Emily “fell into” recruiting and HR, as most people in it do. She had some traditional corporate jobs, but is now leading the people movement at one of the hottest digital marketing companies on the rise, Seer Interactive, as Director of Employee Development. Move over, tradition. Make way for innovation and progress. Emily gets to implement some of the newest, and even experimental, methodologies of people development, such as UNLIMITED PAID TIME OFF! Hear about Emily’s vision of how she and Seer Interactive are transforming the relationship between “Human Resources” and the people who make a company what it is.
Growing up I remember being inspired and intrigued by The Jetsons, which had an idealistic idea of the future American working culture. The Jetsons boldly proclaimed that in the 21st Century, Americans would work fewer hours and have more leisure time each week. In fact, the biggest crisis on the horizon would be the lack of working time and people not knowing what to do with all of their free time. The leisure-filled utopia predicted by those living in the 1950s and 60s never came to pass. Instead of a predicted 16-to-20 hour work week, Americans now work an average of 47 hours per week.
Working longer hours in America
When compared to other cultures, Americans tend to work longer hours and take shorter vacations. The US is also the most overworked developed nation in the world and has recently overtaken Japan in the number of hours worked per year. Working longer hours has had an interesting effect on the economy. The United States is much richer than Europe and has created more wealth because America has a higher population than Europe, and that population works longer hours. Individually, longer hours do not equal more productivity, especially if the number of hours worked extends beyond 50 hours per week. According to a CNBC article, employee output falls drastically after 55 hours per week, and around the 70-hour mark nothing more is produced. Additionally, many salaried employees putting in extra hours at work aren’t paid overtime: those extra hours are essentially “free” for the employer. The downside to employers is employee burnout, absenteeism, and higher turnover rates.
According to a DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology) research report, 1-in-6 US employees now work more than 60 hours per week. The number of American men who regularly work 48 hours per week or more has risen by 20% in the last 25 years. A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development stated that Americans are working 20% longer than they did in 1970, while the numbers of hours worked per week has fallen in other industrialized countries. The United States is the only developed country in the world that is not required to provide families with mandatory paid maternity leave, and the Family and Medical Leave Act only covers employees if they’re eligible. When compared with other countries, the situation is so bad that even comedians such as Jon Stewart can’t help but mock it. The Newsroom also addressed the issue, among many others, in a stunning response that debunks the myth of America being the greatest country in the world.
President Obama commented on America’s working culture in late June. “Too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve.” As a result, upcoming changes to federal overtime rules may curb the number of hours salaried employees can work if they make $50,440 or less per year. Either employers will have to pay overtime, or employees will work fewer hours. The changes are expected to affect 5 million workers. The Vanguard Group has already implemented these changes by reclassifying 2,100 of its salaried U.S. employees to hourly employees and the results have been mixed.
Americans and vacations
When it comes to days reserved for vacations, American culture falls behind the rest of the developed world. Compared to other countries, Americans receive an average of 14 paid vacation days per year, while France tops out at 39, the UK receives 24 days, and even Canada enjoys an average of 19 days. In some countries vacation days are mandated by law. So why do Americans work so hard and take so few vacations? The reasons are numerous and complex. A Wharton article points out that despite employees’ willingness to accept less pay for more vacation time, hours have been creeping higher for salaried workers. Employees are being asked to work longer hours because it’s cheaper than hiring new workers and unions aren’t instituted in many sectors to protest this practice. People also refuse vacations because they want to get ahead in the workplace and fear being replaced if they take all of their time off. Others fear that work won’t function without them.
The Wharton article also states that Americans’ self-worth is tied to being able to earn more and to spend more. This means bigger homes, more vacation homes, and bigger cars than European counterparts. Additionally, workaholism is a point of pride in our culture, and even while on vacation, workers still engage with the office thanks to technology.
In an attempt to retain a happier, more productive workforce, some companies have recognized the importance of making quality-of-life improvements. These employers have instituted unlimited vacation policies. As long as people are on top of their work schedules at these companies, they are able to take time off whenever they need. Seer Interactive and the Brownstein Group are two local companies with such policies. When voluntary vacation days don’t work, other employers have been known to either force or entice their employees to take time off. Some companies, such as Evernote, give employees $1000 or more to leave work for a week, while other companies require their employees to take at least two weeks of vacation a year.
Working culture in Europe
In comparison, Europeans tend to value the ability to take long vacations and disengaging from work. When a European goes on vacation, it is not uncommon for an employee to not answer phone calls or e-mail until they return. France is famous for shutting down every August as the majority of the country goes on vacation. The ability to take and enjoy leisure time is seen as a badge of pride. When I was honeymooning in New Zealand, all of the other couples on our excursions were Europeans and were on eight-week “holidays.”
Even as Americans are working longer hours, some employers have been experimenting with other ways to boost productivity. One such method is the inclusion of naps in the workplace. These employers see it as a way to counteract sleep deprivation, lost productivity, and to reduce sick time taken. Companies such as Google, Nike, and the Huffington Post are known for allowing employees to take naps when needed. In fact, Arianna Huffington had her own revelation about sleep and productivity when she collapsed after working long hours with very little sleep. Allowing for naps can also boost an employee’s productivity in the short-term with improved performance and alertness.
Working culture in Asia
There are countries with longer working hours than the United States, namely in Asia. In many Asian countries working long hours, sometimes 12 hours per day, is considered normal. In Japan, this type of workaholism is known as “karoshi” or “death by overwork.” It causes 1000 deaths per year. The country also has one of the highest suicide rates in the world as more than 25,000 people took their own lives due to stress from work, depression, isolation, and financial problems. (Fortunately, the rate of suicide has been on the decline in Japan.) In many Asian cultures, people are expected to live to work and to sacrifice their personal lives for the sake of a company. In terms of vacations, workers are reluctant to take time off. In China over 70% of workers don’t take their paid vacation time, and some workers haven’t taken a vacation in years.
Why time off matters
The implications for health and personal well-being are numerous. In my previous article, “Is Work Killing You?” I wrote about how not taking time off is detrimental to health and productivity. Long hours do not equal more productivity, and ultimately cost employers down the line with absenteeism, sick time, and high turnover. Workaholism and the fear of being seen as unproductive may have become normalized, but the quest for an ideal work-life balance is higher than ever. There are countless articles that offer advice on how to balance a working life with a personal life. If you have your own work-life struggles, these articles are great resources.
Even as forward-thinking employers seek to address the lack of vacation time in American culture with generous perks and benefits, nothing will change unless the culture changes from the top. Americans can look to other countries for ways to structure their own vacation time, but cultural issues around vacations are deep-seeded. As long as people see long work hours as a point of pride, and others fear getting behind in productivity, or being fired, change will remain sporadic and slow because leaders determine the culture and set the example. If more leaders are willing to take more vacations, it shows employees that it’s okay to take and enjoy vacation time.
In the 1950s and 60s, labor experts were certain that Americans would be working fewer hours by the 21st Century. The Jetsons, inspired by the sentiment of the time, had George Jetson working nine hours per week. The idea of working less than 20 hours a week may not have become reality (and probably never will), but a 40-hour work week is definitely a more realistic approach. After all, working more than 50 hours per week certainly doesn’t increase productivity and leads to future problems. The utopia promised by The Jetsons doesn’t have to be a nine-hour work week, but the promise of more leisure time is obtainable. Just imagine what work and leisure time would look like if more Americans worked closer to 40 hours per week and used their allotted vacation time.
One of the questions on our needs assessment form asks how long a prospective client can sustain themselves financially while they are in transition. Unfortunately, too many answer a few weeks or they are not currently sustaining themselves. They navigated their job search without a captain and became lost at sea, drowning in debt and despair. By this point, there is nothing left to invest in services such as mine (which is why we developed a whole suite of low-budget DIY tools). What’s worse, they don’t have the energy or attitude to give what is necessary to get back up to speed. Their spirit and hope are broken, watching the safe harbors of income and opportunity drift further and further away.
Job seekers who are granted unemployment compensation or severance may decide to ride the transition out, which is very much like using up whatever gas is in the tank figuring that the wind will blow you back to safety. How predictable is the wind? About as predictable as your job search results without a captain.
There are five main culprits of job search delays, which cost job seekers critical income each extra day they spend searching in vain.
Lack of Clarity
I’m going to keep this simple, because I’ve covered this extensively in the past and it probably deserves its own post in the near future: What you want matters to great companies. American companies lose $300 billion annually due to disengaged workers, so they aren’t going to believe you’ll take anything and be satisfied. They want to know why their position will satisfy you. Gone are the days where you can be everything to everyone. You have ONE LinkedIn profile, and if it doesn’t jive with your résumé, you are perceived as a risky candidate, and move down in the ranks.
Stray Bullet Résumés
Yes, most résumés fall below my standards, and many are FAR below. However, sending your résumé through online career portals is actually the bigger cause of delays. We aim to understand what kinds of results our clients had been getting with their résumés, and many take multiple interview invitations as a sign their résumé is working for them, and that can be true. That said, I sometimes find after little digging that the jobs are not at all in alignment with what they want. They are executing a reactive job search. Job seekers put their résumé out there, wait for responses, and then go on interviews because they’re offered, not because they are a fit. This leads to a lot of false beliefs about what’s possible. After a few failed interviews, they will start to believe that they don’t have the skills that are in demand right now because the feedback they constantly receive is that they are looking for something different. That’s when job seekers think they have to change their target and that they have to be to be more open and flexible, and perhaps take a step backwards in pay and level. They believe this is the faster path to employment because they’re now going for what is in demand. However, if they were more proactive in pursuing what they wanted and networked to uncover opportunities, job seekers wouldn’t have to worry about “keyword calls,” when recruiters or sourcers call candidates for skills that are buried deep within the past. Job seekers would be proactively uncovering opportunities that require the skill sets and strengths they offer. When evaluating whether your résumé is written well, don’t just evaluate whether or not you are receiving offers for interviews; evaluate how closely those jobs align with what you want and how successful you will be.
At Epic Careering, we measure success as happiness and fulfillment. You will need more than just the right keywords in your résumé to be found for the right job. Nevertheless, it takes more than a résumé to generate momentum. You may receive fewer offers for interviews from job boards and recruiters when your résumé is written for a target role and employer, but that’s not reflective of a lesser viability or availability of opportunities. Your time is valuable, especially when you’re out of work. Your outlook is invaluable. It’s dangerous to engage in job search activities that lead you to feel disappointed in the results and in yourself. If you’re spending most of your time on job boards, you’re setting yourself up for a longer transition that will not have an ideal outcome. If you are saying right now, “But I need a job, so I’ll take anything,” please refer to my last blog to understand why you’re limiting your possibilities with this approach. In the same time or often faster, you could find yourself with a really great opportunity.
Job seekers are taking the advice of the experts and are going out to network. Even smarter still, are the people who go out to network while they are not in transition. When the time comes to look for an opportunity, these people are already in a stage of momentum. However, successful networking doesn’t look like shaking a lot of hands and making superficial contacts, meeting strangers with whom you have nothing in common, and wasting your time getting to know people who have nothing for you. Please understand that I’m not telling you to be closed off to networking with anyone. I’ll be the first to tell you that you never know where your next opportunity is going to come from, and if someone is willing to sit down and talk to you and get to know you, open yourself up and see what opportunity may come. Again, when it comes to managing your time and being proactive, don’t go to just any networking event because it’s happening. You have some really good options and what is good for another job seeker may not be as good for you. I encourage you to go to events for job seekers, because employers are actively recruiting, but keep in mind you are competing with everyone else attending and it will take that much more to distinguish yourself. Make sure a bulk of your networking occurs at events related to your industry and they are attended by hiring managers from your target companies. If an executive in your target company is receiving an award at an event, buy a ticket. I promise you that a $125 ticket to a gala will give you more traction than five $25 job seeker events. Why? You will appear as someone of high caliber. You will have a level of credibility that you will not be able gain at events designed for job seekers.
Then there is what you say when you network that makes a difference. Don’t introduce yourself as a job seeker; that’s your status, not your identity. Your identity is your brand. You want to leave an audience with an impression of who you are and the value that you have to offer. You want to talk about the solutions that you offer and the people to whom you offer them. Maybe they will identify themselves as someone in need of what you have to offer, or even better, you can have them think of three other people who need what you have to offer. Wear a nice suit– you will walk a little taller and stand a little prouder. Show your audience that you take care of yourself and that you see value in yourself. No one else is going to see value in you unless you see value in yourself. You’re worth the $125 black tie event ticket!
Emily Allen of Seer Interactive, a highly sought after employer due to their trusting culture and unlimited vacation policy, stated in our Epic Career Tales podcast interview that one thing she wished every job seeker knew was how important it was to research the company. A company like Seer Interactive takes pride in what they do and they want to hire people who are going to be just as enthusiastic. Enthusiasm isn’t something you state; it’s something you demonstrate. The only authentic way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for a company is to take the time to research what they’re up to, who their thought leaders are, what their challenges are, their plans to overcome them, and how you fit in with their solutions. If you fail to do this research, you fail the interview. Too many of these failed interviews lead to frustration, a diminished sense of self-worth, and false beliefs about what’s possible in your job search. It doesn’t matter how many interviews you earn if you’re just racking up failures. You would rather have three or four successful interviews than a dozen failed interviews. If you follow this track record, you also become susceptible and fall prey to companies that don’t care about you or what you want.
The Shoo-in Trap
We’ve addressed before how easy it can be to stop your job search efforts once you have one or two great opportunities, but that is a trap. You might have received strong indications that you’re the front-runner for a position, and still anything can happen. You better believe that the company has continued to make sure they have a backup candidate just in case anything happens to you, and you would be wise to continue your job search efforts. Killing your momentum by quitting your job search activity will mean that you have to start over from scratch should anything fall through, and in my experience as a recruiter, things fall through most of the time. As much as you want to believe you are a shoo-in for a job, you cannot just go by great feedback. It only takes one person’s feedback to alter the course of a hire, and any type of organizational shift will change what they need and want. Until you have an offer letter, have decided to sign and accept an opportunity, continue your QUALITY job search efforts.
Consider me your career captain, experienced and trusted to make sure everything is ship-shape– the weather looks good, the provisions are stocked, the fuel is planned out, and the destinations are mapped. If you hire me as your captain, you will avoid many travel risks that can cause delays in your arrival. Additionally, you are sure to have all you need to enjoy your voyage and your destination.
Without me, you will either have to spend your time prior to departure learning the equipment, relying on questionable meteorological instruments, shopping for the provisions, checking the motors and sails, and planning out your navigation. Or, you can learn as you go, risking big mistakes that will take you far off course.
Now imagine that your voyage is a professional one, and each day you spend lost at sea instead of in port, you lose money. What investment do you think is worth arriving safely where you can make money? One day’s pay? One week’s pay? If you land one week sooner, that’s one more week’s worth of income. What if you land in half the time? Based on the generally accepted industry formula, you can expect to be in transition one month for every $10K of salary. I’ve never found this formula to be accurate, as my clients have landed in half the time, and often sooner. I have had many executive clients land within a month, and I have had clients with serious challenges who spent 8 months or more searching prior to engaging me as their captain land within 2 months after we set sail.
☞ Make more money
☞ Help me find me a job
☞ Help me find me a career
☞ Show me how to make my dream come true
☞ I want more interviews
☞ I want more confidence in interviews
☞ I want better results in less time
☞ I need more job leads
☞ I need more client leads
☞ To learn how social media can accelerate me toward my goals
☞ A more professional image
☞ I need help finding focus
☞ I want to upgrade my IT career
☞ I want to explore jobs and careers in X
We have product and service packages to suit almost any professional endeavor, OR we can customize a package just for you.
E-mail us at info@epiccareering to receive a needs assessment form.
You can also download this form on our Job Seekers page.