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Career Advice for Men

By Marty Nemko

When I googled the term “career advice for women,” there were 11,800 references. When I googled, “career advice for men,” there were but seven, and not one actually provided career advice for men!

In this column, I place the first grain of sand on the other side of the heavily weighted scale. Here are my top six pieces of career advice for men:

Consider non-traditional careers. Many female-dominated careers such as book editor, counselor, librarian, personal coach, teacher, nurse, and hairstylist are, for many men, rewarding careers. But just because you’re “underrepresented,” don’t count on affirmative action helping you.

Negotiate your family’s income split. Many wives and female domestic partners claim that they can’t contribute half the family income. They generally use one or both of these invalid arguments:

§ “I don’t have the earning power.” According to the well-researched book, Why Men Earn More, and a summary of other research in a June 6, 2008 USA Today editorial, for the same work, women earn the same as men. And even if a woman doesn’t have the skills for a prestigious job, she certainly could, for example, be a waitress, which can be quite lucrative. Millions of men do more odious work to bring home the bacon: sewer repair, pest control, roofer, and the often even more taxing middle management, which often comes with a fire-breathing boss demanding more productivity at the same time as the manager is trying to cope with lackluster supervisees.

§ “It’s better for the kids for me to stay home.” In fact, the data (Click that link then scroll down 2/3 of the way) is no more than equivocal. And anecdotally, all of us have seen that many (though certainly not all) stay-at-home moms become overprotective and co-dependent with their kids. Yet another disadvantage of the stay-at-home mom: Her kids don’t get to see a female role model who’s more than just a housewife.

If a wife says she wants to work part-time or stay home, it rarely raises an eyebrow. Yet, if a man says that, he’ll likely be demeaned by wife, family, friends, and society. How's that for equality of the sexes?

Men, thanks ironically to the women’s movement, there’s no need to automatically assume you must be the primary, let alone sole breadwinner. Too often, that would require you to forgo a career you’d prefer in favor of a more lucrative but less rewarding, more exhausting, and, too often, less ethical job. Many men even feel forced to take a second job. The stress of all that is a major reason why so many more men than women drop dead of a heart attack in their 50s and 60s--There are four widows for every widower. Please, have a full and open discussion with your wife about how the income responsibility should be split.

And if you’re not yet married, men’s advocate Warren Farrell suggests that if you select a wife who was willing to share paying on dates, she’ll likely be willing to share paying for life.

Negotiate the household work split. Countless articles, books, and college courses have decried men not doing 50% of the housework. I believe that is unfair criticism. Even when men and women work full-time, the research is clear that men, on average, work longer hours on the job. Too, on average, men’s jobs are more stressful or dangerous. And, of course, many more wives than husbands work part-time or not at all.

Women’s values predominate in today’s workplace. From having career-coached 2,800 people, I’ve become convinced that the so-called “women’s ways of being,” as summarized in such bestselling books as Bill Clinton’s press secretary Dee Dee Myers’ book, Why Women Should Rule the World and Sally Helgeson’s The Female Advantage are more respected than men’s in today’s workplace. So:

1. In interviews, it’s safest to--if true--stress your interest in collaboration and being a team player.

2. On the job, unless you get signals to the contrary, it’s wisest to start off defaulting to these principles:

§ Collaboration trumps competition

§ Processing the feelings trumps powering through the problem.

§ In flirting, err on the side of caution. Generally, a woman’s perception of an unwanted advance or hostile environment is given more weight than a man’s.

Don’t like those rules? Assess if it’s worth the risk to try to change them:

1. For example, let’s say you believe that too many decisions in your organization are made by consensus, which you believe results in lowest-common-denominator decisions made too slowly. Is it worth the risk of your tactfully raising a concern about it?

2. Would it be worth pointing out unfairnesses to men, for example, that a man who is aggressive, competitive, and individualistic rather than team-oriented is marginalized as “not fitting in,” despite excellent performance?

3. Is it worth your joining your employer’s diversity committee and speaking out against unfairnesses to men: for example, reverse discrimination in hiring and promotion, or a new girl’s network that is as exclusionary as the reviled ol’ boy’s network.

I need to caution you that, these days, those are risky steps. Society needs brave people to take them, but you may well pay a price.

Remember, men are not inferior. The colleges and especially the media tend to portray men as boorish, lazy, evil, and/or inept, shown up by wise, efficacious women. We would not tolerate such unfair generalizations about women or minorities. Why about men?

That’s especially puzzling in that men are responsible for most of our major discoveries: from the steam engine to the search engine, from refrigeration to heating, from the light bulb to the television to the computer, from the bicycle to the car to the satellite, from mapping the earth to mapping the human genome, from aspirin to anesthetic, from the birth control pill to the erectile dysfunction pill, from penicillin to Herceptin, the breast cancer drug. And even in the five decades since the women’s movement took off, 97% of science, 92% of literature, and 100% of economic Nobel laureates still are men. And think of the most eminent writers, composers, and artists. I predict that most you’ll think of are men.

And without average men, America would cease to run. For example, working-class men are portrayed as beer-guzzling morons, but imagine if there were no working- class men building our homes, our schools, our roads, our shopping malls; cleaning our septic tanks and repairing our roofs; or driving trucks that carry everything everywhere. Imagine if there were no men performing surgery, no men policing our streets, putting out our fires, fixing our cars.

And imagine if men took a lesson from the Latinos, who organized the well-publicized national strike: A Day Without Latinos. Just think what would happen if there was a national Day Without Men. It might provide an answer to the title of New York Times’ columnist’s book, “Are Men Necessary?”

Dr. Nemko is co-president of the National Organization for Men. 500+ of his published articles are free on

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