Category Archives: Communication

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.

 

 

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Presenting the same words, but providing a different experience

This summer, I read through the first six Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels on my aging Kindle e-reader. I read the seventh episode, ’Goldfinger’ in a paperback format from my local library.

With the e-reader, the first six novels were presented in a very consistent manner – the font was always the same, page clarity was the same, and being digital, they all weighed the same and shared the same physical dimensions of the e-reader.

The paperback book, I noticed, provided much more character.  I could tell by the seasoned cover that this specific book had been called upon many times, and had come through with all of its pages intact.  Its pages were yellowed, and my sense of smell got involved as I sensed its accumulated dust.  As I came across a folded page, I knew someone had paused there, with the intent of returning at a later time.  These dynamics are not provided through the e-reader.

Public Domain Image

I am not making a ‘new tech vs. old tech’ comparison.  Had I bought a brand-new paperback, I’d be aware that no one else had previously walked through its pristine, crisp, pages, and I’d hear the binding’s stretching sound when first opened (which could easily turn into a crackling sound if opened too wide).  A brand-new edition needs to be read many times before it can display the features of my loaned library paperback.  Each paper book represents itself in a different way, although each contains the same text. That same text is, again, represented differently through the e-reader.  Neither of these three formats is necessarily better, and at different times, I’ll prefer one of these three formats over the other two.

Although your resume lists your achievements, the ‘why’ and ‘how’ you embarked on them are generally left out due to space constraints.  However, these points explain your motivation, who you are, and how you may fit into the hiring company’s culture. Other applicants may have similar text regarding their accomplishments, but no one has your specific history or motivations.

The better you can convey a sense of who you are, within your resume or on-line profile, the more you will stand out, because that is what will set you apart from other applicants. Before focussing upon this point, I heard (more than once) the following during a phone screening: “Although I liked your resume, now that I am talking to you, I see there is so much more to you than came across there.”

Do you believe the words on your resume, or online profile, do a good job of reflecting WHO you are, along with your accomplishments?

Allan Channell is a new ‘Blog to Work’ contributor.  He has experience in software development, project management, and has interests in communications, Tai Chi, and humor.

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.)

CaptureOf_2014_0908

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.

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

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

Hitting the Right Note

What does it take to be that best candidate, the one that gets the job offer?  We have to hit all the right notes, of course.  What are the right notes?  Having the right skills, certainly, but there are plenty of intangible parts too.   A big part of the job search is that feeling of wanting to be liked, to fit in.

 

“Be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of another writer.”

~ David Morrell

 

Let’s substitute the word candidate or perhaps professional for writer in this quote and it suits my point.  Sometimes when we want to be liked to fit in, we attempt to do or be something that is already acceptable to the group.  Something that might not really be true to ourselves.

 

When I started a job shortly after my divorce years ago they already had a Beth in the department so they asked me if they could call me Beth Anne.  Now Anne is my middle name and I use it when writing, but it is silent.  Beth Anne is what my mom said when she was pretty mad and almost at the point of using all three of my names.  Wanting to be liked and fit in, I agreed to let everyone at my new office call me Beth Anne.  And it quickly grated on my ears.  And then I had to backtrack and tell them it wasn’t ok, after realizing that I hadn’t agreed to a short term thing.

 

I did fit in just fine with that group and we made a joke that I was the other Beth and the first Beth started to tell everyone she was the better Beth.  It would have been ok to tell them I didn’t use the Anne every day.

musical note

I like to fit in just as much as anyone else.  But I remind myself that fitting in is a two way consideration and my part is to be comfortable and confident with the self I am in that workplace.  Interviewing isn’t about being the perfect candidate.  It is a chemistry experiment – testing if the various components will mix together to create something wonderful and sustainable.  Or, to tie back to my title – it is composing a song with all the right instruments to develop the tone that you mean to convey.

 

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

Lessons Learned Volunteering

By Cynthia Simmons

I learned important lessons that have stood me in good stead since years ago when I did my first big volunteer project. I worked very hard and had good results to show for my efforts, but the public fame went to someone else. I had a co-chair and partner, who was equally and also ignored.

The first lesson I learned is –Whenever I volunteer, I need to know why I am doing it. I set my own goals. Usually my goals are to learn how to do something new and to support a cause I believe in. As time passes, I check in with myself to judge whether I think my efforts will be fruitful.

Here’s my story:

I had just finished night school classes for my BA and MA degrees and was searching around for my career path. I still needed to finish some research papers and to take my oral exam for my master’s. I spent a couple of months writing papers and studying.

As a treat for myself, I signed up for a pottery class at the local art center. That decision opened up new doors for me. I started hanging out with some artists, got myself a sketchbook, and some time later found myself co-chairing an arts festival.

Over a spring and summer I spent many, many hours working on the production of the arts festival. The event was set for the second weekend in August.

The beginning point was a logo. My instincts told me to look at the portfolio of a textile designer because most of the visual artists I was meeting at the art center created drawings, paintings, clay pots, or sculpture of some sort. A textile designer “felt” right. After spending an hour and a half reviewing her portfolio, there it was–a textile design that totally made sense as a logo for the event–a man and a woman dancing beneath a tree.

Design by Almuth Palinkas

© Almuth Palinkas

The next step was to recruit artists. We advertised our event and stated that artists needed to provide three slides by the submission deadline. We developed and printed an artist recruitment poster and a prospectus. During the summer, my co-chair and I visited local art fairs to informally jury and invite artists to show at our festival. The goal was a fine arts festival rather than a craft festival.

And of course, before the artist recruitment publicity was finished, we needed to begin to publicize our festival to the general public. That meant more press releases, and another poster.

As the event drew near there were long lists of small details to consider. We had about a hundred artists exhibiting, and at least twenty volunteers to run the festival. The art center shared the grounds with a music school; the music school scheduled on-going concerts for the Saturday and Sunday. The building was being restored; another group of volunteers was trained to give tours of the house.

The weekend of our festival, the weather was great. We drew a good crowd. The artists were happy. I was so very proud.

A couple of days afterward, our town newspaper had a full-page article on our festival with photos and thank you’s to…

You know what happened. The volunteers who ran the event existed as a faceless, nameless crowd.  Only the three paid staffers were named as having organized the festival.  And the two official co-chairs were the town mayor and the biggest donor.

(Two paid staffers were very new at working with volunteers and didn’t think to give the reporter volunteer names. Hopefully those staffers grew and learned their own lessons.)

Fortunately, on the Festival Program we had our titles and were recognized.

So here are the lessons I learned:

Know that when you do good work that you believe in, sometimes that is your only reward. If you seek to add professional credentials or projects to your resume, make that clear when you start to volunteer.

Know that people like to be recognized and thanked. Since that experience of being ignored, I have always tried, both publicly and privately, to acknowledge any individual contributions to a group effort and to say “Thank you!” unmistakably, loud and clear!

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

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

Getting It Wrong, and Then Getting It Right.

By Cynthia Simmons

We all hear the tips, tricks, networking secrets, expert advice from executive recruiters and job coaches. And, yes, from our friends, former co-workers, relatives (mothers, parents, older siblings, younger ones), and any authority figures in our vicinities – be they geographically proximate, or daily electronic companions communicating from afar. We are getting a superabundance of help and advice. A superfluity of advice.

Having only one pair of eyes, we can look in only one direction at a time. And we can walk in only one direction at a time. But if we are constantly turning and defying our physical limitations, are we turning in circles? Maybe even standing still? Perhaps even, stuck?

So, today, I am addressing some ways in which the job search can fail. How you can fail your job search.

Here’s how to fail:

  • Not apply for jobs.
  • See a job and sit and think about it until you feel inspired enough to write a convincing pitch letter to send as your cover letter. Wait several days… a week, a month?
  • Not send a cover letter at all with your resume.
  • Write your resume, cover letter, and application, bless them, and send them out into the world, alone, and then never follow up.
  • Never call to find out the hiring cycle. Never even take the time to hunt for someone who knows someone who knows… the hiring manager, or at least some person at the company you are courting.

Speaking of courting—job search is a courtship.

Know that.

And know that, like the reasons that fellow never called you or that girl wouldn’t give you her number, you may never know why you weren’t hired or even called for an interview.

dancing-shoes-v8 crop

St. Valentine’s Date Night Shoes

Your best choices are to gather up your confidence, put on your dancing shoes, and be ready to dance with someone else.

Maybe you feel like a wallflower. That no one will ever ask you to dance. Are you dressed to dance? Is your head up and are you smiling? Do you look like you’d like to dance?

It’s Valentine’s Day. Don’t let some stupid old job break your heart.

Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.

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