But That’s Not My Job

“But that’s not my job.”

There are 6.2 million long-term unemployed in the United States.

Many get up each and every morning and go to their computers looking for work as if their computers will soon offer (will it be today?) a panacea to their worry.

Guess what? If you’re not willing to do anything, anywhere, at whatever price, you may as well hang up your tool belt now. There it is — the nail on the wall. Go ahead. Reach high, stretch.

While you’re stretching, think about this:

What else could you be doing besides compulsively gazing into that ‘puter screen looking for answers?

I was flipping through channels yesterday and happened upon (love him or hate him) Glenn Beck addressing a small panel of people in Pittsburgh in preparation for a show he was doing a few hours later to a theatre audience. One of the participants was a man who appeared to be maybe 45 years old. Glenn had asked the small gathering what they were doing in preparation for the economic nuclear winter Glenn sees on the horizon.

My wife and I have five businesses and we do what we have to do to keep things going for everyone. We pay ourselves last.”

Huh?” I thought, sitting up and leaning forward. “That’s something they don’t wanna hear,” I thought to myself.

Pay yourself last? Remember all that shouting maybe 20, 25 or so years ago about paying yourself first? Back in late 2008 we had a lively LinkedIn discussion about the concept.

Although the concept of putting away a portion of your savings is a good and valuable one the broader message of “Me, first,” shines through.

It’s not always possible to pay one’s self.

“Me, first,” thinking has brought us to where we are today.

Sometimes, especially when you’re a business owner, the needs of others come first.

Your employees should be paid before you pay yourself. This includes payroll taxes.

Your creditors should be paid before you pay yourself.

The lights need to be kept on, the equipment needs to be maintained, and the roof needs to be fixed before you pay yourself.

Many of today’s long-term unemployed will probably never again find jobs as employees of someone else.

Many of them will need to reach deep into their own resources and create jobs for themselves.

Some of them will buy established businesses if they have the financial resources to do it.

Not many do nowadays.

Many of the unemployed are living unemployment check to half way through the month when they’re going hungry.

They stay hungry until the next check arrives.

Two million Americans are about to lose those unemployment checks if Congress doesn’t extend the already historically unprecedented time of almost two years to receive benefits that is in place now.

Doing so is greatly taxing state coffers. Michigan has stopped accepting/processing new unemployment claims.

Almost $320 billion has been paid out to jobless Americans in the last three years with more than one third of that paid by the federal government. The rest has been paid by the states.

Here’s a good explanation of how Unemployment Insurance works.

Article Continues Below

It seems, maybe, that the water has hit the shore.

When water hits the shore there’s a lot of commotion created in the inward rushing force.

It’s not as if there haven’t been warnings; there have been plenty. Here’s one that sounded eighteen years ago but went largely ignored.

Comparing that one to the water hitting the shore analogy, it’s not well known that before a tsunami hits land the ocean first sucks water away from the coastline before rushing back in with enormous speed and force. Those on the coastline have only a few minutes to save themselves at this point.

Those who remain perish along with the stranded fish flopping on the sand, gasping for air.

Maybe Old Ross was on to something all those years ago. Maybe we only have a few minutes left to save ourselves.

One way of saving ourselves is to do what many are going to be forced soon to do:


That can be your next job.

It’s not as bad as it sounds.

Nobody’s ever again going to pay you as an employee.

What are your options?

Before accepting your options you’re going to have to swallow that big lump about paying yourself last.

Can you do it?

It’s not all about us.

It’s about others too and when we realize that and accept the fact that it’s up to us to pull ourselves out of the harm’s way that this economic tsunami is delivering, the better we’re going to feel.

The sooner we get at this business of saving ourselves, the better off we’re all going to be.

In the coming days I’m going to share with you some ways to pull yourself out of harm’s way. It’s not going to be easy advice to follow but for some of you I think it’s going to come in handy.

Maureen Sharib has been a “Socratic sourcer” her entire sourcing career; from the moment she first picked up the faxed list of Silicon Valley high-tech companies that was her target list to “phone source” in 1996 to today she has instinctively followed this method of investigative sourcing using (mostly) the telephone.  She is a proponent of sourcing as a synonym for success and envisions the craft moving away from a dangerously drudgery-paced life-form existence to an exciting investigative/competitive place within organizations where practitioners co-exist within a framework of market research, human resources, and C-level future planning. She owns the phone sourcing and competitive intelligence firm TechTrak.com, Inc. You can contact her at Maureen at techtrak.com or call her at (513) 646-7306.  If she’s not on the phone she’ll pick up!


23 Comments on “But That’s Not My Job

  1. Ouch. I too give it to my clients and candidates straight, but I feel that your advice can very well be dangerous as well as misdirected from this article’s content. First, I try not to paint with a broad wide brush, cause after all we are talking about people. Unemployed or not, the industry’s proverbial ‘land plates’ have really shifted–meaning that recent grads with undergraduate degrees today are being offered $8/hour on a temporary assignment. These aren’t entry-level professionals in basket weaving either,…these are accounting majors, business administration majors, and even science majors! Companies have literally lost their mind as to recruiting entry-level talent. There are tens of thousands of young professionals who are unemployed today…who lack the skills of an experienced professional, per say. How can one expect my 23 year younger cousin to go out and open a business,…other than a website company? What do you propose for him/her….no practicable professional skills…no business contacts…no money…should my cousin start a marketing firm, a consulting firm, or something else that warrants a red-flag on their resume anyway? The problem definition really is the skill of an effective and aggressive job search. I agree with you on the point of people should stop being dependent on the computer screen, and go out there and try on a new method of finding a job. This doesn’t change however the fact that there is a place for unemployment insurance (that’s why we all pay FICA.) In the mean time, to use your language of “never” being able to be employed again…I’m not so sure. With so many people lying on their resumes anyway, who knows who’s hiring who?? SHRM reports that a significant amount of candidates hired in the last few years during this recession have lied through their teeth. My advice? Find a mentor (someone you aspire to be), and take them out to lunch, and learn the lingo, share ideas, and get some pointers as to where you should be sending your resume. The classic “Fake it till you make it!” rule is priceless. Get some great references, buy your friends some drinks, work on your resume, and get yourself a job. I am obviously not encouraging this, but this is the type of thing that get people hired. Over half of the companies I recruit for dont do background checks, and the reference checks are a joke. How do I know if you really didnt make Law Review? How do I know if you really worked all of that time without gaps? I only know what you present me with, and what you sound legit talking about. My $0.02: No one benefits from dealing with an amateur business professional all their own without backing. Wanna start a business? Find a stable job, get back on your feet, and start off slow. Unless, of course you decide to be a jobless “consultant”.

  2. ISTM that Ariel has it down- just because someone is unemployed doesn’t mean that they could or should start their own businesses, which often requires skills and resources they don’t possess. Most businesses require a fair amount of money to start, and someone who’s just had their UE benefits stopped is unlikely to possess that amount, and banks aren’t exactly lining up lending to anyone, let alone the unemployed. Perhaps we should have Mohammed Yunis show us how to set up a Grameen Bank-type (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grameen_Bank) microfinance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microfinance) network.



  3. For me, one of the most unsettling parts of this unemployed workforce is that many companies don’t want to hire someone who is not currently working!! WHAT???? I have tried to argue this point ad nauseum but the client makes the decisions. There are certainly more ways to find a job other than sitting in front of the computer and I look forward to reading the ideas Maureen will share.

  4. You know Keith, on the topic of microfinance,…I cant think of any other community that has this concept down packed as successfully as the Chinese emigres in the United States. Basically, Chinese businesses and businessmen are privately taxed (so to speak, for lack of a better coined term) within their communities, in order to help other “new-comer” Chinese emigres to get up and started. Ever wonder how some of these Chinese-American establishments are owned and operated by those who seemingly are not skilled in business–how do they finance a new shop or restaurant? The concept is that one day, they will be taxed too, ultimately growing the community of “taxed” businesses, and ultimately creating a larger enterprise. The money is usually given as a gift (talk about strings attached.)

    As to the topic of unemployed people…its a crying (perhaps even a laughable) shame that we don’t offer MORE money to unemployed individuals. Once upon a time, someone may have struggled to make ends meet in-between jobs in a recession, who ultimately got back on his feet. Today this person posts comments on ill-thought-out blogs, and spreads awareness about “mouthpieces” who “drink the kool-aid” of the Tea Party Members. I prefer coffee anyway.

  5. All of you are making some really good and interesting points.

    Ariel, you’re right. Your advice to “start off slow” is excellent. Most things start off slow (and usually small). I have no idea what your 23 year younger cousin (is he 23 years younger than you or 23 years old? I’m not sure) wants to do with his life but what’s wrong w/ starting a website company if that’s what he wants to do?

    Would that be such a bad thing?

    What else is he doing that’s more important than pursuing a dream (if, in fact, this is his dream)?

    Why should having one’s own business raise a red flag on one’s resume? Unfortunately I think you’re right – it does and this is one thing wrong with our culture today – individualism and the entrepreneurial spirit are not much celebrated (or even much encouraged).

    Think about it.

    After all, it benefits Big Business to have people turn up at their doors, hats in their hands practically genuflecting these days in supplication for a job.

    And you, Ariel, it seems to me, are doing what most people do – basically making fun of, or making light of, someone else’s dream of doing something you may not be so comfortable doing yourself.

    Back when I sold small businesses I used to say, warningly, to buyers, “You need two of three things to own a business: money, experience or guts. One of the two MUST BE GUTS.”

    So, to paraphrase, you can have money and guts and it’ll probably work (a lot of problems can be solved with money) or you can have experience and guts and your experience will see you through a lot of headwind.

    But if you don’t have GUTS forget about it.

    The combo-platter of money and experience won’t cut the mustard.

    And Ariel, you raise another fascinating issue about the Chinese. I always thought there was an internal financing mechanism that allowed money to go to the community member who would pay the best terms – that “tax” you speak of is fascinating – can you elaborate?

    Financing businesses is just about the most critical component of working for one’s self once one begins to take on overhead. I’d like to see us talk about this here. Keith, you brought up this important component – I think you did so scoffingly but your suggestion about microfinanace warrants discussion.

    If you want to work for yourself you can. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

    And Ariel you made another interesting suggestion that I agree with – I think the unemployed SHOULD be given more money – with incentives to use it to start small businesses.

    I see a potential flowering of community with such arrangements.

  6. Interesting thought and something i am seeing more of in the past few months. People are trying to figure out any way to make ends meet. Personal services seems to be the way most are being able to start their own business.

    An accountant who after being told he was overqualified for available jobs started a shuttle service for older people who do not or can not drive. He used his own vehicle to start, increased his insurance and got the required drivers license. He still does it himself but due to demand for this simple service he now has four other guys who use their own vehicles part time while looking for a perm job. Gives everybody a little income. He is now in the position that with a going business the bank has agreed to fund a small van. He has picked up some small tax clients from his shuttle service as well as offering a service to pay their bills, resolve medicare claim problems, take care of calling and supervising of home repairs and all of the other little things that a lot of folks have trouble doing for themselves. He now refers to himself as a Senior Concierge. People are calling him daily to sign up elderly family members for the full service at a monthly fee. He may not get rich but says that his clients are so much more grateful and his life has a bit more meaning than it did when he was grinding out financial statements five days a week.

  7. @Kathy call into my show and tell us a real story about a company that refused to hire a really good candidate because she didn’t have a job. It just sounds too absurd to be true

  8. When I opened my consulting firm, (mind you with an MBA, and a few years of experience), I had guts and was able to rub two pennies together to make a nickel to get the consulting firm off the ground, and I had the guts to stand up to competition and bid on elaborate projects. I’m glad I did it. I can confidently state that I was able to provide value to my client(s) through my perspective/training/experience. My clients don’t care if I have the funds to eat or keep my internet site up…they only care for their own results (I could be dead for all they care, so long as the project was managed right.) I saved millions for my clients in potential damages, and kept them out of trouble during audits. Did I receive even one holiday greeting card, a thank you note, or anything besides a few on time payments of my invoice?

    To the point of my 23 year old cousin who just graduated with an undergrad degree…I mentioned the website business idea as an example. I love my cousin, and when it comes to guts, I’ve much to learn about his hutzpah, but when it comes to experience or money, he has neither. You know, I think that there is something wrong with having too many amateurs in the arena. Its like that ‘The Ladders’-Tennis commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31ZevWuxrNE I completely agree. When you let everyone play, no one wins.

    I’ll let you in on an interesting point. I know of this one guy whose English is….umm….(poor). Anyway, somehow, he decided to open a translation company (that’s like me translating in Swahili (being a Russian-American Jew myself from the Brooklyn/Philly belt). One of the services that was a staple of my consulting firm was writing high-end resumes. So, there I am advertising in the local Russian-language Philadelphia-based newspaper, and I am running a special where I would write the resume for $150 ($200 regular price).

    Wouldn’t you know it, all of a sudden, he, (this guy with poor English skills) takes out a full page ad in the paper stating in big bold letters “RESUMES- $29 Complete – Call Today” So, after having a collective laugh with all of our staff, we had each of our mothers call the guy RE: his ad, and paid him his $29 fee each. We got resumes back (written in about 5 days). What can I say? The resumes might as well have been written in crayon and have a mustard stain on it. Spelling mistakes. Awkward verb usage, and terrible formatting, not to mention all the unnecessary repetitive words. We sent in those 7 poorly written resumes, and paid extra money all month long to the newspaper agency, and had this guy’s normal ad right near it, displaying the quality of his $29 resumes.

    My point here is that people started mentioning to me, “Why should I pay your $150 (for my professional resume writing service), when I can get my resume (terribly written) for $29 from this guy (the amateur). I made more money that one month that he advertised then I did any other month that year. Can I tell you how many re-write requests I had after his work?

    Why muddy the waters of professionals? Learn the trade, have respect for the trade, and then conform to the trade. There’s research involved in positioning, pricing, and other SWOTT issues prior to taking on an industry as an amateur. Sometimes, less is better.

    As for Chinese-American financing, there are books written on this topic. If you’re overdue for a latte, I suggest you go to your local B&N, and pick up some books on the topic of Chinese-American Immigration.

  9. Here is another one that might spark some thought with someone.
    The guy was a mortgage lender (not one of the ones who made the crazy loans) When the housing market crashed he was out of a job. He loves the industry but no mortgage lending jobs out there. His credit was destroyed by being unemployed so the banks won’t look at him. He has contacted every realtor in town. Now he works with many of their clients helping them prepare and understand the mortgage agreements. He is getting paid a small amount for saving the realtor the time to do the paperwork so they can have more sales time and walks the potential buyer through the process and the closing so they understand what they are signing and don’t have surprises later. He is keeping his skills and contacts up to date in the industry he loves and as he rebuilds his credit will probably end up with one of those banks who won’t touch him…or not. May end up doing this forever and build his own deal. No money needed to do the start up.

  10. “The woman who will use her skill and imagination to see how much she can give for a dollar, instead of how little she can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.”


  11. Today’s multiple choice question:

    If you provide an incentive to remain unemployed, the amjority of people will tend to:

    a) Remain unemployed until their benefits expire.

    b) Look for the “right” job, in the “right” location, until their benefits expire.

    c) Proclaim their helplessness and status as oppressed victims, with the protests rising in volume and frequency a few weeks before their benefits expire.

    d) Recognize they are being temporarily subsidized by the productive class and, through a combination of healthy shame and determination to recover their dignity, accept any job that will return them to self-sufficiency.

    e) A, B, and C

  12. This is to Ted Moore’s point. Thanks for commenting, but I take issue with your point in bullet “d”. The unemployed are not being subsidized by the productive class. See, there is a clear divide between welfare and unemployment compensation. Its important to state here that people only qualify for UC Benefits if they have paid into their FICA dues. That means that they belong to the productive class. In other words, if you or one of your loved ones are ever laid off from their lofty jobs, say being an expert in a particular field with a PhD for example…they may have a period of a few months before they start their new job. Are there people who take advantage of the system? Sure. But the example I provided of someone you respect being laid off for a little while…that unemployment component is something that has kept food on the table for many families, and definitely has a place in our society. This person would have only qualified for such benefits if he were in this “productive class” as you have mentioned above.

    Spin off: Who’s to blame for these technical experts not having job search skills? You can be an amazing bioinformametrician with 15 years experience and a PhD…but if your job search skills are minute…”press two to claim for this week’s benefits!”

    As a pointer to repair some of the hurt in today’s unemployment market…everyone knows someone who is down in his/her luck finding a job, and everyone knows someone who is a decision maker in that person’s industry. Would we be kind enough to others by asking for their resume to forward to the right person?

    Cant tell you how upset I was after being unemployed for a few months and finally finding a job how difficult it was for me to learn about the fact that my aunt was a senior manager at a company that specializes in what I do. She knew I was unemployed, and a solid recruit, and knew what I do for a living, and I was one of her favorite nephews! Why didnt she step up and help me? Perhaps this may be inspiring to someone else who be in a similar position.


  13. Maureen, this topic of needing “guts only” is moot. Skills, Personality, Smarts, Courage, and Support are the success factors. Reading you post this reminds me of what the makers of the movie “300” were talking about. When we speak of going out on your own, the above factors are what are ultimately needed to succeed. Everything else is fluff. I know of plenty of successful people in business who are not very gutsy….they are just smart. I know of a lot of people who are successful too who are gutsy who end up with a lot of unpaid or overdue bills, and who end up causing more harm then good to themselves and to others in their communities due to their lack of the above skills, personality, support, and smarts….the courage part is important too, but that should be a given.

  14. Heard something interesting about a better way than layoffs to deal with business downturns – called “job sharing”.


    Unemployment Cure Could Lie In Job Sharing
    Categories: Economy

    12:13 pm

    December 3, 2010

    by Frank James

    As President Barack Obama and the participants in his White House jobs summit on Thursday toss around ideas about reducing unemployment, they may want to look to Germany for a possible answer — job sharing.

    Just like the U.S., Germany experienced a serious recession. But while the U.S. unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent in October and could very well go higher when the November rate is released Friday, Germany’s unemployment rate in October was 7.5 percent.

    Experts credit Germany’s practice of job-sharing called “kurzarbeit” which literally means short work.

    To avoid layoffs, the German government subsidizes employers to keep workers on the payroll by reducing their hours and wages. It’s an idea that both conservatives and liberals see merit in.

    Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and a fan of the idea explained the concept recently on Bloomberg.com:

    ..Firms that face a temporary decrease in demand avoid shedding employees by cutting hours instead. If hours and wages are reduced by 10 percent or more, the government pays workers 60 percent of their lost salary. This encourages firms to use across-the-board reductions of hours instead of layoffs.

    Here’s how the program works.

    A firm facing the challenges of the recession cuts Angela’s hours from 35 to 25 per week, thus reducing her weekly salary to 714 euros from 1,000 euros. Angela does not work for the firm during those hours. As part of its short-work program, the government now pays Angela 171 euros — 60 percent of her lost salary. Most important, she still has a job. Effectively, the government is giving her unemployment insurance for the 10 hours a week that she is not employed.

    The economic argument in favor of such a policy is powerful.

    When a recession strikes, firms are faced with a dilemma: sales and profits are down, and many workers are idle. But finding skilled workers is costly and time-consuming, involving large fixed costs. If a firm fires workers, it may incur large hiring and training costs when the recession ends and sales turn back up. Thus, a firm would prefer, all else equal, to hoard labor during a recession.

    Firms might well prefer to respond to a 20 percent cut in sales by reducing everyone’s work by 20 percent. That way, employees remain part of the firm, and ramping up production is less costly down the road.

    A number of factors discourage American firms from making that choice. The biggest is government policy. If a firm lays off workers, the government mails the unemployed a check. If the firm reduces work-hours, there is no government assistance, and employees are left to face the entire decrease in wages on their own.

    Hassett later points out that a German-style, job-sharing subsidy scheme would also be much less expensive than the U.S.’s current approach of doling out unemployment benefits.

    Because of this program, Germany reportedly didn’t lose a single full-time auto-manufacturing job through June 1, 2009.

    The program has proven so successful that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is extending it.

    Government backed job-sharing doesn’t appear to be high on the Obama Administration and Congress’s agenda. Maybe it should be.

    I think this is a good idea.
    What do you think?


  15. Keith, intersting information. I have always wondered why in the world our unemployment benefit program made it difficult or impossible for people trying to ad to unemployment income with temp or part time work until they found a perm position. I have had a lot of folks turn down a temp position while they were on unemployment even if it might turn into perm because they would lose what little they were getting from unemployment.

    I think it’s a great idea for everybody concerned. I don’t see a downside. Does anyone else see a negative here?

  16. One way to get you out of the mentality of having to “pay yourself last” is to factor your receivables. Many temporary staffing companies and recruiters find it difficult to maintain a positive cash flow when receivables are trickling in regardless of how far in the past you’ve already provided services. Selling your invoices to a factoring firm can change all that. You can have cash the same day you invoice, which means you’ll have plenty of working capital on hand to meet payroll, pay your taxes and of course, pay yourself!

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