Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Starting the year out right

It's the end of another year, and thus the beginning of the next one. Whether you had a successful 2009 for your career or not, now is the time to set a goal and make a plan for the new year. Take an hour over the next day and think about your career and where you want to go, what you want out of your career in the next year, or even next three.

Then make a goal.

A resolution to do something along those lines. It could be blog more (or better), learn a new skill, take on a new responsibility, or something else, but make an effort in 2010 to add something substantial to your modern resume. Add something that will build your brand and make it more attractive to your current, or a potential new, employer.

Something besides another year of work.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Getting Your Blog Started

I realized that I haven’t written enough recently on this blog myself, being occupied with other projects for work. Recently I noticed that a friend, Andy Leonard, had written a few posts on blogging and I wanted to point them out. First he had Blog (Durnit!) , which got some interesting responses. Andy’s from the South, hence the title. He then followed it up with Blog (Durnit!), Getting Started , and has some ideas on getting your blog going.

I tend to agree with his choices of Wordpress, Blogger, and my.live.com at Live.com. I’ll also add in Typepad as well.  Any of these sites will give you a free blog. They’re growing with advertising and trying to get their names out there as the best software, so chances are you won’t have to do anything other than register.

However getting a blog started is even easier. Click your Start menu in windows and type “notepad”. That will bring up the text editor, which is a perfectly fine way to start blogging. Make some notes, write about your experience, and save the file with the date and time you finish it. No worries about privacy, about exposing yourself to criticism, it’s just a good way to see fi blogging makes sense for you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Noting Your Efforts

When you do things worthy of being noted as a part of your brand, you have to document them. I think a blog is a great place to do this, but perhaps you have a page on a website used for this or even just keep a Word document around. However you do it, you need to do it.

When you finish something, volunteering, speaking, publishing an article, leading a group somehow, take a few minutes and jot down some notes. I’d argue that you should clean it up right then, making it something you want to send to a potential interviewer, but if you don’t, at least make the notes. then clean it up when you touch your resume every quarter and have it ready for that next opportunity.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Modern Resume Length

I've been asked this question a few times, and needed to respond:

How long should your resume be?

My answer, which is based on general advice from many books and sites, as well as my experience hiring people is that you should keep the actual resume that you send to people to 2 pages or less. Try to fill out most of a page, but don't go beyond 2 pages.


The biggest reason is that it's annoying for the person reading the resume. We tend to scan them as electronic images, or in Word, but most people get annoyed by having more than 2 pages to read. We move through them more quickly, so you can go beyond one page, but more than 2 just takes too much time and it isn't concise.

I'd really suggest that you try to keep it to a page or page and a half, and if you include keywords, put them at the end so they can be skipped. That way you don't annoy the reviewer. Chances are they get hundreds of resumes for positions so any reason they have to trash yours will likely be used.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Explain it to yourself

I found a nice post from a friend, Roy Ernest, on an effective way to learn. He notes that one of the best ways he’s found is to write an article on a topic. It forces you to research, double check yourself, and explain things clearly.

I agree.

Not everyone wants to write an article that is published specifically to an audience, but this is where a blog comes in. Even a private blog or document that you don’t expose on the Internet. If you want to be sure you understand something and look to explain it back to yourself, write it down. You’ll have to do some research, and if you read it carefully, you’ll realize where you don’t really understand things.

That’s if you take pride in what you are putting down. I’ve seen plenty of people scribble things down halfway, not check themselves or their work, and they’re not really taking advantage of the time to make sure they’ve learned something.

If you want to publish, look for places. If you just want to make yourself understand something, try writing it down.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scheduling Your Posts

I see a lot of people that will blog for their career about something that's happened and worry about publishing everything all at once. You don't have to get your thoughts out there all at once, unless you're a journalist of some sort. Even then, it pays to built a following.


A couple of reasons. The first is that a steady set of blogging, or volunteering shows a bit of commitment and follow-through. It's more impressive to say that you've blogged every week for 6 months than to say you've written 30 posts.

It also keeps you in people's minds if they see you posting something regularly on your site or your entries appear in their blog reader. I know when I a post appear in my reader from someone that hasn't posted in a long time, I wonder what they've been doing.

The last reason, and this might be the biggest one, is that if you schedule things out, especially related items, it gives you a chance to respond to comments and revise them.

Don't get caught up in the idea that all your blogs need to publish right away. Schedule them out over time, at a pace that fits your life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


When looking to improve upon a simple resume, one of the best things that you can do is build a better network. It sounds cliche, and it is something that's out of many people's comfort zone, but networks really matter.

It's not what you know, but who you know.

I've heard that for most of my life, and it's proven true many times. Many of us get jobs, without knowing someone at the hiring company, but that's often because no one at the company has a candidate in mind already. If they did, you wouldn't get the job.

So why take the chance? Networking isn't that hard, and it should be something real that you build. Forget the image of the salesman that exchanges business cards with everyone or keeps a dossier on his contacts. Build a real network that you can use in your career.

It's possible, and it's not that hard. I'll detail some ideas in future posts on how to practically build a network.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Images in your blog

In a recent talk I gave, I recommended using images to spice up your blog. I think it's great, and I often include images in my posts where I can. I typically grab screen shots, or use pictures I have, but I have linked from the Internet.

However someone asked me about copyright. My reply was that linking an image from another site should protect you from that. There was a case that went to through the courts that held a link, meaning a hot link (using the "img src=" tag), wasn't a copyright violation. But copying the file to your service and using it, was a violation.

However a few other people posted links to complaints people had made about hot linking, saying it was "bandwidth slurping or stealing."

I can see both points, and so I'm not sure what the proper thing to do is. I'll say this:

  • If there's a copyright notice, like on a photo or cartoon, don't use the image.
  • If someone complains, take down the image or link.
  • If it's a large site, like Amazon, use a link, but give credit to them. Amazon actually allows you to save their images off to your server.
  • If it's a small site, ask them.

That's probably the best solution. I think that I'll give credit on future photographs that I use in my writings and copy them to my server.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Networking with no need for a job

I wrote an editorial recently about networking, and why it can be important. The focus was about finding out about opportunities that might be out there for future jobs. I think with the economy in shambles, and lots of people out of work, it was a good way to highlight how you might find a job. You might not, but I think most people would rather have another safety net for their jobs if they can.

However in the comments, someone pointed out a few things I hadn't thought about. They mentioned four places where you might benefit from networking in your own career:
  • You might hear about a new technology that interests you. Or might further your career
  • You might hear about a business opportunity because of a problem with a competitor.
  • You might hear about someone having issues and be able to help them.
  • You get out of the office.
In terms of your physical resume, the first or second one might be something that helps you, but the last two are items you can bring up in interviews that show off some breadth and depth to your career. I'd make a note of them, blog about them, keep them handy as stories that can make you a more attractive employee.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Why Blog? (or write? or speak? or lead?)

This short piece has a nice summary of the reasons that spending time doing any of these extras. You do this type of stuff at work, or at least your employer wants you to do it, so showing that you can do it is a great leg up on the competition.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I was writing about finding a mentor as an editorial recently, and it occurred to me that this is one of the items I talk about for the Modern Resume. A mentor is a kind of leader, providing counsel, advice, support, and knowledge to someone else. It's about helping someone get where they want to go and using your own experiences and thoughts to do so.

I guess you could be a type of thought leader when you are a mentor. Someone listens to you and considers what you have to say.

What does that have to do with branding? I'd say for the most part that noting these experiences, documenting them somehow, and being able to talk about them, shows a skill that many people look for in an employee. You can blog about them, or just be ready to talk about them in an interview, but just as you should have stories about good and bad experiences, you should keep track of times when you've mentored someone.

The synergies from a team of people come from their interactions, their feeding off each other, but also when a person with a strength in some area helps another that's weak in that same area. That's part of what mentoring is.

Keep that in mind as you go through your career.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Branding is the First Step

I can't really emphasize this enough. Building a brand on the Internet, or even in private, is just the first step in finding your next job. It's an enhanced, modern resume, that encompasses more than just the couple pages you put together to send someone.

I've had many people get upset and feel that building a brand somehow means you shortcut the interview process. That's not true at all. A well built and impressive brand is what gets you the interview, what makes you stand out and what attracts potential employers.

The rest is up to you. You need to still interview well, show off your skills, and present a professional image to those you meet.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Writing Technical Articles - A Few Simple Tips

A few simple tips that I've learned over the years. Keep these in mind as you write your next article.

That and Which - It's amazing how often I correct this in writing, and it was something I learned early on. If you use "that" in a sentence, you don't need a comma. If you use "which", you do. A few samples:

  • The DMVs are system views that allow you to gain insight into the server operation.
  • The DMVs are views, which give you insight into the server operation.

There are a few other rules here as well. That should be used for essential clauses, meaning the are necessary in the way things are worded. If you have non-essential clauses, like descriptive information, use "which."

If you use "that" in one sentence, or earlier in the paragraph, you can switch over and use "which" for the sake of better flow.

Its vs. it's - I still mess this one up at times, but here is an easy way to read your sentences and avoid mistakes. Replace "its" with "it is" when reading. If it makes sense, you're supposed to be using the contraction "it's" and not "its." If it doesn't make sense, as in it's possessive, then stick with "its."

  • I have found it's important to test the boundary cases. (Test: I have found it is important to test the boundary cases)
  • In this particular boundary case, its result is zero. (Test: In this particular boundary case, it is result is zero. Doesn't make sense. stick with "its")

Capitalization - Surprisingly this is more difficult than it seems. Proper nouns and names are capitalized, and of course, the first word in a sentence. Outside of that, don't capitalize random words. So SQL Server is the proper name of a product, but "the database server" is a generic. Don't capitalize "Database Server," which is something I see often. The same thing applies for groups, even if you think they're specific. I realize you are talking about your "development team" or your "manager", but unless you call them out by name, or you are using the title of the group, they aren't capitalized.

If you've got questions, post them in a comment and I'll try to answer them. I'd also recommend that if you want to write, pick up a style guide. Microsoft has published a technical one and the Chicago Manual of Style is always a good book to keep around.

The best advice I can give you is to have someone else look over your article. I realize that I don't always do that for my editorials, and some of that is because of the time pressures and crunches I get under to get things done, but for technical articles, I'd be sure that you have a friend read it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

There is No Excuse

I read Jack Corbett's blog entry,No Training Budget Still No Excuse, last week and thought it was excellent. In fact, I plan on putting it out again on Twitter again.It was that good to me, and I thought it was short, to the point and had good suggestions. And not just because he mentioned SQL Server Central.

There is no excuse for you not to be able to improve your skills and career.

I hear lots of times from people that they work too much, don't have a training budget, and how are they supposed to improve their skills. The short answer is that you work at it. On a regular basis, and using the resources you have. Jack gives some great ones, but the reality is that there are plenty more, in any field, on the Internet that will help you improve. They don't take a lot of time, but I'm sure some of you can find an hour or two a few times a week to learn something new about your profession.

Doctors do it, lawyers do it, even engineers often spend some time out of work studying and reading about their field. There's no reason that other professions can't do it as well. It doesn't have to be every day, but it should be every week. Spend a few minutes learning something new.

Some of the resources are free, some aren't. However don't let price scare you. You ought to invest a little in your career yourself, even if your employer won't. You might not be able to afford a $2,000 class or conference, but I'm sure you can buy a book, or get a subscription to some service that helps you.

My current career is dedicated to providing free (cost) learning resources for IT professionals. I also have a business that looks to provide pay services. I think they both fit needs, and we try to ensure that we are providing more value for the paid services, but that doesn't mean the free ones won't help you. They might take more time, and more work on your side, but that's the tradeoff.

No matter how you choose to do it, there isn't an excuse to not improve your career.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Be Careful of Facebook

Even the President thinks so! In his talk yesterday, he warned kids about Facebook, and being careful what they should post. It’s also what I talk about in my branding and blogging talks, be careful what you post.

However it’s not a permanent thing you can’t get over. At least in the US we are likely to give you a second chance if you post something in appropriate.

Each post, however, adds to your reputation. If you have too many things that show you’re not very responsible, it looks bad.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Advice for Students (or new workers)

I saw a blog from ZDNet on advice for students entering the workplace. It's good common sense, and I think it makes sense. The highlight, though, is the last item.

Keep your work and personal life separate.

That fits with what I talk about. Keep your personal blog, thoughts, Facebook, etc., separate. There should be some separation in your life, and I'd extend that to your brand as well. Make a separate blog, even a separate Facebook profile, for your professional world.

For students that don't have a profession, I'd plan one when you start looking for jobs. For me that was the start of my senior year. If I were entering my last year now, I'd go about it this way.

In August, I'd get a hotmail/gmail/yahoo email address that will remain constant for me. I'd be wary of my school or ISP accounts. You might move across the country in a year, and you want a fairly permanent address. This also allows you to build a separate profile.

I'd choose the places that make sense for me. Ask professors, contact others in your field, see where they tend to make profiles. Many people use Facebook. LinkedIn has done well in many technology fields, Ning seems to work well in Europe. Pick the one that works for you, create a new profile, note your professional items: your major, internships, etc.

Set up a professional blog. Include posts that are relevant to your field, things you've learned or worked on, projects, etc. If you have a personal blog with this stuff in there, copy posts over.

Use this email and profile, and blog, in your resume, cover letters, etc. as the place to learn about you and why you're a good employee.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Building a Better Blog

I had a great session for the 24 Hours of PASS on Building a Better Blog. Not sure how well the other sessions went, but I got lots of nice comments via email and Twitter at the end. I don't know when PASS will get the recordings live on their site, but they did make them.

I made a recording of my test that I'll try to process and toss up here later if anyone's interested in how it went down from my side. I won't put up the 40 minutes, but I'll slice up a 5 minute segment if I can.

Hot Linking

A few people asked about hot-linking images. I said that you could do it either way, upload a copy or hotlink. Some responded that hot linking is bandwidth theft. I guess that's one way to look at it, but copying their image can be copyright theft. Courts have found that copying images is copyright theft, but hot linking is not.

The reality is that it's up to the source to decide what's right and wrong. If they don't want you linking, then they'll usually tell you. If that's the case, then just take it down, and find another image.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Building a Better Blog - Next week during the 24 hours of PASS

I've got a new presentation on blogging slated for next week during the 24 hours of PASS. The event is a series of presentations, 24 in all, on Sept 2-3, running continuously from people all around the world.

I'm scheduled for the 10am MST, which is 5pm GMT, which works well for me. Kids will be at school and it should be a quiet time around here.

The presentation takes some ideas and thoughts I've had from working on the Modern Resume for people as well as looking over those blogs from technical people that seem to be highly ranked, as well as those that make a good impression on me.

So sign up today! There's all kinds of SQL content to choose from.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Better Blogging

I'm not sure I agree completely with Brent Ozar's advice at Building Your Blogging Momentum, but I like most of it. It seems aimed more for someone looking to raise their profile and not necessarily the average guy, but that's OK. There are lots of people that want an MVP or want to become more well known.

It's what I talk about. Building your brand and making a case for why you're a better employee. Blogging is a great way to do it, and while I know not everyone is a writer, in the IT world, we all need to communicate. Blogging is a good way to build that skill.

And show what you're working on, learning, etc.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Don't Copy Other People's Posts

In my Modern Resume presentation I have a few slides on blogging, a couple of which are hints and tips on "how to blog." The second one starts out like this:

  • Don't copy other posts
  • Don't copy other posts
  • Don't copy other posts

I know that repeating something three times is supposed to be a way to get people to remember something. This is one of those things that I think is really important to stress to people, especially after a few incidents in the SQL world lately.

Joe Webb recently wrote "The theft of ideas and content" after some of his content was plagiarized. I've seen a few other professionals in this the SQL Server world respond to similar issues of their own content. A couple professionals, Brent Ozar and Tom LaRock did a short presentation on how to deal with this.

You can't build a brand of your own if you don't do the work. It sounds cliche, it sounds like the advice you'd get from your parents. Do the right thing no matter what. Lots of people think that everyone lies on their resume, and I'm sure many do, but it can come by to bite you later. Here are six examples of people who lied on their resume and got caught.

In today's world, it's getting easier and easier to check up on plagiarism. I strongly urge you to do your own work.

Your blog is a part of your resume. It's a part of what people will look at before they call you for an interview. Even after you have the job, this survey said you might get fired if they discover you lied on your resume.

I don't know that I'd fire someone for lying on their resume, but I certainly would if I found you copying someone's blog and claiming it as your own.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who Do You Hire?

I saw this quote at 37 Signals:

"If I have two candidates in front of me, one that included a cover letter about how he hand-rolled his own blog, comments, and feed aggregator for fun to learn a new framework, and another that just sends a resume with a one-liner in the body of the email, I’m going to be much more inclined to say “hire” for the guy with the cover letter, even if the second guy’s resume is a bit better. Similarly, I’ll be more likely to say “hire” to the Eagle Scout, triathlete developer than a candidate who bludgeons me with all of their “accomplishments”..."

It's from this blog post that talks about hiring practices, and how it says something about the company. It's interesting, and while most companies aren't very sophisticated in their hiring practices, that is changing.

I'm including it here since someone asked me about cover letters recently. They asked if they should still write them.

I say yes. A cover letter is your chance to make a case for why you should be picked. You can highlight an accomplishment, show some of your personality, let them know more about your online brand. They might not care, but why take the chance.

The other thing a cover letter says to me is that you took some time to look at my company more and you want to work for us. You're not likely to blast out 10,000 resumes with custom cover letters. If you do, then you're a hard worker and that says something.

Don't use a template, however. Make the effort to write a letter tailored for the company.

I don't know if it's helped me get interviews, but I've rarely sent out a resume in the last decade and not gotten an interview.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SQLSaturday #17 - Baton Rouge Session Evaluation

I guess I did a good job, with all 3s and 4s in my eval (meaning good and great) for the presentation. That was good as I struggled with a projector that cut off my slides (something to be aware of for next time.

The suggestions I got were good, and I had a few that I need to address in the next presentation:

* find examples of people with lower profiles.
* Talk about more differentiation of personal and private profiles
* More on the physical resume
* Talk about privacy items

I'll work on those, and hopefully address some in October when I give this one again.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Touch Your Resume

If you don't have one, right now, set a reminder.

I'll assume most of you use Outlook, but in whatever calendar program you have, be it Google, a cell phone, whatever, create a new reminder now. Here's what you put in it.

Title: Touch your resume

Recurrence: every 90 days

Details: Check resume

- update Linked In/Facebook/Plaxo/wherever your profile is.

That's it, and then save it. When it goes off in 90 days, do the same thing you'll do today.

Check your resume, see if you have done something significant since the most recent thing you have listed on it. A new job, a new position, new responsibility, a new project completed, anything. If you have, add it. Then look for something to remove if you're approaching the 2 page limit.

If you haven't added anything, you should have just spent about 90 seconds thinking about things.

Next go to your online profile(s) and give it a quick look to see if it matches your resume. Make sure it does, and then get back to work. You've only spent a few minutes on your career, but you're prepared in case something happens.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

SQL Saturday #17 – Baton Rouge Wrapup

My presentation went well at the Baton Rouge SQL Saturday with about 30 people attending. It was the early morning session, and a few people afterward told me they thought it was a good session with advice they could use.

The poll numbers were interesting, though this was a slightly different group. Only about half of the people were SQL professionals, with a number of DBAs and project managers in there along with the SQL people. Very few people knew the authors, and that’s what I expected, and I had 4 of 30 blogging, just slightly above the 10% mark I’ve seen.

In the profile poll, it was very different. I saw:

  • Myspace: 18% ( a few people used this to check on kids)
  • Facebook: 50%
  • Twitter: 35%
  • Plaxo: 8%
  • Linked In: 33%

That’s a shift, with Facebook beating out LinkedIn for the first time. Also a lot of Twitter people, though given the hurricane issues still on people’s minds, perhaps not.

I had a few questions and decided to repeat some good answers here:

Q: I have a a personal Facebook profile, what do I do about business contact friend requests?

A: My thoughts here are that you should consider a separate business Facebook profile if you get invitations from business colleagues.

Q: What about having a personal blog?

A: Definitely keep your personal life separate on a different blog. There are so many easy to use blog services for free that it makes sense to have a separate one for your non-career related beliefs, thoughts, etc. I have updated my slides to note this.

Q: Do you update your status when looking for a new job if your boss can see it.

A: It depends. I have never had issues letting my boss know that I’m not happy, and giving them specific reasons. I’ve also told them when I’m looking for a job. However I did have one senior manager that I could never have told since he would have fired me on the spot, or I think he would have.

My feeling is that you want to be open, but if you cannot, then use a recruiter and be sure that you let them know this is your issue. Let them submit your resume, maybe without a name, and have them look for you.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Get into the Top Ten Percent

When you start applying for jobs, and face competition from other candidates, who do you think gets the interview? Is it the middle 50%? The bottom 20%?

I bet you're thinking the top 5-10 candidates are granted interviews, which in today's world of electronic resumes, could be the top 1% based on some of the numbers I've seen from hiring managers. It's not uncommon for a single position to get 300-500 submissions.

How do you position yourself to be in the top ten percent? I have on easy way that will help you along.


In my research over the last year, and in giving a presentation on the Modern Resume to hundreds of people, it's been fairly consistent in my audiences that about 10% of the people out there that come to these events blog as a part of their career.

And that's the 10% of people that care about their careers and are willing to work on them.

Just by doing a blog you can separate yourself from many other people. You give every potential interviewer or HR person more information, and more reasons to consider you as the top candidate instead of others.

Would you rather interview someone that has a large profile and you have an idea of how they think from forums and blogs, or someone that just sends you a two page resume summary? I've always believed that more information is better, and it helps you make better decisions.

HR people, along with managers, are getting smarter. They don't just hire based on MCSE credentials, or any others. They look beyond that, and the more comfortable they are with you as a candidate, the better image (read "brand") you present, the more likely you'll get the call back.

Now you need to write good blogs. Be simple, tackle things you know well, and have someone proofread your entries. You are showcasing communication skills, as well as knowledge, and keep that in mind.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm Certified, Now What?

I saw an article from Certification Magazine recently (via Trainsignal on twitter) with that title. It compared the completion of certification to that of a marathon runner. You've completed a marathon, after all the training, and now what?

I'm not sure that's a great comparison, but it does beg the question of what to do when you've completed your MCITPro, MCSE, or any other certification.

Surprisingly, I found quite a few other articles with that same title, and I thought this one from the MD Dept of Transportation was great. It talks about what companies that get certified to do business with the state should do, and it really lets you know that certification is the first step, not the last one.

Their advice?
  • aggressively market
  • identify possible employers
  • contact them
  • keep inquiring about new opportunities
  • research opportunities
  • network
  • use resources
Is it any different for individual workers? I'd argue that it's not, and you should view a certification as the base step for moving your career forward. Whether you are coming out of college, or a twenty year veteran in your industry, the certification can add to your credentials, but it's just an addition, it isn't the ultimate goal or measure of your value.

I think certifications can help. They force you to learn something, and they help you to focus in certain areas. I'm sure there are plenty of people that just try to memorize topics and answers, but that should still help them. Whether they'll be able to apply those skills in the real world is a separate question, but they still have improved skills.

And that's what you also need to do. In addition to just marketing yourself, and showing off your certification, you also want to show that you've learned a few things. Blog and relate your studying back to your job, or to something in that area. I'd argue you should have been doing this all along, but it's never too late.

Pick up a project of some sort, even if you just duplicate some work of someone else. Show that you have picked up skills and can start to apply them. Make a point of communicating that you can apply your skills.

And if you can't do that, perhaps that's the next step for you. Learn to apply those skills and don't assume that certification will carry you along.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Public Speaking

I saw Ed McMahon's book "The Art of Public Speaking" recommended by someone recently. I forget who it was, but it was someone I respected and they were writing after his passing. So I immediately jumped over to Amazon and purchased a used copy.

It arrived recently and I'm just starting to dig in to see what I can learn. Between my own speaking efforts and being a merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts, I think I ought to learn more about it. I'm tempted to hit a local Toastmasters meeting, though I'm not sure where I'll find the time.

Monday, July 13, 2009

You are building an online brand

With everything you do online. At least according to this blog post at ZDNet, which somewhat validates my presentation: The Modern Resume - Building Your Brand Online.

There's not a lot in the blog, other than mentioning there are some new tools that give you the ability to leverage your social profile with business cards, the Facebook vanity URLs, and more, but also new privacy controls on your Facebook account.

There are pretty good controls already on LinkedIn, and I think they're good, though I would like to see a little more granularity for sharing with co-workers/friends and a separate level for recruiters or potential interviewers.

I mention it in the talk, but it's worth repeating. Anything you post online is a part of your profile. None of them will make or break your reputation or your brand, but they add up. You don't want a lot of items that present you in a poor light. You want more things that make you look good, or at least professional for your career.

Manage your brand. It's always been something you should do, and that continues in the digital world. I'm not sure if it's more or less important, but I think you can better manage your impressions in the digital world.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Behind on Blogging

One of the things I recommend to people that are looking to get into blogging is that they write 10 posts before they publish one. That way they can see if they like writing, but also have a pipeline of content to publish. They can schedule these out, 1 a week, or 1 every 2 weeks, and then continue writing each week. This way they'll never run out of content, even if they don't have time to blog one week.

I set a goal of blogging every day at SQLServerCentral, and so far I've done a good job of blogging this year, only missing a couple days, even only a couple vacation ones!

However last week, being on vacation, I hadn't scheduled any posts, though I managed to do a few anyway. In leading up to vacation, I'd neglected to push forward, and as a result, I only had one post scheduled for this week.

So I've been working from notes, trying to turn a few of the ideas and notes I've had into posts for the rest of this week. I've gotten two scheduled, but I need to knock out 2 a day for a week or so to get caught up.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Lowest Bar

In my Modern Resume presentation, I tried to structure it to go from easy to hard things to do in terms of branding yourself. So the order has been:

  • Profiles (social networking)
  • Blogging
  • Authoring
  • Speaking
  • Volunteering
  • Leadership
  • Research

Actually I added research later, so that is at the end when it really is the easiest (I think) for people to do. Or maybe not. It requires some confidence in yourself to admit mistakes and ignorance, so maybe it’s not easy.

At a recent presentation I was discussing this with Andy Warren and he disagreed. He said blogging was hard for most people, that they can’t maintain it and my bias as a writer has me spending too much time on it.

I think I agree after some thought on the matter. Writing is hard for many people, and even though they recognize that it’s a skill they need to IT (writing, communicating), most people won’t do it any more than they have to.

So what is the correct order? How should I focus on them in my presentation? I think for the average guy/gal, the easiest things are likely :

  • Profiles (social networking)
  • Research
  • Volunteering
  • Leadership
  • Blogging
  • Authoring
  • Speaking

    I’ll play with the order, but I am interested to see what others think. My view is that speaking and authoring, trying to put out a message, is still hard, but volunteering your time and knowledge, either in IT or outside, is probably easier than blogging. Even leadership, being a team lead or project lead, is probably easier for most IT people.

  • Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Am I a bad employee if I don't blog?


    Blogging is not for everyone and you don't want to give the impression you are something you are not doing something right if you don't blog. Not everyone is a writer, not everyone likes putting their thoughts down, and not everyone is brave enough to publish out on the Internet.

    It takes a thick skin, and even after doing this for years, I still get attacked regularly, and I don't always take it well. I'll admit it gets to me. Luckily I have a good support system with my wife and friends that can pick me up when I've had a particularly nasty comment.

    I do a presentation on The Modern Resume, telling people how to big a more noticeable presence in the world, making yourself stand out more. I think blogging is the easy way to do this, but there are others:

    • Volunteer your time - Answer questions online, help out a non-profit group, or something like this.
    • Lead or manage - at your company, mentor someone, work with a church or other community group
    • Do your own research - Learn how to do something, and then show your boss or a prospective employer.

    I don't think you can get away from writing completely since you'll need to document and explain things you've done. However it can be as simple as notes you've made to yourself and a few lines on your resume or CV.

    Writing is a skill, however, and I'd encourage you to develop it. If you don't want to blog, it still makes sense to pay attention to how you communicate in email, in reports, and in documentation. Learn to do it better and your career will benefit.

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Pensacola Results

    A week ago I spoke at the Pensacola SQLSaturday event to about 30 people. A few drifted in late, so I’m not sure of the totals, but I did get these metrics from the surveys, when I had 24 people in the room:

    Social Networking

    • Facebook – 18, or about 75%
    • LinkedIn – 12, or about 50%
    • MySpace – 2, or a little less than 10%, but one said he didn’t ever use it.
    • Plaxo – 6, or about 25%
    • Twitter – 2

    This is a little better than I’ve seen in the past in Denver, so it’s good that there are more people putting a profile of some sort out there.


    3 people had technical blogs, so only about 10%, which is on track. Almost 80%, or about 22 people, read blogs regularly.


    The author poll, once again very few people recognized authors from their pictures, despite knowing the names. That's good news if you want to raise your profile, but keep a good portion of your privacy.

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    Writing Technical Articles - Finding Ideas

    This is part two of a series on writing a technical article. The advice might apply to non-technical articles, but I’m focusing specifically with my examples on technical pieces. Other parts are listed at the end of this article.

    I've been asked often about where I get ideas from. The answer, for me, is everywhere. Every conversation, email, article, almost everything that happens in my life triggers thoughts and ideas, and as a writer, I tend to think about how I would write about things.

    That took years of practice, and constant writing to develop that skill, but I've heard similar things from people that don't write daily like I do. However I do have a few ideas and thoughts.

    First, anything that you do in your job can be an article. Any problem you solve, any solution you implement, they can be an article. No matter what you're working on, I can likely find a way to write it into a technical article.

    Second, remember that you are teaching someone about the technology. You want to consider how you would mentor someone else about this technique. If it's anything non-trivial for a layman in your area, it can be written about.

    I tend to focus more on beginner articles, and I think that's a good place for new writers to consider. Different publishers will be looking for different levels of content at any time, and they'll often let you know if your article doesn't meet their needs.

    As an example, here are a few things that I've seen happen in my environments and then written about:

    • Exceeding the size of a INT in an identity column from over 4B inserts.
    • Moving tempdb
    • Template use in Query Analyzer
    • Routing issues when multi-homing a SQL Server
    • Designing a simple database for a specific type of content.

    Some of these are beginner, some of them are more experienced, but the topic doesn't matter. Different publishers will have different criteria for what they will publish.  They will let you know, and you can work on your article based on where you will publish. SQLServerCentral will publish almost anything while MSDN will be very choosy about which topics they release.

    Any problem that you have solved is likely something that plenty of other people have not. And the longer you worked on it, the less information you found on it, the more likely it's a good candidate.

    The one thing I caution people against is writing general overviews. Too many people write these, and they often don't add information or knowledge to the world. We each have our own voice, but overviews are so generic that you likely won't reach different people with yours. Instead focus on a specific area and give details. Your readership will appreciate it.

    Writing a Technical Article Series

    The rest of the series on how to write a technical article.

    Monday, May 25, 2009

    Speaking Engagements for The Modern Resume

    I’m giving my talk on The Modern Resume – Building Your Brand a few more times this year and I’ve got a tentative schedule here:

    June 6 – SQLSaturday #14, Pensacola, FL.

    July 2 – Richmond SQL Server Users Group, Richmond, VA

    Nov 11 (tentative) SQL Connections, Las Vegas, NV. I’ll be speaking at the event, just not sure of the day and time.

    I’ve also submitted this for the PASS Community Summit, we’ll see if I get picked.

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Writing a Technical Article - Structuring Your Article

    This is part one of a series on writing a technical article. The advice might apply to non-technical articles, but I’m focusing specifically with my examples on technical pieces. Other parts are listed at the end of this article.

    I deal with a lot of first time authors, people that are working in a technical field and want to publish some type of article to share their knowledge or work. And I see all sorts of quality of articles from highly polished and ready to release to drafts that aren't as good a quality as my ten year old might write.

    Even allowing for the language differences from around the globe (I get submissions from many countries), the quality of writing is appalling at times, and even when it's not poorly written, it's often not well structured.

    Pick a Theme

    The first thing that I'd really suggest for people is to pick a topic, or theme, for your article. Think about what you want to write about and then write an abstract or at least a topic sentence.

    As you write, you should be able to go back to your topic sentence or your theme at any point, at any paragraph, and you should be supporting that theme. You can diverge in your writing to make a point, or give an example, but your writing should almost always be supporting your theme. If it isn't, you're off track.

    Focus, Focus, Focus

    Too often I find technical writers worrying about losing people, worried about covering their bases, and so they try to spell out every detail, or they include lots of background about lightly related subjects, or they want to be sure that someone implementing this technique understands everything needed for the entire infrastructure.

    Don't do that.

    Focus on your small topic. If you are teaching someone about encrypting data in SQL Server or in an ASP.NET web page, don't tell us about configuring IIS or creating server certificates in SQL Server. If that's needed, mention it, but don't go into details. Point people to another article, or just the vendor documentation. Or Google if you must. But write about the one small piece of technology you have chosen and leave other parts for another article.

    Write about what you are teaching us, and assume people have some base level of knowledge. That might be a beginner in a topic, or an advanced used, but no matter which level you write for, you can still focus on your one area.

    One thing I usually tell people is that a good technical article tends to be in the 2-5 page range (perhaps longer if you have lots of images or code), but beyond that you might want to consider splitting it into two parts.

    Tell Me, Show Me, Tell Me

    Everything above is general advice for trying to determine what goes into the article, but how do you structure it? The "default" advice, the advice that I think everyone should follow until they're established and comfortable writing articles that someone else publishes, is this:

    • tell me what you are going to write about
    • show me what you told me
    • tell me at the end what you told me

    Or in other words, have an introduction, a detailed middle section, and then a conclusion. This is standard essay advice that most people get in grammar and high school, and it still applies for articles. Blogs can be different, but for an article, follow this advice.

    The introduction should have your theme or topic sentence, and then some details that explain what you're showing, and perhaps some back story about how you discovered this, or how it fits into a common situation.

    The details should be just that. Walk the user through your code, your settings, explaining things. You ought to be able to give the article to a non-technical, or low-technical user and they should be able to follow along. They might not understand, but they should be able to follow things.

    I tend to advise people to show snippets of code and then explain them as they go rather then show a huge section of code  at the beginning or end, but it can work either way. You can even make the code a download and reference sections or line numbers. If a technical person can't load code into an editor, they probably shouldn't be reading your article anyway.

    For the conclusion, it feels silly, but summarize what you've said. Restating the theme does two things. One it reinforces things for the person reading. They'll agree that you've shown something and it will stick with them. Of course if you haven't done a good job, hopefully there's a feedback mechanism for you to find that out. The other thing is that in writing that conclusion, you should go back and think about what you've written up to that point. Does your conclusion really summarize things?

    The conclusion for me also tends to include a teaser to another article, a way for the reader to move on, or perhaps a quick note about what (specifically) this technique has done for me.

    Writing a Technical Article Series

    The rest of the series on how to write a technical article.

    • Part 1 – Structuring Your Article
    • Part 2 – Finding Ideas
    • Part 3 - Where to Publish

      Tuesday, May 5, 2009

      Paying It Forward - Volunteering

      One of the ways you can build your brand that I mention in the talk is through volunteering some of your time or skills to help others. There are a variety of ways you can do this. A few examples:

      • Answering questions online
      • Helping some non-profit group (Scouts, churches, charities, etc)
      • Working for an industry organization (PASS, local user group)

      I'm sure you could find many more ways to help out, but I think these are the main ones I'd recommend for technical people.

      Some people think that volunteering isn't a place where you should call attention to yourself, or that you aren't being humble by doing so. My advice along these lines is as follows:

      First, don't volunteer unless you really want to help someone. In other words, have a good moral reason for helping out and be comfortable if you don't get any recognition.

      Second, don't call attention to this in general. Mentioning it on your blog is OK, but don't make a big deal out of it. If you learned something, or grew through the experience, talk about those things, don't talk about the volunteering part of it.

      The exception I'd make here is if you are trying to get others to join you. Then it makes sense to promote the efforts.

      Lastly, your resume (or CV, or in an interview) is the place to talk about things you do. This is the time you can promote yourself, and volunteer efforts enrich you.

      They also take away your time, so if you want to continue, and if you did it for the right reasons you should, make sure your potential new boss is aware of this.

      Friday, May 1, 2009

      Upcoming Presentations - 2009

      I have a few presentations of The Modern Resume scheduled for the remainder of this year. If you're in the area, feel free to stop by.

      • June 6, 2009 - Pensacola, FL, SQL Saturday #15.
      • July 2, 2009 - Richmond, VA, Richmond SQL Server Users Group.
      • Nov 2-5, 2009 - Seattle, WA, SQL PASS Community Summit. (Pending, not confirmed)
      • Nov 10-11 - Las Vegas, NV, SQL Connections conference (pending, not confirmed)

      I am still trying to figure out if I'll get to Utah. There are two groups in the Salt Lake City area that have asked me to come. We'll see.

      Monday, April 20, 2009

      The Death of Email Questions

      One of my policies is not to answer questions from people about SQL Server in email. That includes emails to me, the webmaster, or in private messages. It’s not that I want to be a jerk, but I have a couple reasons.

      1. I’m busy, and if you need custom help, you ought to pay for consulting. One on one answering is time consuming, and it leads, or has for me, to a regular amount of “you’re my expert now” follow ups.
      2. It’s inefficient. I rarely have people ask questions that are unique. If you have the question, likely others have it as well. Let them see your issue, and more importantly, the answer.

      I have a standard signature that I paste into email questions, either directly to me, via Private Message on the site, or the webmaster inbox. It directs people to the forums politely, letting them know email isn’t the appropriate place.

      Not everyone feels this way, and I know some people on the site will take questions in email, or direct a people to email for more detailed follow up. I get that, and if you want to do it, that’s fine. However it’s not something I think is widespread, and I think fewer and fewer people use email.


      I think some of it is the overload of email, especially SPAM, that makes people shy away from more. However I think that both me and the MVP program in the Microsoft space are partially to blame as well. The MVP program looks at contributions from people to the community, and a lot of the awardees depend on regularly answering questions in forums like SQLServerCentral and MSDN to prove they are helping the community. That means that every question they answer in email is one less point they get to the community at large.

      Why me? I have been giving a presentation on branding over the last year, encouraging people to build a bit of a brand for themselves. I don’t address this, but reading between the lines, if you want to build a brand for prospective employers to see, you don’t want your work to be private, as in private email conversations.

      Is it a problem? After all, I don’t answer things in email. I’m not sure. For me it is, since I can’t handle a large volume of questions in email, and I’m trying to continue to promote and build my community. In doing that, I push people to the community and public asking (and answering) of questions.

      However there’s a drawback. Not everyone wants to post publically. There are people that don’t want to post something since they think they’re showcasing their ignorance. Or they’re private people. Or they just don’t trust advice they get from some anonymous person on the web. I have friends that IM or email me directly with SQL questions. They want “the Steve Jones answer", which might not necessarily be the best thing.

      I get that, and I try to push them to post, saying I’ll answer in a forum. Or that they aren’t stupid for posting.

      I don’t know how things will evolve. The advent of social networking, with real time questions and answers on Twitter, semi-private networks like Linked In and Facebook, means that there’s a push to be more social and more open online. That’s not for everyone, and I worry that those people who are more private as losing out.

      Not because they don’t participate, but because less people are willing to help them.

      Tuesday, April 14, 2009

      Taking Advantage

      I read SQLBatman's post about his first week as an MVP, and it really resonated well with me. I think that he really hit it when he said that he wasn't going to sit around, he was going to go look for information and take things back from the opportunity he had.

      That's really what separates many people in their careers. Sure some people are smarter, some learn quicker, or just "get" how things work in their profession. But most of the really successful people take advantage of their opportunities. 

      They work at things.

      They don't get more chances, they look for the ones that are out there and take advantage of them.

      Sunday, April 5, 2009

      Authoring an Article

      If you are comfortable blogging and writing for yourself, and you have a thick enough skin to consider putting your work forward, the next step I'd recommend is writing an article. If you aren't blogging, I'd recommend that you start there, get comfortable with writing and expressing yourself and get practice. Writing is a skill like anything else and practice makes it better.

      Many online publishers are constantly looking for content and often entertain short pieces from new authors. In the technical world, there is no shortage of sites that cater to your particular specialty. In other fields, there are likely just as many choices.

      In trying to structure an article, the first thing to keep in mind is that when you move away from a blog-type structure to an article is that now you are definitely trying to teach your readers something. The premise in writing your article must be that you are conveying information, teaching a subject at some level.

      I have more detailed post coming with specific advice for technical articles in the next few weeks.

      Tuesday, March 31, 2009

      Building a Resume

      There are plenty of web sites, books, and other reference material for writing a resume. If you're not comfortable writing one, I urge you to research a little, get some ideas, even ask your boss or HR people at your current employer for some advice on things to do and not do).

      Many of you many be uncomfortable with talking to your boss or HR person, but you don't have to be looking for a job. Or you could be, but asking for advice on your career should be something you can do. Tell them you're just performing your quarterly update, and you want another set of eyes.

      You should also have your spouse or a friend review your resume (I usually have my wife look at mine), but you also want advice from someone that hires for your position.

      My basic advice on a resume for the modern world is two-fold:

      1. Build a 1-2 page resume.

      2. Supplement your resume with online materials that help define your brand.

      For the first one, use the advice you get, keep it to 2 pages, and then link to supplemental material. Have a page that contains your speaking engagements. Have one for your published work, maybe another for the other areas in which you've built your brand.

      Use the online links to provide more information or details and keep your resume from getting too cluttered.

      Friday, March 27, 2009

      Tweet Your Job Away

      A great example of how to “Tweet” poorly. This guy got fired before he started work.

      Twitter is a series of hallway conversations. I think that’s a great description, and I’ll write more about that at some point. However just like those hallways, you need to be aware that you don’t necessarily know who’s listening. Putting it in writing means it could be overheard by anyone, and send on.

      In case you’re interested, here’s the tweet that got him fired.


      Tuesday, March 24, 2009

      Touch Your Resume

      One of the pieces of advice that I give in my talk "The Modern Resume" is that you should review, and likely touch, your resume once a quarter. It was a habit I got into when I worked in the corporate world after having a startup company that I worked for fail.

      That experienced bothered me, I didn't like the instability near the end of that company's life, and so I decided that I didn't want to get caught in that situation again. When I went to JD Edwards, there was a feeling of instability at times before they were purchased by Peoplesoft, and it seemed I was reviewing my resume on a regular basis then.

      My simple advice:

      • Set a calendar reminder for every 3 months to review your resume.
      • When it remind you, open your resume and spend a few minutes looking it over. Think about what you've done over the last quarter and see if there is something you should add. Things to consider
        • Position/responsibility change
        • Certifications/degrees earned
        • Training taken
        • Volunteering you've done.
        • Articles/books/speaking engagements
      • Look for things to remove if you've added something.
      • Close it and mail a copy to yourself at home or another location (we want resume DR as well).

      These simple steps should take you 5 minutes a quarter, and it's worth it for managing your career.

      And if you have nothing to add, think about that as well. Perhaps you should be looking to grow your career a little and undertake something worth adding to your resume.

      Thursday, March 19, 2009

      SQL Saturday #14 - Pensacola

      I committed today to attend SQL Saturday #14 in Pensacola on June 6, 2009. I'll be giving The Modern Resume - Building Your Brand talk down there and taking a couple days to enjoy the gulf coast with my daughter. I've never been to this section of Floriday, so it will be an interesting trip for me.

      You can register on the SQL Saturday site.

      Wednesday, March 18, 2009

      Presenting Remotely

      Yesterday I presented to the Charlotte SQL Server User's Group. Since I live in Denver, it didn't make a lot of sense to travel to Charlotte, as much as I would have liked to see Peter Shire of SQL Sentry and a few other friends in the area. I'd watched Joe Webb do a remote presentation a few months ago, so I had an idea of how it would go, but this was the first time I'd tried it.

      I realized that I had a few things in my slides that were looking for audience input, like some survey questions, so I ended up changing the slides Mon night, and then Tues night not wanting to use my other email accounts, so getting in a rush to set up a web page and email for my site at The Modern Resume. BTW, I have a blog for The Modern Resume that should get the redirect. If it doesn't, use this link.

      So I made a couple mistakes in making last minute changes, and afterwards my web redirect was broken.

      It was a hard presentation. I like interacting with people and this was the first time I'd done a remote talk. The talk was through GoToMeeting, set up by SQL Sentry (Thanks for that), and they showed a few slides from their side before making me the presenter.

      I'd never used GoToMeeting, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I had closed all my software on the desktop and started the Powerpoint deck. I had a phone I was using (landline) for the audio, I was in the basement, dogs locked away, my wife quiet upstairs, it went well.

      However I felt like I was speaking in a black hole.

      It's really like giving a lecture, and for the most part, I could have just been recording things and not really live. There was only one question during the presentation and none afterwards. Not sure if that means I was good or bad. I'm hoping for some feedback from someone that attended.

      I only had an hour, lost a little time at the beginning, and with the changes I'd made, I had to speed things up a little at the end. I hate doing that, but I wanted to leave time for questions, expecting a few. Every time I've done this (4 so far), I've had questions.

      My wife later gave me a few things I should have done. She's done quite a few webinars with GoToMeeting and she suggested:

      • Configure my desktop to show questions during the presentation.
      • Upload my slides and have them delivered from GoToMeeting so I can keep my desktop running.

      I also had a few other things I did.

      • Cleared the desk so I wouldn't fidget with pens, etc.
      • Set my watch on the desk so I could see it and monitor time (Powerpoint does a bad job here)
      • I had water and coffee handy
      • My cell phone was next to me with the conference number entered in case things went bad. I also had the PIN code on a sticky.

      Things I wished I'd done:

      • Uploaded Powerpoint deck.
      • Monitored Twitter during the talk (not sure I could have typed, but I wish I'd see things go by)
      • Fixed the web site up front (worked on my machine, sigh)

      Presenting remotely was definitely different than live and I'm glad I made a few changes. I'm not really sure how it sounded and flowed, so I'd love feedback if anyone has it.

      Tuesday, March 17, 2009

      The Modern Resume - Building Your Brand

      The PPTX for my presentation is available here: The Modern Resume - Building Your Brand - 3

      Version 3 has a number of notes and includes some changes for remote presentations. I converted this down to a PPT 2003 format from 2007, so if it doesn't look correct, that's the reason.

      I have it on Google, so here's the iFrame as well:

      Colorado Springs SQL Server User Group

      After the remote presentation tomorrow morning for the Charlotte SQL Server User Group, I'm driving down to the Colorado Springs SQL Server User Group to give the presentation a second time to them.

      The event is at 5:30 at Configuresoft. More information here.

      Charlotte SQL Server User Group

      I'm presenting The Modern Resume: Building Your Brand tomorrow for the Charlotte SQL Server User Group. I'm doing this one remotely, and that's new for me. I try to include the audience in the presentation and this will be a join desktop/audio conference line, so I need to rework the presentation a bit to deal with that.

      Sign up here.

      Wednesday, March 11, 2009

      Is This Your Brand

      I saw this story, which was upsetting enough as it is: A Culture of (Potential) Assholes: Sexual Harassment in IT. If you care, my response, and another.

      However I thought about this in terms of branding yourself. What if someone recorded this? What if the blog mentioned the guy's name? What if there were a picture of him tossing his key?

      We all do things we might not be proud of, especially if we've had too many adult beverages, but remember that your behavior might get recorded, in text or other media, for all to see. Have some restraint and set some limits, especially in a professional atmosphere.

      White Marbles

      My wife has this analogy with horses. She trains them, and trains people to work with them using the Parelli natural horsemanship program. I'm not much of a horse person, but we talk about what she does, and I've learned some interesting things there. One of them actually caught my interest and made sense when applied to branding as well.

      She tells me that horses have great memories. They remember what happens to them and how you treat them. They also remember how others have treated them.

      She says that each time a horse has a good experience, it's like putting a white marble in their "jar." If they have a bad experience, it's a "black marble" that gets put in there and over time these white and black marbles make up the sum of their interactions with humans.

      You don't want a horse that has too many black marbles in their jar. Not one you want to get on and ride, and we've met a few of them.

      I talk about your brand, your image, and how people view you. Your brand is a sum of the good and bad things that people learn about you, from your appearance, your resume, your writing or posting on the Internet, pictures, the results of Google, etc. Each of these things is a white marble, or a black marble, in terms of the opinion that someone forms about you.

      In terms of your career, and finding a job, your modern resume should contain more white marbles than black ones. Everyone will have some black marbles, but the idea is that as you build and grow your brand, you overwhelm the black marbles with lots of white ones.

      Friday, March 6, 2009

      Mutually Beneficial

      I saw a great blog post from Brent Ozar about whether or not you are being treated fairly at work. It’s the response to a question asked by Chris Shaw: Are you being treated fairly?

      This blog talks about employees being replaceable and references the hospitality industry. That struck a chord with me because I worked in there for a long time as well. And I learned that I not only didn’t want to stick around, but very few people would. I thought it was a bit sad that I had a few friends in their 40s and 50s still tending bar, waiting tables, or doing some other relatively menial job. They were good at it, but it’s a hard life.

      I’ve grown up a bit, and I’d retract my sympathy for them. There’s nothing wrong with that (or any other) job where you work and get paid. If you want to do it, and you’re willing to work, you earn your money the same as me.

      You are replaceable. Even someone like me, who as the editor of SQLServerCentral, have built a brand that is almost indistinguishable from the site, can be let go and someone else do my job. I’m successful, people identify the site with me, it’s still growing and popular, but I know I could be replaced. It might lose some people, and there might be some short term (or long term) loss of revenue, but it could work.

      At least I operate on that principle.

      You have to make sure you’re providing value to your company. That’s common advice, and it’s out there. I wrote an editorial at SQLServerCentral on that recently. But the company has to be providing value to you.

      In the past most people stuck with a company for a long time. Part of that was the promise of retirement, but some was cultural as well (leaving a job had some stigma) and there weren’t as many new jobs opening up. Skills were less transient between companies as many people were trained to work in that business and not as generally as I think we are now (mostly thanks to computing).

      However I’m not sure many companies were fair to employees. That would be an interesting thesis for someone to write.

      Today there are more jobs available. Even in this economy, you can still find a new job, though I would be more careful doing so. But the economy will turn around, and you should be positioning yourself to take advantage of that if you cannot find a job now. And if your company is not providing you with values as well.

      Tuesday, March 3, 2009

      Branding on ESPN

      I was listening to Colin Cowherd and the Herd one morning and he was talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers and Manny Rodriguez. At first I wasn’t sure I agreed with him that the Dodgers should spend $25million to sign him. Is he worth it? Does he make a difference?

      Then Colin stepped back and started talking about branding, and that got me interested. Twenty years ago the big stories in sports included the Yankees and Dodgers. I’d agree with that as the history from Jackie Robinson through Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda, I remember hearing about them in the 80s, seeing them on Sportcenter regularly, and knowing that the Dodgers mattered in sports. They actually seemed to be more people around the country supporting the boys in “Dodger Blue” than even the Cubs.

      However I agree that’s changed. Nowadays the Dodgers don’t make as big a splash, and they’re not featured in highlights that often. The exception was last year when Manny was traded over there and hit home runs. All of a sudden they caught my attention slightly more.

      That’s branding.

      Colin brought up an interesting point. ESPN shows highlights and lead stories, which are often a minute or two long. If you could get yourself, or your tem into those leads, the A blocks, you are building a good brand. Buying a 30 sec ad for the season would cost millions. I’m not sure if it would be the $25mm Colin mentioned, but it would be something. If you could get Manny to advertise you more, as a side effect of his signing, in addition to more seats, (likely) more TV coverage of games, and apparel, he really could pay for himself.

      As much as I hate to admit it, he might be the top name in baseball.

      So what does this have to do with your brand? How can the individual DBA benefit here?

      You have a brand as well, and it be used to promote yourself. You won’t get a $25mm contract, but you can leverage yourself in other ways. In the grand scheme of the world, Manny is small. Just as in the scheme of DBAs, most of us are pretty small.

      You can get more exposure, grow your brand, and get a level of networking with one simple thing:

      Write an article.


      It can be intimidating, and it’s work. But it’s an investment in your career that is worth making. I don’t want to exclusively promote my site, SQLServerCentral, but I will say that you’ll likely get the most exposure (500k+ newsletters sent out) for your work with the least effort. I’m an easy editor, and we don’t require huge amounts of research. However there are plenty of other places (SQL Team, Database Journal, MSSQLTips, etc.) that you can write for in the database space. In other technologies, I’m sure you have favorite sites that you visit.

      The thing to keep in mind is that this effort, your first article, is going to showcase your brand. Spend some time on it, get friends to review it, and teach the world something. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering or amazingly innovative. However it should be in your area of expertise, whether that’s writing SQL, managing security, grooming a dog, or training a horse. Write something well that shows:

      • your knowledge
      • your communication skills (present the ideas well)
      • your attention to detail (watch the typos/spelling/grammar)

      And then make sure it’s on your resume. I bet it gets mentioned in your next interview.

      Monday, March 2, 2009

      What's My Brand?

      I give a lot of advice in building your brands these days, and one of the big ones is to keep your personal life and your professional life separate. So if you want to have a blog or a web site for your career (and you should), keep those separate from your personal life.

      I tell people not to post about their cat or their kid on their professional blog. Am I breaking the rules then with posts on these topics?

      I think not, and part of that is my brand. I've become known as someone with a variety of interests and while I do write about things not related to SQL Server or technology, I often tie them back to life in IT or the operation of my web site (SQLServerCentral) in many ways.

      They're part of my brands, with the daily podcasts taking place outside as often as I can get them done out there. So while I am careful not to post things like these on my professional blog:

      I can get away with a bit more than the average IT guy on my professional blog. I've built that brand over a number of years, and while you can too, I'd stick with a simpler one to start with.

      Thursday, February 26, 2009

      Presentations in March

      So far I have two presentations scheduled in March on The Modern Resume: Building Your Brand.

      The first is at the Colorado Springs SQL Server User's Group on March 18th in Colorado Springs, CO.

      The second is for the Charlotte SQL Server User's Group. I won't be traveling to North Caroline, but I'll do a remote presentation over the lunch hour for them on March 18th as well at 12 noon EST. Visit their site for information on registering.

      Tuesday, February 24, 2009

      Branding Yourself - Public Speaking

      Paul Randal is a great presented in the SQL Server/database space and he usually draws large crowds. Some of it is his knowledge, but he's also very entertaining and I think that goes a long way as well. I noticed that he recently wrote a post on Public Speaking, which I think has some great advice.

      There are two things that I'd like to comment on. First, take feedback well. You won't please everyone, but before you dismiss someone's complaint, take a moment to look at it and consider if there is something to learn there. You might find something you can improve on, but don't feel that you have to. You won't please everyone, so be sure that you don't feel you have to change your delivery to address every piece of feedback.

      The other thing is branding. You want to be careful about pushing yourself or your work in the presentation. A casual mention is fine, show the URL for your site, your logo, etc. I typically open my presentation by showing the various things I'm involved with, I might make a comment about one of them so that people know what they are, but I don't spend more than a minute on them. Let your work speak for itself.

      It's also better to maybe mention things at the end if possible.

      I'd recommend you read the post if you are interested in speaking at all.

      Sunday, February 22, 2009

      Presenting at the Rocky Mountain Tech Trifecta

      I presented last Saturday, February 21, 2009, at the Rocky Mountain Tech Trifecta. My session was one of the last ones of the day, and I'm sure with great weather in Denver (50F+) and a Saturday, there were people that decided to head out other than listen to my ramble on about branding.

      I had one repeat, Marc Beacom from the Denver SQL Server User's Group, but other than that quite a mix of older and younger people. The stats from my surveys:

      32 attendees
      Percentage on Myspace - 0%
      Percentage on Facebook - 15%
      Percentage on LinkedIn - 40%
      Percentage on Plaxo - 5%
      Percentage on Twitter - 10%

      People writing a technical blog: 1/32
      People reading technical blogs: about 25 of 32

      Again most people didn't know too many of the authors, but they did at least know Kalen Delaney.

      Thursday, February 19, 2009

      Blogging Software - Live Spaces

      Setting up a blog is easy these days with a variety of free and low-cost services out there. I highly recommend you take advantage of one of these services to start building your brand and enhancing your resume.

      Live Spaces, the offering from MSN and Microsoft, isn't one I recommend. In fact, I recommend you don't use it for a technical blog. It works great for your personal blog, but not a career based one.

      Why not?

      I was using Live Writer, which I do recommend, to compose something the other day. One of my 5 blogs is at Live Spaces and I wanted to get a few updates done. So I finished one and went to schedule it a few days out. My goal is to try and blog regularly, which means that I might schedule some in advance to keep the site changing and interesting.

      To my surprise I couldn't schedule things out. The error message informed me that this blog service didn't support future publishing.


      That's a basic feature, one even my home grown blog software supported.

      Frankly I was stunned, and while a personal blog is fine for real-time publishing I think that you might want to put out regular updates on your career blog and that requires scheduling.

      Or incredible discipline.

      Wednesday, February 18, 2009

      Boulder SQL Server User Group Presentation

      Last night I went to the February Boulder SQL Server User’s Group meeting up in Broomfield, CO to deliver my presentation on The Modern Resume. It was a windy, chilly day where few people were wandering about. Perhaps President Obama being in town had something to do with it as well.

      In any case, it was a small group, <>

      It was also a bit different than my other talks. This time I had more talks about “finding a job strategies” than building your brand. That’s OK, and it gave me some other content to talk about. It seems the Dice and Monster are still the places most people go to.

      My author survey again showed that most people didn’t know what the people look like. The social networking survey showed about 50% of the people on Linked In and Facebook, no one on MySpace, 15% using Twitter. Plaxo had a couple people with accounts, but not really using it.

      In any case, this was good practice for my delivery on Saturday at the Rocky Mountain Tech Tri-Fecta.

      Boulder SQL Server Users Group

      Last night I went to the February Boulder SQL Server User’s Group meeting up in Broomfield, CO to deliver my presentation on The Modern Resume. It was a windy, chilly day where few people were wandering about. Perhaps President Obama being in town had something to do with it as well.

      In any case, it was a small group, < 10 people, and a fairly intimate setting. I was hoping for a bit more of a discussion, which we got later on, but ended up with much of the talk being a lecture.

      It was also a bit different than my other talks. This time I had more talks about “finding a job strategies” than building your brand. That’s OK, and it gave me some other content to talk about. It seems the Dice and Monster are still the places most people go to.

      My author survey again showed that most people didn’t know what the people look like. The social networking survey showed about 50% of the people on Linked In and Facebook, no one on MySpace, 15% using Twitter. Plaxo had a couple people with accounts, but not really using it.

      In any case, this was good practice for my delivery on Saturday at the Rocky Mountain Tech Tri-Fecta.

      Tuesday, February 17, 2009

      How Not to Start Blogging

      Someone posted this resignation letter on Twitter. At first I thought this was from a colleague and was fairly shocked, but as I read through it, I realized this was someone that started a blog with the letter.

      Now I’ve posted a resignation letter I wrote before, and I’m not necessarily opposed to this happening, but I think that this is an example of how not to do this. I hope this person doesn’t keep their career blog going with this.


      I went back and looked at my letter, which was internal, but has since been posted on the Internet. In my letter I tried to outline the problems that I saw with the company, and give reasons why I thought these were problems. I didn’t blame anyone by name, but I did thank people by name. That goes along with the idea that you blame generally and praise specifically.

      In this letter, the writer is obviously upset, and with specific people that are mentioned by name. While I can understand the issues that people have with their co-workers and we often have bad experiences at work, you can complain, vent, or write about them without specifically mentioning people’s names. While I might be concerned if I had to interview (or be interviewed by) and of the people mentioned, I’d definitely be concerned with someone that called people out by name.

      Tuesday, February 10, 2009

      Get Ahead of the Game

      I write almost every day, but I still can find it hard to keep up with all my commitments. I have really 4 blogs and while I cross post where appropriate, it's still a lot to do.

      One of the things I think is important in building your brand online is that you need to show you're making regular progress. You show that you are constantly improving at whatever rate makes sense for you, but that you are making progress in your career. Or in the case of a business, that your business is moving forward, you’re thinking and you are trying to get better.

      Blogging is a great way to do this, but it is work. And it’s regular work.

      My suggestion for anyone, whether you like to write or not, is to make yourself a meeting once a week and spend an hour or two just writing about some issue, some problem, something you’ve learned or tried and then explain it to someone that’s trying to do what you do.

      Then schedule those out. Get a good pipeline going, which will be different for everyone, depending on how often you write and how quickly you finish things, but once you have 4-6 items done, then schedule them out. At least once every two weeks, but preferably once a week, showing that you are making progress in your endeavors.

      That pipeline will help you and over time you’ll probably build that up to even more items, but be sure that you don’t change your publication schedule until you can maintain a good pipeline to stay ahead of the game.

      Thursday, February 5, 2009

      Ways To Build Your Brand

      This is in the presentation I've given a few times, but I thought it made some sense to put these things out here as well.

      I see there are a few major ways for you to build your brand and raise your profile in the modern world that is highly interconnected and built on digital technologies. I'll give a quick summary here and then expand upon each of these in future posts.

      1. Blogging
      2. Leadership
      3. Authoring
      4. Speaking
      5. Volunteering

      There are some variations, but these are the main ones.


      I separated this one out because it's more personal, it's off the cuff, we allow for mistakes and it doesn't necessarily mean exposing yourself. You can blog offline, save the entries and then publish them only to perspective employers when they interview you. I do think you should have a career blog that shows off what you think, learn, do, and understand.
      And you don't have to be a great writer!


      You can be a leader in your company, be a manager, run a project, be a thought leader, but this involves taking responsibility on to help others (or things in the case of a project).


      This is a step above blogging where you are showing what you know. This is definitely public presentations of your work. It can be within the company, perhaps working on a manual, a procedure, or something else formal that others will read, but your name is attached to it.


      A step beyond authoring is when you actually teach someone. This can be one on one in your company, a brown bag lunch to your peers, or standing in front of a group at a conference.


      I think the last stage of your career in anything is giving back to the community. You've built some expertise, you're comfortable, and so you now have the time and freedom to help others. This doesn't mean leading them, but giving them assistance. It can be speaking, running a group or event, or even working with a charity of some sort.

      Take credit for it, use it for your brand, but be sincere. Don't do it because you want recognition, but do it because you want to help.

      I'll talk more about each of these in future posts as I further the develop the ideas and get more of them down on paper.

      Thursday, January 15, 2009

      Denver Area SQL Server Users Group

      I gave the Modern Resume talk at the Denver SQL Server Users Group for their January meeting. About 20 people attended and it went well, despite the fact that I had to bring my little kids with me. My wife got called out of town that week, so the kids had to come with me. They behaved and my daughter even flipped a few slides. That was a good thing to know since I know I can bring them to other groups if I need to.

      The talk went well, a little less interactive than the last one with less people. When I asked about the social networking pieces, surprisingly most people were members of Linked In, but very few used Twitter or Facebook and no one used MySpace. That leads me to lean towards LinkedIn being more of a business tool than I realized. I need to keep track of numbers, but I think it was about 10-12 using Linked In, 2-3 on Twitter, and maybe 4-5 on Facebook.

      I'm enjoying this talk more and more and looking forward to giving it to a few other groups this year.

      Monday, January 12, 2009

      New Blogger Advice

      My advice for new bloggers, meaning someone that has never done it, is to set a reasonable schedule. Pick something no more often than once a week and no less than once a month. Then go get LiveWriter and start writing posts. Set a reminder in Outlook or whatever you use to write something once a week and spend 15-20 minutes working on talking about something you've done at work.

      Don't get a blog, don't publish, but see if you can get 5-6 posts done in draft mode. If you can maintain that, if it's not a huge chore, and if you like it, then set up a blog and SCHEDULE these posts out according to your publication schedule.

      If you plan to send one out every two weeks, then your 5 posts get you going for 2 1/2 months. That's a long time out, so I might look back at how successful I've been writing. If I could do a post a week, then schedule them out for the next 5 weeks and keep your Outlook reminders going. This way when you go away for vacation you'll still have some articles scheduled and it looks like you're still working along.

      Sunday, January 11, 2009

      The Power of Networking

      I was contacted recently by someone that was hiring a new employee. They had searched out applicants on the Internet and found that one of them had a blog on my SQLServerCentral site. They sent me a note asking about my interactions with the applicant.
      I can’t disclose who it was or what took place, but there are a couple of interesting things to note here:
      1. Social networking matters. The person that contacted me knew me from my twitter posts and felt comfortable asking.
      2. A person’s efforts online were noticed. The blog added something to the person’s application. I know because I asked and this was not an HR person, but another techie. They were interested in the posts.
      3. What you blog about is fair game in the interview. This person said they were going to ask the person about some of their blog posts.
      I don’t know if the person got the job, and that’s not really relevant to branding and the Modern Resume. A resume has never gotten you a job, nor will it. You have to stand on your own two feet and present a great employee in the interview, but a brand can help you stand out in these tough times when every position will have dozens of applicants.

      Tuesday, January 6, 2009

      Get Ahead of the Game

      I write almost every day, but I still can find it hard to keep up with all my commitments. I have really 4 blogs and while I cross post where appropriate, it's still a lot to do.

      One of the things I think is important in building your brand online is that you need to show you're making regular progress. You show that you are constantly improving at whatever rate makes sense for you, but that you are making progress in your career.

      Blogging is a great way to do this, but it requires that you regularly post. It can be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly instead of daily. The important thing is that you actually try and get the posts out there on a fairly regular basis.

      There's nothing worse than searching for someone's blog, seeing they posted twice a day for 3 weeks, than 2 more times over the next six months and nothing in the last 2. It shows me a bit of immaturity, a lack of follow through, and the tendency to jump on some bandwagon and then drop out.

      I could be way off, but this would definitely raise flags for me in an interview. I usually want people that commit to something and can maintain it. That shows the type of effort that I'd like to see in a hire. I think lots of companies would have a similar feel.

      Pick a schedule and stick to it. You would be best to get ahead of the game and schedule posts out for the future rather than publish every time you write something. That way you have a pipeline of content that you can use in case you get busy and can't write.

      Thursday, January 1, 2009

      Blogging: Structuring Your Posts

      I'm sitting here on a Sunday morning, it's quiet, a relaxing morning away from work and I'm working. Actually I'm trying to catch up on some blogging to be sure that I can publish on a regular basis.

      My primary job right now is writing, and so I create editorials, articles, and blogs on a regular basis. My goal is to publish daily (weekdays), and that's something I feel confident in doing since I write every day. Your blogging schedule may be different, but you want to come up with something you can maintan and stick to it.

      I tend to try and get 4-5 posts ahead all the time so that I'm never struggling to get things done. That means I typically work on 2-3 at one time and get them done and scheduled for release. I do that a couple times a week and I am then easily a week out for holidays, vacations, etc.

      In order to be productive when you're doing that, you have to know what you want to write about, or have a topic that you can expand on. I've been thinking about a few I needed to get done and decided to get going this morning and so I'll share what I'm thinking as I structure these posts.

      My topic this morning is my Kindle. That's the e-reader from Amazon that I bought awhile back and I've been using it for work and pleasure, and enjoying it. I've done some reviews, not on the device, but on the experience, and I like to get one out every couple weeks. However since I'm thinking about how I've been using the Kindle, I have noticed a few things:
      • I read a lot more now (I've had it 4 months)
      • I read 4 books at a time, but haven't always
      • I recently read a paper book and enjoyed it.
      • I had a sample that was an older book (early 1900s) and I needed to change the font sizes
      • I returned some gifts to Barnes and Noble recently because I wanted Kindle versions
      Using these thoughts, I decided to organize this into 5 posts.

      First I wanted to let people know that the experience of paper was nice, I missed it a bit, but the story hooked me and I realized that. I've been hooked by the Kindle as well and not noticed it wasn't paper.

      The second post was talking about my reading habits. I started using the Kindle as I had paper books, reading one and moving on. However I found I read more if I switch books often, so I made a note about that.

      The third post was looking back at what I've read over the time I've had it. I'm reading more, and so I wanted to list things. This is a time consuming post to get the links in, but it's mindless. I'll save this one for when I watch TV at night and just need to cut and paste a bunch.

      The fourth post was on my thoughts about traditional bookstores.

      The fifth post, which I've sketched, but not written, was on the power of samples and how I use them.

      So one topic, the Kindle, which I could have crammed a bunch of thoughts into one post, was split into 5, giving me a week's worth of entries, or in my case, one a week for 5 weeks.