Monday, December 22, 2014

Long Range Planning and Execution

Let me tell you a story.

Years ago a friend was working in technology. This person had a great job, made lots of money, and was a success. They received unsolicited job offers, changed jobs a few times, and generally enjoyed their job.

However they weren't completely happy. Work was stressful, and more importantly, it wasn't fulfilling. What this person really wanted to do was work in another field entirely, one that required a substantial pay cut and self-employment.

With this person's family, they made a plan. It was a plan that crossed years, with quite a few changes. My friend paid for training. This person practiced skills for the new industry in their spare time. My friend worked part time in this new field, at night and on weekends, slowly trying to build a base.

More importantly, the family bought in and they slowly made financial changes, reducing debt and changing lifestyles to get prepared. The plan changed and altered over time as life often does.

This went on for years, over 5 of them.

Five years.

Eventually my friend reached a point where they made a change. This wasn't according to plan, in fact, the more formal version of the plan called for another couple years of work. However my friend decided it was time for a change.

After resigning, my friend started a new career and it's worked out well. I know, because this friend is my best friend, my wife.

We spent years planning for her to leave technology, and it was hard, it took focus and perseverance, and lots of patience. I would never have guessed this is how life would go, but it did. We initially planned for a year of her new career and then to evaluate it's feasibility. It's worked out well, and almost three years later, she's still enjoying her new career.

You can do the same thing. You don't have to leave technology if you don't want to, but I'd encourage you to pick the career you want. Maybe you'd rather be a DBA than a developer, or vice versa. Maybe you'd rather be a manager.

You worry about pay changes, or problems with your skills. Those are valid concerns, but not reasons to avoid making a change.

Life is short. Live the one you want.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Take Stock of Your Career

It's the end of the year, and we're about to move forward into 2015. If you haven't stopped to think about where your career is in 2014, I'd urge you to take a few hours over the holiday season and do so.

Many of us wander from job to job, taking opportunities given to us, accepting the first job offer we get when we are looking for work, and sticking with companies year after year. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's a passive way of having a career.

The job you have today might not be the one you wanted. That's fine if you are happy with it, but what if it's not your ideal job? Shouldn't you be thinking about what that is? Perhaps there are a few things you might consider:

  • Are you challenged by your job?
  • Does the level of responsibility cause you stress?
  • Are there other projects or technologies you'd like to work in?
  • Are you making enough money to provide a good life for your family?
  • Does the industry you work in excite you?
  • Do you wish you could use more features or have more input into the design of your application?
  • Are you on call too often or do you get called too much?
  • Would you rather be a consultant or FTE?
  • Do you want to telecommute?
  • Do you want to travel less or more?
  • Do you work too much?

These are a few questions that I ask myself regularly. I tend to take stock of my career in the summer, and evaluate if I still want to continue in my current position. I really try to consider my options, think about the jobs other people have and the challenges they face. I think about my family and the balance I have with life outside of work and the time I spend at a computer.

I really, really try to look forward and honestly weigh the positives and negatives of changing jobs. It's hard, and it's certainly scary. I've been doing this job for over a decade, and while it's slightly evolved, it hasn't dramatically changed. There are things I like, and things I'd change, but overall, it's the best job I've ever had and I wouldn't change (for now).

You can change your career, and move a direction you want. It may take time, even years, but it can be done.

However it starts with a single step. Maybe you want to learn SSIS or Biml. Maybe you should work on a certification and grow your general knowledge. Maybe you want to start a software project and build some skills. It's up to you, and you can start moving in a new direction if you have the desire to do so.

Monday, December 8, 2014

I used to work in xxx and now want to work in IT

This could apply to any industry, but specifically I think this works well in IT.

I got a question from someone that asked me this: "… I was thinking if you could give some advice in how to get a solid cv/knowledge in IT. I've just completed/gained my [xx cert] and now studying the following modules: YY, ZZ. My problem it's that I always worked in [other industry] and now looking to move into IT."

The short version of what I'd recommend is that you need to start showing some knowledge. Here's what I wrote:

My advice would be to start blogging about things you're studying. Show that you are learning things, how you think about them, how you'd solve problems I used to answer questions on forums (like here: My answers and thoughts actually got me a few interviews.

I'd tackled some topics that you are learning about, and write about what you've learned. Be sure you communicate well (get someone to review and see if your grammar is good, logic, flow, etc.) and then post it. Use this as part of your resume that you send to employers.

The more you write about, the more you show about your knowledge. Plus you show some motivation.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Check Your Invitations

One of the most important things you can do for your career is to network with others in your area. You can do this in person, or online (or both), but be sure you keep up with your network.

One good way to do that is to be sure you are accepting links and invitations in whichever medium you use. If you are on LinkedIn (a great place), be sure that you review and accept your invitations every month (at least). On Facebook, accept friend requests, and on other platforms, accept the links.

You don't need to send a note to each person or follow up right away, but at some point you may want to, or need to, and it will be important that you have a large network ready.

How much review do you perform? I do none. I accept everyone.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Showcase Your Knowledge

I wrote a piece I called Challenge Yourself, and while it’s mostly aimed at technical people, I think it can apply to other professions.
I thought of it recently with my son. He’s in his last year of college and taking a GIS class. Part of the class is lots of lab work, creating maps from public data sets, which are the kind of data most of us deal with: a mess of numbers.
He often finds data that is incorrectly entered, formatted poorly, etc. He’s come to me for help with SQL and Python expressions that can help him transform and select data that I appropriate for his maps. A few times he’s had to write a mini-report on how he manipulates the data, but not always.
However as I was helping him, it occurred to me that if I were interviewing him for a GIS job next year, someone that has no experience, I’d want to get some confidence that they know how to work with ArcMap or other tools. A resume or a grade in a class doesn’t mean much. I have no idea of this involved anything complex, or just simple data loads.
If he had a blog, or a series of documents that explained how he built maps and manipulated data, then I’d feel better. I could talk about those tasks and skills in an interview, and use his documentation to drive conversation, as well as determine if he really knew how to work with the tools or not.
I’m sure other students could benefit from some effort to showcase their knowledge.Even professionals in positions could do this, showing that they are improving their knowledge, or even demonstrating the depth to which they know a subject.
Start a blog, or at least document your work.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Salary Survey 2015–Data Professionals

Some good stuff for data professionals in this look at the 2015 salary survey from Robert Half. I don’t know how widely this is across the US, or the variability, but higher salaries than I expected.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Great Interview Question

This piece is written for programmers, but the question may be a great one for other fields. If you are truly interested and excited about your career, it will show through.

Be able to answer this question if you are asked it.

My most recent job

A question I had recently during a talk was this:

"I worked for a long time for large company X, who many people have heard of. However I recently moved to small company y, which no one knows anything about. I'm looking to change positions. Do I include company y at the top of my resume or emphasize the work with company X??

It's an interesting question, and I have a few thoughts.

The first is that you or I can't necessarily build a resume that doesn't upset some recruiter, HR person, or hiring manager. There will always be people that expect a particular resume format and if you don't provide it, they dislike yours. I have seen people that expect a Summary at the top, your Education next, and then a reverse chronology of jobs, with the dates listed first and then the company name, with your title last.

I can't worry about those people, and honestly, if you're hung up on formatting, I may not want to work for you.

The second thing is that I would highlight my experience in a position or a project first, rather than worry about chronology too much. I would set a chronology on my profile (on a web page, CV, LinkedIn, etc.), but use the resume to convince someone that needs a person to do what I want to do, that I am that person.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Mentoring Experiment - Closing Thoughts

Andy wrote a post today called The End of the Mentoring Experiment, which is something we've talked about for some time. In fitting with the decision, and perhaps justifying it further, we decided to do this a few months back, but as with many things, we haven't gotten to it until today.

I remember when we started this, and we were very excited and interested. The first cycle of matches, using 8 people we hand picked, consumed a lot of time, and while it was successful, it was difficult to scale. We continued on a couple other cycles, trying to tweak to process a bit, but never found a way to manage this effectively, given other parts of our lives, and were never quite comfortable with automating too much of the experiment away.

We also struggled with the idea of accidently making some mistake, breaking someone's privacy, or causing harm to another's career or life. Andy wrote a few things about this, and it made sense to us.

We do believe in mentoring, and I hope that those of you looking to grow your careers take time to look for mentors. If you need advice or want help, ask. There are lots of people that will probably give you a little time. It's not a sign of weakness to need or want a mentor. It's a sign of maturity.

For those of you with some experience, keep an eye out for someone that might ask for help, or maybe just seem to be lost. Tread lightly, and carefully, but offer to be a sounding board if they'd like one. You can really make a difference in someone's career with a little effort.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Resume Templates

One of the things that I’ve been asked a few times is why don’t I present and give templates for a resume. Most of the reason is that when I show something, cut and paste in the technology business is far too common and I’ll send up with a large group of people using the same resume template and not thinking about how to stand out.

I’m rethinking that a bit, as it’s unlikely that many people will copy something directly, but I’m not sure I want to completely change. However I did see a link in the Brent Ozar newsletter for free resume templates, and I was intrigued. I looked over the list and have a few comments.

Demorfoza Template

I think the Demorfoza design is very clean and easy to read. It breaks things up nicely, but it seems more like an artist’s resume than a technical one. I can’t speak for other industries, but in technology where searching for skills is so prevalent, I don’t want any of my 30 seconds spent reading about skills shown in the upper right.

You might feel differently, especially with less experience. If I were to use this, I’d consider linking (or including a link) with my skills that might go to projects or blog tags that showcase that skill.

Ayoob Ullah Template

This template  is also very esay to read. I might move the “Languages/Skills” to the second page to keep it out of the reviewer’s eye. However the rest of the resume is very nice. Lots of white space, contact information set to the side and a clear space to catch the reviewer’s eye at the top.

Jonny Evans Template

The Jonny Evans template is very appealing to me. I like that the experience is large and centered in the middle. I’d probably be sure that I used this section to highlight projects more than jobs, showcasing skills.

I also like the “Profile” section at the bottom. I’m not sure I’d include a picture, but having a few ways to find out more about me is a good way to control what the reviewer sees. I might also put a summary of education at the bottom and use the “Education” section at the top to emphasize what I want to do.

The one thing I don’t like is the Personal details are a bit large at the top. I might put my name, contact info, and profile link there only.

Fernando Baez Template

This template didn’t do a great job of presenting itself, to me. All of the shots make it hard to read up close and get an idea of what I’d put in there.

That being said, it’s different. It uses graphics to stand out, and I suspect, it would be  challenge to put together. If I were hiring an artist, this would really stand out. For a technical person, I’m not so sure. All the graphs and image would seem to be more fluff and less substance to me.

If the images showcased some software the person had worked on, then I might feel differently, but I didn’t love this one.

Choose Your Own Style

All of these designs are very clean and easy to look at visually. I find them all much better than the standard templates that I’ve seen at so many career fairs and college offices. These stand out, and I would encourage you to choose some design that looks good.

However fill in the details your own way. Choose what you want to include, and that should be the things that showcase why you are a good hire. It’s not that you need to be the best at your chosen profession, but you want to display a high level of competence for the position. Whether that’s a junior or senior level position.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Showcase Your Competence

One of the things I recommend with resumes is that you want to show what you can accomplish. Explain on two pieces of paper, what you can do for the company that is considering interviewing you.

Sell yourself.

That doesn’t mean lie, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you need to be the guru or expert in your field. It means that you need to show what you can do for this position.

A few examples.

The Junior DBA

I don’t expect a junior DBA to have a lot of experience. However I do want them to have some passion and some talent. I’d expect a junior DBA that wants to work for me to be learning about SQL Server (or whatever platform). Blogs, projects, etc. that show me this person is trying to understand more provide reasons for me to call them.

The same impression comes from seeing them ask questions and interacting with anyone that helps them online. I would especially like to see some professionalism and courtesy.

The resume for a junior person shouldn’t be full of low level jobs. I’d relegate those to one liners, like I would for education. Instead, I’d use my parahraphs to talk about what I’ve learned. What I’ve accomplished so far with databases, even if they are contrived examples or exercises.

Senior DBA

A senior person should have lots of knowledge. I’d expect to see evidence of leading projects, performing tuning, giving me examples of solutions to harder-than-average problems on the resume. Don’t “manage 100 instance”. Tell me you’ve setup monitoring and caught issues before customers knew about them. Give me an example of a DR recovery. Show me something that impresses me in a sentence or two.

However be truthful. I’ll ask you in the interview and perhaps ask for references here.

Show Who You Are

The resume is your first chance to impress me with what you know and what you can do. I’m impressed if you worked at Google or Microsoft, but for most companies, I have no idea if it was a challenging environment, or if you rode the coattails of others. Tell me what things you have really accomplished.

And be prepared to talk about them in an interview.

Also be sure that the stories are true if I call your references or previous employers.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Start Networking Today

I gave a presentation of The Modern Resume at SQL Saturday #304 in Indianapolis recently and one of the attendees noted afterwards that I should have emphasized to people that they need to start networking today, before they need a job.

That’s true, and I agree I need to emphasize that networking, like many of the other tips, are long term efforts. The benefits come from regular attention to building and maintaining your network.

Practical Tips

Talk to 3-5 people at every professional event or gathering. I’d say meet 3 new people and talk to 2 people you’ve met before. The former will grow your network; the latter will maintain it.

It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it works well.

Note that you can use social networking online in addition to in-person networking.


When you need a favor, a job, a recommendation, you’re asking for help from people. You are asking them to perform some work on your behalf.

If someone knows you, and they feel a connection, they’re more likely to respond positively. They are more likely to help. If they’ve just met you, do they feel any obligation?

Think about people that have asked you for favors. If a neighbor comes up to you for the first time and asks you to watch his or her pets for a week, are you willing to help? Some of you might, but many of you might not.

However if a neighbor that you’ve had dinner with, or talked to every week for a year asks you, are you more likely to help? Most people are.

Build a network over time. It’s easy, and isn’t too time consuming, but it does take effort. However, it’s worth it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Being Successful

Warren Buffet had some advice for being successful. I ran across it in this Inc piece, and loved it.

"Never do anything in life if you would be ashamed of seeing it printed on the front page of your hometown newspaper for your friends and family to see."

Fantastic advice. This is what I’d say about how you approach your career, your friendships, and your life.

In your career, treat others well. Be fair, be respectful, and remember your actions reflect on you. Brand yourself accordingly.

Monday, August 11, 2014

30 Seconds

I delivered this talk in the UK, at SQL Bits in Telford last month. As usual, I surveyed the audience to see who hires people and I had relatively few responses. Out of the 50-60 people, only 4-5 raised their hands.

One of them was a lady who hires in the Asian Pacific area, and she said that resumes get 2 seconds for review.

That's it.

She makes a snap judgment and then either reviews them more or tosses them. I suspect she gets far too many resumes that look bad, aren't appropriate for the positions, or something else.

While most people will give you 30-60s to impress them, not many will waste time if your resume doesn't stand out immediately.

That's what this blog, and my talk, are about. Standing out. Here's the image from my deck that I use:

Build a clean resume. Make it visually appealing. Search for examples that are easy to read, and look good from a distance. More is not necessarily better on your resume.
Be concise. Write your descriptions, summaries, etc. in a clear manner that explains what you can do for the employer and why you're a good fit. Include impressive points, but use fewer words where you can. Get the message across quickly and simply.
And include lots of links to other places. That way when the reviewer decides to give you more than that 30 (or 2) seconds, they can easily find more information.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Branding in Indy

I'll be at SQL Saturday #304 in Indianapolis next weekend, Aug 9. I'll be delivering the branding talk early, so hopefully lots of people will get the chance to practice things during the day.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Would You Take the Job?

I was helping out in an interview process recently and was surprised by something. There was a group of us interviewing candidates, and we had a set list of questions. Each of us asked a question or two and all of us took notes to discuss afterwards. However at the end of each interview, the coordinating interviewer asked each person this question:

If you were offered the job, would you accept?

During one of the discussions, I noted that I thought this was a waste of a question. Certainly everyone would answer "yes" immediately. After all, I have when I've been asked the question.

However the coordinator said that he'd asked this question many times and learned a few things about people. They may hesitate, they may invoke conditions, they may not say yes.

Needless to say I was stunned until I read something similar in the Ask the Headhunter newsletter. One of the questions he answered was on telling the interviewer you want the job, which is very similar.

You should learn to say "I'm interested in the job" if you at all are at the end of the interview. This doesn't bind you, and circumstances may change. Perhaps the offer will be low, perhaps you'll get another offer. You don't know, but at the time, express interest. If someone asks you if you still want the job after the interview, say yes unless you are sure you do not.

There are times you don't want the job, but otherwise, just learn to say "yes, I want the job."

Monday, June 2, 2014

Get Involved

It’s not just me that believes this. There are plenty of people, especially in the technology communities that have seen involvement change their lives and boost their careers.

Scott Hanselmen and Rob Conery have worked to produce a video with Pluralsight that talks about the ways you can enhance your career by getting involved and engaging with peers.

Here’s the teaser:

Watch it at Pluralsight.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Free Images for your Blog

If you’re blogging, and you should try it, you might try spicing up some of your posts with images. I ran across this post with a number of sources for images.

Here are places they recommend:

There are more, so check out the post.

Note that most of these places let you use photos for non commercial use. That means if you’re consulting or selling services, you can’t use them. However if this is your private blog about your career, check them out.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Be Professional

I try to emphasize this multiple times in my talk, even though it’s obvious. The reason is that people sometimes forget to be professional when they’re trying to stand out.

I’ll admit this can be a fine line, but if you have doubts, get opinions from your partner, your parents, your kids, your friends. You want to look like you can do the job well, in whatever industry you are working.

What It Means

Being professional means a number of things. It means that whenever you are presenting yourself, whether on the phone, on a blog, during an interview, you are doing these things:

  • Stay on topic
  • Be respectful
  • Be polite
  • Be honest

Staying on topic means sticking to relevant topics about your career or industry. You can relate other experiences, but the important part is sticking to the topic.

Being respectful means that you understand the other person’s point of view, or other points of view, and you appreciate how those views, solutions, decisions are reached. You might feel they are wrong or inappropriate for the situation, but you both understand that you could be wrong yourself, and the person might have made their own mistake. It means appreciating the other.

Politeness shouldn’t be hard, but it’s following societal and cultural norms. Don’t interrupt, make some eye contact, be nice, shake hands. There are all sorts of social things here, and if you have doubt, do a little research. Ask friends or partners if you are impolite. This goes a long way towards showing that you can work with others. If you don’t want to be polite, remember that some people (like myself) will hold that against you in a job situation.

I don’t mean to put honestly last, or diminish its importance, but honesty in this sense means trying your best to do a good job at whatever you do. Don’t misrepresent your work or your skills. Accept responsibility for mistakes or delays. Perform an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Interviews and Hiring

T-SQL Tuesday is a blog party in the SQL Server community, where many people all write on the same topic on the same day each month.

This month’s topic is Interviews and Hiring, and it’s worth reading through the various posts that are linked as trackbacks or comments. Some interesting stories and views.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Branding Yourself for a Dream Job

Everyone wants a dream job that they enjoy going to each week. However finding that job, and getting yourself hired can be hard for most people. Steve Jones will give you practical tips and suggestions in this session that show you how to better market yourself, how to get the attention of employers, and help improve the chances that the job you want will get offered to you. Learn about networking, blogging, and more.

Learn practical tips on

  • Networking
  • Blogging
  • Volunteering
  • Speaking
  • Authoring
  • Leadership

This session has been delivered at many events in the past. It is scheduled for 2014 at:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Where to Blog

I'm going to assume for this blog that you have a few posts to publish. If you don't, then perhaps you should start by writing your first post. After that, get a few posts ready, then get a blog set up.


There are a lot of ways to blog. If you're inclined, you can certainly setup your own site and code your blog, but I wouldn't recommend that. You won't keep up with the coding, and unless your intent is to showcase your code writing skills, you shouldn't spend time on this.

Instead visit one of these places and sign up for a free blog:

  • Wordpress - Very popular and I use them for one of my blogs
  • Blogger - Also popular, hosting this blog (for now).
  • TypePad - Not as popular, but a nice platform for sure.
  • Tumblr - Not for me, but some people like it

There are other sites I'm sure, but I'd suggest you just pick one of these. Sign up and then link your Live Writer to it.

Custom Domains

You can choose to get a custom domain if you want for your blog. A custom domain would mean that instead of, which is one of my blogs, I could use If you click on both links, they go to the same places.

Domains are available from GoDaddy, eNom, NameCheap, and more. You need to pay for one and then point the domain to your blog. It's an easy thing to do, but a little work. I'm not going to cover it here, but you can Google, check your blog host for instructions, or just buy the service from the blog host.

I might suggest if you want to just keep things simple that you build a short URL for your blog using something like They'll let you build one like: Search for providers.


The last thing I'd make sure you do is have your pieces sent out to various social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. so that someone that might have an interest in hiring you can find them easily. Most of the blogging platforms have plugins to do this for you, so search the help sections for your blog provider.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Writing Your First Blog

How do you write your first blog piece? Here's a few simple steps to get you started.

Set Aside a Time

This can be ad hoc, but I'd rather you set aside 15 minutes at least once a week. Make yourself an appointment. At lunch, at night, weekends, whatever. Just pick a time when you can spend 15 minutes writing.

Use a computer, or a pad of paper, but just give your blog 15 real minutes.

Get LiveWriter

If you're on Windows, use Live Writer. If you're not, a text editor works fine.

Pick a Topic

People always struggle here. I get it; it's hard to choose something. I've written about it before, but here's what I suggest to start..

What did you do in your career today?

You had to do something? Maybe you built something with code. Maybe you helped a customer. Maybe you pushed paper around in meetings and updating status.

No matter what it was, take a minute and think about what you did and what you think about it? Was it worthwhile? Did you use some skill you have? Did you make things move forward?

Write a sentence or two that describes what you think of the item you picked.

Just Do It

Whether it was positive or negative, you can stop and evaluate what you did and write about it. Put your thoughts on paper.

Focus on your topic sentence and then start writing. The main thing is to periodically look back at your topic and make sure you're writing about it. If you're not, move the irrelevant or related items to a new draft post.

Rinse and Repeat

Whether you get this done or not, leave it. Go back to it when you can, perhaps the next 15 minute session next week. Taking it slow means it's more sustainable. If you go faster and do more this week, don't be afraid to drop back to your 15 minutes if you get busy.

Review what you wrote and see if you can improve the spelling and grammar. Do a little self editing and see if your thoughts makes sense

Get an Editor

When you think your piece is good, use someone else as an editor and get their opinion. Pick your spouse or partner, a friend, a colleague, just get someone else to read it. Even if they don't understand the meaning of jargon or technical items, the piece needs to flow and make sense.

Make sure you buy them a coffee or beverage. You'll use them again.

If they think it shows something about your career, it's ready.

Save This Piece

I wouldn't recommend you publish this right away. Write 5 or 10 of these, and once you have them, you'll know how quickly you produce pieces about your career.

At that point, I'd schedule them if you want to publicly blog and use a schedule that allows you to keep going for a bit.

If you want them to remain private, then compile them in a folder, and zip them up. Also be sure you make a copy occasionally. Keep a copy of these handy in case you ever want to showcase your knowledge for a recruiter, client, interviewer, or anyone else.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Most Valuable Thing for Your Career

Networking is the best thing you can do for your career.

I've seen it time and time again, with people helping others find an opportunity, get a reference or recommendation, or even just provide advice. I'm constantly amazed how often friends and acquaintances help each other in their careers. There are so many stories where good friends or loose connections have resulted in opportunity.

It's easy to do, so make sure you network more often, especially at your next industry event. Take the time to meet a few new people.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Career Warfare - Book

I grabbed this book some time ago, trying to understand brand building a bit. At a presentation recently someone asked me if I had any books to read, and this was the only one that came to mind.


The author is the CEO of John Hancock Financial Services, and he goes over a number of things that worked well for him in his career, and some things that didn't. Overall I think it is good advice, though perhaps conservative.

As an example, he mentions not drinking at social events with colleagues or your boss as you can only look bad. I somewhat agree that you can look bad, but having a drink or two, interspaced with water, nursed perhaps, can help you fit in. He also doesn't recommend bringing spouses to your events as they can make you look bad as well.

The book treats events more like war, and in large corporations, that might be true if you're climbing the ladder. However there isn't always such a kill or be killed mentality for most of us when we're trying to fit into a group.

I'd read the advice, take it with a grain of salty, but above all, remember to maintain your moral compass as you search for a job and look to get promotions.

Monday, March 24, 2014

No Quick Fixes

I gave my career talk recently at an event and quite a few people had questions about starting careers (in or just out of college) or finding another job (out of work). I answered as best I could, but there was one thing that I emphasized over and over and need to do here.

There is no quick fix.

The things I suggest to you, the ideas for building your brand and creating a modern resume can work and they will help you. However they take time. They take an investment in yourself across time.

You don't build a network in a month. It takes many months and years.

You don't build a blob that showcases your knowledge in a few weeks. It's a journey and a chronicle across time.

You don't volunteer, or lead, or research, or anything else in short periods of time.

Build your brand, slowly, steadily, using determination and focus, but remember that it takes time to get there.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Out of touch

My apologies for the delays in posting new content. There's no shortage, but I keep getting distracted with work. I've almost run over my own "update every quarter" time limit without a post.

I'll work on a few and get back to weekly posts next week (I hope).

In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying your career, and here's a short video to watch. If you don't find these three things in your career, start to make a change.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why Should You Network?

A piece I wrote a few years ago. It still applies.

Why should you network? I'm speaking about interpersonal networking, not the bits and bytes in the ether kind :)

It's an interesting question and one I've been thinking about a lot since reading Andy Warren's posts on the subject. He thought it was interesting enough to engage Don Gabor for his business and spend a little money to learn how to do it better. After having a few sessions, Andy thought it was helpful enough to get a pre-conference session at PASS on this topic. It's a short pre-con, 2 hours, and won't interfere with anything else you've booked. It's an additional $60, but I've paid my fee (it's a business expense) and will be there.

Whether or not you attend the session (it's limited in size), I think there is value in learning to network better. Andy has reviewed a few books, and I'm sure I'll have some quick techniques to give you after PASS, or even during it. If you see me during the conference, please don't hesitate to come up and say hello to me. It's always great to meet new people.

Back to me question: why network? I'll give you a few examples in my life. I involuntarily networked myself into this field. When I was in graduate school searching for a job, I saw an internship at the power company. There were a few positions, but one of them was in the EE department, slightly out of my field. The guy in charge, however, was an alum of the University of Virginia, and I applied, and he gave me the job because we were fellow graduates. I had asked him a few months later and he said I got preference for that reason.

In 4 other cases later in my career, I've heard about consulting jobs in various places in the US. I haven't been interested in any of them, but I have passed them along to friends that I've gotten to know over the years from SQLServerCentral. These were people that had taken the time to say hi to me at some event and then correspond with me a little. Many of them were authors, and as I got to know their skills, I became comfortable with recommending them for work. It didn't benefit me other than a little goodwill and the feeling of helping others.

I have heard about similar situations all the time, where people have built a friendship, or some other bond, and then referred work or helped someone get a job. As much as it may upset technical people, it's still often who you know that matters much more than your technical skills. Networking is a great way to grow your career by knowing more people.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Blog for you

In my talk, I give that advice that your blog is for you, it’s a chronicle of your career, and it’s really written for the person that is considering hiring you, not for everyone else.

Matt Mullenweg agrees. He’s one of the founding developers of Wordpress, and his post was picked up on Twitter by John Batalle and a few others. He says you should:

  • write for yourself
  • write for a single person who you have in mind as the perfect person to read what you write

That second, single person, is the HR person, the hiring manager, the person that might offer you a job.

The first one, that’s you. Your present self, that’s solve a problem and is explaining it (showing your communication skills), and your future self, who might come back to this later and learn from it, or revisit the

However in both cases, you want to do a good job. Proofread your work. Get opinions from friends. Make sure that you are proud of what you write.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Blog for your interview

There are any number of reasons to blog about things. Perhaps you want to become famous and well known, perhaps you want to help others, perhaps you just want to unload your knowledge. All of those are valid, and good, reasons to blog. However I have one more: blog for your interview.

Most of us don’t want to be famous, or even well known. Most of us just want to have a successful career and want to be sure we can get a job if you need one. Blog for those reasons.

I could encourage you to write about your career, but not to teach others. Write about your career to show the person that might consider offering you a job what you know. Write your posts that show that you have knowledge and

  • can solve a problem
  • have knowledge on a topic

As I mention in the talk, If I am interviewing you, or considering it, I don’t care if everyone else in the world knows how to backup a database. I care if *you* know how to do it. Your blogging on the topic, on simple topics, lets me know what you understand and how you solve problems.

This doesn’t mean going through Books Online and re-writing all sections. However it does mean that as you perform tasks, even simple ones, write about them. Tell me why you did something, why you chose those options for backup, what the implications are. This tells me what you know, and what you don’t.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Becoming a Leader

Leadership is a skill and quality that so many companies desperately need. Sometimes they aren’t even aware of how little leadership they have; they just know they can’t seem to get work done well.

You don’t have to work in management to be a leader. Some of the best leaders in my business, software, are the developers that convince others to work in a certain way. They find ways through their sharing of knowledge, setting a great  example, encouraging others to just be a better professional.

I’ve got a few links here that might help you improve your leadership skills and stand out a little more from others. Think about building skills, saving these stories and examples, and writing about them on your blog, or mentioning them in a resume.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Learning to Write Better

Recently I ran across a blog post from Brian Kelley, a colleague in the SQL Server world. He noted that one of the things that makes him a better professional in his business is being able to communicate well.

I agree, and it’s one of those things I mention in my branding presentation, but don’t emphasize. Whether you blog, speak, or communicate in any way, poor communication skills stand out. Great communication skills just flow, and let people understand your message easily.

I have a few ideas for you to improve your skills.

Bookmark these links and then periodically take a few minutes and learn to improve your skills.

One other resource I’ll recommend as a place I ask questions or learn from the pros is I suspect there are exchanges for other languages as well (like Spanish).