Category Archives: support group

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.

 

 

Helping Others in Job Search

“Helping others become more effective” is a result claimed by many mentors and coaches.  To be perceived as someone who is effective and influential in job search networks, spend time trying to improve your contacts’ job search.

On job-search mornings, when I wasn’t networking or exercising, I’d find myself sitting in front of a monitor, coffee in hand, needing a few minutes to warm up before getting into heavy research.  For my brain’s warm-up, I’d often spend 10 or 15 minutes checking my best contacts’ LinkedIn profiles, and provide endorsements for any newly listed skills.  I recall almost falling off my chair laughing when I saw that one friend had added “Dangerously Handsome” as a skill.

Do you know what your contacts are looking for in their job search?   If not, then you’re unable to effectively refer people to them.  Discussions over coffee, or networking, provide you a forum to share your background, and current goals, with each other.  These talks are not meant to make you feel bad if you do not have an immediate contact or reference to offer the other person.  If you understand each other better after the discussion, then it was worth the time.

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

Over time, you’ll build a knowledge bank of people with skills in different industries, etc.  With this, you’ll have a larger set of names available when a recruiter contacts you with opportunity that isn’t a match for you, but could be a match for one of your contacts.  You’ll know this is the case, because you’ve already spent time talking with that person, and you know the types of roles she is looking for.

This was precisely how my first job search ended.  One of my job search work team members mentioned my name to a recruiter, and eventually, this resulted in a phone screening, then interview, then a job offer.  How great did it make my day, to get the offer.. .and how great did it make her day, knowing that it began from a referral she’d provided?  It was an awesome day for each of us.

Helping others, in a tangible way, shows that you continue to make a positive impact on those around you, even while unemployed.   By connecting a person with a certain skill, with someone who has a corresponding need, you are helping them (both) be more effective.  As this continues, the circle of people helped by your efforts will become larger, and they will be able to refer YOU to someone who is looking for your skills.

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.

© 2015 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

You learn from being with others who pursue similar goals

If you are focussed and committed to achieve a goal, you generally try to surround yourself with people pursuing the same, or a similar, goal.

In martial arts, you work out together, to achieve the next belt color (level).

In training for a marathon, you establish a routine to follow (with others). (How many miles to run?  Which days?  Which route to follow?  What diet to follow?  What time to meet in the morning to run?)

In SCUBA diving, it is always recommended to stay with a companion while underwater.

Yet, many unemployed folks don’t embrace this approach regarding their job search.

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

For job search, the most effective ways to decrease the duration of your job search, is to routinely meet with others in job search, as a group, to discuss their progress and activity toward finding their next job.  (Reference R. Bolles, ‘What Color is Your Parachute?’, 2012.)

I often heard folks, who’d been in job search for a long time, say “The people that I talk with are all unemployed: I REALLY need to be talking to employed folks!”

Friends of mine have trained for marathons as part of a group, and it took months of preparation.  Over that time, some group members encountered situations which kept them from training one day, or forced them to run a shorter distance than scheduled.  For others in the group, uphills were more of a challenge, while downhills were more problematic for a few.  No two people had the same set of challenges throughout their training, and this is expected.  It was how each person approached, and then worked through each challenge, that determined if she was successful or not in reaching (first the starting, then) the finish line, of the marathon.

Similarly, no two people in job search should expect to see similar progress from their efforts.  If someone’s LinkedIn profile is not generating as many hits as desired, it is a temporary situation that can be tweaked: it should not be seen as a personal judgement or failure.  It is important to seek out help from those in your group, for those areas that you want to improve.  Most importantly, keep being active within your job search network!

I found that being amongst people interested in my success helps helps me to be my best.  The value of being within a group of people who actively share your goals, remains just as important in job search as it is in any other undertaking.

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.

© 2015 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

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.

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.

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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.

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. 

No One Was Betting on Them

Yulia Lipnitskaya - Internet

Yulia Lipnitskaya – Internet

Just who are Yulia Lipnitskaya and Jimmy Fallon?  They are both contenders for the prize in the ring of their professions.  They perform before the world and have the guts to say, I am the best and I will prove it. 

Yulia, 15, and Jimmy, 39, are also both comeback kids from life’s difficulties.  You say, what can anyone that young know about difficulties?  At what age is adversity not possible and painful?  Yulia was out of the competition last season with a brain injury.  Her body may be what we see gliding across the ice so effortlessly but it is her mind that drives those body signals.  Jimmy started out on well-known Saturday Night Live and shortly after, worked on two films that went nowhere and his career began to collapse.  Bounce back to the heights of the Olympics and The Tonight Show?  How? What? Who can do that?

First they were not trying to do it alone.  They had someone else in their lives saying, ‘you’re not done yet’.  Then they said it, started the learning process it takes to recover, and then they believed it could be done.  Part of that process is learning to work through fear and frustration as you have to learn new things and shake lose the pain of past hurts.  There is no security on this earth, there is only opportunity. (Douglas MacArthur, WWII General)  Then there is the just doing it; practice, practice, practice until it becomes your skill.  You see, no one escapes the pain of hurt, failure, and disappointment and no one is an overnight success.  And in our determination to obtain the new position we must not contemplate anything but success. 

No one was betting on Yulia and Jimmy yet there they are in the forefront, with the world waiting breathlessly to see them win.  You have work to do, retooling that must be done, and a stage that has a spot just for you to stand on.  Never, never quit. 

Deb Bryan has 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.  She has a passion for writing and Toastmasters International.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job.  All rights reserved

Debating Santa

By Deb Bryan

I smiled all the way through reading the Tribune story, Splitting hairs over the beard (R. Grossman, Dec 1).   Even this sentence seemed fun, “(Santa) Steve Francois has answered the question with a hirsute “No”” of course, after I dashed to the dictionary to look up hirsute.  (Hirsute means “hairy”.)  Has hair and employment been this big a deal in your life time? Holy 1970’s Batman.

Santa Claus and Children. Public Domain

Santa Claus and Children. Public Domain

Being a Santa during the Christmas seasons ranks right up there with clowns and birthday parties in my mind.  Visions of a rather plump fellow with rosy checks and an infectious laugh should make anyone smile.  The job is just meant to bring joy to kids and their parents alike.  Not surprisingly though, for there are disputes over just about everything today, there is a rift between The International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas and the Mystical Order of Traditional Santas (naturally grown beards vs. elastic snap-on.)  (Really, this is too good a story not to be made into a made-for-TV comedy.) Not sure if these fellows are graduates from the International University of Santa Claus but something should be done.  It ought not be this way.

Phillip Wenz, a Santa from the Mystical Order, wears out 10 beards a year at $1500 a pop, so it sure sounds like he is committed to joy and kids.  Steve Francois, a real beard Santa, likes to give little kids a smile and a wink all year long as he does his grocery shopping.  It doesn’t appear that Steve turns off his Santa personality even after the Christmas season.    But Santas in disagreement?  It just ought not be.

I know, I am too old to admit this but I kind of like Santa Claus.  He’s been maligned over the years but I think he is quaint and a kindly spirit.  He is cheerful and looks like he is having fun.  He likes kids and just wants them to smile, even us big kids.  Santa isn’t known for pumping iron but he is able to drive a sleigh full of tons of toys with the help of eight reindeer all night.  (There has to be muscle under that suit somewhere.)  Not all boys and girls are nice but Santa always seems to look for the good in each and every one of them.  Ask me in July and I will tell you the same thing, Santa is the epitome of the gold rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Here is my plea to every Santa everywhere; let there be peace on the earth as far as it is up to you.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Deb Bryan has 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.  She has a passion for writing and Toastmasters International.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job.  All rights reserved

Basic Beliefs in Job Search

By Cynthia Sutherland

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”

-Bruce Lee   (From www.brainyquotes.com)

Peace, love and happiness From Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Peace, love and happiness
From Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

The first thing I learned about job search is not job search techniques (I learned those, too), but that job search involves solidifying – or shifting – beliefs about yourself.

I learned the following ten basic beliefs for a successful job search from the Job Search Circle. This group is the primary collective that I participate in to enhance my job search skills, and to remind myself how important it is to stay grounded during the search.

Most importantly, the networking and teamwork gained from participating in a job support group builds understanding about the intangible aspects of job search – about yourself.  I would never try to go it alone.

This list comes directly from the Job Search Circle:

  • Believe in yourself.  You are not your job search. (That’s a constant necessary reminder.)
  • Believe in your uniqueness.  You define the job; the job doesn’t define you.
  • Believe that you are a winner.  Convey this by your positive attitude, energy and enthusiasm.
  • Believe that you add value.  Know how your accomplishments and experience have positively impacted the organizations you have worked for.
  • Believe you are successful.  Success is all about what you can contribute.
  • Believe in your ability to make a difference. Cultivate a mindset of helpfulness and help others regardless if they help you in return.
  • Believe in your ability to learn.  Improve yourself; update your skills. (Now is the time to focus here.)
  • Believe in the gift of transition.  You have been given a gift of time – don’t waste it. (You may not see this right away, but this time allows self-reflection and re-connection.)
  • Believe in the abundance around you.  Be grateful for what you have.  (An attitude of gratitude is what will create resilience and positiveness.)
  • Believe you will land the right job.  Trust the process.  Embrace ambiguity and learn from it.  Stay positive. (Landing the right job is a by-product of your positive beliefs.)

Cynthia Sutherland is a senior human resources professional, focusing primarily on diversity and inclusion and work-life.

© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved