Archive for December, 2007

Merry Christmas

We’re back on the Southeast Coast of Massachusetts for Christmas (see the latest header image courtesy of Susan Horne). Today I drove into Boston and encountered a surprise snowstorm. To make matters worse, they hadn’t shoveled most of the sidewalks. It’s been a long time since I trudged through slush!

My mission was to interview a couple of exemplary men who will be profiled in Career Secret Sauce.

John Davies is the author The $100,000+ Career (click here to purchase on Amazon). His profile will appear in Lesson 9: In Search of Greener Pastures. John has a colorful career and developed a unique technique for networking to find a job when you’re out of work.

I also interviewed Joe Petro, who is the Senior Vice President of Product Development at Eclipsys (www.eclipsys.com) which supplies hospitals with systems that, among other things, keeps patience alive. Joe will be profiled in Lesson 5: Doing What You Say You’ll Do. He told me how maintaining software that can effect life and death really requires conscientious follow-through.

Stay tuned for more of both of these profiles.

In the mean time, one more image from Christmas at Peases Point:

Photo Courtesy of Natalie Horne



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Money Matters!

A major mistake I find far too many young people make is the failure to really understand the earning potential of various careers career choices before they commit to a vocation.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve witnessed go into jobs like helping disabled children, education, or hospitality and later learned they were facing a life of near poverty level incomes. In many cases the starting salaries in these careers look competitive, but barely move after years of experience. Then when they get married and start to raise a family, they discover there is no way to make ends meet!

This morning I found the following article in “the archives” and I urge you to give it a good read and more importantly send it to everyone you know who’s still in high school or college.

Nothing makes a career less rewarding than discovering too late that you can’t afford to live on what you earn.


America’s Best- And Worst-Paying Jobs
Paul Maidment, 06.04.07, 6:00 PM ET 

When we first looked at America’s best- and worst-paying jobs a year back, we asked the question, “Why do financially pushy parents want their children to marry doctors?” Our answer then: Because, as Willie Sutton said of banks, that is where the money is. Still is.

The medical profession continues to dominate the top end of our list of the 25 best- and worst-paying jobs in America. Anesthesiologists have flipped places with surgeons to take the top spot, but the next eight places are firmly in the healing hands of various sorts of specialist practitioners.

Chief executives, at No. 10, and airline pilots, at No. 14, are the only two non-medical occupations in the top 15. Even lawyers don’t make it. They’re No. 16.

At the other end of the scale are jobs in restaurants, hotels and leisure businesses. The lowest paid of all? People who cook, prepare and serve in fast-food joints, followed by dishwashers, busboys and the folk who show you to your seat in coffee-shops and the like.

According to government data, the mean annual salary for America’s 29,890 anesthesiologists is $184,340; for its 2.5 million fast-food preparers and servers, $15,230. The mean annual pay for all jobs is $39,190. In all, the lowest-paying 25 occupations employ 15.6 million people in America; the best-paying jobs employ 3 million.

In Pictures: America’s 25 Best-Paying Jobs

In Pictures: America’s 25 Worst-Paying Jobs

Our numbers are drawn from the U.S. government’s National, State and Metropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates. The latest ones available use 2006 data and are based on a national survey of employers of every size and in all industry sectors. They examine 800 occupations.

The survey covers full- and part-time workers who are paid a wage or salary. It does not include the self-employed, owners and partners in unincorporated firms, household workers and unpaid family workers.

It asks about basic pay, incentive bonuses and commissions, but not overtime pay or non-wage compensation, such as stock options.

That helps explain why mean annual wages appear lower than one might have expected at the top end and higher at the bottom, where undocumented workers are unlikely to be counted accurately.

Remember, too, that these are mean salaries and that they give no indication of how distant the outliers at either end of the salary scale for any occupation might be. There are plenty of lawyers that earn a lot more than the average $113,660, and surely there are dishwashers who earn a lot less than $16,190.

The total compensation of the best-paid (salary and bonus excluding stock options) chief executive on our most recent CEO Compensation list,
Bob R. Simpson of XTO Energy, was $32.2 million last year, 223 times as much as the average chief executive. And then there was Apple‘s
Steven P. Jobs, who earned a nominal $1 salary–but, thanks to stock options, earned $646.6 million last year.

Earnings can vary widely for the same job in different industries and in different places. Laundry and dry-cleaning workers employed by the federal government, for example, earn almost two-thirds more than the average for the occupation. Ditto cafeteria servers employed by state governments.

In certain occupations, the discrepancy occurs because they are niche jobs in generally high-paying industries. The handful of souls employed to cook for corporate dining rooms, who make $33,620 on average, earn 50% more than the 647,070 cooks working in full-service restaurants.

Where you live can also have a huge impact on what you make. The states and metropolitan areas in the high-wage Northeast pay top dollar in many occupations, as do employers in similarly pricey Silicon Valley.

Parking lot attendants and fast-food preparers and servers in the San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood City metropolitan area earned, at $24,620 a year and $21,200 a year respectively, one-third more than the national average. Laundry and dry cleaning workers in Framingham, Mass., did even better relatively, earning, at $28,400, 50% more than the national average.

Remote states, particularly Alaska and Hawaii, also pay well for needed skills. On average, Hawaii pays best for busboys, bartenders and lifeguards; Alaska for short-order cooks, personal and home care aides and parking lot attendants. Oregon pays above average for podiatrists; Maine pays more for dentists.

There was little change in the occupations that make up the 25 best- and worst-paid lists. Astronomers fell off the bottom of the best-paying jobs list, to be replaced by financial managers. Service station attendants replaced some sorts of food preparers on the list of worst-paying jobs.

On average, earnings went up–in the best-paid group by 4.2% and in the worst-paid by 3.2%. Yes, the doctors get richer.

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While at Pepperdine last week I met with Dean Ron Phillips and discussed Career Secret Sauce. Ron was the first Dean of the Law School and served in that capacity until 1997. As careers go, his has been magnificent (his biography is below).

We were talking about the mistakes people make when they select their vocations and Ron said “people often get in trouble by chasing their passion, rather than applying their aptitude.”

I said “well, you must have known very young that you wanted to work in the legal profession.”

He almost jumped out of his chair. “Absolutely not; in fact I spent 8 years trying a number of different jobs and was just plain unhappy at all of them. I worked in my brother’s construction company; I tried outside sales, and even worked in the weather-stripping business in West Texas.”

“One day someone suggested that I take an aptitude test and figure out what my natural strengths were,” Ron said. “I discovered the Johnson O’Conner Research Center. My father paid for me to take their 6 hour aptitude test and I was on the way to finding my life’s calling.”

“When I got the results it was crystal clear that I should be a lawyer. By then I was married with children, but with the help of my wonderful wife, I took an accelerated 27-month law degree program and changed my career. I became a lawyer.”

Needless to say Ron turned out to be a pretty good lawyer and eventually moved to Los Angeles and serve as the first Dean for Pepperdine School of Law, one of the top schools in the country.

This post is not just a nice story about a great man, it’s food for thought if you’ve been feeling lost in your current career. There are Johnson O’Conner testing centers in eleven major cities around the United States. For $600 you can go and spend a day with them and discover your natural aptitudes.

Of course if you discover you’re in the wrong line of work, it may be difficult or even painful to change it. But if your current job is leaving you empty, it may just be your Career Secret Sauce!


The Johnson O’Conner Research Center — www.jocrf.org


Ronald F. Phillips

Vice Chancellor, School of Law Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law
B.S., Abilene Christian University, 1955
J.D., University of Texas, 1965

Referred to as the “architect and administrator of the Pepperdine University School of Law,” Ronald Phillips served as its dean for twenty-seven years. In June 1997, he was honored with the title of dean emeritus and assumed his responsibility as vice chancellor full-time. In this position, he works with alumni and friends in seeking support for the law school and university.

He is a member of the state bars of California and Texas, the American Bar Association, the American Law Institute, the Los Angeles Bar Association, and the Christian Legal Society. He was a California commissioner of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws from 1988 to 2003. He is a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He was the chair of the section on the Administration of Law Schools in 1982, was on the Committee on Courts from 1985 to 1987, and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Military Appeals. Prior to his deanship at Pepperdine, he had a private law practice and was an adjunct professor at Abilene Christian University. He was also a corporate staff attorney at McWood Corporation and its successor, the Permian Corporation, also in Abilene, Texas.

In reference to his outstanding career as dean, he says that “I am deeply blessed. Few people have been able to spend such a significant portion of their lives in such a rewarding endeavor.” 

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Live Ammo!


Thanks to Professor Terry at Pepperdine for providing me with a platform to present some of Career Secret Sauce to a real audience of college students (AKA Live Ammo).

From my perspective, three of the things struck home:

1. The combination of a shrinking job market, college loans, and the evaporation of social security really caught their attention. They realized that they were about to face total responsibility for their life and career.

2. The idea of working multiple internships as the BEST WAY to land your first job hit home. Although the students were mostly underclassmen, it seemed that my message was a call-to-action. Based on the questions I recieved it looked like most of them would be accelerating their plans to pursue an internship.

3. Although there is never a good time to relocate to the geographical region of your dreams, there is no better time than immediately following graduation.

I also want to thank the 60 students who attended my two speeches. I found a new tool that should provide hours of “what if” analysis when you start your search for where to work. It’s called Get The Job and it can be found at http://www.getthejob.com/default.aspx. I have also posted it on my blog roll.

Finally, there were a lot of questions about interviewing for an internship. I found this article that does a nice job of discussing the “tone” your resume should present. I think the same can be said for your personality when interviewing.


5 Personal Qualities Every Resume Should Demonstrate

Employment Digest has an interesting post on the qualities that potential employers want to see, and how these qualities can be translated on a resume. 

Among them:

·         Communication Skills: For example, the phrase “Ability to be persuasive when interacting with clients, junior colleagues and CEO both in person and via telephone and e-mail” or  “Wrote clear, informative and effective guidelines to ensure successful project execution.”

·         Motivation/Initiative: For example, the phrase “Set and achieved challenging goals while demonstrating persistence, commitment and dedication” or “Identified and implemented ways to improve and promote quality through accuracy and thoroughness.”

·         Leadership: For example, the phrase “Inspired, motivated and incentivized a team of talented professionals performance” or “Monitored, evaluated and enhanced individual and team performance.”

·         Flexibility/Adaptability: For example, the phrase “Adapted to changing needs of individual business units” or “Followed company guidelines and instructions and adapted rapidly to management directional changes.”

·         Organizational Skills:  For example, the phrase “Planned and prioritized to ensure that set deadlines are met” or “Coordinated and scheduled colleagues’ work.”

I appreciate the spirit of this post, because it’s always important to consider the point of view of the employer when crafting a resume, and these are qualities that most, if not all employers, would look for.  However, I do feel that these examples are a bit vague.  What challenging goals did you set, and how exactly did you achieve them?  What specific things did you do to motivate your team to perform?  What was involved in scheduling your team’s work?

Remember that employers want to see concrete examples of how you were able to contribute to a former company, and how the organization was better off as a result of the work that you performed.  This means that in addition to describing attractive qualities and skills, you will want to use hard numbers and statistics that show quantitative change.

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Everyone loves stories about stupid things other people do in their careers. This article (and the slide show link – “In Pictures”) is full of plenty of them.



Tara Weiss, 10.25.07, 3:30 PM ET

Here are a few things to keep in mind when going on a job interview: Don’t get drunk during the meeting. Wear something more professional than jeans and flip-flops. Keep your conversation free from curse words. Know what the company does. Don’t invite your parents to join you on the interview.

While these things may seem obvious, a substantial chunk of job seekers violate those rules and oh, so many more.

David Hoffman recalls taking a candidate out for dinner for the final interview. The candidate impressed the hiring committee throughout several rounds of interviews and he was their choice to become a senior consultant at DHR, the Chicago-based executive search firm of which Hoffman is CEO. This informal meeting was the final hurdle.

In Pictures: Deadly Interview Sins

The candidate drank so much scotch that Hoffman had to call an ambulance and the candidate was taken by stretcher to the hospital where he was treated for alcohol poisoning. “You think I’m embellishing but I’m not,” says Hoffman.

They gave the candidate access to alcohol on purpose. Since many senior level positions at DHR require entertaining clients, Hoffman intentionally take candidates on a dinner interview to see if they drink too much. The candidate called the next day to apologize but by that point Hoffman and his staff decided he wasn’t someone they trusted to have on their team.

Interviewees: Never forget your judgment is scrutinized at every point of the interview process. That means everything–from what you wear to the language you use–will be examined. Hoffman offers another example in which he flew to Nashville, Tenn., to conduct a preliminary interview on a candidate for president of a waste management firm in Chicago before the client met him.

When he reached the baggage claim there was a casually dressed man in jeans and a T-shirt with a box of cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve waiting for Hoffman. He recalls thinking, That’s so classy that the candidate sent a driver to pick me up. That person turned out to be the actual job candidate.

When Hoffman suggested there might be a miscommunication about the job and its senior level, the candidate told him, “I’m a hands-on manager, I thought this dress was appropriate.”

“That was the end of the interview,” says Hoffman. “I got on the next flight out of Nashville.”

Some might think that’s harsh, but consider this: If a candidate for a high-level position can’t determine the appropriate dress, how are they to be trusted managing an organization?

That’s precisely what executives at Campbell Soup Co. felt when they recently rejected a candidate who asked to be excused an hour and a half into a job interview so she could check on her 12-year-old son who was waiting for her in the car.

“It showed a lack of judgment,” says David Massey, director of global talent acquisition at Campbell. “Had she said, ‘My babysitting plans fell through–can we reschedule?,’ we would have said ‘Of course.’ ” Or, “You can use our on-site daycare center.”

One of the most popular reasons for a quick rejection is cursing. “The F-bomb gets dropped regularly when I ask candidates about their former supervisors,” says Campbell’s Massey.

Meghan Lantier, an account supervisor at the public relations firm Bliss, Gouverneur and Associates, sympathizes with Massey. When she interviewed a recent graduate of an Ivy League university for an entry-level position two years ago, she asked a typical question: Tell me what it was like working at your most recent internship.

“He started talking about a former boss and said, ‘That fu**ing guy I was working with … ‘ “My mouth dropped open and I couldn’t believe this was happening. It was like an episode out of The Office.”

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Couples and Money

 One of the people I’ve met since starting Career Secret Sauce is Dr. Paul Powers (that’s him below with his dog). He and I are on similar missions, but he’s more focused on helping people who are well along in their lives and careers.  His web site is http://www.drpaulpowers.com/ and there is a lot of good advice up there.

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on last week’s post about Financial Freedom. Today I got the following post from Paul and thought it did a nice job of expanding some of these ideas for couples finances.


Buy low, sell high. No risk, no reward. A penny saved is a penny earned. Buy now, pay later. Research suggests that the money motto that guides your financial life is different from (and perhaps the opposite of) others in your household. The holiday buying season is upon us so I thought this would be a good time to discuss household fiscal harmony.

Dealing with money generates different emotions from different people. For some it means feelings of independence, autonomy and motivation. For others, addressing money concerns can raise anxiety about security, power or status. Not addressing these powerful emotions openly and honestly is a predictor of trouble in a household. On the other hand, working out different approaches to money and financial issues can strengthen family relationships, foster improved communication and ensure achievement of family goals.

Consciously or subconsciously we learned many of our financial beliefs and money habits from the households in which we grew up. Unfortunately this holds true regardless of how knowledgeable or successful those households were in management of their finances. Add to this the “traditional” family arrangement where the husband managed the finances which often left the wife (statistics being what they are) divorced or widowed, uninformed, and at some substantial financial risk. Obviously, some lessons are worth learning and others are worth learning from.

One issue of LifeMap cannot ensure financial compatibility so we will return to this topic from time to time. But for now let’s tackle some of the most common money miscommunication issues.

Paths Forward 

The Spender / Saver Couple: This is a common phenomenon and one that is fairly easy to address unless one partner wants to spend everything and the other wants to save everything. In that case a couples counselor who has skill in dealing with money issues is usually required. (Easy to find with a referral from your state psychological association or your financial planner.) However for most couples the tool of choice is that dreaded word – budget. There are many resources in your public library on building a budget but here are a few tips. Start by listing your monthly expenses. These are the things you must pay such as rent or mortgage, insurance, taxes, commuting / travel expenses, day care, work clothes / uniforms, agreed upon savings for long term goals and the like.

Now look at your monthly income. If (hopefully) there is something left over, discuss and decide how much goes into a joint account for future needs and how much can go into separate “fun” accounts for each partner to be used at his/her discretion (or even better, used together on date nights or for vacations). If there is nothing left over (or if you’re looking at a deficit) you must sharpen your pencils and find where things you want to purchase have crept onto your list of what you must purchase. This could include a fancy car, premium cable, designer clothes, the most recent electronic gadgets, frequent dinners out or other services /products that are realistically out of your financial reach. To reach financial solvency these items must be eliminated from your budget until the day comes when you can responsibly afford them.

Common Goals Are Essential: Essential to establishing common goals for your household is on- going communication. No one is born smart about money and no one is born being able to read what is in another’s mind (science fiction aside). Working things out together from reading, research, and frequent, open discussion has the twin benefits of establishing goals you both agree to work towards (yes, they require work) as well as improving the relationship itself. Common goals include buying a home, funding a child’s education, securing one’s retirement and these are often easy to reach agreement upon. But during just the last year I have heard some goals that couples have had a harder time sorting out. These include disagreements about one partner changing from a high salary/low enjoyment job to a high enjoyment / low salary job, a proposal to reallocate funds from a child’s education fund to bring a retirement fund up to speed, an unexpected need to scale back expenses to accommodate a forced, early retirement, and choosing between using a bonus check for a kitchen rehab or a luxury cruise. In the end each of these situations worked out but not without a strong focus on just what it is the couple was trying to accomplish – together.

Does Money Mean Power? Is your relationship a genuine partnership or one in which (to paraphrase George Orwell) “one is more equal than the other”? If the person who makes the most money in your household makes all or even most of the decisions then the problem isn’t money; the problem is the relationship. Again, a skilled financial / couples counselor may be required. As indicated above, a household budget based on common goals can help in this regard. Often ‘ours’, ‘mine’ and ‘yours accounts funded from the family budget can help one spouse feel less controlled because they don’t have to check with the other over every little purchase. If it dawns on you that you have been throwing your financial weight around, clarify your feelings about the totality of what your partner brings to the household and share your appreciation of what he/she does that contributes to your common goals. If you can’t do this honestly then either some goals need changing, a job needs changing or a trip to that counselor is indicated if you want your relationship to be a genuine partnership.

Dividing Your Assets With A Hammer. The above phrase was how a very experienced C.P.A. once described divorce to me. It’s widely reported that 50% of first marriages end in divorce though some suggest that number is really around 30%. Either way there is a heck of a lot of divorced folks out there. Money/financial concerns are among the most frequently mentioned areas of disagreement in marriage and, understandably, this only gets worse when couples are divorcing. Money issues and feelings of loss, sadness, anger or betrayal are a toxic brew. If you are in this situation hopefully you and your about-to-be former spouse are using a divorce mediator to take some of the pain and stress out of the process instead of someone goading you to use money as a weapon. As a divorced person sorting out financial arrangements there are some things you can do to assure you financial future. Identify and close all joint accounts especially credit cards where you and your spouse are “co-owners”. Request your free credit reports from all three major agencies; examine your credit report and correct any errors you find because they will increase the cost of the new insurance policy, the new mortgage or the new car loan you may need in the near future. Prepare yourself emotionally and physically to live on less. Whatever the level of marital income and assets was, they are now spread over two households.

The Second Time Around: U.S. census statistics indicate that 58% of divorced men and 41% of divorced women age 50 or older remarry. This raises a host of practical, financial, estate and sometimes business issues. In second (and third and…) marriages good counsel is essential. There are obvious practical issues such as whose house do we sell, where does that money go, whose house do we live in, who pays for what living expenses, how do we deal with my / your debt and so on. Divorce often leaves a bitter taste so separate accounts that could facilitate one’s financial life may now be viewed as secretive, a lack of commitment, or distrust. How are children from previous marriages to be dealt with as to child support, education expenses or estate considerations? (If you should pre-decease your new spouse will s/he or your children or some combination inherit your assets?) If either (or both) of you have a business you need an agreement to specify ownership and succession plans unless you want to share all income and liabilities. A good counselor can help you identify the issues you need to address. A wise choice is one who collaborates with a CPA or CFP who can help you look at issues such as capital gains and potential changes in your income or tax status and an estate / business attorney who can help you update your estate plan and make any arrangements needed to protect your business interests. If you remarry you may want to consider a pre-nuptial agreement to cover these and other issues. If you choose not to remarry and live together (the number of unmarried partners over the age of 65 has increased 70% in the last 10 years) you will need a “living together agreement” which, like a pre-nup, can cover many but not all of these issues (e.g. health care proxy, durable power of attorney, etc) which is, again, why a good estate attorney is essential.

Some suggest that remarriage represents the victory of hope over experience. If you are remarrying I wish for you that it means experience has brought wisdom.

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