Monthly Archives: January, 2014

Wardrobe Malfunctions and Other Hazards

Sometimes a little comic relief is important for our sanity and life likes to provide opportunities so that we won’t take ourselves too seriously.  With these thoughts rolling around in my head, I offer the following true events in hopes of lightening your next few moments.

Reliable cars are sometimes hard to come by, and when a car decides to be unreliable it often has impeccable timing.  Years ago when I was dressed for an interview – back in my days of pencil skirts and heels – my car rejected the idea of moving from its current spot with only a few minutes to spare before my interview.  There was nothing for it but for me to walk.  Unfortunately there were areas with no sidewalks, so by the time I reached the place for the interview, my feet and shoes were covered in mud pretty much up to my ankles.  I introduced myself to the receptionist and asked where I could find the ladies room.  Where I figured out how to wiggle out of my hose, get my feet in the sink and used paper towels to dry everything off as well as I could.  I don’t remember the interview, I didn’t get the job.  But I was on time.

public domain image

public domain image

This time a truck is featured with another pencil skirt and heels – and people wonder why I don’t wear dresses or skirts much anymore.  I had no difficulty getting to the interview and looking presentable, no my trouble began after the interview when I realized pre-interview jitters had caused me to lock my keys in the truck.  Luckily the truck had one of those little sliding windows which would pop open if you hit it just so.  I carefully sat on the back of the bed, stood up in the bed, navigated the bed in my slim skirt and heels, crouched down and popped open the window, shimmied the top half of my body into the cab, grabbed the keys, walked back to the end of the bed, and carefully got down.  And was soundly applauded by the small group of young men who had gathered to watch my show.  I bowed and drove off before my face could turn too red.

Maybe some people are too smooth to have any such stories to tell.  But I doubt that there are many.  We must remember that the people we are interviewing with are human too, and may be interested in how we deal with these little malfunctions.

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Mind the Gap

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

An all-too-common disappointing occurrence in the modern work world is the pink slip.  Even the brightest go-getters are vulnerable to it.

Don’t take it personally.  The harsh reality is that businesses are constantly changing, as well as the economic conditions that influence the decisions of business leaders.  Fortunately, a layoff doesn’t have the stigma it once did.  Still, consider the following tips to minimize its impact.

If you like your field and want to get back into it keep those subscriptions to professional magazines coming.  Use the extra time to read them more thoroughly.  Check out the discussions at LinkedIn groups in your field, too.  This can go a long way toward reassuring potential employers that you’re keeping up with the latest.  This is very important in some fields, such as IT and engineering.  Also, check out prominent blogs and websites in your field

You can also use the extra time to volunteer for an appropriate professional organization.  This again not only shows you’re motivated to stay current; it’s also a great place for networking.  You say you dropped your membership?  Many organizations have reduced fees for members who are in transition.

Consider also how to minimize the impact of past layoffs on your resume and LinkedIn profile.  I recommend indicating work periods using years only.  Including the months can draw attention to a layoff.  Certainly you should be honest and forthcoming if, for example, you’re asked why you left former employers.  However, that’s different than making it clear from the get-go that there is a gap in your work history.

The more you communicate your passion and accomplishments, the less likely a potential employer is to be concerned about or even notice a gap in your work history.  Mind the gap and you’ll be safe.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

“Hello World ” and 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Favorite Beers of America in order of popularity:  Blue Moon, Bud Lite, Yeugling, Sam Adams, Miller Lite, Coors, and Corona.   How do you get rid of a 100 bottles of your favorite beer down off the wall quickly?  “You take one down, pass it around, 99 bottles of beer on the wall” of course.   And rarely have all the verses of this old song been sung. 

You’re tasked with getting a job.  Do you choose to accept it?  How do you get a job?  Using the drinking song plan:

Keep the task simple

List what you want

Laser focus on your objective, get a system

Enlist others for support

Start

Remember – Keep the main thing, the main thing

Persist

Sanity check

Steve Jobs, Apple Google

Steve Jobs, Apple Google

This is the same system as “Hello World” in computer programming.  It is a simple program that can be used by a beginner and it can be used to verify that you’re operating correctly.  The list above is a practical tool; useful and real.  This system is simple, it requires you make a decision, define a goal, and there is little chance of indefinitely effort.  Success will come.    

People will let you down; a system will not.  In computer language persisting, looping, and evaluating, control flow, is just as important as the beginning.   Be repetitive.  Looping back will need to be ingrained in process as well as the people for assuring success.   Control flow is as important a step because it requires you pay attention and notice unplanned for variances in your system.  I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.  – Steve Jobs

May you see “The operation is a success” come across the computer screen of your mind.

Deb Bryan has 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.  She has a passion for writing and ToastMasters International.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job.  All rights reserved

I Have an Example

Storytelling is hot right now – it has become clear that the ability to tell a compelling story is an indicator of potential success for businesses, the media, politicians, and the list goes on.  This is true for job seekers as well, and there is a name for job seeker stories: SARs.  SAR, in case you haven’t already stumbled upon this in your research, stands for Situation, Action, Result.

 

These short stories are your chance to explain how your experiences will be just what this potential new employer needs to solve their pain points.  You want to show that you know your stuff and you can apply it to help them to meet their goals.

 

For instance we all know that money is a big driver – this is what we are pursuing and what keeps the doors open at the business where you are interviewing.  Have you found ways to make or save money at your past employers?  Polish up those stories, they need to be told.  And told well.

Wikimedia Commons: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo's The Storyteller

Wikimedia Commons: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo’s The Storyteller

 

How do you tell the story well?  Remember back to your school days when you were taught story structure – beginning, body, conclusion and marry this to situation, action, result.  Set the stage briefly by sketching out the situation, tell what you did to create your solution, and end with a strong emphasis on the results.

 

Write it down, yes seriously.  Read it out loud to yourself until it sounds smooth and natural.  Then find a family member or friend to tell it to.  Practice is as much an important part of the SAR as deciding the right story to tell.  As a hiring manager, I can’t tell you the number of people who have sat across from me and couldn’t come through in telling a compelling SAR for even the most straightforward question.  This wasn’t even about research for my company, this was about identifying their own pertinent stories to share with me and getting them ready to tell.

 

I’ve barely skimmed the basics here, but even with just this little bit you will be ready in your next interview to say confidently, ‘I have an example’.

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Keep Your Chin Up

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

Inevitably, even the most determined job seeker must deal with setbacks.  No one ever promised that the job search would be easy.  You may even find the job search to be as difficult a job as you’ve ever had.

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

If you’re confronted with a challenging situation, such as failure to secure an opportunity for which you had high hopes, remember that on average you need to talk to 25 hiring managers before landing.  I repeat – on average you’ll talk to 25 hiring managers before landing.  If you’ve had only a handful of interviews so far you should not be surprised that the opportunity failed to pan out.  If you’ve had more than 25 interviews that should not surprise you, either; unfortunately, some get that many to bring the average up.  Stay the course!  It’s much more likely you’re running a marathon than a sprint, especially if it’s a buyer’s market for employers.

Reflect on what you learned.  Did you feel pretty good overall?  You must have been selling yourself well.  What worked for this opportunity, and how can you duplicate the good parts of your effort in your next interview?  Did any of the interview questions surprise you?  Take notes and record a prepared answer for similar questions in the future.  In my experience one gets better at interviewing as one gets more of them.  Send another round of thank-you’s, and don’t be afraid to ask for how you came up short and what you can learn to do better next time for a similar position.

Finally, reward yourself in some small way for the endeavor, and count your blessings.  Remember to keep the big picture in focus.  Keep your chin up and your feet moving forward.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

The KISS

sr-71-blackbird-photo-from-lockheed-martin

In 1960 the U.S. Navy had a design principle, KISS, which stands for “keep it simple stupid”.  The phrase was coined by Kelly Johnson, lead engineer for Lockheed spy planes. 

You and I are in the job search design mode right now.  Work it right, and the KISS principle may be the ticket to our biggest payoff.  So how does the U.S. government take a need-to-have and build a SR-71 spy plane? 

Humility

Break down large problems

Break down smaller problems

Write up a simple plan

Work the plan

Eliminate what does not work

Refocus and work the plan

The media would like to keep reminding us we are in a crisis and they remind us they have their fingers on the facts.  Keeping it simple, I would say solving the unemployment problem is the government’s worry, not ours.  Our worry is one thing, finding our next place of employment. 

Few of us are a super genius. Albert Einstein, a true genius, said KISS this way, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  So in moving forward, keep complicated out of it and make the plan something only you need to work.   

You know the large problems, you’ve been thinking about them long enough.  Write them down and then break them down into easier more basic tasks.

Albeit good choices, those smaller tasks probably are a lot of theories; theories that will need exercising to discern the really good ones.  Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to throw away nice-to-read ideas.  Ask yourself, if simplification is needed to make a manageable plan, what can be eliminated?

So this is the time to refocus and go for the gold.  Sure some redesign work will be up ahead.  There will be other problems to solve but there will be better solutions yet to be imagined too. 

Someday you and I are going to look back on this time in wonder how we never saw the KISS before. 

Deb Bryan has 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.  She has a passion for writing.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job.  All rights reserved

Why Didn’t They Call to Schedule an Interview?

Today’s post came about as a winter brain exercise.  How many reasons for not securing an interview can I come up with in 5 minutes?  Let’s see:

  1. Technical difficulties – your info was eaten by the application system.
  2. They were only going through the motions and already had a candidate
  3. Departmental changes created chaos, making the process difficult to move forward
  4. Change in workload, making it difficult to find the time to review candidates
  5. The person who recommended you doesn’t have a stellar reputation with the hiring manager
  6. They found a typo or mistake in your documents
  7. The position is no longer open
  8. The company is in flux
  9. You didn’t connect your history well enough to their needs
  10. The hiring manager is inexperienced at picking viable candidates

I was hoping that I could come up with more, but here we are.  Let’s see how many that I came up with have anything at all to do with me or you, the candidate?   I count two of ten where job seekers are quick to think we can find the perfect combination of effort and information to be selected.

We can obsess over parts where we have little or no control, or assign arbitrary reasons to another failure to get the call to schedule an interview.  At my most logical, I can decide that this is effort and energy wasted and I can reroute it to the areas where I do have control.  The research to find positions and companies that are suited to my talents, this is time well spent.  Research to find people that I might know at these companies is also a good idea.

Public domain image from the Library of Congress

Public domain image from the Library of Congress

What do you do when they don’t call you for an interview?

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Planning, planning, planning …

In a class that I took about a decade ago, I heard our teacher say that “you have to plan the work, and then you have to work the plan”. So, first plan the work.

As a child, some of the best learning experiences I had happened because I was involved in sports. I also had a few ‘not-so-favorable’ experiences in sports as well. As long as we do not forget those ‘not-so-favorable’ experiences, they can still be learning experiences.

Back then, baseball was my favorite sport. During that time, I tried out for Little League Baseball, and was good enough to be put on one of our local teams.

BallBatGlove

One important thing that the manager of our Little League team told us was that we have to know ahead of time what we are going to do with the ball when it is hit to us while we are out in the playing field. In the lingo of those of us who are looking for a job today, it means we have to ‘plan ahead’.

As was the case for any child in the 9 to 12 age group, I probably was not the greatest at planning ahead. One occasion (a ‘not-so-favorable’ experience) comes to my mind often, and it occurred when I was in my last year on the Little League team. I played first base then, and a ground ball was hit to a point somewhere between the first base foul line and the pitcher’s mound. Because of the way the ball was hit (it was a slow ground ball), I had to run toward the ball to field it, which I did. However, because I did not plan what I would do with the ball (either take 2 steps and tag the batter out, or turn and throw the ball to our second baseman, who was covering first base), I hesitated. It was only for a short time, one or two seconds, but it was too late and the batter was safe. I can still remember seeing the batter as he ran by me toward first base.

Because of that experience, I would like to think that I have done a better job in planning my work activities since then.

There are really 2 lessons here. First, as I said earlier, you have to plan. And the second one is this — when you see an opportunity, go for it quickly, like the other baseball player did.

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

Communicating Your Passion

By Tim Klepaczyk

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/timklepaczyk/

I am a member at an outplacement center that provides a series of workshops to help people searching for new jobs.  One of the first workshops was also one of the most interesting to me.  Strengths Finder is a survey used at outplacement centers and in industry to help one identify the types of tasks where one excels.  Much about Strengths Finder can be easily found on-line.  I talked before about how I find Strengths Finder, Meyers-Briggs, and other surveys fun.  Today I will talk about how you can use the insight gained from Strengths Finder to do better in interviews.

Public Domain Image by Ambro from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Public Domain Image by Ambro from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I was talking to my career coach a few weeks ago, I relayed the good feeling I had in an initial interview with a company.  I told him I felt I did well was because the requirements for the position are a good fit to the strengths that were identified when I took the Strengths Finder survey.

My coach followed this up with some really good advice.  Frame answers to interview questions in the context of your personal strengths.  For example, a common interview question is to discuss one of your weaknesses.  An effective way to address it is to bring up an example from your career when you were tasked with doing something that does not come naturally to you, and that takes special effort to persevere.  After all, even the best jobs have tasks that can be a chore.  One of my natural strengths is that I am a Learner – I have a voracious appetite for new information.  I was able to do this task well when I realized I could lean on this one strength, in spite of other aspects that weren’t as engaging to me.

Frame your interview answers in the context of your personal strengths and your passion will come through naturally.

Tim Klepaczyk is an RF & microwave engineer with over 20 years of experience in applications & sales and product design & validation.  He also loves writing.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Sales Approach: Just Be Yourself

By Deb Bryan

While listening to a seasoned sales professional talk to his new recruits I heard, “Just be yourself.”  What a welcomed thought!

I have been on the job search trail for a while.  I have been told to retool; pursue further education, dye your hair, memorize behavioral interview questions, lose weight, excel at networking, reframe your thinking for “you are not your job search”.  It is refreshing to hear the words, “just be yourself”?

The truth is we all are selling something; we all have talents we would like to use in the market place.  Sure, there are days we would not give a plug nickel for what we’re selling while the newspapers assure us there are people and companies who struggled.  Other days, we are just fine. We feel a bit confused by our culture with a tinge of worry about our future but then, so are our fearless leaders; and they’ve got jobs.

Another day I feel good about myself, what I have accomplished, and what I have still to contribute.  What feels good today  is though I have been through some difficult times and had some hard lessons-learned along the way, I have given back to the society around me.  My dad likes to call it ‘keeping my ears level’.

American Rock Band, The Byrds, had a hit song titled, Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season).  The lyrics of this song recorded in 1964, reminds us there is

Dove of Peace, Bing

Dove of Peace, Bing

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late lyricsfreak.com/b/byrds/turn+turn+turn_20026419.html

They were right; there is a time to make peace and the time to make peace with ourselves is right now.  Among the numerous reasons to make peace, there is one we can take even into the marketplace.  As we make the sale of these wonderful and worthwhile products of time and talent to the market place we can show up and be ourselves, our best selves.

I wish you peace my friend.

Deb Bryan has 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.  She has a passion for writing and Toastmasters International.© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job.  All rights reserved