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.