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.

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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

Friending the boss on Facebook can help you have a closer relationship in the office. Well, maybe not this close... 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 Kids and Money

What It Costs to Raise a Wimbledon Champion

Does your kid hope to be the next Roger Federer? Start saving money now. Steve Bardens—Getty Images

Want your kid to win Wimbledon? Start shelling out $30,000 a year.

On July 1, two-time Wimbledon champ Rafael Nadal, age 28, was bested by 19-year-old Australian player Nick Kyrgios—the youngest man in the draw, and the first teen in nearly a decade to knock off a No. 1-ranked player at a Grand Slam tournament.

If that youthful feat fuels your kid’s dream of tennis stardom, then get ready to open your wallet. In the United States, families of elite tennis players easily spend $30,000 a year so their kids can compete on the national level, says Tim Donovan, founder of Donovan Tennis Strategies, a college recruiting consulting group. That can start as early as age 11 or 12. At the high end, Donovan says, some parents spend $100,000 a year.

On what, you might ask. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Court time. Practice makes perfect, but practice can be expensive, especially if you need to practice indoors in the winter. In Boston, where Donovan is based, court time costs about $45 an hour. In New York City, court time can run over $100 an hour.
  • Training. Figure $4,500 to $5,000 a year for private lessons, plus $7,000 to $8,000 for group lessons—in addition to the aforementioned court fees to practice on your own.
  • Tournaments. National tournament entrance fees run about $150. Plus, you have to travel to get there. Serious players will go to 20 tournaments a year. Donovan estimates that two-thirds of the tournaments might be a few hours away, but elite athletes will need to fly to national events six or seven times a year. Want to bring your coach with you? Add another $300 a day, plus expenses.
  • School. You’ve already racked up $30,000 in bills. But if your kid is really serious, you might also spring for a special tennis academy. Full-time boarding school tuition at Florida’s IMG Academy costs $71,400 a year.

So what’s the return on investment? While most parents don’t expect to see their kids at Wimbledon, many still hope that tennis will open doors when it comes time to apply to college. But the reality is that athletic scholarships are few and far between. In 2011-2012, only 0.8% of undergrads won any kind of athletic scholarship, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors.com.

Opportunities are particularly limited for boys. Donovan notes that because of Title IX—which requires that schools provide an equal number of scholarships for men and women—a Division I college with a football program might offer eight full tennis scholarships for women, but only half as many for men, because male scholarships need to go to the football players.

Bottom line: If you spend $30,000 a year hoping your tennis star will go to college for free, you’ll probably be disappointed with your ROI.

“Recipients of athletic scholarships graduate with somewhat less debt than other students but not significantly so,” says Kantrowitz. “The main benefit of athletic scholarships is providing access to higher-cost colleges without increasing costs, moreso than reducing the cost of a college education.”

That’s where Donovan comes in: For $3,500 to $10,000, Donovan Tennis Strategies provides different levels of assistance with the college application process. Oftentimes, Donovan’s clients are able to pay full tuition but want additional help leveraging tennis to get their kids into better (and more expensive) schools.

The strategy can pay off. According to Donovan, recruited athletes have a 48% higher chance of admission, sometimes even with SAT scores that are more than 300 points lower than those of non-athletes. “The coach can go in and significantly advocate for somebody and change the outcome,” he says.

So if you’re a parent to a budding tennis star, can you foster his or her talent for less? The IMG Academy does offer scholarships to promising young athletes whose parents can’t pay full freight, and the United States Tennis Association offers some grants and funding. But ultimately, players need to log hours on the court to get good, and that costs money.

“The more you’re playing, the better you’re going to be,” Donovan says. “That’s pretty well documented … and that adds up over time.”

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.

__________

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

MONEY First-Time Dad

Why You Should Get Up From Your Desk and Go Home

Luke Tepper
Luke is magically sleeping, while his father is fighting to stay still

We work way too much and see our families way too little. The latest on being a new dad, a Millennial, and (pretty) broke.

A couple of days ago I was on an airplane with my son. It may be a cliché, but there are truly few combinations as destabilizing as infants and planes. While other passengers may bristle at an infant’s shrieking hysterics, that annoyance pales in comparison to the sheer terror borne by the parents of the hysterically shrieking child.

(We know that you—passengers without children—are judging us. But more importantly, our kid is upset. So back off.) Anyway, Luke had a rough go of it on his first flight, so I was on DEFCON 1 for the return trip.

But he did great. Very little muss, almost no fuss. His calm allowed me to reflect on things other than what I’d do if Luke vomited on the lovely couple to my left, and I realized something: This vacation was the first time I had hung out with my son before 7 p.m. on a weekday for as long as I could remember.

Which sucks.

I love my job, but I rarely leave the office before 6:30 p.m. My commute is a little under an hour, and I usually stop by the grocery store to pick up dinner, so I’m lucky to get home before Luke’s asleep.

Of course, I’m not alone. Americans, by and large, work too long, take too few days off, and have problems enjoying their vacation time.

For instance, about one in nine U.S. workers puts in more than 50 hours a week, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Less than 1% of Dutch employees toil that hard. In fact, citizens in only three out of 36 countries devote less time to leisure activities like sleeping and eating than Americans do.

Not surprisingly, America ranks eighth from last on the OECD’s Better Life Index.

When it comes to time off for good behavior, Americans get 14 vacation days a year on average, per Expedia’s 2013 Vacation Deprivation Study, or less than half as many as workers in France, Denmark, and Spain enjoy. But that’s not the really depressing part. The really depressing part is that while Americans receive more than two weeks of vacation, we take only 10 days.

One reason is that workers want to save vacation days for later, or convert them to cash. But 35% (the plurality) report having to cancel or postpone getaways because of work.

And once we’re actually on vacation, it’s hard to shut our minds off. Much to my embarrassment, I found myself checking emails and social media my first few days at the beach. I had to tell myself to close the browser and shut the laptop and go spend time with my loving family. It’s as if we’re paid victims of Stockholm syndrome.

I don’t want to sound cranky or ungrateful. I derive a fair amount of pride from my work, and more than eight in 10 U.S. workers say they are satisfied with their jobs. The cool thing about what I do is that I get to see a finished product after I’m done, which is affirming.

But I feel almost guilty if I’m the first to leave the office, as if I have it in my mind that I really didn’t work hard enough or suffer long enough that day. While this is an especially busy time for us here (with the launch of Money.com), I know that many of my friends feel the same pressure to stay well past closing time.

So I’m here to tell you, workers of America, that it is okay to go home when you should, and that there is nothing inherently better about working 50 hours a week than 40. Don’t feel less of a success if your friends put in more hours at the office than you do.

By repeating that mantra to myself long enough, I just might get home in time to put my kid to sleep.

More First-Time Dad:

 

MONEY Careers & Workplace

Why ‘Millennial Bashing’ In the Workplace Needs to Stop

This is the year we stop shaming Millennials at the office or, uh, wherever it is they work.

The volume of research on Millennials grows by the day, and we’re gradually learning that this much-maligned generation of 80 million is finding its footing on some important fronts—especially the workplace, where they overwhelmingly see their job as a means for doing good in the world.

Nine in 10 young adults believe they are actively contributing to an organization that is having a positive impact, according to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report from Achieve, a research and branding firm, and the Case Foundation, which promotes positive change. An employer’s position on giving back plays a big role at every stage of a Millennial worker’s career. The report found that:

  • What a company makes and sells is the top consideration for Millennials when applying for a job.
  • A company’s support for a cause is one of the most important factors in deciding whether to apply there.
  • Nearly half of Millennials had volunteered for a cause or nonprofit through their workplace in the past month.

Surpassing even baby boomers in number, Millennials are making their mark in a lot ways. They have different dreams. They are changing banking, and in some ways they are ahead of the game in terms of saving for retirement. But the workplace is where they are having the biggest impact.

A Hartford trend report called The End of Millennial Shaming notes that these young adults “are not kids anymore” and that this is the year “we end the Millennial bashing once and for all.” This generation is now invading the workforce and “taking on more and more leadership roles in business, government, communities and culture.” The Hartford found that 41% of Millennials already have four or more people reporting to them and that 78% consider themselves leaders in some part of their life.

The message to employers is clear: It is time to adapt to the next generation’s style of work. That means more collaboration, teamwork, flexibility and use of go-anywhere technology. It also means that companies that really are trying to solve the world’s problems will attract the best talent. Fulfilling passions and fully utilizing their abilities are among the top reasons Millennials cite for staying with a company, the research shows. From the Achieve/Case report:

Today’s forward-thinking companies are looking at the future of corporate social responsibility and how employee cause-work, company-branded volunteering and pro bono programs based on skills can play a role. For a company desiring to build a culture that resonates with this growing demographic of current and future employees, leveraging their passions is crucial.

The good news for employers is that the best talent is ripe for picking. Millennials have little sense of employer loyalty. More than half expect to have between two and five employers in their lifetime and a quarter expect to have six or more, PwC found.

And right now Millennials are feeling more burned out from work than any other generation. Among Millennials looking to switch jobs, 86% say they feel exhausted by their jobs. That compares to 76% of more experienced workers looking for a change, according to a Monster.com workforce talent survey.

The workforce will bend to this generation’s will, just as it largely equalized opportunity for women, made the office a home away from home, and adopted casual Fridays for 78 million baby boomers. What’s exciting about this next generation is that it really does want to make the world a more sustainable and peaceful place, and is calling on the resources of capitalism to deliver.

 

 

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