College vs Vocational Education

Does College Really Rule?

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. This week I wanted to share an article I wrote for a blogging service. The article wasn’t picked up, so it’s their loss. The article talks about the College versus Vocational forms of higher learning. While the focus of this article is more for our children and grandchildren, it’s something you may want to share with them. Especially if they are feeling like a square peg being crammed into a round hole.

Mike Rowe, from the famous show, “Dirty Jobs” was recently on Fox News. He was talking with Tucker Carlson about a letter he had written to President Obama. A letter that he has now also forwarded to President Trump.

In this letter, he stated that the lack of Vocational Education in high schools has created a huge skills gap. The gap is between College-Educated students and the students who SHOULD be in Vocational / Technical Education. There are over 5.6 Million Jobs that need to be filled, 75% of which do not require a 4-year degree.

Vocational / Technical Education is a field of study that prepares a student directly for the career he or she wants. Think about cooking school, beautician school, truck driving school, heating and cooling school, etc. Not to mention all of the plumbing, electrician, and carpenter apprenticeships. You get the idea. These training programs prepare the student for their new career immediately and generally cost thousands of dollars less than heading to college. Vocational Education has been removed from many high schools, resulting in this huge skills gap.

Do any of these jobs require a 4-year degree? No. Do you have to rack up over $100,000 in student loans in order to get these jobs? No. Are these glamorous jobs the average college kid would dream of having? No. However, are these jobs that need to be done in order for America to remain a vital, growing nation? Absolutely, Yes!

Have many students have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to getting a college education? It would certainly appear so. It doesn’t take an Einstein to realize the soaring cost of a college education is not keeping pace with reality. Drive by any college campus and you’ll see at least one new building under construction. While many times, the dormitory conditions for students are outdated, cramped, and deplorable.

New Football Stadiums and Basketball Arenas that cost millions of dollars are being built to attract the nations’ top prospects. This brings in thousands of dollars in TV revenue. However, outside of a boost in school spirit, these facilities do very little for the average student.

The amount of money pouring into our Universities borders on the insane. An article that appeared in The Huffington Post reported that since they started keeping track in 1978, the costs for Tuition and Fees have risen 1,120%. Ironically, the costs for Medical Expenses have risen only about half as much during the same time period, 601%! Forget about Obamacare or Trumpcare, how about Collegecare?

What does the average student get for all those thousands of dollars spent on his or her education? A piece of parchment? With no hope of paying off the mountain of debt piled up in pursuit of that elusive degree?

Over the years, manual labor or skilled trades’ jobs have been looked down upon by the college-elite and business professionals. Plumbers, Electricians, Carpenters, Carpet Cleaners, Janitorial Staff, and other jobs are looked down upon by most business professionals. “Hey, we’re doing the real work!” That is the attitude pervasive in business today.

All of this belittling of good, honest work has caused many of today’s youth to shy away from these decent paying jobs. Plumbers, Electricians, Carpenters, and Construction workers can earn a very good living! These jobs might not be very sexy, but they need to be done, just the same. Many of these jobs don’t have a corporate ladder to climb, but they can provide a comfortable living, for someone who is willing to do the work.

Mike Rowe’s show on The Discovery Channel is called “Dirty Jobs”. It is an extreme example of some jobs that are on the far edge of the ick scale. These jobs need to be filled, but employers are having a hard time hiring people to do them.

Somewhere along the line, hard work has only become acceptable only if it is taking place in an office building, a hospital, or a courthouse. Rowe has a great quote about President Obama’s “Shovel Ready” jobs. “I pointed out that President Obama’s promise of 3 million shovel ready jobs sounded great, but I worried that filling those jobs would be challenging – especially in a country where fewer and fewer people aspired to pick up a shovel.” Rowe’s recent five-minute testimony to Congress (before he was cut off) can be read by following this link.

What this all comes down to is that High School Counselors and Parents need to realize that not every kid with decent grades is cut out for college. Somewhere along the line, college has become the only “acceptable path”. When offered “Higher Education” versus “Alternative Education”, which system do you think most parents want their precious little snowflakes enrolled in?

Clearly, not everyone is cut out for college. Just like not everyone is cut out to be an electrician. So let’s stop trying to cram square pegs into round holes and get back to giving each student an honest evaluation of his or her abilities. Otherwise, we’ll continue to have ridiculously expensive Universities. That, along with a national infrastructure that will continually need repair, because there is nobody to do the work!

As Rowe closed the segment with Carlson, he signed off with, “If you want to make America great again, you’ll need to make work cool again!” Sounds like a t-shirt slogan to me! I’m sure he can find a bunch of out-of-work college students to crank them out for him.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Sunken Costs

When is Enough, Enough?

Hey! Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. I hope you enjoyed last week’s article about Automation. What an uplifting piece that was! This week I decided to cover a topic I have been thinking about recently, Sunk (or Sunken) Costs. These are defined as a past cost that has already been paid and can’t be recovered. Like that vacation in Hawaii. You had a great time in paradise, but the money you spent on that trip is long gone.

There are many ways to look at sunken costs. Financial, obviously. However, there are more personal ways to look at it as well. What if you spent 3 years working on a degree in a field that is no longer viable, or of interest you? What if you have a friend who is a constant drain on your time and energy, who provides nothing to you in return? Those are other ways that sunken costs may be controlling our lives without realizing it.

The main category is Financial, of course. The biggest sunken cost for most people is their house. Cars come in second, but your house is the one cost that will actually increase in value, instead of depreciating at an alarming rate. If you want proof of this, buy (lease) a new car. Then drive into the McDonald’s parking lot next door and check the value of your new “used” car on TruCar or Kelly Blue Book. That little jaunt to the McDonald’s just cost you thousands of dollars in depreciation! Yikes!

Sunken costs are a very emotional thing. You bought that old Model T years ago, with hopes of restoring it and driving it in the Woodward Dream Cruise. If you sold it for 25% of what you bought it for, you wouldn’t just be losing 75% on your investment. You would also be taking a hit to your pride and feel guilty you didn’t take the time to restore the car to its original 1910 condition. Loss of investment and guilt are not a good combination.

Sunken cost avoidance runs rampant in the business world. Due to the time and money already spent on a project, companies who spent the past 2 years getting updated to the latest and greatest technologies often find they are unable to shift gears fast enough and make changes when they should. Never mind that all the “New Tech” became obsolete about 6 months ago! How would you like to be the Project Manager explaining that one to the CEO? Queue the flop sweat.

From your Career perspective, sunken costs can cripple your decision making. You know you should start to learn new skills. However, you just completed your “Data Processing” degree last month, and you are loathe to start all over again. That’s why staying up to date on the latest trends is so important. As I mentioned in my article on Automation, you’d better see the handwriting on the wall and upgrade your skills. Otherwise, when it all hits the fan, you’ll find yourself out of a job with no end in sight!

The silver lining about the times we live in is that there is no end to the amount of learning you can do! I don’t know if you have heard about TED Talks on YouTube. These have historically been the realm of Uber-Nerds (not the rideshare service). Nowadays, these talks have spread out to a number of different topics that range from tech to motivational speeches. Really worth checking out, if you want to stay ahead of the “next big thing”.

However, this is where many people get stuck. They have made a commitment to reaching a goal. The amount of time, money, and effort required to reach that goal may no longer be worth it. This is a very emotional issue for many people. Nobody wants to feel they have just been spending the last year and a half spinning their wheels. Worse, the goal they were trying to reach has just been eclipsed by new technology. “Now, what do I do?” you may ask. I’m not sure, but there’s probably a TED Talk for that.

People are another issue altogether. Without turning this into a therapy session, we all have friends in our lives we may be better off without. The big question to ask is, “If I just met this person today, would we become friends?” That’s a very important question. Because if the answer is “no”, you have to give some serious thought to what you are getting out of that relationship. Again, emotion plays a huge part in this decision.

I suggest you sit down and make a list of all of your sunken costs: Financial, Career, and Personal. Then do a Pros and Cons evaluation whether you should keep the item (or person), or let it (or them) go. If you’re honest, this list can grow pretty long. As I wrote in my article on Procrastination, it’s easier to ignore the sunken costs, than taking a hard look and determining whether you really need it!

I hope this article has helped illustrate what sunken costs are. How to really look at them with blinders off, and make an honest evaluation of them.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!


The Robot Revolution is Coming!

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. I hope you enjoyed last week’s article on Networking. I did go to the Networking Event I referenced in the article and had a good time meeting folks and swapping business/networking cards. There were quite a few folks in our age group, so that was inspiring I guess. If they’re in the same boat we are, they’re all unemployed and trying to put a good face on things.

But I digress. I have decided that this week’s article is going to be about Automation. For many people (unions, lawyers, and politicians), it is the REAL Elephant in the Room! After every economic downturn, the politicians all claim “We’ll bring those jobs back!” What if there are no jobs to bring back? I’m reminded of that song by Bruce Springsteen, My Hometown.

Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more
They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back

That last line is what ran through my head as I was thinking about this article. Jobs are going and they’re not coming back. No matter what any politician says. The Age of Automation and the Rise of the Robots is upon us and we’d better wake up to that fact.

From 1760 – 1840, the Industrial Revolution destroyed jobs. But it also helped to create many as well. Hopefully, the upcoming Terminator Invasion will leave more behind than the corpses of jobs formerly done by humans. Hopefully, those corpses will be reborn as new jobs, done by humans! By using Science Fiction as our guide, it certainly doesn’t paint a rosy future for us humans. We may be turned into batteries, as shown in The Matrix, or like in The Terminator, we might be hunted mercilessly, as SkyNet becomes “Self-Aware”! Just kidding, or am I?

An article from the PBS NewsHour website states that by 2025, roughly 1/3 of the jobs in this country will be replaced by “Smart Robots”. This isn’t only factory and manufacturing jobs. That’s been going on for years. These “Smart Robots” will take over office, medical, legal, and financial analysis jobs as well. Wonderful. Good thing I got that Accounting Degree.

However, all may not be lost in our battle with the Titans! On the website, they have a list of Robot-Proof Jobs. Jobs they feel won’t be replaced by C3PO. They found out that there is actually only a small percentage of jobs that are “100% Automatable”. They also include a list of “0% Automatable” jobs. Some of these are Dancers, Clergy, Sports Athletes, and Working with Animals. I guess they figure Fluffy and Rover might be spooked by a robot.

Greg Gutfeld from Fox News is always talking about the “Robot Apocalypse”. A lot of it is tongue-in-cheek, but he brings up some good points. Mostly, he feels that people are not taking the threat to the job market seriously.

Then there are the bizarre legal issues popping up around all of these “Robot Workers”. Lawyers are claiming these “workers” must have their “rights” protected. Unions are saying that they’re okay with robots, as long as there is a human worker “supervising”. Really? The unions are terrified their rank and file may be replaced by an army of robot workers. An army with no political agenda or the ability (or reason to) pay dues!

Yep, it’s going to be a “Brave New World”. But the big question is, where do we fit in? If robots have taken all our jobs, what do we do? Movies always create a Utopian view, like in I, Robot. Naturally, it all hits the fan, and Will Smith has to save the day. But what if it doesn’t hit the fan? What if robots manage to take over all of the menial, manufacturing, and some not-so-menial jobs? What do we do with all our free time and more importantly, how do we make money? That’s the BIG QUESTION!

Like the Industrial Revolution, it could be that all of this technology is bringing us bigger and better things. However, if we lose the ability to work in this new world, what happens then? Unemployment rates of 80-90-100%? A world-wide Depression that never ends? At least we’ll all have plenty of company in the unemployment line.

The challenge becomes, “How do I prepare for, and thrive in the new robotic future?” With almost total unemployment, how are WE supposed to survive? The obsolete workers that have already been tossed into the scrap heap.

According to an article in Business Insider, there are jobs that will survive the Robot Revolution. Of course, that article could be way off. We have no way of knowing. I guess from my standpoint, I’m just looking for a job that will bring in money this week, this month, and hopefully, this year. When I was driving for Uber and Lyft, I saw the handwriting on the wall when it came to self-driving cars. I knew I would only be driving for a few years before I was replaced by a robot. Much earlier than most workers.

I’m sorry to paint such a gloomy picture, but I wanted you to be aware of what’s coming. It’s not just Age Discrimination we’re fighting, but possibly robots that look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Be on the lookout!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!


Why it’s Become the New Classified Section

Hi, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. I hope you enjoyed last week’s article about Setting Priorities. I know it helped reinforce what I should be doing every day!

Anyway, today I thought I would tackle the topic of Networking. No, I’m not talking about those rooms full of servers that you see in your typical tech commercial. I am talking about Networking between Humans!

Bing appropriately defines Networking this way: “Interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career”. That pretty much nails it. However, if you are a disciple of Dale Carnegie, he would take a slightly different approach, but more on that later.

Back in days of old, when you were fired from a job, you grabbed the Classified Section of the Sunday newspaper. Then you circled some promising ads and hit the bricks first thing Monday morning. It wasn’t uncommon to have a number of interviews and maybe even have a job offer by the end of the week. Those days are over. Yesterday’s newspapers have been replaced by job hunting websites like Monster, Career Builder, and (my personal favorite) Indeed.

However, as I mentioned in my article about Age Discrimination, many times your résumé isn’t being seen by human eyes. Instead, it is perused by a heartless database scanner that will throw your résumé into the garbage can before anyone has a chance to see it.

How do you get your résumé past these robotic gatekeepers? There are some forms of trickery you can use. As far as your résumé goes, leave off the dates of service for each position. Also, use a single space after your sentences, since that’s what all the cool kids are doing nowadays. Then, set up a new Gmail account for your job hunt, since that’s your safest bet not to be labeled a fuddy-duddy.

If you manage to get past all of those roadblocks and actually get an interview, you have a whole new set of “upgrades” to consider. Younger, hipper glasses for one. Also, you may want to update your wardrobe, but hey, you don’t have a job! For us guys, there’s always hair coloring, which should cause any red-blooded American male to shudder. And so on.

But what if you don’t want to do an online and personal makeover just to get a shot at a job? What do you do then? That is where the Magic of Networking comes into play. In today’s job market, it’s much more about “who you know”. Like when your uncle got you that job when you were fresh out of high school with one of the Big Three (Ford, Chrysler, or GM). Ah, you were going to work there until the day you retired. Those were the days!

As I have already mentioned in my previous article, LinkedIn is the lynchpin in your Networking portfolio. However, there are also other ways to get the word out that you’re looking for work. Facebook is an option. However, for many people, this amounts to taking out a front page ad in your local paper telling all of your friends and family that you got fired and need a new job. A little too personal and embarrassing for some people.

Another option is attending Job Fairs and other Networking functions. As a veteran of some Job Fairs, these can be a little intimidating. All of those folks in their business suits, carrying their leather portfolios, can make you feel like small potatoes. Especially when you realize you have most of them beat in the age department by at least 20 years!

An excellent presentation by Wilf Flagler shows the “Mature Worker” the ins and outs of Networking for people our age. It is a great resource and I highly recommend that you check it out and download it for future reference.

There is also another excellent article in Forbes about writing a Perfect LinkedIn Summary. I was recently informed that this should be the main focus of my LinkedIn Profile. I never gave this a lot of thought, but as I bounced around LinkedIn and read some other member profiles, I realized that mine is lacking. I am in the process of using that Forbes article to help spruce it up and make it stand out to anyone who reads it.

A lot of the focus in Networking seems to be “Me, Me, Me”. While I understand you want to put your best foot forward with your fellow networkers, I have always thought this approach is the opposite of that classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. He said that people love to talk about themselves, so let them!

However, since the goal of attending a Networking Event is to put yourself out there, you need to work on your Elevator Pitch. The theory behind this quick presentation is simple. If you found yourself in an elevator with The Grand Poobah of the company of your dreams, what would you say to this person to make a good impression? You are supposed to be able to hit all of your talking points in 30 seconds or less. This way, as you work your way around the room at the Networking Event, you can leave quick impressions with the people you speak with. As well as your Networking Card.

What’s that you say? You don’t have a Networking Card to pass out? You only have business cards from your last job. You know, the one you were fired from? Have no fear, Vistaprint is here! They have a wide variety of Networking Cards, starting at only $7.99!

This Tuesday evening, I will be attending my first Networking Event. I joined a great group called Network After Work, that sets up Networking Events all over the country. To be honest, I have avoided these events in the past mainly because I felt that they would be full of nothing but Millennials. However, since I knew I would be writing this article, I have signed up to attend this event. Hopefully, it will lead to some good connections outside of LinkedIn. I encourage you to check out Networking Events in your area. You might meet someone, who knows someone, who is looking for somebody with your skills. You never know!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Setting Priorities

Otherwise, You’re Just Spinning Your Wheels!

Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. I hope you enjoyed last week’s article on GCF Learn Free. It really is quite an amazing website. This week I wanted to talk to you about Setting Priorities and why it is so important in getting things done.

If you read my articles about Procrastination, Goals, and Discipline, you will remember that you’re not going to get anywhere in life without Goals, and the Discipline to take the steps to reach them. However, Discipline without Priorities is like a video I saw on Facebook the other day. This guy was trying to line up 10 kittens in a row. Needless to say, it was an impossible task!

That’s what happens in our daily lives. We have great ideas we turn into Goals, but we’re unsure of where to begin. We have a list of tasks that need to be done in order to reach that Goal. However, we’re not sure “what order” those tasks should be done in to reach that Goal.

This is where Setting Priorities comes in. It allows you to perform a sort of daily triage on the tasks that need to be accomplished. By completing these tasks in the proper order, you get one step closer to achieving that Goal. However, it’s not just Goals that need to be prioritized. Your day-to-day jobs need to be arranged as well.

What’s more important? Calling a plumber to fix the leaky pipe in your basement, or picking up your suit from the dry cleaners? Unless you WANT an indoor pool in your basement, I would recommend calling the plumber first! That’s an extreme example, but figuring out which task needs to be done first is essential to getting things done!

In my article on Procrastination, I mentioned a book by Brian Tracy called Eat That Frog! It is all about tackling your ugliest tasks (or frogs) first thing in the morning. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to finally stop putting off ‘til tomorrow what they can do today.

There is another section in the book where he mentions something called the “ABCDE Method”. As Tracy describes it, there’s more to your life than just ugly frogs that need eating. There are a number of other chores and Goals that need to be completed. This is where the ABCDE Method comes into play.

The method is relatively simple:

“A” items are tasks that “Must Be Done”, like getting that important report to your boss on time. NOT forgetting your Wedding Anniversary, and other critical items.

“B” tasks are “Should Do” tasks. Stuff like getting your dog to the groomer (unless she just had a run in with a skunk, then I would move that up to an “A” task, pronto), getting an oil change, picking up your suit from the cleaners, and generally stuff that won’t stop your world if you put it off for a day.

“C” tasks are jobs that you “Can Do”. Stuff like meeting a friend for lunch, donating blood, helping out at your church, going to the movies, etc.

“D” is for “Delegate!” If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you might want to delegate cutting the lawn to your shiftless teenage son. That way, you can finally fix that leaky faucet in the bathroom.

“E” stands for “Eliminate”. These are tasks you have on your to-do list that may have already completed and you forgot to cross off the list. Or, they may have been relevant at some point, but are now obsolete.

Ok”, I hear you say, “that’s great, but what if there are more than one of these A-E tasks on my list?” That’s where sub-prioritizing comes in. For example, look at all of your “A” tasks and attach a number to the “A” for each one, based on the importance of each item. Like “A1”, “A2”, “A3”, etc. You get the idea. Depending on the size of your to-do list, this might take you a while, but the benefits will be enormous.

There is something called the 80/20 Principle, or the Pareto Principle This principle states that 20% of your completed tasks create 80% of the impact on your job or life. You can see that all of the “A” tasks naturally belong in the 20% group. Everything else should fall into the 80% category. The 80% or “B-E” tasks should be worked on only when all of the 20% or “A” tasks are completed.

This same prioritizing should always be applied to your Goal Setting and Achieving. You may have a list of tasks that are necessary for you to achieve a particular Goal, but you realize they might not really be in the proper order. Either re-sort these “Action Steps” into a logical order or apply the ABCDE Method to them, whichever is easier.

I hope this article has helped you see how your to-do list can be organized more efficiently. There’s one more point I want to make about Priorities. Make sure that you don’t fall into the “80% Trap”! That’s where you wind up spending all of your time working on the 80% tasks instead of the 20% tasks. Why? Because the 80% tasks are easier! That’s why they’re in the 80% list! Remember, the top 20% of your tasks create the greatest impact and will help you to achieve your Dreams and Goals faster! Are they tougher? You bet! That’s why you keep putting them off! However, these are the tasks that will really get you ahead in the world!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

GCF Learn Free

One of the Most Indispensable Websites You’ll Ever Use!

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. I hope you found my last article about the difference between an Hourly Employee vs Independent Contractor informative. This week, I want to tell you about another website I discovered many years ago, GCF Learn Free.

At the time I made this discovery, I had just been sentenced to serve out the remaining years of my old job on the Tech Support Desk. I was looking for online tutorials for Microsoft Office since many of the training materials provided by the company were incomprehensible to me.

I stumbled across this website looking for a Microsoft Excel tutorial and I was amazed to find not only that but a large catalog of online courses for everything from Using an ATM to advanced courses in Microsoft Access, the database application in Microsoft Office.

I would eventually describe this website to friends and colleagues as, “The one place to go to if you had just been left behind on Earth!” Or, for you fans of Douglas Adams, a REALHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. I’m sure E.T. would have gotten a lot of use out of it when he came to visit Elliot.

However, for the purpose of this article, I’ll only go over the job hunting and career-related aspects of the website. I’ll leave it to you to explore the rest of what GCF Learn Free has to offer. Trust me, you can get lost in there for days, in a good way.

The Work and Career section of the website is broken down into four categories. Career Planning, Job Search, Workplace Skills and Money. Many of these lessons can be used before and AFTER, you get the job. Just in case you fudged a little on your résumé and said you know a lot more about QuickBooks than might necessarily be true. There’s a QuickBooks Resources section for that. And much, much more.

Career Planning

This section is broken down into two categories. Career Planning and Salary and Job Search and Networking. Since most visitors to TBPC fall into the “Unemployed” classification, I’m sure you’ll get more use out of the second category. However, both offer useful lessons that will get you up to speed on the latest and greatest job hunting tools.

Career Planning and Salary is broken down into five different courses, plus a quiz at the end of each lesson. This section can be very useful if you are looking to reboot your career and try something new.

Discover Your Career Needs: This section helps get you pointed on a new career path with a list of Self-Assessment tools. It also helps you figure out how much money you need to get paid, and how to gain additional job skills that will help get you there.

Explore Careers: Now that you’ve determined your career interest, this section will help you find a position that aligns with that interest. It uses a man named Sameer as a case study on how to find a new career.

Salary Basics: This section explains how to determine if a position you have applied for will actually help you meet your financial needs, or if you should keep looking.

Gain Job Skills: This part illustrates how you’re going to get the skills needed to land the job you really want. It covers going back to school for a two or four-year degree, but that might not be an option if you’re struggling just to put food on the table. However, there are many eLearning options (like GCF Learn Free) that will help you to gain the necessary skills to land that job! Best of all, like GCF Learn Free, many of these sites are FREE!

Make a Career Plan: Now that you have figured out what you want to do, how much money you need to make, and gained the skills necessary to do the job, all you need is a plan. That’s what this section is about. It helps you to create a blueprint of the tasks you will have to achieve in order to reach your Career Goals.

Job Search and Networking. You have built the necessary skills for your new job and developed a plan to get that job. Now it’s time to put that plan into action. The age of combing the want ads in your local paper is over. It’s a digital world and it’s time to get with the program.

Job Search Savvy: This section helps you get your “job hunting racehorse” into the starting gate for the (hopefully short) race to the finish line. It helps put you in the right frame of mind for getting that new job.

Find a Job Online: Finding the right job is what this section is all about. It walks you through searching for and applying for a job online. However, keep in mind what I said in my article about Age Discrimination. Many times online applications will get kicked out by a database scanner long before ever being seen by human eyes. That’s why the next topic is so important.

Networking Basics: In this day and age, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Well, it’s what you know, too. You can’t apply for a job as a Neurosurgeon just because you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. However, nowadays, getting connected with your peers is crucial. Check out my article on LinkedIn for more info about that.

Job Hunt with Social Media: This area walks you through the basics of how to navigate all of the various Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and others. It shows you how to use these sites to let your friends and followers know you are looking for work. Oddly, it doesn’t really mention LinkedIn, which I would think would be stop number one for someone wanting to put themselves out there.

Personal Branding 101: This is the process of getting people to identify you with a certain job or industry. I have to admit that I don’t know a great deal about personal branding, even though apparently I have been doing lots of it. Updating my LinkedIn Profile (oops, spoke too soon), getting networking cards printed up, attending networking events, and starting a blog like this one, can really increase your visibility.

Well, that’s it for the Career Planning and Salary / Job Search and Networking parts of the Career Planning section. Wait! You say. What about Job Search, Workplace Skills, and Money? I know I have only shown you the tip of the iceberg with the Career Planning section. I’ll leave it up to you to check out the rest on your own. I told you it was a goldmine!

So, as you begin your new career search in earnest, just remember what the Hitchhiker’s Guide has printed on the front cover in large, friendly letters. “DON’T PANIC”. You have GCF Learn Free (and me) to show you the way!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Hourly Employee vs Independent Contractor

Which One Should You Choose?

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. This week I thought I would go into greater detail about the job classifications that are out there. If you have been unemployed for a while, you may want to look into becoming an Independent Contractor as a way of bringing in some extra income. Either on your own, or working WITH, but not FOR a company like Uber or Lyft. I’ll illustrate the differences between being an Hourly Employee and an Independent Contractor. Many of the Side Hustle and Work From Home jobs I have featured on this blog are Independent Contractor positions.

First a little background. As you already know, back in 2008 the country went through a major financial crisis. Many banks, insurance companies, and brokerage houses either went out of business or were bailed out by the U. S. Taxpayer. Losing millions of their client’s dollars in the process. Names like Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, and AIG were all over the news. To learn more about this event, watch the film, The Big Short. That movie scared the crap out of me!

In response to this financial crisis, many companies took advantage of an opportunity they had been waiting for. “How do we decrease the size of our workforce, without appearing weak to our stockholders, or the business community at large?” The Crash of 2008 was a gift to many companies who had been wanting to cut back their staff for years. However, if they resorted to layoffs, it would make the company look financially unstable.

I heard about this scheme from an article in the Huffington Post by James Altucher. In his article, 10 Reasons You Have to Quit Your Job in 2014, he explained how this plot was hatched. But more importantly, he explains why the old business model no longer works and why you should consider striking out on your own. He was talking about becoming an Independent Contractor or starting up your own business.

There are definitely Pros and Cons for each classification.

Pay: If you were an Hourly Employee at your previous job, more than likely you were paid every two weeks. Because of sick days and vacation days, many times you were paid for NOT working. As an Independent Contractor, you are paid for the job or project you have agreed to perform for a company or individual. Period. Your pay is based on the quote you gave for the job. Think about a plumber giving you an estimate to fix the leaky faucet in your tub.

Hours: A full-time Hourly Employee can expect to work a minimum of 40 hours per week. If part-time, then those hours vary, but are usually 30 hours or less. An Independent Contractor (IC) puts in as many hours as needed to finish the job. Since his pay is not hourly, it behooves him to do the job right and finish as quickly as possible. Then he can move onto the next job.

Benefits: Hourly Employees can expect to receive a host of benefits from their employer. These range from health care to dental care and vision care, etc. An IC must take care of these expenses on his or her own. With the soaring cost of health care, this is a major consideration. However, there may be group plans that ICs can join that will hopefully bring down this cost.

Retirement: As an Hourly Employee, you may have a fully-funded, partially-funded, or employee-funded retirement plan provided by the company. In addition to that, you pay into FICA (Social Security and Medicare), which is also a source of retirement funds. As an IC, you are on your own for your retirement funding and you still have to pay into FICA.

Flexibility: This is one area where an IC has it made over an Hourly Employee. As an IC, you set your own hours and work when you want. In the plumber example I gave earlier, if the plumber is an IC and not an employee for a plumbing company, he determines his own work hours. As an Hourly Employee, your hours are set by the employer and you’d better be to work on time!

Tax Considerations: As an Hourly Employee, all of your taxes and deductions are withheld by your company and forwarded onto the recipients for you. When you’re an IC, you are on your own for taking care of your taxes and any other deductions. On the bright side, when you get paid, you get a check for 100% of the job quote. Not like the net income check that an Hourly Employee gets. If you are working with a company like Uber or Lyft, they will provide you with a Form 1099 instead of a Form W-2. That form will detail the income you earned with them for the previous tax year.

Freedom: This is when being an IC really beats being an Hourly Employee. The only problem is that your time off is unpaid. However, when you need a day off, take it! When you want to go on vacation, go! When the weather is crappy, stay home! The Hourly Employee doesn’t have that luxury. Need a day off? Clear it with the boss. Want to go on vacation? Sure, if someone is there to cover for you. Feel like crap and just can’t make it into the office? No problem, if you have any sick days left. You get the idea.

Security: The Hourly Employee has the satisfaction of knowing that every two weeks, like clockwork, he is going to be paid for his hours worked (or not worked if sick or on vacation). The IC gets paid only for the work that was done. No work, no pay! After many years as an Hourly Employee, this is the toughest thing to get used to as an IC.

I guess for me, what it all comes down to is the old formula: Time vs Money. If you don’t have a job at all, you have plenty of Time, but no Money. If you are an Hourly Employee, you are giving up a substantial amount of Time for Money. However, as an IC, if done correctly, you can have the perfect balance of Time AND Money! That is the elusive Golden Ticket that all ICs are looking for.

I hope this article has helped to clear up any misconceptions about the difference between these two types of work classifications. In preparing this blog, articles from and BankRate were very helpful in explaining these differences.

DISCLAIMER: As usual, before making any financial decisions based on the information I have detailed above, be sure to check with your tax professional and / or retirement planning specialist for more information.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!


Why It’s The Most Important Tool In The Box!

Hi there, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club! This week we’re going to talk about one of the most important tools in your “Job Hunting Toolbox”, LinkedIn. As you probably know by now, LinkedIn is Facebook for business professionals. It allows you to build a network of contacts from many diverse backgrounds. In theory, this network will someday help you find a job. In theory.

According to a LinkedIn company timeline, it was the brainchild of Reid Hoffman, launched from his living room in May 2003. That’s ancient history in “Tech Time”. He was a veteran board member of Google, eBay, and PayPal. So this was not a “blogger in his mother’s basement” discovery. He put together a team from an early social networking company called (go figure) SocialNet and PayPal and boom, a social networking giant was born!

You have probably heard from every job placement professional how important it is to “Network” and “Put yourself out there!” But how do you do that exactly? Hopefully, this article will show you how.

It all starts with your Profile. This is your “Online Résumé” that you present to the digital world. It’s very important for you to fill out your profile as completely as possible. Entering as much personal information as you are comfortable with, along with your previous work experience. I’m not talking about posting your Social Security number or your current relationship status, however, you do want your profile to attract attention. LinkedIn provides many ways for you to do this.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should go into a little more detail about what you will actually be doing on LinkedIn. If you are familiar with Facebook, LinkedIn should be relatively familiar to you. If you aren’t on Facebook, grab a hold of your son, daughter, or anyone you know under forty and get your account set up right away! As I mentioned before, LinkedIn is Facebook for Business. The theory is that you will be able to create a network of contacts you can reach out to when needed. Like when you’re laid off from your job!

This is directed at people who are still working. This is my first DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DID! When I set up my LinkedIn account, I foolishly used my work email account as my login. DO NOT DO THIS!!!! When you are laid off from your job, and you have forgotten your LinkedIn password, where will they send the email to reset your password? You got it! The email account from the job you were just fired from and no longer have access to! Make sure to use your home email, or better yet, a job hunting email account. I was eventually able to change the login id on my account (without losing all my contacts), but it was a colossal pain in the butt!

I will spend the rest of this article going over each of the different sections of the LinkedIn website.

Home: Obviously, this is the Home Page. This is similar to your Facebook Home Page, where you will see articles that are shared or posted by your LinkedIn Contacts. The left side has a section called Me. This is a shortcut to your LinkedIn Profile Page. I will cover that later. The right side has a list of trending topics as well as a recommended company for you to check out.

My Network: This is the nuts and bolts of LinkedIn. This is the page where all of your LinkedIn Contacts (or Connections) are displayed. On the left side of the page, you will see the number of Connections that you currently have. Click on the number to see a list of those contacts. The center section of the page is a list of LinkedIn Members you can Invite to become one of your LinkedIn Connections.

Jobs: The Jobs Page is pretty neat. Based on your Job Experience you listed in your Profile, LinkedIn suggests jobs that may be a match for you. It’s like having your own personalized Headhunter!

Messaging: This is where you can stay in touch with your LinkedIn Connections and send them Messages. However, you can only send Message to YOUR Connections. I didn’t try this, but I’m pretty sure you have to be a Connection of Bill Gates in order to send him a Message! The left side of the page is a list of your recent Messages and the center section is where you compose a Message to your Connections.

Notifications: This is where you receive notices that your Connections have upcoming work anniversaries, birthdays, and more importantly when someone has viewed your Profile. That is the primary goal of LinkedIn, getting noticed and getting people to view your Profile! Stay caught up with all of your Notifications so you don’t miss out on anything!

Me: It’s all about you, baby! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Anyway, this page IS all about you, and it’s the information your Connections, as well as prospective Employers, will read about you! It is broken down into many different sections.

Your Articles & Activity: This section keeps track of any articles you have written for LinkedIn or shared from another source.

Experience: This is the meat and potatoes of your Profile. You will list all of your work experience here. You should be able to cut and paste the relevant info from your résumé here.

Volunteer Experience: List any volunteer work that you do in this section.

Featured Skills & Endorsements: This is where contacts and former co-workers can endorse you for specific skills. Some of these can be pretty basic, but some are pretty detailed.

Recommendations: This is where former co-workers can write up a nice reference for any future employers to review. Don’t forget to write up one of these for fellow co-workers who become laid off as well. Good karma.

Accomplishments: This is for any special project you were involved in, as well as any publications or blogs that you write for.

Following: There are various individuals, companies, and groups that you can follow from this section of the Profile.

That’s it for my overview. Remember, LinkedIn is all about getting noticed. Start by “Liking” an article shared by one of your contacts. Then “Share” one yourself. Keep in mind this is a business site and videos of puppies and babies may be adorable, but they should be kept on Facebook. LinkedIn is all about business!

Needless to say, this blog is instantly shared on LinkedIn and Facebook the moment it is published! After all, what’s the point of writing these articles, if nobody is going to see them!! I hope this article has inspired you to really dig into LinkedIn and make it your “Go To” tool in your “Job Hunting Toolbox”!

One thing I forgot to mention is that you have to be a LinkedIn Member to view someone’s Profile. So don’t wait, sign up now! It’s free! To see an example of what a LinkedIn Profile looks like, please click on this link to my Profile. I’ve lost weight since that picture was taken, so please don’t judge!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Age Discrimination

How It’s Working Against You!

Hello, and welcome to The Brown Parachute Club. If this is your first time reading this blog, you may be thinking, “What’s up with the name of this website?” Well, when you reach retirement, it’s been said that you receive a “Golden Parachute”. It will enable you to land softly and hit the ground running in your “Golden Years”.

To those of us who are laid off before we reach retirement age, we receive the “Brown Parachute”. If the Golden Parachute is filled with Gold, I’ll let you figure out what the Brown Parachute is filled with.

If you have recently joined The Brown Parachute Club, this article is about your hidden nemesis, Age Discrimination. As I will show you, it comes in many forms, and it’s the main reason there are so many members of TBPC.

When I was laid off in February of 2014 I figured, “Well, this sucks, but I should be able to get another job eventually.” Uh, no. At least not in my field of Data Backup and Recovery, where I had over 30 years of experience. I also couldn’t find work in the Audio / Visual field, where I had 6 years of experience. I even applied for Technical Support jobs (which I hated) and I didn’t get any nibbles there either.

“What is wrong with me?” “Why am I not getting called for any interviews?” “I’m qualified for these jobs!” “What’s going on?” These are all questions I asked myself when I was unable to get a job during the first six months after being laid off.

At that time, I had no idea The Brown Parachute Club even existed. As of 2012, there were over 2.1 million people between the ages of 55 and 65 who had been laid off before they reached retirement. Given the state of the economy in recent years, do you think that number has increased or decreased? Had I known about this, I might have felt a little better about myself. After all, misery loves company.

It’s not that I didn’t try to find work. I was signed up with so many headhunters, I could have been cast in the fictitious movie, “Abbott and Costello Meet the Headhunters!” Where Bud and Lou get laid off ten years away from retirement and try in vain to find jobs! I did get calls from some of the headhunters from time to time. They would tell me that I was perfect for a job that just came across their desk! Only to never hear back from them again about the position.

Of course, if you have been unemployed for a while, and you are in the 55 – 65 age group, none of this is news to you. What you may not realize is that Age Discrimination is real, and it is the “Silent Killer” of your career.

Many companies are laying off people our age, simply because they are trying to cut costs. They go after people like us, with the most seniority, who are making the most money in their departments, because we’re easy targets.

That wouldn’t be so bad if most people our age had scaled back their debt and financial obligations. However, many of us still owe on our cars, house, and college debt for the kids. How are we supposed to keep up those payments with no job? “Not our problem”, says your former employer.

What you don’t realize when you apply for a job online is that in many cases, “Human Eyes” are never viewing your résumé. It’s not Age Discrimination if a computer is discriminating against you. There are certain “Key Words and Phrases” that a Résumé Database Scanner looks for. These word and phrase combinations can be positive, or in our case, negative. I’m sure I’ve been the victim of “Résumé Math” on more than one occasion. When a Résumé Database Scanner starts putting 2 + 2 together, the resulting answer is “OLD!

What company is going to hire you at your old salary, when it can hire some kid fresh out of school for a third of what they were paying you? It’s simple economics, the type where you get the short end of the stick. Even if they were willing to pay you what they were going to pay the kid, why should they hire you? When you only have a handful of good years left. Taylor, fresh out of college, can work for them until he (or she) is your age. Then they can make him (or her) a member of The Brown Parachute Club as well!

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are plenty of fields where your age is irrelevant to your job prospects and may actually improve them. However, for the rest of us, being old sucks. And not just because of the wonderful new aches and pains that we discover each morning!

A recent article in Forbes illustrates how widespread the problem is. In a letter to a blogger, a letter-writer details an experience he had with a potential client. Without giving away too much of the article, at one point a young recruiter tells the letter-writer, At your age, you’d better take what you can get!The writer of this letter is a consultant with his own very successful business, and he STILL gets hit with this attitude! If he catches this kind of crap, what kind of hope do we have?

Age Discrimination is exceedingly hard to prove. How can you say that you were discriminated against if you never get called for an interview in the first place? If your résumé is never seen by “Human Eyes”, how can a “Human Reviewer” ever be called in for a deposition? It’s much easier to have the Résumé Database Scanner do the discriminating for you!

I’m sorry to paint such a rosy picture, but I don’t believe in sugarcoating the truth. And the truth is, unless you have experience in a job that’s in very high demand, you may be looking for work for a very, very, very long time.

However, all is not lost! That’s why I started this website. I wanted to help folks during this difficult time in their lives. There are many Side Hustle and Work From Home jobs listed here that might help you earn some extra cash, to help you dig out of a financial hole. There may also be some information that will help you to set some goals, become more disciplined, stop procrastinating, lose weight and much more. Just remember, giving up is not an option! See you next week.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

24 Hours In The Stone Age

What Would Fred & Wilma Do?

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. This week I want to go a little off topic. I want to talk a little about Emergency Preparedness. I know, it sounds like an exciting subject. However, recently my wife and I found out just how exciting it can be.

Last Wednesday, the Detroit Area was hit with one of the worst windstorms on record. Wind gusts reached close to 70 mph. For us Great Lakes dwellers, that is the equivalent of a Hurricane.

That evening, my wife and I sat down to watch some TV before dinner. A short time later, the TV blinked on and off a couple of times, then eventually went out for good. Along with the power to the rest of the house. This was a unique situation for us, losing power in the Late Winter / Early Spring.

As it turned out, DTE Energy (the main power provider in the Detroit Area) had over 860,000 people without power. That is over one-third of their customers. It was the largest power outage in their history, and that includes the Midwest / East Coast power outage of 2003.

Since we had no power, we knew none of this. My first thought was, “Ruh, Roh, Raggy!” Part of the reason the winds were so high was because of clashing warm and cold fronts that were moving through the area. The temperature at the time of the outage was 50 degrees and would eventually drop down to 34 degrees by morning. Not life-threatening, but by no means a picnic. Even for us born and bred Michiganders.

The temperature in our house eventually got down to 59 degrees, which is excellent football weather at The Big House in Ann Arbor, but not so great in our living room. My four guppies were huddled together in their tank for warmth and our dog was looking at us as if we had lost our minds. We were walking around the house with thick sweatshirts and gloves on.

Thankfully, our period of residence at Winterfell lasted only 24 hours. On Thursday afternoon, we went to go see “Logan”, the latest Wolverine movie. The power was back on when we got home. The first words out of my mouth were, “Thank You, God!”

As we found out later, this weather event was a “Perfect Storm” of sorts. Our much warmer than usual February resulted in the ground not being frozen as hard as it normally would be at this time of year. Add heavy rain and wind to the mix and you have trees falling over like bowling pins!

Our whole weather misadventure got me thinking about what we could have done differently to prepare for this disaster. I mean instead of just going to the movie theater to get warm!

Thankfully, we did have some firewood in the backyard. However, since we don’t have a blower insert in our fireplace, it only resulted in raising the temperature a whopping 3 degrees.

While researching what to do to prepare for next time, I found an article on the AccuWeather website that covers losing power in the winter. Since this was a wind-related event, luckily we didn’t have a mountain of snow to deal with.

Using the following suggestions from the article, and some common sense can help get you through the outage.

  1. Check your fuses or circuit breakers. This is an obvious thing to check. However, we were able to determine pretty quickly that our whole neighborhood had lost power. Still, it’s a good place to start if you’re not sure about the extent of the outage.
  2. Staying warm. The next step is to figure out how you’re going to stay warm. Load up the beds with extra blankets and break out some additional blankets for your living areas as well. Grab sweatshirts, fleece jackets, hats, and gloves. This might seem like overkill, but trust me, you’ll be glad you have them handy if your power outage is longer than a couple of hours. The article also mentioned blocking any drafts by putting towels at the bottom of exterior doors, closing the fireplace flue, and hanging black blankets on the windows to absorb the heat or put them in the sun on the floor to do the same thing. That last one seems kind of goofy to me, but whatever.
  3. Stay inside. This seems obvious unless you are relocating to a residence with power for the duration of the outage. Otherwise, stay at home if the weather is snowy, icy, or a mix of the two. Also, don’t use your gas stove as a form of heat. That can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. However, this article from eHow shows you how to light your gas stove without power. That would give you the option of making hot meals in a cold house! Needless to say, be VERY CAREFUL if you attempt to do this!
  4. CO Poisoning. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning is a real danger during these times. If you are lucky enough to have a generator, please make sure it is kept away from doors, windows, and outside vents!
  5. Food. Make sure you have plenty of non-perishable foods on hand like soups, cereals, nuts, peanut butter, crackers, water, etc. It is also recommended to have a three day supply of emergency food available since in most cases, power will be restored within three days. My Patriot Supply has a three-day emergency food kit available for $25. You can’t put a price on a hot meal in a cold house! Flashlights, candles, batteries, and an emergency crank radio are good items to have on hand as well.
  6. Staying in touch. Keep your communications with friends and family to a minimum. Use a portable battery pack (or packs) to keep your phones charged up. Don’t forget that many cars can charge your devices and battery packs without running the car. That way you won’t waste gas or asphyxiate your family!
  7. Kids and pets. Obviously, the best solution is to take them to Grandma’s House, if she still has power. However, if that isn’t an option, consider a few warm days in a hotel. Pets can be problematic, since a hotel (or Grandma) may not be willing to let Rover trash the place! A family member may have to stay in Frigid Acres until the power comes back on. Or, until you can get someone with power to babysit your dog, cat, or fish.

I want to re-state the hotel option since this often gets overlooked until it’s too late. You need to decide quickly if it is worth it to spend a night (or nights), in a hotel room, or tough it out at home. With a large power outage, local hotel rooms fill up quickly. You’ll need to move fast if you are going to get one.

What it all comes down to for most people is how much cold is too much? For me, once the house gets below the mid-60s it’s time to go. But hey, that’s just me.

I hope these suggestions will help you in the event of an outage. Obviously, some of these tips apply in summer as well. Thankfully, there’s not much chance of freezing to death in the summer.

Please do your homework and determine what level of preparedness you are comfortable with and plan accordingly. After all, Fred and Wilma knew how to survive when it all hit the fan, will you?

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!