MONEY Careers

How to Disconnect from Work (Without Getting on the Boss’s Bad Side)

Man alone in the mountains
No cell tower in sight—you're free! Valeria Mameli—Getty Images/Flickr Open

Check out these ideas from savvy career coaches for keeping your job from spoiling your summer vacation.

Chances are, you’ll be spending some of your time off this summer with a piña colada in one hand and a cell phone in the other.

According to a recent survey by employment website Glassdoor, 61% of us have done at least some work on a vacation in the last 12 month.

Not that this is always voluntary. Of those who logged on while they were supposed to be logged off, a third did so because they felt that no one else could do their work; 28% did so to avoid getting behind; 24% say they were contacted by a colleague on a work issue, 20% by a boss. And while 20% gave up part of their time off because they were in pursuit of a promotion, nearly the same number (17%) stayed connected because they feared for their jobs.

Clearly, it’s tougher than ever to get a real vacation in these times of uber-efficiency, double workloads, and 24-hour connectedness. And yet all those factors mean you need a break more than ever—if not for your own mental health, for those you love. After all, one in 10 employees confessed that a family member had complained about their working on vacation.

Seriously, you deserve a break; you’ve earned it. So MONEY called on career coaches, business etiquette experts, and corporate wellness gurus for tips on how to put your work life on pause to finally enjoy some real time off.

1. Go really off the grid. “Plan your vacation for a destination where there is limited access to email and virtually any other way to be reached. For example, an African Safari or a cruise. An athletic vacation (like a bike trip) or one that is focused around learning (like cooking school) will have a full schedule of events and activities that are pre-planned and where your absence will be disruptive. Regardless of where you go, advise everyone that you will have limited access to email.” —Roy Cohen, a career coach and the author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide

2. Go at the right time. “Exercise good judgment about when to schedule your trip. One of my clients learned that mistake when she insisted on taking a vacation despite knowing that a transaction was about to close and that all hands were expected on deck. Her boss and colleagues were angry and did not appreciate having to cover for her during a time when they were all working against the clock.” —Roy Cohen

3. Make a list, and check it twice. “Devise a list of what is outstanding—what tasks and responsibilities need to be taken care of, where important files are, what might come up while you are away and who can take care of it. See what makes sense to delegate or put off until you return. Go over it with your boss and key people who are involved. Knowing you have a plan in place while you’re on vacation will help you enjoy it more.”—Kirsi Paalanen, a health coach who specializes in helping corporate professionals manage stress

4. Define “emergency.” Post an away message on your voice mail and email that reflects your decision about how you want to be contacted for an emergency. This will include your defining in advance what the definition is of an emergency that you want to know about and set expectations for how you will handle it— e.g. make a phone call? produce a report remotely? fly home from Asia?” —Debra Feldman, an executive talent agent

5. Call in a sub. “Make sure that you have a designated person in place to handle any unexpected events. Share enough to enable a colleague to cover for you and to show that you are a team player, but not all of your secrets or you may find your value diminished. If you are going somewhere exotic, always return with a few inexpensive but significant gifts for colleagues as an expression of your appreciation.” —Roy Cohen

6. Take people at their word. “If your bosses truly tell you not to respond to something, then really do it and give yourself that break.” —Lizzie Post, co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th edition

7. Allow yourself limited access. “A young investment banker client of mine was about to go on his honeymoon in Hawaii and asked if I thought it would be terrible if he worked on his smartphone during the trip. I told him that if I were his wife, I would throw the device into the ocean. Our compromise was that he would dedicate one half hour a day to answering and reading emails, and that he would do it completely out of sight of his wife. If it’s absolutely necessary to check in, limit communications to a set time each weekday or maybe even two to three times a week.”—Ellis Chase, a career coach and the author of In Search of the Fun-Forever Job

8. Don’t punish yourself for failure. “You want to be a great professional and parent and partner, but all are part time jobs, and you won’t always be able to be great at all roles. Forgive yourself and don’t feel guilty when you slip up. Just reset your priorities so you can get back to your family and vacation.” —George Dow, a career coach who specializes in job transitions

MONEY Second Career

3 Tips for Launching Your Labor-of-Love Business

Women practicing yoga
Willie—Getty Images

An Air Force nurse turned yoga studio owner offers advice from her experience.

Switching careers to open a labor-of-love business in your 50s or 60s is a certifiable trend in America today.

As Ting Zhang, an economist at the Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore and the author of the Elderly Entrepreneurship in an Aging US Economy: It’s Never Too Late told me: “Some older workers have been cherishing a dream, wanting to start their own business, and the time is now. Aging is a new opportunity to be an entrepreneur.”

Huge Rise in Midlife Entrepreneurs

The numbers bear her out. According to the Kauffman Foundation, new-business creation by Americans age 55 to 64 rose by more than 60% between 1996 and 2013. Last year, their business starts accounted for nearly one-quarter of all launches.

(MORE: Plotting Your Next Move for Unretirement)

Economists Joseph Quinn of Boston College, Kevin Cahill of Analysis Group and Michael Giandrea of the Bureau of Labor Statistics have found that more than a third of men age 51 to 61 are self-employed, up from 20% in 1992. Some 15% of women in that age group are entrepreneurs, a rise from 10%.

Elizabeth Isele, the septuagenarian cofounder of the nonprofit Senior Entrepreneurship Works, applauds the trend but also has a concern. “There is too much happy talk about it,” she says.

From Nurse to Yoga Studio Owner

Amen, I imagine Liz Campbell saying.

Campbell, in her late 50s, is among the new generation of boomer entrepreneurs. The former nurse opened her Yoga Gem studio in Montgomery, Ala. in 2013.

It’s not that she regrets her decision. No, Campbell is passionate about her midlife career switch and her business. But after a rocky start, she has learned that starting and running a small enterprise is harder than some wannabes think.

“You really have to be prepared for the long haul,” she says.

(MORE: Busting the Myths About Work in Retirement)

Campbell graduated from nursing school in 1979 and then worked for about eight years as a nurse in the private sector. During much of that time, she was the sole support for her family of four, living in Oklahoma during the oil recession. (She later divorced.)

Campbell then joined the Air Force as a nurse—for greater financial stability—put in 20 years, and officially retired in 2009 as a Lieutenant Colonel. Like many boomers, Campbell wanted to keep active and employed, but the idea of sticking with the nursing profession didn’t appeal to her.

Instead, she used the GI Bill to pay for her training to become a yoga instructor in Albuquerque, N.M. She then moved to Montgomery and worked at a yoga studio before deciding to open her own and teach a style of yoga emphasizing healing and calmness.

“You see people change with yoga,” she says. “This is how you change the world.”

(MORE: Where to Get Help Launching Your Encore Career)

Limiting Her Financial Risks

Campbell somewhat cushioned the risks inherent in starting a new business by having a realistic financial foundation.

She pulled out about $60,000 of her money in the stock market to have safely at hand when, and if, needed. Perennially frugal, Campbell determined that the roughly $50,000 she receives each year from her military pension and veteran disability benefits would be more than enough to live on in Montgomery.

So she rented a large studio for $1,400 a month and crossed her fingers. “I opened the doors, and I would wait all day,” she recalls. “One or two students showed up. I thought: ‘What have I done? I signed a three year lease. What a fool I was.’”

Not really. Business picked up by the second month, through a combination of word of mouth, competitive pricing and marketing, including radio ads.

When I caught up with her recently, Campbell had two instructors on contract working a few hours a week, with another hire in the works. The studio now averages some 60 students a week and Campbell pulls in roughly $3,000 a month—enough to pay her rent, electricity, advertising and other business-related bills.

Better Prospects for the Years Ahead

She isn’t drawing a salary yet, though, and estimates that she lost about $5,000 last year. That turned out to be less of a concern than she thought. When Campbell delved into the bookkeeping records, she realized the loss mostly reflected costs associated with installing blinds at the studio and paying a co-instructor from a workshop that didn’t do as well as expected.

This year, Campbell expects her business will be in the black and that she’ll draw a small salary. Two reasons for her optimism: She’ll launch a yoga teacher-training program in September; 10 students have signed up, at $2,800 each. (She hopes the tuition income will allow her to hire more yoga instructors so she can devote more energy to the business side of the enterprise.) Also, Campbell plans to turn her volunteering as a yoga instructor at the local Veterans Administration medical center, into a paid contractor position there.

All in all, she believes it will take about five years to get her business humming and her hope is to sell Yoga Gem in about 10 years. At that point, she’ll likely ease into retirement by becoming a part-time instructor.

Her 3 Tips for Starting a Business in Midlife

I asked Campbell what advice she’d offer potential boomer small-business owners. Here are her three tips:

1. Writing a business plan is crucial. To learn how, Campbell took a class at a small business incubator run by the local Chamber of Commerce. “The class was a really good thing to do, even though the business plan changed right away,” she says. Campbell then quoted General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous observation: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Federal, state, and local governments offer a number of programs like the one Campbell took, typically in partnership with other organizations and usually at little to no charge to entrepreneurs. Also, every state has a network of Small Business Development Centers, housed in colleges, offering professional guidance. The web portals of the Kauffman Foundation and the Small Business Administration are valuable sources, too.

2. Network about the nitty-gritty aspects of business. Campbell says she’s approached all the time by vendors and usually meets with them to learn more about running a company. Her relationship with one of her yoga customers, an experienced entrepreneur who sells organic skin products online, helped Campbell better understand small-business accounting and taxes. “Talk to everybody,” Campbell says.

One advantage of starting a business after 50: you probably have deeper networks to tap than younger generations.

Look for local startup events, meet-ups, conferences and competitions. You might even want to begin planning your business at a co-sharing workspace for independent entrepreneurs, which is a great environment idea sharing.

I’ve found that many veteran entrepreneurs are eager to mentor newcomers, so take advantage of their generosity. When I visited TechTown, the Detroit-based incubator, in 2012, it had about 120 experienced entrepreneurs working with potential small business owners. Said Leslie Smith, president and CEO of TechTown: “They just want to help create value.”

3. Be sure you have a financial cushion before taking the leap into entrepreneurship. Financial uncertainty is tough at any age, but that’s especially true when you don’t have a lot of time to make up any losses if the business goes sour.

So make sure your finances add up before taking the leap into small-business land. And then remember: the hard work is only beginning.

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 Careers

POLL: How Do You Feel About Your Job?

Last year, less than half of U.S. workers were satisfied with their jobs, according to business research group The Conference Board. Are you one of the happy ones—or are you counting the days until you quit?

 

MONEY Careers

How to Make Sure You Sail Through a Reference Check—Before You Even Apply for a Job

Lie Detector machine
Do coach your references on what you'd like them to say...but stick to the truth, of course. Pictorial Press Ltd.—Alamy

Congrats on making it past the interview round! But don't rest on your laurels—the reference check may be the deciding factor in who gets the position.

You’re in the throes of your job search, and things are looking up—with any luck, the recruiter will call soon to ask for your references.

References are important, and definitely not a throwaway step to be considered last-minute. In fact, you shouldn’t only be nurturing your network of references when you’re seeking a job. Remember, these are people who already know and like you. Keeping your references updated ensures that you hear about trends and opportunities in your field—even if you’re employed now you don’t want to miss a great lead.

Here are the right and wrong ways to manage that process:

DON’T just ask your former supervisors to be references.
DO ask vendors, consultants, clients, peers and direct reports.

Your supervisors will always be your most requested reference. However, over the course of your career, you work with a variety of people—not just for your immediate supervisor. Sometimes you work more closely with others than with the person you report to on the organizational chart. Therefore, you need to think more broadly about who can speak for your work than just a boss. Furthermore, your different collaborators can speak to different elements of your work—vendors see your negotiation skills, consultants gauge your teamwork skills, clients know your service quality, peers see you day-to-day, and direct reports know your management style.

DON’T wait until the recruiter asks to check in with your references.
DO line them up in advance.

People move around. You don’t want to find out right before you need the reference that you can’t find that supervisor who knows your work so well. You also want time to find alternative references if one of your choices seems lukewarm when you contact them, or is just so tough to reach that they may not get back to the recruiter in a timely fashion.

DON’T assume references know what to say.
DO coach them on what to highlight.

Your references haven’t worked with you in a while and have since managed others. They won’t remember exactly what you worked on. They also don’t know this job you’re going for so won’t know what to emphasize, especially if you did a lot of different things when you worked for them. Therefore, you need to help them help you—remind them of that big project or key client you want them to discuss, share the job description, and tell them you would appreciate it if they talked, say, about your analytical skills.

__________

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

5 Ways Microsoft Employees (and You) Can Prep for Layoffs

MONEY Second Career

How a 57-Year-Old On Her Second Career Launched a $10 Million Business

Im Ja Choi
Im Ja Choi (center, in white suit), founder of Penn Asian Senior Services, celebrates with clients at the opening of her agency's first adult day care facility, the Jubilee Center in Philadelphia. Courtesy Penn Asian Senior Services

Im Ja Choi saw a need for caregivers who speak foreign languages. So she started a non-profit that provides them.

After her mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2002, Im Ja Choi knew it was crucial to get her a home health aide once she was out of the hospital. But Choi was quickly frustrated by the difficulty of finding a caregiver in the Philadelphia area who spoke Korean, her mother’s native language. Choi quit her job as a bank vice president to take care of her mom until she found one—a process that took seven months.

That experience became the catalyst for Penn Asian Senior Services, a non-profit home health aide agency that Choi, now 65, launched in 2005 to serve the local immigrant community in Philadelphia. Today PASSi serves 455 clients and provides home care services in 11 languages. And with 400 workers workers on its payroll, it’s one of the largest Asian immigrant employers in the area. Annual revenue is about $10 million, and earlier this year the agency opened its first senior daycare center.

It’s an impressive outcome for someone who had never run a business. Choi, who emigrated to the U.S. from Korea after finishing college in 1971, had a 20-year career as a top real estate agent in Philadelphia. Then, after getting a master’s degree, she worked her way up to vice president at a local bank. But starting a business from scratch at age 57 was a wholly new challenge for Choi.

To cover initial operating costs, she took out took out a home equity line of credit for $55,000. “It took some convincing for my husband to agree,” says Choi. A long-time volunteer on Asian women’s issues, she used her local network to find public funding. She got a $50,000 grant from the county and won $900,000 in grants during the first three years of operation. “I had to learn how to write a grant application well, but it was my contacts in the community that really helped. I knew who the decision makers were,” says Choi.

She had enough savings to get by without salary for the first year and was able to repay her home loan within a few months of starting the business. She started drawing a small salary at the end of the first year, after budgeting for that income in her grant applications. “Every step of the way I was fighting for funding and looking for clients,” Choi says. When PASSi reached 175 clients, its revenue covered operating costs; in 2009 the agency began turning a profit.

Today Choi earns about $114,000 annually. It’s less than she pulled down as a banker but she feels much more satisfied by her work. “We provide a service that’s really needed,” she says. She saw proof of that with her mom. Despite a grim initial diagnosis, Choi’s mother lived another eight years, passing away in 2010 at age 93. Choi believes the culturally-based care she got was key to her long survival.

“I consider this job a privilege,” says Choi. “When you have a dream, you somehow make it come true. Now I feel like I am doing the things that I want to do.”

Im Ja Choi is a Purpose Prize Fellow. The Purpose Prize is a program operated by Encore.org, a non-profit organization that recognizes social entrepreneurs over 60 who are launching second acts for the greater good.

MONEY Careers

What You Can Learn From Derek Jeter’s Perfect Exit

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ZUMA Press—Alamy

Whether you’re a 14-time All-Star or a regular employee, leaving a long-term employer on the best terms can pay off handsomely. 

When shortstop Derek Jeter leads off for the American League All-Star team tonight, you can bet the crowds will roar and the 20-year Yankee veteran will modestly acknowledge the fans, take his stance in the batter’s box, and get on with the job at hand. You can also bet that Jeter, who announced his retirement from active play at the start of the season, can parlay that adulation into a very lucrative post-baseball second act.

That’s what a job well done and a well-honed exit strategy from a long-term position can do for you too.

Whether you’re on the verge of retirement or are simply leaving a company you’ve been with for a while to take a new position, here are three lessons from the future Hall-of-Famer’s actions in his final season that you can take to the bank.

Get early buy-in from management. Jeter gave Yankee manager Joe Girardi, general manager Brian Cashman, and owners Hal and Hank Steinbrenner more than six months’ notice about his plan to end his playing career at the close of the current season. That’s allowed them plenty of time to plan for his replacement at shortstop.

Show your bosses the same courtesy. Notify your manager a good three to six months in advance if you’re retiring and a month to six weeks ahead of time vs. the standard two weeks if you’re leaving for a new job so they have enough lead time to fill your position. That’s especially important if you’re in a critical, revenue-generating role or are a highly skilled employee who may be difficult to replace. Help identify other staffers or professionals outside the company who might be good candidates, and offer to train them before you go, or at least to write a detailed memo that will help the person fill your shoes.

Your reward: If you’re retiring, you never know when you might want to earn a little extra cash by doing some consulting work or might want or need to return to part-time work. Your behavior helps ensure your former employer will want you back in some capacity. And if you’re simply moving on, you can count on a glowing reference if and when you need one in the future.

Mentor younger players. They don’t call Jeter the Captain for nothing. Since late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner appointed him team leader in 2003, Jeter has taken his job as a role model seriously, consistently mentoring younger players and youth off the field through his Turn 2 Foundation.

Share your knowledge as generously with younger colleagues at work, especially those who toil in a similar capacity albeit at a more junior level. Offer some inside tips that only someone who’s been around for a while would know, and make yourself available for questions and as a sounding board. Be especially generous in passing along your know-how to the person who’s taking your place. Those junior staffers will be the bosses one day, possibly sooner than you think. Good for them to remember you fondly if they’re in a position to hire you someday.

Show fans your appreciation. Jeter is notoriously not on board with hoopla over his career accomplishments, and his farewell tour has been subdued compared with that of fellow Yankee Core Four member Mariano Rivera last year. Yet Jeter has graciously accepted the gifts and gratitude shown him as he plays at various ballparks for the last time and tips his cap to the fans, just as they tip theirs to him.

Remember to show your gratitude to those who helped your career along as well. If you had a mentor at work, let him or her know how much you appreciated the help and mention a particular lesson or words of wisdom that were especially useful (the specificity makes your gratitude seem more genuine). Let colleagues who you particularly admire know and, again, try to identify a specific accomplishment or skill that you believe sets them apart. Bring in bagels or doughnuts for the staff one morning near the end of your run or buy a round of drinks. Think of it as a form of networking that may one day help you professionally.

This kind of classy behavior may not earn you a standing ovation on your way out the door, let alone an emotionally resonant and star-studded tribute video sponsored by Nike. But it can’t hurt in the good karma department — and is very likely to pay off in hard currency after you hang up your spikes.

More in Careers:
These Two Key Moves Will Help You Land Your Dream Second Career
How to Find Happiness in Your Second Career—And Earn Money Too
Your Career Is Your Biggest Asset. Here Are Five Ways to Protect It

 

MONEY Related Stories

WATCH: Was Your College’s Career Office Any Help?

People on the streets of New York talk about how their college's career office helped them — or didn't.

MONEY Related Stories

Two New Proposals Would Make College Free Nationwide

140715_HO_FreeCollege_1.jpg
Michael Burrell / Alamy

With student loan debt crippling students, education advocates are suggesting ways to change how federal financial aid money is distributed.

Adele Williams often hears her friends from high school talking about their struggles to afford college.

But she can’t relate—she doesn’t pay any tuition at all. At the school she attends, Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky, students attend for free in exchange for working.

Her friends at other schools, she says, “are mostly jealous.”

At a time when the cost of attending many private colleges exceeds the national median household income, the idea of paying no tuition at all seems so unrealistic that one higher-education economist refers to it as “la-la land.” But there are a handful of schools—such as Alice Lloyd and others—that don’t charge students a penny. Meanwhile, Tennessee will make all of its community colleges free for state residents beginning next year, and Oregon is moving forward with a study considering the same thing.

Now two new proposals go even farther, both aiming to make no-cost college a nationwide standard. A report from the Lumina Foundation recommends that the first two years of public universities and colleges be free, and a new nonprofit called Redeeming America’s Promise has come out with a proposal to give every lower- and middle-class student a full ride.

“The rising millennial generation has been so deeply affected by student debt that they’re driving a conversation about this challenge,” says Morley Winograd, the president of Redeeming America’s Promise, who worked as an advisor to Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton Administration. She added that “well-meaning but what I would call Band-Aid solutions” aren’t enough to fix the problem.

Existing financial aid was created to help the lowest-income students at a time when middle-class and wealthier families had little trouble paying for college on their own, notes University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist and higher-education policy expert Sara Goldrick-Rab, who co-authored the other proposal. “But the people who are struggling to pay for college today go way beyond poor people,” she says. “There’s a need for a universal program.”

The Full Ride Proposal

Redeeming America’s Promise proposes redirecting existing federal and state financial aid and tuition tax breaks to give full tuition scholarships in specified amounts. It says the amount of money the government already spends for those purposes is enough to provide $2,500 per academic year for community college and $8,500 for four-year universities to every student from a family earning $180,000 a year or less.

That would just about cover the entire average advertised full cost of public college and university tuitions for everyone, the organization says.

Under the plan, which is backed by several Republican and Democratic former governors, Cabinet members, and members of Congress, the students could take out loans to cover their living expenses and repay them based on their incomes after graduation.

The scholarships would be limited to two years for an associate’s degree and four years for a bachelor’s degree to encourage students to graduate on time—which only a fifth of those at four-year institutions currently do and 4% at two-year schools.

Colleges and universities generally wouldn’t be allowed to raise their prices higher than the scholarship amounts, forcing them to control their costs.

The 50% Plan

Goldrick-Rab and her colleague, Nancy Kendall urge in their report that the billions of dollars in federal financial aid money and some state money be redirected to make tuition, fees, books, and supplies free for the first two years of any two- or four-year public university or college and that students be given stipends and jobs to help them pay their living expenses.

Goldrick-Rab and Kendall call this the free two-year college option, or F2CO.

The Reality Check

The Redeeming America’s Promise scholarships would cover the full cost of tuition at public universities and colleges not private ones, the influential lobbies of which are likely to oppose the idea on the grounds that it would divert students from them.

But public institutions might oppose as well, on the basis that the plan would be a form of price control or that they wouldn’t be able to handle, at the amount they are allowed to charge, the flood of students projected to descend on them. Tennessee universities opposed making community colleges free in that state, for example, until lawmakers agreed to make some changes in funding for them.

“We had four-year schools that were going, ‘Wow, it’s going to be hard for us to compete with free,’” said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

And the sweeping, dramatic changes suggested in either proposal would face an uphill battle in a divided government that has been challenged to make even marginal policy decisions.

“It’s very difficult to separate the politics from the economics,” said David Breneman, a professor in the economics of education at the University of Virginia.

Breneman pronounced both free-college proposals “not realistic,” especially at four-year institutions (“That’s just La-La Land”), though he said they might stir up a helpful conversation about untangling the way the government helps students pay for college.

“When you look at what a mess we’ve made of student aid and how complicated it’s gotten and the loan craziness, it’s not surprising that people look back at those days when we just had low tuition,” he said.

Even the free-college crusaders are not optimistic about these plans being adopted in the immediate future.

“No way is it happening today,” said Goldrick Rab. “To me the question is, will enough groundwork be laid today that it becomes something groups are working on for the next 10 to 12 years, and that eventually becomes a litmus test for people we elect.”

Winograd said more states could make public colleges and universities free sooner than that, mostly without federal involvement. Advocates in some already have proposed it, and many states are watching the free-college experiment in Tennessee, where the $34 million-a-year cost is to be underwritten by a $300 million endowment paid for from lottery proceeds. (In Oregon, the annual cost is estimated at $100 million to $200 million.)

“The political will to do it does exist, not necessarily in Washington, but throughout the country,” Winograd said.

__________

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

Related stories:

Colleges try to speed up pace at which students earn degrees

Testing your way to a degree

Residents are crowded out of college by out-of-state and foreign students

Just as it wants students to speed up, government won’t pay for summer courses

MONEY Careers

How to Keep an Office Romance from Destroying Your Career

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Playing footsie in the staff meeting is a definite no-no. Getty Images

Q: I have a crush on a co-worker. Should I let him know? – Eva, Minneapolis

A: Give it careful thought first, since you could get into a situation that would jeopardize your professional reputation.

Inter-office romance is a tricky business. Some companies frown on it; others formally ban it. Even if your workplace has no problems with colleagues canoodling, you may wind up with a problem should things not work out between you and your flame.

Imagine having to get a pressing report out of an ex, who has a relationship’s worth of dirt on you to use as leverage. Uncomfortable? Yup.

Or, consider what it would be like to work on a team project with someone who has spurned you. Not fun.

On the other hand, if it’s true love you’re looking for, statistics are in your favor. Among U.S. workers who’ve dated someone from work—a hefty 40% of all employees—a third ended up marrying their office sweetheart, according to a CareerBuilder survey.

That makes sense, says Barbara Pachter, author of The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success. “You may have similar interests if you work at the same organization,” she notes. “And you have a good sense of what someone is like when you spend hours each day in the same place.”

Your first step: Figure out the rules regarding dating officemates. (The employee handbook may offer clues, and if not, ask your HR rep.) No explicit rules? Evaluate whether it the practice is acceptable in your company’s culture by asking others in the office—in an off-handish way, of course—whether they’ve heard of others on staff dating or marrying colleagues.

Before making any moves, keep rank in mind. It’s better to avoid dating someone in a higher or lower position as this can cause an imbalance of power within the office and without. And know that you will draw extra scrutiny if you work closely with the person, even if you are peers.

Next step: Find out if feelings are mutual. Assuming you know your intended is available—which other colleagues should be able to tell you—test the waters by asking him to lunch or inviting him to an outside work event. If he doesn’t seem interested, drop it.

If you do hit it off and start dating, be discreet. “Keep your displays of affection out of the office and away from business social events,” says Pachter.

Mind your social networks too. The lines between one’s professional and personal life can get blurry when it comes to social media, so be careful about posting pictures or racy exchanges with your office sweetie.

Also, don’t let love goggles block your view your colleagues. “If you spend all your lunches and breaks with your partner, you may get disconnected from your co-workers,” says Pachter. “Your work relationships are important to your career. You don’t want to burn your network.”

Most important, be prepared to back off quickly the second trouble brews. In the CareerBuilder survey, 7% of workers who dated a colleague reported having to leave their jobs because their office romance soured.

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

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

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