Category Archives: Job Search

A Once Familiar Route, or Planning to be Disoriented

Every once in a while I become aware of the changes that have occurred in my routine for various reasons.  For years I headed east from my house – for work, family, errands.  Everything that I needed or wanted was pretty much east with the rare exception.  When my workplace actually moved closer to my home, my usual radius became about 6 miles, mostly east.

 

And then my life changed and now my well-worn route is south and north.  Work is south, with a slight alteration thanks to the onset of construction season.  (A quarter mile section of my regular road is being completely replaced, requiring me to go over a mile out of my way…)  New personal commitments and interests send me north several times a month.  Occasional jaunts take me to once familiar areas east of my house.

 

But I digress.  A person that I know is starting a new job this week, and my one of my sons started a new job a couple of weeks back.  Both are pleased with the opportunity for full time employment.  Both are interested in doing a good job and succeeding.

 

A new job is exciting. But it is also unfamiliar and disorienting.  A new routine, all new co-workers, tasks, procedures, culture, etc.  When we start a new job, we look forward to the additional money, the opportunities to use our skills.  We forget to think about the disorientation – all those new names and faces, the different commute – so much change.  That disorientation can really bite hard.

 

It wasn’t so long ago that I was in the midst of it myself.  At least being a writer helped me because of the necessary skills in observation and identification.  I never stopped being able to identify with new people at my previous job.  To help them to understand why their head was spinning.  Even still, I had to have more than one talk with myself when starting my current job to remember the plan.

 

How can a person plan to be disoriented?  A big part of the plan is just that – to know that it will happen, that it is a normal part of a new experience.  Normal means it happens to almost everyone.  The next part of the plan is to know that it is temporary.  Fairly quickly something will seem familiar, and then another something and another.  Friendly faces will offer assistance, ease the transition.

 

There is so much to learn and acclimate to in a new job, many go from being the person that everyone goes to for the answer to the person who feels lost.  But you are still you.  You still have the skills that got you the job, they just have to be applied in this unfamiliar place.

 

Long ago this was a familiar route to me.

Long ago this was a familiar route to me.

Things that we look forward to – a baby, a job, a house, a move, a marriage – are stressful because everything that was once familiar suddenly is shifted and disorienting.  If it was an anticipated change we have trouble figuring out why we are discombobulated, disoriented and we get frustrated.

 

Sometimes familiar routes cease to be current routes, but fairly quickly the new route becomes familiar.

 

© 2015 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Number Stories

(Originally posted on 9/25/14 to a shared blog – http://blogtowork.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/number-stories/)

photo credit: Huffington Post

photo credit: Huffington Post

Math and numbers have never resonated for me the way that words do.  I understand that they have a practical use – at least basic math – and appreciate knowing how to use them for things like balancing my checkbook.  And I’ve always been happy to know people who really get numbers so I can ask them for help when things get beyond basic.  It has only been in recent years that I have discovered an area of numbers that really is fascinating – statistics.

 

Statistics are stories told with numbers.  Why didn’t anyone ever tell me?  Not story problems like why did the train go faster from station a to station b or whatever nonsense.  No, number stories – data meets the story arc.  Very intriguing.

 

Why am I bringing this up here?  Because job search is loaded with statistics, some of them quite contrary, and all of it worthy of some attention by job seekers.  We all know about the unemployment rate, at least the national one that is regularly reported on the evening news.  But there are state and regional unemployment rates.  Rates based on ethnicity and age group, level of education and industry segment (healthcare, manufacturing, service, etc.).  Oh and make sure that you know how it is calculated because that is a whole other facet of the story for this number.

 

What about the workforce participation rate?  I don’t remember ever hearing about this one until the Great Recession.  This one is the percentage of adults who are working for pay.  This number is also at an all-time (read since this has been tracked, I believe starting somewhere in the 1970s) low and seems to be dropping.  The story is in understanding better why it is dropping.  And in comparing this data to the unemployment rate – if the unemployment rate is dropping, why is the workforce participation rate also dropping?

 

Then there is the job opening ratio – the number of posted open positions juxtaposed with the number of qualified applicants who are actively looking.  This seems to be coming down a bit, there aren’t quite so many qualified applicants for each open position, but still too many for the comfort of each job seeker.  This is the number that directly affects another number – the average number of weeks or months it can take someone to land their new position.  Last year I know that this average was hovering around eight months.

 

There are plenty of other statistics, but you get the idea.  These numbers aren’t just for the media and politicians to bandy about – there are lives behind each one.  Stories of individuals affected, but also of how the information is collected and applied.  The statistic isn’t the end of the story, but the beginning.

 

It comes down to your number story, which is quite simple.  Back to basic math; one person who needs one suitable position.  At least knowing some of these number stories can give you discussion points with Aunt Betty the next time she asks you again why you don’t have a job.

Creating Small Successes on LinkedIn

We think of success in these very narrow terms, specific to an end goal that usually involves improved finances as a component.  Success in this case is an ongoing strengthening of position as opposed to an end goal.  Success is also gaining better understanding of a system or process, bringing us closer to a goal and not just arrival at an end.  A broader and deeper definition of success enriches our ability to achieve meaningful success.

profile-plea

I am not an early adopter of much of anything, including social media.  LinkedIn was the first social media site that I joined, about 5 years ago, at the invitation of a business contact that I respect.  I created a basic profile and left it to its own devices; accepting invitations to connect from business contacts who found me and occasionally seeking out contacts.  I did no research into the power or potential of this platform.

 

Then I decided to get my profile to that 100% distinction (LinkedIn is smart, expecting to hook competitive spirit with this feature); and promptly returned to benign neglect, still not making an effort to understand the intent or possibility of the site.

 

When I found myself on the hunt for a job, I turned to LinkedIn as a resource.  I had incentive to figure out what this LinkedIn could do for me.  It was recently pointed out to me that most working people have very basic profiles and only unemployed people have robust profiles.  Perhaps, up to a point.  The professionals who have clued into the power and potential have taken the time to either hire someone to write a stellar profile or have sat and spent time researching and clicking around within all of the features.

 

It seemed to me that the LinkedIn Groups feature would be an important part of this search.  I had joined a couple of groups during my early days on the site and received the weekly update emails.  I ignored the emails and did not make any effort to understand the how and why of these groups that I had joined because someone had said it was a good idea.  (Lemming behavior, I admit it.)

 

I moved into group participation in the same way that most people enter a pool – slow acclimatization starting with a foot or a toe.  I belong to about 15 groups, some industry specific, some directed to my profession, some for job seekers, and a handful of regional and local groups.  I found that I would get bigger bang for my buck in the smaller, more focused groups, until I had built up enough activity to have impact in larger groups.

 

I have made comments, always aware that my activity is traceable and visible to anyone checking me out like recruiters or potential employers, on group discussions where I felt that I had something to add to the discussion.  I have also started discussions, both using someone else’s outside content and also posing my own original questions.

 

This was a good exercise and then one day I decided to take it to the next level.  I had participated in a discussion where someone I saw as an expert (and a person it would be good to meet) had made insightful comments and I reached out to him using the reply privately option.  He responded favorably, I read his profile and took his invitation to connect as a challenge.  Once he accepted, I realized that this was a whole new avenue to connect with people that I would like to have as contacts.  I now have a good size showing in my ‘met through LinkedIn’ tagging of my contacts.

 

I count this as a success and know that at some point I may use this group of people to leverage mutually beneficial future activities, whatever they may be.  I recommend to all that there is real value in learning LinkedIn and taking advantages of this platform.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Time Out Moment

Adults have been putting children in time out for decades, hundreds of years when you take the old Dunce chair into account.  Yet, somehow we don’t seem to realize when we should give ourselves a time out.  Everyone could use one now and again, regardless of how measured some people are overall.

The time out is intended to give the child time to get hold of their emotions – of course, particularly for a child, it should include vigorous exercise, not sitting still, to rid the body of that kinetic energy.  (Wherever do we think that energy is going to go?)  But that point is for another time.  We assume that through the various methods applied by our caregivers we have developed the skills needed to keep ourselves under control now as adults.

Too bad we can't have a time out spot like this nearby when we need it.

Too bad we can’t have a time out spot like this nearby when we need it.

But due to uncertainty, lack of sleep, low blood sugar, a chaotic event, illness, fear, want/need, or many other forces we don’t always have the control that we ought over our own responses.  We need to give ourselves a time out moment.  A step back, breathe, assess, consider, reconsider opportunity before we speak or act.

People who are more measured by nature are better able to build this need into their interactions.  Impulsive people, and all of the others in between measured and impulsive will have to practice awareness first – to identify that they are getting to a point where a time out is a good idea.  I have varying success with this recognition myself.  When I need it the most, I don’t seem to have the right access.

When I am just a bit stressed, but still aware I realize that I can rely upon my breathing to give me the best clue.  When it becomes shallow and tight, I stop whatever I am doing.  Then I get moving – this is always a good time for a restroom break – to change my blood flow, plus a change of scenery gives your mind a chance to re-channel thinking – and the physical activity will start to burn some of the psychic energy that is causing the need for a time out moment.  I focus on deeper breathing while moving.

We all have a lot on our mind, our plate – whatever – a time out moment now and then to reflect helps immensely.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

In Our Circles

Growing up, The Carol Burnett Show was part of prime family time each week, bits and pieces of the skits becoming part of our family vocabulary and identifying points.  Madeline Kahn was a frequent guest on the show and one of her skits where she played a pretentious acting coach for Eunice was a favorite for us.  Something that Madeline says repeatedly in this skit, ‘in our circles, in our circles, in our circles’ became part of our family sayings.

 

Madeline Kahn publicity shot

Madeline Kahn publicity shot

Madeline Kahn was spoofing Method Acting concepts for great hilarity, but this phrase has come to represent both an effort to center myself and a way to be aware of my comfort zones.  Even when firmly in our comfort zones, we can still need to center ourselves at times.  And we really need to be aware of how to center ourselves when we are outside of our comfort zones.

 

Madeline Kahn had this wonderfully rich, theatrical voice and I can still see her now – head slightly tilted forward, eyes closed and hands circling around as she chanted, ‘in our circles, in our circles, in our circles’.  (Carol Burnett as Eunice lapping it all up and imitating every action.)  This is a great example of how humor can impact us well beyond the stress-relieving immediate laughter.

 

Remaining centered is a supreme act all in itself most of the time.  Things, events, people are all working quite hard, and seemingly deliberately, to push us off center.  Out of our circle.

 

Our comfort zones can hold us back from progress – at work, in relationships – because the next thing that we need is beyond the perimeter of comfort.  Out of our circle.

 

Some people have a fairly easy time adjusting to unfamiliar and making it part of their comfort zone and others really struggle.  Of course capability to adjust can be affected by how much the new thing is wanted, needed or liked – except for people that really can’t deal with change.

 

Full disclosure – I am actually writing this one for myself because my comfort zones are shifting and I needed to remind myself that it’s ok.  I thought it might be a message that would resonate for others as well, so I’m sharing.

 

In our circles, in our circles, in our growing shifting circles.

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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