Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Networking Jitters

I an across an interesting article recently about networking. The piece talked about how networking can make you feel dirty, and it gives some reasons why people struggle with networking, and some of the uncomfortable training that some people give on networking.

In general, I like the post. It highlights some of the "sales-y" crap that many people are annoyed by. However that stuff works, and if you look at the salesman that are successful, they use these techniques. However, many of those salesman make sales, but they're not building anything that lasts.

For many of us, networking is really about making contacts for the future. This isn't the place where you are trying to sell something, but you're laying the foundation of a relationship. You are just trying to meet people.

A Goal

I do recommend people set a goal. If you're at an all day learning event or conference, then meet 3-5 people. Chances are you have other things to do, but during breaks, lunch, when you're standing around, meet a few people.

Meeting one is fine if you get drawn into a conversation, or you're making a new friend. Meeting 5 is great, but don't get caught up in meeting numbers. Make an effort, and just talk to people. That's all it really is.

There are a few other things you can do to get better at networking, and I'll talk about a few of them in a future post.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Networking Works

I saw this tweet from someone in the database world recently:

It's a good reminder that networking can really help you. Networking breeds word of mouth. It's grass roots, it's the personal recommendation that might make a big difference to a hiring manager when they consider you. After all, a note from an individual carries much more weight than your resume or CV.

Networking is also easy. Networking is as simple as having a conversation. It's something you should do on a regular basis to help you meet new people, keep in touch with those you know, and in general, keep you involved in your career.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Focus, Focus, Focus

I'm a wordy writer. In fact, often I start a piece and easily find myself with 2 (printed) pages of written text in ten minutes. I tend to over describe, overwrite, and try to completely cover a topic.

Then I edit the piece and often remove half the words. Or, what I find happening more and more as I practice, is I break the piece into a few posts.

The key to writing a good post is to focus. Focus on a specific topic and write about just that item. Don't get distracted by ancillary details. If you think your readers need to know more about a related item, that's a separate post.

What I recommend is that you write a sentence that describes what you are teaching. Keep that at the top, and as you write, refer back to this sentence. Your details and discussion should support this topic. If they don't, start a new post with a quick sketch of the related item, and then go back to writing about items that support your topics.

A few examples.

If you are writing about scheduling a job in SQL Server Agent, don't get caught up in the job details, or the security for a job (proxies) or the categories of the job. Those are separate posts. Just show me how to detail with an Agent schedule.

If you're writing about how to wire an electrical outlet, don't give me details about finding the fuse box, or which gauge wire to use, or the benefits of two v three prong outlets. Those are separate posts.

If you're want to talk about cooking shrimp scampi, don't get caught up in how to make the best pasta, or choose shrimp and devein it, or how to chop garlic. Those are separate posts.

Keep your focus. You'll find blogging easier, quicker, and also you will build better communication skills that teach you to focus tightly on the concept you are explaining.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The New Blogger Challenge for November

I was at a conference last week and ran into Ed Leighton-Dick. Ed started a #SQLNewBlogger challenge back in April and I participated, promoting the event and getting a few people to blog that month. Since then I've tried to keep pushing and managed to get 3-4 people to keep going.

Ed has kicked off a new challenge for November, and I think it's great. I'm issuing my own here for people that might not be SQL professionals, but work in another industry.

Use November to showcase your knowledge and write one post a week. Take some aspect of your job, something small and focused and spend a few minutes describing how you solved a problem or what you learned. Imagine this is a short answer to an interview questions.

I won't ask you to publish it, but keep it around. Make a folder somewhere and store your post. This will be something you review before you go to your next interview, so take it seriously.

Write one a week and keep them ready to give your career a boost when you need it.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

My Apologies for the Neglect

I haven't posted much here over the last few months. Life has been a bit distracting and busy, but that's not a great excuse. I apologize for that.

I haven't been sitting still, however. I have been working on my career in a few ways. My job changed slightly this year, with a greater focus on software development over administration. I've been a bit of a technical journalist for the last decade and more of my efforts have gone towards managing databases, but the last few years I've been moving more towards building them, and this year I've had quite a bit of focus on development.

As a result, I've spent the last six or so months doing more learning and teaching on the software development side of things. I've been reading books, practicing some techniques and in general trying to improve my skills in these areas. I've been teaching a bit more as well, which is something I enjoy.

I have collected a few links, but I've managed to avoid blogging too much with a busy schedule at home.

However I'm making an effort to change things and add more posts, hopefully one a week going forward.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Switching Jobs - Talk To Your Boss

I ran across a post on switching jobs, which I thought was great. There are a few points in there that are worth point out, and which I've used successfully in my career. I've had a lot of jobs, but a mix of places I needed to leave, places I outgrew, and places that wanted me to leave (few of these).

Each of those experiences helped me grow, and I think the situations are very similar to the ones I see friends in. I wan to tackle one of those items today and others in later posts.

Talk To Your Boss

I used to be like most people, afraid to let my boss know I was leaving. I came out of the restaurant business. If you told your boss you were looking, you were fired. A lot of professionals have that view, and it's somewhat justified, but less and less so.

There are certainly bosses out there that take an employee leaving as a sign of disloyalty or disrespect, or more likely, a sign the boss is a failure. For the people that have those views, only the last item is true. If you have a boss like this, then you can't tell them. In fact, if you have a boss like this, that's probably the reason you're leaving.

In that case, I recommend constantly looking. Keep blogging, updating your resume, networking, and looking. If your boss asks, just let them know you're providing a layer of security in case the company experiences a downtown and lays you off. It's plausible, true, and likely not acceptable, but since it's your life and career, I'd do that.

However for most of my employers, and fellow managers when I managed, having a conversation about leaving is an adult affair. We can mutually discuss the issues, and often we find there's nothing that can be fixed. Money is often limited, though if this is the only reason, sometimes a change can be made.

If I (or you) want more responsibility or different projects, then part of the issue certainly is communication. The employee needs to let the manager know, and I've been guilty of this. Sometimes there can be changes; sometimes there cannot. At least not in the short term. If the issue is that you aren't ready, then a manager should help you understand where you need to grow, help you find training, and make a plan.

If you have culture issues with the company, often that's that. I had a few people work for me in this place, and we worked together for an orderly transition. One to a new company, one to a new position in another group, and in a way that didn't disrupt my team or cause any poor feelings between anyone.

I think most of you will find that your employers are grown up and understand that many people won't work for the same company for 40 years. Many of your managers will look to move on at some point, and they understand your desire. Good managers will help you, poor ones will sulk, but few will actually actively sabotage or fight you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Save Your Stories

One of the best ways that I've seen for acing an interview is to have stories to tell about experiences. When someone asks me questions about challenges, about projects, about successes or failures, I tell stories about my career.

That's something you should be able to do. While you might have specific questions in your field (which tasks lest me direct ETL rows based on some value in SSIS), I find that many questions are more open ended. Even somewhat technical questions can be answered with a few notes about the way you've handled a technical implementation in the past.

However you need these stories to be on the tip of your tongue. Whether you're putting them on your blog, or you're keeping track of them in Word (or Evernote, or some other service), make sure you keep track. You won't remember some of these stories when you need to prepare for an interview, so make sure they're stored when they happen.

When something interesting happens, good or bad, make some notes. Use this to relive your accomplishment, or unload your disappointment. It's cathartic to revisit bad experiences and evaluate them again. It's exciting to go over good ones.

Just keep track of them.