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Dealing With Non-Compete Clauses and Agreements

Non-compete clauses are the business version of a prenuptial agreement Where in the courtship and marriage proposal, some folks are caught off guard when asked to sign the pre-nup, the same can be said in the employee-employer courtship we calling interviewing, when as a condition for hire, the prospective employer asks the job-seeker to sign a non-compete clause.

What are non-compete clauses, why do some employers use them, and how should you handle a request to sign one? That’s what this article is all about.

Non-compete clauses have been on the rise over the last decade. What were once used for top executives, scientists and technicians, and sales people, are now being given to all new hires to sign.

Employers use non-compete clauses to protect sensitive processes, technologies, and other trade secrets and information. The more competitive a field, the more likely employers will ask prospective employees to sign non-compete agreements. These employers do not want key employees to turn around and work for their competitors or to become consultants or freelancers either.

A non-compete clause can be a paragraph that is contained within a larger employment agreement or a completely separate document that new employees must sign as a condition for hire.

Non-compete clauses usually try to specify three key areas: the geographic scope of where you could or could not work; the scope of your services, roles, and skills that can or cannot be used for a competitor; and the duration of the clause, in which one year is a fairly typical time constraint. Non-compete clauses must protect a legitimate business interest of the employer, such as trade secrets, confidential information, and customer relationships.

As with all legal documents, each non-compete agreement is different, and thus the best advice for job-seekers is to consult with a labor attorney. The more fair documents try to balance the company’s right to protect its investment with the employee’s right to work. However, most non-compete agreements favor the employer, and while it may be odd to think about leaving a company, you have not even started working for, the reality of today’s labor environment is that job-seekers’ average tenure with an employer is shorter and shorter.

And in some cases, the non-compete agreement may not even be valid or enforceable, either because it is too constricting or because of other technicalities. Several states severely restrict the use of non-compete agreements.

Furthermore, you may be able to negotiate the terms of the agreement including the number of names of specific competitors, the breadth of the geographic scope, the amount of time, and whether the agreement goes into effect if you are downsized or fired rather than when you resign. You may also be able to win other concessions from the prospective employer for agreeing to sign the clause, such as a bonus, shorter review time for raises and promotions, or other perks.

So, as a job-seeker, if you get a great job offer the perfect job, with a great company, and a strong compensation package but with the caveat that you must sign a non-compete agreement, you’ll need to take some time to evaluate the pros and cons of signing it and working for that company.

And what do you do if you are currently employed with a company that made you sign a non-compete agreement and you want to resign and change employers within the same field? It’s important to disclose that you have signed a non-compete agreement, but you do not need to make it known until later in the interview process when you know the prospective employer is definitely interested in hiring you. If the prospective employer is truly interested in hiring you, they may assist you in getting out of the previous agreement.

For help in finding a labor attorney in your area, go to the National Employment Lawyers Association. And for more specific advice from a lawyer, read Non-Compete Contracts and Non-compete Agreement FAQs. Finally, there’s even a Website devoted to this issue: BreakYourNonCompete.com.

Final Thoughts
The best thing any job-seeker can do when faced with signing a non-compete agreement is to get a copy of it, review it with a lawyer, and attempt to negotiate any necessary changes. As with any job-search situation, the better prepared you are, the more information you have, the better success you’ll have in your job-search.

by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

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Just Do It! Six Reasons to Ride a Bike or Walk to Work

As an avid walker and bike-rider, I have to admit that I am biased in my views about biking or walking to work but I am also an excellent case-study of someone who has become much healthier since taking up biking and walking several years ago. I also spent the last year biking to and from my job at a local university.
So… why should you buy those new walking shoes or invest in a good bike? Here are my six reasons for riding a bike or walking to work:
1. It’s efficient. Biking or walking to work allows you to accomplish two things with the same activity. First, choosing to bike or walk solves the issue of how to get to work. Second, by biking or walking you improve your health, fitness, and mental outlook. In fact, biking or walking to work is both efficient and effective.
2. It’s healthful. There’s no question that walking or biking to work at a decent pace (no need to set records here) provides excellent cardiovascular exercise, offering many health benefits, including weight loss, muscle tone development, as well as lowering your blood pressure and stress levels while also reducing your risk of heart attack, hypertension, osteoporosis, and type II diabetes.
3. It’s cheap. Consider the gas, tolls, parking, and upkeep on a car or the monthly bus or train pass you are currently paying versus the cost of walking or biking to work. You may need to invest in a new pair of walking shoes or a better bike, but once you’ve made that purchase, you have minimal additional costs. And if you’re really lucky and work for an organization that has a workplace wellness program, you may even be able to get the shoes or bike at a reduced price — or even free.
4. It’s rewarding. Besides the psychological benefits of feeling better about yourself, walking or biking to work also offers very clear mental benefits — from adrenaline and endorphins — that boost your mood and provide you with a sense of well-being. Because it’s often a solitary experience, walking or biking also provides opportunities for deep thoughts that tap into your creative side, leading to new ideas and ways to solve problems.
5. It’s green. You don’t have to be a diehard environmentalist to appreciate that by walking or biking to work you are doing something to personally reduce the negative impact of other forms of transportation. One expert states that for every four miles ridden on a bicycle (or walked presumably), you are keeping 15 pounds of pollutants out of the atmosphere. No fossil fuels, no ozone depletion, no deadly pollutants.
6. It’s fun. Driving to or from work is often stressful (or at best boring), while biking or walking is always an adventure. It’s relaxing, especially on the way home, to know you have had another good day at work and are now helping yourself live a longer and healthier life by biking or walking. And no matter where you live, you’re bound to encounter people or things in nature that make you appreciate life.

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Your Boss is Paying You an Extra $8 per Hour

Maybe it’s time to stop complaining and give your boss a break. Did you know that if you have a job that includes benefits, on average your employer is paying you an extra $8 per hour, that’s in addition to your salary. According to the latest numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s what it costs the boss to cover things like your paid leave, health benefits, Medicare and unemployment insurance.
Here’s the break down of the extra $8/hour the boss is paying you:
  • Paid leave benefits (sick and personal leave, holidays and vacation time) = $1.86
  • Insurance benefits (life, health, and disability insurance) = $2.54
  • Savings = $1.29
  • Legally required benefits (Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation) = $2.27
  • Supplemental pay (overtime and premium, shift differentials, and nonproduction bonuses) = $0.74
Who gets most, who gets least?
Of course these numbers are averages, and vary widely by occupation, sector and region. Private industry paid leave benefit costs, for example, were highest for management, professional, and related occupations, averaging $4.05 per hour. Costs were lowest among service occupations, at 58 cents or 4.2 percent of total compensation. Paid leave benefit costs are often directly linked to wages; therefore, higher paid occupations or industries will typically show higher estimates.
And union workers have it better than non-union workers. Employer cost for paid leave benefits average $2.71 per hour worked for union workers, significantly higher than the $1.76 per hour average for nonunion workers. It’s also interesting to note that paid leave costs in goods-producing industries are $2.08, greater than the average for service-providing industries, which is $1.81.
It also depends on where you live
Among the nine census divisions, paid leave costs range from $2.49 in the New England division to $1.30 in the East South Central division. Total additional compensation above and beyond wages is highest in New England, averaging $10.41 per hour, and lowest in the East South Central, averaging 6.03 per hour.
Knowing the costs, you can now see why so many companies are reducing employees to part-time status in order to avoid paying additional full-time expenses–although that doesn’t justify the action. Those who do have benefits might be just a little more appreciative of them when they know their value. Here’s to your full-time employer!

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Ten Job Search Networking Pointers

We’ve all experienced the resume black hole most companies extend as their welcome mat at their corporate career sites. It’s a bad experience for the candidate and it’s very bad for the corporate brand.  We will see companies realize the career site experience is an incredible marketing channel opportunity for customers and brand influencers (hopefully a few VPs of Marketing are taking note!).  The good news is that over time companies will realize the value because the cost of acquiring and retaining customers or successfully promoting a brand is increasing, and finding channels with more effective results are imperatives coming from the Board Room…(hopefully a few CEOs are listening!).
In the meantime candidates need to find ways to successfully network into companies so they can establish relationships with hiring authorities and hopefully get in line for that next opportunity.
Here are a few pointers that may help, I cannot guarantee success but have used these suggestions myself.
  • Stop looking for open positions (that is what everyone else is doing)
  • Choose the functional title you will report to
  • List the companies with phone numbers you wish to work for
  • Call the company at 7:45am or 5:35pm and connect with anyone you can
  • Ask to speak with the functional title you are interested in contacting
  • Ask for the correct spelling of the name
  • Wait to be connected
  • If you get VM leave a short message giving your name, apologize you did not connect and that you will call back the next day
  • If you connect, ask for their help and tell them you are interested in working for the company (give two sound reasons)
  • Be quiet and listen
You will not be successful on every call but remember it just takes a few connections to get the ball rolling. And remember our blogs on the importance of a positive attitude – be pleasant.
Give these pointers a shot and best of luck!
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Building in all type of Tech. & I.T. Fields and 
Exams/Certifications & a lot more …. 

Saying No to Your Boss

When you think back to your childhood and your mom said, “We’ll see,” it was always better than a flat out, “No.” Much like “possibly” is sufficient when you ask your boss for time off and “I’ll think about it” gives you hope when you ask for a raise.

Though all of these responses are really just a more polite version of “no,” they’re easier to hear than the actual word itself. While hearing “no” is hard enough, it seems that saying no is even more difficult for some people — especially when it comes to your boss.

“Most employees avoid saying no to their boss because they fear it will ruin their relationship, cost them their job or appear disrespectful,” says Joseph Grenny, co-author of “Crucial Conversations.” “With the right set of skills, it is possible to be 100 percent candid and respectful when holding this important conversation.”

The reality is, we can’t say to yes to everything, so it’s essential to position yourself in the best way possible if and when you have to say no at work. The trick, experts say, is not really what you say, but how you say it.

“Many of us won’t say the word because we are afraid to, especially in this economy,” says Mary Byers, author of “How to Say No … And Live to Tell About It.” “It’s easier to say no at work if you don’t actually use the word. That way, your boss won’t feel like you’re being insubordinate.”

Elisabeth Manning, a human potential coach, recalls a time when she was an assistant to the president of a major company. The president wanted to make Manning her marketing manager at the same time — and the same salary.

Manning, who knew that she would have too much on her plate if she accepted working both jobs, told her boss that she wanted to maximize her capacity for potential at the company and accepting the offer would not be the best, most efficient use of her time.

“I was neutral, not emotional and held my ground,” Manning says. “I spoke as if it were already a done deal, without fear.”

Here are five situations where you might find yourself needing (and wanting) to say no at work and how you can do so tactfully — and without losing your job.

How to say no to…

… Your boss assigning you too much work
It can be tough to tell your boss you have a problem with the amount of work he or she is assigning you, but it’s possible if you can make your boss feel safe, Grenny says. Start with facts instead of harsh judgments or vague conclusions and let them know you care about their interests and respect them, he says.

“Strip out any judgmental or provocative language and be specific,” Grenny says. “For example, ‘Last week, you gave me two large projects to finish in a very short amount of time and I had to complete these on top of my regular responsibilities. I am afraid my large workload might be affecting the quality of my work.'”

… Outrageous demands
If your boss asks you to do something like run his errands or work all weekend and you can’t (or don’t feel like you should have to), focus on what you can do, says Dr. Susan Fletcher, a psychologist, author and speaker.

“The next time your boss asks you to go pick up his or her dry cleaning, instead of saying no, say, ‘What I can do is cover your phone calls for you while you are out of the office,'” Fletcher suggests. “Or if your boss asks you to start up a new company initiative, instead of saying no, say ‘What I can do is brainstorm with you on the strategy for the initiative and help get the proper team members in place who can execute the strategy.”

… Something you honestly can’t do
Of course, it’s always good to learn new skills, but if you truly believe you aren’t the best person for the job, you should say no. Byers suggests responding with something like, “Is there another department where this project might fit better, or someone we can collaborate with?”

“If you know you don’t have the necessary time, resources or knowledge for a given project, this is a good way to open dialogue about the best way to get an assignment done,” she says.

… Unrealistic deadlines
If you frame your response in a way that helps your boss to rethink his request, you’ll be OK, says Beth Sears, president of Workplace Communication.

Be aware of your tone of voice and try something like, “I understand your need for this assignment to be completed, but I need some help prioritizing my other work. You requested me to complete ‘A’ by tomorrow, ‘B’ by Thursday and ‘C’ by Friday. This last assignment ‘D’ would make it impossible to accomplish all of these. How would you prioritize these tasks?” Sears suggests.

… Anything illegal, unethical or that crosses personal boundaries
Say no to anything that will you get into trouble if you say yes. Meaning, if something will be detrimental to your career or goes against your integrity, you should always say no.

Jennifer Bergeron, an HR training specialist, recently said no to one of her bosses who asked her to lie to her direct manager.

“I said, ‘I’m not comfortable doing that, because the result will be [X, Y and Z]. Please don’t ask me to ever lie to someone,” Bergeron says. “He said, ‘OK, you’re right. I didn’t realize all that was going on.'”

by Rachel Zupek for CareerPath.com

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How Do You Like Your Work?

That question is intentionally ambiguous to see where you go with it. Did you answer with the degree to which you like it on a scale from “not much” to “really love it?” Did you go with a flip remark such as, “I like it over easy with a side of bacon (the kind you bring home)?” Or did you begin to examine what it takes to enjoy what you do?
Let’s assume that you are currently dissatisfied and looking for a change. How will you make sure that you don’t end up with the same thing all over again? You are responsible for your job satisfaction. Will you recreate the same dynamics at the next place?
How does a person design work that he or she likes? Job descriptions talk about required skill sets, but other qualities need to be considered to see if this situation is a good match for you. It’s your choice. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
  • How much autonomy do you like? How much community?
  • How much approval do you need to do your best work? In what form?
  • How much responsibility do you desire? Are you sure?
  • How much creativity and individuality does this industry encourage? Does that match with your style?
  • Are you ambitious? Do you see opportunity?
  • What about this work inspires your passion?
  • Whom do you want to serve? How does the company’s mission fit with your personal one?
HR Managers will tell you that an employee with adequate qualifications and a great attitude will succeed much more often than another candidate with impressive credentials and a chip on her shoulder. Liking your work is the main ingredient of a good attitude. Knowing what you like and how to get it is an essential part of happiness. You must bring your contentment with you, not expect it to be provided.
We’ve all worked with naysayers, the people who make you roll your eyes and cringe. I have a soft spot for them. I was once called into the general manager’s office and “talked to” because I was perceived as negative. I was flabbergasted. Here I was serving the company by pointing out all the pitfalls that I was foreseeing, and it wasn’t appreciated! That experience helps me remember that the crankiest Eeyore may think she’s doing everybody a service with her doom and gloom.
What will it take for you to be enthusiastic and positive instead of hesitant and resistant? What aspects of your work can you say a wholehearted “Yes!” to? How might you increase that and reduce the parts you dislike? Look beyond your initial inclination to be glib. What if there was a way for everyone to get what he wants? What if work worked for everyone?
How do you like your work? Simply stated, here’s how:
  1. Determine what you really want. What qualities and values are most important right now?
  2. Choose that. Ask for it. Move toward it. Assume you deserve to get it. Commit wholeheartedly. Determine what stands in your way.
  3. Stop doing what you hate. Recognize that you have choice. Don’t wait until somebody makes it for you.
You deserve to feel good about your work, and you are the only one who can measure your success.
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Tips on How to Survive Work Experience (by BBC. co.uk)

The thought of doing work experience can be frightening but try and see it as a positive, fun experience. It will give you an insight in to your chosen industry and might be useful in deciding what career you want. And, it will also help you develop your self-confidence and communication skills, meaning you will be able to work better with other people in the future.

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your work experience:

  • Choose work experience in a job you think you might enjoy.
  • Find out a bit about the job before you go.
  • Ask as many questions as possible during your work experience.
  • Be prepared to do menial tasks like making the tea.
  • Be punctual – excuses for why you’re late won’t wash in the work place.
  • You might be asked to keep a record of your placement so remember to write down what you’ve done after each day.
  • Remain professional at all times and don’t complain if you get bored.



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