Honest Reflection on a Job Change

We are social animals. Culture and norms nudge our behaviors toward being part of a team or at least not disrupting the herd too much. But one of the most important times to be selfish is during a job change. It’s vital to maximize these changes for every market value dollar out there. It’s so uncomfortable though. It’d be better if this really was a free agent nation.

With that said, a friend of mine, we’ll call him Jason Peters, was nice enough to answer a few questions about his job change.
I’d like to make this interview format a running segment on the blog, so if others want to email in their answers, please feel free.

Now that the process is over, how satisfied are you? Is there anything you felt you left on the table?
-I think I got what I deserved and I’m very satisfied with my decision.  Granted it’s only been 3 weeks.
What about the process was something you never considered or thought about?
-I went to a direct competitor which makes everything more difficult.  No 2 week notice, they want you gone that day.  It’s touchy discussing specifics even though you feel you have an obligation to explain your decision.  It was also difficult because my former employer wanted to counter offer and my future employer wanted me to sign on the dotted line.  Luckily I had a little time but that was very nerve racking.
How long did it take from start to finish?
-From first call to hire it took nearly 1 1/2 months.
How many interviews (formal and informal)?
-2 with the the recruiting firm, 1 on the phone with my direct manager, 1 in person with my direct manager, 1 with VP of Sales, 1 with President of Sales and Marketing.  
Were you close to leaving before?
-Not really.  I was always causally looking and had a few interviews here and there.
How long were you at your previous job?
-4 1/2 years
What is the  ideal length to be in a role for a job (2 years, 5 years, …)?
– I think that depends on the overall satisfaction of your job.  Although i think it’s probably healthy for most people to alter/change jobs every 3 years or so, there’s 3 area’s in which I focus on primarily to answer that question.
1. Am I making the money I deserve?
2. Do I enjoy what I do?
3. Do I have a good work/life balance?
What was the main reason for leaving – money, change, career advancement?
– Hands down, money.
What about the negotiation process was interesting?
– I liked the fact that I had a recruiter negotiating/relaying my requests.  It’s never healthy to haggle over salary/vacation with your soon to be employer.
What did you learn for next time?
-Aim even higher!
What type of monetary increase did you expect and get (in relation to your market value)?
-I think I did really well.  My salary increased 35%  and I should easily increase my bonuses by 300%!
What about the human element of this process? Are there people you’re going to miss and are there hard feelings about the departure?
– Absolutely.  I had great relationships with my coworkers.  Since I moved to a competitor I may even lose a good friend over it.
What necessitated your departure? Timeliness? Advancement in qualifications (schooling/certification)? Someone blocking your advancement?
Well, because of the timing of departure of a predecessor, and completion of my MBA, I was ready to move on.  I was very unsatisfied with my compensation and felt like I couldn’t afford to work there anymore.  I was also getting bored.

A Good Kindergarten Teacher is Worth More than Dollars and Cents

I grew up in a small community in upstate New York. I call it a two stop light town. But it is a community as much as anything. For instance, when I was three, four, and five my day care was provided by a patient woman named Mimi. She cared for a group of four main children: three boys (including me) and one girl. We were all the same age and attended the same Catholic Church.

This group of four produced a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, and me. Did I know at the time that we were each bound for relative success? To a certain degree I did. We all could sense we were starting out on the right foot. Our parents put us in good situations and people like Mimi nurtured us through relationships, discipline, and education. Maybe I’m romanticizing what happened, but we had a teacher, Mimi, challenging us and then each one of us challenged each other. Once we were in first grade we each had the confidence to persevere through hard learning scenarios. I didn’t get a 1600 on my SATs or straight A’s, but I did get an appreciation for my ability. It’s more than tests and it’s foundational to achievements in adult life.

David Leonhardt in the NY Times is featuring a story about the power of kindergarten teachers. It’s called The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers and it highlights some research aggregated from experiments initiated almost 30 years ago. Basically the kindergarten classes in a Tennessee town were randomly assembled to take out socio-economic factors. The kids were taught and assessed for their performance. Some classes scored better than other classes comparatively. But these differences were unobservable in middle school and as the students progressed. But now that the students are 30 years old the study is looking back to see what happened. It turns out that the students in certain well performing classes on the whole are more successful adults.

Why are they more successful? The teacher! The teacher fostered a challenging environment, which I’d argue cultivated relationships, confidence, and perseverence. All of these are essential in adult life… at least more than memorizing the quadratic equation.

Here’s a blurb:

Mr. Chetty and his colleagues — one of whom, Emmanuel Saez, recently won the prize for the top research economist under the age of 40 — estimate that a standout kindergarten teacher is worth about $320,000 a year. That’s the present value of the additional money that a full class of students can expect to earn over their careers. This estimate doesn’t take into account social gains, like better health and less crime.

“The Gap is Between Doing Nothing and Doing Something”

Clay Shirky in the video below hits on themes that run throughout this blog. His 13:08 of audio/video is time well spent. He mentions:

  • Free Time
    • Couch Potatoes
    • Good at Consuming
  • Creativity – People like to create
    • Cats
  • Intrinsic Motivations
    • Kenya
    • Design for Generosity
  • Tacit Information
    • Crisis Map
  • Communal Value
  • Civic Value
  • Humor


The blog Information Is Beautiful did a fun illustration using a stat from the speech – 200 billion hours of Watching TV a year and the time spent working on Wikipedia. Quite the comparison.

What Do You Know about Your Produce?

My last entry talked about how the unemployment numbers were not evenly distributed across education bases. I don’t imagine anyone thought it would be, but my point is that those who lack an education, especially younger workers who lack experience, should be the focus of job programs. I’d like to see education and training programs help this group get meaningful jobs .

But the second part of my last entry was about how many illegal immigrants are doing agricultural work, specifically field work. There’s an idea that illegal immigrants take jobs from American’s. It’s true, but not in every case. The farming example is one where many unemployed American’s haven’t applied.

What I observed about my own thinking on the subject is that I had little idea how produce reaches my grocery store. Some of it could come from local growers and some can come from China or somewhere like that. I’m not trying to sound ridiculous, but for some reason I also think of farming like I do manufacturing – automated. For grains that is probably true, but for fruits it isn’t. Someone has to bend over and pick the strawberries, blueberries, or tomatoes .

I was recently reminded about a NYC law requiring menus at some eateries to display the calories of the dish. The idea being an informed public would make better eating decisions. The notion is correct but the implementation is off. If someone is out to eat, they are purposefully out to enjoy a meal. Calories are down the list of considerations.

What I’d like to see is a narrative on the produce like a label on a cereal box. A short factual story about how the fruit arrived at the grocer. For instance, if it came from 20 miles away I’d like to know. I;d like to know the day it’s picked. If the person who picked it is 34, a female, and works a 35 hour work week, I’d like to know that too. The idea is that if I compared a subsidized bag of apples from China, which is 30 cents cheaper to a locally grown bag, I’d probably go with the locally grown. Even if I’m price sensitive I’d still have to assume the local produce is fresher and therefore higher quality.

Narratives with data in it will help guide decisions. Once the market adjusts to this digestable (pun intended – ha ha) data format, the local demand should increase and jobs too. A win-win for everyone.

Matching a Job Opportunity with the Appropriate Labor

We are in earnings season and so it’s a reasonable time to take the pulse of the economy. Three stalwarts – CSX, Alcoa, and Intel – have already reported strong results and the expectation is for it to continue. If earnings are strong, the next question is when will jobs return?

But is it the right question? I’m not sure it is. The distribution of joblessness is not even and never really is. However, the elevated unemployment numbers are up across the board. There are some stats showing improvement, but it’s slight.

June 2009 Feb 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010
Less than a HS Diploma







HS Grad,  no college







Some college, associate degree







Bachelor degree







And the stats for young workers (under 25 years old) are very high as well.

I often comment that I feel educational resources are not worthwhile for our population of less knowledgeable workers. I generalize the group as the local workers – those that fill roles in the employment ecosystem that have to be performed in a specific location. Construction work is an example. But one angle I haven’t considered in a couple of years is the idea that certain jobs are undesirable and are left to illegal immigrants.

The United Farm Workers labor union is running a campaign called Take Our Jobs which is an effort to highlight the situation of unemployment and illegal workers. It’s easy to think these workers are taking an opportunity from an American, but the reality is the conditions are so tough that very few US Citizens will perform the work. This is literally field work in occasionally 100+ degrees for 40 plus hours a week.

These jobs, as they stand today, keep food prices low, but we can’t have it both ways. We can’t expect to end illegal immigration like what Arizona has proposed, give Americans the jobs, and keep the conditions the same. Improving conditions will entice more American applications for this work, but it will increase the cost of the output – food. Acknowledging these market forces and allowing “guest” laborers is the right path to incrementally improving the conditions and slowly making this job attractive to those that account for the 10%+ unemployed. Or maybe things just aren’t desperate enough?

Here’s a video from The Stephen Colbert Show

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Arturo Rodriguez
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Working Thoughts 7/13/09
Forest Fire Analogy

Working Thoughts 7/13/08
Potential New Addition to Working Thoughts

Opinions on the Economy for Today and Tomorrow

The jobs report came out last week and it left me utterly befuddled. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t as terrible as it appears (relatively speaking of course). There’s a certain segment of employment that has shrunk and is never coming back. A CNNMoney.com article claims it could be almost 8 million jobs. But conversely there are certain types of jobs that are going unfilled because the number of candidates to fill them are few. For instance, last week the NY Times published a story about manufacturing companies struggling to find candidates who knew how to work a sophisticated computerized machinery. And now I’m reading about something called rural sourcing. It’s mostly the same advantages as outsourcing, but it’s hiring or setting up facilities in small towns in the US. At one point taxes were such a monetary consideration that places like China and India were no brainers. But now states have wised up and they offer tax incentives to encourage these developments. The states recoup the lost business tax by having income tax from the employees and the cursory taxes associated with the business ecosystem that the facility supports. Things like gas stations, restaurants, delivery, markets, and so on.

I can only offer several educated guesses as to why the US is still in this malaise. My basic idea is that education hasn’t adequately prepared the same level of people as it has in the past. I’m not trying to romanticize it, there’s always been only a handful of people with audacious goals and the vision to accomplish it. But I feel like even that small number is currently at it’s lowest levels. Wealth creation needs these people.

My main other opinion is the spread of the rich, middle class, and the poor has widened to the brink . The US brand of capitalism needs a healthy middle class to drive supply and demand. Supply is still there, but the buying power of the middle class has been decreasing over the last 10 years. My overly simple explanation for this is the attention of the quarterly earnings report. Big businesses are not paying their workers like they used to because they are pressured to show positive results every three months. Cash is either distributed through a dividend or stashed into cash on the balance sheet. This helps the investors and the executive leadership, but does little for the average worker who ultimately buys the goods that are produced.

I’m extremely optimistic for the US in the long run though, assuming we get past the next five years. Areas like health care, energy, information and people are primed for value creating totally new opportunities. I don’t see China, India, Europe, or any other country having the resources, skill set, and ideology to accommodate these on the horizon favorable circumstances.

Working Thoughts 7/9/07
When Discipline Gets in the Way

June 2010 Jobs Report and Wages

Here are the job market and compensation numbers for June 2010 (based on the job report):

Net loss
of 125,000 jobs in the month

  • The first loss since December (2009)
  • Census workers accounted for a loss of 225,000 jobs as they rolled off the federal payrolls
  • Private sector payrolls increased by 83,000
  • Analysts expected an overall gain of 100,000
  • One year ago the US lost 515,000 jobs
  • May was revised to a gain of 433,000 jobs from an original reading of a gain of 431,000 and last month’s revision of 230,000
  • April was revised to 313,000 from 290,000
  • 6.8 million people have been jobless for more than 6 months (long term unemployed)

    • 45.5% of the unemployed are long term unemployed
    • This number held steady from last month
    • The 14.6 million people still counted as unemployed have been out of work an average of 35 weeks, a record duration in the 62 years the government has tracked that figure
  • Businesses have now added 593,000 jobs since the start of 2010, after cutting 8.5 million in 2008 and 2009 combined

Unemployment rate fell to 9.5%

  • Analysts predicted it would be 9.8%
    • 652,000 Americans left the work force creating an unwarranted positive impression
    • The Federal Reserve, in its latest forecast, predicts that unemployment will stay around 7% or above through 2012, and in the 5% to 5.3% range in the long-run

  • The unemployment population is 58.5%
  • The U-6 report, which is a broader group to count, dropped to 16.5% from 16.6%
  • PMI, a measure of manufacturing pace, is 56.2%. It was 59.7% last month. Anything above 50% means the machines are running.

Specific Segment Job numbers:

  • Manufacturing added 9,000 jobs
  • Construction loss 22,000 jobs
  • Retailers lost 6,600 jobs
  • Leisure and Hospitality Services grew by 37,000 jobs
  • Government sector lost 208,000, Federal losses were 198,000 (state and local gov slowed their layoffs)
  • Education and Health Services grew by 22,000 jobs
    • Health Care and Social Assistance grew by 16,800

  • Professional and Business Services grew by 46,000

Wage (can be revised):

  • The average weekly paycheck (seasonally adjusted) is $634.60 – a decline
  • The average hourly earning (seasonally adjusted) is $19.00 – a penny increase
  • The average hourly work week is 33.4 hours – a decline

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Report Stats Summary