Do You Have the Right to Moonlight?

October 16th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings


Image by c@rljones via Flickr

That may sound like a silly question — especially if you need a second (or third) job to pay your bills. However, many companies reserve the right to control whether their employees can earn extra income after hours.

Workforce Management presents the employer’s side of the debate — starting off with the fact that companies are legally entitled to fire workers if second jobs affect their ability to be “present, prompt, and prepared” at their primary jobs.

I strongly believe that you have the right to a life (and even revenue streams) beyond your cubicle. But I don’t dispute most of the points in the article.  In my book, I recommend a strategy of “ethical moonlighting.”  This means ensuring that your second job (or side business)  never prevents you from doing your day job well — and never puts you at risk of violating your employment contract (including non-compete clauses).

But today’s typical day job is incredibly demanding. For most people I know, the demand to be “present, prompt, and prepared” for work doesn’t end at 5:00 pm. Does an employer have the right to require you to be fully devoted 24/7 — especially if they’re not paying you enough to live comfortably?

No way. You have a right to time of your own to pursue your passions outside of work. Many corporate escapees have used the “ethical moonlighting” strategy to get new businesses or careers off the ground before they quit their day jobs.

As long as you’re not cheating your employer out of an honest day’s work (or conducting shady business like stealing clients or consulting for competitors), you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. After all, guilt won’t stop your employer from laying people off to reduce expenses and ensure the company’s future. You have to be looking out for your future too.

The trickiest part is figuring out where to draw the line between doing your day job well enough and sacrificing your entire life to make your bosses happy. Then again, I suppose that’s a challenge for pretty much everybody that works for someone else — whether you’re a moonlighter or not.

The Workforce Management article provides a petty good summation of Human Resources perspectives  on moonlighting. If you’re going to moonlight, it’s good to know what your corporate overlords might be watching for so you can avoid HR hassles and keep your job until you’re ready to leave it.

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Career Advice from The Rachel Zoe Project

October 13th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

taylorrachelzoeshowOkay, so I have been known to watch The Rachel Zoe Project. Don’t judge me. I can’t really tell you why I find it fascinating as I am pretty much a fashion idiot and most of the “characters” on the show are really annoying.

Maybe it’s because the show has proven to be a fount of fabulous and cutting-edge career advice in action.

For example, let’s look at Taylor’s genius strategy for getting promoted from her role as Rachel’s assistant to become the head of “branding” for Rachel Zoe Inc. (I’m not convinced Taylor knows exactly what branding means, but the girl had a goal and she went for it).

Here’s Tay-Tay’s  step-by-step process that is sure to help you score a promotion too:

1) Get a job working for a boss who has her own reality show.

2) Complain constantly about how hard you’re working and how mistreated you are (you are ABOVE unpacking boxes, damnit).

3) Belittle your boss and her clients (you are ABOVE photo shoots and fashion shows, damnit).

4) When summoned to a company meeting, refuse to remove your sunglasses and smirk and giggle when the new CEO speaks (you are above your boss’ husband and his weird haircut, damnit).

5) Accept promotion!

You see how easy that was? Ba-na-nas.

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Free NYC Seminar and New NYU Course

October 2nd, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Washington Square Arch

Image via Wikipedia

I am excited to be speaking at a FREE career transition workshop this coming Monday evening at Pace University in New York City. If you’re in the NYC area, come on out for some free career advice and networking.

The event was organized by my pal Barry Miller, who manages the career programs at Pace University, but you don’t have to be a Pace student or alumni to attend.  I’d love to see you there. More information about the FREE Escape from Corporate America career transition workshop at Pace  University. Contact me at ps @ for an official invite!

I am also delighted to announce that I am now an adjunct faculty member at New York University, my undergrad alma mater.  I am looking forward to teaching multiple courses over the next year.

The first one is Coaching Clients through Professional and Personal Transition in the Department of Leadership and Human Capital Management. It’s a valuable course for both Human Resources professionals and coaches — especially in today’s job market.

You can still sign up to join us. The course applies to the New York University Certificate in Coaching. If you’d like more information about the course or the coaching program at NYU, let me know! I completed my career coaching certificate at NYU back in 2007 and found it to be a top-notch program.

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Career Advice from Walt Disney

September 21st, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Mickey Mouse
Image by J.E.S. via Flickr

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”

– Walt Disney

The young Walt Disney’s first business went bankrupt, but he didn’t give up on his dreams.

After returning to Kansas City after a stint as an ambulance driver during World War 1, Disney worked as a draftsman and inker in commercial art studios before starting his own small studio with a partner. The two made short advertising films for local businesses with a second-hand camera while working on their animation passion projects on the side.

Unfortunately, the company ran out of money after  a deal with a New York film distributor went sour and Walt was forced to declare bankruptcy  in 1923.

Despite this blow to the ego, Walt packed up his latest unfinished animation project and moved to California to mooch $250 from his brother Roy and set up shop with him in their uncle’s garage. Soon they were generating some  cash flow from producing short animated featurettes for Hollywood.

In 1928, Walt came up with the idea for Mickey Mouse. Mickey’s first film appearance in Steamboat Willie (1928) was a sensation. However, due to the costs of producing animated films, the business was “continuously in peril” for years.

Eventually, the money started rolling in. However, Disney went on to risk it all several times over the course of his career. He credited his early failure with giving him the strength to take big risks, which paid off in big rewards over the course of Disney’s very big career.

So if you have big talent and a big dream, but have been kicked in the teeth by the current economy, remember Disney’s advice. That kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you and if you can dream it, you can do it.

Read more about the life and career of Walt Disney.

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Out to Work Job Fair

September 14th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

outtoworklogoAttention gay job seekers.  Attend the largest LGBT job fair in the Northeast in New York City this Thursday.

Admission is free and dozens of world-class and LGBT-friendly employers will be in the house.

Learn more about the Out to Work Job Fair and register to attend.

Volunteer Your Genius — September 11 and Mozilla Service Week

September 10th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

IMG_3038.jpg [I dare you..!]

Image by s2art via Flickr

I am a big believer in the power of pro bono work — donating your greatest talents to a worthy cause can change lives for the better. And the life you change could be your own.

Nonprofit organizations need experienced professionals like you to change the world. And through my work with the amazing Taproot Foundation, I have seen and experienced how pro bono work can also transform volunteers. They develop new skills, expand their resumes, build confidence, discover new meaning in their lives, and connect with lifelong friends and mentors.

I have blogged about this subject before. But right now you have two upcoming opportunities to join organized volunteer movements and discover the joys of pro bono for yourself:

1) September 11 National Day of Service and RemembranceSeptember 11th was recently designated as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks by volunteering or performing a good deed for others on September 11, 2009.  Find volunteer projects and support this cause.

2) Mozilla Service Week — The company behind your favorite Web browser has partnered with to organize a week of service September 14-21, 2009. Mozilla’s goal is to help find ways to use technology to make a difference in your neighborhood and around the world. You don’t have to be a techie to participate. You’ll also  find volunteer opportunities in design, marketing,  training, and other disciplines.  Find a volunteer opportunity during Mozilla Service Week.

I hope you will lend some time, talent, and brainpower for a good cause this September. The world needs your unique contribution. And if you’re feeling frustrated and burned out in Corporate America, a day of pro bono can be just what you need to start feeling empowered and engaged again.

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Labor Day Success Inventory — The Fruits of Your Labors

September 5th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

beachlabordayHappy Labor Day weekend! Labor Day was established in 1882 by the American labor movement as a yearly tribute to the contributions of workers.

Today, I also encourage my career coaching clients and students to think of Labor Day as a day to celebrate the joys of meaningful work (between cold beers and volleyball games). That means pausing to pat yourself on the back for the good work that you’ve done this year and give thanks for the opportunities that you’ve been given.

For those in transition or marking time in a frustrating job, it might also mean taking a step back to re-evaluate your long-term career strategy. Remember: You are not trapped. Even in this job market, there are opportunities. You may have to invest a bit more time and creativity to achieve your goals in a challenging economic environment. But that makes the achievement all the sweeter.

Whether you’re happily employed in your dream job or struggling to find a new path, I have a Labor Day exercise that will help you take stock of where you are and spark  some ideas for the next chapter of your career.

It only takes a few minutes and can totally change your perspective on labor. For best results, complete the exercise while relaxing on the beach, in the park, or in the backyard (with cold beer, iced tea, or frozen margarita close at hand).

The Exercise: 2009 Labor Day Success Inventory

The goal of the Success Inventory is to look back at your greatest successes in life so far. The easiest way to approach this is to divide your life into 3 or 4 segments — for example: birth to age 12, 12-24, and 24-46. For each stretch of time, list your most memorable accomplishments.

Think about school and job milestones, but also look beyond graduations, promotions, and awards. Think about learning to ride a bike, organizing a charity fundraiser, running your first 10K, knitting your first sweater.

What achievements are you most proud of? Which were the most fun? Which had you forgotten about until prompted by this exercise?

What’s the Point?

Come on, get out your notebook or open up a fresh file in Microsoft Word and start cataloging your shining moments so far. The results may surprise you.

My clients always tell me that they walk away from this exercise with renewed confidence and feelings of empowerment. During tough times, we often forget about all of the amazing things we’ve accomplished in the past and all of the challenges that we’ve already overcome.

This exercise can also help you spot some trends and patterns that merit further exploration. Why is it that all of the best moments in your life involved music? Isn’t it interesting that your biggest triumphs revolved around public speaking?

Does your current career give you opportunities to leverage your greatest talents? If not, how can you change that?

On Labor Day weekend, take some time to celebrate the fruits of your labors so far and think about what you want to achieve in the future. What will your legacy be? What do you want to celebrate next Labor Day?

I’ll leave you with a quote:

“Genius may conceive, but patient labor must consummate.”

– Horace Mann, American educator

Here’s to another year of genius and patient (and fulfilling) labor.

P.S. If you’re in New York City, check out these other ideas for fun things to do over Labor Day weekend. After you’ve inventoried your successes, you’ll be ready to celebrate.

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Do Temps and Consultants Have “Mental Health Issues”?

August 14th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

ryanthetemptheofficeAccording a new study, workers hired for temporary or contract work face a higher risk of developing mental health problems such as depression.

The study was authored by Amelie Quesnel-Valleehe,  a medical sociologist at Montreal-based McGill Unviersity. The research, quoted in the excellent Workforce Management, raises some interesting issues.

However, I bristled a bit at quotes from Quesnel-Vallee that seem to caution employers against hiring these “unstable” temporary workers.

According to Quesnel-Vallee, “Employers need to be mindful of the fact that obviously they have economic imperatives and there is temptation to go with a more flexible workforce, but the bottom line is that it may not be as obvious as they might predict.” Read her other quotes about the productivity risks of hiring contract and temporary workers.

These quotes annoy me for a few reasons. First, consultants and freelancers face enough challenges without having to overcome employer stereotypes that they are more vulnerable to mental health problems.

Second, this study is based on records collected between 1992 and 2002 and focuses on workers who “don’t expect to be with their current jobs for more than one year.”

The options for free agents were much more limited before 2002. And those who are free agents by choice would be unlikely to use the phrase quoted above. If you’re a contractor by choice, you probably consider your job to be working for yourself. Even if your current assignment is unlikely to last more than a year, your “job” as a contractor will continue.

For me, leaving a steady 9-to5 gig to work for myself has improved my mental health dramatically. I no longer feel depressed on a regular basis. The joys of freedom, flexibility, and control over my own destiny more than compensate for the stresses. I know many others who feel the same way. read more…

Daring Tales of Corporate Escape — Sherry Ott, World Traveler

August 10th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

sheryottboatHave you ever dreamed about ditching the daily grind to start a new life on the other side of the planet? Sherry Ott was living the Sex in the City lifestyle as an IT executive in New York, but gave it all up to travel the globe and pursue her passions.

Sherry took a career break to re-evaluate her life and see the world. Today, three years later, she’s a teacher, photographer, and writer based in Vietnam. She’s also a blogger who  started a website to help other corporate casualties plan career breaks to recharge their batteries and/or explore new directions.

If you’re a nomad at heart or just feeling stuck in a rut, Sherry’s story might just inspire you to start packing your bags.

1) Tell us a little bit about your corporate career path.
I worked in IT Management positions for 14 years.  It was a career that I kind of  fell into thanks to timing and a few good breaks.  I studied accounting and business (MBA), then took an accounting job when I graduated in 1992 (yes, I’m old) .  Thanks to timing, I ended up doing computer training work since I was the only person at my company who had any familiarity with PC’s, networks, and Windows 3.1 (remember – it was 1992).  Hence, my IT career was launched.

I moved from job to job, state to state; always climbing the corporate ladder.  More responsibility, better titles, more money…more headaches.  Soon I was a in a senior leadership position at a large international retailer in New York City, running a department of project managers, analysts, and developers.  Everything a fashionista career girl would ever want — right?  I had the Sex in the City lifestyle; career, social life, free samples, money, a great apartment, and no one to think about but myself.

2) What made you decide to change careers?
As my career responsibilities grew, so did my stress and unhappiness.  I looked back at my career and wondered “How did I end up here? “   I enjoyed using technology, but I didn’t LOVE bits and bytes.  At the same time, the IT world was changing so fast that I never felt I could keep up with it, which left me feeling completely insecure in my own abilities.  No one wants to go to work in a high-powered job feeling insecure — it’s a recipe for disaster.

Looking back, I realize that I  was investing all of my emotions and time in my job because I really had no where else to put it.  It’s not that I ever wanted to be married or have kids.  However, like many single people, I developed a disproportionate attachment to my job as I didn’t have any other place to put my passion.  The problem is that a job never loves you back — it’s an unhealthy relationship.

So I was 36 years old, living a life most people would want, and I was completely burned out.  The stress was no longer worth the salary. read more…

Mad Men Casting Call — Vote for Tarek

August 8th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings


The new season of Mad Men starts on August 16th. If you haven’t yet discovered this addictive show set at a New York ad agency in the early 1960’s, set your TiVo for the new season and I promise that you won’t be sorry. Mad Men has everything — intriguing storylines, fascinating characters, great acting, and incredible 1960’s sets and wardrobe.

My fellow corporate escapees will also enjoy the peek at 1960’s office politics. Although much has changed about corporate life , there’s still plenty to relate to.

Of course, the players are much better looking than your average cubicle mate and their secrets are much juicier. And they all enjoy cocktails and cigarettes with every meeting. I’m sure that made the workday fly by more quickly.

Anyway, to celebrate the new Mad Men season, Banana Republic is sponsoring a pretty cool contest. The grand prize is a walk-on role in an episode of Mad Men. My brother’s pal Tarek posed for the stylish shot above for his entry. If he’s one of the top online vote getters, he may be chosen to enjoy 15 minutes of Mad Men fame.

So go vote for Tarek.  If he wins, he’ll report back with lots of juicy details from the set. I’m putting together a list of questions for Jon Hamm (Don Draper) and John Slattery (silver fox Roger Sterling) in anticipation of Tarek becoming best buds with them (post your questions and I’ll add them to the list). Plus you have to admit that T looks pretty awesome in the photo and would fit right in at Sterling Cooper.

So go on, click over and vote for Tarek to live out his dream of becoming a Mad Man. You can vote once a day through August 11, 2009.

By the way, you can still enter the contest yourself. Just pose for a photo that shows off your “mad” man or woman style and upload it to be judged by the masses. If you enter, post a comment here with a link and your campaign promises and I promise to throw a vote your way.