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Know your Customer, Career, and Worth

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your financial well being.  Knowing your customer, career, and worth grows dividends in the long run.  I want to talk about just how and why it’s important to stay up on the latest situation around you.

Know Your Customer

I’ve spent the last 16 years designing and implementing supply chain setups.  That is what I do with my consulting skillset.   Specifically, I work on the setup of biotechnology and pharmaceutical supply chains around the world.    I have done related work in some form for most of my career, albeit in slightly different flavors.

When you work on shipping drugs or technology around the world there is one big requirement to not get into trouble.  You have to know your customer.  If you ship something that violates say a blockade in Iran or allows someone to sell drugs on the street you risk jail time.  It’s one of the overarching principles in my job.

When I think of this requirement and frankly it’s importance with respect to my ongoing freedom I began to realize how much awareness of your surroundings plays into your financial success.   

Know Your Employer

To some extent I have commented on this in the past.  I have noted it’s important to monitor job changes in your organization to predict where your organization is going.  From opportunities to risks of job loss.  You can learn a lot just by watching who is hiring and not hiring within your corporate organization.

I have also commented on how when you go into a job interview it is imperative you take the time to understand the employer.    The more you know the more you can tailor your responses to the organization.

Know Your Location and Career

But in this case, I am speaking more broadly.   Take your location as an example.  I live in Northern Delaware.  There are 3 main international industries in or near Delaware.  Pharmaceuticals, Finance, and Chemicals.     Outside of these everything else is service, hospitals, or other locally oriented communities.  Not a lot of alternatives that would allow someone to work or climb a major corporate organization.

So it stands to reason if I wanted to live in Delaware and work in corporate I should be focused on these industries.  Even if there are some singular exceptions in the area they probably are a poor choice.  After all, the more options/ higher the supply of jobs per qualified employee likely the higher the pay.  Also if one goes away you still have other options.

Conversely, if I wanted to work in Pharma, Chemicals, or in the case of finances the support functions it would make sense to target living in the Delaware, New Jersey, or PA corridor.     Want a more extreme example? You wouldn’t want to pursue Marine Biology if you plan on living in Arizona.  Your location and career path are interlinked.  Understanding or knowing your options in the place you want to live can/will guide your career.

How Geography Influences My Career

In my own case, I mentioned I work in the local big industries.  But I also have a 5-mile commute to work.    Even working in the big industries if I were to move on from my employer I would exponentially increase my commute.  Said another way, If my employer were to leave the options that didn’t involve that long commute are limited.    What this means is I always have factored into my career design a heavy preference to stay with the same employer.  I also have detailed plans for what it would take to justify such a long commute.

Know that the Labor Market is Ever Changing

This type of awareness and analysis is ongoing as the job market in your area is ever-changing.  The biggest employer in northern Delaware not that long ago was Dupont.    With their recent merger with Dow a lot of that has moved out of state.  In addition, over the course of my career I’ve seen some, but not all, of the Pharma industry move further away (Still regionally near but out of state). 

Conversely, the financial industry has begun to move in.    The demographics of the region are shifting from executive and engineer more towards financial call center/processor.  I always have my eye on what that might mean in the future should I ever consider a career change.

Know How Demographics Interact with Your Career

That demographic move goes beyond my career path.  It plays into everything from the safety of the neighborhood you live in, to the value of your home.    Thankfully we live in a lower-priced house in a nicer neighborhood because the million-dollar homes stopped selling when Dupont left.    One could have seen that coming around the time of Dupont’s layoffs and either beat others to market or prepared to weather the time until things normalized.

Know Your Worth, Pay and Location

Similar to the demographics question is the question of how much you should expect to be paid for your job.  Pay scales differ by region as does the cost of living.    I Over the years I have had more than one job offer to move to Silicon Valley, Boston, or even Washington D.C.  Each time I have been offered about a 20% raise.     Sounds enticing…  Until you realize my cost of living would as much as triple in these places.  I’m not even sure getting a home the size of our current (land included) is possible in the Santa Clara area, let alone affordable.    I’ve traveled to each of these places enough to know food and other amenities are also way higher then I am accustomed.  

But conversely, pay scales differ for given jobs in these regions.  If you were a programmer in Delaware I wouldn’t be surprised if you said your income was 100K a year.  Conversely, a programmer at Apple in Silicon Valley might make $300K.  That understanding is not just important for deciding whether to move, but even understanding if you are getting paid correctly where you live today.  

Know How the Pay Scale Changes

And again, that situation changes over time.    When I entered my career in 2002 as a computer programmer the keyword was “outsourcing”.    There were very few programmer jobs available paying a decent wage.   Now it is the hot thing in certain regions.    I purposely moved away from software development due to that early experience.    There was no guarantee it was coming back and I was not the best of the best coder.  

The Need to Change Companies or Jobs

But had I stayed, getting the best wage probably would have required moving around.  Most company’s if you stay put only increase pay by tiny inflation pay raises.  When you get a raise within a company it is usually because your job has fundamentally changed.  Conversely, you can get a raise for doing the same job by moving companies.   So just the aspect that computer programming is now hot again to some degree would necessitate some level of career design to job hop for those in the mid-career range. *Note, job-hopping is not always the answer.

Know What Happens to Older Workers

I have also written about what happens to those in the older age brackets.  Knowing how your chosen career reacts to older workers should definitely play into your career plans and designs.  If they tend to let older folks out to pasture you should be looking to maximize your income earlier, find more stable companies, and do more moves early on with the intention to stay put as you enter late career.

Covid-19, What is Happening

Well, I couldn’t very well write a post this week about knowing the environment and following what is going on without a shout out to the current situation.  We are all being affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns.  The lockdowns obviously portend some societal changes.  They also highlight some areas that are in particular risk of automation.  In general if your company has found a way to function without you because you are non-essential, and you can’t point to how desperately they will need you when things ramp back up, it’s time to change careers.  

I look at things like curb site pickup for shopping/takeout and automated checkout.  These things are here to stay in some form.  Not only because they protect from the virus, but also because we were heading that way anyway. A huge portion of society is now working from home.  So what does that mean for commercial real estate as an investment or career?    Anyway, I could go on and on.    The point is you should be watching these situations and adjusting your plan continuously in response to them.  

Know Your Career and Prepare to Adapt

You don’t want to be the last one out the door left to shut the lights off with no viable cross skills.    As I close out I want to highlight one last thing.  Not only should you make it a point to know your customer, career, and worth.  You should also ensure you are constantly developing your skills for these changes.  For those whose works are still running but maybe a little slower, go find internal video trainings or free external classes and take them.    For those currently without a job, plug into a podcast or video training instead of that hour of TV at night.

Adapt or Fail

It’s this point in these articles I always am reminded of my grandmother.  When she was my age she worked for the phone company as a phone operator.   Here we are 60 years later, and there is no such job.  If she had stuck her head in the ground she would have been left with no career path forward.    The world is littered with other examples of once-proud professions now an anecdote in the history book.  Only by watching for these trends can you avoid being left behind.

Anyone out there reconsidering their career in light of the current viral situation?  Do you feel you know what is going on with your career and worth?    

2 Comments

  1. freddy smidlap
    freddy smidlap May 6, 2020

    great article here. thankfully we’re near the end of “career” and have some money put aside if our 1.5 jobs went away. it sounds like we’re in similar location scenarios. wilmington and buffalo don’t jump off the page when people do a national job search but a 5 mile commute is gold. my drive to work takes 13 minutes. i don’t think either of us in our house has ever relocated for a job and i’m thankful for that. i couldn’t agree more about taking stock of the corporate culture which i touched on with my company tending to toss aside later career workers when they’re at peak earning. that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work there but with the realization and preparation for it to happen.

    there was a time where mrs. smidlap was a record label manager with just about the top independent record label and she probably could have chased fame and fortune for a large company in LA or NYC. it would not have made sense for the cost reasons you mentioned and if you make that move you’re really in the meat grinder. now a record label manager is akin to the phone operator.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance May 9, 2020

      Eyes wide open is the best approach. Sounds like you’ve done a decent job of keeping up with what is happening. Thanks for commenting.

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