The Madness of March / Spring Awakening

Without fail, every year March is a month of unpredictability; the weather changes from summer-like temperatures one day to freezing rain the next, upsets in the NCAA Basketball tourney were making bracket-fanatics go crazy, and the ups and downs of the Republican presidential candidacy race has everyone wondering what will happen next.

On the same token, March has been a notoriously busy month for business. Companies are coming out of their winter hibernation and starting on projects to take on through the spring and summer. The “new year” of business is finally upon us, even though it may have started a few months ago. With the warmer winds flow fresh ideas and an energy that may have been lost in the cold. And even as the workload gets heavier, there is an overwhelming sense of cool among coworkers and clients alike as the promise of a spring awakening is in front of us.

I am so excited for what Spring means. It means people coming out of their “shells”, and not necessarily the typical use of that word. Maybe a “shell” is anxiety over unemployment after a layoff or that of a college senior worried about finding a job after graduation. This is the time to renew and get back on your feet. Even with the economy the way it is, there are plenty of opportunities out there that may not be what you have had in mind. Don’t worry: Things rarely go exactly how we expect. Find other things that interest you and look there, too. You might find something you love.

Focus on Assessment – Planning and Organization

It is no novel idea: Being well organized and planning ahead in any business is a major factor to its success. It is fair to say that on any given day on the talent acquisition spectrum in today’s world, having highly developed organizational plans is CRITICAL. As a recruiter, sourcer, hiring manager or virtually any other position in a recruiting business, you are dealing with multitudes of people, some of whom you work with on a daily basis, and many of whom you have never met. The needs of all these people, however, are of equally high demand. Getting mixed up, confused or lost is not an option when it comes to having CONTROL over your responsibilities and the needs of others.

When it comes down to it, having (or taking) control of your affairs is the goal of organization. Planning for a busy week and organizing your workloads will help you gain control of your hectic and stressful days. It will also better prepare you for insinuating circumstances – which happen way too frequently. Did you ever think you were ready to take on the day and then you are pulled into three meetings and before you know it, it’s 4pm? Where did your day go? PLAN for these kinds of days, and make the time for the planning. It might be an hour of out your day, but it will save you so much time in the end.

Make to-do lists, and feel great when you cross things off. Keep a calendar with everything that is coming up in the next two months, and keep the calendar within eyesight at work. This will help you gain perspective on the work that is needed. Set meetings in advance to avoid last-minute confusion and time restraints. Know your limits and work with them. Spend 15 minutes each day to regroup and reassess your workload.

Being organized will make your more productive, make you feel in control and as a result, you will perform better. You will have less stress and anxiety, your clients and coworkers will see a difference and you will excel in the workplace. If you plan and organize yourself, it will make your job (and life) easier.

Beware the Ides of March (or Mom moving in with you!)

So, my mother is moving in with us.  I love my mom and am happy about this (no, this blog is NOT about my mother moving in…well, it could be but….). What this is really about is that I have been going through containers and storage and re-discovered all of my PMI exam prep materials. I have not seen these in several years.  I recall how long I studied and prepared for that 4.5 hour exam!  The training I received while working at Lucent, classes through ESI, notes and study techniques and formulas that I learned from co-workers was invaluable.

Once you have taken the PMP exam, it is very, very important to maintain your certification.  When I sat for my exam I 2000, the statistic on failure for first time testers was 40%! After that exam, I always maintain my PDUs.  I also had a promotion and a raise riding on the outcome of that exam so failure was not an option!

Some great resources that I have found and used over the years for education are my local chapter meetings and symposiums (check to see if your local chapter has a symposium), ESI courses, Seminars World and the PMI Global Congresses.  The last global congress that I attended was in Maryland.  There were some fabulous and really interesting speakers:  Storm Cunningham, who wrote a great book on re-development, the CIO of the United States and last but not least, Bill Clinton.  Yes, I was very excited about that. It was the first time I have ever heard a President speak in person!  It was actually pretty funny how everyone was “rushing the state” for the President like they would a Bruce concert.

The bottom line here, do not let your PMP certification expire.  Always keep up your training and education.  You don’t want to re-take that exam if you don’t have to! If not, your mother may move in….

Drill baby, drill? More like jobs baby, jobs.

Drill baby drill. We keep talking about it, and that’s fine. But what are we doing about it in relation to jobs?

Energy is a sustainable industry in the US, because energy is as consumable as food. However, we import so much more energy then we do food. So I suggest we approach the energy industry with a different focus — rather than cost-based or environmental, let’s start with job sustainability.

How about a multi generational jobs plan that adds and sustains about 3MM jobs? That is goal #1. Coal, natural gas, oil, wind, water, algae, solar — the plan should be designed for expenditure based on job growth and sustainability. I know there are environmental factors to consider, so consider them, but ask this question: How many jobs does is create and sustain over 50 years?

I love wind energy, but it peaks early on jobs as wind turbines are constructed and installed (you will notice they turn themselves). So build them, but only count the sustainable jobs. Conversely, tar sands and coal require significant people power, continuously. We need to consider those energy sectors as people investment, even if the environmental concerns exist.

Natural gas is an abundant resource but it requires more monitoring, engineering and safety. Anything cheap, abundant and easy should be questioned. To make it safe, it may take 20 times the manpower we use now. Sure, that makes it 20 times more expensive, but like I said, I am concerned about jobs. If we have an opportunity to produce safe energy locally and drastically increase jobs, regardless of cost, it needs to be evaluated.

So let’s make an energy plan related to jobs. I know it will be expensive. Gas is already $4.00 a gallon and these increasing energy costs are scary, but we can afford to increase our energy costs provided we increase our earnings per family — and jobs do that.

The amount of energy we import is staggering. The amount we produce domestically without proper safety is staggering. Both require people power, and strong domestic production policy can add jobs in the hundreds of thousands, potentially millions. This is an INCREASE strategy for jobs creation. Let’s stop all the talk about energy and start taking some action regarding jobs.

Job Growth: Please sir, can I have some more?

In January, the United States added 240,000 jobs. In February, 227,000.

However, in a somewhat  muted statement, the Congressional Budget Office went on record that saying throughout 2013 unemployment would stay above 8% and potentially stay above 9%. I’m curious to know how that got buried in the news cycle.  The budget office is probably looking at the same statistics that I’m looking at. I would also think that the economists that have been muted are also looking at the same statistics that I’m looking at. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has been keeping records for some time and has very good statistics associated with our job growth and how more industries add jobs since World War II. So when I hear economists and the budget office of our Congress talking about job growth, I tend to listen a little bit more than I do to the broadcasters of Fox news, MSNBC and CNN.

I have decided to start talking more about our job growth, or our lack thereof. It seems it is not getting the press that it needs to get, given that this is an election year. I have been doing research to better understand our demographics in the United States, the growth of immigration and how it relates to labor, the surge of dual income houses over the past 30 years, the ongoing trend for people to stay in the work place beyond the age of 62, and other social trends. The simple truth is that each month of the year, our economy needs to add approximately 125,000 jobs in order to sustain its population density and its growth. Without that addition, we are actually in the negative for job growth. In the winter of 2008, we sustained the job losses we have all heard about – to the tune of an additional nine million more unemployed than “normal” levels.

Nine million short. Statistically, we could triple the needed job growth from 125,000 to 375,000 and it would take us at least three years to probably reach the unemployment levels that we have prior to the winter of 2008. That’s a sobering fact. In order to do that, we would have to sustain a triple local job growth in 36 months.  That also means we need to significantly increase the output for jobs we have had in the last two months, and they were the best months in three years. Looking at the the labor statistics that have been published, I haven’t seen that kind of job growth by percentage or sustainability looking as far back as the 1960s.

I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer. I’m just looking at statistics that are currently available. There’s been a lot of talk about job growth, and there is rhetoric that is circulating in the United States political environment. The news cycle tends to be limited to what’s going on in the United States, and I encourage you to investigate some of the job growth or lack thereof that exists outside the United States.

Over the next few weeks and months as I continue to talk about this topic,  I will  simply publish ideas on job growth. There are ways that we can do it, but we need to face the reality that US job growth will not occur at the 300,000+ jobs per month level. I know we need to start realizing that that is a very tall order.

As I have ideas, they really will break into two types – INCREASES and DECREASES. The way to stimulate profit in a business is to impact both revenue AND expenses. Job growth is no different. We need to get more jobs available, but also control the amount of people who come into or leave the workforce. I am not going to really introduce an idea unless I think it can have a net effect of at least 100,000 jobs, which will add to the regular job growth.

Increase Idea – Militarize border, immigration, and homeland security departments of the government. We have more military folks coming home, and less work for them to do. In the meantime, we have several burning platforms on security. The military has targeted less armed ground forces, which is a direct impact on labor. However, you can place more feet on the street, especially in border states, major port cities, and along our coasts. As we reduce our military assets in foresight lands, keep those people employed by having then do work here on our own soil. We could easily augment security in our own borders. There are 80,000 troops remaining in Afghanistan, and there were over 40,000 in Iraq last year. Not to mention the 248000 out of work Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. We could use some strong experience in protecting and monitoring our own security, and there are certainly plenty of qualified people. Realize by militarizing these departments, Congress has to use the Defense budget to fund the activities, and Defense is one of the largest spending categories. Now, there are not that many border agents – about 20,000. So I am not suggesting multiplying that by 10. However, as a country we have focused our efforts on border security and terrorist activities, and we can change that strategy. Costs to increase these types of security? At G-12 levels, it’s about $65,000 in salary, and probably at least that in equipment and support. So if we augment by 100,000? $13 billion annually. Check out the Iraq / Afghanistan appropriations over the past few years. This is not even a 1% of those costs, and we are keeping many of these SAME people employed.

Decrease Idea – Bring back apprenticeships. Where did they go? About 3MM students graduate from high school in this country each year. Many go to college, some to the military and others to the working world. The college bound and military bound don’t impact short term job growth – but the entering do. We need to slow that pace down. There is a tremendous need for trade work in this country and there is a need for more technology work involving design, programming, and coding. All require training, but actually they require more experience and hours. So let’s get apprenticeships back in vogue. New high school grads go into jobs for skills, earn less money, and they should stay at home to reduce expenses (sorry mom and dad). After a few years, these employees start their own businesses, get experienced level jobs, and are earning some serious money – usually north of $75,000 a year. They will likely have no debt, and serious coin in the bank (if they are responsible). We now have thousands of 22 to 23 year olds with 4 years experience in a trade with real skills, no debt, and making good money. There are obvious social wins here too. In addition, this actually ADDS jobs to the marketplace. The pay is so low that many people who are already in the trades won’t compete for these jobs, and they are easier to afford than traditional entry level jobs.