Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Archive for the ‘Work culture’ Category

Vault’ s Careers Blog is Moving

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An announcement: after almost a year on WordPress, we’re discontinuing Vault’s Careers Blog on WordPress. But don’t worry: you’ll still be able to get your fill of career information and advice on Vault.com–where our blogs are going from strength to strength.

Our full blog lineup on Vault.com is as follows:

Vault’s Careers Blog
Vault’s Law Blog
Consult THIS: Consulting Careers, News and Views
In Good Company: Vault’s CSR blog
In the Black: Vault’s Finance Careers Blog
Admit One: Vault’s MBA, Law School and College Blog
Insider Career Advice from SixFigureStart
Innovate with Influence: Global High Tech

Thanks for reading us on WordPress.

We hope to see you over on Vault.com soon!

–The Vault Editorial Team

Why Wearing Your Costume to Work is a Bad Career Move

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It’s Halloween and the temptation to wear your costume to the office can be hard to overcome—especially if you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in getting it just right. But when it comes to dressing up at the workplace, those who value their careers should think hard about their wardrobe selection, and consider removing some of the “tricks and treats.”

While many people seem to take on a whole new personality at Halloween, workers should tread carefully when choosing a costume to wear at work—even if it means being forced to choose separate outfits for the office and their Halloween night shenanigans. Even if your company permits masks and costumes during office hours, it’s better to play it safe, and remember that the harassment policy you signed earlier in the year does not magically disappear with the holiday.

“People in costume lose inhibitions and behave as if a tail and mask give them license to act out,” says Vicki Lynn, Vault’s Vice President of Research and Consulting. “It’s important to keep a level of decorum when observing Halloween in the workplace.”

Steer Clear of “Sexy”

“Never wear anything that oozes ‘date’ or ‘sex,’ such as a bunny costume, sexy witch, cow girl, nurse, or teacher,” says Lynn. “If you think it crosses the line, it probably does. These would be costumes that show too much leg, butt and décolletage.”

Wearing provocative outfits could make co-workers feel uncomfortable or lead to unwanted sexual advances, potentially resulting in legal actions—something that no employer wants to deal with. This means that if you wouldn’t normally go to the office in an outfit that would make Lady Gaga blush, you should continue that practice at the office on Halloween. That goes for the guys too: Halloween is not an excuse to come to the office without a shirt on, no matter how much you enjoy those Old Spice commercials.

Watch What You Say With Your Costume

It’s possible to get into costume-related trouble even if you’re only revealing an opinion with your outfit.

“Beware of the signal or message that might be conveyed with your choice of costume—i.e. anything that could be conveyed as offensive to different religions, ethnicities, genders, and/or political leanings,” says Lynn, adding that “the best outfits are non-political masks.”

So, if you were thinking of using your costume to make a point about one of the issues of the day, stop and think about how colleagues or clients may react. Could you open yourself up to a harassment claim or altercation that could carry on past the Halloween season? Even if you’re only poking fun at a political figure, keep in mind that your colleagues may not share your opinions.

If there is even a remote possibility of causing offense, you may want to stick to something tried and true like a vampire. After all, with the way people react to Twilight, yours willl almost still seem cool.

Some Other Halloween at the Office Tips

  • Employers should voice their thoughts on Halloween protocols in the office so that everyone is on the same page before the big day.
  • Remember that even if you do show up in costume, you still have a job to do. Despite your disguise, the actions you take today will be remembered tomorrow and could contribute to the unemployment numbers next week. Stay in control.
  • It’s ok to celebrate but keep noise down and celebration contained to the lunch hour.
  • If you are client facing, your customers may not be amused by the costume, so keep it strictly for the lunch party with officemates only.
  • Halloween at the office can still be fun. Just pay attention to others around you and leave the more risqué fun, if that’s what you choose to do, for the witching hour.

 

— Jon Minners, Vault.com

Written by A.A. Somebody

October 29, 2010 at 8:48 am

When Top Talent Should Be Allowed to Leave

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Consider the following management scenario: you’re the leader of a highly successful team, but one that has recently had to tighten its belt financially. While you are committed to training and building success long-term future, your current reputation and success rests heavily on one or two key members. And one of them just announced that he wants to leave.

Worse, he’s come out and criticized the organization publicly, stating that the fiscal constraints have hampered your organization’s ability to attract the top talent it needs to ensure a successful future—and he isn’t prepared to waste his time at any organization that isn’t meeting his level of ambition.

(Privately, you suspect that his real concern with “fiscal restraint” is much closer to home: despite being your highest-paid employee, he knows he could make more elsewhere.)

So what do you do?

Those with even a passing acquaintance with the world of English soccer may have recognized that the above scenario bears more than a little resemblance to a situation that played itself out in the public eye last week: the Wayne Rooney contract saga.

Wayne Rooney

AP Photo / Jon Super

For those unfamiliar, Rooney–pictured left–is the star player at Manchester United. At the start of this season, he was pulling in a salary of around 90,000 pounds per week, on a contract set to expire in two years. In August, he announced to the club that he wanted to leave at the end of his contract period—and the information became public last week. When pressed to justify his reasoning, Rooney issued a statement that essentially expressed his belief that the club is in terminal decline.

Two days later, he signed a new five-year contract—rumored to double his previous salary—with United manager Sir Alex Ferguson praising Rooney because “he has accepted the challenge to guide the younger players and establish himself as one of United’s great players. It shows character and belief in what we stand for.”

PR spin aside, the saga reflects just how dangerous it can be for any organization to become too reliant on a handful of key operators. Whatever happens for Rooney now, he has damaged both his own and his team’s brand—and while he has secured a better deal for himself, nothing else he mentioned has changed. The club that he believed to be in decline—in part because they can’t afford to match the astronomical salaries being paid elsewhere—is actually in a less competitive position now that they’ve tied up a much more significant portion of their revenue in his wages than before.

There are many who believe that the management at Manchester United did the right thing under the circumstances. But there are some cases where retaining your top talent is less important than upholding the values of your organization. This should have been one of them. Quite apart from the fact that the deal agreed with Rooney is enough to pay at least two high-caliber players, management has now set up a situation where other players may feel emboldened to do the same

There’s an old cliché in sport that says that no one player is bigger than the team. In this case, that has proved that to be untrue. Whether the fix pays off in the short term or not, it’s hard to escape the notion that it sets up a situation in the long term where the club is regarded as something of a cash cow for top talent, rather than an organization known for its excellence. And once you’ve got to the point where the only incentive you can offer is financial reward, you really are in trouble.

–Phil Stott, Vault.com

 

The Omega Careerist: Surviving a Post-Layoff Wasteland

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It started quietly. Rumors of ominous portent spread through the office, spoken in solemn whispers. But you paid no heed. You just kept on working.

The first to go was one of the IT staff. Then another went missing. An executive left with nary a word. One accountant bolted for the door, desperately muttering something about “Grad School.” All that was left were a few dusty outlines on their desks, and some stale, half-eaten cake.

Suddenly, scores of people disappeared. All around you, one after another, coworkers were summoned away from their desks and were gone. A few emerged only for moments, visibly despondent as they tearfully clung to one another, and then never to be seen again.

Now you’re alone. Much of your department has vanished. And, worst of all, you’re saddled with their workload…

The years since 2008’s economic meltdown have been taxing and, at times, bleak for professionals. For those who kept their jobs, the realities of the “Great Recession” meant watching others lose their jobs, taking up overwhelming responsibilities, and facing a discouraging possibility that there may be no end in sight. It can seem like you’ve survived an atomic blast.

But, if you’ve studied thoroughly in preparation for these apocalyptic times, then you know there are ways to survive, even get by comfortably. Here are a few “End of the World” strategies you can apply at work.

Where the living envy the dead

The greatest blow has been to morale. After all, we lost our friends, our neighbors, our collaborators, our happy hour companions. And while the value of your work may have spared you from layoffs, you were perhaps left questioning if your career was still worth it.

Experts call it “Layoff Survivor’s Guilt.” For companies that suffered heavy cuts, human resources departments reported declining company loyalty and esteem. Job stress has since been on the rise, and so too has a sense of inability and remorse.

It’s up to employers to preserve unity amongst remaining staff. Following layoff rounds, employees should demand open communication from leadership about the state of the company and the road ahead. Group activities are also vital to rebuilding camaraderie; for instance, managers can organize outings to roam the desolate streets and scavenge for dry Post-Its and trophies in the abandoned offices of felled competitors. (Remember to wear your radiation suits!)

And for those who regret having survived while others got the ax: Fallen friends are still friends. Stay in touch via Facebook and LinkedIn, maintain contact, and remember them when news of an opening crosses your desk. You can benefit as well—the unemployed are always the first to know about free cupcakes and discounted manicures.

(As a point of etiquette, avoid griping to them about work—you risk prompting bitter retorts of “At least you have a job …” Or perhaps they’ll have gone cannibal, and hunt you for your delicious, employable flesh.)

“I had so much time…”

On the other hand, some less sociable professionals might welcome the solitude and peace of mind. Like an idyllic beginning of a Twilight Zone episode, just before the ironic twist. Now that all the chit-chat is over, you can go about your work undisturbed.

But not so fast. Without the others, management expects to “do more with less.” The “less” being you, laboring a whole lot more.

Should the increased workload prove too much, take a stand. Make it known that doing the work of two—even three or four!—people should mean being compensated accordingly. Were this truly a post-apocalyptic hellscape, it might entail increased food and gas rations; in reality, it’s worth perhaps a 6 to 8 percent salary hike.

If that can’t be done, or if the promise of greater pay won’t ease the burden, then remember that companies are still hiring. Even with a ratio of 4.6 workers competing for every one job, you have an advantage (albeit an unfair one): You’re a survivor. Employers give greater value to applicants who kept their heads above water throughout the last years’ tumult; some outright shun unemployed candidates like infected mutant hordes.

Of course, these are just a couple of the scenarios to be explored. In the spirit of Halloween, we encourage Vault readers to join in. In the comments below, tell us some of the “apocalyptic” circumstances you’ve encountered since the recession. We’ll mention the best ones on our Facebook page!
— Alex Tuttle, Vault.com

Where the Women Aren’t: The Banking C-Suite

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October is Carl Paladino National Diversity Month, so we decided to go back to the data we collected in our most recent Banking Survey and see if we couldn’t find a few fitting pieces to offer up in honor of these holy 31 days.

First, what we found, unsurprisingly, is a marked lack of women in the banking workplace. Somewhat surprising, though, was that this lack of women increases as you go up the banking org chart. That is, as you’ll see in the graphic below, of those bankers surveyed, 26 percent identified themselves as women. But of those surveyed who hold executive positions, only 11 percent identified themselves as women. The takeaway here is that females are still underrepresented at the top financial firms, and are severely underrepresented in the higher ranks at the top financial firms.

Vault.com 2010 banking diversity gender

Second we found (again unsurprisingly) that the ethnic group that accounts for most (almost three quarters) of the entire banking industry is none other than the white male. However, interestingly, we found that the white male is far better represented in the banking industry than it is in the general population—almost 10 percent greater as you can see in the graphic below. In addition, Asians, the second largest ethnic group in banking, are also far better represented in the industry than they are in the wider U.S. population—about three times greater, in fact. On the other side of this diversity story, Hispanic individuals and African-Americans are severely underrepresented in the banking industry versus their representation in the wider population.

 

Vault.com ethnic diversity of finance industry 2010

Third, we found a large lack of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals in banking. Given that banking is perhaps one of, if not the most politically conservative industries in the United States, this might not come as that much of a surprise, but still, you would think that the lack might not be as significant as the pie chart below indicates: just 1 percent of the more than 2,200 bankers surveyed had identified themselves as an openly GLBT individual. Which begs the question: are GLBT individuals not welcome into the banking industry, not interested in the industry, or both?

Vault.com 2010 banking diversity GLBT

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, In The Black

Ten Career To Do’s

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Jim Collins kicked off the 2010 World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall with an address that had the ability to inspire or frighten an audience in equal parts.

The source for both the inspiration and the fear is the same: his belief that we’re heading into a world where there will be “no new normal” but rather a series of unexpected changes. Depending on who you are, that presents either an opportunity or a reason to fear the future—a paradox that relates to one of Collins’ key messages for individual careerists and would-be leaders: that you should spend less time thinking about your career and more time asking how you can be useful.

Collins’ address took in much of his previous findings and research in titles such as Good to GreatBuilt to Last and How the Mighty Fall. As such, it was a wide-ranging and often fast-paced affair that carried no single takeaway–or at least none that can be condensed into a live blog—on what it takes for individuals and businesses to succeed and then avoid consequent failure. He did, however, offer his audience ten “to do” items that serve as a useful summary of most of his main points, and which have the added advantage of being—for the most part—actionable career items.

  1. Do your diagnostics: At Collins’ website, there is a free diagnostic tool to self assess how you’re doing against the traits he identified in “Good to Great.”
  2. Don’t focus on career: Instead, Collins advocates focusing on “building a pocket of greatness” at whatever level/area of the company you happen to be in. Doing that is the key to getting noticed and being given more responsibility.
  3. Ask if you have the right people in key positions: What percentage of people “on your bus” are the right ones, and what’s your plan for rigorously ensuring you can get it above 90 percent?
  4. Double the ratio of your questions to statements: Great leaders seek feedback, and don’t assume they know everything. On which note…
  5. Your first question is: How is our world changing and what are the brutal facts? Do a “brutal facts inventory” and come back to it often.
  6. Turn off your electronic gadget: Create at least one day of “white space” every 2 weeks. Build in the time to do some disciplined thinking.
  7. Have the discipline to stop doing things: It’s easy to add things to a To Do list. It’s also unproductive. One method of cutting out things that matter less: rank your priorities with no ties.
  8. Get inside your personal hedgehog: Collins’ equation for determining what you should be doing with your life involves three elements: finding something you’re passionate about, feel like you’re “genetically encoded” to do and that is “useful in a way society values.” Once you figure that out, you’re a long way towards having a rewarding career.
  9. Stop doing titles: The right people for key jobs understand that they do not have a job. They have responsibilities. One way to reinforce “job” is titles. One way to reinforce “responsibilities” is by having no titles.
  10. Spend more time asking how you can be useful

Stay tuned to Vault’s Career Blog over the next two days for further updates from the World Business Forum. You can also keep up with our coverage in real time via our @vaultcareers Twitter feed.

The 50 Most Prestigious Accounting Firms

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For nearly a decade, Vault has been ranking accounting firms in terms of prestige. This year, in our annual Accounting Survey, conducted from April through June, over 2,200 accounting professionals were asked to assess their peer firms on a scale of 1 to 10 based on prestige—they were unable to rate their own firm, and were asked to rate only firms with which they were familiar. And for the second straight year, industry insiders named PricewaterhouseCoopers the most prestigious accounting firm in North America. In fact, the top five spots were unchanged from last year’s rankings.

With a score of 8.408, PwC outdistanced fellow Big Four firms Ernst & Young (the No. 2 firm in prestige, with a score of 8.278), Deloitte (No. 3, 8.222) and KPMG (No. 4, 7.732). The highest ranking non-Big Four firm was again Grant Thornton, which took the No. 5 spot with a score of 6.817.

According to surveyed professionals outside PwC, the firm is the “best company of the Big Four in terms of benefits and employee morale.” It’s also “well respected,” has a “favorable public perception” and a “great culture,” and “offers many opportunities” for its staff.  Meanwhile, Ernst & Young, the No. 2 firm for the second year in a row, is said to be the “industry leader,” have “the best talent” and possess a “hardworking,” “intelligent,” “classy” staff.

The big mover this year among the top 10 was BDO Seidman (“a good mid-tier firm, growing in size and market share”), which leaped three spots from No. 9 to No. 6.  Further down the rankings, Clifton Gunderson (a “solid regional”) made a strong move, jumping seven places from No. 19 to No. 12; and Reznick Group (“the ‘fun accountants,’ as opposed to the stereotypical nerdy accountants”) climbed six places from No. 22 to No. 16.

Other significant climbs were made by Dixon Hughes (“big down South”), which rose four spots to No. 21; Novogradac (“a large competitor in the real estate auditing business”), which jumped four places to No. 25; and CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman (“a large, solid firm”), which moved up three spots to No. 23.

The biggest drop in the top 25 came from LarsonAllen (“good firm but lacks work/life balance”), which fell eight places to No. 22.  Other significant falls came from Amper Politziner & Mattia (“a strong competitor” with a “poor working environment”), which slid seven spots to No. 20; and Cherry Bekaert & Holland (“known in the Southeast, yet not considered a competitive firm”), which fell four places to No. 19.

Check out the complete 2011 Vault Accounting Prestige Rankings.

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, In the Black