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Water Cooler

Information and insight about your career and the workplace at large
Premiere: December 2003/January 2004

News and Views

Women need to stand up for themselves in order to be counted, writes Washington Post's Life-at-Work columnist Amy Joyce. Women especially should brag a little and push each other to stop making excuses for not being heard—it helps everyone.

With the current uncertain economy, knowing your worth is more important than ever. This tool, from Fast Company in partnership with, will help you survey salaries across industries and cities.

Employers today place less value on employees' dues paying, loyalty, and seniority and place more value on employees' day-to-day work quality and productivity, according to a 10-year workplace study conducted by Rainmaker Thinking, Inc. As a consequence, most individual employees feel they have no choice but to think and behave like free agents.


For more how-to's on conquering "fear of bragging" and learning to toot your own horn, see the free download "For Women Only" on the Mentor Me website. After all, said Jimmy Breslin, "If you don't toot your own horn, there ain't no music."

Making It Work for You

Readers, this is your space—for tips on how you've solved a problem on the job, "got over" not tooting your own horn, or anything else related to being your own best advocate in the workplace. Send your "a-ha's" to and watch for your byline in a future issue.
This month’s contribution comes from Amy Schneider, who used to work for a printing company and now works for herself as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader.

Career Transition: Making My Own Break

I started freelancing for my first client when I was working the night shift in my full-time job at a printing company. I got home in the morning, went to bed, and got up in the late afternoon to tackle the freelance work. And back then I had only one simple project at a time.

After a few months, I decided that I was eventually going to freelance full-time, so I went to my boss and laid it out for him: I was pursuing a new career, and I needed time to build it, but I wasn't ready to quit cold turkey. I told him that I wanted to start working 32 hours a week, taking all Sunday nights off (we worked Sun.-Thurs. nights), and be exempted from all overtime.

I had him between a rock and a hard place -- I was pretty much the anchor of the night shift skeleton crew. He could keep me for a while yet, for eight fewer hours per week, and have some time to plan for replacing me, or he could lose me right now. I got the deal. Several months after that I was able to turn in my notice.

And yes, I did have it easy with no kids, no worry about conducting freelance business on company time, and so on. It's one of those rare times in my life when I actually got a break! --Amy J. Schneider, Words That Work!, Wautoma, WI;