Job Jugglers, on the Tightrope

Category : CAREER

WHEN someone asks Roger Fierro “What do you do?” — which he knows is shorthand for “Where do you work?” — he laughs. Then he says, “I do everything.”

Mr. Fierro, who is 26, has four jobs: working as a bilingual-curriculum specialist for the textbook publisher Pearson; handling estate sales and online marketing for a store that sells vintage items; setting up an online store for a custom piñata maker; and developing reality-show ideas for a production company. So far this month, he’s made about $1,800.

Whereas most 9-to-5ers have some kind of structure in their lives, each workday can be wildly different for him. On a recent day, he worked on and off from 7 a.m. to midnight, making business calls, working on the piñata store’s Web site and visiting the vintage store, among other things. (To maintain his sanity, he made sure to schedule some “me” time from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8.)

“I have eight million things going on,” said Mr. Fierro, who lives in the West Town area of Chicago. “It’s exhausting. Sometimes I just want to take a nap.”

Some portions of the population — especially young, creative types like actors, artists and musicians — have always held multiple jobs to pay the bills. But people from all kinds of fields are now drawing income from several streams. Mr. Fierro, for one, has a degree in international studies and Latin American studies at the University of Chicago.

Some of these workers are patching together jobs out of choice. They may find full-time office work unfulfilling and are testing to see whether they can be their own boss. Certainly, the Internet has made working from home and trying out new businesses easier than ever.

But in many cases, necessity is driving the trend. “Young college graduates working multiple jobs is a natural consequence of a bad labor market and having, on average, $20,000 worth of student loans to pay off,” said Carl E. Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.

“There are two types of people in this position: the graduate who can’t get a full-time job, and the person whose income isn’t sufficient to meet their expenses,” he said. “The only cure for young people in this position is an economic recovery of robust proportions.”

LOUISE GASSMAN, 28, has a rotating schedule of multiple jobs: as an actress; as an assistant to dance instructors at the Circle in the Square and Juilliard schools; as a baby-sitter; and in a variety of administrative roles and as a spinning instructor at SoulCycle, an indoor cycling studio in New York.

Ms. Gassman’s monthly income, which can vary greatly depending on whether she books an acting job, ranges from $1,800 to $4,000. Some months, almost all of her income goes to the $1,450 rent on her 290-square-foot studio on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Whatever is left after essentials goes toward paying off her remaining $16,000 in college loans.

“I worry about money all the time,” Ms. Gassman said. “I live on a really tight budget, and I live paycheck to paycheck.”

Periodically, the accountant who cuts her check at SoulCycle reminds her that someone her age should be putting away $300 a paycheck for retirement, an amount that is sometimes almost half of her pay. “I’m like, retirement?” she asks. “Then I have the ‘Oh my God, Oh my God’ feelings.”

Ms. Gassman has come up with creative ways to save money. She has a policy not to spend $5 bills and instead puts them in a Tupperware container. So far, she’s been able to use this cash to pay for a new air-conditioner, for three plane tickets, and for her dog to be neutered.

ON the brighter side, when or if these job jugglers get on a career path, they may offer an attractive skill set: they are expert multitaskers, hyper-organized and often very knowledgeable in technology. Having multiple jobs is an exercise in mental dexterity.

Ms. Branco says that because of her four jobs, which require skills as diverse as developing lesson plans and mastering an online ticketing system, she has become more adept at dealing with a wide range of people and situations: “I’ve learned to be very adaptable, because one day I’m corporate, the next day I’m start-up, and the next day I’m nonprofit.”

Mr. Fierro describes himself as “MacGyver.” He might have to transport some furniture, “read and synthesize documents, find obscure bits of information on Google and give presentations in Spanish, all in one day,” he says.

But beware: Too much multitasking makes it harder to sustain attention, according to Kirk Snyder, an assistant professor of communications at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, who researches the changing workplace values of Gen Y.

More college graduates are working in second jobs that don’t require college degrees, part of a phenomenon called “mal-employment.” In short, many baby-sitters, sales clerks, telemarketers and bartenders are overqualified for their jobs.

Last year, 1.9 million college graduates were mal-employed and had multiple jobs, up 17 percent from 2007, according to federal data. Almost half of all college graduates have a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree.

The goal for most, Mr. Sum said, is to be upgraded to full-time jobs. “That is where there is the most payoff for a college degree,” he said.

But full-time jobs don’t suit everyone. Ms. Gassman, for example, has been offered a full-time job at SoulCycle, complete with full benefits, but she doesn’t want it. “I wouldn’t be able to go on auditions in the middle of the day,” she explained. “Of course, it stresses me out not to have health insurance, but what is my choice? Work in an office and be unhappy? Being happy is a superhigh value to me.”

Mr. Fierro is much happier now than when he was working as a bilingual reading specialist for a public school in Chicago. “I was working 12 hours a day and making $38,000 a year and it wasn’t making a dent in the $120,000 in loans I had to pay off. Plus, I was miserable.”

Mr. Fierro, who calls himself an “aesthetic consultant,” would ultimately like to create his own line of merchandise, along the lines of Marc Jacobs. He is optimistic that he is more likely to achieve his goal by working on many projects than if he held a traditional job.

Ms. Branco says that while she is often exhausted and hasn’t had two consecutive days off in months, she isn’t ready to commit to one employer. “The jobs are allowing me to wander and figure out what I really want to do,” she said.

Professor Snyder at Southern Cal doesn’t see multiple job-holding as a trend that will disappear anytime soon.

“The likelihood of this generation devoting their professional life to just one job or career at the same time is simply counterintuitive to their worldview,” he said. “I think we would be seeing this generation pursuing multiple jobs and careers at once even in a robust economy.”




Job opportunities on the rise: Five things new college grads should know

Category : CAREER

Featured on

Thanks to improved job opportunities, this year’s crop of college graduates won’t have to hit the pavement quite as hard as their counterparts did in the past few years. Their spring job outlook is the best it’s been since 2007, with employers planning to hire 10 to 20 percent more new graduates this year than they did last year, according to two recent surveys. Here’s a breakdown of hiring and salary prospects for various industries, college majors, and skill sets:

1. Job prospects are good – unless you were hoping to work for the government

The best bets for college graduates this spring include oil and gas extraction; pharmaceutical manufacturing; computer and electronics manufacturing; and finance, insurance, and real estate. More than half the employers surveyed in these groups expect healthy hiring increases, and these companies plan to add an average of more than 100 new college grads, according to a survey of members of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Engineering and accounting look good as well, partly because a few companies are planning large hiring increases.

2. Your major isn’t necessarily a major issue

More companies are actively seeking engineering, business, and physical science majors than humanities and education majors.

But before you liberal arts devotees despair, consider this: 36 percent of employers are considering hiring students of any major – that’s a record level in Michigan State University’s Recruiting Trends survey conducted each fall.

Some of the “hot majors” identified by that survey are e-commerce, entrepreneurism, mathematics, and public relations.

3. Got these skills?

The skills and qualities ranked as most important by employers in the NACE survey: Verbal communication, decisionmaking and problem-solving, planning and prioritizing, processing information, and analyzing quantitative data.

Haven’t gotten around to mastering the arts of tweeting and blogging? Don’t worry too much yet. Only 7 percent of employers surveyed by Michigan State list social-media literacy as a necessary skill for entry level hiring, and 13 percent say it’s a preferred skill.

4. Be ready to compete

Although hiring numbers are on the rise, a lot of recent college graduates and more-experienced workers are still hungry for jobs out there.

Each job posting receives an average of 21 applications, among the employers surveyed by NACE.

That’s competitive, but last year’s graduating class had it much worse, at 40 applicants per job posting.

5. Don’t say “Show me the money!”

Salaries will be stagnant for most new hires, with 80 percent of employers in Michigan State’s survey saying they will not increase salaries. That survey projects an average starting salary for hires with bachelor’s degrees to be about $37,000.

Those with computer science and engineering degrees will fare better, starting off with salaries in the high 40s to mid-50s. They’re also the only ones with any chance of hearing the words “signing bonus.” Only 1 percent of employers expect to offer those, primarily to graduates with advanced degrees, the Michigan State survey reports.

Do You Have What It Takes To Intern At A Small Company?

Category : CAREER

May 31, 2011

Featured on BusinessInsider

To paraphrase the often quoted snowflake analogy: no two internships are alike. Internships at small team environments, for example, will be quite different than those at Fortune 500 companies.

And that could be very good.

By their very nature, smaller organizations enjoy little hierarchy. Free from the corporate ladder, all team members are expected to contribute. Everyone on the team must be productive.

Internships at entrepreneurial companies and smaller-scale non-profits have several advantages:

  • Real world, hands-on experience you don’t often get at a larger company
  • Direct interaction with C-level executives and the Founder team
  • Instantly becoming an integral part of a focused team
  • Mentorship from dynamic leaders

Far different than an “I’ll just put in my time” attitude often found at a mega-corporation, you’re accepting a major challenge by choosing an internship at a startup, entrepreneurial small business or change-oriented non-profit.

You’ll learn a lot, sometimes through mistakes. And, you’ll be “exposed” – in both a good and bad way. Good: you’ll work much closer with dynamic leaders, and be exposed to their networks and influencers. Bad: this is on-the-job training in front of a captive audience; you (and your co-workers) will quickly know what you don’t know.

So what are the personal attributes of someone who thrives in this environment? Consider this “Top 10” – and see if these points apply to you.

1. Passionate

You will be working with a small team of people who are extremely passionate about what they’re building. Success as an intern in this environment requires that you be equally passionate about the company mission – and the value of the products.

2. Enthusiastic

An emerging-growth organization can’t be shy about its mission or how it goes about succeeding; same for the individuals who work there. Often, small team organizations are short on revenue. To make up for the lack of financial resources, they thrive on energy and enthusiasm – no one is exempt, from interns all the way to the CEO.

3. Entrepreneurial

This almost goes without saying – but we’re saying it anyway. If you’re ambitious – the proverbial “go-getter”, and see yourself leading your own business or not-for-profit someday… where better to learn than with like-minded people already running a challenging small team? You’ll learn more here as an emerging entrepreneur than you ever did in college, guaranteed.

4. Resourceful

Your internship in a small team will come with considerable responsibility; a successful intern must be incredibly resourceful in completing assignments. Often in startups there is no roadmap, no “how to” manual. You’ll work on tasks that have never been done at this company. You’ll set precedents as you learn – and in the process, prove just how resourceful you are.

5. Self-Disciplined

With no roadmap and little handholding, an entrepreneurial intern must be disciplined enough to complete assignments and meet project deadlines – and sometimes even determine their own work schedule. This is especially true in a virtual assignment, but even an in-office internship will require self-imposed focus and determination.

6. Independent

Working independently in small teams, especially at start-ups, is the norm. You must be adept at working without direct supervision – and making decisions without the help of others – to complete the projects and initiatives assigned to you.

7. Leader

Depending on your role and unique skills set or personal network, you may be asked to lead entire initiatives. Taking on a leadership role in a growing company is a natural fit for most people interested in serving as an intern with a small team – and a great opportunity to be noticed early in your career.

8. Resilient

Emerging companies are constantly trying new approaches to achieve goals. Survival often means quickly discarding ineffective initiatives and trying something different. Interns working in this dynamic environment must not get discouraged if their work is replaced with a new approach, or are suddenly asked to change directions.

9. Versatile

Emerging organizations usually have more work than they do available resources. Everyone – again, from the CEO to interns – must wear many hats and must be flexible enough to handle various assignments. Those who excel in this area often find the work both exhilarating, and exhausting.

10. Coachable

Small team environments typically do not allow for elongated learning curves. Feedback is often spontaneous, direct and brutally honest. While in the long-term this form of coaching is highly effective, short-term it can cause some anxiety for those with thinner skins and temperamental egos.

As you’re reading though this list of characteristics, and perhaps wondering if you’re right for a small team internship, keep this in mind:

Not even the CEOs and Directors of the organizations you may work for have ALL of these character traits; some may only have a few. The fact is that small teams are typically looking for those who complement their existing talent – and not necessarily for the “ideal” candidate.

Even if you’ve only shown a few of these attributes in your career to date, you may be the perfect fit – and should consider a small team internship.

For more information about internship opportunities visit us at

A Peek into the Mind of University Chic’s Very Own Victoria Reitano

Category : CAREER

More with University Chic’s Victoria Reitano…

By Leigh Raines | Saturday May 28, 2011

A peek into the mind of University Chic’s very own Victoria Reitano

Q: Speaking of internships and hands on experience, we saw your post about Charlie Sheen’s search for an intern. The whole “winning” gimmick must be big in college right now, what does UChic have to say about it?

A: The fact that he’s hiring an intern at all shows that you can go off the handle and still find some sort of success or following. We obviously don’t advocate following in Sheen’s footsteps, but there’s a lesson to be learned here. Take a risk, think with a start up mentality, and use social networking to your advantage. In the past taking risks was a bad thing, now it’s encouraged. See the COO of Facebook’s commencement speech at Barnard.

Q: So how does post college life for our generation differ from the generations before us?

A: I tend to think we’re more aggressive. School is so expensive and we’ve kind of realized, women especially, we’re not necessarily going to get to stay home. A lot more women today are realizing that we’re going to be part of two income households. Today’s cost of living in so high.

Q: We loved your article on the 20-something crisis. What do you think are some of the best ways to battle it?

A: Write a to-do list for a day, week, year, etc, but specify an amount of time. Put the future ones in a box and seal them away. Take stock of where you are and stop feeling the need to rush. Go with your gut and be solid to who who you are.

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: Today’s college student is so much more aggressive than they used to be. We have Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc. We’re finding out information faster than the content providers can reach us. Study and follow trends in the industry you want to be in. Be exposed, read everything, and make your name your brand. Email sites even if there’s nothing listed; you never know where a friendly email or tweet will take you. And always be mindful of how you’re using your smartphone and social networking. There are actual companies whose job it is to crack the settings so your employer can see everything.