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HerMoney Podcast Episode 256: How To Land A Job In A Tough Market 

Kathryn Tuggle  |  March 10, 2021

We know the job market is rough out there, but there are good jobs available for candidates who put themselves out there. 

We’re almost a year into the pandemic in the U.S. now, and we know many members of our HerMoney family have lost jobs. About 10 million of the 22 million Americans who lost their jobs during COVID are still unemployed… but there’s hope.  And that’s what this week’s episode of the HerMoney podcast is all about. 

Because despite the down economy, despite record unemployment, thousands of companies ARE hiring — right now. And if you still have a job (because in some cases your company may be doing better than ever) you’ve likely spent the last year making yourself indispensable to your team. But maybe your work during the pandemic has made you realize in no uncertain terms that it’s time for a change, and you’re looking to make a move. So, no matter where you fall on the spectrum — someone who is out of work and looking, or someone who has a job and is looking — this show is for you. 

Dorianne St Fleur, founder and CEO of Your Career Girl, a digital career development agency for women of color, joins Jean to walk us through the best strategies for landing a new job, and why we shouldn’t let the current market or the thought of onboarding in a remote work environment hold us back. Dorianne is also host of the career development podcast, “Deeper than Work,” and founder of the Ambitious Women of Color in Corporate America Facebook group. 

Dorianne starts by telling us what inspired her to start her own company, and details the mission of “Your Career Girl.” She also addresses what COVID has done to the job market head-on, and breaks down what it’s really like out there for people looking to land a new gig. 

Dorianne offers candid advice to people who may be hesitant to apply to a new position and start a new job given the current conditions… they may be worried that “good” jobs aren’t available, or they may find the thought trying to “prove themselves” to a new boss who they can’t even see in person, to be daunting. Spoiler alert: Dorianne says there’s no time like the present! 

She also talks about the best ways to promote yourself, whether you’re a recent grad looking for work, or you’ve been out of work for a while. “You should be talking about where you’re going, what books you’re reading, what articles you found really interesting, jobs that you’re starting, who you’ve been in contact with, etc., so that people begin to see who you are, and know that you’re there,” she says, stressing that maintaining a presence on LinkedIn is incredibly important these days, with everyone doing most of their networking on social media. 

Jean and Dorianne also talk about how to get a raise and promotion, in the context of a disturbing recent study by theBoardlist, which found that 34% of men working remotely with children at home have received a promotion during the pandemic, compared to just 9% of women in the same boat… Dorianne weighs in on how more women can get a promotion if they’d like to stay in their current job and grow their careers there.

Because Dorianne’s company is focused on women of color, she and Jean also break down some of the unique strategies that women of color need to employ when they’re looking for a new position, and how they can be truly heard and understood. 

In Mailbag, Jean and Kathryn tackle listener questions on how a teacher can bring more financial literacy to the children in her classroom, and whether or not a vacation property in Mexico is a good investment. And in Thrive, how to ask for a promotion now — yes, in the middle of a pandemic. (You can do it!) 

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Transcript

Dorianne St Fleur: (00:01)
You should be talking about where you’re going, what books you’re reading, what articles you found really interesting, jobs that you’re starting, who you’ve been in contact with, et cetera, so that people begin to see who you are and know that you’re there.

Jean Chatzky: (00:16)
HerMoney is brought to you by Fidelity Investments. Celebrate Women’s History Month with Fidelity. Join us for marquee virtual events and get resources for a healthier financial future. Learn more at Fidelity.com/HerMoney.

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Jean Chatzky: (00:32)
Hey everyone. I’m Jean Chatzky. Thank you so much for joining us today on HerMoney. We’re almost a year into the pandemic now. I know that many of you listening have lost jobs, or you’ve had your hours at work reduced, or maybe a layoff didn’t impact you yourself, but your spouse or your partner. And that had the impact of throwing your household finances into disarray. About 10 million of the 22 million Americans who lost jobs during COVID are still unemployed. And if that’s you, then I want you to know that everyone here at HerMoney is rooting for you. And I also want you to know that there is hope. That’s what today’s show is all about. Because despite the down economy, despite record unemployment, thousands of companies are hiring. They are hiring right now. And if you still have a job, because in some cases, your company may be doing better than ever, you’ve likely spent the last year making yourself indispensable to your team. But maybe your work during the pandemic has made you realize, definitively, that it’s time for a change and you’re looking to make a move. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, someone who is out of work and looking, or someone who has a job and looking, or someone who looks just because you always are looking, today’s show is for you. I am joined by Dorianne St Fleur. She is founder and CEO of Your Career Girl, which is a digital career development agency for women of color. She is the creator of the career development podcast, Deeper Than Work, and founder of The Ambitious Women of Color in Corporate America Facebook group. She has more than 15 years of experience in HR, diversity and inclusion in companies like Google and Goldman Sachs. And today she is going to walk us all through the best strategies for landing a new job, and why we shouldn’t let the current market or the thought of onboarding in a remote environment hold us back. Dorianne welcome.

Dorianne St Fleur: (02:53)
Thank you so much, Jean. Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here.

Jean Chatzky: (02:56)
I’m excited for this conversation. So I’ve got a husband who found his way into HR through a very, very circuitous route. How’d you get there? What first interested you about this field?

Dorianne St Fleur: (03:12)
Yeah. I always love answering this question. It so wasn’t something that, when I graduated college, I thought, oh, I’d be in HR. It happened that I was in operations is where I started my career and just kind of was going through the motions. Doing well and getting promoted. All that good stuff that we love our careers to embody. And I came to a point where I wanted to just do something different. I went to undergrad for psychology. I got accepted into Columbia’s graduate school psychology program. I thought I would be doing therapy. But here I am on Wall Street and I am doing operations and supporting these traders. This is not what I thought I would be doing. And so I’m a lifelong learner. And so I just took a couple of classes at NYU around intro to HR management. I still, to this day, don’t know why I picked that topic. And when I got into the class, I realized that HR is more than just hiring and firing. Who knew? It’s actually about supporting employees through the life cycle at work, career development, a little bit of therapy if I do say so. And I was hooked. And so I created a plan to transition from the operations work that I was doing into HR. That was back in 2009, 2010. And I’ve never looked back.

Jean Chatzky: (04:29)
You were doing this work at the sort of companies that many people just dream of being able to put on their resume. What inspired you to leave and start your own company?

Dorianne St Fleur: (04:41)
This has been years in the making. So when I started Your Career Girl, it was back in 2015. And I was doing the side hustle thing, which I love that season of my life. And I wanted to start this company because there’s a gap in providing really actionable career development advice that’s not about just putting your head down and people will notice you, but about taking charge and dominating the corporate world. There was a gap for women and then specifically for women of color. And I wanted to fill that gap. I’m a high achiever. And if there’s a problem that needs solving that I can’t find a solution to, than I’m going to solve it myself. And literally the idea just popped into my brain. You have this HR background. You have this psychology background. You’re doing all this stuff for your friends and family around resumes and having difficult conversations. Why not try it out? And so I did that and things progressed. And every year we’ve just gotten bigger and helping more women and big wins that they’ve been having in their career. And eventually I decided that I need to focus on this full time. I love my job. I love my work. I’m not one of those people who are anti nine to five. But I wasn’t able to scale in the way that I wanted to for my business. And so I decided to take that leap. And I’m really excited and happy for just everything that’s been happening for myself, for my clients. during this time.

Jean Chatzky: (06:08)
What services does Your Career Girl offer today?

Dorianne St Fleur: (06:13)
Yeah. So our mission is really to eliminate the pay, leadership and success gap for women of color in the corporate world. And so we provide the skills, the tools, the resources, the support, the community that these women need in order to excel and dominate through their careers. And so we offer coaching. We offer classes, masterclasses, everything that we need. And we also try to delineate between where women are in their careers. Because as I’ve seen over the years, we need different things depending on what the phase and the season that we’re in, in our career. So for more senior level women, they’re looking for storytelling, branding, packaging, all of the work and experience that they’ve had, so that they can be indispensable in their careers. And for more junior level to mid-level, we’re looking to really solidify what is our brand and what do I bring to the table? What is the value that I offer? And we’re seeing, because of COVID, because of everything that is happening, there’s an uptick in job searching and career pivoting and really figuring out what should my next move be in my career.

Jean Chatzky: (07:25)
Yeah, no doubt. And I want to get to COVID and addressing COVID head on in just a second. But let me just ask about the focus on Black women and other women of color. Why did you choose to go in that direction?

Dorianne St Fleur: (07:39)
A lot of it was from my own lived experiences and the experiences of the women who were in my circle. We are ambitious, high achieving, right? We want to make it to the C-suite. We want to have these large teams. But we didn’t feel like we were getting the support that we needed. I know in my own career, there were seasons where I can’t get a mentor. I can’t get a sponsor. I can’t get someone to really stand behind me and advocate and amplify the work that I’m doing. And when I was looking for my own career coach, during that time, I wasn’t able to find a coach that could really understand the nuances of what it means to be a Black woman in corporate, in these companies that are heavily male. You know, the leadership team is straight, white male. And what that means and what that looks like. And I just didn’t feel like there was anyone who looked like me who understood what I was going through. And so I wanted to fill that gap. And so I wanted to really be that beacon of support and hope for the women who could relate to the situations that I was dealing with. And as things progressed, the specific nuances of Black women who come to us and say, I’m dealing with micro-aggressions at work. Or when I try to stand up for myself, I’m getting advice. I’m Googling advice or listening to podcasts about speaking up and standing up. But when I do it, I’m being told I’m angry. I’m being told that I’m unprofessional. So how do I navigate that? So our career advice really started to get nuanced and specific around, what does it mean, not only to be a woman in corporate, but a woman of color in corporate. Because there are quite frankly specific issues and challenges that we deal with and navigate, then white women deal with in the workplace. We all are having to overcome barriers and challenges, but there are some specific ones based on our race.

Jean Chatzky: (09:34)
We are going to get so tactical and so practical. I can’t wait. But I promised COVID. So what has COVID done to the job market head on? How rough is it out there for people who are looking to land something new?

Dorianne St Fleur: (09:48)
It’s rough with some glimmers of hope is what the headline will be. So based on what the unemployment rate was, if we think back in December, the rate was about 6.7% in December. Of that percentage, 9.9% of that were Black workers. 9.3% were Latin workers and 6% were white workers. And so we see the disparities just in that unemployment, that as you look at people of color, that rate is higher. We’re also seeing that women are disproportionately leaving the workforce, just at much higher rates than everyone else. And whether that’s due to firing, furlough, layoffs or just even having to voluntarily leave, because they have to take care of children or other family members, it has really decimated a lot of the stability that has been built up over the years, after the recession in 2008, et cetera, and things were starting to pick back up. COVID obliterated a lot of those gains that we were seeing. And then when it was time to become re-employed, as things started to stabilize a bit, we see that women are re-employed at lower rates compared to men. So just all around, we’re losing jobs at higher rates, and then we’re being re-employed at lower rates, was really causing a big gap in women in the workplace. And we see again that a lot of that is with women of color, as well as senior level women. They’re also taking a larger hit as well. So it’s been rough. What I will say is that, as time has gone on, there really is starting to be a leveling out. Not for every industry. There are some industries, hospitality, the food services industries, et cetera, that have taken a hit. And that hit is still very deep. But there are some other industries, tech, healthcare, virtual education, et cetera, that have been seeing some really big gains over time. And there are jobs that are becoming available every single day.

Jean Chatzky: (11:47)
I think some people have looked at the job market and all of the high unemployment numbers and have said, well, I don’t know that it’s even worth it to apply. I don’t know that it’s worth trying to onboard in this remote work environment to try to prove themselves to a boss who they can’t even meet in person. What do you say to them?

Dorianne St Fleur: (12:13)
The first thing I’ll say before we even talk about like strategies and what to think about is really to check how you’re thinking about this situation. I’m a very big believer in having a growth mindset. There’s a book by Carol Dweck called just Mindset. She just comes out and says just mindset. And she talks about the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. And a growth mindset is where you think and you believe that things can shift and nothing is definitive. And so while yes, I’ve just named some stats. It’s been rough. If we just say, it’s not worth it. I’m not going to do it. It’s remote. What’s the point? Then that’s going to be more of where we’re going to be headed. We not going to have creative ideas. We’re not going to think about how can I overcome whatever barriers are there. When there’s a growth mindset it’s, this may be what it looks like now, but let me think about what I can do. What is this silver lining? What are the positive aspects of the situation that I can use to work at my advantage? And so I would say to really think about how you’re approaching what’s happening right now and how you’re thinking about this market. While it is more challenging to build relationships in a remote way than it would be in person, there are companies who are doing the work to create inclusive environments, to really onboard people in ways that make people feel like you’re a part of the team that you belong here. And I’ve even heard some of my clients say, wow, even over the course of this time, I actually feel closer, I’m starting to feel closer to my boss and to the people I work with, because they’re being deliberate about building relationships. So it’s absolutely possible. There are things that both you and the employer need to do to build those relationships. But it’s possible. And so the first thing is to even believe it’s possible so that you can look for ways to make it work for you.

Jean Chatzky: (14:05)
I’m a big believer in controlling the things that you can control, which means your own mindset and not your bosses mindset, for example. So if you know that you have not had this sort of growth mindset, this belief in the possible, what’s the easiest switch to flip to get it.

Dorianne St Fleur: (14:24)
Yeah. The easiest thing, and I love what you said about what can you control. And so think about, what about this remote situation am I hesitating about? What do I think is going to happen? Is it that I think that we won’t be able to forge a relationship? What is it? And think about what are the one or two things that you can do to shift that? So, for one of my clients, her big thing was, I’m going to be new here. I’m going to be starting here. My manager said that she doesn’t necessarily want us to be meeting every week and doing all of these sorts of things. But I feel like I need to build a relationship with her. And so we crafted a plan to think about, all right, if your manager’s not ready for weekly meetings, for whatever, that’s the culture, that’s how she feels. Then what are ways that you can embed the small-talk into things that are already happening? What are ways that you can connect with your manager about the weekend or a movie, or what you’re binge watching on Netflix, to start to build that rapport. Find those small things in how you show up, so that you can start to build those relationships. And understand that it’s going to take time. So I’d say, focus in on what is that one or two things that you feel is not the same because it’s remote, and think about what can I do, what can I control, to shift that narrative, to shift that relationship where I am right now.

Jean Chatzky: (15:41)
I loved what you said, Dorianne, about building your own brand and telling your own story. And so after the break, we are going to dig into those strategies for either finding a job, if you don’t have one, or getting a different one, if you want to make a swap. But before we do that, let me remind everyone that HerMoney is brought to you by Fidelity Investments. Harness your economic power. One way to do that is to join Fidelity’s Women Talk Money Pop Up for tips on a healthier financial future. I’m going to be a special guest for a virtual event on March 10th, with Dr. Romie Mushtaq. You just heard her on the podcast last week. We’ll discuss improving your financial wellness in good times and bad. And on March 24th, two other former HerMoney guests, Eve Rodsky and Tiffany Dufu will share how to use healthy money habits to create the life you want. You’re going to want to see both of these events. So to learn more, or watch event replays on demand, go to Fidelity.com/HerMoney.

Jean Chatzky: (16:59)
I’m talking with Dorianne St Fleur, founder and CEO of Your Career Girl, which is a company that offers resources and support for women of color looking to propel themselves into thriving careers. But just in talking to you for the last 15, 20 minutes Dorianne, I think your advice is wise and universal. So let’s start with that woman who is just getting started in the job market. How does she get launched in the era of COVID? And let’s talk about some real concrete strategies here.

Dorianne St Fleur: (17:39)
Yeah. I think what’s really important for someone who’s starting in their career is to think about, where do I want to be in the next 12 to 18 months? I think one of the disservices that we’ve done to ourselves is to have these lofty career visions that are five, 10 years out. And what I’ve seen from my own career and for the women that I work with is that things change. Who would have predicted that we would be where we are right now, as far as where careers are concerned? So bring it back in a little bit and think about 12, 18 months, where do I want to be? And then you want to create a strategic networking, visibility and branding plan around those goals. So let’s say you’re starting out. You’ve just graduated from undergrad and you want to be in a senior associate position in the next 18, let’s call it 24 months. Think about what are the skills that I need in order for me to get there? Who are the people that I need to know? And begin to network with those people. You should be on LinkedIn. You should be going to virtual networking events and getting to know these people way before you actually need them for anything. But getting in front of them, letting them know, this is what I’m interested in. This is what I do. I love that podcast you were on, or that talk that you did. And I learned these things. I’d love to keep in contact. And really begin to build that mutually beneficial relationship with this person, where you’re getting their knowledge and their know how and their experience, and they’re getting from you a fresh perspective into the industry. So really think about who do I need to know, who are the movers and shakers, who are the influencers in my industry. That’s for networking. And then I’d say, visibility. People need to know who you are. You absolutely need to have a LinkedIn profile where people can see you. You should be talking about where you’re going, what books you’re reading, what articles you found really interesting, jobs that you’re starting, who you’ve been in contact with, et cetera. So that people begin to see who you are and know that you’re there. I think one of the things that people don’t do early on in their career is build their thought leadership because they feel like, well, I don’t have any experience Dorianne. What do I know? What am I going to say? But going out there and finding a topic that you want to be known for and writing an article about it and posting it on medium.com or on LinkedIn, could be a really great way for you to begin to solidify yourself as an expert and for people to see you and share the work that you’re doing. And then finally, it’s branding. This question of what do I wanna be known for? What are the three words I want people to use when they think about me and describe me. It’s never too early to begin to put that together. And everything you do, every time you show up online should be in service of forging those three words into the minds of people who see you. If you want to be known as data-driven, then let me see you sharing articles about how people are using data in your field. Or let me see your thoughts on a specific data practice or process that maybe you don’t agree with. And maybe you have some ideas to bring to the table. It’s never too early. Don’t tell yourself that because I don’t have any experience or because I don’t know every single thing on this topic that I can’t contribute. I can’t have a voice in this space. You can absolutely begin to craft who you are in your industry by following some of those strategies.

Jean Chatzky: (21:03)
Fantastic. That’s a laundry list of very tactical advice. I love that. What about the woman who has been laid off and is out of work for months, maybe even for a whole year. And maybe she’s a little more senior, what does she need to do?

Dorianne St Fleur: (21:18)
Yeah, I think it’s rinse and repeat a lot of those tips that I’ve just given around visibility around networking around branding yourself. And I’d say to really double down though, on the thought leadership aspect of it. That you are an expert, right? You’re more seasoned in your career. You’ve done things. Remind us of what you’ve done. So when I worked at X, Y, and Z, we worked on this project. The three takeaways that we had about this, that we did were X, Y, and Z. I love continuing to do this work. I love projects that allow me to make this impact. Sharing articles that you’ve seen from other people and thought leaders in your space. Getting virtual coffee catch-ups and coffee chats with people who you used to work with, or people at organizations that you want to work with. Really getting yourself out there so people can see you and understand what you bring to the table. I find with seasoned women in their careers, so I’m talking about you have eight, 10, 15, 20 years of experience. You’re underestimating all of the experience that you have. Think back to your first job, second job. What were some of those achievements from eight years ago? What were some of the things, the projects that you’ve worked on? How can you breathe new life into them by posting them on LinkedIn, starting a blog, start doing your own podcast and curating information about your industry, et cetera. There’s a lot that you can lean on based on the work that you’ve already done. And so it’s time for you to repackage and reposition the experience that you have. And I’d say one thing about, for those who’ve been laid off, who want to reenter the workplace is really thinking about how you even position your time off of work. You don’t have to go into this long story about, you know, I was laid off and I had to do this and that. And I’m just so grateful for this opportunity. You don’t have to do that. We all know that COVID has wreaked havoc and a lot of industries and people were laid off. So being able to talk powerfully about the work that you were doing pre layoff and talk about, I’ve ran this team and we had these deliverables, and this was the impact that we make. I’ve taken a step back because of COVID. And now I’m ready to reenter the workforce to really add value into your organization, by continuing my work in, fill in the blank of your industry and the amazing stuff that you do. It’s really about packaging and positioning the value and the impact that you bring to the table.

Jean Chatzky: (23:37)
There was a study recently put out by The Boardlist that found 34% of men working remotely with children at home have received a promotion during the pandemic. Just 9% of women have done the same. When you hear of stats like that, other than, you know, vomiting in your mouth, what do you think is really going on here?

Dorianne St Fleur: (24:02)
A lot of it, it boils down to the age old stereotypes around what women should and should not be doing. There’s this unspoken expectation that women aren’t supposed to take care of the home and the kids and do all those things. So when we do that, it’s not sensational. Whereas for men, it’s seen as an add on to what they do. So if you’re taking care of kids and you’re working, Oh my gosh, you’re able to multitask and juggle all these competing priorities. It sucks. It really, really sucks. There’s just assumptions.

Jean Chatzky: (24:34)
It totally sucks. Right? So what do we do? I mean, we are not only taking care of the kids and doing our jobs, we’re doing, and we’ve talked about this before on the show, most recently with Eve Rodsky, we’re doing all the housework. So how do we get promoted? How do we sing our own praises in a way and address women of color as well as women overall here? How do we sing our own praises while not appearing to be aggressive? Or any of those other negative stereotypes that you talked about at the top of the show?

Dorianne St Fleur: (25:11)
Yeah. Well, first it’s important that we can’t control other people’s outcomes. So if I’m going to speak up for myself and set boundaries for myself, if you, boss, want to take that as aggressive, I can’t necessarily do anything about it. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we’re trying to, well, I want to speak up, but I don’t want to seem this. I don’t want to seem that right. People are going to do what people do. But I will say that it’s important for you to stay ahead and be proactive about how you set the tone and the narrative for the work that you do. Have direct conversations about your expectations for the work that you’re doing, for the amount of time that you’ll be spending, going into your boss’s virtual office and talking about, these are projects that I’m working on right now. And based on the priorities for the team and the organization, this is the help that I need. These are the resources that I need. Or reminding your boss about, this is what I’ve done over the past quarter. I’ve accomplished this, this and this. And reminding them of the work that we’re doing, even with everything else that’s going on. I think thinking that people are going to give us a pat on the back and we’re going to get those promotions, like the men are doing for the same thing. It’s just not the case. So we need to be aware of it. But that means that we then have to work harder to speak up for the work that we do. I advocate for every 30 days, you should be having a conversation around accomplishments and achievements. And it’s not that you have to sit down and have this formal meeting. Okay, let’s talk about this. But reminding the people, the key stakeholders, your manager, people who make decisions, senior leaders, around what you’re working on. Hey, just wanted to pop in 15 minutes. How are things going also? Awesome. I’m not sure if you knew, but I’ve been working on this project. We’ve had some really great wins. Just wanting to make sure that you were aware of what was going on. You need to write your story. You need to tell people about what is it that you do and what it is that you have achieved. They’re not just going to see it. You don’t just put your head down and people notice it. You have to speak up in a way that’s going to do this. And when it comes to communication, being clear, concise, to the point and as calmly as you can. But again, you can’t control how people are going to take it, be aware of what stereotypes are for women, for women of color, et cetera. But then you have to just take the reins and start to speak up.

Jean Chatzky: (27:23)
How often should those conversations revolve around money? I mean, we know the wage gap is still demoralizingly large and even worse for black women and other women of color. How often do we need to ask for more in order to start closing it?

Dorianne St Fleur: (27:40)
Yeah, I think there’s some very key. I don’t like to say do it X amount of times, right? So I won’t give you that number. But I will say there are specific times in your career where you absolutely should be having these conversations. So any time you are being promoted, we need to talk about money. I need to make sure that along with this level increase, that there is a pay increase. And I need to understand what the expectations are, et cetera. Anytime you’re starting a new job, obviously you should be negotiating and asking for more. You should be doing that as well. A lot of organizations, annually, they take a look at salary and where you are as well. You should be having conversations in the industry, speaking to recruiters, knowing what the market rate is. And if you’re seeing that your increases are not at pace with the market, then it’s time to have a conversation as well. And so I’d say when these big milestones happen in your career, talk about money. And in the interim, and those in-between times, making sure you’re paying attention, so that at any given moment, you’re ready to have the conversation. I advocate for, and my clients, and this is something I did as well, you should always be in the market. I’m always, even now, being full-time entrepreneur. I still interview. I’m still putting myself out there. I want to know what my rate is out in the market. I want to understand for the experience that I have in the skillset, what’s the going rate. So that I always can be able to put a price tag next to the work that I do.

Jean Chatzky: (29:03)
Dorianne St Fleur, the CEO of Your Career Girl. Where can we find more about you?

Dorianne St Fleur: (29:08)
Yeah. You can find me on the internet everywhere at Your Career Girls. So the website is YourCareerGirl.com and all social, Your Career Girl.

Jean Chatzky: (29:16)
Thank you so much for being here today.

Dorianne St Fleur: (29:18)
Thank you for having me.

Jean Chatzky: (29:19)
Absolutely. And I’ll be right back with Kathryn and your mailbag.

Jean Chatzky: (29:22)
And HerMoney’s, Kathryn Tuggle, joins me now for your mailbag. Hey Kathryn.

Kathryn Tuggle: (29:35)
Hey Jean. Doing all right?

Jean Chatzky: (29:38)
Yeah. I’m doing okay. The realization that we are a year, like a full year, into the pandemic, that we left our office a year ago and never went back, I just don’t like that. You know, I don’t like dwelling on that statistic. It makes me really sad and upset.

Kathryn Tuggle: (29:59)
I know. It’s hard to believe. It doesn’t seem like a year. But then in many ways it seems like it’s been three or four years. It’s hard to quantify when everything just shuts off like a switch like that.

Jean Chatzky: (30:11)
Yeah, exactly. Although it does feel like we’ve moved forward this year. In some ways, even more than the year before or the year before that. I don’t want to discount it and I don’t want to bring everybody down because I’m sure a lot of people have had a similar experience where they’ve reconnected at home and they’ve learned new things about how they work best or how they like to work best, and will continue a lot of those things in the future. But it’s just looking at that calendar date. It’s like, whoa.

Kathryn Tuggle: (30:46)
Yeah. Yeah. In so many ways it does feel like a lost year. But then I think that that’s where we have to cling to the bright spots. You know, this weekend, my husband and I, both days, we just did yoga. And we were looking out across our window, which looks into other people’s apartment windows, because it’s New York. And in the other apartment across the way, I could see another couple reading the paper and having breakfast. And there’s a lot to be said for the new routines that we found, even though they’re not necessarily what we would have chosen for ourselves.

Jean Chatzky: (31:25)
A hundred percent. When we’re done taping this podcast, it is almost five o’clock on the east coast and it is March. So that means that the days have gotten long enough that I can go out for a walk, not in the morning, but actually at the end of the day. So I’m meeting my next door neighbor and we’re going to just walk for an hour. And I love that.

Kathryn Tuggle: (31:47)
That’s amazing.

Jean Chatzky: (31:48)
I want to get to our mailbag. But I also just want to pause on something that Dorianne said, because it resonated with me. Sometimes, you know my feelings about the word branding yourself and being a brand. And that I have very mixed emotions about thinking of people as brands. But I really liked what she said about think of those three words that you want somebody to think of when they think of you, and how are you telegraphing that to future employers. But I would say to current employers as well, or to the world at large. It’s really thinking about making that impression over and over and over again. I don’t know. That really resonated with me.

Kathryn Tuggle: (32:33)
Yeah. It’s so true. When we think about the repetition of who we want to be in our own personal lives, you know, that’s important. I had a college professor who said to me once. He was a creative writing professor, and he said, whatever you do, do it first thing in the morning, and the rest of the day you’ll know exactly who you are. And for him, he said that if you want to be a writer, you start your day off writing. And the rest of the day you’ll know you’re a writer. When she said that it reminded me of that you just have to do it over and over and over again, to prove to yourself and to others who you are.

Jean Chatzky: (33:15)
That’s brilliant professor. Send him a note and tell him. That advice 100% holds up. And speaking of, let’s go to our mailbag and answer some questions.

Kathryn Tuggle: (33:26)
Absolutely. Our first question comes to us from Sarah. She writes, aloha, HerMoney team. I’m such a huge fan of your podcast and never go a week without listening to it. Usually on a run, but sometimes while folding laundry. I’m a 28 year old teacher in Hawaii and I have spent my first seven years teaching math and science. Over the past few years, I have found that here in Hawaii, our schools have no true financial literacy courses and I’ve become more and more inspired to change the focus of my teaching career toward making personal finance education a part of the K through 12 curriculum. I submitted a proposal last year to the summer program where I teach and I was fortunate to have a supportive administration who’s letting me pilot a financial literacy course this summer. However, now we are quickly approaching it’s start, and I’m very overwhelmed with creating this new class from scratch and making it engaging for students. My question is, do you have any student friendly resources that you can point me to? How can I decide what topics to focus on with so much content? What is most important for students, to set a solid foundation in high school? All of my students will be rising sophomores in high school, about 15 years old. And every single one of them comes from a low income background. So financial literacy is especially important for them and their families. The class is only five weeks long and will be held virtually. We’ll meet together online for about one and a half hours each day. And then students will have another hour of independent work. Any and all help is appreciated. Mahalo.

Jean Chatzky: (34:57)
So this is fantastic. Sarah, thank you so much for writing and thank you for doing what you’re doing. I am a believer. I mean, you probably already know that. But you’re preaching to the choir. So let me point you to a couple of different places where I think you’ll find what you need. The first is The Jumpstart Coalition. And basically it is a landing page for all sorts of financial curriculums that have been developed through the years at various price points. But many of them are free. And you can go to jumpstart.org. You basically can just type in a little bit of information on the class that you are looking to teach, the age of the students, how much you want to spend, et cetera. And they’ll tell you what’s available to you. So that might be a really good place to start. There’s also a curriculum called Earn Your Future, that was developed by the PWC Charitable Foundation. It’s available on the website of the PWC Charitable Foundation for free. And that one might be very helpful as well. I know the people who worked on putting this together because we, over the past five years have developed a classroom magazine, an in-school magazine, that is published in partnership with the classroom magazine Time for Kids. I’m sure you know of Time for Kids because it’s available for younger classrooms. But I’d actually suggest, we’ve got six years of monthly Time for Kids, financial literacy magazines called Your Money, up on the Time for Kids website. You can just pull them down. You can use them. And I wrote a lot of these stories myself, as did members of my team. They come with teachers guides. You can use them for the lessons for your students as well. I think use the fifth grade version, even though it’s fifth grade and not 15 years old, don’t tell them. There are lessons here that I would have repeated for adults, that I have repeated for adults. And I think those things, in general, will get you off on the right foot. But the last thing that I would say to you is, share your own experiences. Your students want to hear about managing money in real life. And at 28 years old, you’re really close to the experiences that they want to have. Going to college, buying a car, renting their first apartment, getting a credit card, building credit. As much as you feel comfortable sharing from your own life, share it with them. Let them ask you questions. Let them know that you’ve made mistakes, if you’ve made mistakes. It makes you human. It makes you approachable. And it makes it seem like they will be able to do this themselves.

Kathryn Tuggle: (38:15)
I love that so much, Jean. And I love what she is doing. How incredible this is going to be for those students and their families.

Jean Chatzky: (38:23)
Absolutely, absolutely.

Kathryn Tuggle: (38:26)
Our next question comes to us from an anonymous listener. She writes, dear Jean and Kathryn. I have some money sitting in my savings account and I’m torn between using it for a fun investment and making a more responsible investment toward my retirement or something else. I’m 40 years old and though I have had a number of excellent jobs in my preferred career, I’ve not focused on saving for retirement. So far, I only have around $45,000 invested. About $33,000 in a VSP and probably 10 to 12,000 and a pension that I’ve contributed to for six months. In less than a month, I’ll be leaving this job and should be able to transfer the pension to the new role. Hopefully I’ll be in the new role for a number of years and will continue to contribute. My net salary is in the low hundred thousand dollars. I bought an apartment in Brooklyn, New York in 2015, and I’ve refinanced my mortgage of about $160,000, which included paying off some of my student loans. My remaining student loans are $20,000 and I’m hoping that they will be canceled or forgiven at some point in the near future. I have about $20,000 in emergency funds, which should cover me for about six months. And I have around $25,000 in additional savings. My wife and I have fallen in love with an area of Mexico where real estate happens to be very affordable and we’re seriously thinking of buying a piece of land that would cost around $25,000, including taxes, legal fees, et cetera. Our idea is to buy in cash now and, in a year or two, borrow a little money to build something on that land. We would aim to stay there as often as possible, but also love to rent it out for some additional income. Should we make this fun investment or should I put that money towards something resembling retirement savings? I’m excluding my wonderful wife from most of this financial narrative as our finances have not yet been fully merged, and at the moment, I’m the primary earner as we’ve recently moved for my job and she was not able to work remotely in her job for about half the year. So far, I’ve been able to cover most of our costs with her filling in the gaps here and there, so I’m not particularly worried about having that extra $25,000 as a backup in my emergency savings. I’d love to hear your advice and thank you for your excellent podcast. We often binge listen on long car rides. Thank you and all the best.

Jean Chatzky: (40:44)
Thank you so much for writing. I’ve got to say, I’m a little worried. I’m worried because of the number of times, the word hope is in this letter. Hopefully you’ll be able to continue to contribute to the pension. Hopefully your student loans will be forgiven. Hopefully your wife will be able to get back to work in her job. There’s too much hope in this and not enough planning for me. I would not go down the road of buying real estate in this piece of Mexico right now. I think it is a) speculative, sounds pretty speculative to me. But even beyond that, when you buy a piece of land to build on it at some point in the future, you’re carrying a debt that is just going to get larger and larger and larger as you look to put an actual dwelling on that piece of land. And then you have to deal with maintenance. And you have to deal with upkeep or paying somebody to manage it when you bring in renters. And finding renters in the first place. It sounds to me a little like a little like fantasy land. So what would I do with this money instead? I probably would put it toward retirement. When you look towards retirement and the retirement benchmarks that we talk about often on this show, by the time you hit your forties, you want to have about three times your annual income put away for retirement and you’re not even close. Which is not to say that you can’t make up ground. You absolutely can make up ground. You just have to focus on making up that ground. And as you go through that process, figure out what retirement actually looks like for you and what it will cost you to live in retirement. If you think that you’re going to spend your retirement, not in pricey Brooklyn, but in cheaper Mexico, you may be able to aim for a lower number. But I want you to be aiming for something and I want you to be aiming for that something fairly actively. Now, let me just make one last point here, and it could throw my calculations and criticism out of whack a bit. The apartment that you bought in Brooklyn in 2015, where you only have a mortgage of $160,000. I know what apartments in Brooklyn cost. This could be a very valuable piece of real estate. You could be sitting on a substantial nest egg in your apartment and you haven’t included it in these calculations. If that’s true, that’s absolutely something to consider. But unless you’re, again, planning on selling it when you enter retirement and cashing out and using the money to fund your retirement, it does need to play a role in the picture. So I would say no right now to the place in Mexico, which certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t go there. It certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t vacation there. It just means you do it Airbnb style for a little while, until you’ve gotten your retirement savings on track. And I hope that you keep listening to the podcast after that advice.

Kathryn Tuggle: (44:24)
Thank you so much, Jean. That’s good advice.

Jean Chatzky: (44:26)
Well, I hope so. It’s tough advice. It’s a little tough love, right? I mean, I know that that’s what we do sometimes. We tell people things that they don’t want to hear. And I would have loved to say, yes. Go buy the place in sunny Mexico. Have a wonderful time. Enjoy yourself. But it just doesn’t shape up to point me in that direction right now.

Kathryn Tuggle: (44:48)
Right. And I think real estate is always a great investment, but I also really have taken to heart those retirement benchmarks that you so often share Jean, because I don’t think that they can steer you wrong.

Jean Chatzky: (45:01)
No, I don’t think so either. And we have to keep in mind that real estate is illiquid. And yes, we’re in a market right now where, depending on where you live, you may be able to sell your place of residence very quickly. But other places are sitting, and they’re sitting for a lot longer than they were expected to.

Kathryn Tuggle: (45:20)
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Jean.

Jean Chatzky: (45:22)
Thank you. And thanks guys for writing. In today’s thrive, how to ask for a promotion now. Yes, in the middle of a pandemic. If you’re employed, chances are you have been working harder than ever these last 10 months. And now is not the time to hide in your career. It’s the time to propel it as we just heard from Dorianne. While it may feel awkward to bring up your career growth during such an uncertain time, it’s important to keep communication open with your employer, and find out what it’s going to take for you to get to your next level. Because, guess what? You don’t get what you don’t ask for. At Hermoney.com this week, we’ve got a run down on how to approach your boss during this time. A few of our favorite ideas include presenting ideas that have value. An ideal conversation about a promotion is not only about what you have done, but what you can do for the company. Get clear on ideas for future projects, action plans, and additional areas where you can help. Also get creative on new responsibilities that you can assume which will add value. Then, carefully plan your conversation. Remember, it’s all about what you can do for the company. Not the other way around. You also need to be smart and reflective of what’s going on in your organization. If your company has struggled, be upfront about it. Don’t skirt the issue, but also don’t miss an opportunity to discuss how the role you’ve played during this critical time may have proven your worth in a new way, because you are worth every penny.

Jean Chatzky: (47:00)
Thank you so much for joining me today on HerMoney. Thank you to Dorianne St Fleur for walking us through some of our career concerns during these strange times. I love her hopeful, confident outlook. When you are trying to make a transition, believing in yourself really is so important. If you like what you hear, I hope you’ll subscribe to our show at Apple podcasts. Leave us a review. I looked on the site the other day and I saw we are closing in on a thousand reviews. Who’s going to be the one that gets us over that number. We do love hearing what you think. We’d also like to thank our sponsor Fidelity. We record this podcast out of CDM Sound Studios. Our music is provided by Video Helper and our show comes to you through Megaphone. Thank you so much for joining us and we’ll talk soon.


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