ALC Consulting

October 24, 2009

Some Serious Self-Care Here

Filed under: LIfe Balance — Anne Cloward @ 9:27 am
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Many of us job seekers do our best to avoid medical bills, but there are some things we cannot skip. Women, please take care of yourselves.

I am calling today. How about you?

Free Mammogram Guide: Mammograms for Underserved Women

OCTOBER 2009:

PJ Hamel is happy to be alive. As always.

Been Through It

Author, breast cancer survivor

Q. I don’t have health insurance, and I just can’t afford the cost of a mammogram. What can I do?

A. There are a number of resources you can access to receive a mammogram at no cost. Try any of these:

The American Cancer Society. Go to cancer.org, find the blue box on the upper right (“Find ACS in Your Community”), enter your zip code, and it’ll direct you to your local ACS office. They can tell you what resources are available in your area. Or call the ACS toll-free: 1-800-ACS-2345.

The United States Government’s National Cancer Institute can direct you to a local resource for free mammograms. Call them toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). Be ready with your zip code.

The United States Center for Disease Control’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides access to critical breast and cervical cancer screening services for underserved women in the United States. Their Web site lets you click to your state to find a local health care facility that offers free mammograms for women meeting the income guidelines.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure provides information on free or low-cost mammograms and other sources of financial assistance. Call toll-free, 800-IM-AWARE (800-462-9273).

Breast Cancer Network of Strength offers peer support, educational programs, local resources, and advocacy initiatives in selected areas across the country. For more information and to take advantage of BCNS’s free-of-charge programs and services, call 1-800-221-2141.

The American Breast Cancer Foundation‘s Key to Life Breast Cancer Screening Assistance Program provides financial assistance to uninsured and underinsured women and men of all ages for breast cancer testing. Call their toll-free enrollment hotline, 877-Key-2-Life (877-539-2543).

Finally, try calling your local hospital. Ask to speak to a social worker. He or she will be the one who’ll know about the availability of free or low-cost cancer screening in your community.

Whatever you do, don’t give up! A regular mammogram is your best defense against breast cancer.

October 16, 2009

A Radical Suggestion

Filed under: LIfe Balance,Passions,vision — Anne Cloward @ 8:03 am
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Several weeks ago, while teaching at the library, I made a radical suggestion to the job seekers. I am going to repeat it to my readers here now.

Remember when you were a little kid while watching TV on a sunny day and your mother would come in and turn off the set?

The conversation would go something like this:

“It’s a lovely day outside. Why are you sitting here watching TV?”

You would give all sorts of excuses, but the bottom line was that you were mesmerized watching the images dance across the screen.

Well, it’s many years later, and you are still sitting there watching the images on the screen. Now they are bigger, flashier and louder, but you are still sitting there passively. I am not going to debate the value of the programs you watch, but I am going to suggest that the activity of watching TV all day is harmful to your mental health. I even worked for one of the big three networks at one time, and learned that the industry was all about ratings and numbers of eyeballs that were watching. The more you watched, they more they could sell to you. Quality of programming was second to earning money for the network. They do not care about you as a person, only as a person who has a wallet with money in it.

Eleven years ago, I moved from one city to another and was only able to bring as many personal belongings with me as I could fit into a 8′ x12″ trailer (that’s all my car could safely carry). There was no room for a TV, and besides all of them in the house belonged to other people who lived with me. So I decided to see if I could live without it, and it was much easier than I thought it would be to give it up. When I moved from Minnesota to Oregon, I moved in with my son, who had also chosen to live without TV. Our household is really a lot more peaceful because of it.

What does that have to do with you and your job search? Right now all of the news coming across the ether is negative. Unemployment is up. This is a “jobless recovery,” foreclosures are up, and conditions are the worst they have been in years. It’s as though we are addicted to the next awful headline that comes down the pike and pretty soon we can be wallowing in it. We can throw ourselves and feel as though we can justify it, one big pity party. It won’t help you get a job, but you can enjoy your misery for a while and feel connected to everyone else who is out of work.

The challenge is to get out there in the sunshine and interact with the world, and not let all that negative energy engulf you. There is not much you can do about the national picture, or even the global one. Right now you are struggling to keep yourself going, to continue your job search in spite of all of the odds that you are told that are against your finding one.

So don’t listen to the news. You need to take a break and fill your environment with more pleasant thoughts. It is up to you to decide what you want to have occupy yourself instead. Whatever gets you going and keeps you finding joy is what I vote for. . For a while there will be an empty hole in you and you keep feeling something is missing. You start to wake up, and sometimes it takes getting used to.

How about trying to find creative ways to meet new people, market yourself, go out into the community and help others?

The national news is not about you, so don’t buy into the group think. Go out into the sunshine and discover the world. You just might find a whole new world to explore and enjoy.

October 9, 2009

There Should Be No Question Here

Filed under: LIfe Balance — Anne Cloward @ 6:18 am
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Note:

There is no question here for me. If you ask me to help you with your résumé, this is the policy I will follow. This is taken from a newsletter I receive weekly. Marc’s thinking aligns with mine, and I feel his advice is sound.

Here’s the dilemma: you’re proofreading your friend’s resume and it becomes pretty clear to you that he is taking more than a little bit of liberty with the truth – saying he conceived the idea rather than just implemented it, calling it a promotion rather than a lateral move, and glossing over that 13-month stint at that crazy start-up back in the dot.com boom.

What do you tell him? Remembering that competition is stiff out there – you know it’s the “Great Recession,” after all – and that he needs to stand out from the crowd.

So what do you tell him?

Well, Readers, I hope you’ll remind him that honesty is the best policy.

That struck me as I was reading this Vanity Fair profile on Harvard-educated lawyer-and-criminal Marc Dreier:

Dreier says he can’t remember the moment he actually began considering fraud. But he acknowledges the decision was made easier by a long track record of what he calls “cutting corners.” As he acknowledges, “Yeah, I took advantage of expense accounts, statements on tax returns, that kind of thing. You know, I discovered once you cross a gray line it’s much easier to cross a black line.”

And once you cross the gray line, it becomes much harder to get on the right side of the truth. The little fib that you inserted into your resume winds up on the website in your biography, so your next employer asks you about it at the interview. Then the press repeats it when you are speaking at a conference. Before long, you’re stuck.

And once you’re stuck, you will be discovered. As we found in this interview with Accu-Screen, even the simplest resume fibs will really come back to bite you.

Honesty is just the right thing to do, you should tell your friend. Not only will you not have to cover your tracks, but you’ll sleep better at night.

So I hope that if you ever come across a friend who is bending the truth a little bit, you’ll send them this 10-page .pdf that we put together on the topic: “To Tell The Truth.”

And finally, folks, while I was researching this topic this week, I came across this page of quotes on honesty and thought I’d share these eight favorites with you:

No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar. ~Abraham Lincoln

A half truth is a whole lie. ~Yiddish Proverb

Those who think it is permissible to tell white lies soon grow color-blind. ~Austin O’Malley

The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold. ~Aristotle

Who lies for you will lie against you. ~Bosnian Proverb

The most dangerous untruths are truths moderately distorted. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

With lies you may get ahead in the world – but you can never go back. ~Russian proverb

Always tell the truth. If you can’t always tell the truth, don’t lie. ~Author Unknown

Credit is due to Marc Cenedella (marc@TechnologyLadder.com) who sent me this article. You might want to check out his website http://technology.theladders.com/?LK_ID=327

Click on Career Advice.

October 6, 2009

An Unabashed Plug for a Group

As you are looking for a job and getting beyond the applying online route and are actually talking to real people, you may find yourself panicking. You have to talk to real people and you do not know how to do it! How do you carry on a conversation? How do you gauge what kind of impression you make on others? How do you answer even basic questions about who you are?

There are several solutions besides the one of not doing anything. You can pay lots of money to a professional coach and take lots of public speaking classes.

But if you are on a tight budget and cannot afford any of these solutions, there is a rather inexpensive and fun way to develop your skills at speaking in front of and to others: The answer is (drum roll please) Toastmasters. They can be found at http://www.toastmasters.org/

Or, if you are local to Oregon, try this URL, http://reports.toastmasters.org/findaclub/searchresults.cfm?Country=United%20States&State=Oregon

Why would joining an organization, which forces you to get up and speak before others be good for me, if the job I am searching after doesn’t require me to do a lot of speaking? Well, even in IT shops, where I have toiled for years, you have to present information to colleagues and bosses in an organized manner. You have to talk to people who do not share your background and expertise, and get them to understand what it is you are trying to do. You generally have to go through an interview in which you want to present your best self. What better place to learn all of these skills for a very small amount of money.

I speak from personal experience. Most Toastmaster clubs are filled with supportive people who help each other develop their abilities presenting their best selves in front of others. Even though I have spoken in public many times, and taught school for many years, there are still many valuable things I have learned from my club; how to run a meeting, how to be a better listener, how to think on my feet.

Besides that, Toastmasters can be a lot of fun. You get to meet interesting people and who knows, one of them might know of an opportunity for you. Ya never know.

September 28, 2009

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 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.

July 30, 2009

Taking a Break

Filed under: LIfe Balance — Anne Cloward @ 9:25 pm
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Sometimes I get too serious for my own good. I get weighed down with all the negative stuff that comes over the Internet and the airways and I start believing it. That is when I need to pull back.

The temperature in Portland this week has been hot, very hot. We reached 107 degrees yesterday, and 105 on Monday. So, even though the air conditioning has been on, I have taken advantage of the pool. You know, you can have a very nice business meeting just treading water. I talked with an associate for two hours while hanging out in the pool.

And to counteract so much of the bad vibes, I have been enjoying this video posted on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-94JhLEiN0

There is such much happy energy here. Check it out and just enjoy yourself.

July 15, 2009

Walk Out of Your Job Interview in a Blaze of Glory

Filed under: Interviewing — Anne Cloward @ 3:42 pm
Tags: , , ,

From an article by Scott Ginsberg

Interview questions that stump employers in any job interview.

Picture this: The job interview is (almost) over.

You’ve answered all their questions.
You’ve jumped through all their hoops.
You’ve taken all their tests, assessments and personality profiles.

Meanwhile, your brain hurts from over thinking. Your butt is numb from over sitting. And by now, you’ve managed to sweat right through that crisp, new white shirt you bought just for today.

“Just hire me already!” You think.

Not so fast. There’s still one thing left to do:

Walk out of that interview in a blaze of glory.

Today I’m going to teach you a job-hunting strategy that will instantly make you more approachable; hireable; employable; promotable; buyable; bookable; unforgettable; and, most importantly, call-back-able.

And all of it hinges on your ability to respond effectively to one of the most common (yet one of the most under leveraged) interview questions:

“So, do you have any questions for me?”

Prospective employers almost always ask this one – especially at the end of the interview. And most job-hunting books, interviewing resources and career coaches will advise you to respond with intelligent, creative questions such as:

  • Why is this position vacant?
  • Do you promote from within?
  • Do you have a formal training program?
  • What are the future goals of the company?
  • How will I know that I have met your goals?
  • Why did you choose to work for this company?
  • How would you describe your company’s culture?
  • How will my performance be evaluated, and how often?
  • What is the average work week of the person who will fill this job?
  • Will I be hearing from you or should I contact you?

Those are great questions. They’re smart, focused and goal-oriented.

There’s only one problem: Everybody else asks them, too.

And that instantly eliminates the probability of standing out.

Here’s the reality

The less boring and normal you are – and the more rules to which you are the exception – the more hireable you will become.

So, try this: Next time your interviewer asks, “So, do you have any questions for me?” I triple-dog-dare you to answer with one of the following responses :

  • Do you see any gaps in my qualifications that I need to fill?
  • Are there any reasons I’m not fully qualified for this position?
  • Is there anything I’ ve said today that might hurt my chances of being hired here?
  • Now that you’ve had a chance to meet and interview me, what reservations would you have in putting me in this position?
  • What have accidentally I said or done during today’s interview that’s inconsistent with your perfect candidate for this job?

Here’s why this strategy works:

You put the interviewer on the spot. After all, you’re not the only one being interviewed here. So, turning the tables in this manner helps you maintain power because – contrary to popular conditioning – the listener controls.

You prove counterintuitive thinking. I don’t care if you’re applying to work the night clean up shift at Reggie’s Roadkill Cafe – employers love people who think this way. Not just someone who “is” unexpected – but someone who actually thinks unexpectedly.

You demonstrate openness to feedback. My great friend, Joe Rotskoff, HR manager at Crescent Plumbing Supply in St. Louis, was the person who first educated me on this interview approach. “The secret is twofold,” Rotskoff said. “First, you display openness to how others experience you. Second, you show a dedication to improving self-awareness. And that’s exactly the type of employee companies seek to hire in this tough economy.”

You exhibit dedication to personal improvement. Which makes you an employee who adds value to the net worth of her human capital – and, therefore, the net worth of the company’s assets – every day. Wow.

You close the sale. Job interviews are sales calls. Period. You’re selling the company on you, your skills and your long-term potential as a valued asset to the team. So, when you ask closer questions like these, you’re essentially “asking for the sale.” And you’re doing so in a professional, tactful, confident manner. How could they not say yes to you?

Now, here’s the worst thing that could happen

Let’s say you ask one of these questions. And let’s say the prospective employer (unfortunately) responds with an answer that indicates you’ve done something wrong. Or missed the mark. Or come up short in regards to the position.

Fantastic! You’ve just received specific feedback that you can leverage to add value to yourself and become more hireable in the future.

So, if this is the case for you, here’s my suggestion: Physically write down his response to your questions, right then and there. This demonstrates active listening and further reinforces your openness to feedback.

Then, when you write your thank-you note to the interviewer later that evening, be sure to:

1. Thank him again for the helpful feedback on your performance

2. Explain what your commitment plan is for remedying that inadequacy in the future. Hey, he might even change his mind after that!

But here’s the best thing that could happen

Picture this: The interviewer’s jaw hits the floor, his pen falls to the ground, and he stares at you like you just told him that his company was going to be featured on the front page of The
Wall Street Journal.

Then, once he mops up the puddle of drool on your job application, he racks his brain trying to come up with an answer to your powerful question.

But he can’t find one.

Because there isn’t one.

Because you, my unemployed friend, are pretty amazing.

And you deserve this job a hundred times more than every other candidate who walked in the door before you.

That’s what happens when you stick yourself out there. That’s what happens when you’re approachable.

You walk out of that job interview in a blaze of glory.

And then, come Monday morning, you walk back into that same building. But this time, you’re not there for an interview – you’re there to see how spectacular the view is from your new office.

Good luck.

June 17, 2009

Interviewing—More Homework

Filed under: Interviewing,Preparing,Professionalism — Anne Cloward @ 4:47 pm
Tags: , ,

Step 2- Looking for Connections

Now that you have the scoop on the company, go to LinkedIn. You do have a LinkedIn account, don’t you? (I will publish a quick start on Linkedin one day.)

No matter what page you are on, the search functions is always at the top of the page. Look at all the Search options you have. Look up the company and then look at people who work there who are on LinkedIn. Read as much as you can about the company and its people.

Step 3—Logistics Planning

This is just common sense, but bears repeating. You know the address of the place you are going to visit since you asked the Admin who made the appointment for it. If you are the slightest bit unsure of where you are going, either plan a route using, MapQuest, Google Maps, or the local public transportation planner. If you have a GPs, and plan on using it, program in the address.

Even better, (and I have done this before) make a dry run the day or night before your interview. By doing this, you will be sure you know where you are going. If there is any local construction, you will be aware of that too.

Step 4—Your Folder

Compose a folder for your interview. I like to do this the night before, so I don’t forget things. It should contain:

  • Two copies of your résumé (someone may not have read it, so be prepared)
  • Any notes you have on the company, or questions you might want to ask at the end of the interview
  • All your job history information. (If you need to complete an application, you will have dates, company names and addresses)
  • The names, addresses and contact information for your references
  • Any confirmation information that you have from the company, including the phone number of the person who you need to report to.
  • Your directions to getting to the interview site.

Next: What to wear to an interview.

March 12, 2009

Contractor Best Practices–Day 1

Filed under: Contracting — Anne Cloward @ 11:39 pm
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Contracting Basics

The article is a challenge to write because it contains lessons learned from mistakes I have made in the past. Not all are ones that I have made personally (I have listened to the horror stories of others and taken notes), but experience has been a good teacher. In the ten years I have been a contractor, there are some good practices to put into place that can make your experience more successful.

Some companies value contractors and treat them like the talented professionals that they are, while others have less respect for them and really do not appreciate them. If your skills are specialized, they may not realize what you do.

As a contractor, you are often hired to perform necessary tasks, but the regular folks don’t have the time, expertise or inclination to do them . This is especially true for technical documentation and training materials (my balliwick); since many developers or managers have no idea what should go into a user guide or what makes a good job aid or how to diagram the process flows that management is asking for.

I have developed some practices that I bring to any contract, that establish me as a professional who knows what she is doing.

One Rule to Always Observe without Fail

The cardinal rule of contracting is you never disclose to your salary to anyone. Your rate is established with the contracting firm, not the client. The contracting firm negotiates and sets the rates with the client. It is not anyone’s elses business what you make. Any details of your arrangement are to be kept private, and are not to be discussed with the client,  manager, or your co-workers.

I worked on contract for an insurance company and was paid the market rate. I sat near the A/P section, whose clerks were not paid nearly so well. They processed contractor invoices and saw the bill rates the client was charged (this is the contractor’s hourly rate plus overhead). They assumed we contractors were making our bill rates, and they were not shy about spreading it around the company. Since these rates were considerably more than they were making, there was a lot of resulting resentment. (The clerks were totally unprofessional in spreading the word around, but it put us contractors on the defensive.)

First Day Routines

First days of any new assignment combine the thrill of a new project with the challenge of becoming familiar with a new environment and getting up to speed in a short amount of time. Some managers are prepared when for your first day, but others really have almost forgotten you were supposed to start that day and have not notified the support department, so nothing is ready. Your cube, PC, phone, email and other tools should have been ordered and set up. Good companies have them in place. Accept the situation, whatever it may be.

Show up about 10 minutes early on the first day.

Learn about traffic, (if you are driving) or the bus or train schedule (if using public transportation). There may also be some delay at the front desk. The guard has to call the manager, and someone has to escort you to your cube. A good manager introduces you to your team members and others who work near in the vicinity. In the era of virtual teams, your team mates may be several aisles away. Take notes of names and titles. Do this during first team meetings. Even quick notes help. (Kent is my manager. Ted is his boss.).

Go with the flow, and be a sponge

Some managers have a checklist of things to go over and scheduled times for orientation, which is great. Not all managers are that organized. One of your new best friends should be the Administrative Assistant to the boss or team. She is the person who knows where the office supplies are, the number to call for the Help Desk and how to get things moving. She may be the one who ordered your PC and phone and can help you map to the printer. Remember her name and always thank her for her assistance.

If your PC is ready and as soon as you have the time, set up your email and voice mail, record a greeting and set your preferences. The more of this administrative stuff you have in place, the sooner you can get to work. Check to see if you have all the applications you need to work.

I review the programs installed on my machine and request any others that I may need. For example, MS Office is standard in most offices, but if I am going to create many graphics, I request Visio and a screen capture program.

Depending on the levels of bureaucracy, it may be a day or two before you get your login and passwords. Or a week, or in one case, when I worked for a major manufacturer of hardware, a month. Just be pleasant and ask if there is any information missing and can you supply it.

I am aware that this is a dream scenario. Not all first mornings go this smoothly.

Take care of paperwork and set hours

As a part of your orientation, you may be asked to sign a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement. If you work with confidential and proprietary information, this is SOP. The data is the property of the company. For instance, financial institutions are quite sensitive about anyone sharing their information because they are handling other peoples’ money and people get testy when data is compromised. Corporate espionage is always an issue and hence the reason for such agreements.

The bottom line is that what you create belongs to the client. No matter how brilliant or revolutionary your deliverables may be, it’s not your property. It’s theirs to keep after you leave.

(You may have signed another set of agreements when you accepted an offer which set your rate and conditions of employment. Such agreements are between you and them. Read them carefully, since they generally tell you how and when you get paid).

Take this time to establish hours with your boss. Many companies have core hours from 9 until 3, and as long as those hours are covered, it doesn’t matter when you arrive or leave. Get your manager’s opinions on the subject. I once worked for two bosses. One came at 7 every morning and the other sauntered in at 8:30. We held a daily huddle when the latecomer arrived and everyone was happy.

Organize your workspace

Get office supplies from the closet and set up your work area. Set up your work area in a way that works best for you. If necessary, clean off the dust and dirt from the previous occupant of your cube. Don’t expect anyone to do it for you. This is your chance to demonstrate you are ready to get going with your assignment and have control of your environment.

Some managers may have scheduled meetings for you to attend or hand you material to review. Just plunge in and take notes, smile and keep going.

As the writer on most projects, I use unstructured time, to see if there is any existing documentation that I could read, or online files that will fill me in on the project. Good projects have requirements documents, use cases, technical specifications, and they are good background. I print out relevant material and read it. It’s a chance to scope out what my assignment really is.

Some bosses are cool and invite you to lunch the first day. Otherwise, wing it. One company had a group of people who would head for the cafeteria about 11:45, and from the first day, they stopped and asked me to join them. Take the opportunity, if offered to get the scoop on the place. How do others get to work? Where are good places nearby to eat? Establishing a good relationship with your co-workers is often done at this first lunch.

Some first days go smoother than others. Take copious notes on everything, and review them to get things straight.

About your past

No matter how big a city you work in, someone you work with may have worked with or know someone where you worked before. Don’t ever badmouth your previous gig. Your assignment may have been rough, the supervisor unmanageable, but keep it to yourself. Such talk marks you as a disloyal spoilsport and difficult to get along with.

(“Did you ever work with Ted at the Blue Bank?”

“Yes, I did. He really knew his stuff.”

“Really? He’s my wife’s brother.”

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say something to the effect that he was the idiot who kept messing up your schedule and caused everyone to miss deadlines? )

At the end of the day, pack up, head for home, appearing ready to hit the ground running and write that manual, code, training, business process flow tomorrow.

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