Careers


A reader, Mercedes, beat me to the punch on free gym but I also wanted to talk about getting free business class airfare all over the world.   How is it done?  If you’re a key employee for a multi-national/global company then you’re likely to travel all over the world in business class for various business affairs.

As you travel the world, you’ll rack up frequent flyer miles which can be redeemed for upgrades or free travel during your own vacation time off.   Most companies allow this perk because globe trotting isn’t the glamorous  activity most people think it is as you’ll likely spend 10 hours flying to Europe only to spend a few hours in a layover to catch another 12 hour flight to another continental destination or return trip.  Effectively, you’ll lose days of your life away from family and friends for the company.

There are other perks too; you might be able to get your company to subsidize an American Express Platinum card which gives you access to world traveler lounges which give you access to free internet, free booze, free food, free showers and more!

You might also be able to negotiate memberships to business clubs, professional associations, and trade groups.   Some companies offer other perks such as free breakfasts, free dry cleaning, free roaming internet access cards and, of course, free gym.

Since it’s Friday, I’ll stop this little series on career counseling but I hope you got some ideas on how to think outside the frugal box.  I titled these “non-frugal” because frugality has nothing to do with getting Free Steak & Lobster lunches, Free Activities, Free Cell Phones, and Free Education but everything to do with career advancement and excellence.

Why pay for your own MBA when you can get one subsidized or paid in full by someone else? How do you get a free BA or MBA?   It’s not government grants, charitable scholarships or your parents paying for it.

Businesses really do take care of their own and it is a strategic business move that will ultimately lead to higher profits for a business.  An educated employee adds value to a business and a highly educated employee adds greater value so most businesses have a policy of providing assistance or in some instances paying for an employees entire college tuition in an undergraduate or graduate program.

Additionally, if you are a key employee, you’ll likely be able to negotiate bonuses or other awards as part of your retention plan after completing your degree program so your employer won’t lose you to the competition.

If you already have a graduate degree then there’s nothing wrong with expanding your horizons and getting a secondary degree or various certifications in your career field.

All you have to do is ASK!  And for goodness sake, keep your toolbox updated!

Why pay for cell phone services when you can get them for free? Why pay for regular parking when premium parking can be had for nothing? Intrigued?

While some people spend countless hours devising ways to save a penny here or a penny there, time better spent on career advancement may actually lead to significant yet subtle returns on investment in a grander scale than shaving pennies.

With most cell phone plans now ballooning up to the $70+ mark when including voice, text, and data services it makes sense to try to get these services for free. Seventy dollars a month after all translates to$3.5/work day which is just enough to buy a nice StarBucks latte.

So what’s the secret to free cell phones? The secret is to become a key employee in your organization; an employee so important that it would be detrimental to the company if they wouldn’t be able to get a hold of you whenever they needed you.

History shows that if you’re important enough to command this type of accessibility then it should follow that premium parking spot should be provided to afford you with faster access into the organizations location(s).

This is the third post in this series and I hope you’ll see the pattern forming from post one and post two in the series.

Tomorrow, I’ll follow up with another post.

As I wrote about yesterday in the Key To Free Steak & Lobster, today’s non-frugal tip lesson involves getting free concerts, sporting events, golfing, fishing, and other activities at no charge.

It was well known that movie stars and other celebrities received serious swag during the Oscars and at other award events but it wasn’t until the IRS started threatening celebrities with tax penalties that the practice became better understood by the general public.

There is something similar that happens in the business world but it revolves more so around less expensive items such as invitations to concerts, sporting events, golfing activities and other such business gatherings.

The key of course is to get invited to these events and that is usually accomplished by being a crucial person in your organization from which your advice or counsel will generally be wanted or needed. In some instances, it may even be the same armada of sales people who take you to lunch that may offer you these free activities.

So brown bagging it is the way to go to save money right? What if you love eating steak, lobster, shrimp, and other goodies during lunch? Here’s the perfect non-frugal tip and the key to free steak & lobster lunches.

Over the course of the work week, I tend to eat out almost every day although I had cut back for a while because of my widening ab axial girth. So how is this done?

When you reach a senior manager or executive level management position, there is an endless armada of sales people trying to solicit you with various products or services. Whether it’s a consulting firm offering services, an employment agency, or software vendor there is always some type of sales person interested in selling you something.

With the recent discussion about frugal tips and why I don’t think they matter it did occur to me that I am becoming more and more detached from the average working person than ever before and I am genuinely beginning to forget how hard those early days were before my career really took off.

I’m not really sure how to counter that either nor whether I should try at this point. I have become so accustomed to being taken to places like Fogo De Ciao or Ruth Chris Steakhouses and other high end restaurants that they’ve become passé.

Oh no, I sense a deep reflection moment coming on…….I’ll follow up later.

I ran into a financial adviser recently but I met him in the context of a sales meeting.  Evidently, this financial adviser had left Fidelity to work in a completely different field.  He was a certified financial planner and sold mutual funds and other investments to investors.  When I asked him why he left the industry, he said he sat down one day, looked at the demographics of America, the prospects for future growth in American markets, and decided that it wasn’t too advantageous to keep pursuing a career in that field.

We talked a little more about it and he gave me some details: 80 million people retiring (or reaching the age of 65) over the next decade.   Seniors aren’t necessarily the kind of people that go out and buy iPods, text message their peers, or buy clothes or new cars every three years.  The future growth simply isn’t there.  Also, as people retire, they stop working and stop contributing to 401k, they start withdrawing money from their investments to live on.

These were all the things about that I had written about before over the last two years now here, here and here.  I’ve never really seen or heard anyone put it all together like I had before up until I met this young lad.

It’s not all gloom and doom.  I am very bullish on Energy, Health care, and Technology industries as well as growth internationally (BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India, China).   As boomers retires, there will be tremendous job opportunities in almost every industry for those people that have the right skill set to earn six plus figure salaries and beyond!

I finished the conversation thinking this guy has been one of the smartest financial advisers I’d met in a LONG time.

I received a message about all the high priced items I’ve been purchasing recently and its given me pause to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m at now. A little less than twenty years ago, I was a struggling student trying to get by in life at $4.20/hour. I ended up working my way up to $7/hour thinking this was sooo much more money than $4.20/hr; I felt so rich at $7.00/hr.

Flash forward to today and over the past 10 months I’ve spent $4000 on a bed, $700 on Wii and accessories, $2000 on Mac, $4000 on HVAC for my home, a $40k car, and a bunch of other things that I haven’t even blogged about such as vacations, home remodeling expenses, etc.

My investment strategy and salary have allowed me to do one thing that makes all the difference: not worry about paying for all these things. Pretty much everything I have bought has been paid for with cash reserves or with 0% arbitrage money which I can easily pay off if the banks ever decide to jerk me around with the APR.

Over the years, my spending habits and patterns have changed significantly.

As a struggling college student, I used to shop at Wal-Mart, today I shop at Costco.

I used to scheme to get the lowest cost item by using rebates, coupons, discounts, wait for sales, etc., now I buy what I want when I want it.

I used to buy beer to drown my sorrow and depression at not having any money, now I buy expensive wine to celebrate my successes.

I used to take “vacations” back home and flea bag motels, now I take vacations around the world at some of the best hotels and resorts.

I used to buy and drive 10 year old cars, now I buy cars new but I do keep them for 10 years 😉

I used to rent a small one bedroom apartment in the hood, now I own a two story five bedroom house with an insignificant mortgage and on my way to a half million to million dollar home.

I used to eat $0.39 tacos at taco bell, now I eat $50 Fogo de Chao buffets.

I used to buy Windows PCs and Laptops, now I buy Apple products.

I used to worry about a $10 check bouncing and having to pay a $25 NSF fee, now I worry about keeping less than 100k at a bank for fear of losing it if a bank goes under.

I used to worry about borrowing money, now I borrow $50k on a whim on a credit card to speculate in the stock market.

This post isn’t intended as a boast but to illustrate that anyone with hard work and determination can transform his/her life into something better. I went to college on Federal & State aid along with a scholarship and some student loans and have NEVER stopped learning or trying to improve myself. While many will tell you to “spend less than you earn” as a way to financial wealth and freedom, I prefer to “earn more than you spend” so that spending money is never an issue.

Health care, Energy & Technology fields are red hot right now and various colleagues have been asking me how they can get in and make some real money in these industries. Most of the people I’m hiring these days are starting close to or above 100k in base salary and earning 10% to 20% bonuses on top of various other incentives (e.g. stock options) so they’re all licking their chops asking me what they can do to get in.

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I’ve come up with a list of things you should have in your resume toolbox to get you in the door and hired:

1. Although I don’t particularly feel it necessary to have a college degree for many positions, most HR people won’t let you through the door unless you have a college diploma. You toolbox should include a degree, ANY degree to get you in the door. For goodness sake, even a liberal arts degree will help! Just don’t LIE about it because that will get you fired and tarnish your reputation.

2. Speaking of reputation, if you don’t have a college degree, it helps a great deal to have a network of references that will vouch for you and your work. I have a standard policy of writing letters of recommendations, recognition and commendation for people that do good work and am happy to be a reference for people that do quality work. NEVER burn any bridges, you’ll eventually come across them again in your lifetime.

3. If you are a manager or plan on being a manager (of any kind) you should consider training and certification in Project Management. The Project Management Institute is a great place to start – become a member. As a manager, it is inevitable that you’ll work on projects and having this certification and/or training is a great plus.

4. You should have professional certifications: If you are an accountant, you should receive and maintain your CPA; If you are in Technology, you should be certified in your specialty (e.g. Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco); If you are in Payroll, you should become a Certified Payroll Specialist; If you are a mechanic, you should get ASE certified. I could go on but you get the point.

5. You should have a professional wardrobe. I can’t tell you how many people I “skipped” over despite great credentials because a person dressed like a slob. When you’re climbing up the corporate ladder, you’ll be dealing with various executives, the media, and to some extent Wall Street pros, no one wants to see how frugal you can be with your money & wardrobe.

6. If you want to make some really big money, you’ll likely need to work for a public company that can issue you some juicy stock options. If you are a manager for a public company, you need to train yourself in Sarbanes Oxley compliance NO MATTER WHAT YOUR FIELD IS. I don’t care if you’re in HR or Marketing, knowing SOX compliance in a public company will make you MORE valuable than the person who doesn’t know it. Hence, when it comes around to issuing those stock options, the key people will remember how valuable you are to them with that SOX training.

7. If you’re working for a public company, you should know how to read the company’s financial statements. I don’t care if you’re in sales, marketing, technology,operations, human resources, or other department. If you’re lost, go over to http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/finance/quotes/quote-03.html or http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/finance/tools/research-21.html and start learning. As a manager, if you can intelligently discuss the company’s potential, problems and opportunities via the company’s financials then you’ll be much more valuable than someone who doesn’t.

8. If possible, learn a foreign language; real growth is coming from overseas these days and every edge helps. You don’t have to become fully fluent in another language but being able to get by helps tremendously.

9. You should have a mentor. You need someone to go to be able to talk about things when the going gets tough. Someone that can help you with salary negotiations when settling on a new job or help you through employee disputes or simply someone to celebrate your successes with; a person that you can trust implicitly.

10. You should have a career plan. I recommend 3 to 5 year goals, 8 year goals and 15 year goals. In essence, what title and salary do you want to earn 3 to 5 years from now, 8 years from now and 15 years from now. Write it down and work toward it everyday by doing 1 thu 9 above.

I’ve actually had many people tell me the reason they aren’t getting rich was because they didn’t have friends in high places to get the best paying positions.  Often, this thinking has been the result of executives or other senior managers hiring former colleagues to key positions.

While it certainly is true that executives tend to hire former colleagues, they primarily do so not because of friendships but because of being familiar and acquainted with a person’s ability, skills, knowledge and capabilities.   As an executive, I have had the option of hiring virtually anyone out there but my thinking process is usually the same and it boils down to a couple of choices:

1. I can take a chance on an unknown quantity (e.g. someone new that I don’t have a track record with)

2. Hire a known quantity.  The person I bring on board may not be perfect but at least I know what his/her key strengths, capabilities and weaknesses are for the job.  I mitigate my risk by compensating their weaknesses with my strengths.

Of course, over the past decade, I’ve had at least 30 positions that I’ve had to fill and I’ve only hired the same person twice for a key position.  Usually, when someone is good at their job, they can easily find a job and when someone is bad at their job, they are always asking for one.

At the end of the day however, ANYONE with determination, skills, knowledge and training can get to the position that they want if they really work toward that goal.  I wasn’t born an executive, I didn’t have key connections to getting higher paid positions; I simply worked my way up with hard work and determination.

Speaking of hard work & determination, it takes a great deal of time to post the best ETF Covered Call opportunities every week so I hope you’ll stop by and check them out at http://www.etfcoveredcalls.com.

Tune in next week for Excuse #8 of why you aren’t getting rich –  “I wasn’t born rich.

I’ve recently been accepted to an Executive MBA program and school starts this fall. I applied for admission back in November when my job began to get a bit boring and I wanted something a little challenging. Unfortunately, now that I’ve been accepted I’m really debating on whether sinking 50k into an Executive MBA program is really worth it.

The average MBA graduate I think makes 80k or more but I’ve been way above that for quite some time now that I don’t think monetary returns justify the program.

An argument could be made that an MBA program will help secure an executive or upper management position but I’ve held those positions for the past 10 years so I’m not sure that is a selling point either.

Networking with peers is also a selling point for MBA programs and while I certainly wouldn’t mind getting to know other professionals and executives, is it worth 50k to do so? Couldn’t I do similar things in other venues: charities, community activities, political events, etc?

Lastly, my wife has decided that she’d like to return to school to possibly pursue an MBA and perhaps it may be better for her to do so since she’ll likely receive a great benefit from it that I would.

I have a couple of more months to decide but I’m leaning against it for now.

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