Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lessons From Felons

Anything on you in any of these?
The US Department of Labor estimates that one in three adults in the US have a criminal history record. That includes everything - arrests that did not lead to conviction, a conviction that didn't result in incarceration, conviction of a non-violent offense, and of course conviction that led to imprisonment. That's roughly 1/4 of the entire population.

The actual number of people with felony records in the US is not known. Most estimates range from 6.3 to 6.5% although I have seen estimates as high as 8.7%. These calculations are based on the population as a whole and are much higher for select groups, particularly males of African decent. The President's My Brother's Keeper initiative is in part designed to address this critical issue. I applaud him for this. My hope is that he will use his position and persona to keep this vexing and shameful national problem front and center throughout the remainder of his presidency and beyond.

A point of notation. The term ex-felon is used frequently, yet incorrectly. I know I have done it. To clarify, once a felon, always a felon from a criminal history perspective. A felon is a person who has been convicted of a felony. The only real ex-felons are those that have had their felony convictions over-turned or expunged. Typically when people use the term ex-felon they are in reference to ex-cons, those that have been in prison but are out.

So why get into all of this? Well Tyler Cowen comes to mind. I reference the George Mason economist frequently because he gets it. Mr. Cowen's vision of how things will be socially in the future parallels what has been taking place over the last 15 years with criminal background checks. In a nutshell, we are at the front end of a paradigm shift on par with the Industrial Revolution (when production changed from work by hand to work by machines). Some 200 years later it's the Digital Revolution (the move from analogue to digital technology).

Two of the products of the Digital Revolution are measurement and data storage. It's easier by the day to rate, grade, measure, and categorize everything - including every bit of data about each and every one of us. At some point, everything will be digitized. Technology not only makes for new data creation, but it also allows old data (forgotten or even unknown) to be vacuumed up and stored. From there it's a few key strokes away from landing anywhere in the world. And what's to impede this? We are in love with technology and the business of technology. Technology produces digits, digits become data, data turns into information. At this very moment there are hundreds, if not thousands, of very clever and talented boys and girls writing viable business plans designed to monetize data and information. Really, what's to stop it?

Paraphrasing, Tyler Cowen suggests the following:

  • The future will belong to those who have learned to discipline themselves when they are very young - because there will be few if any second chances.
  • The future will favor those with natural talent and an entrepreneurial spirit - class and connections will always matter however there will be far fewer places to hide.

Well, isn't that special!
If you are one of the 20,000,000 plus Americans with a felony, you know how hard it has become to find, retain, and upgrade your employment. You have something to share with the other 60,000,000 plus Americans with less severe criminal records. You get it although you may be so frustrated, angry with yourself, and bitter to care one bit about the societal implications of your experience. But you get it and so does Tyler Cowen.

Take a look around you. Take a good hard look in mirror. Yes I know, we are all unique and special - and we are. This includes most of the 20m felons. But they'll tell you they walk a careful line and that there is a very real glass ceiling (cell) impacting their lives. There's a message here for everyone.

The future (the digital future) will hold the most promise for those VERY disciplined, talented, and entrepreneurial. I have no doubt about this. Technology is leveling the playing field and the fastest, smartest, and funniest among us will find more ways to shine and fewer barriers on the road to success.

But technology and digits will make it very hard to be in second place, not to mention further down the leader board. Think about it - how many seats will there be on the disciplined, talented, and entrepreneurial bus?

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Thursday, March 6, 2014

5 Barriers To Achieving Success

Don't make it this
The following list comes from direct experience helping individuals successfully re-enter the workforce following extremely challenging life situations - incarceration, substance abuse treatment, mental health derailments, and homelessness. To be clear, success doesn't come about just by re-entering, rather it's a process that takes into account many factors. The list originated from this process.

I have also successfully used an approach based on this list when assisting clients that (fortunately) don't have these heavy challenges. It works - whether in an individual or group setting.

I call this The Success Approach. I realize it isn't rocket science but to a degree that's the point. It's easy to understand and usable in a variety of situations. The goal is to identify and overcome the 5 Barriers To Achieving Success in the following order.
  1. Inability to articulate The Objective
  2. Not being able to decide on the route
  3. Lack of a realistic and firm timeline
  4. Unwillingness to confront obstacles
  5. Lack of principles to guide the journey  
It occurs to me that the list could be presented in a positive manner, such as 5 Things You Can Do To Achieve Your Goals. Perhaps, but no. The point is not to accentuate the positive, just the opposite. It's critical that these barriers be seen for what they really are, blockages and barricades.

Expect these
I have found that starting with the big goal (The Objective) is effective. It may take time to uncover, so be patient and keep things light and "brain stormy" at first. Identifying and labeling what specifically is to be accomplished is quite literally the key to unearthing and overcoming the other 4 barriers.

One more thing, once these 5 barriers are removed what's left are speed bumps - and that's just fine. Speed bumps are meant slow and caution, not stop.

I'll have more to say on all 5 of the barriers in upcoming posts.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review: The Essential Digital Interview Handbook by Paul J. Bailo

The Essential Digital
Interview Handbook
The ESSENTIAL digital interview HANDBOOK
by Paul J. Bailo
Published by Career Press 2014

An alternate title for The Essential digital interview Handbook could be, How To Set Up And Use Your Own Digital Video Studio On A Budget - because, that's just what you learn from reading the book.

For those job seekers wanting to put together their own video interview lab, here's the CliffsNotes to do it. In fact, a whole job search campaign could be created using the book. For example, once the setup is complete, it's a short jump from using Skype to preparing a one-way digitally recorded interview, a digital resume, and video shorts for use on YouTube, blogs, and leave-behind dvds.

Part One features the equipment and materials check list. The reader gets a "Queens, New York" take on being practical (which I guess equates to the Kingman, Arizona Vs the Las Vegas Strip approach). For those doing it themselves (and on a budget) the work has already been done, just march down the list of lab tested equipment.

Parts Two and Three focus on execution - how to use the studio equipment you now have. Or for those using a video service provider that already has a studio, the suggestions and tips in these sections can help cut the learning curve (and presumably the cost) way down. And judging by the quality of much of the video material floating around on the net, I completely understand and appreciate Mr. Bailo's emphasis on getting the nitty gritty basics right.

So who will find this book helpful?

The two obvious groups (as noted) are job seekers interested in putting together own mini-studio (just follow the list) and those using an outside service (self-coach and practice using the material before actually going in to interview digitally or produce a digital resume).

There are however other categories of digital media users to whom I'd recommend the book.

First, the big and amorphous group of do-it-yourself producers of internet video clips for a million different reasons: the girl doing fashion and makeup YouTube videos as a way to get into the business; the consultant wanting to produce short promotional videos; the high school athlete hoping to snag a college scholarship. The list is quite literally endless and includes anyone needing to communicate visually over the internet for whatever reason.

Second, freelance workers (I call them Free Agents, a frequent writing topic). Estimates have it that close to 50% of the US workforce is now involved in some form of Free Agency (freelancers, contract workers, 1099ers - those referred to by the US Dept. of Labor as "Contingent Workers"). This category is growing and could comprise 70% of the workforce by 2020, an amazing prediction. Regardless of the percentage, lots of people will no doubt soon be doing things exactly as Mr. Bailo has described, given the rapid growth in digital everything.

There are many books available on the "inner" aspects of job search preparation (the soft skills - mindset, strategy, the nuances of interpersonal communication - all things important and very much at the heart of what I do). But this book is more about the "outer" aspects (the first impression - sound, lighting, and script).

When compared to traditional face-to-face interviewing, the cost and convenience of going digital will make it unavoidable. However don't think of this as a replacement. Rather, as pointed out in the book, see this as a screening step - another hurdle to be crossed on the way to final in-person interviewing. Those not taking this step seriously will likely not go beyond it.

So my hat goes off to Paul Bailo. He gets it and has put together a very helpful and easy to use reference book for all of us. Digital interviewing is here to stay. Don't make the mistake of doing it yourself or using an outside service without first reading the The ESSENTIAL digital interview BOOK.

You'll be glad you did.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What's Hot, What's Not

I believe in the Marketplace, where things are what they are. If something is hot, the value goes up and when it cools, the value goes down. That's just how it is. This is not to say that I am OK with everything about the Marketplace but how I feel about it counts for squat.

But I must admit, it's always interesting.

Take for example the recent story on NPR about the plight of most of the college instructors in the US. Most (76% really?) are part-time employees averaging (per the story) between $25,000 and $27,000 a year. I assume benefits are nil, after all, that's one of the reasons they are not full-time employees.

Okay, so it's just the way it goes in the Marketplace.

Now check out this story about programming engineers in Silicon Valley. Many start at over $100,000 and can earn WAY more if they are extremely capable. But we know this, right? I mean with all things digital, they are HOT HOT, thus their high value.

Okay, once again that's just how it shakes out in the Marketplace. It's all about value created. Digital stuff and abilities are valued high and much of everything else is valued pretty low by comparison.

The programming engineers are getting big bucks because of two factors. First, supply and demand. As long as demand outstrips supply, prices for their labor will remain high. Second, talent and ability. And for the most talented, where productivity is really high, salaries are sky high.

So what's the big deal? Do we care (or even notice) the disparity between the part-time college instructors and professors and those in demand around Silicone Valley? Are we taking stock in what the Marketplace is telling us?

Nope. It's full bore ahead with all things digital.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

PS - And the cost for higher education continues to go up, huh...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Big Data And The Future Of Work

In the December 2013 issue of The Atlantic, Don Peck writes about the future of work in They're Watching You At Work. Its a great addition to the ongoing discussion about the impact of digits on the world of work.

Think Moneyball, Billy Beane, the Oakland A's. Expand the concept. Enter workforce analytics and people analytics (the Moneyball approach to talent management). There's demand in this area and tech companies are expanding or launching to provide services.

The basic concept is simple; measure, rate, and grade everything because it is increasing "easy" to do so. As Mr. Peck points out, workforce analytics is not new. He references William H. Wythe Jr.'s 1956 classic, The Organization Man, which describes the prevalence of employee evaluations that measured and scrutinized "aptitude, skills, personal history, psychological stability, discretion, loyalty."  By the late '70s, organizations were moving away from this to a blind audition hiring model. And now, 30 years later, they are back at it. The difference this time is the digit and the rise of Big Data.

Reading the comments posted about the article I found one particularly interesting. The poster "charlesbrons" correctly points out that the field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology has been in existence and producing lots of data and information for decades. Fair enough, he's right.

However the difference is that Big Data is like a virus. The growth in computing power and storage capacity are exponential and unceasing. Programming and app developments leapfrog in amazing and unexpected ways. But the capacity to accumulate, store, and crunch data is WAY ahead of our collective ability to manage or even understand it. As I write this Target's massive security breach is front page news. The NSA/Snowden story is a year and a half old and the ramifications continue.

The Big Data impact on the workplace and workforce is unsettling to some and this includes me.
  • there's no stopping the pandemic
  • the bottom line is driving the perceived need
  • the array of products to custom crunch data is dazzling and it just started
As one who blogs about workforce issues, I can expect plenty of digital revolution material going forward. But the workforce category is just a slice of a much bigger pie. The rise of Big Data is THE driver of a paradigm shift clearly on par with the Industrial Revolution. And...just like back then, technology is way out in front of the human being.

Buckle up free agents and stay buckled. Its not all bad but you have to stay awake and on your toes.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell