Critical Learnings From Two Days, One Night

What would you do if you had to make a trade-off between your own advancement and the lack of advancement of others? Thanks to Netflix, I spent time this weekend watching the film, Two Days, One Night, which addresses this very question. [WARNING: If you hate international films with English subtitles, get over it and read the captions – it’s worth it]  

I suspect that no one reading this blog thinks that they will choose to impede someone else’s career, but I think we make trade-offs like this every day without realizing it. And, thus there are important lessons here.


Brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne direct this Belgian-French-Italian drama filled with compassion, hard choices, and reality. The movie trailer is powerful, but in short, Marion Cotillard and Fabrizio Rongione play Sandra and Manu, the woman and her husband, who go into a panic after finding out on a Friday that her colleagues have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. Sandra has only the weekend to find and talk with her colleagues and plead her case. She asks them to forgo a 1,000 euros bonus so that she can keep her job after returning from sick leave due to depression.


I was taken aback by how well the film captures the dignity of work and the effect of finances on the family structure and human relationships. Set in Belgium, the film forces the audience to examine itself and one’s own approach to dealing with financial stress, which cuts across culture and class.


I will not give away the ending, but the film raises three main points that may help your financial situation:


How your financial trade-off is framed is critical. In the movie, many of Sandra’s colleagues frame the decision in reference to something else that they need. For many, they plan on the bonus to pay for children’s expenses, improvements on their homes, or paying off debts. For other colleagues, they frame the bonus as a result of what they’ve already worked toward the previous year. So, they are deserving of the bonus irrespective of what’s on the other side of the trade-off.


Aside from the obvious conclusion that living in expectation of a bonus is a difficult financial situation to endure, one must realize how they are framing the trade-off decision. If the trade-off decision is framed from your vantage point and needs, then you will be biased. If the trade-off decision is framed from the other person’s perspective, you might see things a bit differently.


Also, one must ask the question of what structure has allowed a decision to come to the current state. Sandra’s employer is actually to blame for the mess that she’s in, but this is a subtle fact that you will miss it if you are not paying attention.


We need to question the systems that have created financial messes for us! Student loan debacle? Mortgage crises? Wage stagnation? Income disparity? These messes all have powerful systems behind them that we should challenge.


Most people want to know what everyone else is doing. In most of Sandra’s conversations with her colleagues, each asks her who else voted to “give up” their bonuses. None of Sandra’s colleagues ask her who else has voted to “deny her a job,” which is a fundamentally different question.


We are often concerned with what decisions others are making as if they directly influence what decision we should make. We feel better if others make decisions that confirm what is already in our thoughts, or how we really want to act.


When it comes to managing your finances, it is important to be clear on what you want to do because your situation is different than your friends. I’m a big fan of getting advice and seeking help, but you still have to make the decision. Try and gather good information and make the best decision for you, and no one else.


Finding your own dignity. One of the big themes in the move is individual dignity. The movie beautifully captures the importance of working to our sense of purpose and ability to provide for our families. Sandra carries a high degree of responsibility for her household’s stability, which is often dependent on two incomes in today’s culture, here or abroad.


We each go through our own journey when we are not working. I’ve been here before and it is not a good feeling. When I did not make money, it took a toll on me. Even having a husband who can support our household on a sole income did not remove feeling “less than.” I felt this way because I did not personally contribute to the household as I wanted to, and I saw this reality displayed on screen through Sandra. You too are not alone – it’s normal to not feel good when you’re not working. If you feel OK, then I would be worried!


I like to earn money. I’ve gotten very comfortable with this fact (thanks to my career coach). There is certainly dignity in being able to work and getting compensated (financially and non-financially) for our gifts and value to the world.


Go get your dignity and fight for it!


Where to go from here?


I recommend that you watch Two Days, One Night. I’m almost certain you’ll learn even more than I've talked about here. It is one of the best movies I’ve watched this year, and if you've seen it too, let me know your thoughts.


Why Not Invest in a Career Coach?

I got a career coach at the end of 2013, and it has been one of the best investments I’ve ever made in my career. Honestly, no one in my professional circle had a career coach, or kept it a secret if they did have one. The first time I heard one of my friends talk about a career coach was when I began contemplating shutting down a business two years ago. My friend used the career coach after selling her business; she wanted a new role that would allow her to spend time with her young kids and yet satisfy her desire to have a fruitful career. My eyes lit up when I heard about her coach because I needed someone to help me get clarity on a potential next move and navigate a transition. I had several questions:

  • What would I do if I wasn’t running a start-up, and will my skills translate?
  • Would I find as much joy in this next phase of my professional life?
  • How much money did I want to support my lifestyle?

And, I still wanted to dream big!

My friend told me to give her a call for an initial and free consultation, and so I did. When the coach told me that she never met with her clients in person but rather over the phone, I thought we would never work together because I always envisioned meeting someone face-to-face.

Boy, was I wrong.

You probably will not click with the first career coach you meet, but if you do, go with it. After working with my coach for over a year and a half, I’ve discovered these facts to be true for me. Perhaps they will hold true for you too.

A career coach will help you grow. In my mind, a career coach is part coach, part counselor/therapist and part mentor for your professional well-being. Many people use career coaches in transitions or to handle difficult situations, but I have also found value in using a career coach post the transition phase too. Your career coach is someone who is vested in your professional success, understands your values, and that you are not just your career, but you as a whole person with life goals. Yes!

A career coach can provide objective advice and tactical strategies (e.g. email review, negotiation tactics, resume review, etc.) to take you to the next level in your career. Over time, he or she will knows your story, but is not emotionally tied to you like your spouse or close friend. Your close circle of family and friends are great resources, but they know you personally and so they are biased.

Ask any potential career coach why he or she is doing their job and what other work (e.g. consulting) that they might be doing apart from coaching, if any. Their answers will provide insight into what motivates them and other restraints on their time.

The financial investment is real. Career coaches are not cheap and can cost anywhere from $100 to $200 per hour. Many coaches need at least 3 one-hour sessions to find out about you and go through exercises and assessments with you, so plan accordingly.

Remember, however, what you are expecting in return for their services – a higher paying job, more income at your current job, peace of mind at work, support to finally go after your dreams, and next level professional development. Framed this way, paying now for a career coach should reap long-term returns for your career. I am big proponent in paying up for quality and getting a return on my investment. Now, you get what you put in so if you are not ready to take advantage of what career coaches can offer, then you will not reap a big return on your investment.

Ask the career coach exactly what kind of exercises you will be doing, to explain their approach to your situation, and what are some tangible takeaways that you will receive. For example, my coach asked me to list every job, paid and unpaid, that I have worked. She then asked me to write down what I liked and did not like about each of these jobs. As we went through the exercise, I discovered many things about myself, including that I love using my creativity to execute on ideas but hate the redundancy of tasks. My coach discovered my values and the type of work that aligns well with my values.

If you are financially constrained, ask your potential career coach if he or she has any special packages or arrangements to meet you where you are financially.

Your inner confidence will jump to a new level. I’m sure you are a confident person if you’re reading about how to get to the next level in your career. Working with a career coach, however, can give you a deeper connection to yourself and eventually make you more confident in your skills and your value to the world.

Unexpected work difficulties or past work failures can break the spirit of even the most confident people you know. Alternatively, work successes and achievements can cause a level of contentment for over-achievers. Regardless of the end of the spectrum you fall in, a good career coach will force you to evaluate why you make (or refrain from) certain work decisions. You will be in tune with your own inner compass.

A great career coach will remind you that work is what you do, and not who you are. She will push you to be your best whole self, recognizing that if you have other emotional or physical stuff that you need to work out, it will be hard to advance in your career. If you are not doing a lot of self-introspection with your coach, then alarm bells should be going off in your head. Run quickly and find someone else who pushes you to this level.

Your career coach will hold you accountable to hitting milestones, just like a physical trainer. And in the process, you will sharpen your intuition and handle difficult situations much more effectively.


Why Not? 

Whether you’re stuck in your current career or want to take it to the next level, consider getting a career coach. Be patient and recognize that it may take six months to a year to see tangible results. I’m telling you – you will look back and have your own breakthrough story to tell.

10 Questions for Getting Extra Income

In addition to ensuring that our basic needs are met, most of us have a desire to spend money on things we want or want to do. Unfortunately, we often need more money to do these things than our current income can support. You can either cut expenses or make more income to fulfill your desires.  

Cutting expenses is not fun. And, spending less is also hard to do considering that some expenses, like debt and housing, are hard to change on a dime. And, it’s also hard to get rid of your children, who I’m told can be expensive [I’m expecting a smile from all the parents].


So, our other alternative is to increase income. One might do this by completely changing jobs for a higher salary. And, this is a viable option. Others may opt to obtain a second job for supplemental income to their current income stream. The latter is the basis of my discussion today. My mother and father each worked an additional job to put me through school, and I’m grateful for their hustle and foresight.


When you are exploring additional income opportunities, here are 10 key questions you need to ask yourself.


  1. How much do you need? This might seem obvious, but many of my clients are unsure of their number. If you’re looking to make an extra $300-$500 per month, then finding a second job might seem reasonable. If you’re looking to make an extra $2,000 per month or ahead of the holidays, for example, your job choices are completely different. Be clear on what your number is because it will steer you in the exploration process.


  1. What are 3 things that you’re willing to do for the extra income? You have to start with some ideas of what you think you can do for additional money. Whether you want to leverage your current skill set for additional money or simply do brain-less work because that’s what you want to do, develop a few ideas that will get the conversation started. And, there might be hobbies that you have that you can turn into revenue generating machines.


  1. How long will it take to get the additional income? Sometimes the additional income can take more than 6 months to secure. If you cannot wait that long, there may be options that can get you to more income at a much quicker pace. Consider options like Uber or Lyft that can often get you up and going in a few weeks time if you qualify.


  1. What is the money going toward? Determining a specific goal for the additional money not only provides motivation, but also allows you to ensure that when the income comes in, it goes toward a vey specific purpose. When the income actually hits your bank account, consider putting it in a separate savings account. Separating the funds might prevent you from spending it on something you didn’t intend to, thereby defeating the original intention of the funds.


  1. How many hours will you trade for more dollars? The best sources of additional income come with the least amount of hours worked. Many people call this passive income, which accrues to you without you having to put in additional time to get it. Investing in financial products or real estate assets that return money with little work on your part will serve you well. If you do not have the assets yet to invest and reap these benefits, then ask yourself how can I maximize my per hour rate for opportunities that come your way.


  1. Who will you need to tell for the search? I am certain that someone in your network, or your network’s network knows someone in the area you’re interested in. I am big on building relationships. Send an email/text (or whatever style works for you) to close network of family and friends to let them know you’re looking and be specific about the opportunity you’re looking for. Here’s a great example of a note someone sent to me recently:


Hi All,

I’m reaching out because I’m in the market looking for an opportunity to tutor elementary aged kids in math and science to supplement my current income. I want to work 5-10 hours per week and stay fairly close to home. If you have any ideas or know anyone interested, please let me know. Feel free to pass this along to anyone interested.


  1. Are you also using the income to gain experience? Of course, we all would love people to pay us to learn a job, but this just isn’t the reality. Typically, if you’re gaining experience, you might have to forgo some of your income requirements because you value the experience more. Keep asking yourself throughout the exploration process if still value gaining experience over having more the money, and see if you need to adjust the values. If you have accomplished finding opportunities that allow for gaining experience and getting money, share your thoughts on how you did it.


  1. Who is going to hold you accountable? Find a spouse, partner, sibling, parent, or trusted friend to hold you accountable for meeting your income goal. Tell them the specifics of your goal and make them check in on you to see how you’re progressing.


  1. What are you willing to give up to get the additional income? If you need to work more hours to get your income, something will have to give. You must ask yourself what or who that will be. You will most likely have less personal time, less gym time, less sleep, or less time with family or friends. Be sure that you understand the trade-off to obtaining the additional income. “Less” can be overwhelming and discouraging.


  1. Have you talked to your loved ones about it? In our minds, we think that if we just get that extra income, all of our problems will be solved. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are unintended positive and negative effects of using your time to get additional income. Make sure you’re not making assumptions in thinking that you need additional income because someone else in your household might have a completely different view.



So, go out and get that extra income to obtain the things you want and need. Be sure you ask yourself these 10 questions and stay at peace through the search.


Let me know what question(s) speaks to you. What income opportunities are you pursuing and let me know if I can help?