Tag Archives: planning for the future

“Maybe?” — Another Way to Consider Job Descriptions

By Cynthia Simmons

Perhaps I should start this blog post by saying what I do professionally: I’m a content professional. I write, edit, research, acquire, and assemble content. To produce information that is clearly structured, consistently treated, and predictable. Predictable means the reader can easily access, find, and understand the information.


As I look at job descriptions online, I make copies of ones I like. Some I mark as “Apply.” Others I mark as “Almost.”

But more light-hearted for me are the jobs that I put in my “Maybe” folder. They are jobs that call to my heart, but which are impossible because… I don’t have degrees in archeology, art history, chemistry, or….

You know, the paths not taken somewhere in my past. The decision points for those was long ago. My degrees and professional certificates are in other fields.

But if I could go back in time, would I have made some decisions differently? Maybe. Probably.

(For those of you who are now frowning, let me state that when someone tells me, “That’s history, get over it!” I say back, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it!” And I am in very good company.1)

So instead of being grumpy or regretful, I cherish things that I am not but which I can imagine being. Instead of scolding and telling myself that I am wasting my time to stop and read, I save a copy in my “Maybe” folder and later I can look again. To see what it was that called to me. And to still keep on schedule with my goals for the day.

My recent “Maybe’s” included job descriptions for a digital catalogue designer at an art institute and an architect/epigraphic artist taking photographs and making precise line drawings of tombs at Luxor, Egypt.

For me, it’s about balance. There is work to be done, a job to be found, and all of the related, surrounding, and sometimes congruent tasks. But there is also the noting of things to be dreamed about, later.

  1. Some notable references to repeating history may be found at http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/doomed-to-repeat-it

Cynthia Simmons is a publishing and communications professional.

© 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.

The Bay of Pigs: A Job Search Inspiration?

By Deb Bryan

A few hours ago, I returned from a discussion on the assignation of John F. Kennedy. The lecture was fascinating in its detail and also a little horrifying to watch. But what I didn’t expect was to hear a description of Kennedy’s crisis when he was newly elected and the near start of a war right off our shores. Worse yet, this former junior senator from Massachusetts learned about the crisis, The Bay of Pigs plan, after he was elected as President from a seasoned WWII general (Eisenhower) and an expert in foreign affairs (Nixon). Holy set-up Batman!

Kennedy held true to the plan he was handed and it was a slaughter. The Cuban troops and the American air power were decimated. Shortly following the US failed takeover, Nikita Khrushchev used Fidel Castro’s victory to prepare sites for installing Russian medium range nuclear missiles in Cuba, 110 miles from the Florida shores!

John Kennedy

John Kennedy

Kennedy went to the American people via television and made them aware of the danger. Khrushchev also watched the President’s speech and commanded the Cuban military to begin preparing for war and arm for an attack. Kennedy called for a naval blockade of Cuba, to prevent missiles from being delivered. A staring contest between the Americans and the Russians began while the world held its collective breath. Would there be a first nuclear war?

My guess, very few of us knew the downsizing was coming or knew the fallout we would be required to contend with. We were handed someone’s plan and told there were no options. Family and friends stared at us when reality became obvious. Sure, there are a lot of opinions but the responsibility for the fix is ours. You know what Kennedy did in his hour of crisis? He called his brother, Robert, and together they designed a plan and held fast. In the end, JFK’s crisis showcased his willpower and improved his credibility.

Do you have a brother? Perhaps not a blood relative, but someone with whom you can weather this storm. You have been through storms before and they blew over; this one will too. Just how much wreckage could be averted if you have a brother for such a time as this? Take this trial to a trust brother and brainstorm a plan. Together, stare back at that job search crisis and make it blink.

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

Testing, Testing: Illinois O’Net Self-Assessments

By Cynthia Simmons

Sometimes it’s good to go back and double check thoughts you have about yourself and what you want to do with your life as far as a job is concerned. But, then again, other times life is so busy, and you are already committed to so many things, that going back and double-checking isn’t an option.

Last week, I was granted a chance to look backwards at my past career decisions when I attended a free Illinois Workforce Development workshop. Our class of six people was lead through four self-assessment and interest inventories that were accessed through the website https://ilcis.intocareers.org.

As we worked our ways through the self-assessments, we each developed our own  multidimensional personal profile that included our likes and work values. This was called our “portfolio.”

Other tools on the website that we were shown included a “reality check” regarding the median income for a particular job in a particular geographic area/region, and a budget builder, to use to draw up a real-life budget of what we need to earn monthly and annually.

I was relieved when the results of the interest inventory were the same as they had been years ago, when I took similar tests when I was 25 years old, and then when I was 30 years old. I still want the same things. I am still who I thought I was, even with all of the changes time and new technologies have brought.

This suite of tests is part of the Illinois Career Information System. One of the interesting and beneficial things that I experienced when doing these assessments was that it’s very important to take a look at careers you don’t want. When you look at profiles for people who like careers that you don’t want to pursue, you learn why those other careers don’t make sense for you. The discomfort and perhaps repulsion may make sense. For myself, I found closure when I asked questions such as, “Why does the thought of doing such and such make me anxious or annoyed?” The answers to these questions were–those jobs don’t include things I like to do or things that I’m good at doing.

Sometimes we feel that we can do anything and be anyone. And maybe, if we are desperate enough, we can try to make ourselves do that. But I think that the better course is to follow our individual preferences, if we understand ourselves deeply enough. And, failing a deep self-knowledge, taking chances and trying something new, may also be a good route.

Lighthouses: Network Icon

By Deb Bryan

The first “lighthouses” were actually nothing more than strategically placed bonfires on the tops of hills to guide mariners into a harbor. The fires served to show sailors where the port was located, but they did little to help them avert crashing into rocks. This was especially problematic in the ancient city of Alexandria, which had a thriving port but also a rocky island off the coast named Pharos. To solve the problem, the residents built a 400-foot lighthouse on the island, which for centuries was among the tallest man-made structures on earth. The fires built on the top of this massive structure could be seen for miles out to sea, and it served to not only protect ships and save lives but also promoted trade. Sound vaguely like the job search?

Network Icon

Network Icon

This lighthouse picture has a romantic touch, don’t you think? It almost looks like scrimshaw with its grey/brown background, dark emotional clouds and tall ship fighting the waves. Now, imagine you are the captain responsible for a crew; fighting your way from the rocks and through the waves threatening to dash everyone and their dreams for the future. In the job search, this is reality.

The job search contains not only experienced sailors looking for safe harbors to land but also the novice, just starting to explore their new horizons. The seasoned navigators have charted points of light which help to keep their ships seaworthy and away from the rocks. Newly launched captains still-wet-behind-the-ears, have been known to wreck their vessels through taking too much on-board or listening to scuttlebutt, thus steering themselves into dangerous waters.

In my years of job search I have had lighthouses: counselors, coaches, friends and family, and linked-in advisors. I have learned much through their messages steering me through rough water. Always, I have been reminded to pass on the light I have received. Gratefully, those messages have been passed by networking which has taken the forms of discussion over coffee, meetings, volunteering, and now by writing.

How about you? Surely, you haven’t done it alone. Who has spread some light on your situation and kept you afloat? Pay the gratitude forward by networking. Someone out there really needs you to shine.

Deb Bryan has worked in the Pharmaceutical Industry for over 20 years. She is passionate about writing and Toastmasters International.
© 2013 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved

Jay Cutler: Playing Injured and Playing Through

By Deb Bryan

The Tribune article on Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler (David Haugh, Nov 6), reminded me very much of the job search challenge. I love watching the game of football. Not so much because I understand the game but I love watching the strategy, the intensity, and the passion the players demonstrate. The players jumping around in the end zone is kind of embarrassing but I secretly agree with them. I am mean a player goes through the equivalent of 11 Mack Trucks trying to knock him down to get to a touchdown, for Pete Sake!

Then there are the players like Jay Cutler playing hurt. Unknown to Jay, he came into the game of football with Type I Diabetes and currently is

Jay Culter, Internet

Jay Culter, Internet

attempting to make a came back from a groin injury. What Jay has going for him is he is young (30), strong (6’3 and 215lbs.) and for now watches from the sidelines as someone else plays his position. But even more so, Jay has a network of people speaking into his life, 15 years of learned discipline, and a strategy for his return.

What you and I need is to either land a job or create one for ourselves but we should not go it alone. Age, education, or God given talents are good starts but we need a hand-picked team of people as support. People who see us. People with whom we can strategize, a team of people who know the routine, can sound the alert of obstacles ahead, and will be willing to weather this storm with us. And one more thing, Quarterback Cutler is still in the game giving back through the Bears backup quarterback, Josh McCown. Cutler is part of McCown’s network whether teaching through wisdom bought by personal experience or just by being a presence at the games. Maybe, just maybe, there is someone in our lives who would benefit from our being part of their support.

Can Jay Cutler really return? The coaches aren’t saying. But Jay is preparing for it to happen by focusing on recovery, being at the field, and by using the mental talents he has acquired to support McCown. This guy has my respect, and in my opinion, has reached a point of success right where he stands.

Job Search Tip from Johnny Carson: “I’ll be right back”

By Deb Bryan

Here's Johnny! www.showbiz411.com

Here’s Johnny! http://www.showbiz411.com

Sunday’s Tribune had a story about one of America’s best known funnymen, Johnny Carson (Rick Kogan, Oct. 20).  Johnny Carson had an on-stage personality, a side-kick in Ed McMahon, great jazz music (thank you Doc Severinsen), and Johnny was very, very rich.  Prompted to do a little research, I found an interview by newsman, Mike Wallace*, that made me roar with laughter and want to gather clues as to Johnny’s success.

Johnny had talent but he approached his talent like work he had to make happen.  Most of his mornings, he was immersed in the Tonight Shows’ atmosphere he had transported to his home office; jazz music in the background, numerous mementos and awards, and his beloved drums.  From that office he would read newspapers, lots of newspapers, write material for the evening show, and study his performance from old show tapes.  In the afternoon, he would drive to the studio and for hours, talk to the shows’ producer about that night’s guests.  Later in the evening, his support staff of Ed McMahon, the band, NBC technical people, and guests arrived.  Johnny tirelessly worked his craft because it was important to him, it meant his success, and he was in competition with other comedians just like himself.  And Johnny was very competitive!  But I believe the single most powerful point for Johnny’s staying power and career was his repeated, “I’ll be right back” because he meant it.

Johnny did not do life alone.  Fred De Cordova, the show’s producer, was a good friend.  Ed McMahon and Doc Severinsen were talented and skilled co-workers.  NBC was well known in the television industry so it could draw the best of the best but still Johnny’s’ mantra of, “I’ll be right back” drove home his focus, not just for today, but for the future until he said “no more.”

As in everyone’s life, there were failures along way.  Just to highlight one performance review: the producer from the 1950 Johnny Carson Show, Ben Brady, said of Johnny, “Carson was trying to be a major comedian in prime time, and he didn’t have the power.  He is generically not a strong standup comedian like Hope, Skelton, or Benny.  He isn’t now and he never can be.”  We know the rest of the story but imagine having that broadcasted through the media?  It’s the stuff my nightmares are made of!  Quickly, breathe and say the mantra, “I’ll be right back!”

The governments’ foibles, any government, were the grist for the Tonight Show’s comedy mill.  We got a good laugh at the wild and wooly world of leadership.  And why not, they are still funny and they kept Johnny in business until HE decided to retire.

Johnny Carson was a man of paradoxes.  Perhaps his own foibles are what made him a national treasure.  He was known for being shy and defensive, a gentle man by his guests, a man who liked to be in control by fellow workers, and extremely quick witted by his public.   He admitted to all but he stood on stage, 5 nights a week, and exposed himself to our opinion of the career he daily hammered away at with intensity.  During his work day he said, “I’ll be right back” over and over again but he said it to himself as much as he said it to us.

At a news conference, Johnny was asked what he’d like his epitaph to be.  “I’d prefer not to have one at all if-where it never got to that point,” he said laughing, “I don’t know.  I think something like, ‘I’ll be right back.’”  Now that’s a funny line!  Or, is it?  Maybe it is a message to us to keep the faith, baby.
* http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500164_162-669087.html

Your Job Search Team

By Cynthia Sutherland

Job search is an independent and even a solitary venture.  After all, you are the one who needs to do the work to find a new job.  But…you’re definitely not alone on this journey.

Others – even strangers – can offer kindness and insights at an opportune moment; this can occur in unexpected ways, and even lead to a different career outcome.

Discussion in the Park, Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Discussion in the Park, Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

Job search is a time to be more resilient, creative and resourceful by stepping out of your comfort zone. You can use this period to connect in new ways with your family, religious practices or spiritual beliefs, long-time friends, professional groups, volunteering, etc.

And since you’re in a dynamic and changing life period, it is inspiring to tap into people or situations that challenge your old assumptions. Most surprisingly, there are individuals you don’t know at all who may reach out to you (or you reach out to them) – even in a fleeting way.  They may motivate you to leap forward after you’ve been going in circles.

I’ve had several people connect with me out of the blue with information that generated a string of connections that led to a potential job, interviews, and even discussions that re-shaped my job focus.

And the people that I’ve found to be the most valuable resources are those that I’ve interacted with in areas initially unrelated to a job search conversation.  For example, I was discussing how a picture could be framed, someone walked into the shop, became part of the discussion, and it led to a job referral. That happened in my veterinarian’s office as well.

Another discussion occurred with an employee (former schoolteacher) at a bookstore that led me to re-think whether using other job skills would lead me to a different type of career.

These friendly encounters gave me a boost in my singular quest.  And they made me realize that building real connections, not just “me-focused” job contacts, are the most important part of my life journey.  It showed me that there is an interesting community that can broaden my thinking if I’m ready to listen.

Yes, there are people I’ve known for years who faded as friends and colleagues during my job search. But for any closed doors, I’ve been disarmed by kindnesses and conversations and help from extraordinary people I didn’t know before, and built some new friendships. I feel better for it.

If you’re open to guidance, the job search process can be a revelation, not just the solitary task of finding a job. And that’s what this journey is really about.

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

An American Halloween Tale

by Deb Bryan

August 11, 1892 Lizzie Andrew Borden was put on trial for the killing of her parents in Fall River, Massachusetts.  (Now, you knew you could not get away without hearing a Halloween story.)  She was acquitted by a jury but the people of the town never, never, ever forgave her for the murder they believed she committed.

Lizzie Borden was kept from formal employment mostly due to the times she lived in, but she also didn’t have a Want To either.  Her father provided all her necessities along with a comfortable monthly allowance, though Lizzie was 32 years old when he was murdered.  For her thirtieth birthday, she was given a 35 day trip to Europe with several friends and family, along with a fur coat.  Her prominent, wealthy immediate and extended family was well thought of by the people of the town.  Lizzie had money, power, and position.  Money flowed, she ruled the school, and she seriously partied hearty.  So what caldron of unhappiness led to the day of destruction?

In fact, it was an accumulation of things over many years, but in the end it was probably greed. Being nothing new under the sun, it’s just an old, old story played out even today.   So what’s the take away?

“Today’s economic times” gives cause to want of an oh-so-comfy place to be.  Not just for Junior but even for more mature adults.  The federal government has given the Sirens call to everyone who will listen, “Come to Uncle Sam, we’ll take care of you.”  Who doesn’t like free money?  It isn’t even called welfare (for sensitive minds who want to know).  We can stay home, do some gaming, eat often and go to bed late with guilt free living.  CHILL!, for you who are freaking out about banks, school or house payments, health insurance and what the political types are doing.   But Wait! Quiet for a moment; I hear the sound of hacking.  Is anyone asking what the price tag on free is?

Two things I have personally found are Americans don’t play servant well and “he who has the gold, makes the rules” (Tyler Perry).  A hatchet struck Lizzie Borden’s parents heads an accumulation of 29 times; their problems were over, Lizzie’s just begun.  Her problems continued for 35 years.  That is a year for every blow struck with extra for measure.  What did she get away with?  Do we think we are getting away with something?  Whose hand is rocking the cradle; who owns the crib?  Is there a game of greed afoot?  Hey, who is the predator and who is the prey?!

I have another Halloween story for you.  It’s a short story by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Tale of the Tell-Tale Heart.”  The murderer insists he is sane but still, the heart beats under the floorboards.  For seven nights he opened the door quietly to find the man with the vulture eye, the all-seeing-eye, only to find the eye closed.  He could not kill while it slept in innocence.  But on the eighth night the eye was opened and the murderer sprang to kill, all the while hearing the beat, beat, beat of a heart in terror.

We are approaching a seventh year of America’s all-seeing-eye, the power of America, watching, watching, watching.  There’s hesitancy, there’s  uncertainty, there is a lack of details about vision for our future yet to be told.    Who will be there to hear our confession, our guilt, of the murder we might commit IN COLD BLOOD”?

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

Creating Your Future

By Cynthia Sutherland

“You can’t create the future by clinging to the past.” So says a recent Delta Airlines TV commercial. I agree. We create our future by defining desires, setting goals and moving toward them. You create with small steps or a big leap.

In job search, the goal is often to find a new job – quickly. But since a job choice has implications for your future, it pays to be clear about what you really want going forward.

A fork in the road, by Nicholas Mutton, from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

A fork in the road, by Nicholas Mutton, from Wikimedia Commons (in the public domain)

You may believe that this job market limits your choices. At the same time, you do have leeway in choosing your career (and life) direction.

I have friends on various career paths, those who:

Deliberately retired early to be true to their desires. I know, they could somehow afford to, and many can’t. But those I know who adjusted their lifestyles stayed true to their life goals. I admire that, knowing and holding to your life goals.

Took the first job that came along. It’s scary to be out in the job market. They responded to time and financial pressures. Some of those job gambles paid off; some didn’t. They or their new employers miscalculated “fit.” Or the new employer reorganized (again) and eliminated their jobs after a short time.

Waited and angled for the same or next level job. Some achieved those goals of “more of the same.” Good for them. But did they think about what they wanted? And some are still looking because the job market re-defined the value of a lot of careers.

Embraced a different mix of volunteer efforts, part-time or temporary jobs, and even internships in mid-career. Some enhanced their skills or changed direction by going back to school, adding certifications or degrees, or even started entrepreneurial ventures.

Defined what they wanted in a career as they went along, trying things to see how it would go. They refined from what worked and discarded what didn’t. I think Generation Y is known for this attitude toward serial jobs and careers. But other generations are learning from them AND the economy.

More often, though, we toddle along and stick with a job choice because it’s comfortable. We settle.  But some have a clear and undeniable talent that must be pursued. Or they nurture a desire for a different path that just bubbles up at some point.

And when a career choice is made for us, e.g., being disconnected from a job involuntarily, passive styles suddenly change. Now we need to actively make choices; that’s really an opportunity. You can feel the elation when you deliberately set new goals.

Where am I in all this? Job change led me to a process of reinventing myself. It’s ongoing. I previously chose a career-oriented path that was satisfying, very typical for baby boomers. But a job shift caused me to re-think my life goals, not just job choices.

That led me to adopt the mixed path: some volunteer work, looking for part-time or temporary work, and moving into some new directions, like doing a little consulting, and writing for fun.

Mine is not a unique path, but it responds to the times, the opportunities, and activates new possibilities.

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