Donald Trump fired Carolyn Kepcher, which is obviously big news if you watch The Apprentice, and still big news, though in a less obvious way, if you don’t.

Kepcher started her career as a waitress and she worked her way up in his organization. Recently she has become a counterpart to Trump (and generally more respected than he is) as the sidekick on his TV show the Apprentice. More importantly, she is a widely listened to speaker and author about how women can maneuver in the workplace.

But Carolyn will be fine. She’s talented and smart and she’s probably fielding great offers as I type.

The important thing here is nepotism. Donald fired Carolyn because he realized that he gave her a spotlight to run with (which she did, good for her), but he would rather be giving it to his kids – Ivanka and Don Jr. No big surprise. Most people with power want to give it to their kids. And most powerful people are white males, so white males are busy distributing power in an unequal way. Sure, Ivanka Trump benefits too, but only because she’s the daughter of a rich white man.

What about the people who are not children of rich white men? They do not receive as many opportunities to become powerful. Just look at the admissions process for top universities. If you are an alumni (and a majority of Ivy League alumni with college-age kids right now are rich, white men) you have a much higher chance of being accepted to a top university.

Everyone who complains that affirmative action is unfair should take a look at how Trump is running his organization. Because it’s not unique. And he is using a tried-and-true version of affirmative action for his family.

Affirmative action for minorities in the workplace is not a way to give minorities an advantage. It’s a way to counterbalance the combination of a concentration of wealth among white men and a strong history of nepotism in American institutions.

I’m happy that Donald fired Carolyn. It’ll give everyone a great example to point to when we talk about unfair advantages in the workplace.

If you have not seen the video of the Lockheed Martin whistleblower, here it is.

It’s a great video, and you really need to stay for the end when, after laying out his accusations and the lists of Lockheed and government people who have not paid heed to his warnings, he asks for a lawyer.

Of course a million will be calling because he has a wrongful termination suit against Lockheed.

But look, I have said this before, and I’ll say it again, (with less patience, no doubt): Don’t be a whistleblower. It’ll ruin your career.

Don’t talk to me about the rare circumstance when you are at dinner with the Secretary of State and she admits that the US government is systematical killing small children in a European country. This is the exception to the rule. Yes, of course if this happens to you, call the Washington Post or your favorite subversive blogger.

But 99% of you work in situations where the world does not care about your employer’s ethical transgressions. And many of you are so low level (sorry) that the stuff you’d whistle blow about is not nearly as significant as you being unemployable in your industry, which is what will happen.

I’m all for being an upstanding citizen. But we each have a lot of methods for doing that. Each day of your life you could tutor an underprivileged child and make the world a better place. But most of us choose not to do that. So get off your high and mighty stance about how you absolutely must be a whistleblower because of a moral obligation.

Just get out of the company. Find a job somewhere else, skip your exit interview, and make sure that you are never the person using your power to force unethical behavior on someone else.

As more men call themselves stay-at-home dads, they redefine for both men and women what it means to stay home with kids. Men have learned a lot from watching women struggle with home life. The super-woman syndrome of the 1980s has squashed the desire to juggle committed parenting with a sixty-hour workweek, and Rolling Stones lyrics about Valium as “mother’s little helper” do not fall on deaf ears; 24/7 with kids for eighteen years is too hard.

So today’s stay-at-home dad probably has some kind of work outside of the kids. He might not be earning much money, but he has the wisdom of generations before him to know that the money isn’t what matters. Ted Castro is a stay-at-home dad with his daughters, Giselle, six, and Claudia, eighteen months, while his wife, Nicole Faulkner works full-time managing a genetics lab. But if you ask Ted, “What else do you do?” he’ll say, “I’m an artist.”

Since the onset of feminism, stay-at-home moms have been incensed by the question, “What else do you do?” as if being home with kids were not a full-time job. But today, few people question how difficult and full-time taking care of kids is. So stay-at-home dads welcome the question. “I think the question really means, What did you do before you had kids?” says Castro. “Everyone went through a certain amount of schooling. So the question really means, What was your other choice?”

Castro’s other choice was making stained glass. After a degree in fine arts and an apprenticeship, he built up a business making stained glass commissioned by architects. Now he “makes only two or three pieces a year,” but he still calls himself a working artist.

After at least a decade of feuding between stay-at-home moms and working moms, the argument about which is better is dissipating. And in part, this is because men add a fresh perspective to the decision-making process. For dads, staying at home is not so much political as practical. “It just grew that way,” says Castro of his family setup.

In fact, most men do not set out to be stay-at-home dads. They just want to make sure they get to spend time with their kids. A survey by American Demographics revealed that eighty percent of men ages 18 to 39 said that a flexible job to accommodate kids takes a higher priority than doing challenging work or earning a high salary. The new stay-at-home version of dad is how they reach this goal.

On web sites such as, which cater to dads who put family first, stay-at-home dad and work-at-home dad are used almost interchangeably. And it’s a gray area as to how many hours per week a dad needs to work outside the home to disqualify himself as an at-home dad. (Stay-at-home dad Jeff, for example, designs stay-at-home dad apparel and operates the store that sells it.) Most significantly, though, the dads don’t seem to care about that number.

Some people will say, “Big surprise. Men staying at home with kids is just like men vacuuming — they do the living room and bedroom and never get to the kitchen and den before they get distracted.” But others will see a synergy of the sexes: Just as women in the workplace show men how life can be better there, men at home show women a few means of improvement as well.

So both men and women can benefit from learning how to create a life that is conducive to the new stay-at-home and accommodates a new sort of work.

1. Think part-time. Lisa Levey, Director of Advisory Services at Catalyst says, “Usually you have to earn the opportunity to work part time. Work at the same company for a while, and develop a certain niche. Over time, you can craft something that will work for you.” She would know: For years her husband has worked an abridged work schedule so he can be home with the kids.

2. Aim for high-level. “We have in our mind that lower status or lower paying would be easier to balance, but this is not the case,” says Phyllis Moen, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota. “If you think you are taking a job that would give you more time, talk to people in that job.”

3. Save, save, save. Castro buys clothes at thrift shops and even frequents garbage dumps. “I got a Concept-II Rowing machine off the street,” he says. “I’ll never pay for a piece of exercise equipment again.”

4. Have faith. “People say my husband is so lucky,” says Levey, “But he negotiated and made compromises. Fear dominates the work world now. People need to push back and try to get what they want.”

Men should not marry women who have careers, according to an opinion piece at The statistics are clear:

“Marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill (American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier (Institute for Social Research).”

There is a response from a woman, who, big surprise, has a big career. But to me, she just sounds like she’s whining. And she’s definitely missing the point.

The point is that marriage and family work best when one person is taking care of them full time. Duh. Everything in the world is best off when it is cared for very carefully. I wish everyone would stop trying to deny this. It’s barking up the wrong tree.

There is little evidence that the role of housewife is any more frustrating than the role of housewife and careerist rolled into one. (I have done both roles and both are very difficult and not totally satisfying.)

The conclusion, that marriages and families work better with a full-time housewife, is hard to swallow but hard to deny. It’s just that not every woman wants to take care of a family and marriage full time, and even fewer men do. And increasingly few people want to give up almost all child-rearing responsibilities in order to be a single breadwinner. So this is a piece of advice that’s useful to only the small percentage of households in the world. But still, the advice is good.

Many people will say they’d rather face the challenges of a dual-career marriage than the challenge of a stay-at-home-spousedom. Fine. Just know the statistics are not in your favor.

Before I get accused of throwing stones from a glass house, let me come clean with the fact that my husband and I are constantly restructuring our work life in response to these statistics. Also, I believe that the woman being the primary caretaker of both family and marriage is BS, but I don’t see many marriages working any other way, even with two, powerhouse careers.

Please, do not send me emails about your perfect marriage because I don’t believe it. In my marriage we have tried everything, and everything is hard in its own way.

Meanwhile, it’s good advice to men to pick a woman who will be a full-time housewife, but I have some advice for women who are shopping for husbands: To find a partner who will support your choices both financially and emotionally and who will be around enough to participate as an equal parent, marry someone with a very large trust fund.

When it comes to career advice, it seems that everyone has some. The trouble is figuring out who to listen to. Most people field advice from friends, parents, teachers and significant others. John Clark, a music producer and sound engineer, even found information technology consultants tossing advice his way.

Before you tell everyone to shut up, consider the idea that there is no bad advice, just people who are bad at sifting advice. Which means if you want to figure out the career that's right for you, get good at sifting.

Rosalind Hoffa, director of the Amherst College Career Center says, “Approach many people and gather all sorts of information. No one has the absolute answer. So the best way to proceed is to explore and experiment.” When it comes to finding the right career, “Everyone has the answer inside them and unlocking it is the question.”

Clark reports that, “The best advice I ever got was from my parents. They told me to follow my heart. They also showed me where my talents are by recognizing a love for music and giving me piano lessons early.”

When sorting through input remember each person has their own perspective, including your parents. Someone who values power gives advice that leans toward the acquisition of power, and someone who values work-life balance steers people toward that. You need to know your own values to figure out how each person's input applies to your situation.

The advice Clark received in college was about performance, because at Tufts, where he was, that's what studying music is all about. Clark tuned out the advice and took pre-med courses with a big paycheck in mind. But sometimes career advice comes in odd packages, and for Clark, it was an award. The first piece of music he produced received national honors, and he realized he had talent for advising musicians artistically and arranging music.

If you know yourself very well, sorting through career advice will be a breeze. The problem is, how can you know yourself that well before you are 70 and your career is over? Even people like Clark, who were raised to focus on their inherent skills, still have trouble figuring out their true calling: After college he took a job creating PowerPoint presentations.

For some people, especially those with patience to spare and money to burn, trial and error will work. And even if you are surrounded by friends who are as lost as you are, you still might find them useful: Hoffa says, “Friends can be a great resource. Sometimes just hearing yourself talk it out with friends is helpful.” Eventually, Clark's friend told him to take an internship at a music studio.

A faster way down the difficult path of career self-knowledge is to take an aptitude test. Deirdre McEachern, of VIP Coaching, says that a career aptitude test can tell you where your strengths lay. She gives her clients the Highlands Ability Battery, which takes three hours to complete and generates thirty pages of information. Other popular tests are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Strong Interest and Skills Confidence Inventory, each of which you can administer yourself via the Internet, though McEachern recommends you have a professional help you interpret your results.

McEachern's clients are generally people in their forties who wish they had come to her in their twenties, but some clients are as young as eighteen. “These people come to me to get help picking a college major,” she says. “Highlands test results don't change after age fourteen. Interests and motivations shift, but one's natural abilities are the same throughout life.”

But McEachern cautions that aptitude tests recommend a wide range of professions. So you also need to understand “your core beliefs and values.” To do this, McEachern asks questions such as: “If you could solve one world problem what would it be? What are the most proud moments of your life? What makes you angry in the world? What are traits you admire in other people?” And she doesn't just write down your answer. She also listens for intangible things like tone of voice and rate of speech. From this process she recommends a career you'd be good at doing that would satisfy your soul.

For those of you who cringe at the thought of hiring a coach or even sitting down for a test, trial and error might be right for you. The more experience you have making career decisions — good and bad — the better you'll get at making them quickly, effectively and on your own. Clinical psychologist Jason Greenberg advises people to go with their gut more often. “People don't listen to their gut. They listen to their head and other peoples' advice. The greater impact a decision has on one's life, the less likely the person is to trust their instinct.”

But the advice never stops, really. And you need to learn to take it. Because the biggest factor in career success, after education, is how effective your network of advisors is. And here's a piece of advice about taking advice from Clark, who now has a thriving business in a career he loves: “Have some humility.”

If you ask most people if they like their jobs, they’ll say yes. Alan Kreuger — scintillating economics professor at Princeton, whom I interviewed this morning — says that this is not because people have jobs they like, but because people have cognitive dissonance and are hard-programmed to like what they have.

On the positive side, this hard-wiring to be happy means that we can get through our days. Life is really difficult, and if we weren’t predisposed to think it’s fun, we would all jump off bridges. But Kreuger says that the cognitive dissonance could harm us in our work world if we could actually make a better decision for ourselves.

And, of course, most of us could choose better. If nothing else, you could look at the reams of new research I spew on this blog and make a decision about your job based on that. And here’s a little more research. Three more ways to think about career happiness:

1. Many people want fame, but it’s bad for you.
An article in today’s New York Times (read it now, because you’ll need a subscription in a few days) says that fame is a key motivator for people. Forty percent of people think they’ll be famous, but in reality, only one or two people in a hundred achieves fame.

Additionally, seeking fame will probably make you unhappy. “The participants in the study who focused on goals tied to others’ approval, like fame, reported significantly higher levels of distress than those interested primarily in self-acceptance and friendship. Aiming for a target as elusive as fame, and so dependent on the judgments of others, is psychologically treacherous.”

2. Rich people are not happier but they say they are.
Kreuger and a bunch of other economists and psychologists developed a new way to find out how happy people are — instead of asking them, have them report how they are feeling at short intervals throughout the day. The findings, published in Science magazine: More affluent people say they are, on balance, happier and less affluent people say they are, on balance, not as happy. But in fact, day in and day out, ones level of affluence does not make one happier.

3. Keep your commute short and your TV off.
Duh. These are so obvious, but so few people really do it. Which is the core problem with all this research. If you want to increase your happiness, you need to make significant changes in your life. Sorry. It’s bad news, but it’s true.

But it may console you to know that when I was talking to Kruger about how few people make changes –even though the advice stems from strong, scientific, psychological research — Kreuger said that when it comes to following advice “the psychologists are just as bad as everyone else.”

Quitting is not what it used to be. When a job was the sign of security, quitting meant you had a self-destructive streak. And when long-term employment was the only acceptable format for a resume, a string of quit jobs was a sign of an inability to get along with other people. Not so today.

Now, people have a new job almost every year before they turn 32. And with all the management-training courses about how to retain young employees, you can bet those young people are not getting fired. They’re quitting.

Today quitting is part of the process of finding your dream job, finding synergy between your home and work lives, and finding where you fit in. Young people have different expectations for work than older generations. A job today should feed one’s soul, ego, and sooner than later, family. It’s no surprise that you have to quit a lot of jobs to find the one that meets such lofty goals.

Yet with all the advice about how to get your dream job, there is a dearth of information on how to quit a job first. In a world where people change jobs constantly, and their network is the key to success, you have to quit as well as you hunt. Here’s a list of ways to quit a job well:

1. Go before things get bad.
Lynn recently left her accounting job. “I’ve been really good about quitting jobs amicably,” she says. “I realized I was hitting a point where I was going to start acting out.” Like Lynn, you need to know yourself and be honest about how you’re feeling on the job so you don’t let your emotions get out of hand.

2. Make a good first step.
“The very first person that you should tell you’re leaving is your boss,” says Alexandra Levit, author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College. “Your boss will be insulted to hear it from someone else.” Also, get your story right the first time and tell the same, optimistic plan to everyone. Lynn, for example, explained that she wanted to give freelancing a try, which shows positive vision for her career.

3. Leave the door open a crack.
If you’ve done good work, there is no reason you couldn’t come back later, when things for you and for the company might have changed. Especially as you begin to specialize in your career and lay down roots, the pool of possible companies gets smaller. So don’t close any doors definitively.

“It’s very tempting to spill your guts or rant about the people you work with, but be careful what you say because you never know when you’ll want to come back,” says Levit.

4. Beware of the exit interview.
“If you trash the company during an exit interview, it will follow you everywhere. In fact, don’t even bother to do one,” says David Perry, a recruiter and author of Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters. “Just leave on good terms and let them know you had a wonderful time.” Even if you didn’t.

5. Resignation letter.
Try to get out of it if you can. But if you really need to write one for legal reasons, make it short and gracious. You are not the president of the United States. The world does not need a public record of why you quit or what your aspirations are. Just a simple end date and a thank you will be fine.

6. Trust that the company can continue without you.
“People think the world is going to end if they quit their job,” says Lynn. “In my last job, everyone who quit thought everything would go wrong, but it’s easily fixed and everyone’s replaceable.”

7. Set yourself up for a good reference.
Perry is adamant that any negative parting will haunt your job hunts forever. “You want to be sure the trail you leave is a positive one,” he says. And although the law discourages past employers from dissing you to future employers, Perry says a recruiter can circumvent this hurdle. “I have never, in my 20 years of recruiting, had someone not answer questions about references.”

8. Manage the in-between time carefully.
“Burn no bridges,” warns Brendon Connelly, author of the popular blog Slacker Manager. Sometimes quitting a job is as loaded as dumping a lover. “I have quit a few jobs and there has been tension because it’s always been for something else,” says Connelly. “You need to lay the groundwork ahead of time for the transition.” Tie up loose ends at the old job and get your files organized to pass on to someone else. “You don’t want to give the old people the shaft.”

9. Be conscious of the shift in the balance of power.
The moment you quit is when you go from being your boss’s underling to your boss’s equal. After all, you are no longer beholden to your boss for a job. At the point of quitting, any more work you do for your boss is out of kindness and respect for the custom of giving notice.

This is one of those times we tend not to see ourselves clearly, writes Daniel Ames, professor at Columbia Business School. Hitting the right note of assertiveness — not too much and not too little — is hard to do. We notice poor balance in our colleagues but rarely notice it in ourselves. So keep in mind that the bottom line of quitting well is assertiveness. Have enough to leave when you need to, but tone down your assertiveness enough to keep your friends and colleagues on your side even as you’re walking out the door.


A book I’ve really liked recently was Will You Please Just F*ck Off, It’s Our Turn Now: Holding Baby Boomers to Account, by Ryan Heath. It’s about how baby boomers won’t admit when their ideas are old.

Here is a great example of this problem: Jack Welch (and Suzy Welch) writing ridiculous career advice that assumes generations X and Y have the same goals and aspirations that Jack Welch did. But he is old (maybe too old for that spritely wife Suzy) and definitely too old to be telling people to work like he worked, because no one wants to anymore.

Welch tells people to stay with a bad boss at a good company instead of going with a good boss to another company. The assumptions behind this advice are outdated. Welch assumes people usually stay at jobs for more than a year and a half (not true). He assumes everyone is hanging around to get a promotion (not true). He assumes people care more about a company name than what they learn there (really, really not true).

For a tirade against the continuous flow of irrelevant advice from people like Jack Welch, read Ryan Heath.

In response to my post about how to choose where to live, Ayann wrote a comment saying that race is a factor as well. She’s right. And the truth is that my husband and I talked about race constantly during our decision making process because he is Latino and, therefore, so are my kids.

My husband has spent his life living in Los Angeles and New York City. I had to push very hard for him to move to Madison, Wisc., where the Latino population is less than 5%. My husband’s hesitancy to move to an all-white neighborhood is understandable. His family is almost all first-generation immigrants, and the discrimination I have seen them face is incredible. I would have never believed how ubiquitous it was until I had seen it myself.

I have written about how research shows that my children will face discrimination in the workplace because of their Latino last name. But I want to believe that they’ll be fine in Madison — that somehow goodness will prevail and people will not discriminate.

City ranker Richard Florida has a race index, sort of. He counts the gay population as a guideline for tolerance for new ideas and diversity of ideas. Madison did not score incredibly well on this index. Madison is no San Francisco, to be sure. But it’s not Confederate flag-flying either. Madison, like most of us, is somewhere in between.

One of the quirks of my marriage is that my husband routinely points out to me how I say racist things. I don’t even notice it until he shows me. But I am pretty sure that most people are saying racist things, even if they don’t mean to. I must be uncomfortable talking about this because I wrote a whole piece on my decision making process and didn’t mention race once.

One of the best things we can do to squash racism is to believe in ourselves and in our neighbors that we can beat it. I’m doing that as I move to Madison. Another thing that helps fight racism is talking about it. That’s something we can do right here.

We are entering the age of volunteerism. Generation X has shifted charity from the hierarchical, corporate-backed methods of the Red Cross and United Way, to a grassroots, episodic volunteerism of, say, tutoring neighborhood children. And Generation Y is donating more of their time to charitable causes than perhaps any generation in history. According Leslie Lenkowsky, professor at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, 90% of college-bound high school students volunteer.

Young people are determined to make a difference; they accept only a mission that is close to the heart and take action only when they can get their arms around the whole project. These attitudes affect choice of both charity and career, and increasingly the two overlap in ways that finally dignify the word “synergy”.

Melissa Krodman graduated from Boston University with a communications degree and joined a casting agency in England. But she found that industry was no match for her values. She wanted to do something larger in media, but she wasn't sure what. “Also,” she says, “I was faxing and doing things where I wasn't learning very much.” So she moved back to the United States to regroup, and she volunteered at What’s Up magazine.

Bruce Tulgan studies the working lives of young people, and he sees Krodman's criteria as typical for recent entrants into the workforce. “Mission is especially important for both career and charity, but then they want to know what they'll be doing. They ask, What will I learn? Who will I work with?”

In many cases, volunteering can add both mission and key experience to one's work life. Enter episodic volunteering: short-term, project-based, local, and hands-on, this is the type of charity that can improve your karma as well as your career.

Aaron Hurst is president and founder of the Taproot Foundation, which provides ways for people to donate their skills to discreet projects for nonprofit organizations. He says, “In the first ten or fifteen years of a career people have limited money giving ability but can give a relatively significant donation of time and skills. The average Taproot volunteer donates five to seven thousand dollars in work, and they could have never given that much in cash.”

For some volunteers, time with a nonprofit can shine light on a true calling. Krodman explains that, “For a long time I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. Volunteering at What's Up gave me a much more clear focus. What's Up introduced me to media that inspires activism. That's a part of the picture I didn't have.”

Even those who know their true calling can expand their skill set by volunteering for challenging projects. Hurst says, “Experiential learning is the best way to teach adults, especially when it comes to soft skills like leadership. Law firms have used pro bono work as a great training tool, and now it's spreading to other industries.” Hurst gives an example of a graphic designer for Hewlett Packard who had used the same font and colors for five years. Volunteering was a good way to stretch his design skills.

One of the most frustrating aspects of an entry-level job is the lack of responsibility. Krodman points out that volunteering is a good way to gain responsibility fast: “In an organization where you have bosses and work for someone else there is a certain amount of climbing you have to do. At What's Up, I am my own boss and I get to do work that I would not get to do at a big corporation until years down the line.”

And no matter where you are in your career, volunteering is a way to build a network. A typical Taproot branding project, for example, combines a project manager, brand strategist, graphic designer, and copywriter, each from a different company.

This benefit is not lost on Krodman. She used the contacts she made through volunteer work at What's Up magazine to find her ideal job — one that provides solid mission as well as solid salary. But what would she do if she landed that dream job and didn't have to work at cafes to pay rent? “Volunteer more,” she says. “There's so much to be done.”