TIME Economy

Hard Math in the New Economy

Rana Foroohar is TIME's assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business.

Tech is disrupting traditional work. Is that really a bad thing?

Technology has always been a net job creator. So why do so many of us feel that the robots (or algorithms) are about to take our jobs? A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll of unemployed Americans ages 25 to 54 found that 35% believed that they’d been displaced by technology. It’s true that software can do more work that human beings used to do. But it’s also true that Silicon Valley hasn’t dealt particularly well with growing fears about tech-related job displacement, at least from a public relations standpoint.

The truth is that technology has long served as an easy target for employment alarmists–in no small part because innovators tend to tout new efficiencies and cost savings foremost. But as a recent Brookings Institution analysis put it, “Historically, technological progress has created winners and losers, but over the long run, [it] has tended to create more jobs than it has destroyed.”

If you look at the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society, that’s certainly true. From 1900 to 2000, the proportion of the workforce working on farms fell from 41% to 2%, yet agricultural output increased and farmers eventually found jobs in factories or, later, in cubicles. That’s not to say that periods of technological change aren’t fraught. There’s a reason the textile artisans who came to be known as Luddites started smashing knitting machines in 19th century England.

Nobody has started smashing their Laptops or iPads yet. But it is disturbing to see how unevenly the gains from the past 20 years of technological innovation have been shared. Many economists associate the middle class’s shrinking partly with the fact that technology is displacing people. Increasingly, there are jobs for Ph.D.s and hands-on laborers like, say, home health care aides, but more and more of what’s in between can be automated. Self-driving cars are coming for chauffeurs; drones threaten delivery drivers. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper co-written by economist Jeffrey Sachs hypothesized that software developers themselves might someday be replaced by the very programs they create.

There is a strong counterargument that the jobs and value technology create just aren’t being counted properly. “GDP was designed to measure the output of 20th century industrial nation-states making stuff, not a 21st century economy generating bytes and ideas,” says Zachary Karabell, whose book The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World examines what our current system does and doesn’t tally.

Academics like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Erik Brynjolfsson, who believes we vastly underestimate the productivity created by the “free goods of the Internet,” would agree, as would Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. His company may have 30 million users and only 1,600 employees, but Chesky says it creates many more “21st century jobs” by helping generate extra income for hosts who monetize their homes and for local businesses and such service providers as cleaners who benefit from the influx of vacationers. For New York City alone, Chesky puts the value of that additional income at $768 million annually, which the company claims supports 6,600 jobs. Of course, those are “jobs” without the health care, 401(k) or other benefits that a traditional position might provide.

Which underscores a disturbing truth about the new economy: it’s all on you. People who are smart, well educated and entrepreneurial may well do better in this paradigm. But what about those who aren’t as well positioned or at least need help in tooling up?

The obvious answer is for government to provide more help through a reformed educational system, workforce training and a social safety net to pick up slack. That’s what I consistently hear tech titans and other CEOs calling for. The hitch is that they are calling for it even as they pay a smaller share of the tax pie to fund it all. (About a third of all the corporate profit sitting in overseas bank accounts is from technology-driven firms.) Certainly some companies are making big private contributions to educational reform; Google, Microsoft and IBM are prime examples. But more will be needed.

For now, the power divide between the public and private sectors is only growing. The public sector holds most of the world’s debt, as well as responsibility for the welfare of those who are being “disrupted.” Big Tech has the profits but could stand to do some creative thinking about how better to share–or at least account for–the rewards of innovation. Otherwise it risks breeding a whole new generation of Luddites.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME career

IMF Chief Christine Lagarde: Female Equality Laws Are Good For the Economy

JOHN THYS—AFP/Getty Images International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde gives a joint press after an Eurogroup Council meeting on February 20, 2015 at EU Headquarters in Brussels. ( JOHN THYS--AFP/Getty Images)

Notes GDPs would increase dramatically if laws changed to make it easier for women to work

International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde has some good news for economies in the developing world: in one step, they can boost their GDPs up by up to 30 percent. All they have to do is let women into the workforce.

In an article posted Monday on the IMF’s blog, Lagarde discusses a new study that found that over 90% of countries worldwide have some kind of legal restrictions that keep women from working, getting loans, or owning property. Women make up 40% of the global workforce, but in some regions they’re vastly underrepresented– only 21% of women in the Middle East and North Africa work outside the home.

Lagarde says that fixing the laws that keep women from fully participating in the economy could boost GDPs– by a lot. Getting women equally represented int the workforce would amount to a 9% increase in Japan’s GDP, a 12% increase in the United Arab Emirates, and a 34% increase in Egypt. In the US, our GDP would increase by 5% if we made it easier for women to participate in the economy.

Changing the laws is only the first step– Lagarde also notes that childcare and maternity leave benefits also play a major role in whether and how women work outside the home. Currently, the US is one of few developed countries that offers no guaranteed maternity leave, and the IMF study found that in 2009, the U.S. spent only 1.2% of our GDP on family benefits– less than any other developed country. Oh great.

TIME relationships

This Is What You Actually Look Like When Flirting With Your Office Crush

Don't do it, people

We’ve all experienced that terrifying moment when you work up the courage to talk to a crush. It’s awkward, red-faced and usually involves a lot of mumbling. But it’s even more cringeworthy when the person you like is a co-worker.

Just to confirm this, Fast Company have released an educational video showing exactly what it feels like to be on the receiving end.

The clip features two people who think they are being pretty smooth with their innocent flirtations, but in reality they come across as creepy and, well, it’s embarrassing for everyone involved.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, some of you may want to take heed.

MONEY salary negotiation

The Foolproof Way to Make Sure You Land a Big Raise This Year

fishing net with money in it
Diane Macdonald—Getty Images

Resolved to increase your pay in 2015? These steps can help you scoop up a better-than-average bump.

A few years ago, you might have been grateful just to have a paycheck—even if it wasn’t as fat as you deserved. Today, you finally have the upper hand again when it comes to asking for a raise.

You can thank the rapid improvement in the job market in the last year for that. Unemployment is expected to drop to 5.4% by the end of this year, and 57% of companies say they are worried about retaining workers, up from 20% in 2010, according to PayScale.com’s Compensation Best Practices Report.

That’s putting pressure on employers to boost compensation: 82% plan to increase salaries for current employees this year, up from 73% last year, according to CareerBuilder’s latest jobs forecast.

“Workers should be feeling pretty good about their chances for getting a raise this year,” says CareerBuilder’s Mary Lorenz. Music to your ears, right?

The average worker should see a salary bump of 3%, according to estimations from Mercer’s 2014/2015 U.S. Compensation Planning Executive Survey. But those who are top performers or have in-demand expertise could see their paychecks rise even more. The average boost for the most valued employees will top 5%, according to Mercer.

To go from a so-so raise to a big bump up, here’s what you need to do:

Get on Your Boss’s Calendar

Don’t wait until performance-review time, typically in the spring, to ask for a raise. Not only will you have more competition from coworkers then, but budgets will already have been decided—which will make it harder for your supervisor to get you more cash even if he or she believes in your cause.

Assuming you and your company have had a good year—the latter also being a must—schedule a meeting with your supervisor ASAP before your window for the year closes.

Sure, even the most confident of workers may find it intimidating to call a meeting with the boss and ask for more money. But the odds are good that your boldness will pay off: A recent PayScale survey found that 44% of people who asked for a raise received what they asked for, and 31% more still got a raise, just less than they requested.

Collect Some Evidence

In the meantime, to help make your case, gather accolades from the past year.

Pull together emails of praise from higher ups, ask happy customers or clients to write testimonials for your work, and make a list of your major accomplishments, quantifying them as much as possible. Bottom-line-focused supervisors will especially want to hear about how you’ve boosted revenue or cut costs.

Put a Number On Yourself

“It’s important to go in with a number in mind,” says CareerBuilder’s Lorenz. “You should know your value and be able to go in with an idea of what you think you deserve and be ready to explain why.”

Your ask should be based around what others are getting, since you’ll shut down the conversation fast if you request a boost that’s out of the ballpark.

Start by seeing where your salary falls compared to others in similar jobs with the same skill set and years of experience, using sites such as PayScale.com and Glassdoor.com. Keep in mind that top performers may earn 10% to 15% more than these averages.

Put your findings in perspective by determining what’s realistic at your company. If you have a manager you’re close with, a higher up mentor, or a friend in HR, ask for insight on salary ranges for people at your level or on how much the company is budgeting for raises this year on average. If you’re a top performer and can prove it, you should feel comfortable asking for more than the average.

Make Your Ask

You’ve got your proof and your number, so you’re ready, right? Not quite. Ideally, you’ll want to do a run through of the conversation with someone, since practice will make you more comfortable when you’re in the moment.

You might start the conversation something like this: “Hey Jane, my department had a really great year in 2014, and I was hoping to get your feedback, talk about ideas going forward, and discuss my compensation.”

Then, dig into your successes. Since your boss may not realize all that you’ve accomplished, you should make him or her aware by pointing out a few key highlights from the “to-done” list you made. You could say, “I don’t know if you’re in the loop on everything I’ve accomplished this year, so I just wanted to point out of few of my biggest successes…” Bring up the testimonials where relevant.

Talk not only about your achievements but also about what you are going to tackle next. Your boss is more likely to reward you if you’ve got a plan for what you will do for the company, not just what you did.

Have a Plan B

The best outcome is a permanent boost in your salary. But if that’s not possible, ask for a bonus. One-time rewards, including spot bonuses and project completion bonuses, are on the rise as more companies worry about retaining employees, the WorldatWork Survey of Bonus Programs and Practices 2014 found.

Spot bonuses typically range from $2,500 to $5,000.

Be aware that income taxes can lop off up to 40% of the bonus, so ask if your company will “gross up” the reward so you actually get the whole amount.

Be Ready to Jump

You’re not always going to get what you want. If budgets are tight or layoffs are looming, your manager’s hands may be tied.

So you may have to leave to get that raise. But the good news for you is that even in good times, the biggest pay jumps come when you switch to a new job.

Job switchers simply have more leverage when negotiating salary, especially since the number of employees voluntarily quitting is at its highest since April 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ quits rate measure.

That leaves employers with a lot of empty positions to fill, and they are showing their eagerness to put bodies in these slots: The average wage growth for job changers rose from 4.3% at the start of 2013 to 4.5% at the end of 2014, according to a report by the Kansas City Federal Reserve.

So whether you stay or go, the chances are good that you’ll make more money in 2015.

More on financial resolutions:


How to Get a Job Much, Much Faster

Getty Images

This is a no-brainer way to boost your job search

A lot of Americans, especially young adults, still have trouble landing work in today’s economy. New research suggests one way to overcoming unemployment is something anybody can do: volunteer.

A forthcoming paper in the Journal of Career Assessment says unemployed young adults who volunteer find new jobs faster. Lead author Varda Konstam, professor emerita in the counseling and school psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Boston says the findings “do suggest significant association between volunteering and finding employment.”

In a survey of more than 200 unemployed young adults, Konstam finds that the ones who volunteer seem to have an edge on their counterparts. “Those who elected to volunteer, even for a minimal investment in time… were more likely to procure employment 6 months later,” she writes. This finding holds true across participants’ careers, skill sets and other demographic differences.

And you won’t even have to take that much time away from your job search to reap the benefits. Just a couple hours of volunteering a week is enough to make a difference, Konstam finds. Among study participants who didn’t volunteer, almost three-quarters were still looking for work six months later. But among those who volunteered — even those who did for just two hours a week or less — nearly half had landed jobs. While Konstam points out that her results don’t necessarily imply causation, that’s a big difference between the two groups.

There could be a few reasons behind this connection. Konstam points to the much-discussed “degree inflation” in higher education; today, just cranking out four years after high school doesn’t necessarily mean you’re equipped to compete in today’s labor market, even as more low-level jobs are demanding that applicants come with college already under their belts.

Since a degree alone doesn’t convey job worthiness anymore, Konstam’s findings suggest that employers are using volunteer work as a proxy for applicants’ ability to actually do work. Even if the volunteering is unrelated to a job applicant’s chosen field, it’s a good indication that they can show up on time, interact with other people and provide some value to the organization.

“Volunteering activities provide opportunities for emerging adults to master specific skillsets and to demonstrate proof of competency and value,” Konstam writes.

Another way volunteering might help your job search is by giving you a broader perspective on what kind of work you’re good at and enjoy doing. “It is possible that by increasing social contacts, volunteering promotes an open-minded approach toward different careers,” Konstam writes. “Volunteering may increase career-related information and skills in a variety of job-related areas in a way that broadens… career interests.”



MONEY Job market

4 Strategies to Land Your Dream Job This Year

Garden gnome with "need work" sign
Andrew Bret Wallis—Getty Images

The employment market is the strongest it's been in six years. Here's how to boost the odds you'll find the job you want in 2015.

New year, new job. That’s the mantra for many workers as 2015 kicks off. According to a survey by career management experts Right Management, 86% of workers in North America say they plan to actively look for a new job this year. That’s up from 83% last year and just 60% at the peak of the recession in 2009.

Buoyed by a rapidly improving job market and strong economy, people are feeling more confident about seeking out new opportunities. There’s no time like the present: The first Monday after the New Year is the busiest day for job search, and January is the busiest month of the year, according to job search engine SimplyHired. It was a gangbuster day: On Monday, job searches were up 56% from the December average.

“We call it ‘Job Hunt Monday.’ It’s like a Cyber Monday for jobs,” says Kristy Stromberg, senior vice president of marketing for SimplyHired. “The holidays are over and people are thinking about how they can improve their lives. We all spend so much time at work, finding a new job is a great way to make a positive change.”

Job-seekers are justifiably optimistic. More than one third of employers expect to add full-time, permanent employees in 2015, according to CareerBuilder’s annual job forecast. That’s the best outlook from the survey since 2006, up from one-quarter of employers last year.

The hottest industries for hiring are information technology, financial services, manufacturing, and healthcare, according to CareerBuilder. The biggest demand is in jobs tied to revenue growth, digital innovation, and customer loyalty—think sales, data analysis, and customer service.

The War for Talent

You’ll be especially attractive if you have expertise in hard-to-fill positions. More than three-quarters of human resource executives polled by Challenger Gray & Christmas report they are struggling to fill open positions, and 91% say that if the economy keeps expanding at its current rate, the war for talent will worsen.

Experience is most in demand in emerging fields such as cloud computing, mobile and search technology, cyber security, managing and interpreting big data, alternative energy, anti-terrorism and robotics.

Even if those areas aren’t in your wheelhouse, you’ll have an edge if you are considered a top performer at your current company. That’s if you’ve been receiving higher than average raises, bonuses, or promotions in the past few years. Losing talent is a big worry for employers: Nearly 60% of 4,700 companies surveyed in a PayScale.com compensation report said keeping higher performing workers from jumping ship is a top business concern, up from 20% in 2010.

Recruiters also like to target passive job seekers, those folks already employed who are just too busy to look for work.

“The balance has really shifted toward the job seeker,” says Stromberg. “Even if you’re working in an industry that’s contracting, now is a good time to make a move. Competition for talent is hotter. Employers are going to have to take more risk in hiring someone outside their traditional industry.”

Accurate, real-time salaries for thousands of careers.

If you’re itching for a new opportunity, use these strategies to make it happen.

Get the inside scoop. Many job openings, especially those at higher levels, are only announced internally, so you need to get insider info. Reach out to people you know at companies where you want to work. If you don’t know anyone directly, tap your personal network or use your LinkedIn contacts to make a connection to someone in the know about internal job openings. SimplyHired has a tool on its website that allows you to match job openings with your LinkedIn profile so you can see who in your network is at that company.

Be top of mind. Attract employers’ attention by raising your profile. Speak at industry conferences. Be active in professional organizations and on social media. Look at what your online presence signals about you. Use language in your LinkedIn profile that matches the type of positions you’d like to land so recruiters find you when they search for candidates. Create a website that showcases your work so it turns up in online searches for you.

Try temp work. If you’ve been out of work for a while, part-time, temporary, or contract positions are a good way to keep your skills up to date and can be a steppingstone to full-time work. Temporary employment is expected to pick up over the next 12 months as a way for employers to fill in-demand roles or keep costs lower with a flexible workforce even as business picks up. According to CareerBuilder, 46% of employers plan to hire temporary or contract workers in 2015, up from 42% last year. Of these employers, 56% plan to transition some temporary or contract workers into full-time, permanent roles.

Be open to opportunities. If a recruiter calls you or a friend passes on information about a job opening, find out more even if you’re not interested in the position or looking for work. A recruiter may know about another opportunity that’s a better fit. It is also a chance to share the information with others in your field that may be looking to make a change.

If you pay it forward, one of those people may pay it back when you are ready to make a move.

TIME Business

The Biggest Workplace and Career Predictions for 2015

Pamela Moore—Getty Images

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from UC Berkeley and is a career and personal coach.

Freelance work, marijuana legalization, and immigration will all influence the jobs landscape

As you make your career and workplace plans for 2015, you might want to consider these predictions:

Further conversion of full-time, benefited jobs, to part-time temp work, internships, and volunteer “positions.” A 2014 study by Elance-oDesk found that 53 million Americans are now freelancers; that’s 34% of all U.S. workers. Career Builder’s just-released forecast for 2015 suggests that will increase further:

Twenty-three percent of employers expect to recruit part-time works over the next 12 months, up six percentage points over last year. While various factors will influence this trend, 14 percent of all employers stated they will likely hire more part-time workers in 2015 due to the Affordable Care Act.

The hiring process will get even more rigorous. Not that long ago, most job openings were filled based on a resume, cover letter, and a half-hour interview or two with a boss. That process is dramatically lengthening: It may start with a work-sample assignment to be included with the job application, and three to five rounds of interviews, often including an all-day run through a gauntlet of interrogators, followed by a thorough background check to verify reported information, identify criminal record, etc. The process can take months.

The lengthening is due, in part, to the increased costs of employing an American: in addition to the Affordable Care Act, there are increases in the costs of Workers Compensation, Americans with Disabilities Act, EEOC, Medicare, Social Security, and Family Leave Act (paid leave in some states), and expanded employee rights to file grievances against employers.

More workplace wellness programs. A healthier workforce is a more productive one. So workplace wellness programs should burgeon. For example, wellness apps such as GetHealth provide employees with, for instance, peer support and prizes for exercising more and for losing weight, perhaps including a competition between work groups.

More students will opt out of liberal arts bachelor’s degrees. Statistics about the rampant un- and underemployment among student-debt-buried liberal arts graduates will likely motivate high school graduates that can’t gain admission to a designer-label college to consider such post-high school alternatives as:

· inexpensive community college career preparation programs,

· the free or low-cost Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCS)—aggregated mainly at Coursera, edX, and Udemy,

· on-the-job training, for example, in entrepreneurship at the elbow of a successful small business owner,

· enlistment in the military to get taxpayer-paid career training. This will be seen as a more attractive option because it’s widely thought that the U.S., in coming years, is less likely to get involved in wars.

The trend away from liberal arts bachelor’s degrees will accelerate as President Obama likely replaces his everyone-to-college push with some touting and funding of short-term career training programs.

Marijuana legalization. Pot legalization will likely expand to more states, maybe even nationwide. Of course, that will increase jobs in the pot industry—Big Tobacco moves to weed—but because of demonstrated increases of serious physical and mental health problems and car accidents, jobs will also burgeon for psychologists, drug counselors, school drug educators, paramedics, car insurance adjusters, and lawyers and HR people developing and administering new policies regarding marijuana in the workplace.

More “Corporate Social Responsibility.” Corporations, whether out of benevolence and/or the media’s and college classes’ messages that corporations are Bad Guys, will likely reallocate ever more money that previously would have been reinvested in the company or distributed as dividends to shareholders and to spending on “social responsibility” efforts, for example, foundations and other charitable donations. So jobs in corporate social responsibility should increase. That trend is visible as one watches TV ads. It seems an increased number are touting their non-profit initiatives.

Ever more employees will work at home. Employers will increasingly encourage telecommuting because:

  • It reduces the amount of office space required.
  • The advantages of having all employees in one building have been diminished by the ready availability of free- and low-cost videoconferencing.
  • Ever more work product can be transmitted over the Internet.
  • Computers, phones, and wearables are ever more capable.
  • In ever more companies, the workforce is distributed across the country or worldwide.
  • Many employees prefer to work at home to avoid the ever lengthening commute to what often is a noisy, open workspace.

Hiring related to immigration. President Obama’s Executive Order regarding immigration and promised passage of “comprehensive immigration reform” will, unless Congress stops him, mean an increase of 11 million legal Americans. Career and workplace implications:

  • Government will hire many people to supervise the probably labyrinthine legalization process.
  • Unlike previous waves of immigration, this cohort will not have been screened for diseases. So there will likely be significantly increased funding for health care for the poor and for public health initiatives. Bilingual health care professionals should find the job market felicitous.
  • The increased supply of legal people doing work common among immigrants such as landscaping, carpentry, cement work, and other blue-collar occupations will drive pay down in those fields.

Full relations with Cuba. President Obama’s move to liberalize relations with Cuba will likely be followed by additional such orders or legislation resulting in full relations. That should create jobs in the travel industry, import/export, as well as for immigration specialists.

Marketing jobs will be relatively plentiful. The increasing costs of hiring an American and competition with global companies will likely motivate U.S. firms to reallocate more money to marketing to drive sales. Especially in demand will be employees who can derive valid business decisions from customer data, for example, from Facebook and Instagram. Also, traditional ads are losing impact, so demand will increase for experts in “native advertising“—advertising embedded in non-commercial-appearing content—for example, “promoted articles.”

Landing a job in the corporate world should ease, but toughen in non-profits and government. College and the media are leading many people to feel antipathy toward corporations. More such people will seek work in the non-profit and government sectors. That should make it easier to find a job at a for-profit but tougher in a non-profit or government.

Increased focus on transgender issues. Believing that gay marriage and other gay rights initiatives have developed sufficient momentum to become national law, activists and media will redirect some effort to abetting the rights of transgendered people. That should increase jobs for employment attorneys and counselors specializing in the transgendered.

In 2016 or 2020, The Revolution. This is my long-shot prediction of the year. A number of trends make a socialist revolution more likely, possibly just in states already leaning that way such as California, Massachusetts, and New York, but possibly nationally. This is likely to be a peaceful revolution, one in which more candidates who explicitly or by policy are socialist, will be elected. Here are those trends:

· The increased difficulty in finding decent-paying work.

· Crushing student debt that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy.

· Building on the Occupy Movement and the protests following the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths, activists will increase demands for “social justice.”

· The media’s increasingly replacing reportorialism with “social justice” activism. Note, for example, the extensive and positive news media coverage of President Obama’s loosening restrictions on relations with Cuba and the quantity of attention, mainly positive, given to Congress’s most liberal members as presidential candidates: for example, Elizabeth Warren and the explicitly Socialist Bernie Sanders. Even CNBC, which many perceive as relatively conservative, now has a primetime lineup that makes capitalism unseemly: The Shark Tank, American Greed, The Car Chasers, and The Profit.

· Demographic changes: immigration and a long-standing higher birth rate among the poor.

· Many of the trends reported in this article involve an increase in redistribution. Paradoxically, the greater the redistribution, the more the masses, the 99-percenters, are likely to feel entitled to a bigger piece of the pie and thus more likely to foment The Revolution.

The takeaway

Do any of the above warrant incorporation into the plans for your career or workplace?

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. specializing in education evaluation from U.C. Berkeley and subsequently taught there. He is the author of seven books and an award-winning career coach, writer, speaker and public radio host specializing in career/workplace issues and education reform. His writings and radio programs are archived on www.martynemko.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Stop Making ‘Workaholics’ a Dirty Word

Jessica Peterson—Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from UC Berkeley and is a career and personal coach.

Successful and productive people work far longer hours than work-life-balance advocates

I’ve been saddened, okay angered, by the change in how we treat our hard workers.

When I was growing up in the 1950s, people who worked long hours were considered the norm. Not only did my father work 12 hours a day, seven days a week to support my mom, sister, and me, all of our friends’ fathers did too. And most of them, including my dad, were Holocaust survivors who were wrested from their homes by the Nazis before they even finished high school and then thrown into concentration camps. My father and his friends, lucky survivors, after the war, were dumped in the Bronx with no English, no money, and no family. So they all had just low-level jobs or tiny businesses, while they lived with the Holocaust’s scars. If any judgment was rendered about those hard workers, it was praise.

Beyond the fathers I knew personally, I recall hearing admiration for accomplished people, whom I recall as being defined not just by their intelligence but by their relentless work ethic. For example, Jonas Salk worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week until he came up with a cure for the disease that terrified all parents—polio. Kids with polio were doomed to a brief life, all spent on crutches if not in an “iron lung.” Salk developed a vaccine that has virtually eradicated polio.

Yet today, a person who works long hours is likely to be pathologized as a “workaholic,” like an alcoholic, addicted. In fact, most successful people I know do work long hours and not because they’re addicted to work but because they make a conscious choice that the working week’s 40 to 60+ hours are more wisely spent being productive—for example, making, selling, or providing goods and services for people—than on recreation or even the vaunted family time. Indeed, research does support that quality time, not quantity time, is key. Consider, for example, this review of the literature, which concludes that children are not hurt by mothers who work outside the home. But that doesn’t stop the criticism: “She’s a negligent mom.” “He’s out of balance.” “She’s a workaholic.”

But what about the consensus opinion that long hours makes you less productive? I can counter that only by reporting that I’ve been career coach to hundreds of highly successful and productive people as well as to many strugglers, and one of the key differentiators is that the successful group works far longer work weeks than work-life-balance advocates would recommend. And nearly all those hard workers insist they work only as long as they can do so without sacrificing quality—and for them (and me,) that’s well beyond a 40-hour work week. And their long hours don’t seem to affect their health, as long as their work style is not hurried or short-tempered.

Imagine that you work long work weeks and instead of being praised for your hard work, you are demonized, including by your spouse. How would you feel? Would that denigration be deserved?

Of course, not everyone has the capability or desire to be productive for a long work week, but shouldn’t we think twice before dubbing hard workers as out-of-balance, let alone pathologized as a workaholic? Often, the more accurate term is “heroic.”

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. specializing in education evaluation from U.C. Berkeley and subsequently taught there. He is the author of seven books and an award-winning career coach, writer, speaker and public radio host specializing in career/workplace issues and education reform. His writings and radio programs are archived on www.martynemko.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

Why You Should Be Less Responsible at Work

baona—Getty Images

Dorie Clark teaches at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

​​The secret to professional advancement lies in figuring out which activities actually lead to results

An overstressed friend told me recently that her boss had counseled her to “be less responsible” at work. On the surface, it’s a ridiculous thing for a supervisor to say. Who would want an employee that overlooks details, or who casually wraps up an assignment because “it’s good enough”? But here’s why her boss is onto something – and maybe you should consider being less responsible at work, too.

You’ll learn to prioritize. Early in our careers, frankly, there’s not that much going on. A CEO might get 500 or 1,000 high-priority emails a day; an assistant who’s a year out of college most certainly won’t. That means you have the ability to get everything done, and leave with a clean slate at the end of the day. Unfortunately, that sets a bad precedent for the rest of your career, because the higher you rise, the less likely you’ll be to finish everything that’s put in front of you. You have to cultivate the perspicacity to understand what’s truly important, and what can be safely ignored. No one wants to be a jerk and take three months to respond to an email, or even never reply at all. But when you reach your human limits of endurance, you have to decide what matters most. As the famous 80/20 Rule has it, only 20% of our activities yield 80% of our results. The secret to professional advancement lies in figuring out which is which.

You’ll learn to procrastinate more strategically. When you’re narrowly focused on a task – you have to write this report, and you won’t leave your desk until it’s done, even if you’re staring at a blank screen for hours – research shows that you’re essentially putting on blinders and diminishing your creativity. Instead of forcing yourself to sit there (and producing crappy work as a result), procrastinate strategically by doing another task that feels more fun. I don’t mean pseudo-productive tasks like surfing the Internet or listening to a podcast; choose another project that also has to get done, but which is more inspriring to you in the moment. In fact, that’s what I’m doing now; I have to submit a list of course readings for an upcoming marketing class I’m teaching, and it’s due today. It’ll get done, but in the interim, writing this article – which is also useful and productive – is a much more attractive option.

You’ll be forced to delegate. For most of us who were brought up to be responsible, that means guaranteeing that the job is finished and the work is done right. Unfortunately, as you ascend the professional ladder, you begin to start supervising employees. There’s a word for someone who checks all their employees’ work all the time: a micromanager. Your staff can’t learn and grow if they’re not permitted to try new things, stretch, and sometimes fail (on tasks that aren’t mission-critical). Recognize the natural tradeoff: that means things won’t be done up to your standards every time. But as long as they’re done well enough, that’s probably OK. And every once in a while, they’ll be done better, and you and the entire organization will learn something. A good starting place for many professionals is tapping into the growing market of virtual assistants, who can handle minor administrative tasks that often require a lot of time to perform. I’ve written previously about how to work well with your virtual assistant, and three mistakes to avoid when working with a virtual assistant.

It can be painful to let go of tasks you know how to do perfectly, but you have to make room for what’s most important – and recognize that the real definition of being “responsible” at work isn’t about getting everything done. It’s about getting the right things done.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and the forthcoming Stand Out. You can subscribe to her e-newsletter and follow her on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


How to Compete for an Out-of-Town Job

illustration of station wagon pulling office desk
Mikey Burton

You can improve your chances of finding a new job by taking your search on the road, but you’ve got to be strategic in selling yourself.

Three out of four hiring managers recently surveyed by Challenger Gray & Christmas reported a shortage of local talent. So theo­ret­ically you could have better luck finding the job of your dreams if you’re willing and able to move.

Problem is, many companies are hesitant to hire out-of-towners because of concerns over relocation, money, and local knowledge. But you can put hiring managers at ease by preemptively addressing these three issues in your application:

How Willing You Are to Move

Transparency is crucial. “If a recruiter in Pittsburgh sees you’ve been working in L.A. for 10 years, they’ll want to know why you’re applying,” says Marcelle Yeager, president of Career Valet, a professional coaching firm.

Don’t skirt these issues or, worse, lie by using a local pal’s address. Instead, write beside your address that you would be eager to relocate to the area for the right career opportunity, recommends Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources, a New York HR consulting firm.

What It Will Cost the Company

Hiring costs are top of mind for recruiters when evaluating long-distance applications. So pay your own way for an in-person interview if you can swing it, says Stefanie Wichansky, CEO at Randolph, N.J., management consulting and staffing firm Professional Resource Partners. A subtle approach: Indicate that you are frequently in the area and can make yourself available at the hiring manager’s convenience.

Definitely don’t bring up needing relocation assistance in your cover letter. “That makes your candidacy less attractive, as you’ll be a more expensive hire compared to the local competition,” says Wichansky. Wait to raise the issue until the company has determined that you’re the best candidate. “You’re in a better position to negotiate once you’ve proven the value you can bring to the organization,” she says.

How Well You Know the Area

Unless you have a skill set that’s unique or in high demand, you’re going to need to convince a hiring manager that you’re not ­hampered—and wouldn’t hamper the company—by your lack of knowledge of the local market, says Yeager.

One way to tap into the market from afar, besides following local news and blogs, is to join region-specific industry networking groups on LinkedIn. Start discussions to gain an insider’s perspective, then demonstrate this knowledge in your cover letter. An out-of-towner looking for work in commercial real estate, for example, might study neighborhoods and establish relationships with local developers to show he can hit the ground running.


Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com