A Money Coach in Canada

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Do you speak up on the job? Or do you keep your head down? While you might quietly believe something going on is wrong do you prefer to just keep doing your job and let The Others deal with it? Most people do, I think.

A manager of mine once made the remark, “we’re all responsible for our own eco-systems”. I think she was fed up with the griping about the senior management team. And she’s right, I think. Our work is such a vital part of our life (it’s called a livelihood with good reason!) that we hesitate to rock the boat. Yet in my experience, not speaking up, not rocking the boat, will ultimately exact its own price.

The price could be your health.

The price could be your coworker who gets taken down. (Which at first may seem like a relief, * phew! It wasn’t me *, but once they are gone … who is left? What will the fall out be and how will it affect you? Because it will.)

The price could be the company itself.

This is on my mind particularly today because of news I hadn’t heard earlier which affects pretty much all of us.
Follow this trail with me:
The global financial crisis that has us bouncing around? That was triggered by the sub-prime mortgages debacle?Those sub-prime mortgage investment bundles were given AAA status by S&P and other ratings agencies.

They should not have been. (HELLO).

Apparently S&P staff analysts would challenge the ratings given by S&P to various investments and companies, but their managers would x-nay those challenges, and it’s thought that was because the managers didn’t want to piss off those companies, who were paying them for the ratings.

End result: Pension Funds, Banks, Mutual Funds and individuals bought those sub-prime-mortage ridden investment bundles under the impression that they were AAA quality. And we know what happened. The whole western world is teetering.on.the.brink.

It’s not hard to imagine how it could have played out in the cubicles.

One nerdy math-y person, James, does the spreadsheets and the numbers just don’t add up. In fact, they’re kinda damning. So he quietly goes into his boss’s office, “uhh, boss? ” and the boss hears James out, but is secretly irritated because he knows what his own boss, the Director, is going to say and he just doesn’t want to deal with it. Nevertheless, in a low-key way he presents the findings to to the Director who as predicted shrugs it off and tells the boss that they need to rate it AAA.

So the boss does, because he’s a chain-of-command kinda guy, and James is somewhat disgusted but he’s not one to make a fuss so he doesn’t. But his stomach starts to kinda hurt, even as he rationalizes his higher-ups decisions.

Down the hall, same thing happens to Sarah. Over lunch one day, James and Sarah get to talking and find out the same thing happened to Mike on the floor above. It doesn’t feel very good.

Word gets out. They all respond differently. Most just don’t want to think about it that much and they have a lot of other work on their desks to think about anyway. Some are disillusioned but they want the paycheque. Some shift the blame “upstairs” and don’t think about it anymore at all. And some … some are weasels who are more interested in their careers than their team so they just keep their ear to the ground and relay that info up the chain in the hopes that they will become part of the club upstairs (and lo and behold, some do).

And then there was Chris. Chris had seen the movie before and was fed up so he spoke just a little more loudly. And argued a little more with his boss. And didn’t let it rest. And it embarrassed his boss. And his name started being spoken of upstairs. And then one day … he was gone.

Message received. Message received by James, Sarah, Mike and all the others who had flagged that there might be a problem with giving AAA ratings to investments that in fact were set up for disaster. Message received that their livelihoods were at stake. Message received that their company was not in fact a place of neutral ratings, but was set up to ensure profits and bonuses for the people upstairs, the ones who held the analysts’ livelihoods in their hands.
They got it.

I don’t know how they (in this imaginary, for the record, world) reacted when things went all to hell. Did they lose sleep? Did they justify it to themselves (I imagine I would)?

For every Chris in different organizations, there must be, what, 250 folks who are passively or actively complicit?

Caroline Herron, a former VP at Fannie Mae spoke up. So did an interesting accountant dude named Roger Barnes. I wonder what their coworkers did?

Senior VP of Finance at Lehman Brothers pushed back over their accounting “gimmicks” in 2008 and lost his job. I don’t believe it was coincidence that he was downsized, do you?

Joseph Kus has something to say about Merrill Lynch’s breaches of FSA regulations. It sounds like his coworkers not only kept their heads down, but actively hounded him for his audacity.

My point? There is a cost to you and me, down the road, when we don’t speak up. When we look at our ricocheting portfolios or when our property values plummet, remember the folks to tried to speak up. Remember their coworkers who looked the other way because that was easier. And then consider your own workplace and those who attempt, perhaps with finesse or perhaps in a bungling-it-up way, to speak up. Are you supporting them?

Photo Credit: Truthout

And just like that, summer was gone.
One day we were still in the high-twenties and I was debating another swim like this; the next morning I sipped my coffee inside and mourned the passing of summer that shockingly occurred overnight.

It’s improbable that summer will return up here. There’s a cool in the air that bodes: winter is coming.

Thank goodness, then, for vestiges of summer. Peaches. Pears. Plums. I’m not yet ready for wintery fare of baked goods, that’s for sure. A few more juicy bites are called for and, thankfully, still available.

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ps. I found this poem, called Plums:

They’re Santa Rosas, crimson, touched by blue,
with slightly mottled skin and amber flesh,
transparently proposing by their hue
the splendor of an August morning, fresh

but ruddy, ripening toward fall.—”So sweet,
so cold,” the poet said; but this one’s tart,
its sunny glow perfected in deceit,
as emulation of a cunning heart.

I eat it anyway, until the pit
alone remains, with scattered drops of juice,
such sour trophies proving nature’s wit:
appearances and real in fragile truce.

-Catherine Savage Brosman

Well the first thing I noticed when researching for this post is the dearth of data for Canada! Stats Canada? I could only find a piece taking us up to 2015. I mean there’s Laissez-faire, and then there’s just kinda muddling along and hoping for the best.

The States has all kinds of data and news items (I do have a wee bit for Canada, see below, and I think we can extrapolate somewhat from info about our neighbours to the south).

So — in the USA, where are the smart jobs?

Well according to a report by NPR and Wired Magazine, the bottom line is: look to businesses producing new-to-the-market products (think: GMOs, iPhone apps)

Between 2006 – 2010, drawing on data from Linked-In, the report authors discovered that the good-paying jobs were and will be found in the following fields:

Environment & Renewables jobs grew by 50%+ every.single.year (this makes me happy)

Jobs in Online Publishing and the Internet each grew by about 29% per year

Jobs in the Wireless sector grew by 18% per year.

Looking ahead to 2018, the US Bureau of Labour Stats projects that

Network systems and data analysis jobs will grow by over 50%

Home Health Aides jobs will grow by 50% (no real surprise there, given coming demographic trends)

followed closely by general Personal and Home Care Aides which will grow by 45%.

And Canada?

Career Builder says that for 2011, the in-demand jobs are:

Lawyers
Accountants
Administrative Assistants (wait. what? yes, really)
Dentists
Real Estate Agents (my armchair take is that this one won’t last)

In contrast, the Globe & Mail said the top sales (and by their inference, job) growth was …
wait for it…

didn’t cross my minda, gotta say …

was: Engine, Turbine and Power Transmission equipment manufacturing, which grew by 20.46%.
errrr – anyone know if a new plant started up or something?

My bottom line conjecture is that jobs in Health and Technology (including bio-tech) will dominate the next 10 years. Any dissenters?

Photo Credit: bgottsab

The Eco and Green-living crowd up here is pretty amazing. Backyard chickens don’t cut it; my LEED-house neighbours have goats. Free-range meat? Pshaw. Folks fish and hunt. How’s *that* for free range.

And then there are my nearly-self-sufficient friends who live on a lake, grow their own vegetables and quinoa, compost their toilet (ewwww, but it works), chop down trees (don’t judge; it’s likely cleaner than your heat source) to heat their home (bear in mind our weather drops to -40C for days on end) and the latest? Bake their bread in this solar-energy contraption. The bread was fabulous, by the way.

I don’t really dare refer to myself as frugal in comparison.

THE SOLAR ENERGY OVEN
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THE GREEN HOUSE (they also have an extensive outdoor garden)
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WHAT SURELY MUST BE THE ONLY LOCALLY GROWN CANTALOUPE
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HAND CUT AND CHOPPED. WHO NEEDS THE GYM?
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EVERY CORNER OF THE HOUSE HAS A RAIN BARREL.
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NOT SURE IF THIS IS USED. OBVIOUSLY NOT DURING MIDNIGHT SUN SEASON.
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INDEED, IT IS!
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Anxious about job security? Career coach Karen Begemann provides her third recommendation to strengthen your position in your workplace. (And by the way, if you *are* anxious about your job security, now is a great time to really get clarity on your finances. My online program, It’s Your Money, will help you do just that).
Recommendation #1 focussed on fuelling yourself to be a high value employee by knowing your why.
Recommendation #2 focussed on deepening your work-related relationships by networking

Recommendation #3: Keep Learning
Today, we discuss life long learning and how it can mobilize your career and ensure your skills remain up-to-date.
The term Life Long Learning gets bandied about quite a bit these days but it is one of the keys to staying resilient in our work. Technology keeps taking us in new directions and touches the work we all do in some way. Every field has its own evolution. Are you up to date on the direction your field is headed? If not, it may be useful to do some informational interviewing to learn more about what other professionals see as the future trends in your occupation. Just as in driving, it’s about looking well ahead so we can proactively plan maneuvers and avoid potential hazards. A couple of on-line labour market resources that show trends in different industries are BC Work Futures and Working in Canada.

Think you are too old to go back to school? Think again. Many people of all ages are returning to college or university for retraining or skills upgrading. Find out what you need to learn to ensure you are up-to-date in your field or even better, to take your career to the next level. Even a few evening courses can make a difference to your career. What do you need to do to keep building your skills?

Conclusions
On a final note, practicing these simple tips of clarifying your work purpose, building influential relationships , keeping abreast of changes to your field and continuing to build on your skills will take you a long way to a more satisfying, successful and ultimately resilient career. What is one step you can take over the next couple of days that can help you to build the kind of career you want?

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Karen Begemann has worked in the career development field for the past 10 years in government-funded employment programs, the corporate sector and in private practice as a Career Coach and Facilitator. Her passion professionally is helping people to connect with meaningful work. She provides a range of services including career exploration, job search (resume support, networking strategies and job interview coaching) and resiliency coaching (dealing with work related stress). Karen also specializes in working with professional moms who are planning to return to the workforce. She practices in Vancouver, BC and provides coaching services either in person or on the telephone. Karen can be reached at 604-828-5600 for a complimentary telephone session to determine an individual’s career coaching needs. For more information visit www.workmattersconsulting.com.

photo credit: familymwr