August 2020

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Taking Charge of Your BAS Career

in the Age of Pandemics

…the fear of loss is greater than the desire for gain (unless we are threatened.)
Skip Freeman Skip Freeman,
 Senior Technical Recruiter,
BASI Solutions, Inc.

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Beware of the headlines! Instead, look at the trends.

Know how you (and all human beings) are hard-wired.

Take charge of your career. How? I’ll show you.

What has happened so far in the US (and Global) Economy is akin to a global natural disaster. Unlike 2007-2008 (and other prior recessions) where the economy had a break in the system, this time, we have been shut down.

This means there is a much higher degree of probability of a rebound than if there was an internal economic systemic failure.

It’s January 2020! Not only a New Year but a new decade.

As human beings, we are wired for new beginnings.

It’s always more comfortable, as human beings, to associate a new beginning with a mark on the calendar—a New Year, a new quarter in business, an Anniversary, or a Birthday.

And especially this year, 2020. Right?

As human beings, we are wired to be social.

Social networks influence our well-being, health, and happiness. Over Christmas and New Year’s, we attended parties, gave presents, and connected or reconnected with friends and family.

Whether we realize it or not, connection is part of the human experience that drives us and makes us happy (even if, sometimes, we are driven a little bit crazy by it.)

Soon, the first week of January arrived. We settled back into the rhythm of our job, family, taking kids to school, homework, grocery shopping, food preparation, cleaning out the dishwasher, i.e., life! And all the while trying to find time to pursue our new beginnings, our New Year’s resolutions (lose weight, painting classes, photography, skiing, learning a new programming language, finding a new job, or whatever new beginning is drawing you closer to the life you want.)

Yes, rhythm (routine) is hard-wired into our brains too.

As January ended and February began, for controls professionals and especially Controls Technicians, the job market was good. There were more openings than people, and most people knew they have choices.
As a recruiter talking to hiring managers and candidates every day, I also see other common traits of human behavior routinely surfacing, such as…

…the fear of loss is greater than the desire for gain (unless we are threatened.)

Fear of loss = risk aversion.

In February 2020, unless someone proactively sent me their resume (and many do), I could approach an employed candidate with an opportunity, and the response often might be, “I’m happy where I am.”  This is an example of risk aversion (fear of loss).

Or someone might decide to explore an opportunity, be made a good offer, then back out. Why? Risk aversion. Fear of loss. I have heard, several times in my 18-years of recruiting, a candidate with a good offer say something like, “It’s better to stay with the devil you know than go with the devil you don’t know.”

But, if the boss isn’t treating you right, it’s, “I’m outta here!” You’ll gladly take the offer because you feel threatened.

On February 19, 2020, the S&P 500 hit an all-time high. We are, simultaneously, hearing more and more about this coronavirus thing. But still, we are optimistic. The average # of open BAS jobs has been averaging about 21,000/week.
Confidence before realism, another hard-wired trait seems to be operating in overdrive.

People, over time, generally begin to believe they deserve more. I was seeing the same phenomenon occurring again that I noticed right before the last two recessions. I was seeing more and more the age-old illusion that companies should “pay me what I’m worth.”

I’ll provide a quick example. I was working with a Controls Technician who was making an annualized wage of $72k (w/o OT.)

My client made an offer equivalent to $79k/year. A 10% increase!

But the candidate exhibited “confidence before realism.” They stated, “I know what I am worth, and I am worth $86k.”

The offer was rescinded and, according to this candidate’s LinkedIn profile, they are still in the job where they were making $72k. I’m extremely doubtful their current company has given them a $7k pay raise over the last few months. And to complete the story, we found another candidate who really wanted and valued the role. They were hired.

I asked the original candidate, “How do you know you are worth $86k annually?”

“Because I’ve talked to buddies in other firms, and they’ve told me what they make,” he replied.

Yes, a person is paid, in part, for both the real and perceived value they bring to a firm. BUT one is never paid what they are truly worth as a human being. What you are paid is what the job is worth to the employer.

And in the contracting niche, that is a  function of what your company’s services are worth to the General Contractor and/or Owner of the property.

In controls, the money available to pay you is a function of the quality of work you and your team do coupled with your ability to bring in additional billable work.

For example, often, a value-add we could bring to buildings through automation was energy savings.

Suddenly, the price of oil is unraveling at breakneck speed and…

February 29 – the US has its first Coronavirus related death

March 3 – Fed cuts interest rates 50 basis points

March 13 – a national emergency is declared

March 15 – interest rates are cut effectively to zero

March 15 – CDC recommends gatherings of no more than 50 people

March 19 – the US has more than 10,000 active cases

March 22 – NYT says that NYC is now the epicenter of the pandemic

March 23 – the S&P 500 hits a low of 2,237.40  (down from its February 19 high of 3,393.52. That’s a 1,156.12 drop or 34%.)

We are hard-wired to respond to emotion first, then justify on logic (reason).

Because of the primacy of our reptilian brain (the limbic system), emotions occur 3- to 5-seconds before reason. Without getting into an entire dissertation on the reptilian brain, just understand that, as humans, we are wired to “buy on emotion and justify on logic.” When we come to grips with this, we are in a more reliable place to make better decisions, worry less, and take control of our career.

And the word “buy” doesn’t just mean purchasing an item. It also means buying into an idea, a person, yourself, or a new job.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] THE PRESENT (August 2020)

The Building Automation niche overall is strong.

At BASI Solutions, our focused market for recruiting is the small to mid-sized mechanical contractor with an automation group and controls contractors/systems integrators.

Most are thriving. Where I see furloughs or layoffs are:

I see growth (and quite a bit of it) within firms that have data-center work, hospitals, large Class A, and specialty niches such as labs, cannabis grow facilities, and warehouses.

How to Take Charge of Your BAS Career in the Age of Pandemics

        1. Turn off the news (especially social media news.) Remember, we are hard-wired to “buy on emotion and justify on logic.”

The news media knows this, and that is how they reel us in with click-bait headlines and drama. This is their new business model. (Which was so aptly predicted in the 2012-2014 HBO TV series, The Newsroom.)

As a franchised recruiting firm of Management Recruiters International, we have access to research and information that many professionals don’t have easy access to.

To put it bluntly, we have been through a lot. But here are some GOOD NEWS facts:

        1. New beginnings. As human beings, we are wired for new beginnings.

Jan 2020, was the start of a new decade (or was it?) Unless the very first year of counting the AD years was year “zero,” the new decade actually starts on January 1, 2021. (Year 1 thru 10 is 10-years. Therefore, year 11 was the start of the New Decade. That pattern continues with us today.)

If you are wired for timestamps to be your “new beginning,” start NOW to plan your new decade…beginning January 1, 2021. In parallel, don’t let the arbitrariness of human dates stall you. I’ve wasted a lot of life waiting on the next day to start something new, and that next day never came.

BUT, the reality, more times than not, is that new beginnings are thrust upon us. They come when we least expect them.

But, in truth, when viewed through the right lens, these are new beginnings. No, they are not the ones we anticipated or marked on a calendar and planned for, but new beginnings nonetheless.

Take this new beginning, whether planned or not and take action. We thrive by doing. And this includes more than just our job.

        1. Social connections. We are hard-wired for connection with other human beings.

During this period of social distancing (and I hate that term…so, during this period of physical distancing), social connections are critical.

Let people know you’re thinking of them. Reach out to see how your friends, neighbors, and colleagues are doing.

Make new acquaintances on LinkedIn. Take a risk and comment on people’s posts. Share your thoughts (up to 1300 characters) via your own posts. Everyone has a voice that needs to be heard. Be an encourager to others, even if you need encouragement. Trust me.

Encouragement will come back to you. Paying it forward works. And this aligns well with this month’s theme, Building Communities of Trust (

And sometimes (or many times) we get rejected. As a recruiter, for every person I place in a compelling new role, for every company I have helped grow, I have received 50, 75, or 100+ noes for the 1 yes. But I have learned to put my offering (my client’s role) out into the world, trusting that the person who needs to hear it will.

You must believe your message will have an impact. I read a Seth Godin quote on connecting that, in particular, can encourage you if you feel you are more on the introverted side:

What there are… are people with empathy and learned charisma who choose to work hard. If you show up and show up and show up, and care enough to learn to connect, you will have a skill for life. It takes a while, but it’s learnable. – Seth Godin

If you haven’t done so, update your LinkedIn profile. Keep an open mind about new career possibilities.

And don’t get sucked into the toxicity of Twitter. A Pew Research Center study has found that 10% of Twitter users account for 80% of the tweets. Or, put another way, Twitter is 2% of the US population constantly arguing with each other.

        1. Now, more than ever, rhythms (routines), which we are hard-wired for, are important.


Routines are not just for work. They include family, health, and sleep.

Have a routine where you get outside. Sunshine and nature reduce stress and anxiety.

        1. The fear of loss is greater than the desire for gain.

Zig Ziglar stated this observation of human behavior over 60-years ago.  Current research in neuroscience. certainly indicates this behavior is hard-wired into our reptilian brain (our limbic system.)

Another phraseology of the same theme is:

Thousands of years ago, food and other scarce resources weren’t always easy to come by. They were protected at all costs.

When information enters our brain, the first question our brain asks, without us even thinking, is, “Does this pose a danger to me?” If yes, then respond accordingly (flight, fight, or, as some people do, freeze (and those that freeze, die.)

If no, then, “Can I discard this?”

If no, then “Deal with it.”

It’s along this path from discarding to dealing that we can evaluate the question of, “Can this do me some good?”

This question is a higher-level cognitive function that comes only from learning about and challenging the hard wiring in our reptilian brain.

In the age of pandemics, keep your career options open. Talk to the recruiter when s/he calls. Your safe job of today is no longer ever safe.
So we circle back to the “fear of loss.” Yes, be afraid for your job; very afraid.

Your security is no longer in your job but in your ability to develop an edge by becoming extraordinary.

Most of us think becoming extraordinary means becoming exceptional at one thing. But, in addition to becoming extraordinary in one thing, you can become a person of extraordinary value by developing a unique set of skills no one else has, i.e., a talent stack.

I’ll present an example of a friend of mine and someone many of you know, Phil Zito.

He created an amazing talent stack of:

Phil’s journey is an example for all of us in the economy of the future. No one is going to do it for us. We must do it for ourselves.

What are you doing to secure your future vis--vis creating your own unique talent stack? (A term coined by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert)

  1. Being aware of the hard-wired coding in our brain of “confidence before realism” enables us to balance.

Confidence is important. But overconfidence is ego. It is pride. And “pride goeth before the fall.”

Being a Type-A personality, this, throughout my life, has been an area of learning for me.

At times, my confidence has won the day. Other times, it has gotten me in trouble.

While I am still working on it, I have finally gotten some of this hard-wired code rewritten. I am learning “confident humility.” I work on being open to feedback so that I have an accurate view of myself.

Practicing gratitude is a key element of this. I would not be where I am without the help of others.

Confident humility becomes a beacon of light guiding us on rewiring our reptilian brains so that we respond instead of react.

        1. And finally (maybe not, as there is always more to learn and add) so…semi-finally, always have access to a copy of:
a.    Your birth certificate,
b.    Marriage license (if applicable),
c.    Educational transcripts, and an
d.    Updated copy of your resume.

If you would like a template on how to create/update an effective BAS resume, let me know. I will send you one.


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