Tag Archives: Planning

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.

 

 

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

I finally had enough of passing by the messy pile of job search stuff gathering dust on a shelf in the living room.  Ten months’ worth of people’s handbills, flyers, presentation print outs, notes, book summaries (and a couple of self-published books hawked by authors that I met), and seminar ephemera.  Thankfully I had already done a first culling at the time of collection and anything deemed unhelpful had been put on the recycle pile.  If I hadn’t made this initial determination, one shelf would not have been enough.  There is a lot of information out there about job search.

 

I didn’t get rid of much this time around.  Some of it could be useful to me to generate a post or two here.  Or I can pass on other bits to people I know.

 

public domain image

public domain image

When there is so much information to be found on a topic, how does a person decide what is useful (wheat) versus what is unhelpful (chaff)?  When it comes to information, it isn’t as simple as threshing wheat.  All a person needs for wheat is an understanding of what parts are edible.  Information culling or threshing requires effort in advance.

 

What is wheat for me might be chaff for others and vice versa.  I have to know what I am looking for, at least a bit.  I have to know at least how to recognize something useful.  To do that, I have to have an idea of where I am going.  But I can’t narrow things down too much or I might realize that I got rid of something potentially useful if I change course.  Hence the pile of stuff.

 

How do you decide what might be useful in your quest?

 

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

Rise and Shine

Someone I know just told me that she lost her job and is now in job search mode.  We are making plans to meet so that I can show her the ropes and offer encouragement.  Her announcement got me to thinking about whether there is one thing that is universally helpful to all job seekers.

 

Everyone needs a resume, but how to put it together becomes much more complicated.  No, I am thinking much simpler.  Working provides a set structure to our days, our weeks.  We have to be at work at a set time on certain days.  Even if you work from home, you still most likely have to follow a schedule of some sort.

 

I decided early on during my time in transition that I would set my alarm every day at 7am.  This seemed like the perfect time – not as late as I would like to sleep because I am not a morning person, but not too terribly early.  I left my alarm on every day of the week even though when I am working, I turn it off on the weekends.  I wanted to keep myself on a standard schedule.

 

public domain image

public domain image

This decision gave me focus, it kept me from staying up late on a whim to read a book or watch a movie.  It got my days started and I settled into a routine that gave me purpose.  I had a mission to be productive every day in some way.

 

Now my friend has school age children, which automatically gives her days structure, and requires her to rise and shine to get them up and out the door for school.  But she will need to be careful to refocus her days on pursuits that will help her to achieve her goals once the school bell has rung.

 

That alarm is a call to action every day – rise and shine and meet the day.  Get ready for work, for school, or for activities that will get a person back in the workforce.  One of the best things about getting back to work was that first weekend when I could again turn off my alarm and sleep in Saturday morning.

 

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

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

When It’s Your Turn – Interview Questions for a Possible New Employer

(I first wrote a version of this post on my original personal blog: Practical Business: When Its Your Turn – Interview Questions for a Possible New Employer)

 

You know that you are supposed to research the company before the interview.  You know that you should ask questions.  But for the life of you, you really aren’t sure what to ask because your main question is ‘When can I start?’.  Hopefully this list gives you some good ideas of your own because it is always a pet peeve of mine as a hiring manager when a promising candidate doesn’t have any questions for us at that stage of the interview.

 

So here’s my argument to convince you that it is wise to ask questions – you are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you.  Questions on your part prove that you have thought beyond getting a job, any job, to getting the right job and can picture yourself working at the company.  Picture yourself becoming a successful member of their team.

 

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

I have put together these questions from various sources, including some that I have been asked by candidates.

 

Questions to ask at the first interview:

  1.        Is this a new position, or would I be replacing someone?
  2.        Where does this position fit into the company’s structure?
  3.        What is your time frame to fill this position?

What are you looking for in the answers to these questions?  You will start to find out about the company culture and with the last one you can start to build a framework for follow up.

 

Questions to ask during the interview with the hiring manager, pick a handful that apply to your situation:

  1.        What are the qualities of your ideal candidate?
  2.        (If you found out that you are replacing someone in the first interview) What differences/similarities are you looking for in comparison to the previous person?
  3.        What is a typical day like?
  4.        What are the biggest challenges facing this department?
  5.        What are the best qualities of this department?
  6.        How much interdepartmental interaction is there with this position?
  7.        What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?
  8.        What are the common attributes of your top performers?
  9.        What are a few things that really drive results for the company?
  10.    How is performance measured in this organization?

These questions continue in your quest to understand the company culture and how it impacts the department where you would be working.  You can start to formulate a picture for yourself whether this culture will suit your ideal environment for your success.

 

Question to finish up:

  1.        Are there any areas where I haven’t given you enough information?

 

If this helps you to come up with any questions of your own, I would love to know what they are.  Or if you have a favorite question that you like to ask that I haven’t covered here, please share.

 

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

What Size are You?

When we are shopping for clothes or shoes, we need to pick the right size.  When we are investing, we need to understand that there are different advantages and challenges to the size of the company in which we are investing – small cap, mid cap or large cap.  The large companies are the ones that we have all heard of regularly.  Medium and small companies might be completely unknown to us.

Getting the right size requires measurement.  (Public domain image)

Getting the right size requires measurement. (Public domain image)

 

When we are looking for a job, we also need to ask this question about size.  Similar to investing, there are differences – potential advantages or disadvantages – based on company size.

 

When I started blogging, I realized that I would need to be constantly on the lookout for good topics.  Getting in the right mindset meant that almost anything could be seen as fodder for a blog post.  Similarly, a job seeker should be always looking for the right job opportunity – there are so many companies.

 

I’m sure that you have already come across the advice that a job seeker should develop a list of target companies.  Many people populate their target list with those well-known large companies, with perhaps a few medium sized local favorites.  If you are in the mindset that your opportunity might come in any size, then you might add a few small company gems to that list.

 

This idea, as almost everything in job search does, comes down to understanding yourself and your own needs.  The size and shape of your skills and temperament, your goals, will help to determine whether you are better suited to a certain size of company.

 

With a broader view or an alternate angle on things, perhaps you might consider widening your size choice for your target list of companies.

 

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

“Hello World ” and 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Favorite Beers of America in order of popularity:  Blue Moon, Bud Lite, Yeugling, Sam Adams, Miller Lite, Coors, and Corona.   How do you get rid of a 100 bottles of your favorite beer down off the wall quickly?  “You take one down, pass it around, 99 bottles of beer on the wall” of course.   And rarely have all the verses of this old song been sung. 

You’re tasked with getting a job.  Do you choose to accept it?  How do you get a job?  Using the drinking song plan:

Keep the task simple

List what you want

Laser focus on your objective, get a system

Enlist others for support

Start

Remember – Keep the main thing, the main thing

Persist

Sanity check

Steve Jobs, Apple Google

Steve Jobs, Apple Google

This is the same system as “Hello World” in computer programming.  It is a simple program that can be used by a beginner and it can be used to verify that you’re operating correctly.  The list above is a practical tool; useful and real.  This system is simple, it requires you make a decision, define a goal, and there is little chance of indefinitely effort.  Success will come.    

People will let you down; a system will not.  In computer language persisting, looping, and evaluating, control flow, is just as important as the beginning.   Be repetitive.  Looping back will need to be ingrained in process as well as the people for assuring success.   Control flow is as important a step because it requires you pay attention and notice unplanned for variances in your system.  I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.  – Steve Jobs

May you see “The operation is a success” come across the computer screen of your mind.

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

I Have an Example

Storytelling is hot right now – it has become clear that the ability to tell a compelling story is an indicator of potential success for businesses, the media, politicians, and the list goes on.  This is true for job seekers as well, and there is a name for job seeker stories: SARs.  SAR, in case you haven’t already stumbled upon this in your research, stands for Situation, Action, Result.

 

These short stories are your chance to explain how your experiences will be just what this potential new employer needs to solve their pain points.  You want to show that you know your stuff and you can apply it to help them to meet their goals.

 

For instance we all know that money is a big driver – this is what we are pursuing and what keeps the doors open at the business where you are interviewing.  Have you found ways to make or save money at your past employers?  Polish up those stories, they need to be told.  And told well.

Wikimedia Commons: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo's The Storyteller

Wikimedia Commons: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo’s The Storyteller

 

How do you tell the story well?  Remember back to your school days when you were taught story structure – beginning, body, conclusion and marry this to situation, action, result.  Set the stage briefly by sketching out the situation, tell what you did to create your solution, and end with a strong emphasis on the results.

 

Write it down, yes seriously.  Read it out loud to yourself until it sounds smooth and natural.  Then find a family member or friend to tell it to.  Practice is as much an important part of the SAR as deciding the right story to tell.  As a hiring manager, I can’t tell you the number of people who have sat across from me and couldn’t come through in telling a compelling SAR for even the most straightforward question.  This wasn’t even about research for my company, this was about identifying their own pertinent stories to share with me and getting them ready to tell.

 

I’ve barely skimmed the basics here, but even with just this little bit you will be ready in your next interview to say confidently, ‘I have an example’.

 

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

The KISS

sr-71-blackbird-photo-from-lockheed-martin

In 1960 the U.S. Navy had a design principle, KISS, which stands for “keep it simple stupid”.  The phrase was coined by Kelly Johnson, lead engineer for Lockheed spy planes. 

You and I are in the job search design mode right now.  Work it right, and the KISS principle may be the ticket to our biggest payoff.  So how does the U.S. government take a need-to-have and build a SR-71 spy plane? 

Humility

Break down large problems

Break down smaller problems

Write up a simple plan

Work the plan

Eliminate what does not work

Refocus and work the plan

The media would like to keep reminding us we are in a crisis and they remind us they have their fingers on the facts.  Keeping it simple, I would say solving the unemployment problem is the government’s worry, not ours.  Our worry is one thing, finding our next place of employment. 

Few of us are a super genius. Albert Einstein, a true genius, said KISS this way, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  So in moving forward, keep complicated out of it and make the plan something only you need to work.   

You know the large problems, you’ve been thinking about them long enough.  Write them down and then break them down into easier more basic tasks.

Albeit good choices, those smaller tasks probably are a lot of theories; theories that will need exercising to discern the really good ones.  Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to throw away nice-to-read ideas.  Ask yourself, if simplification is needed to make a manageable plan, what can be eliminated?

So this is the time to refocus and go for the gold.  Sure some redesign work will be up ahead.  There will be other problems to solve but there will be better solutions yet to be imagined too. 

Someday you and I are going to look back on this time in wonder how we never saw the KISS before. 

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

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

Planning, planning, planning …

In a class that I took about a decade ago, I heard our teacher say that “you have to plan the work, and then you have to work the plan”. So, first plan the work.

As a child, some of the best learning experiences I had happened because I was involved in sports. I also had a few ‘not-so-favorable’ experiences in sports as well. As long as we do not forget those ‘not-so-favorable’ experiences, they can still be learning experiences.

Back then, baseball was my favorite sport. During that time, I tried out for Little League Baseball, and was good enough to be put on one of our local teams.

BallBatGlove

One important thing that the manager of our Little League team told us was that we have to know ahead of time what we are going to do with the ball when it is hit to us while we are out in the playing field. In the lingo of those of us who are looking for a job today, it means we have to ‘plan ahead’.

As was the case for any child in the 9 to 12 age group, I probably was not the greatest at planning ahead. One occasion (a ‘not-so-favorable’ experience) comes to my mind often, and it occurred when I was in my last year on the Little League team. I played first base then, and a ground ball was hit to a point somewhere between the first base foul line and the pitcher’s mound. Because of the way the ball was hit (it was a slow ground ball), I had to run toward the ball to field it, which I did. However, because I did not plan what I would do with the ball (either take 2 steps and tag the batter out, or turn and throw the ball to our second baseman, who was covering first base), I hesitated. It was only for a short time, one or two seconds, but it was too late and the batter was safe. I can still remember seeing the batter as he ran by me toward first base.

Because of that experience, I would like to think that I have done a better job in planning my work activities since then.

There are really 2 lessons here. First, as I said earlier, you have to plan. And the second one is this — when you see an opportunity, go for it quickly, like the other baseball player did.

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer.