MONEY Getting Ahead

How to Learn to Love Your Job Again When You’re Feeling Burned Out

"There are things you can do to find joy around the edges," says career expert Kerry Hannon.

If you are counting the days to retirement because you hate your job, career expert Kerry Hannon has a message for you: “Stick with it.”

Burnout is one of the biggest problems in the workplace, especially for older workers. An annual survey on retirement by the Employee Benefit Research Institute consistently finds that about half of workers retire earlier than they expected—and that job burnout is a key factor.

But sticking it out is important to retirement security, Hannon says in her new book Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness. These are usually the highest-earning years of your career, she argues. And staying employed helps with everything from retirement account contributions to enabling a delayed filing for Social Security benefits.

Reuters asked Hannon for her tips on how older workers can stay engaged and on the job:

Q: Why is the idea of “falling in love with your job” important for older workers nearing retirement?

A: The people I interview have this palpable fear about outliving their money. They want to find work—full- or part-time. But even with the improved economy, if you’re over 50 and looking for work, it’s still hard—it takes almost 30 months longer to find a job than it does for younger people; ageism is still rampant. So, if you have a job, for gosh sakes, you should hang on to it.

Q: But what if your job is really awful?

A: There still are things you can do to find some joy around the edges—to make the job come alive for you. But it might not be specific to the job. Then, if you really need to make a change, by all means do so, but don’t leave your current job until you have a new one.

Q: What are some examples of finding “joy around the edges?”

A: Perhaps you don’t love what you do, but you do really like your co-workers or the mission of the organization. It might be the challenge of learning something new, or working from home—the things that circle around the job itself.

Extracurriculars tied to the job are one good way to get re-engaged. Many companies offer the opportunity to do volunteer work right within the organization. If you can find a volunteer gig through your employer, that can help build relationships with co-workers and bonds across departments that you might never have had otherwise. And it gets you out of your own head and gives you perspective on the needs of others.

A couple examples that I mention in the book: The National Institutes of Health has its own orchestra that plays gigs at assisted living centers and hospices. Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc has an employee choir.

You might find it by telecommuting. Research shows that telecommuting employees are happier, more loyal and have fewer absences. If you don’t have a boss hovering over you, that can give you a sense of flexibility about getting your work done.

Q: How about learning to love the job itself?

A: Learning a new work-related skill can be key. When you learn something new, your brain shifts. If your employer sponsors workshops or skill-based learning, they may not think of offering it to you if you’re older than 50 – but you can raise your hand and ask for it.

Q: How do life values change as we get older, and how does that affect the way we relate to our jobs?

A: When we are younger, our work is our life on so many levels. In your twenties and thirties, your social friends usually are your work friends. Your identity is tied up in who you are and your job. And, we are establishing ourselves in our fields.

But as we age we have families and more outside interests. In your fifties, you probably aren’t pushing your way up the ladder, perhaps even doing something that wasn’t your primary career. So, work loses its emphasis, but you want those hours to be fulfilling.

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MONEY job search

This is How You Write a Perfect Post-Interview Thank You

Thank You Note
Janice Richard—Getty Images

Make sure it includes these 4 things

In my recruiting experience, I came across very few thank you notes—which is a shame.

A thank you note is one more opportunity for candidates to stay front of mind with employers. Sending a timely thank you note shows professional courtesy and follow-through (one hiring manager I worked with knocked out candidates who didn’t send a thank you!). Plus, a well-crafted thank you note is a marketing tool that can promote your candidacy after memories of your interview have faded.

The best thank you notes go beyond simple gratitude. Here’s what a productive thank you note includes:

1. Personalization by Name and Quote

Don’t just write to HR or your immediate hiring contact.

If you have met several people, write an individual letter to each and every interviewer, and quote or paraphrase something specific they said. “Dear Alan, thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I particularly enjoyed hearing about your upcoming project with Really Cool Builders…” If you have a panel interview and meet several people all at once, still write individual notes.

A personalized thank you deepens your relationship with that person and enables you to maintain that relationship separately long after the hiring process plays out.

2. Reiteration of Your Strengths

If a particular interview response seemed to resonate or there was something you discussed that elicited strong interest, build on these items in your thank you note.

You might share another related example or point to additional ideas along the theme of what you discussed. This reminds the interviewer(s) why they liked you. “My experience working with creative at Really Funky Advertising seemed to dovetail exactly with what you need for your designers. In another role at Really Inventive Copy, I supported the creative team….”

3. Shoring Up of Your Weaknesses

At the same time, if there was a hiccup in the interview—a question you stumbled on or a strength you failed to highlight—address this in the thank you.

Let’s say you were asked for an example of when you worked with finance and operations, as opposed to creative, and you didn’t think of anything or you gave one example but thought of a better one after the fact. Include the additional information in the thank you: “I’m excited that the opportunity gives me the chance to work with creative, finance and operations. At Really Stylish Retail, my role as the planning analyst meant I supported our finance team on forecasting, budgeting and trend analysis. This also involved the operations team as I reviewed inventory levels and logistics…”

4. A Suggestion to Meet Again

When you’re introducing new information, include enough so that they realize you have more to say, then invite yourself to a future meeting so they can hear more about it: “As you can see from these additional roles we didn’t get to discuss, I have more to share and would love to schedule another meeting to go into detail.…”

In addition to more of your own experience, you might add an idea you have or point to a relevant article and suggest you discuss these further.

One final note: People often ask me whether to send the note via mail or e-mail. I say the latter. E-mail ensures that the note will reach recipients in a timely manner.

If you’d prefer to mail a note—to use nice stationary or to include additional material—I’d still send a quick e-mail first, alluding to the upcoming material then follow up with the hard copy.

Snail mail can take a really long time to wind its way through large corporate entities. One time, a thank you card I’d sent to a mentor arrived months after I’d mailed it—and right before our next scheduled lunch!

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 appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

TIME

Sheryl Sandberg Wants Men to Lean In, Too

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Emely—Getty Images/Cultura RF Young girl dangling from her fathers arm

The new #LeanInTogether initiative promotes equality at work and at home

The latest Lean In initiative isn’t about women at work — it’s about men.

In the spirit of #HeForShe, Sheryl Sandberg and her team launched Lean In Together, a new campaign designed to help men promote gender equality at home and at work. It involves a partnership with NBA and WNBA stars, and includes specific tips for how men can Lean In, too.

They’ve also produced a short video with Makers, about how famous women like Hillary Clinton and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were able to achieve partly because of support from the men in their lives. As Sandberg puts it, “being a parent’s not a full-time job for a woman and a part-time job for a man.”

Here are the #LeanInTogether tips for how men can Lean In at home:

1) Be a 50/50 partner, by equally sharing household duties.

2) Be an active father, even if you’re not perfect — kids with active dads have better self esteem.

3) Close the wage gap at home, by not valuing chores done by boys (like taking out the trash) more than chores done by girls.

4) Challenge gender stereotypes, by making sure your kids play with diverse toys and see diverse characters in books and movies

5) Help your daughter lead. Not calling her “bossy” is a start — also encourage her to be assertive in other ways, like introducing herself to people.

6) Don’t tell your son to “man up,” which can be just as damaging as calling a girl “bossy.”

There are also some tips for Leaning In at work in a way that supports your female colleagues — check them out here.

Read next: More Sex—and 7 Other Benefits for Men who Help Out at Home

 

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.


This appears in the March 16, 2015 issue of TIME.

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

BELGIUM-GREECE-EU-EUROGROUP-FINANCE
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:

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