Archives September, 2009

30 September
Chris Arends

No I haven’t found a job yet, but I have been interviewing. When job hunters read a job description their mind does a funny thing. It makes them a perfect fit for almost any job.

We all know that isn’t true but as job hunters write cover letters and customize our resume trying to match our experience with the description and requirements, we start telling ourselves what a great job this will be and that they are crazy if they don’t hire me. While yes we want a job, getting one that is a bad fit can create as many problems as it solves. The last thing you want is to end up out of a job again in six months because you accepted a job that didn’t fit. You put at risk your credibility, add an awkward entry on your resume which can make things harder later.

On those few that we actually get an interview, we have the opportunity to get a real feel for what the job is. Sometimes a realization starts to come over us. There is no way we are going to get this job and that isn’t a bad thing. Taking a job that doesn’t fit is like buying shoes that don’t fit. Eventually you are going to have to take it off and that is going to hurt.

Today’s joy is having interviews to make sure this one fits.

Today’s joy is that the interview process help us find good fit as much as it does the employer.

28 September
Chris Arends

Yes, No job joys are back. Not every day but I keep writing them.

We are lucky that we live close enough to school that we can walk our kids to school in the morning. Being home now I get to walk with them at least a couple times a week.

This is time that I had occasionally while I was working but now I get to do more regularly. I get to spend more time with my kids and learn more about what makes them tick as they enter the years where I will quickly know absolutely nothing and will not be allowed to be seen with them.

A few other observations.

Over the last few years I have noticed each year a few more people walking their kids to school. This is cool on several fronts. Fewer people driving their kids 5 blocks to school. Kids getting a little more exercise. I would say fresh air but we have so many ozone days I am not sure about that. This also means more people are talking with their kids in the morning.

Lately I have noticed the same little girl walking to school eating her pop tart or breakfast bar or what ever Dad grabbed for her as they walked out the door. At least she is getting breakfast and some quality time with Dad. When she is older she will pass these memories on to her kids.

We also seem to have more community as we see the same people and actually stop and talk about what is going on in our neighborhood.

Finally I had someone who drives their kids to school tell me that they used us a measurement as to whether they were early or late to school based on where they passed us. Glad we could help.

Today’s long No Job Joy is taking the time to get out and walk to school.

21 September
Chris Arends

Sunday afternoon was spent working in the yard. I am fortunate enough that at least one of my sons likes to help. So while he was mowing, the drive wheels on the mower just stopped working. It was getting warm and I had a lot of other things I wanted to get finished.

After turning over the mower I see that the belt that drives the wheels has come off the pulley. Of course the pulley is behind a guard and tucked in the back end of the mower. I get the tools and my son helps with a few of the bolts and the blade so we can get the guard off.

When we get the guard off I explain to him how the drive works and what we have to do to get it working again. Then he says “You’re a good Dad. You know how to fix lots of things.” I tell him I learned a lot of things on the farm that help me know how things work and Grandpa Larry showed me a lot of things just like I am showing him.

It took us more than 30 minutes to do a ten minute job. But, it’s moments like these where you understand how important it is to take the extra time to show your kids what you are doing instead of just getting it done as fast as you can. Between my Father and Grandpa Chester I had two good teachers who showed me what to do and let me try so I could understand. I only hope that when my son has kids he can show them how to fix things not just for the moment but for life.

16 September
Chris Arends

Interviews. Job seekers beg and plead for them yet they cause more stress than just about any human experience. Don’t get me wrong, any time you have an interview there is a lot to stress about. Getting dressed up. Thinking about what questions you will get asked and how you will respond? What if I screw up my dream job? And on and on. If you aren’t careful you can work yourself into a real tizzy and that solves nothing.

In the spirit of giving a speech and picturing the audience naked, did you ever stop to thing about the person on the other side? Interviewing may be no walk in the park for them either. They may have had to fly in for the interview so they are away from their family and worrying about their real job while they are talking with you. They have to dress up too which for some companies means trading jeans for ties. You may be their ideal candidate and even though it is a buyers market, they have to sell you on why you should work there. Having to think up good interview questions can cause them a lot of stress too. They don’t want to ask something stupid or illegal and get sued.

So far I have talked about why they do suck. So now why they don’t. An interview is a chance to meet with someone who actually has a job. A chance to do something that while stressful is better than completing yet another online application that will be sucked into resume hell.

Next, you need a job and they have one. Go get it! This is the firewalk you have to do to get it so be prepared. They need to hire someone because otherwise someone is doing two people’s jobs and likely doing neither of them effectively.

Finally, prepping for an interview is a great chance for you to improve your attitude. As you focus on the interview you get to think about how great you are and how well you can do that job. Will you screw up? Maybe but if you don’t put yourself out there you can’t win either. And don’t forget they other guy isn’t Jesus so he isn’t perfect either.

I’m not saying don’t get excited or put a lot of energy and effort getting and preparing for interviews. I am saying take that energy and focus it in the right direction. Good luck and go get that job!

14 September
Chris Arends

“If every one else jumped off a bridge would you?” and “Stand up straight”, are just a few of the standard things every parent has to tell their kids, right up there with “don’t pick your nose” and “don’t eat off the floor”.

As we grow up we usually see the wisdom in their words and often find ourselves repeating them to our kids. While my parents passed on these and many other gems, one conversation I had with my Mother stands out. No, this wasn’t THE talk but I remember she passed on several of the classics that still apply to me today and I hope those who are looking for work right now can use.

First, is “Stand up straight”. Yes, very cliche but standing up straight is a something to remember when looking for a job. You need to be proud of who you are and who you want to become. If you are hunched over and negative why would someone want to hire you? As a side note, it has been proven that taller people get paid more.

Second, ” only compare yourself to the person looking back at you in the mirror”. No one else has your talents, priorities and value. Others may have more money or seem more successful but at the end of the day we all made trade offs to be who we are. You are unique and it is something to be proud of. So stand up straight.

Finally, “there will always be someone better than you”. Maybe not today or tomorrow but someday there will be. She didn’t mean don’t try to be great. What she meant was we all have our day in the sun and those days are numbered. Brett Farve are you listening? So you always need to be learning new things to be prepared for the day when you are no longer the best. This builds humility and a realization that no one is successful on their own and that needing help is not a weakness.

Now that I have boys of my own and see them moving toward that peer driven world of middle school and high school, I hope I can pass on these gems in a way that will help them be better people. I do this with the hope that every generation has that my children will learn from my mistakes.

11 September
Chris Arends

Unless you grew up in Iowa or somewhere in the Midwest, you have no idea what I mean when I say we walked beans. Some where between the invention of the combine and genetic engineering Iowa farmers decide they needed to make sure that their bean fields were free of weeds so they invented bean walking.

For those of you who didn’t grow up on a farm in Iowa, walking beans consists of each person taking responsibility for 6 to 8 rows of beans and using a hoe to cut out any weeds you saw with out taking out too many bean plants. This is usually done in the mornings to avoid the heat of the day or to be available for baling hay after the dew had burned off. (See my last post for how much fun that is.)

The fields we walked were anywhere from 5 to 80 acres with rows ranging from 200 yards to over half a mile in length. So we certainly got our exercise. Fortunately most of the fields we walked were owned by my Grandpa so we got paid pretty well for walking beans. Plus, we always had the chance to eat Grandma’s cooking and raid the cookie jar.

Now I have heard multiple explanations for why we walked beans. They range from the weeds clog the combine to farmers wanted to make sure their fields looked better than their neighbors. Now the amazing thing is I have found out that walking beans is a very regional ritual. Which really makes me wonder was it really necessary at all. On recent trips home I have seen fields with plenty of weeds visible from the road. Yet kids don’t walk beans any more.

There are various reason why they don’t which anyone who isn’t a farmer really won’t care about. Which leads me to believe that I spend a lot of time walking up and down rows of beans carrying a hoe for no reason other than to make the field look pretty. I always wondered why when we were behind we only walked what you could see from the road.

But maybe there were other reasons. It was a good way to keep kids occupied, teach them the value of doing a job right and what full days work was. Possibly it was a way to motivate us to go to college so we wouldn’t be walking beans after high school. Maybe it was a way for my Grandpa to spend time with his Grand kids, passing on stories and even sharing a little wealth, not all of it being monetary.

Walking beans may have been a superficial thing to do but sometimes things we do show their value in their own way and in their own time.

8 September
Chris Arends

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a simple request this weekend. “Anyone bored? Come help me bale some hay.” Unfortunately for him the only help he got were some smart aleck responses mostly focused around showing up after he was done.

His post reminded me of growing up. We baled a lot of hay on the farm. Either for our animals or for others. One thing you have to do is bale the hay while it is dry. Otherwise it rots in the barn and the bales are darn heavy. So you make hay while the sun shines as the old expression goes. This is much like a job search. When you see opportunities you have to take advantage of them and you can’t do it half way. You have to commit to finishing it while the sun is up or you may miss your chance.

Another thing it made me think of is storing up for when things aren’t so plentiful. Farmers store hay to get through the winter or times when grass won’t grow. Kind of a safety net. This is a lot like a rainy day fund. I don’t know how much hay to store up but I know if I don’t have 6 months of hay in my barn it is time to get baling.

The last thing was the hay loft. There are few smells that are better on earth. The dry hay stacked tall to the roof of the barn. Stacking in the barn was often the hardest part. No wind to cool you off on a hot summer afternoon and often having to throw bales over your head to get them stacked right. But I remember the feeling at the end of the day when the last rack was unloaded to sit in the door of the barn and smell the hay as you are hit by the first breath of cooler air and the satisfaction of having completed the task.

Much like our professional lives, we do a lot of hard work but often don’t take the time to smell the hay or put some away for a rainy day. Not to call bosses cows but it is kind of ironic that farmers often call cows “Boss” or “Bossy”. Another bit of irony is that neither of them often appreciate the hard work we do for them but at the end of the day we have to keep both happy or we don’t eat.

4 September
Chris Arends

Before I get into today’s post I want to pass on a hearty congratulations to Mark, one of the friends I have made while in my job search. This week he accepted a position that he had been working for several month and will start in a few weeks. Great to hear that things are starting to move ahead on the job front. Any way onto today’s post.

I have always had a way with computers. Ever since I was a kid and I learned wordstar on an old green screen PC.

Its not that I could make them do anything special its just that they either did what I wanted them to or they quickly learned that I would beat them into submission. After going head to head with a computer they tended to learn that they couldn’t win so they did what I wanted.

My wife seems to think that I perform some kind of voodoo on computers. At least once a week, usually when she is doing PTA stuff she will ask me to take a look at something. It is usually something like a formatting or searching for something.

To give her credit she is pretty good with computers and knows how most applications are supposed to work. If she calls me I know that she has tried to figure it out on her own multiple times and is getting frustrated. The funny thing is that many times I don’t even have to touch the computer for it to do what she thought she wanted it to do. It is as if I have some kind of aura and the computer knows that Master Yoda is in the room and it had better comply. Needless to say this drives my wife crazy.

As I said in my last post, we bought her a computer so she wouldn’t have to come back into “the hole”. Within a week she was convinced that I had taught her computer to respond only to me. It could be that I have her running a beta of Window 7 or it could just be my aura. Either way at least I will know that I will always be needed around our house to keep the PC gremlins at bay.

4 September
Chris Arends

Not having a job one would think that I would have a spotless, totally organized office space. After all I have the time to keep it clean. Cleaning my office would make a great procrastination idea instead of sending one more resume to the dark hole of some web site.

No instead my office looks a lot like it did when I was working. But instead of whitepapers, presentations or emails I have print outs of job descriptions, articles on job searching, social networking white papers and the like.

The first habit to die hard is that of me having a messy office. I still have it. I don’t see it going away any day soon. The hardest part of this habit was that the main home computer was also in my office. Susan HATES using the computer in my office.First because of the stacks of papers and stuff but also because she things I have trained the computer to only work properly for me.

Yes I do periodically clear off the top of the desk and get well deserved brownie points for making the office a place where Susan doesn’t go into junk overload and just start tossing things out and occasionally I will come home and Susan will have organized things for me. But eventually, despite my best intentions, it does end up a mess within a few days.

Now for the second habit that dies hard. My wife not accepting that I will always have a messy office and that it doesn’t bother me. Try as she might she just can’t make me keep my office clean for more than a few days. She keeps trying and having hope that someday I will learn the ways of the force of clean. Just like Darth Vader I may not come around until its too late.

The final habit that won’t die is that of my wanting to make my wife happy. The way we have come to get around our conflicting habits is that we broke down and bought Susan a laptop. This way she doesn’t have to come back into the pit and get frustrated with me and I can have the office computer to my self. She still thinks that I have corrupted her laptop to only obey me but that is another topic.

So today I am glad for old habits and not all of them dying.