At Work

What’s In Your Wallet?

Are you getting paid what you’re worth? I’ll guess, probably not. I don’t know of anyone who thinks they make enough money.

Well, I have some good news for you, courtesy of an online survey conducted by USA Today and CareerBuilder.com.

More than half of the hiring managers they surveyed said they raised their employees’ pay in the second quarter, and nearly half said they expect to increase pay from July to September. According to the Department of Labor, over the last 12 months, wages have grown by 3.9 percent.

So the trend is: wages are on the rise!

Increasing wages are directly tied to unemployment being at a six-year low. The labor market is beyond tight right now. Employers are having difficulty filling open positions, so they’re focusing more efforts on employee retention. One retention method is increasing wages.

A 5% raise based on $30,000 a year is an extra $1,500. That’ll certainly help when you’re filling up your vehicle.

You’re probably thinking, “So, where’s my raise?” If the survey is true and the experts are accurate, it should be coming down the pike. Have you noticed your employer clamoring to stay fully-staffed? If so, has the recruiting affected your compensation?

I’d like to hear your experiences. How did you prove your worth? What were the results?

My Temporary Summer

During my four years in undergrad, I held a variety of positions – custom framer, office manager, ditch digger, substitute teacher, waiter and dishwasher. After graduating from college, I had a full-time job and graduate school waiting for me in the fall, but I needed something to occupy my summer.

My parents suggested I apply with a staffing company. After I interviewed with the staffing consultant, I was assigned to my first job. For the next three days, I worked at an oil and gas company where I boxed up files. I wore a shirt and tie and ate lunch out of my briefcase.

My next assignment was in a college library installing anti-theft devices in the binding of every book on the shelves. The college was small, but it still took five people two weeks to finish the job. No tie was required, and I could listen to my Walkman (it was 1990) all day.

I’d had two jobs in three weeks, and both of them were pretty boring. I was looking for a gig that could carry me through the rest of the summer. So I called the staffing consultant again and asked about my employment options. Pam offered me a longer-term assignment with the same oil company I’d worked at earlier in the month.

In a non air-conditioned warehouse, I worked with three guys for the remainder of the summer. The oil company was moving to Houston, so we spent the next two months moving all the office furniture into storage five blocks away. The furniture was then donated to local non-profits. I wore jeans, work boots and T-shirts and made $1.50 more an hour than at the previous assignments.

I had so much fun that summer. In the 17 years since I had that job, I’ve moved 10 times. Every time I move, I use the skills I learned in that warehouse.

What was your favorite summer job growing up? And do you use any of the knowledge gained in your job today?

Are You Looking for Community or Solitude at Work?

Time Magazine recently featured an article about a new trend of communal dining. According to the article, a number of popular restaurants now offer group dining experiences for their patrons. These swanky establishments allow guests to break bread and share an evening getting to know a group of strangers. It seems people are hungry for more than just a good meal – they’re looking for companionship.

What’s behind this trend? Have modern communication tools like e-mail, blogs and social networking sites left people longing for more face-to-face interaction?

At many jobs, workers rarely speak to each other except through e-mail and the occasional phone call. How do you think modern communication has affected workplace relationships? Do you find yourself missing human interaction and seeking ways to interact with your co-workers in a more personal way? Or, do you sit in a cubicle or work closely with others all day and crave more privacy?

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Hours)

There’s a lot of discussion right now about work/life balance. Especially during the summer, when family vacations and relaxing getaways are most popular, the issue becomes particularly hot. People want to spend time relaxing, getting away from the grind, but that isn’t always possible.

Small business owners and entrepreneurs often find work and life colliding during vacation time. Steven Fisher at Startup Spark recently wrote a post about how its critical for entrepreneurs to find time to really get away from the pressures of work. We’ve also written about work/life balance for small business owners and tips for how to take a vacation.

But taking work with them on vacation isn’t just an issue for business owners. Eager workers often find themselves logging in to their e-mail or working on projects from home or the beach. Many others are putting time into their own projects and working on vacation.

Ryan Healy’s post “When working on vacation isn’t work” on Brazen Careerist shares his views as a twentysomething on work, personal time and vacation. He says that for him, he “works” on his own ideas while on vacation because its something he enjoys doing and wants to pursue in his personal time.

Do you feel it’s possible to truly unplug from work and enjoy your time off? Do you think how someone spends their vacation time depends more on their personality, line of work, generation or employer?

Even though you may not take vacation time on the Fourth of July since it’s a national holiday, what will you be doing with your time?

Corporate Culture’s Influence: Simon Says Fit In

How many of your habits and ideas do you think you’ve picked up from the people you work with? Most people pride themselves on being individualistic and independent. We like to think we’re only influenced by the role models we choose, not the everyday Jims and Kates we share a cube with. People may not be lemmings, but we’re not impenetrable brick walls either. Our surroundings and co-workers affect us.

Rebel Dad blogger Brian Reid’s guest post on the Washington Post’s blog On Balance – Juggling Work and Family discusses how the workaholic habits of a former boss rubbed off on the entire organization. Reid used to work for former Bloomberg CEO and current New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and he describes how Bloomberg’s penchant for long hours and limited family time created a company culture that followed his lead.

Sure, Bloomberg was the CEO of the corporation, so it’s logical that his employees would seek to emulate his behavior. But a CEO alone can’t create a potent culture without a majority of employees buying in to it. In a recent post on Ben Yoskovitz’s blog, Instigator, he discussed how upper management can’t control culture, they can only instigate it and then allow it to incubate.

Peer pressure can be much stronger than “CEO pressure.” While supervisors control whether you get a raise or promotion, co-workers determine if you are accepted and respected by the group – something that many people value more than money. 

When a person starts a new job, sometimes they mesh or clash with the culture at their workplace immediately. But more often, over time, they will develop behaviors and attitudes about work that mirror those of their co-workers.

For example, if you start working at a company where the employees rarely use their vacation time and never call in sick, after a while, you’ll probably either adopt these unspoken norms or leave the company. Similarly, if you work at a company where being aggressive and blunt is the way to get noticed, you might find yourself saying “please” and “thank you” less and opting for words like “immediately” and “no offense” instead.

A strong company culture isn’t a bad thing though. Without a united front, a company will struggle to accomplish its mission. But, since we’re all likely to be affected by our environment, it makes sense to work at a company and with people whose values you respect.

How do your co-workers’ values match with your own? How do you think your co-workers have influenced you? Do you feel the influence has been positive or negative?

What Would Keep You at Your Current Job? The Career Advancement Dilemma

Job hopping is a common phenomenon these days, and the average worker stays at any given job about two years, according to career blogger Penelope Trunk. A lot of this is because they’re impatient and frustrated with a lack of opportunity.

A recent Wall Street Journal story highlighted the frustrations of young workers who crave more responsibility. They’re dissatisfied with the work they’re given, the responsibility – or lack thereof – they have, and the feeling that the wait to start climbing the career ladder is too long. Especially for entrepreneurial types.

Blogs like Escape From Cubicle Nation and Employee Evolution highlight the frustration of many workers today. Employee Evolution was founded a few months ago by Ryan Healy and Ryan Paugh as a way for millennials to voice their frustrations about trying to move up the career ladder. They’ve been featured in the Wall Street Journal about their efforts. With all they’ve been able to accomplish blogging about their career frustrations, imagine what these people could do if their employers only gave them more opportunities.

Too many job descriptions these days seem to say “experience required” rather than “experience offered.” Now’s the time for employers to step up to the plate and invest in their young, eager recruits, or they’ll lose them to companies that do, or perhaps, to entrepreneurial ventures.

How Can I Prove My Worth to My Boss?

Are you growing in your career? Hopefully, the answer is yes. As your expertise increases, it’s important to keep track of your achievements. A good way to do this is to keep a detailed list of specific projects, deadlines, timelines and accomplishments as you advance in your job. Also, track how you’ve impacted the budget, company goals and other areas that have directly affected the organization as a whole.

Demonstrating that you’ve helped save your organization time or money, or increased profits is a powerful resource for persuading your boss that you’re an asset to the team.