SOUNDING OFF

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You can learn a lot by observing and asking questions. But to shake things up, you have to get real ticked off about the important things that need fixing. The dangerous alternative is complacency.

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Value of MBA questioned

Stories about boomers trend toward silly, Part 2

Stories about boomers trend toward silly

Sick of reading about old people? Part 2

Sick of reading about old people?

Value of MBA questioned

With companies becoming  more particular about the candidates they hire, the job market becomes more competitive each year. In light of market realities, few people would argue against the value of a bachelor’s degree.  Most employers will say it’s mandatory.  Work experience is equally important. 

But as the cost of a college education increases, career builders are having second thoughts about  post graduate degrees, especially the MBA.  Unquestionably,    higher education has its benefits, but there are better ways of  preparing for a career than starting off tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

What better examples than successful entrepreneurs, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Marc Zuckerberg, and Ted Turner, to name a few, created global empires without a college degree.

Unquestionably,  “higher education has its benefits,”  but based on experience and data, there are better ways of  preparing for a career than starting off  tens of thousands of dollars in educational debt, said Ed Basler,  veteran entrepreneur and author of “The Meat & Potatoes Guide to Business Survival: A Handbook for Non-MBA’s & College Dropouts.”

Value of MBA questionable

Hard work, working smart,  and learning from those who’ve been successful opens career doors, Basler said.

But, nearly 70 percent of graduates from public and nonprofit colleges in 2013 had student loan debt, which averaged $28,400 per borrower, according to The Institute for College Access and Success.

Basler said  “College doesn’t necessarily impart those attributes to students. The price of an MBA is certain, but its value is not.” Instead, he suggests following these seven principles: 

1.       Respect the power of your vision.  It may sound like a cliché, but not to dreamers like Walt Disney — another giant who succeeded without a degree — Basler said.  “Those who criticize the dreams of visionaries are those who’ve either failed or never dared to dream in the first place.”   Basler’s success formula: Big vision = big results.

2.      Don’t listen to naysayers.Listen to those who have something to say, including those who fully support your dream, and offer constructive criticism.

3.      Plug into information.  You don’t have reinvent the wheel.  Instead, take of readily available information, such as joining your industry’s trade association, for example. It is a wealth of ideas, information and networking opportunities.

4.      Never pay retail.   Basler equates a college degree with paying retail prices. An expensive college degree does not guarantee a great job. But “you certainly pay a financial price,” he said.   In business, frugality pays off. “The easiest and most frequently cited price is usually one that can be improved,” Basler added. “You can buy office furniture at a store, or you can cut those prices by half or more by going to an auction. Always be on the lookout for a more cost-efficient way.”

5.       Use a checklist.  If something is worth doing, then it’s worth including on your  daily to-do list, according to Basler.  Put the most important items at the top and then check them off once done. This lets you know that the task has been accomplished and it’s time to move on to the next.

6.      Deadlines help achieve goals.   Ambitious deadlines are powerful motivators to accomplishment more,” Basler said.   Human beings’ attention spans are prone to wander. Deadlines, however, keep us focused so that goals are achieved.

Posted on: June 30, 2015 08:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Stories about boomers trend toward silly, Part 2

A few more thoughts about the survey, “It Matters How Old You Fee: Antecedents and Performance Consequences of Average Relative Subjective Age in Organizations,” published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The research team of the survey posed this question: “If mindset is critical, then isn’t how old you really are what matters?”

That’s a strange conclusion. The assumption is that all or most older workers are concerned about how old they feel. Maybe they came to that conclusion from reading all those ridiculous stories about 60 being the new 40,  and 70 being the new 50 (maybe those numbers are off, but you get the idea). Did the pundits ever consider that many older workers are just thrilled to be working and taking home a weekly paycheck? More likely, they’re angry, better yet, pissed off, because they have to jump through hoops to get a job.  Maybe the last thing they’re thinking about is old they feel.  

Survey findings:  Employees who felt younger than their chronological age were more successful in achieving their goals. Companies that employed “young at heart” employees also tended to perform better, be more efficient and earn more.  The survey also found that organizations were more likely to have more “young at heart workers when they offered both age-inclusive policies and, on average, their employees felt that their work was more important and meaningful.” 

I give up. I have no idea what that last finding meant.  The researchers went on to say that the “cross-sectional study can’t prove the causality, but it’s possible that the optimism and possibilities afforded by meaningful work can make us feel more vibrant, and active policies that challenge stereotypes and extend opportunities to older workers help remove the sense of age being an issue.”

That’s the essence of the survey. I find the conclusions farfetched.  The “young at heart stuff” struck me as farfetched and, well, silly.  It’s enough that boomers have been brainwashed to believe that looking is young is far better than looking old. The majority of boomers are having a hard time dealing with aging. Hence, the obscene amounts of money spent on anti-aging remedies and cosmetic surgery. Why aren’t we putting forth a new, more realistic and honest view of aging? Obviously, many seniors have to contend with serious health issues — a fact of life we can’t do anything about. Yet, many boomers are living rich, meaningful lives.  A significant number are enjoying the most productive and creative part if their lives.  And there is the physical thing; older people’s changing biology. Despite all the quick-fix stay-young remedies, we can’t fight our biology.

With those givens, why don’t we see the positives?  Why is the aging body seen in negative terms?  Why isn’t old viewed as beautiful, and the aging process as sort of a coming of age — a time to reflect, ponder, achieve fulfillment, and take stock of our lives.  In other cultures, elders are seen as a priceless resource, a source of knowledge and wisdom.  

Enough of this “young at heart” stuff.  It’s time to get down to the real, the important issues of aging. 

Posted on: May 30, 2015 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Stories about boomers trend toward silly

 

Every time I think I read the last grandiose, back-slapping story about baby boomers, another pops up.  This one was picked up by son-in-law, my top unpaid consultant who I’ve programmed to send me anything about baby boomers.  Unfailingly, he always dredges up studies and surveys I missed. A recent survey, “It Matters How Old You Fee: Antecedents and Performance Consequences of Average Relative Subjective Age in Organizations,” was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Written for organizational decision makers and recruiters, the big message is that if companies want to build a dynamic workforce, they ought to stop searching for young, hotshot fast trackers, and look for candidates who are young at heart.  The study was based on a survey of more than 15,000 employees from 107 companies.  The researchers’ goal was to find out how “subjective age influences workplace performance.”      

In the past, it was widely believed that younger workers are more likely to make significant contributions.  But, the evidence, according to researchers, is patchy and incomplete.  It was based on the belief that young career builders are focused on getting ahead and moving up the career ladder, whereas the oldsters are all about maintaining their positions.  I don’t know who came  to that conclusion, which is wrong.  Sounds like another myth or stereotype about older workers.

Since age discrimination is a fact of life, it’s safe to conclude that many boomers are delighted to just land a job. It takes many boomers up to two years to find a job — if not longer. Out of sheer frustration, many  abort their job search and drop out of the job market.  That doesn’t mean they’re finding work. But it’s often not in their fields or professions. They wind up taking whatever they can find; often they’re paid off the books.  So they are invisible to the government, and are not part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s statistics.

That said, there are many older workers who are fortunate to find jobs in their fields, and rather than report to work and get their work done and head home come 5 o’clock, they throw themselves into their jobs, work long hours, and make significant contributions.  

There’s more to say about this survey. Look for my next blog on the subject.

Posted on: May 30, 2015 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sick of reading about old people? Part 2

North Americans love tossing numbers around. A few years ago, a lot of ridiculous touchy-feely stories told of rethinking aging based on the fact that people are living longer. With little interpretation, if we took our one-a-day multipurpose vitamins and all the pills that keep us fit and trim as any 30-something ab-bulging, muscle-bound jock and slather our faces and bodies with every anti-aging cream, salve, soap or elixir, we would act and feel 10, 15 and 20 years younger than our chronological age. Hence, the eye-catching newspaper and magazine headline “60 is the new 40.”

If we believe them – and God help us if we do – we probably believe that winning the Powerball lottery is our destiny.

Why well-healed boomers haven’t put a bounty on the guy who came up with those ridiculous phrases is beyond me.   

As dumb, and ill-founded as they are, they never the less triggered a raft of print, Internet and TV stories. With all the horrific things going on in the world, why are editors assigning and publishing these stories?

Maybe I’m a hopeless idealist with old-school values, but I’d like to think that it’s not their decision, although they take the heat.

Some media critics have said that journalist standards have sunk to an all-time low. I don’t agree. There are a lot of good journalists out there doing great work. Many are working for newspapers and magazines, others are working for websites. There are even some fine journalists working for TV and cable networks.  The problem is they are scattered all over the place, and the trick is separating the wheat from the chaff.  Thanks to the advent of the Blogosphere, anyone can call themselves a writer and publish themselves on the Internet.  Equally confusing, thanks to the self-publishing explosion, anyone can call themselves a published author and have their books, bound, paper or E-format, and sold on Amazon. The quality of the writing and subject matter has nothing to do with the self-publishing process. The only important factor is being able to foot the cost of producing, packaging and formatting the book. You may not sell one book; nevertheless, you can call yourself a published writer. And if you manage to scrounge up some sales, most self-published authors are lucky if they sell 100 books or more. So separating quality content from unreadable hogwash is a fruitless and futile effort.   

Posted on: May 01, 2015 07:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sick of reading about old people?

The aging of America has become a twisted, mangled story, which combines facts,  self-serving “all-is-good” nonsensical New Age messages, with the horrors of aging, and grossly inaccurate stories extolling the joys of retirement. Talk about mangling facts.  It doesn’t take an ace reporter to know that  each year fewer and fewer boomers can afford to retire.  Statistics tell the whole story.  A safe stat is less than 25 percent of boomers socked away enough money to retire.

In sum, since the oldest baby boomers turned 65 in 2011, there has been an explosion of content — web, TV, radio, print — about our aging population.

If I’m not reading a Panglossian, aging-is-great story or a bloated rah-rah piece about our senior years being our most productive and creative period,  I’m wading through a depressing story about how our understaffed, ill-equipped healthcare system is struggling to care for a rapidly aging society.  Making matters worse, thousands of boomers are having a tough time finding jobs because our ageist culture prefers to hire young fast trackers who jog 100 miles before work, and put in 12 and 14 hour work days, rather than super-smart balding, out-of-shape experienced boomers who can accomplish as much or more than a hyperkinetic 30- or 40-year-old in seven or eight hours. 

What about all the badly reported stories with headlines like “60 is the new 40?” The newest feel-good numbers are “80 is the new 65,” which was gleaned from a Retirement Survey from Wells Fargo & Co. 

I wonder who came up with those catchy phrases. I’d like to think it was a marketing or advertizing writer, rather than an editor or columnist.

They eye-catching headlines triggered a raft of stories trying to substantiate those claims. It didn’t matter that they were bloated with hyperbole and unsubstantiated facts.  A lot of folks read them, because they appeared online, in  print and on the tube.   They were all triggered by the fact that Americans are living longer. 

Posted on: May 01, 2015 07:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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"Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard of no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

- William Shakespeare

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