2009 job seekers ring out the old, ring in the new with Top 25 Movie Quips About Work

While 2009’s job seekers pop the cork on a budget-conscious bottle of Andre and say "good riddance" to 2009, they also can laugh over the "Top 25 Movie Quips About Work," which I developed in a totally unscientific method for my Las Vegas Job Search Examiner page on Examiner.com.         
 Antar Dayal/Getty Images 

SAY WHAT? Casino industry career way out of economic hardship?

Although it may seems incredulous in Las Vegas – a virtual one-industry town with close to 13% unemployment and tens of thousands of casino workers out of work or scraping by on reduced hours and fewer tips – casino gambling supervisors and managers will be among the 50 best careers in the United States in 2010, according to an article in the latest issue of U.S. News & World Report, on newsstands today.

The number of casino supervisors is projected to grow by 12%, "a bit more than average for all careers between 2008 and 2018," the magazine says.

U.S. News' view is seconded by a web site that bills itself as "the top online casino gambling news reporting organization."

The expansion of legalized casino gaming beyond the historic powerhouses of Nevada and Atlantic City, N.J., means "thousands of jobs have opened up across the country," according to a report posted today by (the other) Tom Jones, Staff Editor of CasinoGamblingWeb.com. In the past year, legislation approving or expanding casino gaming has been enacted in several U.S. states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

And because few industries manage their operations more closely than the casino business, "every gaming operation needs smart managers to oversee its daily business, no matter the casino's characteristics," U.S. News concludes.

The magazine, in particular, glosses over difficulties that have plagued the industry and casino-dependent regions in recent years. The article's only mention of the industry's devastating workforce and shift reductions in recent years is to note that "although Las Vegas took a hit during the recession, more and more states are looking to gaming to boost their ailing budgets." At least CasinoGamblingWeb notes that, "As Nevada is finding out, casino gambling is only profitable when people have the money to gamble," although it then inexplicably claims that "while unemployment rates continue to rise in other industries, casino owners are hiring employees for their new casinos on an almost daily basis."

U.S. News asserts that with ambition and "experience in gaming and skill," a casino manager should enjoy solid promotional prospects. The article reports that median wages in 2008 for gaming supervisors were $45,000. Gaming managers – "who tackle more of the human resources hiring and training responsibilities" – had median earnings of just more than $68,000, according to the article, which notes a wide pay range for managers: $30,000 to $112,000.

As any Las Vegan with at least a cursory knowledge of the industry knows, the stress level is "sometimes high," U.S. News acknowledges. "Casino work tends to be pretty colorful, and you may face tough hours (nights and weekends) and have to deal with unhappy (i.e., losing) customers."

Aside from a license from the state board or commission that oversees a manager's casino, there are no strict educational requirements," U.S. News reports, which is a definite plus in the eyes of CasinoGamblingWeb. "The best part about the casino industry is that there is little education needed to break into the field. That leaves the door open for thousands of people in the U.S. to change careers in 2010, moving towards a career in a casino field that looks to be on the rise for decades to come," the web site's report concludes.

Just tell that to the ten of thousands of out-of-work Las Vegas casino workers.

Americans who still have job eager to find new one

Although the U.S. unemployment rate remains in the double digits, more than one-half of U.S. workers plan to change jobs in 2010, others are reporting widespread "disengagement" within their workforces, and employers are underestimating the level of employees' willingness to pursue opportunities with new companies.

That's the conclusion of a host of surveys recently conducted by several management consulting and human resource organizations and Internet job site CareerBuilder.

Among the findings:
  • Right Management, a division of employment services company Manpower, asked 900 North American workers, "Do you plan to pursue new job opportunities as the economy improves in 2010?" and the responses were:

    • 60% - Yes, I intend to leave
    • 21% - Maybe, so I’m networking
    • 6% - Not likely, but I’ve updated my resume
    • 13% - No, I intend to stay

  • The 2009 Employment Dynamics and Growth Expectations Report said 55% of employees plan to change jobs, careers or industries "when the economy recovers."

  • CareerBuilder polled 4,285 full-time, private-sector employees and found that 40% are struggling to stay motivated in their current jobs, and 24% said they didn't feel loyal to their employer.

  • Another survey by consulting firm Finnegan Mackenzie and business network ExecuNet involving 1,627 employed executives found that more than 90% of executives would take an executive recruiter’s call and more than 50% are looking for a new job. It also found that professionals at all levels of management are underestimating the percentage of direct reports interested in pursuing new opportunities.

  • Those surveys come on the heels of other research showing that employee engagement levels have dipped during the past year or so. In September, Workforce Management conducted a survey of 525 readers at organizations with 1,000 or more employees. Roughly 45% of respondents reported that engagement had decreased a little or a lot at their organization since the recession began. Nearly 27% said engagement had stayed the same, and 28% said it had increased.

  • A May survey by consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide of 1,300 workers at large U.S. employers found that engagement levels for top performers fell close to 25% year over year. Employees overall experienced a 9% drop in engagement year over year, Watson Wyatt said.

  • In a similar survey by Adecco Group North America, 77% of workers were critical of their organization’s brain trust and weren’t satisfied with the strategy and vision of their company and its leadership.
"Employees are clearly expressing their pent up frustration with how they have been treated through the downturn," Right Management President and Chief Operating Officer Douglas J. Matthews said in a news release. "While employers may have taken the necessary steps to streamline operations to remain viable, it appears many employees may have felt neglected in the process. The result is a disengaged and disgruntled workforce." 

A Workforce Management magazine story recently said "layoffs, pay cuts and other fallout from the recession have devastated employee engagement." Experts in employee retention say staff-cutting and budget-cutting employers must move quickly to restore pay cuts and reward employees or risk losing them next year, according to a December news report about the surveys.

Why jobs are coming back far more slowly than they were eliminated

"Eight million may finally be enough," U.S. News and World Report's Rick Newman opines in his latest blog post. That's roughly the number of jobs the country has lost since the Great Depression began in late 2007.

But if the latest decrease in the unemployment rate holds, an end to job losses won't solve the country's unemployment problem. The economy must add more than 100,000 jobs per month just for the unemployment rate to stay even, and many more for the United States to return to economic health. The problem is there's been little sign of significant new job creation.

Newman wanted to know why the entrepreneurship that marked the end of past U.S. recessions doesn't seem to be happening in this one, so he spoke to Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes entrepreneurship. 

Some of Schramm's observations:
  • Recessions spur entrepreneurial spikes. During recessions, large corporations return to their core business, often eliminating positions held by innovators working on new technologies, products or businesses. When jobs are cut, laid-off professionals often start their own firms. That's a major reason half of all Fortune 500 firms were created during a recession or bear market. They were founded by people out of a job, but who were able to tap important intellectual property to build businesses.

  • Why we're not seeing the creation of new businesses now. "This is the first time in a recession that we've seen new-firm starts decline," Schramm told Newman. Previous funding sources for fledgling small businesses tapping home equity, or even borrowing against retirement plans or on credit cards have dried up during the Great Recession. "That's a difference in terms of direction. Without creating high-growth businesses that helped end previous recessions, "there won't be new jobs ... That means there's a very bleak future for jobs."

  • The recent slight decline in the U.S. unemployment rate doesn't mean job growth is around the corner. "A lot of lost jobs aren't coming back. People who were laid off at GE, for example, are not getting those jobs back. We need to create new firms to hire those people."

  • What job seekers should do. Network, network, network. Get additional relevant education. That can mean, for example, someone with a bachelor's degree returning to a community college to improve or expand computer skills.

  • What a "President Schramm" would do. Rename the Small Business Administration the "New Business Administration" to signify the need to start as many high-growth, high-skill businesses as possible. Suspend cumbersome regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley, but only for small businesses. Offer tax breaks, but again, that only benefit new businesses.
To read Newman's original post, click here.

Great Recession May be Over, but Rocky Recovery Ahead, Experts Say

Although the Great Recession may technically be over, the economy will remain rocky and the nation will continue to struggle well into 2010, the Associated Press reported yesterday.

The AP's monthly analysis of economic stress in more than 3,100 U.S. counties found the economy little changed in October compared with September. Some states saw slight improvement or stabilization, thanks to steadying foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. But the gains may be brief. Unemployment remains high, and the housing market is still weak. The "AP Economic Stress Index" calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on a county's unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. Under a rough rule of thumb, a county is considered stressed when its score exceeds 11. About 37% of the nation's 3,141 counties were deemed stressed, roughly the same proportion as the previous month.

Nationwide, the average county's Stress score remained unchanged at 10.1 in October, matching September's figure. It was 10.3 in August. A year earlier, in October 2008, the average score was a much lower 6.9.

My home state of Nevada had the highest October stress score of any U.S. state, at 21.09. That dismal figure declined slightly from the October figure of 21.95. Three Nevada counties — Lyon, Clark and Nye — again led the nation in foreclosures in October, with rates ranging from 7.1% to 8.5%, the AP reported. Nevada suffered the biggest year-to-year gain in foreclosures and continued to lead the nation with a 7.2% foreclosure rate. Job loss is a growing reason for mortgage foreclosure, according to AP and because there's typically a 60-to-90-day lag between a job loss and a foreclosure, the effect of earlier job losses on foreclosures probably won't be fully felt until next year.

Not surprisingly, Michigan, which has been battered by auto industry troubles, was second-highest, with a score of 17.36, followed by California (16.48), Florida (15.4) and Arizona (14.37).

Least stressed was North Dakota, with a score of 3.89.

U.S. Unemployment Rate Falls, but Job Recovery Not Expected Until Mid-2010

The government reported good news today, saying the unemployment rate declined in November to 10% from 10.2% in October, the Associated Press reports. Still, the rate remains more than double what it was in December 2007, when the recession began.

Economists said the November jobless report could signal a turnaround in the labor market. But they still expect a tepid recovery. Unemployment is expected to resume rising until around the middle of next year, before employers ramp up hiring enough to start pushing the jobless rate down.

"There are signs that recovery is on the way nationally ... but it's not playing itself out uniformly," Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida, told the AP. "Some areas are going to be slower than others."

Is the fledgling economic recovery actually a "recovery gap" between rich and less well-to-do Americans?

U.S. News & World Report's Rick Newman makes a interesting observation today on the peridiocal's "Money" blog about the so-called signs that the recession has ended: the rich, who likely gained much more from the recent stock market recovery could be spending more and creating the appearance of a recovery, while the rest of us continue to struggle.

Although the twin crashes in the stock and housing markets meant that rich Americans lost a lot more total wealth than the rest of us and cut back correspondingly, "there's some evidence that wealthy consumers are bouncing back faster than the rest of America," Newman reports.

Because the wealthy aren't jumping to spread their wealth with the rest of us, we may have to wait for the infamous "trickle-down effects," Newmark concludes. "We may actually be in the midst of a two-tier recovery in which life is getting better for a small minority of Americans at the top of the income chain, and they spend enough additional money to drive up spending and other stats and make it look like there's a real recovery," he continues. "But the same so-called recovery could bypass many ordinary Americans, which is what seems to be happening now.

"At least one thing hasn't changed: It's good to be rich. Now as much as ever."

U.S. Unemployment Worsened in Most U.S. Metro Areas in October

Unemployment worsened or stayed the same in most U.S. metro areas in the month of October, according to Labor Department statistics reported by the Associated Press.

The jobless rate rose in 162 of the 372 metro areas tracked by the Labor Department, AP reported. The rate was unchanged in 42 areas and dropped in 168 areas.

The gloomy numbers came on the eve of the Obama administration's "jobs summit," which opened today at the White House and will include economists, academics and corporate executives who whill mull how the government can spur job creation.

COBRA Subsidy Keeping Thousands of Unemployed Insured Expires Today, but Could be Extended

A federally provided subsidy that covered 65% of the medical insurance costs for up to nine months for the unemployed expires today, meaning health insurance costs will skyrocket and likely be out of reach for scores of jobless Americans. But an Illinois Congressman is working to have the subsidy extended.

COBRA requires employers to offer laid-off or terminated employees the same health insurance coverage they had as an employee for up to 18 months, but employees must bear the entire cost themselves, rather than receiving a subsidy most employers extend. This difference can triple or quadruple the cost of coverage. For example, in Illinois, the average family coverage with the subsidy was $389 a month, but without it, it will shoot to $1,139 monthly.

"For many people this is all they have and one of the reasons we need comprehensive health care," Rep. Phil Hare, (D-Ill.), told Chicago's WMAQ-TV. "We have 14,000 people everyday in this country losing their health insurance as it is."

WMAQ-TV reported that Hare has approached Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about extending the subsidy before the current Congressional session ends. "One way or another it appears the House is going to move on this before we adjourn, which is wonderful news because without it, this is literally life and death for many people," he told the TV station.

Dear Boss Man, Please Give My Dad A Job ...

A real-life example of one of my recent post comes from Oregon, where 12-year-old Cheyenne Hess, worried after her father lost his job in December and had only been able to pick up sporadic day work, penned a letter to the supervisor there, asking him to hire her father full-time:

“Dear Ed Reed:

“Please give my Dad a job at Oregon Motorcoach. He has been out of a job since December 2008 and he deserves this job and you deserve such a great painter, he has a great painting skill. He has painted cars, coaches and he always has a good attitude about what he has to do. He has always been a good Dad, painter and lovely husband and friend. If you hire him you would be getting a good deal and a lot of new customers for life. My Dad has never been rude to anyone so you won’t have to worry about having meetings with him. So please, please, please hire him. He always has great ideas at meetings and never needs an assistant.

“Sincerely, Cheyenne Hess”
To read the entire article - including how the story turns out - click here.

If you haven't lost your job, has your boss cut your pay? Taken away overtime? Reduced your workweek? Eliminated raises? Chopped your benefits? Put you on an unpaid furlough?

Compensation for U.S. workers so far in 2009 has been cut by the largest amount in nearly two decades, with a government index of real average weekly earnings down 1.9% since last December, McClatchy Newspapers has reported. And the average workweek — now down to 33 hours — is the shortest on modern record.

As mentioned in an earlier post, if "underemployed workers" - those forced to take shorter shifts or other employment cutbacks - are included, the nation's unemployment and underemployment rate is closer to 18%, not the official 10.2% unemployment rate.

Job Loss Hurts the Little Ones' Pysches, Too

Family finances and the breadwinners' self-esteem aren't the only things that have suffered because of the widespread layoffs that have marked the Great Recession.

Children in families where parents have lost jobs also are struggling – with behavioral issues and stress-induced disorders, and could face longer-term effects, The New York Times reports in today's newspaper. 

“The extent that job
 losers are stressed and emotionally disengaged or withdrawn, this really matters for kids. The other thing that matters is parental conflict. That has been shown repeatedly in psychological studies to be a bad family dynamic.”

– Developmental psychologist Ariel Kalil, director of New York University’s Center for Human Potential and Public Policy

The article also cites a recent study bythe University of California, Davis that found children in families where the head of the household had lost a job were 15% more likely to repeat a grade. Another earlier study found that adolescent children of low-income single mothers who endured unemployment had an increased chance of dropping out of school and showed declines in emotional well-being.

To read the entire article, click here.

Number, length of layoffs up, but severance down

Today's Wall Street Journal has a lengthy front page article about executives and professionals who blithely burned through what many would regard as generous severance packages, thinking they'd be re-employed at another big-salaried job long before the severance was gone. 

Although this issue won't be a problem with many facing joblessness – people cited in the article received severance packages of as much as $200K – one nugget of information did: companies have been steadily decreasing or outright eliminating severance packages in the past decade. For those who do receive severance in today's brutal employment market, the median amount is equivalent to 12.5 weeks' of their salary, down from 21.8 weeks in 1999, according to figures the article cites from Chicago-headquartered outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

This is occurring at a time when a) unemployment is the highest it's been in 26 years; and b) the long-term jobless rate is greater than it's been since the government began tracking it ... in 1948.

For the entire article, click here (although it will only be available to non-subscribers of WSJ.com through Nov. 17).

Slashing Jobs Beyond What's Necessary ... and Defining What's Necessary

Aside from the direct "collateral damage" that has resulted from the 15.7 million jobs lost during the Great Recession, the ruthlessness and severity with which jobs have been slashed is also fueling greater long-term economic inequality in the country, according to an op-ed in today's New York Times.

"In other words, U.S.

 corporate management has

 used the crisis to slash jobs

 well beyond what economic

 decline strictly demanded."

In the column, author Roger Cohen cites Chicago economist David Hale as concluding that U.S. employment has declined at a much faster rate than national output (6% versus 3.8%) since the the beginning of the recession, whereas in Germany and Japan, the job losses have been just a fraction of the increase in output.

"In other words," Cohen wrote, "U.S. corporate management has used the crisis to slash jobs well beyond what economic decline strictly demanded."

This has led to "stunning" increases in American productivity, according to Hale, making U.S. businesses more competitive than ever, which, theoretically at least, eventually could create jobs. "But for now, the newly jobless ask, “'What recovery? What justice?'”

“If managements are raising profits by cutting jobs, and that gives them a stock market gain of 55%, in the end you’re magnifying inequality,” Hale told Cohen. 

To read the entire column, which uses this information to make the case for the critical need for universal health care, click here.

Ultimate Cost of the "Great Recession:" Rising Suicide Rates?

Deeply depressed over a pending home foreclosure and mounting bills, Debra Gibbs, a Goshen, Indiana, homemaker, sent her daughter out the morning of June 23 — and then shot herself in the head, MSNBC.com reports this morning.

Gibbs' suicide occurred the day after the repossession of her 2007 Chevy Malibu, the last purchase she’d made with her late husband, Sam. “She was doing everything she could to hold onto what was hers,” said Gibbs’ daughter, Rebecca Filley, said. 

In some U.S. communities that went into recession as early as 2005 or 2006, the worst recession since the Great Depression has been accompanied by a worrisome rise in suicide deaths. People who’ve lost jobs commit suicide at rates two times to four times higher than those who are employed, according to the American Association of Suicidology.

Public officials in the communities that have experienced a rise in suicides can't help but see the recession connection. “We’ve had many situations where people lost their jobs and that was the reason for why they do what they do,” said Sheriff Mark A. Hackel of Macomb County, Mich.

To read the entire story, click here.

To see where your county's suicide rate stands, click here.

Unemployment, Then & Now

Some interesting statistics comparing the unemployed now, and in 1982, when the U.S. jobless rate last rose above 10%:

Another Milestone We'd Just as Soon Skip: U.S. Unemployment Rate Hits 10.2%

As I was preparing this blog for its official introduction to the world this morning, the news reports began pouring in that the nation's unemployment rate has passed that dreaded, yet anticipated, double-digit figure: the closely watched unemployment metric surged to 10.2% in October, the highest it's been in 26 years, the Labor Department reported this morning.

The unexpected sharp increase, from 9.8% in September, came as companies slashed 190,000 more jobs last month. "That was larger than the 175,000 job losses that most forecasters were expecting for the month, and it underscored just how dire the labor market remains despite the recent upturn in the nation's economic output," the Chicago Tribune's "Swamp" reported.

If workers too discouraged to seek work and those who want to work full-time, but have been forced to accept part-time jobs are included, the nation's unemployment and underemployment rate in October was actually 17.5%.

Although unemployment had increased steadily, the double-digit figure is expected to have a major psychological impact and could create potentially significant political consequences.

In apparent anticipation of the grim number, President Obama is expected this morning to sign a bill passed earlier this week by Congress that will extend jobless benefits to the long-term unemployed and expand tax-relief programs for homebuyers and businesses operating at a loss.

The last time the jobless rate crossed double digits was during the recession and initial recovery period of the early 1980s. Unemployment hit 10.1 percent in September 1982, rising to a high of 10.8 percent. It remained at or above 10% until June the following year, the Tribune reported. "This time around, unemployment has risen even faster and, by some analysts' reckoning, could hover around 10 percent for much longer," the newspaper's blog reported.

The jobless rate at the start of 2009 was 7.6%. Since then, the number of unemployed workers has increased by 8.2 million, to 15.7 million as of October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If those numbers aren't depressing enough, the "unofficial" labor situation is actually worse because the government doesn't count as "officially unemployed" the so-called discouraged workers, those who have given up looking for jobs. That figure in October was 808,000, a 40% increase over the 484,000 Americans who were too discouraged to continue to look for a job in October of last year.

And to add even more joy to your Friday, an additional 9.3 million people report that they are underemployed because their hours either have been cut or they can't find full-time work. "If this group, and discouraged workers are included, along with others on the fringe of the labor market, the nation's unemployment and underemployment rate in October was 17.5%," the Tribune reported.

Jobs are slashed, stock market soars - WHY?

I've always found it perversely fascinating that in the hours and days immediately after a company announces a major layoff — destroying the financial stability and security of countless families, who often are are the company's customers — its stock price enjoys a significant uptick. U.S. News and World Report's Rick Newman recently offered a primer into why that's the case and why it can't go on forever.

Newman notes that since cratering in March, the stock market has jumped some 60%, one of the most dramatic rallies in history. He adds, however, that as the market has risen, so has the unemployment rate.
"The same workers who have been getting laid off, improving the [bottom line for many companies, are also consumers running out of money to spend. Some are going bankrupt, defaulting on bank loans, and losing their homes. That's a major risk to corporateprofits — and stock prices — down the road."

USN&WR's Rick Newman
So, why are the two not inverse? Stocks have surged because companies are reporting stronger earnings than the market anticipated. But earnings have increased NOT because companies are doing more business; they're improving because companies have cut costs more than revenues have declined. And for most companies, costs equate to jobs.

With stock options and bonuses that often exceed their seven- or eight-digit salaries, CEOs and other executives rarely face the same economic realities as the rest of us. But the one thing they and we both understand is that you can't slash your way to prosperity. Cut as the may, executives know they ultimately must generate new business and new revenue to improve their companies' financial performance.

And on that measure, the outlook is just as worrisome for the stock market as it is for the job market, Newman concluded. "Most American companies still rely on American consumers to keep business humming. Sooner or later, the U.S. job and stock markets need to go in the same direction," he wrote.

27 U.S States Now Have Jobess Rates of 8.5% or Higher

More than half of the United States now has jobless rates of 8.5% or higher. Think about it: if you live in one of the following states, at least one out of every 11 people you encounter is involuntarily unemployed. (Included on the list, of course, is my home state of Nevada.) And that doesn't take into account the millions of additional workers who have been forced to part-time work, which means they've probably also lost their medical insurance as well:

Legislation passed by the Senate yesterday - and which is expected to easily pass the House of Representatives and be signed into law by President Obama - would extend unemployment insurance benefits another 14 weeks for all unemployed Americans who have exhausted their coverage, and provide an additional seven weeks of payments for residents of the states above, along with those living in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

P.S. President Obama did indeed sign the legislation into law on Nov. 6, extending unemployment insurance coverage for millions of Americans.

The Double-Whammy: Uninsured and Unemployed

Because mine and my family's health insurance was at one time provided through my then-employer (as is the case with two-thirds of all Americans), we lost our health insurance the same day I lost my job. (Don't get me started about the injustice of cutting off an employee's health insurance at 5 PM the same day you boot them out the company's door.)

Unlike many Americans, my family was lucky. My husband had managed to convert his contract position into a traditional job days before I got the axe. Because he was in the process of enrolling in the organization's insurance plan, he was able to have our daughter and I immediately covered by his plan. Had that not been the case, we would have faced premiums of $2,000 A MONTH to retain our previous coverage.

So, it comes to no surprise to anyone who's been following the economy and the U.S. health care crisis that this year's devastating job losses have likely increased the ranks of the uninsured by 4 million people. This number according to a new study by Families USA, a Washington, D.C., organization that advocates for consumer health care improvements.
"People who receive a pink slip experience a double whammy. They not only lose their jobs,  but they usually lose their  health coverage as
 well. That's why health reform is so important."

- Ron Pollack, Families USA executive director

The bottom line? If companies can continue to behave so badly, eliminating workers' access to affordable health care with the flick of a termination letter, they must be required to join with the government to finance a public health care option for those they so thoughtlessly discard.

To access Families USA's report, click here.

Your Company and Layoffs - A Winning Combination!!!

Are your company’s profits not growing as fast as they used to? Are shareholders getting upset? Well, why not consider layoffs?

This handy, easy-to-follow tutorial, courtesy of YouTube answers burning questions such as:

  • Are layoffs ethical?
  • "Corporat-ese," confusing euphemisms and other obfuscations that increase the comfort of executives delivering the bad news, all they while enabling them to actually not tell employees anything.

  • What to do about messy situations, like the employee scheduled for life-saving open-heart surgery next month, but who has now lost his health insurance because the company laid him off?

  • FREE outplacement advice often offered to soon-to-be-ex-employees.

  • When should companies give laid-off employees more than 5 minutes to clean out their offices?

  • And what about those company staplers?

In the "Isn't-That-Sort-Of-Obvious?" category: Getting Hired, Never a Picnic, is Increasingly a Trial, the NYT reports

The trend of employers putting potential employees through a battery of interviews has intensified in the tough economic climate, The New York Times reports in today's edition in a story that talks about job seekers enduring five, six or seven interviews.

"But even if there are substantive reasons for companies to take so long to decide, many job hunters ask why so many employers interview them once, twice or more — and then never get back in touch. And for that question, no one had a good answer."

Alas, I don't have much insight into what leads to this behavior on the part of prospective employees, but for insight into what it feels like to be on the receiving end of this - and worse - behavior, please check out an article I wrote for the Chicago Tribune's business section.

Even during times of lower unemployment, things aren't always better, as The Wall Street Journal's Joann Lublin reported in this article, in which she quoted me and other mistreated job seekers who demanded "equal time" in the newspaper's pages after an article she wrote about misbehaving job candidates.

Being "THE MAN" has its benefits, but being healthier isn't necessarily one of them

Inadvertently "Stickin' It to the Man"?

At many companies, executive-level employees enjoy a special health plan that covers 100% of their health care expenses. This can include all co-pays, Lasik surgery, every aspect of Junior's braces, physician-prescribed stays at fat farms and travel and accommodations to see out-of-town medical specialists. This same privilege isn't normally extended to rank-and-file employees, who pay standard co-pays and at least some percentage of the total cost of their health care.

But working stiffs can take heart: THE MAN in the corner office may appear tan, rested and ready to lop the heads of another 10% of the company's workforce, but new research by the University of Toronto shows that he is more likely to be plagued by psychological and physical problems that can offset any health benefits that you would assume result from that "highly compensated" job and its matching Lamborghini health plan.

The study, which involved 1,800 American workers from a variety of occupations and industries, found that those in positions of authority report:

  • Significantly higher levels of interpersonal conflict with others;

  • Are more likely to experience conflicts between work and family life; and

  • Are at increased risk for psychological distress, anger and poor health.
People with "job authority" were defined as those who direct or manage the work of others, or can hire or fire other employees.

The study's findings go to the heart of a seeming paradox in research about job stress: although people in higher status positions enjoy benefits that should translate to better health, they're usually not much healthier than workers without the perks.

"Unfortunately, there are also downsides to job authority that undermine or offset the upsides of having power at work," said the study's lead author, University of Toronto Sociology Professor Scott Schieman. "In most cases, the health costs negate the benefits."

(Not that it's all that relevant to this post, but if you want a laugh and insight into the image at the top of this post, check out the classic Sprint commercial from early 2001, "Dawn of a New Era," when blogs were as new and revolutionary as Twitter was last year.)

Study finds worrying about job security may be more damaging than losing a job

Recently released findings of a longitudinal study that asked the same group of workers about their job security fears between 1986 and 1989, and then again between 1995 and 2005, has found that employees' fears of losing their jobs have grown dramatically.

But perhaps a more significant and surprising finding: constantly worrying about unemployment may be more damaging to a worker's health than actually losing a job. "In fact, chronic job insecurity was a stronger predictor of poor health than either smoking or hypertension in one of the groups we studied," said University of Michigan sociologist Sarah Burgard, with the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and co-author of the study.

"It may seem surprising that chronic high job-insecurity is more strongly linked with health declines than actual job loss or unemployment," Burgard said. "But there are a number of reasons why this is the case. Ongoing ambiguity about the future, inability to take action unless the feared event actually happens, and the lack of institutionalized supports associated with perceived insecurity are among them."

Given all that's at stake, these feelings are predictable, she added. "When you consider that not only income, but ... many important benefits that give Americans piece of mind - including health insurance and retirement benefits - are [often] tied to employment, it's understandable that persistent job insecurity is so stressful," Burgard said.

Organizations need to learn more about workplace conditions, activities or behaviors that cause these problems, and then intervene to decrease employees' perceptions of insecurity, she recommended.

"Certainly job insecurity is nothing new, but the numbers [of people] experiencing persistent job insecurity could be considerably higher during this global recession, so these findings could apply much more broadly today than they did even a few years ago," Burgard added.

The NYT pontificates on how good candidates can clear the HR hurdle

The New York Times today offers so-so advice on how to get around the HR gatekeeper and get to the hiring manager when seeking a job for which you're not PERFECTLY qualified.

Most relevant passage:

If your only relationship with the company is electronic, via a job board or a posting, your chances are not good. H.R. people confronting hundreds of faceless online applications have one main goal: to weed out as many people as they can.
“The employer is not expected to be creative or flexible or see the opportunity in you that you think you might have” when the relationship is purely electronic, said Bernadette Kenny, chief career officer at Adecco North America, the staffing firm. She considers that to be an “unrealistic expectation on the part of the job seeker.”
But if you can establish personal contact with someone on the inside, you may be able to make your case. It’s tiresome to have to repeat this, and a lot of people don’t like to hear it, but it comes down to networking. Job seekers who don’t fit all the requirements “need to go around the gatekeeper; they need to find another door,” said Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, a career management firm in New York. If you are introduced to a hiring manager by someone you know, there is more trust, and suddenly “things aren’t as important as they appeared to be on that job spec,” she said.

Top 10 Things I Learned on My Way (Back) to the Unemployment Office

Almost 17% of all Americans are now either jobless or underemployed (forced to work fewer hours for less pay and probably no benefits). Think about it: one of every 6 working-age adults you encounter isn’t employed at all or is working far less than he or she would like to be. Some worked simply for a paycheck and the ability to provide for themselves and their families. Others, like me, had spent years making their careers a focal point of their very identities. Either way, we’ve been robbed of something most Americans are hard-wired to believe is just always there. When it's suddenly not, it can be debilitating, demoralizing and devastating.

As I embark on figuring out what the hell my newest career adventure will be, I compiled a "Top 10 List" of the most important things I’ve learned during my three career “sabbaticals.” I hope the list will help those looking for work:

1. In today’s work world, employees should be committed to their professions and careers, not attached to their employers or jobs.

2. Your resume should ALWAYS be up-to-date.

3. Companies should handle downsizings with empathy and respect, but most don’t. If you can truly, deep-down accept that, the humiliations and indignities you experience will be less humiliating and debilitating.

4. If you’re unlucky enough to lose your job, maintain your professionalism, but push for what will help you stay afloat until you find new employment. Offer specifics as to why you deserve additional compensation. If at first you’re told “no,” approach someone higher up the company’s food chain, ideally someone with whom you have a relationship. (In the past, I’ve been able to negotiate 1) a six-month extension of my health insurance; 2) the right to keep my company-issued laptop computer; 3) a six-week extension of my employment to enable my 401(k) to vest; and 4) a doubling of an initial severance offer. In two instances, I had to go all the way to CEO to win those concessions.) If that prospect makes you uncomfortable, recall everything you’ve done for this company: the long days (and nights); the weekend work in the deserted office; the snotty, entitled executive/manager comebacks in response to honorable and well-considered work; and the other miscellaneous sacrifices and indignities. Then ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” After all, they’ve already taken your livelihood.

5. Always talk to a headhunter – even if you’re happy in your current job. But never forget that a headhunter works for the hiring company, not for you.

6. Most jobs (especially during uncertain economic times) come through personal contacts, not through Internet job boards or newspaper ads. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but contact everyone you know and tell them that you’re seeking work. Losing a job no longer has the stigma it once did, and you’ll be surprised how often people are willing to help. And then periodically follow up. When I changed careers years ago, the absolute best job I’ve ever had – a senior corporate communications position at Playboy Enterprises, Inc. – came through a graduate school mentor with whom I stayed in touch and whose wife became my boss at Playboy.

7. While everyone hopes his or her “time out” will be brief, it may not be, so line up contract work. I invested $800 to become an S-Corp., and after two years, was billing $15,000 a month. Incorporating offers both tax advantages and headaches. (Note to self: QuickBooks is NOT your friend.) But most important, having my own company gave me psychological solace, a business with which I could legitimately claim affiliation. And I now anticipate returning to my S-Corp and remaining at least partially self-employed, probably for the remainder of my working life.)

8. Although interviewing companies should be polite, many won’t be. (For more on this, read an article I freelanced for the Chicago Tribune about this demoralizing phenomenon by clicking here.)  If you’re looking for work, you truly have no choice except to keep plugging away and do your best not to take it personally.

9. Curb your excitement about a job prospect until you have an offer letter in hand.

10. Especially in our modern world that includes the trauma and soul-searching invoked by Sept. 11 and our current struggles with the worst recession since the "Great D," use your “time out” to appreciate all you have for which to be grateful. Go to the public library. See a weekday matinee. Take a week during a non-holiday season to visit relatives or friends. After all, as I try to periodically remind myself, things always can be worse.