Opportunities for self-starters

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This week's section comes at self sufficiency from a couple of angles.

As much of the United States thunders into summer, with its big demands on electric power, we explore what homeowners can do to reduce their reliance on utility companies - even help them out.

The more trouble customers have with power providers, the less off-putting the high up-front costs of self-generated power are likely to become. That's one angle.

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At work, "self power" carries different costs and definitions - and is a goal of many of us wage slaves. How do we attain it?

Some workplace wizards, such as Daniel Pink, author of the book "Free Agent Nation," maintain that solo operators - loyal to no entity but themselves - still hold the cards, even in a "slowdown."

Other experts now seem to be heralding a new careerism that harkens back to the days of the company man.

These are strange days for working men and women. There's more churn going on in the world of work - highly publicized layoffs, and a less publicized wave of "backdoor" hiring - than you find at a hydroelectric plant.

For the majority of American workers - still cogs at companies - the best hope is to secure a degree of mutual loyalty and respect.

Amid all the turnover, employee retention remains a big issue for firms, as writer Sara Terry points out (page 14). Bruce Tulgan, who wrote "Winning the Talent Wars," says that for managers, "investing in human capital is absolutely necessary, now more than ever."

That should open the door for workers to ask for a little of that investment - in the form of more training, flexible arrangements, and career planning. The up-front costs of asking are now low.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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