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1 comments | Monday, January 22, 2007

Well things are about to get crazy.

I got a job offer. Yeah, I know. this blog was about trying to be happy in the job you have. But a real offer! It's at a much smaller company, and the boss said to me, "We just want to make sure you'll be happy here."

Huh? Happy at work? Yes Please!

For this reason and others -- like spending the day after Christmas running from gate to gate in the Atlanta airport -- I have not been blogging. Also, I forgot my login info. *blushing*

But my head has been spinning the last week about this job. I'm pretty much guaranteed a pay cut. Benefits? Not so much. My loads of stock options? Good bye. It will just be me, my salary, my ideas, and the company. Free to do whatever I see fit to make this little company have happier clients. This arrangement came about when I emailed some ideas to the owner -- tangible, real-life scenario ideas I had about a specific client. I don't work well in generalities and vague concepts.

And now I have two days to wait on an offer. I'm really excited about kissing my cushy life goodbye, saying adios to the trappings of corporate structure! No more $150 haircuts when I go to New York.

Alright, Crazy. Bring it.

1 comments | Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I have a little saying: "Any jackass can be a critic." But I figure there has to be some perk to writing in this blog, so I'm going to critique a story I read.

Today I had the misfortune of reading an article on BusinessWeek.com titled, "Can You Have the Job of Your Dreams?"

After reading a lot of empty drivel that seemed to suggest to readers that it is a good idea to consider a "dream job" that would put you in the top 1% income bracket, there is a short promo from a Vault.com executive about taking his site's self assessment tests (okay, I admit there's a tiny bit of value in that) and THEN, with only three paragraphs left in the story -- I'm desparately hoping for some nugget of usefulness at this point -- there is the really barfy sentence:

" ... If you're stuck, it may help to take a page from the book of those with dream jobs. They often share key traits: talent, passion, drive, and discipline. But they share another characteristic often overlooked: courage ... "


Forget courage for a second. I know that going out on your own takes bravery. But bravery is easy. Two shots of Maker's Mark makes me extremely brave. But discipline. That is not easy. Warren Buffet didn't become a billionaire by being a maverick investor. He became a billionaire by being an ace student in college and being one of the most discplined investors of our day. The man does his homework.

My point is, behind every fantasy-come-true is hours of backbreaking work. Britney Spears? I wonder how many days of the year she lived in a tour bus while she was trying to make her millions.

Let's take my personal dream job. I want to own either a bed and breakfast or a chain of boutique hotels. Hey, I've had guests over at my house, I can make a business of this! Uh... Courage is certainly an issue, but what I don't have is the discipline (right now). I don't have the wherewithal to undertake: bookeeping, cleaning, marketing, financing, reservations, cooking, hiring a staff, keeping track of taxes, dealing with problem guests, managing payroll, insurance, processing credit cards, zoning laws, etc. etc. etc.

Tattooed on my brain is a quote I found on BNB.com's inkeepers page. It goes something like, "It's great to be an innkeeper because you get to choose which 20 hours you work each day."

FINALLY in the last graf of this horrible, USA Today-esque fluff piece on BusinessWeek.com, there is a trifle of a good idea:

"... what's most important is having a sense of purpose in your job—even if it's filling your pocket so you can fill your soul after work ... "

Ahh, now we have something. If only this could have been the lead sentence of a story about finding purpose in the job you have now.

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1 comments | Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Val Kilmer contact has NOT emailed me back. This sucks.

However, I told my boss that I had made this contact so I HAVE TO score something from it! I'm going to have to get on the phone and get something ... This is my own fault though, because I shouldn't have told my boss that just yet. My favorite mantra for work: Underpromise and Overdeliver. (Shoot, I forget who to credit that to).



Today was one of THOSE DAYS. Yesterday I had an 11-hour day at work, then did about two hours of work at home, trying to get ahead so that today I could feel caught up. This always seems to backfire, and today rather than being proactive, I am exhausted.

Amazingly, I was walking to lunch today thinking how I was lucky to have a break, and how nice it was outside. The leaves finally changed last week, and it's very pleasant and fall-like here. Not more than an hour later, I was feeling like I couldn't sit in a cubicle for another second.

How do you get through these moments?

I am going to do some mad self-promotion of this post, because I really want some comments! *crosses fingers*

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Cartoon from The New Yorker.

1 comments | Sunday, October 15, 2006

Penelope Trunk had a great post about your circle of friends (click here to read it). So this week, EVEN amid the enormous amount of work I have to do, I am going to try and make one real-life (not online! and not work-related!) friend. This little goal actually does fall very far down on my priorities, but I think it's really important to acheive this in order to have more balanced work and social life. I used to have a to-do list, but now I have a to-do pile ... recently I figured out that thinking about this to-do pile can cause my stress to peak and trigger a migraine. Nice, huh!?

One thing they don't tell you when you graduate from college is that it is extremely hard to make genuine friends out in the real world! College is set up in such a way, in my opinion at least, that it's pretty hard not to meet new people. But I must go forth!

Update: I couldn't find this link earlier, but here is a great post about how having a good friend at work can increase your happiness. This is so true. Right before my aforementioned LOW point at my job this summer, a good pal quit. Click here to read the Life@work post.

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Digg It!

3 comments | Friday, October 13, 2006

I recently was told I could get two new employees. It's been a couple years since I had any part in recruiting, and all I have to say is I now have much more appreciation for recruiters! Additionally, I've had a chance to sift through dozens of resumes, and being on the receiving end, I really feel like I know how to improve my own resume! Here are some off-the-cuff observations:

* I really only read the headers on resumes. Make 'em bold and interesting.

* If you don't send all the materials asked for in the listing, I will be annoyed.

* Your "snazzy" cover letter telling me I've found the perfect candidate might be okay for a marketing job, but it annoys me.

* Two page resumes, if formatted correctly and include a wealth of legitimate experience, are okay.

* Respectfully worded cover letters are best.

* I do NOT care that you can speak Latin. Please tailor your resume to this position.

* Nothing good can ever be written in the "Objectives" section of a resume. Leave it out.

* If you have a personal web site with more work samples, that rocks.


0 comments | Monday, October 09, 2006

I think there is inherent value in not only networking in the traditional sense, but reinforcing the networks you have. For example, when I'm at a conference, I always am sure to say hello to the people I already know. But I realized during this last trip that I've been in my industry long enough that I know enough people now that I can sort of "hang out" in that safety net ... this inhibits me from meeting new people.

Alas, I did have one really successful networking moment last week. Well, we shall see anyway, I have yet to get the contact to follow up with me. But it went like this: After his presentation, I elbowed my way up to the front. I nervously waited in line as the contact was talking with other people [who I assumed must be more important and more interesting than me!]. It's at times like this that I say to myself, "Be a man! Be a man! Be a man!" (I can hear the screams of feminists reading this post; but to look at all these men in suits just walking around so sure of themselves, well, it's a little mantra that's always worked for me.) I was also doubly nervous because this contact looked like a young Val Kilmer.

So business card at the ready, I said "Hello, my name is Jane. I enjoyed your presentation. I have this project, would you be interested in being part of it?" <--- See what I did here, I had something to offer. He said yes, and seemed really glad I offered. Once he went into friendly mode, I was able to calm down and chat like a normal, non-moron. I was lucky this time that I had something to offer -- many times I hate "cold-calling"-type introductions because I really have nothing by way of a reason for introducing myself. This time went well though.

We traded business cards, and this afternoon I am going to email him. Which brings me to another point -- I think I probably rely on e-mail too much. I sometimes wonder if telephone messages are some how more valuable -- as if the message recipient will feel more obligated to return the call. I don't know. But I know I'm much more comfortable with e-mail, where I can backspace over any stupid things that I say.

0 comments | Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A quick post from the road! I'll add a picture and check my grammar later ...

** Also, a note on the title, as I would hate for my dear readers to think that I believe them to be morons. Actually, I wanted to avoid the "For Dummies" cliche, and the word moron popped into my head.

So yesterday, I left my hotel room with only one business card. At the very least, trading business cards is an excuse to talk to someone. It's an easy ceremony that can be quick and painless, or if you swing it right, you can get a conversation going.

Being shy, I need the business card dance. So I hauled ass back to my hotel to get them during the lunch. The irony is, I gave up all the schmoozing I could have done at the luncheon, and did I end up meeting anyone new and exchanging business cards? No. Not for the entire rest of the afternoon.


--More stories on the way--

0 comments | Thursday, September 21, 2006

Everything I need to know about Zen Buddhism, I learned from my father. Well, almost!

The man is unflappable. He yelled at me once in my 25 years of life. I don't even remember what it was about, probably because I was so shocked at the new experience of him yelling that I blacked out.

But my dad has worked at the same job for 25 years; he never failed to finish a task. And so for this reason and others, I've learned the value of sticking to a task and seeing it through.

As I indicated in my first post, I want this blog to focus on making the best of the job you have. Many of us who live in the middle of the country -- somewhere other than the opportunity-laden job markets of L.A. or New York -- don't have the ability to figure out what of the 100 jobs available is closest to our dream job. In many smaller towns, there are a few good employers, and the rest is retail or Taco Bell. Not to mention that being young and inexperienced further narrows your opportunities.

If you're in this position, now is the time to embrace some of the Buddhist ideals, such as those I read in The Life of Milarepa; among those ideals is that wanting breeds wanting. If you want, and you get what you want, are you satisfied? No. Soon enough, you'll want again.

In other words, the grass is not always greener on the other side.

Granted, if you are miserable, you may need to switch jobs. You genuinely may be in a horrible, life-sucking situation. But how do you know?

About six months ago, I was at a low point in my job. I mean LOW. I spent hours and hours searching for other jobs while at work (that's so satisfying to do when you're pissed!) and eventually I had a couple job offers; though the pay was lower. During the few weeks that I was planning on taking one of those jobs, I kept a list of everything I hated about my current job. I was going to launch my rant about the company during my exit interview. However ... you know what the common denominator in a lot of those problems was?


If I really was honest with myself, I could fix some of those problems. The others I could ignore if I took on a Taoist mentality, and the rest I could bring up in reviews, or with HR, or what have you.

By now I'm preaching. But this is the theory behind my anti-quitting mantra. Don't switch jobs JUST to switch -- make sure it's a better opportunity. I'd like to throw this out to the professional recruiters for comment, but I would imagine one job for several years rather than three jobs in three years looks better on your resume. (?)

One more quick story: One of the jobs I was thinking about taking during my LOW point was at another local office. On MySpace, I met a gal in the same field as me, in the same town as me, and in the same position -- bored.

Now, we talked via e-mail, and I found out that she had applied to my company and I had applied to her company; both of us got offers and both rejected the offers due to pay issues. We discussed the "actual" job tasks at each others' companies, and you know what? They were equally boring.

photo credit: Marty Knapp


Okay, I am going to a big conference this week, and I will be rubbing elbows with people who I really really want to be my friend (in a professional way, of course!)

Being an introvert, "networking" is extremely hard for me. But I know it's the key to my success. So next week I plan to post real-life stories of my attempts at social networking. This isn't my first go at it, but I still have no skills in getting strangers to 1.) notice me; 2.) share valuable information with me; 3.) trust me; and 4.) consider me a valuable contact. Not to mention it's no fun being the youngest [female] in a exhibition hall full of balding men in black suits.



You're young. You have dreams. You want to change the world and exercise all of your brain cells. Your cubicle is starting to feel like a prison cell.

I know. But don't start searching for a job during your lunch hour. Because you'll just be in another entry-level job across town.

Bob works with university-level interns who are employed by a variety of companies. He told me that their recent complaint was this: "My internship sucks. I'm doing grunt work. I want to contribute."

My first rseponse is that the suckiness of your internship is most likely not unusual, nor is it mostly likely the fault of your employer. Granted, a small percentage of those interns probably had a genuinely crappy employer. But for most, their experience is typical, and so is their employer.

Why am I talking about interns? Because your first job will be similar to these internships. Welcome to the whacky world of "Entry Level!"

I'd first like to ask readers: If you're sitting in a cube doing data entry, how can you make your situation better? Please post your comments.

My own response is, first of all, remember you are entry level. You don't get to do anything fun until you prove you can do a basic task WELL. So kick that data-entry task's ass.

Now what? Stop expecting to run the company. I don't care where you went to school, you are a 20-something, and most likely your superiors are 30 or 40 or 50. So you aren't going to be CEO tomorrow.

"But I have great ideas! If I could just contribute, I wouldn't fail!"

The road to being an ACTUAL contributor is long. But of course we 20-somethings want it now now now. And we can't understand why our awesome ideas aren't appreciated. So how do you make the situation better? Get your first tasks done well, or you'll be screwed. Then ask yourself, "what am I not doing now, that I'd like to be doing?" The answer to this question has to be tangible and specific, so you can't answer simply "contribute" or "save the world." A better answer would go something like "I wish I could help design the product," or, "I wish I could help with marketing."

Most companies really do want to keep high-performing young employees. They don't want these employees to feel like they have no career track and leave for another job, so they set up really generic career paths that might not appeal to you.

So ask your manager to help you get on the track you want to be on (employee reviews are a good time for this sort of stuff): "Boss lady, I'd really like to start learning about product design. It's where I want to go with my career in this company. Could I sit in on some meetings or observe the process?" If she says yes, you will get to see the dynamics of the group you so badly want to join. Maybe after a time of being a quiet observer, you could peep out an idea now and then.

But now you're in the door at least. DO NOT ASK IF YOU CAN HELP DESIGN THE PRODUCT! You are the newbie. Respect those who have crawled up the ladder -- and remember, they aren't going to hand over their jobs any time soon, so be patient on promotions. But should something open up, there you are, ready to go.

Now get back to work. That spreadsheet isn't going to fill itself out.

1 comments | Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Welcome to the maiden voyage of my blog.

In recent months, I've become an obsessive blog-reader, and I have two categories of blogs in my favorites list: Celeb blogs like Trent, Gawker and even Dealbreaker, and work-life blogs like Brazen Careerist, Escape from Cubicle Nation and life@work.

Surfing the Web can be a crapshoot when it comes to actual content versus advertising, and there are so many dead ends. Blogs, however, are what the web is meant to be. A network of people with endless ideas, opinions and debates.

And the best blogs are heavy on links, which makes discovering new sites and new blogs an endless game. I love it. (Lots of links also are evidence that the blogger actually reads, or actually uses some facts to support his opinions).

But ... all these career blogs I read daily have lacked something, and if I'm good at anything, it's finding a niche and filling it. They all seemed to promote change, or were otherwise aimed at a middle-aged crowd with more means to change than I have. I am currently 25. I've been at my first job out of college for three-and-a-half years. For my company's size, which is about 300 people locally and 500 worldwide, I would qualify as middle management. I have a lot of bills to pay, a tiny savings account and a husband in school. So for now, money buys security, which for me is happiness.

So, this blog will look at the working life of 20-somethings. Please share your stories with me, but note that this is not going to be a forum for whining. This is not going to be a blog about quitting your day job or finding your "perfect work" or life's purpose. A good title for this blog would have been, "At the time being, I'm young, and at the bottom of the ladder, stuck in a cubicle, but I'm going to stay in a job that I don't totally like and make the best of it."

Not too catchy though.

I also want all discussion and posting to be heavy on reality, and not so much on idealism. Particularly in blogs about finding a job, I see stories like "Jane camped out in the reception area of Company A for three days until she could meet with a recruiter. Her persistence paid off and she got the job!" Sure, nice story. Inspiring? No. Do that at my company, and we'll call the police, you crazy nut job...

With all this in mind, "20 and Working" is officially launched.

I've toyed around with the idea of blogging for some time; a goofy web site aimed at 20-somethings actually asked me to do a blog on pop culture once, but I declined. If I'm to move forward with this "personal branding" stuff that the experts say is so important, I can't have my sarcastic comments on celebs be my claim to fame. Now allow me to be immediately a hypocrite: I'm going to remain anonymous for an indefinite period of time. And unlike Penelope or Pamela, I'm not going to name names in my first-hand accounts of working life.

Instead I'll refer to myself as Jane, and just replace names and specific duties with annoying things like "John Smith" so as to remain anonymous. Because no matter what I say, or how crabby I am about my job, I actually don't want to get fired.

Cartoon above is the excellent and hilarious work of Toothpaste for Dinner.