MONEY Careers

What Microsofties Can Do to Prep for the Coming 18,000 Layoffs

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer at Microsoft Corp
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hinted at the cuts last week in his 3,000-word email to employees. David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Redmond, Wa. tech giant announced that it will be cutting more than one out of every 10 employees. Here, Career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine tells workers how to get prepared for the pink slips.

In an email sent to staffers last week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talked about restructuring the company to “streamline” and “simplify.” Those reading between the lines were taking this to mean that layoffs were coming.

Looks like the doomsday predictors were right: The company announced today that it would be cutting 18,000 jobs in the next year as part of a restructuring. In other words, more than one in every 10 employees will get the boot. Those in departments that had overlapping functions at Nokia—which was recently acquired by Microsoft—are said to be most vulnerable, but those in marketing, engineering and software testing may also see pink slips.

No doubt employees there are nervous. But their best move—and yours, if you find yourself in a similar position—is to channel that anxious energy into getting prepared in case you are asked to vacate your office quickly.

What the Microsofties should be doing:

1) Getting familiar with their company’s exit policy. Most companies post their severance policy in the company handbook or on the intranet. The Microsofties should review this so they have an idea of what they are entitled to should the worst come to pass. Looks like execs at least get a pretty nice package, though they’re constrained from working for a competitor for the next 12 months.

2) Protecting their personal data. Of course, client information, project documents, and any other intellectual property belongs to the employer. But many employees blur the lines by using their professional email and/or work phone number for personal bank and credit card accounts, social media profiles, or other non-professional parts of their lives. Microsofties should change over any accounts to their personal email address and phone number so that they don’t disrupt access if that contact information is no longer valid.

3) Collecting contact information from colleagues and supporters. Employees will want to maintain their networks if they leave. So they should make sure they have emails and phone numbers for the people they want to keep in touch with—colleagues, vendors, consultants, direct reports, senior management. They should move this info to their personal Outlook (if continued use of that Microsoft program won’t be too painful for you!) or personal cell phone. You will have to return company equipment if you’re laid off, so don’t leave your contacts behind too.

4) Updating their resumes and online profiles. While their latest projects and accomplishments are still fresh in their minds—and they can refer to supporting documents as needed—the Microsofties should be updating their resumes in (ugh) Word and on LinkedIn. This way, if they’re laid off, they are ready to start their job search immediately. Lucky for them, 70% of managers at tech firms anticipate doing more hiring in the next six months, according to Dice.

5) Continuing to drink the Microsoft Kool-Aid. Remember, just because you hear rumors of layoffs does not mean they will happen soon or affect you. Therefore, the Microsofties should continue to work hard even while they prepare for a worst-case scenario. That means maintaining a positive attitude despite any negative talk in the company spa (yep, that’s a real thing). Maintaining high performance standards even if colleagues decide to give up. Remaining professional so that they position themselves for continued career advancement at the company or elsewhere.

Continued strong performance under tough conditions may be the tipping point that convinces the decision-makers to keep you on. Even if it doesn’t, you ensure a strong reference because you continued to do your job.

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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart®career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column will appear weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

How to Network in Just 5 Minutes a Day

How Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

Your Career is Your Biggest Asset. 5 Ways to Protect It

MONEY Careers

How to Network Your Way to a New Job in Just 5 Minutes a Day

Businesswomen saying hi in an office
You'll be smiling too, if all this networking pays off. Paul Bradbury—Getty Images/Caiaimage

Career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine offers some easy ways to stay connected with your contacts. No name tags or awkward conversations required.

Does the word “networking” send shivers down your spine? Maybe it would help if I told you that networking doesn’t have to be a big production or a big time drain.

Of course, you want to attend conferences, join professional groups, and have lunches with contacts. Those activities are absolutely worth the investment, but you can do them sparingly.

In between, resolve to network for just five minutes a day. The 10 simple activities below require little preparation, will cost you no money, and can be done during your coffee break. With these ideas, you’ll have no excuse not to network each and every day. And you thought you were no good at networking!

1. Send a birthday greeting. LinkedIn and Facebook both highlight birthdays. Or, you can add your professional contacts’ birthdays as annual events to your Outlook calendar. When you see that it’s someone’s big day, email that person directly with a brief personalized note.

2. Offer congratulations. Social media sites also highlight big moves and wins, including job changes or work anniversaries. You can also use a specialty tool like Newsle, which links to your contact list and lets you know when any of your contacts is cited in the news. When you see good news, send a direct message to congratulate, again personalizing the note.

3. Say thank you. Surely, someone did something nice for you in the past week. Maybe it was a colleague who dug up a report you needed. Maybe it was an old classmate who forwarded an alumni event you would have overlooked. Send a quick email to thank that person: Hi John, thanks again for helping me find that Client X info. I finished the report, and you made my life SO much easier. You’ll probably make that person’s day.

4. Post a career-related article on Facebook. If you’re only using social media to share selfies and personal news, you’re missing an opportunity to remind people what you do professionally—which helps put a bug in your friends’ ears in case they hear of cool opportunities relating to what you do. You don’t need to post your resume to make a professional statement (please don’t, in fact). But you can post an article related to your role or industry, and write a comment that showcases your knowledge. If people aren’t interested, they’ll skim. But if someone is looking for your expertise, they’ll now know to contact you.

5 . Update your social media status. Even if you don’t have an article to recommend, you can post about something you’re working on. It doesn’t have to be detailed, and it doesn’t have to be promotional. An example: Whew! Looking forward to normal working days now that I’ve finished our quarterly revenue analysis.

6. Acknowledge other social media activity. When someone else posts something about what they’re doing—professionally or personally—write back with encouragement, suggestions, or just to acknowledge that it’s nice to hear from them. For example: You popped up on my Facebook feed. It’s been too long since we connected. How are you?

7. Change up your email signature. Your email signature is a passive networking tool: It’s included in your correspondence automatically, and you can use it to include information relating to you and your activities. My email signature rotates every few weeks and includes upcoming events plus titles of my most recent articles (with links).

8. Take a walk around your floor. A strong network is a diverse network. It’s tempting to fall into a rut of hanging out with the same people, typically the people in close proximity to you. Take five minutes to walk to other areas in the office. Say hello and chat with people you don’t regularly see. Then, if you ever have to work on a cross-departmental initiative, you will already have established at least some relationship with your extended colleagues.

9. Ping a random contact Build the habit of picking a contact at random from your phone list or Outlook contacts, and email that person just to say hello. This gets you in the habit of doing some networking each and every day, and it also ensures that you reach out to a wide variety of people, not just the people you naturally think of.

10. Share a recommendation. In the last week, you probably experienced something new—read an article, ate at a just-opened restaurant or tried a new recipe at home. Think of one new thing and of one person you know who might enjoy whatever it is you did. Email that person with the article, restaurant name or recipe, including a short note saying that this new thing made you think of them. They’ll be flattered to pop up front of mind and will appreciate hearing about something new.

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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column will appear weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

How Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

Your Career is Your Biggest Asset. 5 Ways to Protect It

 

MONEY Careers

4 Reasons the Kardashian Moms Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Working (and Neither Should You)

Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian and Kourtney Kardashian
Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian aren't your average working moms. Or are they? Omar Vega—Invision/AP

Even the Sisters K say leaving the kids behind to earn a living can be tough. Cheer up, Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney. Research finds there's an upside to balancing mommy duties with office demands.

Who knew I had something in common with the Kardashians? Surprise, surprise: The incredibly rich are not immune to working-mommy guilt.

While promoting their new kids’ clothing line on CNBC’s Closing Bell yesterday, Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney were asked to respond to the recent comments by PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi that women can’t have it all.

Whether or not you believe that what The Sisters K do actually counts as work—it certainly pays better than my job as an editor here at Money—their comments echo some of what I have heard from my fellow employed moms of the real world.

“There are so many times I just didn’t want to get up and work on something, I just wanted to be at home with my baby,” Kim said.

“I used to feel so guilty every time I left,” added Kourtney, who’s preggers with her third kid.

I guess this is proof that every working mom has had regret about leaving their child with a caregiver at some point or another. (Though if I had three, I would probably feel elated about going to work, not guilty.) But for those of us who are the family breadwinners and those of us who simply love our careers, we know we have to power through.

One way to beat back the guilt is to focus on the upside. And the good news is that there is a lot of research showing the benefits of being a mom who works (and this is not to vilify those who stay at home, who have the tougher job by my estimation). Remembering these four things helps me get through the tough mornings when my toddler breaks down in tears when I leave:

1. Working moms are healthier. A 2011 study from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro found that moms who work rate themselves in better health overall—more likely to say they feel “excellent”—than those who stay at home with their kids. This was confirmed by a 2012 paper from the University of Akron that looked at full-time working moms at age 40 who went back to work early on after having their children. These mamas reported higher levels of energy and mobility. I have to wonder, though, if either of these studies took into consideration what my husband and I have termed “daycare disease”—the family cold we pass between us from October to April.

2. Working moms are happier. Both the North Carolina and University of Akron studies showed that working moms exhibited fewer signs of depression than SAHMs. “Work is good for your health, both mentally and physically,” said Adrianne Frech, the lead researcher on the Akron study by way of explanation. “It gives women a sense of purpose, self-efficacy, control, and autonomy.” Additionally, a Gallup poll from 2012 found that moms who don’t work have higher levels of worry, depression, sadness, anger, and stress than those who do—which may speak to just how much harder that job really is.

But you don’t need a study to tell you that you’ll actually be happier if you’re doing something you like. I mean, just take it from an expert like Kim Kardashian: “You know, for me, and I think I can speak for my sisters, it makes us feel good when we are out working and we can provide something for our friends and products that, you know, we can’t find that we really want. And it just makes you feel productive.” Of course, a lot of this depends on being in the right job.

3. Your kids will not suffer for it. In a recent Pew study, 60% of Americans said children are better off when a parent stays home to focus on the family, but there’s a lot of data showing the opposite. Kids of working moms turn out okay—and possibly better depending on what research you’re looking at.

A 2010 review from the APA’s peer-reviewed Psychological Bulletin looked back at 50 years worth of studies on the children of working parents and found that those whose moms went back to work before the child turned three weren’t any more likely to exhibit behavioral or academic problems than those of moms who stayed at home. Among lower-income families, the kids actually did better on academic metrics. “Overall, I think this shows women who go back to work soon after they have their children should not be too concerned about the effects their employment has on their children’s long-term well-being,” said the study’s lead author, psychologist Rachel Lucas-Thompson.

Other recent research has shown similar results, including a 2014 study out of Boston College which found that kids of middle-class working moms are as well prepared for kindergarten as childen of moms who don’t work, and children of lower-income working moms are better prepared.

4. Your kids will still love you. For her 1999 book Ask the Children, Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, interviewed 1,000 kids ages 8 to 18 and found that a mom’s work status wasn’t a factor in how the children assessed their parents. In fact, the relationship between the parent and child was more important than whether or not mommy went to a job.

Me, I’m reminded of this every day at around 6 p.m. While it’s awful to leave my kid in the morning—well, some mornings anyway—there’s nothing like the giant hug and sloppy kiss that’s waiting for me when I get home.

MONEY College

$240,000 Isn’t Enough?! Why Liberal Arts Majors Are Paying Extra to Learn Job Skills

Employers want graduates who are better prepped for the work world, but colleges have been slow to respond.

Ben Wei was already paying hefty tuition to earn a sociology degree from Bowdoin College, which charged nearly $57,000 at the time. But he worried his classes weren’t teaching him skills he needed in the workplace. So he gave up the winter break of his senior year to take a three-week boot camp designed to teach him how to work a full-time job.

The $3,000 course, offered by a company called Fullbridge, covered problem-solving, collaboration and communication—the kinds of skills employers say they want but aren’t getting from college grads.

“You can sit in a room and learn economic theory from a professor or a textbook, but at the end of the day, it’s still just theory,” said Wei, who now works as a data analyst. “They don’t really teach you how to apply that theory.”

More and more programs like Fullbridge are being started up to help students master career skills before starting their first jobs, and most cost students thousands of dollars on top of the already high price of their higher educations.

That, for some critics, raises the question: Why aren’t students learning these skills in college?

Colleges often don’t emphasize job training

“These institutions are notoriously hard to change,” said Steve Farkas, a senior researcher at the nonpartisan organization Public Agenda who authored a study of business leaders’ attitudes toward higher education. “They’re not responsive to real-world concerns, and they are very protective of the standard operating procedures.”

A few schools have started offering programs to fill the gap. Northeastern, Mount Holyoke and the University of Central Florida are among the schools that have so-called “experiential learning” options under which students get to work with employers in their chosen fields before graduation.

But these programs are still more the exception than the rule, said Farkas.

Matt Tower, a student at Amherst College who spent his winter break 93 miles away at a Fullbridge seminar, said the experience was unlike anything he could have gotten on campus—even though Amherst has an economics program and some business-oriented clubs.

“We’re very strictly a liberal arts college,” Tower said. “There are very few options at Amherst if you want to prepare for a career in business.”

Ursula Olender, director of the Amherst career center, said the school is in the process of setting up a program like Fullbridge’s on campus to help its students develop “the hard and soft skills that are not offered in great depth in a traditional liberal arts setting.” The price has not been determined, but “no qualified Amherst student who cannot pay will be denied the opportunity to participate,” she said.

Bowdoin spokesman Doug Cook said that college does offer students other chances “to deepen their understanding of issues surrounding business and personal finance.” The school’s president himself, Barry Mills, headlined a series of lectures called “A Crash Course on Practical Skills,” which also featured instructors from Fullbridge, and Bowdoin also offers a leadership development program and forums organized by its Finance Society and Women in Business club.

While schools such as these are working to shift some emphasis toward the practical, advocates for the liberal arts say focusing too narrowly on business skills produces students who can make presentations and read spreadsheets but can’t think broadly enough to know why the information they’re working with is important, or how to use it.

“What we don’t want are universities to think they should become centers for vocational activities,” said William “Brit” Kirwan, outgoing chancellor of the University System of Maryland. “If you just train people to take their first job, they won’t have the knowledge and skills and adaptability that they’ll need later on in their career.”

Employers are demanding more skilled grads

On the other side of the coin, employers seem to be unimpressed with the job colleges are doing to prepare their graduates. Nearly 90% of 500 executives surveyed said college graduates lack the most important skills they need to succeed, according to a Northeastern University report released in April.

“There is a communication breakdown between colleges and employers,” said Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, a small liberal arts school in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Colleges and universities haven’t done enough listening to what employers need, and employers need to talk more about their requirements.”

To meet the demands of a globalized economy, universities and colleges have to give students hands-on business experience so they can learn to apply their academic skills, said Jason Tyszko, senior director of education and workforce policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

“Soft skills are missing across the board, regardless of what industry you look at,” Tyszko said. “We need to make sure that the rigorous standards of the higher education system are better aligned with the needs of businesses.”

Outside companies step in to fill the gap

Colleges’ slow response to the demands of employers has provided an opening for companies like Fullbridge, which holds workshops in cities including New York and San Francisco at a cost of up to $8,500 per student. Some schools, including Bowdoin, invite Fullbridge onto their campuses and help foot the bill for them.

Fullbridge is hardly the only—or even most expensive—organization that seeks to fill the gap between what colleges are teaching and what employers say they need. The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth offers a similar month-long program in the summers for $10,000, and is expanding it to December. Harvard Business School just started a $1,500 online course to teach undergraduates elsewhere “the fundamentals of business thinking.”

Thirteen universities, including Brown, Georgetown, and the University of Southern California, have teamed up with a Seattle-based startup called Koru, which gives students the opportunity to work on real-world problems for businesses such as REI while working under executive coaches. The price: $2,750, though the participating schools often subsidize the cost.

Additionally, a company called General Assembly has a 10-week course in business fundamentals and tactics for $3,900 that covers everything from financial modeling to team management and is touted as a condensed version of business school.

Internships are another way to learn some of these skills—for free or better yet, while being paid. But often those experiences are more about getting coffee than career development, said Dyanne Rousseau, a recruiting coordinator at Mount Holyoke. Plus, in some fields, internships have become extended job interviews, at the end of which most students walk away with post-grad job offers. Students now have to be prepared in advance to compete for those opportunities, she says.

So for now at least, students like Ben Wei may find themselves having to pay extra to help fill the gap between the theoretical education their liberal arts college provides and the vocational training their future employers will demand.

__________

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet based at Teachers College, Columbia University.

MONEY Careers

Why You Should Consider Friending Your Boss On Facebook

Christian Hoehn—Getty Images

Q: Should I friend my boss on Facebook? – Jude, Austin, TX

A: While many people assume this is a no-no, there can actually be advantages to including your manager in your social network.

It’s true that Facebook is still more often used to share personal information than professional, and it can be risky to give your boss a window into your out-of-office life. But so long as you manage it correctly, friending your boss on Facebook can help you build closer relationships in the office.

One third of workers who are connected with their supervisor on Facebook say the online relationship enables them to perform more effectively on the job, according to a study by marketing firm Russell Herder called “Making the Connection: How Facebook Is Changing The Supervisory Relationship.

“Connecting with your boss on a social level can improve communication,” says Jodi Glickman-Brown, founder of Great on the Job, a firm that coaches workers on improving at work. Social media gives you opportunities to bond in a way that’s more natural. “If you’re in a situation where you need to make small talk with your boss, you’re going to have a much more meaningful conversation if you can chat about his latest vacation or a fabulous restaurant she enjoyed,” says Glickman-Brown.

Likewise, the connection can enhance how your manager perceives of you. Your posting pictures from a volunteer experience or an athletic event in which you participated in may make your boss see you in a different light, says Glickman-Brown.

Still, you need to be careful. Not all higher ups are open to being friended.

A Robert Half International survey asked executives how comfortable they felt about being friended by people they manage: 57% reported feeling uncomfortable, while 37% were ok with it.

(These feelings can go both ways: A study out of The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school called “OMG, My Boss Just Friend Me found that some employees who’d had a manager reach out to them on a social network felt it was akin to a parent friending them.)

Take a cue from your company culture. If your company bans social media use in the workplace, it probably isn’t a good idea to send a friend request to your boss. But if your company encourages workers to use social media in their jobs and others are Facebook friends with the boss, reaching out to connect won’t be so awkward.

Use privacy settings and different friends lists to control what your boss sees. The settings aren’t fool-proof, though. So you’ll need to police your postings more if you are connected with colleagues and higher-ups. You don’t want drama in your personal life to become fodder for conversations around the water cooler.

Have a workplace etiquette question? Send it to careers@moneymail.com.

MONEY Careers

These 2 Key Moves Will Help You Land Your Dream Second Career

Get the inside scoop on your future job and adjust your spending to match your life goals.

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember the Doris Day song, Que Sera, Sera? (Whatever Will Be, Will Be). It went like this:

When I was just a child in school,
I asked my teacher, “What will I try?”
Should I paint pictures, should I sing songs?”
This was her wise reply: “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.
The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera.”

These days, many boomers are having their own Que Sera Sera moment, wondering “what they will try” next and whether they can afford to do it in “unretirement.” Start a company? Continue working full-time, maybe at a different company or industry? Shift to part-time or contract work?

Many want to keep earning an income—from something that’s meaningful. In other words, doing well personally and doing good socially.

(MORE: Plotting Your Next Move for ‘Unretirement’)

Don’t Listen to the Teacher

But, as Harvard University psychology professor and Stumbling on Happiness author Daniel Gilbert observes, the Que Sera Sera teacher’s reply isn’t that wise or helpful. Instead, he recommends exploring your possibilities by learning from surrogates: people engaged in something that attracts you.

“Teachers, neighbors, coworkers, parents, friends, lovers, children, uncles, cousins, coaches, cabdrivers, bartenders, hairstylists, dentists, advertisers — each of these folks has something to say about what it would be like to live in this future rather than that one, and at any point in time we can be fairly sure that one of these folks has actually had the experience that we are merely contemplating,” Gilbert writes in Stumbling on Happiness.

Then, if you determine that your next move will mean an income cut, I believe you should start getting more frugal, so you can enjoy your new life without feeling squeezed.

Wise Words From A Transition Pro

To learn more about major midlife transitions, I reached out to Harlan Limpert, the 64-year-old Chief Operating Officer for the Unitarian Universalist Association, the church group’s umbrella organization, and former head of human resources at Target.

Due to his career path, many people have informally consulted with Limpert over the years for advice about finding meaning and purpose through work (full-time or part-time).

Limpert worked in HR for two years at Target in Minneapolis after college in the early 1970s. It was a good job, he says, but he felt it didn’t offer enough in terms of life’s meaning. So he went to seminary at Starr King School for the Ministry for Unitarian Universalists in Berkeley, Calif. and then became a chaplain at St. Elizabeth’s, the mental hospital in Washington, D.C.

(MORE: Busting the Myths About Work in Retirement)

Although he found chaplaincy rewarding, Limpert felt it wasn’t the right career for him and, after two years, headed back to Target. While at Target, Limpert stayed engaged with a local congregation. And in 2001, at 51, he quit the HR job to become the Unitarian Universalist Association’s director of lay leadership development—a shift that took advantage of his human resource skills but also came with a significant cut in pay.

These days, Limpert spends three weeks a month at its headquarters in Boston and one week back home in Minneapolis. “It’s the perfect job for me,” he says.

Limpert’s 2 Rules to Follow

In a wide-ranging conversation, Limpert stressed two points for anyone thinking through a major transition:

First, investigate carefully any potential job or career options before leaping into a new endeavor. “The romanticism of the ‘other’ is a huge mistake people make,” he cautions.

(MORE: 4 Tips to Play the Long Game in Work and Life)

In particular, if you’ve labored in the private sector, don’t put on rose-colored glasses about jobs in the nonprofit world. “People think business is hard and bad and the nonprofit world is good and easy,” he says. “Well, no. The question to pursue is, ‘How can I get a realistic picture of what my next life might be?’”

Do your research. Get involved. And, as Gilbert emphasized and Limpert reinforced, talk to lots of people engaged in the kind of job you believe will give you greater emotional and mental satisfaction and financial security.

Limpert’s second major point: A frugal lifestyle will help you fund and succeed at a major transition.

Many unretirement jobs come with a reduced salary; it’s a typical trade-off for the greater flexibility that comes with part-time or contract work. And full-time employees often take a hit if they move from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit world.

The career switch was financially easy for Limpert because he and his wife have always lived relatively modestly, focusing their spending on their children’s education and travel rather than on a big house or luxury cars. By living frugally, “you’re in a position to accept a reduced income,” says Limpert. “You have the economic flexibility to do what you want.”

Frugality Isn’t Pennypinching

Of course, mention frugality or thrift and words like stingy, cheap and hoarding quickly some to mind. Big mistake.

David Starr Jordan, the founding president of Stanford University, rightly noted in a 1915 talk that thrift “does not involve stinginess, which is an abuse of thrift, nor does it require that each item of savings should be financial investments; the money that is spent on the education of one’s self or of one’s family, in travel, in music, in art, or in helpfulness to others, if it brings real returns in personal development or in a better understanding of the world we live in, is in accordance with the spirit of thrift.”

In today’s world, many of my fellow boomers know they wrongly equated the good life with owning lots of stuff. In our hearts, we’ve always known that what gives us genuine satisfaction are experiences and creativity; family and community; a sense of purpose and a spirit of generosity.

Thrift is essentially a mindset for trying to match your spending with your values. “Cheapskates aim to buy as much as they can for as little as possible, not caring much for the quality or environmental or ethical virtues of the items they’re consuming,” Farhad Manjoo wrote when he was Slate’s technology columnist. “To be frugal, on the other hand, is to consider the full ramifications of every purchase.”

Okay, what if you’ve been more spendthrift than thrifty? In that case, work on creating a more frugal lifestyle into your unretirement planning while you’re investigating options for meaningful work.

How to Become More Frugal

The two efforts go hand in hand. There is no shortage of resources for practical suggestions.

I recommend Mark Miller’s The Hard Times Guide to Retirement Security: Practical Strategies for Money, Work, and Living and Kerry Hannon’s What’s Next?: Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond. And, if you’ll permit me, I’d also suggest reading my book, The New Frugality.

Websites like The Simple Dollar and comprehensive, free or low-cost online financial calculators such as those at Analyzenow.com offer the kind of frugal information that can help turn the dream of an encore job into a financially-realistic pursuit.

Simply put, the payoff from pursuing conversations with job surrogates and adopting a frugal approach to money in your unretirement planning is potentially huge—financially and emotionally.

Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor for American Public Media’s Marketplace and author of the forthcoming Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and The Good Life. He writes about Unretirement twice a month, focusing on the personal finance and entrepreneurial start-up implications and the lessons people learn as they search for meaning and income. Tell him about your experiences so he can address your questions in future columns. Send your queries to him at cfarrell@mpr.org. His twitter address is @cfarrellecon.

MONEY Investing

Are You On Your Way to $1 Million? Tell Us Your Story.

There are many ways to build lasting wealth. MONEY wants to hear how you're doing it.

The number of millionaires in America hit 9.6 million this year, a record high and yet another sign that the wealthy are recovering from the Great Recession, thanks in large part to stock market and real estate gains.

Are you on target to join their ranks? Are you taking steps—through your savings, your career decisions, your investments, or your rental properties—to make sure that by the time you retire your net worth will be in the seven figures? MONEY wants to hear your story.

Related: Where Are You On the Road to Wealth?

There are many paths to that kind of wealth, and they don’t necessarily involve a sudden windfall, a big head start, or a six-figure salary. You can build up a million or more in assets through steady saving, a sensible approach to investing, modest real estate holdings, or a winning small business idea. Are you finding ways to boost your savings at certain point of your life, like when the kids are out of school or the mortgage is paid up? Are you planning to take more or fewer risks with your investments as you near retirement? And if you invest in real estate, do you find that owning even one or two rental properties is enough to achieve prosperity?

Got a story like this to share? Use the confidential form below to tell us a bit about what you’re doing right, plus let us know where you’re from, what you do for a living, and how old you are. We won’t use your story unless we speak with you first.

MONEY Careers

Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career

Human resources office door
The person behind this door can give you some valuable insights related to your career. Image Source—Getty Images

A well-placed mole can tell you when key decisions are made, how to ask your boss for a raise, and more, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

If you don’t have friends who work in human resources, you might have a very narrow view of what happens there: It’s the place to go during benefits selection time; it’s the place where people get fired; it’s a mouthpiece for the company.

Like most people, you probably only contact HR is when you have a problem.

But as someone who has worked in the field for more than 20 years—both inside companies and outside as a consultant—I can tell you that getting to know the people who work in your human resources department can be very valuable. HR professionals work on career-related issues every single day. And you can take advantage of that expertise to better manage your own career.

Don’t yet know anyone in HR well enough to ply them for insights? Invest some time to build a connection: Invite someone to lunch whom you’ve worked with on matters related to work—say, filling an open position or promoting a star. Also, look at your LinkedIn and Facebook connections to see if you know someone in HR even if not in your own company; they can still be helpful to you. And the next time you’re contacted by a recruiter, return the call and suggest meeting up.

Once you’ve got your lunch planned, here are five areas you might want to talk to your HR buddy about:

1. What the straight story is on company benefits

Better than a hotline, your friend in HR can translate the doublespeak from the benefits guide into information you can use. Your friend might not know every nook and cranny of the guide, but if you have a specific interest (say, elder care issues), he or she can probably point you to the expert on her team who knows this well. Medical benefits is definitely a company perk you want to understand well.

But you might also ask if there are other benefits you’re entitled to that you are likely overlooking. There may be training and development opportunities, or even discounts to local attractions or consumer services (e.g., cell phone plans) that your company offers its employees. Your friend in HR knows about these because it’s part of his or her day-to-day.

2. How the decisions that affect your pay are made

What data is used to establish pay ranges? When are raises and bonuses decided? Are promotions granted at specific times only? Does every department do performance reviews at the same time, in the same way?

If you want to keep your career moving on an upward trajectory, you need to know how decisions are made around raises, bonuses, and promotions. This includes when decisions are made (if it’s once a year, start planning now so you don’t miss the next cycle), who decides (it’s not just your boss) and how your group compares with others (maybe you’re in a department with little upward movement and need to switch).

You can’t ask your boss or immediate colleagues for this information without revealing your intentions, and they may not know the whole story. Someone in HR, however, deals with these issues frequently, and across different areas of the company.

3. When exceptions are made to the rules

In addition to knowing how the processes typically work, your friend in HR probably also knows about any exceptions to the rule.

Any decent professional keeps confidentiality, and HR issues are absolutely confidential. However, your friend in HR can let you know if exceptions have occurred and how likely they are.

For example, you could find out if bonuses really are paid out only at year-end. Your HR friend may not be able to reveal who got the special spot bonus or how much it was, but might say, “I’ve seen it happen from time to time” or “I did hear of one case when…” And if you’re working on an extra assignment and feeling undervalued, your pal may suggest you lobby your boss for special consideration. At least you know an exception is possible, and it’s on you to press on for what you want.

4. How things compare between your company and others

Are you fairly paid? Is every company in this industry restructuring so frequently? Are work-at-home opportunities just not available in your line of work?

Your friend in HR doesn’t just look at career-related trends inside your company. He or she also needs to have a sense for what other companies are doing to ensure your firm stays competitive. Use that competitor knowledge as a shortcut for your own research.

5. How to approach your boss with requests

Now that you have all this useful knowledge about what benefits you might select, how decisions are made, possible exceptions that could apply to your situation and what competitors are offering, you may want to ask your boss for something—access to that special training conference, a promotion, a special bonus. But you don’t want your meeting with your boss to be the first time you practice this ask.

It is incredibly helpful to role play what that negotiation will look like with someone other than your boss who is experienced in career negotiations. This is another perk of having a friend in HR. He or she has sat through offer negotiations, performance reviews, and other career discussions much more frequently than you (and maybe even your boss). He or she can pepper you with questions you can practice in advance, or give you tips on what works and what doesn’t.

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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column will appear weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

Your Career is Your Biggest Asset. 5 Ways to Protect it

New Degree, No Job? 4 Steps Grads Should Take to Jumpstart the Search

MONEY Sports

Tim Howard, American Stud Goalie, Is Suddenly a Marketer’s Dream

Tim Howard
Stuart Franklin—FIFA via Getty Images

Belgium may have won the match, but USA goalkeeper Tim Howard's record-breaking heroics have launched a million memes—and could pay off in a big way for the sudden superstar.

After making an amazing 16 saves in the U.S.’s World Cup match against Belgium, Tim Howard is the social media world’s favorite son. The memes range from marriage proposals (some, creepily, from dads on the behalf of their daughters), to #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave (the Titanic, Lehman Brothers, the lady about to get eaten in “Jaws,” etc.), to Howard’s status as an American hero (he’s subbed in for Captain America and George Washington, among others). Howard was mentioned in one of every five Tweets about the U.S.-Belgium match, and some prankster even changed the Secretary of Defense Wikipedia page, briefly giving the title to Howard.

What makes Howard particularly appealing—to everyday spectators and marketers alike—is that he comes across as simply a hard-working, humble dude who takes a lunch-pail “That’s my job” approach onto the field.

What’s more, all of the attention showered on him has come about organically. There’s nothing contrived or fake about it, or about Howard either, apparently. He is a 35-year-old guy from New Jersey. He plays in England for Everton, and he’s long been a world-class goalie. But his status in the U.S. isn’t anywhere close to being in the superstar stratosphere of, say, LeBron James, or another pro athlete with the surname Howard (Dwight, the center for the NBA’s Houston Rockets), for that matter. Heck, FIFA’s online store doesn’t even have Tim Howard jerseys for sale. The memes weren’t the result of some marketing campaign, but due to random people being extra excited by Howard’s record-breaking performance in goal.

All of which means that Howard is in possession of the rarest of qualities—authenticity—in a world oversaturated with advertisements, marketing, and “personal branding.” There are a quite a few brands that would love to attach themselves to Howard’s heroics and persona right about now, so the opportunity is there for the goalkeeper.

Michael Neuman, managing partner of Scout Sports and Entertainment at Horizon Media, thinks that of the many inspiring characteristics Howard has displayed via his performance at the World Cup, “reliability, durability, consistency and resiliency” are at the top of the list. “Those are attributes most brands would aspire to own in the minds of consumers who are more brand savvy than ever,” Neuman said via e-mail.

With that in mind, Neuman says Howard would be a great match for the automobile industry. “Automobiles, especially SUV’s and mini-vans are the chariots du jour getting our national youth to and from soccer matches on weekends,” Neuman explained. “Detroit’s recent issues of reliability can be enhanced with an alignment with Howard across all creative media channels. If I was his agent, I would suggest he shave his beard and hang out a sign that reads ‘Open for Business, Let’s Talk.'”

For now, Howard’s associations and endorsements are fairly limited. Before the match against Belgium got underway, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) declared Howard their pick for World Cup MVP thanks to his participating in the “Ink, Not Mink” program, in which people show off their tattoos as a way to discourage consumers from wearing fur or other animal products. Here’s the fur-free stud explaining his stance on the issue:

Clearly, Howard could do a lot more in the way of endorsing products and causes, if he was interested. It’s not apparent he actually would. When asked of his future plans on Good Morning America the day after the match, Howard simply said, “Right now I’m still very emotional from the game,” and “I’m just trying to figure what’s what and let the dust settle. Spend some time with my kids.”

What we’ve learned from the recent past, though, is that one brilliant moment in the spotlight can change everything for an athlete—and quickly. The out-of-nowhere best-selling jersey phenomenon can been seen in the experiences of NBA players like Jeremy Lin and Jason Collins, who instantly became icons and heroes that fans just had to support and emulate. During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, merchandise featuring the unheralded American hockey player T.J. Oshie was suddenly in demand after he scored on four of six penalty shots to defeat Russia in a shootout.

By now, marketers are well-versed in the practice of reacting instantaneously to anything and everything that captures the world’s attention, from the power going out at the Super Bowl to a presidential candidate mentioning Big Bird during a debate. Social media dominates these “quick hit” reactions, of course, but marketers don’t limit their efforts to Twitter and Facebook. Insurer Liberty Mutual was able to produce and air a TV commercial featuring Olympic skier Heidi Kloser less than two weeks after an accident left her unable to compete in the Sochi games—and she walked memorably, with the help of crutches, into the Olympic stadium with Team USA during the opening ceremonies.

Suffice it to say that Howard has some pretty terrific prospects to parlay his newfound hero-stud status into something much bigger. Great for him. Is there any takeaway from the experience of Howard, or Lin, or Oshie, for the average Joe?

Dan Schawbel, a personal branding expert and the author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, says that when you are celebrated for a standout performance on the job, or when you’re suddenly the subject of widespread attention, you should absolutely take advantage. “When you get in the spotlight, you want to maximize that opportunity as much as possible because you don’t know when it will happen again,” said Schawbel. “You should build the accomplishment into your online profiles, share it with others and leverage it to get a promotion or salary increase.”

Career expert Stephen Viscusi, CEO of the Viscusi Group in New York City and author of Bulletproof Your Job, cautions that a worker in such a situation should proceed with a sense of graciousness, so that you’re always perceived as a good teammate. “If you had an amazing day like USMNT Goal Keeper Tim Howard did against Belgium in the World Cup Semi-Finals, the best way to get credit for that and make it last is to share the credit with teammates and your boss,” Viscusi said via e-mail. “You will still maintain credit for what you did. But, by sharing your accomplishment with your boss and colleagues, you will be seen in a better light and you won’t be seen as showing off. That’s the smart way to handle it.”

This is advice that Howard himself is already following. On Wednesday, here’s the gracious Tweet he sent out: “Im proud to suit up w every one of these guys. It’s a tremendous honor to represent this country & a ride I’ll never forget.”

MONEY Careers

The 3 Things You Must Know About How Your Employer Sets Salaries

Row of people with labels announcing their salary.
Knowing exactly what your peers make isn't as important as knowing how your employer sets the range for your position. Tetra Images—Getty Images

Whether or not you think everyone should know how much everyone else makes, there’s one area where discussions around salary should be absolutely transparent.

Recently, the idea of salary transparency has been bubbling to the forefront—from President Obama signing an executive order in April prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their pay to companies like Buffer posting their employees’ salaries publicly for all to see. The same arguments come up every time this topic makes headlines: On one side are those who argue that employers are the only ones benefitting from secrecy; on the other are those who fear that complete openness around compensation could lead to jealousy and infighting among employees.

Whether you think it’s a fantastic or horrible idea for everyone to know the size of everyone else’s paycheck, there’s one area where I think discussions around salary should absolutely be transparent: discussing your own pay with your own employer.

If every individual employee had a better understanding of how their employers made decisions about compensation, there would be far less discontent around the subject of salary—assuming, of course, that the employers have a good and fair compensation strategy. (To be clear, fair doesn’t necessarily mean equal pay for everyone working in a particular role. A number of factors can, and should, impact an individual’s compensation: years of experience, education/training, skills, and performance, among them.)

There are three things everyone should understand about their own pay and that I hope employers are willing to discuss:

1) How your employer sets pay
Most employers use compensation data of some kind to set salary ranges for the various roles within the organization. However, most employees don’t know where that data comes from. It’s a good question, and one that more people should probably be asking. Next time you’re discussing your pay (or chatting up your HR person at the water cooler), just ask. If they can’t give you an answer, that may be reason for concern. You want to know your employer is using valid data to set appropriate pay ranges and not pulling a number out of a hat.

2) Where you fall within the salary range for your specific position
Not knowing if you’re being paid fairly can breed discontent. According to a recent study “pay secrecy might also hurt your work performance and prompt top talent to look for new jobs.” If everyone understands the full salary range for the given role, it’s easier to have open, honest conversations about why you fall where you do within the range. Even if your employer isn’t willing to share the range they’re using, do your own homework and make sure you have a sense of the salary range for your position. You can even share your findings with your employer so that they can let you know if it’s similar to the range they’re using. If it’s different, it’s another opportunity to ask about what data they’re using so that everyone is working off the same numbers.

3) What you can do to move up in the range
If you’re at the 50th percentile or above within the range for your position, you’re doing pretty well comparatively. But, if you’re below the 50th percentile, it might be time to ask for a raise. If you’re already a top performer, pull together a list of recent accomplishments that show how you’ve contributed to the company, and ask to set a time to discuss your pay with your manager. If the feedback is that you aren’t quite working at the level they’d consider for a raise, ask your direct manager what goals you should be working toward to make it to that next level. Keep the conversation focused on your career path and your desire to contribute more to your organization. A good manager will be more than willing to talk about how you can get there.

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Lydia Frank is editorial director at PayScale.com, a site that provides on-demand compensation data and software to employees and employers.

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