Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year, New Resolutions

It’s 2016 and time to work on your career.

Much of the advice I’ve been giving, and will continue to press for, is echoed in many pieces I read. For example, here’s a piece from Microsoft recruiters for the new year. It contains many things I’d ask you to do, but I don’t want to overwhlem you.

I like taking small steps, baby steps. With that in mind, let’s look to the year with one new resolution: keep your resume up to date. It’s quick, easy, and low impact to your life.

I’ve written about touching your resume, and you should start today. Take the 30 seconds to look at it and the five minutes to update anything new. If there’s nothing new, maybe there’s something you can reword or tighten up. Being clear and concise will help you stand out over the other bland, boring, wordy resumes out there.


Take two minutes right now to set a quarterly reminder. Create an appointment in your personal, not work, calendar. After all, you want to this to follow you across jobs. Here’s what mine looks like:

2015-12-24 09_25_10-Appointment Recurrence

When it goes off, do what you’ll do today. Pop open your resume and look at it. Does it reflect who you are, and more importantly, who you want to be? If so, take 30 seconds and look forward to what you might change or do in the next quarter. Or why you haven’t improved things.

Make a few notes in the appointment that remind you for the next time of a few things:

  1. Items I want to tackle moving forward
  2. Reasons why I have’t changed in the last quarter

These are invaluable for looking back at the past and forward. You can refer to these throughout your year to help motivate you.

Don’t go a year without making positive change in your career. Even if you don’t change jobs, have a few reasons that you’re becoming better to show your boss at review time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Make a Professional Development Plan for 2016

We're nearing the end of the year. For many of us, that means work slows a bit with the Christmas and New Year's holidays. This is often a time when we find ourselves with more free time at work, fewer meetings, and perhaps last minute vacations to use up that PTO.

However with a few weeks left in the year, I'd like you to do some planning for 2016.  I'd like you to think about how to move your career forward in the next year. Choose something that you think will make you more attractive to employers, or help you find the job you want in the future. Not necessarily in 2016, but perhaps sometime after that.

It's easy, and I'll give you a quick three step process.
  1. Make a list
  2. Order the list
  3. Plan investments

Make a List

Take 15 minutes sometime this week and write down some things you'd like to accomplish in 2016. These could be improvements in your current skills; they could be new things you want to learn. Thing that interest you, things valuable to your employer, or maybe just things that you know nothing about and want to educate yourself.

Don't worry about scale, size, effort, or anything else. Just make a list.

Order the List

I'm a big fan of thinking about things over time. I like to consider a decision, and let it roam around my conscious and subconscious for at least a day. Therefore, once your list is made, put it aside and let it sit for a week.

Next week, the week of Christmas, I'm sure you'll have some free time. Take another 15 minutes and start to prioritize your list. Put things that are more important to you at the top. Importance can be related to your current job/career, or a chance. It doesn't matter, but just get the list ordered.

When you do this, consider queue theory. If you put the short/quick things first, you might not get to the long/hard/time consuming things. However, if you reverse the order, you might not even get one thing done. Consider the effort and time/money investments, and order things accordingly.

Set things aside now.

Plan Investments

We won't ever move forward without an investment. If you get this far, even if you're just reading this post, you're making an investment in your career.

Now plan your 2016 investment.

This is a time investment and a money investment. You'll have to make both, and if you think about it, you often do make investments in other ways. People buy running shoes, or new golf clubs, or music, or any type of hobby investment. Do the same for your career. Make part of your hobby time and money in 2016 related to your career.

Here's where your list matters. Take the first thing. What can you realistically learn in 2016. How much time can you invest? Is it an hour a week? Two? Think of this in terms of hobbies. Give yourself an amount of time to devote. Maybe this is a quarter, maybe more, but keep this under six months. At least, think about starting something else (concurrently or not) after six months.

You may decide to reorder your list here, or drop things. That's OK. The point is to try and be realistic and give yourself a goal you can accomplish. Think small. I think 2 hours a week is doable. Carve out this hobby time. Four hours a week can be hard, unless you've giving something else up. If you treat this like going back to school, I'm sure you could get 10 hours a week, but you will be sacrificing other parts of your life and be sure your family is in agreement with this.

Note, you could treat this as school, but for 2-3 months, not a semester.

Here's where you can think about using resources like Pluralsight, EdX, or something else. However don't be afraid of making an investment. In the US, many of us make a good living, but we could easily spend hundreds of dollars on a hobby. Why not invest some of that in your career? I've had a hobby of woodworking for a few years and I can easily spent $2k in a year. With that in mind, investing $1k in hardware, or books, or something else doesn't sound bad.

However there are plenty of resources out there. I've spent part of December working through a PowerBI course on EdX for free.  I'm sure you could find something similar.

Start in 2016

The last part of this is to actually start working on your plan. Whether this is reading in your spare time, watching videos, or something else. Start on Jan 1 if you can, but certainly by Jan 10. Take it slow, however, and don't get too excited. Plenty of people burn themselves out by going too quick. It would be better to always be a little hungry and excited.

Work your plan, and see how you do in 2016. Who knows? Maybe you'll find yourself moving towards the dream job you have always wanted.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Your Brand is Your Reputation

I've been asked a few times what does a brand really mean. Is it like Coca-cola? Apple? Are you trying to be the Bill Gates of computing?

Really the brand for your career is your reputation. The brand is what people think of you, and how they perceive you as a professional in your industry. Your brand answers these questions:
  1. What are you good at?
  2. What are you not good at?
  3. Are you reliable at completing work?
  4. Do you perform quality work?
  5. What is the cost of your service?
 There are plenty more, but these are the types of questions you want to project and promote with your brand. These are the questions that you want someone to think positively about as they examine your presence.

Your resume speaks for you, but you can showcase much more, and give yourself a great reputation. If you network well, others will enhance that reputation, giving you a better chance of getting to the interview, or getting the job offer.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Be Awesome in your CV and Cover Letters

There are no shortage of posts and books written on how to write a resume or CV. However much of the advice that I find in various is safe and boring. It seems that being professional has become synonymous with bland, careful, and generic. It's the opposite of being memorable and standing out in the crowd. Remember, you've got to be memorable in the first 30 seconds.

I ran across a post on the StackOverflow blog. This is one of the great technology sites, and I would guess there are no shortage of developers or system administrators that would want to work there. I'm also guessing that they get a huge number of resumes and CVs on a regular basis from people looking for jobs.

In that crowd, where I wouldn't be surprised to find thousands of resumes submitted for each position, you would certainly need to stand out from the crowd. The advice in the post is to showcase what you're good at. Why are you awesome?

For most of us, we're not awesome. We are good, we can be strong, loyal, valued employees. Most of us won't do something that touches the world, but we can showcase the things we do very well at work. I point out that I get things done. I tell about the extras, the volunteer things I do at work that are valuable or useful to the company. I write about a project that I made a difference in, but in a way I hadn't expected.

If you had one paragraph to tell me the bets thing you did as an employee, what would it be?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Networking Jitters

I an across an interesting article recently about networking. The piece talked about how networking can make you feel dirty, and it gives some reasons why people struggle with networking, and some of the uncomfortable training that some people give on networking.

In general, I like the post. It highlights some of the "sales-y" crap that many people are annoyed by. However that stuff works, and if you look at the salesman that are successful, they use these techniques. However, many of those salesman make sales, but they're not building anything that lasts.

For many of us, networking is really about making contacts for the future. This isn't the place where you are trying to sell something, but you're laying the foundation of a relationship. You are just trying to meet people.

A Goal

I do recommend people set a goal. If you're at an all day learning event or conference, then meet 3-5 people. Chances are you have other things to do, but during breaks, lunch, when you're standing around, meet a few people.

Meeting one is fine if you get drawn into a conversation, or you're making a new friend. Meeting 5 is great, but don't get caught up in meeting numbers. Make an effort, and just talk to people. That's all it really is.

There are a few other things you can do to get better at networking, and I'll talk about a few of them in a future post.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Networking Works

I saw this tweet from someone in the database world recently:

It's a good reminder that networking can really help you. Networking breeds word of mouth. It's grass roots, it's the personal recommendation that might make a big difference to a hiring manager when they consider you. After all, a note from an individual carries much more weight than your resume or CV.

Networking is also easy. Networking is as simple as having a conversation. It's something you should do on a regular basis to help you meet new people, keep in touch with those you know, and in general, keep you involved in your career.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Focus, Focus, Focus

I'm a wordy writer. In fact, often I start a piece and easily find myself with 2 (printed) pages of written text in ten minutes. I tend to over describe, overwrite, and try to completely cover a topic.

Then I edit the piece and often remove half the words. Or, what I find happening more and more as I practice, is I break the piece into a few posts.

The key to writing a good post is to focus. Focus on a specific topic and write about just that item. Don't get distracted by ancillary details. If you think your readers need to know more about a related item, that's a separate post.

What I recommend is that you write a sentence that describes what you are teaching. Keep that at the top, and as you write, refer back to this sentence. Your details and discussion should support this topic. If they don't, start a new post with a quick sketch of the related item, and then go back to writing about items that support your topics.

A few examples.

If you are writing about scheduling a job in SQL Server Agent, don't get caught up in the job details, or the security for a job (proxies) or the categories of the job. Those are separate posts. Just show me how to detail with an Agent schedule.

If you're writing about how to wire an electrical outlet, don't give me details about finding the fuse box, or which gauge wire to use, or the benefits of two v three prong outlets. Those are separate posts.

If you're want to talk about cooking shrimp scampi, don't get caught up in how to make the best pasta, or choose shrimp and devein it, or how to chop garlic. Those are separate posts.

Keep your focus. You'll find blogging easier, quicker, and also you will build better communication skills that teach you to focus tightly on the concept you are explaining.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The New Blogger Challenge for November

I was at a conference last week and ran into Ed Leighton-Dick. Ed started a #SQLNewBlogger challenge back in April and I participated, promoting the event and getting a few people to blog that month. Since then I've tried to keep pushing and managed to get 3-4 people to keep going.

Ed has kicked off a new challenge for November, and I think it's great. I'm issuing my own here for people that might not be SQL professionals, but work in another industry.

Use November to showcase your knowledge and write one post a week. Take some aspect of your job, something small and focused and spend a few minutes describing how you solved a problem or what you learned. Imagine this is a short answer to an interview questions.

I won't ask you to publish it, but keep it around. Make a folder somewhere and store your post. This will be something you review before you go to your next interview, so take it seriously.

Write one a week and keep them ready to give your career a boost when you need it.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

My Apologies for the Neglect

I haven't posted much here over the last few months. Life has been a bit distracting and busy, but that's not a great excuse. I apologize for that.

I haven't been sitting still, however. I have been working on my career in a few ways. My job changed slightly this year, with a greater focus on software development over administration. I've been a bit of a technical journalist for the last decade and more of my efforts have gone towards managing databases, but the last few years I've been moving more towards building them, and this year I've had quite a bit of focus on development.

As a result, I've spent the last six or so months doing more learning and teaching on the software development side of things. I've been reading books, practicing some techniques and in general trying to improve my skills in these areas. I've been teaching a bit more as well, which is something I enjoy.

I have collected a few links, but I've managed to avoid blogging too much with a busy schedule at home.

However I'm making an effort to change things and add more posts, hopefully one a week going forward.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Switching Jobs - Talk To Your Boss

I ran across a post on switching jobs, which I thought was great. There are a few points in there that are worth point out, and which I've used successfully in my career. I've had a lot of jobs, but a mix of places I needed to leave, places I outgrew, and places that wanted me to leave (few of these).

Each of those experiences helped me grow, and I think the situations are very similar to the ones I see friends in. I wan to tackle one of those items today and others in later posts.

Talk To Your Boss

I used to be like most people, afraid to let my boss know I was leaving. I came out of the restaurant business. If you told your boss you were looking, you were fired. A lot of professionals have that view, and it's somewhat justified, but less and less so.

There are certainly bosses out there that take an employee leaving as a sign of disloyalty or disrespect, or more likely, a sign the boss is a failure. For the people that have those views, only the last item is true. If you have a boss like this, then you can't tell them. In fact, if you have a boss like this, that's probably the reason you're leaving.

In that case, I recommend constantly looking. Keep blogging, updating your resume, networking, and looking. If your boss asks, just let them know you're providing a layer of security in case the company experiences a downtown and lays you off. It's plausible, true, and likely not acceptable, but since it's your life and career, I'd do that.

However for most of my employers, and fellow managers when I managed, having a conversation about leaving is an adult affair. We can mutually discuss the issues, and often we find there's nothing that can be fixed. Money is often limited, though if this is the only reason, sometimes a change can be made.

If I (or you) want more responsibility or different projects, then part of the issue certainly is communication. The employee needs to let the manager know, and I've been guilty of this. Sometimes there can be changes; sometimes there cannot. At least not in the short term. If the issue is that you aren't ready, then a manager should help you understand where you need to grow, help you find training, and make a plan.

If you have culture issues with the company, often that's that. I had a few people work for me in this place, and we worked together for an orderly transition. One to a new company, one to a new position in another group, and in a way that didn't disrupt my team or cause any poor feelings between anyone.

I think most of you will find that your employers are grown up and understand that many people won't work for the same company for 40 years. Many of your managers will look to move on at some point, and they understand your desire. Good managers will help you, poor ones will sulk, but few will actually actively sabotage or fight you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Save Your Stories

One of the best ways that I've seen for acing an interview is to have stories to tell about experiences. When someone asks me questions about challenges, about projects, about successes or failures, I tell stories about my career.

That's something you should be able to do. While you might have specific questions in your field (which tasks lest me direct ETL rows based on some value in SSIS), I find that many questions are more open ended. Even somewhat technical questions can be answered with a few notes about the way you've handled a technical implementation in the past.

However you need these stories to be on the tip of your tongue. Whether you're putting them on your blog, or you're keeping track of them in Word (or Evernote, or some other service), make sure you keep track. You won't remember some of these stories when you need to prepare for an interview, so make sure they're stored when they happen.

When something interesting happens, good or bad, make some notes. Use this to relive your accomplishment, or unload your disappointment. It's cathartic to revisit bad experiences and evaluate them again. It's exciting to go over good ones.

Just keep track of them.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Beware of Humblebragging

I had never heard of humblebragging until I read this piece on it. Apparently it's a backhanded complaint combined with some level of bravado about your life. You should read the piece, and make sure you aren't using too much in your public persona.

I've noted that humility is important, but not in a job interview. That's certainly true, but make sure when you talk about yourself in a positive way, you do so with confidence and authority. I'll include honest as well, and don't humblebrag. It's a turn off, or maybe a sign that you are either covering something up or you don't really believe in yourself.

Prepare for the interview. Talk about yourself openly, emphasize what you do well, with confidence, and admit what you don't know.

Above all, make sure you are using "The Test" in your public writing and posting about your career. You never know when the interviewer will have researched your posts and have doubts or concerns about the way you portray yourself. Be careful what you post, and temper your honesty with some good judgment about what you disclose about how you conduct yourself, as well as what you know about your particular field.

This sounds like you're managing your life by being careful about posts, but it's really managing your career. If you want to be free about all of your life, I really, really encourage you to have a separate account or blog for your career.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Use a Second Account for your Career

I know lots of people like to have one Facebook account, one Twitter account, one blog, etc. However I'd encourage you to be careful here. More and more I see accounts of people that lose their jobs because of controversial posts online. Most of us aren't in public service, or in high profile positions, but even tech workers aren't immune.

While I think someone that researches you might find other accounts, showing some separation from your job v your life is a good start. I'll give a great example for my friend, Brian Kelley. He has two blogs:

He posts separate items to each, but on his goal blog, he sometimes posts items from his youth ministry. Brian is a youth pastor and his thoughts there are intended to help people grow. However they might be offensive or inappropriate at work. That's what his second blog is for: work related items.

This won't prevent someone from being upset at your opinions, or your thoughts, but it does allow you to show you separate work from home.

One further note. Be sure the separation goes both ways. Don't complain about work in your life blog. Those thoughts are better kept private, and off the Internet.

Monday, July 13, 2015


Humility is defined as a modest or low view of one's own importance; humbleness. Humility is important in life. All of us  have things to learn from others, and we all make mistakes. We all have faults, and we could do better at most things in our life.

Most of us would not like to work with someone that is full of too much bravado. It's a turn off, and it creates resentment. Humility can be an important way to integrate yourself into a team  during your daily work.

However when you're looking for an interview, or in an interview, you need to suspend your humility. You are the only person that will promote yourself, talk about your accomplishments, and sell yourself as a great employee.

Be humble, as much as you can, but not in the interview and not on your blog, resume, or annual review.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Build the Soft Skills

I have tended to assume that most of the people reading this blog are older, established in a career and trying to improve. However there are probably younger readers. There are also probably the stereotype "geek" readers.

I was reminded of that when I read this post from Mike Rowe. It's worth the read, but the part that caught my eye was this quote:

...the biggest under reported challenge in finding good help, (aside from the inability to “piss clean,”) is an overwhelming lack of “soft skills.” That’s a polite way of saying that many applicants don’t tuck their shirts in, or pull their pants up, or look you in the eye, or say things like “please” and “thank you.”

I don't want to debate the rest of the post, or the drug reference above, but I certainly do believe that there are issues with the soft skills that many employers see in candidates. The inability to meet someone's eye, display some confidence, explain yourself clearly, or dress appropriately are signs that you don't treat the opportunity seriously.

I haven't seen a lot of this in my technology travels, but I have seen some. I have interviewed people that looked down or stared to the side most of the time I talked to them. I've met people that dressed poorly for an interview.

Take this seriously. My middle child was looking for his first job recently and when he was called for an interview, I stressed that he needed to be confident, dress well, look people in the eye, and speak clearly. He remembered and texted me before his interview as I was out of town. I reminded him to wear a plain, clean shirt, be sure he showered and projected some confidence.

He got the job. Probably on his own merits, but the thing to keep in mind is that the soft skills are more likely to remove you from consideration than anything else. If someone calls you, they want to hire you. They like your resume. They think you're qualified.

Don't give them reasons to exclude you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Building Leadership Skills

You don't have to be a manager or an executive to showcase and use leadership skills. In fact, you don't have to be in charge of anything. Leadership is about influence, and that's a valuable skill for any employee.

How can you show leadership? Create some respect wherever you are. I ran across a short piece from Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat Software. It has some good pointers that you could use no matter what your position is in a company.

Show passion - That's an easy one, and it's infectious. Plus it makes the job more enjoyable. If you don't have passion, perhaps you're in the wrong position.
Demonstrate confidence - Showcase what you know and be decisive. However don't be reckless, and admit when you're wrong.
Engage - Easy to do. You can't lead if you don't ever engage.

As you do these things, pay attention to the places you influence people. Can you get people to work your way, come around to your way of thinking, adopt the habits/skills/etc. you show? You might be surprised how well this works if you're watching.

Collect these stories. Talk about them in interviews and reviews. They might be the difference between you and the next person.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Get Started Promoting Yourself

Start a new blog, write about your career and what you're doing. It's a great way to showcase your knowledge. You never know when someone will read it and want to hire you.

There was a challenge in April for SQL Server professionals. Not as many people participated as I'd have liked, but there were some. Quite a few experienced bloggers wrote posts as well to try and inspire people.

I'd urge you to give this a try and write a bit about what you do. Don't worry about hits, visits, etc. The purpose of this blog is to help you stand out at some point when you need a job. Secondarily, it teaches you to communicate better.

Get started today.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Negotiating for Pay

I learned a long time ago, at a relatively early age, that it was important to negotiate for pay when interviewing for a job. If you don't ask, you don't get, and more importantly, you need to ask for what is important to you. I'd also say that it's important to get paid for the job, and not based on what you used to make, but that's another battle.

Women have typically been paid less in the past than men. Some of this certainly has to do with their willingness to ask for more pay. Now, some companies have decided to eliminate negotiation.

I can see the positive and negative of this. Certainly the high performers can't negotiate a higher salary than others, but I think that can be handled easily. Get a different position if you're truly worth more than others.

In my business, let's say that a company publishes a salary of $80,000/yr. for a DBA. I like the job and company, but I want $100,000 and think I'm worth it. I can ask what they pay for a senior DBA, which might be closer to $100,000. If they don't have the position, they can create it if they want me.

The same thing goes for someone that's not quite up to snuff. They can be paid as a junior DBA, say around $40,000. Or they can set a scale of rates and levels. I used to work for a company that had DBA I, DBA II, DBAIII, with ranges of salary, but we certainly could have set specific amounts. I ever read about a company that set, and published, ranges.

To me, negative side of this is the company can pay under market rates, but if salaries were publicly set and known, there would be some level of competition between employees. We know government and military salaries, we know CEO salaries, what's wrong with publishing other ones?

This is less advice than reminiscing (or ranting), but it's something for you to think about as you move in your career. The important part was in the first sentence. Ask for what you think you deserve, and have reasons for your demand. You never know when someone will be happy to meet your condition of employment.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Networking Tips

I ran across a post with 5 Tips for more Powerful Professional Networking. It's got some good advice, but perhaps it's a bit more structured than I'd like. I think networking is important, but if you work too hard at it, if it becomes a job, then I think it's not as much networking as it is cheesy salesmanship.

Here are a few takes on those tips:

Mastering contacts

I don't do this a lot. I do think it's important to segregate out some contacts that you might want to ping separately. For example, I have a tight group of contacts I know I can count on. That's a small group, my "A" group. However I decided that maintaining a "B" group and a "C" group wasn't worth it for me. If I'm reaching widely for help, like a job, then I'm not sure I would differentiate groups. It's only the "A" group that I'd really want to contact separately.

If you might try to contact some people separately, for example, a set of people in an industry, then separate them out. However otherwise, I think for most of us that aren't salespeople, we don't need to worry about this.

I might be wrong, but that's how I see it.


I do think it helps to be able to make small talk with people, to connect with them a bit in order to build a better bond and relationship. This improves your network.

However this doesn't need to be outside of your industry. I certainly "talk shop" with plenty of contacts, and those are just as interesting conversations as the ones I have about sports.

Refresh Your Memory

It's always good to know something about someone, even friends, when you see them. If you can't remember anything about someone, it's awkward if they remember you.

I do try to remind myself who someone is when I meet them again, if I know I am. I don't do this at large events, but I certainly look up notes, emails, or even a Google search on some people that are in meetings, but that I am not sure how I know them. It's a nice way to do a little prep.

However, if I don't have time, I don't worry about it. However, I certainly have googled at an event when I've met them, but I can't recall details.

Ditch Cards

I do this now, and you should as well. Far, far too easy to lose cards. If for no other reason, take a picture of cards with your phone as soon as you can. If you can get those into LinkedIn or somewhere else, that's fine as well.

If you need to make a note about someone, write it on the card and then take a picture.

Use LinkedIn Smarter

No comment. I'm sure I could do something better here. I haven't had time, or the need, to dig into LinkedIn more.

Monday, April 6, 2015

On Hiring - Getting past the first cut.

I read this post on a company that had to choose who to interview. First, this is a company that is hiring people to interact with others. That's important in how they conduct the interview, but in general, I think many of the tips apply. I've got a few comments on what the post says compared with my experiences.

Reviewing the resume- 150 to 30

This is the part of the hiring process I write about. How do you get noticed? How do you get past the first review? How do you stand out in the 150.
First, no one wants to look at 150. My guess is that many managers do what I do. They look through resumes and the ones they like go in a pile. When they get 10 (me) or 30 (this guy) they stop.
I agree with the list for the most part. I can live with a typo or two, but somewhere around 3 or 4 I know this hasn't been proofed or the individual doesn't understand grammar and spelling. You're filed in the trash.
Don't be vague; be specific. Tell me what you did and give it the detail that's important for this job.
As I've mentioned in my talk, don't be funny. It's hard to do, and you (probably) aren't. If you're not, then you come off poorly. If you are one of the few that is truly funny, besides hitting the local comedy club on Tuesday night, save this for the interview.
I do like the part about numbers. Give concrete metrics that show you get things done. For people in technology, show me that you can monitor a server, or write code quickly, or something else. Here is where I'd link to posts with more details, but provide a good, solid, concrete fact in the resume.
I'd be careful about stalking someone or trying too hard. It worked in Wall Street, it might work here, but for many people, it's a nuisance. More than a few calls turn me off. It's a sign you'll bother me later when you want something and I need to work.
The last thing I think I can show here is that the cover letter matters here. It's being read, and it should be professional and relevant. Take some time with it, have someone else read it (and proof it), and good luck.
I'll tackle the interview thoughts next.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Don't Be Funny

I talk about this in my presentation, and it's time to write about it.

I've seen people try to be funny with sarcasm, irony, or jokes on their resumes. I've seen them try it in blog posts, and even in interviews. Surprisingly, the live attempts work the best because I usually have some context, some inflection and body language.

Trying to write humorously is hard. Very hard. Even when it works, it's often because the reader is being led down a certain path that provides them with a framework for the joke.

Most of you aren't funny at all. On your resume, when I'm in a frame of mind to evaluate your talents, it really doesn't work. You might get a smile or chuckle, but most likely I'll view you as not serious, and a bit of a crackpot. Most likely I'll just chuck your resume.

The one guy that tried to be funny, ended up really strange, and got an interview? We interviewed him only because we were wondering who would put that on a resume. We never had any intention of hiring him. I know, that was wrong and mean, but it happens.

Don't be funny. If you think you are, go to the local comedy club on Tuesday or Wednesday night for an open mike.

Be professional when you want a job.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Blogger Challenge

A friend of mine, Ed Leighton-Dick, challenged himself to blog this April, and extended the challenge to others. I think this is a great idea, and I'd urge you to take this on, no matter what your industry.

However I'll modify it.

If you haven't blogged before and you want to try this, do this in Word (or Notepad or somewhere else). I don't necessarily want you to publish these out for the world to see. Instead, I want you to send a weekly post, completed, to a friend. It can be a spouse, co-worker, college roommate, just someone else that can give you feedback.

Bonus points for sending it to two people.

Why Private?

A blog can really help showcase your knowledge and give your career a boost. Employers can learn about you, and if you're a good fit for their opening, they are more likely to call you. They can perform due diligence.

If you're good.

Being good at your job is hard. Being good at your job and good at communication is a step up, and writing can be a difficult way to showcase your skills. I get pieces all the time from professionals that know their jobs. They just don't express it well.

If you wish to give blogging a try, do it privately, but get feedback. Commit, make an effort, but do so in a controlled fashion.


Take the challenge, and publish. Publicly or not, give it a try. Get feedback and comments, and learn. Even if you put your post out for the world to see, send a link to friends and ask for feedback.

You won't regret it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Branding Yourself for a Dream Job - SQL Bits XIV 2015

I'm heading back to SQL Bits XIV, the first week of March in 2015. I have a couple sessions, one of which is my Branding Yourself for a Dream Job presentation. I spoke to a packed room last year, and am looking forward to presenting again this year.

If you're in London on Mar 5th or 6th and want to learn a little about technology, as well as branding, register and come.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Caution While Posting

I've written about using "The Test" before posting (or emailing, or really committing anything to permanency. It's good advice, and I stand by it. However I saw a post about what not to post to social media, and I think this adds some depth to my advice.

It's a more formal view of social media, and it's written more for businesses, but anyplace where you see it asking about followers, replace that with "future employers". If you see "mission", then think about your brand instead.

Everything you do on social media reflects on you, and if you have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, etc. where you are trying to grow your career, make sure you stop and think about what you are posting and what it says about you.

In general, I'd limit my posts to thinks I've learned, things I've accomplished, things I've solved, things I've done well.

I'd leave out complaints and concerns regarding coworkers and employers.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Remember Who You Really Work For

I saw this on a post from Brent Ozar recently. It's a post of pictures from his company's vacation last year. There are two sentences. The first is that you should listen to a PSA that notes your company gives you vacation for a reason. However it's the ending line that stood out to me:

Remember who you really work for. Schedule your 2015 vacations now.

Who do you work for? You work for yourself, and you should remember that. By yourself, I mean you, personally, and your family. That's who you should put first and take care of, ultimately.

Employers come and go. Remember that and insist that you get your vacation time. Even if you want to sit in your house and stare at the wall, take the time.

Have I scheduled mine 2015? Not completely, but I did schedule a week with my son at Seabase for a Boy Scout trip. I'm also waiting to hear from my brother before we plan a larger family vacation. And, of course, I'm taking a few days in Jan and Feb to ski.

I haven't always used all my vacation each year, however I also get a lot of vacation by US standards. 25 days, so I often sell back a few to the company. However I have made sure I've used my vacation the last couple years and taken 20 days off.

Life is short. You work for you. Work on your career, but remember to take care of yourself (and your family).

Monday, January 5, 2015

Your Social Media Plan - Tips

I ran across a few tips from a friend of mine for social media success in 2015. It's a good list for anytime, not just 2015, but if you're going to use social media, it's a good set of guidelines for you.

The big things I wanted to point out were  that I do think it's important to pace yourself. It doesn't have to be as regular as a blog, but try to participate on some regular schedule. My posts go up and down, but I do try to regularly become a part of the interactions.

Please, please, watch what you say. This is an impression you leave and you want it to be a good one. Not too many black marbles.

Tim mentions that he purges negative influences. I try to be careful here. It's easy to surround yourself with "yes people" that echo what you think and believe. It can be about life, or about technology.

I do purge people that annoy me too much, but I also try to interact with, and follow/read people that I disagree with. It helps to keep perspective.