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    Entries in career (77)


    How far would you commute each day for your dream job?

    How far would you be willing to commute, (to keep it simple let's assume we are talking about commuting via driving your personal car), in order to work at your dream company/job?

    I have to admit it is not a question I have personally thought about very much these last few years as my 'commute', if you could call it that, has typically been taking a short flight of stairs to my lower-level office/lair/Fortress of Solitude.  But lots of folks, heck still the large majority I think, are making the pretty much daily grind to an office, store, warehouse or whatnot. Despite how much we like to talk about the nature and practice of work and workplaces changing, for most of us 'work' remains a place we physically go to just about every day.

    So how far of a drive is too far?

    I only thought about the question this week after reading a post on the LinkedIn blog titled, Inside Story: LinkedIn’s VP of Mobile on Driving in the Snow, Houzz and Anticipatory Computing. I clicked through to the piece because of the 'Anticipatory Computing' phrase, that just sounded really interesting and cool, but as it turns out the more interesting nugget from the post was about how this VP from LinkedIn (Joff Redfern) had a ridiculous commute his first four years with the company.

    How ridiculous? Check this Q and A from the piece:

    Q: What’s not on your LinkedIn Profile?

    A: During my first four years at LinkedIn, I had one of the longest commutes. I lived in Lake Tahoe, California, but worked out of headquarters in Mountain View, California. It’s about 250 miles each way, so I put over 110,000 miles on my car. That’s the equivalent of driving around the world more than four times. It gave me lots of time to think and one of the benefits is that I’m pretty awesome at driving in the snow. 

    Did I read that correctly? 250 miles each way to get to the office? Even taking into account the fact that there was probably no way Mr. Redfern was making a 500 mile round trip every single work day, even still, just a couple of times a week that kind of a grind will be almost impossible to sustain.

    How someone could manage a commute that crazy, and not go insane is kind of an interesting question I think, and you could substitute '500 mile commute' with, 'Has to work 18-hour days for a year in order to ship our first product'. I think there are at least three key elements you'd have to have in place in order to make it work:

    1. The work itself has to be an ideal (for you) combination of challenge/excitement/opportunity/reward that will set you up perfectly for the next 10-15 years of your career such that you simply have to bite the bullet and devote yourself to that work for a year or two (or four).

    2. You either have to have just about zero responsibilities outside of work (no spouse/significant other/kids/dog etc.) that might either literally starve (in the case of a dog) or be starved for attention (every other person in your life), since you are working all of the time. Or, you have someone in your life who has decided that they will take care of everything outside of work for you while you are working all of the time. I suspect it would be really tough for anyone to pull off a regular 500 mile commute if they had a spouse, a couple of kids maybe, at home that they actually wanted to see awake once in a while.

    3.  You have to be (reasonably) healthy before taking on such a grind. The combination of working crazy long hours and a long commute will start to break you down physically (and likely mentally too). You will eventually start eating poorly, not getting enough exercise, definitely not enough sleep and that combination starts to take a toll. If you are not set up to reasonably handle that kind of physical punishment you are more likely to end up in an ER somewhere than accepting a fat bonus check or a bunch of stock options for your hard work. Everyone can handle a long day or two or maybe five, but keep stacking them up, week after week and month after month? Good luck with that.

    So how far are you willing to commute for your dream job?

    Ok, that's it - I'm out for the weekend.

    Happy Father's Day to all the Dads!


    On ZOPA and striking first in negotiations

    Meandering through the internet on a long cross-country flight yesterday, and I came across a piece on the Harvard Law blog from 2011 (I know, in internet years that sounds like 1924, but hang with me on this), about the concept of anchors in negotitations and something called the ZOPA, or the Zone of Possible Agreement.

    You should check out the piece from 2011, as it really does a great job of debunking a pretty common perception when it comes to power dynamics in negotiations: namely that the person who puts the first offer on the table puts him/herself in a position of weakness. Obviously I have not read ALL the terabytes of salary negotiation advice that has been written, but I feel like the wide majority of said advice for the candidate counsels them to avoid putting an actual salary number on the table, as it reduces their further negotiating power. Once they set a number like, "I would like $89,000 in salary", then the only place the negotiation can proceed is down (in terms of that number). 

    But as the Harvard piece points out, that starting number (whomever puts it out there), sets an effective anchor on the rest of the negotiation. Here is the gist of the argument around anchors and the ZOPA from the piece:

    It is desirable to anchor first in many negotiations, for several reasons. In negotiation, you are trying to both learn about the zone of possible agreement(ZOPA) and influence the other side’s perception of the ZOPA. While advance research can help you reduce your uncertainty about the ZOPA, you typically will have more to learn about the ZOPA once talks begin. As such, you will be vulnerable to being anchored. Therefore, anchoring first in price-oriented negotiations can be both good offense and good defense.

    An overly aggressive offer, however, risks derailing negotiations if it causes the other side to question your credibility or to wonder whether agreement is even possible. Because it is hard to know what your counterpart will view as absurd, anchoring with a relatively inflexible, extreme offer increases the probability of reaching a stalemate. Anchoring instead with a flexible but extreme offer gives you a lower-risk opportunity to favorably shape your counterpart’s perceptions of the ZOPA.

    Additional research done by Adam Galinksy at Northwestern University backs up the Harvard findings. According to Galinsky:

    My own research also shows that the probability of making a first offer is related to one's confidence and sense of control at the bargaining table. Those who lack power, either due to a negotiation's structure or a lack of available alternatives, are less inclined to make a first offer. Power and confidence result in better outcomes because they lead negotiators to make the first offer. In addition, the amount of the first offer affects the outcome, with more aggressive or extreme first offers leading to a better outcome for the person who made the offer. Initial offers better predict final settlement prices than subsequent concessionary behaviors do.

    So it seems pretty clear, if you find yourself in a salary/bonus/some other type of compensation negotiation with your employer, seizing the upper hand by putting the first, aggressive number on the table is likely to lead to the best outcome from your perspective.

    It almost seems similar to the advantage the serving player has in a tennis point - every subsequent shot of the rally is influenced and impacted by that first serve. 

    And it seems in salary negotiations, as in tennis, it's better to be the one serving.

    Have a great week!


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 184 - Work and the Next Generation Leader

    HR Happy Hour 184 - Work and the Next Generation Leader

    Recorded Thursday May 22, 2014

    Host: Steve Boese

    Guest: Lindsey Pollak

    This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve caught up with bestselling author, and expert on Millennials in the workplace, Lindsey Pollak to talk about some of the most important developments and trends that are defining and impacting work and the workplace.

    The next generation of workers are already here - and increasingly these members of the millennial generation are assuming important and leadership roles in organizations. The smartest and most successful organizations are embracing these shifts in workplace composition and creating environments where millennial employees and leaders can make their mark in the workplace.

    Lindsey also had some great information to share about her work with The Hartford on how to better understand and plan for millennial leadership and also shared some observations and recommendations for HR and talent leaders on how to best navigate these workforce changes.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below:

    More Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio


    Additionally, you can subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or for Android device users, from a free app called Stitcher Radio. In both cases just search for 'HR Happy Hour' and add the show to your podcast subscription list. 

    This was a fun and interesting conversation and many thanks to Lindsey and the folks at The Hartford for making the show so much fun. 


    The ever shrinking middle skilled workforce

    If you want to get a cogent, simple summarization of what is going on in the labor market and for the diminishing opportunities and prospects for folks caught in the middle so to speak, take a look at these recent comments and observations from New York Federal Reserve Bank Chair William Dudley:

    What Kinds of Jobs Have Been Created During the Recovery?

    Firms often change the way they utilize workers and the mix of skills they employ during recessions and recoveries.  The weakening demand during recessions forces firms to look for new ways to be more efficient to cope with hard times.  These adjustments do not affect all workers equally.  Indeed, it’s what we typically think of as middle-skilled workers—for example, construction workers, machine operators and administrative support personnel—that are hardest hit during recessions.  Further, a feature of the Great Recession and indeed the prior two recessions, is that the middle-skill jobs that were lost don’t all come back during the recoveries that follow.  Instead, job opportunities have tended to shift toward higher- and lower-skilled workers.

    As we’ll show, these same trends have played out in our region.  While there’s been a good number of both higher-skill and lower-skill jobs created in the region during the recovery, opportunities for middle-skilled workers have continued to shrink.

    I believe it is important for us to highlight these job trends and to understand their implications for our region.  There have been significant and long-lasting changes to the nature of work.  As a result, many middle-skilled workers displaced during the recession are likely to find that their old jobs will never come back.  Furthermore, workers are increasingly facing higher skill requirements in order to land a good job.  These dynamics in the labor market present a host of challenges for the region to address.  However one thing is clear: workers will need more education, training and skills to take full advantage of the types of job opportunities being created in our region, as well as across the nation.

    Lots to think about from NY Fed President Dudley's remarks, even if they are not surprising, it still seems that we (the big, society-encompassing we) are not doing enough or adequately preparing for this bifurcation in opportunity. The middle skilled jobs that Dudley is referring to were traditionally the majority of jobs in many small and midsize cities in America, and perhaps more importantly, the natural bridge from low-skilled and low paid work into higher skilled and naturally, better paid jobs. Even if an individual himself or herself could not make the leap from construction worker or administrative support into a managerial or exec role, chances were at least decent that their kids would be able to advance, even just a little further up the skill/pay ladder.

    I certainly don't have the answers to this problem, but it does seem like better strategies are needed. The commonly cited approaches that call for increased business/community college partnerships for workforce training and development and an emphasis to students that jobs in skilled trades represent solid career opportunities seem valid, but what if via the combination of technology progress, outsourcing, and better tools for automation, most of these middle skilled jobs are simply never coming back?

    What then? What if the middle skilled jobs continue to hollow out? What if we eventually become an economy comprised of lots and lots of low-skilled service workers and a relatively few (lucky) high-skilled knowledge and creative workers on the high end?

    And what happens when the chasm between these two ends keeps growing larger and larger all the time?


    Career Lessons from an Aging Hair Band

    This week I had the chance to attend Cornerstone OnDemand's annual user conference in San Diego, and as usual the folks from CSOD put on a great event. There were probably two highlights for me overall, the first being the excellent presentations and case studies presented by numerous Cornerstone customers at the event, (like Staples, University of Southern California, and my personal favorite New Belgium Brewery). In these and other sessions, customers themselves shared their HR and workforce challenges, how technology is helping them meet these challenges, and provided a glimpse into what is really going on in HR organizations and with HR technology in the HR trenches.

    The other highlight of the event was the Cornerstone customer appreciation party that was held on the deck of the retired aircraft carrier USS Midway, and featured a performance from 80s era hair band Poison, (that is Poison front man Bret Michaels in the pic at the right, taken by me with my dodgy iPhone).

    Beforehand, I definitely had my doubts about how interesting and entertaining a set from Poison would be in 2014.While I certainly knew of them, and would recognize several songs from their set list, (you would too, don't try to lie about that), going in my general suspicion would be we'd just get a rote, by-the-numbers re-hash of familiar songs that the band has probably played 23,945 times. Additionally, a band like Poison might have looked at this small, (maybe 500-700 people there), corporate gig as just a way to make a few bucks without too much effort before heading to the next gig.

    But instead we were treated to a really well-done, high energy, and I have to admit, totally enjoyable performance that surprised me, someone who is not that much of a music guy and certainly someone that does not play Poison, (or any other music from that genre/era) on the reg. From watching Bret and company work for the hour or so that they were on stage, I think there are (at least) three simple performance/career lessons that anyone can take away from the 80s rockers that would be applicable to just about anyone.

    1. Attitude is important, maybe more important than effort - You could tell from the very beginning of the set that the band was not simply going to mail in the performance and that they were really energetic and engaged. They definitely wanted to put on a great show, to give the crowd a good time, and (I would bet) to truly earn their fees for the night. But before giving the effort required to deliver that performance their mindset or their attitude towards the event had to be right. If you go into any project thinking 'I really am not that interested in this work', there is almost no way to sustain the work rate or effort needed to deliver good performance. 

    2. Effort is still really important too - It was clear the band had their minds right at the start of the show, but for work or performances where success or failure can be greatly influenced by the level of effort put forth, a good attitude or 'wanting' to succeed is never going to be enough. Bret and the other guys sustained a really high energy and work level for the entire set, never really taking a break, always engaging with each other and with the audience for the duration of the show. There was never really a lull or a pause in their effort, and at no time did they seem disinterested in what they were doing. And that is hard to do I think, when you have played the same songs thousands of times, or maybe in your case, delivered the same monthly status reports for the last 8 years. But the audience can tell if you are really working or not.

    3. It helps to be a nice person - From random encounters with fans in the hotel prior to the show, to the way that the band engaged with fans during and even after the show was over, it was really clear that the guys in Poison were really appreciative and thankful for the support from the audience, (or were just really good at faking it). So beyond caring enough about what they were doing to have a great attitude, and put forth the effort, they also took time to try and personally connect with people as well. You can get away with being a jerk for a while if you can deliver great work, but you probably either will wear out your welcome because you are a jerk, or you will eventually stop delivering great work. And then you will no longer be 'That jerk who knows what he is doing', you will just be 'That jerk.' And no one will put up with that for very long. You will last much longer if you at least try to be nice.

    So yes, I am admitting that I had a good time at a Poison concert. And I am not ashamed. If you were there you would have had a good time too. And you just might have learned something about work and career longevity along the way.

    Happy Thursday!