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.