Saturday, December 29, 2007

Awkward Moments at an Otherwise Enjoyable Dinner Party

Last night, my wife and I journeyed off to my friend's house where he and his wife cooked dinner for us and two other couples. The food, prepared by the host who is a chef, was excellent, and the night was a lot of fun. But after dinner things got a little weirdish.

One couple, who I've known for a long time but I'm not really tight with, is, shall we say, dysfunctional. They've been together for about 14 years and had a child together at a young age. They've got their problems, like every couple does, though admittedly their problems are probably more substantial than most. But I won't get into that here.

Anywho, the otherwise enjoyable dinner party got rather awkward after the wife in this couple had a bit too much to drink and started letting loose her already potent mouth. For about a half hour the conversation between the eight of us seemed to keep coming back to her problems with her husband-- his poor diet, his weight gain, and on and on until we somehow get entangled with the subject of girls he slept with when he was younger and other similar personal issues. At this point, her husband is visibly frustrated with his wife, blushing, trying to clarify his actions, and was clearly ready to leave. But she kept jumping on his case over and over.

For the rest of us, we had some laughs at first, but after a few minutes of this bash-session, we all got uncomfortable and quiet as the rampage went on. We tried to deflect things or change the subject, but inevitably it came back to hearing about the problems she has with him. And from what I understand, this goes on all the time with them. Finally they realized they had to go and pick up their daughter from the babysitter. This came as a sigh of relief to all of us, I think.

Lesson learned: don't air your dirty laundry in front of your friends... especially after engaging in an otherwise enjoyable dinner!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Joys of Finding and Starting a New Job

Is there anything more agonizing than the job hunting process? From start to finish there is nothing fun about this ordeal. Think for a moment about all that it takes to get a new job and get started at it:

1. The decision to find a new job. For some it may be easy, such as if you currently don't have a job, or if you truly despise what you have to do day in and day out. For most folks though there is a groggy middle-ground. You feel safe where you are, but perhaps your job is dull, repetitive, not well-paid, or an infinite other number of problems. Or perhaps you hate your actual job but love your co-workers, or viceversa . This makes for a difficult dilemma-- "should I stay or should I go" as the Clash once said-- because you may be in a comfortable situation, but you'd like something better... however, there's always that notion in the back of your mind that your next job won't work out, or perhaps leaving your current job will jeopardize you and/or your family in some way (real or perceived), or various other factors that play into it. Ultimately, overcoming this first step and saying, "I want a new job, now I have to go out and get it," is the most important one when all is said and done. You either stay and tough it out, or leave and tough it out. Nothing is straightforward one way or another.

2. The resume. Next you have to polish your resume. Undertaking this process can be easy or daunting, depending on your level of perfectionism and your estimated opinion of what prospective employers are looking for. If you want to throw an average resume out there, you will certainly not be stressed over this step. However, if you begin to consider what other applicants might be writing on their resumes, as well as trying to determine what would most impress a hiring manager... well, you're in for a lot of self-analysis and poring over details. There's no real right or wrong way to put together a resume (other than some general guidelines such as avoiding typos and using poor grammar), and in fact if you were to ask 10 objective people about your resume, you'll like get 18 different answers about how it should look and what it should say. Resumes will forever be an imperfect and maddening science, at least as long as the job search process works like it does now.

3. The job search. In today's world it's rather easy to look for a job posting. Simply go online to a small handful of job sites, enter your criteria, and boom, you get dozens of listings. You can even have job openings emailed to you with various services likeCareerbuilder and Monster. Unfortunately, that's not the best way to do it in the real world. Let's face facts here: Job boards are full of job postings that you'll never get. Perhaps the company knows who it wants to hire already, but by company rules, they have to post the job to outsiders, meaning you're just aspeed bump in the road to hiring someone else. Or inevitably there will be the perfect job for you but it's 2 hours from your house and you're not ready to move. And so on and so forth. Instead you'd probably be better off going the hard way: networking. Start talking to people about your job search, but more importantly SHOW these people what you're capable of doing and they'll be more than willing to talk about you amongst their peers and help you get the job you want. This process takes longer, but in the end you'll have better results. Building solid relationships is much better than blindly throwing around a solid resume.

4. The numbers game. Whether you're replying to job openings, networking, or simply finding companies in the phone book and sending off resumes blindly (not encouraged, but may be worth doing if you're really in a pinch), you are still just a number in the machine of job hiring. After a while you'll find that it will take you "X" number of resume mailings, to get one interview. Some people will have an easier time than others (based on their experience, chosen field, etc.), but whatever the case, there is a ratio that will correlate to the number of responses. Perhaps it's 5 resume sends to 1 response, or perhaps 10:1 or maybe even 100:1. Just realize that you're not the only one applying, and you may never hear back from the vast majority of companies you try and reach. Daunting indeed, but something you must quickly get over and keep on avenging.

5. The interview. Okay, so you got that precious response, now you have to go present yourself to one or more interviewers. Just like in putting together a resume, there's no set criteria that works for every interview, just a few general guidelines like dress appropriately, answer questions openly and honestly, and show who you are. Otherwise, you're at the mercy of the interviewer and hopefully you'll appease them on that given day. Throw in the fact that you're secretly skipping out on your current job to do this, and you're in a very uncomfortable position. Encouraging, huh!?

6. The wait. So you had your interview. Now you wait to hear back from your interviewer. Perhaps it's a few days, perhaps a couple of weeks, but hopefully the amount of time delay will be cleared up during the interview. In any event, it's challenging to sit back and
wait for an answer, especially as you have to keep going to your
current job every day. Meanwhile, as you wait to hear back, you need to decide what kind of offer you would expect from them, and whether or not you'd even want to work at this place. Sometimes you interview perfectly and get the job offered to you, but the place of employment just isn't up your alley... you have to work this out in your heart. Sometimes your instincts are right on this one and you're better off not taking the job. This is up to you, but perhaps others can help you make the decision.

7. The offer. Mr. or Ms. Interviewer has now offered you the job. (Congrats!) First is the difficult part of negotiating your salary and benefits, which may not be negotiable but are important to have all on paper right up front. Assuming you accept, now you have the fun part of telling your current boss that you're leaving. This may be really difficult if you're very attached to your job, or it may be a breeze if you're actually hoping your boss will let you leave right away (aka--getting fired). Giving that letter of resignation can be a sigh of relief or a ball of stress.Everybody's in a different situation, just be prepared.

8. The start. Day 1 on your new job... meeting people and trying to
remember names, taking in the atmosphere, learning all the ropes to
your position, getting a feel for the rhythm of work, and all of the
other experiences make for another stressful situation, though one that will dissipate over time. In the end, you will hopefully get used to it all and succeed. And if not, well, you can always go ahead and start the search all over again!

Best of luck in your hunt... may you be a fortunate one and find your dream job without all of this hassle!

(Thanks to PeoplePlus Consulting for the image!)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Flyers, Penguins and 107,000 Puckheads

Yesterday, local (Philly-area) media reported that the Flyers and Penguins are dabbling with the notion of playing a regular season game at Penn State University in Happy Valley in January of 2009. Outdoors. In Beaver Stadium.

Let me just say that this would be the wildest game I could possibly imagine.

Not only is the Flyers/Pens rivalry building steam especially after last week's scrappy 8-2 battle that the Flyers won, but having it at a neutral location that State College provides, and having it at the country's second largest stadium in the dead of winter just sounds like the a recipe for mayhem. Up to 107,000 fans cheering on a bitter rivalry would be crazy. But in a good way.

Having gone to Penn State I realize that roughly 1/3 of the students are Philly sports fans, 1/3 are Pittsburgh sports fans, and the rest are "miscellaneous"... mostly New York sports fans and a mix of others. So the built-in battleground between the two Pennsylvania cities is already there, and the party scene would be well-represented on both sides.

My only real question is... if you're sitting at the top row of Beaver Stadium in a full house... how in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks would you be able to see the puck???

Other than that, I say... play on!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Shouting Out a Web 4.0 Prediction

So here we are in the world of "Web 2.0"-- or maybe it's Web 3.0 by now, I don't even know. The main concept being that the internet has grown from a series of static sites to robust, interactive tools. Feedback, from a marketer's perspective, is probably the biggest thing going. You can see customer reviews, people talking about products on blogs, pay-per-click ads producing instant results, and many other web intricacies that show that customers can have an instant and widespread effect on how products are marketed.

My prediction now is that the web will become increasingly more sophisticated in how customers can affect performance of a site, sale of a product, and so on. I realized this just moments ago, in fact.

I was in my Yahoo Mail account. My cursor was at the top of the screen and I dragged it down to the middle to click on a message. But during the course of my drag, it crossed a banner ad that automatically expanded when rolled-over, thus blocking the message I was trying to click on. I inadvertently did this three times in a row. After the third instance, I yelled a loud, profanity-laced statement that was directed simultaneously at Yahoo, my computer, and the marketing industry in general for being so annoying at that moment.

And thus sprung the idea that yelling at your computer will, someday in the future, help deliver instant feedback to Yahoo and the advertiser, to let them both know that these kinds of ads are obnoxious to me, the consumer. It will be a beautiful combination of instant gratification on my part and a helpful tool to advertisers to understand what works in reaching consumers and what doesn't.

I look forward to that day when voice-interaction will be able to do all the work for me. That way I won't have to write a blog post about it and hope for a change... instead I'll just have to yell and I'll get what I want right away.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Must Watch Online VIdeo

For anybody who's ever thrown anything out (and this means YOU!), it's vital that you watch this amazing video: The Story of Stuff.

Learn a little and spread the word. Many thanks.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Dead Animal Bookend

This morning on my way into work, I passed by a shabby building that only ever seems to be occupied by people for a couple of times per year. Today was one of them.

The parking lot of this establishment was full with pick up trucks of all shapes, colors, and sizes. And in front of the main entrance, I had the pleasure of seeing three dead deer strung up and hanging from a horizontal pole. Yep, hunting season is here.

Clearly this usually-desolate building must be a butcher shop for hunters. Now I'm fine with people hunting legally and controlling the deer population and bringing home a winter's supply of food, but I must say I was quite skeeved to see this display of carcasses on my way to work. Not really the best way to start the day, in my book.

To add insult to injury, at about 4:30 I'm sitting at my computer, facing the window that spans the wall behind my computer desk. Out of nowhere I hear a "thunk" and witness a small brown bird land on the brick window ledge outside. It twittered for a moment and stopped moving soon thereafter.

Nice bookend to my day today... dead deer hanging out in plain sight, and a bird committing death-by-window before my very eyes. Ironically, everything in between those moments wasn't all that much better...

One Disadvantage to Having a Beard

I've had a cropped beard for about four years now. Today I realized for the first time that, unlike when I was younger (and beardless), I can no longer hold a pen between my nose and upper lip. I used to do this all the time, but I think I stopped once I realized how germ-infested pens can be, especially in an office where multiple, unsanitary humans may handle them. So I have since kept them at a safe distance from my nose and mouth to prevent contagion inhalation.

Anyway, while I was working on a project this morning I idly started to try and do the upper-lip pen hold and the pen just kept sliding out. It was kind of sad that I couldn't do this trick any more. Memories.

On the bright side, my life is otherwise quite good in spite of this recently discovered misfortune.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Stock Market Advice: Ride It Out!

Now I do not profess to be a financial wiz (nor is this post intended to be interpreted as professional advice and all information herein is strictly this writer's opinion... ha! That's my legalese for this financial post), but I've heard a lot of people worrying about the U.S. stock market lately. My opinion: save the energy and channel your worrying into something more productive.

The market has been extremely volatile of late and from all indications it seems like this trend will continue for a while, at least until the mortgage situation, strength of the dollar, and consumer spending show signs of improvement. One day the market is up big, the next day it plummets. It's a line-graph maker's dream... or a financial wizard's hell.

What this means to the average investor is... just ride it out. Unless you have to use the money you have invested in the market sometime soon, in which case you shouldn't have your money in the stock market to begin with, you're better off just rolling with the ups and downs. Over the long run, if you're invested in strong stocks and/or mutual funds, you'll see the returns flow your way while everybody else is busy trying to time the market. It ain't worth the aggravation to do this, and it ain't worth all of the brokerage commissions you'll be dishing out. So just hold on tight, make sure you're invested in the companies you feel are the best (which is always true regardless of the market's short term trends), and let things handle themselves. You'll do yourself a world of good. And you can use all of that "worrying energy" to improve your life in some other way.

Good luck and good investing!