Author Archive: dvandermey

She was there, A Tribute to Mom

She was there. My Mother. For us.

 

For all of the birthdays that my three siblings and I had as children, she was there. For all of the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners that she cooked.

 

She was there.

 

For the year that she served as the Den Mother of our Cub Scout Den when I was in fifth grade.

 

She was there.

 

For the three years that my two older siblings and I were taking piano lessons, she was there, getting after us to practice, practice, and practice some more, and putting up with all of the wrong notes I hit on that piano.

 

She was there.

 

The lesson she taught me here, which can be applied to any of my job-seeking experiences was to “be persistent”.

Mother&Child

One time when I really needed her, she was there.

 

This particular time occurred when I was in grade school. I had an assignment for my sixth grade Social Studies class that was due one Monday. It involved drawing pictures on a special type of construction paper. The pictures were to have something to do with life on the plantations of the southern states in the early 19th century, before the Civil War. The problem was that I forgot to bring home that special construction paper with me on Friday afternoon. Of course, I compounded the problem by not realizing that I did not have that special paper until Sunday night. The one thing I did right that Sunday night was that I told Mom of my problem. She thought about it for a few minutes, then came up with a solution.

 

Her solution was to draw the pictures out on ordinary paper with a pencil, which I think she did. (She was much better at drawing things than I was.) Then, she went and got a roll of wax paper. She had me place the wax paper over the pictures she had just drawn. She then took a pencil and traced the pictures onto the wax paper. The objective here was for me to take that wax paper to school with me the next morning, then re-trace those pictures on to the special construction paper, then actually re-draw those pictures, which I did, despite the comments and snickers that I heard from some of my classmates while doing this during my first classes that morning. I was able to complete that assignment, on time, because she was there for me when I needed her.

 

From this experience, I learned to not hesitate to ask for help.

 

Another time, also during that same school year, I had a writing assignment for my English class. I don’t remember the specific requirements of this assignment. All I can remember is that it was to be about someone in our everyday life. In my draft of this assignment, I had some negative things to say about one of our next-door neighbors, who, at that time, I was not getting along with. When she looked at it, she told me to change the tone of what I was writing from a negative tone to a positive one, and suggested that I start out by writing about a little girl with a “sunshiny smile” (my younger sister), which I did. I got an “A” on that assignment, because she was there to correct me.

 

The lesson for any of my job-seeking experiences here was to try to look at things in a positive way.

 

She was also there in the months immediately following my graduation from college, encouraging me to get my first post-college jobs by going through the “Help Wanted” ads, a job-searching tactic I held on to way too long.

 

For all of those other memories, both remembered and forgotten, for all of the happier times as well as the sad times.

 

She was there.

 

She passed away this past January.

 

She is in a better place now, and I’d like to think that heaven is just a little bit better now, because, she is there.

 

 

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

 

 

Christmas will still come, so relax

Welcome to the Christmas rush, that time of the year when we have to deal with all of those distractions associated with Christmas. I will list some of them; putting up the tree, decorating the tree, putting up the outside Christmas lights, shopping for Christmas presents, baking Christmas cookies, cleaning the house, decorating the house, putting up with rude shoppers, dealing with family members who nag you to give them your Christmas wish list, sending out Christmas cards to friends you haven’t seen in years, and hearing phrases such as “Black Friday” and “companies are hiring” too many times.

Ok, that last phrase is one that only us job-seekers will hear, or at least pay attention to. While I might want to challenge those who say that companies are hiring by asking them to start naming those companies, I understand their reason for saying that. They are trying to tell job-seekers to not let up in their efforts to find their next job.

Something that is hard to do for those job-seekers who have to endure any, or all, of those distractions I listed earlier. In fact, trying to keep up the job-searching efforts while dealing with everything else is enough to drive a job-seeker insane, or make him feel drawn-and-quartered.

I will start with this one-word suggestion that a professional football quarterback told his teammates when the team was about to play its fourth game this season, with only 1 win to its credit; “Relax”.

MerryChristmasCandle

I will add to this advice. Christmas will come. Think of the peace that comes with that day, or the day after, when you realize that you do not have to perform those “extra activities” we do during the Christmas season. At least, not until next year.

I will also suggest that we job-seekers start thinking about each of those “extra activities”, and ask ourselves “Will this Christmas be less merry if this activity is not on our “to-do” list. (Do not delete buying presents, unless you have a spouse who is willing to do it for you; but then, you still have to buy presents for that spouse. And, if your family is not hosting Christmas dinner, that’s already one thing you don’t have to do.)

I have 2 suggestions for items which can be deleted; putting up the outside Christmas lights, and baking four, five, or six batches of cookies, or however many batches you bake.

First, the outside lights. Last year, I was unable to put up the outside Christmas lights, due to an early snowfall.

But Christmas still came, and was a merry one for us.

This brought back memories of those Christmases my family had when I was in grade school. Back in those days, people who lived in our neighborhood did not put up outside Christmas lights. I do not know why they did not do this.

But Christmas still came.

Second, I believe that we can get by with 1 or 2 less batches of cookies than we normally do.

Again, back in my grade school days, my Mom would bake cookies at Christmas time. I don’t remember how many batches of cookies she baked each year. Because she was a stay-at-home Mom, and not looking for a job, she could bake several batches of cookies without worrying about the amount of time she had left for all of the other activities. She knew that I liked to eat cookies, so she gave me a recipe for spritz cookies when I moved out of my parent’s house. I have baked these cookies at Christmas time ever since. However, I do not know if I will be baking those cookies this year.

But Christmas will still come, and it will be merry.

Maybe you have some other ideas of those “extra activities” that you can drop from your list of things to do. If so, good for you.

And remember, Christmas will still come, and it will still be merry.

Merry Christmas!
Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

Make your choice

Finally, the month of October is here. I realize that the month is almost over. But I must say that it is my favorite month in my favorite season of the year. One of the things that I like about this month is that the leaves on the trees are turning those beautiful colors of yellow, orange, brown, or bright red. I don’t like having to rake them before I mow our lawn, but I do like that this means that the end of the lawn-mowing season is near.

October brings with it, of course, Halloween. It also brings with it, at least in even-numbered years, this thing we call an “election”. It is true; elections for political office actually take place during the first week in November. But since the month is October, it means we are in the midst of an election campaign season. What this really means is that on or about November 10 we will not be receiving any more of those campaign ads (or, as we might call them “handbills”) in the mail. It also gives us hope that we might not be receiving, on our answering machines, those robocalls telling us to vote for this candidate, or against that one, by Thanksgiving.

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“Vote, and the choice is yours; don’t vote, and the choice is theirs”, is what I remember hearing on the radio during one of our country’s presidential election campaigns years ago. That is the point of this week’s posting. That message, years ago, was simple. You have a choice. You can choose to vote for this candidate or that candidate. You can even vote early. Or you can choose to not vote at all.

For us job-seekers, this is a kind of role-reversal. This is the one time we get to pass judgment on a candidate for a job, just like Recruiters, Hiring Managers, and Human Resource professionals pass judgment on us job-seekers when we apply to one of their jobs.

One similarity is this. They receive résumés and cover letters from us, just like we receive campaign ads in the mail. The difference here is; we don’t have to read the campaign ads before we deposit them in the wastebasket. What those who receive our cover letters and résumés do with them is anyone’s guess.

One thing we don’t do is this; we never put any negative comments about ourselves in our handbills, résumés and cover letters. And candidates for public office never say anything bad about themselves. Their competition will gladly do that.

I would like to ask this question. What if we “campaigned” for our next job in the same way that politicians campaign for their “jobs”?

Think of it. Our handbills would look like those paper campaign ads that we receive in the mail. Not only could we give reasons why a company should hire us, we could also try to give reasons why that same company should NOT hire any of our competition. Of course, since we do not know the name(s) of our competition, we would have to refer to our competition simply as “our competition”.

Or, to switch things around, what if politicians campaigned for public office the same way we “campaign” for our jobs? The content of each of their handbills (oops, I meant “campaign ads”) would be cut in half, because they would not be bashing their competition. This would also decrease the frequency of their mailings. It is something to think about.

So, are you voting, or, are you not voting? Make your choice.

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

Are You Selling What They Want?

Are you selling a product that an employer will want to buy, and do you have enough of what that employer wants?

Allow me to switch gears here.

Have you ever been to a major-league baseball game? If you have, did you ever notice those people inside the ballpark who carry those trays in front of them with all sorts of food and snacks to sell? (We often refer to them as ballpark vendors.)

I’ll bet you’re wondering why I would be writing about ballpark vendors in a blog that is to be read by job-seekers, especially when it’s October and the regular major-league baseball season is over.

Here is my analogy. You, the job-seeker, are a ballpark vendor, and your target employers are the fans at the major-league baseball game.

Vendor_02

There are some differences here. First, ballpark vendors usually will have only one or two different items in their tray, while a job-seeker can have many skills that he is trying to “sell” to a potential employer. Second, on any given day, a vendor’s “target market”, can number well into the hundreds, or even the thousands. I doubt that most job-seekers have a list of “specific” target companies that is more than one or two hundred. Third, we job-seekers research companies before putting them on our list of target companies. The ballpark vendor does not have to do this; to him, you become part of his potential target market just by showing up at the ballpark. Fourth, when researching potential target companies, we job-seekers attend various networking meetings and use our networks to find out information about those companies. Ballpark vendors simply yell out what it is that they’re selling, and leave it up to you, the prospective buyer, to decide if you want to buy that item.

Finally, when a vendor runs out of an item, that person simply goes and gets more of that item. On the other hand, we job-seekers have to learn new skills that potential employers may be looking for.

Let’s go back to the items being sold. The ballpark vendor is simply trying to sell something which can be consumed. You, the job-seeker, are trying to sell your “skills”. If the potential employer does not need someone with your skills, you are not going to be able to sell anything to that employer, just like the vendor will not be able to sell a customer anything to drink if that customer is not thirsty.

If that same employer is looking for someone with a skill that you have, but wants someone who is “more experienced” with that skill than you are, or who has other skills that you don’t have, you also will not be able to “sell” to that employer. A ballpark vendor will not be able to sell one-half of a hotdog to someone who wants a whole hotdog.

So, if your skills stack up very well to those jobs that you are trying to get, then you have something to sell to your target companies. Go out and network to try to get into those companies. If not, you have two options. Add to your skill set, or change your career direction.

Now, do you have enough of the skills that your target employers want?

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

When did you complete your college degrees?

So, in what year did you earn your latest degree?

Both this question and the title of this post assume that readers are likely to have more than 1 college degree; that is why I am using the plural and the superlative here.

Here is my reason for opening this post with that question. Shortly before a recent job interview, I received an email from that prospective employer in which they stated something like this; “You do not have graduation dates on any of the education you have listed”, and subsequently, they asked for that information.

I must point out that I did not include the years that my degrees were completed on the resume that I had sent them, because I had been advised some time ago that it is better to leave the year that a degree was earned off of the resume if it was not recent. No need to shoot yourself in the foot if you don’t have to. (I realize that this may send up a “red flag” to a prospective employer, but to me, the main purpose of a resume is to help a job-seeker get a job interview, and not disqualify that person from one.) But because they asked for that information, and because I did not want to appear to be un-cooperative, I gave it to them in my reply to that email.

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Within 2 days of that interview, I received an email informing me that they had selected another candidate, who probably was more qualified for that position than I was.

I am not complaining here; I’m just using this as an example to prove that leaving the year a degree was completed off of a resume may actually help a job-seeker get a job interview. I still believe that it’s impossible to get a job without first going through the interview process.

Back to the advice I mentioned earlier in this blog post. First, the word “recent” needs to be defined. Some people may draw the line between recent and ancient at the 10-year mark; others may draw it at the 5, or even the 3 year mark. This assumes that the most recent degree is relevant to the job that a prospective employer is trying to fill.

Second, as far as I’m concerned, there really isn’t much difference between a degree that was earned in the 1970’s and that same degree earned after the year 2000. There are some exceptions to this. One exception would be a degree in history, since it’s always being added to. Other fields whose degrees and qualifications could change over time would be the technical fields, such as Information Technology, and health care.

Others may disagree, but in my opinion, a liberal arts degree is a liberal arts degree, no matter when it’s earned.

Now again, in what year did you complete that last degree?

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

Have we really simplified some things during the last few decades?

I believe there are some instances, in job-searching as well as in other things, where the following statement applies. “The more we try to simplify some things, the more difficult they become”.

Allow me to explain.

Below is a picture of 2 television sets. One television set is new, and the other one isn’t. It shouldn’t be too difficult to determine which one is the older of the two. (Here’s a hint; it is the one with the 2 circular dials, and the 2 small knobs on the front of it.)

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The purpose of this week’s blog post is to comment on the changes in the way we do certain things today; as compared to the way we did those same things about the time that the television set on the left was bought.

The television set on the left does not have a stand attached to it, (and never needed it) while the television set on the right cannot stand on its own without one. This leads to the fact that anyone purchasing a TV set today is at the mercy of whoever writes the instructions on how to assemble a TV stand, and then, to connect it to the actual television set. While I can claim to be at least a little bit mechanically inclined, and to have studied a few foreign languages between high school and college, I haven’t quite been able to translate those small pictures and symbols that appear in an instruction manual. A few more words in the illustrations that are in manuals would help.

The television set on the left was simple. After you bought it and brought it home, you simply hooked it up to your antenna, plugged it in, and started watching it. Cable TV came a few years later, and sometime after that, we began using a “remote” control.

Now, with the new television set, I have to use another “remote” control in addition to the one I used for the old TV.

Just as things have changed in the way we set up our TV’s, so have things changed in the way we search for jobs.

I was “in transition” for one month during the year before I bought that old TV, and because I still have a good memory, I also have a pretty good idea about what a job-seeker had to go through back then.

The most prominent difference between then and now is the way a person looked for a job that actually existed. Back then, a job-seekers’ primary source for job leads was in the classified section of the local newspapers. When you found a job that you liked and felt you were qualified for, you looked at the contact information in the ad, and either called the phone number that they listed, or you mailed them your cover letter and resume.

In today’s world, the equivalent operation for a job-seeker going after positions that exist goes something like this. You now have to look for those jobs on the internet, and then submit your resume electronically. If you have an account with a job board, you might even have an electronic “agent” which can send you an alert when jobs are posted which ask for those same skills you listed with your “agent”. And if you are lucky while responding to one of these job postings, the company receiving your information might not swamp you with a whole bunch of behavioral questions.

Maybe my opening statement should have been, “The more someone tries to simplify some things, the more difficult those things become for everyone else”.

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

Does the “Glove” fit?

I’ll start with this question. Do your winter gloves have to fit perfectly? I’m sure you are wondering why I am asking about gloves, and winter gloves at that, during September, when it is still summer. I’ll use a job-searching experience to explain.

At one point during a job interview in a previous job search, my interviewer made an unsolicited statement that went something like this: “what I am trying to do is to see if the ‘glove’ fits”. In my opinion, what he was saying might have been something like this: “what I am trying to do is to see if you would be a perfect fit with our department”. I don’t remember if his comment was the prelude to the “skill” or to the “behavioral” questions part of the interview. Incidentally, that interview occurred in either September or October.

I will answer the one question which I think you might be asking now. I did not get that job.

Sometime after that interview, I thought up this hypothetical situation. Imagine that you are about to go outdoors in the middle of winter, and you know that it is freezing cold outside. You know you will need to put on a pair of gloves. But because you do not have a pair of gloves that fits perfectly, you have to choose between two pairs of gloves. One of the pairs of gloves is too small for your hands, and the other pair is too large. Now, which pair would you choose?

Gloves

The survival instinct within me would tell me to put on the pair that is too large, and never mind waiting for a pair of gloves which fits perfectly to suddenly materialize from somewhere. Or, just stay indoors, unless I want to have frost-bitten fingers and hands.

In our job searches, we often have to settle for a job which does not have us using all of the skills that we would like to use. In addition, we often find ourselves working for an employer that does not quite have 100% of the characteristics that we would like our ideal employer to have. And for those jobs that we do not get, we have to graciously assume that we did not have enough of the skills that the prospective employer had on its wish list. Therefore, occasionally we have to make some adjustments.

This is normal, because, after all, we are human beings. In our job-searches, we sometimes have to pretend that we are like most species of chameleons, and change the color of our parachutes (a.k.a. our objectives and our tactics). This is especially true if our financial situation dictates that we do so.

On the other side of the coin, or rather, the interview table, what are the employer’s options when they cannot find that perfectly-fitting “glove” for their department? Since I neither worked in Human Resources, nor made their hiring policies, and am not a mind-reader, I can only speculate about what those options might be. I’m sure their options dwindle when they get desperate, as does the likelihood that they’ll use the “do nothing” option. But then again, that is only speculation.

Maybe that “larger glove”, in the form of an “over-qualified” person, just might be a better fit for a company after all.

Again, the question, “Do your winter gloves have to fit perfectly”?

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

High-lighting the Important Information

These days it is inevitable that job-seekers, like everyone else, will spend time looking at web pages. Web pages, like the other things we read, can be informative. Unlike most other things that we read on paper, web pages can also be very colorful in the way that information can be displayed, or high-lighted.

But remember, the information the author thinks is important, as well as the way that information is displayed, may be different than what the reader thinks is important. How that important information is displayed in the text, no matter what that text is on, might not be perceived as important by the reader.

Here is an example:

An instruction manual for one of my recent projects used black text on a gray background to emphasize something important. Since it also used black text on a gray background for titles and sub-headings, I gave it about as much importance as one gives a footnote in a novel or history book. In other words, I did not give it much attention at all. Big mistake! Fortunately I caught this mistake soon enough, and was able to correct the installation within a couple of days, at a cost of about 6.5 hours.

How do you determine which information is important, and which information is not important, when you read text books, installation manuals, job postings, or web pages?

Do you simply go by how differently (either in bold or in italics) the information is displayed on the page? Or does something in a larger (or smaller) font size, or a different color, catch your eyes?

One of the things I like about reading the blog posts on this website is that the color of the text is black, and the background color is in white. The only color variations are the titles, which appear to be in the “teal” color, (and larger, too) and the pictures.

I have to admit to being “old-fashioned”, having learned to read books whose printed text was black on white, and also, somewhat visually challenged, wearing trifocals. The glasses help, but I still have to make frequent use of the “ctrl” & “plus” key combination in order to make the text large enough, even when I read text on any website. However, I am not to the point where I have to ask for the large-print bulletin at church.

Have you noticed that some web pages display text in print that is hard to read because it is too small?

I’m not sure if this is because they are trying to put as much text as possible on the web page so that you don’t have to scroll down much in order to read the entire page, or, if it is because they don’t want you to read those items that they feel obligated to put on the page (also known as a disclaimer, or “the fine print”).

When I first started using the internet, I naively thought that from that time on small print would only be found in the classified ad sections of newspapers, and in legal documents. Unfortunately, that is not true.

So, again, how do you determine which information is more important, and which information is not important, on each of the various items that you read?

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

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.

 

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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.

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.”