I’ve helped hundreds of people get paid more. Here are the 5 biggest myths about negotiating a higher salary.

coworkers talking at work
Even if they act otherwise, companies expect you to negotiate their salary offer.

  • Many people think negotiating their starting salary or asking for a raise is a bad look – it’s not.
  • Companies offer what they think you’ll accept, not what you’re worth, says career advisor Brian Liou.
  • Know that your market value isn’t fixed, you can ask for more, and salary bands aren’t set in stone.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When I was just starting my company Rora – a career and negotiation agency for high performers – a friend received a job offer she was excited about. When I asked her if she planned to negotiate, she said, “Do you think I should? I don’t want to hurt my reputation before I start!” Thankfully, I talked her into it.

In reality, the idea that negotiating will make a company think less of you is a huge myth – just one of many when it comes to offer negotiations. And a company that does think less of you doesn’t really value you, which means you should go somewhere that does if your financial situation permits it.

Whether you’re considering a new job offer or discussing a raise with your current employer, you should be negotiating. Negotiation can add more value to your life than you’d think – from impacting your lifetime earning potential by setting a higher baseline for future compensation to making sure you feel truly valued for the work you’re doing now.

Yes, the prospect can be scary, but it’s crucial to push past your doubts when you can afford to. I’ve helped more than 200 people with their offer negotiations and found there are common hangups that seem to get in everybody’s way. Here are five myths that may be preventing you from succeeding – and how to move past them.

Myth No. 1: Your market value is a fixed number

You’ve probably heard that you should know your “market value” – and you’ve probably found yourself frantically Googling industry norms and pay ranges. But trying to base your negotiations around market value can be confusing and limiting.

Reality: Market value is a moving target

True market value isn’t a hard-and-fast number you can find on the internet. Think of it more like the price of a stock – sure, there are historical variables that help determine the value of a business, but at the end of the day, it’s largely based on dynamic and forward-looking factors like how investors value the company and what story the company is presenting to them. Your own market value is similarly dynamic: Yes, you have some history of performance, but it’s really defined by how much other employers are willing to pay and what story you can tell about the value you’ll provide to companies.

With that in mind, try the following to improve your estimation of your value during negotiations:

Go big when benchmarking your salary. Consider your current salary and aim for at least 15% more (if you’re negotiating a new job) or communicate the high end of salary ranges you see online.

Always ask for more than you’re offered. Remember that companies are focused on their bottom line, so they’ll always try to offer the lowest number they can while staying competitive. In other words, companies pay what you’re willing to accept, not what you’re worth, so you should almost never accept the first number given. I’ve seen companies increase equity from $140,000 all the way to $1.5 million, and signing bonuses from $0 to $150,000, just because a candidate didn’t jump at the first offer.

Don’t stop at what feels reasonable. Market value is a constantly moving target, and by pushing even slightly higher than what feels “reasonable,” you’re helping raise the expectation for everybody.

Myth No. 2: Compensation can’t go above the range a company has given you

If you’ve ever asked for a higher salary, you may have been told the company simply can’t meet it because you’re at the top of your “salary band.” This kind of explanation can make it seem like there’s simply no wiggle room and it would be silly to even try to negotiate.

Reality: There are so many ways around salary bands

Going outside of salary bands happens more frequently than you’d think. Even though they can feel set in stone, remember they are ultimately set by HR, a department whose job is to keep the company within budget, rather than your future team, whose job it is to move the business forward.

Armed with that knowledge, here are a few ways you can work around salary bands:

Ask the right people. To get paid outside of a set salary band, you’ll typically need senior-level approval. If you’re speaking to someone in HR, try sussing senior level buy-in out by saying something like: “I’m not sure the given salary band reflects my experience and the value I’d bring to the company. Could I speak with my manager? It seems there might be a misalignment of expectations for how I plan to contribute.” You may need to work with the hiring manager to build your case for why the value you’re offering exceeds the stated band.

Negotiate to move to a higher band. If you feel the salary band is lower than your value, you could also ask to change your position title, level, or seniority, which can raise you up to a higher band. Try saying something like this to the hiring manager: “I’m very excited about the company mission, but I’m concerned I won’t be able to have the impact I want to have given this title. I want to be doing senior-level work that allows me to add the most value to your organization.”

Negotiate non-salary factors to raise your total comp. Salary bands usually apply to base salary, which is often the hardest number to negotiate. If a company won’t budge on the base, see if you can improve things like equity, annual or signing bonuses, relocation stipends, or benefits instead.

Myth No. 3: You need a counteroffer to get a company to change their offer

Bringing competitive counteroffers to the table has become a popular way to negotiate higher compensation – so much so that some people believe they can’t negotiate without having one to show.

Reality: Counteroffers are not a requirement

While counteroffers can be a powerful negotiation tactic, they aren’t always necessary – and can sometimes be a detriment. And in fact, bringing a counteroffer to the table isn’t the most effective initial tactic, because it limits your compensation to the highest offer you’ve received elsewhere.

Here are some tips you can use when incorporating counteroffers into your negotiation:

Don’t share initially – even if the company asks. Companies will almost always ask you to share counteroffers early in the negotiation process and sometimes even suggest they can only negotiate if you have one. Get around this by saying something along the lines of: “I’d like my compensation to be based on my value to your company rather than how other companies are valuing me.”

Negotiate based on your value, with a nod to other offers. Return to the tips above and negotiate based on how much you believe you’re worth first – while gently reminding them that you have other irons in the fire. Try something like: “I’ve given it some thought and have come up with an offer that would make me feel excited to give my 100% to [company] and forgo other opportunities on the table at [company names].” Then outline your ideal terms.

Use counteroffers as a last resort. If the company absolutely won’t budge and you have higher offers, then (and only then) is it worth bringing them to the table.

Myth No. 4: You’re not passionate about the work if you negotiate compensation

People have a lot of shame around negotiating. You might think that it shouldn’t be about the money if you really care about the work, that you’re not a team player if you ask more for yourself – the list could go on and on.

Reality: Companies expect that everyone will negotiate

Even if they act otherwise, companies expect negotiation as part of the process. After all, this is a business relationship. You’re offering your skills and expertise and should be compensated accordingly even if you are passionate and excited about the work.

Here are some tactics to help you get over the shame of negotiating:

Seek out professionals 10+ years older than you. After years of seeing the realities of the industry – including watching their peers get paid more because they negotiated, experiencing negotiation from the side of hiring managers, and being burned by companies promising that their low pay is worth it for the mission – they’ve typically lost this sense of shame and can help you start to move past it.

Talk to peers who’ve negotiated. Understanding that everyone around you is negotiating can help normalize it and help you internalize that there’s no shame in asking for more. And you might be surprised to learn what people have been able to get just from asking.

Discuss your fears with a mentor. Getting an outside perspective from someone who’s in your corner can help you validate whether your concerns are founded – or whether they’re fears you should overcome.

Myth No. 5: You can’t ask for help with negotiations

It’s easy to feel like companies have all the power when you step into a negotiation. It’s also easy to feel like you should have to go it alone – it’s your career and salary, after all.

Reality: It’s normal to need and use help

Most people don’t realize there are others who can help you negotiate. The vast majority of people who negotiate a wildly better offer are able to do so because they have help. And often, they don’t have to go looking for it, they’re usually just lucky to have a really great mentor in their industry who’s personally invested in them.

If you don’t have this type of mentorship, you need to be more proactive. Don’t assume you have to figure this out on your own. There’s no shame in needing help. Whether it’s a negotiation professional like a lawyer or coach, your manager or mentor, or peers in the industry, it’s totally normal to lean on other people for support and information. (I may be biased, but I think the most successful negotiations involve a little professional assistance.)

If you’re still feeling iffy about asking for help, remember the following:

Companies are experts at negotiation. While you’re mostly negotiating with the recruiter, they might have support from an HR business partner, compensation analysts, and/or the hiring manager. In some cases, it’s their full-time job to negotiate, and they probably have years or even decades of experience in getting the best deals possible for the company. Your compensation shouldn’t be limited just because this isn’t your area of expertise.

Experts have more data than you. When it comes to determining your market value, companies often have much more info not only on what they’re already paying folks on the team, but also on what people are making in similar roles at other organizations. Tapping into that kind of knowledge can help you avoid being left behind.

It’s normal to get help in other areas, and it is here too. You probably wouldn’t think twice about working with a real estate agent to help you buy a house or an accountant to help you manage your money. Just as much is at stake when negotiating in your career, so it makes sense to get an expert in your corner.

I know that’s a lot – and it’s really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ideas about negotiation that hold people back. But if you can start rewriting your internal script about negotiation now, it will help you overcome the biggest myth of all – that you are not worthy. Negotiating successfully ultimately comes down to this: Believe in what you bring to the table and work with people who believe in you. My ultimate advice is to keep looking until you find a company that believes in your worth as much as you do.

Read the original article on Business Insider

8 entry-level jobs in tech that don’t require a STEM degree

software developer programmer
Certain STEM related career paths, such as customer success manager, can help you enter the tech industry with little or no experience.

  • Not all jobs in the tech industry require a STEM background for entry-level candidates.
  • Tech companies also need employees for social media management and customer service positions.
  • Depending on the role, creative and analytical skills can be just as important as technical proficiency.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tech is an ever-changing field responsible for many of the newest innovations we use every day – making it an exciting industry to work in. And even though people often assume that entering the tech industry as an entry-level candidate requires a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degree or strong computer coding skills, that’s not the case.

Although STEM degrees are highly valued for certain roles within tech, technology companies typically also have plenty of jobs that don’t require a computer science major or strong technical background. For example, finance, sales, marketing, and recruitment are just some of the departments at tech companies that hire people without STEM backgrounds. In short, there’s a range of entry-level roles in tech for people with all kinds of skill sets.

I pivoted from the education industry into tech with a non-STEM degree myself. And as a career coach, I help my clients position themselves for their next roles – many of which are entry-level roles in tech. So I’ve had a chance to see which jobs are particularly promising for recent grads and other candidates with zero to three years of experience.

Here are just some of the entry-level roles in tech that I’ve seen people enter with technical and other backgrounds.

1. Customer success manager (CSM)

Average salary: $69,829

Customer success managers (CSMs) ensure that a service sold by a tech company (typically software as a service, or SaaS) runs smoothly throughout implementation. Working closely with sales representatives, a CSM comes into play toward the end of the sales process. Upon closing the sale, the sales representative typically makes a warm introduction between the customer and the CSM, who becomes the main point of contact between the customer and the company.

“A CSM is proactive,” said Joshua Encarnacion, a leadership development expert and former talent leader for three tech-industry startups. “They influence the behavior of the customer. They make sure the onboarding happens by nurturing them, ensuring the customer is satisfied,” and ultimately prevent any problems from developing.

A CSM must have strong communication and presentation skills since they spend much of their time engaging with customers and communicating customer feedback to their company’s product team. These are common transferable skills you likely learned during college courses or in an internship or part-time job. In addition, CSMs utilize project management skills throughout the length of a client’s contract. A CSM role can lead into other roles in customer care such as customer service team lead, or, ultimately, vice president of customer experience. Or you might decide to pursue other roles in tech such as product manager or marketing strategist.

2. Help desk support technician

Average salary: $41,686

Help desk support technicians and membership experience support associates work with customers to troubleshoot and/or resolve issues with their company’s technologies. Unlike the CSM role, these roles are reactive – they respond when a customer reaches out with a specific problem. Individuals in these roles must be familiar with hardware, software, and network configuration. They must also be able to document the steps they took throughout the resolution process.

In addition to the aforementioned technical skills, people in these jobs need to possess interpersonal skills that allow them to pick up on customers’ emotions (albeit virtually or over the phone), respond to their problems quickly with a calm demeanor, and, if needed, de-escalate tense situations. Member experience associate or help desk support roles may feed into information technology (IT) roles such as systems administrator, network administrator, or head of IT, or into customer experience roles like customer service manager or account manager.

3. Technical consultant

Average salary: $76,522

Consultants advise others on their areas of expertise. Although most consultant jobs are not entry-level roles, many tech companies offer 24-month consultant rotational training programs for recent university graduates. Engineering or computer science graduates tend to serve as technical consultants (a.k.a., customer engineers) directly working with customers as technical advisors or subject matter experts (SMEs) in a specific technology, said Jose Luis Niño de Guzman, a university recruiter for a Seattle-based tech company.

Technical consultants must demonstrate “adaptability, collaboration, [and] the ability to overcome obstacles,” Niño de Guzman said. They can choose to continue their career path as consultants or they’ll be well set up to move into other fields such as sales or product development.

4. Social media strategist

Average salary: $53,534

Social media strategists conceptualize, organize, and manage the social media presence of a company. Within the last decade, social media platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Pinterest) have grown tremendously. Each platform has its own purpose, feel, rules of engagement, and target audience, and most tech companies want to have a social presence across many or all of them. Therefore, social media strategists must not only know how each platform and its algorithms work and how to read its analytics, but also understand how to create content that is meaningful for its respective user base.

Social media strategists need to be creative. Depending on the specific role, they may also need analytical skills, writing skills, and possibly even design skills. They must also stay up-to-date on social media trends and figure out ways to increase engagement. Those who’ve held entry-level social media roles can grow into social media managers, more generalized marketing managers, digital marketing leads, or digital marketing directors, or pursue a number of other careers in marketing.

5. Web developer

Average salary: $60,287

Web developers code, build, and update websites for companies. They fall into three categories: front end, back end, or full stack. A front-end developer works on the interface of a website – i.e., what the user sees. A back-end developer works on the programming a user can’t see that makes a website function – i.e., what’s “under the hood.” And a full-stack developer works on both the front end and the back end of a website. Regardless of which role you choose, as a web developer you should know how to code and be knowledgeable in HTML, Java, C++, or other web development coding languages.

To come in as an entry-level web developer, you should have a portfolio of websites that you’ve created or worked on. You should be able not only to show what you’ve already accomplished, but also to explain why you chose specific techniques and how you decided on a course of action based on the goals you wanted to achieve with the site. Web developer jobs can eventually lead to senior developer, technology director, or chief technology officer roles.

6. Talent acquisition coordinator

Average salary: $49,369

Talent acquisition coordinators assist recruiters in finding promising prospects (a.k.a., candidates) for open roles within their company and ensuring they have a great experience throughout the recruiting process. They’re responsible for scheduling interviews and following up with prospective candidates, for example. Tech companies need talent acquisition coordinators because they, like all companies, want to find the best possible candidates for every job.

Talent acquisition coordinators must demonstrate strong communication and organizational skills along with the ability to work with hiring managers and others across multiple departments so they can understand how to best fill a variety of roles. Familiarity with sourcing programs (e.g., LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Indeed) is a plus, but they can often be learned on the job.

The key differentiator that sets a strong talent acquisition coordinator apart is the ability to put themselves in a prospect’s shoes. For instance, a talent acquisition coordinator should be able to tell a recruiter, “Hey, this candidate hasn’t heard from us in three days and they’re waiting for a response. Can I go ahead and send them this email?” Companies don’t want to lose strong prospects because they feel like they’ve been “ghosted” -i.e., the company took too long to respond or didn’t reach back out at all.

As a result of the robust project management, project tracking, coordinating, and customer-facing skills talent acquisition coordinators develop, they have several options in furthering their career. They may continue within talent and recruitment, move toward other human resources or learning and development roles, or pivot to another role in tech.

7. Software developer

Average salary: $72,619

Software developers (sometimes called software engineers) write computer code to build new programs or features or solve problems with existing software. They generally fall into the same three categories as web developers (front end, back end, and full stack).

Software developers must have a background in computer science or coding. Knowing the coding language or languages used in the role they’re seeking – such as Python, Java, JavaScript, CSS, or SQL – is a plus (though if you’re proficient in one language, it’s usually easy to pick up another). When building teams, Encarnacion looks for software developers who can solve problems in a mathematical way and are able to explain their thought process and reasoning.

“Nobody writes a product on their own; it’s done in a team,” Encarnacion said. So a software developer needs to be able to effectively collaborate and communicate the “why” of their coding actions to their team members.

As their careers progress, software developers can choose the management track and become product or engineering managers, product or engineering directors, and VPs of product or engineering. Or they can choose the technical track and move into positions like architect or technical fellow where they’re thinking more broadly about how products are built and which technologies are best to use.

8. UX designer

Average salary: $74,776

A UX (user experience) designer figures out the visual component of a piece of technology – i.e., they design what the user will see and interact with. UX designers collaborate with both customers and their own colleagues to ensure that any products or services their company develops work well and are user friendly.

In addition to using their creativity and design skills to imagine the look and feel of a product or feature, UX designers facilitate user groups and document their thoughts, feelings, words, and behaviors in relation to a specific problem that the tech company is trying to solve. Their main function is to constantly update and refine user interfaces to improve the customer’s experience by really understanding human behavior. Throughout the entire development process, UX designers ask themselves:

  • How do humans interact with technology?
  • Why does this person use this app more than another app?
  • How does the design influence the user’s behavior and engagement with the app?

Since the essential job responsibilities of UX designers are heavily centered on human behavior, this an appealing entry-level role in tech for those with non-STEM degrees, including graphic design or psychology grads (who also have design skills). UX designers may advance into roles such as senior UX designer, director of product development, or creative director.

As you can see, there’s a range of different roles in the technology industry. Some roles rely first and foremost on coding and other technical skills, some blend both technical and non-technical skills, and other roles don’t require a heavy tech skill set at all. A number of different departments are needed to make a tech company run smoothly and create the world’s next great technologies. So whether or not you have a background in STEM, there’s an entry-level role that might be perfect for you.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A startup investor and mentor shares 7 tips to convince investors to fund your business idea

two professional women having a conversation in an office in front of a laptop
Show investors that you’re always willing to learn.

  • To get funding from investors, you have to show ambition and intention to make a valuable change in the world.
  • Understand your personal story and explain why you’re the right person to lead your small business.
  • Be realistic with goals and prepare a credible business plan with specific milestones.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have enough resources to bootstrap our own startups, so we are completely dependent on investors to help turn great ideas into great businesses.

Yet in my experience on both sides of this equation, I find that many aspiring entrepreneurs focus only on the best idea, assuming that it will attract the right investors. In reality, that’s only half the story.

The other half is you. You need to work just as hard to convince investors that you are the best person to take your idea from a dream to a successful business, and provide an impressive return on their investment at the same time.

Here are some key strategies that I have seen to enhance your position as an attractive investment opportunity, independent of your idea:

1. Show that you can do more than make money

You need to show how your business will make money and provide an impressive investor return, but that should be only the beginning. Emphasize your real ambition to change the world, through helping the underprivileged, improving healthcare, or saving the environment.

For example, Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes attributes his ability to raise a seed round and build a $400 million company to his commitment to provide a free pair of shoes to the underprivileged for every pair sold. He didn’t have any big technical shoe innovations.

2. Emphasize your personal journey

Investors love entrepreneurs who come across as constantly on the lookout for new ideas, and able to grasp the larger implications for market change. Your story should include childhood initiatives, industry organization leadership roles, and online influencer organizations that you support.

Many of his original investors still remember when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg first related his personal challenge to only eat meat that he killed himself, in an effort to learn sustainable farming and consume resources responsibly. His campaign only lasted a year, but it convinced some that he was a potential visionary and a constant learner.

3. Show that you are realistic

Above all, good business people have to remain practical, not be perfectionists, and be able to get the job done. That means you need to show examples of your ability to get results, when all around you are bogged down on details, or unable to face the harsh challenges of the real world.

4. Offer them a fair deal

As you may have seen on the Shark Tank TV show, offering a tiny equity amount for a large investment will not endear you to investors. They need to believe your valuation, based on current revenue and intellectual property, and feel the equity offered gives them a real return for the risk.

5. Create a plan

Passion and confidence are a good start, but every investor wants to see a credible plan, with specific milestones along the way. These show a focus on the business elements required for success, and metrics for ensuring accountability, management control, and feedback along the way.

6. Show that you have a great team behind you

Founders who present themselves as a lone entrepreneur may develop an innovative solution, but building a business requires a team. You need to show that you have a powerful team, and can attract and lead people with strong skills complimentary to yours for marketing, finance, sales, and operations.

7. Be flexible but determined

Smart investors know that no matter how certain you are that your solution is right, you will probably need to pivot at least once as you learn from the marketplace. You need to show you have a “Plan B,” and a never-give-up mindset, in handling any competitive threat or customer reaction.

The message here is that it is just as important to develop and communicate your personal innovative strengths as it is to pitch your solution’s innovative features.

As an investor, I have seen many great ideas fail by the wrong entrepreneur, and other less grandiose ones sail to success by world-class entrepreneurs. Never underestimate the power of you.

Read the original article on Business Insider

More Americans fell into poverty during the pandemic, and new data shows that low wage workers are struggling to bounce back

America poverty
More Americans slipped below the poverty line in 2020 than the year before.

  • In 2020, poverty increased across the US and took an especial toll on low-wage workers.
  • Social scientist Elena Delavega says those affected are still struggling to bounce back.
  • Without stimulus relief and unemployment benefits, Delavega says the poverty rate could have risen much higher.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Poverty in the US increased in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic hammered the economy and unemployment soared. Those at the bottom of the economic ladder were hit hardest, new figures confirm, suggesting that the recession may have widened the gap between the rich and the poor.

The share of Americans living below the poverty line – pegged at US$26,695 for a family of four – increased by about 1 percentage point to 11.4% from 10.5% a year earlier, the US Census Bureau announced on Sept. 14, 2021.

This metric includes wages and other sources of income, such as Social Security payments and, quite significantly in 2020, unemployment benefits. Without the massive boost in unemployment benefits that flowed to millions of jobless Americans for more than a year, the poverty rate would surely have climbed much higher.

As a social scientist who researches poverty, I’m concerned about the severe income loss some Americans experienced and signs that the nation’s extreme income inequality only got worse in 2020.

Low-income workers hit hardest

Those at the bottom of the economic scale, hit much harder by the coronavirus recession, are finding it harder to bounce back, according to additional data the Census Bureau released. It’s what has been termed a K-shaped recovery.

Consider what happened with typical household income, which decreased by 2.9% in inflation-adjusted terms to $67,521 in 2020, from $69,560 in 2019.

At the same time, full-time year-round workers saw their real median earnings increase 6.9% from 2019 levels – indicating that losses were borne primarily by part-time workers and people who aren’t employed throughout the whole year.

What’s more, the share of aggregate income – the sum of all incomes generated in the whole country – for the lowest-income households declined by 3.4%, while it increased by 0.7% among the highest-income households.

In another sign that low-income workers were hit the hardest in 2020, 53% of all jobs lost were held by workers earning less than $34,000 per year.

It’s unclear whether these inequality-exacerbating trends are continuing in 2021 or will be sustained in the years to come. But in June 2021, employment for low-wage workers had fallen by 21% from January 2020 levels, while employment for high-income workers had gained 9.6%.

Some success for stimulus and relief measures

The impact of the stimulus and supports is much more apparent in the Supplemental Poverty Measure rate, which takes into account additional sources of income, such as tax credits and other government benefits.

Without the series of relief and stimulus packages implemented between March 2020 and the end of the year, the supplemental poverty rate would have reached 12.7%, the Census said. Instead, it stood at only 9.1%, 2.6 percentile points lower than what it otherwise would have been.

Elena Delavega, associate professor of social work, University of Memphis

The Conversation
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Starting a side hustle on top of a full-time job can be tricky. Here’s how to balance both – and make sure you don’t get fired.

Woman working on computer
Make sure you read the non-compete rules of your full-time job contract before starting a side gig.

  • Before starting a side hustle, read the non-compete clause in your job contract to make sure it’s allowed.
  • Don’t work on your side gig during your regular work hours – this could be considered “stealing” from the company.
  • Be honest with boss and coworkers and set healthy boundaries around your job and side gig.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

At some point over the last few years, were you inspired by an Insta-worthy screen printing t-shirt business, or women who made hand-sewn masks or purses, and thought to yourself: I could do that. And you did.

Or, maybe for the last decade you’ve been doing social media consulting on the side, or freelance blogging. These days, some 37% of US workers are running some sort of side hustle alongside their full-time job, according to a new study from Bankrate.

Side hustles let us explore our passions and creativity in a way that our full-time jobs don’t always allow, and they are an important source of income – sometimes the money we make from a side gig will be the very thing keeping our budgets afloat from month-to-month, and sometimes they become so lucrative that we’re able to turn it into our full-time position. But until we’re ready to make that leap, we don’t want to risk losing our primary job by focusing too much on our side gigs.

Typically, our full-time jobs will be where we have health benefits, retirement benefits, and financial security – things we should never risk, no matter how passionate we are about our ‘lil hustle. Balance and boundaries are key – learning them just takes a little practice.

Check your non-compete clause

Most companies have very clear “non-compete” rules in the contract that you signed before working there, or in the employee handbook that you were given. (Just because you don’t remember seeing this warning about doing something competitive doesn’t mean it’s not there!)

Here’s an example: If your full-time gig is working as a designer at a jeans company, it’s likely that the non-compete for your company includes design for all other forms of clothing and accessories – in other words, you can’t go out and start your own line of handbags while working there. Likewise, if you run social media for a healthcare brand, you’re probably restricted from offering social media consulting to other companies in the health, wellness, or medical space.

No matter the industry, companies don’t want their best people moonlighting in a way that takes their own trade secrets and uses them to someone else’s advantage. So, to be on the safe side, make sure your side hustle is always distinctly separate from your primary job’s industry. You never want to face that awkward call from your boss (or worse, your boss’ boss) asking if the business you created is taking clients away from them. On that note, even if you’re in the clear on the separate industries thing, make sure you build your client base from the ground up – never use your full-time job’s connections to generate clients or interest. As long as the professional network and goals don’t mix, then you’re all set!

Work when you are off the clock

Only spending your own (personal, non-working, time-off) hours on your side hustle is one of the best things you can do to keep your side hustle from infringing on your job, says Nick Loper, chief side hustler at Side Hustle Nation.

If you’re getting paid to work your full-time job from 9-to-5, then that’s all those hours can be used for, no exceptions. If you’re answering emails or phone calls from customers to your side hustle during those hours, you’re technically “stealing” from your company, using their time to benefit your other gig. This is absolutely a fireable offense. But apart from the moral concerns of double-timing things, you’re going to find yourself completely stressed out if you’re trying to juggle both during the same hours of the day.

Here’s the fix: Set aside dedicated time before or after work to pursue your side gig. Mornings, evenings, weekends, holidays, and even your lunch break (as long as you’re using a separate phone or computer) can be your side gig time. (After all, how great would it be if your boss is one day rooting for your success, rather than saying, “Oh, so that’s why your productivity tanked.”)

Be honest about your side gig

At a certain point, you may want to tell your supervisor (and your company’s HR department) about your side hustle. Some companies require this of their employees, and at a certain point, if your brand’s presence and social media following gets large enough, your supervisor is going to find out about it anyway. No one wants to be blindsided. Lauren McGoodwin, founder of Career Contessa, a career site built for women, says to put yourself in your boss’s shoes as you approach the open conversation. They have their business in mind, just like you. Something that you could mention to ease the conversation is to discuss how the skills you’re learning with your side hustle can be applied to your job.

For example, perhaps you’re strengthening your social media skills, learning SEO, or gaining a familiarization with Excel. If you can show your boss how this might benefit the company, or your ability to succeed in your role, they will likely have a more positive outlook on your side gig. Whenever you’re ready to have the conversation, approach it with confidence and respect. You got this!

Set healthy boundaries for yourself

In addition to being open and honest with your boss, make sure you’re upfront with your clients as to when you’ll be available. And remember that emails don’t require an immediate response – you can set up an auto-responder that informs your customers that you’ll respond in 24 to 48 hours. Setting boundaries won’t damage your chance of success – you are not obligated to be on-call 24/7. But when you do communicate with clients, make sure you’re thorough. It’s impossible to over-communicate, especially where deadlines + product delivery are concerned. Once you find your rhythm, your side gig flow will become second nature.

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3 ways businesses can use AI to improve diversity and inclusion while growing their teams

Four people sit together with their laptops and books discussing something exciting
Diverse work teams are more likely to come up with influential ideas.

  • Diverse teams are shown to perform better as a result of varied skills and perspectives.
  • AI technology can help employers collect data on team diversity and equity of company practices.
  • Be open-minded when reevaluating business policies – they may be impacting some employees unfairly.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As a business leader, you probably want to improve your organization’s diversity, merit, and fairness – whether related to hiring, advancement, teamwork, or other initiatives.

It’s a critical area with high stakes. For example, there’s evidence that diverse teams perform better, due to an integration of different skills and perspectives, and that fair systems generate employee devotion by giving credit where credit is due. Moreover, racial, gender, and other biases in hiring, promotion, and compensation have significant legal implications for businesses and other organizations.

The good news is that there are new ways to improve diversity, fairness, and merit – with the data already on hand in your enterprise. New technology enables you to use data to surface, understand, and address issues related to diversity and performance in unprecedented and sustainable ways.

The following are three specific ways to make that happen.

1. Give credit to the right people

Despite stereotypes being typically wrong on any individual basis, they influence how a person’s contributions are valued and recognized. Specifically, stereotypes create a “believing is seeing” situation where people distort reality to fit their biased view of a given group, such as the contribution of gender stereotypes to the devaluing of women’s contributions in multiple settings.

To resolve such bias, the broad idea is to create transparency around who contributes what and how, so that actual performance is quantified – fairly – and visible. While it was previously costly to collect comprehensive, accurate data that creates transparency, such data is now routinely collected inexpensively as a byproduct of team-based collaboration platforms.

Popular tech collaboration platforms like Slack, Dropbox, and Zoom unobtrusively capture real-time performance information that can be mined with AI to reveal unprecedented windows into the drivers of organizational performance: who leads thinking around a specific project, resolves key problems, initiates important conversations, and so on.

Not only can this new data give credit where credit is due, but it can promote effort and fairness. For instance, if a given factor affects performance, understand what’s driving that outcome and take steps to address it. For example, if you find women’s brainstorming contributions increase team performance when there is formal structure for turn-taking rather than an unstructured free-for-all, it indicates that teamwork processes, rather than gender, are likely correlated to outcomes, and such processes are modifiable. Thus you can use what’s learned to improve processes, make better, evidence-based people-advancement decisions, rectify misconceptions, and raise the organization’s entire tide of performance.

2. Create diverse teams

The famed Moneyball approach to team performance showed that team diversity on important metrics rather than star players drives success. Here, new data can help you understand the performance link between teams and diversity.

Much business today hinges on teamwork. Thus, a basic question might no longer be whether teams of all men or all women perform best, but whether more gender-balanced teams perform better than those heavily weighted toward men or women. For example, does an engineering team with at least one woman reach milestones faster than an all-male group?

My past investigation of millions of teams of biomedical researchers over a 20-year period found that controlling for individual past success, mixed-gender, balanced teams are more likely to publish more influential ideas than all-male or all-female groups, and that the mixed-gender-team effect becomes even more pronounced as the team’s gender balance becomes more equal. Use this simple insight to broadly promote performance and fairness.

3. Examine your policies with data

Data is critical to creating effective, innovative people policies, especially as labor markets and work arrangements change.

For example, one company recently used data to discover that their relocation policy hampered their recruitment of strong candidates, particularly women: When they asked prospective hires to move in the middle of the school year, rather than in the summer, women with children were prone to decline the offer because it disrupted family routines, even though they wanted the job. With this insight, and new options for remote work, the company is able to make better offers, reinforce a culture of support, and increase their yield of top talent, with no real increase in costs.

Take a similar, open-minded approach to examining your policies and practices using data and smart hypotheses, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

I hope the ideas here inspire you to harness data and AI in service of diversity, merit, and fairness in your organization. Remember: Leadership plays a critical role in these efforts, through championing initiatives and smartly exploiting data to quantify true relationships and promote important new insights.

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Workers are reporting increasing levels of stress – here are 3 things employers can do to help

stress migraine
Stress can come from many sources, but one of the most common is being overwhelmed at work.

  • A recent Gallup survey revealed that employees are experiencing more stress at work.
  • High levels of stress can hurt productivity, and offering time off isn’t enough to undo burnout.
  • To help employees relieve stress, check in on their needs and work to streamline their workflow.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Employees are more stressed in their jobs than they were during the depths of the pandemic, according to a new survey released this week by Gallup.

Only 32% of workers polled in August 2021 said they were “completely satisfied” with the amount of on-the-job stress they face, down from 35% and 34% who reported feeling totally fine with their levels of stress in 2020 and 2019, respectively. So in other words, more people in August of 2021 felt either completely unhappy or just “somewhat” fine with their level of workplace stress than in 2020 and 2019. The Gallup poll measured how employees feel about 13 different factors that play into their job satisfaction.

Other factors like promotion opportunities and salaries also received lower marks than in past years. Only 42% of workers expressed “complete satisfaction” with their career opportunities and only 38% were satisfied by their pay. Less than 50% of workers were also completely satisfied with the health insurance offered by their employers.

What’s more, the poll shows that time off and workplace safety did not contribute to workplace stress in a meaningful way. That means, you can’t just throw vacation time at employees and expect their moods to change.

But you also can’t ignore the issue. Whereas higher stress can sap productivity, reducing it can improve it – not to mention overall job satisfaction.

Here are three ways you can help:

1. Pay up and cross train

When you can, pay up. If employees are dissatisfied by their salaries and opportunities for growth, raises and promotions can have a positive effect on morale and stress. Unfortunately, these moves aren’t always feasible – so in those instances, a one-time bonus for workers can be worth the cost, according to BambooHR’s director of HR, Cassie Whitlock. Also, cross-functional job training in different parts of a business can help some employees feel like they’re getting more from their jobs.

2. Go beyond PTO

Prioritizing mental health in the workplace itself has also been a challenge for many companies: Another survey published in August by Vancouver-based workforce analytics company Visier found that a staggering 89% of US employees have experienced burnout in the past year.

According to that survey, increasing time off may not be enough to eradicate burnout – and in Gallup’s poll, 78% of employees were already “completely” or “somewhat” satisfied by the amount of vacation time offered. Instead, it may be more fruitful for employers to make improvements to workflow practices to better optimize employee workloads.

3. Check in on workflow

Employers can relieve some workers’ stress by eliminating “non-value-added work,” Frances Frei, coauthor with Anne Morriss of “Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You,” previously told Inc. They also suggest making priorities clear and demoting some tasks as nonessential. Expressing commitment to employees’ success can also make them feel valued and more equipped to tackle challenges, without increasing stress.

Organizational surveys and one-on-one meetings can give employers a better idea of their worker’s needs, which can enable them to thoughtfully allocate resources (like mental health benefits) and restructure workflows to reduce employee stress – leading to more job satisfaction for everyone.

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SpaceX is launching its first all-civilian space mission tomorrow – here’s what the flight means for the future of space tourism

Inspiration4 Crew
The four members of the Inspiration4 crew will orbit around Earth for three days.

On Sept. 15, 2021, the next batch of space tourists are set to lift off aboard a SpaceX rocket. Organized and funded by entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, the Inspiration4 mission touts itself as “the first all-civilian mission to orbit” and represents a new type of space tourism.

The four crew members will not be the first space tourists this year. In the past few months, the world witnessed billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos launching themselves and a lucky few others into space on brief suborbital trips. While there are similarities between those launches and Inspiration4 – the mission is being paid for by one billionaire and is using a rocket built by another, Elon Musk – the differences are noteworthy. From my perspective as a space policy expert, the mission’s emphasis on public involvement and the fact that Inspiration4 will send regular people into orbit for three days make it a milestone in space tourism.

Why this mission is like no other mission in history

The biggest difference between Inspiration4 and the flights performed earlier this year is the destination.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic took, and in the future, will take – their passengers on suborbital launches. Their vehicles only go high enough to reach the beginning of space before returning to the ground a few minutes later. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and crew Dragon vehicle, however, are powerful enough to take the Inspiration4 crew all the way into orbit, where they will circle the Earth for three days.

The four-person crew is also quite different from the other launches. Led by Isaacman, the mission features a somewhat diverse group of people. One crew member, Sian Proctor, won a contest among people who use Isaacman’s online payment company. Another unique aspect of the mission is that one of its goals is to raise awareness of and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As such, Isaacman selected Hayley Arceneaux, a physician’s assistant at St. Jude and childhood cancer survivor, to participate in the launch. The final member, Christopher Sembroski, won his seat when his friend was chosen in a charity raffle for St. Jude and offered his seat to Sembroski.

Because none of the four participants has any prior formal astronaut training, the flight has been called the first “all civilian” space mission. While the rocket and crew capsule are both fully automated – no one on board will need to control any part of the launch or landing – the four members still needed to go through much more training than the people on the suborbital flights. In less than six months, the crew has undergone hours of simulator training, lessons in flying a jet aircraft and spent time in a centrifuge to prepare them for the G-forces of launch.

Social outreach has also been an important aspect of the mission. While Bezos’ and Branson’s flights brought on criticism of billionaire playboys in space, Inspiration4 has tried – with mixed results – to make space tourism more relatable. The crew recently appeared on the cover of Time magazine and is the subject of an ongoing Netflix documentary.

There have also been other fundraising events for St. Jude, including a four-mile virtual run and the planned auction of beer hops that will be flown on the mission.

What this means for the future of space tourism

Sending a crew of amateur astronauts into orbit is a significant step in the development of space tourism. However, despite the more inclusive feel of the mission, there are still serious barriers to overcome before average people can go to space.

For one, the cost remains quite high. Though three of the four are not rich, Isaacman is a billionaire and paid an estimated $200 million to fund the trip. The need to train for a mission like this also means that prospective passengers must be able to devote significant amounts of time to prepare – time that many ordinary people don’t have.

Finally, space remains a dangerous place, and there will never be a way to fully remove the danger of launching people – whether untrained civilians or seasoned professional astronauts – into space.

Despite these limitations, orbital space tourism is coming. For SpaceX, Inspiration4 is an important proof of concept that they hope will further demonstrate the safety and reliability of their autonomous rocket and capsule systems. Indeed, SpaceX has several tourist missions planned in the next few months, even though the company isn’t focused on space tourism. Some will even includes stops at the International Space Station.

Even as space remains out of reach for most on Earth, Inspiration4 is an example of how billionaire space barons’ efforts to include more people on their journeys can give an otherwise exclusive activity a wider public appeal.

Wendy Whitman Cobb, professor of strategy and security studies, US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies

The Conversation
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How to stop dwelling on regrets from the past year of the pandemic and turn them into a force for good

Close up of a mother and daughter having an appointment with the pediatrician
For many, the pandemic has caused them to miss time with loved ones and important events.

  • Missing out on events and time with loved ones during the past year has left people with ‘pandemic regrets.’
  • Psychologist Neal Roese says these feelings are normal and can be transformed into positive action.
  • To manage these regrets, make peace with what you can’t control and focus on what you can do in the future.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

With so many Americans pausing during the pandemic to take stock of their lives, it’s inevitable that some are sifting through uncomfortable feelings of regret.

Whether it is lamenting a suddenly stalled career, mourning a much-anticipated vacation, or grieving time lost with loved ones, it’s hard not to recall the last 18 months more for the missed opportunities than for the achievements.

“Right now may seem like a time where there’s some excitement about new jobs opening up and new opportunities,” said Neal Roese. “Yet, we’ve also been hard hit by what seems to be a lost year, a year that we can’t make up.”

Roese, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School, is an expert in the psychology of regret, the topic of his book, “If Only.” He explains that regrets are a perfectly normal – even essential – part of being human. And regrets that have grown out of the pandemic’s circumstances can be a force for good if we contextualize and learn from them. However, if nurtured too long, they can have negative effects on our mental health.

Roese offers advice on how to manage pandemic regrets.

Look at the big picture

One of the main ways that people cope with regret is by reframing it. So if you’re feeling upset about how the past has unfolded, Roese recommends reframing your focus beyond your own experience to see the bigger picture. Regret by its very nature involves a short-term focus, where we tend to home in on a single decision, rather than a series of decisions.

And the broader context of the pandemic is that it is a once-in-a-lifetime event that has threatened the well-being of everyone across the globe. Because it has also impacted each of us so dramatically on an individual level – our jobs, families, health, and security – it is easy to lose sight of that larger view.

“Maybe, with the passage of time, we’ll be able to put it into perspective and see that this is one of the most unique, powerful, and consequential experiences that any of us will have,” Roese said. “Most major events in history are things we read about in books. But how many of us have actually lived through something as tumultuous as this?”

Pausing to take in the magnitude of the pandemic’s shared tragedy can help absolve regrets, he said.

“Giving yourself some perspective helps you understand that your experience is part of a larger system of interlocking forces and events,” he said. “It also makes moving forward easier.”

For example, if you are kicking yourself for having overspent on that delicious Saturday-night meal, it may help to take a step back and review it in the context of all of your non-necessity purchases over the past year. The value of taking a broader view is to see more clearly how single decisions fit with your overall life priorities.

Focus on what you can control and make peace with what you can’t

Looking back at the trials and tribulations of the past, people often blame themselves – whether circumstances were actually under their control or not. By obscuring this distinction, people are showing a very natural, and often unconstructive, illusion of bias.

“Like the gambler who blows on the dice before rolling, we assume that we can influence results more than we can, even for random events,” Roese said.

The illusion of control is one of a set of basic cognitive biases that affect each of us. It can be useful in helping us persevere in the face of tough challenges, but it can sometimes get us into trouble. Because the illusion of control involves a biased reading of reality, it can distort how our minds reflect upon difficult situations such as our pandemic work experiences.

For example, parents may feel mixed emotions, wishing they could have made different decisions to manage their job, remote schooling, and family responsibilities. But in reality, much of the burden was beyond their control – something had to give. The pandemic dealt a crushing blow to women in particular, with millions leaving the workforce as they shouldered the majority of caregiving responsibilities in the wake of school and childcare closures.

The simple recognition that the illusion of control can affect nearly all of us can be a pathway toward a reduction in self-blaming for any and every misfortune. It offers us the opportunity to reorient ourselves to those areas of life where we do have some control, such as interactions with friends, family, and close work colleagues.

“When we focus on those things that are within our control, we’re setting ourselves up for a healthier outcome,” Roese said. “If we can take some steps to correct, fix, or improve upon what we’ve been doing, we’re in a much better position.”

Look to the future

Roese also points out that that regret does have an important upside-it can help us see how we might change things for the better going forward.

“Regrets generate alternative pathways and actions in our brains,” Roese said. “They may also provide options to try in the future.”

He advises looking to the future as much as possible. “As you take stock, it’s key to shift your thoughts from regrets to opportunities,” Roese said. “Ask yourself: Of all changes, which were the positive forces in my life? Which can I continue? If you can draw lessons, that’s the best possible outcome.”

Ruminating on the past can also inhibit people from acting. And research suggests that people tend to feel more regret when they do not try something versus when they try and the attempt doesn’t work out. So Roese has a suggestion: find one positive action you can take immediately.

For example, many professionals have felt disconnected from their work and colleagues, or insecure about their productivity. Rather than dwelling on these feelings, a positive action might be opening up to others, including colleagues, with these struggles.

“By being vulnerable and sharing a personal detail, you are forging a stronger connection with another person,” Roese said. “That’s a recipe toward greater intimacy that strengthens everyone in a working relationship.”

Acknowledge that moving on may be hard

Roese cautions that we’re in a liminal moment. With the delta variant surging and the economy still uncertain, we’re not “done” with the pandemic.

Under this perceived threat, our psychological immune system switches on its defenses-and doesn’t switch them off. When a threat lingers, in other words, people get “stuck” in emotional narratives that make moving on hard.

“The pandemic multiplied this psychological experience many times over,” he said. “COVID is a long-running, slow-motion drama that makes it especially hard for us to cope.”

With emotional closure still far on the horizon, it is okay to not feel okay yet. It is also understandable that not everyone feels ready to reframe or learn from their regrets.

“With the distance of time, we can look back on an experience, see that we survived, and focus on moving forward,” said Roese. “It doesn’t feel like a lot of us have gotten there yet with COVID.”

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These 2 states want manufacturers to recycle their own packaging waste – here’s why it’s a great idea

Unsorted trash in a bin
Manufacturers in most states are not responsible for their own packaging waste management.

  • Two states have introduced laws that require manufacturers to foot packaging waste removal bills.
  • The companies will have to recycle and dispose of their own cardboard cartons, plastic wrap, and food containers.
  • UC Berkeley professors Jessica Heiges and Kate O’Neill say this could have a big impact on sustainability.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Most consumers don’t pay much attention to the packaging that their purchases come in, unless it’s hard to open or the item is really over-wrapped. But packaging accounts for about 28% of US municipal solid waste. Only some 53% of it ends up in recycling bins and even less is actually recycled: According to trade associations, at least 25% of materials collected for recycling in the US are rejected and incinerated or sent to landfills instead.

Local governments across the US handle waste management, funding it through taxes and user fees. Until 2018 the US exported huge quantities of recyclable materials, primarily to China. Then China banned most foreign scrap imports. Other recipient countries like Vietnam followed suit, triggering waste disposal crises in wealthy nations.

Some US states have laws that make manufacturers responsible for particularly hard-to-manage products, such as electronic waste, car batteries, mattresses, and tires, when those goods reach the end of their useful lives.

Now, Maine and Oregon have enacted the first state laws making companies that create consumer packaging, such as cardboard cartons, plastic wrap, and food containers, responsible for the recycling and disposal of those products, too. Maine’s law takes effect in mid-2024 and Oregon’s follows in mid-2025.

These measures shift waste management costs from customers and local municipalities to producers. As researchers who study waste and ways to reduce it, we are excited to see states moving to engage stakeholders, shift responsibility, spur innovation, and challenge existing extractive practices.

Holding producers accountable

The Maine and Oregon laws are the latest applications of a concept called extended producer responsibility, or EPR. Swedish academic Thomas Lindhqvist framed this idea in 1990 as a strategy to decrease products’ environmental impacts by making manufacturers responsible for the goods’ entire life cycles – especially for takeback, recycling,› and final disposal.

Producers don’t always literally take back their goods under EPR schemes. Instead, they often make payments to an intermediary organization or agency, which uses the money to help cover the products’ recycling and disposal costs. Making producers cover these costs is intended to give them an incentive to redesign their products to be less wasteful.

The idea of extended producer responsibility has driven regulations governing management of electronic waste, such as old computers, televisions and cellphones, in the European Union, China, and 25 US states. Similar measures have been adopted or proposed in nations including Kenya, Nigeria, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa.

Scrap export bans in China and other countries have given new energy to EPR campaigns. Activist organizations and even some corporations are now calling for producers to become accountable for more types of waste, including consumer packaging

What the state laws require

The Maine and Oregon laws define consumer packaging as material likely found in the average resident’s waste bin, such as containers for food and home or personal care products. They exclude packaging intended for long-term storage (over five years), beverage containers, paint cans, and packaging for drugs and medical devices.

Maine’s law incorporates some core EPR principles, such as setting a target recycling goal and giving producers an incentive to use more sustainable packaging. Oregon’s law includes more groundbreaking components. It promotes the idea of a right to repair, which gives consumers access to information that they need to fix products they purchase. And it creates a “Truth in Labeling” task force to assess whether producers are making misleading claims about how recyclable their products are.

The Oregon law also requires a study to assess how bio-based plastics can affect compost waste stream sand it establishes a statewide collection list to harmonize what types of materials can be recycled across the state. Studies show that contamination from poor sorting is one of the main reasons why recyclables often are rejected.

Some extended producer responsibility systems, such as those for paint and mattresses, are funded by consumers, who pay an added fee at the point of sale that is itemized on their receipt. The fee supports the products’ eventual recycling or disposal.

In contrast, the Maine and Oregon laws require producers to pay fees to the states, based on how much packaging material they sell in those states. Both laws also include rules designed to limit producers’ influence over how the states use these funds.

Will these laws reduce waste?

There’s no clear consensus yet on the effectiveness of EPR. In some cases it has produced results: For instance, Connecticut’s mattress recycling rate rose from 8.7% to 63.5% after the state instituted a takeback law funded by fees paid at the point of sale. On a national scale, the Product Stewardship Institute estimates that since 2007 US paint EPR programs have reused and recycled almost 24 million gallons of paint, created 200 jobs and saved governments and taxpayers over $240 million.

Critics argue that these programs need strong regulation and monitoring to ensure that corporations take their responsibilities seriously – and especially to prevent them from passing costs on to consumers, which requires enforceable accountability measures. Observers also argue that producers can have too much influence within stewardship organizations, which they warn may undermine enforcement or the credibility of the law.

Few studies have been done so far to assess the long-term effects of extended producer responsibility programs and those that exist do not show conclusively whether these initiatives actually lead to more sustainable products. Maine and Oregon are small progressive states and are not major centers for the packaging industry, so the impact of their new laws remains to be seen.

However, these measures are promising models. As Martin Bourque, executive director of Berkeley’s Ecology Center and an internationally known expert on plastics and recycling, told us, “Maine’s approach of charging brands and manufacturers to pay cities for recycling services is an improvement over programs that give all of the operational and material control to producers, where the fox is directly in charge of the hen house.”

We believe the Maine and Oregon laws could inspire jurisdictions like California that are considering similar measures or drowning under waste plastic to adopt EPR themselves. Waste reduction efforts across the US took hits from foreign scrap bans and then from the COVID-19 pandemic, which spurred greater use of disposable products and packaging. We see producer-pay schemes like the Maine and Oregon laws as a promising response that could help catalyze broader progress toward a less wasteful economy.

Jessica Heiges, PhD candidate in environmental science, policy and management, University of California, Berkeley and Kate O’Neill, professor of global environmental politics, University of California, Berkeley

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