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.