Inspiration and Encouragement Archives

Job Loss Rebound – How to Do It “A.S.A.P.”

Published on February 18th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

“We often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door
that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

– Alexander Graham Bell

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES: In working with individuals who have suffered job loss, the following question is frequently posed to me, in the words, or in the eyes, of my clients: “Got any good ideas on how to deal with this?”

Over the 32 years of my practice, I’ve thought a lot about how to answer that question. Out of those thoughts, and observing those of my clients who have rebounded most quickly, have arisen four steps almost all of the “rebounders” seem to have taken.

Like all “Four Steps to . . .” solutions, it is not a “magic pill” that will instantly solve your problems. Instead, it is a way of looking at things, comprised of a series of phases one must go through to reach the next step in life, whatever that might be, as soon, as soundly and as successfully as possible.
Is it simplistic? Yes, a bit; yes, you might say that. But from the comments I have received from clients with whom I have shared this four-step process, it seems to be considerably helpful. In my own experience, when it comes to bewildering problems that engulf us like a fog on a dark night, sometimes the simpler the solution the better. And, too, the simpler the solution the more applicable it may be to the greatest number of people.

I know this four-step analysis has helped others, and I am hoping it will help to you, or someone you know, deal with one of the more painful and dislocating experiences of adulthood.

LESSON TO LEARN: Job loss is often experienced as a series of blows – to one’s confidence, to one’s sense of self-worth, to one’s sense of direction, to one’s financial security, and to one’s sense of having a place in the daily affairs of the world. The four “steps” that comprise what I call my “Rebound A.S.A.P. Method,” seems to help smooth out, soften and shorten these blows.

I have shared them with my clients over the years, and present them to you now. Each addresses those blows in a somewhat step-by-step fashion. Coincidentally or perhaps by some design, the first letter of each of the four steps together spell out the acronym “A.S.A.P.”, and thus make it a bit easier to remember.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are the four steps I have found can help those who suffered job loss rebound “A.S.A.P.”
Read the rest of this blog post »

“Thanks (Sort of) for the Rejection” – May Actually Be a Good Idea

Published on August 19th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

“Rejection doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough;
it means the other person failed to notice what you have to offer.”

 –      Mark Amend  

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: Every now and then I come upon a workplace-related idea that is so simple and sensible that I just can’t help but pass it along to my readers. In a recent edition of Bottom Line Personal magazine, I came across one such idea submitted to the magazine by Susan P. Joyce, President of a company named NETability, Inc. 

Her idea is this: Job applicants who are rejected from a hoped-for position should send “Thank You” notes to their interviewers or Hiring Manager. Why? It seems there are lots of good reasons to do so, among them: 

1. To express gratitude for being considered.  

2. To exhibit your continued interest in working for the company, perhaps in another position or capacity.  

3. To “keep the conversation going.”  

4. To bring up your name to those with hiring authority just one more time.  

5. To stand out from the crowd, that is, the majority who do not say “Thank you.”  

6. To show maturity, humility and depth of personality.  

7. To express continued interest in case the person chosen decides not to accept the position.  

8. To share a sense of disappointment but not one of discouragement.  

9. Perhaps to share a thought about something that came up in your interview.  

10. To illustrate that you are a person who does not “give up” easily.  

11. Because it costs nothing and may be worth a lot.  

12. Perhaps a much better question is: Why not?  

LESSON TO LEARN: When hunting for a job, don’t let rejection get you down. Instead see it as an opportunity to show others that you are not someone who is easily discouraged. If the name of the game is to get a job, keep at it, and if you do so the chances are only increased that you will, in the end, get the job. Say “Thank you.” There’s no downside to it. And keeping in touch sure can’t hurt. Everyone’s been rejected; successful people don’t give up. It’s that simple. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you are rejected for a position you really wanted, by a company you really wanted to work for, in a role you thought would “fit you like a glove,” don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t take rejection personally. Instead, give it another shot, and another shot after that. Keep the conversation going. Send a “Thank You” note, and keep in touch. The world belongs to the perseverant. Here are six more thoughts: Read the rest of this blog post »

“Good Guidance for New Graduates”

Published on May 21st, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

Four Very Wise Thoughts

“It’s hot. Good luck. Good bye.”

– Graduation Speech by School Board President
at outdoor graduation on extremely hot day

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: It seems that every year about this time I hear or read an especially interesting speech or written piece giving advice to new graduates. The comments below appeared in The New York Times last week while I was in Madison, Wisconsin celebrating my son Sam’s college graduation.  

That said, Here it is, and I hope you will share it with those who you know who may be graduating this year, or who have graduated in recent years. I think it is both timeless and priceless.                            

“Beware the City Dolls”

 By Arthur C. Brooks 

Commencement season is upon us again. In a tenuous economic recovery, many of the 1.6 million graduates at American colleges and universities will be listening intently for a bit of practical wisdom from their commencement speakers.

My own graduation was devoid of this rite. I dropped out of college at 19 and spent my 20s as a traveling musician. I finally finished my degree by correspondence just before my 30th birthday. On graduation day, instead of marching across a stage, I marched out to the mailbox to pick up my diploma. My commencement address was a reminder, muttered to myself, to take my car in for inspection.

In the years that followed, after a great deal of traditional graduate school, I became a university professor. Between delivering a few commencement addresses and listening to many more, here is what I believe graduates need to hear today. 

  1. Earn everything. 

It’s true that graduates today face a rough economy. Americans in their early 20s have to contend with a 10.6 percent unemployment rate – that’s twice the rate among people 25 and up. If still searching for a job, you might envy your classmates whose wealthy or well-connected parents can give them a comfortable life. 

That’s a mistake. The best research shows that unearned resources can be toxic for well-being. One well-known study from Northwestern University tracked lottery winners. They found that while winners described hitting the jackpot as a positive event, they were not actually any happier than a control group of non-winners. Furthermore, the windfall came at a cost: The lottery winners derived significantly less happiness from everyday activities than did ordinary men and women. 

What was their problem? It wasn’t the money per se. Researchers agree that wealth buys less and less happiness beyond middle-class levels, but nobody finds that more money reduces well-being. The size of the fortune is not the key variable; rather, it is whether it is earned. Joseph Schumpeter, the intellectual godfather of modern entrepreneurship, called money a “secondary consideration” and merely “an index of success.” And work I have done using data from Ohio State University shows that people who do not feel responsible for their own successes spend 25 percent more time feeling sad than those who feel they are responsible, even controlling for income. 

  1. Don’t be a “city doll.” 

In his magnificent 1841 essay “Self-Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson scorned elite college graduates – he called them “city dolls” – who wallowed in self-pity if they didn’t immediately land the prestigious job to which they felt entitled. Emerson contrasted them with the “sturdy lads” who hailed from remote civilizations – such as New Hampshire. 

As Emerson wrote, “A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always like a cat falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls.” 

Failures, false starts and midcourse corrections are part and parcel of a life well lived. Early setbacks may even prove to be a lucrative investment: A growing business literature shows that failures offer invaluable chances to learn and improve. Steven Rogers of Harvard University has written that the average entrepreneur fails almost four times before succeeding. 

The Roman philosopher Seneca wrote that “difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” Don’t meet obstacles with victimhood and self-pity. Welcome them, especially early in life, as opportunities to grow in resilience and virtue. 

  1. Fight for people who have less than you. 

In John Bunyan’s classic, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” the character Old Honest poses this riddle to the innkeeper Gaius:

                        A man there was, though some did not recount him mad
                        The more he cast away, the more he had. 

Gaius interprets the verse as follows: 

                         He who bestows his goods upon the poor
                         Shall have as much again, and ten times more. 

This insight is more than wishful thinking. There is abundant evidence that helping those in need is a powerful secret to happiness, health, and even material prosperity. More important, it is the right thing to do. 

In the case of charitable giving, taking this advice is straightforward: Get out your checkbook (even if you can write only a little check). In many other areas, such as one’s work, it is less clear. In my work today, I promote the free enterprise system, because I believe it has created more opportunity for the poor than any other system in history. 

Examine your conscience each night by asking not what others say about your work, but rather by asking yourself whether you believe your work today benefited those with less than you. Make sure your honest answer is yes. 

  1. Think for yourself. 

For many graduates, life after college feels like the first time your destiny has been entirely in your own hands. Unfortunately, other people will immediately start trying to force you into a new script. Some will measure your worth by the money you earn. Others will label you a victim of inequality because you earn less than someone else. 

Don’t let yourself be defined in these materialistic ways. Measure your life’s value as you see fit. You might choose to feed the hungry, manage a firm, coach a team, or front a band. But whatever the life, boldly live it on your own terms. Put aside envy and resentment and pursue happiness. 

A sturdy lad “walks abreast with his days,” to quote Emerson once more. “He does not postpone his life, but lives already.” 

There you have it. Earn everything, fail well, fight for others, and think for yourself. Live already. 

And don’t forget to take your car in for inspection. 

Arthur C. Brooks is a contributing opinion writer to the New York Times and the President of the American Enterprise Institute.

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation and navigation of work and career issues requires that you think “out of the box,” and build value and avoid risks at every point in your career. We strive to help you understand what is commonly before you – traps and pitfalls, included – and to avoid the bumps in the road.          

Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be vigilant. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about. 

*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.     

Please Note: This Email Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel, and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale. 

Repairing the World,
One Empowered – and Productive – Employee at a Time™

© 2014, Alan L. Sklover All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Prohibited.

“How can I do my job if management does not do theirs?”

Published on April 1st, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Dear Mr. Sklover: I am writing from Sweden, but my question is of a general nature. 

How can I as an employee act and communicate strategically when my boss and management lead poorly =  not connecting to company vision, not setting clear goals, wasting employees’ time on poorly planned meetings, not asking for and giving professional advice, etc. 

If you find this question to be within the scope of your concern, I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this. 

Best regards,
Johan Andersson
Gothenberg, Sweden

Answer: Dear Johan: Wow, do I ever view this to be within the scope of my concern, and a great question, as well! I am confident that it is a question many employees ask of themselves on a daily or more frequent basis. This is the kind of subject I do not address often, but I do enjoy sharing my thoughts on subjects like this one. Here are my thoughts:   

1. A competent, caring and communicative manager at work is a rare blessing, not necessarily the norm, and never to be expected. That statement may well upset my blog visitors who are, themselves, managers. I truly hope I do not upset them, but it is something I believe. I do not believe it is cynical or pessimistic to have that view, but rather realistic and, in fact, helpful as a preliminary presumption. Simply put, in some companies and organizations, people permit themselves to become dispirited and then let that dispiritedness affect their performance in a negative fashion, and senior management does nothing to reverse it.   

I am a manager, and will confess that it has happened to me at times, too, both when I was an employee and now as a manager. Yes, not doing one’s job well – without competence, caring or communication – can be an employer trait, and an employee trait, as well. Surely, I wish it was not so. I very much wish that all employers would always be productive and professional, and all employees, as well, but it has not been my experience. 

Can employees and employers be motivated to be more competent, caring and communicative, and thus more productive, on a more regular basis? Yes, absolutely; in fact that is a primary purpose of my work in my law practice and on SkloverWorkingWisdom.com. (Our mission statement reflects that: “Repairing the World One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time.”) But, alas, I do not start off my day expecting to hear of entirely productive work relations from my clients. I try to act that way myself, to motivate it in others, and praise it when I observe it, whether by employees or managers. But I do not expect it.    

Frequent blog visitors will recall that I have used this “formula” several times previously: “Happiness = Reality Minus Expectations.” Setting expectations of others a bit on the lower side does in fact help one cope at certain times, although care must be taken not to permit that to lower your expectations of yourself.

2. No matter the degree of management dysfunction around you, you can and should try to conduct yourself in the highest fashion, in all respects, at all times,  to be the best “model” you can be, for both your colleagues and for your managers. Although “far easier said than done,” this is unquestionably the very best way to instill higher aspirations in others: to aspire yourself, on a daily basis, and thus act as a model of sorts. 

I firmly believe that dignity breeds dignity, compassion encourages compassion, aspiration motivates aspiration, and enthusiasm can be as contagious as the common cold. Whether at work, at home, or elsewhere, others see us and to some degree say to themselves, “If he or she acts that way, I guess I can act that way, too.” Yes, I do believe that care about one’s work, setting standards for one’s conduct, and communicating to the extent of one’s abilities, can actually be “contagious.” But I am aware, too, that their opposites – that is, less productive ways at work – can be “contagious” as well.   

We help employees help themselves by offering Model Letters, Memos, Checklists and Form Agreements for almost every workplace issue, concern and problem. They show you “What to Say, How to Say It.™” Want to see our Entire List? Just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!  

3. Conducting yourself at work in the most productive manner you are capable of – what you call “acting and communicating strategically” – is surely a difficult challenge in the midst of management dysfunction, but maintaining your best personal standards surely is your best coping strategy. There is just no question that having managers who do not connect to the company vision, who do not set clear goals, who waste employees’ time, who do not offer professional feedback, make your job so, so, so much more difficult and, at times, seemingly impossible. 

But that is the challenge you face, and it is perhaps the most important burden before you at work: not letting the “management madness” make you respond with “employee disengagement.” It is just a matter of “swimming upstream” against a strong current of incompetence flowing in the other direction. The best part of swimming upstream, though, is that it makes you a much stronger swimmer. Yes, swimming against the tide is difficult, but a wonderful discipline, too, and the stronger the tide the stronger the swimmer you will become.  

I say and write this often, regarding the workplace: “Like it or not, these days you have two different jobs, both of which you must accept: (i) doing your job, and (ii) keeping your job.” The second is often the harder job of the two. In the context you present, not only must you (i) struggle daily to be productive and do a good job, but (ii) you need to do so despite the many deficiencies and failures of your managers, which make your “regular” job that much more difficult. But, no one promised an easy life, did they?

4. However, when acting in your very best fashion at work, do not be surprised to experience (a) resentment, (b) intimidation, and (c) at times, even sabotage, by others. Human nature is such that people are capable of both very positive and also very negative things. At times, when people act in what I call an “aspirational manner,” that is, bringing forth in themselves the highest of ideals, it upsets others who do not practice that. Also, acting in the highest fashion – entirely positively and professionally – can at times make others feel intimidated. 

On my last job, all I wanted to do was to do the best I could, and make my employers – the law firm partners – happy. So, (a) I worked many hours, (b) I took 10 minute lunches, (c) I returned all client calls within 60 minutes, and (d) I got along with all the staff quite well. The result? Half of the partners, many of whom worked as little as possible, and took “liquid lunches” lasting two hours, didn’t like me, and made my life difficult. 

I was entirely puzzled, so I (a) worked harder, (b) took only 5-minute lunches, (c) returned all client telephone calls within 30 minutes, and (d) got along even better with the staff. One senior partner approached me in the hallway, jabbed his index finger into my chest, looked me right in the face and said, “I know what you are up to . . . you’re trying to steal the clients!” I then understood: my “best efforts” were intimidating to people who did not have the discipline and standards that I did, and I had to either find a different place to work or open my own business. (I did the latter.). 

This same thing, with some variations, has happened to many of my clients who strive only to do their best work, every day. Don’t be surprised if it happens to you.   

5. Patience, perseverance and perspective are what you need to summon, unless and  until you believe there is risk to (a) your emotions, (b) your health, (c) your family relations or (d) your faith. To “survive” at work, in the midst of such management dysfunction, you will need to summon all you can of your ingenuity and inner strength. However, if the time comes that you believe your emotions, your health, your family relations or your faith are under strain, then that will surely be the time to begin searching for a new job, with a new set of managers, in a different division or at a new company, hopefully in a more positive and professional work culture. Just as “You don’t marry everyone you date,” few jobs are forever. 

Alternatively, you will decide to establish your own business, consulting company, or partnership with others who are of a like mind and view. 

While I admire those who dedicate themselves to improving their work culture, there are times that you just must “let it go.” It is great to persevere, but not at the cost of your emotions, your health, your family relations or your faith. At that time, it is your responsibility to yourself to locate and plant yourself in more fertile fields, where you can grow and flourish, and your abilities, attitude and enthusiasm are all respected, appreciated and rewarded, and most of all, returned in kind.   

Johan, I hope this makes sense, and that it is of some help to you. Sorry if I wrote too much. However, what you inquired about is central to so much of my own concerns, values and daily efforts, that I think about it a lot. Imagine, if  you would, what a world we would live in if we all cared about our work, and dedicated ourselves to it. Thanks for writing in; I always enjoy hearing from those at great distance from my home in New  York.    

My Best to You,
Al Sklover 

P.S.: If you would like to speak with me directly about this or other workplace-related subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations. (Even 5-minute “Just One Question” calls). Just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can be accommodated.

P.P.S.: Want to learn more of this “good stuff” regularly? You can Receive Each of Our Blog Posts Automatically, Free, By Email if you just [click here.] And we promise: we never sell, lease or let anyone see our subscriber list. Never, ever.

Repairing the World,
One Empowered – and Productive – Employee at a Time™

© 2014, Alan L. Sklover All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Prohibited.

A Thoughtful Message for New Grads – “Don’t Do What You Love”

Published on May 31st, 2013 by Alan L Sklover

© 2013 Dow Jones & Company – Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2013.

A Brief Essay by Carl McCoy 
[www.carl-mccoy.com]

A Thoughtful Graduation – and Career Change – Message:This brief essay was so simple and instructive, and also so stirring, that I decided to post it here, for all to consider, enjoy and take advantage of. I salute Mr. McCoy for both his thoughts and writing craft, and also the Wall Street Journal for publishing this piece. I claim no rights to it, but seek only to pass along its wisdom.

“This month, commencement speakers across the country are exhorting graduates not to settle. They are urged instead to find their passion – to “do what you love.” But is this the best advice for college students entering a tough labor market?

For those grads who do get jobs, the work will often be low-paying, with little in the way of long-term prospects. Some will soon go on to better jobs, but many will stay in these “day jobs” for years, waiting for their big break, waiting to be discovered – or simply waiting to find out exactly what it is they truly love.

“Do what you love” is an important message, but it’s unwise to build a career on the notion that we should all be paid for our passions. The advice captures only part of the story. It tells us how excellent work might be accomplished – by loving it – but it doesn’t tell us why the work should be done. What is the point of all the effort? What is being worked toward?

The answer lies in working with a deeper sense of purpose or vocation. You don’t need to be a religious or spiritual person to tap into this higher purpose; it can be derived from a sense of community and a desire to pull together. Yet without such a higher purpose, where all this love and ambition can be directed, we don’t have a very meaningful guidepost for meaningful success. We simply have a call to discover what it is that we love, and then do it.

Sure, there are many people doing what they genuinely love. But how many of us love just one thing? It’s romantic to imagine that each person is destined for a particular career path, one capable of being discovered with sufficient soul searching. But most people have multi-faceted interests and abilities and could probably be successful and happy in several fields.

Then there are those things that will never pay very well. As someone who has tried living as a starving artist, I can attest that there’s nothing romantic or noble about being impoverished in pursuit of doing what you love. When you’re working two or three jobs, and you can’t pay your bills, it doesn’t matter how much you love any of them. You just get worn out.

Maybe there’s another way to encourage new college graduates to think about their careers. Maybe all those commencement speakers would send more young people into the world likelier to be happy in their jobs if the speakers talked about love as a consequence of meaningful work instead of as the motivation for it.

Does the doctor love going into the hospital to see a patient in the middle of the night? Does the firefighter love entering a burning building? Does the teacher love trying to control a classroom full of disrespectful children? Not likely. But the work is performed with a sense of purpose that “love” doesn’t capture. 

We don’t all have to become first responders or social workers. And we can’t all find jobs with such obvious benefits to society. When diplomas are handed out, though, it might be worthwhile for graduates – and the rest of us – if the popular “do what you love” message were balanced with a more timeless message to find work that, even in some small way, truly matters.” 

To you, Carl McCoy, I say, “Yes, yes.”  -  Al Sklover     

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation and navigation of work and career issues requires that you think “out of the box,” and build value and avoid risks at every point in your career. We strive to help you understand what is commonly before you, and to know what to “watch out” for, regarding Garden Leave agreements. Now the rest is up to you.      

Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be vigilant. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.

*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.     

Please Note: This Email Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel, and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale.

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2013 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.


Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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