To Our Readers: At this difficult time, we are not focusing all of our energies on the great difficulties presented to us by the coronavirus. Rather, we’re focusing on your difficulties and opportunities after the coronavirus is gone. When that sunny day does dawn, you will then be a better workplace navigator and negotiator for yourself and your loved ones, and able to give more to your loved ones and to the world . . . and we will continue to “be there” for you, in every way we can.
Al Sklover and “The Working Wisdom Team”
Time on Your Hands? – Get Valued Credentials Online
“There’s no paycheck that can equal the feeling of contentment that comes from being the person you were meant to be.”
– Oprah Winfrey
ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: (a) Shelly was an Administrative Assistant to a highly successful Celebrity Booking Agent whose specialty was booking retired athletes to make motivational appearances at trade association conventions. Because all such conventions were postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, Shelly found herself at home, without much to do, for an indefinite period of time, without her usual “diversions,” including music clubs, yoga classes and dinners with friends. And, she just hated watching all of the virus-related news on TV.
Shelly wisely converted her now-available time to her future advantage by registering for online courses at prestigious universities to complete her Bachelor’s Degree, and to pursue, as well, Certificates in Personal Branding and Digital Marketing, all intended to make her far more prepared to become a successful Booking Agent, herself, after the virus restrictions eventually lifted. You go, Shelly!
(b) Carla had a college degree in Psychology and Substance Abuse Counseling, but began her family shortly after college. She then took almost 20 years off her career track to stay at home and raise her three children. When she sought to return to work, she found that her training and experience were a bit “out of date.” The more current difficulties, therapies, therapeutic approaches, intervention models, and pharmaceuticals were woefully missing. So, she took a job as an Office Manager of a busy Dental Practice near her home that, frankly, was not at all what she wanted. The dental office was essentially closed down due to the coronavirus, and she was directed to work from home, but lost half of her paid working hours.
Turning her “social distancing” into opportunity, Carla used the time she would otherwise have spent going out with her husband to visit friends, seeing movies, and the like. Having “social distancing” restrictions, she stayed indoors, and – finally – took the necessary steps to get her career back “on track.” She registered for online Certificate Programs at a local community college that, when completed, will provide her with all she needs to both take the certification examination, and then begin in earnest seeking a position as a Substance Abuse Counselor. So wise!
LESSON TO LEARN: In the usual course of events, we all manage to get ourselves too busy to do much of what we want to do, and need to do, to keep ourselves “fresh and valuable” in the career marketplace. Though the coronavirus presents us with so much sadness, grief, anxiety and difficulties, it also presents us with an unusual and rare opportunity to do what we want and need to: develop our “Unique Human Capital,” the first, foremost and most important determinant of career success and job security.
You might call taking advantage of these weeks and months of free time simply turning “lemons into lemonade;” just don’t let this time pass you by without taking advantage of it. Helping others in need at this time is more than admirable. Helping yourself be more valuable to others will, in the long term, be an even better gift to the world, and to yourself. Give it some thought.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider these 12 thoughts:
1. “Unique Human Capital” is the number one determinant of career success; get yours whenever you can. In our analysis of “Who gets jobs?” and “Who keeps jobs?” the number one factor is found by asking “Who has the best skills, relations, experience and attitude?” Simply put, if you have what “they are looking for,” you are “what they are looking for,” and once hired, “who they don’t want to lose.”
Is “Unique Human Capital” all it takes to get the job and keep the job? No, not at all, but it is the first thing that is likely to get you the interviews, the “call backs,” and the label “a real keeper” when either hiring is underway, or layoffs are under consideration.
2. Many online courses permit you to begin, “attend,” progress, and “graduate” at your own pace. To my mind, one of the very best aspects of many online courses and certificate programs is that many of them permit you to start, proceed and finish at your own pace. Not all online courses work this way, but many – especially “certificate programs” – often do. It’s perfect for working people, working parents, and those with significant time off at certain times . . . as many now have due to the coronavirus “social distancing” furloughs and layoffs.
3. “Action is the antidote to despair,” as Joan Baez said. When people are “stuck in place,” they often feel stymied, agitated, anxious and depressed. It’s like being locked up in a room when you feel a desire – worse, even a need – to move forward. And, when you are not sure which direction you should take, if you take any direction, at least you will find out if that is the right direction, or the wrong direction, and that, too, is a type of “moving forward.”
I’ve seen it so, so many times when my client wants to get something done – could be a job change, raising an issue, perhaps report wrongdoing, but for one or more reasons, does not take action, a sense of annoyance, irritation, frustration, exasperation, bitterness, even anger sets in. But once the first step is taken, a lot of that bad feeling promptly melts away.
4. If you are employed, consider asking your employer for a contribution to your cost, or perhaps even for total reimbursement of the expense. Several of our clients have requested – and received – agreements from their employers to advance or reimburse part or whole of the tuition charged. As in any request, don’t focus your request on how this will help you in your career, but even more so on the how this will surely make you even more valuable to your manager and/or your employer.
5. Consider, too, asking the course provider for a discount or delayed payment arrangement. I have seen commercial ads by many online universities offering discounts or deferred payment options to employees affected by the virus-related “social distancing” restrictions. So, even if your “funds are low,” don’t presume you can’t pay the fees, because you may well be able to do in the future. Also, some of the associated tuition fees are more reasonable than you might think, and discounts are being applied during this difficult time.
6. Imagine the future, and start gathering the credentials to “be there” when it arrives. To me, this is a very exciting challenge: consider how your world, your industry, your company, your clients and customers, might in the future evolve, and what new and different needs will arise. How might you make yourself more valuable in that “new world?”
(a) Going forward, it seems, business, professions and therapy may move, quickly if not sooner, to online platforms; will you be ready?
(b) In the future, might we each need to “prove” to employers, friends, even houses of worship, restaurants, nightclubs and airplanes, that we are healthy, before we are permitted to participate in activities with them? Is there going to be a recognized “Certificate of Health?”
(c) Might there be a greater need for sanitized environments in those places we want to enter? How might that affect your industry and business?
(d) Will more employees be working from home? If so, how might that create changes in what they, their employers’ and their customers need?
(e) Every single way to make a living will be affected, in ways we have not yet even imagined.
7. An unexpected benefit to having a new Online Credential: “something to talk about.” Laugh at me if you wish; that’s ok. One of my mentees has shared with me that, since he’s taken an Online Certificate Course in Marketing Strategies, he has gotten into noteworthy, engaging conversations with colleagues at work (who have asked him to share his newfound skills), his manager (who he is soon going to ask for a raise), and even . . . on dates. Taking a new course to gain new skills can make you be, feel, and be perceived by others as more interesting, more valuable to know, and more enterprising in your attitude. Laugh at me, if you wish, but think about it, too.
8. Your expense may be tax-deductible. Generally speaking, if you incur expenses to make you more successful in your chosen career, those costs may be tax-deductible expenses when calculating your income taxes. Keep receipts and the like, and consult your accountant or tax advisor.
9. Especially for those over 50, demonstrating up-to-date digital-related skills on your resume or profile is essential, and may be viewed as both refreshing and reassuring to a potential employer. No matter what anyone says, those over 40 years of age are often perceived to be digitally-challenged, and for that reason quickly disregarded by hiring managers and interviewers. Your having a credential to prove otherwise may well make you perceived to be a “true keeper.”
10. Ask for such “assistance” if presented with a Performance Improvement Plan. For many years, I have counseled employees who have been placed on Performance Improvement Plans (often called “PIP’s”) at work. Think about it for a moment: if a PIP really is a “plan for improvement of performance,” then shouldn’t an online course, which provides new, additional, or improved skills, knowledge, and abilities, be part of such a plan? If you are told you are not communicating clearly enough, why not take – at company expense – an online course in Business Communications?
I strongly suggest to those who have been told they are being placed on a PIP, that they request that their employer provide the financial resources to help them improve their performance. Isn’t that what a PIP is for?
11. Consider asking for tuition assistance as part of severance-related requests. For decades I’ve assisted and at times represented employees in their severance negotiations. I have found that, among the requests that employers are more likely to provide as a part of severance assistance is either a grant of (or a contribution toward) financing for such a course. It never hurts to try: at worst, all the employer can do is say “No.”
12. Finally, you might just enlarge your professional network by taking an online course or Certificate Program. Depending on the format of the courses you take, you may just end up meeting another enrollee or even a course presenter who later become helpful in suggesting career opportunities, job openings, or even be someone who might hire you. Stranger things do happen online, even romances leading to marriages. Yes, it’s a new world.
We offer a Two Model Memos Requesting Tuition Assistance for an Online Program, one to (i) Your Employer, and a second one to (ii) Program Provider that you can adapt to your own facts and circumstances. It shows you “What to Say, How to Say It.™” To get a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!
In Summary . . .
Improving your knowledge base, the depth of your understanding of your industry, your basic and advanced skills, your ability to both “talk the talk” and “walk the walk” is the best you can do to elevate both your career success and job security. Your personal “engagement” in your work, too, enhances your enjoyment of your work. Being better prepared to do anything related to your work, or desired career path, can – and likely will – improve both your self-image and thus, your feelings of confidence and calm. When you can’t do all you want, why not do all you can?
P.S.: If you would like to speak directly about this or other subjects, I am available for 30-MINUTE, 60-MINUTE, OR 120-MINUTE TELEPHONE CONSULTATIONS, just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can often be accommodated.
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 likely bumps in the road. Mindfully taking steps to improve your “unique human capital” is the very best thing you can do for your career and you confidence, and thus your success and job security.
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.
Sklover Working Wisdom™ is a trademarked newsletter publication of Alan L. Sklover, of Sklover & Company, LLC, a law firm dedicated to the counsel and representation of employees in matters of their employment, compensation and severance. Nothing expressed in this material constitutes legal advice. Please note that Mr. Sklover is admitted to practice in the State of New York, only. When assisting clients in other jurisdictions, he retains the assistance of local counsel and/or obtains permission of local Courts to appear. Copying, use and/or reproduction of this material in any form or media without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. For further information, contact Sklover & Company, LLC, 45 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 2000, New York, New York 10111 (212) 757-5000.
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