Monthly Archives: June, 2014

Think Outside the Job Box

Here we are in summer, nearly time for the next networking gathering and I am still working through the ideas and suggested topics from the last one.

 

Only cats want to be in boxes these days.  Or maybe not, there are probably plenty of people who see the same benefits of being in a box that cats – even wild ones – seem to see in boxes.  People in job transition see plenty of benefit of being safely in a job box.  Work for a stable company, provide value and get paid in return.  Repeat each pay period.  (More on the stability thing in a later post.)

 

Public domain clip-art

Public domain clip-art

What if companies in your area aren’t hiring, or there is too much competition for your skill set?  A friend suggested we should all be prepared to think outside the job box.  He has done so himself by combining various interests into consulting or freelance gigs and adding in the occasional temporary work to keep his coffers filled.

 

Or maybe there is an opportunity with a start-up.  The money might be small at the outset, but the potential might be huge.  At the very least you will have an interesting story to tell when you are asked what you have been doing with yourself.

 

Years ago I was given a contact for antique or unusual furniture sales and consignment.  It was a cool idea, but almost entirely commission and I was newly divorced.  I needed a steady paycheck so passed it up.  Things would be a bit different now, depending on the opportunity.  I’m not much for sales, but I am willing to keep preconceived notions at bay.

 

The point my friend is making is that we shouldn’t be quick to evaluate an opportunity purely on its similarity to the job box that we know.

 

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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Dealing with irrelevant information, or, lookout for information overload

As I was backing my car out of a parking space recently, looking out the rear window and making sure there weren’t any people or cars behind me, all of a sudden I heard this strange, female voice saying “Welcome to the hands free phone system…” I stopped the car, somewhat in a state of shock, still partly in the parking space. At first, my thoughts went back-and-forth between “What did I just do?” and “How do I get this message turned off?” One look at where my left hand was on the steering wheel gave me the answers to both of my questions. I had inadvertently touched the “call” button on the steering wheel. I wound up hearing two or three more sentences from that female voice before I figured out that the way to stop the message was to hit the “cancel” button right next to it.

 

What I had just experienced is another one of those new-fangled contraptions allegedly designed to help me do something. Cell phones, laptop computers, this thing called spell check, and computer mice are other examples of these. At this point I must admit that I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to some of the electronic gizmos that are found on the cars of today. (The car I traded in to get this one last year was bought in 1996.) My cell phone, which still doesn’t get much use, is usually off while I’m driving; if I have to make a call, I pull over, stop the car, and use my cell phone. Therefore, I do not need a hands free phone system. All of the information in that message was not relevant to me.

 

What does this have to do with searching for a job? We are periodically affected by the results of well-intentioned people giving us some help at a time when we are not in a position to receive it, like when we are showering or sleeping. At other times it may be OK if we are receiving helpful information for our job search from only one person, or at a networking meeting where your request for help is implied.

 

But go to a family get-together, beware; you could get as many different ideas on how to do your job search as there are people attending the gathering. If you are not careful here you could end up getting something that I call “information overload”.

 

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The advice others give you will depend on their prospective, and whatever the norms were when they last looked for a job. They might not realize that what you have to do to get a job today is quite different than it was back in the 1950’s, the 1970’s, or even the 1990’s.

 

Remember, when you get your next job, it will be your name that will be on that paycheck, not theirs.

 

Using your best social skills is a good idea here; nod your head, or smile and say “Thank you”. After that, do whatever you have to in order to retain any relevant information. And then forget the rest.

 

In order for me to start writing this post, I pressed that “call” button again, and wrote down the first words of that message. Then I hit the “cancel” button, because the rest of that message was not relevant.

 

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer. 

Battle Scars

A few weeks ago, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, I fell during a workout on my treadmill. Since the belt was still moving (and I was wearing workout shorts) I ended up with several “road rash” wounds on my left leg. My brother-in-law fell off his bike a few months ago which resulted in a broken leg and a broken wrist. My sister broke her arm in a car accident and is having corrective surgery next month. Talking about all this with my B-I-L, he and I agreed that while we’re glad we’re all on the mend, we also consider our remaining scars to be like “badges of honor,” evidence of a non-passive life.

No-one gets to be forty-, fifty- or sixty-something without making a few mistakes. Without experiencing some failure. Without having a few accidents and acquiring some scars. Some of life’s best wisdom comes in the aftermath of a screw-up. Some of life’s most satisfying moments happen when we look back and realize that the scars are fading, we’ve survived and learned and grown, and we’re still alive and kicking.

As always, I see parallels in job search. First, just being in job search can feel like failure, especially if it takes longer than expected or planned. There’s the sense of rejection that comes every time you pour your heart and soul into the interview process then don’t get the job. And every job seeker inevitably has a few smaller screw-ups: the interview not prepared for, the “what was I thinking?” answer to an interview question, the thank you note not sent.

I like to imagine how good I’ll feel when I do land my next great job. No matter how long it ends up taking I know that I will work again and when I do, I plan to wear the battle scars of my job search like a badge of honor. I’ve earned them.

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

A Digression: Summer Solstice 2014 – End of the Day

By Cynthia Simmons

(This blog post is off topic, so please skip if you wish.)

It’s well past 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 21st—the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer and the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s been both a good and a bad day, with Ups and Downs. Especially weather-wise.

Right now, the sun is shining sideways through cracks in heavy clouds. The wind is slow, gently messing with the leaves on trees I see from my home office window.

The air outside seems relaxed and quiet. Repentant.

Repentant?

Yes: From 5-6 p.m. we had a tornado warning here in Lake County, Illinois. I got a mechanical phone message from my village warning residents to seek shelter. Then an upset-sounding phone call from a very near neighbor. (We share the same driveway.)

Angie is a city girl, from Chicago, and she didn’t know what to make of the mechanical phone message with the tornado warning. We talked. I presented my theory that we are close to Lake Michigan, and the Lake Effect probably includes disrupting tornado movements. I’ve lived in this area forty-plus years, and to date I haven’t been anywhere near a tornado.

While we talked it was raining furiously. But the weather radar map showed only a scattering of heavy, fast moving clouds. They were traveling eastward, like a line of stepping stallions, galloping ahead… but with nothing behind. And so, after furious rain, the weather became calm.

Now I see… A fiery pink sunset, shining on lush, full and lovely green trees and prairie grasses.

Now, the light is falling away. Gray, pensive. Lingering but decidedly leaving. Reluctantly. Shouting to the undersides of the clouds, with violent, energetic pink. I won’t, I must, I protest. My leaving.

Straight, clear north, the sky is empty on the horizon.

And now, we are settling into twilight. After these past twenty minutes, when I began writing.

Oh, I Couldn’t Do That

I spent years, off and on, as a stay at home mom.  I had my kids fairly early, so had not established anything remotely like a career – I had some jobs before becoming a mother, some that I liked and some that gave me money.  I believed in staying home and couldn’t understand the women who claimed that they would be bored or unfulfilled if not working.  (But this post isn’t about the so called mommy wars.)

 

Periodically I thought about the jobs that I could do in the working for pay world.  I read the help wanted ads and compared my skills.  And I talked myself out of every single job.  Oh, I couldn’t do this or that part of the job.

 

public domain image

public domain image

And then I found myself divorced and responsible for supporting myself and my two boys.  Now the ads looked different to me.  I would do this and I would do that – I could learn this and I could learn that.  And I did.

 

It wasn’t the ads or the jobs that had changed, but my self-talk.  I knew that I couldn’t walk in hoping that someone would give me a chance.  I had to walk in chugging like the Little Engine that Could – I think I can, I think I can.  I told SARs that showed how I learned this or that in pertinent volunteer experiences.  How I stepped up, how I solved problems.

 

Worry and fear were boiling in my belly in those moments at the end of the day, by myself.  But I boxed them up during the day and stored them behind the ‘Oh I can certainly do that’ persona in daylight hours.  (Yes, that theater training in college was helpful.)

 

Do you find yourself saying something like this – oh, I couldn’t do that?  Ask yourself why not.

 

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

Mistakes

It might have been a mistake for me to spend some of my time Monday fixing the lower part of a gutter downspout that had decided to separate itself from the rest of the downspout, and our house. After all, when we are looking for a job, since that is our job, we really shouldn’t be doing things like this on a weekday.

 

Perhaps the mistake was when I searched 4 local stores, between Saturday and Monday, looking for a replacement part which matched the size and color of the part I was trying to replace (none of the stores had any).

 

Or maybe the mistake was when I checked the local weather report on Monday to find a 30% chance of rain for Tuesday, and decided to reattach that bottom piece in order to avoid the consequences of not having completed the repair job in time.

 

Normally, making repairs like the one described above is something that gets done on a weekend. The reason this did not happen has nothing to do with the fact that this past Sunday was Father’s Day. Choosing to delay this repair for a day or so may have been nothing more than an error in judgment on my part. Or maybe I was hoping to be able to put it off until next weekend.

 

We all make mistakes in our daily lives, and the job search is no exception. The mistakes mentioned above really are nothing more than judgment calls. When we make these judgment calls, and they turn out wrong, it’s not like we’ve broken some law, such as missing a stop sign or driving through a red light. The only penalty here is missing out on some opportunity; it is not the end of the world.

 

Sometimes, the bigger mistake just might be to not do anything. In that case, something needs to be done. One response to certain mistakes might be to choose a separate course of action, for others, just improvise.

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And don’t forget, sometimes the other guy makes mistakes. I witnessed this in a job interview I had a long time ago, where both the Human Resources Recruiter and the Manager that I interviewed with completely misread the qualifications I listed in my resume. I went through with that interview, because I wanted the practice, but the interview was only about 15 minutes long. Their penalty; who knows? My penalty that day might be called a penalty in reverse (I didn’t have to work for them).

 

The stores’ penalty was that they did not get to sell me something on that day; there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, stores are run by human beings. And one of the items in the job description of a human being is to “make mistakes”.

 

Mistakes are here to stay. You are going to be making errors in judgment sometime. When that happens, simply learn from these errors. You will be better off because of those experiences.

 

Oh, and by the way, there was no rain Tuesday. It came on Wednesday. So whoever created that weather forecast, they also made a mistake.

Dave Vandermey is a Web Developer

Branding

It’s a hot, hazy summer day here in Chicagoland and I admit I’ve been casting about for a topic for this blog post. The World Cup? The Stock Market? Prince George? Nothing was getting my blogger juices flowing until I saw a story about Air Force One, the President’s personal plane. Specifically, CNN is reporting that the iconic blue and white specially-modified 747 may be replaced within the next few years.

I’ve always thought that flying around on Air Force One would be the coolest part of being president. I also assume that when ambitious politicians ponder running for president, they can’t help picture themselves stepping out of the plane’s main doorway, waving to the crowd and walking down the jetstairs as a band plays Hail To The Chief. So much more fun than negotiating with Congress or trying to figure out what to do about Syria.

 

You may not know that “Air Force One” is actually an air traffic control call sign, automatically assigned to any airplane the U.S. president happens to be flying on. It’s also a spectacularly effective example of branding. The president doesn’t really need his own airplane. We’ve seen pictures of Queen Elizabeth arriving somewhere on a British Airways plane and the Pope flies Alitalia. Any Air Force jet could be modified with the required security and communications equipment to safely take the American president wherever he needs to go.

Over the years, however, the designation “Air Force One,” and the beautiful 747 aircraft it refers to, have come to be iconic symbols of the presidency and the power and prestige of the United States itself.

So how’s your brand? Do people know what you stand for, what you’re good at, what you can do for them? If not, take some inspiration from the branding of the president’s plane and set out to improve brand “You.”

A Snappy Observation: Photos of People

By Cynthia Simmons

Years ago I fell in with a group of starving artists. I learned some good and useful skills while reading about art, talking about art, drawing, and working with clay. My eyes became more skilled at seeing and composing photographs as I developed my drawing skills. Working with clay forever changed how I handle food, dishes, and thrown clay objects. When I cut food—a cake, a pie, or a pizza—my hands are more steady and sure. When I wash dishes I can more precisely sense their shapes and weights. I now look for and feel the throw rings on thrown clay objects. Felt shapes now contain much more information.

I recently remembered another lesson from that time. That is, when you see a photograph of a person, the photographer is very present in the picture. He is the storyteller, telling the story.

There was a photograph of me, taken years ago, where I looked odd. Although the photo was clear and focused, I seemed to be composed of tense energy, as if I were constantly in motion. I looked “stressed,” overly slender (skinny?), with my feet not quite on the ground. The photo showed an angle and an instant of time when I was more energy than matter.

I didn’t like that photograph and could not make my peace with it until I learned another lesson: We’ve been told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And that public relations are based upon perceptions. And in this case the perception, the perspective, was that of a painter taking my picture. A few weeks later, I recognized that if he were to paint my portrait, that was the person he would paint. Because many of his portraits (in oil) showed both that same sizzling, electric energy and the stress on the person radiating, emitting that energy. Somehow, through an un-manipulated photograph, taken at the exact moment when I looked the way he saw me to be, he captured his take, his vision of me.

Not my own vision of me. Not someone I wanted to be.

Now, older and changing again into someone else (I’m growing into yet another pair of shoes and how I fit into the world), I look at recent photos of me and I don’t like them.

But, a week ago, someone else took my photo, and I saw that I’m still the person I remember myself to be. So my lesson here is—consider perception. If I look altered, perhaps the wrong people have been taking my picture. Or is there something in my life situation, something outside of myself, that is causing me to look… less than I am? sadder? more defensive?

Not good. I need to choose which shoes I want to fill.

Because if that one person can see me the way I see myself, then my new mission is to take back who I am. I am someone who is fit, feisty, happy, and strong.

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

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

Put it Out There

We all generate energy (and that is just about the extent of my understanding of physics).  Most of us are a mixture of positive and negative energy, with one a bit more prominent at any given moment.  The energy that we are generating and giving off is mostly unconscious, except in occasions when something makes us stop and examine what we are about.

 

Job search is not a good time to be unaware of the energy that we are generating; of course it is also a time when we are most likely generating a lot of nervous energy – perhaps even moments of panic and desperation.  A struggle with negative energy is part and parcel of job seeking so we shouldn’t waste our energy fighting the negative aspects of this state.

 

public domain image

public domain image

Instead, we could find ways to bring out our positive energy, to ramp it up.  One way is to think about karma – what you put out into the world will be returned to you.  Karma comes from your actions and the intent behind your actions – it is cause and effect based on the way that your actions affect others.

 

In job search it is all too easy to get hung up on yourself – your worry and misery in attempting to secure a new job.  This focus on yourself might lead to small actions that affect others around you negatively, unintentionally.  On the other hand, in deliberately working to create positive energy or good karma there are usually many ways in a single day that you could positively affect someone that you encounter.  (Some of these ways have been co-opted by a Liberty Mutual commercial, or there are the pay-it-forward folks that buy your coffee at Starbucks.)

 

We all encounter countless strangers in our day, each of us wrapped up in whatever conundrum is currently uppermost in our thoughts, imagine if we each made a small effort to make these interactions positive moments.  I’ve been making a conscious effort to do so for the past year or so, and it really does make a difference in my overall energy.

 

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

Dealing with clutter

They say there are only 2 things that are certain in life; death, and taxes. I’m sure that there are any number of other things which could be added to that short list. My candidate for item number 3 on that list is clutter. Some might say that junk mail should be on that list as well, but then again, isn’t junk mail a subset of clutter?

And what about those machine-generated phone calls that we get on our answering machines? Or those software-generated emails that get sent to us only because we responded to a job posting on one of those job boards, which do not tell us whether or not we are being considered further for that job? These 2 types of clutter are not on a piece of paper.

 

To me, all of the examples above are some form of clutter. We have some choices when it comes to dealing with clutter. We can ignore it, and hope that it goes away. We can dispose of it. If we choose to ignore it, sooner or later it will get in our way again. When that happens, it becomes like that pesky project that you had to keep coming back to at one of your jobs.

 

The better alternative here is to deal with it. And we have ways of dealing with each of these forms of clutter. The “Delete” key is very useful for disposing with the machine-generated phone calls and software-generated emails. And junk mail eventually ends up in the trash, either directly, or via the shredder.

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But what do we job-seekers do with other kinds of clutter? There are those job postings that we responded to and subsequently printed off, in the hope that the prospective employer would contact us. That’s where a system for storing all of those forms and other documents can come in handy.

 

Finally, there’s that clutter which exists between our ears. It has nothing to do with our search for employment. To me, the best way to deal with this is to somehow get it out of our mind, either by forgetting it, entering it in a document on a computer, or by writing it on a piece of paper, to be retrieved later. Again, a system for storing what is written would be very helpful. Any system you choose. But keep in mind, even the best system for storing documents can have its flaws.

 

Now, I have to find the paper with the notes that I took from my most recent networking meeting. It’s on my desk somewhere. It’s somewhere among the clutter.

 

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.