Sunday, June 28, 2009

Taking personal responsibility for your life

At a recent seminar, one of the speakers made a casual comment linking Generation Y to the culture of irresponsibility. I have never been one to put much credence in generational generalizations or a one-size-fits-all approach.

As I look back on my early twenties, I wouldn’t describe myself as responsible. I was serious about my job and worked hard, but was more about having fun and just letting things happen than being responsible. I knew what I was supposed to do; live below my means, stop using my resources (money, time and energy) trying to impress people, and to end relationships that were bad for me or weren't working, but I didn't take the necessary steps to do so.

I remember the day I had a revelation similar to the one Trent had here on September 23, 2005. I was 28; had finally broken up with my boyfriend of seven years, a bad relationship I had allowed to continue way too long, was working full time and taking accounting courses at night. On this particular day, I was late for class and frantically searching for a parking place. Frustrated and angry I began blaming my parents and ex-boyfriend for the sorry state of my life. Suddenly, I realized none of them were magically going to appear and help me find a parking space. Nor, were they going to pay off my credit card debt, study for my exams or help me achieve any of my other goals. It was up to me. I realized at that moment I needed to take care of myself and accept responsibility for my own actions, decisions and goals. From that day forward, I began making the sacrifices necessary to achieve my goals. I used vacation time to study for exams. I stopped frivolous shopping and dining out; finally living below my means. Eventually, I finished my accounting courses and passed the CPA exam. I got control of my finances, paid off my car loan and credit card debt. I even put some money aside in case of an emergency.

Some additional great advice on becoming accountable comes from Danielle LaPorte's blog White Hot Truth. In her post, for rage babes flakes and tyrants get over it she writes:

Decide to just get over it. Let it be that simple. For most of us who had normally dysfunctional upbringings (I’m not talking about suffering exceptional atrocities or repetitive abuses,) our past is no excuse to continue being a flake, a tyrant, obnoxiously needy, or a rage-babe. Look, we’re all terrific for going to therapy, for having past life insights, and reading Wayne Dyer. Yeah for the New Age. Really. But knowing why you’re so screwed up is only half the journey. Choose to let it be done.

And from her comments:
I don't remember who said it but it's true that we need to spend only 10% of our time, thoughts, and energy talking about the problem and the other 90% working on a solution, a strategy, a plan.

Another commenter writes:
A friend of mine was whining to our small meet-for-coffee gathering about her life being screwed up because her parents, yada, yada, yada. One of the guys looked at her and said: "After 35, everybody needs a new excuse." It stopped her cold.

"After 35, everybody needs a new excuse." ~ I love that. I also think there should be an expiration date on blaming your ex-husband, boyfriend or even your current husband for your life’s circumstances. I was recently at a party where a woman was blaming her ex-husband for her unhappy life. She listed such undesirable factors as he liked dogs while she liked cats. She spoke with such venom and anger I had to ask how long it had been since she divorced. Her reply: Ten years ago.

I hate to see loved ones struggle and make the same mistakes I did, but sometimes failure is necessary before growth, and advice falls on deaf ears. Deciding to take responsibility for your life doesn’t seem to occur at any one particular age, but is a necessary step towards creating the life you want.

For more information on the subject of responsibility, read Henrik Edberg's post 7-timeless-thoughts-on-taking-responsibility-for-your-life.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

MSO employees donate $1,000,000 to orchestra

The following announcement was made prior to a recent MSO performance:

"The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, currently in its 50th season, plans on being around for at least another 50 years despite the current economic slow down. How is this possible? It is because the MSO’s musicians and staff employees recently made a $1,000,000 donation to the preservation of the MSO."

Actually this “donation” is really a pay cut the musicians agreed to as part of their new contract which goes into effect in August. The 9% salary reduction and reduced pension fund contributions along with the staff cuts removes $960,000 from the 2009-'10 budget.

After hearing this, I’ve been thinking more about my own company’s salary and expense reductions. Like the MSO, my company which has been in business since 1944, has had to go into survival mode. The expense cuts were absolutely necessary to save 115 jobs plus attempt to guarantee our company will also be around for at least another 50 years.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The economy continues to suck for workers!

A reader left a comment on my blog post "A One Word Explanation" offering their own word to describe the economy: “sucks!” I must say after a particularly dismal couple of months, I have to agree the economy does suck, especially for workers. Just about everyone I know myself included has been affected by this recession:

-Heard at my niece’s college graduation party: only 25% of college graduates have job offers (actually 25% is too high, Alison Green of Ask a Manager linked to this article the other day, showing that only 19% of recent grads have found work so far). One partygoer, a grad majoring in computer engineering, had a job offer only to have it rescinded when the company announced it was to be sold. Another grad, an accounting major, had the start date for her new job at an accounting firm postponed from September 1st to January 1st of next year.

- Neighbors and friends have lost their jobs. Amidst struggles to make ends meet, at least one of the several homes in my neighborhood that have gone up for sale is due to a job loss.

- The company I work for had a horrific April. Rumor has it our bank threatened not to renew our line of credit unless major expense cutting took place. Effective June 1st, five employees were laid-off, all exempt employees including myself received an 8% salary reduction, hours were reduced for most non-exempt employees, employee's share of health insurance premiums were increased along with deductibles and out of pocket expenses and the 401(k) company match was suspended. My company anticipates these cuts will remain in effect for at least one year.

- The same week my company announced cutbacks, my husband received a notice from his employer that his 401(k) company match would be suspended effective June 1st.

-Feeling an 8% salary reduction was a little steep; I decided to take action and look for a new job. I spent close to two hours applying for one job opening I found on career builder. I was positive I was a perfect fit. Unfortunately, I received a rejection notice via email first thing the next morning. This was the fastest job rejection I have ever received and the first rejection notice I’ve received via email.

-A friend who owns his own business has also been forced to reduce his employee's wages. He currently has two job openings, but refuses to pay candidates more than what his loyal employees make. He tells potential candidates he can only pay them what the market will bear.

According to Sudeep Reddy in her article in the Wall Street Journal, "A turnaround in the overall economy won't translate into a full turnaround for workers. Most forecasters expect employers to slash more jobs than they're adding at least through the end of the year. The huge job losses may end, but they won't turn into meaningful job gains until sometime in 2010."

How are employees coping? This is what I'm hearing from my co-workers around the water cooler:

I’m not going to make any major purchases I may regret later. There are fears the cuts our company made were not deep enough and additional cuts will be made in the future.

I’m okay with doing Susie’s job in addition to my own because I’m happy to still have a job, but I do plan on asking for a new promotional title that incorporates my new responsibilities. A promotion will look good on my resume.

My boss admits the company decided on salary reductions for exempt employees instead of time-off without pay to prevent employees from using the additional time off to look for a new job. Most employees are at least talking about looking for a new job.

While filling out on-line applications one employee realized she needs Microsoft Access experience. She’s planning on taking a class and incorporating what she learns into her current job.

We need to beef up our networking. The latest networking tool everyone us getting involved with is LinkedIn. Let's check it out on our lunch hour.

It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours." ~Harry S. Truman