The Question Matters

Are You Willing to Work So That You Can Work to Live?


Texas Rangers (baseball)

It's Time.


I am the master of my schedule.  If an opportunity to spend some extra time with my family comes up, I will often take it.  If the Texas Rangers are playing (hopefully for a while longer) I’ll cut off work a little early to make sure I can catch the game on TV.  If I’m behind on paperwork at home, no big deal.  I’ll just get that done before I start with my work for the day.  Need a long lunch?  OK, I’m not on the clock.  I’ll take an extra 15 minutes and watch a favorite show on DVR.

My work is too often the master of my time.  If the iPhone is in my pocket, I’m always tempted to pick it up even at family activities.  If I’m watching that Texas Rangers game, it may be with my MacBook in my lap dong a little busy work that didn’t get done.  Did I take a longer lunch?  That probably means I’ll close up shop at 10 that night instead of 9:30.

The notion that we can work to live, not live to work is monumental mental shift.  It may be the biggest shift in workforce dynamics since the labor unions a century ago.  In that time, workers stood up for their rights to a decent wage, vacation time, respect in the workplace, and legal force they did not have alone.  Today, workers are standing up for their rights to choose the times they’ll work, how they do that work, and where they do that work.

James Townsend:

For those of us in Generation X and those in the Baby Boomer generation, we’ve been known to say we “live to work” and often connect our self-identification with our job/occupation.  For those in the Millennial generation, they “work to live” and value time with friends, family over time spent at work.  This generation is more likely to tell their boss when they plan to come to work and when they plan to leave, as there are important things to do outside of work – yoga, exercise, movies, etc…Balancing work and life is vitally important to this generation but not as much for the current generation of office managers and organizational leaders.  The challenge for the Millennial employee is understanding and respecting the structure of the organization

I want that balance in my work life, too.  As a business coach with a passion for younger entrepreneurs, I want them to achieve that balance.  And it must be achieved. It won’t happen by brute force or unreasonable demands.  If the under-30 workforce wants work/life balance, it will have to be earned, either by the slow but steady change of large organizations or by the re-invention of the workplace on your own terms, in your own business.

Either way will require a lot of work.


Achievers and Pragmatists about Aiming High

Dr. Guy Litton, professor at Texas Women’s University and their semi-official first year students’ supervisor, spent his valuable time with me recently.  Yesterday, I shared some thoughts around his observation that the current group of college students is achievement-driven, to the point of missing out on more meaningful pursuits.  In short, I think there are some connective threads between the achievement-driven approach Dr. Litton is observing in college and the short-sighted educational strategies we’re seeing in our educational system.  If you read the comment on Tuesday’s post, you know that at least one Millennial is seeing this same dynamic carry over into the job market.

In spite of our system’s limitations and our own imperfections, there are always standouts.  Dr. Litton shares two stories which I find uplifting:

This student overcame long odds

I had a student from a small town called Seymour, TX.  She competed for a NASA internship with hundreds of other students from much more competitive and prestigious schools.  Her goal was to become a high school science teacher.  She had the “gumption” or “pluck” to compete with phenomenally talented students from all over the country for one of only 20 spots.  I admire tremendously the guts she had in going after it and winning it.

Good thing this student wasn’t written off too soon

On the other hand, I had a student who was a first generation student (parents didn’t speak English) who was on probation after year one, but she had such a positive attitude, such curiosity about life and learning that she went on to graduate study at George Washington U, was a major worker for the Hillary Clinton campaign, and is now finishing her PhD in Public Policy.  I tease her now and then about how insecure she was.  Little did she know then that she had so much more than most of the peers she thought were superior students.

I’d like to hear from you: what other impressive stories have you seen or heard from our 20-somethings?

  • An accomplished businessperson
  • A polished and confident communicator
  • A master at their craft at an early age

We need more good stories out there.  It’s easier to point to negative trends and thereby paint an entire generation with assumptions and generalizations.

Dan Pink on Motivation

I came across this video on a blog feed early this week.  Dan’s focus is on the problems of a purely “carrot and stick” style of motivation and performance enhancement.  Science simply doesn’t bear that out. In fact, he says, the 21st century workplace has a lot to do with this misunderstanding. The digital age has automated and outsourced many of the simpler tasks of our workplace. Innovative companies desiring to keep pace with the speed of change must maximize creativity. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are far greater motivators.

In my opinion, these three are key elements for a Gen X and Gen Y workplace.  Here’s the video.  (If you’ve got $60 I can “borrow” for the video upgrade on WordPress, let me know.)

(If you’re in a hurry, watch from 3:00 to about 7:45. If you’ve got a few minutes, watch the 18 minute video.)

Are Generational Descriptions Nothing More than Labeling?

Posted in Career,Coaching,Generation X,Generation Y by treyfinley1008 on June 7, 2010
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Getting back on the blogging horse this week, having been bucked off by what was actually a very encouraging week in my coaching business world.  I’ll start nice and easy with this warning: caution should be used when applying generational descriptions.

Bucking Myths about Gen Y in the Workplace.  If you’re supervising someone under the age of 30, here’s a quick read on some common misconceptions about employees under the age of 30.  Gen X supervisors–this article is an invitation to pursue coaching skills.

The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same.  It’s a long read, but here’s a nugget from the middle that’s important to remember when you’re exasperated by someone under 30–chances are, someone said similar things about you when you were under 30.  Both this article and another by Neil Howe discuss whether Gen Y is less empathetic than other generations.  My two cents–the results of these studies don’t jive with my experiences with middle school, high school, and college students.

Labeling Can Do More Harm than Good. Here’s a cautionary post from a Gen Y writer about the dangers of trying to label an individual with a generation’s traits.  The author overstates his case, in my opinion. However, if someone had preconceived notions of who I am as a Gen X member (aloof, jaded, latch-key, etc.) and made decisions affecting my life based on those preconceived notions, I might respond in a similar way.  There’s a line between generational descriptions and labeling members of a generation.

Advocates for Millennial Workers Needed: Full-time Positions Available

Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Generation Y,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 28, 2010
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Troy Stirman, ACU

A final thank you to Troy Stirman, who has played the role of conversant this week.  I appreciate Troy’s generosity with his time and his advocacy for Millennials entering the workforce.  I hope to have an opportunity to collaborate with Troy again in the future.  Troy is a career coach at Abilene Christian University in the College of Business Administration.  He also remains a business owner and is a certified resume writer.

The final piece of the puzzle today is the person. We’ve reviewed the pressure-packed job market.  Troy described the prime directive of Millennials entering the workforce: work/life balance.  You read the story of one Millennial student’s entrepreneurial response to a job he neither enjoyed nor believed in.  Then, you read of the Millennial willingness to buck the odds of a tough marketplace and consider moving jobs anyway.

It’s easy to lose sight of the very human dilemma that is being a young and hungry businessperson in a job market with fewer openings and more experienced workers available who are also in the market for a job.  It’s a tough situation, and here are some of the responses that Troy is seeing to the uncertain job market:

Parental Pressure:  The well-intentioned parent who encourages their student to “just get any job you can” create the real possibility of stifling hope in a young businessperson.  In Troy’s words, they’re “setting them up for failure.”

Paralyzing Fear: “Fear is a major motivating factor with this group…I’ve had some students show up to a career fair–where hiring managers were eager to talk to them–only to watch the student-graduate talk themselves out of approaching those who would ultimately change their destiny.”

Blissful Ignorance:  “Those graduates who have unrealistic expectations about job offers without doing their homework have a pretty rosy picture of what might be available to them.  While they are eager to begin their careers, many have not spoken with their career services professional about what is reasonably expected in today’s environment.”

Realism: “There are those who have prepared who understand what is at stake prior to graduation and have put in their time both in the classroom and in the public sector through internships.  These students have a healthy view of the job environment and their search proces is better vetted through this knowledge.  They tend not to give up as easily and persevere when the rejection letters come.”

Those of us 5,10, 20 years or more ahead of the newest members of the workforce must become advocates for these young workers.

If you’ve read my blog once, you know one of my biases.  No matter the hand dealt your/my generation, we each have a responsibility to coach and encourage those who will follow us.  Failure to understand a different age group is an excuse many hide behind.  So take a young employee or business owner out for coffee, and ask them some of these coaching questions:

  1. What’s most important to you right now?
  2. If you could go to sleep tonight knowing something about business would be forever altered in the morning, what possible change is going to keep you awake that night?
  3. What can you teach me about the under-30 workforce?  What do I need to understand that I don’t yet?  What can I learn from you?
  4. What’s one thing that everyone is convinced can’t be changed, but you think it can/should be changed?
  5. Imagine a time when you’re living your business dream.  What’s had to happen between then and now to get you to that point?

Thanks again, Troy!

Millennials in the Office: Will They Stay or Will They Go?

Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Fun,Generation Y by treyfinley1008 on May 27, 2010
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You’re in human resources.  You’ve been told by your COO and your CFO that it’s your job to hire three employees for a bank branch where there were only two before.  And, while you’re at it, they’ll be expected to work under existing company policy manuals for that bank.  We just poured thousands of dollars into that thick book, after all.   Hire young, too.  That place could stand to look a little younger.  And did we mention that you’re going to have to hire three people using the same amount of money you were spending on only two before?

Posted on Linked In later that day…  “Dying bank branch needs rules followers willing to accept lower pay.  Business attire and long hours a must.  Benefits include medical insurance and 403(b) plan.  Apply by sending resume to

OK, it’s hyperbole, though some of you in HR may be thinking to yourself, “That was exactly what happened last Monday.”

Laugh it up, Fuzzball!

I start this way to point out some of the statistics about the turnover in jobs among Millennials.  When it comes to job-hunting, Millennials seem a bit like Han Solo, claiming, “Never tell me the odds.”  (That quote would be from The Empire Strikes Back, by the way, for all you non Gen Xers.)

According to the Labor Bureau’s study, 37% of Millennials are unemployed.  That employment rate is nearly four times the national rate for the workforce at large. Still, in spite of those odds, nearly 50% of all Millennials intend to look into other jobs in 2010.

    Why aren’t more Millennials enticed to stay put, especially given the realities of employment?  And, what can you the employer to do to steer them away from this stunning strategy of looking for work when 1 in 3 of their friends would be happy just to have a job?  Here’s Troy Stirman:

    Today’s graduates are not looking to work beyond 40 hours per week.  Too, they want an employer that shares their interest in community involvement… So-called “green” companies are high on their list when targeting organizations they wish to engage.  Traditional office settings are also being challenged by today’s generation of graduates.  Gen Y grads tend to look for flexible hours, some want to work from their home, and still others enjoy telecommuting from other locales.  With today’s mobile technology, these attitudes are fast becoming the norm…

    Today’s students resist professional dress.  No matter what feedback they gain from their interviews, most graduates don’t reflect the workforce of 10-15 years ago when it comes to proper business attire.  Flexibility is a given with this group…

    Childcare/health facilities.  Today’s graduates tend to leave children with daycare centers and work full-time for more of their career.  This generation is also more health conscious.  Companies who offer services such as in-house daycare facilities or who extend gym memberships as part of their benefits package will have leverage when luring quality candidates to their firm.”

    Tomorrow, I’ll share Troy’s thoughts on how Millennials are responding to the current job market–good and bad.  And I’ll throw in a couple of coaching points on the topic myself.

    Career Coach: Entrepreneurship Suits Millennials Well

    Posted in Career,Entrepreneurs,Generation Y,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 26, 2010
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    Troy Stirman, college career coach and certified resume writer tells this story about one of his recent graduates:

    There is a young man who graduated last December [2009] who was hired 10-12 weeks following his graduation by a sales firm in the Dallas area.  He didn’t particularly want to work in Sales, but school loans were coming due.  He quickly became disillusioned by the company’s environment.

    Notice a couple of things here.  First, it was nearly three months from the time of his graduation to an actual hiring.  Second, notice that this graduate took a job in a field he wasn’t particularly interested in.  He took a job because he had to, not because he wanted to.  Finally, notice that he quickly became disillusioned not by the money, the commute, or the benefits.  He became disillusioned by the company’s environment.  Back to the story:

    Rather than resign to a defeatist attitude he started exploring entrepreneurial ideas.  Today, he is launching his own recycling business within upscale neighborhoods.  He provides a curbside pickup for each and every resident.  He is confident that this work matches his career goals of owning his own business and doing something positive for the environment.  As a result, his attitude and outlook have shifted dramatically since exploring this opportunity.

    I love this: his entrepreneurial idea has social ramifications.  He’s a social entrepreneur. His business promotes social responsibility, and in so doing, he’s matching his career goals of owning his own business and doing something environmentally sound.  Now, don’t skip over the change in his attitude and outlook.  This is a really important point for understanding Millennials.  They want alignment between how they earn money and what they believe and value.  And as was pointed out in the first quote, they won’t stick around long if they sense that their work and their values don’t and likely won’t match up.  Here are Troy’s thoughts on this:

    Many of today’s students have visions of starting their own business. They are not as likely to simply seek out corporate giants that align with their major. They are more likely to fully investigate starting their own business that aligns with their personal goals.

    There’s a lot being written on retention among Millennials.  Suggestions for workplace amendments that will attract them, complaints that they seem to lack loyalty to a company.  Let’s be clear.  Millennials are still young.  The oldest among them are still 30 or under.  Many of them are just now attending or graduating from college.  They’ve got some growing up to do; so did I when I was in my 20s.

    They’ve got some great ideas, and tomorrow I’ll hit on a few of Troy’s suggestions for workplace environment that will attract and potentially retain Millennials.


    Millennials: A New American Dream or Just Dreamers?

    Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Entrepreneurs,Generation Y by treyfinley1008 on May 25, 2010
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    Millennials openly tell employers about their new American Dream. Work will not be their life, they only work to live because they seek a work/life balance. They want flexible benefits (such as telecommuting) and a work environment that feels like home away from home. They are willing to leave a company when they aren’t offered these things.

    via Gen Y has new ‘American Dream’.

    Troy Stirman:  By far the most oft quoted phrase in my office is: “I’m looking for work/life balance…”  Today’s graduates are not looking to work beyond 40 hours per week.

    OK, so this sounds great.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness needs to be possible in the workplace, too.  That’s the kind of job I would want.  In a corporate environment, it’s another story.  Some careers simply won’t lend themselves to this.  In other work environments, these ideas are so foreign to your Boomer supervisors and executives that to suddenly expect them is unrealistic.  Again, here’s Troy:

    …Hiring managers that I follow up with during the post-interview tell me consistently that today’s students sometimes have unrealistic expectations in this area.  The Accounting/Finance sector is one of these that will strongly resist these changes. It is not part of their mainstream culture.  Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations and I.T./I.S are more apt to engage in these types of work environments.

    So, is this a Dream or simply wishful thinking?  As the coach, here’s some of the questions I would ask:

    1)  What sacrifices are you willing to make in order to create this kind of workplace?

    2)  What are you doing to build bridges with those who can help you create this sort of workplace?

    3)  If it’s not in your blood to take your time to change a corporation’s culture, are you willing to take the higher stakes road of entrepreneurship?

    A story about someone who answered “yes” to #3 coming next.

    Troy Stirman, Career Coach

    Posted in Career,Change,Coaching,Generation Y,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 24, 2010
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    I met Troy Stirman recently at an Abilene Christian University alumni luncheon in north Dallas. I enjoy observing and commenting on the challenges Millennials face as they enter the workplace.  Troy lives in those challenges, coaching college graduates to prepare, enter, and thrive in the early years of their career. I’ll be posting snippets of an email interview I conducted with Troy throughout the week.  Here’s a taste of his perspective on this season in our economy’s workplace:

    For the first time in nearly 20 years, America is experiencing an explosive growth rate of new undergraduates entering the marketplace while at the same time enduring a struggling economy that has seen a sustained 10% unemployment rate. Today’s undergraduates are vying for entry-level positions alongside both educated and experienced candidates who may have experienced a layoff.  This puts tremendous pressure on today’s undergraduate students.

    If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that I think my generation–Gen X–can be for Gen Y what we wish Boomers had been for us in our careers.  n that vein, I hope that these interviews with Troy will be helpful to Millennials who are looking for a job or to those who know a Millennial who is.  More about Troy:

    Troy is a businessman with 20+ years of career experience that includes marketing/sales, professional development/fundraising, professional writing and business coaching.  He currently holds the Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) credential.  In addition to being the career coach for 900+ business and technology undergraduates for Abilene Christian University’s College of Business Administration, he is also a small business owner who assists clients from around the world with their professional writing needs.  His website is:

    Coaches Become an Expert in the Person

    Posted in Career,Coaching,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on May 18, 2010

    I found a new name for myself this week:  I’m a job process coach.  I find this to be a helpful distinction in describing the work I do.  A job process coach gives the new exec an opportunity to dramatically accelerate the relational learning curve, a must in any executive’s work.  Here’s an excerpt from an article on the subject:

    There are various ways to categorize executive coaches. A simple way to do that is to distinguish between a job content coach and a job process coach.

    A job content coach helps a newly-promoted executive to master the job to which he or she has been assigned. Job content coaches are usually people who have successfully held the same or similar job for which they are providing coaching…

    A job process coach, on the other hand, helps a newly-promoted executive address interpersonal relationships. A common problem in some organizations is that a technically-proficient individual is promoted into management. He or she is exceptionally gifted in the technical side of whatever work they do — such as MIS, engineering, research, or some other technical specialty — but the individual is not particularly good in dealing with people. Perhaps he or she is weak on EQ (emotional intelligence). In a bid to help the individual, the organization commits to give him or her a job process coach to help him or her deal with interpersonal relations (processes).

    Simply put: my job is to become an expert in the person, even and especially when I’m not an expert in their field.

    via The Role of Executive Coaching in Talent Management and Succession Planning.

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