The week@work – The ‘Fallows question’, flexibility@work and the long term impact of student debt

On Saturday Night Live actor Cecily Strong delivered a line that summed up what many of us are feeling this week@work, “I want one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell out of me.” 

It got me thinking about the question Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg posed to the Barnard Class of 2011, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

This week@work The New York Times Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks posed ‘the Fallows question’“If you could move to the place on earth where history is most importantly being made right now, where would you go?”

“James and Deborah Fallows have always moved to where history is being made…James and Deb have an excellent sense of where world-shaping events are taking place at any moment — and a fervent commitment to be there to see it happen.

If you want to “observe” history, the Fallows say, go to Washington. If you want to “participate,” go elsewhere.”

If you weren’t afraid, and could pick up and move to where the action is, where would you go? Brooks offered a few destinations to start, but just maybe, this week@work you might spend some time considering a temporary relocation “in search of history”.

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Folks@work are moving forward, finding ways to succeed independent of national politics. Some voice concern about the potential impact of new policies on their workplace, while others seek ways to express a response in their work. For many, the challenges of the gender gap and student debt remain a constant, often extending into retirement.

Claire Cain Miller examined the tension in employer expectations between flexibility and presence@work in ‘How to Close a Gender Gap: Let Employees Control Their Schedules’.

“The main reason for the gender gaps at work — why women are paid less, why they’re less likely to reach the top levels of companies, and why they’re more likely to stop working after having children — is employers’ expectation that people spend long hours at their desks, research has shown.

Flexibility regarding the time and place that work gets done would go a long way toward closing the gaps, economists say.

A new job search company, Werk, is trying to address the problem by negotiating for flexibility with employers before posting jobs, so employees don’t have to.”

And then there are the financial pressures; spanning generations from twenty-somethings being subsidized by parents, as their grandparents face social security payment garnishment to repay outstanding student loan debt.

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Quoctrung Bui reported on ‘A Secret of Many Urban 20-Somethings: Their Parents Help With the Rent’.

“According to surveys that track young people through their first decade of adulthood, about 40 percent of 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds receive some financial assistance from their parents for living expenses. Among those who get help, the average amount is about $3,000 a year.

It’s a stark reminder that social and economic mobility continues past grade school, high school and even college. Economic advantages continue well into the opening chapters of adulthood, a time when young people are making big personal investments that typically lead to higher incomes but can be hard to pay for.”

On the other side of the generation spectrum, The Editorial Board of The New York Times identified an emerging trend threatening older Americans, ‘Haunted by Student Debt Past Age 50’.

“The experience of being crushed by student debt is no longer limited to the young. New federal data shows millions of Americans who are retired or nearing retirement face this burden, as well as the possibility of having their Social Security benefits garnished to make payments.

Americans age 60 and older are the fastest-growing age group of student loan debtors. Older debtors, many of whom live hand-to-mouth on fixed incomes, are more likely to default. When that occurs with federal loans, as happens with nearly 40 percent of such borrowers who are 65 and over, the government can seize a portion of their Social Security payments — even if it pushes them into poverty. About 20,000 Americans over the age of 50 in 2015 had their Social Security checks cut below the poverty line because of student loans, with poverty-level benefits falling even further for 50,000 others, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office.”

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The last story this week@work, highlights the importance of art@work and in our lives. The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced the next step in their digital evolution – open access to over 375,000 archive images. (Monet’s ‘Garden at Sainte-Adresse’, 1867 above)

The week@work – the top stories of ’16, a new year, the eternal optimist’s talking points, French workers get the right to disconnect, and leadership lessons from Michelle Obama

Happy New Year! This week@work we take a final look at the top stories of 2016, and the stories from the first week of 2017. On the work-life balance front – French workers now have the legal right to disconnect from the office. The U.S. unemployment rate is at 4.7%, with hourly salary earnings rising 2.9%. And for women@work, an article considered the future of women in this new year, as First Lady Michelle Obama delivered her final formal remarks on Friday, giving us a parting gift – a model for what a leader looks like.

The Economist’s top ten most read stories of 2016 centered on the U.S. election and Brexit. In the U.S., NPR’s top 20 did not include Brexit, but the question of how Donald Trump will govern, led the list. “The top 20 most popular stories from the past year ranged from fact checks to mosquito bites, from Aleppo to taxes, and how to raise kids who will thrive, whatever the future brings.” 

There were many stories about work and the workplace, but most became a subset of the larger stories. Susan Chira reflected on ‘What Women Lost’.

“This was supposed to be the year of triumph for American women.

A year that would cap an arc of progress: Seneca Falls, 1848. The 19th Amendment, 1920. The first female American president, 2017. An inauguration that would usher in a triumvirate of women running major Western democracies. Little girls getting to see a woman in the White House.

Instead, for those at the forefront of the women’s movement, there is despair, division and defiance. Hillary Clinton’s loss was feminism’s, too.”

2017 will be the year we ask, what are the long term implications for women@work? On January 21, in Washington, and cities around the country, women will have an opportunity to reinsert themselves into the national conversation.

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For additional reading @year end:

‘The Echoes of 1914’ by historian Margaret MacMillan for the BBC. She responsed to a query about which year in history most closely resembled 2016.

“I wish I could stop, but I find myself thinking of 1914. The world then had seemed so stable, so manageable. Crises – political, social, economic, military – came and went but “they”, bankers, statesmen, politicians, always managed them in the end.

Yes, there were grumblings – from the working classes or women, or those who were losing their livelihoods because of free trade or mechanisation.

And there were some strong emotions about: fears of rapid change, passionate nationalisms that meant love of one’s own country and hatred of others. Ominous in retrospect because we know what happened. But at the time there was a complacency – it would surely all work out all right.

That confidence was dangerous because it meant that people didn’t take the warning signs seriously enough.

I wish I could stop making the comparisons.

In ‘1999 Was The Last Time Everything Was Fine’ BuzzFeed Culture Writer Doree Shafrir revisited her first year@work.

“I had no job and almost no money. My parents had given me the security deposit on the apartment as a graduation present, but now I was on my own. I was entranced by the classifieds section of the New York Times, with its pages and pages of appeals for secretaries and programmers and architects and retail store managers. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew I liked to be around words, but I wasn’t sure what that meant in terms of actually making money. Maybe now was the time to try something new. Maybe I could close my eyes and point to something on the page and that would be my destiny.

That was how 1999 felt, like anything was possible.”

Artist Tucker Nichols created a rainbow rendering of an ‘Eternal Optimist Talking Points for 2017’ as OpArt for The New York Times.  A sample of musings: “Somehow not as freaked out by scary clowns anymore…Midtown traffic has always been pretty jammed up…Smog makes great sunsets…Still a chance it’s a very long dream.”

On January 1, a new law in France went into effect allowing workers to ‘disconnect’ from their workplace.

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The BBC reported on France’s implementation of a law to protect work-life balance.

“Companies with more than 50 workers will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails. France has a working week of 35 hours, in place since 2000.”

And then there was this from the professionals who go to work every day in U.S. Intelligence Services.IMG_8057.JPG

On Friday afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a memorable farewell speech at a White House event honoring the 2017 School Counselor of the Year. The text set an aspirational vision for all Americans and provides all of us with a lesson in leadership.

“…for all the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you — to all of you, from every background and walk of life. If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition — the infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas, generation after generation, that has made us the greatest country on earth.”

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“If your family doesn’t have much money, I want you to remember that in this country, plenty of folks, including me and my husband — we started out with very little. But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible — even becoming President. That’s what the American Dream is all about.

But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.

Right now, you need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation. You need to prepare yourself to be informed and engaged as a citizen, to serve and to lead, to stand up for our proud American values and to honor them in your daily lives. And that means getting the best education possible so you can think critically, so you can express yourself clearly, so you can get a good job and support yourself and your family, so you can be a positive force in your communities.

And when you encounter obstacles — because I guarantee you, you will, and many of you already have — when you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago, something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment of our lives, and that is the power of hope — the belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it.

It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country. Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us. The hope that when people see us for who we truly are, maybe, just maybe they, too, will be inspired to rise to their best possible selves.

So that’s my final message to young people as First Lady. It is simple. I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid — you hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.”

We work in the context of global events, as responsible citizens. Our role in our workplace is to reflect the best in human and organizational values. In this new year@work, stay focused, be determined and lead by example with hope, never fear.

 

Photo credits: New Year’s Eve London – Ben Cawthra/LNP, Michelle Obama – BBC.com

The Friday Poem ‘Voice’ by Jeffrey Brown

 

Walking west on 40th Street, between 7th & 8th, you pass the entrance to the CCNY Graduate School of Journalism. In the space of a city block, those aspiring to pursue a career reporting the news, cross paths with the the best in the field @work in The New York Times building.

There was a time when the most trusted man in America was a television journalist. Today, journalists across the globe find themselves at risk when reporting the truth. ‘Fake news’ sites proliferate where fiction replaces fact.

Lost in the cacophony of the latest news cycle is the value professional journalists provide in our society; collecting and communicating information that empowers the rest of us to make the best decisions.

This week, The Friday Poem is for those who follow their dream to newsrooms around the corner, and around the world. ‘Voice’ was written by NPR journalist and poet, Jeffrey Brown.

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for Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer

There are those with a voice so rich,

so bell-strong, time chiseled, and alive

they can read the phone book and

you will hear the deeds and failings

in every name, the laughter and wailing

of ghosts who inhabit each address,

the infinite possibility

 

in every number. There are those

with a voice that rich, he says –

the lucky ones. But that is not us.

We open our mouths and out comes a

small, high sound, cracking midsentence,

straining to tell the story we know

to be true. There are things you can do:

 

Learn to breathe. Stand up straight and

let the air flow through you, belly to

chest and into the mask of your face.

Take a bit of chocolate, sip on your

coffee – excite the senses. Imagine

the people in their hoes hungry for

dinner and for news of the world.

 

Underline phrases, emphasize what

should be emphasized, diminish

the less important. Decide what is

important. Be sure you understand

the meaning of what you are to say.

Do not yell, do not whisper, look ahead,

not down, fill your lungs, open your mouth

 

and speak. The Zen master says “You

find your voice when you find yourself.”

But that, too, is not for us. (Who knows

What else you’ll find there? he laughs).

Better to listen to that voice

as though from afar, as though it

is not yours. Then speak again.

Jeffrey Brown from ‘The News:Poems’ 2015

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‘Why do I have an intern?’ Learning from the most junior person in the room

What did you learn from your intern this fall? That is the question. If an answer doesn’t come quickly to mind, you may want to ask ‘Why do I have an intern?’ before you hire a new one for spring.

One of the most disappointing, dispiriting experiences of my time mentoring university students employed as interns came at the end of the semester when we asked employers to submit an evaluation of the intern’s performance. Most had to be tracked down via text,  email, and voice mail before a perfunctory form was returned with a checkmark for ‘exceptional’, ‘good’ or ‘needs improvement’. It was the rare manager (1 in 50) who would actually take the time to share valuable, actionable feedback.

At the beginning of each semester, concurrent with the start of a new internship, you could illuminate a major city with the energy emanating from students about to embark on a new experience. As the weeks went by, the lights dimmed, as one by one, intern’s dreams fell short when tested in practice. In many cases it seemed that the intern was a ‘vanity’ addition to one’s entourage vs. a potential contributor to a strategic mission.

Here’s the thing. Most of these students were committing 10-15 hours of ‘unpaid’ time to their internship. In the majority of cases interns were balancing a full course load of 16-18 credits and a part-time paid position. Social life was the first casualty, but a worthy trade-off for the opportunity to gain valuable, ‘career related’ work experience.

With this level of commitment, why is there such a major disconnect in expectations between employers and interns?

In many cases the ‘unpaid’ label results in a lack of respect. Little thought goes into anticipating and planning the internship assignments.

A successful internship program/relationship is built on clearly communicated expectations and on-going follow-up/ feedback.

Why do you hire an intern? Perhaps to breathe some fresh air into the room. Maybe to keep you aligned with your values. Most important, to help you connect with your emerging customer cohort.

Victor Ho, C.E.O. of FiveStars was interviewed by Adam Bryant for his weekly ‘Corner Office’ column in The New York Times. Reflecting back on his experience, he shared

“…the strongest lesson I learned at McKinsey that I now share with every single new hire is what they call the “obligation to dissent.” It means that the youngest, most junior person in any given meeting is the most capable to disagree with the most senior person in the room.

So if I hire an intern, that intern is the most qualified person in the company to say, “Victor, I heard this was your mission, your values, and these things are off.” That’s just because the more removed you are, the less you drink the Kool-Aid. You have a fresh perspective.”

Before your fall intern departs, skip the cake, and use the the time for a face to face conversation about what you both learned over the past four months. Offer feedback that will guide your intern through to the next step in their career.

When you are interviewing your spring candidates, look for the most qualified person with “the obligation to dissent”.  Ask yourself ‘How can I structure the experience to maximize individual contribution and encourage interaction?’

Why do I hire an intern? To learn, and reconnect to the core aspirational organization values.

 

The week@work – good lives without good jobs?, good vs. great leaders, Yahoo hacked, and are university rankings hurting higher ed?

The workplace is changing, and politicians are beginning to recognize the impact of the shift on long term policy planning. This week@work a ‘think tank’ fellow considered the possibility of good lives without good jobs, a professor found leadership is not a continuum, Yahoo announced 500 million users accounts were hacked, and Irish universities missed the top tier of international schools for the first time, generating a debate on the value of global rankings.

New America Fellow, Michael Lind suggested “Politicians should tell working Americans what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. And what they need to hear is that it is possible for all Americans to have good lives, even if they can’t all have good jobs.”

Writing in The New York Times Sunday Review he asked, ‘Can You Have a Good Life if You Don’t Have a Good Job?’

“…the political problem remains. Even if center-left and center-right policy wonks agree that the goal should be good lives for all workers, even those with bad jobs, many Americans do not agree, to judge from the rhetoric of politicians, who know their audiences well. The replacement of a world in which one or a few lifetime jobs in a paternalistic company that provided benefits during your working life and a pension after your retirement by a future in which individuals struggle to survive by piecing together “gigs” and “tasks” with a bewildering variety of federal, state and local social programs may strike many workers as a dystopian nightmare. The price of increased flexibility may be increased stress.

The unelected policy experts who envision a future of multiple job types and a greater, if hidden, role for government in maintaining minimum incomes and providing health and retirement benefits are essentially right. The elements of a “good job” — adequate income, health insurance and retirement benefits — that were once combined in the package that a Detroit automobile manufacturer provided to a unionized male steelworker in 1950 are likely to be provided, for most American workers now, by some combination of employer and government.

Until most American workers are persuaded that they will not be worse off in a system characterized by flexible work arrangements and partly socialized benefits, they may continue to make unrealistic demands that 21st century politicians restore something like the occupational structure of the 20th century.”

Which of the folks vying for U.S. President will have the courage to deliver this message? It may depend on their leadership style. Professor James R. Bailey of George Washington University’s School of Business examined ‘The Difference Between Good Leaders and Great Ones’ for HBR digital.

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“That anyone can develop as a leader is not in question. What I dispute is the stubborn resolve that great and good are points along the same stream. That just isn’t so. Great leadership and good leadership have distinctly different characteristics and paths. Leadership is not one-dimensional. It can be great and good, or one but not the other, or neither.

The tug between great and good leadership is one of perpetual and dynamic coexistence. There is great — a force that is often inexplicable, occasionally irrational, and, importantly, intermittently ungovernable. Then there is good — a direction that is north-star true, providing the point of values of mutual benefit.

It’s natural to think of leadership as running from one end to the other. To do so, though, is to mistake what great and good leadership are. They’re fundamentally different. Separating them, thus upending the ever-convenient continuum, seems counterintuitive. But it’s absolutely necessary for understanding the very elements that explain leadership’s operation and impact. Great can be vital but destructive; good can be compassionate but impotent. The coexistence of the two is the best hope for leadership — without good we should fear.”

Switching gears, to privacy – it came as no surprise when Yahoo announced a massive data breach. Kara Swisher reported for recode in advance of the public disclosure.

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“Earlier this summer, Yahoo said it was investigating a data breach in which hackers claimed to have access to 200 million user accounts and one was selling them online. “It’s as bad as that,” said one source. “Worse, really.” 

…this hack, said sources, which became known in August when an infamous cybercriminal named “Peace” claimed on a website that he was selling credentials of 200 million Yahoo users from 2012 on the dark web for just over $1,800. The data allegedly included user names, easily decrypted passwords and personal information like birth dates and other email addresses.

At the time, Yahoo said it was “aware of the claim,” but the company declined to say if it was legitimate and said that it was investigating the information. But it did not issue a call for a password reset to users. Now, said sources, Yahoo might have to, although it will be a case of too little, too late.”

Over 500 million accounts have been reported hacked…about that earlier article on good/great leadership and “another blemish on the record of CEO Marissa Mayer”.

On campus, this week@work, university presidents and deans awaited the verdict of the annual ‘World University Rankings’.

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Grainne Loughran reported on the implications of the new rankings for The Irish Times.

“Another week, another set of university rankings as the Times Higher Education releases it league table. It follows others recently published by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai).

The organisations may differ, but the pattern is broadly the same: Ireland’s best higher education institutions are in free-fall.

The decline in rankings has been alarming university presidents for the past six years. But while rankings are of significant reputational importance worldwide, they only take into account a tiny proportion of the picture of how universities stand.

Lack of understanding of what they actually measure has resulted in the rankings gaining an unwarranted notoriety and position to influence policy, with the potential to harm higher education institutions in Ireland and worldwide.

There are about 20 global rankings of higher education. All have varying methodologies and in some cases give vastly different weightings to the factors they have in common.”

This week@work also marked the anniversary of ‘The Death of the Phone Call’. Timothy Noah looked back on a moment in history.

“The phone call died, according to Nielsen, in the autumn of 2007. During the final three months of that year the average monthly number of texts sent on mobile phones (218) exceeded, for the first time in recorded history, the average monthly number of phone calls (213). A frontier had been crossed. The primary purpose of most people’s primary telephones was no longer to engage in audible speech.”

Also this week@work – two stories from Silicon Valley:

‘Zuckerberg, Chan Start $3 Billion Initiative to Cure Disease’ Sarah Frier for bloomberg.com “Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are pledging to spend more than $3 billion over the next decade to work on curing diseases.

“Can we work together to cure, prevent or manage all disease within our children’s lifetime?” Chan said Wednesday onstage at an event in San Francisco for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. “Mark and I believe that this is possible.”

‘How Tech Companies Disrupted Silicon Valley’s Restaurant Scene’ Nicole Perlroth for The New York Times “All told, more than 70,000 square feet of Palo Alto retail and restaurant space were lost to office space from 2008 to 2015, as the tech bubble drove demand for commercial space downtown.

It is a story playing out across Silicon Valley, where restaurateurs say that staying afloat is a daily battle with rising rents, high local fees and acute labor shortages. And tech behemoths like Apple, Facebook and Google are hiring away their best line cooks, dishwashers and servers with wages, benefits and perks that restaurant owners simply cannot match.

Silicon Valley technologists love to explain how they have disrupted the minutiae of daily life, from our commutes to the ways we share family photos. But along the way, they have also managed to disrupt their local restaurant industry.”

Finally, from The New York Times Magazine survey (September 18): “In an eight-hour workday, how much time do you spend actually working? 44% 4-6 hours, 43% 7-8 hours, 7% 1-3 hours, and 6% less than an hour.”

 

Photo credits: Yahoo, Lisa Werner/Getty for Wired

A college degree in sports? No.

An essay published in The New York Times print edition yesterday argued for the establishment of a college degree in sports as a means to bring athletics closer to the academic mission of a university. I disagree.

The way to integrate athletics into the academic mission of the university is to ensure student-athletes have every opportunity to earn the college degree of their choice, engaging in all aspects of the academic enterprise: academic advising, interaction with faculty, collaboration with fellow students, and internships.

University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr. asked “Why Not a College Degree in Sports?” Drawing on previous arguments, Professor Pielke suggested an inherent bias on campus against athletics.

“Widespread prejudice and legitimate resentment against athletics remains in academia, and no wonder. The $6.9 million annual salary of Nick Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, is equal to the combined average salary for nearly 100 assistant professors at the school, according to the most recent data available. And beyond such economic disparities, class distinctions of 19th-century England still shape thinking about sport: Classical music is valued by high society, while sport is for the masses.”

Many have voiced concerns about the consequences of the money being thrown at ‘big time’ athletic programs and it’s appropriate to question a football coach’s salary that far exceeds a university president’s compensation.

But what is missed, always, is the student-athlete. And this is where I disagree with Professor Pielke’s proposal.

Students choose a college or university based on a number of factors: ‘fit’, financial assistance, choice of major, access to faculty, availability of internships, and career aspirations. The student-athlete’s choice includes all of the above, plus the chance to compete in their sport at the highest level.

Suggesting student-athletes enroll in a sports degree program, administered by an athletic department, fortifies an existing boundary; discouraging student athletes from developing key relationships with university academic advisors, faculty, administrators, and non-athlete students.

The college experience serves as a bridge to workplace reality. Isolating student-athletes eliminates access to ‘real world’ campus connections critical for career success.

If a student wants to pursue a career in sport, there are a variety of options in the liberal arts, journalism, business and law.

Rather than reinforce the existing ‘athletic department silo’ with a new curriculum, we can initiate these changes today:

A student-athlete should be able to select a major and complete their degree without influence or interference from their coach.

Practices should not conflict with class schedules.

A student-athlete should have access to all career planning activities including internships, networking events, and on-campus recruiting interviews.

A student-athlete should never have to choose between an academic commitment and their sport.

Coaches should venture beyond the venues of comfort and take opportunities to network with faculty.

We don’t need an ‘academic athletic department’. We need the adults on campus to refocus the debate without prejudice to the students.

 

 

The week@work – Grad students win right to unionize, the changing conversation about the economy, why America’s leaders fail and the story of Luke’s Lobster

Academia was in the headlines this week@work with the Tuesday announcement from the National Labor Relations Board, voting 3-1 to overturn a 2004 ruling allowing graduate students to form collective bargaining units. A Pew Research Center survey detected a shift in election season conversation from the economy (2012) to keeping the U.S. safe from terrorism. What conversation? The system isn’t working, and it may be we don’t have leaders who view their ‘calling’ as a ‘vocation’. And finally, a career transition story – from investment banker to ‘lobsterpreneur’ for this last week of summer.

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‘Ruling Pushes Door to Grad-Student Unions ‘Wide Open’ Peter Schmidt for The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Many more private universities can expect to see their graduate employees move to form unions in the wake of Tuesday’s National Labor Relations Board decision on such an effort at Columbia University.

The federal labor board’s 3-to-1 ruling resoundingly overturned a 2004 decision involving Brown University. In the Brown ruling, the board asserted that graduate employees should not be allowed to form unions because their doing so would intrude into the educational process.

In Tuesday’s decision, the majority held that such a belief “is unsupported by legal authority, by empirical evidence, or by the board’s actual experience.” It not only rejected the Brown precedent, but also overturned a 1974 ruling that had declared research assistants at Stanford University ineligible to unionize based on a belief that such research is part of the educational process.

The board’s decision in the Columbia case says graduate students employed by a private university are as eligible as any other type of worker to form collective-bargaining units under the National Labor Relations Act.”

In a letter to the Columbia University community, Provost John H. Coatsworth reiterated the long-held view of university administrators.

“Columbia and many of our peer universities have challenged this position. Nearly all of the students at Columbia affected by this decision are graduate students. We believe that the daily activities and the advisor-advisee relationships involved in the scholarly training of graduate students define an experience that is different from that of the typical workplace. Being a graduate student can take many years of intense research, teaching and study. But unlike university employees, graduate students who serve as teaching or research assistants come to this institution first and foremost to acquire through that work the knowledge and expertise that are essential to their becoming future scholars and teachers.”

The world of academia is changing, and with it the profile of the teaching community. As more adjunct faculty assume the classroom role, it may be harder to differentiate the job description of part-time faculty from that of grad assistant.

To be continued…

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‘Since 2012, The Economy Has Changed — And So Has The Conversation’ Marilyn Geewax for NPR

“Ah, 2012. You seem so long ago.

Back then, the economy was the star of the presidential election season, with more than 9 in 10 voters ranking it as Issue No. 1.

Voters worried about scarce jobs, expensive gasoline and a huge federal deficit.

Candidates proposed detailed solutions…

This year, the political conversation is very different, with much of the focus on non-economic issues: Republican Donald Trump’s temperament and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness.

And a Pew Research Center survey showed that the issue voters want to hear about most in a presidential debate is “keeping the US safe from terrorism.”

Of course, economic issues remain extremely important, but they are different from 2012. This year, the hottest money topics involve income inequality, trade deals and immigrants.”

Why are we focused on temperament and trustworthiness while the ‘big problems’ that effect our daily lives are ignored? David Brooks thinks it’s about career vs. calling, and he may be right.

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‘Why America’s Leadership Fails’ David Brooks for The New York Times

“Over the past few decades, thousands of good people have gone into public service, but they have found themselves enmeshed in a system that drains them of their sense of vocation.

Let’s start with a refresher on the difference between a vocation and a career. A career is something you choose; a vocation is something you are called to.

A person choosing a career asks, How can I get the best job or win the most elections? A person summoned by a vocation asks, How can my existing abilities be put in service of the greatest common good?

A career is a job you do as long as the benefits outweigh the costs; a vocation involves falling in love with something, having a conviction about it and making it part of your personal identity.

A vocation involves promises to some ideal, it reveals itself in a sense of enjoyment as you undertake its tasks and it can’t be easily quit when setbacks and humiliations occur. As others have noted, it involves a double negative — you can’t not do this thing.

I do think there’s often an arc to vocation. People start with something outside themselves. Then, in the scramble to get established, the ambition of self takes over. But then at some point people realize the essential falseness of all that and they try to reconnect with their original animating ideals.

And so I think it possible to imagine a revival of vocation.”

The last story this week@work is an ‘end of summer’ career transition feature.

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‘A Restaurant’s Sales Pitch: Know Your Lobster’  Janet Morrissey for The New York Times

“It was a steamy summer day in New York in 2009 when Luke Holden, an investment banker, had a craving for a lobster roll. Not just any lobster roll, though. He longed for the “fresh off the docks” taste he enjoyed growing up in Cape Elizabeth, Me.

After an exhaustive search on New York’s streets, he came up dissatisfied and disappointed.

“Every lobster was served over a white tablecloth, extremely expensive, drowning in mayo and diluted with celery,” he said. “I wondered why all the great chefs in this city had screwed this up so badly.”

So that year, Mr. Holden decided to open an authentic Maine lobster shack in Manhattan. To replicate that fresh taste that he remembered, he would need to oversee, track and, where possible, own every step in the process.

Today, he owns 19 Luke’s Lobster restaurants, two food trucks and a lobster tail cart in the United States, and five shacks in Japan.”

If you only  read one of these this week, spend some time with David Brooks…and reconnect with your “original animating ideals” and begin a “revival of vocation”. 

Your first day @work is not that different from your first day @college

Late last month, The New York Times shared advice for incoming college freshman from 25 upperclassmen and recent grads. As I read the article, I noted a parallel in the seven topics offered for new students, and folks in their first months @work – from the first internship through every career transition.

“Freshman year is a chance to redefine yourself, to challenge assumptions, to lay the foundation for the rest of your life.”

The first day of work is also a chance to redefine yourself, challenge assumptions and begin to lay the foundation of your career.

Let’s examine the list of seven, and test their application to the workplace.

“Extend yourself”  You are the ‘newbie’ @work. You’re not expected to have all the answers on day one. Ask questions.  Explore the world beyond your cubicle. Find ‘community spaces’ where folks gather, and mingle.

“Do the work”  In college, this is basically showing up for class, @work it’s consistently engaging in projects. Don’t wait to be asked. Offer to participate in assignments that will stretch your talents.

“Understand the system and work it”  Every workplace has its unique culture, values and traditions. If you did your research before you started your new job, you should have an inkling of what to expect. Once you are on payroll, take some time to observe how folks communicate, how priorities are set, where the budget dollars are allocated, and who is making the decisions. Align yourself with the energized vs. the disgruntled.

“Be yourself”  Hopefully you selected a workplace that is a ‘fit’ with your values and talents. If the recruitment process was straightforward, being the ‘authentic’ you will contribute to your success.

You will change as part of a new work community, just as you evolved throughout your college years in an environment that fostered success, creativity, and diversity.  Check in periodically with friends outside your workplace to ensure you’re growing vs. losing your essential essence.

“Tend to yourself”, “Your grade in one class does not define you”  These tidbits of advice applied to work fall into the categories of work/life balance and recovering from failure. It’s very easy to be consumed by the work in the beginning. You’re learning new concepts, meeting new people, struggling to make deadlines, and communicating in a new workplace language. If you’re not spending time outside of work socializing, contributing to your community or maintaining a fitness routine; your work will eventually suffer.

When you do make a mistake, your career isn’t over. The upper strata of success is populated with folks who have recovered from both minor and major workplace calamity.

“Develop people skills”  Without solid communication skills, every day at work will be a challenge. Our work culture has traditionally rewarded the extrovert, but new research has shown the introvert is an equal partner in the success of any organization.

In college you may have been able to get an ‘A’ as an individual, rarely leaving your room, thinking great thoughts and rarely interacting with the campus community. @work you have to deal with people. You may be the most brilliant innovator, but at some point you have to explain your product to a client.

All of us can improve our communication skills and it’s to an organization’s advantage to support you in this effort. Find out if there are skill development programs available through your employer or professional association. Be proactive on this one.

 “Don’t get stuck” Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Entering college you may have thought you would be the next Bill Gates, when a Freshman Seminar introduced you to the wonderful world of philosophy. Tangents open up @work as well. Entering an organization for the first time, you cannot imagine the variety of opportunities that are available. You may be in a meeting with a client and realize the work his/her organization is doing is a better fit for you skills. Be open when an alternative is presented. There is no perfect career path, just one that is unique to you.

One more – always share what you learn with colleagues. Knowledge is power. Shared information can be transformative.

The one thing every Olympian should do before they leave Rio 2016

The one thing every Olympian should do before they leave Rio is update their social media identity across all platforms.

For a brief moment in time Olympic athletes capture the global stage and water cooler conversations. It’s not only those who make the podium, but those we discover in the diverse narratives of their journeys to Rio. The majority will return to their home countries as national heroes, contributing to society, away from the media spotlight. A few may return as coaches or commentators in four years. Most will miss the opportunity to capture the Olympic experience as a bridge to the next phase of their career.

In the past I have worked with returning  Olympians who hesitate to include their achievements in sport on their resume. The most competitive athletes are the most reticent to record their accomplishments.

They just don’t think it’s relevant. It is.

In the global workplace, it’s not just the resume; social media communicates talent instantaneously to potential employers. Your professional image is transmitted through your social media identity.

On Saturday, American Virginia Thrasher won the first gold medal awarded at the games in the women’s the 10-meter air rifle. Within a few hours she was taking her first TV interview on NBC, describing her hectic schedule of additional events and starting her sophomore year at West Virginia University.

In describing her life over the next couple of weeks, Thrasher gave voice to the stress that accompanies the life of every student athlete, combining sport with academics. Often lost, is time for reflection on how these experiences transform the athlete into a professional @work.

How do you build the bridge from sport to work on social media?

Take a look at your social media presence across all platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter…

Do all the pieces fit into a unifying narrative? If not, it’s time to edit. As an Olympian, expectations have been raised and your online image should reflect your aspirations vs. social missteps.

Have you created links to videos and press coverage of your accomplishments?

Do you post videos and press coverage on your Twitter account?

Have you checked with third party sites to ensure your profile information is up to date?

Do you have an account on LinkedIn? (If you’re making the transition from sport to your next career, this component of your professional online identity is critical as you build your ‘next career’ network.)

There are many athletes who hesitate to be defined by their sport, but the skills developed in pursuit of Olympic gold closely match those sought by potential employers: teamwork, goal orientation, communications, problem-solving, and resilience.

Whether you are a summer Olympian, or a star on your own professional stage, it’s time to seize the moment and refresh you social media identity.

 

Photo credit: US Women’s Rugby Seven – Geoff Burke for USA TODAY Sports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The week@work – heat dome, plagiarism, ‘Pokemon Go’, Yahoo, life/work coaches, and classical music

This week@work was hot, with a meteorological ‘heat dome’ encasing most of the continental United States. When I saw the photo above in The New York Times on Wednesday, I just wanted to be transported to a barge in Venice where the cast of Amazon’s ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ were filming. (Enjoy the view from Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times)

In other stories this week, the Republican Party chose their candidate for president and initiated a valuable conversation about plagiarism. The ‘Pokemon Go’ app provided a much needed diversion as thousands engaged in this new high tech sport of creature collection. Vindu Goel took a stroll down memory lane to a time when Yahoo reigned over Silicon Valley. Life/work coaches are the new workplace perk, and classical musicians are returning to the small screen.

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No that is not a photo of Zeus expressing displeasure with politicians in Cleveland. It’s Port Washington, Wisconsin photographed by AP photographer Jeffrey Phelps.

Rebecca Herscher reported on the weather for NPR.

“A heat dome occurs when high pressure in the upper atmosphere acts as a lid, preventing hot air from escaping. The air is forced to sink back to the surface, warming even further on the way. This phenomenon will result in dangerously hot temperatures that will envelop the nation throughout the week.”

NASA reported on Tuesday that ‘2016 Climate Trends Continue to Break Records’.

“Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. The six-month period from January to June was also the planet’s warmest half-year on record, with an average temperature 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the late nineteenth century.”

We are hot. We are busy. We live in a time of ‘short-cuts’. Workplace deadlines force creativity into ‘cut and paste’ document creation. Original thought becomes a casualty of increased workload. Sometimes we forget to give credit to other’s ideas and find ourselves on the slippery slope of plagiarism.

Last week the Republican National Convention became the unexpected catalyst for a discussion of this topic, an essential component of every college new student orientation program.

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Writing on huffingtonpost.com, Karen Topham offered ‘An English Teacher’s View Of The Trump Plagiarism Issue’.

“Plagiarism is any unattributed content. It’s kind of like pregnancy: you can’t plagiarize just a little because even a little is plagiarism.

I had my last case of plagiarism late last winter. A girl was under the gun and copied an essay from the internet. I explained to her (as I’d done so often before) that she was probably lucky in the long run that I had caught her. Anyone who gets away with this stuff is likely to try it again. In high school, it’s a zero and maybe a chance to do it over. But in most colleges, it’s a violation of academic honesty that can get you expelled. And this is my point: we hold college students to this very high standard.”

You have been warned.

On the lighter side, David Streitfeld gave a first person account of ‘Chasing Pokemon In Search of Reality In a Game’: downloading the app, setting out to capture a few creatures, and meeting fellow gamers along the way.

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“In this season of random assassinations and political uproar, who could resist the temptation to supplement a high-strung and frightening reality with some gentle make-believe?

Fifty years ago, the F.B.I., worried that the youth of America might foment revolution, would infiltrate San Francisco demonstrations. Now the tech companies are doing the monitoring, wondering if games like Pokémon represent a threat that must be neutralized or an opportunity to be exploited. That’s progress for you.”

In other Silicon Valley News, Wall Street Journal reporters Ryan Knutson and Deepa Seetharaman confirmed the Verizon acquisition of Yahoo.

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“Verizon Communications Inc. has agreed to pay $4.8 billion to acquire Yahoo Inc., according to a person familiar with the matter, ending a drawn-out auction process for the beleaguered internet company.

The price tag, which includes Yahoo’s core internet business and some real estate, is a remarkable fall for the Silicon Valley web pioneer that once had a market capitalization of more than $125 billion at the height of the dot-com boom.

For New York-based Verizon, the deal simply adds another piece to the digital media and advertising business it is trying to build.

The deal is expected to be announced early Monday. The news was earlier reported by Recode and Bloomberg.”

In an article earlier in the week, Vindu Goel revisited a time ‘When Yahoo Ruled the Valley’.

“Back in the mid-1990s, before Google even existed, the world’s best guides to the internet sat in Silicon Valley cubicles, visiting websites and carefully categorizing them by hand.

They were called surfers, and they were a collection of mostly 20-somethings — including a yoga lover, an ex-banker, a divinity student, a recent college grad from Ohio hungry for adventure — all hired by a start-up called Yahoo to build a directory of the world’s most interesting websites.

Today, with more than one billion websites across the globe, the very notion seems mad. Even then, there was a hint of insanity about the enterprise.”

Two additional articles of interest from the week@work cover a new benefit for employees transitioning back to work after a leave and a TV series providing classical music performers with visibility not seen since the days of Ed Sullivan.

‘A New Perk For Parents: Life-Work Coaches’ by Tara Siegel Bernard

“At a time when new parents may find themselves overwhelmed — even sobbing late at night as they deal with their new at-home responsibilities while trying to hold down a full-time job — a growing number of companies are making efforts to soften the blow. They are providing employees with coaching sessions, either in person, over the phone or through small group sessions that may be broadcast over the web. The services are often available to new fathers, too.”

‘Classical Stars Seek TV’s Elusive Spotlight’ by Michael Cooper

“It was after midnight on the Grand Canal here, and Plácido Domingo was standing on a floating stage slowly motoring toward the Accademia Bridge, singing the opening lines of a duet from “Don Giovanni.”

With this operatically over-the-top spectacle last week — which drew squeals and flurries of smartphone photos as people passed on a vaporetto, or water bus — Mr. Domingo became the latest classical star to shoot a cameo for “Mozart in the Jungle,” the Amazon comedy about a fictional New York orchestra.

Paul Weitz, who was directing the episode with Mr. Domingo and is an executive producer of the show with Roman Coppola and Mr. Schwartzman, said that the possibility of reaching those viewers was especially enticing to the musicians who have appeared.

“Obviously, it’s a huge issue, and it’s something that is dealt with in the show a lot, about whether classical music is going to be passed on to a new generation,” Mr. Weitz said between shots in his director’s chair. “And all these artists, the reasons that they’re doing this show is because they feel like it’s good for that aspect of the art — that it can bring the music to different people. And anecdotally, I think that’s actually the case.”

Stay cool this week@work with a favorite piece of classical music.