Monthly Archives: March, 2014

Moving at the Speed of Thought

By Cynthia Simmons

It’s Friday midday, and I have sooooo many things on my mind.

Top-most, there is a job that I want to apply for, but my skill set has a couple of gaps—software apps that I’m not familiar with.

I’m pretty technically literate, so I think to myself—how difficult could it be to fast and dirty scope out the apps? Can I find out what they do and basically how they do it, and then start to learn some of the commands to use.

From Morgue.com

From Morgue.com

I’m on the hunt at my computer.

I’ve been carrying around this target job in my head, asking people questions, and yesterday someone told me that I could download a demo. Yesterday I started my research. I watched a dozen short demos, and today I get a phone call from a sales rep. I ask her questions, but unfortunately she doesn’t work with the exact app that I need.

I go back to the mother-ship website, target the app I’m hunting, looking for white papers, demos, comparison charts. I get to this place called “The Hub.” It lists forty small apps that do small individual functions—plug-ins or subroutines for those of us with longer-term memories.

Interesting. I try to get an overview—hunting, hunting. Is there a master list, a way for me to sort and catalog, to cast my net and then to look at the sizes and colors of the fish I bring in?

I do something simple: select the whole list of images, titles and links, then copy and paste them into a Word doc—to make them slow down.

The images are scalable and dynamic; they fill up whatever space there is. I don’t have room for notes. I can’t get them to stop moving.

So, I grab one and pull it into Excel, but it’s still self-scaling and dynamic. And the link still works. It bounces me back to their website, but this time I get to a white paper, very flashy and beautiful, with a file type of PDF. I like that. PDFs are stable. I download the PDF and that stops me from moving from link to link.

I see there isn’t a lot of text. It’s mostly beautiful pictures.

Now we are getting somewhere. Behind the hype and beautiful images, and the multiple category tags for a single product (to get multiple hits), there is some clarity of what this particular thing actually does.

Now I can slow down and consider, puzzle and put the pieces together. I’ll get the demo a bit later, when I’m ready for it. I needed a context first. Not just what is does, but why it does what it does. Why it may have value.

My hunt isn’t finished, but it’s starting to make sense.

 

Cynthia Simmons is a publishing and communications professional, with certificates in editing and copyediting.

© 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved.

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Informational Interviews and Job Search

Every job search is a highly personal experience.  One unifying aspect is the opportunity to learn, and there is plenty to learn about while seeking gainful employment.  Where-o-where to start?  Deciding on your main direction is a good broad stroke start.

 

Is there plenty of opportunity in your industry and within your job title?  Does this area still have meaning for you?

Capture

One of the methods that you can use to explore new companies in your same industry or possible new industries is the informational interview.  We’ve all heard plenty about the job interview – an important step to an actual, potential job but informational interviews aren’t as well known.  Yet they can be very useful.

 

Think it would be great to work for a particular company?  Well, maybe someone you know can put you in touch with someone who currently works there who would be willing to answer questions that you have about the company.

 

Think that you might be able to transition to a new job title?  What better way to find out more about the requirements than to have an informational interview with someone who already holds the title?

 

The main difference between a job interview and an informational interview is that you are not going to talk about a specific job, or even ask for a job – you are gathering information to help you to clarify your plan for your main direction.   You are also getting the potential to become known or better known to the person that you are interviewing and also by the company.

 

For this type of interview you don’t need to know the answers, but to craft useful questions.

 

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

What Size are You?

When we are shopping for clothes or shoes, we need to pick the right size.  When we are investing, we need to understand that there are different advantages and challenges to the size of the company in which we are investing – small cap, mid cap or large cap.  The large companies are the ones that we have all heard of regularly.  Medium and small companies might be completely unknown to us.

Getting the right size requires measurement.  (Public domain image)

Getting the right size requires measurement. (Public domain image)

 

When we are looking for a job, we also need to ask this question about size.  Similar to investing, there are differences – potential advantages or disadvantages – based on company size.

 

When I started blogging, I realized that I would need to be constantly on the lookout for good topics.  Getting in the right mindset meant that almost anything could be seen as fodder for a blog post.  Similarly, a job seeker should be always looking for the right job opportunity – there are so many companies.

 

I’m sure that you have already come across the advice that a job seeker should develop a list of target companies.  Many people populate their target list with those well-known large companies, with perhaps a few medium sized local favorites.  If you are in the mindset that your opportunity might come in any size, then you might add a few small company gems to that list.

 

This idea, as almost everything in job search does, comes down to understanding yourself and your own needs.  The size and shape of your skills and temperament, your goals, will help to determine whether you are better suited to a certain size of company.

 

With a broader view or an alternate angle on things, perhaps you might consider widening your size choice for your target list of companies.

 

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

Staying Relevant

By Tim Klepaczyk

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

An important task for the long-term unemployed is staying relevant.  If you’re out of work longer than a year you’ll eventually start hearing comments – “can’t get you an interview because of no recent experience”.  This can be extremely frustrating, especially as you get older.  A common initial reaction is incredulity – how can years of experience be dismissed so quickly by some potential employers?

Remember the Hiring Manager’s perspective.  There are usually other candidates without an extended out-of-work period.  All other things being equal, one can hardly blame the Hiring Manager for going with the other candidate.  It’s a harsh reality, but at least somewhat understandable.

Don't become the next Flip Phone.  Public Doman Image.

Don’t become the next Flip Phone. Public Doman Image.

To avoid this problem there are some things you can do to stay relevant.

1)      Write a blog and/or post to your LinkedIn groups.  Obviously that’s one reason I’m writing this blog.  Even if few people read it you can direct a potential employer to your blog to show one way you’re being productive while you are in transition.

2)      Volunteer.  In some fields this is particularly helpful.  It’s possible to gain experience in tasks that will be important in your next paid position.

3)      Read trade literature.  This is essential for technical professionals.  One can even to some degree combine 2 & 3 by volunteering for a technical professional organization, which often has reduced annual fees for members who are in transition.  Volunteering at your professional organization’s local trade shows is also a great way to expand your networking opportunities.

4)      Get a certification or do some other training, including free on-line courses such as Coursera.  Certifications can be costly, so check out WIA grants to defray that.  This is obviously not a concern for free courses, but that does not mean such courses are less worthwhile.  Many have top-notch professors.

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

Hitting the Right Note

What does it take to be that best candidate, the one that gets the job offer?  We have to hit all the right notes, of course.  What are the right notes?  Having the right skills, certainly, but there are plenty of intangible parts too.   A big part of the job search is that feeling of wanting to be liked, to fit in.

 

“Be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of another writer.”

~ David Morrell

 

Let’s substitute the word candidate or perhaps professional for writer in this quote and it suits my point.  Sometimes when we want to be liked to fit in, we attempt to do or be something that is already acceptable to the group.  Something that might not really be true to ourselves.

 

When I started a job shortly after my divorce years ago they already had a Beth in the department so they asked me if they could call me Beth Anne.  Now Anne is my middle name and I use it when writing, but it is silent.  Beth Anne is what my mom said when she was pretty mad and almost at the point of using all three of my names.  Wanting to be liked and fit in, I agreed to let everyone at my new office call me Beth Anne.  And it quickly grated on my ears.  And then I had to backtrack and tell them it wasn’t ok, after realizing that I hadn’t agreed to a short term thing.

 

I did fit in just fine with that group and we made a joke that I was the other Beth and the first Beth started to tell everyone she was the better Beth.  It would have been ok to tell them I didn’t use the Anne every day.

musical note

I like to fit in just as much as anyone else.  But I remind myself that fitting in is a two way consideration and my part is to be comfortable and confident with the self I am in that workplace.  Interviewing isn’t about being the perfect candidate.  It is a chemistry experiment – testing if the various components will mix together to create something wonderful and sustainable.  Or, to tie back to my title – it is composing a song with all the right instruments to develop the tone that you mean to convey.

 

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

The LinkedIn Revolution

By Tim Klepaczyk

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

I have been reading a book by Orville Pierson called “The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search”.  Chapter Four is particularly enlightening.

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

According to Pierson, almost all new hires are found in one of three ways:

1)      The Applicant Pool

2)      The Created Position

3)      Tapping a Known Candidate

Created positions are least common, accounting for only 5% of new jobs.  The Applicant Pool is what many casual job seekers think is the way all jobs are created – by posting a job, soliciting applicants, narrowing the candidates down to a few for interviews, and selecting from among those last few.  While the Applicant Pool draws by far the most attention, it actually accounts for only 25% of new jobs.  Most new jobs – 70% – are given to Known Candidates.  Therefore, the most effective job search focuses on becoming the Known Candidate.  This is why networking is so important.  The more people you know, especially if they are in the field where you want to work, the more job opportunities you will have.

This is also why LinkedIn is not only a powerful networking tool; it’s also revolutionary.  I sometimes wonder if the ability to connect to so many people – currently I have 16,000,000 3rd-degree LinkedIn contacts – will eventually create a backlash, with people tuning out when I reach out to them.

However, I don’t think that will be true to any meaningful degree.  LinkedIn is a tool, and like any tool it is effective if you know how to use it.  LinkedIn helps hiring managers find better candidates, and job-seekers find better opportunities.  My hope is that a similar revolution can occur to help people find more rewarding work throughout their careers.  I think that is also happening as tools like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Strengths Finders gain more widespread exposure.

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 Elephant in the Room

Oh dear, something has gone just a little off – you spilled something on yourself just before the interview started, you were a tad late, you have a tickle in your throat, you suddenly blanked on what you were about to say, you have a tight schedule and the interview is running long and threatening your next appointment – on and on the list goes…

 

Any number of unplanned little things can attempt to derail our plans and throw off a situation.  When we are with friends or family we laugh them off and go on, writing them off as part and parcel of life – but somehow in an interview we, in an attempt to be the perfect candidate, don’t quite know how to address this embarrassment.  The little something can grow to be the elephant in the room that no one mentions but everyone knows is right there.

elephant

public domain image

As the interviewer I have felt pained for an interviewee who is dealing with a small peccadillo of some sort and as a fellow human wanted to help them to be at ease.  But part of my role as interviewer is to see how this person will handle the untoward things that happen in life.  That something a little off is a boon in an interview, a real test of this person’s problem solving and life skills.  Will it become the elephant, or will you call it out so that we can get past it?

 

As an interviewee I have experienced all of the things that I listed above and more, and dealt with them in a variety of ways – admittedly quite badly early on in my professional experience, before I sat on the other side of the table.  I let them become the elephant in the room, growing more and more embarrassed until I completely lost focus on the interview and put almost all of my energy on wishing the thing would just go away.

 

Please keep this in mind when you are in an interview.  We are all human and therefore subject to mistakes and all sorts of little issues.  If something goes wrong, take a deep breath and briefly acknowledge it.  Refocus your thoughts on the question at hand.  If the interviewer doesn’t respond positively to your humanness that reflects more upon that person than upon you.  If they cannot accept a small, unexpected issue during an interview then imagine trying to relate to them once you work together.

 

We don’t have to be perfect, and the interview is meant to work both ways – you are testing each other out for suitability.  A little something going off gives both parties the opportunity to show their human side.  It doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room.

 

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

More Interview Preparation Tips

By Tim Klepaczyk

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

I find when I am in a job search that my interviews get better as I do more of them.  Part of this is the challenge of technical interviews, which are common among engineers.  I simply respond better to questions about an electronic design I worked on over ten years ago when I’ve been queried to review its details already recently by somebody else.

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

Certainly though one can be proactive preparing for interviews.   One friend sent me a list of 100 common interview questions that I keep as reference.  As a member of an outplacement service I can repeatedly take an interview practice workshop.  Recently when waiting at a library for a WIA grant orientation a friend drilled me with some practice interview questions.

Here are some other ways to prepare.  Perhaps most important – research the company!  Larger companies will have websites.  How is the company organized?  Which division and department will be interviewing you?  What are their products?  Hopefully you read trade literature in your industry.  Have any of their products been featured recently?  I noticed this in advance of a phone interview last week.  It can make a good impression to relay that experience and ask questions about the new product.

Have your SSAR stories ready (Situation/Strength/Action/Result).  The most important thing to communicate to a prospective employer is what’s in it for them.  Review the job description and identify your most relevant SSAR stories.  Emphasize details in your stories that reinforce how you are going to deliver successes to the hiring manager and his team.

Finally, review your LinkedIn connections for someone at the company.  You should do this whenever you apply for a job, but do it again – you may have a new second-degree connection.  Reach out to them for information that can help you in the interview.

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

Lessons Learned Volunteering

By Cynthia Simmons

I learned important lessons that have stood me in good stead since years ago when I did my first big volunteer project. I worked very hard and had good results to show for my efforts, but the public fame went to someone else. I had a co-chair and partner, who was equally and also ignored.

The first lesson I learned is –Whenever I volunteer, I need to know why I am doing it. I set my own goals. Usually my goals are to learn how to do something new and to support a cause I believe in. As time passes, I check in with myself to judge whether I think my efforts will be fruitful.

Here’s my story:

I had just finished night school classes for my BA and MA degrees and was searching around for my career path. I still needed to finish some research papers and to take my oral exam for my master’s. I spent a couple of months writing papers and studying.

As a treat for myself, I signed up for a pottery class at the local art center. That decision opened up new doors for me. I started hanging out with some artists, got myself a sketchbook, and some time later found myself co-chairing an arts festival.

Over a spring and summer I spent many, many hours working on the production of the arts festival. The event was set for the second weekend in August.

The beginning point was a logo. My instincts told me to look at the portfolio of a textile designer because most of the visual artists I was meeting at the art center created drawings, paintings, clay pots, or sculpture of some sort. A textile designer “felt” right. After spending an hour and a half reviewing her portfolio, there it was–a textile design that totally made sense as a logo for the event–a man and a woman dancing beneath a tree.

Design by Almuth Palinkas

© Almuth Palinkas

The next step was to recruit artists. We advertised our event and stated that artists needed to provide three slides by the submission deadline. We developed and printed an artist recruitment poster and a prospectus. During the summer, my co-chair and I visited local art fairs to informally jury and invite artists to show at our festival. The goal was a fine arts festival rather than a craft festival.

And of course, before the artist recruitment publicity was finished, we needed to begin to publicize our festival to the general public. That meant more press releases, and another poster.

As the event drew near there were long lists of small details to consider. We had about a hundred artists exhibiting, and at least twenty volunteers to run the festival. The art center shared the grounds with a music school; the music school scheduled on-going concerts for the Saturday and Sunday. The building was being restored; another group of volunteers was trained to give tours of the house.

The weekend of our festival, the weather was great. We drew a good crowd. The artists were happy. I was so very proud.

A couple of days afterward, our town newspaper had a full-page article on our festival with photos and thank you’s to…

You know what happened. The volunteers who ran the event existed as a faceless, nameless crowd.  Only the three paid staffers were named as having organized the festival.  And the two official co-chairs were the town mayor and the biggest donor.

(Two paid staffers were very new at working with volunteers and didn’t think to give the reporter volunteer names. Hopefully those staffers grew and learned their own lessons.)

Fortunately, on the Festival Program we had our titles and were recognized.

So here are the lessons I learned:

Know that when you do good work that you believe in, sometimes that is your only reward. If you seek to add professional credentials or projects to your resume, make that clear when you start to volunteer.

Know that people like to be recognized and thanked. Since that experience of being ignored, I have always tried, both publicly and privately, to acknowledge any individual contributions to a group effort and to say “Thank you!” unmistakably, loud and clear!

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

© 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved