Archive for March, 2009

Cheers and Jeers for March 30, 2009

Originally published on MySpace on March 30, 2009.

Cheers: to the food carts downtown that make my lunch affordable and delicious.

Cheers: to my friend Jean who comes over and drinks my wine
in exchange for letting me vent.

Cheers: to Sam, who owns Olive and Twist in The Pearl. Great
host and great martinis!

Cheers: to Kevin Rankin and Kleveland for a fantastic
evening at Dante’s Saturday night. And punking Jon Olsen from PDX Exposed was priceless.

Jeers: to the cranky lady in the VIP balcony at Dante’s who
thought Jen was being rude. Sheesh!


Cheers:
to the Portland Art Museum Rental Gallery for making
great art affordable for the masses. I took a friend there over the weekend and
helped him pick out some art for his new place. You can rent beautiful
paintings and sculptures for three months at a time, and then decide if you
want to buy them or trade them in for something different.

Jeers: to Lancôme for charging $75 for an ounce of moisturizer. No, I did not buy it.

Cheers: to my physical therapist Erik who got me 15 degrees more range of motion in my shoulder today.

Jeers: to my physical therapist who killed me today while he was helping me get 15 degrees more range of motion. Ouch!

More later…

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Being Unemployed: Survival Skills 101

Originally published on MySpace on March 27, 2009

Being unemployed alters your world. I was constantly chasing the next
contract job when I was a consultant, and there were many times over
the past two years when I didn’t know where my next job was going to
come from. This was all fine and good when the economy was booming,
because I knew there would always be someone who needed a contract
writer. However, life changed when the economy crashed and the world
did a total reset.

All of a sudden I was fighting 125 other people for a single job, and
everyone was underbidding me because they were hungrier than I was. My
hourly rate was cut in half in a matter of months, and I started to
wonder how I was going to live on half of what I was making before.

Survival Skills 101

Reduce your Expenses

Eating Out
Stop eating out. Period. When I was looking for expenses to cut, eating
out was the first to go. I literally cut my Visa bill in half when I
stopped eating out.

Coffee
Brew your own! Just think about how many cups of coffee you can get
from a 1-pound bag of beans. If you must have a latte from a coffee
shop, cut it down to once a week as a treat.

Utilities
Get your utility company to average your gas and/or electric bills.
That way you know exactly what you have to pay every month. I got a
$358 gas bill after the winter storm we had in December, and that’s
when I decided to average my bill.

Avoid the Mall
If you’re a person who can’t walk out of Nordstrom or Macy’s without
being tempted to buy something, don’t go to the mall! I spent so much
less money by just staying away from the temptation.

Use the Library
Did you know that you can get DVDs and CDs at the library? If you are
cutting expenses, cut the rental fees and the late fees completely by
using the library.

Cut the Cable
When I was cutting expenses I cut my TV cable down to the basic
channels, which was about $10 a month. The unexpected bonus was we
didn’t get the Disney Channel anymore. The overacting and laugh tracks
on those kid shows is enough to drive a mom to drink. However, my kids
quickly discovered that they could watch most of their favorite TV
shows on the Internet whenever they wanted to anyway, so Hannah Montana
didn’t disappear completely. Sigh.

Find Free (or cheap) Fun
I am one of those people who is really good at being frugal. My
expenses are really low, and I can live on almost nothing. However, I
will not deprive myself of fun. Even when I was being really frugal I
would take my kids to the movies once a month (always to the cheaper
matinee of course). We always brought our own snacks, and asked for
cups for water at the concession stand.

Geocaching is free and fun for kids. We did it without the aid of a GPS
and still found caches. Good for an entire day of adventure.

Have Happy Hour at Home
Remember when you were in college, or even just living out on your own
for the first time, and you used to know where all of the best happy
hours were? You knew which bars had cheap drinks and free food, right?
Well, my girlfriends and I have organized happy hours in our homes.
Wine, cheese, crackers. Cheap, easy and fun. There are also plenty of
free wine tastings around town if you want to get out.

Needs Vs. Wants
Do you really need another pair of shoes, or do you just want them? Don’t buy anything that’s not an absolute necessity.

Clothes
I have three children. They grow out of clothes constantly. There is no
way I’m going to spend $40 on a pair of jeans for an 8-year old who
will grow out of them in three months. I have plenty of friends with
kids, and I asked them for hand-me-downs. I would get the clothes from
my friends and then just hang them up in my kids’ closets as if I had
bought them new. They never knew the difference, and they got some
really cool clothes!

Emotional Stability
You don’t realize how much of your emotional stability is tied to money
until you don’t have it anymore. There are many things that money can’t
buy, but it certainly buys you stability. I remember being consumed by
fear on a daily basis when I was between jobs. Fear, panic,
helplessness, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, are all emotions that
come to mind.

Which leads me to…

Emotional Reset
I would allow myself the freedom to have a complete emotional meltdown
(when my kids weren’t around) a few times a month. It was cathartic for
me to just cry and shout out loud whatever came to mind. Once I
released all of my fear and anxiety I knew I could find the strength to
pick myself up and keep rowing forward. It was my way of doing an
emotional reset.

Pity Party
If you’re going to wallow in self pity you might as well go all out and
throw yourself a party. Allow yourself to have the occasional pity
party, but put a time limit on it. Say, “Okay, I’m going to pity myself
for the next 30 minutes, and then I’m going to pick myself back up and
be done with that.” I even made myself a pity party cake once, because
it made me laugh, and humor really helps in these hard times.

Phone a Friend
I can’t tell you how many times I called friends just to ask for some
emotional support. Sometimes I just needed someone to tell me it was
going to be okay.

This economy is going to suck for a while. Just wrap your head around
that and accept it. Once you accept that you can be the river instead
of the rock.

,

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How I Landed a Great Job in this Lousy Economy

Originally published on MySpace on March 23, 2009

As most of you know I was a contract technical writer for the past two
years. However, what most of you don’t know is that I was doing it out
of necessity not by choice. Like a lot of you, I too was unemployed.

However, I recently found a great job in a dream company during the
worst economic times since the Great Depression. How did I do it? I
spent at least an hour every day for two years doing all of the things
I have listed below. These are my Cliff Notes for landing your dream
job, or at least a job that is a stepping stone to your dream job. This
is a really long blog, and I’m sure most of you won’t read it all. But
you at least have to scroll down and read the last section about first
impressions!

There is so much more to say, but I think I’ll just put it in a book and let you download it if you want it.

Find a Business Networking Group
A business networking group is a place where you can
go and meet people from all kinds of industries who may or may not be
able to connect you to someone who can help you get a job. I attended a
networking group called “The Breakfast Club” every other Tuesday
morning for a year, and made some fantastic connections.

Update Your Resume
Customize Your Resume Every Time
I know it sounds like overkill, but the only way you’re going to get a
job in this economy is if your skill set is an exact match to what the
hiring manager is looking for. If the job description says they’re
looking for a one-legged pirate who can knit, by God you’d better be a
one-legged pirate with lots of hand-knitted sweaters in your portfolio!

Have Someone Review Your Resume
Give your resume to someone in your industry and have them give you
constructive criticism. I probably have 10 different versions of my
resume thanks to all of the suggestions I got.

Know Which Industries are Hiring
I come from the land of high tech, but high tech isn’t doing so well
these days, so I had to broaden my search scope into other industries.
Let’s brainstorm here for a minute and come up with a few companies and
industries that are thriving in this economic downturn:

    • NetFlix. People are staying home more, going out less. NetFlix is hiring.
    • Certain media companies. The company I work for creates, supports and manages
      interactive TV applications that allow you to interact with
      applications on your TV.
      In the UK you can even buy stuff from QVC with your remote.
    • Be willing to change industries.


    Join an Industry Group
    I am a member of OEN (Oregon Entrepreneurs Network) and SAO (Software
    Association of Oregon). These groups hold business and social functions
    where you can meet all kinds of people, and get introduced to companies
    you’ve never heard of. Find an organization in your area and join!

    Subscribe to the Online Business Journals
    I subscribe to the headlines for three business journals: Portland,
    Puget Sound and Silicon Valley. Every day I get little snippets in my
    Inbox telling me which companies are laying people off, which new
    companies just got more funding, etc. This is the way you track where
    the jobs are.


    Create a Profile on LinkedIn
    Become a Master Networker on LinkedIn

    I have been online since the word was coined. Seriously. If there is a
    new business or social networking site in town I check it out. LinkedIn
    is a business networking site that allows you to keep in touch with
    current co-workers, ex co-workers, friends and recruiters.

    • If you’re not on LinkedIn, sign up. It’s free.
    • Create a profile that showcases your job experience.
    • Start looking for people you know to connect to.


      Ask for Recommendations
      Ask anyone you’ve ever worked with to write a recommendation for
      you on LinkedIn. These are public references that potential employers can view. The more recommendations you have on LinkedIn the better.

      Update Your Status

      • Change your status on LinkedIn at least once a week. Why? Because it keeps your
        name showing up at the top of everyone’s update list. It keeps you visible.
      • Put industry keywords in your status, because that’s how recruiters will find you.
        I swear if my status said, “Kelly is slaying SQL Server dragons and writing complex queries,”
        my profile would get views from all kinds of people in the database industry, and I would get
        contacted by recruiters.
      • Say you are interviewing for jobs even if you have no interviews lined up.

      Which brings me to…

      LinkedIn Keywords
      I’m not exactly sure how the LinkedIn search engine works, or how the
      paid part of the site works, but I will tell you that keywords are
      everything. If you are looking for work in the IT industry you better
      have buzzwords in your profile and in your status. Use hot words like
      “whitelisting” and “positive IT tools.”

      LinkedIn Jobs Page
      Linked in has a jobs page, and there were probably 25-45 jobs listed
      within 15 miles of my house at any given time. Not just job jobs, but
      great jobs. Many of the jobs actually give you the recruiter’s name, so
      you can apply directly. Many of the jobs say “recommendations
      preferred,” which is why I say get as many people to write
      recommendations for you as possible. It really pays off.

      Other Places to Find Work
      Create a Profile on Monster.com

      Create a profile on Monster.com, and sign up for the job alerts. Update
      your profile on a weekly basis, even if you only change one word,
      because it pops you to the top of the stack when employers are
      searching for people. You land in the “recently updated profiles”
      bucket.

      Which leads me to…

      Hang out a Shingle

      Start a business on your own. My fallback skill has always been
      writing, so I hung out my shingle and started my own contract writing
      business. How did I get that first job? A friend on MySpace. Gary
      (Garibaldi) hired me to help him with an RFP. How did I get the second
      job? LinkedIn jobs board. I interviewed for a sales engineer position,
      and I didn’t get the job, but they did hire me as a contract writer for
      almost a year, which was much more lucrative.

      Craigslist.com
      Yes, craigslist! Not only are there many jobs posted there, it’s also a great place to post your resume.

      I posted a mini resume on craigslist and got three
      contract jobs in less than a week. There are hundreds of people
      looking for jobs on craigslist so the key is to differentiate yourself.
      My headline was this:

      >>> Not Your Typical Tech Writer <<<

      The first line of my posting was something like, “Highly technical
      perfectionist with a Journalism degree, social skills and a sense of
      humor.” Then I had 10 bullet points that listed what my skills were.
      You have to differentiate yourself or you will get lost in the rubble.

      Register on Company Websites
      Go directly to the companies you want to work for and use their online
      registration to post your resume. And sign up for their job alerts!

      Get to Know Some Recruiters
      Some companies still have inside recruiters, but more often than not
      companies will hire outside recruiters to fill positions. I had
      recruiters coming out of the woodwork when I posted on craigslist, and
      I called every one of them, and then chose ONE to work with. Not all
      recruiters are created equal. Choose one who will go to bat for you.

      Get Someone to Hand-Walk Your Resume
      Many jobs on company websites are in the final stages of interviewing
      before you even see them posted. The only way you’re going to get an
      interview is to have an inside source who can tell you what jobs are
      going to be posted BEFORE they get posted. Have your insider walk your
      resume to the inside recruiter or the hiring manager’s desk.

      First Impressions Are Everything
      When I had been doing all of the above for two years and I still hadn’t
      been able to land a full-time job I had to ask myself why. Why did I
      always get down to the top two candidates and come in second? I finally
      decided to try something that even I didn’t believe would work: I
      changed the color of my hair. Why? Because most people, whether they
      will admit it or not, have preconceived notions about blondes. They are
      perceived to be flaky, fun and dumb.

      BEFORE AFTER

      I found myself having to work harder in interviews to
      overcome this misconception, so I said f*ck it, I’m coloring my hair!
      And guess what? I interviewed for a job at my current company once as a
      blonde and once as a brunette, and guess who got the job? The brunette.

      I know plenty of guys in their 50’s who colored their hair when they
      were interviewing so they would be perceived as being younger.

      The moral of the story is this: keep rowing even if it feels like you’re getting nowhere, think outside the box, and be willing to color your hair.

      And never ever give up!

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      Sailing the Coast of Italy with Captain Jack

      Originally published on MySpace on March 1, 2009

      What: Captain Jack and a sailboat full of women
      Where: The Coast of Italy
      When: May/June 2010
      The Ride: A 43-ft Sailboat (TBD)
      Why: Why not!

      I have a friend whom I’ll call “Captain Jack” (he wants to remain anonymous). Two days ago he casually suggested a sailing trip in Italy in 2010, with a bunch of people who write articles for various sailing magazines. I don’t quite remember if he invited me or I invited myself, but that’s not the point! These people are sailors and writers and I wanted to be part of the club dammit!

      We spoke by phone this morning, and started nailing down the dates and details for the trip. As “Plank Owner” (the first of the crew to commit to the trip) I get first choice of stateroom and bunk mate.

      Here’s the interesting part: the crew is all women, except for Captain Jack. Lest you think ill of Captain Jack, he’s a happily married man and his wife will be on the trip.

      I have never met any of these people in person, and I will be spending a week with them sailing the coast of Italy, getting to know them, and writing magazine articles.

      Captain Jack and his crew have been published many times. I have not, so this will be my challenge for the trip: get an article into a non-sailing magazine. I can’t imagine there not being enough fodder with a crew full of intelligent, savvy women, cruising along the coast of Italy. I’m feeling a another “Eat, Pray, Love” coming on!

      Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ll be 47. I can’t think of a better birthday present to myself.

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