Setting Priorities

Otherwise, You’re Just Spinning Your Wheels!

By Jerry Lambert

Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  I hope you enjoyed last week’s article on GCF Learn Free.  It really is quite an amazing website.  This week I wanted to talk to you about Setting Priorities and why it is so important in getting things done.

Man using two telephonesIf you read my articles about Procrastination, Goals, and Discipline, you will remember that you’re not going to get anywhere in life without Goals, and the Discipline to take the steps to reach them.  However, Discipline without Priorities is like a video I saw on Facebook the other day.  This guy was trying to line up 10 kittens in a row.  Needless to say, it was an impossible task!

That’s what happens in our daily lives.  We have great ideas we turn into Goals, but we’re unsure of where to begin.  We have a list of tasks that need to be done in order to reach that Goal.  However, we’re not sure “what order” those tasks should be done in to reach that Goal.

This is where Setting Priorities comes in.  It allows you to perform a sort of daily triage on the tasks that need to be accomplished.  By completing these tasks in the proper order, you get one step closer to achieving that Goal.  However, it’s not just Goals that need to be prioritized.  Your day-to-day jobs need to be arranged as well.

IS09AN5K3What’s more important?  Calling a plumber to fix the leaky pipe in your basement, or picking up your suit from the dry cleaners?  Unless you WANT an indoor pool in your basement, I would recommend calling the plumber first!  That’s an extreme example, but figuring out which task needs to be done first is essential to getting things done!

In my article on Procrastination, I mentioned a book by Brian Tracy called Eat That Frog!  It is all about tackling your ugliest tasks (or frogs) first thing in the morning.  It is essential reading for anyone who wants to finally stop putting off ‘til tomorrow what they can do today.

There is another section in the book where he mentions something called the “ABCDE Method”.  As Tracy describes it, there’s more to your life than just ugly frogs that need eating.  There are a number of other chores and Goals that need to be completed.  This is where the ABCDE Method comes into play.

The method is relatively simple:

“A” items are tasks that “Must Be Done”, like getting that important report to your boss on time.  NOT forgetting your Wedding Anniversary, and other critical items.

“B” tasks are “Should Do” tasks.  Stuff like getting your dog to the groomer (unless she just had a run in with a skunk, then I would move that up to an “A” task, pronto), getting an oil change, picking up your suit from the cleaners, and generally stuff that won’t stop your world if you put it off for a day.

“C” tasks are jobs that you “Can Do”.  Stuff like meeting a friend for lunch, donating blood, helping out at your church, going to the movies, etc.

“D” is for “Delegate!”  If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you might want to delegate cutting the lawn to your shiftless teenage son.  That way, you can finally fix that leaky faucet in the bathroom.

“E” stands for “Eliminate”.  These are tasks you have on your to-do list that you may have already completed and forgot to cross off the list.  Or, they may have been relevant at some point, but are now obsolete.

_S4A0210Ok”, I hear you say, “that’s great, but what if there are more than one of these A-E tasks on my list?”  That’s where sub-prioritizing comes in.  For example, look at all of your “A” tasks and attach a number to the “A” for each one, based on the importance of each item.  Like “A1”, “A2”, “A3”, etc.  You get the idea.  Depending on the size of your to-do list, this might take you a while, but the benefits will be enormous.

There is something called the 80/20 Principle, or the Pareto Principle  This principle states that 20% of your completed tasks create 80% of the impact on your job or life.  You can see that all of the “A” tasks naturally belong in the 20% group.  Everything else should fall into the 80% category.  The 80% or “B-E” tasks should be worked on only when all of the 20% or “A” tasks are completed.

This same prioritizing should always be applied to your Goal Setting and Achieving.  You may have a list of tasks that are necessary for you to achieve a particular Goal, but you realize they might not really be in the proper order.  Either re-sort these “Action Steps” into a logical order, or apply the ABCDE Method to them, whichever is easier.

I hope this article has helped you see how your to-do list can be organized more efficiently.  There’s one more point I want to make about Priorities.  Make sure that you don’t fall into the “80% Trap”!  That’s where you wind up spending all of your time working on the 80% tasks instead of the 20% tasks.  Why?  Because the 80% tasks are easier!  That’s why they’re in the 80% list!  Remember, the top 20% of your tasks create the greatest impact and will help you to achieve your Dreams and Goals faster!  Are they tougher?  You bet!  That’s why you keep putting them off!  However, these are the tasks that will really get you ahead in the world!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

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GCF Learn Free

One of the Most Indispensable Websites You’ll Ever Use!

By Jerry Lambert

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  I hope you found my last article about the difference between an Hourly Employee vs Independent Contractor informative.  This week, I want to tell you about another website I discovered many years ago, GCF Learn Free.

A businessman holding a hammerAt the time I made this discovery, I had just been sentenced to serve out the remaining years of my old job on the Tech Support Desk.  I was looking for online tutorials for Microsoft Office since many of the training materials provided by the company were incomprehensible to me.

I stumbled across this website looking for a Microsoft Excel tutorial and I was amazed to find not only that but a large catalog of online courses for everything from Using an ATM to advanced courses in Microsoft Access, the database application in Microsoft Office.

I would eventually describe this website to friends and colleagues as, “The one place to go to if you had just been left behind on Earth!”  Or, for you fans of Douglas Adams, a REALHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.  I’m sure E.T. would have gotten a lot of use out of it when he came to visit Elliot.

Close up of woman circling adsHowever, for the purpose of this article, I’ll only go over the job hunting and career-related aspects of the website.  I’ll leave it to you to explore the rest of what GCF Learn Free has to offer.  Trust me, you can get lost in there for days, in a good way.

The Work and Career section of the website is broken down into four categories.  Career Planning, Job Search, Workplace Skills and Money.  Many of these lessons can be used before and AFTER, you get the job.  Just in case you fudged a little on your résumé and said you know a lot more about QuickBooks than might necessarily be true.  There’s a QuickBooks Resources section for that.  And much, much more.

Career Planning

This section is broken down into two categories.  Career Planning and Salary and Job Search and Networking.  Since most visitors to TBPC fall into the “Unemployed” classification, I’m sure you’ll get more use out of the second category.  However, both offer useful lessons that will get you up to speed on the latest and greatest job hunting tools.

Career Planning and Salary is broken down into five different courses, plus a quiz at the end of each lesson.  This section can be very useful if you are looking to reboot your career and try something new.

Discover Your Career Needs:  This section helps get you pointed on  a new career path with a list of Self-Assessment tools.  It also helps you figure out how much money you need to get paid, and how to gain additional job skills that will help get you there.

Explore Careers:  Now that you’ve determined your career interest, this section will help you find a position that aligns with that interest.  It uses a man named Sameer as a case study on how to find a new career.

Salary Basics:  This section explains how to determine if a position you have applied for will actually help you meet your financial needs, or if you should keep looking.

Gain Job Skills:  This part illustrates how you’re going to get the skills needed to land the job you really want.  It covers going back to school for a two or four-year degree, but that might not be an option if you’re struggling just to put food on the table.  However, there are many eLearning options (like GCF Learn Free) that will help you to gain the necessary skills to land that job!  Best of all, like GCF Learn Free, many of these sites are FREE!

Make a Career Plan:  Now that you have figured out what you want to do, how much money you need to make, and gained the skills necessary to do the job, all you need is a plan.  That’s what this section is about.  It helps you to create a blueprint of the tasks you will have to achieve in order to reach your Career Goals.

Job Search and Networking.  You have built the necessary skills for your new job and developed a plan to get that job.  Now it’s time to put that plan into action.  The age of combing the want ads in your local paper are over.  It’s a digital world and it’s time to get with the program.

Job Search Savvy:  This section helps you get your “job hunting race horse” into the starting gate for the (hopefully short) race to the finish line.  It helps put you in the right frame of mind for getting that new job.

Find a Job Online:  Finding the right job is what this section is all about.  It walks you through searching for and applying for a job online.  However, keep in mind what I said in my article about Age Discrimination.  Many times online applications will get kicked out by a database scanner long before ever being seen by human eyes.  That’s why the next topic is so important.

Networking Basics:  In this day and age, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  Well, it’s what you know, too.  You can’t apply for a job as a Neurosurgeon just because you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  However, nowadays, getting connected with your peers is crucial.  Check out my article on LinkedIn for more info about that.

Job Hunt with Social Media:  This area walks you through the basics of how to navigate all of the various Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and others.  It shows you how to use these sites to let your friends and followers know you are looking for work.  Oddly, it doesn’t really mention LinkedIn, which I would think would be stop number one for someone wanting to put themselves out there.

Personal Branding 101:  This is the process of getting people to identify you with a certain job or industry.  I have to admit that I don’t know a great deal about personal branding, even though apparently I have been doing lots of it.  Updating my LinkedIn Profile (oops, spoke too soon), getting networking cards printed up, attending networking events, and starting a blog like this one, can really increase your visibility.

Well, that’s it for the Career Planning and Salary / Job Search and Networking parts of the Career Planning section.  Wait!  You say.  What about Job Search, Workplace Skills, and Money?  I know I have only shown you the tip of the iceberg with the Career Planning section.  I’ll leave it up to you to check out the rest on your own.  I told you it was a goldmine!  So, as you begin your new career search in earnest, just remember what the Hitchhiker’s Guide has printed on the front cover in large, friendly letters. “DON’T PANIC”.  You have GCF Learn Free (and me) to show you the way!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

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Hourly Employee vs Independent Contractor

Which One Should You Choose?

By Jerry Lambert

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  This week I thought I would go into greater detail about the job classifications that are out there.  If you have been unemployed for a while, you may want to look into becoming an Independent Contractor as a way of bringing in some extra income.  Either on your own, or working WITH, but not FOR a company like Uber or Lyft.  I’ll illustrate the differences between being an Hourly Employee and an Independent Contractor.  Many of the Side Hustle and Work From Home jobs I have featured on this blog are Independent Contractor positions.

Saw cutting a hole around a piggy bank

First a little background.  As you already know, back in 2008 the country went through a major financial crisis.  Many banks, insurance companies, and brokerage houses either went out of business or were bailed out by the U. S. Taxpayer.  Losing millions of their client’s dollars in the process.  Names like Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, and AIG were all over the news.  To learn more about this event, watch the film, The Big Short.  That movie scared the crap out of me!

In response to this financial crisis, many companies took advantage of an opportunity they had been waiting for.  “How do we decrease the size of our workforce, without appearing weak to our stockholders, or the business community at large?”  The Crash of 2008 was a gift to many companies who had been wanting to cut back their staff for years.  However, if they resorted to layoffs, it would make the company look financially unstable.

Mature man using a computer at home

I heard about this scheme from an article in the Huffington Post by James Altucher.  In his article, 10 Reasons You Have to Quit Your Job in 2014, he explained how this plot was hatched.  But more importantly, he explains why the old business model no longer works and why you should consider striking out on your own.  He was talking about becoming an Independent Contractor or starting up your own business.

There are definitely Pros and Cons for each classification.

Pay: If you were an Hourly Employee at your previous job, more than likely you were paid every two weeks.  Because of sick days and vacation days, many times you were paid for NOT working.  As an Independent Contractor, you are paid for the job or project you have agreed to perform for a company or individual.  Period.  Your pay is based on the quote you gave for the job.  Think about a plumber giving you an estimate to fix the leaky faucet in your tub.

Hours: A full-time Hourly Employee can expect to work a minimum of 40 hours per week.  If part-time, then those hours vary, but are usually 30 hours or less.  An Independent Contractor (IC) puts in as many hours as needed to finish the job.  Since his pay is not hourly, it behooves him to do the job right and finish as quickly as possible.  Then he can move onto the next job.

Benefits: Hourly Employees can expect to receive a host of benefits from their employer.  These range from health care to dental care and vision care, etc.  An IC must take care of these expenses on his or her own.  With the soaring cost of health care, this is a major consideration.  However, there may be group plans that ICs can join that will hopefully bring down this cost.

Retirement:  As an Hourly Employee, you may have a fully-funded, partially-funded, or employee-funded retirement plan provided by the company.  In addition to that, you pay into FICA (Social Security and Medicare), which is also a source of retirement funds.  As an IC, you are on your own for your retirement funding and you still have to pay into FICA.

Flexibility:  This is one area where an IC has it made over an Hourly Employee.  As an IC, you set your own hours and work when you want.  In the plumber example I gave earlier, if the plumber is an IC and not an employee for a plumbing company, he determines his own work hours.  As an Hourly Employee, your hours are set by the employer and you’d better be to work on time!

Tax Considerations:  As an Hourly Employee, all of your taxes and deductions are withheld by your company and forwarded onto the recipients for you.  When you’re an IC, you are on your own for taking care of your taxes and any other deductions.  On the bright side, when you get paid, you get a check for 100% of the job quote.  Not like the net income check that an Hourly Employee gets.  If you are working with a company like Uber or Lyft, they will provide you with a Form 1099 instead of a Form W-2.  That form will detail the income you earned with them for the previous tax year.

Freedom:  This is when being an IC really beats being an Hourly Employee.  The only problem is that your time off is unpaid.  However, when you need a day off, take it!  When you want to go on vacation, go!  When the weather is crappy, stay home!  The Hourly Employee doesn’t have that luxury.  Need a day off? Clear it with the boss.  Want to go on vacation?  Sure, if someone is there to cover for you.  Feel like crap and just can’t make it into the office?  No problem, if you have any sick days left.  You get the idea.

Security:  The Hourly Employee has the satisfaction of knowing that every two weeks, like clockwork, he is going to be paid for his hours worked (or not worked if sick or on vacation).  The IC gets paid only for the work that was done.  No work, no pay!  After many years as an Hourly Employee, this is the toughest thing to get used to as an IC.

I guess for me, what it all comes down to is the old formula: Time vs Money.  If you don’t have a job at all, you have plenty of Time, but no Money.  If you are an Hourly Employee, you are giving up a substantial amount of Time for Money.  However, as an IC, if done correctly, you can have the perfect balance of Time AND Money!  That is the elusive Golden Ticket that all ICs are looking for.

I hope this article has helped to clear up any misconceptions about the difference between these two types of work classifications.  In preparing this blog, articles from Salary.com and BankRate were very helpful in explaining these differences.

DISCLAIMER:  As usual, before making any financial decisions based on the information I have detailed above, be sure to check with your tax professional and / or retirement planning specialist for more information.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

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LinkedIn

Why It’s The Most Important Tool In The Box!

By Jerry Lambert

Hi there, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club!  This week we’re going to talk about one of the most important tools in your “Job Hunting Toolbox”, LinkedIn.  As you probably know by now, LinkedIn is Facebook for business professionals.  It allows you to build a network of contacts from many diverse backgrounds.  In theory, this network will someday help you find a job.  In theory.

Colleagues having discussionAccording to a LinkedIn company timeline, it was the brainchild of Reid Hoffman, launched from his living room in May 2003.  That’s ancient history in “Tech Time”.  He was a veteran board member of Google, eBay, and PayPal.  So this was not a “blogger in his mother’s basement” discovery.  He put together a team from an early social networking company called (go figure) SocialNet and PayPal and boom, a social networking giant was born!

You have probably heard from every job placement professional how important it is to “Network” and “Put yourself out there!”  But how do you do that exactly ?  Hopefully, this article will show you how.

It all starts with your Profile.  This is your “Online Résumé” that you present to the digital world.  It’s very important for you to fill out your profile as completely as possible.  Entering as much personal information as you are comfortable with, along with your previous work experience.  I’m not talking about posting your Social Security number or your current relationship status, however, you do want your profile to attract attention.  LinkedIn provides many ways for you to do this.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should go into a little more detail about what you will actually be doing on LinkedIn.  If you are familiar with Facebook, LinkedIn should be relatively familiar to you.  If you aren’t on Facebook, grab a hold of your son, daughter, or anyone you know under forty and get your account set up right away!  As I mentioned before, LinkedIn is Facebook for Business.  The theory is that you will be able to create a network of contacts you can reach out to when needed.  Like when you’re laid off from your job!

Woman shouting through megaphone

This is directed at people who are still working.  This is my first DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DID!  When I set up my LinkedIn account, I foolishly used my work email account as my logon.  DO NOT DO THIS!!!!  When you are laid off from your job, and you have forgotten your LinkedIn password, where will they send the email to reset your password?  You got it!  The email account from the job you were just fired from and no longer have access to!  Make sure to use your home email, or better yet, a job hunting email account.  I was eventually able to change the logon id on my account (without losing all my contacts), but it was a colossal pain in the butt!

I will spend the rest of this article going over each of the different sections of the LinkedIn website.

Home:  Obviously, this is the Home Page.  This is similar to your Facebook Home Page, where you will see articles that are shared or posted by your LinkedIn Contacts.  The left side has a section called Me.  This is a shortcut to your LinkedIn Profile Page.  I will cover that later.  The right side has a list of trending topics as well as a recommended company for you to check out.

My Network:  This is the nuts and bolts of LinkedIn.  This is the page where all of your LinkedIn Contacts (or Connections) are displayed.  On the left side of the page, you will see the number of Connections that you currently have.  Click on the number to see a list of those contacts.  The center section of the page is a list of LinkedIn Members you can Invite to become one of your LinkedIn Connections.

Jobs:  The Jobs Page is pretty neat.  Based on your Job Experience you listed in your Profile, LinkedIn suggests jobs that may be a match for you.  It’s like having your own personalized Headhunter!

Messaging:  This is where you can stay in touch with your LinkedIn Connections and send them Messages.  However, you can only send Message to YOUR Connections.  I didn’t try this, but I’m pretty sure you have to be a Connection of Bill Gates in order to send him a Message!  The left side of the page is a list of your recent Messages and the center section is where you compose a Message to your Connections.

Notifications:  This is where you receive notices that your Connections have upcoming work anniversaries, birthdays, and more importantly, when someone has viewed your Profile.  That is the primary goal of LinkedIn, getting noticed and getting people to view your Profile!  Stay caught up with all of your Notifications so you don’t miss out on anything!

Me:  It’s all about you, baby!  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  Anyway, this page IS all about you, and it’s the information your Connections, as well as prospective Employers, will read about you!  It is broken down into many different sections.

Your Articles & Activity:  This section keeps track of any articles you have written for LinkedIn or shared from another source.

Experience:  This is the meat and potatoes of your Profile.  You will list all of your work experience here.  You should be able to cut and paste the relevant info from your résumé here.

Volunteer Experience:  List any volunteer work that you do in this section.

Featured Skills & Endorsements:  This is where contacts and former co-workers can endorse you for specific skills.  Some of these can be pretty basic, but some are pretty detailed.

Recommendations:  This is where former co-workers can write up a nice reference for any future employers to review.  Don’t forget to write up one of these for fellow co-workers who become laid off as well.  Good karma.

Accomplishments:  This is for any special project you were involved in, as well as any publications or blogs that you write for.

Following:  There are various individuals, companies, and groups that you can follow from this section of the Profile.

IS09AJ27FThat’s it for my overview.  Remember, LinkedIn is all about getting noticed.  Start by “Liking” an article shared by one of your contacts.  Then “Share” one yourself.  Keep in mind this is a business site and videos of puppies and babies may be adorable, but they should be kept on Facebook.  LinkedIn is all about business!

Needless to say, this blog is instantly shared on LinkedIn and Facebook the moment it is published!  After all, what’s the point of writing these articles, if nobody is going to see them!!  I hope this article has inspired you to really dig into LinkedIn and make it your “Go To” tool in your “Job Hunting Toolbox”!

One thing I forgot to mention is that you have to be a LinkedIn Member to view someone’s Profile.  So don’t wait, sign up now! It’s free!  To see an example of what a LinkedIn Profile looks like, please click on this link to my Profile.  I’ve lost weight since that picture was taken, so please don’t judge!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

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