Tag Archives: Learning

Idea Well Run Dry

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, I felt bad about it but my idea well was dry and feeling bad just dried it up further.  Until I decided to look at the problem from a different angle – there are plenty of times in job search when the well runs dry or threatens to do so.  (Ah-ha I could write about that, although there was a scary moment when I sat down and tried to retrieve this whole thought string and it wasn’t coming back to me.)


When job seekers gather they often fall into business buzz speak, so the question of what is in their pipeline is bound to come up.  What prospects are you working on, what might be close, what new things are going in to your pipeline?  All of the activity seems to run in cycles, and sometimes the previous cycle seems to be closing down without anything new coming along.  The well (or pipeline) is getting awfully dry.


What to do to fill it up again?


Just like my idea problem, worrying about the problem just makes it worse.  I have no ideas, why don’t I have any ideas, when am I going to have another idea, I really need to have another idea…  Not exactly productive thinking.  I pushed all of this to the back of my brain, enjoyed the splashes of fall color for a few days and a thought wandered in that dry spells occurred all too frequently when I was in job search and did I remember how I handled them?


Obviously nature helps me to reframe my thinking.  A brisk walk is good for a lot of what ails us.  Increased blood flow and a little green therapy create new brain flow.  There might have been leads that come back to mind that you might have intended to follow a bit further, say.


Trying something new might get you through the dry spell.  A seminar, networking meeting, informational interview that someone suggested that didn’t spark your interest at first.


Setting a challenge for yourself is a good one, I find.  I pick something that is just outside my comfort zone – this is how I went to my first networking event.  Or I have reviewed the way that my most recent prospects came in and pick a method that I haven’t used to find a new prospect.


How do you get through a dry spell?


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


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.


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.


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.


Making It Count

I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity.  How it means a whole lot more than it has come to represent, at least from a broad economic sense.  Economically, productivity is getting more for less.  Put less resources in, but get more end result.  Increase productivity.


It would seem from that definition that the time between jobs would not be productive.  But I don’t think that is true.  There is so much that is done, can be done every day that can be considered productive.  And feeling productive makes a person feel valued, and we all want to both feel valued and feel like we are providing value.


Plenty probably told the Wright brothers that they weren't being productive.  (public domain image)

Plenty probably told the Wright brothers that they weren’t being productive. (public domain image)

Learning is valuable and productive.  There is so much that a person in job search could learn, and so many places to go to learn.


Sharing what you have learned with others is definitely valuable and productive.  There is so much that a person in job search could learn that it isn’t possible to learn it all yourself.  Sharing knowledge makes it more possible.


Helping somewhere, almost anywhere is valuable and productive.  Plenty of places could use a bit of help.


I found quite a few ways to feel productive during my search.  I went to my library to learn about current information and trends in job search and took classes toward a certificate.  I joined a couple of job search groups where I could share information and get support.  I created a presentation and gave it.  I joined Toastmasters.


There are countless ways to be productive, to provide value.  It takes a bit of concentrated thought to start being aware of all of them.  Asking others questions to find out what they do to be productive is a way to start.


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


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?


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.


What to Expect in Job Search?

It has been nearly a year since our group started this blog.  Much has happened, and some things have stayed the same.  An anniversary can be a time to reflect, so I am looking back at my first post here and giving it a slightly different twist.


People want to inspire when they tell others that life is what you make of it.  Responses run between ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ to the person for whom those words hit just the right spot at the right time.  But it is so common to say and to hear because it is true.  In life and in job search.  Whether we want to hear it or not, whether we embrace it or not.


What to expect in job search, then?  Well, we all have to find our own way – sometimes parts of the way can be shared with others and sometimes the way is lonely and challenging.  Good stuff happens, but it can be missed because it isn’t the good stuff we are expecting – that perfect job offer.  Bad stuff happens, plenty of it, and rejection too.  But we each have to find a way around it or through it.


Medieval scene of workers (public domain image)

Medieval scene of workers (public domain image)

I’ve been back at work for almost a year now as have some of the friends that I made in my job search groups.  A few are on their second and third jobs in the time frame.  A few are still looking.  A couple are stepping out to do their own thing.  Same root issue, so many different expectations and outcomes.


Some people get their new position and close the door to the whole job search experience.  I have found some great new relationships and I want to hold plenty of the things that I experienced and learned close.


Have you found what you expected in job search?


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


Pushing Through

That moment when you realize that you are really an adult might just have something to do with motivating yourself to do an unpleasant task.  We think of being an adult as finally getting to do all of the things that we were prevented from doing as kids.  If I thought at all about all of the things that require prompting to do, I assumed that adults didn’t need that external push.  I found out soon enough that I was wrong.

This topic is coming to mind because I’ve had to make myself write this post.  Bleh.  Normally I love to write, but it just isn’t there right now and I don’t have a safety post ready this week.  Nothing I could think of countered the obstinate little pouty kid who shouted ‘you can’t make me’ over and over in my head when I tried to think of post topics.

My sister used to have a friend who went to the trouble to run the vacuum throughout the house without turning it on in an act of defiant compliance.  Even as a kid I thought that defied logic – if you are going to go to the trouble to run it over the carpet, how hard is it to turn it on?  But I also get the defiance, the dig your heels in contrariness of the act.

Archival Stock WWII Footage

Archival Stock WWII Footage

Sometimes even as adults we need to have someone else make us do something – hence the need for many laws – things that will give us great benefit like eating healthy, saving for retirement, getting our teeth cleaned.  And plenty of tasks at work.

There must be a solid evolutionary reason why we are so obstreperous at times.  I have found myself splitting into two minds – one is being terribly unruly and the other is consternated not only by the childish stand but also by the choice of the fit.  Why-ever have I chosen to cling to this particular cliff?

There is plenty about job search that brings out that ‘you can’t make me’ feeling, isn’t there?  And what’s worse, there really isn’t someone in authority, like a boss, to push you past that feeling.  Oh, plenty of people to nag at you, but that isn’t the same.  Deadlines are mostly self-imposed, as are most tasks.  If self-motivation is flagging or absent trouble can build pretty quickly.

How about you, what prompts do you use, positive or negative, when you’ve dug your heels in?

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


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.


A Subjective, Conditional Experience

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


What are the concrete, objective truths in job search?


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


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

busy office

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


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


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


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

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


Time Constraints, or Spokes, Within your Weekdays

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

So, what are your weekdays like?


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.”