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Employer kudos

September 29, 2010

I’d like for this blog to not only be a source of very successful shaming (thanks for your post, Ben!) but also of success stories of employers who do it right.

And I’d like to start by talking about my own employer.

I’m currently a project manager for a digital archives/libraries project at George Washington University. While, generally speaking, I think that temporary jobs are the scourge of the profession for both the worker and the institution (a person with expertise enters the organization, gains skills, and then takes them with her, leaving the institution without that added value), this has been everything a temporary employee has ever wanted.

The real reason that this is such a success is because I work with folks who are invested in me, in collaboration, in accountability and in professional development. They budgeted for professional development and training in the grant because everyone should have professional development and training. They give me the opportunity to sit on committees because they understand that even though I’m a young professional, I have a unique skill set and perspective to contribute. This is a library that truly invests in its people, provides continued development, and does everything it can (even — especially — in tight financial circumstances) to make sure that they have the resources they need to do a good job.

A lot of thanks can also go to the IMLS — our program officer explicitly encourages me to sit on committees (institutional and cross-institutional) that allow me to apply the lessons learned from the grant to other digital projects. After all, grants are a two-way street, and the idea is for this knowledge to be disseminated within my community and beyond.

So, what makes for a good, fair position? A living wage, decent benefits, mentoring, institutional investment, an interest in developing skills, a culture that understands that we all learn most when we learn from each other, accountability, and respect for the fact that being an archivist or librarian is professional, highly-skilled work.

Not every job has been like this. And to be honest, the elements that make for a high quality of life are the ones that cost no money — respect, concern, and mentoring. There’s been some push-back from commenters about the very idea of this blog. I would hope, though, that the blog raises awareness for the idea that we deserve more. Every young professional should be given encouragement to grow into her job, provided with models of the kind of professional she could be, time to go to local professional group meetings, encouragement to expand her skills, opportunities for new responsibilities and new rewards, and an underlying current of mutual courtesy, care, and professional respect.

And if you as an employer can’t afford these things, then you can’t afford an archivist.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2010 10:37 pm

    All right, way to go, GWU, my alma mater! Seriously, I’m very glad to hear that some people seem to understand the concept of intangible benefits. You are exactly right. People do understand when they are valued, it comes across in so many different ways. Just as they understand when they are not. It definitely doesn’t come just from words.

    As to pushback, heh, everybody’s free to do their own thing, as long as it’s legal, right? As Brad said, it’s not as if it’s an either/or. Or whatever. I’m all for the idea of “paying it forward,” as Brad said.

    Good luck!

  2. mmm permalink
    September 30, 2010 12:20 am

    I agree 100% with this:
    “And to be honest, the elements that make for a high quality of life are the ones that cost no money — respect, concern, and mentoring.”

    I took the risk of of taking a short term grant funded position that didn’t pay very well at all. Luckily it’s worked out for me in all ways except $$. I’ve gained skills I didn’t have when I started. I love my colleagues and have been given lots of opportunities for professional development and mentoring. I know my immediate departmental colleagues want to help me succeed. And I’m never treated like I’m not a “real” (permanent) employee.

  3. October 1, 2010 5:11 pm

    I think those intagibles are what everyone wants in a work situation. Sometimes it means being strong to walk away from a place that does not offer it.

  4. sarahforward permalink
    October 1, 2010 5:16 pm

    “They give me the opportunity to sit on committees because they understand that even though I’m a young professional, I have a unique skill set and perspective to contribute.”

    Yes. Everyone, even young professionals always have something to contribute and share. We are living in a world of collaboration, sharing, curation, and contribution. The power has been distributed and everyone are given avenues to express themselves and grow as an individual in the career we have chosen. The direction is not just one-way anymore but expanding to diversity. I’m glad that you see the potential for improvement in your profession and what you are doing to achieve that goal.

  5. October 1, 2010 5:18 pm

    Wow, that post agrees with my experiences. I am unemployed, and had a job interview a few months ago for a position that requires education and technical ability. I certainly had the qualifications for the job, but I think they were looking for someone with a few more years experience and a professional registration. Experience only comes through employment, and professional registration typically requires the commitment and sponsorship of an employer. During the interview, I was told a) the company is currently on excellent financial footing b) they worry about a future loss of trained, enthusiastic people to move up in the company. In other words, they think a lack of young talent is looming in the next decade. So what did they do? They hired only ONE individual, who already had the professional registration and the greater years experience. Apparently, they did not want to spend the money to hire and train someone younger, completely contradicting points (a) and (b) above.

  6. October 1, 2010 5:51 pm

    I think one of the major things that shocked me when I became a part of the professional world was how little the company invested in me. I expected training, but I was left to figure things out for myself. I expected to be mentored and taught how to grow so that I could, in turn be a better employee. Not so. It’s too bad really. And maybe it’s just my industry.


  7. October 1, 2010 6:25 pm

    So true! The job that I have felt most valued in was the one where I was encouraged to go to network meetings, where I was supported to do a Masters degree with time off (though I funded it myself), and where managers took the time to encourage and support me in developing new skills and taking on challenging projects. In contrast, I have worked for employers were virtually no training or professional development was on offer, and where the standard answer for any request for training or networking opportunities was “no”, and it is depressing.

    Being trusted to get on with the job is also key, and too much supervision or “micro-management” can also be very de-motivating – afterall, if you aren’t trusted, why bother?

    Different people value different things in job – for some people, it is working in particular location or having flexi-time, while for others it may be working on particular projects, and where employers show that they care about what you value (even if they can’t always provide it), people feel more valued.

  8. October 1, 2010 7:21 pm

    This is true, and I wish all employers had the same mind-set. It seems employers take advantage of this economy and adapt a survival of the fittest mentality. Nobody wants to work in a job where they never know what the next day will bring.

  9. October 1, 2010 7:51 pm

    I am living in that nightmare. yes indeed, some employers are taking advantage of the “downturn of the economy” which gives them an excuse NOT to buy things essential to the staff such as water – we bring our own;, waiting for weeks/days to “save” for a copy guy to fix the copier so in the meantime we have to deal with a temperamental copier… no coffee, – all these little persk we used to take for granted are pretty much gone.
    BUT, on the other hand, there are employers who are truthful of the status o funds in the company – you see things in black and white, you are shown that in some months, there was absolutely no profit – just barely making it so that the skeleton staff get paid…

    You see, what hurts is that when companies do have money, they do invest in employees such as paying for seminars, Christmas bonuese etc…

    Where am I getting at – – accept the fact taht it could be your turn today or tomorrow to get laid off…. accept the fact that you have to be a little more persistent and creative when it comes to job hunting… make yourslef indispensable to the company….. and pray….

  10. October 1, 2010 9:53 pm

    It’s a rare thing for an employer to be so vested in the personal development of their employees. Congrats!

  11. liviumica permalink
    October 1, 2010 10:30 pm

    At the end of the day a JOB is still Just a JOB. the fact that you work with people and interact and even make friends at work it’s all in the human nature.
    To actually find an employer that will take the time to invest in his employees means to be job hunting a long long time or just be incredibly lucky.
    Someone once said – A company’s value is the people that work for that company. And this is so true. A company means some piece of paper, a successful company means PEOPLE involved and working hard or smart.
    These days way too many people are so financially dependent of their jobs that either a) they are too scared to ask to be treated like valuables or b) all they think is the pension/retirement.
    To actually find a job that you have a chance to develop your skills and talents means a lot but reality is that you need the money to sustain your living habits and be content with what you do.
    I guess it’s always gonna be a 2 way street and hopefully sometimes a win-win situation.

  12. October 2, 2010 12:13 am

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s a refreshing change to hear about a terrific employer.

    My last FT job was for the nation’s 6th largest newspaper, whose official motto was “sink or swim.” Nice. I took a retail job to make some cash and, for a while, found some of the things I couldn’t even find at the fancy journalism job — respect, collegial coworkers and a manager I liked a lot.

    That retail job has become my second book “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail”, out from Penguin next April…your point about the non-financial benefits is a very good one as so many employers are so cheap, but there are other ways to reward good workers, as I saw in that low-wage part-time job. That in itself was a revelation.

  13. October 2, 2010 1:49 am

    “…being an archivist or librarian is professional, highly-skilled work.”

    It certainly is.

  14. October 2, 2010 4:33 am

    You speak the truth here! Why are so many employers scared to invest anything in young professionals. My operations team is primarily under 35 yet there is no importance shown to development – training, courses, participation in committees. I’ve asked numerous times for opportunities, nay, I’ve begged, and only succeeded twice in 4 years to attend a course. My husband on the other hand gets tons of opportunities and his company recognizes the need for communication and hosts monthly staff meetings, training sessions, etc. I’m so glad to see that you’re in an opportunity to grow and succeed in your future. Kudos to you and your employer.

  15. October 2, 2010 2:23 pm

    The top reasons people leave a job are:
    -No personal or professional growth opportunities
    -Terrible direct supervisor/manager

    A good job needs to be a partnership between employer and employee. The employee needs to be motivated and drive their own development. The employer (direct supervisor) needs to assess the business need for development and provides access/remove barriers so the employee can develop and learn new things.

    Opportunities for growth is a win-win. The employee is motivated, loyal, and happy because he/she is learning and contributing to the company’s success. The employer is happy because he/she has an educated, motivated employee.

  16. October 2, 2010 4:13 pm

    I have invested over 15,000 dollars in schooling and will invest another ten before it is complete. This being all in student loans, for apparently I make to much money with my current job to get a grant. Furthermore, the current company I work for has no program in place for further education. The information that I have read here and elsewhere scares me. I have friends who have graduated with the same degree, still looking for work, or they are underpaid; but took the job because they have a family to support, student loans to pay, or both. After completing a cost analysis of the situation, the reality is that I would have to bring home a minimum of 45,000 dollars (after taxes) to pay off the loans in a timely fashion, and still support my family at our current level of living. However, after reading the experiences others, I am not sure that I could make that much money a year. That possibility of not being able to get a job or being underpaid horrifies me.

    There are some real concerns here, not just for those in the archival field, as was stated. These concerns are for young or new professionals across the board, and are very real.

  17. October 2, 2010 5:35 pm

    Well put. But the issues with overworked employees or contracts is not only with young professionals. I worked for 10 years for a big bank to suddenly be forced to quit due to a very hostile environment. Employers are pushing workers to the limit and demanding more for less… I ended up with a severe depression and was denied disability, had my insurance canceled… employees with seniority and people over 40 are rapidly losing their spot in the employment scene. Now I am looking for a job and apparently my skills and experience with such reputable company don’t even count…

  18. October 2, 2010 7:27 pm

    At one time I had my own small business. I never asked more of my employees than I asked of myself. I expressed appreciation frequently, praised everyone and gave bonuses when all worked together for our goal. My workplace had a family spirit. Circumstances led to the end of my small business. I helped others get new positions and fave a small severence. I cared for my “family”.
    Since then, I had accepted employment in a new environment. I knew the field well and was valued for my knowledge. This particular employer however, seemed to have a disjointed view when it came to employees. It was demanded that I do more, stay longer and could not complain. No, I did not complain. I wished to discuss my position and why I was treated so different. I was told this: You are the most mature, that means the oldest. You produce more than anyone. You are reliable and loyal. To this I asked: Why can’t I take a vacation? Could I have a half day occasionally? The staff needs more training in order to make the office more productive and relieve some of the stress. Their was no discussion of this, even though I had a plan prepared as a guideline that could be adapted as needed. I was almost completely burned out when I asked if we could hire 1 more employee, even a part timer. That set in motion, the strangest environment. No matter what, whenever I would begin to speak, my employer would say ” Shut Up!” What?? This went on for days. I requested an answer as to why this behavior was going on? I was told that this was the way the office would be running from now on. The employer had been watching ” Biggest Loser” on TV. The employer felt that this was the only way to run the office, because it worked with all the contestants on the show. The office became a new world. Everyone had to be on a strict diet and exercise program. God help you if you had 10 lbs to loose. That attitude began spilling over to the clients. OH MY GOD!! I had enough and in a private meeting told my employer that I would be leaving, I gave my notice. My employer became enraged and said NO! You are fired, this is your last day. What? Being fired meant I lost certain benefits and monies invested. The odd thing to me was that all employees were women. The Boss was also a woman. Strange but true.

  19. DeeJayCruiser permalink
    October 2, 2010 7:40 pm

    “And to be honest, the elements that make for a high quality of life are the ones that cost no money — respect, concern, and mentoring.”

    WHAT? So all that time and money SPENT on university is meant to translate into an understanding that the world is based on well-wishing and good feelings?

    Dream on…..I respect your attitude and your position, I’m probably an even younger professional myself, but show me the money and I’m there. I am currently working in the middle of a desert (LITERALLY: I.E. the mid east) with no signs of urban development or average intelligence life forms for miles….however, i made this decision because of the dough…the dough is good.

    And incase i didn’t make it clear, i think librarians are BRILLIANT, on a mental scale of baboons to billy gates you’d be right up there.

    Plus, you’re making an inverted argument. You can only PRESUME that life would be so much grander if you had the respect and blah blah blah, and that the money didnt matter as much. Well, i bring us back to my initial point… does wellwishing and mentoring sound to people making minimum wage. Some of them say they “LOVE” their jobs….i doubt it….they would love making a lot more money.

  20. October 3, 2010 5:35 am

    Great Post! I completely agree, only a handful companies invest in enhancing their employees skills and abilities.

  21. October 3, 2010 3:36 pm

    Agree with you. Sometimes what matters in work is the intangibles. Great post thanks !!

  22. October 3, 2010 3:42 pm

    Training and experience is something that most companies these days treasure, just as long as it is done on someone else’s dime.

    It is a rare opportunity to find an employer that understands the employer/employee relationship is a two way street that depends on finding and developing valuable workers. Skilled workers are an asset to an employer, sadly most of them treat them now as a liability or even a resource that must be used at the lowest possible cost.

  23. October 3, 2010 4:44 pm

    I agree. Just showing an employee that you don’t despise them is good for me!

    Working retail, I went to work everyday and basically thought, this company literally hates me. Not just a little bit, but really hates me.

    The job I have now doesn’t make me feel this way. Maybe it’s not my dream job, but it does have a schedule that allows me to travel and explore the United States, and that is exactly what I want.

  24. October 3, 2010 8:11 pm

    Good post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    Personally, I’ve found employers who treat their employees with any reasonable amount of respect are few and far between. You are extremely lucky! In fact, in today’s market, you’re lucky if you can find a job that provides both a living wage AND benefits that don’t require a years worth of hard labour to earn.

    I also appreciate, as you stated, your blog’s intended purpose of successful shaming as well as providing stories of when they do it right. Thus far, my own blog has been far more of the former, but I’m working on considering the existence of the latter. 🙂


  25. October 4, 2010 8:14 am

    I absolutely agree! I’ve worked in places where management has been bigots and, at staff meetings and the like, have spoken about the value of everyone in their employ and how they want everyone to feel appreciation and trust – that they can come and talk with management if something is bothering them or if something isn’t working.

    They say this to then, when someone actually did come to them, pull the rug out from under them either in offering up a reprimand, demoting them or finding other ways to not outright, but silently punish them for making a fuss.

    This is not a healthy environment to work in and I say Shame On Them!

    I’m happy that you’re working in a place that is so phenomenal. Let them lead the way!

  26. October 4, 2010 12:04 pm

    No really, it wasn’t just for the great picture in the blog header (but I do love it, though) – I am interested in the issues and in people’s stories of their experience. I’m retired now, but I know what it’s like to struggle to establish yourself professionally and economically. When I was young the challenge was being overqualified academically and underexperienced in the world of work – but how to get the experience if no-one will give you a job? I eventually got an unskilled job in libraries, and very grateful to the librarian who was prepared to appoint me against the prevailing trend. I eventually got qualified by studying in my own time while working full-time. At least once I had the career quals I could get work paid at a salary reflecting that. I’m sad to hear so often nowadays of the bad situation, shameful examples such as are on this website. I’m glad though that you also include the positives, when employers get it right, and when they are at least doing their best and aiming to improve. There is hope.

  27. October 4, 2010 12:20 pm

    I love your last line – “And if you as an employer can’t afford these things then you can’t afford an archivist” – and isn’t that true for most if not all roles. And what I’ve noted that it isn’t the development opportunities that cost lots of money it is the ones that allow you to use your skills and talent. I work in organisational development and coaching and I so wish that employers could realise that people just need to be nutured, to have self belief and self responsibility.

  28. October 4, 2010 3:48 pm

    Great post! Even though money does matter (we have to be able to sustain our basic needs), what counts is professionalism. Life is such that things do not always go our way, not even well-paid jobs with great benefits. As a professional, this should not stop our personal development. I’m a recent MBA graduate working in Customer Service. Am I overqualifed? Yes. Am I in the wrong place? No. How I see it, one of the best ways to learn about a company, is by being on the front line. Sure, I’m taking a risk as I’m unsure what my future with this company will be. Nonetheless, no regrets, I enjoy working for this company! Congrats on Freshly Pressed! LB


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