Tag Archives: Change

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.

Number Stories

Math and numbers have never resonated for me the way that words do.  I understand that they have a practical use – at least basic math – and appreciate knowing how to use them for things like balancing my checkbook.  And I’ve always been happy to know people who really get numbers so I can ask them for help when things get beyond basic.  It has only been in recent years that I have discovered an area of numbers that really is fascinating – statistics.

 

Statistics are stories told with numbers.  Why didn’t anyone ever tell me?  Not story problems like why did the train go faster from station a to station b or whatever nonsense.  No, number stories – data meets the story arc.  Very intriguing.

 

Why am I bringing this up here?  Because job search is loaded with statistics, some of them quite contrary, and all of it worthy of some attention by job seekers.  We all know about the unemployment rate, at least the national one that is regularly reported on the evening news.  But there are state and regional unemployment rates.  Rates based on ethnicity and age group, level of education and industry segment (healthcare, manufacturing, service, etc.).  Oh and make sure that you know how it is calculated because that is a whole other facet of the story for this number.

 

What about the workforce participation rate?  I don’t remember ever hearing about this one until the Great Recession.  This one is the percentage of adults who are working for pay.  This number is also at an all-time (read since this has been tracked, I believe starting somewhere in the 1970s) low and seems to be dropping.  The story is in understanding better why it is dropping.  And in comparing this data to the unemployment rate – if the unemployment rate is dropping, why is the workforce participation rate also dropping?

 

photo credit: Huffington Post

photo credit: Huffington Post

Then there is the job opening ratio – the number of posted open positions juxtaposed with the number of qualified applicants who are actively looking.  This seems to be coming down a bit, there aren’t quite so many qualified applicants for each open position, but still too many for the comfort of each job seeker.  This is the number that directly affects another number – the average number of weeks or months it can take someone to land their new position.  Last year I know that this average was hovering around eight months.

 

There are plenty of other statistics, but you get the idea.  These numbers aren’t just for the media and politicians to bandy about – there are lives behind each one.  Stories of individuals affected, but also of how the information is collected and applied.  The statistic isn’t the end of the story, but the beginning.

 

It comes down to your number story, which is quite simple.  Back to basic math; one person who needs one suitable position.  At least knowing some of these number stories can give you discussion points with Aunt Betty the next time she asks you again why you don’t have a job.

 

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.

 

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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.

Think Outside the Job Box

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

 

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

 

Public domain clip-art

Public domain clip-art

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

© 2014 Blog to Work | Blogging your way to a job, All rights reserved

Mistakes

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Dave Vandermey is a Web Developer

Changing Tactics

One of the last vacation trips my parents took us on was to Glacier National Park in Montana. I won’t elaborate too much about the details of the trip, except to say that as far as I can remember, the scenery around the park, especially Lake McDonald, was pretty good.

 

I had received a fishing rod as a present the previous Christmas, and, since I was a Boy Scout back then, was eagerly looking forward to trying my hand at fishing. My family had rented a cabin by that lake for several days that summer, so I made it a point to try out my fishing rod. I would cast my fishing line in the hope of catching a fish. I would keep at it for awhile, then go back to our cabin, and try again the next day.

 

For those few days during that trip, my luck wasn’t very good. I caught no fish. Not a single one. Maybe the fish were not biting those days. Only a stone or two thrown by another child from a neighboring cabin to try to make me think that fish were actually biting. (He didn’t fool me.) Or maybe there weren’t any fish in the lake at all. I really don’t know.

 

ImageThat pretty much was the extent of me trying to show off any fishing prowess I may have had. I do not recall going fishing again. Was it because I lost interest? Probably. At any rate, since I was still in grade school, and very prone to suddenly jump from one interest to another, I decided to pursue other forms of recreation.

 

In a way, isn’t searching for a job the same as fishing? When you respond to a job posting, apply to a job online, or go to a networking meeting, aren’t you also “casting” a line? Sure you are. I’ve had to “fish” for jobs several times throughout my adult life. And just like that experience I had years ago, there were times when it seemed like no employers are “biting”, or at least “nibbling”. That doesn’t mean that you have to stop looking for a job, because you really don’t have a choice here. It just means that it’s about time to take a different approach, or change tactics, to your job search. There are two issues here. The first issue is to decide what change to make. The second issue is to decide when to make that change.

 

Here is how I handled that grade school experience. I took up swimming, another form of recreation involving water. And I made that decision quickly.

 

Back then, I changed my recreational interest. More recently, I’ve had to change the way I look for a job.

 

It may not be as easy to make changes today as it was back then, but, it is still easier to change your job-searching tactics than it is to change your career. All one has to be able to do is to recognize when to make that change.

 

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.

The Possibility

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

When I was a young history buff, I became enamored of the Franklin Roosevelt era – from mid-Depression through the WWII years – because while terrible events were occurring, they seemed to bring out something hearty and upbeat in many people.  It isn’t until my more recent years that I have been finding out more about Eleanor Roosevelt and how much she embodied these traits that I admired.

eleanor_roosevelt_portrait2

Strength in the face of adversity doesn’t have to mean broad, impressive action.  It does mean the awareness of possibility of something better.  It means grit and resilience and willingness to pick up, dust off and try something else.

 

The new thoughts in the new day can touch on the frustrations of the previous day, but in a way to sift through for anything useful.  To acknowledge that there were frustrations, but then to turn forward and decide how to keep moving.  To decide to use the frustrated energy as part of that new strength.

 

This is a new year, a time when we naturally do some comparisons – look how far we have come, look at where we thought we might be.  We have the possibility of being disappointed or galvanized by the results of this reflection.  Is that place that we thought we would be still desirable?  Or are there new options that are more in line with current thoughts?

 

I’ve never been one for filling in too much detail on long-range plans.  Life tends to show me up when I make this attempt.  Instead, I plan with options – mix and match – remember Garanimals clothing for kids?  These pants can go with any of these 5-6 tops.  Life choices can work like that too.

 

What possibilities do you see for yourself this coming year?

 

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

Try a Little Appreciation

By Cynthia Sutherland

Deliberately adopt an attitude of appreciation.  When you intentionally appreciate aspects of your life, it starts you on your way to feeling good. 

And when you feel good, you will be inspired to positive action.  Others will notice.

From Wikimedia Commons, Scroll, in the public domain

From Wikimedia Commons, Scroll, in the public domain

This time of year, many of us are automatically led by the holiday season to focus on our blessings.  We’re told to identify positive circumstances, family members and friends, and what they mean to us.  We may or may not “feel” those blessings. It can be just an exercise, but what if you take it seriously?

As a catalyst, there are always stories about someone worse off than we are who has a positive attitude and achieves against great odds, or someone better off who shares their blessings with others less fortunate.

Yet here you are: still unemployed as you move into this season of Thanksgiving.  So it may make it a little harder to imagine the light at the end of that tunnel.  Or to appreciate the job search, or other aspects of your life right now.

But I say that not feeling appreciation promotes a very conditional view of life. “If I get this job, I’ll be happy.”  “If I achieve that success, I’ll be happier.”  “If I have that relationship, then I can love life.”  If…if…if.

It often is that way, though, a learned behavior from the time we were very young.  We cried our eyes out for the truck or doll that we wanted at that moment.  And when we got that toy, it made us happy for a minute.  Then we moved on to the next item we had to have to be happy.

Have you tried recently, just for kicks, to act happy, or to appreciate certain aspects of your life, just to see what would happen?  I have.  It really starts some positive juices flowing, you begin to feel better, and your outlook on life shifts – even if it’s just in the moment.  And your outlook about your job search will shift to a more positive view as well.

Make a list.  List the things, situations, people, foods, anything that you like.  Then think about why you feel good about the items on your list.  When you do, more reasons, and more things will come to mind. And you will start to feel some real appreciation.

You could do the same thing about all those things you don’t like, but that will make you feel bad. Our normal analytical selves assist us in doing this every day.  But we’re not looking for a pity party, or pros and cons, just a way to uplift your spirits.

A feeling of appreciation builds on itself if you let it.  Return to the list the next day and add to it, or start a new list each day.

After a time, you will move more automatically to think about how great your life is, how blessed you really are.  And you will realize that you are gaining more knowledge about yourself and others as a result of what you experienced in your job search.

Next year, your list can be a retrospective about what you learned in your job search process, and how wonderful people were in helping.  And you will be ready to help the next person who may just be starting their search process.

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

How Did You Pick?

Sometimes we know early in life, sometimes we try one thing and then another to finally land on the thing that fits best, or sometimes we just fall into something and make it work.  The choice of our profession, that is.  What we become when we grow up, the answer to that question that adults like to ask children when they don’t know what else to say.

 

There are tests that are given in school to measure aptitude like math, science, reasoning, or reading skills.  These are meant to help us to narrow our options.  Or perhaps your family gives the world doctors, teachers, farmers, or lawyers.

Capture

Now that you find yourself in job search are you sticking with your originally chosen professional path, or has this change in circumstance made you reevaluate?  Many of the people that I have met in the past year have decided this is a good time to revisit the question of what to be – professionally that is.  It seems like a valid response.

 

Sometimes it makes great sense, particularly if you were downsized because the business segment that you were in is in decline.  Picking something new, possibly similar in a growth area will help your chances.  Or maybe the job that you know is no longer the job that sparks your interest.  Again, it makes sense to rethink your other options.

 

Me, I picked my path based on the broadest opportunity to support myself and my boys after my divorce.  And it turned out to be a very interesting and varied job which suited me.   I can do lots of different versions of this type of job for plenty of time to come.

 

Your turn, how did you pick?  Do you pick it again?

 

Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.

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

Take Us Up, Mr. Sulu: The Dare

By Deb Bryan

Starship Enterprise

Starship Enterprise

My brother and I were not bad, we were quick, energetic, and had a passion for exploring. What one of us thought of the other one was soon to do, approaching our exploring with small differences. Today, my brother’s idea of exploring is to drive up to an island in upper Michigan and explore while camping for two weeks; the more primitive the camping the better. I like to explore new towns as I drive out to one of America’s beautiful coastlines and when I finally get tired, sleep in the back of my truck. We don’t take anyone with us because there is a more heighten sense of awareness when we are on our own. It makes me smile just thinking about hitting the road again.

When my company downsized in 2010 and I was a part of the group that was cut free, I was in shock for long while. I buried myself in a myriad of activities that were suggested and worked at not freaking out. I read somewhere to do normal activities. What was normal, for Pete’s sake? The vista before me was huge and uncharted territory by anyone I knew well! The fear radiating out from the people in my job search circle was almost tangible. I felt a strong need to survive when suddenly, the desire to explore my new surroundings came over me. It was almost like I was being dared to make something of myself in my new reality. My numb soul was being dared to be brought back to life again.

That dare brought me full circle to some people and things I had left in my past but it also took me to new faces and new places. I had a desire to do more than survive, I wanted to thrive. My risks at first were small but those risks were the building blocks I used to say, “I can more than this” and meant it. There was no arrogance, no false sense of ability, just a calm that came from being aware of my own accomplishments and new capabilities.

This poem means a great deal to me as I am my journey:

After a while you learn
that love doesn’t mean leaning,
that kisses aren’t contracts, and presents aren’t promises…
And you begin to accept defeats
with your head up and your eyes open,
With the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child.
So you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul,
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you can endure…
That you really are strong
and you really do have worth,
and that with every new tomorrow
comes the dawn.

Are you stuck in a job search lurch? You know this doesn’t have to master you. Courage my friend; be the Star Trek Captain, James T. Kirk, of your own life. I simply dare you.

Deb Bryan has 20 years of experience in office management in the pharmaceutical industry. She has a passion for writing.

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