasted

Sucking, wasting, boring

Punks dorks teachers bitches

Sitting sleeping learning

Jail

That’s an actual example (near as I can remember from reading it) of what the students turned in. I can see why the other teacher didn’t want to deal with this class anymore.

When I found out that I was teaching this class, I knew I had to do something that would catch their interest, but that would still be educational and appropriate for them. I worked for most of the day and evening to come up with a kick-ass lesson that would be entertaining and educational. I had hundreds of pages to print out so that the kids could actually complete the assignment. Not wanting to waste my personal printer ink, I saved everything to DROPBOX so that I could print it out at work the next morning (by the way, if you don’t already have a Dropbox account, and you ever save any kind of file, you need one. Click on the link and you’ll get extra space when you sign up for an account. In fairness, I’ll also get a little free space, but I’d use the service regardless).

When I got to work, I learned that for some reason, my district’s internet security policy blocks Dropbox access. No worries, I could use my phone and print remotely to a printer. No dice there either, since the printers wouldn’t accept a connection to print from my phone. I was getting a little worried, since I realized that I was well and truly screwed.

By the time I got to class, I had about two minutes to think of something, or face the very real possibility of a minor riot on my watch. Luckily, I try to have a backup plan for whenever my first two (or three, but whatever) ideas crap out. I learned this by virtue of being caught many times with no plan, and having to pay the consequences. To make a long story end, my backup worked, possibly better than my original plan would have, and I was told by the sheriffs’ staff that I was one of the best teachers to have dealt with these kids.

I told you that for a couple of reasons. Number one, I was really impressed with myself and I wanted to brag a little. Number two, and more importantly, I did it because the lesson I learned and demonstrated has real-world application when it comes to personal finance.

Everybody tells you to keep a small, liquid fund to use in case of an emergency. Most people will say six months worth of expenses should cover you. But what happens if your emergency keeps you away from the bank or safe-deposit box, or wherever you keep it for a few days? What do you do then? One quick way you can protect yourself is by also keeping a small (very, very small) stash of cash within easy access. When I say small, which is the operative word here, I mean just enough to help you survive for a weekend or a few days until you can access your emergency fund if needed.

While we’re talking about emergency funds, what happens when you have exhausted your emergency fund completely? In today’s economy, being out of work more than six months is more the norm than the exception. If the worst ever happens, and you have exhausted your emergency fund, you will still need money. I suggest planning ahead. While you are building your emergency fund, you are putting some money towards it every pay-period. Let’s assume that an emergency doesn’t happen right away. Transfer one month of your emergency fund into something a little longer in term, with a higher interest rate. Keep making your contributions till you have replenished it. As you do this, you are building a bubble for when you run out of emergency “cushion”. If you have a problem with saving, you are also building a painless nest-egg for the future.

At work, you like your job, but what happens if you were the last hired, and your company needs to lay someone off (hint: In most cases, you are screwed). While you are working, in addition to saving your emergency fund, as we’ve discussed above, start building skill sets that will help you to be able to find a job sooner. This may mean formal schooling, or this may mean polishing your resume’ so that your skills and abilities are properly showcased.

At home, stock up on non-perishable foods and water in case of a natural disaster. With the summer we just had, with earthquakes in the east, hurricanes in the south, and floods everywhere, stores are running out of basic supplies. Those people who are prepared, are able to “weather the storm”. But what if something happens to your stored food? Maybe this is a good time for you and your community or your family to work out a plan where everybody contributes for a larger group to survive.

Look, I’m not trying to scare you, but shit happens. Sometimes, you are prepared and you bring your umbrella. Sometimes, your umbrella breaks as soon as you open it. When this happens, you will be glad when you put a change of clothes in a bag for just such a situation. Are you going to be prepared for everything? Not even close, and I don’t recommend that you even try. Sometimes, even the best prepared still lose in the end. I can’t stop that, but you can limit your exposure to losing by having a few backup plans ready should they be needed.

I believe it was Robert Burns who said:

“The best laid schemes of Mice and Men

Oft go awry

And leave us nothing but grief and pain,

For promised joy!”

Given my students, and the lesson I just re-learned and related, I can think of no better message than to be prepared. Enjoy!

 

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Way back in 2007, we started a conversation about references. Back THEN, I told you one part of asking for references. In a nutshell, we discussed the importance of being courteous, diplomatic, and grateful when asking someone to be a reference for you. I expanded on this point a lot in FINANCE FOR YOUTH: THE BOOK, especially for people with little or no actual job history. But what if you actually have some experience? Who do you ask? When do you ask? Why should you ask? These are the questions that young people (and not so young people, alike) need answered.

Asking for references can be dicey when you are asking your boss so that you can move on to greener pastures. You are putting yourself out there for all sorts of badness to occur. Your boss might decide to start making your job more difficult. Your boss might decide to not give a reference. Your boss might do both. These are risks that come with adulthood. You have to decide when and where you are willing to take those risks, or you risk getting a better job somewhere. The best advice I can give is for you to not wait until the last-minute. More specifically, there are a number of precautions you can take to help ensure that you can get a good reference when the time comes. Ideally, you will want to ask for a reference as you are leaving a company. That makes asking for references easy. But sometimes you are still working for one boss when you happen upon an opportunity that you just can’t afford to pass up.

Way before you start looking:

1.  Be a good employee. This might sound stupid and not worthy of needing to be said, but you’d be surprised at how many young people (and older people as well) are perfectly mediocre employees for most of their time with an employer, only becoming model employees a short time before they ask the hapless employer for a letter of recommendation. This doesn’t work. You have to be a good employee ALL THE TIME! Employers look at your performance every day. They want to get a good feel for what type of employee you are. If you have a bad day, they can write that off as an anomaly. Or, if you are persistently a bad employee, your boss can write off the few good days before you ask for references as anomalies.

2.  Take your time. Some employees barely get their permanent name tag before they decide they need to hit the dusty trail in order to find something better. Hey, that’s your right. You can jump from job to job as long as you can keep finding people to hire you. That’s one of the benefits to being young. But the other side of the benefit is the responsibility. If you decide to job-jump, you will most likely NOT get any reference from your employer.

3.  Communicate with your boss. Let your boss know what your goals are at appropriate times and in appropriate ways. Don’t bad-mouth the company ever, but if your goals include a different path, be honest about it. When I worked at McDonald’s, my boss never had any illusions that I wanted to become a McDonald’s manager or owner. When I worked at my last financial institution, they knew that they were a temporary stopping place.

While you look:

4.  Be clear. Let your boss know that you are considering putting in for another position, and let them know why. Again, don’t make it about what you aren’t getting from your current boss, but about all the opportunities that you will get from the new position. Who knows? Maybe your current boss can meet your needs. Especially in an economy like the one we find ourselves in currently, I strongly endorse keeping the job you have over hoping you can do better somewhere else.

5. Be classy. If you plan on asking your boss for a recommendation, give them the opportunity to say no without you getting butt-hurt about it. Going back to number one on this list, your boss has an opinion about you. Maybe they are trying to save you some embarrassment by not giving you a reference letter. Maybe they don’t feel comfortable with writing these kinds of letters. Maybe they don’t have the authority (they might work for someone else) to do what you need. No matter what, remember that you are asking them for a favor, not demanding your due.

6. Be Timely. Look, you’re already going to want to give your boss at least two weeks’ notice when you actually leave. If you are asking for a letter, you want to give your boss at least that much time to give your request the attention you deserve. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but many times you can give your boss at least a few days notice. Under no circumstances should you go to your boss and tell them that you need a letter in an hour!

I would like you to take a few seconds and answer this poll on the look of F4Y:The Blog. 

If I get enough responses, I will change up the look to this one.  Speaking of change…,

 

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Note From Wil: This is a guest post from Kelly Austin, a writer with http://www.highersalery.com.  Much of what Miss Austin writes today should sound familiar to many readers. Much of her advice today can also be found in various articles right here on F4Y:TB. I include her take for those newer readers who might not have read some of those older posts.

I like to include the writings and opinions of as many people as I can.  If you want to contribute to Finance For Youth: The Blog, send me an email:
wil@finance4youth.com.

Personal finance is one subject that does not get enough attention in the education system, so it is up to parents to raise financially literate children. Here are five actions that you can do to help teach your teenager about personal finance.

Get a job: Encourage your teen to find a part-time job so that he learns the value of work and develops a good work habit. Giving allowances is okay, but adults have to work for their money; no one just gives money to them. Help your teen look for a paper route, babysitting job or a job at the local fast food joint. Working ten to fifteen hours a week while in high school will help them learn to prioritize their time and earn money for their spending and savings needs.
(Note from Wil:  I talk about this very topic HERE!)

Open a Checking Account: Your teen probably has a savings account but it’s good to get him a checking account so he can deposit and use his hard-earned cash. You can get your name put on the account so that you can oversee his transactions. Let him get a debit card and teach him to balance his account regularly. Even if he messes up and gets an overdraft charge, it’s better to do it now than to rack up thousands in credit card charges and fees as an adult.
(Note from Wil:  I talk about this very topic HERE!)

Make A Budget: Once your teen has a job, show him how to make a balanced budget. The expenses must equal (or at least less than) the income otherwise he’ll go into debt. Allocate extra money to savings goals. If your teen doesn’t have a job, you might consider giving him a lump sum of money equal to what you usually give him annually (or quarterly) for his clothing and entertainment expenses. Then it’s up to him to spend it appropriately. Do not bail him out if he wastes it. The best thing you can do is to give him some household chores so he can earn some money.
(Note from Wil:  I talk about this very topic HERE!)

Read A Good Personal Finance Book: There are a few great books that teach personal finance and are enjoyable for teens. Consider giving your teen a copy of Dave Ramsey‘s Total Money Makeover or Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi is also great for teens as it was written when he was just out of college and has a writing style that appeals to a younger audience.
(Note from Wil:  I personally don’t agree that all of these books or authors are great, but that’s my opinion.  For a F4Y friendly book, You can always go with THIS ONE!)

Set Short and Long Term Financial Goals: Your teen will likely have a long list of needs and wants. Help him to prioritize them and set short and long-term savings goals. Short term goals might be saving for a concert, buying a car or new computer. Long term goals will likely be college, an apartment or car upgrade.
(Note from Wil:  This is the name of the game!  I talk about this everywhere online and in Finance For Youth: The Book!)

This guest article was contributed by Kelly Austin from www.highersalary.com. Visit her site for information about salary and benefit information for many popular careers.

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