Can a Bracelet Put America Back to Work?

The Indivisible Bracelet

So today the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, held an open conference call. Know what it was about? Putting Americans back to work. Shoot, I wish I would have known earlier. I would have been on that call. I do agree — small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. Will people donate 5 bucks that goes to Opportunity Finance Networks?  They might if they know that this organization provides seed funding for new small businesses. They also may donate if they are among the 99% of very pissed off people. Big government is too slow to help. It can’t even get us a real health insurance plan — for everyone. Because everyone deserves health insurance, whether they have a job or not.

It is ridiculous. I’ve talked to medical professionals who are trying to keep the unemployed and underemployed healthy while they try to find jobs or  better jobs. These are people like myself who have a Master’s degree and are clueless on how to get health insurance help because they have never had to ask for help before. Free clinics like the one I had to go to last week for help with bronchitis are overwhelmed. If health insurance is going to continue to be linked to jobs, then we need to get people back to work. In good jobs that provide access to USABLE health insurance. That’s the only way overall health costs in the U.S. are going to come down.

So will people donate for a bracelet? Maybe so. However, that does not let “The Administration” off the hook. C’mon Washington. Step on it. The people who gave you your jobs need a little help. Now. Your incentive: People in the “real” work world who do not make good on their promises get fired. Just sayin’…

The Secret to Contracting Success: Diversify

When I was a health industry recruiter, I wondered why so many contractors would turn down full-time gigs. Now that I’m freelancing, I understand why. If you work for one company, you run the risk of watching the project for which you are hired go down the drain or the company go belly up. Many of the biostatisticians I hired had their own businesses set up in this way: they paid for their own health and life insurance and did not rely on a recruiting agency to provide insurance; they had their own computer equipment and did not borrow from the company unless they had to; they had more than one client at the same time; they built in vacation days into their yearly schedule; and they also refused to continue with the client when they were not paid per the regular payment schedule.

Unfortunately, diversifying your clients if you are a contractor/freelancer can be difficult. In the writing arena, many content publishers will only hire you at pittance wages (some as low as $2 per article) and only move you up the pay scale once you have proven that your written content is worthy. Yet, many prefer you do not write for their competitors. This was also true for the biostatisticians. Performing data analysis for clinical trials conducted by two different pharmaceutical companies for drugs treating the same medical condition was frowned upon enough to get a “moonlighting” biostatistician fired. It may also get that person blacklisted in his/her chosen field.

Having a financial cushion in place before you begin contracting helps. You can pay for medical and life insurance and keep paying your bills while you build up your contracting business.

Willingness to diversify and stretch yourself to work in a field slightly outside your comfort zone will be a plus as well. It also builds up your skill set and opens up new contracting opportunities.

Willingness to jump ship is another plus. Many of us are so used to working, full-time so-called permanent jobs. It’s comfy; you don’t have to worry about your next job or paycheck. Contractors also get comfy too with the companies for which they work. They tend to take on contracts with the same companies over and over. However, if you contract, you need to be aware of the signs that show when a project or company is about to go under. Yes, you may have signed a contract. In that case, get yourself prepared for the end. My biostatisticians were in a unique position in that regard. They often knew by looking at the clinical data when a drug was not working and would not move into the next clinical testing phase. These people were smart; they networked with myself and other people in the industry to find out what else was out there before the end came. They stayed prepared…

Encore Careers

So, what is an encore career? Any career that you pursue to supplement your income after retiring can be considered an encore career. People are retiring and looking for encore careers for a number of reasons: Many baby boomers are reaching retirement age and finding that they cannot afford to retire; the economy is making it harder for people to pursue their primary career; they want to transition to an encore career that takes up less time; they have been offered an early retirement package from their company, but aren’t quite ready to retire.

Regardless of why you retired, there are several paths you can take to start your encore career. You can use your knowledge that you gained in your primary career as a consultant. Offer your services to your previous employer, competitor companies or companies in a related field who can use your skills. Let your networking contacts and family and friends know that you are available for consulting. Consulting may mean signing on with a staffing agency. There are a number of benefits to this. You should get a written contract from the agency that clearly specifies the details of the position including salary, length of contract and any perks. You may get a benefits package including health insurance and life insurance that is partially subsidized, 401k plan, laptop, company car and an expense account. You may also get repeat consulting business through the staffing agency. The downside to consulting: Depending on the state in which you live and the industry in which you work, you may have to sign a non-compete clause in your contract that stipulates that you will not simultaneously work for a company’s competitor now and for a specified time in the future. Check to make sure that non-compete clauses are legal in your state before you sign one. Some industries that use consultants include: banking and finance, IT, health administration, non-profits, government and non-governmental organizations and human resources.

Freelancing can be another type of encore career. You may still have to sign a contract to freelance for a company, but you should be able to freelance for as many companies as you like. You can set your own hours, you may or may not have deadlines, you may be able to work from home and you can choose freelance assignments that interest you. There are some companies that hire freelancers, including creative staffing agencies that will provide benefits such as health insurance. Some freelance careers include: medical, advertising and technical writing, film, online and print editing, day care or caregiver respite work, acting and public event planning.

Entrepreneurship also builds on knowledge, skills, abilities and interests. You may find it rewarding to start up a business based on a life-long interest that you never got a chance to pursue while you were developing your primary career. Drawing up a business plan for this new business of yours may actually surprise you: you may actually know more about your hobbies or interests than you thought you did. Take advantage of your previous employer’s health and life insurance if you can. If not, there are professional associations that you can join where you can buy into individual or group health plans. You can also network through these associations to get ideas for your business and to benchmark your business’s success.

Stay tuned: The next blog will be about online career resources for primary and encore careers.