Category Archives: career

The Career Venn Diagram

Every now and then, people ask me for career advice.  Or, you know.  They start complaining about their careers and I annoy them with unsolicited advice.  😉  Either way, my advice for choosing a career comes down to:

  1. Things you can do
  2. that people will pay you to do
  3. that don’t suck.

As a Venn Diagram, it looks like this:

CareerVenn

(Sorry about the graphic. MS Paint FTW!)

You’d be surprised–or maybe you wouldn’t–by the resistance I get to this suggestion.  “Well, that’s fine for you because you’re in IT, but no one will pay me to sing opera/write poetry/play World of Warcraft/play ice hockey/go to Mars/etc.”

I didn’t specify that it had to be your lifelong dream.  I know that little children usually say they want to be an astronaut, or a ballerina, or write books, or be the President, and don’t generally say they want to be accountants or purchasers or write limericks about snack foods.  I just said a job that doesn’t suck.  Apparently, many people believe that if it doesn’t suck, no one will pay them to do it.  Not true!

Lots of people settle for two out of three.  (Things you can do that people will pay you to do is the only viable two out of three.  You can do things you can do that don’t suck for no money if you’re independently wealthy, or you can try to do things that don’t suck that pay well but that you’re ill-suited to doing.  For most people, neither of those will last long.)  Of course, you need to eat, but I always urge people to go for three out of three.

So, if you’re someone who’s considering a transition–like someone I know–think of the Venn diagram when you’re doing your research.  Don’t invest a lot of time and energy into moving into a high-paying direction you hate, or a high-unemployment and/or low-paying direction.  They pay some people to play ice hockey, but if you’re 45 and have bad knees it probably won’t be you.  That doesn’t mean your life has to suck.  There are alternatives.

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How Not to Use Linked In to Get a Job

URGENTLY SEEKING WINDOWS SYSADMIN in Baltimore, MD.  Email me your resume.  Recruiter@HouseofMadness.com

  • Plz see my profile –Dumb Schlub in U.S.
  • I am very interested in this position! please see my profile! –Dude in the Middle East
  • Please see my profile. –Other Dude Who Can’t Follow Directions

I AM URGENTLY LOOKING FOR A NEW JOB!  Calgon, take me away!  I’m a senior Oracle guru with 200 years of experience and I work for ‘tards.

  • Plz see my profile –Dumb Schlub in U.S.
  • I am very interested in this position! please see my profile! –Dude in the Middle East
  • Please see my profile. –Other Dude Who Can’t Follow Directions

In Active Directory Group Policy, is there any way to restrict printers based on IP address?

  • Plz see my profile –Dumb Schlub in U.S.
  • I am very interested in this position! please see my profile! –Dude in the Middle East
  • Please see my profile. –Other Dude Who Can’t Follow Directions

Unix System Administrator in Tallahassee, FL.  NO SPONSORSHIPS, MUST BE U.S. CITIZEN.  Click here.

  • Plz see my profile –Dumb Schlub in U.S.
  • I am very interested in this position! please see my profile! –Dude in the Middle East
  • Please see my profile. –Other Dude Who Can’t Follow Directions

Which version of Windows Server would you recommend for this particular hardware/application combination?

  • Linux.  😉
  • Plz see my profile –Dumb Schlub in U.S.
  • Linux.  It’s 100% secure and unhackable out of the box, immune to viruses, never needs patching, and very easy to administer.  Much easier than Windows!
  • I am very interested in this position! please see my profile! –Dude in the Middle East
  • Linux.  😉
  • Anything other than 2008 R2 Enterprise means that you are a peon.
  • Please see my profile. –Other Dude Who Can’t Follow Directions
  • This application doesn’t run on linux.
  • Get a new application!  😉
  • Linux.  😉
  • The latest version your hardware and application support.
  • I am very interested in this position! please see my profile! –Dude in the Middle East

I’m just sayin’.

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Towards the Mountain

Neil Gaiman did a great commencement address where he talked about careers in the arts.  I really related to the bits about how he considered his goal to support himself writing as “the mountain,” and how he took or rejected jobs based on whether they took him towards or away from the mountain.

I think this relates to all careers, and not just careers in the arts.  All jobs lead you either towards where you’re supposed to be, or away from it.  I’ve always had a strong sense of choosing the job that takes me closer to the mountain.

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You and Your Resume

I should really call this post, “Everything I ever learned about job hunting I learned from writing,” even though that’s not really true.  However, there are, in fact, writing links in here.  (I’m a published short fiction author under a pseudonym.)

[Note:  I have a new job and am not looking at this time. I do, however, have friends and relatives who have requested resume help.]

The first thing you need to keep in mind when job hunting is that it’s not personal.  It’s not about you at all.  It’s about an employer who has a need to fill.  When I was job hunting, I kept this link in mind. A sample:

Anyway, as I was saying, it realio trulio honestly isn’t about you the writer per se. If you got rejected, it wasn’t because we think you’re an inadequate human being. We just don’t want to buy your book. To tell you the truth, chances are we didn’t even register your existence as a unique and individual human being. You know your heart and soul are stapled to that manuscript, but what we see are the words on the paper. And that’s as it should be, because when readers buy our books, the words on the paper are what they get.

This all becomes clearer if you think about it with your reader-mind instead of your author-mind. Authors with books are like mothers with infants: theirs is the center of the universe, uniquely wonderful, and will inevitably and infallibly be loved by all who make its acquaintance. This has its good aspects; books, like infants, need someone to unconditionally love them, and champion all their causes. On the other hand, it can be a form of blindness.

Your reader-mind has a different understanding of the whole book thing. Your reader-mind knows what it’s like to walk into a bookstore, or a Costco, or a Target, and confront a wire rack the size of your living-room wall, with slot after slot filled with books. At that moment, standing there in front of that rack, you don’t much care about encouraging new writers, or helping create a more diverse literary scene, or giving some author a chance to express herself. You want a book that will please you, and suit your needs, and do it right now. Dear reader, you are many things, but “gentle” isn’t one of them.

So, to extend the metaphor, pretend you’re hiring and have five hundred resumes on your desk and then look at yours.  (This may be easier if you’ve ever been on a hiring committee or sorted through resumes, but even if you haven’t, imagine.)  A recent article said that recruiters look at your resume for 6 seconds.  Make it easy for them, and put the stuff they mention specifically up near the top of the lists.  Don’t bury the shiny halfway down the page.  They might not get that far.

I also had a couple of people say that they weren’t sure what to do with the education portion.  Look, if you’re applying for jobs that say, “Associate’s degree or four years of relevant experience,” and you have five years of relevant experience and no degree, don’t put your high school under education or apologize for not having a degree (or, worse, claim you’re an MIT graduate).  Just don’t.  Leave that section off.  Opt for a compelling silence.  The resume police aren’t going to come get you if you leave off information they’re not even asking you to provide.  If, on the other hand, you have a degree in an unrelated subject, well, so do I.  Put it on there.  Your Master’s degree in Divinity from Harvard will give you and the interviewer something to talk about.

Cover letters:  This is a fiction cover letter, but I used this basic strategy for my job hunting cover letters.  Several years ago, someone asked me about cover letters, saying, in an aggrieved tone of voice and with an accompanying eyeroll, “So, I just rehash what my resume already says?”

No!  You do an eclectic celebration of the dance! You do Fosse Fosse Fosse Fosse Fosse! You do Martha Graham Martha Graham Martha Graham, or Twyla Twyla Twyla, or Michael Kidde Michael Kidde Michael Kidde Michael Kidde, or Madonna Madonna Madonna Madonna… but you keep it all inside.

Sorry.

No, you personalize your resume to the job listing, and your cover letter is a chance to explain why you are FREAKING AWESOME and perfect for the job by highlighting what’s already in your resume.  You know, in case they miss it by only looking at your resume for six seconds.

These are not a dry rehashes of your entire life up until this point.  They’re  marketing documents, and you’re the product.

By the way, you know they’re googling you, right?

And don’t forget the thank-you note.

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