Where A Woman of a Certain Age Ruminates and Resonates

I started this blog because I have something to say. Keeping up with it has proven to be a challenge -- what can I say? The cobbler's kids have no shoes! Translation - I've been so busy writing for my wonderful clients that I haven't made time to write for myself. So thanks for that and yes to more!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Expertly Expert or Below the Radar Bland?

You can’t read an article these days about job search, branding, or work that doesn’t advise you to become an expert in something. Even the self-help folks have joined the chorus, “Figure out what you’re good at and market that.” Standing out from the crowd takes motivation, focus and effort to make it count.
In the “olden” days, we went to work, did what was asked, got our checks, went home, watched the tube, and got up the next day to do it all over again. Rinse and repeat for the next 50 years till someone gave us a gold watch to go away. We stayed below the radar, stayed out of trouble, and kept our noses to the grindstone. OUCH!
Fast forward to the 21st century – The job market is tight, everyone is cooler than us and we wonder when, not if, we’ll get that dreaded layoff notice. Here’s a newsflash – your place in the unemployment line is guaranteed if you’re just doing your job without doing anything to make a difference or add value.
So how do you stand out? Get noticed in a good way? Get on management’s radar? You become an expert….or at least very, very good at what you do, and maybe even at what your co-workers do, too. After all, if you don’t have anything to offer, why are you there? Filling a spot just to get a paycheck doesn’t serve anyone.
Being an expert at something means you solve a problem, and you do it better than anyone else. It means you want to know more, do more, be more. Propose an initiative outside your job description. Volunteer for the stinkiest project no one else is willing to do. Take a class, join a trade association, connect with others in your industry on LinkedIn. If you do it right, you’ll be the “go-to person” and wear the guru title with pride. Career-wise, being indispensable is an ideal place to be. The more recognition and praise you can earn, the better your chances of staying off the layoff list.
Beware of the bland, become an expert and give all you can.
So, do your co-workers see you as Marvin Milquetoast or Edward the Expert? Tell me what you do to make work better.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Writing - For Real!

“Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words.” Eliza Dolittle had a lot to say about words she didn’t want to say. Because I’m a woman, I have a lot to say. Because the magic of creating pictures with words is something I do as naturally as breathing, I am a writer.
But what is real writing? Or authentic writing, as someone once described it. Is a blog real writing? Is tapping out a clever comment in a forum real writing? Or is it when you get paid to put words on paper?
I wrote my first story in third grade. It was about lions and cubs and it was not a paying gig. I brought it home, it was duly noted, “That’s very nice, dear.” And promptly pinned to the refrigerator with the turkey hands and lopsided pink paper hearts.
Even the process of writing enthralled me, especially when I learned to write cursive. Wow! The very act of putting that little hitch at the top of the “r” consumed me. And I won’t even go into the pain of not being able to write straight across the paper – no matter the labor, my lines always took a distressing downward slope -- no uniformity, no flow, and no little gold star!
Discovering my grandfather’s typewriter at 11 elevated me to euphoria. I could put the words on paper that much faster and I just had to have one for my own. I was so disappointed when I didn’t get a typewriter for my birthday that year. Bummer, I had to go to Austria instead. It took me another year, but I finally got one for my 12th birthday. Every time I rolled in a fresh piece of paper, I was a real writer creating real words for real compensation – a big red letter “A.”
I got a trunk full of diaries representing the need to put down words for my own benefit. Early attempts petered out around March. As the years passed, I trade the strictures and guilt of those empty dated pages for undated, ruled paper filled with too many thoughts in my head that need to be expelled. Mostly caused by errant boyfriends or husbands.
The modern word for this process is now called journaling -- if you write in a diary instead of a journal, is it called diarying? Mmmmm, too close to diarrhea for me. It’s writing, people. Let’ keep it simple here. I’m okay with Google becoming a verb because well, it’s a new word. But whether you’re struggling through your sobs in a journal, dabbling in a diary, or blithely blogging blandishments, you’re writing!
So I maintain that if you are transferring words from your head to some place outside your head – that’s real writing. I write because I have to. I tell compelling stories about people to help them get jobs and I’ve been told I have a knack for it.
What do you have a knack for? What do you write about?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Abundance Flows: Mean People Suck

Abundance Flows: Mean People Suck

Mean People Suck

Has anyone noticed that the proliferation of the Internet has given rise to a LOT more meanness? You read a blog, form an opinion, scroll down through the other comments to insert your own clever blurb, and BLAM – personal attacks, bad words, insults and epithets slung anonymously at the writer and fellow commenters. Sure it’s one thing to disagree about politics, celebrities, actions, sports, and whatever else is “trending” on the WWW. But really, when did we stop respecting one another for those differences and start hurling epithets and insults just for the sake of expressing ourselves?
My grandmother, a lady so genteel I swear she was Queen Elizabeth’s right hand man in Canada, used to say to me, “Fool’s names and fool’s faces only appear in public places.” She would have been horrified at the foolishness abounding on the Internet where it seems that if you’re not insulting, rude, or mean, you’re not valid, or paid any attention.
A couple of weeks ago, I read Jason Alba’s blog (http://jasonalba.com/)where he commented on Ford Myers’ article on the San Francisco Chronicle online called “20 Habits of Highly Effective Job Seekers.” Jason noted that most of the 60+ comments about Mr. Myers’ article were “scathing.” On further investigation, I found them to be vituperative, venomous and vile. (I do love an alliteration!) Which gave rise to another memory—this time of my mother hammering into us from Day One, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it.” While this may sound like an old-school philosophy to some, or even most, when you operate from a place of nice, life is a LOT more fun and you get to meet a LOT more cool people. And a LOT more neat stuff happens to you!
Then there’s that old chestnut, The Golden Rule. (I should state said Rule here, but I want to assume that my esteemed readers know it and are living it.) If all those anonymous insulters and mean people thought about how it feels to be slammed for no apparent reason other than expressing an opinion, maybe they’d find something nice to say first, then a constructive way to venture any criticism. Maybe if we all found something positive to say first, we’d forget about the negative things.
The other thing that gets me about all this commenting is that the commen-TERS have a tendency to turn on one another instead of addressing the original content by the commen-TEE. Keep it relevant, people, and quit insulting other commenters you don’t even know. It’s not nice, and remember, the more ill will you spill, the more it comes back on you.
By the way, from a career coaching standpoint, Mr. Myers’ suggestions were pretty much on-target, though I agree with Jason that the 20 could have been rendered into 10 sound practices for conducting a successful job search. The point is that cynicism and negativity don’t make for a successful anything.
Okay, so in closing, I’m opening myself to the world online in asking: Have you caught yourself writing rude comments to a blog post? What have people written about your blog? What are you going to write about mine? What do you think about mean people?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Engagement - Not the Diamond Ring Kind

“There have been a couple of jobs I've done without thinking, without being engaged, and they just stink.” Clancy Brown.
If you’ve seen the first Highlander movie, or the Shawshank Redemption, you can’t miss this tall, dynamic actor with the cold blue eyes and fierce visage. He’s been engaged in the acting trade for well over 20 years because it’s something he loves. 
Every self-development book I’ve plowed through in the last few years tells us that any change starts with being involved right now, where we are. Personally, professionally, socially – wherever we focus our attention – we need to give at least 100%.
Being fully present in the job where you are, whether it’s in a cube, or at your desk, keeps you on the road to success. If you go to work for someone else, you must provide services for the paycheck you receive. A warm body filling the chair serves no one. Wasting the company’s time and money, as well as your own, devalues both parties. 
I was a legal assistant for 18 years because I loved the hurly burly of a litigator’s practice. I left it because it wasn’t fun anymore. I realized that doing something I didn’t love was sucking the life out of me. So I found something amazing that represented opportunity for growth. I stepped right in and soon found ways to contribute over and above what my job description entailed. Note to self – make sure the company is receptive to what you want to give, otherwise, you’ll end up feeling like a round peg in a square hole. And that stinks!
If you join a group, go to the meetings, hold an office and make a difference. A mentor or mine recently used this analogy, "Don't come to the meetings with 75 cents in your pocket, expecting to take home $1.50." To get, you gotta give. And you gotta give BIG! You can't fathom how big you get back.
Inherent in fulfilling personal relationships is engagement on every level. Again, to give anything less is disrespectful to you and your partner. Life today is full of distractions and those outside influences can take over if we let them. Put down the Blackberry, turn off the television and be available to your partner and your children. It’s the right thing to do and it matters.
The same goes for your social relationships. Everyone you come into contact with deserves your full and considerate attention. It’s no secret that rudeness dominates behavior in our everyday exchanges. Somehow, we’ve forgotten The Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Put yourself on the other side of the counter, the table, or the desk. You are getting their full attention, they merit yours. Hang up and interact!
Engagement means choosing to show up for your own life. It’s yours to do, be and have. Get involved and make an impact. Join, volunteer, do something extra. You’ll be amazed at how your life will become! 

Monday, August 31, 2009

Application Brief

I'm reading "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill and mentally kicking myself in the pants for not reading it 20 years earlier when it was first recommended to me. Back then, all I wanted to read were those "potboiler" stories featuring half-naked studly guys and their maidens perpetually in dishabille or distress. When all you want is to be loved, you immerse yourself in stories about love and guess what, that's what you get.

Now I want to be prosperous and enjoy the freedoms of an abundant life...hence all the reading about money, wealth and self-development. And I've got plenty of love in my life! Proof that Mr. Hill's dictate, "Keep your mind on the things you want and off the things you don't want" really works.

Chapter Six covers Organized Planning -- Crystallizing Desire into Action. And he actually outlines putting together a "Application Brief" to get a job. As a professional resume writer, I paid particular attention to the opening paragraph where Mr. Hill advises that, " . . . unless the applicant is experienced in the preparation of such brief, an expert should be consulted, and his services enlisted for that purpose." Hill cites  companies who hire advertising experts to market their products. He counsels that those selling their personal services for sale should follow suit in hiring those with expertise in marketing. And what is a resume if not a marketing statement? At any rate, I was so pleased to get validation for my passion to help people from such a highly-regarded source. Wow!

Hill goes on to list elements the brief (never uses the "R" word anywhere) should contain, including a photo, references, and an offer to work on probation. Okay, so the book was written in 1937, when our country was in the throes of a depression that echoes today's tough times. Parts of this chapter, though, are still relevant for today's job seeker.

#5 on the list is Apply for a specific position. I can't tell you how many resumes include an objective (employers don't care), but nothing stating what position the person is seeking. Hill emphasizes that you should never apply for "just a position" as it indicates you lack specialized qualifications. In other words, there's no such thing as a generic resume. If you aren't special, why should someone hire you?

#6. State your qualifications. Hill advocates providing full details about why the applicant is qualified and goes on to say this is probably the most important detail of the application. Qualifications based on achievements -- not "responsible fors" are what makes a hiring manager reply to your email.

#8. Knowledge of your prospective employer's business. Back in 1937, it might have been a challenge to find out about the business, but with today's information stream, there's no excuse lack of due diligence. Hill says that if you know about the company, you're showing imagination and creativity. It also means that you're motivated and thorough, all qualities employers are seeking.

There was some stuff listed that well, doesn't cut it in modern times. I got a big laugh from this statement.  "Do not be afraid of making the brief too long." Ha! Some of the resumes I've reviewed indicate the writers read Mr. Hill's book. Obviously, that practice won't cut it in today's uber-competitive market. If you're on the Do It Yourself Resume path, brevity should be your watchword.

Napoleon Hill's advice about hiring experts to do what they do best so you can do what you do best is right on target. You have something to offer that deserves to best showcased in the most outstanding way possible. Investing in a service that specializes in highlight who you are and what you've done could add thousands of dollars to your salary.

Everyone who wants to get to their next level of success should read this book. And if you've been in a job search for too long because you're sending out a DIY resume, maybe it's time to seek out an expert who can make a difference.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Money is Awesome!

Money, moolah, dinero, green stuff, fun tickets – however you say it, it conjures up powerful images, good and bad. I watched a show last night about lotto winners and how their winnings affected their lives. Three different couples were profiled, including a guy who won Red Sox season tickets for a LIFETIME. All three couples reacted differently and that was what struck me. Then today I read a chapter in “Think and Grow Rich” about a preacher who needed $1 million so he preached a sermon about what he would do if he had a million dollars. Whoa…that’s some woo woo stuff right there.
                The first couple remarked that they would tear up the ticket if they thought the $2.5 million was going to ruin them. I didn’t see that coming. View the bounty as ruination and turn down the chance to expand your life?  Well, instead, they did what most folks would do – pay the bills, buy new vehicles and go on some trips. AND unlike most folks, they both kept their jobs because they love what they do. Imagine going to work simply because you love it. I think it was my mother who told me do what you love and the money will come. I’m writing because that’s what I love and the money is flowing to me so OMG, my mother was right!! But that's another blog.
                The second couple represents a classic example of why people think money is bad. The wife suffered a stroke, the husband flailed around for a year bored out of his mind, and worst of all, they had to move from the tiny town they called home because they couldn’t handle the pressure. Their neighbors hounded them incessantly about helping them out. Huh? Your neighbor wins money and you think he should pay your phone bill? Clearly an example of why people think money is bad.
                The last couple really stood out because the husband remarked that he could have won $10 million and wouldn’t feel as good as he did with lifetime Red Sox tickets. Now there’s a guy with his priorities straight. He and his wife trade the tickets for services like babysitting and plumbing. The only bone of contention is when the boys from New York come to town because the wife is a Yankees fan.
                I love money and what it can do. In learning about money, and what it means, I’ve discovered it was controlling me. Since the past doesn’t equal the future, I now control money and how I use it. It means freedom to do, be and have. It does great good. It brings relief, and always gratitude.
                What would I do with a million bucks? Grow it into ten million and give half of it away and enjoy every moment of every day. Oh wait…I’m already doing that so I’m already wealthy. What would you do?
Thanks for taking the time to read this musing and I always enjoy your comments.