Monday, December 30, 2013

Improving Yourself in 2014

What are you going to improve in your career in 2014? It’s the end of the year, and time for New Year’s Resolutions. The advice I’d give you for your career is the same as the rest of your life: make small, incremental changes that you can sustain.

I’ve embarked on the Powershell Challenge in my career, and while it’s moving slow with the holidays, I continue to move along. In other areas, I’m looking to do more development in 2014, and plan to get back to my Learning C# book again. I started it last fall, then misplaced it and got busy. I want to use those skills to build some software, updating my web site as well as building a mobile app.

You should pick something. As I’ve mentioned before, touch your resume every quarter, and think about what you can add. If you can’t add something, or haven’t added anything in the last quarter or two, think now about what you will add in 2014. It might be one thing a year, but make some improvement in your career.

This is a good time to set a goal and continue moving your career forward.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why You Don't Get Hired

There could be lots of reasons why you don't get hired (or get the promotion/raise), but I found a good list of items from Mike Walsh on his blog: 6 Reasons I Won't Hire You. I like the list, and for the most part I agree with what Mike has written.

The first few items are important. You should be able to tell people you don't know. I might suggest that you actually document some of these items in your blog or resume/profile and talk about them. Show people that you didn't know something, you could admit it, and you could find out or learn it yourself.

I'd also caution people to be aware that not all jobs are for you. It can be hard when you are desperate for a job to not fit the profile, or get an offer, or something else. If you ask for feedback and they say you weren't a good fit, that can be very depressing or disconcerting.

However it's okay. One of the things a job interview is supposed to do is determine if you're a good fit for this position. Not that you can do the job or have the skills, but do you fit in this environment, with this team of people, with these clients. Sometimes you just don't fit, and it might not be your skills. It might be your personality or approach doesn't fit the system.

These are a few reasons you might not get hired, some of which you can change and some you can't. Change what you can, accept what you cannot.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Touch Your Resume

It's getting close to the end of the year. While you haven't gotten busy with the holidays or lazy as work drags, take a moment today and open up your resume.

30 Seconds

Spend 30 seconds thinking about what you've done in the last year. Is there anything that you can change on your resume? New skills you've acquired? A project you completed? Something that would make you stand out from others that do your job?

If so, make the change right now, update your LinkedIn profile (or wherever you keep it) and go about your day.

If Not

If you don't have any changes to make, spend 30 seconds more thinking about why not. Have you been busy in life? Getting married, divorced, having a child, illness, or something else? There are certainly reasons why you might not have anything to change on your resume.

However,  think about whether you can do something in the next 90 days or so that might make a difference on your resume? Work on a skill? Complete some project that helps you or someone else at work? Chances are there is something you can do the next quarter.

Maybe next quarter isn't the time, but you shouldn't go more than 4 quarters without having something worthwhile to change on your resume.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Referrals matter, so network

I have a slide in my talk with this webpage capture:


The important bit is in the last paragraph, where Ernst and Young, a large accounting firm, is looking to hire more people from internal referrals. They now get 45% of non entry-level hires.

In case you’re wondering, internal referrals mean employees recommend people they know. Those people are their network. They might call them friends, or former co-workers, or even workers recommended by friends. All of those people are in their network.

Networking matters. I suspect this trend will continue in the future as more and more employers want to spend less and less time hiring and losing people.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Always Take Interviews

I have a rule that if someone asks me about an interesting job, or I’m looking for a new position, I take an interview. It does have to fit into my life, but I try to make time and go on interviews, especially phone interviews.

First, it’s good practice. You get the chance to get asked questions, and then you must come up with answers under some pressure. Even if you don’t want to job, most of us feel some pressure to do well in an interview. These are good skills to keep sharp.

Second, you never know when the job might appeal to you. The best time to find a new job is when you have a job. I’ve learned things in interviews and about companies that made them look at me differently. I’ve never been offered huge salary increases from random jobs, but I know people that have.

Third, you can practice interviewing the company. Many people struggle with asking tough questions or negotiating. Taking interviews gives you a chance to put some pressure on the company to convince you to work for them.

I always take interviews if they don’t severely impact my schedule.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Keep in Touch–Networking

I think networking is great for your career.  It’s easy, and it can be rewarding.

However like any relationship, it needs care and feeding. It’s a bit of work.

If you meet someone new, and you make a good connection, keep in touch. Drop a note after you return from an event, or periodically just send a “how are you note.” If you see the person at another event, at least say hi if you can’t have more of a conversation.

The reinforcement can really grow and strengthen the relationship.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Branding at SQL Saturday #265

I’ll be speaking at SQL Saturday #265 in Portland, OR next week and one of my talks is the branding talk. If you’re in the area, feel free to register and come for the day, or just my talk.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Meet 3 People

At every event you attend, you should think about meeting 3 new people.

It’s easy, and it’s not that time consuming. You don’t need to make 3 friends, or create new work, but say hi to a few people, ask them a few questions, and if you are interested in talking to them more about 5 minute, exchange contact information.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Starting to Blog

How do you start blogging? Here’s some advice:

Open Word, Google Docs, Live Writer, or some tool where you can save your notes. Evernote actually works great and is cross platform.

Mark the date and start writing about something you did this week. It can be a new solution or a description of the way you've done something for years. Take 15 minutes at a time, a couple times a week. Get a page written that explains a solution or technique.

Repeat this 9 times. When you get done, you'll have some idea on how you can produce information on what you do. Schedule these out on a blog and keep going.

As you write, get feedback from your friends on the writing, the topic, the clarity and completeness of the explanation.

Start chronicling your technical work and you might be surprised who follows along.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Branding Yourself at SQL Intersection

I delivered this talk yesterday at the SQL Intersection conference and it was surprisingly well attended. About 30 people came, which is on par with some of the other niche topics.

I had a few interesting questions during the talk, which I'll address in some future posts. For now, I'm keeping track of a few of them in this post. The ones I thought were interesting:
  • How do you counter negative posts about you?
  • How do you handle finding remote work?
  • How do you deal with not having a formal title or experience in an area you want to work?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Leadership–Inspiring others

One of the things you can do with leadership is to convince or inspire others to do things they might not think they can do. It’s influencing them to try tools, techniques, projects, something that makes them reach a bit beyond their comfort zone.

This might result in some failures, but it should allow people to learn more, to expand their skills, and hopefully find new ways to solve problems more effectively.

Your leadership might keep them going past failures to try again, or try something new.

These are valuable skills that can help you stand apart from others, and make you a more valuably member of a team. If you find that you can influence, inspire, lead other people, note that on your profile. Save these stories and use them for your next job interview.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Branding Yourself in Las Vegas

I’m speaking at the SQLIntersection/DevIntersection conference in Las Vegas next week and I’m delivering the Modern Resume/Branding talk on Tuesday.

If you’re registered, come.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Becoming a Leader

“You can lead even if you are not the leader.” – Erin Stellato

I heard this quote from a friend recently on a panel. It’s interesting in that it does help to inspire you to think about how you can make a difference even if you aren’t in charge.

The thing is, if you lead, you’re a leader. There isn’t a leader. There are people in charge, and people who lead. They can be the same, but they can be different.

Leadership is valuable, even when you aren’t in charge. When you aren’t the manager, or organizer, or Scoutmaster, or deacon, or any other “position” that determines direction, you can still lead.

That’s what leadership is. You convince people to do something when you have no power.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Be Happy

Work on your career, improve your brand, but remember to live your life.

And be happy.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Negotiating Salary

This isn’t necessarily branding, but the way you negotiate with your company can impact future negotiations. Managers remember that if it’s easy to get you to take less money and they’ll often offer less in bonuses, raises, etc. Not necessarily because of maliciousness, but often because they think you’re easy to negotiate with and you’ll take what you’re offered.

I ran across this advice, aimed mainly for women, but it’s good salary negotiation advice in general. I’d encourage you to read the comments as well.

One thing I’d point out is that companies are paying for a job to get done, and I’ve always approached things that way. If you are paying $80k for a job, don’t expect me to do it for $60k. That being said, there often is some flex in the salary offer, and it’s up to you to use your brand to make the case for why you’re being offered more.

Never disclose current salary

I stand by this. I might give a range of salary (“I’m making in the upper 70s”), but only after they’ve made an offer. If they ask me what I want to make, I ask them what the range is for the position. They have this information and it shouldn’t be secret. If it is, I’m usually thinking I need to walk away because this will always be a point of contention.


I have a friend, who’s been successful here, that always has a series of numbers for what each of his compensation items are. Salary, vacation, medical, etc. If one of those is reduced, then he wants another to go up.

For example, vacation is often hard to negotiate since it’s usually taken out of manager’s hands and handled by HR. The company may have a hard rule of 3 weeks PTO, unless you have some seniority. Managers can’t negotiate that.

My friend is used to 4 weeks, and that’s important. He is happy to take unpaid time off, but he wants the compensation. He counter offers, noting that he’d like a salary bump because the time off matters. It doesn’t always work out cleanly and involves come give and take, back and forth, but reasonable counter offers like this do play better with managers.

It’s business

The last thing I’ll say is don’t take this personally. HR people and managers are just trying to get this done. They have their own rules and problems with changing offers or getting you something out of the ordinary, but it’s not their money and often it isn’t personal. They may have a budget to work in, but that’s just a consideration for them. They don’t “dislike you” for asking for more and aren’t actively trying to reduce your income. They’re usually guessing about the value you’re worth.

Don’t take it personally and if they don’t agree to your terms or counter in some way, don’t get upset. Continue to negotiate and calmly work through why or why not something should be done.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Branding Yourself for a Dream Job–The latest PPT

I presented this talk at SQL Saturday #249 in San Diego last weekend, and it went well. No great questions or insights from the talk, but I did want to upload the latest PPT deck.

Branding Yourself for a Dream Job - v17

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Care a little about your blog

I ran across this post: how to blog about code and give zero fucks (warning, foul language). It essentially is a plea to blog more, to not worry about what you write, but just share more about how to develop and program.

Overall I agree with the post, and like some of the passion that the author shows. However I’d disagree with part of his advice. He talks about ignoring quality control, and not worrying about capitalization, commas, grammar, etc.

The way you blog, even if you are writing casually, will reflect lots of your communication style. If you can’t explain things well, succinctly, and can’t write complete sentences (Assuming you are blogging in English), that’s an issue.

Grammar isn’t hard. Spelling is more so, and it’s easy to make mistakes, but writing complete sentences that are understandable is important. You don’t have to write formally, or get an editor to clean up everything, but have someone read your work periodically and give you feedback. Correct errors people point out and learn from them.

Over time, writing in a cleaner, clearer style will become an ingrained habit.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pay it Forward

Helping others online, such as in forums, or teaching them something at work is a good way of paying it forward. It’s something that shows you care about more than yourself and will work to make the company, or perhaps world better.

This video isn’t related to work, but it was touching, and I think it’s a good reminder to not judge too harshly up front, and to help others when you can.


Helping the Homeless


It’s also a good reminder that a little humanity and compassion can make a huge difference in the world. Or in your company. Treat others well.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Be careful with your updates

I ran across an article about a study that showed social media updates can cause you to lose, or not get, a job. The latter is more disconcerting because it means you often have no idea why you didn’t get a job. Were there better candidates, or was is something you did.

To be fair, I think some of these are silly, and that teachers, or people working with children, seem to be held to a higher standard. However if a job has a higher profile, then there are higher risks with those “fun” pictures that might be socially risqué.

Note that I’m not judging or telling you that you can’t enjoy life, but be careful about what you share on the Internet. Just as your words reveal something about how you think and communicate, your images do the same thing.

Build a professional image that conveys professionalism, and use a separate place to communicate with friend and share those fun things. Note that sharing doesn’t need to be public. More and more I’m thinking that sharing among groups, and not the Internet overall, is a better move for the future. Some social media sites allow this, if you configure things. Defaults are not good.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Defaults are not good (in social media)

Often I like working with defaults in software. My job is easier, and as I change machines or reinstall something, the behavior of the system is familiar. When defaults are set well, they work really well.

When they aren’t well set, however, there are issues and the software can be jarring to use.

In social media applications, there are various defaults set. Many of these are privacy related defaults which are usually set to the loosest, or least private, settings available. This is to the benefit of the company, and that makes sense. I’ve set defaults like this in the past.

However for some of us, this isn’t what we want. Especially when we look at our professional careers.

Be careful with defaults and spend a few minutes setting them. As an example, I maintain presences on Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, I have open settings, where my posts and images are viewable by all. I understand that and consider it before posting.

On Facebook, I’ve set all my privacy options to limit exposure to the friends I’ve linked with. I post things that I don’t want to associate with my professional career, or with people I don’t know. Those are conscious decisions because I don’t want everything I post to be available to my employers. To me, these are items I share in my backyard, not in a public park.

Make your own decisions, but make them consciously and beware of defaults.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Bit of a Delay

I’m not following my own advice for regular updates, and I apologize. Life and work have been rather busy this last few months with issues in both areas.

I’m dropping this note to let you know I’m still thinking about the blog and I have some drafts and ideas to move forward. I’ll look to update things more regularly from this point forward.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Fresh Start

That was the title of this slide:

It's from a Baseline slideshow that talks about staffing across the last 6 years and how even though many companies that shrunk their staffs after 2007 have hired since, they haven't necessarily hired the same people back.

That's an interesting statistic to me. It does mean a third of the companies did hire back old staff, which isn't a bad number. In baseball, that's all star territory for hits. If you have some knowledge of the systems, you might get hired back.

However two thirds of the companies did not hire back staff. There could be a number of reasons for this:
  • The company is crappy and workers didn't want to come back
  • They let the wrong people go, and those people found other jobs
  • People already had a job and didn't want to come back to a company that had let them go
  • Their skills weren't worth hiring back
There could be other reasons as well. However from the employee standpoint, unless you are in one of the first two categories, you would want the company to make an attempt to hire you back. Especially if you needed a job. It's not that you might need one when the company is hiring right now, but you might need one in five years, and institutional memory can be long. The last thing you want is for your application to be discarded without consideration because of bad feelings or poor performance.

You can't leave every job on your own terms, but you can do a professional job, and ensure that the decision to let you go is a hard one. You can also ensure that if you decide to leave, that they want you back and would hire you back.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side, and having a company that would be happy to hire you back is a great safety net for your career.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Asking for a Raise

I ran across a few tips on how you might approach your boss for a raise this year. It's been years since some people got raises or bonuses, but more people are reporting that they are receiving them this year, so maybe it's time you asked.

The important thing is in the first section. Have you done anything that deserves a raise? Anything out of the ordinary? Lots of people expect some kind of raise for doing their job, but that's a losing strategy for the business, and for you. If you are just doing the job, at some point it makes more sense to hire someone else and train them rather than continue to give you raises.

The advice in asking is good. Schedule the meeting, have your documentation and make a request. All that depends on you having done something, and documenting that you've done it. That's what most of this blog is about. Doing something and documenting it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


In the volunteering portion of my talk, I give some reasons why volunteering is a good idea. I see this as doing more than you need to do, without being asked. When you volunteer to help others, whether this is work related or not, it shows:
  • you are motivated
  • you choose to do things without being told
  • you want to make something better
  • you are willing to help
  • you can do more than you have to.

There are probably more reasons, but those are some that I give.

I ran across a piece on giving, showing others believe in this advice as well. Giving is a positive exercise, and while you will feel good, it shows that you are someone that is less likely to take more out of job/life than you put back. You will likely be an asset more than you are a burden.

Think about giving at some point in your life. It might not be now, but I do believe that you should give back to others when you can. At work, however, you ought to think about doing this quarterly, helping others when you can.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Standing Out

I saw this post on 10 Tips for Programmers to stand out at work. It’s a good piece if you’re a programmer and want to move up in your company, or get more money/responsibility/whatever from your current employer.

However it’s also a great post if you want a new job. The same types of things you would do inside your company are valuable in presenting yourself to prospective employers. All of these items are good ways to show that you are really a professional.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Journey

We are all on a constant journey, but the best of us push forward regularly, even if that means finding another job.

Read this piece on How to Keep Your Best Programmers. I found it interesting and I agree with lots of it. However the important thing here is to think about what your journey is and work towards it.

To help you on your journey, document your progress in a blog of some sort. Network with others to find opportunities or ideas that might help you move, and have all of that ready as your brand for the next step of your travels.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Reset Button for your Brand

We don’t have it, but I think this piece has a good idea in some ways. Perhaps we should have a reset button for children when they become adults. Often the things we might do at 15, or 17, are not the things we would do when we are 21 or 22 and entering the workforce. The things we might do before we enter military service are often not what we would do later.

We might, but in that case, does a brand reset matter? We’d just rebuild the same brand.

We don’t have those things, however, and in the technology world (and perhaps others soon), our brands, our reputations, and our history will follow us around. If that’s a good brand, we may have more, or better, opportunities. If it’s a poor brand, we may have few.

Do good work. Do professional work. Build a positive brand.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Learn Something Today

I saw this quote, and thought it was great.

“Go to bed smarter than when you woke up.” — Charlie Munger

Charlie Munger is the partner of Warren Buffet, and has worked in the financial industry for decades. Both men are billionaires, living late in life, and still working.

I think this advice is something all of us in technology can take to heart. We work with a variety of ever changing technologies, and we can’t know everything about the platforms on which we work.

However we can continue to get better.

I don’t know that I learn something every day, but I’m starting to think I should be making more of an effort to learn something small, something that makes me think or question the world around me. Something that makes me think differently about my career.

Read and learn something new today.

And write about it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What Have You Learned?

I ran across an interesting link that relates to colleges and their goals, as well as measuring this goal:

It’s disconcerting to see this as a parent of a college kid, but I think this also can apply to work. You ought to think about what you've learned at work on a regular basis. If you're not learning, then you're adding another year of the same experience.

At the end of five years, do you want five years of experience, or one year of experience five times? Employers, and especially technical interviewers, are getting better at separating these out.

Work on your career by learning more. Assess yourself, and try to determine if you’ve learned to actually do new things each year. Make a list, or keep documentation when you learn something new and can apply it to work.

You should ensure your branding reflects this.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Networking is Talking

I know so many people that view networking (for business) as a hassle, as disingenuous, as a distasteful act, or even as something that’s difficult to master.

It’s not.

Networking, in the business sense, is just talking. It’s introducing yourself and genuinely trying to learn something about another person. It’s being friendly, asking about their work, or what they think about some topic.

Try to keep it mostly professional, but after avoiding the problematic topics, if you want to talk sports, or fashion, or cooking, make a connection.

It’s easy. Make an effort at your next event.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Body Language

This isn’t a post on your brand or resume (too much), but it is something to think about. I don’t know that you need to be overly concerned, but I’d think it over.

Years ago I read a few books on management and leadership. One of the items that stood out to me, and still does, is that crossing your arms is a defensive posture. It conveys the idea that you are opposed to some item being discussed or talked about. There is some subtle psychological thing that happens when we get upset or angry, and crossing arms is one of those unconscious things we do. Research has shown this is often the case, though not always.

A ran across a piece recently (from Brent Ozar, PFL’s newsletter), that notes how your posture and pose can affect what people think. This could be important in interviews, and I know that I’m very conscious of when I cross my arms. I always stop and think if I’d upset or disagreeing with someone before I do it. I know I do it less, and try to make sure I voice or project my actual thoughts if I’m doing it because I just feel like it.

In an interview, or even when networking (meaning talking) with colleagues, I’m careful to try and pay attention and don’t send signals that might put someone off. That includes making eye contact, engaging, avoiding my phone, and not crossing my arms.

I’d encourage you to think about how you present yourself. Not that you adhere to any particular method, but you should just be aware of the way you appear. Think about it  and ensure it’s what you want.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

You are on the record

This piece expresses it well: Your tweets are always on.

For now, we are always representing our company online. It’s not quite fair, but we are always judged by what we write when we communicate (or say) and if you use any online services (blogging, social media, etc), then you could end up getting in trouble because of what you push out there.

I don’t know if it’s quite as bad as the article states, since I think you can show some separation. However you have to follow my advice and make a second account for non-work stuff. Show separation, and if you want to make political, religious, etc. comments, do it from an account that doesn’t have your employer’s name on it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Don’t Be a Ghost

This is a post on technology workers from Troy Hunt, but it could apply to many industries, and more of them all the time.

It’s perhaps more applicable in the technology industries, but I could see this applying to other places as well. The idea is that you shouldn’t be someone that comes to work, sits in an office and gets things done without ever making some mark in the world of what you do.

I think this makes some sense, but you don’t need to be out in the world making an impact publicly. However you need to document the places you do make an impact. You should have a whole history of projects, skills, whatever you’ve done.

If you do those privately, unpublished on the Internet, then make sure you have a private URL you can give to recruiters and prospective employers. Or a file you can send them.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Showcase Your Knowledge

While working on another piece, I ran across this post: Seven Things I Learned About Data Visualizations. It's a short list, with details, of how this particular subject taught the writer a few things. It looks at a variety of other pieces, in different subjects, and interprets these items with relation to data visualizations. In addition to being an interesting read, it's a great career piece for the author.

If I were looking for someone that could help me produce data visualizations, this piece would mean much more to me than a dozen questions in an interview. I would have a much better understanding of how this author looks at the subject, and I'd have a frame of reference and some topics to discuss in person.

This article allows me to complete quite a bit of due diligence for someone before I would even meet them.

This is a great example of how you could produce some work on a blog that showcases your knowledge, but more importantly, showcases your thoughts.  This is the type of work that gives an employer confidence that you understand a particular subject.

This gives you a brand in this subject area.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Work Life Balance for Men

A great piece by LZ Granderson, and one that really make me stop and think a bit. Work and life is always a balance, and men certainly don’t have it easier. We make different choices, or we set different priorities. It’s worth the read, and as you do, before you dismiss it, consider this: how would work life look if women had been a part of business and work for all of history?

I sometimes look at the way I do things, and wonder if I’m balancing too far one way or the other. Ultimately I don’t know if I’m doing it right, but I keep an eye on it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Reduce Your Incompetence

Are you unconsciously incompetent?

I hope you answered “yes”, because if you didn’t, you’re really unconsciously incompetent.

I’m not trying to offend you, but it’s a fact that all of us don’t know various things, but there’s an even larger set of things that we aren’t even aware that we can’t do.

For example, in databases, I wasn’t aware that there was a DBCC Check Constraints until I read this post. I didn’t know this was even an option, much less what it did. There are probably lots of people in a similar situation in my field, people that don’t know some feature or option exists, and never use it.

That’s the case for most of us in many fields, but also in our own. One of the ways to advance your career, maybe shape it in a way that suits you, is to learn something new about your field, try to expand your horizons. You may learn there’s an area you’d like to move into, or one you want to avoid (perhaps more important).

You don’t have to do this, or any specific piece of advice I give, but do something.

Monday, March 11, 2013

It’s Working–Touch Your Resume

I stress in my talk a few times that you should touch your resume every quarter. It’s the last thing I leave people with, but I’ve rarely heard people come back to me and tell me they’re doing it.

That changed, as a friend mentioned me in his post recently called Dust Off That Resume.

Glad to see the advice is being repeated, and I think it’s the single best thing you can do for your career. Have this up to date, and thinking about the change you make, or don’t have to make, is a good way to keep you focused on your career.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Speaking Advice

From a Pluralsight author, there’s a difference between talking and teaching.

Overall I think it’s good. I try to keep some of these points in mind when I talk, though I haven’t always kept the agenda slides in. I’ve tried them in a few places, and I like them for pacing myself and transitioning things. It also reminds me to ask for questions.

I completely agree that “You probably already know this” is poor technique, whether writing or speaking. Don’t assume people know something, and if you have doubts, ask.

Speaking well takes practice, as much for your delivery, as for the comfort you get after lots of talks. The better you feel, the better your talk will be for the audience.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Choosing Topics

What should I blog about?

I hear this question all the time. I almost never have trouble finding topics, but I’ve had a lot of practice, and I’m thinking about blogging regularly. However I do remember struggling a long time ago and wondering what I should write about that would represent my brand well.

In my talk, here’s the list of things I mention:

  • Learn
  • Know
  • Solve
  • Do
  • Think

That’s really the list of things. Whenever you do one of these, write about it. If you have to go look up how to solve a problem or write code, blog about it. If you come up with a new solution to some problem at work, write about it. If you find something interesting that you’ve read, write about it.

Don’t copy posts. Don’t republish someone else’s post, but write your own take on things.

Monday, February 18, 2013

It’s Never Too Late to Learn

I ran across this story of Ira Classon, who learned to not only program, but do it well enough to get a number of speaking engagements and an enormous amount of respect in 18 months.

Not all of you are going to be extremely talented programmers that just need to work, and many of you certainly won’t learn be a top notch programmer in 18 months, even if that’s your job now.

However if you think about the future, and you think about trying to learn to be a much better programmer across the next 5 years, I think you’ll be amazed at how much you can improve your skills.

The trick is to work at it, regularly, and seriously. Pace yourself, remember you have more to your life than just improving your career, but you can do it.

This isn’t just for programming, but almost any professional endeavor, from the medical field to teacher. You can improve your skills, and perhaps your work situation with regular effort.

Be sure that you track your effort, get second opinions on what you do and write, and you should be able to find the job you want.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Updated Slide Deck - Branding Yourself for a Dream Job

I changed my slide deck slightly over the last few presentations, so I’ve updated the slides. Not too many changes, but a few more screen clips of various articles that talk about hiring and your online postings.

Branding Yourself for a Dream Job Slide Deck

Speaking - Slide Design

I’m not sure I love this advice on slide design, but some of it makes sense. Much too often I see people putting lots of information on slide decks, as though readers will be studying the slides. I am working to reduce the amount of letters or “data” on each slide, and increase the information by making things simpler and hoping people will pay attention to me.

I do think that larger fonts are important, and I like the idea of color. I hate animations, and prefer to either have everything on the slide at once, or use multiple slides to highlight some change. The changes I highlight, however, are usually images that change rather than words.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Dream Home Job

I’ve telecommuted for over a decade, mostly for myself, but now for another company, albeit in the same job. My wife worked for over 20 years, from home, for 5 or 6 companies. Telecommuting works.

If you want to make your job better by working from home, or find a new job that allows telecommuting, make sure that you are making a success of yourself while you work at home.  I ran across this piece on Why Remote Workers are More Engaged, and it makes some good points.

However it is important that the employee understands the challenges and makes an effort to show that they are working well.

Make this part of your brand, that you are a successful and effective remote worker. Whether it’s once in awhile or every day, include this as part of your brand. It shows motivation, professionalism, and independence, all of which are attractive to managers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Branding Yourself in New Mexico

I'll be delivering my Branding Yourself for a Dream Job presentation in New Mexico at SQL Saturday #183 on Feburary 9, 2013.

Register and come if you're in the area.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

LinkedIn and Connections

I don’t use LinkedIn a lot,  but I do try to go over there once every week or two and update my status, add a link, and accept connections.

I have a simple philosophy on connections: I accept them all. I don’t worry if I know the person or not, if they’re a recruiter or fellow technical pro, I just accept them.

My thoughts are that the more people I can touch if I need help, the better off I am. It doesn’t matter where they are, or how I know them. A broadcast for network help is a broadcast that I want to reach everywhere.

If the person is someone I know well, I do take a moment and move them into my A or B networks.

I feel differently on Facebook, which is for real friends and family and I rarely accept friends there.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Get a second opinion on your blog

In addition to blogging regularly, learning about new things, and learning to edit your work, it’s important that you also present your knowledge, skills, and efforts in a positive light. All too often I find people that write technical articles understand what they are writing about, and are very knowledgeable, but are unable to communicate well.

Editing is important, you can certainly learn to spell correctly, catch typos (their v there) and fix grammar issues, but are you actually, logically, explaining what you have learned or accomplished?

It’s hard for most of us to play the part of the teacher and student when we blog. It’s too easy for us to assume the student will understand what we mean, without realizing we are assuming too much knowledge. It’s also too easy for us to skip logical steps because we think everyone would automatically realize they were implied.

Do yourself a favor when you are blogging and get second opinions from friends or family on what you writing. Ask if your posts read well, and if they make sense. Even if you have someone that doesn’t understand the topic read the article, it should flow and be easy to read. If it’s not, fix it before you publish it.

This is your brand and it’s just as important that you present it positively as it is you keep adding to the knowledge in your field.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Editing Your Work

I write about how important it is that you work on your career and showcase your skills. However if you don’t know how to communicate effectively and show off your talent well, it doesn’t matter how much you work on your career.

With that in mind, here’s a nice piece on editing your own work that will help many of you write better. It’s an important skill and whether you like it or not, you should learn to do it well.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Branding Yourself for a Dream Job

The modern job search is one that many people struggle to be successful with. These days companies often receive dozens, if not hundreds of resumes and applications for every open position. Standing out from the pack of candidates can be hard, but if you build a strategy over time, you can increase your chances of getting an interview and finding your dream job.

This session examines practical ways that you can build a brand as well as some of the dangers you may face. I will cover different reasons why you should use these techniques as well as how you can take advantage of them to build a better brand. You can choose to do any or all of these.
  • Networking
  • Volunteering
  • Blogging
  • Authoring
  • Speaking
  • Leading
This session is 60 minutes long.

Note: This presentation was originally called "The Modern Resume", but I've changed it to focus more on the outcome I want people to focus on.