ALC Consulting

September 29, 2009

What I Learned from My Grandchildren

Filed under: LIfe Balance — Anne Cloward @ 11:10 pm
Tags: ,

I have four grandchildren, three girls and one boy, and ranging in age from seven to almost 2. For their safety, I will not use their full names here.

But they have taught me lessons that can be applied to a job search. In no special order, here they are:

Go after things that you are passionate about

Granddaughter #1 puts her whole heart into everything she does. Do you bring that same enthusiasm to your search?

Support your family and friends when they are in need

If you are there for them, they will be there for you. This is a time when you need each other. It’s a time to strengthen relationships. (Granddaughter #1 and her brother).

Be true to yourself

Know who you are and what you want. If you don’t know, find out. (Granddaughter #2 who has known who she is from the beginning)

Begin each day with enthusiasm

Be open to opportunities, to help, to learn and to do things that you have not done before. Don’t use the fact that you have never done it, therefore it must not be good. (Granddaughter #3 is always ready to tackle the new day)

What can you learn from your children?

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A Little Attitude Adjustment Needed

Filed under: LIfe Balance,vision — Anne Cloward @ 6:16 am

When the job search gets long and you get discouraged, perhaps it’s time to do a little adjusting to your attitude.

I came across this poem recently, by the Sufi poet, Rumi.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

What has this to do with your job search? As a friend of mine who has been laid off recently, said: “I realize what a gift I have been given,”

He went on to explain that he had been wondering for the last month or so if it was time for him to leave his present position and chase after a few of his dreams. He  prayed about it leaving the answer up to God. When he was laid off, he felt it was an answer to his prayer.

Not all of us can see it this way, but there are some wonderful advantages to being your own master of your fate at this time. Some excellent uses of your time might be:

  • Spending quality time with loved ones. My mother has been gone for 20 years now. We were close and I treasured the times we spent together. My grandchildren continue to delight me, now that I have time to listen.
  • Spending time to get to those things that we never seem to have time for, those you are always saying you will get “a round tuit” when you have nothing else on your plate.
  • Spending time on that exercise and diet regime that you need to.
  • Developing interests that have been calling passionately to you.

This does not mean I am advocating abandoning your job search. You are not your job. You are a person of value and you need to remember that.

For more ideas, go to http://www.gratefulness.org/

Until tomorrow, Namaste.

September 28, 2009

Appearing at a Library Near You

Filed under: Techniques — Anne Cloward @ 8:31 am

I am teaching job hunting workshops at the Beaverton Library on the following dates:

    September 29

    October 20

    November 3

    November 24

    December 1

All sessions begin at 6 pm and run for two hours. The format is set, but there is plenty of time for individual questions and concerns. We also have a Yahoo Group composed of those who want to communicate between sessions.

For more information, contact me at annecloward@msn.com

I promise you, this is not your ordinary dull dreary and depressing time. I focus on fun and finding out what works!

 

The Secret to Finding Jobs When “There Are No Jobs”

Filed under: connections,job search,Networking — Anne Cloward @ 6:18 am
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Condensed from an article by Richard N. Bolles, (author of What Color Is Your Parachute?) in Bottom Line Magazine, September, 20009.

Common Strategies That Do NOT Work

% Success

Strategy

Notes

7% Mailing out resumes /submitting or posting them online They get lost in the massive pile. Often are scanned by machine and never get viewed by human eyes.
7% Responding to ads in trade journals Only lower level positions are posted here.

Might work if you have an exotic skill set.

10% Responding to ads on Internet job sites These jobs are usually posted as a last resort or if you are in IT. Your information is often sold and you get a lot of spam.
5-24% Responding to jobs in newspapers Mostly low-paying minimum wage jobs are posted here.
5-28% Working with a private agency or search firm Many employers are cutting costs and not using them. Recruiters are struggling.

Best Strategies That Do Work

% Success

Strategy

Notes

33% Networking for leads Employers like personal recommendations. Build your network
47% Knocking on doors unannounced at employers of interest Works best on small to medium companies, NOT large corporations.
69% Calling on companies of interest listed in the Yellow Pages Works with small companies. Best to schedule and informational interview.
70% Partnering with other job seekers More eyes looking out for you, but you need to reciprocate.
86% Taking inventory of yourself, then targeting potential employers It can give you a focus and clarity that other seekers don’t have.

Upon reviewing this information, how will you modify your job search?

September 25, 2009

Everyone Back in the Pool!

Filed under: job search — Anne Cloward @ 12:46 pm
Tags: ,

One of my favorite memories from my summer is spending time with the grandchildren at the beach. They love the ocean, as I do. We will be returning again throughout the fall. This picture was taken on the most glorious day, just before Labor Day. It was 94 degrees in Portland, and about 80 this Saturday afternoon.

I know that it has been a while since I posted, but it’s time to get back to work here.

To me, this is really the beginning of a new year. The beginning of the school year has always stirred excitement in me with dreams of new adventures and opportunities, much more than any old party in the end of December. One of my favorite memories of this time was buying new school supplies, pencils, pens, notebooks. And then there were the books. A new book full of information and stories that I hadn’t read yet. This is my idea of pure heaven.

So, for all of you job seekers, get back into the search mode. Though my evidence is anecdotal, the landscape is changing. Recruiters are calling again. Jobs are suddenly popping out of the woodwork. Even though there are still more applicants than positions, this is a change in the air, and not just the falling of leaves, either.

September 9, 2009

Best Practices II

After the First Day

Oops! This never got posted when it was supposed to. Anyway, here goes.

Life in the office takes on a general rhythm, most of the time, and the unfamiliar begins to feel more comfortable. I struggle during meetings my first week or two, to learn names, company acronyms, and programs. If nothing else, I can observe how the team interacts and how meetings are run.

There are some personal habits that I try to follow here. I have listed them here, not in any particular order.

Create and send a weekly status report to your boss, and to the account manager or recruiter, if they would like. It is a one-page document that lists what has been accomplished for the week, what the goals are for next week, and any problems or other information the a manager needs to know (vacations, changes in work schedule, etc.) Some project managers have requested them and then use them for reports to their bosses. It’s a tool that helps assure management that you are aware of priorities and are on the same page.

If the account manager for the contracting firm does not want to view it, that’s fine. But I offer to email it weekly. I use it for myself to track my progress.

Keep your own “to do” list and other job aids. I often am asked to create several different documents concurrently for a project, and I track where they are in the writing process. If there is a style guide for the company, I use it. If no style guide exists, I create one for my personal use. If there is no glossary of terms, I create one.

On some projects, peer editing is the norm and it’s good to know who is supposed to be reviewing what. When sending a document out for this kind of review, I will include guidelines, asking the reviewer to focus on content and let me worry about grammar and spelling.

Keep administrative documentation in order. Documents that I need to keep may be either in electronic format or hard copy, but I keep them for tracking purposes:

Employment agreements

Confidentiality or Non-disclosure agreements

Any correspondence from the contracting firm regarding details of my assignment

Time sheets (copies, if the boss needs the originals)

Status Reports

Company phone directories,

Meeting notes with assignments marked. (To go on to my “to do” list)

Have an end of day routine. Even if I am in the middle of something, I leave my cube in order. Papers are either filed or put into an inbox, and other materials are put into the trash. Now, the boss may have the most cluttered desk I have ever seen, but as a contractor, I don’t have that luxury. It also helps to keep track of things.

I check my calendar for the next day. There is nothing more distressing than coming into the office and finding I have in five minutes or five minutes ago that I had not been aware of. If possible, I print up any documents or agendas that I need for the meeting. Walking into a meeting late because I was doing some last minute printing is unprofessional. Printers are fussy creatures and can detect when you are in a hurry, and immediately run out of toner or jam on you.

During the day, use the calendar that usually comes with email. Many companies use an electronic calendar to schedule meeting and conference calls. I use it, and set up an alarm to be set at least 15 minutes in advance, (adjustable to the circumstances.) If it takes me 20 minutes to get to the conference room, I set the alarm accordingly.

Always create an agenda. If you call a meeting, and send it out to the participants, asking for feedback and attach any relevant documents. Many times team members appreciate having the documents in advance and actually read them. Agendas make meetings more productive and it seems that you are organized. A focused meeting makes the best use of peoples’ time. The most common complaint I hear is about non productive meetings that keep the “real” work from getting done.

Try to be a team player. One phrase that is really unprofessional is “that’s not in my job description.” Sometimes the task may not be a part of a normal job description and the request is outrageous, but other times, it’s better just roll up my sleeves and get the job done. More than once I have printed up documents for meetings or prepared boxes to ship. You do whatever you need to in order to meet a deadline or complete a project. An AA may work for several departments and is not available to be at anyone’s beck and call, and often that means a contractor does what needs to be done.

Often I will receive a request from a co-worker for help with a Word document, since they assume I know all about the program. Some IT types don’t know how to use the program well and get frustrated in trying to get the page to work right. If it is quick fix, and I am able to help, I will oblige. The same goes with Visio. I try to explain what I am doing, so they can repeat it on their own. This does not mean I am giving classes on using Word, it just means, I help a co-worker with a report using a tool they don’t know all that well..

Another thing contractors have to deal with is the corporate culture and the unwritten rules that govern them. In some companies, the rules for employees are different than for contractors. I been in companies where long time employees shoot the breeze for half an hour every morning, make long personal phone calls, take two hour lunches and think nothing of it. Such behavior in contractors is totally unacceptable, and a good contractor behaves accordingly. I only make personal phone calls (dentist and doctor appointments, for instance) during lunch, and keep them short. I do not give out my company phone number, but use my cell phone.

People who have worked together for a long time find themselves sharing some personal events, be they a new addition to the family, a wedding, or even a birthday. On some assignments, I have signed good wishes and sympathy cards, admired new babies, and even participated in a secret Santa exchange. When asked to participate in breakfast exchange or pot luck, I do more than bring a bag of chips. At other companies, the line has been drawn and contractors are not asked to participate. It takes time to learn what the rules are in a company regarding contractor participation, but if asked, I participate.

Charge the client for time spent doing productive work. If Dave in St Louis is on the phone for two hours working on a problem with me from 11 to 1, I do consider that time that is charged to the client. Time spent in cafeteria with co-workers for lunch is my time and off the clock. My goal is to be productive and make the best use of my time while I am there on the job. Late or early meetings or overtime spent meeting deadlines are part of my work ethic. My focus is on making sure the job gets done and the client is happy with the documentation that is produced.

One Major Issue

We contractors are busy often quite independent people, who may have more than one iron in the fire. But some contractors carry this too far, and in the process give all contractors a bad name

I worked with a fellow writer who took advantage of the fact that our boss was one floor away and was not a hands-on manager. His side business was an e-commerce website and at least half his day was spent filling orders and emailing customers’ he even used the client’s PC to conduct his business.

Another entrepreneurial soul with whom I worked had several programmers working under him on a separate project for a different firm. When their programs needed debugging, he would spend hours on his cell phone talking to them, at the same time charging for his time spent onsite.

One fellow contractor was a multitalented person. He ran a dance studio, was a personal trainer and taught at the local community college in addition to the assignment he had taken on to provide training for an application being developed by our client, a major financial institution. He was constantly late to every meeting and often would be found out in the hall advising a client on his workout routine. Deadlines were missed, and the user documentation went out without any review. Training materials were thrown together at the last minute and went out without any testing. He had committed to the training effort, but several hours a day were spent on his other enterprises, and it showed in the quality or lack of it, in the incomplete training materials he sent out.

These three may have thought there was nothing wrong in what they were doing, but they were stealing from the client. The client becomes aware that the contractor has other interests that are requiring his time and attention and is not happy. The contracting firm often suffers also, since the next time they recommend a contractor; he or she is not regarded favorably. The damage has been done.

The client is being billed for a contractor’s time and expects the best from the contractor. When he feels he is not getting his money’s worth, the relationship between the client and the contracting firm suffers. A once favorable relationship has been compromised and the contracting firm finds it difficult to place a new contractor there.

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