Career Change Resources

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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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.

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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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…

Best Cities for Entrepreneurs

August 4th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Is your city startup-friendly? If not, maybe it’s time to think about moving to Vegas, Portland, or Chapel Hill.

The new Entrepreneur magazine has a great article on the ten best cities in the US for small business right now. Best of all, for each city, there’s a  success story to provide a little inspiration. If The Cupcakery (Las Vegas) and the Redi Pedi Cab Company (Orlando) can thrive in this economy, your business can too.

The cities highlighted offer opportunities for different reasons — like  low real estate costs in Vegas;  a culture of collaboration in Portland, Oregon; generous loan and grant programs in Phoenix; and fantastic incubators in Madison, Wisconsin and Youngstown, Ohio.

I’m not too surprised that my hometown of New York City didn’t make the list of startup-friendly towns. It’s true that the costs of living  and operating a business are higher here in NYC than in many other cities (if you can make it here…). However, there are also great opportunities for small businesses  in New York City. In fact, the New York City government recently started offering free business boot camps for new entrepreneurs (FastTrac New Venture) and for established  small business owners looking for support to sustain and grow their companies (FastTrac Growth Venture). Learn more about these free programs and how to sign up.

Right Brain Help Wanted — Left Brains Need Not Apply

July 15th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

left-brain-right-brainMarco della Cava at USA Today wrote a great article about how to retrain your brain to succeed in the new economy. He makes the argument that right brain thinking (big picture, creative) is more valuable than left brain thinking (linear, logical) in new economy careers.

This is one of my areas of focus right now — helping job hunters and career changers become more entrepreneurial and creative (both of these qualities rely heavily on the right brain). Marco quoted me in the article, along with A Whole New Mind guru Daniel Pink and several career changers who recently made the leap from left-brain careers to right-brain careers. He also wrote an interesting  related article about how to train kids for a “right brain future.”

Obviously, no one is purely “right brain” or “left brain.” We all need both sides of that wrinkly grey organ in order to thrive. For entrepreneurs, that is particularly true. We rely on our right brain for vision, innovation, and big-picture synthesizing and strategy. At the same time, we must tap into that left brain for managing our employees, keeping our finances in order, and staying on top of our task lists. We have to be able to switch back and forth between our left-brain and right-brain personalities (or hire/partner with people who have the skills that we lack).

Right now, I’m working on developing seven new training programs for three different clients in three different but related topic areas (this is why my blog posts are kind of few and far-between these days). This has required frequent right brain/left brain switching — from researching to big-picture strategy to organizing to writing to PowerPoint formatting, etc.

The right-brain stuff always comes pretty naturally for me. I have had to train myself in the ways of left-brain thinking — and it can be learned. Twelve years in Corporate America certainly helped with my left-brain development. But ultimately, I had to escape from Corporate America because all left-brain and no right-brain made me a very dull (and unhappy) girl.

Some people say that you can’t learn right-brain thinking, but I strongly disagree. I have led many creativity workshops and watched left-brainers learn to tap into their inner creative genius. For those in career transition, I highly recommend starting a right-brain workout plan. It may very well help you find and/or qualify for a more rewarding career path in the new economy.

Hypnotize with Your Words — Learn Persuasive Writing Skills

July 2nd, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Learning how to write to persuade can really pay off in the business world. Your writing can sell a product or service, score you a job interview, justify a promotion or raise, establish credibility with a client or boss, motivate a difficult employee, or win support for your cause.

In the current hyper-competitive business environment, persuasive writing skills are more valuable than ever before. That’s why I worked with the American Management Association (AMA) to develop a live 90-minute webinar that teaches the 12 proven techniques for writing persuasively.

The webinar will take place on August 6th from 1-2:30 pm and we have worked hard to pack it with valuable information and exercises that will help anyone be more effective at work — even if writing isn’t a major part of your job. In fact, persuasive writing is an essential skill for managers (write convincing emails and performance reviews), entrepreneurs (write winning proposals and pitches), and career changers and job hunters (write brilliant resumes and cover letters).

Sign up now if you’re interested in learning how to convince, inspire, and influence with your writing. The email just went out the the AMA database and spots are filling up, so I wanted to give everybody here a heads-up now. Learn more about the course.

NYC Start-Up Event

June 22nd, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

The New York Post is hosting a great event for entrepreneurs and future entrepreneurs this Wednesday. 

NYC Start-Up is a full day of seminars, panels, and presentations by small business experts –  including venture capitalists, successful entrepreneurs, technology and finance experts, and New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development.

Learn what you need to do to start up successfully in this economic environment. Attendees will also have the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to venture capital experts and network with speakers and fellow business owners.

Admission is $95, but you can score a 20% discount if you enter the code MUL624 when you register.

Raise a Toast with Pink Slip Lemonade

June 3rd, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings


Today marks the one-year anniversary of my book launch party for Escape from Corporate America.  I would have totally missed marking the occasion if the lovely Sherrill St. Germain hadn’t reminded me.

Sherrill was my go-to financial planning expert for Escape and she wrote a lovely post about the party and the book today on her great new blog, The Career Change Financial Planner.  She brought back some fond memories of a fabulous party (mojitos, Soho House, and lots of fun people) and an amazing year of media appearances, speaking gigs around the country, and lots of other cool new experiences. Thanks to everyone who has supported me during the ride. You’re all on the invite list for the next party.

Sherrill has also used her blog to designate June as Pink Slip Lemonade month. Check out her post about turning layoff lemons into pink slip lemonade. Sherrill sure has a way with words for a finance geek, doesn’t she? : )

Now I’m off to try to complete my monstrous to-do list before I jet off to Vegas for a week.  It’s a work-related trip that will hopefully include some time for fun too.  I promise to come back with lots of good stories. It will be my first vacation in a while (okay, it’s a working vacation, but still…) and I’m ready to kick back by the pool and maybe eat some faux French food at the faux Eiffel Tower.

Here’s to a year of celebrating Escape from Corporate America and more than five years of celebrating my actual escape from Corporate America (about a year before I wrote this post and started this blog)! Tonight, I’ll raise a toast of pink slip lemonade with Absolut Citron to celebrate.

7 Critical Web Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

May 29th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Free Webinar Alert

This new webinar for the American Management Association will teach you how to write more effectively for the web. We presented it live last week to thousands of participants and got a very positive response.

Now you can download and listen to 7 Critical Web Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them for free at your convenience.

The AMA also has lots of other great free webinars on topics including leadership skills, emotional intelligence, networking, and negotiation.

The 7 Critical Web Writing Mistakes webinar is a great introduction to the best practices of writing online content.

I have also worked with the AMA to develop a two-day course on the topic for those who really want to build this valuable skill with structured exercises and feedback.  The classes will take place in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Arlington. You can save $100 if you register by June 12th.