We talked last year about
how every season, every month, every week, every day can be the chance to start
with a clean slate.
Traditionally, though, we tend to collectively do so at the beginning of the calendar year and the beginning of the school year. It gives a chance to ride that energy of possibility.
I’m in an online meditation group with Be Well Be Here on Thursday mornings, and one of the things she suggested on New Year’s Eve was, instead of getting bogged down in “resolutions” deciding to be “resolute.”
I like that.
So much happened last
year, both personally and on a larger scale. It helped clarify what I want and
need in my work and my career going forward, and I intend to implement those
shifts for the year.
I’m making a partial list
of that about which I will be resolute. So far it includes:
–Passion for my
profession does not mean I forfeit the right to earn a living at it;
–“No” is a complete
sentence and does not require embellishment;
–Unpaid labor should not
EVER be part of an interview process – that includes “making a video” for a
one-way interview, pitching article or content ideas in interviews, writing unpaid
“test” pieces, and unpaid “assessments.” I’ll take your tests or write your samples
– at a designated time, and for a specific fee, with a contract in place for it
and a deposit up front, like I do for any freelance piece. Anything else
indicates a toxic work culture in which I have no interest in participating.
I’ve talked about all of
these in the past months, both on various blogs and in discussions. Now, they
are part of my contract with myself, since I believe in walking my talk.
This works in tandem with what I’m doing on the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions site, which is less about making a list of things to check off this year, and more about tools and techniques for a more holistic work life that is in tandem with personal core integrity.
Life as we knew it
pre-pandemic is gone. While there are things to miss, it also brought
realizations about what didn’t work, and those elements can be changed and
improved so that work environments are healthier on multiple levels. When the
quality of our working lives improves, the quality of the work we do improves.
For decades, we were told
to keep our heads down and just do whatever we were told, and if we were what
was perceived as “good” and “dedicated” and “loyal” we would be rewarded. We
learned through experience that this is not true.
It’s that time of year
again, where we look back and evaluate the year.
The whole pandemic has been
a time of daily re-evaluation and re-assessment. But now, it’s time to sit
down, with pen and paper, and be honest with yourself.
–What worked? What didn’t?
–Where did you feel you
had no choices?
–What can you do to open
–What do you need to get
–What do you want and
need moving forward?
In addition to all this practicality, you need to take some time to dream. This year taught us we can make all the strategic plans, all the three-year/five-year/ten-year plans the “experts” tell us we need – and then we have to throw them out when the unexpected comes our way.
Perhaps it’s because so
many people are unemployed, so many employers are feeling smug. Or perhaps the
HR departments simply don’t care any more. But there’s an unfortunate trend in
expecting talented candidates to return to a company again and again to beg for
Yet companies complain there
aren’t enough talented/skilled workers out there, which is simply not true.
Companies are driving them away during the initial screening process – a longer
post on this is in the works.
One of the most annoying paragraphs
HR sends out to potential candidates is the “keep checking our careers page and
apply to us again.”
YOU are supposed to be
Human Resources. That means, if you do your job well (and yes, I’ve worked in
human resources, so I actually know how to do this job and have done this job),
your mission is to find talented people whose skills will lift the company to
the next level. If you get more talent than openings, you court those you can’t
hire in the moment, so when there’s an opening, you already have relationships
with skilled workers and can bring them in.
You HAVE the candidate’s
resume, work samples, references. Chances are, you’ve spoken to them a few
times. In preliminary interviews.
Now, it is YOUR job to remember them, remember their talents, keep in touch or respond pleasantly if they choose to keep in touch with you, and YOU contact THEM when there’s an opening. Not expect them to start at the beginning of the process again.
That doesn’t mean you don’t
post the job again and perhaps find even more skilled talent out there who wasn’t
available/didn’t hear about it/weren’t looking the first time around.
If you are actually in
HUMAN Resources, and not just trying to fill a compliant body into a company
slot, you’re constantly trying to find great talent for a company in which you
believe. When you find it, even if you can’t hire that individual at that
moment, you make sure you keep track of them so you can hire them the next time
or two down the road.
You DON’T expect a
talented, skilled candidate to wait around refreshing your page once a week and
beg for another chance. A truly talented, skilled candidate will move on to a
company – and an HR department – who actually values the resources that make
them a good HUMAN investment for the company.
Skill and talent are
ALWAYS in demand.
Don’t lose the best candidates because you can’t be bothered to keep track of talent. No company is that busy and has that much talent knocking on the door that they can’t keep in touch with great candidates. If you don’t have a system that works well to do so, then change your system.
Better yet, create a new
one, patent it, sell it, and train others to use it.
Remember the HUMAN in “human
If you don’t treat your
talent well, no matter what the field, the talent will gravitate to those who
I realized that last week’s
post was more tied to the piece I’m working on about how employers are driving
away the skilled workers they claim they want than actually about re-shaping my
I’ve re-shaped my career
often. I’ve made my living in the arts since I was 18. Sure, I took temp jobs
and office jobs in between, and even earned rent a few times betting the horses
out at Aqueduct. But the bulk of it was in the arts, and the arts were always
Any job outside the arts
ONLY served to get me through until I had another job inside the arts that paid
me enough to live. Then I quit the other job.
If the job got in the way
of the career, the job was eliminated when I got a good career opportunity.
A PAID opportunity.
NOT an “exposure”
Remember, people die of
exposure. Insist on the cash.
I started in lighting, for
theatre and rock and roll. I wanted to work more closely with actors, so I
moved into stage management.
From stage management, I
moved into wardrobe (so I wasn’t on call 24/7 and could have a life and keep
writing – through all of this, I always wrote).
I stayed, happily, in
wardrobe, working my way up to Broadway, until I started aging out of the physical
demands and decided I wanted to leave while I still loved it. I watched too
many people age in the jobs, afraid to leave, in pain, unhappy, and bitter. I
didn’t want to be one of them.
I moved away from New York
to a place I’d always loved. Unfortunately, it’s a place that supports the arts
in name only. They love it when
prominent artists come in to visit and do special programs and have second
homes here; they don’t believe artists in their community deserve a living wage
to do what they do.
I took a job that I
thought would be a dream job, but turned out to be a two-year nightmare, with a
boss that loved to sabotage anything I did and daily told me that “something”
was wrong with me. Because anyone who disagreed with her must have “something”
wrong with them.
Still, when I was fired
from that job (technically, the position was “eliminated”), I was devastated. I’ve
only recently realized how deep the psychological damage is. The boss tried to
break me; she didn’t succeed, but it will take a long time before the wounds
are just scars.
I went back to a local
theatre for a quick summer gig – bad situation in a lot of respects, and
woefully underpaid, but still worth it.
Then, I worked to rebuild
what I wanted and needed from my career, focusing more on business and
marketing writing, which I enjoy. I love to work with people in different
fields who are smart and passionate about what they do, and I love to
communicate that passion to engage a larger audience. I find it joyful.
All of this time, I was
still meeting contract deadlines on books, writing new books, switching
publishers, attending and/or teaching at conferences, writing plays, writing
radio plays, and so forth and so on.
I found some local
clients, and did a mix of onsite and remote work, although, writing-wise, I
firmly believe the writer does not need to be in someone else’s office. Many were one-and-done, some because that’s
all they needed; others because they balked at paying, insisted I work onsite,
but would not provide me with a professional working environment. A laptop on a
board set over two overturned oil drums is not an acceptable desk.
I spent more and more time
with clients farther afield. I put a lot of miles on my car, driving for
in-person meetings all over New England as I pitched across the country and the
world. Interestingly enough, it was easier to land international remote clients
when I lived in NYC than where I live now. Part of that is the current
political situation, because more and more international companies don’t want to
work with Americans right now. I worked
with a mix of profit and non-profits. I worked with solopreneurs and artists.
Still writing novels, plays, radio plays. I took the bus into Boston more
I was actually willing to
set up a regular commuting situation into Boston, even though it meant being up
by 4:30 in the morning to be on a 6:15 bus and not getting home until 10 or 11
at night. Boston is only 65 miles from here, but the commute can take anywhere
from 2 to 5 hours in each direction, depending on traffic.
On the bus, I could write
my 1000 words a day, and read the books I was sent for review. I couldn’t do
much more than that, but the clients who paid appropriately for my skills were
in Boston, not where I am.
I was at that turning point
earlier this spring – ready to commit to ridiculously long commuting hours for
at least the next year or two.
Then, the pandemic hit,
and we were on Stay-At-Home order. Let me make this clear – people are dancing
around talking saying how we were in “quarantine” – we were NOT. Here in MA, it
was a stay-at-home order. Yes, offices and stores and libraries and museums and
performance venues and schools were closed. But we were not quarantined, and
there was no enforcement. We were encouraged to only grocery shop once every 14
days, but we weren’t FORCED so to do. There was (and is) a mask mandate in the
state, which too many people ignored, and more and more are failing to fulfil.
The positive part of the
pandemic was that, for those of us who already worked remotely, at least a good
portion of the time, and for those who prefer it, it proved that working
remotely is viable for many “office” jobs.
Now that they’re forcing
us back out, without a plan, to Die For Our Employers, those of us who can work
well remotely and got a lot of push-back for it are re-shaping our careers so
to do. We’re supported and encouraged by those who have worked remotely
full-time for years.
It means I can re-shape my
career yet again. I am more productive, more creative, and more focused in my
home office. I have it set up for maximum benefit, in a way NO office in this
area has ever served. (I admit, I’ve had some pretty sweet offices in both New York
and San Francisco).
It also means I can live
anywhere I choose, as long as there’s a good internet connection – and one I
When I worked on Broadway,
I had to live in a commutable distance from Broadway in order to work there. When
I moved, it was a conscious choice to move beyond a commutable distance, because
I knew I wouldn’t really give it up unless I couldn’t physically get there.
I’m also looking at
different types of work.
I’m not a graphic
designer, although I can put together ads and social media posts. I work WITH graphic
designers well. So when I see a listing that tries to give the position a fancy
title, but really wants to save money by hiring one person to do two or more
jobs at less than that one person should earn, I skip it.
I’ve managed plenty of
teams – I’ve been a wardrobe supervisor, I’ve been a production manager in both
theatre and film. I can manage a full production, so managing a content calendar
and other writers is cake.
But I don’t necessarily want
I want to write stuff.
Given the right circumstances, environment, team, and, most importantly, PAY – yes, I’d be a manager. But a lot of different factors would be involved. There are theatres, arts organizations, and museums for which I’d be willing to work onsite, once it’s safe so to do. It won’t be safe for a good long while, especially with the way the numbers are going up.
I’m more cautious about working
for non-profits. When I worked in NY and SF, I often temped or even long-term
temped at non-profits. They were run like businesses and understood that you
pay for the skills you need.
Here? The constant dirge
is “you should be honored we demand you to work for free.”
Some positions that I
would have thought were fun and interesting and exciting even a year ago no
longer grab me. They contain elements on which I no longer want to spend time.
That’s nothing against the companies – they need what they need. But it means
companies to whom I would have sent an LOI or a proposal packet even a year ago
are no longer on my list.
I grappled with this for a
few months. I felt that I was failing, that I was “less than” or that I was
Then, I realized most of
that was the voice of the toxic ex-boss still running a subscript in my
People grow and change,
and so do their careers.
It’s not a failure.
It’s a natural process.
Growing and changing is a
positive, not a negative.
It doesn’t mean you have
to start in the mailroom and wind up as an executive. It means you add skills
and credentials and experience, take that, and CHOOSE what and where you go
Yes, there’s an element of
privilege in that choice, and our current government wants to make sure we have
NO choices and are the peasants to their feudal lords. Which is another reason
we need to get out the vote and overthrow these dictators-in-training.
But deciding to take one’s
career in a different direction is not a failure.
It means you are integrating
all of what you’ve done, learned, and experienced, and turning it into something
wonderful. It doesn’t have to conform to someone else’s agenda or convenience.
It means you’ve outgrown where you are and it’s time to move on.
It also means that when
you find that next career situation, you are more productive and engaged, which
is better for both you and your employer.
One would think/hope
companies would be excited to find enthusiastic, engaged workers rather than someone
who just shows up every day.
You look at your life and
decide what you want and need. Work is such a large part of our lives that how
and what and where we work factors in a great deal.
Maybe you can’t change
your situation today. But you can start figuring out what you want and need, do
some research, and take small steps regularly.
Far too many businesses
are trying to gain for themselves by making us feel terrible – all this “free
time” we have now, and all the things we “should” be doing because we can’t be
out and about the way we used to gambol.
They’re also counting on us
being so desperate to earn a living that we’ll take even less than we earned
before the pandemic. “You’ll get nothing and like it” is their refrain.
If the pandemic has taught
us anything, it’s how poorly most companies treated their employees in the first
Remember, without people
to actually do the work, the company cannot exist.
If they hire people that
do the work badly (which, if they don’t pay properly, that’s all they will get
in the long run), they will go under.
Instead of listening to
statistics by businesses for businesses, let’s look at personal realities, and
use those realities to reshape how we are going to navigate both our work world
and our social world.
Not everyone likes to work
remotely. Not every job CAN be done remotely.
As an introvert, I realized how often I was forced to behave like an extrovert in a typical work setting, and what a toll that took on my health and my productivity. It didn’t matter if I turned in three times the work ahead of schedule – if I wasn’t in the building so the managers could interrupt me, ruin my productivity, and repeatedly put me in situations that caused stress and discomfort, it wasn’t “real work” and I wasn’t being a “team player.”
During the pandemic, the
stress wasn’t from working remotely. It was that every foray off the property held
the literal prospect of death to me or someone in my family. And, as time went
on, it was the external pressures from those who wanted, again, to lower my
productivity and add discomfort to feel powerful and force me to be “part of
I am perfectly capable of being “part of the team” without setting foot in the office. There’s this thing called Zoom (which we’re all tired of at this point). There’s email. There are scheduled phone calls (I only do phone calls by appointment). As long as I collaborate and hit the deadlines with quality work, I shouldn’t have to be forced, repeatedly, into onsite situations that cause misery in order to make someone else feel powerful.
I realized how many unhealthy compromises I’d made since I moved here. Far more unhealthy compromises than I’d ever made in the decades I worked in theatre and film production.
In the weeks leading to
the Stay-at-Home, I was even talking with potential clients who insisted that I
work onsite – even though I knew it would make me miserable.
So the past few months
have made me redefine both what I want and what I need from work, and I
encourage you to do the same.
I went into the arts because of the passion I have for the work. I loved my time working backstage and on set. Now, I love my time writing. I don’t consider the fiction and plays the “real writing” and the marketing/business/consulting a “day job.”
As far as I’m concerned,
they are all of a piece.
Make a list of what you NEED from you work.
—Enough money so I’m not scrambling from payment to payment and don’t have to worry about basics like rent, food, utilities, health insurance, car, emergency vet bills, etc. It also must be reliably paid, not put off with excuses. Pay me per our contract.
—A sense of purpose and passion from those with whom I work. This can be small business owners who love what they do; or larger companies with a bigger mission. But there needs to be more to it than bottom line profit.
—Alignment with my values. I am not going to work for people/organizations/businesses I believe cause harm/fuel hatred, bigotry, racism, and misogyny. Even though those businesses usually pay more than those in alignment with my values as a person.
—Creativity. My job needs to let me use the creative part of my psyche, maybe in ways I didn’t expect to use it.
—Autonomy. Too often what is called “follow up” is actually “nagging.” If we’ve set a deadline, you will get what you need by that deadline. Suddenly asking for it a week early and bugging me about it doesn’t get it to you faster. If the deadline has changed for some reason, tell me it has changed and why it’s changed and we will deal with it. But don’t nag. Communicate clearly. And don’t micromanage every moment of my day.
—Humor. I love to laugh, and a sense of humor is important, especially on tight deadlines when there’s a lot at stake.
—Clear Communication. Don’t come at me with passive aggressive behavior. You want or need something? Be clear about it. Don’t lie to me, especially not by omission.
—Respect for my boundaries. “No” is a complete sentence. I do not have to embellish. If an emergency comes up, I will take on additional work outside my regular scope or outside my regular workweek; but it needs to be requested with respect and not become expected. I have a life that is separate from my work and just as important.
—Room for growth. I want to learn and grow both personally and professionally. I don’t want to be pushed into additional tasks because the company is too cheap to hire enough qualified personnel. I want to grow within my own scope of duties. I want encouragement to share ideas and have opportunities.
—Fully Remote. At this point in the game, that is what I want in the foreseeable future. It was a “want” before; now it is a need.
If any of the above list is
missing, I am miserable, and know I need to change my work situation.
What do I WANT?
That’s a little different.
The wants are what make the job special and exciting.
—Paid holidays and vacations. Which means, when I’m working freelance, the money and the ability to book that time without pushback.
—Variety. I like to write across different topics and in different areas – blog posts or articles or social media posts or courses or press releases or strategic plans. Anything that is scripted, be it for a video, a speech, or radio/podcast, and I’m in heaven.
—Positive Colleagues. An overall positive work atmosphere, even if it’s via Zoom or email, matters. We all have tough days, or even tough stretches. But if one particular person is ALWAYS unhappy, it starts to create a ripple effect of stress.
—An environment where everyone is encouraged to use their strengths and improve their weaknesses, rather than being thrown into something that’s a weakness without support or training.
—Encouragement to connect beyond the work, and get to know my colleagues as human beings. What do we all like to do when we’re not working? What are our other passions and causes? How can we work together to build a better world?
—Recognize and value the work. Recognize and value the work of everyone in the organization. It’s not about a fancier title. It’s about daily treatment and being paid fairly.
—Encouragement for learning opportunities and creative opportunities, even if they don’t immediately benefit the client.
—No more “at will” work. Most of my clients and I are on specific contracts, which is great. I do have a couple of clients that have me on retainer, but it’s “at will” and I need to change those parameters.
I’m sure I could make a
more comprehensive list – and I’m working on it. But as I restructure my work
life during the ongoing pandemic and figure out how I want it to look post-pandemic,
these are all elements that matter to me.
As this list evolves, I
will take steps to bring anything out of alignment into alignment. Then, I will
grow, change, and respond to the world, and will adjust more. Which is a good
What are your needs in a
work situation? And wants?
There are too many
stresses in our daily lives right now: the fact that leaving the house can kill
us, bosses who don’t believe we are actually working unless they can stare at
us; job loss, which too often means the loss of health insurance, unemployment
benefits running out, a government who would rather see us die en masse for
their personal profit than give us tools to live with basic human dignity, and
We are exhausted.
And yet, this is the time,
as everything falls apart is when we have to carve out the time, in spite of
the stress, to reinvent and rebuild the society we want.
Part of that is to
Life in the Arts
I spent decades working
professionally in theatre, film, and television production. Yes, until I started working off Broadway full
time, and then on Broadway full time, I often took stopgap jobs in offices and
temp jobs along the way.
People who claim they want
a career in the arts but feel stuck in their day jobs constantly ask me how I
could earn enough to live on in the arts.
Because I was ruthless in
the knowledge and practice that any day job was just that – temporary. Its only
purpose was to make it possible for me to work in the arts. If and when it
interfered with a paying theatre job, it was the day job that was chucked. I
NEVER turned down a paid (emphasis on “paid”) job in the arts because it meant
quitting a day job.
Even knowing that theatre
and film jobs are temporary and transitory.
“But I have
responsibilities!” People whine.
You think I don’t? I have
been earning my way since I was a teenager. At a certain point, I became the
breadwinner and caretaker of other members of my family. Sometimes I have been
that for my family of choice as well. I have responsibilities.
But I was committed to my
career choice, and every work decision was made around building that career,
not conforming to other people’s definition of “real work.” Believe me, my
entire life, I’ve heard “when are you going to get a REAL job?” This is from
people who couldn’t last a single day if they had to work a full Broadway
production schedule or an 18-hour day on a film set.
I knew what I wanted from
my career, and I did it.
Too often, people claim
they want a career in the arts. But it’s easy to fall into a corporate job with
a regular salary. If you CHOOSE that route, it’s perfectly valid. But own the
choice. Don’t pretend the corporate job and your “responsibilities” prevent you
from doing the work you claim you want to do. The only thing standing in your
way is you.
The other important
element is to dump unsupportive partners. Because I am driven and organized,
too many men tried to get me to give up my dream and focus that energy and
drive on theirs. Not one of them were worth it, and getting every single one of
them out of my life was the right choice. I’ve had some great men in my life,
but I knew even the good ones couldn’t sustain the lifelong journey. The ones
who tried to sabotage me were kicked to the curb pretty damn fast.
If my career choice had
been in the stock market or in finance or medicine or law, no one would have
ever questioned the dedication or the long hours. But, because it’s in the
arts, everybody’s a critic.
I consider myself still
working in the arts, even with the business and marketing writing I do. I work
hard to balance the writing other people pay me to do with the novels, plays,
and radio plays I write.
That doesn’t mean I
consider business writing a “day job” and fiction/scripting my “real” writing. They
are both creative. I love working with businesses who are passionate about what
they do, and communicating that passion in a way that enchants, engages, and
expands their audience. It’s my real work as much as writing a novel or a play
is real work. It’s a facet of my career.
Since we’re still in the
middle of a worsening pandemic, thanks to the lack of leadership and inhumanity
at the Federal level, we don’t know the full extent of the aftershocks or how long
Artists are finding new
ways to create, engage, and entertain an audience. Production skills will also
evolve. The need for art is growing, not ceasing, and I believe that theatre,
film, music, dance, visual arts – all of these will grow and find new ways to
connect with audiences.
Businesses need good
writers more than ever. One of the analytics companies (I can’t find the link,
apologies) figures that businesses that didn’t communicate with their audience
during the pandemic lost up to 78% of that audience.
communicate poorly with their audiences are also taking a hit. Life is
different now. Tossing out over-used catchphrases that wore out their welcome
back in March, or pretending it’s all over and everything is back to the way it
was hurts your audience. I know, as a consumer, reading some of the ridiculous
marketing schemes cause me physical pain. I turn away.
I am not likely to turn
Businesses that allow
customers inside without a mask, or to slide the mask down once inside? I walk
out. I don’t spend money there. Nor will I come back once there’s a vaccine,
and we are safely able to resume a semblance of former activities.
They have lost my business
One of the significant truths
the shutdowns and stay-at-home orders revealed is that few office jobs need to
be done in corporate space.
The day is often
structured differently, especially if childcare and children’s online learning
are involved. But the work can be done remotely.
Those of us who’ve worked
remotely for a company and/or as freelancers already knew that. We’ve had to
fight to because corporations find it useful to promote the toxic myth that it’s
not “real work” unless it’s in THEIR space where they can monitor you.
It’s time not to return to
that model. Where constant interruptions, unnecessary meetings to give a
bombastic executive an audience, and a workday structured for least
productivity but maximum low morale are considered “normal.”
We were groomed – and I
use that triggering word deliberately – by corporations to believe that this
type of work day and work environment was the only “real work.”
We’ve learned differently.
Yes, certain jobs need to
be done on site. But plenty of office jobs can be done virtually. If some
workers prefer the community office environment, they should have that option,
once it’s safe. But for those who are more productive, as long as they hit
their deadlines and deliver, the option to work remotely should be permanent.
Tools for Positive
UBI. Universal Basic Income gives everyone a chance for basic human dignity. Especially during the pandemic, it allows people to pay the bills, keep a roof over their head, food on the table, and, most importantly, to stay home. It allows them to put money back into the economy for all of the above, and maybe even support some small businesses and artisans. That slows the spread of the infection, gives the medical community time to come up with vaccines and treatments, and save lives. If people aren’t putting their lives at risk daily, forced to go back into unsafe environments, but are allowed dignity, many of them will be able to create, invent, and come up with ideas that will positively transform their lives and our world that we can’t even yet imagine.
Health insurance not
connected to jobs. Too many people
are forced to stay in negative work situations because they are afraid of
losing their health insurance. Then we hit a depression, like the one we’re in
now, and they lost the job and the health insurance anyway. This needs to stop.
Health insurance needs to be connected to the individual, and travel with the
person from job to job. Part of that restructuring includes changing insurance from
profit to non-profit companies, and removing stock options.
Benefits not tied to
the job. EVERY job, even part-time
and 1099 jobs, should have to toss a few dollars ON TOP OF (not deducted from)
every paycheck into a pot tied to the individual for unemployment, paid time
off, and retirement. IN ADDITION to money tossed into the insurance pot.
everywhere. Remote workers contribute
to their local economies. They buy food, pay taxes, hopefully shop locally when
they can, participate in their communities. It’s vital to keep people connected
with affordable technology in the most rural areas. And people need options. No
single corporation can be allowed to monopolize any utility.
The next generation
doesn’t owe it to us to suffer. I am
so sick and tired of hearing “well, I had to work hard, and no one wants to
work anymore.” People do want to work hard, but they also want to work
differently. We should be making it
better for the next generation, and then they make it better for the following
generation and so forth and so on. The
previous generation broke barriers. Instead of regressing (like we’ve done the
past years), it’s time for us to break barriers.
Fair pay for a day’s
work. And benefits. UBI doesn’t negate the need for fair pay. If
you aren’t willing to pay a living wage, and throw benefits into a pot for the
individual, you don’t get to have employees. Do the damn work yourself. And let’s
stop this only paying a 35-hour week or a 37.5-hour week. Or working 8-5
instead of 9-5 if someone wants to eat. You want me to work for you all damn
day? You can damn well pay me for a LUNCH HOUR.
Affordable housing. What developers present as “affordable” housing isn’t.
The formula for affordable housing needs
to be 30% of a month of 40-hour weeks at the minimum wage for that state. THAT
is affordable. No one should have to work multiple jobs in order to pay rent,
and rent should not be 80% of a person’s income (which it too often is).
How Do We Get There?
Millions of us are out of
work right now, and worried. Perhaps even desperate. Corporations are counting
on that. They got millions of dollars in SBA loans, have bought back stocks,
paid bonuses to top execs, and laid off the people who do the actual work. Now,
they want to hire people back at lower rates without benefits because “the economy.”
If you have to take
anything that comes along, then do what you need to do.
But take Liz Ryan’s advice over on The Human Workplace, and always be looking for another job. Consider it a temp job. Keep looking, pitching, sending out resumes and LOIs, talking to people, expanding your network.
As soon as you get a
better opportunity, take it. Companies stopped being loyal to their employees
decades ago. They blame the employees, saying they jump to a different job
after two years and “don’t want to work.” Hmm, maybe if companies paid decent
wages, benefits, funded pension plans (which are EARNED benefits as much as
Social Security is an EARNED benefit)
and treated their employees with decency and dignity, their employees would
Don’t believe corporate
spin. Take what you need to survive. Jump when something better comes along.
Misplaced loyalty will destroy you every time.
Take Stock. Then Take
In and amongst the worry
(and we’re all worried, on so many fronts right now), take stock of the career
you’ve had and the career you want. Where are they aligned? Where are they
apart? Where are they in conflict?
Start taking small actions
every day to move towards the career you want. Fifteen minutes a day working
towards both the kind of work you want to do and the environment in which you
want to do it.
Work with your elected
officials on town, state, and Federal
levels. Let them know what you want out of your society. HELP them get there.
It’s not just about donating money. It’s about regular communication so they
can represent you, and it’s about ideas. Write proposals, with detailed action
That helps them, and hones
skills you can use in a variety of jobs.
Read bills coming up for a vote, and let your elected officials
know how you feel about them. They can’t represent you if you don’t
You can read Federal bills coming up for a vote here..
Your state and town will have
information on their websites. It doesn’t take that much time to keep up on these
bills, and it pays off in every aspect of your life, because it affects every
aspect of your life.
Vote. In EVERY election.
Say No. Speak up at work. Speak up in interviews. Companies
are counting on us to be terrified and desperate. If enough of us say no, they
have to change the way they treat workers, or go out of business. Find people
with similar work and life sensibilities, and become entrepreneurs. Terrifying,
right? But also fulfilling. You can do better work on your own and be a better
boss than those who mistreated you.
Yes, it’s terrifying and
overwhelming at times. Start slowly. Rest when you need to. But remember that
you owe your best energy and creativity to making YOUR life a work of art, not
creating something for others to profit from in perpetuity.
How are you reinventing
work from what you’ve learned during the pandemic?
The title got your
attention, and the topic may annoy people.
We’ve spent so much time
talking about “shop local” and “buy small.”
There are even weekends dedicated to that – the Saturday after Black Friday, for
In many cases, I’m all for
it. I’d much rather spend my hard-earned dollars on a local artisan making a
terrific product than at a big, anonymous box store.
However, there are also artisans
and small businesses who create great products all over the country and all
over the world. I like to support them by purchasing their products when I can.
That does not negate the local businesses.
I can buy from both.
With the re-opening,
sometimes shopping local is even less of a smart choice. While my state
mandates that local businesses must require customers to wear a mask to enter,
it’s rarely enforced. One of the local businesses I supported during stay-at-home
is allowing people in without the required masks. They SAY they want customers
masked; but when I was in there last week, customers walked in wearing the mask,
then slid it down to their neck and got right up close and personal with employees
and didn’t social distance.
I call them the Sliding
I’ve shopped a good deal at this business since I moved here ten years ago; won’t be going back any time soon, since I don’t feel they are protecting either their employees or their customers. I was uncomfortable, angry, and felt unsafe. I bought much less than I planned, because all I wanted to do was get away from the Sliding Mask Skanks before one of them contaminated me. I considered putting everything back and walking out without buying anything, but that would have put me at more risk that simply checking out with what I had.
Another local business,
offering the same type of product “strongly encourages” masks, but does not
require them. So I’m not shopping there.
Meanwhile, a local
business in the same line of work about forty minutes away not only requires
the mask, but takes the temperature of customers before allowing them in.
I’ll drive the forty
minutes and shop there instead.
Too many businesses are
not enforcing the mask rule, are not protecting either customers or employees,
because they’d rather get a few bucks out of the Covidiots, especially if they’re
tourists, then build a sustainable future in the community by refusing them
entrance. Or making them leave when they take off the mask.
These businesses have not
yet figured out that when everybody’s dead, there’s no one to buy their
I don’t intend to be one
of the casualties.
There are other local
businesses that are letting the guidelines slide, while claiming they are following
them. Not shopping there. I’ll hunt down
individual artisans and order from them instead (and ask that they not ship via
UPS, since UPS has now lost three packages in the past month. Again, not
I’m keeping track of the businesses that aren’t protecting employees and customers. I will think long and hard when there is a vaccine and there is treatment and it’s “safe” to go out and about like we used to – do I really want to give my money to a place that didn’t look after their people, but were willing to put their lives at risk during the phased re-opening? Do companies that were willing to put lives at risk in such a reckless manner deserve my money?
If I have another option,
I will use it.
Even if it’s not local.
As a writer and remote
worker, I have clients spread out all over the country and the world. With
remote teams stationed wherever they’re stationed, “local” has a more
I might be working for a
company that has a distributed remote work force. However, the money I earn
from that company benefits my local community when I go out and spend it.
Except for those companies
who are not following guidelines and protocols. I’ll skip spending my money
there and put it to companies who ARE looking after both employees and
If there’s a product I
want/need from a local business and they’re letting Covidiots in without masks,
potentially infecting employees and customers, potentially creating a hotspot,
I’m not shopping there. If I can get the same product, also from a small
business, that’s in a different location, and they are shipping and following
safety guidelines, that’s where I’ll put my money.
What if they’re not actually following them? What if they are doing what local businesses are doing here, which is posting that they are following guidelines, but not actually doing it? How can I possible know if I’m not right there?
Anything that enters the house goes through disinfectant protocols and is sanitized and/or quarantined. Whether it’s local or delivered. However, if it’s delivered, I have not been in contact range of the reckless Covidiots dancing around with unenforced protocols, and I have a much smaller chance of getting infected.
So I’ll order from a small
business that’s somewhere else. And NOT spend my money locally, where I KNOW
they are disregarding safety protocols. They haven’t earned the right to my
money. I buy from a different locale.
“Local” has become more
Remote workers are
fantastic for their local economies. If I’m living where I want, happy where I
am and working remotely, earning a fair living from that remote job (which I
sure wouldn’t be earning in-person locally), and I spend that money on
property, gas, food, and at local businesses who earn my trust – that serves
the local economy.
But I am paying attention.
I do not “owe” it to local businesses to spend my money there if they are not
doing everything in their power to protect the health and safety of both their
employees and their customers. But especially their employees, who have to deal
with germy strangers coming in and out all day.
I “owe” the health and
safety of my family and my community at large to spend my money in businesses
that I believe operate with ethics and integrity. There are plenty of
businesses owned by people whose values are far removed from mine. I do not “owe”
it to them to spend my money there. They do not “owe” it to me to hire me to
write for them (I’d refuse the gig anyway).
That is one of the
marketing spins during this phased re-opening that hits me as a red flag –
chambers of commerce and business associations telling the public they “owe” their patronage to businesses in the area simply because they are in the area.
If the business earns my trust
and treats employees and customers with integrity, I’m happy to spend money
there (provided their product meets my needs). If they don’t earn my trust and
don’t treat employees and customers with integrity, or stop doing so, I do not
owe them anything.
This is something marketing
people need to discuss with their clients as they plan and implement re-opening
campaigns to engage and enlarge their audience/customer base. Customers don’t “owe”
you their patronage. You have to earn it. You have to stand out and give
customers reasons to want to engage with you, to want to spend their money on
your product or service, rather than one someone else’s.
Health and safety concerns
have added another layer to that equation. It’s not two-dimensional anymore,
but multi-dimensional. It’s interesting, frustrating, and sometimes disappointing
to see which businesses step up, and which ones fail.
How are businesses in your
area handling things? Any surprises? Disappointments? How do you feel about the
local marketing? How would you advise these companies differently?
There’s a lot of discussion in person and online, as we try to navigate the often reckless re-opening plans around the country, how to restructure the marketing message to hold customers rather than drive them away by being tone deaf, and to engage new customers.
With the world literally
burning down around us, the institutions/structures we either trusted or
ignored exposed as toxic, flawed, and/or corrupt, and the fact that going to
the grocery store could literally kill us, “messaging” isn’t enough.
Who are you, as a
Where do you fit into the
structure of you local community, your region, your state, your country, the
world? What does what you do, the way you do it, how you walk your talk, and
how you communicate it, say about you?
More importantly, who are
you as a person?
It’s often argued that one’s
personal beliefs don’t matter within business context. A professional writer can
write anything for any one in any tone. The fact that one can and does is proof
of one’s professionalism.
I’ve often had a problem
with that, and even more so now.
Which is your soul and which is your mask? What damage do you to do your soul (and the world) when all you offer is your mask, and the results of that mask cause harm?
We hear about the need for “authenticity” in connecting and engaging an audience. That term is yet another that has become over-used, meaningless market-speak. The minute someone starts talking about the “authentic self” the warning bells go off for “hypocrite.” Because those who actually ARE authentic don’t run around talking about it. They are BEING. They are DOING. Their actions provide the copy. The copy does’t cover or divert from the actions.
I don’t have all the
answers, although I keep asking the questions. I don’t have the right to make decisions
for anyone except myself. But I do have to face myself in the mirror every day.
I have to ask, “Who are you?”
On the days when I can’t
answer, or don’t like what I see, it is time for radical change.
An article on my Twitter timeline last week pressed some buttons. I didn’t even realize how deep it cut until I started my response. It made sense, after a few minutes, to shut the heck up, think about WHY it caused such a heated response on my part, and set out my argument.
It was an article on having various “calls to
action” in newsletters, content, etc. “Calls to action” is
another marketspeak term that’s getting overused and overdone, in my opinion,
although it makes sense — you’re enlarging your audience and potential
customer base and you want them to take the action of buying your product or
But one of the CTA points that worked my last nerve was
“create a sense of scarcity and urgency.”
As a customer, when I am targeted that way, it angers me,
and is more likely to turn me off the product and service than engage me. It
makes me feel manipulated in a way I don’t like.
Because, quite frankly, my buying is not decided, for the
most part, on missing a trend. If I feel a company is trying to manipulate me
into buying something this second or missing it — I’d rather miss it.
Even the word “scarcity” has “scare” in it – a scare tactic. You try to intimidate me into parting with my hard-earned cash, and I’m going to push back.
Obviously, when a store is having a sale or an airline is having one of their special deals, scarcity and urgency are part of the deal. A store can’t have an endless sale, or it becomes the regular price. There has to be a start date and an end date. You don’t shop within that time frame, and you miss it. You wait too long, and they’ve sold through.
Another time that works is with one of my favorite shops, a soap maker who does small batch soaps using natural ingredients. When the batch is sold through, it’s done, and there’s no guarantee it will be made again. She’s up front about that, is good about posting when something is sold out, and that’s that. I don’t feel manipulated. If I miss it, for whatever reason — whether I didn’t see the email in time or forgot or can’t afford it this month — no problem. Her emphasis is on the new products and new batch, not into shaming her customers for missing something. The way she presents her materials — positive, engaging, inviting — means I am more likely to buy as soon as something new comes up, because she INVITES me instead of BERATING or trying to SCARE me.
Some of the struggling chain stores around here seem to think that they can recover by having constant sales in finite hours. You run in and buy something on your way somewhere else. They give you a slip stating you’ll get 20% off your next purchase, but only if you shop between 9-11 AM on Friday, or, even worse, only if you come back and shop again that very day.
No. Just no.
Where I live, people are either retired living on
independent income, or struggling with three or four part-time jobs. Few people
have the time or the inclination to build their day around a two-hour sale.
As one woman pointed out, “I’ll plan my life around
Black Friday, but that’s only once a year.”
Another woman said, “It would cost me more to take off
work to attend the sale than I’d save on the sale.”
A third person said, “Sales tactics like this are why I
order online from Amazon.”
In other words, the stores are not listening to the people
who live here and would shop here. The manipulative “scarcity and
urgency” they’re promoting are actually driving customers away from them
and to Amazon.
It also speaks to a deeper issue often called
“prosperity consciousness” and “poverty consciousness.”
Scarcity is often manipulated in order for specific individuals to profit. If you’re always scrambling because you feel you don’t have “enough” — and many of us, living paycheck to paycheck are scrambling all the time just to pay our bills and survive — you wind up in a downward spiral of panic. You’re afraid the deal will never exist again, so you better buy it at this price at this moment or you’ll lose out forever. Sometimes, you’ll plunge yourself further into poverty in order to get this “deal.”
But do you really need it? What is the worst thing that will
happen if you miss the sale and it’s not part of your life?
Part of a marketing campaign is to create the desire for
whatever the company is selling. That’s part of the encouragement, of the
manipulation — give me your money for
this product or service, and your life will be better.
With the subtext being, if you don’t GIVE ME YOUR MONEY for
this product or service, your life will be worse.
But is that true?
Or will it keep you in the cycle of poverty consciousness?
This article, by Dawn Demers, talks about developing prosperity consciousness, and how our words have meaning, and how we become what we think about. I don’t agree with everything in this article (“tithing” has a negative religious connotation for me), but I do agree that if we are going to live a healthier life, we have to deal with the fear of not having enough. When you’re working three jobs at minimum wage with no benefits, it’s a very real fear. So when companies try to prey on those fears in order to get you to spend your money ON THEM, you have to be careful.
People talk about living in “prosperity
consciousness” or with a sense of abundance or a balanced life. Does
missing this sale really mean you won’t achieve it? If you really mean to live
your life with the belief that there is enough for all of us, we don’t need to
be greedy, we don’t need to hoard, in fact, we can get rid of many of the
things we’ve accumulated that we no longer need — do we need to add in this
particular thing within these two hours? If you claim you want to live an
abundant life, is your definition of “abundance” and
“prosperity” the accumulation of items that OTHER PEOPLE judge you
need, or things and experiences that actually make you happy? And why would you
buy based on being provoked and manipulated by such negativity?
I bet you can count on your fingers the amount of things you
bought on sale that actually improved your life beyond a few days.
Yes, they exist. They are different for everyone. But
missing most sales isn’t going to damage your life in the long term. You might
be disappointed for a few days. You might miss the adrenalin rush that those
purchases give us. But it’s rare it will ruin your life.
Further, if you claim you want to live an ethical, balanced
life based on prosperity consciousness rather than poverty consciousness, how
can you, in all good conscience, create materials that promote “scarcity
and urgency” and manipulate people to buy out of panic? Does the money
offset any tears on your integrity? Or do you believe it’s not your problem or
your business? You’re simply there to create effective materials. If the
customer buys, you’ve succeeded.
Where is that line for you?
It’s something to think about and work on. It’s something
each of us has to define for ourselves.
I am more and more aware of it as a consumer, and less and
less likely to respond to such a “call for action.” My action, more
and more often, is to turn away from the company.
As a writer, I am also aware of it. If I feel the materials I’m tasked to create are too predatory, I will fight to rework the materials and word them so they come from a more positive place that still engages and encourages the customer to purchase. And, there are times when I refuse the gig when the client wants predatory or panicky materials created to manipulate the customer with negativity and fear.
I have to define those lines constantly. It’s not easy. But, for me, it’s a necessity.
How do you set your lines? Do you have different boundaries in the work you do for others than the way you live your own life? How do you integrate the two?
At first glance, this seems like a strange post for Ink-Dipped Advice, especially since my Monday posts over on Ink in My Coffee during this cycle are about setting an intent for the week.
But in my writing and freelance business, intent, to me, matters.
What is my intent in my freelance business?
To earn a living is, of course, part of it. But how I earn
it and working with which clients on which projects matters to me.
I like to work with clients who are passionate about what
they do, and whose products and services make the world a more interesting,
more compassionate, and better place.
My intent in working with those clients is to express their
passion, joy, and unique product or service to an ever-increasing audience in a
positive, engaging manner.
My skills as a storyteller and in theatre/film production translate to the “mission-specific entertainment” I talk about elsewhere on this site help me wrap the client message into an intriguing story with enchanting characters that gets the audience interested.
Because I believe social media is a conversation and not a
bulletin board, when I create social media campaigns for clients and provide
the response/follow-through, I build on the actual campaign posts with
engagement and conversation. Interaction is, in my opinion, THE most important
component of a successful social media campaign. If you’re not going to post
engaging content and then actually ENGAGE, there’s no point in being on the
So, my intent is getting to know the company, help create
characters and stories that best communicate their message, and increase
engagement. This can translate into sales/support/business growth.
Underneath this intent is my intent to earn a living from my skills. If you’re not going to pay me and value my work, I don’t work for you. I am not creating content for you without pay as part of the interview process. Read my portfolio. As for additional portfolio samples. Don’t ask me to write for you without pay. Because that indicates you don’t value what I do, or the skills I bring to the table.
My intent is to work only with companies who treat their
people well, value skills, and compensate accordingly.