Saturday, January 31, 2015

Making Decisions With Confidence - When Deciding to Stay Home or Work

The Stay At Home Mom Vs Working Mom decision is a probably one of the most internal struggles women go through because it typically involves issues like these:

Uncertainty - You honestly don’t know how you are going to feel until after the baby comes.
Complexity - It depends on the situation...each mother has different family dynamics, different needs, different jobs, different backgrounds and different children.   
High Risk - the impact of the decision may be significant. 
Alternatives - Each has its own pros and cons. 
Interpersonal - Difficult to predict how other people will react.

A lot of people wonder how some mothers adjust perfectly to the transition of quitting their job and staying home and/or staying home but go back to work and be extremely happy with their choice, what's it like and whether they could do it too.  

Well I can tell them because I've done it.  I've reflected on this for some time and noticed two things.

First, I feel that many women postpartum rely too much on luck, timing, or instinct to make a decision, on top of being sleep deprived and overwhelmed with the well-meaning but unsolicited advice on motherhood.  Second, women on both sides that are unhappy with their decisions more often than not, try more vigorously to defend them than those who are happy with their choices and just move on with their lives.  

When it comes to something as serious as working or stay home, you need to be objective, not emotional.  You need a systematic approach to decisions so that no matter what type of decision you have to make, you can make decisions with confidence…and never feel guilty as an end result.  

The best way to make a big decision, as I discovered is to use an effective and systematic process, known as Critical Thinking.   

There are three Steps to Critical Thinking: (1) understanding the issue, (2) analyze the problem, and (3) explore options/alternatives.  

If you don't do the first two steps effectively, you cannot do the third step.  Let's take a look at each one in more detail.  

1.  Really Understanding The Issue  
Very often, you look at something on the surface and think “Well this is obviously the problem, it’s what we got to solve, very simple – problem solved”  But when you dig deep into it, you realize the problem you’re actually dealing with isn’t the problem at all.  Get to the bottom of it and understand the problem it is you are trying to solve.  

2.  Analyze The Problem 
Making sure you understand the facts and numbers in front of you.  This step is crucial.  
You can’t make a good decision about staying home or going back to work unless you’ve really done your homework, you have the facts and data, and you’ve had that rigorous analysis performed.  

In the spirit of staying home vs working, I want to stress that it is very important to discern facts from logical fallacies—statements designed to manipulate a reader by appealing to emotions rather than intellect.  There are many logical fallacies in both sides of the Mommy Wars but I won’t list them here.  Use facts – not logical fallicies as basis for your decision. 

Staying home vs Working more often than not involves a cost benefit analysis to determine important things like (1) will you continue to grow savings and (2) is it worth your time and resources as a result of choosing one or the other.  

You can include intangible items to the analysis but please consider that including intangible items and estimating a value for these items within the analysis brings more subjectivity into the decision making process, and as I said earlier, the decision must be an objective one in order to make the decision with confidence.

This is purely subjective, don't add this to your analysis.
There is plenty of market research from Procter & Gamble
that American women clean 4 hours a week instead of 14.  

Here's one example in how to be objective in a cost benefit analysis of staying home vs working: 
The take-home pay on one income needs to be smaller than you think.  If with an employer matching 401k, the breadwinner should increase retirement contributions by 10% because women outlive their men and need something to live off, the 50% of his SSN benefits isn't just going to cut it.  The breadwinner also needs to bump up the life insurance premiums to cover expenses without problems for at least a year in the event the breadwinner dies.  Depending on the employer, health insurance premiums are more expensive when you add a second child and beyond.  This results in the take-home pay being smaller and needs to be considered if you're serious in going off on one income - you do need to mitigate the risk by budgeting for these things rather than just hope for the best.    

3. Explore The Options
The truth is that rarely, there are immediate answers to a problem.  There are always several, and it’s really about exploring all those options and making sure you made the right decision in the end.  

Explore all options

There isn’t a one-size fits all solution when it comes to staying home or going back to work…there are multiple solutions and it’s very important to explore those in depth. 

Repeat this 20 times

In terms of making the decision around the best approach, you ask questions such as

“How important is ____ to me/us?” 

“What are some things we truly could not live without?”

“How sustainable is this option for our family if we continue this approach?”

“What are my options in the future if I choose X or Y?”

In conclusion, these were the steps I took when I approached the decision of quitting my previous job to stay home and again a few months later when approached with the decision of returning to work or continuing to stay home.  

After reviewing all aspects of the situation and giving careful, thoughtful consideration, I made my decision.  Both times, it turned out to be a really great decision for the situation at hand and it resulted in broader opportunities and certainly less stress for the family.  Everyone came out happy in the end.  

Now go and make your decision and respect the decisions of others. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

MBA Doubts

Earlier this week a co-worker asked me if I had plans to do an MBA.  I replied with 

"No, I have looked into it and decided not to go"

Had he asked me when I had been working 1-2 years worth I would have said yes and not give much thought other than how to get in an MBA program, irrelevant of cost.

The longer I've worked though, I start thinking less of how to get in and more of whether an MBA does have a real impact in people's careers, especially since it is a lot of money now to get one.  

I now conclude that having an MBA doesn't have much impact in careers other than hardcore finance -- and those jobs require a lot of sacrifice away from family and personal pursuits.  If you value your time to what you get paid, the "high salary" may be the equivalent of an entry level job working 40-45 hours a week.  

If nothing else, prospective MBA students need to know that if they are not careful, an MBA can turn out to be a big and very expensive mistake and close a lot of doors rather than open doors. 

How can an MBA possibly close doors and be an expensive mistake????

Hear me out and let me explain so that you can make an informed decision before devoting all your spare time to GMAT, taking out student loans, and depart from the path of Finding the Job You Love.   


It is easier to find a new job when you are still working.  If people tell you otherwise they are lying.  This is because real world experience holds more weight instead of isolation from the market for two years.   

If going back to school is solely because you hate your current job, and think an MBA will facilitate your career switch or make the magical leap to a manager job that pays well, the first step is to 


If it's not the right fit, keep looking for the job you want, take the Clifton StrengthsFinder to find work that meshes with your strengths, and trust me in due time, you will find the job that works for you.   The only way to find that is by focusing your time in working at different places in different roles picking out things you like and discovering things you may be good at.  

People forget that sometimes, it's really about taking a job that is not your ideal job but it puts you in the door for the one you want in that company or a better company.  

If you have the scarce skills that an employer needs, they will hire you over the top MBA that doesn't have the skills.  In fact, if your skills and potential are just that amazing, other employers will come out in an attempt to poach you with a compensation package to make you dance with the consideration of leaving the company you are already happy working at!! 

If you come from a non-business background in an attempt of doing a "career-switch" you are going to have a harder time finding a business/finance job post-grad than the rest of your peers that came to MBA programs with finance experience - always.   So really think long and hard if you are an artist and want to take out student loans for an MBA. 

Prospective MBAs need to add the two years of lost pay, benefits and work experience to the overall program cost.  That will be how much you will pay upfront, and you can't guarantee what an employer will offer you post graduation after 2 years...a lot can happen between then.  The only thing that is guaranteed after graduation is paying off your student loans.

In addition, prospective MBAs need to be wary that the salary reports posted by business schools are SELF REPORTED.  Meaning that if you graduated and didn't get a job or working in a job that pays less, you are just not going to tell the Career Office how much you are really making.  So the averages are truly lower.

Salaries will increase anyway by staying in the workforce.  Prospective MBAs need to know that if they stay working AND change industries/companies with similar job functions, you can expect higher salary increases enough for you to contemplate making the switch.  Usually it's about 25%-35% more than previous pay.  Internal promotions are around 10%-15%

With the rise of part-time, executive and online MBA programs, full-time MBAs are competing with more MBA students than before upon graduating for the same number of jobs along with competing with non-MBAers with the 5-7 years of work experience. 

MBA holders need to go in their interviews realizing that if their hiring managers do not have MBAs, or even undergrad degrees, those managers will not or cannot differentiate the "value" between these MBAs.  The only thing that they can see and relate to is relevant work experience, the skills, and aptitude to do the job.  Heck some job applications don't even ask what type of MBA you got!  

Depending on the employer, and responsibilities of the job, an MBA may be viewed as "over-qualified" or "high-risk" and therefore not requested for interviews.  It may be difficult even getting an entry-level job after not working two years! 

The MBA does not and will not teach you how to be a manager or leader or give licensure to be one.  The MBA teaches business functions and that's it.  Many people go into MBA thinking they want to be a manager simply because it seems better and pays better.  

Managing others and leadership are things have to be experienced, tried and earned over time in a job that requires managing others.  It's more of a craft/art than a science.  

Some people are not cut out personality-wise or want the responsibility of being a manager.  Meaning, if your team member you supervise does something wrong, it is your fault not theirs - it was your responsibility to develop them.  Most MBA students come in as analysts (non-managerial experience) and come out as analysts, because that's all they're learning in an MBA.  This can also explain why some of the best managers or leaders never went to school: they simply learned by experience.  Seriously my favorite managers never finished college and both of them did cheerleading.  Imagine that.

Companies with good management practices in place don't hand off manager duties to an external candidate who hasn't experienced the nuances and personalities of the team members they need to manage. The last thing a good company wants is an inexperienced manager and have their employees quit because of that manager.

There are lots of manager jobs out there but the majority are reserved for internal applicants because only they can see them and only internal candidates that have proven their leadership can apply.  If you are really good, you are approached with "an opportunity" - no need to apply.  

Not having loans gives people more options to switch jobs or take a break, all leading to you the job that is right for you considering all factors and not just one that will pay the bills.  

The critics are right, the MBA has no correlation to senior management positions I saw at the companies I worked in.  (university healthcare, health insurance, and now banking)

My opinion is to first get used to working first for as long as you've been in college plus the two years you would have committed to an MBA.   Waiting a bit longer gives you enough time to mature, witness some good work experience, as well as the bad, and most importantly think more objectively if the cost of the MBA program plus the 2 years of lost work experience and wages is really what you want to do.  Life choices should be taken into consideration but the problem is that most people in their 20s and fresh out of college do not have enough perspective to consider this and thus do not do the proper due diligence in getting an MBA. 

If you still want to get an MBA, you need to talk to alumni 2-3 years out of the programs you're interested in.  That group will provide the most objective and relatively current opinion about their MBA experience.  Ask them what they did before grad school, how they felt about the program, whether it oversold and under delivered, and what jobs they are doing now.  You may be surprised as was myself discovering this, that many grads are not necessarily happier or better situated now than they were before the MBA.  

There.  I just saved you two years of your life, a decade of student loan payments, and free up your evenings and weekends studying for the GMAT.  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Advice No One Tells You about Paying for College

Any of you going to college this year wondering how to pay for it?  Allow me to lay it all down for you. 

If you go pro athlete or pro entrepreneur while or before stepping in college, congratulations, none of this will apply to you.  Everyone else, read on. 

Once you start, you need to finish your degree program on time or sooner.  Any delay in your degree program makes it more expensive in the long run.  Let me explain. 

Going to school part-time may be an option, but it does come with financial risk.
The reality is that tuition increases rise faster in an 8 year span than average wages in 8 years for someone with no college degree working full-time and attending school part-time.  

You may leave school with "no debt" but you risk losing 4 years of increases in salary for someone with a college degree.  

Depending on where you go to school, taking out modest student loans and finishing on time or sooner is less expensive in the long run than going to school part-time.  In addition, going to school full-time makes you eligible for scholarships that you need to research and apply for.  

Education at any cost is very bad financial advice.  
Even if you got accepted to the best ranked program, if you cannot afford to go, think very long and hard about the student loans you anticipate taking out

The rule of thumb for student loans is this:

The total amount of your loans after graduating should not exceed 
what you could be making in your 1st year of pay in your selected profession.  

If paying back your student loans is going to be an issue, on top of where you want to live and work after need to search for alternatives that will allow you to finish school on time and begin building your personal masses of wealth.  

Go to an affordable program 
One that does not require you to take massive amounts of loans.  No one cares if you went to community college and then transferred.  And another thing...

You will be fine or come out better off financially not going to a ranked/elite program
Once in a job, how well you do and how much you progress really depends on how your competencies fit the Key Responsibility Areas of your job description, and hardly on where you went to school.  

It is not so much about going to the right school as it is picking the right major.   It is important to figure out a major early and not change it 2, 3 or 7 times, delaying your completion date.  Some majors are better than others in terms of entry-level employability and facilitating paying off your loans.   Decide on a major, finish your major on time, and move on with your life.

Apply for all the scholarships you are qualified for.  90% of them require you to submit a transcript, maybe proof of financial aid, and just answer the question.  
All it takes is research what scholarships are available, see if you meet the minimum qualifications, submit a copy of your transcript and just answer the question on the scholarship application.  It is usually just a paragraph.  

Some scholarships require near perfect GPAs but I discovered that several do not, particularly the ones that require proof of financial aid (at least a 3.0) and there were more of that going around than honors scholarships.  

Applying to scholarships is similar to applying for jobs.  You are not qualified for everything out there but you need to set time aside to search and apply for jobs.  If you see a job you are qualified for, apply for it!  And just like jobs...

You may not be selected for your scholarship, but you still keep your edge on and applying.
Just like in the real world, this will happen to all of us at some point in our careers, where we are 1 of 2 finalists for a position but don’t get the job.  It is important to not get discouraged and lose our edge when we are not selected.  I’ve seen too many people who have gotten discouraged, lost their drive and pretty soon, they go from being the next to candidate #3, then #7 to not being interviewed at all. 

When one door closes, another will open.