Feeling Behind? This Can Help.
I work at a fast-paced software company that is growing like crazy. That means that no matter how much I accomplish, there are always things left undone, and I feel like I should be able to figure out how to do more. In a meeting with my manager, where I shared this frustration, she told me that needed to remind myself of what I DID get done. She challenged me to take time each week to list out my successes. I've been doing that for about a month now, and it'a amazing what a difference it makes. Instead of focusing on the negatives, taking a moment to appreciate, and be grateful, for all the things I've accomplished really helped.
Applying Work to the Rest of Life
While completing this exercise for my job, I also included a few successes from life in my list. I quickly realized that, as at work, I get way more life things done than I realize. I decided to go bigger with my list. At this time of year--when we so often focus on all of the things we're going to totally change in our lives--I decided to take stock of what all I accomplished this year first. Here are 50 things I did this year.
26. Joined a gym.
27. Made my first smoothie in my very own smoothie maker.
28. Painted the living room walls red and gray (again, mostly my lovely husband).
29. Planned an upcoming vacation to New Orleans.
30. Read 13 audiobooks.
31. Rode the train from Duluth, MN to Two Harbors, MN.
32. Rolled over my old retirement account.
33. Roller skated at US Bank Stadium for the first time.
34. Saved money for retirement in a 401(k) and Roth 401(k).
35. Saw "Singing in the Rain" at the Heights Theater.
36. Shared my employment success story with the White Box Club.
37, Shopped for and bought my first inline skates.
38. Signed up for my first inline marathon.
39. Started a new job as a training department manager at a growing SaaS software start-up.
40. Stood in two states at once – Iowa and Nebraska.
41. Switched banks.
42. Took a foam roller class.
43. Traveled to 13 US states.
44. Treated myself to monthly massages.
45. Visited my mom and had mother/daughter/granddaughter holiday lefse making day.
46. Walked along the beach and watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
47. Watched "Lethal Weapon" at the Parkway Theatre.
48. Went to the gym at least eight times a month from April through December.
49. Won two Step Bets to and increased my overall activity level.
50. Worked my first learning and development contracting gig.
Whoa. I did accomplish a few things. I love that I had milestones including health, adventures, and garden-variety adulting. Seeing this list helped me remind myself of the amazing things I can do. Taking a moment to celebrate, and be grateful for, these successes has me excited to plan for next year's adventures!
What Do You Think?
What did you accomplish this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
'Tis The Season
I’ve been laid off 4 times, twice in the fall. In fact, last year at this time, I was “in transition” searching for a new opportunity. Being in job transition is rough. Being in job transition during the holidays—especially the week before Christmas through the new year—is downright futile.
I’ve read a ton of articles touting the benefits of job searching during the holidays--and I mean a lot, a lot of them. Reasons to keep going abound. No one else will be applying! You’ll get a leg up on other applicants! Tons of people are trying to fill positions before year's end! In spite of the articles I read that encouraged me to persevere, in retrospect, I would have ignored that advice and deferred to my own best judgement.
I look at the sheer number of articles on self-care during the holiday season. If the holiday season is hard all by itself, add the stress of unemployment and there are a whole ton of reasons to be extra sure to take care of yourself.
My Best Holiday Job Seeking Advice
Here’s the best advice I didn’t take: take time off from your job search during the holidays.
The Challenge of Applying for Jobs in December
Even in a fast-moving job market with ridiculously low unemployment, it takes a bit to find a job. Just given the linearity of time, there will be a gap between when you apply, interview, and get an offer you’d like to take. This process can feel like it takes an eternity when people at these potential employers are focused on working. During December, with people taking time off for all things holiday, finding gainful employment moves even more slowly. Take a break and let yourself move more slowly, and deliberately, too.
During my last job transition, which lasted 5 months, the most frustrating period was a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving until the end of the year, the last two weeks of December were the absolute worst. Aside from the darkness and winter weather, the sheer sucking void of job prospects hit me hard. In short, nothing came from my job searching at that time. I was either submitting applications to jobs that no one was going to pay much attention to for a couple of weeks, following up with employers who had other priorities, or bothering former colleagues for recommendations when they were in the throws of Christmas programs and family get-togethers. The job search picked up again the second week in January when people had their heads back in the game at work.
Take Time for Self Care
My advice to you as a job seeker? Take a holiday break. Go do things you’d like to do when you’re gainfully employed, but that are harder to find time to do. Go to a noon yoga class. Get together with friends for lunch. Read a novel with no obvious professional development benefit. Go to a matinee. Visit a museum. Walk around the mall on a weekday Take some time for you. Take a break from pounding pavement on your job search and just breathe. You’ll feel better for taking some time for you, and for not feeling like you’re working hard and getting few results.
Just like we all need vacation time to recuperate from our day jobs and be able to do good work, we also need to take a break from a job search so we can have the mental space to regroup. Take a couple of weeks off—like the week before and the week after Christmas—and reset. You’re future self will thank you for this act of self care.
What Do You Think?
What has your experience been applying for jobs in December? Share your insights in the comments.
Business Travel: Perception vs. Reality
In movies and TV shows, business people are always jet setting off to exciting locations to do fabulous things. As with most other details in movies (the size of a newborn baby right after delivery, how close tourist spots are to one another in a big city, how windshields in cars actually break), this is not so much how business travel really goes.
It’s not glamorous outfits, first class flights, and limo rides to fabulous locations. I’ve found that it’s a lot more rushing around trying to make flights, hurriedly preparing to do a presentation, trying to find all the places you’re supposed to be, figuring out where and when to fit in a meal, and finding moments of joy in the midst of the hurry and chaos.
Here are a few key details on the realities of my most recent business trip.
My Business Trip Statistics
Time Breakdown by Activity
Counting All the Things
My Trip in Pictures
Here are my most exciting pictures from this trip. Go ahead, folks. Drink in the glamour.
What do you think?
What has your typical work travel experience looked like? Add your thoughts in the comments.
From Job Applicant to Hiring Manager
Six months ago, I was in transition and searching for the next great position in my career. Now, I'm at a great company, in a job I love, and I'm in the process of hiring two new employees to be a part of the team I'm creating.
Having researched resume format and tweaked my resume again and again, and then sifting through the pile of resumes of people possibly interested in working for me, I have gained new insights into how to make your resume most effective.
Your Resume Goals
First, let's talk about what success looks like. In it's most simple form, the goal of your resume is to get you a job. However, let's break that down a bit and look at the first mini-goal in that whole process--getting a recruiter or hiring manager to want to get in contact with you to find out more. Let's focus on how you get to that critical first step.
The Initial Sorting: Yes, No or Maybe
As a hiring manager, I really want to hire someone amazing. Each time I see that I've received a new application, I'm little kid excited that this might be just the right person to round out the team and do the work that I need done. On that initial scan, I'm deciding which camp you fall into.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
Sweet. They look like a great candidate! Let's contact them immediately to find out more!
No. Just no.
Ugh. Work experience doesn't seem related to this role. Long, rambly resume. No thanks.
I'm just not sure.
Not great, but may be worth exploring--or maybe not. I'm going to have to think about this.
Questions Your Resume Needs to Answer
As a hiring manager (or recruiter) who scans every resume submitted for the two positions for which I am hiring, I am looking for answers for the following critical hiring questions. Answering yes to most, if not all, of these questions, gets you into the "yes" pile.
Question 1: Does this person have the skills needed to do this job?
Does their work experience and education line up with what is needed for the position? Do they have the technical ability and interpersonal skills to succeed? Have the job responsibilities they have had previously positioned them well for what is required of this position? Did they paraphrase the job description and help connect the dots between their qualifications and the available position?
Question 2: Does this person actually want this job? Or are they looking for any old job?
Is the job application personalized at all? Do they look like they are mass-applying for jobs, or like they actually want this position with this organization? Does their summary of what they are looking for match what the job is? Does this position seem like a logical step from their current position? If not, did they explain that this makes sense for them? (Like emphasizing how their background in manufacturing has prepared them for this job in your industry?) Do they live in the city where the job is, or mention that they plan to move? Do they emphasize how their skills will help them do the job? Do they mention wanting to work for a company like yours or doing a job like the one that is open? Is this job really their thing?
Question 3: If they took the job, would they be successful?
Does the content of their resume or summary align with what the open job requires? Are things like the level of responsibility, travel percentages, expectations for remote work or managing or not managing people what they want to do? If they have worked at larger companies with a slower pace, will the fast-pace of a start-up energize or overwhelm them? Can they be self-directed, or follow directions, as will be dictated by the role? Does this fit in with their career trajectory? Are they taking a job that isn't really ideal for them? If so, are they going to leave right away to take the job that is a better fit? Does the improvement in job responsibilities, work culture, industry or opportunity create an environment that they will really enjoy? Have they addressed any of these possible concerns in their resume or cover letter?
Getting to the "Yes" Pile
While there is no magic formula to create the perfect resume for every situation, here area few resume best practices that can help you get to the "yes" pile. Here are a few characteristics of what I think "good" looks like:
Tip 1: Include a summary front and center.
Whether you call it a "professional highlights", "summary of qualifications" or something else, this section is the Cliff Notes for the rest of your resume. This targeted, concise summary should be tailored to the job. As a resume screener, this helps me know if I should bother to keep reading. For me, not having this quick paragraph really hurts your chances of moving on. It's like having a long, dry user manual handed to you with no table of contents. Give me a your quick elevator speech on what you bring to the table so I can see if the book is worth continuing to read. Address those critical questions so I know it's worth the time to connect with you personally.
Tip 2: Keep the length to two pages.
I have seen far too many 3 page and up resumes. One key skill I'm looking for is the ability to summarize and prioritize. Skip your street address, references, and information about the high school you attended. Get rid of the extras that add length, but not value. Your resume, which may need to cover 5-30 years of relevant work experience, is one way you can demonstrate your ability to discern and highlight the most important points.
Tip 3: Be clear, specific, and precise.
Write in coherent bulleted points or sentences. Include relevant industry keywords without overusing jargon to try to impress. I'm hiring educators who need to be able to take a complex topic (everything relevant you've ever done) and show me the parts that will be most directly related to the job. This includes formatting. Make sure I can, at a glance, tell your job titles from the company names from your job responsibilities. Use white space to make it readable. Show me that you can make even complex content easy to navigate.
What Do You Think?
What other tips do you have for getting your resume into the "yes" pile? Include details in the comments.
Standing on the Corner, Waiting for a Bus
When I moved to Minneapolis, I started working downtown and realized that many people opted to take public transportation rather than driving. A few years later, I also moved not far from the light rail train, so for a solid decade, I took the morning train, worked from 9-5 and then I took the train back home again. As job possibilities presented themselves, one of my ongoing requirements was being able to continue my easy train commute.
On a Downtown Train
After my position was eliminated at the end of last year, I started a new job, and for the first time in 12 years, I am driving daily to and from work. I was reticent to make this change, but I also received an offer for a job that was a perfect fit for me, so driving to and from work seemed a small price to pay for a great career opportunity. The other day, I took the train downtown to meet a friend for coffee. It reminded me of the good, the bad, and the ugly about commuting to work my train.
Why I Usually Loved My Train Commute
For me, taking the train was quicker, safer, cheaper, easier and enabled me to have a smaller carbon footprint. What’s not to love?
Why I Occasionally Disliked My Train Commute
Lower cost? Easier? What's not to like? Well, there are a few things...
What Do You Think?
What are the good and bad parts of commuting to and from work using public transportation? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Adulting is Hard
One of my goals as a parent is to help prepare my now teenage daughter to be a functional adult who makes good decisions and is happy and healthy. Here are my top 5 focus areas to position her for adulting success.
Tip 1: Plan ahead to avoid creating emergencies.
Tip 2: Take control of your personal safety and security.
Tip 3: Have positive interactions and build healthy relationships.
Tip 4: Attend to your overall health and well-being.
Tip 5: Commit to personal growth and positive change.
What do you think?
What are your top pieces of adulting-related advice? Include your thoughts in the comments.
First, Let's Celebrate!
I have great news! My job search has come to a successful close. As of this week, I have accepted a full-time position as an instructional design manager with a software company. I’m excited about this role and happy to get to change gears from being tastefully boastful about how good I am at working to having a job where I actually get to do some paid work. I’m way pumped up about this opportunity and the fun challenges it will bring. Hooray and woo hoo both!
A Note About My Observations
I’m including several numbers in this article. Keep in mind that while I pride myself in my ability to count and do basic math, I’m dealing with a very small sample size. (See the “Learn More” section for issues that can be caused by having a small sample size when it comes statistical information.) This article can only barely be called “research” and is more appropriately described as me sharing my personal experience. With that disclaimer, on to the numbers!
Now, Let's Look at the Numbers
As a bona fide Excel nerd, and meticulous planner, I have kept detailed records on my job search journey from layoff through my exciting new job. Here are a few statistical highlights of what on earth I did with myself since my position was eliminated oh-so many months ago.
How Long Will This Take: Job Search Length
Please, Please Look At My Resume: Job Applications Submitted
Now We're Talking: Interviews
I Know People: Referrals and Impact on Interview Likelihood
I Will Never Work Again: Low Points During The Job Search
Everything Works Out: Lessons Learned During the Job Search
What Do You Think?
What are your job search insights? What worked well for you? Share your ideas in the comments.
Death by Lecture
As humans in today’s fast-paced world, we often value getting the job done as quickly as possible. When it comes to helping people learn, lecturing’s, aka “just tell them everything they need to know,” becomes the unfortunate default mode of information delivery. Unfortunately, the process of knowledge transfer doesn’t work like a bank deposit, and we can’t just extract knowledge from one person and implant it in another. Instead, individuals need to engage with information so they understand what to do with those details and make them into their own, internalized knowledge.
Grandpa, Tell Me a Story
You know who loves stories? Little kids. Do you know why? They are trying to figure out what the world is all about and what to do with all of the things they are experiencing for the first time. Just like adults use stories to help children understand the world, stories help adults make the transition from bland best practice or potentially useful technique to thing-I-actually-do. Let’s look at three examples of how stories can be incorporated into training to engage people in the learning process and help adults actually learn.
Reason 1: Stories Help Concepts Become Real
In training, many times we’re covering abstract ideas, and sharing models for how to apply those ideas. Stories help us make that jump. Here's an example:
During a training with customer service professionals, we're trying to help them understand the importance of getting to know individual customers and catering to their unique needs.
"Each customer is different. Every person who calls us on the phone has their own point of view and personal struggles that we may know nothing about. We need to find out what matters to them and emphasize those points as we speak to them. Overall, be careful about making assumptions about people’s wants and needs based on your personal preferences."
Story to make the idea real:
"Here’s an example of learning about our customers and tailoring our approach to their wants and needs.
While working at a table at a church conference, my job was to discuss health insurance benefits with pastors currently working in congregations. I was there to promote a great new benefit where pastors could earn $250 for completing an online health assessment quiz. For me, taking the health assessment was a no-brainer, because I thought, “Yay! Free money!”
I quickly learned, though, that this was not the prevailing opinion among the pastors. Several stopped to express outrage that the church was trying to BRIBE them to take the health assessment. Since many of the pastors prided themselves on being more concerned with doing good in the world than with money, having a financial reward for doing something that they should do anyway became a disincentive.
One church leader realized that a different approach was needed. She used the concept of stewardship—which means taking care of the gifts God has given to you, including your money and your own personal health. She told pastors that it was their duty as leaders of the church to model good stewardship by taking the health assessment (especially since another benefit was helping their congregation to earn a discount on their health insurance premiums).
By keeping the wants and needs of the audience in mind, and realizing that they may be very different from our own, we figured out how to position this benefit in a way that resonated with our audience. "
How the story helps:
This story takes an abstract concept (everyone is different) and drives it home. Since many people may identify with the person who would gladly take the health assessment to earn money, seeing a completely different, and often unexpected, viewpoint can be shocking. Adding details about people and context for why they have the values they do, can be eye-opening.
Reason 2: Stories Help People Learn from Other People's Experiences
When you first learn a concept, it may sound good in the abstract, but you're not sure how to apply that idea in the real world. In professions like being a police officer or a fire fighter, stories are a way that seasoned staff help rookies learn from other people's experiences. Here's an example of how to use stories to share real-world examples.
With new corporate trainers, using proximity technique to deal with disruptive students in a classroom environment.
"When trying to manage students who are disrupting the classroom, using proximity can be helpful. In short, standing near a student can help them to realize that they need to change their behavior."
Story to share one person’s experience using the technique:
"During student introductions at the beginning of a sales training class, Alice, a branch manager sitting at a table in the back of the room, was explaining what she hoped to gain from class.
In the middle of Alice’s introduction, Jim (the top insurance salesperson in the region) answered his phone. He was sitting at the front table in the classroom, and there was no way for the whole class NOT to hear his conversation as he loudly explained the concept of accident forgiveness.
I asked Alice to pause for a moment, then walked over to Jim, and stood next to him for a moment. He looked at me, I smiled at him, and then he put his hand over his phone long enough to say, “I’ll step outside to finish this call.” I nodded to let him know that I appreciate it. Once he left, Alice finished up, and the next person did their introduction.
In this case, standing next to Jim was the cue he needed to realize that he was doing something disruptive and self-correct his behavior."
How the story helped:
The story involves people with names and characteristics. This shows on sometimes challenging student, a high performing salesperson, and a situation that may resonate with students. It also shows how using a relatively simple solution can solve the problem, and help the trainer maintain control of their classroom. This story shows students how they can apply the skill, which may also help them identify when they could use a specific skill in their classroom.
Reason 3: To Give Context for Technical Training
When I’ve observed technical trainers, most of them are great at taking people through the step by step process needed to make something work. However, many times the question “why would we ever do this?” is missed. If people don’t get why the process matters, they will have a hard time mustering up enough energy to pay attention. Here's an example of how to use a story to set up a scenario within a technical training course.
Showing students in an intermediate Microsoft Word class how to use the mail merge feature to create mailing labels.
"We’re going to create mailing labels. This would be helpful if you needed to mail the same item, like a marketing campaign, to multiple people. You could even use a mailing list that you had saved in Excel as the starting point for your mailing labels."
Story to illustrate why you'd complete this process:
"Joanie and Chachi are getting married and having the big wedding of Joannie’s dreams.
Now that it’s time to address invitations, her best friend, Jenny Piccalo, points out that addressing 500 envelopes by hand is going to be excruciating.
Joannie has a great idea! Why not use the Excel file they’ve created and use the Mail Merge feature in Word to create mailing labels! They can even use one of those handwriting style fonts to help them match the script on the invitations.
Let’s look at how to set that up."
How the story helped:
Especially in technical training, sometimes we get so caught up in the “click here, click there, GOOD LORD NOT THERE” aspect of it that we forget to tell students why they’d ever bother to do the process we’re explaining. Giving them a why, in this case a why that aligns with concepts people know (the joys of managing the postal aspects of a big event) and incorporating fictional characters (who doesn’t love a little Happy Days reference?) adds a layer of lightheartedness that is often missing from technical training.
What Do You Think?
Why do you think telling stories in training is beneficial? What is your favorite story to tell? How does it enhance the learning process? Include your thoughts in the comments.
The Networking Conundrum
As an adult human with (or searching for) a grown-up job, we often hear about the value of networking--but how does one “network?” And how does one do it in a such a way that we’re meeting people, building relationships and connecting with individuals in a meaningful way? How do we do all of that without being (or feeling like) the slimy person who talks with someone today in order to shamelessly use that person for selfish personal gain later on?
Overall, networking includes meeting people, keeping track of them and nurturing those relationships in a mutually beneficial way. Let's break down each of those key components.
Meet All The People
We meet people all the time whether we’re working on a project, attending a conference or dressed in our least attractive ensemble attempting to sneak in and out of the grocery store. The trick with networking is to figure out how to meet people who share your professional interests. Here are three key places to meet the people that will become part of your network.
Coworkers and Vendors
I’ve worked for 10+ organizations, each of which had some turnover and many new employees. After I met someone initially, or sometimes after I worked with them on a project, I would connect with them on LinkedIn. I also connected with coworkers at other office locations as well as point people working for vendor organizations. Since I have worked directly with all of these people, they have direct experience with me as a coworker, manager or project team member.
In the Twin Cities, I’ve been involved with the Financial Planning Association, Association of Talent Development, Professional Association of Computer Trainers, the League of Longfellow Artists and Fredrickson Roundtable for Learning Leaders. Each time I attend a meeting, I have conversations with people before, during and after each presentation. I make special effort to get their names and connect with them on LinkedIn afterwards by including a brief note on who I am and our conversation. These are people who have seen me in a professional environment and have had at least one personal interaction with me.
Friends, Family and the Community
There are people that we interact with all the time—like the server at my favorite restaurant, my daughter's math teacher, the guy who works from the same coffee shop I visit, the woman who knocked me down last week at roller derby. This also includes friends from high school, classmates from college and the friend of my sister’s that I struck up a conversation with a month ago. After I’ve had a good interaction with people, I try to connect with them since our paths may cross again, and there will definitely be opportunities for us to help one another out. Now, reaching out to them to talk more about a specific topic will be easier since we have had casual contact on one or more occasions.
Some could argue that these people shouldn't be a part of a "professional network" since I don't directly know them from work. I disagree. I'm a firm believer that there is generally zero benefit to being mean to people and only positives from being nice to people. Go forth and be nice to people--if only for the sheer pleasure that being nice to another fellow human being can give you.
Keep Track of Everyone
LinkedIn is the core tool I use to keep track of my professional network. This is a collection of people I have worked with over the course of my career, colleagues from professional organizations and people who are both friends and possible business contacts. I use LinkedIn to post my professional profile, link to my other professional social media accounts and stay current on who of my connections currently work for what organizations. In addition to LinkedIn, I also keep email addresses and phone numbers for people who I worked with more closely, and connect people with who are family or friends as well as professional connections through Facebook.
Interact in a Meaningful Way
The biggest mistake most people make with networking is staying silent until they need something. In order to network effectively, it needs to be a give and take relationship. This includes talking to people in passing when you see them, congratulating them on their successes, asking them how they are doing and offering help when you can. Is someone looking for someone to click through a webpage they are designing? Volunteer to help. Did they just publish a book that you read? Comment on how much you liked the book or share the book with other people who might find it interesting. Did someone just get a promotion at work? Send them a quick note of congratulations.
Even sharing insightful articles on LinkedIn on a regular basis is one easy way to give to, rather than take from, your network. In order to be successful, networking should be about an ongoing relationship that is mutually beneficial—not your list of people that you ask to do you favors.
What Do You Think?
How do you build and nurture your professional network? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Taking Time to Appreciate
One day at work, I told my boss I was stressed, and feeling like there were just never enough hours in the day to get everything done. She encouraged me to make a weekly success list to remind myself that really was accomplishing a lot.
It worked so well as an end-of-the-week exercise, I started doing this for life in general as well. As we enter the time of year when people focus on their shortcomings and what they'd like to resolve to do better in the new year, I decided to first list 50 things, large and small, I accomplished this year.
50 Accomplishments This Year
What Do You Think?
What did you accomplish in the past year? Include your thoughts in the comments.
I learn for a living. I distill my research into useful blog entries. Geek, parent, knitter, yogi, writer, educator, businessperson, health advocate, & skating nerd.