renholz and Lisa Falzone at the Forbes Under 3…CNBC’s Maneet Ahuja interviews Shai Agassi, Nikita Fahrenholz and Lisa Falzone at the Forbes Under 30…
How do you survive the world of startups? There’s no clear answer, but three entrepreneurs–Revel System CEO Lisa Falzone, Delivery Hero’s Nikita Fahrenholtz and Better Place founder Shai Agassi–took the stage of the FORBES Under 30 Summit, just off the beaches of Tel Aviv, to share some tips they’ve picked up during their adventures in startup land.
How to push passed the fear of failure?
Nikita Fahrenholtz: You have to get comfortable with it. I’ve failed so many times–it’s part of what makes you human. You change your mindset–I never thought about the negative consequences of an experiment but instead the positive outcome. You push through it and you ignore others’ opinions. You have to trust your intuition.
Shai Agassi: If you’re not willing to fail you won’t succeed. The difference between failure and successes is so minuscule you wont’ be able to tell the difference. Fail early, fail big and fail gracefully. And then you take the next step and you’ll invariably succeed.
Lisa Falzone: I was not good at failure. I had to study to overcome that fear to start a company. It’s about being OK with failure and know you’ll make mistakes. But it’s also about how fast you recover. We’re growing at 200% each year, so there will be pain but it’s about how agile we can be. I always look back to this quote from Theodore Roosevelt which basically says I’d rather stand in the arena and fail than be one of those cold timid souls that know neither victory or defeat.
How did you get your start in the business?
Nikita Fahrenholtz : I went into consulting because it seemed like a safe option after university. It was a great company but it wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to spend 16 hours a day in a windowless room talking about operation strategies. I quit after 7 months and talked with my friend (and future co-founder) about starting a company that ordered pizza online. My mom started to cry when I told her. I think she’s happy now.
Lisa Falzone: Point of sale is huge problem for retailers. There’s a joke in the business that the acronym POS really stands for piece of shit. That was a problem that I could solve. The iPad had just came out and we thought, let’s use this new technology and interface to create a good point of sale product. When you create something out of nothing, everything is hard. No one had printed a receipts from an iPad before, no one had found way to connect the iPad to the platforms. Now we’re doing all the check outs for Cinnabon and the Superbowl.
What are your plans for the future?
Nikita Fahrenholtz: Being based in Germany, we have to expanded rapidly because the home market is so small. We had to move quickly to France and Spain and Italy. With Delivery Hero we mapped out countires that were interesting for us and we found most attraive open spots. I’m not so much worried about US comapnies like GrubHub because they are so content with the U.S.–and if they get fancy they go to Canada. That means the rest of the world is ours.
Lisa Falzone: We’re working toward an IPO, I don’t think I could ever work for a large corp. We never built Revel to get sold and always wanted to remain independent – and going public is the best option.
And a final thought from Shai Agassi: “Bits, atoms, and cells are the three major upcoming shifts, but the biggest challenge will be finding the moral compass to steer them.”
More than 13 million people received cash assistance from the government in 1995, before the law was passed. Today, just three million do.
“Simply put, welfare reform worked because we all worked together,” Bill Clinton, who signed into law welfare reform, or the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times in 2006. Clinton hadcampaigned on a pledge to “end welfare as we know it” and today it is all too apparent that he succeeded.
The law replaced AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) with TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families—“temporary” being the key word). It stipulated that people could receive no more than five years of government benefits in a lifetime, though states could set their limits lower and many did, with some instituting a two-year lifetime limit. It required a certain percentage of welfare recipients in states to be working, and said that those who couldn’t find jobs would have to participate in community service or get vocational training. Those who didn’t work or volunteer would eventually be kicked off the welfare rolls.
The law also changed the way the federal government handed out assistance. TANF is administered through so-called block grants to states, which then can spend it any way they want to help low-income families, with little federal oversight. If states spend the money on cash assistance, they have a number of rules they have to follow, but they’re also free to spend it on something else entirely; Michigan, for instance, spends much of its block grant on college scholarships; Texas spends much of its on foster care, according to H. Luke Shaefer, a University of Michigan professor and a co-author of $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.
“There’s this this crazy notion that we retrenched welfare—what we really did was reorient it towards people who are working when they are working, and away from people who are struggling at the very bottom,” he said. The original welfare program cost around $30 billion in today’s dollars, he said, while the government now spends twice as much on that on the Earned Income Tax Credit, expanded in the 1990s to incentivize the poor to work.
If nothing else, these policies were an effective way to reduce the number of people on welfare rolls. People on the left and right agree that they helped change a program that was in need of reform. But there were real human costs too: Those who didn’t find jobs, who weren’t working, who lived in states trying to reduce their cash-assistance programs, were left to struggle on their own.
The number of families with children who reported that the only benefit they received was SNAP grew 143 percent between 1996 and 2006.
Today, in large part because of welfare reform, the safety net—the set of government efforts to come to the aid of the country’s citizens when they are down on their luck, much of which has existed since the Great Depression— is thin and getting thinner. And this thinning goes beyond welfare, which gives needy families cash support: On April 1, between 500,000 and one million childless adults will lose access to food stamps (officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). This is the belated consequence of a rule that was part of Clinton’s welfare reform, which stipulated that childless adults can only receive three months of food stamps if they aren’t employed at least 20 hours a week or in a training program. For years states received waivers for the rule, but in many states, governors have chosen not to ask for extensions for this year.
Few states have cut their assistance to the very poor more than Arkansas has. In 2014, there were seven families on TANF for every 100 families with children in poverty in Arkansas, down from 40 out of every 100 poor families in 1995, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (In Minnesota, by contrast, that fell from 89 out of 100 poor families who received benefits in 1995 to 41 out of 100 in 2014.) The number of welfare recipients in Arkansas dropped to just 9,901 in September of 2015, from more than 63,000 in 1995. And a single-parent family of three receives just $204 a month from the state of Arkansas, one of the lowest cash benefits in the nation. Arkansas hasn’t quite gotten rid of its safety net entirely, but it’s gone as far toward that end as any place in modern America. And it may go further yet.
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At a church in downtown Little Rock, the city’s homeless, mentally ill, and long-term unemployed stream in from all corners to get a something to eat. They climb the dark staircase and wait in line for a Styrofoam cup of soup, a cup of potatoes and beans, a few Saltines, and a slice of bread.
They include a woman named Stacy, who didn’t want to provide her last name.
Before she lived on the streets, she worked as a registered nurse for 20 years. But a series of events—she declined to specify—knocked her out of steady work and into homelessness, and getting back on her feet is hard. The only public assistance she qualifies for is food stamps, but on April 1, that will end.
“They’re shutting off the only benefit I have,” she says, straightening the pink bandanna that covers her dark hair.
The knowledge that her benefits will be ending equips her with little that she didn’t already have. She’s been trying to find a job, but it’s hard with nowhere to sleep, no cash coming in, no steady meal. She needs to renew her nursing license but doesn’t have the resources to do so; even finding money for a bus pass is tough. A nearby church gives them out sometimes, but recently, they’ve run out, she says.
This dilemma is a common one facing people in many states, including Arkansas, which have high poverty rates but little assistance for people trying to get out of poverty.
Governor Asa Hutchinson, Republican, could have asked for a waiver to the SNAP requirement that adults like Stacy work after three months, but he decided not to, he told me, in a phone call. The state’s unemployment rate, currently at 5.7 percent, had decreased enough that he believed there were enough work opportunities in the state, he said. If someone still can’t find a job, they can always volunteer, he said.
“They still have the opportunity to contribute to a local food bank or some other local nonprofit,” he said. “That contribution brings dignity, it is helping the community, it is giving back, and that seems a good balance to me.”
So why doesn’t someone like Stacy just do that and avoid losing her food stamps? For one, finding a place to volunteer or work can be very hard for those who don’t have phones, mailing addresses, or work clothes. Many do not have the education or wherewithal to find a volunteer position. And for those who want to get more education to find work, the job-training opportunities in Arkansas are insufficient in helping people get the skills they need to find permanent work, said Tomiko Townley, the SNAP and Older Adult Outreach Manager at the Arkansas Hunger Alliance.
“The reality is that the majority of employment training programs in Arkansas, are things like job search training,” she said. “They’re very limited, not super skill-oriented opportunities.”
The consequences of a dialed-down safety net might not be so dire if the state were thriving, but that’s not the case. Arkansas consistently ranks at the bottom of the nation’s poverty rankings: In 2014, nearly one in five people lived below the poverty line ($23,834 for a family of four), making the state 48th richest in the nationincluding the District of Columbia. (Only Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico were poorer.)
But poor families don’t receive much assistance from the state of Arkansas. Under TEA, the state’s version of TANF, families can only receive two years of government assistance in a lifetime, though the national limit is five years. Those receiving TEA must work or volunteer 35 hours a week, although the federal requirements are only 20 hours a week.
The way that Arkansas treats its poor is not exactly a break with tradition, Ernie Dumas, a long-time Little Rock political columnist and historian told me. Arkansas was poor when it was settled, and generations of politicians “entertained no notions of progress or what it might take to improve services to people or the need to elevate them,” he told me. In the early part of the 20th century, Arkansas was already among the poorest states in the nation; it also had the lowest taxes in the nation, so funds for substantial anti-poverty initiatives were not available. Then came floods, drought, and the Great Depression, and a re-commitment to the belief that the state shouldn’t interfere to help its residents, he said.
Bill Clinton legitimately wanted to help the poor when he was governor, Dumas said. Dumas remembers seeing Clinton around town, always talking to people about their lives and how he could improve them. When he ran for president, Clinton frequently talked about visiting welfare offices in Arkansas and meeting recipients. But the welfare reform bill he signed, which had been pushed by a Republican Congress, left many in his home state without public help.
After welfare reform, Arkansas had a “golden opportunity” to improve life for people in poverty, Rich Huddleston, the executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, an advocacy group that counts Hillary Clinton as one of its founders, told me.
Instead, “it has been a total disaster for the state,” said.
The state focused on reducing the welfare caseloads by disqualifying people, rather than on helping people get a job, he said. For many people, the hoops to jump through to get on TEA are so confusing that they don’t apply at all. By law, the state is supposed to assess recipients when they apply for TEA and refer them to a service that can help them find a job, go back to school, or get vocational training. But in many cases, Huddleston said, people get referred to services that don’t exist in their area of the state.
Raquel Williams knows how difficult it is to go through the process of applying for and receiving TEA. A year ago, Williams was steadily employed in Texarkana, Texas, in a state unemployment office. But when her husband, an EMT transporter, couldn’t find work, he convinced her to quit her job and move with their children to Little Rock so he could find a job there. She had trouble in her job search from the start, but their problems multiplied when he was shot on December 26. He survived the shooting, but can’t work and can’t walk. So Williams started looking for a job.
It seems like this should be easy: Even on her toughest days, she is well-dressed, neat, and affable, and seems like the type of person who would be someone else’s boss. She has work experience. But she hasn’t found a job, and the family has no money coming in. So she applied for TEA.
Right away, Williams told me, she felt as though the system was not there to make her life any easier, let alone help her find work. She had to bring them all sorts of paperwork before they would begin helping her; proof that she wasn’t getting child support from the father of her first child, proof that her husband wasn’t receiving disability, proof that she was a resident of Arkansas, that she had children, that they had Social Security numbers.
“Might as well have given them a blood sample,” she told me.
Weeks after applying, she had an interview, where she was told that she and her family could receive $247 a month, but that she would have to start volunteering 35 hours a week almost immediately. She could get compensated for the gas money she used getting to the volunteering position, she was told, but only at the end of the month.
Between volunteering, taking care of her kids, and tending to her ailing husband, she’s found the time to apply for jobs, though she’s had no help from the TEA office in looking for work and hasn’t had many bites. She wants to go back to school, but since her GPA is low from a previous try at college, she’s unlikely to get scholarships and she’ll have to pay for it herself.
Often times, she wonders why she goes through all of it for a mere $247, which isn’t nearly enough to pay the family’s $650 rent, gas, and heat. She kicks herself for following her key principles of Faith, Family, and Work—if she had just left her husband and stayed in Texas, if she had lied on a job application that asked if she smoked, if she had just kept the old job, she would have been fine. Now, she says, she’s stuck.
“The program is designed to keep you in a rut,” she told me. “It’s not built to empower anybody.”
It’s true that there are few support systems in place once people start working to help them stay employed and prosper. Many of the people who do find jobs end up in low-paying ones with no room for advancement, Huddleston said. There just aren’t very many good jobs in Arkansas for people without a college education, and the state hasn’t invested in programs that would allow people to get a college education or other sorts of training that could help turn jobs into upwardly-mobile careers. And, anyway, Huddleston said, Arkansas public schools have struggled so badly in the past few decades that many TEA recipients wouldn’t be qualified for college even if they could afford it.
“To say that it had anything but an impact on the caseload would be misleading in Arkansas, just because of the challenges we had,” he told me. “The challenges of isolated rural areas, the state of the economy, what jobs paid here—it made it really difficult for folks to get off welfare and earn an income they really needed to support their families.”
* * *
This crisis isn’t unique to Arkansas. As H. Luke Shaefer and Kathryn J. Edin document in $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, welfare reform created a class of extremely poor people, neither working nor receiving help from the government. Researchers call these people “disconnected,” and nationally, one in five single mothers were disconnected by the mid-2000s. The number of families with children who reported that the only benefit they received was SNAP grew 143 percent between 1996 and 2006.
“The transition to a work-based safety net is incomplete, and we have a big hole in the bottom,” Shaefer told me. “For folks at the very bottom, it’s leading to very bad outcomes.”
Between 1996 and 2011, even as the welfare rolls were shrinking and more one-time recipients were moving to work, extreme poverty was increasing. During that time, the number of families living on $2 a day or less rose 150 percent, to 1.65 million.
Living in extreme poverty has very real consequences for families, Shaefer said. Reduced TANF access in states is associated with higher food insecurity, increased child homelessness, a jump in foster care placement, and more juvenile detention, according to soon-to-be-published research by Shaefer and colleagues. Not having access to cash means people can’t pay the rent and then become homeless, and homelessness leads to stress, which can hurt people emotionally and physically. Families are often forced to sell their food stamps, their plasma, their bodies, to get access to cash to survive on, he said.
Welfare reform had big goals of moving people to self-sufficiency by training them to work. But it did little to create job opportunities or the types of programs that help people stay in jobs once they get them. Instead, they’re on their own.
“The idea that it’s a program that promotes work is a myth,” Shaefer said.
States only spend about eight percent of their TANF funds on work-related activities and supports, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. They spend 34 percent on “other areas.”
Even if those programs existed, that type of job training is rarely effective, said Jacob Klerman, a senior fellow at the research firm Abt Associates. Many of the people who need training come from bad schools and lack basic reading, writing, math, or science skills. The job training programs the government often makes available are just a few weeks long, which doesn’t prepare people for middle-class jobs, and certainly doesn’t make up for years of abysmal basic education. And it’s nearly impossible for poor people to attend longer training—much less a four-year college—because they need to be doing something to earn money to pay for living expenses, given that they likely don’t have savings or families with any wealth at all.
“We’re just not very good at job training. It’s a hard thing to do,” he said.
Of course, there are people for whom welfare reform did push them off the dole and into employment—or at least for whom welfare reform coincided with a growing economy that enabled them to find work. According to Shaefer and Edin, nearly 75 percent of low-income single mothers were employed by 2000, up from 58 percent in 1993. But even those that did find jobs weren’t necessarily lifted out of poverty, but were instead often kept there by low wages, just-in-time scheduling, and not enough hours.
“We’ve had partial success, but the problem is the winds blow against you,” said Timothy Smeeding, a poverty expert who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Wages and jobs have been getting worse, and you can find a job in many places, but not everywhere. Working yourself out of poverty is much harder.”
Still, if the problems with welfare reform span the country, some states are nevertheless making it worse than others. They’re able to do so because the program is set up as a block grant.
In 2010, Arizona reduced the time limit to 36 months from 60 and terminated child-only cases, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Its caseload fell 66 percent between 2006 and 2014. States including Kansas, Michigan, and Indiana implemented similar changes and saw similar drops in the numbers.
“The safety net has been shredded in many different ways,” Liz Schott, one of the authors of the report, told me.
The differences among states has meant that the ability of the very poor to survive can depend on where they happen to live. When Amanda Ellis, an Arkansas native, moved from Minneapolis back home to Arkansas and told the state welfare office how much she’d received in TANF benefits from the government of Minnesota, they laughed in her face. The simple act of moving with her son meant that the amount of benefits she received dropped from $437 a month to $162.
“I came back, and I was being told, ‘You’re not going to be able to get on your feet that easily here,’” Ellis, a slight woman who is so shy she covers her mouth when she talks, told me.
Bouncing back after she arrived in Arkansas in 2011 was a daunting task. With almost no money, she and her son stayed in shelter after shelter after she got on TEA and started volunteering. Her welfare counselor wanted her to find a job right away, but she pushed back and said she wanted to go to school. She eventually went back to get certified as a pharmacy technician.
That was difficult: Public transit in Little Rock is lacking, and Ellis doesn’t have a car, so she would take two buses to get to class.The day I met her, her son had missed the school bus in the morning and she had to take three buses just to drop him off at school.
Ellis recently started a job as a pharmacy technician at Walmart. She has an apartment and has finally achieved a degree of stability. It wasn’t TEA that helped her achieve these things, though. It was disability benefits, something that few other single mothers could access. Her son is autistic, and though he’d been denied disability benefits in Arkansas, a counselor had approved it in Minnesota. The disability payments helped her get an apartment and go back to school, she told me. Steady monthly payments are what other people, such as Raquel Williams, might have gotten, had welfare still existed.
* * *
Of course, people on the left and right agree that welfare was flawed and that some things needed to be changed. The concern is just that the reforms went so far in requiring people to work, and not far at all in helping them do so.
Rather than learn from welfare reform, though, states are moving forward with further rules and regulations that make the process of receiving benefits a rough, even humiliating, experience. Arkansas, for example, just became the latest state to require drug testing for all welfare recipients, a costly proposition that nets few abusers. Governor Hutchinson also wants to add work requirements for low-income people who are benefiting from the state’s Medicaid expansion.Other state legislatures are trying to make it more difficult for governors to get waivers that would allow food-stamp recipients to continue to receive benefits. North Carolina, for example, passed a law in October prohibiting the state from getting waivers for federal time limits for food stamps.
“There’s a lot of talk and a lot of movement now that we see, particularly from Republicans, that it’s time to extend what we did to TANF to other programs,” says Schott, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The end of food stamps for childless adults is one more example of this. States like Arkansas are acting to ensure that those people who have no other benefits except food stamps lose those benefits unless they find a job, but they are most often the people who will have the hardest time finding work.
Tomiko Townley, the Hunger Relief Alliance case manager, knows what this will mean for single, childless adults in Arkansas. On April 1, thousands of Arkansans will go to buy food, swipe their card, get an error message, and have no idea why they aren’t receiving help anymore. They’ll turn to food pantries and soup kitchens, who will be overwhelmed by the demand.
And then, they’ll disappear off the government’s rolls, just as the welfare recipients have. The numbers of people receiving food stamps will drop, and thousands more people won’t be able to eat, or survive. But to the policymakers who look for a shrinking welfare program, the changes will be considered a success.
If you’re a woman, maybe now is a good time to consider getting into data entry keying.
That’s one of the precious few jobs in which women can expect to earn a median wage about $50 a week more than their male counterparts.
Of course, it’s not a great job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a data entry keyer operates a keyboard to enter data, and she (it’s “she” 75 percent of the time) earns a little less $30,000 a year.
Tuesday is International Women’s Day, a good time to review the data on how women fare in the U.S. labor market. Last year, the average full-time female employee made a median of $726 a week. That’s 81 cents for every dollar made by the median man, and it’s actually a bigger gap than the 83 cents per dollar the median woman made in 2014.
In the U.S., certain jobs (like data entry keying) are far more likely to be held by women than men (and vice versa). Here’s how our labor market breaks down by gender, with blue indicating occupations that have a higher percentage of women workers than five years ago:
Women make up about 95 percent of all child care workers, earning a median wage of $475 a week (for personal care and service occupations). Men, on the other hand, still make up more than 80 percent of aerospace engineers, chemical engineers and software developers, who make about four times as much.
In the last five years, those gender lines haven’t shifted much at all. Women are now less likely to be models and religious directors (red dots) and slightly more likely (blue dots) to be tailors, clerks and financial analysts.
Men also tend to make more within occupational categories. That’s true for nearly every profession with weekly wage data available, except for retail and wholesale buyers, data entry keyers and accounting clerks. As you can see, the gap between men and women is wider the higher up the pay scale you go.
Expect your office to be a bit emptier come 9 a.m. Monday.
According to a 2008 report, over 1.5 million workers will call in sick the day after the Super Bowl, and millions more will be late. Maybe it’s the reported 325 million gallons of beer Americans will consume — or the 1.3 billionchicken wings. Whatever the case, that’s a lot of lost productivity.
So what can employers do to ensure the day isn’t a wash? One expert says you could punish those who had a bit too much fun Sunday night—or throw a party instead.
Tim Eisenhauer, a workplace collaboration expert, says it could benefit employers to embrace the sluggishness and “nurse the hangovers.”
“Provide breakfast and turn the morning or even the entire day into a morale building-slash-employee-engagement-slash-get-together-slash-get-to-know-each-other-at-work day,” Eisenhauer suggests. “You could make it a day of fun and play, and bring in a comedian, a funny speaker, a musician, (or) a spread of food.”
Too often, Eisenhauer says, an employer’s assumptions about what will make them successful are overly strict. Hard work is well and good, but incorporating a bit of fun can also be beneficial to your bottom line.
Plus, providing a breakfast or some other type of socializing event is a great way for your workers to get to know each other, particularly at a large organization. And that could lead to even greater productivity down the line.
“Make it a point that your people walk out of every corporate event knowing more coworkers than they did when they walked in,” he says. “Well-networked employees are happy employees.”
Naturally these suggestions depend on your company culture, but if you’re looking for a way to boost morale, free bagels and coffee never hurts.
Twenty-eight-year-old Margaret Davis was making nice money as a writer in the legal department of a big pharmaceutical company in New York.
She liked her coworkers and enjoyed the job on a day-to-day basis — except it was not going anywhere.
The company promised Davis an international assignment, but obtaining the right working papers was a problem. Amid management shuffles, Davis felt lost in the system after four years.
As she approached 30, Davis said, “I didn’t really know there were careers in things that were interesting like interior design. . . . It was never a lucrative career choice. But here in New York I realized it can be.”
A few months ago, Davis left her job with plans to study design. In the meantime, she is working at an art gallery, which she finds much more fulfilling.
Davis is not alone. Sixty percent of millennials, ages 22-32, have changed jobs between one and four times in the last five years, according to State Street Global Advisors.
“While pay is important, it’s clear that millennials won’t stay with companies for money alone,” said David Cruickshank, global chairman of consulting firm Deloitte.
Indeed, despite a rocky job market, 44 percent of millennials would leave their current employer in the next two years, if given the choice, according to a new survey from Deloitte. When asked to look four years into the future, 66 percent of millennials said they expect to have switched employers.
Like many members of her generation, Davis has the requisite side hustles, in her case buying furniture on Craig’s List, fixing it up and reselling it. She also walks dogs for extra cash, and is always looking for new income streams.
According to job website Indeed, millennials ages 18-34 make up the largest percentage of working people who look at other job opportunities. In fact, the younger and more educated workers are, the more likely they are actively exploring new opportunities.
“Personal values have the greatest influence on millennials’ decision-making on the job,” Cruikshank said, while also noting that 61 percent of “senior millennials” – those with higher-ranking job titles – have chosen not to undertake a task at work because it conflicted with their values.
Davis does not have to look far for support. Her 27-year-old boyfriend recently left his job at a private equity firm to take a senior role at a startup coffee company in which his former employer invested. While it is still a finance position, he is also building a broad-based skill set as the company rapidly expands, she says.
Davis has no regrets on taking her own leap of faith: “I want my strengths to add value,” she says. “Before I was just lost in a big mix of a big company.”
ff a year ago from his technology job at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Even after Leo Perrero was laid off a year ago from his technology job at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. — and spent his final months there training a temporary immigrant from India to do his work — he still hoped to find a new position in the vast entertainment company.
But Mr. Perrero discovered that despite his high performance ratings, he and most of the other 250 tech workers Disney dismissed would not be rehired for at least a year, and probably never.
Now he and Dena Moore, another American laid off by Disney at that time, have filed class-action lawsuits in federal court in Tampa against Disney and two global consulting companies, HCL and Cognizant, which brought in foreign workers who replaced them. They claim the companies colluded to break the law by using temporary H-1B visas to bring in immigrant workers, knowing that Americans would be displaced from their jobs.
“I don’t have to be angry or cause drama,” said Ms. Moore, 53, who had worked at Disney for 10 years. “But they are just doing things to save a buck, and it’s making Americans poor.”
Ms. Moore had also trained her replacement. After she was laid off, she applied for more than 150 other jobs at Disney. She did not get one.
The lawsuits by Mr. Perrero and Ms. Moore, who each filed a separate but similar class-action complaint on Monday, represent the first time Americans have gone to federal court to sue both outsourcing companies that imported immigrants and the American company that contracted with those businesses, claiming that they collaborated intentionally to supplant Americans with H-1B workers.
A furor over the layoffs in Orlando last January brought to light many other episodes in which American workers, mainly in technology but also in accounting and administration, said they had lost jobs to foreigners on H-1Bvisas, and had to train replacements as a condition of their severance. The foreign workers, mostly from India, were provided by outsourcing companies, including the two named in the lawsuits, which have dominated the H-1B visa system, packing the application process to win an outsize share of the quota set by Congress of 85,000 visas each year.
The Labor Department opened investigations of the outsourcing companies — the direct employers of the temporary immigrants — at Disney and at Southern California Edison, a utility that laid off hundreds of American workers in 2014. The investigations are continuing. At least 30 former Disney workers also filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that they faced discrimination as American citizens.
The lawsuits by Mr. Perrero and Ms. Moore are based on the rules for H-1B visas, which were designed by Congress to bring foreign workers with special skills into the country. Employers are required to declare to the Department of Labor that hiring foreigners on the visas “will not adversely affect the working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed.”
“Was I negatively affected?” Ms. Moore asked. “Yeah, I was. I lost my job.”
Sara Blackwell, a lawyer in Sarasota representing the former Disney employees, said the suit charged that the companies lied under oath when they said that no Americans would lose their jobs.
Disney has vigorously denied any violations, saying it requires its contractors to obey all laws. Disney has said all but 95 of the tech workers laid off in Orlando were rehired to other positions or moved on voluntarily. Last year, it canceled 35 layoffs scheduled in other areas of the company.
HCL and Cognizant have said that they carefully comply with United States laws. Cognizant has said that it employs many thousands of Americans in this country, with H-1B workers only a minority of its labor force.
Responding to the frustration of American workers, Congress in December renewed and increased a fee on outsourcing companies that it had allowed to lapse. Larger companies employing many H-1B workers in the United States will pay an extra fee of $4,000 for each new H-1B visa — up from $2,000 — and another $4,000 to move an H-1B immigrant who is already in the country to a new employer.
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, a Democrat who has been openly critical of Disney’s layoffs, offered a bill to reduce the H-1B quota by 15,000 visas a year to 70,000. The issue came up in the presidential race, as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican candidate, introduced a bill with Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a Republican hard-liner on immigration, to sharply increase the minimum wage for H-1B workers to $110,000 a year, to discourage outsourcing companies from using the workers to lower wages.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an international association of tech workers, posted an online petition to encourage Americans who were displaced to file complaints with the Justice Department. In a letter to the group in December, Alberto Ruisanchez, a Justice Department lawyer in charge of prosecuting immigration abuses, confirmed that it would be a violation of anti-discrimination laws for an employer, or a contracting firm, to fire workers or hire replacements “because of citizenship or immigration status.”
Mr. Perrero, like many Americans who have lost their jobs, said he was long reluctant to speak out publicly against his former employer. At 42 and with a family to support, he worried that he would not find another job in Orlando, where Disney rules as the largest employer by far. He spoke with The New York Times anonymously in an article in June about the humiliation of training his foreign replacement.
But local recruiters told him that despite the company’s statements, Disney managers said they would avoid rehiring workers who were laid off. Mr. Perrero said he knew of only two workers from the close-knit group of more than 200 who were dismissed who went back to tech jobs at Disney.
Mr. Perrero said he was “part Italian, part English, part Swedish.” He said, “I wholeheartedly believe our country needs to have amazing people come here to build a long-term foundation.” But he said the H-1B program had been abused.
Ms. Moore said that even with strong programming credentials, it was hard for her to start over in her 50s with another company. She has 13 grandchildren, and she confessed that one of the difficult losses was a pass that allowed her to take them to Disney World at no cost.
Most people’s biggest job-hunting fear is being put on the spot by oddball interview questions such as these (which are real):
“Describe the color yellow to someone who’s blind.” – Spirit Airlines
“If you were asked to unload a 747 full of jelly beans, what would you do?” – Bose
“Who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman?” – Stanford University
Offbeat questions are nearly impossible to prepare for, and they don’t achieve the interviewer’s objective–to test out-of-the-box thinking and the ability to perform under pressure. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that companies are moving away from them. Recent research shows these questions do little more than boost the interviewer’s confidence. Even companies famous for oddball questions are abandoning them. In the words of Laszlo Bock, Google’s HR chief:
“If you’ve heard that Google likes to pose brain-teaser questions to candidates–like why manhole covers are round–your information is out of date. There’s no evidence that they suggest how people perform on the job.”
A Glassdoor study of tens of thousands of interviews found the 50 questions you’re most likely to be asked in your next interview:
1. What are your strengths?
2. What are your weaknesses?
3. Why are you interested in working for us?
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
5. Why do you want to leave your current company?
6. What can you offer us that someone else can’t?
7. Why was there a gap in your employment between these two dates?
8. What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
9. Are you willing to relocate?
10. Are you willing to travel?
11. Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
12. Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
13. What is your dream job?
14. How did you hear about this position?
15. What would you accomplish in the first 30/60/90 days on the job?
16. Discuss your resume.
17. Discuss your educational background.
18. Describe yourself.
19. Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.
20. Why should we hire you?
21. Why are you looking for a new job?
22. Would you work holidays/weekends?
23. How would you deal with an angry or irate customer?
24. What are your salary requirements?
25. Give a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.
26. Who are our competitors?
27. What was your biggest failure?
28. What motivates you?
29. What’s your availability?
30. Who’s your mentor?
31. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
32. How do you handle pressure?
33. What is the name of our CEO?
34. What are your career goals?
35. What gets you up in the morning?
36. What would your direct reports say about you?
37. What were your bosses’ strengths/weaknesses?
38. If I called your boss right now and asked him what is an area that you could improve on, what would he say?
39. Are you a leader or a follower?
40. What was the last book you read for fun?
41. What are your co-worker pet peeves?
42. What are your hobbies?
43. What is your favorite website?
44. What makes you uncomfortable?
45. What are some of your leadership experiences?
46. How would you fire someone?
47. What do you like the most and least about working in this industry?
48. Would you work 40+ hours a week?
49. What questions haven’t I asked you?
50. What questions do you have for me?
Though these questions may be less exciting to prepare for than “Batman vs. Superman,” they are what you need to be ready for.
Most interviewees are only prepared for about 10 questions, so this list alone can give you a leg up. Study the list carefully and have answers ready–but not robotically rehearsed–so that you can speak comfortably, flexibly, and confidently about each of these topics.
If you want to make a great impression and stand out from the crowd, preparing for these 50 questions is not enough. Click through to see 9 strategies for dealing with them. Then you’ll truly ace your interview.
1. Identify Your “Hook”
Most hiring managers interview a lot of people. So many that they generally have to go back to their notes to remember candidates–the exception being candidates with a strong hook. Sometimes these hooks are how people dress or their personality, but the best hook is a strong story that’s work-related. When you can wow an interviewer with a memorable story that shows what a strong candidate you are, you’ll rise to the top of the list.
2. Know the Essence of the Job You’re Applying For
Get to know the job intimately that you’re applying for. Don’t just read the job description–study it and picture yourself performing every task required of you. When you interview, framing your responses so that you reveal your significant knowledge about the job gives you a massive advantage.
3. …And Know What Makes You A Great Fit For It
Know exactly what makes you fit into the position perfectly and speak to it during the interview. What you makes you special? It could be that you’re an idea machine, or a statistical fanatic. Whatever it is, know it and prepare to fit it into your responses.
For example, when an interviewer asks, “What are your strengths?” skip the clichés and go right into qualities about you that are unique to the job. You’ll make it clear that you’re the perfect fit.
4. Know the Company
No matter how prepared you are to talk about yourself, not knowing the essentials of the company you’re interviewing for conveys a lack of preparation and interest. You can’t show an interviewer how you’ll fit in the company until you know the company.
Before your interview, delve deeply into the company website to build a strong mental foundation. Make sure you know the basics; how the company makes money, the top executives, and what the company aims to accomplish in the near future (strategic objectives). Go online and read recent news articles about the company. Also check out their Twitter and Facebook pages.
5. Prepare a List of Follow-On Questions
Prepare a list of follow-on interview questions and outline key points you will touch on if asked these questions. For example, if you say your biggest strength is time-management, you need to be ready for the interviewer to ask something like, “What does this strength look like in action?” This preparation will make your responses more pointed, avoid awkward silences and uncertainty, and it will build your confidence prior to the interview.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice
You, and everyone else interviewing for the job, already know many of the questions you’ll be asked. The difference lies in preparation. Preparing unique and position-specific responses will give you the competitive edge over everyone else. You don’t need to memorize answers, but instead know certain points of reference about yourself that you can apply to different questions.
Make sure to “mock interview” yourself. Video your responses until you’re able to speak comfortably and flexibly–as opposed to rotely regurgitating answers–about your prepared topics. Videoing yourself may feel awkward when you do it, but it will pay off during your interview.
If you can’t relax during your interview, then nothing you do to prepare will matter. Being yourself is essential to the selection process, and interviewers will feel it if you’re too nervous. Showing fear or anxiety appears weak compared to a relaxed smile and genuine confidence. Numerous studies show that smiling not only increases your happiness and confidence, but it also puts the people you’re interacting with at ease. This is mostly due to mirror neurons in the brain that naturally mimic other people’s expressions and emotions.
Pulling this off requires emotional intelligence (EQ), a skill that employers are increasingly looking for in candidates. And it’s no surprise, as 90% of top performers on the job are high in EQ. Working on your EQ can also help you to make more money, as people with high EQs earn $29,000 more annually on average.
8. Stay Positive
It may seem obvious that maintaining positivity is essential in an interview, but it can be very difficult to do when discussing some topics. It’s tough to be positive when describing difficult bosses or coworkers from your past, or explaining why you were fired from your previous job, but that’s exactly what employers want to see in you. Show them that you can maintain a positive attitude about a challenging environment, and they’ll see the resilient and flexible individual they’re looking for.
9. Be Honest
Good interviewers have a way of getting to the crux of who you are. They may have an innate sense for reading people, or they might just be really good at asking the right questions. Regardless, it’s essential to approach your interview with honesty.
If you interview dishonestly, you’ll either not get the job when the interviewer sees right through you, or you’ll end up in a job that’s a poor fit. Don’t focus on what you think the interviewer wants to hear. Instead focus on giving an honest and passionate breakdown of what you have to offer.
Bringing It All Together
Let’s face it, interviewing is still tough. It’s hard to show who you really are and what you’re capable of during a quick sit-down chat. These strategies will help you to eliminate nervousness and anything unexpected that might derail an otherwise great interview.
Are there questions that I’ve missed? What’s the best way to make yourself stand out in an interview? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.
Written by Dr. Travis Bradberry of The Huffington Post
As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to start planning your New Year’s resolutions, where you vow to get better with your finances, save more money and find a more fulfilling career. For some, saving more comes down to learning how to say no to small purchases. And for would-be entrepreneurs, sometimes the hardest part about starting a business is taking that first step. We asked best-selling author, entrepreneur and career coach Josh Felber for his top money tips for 2016. Felber offered two core pieces of advice:
“To create real wealth, you must quit spending your future wealth on goods and services that you want today but deprive you of wealth long term.”
“2016 is the year to break free from mediocrity and society’s ‘norms.’ Now is time to quit your 9-to-5 job and become an entrepreneur. Start becoming the true you and creating the lifestyle you are destined for.”
Felber is a finalist in GOBankingRates’ “Best Money Expert”competition held this month in collaboration with Ally Bank. He also won the title of “Best Expert” in the 2014 contest. See why 2016 is the year for you to save more and break out your inner entrepreneur.
Cut Spending to Create Long-Term Wealth
Felber’s first money tip is easy for anyone to accomplish in 2016. He asks you to reconsider your immediate wants and weigh them against long-term goals. You oftentimes might explain away the cost of a cup of coffee or night out, but spending money frivolously every day or every other day weighs down your monthly budget. Poor spending habits can also leak into your business when you ultimately pursue becoming an entrepreneur.
Concentrate spending on your needs so the money you might otherwise have spent can be put toward a new business or retirement fund. Real wealth is built and cultivated over time after all.
If saving is a hurdle for you, start small: Cut one small purchase you make every day or week. Once you have adapted to living without that one small purchase, cut out another expense. By focusing on one cost-cutting tactic at a time, you can slowly build up how much you save every month without completely changing your lifestyle come January.
For small business owners and to-be entrepreneurs, start picking up skills that can save you money down the road. Practicing your writing skills, making cold calls and even learning how to maintain a website can help you curb the costs associated with hiring additional personnel to handle smaller tasks.
Why Start Your Business in 2016?
Felber suggested quitting your job because, too often, people fall into the routine of working full-time making other people rich. But if you’ve always dreamed of being an entrepreneur, you won’t ever find a good time to start your own business so long as you’re complacent at work. If you’re scratching your head over how to get started, make a list of the things you’re passionate about and your unique skills. You might discover that your flair for photography, SEO skills or knack for artisan baked goods might be in demand and lend themselves to starting a business.
For budding entrepreneurs, banks have your back. Small business loans are seeing higher rates of approval at major banks, according to a report by Biz2Credit, an online marketplace for small business loans. In fact, the approval for these types of loans hit their highest level since 2011, when Biz2Credit first began tracking them.
Between January 2014 and March 2015, Wells Fargo lent more than $22.6 billion to small businesses as part of a five-year initiative to support businesses. And while approvals at small banks and credit unions have remained relatively flat, 80 percent of small-business owners will do preliminary research on loans online, and that amount is expect to rise in 2016.
Alternative lending and crowdfunding sources are on the rise, too. In an industry report conducted by Massolution, a crowdfunding research firm, the total global capital raised through crowdfunding is expected to hit $34.4 billion this year, up from $16.2 billion in 2014 and $6.1 billion in 2013.
Entrepreneurs Are Happier Flying Solo
Work satisfaction — or rather, dissatisfaction — shows how pursuing entrepreneurship can increase overall happiness. Only 48.3 percent of U.S. workers are satisfied with their jobs, according to a 2015 The Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey.
On the other hand, entrepreneurs who make their own rules and set their own hours appear to be happier, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2013 Global Report prepared by Babson College. The report surveyed more than 197,000 people. Even entrepreneurs with startups were more satisfied than typical U.S. workers; entrepreneurs with established businesses were even happier.
Consumers Prefer Small Businesses
Consumers are also more likely to take their money to small businesses, according to a 2014 report by AYTM Market Research. The report found that consumers like working with small businesses because it allows them to support the local economy and receive more personal service. Roughly six out of 10 consumers also said they would be willing to pay higher prices to support small businesses.
Ultimately, Felber’s biggest takeaway is that you need to be in control of your lifestyle. Take chances and pursue your passions. When it comes to building wealth, learn to reel in your spending and focus on long-term goals over short-term wants.
Chelsea White’s performance reviews last December were stellar, reinforcing her belief that working as a teacher’s assistant at in a small, specialized classroom with children ages three to five was the right profession for the Orlando resident.
While enrollment had dipped slightly, the 28-year-old was not concerned and found her job to be rewarding.
“I get to work with kids, which I absolutely love, but I also get to have a job that brings some good to the world,” she said.
But the telltale signs were present — the reduction in responsibilities, for example — and the administrators at the small, private school had to cut funds quickly to pay salaries and bills. The rumors of staff cuts quickly became a reality as another popular assistant was let go days before White received her pink slip.
Being let go in December was a humbling experience as White submitted dozens of applications to both public and private schools only to be met with responses of having to wait for the winter term to resume after the holidays before they could consider any applicants.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting to be terminated, yet that’s exactly what happened,” she said. ”The holidays were right around the corner.”
Getting the ax while you’re ready to deck the halls can certainly put a damper on the tidings of comfort and joy.
Why Employers Fire During Christmas…
Firing employees during the holiday season has become less taboo as companies are not as hesitant to fire or lay off unproductive employees when they are faced with rising costs and an uncertain outlook, particularly in certain industries.
“There used to be much more of a stigma about firing or being fired during the holidays,” said Steven Rothberg, president of College Recruiter, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based career website for students and recent college grads. “It still exists, but isn’t the third rail like it used to be. Most employers today believe in the adage that you should hire slowly and fire quickly.”
While the timing might be poor, many companies have adopted this strategy, said Steve Spires, managing director of career services and an executive coach with BPI group, the Chicago-based consulting group.
“A vast majority of organizations run on a calendar year budget and year-end coincides with the need to achieve year-end numbers,” he said. “This often triggers the decision to reduce costs, including people and expenses to meet the budget.”
Most companies fire employees during the holidays to meet budgets, said Marissa Klein, a co-founder of Choice Fashion Media, a New York City-based recruiting firm, who has been laid off twice during Thanksgiving. Remembering that many layoffs are not a personal choice and lean toward being a fiscal one does not lessen the pain of the sting for former employees.
“I think it is a horrible time of year to lose a job,” she said. “My advice in a situation like this is to try and be in the moment and take the time to reflect on what is most important. Accept that your search will be quiet for a number of weeks.”
Unless an employee has committed an egregious human resources issue or severe misconduct, Leon Rbibo, the president of The Pearl Source, a Los Angeles-based pearl wholesaler and importer, makes an attempt to not terminate or downsize anyone in an effort to “keep the holidays enjoyable for our employees.”
“I’ve had the privilege of hiring many excellent and skilled employees over the years,” he said. “However, I’ve also had to let a few people go who didn’t quite make the cut.”
The company tries to stick to its mantra of keeping the holidays an enjoyable time of the year by “intentionally” conducting the majority of evaluations in the beginning of the fourth quarter, said Rbibo. If there are employees who are underperforming by not meeting expectations, then the person has enough time to correct the issue “without creating unnecessary anxiety over the holidays,” he said.
“When it comes to letting someone go around the holidays, we really try our best to avoid a situation like that,” said Rbibo. “Running a successful company does require you to make tough decisions, but I try not to let that human element escape me.”
How to Job Hunt in December
The competition for positions is lower in December, because fewer people tend to lose or quit their jobs, said Rothberg. While job hunting is always stressful, many candidates will find it to be a good time to seek jobs as companies have also determined their budgets for the upcoming year.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re the best candidate out of everyone who may apply as employers rarely actually hire the best candidate,” he said. “All that matters is that you’re the first well-qualified candidate to apply and be interviewed because employers tend to hire the first well-qualified person.”
Spires advises fired employees to take another tactic and recommends that they “do nothing at first – whether it’s just for a few days or even for a few weeks,” he said. “You need this time to take a step back and decide where you want to go as well as to process the emotions that come with a job loss.”
While ramping up a job search is not a bad idea, being proactive means some people are searching for another position before they are prepared.
“You want to be focused in your search and you don’t want any negative emotions affiliated with the layoff to come through as you’re networking or speaking with prospective employers,” Spires said. “In so many of these instances, you won’t have a second chance and the first impression you deliver needs to be the best it can be.”
White learned her lesson quickly and in retrospect confesses that she should have searched for a part-time job during December because the education field rarely hires during the last month of the year.
“Getting terminated around the holidays is a really hard pill to swallow,” she said. “If I had to do it again, I would pick up a part-time job for a couple of weeks and would wait to start my real job hunt in January.”
As technology continues to improve, future job forecasts will likely be dim for some workers.
Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, addressed the future of jobs in developed economies in an insightful TED Talk. McAfee suggested that the increased productivity from sophisticated machine and computing power will lower prices and reduce “drudge” work. And Ira Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and expert in workforce trends, estimated that close to 50 percent of jobs will be extinct within the next 20 decades.