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Monday, May 28, 2012

Initiating innovation

Holidays...





The perfect time to relax, spend time with loved ones and friends, and enjoy good food; however, for the college student, college graduate, graduate student, or young professional, it is the opportune moment to brainstorm, meditate, and strategize.  Each individual averages three or four creative ideas per year that are worth millions.  Those $ millions never come to fruition, because we leave those ideas and dreams as such.  Thus, down-time like holidays allow you to use this relaxed period of time to "flesh out" those previous ideas or enables time to generate new ideas.  

The way to financial freedom will rarely be accessible as an employee for a single company, rather through entrepreneurship and self-employment.  Do not quit your day job, even if you hate it,  right away, rather allow your side ventures, part-time business(es) to replace your current income.  Once your business income replaces your employee income, the uncertainties of steady income are greatly diminished.  

Do not make the same mistake I made in 2011.  In 2011, I was frustrated with the ineffectiveness and ignorance of administration at a local high school within the Memphis City Schools district. Once I realized that I was working for a leader who did not have his teachers' back, I knew my days were numbered.  Instead of continuing to maintain my employment there, I resigned and pursued my carpet-cleaning business full-time.  I placed too many eggs in one basket.  I often grew frustrated as some days my phone would not stop ringing with potential clients, and other days I wondered if my phone was even powered on.  

What I should have done was to continue teaching full-time and slowly, steadily built my cleaning business part-time.  The key is not to rely on your business for income initially.  Most businesses take an average of five years before they start to generate any profit depending on the business.  By depending on my first-year business to take off and bring back income immediately, I was setting myself up for failure.

The good news is that God does not make mistakes.  Everything happens for a reason.  That error was financially costly, but valuable because it gave me wisdom, experience, and hindsight.  Now as I grow my academic writing service, I do not depend on it for income.  I do not spend hundreds of dollars in advertising.  I spend nothing in advertising or marketing.  I simply mention my writing practice via Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin.  I build my client base through high quality work, word of mouth, and trust.  Because I am doing something that fits my personality (autonomy and independence), my skills (research, reading, and writing), and goals and values (building a successful business and practicing ethics while ghostwriting for college students), this is the perfect self-created, fulfilling, profitable work.  It has not replaced my primary income stream as of yet, but I am determined to make this a success through my own means and beliefs.  

Subsequently, once we know ourselves well enough (intrapersonal awareness), we can identify those opportunities that were authentically meant for us.  This will enable us to create steady, consistent multiple streams of income as we bypass the economy and Wall Street downfalls towards reaching our own financial, spiritual, family, physical goals towards self-actualization, our divinely orchestrated apex.  

Follow me @blackscholaronl

Friday, May 25, 2012

It is okay to fire your boss and employer


If your current job or organization is not right for you, get out!  Now! But wait, you say that you have bills, well then you should begin to plan an exit strategy now.  

Identify your talents, dreams, and personality traits.  What are your three strongest areas of competency?  Revise your resume to reflect those competencies and be able to tell your story on why you are awesome.  Start researching companies you would love to work for, identifying 30-40 organizations.  Do further research and find out the names and titles of the hiring managers in your respective city.  Next, send an introduction letter that allows the hiring manager to know who you are.  After that, send your resume and cover letter to the hiring personnel a week after you have sent your letter.  The next step is to contact the hiring personnel by phone.  Ask for an interview.  Do further research about the company and be able to state how you fit in that organization and be knowledgeable about their products, service, failures and successes.  After the interview if you are still interested, send a thank you letter and continue to follow up until a decision has been rendered.  

That is how you fire your boss.

Regardless of the economy, outstanding organizations are always looking for outstanding talent.  Is that you?  If so, if your boss is a jerk, if your company promises one thing but breaks that promise, you have the option to leave.  John G. Miller, popular speaker and author, states either "believe or leave."  Thus if you do not believe that your current job is a good fit or that your boss is a good leader, you have the option to leave.  No one makes you work there.  Be accountable for your life.  This is your journey, your happiness, your health, and your life.  Accountability is an empowering act and process.  Take a risk in your life; express how you feel in your organization.  If you are not happy, express it, and find out if you can change your working conditions.  If you cannot, fire your boss and employer.  Success is designed, created, and reached by you, and only you (with recognition to God).  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Looking inward: What I learned from college



As difficult as it may be, before you decide on a major or your career direction, you must ignore everything and everyone with the exception of this blog, of course.  Tim Ferris, author of the best-selling career advice book The Four Hour Work Week, advises everyone to minimize the superfluous information that many of us commonly digest on a daily basis.  That means limit the social networking, the celebrity gossip, the fashion magazines, and the reality shows.  By cutting down on “mental junk food,” you enable your mind to be able to focus on you.  Before you can make this important decision about your life and future, you must be cognitively clear and ready to learn about yourself.
Examining Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, social scientists agree that human beings have basic needs:  food, shelter, clothing (physiological), safety and social interactions (friends and family).  After those basic needs are met, humans begin to ponder the deep, reflective questions in life:  “What is my purpose on Earth?”  That is the level of thinking and internal-searching you must endure to reach an authentic picture of yourself.
Thus, you will want to focus on your intrapersonal awareness.  Answer the following questions:  
    • Who am I?
    • What is my calling?
    • What is the recurring theme of my life?
Next, you want to focus on your personality traits.  Answer the following questions:  
    • Am I an introvert or an extrovert?
    • Do I respect authority?  Do I like taking directions?
    • Do I need structure or do I desire total autonomy and freedom?
The third area of focus is your skills and abilities.  Answer the following questions:
    • What talents do I possess?
    • What skills do people recognize that I possess?
    • What abilities do I enjoy doing?  
    • What do I love to do?  
Lastly, you should write down your dreams, visions, and goals.  Answer the following questions:
    • If money was not a factor because you had all the money you would ever need, what would  you do as a career?
    • What are your personal and family values?
    • What career would reflect the lifestyle you want to live?  
Answer the aforementioned questions will give you a clear look at who you are.  Highlight a few skills, values, and traits you possess.  Pick a major and potential career that would reflect your authentic self.  
On the contrary, you will encounter many peers that do not know what they want to do with their lives.  You are ahead of the game.  Remember that this is a process that you constantly revisit.  As you grow older, your interests, personality, and skills may change.  Aim to stay in tuned with yourself and make adjustments accordingly.  Continue to reach towards self-actualization, and be comfortable in the decisions you make.  Your destiny is controlled by you, not the economy, not the weather, and not your degree.  The most important lesson I learned from college was self-discovery.


Additionally, I have exciting news.  I am now writing for Parentsandcolleges.com, a resource for parents of college bound students. Please, come visit the site.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stop settling

 Michael Francis McElroy/Getty Images

Action

     If we do not do anything with our lives as students and young professionals, we must do one thing: take action. Simply having a vision for greatness is not enough. 


Learning is great. I do it frequently. But simply reading new books, listening to more podcasts, and taking new classes eventually reaches pointless abyss if you are not applying that information to life.  Do not be afraid to fail.  The most successful people in our society have failed multiple times.  Oprah dropped out of college and begun her career as a entry-level news reporter. Barack Obama lost his first campaign in the state of Illinois. Will Smith nearly went bankrupt after beginning his rap career. Jay-Z did not release his first album until he was well into his late 20s, and that album barely sold anything in its first years of existence. Point being, you do not need permission to make your life better.  


Your destiny lives within your hands. If you have a business idea, write a business plan today. If you want to write a book, start a blog writing about the subject matter of your future classic. If you want to sing or rap, start looking for producers or learn how to play an instrument. Subsequently, we only have one life to live. Be proactive towards reaching your dreams and visions. No one owes you anything and no one will give you a handout. You have to work towards success, aggressively.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Employee burnout, and how can you avoid it

 (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Employee burnout, look closely, it is surfacing underneath the hardwood desks or metal cubicles in your office.  I first encountered employee burnout during my undergraduate years at Tennessee State University.  I was working full-time at Asurion Insurance, a wireless device insurance company based in Nashville.  Within the technical support department, there was mandatory overtime.  Management would walk around our desks and get us to sign up for additional overtime.  If we refused to sign, we would be written up.  

The linchpin in me now would surely have handed in my walking papers immediately; instead, I promptly signed up as I was eager to milk them of the time-and-a-half they would have to pay me and my technical support cohorts.  Fast forward two weeks later, I was on a customer phone call early in the morning (I am not a morning person).  I usually worked afternoons and evenings, but since this new overtime became available, here I was, tired, cranky, and ready to go home.  I had been working 50 to 60 hours a week since the overtime policy began.  I snapped at the dissatisfied customer as I could barely understand his loud, obnoxious complaints.  After a meeting with my supervisor and his manager, I pretended everything was okay.  A few days after that meeting, I turned in my resignation letter.  I literally hated the sight of that building.  It affected my happiness outside of work; I experience a mini-breakdown.

Burnout is defined as a syndrome of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion coupled with feelings of low self-esteem or low self-efficacy, resulting from prolonged exposure to intense stress, and the strain reactions following from them.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost two percent of full-time workers quit their jobs in the private sector as of March 2012.  That number is gradually rising.  This hints at probable burnout as many Americans have had to reevaluate their priorities and values especially with the widespread job uncertainty.

According to the American Psychological Association, stress causes health-related consequences including heart disease, backaches, ulcers, headaches, cancer, diabetes, lung disease, appetite disorders, depression and more.  

The serious negative consequences of stress and burnout had prompted some companies to take action; however, if you do not work for a company that has organizational compassion, you should be proactive towards reducing stress and preventing potential burnout.  

Here are some suggestions of preventing burnout on the job:

  • Social support group: Being around people who genuinely care for you may boost your self-esteem, allow you to vent, and give you the necessary attention you may be psychologically starving for.  
  • Exercise:  Living a healthy lifestyle has an important impact on all factors of life.  
  • Manage time:  prioritizing your activities will relieve stress as you focus on urgent tasks.  Structuring your time to complete each activity should be followed by social interaction and rest periods.  Never try to work through a long task without taking multiple breaks and periods of relaxation.  
  • Sleep:  By allowing your body and mind the opportunity to recharge, you greatly reduce the probability of stress.  
  • Work-life balance:  Work should not be the most important factor in your life.  Work should not control the majority of your time.  It is important that you balance spirituality, physical fitness, mental wellness, family, hobbies, education, sleep, and work equally.  We are living organisms who need balance to maximize our abilities; we are not robots.  Work is a reflection of the life we choose to live, not the other way around.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been do; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

Reasons why you are an employee and not an entrepreneur

  1. You are risk adverse.  Some people are natural born risk-takers, myself included.  Some others are not.  When you get tired of being tired, when you demand more from yourself and want a better life, you too will roll the dice to reach personal fulfillment and overall success.  Until then, continue punching the clock and following someone else's vision, mission, and instructions.  I am sure you are making them very rich.
  2. You want a simple life.  I admit, owning a business is hard work.  I have seen my grandfather do it for years.  My grandmother left a well-paid insurance company when I was young and began several profitable, fulfilling projects to lead her into old age.  She is still doing quite well for herself.  When you run a business, whether it's part-time or full-time, you are responsible for payroll, advertising, marketing, customer service, taxes, etc.  That is a lot of work for one person to do.  But there are intelligent ways to do so, which will be explored later.
  1. You do not want to pay business expenses.  As stated in number two, running a business requires you to manage payroll and taxes.  FICA, health insurance, retirement accounts, and taxes are expensive.  Major employers pay a lot of money as the the insurance costs are continuously rising.  If having to pay for every piece of equipment you use like a computer or a stapler scares you, continue to be an employee.
  2. You need structure.  Kids are not the only group of human beings that need structure. You need a set, predetermined schedule with repetitive tasks.  Who cares if you are bored out of your mind?  You show up to work, you do some work, you go home, and you will receive a small reward at the end of every two weeks.  That is why is called the rat race.  You are running in a maze.
  3. You are happy living paycheck to paycheck.  After the rent or mortgage, car note, car insurance, groceries, magazine subscriptions, cable, cellphone bill, gym membership, and student loans (for young professionals), how much disposable income do you have left?  Do you have enough to invest  with?  Do you have enough to save at least 10-20 percent?  How much gas do you have in your tank?  Do you need to buy any new clothes for a special occasion or upcoming career opportunity?  To participate in this society is expensive.  Sometimes it feels like your every moment has to be focused on generating income.  But, if you only work a job, that leaves you highly vulnerable to losing everything, because you possess one income source.  I recommend you look at various ways of building multiple income streams.  Here are a few for your thoughts:  
    • Starting a lawn mowing service that operates only on the weekends
    • Renting carpet cleaning equipment and operating a carpet cleaning service part-time
    • Delivering newspapers
    • Creating music and selling your art on ITunes or Amazon
    • Selling used but dry-cleaned clothing on Ebay
    • Selling books on Amazon and Ebay
    • Starting a part-time catering service to college students in your respective city or town
    • If you are in graduate school, you could sell snacks before class and during breaks (trust me, graduate classes are long and tiresome at night, a good snack is always needed)
    • Creating an e-book or a self-published book and allowing it to sell online 24 hours a day (you can make money while you sleep)
    • Consulting work (do you have an expertise that others could learn from?)
    • Speaking engagements
I am not advocating for everyone to quit their day job, especially if you have large responsibilities and expenses.  However, I am asking you to think differently about your life and your work.  Working for a single company will not bring you wealth.  Perhaps you have a skill that will be an asset to several companies on a part-time basis.  You could leave your full-time job, and generate more money with more free time and flexibility then by working as an employee for a single company.  We are all entrepreneurs, but it takes a special person to act on faith in creative ways in pursuit of reaching financial freedom and career success.

Career Personality & Aptitude Test

Here is a link to a helpful career personality and aptitude test.  As you begin soul-searching for your authentic self and work you love, you should take psychological surveys, exams, and assessments to obtain a clear picture of what kind of work you desire that will make you ridiculously happy.  http://psychologytoday.tests.psychtests.com/take_test.php?idRegTest=3242
Another useful link to personality profiles that includes your dreams, ambitions, skills, values, etc. is Dan Miller's Profiles.  I discovered I am an Eagle.  What are you? 48 Days Profiles

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What great organizations do differently, and how you can get a position



Great organizations are created by bright, insightful visionaries like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. Being a visionary is part of the battle, it takes great leadership to carry out that vision. Great leaders set borders for their employees and trust their employees will succeed within those parameters; competent employees need autonomy. They follow Douglas McGregor's Theory Y, the belief that employees are intelligent, productive, and responsible within the appropriate work environments and support systems. As many Americans find themselves seriously disliking and loathing the workplace, it is astonishing that there exists a large number of companies that are focused on employee satisfaction.

The chart featured above is based on Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. As human beings, we all have basic needs: clothing, food, shelter, social connections, etc. The bottom three areas, love/belonging, safety, and physiological, are the basic needs we all seek as living organisms. After those basic needs are met, we seek esteem and self-actualization (reaching the apex of being truly comfortable in one's own skin). Regardless of where you currently are on this spectrum, we all strive to find work we love. When a person is truly in love with the work he or she may do, it influences all factors of life including family, spirituality, creativity, health, etc.

Subsequently, great organizations recognize that employees possess individual goals. These organizations possess organizational goals. Rather than ignoring their employee wants, desires, and ambitions, successful companies seek in-depth information about their employees and design a work environment and company culture that matches those goals and desires (think Zappos.com). For example, Publix Super Markets offer on-site childcare for only $130 per month. For parents who are seeking safe, educational, trustworthy, and reasonably-priced childcare, this is a major perk for employees. This reduces stress for single parents and parents in general. Reduced stress leads to more creativity and productivity (do not be stressed by a job).

Many companies state that their respective companies advocate for employee work-life balance; however, few companies actually implement this practice. Not all organizations practice what they preach. Worldwide pet-testing laboratory, Idexx, based in Maine with labs all over the globe, is one such company. An employee of the company in 2012 desired to reduce his work schedule to four days a week so he could balance working third-shift with his graduate studies and family time. Despite featuring this option within the employee handbook, the company has barely reacted to his request for less time at work. Additionally, instead of creating a pay structure based on results, the company forces employees to stay until the very last minute of their work schedule even if the actual work is done. They supplement the additional time by giving the employees additional assignments outside of their job descriptions ("busy work").

Great companies reward their employees for their hard work. They create positive work environments with flexible scheduling, because they understand that happier employees are more productive and creative.

So if you are interested in working for a company that allows you to work from home, provides inexpensive on-site childcare, pays 100 percent of your health insurance, practices work-life balance, pays for sabbaticals, or offers unusual perks, here is what you should do:


  • Soul-search: What is it that you love to do? What were your dreams as a child? If money was not a factor, what would you do for free as much as you could? What is your personality? Do you like to work with people or are you a loner? Do you have high technical skills? Do you speak well? Do you enjoy writing? What are the recurring themes in your life? Going through this process myself, I realized that I enjoy working alone with opportunities for collaboration. I love writing, and would do it every single day if I could. I would love to publish books, and travel to meet new fans, and to be able to speak to audiences about my passion and knowledge. What is it that you truly love to do? Note: College career centers and university psychology departments are great resources to utilize psychological profiles and assessments to discovering the type of person you are and the type of work you are meant to be doing based on your unique talents, values, and traits. 
  • Identify three strong areas of competency: Author Dan Miller of 48 Days to Work You Love advocates that you can truly find work you love if you identify the three strongest areas of competency that you have and that you want to continue doing moving forward. This is a way of being authentic to yourself. Those areas could include the following: accounting, cash-handling, customer service, typing, brainstorming, writing, public speaking, interior designing, sewing, cooking, shopping, data entry, etc. My three areas of competency are writing, management and teaching. I am strongly interested in finding or creating opportunities to earn a living through my writing, leadership (management), and ability to explain complex information (teaching). 
  • Revise your resume: Your new resume should clearly identify your three strongest areas of competency preferrably in a functional method. This will be key if you are a potential career changer as you desperately seek work that you will love. 
  • Identify 30 to 40 target companies: You need to match your personality, goals, competencies, values, and desired lifestyle to a litany of companies that could benefit from your skill set and interests. For example, on my list of target companies, I listed CNN, GQ Magazine, Mattel, The New York Times and Coca Cola. I enjoy the products of these companies. I know that each respective company values creativity and employs writers and leaders. I presume that my skill set would be beneficial to each company, and that each company could offer me the lifestyle I want through an alliance. For example, I desire a lifestyle of comfort, balance, and family, thus I want to work for an organization that values work-life balance. Through further research, I would discover if any one of these companies do in fact value families and relaxation. So to truly create a strong, viable list of target companies, you will need to utilize business directories, surveys, and the Better Business Bureau to research the hidden variables of these corporations. I utilize CNN Money's 100 Best Companies to Work list. Note: Be aware that you may find better opportunities by creating self-employment or business ventures. 
  • Make your interest known: Using Dan Miller's 48 Days to the Work You Love process, begin researching the hiring managers information so you can send an introductory letter displaying your interest, then follow that up with a resume and cover letter within four days of sending the introductory letter. After sending the resume and cover letter, you will want to make telephone contact with the hiring person to schedule an interview. During the interview, sell yourself, smile, be confident, show enthusiasm and know as much about the company as possible through your research. Let the hiring manager(s) know that you are a competent professional who knows his or her strengths and can explain how those strengths will improve the company and help it reach its goals. Remember the interview is a two-way process. If you detect that the company or job is not a good fit, be honest with the interviewer. You do not want to waste your time or theirs. 
  • Marketing principles: You want the hiring manager(s) to recognize your name as companies want consumers to recognize their brand. You are reaching out for a position that is not advertised. This drastically reduces the competition you will face. Only 12 percent of jobs available are actually advertised. Thus, there is an abundance of opportunities available to those with tight connections and networks. The best opportunities are not viewed on popular job search sites Monster, Indeed, Snagajob, or Careerbuilder. You can bypass that by being aggressive, professional, competent, and organized. Follow up any interview, which, you still have interest in joining by sending a thank-you letter and continuing contact until a decision has been made. Lastly, be open to future opportunities even if you were not hired for the discussed position. First impressions typically lead to future opportunities. 
As a scholar, you worked hard to earn decent grades and to reach the elusive "American Dream." As technology continues to increase and the global economy continues to stagger, excellent jobs are difficult to find (but you want more than a job, you are fulfilling your calling, your vocation). By identifying your true calling, listening to God, revisiting your childhood dreams, and establishing the type of lifestyle you wish to have, you are being authentic to yourself. Only then can you begin finding or creating work that you love. It saddens me to see millions of Americans hate their jobs when they spend so much time at work. Hating your job can lead to enhanced stress, poor health, mental breakdowns, and bad habits like smoking or over-eating. Loving your job increases your enjoyment and happiness in life, holistically. By knowing who you are as a person, you will reject anything that does not match you. Stop looking at jobs advertised online, and start soul-searching, extract those skills you possess, and advertise those skills to companies that will value your predetermined lifestyle. This type of thinking is abstract, unorthodox. True success involves more than money, but you can reach financial success too if you follow this process. You have nothing to lose, so let the soul searching begin.

Follow me on Twitter: @blackscholaronl