Monthly Archives: July, 2014

What’s the Hold-Up?

How long does it take to make a decision, anyway?  Don’t they know they have you on pins and needles?  Even in 1999 when the job market was much more in my favor as a job seeker, it took about 3 weeks from first interview until the offer was made.  Not surprising then, that now that the job market is in the favor of the employers – and they have probably already waited too long to fill this position – that it can take 8 or more weeks to get the final thumbs up or down on a position.

 

Why is that?  Let us count some of the ways:

  • Hiring manager doesn’t have the time for the process/doesn’t allow enough time, same with others at the company involved in the hiring process
  • Trouble getting all good candidates scheduled for a stage in the process
  • Definition of the role changes during the process
  • Funding for the position changes during the process
  • Departmental objectives change during the process
  • Issues in other parts of the company affect the process
  • Meetings, vacations, etc. of the team involved in the hiring process
  • Challenges unrelated to hiring come up in the department, taking time away from the process

 

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Big Ben

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Big Ben

I could probably go on, but that isn’t necessary.  Time passes differently for the people at the company who have to carve out time from their regular tasks to attend to the hiring process and you.  Your primary focus is the job search, while filing the position is somewhere down the list for the hiring team.

 

We humans are generally not very good at estimating how long it should take to do a certain activity or task.  (This makes for interesting project management discussions when it comes to estimating time for a whole project, but that is a different topic.)  Add in any anticipation and our ability to estimate is further eroded.

 

Not fun to hear, but the only thing that the job seeker has control over here is how to handle the wait time.  How do you fill the time?

 

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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A Question about Autonomy

How much control do you like to have over your day?  Over the tasks that you perform?  Now, while you are searching for that next job, would be a good time to answer these questions for yourself.  It is good bet that there are questions built into the interviews that you go to that will determine the answer from the perspective of the hiring manager.  (I know that I do for certain.)

 

Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual (nice as that would be at certain stages) but some jobs are more structured than others, therefore more likely to have specific directions and expectations.  These jobs are suited to someone who is comfortable with low levels of autonomy.  Other jobs seem wide open to interpretation and better suited to someone who appreciates, and is capable of handling, a high level of autonomy.

Capture

I remember the first few moments after bringing my older son home from the hospital.  I had babysat for years and up until that moment felt confident that I could be a parent.  But in that moment I was pierced by a fear that someone messed up in letting me bring home this helpless being without checking on my skills with a newborn.  But the panic started to recede as I remembered the bits and pieces that I could do – I could change a diaper and feed the baby, these weren’t any different in a newborn than with the other babies I had watched.

 

My son became a toddler – when ‘me do’ is the anthem and autonomy is born.  From then on out the decision can be made – can/should I do this task or is it better for someone else to do?

 

My younger son has been doing work for various contractors recently.  Some want him to go ahead and move on to the next step without their input and some want him to just stop when he has completed the task that they assigned.  He is just as capable of doing the tasks in either situation and so better suited to the times when he is allowed to keep moving.

 

Sometimes it isn’t possible to find a job that provides the ideal level of autonomy so it helps to know what range you can tolerate without getting frustrated.  Or maybe there is a trade-off – less autonomy in one area but more of something else.  It still helps to know all of this about yourself going in.  All part of that ‘informed decision’ that we like to talk about these days.

 

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

Different problems, different people, different solutions

This past weekend, two of our appliances broke down. They were our lawn mower, and our gas grill. Two different people, myself, and my wife, had to make “spur of the moment” decisions on how to proceed with our different tasks. No, my wife was not attempting to mow our lawn; that is my job. Needless to say, her task was to cook two steaks, which she had hoped to use our grill for.

 

She had opened the valve to the propane gas tank, and was attempting to ignite the burner when she noticed a flame coming up along the outside of the front of the grill. She quickly closed the valve to the propane tank, which extinguished the flame, but not before it melted one of the two ignition knobs.

 

The immediate solution to her problem, that is, cooking two steaks, was simple; turn off the gas, take the steaks inside, cook them on our stove, and then tell me what had just happened.

 

The immediate solution to my problem was more complicated.

 

PictureOnly

 

The problem with the lawn mower was that the lower handle broke while I was actually mowing the lawn. The handle broke where it is connected to the upper handle, making it necessary to try to apply a quick fix so that I could complete the job. My first attempt, “plan A” if you will, was to cut the neck off of an empty plastic bottle, slip it onto the two parts of the broken handle, and clamp that assembly to the end of the upper handle. It fell off after about 3 feet of mowing. For my “plan B”, I used duck tape (remember the MacGyver television series?) instead of the clamp. That tape held up for most of the rest of the job, so my “plan C” was to put a thick, heavy glove on my hand, and physically hold those parts together while I mowed the last 20 feet of the lawn.

 

There were two different appliances, two different problems, and two different people, each with their own unique way to solve an immediate problem in order to complete a job.

 

In a way, both job-searching and networking are similar to the situations I just described. The tactic that works for those job-seekers who are in one line of work, say healthcare, might not work for those who are looking for a job in construction. This can also apply to those looking for jobs within the same line of work, because some may have more current skills than others.

 

Even though the long-range solution of a job search is to get employed, there is no “magic tactic” that will get you your next job. If there was, every job-seeker would be using it, and eventually, it would get overused, and job-seekers would have to start looking for another “magic tactic.”

 

Just like in a job-search, the long-range solutions for my two appliances both involve one thing: replacement. But that is the only similarity. The gas grill will be replaced, and maybe by one which uses charcoal. On the other hand, the replacement part for the lawn mower has been ordered, and should arrive next week.

 

So, for our two different problems, we have, again, and two different solutions.

 

 

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

Getting Good Counsel

By Cynthia Simmons

We all want to be right—on the right side of the argument, of the law, of the street even! And we all want people to agree with us. We want to have the best opinions, and to be respected as well-informed people.

But for me, at some point as an adult I recognized that honesty is superior to agreement. I mean, I can get sympathy most days from a good friend. But if I want honest and objective feedback, I need to present my situation, my problem, honestly and objectively.

This is leading to my argument that having friends who are different than I am is invaluable—friends who have different values, backgrounds, and preferences.

Most of us have heard the story of the six blind men and the elephant. (This is a teaching fable cited in many cultures.) Each of the blind men stood next to a different part of an elephant and was asked to describe what sort of creature it was.

elephant, kiryat-motzkin zoo (5) brighter(2)

The blind man by the elephant’s trunk, said it was like a snake. The one by a leg, said it was like a great tree. The one by the ear, said it was like a fan. And so on.

file0001097846332

Each one was both right and wrong, because what he knew was from feeling only part of the whole elephant.

 

Wisdom is gained from perspective. And perspective does not exist as a singular entity.

As you travel the unknown and uncertain territory of job search, seek out and befriend people who are different from you. You will gain treasured relationships that you may wish to maintain for many years into the future.

Consider that possibly living with only mirrors of your own images, values, and perspectives can be boring. And incomplete.

Instead of considering how limited each perspective was – that each blind man was blind to the whole picture, instead consider that each blind man experienced his own perspective and his own version of the truth. His own insight. Having friends with points of view that are different from yours teaches you malleability, flexibility, and plasticity in your thinking.

A case in point: I was puzzled about someone’s motivation for a particular action. It didn’t make sense to me, so I asked a relative who is older than I am and from another part of the country. Her explanation was, “Of course, that’s what some people do, because…” And then I thought, “Really? I would never do that!”

In a small way, I was enlightened, and my mind opened up to more possibilities.

file0001739728230 - add contrast (2)Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.
Photos credited to the morgueFile.com
© 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved.

Selling It

The condo unit directly below mine just went on the market for sale, and I’m watching closely to see how fast it sells and what the final sale price is. I don’t know these neighbors very well and I’ve never been in their unit, although I know that their floor plan is identical to mine. When I saw the For Sale sign in their window, I was curious to know not just what their asking price is, but also how the unit looks. So I went to their realtor’s website and pulled up the listing.

In addition to information about location, taxes, schools and asking price, there are 13 pictures. Several things struck me as I clicked through each picture. First, the unit is immaculately clean, so much so that I can see the tracks in the carpet from the vacuum cleaner. The kitchen and bathrooms are gleaming and it looks as though every room has been freshly painted. All good. On the other hand, some of the rooms look dated. The kitchen cabinets are the same ones I had before I remodeled my kitchen and the big front bathroom looks identical to mine, and mine is past its prime and needs to be remodeled.

After looking at the webpage for my neighbors’ home, I checked out a few other condos in the same price range. In particular I was curious to see the pictures. How was each owner “presenting” their home to the buying public? Some, frankly, were a disaster. Not just not updated, but barely cleaned. Others looked like model homes, with every room freshly painted, with updated fixtures and fresh-looking decor.

Every owner who puts their home on the market makes decisions about how to present it to the public. Clearly, not everyone is in a position, financially or timewise,  to completely update their house before selling it. On the other hand, some owners are choosing not to do any preparation at all, showing their homes in all their lived in, cluttered glory and ignoring “conventional wisdom” about how best to market a home.

Do you see any parallels to job search?

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 Subjective, Conditional Experience

Who knew when finally settled into a career trajectory that some decisions would have to be revisited?  If the original trajectory came about by happenstance or coincidence, as is certainly true for many of us, then a restart can be extra challenging.

 

What are the concrete, objective truths in job search?

 

First you need a new job, one that will pay enough to cover your current obligations and hopefully leave something to allow for new ones.  But from there it gets highly subjective – a new job on the familiar trajectory (same title, different company), or go in a different direction?  How to go about looking?  And so on.

 

You need to create a resume.  Dig in and it again becomes subjective – chronological or functional format?  How far to go back?  Dates or no dates?  LinkedIn profile?  How about a picture?  And so on.

busy office

Each person that you talk to assures you that they are sharing the absolute truth.  I could list off what I like to see when I am reading resumes.  I could tell you what I think has been successful for me.  But so can everyone else, and many answers will exactly contradict a previous one.

 

Some offer professional advice.  They have found a job through the sheer volume of job seekers.  What are their qualifications?  Do they have a list of references?  This area is fraught with fraud, unfortunately.

 

But the truth is complicated and highly individualized.  What turns out to be your truth can be just the wrong thing for someone else.  And the opposite as well.  Job search is a subjective and highly conditional experience.  Which doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep your eyes and ears open for some nugget of useful information.  It does mean that you will have to develop your own vetting process for all that information, all that truth from others.

 

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

Time Constraints, or Spokes, Within your Weekdays

It’s summer now, that time of the year when the weather is usually nicer than it is during the winter. That time of the year when you can look forward to doing all of those fun activities outside, such as having a picnic, going to the beach, gardening, taking a hike in a nearby forest preserve, or riding your bicycle somewhere. Of course, you are confining these activities to the weekends. After all, you have reserved the weekdays for looking for your next job, or, figuring out your next career move, haven’t you?

So, what are your weekdays like?

BicycleWheels

In the picture above, I have placed 2 circles, both with lines in them. I like to think of the circles as bicycle wheels, and the lines inside the circles as spokes.

My analogy regarding the above picture goes something like this. Each of the spokes represents some time constraint. Examples of time constraints are, any meals that you eat during the day, and, of course, the time that you sleep during the night. Those are the basic time constraints. Unlike the picture above, these are not all the same size. The amount of time you sleep at night is not equal to the time it takes for you to eat a single meal.

Other time constraints could be anything you have to do during the day which you have no control over, or things that you have to do which are not related to your job search, such as taking your children to and from any of their activities, or mowing the lawn, if it rained throughout the previous weekend.

Here, a job interview would be a time constraint because a job-seeker usually does not have much input as to what time the interview will be. And, like everyone else, we have to watch out for those “spokes” which can either “move”, and/or “get bigger”.

The space between the spokes represents that time in which you are free to pursue your career interests, such as learning a new skill for your next job, or just to take a little time for yourself, also known as “me time”.

As you might be able to guess, the circle on the left represents a day where you can be more focused than the day represented by the circle on the right.

Which of these two categories would networking meetings fall under? If you do not have any control over the time of the meeting it might fall under the “spokes” category; otherwise, it would fall under the “free space” category. Feel free to put the meeting in the “free space” category if you can determine the meeting time (like in a 1 on 1 networking meeting).

Once again, what are your weekdays like? Do they allow you to get organized and focused? And do you allow yourself to get organized and focused? Or do you have to squeeze your job-searching activities in between those “spokes”?

I don’t know about you, but I have to work at keeping my days looking like the circle on the left.

“Dave Vandermey is a web developer.”

Mistakes, Forgiveness And Moving On

Have you heard? LeBron James is going back to Cleveland. I’m joking, of course. Unless you’ve been, as the saying goes, living in a cave, you can’t help but be aware that basketball star LeBron has chosen to return to Cleveland. This was a big, big deal when it was announced Friday, so much so that by the end of the day I was ready to scream “Enough, already.”

The Backstory: James grew up in Akron, part of the area called Northeast Ohio that also includes Cleveland. He was, apparently, the best high school player in the country and instead of going to college, he jumped directly to the pros, where he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played for the Cavs for seven years and was considered not just a great player but a hometown hero. Then, in 2010, as a free agent, he chose to leave Cleveland to play for the Miami Heat, saying “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” This was not a popular decision, to put it mildly, and James was excoriated by Cleveland fans, sports reporters and bloggers, fellow pro players and most famously, by the owner of the Cleveland Cavs.

The Letter: Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was so angry at James that he published an open letter to fans on the Cavs’ website and it’s a doozy, describing James and his decision as narcissistic, a cowardly betrayal, a shameful display of selfishness and a heartless, callous action. Yikes. Gilbert also promised this: “I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled ‘King’ wins one. You can take it to the bank.” (One of the biggest clues that James was coming back happened the previous Sunday, when the Cavs deleted the letter from their website.)

The Miami Years: So what happened? In the four years he played for Miami, James led the Heat to the NBA finals four times, won the championship twice and this year, lost to the San Antonio Spurs. Cleveland won zero championships during that time. Now once again a free agent, James is returning to Cleveland where he will once again work for Dan Gilbert and play for the Cavs.

The Reconciliation: All appears to be forgiven. James and Gilbert have kissed and made up, figuratively speaking, with James acknowledging that he made mistakes and Gilbert saying they had five great years together blighted by just one terrible night. Oddsmakers are calling Cleveland the team to beat next year. With Johnny Manziel drafted by the Cleveland Browns and the Republicans choosing Cleveland for their 2016 convention, it’s moonlight and roses in Cleveland right now.

The Lessons: Screw ups, even big ones, can be recovered from. Seeing the ecstatic joy of Cleveland fans at the return of the prodigal son, it’s easy to forget that four years ago, James was one of the most unpopular athletes in the country. Team owners, like jilted lovers and rejected job seekers, should think twice before publishing their “screw you” missives for all the world to see. In particular, don’t “guarantee” something that almost certainly won’t happen. Circumstances change, people mature and learn from their mistakes, a better outcome down the road is almost always possible.

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

Alternative Avenues to Search

We all know about networking, LinkedIn and job boards as regular methods to seek out a new job.  Plenty of people are making these rounds.  One person at the last networking event that I went to, which I mentioned in a previous post, reminded me of these two alternative avenues to test out.

 

Twitter is mentioned daily in connection to this or that celebrity which makes most of us see it as a light entertainment directed venue.  But there is more to it, once you start to look into this particular social media format.  Plenty of companies have jumped on this band wagon and some have started to use this as a means to search out new talent.

 

public domain vintage image of 5th Ave by Karen Arnold

public domain vintage image of 5th Ave by Karen Arnold

Now you don’t have to be out there tweeting away, you just need to set up a profile that sketches out the most pertinent of your skills.  You are ready to start searching for company tweets of job postings.  Oftentimes these jobs haven’t been shared with other mediums yet because the companies are testing social media savvy of candidates.  You can get a jump on the pack by having a presence on and searching this arena.

 

(It is also a great place to research a company by checking out their Tweet feed.)

 

Toastmasters is an international group with local clubs that helps people to foster speaking and leadership skills.  Many larger companies have set up corporate clubs which are closed to outsiders, unless you are a Toastmaster.  As a Toastmaster member of your own local club, you can ask to be a guest at any other Toastmaster club.

 

The benefits of Toastmasters then, are at least two fold – you can work on important job related skills like speaking and leadership as well as get the opportunity to personally get to know Toastmaster members at a company where you would like to work.  How great is that?

 

You never know how you will get your next job.  My own most unusual method was the time that I went to get a library card and wound up with a circulation desk clerk job too.  I just happened to have been talking about how much I love libraries with the head librarian.  I know people who have leveraged Toastmaster guest visits to turn into contract positions.

 

Additional avenues to search are a plus.

 

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

Looking for Help in all of the Wrong Places

I’ve recently had to re-learn that wonderful art of using my fore-finger while simultaneously using my thumb to do that on a computer keyboard which is much easier done with a computer mouse. This is the result of having a somewhat skittish or overactive computer mouse, and my either being too cheap to buy a new one, or too lazy to try fixing the current one.

 

I say that I had to re-learn this art because my first laptop had a small, red ball squeezed in between the “G”, “H”, and “B” keys. Back then, I got to be pretty good using my fingers in conjunction with that ball.

 

The symptoms I have been experiencing with this computer mouse the past few weeks have ranged from things opening up when I simply “mouse over” them to the left mouse button just not doing anything when I click on it. And then there’s what I go through with it when playing Free Cell and Solitaire.

 

As a result, I’m getting better acquainted with the “Touchpad”, the “left click button”, and the “right click button” on my current laptop. Maybe now the batteries in my computer mouse (it’s a cordless mouse) just might start lasting a little longer.

 

My attempts at trying to solve one of these problems has been something like; going to “Mouse Properties” via the control panel, and then trying to change the double-click speed of the mouse in the “buttons” tab. I tried several speeds in that scale; none of them worked.

 

Finally, I turned to that one hyperlink where I know I can get some help for this kind of thing, Google, typed in what it was I needed help with, and hit the “Enter” key. Voila, a whole slew of hyperlinks to choose from. The first one I clicked on gave me the help I needed. The solution which that webpage directed me to was in “Mouse Properties”, but then it directed me to go into the “Device Settings” tab (and then to disable the tapping feature), and not the “Buttons” tab.

 

What I needed was right under my nose; I was just looking in the wrong place.

 

In our job searches, we sometimes look for help in the wrong places. We overlook the obvious, whether it be a person, or place, or piece of information which could turn out to be most helpful. We even search far and wide, when what we need just might be right under our nose.

  

Picture

 

And sometimes we just spin our wheels, thinking that our answer will magically appear if we just dig a little deeper, instead of seeking outside help.

 

For those of you who have felt ignored when you have offered your help to someone else, take heart, and try not to be offended. It is not personal. The person you wanted to help just might have had too many things going on. Or he might have received too much information at one time. (See my blog post of June 25, on information overload.) Or he may have been searching far and wide.

 

In the short time since I applied the fix described above, I have not had anything open up when I simply “mouse over” it. And the mouse works just fine when I play Free Cell and Solitaire.

 

Now, about that left mouse button… back to Google.

 

 

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.