Monday, December 27, 2010

A Tale of Four Blogs

How do you build content from ideas? Here’s a short look at what I’ve done.

I ran into this blog at 37 Signals. Read it and note the content, it’s short, basically a quote, so with that in mind…

I wrote a post on this blog called “What You Practice” in which I said that you can gain some self-awareness for your blog and career.

I wrote a personal post called “What You Practice” in which I noted that life is short, and working on what you write about is important.

In my business blog, “What You Practice” talks about the need to think about money, in keeping with the original idea of the 37 Signals post.

I actually even got another post for this blog on “Tag Clouds” from this idea. I had been meaning to write it, but this inspired me.

When you have an idea, think about it from different perspectives, and look at the ways that you can talk about what occurred to you. It doesn’t have to be something you read, but it could be something that you came up with yourself, but an idea ought to be able to spawn a few different posts.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What You Practice

37slogo-transI saw a very interesting blog at 37 Signals on this quote
“The things you do more often are the things you’re going to get good at. …”
It’s by Jason Fried from an interview on the new workplace for the new normal.
One of the reasons that I highly recommend tag clouds for your blog, is that tag clouds let you see what you are really writing about. The stuff you write about often is likely the stuff that interests you. Whether that’s a part of your job or not, your passion will often shine through over time with a set of topics that you often write about.
What does that mean? It means that maybe you want to refocus your career, or training, in the areas that drive you. The largest items in your tag cloud.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tag Clouds

tagcloud2 What’s a tag cloud? It’s a visualization of the tags that are used in your blog posts. As you can see to the right, this is the tag cloud for my SQLServerCentral blog. It can be hard to read, but a few things stand out in the cloud. “SQLSaturday” and “SQLServerCentral” as well as “T-SQL” are all fairly large.

About two years ago I was looking through this cloud and noticed that my tag cloud featured these tags are the largest:

  • business
  • e-readers
  • energy
  • SQLServerCentral

That was interesting to me. I hadn’t realized that I spent so much time on those topics. I had expected that I was writing about SQL Server more.

So I made a few changes. I started a business blog, and moved more business focused posts there. I also moved the energy and reading stuff more to my personal blog. I also started to focus more on T-SQL writing, trying to both keep up my skills as well as ensure that I was actually including T-SQL information in my blog. I still want to be seen as a DBA, so I made sure to focus there.

I think that a tag cloud is a great way to better understand yourself, and understand what you’re writing about. Or maybe, what you’re not writing about.

As an FYI, here’s a blogspot tutorial for a tag cloud.

Friday, December 3, 2010

2011 Presentations

I’ve submitted the Modern Resume to a few places in 2011. If you’re interested in seeing it live, here are places it will likely be given.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Modern Resume Presentation

I’m always tweaking the presentation, adding new things, and after my last event in New York,

I decided to try and be more consistent with this, so I’m saving the current version of the abstract here so that I can easily find it, and get feedback on what people think of the description.

The Abstract

Learn practical ways in this session that you can use to build your career brand and stand out from the crowd. Steve Jones, editor of SQLServerCentral, shares some of the ways in which he has successfully grown his career over the years. Steve will present tips and tricks for using social networking sites, blogging, volunteering, leadership, and more to your advantage. He also has a few resume hints to help you find a great job that fits you.

My Bio

Steve Jones has been working with SQL Server since 1991 and been a DBA in a variety of large and small companies and industries. In 2001 Steve founded SQLServerCentral with two partners and has been publishing technical articles and facilitating discussions among SQL Server professionals ever since. He currently is the full time editor of SQLServerCentral, owned by Red Gate Software.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Presenting in 2011

I’ve submitted a few sessions to events in 2011. I’d like to expand outside of the SQL world, but life gets in the way. I do have a life outside of this stuff, and I need to remember that.

So I’ve submitted to these places for The Modern Resume.

There are a few more I’m looking at as well:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Resume Templates

Someone asked me recently if I had a resume template I would recommend. I didn’t and on one one hand I wish I had, but on the other hand you want to stand out, so why use what lots of others might use?
I think that there are a ton of templates out there for how to structure a resume, and any of them can work. I’ll add a few blog posts about my tips and hints, but the first thing I’d do is suggest that you pick a clean template that looks good. When someone gets your resume in the email, or in Word/HTML, you want it to look clean and not cluttered. If you find a template and it’s a pain to read, or look at when you’re 2 feet from the monitor, find another.
Don’t give someone a reason to send your resume to the recycle bin before they even read it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Disclosing Salary

Do you disclose your salary information? You might need to at some point, but when should you not talk about salary? I have a few thoughts here on the different times when you can disclose it.

Blog (public disclosure)

Should you disclose your salary before you even speak to a company? No. You have nothing to gain here and plenty to lose. Friends might get jealous, or laugh. Potential employers might think they can low-ball you, or not even bother to interview you because you make too much.

This also makes it harder to ask for a substantial raise in switching companies.


Personally I have found most recruiters to be salesman that are filling a position on their way to the next position. Even when I have run into very professional recruiters, they often come from another business, like technology, and they might go back into that business.

When a recruiter asks me, I usually give them a range where I’d like to be, but let them know I’m flexible. For example, I have in the past said that I would like to make about 85k a year, but that I might take a lower paying opportunity.

If pressed, I would politely decline. The next company is going to pay me to do a job, not try to match my previous company’s salary. If they think I can do the job, then they should pay in their range.

If a recruiter wants to know which positions they can submit me for, I’d say for them to let me know the salary range for each position when it comes up and I’ll decide. Stay firm here.

Phone Interview

If you get a phone interview, then you know your resume, or brand, was good enough to pique their interest. If you are asked about your current, or previous salary, I give the same answer I give the recruiter.

This is important for two reasons. One is that you want to match up with what the recruiter says. The other is that you don’t know what the company is looking to pay, and giving away your information first means that you might end up giving the impression that you are cheap (some managers have budgets) or out of their range.

My technique here is usually to counter with a question on their range for the position. At this point, I should then determine if I can work in the range. I had a position in the past where the range was low and I told them so. They manager liked me, and was impressed, so he said that he might be able to get another 5-10k. I agreed to go interview then.

Remember that companies are looking for good people, and if you are talented in your area, you have more power. If you need a job, any job, perhaps you should find something to make ends meet while you look for a career position. Ultimately you won’t be happy working for way below you think you are worth. Even in the short term (< 1 year).

If pressed, I tell the manager that usually I discuss salary if I get to the point that we are both interested in the position. If I have a range, I’ll decide if I want to continue.

If no one asks me, I always ask here for a salary range.

Live Interview

If you get a live interview, you’re on the short list. When I was starting my career, this short list could have easily been 15 people. However in the last decade, typically companies don’t have time to interview 15 people. Most don’t look at 10 if they find 3-4 good candidates. It’s a hassle, and a waste of time.

Again, I try not to discuss salary if we aren’t close to offering me a job. If they press, I might joke about being on the short list. That can help break the ice, and by this time you should have an idea of the salary range.

However at this point I will disclose my range if the company is trying to decide how much they need to offer. I will typically say that I was making in the “low 90s” at xx position and the “mid 80s” at yy position. Your exact salary isn’t critical, but really the company is trying to decide:

  • Can they afford you?
  • How cheaply can they afford you?
  • Will you be happy with their offer?
  • Will you disrupt employee morale if you are too high on their scale?

The Job Offer

If they offer you the job, then they ought to attach a salary to the offer. If they offer you a job and want to discuss salary, again, get their range first. They have no good reason not to provide you a range (it should be public knowledge for employees), and if they refuse, I’d move on. Likely money will be a fight, both with COLA raises and promotions.

They aren’t likely to verify your salary, so if you must start discussing this, I’d use ranges again, as I did in the Live Interview. Give them an idea.

Never Say Never

As the saying goes, never say never because there will be an exception. However in the US, I don’t think you ever need to disclose your exact salary. The HR/Accounting people and the IRS will know, but no one else needs to know.

Discussing money is hard, but you need to learn to discuss it in a roundabout way in order to further your career. Use ranges and generalities and you should be fine.

Two final things: one, be honest. I wouldn’t say I was making in the mid 80s if my salary was $77k. That’s not right, and if someone finds out, this is a lie. Second, taking a job because it has the most money in spite of other issues is a bad idea. I’ve never met anyone that thought this was the best decision for them in hindsight.

Life’s too short to take a crappy job.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Career Advice – Play Your Own Game

I get asked this question fairly often. How do I find time to write so much, work on SQL Server, have a family, a ranch, etc. It seems that people often want to blog as much as me, or speak, or something else.

It’s natural, I often look at others and think, why can’t I do what he does, or think that I should do what someone does.

I don’t really want to be like someone, however. I don’t want to live another person’s life. I like my life. What I really would like to do is improve my life in some way.

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to emulate someone that’s successful, but that’s the wrong thing. Really you want to take a piece of what someone else does and incorporate it into your life. We all look at the world differently and what might seem to work for someone else, or make them successful isn’t what wil work for you.

Or work in your life.

I try to stress with the Modern Resume that you want to find what works in your life, what you can handle, and what won’t become another stressor. Learn to do what works for you, in your life, and incorporate that.

Don’t try to blog like me, or speak as often as I do, or write a book because someone you admire in this business has done it. Do it because it’s something that will work for you, and work at the appropriate time in your life.

Play your own game.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Do You Need a Mentor?

When I was young, I never thought I did. I was sure that I knew what was best for my career and that I could figure things out by studying more, reading more, and learning more. Probably I had some trusts “issues” somewhere in my past, but I didn’t want to put my career in anyone else’s hands.

Over the years I’ve doled out advice to a number of people when they’ve asked, and they’ve come back to thank me. I even was in conversation with a few groups this year and two separate people (different people/places) spoke out in the group, crediting me as a mentor to them.

That surprised me, but it made me stop and think about what I’d asked them and how it had influenced them, based on what they told me. Apparently I had been a bit of a mentor. When someone recently asked me if I’d be a mentor to them, listening and offering advice, I agreed.


Those of us with kids try to mentor them. By definition, mentoring is a more senior person (in experience) providing advice or counsel to a more junior person. This has nothing to do with age, and a mentor in one area might be a mentoree in another.

Looking back I think my career would have been more successful if I had had someone to help guide me, bounce ideas off, and get advice about the directions to take. I’ve had a good career, but I felt like I’ve stumbled in many ways. Fortunately my wife has helped, and my business partner has taught my a lot in the last 6-8 years.

If you are looking to grow your career, I would look around and think about someone that you trust and have a good relationship with that is a more senior person. It could be your boss, a colleague, or even a neighbor. Ask them if they would help you, and see what they say.

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's about opportunity

There are no guarantees.

There isn't anything that I can tell you, or anything that you can do that will guarantee you a better job, or even just a job. All of the advice on branding in various ways, networking, it's all about one thing: opportunities.

The better your brand, and the more visible you are, the more opportunities you will get. Whether someone finds you or a friend recommends you, these are just opportunities that you can try to take advantage of.

What you do from there is up to you.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

World Wide Tech Day

I just finished my presentation for World Wide Tech Day 2010. I did The Modern Resume, and I think it went well. My timing was OK, finishing right at the 0:55 mark. The presentation is really more of a 75 minute one, but I ran a little quick over Livemeeting, without many questions and without the visual feedback, it’s easy to go a bit quicker.

They had asked me to do this in August, and I agreed, saving this day, and here it was.

Now I need another beer to relax the throat.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vote for me at the SQL Rally

I submitted a pre-conference seminary proposal along with Chris Shaw to the SQL Rally event that is taking place in May of 2011. Our proposal is a half day pre-con, likely costing around $50-70, in which we'll talk about how you can find your dream job.

You can vote for me here:

The process is interesting in that a committee reviewed the proposals and then the ones approved were put out to the community for a vote. We don't get the results in real time, and I'm still semi-suspicious that PASS might not override the community vote, but I think this is a good chance for people to influence what they'll see.

The Professional Development sessions are located here, and there are some great ones. Kevin Kline and Joe Webb both are friends and both would present great sessions. You can't go wrong voting for any of the three. Whatever your feelings, please vote:

Our abstract:
 The job market is becoming more and more competitive all the time as employees become more and more efficient at accomplishing more work and employers look to reduce their headcounts. This session will present the attendee with practical tips, tricks, and skills for enhancing their marketability. They will learn how to better use networking to their advantage, both online and offline, develop a technical blog, and build a better resume. Once someone has an interview, we provide them with techniques to prepare for the interview, and how to not only impress the potential employer, but also assess if this is the job they really desire.
Take Home Skills:
  1. A technical blog not only shows your expertise but your dedication to your trade. Come out of this session learning what works well with a blog and how to leverage it in the job search.
  2. Does anyone hire without researching a candidate online? Learn how to use the internet to your advantage.
  3. Come away with a method you can use to see how well you and an opportunity match up.
  4. Spend time learning the do's and don'ts of a resume. Bring your resume along with you for an opportunity to have it reviewed.
  5. Interviews are the decision point in most employment decisions. Make sure you are not making one of the common mistakes that will eliminate you from the running.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Career Warfare - Book Review

70618861[1] I picked up Career Warfare on the recommendation of a friend that had seen the Modern Resume presentation. I grabbed it as an e-book and have been reading it for the last few months, at a fairly slow pace (for me).

I often read a book in a week, but in the case of this one, I would read part of a chapter, and spend a day or so thinking about it. Digesting the information, and seeing how it might be applicable to my career, and my brand.

The author, David D’Alessandro rose to CEO of John Hancock Insurance, and you have to keep that in mind. The book is written as a tool for how you might advance your career in corporate America, and it includes lessons for upper management, many of which don’t apply to most of us. Items like dealing with the press aren’t something the average person needs to think about.

However there is some great advice in there about how you should grow your career, and the impact that you have on your career based on your actions.

I highly recommend it, and there are a couple of great pieces of advice in there. Most importantly, you are always building your brand. Slowly, surely, but every day you go to work, or interact with people professionally, you are building your brand. I like that he stresses honesty and integrity as well.

There are some things I don’t necessarily agree with, like not bringing your spouse to social events, or not drinking at all, but if you are attempting to rise to the C-level ranks, perhaps that’s good advice.

Who’s in your A Network

I was talking networking with a friend recently and we were talking about how useful networking can be, how to maintain it, and how to use it to your advantage. All good topics, but topics for another day.

One of the topics that we mentioned was how you classify the people in your network. After some debate, we came up with the A, B, C classification for different groups. I’ll talk about the A Network in this post, and reserve the B and C groups for another post.

The A Network

The people that are closest to you, your “best friends”, the people that you can almost certainly count on for some professional help, these are the people in your “A” network.

Typically this is a small group that you start your networking with, likely informally. The people you work with, or used to work with, and would almost certainly do any of the following:

  • Answer a phone call from
  • Accept a meeting
  • Ask to help you find a job
  • Ask for a reference
  • Meet socially
  • Agree to work with again
  • Have regular contact with

It’s not definite that all of these are true, but they’re very likely. These are the closest, most trustworthy, most valued people you know in your career. It’s possible that you have a great mentor, or boss or subordinate that you don’t want to know socially or work with again, but they would have to be someone you know well and trust with your career.

How large can this group be? I would think that your A network is in the 2-15 person range. Maybe slightly larger, but typically you can’t maintain tight relationships or networking with people over time. I would guess for most people, the A network is less than 10 people.

My A network is really composed of probably 6 or 7 people. These are the people I ask for references, that I can count on helping me if I need help or advice, and that I trust. Not that I don’t trust people in my B network, but I’m just not as tight with them.

Who’s in your A network? It might be worth making a list here, and making sure you continue to nurture these relationships over time. And if they’re really in your A network, you won’t mind doing that.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Speaking Ideas - Plan to End

Over the years I’ve seen probably hundreds of technical presentations. I’ve seen good ones, bad ones, on all sorts of topics, many of which I didn’t completely understand. However a good speaker still leads me down the path of allowing me to connect the dots, or enjoy the talk, even if I don’t know exactly what he or she is discussing.

One issue that I often encounter, however, is that speakers tend to run up until time is out and don’t leave time for questions, or not enough time. I’ll see the next speaker coming in and waiting, and unsure of how to interrupt. Speakers get rushed, and they try to slip a lot of content in the last 5-10 minutes.

A suggestion that I have is that as a speaker, plan for 45-50 minutes of content for an hour presentation. I think the worry for most speakers is that people are expecting an hour of content and so you have to deliver an hour.

That’s not necessarily true. I know some people might be disappointed in 30 minutes of material, but if you end at 45 minutes and allow 15 minutes for questions, they’ll be satisfied. They’ll learn something, they can ask questions, and if there are no questions, they can go have a few minutes to relax, check email, or network with others before the next session.

Plan to end early. If you have too much material, look to cut things out, or build  a second, more advanced presentation that can follow on from this one.

Monday, September 27, 2010

People are talking about you

I was listening to a friend give a presentation on getting a job recently. In the presentation, Chris Shaw, the speaker, mentioned my Modern Resume presentation, which was cool, but he also said something interesting in his talk.

He said that social networking is huge, and you can choose not to participate, but even if you don’t, people will talk about you.

I think that’s very true, and I caution people to be aware of what others might be saying about you. You never know when a coworker, a friend, or maybe a no-a-friend-at-all might post something about you. You never know when a particular person asks about you, your job habits, attitude, skills, or something else in their network.

People will talk about you, and not necessarily online. It might be offline, and the best way that you can help ensure that you are aware of what people say is to be involved in networks. It could be social networks, but maybe you just want to touch base with your own network, trying to keep in regular contact with 10-20 people that could let you know if they hear anything about you.

You won’t know everything that is said about you, but the more you participate in some type of networking, the more likely you are to hear what is being said publically.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Modern Resume Presentation - Kansas City, MO

I’ll be at SQL Saturday #53 in the Cerner Corporation Riverport Campus on Oct 2, 2010 giving the Modern Resume presentation. It’s free to attend (with an optional small charge for lunch.

Come see me if you are interested.

Branding Is a Double Edged Sword

Anything in life that has a huge reward also has the potential to be a huge risk or liability as well. If you do something that could be perceived as a great achievement, keep in mind that if you don’t succeed, that could be viewed negatively.

Don’t let that completely deter you from trying to build your brand since a failure could also be presented as a learning experience. As I heard on Star Trek one time, “…it was a mistake, and there’s not anyone among us that’s not been young enough to make one.”

Sometimes there’s something you do that could be perceived as both at the same time, depending on the person’s point of view. That happened to me recently, and it was a good learning experience.

In my career I’ve been outspoken at times, espousing opinions and thoughts that can be controversial. That has worked well for me since many people have enjoyed my writing and it causes them to think, or even inspires them to do something. That’s the sharp side of the sword that is my virtual pen.

However expressing strong opinions also offends some people. It upsets them, and they can take it personally. That’s the other edge of my virtual pen, and it’s just as sharp.

I was attempting to obtain a new position awhile back and a number of people had to approve my application. They didn’t, expressing the idea that I might not work well with others since I am such a strong personality.

In this case my “brand” held me back, and it was a little painful. However it made me go back and re-examine who I am. I looked at how I present my opinions, what I’ve written, and how I deal with people. I came to the conclusion that I can be a bit overbearing at times, and maybe write with too much emotion, a little too “raw” at times with my thoughts.

However that’s who I am, and I am comfortable with that.  People have come to trust me because I tend to call things as I see them. I don’t write for effect, I don’t put forth opinions to get a reaction, but I write what I really think and feel.

I can temper some of my language and the way I write, and I will look to be more careful, but ultimately I learned something about myself, and I learned that I have to live with the consequences of that.

Branding is still a good idea, in my opinion, since the benefits outweigh the negatives. You’ll never please everyone, and you should not get too upset if someone doesn’t like your brand. The idea is that you want more positive impressions from your brand than negative ones.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sponsoring SQL Saturday #49 – Orlando

sqlsat49_transparent[1] I typically speak and support the SQL Saturday events and was interested to see my business partner, and organizer, Andy Warren, trying something new for SQL Saturday #49 – Orlando next month.

In a blog post, Andy offered blog sponsorships for $5 for the event. It was an attempt to give blog sponsorships to individuals as a way to support the event, fund a prize or two for a volunteer, and help people build their brands.

I’m not sorry that I’m not attending the event and able to actually talk about the Modern Resume, but I have a bunch of presentations and travel around this time and can’t fit in the trip. However I hope that this goes over well, and the blog sponsorships trigger some traffic to both my blog, and other blogs.

At $5, or even say $50 for sponsorship of 10 events, it could be a good way for someone that wants a more public brand to get some exposure.

First Step at a Logo

I wanted to have something that represents this blog, and am looking for a designer that to build a logo, but here's a first cut.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Technical People Should Blog

I ran across a great blog titled: Post 300 or why all developers should be blogging. The reasons given in the articles are great, and I think they apply to all technical people.

You will learn by blogging, and you will keep stuff in a place that you can go back and review it, in addition to giving you something to impress interviewers. There is one more big reason, however.

You need to communicate.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a position that didn’t require some type of communication skills. You might not need to get up in front of a group and express things (or you might), but almost everyone needs to document things or communicate through an electronic written medium. It could be email, IM, texting, some forum system, or anything else. However you need to communicate.

The more you build these skills, the better off you will be. There are definitely some very talented people that can get away with poor social skills and poor written skills, but that’s not most of us. Most of us need to communicate effectively.

To me, blogging is like typing. A developer that hunts and pecks with two fingers is not likely a good developer. And certainly they’re not an efficient developer.

The same thing comes from communicating. You need to practice it to get better at it. You don’t need to write as much as me, or write as long a posts as I do, but by writing regularly, you’ll learn to better express yourself.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Virtual Labs - A Great Resource for SQL Server

I had someone send me a note recently asking some questions about how to get set up to work with SQL Server. This was a person that had used SQL Server in the past, but had become a manager and then lost their job. So they wanted to start working with SQL Server and get a new job, however they didn’t have a server or many resources.

My first recommendation is that you grab the SQL Server developer edition for US$50. You can get it from Microsoft, Amazon, or many other places, but this is essential. It gives you a good basic point from which to start and test features.

However if you don’t have a spare machine, or you don’t want to put SQL Server on what you have for some reason, you have another option.

TechNet Virtual Labs

There are a whole variety of labs available, including a series on SQL Server 2008 and other versions. These allow you to RDP to a virtual instance of SQL Server and actually practice working on things.

There are other labs for Windows, Exchange, etc. You can spend time working on these technologies, either guided or unguided, and get some hands on practice. You can’t necessarily save your work, but this is a great way for you to get started on some technology that you want to add to your skillset and resume.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Downside of a Brand

A brand goes both ways; it can help you, or it can hurt you. Sometimes it can be both, and it pays to understand what it’s doing for you. The brand, or the impressions you make, can determine where you go, or don’t go, so be aware of what impression you are making.

I have a personal story here, and I hope it makes some sense.

I have a fairly large brand for the average person. I’m not well known around the world like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, and I’m not even that well known in the technical world like a Joel Spolsky or a Tim O’Reilly, but in my own niche of technology, I have a fairly well known presence.

I think most people view me as a thinker, as a helper, as someone that can be outspoken and have strong opinions. I’m someone that speaks their mind, and has a fairly raw way of expressing myself. I do think about what I write and say, but I try to leave some emotion and passion in it.

Is that good or bad?

As with everything, or most things, it depends. In a recent case it held me back. I have been publically critical of some people, and I stand by what I wrote, but I believe it bit me in the proverbial behind. I was rejected from an opportunity, and it stung.

Is my brand bad? I don’t think so, despite what happened. I think that someone had power over me, and exercised it, using their opinion that I would be a bad fit in the opportunity. I can’t control that, and I live with it.

However if I were applying for something different, say a management job, a project lead, I think that my raw expression, my honesty, my ability to communicate, and the willingness to do so, would help me. Many people see those things as positive strengths.

If I were applying to be a member of a technical team, that might hurt me. Perhaps a manager would think that I might take over the team, or might not be able to work well with others.

You can’t control what others do, and no matter what you think, at some point you will need to give someone else control over your life. They’ll have the ability to exercise some power over which direction you move, or more likely, don’t move.

Knowing your brand, and understanding how it is perceived, will help you to determine which directions you should move in. And if you can emphasize parts of your brand, some of your skills and experiences differently, you can present the image you need for a particular opportunity.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Resume Hints - Keywords

Recently I have a presentation at an event that had a few college students. Afterwards one of them came up to me to ask about their resume, and mentioned that they had been told to include the keywords at the top of their resume, and then list stuff below that. In the presentation I had talked about putting them at the end of your resume, and having a good opening instead that lists your accomplishments.

I was surprised to hear that this college career center had thought keywords made sense at the beginning of the resume, but perhaps they’re thinking about different keywords.

If you search for “resume keywords”, you get lots of lists and advice about using words like “accelerated” and “balanced” and other words that don’t often get used in normal conversation, but have a bit of power.

That’s fine, and feel free to use them, but that’s for prose, for writing about what you’ve accomplished. Those are words that punch up your writing. In technology, however, keywords are often skills you have. You wouldn’t want to do this:


Steve Jones

123 My St

Denver, CO 80111

Objective: xxxx


  • C++
  • Java
  • .NET
  • SQL

As someone that’s received lots of resumes, this isn’t interesting to read. Typically if I need a C++ person, I used a search method to get to your resume. Now I want to know what you’ve done with C++.

Keywords are needed for those search programs, but those programs don’t care where the keywords are. Humans that will to scan your for 30 sec don’t need to see them. You want that 30 sec to count, so make sure that the first few things that a person reads stand out.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Your Career Is Up to You

That’s a quote from an article by Buck Woody (blog | Twitter) on SQL Server Professional Development Plan, Part 1. It’s a great read, and worth the time to go through.

The one quote in there that stands out to me, is this one:

Your career is up to you.

I think Buck is right on that you are responsible for your career. I think you do need to take the view that you are always a consultant, even if you work at the same job for 45 years, you need to take control of your career and make sure it is moving forward.

Your boss might encourage you, your company might help you, but ultimately it is still your responsibility to ensure that their assistance is right for you.

And if there is no assistance, you need to provide it yourself.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Resume Experiment

I found this person's resume experiment to be very interesting. In looking for a data science internship, he created multiple versions of his resume and then tracked how they were downloaded or viewed.
The findings are interesting, though they are limited in scope. It appears that a shorter resume is more likely to be read, and also that links distract users.

I'd draw a few things from this, and it tends to match up with what I've seen as well.

1. Limit the length of your resume. I still think two pages work, but don't cram too much in there, go with less.
2. Limit links on the resume. I think a landing page on some site, or a blog, are better places for links to your various branding efforts.
3. Using social media helps. There were enough notes about people clicking through that I think this is a good way to move your resume around. Don't link from your resume, but link back to your resume from social media posts.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Speaking and Presenting Tips - Handouts

I’ve given quite a few presentations, one keynote with another to come, and attended many more. I’ve read a few books on how to get better, and then in an Edward Tufte seminar recently, I got another one.
Dr. Tufte mentioned the idea of a supergraphic, an image with a ton of information in it. I think that some BI systems are starting to think of this as something to display to users. Dr. Tufte said that most screens, especially with projectors, can’t really put up the resolution, and I’d agree. Here’s an image I found online:
This is the idea. A ton of information on one piece of paper that you can give out to people. He said that as a presenter if you find one of these, you can likely “dine on it” for years. Here’s another example he showed from the course.
It’s actually about Napoleon's march into Russia in the early 1800s. There were other examples, but I didn’t see any online and didn’t want to play with a scanner.
The idea here is that you give people a bunch of information. Most of it might not matter to each person, but each person will look at something. They’ll also begin to process the data themselves, and let you highlight, talk about, or even encourage debate on the material.
I’m not sure how I’d do this in a tech presentation, but I definitely can see that if you are presenting a lot of information, especially some type of report to others, this would make sense. I’m going to keep this in mind for future presentations I do, and perhaps even build a Modern Resume supergraphic.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Do As I Say, Not as I Do

Do I follow my own advice?

I’ve been asked that at a few of my Modern Resume presentations if I do all the things that I mention, and to what extent. My answer is that I do and I don’t. I’ve done them all at some point in my career, but I don’t necessarily do them all now.

For the most part I have my brand on my mind most of the time. I think about what I post, I consider the impact to my reputation, and try to self-moderate myself. I do, at times, also send things to others for comment before I post them.

I have tried to follow my own advice about promotion, but it’s hard. I struggle to write my own kudos, but I do try to post announcements when I am speaking, or doing something out of the ordinary. I also have such a presence with my daily editorial and podcast that I think sometimes that a regular note somewhere like Twitter might overwhelm my followers or overexpose me.

One area that someone asked me about was my resume. Do I touch mine every quarter like I ask other people to do?

No. I don’t, but I have a good reason.

I have an employment contract. So even if someone contacted me about a job that is almost as awesome as mine, I have to give months notice to leave. Months as in 3 or 4 (can’t remember), and while I could possibly get out of that, I wouldn’t. I signed a contract, I need to honor it.

So unlike when I worked in the corporate world, and have gotten calls that say “send your resume today” I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do that right now.

I do try to give good advice, and incorporate new things into the presentation and this blog as I learn them. I have a set of notes that I regularly keep working on as I get feedback and learn new things from others. If you find a problem with what I’ve written, let me know. Otherwise, start working on your brand.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Speaking and Presenting Tips - Bullets

I’ve heard this before, it came up in the Tufte seminar I took, and it also was something that grated on my nerves at TechEd recently. I was in a presentation and saw a slide titled “Agenda” that had bullet points like this:

  • History of xxx
  • Problem of DIY
  • Reference examples
  • Basic structure
  • Enhancements
  • Security
  • Common Uses
  • Expansion to other systems
  • Summary

These weren’t the exact items, but it didn’t matter. This was a BI course on a Microsoft technology, but a Microsoft PM, and he read each of these, giving a sentence or two about what it meant.


Don’t do that. Studies show that people can read much, much faster than you can speak. By the time you’ve started to talk about this, most everyone in the room has read the entire slide.

The same goes for any other slide. People read it, heck, as the speaker I’ll glance back and usually read the entire thing in a couple seconds and then start talking.

Give people information that’s not on the slide. They’ll read what’s there, so go into depth on what you actually want to say. If everything is on the slide, why are you there? Just send them an article, or move them all to Starbuck and hold a “reading” of your material there, similar to what most libraries do for 4 year olds.

Give people information that’s not on the slide, and don’t read what is.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Damaging Your Brand

The talk of the basketball world the last week has been LeBron James’ decision to go to Miami to play with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosch. Recently I was listening to ESPN Radio and Mike Greenberg mentioned that he thought LeBron hadn’t necessarily done his “brand” any damage.

Certainly LeBron James is more in demand, and has more power than most people in their jobs.. I might argue that someone like a Paul Randal in the SQL Server database world would be as in as much demand, and like LeBron, if he wanted a job with a particular company, he might take a pay cut.

Our brand is the impression people have of us. It’s the first impression, and maybe the only impression, that most people get of you. Relatively few people that have heard of you will meet you. Or hire you. A good brand is important to giving you a wide variety of opportunities. When your name comes up or your resume arrives in someone’s inbox, the brand that appears in someone’s mind first can determine if you even get a call for an interview.

A bad brand can hurt you, and you might never know about it. You’ll never hear about the jobs you didn’t get because of a poor brand.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t rebuild a brand, or that you can’t get by with a bad brand. Arguably there have been famous people, Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, that have bad brands. Or bad to a large group of people, but they have still done well. Those are extreme, but I know there are people that have been fired from jobs for doing damage to the company and re-hired later in the industry by working to rebuild their brands.

Kobe Bryant arguable had destroyed his brand a few years ago with issues in CO. There are still people in CO that “boo” him when he comes, and still a few advertisers that don’t work with him. However he’s come back as a very popular player, he’s had success, and has new endorsements. He’s kept a lower profile in some ways and rebuilt his brand.

LeBron can do that as well. I’d argue the last two years, without winning, having less success, and not responding in clutch situations have damaged his brand. While he was popular and lots of teams coveted his services, I would argue that his “brand” was what most teams wanted, not his talent. He hasn’t proven he’s a champion, a go-to guy, and the success he’s brought the Cleveland Cavaliers has been mostly off the court, with more revenue for the owner, than pride for the fans.

Settling or Pushing On

I read a blog recently that was titled: Time to Stop Settling. I think that the author (a friend) was intending to motivate you to move forward, and try to change things when you see a way to make them better instead of living with them.

I agree, but….

My caveat here is that you also need to find balance in your life. One of my favorite quotes is “God grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I think that quote is telling you to strive for balance, and realize that you cannot change everything, but you can change some things and you ought to think about those that you can.

We all have tough times in our lives, especially at work. Even though I have the best job in the world, I have bad days, I have things I don’t like, things that I can’t change. I strive to balance the stress and workload with the good things, and while I try to move forward, I move forward in different ways. Some periods might involve more time with my wife, some more vacation with family, some more speaking, some more writing, but they all are a part of life.

Don’t settle when you don’t need to, but don’t try to change everything. Pick your battles and look to make headway, make things better, not “fix” everything.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Making a Little Effort at Networking - Part 2

I wrote recently about my efforts to network a bit more at events. Part 1 was to spend more time with people that engage me. This entry continues with the second thing I’ve done.

2. Look for Someone with a Connection

Since I speak, it’s easy to pick out people that have been in my sessions. I make it a point to look around the room as I speak and make eye contact with everyone, or at least look at everyone. Do that often enough across 60 or 90 minutes and quite a few people stick in your mind.

Then when I see people walking around later, I’ll say hi, and ask them if they enjoyed the session, did anything stand out, maybe ask about their job, etc. I look for a connection.

If you’re not a speaker, you can do the same thing. When you go to an event, look for people in the audience. You can pick the speaker, but it’s often easier to connect with audience members. Scan and pick out a few people. When you see them later, even immediately after, strike up a conversation. Ask them if they enjoyed it, ask them what they thought of some point, or if they understood something.

Try to engage for 3 or 4 minutes. You might never see them again, but you also might find a new friend that you keep in contact with.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A New Look

Feel free to give me some feedback. I saw new templates on the Blogger site, so I decided to try out one and see. I think it's a slightly better, cleaner look, but I'm open to comments.

Making a Little Effort at Networking - Part 1

I’m not a big networking person. I know that it’s good for my career, but I’ve been lucky enough to get myself fairly well known, my picture is on daily emails from SQLServerCentral, and so a lot of people know of me. As a result, I don’t have to do a lot of networking.

However I have started to make it a point to do some short sessions with people I don’t know at events. It’s easy to spend time with people I know, and that is valuable, but that doesn’t expand my network, or help me find people that I might want to know better.

So I’ve started to do two things that help here.

1. More than a Thank You

Quite a few people want to say hi to me, shake my hand, or even ask a quick question. So instead of saying “thank you” and moving on, I decided to try and do more. As people do engage me, I stop, take a few minutes, ask them a question or two, get to know something about them, and make sure that I don’t disengage for at least 2-3 minutes.

In doing that, I’ve found a couple things happen. The first is that I tend to remember the person more so that I recognize them again. It means that I have a little more of a connection, and it might lead to more interaction later on.

I can also potentially get some good ideas. I’ve heard a few cool things about SQL Server or careers from a few people that I’ve stopped to ask a question about. Someone told me a LinkedIn story that helped them get a job. Someone else told me how they use SQLServerCentral, and that’s valuable information for me. Another person gave me some insight into their job, which is for a media company and that was just a neat thing for me to hear.

For Part 2, tune into the next blog entry.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I saw Paul Kenny at the first Business of Software conference, and then had dinner with him, chatting about sales. I actually had our company bring him in for some training and he was back last year again at the Business of Software. I’m not sure he’s coming again, but he’s a great speaker, and this video is worth watching:

Paul Kenny at the Business of Software

Most of us don’t want to sell, but we need to. Not often, especially for technical people, but there is one time when we need to:

When we are looking for a job.

You need to sell yourself. Think about how you sell your skills, your capabilities, and keep that in mind when you watch the video.

If you are in the software business, consider going to the Business of Software on Oct 4-6, 2010. It’s a great conference to learn about what others are doing.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Being Real

I wrote last week about marketing yourself for a new job, or at your current employer for some reason. I got a note from someone that they didn’t feel comfortable putting on an act.
I agree with that. Putting on a front for a job isn’t a good idea, and it can end badly. Look at a few people that haven’t been honest on their resumes (George O’Leary)
The Modern Resume isn’t about putting up a front, or a fake persona that you try to back. It’s about showcasing your talents and focusing on certain areas of your career that you ensure employers take note of.
Not a writer? If you start to blog to get a job, or show what you’ve been doing, guess what? You’re a writer.
The same thing happens in other areas as well. You become that person. You gain those skills, and those skills become a part of your career.
The only way you would be disingenuous about would be if you presented things on your resume or with your documentation that aren’t true.
When you build your modern resume, you are highlighting the things you have done, and documenting them. Not putting on an act.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tie It Back

I gave the Modern Resume: Building Your Brand presentation last week at the SQL Saturday #22 - Pensacola event and had about 30-40 people come see it. I got some good responses, but there was one interesting thing that came up.

I have talked about how it helps to prove value to your manager when you attend training or a conference. You tie back something you learned/used to your job. You specifically show your boss where something matters.

I’d say that you ought to do the same thing for your brand. When you learn something at an event, from a book, from a blog, make a note of it. Give the person/event credit that helped you, and give your interpretation. Do that enough, and all of a sudden you look like a real go-getter that is worth hiring.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Anonymity is Fading

I’ve done a good amount to raise my profile over the years. Not with that intention, but as I’ve tried to be more active in the SQL community, writing more about SQL Server, my profile has raised.

Today I saw Dave Winer posting on Twitter about the Google home page change (there’s an image there) and then said that when he searched for “Dave” he was on the first page still.

So I tried it and typed “Steve Jones” into Google and hit enter. My first result page is long, longer than I remember and I had to scroll, but I actually had two results on page 1.


You can see the second one above, with another right above this for my SQLServerCentral blog.

That’s amazing to me. It’s kind of cool, but I think I’d prefer to be buried on page 10. Where do you show up?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Marketing yourself

One of the things that needs to be a part of your modern resume, is a way that you market those things you do for your career. Whether it’s the book you’ve read on your specialization, a class you took, a blog you wrote, or a speech you gave, at some point you need to introduce some marketing to let others know what you’ve done.

I’m fairly humble, and uncomfortable with awards and recognition. I don’t like talking about what I do, or have done, most of the time if it’s self-promotion.

However the place where it is appropriate is where you can, and should, is when you are trying to get a new job, or impress your current employer. If you are a consultant or contractor, then this is almost constantly, but if you are an employee, you need to learn to do this when it matters.

That’s not every day or every week, but it does mean that you need to prepare every day or every week by documenting you efforts, blogging, volunteering, etc. and having that effort ready to show when you look for when you need it.

Monday, May 31, 2010


It seems to rear it’s ugly head more and more these days. Once again I found some content from my site republished on another site, without permission, and without a link.

I can’t speak for others, but if I knew you were plagiarizing content, I wouldn’t hire you. I believe in second chances, but if i were interviewing you, I’d question you on it, and I would definitely rate you lower than other candidates. I’d also realize that I need to interview you harder since I would suspect that any of your accomplishments in the past might not be your accomplishments.

And if I were pressed for time to hire, and couldn’t quiz you harder than the average candidate, I wouldn’t hire you.

It’s that simple, at least for me. If you’ve copied content, then my trust in your abilities has been lost, and I would need to rebuild that trust. Which means extra work on you part (and mine) and likely a lack of good assignments, important assignments or projects, more supervision, and lower bonuses.

Don’t copy content, and don’t plagiarize. It doesn’t do your brand any good.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Networking Online

How do you network with people online in your career field? It’s surprisingly easy, and I’ll give you a few ideas that I use.
1. Comment on people’s blogs. You ought to read blogs, even if you don’t write, and when you see something interesting, comment. If you do so regularly, you’ll be building a contact.
* Note – Make your comment thoughtful. Don’t comment to comment.
2. If you have a group on Twitter or Facebook, where people post a status. Respond to something that you find interesting. Another type of comment that builds a bond.
3. Engage in a discussion or debate in a forum online. If someone posts a question, or you think there is more to add, something to correct, or you would like more information, respond. The back and forth that I’ve seen in many forums has built some fairly strong friendships. Even among people that have never met in person.
It’s not hard, and it doesn’t have to be a daily thing, but it ought to be a regular effort. Take some time every week, just a couple 15 minute sessions a week and flip through the places that attract you online and engage people.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Interviewed by Professional Development Virtual Chapter

Kathi Kellenburger, fellow MVP and friend, pinged me recently for an interview for the Professional Development Virtual Chapter. This is one of the groups at PASS that tries to focus on a specific area, as opposed to move chapter based user groups that are location based.

She interviewed me through email and the interview is live, and you can check it out. It’s short, but I give out some of my thoughts on building your career and focusing on professional development.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting Started Networking

I wrote recently that networking was a part of your Modern Resume, but what does that mean? How do get started?
Here’s a short list of things to do to get started.
  1. Make a list of people that you have worked with and get along with.
  2. If you don’t have contact information for these people, check and see if they are on Linked In, Facebook, Plaxo, or somewhere else.
  3. If they are, connect with them.
  4. If they aren’t move, make a mark and set them aside for now.
  5. Contact one person that you knew well, and initiate a conversation. If you can have coffee, lunch, etc. with them try, but reach out, and try to stay connected.
Networking is about keeping a bond with people in your career. It can be a friendly bond.  That’s it. Even if you’re not looking for a job, just make a small effort to keep in touch with people that you know.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Personal Development Plan

I’ve talked a lot about various ways in which you can build your personal brand and make a more impressive modern resume, but I haven’t necessarily given a great structure for how to do that.

I was sent this link on a personal development plan by a friend and I think it’s great. Putting things down on paper brings a little personal pressure to you and makes it more likely that you’ll follow through.

I’ll blog more on this topic later, but for now, check out the article. It has some good advice.

Monday, April 26, 2010


One of the things I’ve been talking with a friend quite a bit about is networking. We are talking about different types of events that are coming up and how to incorporate some networking into the events and help people contact each other.

It reminds me that networking should be a good slice of your Modern Resume. It’s not just a question of references, but also contacts, referrals, and queries that your network can make on your behalf. The more others know about you, and the more comfortable they feel about your skills, the more likely they’ll help you in a job search.

I need to write more posts on this topic, but for now, make sure you have some sort of network out there in your field. LinkedIn, Plaxo, etc, make this easier, but it’s up to you to ensure that you cultivate a network of people that you know professionally.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Speaking at Pensacola SQL Saturday

I saw that my session for the Modern Resume was accepted for the SQL Saturday #22 in Pensacola on June 5, 2010. If you’re in the area on that Saturday come on by.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Have a Plan

A friend posted this link about having a Professional Development Plan, and how to build one. It's a general link, but it has some good advice. It isn't technical in nature, but rather it seeks to get you to think about what's important to you and then put those down into a plan.

Worth the read.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Express Yourself Clearly

Recently my son had a short paper to write for school. He’s a sixth grader, and this year is a turning point for him where he’s expected to think a little more about his writing as well as tackle longer assignments. In this case it was a 2 page paper on Sophocles, and he was struggling one night with the paper due the next day.

Before you say that he should succeed or fail on his own, I agree with you. However as a parent, or manager/mentor/helper, you pick and choose those places where you provide assistance, and to what level. In this case he’s had a major change in his life with sixth grade and the beginning of Boy Scouts. While this doesn’t matter for college in terms of his grade, it is the place where he is gaining a base of learning, and I think it’s the time where I provide more assistance than I might otherwise provide.

Next year will be a different story. I’ll let him struggle, and potentially mis assignments if he doesn’t manage his workload. But I digress.

The issues that he had with producing a coherent paper that explains his thoughts while presenting information were similar issues that I see from many of my authors at work. The issues are also similar issues that I see in many blogs. While I’m not a top-notch writer, and I take liberties at times in blogs and editorials, I tend to see a few common mistakes in a lot of pieces that people write.

Don’t use pronouns

That was the main advice to my son as we worked through his paper. He, and many others, tend to use pronouns (“it”, “his” and “they” especially) to convey their thoughts. However they often have not tied the pronoun to a specific noun and the reference in ambiguous.

Most people learn this in grammar school, but they seem to forget it when there’s no grade attached to their work. As an example:

Sophocles was a great writer. He often worked with Aeschylus and his plays were similar.

What does “his” refer to? Is it Sophocles or Aeschylus? Either could be the reference and the reader has to take a guess. It’s possible that context before or after this sentence will help you to understand the reference, but it’s equally likely that you will mis-interpret what is intended.

This same type of ambiguous reference occurs in many technical articles, often when someone is trying to compare two items and show how they work in a similar manner. I correct this type of reference constantly, and often ask for clarification from authors.

So my advice is…..don’t use pronouns.

If you can avoid one, avoid it. Repeat the noun and make it clear. This does two things. One it helps the reader to better understand your meaning, but it also forces you to be more specific.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Why Not to Volunteer

I wrote recently about volunteering and it being a real commitment, no less than the ones you make for compensation. I think it’s only fair you approach it that way, and if you can’t, then don’t do it.

But do it. Volunteer organizations need help.

I declined a volunteer invitation recently and someone ask why. I gave them my reasons, and they countered with “you can always find a reason not to volunteer.” That’s true, and I do encourage people to volunteer when I speak. However you can’t always volunteer, and I’ll give you a time and place where I think you might not want to volunteer.

You can always find time to do something that’s important to you. I met a guy years ago that was training for a triathlon and fairly competitive. Nowhere near professional levels, but a high level amateur. I mentioned that I had done a few, and would like to do more, but I didn’t have the time. He told me how he got up early and went to train before work, or went right after work and came home later, freeing up time. I could do those things, but as with anything else, there’s no free lunch.

If I make time in my day, usually what suffers is time with my family. That’s not always a bad thing, especially with volunteernig where my kids can see that I’m helping someone else, but they pay a price in less time with Dad. Or our time is moved around, or maybe I’m more stressed. Maybe not, but maybe.

I think charity, giving back, helping others outside your family or other responsibilities is a time and place thing. You should do it at some times, and where you can, but you have to pick those times. You should pick some time, but not every time.

I’ve balanced my efforts with Scouts over the years with my kids. Some years I do more than others, some I do nothing, sometimes I do either Boy or Girl Scouts and not both.

Volunteer when you can, note it as part of your brand, but if you don’t want to take the time this week/month/year, don’t.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Be Responsible in your blogging and posting

I have been awarded the MVP award from Microsoft a few years in a row and it’s an honor, but it’s also a responsibility. One of the benefits from the award is that I get information about what is coming up in products, often under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). That means that I can’t release this information publically, and every quarter it seems that one or more MVPs lose their award for disclosing information they shouldn’t.

The same thing ought to apply to the posts you make, blogs you write, etc., when it might apply to your company. I wrote an editorial at SQLServerCentral on this recently, and it is something that you ought to keep in mind for not only posts, but also discussions you have with friends.

Be responsible in your career, and don’t disclose information that you shouldn’t.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Your Brand is the first step

As much as I try and preach to people that their brand and their modern resume is an important part of their career growth, it’s just the first step. A modern resume might help you get an interview, but that isn’t a job.

Once you get the interview, it’s important to present yourself in a professional manner that will add to your brand and help you get the job. The last thing you want is for someone to be incredibly impressed by your brand, and your resume, but then be disappointed when they interview you.

Here are a few links that contain tips for interviews that I think could help.

Ultimately you need to be yourself, and be honest. However, if you get nervous, and you don’t necessarily present a good image, here are a few things. If you’re not sure if you make a good impression, ask a friend.

  • Speak slowly – Most people start to ramble and talk quickly when they are nervous. And most people are nervous in an interview. Take a breath, and compose yourself for a second before answering.
  • Dress slightly up – I always ask what the dress code is when scheduling an interview. If they are business casual, I’d wear an Oxford and slacks (or the woman’s equivalent), perhaps a tie. If they wear ties, wear a suit.
  • Bring a copy of your resume on paper – You’d be surprised how often an interviewer doesn’t have one.
  • Turn off your cell phone – or leave it in the car. It’s really, really annoying to have one go off when I’m interviewing someone.
  • Talk through your answers - Even if you don’t know the answer, you can show them how you think. If in doubt, I’d also recommend that you explain where you’d go to look for help.

There are plenty more, and the best advice I can give you is to practice an interview with a friend, or a manager. Ask them to really quiz you on topics, ask you code questions and traditional interview questions.

Practice makes perfect, and it definitely helps you to perform better in an interview.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Don’t Be a Shock Jock

 howardstern One of the dangers of being an “Internet Journalist” or even just a blogger, is that you might compromise who you are to attract readers.

Or in the case of your “modern resume,” impress someone for a new job.

Here is case of someone losing control of their ethics, for the sake of ratings. This is more of a journalism story, and the only person that I think it really hurts is the writer, but maybe that’s not true. Maybe it didn’t even hurt him. He still has a job.

You, however, might not be so lucky.

There are companies that would let you go if they found out you misrepresented yourself in an interview, or with a resume.

Don’t write something for the sake of attracting or impressing readers. Write about what you know, and what you don’t. Admit your mistakes, and highlight your successes.

Your blog, your presentations, your articles, are all a part of your career, and you should treat them as though they are precious. You are the product in your career, you are what you can sell, and your brand is what you have to sell.

If people stop believing in that, you are in trouble.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Heading to Charlotte

I think I’ll forever associate Charlotte, NC with my middle son. We were heading back to Denver from Virginia Beach a few years ago after a vacation. Our flight was scheduled to go through Charlotte before heading to Denver. My daughter and my middle son were sitting with me as the plane sped down the runway in Virginia Beach when about halfway down the pilot slammed on the brakes. If you’ve never experienced that, it’s very unnerving. My daughter gripped my arm as my son looked up and said

“Are we in Charlotte?”

Totally serious since he’d been engrossed in a book. My daughter, who looked like she might cry up to this point started laughing. She told him we hadn’t even taken off.

There was a problem with the plane, and we ended up spending another night with grandma, which pleased her and the kids. Everything was fine, but it is one of those events that sticks with you.

This morning I’m heading to Charlotte, no kids, to SQL Saturday #33, to speak and see some friends. I’ll be giving my Modern Resume presentation and also part of the keynote presentation. Andy Warren and I, along with PASS President Rushabh Mehta, will be up to talk a little about the history of SQL Saturday and it’s current transition to PASS.

It should be a great event, and the list of speakers is impressive. Kevin Kline and Joe Webb from TN, Denny Cherry from CA, Jessica Moss and Andy Leonard from VA, Aaron Bertrand from RI, Patrick LeBlanc from LA make this one of the more impressive events outside of the national conferences.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Volunteering Commitments

When you volunteer, you greatly enrich your life. I saw a post recently from Jason Brimhall talking about the volunteering efforts you can make, and how rewarding they can be. I talk about this as a way to make yourself more marketable, and it can be. You can build skills, get experience in an area, show leadership, or show that you are a well-rounded individual.

However it’s important to remember that these are commitments. They aren’t optional activities that you can skip if you don’t feel like it on a particular day. Choosing to volunteer is optional, but once you’ve done it, you need to follow through.

And you need to perform at the best level you can. Don’t shortcut your efforts for a volunteer organization. You can not volunteer again, but for the duration of what you’ve committed to, give them the same effort, or even more, that you would if you were being paid.

When starting with a new organization, volunteer in small ways, and make small commitments. That way if you don’t like it, you can stop without leaving them in a bind. If you do like, you can always increase your efforts, but pulling up short isn’t fair to the organization, or the people that depend on it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

When Should You Start Speaking?

I know it’s daunting and a little intimidating, but there are so many people with knowledge to share. I see them answering questions, sharing knowledge, and being helpful to the community, so when are you ready to start speaking?

The answer probably varies, but what I’ve seen in many areas is that when you think you’re not learning much from hearing other people speak, you are ready to give your own presentation.

There are other things you need to learn, how to present effectively, communicate, not die of stage fright, etc., and those are skills to develop, but the hard one, the knowledge, is something many of you already have.

Most people want to be an expert in a topic, but the reality is that you don’t need to be. You just need to be organized, brave enough to stand up, and willing to try.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Finding Blog Topics

I used to think that I would run out of things to write about, but a decade after starting to blog regularly, there’s no shortage of ideas.

If you’re starting out on a blog, however, it can seem like you’ll solve all your problems quickly and be left with nothing to write about. That’s not the case, and I’ll give you a few ideas on how to find things to write about.


I assume you are solving problems, fixing things, writing code, etc. at work on a regular basis. Anything that you solve, any new situation that you work on can be a blog post.

Maybe you just learned how to recover your database to a point in time, or for the first time you setup replication. Take a few minutes  and jot down some notes and then write about what you did. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but you ought to be able to get a few paragraphs out of it. Pretend it’s a status report for your boss.

Or even make it one.


Twitter can be a great source of inspiration. Or Facebook, LinkedIn, a user group, or any place where you can interact with peers. Twitter is nice in that you don’t have to know someone to follow them and see what they post. If you find someone in your field, watch what they post, and write your thoughts about it.

If you know the solution to their question, write what you know, say you saw this on Twitter and it reminded you of a time when you solved this with x and y.

If you don’t know, spend a little time researching something and write about what you learned.

In either case, you are showing off a little knowledge and that can be very attractive to a potential employer. You never know when someone needs a person to do the x and y that you wrote about in your blog.


One of the best ways for me to learn was to answer questions in discussion forums. It’s also great blog fodder. You can answer someone and then write about how you solved the problem, or you could even write the solution as a blog and post that as the answer.

In either case, it’s showing off some of your knowledge.

Be Consistent

I’m sure if you take a look at these areas you’ll find more things to write about than you expected. However don’t get crazy and publish a dozen blogs a day. First it’s not sustainable, and second, it looks like you’re blogging more than working. It’s a lack of balance.

Write when you can, but schedule posts out when you have more than enough for the current day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Negotiating Salary for a New Job

Slightly off topic, but I’m adding this one to the Modern Resume blog since I think it’s something to be aware of in managing your career, and to some extent, your brand. How you handle this reflects on you, and I wanted to note a little advice.

I ran across this post from Brent Ozar on salary negotiations that gives some advice. It was in response to a Twitter post, which proves one great thing about where you can get inspiration: Twitter! For the most part I agree with Brent’s advice, but I have a slightly different take on how to handle it.

Ask, Don’t Answer

My basic advice is that you ought to get an idea of what the job is paying first, and as soon as possible. Money does matter, and it can break negotiations down if the number of too low.

There is no good average salary for some jobs. I know that HR people like to think there is, but I have seen it quite often that the ranges for a particular job, and skillset, can vary widely in companies. I think that it’s it’s in part because the value placed on a particular job can vary widely from company to company. However, I would say that the majority of the issue is that most people are poor negotiators.

I’m getting slightly off track here, but my first advice is that early on in the initial interview, probably over the phone, you get an idea of the salary range the company is looking to pay. If they ask you what you are making, tactfully ask them what the job pays. If they press let them know that you do not necessarily want to disclose your salary right now until you find out more about the job. Defer the discussion.


If you are expecting, or need, to make $75,000/yr and the job is for $55,000/yr, there might not be a point in continuing.  I’ve had that happen to me (not those numbers, but a similar experience) and it spurred me to ask them if that was a hard range or could anything be done to raise it. I have let them know that I can’t work for that number and in some cases they considered raising it, some they didn’t. However if it’s a make or break number, then it’s good to get that out of the way up front and stop wasting each other’s time.

After that, I think I’d follow Brent’s advice and give you current salary as a multiple of 10. You make in the “60s” or the “80s”, but there’s no need to give an exact figure. Information is power, and a sharp negotiator, like an experienced HR person or manager, will use an exact number to beat you down on your salary.

Have Reasons

Whether you hoping to make more money, or take a pay cut, have reasons for your move. Keep in mind that anything you say as a slight against your current situation could be seen as a potential negative to a new employer. Tread carefully, but honestly in your reasons for your new salary (up or down).

Above all, be honest. There’s no reason for you to lie about your salary, and it can only hurt later on down  the road if someone finds out. Give an honest range in which you currently fall.

Lastly, the best argument is that they are paying you to do a job, and even if that job is paying 20% more than you currently make, if they think you can do the job, they should pay you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Cover Letter – Do I Need One?

Do you still need a cover letter in today’s Modern Resume? Isn’t it enough to list your blog, your social networking handles, and lots of keywords?

I would argue that despite the fact we are often not sending out actual letters and paper resumes, a cover letter still is important in separating yourself from everyone else. The HR people usually won’t bother with them, merely checking your resume against a list of requirements, but the cover letter often does get to the hiring manager.

And they often will read a short letter.

Putting together a letter that describes your interest in the company, or the job, can interest the manager. It shows some enthusiasm and effort to secure the job, and that’s what people want in am employee. Enthusiasm for the job and effort to do it well.

Many of the online resume sites (Monster, Dice, etc.) allow you to submit a cover letter with your resume for a position. I would recommend that you take advantage of this and send one along, customizing it for each position.

If you directly submit a resume, even electronically, be sure to include one, and I would even recommend that you send one to a recruiter for them to forward along when they submit your resume.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Proofing Your Resume

The resume that you send out, whether in print or electronically, is the first impression that you will make on a potential employer. For that reason, you want to make a good impression, and that’s one reason that I am trying to get people to manage their brand and present a great “modern resume.”
You definitely need a resume or CV to summarize your efforts and display your brand, but at the same time you need to be sure that you are projecting the image that you want to project.
With that in mind, I would recommend that you have two reviews done of your resume using the following criteria:
  • Use someone in your career field
  • Use someone outside of your career field that is a good writer
Why use two? There’s a couple examples I can give you, mainly from the technology business. I think they’re applicable to all areas, and I would like to hear back from you if you use them.
Someone in your field will understand the language, jargon, and terms being used to describe what you do. They can give you an idea of what image you are presenting of you accomplishments and skills. I saw a resume that listed Windows 2004 awhile back, which is a non-existent product. A non-technical person would not have known that, and I might have missed it on proof myself. However that is a glaring error to someone that is in the field.
Note that someone must be in your specific field, so a database person if you work with databases, a orthopedist if that’s you’re field, or a contract lawyer if you do that work. Using someone that’s a criminal attorney or urologist might not get you the same level of review.
However people that are specialists and talented in their fields often don’t present themselves well to laymen. Who are the laymen I worry about?
I despise human resources as a term, but not as a department, and they often sift through the stacks of resumes (or emails in this age) and reject or accept them. This is with an eye on the job criteria, so they are matching up skills (hence the technical review), but they often make their own decisions, especially as the number of candidates matching the criteria grows.
Having someone that’s a good writer review your resume and help you punch it up to read better, make more sense, flow, can make a difference when you have someone reviewing your work that sees 200 of them a day.
Do yourself a favor, when you open your resume and make a chance, send it to two people that will give you confidential, critical reviews from two points of view.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Should You Achieve All Your Goals?

So many people wrote posts at the end of 2009 analyzing their goals and what they achieved. I did the same thing, and it was a great exercise. It allowed me to look back at what I’d planned on, and see how well I’d done over the year. I’ve known about the power of goals for a long time, ever since I saw the founder of the Discovery Channel, John Hendricks, speak at a corporate event. It was inspiring, and it’s stuck with me for years.

But should all your goals for the year be achievable?

I would argue that they should not. If you have actually accomplished all of your goals, or exceeded them, you probably did not do a good job of setting the bar high enough. Especially as you look across a year. Your interests will change, you will enjoy some things more than others, and likely you will exceed some goals and not attain others.

That’s OK, and as long as you have made some effort and improved yourself, it was a good exercise. I failed miserably at one of my goals in 2009. It was on my mind, but I kept putting it off, and by November I didn’t have the time, energy, or desire to focus on it. And I didn’t want to half-ass it just to check some box. However I exceeded a few other goals, and that made me feel that it was a successful year in terms of goals overall.

As you set your goals for 2010, and it’s certainly not too late, be sure that you pick some things that will make you work. Things that will stretch you, and things that you want to accomplish in your life. You might not achieve them, and you can analyze that next Christmas, but keep them in mind, and as long as you are moving forward, you’ll be accomplishing something.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Goals for 2010

Most people set their New Year resolutions for the new year at this time. We know from history that many people don’t stick to those resolutions, often failing to get in better shape, eat better, or other similar personal changes. I think the average person has bailed on their efforts by Feb 1.

I think some of this is precisely because they’re not goals that are specifically written down and committed to. It’s easy to say you want to make some grand change, but the reality is that you need to focus on one small goal at a time and make a concentrated effort to achieve it.’

Many of the Microsoft MVPs and active, successful community people I know create goals. They list a series of things that they want to accomplish in the new year. Some of them are big goals (publish once a month), and some are small (take a test, attend an event), but they are a list of measurable goals for the new year.

And most of them then look back at the previous year as they’re getting ready. I did my goals for 2009, a series of updates through out the year, and then a final look back. I had written a way to measure my success (or failure), which is something I’d recommend as well. I did all of this before writing goals for 2010, using my thoughts on 2009 to look forward to 2010.

Here’s what I’d suggest, since it’s not too late:

  1. Think of some goals for 2010 that you want to accomplish. They can be big or small
  2. Write them down, along with a way to decide if you’ve succeeded or failed.
  3. Set a quarterly reminder to revisit your goals and see how you are doing.
  4. Analyze how you did between Christmas and New Years next year.
  5. Repeat.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Is it a problem if I don’t blog?

I’ve had a few people ask me this question. It’s the new year, many people are making New Year’s resolutions, and in the technical world I know a lot of people have said they’ll start blogging, or blogging more.

Let me say that a lack of a blog is not a negative.

I don’t think it counts against you in an HR search, an employer doesn’t look down on you, and it doesn’t mean that you’re not a good potential employee, just because you don’t blog. From the questions I’ve asked of many people, it doesn’t hurt you to not blog. I know, double negative, but I wanted to make the point.


The power of a blog is that it enhances your reputation. Ultimately you have to impress a potential employer with your work. You have to demonstrate the knowledge in the interview, so why not do a little of it ahead of time? Put some of that knowledge in a blog and show them ahead of time that you’re someone they might want to hire.

A blog makes you stand out, it gets you moving up the Long Tail. That’s what you want, to stand out a bit, to increase the chances that your resume stands out among all the other ones.