Monthly Archives: April, 2014

Distractions

I had a driving experience one day last week, which I would like to use as my theme for today’s blog post, which deals with those minor distractions that we encounter during the course of our job searches, and how to deal with them.

The experience went like this. I was driving southbound on a road on my way to a networking meeting, about to make a left-hand turn at an intersection with a stoplight. At this point, the road has 3 southbound lanes, including a left turn lane. Ahead of me in the left turn lane was a car with its right turn signal blinking. That’s right! The car had its right turn signal blinking. I didn’t think much about it at first, because, after all, how many times do we see a car whose driver uses the wrong turn signal. Some drivers don’t even use their turn signal at all. And then there are those who don’t turn off their signal. So, I was paying more attention to what this driver was doing, and not what he was signaling.

The light was red. Since there was no one in the center lane, this driver managed to get the car into that lane. I pulled up even with this driver. There were no cars in front of either of us. I stopped (the stoplight was red). Suddenly, I saw this car moving backwards.

Image

Now, imagine how you might feel if, when you are at a stoplight, you see, out of the corner of your eye, a car you’re next to moving backwards. What are you going to think? Aren’t you more likely to think that YOUR car is moving forward? (For a brief second, I did.) I’ll bet your first reaction is to check and make sure YOU are stopped. (I did that, too. And I found, to my relief, that my car was stopped.)

This was a distraction. And it was a minor one at that. But then again, isn’t a typical job search full of minor distractions like this?

Distractions like this come up every day in life, so they should not be too difficult to deal with. What matters here is how we deal with them. For this incident, being observant was a good idea. Also, being quick to decide whether or not to take some action helped. It’s the same with a job search. Every day we job-seekers have to make decisions such as whether or not to go to a networking meeting, or to choose between any number of positions to apply to online. We also have to make decisions on any distractions that come up, such as running an errand, or going to do some exercising.

Oh, and by the way, the reason the other driver was backing up in the center lane? He eventually went into the right turn lane in order to make that right hand turn. I’m sure glad this other driver is not in a position to have any more influence on the direction of my job search.

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Thanks, But No Thanks: When You Don’t Get The Job

I’ve had several interviews lately and on a recent day, which I now think of as “Black Thursday,” I got not one, but two rejections. The first one, from Company A, wasn’t a complete surprise. Although I was a good fit for the posted job description, during the interview it became clear they were looking for specific skills and experience that I just don’t have. The second rejection, from Company B, was painful. I had been called back for a second interview, I had made nice connections with everyone I met, I had good answers to their questions, etc. How could they not hire me?

So what should you do when you don’t get the job? Here are my suggestions:

Recharge: Do something nice for yourself, because this kind of rejection really hurts. Allow yourself to do something that will make you feel better. I called a friend for some sympathetic conversation then went for a walk outside in the sunshine. If a cozy afternoon nap, a therapeutic bowl of ice cream or a nice long bike ride will lift your spirits, I say go for it.

Review: Take a few minutes to do an interview “autopsy.” Did they ask a question you weren’t prepared for? Did one of your “success stories” come out wrong? Did you say something you wish you hadn’t said? Identifying what you could have done better is good preparation for next time.

Remember: Sometimes, no matter how brilliant you are in the interview and how perfect you are for the job, you just don’t get the job offer, and most of the time you’ll never know the real reason. I don’t think it’s a good idea to ask for feedback because there’s almost no chance you’ll be told the real reason you weren’t hired. It’s also possible that there’s no specific reason; you just weren’t perceived as the best “fit” by the hiring manager.

Finally, get back out there and continue looking for your next great job. Even though rejection hurts, every interview helps you get better at the process of interviewing, and every “thanks, but no thanks” rejection gets you one step closer to your great new job.

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

On the Social War Front – Employer Reviews

By Cynthia Simmons

Recently I had a concern about an agency… Something that I was told was “The Plan” suddenly changed.  I felt very disappointed. And while I was feeling disappointed, I considered the whole process I had gone through and my relationship with them. These days, reputations and expectations are built up very quickly. And may also disappear quickly. When I first decided to sign up with them, I went to Google and found worker reviews on Yelp. The reviews were very positive, even glowing, for my area of the country. I looked at the agency website and I liked what I saw.

But recently, as part of my re-evaluation, I decided to go to the website GlassDoor.com to check the employer reviews. What I saw was interesting. The agency was rated highly by the reviewers (current or past employees) when averaged out.  But I did note that most of the positive reviews came from current employees.

Expedia - screen shot (05-05-2014) crop

That caused me to write this blog post, because I asked myself whether the data  was skewed. Was this a covert PR campaign, and had the agency seen a few bad reviews and decided to raise the overall ratings by having current staff post very positive reviews? Probably.

In the past, I had trusted the Glass Door website because when I was employed by another company I had read those company reviews, and they seemed very truthful. They mirrored what I had seen of that particular corporate culture and events over the ten years while I was employed there. But now, I read the employer reviews asking more questions and looking for patterns.

Anonymous - Employee Reviews (05-05-2014)

The Glass Door website has three other sections: job listings, salaries, and comments on the interview process. I still highly recommend this website overall.

 

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

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

Your Personalized Job Search

Some surprises are pleasant, say flowers from a loved one for no reason.  Anticipation provides a sweet thrill when it is prompted by vacation planning.  Being thrown in to job search is a surprise that many feel, and few find acceptable.  And the near constant frisson of mostly unrequited anticipation while searching for that next job can wear out its welcome as well.

 

When you are searching for a job everyone else seems to be an expert, to have just the right advice.  There are whole sections of libraries filled with books and articles, there are seminars, and of course your brother, mother, friend and spouse can start a sentence with ‘What you should do is’.  You could become a raving lunatic trying to follow all of this often conflicting advice.

 

How did you originally come to be in your line of work?  How did you land your most recent position?  The answers to these questions were true for you once, and perhaps can hold truth for this turn in job search as well.  Maybe with a little spiffing up of a skill or two and a dusting off of some mildly neglected connections.

 

This is the thing that job search reminds us once again, truth must be reexamined periodically and revalidated.  What was once truth for us, or what might be truth for another, might not be the right thing now.

 

Let’s go back to all the advice.  You can become a raving lunatic if you blindly try to follow all the advice that you are given.  If you aren’t sorting through it all and looking for the parts that ring true for you and your current search.  What is right for you?

Capture

If the cookie-cutter, rubber-stamp methods of job search haven’t been working, here is another suggestion for you to look into – Finding Work When There are No Jobs by Roger Wright.  (Remember you can always use your local library, and if they don’t have a copy of a book then ask the librarian because they do by books based on patron requests.)

 

I am an independent sort, so Roger’s method really spoke to me.  I wholeheartedly agree with his approach regarding story.  Telling your story in a compelling manner is vital.  I was captivated by his idea to add music – the draw of rhythm and harmony is powerful.  His addition of community (a concept that has long attracted me), as opposed to networking, and stewardship provide a solid framework for a job seeker to create a personalized job search method.

 

This last time around, I did personalize my own job search and found success in this method – I am currently employed.  I am still writing about job search because I found the experience had a profound impact on me and I have many good friends who are currently in job search.  Also, as a hiring manager, I do still have a vested interest in sharing what I have learned from that perspective, too.

 

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 Importance of Being Still

By Cynthia Simmons

Today is Easter. We’re at the end of a beautiful day—our first natural day of full spring. Not the calendar’s delineation of seasons, but the first actual arrival of sweet, warm air, clear skies, and a sense of grace and newness. We were lucky this year—some Easters are exasperating when bright Easter egg colors and images clash with miserable gray skies and unappealing temperatures.

For me, it was a busy day, starting early. The first task was to get up extra early and prepare to ride my bike to a 7:30 a.m. service with my boyfriend. We left at 7 a.m. to arrive at 7:30. Our return journey started at 9:00, for another 30 minutes of slow, out-of-shape riding home. (For me, I was thankful that I had done at least a little bicycle riding the prior two weeks. For my boyfriend, it was slow and tedious because he had ridden through the winter, so today he chose to handicap himself with a slow, heavy, fat-tire bike.)

Back at my place, we began to prepare for Easter lunch. My mom and her boyfriend were arriving at 12:30.  My boyfriend did most of the cooking. I concentrated on setting the table.

The story of the table settings is a story unto itself. The Blue Willow dishes came from three generations back, from my great aunt’s mother. My mom inherited the small collection and she later packed it up and (at great expense) shipped it to me.  She had added four tea cups. I later added six dinner plates from a resale shop. So setting the table for Easter involved going through the collected dishes and deciding what to use or not. Fortunately, those choices had been made the day before Easter; the dishes were already carefully stacked on the table to await the actual setting of the table.

If this sounds a bit cautious and over-worried, your interpretation would be correct.  My opinion is that many times intergenerational negotiations among adults can cause stress.

But, we were successful today. When the table was set, it was beautiful. The total contributions of the four people at lunch complemented each other with food, dishes, wine, and conversation. We arrived at the table from four separate directions. (Perhaps from the four points of the compass?—I ask myself.)

Afterward, as we separated to attend to different obligations, I found myself thinking about a long list of tasks I need to do. But, I reminded myself of the importance of being still. And that incidentals can hold life together, and give it meaning and direction.

Monday isn’t until tomorrow. Then I will go back to my job search.

 

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

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

Can We Trade?

Every single one of us has a tool kit of skills.  Let me just say that first part again for emphasis – every single person.  It is sometimes entirely too easy to forget that our skills are valuable, to forget some of the skills that each of us has as we go through everyday life.  Job search helps people to actively think about all the skills that they have accumulated.  It is a good time to take out each skill from that tool kit and polish it up.

 

Job seeking is a lonely task, a singular experience that each person does in their own way.  Finding a group of people who are in transition at the same time can be hugely beneficial.  Now the task is still uniquely individual, but there is information sharing and support.  Plus the chance to create something stronger through a trading of skills.

 

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

There is so much that fellow job seekers can offer each other – understanding of the difficulties faced every day, information, contacts, and skills.  You can help me to refresh my skills in pivot tables while I can help you to update your resume for one example.  I can introduce you to a person that I might know while you can do the same for me as another example.

 

The possibilities for trades are endless.  And each trade reinforces skills, knowledge, team work, and creates a shared purpose where there was a lonely haul.

 

A favorite interview question is often some version of what have you been doing recently, while not working; how great would it be to pull out a host of SARs about using your skills to help others meet their job search goals?  Win-win as the buzz speak goes.

 

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

When It’s Your Turn – Interview Questions for a Possible New Employer

(I first wrote a version of this post on my original personal blog: Practical Business: When Its Your Turn – Interview Questions for a Possible New Employer)

 

You know that you are supposed to research the company before the interview.  You know that you should ask questions.  But for the life of you, you really aren’t sure what to ask because your main question is ‘When can I start?’.  Hopefully this list gives you some good ideas of your own because it is always a pet peeve of mine as a hiring manager when a promising candidate doesn’t have any questions for us at that stage of the interview.

 

So here’s my argument to convince you that it is wise to ask questions – you are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you.  Questions on your part prove that you have thought beyond getting a job, any job, to getting the right job and can picture yourself working at the company.  Picture yourself becoming a successful member of their team.

 

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

I have put together these questions from various sources, including some that I have been asked by candidates.

 

Questions to ask at the first interview:

  1.        Is this a new position, or would I be replacing someone?
  2.        Where does this position fit into the company’s structure?
  3.        What is your time frame to fill this position?

What are you looking for in the answers to these questions?  You will start to find out about the company culture and with the last one you can start to build a framework for follow up.

 

Questions to ask during the interview with the hiring manager, pick a handful that apply to your situation:

  1.        What are the qualities of your ideal candidate?
  2.        (If you found out that you are replacing someone in the first interview) What differences/similarities are you looking for in comparison to the previous person?
  3.        What is a typical day like?
  4.        What are the biggest challenges facing this department?
  5.        What are the best qualities of this department?
  6.        How much interdepartmental interaction is there with this position?
  7.        What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?
  8.        What are the common attributes of your top performers?
  9.        What are a few things that really drive results for the company?
  10.    How is performance measured in this organization?

These questions continue in your quest to understand the company culture and how it impacts the department where you would be working.  You can start to formulate a picture for yourself whether this culture will suit your ideal environment for your success.

 

Question to finish up:

  1.        Are there any areas where I haven’t given you enough information?

 

If this helps you to come up with any questions of your own, I would love to know what they are.  Or if you have a favorite question that you like to ask that I haven’t covered here, please share.

 

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

Little Victories

I must admit that it has been some time since my latest blog. I apologize for that. I’m sure that most of us job-seekers have, at one time or another, found ourselves diverted away from our main goal, which is getting that big victory, also known as the next job.

A big victory in the job search can mean different things to different people. Some job-seekers might tell you that it is not a big victory until they get that first paycheck at their next job. To others, the big victory might be the first day at that next job, a job offer, a job interview, or at least a phone call that leads to a job interview. Success in the job search is in the view of the job-seeker, and job-seekers are different.

For those who have been out of work for a long time, big victories may seem few and far between. This can be depressing. But, I have found one antidote for this depression. It is something that I call “little victories”. Like big victories, little victories don’t just simply come to you. Unlike the big victories, they may be right under your nose; all you have to do is be on the lookout for them. And sometimes they can even be found in a problem that you have to solve, like the one I will describe below.

Image

Here is the situation. Several weeks ago, I decided to put the information I have on potential target companies into something more manageable than the large spreadsheet that I had recently downloaded. Doing this would allow me to see the information about a target company without having to scroll to the right. Being the problem solver that I am, I decided to change one of my computer applications that I wrote in Visual Basic several years ago.

But, when I tried to make a small change to this computer application, I discovered that my change could not be applied due to errors in a previous compilation. This application still works the way I originally wanted it to. However, any changes I make to this application will not be applied. So, until I upgrade the code, I can’t expand this application to include potential target companies.

In addition, this computer application uses a Microsoft Access database whose version has become outdated. So do 2 other applications that I wrote years ago.

As a result of these 2 situations, the action I am choosing to take is to upgrade all 3 of the applications to the newer versions of Visual Basic and Microsoft Access.

The actions I have taken to accomplish this range from simply experimenting with changes to code, to getting on the internet and looking for ideas on how to deal with these newer versions of Visual Basic and Microsoft Access. Every time I discover a way to resolve a situation or problem, I consider that to be a little victory. Each little victory then reveals the next problem to be dealt with, and therefore, another little victory when I solve that problem. And so it goes.

The short-term result of all of these little victories will be that my computer application will be able to handle information about my potential target companies.

Another result of all of this is the sense of accomplishment that all of these little victories will give me, which, in turn, increases my self-confidence.

I don’t know how long this action will take me to complete. I also don’t know if I will be using these skills in my next job. But at least I will have the ability to show a future employer what I can do in this skill, if necessary. This can lead to a big victory.

If you find that you are getting depressed during your job search, here is my suggestion; don’t worry about not getting that big victory, because if you do, you will miss out on all of those little victories that lie in your path to getting that next job. Those little victories can keep your morale up during the job search. Don’t take them too lightly.

“Maybe?” — Another Way to Consider Job Descriptions

By Cynthia Simmons

Perhaps I should start this blog post by saying what I do professionally: I’m a content professional. I write, edit, research, acquire, and assemble content. To produce information that is clearly structured, consistently treated, and predictable. Predictable means the reader can easily access, find, and understand the information.

 

As I look at job descriptions online, I make copies of ones I like. Some I mark as “Apply.” Others I mark as “Almost.”

But more light-hearted for me are the jobs that I put in my “Maybe” folder. They are jobs that call to my heart, but which are impossible because… I don’t have degrees in archeology, art history, chemistry, or….

You know, the paths not taken somewhere in my past. The decision points for those was long ago. My degrees and professional certificates are in other fields.

But if I could go back in time, would I have made some decisions differently? Maybe. Probably.

(For those of you who are now frowning, let me state that when someone tells me, “That’s history, get over it!” I say back, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it!” And I am in very good company.1)

So instead of being grumpy or regretful, I cherish things that I am not but which I can imagine being. Instead of scolding and telling myself that I am wasting my time to stop and read, I save a copy in my “Maybe” folder and later I can look again. To see what it was that called to me. And to still keep on schedule with my goals for the day.

My recent “Maybe’s” included job descriptions for a digital catalogue designer at an art institute and an architect/epigraphic artist taking photographs and making precise line drawings of tombs at Luxor, Egypt.

For me, it’s about balance. There is work to be done, a job to be found, and all of the related, surrounding, and sometimes congruent tasks. But there is also the noting of things to be dreamed about, later.

  1. Some notable references to repeating history may be found at http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/doomed-to-repeat-it

Cynthia Simmons is a publishing and communications professional.

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

More than Our Past

Being in the midst of job search is quite the experience in the current job market, especially in comparison to the last time most of us found ourselves in this position.  Thankfully, most of us are very different too.  We have each other to help us keep our capabilities in mind and brainstorm alternatives.

 

We each bring something unique to our interactions, our own perspective, which is based on how we internalized experiences.  Plus how well we are able to communicate the means in which our experience and perspective will enhance the interaction.  For many of us, our skills would translate into a variety of jobs with the potential for different titles.

 

The root issue today, with the incredible stretch that most working folks have had to endure to fit all necessary tasks into the same eight hour day, is the loss of creative thinking.  Well, one of the issues – but my focus in today’s post.  Creative thinking is necessary on the part of the job seeker as well as the company hiring manager in order to match the right multi-talented candidate to the job.

 

phones have come a long way since this was a cutting edge model (public domain image)

phones have come a long way since this was a cutting edge model (public domain image)

Rote thinking, the opposite of creative thinking, requires that the candidate is only considered for a position if the candidate has already held that exact, equivalently titled position in their most recent role.  Rote thinking is very dangerous because it may not set up the candidate or the organization for growth.  Rote thinking has a high probability of dismissing excellent long-term potential for immediate concerns.

 

Now creative thinking is not entirely absent, just in short supply.  And there are certainly instances when rote thinking is advisable – I don’t want a doctor who doesn’t have the degree plus experience necessary to perform a procedure, and I imagine that I’m in the majority on this – credential checking is very important for certain jobs and skills.

 

This wholesale reliance upon box checking to ensure correct fit is not beneficial to business in the long run.  (8 years’ experience in XYZ software-check, 5 years’ experience in supervisory role-check, BA/BS in XYZ discipline or commensurate experience-check, Salesforce CRM experience required-missing…this one goes in the toss pile)  Wait a minute in that rote thinking, that box-checking mentality because Salesforce CRM is an easily learnable skill.  And of the requirements that I listed out, simply the least important.  It is understandable that there is no resource available to train right now, but the successful person will require some training in processes specific to the organization.

 

If you are reading for a solution to this issue, then there are plenty of other places to find as many solutions as there are people offering them.  Your solution will be applicable to your individual situation.  My ultimate point in writing this post is to make each of us aware of when we are applying rote thinking in an attempt to gloss to a simple solution and to make us stop and question the validity of that application.  It is most often a stop-gap to a short term solution that will be unrealistic in the long run and in light of our true intentions.  Parsing through all the parts of a situation and weighing the import of each segment takes time and energy – and certainly shouldn’t be applied in every case (i.e. finding the perfect parking spot means driving around and around and takes longer to do than the errand within the establishment) but is vital in certain circumstances.

 

If you encounter rote thinking in your activities such as job search, it can get you thinking.  If this thinking is endemic within the organization, then this is not the place for me.  Or if it is specific to some portion, then how do I get around it to my real target?  If you are engaging in rote thinking, ask yourself if it is really serving the purpose that you intend to address.

 

Reading from those in the Talent Acquisition Industry:

Lou Adler’s: Define the Job before Defining the Person

 

 

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