Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Branding Yourself for a Dream Job - SQL Bits XIV 2015

I'm heading back to SQL Bits XIV, the first week of March in 2015. I have a couple sessions, one of which is my Branding Yourself for a Dream Job presentation. I spoke to a packed room last year, and am looking forward to presenting again this year.

If you're in London on Mar 5th or 6th and want to learn a little about technology, as well as branding, register and come.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Caution While Posting

I've written about using "The Test" before posting (or emailing, or really committing anything to permanency. It's good advice, and I stand by it. However I saw a post about what not to post to social media, and I think this adds some depth to my advice.

It's a more formal view of social media, and it's written more for businesses, but anyplace where you see it asking about followers, replace that with "future employers". If you see "mission", then think about your brand instead.

Everything you do on social media reflects on you, and if you have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, etc. where you are trying to grow your career, make sure you stop and think about what you are posting and what it says about you.

In general, I'd limit my posts to thinks I've learned, things I've accomplished, things I've solved, things I've done well.

I'd leave out complaints and concerns regarding coworkers and employers.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Remember Who You Really Work For

I saw this on a post from Brent Ozar recently. It's a post of pictures from his company's vacation last year. There are two sentences. The first is that you should listen to a PSA that notes your company gives you vacation for a reason. However it's the ending line that stood out to me:

Remember who you really work for. Schedule your 2015 vacations now.

Who do you work for? You work for yourself, and you should remember that. By yourself, I mean you, personally, and your family. That's who you should put first and take care of, ultimately.

Employers come and go. Remember that and insist that you get your vacation time. Even if you want to sit in your house and stare at the wall, take the time.

Have I scheduled mine 2015? Not completely, but I did schedule a week with my son at Seabase for a Boy Scout trip. I'm also waiting to hear from my brother before we plan a larger family vacation. And, of course, I'm taking a few days in Jan and Feb to ski.

I haven't always used all my vacation each year, however I also get a lot of vacation by US standards. 25 days, so I often sell back a few to the company. However I have made sure I've used my vacation the last couple years and taken 20 days off.

Life is short. You work for you. Work on your career, but remember to take care of yourself (and your family).

Monday, January 5, 2015

Your Social Media Plan - Tips

I ran across a few tips from a friend of mine for social media success in 2015. It's a good list for anytime, not just 2015, but if you're going to use social media, it's a good set of guidelines for you.

The big things I wanted to point out were  that I do think it's important to pace yourself. It doesn't have to be as regular as a blog, but try to participate on some regular schedule. My posts go up and down, but I do try to regularly become a part of the interactions.

Please, please, watch what you say. This is an impression you leave and you want it to be a good one. Not too many black marbles.

Tim mentions that he purges negative influences. I try to be careful here. It's easy to surround yourself with "yes people" that echo what you think and believe. It can be about life, or about technology.

I do purge people that annoy me too much, but I also try to interact with, and follow/read people that I disagree with. It helps to keep perspective.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Long Range Planning and Execution

Let me tell you a story.

Years ago a friend was working in technology. This person had a great job, made lots of money, and was a success. They received unsolicited job offers, changed jobs a few times, and generally enjoyed their job.

However they weren't completely happy. Work was stressful, and more importantly, it wasn't fulfilling. What this person really wanted to do was work in another field entirely, one that required a substantial pay cut and self-employment.

With this person's family, they made a plan. It was a plan that crossed years, with quite a few changes. My friend paid for training. This person practiced skills for the new industry in their spare time. My friend worked part time in this new field, at night and on weekends, slowly trying to build a base.

More importantly, the family bought in and they slowly made financial changes, reducing debt and changing lifestyles to get prepared. The plan changed and altered over time as life often does.

This went on for years, over 5 of them.

Five years.

Eventually my friend reached a point where they made a change. This wasn't according to plan, in fact, the more formal version of the plan called for another couple years of work. However my friend decided it was time for a change.

After resigning, my friend started a new career and it's worked out well. I know, because this friend is my best friend, my wife.

We spent years planning for her to leave technology, and it was hard, it took focus and perseverance, and lots of patience. I would never have guessed this is how life would go, but it did. We initially planned for a year of her new career and then to evaluate it's feasibility. It's worked out well, and almost three years later, she's still enjoying her new career.

You can do the same thing. You don't have to leave technology if you don't want to, but I'd encourage you to pick the career you want. Maybe you'd rather be a DBA than a developer, or vice versa. Maybe you'd rather be a manager.

You worry about pay changes, or problems with your skills. Those are valid concerns, but not reasons to avoid making a change.

Life is short. Live the one you want.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Take Stock of Your Career

It's the end of the year, and we're about to move forward into 2015. If you haven't stopped to think about where your career is in 2014, I'd urge you to take a few hours over the holiday season and do so.

Many of us wander from job to job, taking opportunities given to us, accepting the first job offer we get when we are looking for work, and sticking with companies year after year. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's a passive way of having a career.

The job you have today might not be the one you wanted. That's fine if you are happy with it, but what if it's not your ideal job? Shouldn't you be thinking about what that is? Perhaps there are a few things you might consider:

  • Are you challenged by your job?
  • Does the level of responsibility cause you stress?
  • Are there other projects or technologies you'd like to work in?
  • Are you making enough money to provide a good life for your family?
  • Does the industry you work in excite you?
  • Do you wish you could use more features or have more input into the design of your application?
  • Are you on call too often or do you get called too much?
  • Would you rather be a consultant or FTE?
  • Do you want to telecommute?
  • Do you want to travel less or more?
  • Do you work too much?

These are a few questions that I ask myself regularly. I tend to take stock of my career in the summer, and evaluate if I still want to continue in my current position. I really try to consider my options, think about the jobs other people have and the challenges they face. I think about my family and the balance I have with life outside of work and the time I spend at a computer.

I really, really try to look forward and honestly weigh the positives and negatives of changing jobs. It's hard, and it's certainly scary. I've been doing this job for over a decade, and while it's slightly evolved, it hasn't dramatically changed. There are things I like, and things I'd change, but overall, it's the best job I've ever had and I wouldn't change (for now).

You can change your career, and move a direction you want. It may take time, even years, but it can be done.

However it starts with a single step. Maybe you want to learn SSIS or Biml. Maybe you should work on a certification and grow your general knowledge. Maybe you want to start a software project and build some skills. It's up to you, and you can start moving in a new direction if you have the desire to do so.

Monday, December 8, 2014

I used to work in xxx and now want to work in IT

This could apply to any industry, but specifically I think this works well in IT.

I got a question from someone that asked me this: "… I was thinking if you could give some advice in how to get a solid cv/knowledge in IT. I've just completed/gained my [xx cert] and now studying the following modules: YY, ZZ. My problem it's that I always worked in [other industry] and now looking to move into IT."

The short version of what I'd recommend is that you need to start showing some knowledge. Here's what I wrote:

My advice would be to start blogging about things you're studying. Show that you are learning things, how you think about them, how you'd solve problems I used to answer questions on forums (like here: http://www.sqlservercentral.com/Forums/). My answers and thoughts actually got me a few interviews.

I'd tackled some topics that you are learning about, and write about what you've learned. Be sure you communicate well (get someone to review and see if your grammar is good, logic, flow, etc.) and then post it. Use this as part of your resume that you send to employers.

The more you write about, the more you show about your knowledge. Plus you show some motivation.