The week@work – Millennial myths, millennials@home and relocation stagnation

Apparently, Americans are less geographically mobile today than at any point since 1948. Interesting fact to contemplate as 38 million of us return from our adventures over the holiday weekend. It probably doesn’t help that for the first time, young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are more likely to live at home, with their parents. Experts, not just parents, are voicing concerns about how this relocation stagnation is destroying what economists refer to as ‘dynamism’ in the job market.

This week@work we take a look back at the week’s stories of millennial myths and our dwindling pioneer spirit.

In April we reached a generational tipping point, when the number of folks between the ages of 18 and 34, aka millennials, overtook Americans between 51 and 69, the baby boomers, by 75.4 million to 74.9 million. And, as every move of the post WWII generation was observed and chronicled, so have we had this new majority under the microscope. It has been quite a lucrative vocation for the thousands of corporate consultants who advise executives on recruitment and retention.

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But what if they got it wrong? Farad Manjoo thinks the “collectively homogenous cliche” portrayed in the media is a far cry from reality and believes it’s time to break away from the stereotypes. Thank-you.

“If your management or marketing theories involve collapsing all millennials into a catchall anthropological category — as if you’re dealing with space aliens or some newly discovered aboriginal tribe that’s suddenly invaded modernity — you’re doing it wrong.

Kim Parker, director of social trends research at the Pew Research Center, said demographers have noted large differences in millennials: Compared to older cohorts, they tend to be more socially liberal when it comes to issues like gay marriage and marijuana use, they marry later in life, and they are less enamored of traditional religious and political institutions. Looking at these shifts over time “is a useful construct when you’re trying to analyze a whole population,” Ms. Parker said.

But these broad trends leave lots of room for individual differences that matter in the real world, and that are often papered over when we talk about millennials as a monolithic collective.

Considering that millennials are the most diverse generation — spanning many racial, ethnic and income categories — intragenerational differences are bound to play an important role when you’re talking about individual people. Though both are “millennials,” a young immigrant working three sharing-economy gigs is likely to look at the world very differently from a trust-fund baby who’s tending his Tumblr in Brooklyn. Yet only one of these stereotypes tends to make it into media accounts of millennials.”

The busy folks at Pew Research released additional millennial data this week, “For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds”.

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“It’s worth noting that the overall share of young adults living with their parents was not at a record high in 2014. This arrangement peaked around 1940, when about 35% of the nation’s 18- to 34-year-olds lived with mom and/or dad (compared with 32% in 2014). What has changed, instead, is the relative share adopting different ways of living in early adulthood, with the decline of romantic coupling pushing living at home to the top of a much less uniform list of living arrangements.”

Gillian B. White examined ‘The False Stereotypes About Millennials Who Live at Home’ for The Atlantic.

“…the Millennials who are most likely to wind up living with their relatives are those who come from already marginalized groups that are plagued with low employment, low incomes, and low prospects for moving up the economic ladder. Millennials who live at home are also more likely to be minorities, more likely to be unemployed, and less likely to have a college degree. Living at home is particularly understandable for those who started school and took out loans, but didn’t finish their bachelor’s degree. These Millennials shoulder the burden of student-loan debt without the added benefits of increased job prospects, which can make living with a parent the most viable option.

And while there may be comedic fodder in the idea of adult children trying to share space with their parents, staying at home for many Millennials and their family isn’t all that funny. For parents who are struggling to make ends meet, an extra mouth to feed or the inability to downsize to a smaller place can be truly burdensome. For many Millennials, moving out, even if they want to, could lead them to make financial decisions that would put them in an even more precarious place, and that’s precisely the opposite of what they, or the economy, need.”

Why will we travel 2,500 miles from home to attend our ‘first choice’ college, and yet resist relocation to a new urban environment for a job? Why do we spend a semester abroad in an internship or academic program and fail to accept a job offer fifty miles from home?

Has our pioneering spirit disappeared in the noise of descending helicopter parents, or are there more serious institutional prohibitions to career adventure?

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American Enterprise Institute president, and conservative author, Arthur C. Brooks offered advice on how to get America moving again, painting a grim picture of our current adventure deficit.

“Through census data, we know that Americans are less geographically mobile today than at any point since 1948. Other scholarship suggests that the decline stretches back further. This might help explain why our country is having such a hard time getting out of its national funk.

Mobility is more than just a metaphor for getting ahead. In America, it has been a solution to economic and social barriers. If you descended from immigrants, I’m betting your ancestors didn’t come to this country for the fine cuisine. More likely they came in search of the opportunity to work hard and get ahead.

Even for those already here, migration has long been seen as a key to self-improvement. As Horace Greeley so famously advised in 1865: “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”

Patricia Cohen followed up with a more in-depth review, ‘A Dearth of Pioneers’.

“Staying put can mean that workers are not moving to jobs where they would be more productive. At the same time, many are forgoing the raises and ascents on the career ladder that often come with a job switch. Fewer openings can also have a ripple effect, shrinking the bargaining power of workers in general, making it tougher to ask for a bump up in pay.

The declining churn in the labor market may surprise those who assumed that the era of lifelong employment capped by a gold watch had given way to serial job-hopping. But the reality is more complicated, said Abigail Wozniak, an economist at the University of Notre Dame and one of the authors of a new report on the subject. While it is true that fewer people have very long tenures at a single company, she said, that trend has been swamped by a countervailing one: People are not moving as much out of what used to be entry-level and temporary jobs.

One of the more intriguing findings was the role of declining social trust and what is known as social capital — the web of family, friends and professional contacts. For example, the proportion of people who agree with the statement, “Most people can be trusted,” has been shrinking for more than three decades. Researchers found that states with larger declines in social trust also had larger declines in labor market fluidity. The lack of trust may increase the cost of job-hunting and make both employees and employers more risk-averse.

As social trust diminishes, people may feel more comfortable sticking closer to home where the faces are familiar even if job opportunities are scarcer, researchers suggested.”

 

 

‘Decoration Day’ a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Before we head out for the holiday weekend, let’s take a minute to pause and remember those who went to work @war with ‘Decoration Day’, a poem, written in 1882 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

On May 30, 1868 five thousand people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the first ‘Decoration Day’. An Ohio congressman, who had served as a major general in the Civil War, James A. Garfield addressed the crowd.

“I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung. With words we make promises, plight faith, praise virtue. Promises may not be kept; plighted faith may be broken; and vaunted virtue be only the cunning mask of vice. We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue. For the noblest man that lives, there still remains a conflict. He must still withstand the assaults of time and fortune, must still be assailed with temptations, before which lofty natures have fallen; but with these the conflict ended, the victory was won, when death stamped on them the great seal of heroic character, and closed a record which years can never blot.”

The Memorial Day we celebrate in the U.S. this weekend had its origins in the years after the Civil War. It was customary to ‘decorate’ the graves of those who had died in defense of their country, and on May 5, 1868  General John Logan designated May 30 as ‘Decoration Day’ “because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle”.

David Barber introduced Longfellow’s poem for the Atlantic in 2011.

“Longfellow’s “Decoration Day” may not rank among his canonic Atlantic verse, but it imparts a burnished poignancy all its own. In the solemn, hymn-like strains that were a hallmark of the country’s foremost “Fireside Poet,” the poem pays tribute to what was then a new form of civic observance: a day set aside to commemorate those who had perished in the Civil War by placing flags and flowers on soldiers’ graves, a custom that gradually gave rise to our modern Memorial Day honoring all who give their lives in military service. Its first readers likely felt an elegaic pang all the more acutely: by the time the poem circulated in the June 1882 Atlantic, it would have been national news that Longfellow had died just a few weeks earlier at his home in Cambridge, at the age of 75.”

Decoration Day

Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry’s shot alarms!

Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon’s sudden roar,
Or the drum’s redoubling beat.

But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.

All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!

Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When choosing a college, ask ‘Who will I become?’

The questions we ask when selecting an undergraduate or graduate program focus on the financial and vocational. What will it cost? Will I get a job when I graduate? What we miss is the critical question. Who will I become?

It’s not a question just for philosophy majors.

Each university community is a micro culture defined by traditions, behaviors and beliefs. Even the most jaded will be transformed by the experience. That’s why imagining your selfie in four years is as important as financial and career planning.

The Atlantic’s senior editor, Derek Thompson acknowledged this developmental progression when he examined the impact of college choice on future success.

“While hundreds of thousands of 17- and 18-year-olds sit around worrying that a decision by a room of strangers is about to change their lives forever, the truer thing is that their lives have already been shaped decisively by the sum of their own past decisions—the habits developed, the friends made, and the challenges overcome. Where you go to college does matter, because it’s often an accurate measure of the person you’re becoming.”

If you accept that college is a point on the developmental continuum, your challenge is to find a place where your past intersects with your optimal opportunity for continued growth.

If place defines you, it’s a campus where you’ll discover the gaps in your experience and explore every possible resource to fill in the blanks. Networking will not be an abstract process for job search, but a four year active engagement with faculty, administrators and colleagues.

Your future is not determined by the decision of an admissions committee, but by the sum of your individual decisions over time, and who you will become.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Homework: Write your story

It’s the holiday season and you have one assignment to complete before the New Year begins – write your story.

During the Thanksgiving holiday I encouraged readers to participate in the Story Corps ‘Great Thanksgiving Listen’, conducting interviews  with relatives to capture the oral history narrative of America.

This week’s challenge is about you; to think about your life as it has evolved to this point, highs and lows, and write a short story, your story.

Before you craft your resume, schedule a meeting with a networking contact or head to an interview, you need a story; the narrative of how you arrived at this point in your life and career.

The end goal is to collect as much information about your past before you open your laptop and begin to browse resume formats. Most folks make the mistake of finding a template and relating their story via someone else’s outline. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t acceptable resume formats. It does mean that it’s premature to begin with the resume before you have considered the narrative you wish to convey.

Storytelling has become the latest marketing approach adopted by entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 CEOs. Google ‘storytelling’ and the initial search results will reflect current business practice vs. writers working on the great American novel or the hottest new screenplay.

Here’s the thing. If the folks you hope to work with are employing storytelling to advance their business goals, it may be time for you to practice your skill.

Buried in the list of google results is a link to an Atlantic.com video, ‘George Saunders Explains How To Tell A Good Story’. It’s one of the most viewed videos of the year, which may provide another hint to why you should take seven minutes out of your life this week and watch.

Let’s pause a minute to address all of you who have gotten to this point and are stressed because all you wanted was a few words on how to write a resume in ten seconds.

Nothing of quality results from ten seconds of effort. And this is your life, eight to ten hours of every five days of seven.

Back to George Saunders.

“A story is kind of a black box, you’re going to put the reader in there, she’s going to spend some time with this thing that you have made and when she comes out, what’s going to have happened to her in there is something kind of astonishing. It feels like the curtain’s been pulled back and she’s gotten a glimpse into a deeper truth…

As a story writer, that’s not as easy as it sounds..”

It’s not easy to tell your story. There’s a lot of stuff that in the end may have no relevance to your job search. But it’s important to conduct an annual rewrite to update and adapt your original script.

Let’s borrow a term from the screenwriters and suggest you are developing a draft ‘treatment’ before you write a resume, network and interview.

Micki Grover defines and describes how this summary of a story fits into the screenwriting process.

“All we’re talking about is a short document written in prose form and in the present tense that emphasizes, with vivid description, the major elements of a screenplay. Yes, treatments are actually written in prose! The essence of the story and the characters should be evoked through exhilarating language and imagery.

Treatments have a style of their own just as screenplays do, and they too take time to master. Writers who swear by using treatments find that it’s a fun outlet to write with a voice that screenplays and synopses sometimes constrain. The ultimate goal is simply to tell your story in an engaging way, as if you were passionately telling your best friend about a new script over coffee.”

That’s your holiday assignment. Develop a ‘treatment’ that tells your story in an engaging way, connecting the dots and inviting an audience who may be interested in promoting your talent.

 

 

 

The week@work – End of the fossil fuel era, founders, introverts, college athletes and the one business book to read

The generational disruption continues. This week@work world leaders committed to cut greenhouse gases, ensuring the environment for future generations. MTV labeled the next of these generations ‘the founders’. Silicon Valley is quickly becoming the vortex for college consulting, making sure these ‘founders’ gain admission to the best universities. And a group of Clemson alumni have come up with a creative alternative to legally compensate college athletes via crowdfunding.

For introverts, there were hints for employers to maximize success. And if you only read one business book this year, the experts recommend ‘Rise of the Robots’ by Martin Ford.

The global story this week was reported from Paris by The Guardian.

“After 20 years of fraught meetings, including the past two weeks spent in an exhibition hall on the outskirts of Paris, negotiators from nearly 200 countries signed on to a legal agreement on Saturday evening that set ambitious goals to limit temperature rises and to hold governments to account for reaching those targets.

Government and business leaders said the agreement, which set a new goal to reach net zero emissions in the second half of the century, sent a powerful signal to global markets, hastening the transition away from fossil fuels and to a clean energy economy.”

In national news, The Atlantic’s David Sims summarized the MTV survey that resulted in a name for the children of the new millennium.

“The name “The Founders” comes from the kids themselves, according to MTV’s survey of more than 1,000 respondents born after the year 2000. America is still reckoning with Millennials (loosely classified as those born from the mid-1980s to the late-’90s) one thinkpiece at a time, but according to this survey, their fate is already sealed. As the children of indulgent baby boomers, Millennials are classified as “dreamers” who live to disrupt and challenge established norms. The Founders, by contrast, are “pragmatists” who will navigate a tougher world defined by 9/11, the financial crisis, and gender fluidity. Previous generations had to worry about getting into college and finding a job, but the next one is tasked with cleaning up their mess.”

Nathan Heller, writing in The New Yorker imagined how today’s fourteen year olds will impact the economy.

“When the teen-agers call themselves founders, they are not thinking of Roger Sherman or, for that matter, of Henry Ford. They are allying themselves with West Coast startup culture—a milieu that regards inventive business-building as the ultimate creative and constructive act…In embracing “founders,” it affirms the idea that creativity is essential—and performed through business enterprise.

“If the founders hold to their founding, it is not hard to extrapolate the economic model that their interests will support. A founder-friendly society is deregulated, privatized, and philanthropic in its best intent. (See ur-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s recent tax-incentivized pledge.) “Founders,” whose popularity as a Silicon Valley concept followed the 2009 recession, has become a stand-in for more charged, and less heroic-sounding words, such as “small-business owner,” “C.E.O.,” and “boss.” To found is not to manage; it’s to dream and to design. This is the new model for innovative business, scrupulously cleansed of the dank trappings of corporate industry. It’s business all the same, though, and it aims for growth.”

If you are working in the underpaid and undervalued world of college admissions, you have a future in the lucrative business of college consulting. Georgia Perry reported on the growing industry, fueled by parental anxiety, that helps high school students find summer internships, prepare applications and refine essays.

“Private college-admissions consulting is a rapidly growing industry across the U.S. According to the Independent Educational Consultants Association, the number of independent admissions consultants in the U.S. has grown from 2,000 to nearly 5,000 in recent years. In a nationwide study, the marketing firm Lipman Hearne found that of students who scored in the 70th percentile or higher on the SAT, 26 percent had hired a professional consultant to help with their college search. The San Francisco Bay Area has a higher concentration per capita of independent college-admissions consultants than “most cities,” says IECA communications manager Sarah Brachman, though the association doesn’t have specific numbers. The IECA’s most recent report found that nationally, $400 million was spent on college consultants in 2012. Hourly rates in the Bay Area can be as high as $400 an hour, and comprehensive packages with regular meetings throughout high school can add up to several thousand dollars.”

How student-athletes are compensated continues to be a topic in legal proceedings, but this week a group of Clemson folks have come up with an innovative approach that just might work and meet NCAA requirements. Ben Strauss provided the details in his article ‘If Colleges Can’t Pay Athletes, Maybe Fans Can, Group Says’.

“The answer to the riddle of putting money in the hands of amateur student-athletes, who according to the N.C.A.A. cannot be paid, is crowdfunding, said Rob Morgan, a Clemson business school graduate and an anesthesiologist based in Greenville, S.C. His new website, UBooster, started on Friday with the goal of soliciting payments for high school recruits from fans, and delivering the money to the athletes after their college careers end.

“We think this is the direction college sports is headed,” said Morgan, who has been helped in his venture by a former Clemson football player and the interim dean of the university’s business school. “At some point, there is going to be an opportunity for players to make money, and here’s how we can be a part of it.”

“The business model is simple. Fans pledge money to individual recruits, and can leave public notes on the site urging them to attend their favorite college. Morgan said all high school recruits — men and women in every sport from Division I to Division III — would be eligible, though it would seem obvious that most of the interest and money would be directed at top-flight football and basketball prospects. The accounts lock, and no more money can be pledged to players once they formally commit to a college. UBooster will then hold the money in a trust before turning it over to the athletes after their college careers.”

Quiet Revolution founder Susan Cain is an advocate for the introvert in all facets of life. And it’s her website’s section on work that provides insight into fostering career success. This week, Liz Fosslien and Mollie West offered an ‘Illustrated Guide to Introverts in a Start-Up’.

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“Famous introvert entrepreneurs include Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Marissa Mayer, and Mark Zuckerberg.

When we imagine our ideal workplace, it looks more like a library full of quiet rooms and isolated carrels than the ball-pit and bullpen situation start-ups are currently obsessed with. As introverts, we may be outnumbered by extroverts at start-ups. According to Laney, “The introvert is pressured daily, almost from the moment of awakening, to respond and conform to the outer world.” This need to conform can be tiring. But we promise, with just a few tweaks in the workplace, you could make us very happy.”

Finally, if there is only one business book you will read this year… and the clock is ticking…the experts recommend ‘Rise of the Robots’ by Martin Ford. Jessica Stillman reported:

“According to the Financial Times and consultancy McKinsey, there’s at least one title even the busiest business owners shouldn’t miss. They recently crowned Rise of the Robots by entrepreneur Martin Ford the very best business book of the year.

Hugely topical, the book discusses the much debated idea that advances in automation will soon radically affect the labor market. “The book reflects growing anxiety in some quarters about the possible negative impact of automation on jobs, from manufacturing to professional services,” explains the FT write-up of the award. This economic reshuffle may require “a fundamental restructuring of our economic rules,” according to Ford, who proposes a guaranteed minimum basic income as one possible remedy.”

Enjoy your week@work… the founders and robots are coming…

 

 

 

The ‘costumes’ of our workplace – “Every Day is Class Picture Day”

What will you wear to work? It’s that time of year when we choose an alternate identity to celebrate Halloween. It reminds us that when we choose a career, we also choose a daily ‘costume’, identifying us as a working member of an organization.

Dress is a visible signal of career transition. Walk through a college campus and you can easily identify the seniors heading to an interview, riding bikes and skateboards clad in black suits with backpacks.

Dress is an outward symbol of an organization’s culture. As you begin the job search process, think about what your everyday wardrobe will look like. Does the ‘dress code’ fit with your personality and image?

Appearance matters and social media is influencing perception of our ‘personal brand’. Author Jennifer Weiner wrote an OpEd for The New York Times in May, ‘The Pressure to Look Good’. She described how social media has transformed the ‘image’ of writers, and women.

“The visual footprint of a writer was until recently limited to a postage-stamp-size author photo. Yes, you’d get dressed up for your book tour, if your publisher was generous enough to fund one, and for television appearances if you were lucky enough to have them. But in terms of your day-to-day work life, your looks didn’t matter. That made the job extra-appealing for those of us who realized early on that the path of the supermodel would not be ours to walk.

Then along came cellphones with built-in cameras. And blogs and Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly, you weren’t just that one tiny picture, you were every picture anyone might happen to want to snap, and to post and pin and share, images that would be tweeted and retweeted, scrutinized and commented upon and invoked to dismiss you as jealous, overweight, bitter, sexually frustrated and, maybe, illogically, also a sexually promiscuous hag. For some critics, a woman’s looks remain the first place they’ll go when they disagree with her opinions.

It used to be that, generally speaking, we all knew the occasions that required us to look good.

Now? Every day is Class Picture Day.”

OK, appearance matters but does what we wear effect how we work? Joe Pinsker writing in The Atlantic found research to support ‘Wearing a Suit Makes People Think Differently’.

“Clothes, it appears, make the man perceive the world differently.”

“A new study looks specifically at how formal attire changes people’s thought processes. “Putting on formal clothes makes us feel powerful, and that changes the basic way we see the world,” says Abraham Rutchick, an author of the study and a professor of psychology at California State University, Northridge. Rutchick and his co-authors found that wearing clothing that’s more formal than usual makes people think more broadly and holistically, rather than narrowly and about fine-grained details. In psychological parlance, wearing a suit encourages people to use abstract processing more readily than concrete processing.”

We have come a long way since John T. Molloy provided career wardrobe advice in his 1977 book, ‘Dress for Success’. A social media footprint has become a public relations tool in developing a professional reputation.

Do the research. Use any opportunity to observe workers in your field. Take your cues from both entry level employees and senior executives. There are some who believe you should dress for your next level. The main thing is to enhance your image, not cause a distraction. You want your managers and colleagues to value your opinions and ideas, not be distracted by your ‘costume’.

If you are uncomfortable in the ‘costume’ of your employer, other things may not be fitting as well. It may be an early signal that it’s time to change more than your threads.

The week@work – writer’s rooms and publishing lack diversity, alternatives to academia, what scares us most and the number one mistake job seekers make

As the world turned this week@work, journalists continued to highlight the lack of diversity in the workplace: in the writers rooms of TV, the publishing industry and tech. The National Endowment for the Humanities announced a grant initiative to align graduate education with employment prospects.  A survey from Chapman University identified our top fear as corruption of government officials (unemployment and public speaking being way down on the list). And a CEO offered advice on the one mistake job seekers make.

Things are not looking good on the diversity front. Aisha Harris reporting on Slate.com, investigated the lack of progress on diversity behind the camera, in the rooms where plot and dialogue are created for your favorite TV shows.

“A Writers’ Guild of America report released earlier this year noted that staff employment for people of color actually decreased between the 2011–12 season and 2013–14 season, from a peak of 15.6 percent to 13.7 percent. The number of executive producers of color also decreased in those seasons, from 7.8 percent to 5.5 percent. While the 2014–15 season may have seen those numbers increase thanks to the addition of a few shows with diverse casts, such sharp declines demonstrate how tenuous progress in Hollywood can be.

…the television industry, like most creative industries (including journalism), pays lip service to “diversity” while very little actually changes. Even as the hottest show on TV boasts a majority-nonwhite writing staff, the work of vigorously recruiting non-white writing talent is still confined to a narrow pipeline: Diversity departments and fellowships help to fill one or two designated diversity slots on each staff. And that’s just the start of the problem: As writer after writer revealed, even when writers of color make it into that pipeline, the industry hasn’t gotten much better at making them feel as though their voices matter.”

Jim Milliot, the editorial director for Publishers Weekly, reported on their annual publishing industry salary survey. While the results indicated younger employees may be replacing the old guard, the workforce is still predominantly white.

“If publishers are indeed recruiting a new generation of employees, they do not appear to be hiring minorities. The share of survey respondents who identified themselves as white/Caucasian was 89% in 2014, the same as in the previous year. Asians remained the second-largest ethnic group within publishing, accounting for 5% of respondents in 2014, up from 3% the previous year. With the survey finding no real change in the racial composition of the workforce, it is no surprise that only 21% of respondents felt that strides had been made in diversifying the industry’s workforce in 2014. A much higher percentage, however, said they believe the industry has made progress in publishing titles by nonwhite authors and titles aimed at more diverse readers.”

One other article of interest on the diversity topic was written by Vauhini Vara for Fast Company and details Pinterest’s efforts to “fix its diversity problem”. She chronicles the various efforts to identify recruitment channels over the past two years and the lack of progress in diversifying the workplace. “There is lots of hope but little certainty about what works.”

The common thread in all of these ‘lack of diversity’ conversations is the ‘wishful thinking’ for a quick fix. The majority of the careers covered in these articles are filled by ‘contract’ employees. The hiring is tied to a project. When the next project begins, folks hire their trusted colleagues from previous gigs and there are few openings for a newbie. Diversity requires a long term investment in education, internships and mentoring – creating a new career pipeline.

One solution I personally observed in my corporate life was when a senior exec tied business unit management compensation to diversity targets. If you are rewarded for diversity – hiring and retention – there is a better chance for success. It’s not brain surgery; it’s a matter of priorities.

Academia is another workplace that has continued to struggle with diversity issues, driven in part by an outdated tenure process and lack of career transition in senior faculty ranks. As students continue to enroll in PhD programs, their predecessors compete for the few faculty openings and get by cobbling together a mosaic of ‘contract’ adjunct positions. Until now, it was taboo for a grad student to speak out loud about pursuing a career outside the ivory tower.

Colleen Flaherty reports for Inside Higher Education on the National Endowment for the Humanities recognition of diminishing tenure-track options and a proposal to explore alternatives.

“Critics have long complained about doctoral education in the humanities, saying that it takes too long and no longer reflects the realities of graduates’ employment prospects. In other words, graduate humanities programs are still largely training students to become professors at major research universities, when the vast majority won’t, given the weak tenure-track job market.

“We know that the traditional career track in the humanities, in term of numbers of available positions, is diminished — that scenario has changed quite dramatically over time,” William D. Adams, NEH chairman, said in an interview. “So we’re reacting to that in trying to assist institutions in providing a wider aperture for their students to think about careers beyond [academe].”

Based on the workplace issues we experience and read about, it may come as a surprise that workplace concerns are not at the top of this year’s Chapman University survey ‘America’s Top Fears 2015’.

Cari Romm summarized the survey methodology and results in an article for The Atlantic.

“For the survey, a random sample of around 1,500 adults ranked their fears of 88 different items on a scale of one (not afraid) to four (very afraid). The fears were divided into 10 different categories: crime, personal anxieties (like clowns or public speaking), judgment of others, environment, daily life (like romantic rejection or talking to strangers), technology, natural disasters, personal future, man-made disasters, and government—and when the study authors averaged out the fear scores across all the different categories, technology came in second place, right behind natural disasters.

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In the last article of the week, Business Insider writer Jacquelyn Smith, interviewed Liz Wessel, CEO and Co-founder of WayUp and discovered the biggest mistake job seekers make.

“People are generally far too modest,” she says. “If there’s ever a time to brag, it’s during your job search and interviews. You need to state your accomplishments and show how your work led to awesome outcomes for your companies. Remember, you need to convince your interviewer that, out of all the applicants the company is considering, you’re their best bet.”

If you don’t take credit for your work and accomplishments, no one is going to give you the benefit of the doubt for being modest, Wessel adds. “And if you don’t show proof of your accomplishments, you won’t stand out.”

The reason this “mistake” is so common, she says, is that a lot of people are good at being “team players,” and therefore try to share the credit. “In a lot of cases, this is a great instinct, and while it’s obviously important to work well in a team setting, it’s also important to convince an employer to hire you, not your entire team.

The message in the week@work themes: those who are confident in their talent and able to articulate their value to an organization have the potential to contend for work in writing, publishing, tech and academia. But the playing field is not level and winning the coveted spots will ‘take a village’: committed employers, dedicated mentors, paid internships, educational outreach and community visibility.

The week@work – The pressure to succeed @school, @work and @amazon

This week@work includes articles that echo a growing concern that we are not adequately preparing our children for the future @work, millennials expectations @work, and Amazon’s culture that just may be more in line with those expectations.

Are we teaching our children to fear failure? Contributing Atlantic writer Jessica Lahey answers the question by narrating a parent – teacher conversation. The parent is expressing a concern about a child who is achieving academically but losing the desire to learn.

“The truth—for this parent and so many others—is this: Her child has sacrificed her natural curiosity and love of learning at the altar of achievement, and it’s our fault. Marianna’s parents, her teachers, society at large—we are all implicated in this crime against learning. From her first day of school, we pointed her toward that altar and trained her to measure her progress by means of points, scores, and awards. We taught Marianna that her potential is tied to her intellect, and that her intellect is more important than her character. We taught her to come home proudly bearing As, championship trophies, and college acceptances, and we inadvertently taught her that we don’t really care how she obtains them. We taught her to protect her academic and extracurricular perfection at all costs and that it’s better to quit when things get challenging rather than risk marring that perfect record. Above all else, we taught her to fear failure. That fear is what has destroyed her love of learning.”

Innovation is the product of failure. At a time when global competition is intense, there is a shortage of the curious, the questioning.

It’s time to reevaluate our priorities and help “kids rediscover their intellectual bravery, their enthusiasm for learning, and the resilience they need in order to grow into independent, competent adults.”

What happens when these adults move into the workplace? What are their expectations?

In 2007 the Gallup Management Journal published the results of a poll of job seekers asking what was important to them in their job search.

“Nearly half of job seekers say the opportunity to learn and grow, the opportunity for advancement, and earning promotions based on merit are extremely important when looking for a job”

It follows that the quality of management and the relationship with ‘the boss’ are critical factors in recruitment and retention.

“Companies know they must offer competitive compensation packages when fighting for talented employees, and they must offer the right types of work for those seeking jobs. If they don’t revise their recruiting pitch to include concrete examples of great management, and if they don’t have great managers in the first place, then job seekers will listen to companies that do.”

Hopefully great managers will allow employees to fail. But apparently not, according to the next story about the generation we continue to label as millennials.

In a post for Inc. Chis Matyszczyk gives us four reasons these folks are leaving their jobs.

“They’ve seen what corporate life did to their parents, so they’ll take it just in small doses, thanks. They see through their bosses (and their bosses hate them for it). Millennials look at the corporate world and understand how uncertain the future is. Most of their role models got rich quick.”

If the expectation is to take corporate life in small doses, perhaps a resume should include some time at the world’s biggest retailer.

Welcome to orientation at Amazon. The ‘above the fold’ story in The New York Times today describes the corporate culture at Amazon. As all things Amazon the culture reflects the values. leadership principles and vision of Jeff Bezos.

“Amazon may be singular but perhaps not quite as peculiar as it claims. It has just been quicker in responding to changes that the rest of the work world is now experiencing: data that allows individual performance to be measured continuously, come-and-go relationships between employers and employees, and global competition in which empires rise and fall overnight. Amazon is in the vanguard of where technology wants to take the modern office: more nimble and more productive, but harsher and less forgiving.”

Key to Amazon’s success is Jeff Bezos’ realistic view of the new employer-employee contract – one based on mutual utility.

“…he was able to envision a new kind of workplace: fluid but tough, with employees staying only a short time and employers demanding the maximum.”

A few additional articles from the week@work:

‘Design As Strategy’ Adi Ignatius for The Harvard Business Review, September 2015 issue: “…illustrates some of the ways design thinking is starting to power corporate strategy.”

The Perils of Ever-Changing Work Schedules Extend to Children’s Well-Being‘ Noam Scheiber for The New York Times, 8/12: “A growing body of research suggests that children’s language and problem-solving skills may suffer as a result of their parents’ problematic schedules, and that they may be more likely than other children to smoke and drink when they are older.”

‘The Makeup Tax’ Olga Khazan  The Atlantic 8/5  “Years of research has shown that attractive people earn more. Thus, the makeup tax: Good-looking men and good-looking women both get ahead, but men aren’t expected to wear makeup in order to look good.”

Why we do science and the triumph of NASA’s ‘New Horizons’ team

Last week we celebrated the team play of the US Women’s National Team, this week we honor NASA’s ‘New Horizons’ team for piloting a spacecraft the size of a small piano through space for 3,463 days and three billion miles.

Remember Pluto? You know, the ninth planet in order from the sun. Is there anyone who did not do a science project on the planets? Very few of us can trace our choice of career back to the grade school science fair, but some folks used those dioramas as a foundation to build a career in space exploration.

Think about what you were doing at work nine years ago. Now imagine you were part of a team that started a journey toward that ninth planet in 2006. And then your planet was demoted to dwarf status. Can you imagine sustaining a team for almost a decade?

Daniel Terdiman examined the success factors in a post for Fast Company.

“Not everyone on the original team stayed on board throughout the 14 years between proposal and today, but many have. Besides Hersman and principal investigator Stern, others who are still deeply involved include Alice Bowman, the New Horizons mission operations manager, Glen Fountain, the New Horizons project manager, Mark Holdridge, the Pluto encounter mission manager, and many other team leads and sub-leads who worked on everything from propulsion to communications.

That’s impressive stability. Of course, all these people have other tasks beyond the New Horizons project, but everyone knew it was about to be show time. “People ramped down so they weren’t working much on the project,” Hersman said, “but when the time comes to fly past Pluto, a lot of other stuff gets put on hold, or they find time.”

Terdiman found that a ‘longevity document’ provided the blueprint for the mission including requirements and contact information for every team member. “One other essential element of preparing for the nine-year mission was compiling a spreadsheet of contingencies for when things went wrong. This was useful when ground control temporarily lost communications with the New Horizons probe on July 4 of this year.” And finally, “When it’s all over, look back.”

If the shear wonder of the team’s achievement was not enough, Adrienne Lafrance, writing for the Atlantic, identified another major milestone for the ‘New Horizons’ team:

“For all the firsts coming out of the New Horizons mission—color footage of Pluto, photos of all five of its moons, and flowing datastreams about Pluto’s composition and atmosphere—there’s one milestone worth noting on Earth: This may be the mission with the most women in NASA history.”

“The New Horizons team includes about 200 people today, but there have been thousands of scientists and engineers who have contributed to the mission since it began more than a decade ago. Women make up about one-quarter of the flyby team, those responsible for the high-stakes mission taking place this month, according to NASA.”

And now, for you skeptics who either believe all of this is happening on a sound stage in Burbank or just don’t get why we do science and stretch the limits of our knowledge, I turn to Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In an interview with Lester Holt for NBC Nightly News on Tuesday, the American astrophysicist and director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium answered the question of why we do science.

“One of the greatest aspects of what it is to do science is to reach a new vista and then discover that you can now ask questions undreamt of before you got there.”

Tonight, go outside and look up. What do you see? What questions do you have? Imagine being part of a team working to find the answers to those ‘undreamt of’ questions from our new vantage point.

The week@work – Apple’s diversity problem, top cities for worker satisfaction, college is not a commodity and AstroSamantha returns to earth

This week@work we welcomed astronaut, Sam Cristoforetti, back to the home planet, and female senior executives at Apple to the Worldwide Developers Conference stage. A former Ivy League president reminded us that college is not a commodity and we learned where we should be living to have the best opportunity for job satisfaction.

Sam Cristoforetti, aka AstroSamantha, returned to earth and the steppes of Kazakhstan on Thursday. Her fan base grew to  558.1K followers on Twitter during her 199 days in space. Now that she has returned, we will miss her end of day wishes: “Buona notte dallo spazio.” Welcome home, Captain Cristoforetti.

The LA Times covered the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, taking note of the participation of senior, female executives:

“Apple Music, new operating systems and a smarter Siri were front and center at Apple Inc.’s Worldwide Developers Conference, but it wasn’t a new product that got people talking — it was women.

During Monday’s keynote presentation, Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Internet services, and Susan Prescott, vice president of product marketing, took the stage to announce new developments with Apple Pay and a news reading app. It was the first time that Apple has had female executives on stage at any of its major events since at least the launch of the first iPhone in 2007.”

In an interview with Mashable prior to the meeting, Apple CEO, Tim Cook shared responsibility for the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley:

“Cook doesn’t subscribe to the idea that women just don’t want to be involved in tech — calling that argument a “cop-out.”

“I think it’s our fault — ‘our’ meaning the whole tech community,” he says. “I think in general we haven’t done enough to reach out and show young women that it’s cool to do it and how much fun it can be.”

If you are interested in working for Apple, the good news is San Francisco is at the top of ‘Forbes Top Cities for Employee Satisfaction’.

Topping the list is San Francisco, where a largely tech-focused workforce finds the deepest levels of satisfaction with their work. In fact, several California cities can claim deeply engaged workforces, as San Jose and San Diego round out the top three spots on this ranking.

Many smaller cities fare well for employee satisfaction as well. Salt Lake City, Austin, Raleigh-Durham, and Oklahoma City all make the cut. Major east coast mainstays Boston and Washington, D.C. have satisfied workforces as well, as does the Pacific Northwest’s tech flagship, Seattle.”

Hunter Rawlings, former president of Cornell University and current president of the Association of American Universities disputed the view that college is a commodity.

“A college education, then, if it is a commodity, is no car. The courses the student decides to take (and not take), the amount of work the student does, the intellectual curiosity the student exhibits, her participation in class, his focus and determination — all contribute far more to her educational “outcome” than the college’s overall curriculum, much less its amenities and social life. Yet most public discussion of higher ed today pretends that students simply receive their education from colleges the way a person walks out of Best Buy with a television.

Students need to apply themselves to the daunting task of using their minds, a much harder challenge than most people realize, until they actually try to do it. To write a thoughtful, persuasive argument requires hard thinking and clear, cogent rhetoric. To research any moderately complex topic requires formulating good questions, critically examining lots of evidence, analyzing one’s data, and presenting one’s findings in succinct prose or scientific formulas.”

The Atlantic’s Michael Levitin reflected on ‘The Triumph of Occupy Wall Street’.

“Nearly four years after the precipitous rise of Occupy Wall Street, the movement so many thought had disappeared has instead splintered and regrown into a variety of focused causes. Income inequality is the crisis du jour—a problem that all 2016 presidential candidates must grapple with because they can no longer afford not to. And, in fact, it’s just one of a long list of legislative and political successes for which the Occupy movement can take credit.”

And finally, for all you sports fans, the US Women’s National Team began their quest for soccer’s world cup with a win over Australia and a draw with Sweden.  Caitlyn Kelley, writing in The New Yorker, ‘The Hope Solo Fiasco’, asked the question on the minds of many loyal followers, “Am I going to have to root for Hope Solo if I want to root for Team U.S.A.?”

“This summer it will be sixteen years since the U.S. women last won the World Cup, which was hosted in the United States. The success of the tournament—not just the fact that the American women took home the trophy but that they did it in front of packed stadiums and record millions of television viewers—was an affirmation of the value of Title IX. Thanks to that piece of legislation, we want and expect women to have the same opportunities as men in sports. We should hold women athletes—and their organizations—equally accountable for mistakes, too.”