Sunken Costs

When is Enough, Enough?

By Jerry Lambert

Hey!  Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  I hope you enjoyed last week’s article about Automation.  What an uplifting piece that was!  This week I decided to cover a topic I have been thinking about recently, Sunk (or Sunken) Costs.  These are defined as a past cost that has already been paid and can’t be recovered.  Like that vacation in Hawaii.  You had a great time in paradise, but the money you spent on that trip is long gone.

IS09AJ7GJThere are many ways to look at sunken costs.  Financial, obviously.  However, there are more personal ways to look at it as well.  What if you spent 3 years working on a degree in a field that is no longer viable, or of interest you?  What if you have a friend who is a constant drain on your time and energy, who provides nothing to you in return?  Those are other ways that sunken costs may be controlling our lives without realizing it.

The main category is Financial, of course.  The biggest sunken cost for most people is their house.  Cars come in second, but your house is the one cost that will actually increase in value, instead of depreciating at an alarming rate.  If you want proof of this, buy (lease) a new car.  Then drive into the McDonald’s parking lot next door and check the value of your new “used” car on TruCar or Kelly Blue Book.  That little jaunt to the McDonald’s just cost you thousands of dollars in depreciation!  Yikes!

Sunken costs are a very emotional thing.  You bought that old Model T years ago, with hopes of restoring it and driving it in the Woodward Dream Cruise.  If you sold it for 25% of what you bought it for, you wouldn’t just be losing 75% on your investment.  You would also be taking a hit to your pride and feel guilty you didn’t take the time to restore the car to its original 1910 condition.  Loss of investment and guilt are not a good combination.

Businessman looking at telephone book in sunken phone boothSunken cost avoidance runs rampant in the business world.  Due to the time and money already spent on a project, companies who spent the past 2 years getting updated to the latest and greatest technologies often find they are unable to shift gears fast enough and make changes when they should.  Never mind that all the “New Tech” became obsolete about 6 months ago!  How would you like to be the Project Manager explaining that one to the CEO?  Queue the flop sweat.

From your Career perspective, sunken costs can cripple your decision making.  You know you should start to learn new skills.  However, you just completed your “Data Processing” degree last month, and you are loathe to start all over again.  That’s why staying up to date on the latest trends is so important.  As I mentioned in my article on Automation, you’d better see the handwriting on the wall and upgrade your skills.  Otherwise, when it all hits the fan, you’ll find yourself out of a job with no end in sight!

The silver lining about the times we live in is that there is no end to the amount of learning you can do!  I don’t know if you have heard about TED Talks on YouTube.  These have historically been the realm of Uber-Nerds (not the rideshare service).  Nowadays, these talks have spread out to a number of different topics that range from tech to motivational speeches.  Really worth checking out, if you want to stay ahead of the “next big thing”.

!workingHowever, this is where many people get stuck.  They have made a commitment to reaching a goal.  The amount of time, money, and effort required to reach that goal may no longer be worth it.  This is a very emotional issue for many people.  Nobody wants to feel they have just been spending the last year and a half spinning their wheels.  Worse, the goal they were trying to reach has just been eclipsed by new technology.  “Now, what do I do?” you may ask.  I’m not sure, but there’s probably a TED Talk for that.

People are another issue altogether.  Without turning this into a therapy session, we all have friends in our lives we may be better off without.  The big question to ask is, “If I just met this person today, would we become friends?”  That’s a very important question.  Because if the answer is “no”, you have to give some serious thought to what you are getting out of that relationship.  Again, emotion plays a huge part in this decision.

I suggest you sit down and make a list of all of your sunken costs: Financial, Career, and Personal.  Then do a Pros and Cons evaluation whether you should keep the item (or person), or let it (or them) go.  If you’re honest, this list can grow pretty long.  As I wrote in my article on Procrastination, it’s easier to ignore the sunken costs, than taking a hard look and determining whether you really need it!

I hope this article has helped illustrate what sunken costs are.  How to really look at them with blinders off, and make an honest evaluation of them.

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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Automation

The Robot Revolution is Coming!

By Jerry Lambert

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  I hope you enjoyed last week’s article on Networking.  I did go to the Networking Event I referenced in the article and had a good time meeting folks and swapping business / networking cards.  There were quite a few folks in our age group, so that was inspiring I guess.  If they’re in the same boat we are, they’re all unemployed and trying to put a good face on things.

But I digress.  I have decided that this week’s article is going to be about Automation.  For many people (unions, lawyers, and politicians), it is the REAL Elephant in the Room!  After every economic downturn, the politicians all claim “We’ll bring those jobs back!”  What if there are no jobs to bring back?  I’m reminded of that song by Bruce Springsteen, My Hometown.

Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more
They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back

Retro robots, artworkThat last line is what ran through my head as I was thinking about this article.  Jobs are going and they’re not coming back.  No matter what any politician says.  The Age of Automation and the Rise of the Robots is upon us and we’d better wake up to that fact.

From 1760 – 1840, the Industrial Revolution destroyed jobs. But it also helped to create many as well.  Hopefully, the upcoming Terminator Invasion will leave more behind than the corpses of jobs formerly done by humans.  Hopefully, those corpses will be reborn as new jobs, done by humans!  By using Science Fiction as our guide, it certainly doesn’t paint a rosy future for us humans.  We may be turned into batteries, as shown in The Matrix, or like in The Terminator, we might be hunted mercilessly, as SkyNet becomes “Self-Aware”!  Just kidding, or am I?

An article from the PBS NewsHour website states that by 2025, roughly 1/3 of the jobs in this country will be replaced by “Smart Robots”.  This isn’t only factory and manufacturing jobs.  That’s been going on for years.  These “Smart Robots” will take over office, medical, legal, and financial analysis jobs as well.  Wonderful.  Good thing I got that Accounting Degree.

However, all may not be lost in our battle with the Titans!  On the website Marketplace.org, they have a list of Robot-Proof Jobs.  Jobs they feel won’t be replaced by C3PO.  They found out that there are actually only a small percentage of jobs that are “100% Automatable”.  They also include a list of “0% Automatable” jobs.  Some of these are: Dancers, Clergy, Sports Athletes, and Working with Animals.  I guess they figure Fluffy and Rover might be spooked by a robot.

IS09AK2A6Greg Gutfeld from Fox News is always talking about the “Robot Apocalypse”.  A lot of it is tongue-in-cheek, but he brings up some good points.  Mostly, he feels that people are not taking the threat to the job market seriously.

Then there are the bizarre legal issues popping up around all of these “Robot Workers”.  Lawyers are claiming these “workers” must have their “rights” protected.  Unions are saying that they’re okay with robots, as long as there is a human worker “supervising”.  Really?  The unions are terrified their rank and file may be replaced by an army of robot workers.  An army with no political agenda or the ability (or reason to) pay dues!

Yep, it’s going to be a “Brave New World”.  But the big question is, where do we fit in?  If robots have taken all our jobs, what do we do?  Movies always create a Utopian view, like in I, Robot.  Naturally, it all hits the fan, and Will Smith has to save the day.  But what if it doesn’t hit the fan?  What if robots manage to take over all of the menial, manufacturing, and some not-so-menial jobs?  What do we do with all our free time and more importantly, how do we make money?  That’s the BIG QUESTION!

Like the Industrial Revolution, it could be that all of this technology is bringing us bigger and better things.  However, if we lose the ability to work in this new world, what happens then?  Unemployment rates of 80-90-100%?  A world-wide Depression that never ends?  At least we’ll all have plenty of company in the unemployment line.

Robotic hand, artworkThe challenge becomes, “How do I prepare for, and thrive in the new robotic future?”  With almost total unemployment, how are WE supposed to survive?  The obsolete workers that have already been tossed into the scrap heap.

According to an article in Business Insider, there are jobs that will survive the Robot Revolution.  Of course, that article could be way off.  We have no way of knowing.  I guess from my standpoint, I’m just looking for a job that will bring in money this week, this month, and hopefully, this year.  When I was driving for Uber and Lyft, I saw the handwriting on the wall when it came to self-driving cars.  I knew I would only be driving for a few years before I was replaced by a robot.  Much earlier than most workers.

I’m sorry to paint such a gloomy picture, but I wanted you to be aware of what’s coming.  It’s not just Age Discrimination we’re fighting, but possibly robots that look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Be on the lookout!

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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Networking

Why it’s Become the New Classified Section

By Jerry Lambert

Hi, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club.  I hope you enjoyed last week’s article about Setting Priorities.  I know it helped reinforce what I should be doing every day!

Overhead view of business people talkingAnyway, today I thought I would tackle the topic of Networking.  No, I’m not talking about those rooms full of servers that you see in your typical tech commercial.  I am talking about Networking between Humans!

Bing appropriately defines Networking this way: “Interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career”.  That pretty much nails it.  However, if you are a disciple of Dale Carnegie, he would take a slightly different approach, but more on that later.

Back in days of old, when you were fired from a job, you grabbed the Classified Section of the Sunday newspaper.  Then you circled some promising ads and hit the bricks first thing Monday morning.  It wasn’t uncommon to have a number of interviews and maybe even have a job offer by the end of the week.  Those days are over.  Yesterday’s newspapers have been replaced by job hunting websites like Monster, Career Builder, and (my personal favorite) Indeed.

However, as I mentioned in my article about Age Discrimination, many times your résumé isn’t being seen by human eyes.  Instead it is perused by a heartless database scanner that will throw your résumé into the garbage can before anyone has a chance to see it.

How do you get your résumé past these robotic gatekeepers?  There are some forms of trickery you can use.  As far as your résumé goes, leave off the dates of service for each position.  Also, use a single space after your sentences, since that’s what all the cool kids are doing nowadays.  Then, set up a new Gmail account for your job hunt, since that’s your safest bet not to be labeled a fuddy-duddy.

is09ao1ykIf you manage to get past all of those roadblocks and actually get an interview, you have a whole new set of “upgrades” to consider.  Younger, hipper glasses for one.  Also, you may want to update your wardrobe, but hey, you don’t have a job!  For us guys, there’s always hair coloring, which should cause any red-blooded American male to shudder.  And so on.

But what if you don’t want to do an online and personal makeover just to get a shot at a job?  What do you do then?  That is where the Magic of Networking comes into play.  In today’s job market, it’s much more about “who you know”.  Like when your uncle got you that job when you were fresh out of high school with one of the Big Three (Ford, Chrysler, or GM).  Ah, you were going to work there until the day you retired.  Those were the days!

As I have already mentioned in my previous article, LinkedIn is the lynch pin in your Networking portfolio.  However, there are also other ways to get the word out that you’re looking for work.  Facebook is an option.  However, for many people, this amounts to taking out a front page ad in your local paper telling all of your friends and family that you got fired and need a new job.  A little too personal and embarrassing for some people.

Businessmen shaking handsAnother option is attending Job Fairs and other Networking functions.  As a veteran of some Job Fairs, these can be a little intimidating.  All of those folks in their business suits, carrying their leather portfolios, can make you feel like small potatoes.  Especially when you realize you have most of them beat in the age department by at least 20 years!

An excellent presentation by Wilf Flager shows the “Mature Worker” the ins and outs of Networking for people our age.  It is a great resource and I highly recommend that you check it out and download it for future reference.

There is also another excellent article in Forbes about writing a Perfect LinkedIn Summary.  I was recently informed that this should be the main focus of my LinkedIn Profile.  I never gave this a lot of thought, but as I bounced around LinkedIn and read some other member profiles, I realized that mine is lacking.  I am in the process of using that Forbes article to help spruce it up and make it stand out to anyone who reads it.

A lot of the focus in Networking seems to be “Me, Me, Me”.  While I understand you want to put your best foot forward with your fellow networkers, I have always thought this approach is the opposite of that classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  He said that people love to talk about themselves, so let them!

A StopwatchHowever, since the goal in attending a Networking Event is to put yourself out there, you need to work on your Elevator Pitch.  The theory behind this quick presentation is simple.  If you found yourself in an elevator with The Grand Poobah of the company of your dreams, what would you say to this person to make a good impression?  You are supposed to be able to hit all of your talking points in 30 seconds or less.  This way, as you work your way around the room at the Networking Event, you can leave quick impressions with the people you speak with.  As well as your Networking Card.

What’s that you say?  You don’t have a Networking Card to pass out?  You only have business cards from your last job.  You know, the one you were fired from?  Have no fear, Vistaprint is here!  They have a wide variety of Networking Cards, starting at only $7.99!

This Tuesday evening, I will be attending my first Networking Event.  I joined a great group called Network After Work, that sets up Networking Events all over the country.  To be honest, I have avoided these events in the past mainly because I felt that they would be full of nothing but Millennials.  However, since I knew I would be writing this article, I have signed up to attend this event.  Hopefully, it will lead to some good connections outside of LinkedIn.  I encourage you to check out Networking Events in your area.  You might meet someone, who knows someone, who is looking for somebody with your skills.  You never know!

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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