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    Entries in career (150)

    Wednesday
    Apr192017

    Creating a Narrative for Talent

    Long flight last night out to Vegas and to pass the time (and I needed to since this flight was not equipped with Satellite TV and thus I was not able to watch the NBA playoffs), I was multi-tasking with Jason Bourne on the screen and the SI.com Media Podcast in the ear.

    On the podcast host Richard Deitsch asked guest James Andrew Miller (author of books on ESPN, CAA, and Saturday Night Live), about an ongoing negotiation between cable sports channel Fox Sports 1 and personality Katie Nolan. When discussing how Fox Sports 1 might look to retail Nolan (who apparently will have other options), Miller said something really, really interesting. Check this out...

    Miller: She is a real talent. I think she knows it. I think Fox Sports 1 knows it. And so I would expect if she does stay, they will have to come up with not only something that is more than what she is doing now, they will have to come up with more money, and so it is probably one of those things where she tests the marketplace.

    But this whole idea about testing the marketplace isn't just about dollars sometimes, it's about other opportunities. She might not know what she wants to do yet. She might not even know what she can do elsewhere. 

    Fox Sports 1 has to realize that this is all about creating a narrative for talent, this is about saying, "Look we want to remain your home, and this is what we can put together for you", and then maybe you even have to go beyond that and start to look more broadly about what they can do in their larger Murdoch empire.

    On the pod Deitsch and Miller went on to debate Nolan's ratings, other shows, and other things, but the important thing to me, and the part of the conversation I replayed three or four times was Miller's concept of creating the 'narrative for talent.' Leave it to a writer to come up with such an elegant and evocative description of a standard employee compensation/development/retention conversation.

    Think about what a 'narrative' implies. A story. A beginning, a middle, maybe some twists and turns. Maybe some conflict or challenges. Maybe a hero on some kind of a journey. Maybe a fantastic and delightful surprise. And then, hopefully, a happy ending.

    A 'narrative' just seems cool, fun, compelling, interesting.

    It makes you want to listen. It makes you want to learn more. It makes you want to keep turning the page.

    A comp discussion? Where you talk about ranges and midpoints? Or a review of goal completion? Where you debate whether or not a goal was 25% or 35% complete? Or a look at next quarter's corporate university training offerings to look for some development opportunities? Ugh.

    Those all seem dull. Rote. Required even by the HR police.

    None of those really want to make a talented person want to hear more of your story.

    So that's what I thought was interesting about Miller's way of describing the way that a company needs to approach a conversation with a talented employee that might be on the verge of something big, but also has a ton of options.

    It's all about creating a narrative. 

    Monday
    Apr032017

    Most of us are on Plan B (or C or D)

    What do you want to be when you grow up?

    Ask any 8 - 12 year old that question and you will probably get one of the following careers in response - Movie Star, Pro Athlete, Musician, Astronaut, Firefighter, (increasingly) Video Game Developer, or maybe YouTube star, (apparently that is a thing now).

    What you won't get much of in response are more common occupations like Office Clerk, Home Health Aide, Salesperson, or Bus Driver.

    Not a shock, right? But I wonder if there isn't more to think about from the disconnect between what we really wanted to be doing with our careers, and what (many of us), end up actually doing in our careers. A recent survey of more than 400 teens conducted by C + R research suggests that most of today's teens have career aspirations that are extremely out of synch with the true nature of the labor market.

    For example, 20% of surveyed teens expressed a desire for a career in "Arts, Design, Entertainment, Media, & Sports", a field that makes up only about 1% of American jobs in the workforce. And fully 0% of teens indicated a desire to move into "Office and Administrative Support" occupations, (like HR or IT), even though that category encompasses fully 15% of American workers today, making it the largest segment of the labor force as tracked by the BLS. 

    This is not surprising data; I mean who wouldn't rather be a relief pitcher for the Mets or a Hollywood movie producer than say, an HR manager? 

    Heck, even to this day when people ask me about my career goals, 'Point Guard on the Knicks' still comes up as a delusional option.

    Why does any of this matter? Who cares what your boss or your colleague or even you wanted to really do with your life when you were 12 or 14?

    It is possible that it does not matter. 

    But it is also possible that it is a good idea to be reminded every once in a while that most of us are not really doing the thing we used to dream about doing. 

    That does not mean we can't love what we are doing now, and be excited about how our careers have panned out, I am not saying that. And even if we can't be doing the thing we'd really want to be doing, (I am too old, slow, and have too unreliable a jump shot to actually play for the Knicks), I think the key to making peace with the Plan B ( or C or D), that we landed on is finding some elements of Plan A inherent in what we ended up with.

    If you really wanted to be an artist or an athlete or an explorer, then what can you find in your (less glamorous), HR Manager role that at least hints at or reminds you of why you were attracted to those childhood dreams in the first place? What can you invent to make the role you have more like the one you always wanted?

    How can you become the most artistic, expressive, courageous, legendary HR Manager ever?

    If you can, then you probably will accomplish your version of "Point Guard for the Knicks".

    Have a great week!

    Thursday
    Mar302017

    Career and Life Advice #1

    New series on the blog, (calling it a series in case I decide to try this again, if so it will look like it was some kind of a plan all along), titled 'Career and Life Advice'.

    What makes me qualified to give either career or life advice?

    Nothing!

    That's why the plan is to share career or life advice from folks who have had  pretty demonstrable career success or plain to see amazingly cool lives. Ok, maybe I will try to sneak in some of my own thoughts down the line, we will see.

    First up, some career and life advice from San Antonio Spurs head coach, and noted curmudgeon Gregg Popovich, from an article where Pop was discussing the coaching ability of one of his assistants Becky Hammon, who many NBA observers feel will one day become the first female head coach in the NBA.

    What is one of Hammon's qualities that contributes to her success according to Pop, (and here comes the advice part):

    "She's been perfect," Popovich said. "She knows when to talk and she knows when to shut up. That's as simple as you can put it. A lot of people don't figure that out."

    Boom.

    Solid career and life advice in three sentences.

    And advice we can all learn from.

    Know when it is time to talk and perhaps more importantly, when it is time to shut up.

    In trying to follow said advice, I am going to shut up now.

    Have a great day.

    Monday
    Feb062017

    Want a larger piece of the (economic) pie? Look for the most competitive industries

    Caught a really interesting piece over the weekend at The Atlantic looking at one potential reason why (relatively speaking) that worker's or labor's share of GDP is decreasing when compared to 'capital's', i.e. ownership's share. This divergence in share has been thoroughly examined as a primary driver of increasing economic inequality, and was the main subject of Thomas Piketty's influential Capital in the Twenty First Century from 2014.

    Said differently, and much more simply, today in the aggregate is getting a smaller piece of the overall economic pie than in the past. There are tons of data points you can examine on this, but they all more or less show the same thing - on average, workers are no better off today, and might be worse off, than they were 20 or 30 years ago.

    Why The Atlantic piece titled One Reason Workers are Struggling Even When Companies are Doing Well caught my attention is that it shared some insights from a recent NBER research paper on not just that this share divergence is happening, but offered some reasons as to why it is happening.

    And the theory is kind of an interesting one, and if true, can help better inform anyone making career/industry decisions moving forward. Best of all, it is a pretty simple idea that boils down to this - The more concentrated an industry is, (fewer competitors and the ones that dominate are all pretty large), the lower labor's share of the income for that industry will be.

    Here's some color from The Atlantic piece:

    The researchers looked at data from the U.S. Economic Census between 1982 and 2012 for nearly 700 industries in six major sectors, including manufacturing, retail, wholesale, services, finance, and utilities and transportation. Looking at how much the four largest firms in each industry accounted for in terms of total sales in the industry, they found an upward trend in concentration in all of the six sectors, meaning that it was increasingly common that just a few firms accounted for the bulk of sales. Since the U.S. Economic Census reports payroll, input, and employment, the researchers were able to observe a negative correlation between concentration and labor’s share—meaning that this trend of so-called superstar firms tends to mean workers taking home a smaller share of the pie. Moreover, the more concentrated an industry had become, the larger the decline in labor’s share.

    Unpack that a little bit to show a pretty straightforward formula:

    Industries have tended to consolidate over time --> the more dominant the four largest firms in an industry become --> then decreasing shares of the overall industry profits find their way to workers/labor.

    There are a couple of reasons on offer for why more consolidated, big-firm dominated industries are getting worse in terms of share of profits for workers. One is that these companies are simply growing revenues at a faster pace, and labor costs just have not (or do not need to) keep pace. Another is that modern, transparent business practices make it easier for consumers to find and reward the 'best' companies, which drives out competition in the industry faster than before - and reduces the potential number of firms competing for workers.

    The takeaways for the average employee?

    Probably that it might pay, (no pun intended), to keep on eye on the relative levels of competition in your industry, particularly if you are in a role that feels industry-specific. If your industry has seen consolidation with weaker competitors being driven out of business (or being acquired), the trends suggest a shrinking percentage of profits will find their way to you and your colleagues.  

    You might be better off thinking about an industry that seems to have more, and more even competition, where the market share, (and to some extent the demand for labor), is not being controlled by two or three big companies. And one where the threat of competition for your skills can either score you a better offer somewhere else, or give you more leverage and power in your next compensation negotiation with your current shop.

    More options might not be better for the owners of your company, but they might be much, much better for you.

    Have a great week!

    Thursday
    Jan262017

    Two years away (from being two years away)

    At the National Basketball Association player draft in 2014, former college basketball coach and now broadcaster and analyst Fran Fraschilla offered this classic observation of then 18 year-old Brazilian prospect Bruno Caboclo and his potential to become a successful NBA player:

    "He's two years away from being two years away, (from being ready to play in the NBA), and then we'll see."

    I thought about this gem of a line from Fraschilla in a recent conversation I was having with a friend about potential career choices. Why did the '2 years away' line come up?

    Because I think that 2 years may be the new 5 years, in terms of the old classic interview "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" question. Take your pick from fast-changing technology, new business models, disruption coming from all sides, and toss in a side dish of the gig economy and I think most people would have a really hard time seeing out five years into the future and be able to offer up a credible or coherent idea of what they think they will be doing then. Two years seems at least more tangible. The future can't move that fast, right? Don't answer that.

    The really important point isn't just that 2 years might be the new 5 years, but that just like our pal Bruno Caboclo, what you don't want is to find yourself two years from now STILL being two years away from whatever goal/plan you had set out to reach.

    It may be more realistic and reachable to set out career plans and goals in 2 year increments as opposed to 5, (or whatever your dopey interviewer says), but the downside is that 2 years passes really, really fast.

    Just ask Bruno, who in 2 1/2 full seasons in the NBA has played in a grand total of 22 games and scored a whopping 16 total points. 

    The upside? Bruno is still only 21 and has time to get to where he wants to be. 'Losing' two years might not hurt him that much. 

    But I am pretty sure that most of the rest of us don't have that kind of luxury. Or an NBA contract.

    Have a great day!