Move for Money?

Anita,

I heard on the news that lots of states now have higher minimum wages. Should I quit my entry-level job and move to one of these states to make more money?

Dear, Show Me the Money,

MoneyIt is true that there have been a number of states, as well as cities, who have adopted legislation raising their minimum wage above the Federal mandate.  Eleven states increased their minimum wages in 2014, and as of January 1, 2015 nine more states joined them — for a grand total of 29 states with higher than the current $7.25 federal minimum wage. Some states have scheduled increases, stepping it up gradually. See the list by state.

Before giving your notice, do your homework. Moving to another state is a big step, especially if you don’t have a support system of family and friends in your new hometown. There may be a period of unemployment while settling in, unless you are fortunate enough to work for a large company where transferring to another location is an option. Are you financially prepared with a cushion of savings for a transition period with no income?

Speaking of budgeting, the cost of living in a potential city should be a deciding factor. For instance, while San Francisco’s $11.05 hourly pay rate is higher than the minimum wage for most of California and the U.S., you’ll shell out a whole lot more of your paycheck in the city by the bay. Numbeo has a useful online cost of living comparison  tool that can open your eyes to things you might not think about, like the difference in your monthly utilities or the cost of chicken breasts at the supermarket.  State income taxes vary, too, from no state income tax in six states like Texas, to the highest rate of 13.3% in California. This calculator at WhyNotMove.org uses the difference in various taxes (including property and sales tax) to show you how much you will gain – or lose – by moving to another state.

Change – even for the good – is always stressful.  If and when you do find a new job, you’ll be the “new guy” both at work and in your personal life, hundreds or thousands of miles away from your former home.  Depending on your personality type, this can be the beginning of an exciting adventure or an overwhelming transition.

There are other ways to increase your earning potential, no matter where you live. Further your education, whether through college, a company training program (ask your supervisor about opportunities), or free and low-cost courses on the Internet. See my Back to Class post. Just going the extra mile at your current job can be a pathway to promotion and increased wages.

Readers: Would you move to another state to make better wages?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Advanced Degrees While Employed

Dear, Anita,

I currently have a demanding full-time job, and young children. I’d like to get an advanced degree so that I can obtain a better position.  Is going back to school while working doable?

Dear, Striving Student,

woman-with-booksI applaud your ambition. Furthering your education while working full-time is definitely doable, but is not for the faint of heart!

  • Explore Your Options. I’m not sure if you have your eyes on a higher position in your current company or if you are looking to jump ship after getting your next degree. Regardless, it’s a good idea to talk to your manager about your educational plans before you enroll. Some companies offer tuition assistance for a work-related graduate degree. Put together a presentation on how your degree would add value to the company.  If you are planning to go to a local college or university, you may need to ask your boss if your work schedule can be adjusted for the needed class times. An alternative is to find a grad program that allows you to take some or all of your courses online, greatly increasing a working student’s chances of success.
  • Expect to Sacrifice. Be prepared to start burning the candle at both ends. Your time management skills will be put to the test. For some helpful hints, check out my recent post Tips for Time Management. Even with a well-planned calendar, you are likely to be more stressed than your co-workers and other full-time grad students who are not working. But don’t expect special treatment on the job, or at school, because you are juggling both at once. Ask for favors, such as project extensions, as infrequently as possible. Your boss and your professor expect your performance to be the same as any other employee or student. Compartmentalize: Make sure you’re not finishing up your paper for school while on the clock at work. You’ll have to make sacrifices in your personal life, whether it is going on fewer social outings, cutting back your volunteer activities, even skipping some household chores. (There – you have my permission not to dust!)
  • Muster Your Support System. Ask for help from family and friends. Can your neighbor pick up your son from soccer practice on the nights you have to race from work to class? Can your buddy change the oil in your car to save you a half-day getting to and from the mechanic? Be creative. Offer to host study groups at your house, so you won’t have to find a babysitter. 

It may take a longer period of time to finish grad school while holding down your current job, but once you get that promotion or better job offer, you’ll have no regrets.

Readers: Have you obtained an advanced degree while working part- or full-time? Can you offer any tips on how to achieve a work-life-school balance?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Changing Jobs

Dear, Anita,

I just accepted a new position with my company and am very excited about the opportunity… yet at the same time, I’m feeling really nervous about the change. What are some ways I can overcome my fears?

Dear, “New and Nervous,”

ButterflyCongratulations on this new chapter in your career! Changing jobs is a part of life, and the fear that goes along with each change is only natural. Our human instinct is to stay within a certain comfort zone, develop habits, and stick with routines that are familiar to us. The idea of rocking the boat with change tends to heighten our anxieties and can create unwanted stress.

The key is to simply reset your frame of mind.

  1. Don’t look at change as a bad thing. This is a very exciting time for you! You need to embrace the opportunities that come with it. I often remind myself that life is not a dress rehearsal. We only get one chance to live our life (“YOLO” in Generation Y terms) – to grow, learn new things, and expand our horizons. If you find yourself stuck in a rut for any reason, it’s up to you to make a change for the better.
  2. Get through the fear of the unknown. Take a good look at what’s worrying you. Is it the money? The commute? The new routine? Make a list of all the things you’re concerned about and break down each item. More often than not, you’ll find that some of the things you’re concerned about are trivial – or anxieties you’ve built up in your head that can be easily addressed and resolved. I also think you’ll find that the things you fear most won’t actually happen to you.
  3. Live in the present. Dwelling on your past role or worrying about what your new position is going to be like will only drive you nuts. Don’t miss out on what’s happening TODAY; enjoy those feelings of anticipation and excitement. When you get into the groove of your new position, give it 100%.
  4. Be resourceful. The fact that you’re starting a new position with the same company gives you the upper hand. Most people go through the same jitters – and they’re starting fresh out the gate with little or no experience with the company or environment. Take advantage of the people and resources available to you. Most of your doubts and concerns will quickly fade away as you engage in your new position. Ask questions along the way, and learn everything there is to know about the role and what is expected of you. Once you have a clear picture in your head, you will quickly get into a new rhythm and find yourself in a new routine that works for you (just like the one you’re accustomed to now!)

All in all, change is good, and the time you spend at work should be stimulating, invigorating, and exciting. A friend once told me that if you don’t feel those little butterflies in your stomach anymore in your current role, then it’s time to make a change. So get out that butterfly net and go for it!

Best Wishes,

Anita

Readers: How have you handled the uncertainty that comes with either a promotion or a new job?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Putting a Stop to Stealing

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

Employee theft has become a topic of discussion lately at my company, as we are evaluating how to reduce costs and increase profitability. What tips do you have to help prevent and stop theft in the workplace?

Stealing 2Hi, Office Police:

Theft in the workplace costs businesses massive amounts of money every year. A package of pens here or there could seem pretty harmless, right? Wrong. If you start to think that your employees wouldn’t possibly steal from you, well think again.

American Databank estimates that:

  • Employee theft costs U.S. companies over $120 billion a year.
  • 95% of all companies are victims of theft.
  • Only 10% of employee theft is actually discovered.
  • Over 2 million crimes occur in the workplace annually.

These statistics are hard to swallow but are important to keep in mind when deciding to develop a stringent anti-theft policy. Here are my tips to help prevent these problems from even making their way into your workforce.

  • Conduct pre-employment screenings. This includes verifying experience, contacting references, conducting criminal background checks, and administering drug tests. As Stealinghard as it is to believe, up to 40% of information on applications and résumés is falsified or misrepresented. Companies like Select Staffing conduct extensive screenings before placing seekers on assignment with a client.
  • Develop and clearly post your zero-tolerance theft policy. Ensure that all employees are informed of your expectations and the consequences of stealing or ignoring theft by other co-workers.
  • Install surveillance cameras in areas that are prone to theft. These areas could include your supply/stock room, employee break room, parking lots, sales floor, or back office. These alone are a huge deterrent to thievery.
  • Implement several steps of controls and auditing into your standard routine. Have reports created and pulled that evaluate inventory levels and cash inflows/outflows.
  • Have auditors from an independent agency audit and evaluate your financial records.
  • Only hire bonded employees for positions where they will manage company finances and inventories. This will protect your company in the event of loss through the employee’s actions.

Employers and managers, what do you do to prevent theft in your place of business? Have you had to terminate an employee for stealing?

Best wishes,

Anita

Time Theft: Is It Really a Crime?

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

One of my co-workers always shows up to work right at 8:00 a.m. and clocks in. After she makes her mark on the time card, she is out the door to park her car in the lot down the street and then to the cafeteria to get breakfast. By the time she actually starts working, it is at least 30 minutes past. Is it just me or is there something seriously wrong with this picture?

Dear, Time Sensitive:Time

What a great question! This applies to everyone from employees and supervisors to managers and business owners. Your belief that this practice is unethical is spot on. The official term for this type of behavior is “time theft.” Time theft happens when an employee is paid by their employer for work that has not actually been done. Many people may not even know they are doing something wrong but, in reality, they are costing their employers thousands of dollars a year.

There are a few types of time theft that everyone should be aware of. Your employees, co-workers, and even you may be guilty of time crimes.

  • Time Clock Theft: Employees who do not show up for their scheduled shift and have a friend clock in for them are committing time card fraud. This can also include our reader’s co-worker who comes in to work and clocks in but gets to work later than the start of hershift. Most of us are not being paid just to be in the building. We are paid to work and produce results. Forging time sheets to show additional hours worked is another way that unethical employees are trying to cheat the system.
  • Excessive Personal Time: Most managers and employers understand that their employees have lives outside of their jobs that may require attention during work hours from time to time. But when this becomes a routine, that is where the time theft concern arises. Non-work-related calls, emails, personal discussions, and social networking are the primary time wasters that are making employers pay the price.
  • Over-Extended Breaks: Employees are due a break or two during their shift according to federal labor laws. The most common instances of time theft occur when employees either take more breaks than allotted during their shift, do not clock out for breaks that they take, or extend the break time without making up the time.
  • Using Sick Time Inappropriately: Sick time is set aside to help employees in the event that they are ill and cannot be at work. Sometimes, employees will use these days to receive pay when they are taking a personal day off.

For a better understanding of how much these small actions can affect your productivity and profitability, take a look at the following chart from Acroprint. It shows how much arriving even five minutes late and leaving five minutes early can cost employers on a typical, full-time (250-day) work year.

Number of employees

2

5

10

25

50

Hourly Pay

Cost/Minute

Profit Loss

$8.00

$0.1333

$1,333

$3,333

$6,667

$16,667

$33,333

$12.00

$0.20

$2,000

$5,000

$10,000

$25,000

$50,000

$15.00

$0.25

$2,500

$6,250

$12,500

$31,250

$62,500

As you can see, even a small bending of the time rules can cost employers thousands of dollars.

While I applaud you for doing the ethical thing and not committing time theft yourself, I do suggest that you keep your co-worker’s behavior to yourself. Eventually, your supervisor will catch on and the employee will have to face the consequences. It is best to only be concerned with your work ethic and your performance. These issues typically work themselves out in the end.

Readers, do you find time theft occurring in your workplace? What would you do if you noticed your co-workers bending or breaking the rules and committing time crimes?

Best wishes,

Anita

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Declining a Job Offer Professionally

A reader writes…

Good Morning, Anita:

I have great news to report! After searching high and low for job opportunities, I was able to get not one but two job offers. I have taken both into consideration and analyzed the pros and cons of each position. Now that I have made my decision, I need to tell the other employer that I am not going to take their offer. How can I politely decline the position so as not to burn any bridges for the future?

Dear, Job Offer Juggler:

Congratulations on this exciting news! It is always great to hear from readers who have successfully found employment. For all you out there on the hunt for a new job, this is proof that you can and will find something!

Job offerAs for your question, I think that it is very important for your professional reputation to politely decline the other job offer. Just as you do not want potential employers to leave you hanging, you should show them the same courtesy. Who knows, the hiring company may have a future position you are interested in pursuing, and you do not want to sour a positive relationship.

Just as we previously discussed in my post Thank You for the Interview, it is important to be courteous and professional with your communications to the hiring manager. This will most likely be the last chance you have to leave an impression on them, and you want it to be a good one. Below are some rules to follow for declining the offer.

  • Use the appropriate means of communication. If you have been working with the hiring manager through email, you can  respond in that format. In some instances, a formal letter and even a phone call may be more appropriate. Choose  to communicate the news in whichever way  is more relevant to your experience.Job offer2
  • Take the time to plan your message. At this point, the hiring manager has spent a lot of time considering you for the position, and you need to be respectful of this. A well thought out message will show that you greatly appreciate the offer and will leave a more positive impact.
  • Be prompt with your response. Once you have made the decision to decline their offer, you need to let them know. They will have to make other arrangements and contact other candidates when you refuse, so try to make this process as timely as possible.
  • Keep the details to a minimum. The employer does not want to hear about how much better the other offer is. Let them know that you were impressed by their company and that you took all aspects of the offer into serious consideration before making your decision. A great “out” is that the job opportunity was not the best fit for you at this time.
  • Keep it short and sweet. There is no need to carry on about how great the company is and how much you wished it would have worked out. Think of it like ripping off a Band-Aid.

A great site to look at for examples and different ways to craft your letter can be found at Harvard Business Review blogger Jodi Glickman’s post Turning Down a Job Offer. It does a great job of laying it out for you, so take advantage of her advice!

Job seekers and employees, what would you do if you were offered two or more positions?

Managers and business owners, how would you like a possible candidate to break the bad news to you?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Importance of Annual Résumé Updates

A reader writes:

Hi, Anita:

I have been working at my current job for about two years. From the time that I started until now, my job responsibilities have grown. Even if I am not planning on leaving my current position, should I keep updating my résumé? If so, how often?

Dear, Résumé Refresher:Annual Updates 2

Thank you for your question! Keeping your résumé up-to-date is very important to your current and future career success. Creating a résumé that is high quality and worthy of attracting future employers takes a lot of time and effort to produce. Don’t let the cobwebs build up and cover up what made you shine in the first place. Even if you are not planning on making a job change anytime soon, it is important to keep your CV current and include your recent accomplishments and duties. With the way the employment market and economy has been over the past few years, it is always good to be prepared in the unfortunate event that you are laid off.

As a good rule of thumb, everyone should plan on updating his or her résumés at least every six months. Be sure to include recent accomplishments, newly bestowed responsibilities, and anything important that is representative of your current position. If you have joined new professional organizations or become involved in new community groups, be sure to include this as well. It is important to add these as you go along because we all have a tendency to forget important details. What will also be helpful is to make what I like to call a “kudos” file. In this file, you can keep copies of performance reviews, recommendations, or testimonials to show how great of an employee you are!

Annual UpdatesAnother thing to do is to review job postings that are similar to your field and pick out the important buzzwords. With the high number of companies using keywords to filter out unqualified applicants, it is an important step to add a few to your résumé. In the chance that your dream job comes knocking at your door, you won’t find yourself scrambling to have a strong and relevant résumé.

By staying on top of your CV now, you will be in better shape later, prepared for anything that may come your way! If you need more advice on how to make sure your résumé stands out from the crowd, see my post Reasons for No Résumé Responses for tips.

Here is a great video about  how to update your résumé effectively!

Readers, how often do you update your résumé? What tips do you have for making your résumé the leader of the pack?

Best wishes,

Anita

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Thank You for the Interview

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

I was fortunate enough to land an interview at a manufacturing plant close to where I live. I am very excited about the possible opportunity to gain employment with this company and want to leave them with a lasting impression. What can I do post-interview to continue to spark their interest?

Dear, Eager to Please:

Congratulations on your interview. Getting your foot in the door and meeting face-to-face with the hiring manager is a huge leap toward gaining employment. Now that you have aced the interview, it is time to seal the deal with a little something extra: a great “thank you” note.

Thank you notes are a great way to show how much you value the interviewer’s time and appreciate their interest in you. It also lets them know that you are serious about wanting to be their next stellar employee. In my personal opinion, thank you notes are a requirement after every interview. Follow these simple steps, and take five minutes out of your day to help land the job you desire!Thank you

  • Ask for a business card from the hiring manager before you leave the interview. You should always do this at the end of the interview to make sure you have the correct contact information and address.
  • Select a professional stationery or card on which to write your “thank you” message. Avoid unprofessional imagery or loudly designed cards. Some hiring managers may prefer email communication. In this instance, it may be appropriate to send an email. If you are unsure on which method is best, do both. Send an email and mail a hand-written letter.
  • Address the interviewer using Mr., Mrs., or Ms. For example, if you are interviewed by John Employer you would write Mr. Employer. It is best to be too formal than too familiar.
  • If you are sending a card, address the envelope and write the card by hand. This makes the card more personal and shows that you took extra time to write it just for them (not mass-produced).
  • Choose a message that resonates with the hiring manager and include some information from your interview. Below are two examples that you can use as a guide.
    • Dear, Mr. Employer: Thank you for taking the time to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity with me on (Date). I believe my previous experience and skill set make me an excellent candidate to join your team, especially since you mentioned that (Issue) was a challenge you wanted to tackle. It was truly a pleasure to meet with you, and I look forward to hearing from you. Best regards,
      (Your Name)
    • Dear, Mr. Employer: Thank you for meeting with me to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity at (Company Name). Your insights and additional information about (Job Responsibilities) were very helpful and helped solidify my belief that I am the perfect candidate for the position. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and thank you again for this opportunity. Sincerely,
      (Your Name)
  • Send the thank you card as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours of the interview. You can either send the card in the mail or hand-deliver it to the reception desk where you interviewed.

To bring these tips together, take a few moments to view this video:

This small acknowledgement will take you very far in the interview process. It will help the hiring manager remember you and serve as a reminder to your professionalism.

Readers: What have you done in the past to make an impression on a potential employer?

Best of luck,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Obamacare Effects: Employers

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

I am a small business owner with about 45 employees and have some questions about Obamacare. I have heard a lot of buzz about the subject but not much concrete information about the effects of its implementation. Can you help shed some light on how my business and I need to adapt to these changes in the law?

Dear, Unsure About Obamacare:Dr_Woman

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been on the minds of business owners and  managers across the country. Though the next round of changes isn’t scheduled to begin until January 1, 2014 (can you believe we are halfway through May already!), now is the time to get the facts straight and figure out what steps you need to take to prepare. Below are some basic points all employers and managers need to keep in mind:

  • The Affordable Care Act applies only to employers that have 50 or more employees or full-time equivalents. Because you have 45 employees, you will not be required to “pay” (a $2,000 penalty for each employee after the first 30 not covered by insurance) or “play” (and provide coverage for each of your full-time-equivalent employees) come 2014. However, if your business grows and you need to add 5 or more full-time employees, you will be subject to these rules. Note that “50 full-time-equivalent employees” means that the total hours among all full- and part-time employees equals the amount of hours worked by 50 full-time employees.
  • State exchanges will provide individuals and small employers (those with less than 200 employees) a marketplace to purchase group health coverage plans.
  • Comprehensive health plans used by employers to leverage employment deals and keep the best talent on staff are subject to an additional tax. In 2016, health benefits that are valued at $10,200 for single coverage or $27,500 for family coverage will be taxed at 40%.
  • If the health care plan you offer your employees is too expensive and exceeds 9.5% of their income, you will be subject to a hefty fine. This piece is a growing concern for employers like manufacturing firms, restaurants, and retail establishments that offer positions at a lower wage. Employers will be facing a penalty of $3,000 if the plan is deemed unaffordable or inadequate.

If your head is swimming, you’re not alone. It’s a complex law but an important one for everyone to understand, especially you as a business owner. Because I’ve also received questions about Obamacare from employees and job seekers, I’m going to be writing a series of posts on this subject over the next couple of weeks. So check back next Tuesday!

In the meantime, you might want to watch the video below, in which CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen explains which parts of health care have changed or will change soon as a result of Obama’s health care reform.

Stay well,

Anita

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Power of Productive Teams

Hi, Anita:

Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom with my team and me. We look forward to your post every week and have a question for you. What elements or structure do you need to have a highly productive and effective group of employees? We are looking to boost and build our team to the next level!

Dear, Eager Leader:

It warms my heart when I get questions from my faithful readers. There isn’t much that will put a bigger smile on my face than you all do. Okay, I’ll lay off the mushy stuff. As for your question, I have seen plenty of professional teams, both good and bad. Through my observations and research, I have whittled down the big picture to find the special ingredients for a flexible, efficient, and effective team. I hope you’ll find them beneficial.Productive_Teams_1

  • Clear goals. As a manager, you must set clear goals and expectations for your team. This will make sure that each person both understands what is expected of them and has the direction to work toward a common goal.
  • Hire competent people. If you team does not have intelligent people that possess skills to contribute to the group, you might as well hang up your hat. Good people are the driving force to being effective and productive. Remember that you are only as good as your weakest link. If you do have a weak link, do yourself, your team, and the “link” a favor and let him go. Though it may be painful at first for all parties, everyone will be better off in the end, including the terminated employee.
  • Unified commitment. Each person on your team must be dedicated to achieving the end goal and willing to put in the effort  to get there.
  • Lead by example and set standards. Set the tone for your group by your example. Only deliver high-quality work and only accept it in return.
  • Create a collaborative environment. Encourage all members of your team to give their input and contribute ideas to the group. Being open and accepting will only make your unit stronger.
  • Recognize and support. When a member of your team or the group in their entirety accomplishes a task or works through a tough problem, by all means, celebrate. Recognition is a great way to motivate your employees and keep the momentum moving.

I hope you will implement (if you haven’t already) these key elements that I believe are the foundation for amazing teams. With a strong structure, clear understanding, and mutual respect, the possibilities are endless.

Manager/Supervisors: What element of your team do you think contributes most to your success?

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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