Three Things I’ve Learned from My Garden

I have a lot of hobbies; gardening is the most serious. I was introduced to the wonders of plants as a child. Like all hobbies, my garden has grown along with my knowledge and income.

There are few things in life more satisfying than your own garden. The never-ending metaphor for life – a garden offers more than beauty – it offers insight. Here’s a few things I’ve learned from mine:

Anyone Can Change the World

When I was a kid, we lived in a very small apartment. The path from the alley to the back porch was filled with rocks and gravel. It was litter-free, and most renters would have left it alone, but not my Mom and Grandmother. We bought seeds and as soon as Spring would allow, we filled discarded egg cartons with dirt and germinated our crops in the sunny basement windows. Once hardened, my brothers and I dutifully transplanted our seedlings into their assigned places. Over the summer, the Marigolds grew, the Sunflowers blossomed, the Morning Glories climbed through the chain link. We learned to weed and mulch and water. It didn’t matter that I was five, and poor, and lived in a horrible place in a sketch area of town: We made the world a better place, and everyone around us knew it, too.

Gardening is the most egalitarian of hobbies, which is why I love it so. Gardening taught me not to accept my circumstance: I could always make things better for me and for others.  Rich or poor, young or old, gifted or dull: Anyone can grow a beautiful sunflower.

Life is Filled With Death and Failure

Over my lifetime, I’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on all kinds of (expensive) plants that — despite my best efforts — have died.  Even more annoying are those that linger and never thrive. Despite 50 years of gardening and my amazing green thumb, I am not immune from disappointment and failure. Not everyone can grow everything well.

Talking about death and failure is something we just don’t do anymore, and I wish we would. Whether painful or shameful, it’s these dark moments that make us change our course.  Only from death and failure do we learn and grow.

Don’t envy beautiful gardens.  Gardens aren’t born, they evolve. Failure is part of the evolution.  The garden has taught me to accept it, learn from it, even plan for it, but most importantly, to let it go. Failure forces you to look for causes, patterns, alternatives.  If it weren’t for those dead petunias, I would have never found succulents.  Today, I have a collection that horticulturalists envy.

Laziness is Sweet; but it’s Consequences are Cruel

Voltaire (also a fan of the garden), is correct in his observation.  Mother nature is an impatient mistress, and she’s not going to wait around for you to “feel” motivated.

Consistent effort is required to achieve anything in life of real value: Good relationships, successful careers, continued health.  They all require consistent effort.

My garden has taught me that procrastinating unpleasant tasks can make them more daunting than they really are. By using the one-hour rule, which is do <whatever work you’re avoiding> for just one hour, I’ve found I almost always able to accomplish more than I originally thought.


Like affection, effort is never wasted. An hour to till even the smallest garden can lift and inspire others. And, isn’t that what life is all about?


Featured post

The Garden: A Metaphor for Teams

The Daisy is a very resilient flower. Yet, this time last year these clumps were small, scorched, and struggling. Why? I had planted them in the wrong place. I moved the tiny bunches to a shallow basin less than five feet away where they are shielded from a few hours of the blazing afternoon sun. Here, they are thriving.

Are you planting people in the wrong place? Do you think because someone’s DNA is abundantly cheerful and resilient, they can withstand any harsh, toxic environment and still grow to their full potential?

Before you pull someone out, toss them aside for dead, and buy something else (again and again), consider that you may be underestimating the harshness and severity of your environment. Would sheltering the plant a little bit, and getting rid of that Round-Up (which is slowly seeping into everything around it) help those naturally cheerful, resilient Daisies to flower with abundance?

Consider where you plant people before you blame them for not thriving. And, at the risk of pointing out the obvious: If your dog is continually pissing on your plants, they’re never going to grow…!


Copyright 2019 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Have a question? Email me at

So…You Want to Be a “Consultant”?

I’ve worked as a contractor, consultant, and direct employee. Each of these relationships is different; none of them is perfect. Are you ready to ditch your FTE and become a consultant? Here’s a few things to think about….

Can You Run a Business?

I’ve met hundreds of talented individuals who are terrible business people. Consider the great doctor who can’t manage or afford his/her private practice. The finish carpenter who can’t accurately bid out a project or generate an invoice. The full-stack software architect with no ability to write a statement of work or manage a project.

This is where I hear, “Ohh, puh-leeze, I’ll hire someone for that!” to which I respond, “Oh, puh-leeze, no one is interested in working for you!” (Small shops are not competitive employers – don’t think you can hire “some kid” to manage your website). Moreover, hiring help entails huge legal and financial responsibilities, and BTW, where are you going to come up with a weekly salary and benefits and pay taxes when you have one client and can barely support yourself?

Consider the following activities:

  • Marketing/Sales: Finding, qualifying, and pipelining new clients; promoting the business. You.
  • Legal: Licenses, in$urance, banking, taxes. You.
  • $oftware: Updates, equipment, desktop troubleshooting, web page(s), WiFi, Cloud storage. You.
  • Finance: Contracts, proposals, invoices, time cards. You.
  • Overhead: Office rent, supplies, printer cartridges, computers. You.
  • Benefits: Vacations, holidays, sick days, medical insurance, family leave. You.

And that’s before you do any real “billable” client work – which is often >40 hours per week, more if you are juggling multiple projects.

If you read that list and thought, “Ugh!” stay an employee.

Can You Run a Project?

Do you track your time? Do you track your money? Are you disciplined and organized in your personal life? Can you put together a schedule? Can you write a contract? What about a statement of work? Can you track, measure, and demonstrate progress? Can you make a deadline? Can you manage change and say no to difficult people?

When I meet with clients who are dealing with failed projects, high turn-over, and assorted other maladies, my first question is this: How does the team track their time? (They don’t.) Do YOU track your time? (Answer: I’m an “executive.”) Then, I get a big lecture about how hard everyone works, and they don’t have time to track their time.

Here’s my point:

I wasn’t questioning their work ethic, I was questioning their activities.

The inability to assess the value of activities as it relates to time expended is why people fail at consulting – and fail at a whole bunch of other stuff as well.

When you’re a consultant – time is EVERYTHING. Billable time, bizdev time, vacation time, career development time, commute time. And, there’s other things that take your time: Laundry. Food prep. Cleaning. Video Games. Your relationship(s). Did I mention the kids? You’ll need to manage ALL your time like the precious, finite, resource it is. That means you need to say, “I’m sorry, but that’s not a good use of my time,” even to your spouse.

Are You a Push-Over?

If you suffer from people pleasing, or have a hard time saying no, I beg you: For the sake of your personal health, personal finances, and happiness do NOT become a consultant!

Consulting is not all Power Point presentations and conference rooms with killer views. Consultants are small business owners, project managers, and buzz-kill realists. To be one requires a certain amount of cold, capitalist, callousness. How will you handle scope creep? Can you give bad news? Can you graciously deal with getting fired? (coz you will be). What about your ethics? Can you graciously dump a client (coz you’ll need to).

You want to run with the big dogs? You’re going to get pissed on. Consultants don’t have a boss, or HR, or a union, or labor laws – you have client and a contract. What are you going to do if they don’t honor it?

Are You Just Assuming You’ll Get Paid?

Very early on in my career, I worked for a couple of unscrupulous salesmen who refused to reimburse me for almost $2K in travel expenses I had foolishly put on my personal American Express card. This was back in the ’90’s, so that was a LOT of money then, and even more for an irresponsible 20-something who didn’t even have a savings account.

Although I eventually got my money, this whole thing was a huge financial fiasco, and it took me a l-o-n-g time to recover from it. These guys had let me go on Christmas Eve (for real), no severance, no final paycheck. I had to borrow money from family to pay AmEx and rent and bills. I had to go to court to get commissions, expenses, and back wages due me; and I had to freeze their bank account to collect. All of this taught me very important lesson:

No one is more unpleasant than someone who owes you money.

When you are a consultant, you’re a vendor. You don’t have the same legal protections that you would as a W2 employee. Consider the Crystal Geyser guy. If the customer decides to go with Sparkletts, Crystal Geyser doesn’t file for unemployment. If the delivery truck gets stolen, Crystal Geyser still has to service their accounts. They don’t call and ask their customers to buy them a new truck and front them for water.

An employee must be paid no less than twice a month. But you’re not an employee, so your clients will want you to bill every 30 days, and then pay you in 30 days – just like they do all their other vendors. But, what if they don’t pay you? What if they’re late? What if they disagree with the invoice? How long are you prepared to work without being paid? A week? Two weeks? A month? Three months? What if they claim your work is defective and refuse to pay? What about travel? Are you putting that on your personal credit card? What if they don’t reimburse you or take months to do so? What are you going to do about it?

I’ve worked for big, corporations my entire life.

You’d be amazed how many rich companies don’t pay their bills on time.

When you truly work for yourself, you can’t put up with excuses. Other people’s bills, emergencies, sick kids, corporate “process” and vacation time is NOT your problem. If you can’t write clear acceptance criteria for your work, can’t say no, or could never see yourself suing someone, don’t waste time trying to be consultant. I’ve listened to lots of people (mostly women, I’m sorry to say), who thought they could handle this kind of relationship, and ended up being taken advantage of by someone who was really, really, going to pay them when <crisis> passed.

When you consult, you need to track your time and tasks, keep copies of all your work, be prepared to withhold work until you’re paid for it, be prepared to walk out if you’re not paid, and be prepared to sue.

If you have a tough time sticking up for yourself, can’t handle people’s anger, or just can’t be “mean,” being a consultant is absolutely NOT for you!

Final Thoughts

Do you want to consult, or do you want more control over your scope and the direction of your career? Do you want to consult, or do you want more free time?

If you’re a full-time employee, and if you’re wondering if consulting could be for you, I strongly encourage you take a few contract, “temp” jobs. This will give you a feeling for what it’s like to have a client instead of a boss, and also give you some practice at managing the scope of your work and duration of your project.

My book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker offers straight-forward, no-nonsense advice to anyone navigating today’s contingent labor market. If you’ve never worked as a contractor or consultant, it’s essential reading.


Copyright 2019 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Why You Can’t Find Good Help

Maybe you heard? Companies are having problems finding workers! With so many of us looking for our next job, how could this be?

You Don’t Pay Enough

Your restaurant is empty because the food is lousy. There’s no other reason. It’s not the décor; it’s not the location. People like to eat, so if the food were good, there’d be a line out the door every night. It’s the same for jobs.

People work for the money, and no matter how much they like you, how cool you are, how close it is to home, it’s still all about money. Stop kidding yourself that your ping-pong lounge, Thirsty-Thursday, and pre-IPO stock options make up for paying 30% under market. Similarly, just because you’re big, prestigious company doesn’t mean you can hire below market either. My FICO score isn’t calculated using your stock price.

Bottom line is the bottom line: If your reqs are open, turnover is high, and you can’t close on new talent, you’re not paying enough.

Your Reputation is Tarnished

Life is long, the world is small, and things change quickly. If your company practices a “Doritos” retention strategy (they’re just people; we’ll get more), don’t expect to be the most popular girl at the dance.

Hey! You’re offering someone a JOB! Everyone should be clamberin’ to work there! Sadly, your Glassdoor reviews show a satisfaction rate rivaled only by the US Congress. (Would you eat at a restaurant with a 2.5 rating?) Your recruiters are telling you that people are passing as soon as they hear your name. You’re ghosted regularly. If you do get someone in, they comment on the poor interview experience (you’d be amazed at the outright rudeness of some hiring managers).

People talk, and they’re talkin’ ’bout you – to their friends, their co-workers, to social media – to everyone. “I interviewed at <company>, what a bunch of rude jerks,” “I spent six weeks going back and forth with <indecisive manager>, they came back with an offer $15K less than my bottom line!” “Bobby worked there for almost two years as contractor, they never hired him, and he just quit.”

If you are interviewing – anyone – never forget that you represent the company, the brand, the culture. Everything you say, everything you do, and every person you interview walks outta there with an impression. Did you make a good one?

Nobody’s “Good” Enough

You’re not indecisive, you want the BEST! Only Purple Unicorns here! You want someone who HAS done the job; not taking chances on someone who COULD do it. You MUST have a degree in a particular field; a biology major couldn’t possibly understand mortgage lending. Candidates from other industries? They need not apply. You need — yet another — domain expert (The 30 other people in the team aren’t enough?)! Worse yet: They MUST be within a 20 mile radius – you won’t hire anyone who can’t be on site every day.

You’re afraid: You didn’t hire that guy with the MBA because he was super-smart and “over” qualified. You didn’t hire that woman because she was a driver, and you wanted someone who knew her place. You didn’t hire anyone because the “team” couldn’t agree on whether or not they “liked” ’em, and you were too afraid to force a decision. You would hire more <women or minorities> but you know how the “guys” are, that’s why you passed on that smart woman who really wanted the job.

Pretty proud of yourself for setting the bar to your unattainable standards, huh?


There’s a reason it’s called Labor Market. If you are still living under The Bachelor illusion that it’s a labor pool — with an endless amount of bachelorettes all of whom are vying for your attention — you will find yourself short-staffed, under-staffed, and stressed out. And, if you insist on your unrealistic, unscaleable standards of perfection, you’re going to find yourself behind schedule, losing customers, and eventually out of business.

If your company can’t find and keep help, ask yourself why. And once you know why, change it.


Copyright 2019 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Have a question ? Email me at

Take-Aways from TechCrunch Robotics+AI

I attended the TechCrunch Robotic+AI conference at UC Berkeley last month. I’m in tech, but not in this kind of tech; I went to learn more.

The conference had a number of interesting speakers and exhibitors, and gave me a lot to think about. Here are a few take-aways….

Solution in Search of a Problem

The conference was stuffed full with super-smart people who want to build robots. What many would-be robo-teers don’t have is a clear idea of is what, exactly, the robot should do. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised by this early admission, but when I thought about my experience in application development, I agreed that the need for product owners, designers, artists, and SMEs with strategic vision is essential to the successful project/product. Building robots is no exception.

The verticals that will first benefit from robotics: Big agg (already on the leading edge); manufacturing (of course), healthcare (which could benefit from more technology in general) and the home which, given the complexity and commonality of house and yard work, is the most difficult to solve, but potentially the most lucrative.

The irony is that in a room filled with “hard science” people, what they desperately needed were those fluffy “soft science” majors: artists, sculptors, designers, anthropologists, occupational therapists, science fiction writers — someone to guide the linear thinking robo-teers to other life forms. Liberal arts is art for a reason.

Robots Need to Complete the Task – Not Create New Ones

Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot, had perhaps the best insight into what it takes to bring a robot to market successfully. Colin left college with a burning desire to build robots; however, he did not become successful until he “started selling selling vacuums ….” He cautioned that it’s not enough that a robot be cool, it cannot add additional tasks or complexity if humans are going to buy one. Robot designers must understand that simply automating the existing task is not enough – they must completely re-think how the task can be accomplished – by a machine – a machine that doesn’t usually have legs or hands.

I was a Gen1 Roomba owner. I loved that the Roomba vacuumed my house, but what was the point if I had to charge, clean and find the thing? Not surprisingly, iRobot had this same realization, which drove improvements in subsequent iterations. The Roomba is now self-docking, charging, cleaning – and cats still love it.

I’m not sure how many cats will be riding their latest product, Terra, a robotic lawn mower, which looks to be thoughtfully designed in addition to being super-cool. No lawn in my Mediterranean landscape, but I did buy some iRobot stock.

Common Platform

Another “yeah, duh!” moment for me was Nvidia’s VP of Engineering, Claire Delaunay introducing the Isaac SDK robotic platform. If you think back to the pre-smart phone dark-ages, you’ll recall that it was the release of the common mobile platform(s) that provided global developers the ability to build flashlights into the future. Robotics is in a similar state of evolution. Claire explained that delivering robotic intelligence has been deterred by a lack of unified platforms for software and hardware development.

Nvidia’s Isaac SDK robotic platform wants you to come build, and there were quite a few people at the Nvidia development workshop who intend to do just that.

Robots Are Coming for Your Job

Ahhhhhhh…..Not anytime soon.

Perhaps the best thing about this conference was the reaffirmation of the amazing human body. The ability to walk, balance, process and instantaneously reprocess new information, muscle memory. No robots for this – not even close. At the end of the day, AI is still an algorithm.

Consider the task of sorting tomatoes or picking strawberries. The ability of the human hand to immediately detect the softness, firmness of the fruit, adjust one’s grip, scan swaths of fruit moving on a belt, detect blemishes, defects, size, ripeness. Toss a sub-par piece of fruit aside (and we’re talkin’ two hands here) while having a conversation with a co-worker. The millions of decisions and actions taken by the body and brain (not to mention breathing and keeping your heart beating) is simply miraculous.

Robots are good with hard stuff – no strawberry pickers here – consistent sizes, repetitive motions, they all have wheels, they need smooth surfaces. Legs can navigate irregular surfaces, climb stairs, slide into Warrior 3. Robots can’t rebalance or adjust to change; they must have consistency. If the task has multiple variations, the robot’s effectiveness is limited or terminated.


The ability to replace humans is much less realistic than the ability to augment their movements. This is where prosthetics and other Iron Man devices really capture the imagination.

For me, the most compelling story was presented by Manmeet Maggu CEO from Tréxō Robotics. Manmeet explained that his journey began with the discovery that his nephew had cerebral palsy. While searching for solutions that could help him walk, he was disappointed to find that exoskeletons were designed for adults not growing children.

Manmeet and his friend Rahul (both studied robotics at the University of Waterloo) set out to change that. Their current product is designed to help children with disabilities walk. The technology provides the wearer a repetitive, physiologically correct gait, which enables a child to exercise by walking.

I loved everything about this. Unlike a Battle-Bot, it meets a real market need. It can be adjusted to each individual. The product exists IRL, and can be purchased or leased. Well done.

Robotic Buzz-Kills

China, not surprisingly, is leading the way in robotics technology. There were cautions to be protective of IP, and that those who choose to partner with Chinese companies should not skimp on lawyers. VC in robotics is also challenging. The ROI period for a robotics start up is long (10+ years), and their burn rate can be much higher than a software startup due to the complexity of industrial design, prototyping, and integration. This isn’t Angry Birds – you need to be ready for the long haul.

AI Thoughts

Brevity dictates my take-aways focus on the robotics side of the conference; however, the AI talks were also compelling. Be warned: Fake news will join Deep Fakes making the policing of social media platforms even more challenging. No doubt, we will see these forces invade our 2020 election cycle like a hoard of White Walkers into Winterfell.

Implicit bias, and other discussions of ethics are important topics of the day, and could easily be a whole separate conference.


While the Berkeley campus was a bit inconvenient, it likely kept the cost of the event down, and was a nice change from usual hotels and convention centers.

Looking forward to Disrupt in October.

* * *


Copyright 2019 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission. Have a question ? Email me at

You JUST Lost Your Job* How NOT to Freak Out!

When you lose your job, you lose control over a big part of your life.  It’s this lack of control that feeds the anxiety we all feel when we are between gigs.  We don’t have a daily routine. We don’t have control over our finances.  We don’t know how much time we have before we start back at work.  It’s hard to make plans.  Being in a state of limbo is frustrating; being worried about money doesn’t help.

If you’re new to unemployment, the loss of control is a much bigger emotional challenge than the task of finding a new job. Trust me, you WILL find another job!  Nevertheless, being without a job is a huge disruption to a well-established life routine. Without a job, people struggle to structure their day, some find they can’t, and so begins the downward spiral. The time passes quickly (another thing over which you have no control).  You become more anxious and irritable (or blue and withdrawn), which only compounds the feelings of helplessness.

If you can control it, do so. If you can’t, let it go.

Worrying isn’t action.

Of course, you can – and should – do everything possible to look for a job but you cannot control when you’ll actually go back to work.  Focus on what you can control – which is everything else in your life.

Keep Your Routine

Get out of bed the same time you did when you were employed; it’s too easy to let the morning slip by sleeping in.  Get up, clean up, get dressed. Use the time you would have spent commuting to take the dog out for a walk, hit the gym, or an early morning yoga class before settling down to your computer.

Don’t lie to yourself that you have time, and will do it “later.” We know how that conversation ends, right?  Keep your morning routine. It ensures you are more productive when you’re unemployed, and the structure will help you easily settle back into your new routine when you get back to work.

Lose Some Weight

You can’t make any excuses for being a slug. You didn’t make it out for a walk today because…. You didn’t go to the gym because…. Why? You’re sooo busy? Really?  Busy doin’ what? You DON’T have a job!

Similarly, the largest part of our discretionary income goes to food.  If you’re between jobs, you have zero reason not to prepare food from scratch.  Pull out the recipe books, plan your menu(s), prepare your food, and actually do some cooking! Eating well is good for your weight, good for your budget, and good for your relationship.  If your SO is working, coming home to a nice meal (rather than you lying on the sofa playing Fortnite), will make arguments about how you spent your day far less likely.

Similarly, resist the temptation to party like a rock star on school nights.  Having an occasional late night is small consolation for being out of work, but don’t make it a habit. Hangovers make you sluggish, irritable, and if you’re blue about being unemployed, it will make it worse.

Nothing will make you feel less confident and more out of control than being bloated, over-weight, hung-over, AND unemployed! You have the time to develop better habits, and zero reason not to do so. Don’t drink too much; don’t sooth yourself with food.  You’ll feel and look a LOT more confident if your energy is high, and your interview clothes are a bit loose.

Clean that !@#$%!! Up!

Looking for a job is going to take a decent amount of your time, but it’s not going to take every second of your day.  Put together a list – yeah, write it down – of stuff you need to do in your home.  Rank things by cost and level of effort.  Do all the cheap/easy stuff first.  Cleaning, organizing, and painting just about anything is always good.

Whether you get your inspiration from Hoarders or Marie Kondo, knocking out chores around the house is a great use of downtime.  Nothing will make you feel better about yourself and more in control of your world than walking into a clean, tidy and organized room. #focus

Taking care of things around your house is great, but so helping out a friend or family member. You’ve got time. Go see your grandmother.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of whether you knew it was coming or it was unexpected, anytime you lose a job – even if it was a job you hated – it’s upsetting.  If you’ve been working at the same place for a long time, you’ll feel overwhelmed by just the thought of interviewing for work and petrified at the idea of starting all over again.  All of these emotions are very normal, but I can assure you that they are temporary. You will find another job and you will get past this.

Focus on what you can control.  By doing this, you’ll find that your down-time is more productive, more enjoyable, and when you go back to work, you will be, too!



Excerpted from: The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker. Copyright 2019 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC.  All rights reserved.  No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Are you new to the job market or considering contract work? Have a question for me? Email at

Four Ways to Blow your Interview (*for employers)

Applicants aren’t the only ones who screw up interviews; employers can blow it — big time.  I’ve gone on lots of interviews where – at first – I was very excited to be there, but as I watched, listened, asked questions (took and compared notes), that excitement quickly fizzled.

Twenty years ago, there wasn’t much to do about it.  There were few jobs and many people who wanted them.  It was incumbent upon job seekers to convince employers to hire them; the applicant’s opinion of the job – for the most part – was of little concern.  That’s not the case anymore. Now, employers are dealing with both a cultural and economic shift in the global market for talent. For the first time (ever), labor actually has a bit of an advantage in the labor market. The shoe is finally on the other foot: Employers (who used to interview applicants), are now being interviewed by applicants, and a lot of them are blowing the interview!

Are you an employer who can’t close on good help these days?  Is it possible that you’re blowing the interview? Consider the following:

1. What Employers Say…

“This is a tough place to work; you have to have a thick-skin to work here…..”

~What the Applicant Hears…

We foster a culture of disrespect and verbal abuse.  Expect to be run over because having an opinion or self-respect will get you fired.

I get the “thick-skin” comment in about 30% of my interviews.  This tells me “Bro-House.”  Women are subordinate, fart jokes abound, loud voices win, bullying is leadership.

At first I thought thick-skin comments were gender specific (or maybe I seem delicate), but I decided to asked around, and I’m happy to report that guys get the “thick-skin” comment about as often as I do! Whoo-whoo!  Hooray for equality!  It’s good to know that some companies treat everyone poorly, not just women!

Respect is like air.  When there’s enough of it around, no one notices.  If there’s a shortage, it’s all you’re gonna think about….

2. What Employers Say…

“I see you’ve changed jobs every couple years.  We want someone who will stay….”

~What the Applicant Hears…

This is a dead-end job, and we churn through a lot of people.  We’d prefer to hire someone with little ambition who’s happy just to have a paycheck.

Are you ambitious?  Do you care about your career and remaining current?  Are you interested in learning new skills and growing?  Because if you are, this isn’t the place for you.

3. What Employers Say…

“I see you haven’t worked in this <domain>…”

“I noted you don’t have this <credential>…”

“I saw you don’t have this <skill>…”

~What the Applicant Hears…

I’ll need to deal with nit-picky criticism and being dismissed because I’m not good enough.  If this employer does make an offer, it will be under market because, well, I’m hardly qualified to work here in the first place!  If I’m desperate enough to take the job, I’ll be reminded that I’m less than, and that everyone generously looked passed my woeful credentials.

Note to Interviewers:  You went through the trouble to bring someone in for a face-to-face (sometimes in front of a panel).  Now, you’re going to call out – one by one – all their perceived shortcomings? Focus on what they can do. You had their resume, you saw their LinkedIn… if they’re not qualified, why did you bring them in?

4. What Employers Say…

“I see that you have some gaps in your employment.  For example, in <randomyears>, you only worked for part of the year.  What’s that all about….?!?”

~What the Applicant Hears…

I’m more interested in your personal life, and nosing around your health, family, and finances than I am in your work experience, skills, education, and how those qualifications are applicable to the opportunity I have available.  Your professional background is less important than my moral approval of you and your life choices.

My father died, I wanted to take some time off.  I had a baby, I wanted a more flexible job.  I was laid off, I wanted to spend time with my kids and re-think my career. I spent a year designing and building my custom home.  I was working on a patent.  I had major surgery. My mother has Alzheimer’s, and I needed to care for her…

At best, my personal life is none of your business, at worst you’re seeking to circumvent employment laws that prohibit questions of this nature. An interview is to discuss work – stay on topic…


For employers: Whenever you are in a position to hire (and pay) someone, it’s natural to feel a little entitled. And while we all seek qualified labor, remember that you’re not the only game in town. If you want the best people, your hubris is counter-productive to building a high-performing team. Your culture needs to be one of partnership, not entitlement.

For applicants: A job is a relationship, and the interview is like a first date. Spend less time thinking about how to impress people and pretending to be someone you’re not, and more time listening and asking thoughtful questions. That way if the position is offered, you and your client/employer can feel confident that you are both making the right decision.

running away++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Copyright 2019 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC.   All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Have a question about contract work or your job search? Email me at

What I’ve Learned….

In April 2004, on her 70th birthday, Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah.  Oprah asked her what she’s learned about life….


I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the s/he handles three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I’ve learned that making a living is not the same as making a life.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with catcher’s mitts on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I’ve learned that regardless of your relationships with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.

I’ve learned that even when I have pain, I don’t have to be one.

I’v learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I’ve learned that people forget what you said, people forget what you did, but people never forget the way you made them feel.

I’ve learned that no matter what happens or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.


How to Evaluate Your Boss

People leave managers, not companies. Be sure you hire a good boss. When workers have a good manager, they will often accept lower wages. When people quit, they’re firing you. You can’t put a price on a great boss…..

Nothing I just said is new. But, despite all the well-intentioned talent acquisition and retention initiatives embarked upon by company recruiters, I’ve yet to encounter any organization who routinely surveys a manager’s direct reports for feedback on his/her performance.

The answer as to “Why?” staff don’t evaluate managers ranges from the complex (cultural of hierarchy, management v. labor, men v. women), to the paternalist notion that a job is a “gift” that your corporate “family” gives you and you should be grateful for their kindness (versus the negotiated sale of your labor to a disinterested company who then sells the fruits of that labor to a 3rd party for a tidy profit), to the simplistic — but very real possibility of – retribution. All topics for another day.

Most of us are given a boss; we don’t get to choose one. However, if you find yourself in a position to evaluate your potential manager (or feel the need to leave an anonymous note on someone’s desk), here are ten questions to help focus your review:

True or False

~I know my boss always represents me and my skills in the best light.

~I trust that my boss is a strong advocate for me and my career.

~I believe that my boss is an effective advocate for my team.

~If there are changes or meetings with my client/workgroup, my boss informs me of the nature of the meetings so we can discuss how it might affect me or my work.

~My boss seeks to understand fully my situation or problem before s/he offers advice.

~My boss respects my work and appreciates the role I play within the company.

~My boss seeks my advice or input before making decisions that directly affect my job or affect our clients/customers.

~When I have a problem or situation I cannot handle, I am comfortable seeking advice and mentorship from my boss.

~If I were traveling with my boss, and we were stuck in an airport, s/he would make the time there better and easier.

~If I were in a position to hire my boss, I would.

What do all these questions have in common? Integrity. Respect. Leadership. These aren’t skills, they’re qualities, values. You got ’em, you practice them, or you don’t. Leaders inspire others to follow, they don’t tell people what do do. There’s no such thing as contextual integrity. You don’t get to be a great boss being respectful most of the time……

Whenever I interview with a prospective manager, I always ask, “If I were with your team at a happy hour, what would they say about you?” I’ve gotten answers that range from the hostile to obtuse…few have shown any genuine insight in one’s character, never mind management style. We all know how important a good boss is. Maybe the time has come to finally shift our focus from top down to bottom up?



Copyright 2018 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Dear Good Men:

Dear Good Men:

You’re a good man. A good father, good husband. No doubt, you’d be a great co-worker. I work with a lot of good men just like you. And what I’m discovering about good men is that they seem to know very little about bad men. Part of the reason is that women don’t tell good men what bad men do – heck, we don’t even tell other women! And bad men NEVER tell good men that they are bad. (“Hey, come over and watch me beat my wife…”) What women know about both good AND bad men is what some men say and do to women in private is very different from their behavior toward other men, and toward other women. Women also know that men are dangerous. Drunk men can be violent. Drunk men in groups?

My interest in Kavanaugh is not political, it’s cultural, and what I is see from the good men I know is that they are wrestling with the concept that something can be both contradictory AND true. I hear this all the time, “I never saw that part of him,” or “He never acted like that to me!” Meryl Streep never had a problem with Weinstein. Felicia Allen had no issues with Bill Cosby.

Because bad men are careful to confine their actions to 1:1 private situations, good men never see the extent and depth of bad men. As a result, I see the good men I know struggling to comprehend these deep contradictions in male behavior. It is this basic lack of understanding that men have of men that results in the political BS we’re seeing – women see it, know it, but men are desperately trying to rationalize the contradiction – you’re either good or bad; you’re lying or you’re telling the truth. You can’t be my best friend and be molesting my daughter. You can’t be a Priest and traffic in child porn. You can’t be a CEO and drop a roofie in my drink….There has GOT to be some kind of reasonable explanation. And, sadly, there just isn’t….

I’m jaded and ambivalent on Kavanaugh’s approval. He won’t be the first white, rich, entitled, silver-spoon, frat-boy who’s gotten a sweet government job because he’s got the right connections. So, he felt up some chicks or whipped out his dick at a frat party when he was shit-faced? Who cares, really? He’s a drop in the bucket of history of men behaving badly. Maybe he’s better, maybe he’s worse, but I know that he’s no different than any of the other men sitting on that panel. And, I also know that there are millions of men scared shitless right now as they recount their drunken college days (or military service), where they did pretty much the same stuff and worse. Now, they’re waiting for the other boot to drop….good….a little experience living with fear will make them more empathetic to what it’s like to be a woman….

Good men, I know that we share many of same values, and I admire your courage to have this conversation. But, I think we both agree that men – in all walks of life — have gotten a free pass on their behavior with women. You know it, I know you’ve seen it, and whether we want to admit it or not, we have both unwittingly condoned bad male behavior and the female double standard because it is so intertwined in our culture with the tacit notions of what it is to be a man, what it is to be a woman, what is masculine, what is feminine, what is acceptable, and what is not. Social media has forced our culture to change by shining light into those elevators, conference rooms, and bedrooms. As a result, women have changed, and good men are changing with them, too…

Your friend,

A good woman.


Copyright 2018 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑