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.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Beware of Humblebragging

I had never heard of humblebragging until I read this piece on it. Apparently it's a backhanded complaint combined with some level of bravado about your life. You should read the piece, and make sure you aren't using too much in your public persona.

I've noted that humility is important, but not in a job interview. That's certainly true, but make sure when you talk about yourself in a positive way, you do so with confidence and authority. I'll include honest as well, and don't humblebrag. It's a turn off, or maybe a sign that you are either covering something up or you don't really believe in yourself.

Prepare for the interview. Talk about yourself openly, emphasize what you do well, with confidence, and admit what you don't know.

Above all, make sure you are using "The Test" in your public writing and posting about your career. You never know when the interviewer will have researched your posts and have doubts or concerns about the way you portray yourself. Be careful what you post, and temper your honesty with some good judgment about what you disclose about how you conduct yourself, as well as what you know about your particular field.

This sounds like you're managing your life by being careful about posts, but it's really managing your career. If you want to be free about all of your life, I really, really encourage you to have a separate account or blog for your career.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Use a Second Account for your Career

I know lots of people like to have one Facebook account, one Twitter account, one blog, etc. However I'd encourage you to be careful here. More and more I see accounts of people that lose their jobs because of controversial posts online. Most of us aren't in public service, or in high profile positions, but even tech workers aren't immune.

While I think someone that researches you might find other accounts, showing some separation from your job v your life is a good start. I'll give a great example for my friend, Brian Kelley. He has two blogs:

He posts separate items to each, but on his goal blog, he sometimes posts items from his youth ministry. Brian is a youth pastor and his thoughts there are intended to help people grow. However they might be offensive or inappropriate at work. That's what his second blog is for: work related items.

This won't prevent someone from being upset at your opinions, or your thoughts, but it does allow you to show you separate work from home.

One further note. Be sure the separation goes both ways. Don't complain about work in your life blog. Those thoughts are better kept private, and off the Internet.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Humility

Humility is defined as a modest or low view of one's own importance; humbleness. Humility is important in life. All of us  have things to learn from others, and we all make mistakes. We all have faults, and we could do better at most things in our life.

Most of us would not like to work with someone that is full of too much bravado. It's a turn off, and it creates resentment. Humility can be an important way to integrate yourself into a team  during your daily work.

However when you're looking for an interview, or in an interview, you need to suspend your humility. You are the only person that will promote yourself, talk about your accomplishments, and sell yourself as a great employee.

Be humble, as much as you can, but not in the interview and not on your blog, resume, or annual review.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Build the Soft Skills

I have tended to assume that most of the people reading this blog are older, established in a career and trying to improve. However there are probably younger readers. There are also probably the stereotype "geek" readers.

I was reminded of that when I read this post from Mike Rowe. It's worth the read, but the part that caught my eye was this quote:

...the biggest under reported challenge in finding good help, (aside from the inability to “piss clean,”) is an overwhelming lack of “soft skills.” That’s a polite way of saying that many applicants don’t tuck their shirts in, or pull their pants up, or look you in the eye, or say things like “please” and “thank you.”

I don't want to debate the rest of the post, or the drug reference above, but I certainly do believe that there are issues with the soft skills that many employers see in candidates. The inability to meet someone's eye, display some confidence, explain yourself clearly, or dress appropriately are signs that you don't treat the opportunity seriously.

I haven't seen a lot of this in my technology travels, but I have seen some. I have interviewed people that looked down or stared to the side most of the time I talked to them. I've met people that dressed poorly for an interview.

Take this seriously. My middle child was looking for his first job recently and when he was called for an interview, I stressed that he needed to be confident, dress well, look people in the eye, and speak clearly. He remembered and texted me before his interview as I was out of town. I reminded him to wear a plain, clean shirt, be sure he showered and projected some confidence.

He got the job. Probably on his own merits, but the thing to keep in mind is that the soft skills are more likely to remove you from consideration than anything else. If someone calls you, they want to hire you. They like your resume. They think you're qualified.

Don't give them reasons to exclude you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Building Leadership Skills

You don't have to be a manager or an executive to showcase and use leadership skills. In fact, you don't have to be in charge of anything. Leadership is about influence, and that's a valuable skill for any employee.

How can you show leadership? Create some respect wherever you are. I ran across a short piece from Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat Software. It has some good pointers that you could use no matter what your position is in a company.

Show passion - That's an easy one, and it's infectious. Plus it makes the job more enjoyable. If you don't have passion, perhaps you're in the wrong position.
Demonstrate confidence - Showcase what you know and be decisive. However don't be reckless, and admit when you're wrong.
Engage - Easy to do. You can't lead if you don't ever engage.

As you do these things, pay attention to the places you influence people. Can you get people to work your way, come around to your way of thinking, adopt the habits/skills/etc. you show? You might be surprised how well this works if you're watching.

Collect these stories. Talk about them in interviews and reviews. They might be the difference between you and the next person.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Get Started Promoting Yourself

Start a new blog, write about your career and what you're doing. It's a great way to showcase your knowledge. You never know when someone will read it and want to hire you.

There was a challenge in April for SQL Server professionals. Not as many people participated as I'd have liked, but there were some. Quite a few experienced bloggers wrote posts as well to try and inspire people.

I'd urge you to give this a try and write a bit about what you do. Don't worry about hits, visits, etc. The purpose of this blog is to help you stand out at some point when you need a job. Secondarily, it teaches you to communicate better.

Get started today.