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.