Monthly Archives: May, 2014

This One is Just Right

Goldilocks had major boundary issues and made quite a mess of the Bear family’s house, but she was expert at knowing exactly what she liked and needed.  Couldn’t we all just use a bit more of that?

 

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, 1912 Goldilocks image

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, 1912 Goldilocks image

We grow up with that question of what we want to be when we are grown and working – a ballerina, a fireman, a teacher.  How do we really land on our profession?  Sometimes by random narrowing – this class fit into the rest of our schedule better than that one, a charismatic person talked about something and made it sound really good, a friend of the family knew about a job opening.  And a career was born.

 

Even more haphazard might be the place where we work and practice our profession, the last department we were part of, the team, the boss; how did that culture suit us, and how well did we fit?  Was it too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft – too demanding and intrusive or too loosey-goosey without clear parameters?  How well did we fit, which begs the question do we know the environment and culture where we will fit best?

 

Have we each asked ourselves some important questions to define our ideal fit?  Such as:

  • What team roles have we held successfully – leader, idea person, detail person, etc.?
  • Where do we feel comfortable – cubicles, open concept?
  • What sort of boss best suits our needs – authoritarian, collaborative, etc.?

 

A friend was recently relaying a story about an intense job interview cycle.  Each person that she spoke with made it clear that there was a strict, authoritarian structure at this company.  Clearly they had learned the hard way to be quite open about the culture so they didn’t wind up with someone who didn’t fit.  Plenty of other companies could learn from this method and we could all be saved some grief.  There are dangers on both sides if someone who is a bad fit fills a position.

 

While few of us can afford to forego that paycheck for too long, we can still channel our inner Goldilocks to make sure that we land somewhere that is just right.

 

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

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Choices

This past Monday was Memorial Day. I decided, on that morning, to make the hour-long drive with my wife back to the suburb where I lived for 21 of the first 25 years of my life.

 

This was a choice of mine, and here is the reason.

 

Two years ago, we made that same drive, and it was then that I realized how much the park where they have their local Memorial Day festivities had changed since the time that I lived there. For example, back then, there was only 1 Little League baseball field, with a huge open space next to it. Now there are 2 somewhat larger Little League fields. The original concession stand was torn down, and sometime around the year 2007 or 2008, and new concession stand was built closer to the baseball fields. They chose to name it the “Home Plate Grill”. Just outside the “Home Plate Grill”, the suburb had a small monument erected and dedicated, in 2011, to those servicemen who had lived in the town and had served in our country’s military, along with the wars that they served in.

 

 Image

 

When I saw that monument in 2012, I thought that the names on the monument were of only those servicemen who did not return from the war that they fought in. I later learned that this was not the case. Since my father was in the navy and had served in the Pacific Theater of World War II, I thought that his name might be on that monument. It wasn’t, but I found out from a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that names can be added; however, this monument gets updated only once every 10 years.

 

The monument honors those who made the choice to serve our country.

 

In job-searching, just as in our everyday lives, we make choices. Some of the choices that we make turn out for the better, some don’t.

 

Memorial Day, 2014, has come and gone. I hope that, in future Memorial Days, we continue to choose to remember those who made that choice to serve our country, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice, so that we can freely make more choices.

 

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

Happy Memorial Day

 

On Memorial Day, a heartfelt Thank You to our active duty military personnel, their families and all our veterans. We remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Have a lovely holiday and I’ll be back to regular job search blogging next week!

Kimberly Hanes is a writer with a passionate love for words and ideas and extensive experience in business communications and event planning.

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

Cracking the Code

Mysteries often involve a code of some kind, to keep information secure so that only the ‘right’ people will know the meaning.  In a mystery story, a code is interesting and a fun part of the plot.  Code is also important during times of conflict – I really enjoyed the movie Windtalkers about the Navaho code talkers in WWII, very clever on our part to make sure our plans would be successful.  The Allies of WWII also successfully cracked the German’s Enigma code to gain valuable information which thwarted Axis plans.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

Each industry has its own jargon, or code too.  This is mostly just a short-hand way to convey information quickly and not really meant to protect information from those outside-the-know.

 

Sometimes code is just tiresome and fuzzy.  Perhaps at one time it served a purpose but it has become something else entirely.  Ask any group of job seekers about code words within the hiring process and ‘overqualified’ is sure to come up in this category.  What does it really mean if you look closely?  We think that you are older than our ideal candidate, we think that you will want too much money, we think that you won’t stay very long (therefore wasting our time) should you convince us that you are the right candidate – in short you don’t fit our outline of our ideal candidate.

 

There are code phrases – we’ve decided to take this position in another direction, etc.  Notice most of the code is centered on turning a candidate down.  It is human nature to want to avoid conflict and handing out rejection is difficult on both sides.

 

Job seekers want to get it right, to be the successful candidate, to stop being a job seeker and be a worker.  Often they feel that if they could get detailed understanding of what went wrong in the last effort, they could correct it for the next.  I understand this urge, but also feel like I have a nugget of insight because I have been on both sides of the table.

 

Sometimes there is something specific and it would be wonderful as a hiring manager if I could offer a tip to the candidate for their next application or interview.  (Psst, make it clear that you want our job not just any job.  Or, don’t ramble so much in your answers that we both forget the question.  Or, be on time.  Or, breathe and center yourself because your nervous energy made us both jittery.)  Sometimes the candidate just didn’t suit our idea of the successful candidate as well as someone else – and this could be a very close second, but we only have one position open.  (One time I was able to snap up my second choice weeks later when my team suddenly had a new opening – and both people were good members of our team.  But that is rare.)

 

It comes down to this, these code words are the words that are chosen to let a candidate down as firmly but pleasantly as possible.  HR probably talked to a legal representative at some point to help to craft these messages – to sanitize them.  Which also means that they are meaningless in terms of helping a candidate understand what to do better next time.  That is a mystery that each candidate must solve on their own.

 

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

Changing Tactics

One of the last vacation trips my parents took us on was to Glacier National Park in Montana. I won’t elaborate too much about the details of the trip, except to say that as far as I can remember, the scenery around the park, especially Lake McDonald, was pretty good.

 

I had received a fishing rod as a present the previous Christmas, and, since I was a Boy Scout back then, was eagerly looking forward to trying my hand at fishing. My family had rented a cabin by that lake for several days that summer, so I made it a point to try out my fishing rod. I would cast my fishing line in the hope of catching a fish. I would keep at it for awhile, then go back to our cabin, and try again the next day.

 

For those few days during that trip, my luck wasn’t very good. I caught no fish. Not a single one. Maybe the fish were not biting those days. Only a stone or two thrown by another child from a neighboring cabin to try to make me think that fish were actually biting. (He didn’t fool me.) Or maybe there weren’t any fish in the lake at all. I really don’t know.

 

ImageThat pretty much was the extent of me trying to show off any fishing prowess I may have had. I do not recall going fishing again. Was it because I lost interest? Probably. At any rate, since I was still in grade school, and very prone to suddenly jump from one interest to another, I decided to pursue other forms of recreation.

 

In a way, isn’t searching for a job the same as fishing? When you respond to a job posting, apply to a job online, or go to a networking meeting, aren’t you also “casting” a line? Sure you are. I’ve had to “fish” for jobs several times throughout my adult life. And just like that experience I had years ago, there were times when it seemed like no employers are “biting”, or at least “nibbling”. That doesn’t mean that you have to stop looking for a job, because you really don’t have a choice here. It just means that it’s about time to take a different approach, or change tactics, to your job search. There are two issues here. The first issue is to decide what change to make. The second issue is to decide when to make that change.

 

Here is how I handled that grade school experience. I took up swimming, another form of recreation involving water. And I made that decision quickly.

 

Back then, I changed my recreational interest. More recently, I’ve had to change the way I look for a job.

 

It may not be as easy to make changes today as it was back then, but, it is still easier to change your job-searching tactics than it is to change your career. All one has to be able to do is to recognize when to make that change.

 

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

Take Care Of Yourself

There’s a documentary that came out May 9, called Fed Up, with Katie Couric as a producer and narrator. It’s about the really horrible stuff most of us Americans eat most of the time and in conjunction with the release of the movie, Katie issued a challenge: give up sugar, or at least added sugar, for 10 days, starting Monday May 12. I’ve been concerned about sugar in my diet for quite a while so I decided to take the challenge. I gave myself permission not to be perfect at it, but I’m making an authentic effort to be aware of, and eliminate, most of the sugar I eat.

Today is day 8 and it hasn’t been easy. When you start looking for it by reading nutrition labels you’ll see how pervasive sugar really is. The “100% Whole Wheat” bread I’d been eating has 4 grams of sugar per slice. Wish-Bone Italian salad dressing has 3 grams in a 2-tablespoon serving. Paul Newman’s Cabernet Marinara pasta sauce has 9 grams of sugar per ½ cup serving. Yikes. I haven’t given up sugar completely but I’ve cut way back and I do notice a difference in terms of how I feel, and I may have lost a couple of pounds too, which is always good.

What does this have to do with job search? While it may not be a good idea to try to completely alter your eating habits, I do believe that if there was ever a time to be at your best, job search is it. Job search is hard so it makes sense to give yourself every advantage. No big surprises or bombshell suggestions here, I’m talking about the basics: Get enough sleep. Eat healthier foods, at least most of the time. Get some exercise if you can.

There are many elements of job search that are out of my control and I try very hard not to obsess about them. My goal is to control the things I can control and that includes taking care of myself so I can be at my best. And I’m not giving up sugar forever. I’ve been saving a great recipe for Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake and I’m going to make it the day I get my great new job.

If you’d like to learn about the 10-Day Challenge, check out the website at fedupmovie.com

Note: some of this material originally appeared in my personal blog, Writing The World.

Kimberly Hanes is a writer with a passionate love for words and ideas, with extensive experience in business communications and event planning.

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

Deliberate Conversations

I just spent an evening having deliberate conversations, otherwise known as networking.  As an introvert, I have to talk myself into going to an event that has a specific purpose of meeting and greeting lots of people.  The standard advice is to go into the event with a clear goal or two in mind.

 

My goal was to ask everyone a question about what they would like to read about regarding job search.  Plenty of them did tell me that this is a crowded field of material with a variety of people writing on the topic, and I can’t disagree.  How many of them are giving advice, though?  The answer would be most of them, where our objective here on this blog is to talk about the shared experience of job search and not dispense advice.

 

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

I did get plenty of ideas which I will write about in coming posts.  Even from a couple people who at first thought that they didn’t have any suggestions.  It just goes to show that job seekers are a creative bunch.  And energetic.  Everyone that I know who is in job search is open and learning at a much higher rate than the folks who are working.

 

Had any deliberate conversations of your own lately?  How did they go?

 

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

Watching The Words

A few years ago I wrote a freelance article for a magazine and I included a sentence about a woman who put her wedding ring on a necklace and “wore it discreetly around her neck.” The magazine’s editor changed discreetly to discretely and after all this time I’m still annoyed.

Words matter. When you’re in job search, make sure that everything you produce, from your resumé to your cover letters to your business cards to your LinkedIn profile, is error-free. Mistakes like typos, bad punctuation or incorrect usage can create a negative perception that could mean the difference between getting a job offer and getting a rejection. In particular it’s important to be ruthlessly vigilant about proofreading everything. It’s a two-part process. First you need to make sure you’re using the right words in the right way. Discreet/discrete, affect/effect, they’re/their/there, whose/who’s are all examples of words that are easy to mix up or use incorrectly.

Then make sure all the words are spelled, and punctuated, perfectly. In other words, no “typos”.  One little letter can make all the difference.

Example 1: A LinkedIn profile with a typo that changed Public Relations to Pubic Relations. Not good.
Example 2: A resumé with a typo that changed “sourcing” to “souring”. Also not good.

These are both real examples that I’ve seen recently and they demonstrate why it’s not enough to rely on spell-check, because both of the “wrong” words are actual words that the computer won’t catch as errors. I have a couple of tricks I use when I’m proofing my own material. First, I read it out loud, which can help catch usage or syntax errors. Then I use a ruler and read the whole document backwards, starting at the bottom and working my way up. Reading the words “out of context” can help me to pinpoint typos or punctuation errors. Finally, ask a friend to proofread your work, ideally someone who’s never seen it before. A fresh “eye” may catch something that you’ve overlooked.

This kind of meticulous review can be tedious but it’s worth it. You don’t want to be remembered as the candidate with the embarrassing typo in your resumé!

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

Kimberly Hanes is a writer with a passionate love for words and ideas, with extensive experience in business communications and event planning.

Remembering Stone Soup

By Cynthia Simmons

Driving to work one morning, I heard someone on National Public Radio talk about Stone Soup — one of my favorite children’s books. She was a consultant for executives attending the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

That made total sense to me.  Because… Stone Soup is the story of three soldiers returning home from a war, trudging on foot across unfamiliar territory, and stopping to stay the night in a town where they are not welcome. They try to persuade someone to sell or give them food. Apparently there is no extra food in that town, not for those three soldiers.

The magic of the story is that the soldiers had carried a big empty kettle with them, and when there was no supper to be had, they fill the kettle with water from the river, light a fire, and then place stones in the boiling water to give it flavor.

Someone becomes curious at the sight of  the soldiers sitting around their fire with their kettle full of boiling water. Someone comes up and asks, “What are you cooking?” The answer is “Stone soup.”

Then the question, “Well, may I have some?”

The response, “Well, yes, of course you can have some. It’s not quite ready. But it would be even better if we could add a potato or two.”

And the response to the response, “I have some potatoes for the soup.”

The rest of the story continues predictably with the questions and the answers, as people from the town become curious and find themselves offering to contribute to the soup. With the individual contributions the soup becomes a feast.

The lessons are, “People who are not interested in helping you in your job search may decide to help when you share a common interest.” and “Think carefully about how you approach strangers for help.”

(The version of Stone Soup that I know was written and illustrated by Marcia Brown. I first read it many years ago.)

 

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

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

Some Random Thoughts on Networking… Please Add Yours

I originally posted this on my own blog, back in August 2013, after I went to a networking event which is held quarterly by a LinkedIn contact.  I wrote this as part of my own post-event analysis because it was my first time in attendance.  I continue to put pressure on myself to network more, and farther outside of my comfort zone.  I know that I will benefit, but it does take energy because I am not naturally a person drawn to large social events.

understanding

My thoughts:

  • It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, you don’t live in a box so you need to figure out how to keep your contacts fresh.
  • Most people have as many and possibly the same reservations that you have about going.
  • Follow up matters – but is also dependent upon your intent for starting the contact in the first place.
    • How many people do you know that just go through motions because they have been told that they must?
    • One person I know went to coffee with a new contact and was frustrated when the new contact didn’t seem to understand the point of the coffee meeting follow up.  (Hint: it isn’t a coffee klatch.)
  • You need to spend a couple of moments before the event getting your thoughts together about your own expectations for the event.
    • If it is your first event, your objective can be as simple as getting through the event.  Be yourself – your most vivacious self that you can muster.
  • Some people will be there just to collect cards – these are probably the folks who had the most yearbook signatures in high school and a lot of trophies.  Don’t spend too much time with them.
  • This is social, so have some fun.  But remember appropriate behavior for the occasion.

 

Ultimately, networking should help each of us to find people to expand our community.  What do you have to say?

 

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