Best Careers for 2002

Contractor, Or Employee?

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the

January 2, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Productivity Potions

Dirty Job, Long Hours, No Pay. Apply Within." With

this enticing sign, the Plainsboro fire department manages to draw

a fresh flock of volunteers every year. Exactly what are they selling

that gets people to race to the firehouse and excitedly polish engines

while their bosses at work cannot even get them to put away their

tools?

If you, as an employer, would like to bottle a little of that elixir,

you may want to listen to the words of Don Blohowiak, executive

director of LeadWell, a West Windsor management consulting firm, who

speaks Thursday, January 3, at noon at the Princeton Chamber at the

Doral Forrestal. Cost: $33. Call 609-520-1776.

Blohowiak says managers and supervisors make choices for worker

productivity

daily — by action and inaction. A graduate of the University of

Wisconsin (Class of 1985), he founded LeadWell six years ago. His

clients have included Honda auto workers, United States Marines,

United

Airlines, the state of Delaware, and a host of smaller New Jersey

businesses.

Productivity, says Blohowiak, is the right person energetically

pouring

his all, both brain and back, into the company’s goals. (Notice he

did not say "into the right task.") In corporate reality,

productivity — real productivity — is an elusive quality.

It cannot be measured by the time/motion study boys, nor narrowly

defined by increased widget output.

"Every person truly wants to work hard and to gain satisfaction

from his work," insists Blohowiak. "If a man is `lazy’ it

is because he’s in the wrong place." To implement this very

individual

problem of inspiration, Blohowiak trashes many of the mass-format

methods most businesses use.

Selection is all. Fitting the right person into the right

position is Blohowiak’s number one goal. "Forget about

`chemistry,’

about finding a good personnel match," he warns. "Forget about

whether you like the guy personally. And do not make the old

managerial

mistake of hiring an employee in your own image."

Instead, look at the qualities this person presents. Look at how this

candidate would be spending his days in the position offered. If you

require a heads-down, nitpicking-style clerk, hire Ebenezer Scrooge,

not Cratchett. He may not be the hit of your office Christmas party,

but he will labor long and hard for you.

As a side note, Blohowiak suggests employers should pre-plan their

interviews. Define a test and set of questions that will determine

the exact qualities you seek. Also, be flexible enough to recreate

a position that will inspire a truly talented individual. It’s foolish

to create frustration and bitterness among workers by insisting on

rigidly boxed categories.

Trash job descriptions. Most jobs go beyond a mere list

of tasks. Employers who petrify a position as a written checklist

are designing for failure. Invariably, the employee will plunge ahead

into the three most appealing requirements and will assume he is doing

his job. His supervisor, on the other hand, can always unearth that

one neglected item to prick the worker’s enthusiasm. If employees

are saying "`It’s not in my job description,’" your approach

is wrong.

Of course, employers must be exactingly clear about expectations,

methods of suggestion, payroll, and the basics. Lack of precise

direction

de-motivates the most enthusiastic employee. Yet instructions like,

"`What we are all trying to do here is…’ will produce a lot

more labor and innovative thought out of a person than "`Your

job is to stand here and push that…’"

Smash the boss-as-answerman icon. "The best boss,"

says Blohowiak, "is not the man who has all the answers, but the

person who seeks the right decisions." Ideally, every employee

should be asked and encouraged to add his input. Blohowiak warns

against

making such collaborative sessions a sham, in place only to give

employees

the illusion of empowerment.

He recalls sitting in on one such meeting where a vice president

begged

for solutions, and no one spoke up. Then, in the hallway, employees

dissected the problem vociferously amongst themselves. Blohowiak

learned

that the previous vice president typically conducted such "input

meetings" only after his decision was already made. The employees

all knew it was a show and reacted accordingly.

Encourage information flow. Suggestions, problems, and

news must not merely be accepted. They must be actively solicited.

The needs and opinions of each individual and each group should be

shared, not only up and down the ladder, or within the department,

but throughout the plant.

"By the way," says Blohowiak, "Directing is not

communicating."

Foster doubt. The United States Marine Corps prides itself

on instilling leadership. Members of the Corps act swiftly and without

reservation at every level. "The Marines build a legitimacy of

command through explanation and understanding," says Blohowiak.

"Any Marine has the right to question any order and receive an

answer. Within this incredibly hierarchical order, men are asked to

obey not based on authority, rank, patriotism, or blind faith, but

on a personal understanding of each goal."

Marines are not pumped up by uniforms and slogans. They are warriors

armed powerfully with reason. Blohowiak reports that most Marine vets

find their workplaces less open to questions than was the Corps.

Reward more frequently. The yearly trip to Tahiti for

top salespeople and the annual bonus are too non-directive and too

late. People need to have their contribution recognized immediately,

individually, and specifically. This not only enhances their personal

desire to produce, but keeps them on the right track. A quiet, genuine

recognition of achievement will benefit a manager far more than all

the credit he can steal for himself.

In the end, creating a productive workplace involves the

satisfaction

of all individuals within a firm. Creating just the right mix of pride

and incentive is an ongoing quest for most managers. The Hightstown

fire department provides some guidance on getting started. The sign

out front merely states: Heroes Wanted.

— Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Best Careers for 2002

Haven’t decided on a good New Year’s resolution yet?

Forget about losing weight or spending more time with your Aunt Sally.

Why not make this year’s resolution something that really changes

your life for the better? Make a career change.

Despite the gloomy prognostications of a weak job market for 2002,

there are still plenty of career opportunities for those wishing to

escape under-employment or job burn-out and land the job of their

dreams. "There are still good career opportunities for job-seekers

with all levels of education," says Jack Guarneri, a career

counselor at Mercer County Community College. The key is to take a

systematic approach. Assess yourself and your prospects. And then

take action.

Guarneri and his wife, Susan Guarneri, both licensed career

counselors, host a series of five, free monthly seminars aimed at

boosting the employment prospects of those seeking to improve their

workaday lot. The first, "Best Careers for 2002 Career

Changes,"

takes place on Monday, January 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Church

in Princeton. Call 609-771-1699. Other seminars include E-networking,

roadblocks to career success, and the secrets to answering problem

interview questions.

Guarneri, a Lawrenceville resident, has been a career counselor at

Mercer County Community College for 20 years. He obtained a master’s

degree in counseling and psychology from C.W. Post in the 1970’s.

Of course, merely handing out a list of careers that are hot and those

that are not would be of little use to anybody. "It is important

for those contemplating a career change to try to make sense of the

world of work and where they may fit in," says Guarneri. "A

good way to start is to break down the educational requirements of

the various occupations one is interested in pursuing."

For example, according to a government survey recently published by

the Occupational Outlook Quarterly, the top four career opportunities

that require up to an associate or vocational school degree are

registered

nurse, computer support specialist, licensed practical nurse, and

automotive mechanic. "It’s kind of an interesting mix there,"

says Guarneri. "Health care, computer occupations, and the

automotive

industry offer a lot of jobs and many of them pay well."

A good proportion of the top careers for those with bachelor’s degrees

center around educational and helping occupations, and the world of

finance. In the coming decade, there will be significant opportunities

for secondary school teachers, special-ed teachers, pre-school

teachers,

social workers, residential counselors, financial managers, general

managers and executives, computer systems analysts, computer

engineers,

and computer programmers. "Careers oriented around computers have

remained consistently good over the last 20 years," says Guarneri.

While many of the jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree pay quite well,

some do not. "Residential counselors and pre-school teachers are

in the lower 50 percent of the pay scale," says Guarneri.

"This

is despite the fact that they require substantial education."

For those with master’s degrees or higher, Guarneri lists college

or university faculty as showing the biggest growth in new jobs.

"There

will be 23 percent more college and university faculty positions by

2008," says Guarneri. "That’s roughly 195,000 new jobs."

Not surprisingly, lawyers and physicians will also enjoy ample career

opportunities in the coming decade.

Of course, changing careers is a big step for anyone, and finding

the best career for any particular person is always a highly

individual

matter. Guarneri offers the following advice:

Know thyself. It is important for anyone contemplating

a career change to first do a thorough self-assessment by analyzing

interests, abilities, skills, personality preferences, and values.

"Ask yourself what you enjoy doing, what you’re able to do well,

where you’ll feel comfortable doing it, and which jobs will give you

what you want out of life," says Guarneri. By being honest with

oneself, it is possible to begin to formulate a plan of action.

Search and identify. Although it may sound deceptively

simple, the next step is to apply the information learned from the

self-assessment and begin to research areas of employment that match

abilities and needs. By identifying occupational areas that have good

prospects and pay the kind of money that you wish to earn, it is next

possible to begin a job search based on solid knowledge with a real

chance to succeed.

Use targeted resumes. The days of the generic resume are

over. With the Internet now the prevalent method of applying for jobs,

it is important to tailor a resume to each specific job application.

"Most of the job recruiters I talk to are looking for quick-match

resumes that are written to target that particular job. Due to sheer

volume, hiring managers all need a quick way to identify job

candidates

and by submitting the whole can of worms at them you tend to get

overlooked."

Don’t forget to add some meat to that resume. Due to the

many templates available to help job-seekers create attractive-looking

resumes, Guarneri believes that many people using the Internet to

find that next big job are operating under a false sense of security.

"It’s still the content of your resume that’s going to get you

the interview," he says. "Just making a pretty resume is like

having a nice suit of clothing with nothing of substance inside of

it."

The average American spends well over a third of his life

working,

and most people contemplating career changes do so with the hope of

finding a job that is closer to their abilities and interests.

Although

the recent downturn in the economy has certainly made the prospect

of a career change a bit more stressful for most people, there are

still many opportunities out there. By taking a realistic approach

and planning carefully, it is possible to make that hope a reality.

— Jack Florek

Top Of Page
Contractor, Or Employee?

When Suzanne Rosenblum reported to Middlesex

County

Community College to begin teaching a course on taxes for small

business,

she was told she would be considered an employee. Taxes would be

withheld

from her check. This was a bit strange because she was teaching

exactly

the same course at Mercer County Community College, where she was

classified as an independent contractor.

"It’s confusing," the Lawrenceville CPA says.

Determining

whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor can be

difficult, and the consequences for making an incorrect classification

can be costly to a business.

Rosenblum, principal in accounting firm S.P. Rosenblum, speaks on

"Unravel the Mystery: Employee or Independent Contractor"

on Tuesday, January 8, at 6 p.m. at a NAJAWBO seminar/dinner

meeting

at the Urban Word Cafe. John Thurman of Princeton law firm

Farrell

& Thurman also speaks. Cost: $33. Call 609-924-7975.

There is no question in Rosenblum’s mind that Mercer County Community

College was correct in giving her independent contractor status.

"I

had no office space. I had no phone line," she says. "I turned

in attendance sheets at the end of the class."

These are important points. An independent contractor maintains his

own workspace (most of the time), uses his own tools (most of the

time), and works on a project basis (again, most of the time).

"Look,"

says Rosenblum, a vivacious, animated woman, "some companies don’t

have projects." And some jobs require no tools. And sometimes,

work needs to be done on the employer’s premises.

There are official criteria for determining employment classification.

But in a knowledge economy where not everyone drives a panel truck

full of wrenches or paint brushes, there are gray areas.

For Rosenblum, there are two cardinal determinants — risk and

control. An independent contractor is never assured a paycheck. If

his work is sub-par, he may not be paid, or may not be paid in full.

Under the law, an employee must be paid.

An independent contractor controls his work, generally setting his

hours, the days he will work, and the length of time he is available.

An employee is under his boss’s control. He works when and where his

employer tells him to work.

In a murky arena, there are some clear-cut ways to decide who is an

employee. "If you’re sitting in an office answering a phone saying

`Hello, ABC Company,’ you’re an employee," says Rosenblum.

"Independent

contractors do not answer the phones." And if you are transported

to cleaning jobs by a person who provides mops, detergent, and

furniture

polish, you’re an employee.

Likewise, if you arrive at a shop every day at 4 p.m. and sell

sneakers

for the next six hours, you’re an employee. "I’ve seen people

in retail stores — opening, closing — and they were classified

as independent contractors," says Rosenblum. Clearly, this is

a no no.

More difficult is the case of the corporate trainer. Some companies

maintain in-house training departments, but many others bring in

outsiders

to teach their workers how to communicate or sell or behave at a

business

dinner. These trainers are often classified as independent

contractors,

but is that what they are? Their work generally is done largely on

premises — and often on a time schedule the employers sets up

— and sometimes they bring no tools of any kind.

In a situation like this, the employer might have to prove independent

contractor status for the trainers by showing they advertise for work,

submit invoices on printed letterhead, have other clients, and pay

rent on a commercial facility. This, says Rosenblum is the sort of

thing state auditors look for. In her opinion, the state goes too

far, and is not always grounded in the real world, but nevertheless,

it does have the power to levy hefty fines. "It’s outrageous,"

she says. "In this day and age, so many people have a home office,

and print invoices straight from their computers."

Outrageous it might be, but auditors from New Jersey’s Labor

Department

look for all of this, and more. "The state of New Jersey has

requirements

above and beyond the federal government," says Rosenblum.

The state is out to find mis-classified independent contractors, says

Rosenblum, and auditors will keep digging to turn up evidence. If

independent contractors are found to be employees, their employer

will have to pay back taxes plus interest and penalties. The

assessments

often are levied "for several years," says Rosenblum. It can

add up to a substantial bill. The wise employer, therefore, will take

the law seriously, and will keep schedules and invoices, and will

even cut his independent contractors’ advertisements out of the paper.

With a specialty in tax preparation for small businesses, many of

them start-ups, Rosenblum has seen any number of companies that did

not take the law seriously.

"People tend to want to take the easiest route," she says.

"It’s easier with independent contractors. You just issue a flat

check. There are no deductions, no payroll taxes." There is no

need to offer benefits, or to match Social Security contributions,

or to contribute to unemployment and temporary disability insurance.

There is less paperwork.

Employers often think independent contractors are less expensive,

too. Rosenblum says that sometimes when she tells clients their

"independent

contractors" really are employees, "they just get another

accountant." She points out, however, that having employees is

not all bad, and often is less expensive. "Independent contractors

charge more," she says. They have to cover their taxes and their

overhead.

While some employers seek to dodge the additional work of taking on

employees, many others are in danger of failing a Labor Department

audit because they sincerely — but wrongly — believe the

people

who do work for them are independent contractors. Says Rosenblum:

"There’s a lot of confusion out there on who is what."


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