Tag Archives: self discovery

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.

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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.

thinking

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

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

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 Question about Autonomy

How much control do you like to have over your day?  Over the tasks that you perform?  Now, while you are searching for that next job, would be a good time to answer these questions for yourself.  It is good bet that there are questions built into the interviews that you go to that will determine the answer from the perspective of the hiring manager.  (I know that I do for certain.)

 

Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual (nice as that would be at certain stages) but some jobs are more structured than others, therefore more likely to have specific directions and expectations.  These jobs are suited to someone who is comfortable with low levels of autonomy.  Other jobs seem wide open to interpretation and better suited to someone who appreciates, and is capable of handling, a high level of autonomy.

Capture

I remember the first few moments after bringing my older son home from the hospital.  I had babysat for years and up until that moment felt confident that I could be a parent.  But in that moment I was pierced by a fear that someone messed up in letting me bring home this helpless being without checking on my skills with a newborn.  But the panic started to recede as I remembered the bits and pieces that I could do – I could change a diaper and feed the baby, these weren’t any different in a newborn than with the other babies I had watched.

 

My son became a toddler – when ‘me do’ is the anthem and autonomy is born.  From then on out the decision can be made – can/should I do this task or is it better for someone else to do?

 

My younger son has been doing work for various contractors recently.  Some want him to go ahead and move on to the next step without their input and some want him to just stop when he has completed the task that they assigned.  He is just as capable of doing the tasks in either situation and so better suited to the times when he is allowed to keep moving.

 

Sometimes it isn’t possible to find a job that provides the ideal level of autonomy so it helps to know what range you can tolerate without getting frustrated.  Or maybe there is a trade-off – less autonomy in one area but more of something else.  It still helps to know all of this about yourself going in.  All part of that ‘informed decision’ that we like to talk about these days.

 

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

Getting Good Counsel

By Cynthia Simmons

We all want to be right—on the right side of the argument, of the law, of the street even! And we all want people to agree with us. We want to have the best opinions, and to be respected as well-informed people.

But for me, at some point as an adult I recognized that honesty is superior to agreement. I mean, I can get sympathy most days from a good friend. But if I want honest and objective feedback, I need to present my situation, my problem, honestly and objectively.

This is leading to my argument that having friends who are different than I am is invaluable—friends who have different values, backgrounds, and preferences.

Most of us have heard the story of the six blind men and the elephant. (This is a teaching fable cited in many cultures.) Each of the blind men stood next to a different part of an elephant and was asked to describe what sort of creature it was.

elephant, kiryat-motzkin zoo (5) brighter(2)

The blind man by the elephant’s trunk, said it was like a snake. The one by a leg, said it was like a great tree. The one by the ear, said it was like a fan. And so on.

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Each one was both right and wrong, because what he knew was from feeling only part of the whole elephant.

 

Wisdom is gained from perspective. And perspective does not exist as a singular entity.

As you travel the unknown and uncertain territory of job search, seek out and befriend people who are different from you. You will gain treasured relationships that you may wish to maintain for many years into the future.

Consider that possibly living with only mirrors of your own images, values, and perspectives can be boring. And incomplete.

Instead of considering how limited each perspective was – that each blind man was blind to the whole picture, instead consider that each blind man experienced his own perspective and his own version of the truth. His own insight. Having friends with points of view that are different from yours teaches you malleability, flexibility, and plasticity in your thinking.

A case in point: I was puzzled about someone’s motivation for a particular action. It didn’t make sense to me, so I asked a relative who is older than I am and from another part of the country. Her explanation was, “Of course, that’s what some people do, because…” And then I thought, “Really? I would never do that!”

In a small way, I was enlightened, and my mind opened up to more possibilities.

file0001739728230 - add contrast (2)Cynthia Simmons has a background in publishing and publications.
Photos credited to the morgueFile.com
© 2014 Blog to Work/Blogging your way to a job. All rights reserved.

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?

BicycleWheels

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.”

Identity and Job Title

The one thing that you can almost guarantee will get asked and answered when meeting someone new, regardless of the circumstances or venue for the meeting, is the question of what you do.  It is treated as a central question, a means to gauge where the conversation goes from there.  How can we then help but to equate what we do to earn a living with who we are?

 

I spent a good chunk of my adult life as a stay at home mom.  That answer garnered glazed eyes or surreptitious eye darts around the room to find a way out of the conversation.  Surely the listener was going to be bored to tears with stories of diaper duty and play dates.

 

I found the same looks and attitude during my job search months.  A little bit of desperation was thrown in because they probably thought I would hit them up for some sort of assistance.

 

If you take careers off the discussion table – (and of course politics and religion too) there is still a whole world of topics to discuss, to connect over and about.  I got a job once because of my love of reading and reverence for books.  I’ve met plenty of people and participated in volunteer activities because of it as well.

 

Empress of Elucidation

Empress of Elucidation

Our identities are an amalgam of so many things – family, hobbies, where we live, and also what we do for a living – plus so much more.  Strike up a conversation and it rarely takes long to find something to connect over.  I’ve been me for a good while now and meeting people through my different phases – stay at home mom, career, job search, volunteer – I’m still learning the art of conversation and matching my stories to the situation.  I rarely ask the ‘what do you do’ question, frankly.  It seems rather limiting in leading the conversation.

 

As a wise woman that I know regularly says, you are not your job search.  Spending a few summer moments thinking about your larger identity might be an interesting exercise.

 

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

Dealing with irrelevant information, or, lookout for information overload

As I was backing my car out of a parking space recently, looking out the rear window and making sure there weren’t any people or cars behind me, all of a sudden I heard this strange, female voice saying “Welcome to the hands free phone system…” I stopped the car, somewhat in a state of shock, still partly in the parking space. At first, my thoughts went back-and-forth between “What did I just do?” and “How do I get this message turned off?” One look at where my left hand was on the steering wheel gave me the answers to both of my questions. I had inadvertently touched the “call” button on the steering wheel. I wound up hearing two or three more sentences from that female voice before I figured out that the way to stop the message was to hit the “cancel” button right next to it.

 

What I had just experienced is another one of those new-fangled contraptions allegedly designed to help me do something. Cell phones, laptop computers, this thing called spell check, and computer mice are other examples of these. At this point I must admit that I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to some of the electronic gizmos that are found on the cars of today. (The car I traded in to get this one last year was bought in 1996.) My cell phone, which still doesn’t get much use, is usually off while I’m driving; if I have to make a call, I pull over, stop the car, and use my cell phone. Therefore, I do not need a hands free phone system. All of the information in that message was not relevant to me.

 

What does this have to do with searching for a job? We are periodically affected by the results of well-intentioned people giving us some help at a time when we are not in a position to receive it, like when we are showering or sleeping. At other times it may be OK if we are receiving helpful information for our job search from only one person, or at a networking meeting where your request for help is implied.

 

But go to a family get-together, beware; you could get as many different ideas on how to do your job search as there are people attending the gathering. If you are not careful here you could end up getting something that I call “information overload”.

 

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The advice others give you will depend on their prospective, and whatever the norms were when they last looked for a job. They might not realize that what you have to do to get a job today is quite different than it was back in the 1950’s, the 1970’s, or even the 1990’s.

 

Remember, when you get your next job, it will be your name that will be on that paycheck, not theirs.

 

Using your best social skills is a good idea here; nod your head, or smile and say “Thank you”. After that, do whatever you have to in order to retain any relevant information. And then forget the rest.

 

In order for me to start writing this post, I pressed that “call” button again, and wrote down the first words of that message. Then I hit the “cancel” button, because the rest of that message was not relevant.

 

 

Dave Vandermey is a web developer. 

Oh, I Couldn’t Do That

I spent years, off and on, as a stay at home mom.  I had my kids fairly early, so had not established anything remotely like a career – I had some jobs before becoming a mother, some that I liked and some that gave me money.  I believed in staying home and couldn’t understand the women who claimed that they would be bored or unfulfilled if not working.  (But this post isn’t about the so called mommy wars.)

 

Periodically I thought about the jobs that I could do in the working for pay world.  I read the help wanted ads and compared my skills.  And I talked myself out of every single job.  Oh, I couldn’t do this or that part of the job.

 

public domain image

public domain image

And then I found myself divorced and responsible for supporting myself and my two boys.  Now the ads looked different to me.  I would do this and I would do that – I could learn this and I could learn that.  And I did.

 

It wasn’t the ads or the jobs that had changed, but my self-talk.  I knew that I couldn’t walk in hoping that someone would give me a chance.  I had to walk in chugging like the Little Engine that Could – I think I can, I think I can.  I told SARs that showed how I learned this or that in pertinent volunteer experiences.  How I stepped up, how I solved problems.

 

Worry and fear were boiling in my belly in those moments at the end of the day, by myself.  But I boxed them up during the day and stored them behind the ‘Oh I can certainly do that’ persona in daylight hours.  (Yes, that theater training in college was helpful.)

 

Do you find yourself saying something like this – oh, I couldn’t do that?  Ask yourself why not.

 

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