Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Connecting on Linkedin

Though I’m usually sympathetic to students wanting to build their Linkedin connections, what commonly shuts down that open-heartedness is a generic invitation from someone I either don’t know or can’t remember meeting. The totally bland “I’d like to add you to my professional network” from Tom C. Now maybe I’ve met with Tom C in the past. Or then again, maybe I haven’t. Not to be rude but I’m not going to connect with someone whose face I can’t at least vaguely envision.
Instead, as a courtesy to your potential contact, refresh their memory as to the date or setting in which you last met. Or perhaps a shared conversational tidbit. Or mutual connection. Something to build a bridge for the reader in answer to their vague suspicion that they might be giving a virtual stranger access to their own connections. 

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 06/06 at 02:16 PM

How do I look? An Interview Checklist

Two people looking for work, one young and one old. What do they have in common? Appearance challenges guaranteed to reduce results to about zero.
On the upside, both are actually actively looking for work. Eager. Sincerely interested. But all that effort destined to be scuttled by first appearances.
So in case no human being catches you before you head out to meet and greet, here’s a nifty checklist you can use to catch yourself:
• Flip flops. Unless you live in the tropics or maybe Hawaii or maybe have incredible technical skills, count these out as acceptable foot wear—at least until you’re hired. Additionally nixed if your feet are grimy.
• 1960’s unkempt hippy-style clothes. Okay, I know they may be in style but if you must wear a long flowing skirt, make sure it is clean and tidy and that the elastic waistband is tight enough so there’s no danger of it sliding
      over your hips and hitting the floor without intervention. 
• Make up. Recent grad, middle aged woman—you need it! I hate it too but seriously, few women look well rested without a touch of, at minimum, lipstick and blush.
• Energy! Yes, you’ll need it for the job, so please make an effort to convey it during your job search. You might be able to check off the ‘clean and tidy’ box but if it looks like you can hardly shuffle into someone’s office, what
      are they going to think about you doing actual work?
• Hair cut. Spring for one. Yes, it might have worked for you to cut your own hair to save money during college but it no long pays to imitate a fugitive from justice who cut their hair in front of a cheap motel room mirror. Super
      Cuts is not all that expensive!
And one final note, before you walk out the door, look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Would I want to hire this person?” Chances are that you’ll not only answer with a resounding YES but so will your future employer.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 06/06 at 09:43 AM

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

doomed by lack of a CAP

The internal dialogue might have gone something like this: wow, a direct lead on a job. i’d better respond as quickly as possible. And respond he did. Unfortunately just a bit too fast, as the email to the potential employer read as follows. ‘Dear Ms. Smith—I just heard about your job opening from our mutual acquaintance, Mr. Z. I am writing to let you know that i am very interested in the position and have enclosed my resume. sincererly…..’
Did you catch it? That third i. Not a cap but small, casual, conversational and improper. If you didn’t catch it, rest assured the employer did. One job lead doomed before it could get off the ground and fly. A very sad ending indeed.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 02/29 at 02:42 PM

Monday, February 13, 2012

Acing the Phone Interview

An increasing number of job applicants are finding themselves faced with an initial phone interview, sort of a hoop through which to jump before getting some face time with a hiring manager. Though daunting in that the medium itself strips conversation of crucial non-verbal cues, there are a few ways to make this experience into more enjoyable and successful.
First, set up the right physical environment. For most people, that’s a quiet space at home, a room where there will be no distractions or competing noise. That includes pets, so make sure Fluffy has settled nicely onto the living room couch for a sound nap. One additional advantage of choosing a bedroom for this conversation is that typically there’s a mirror on the wall. And since you will have no one to look at while speaking, it’s not a bad idea to look at yourself. A one person audience, as it were. Granted, this might feel weird and most people don’t take me up on this suggest but it definitely does work. Looking at someone with a smile on their face—even if it IS you!—is much more energizing than talking into the air.
Second, not enough can be said about being prepared. Research the company, google your interviewer, print out a copy of your resume, write out notes (another advantage of the phone interview—you can glance at your notes and no one will notice) and think through your answers before encountering   the questions. This is especially true for phone interviews where silence seems to stretch out longer than in real life.
Finally, relax and be yourself. Smile—seriously, don’t neglect a smile—and forget about trying to be perfect. Look to connect with the person on the other end of the line. They are, after all, trying to solve the knotty problem of a vacant position and you might just be the one to make their day.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 02/13 at 01:31 PM

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

What’s it like to be a…..missionary—with an engineering background?

My job title is: Missionary
My actual position is:
Project manager / fundraiser / administrator / teacher

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?

From the outside it might look like a desk job with lots of meetings, errands, and time doing strange things. While it is true that most of the work happens behind a desk or at a meeting table, the job is different every day. The goal is to make ministry happen as an engineering-type person. Some days the need is to prepare detailed plans, other days, detailed budgets. I might head out on some days to the projects or to the workshops or a training session. There are enough projects to work on that the ministry activities and special projects kind of average themselves out around the calendar. But the fall is generally the season for starting things and summer gets almost too hot to be outside. One big change over time has been a growing appreciation for the difficulty of doing international ministry. We deal with things the old-timers never considered – anti-terrorism laws, child protection policies, anti-money laundering systems, complex immigration laws, and other such things. Business and legal knowledge is a big part of ministry today.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?

I have been a practicing hospital engineer, product designer, software engineer, business owner, and missionary field director. I got this position by trying to do the right thing when it was time to move on from the previous thing.

What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?

I have a Master’s Degree and a bit more in the field of Biomedical Engineering. I have tried to keep up with continuing education ever since. I wish I had studied a bit more economics, politics, and communication theory as they seem very relevant in today’s world. But I strongly suggest that people study what excites them. Project management requires the ability to see both big picture and details of the goal, plus the skills to keep people and things moving so that the goal is met.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 02/01 at 11:40 AM

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What’s it like to be a….defense consultant?

My job title is:
Subject Matter Expert (SME) / Consultant -  someone who has expertise in a particular area/s pertinent to company projects. For defense/technology companies this can range from politics, transportation, infrastructure, business, communications, military, populations, foreign relations, computer programing, etc.

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
A workday could consist of individual research, writing reports, data analysis, group collaboration and discussion, informal team meetings, or formal company meetings with clients. The annual schedule is dictated by individual project schedules so there can be slower days at the beginning of a project and extremely long and hectic days toward project completion. Doldrums and fast sailing – be ready for both.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?
I was hired by my employer while I was in graduate school. They needed someone to fulfill a specific opening and I met all of the qualifications. Many defense/technical companies send recruiting teams to larger universities.

What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?
My educational background was an MA in European History. I would suggest primary majors in political science, history, engineering, or similar fields that develop strong research, writing, and analytical skills. I must also STRONGLY recommend a secondary major or minor in business or perhaps computer science. These are very practical and marketable skills to possess and highly valued in the private sector. Employers want well-rounded candidates who are really good at something but have basic knowledge of lots of other things.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 01/24 at 01:26 PM

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Fine Art of Small Talk

My typical morning cruise through major media yesterday unearthed a fine article from the Wall Street Journal, The Top Eight Rules of Networking. Both pithy and helpful, this article provides a fine foundation for striking out into productive but often fearful territory. Actually, the fifth tip on Avoiding Being Socially Inept sounds direct and uncomplicated.But for many, honing social skills is a never ending challenging. How actually does one do small talk well?


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 11/16 at 10:36 AM

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Grads Delaying Job Searches

The job market is tight. No big story there. What might be different in recent years is how college grads react. Some are enticed by the lure of grad school to delay the inevitable. Some succumb to their worst case scenario—moving home with mom and dad, thus buying more time for what looks to be an extended job search. And then there are others who are deciding to opt out entirely, a group profiled in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Many Grads Delay Job Searches.

So what are grads opting for, if not the work world? Travel or volunteering appear high on the list. Something or anything to sort of ride out the unemployment storm until the return of more prosperous times. There’s a sense of just too much competition out there right now—-which there admittedly is—for way too many jobs. Conducting a job search in this economy just doesn’t seem to make sense. Why bother if it’s hopeless anyway, right?

Well, here’s the deal. Traveling and volunteering, all well and good but potentially unproductive over time. Because the job search just might be as or more challenging upon your return. So while doing one or both, sift through all those new experiences to extract developing skills and abilities which will convey meaning to future employers. Keeping the future in mind while enjoying the present will decrease the possibility of eventually returning to your childhood bedroom.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 06/07 at 10:46 AM

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What’s it like to be a…..Systems Architect/Sr Consulting Engineer?

My company job title is: Systems Architect/Sr Consulting Engineer
Current project or contract role: Lead Systems Engineer (architect & design), Information Assurance (security) Engineer, Control Account Manager (cost and schedule)

What does a normal day look like?
My current contract means that the majority of my work is paid for through a Government or Commercial contract for services or for development of a system.  System development goes through software development lifecycle phases.  So I play different roles depending what phase the system is currently in.  For example, the requirements definition phase requires that I work on system requirements, performance requirements, security requirements, etc.  In the design phase, I have to establish design goals, evaluate development methods and procedures, create architecture diagrams, define software packages, etc.  In the build phase, I review development components and update architectural views.  During integration and testing, I review documentation products for technical content, update systems documents, evaluate test results.

Is it consistent throughout the year?
There are variations which include management work to review technical personnel for promotions and salary raises.  I sometimes have to work on new proposals to acquire additional system development contracts or evaluate the proposals that other organizations have prepared.  We often meet with our customers to go over the planning for new tasks within existing contracts or to review problems and technical solutions.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 07/23 at 08:46 AM

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What’s it like to be a…Small Business Owner?

My job title is: President of a small business with 25 employees.
My actual position is—Small Business Owner, Troubleshooter, Salesperson, Personnel Manager, Financial Planner.

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
Arrive at 7:00 or 8:00, do what is necessary to solve any problems, plan for a future with fewer problems. Some weeks are 30-40 hours, some weeks are 40-50 hours.

What other positions have you held prior to your current job?
School teacher, college professor.

How did you get to where you are now?
Networking led to an offer to buy into a niche educational business.

What kind of training/education did you have?
Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate.  I also audited about six college business courses (including management and basic accounting) before taking over the business.

What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?

Common sense, intelligence, honesty, commitment, organizational skills, follow-through, a bit of tech savvy.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 06/25 at 01:45 PM

What’s it like to be a…..Special Education Pre-School Teacher?

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
I teach 8 preschoolers, aged 2-5, all with disabilities.  They have a variety of disabilities, including autism, physical disabilities, speech impairment, genetic disorders, Down syndrome and others.  The children come for half the day and participate in typical preschool activities, with some adaptations as needed.  Each child has an IEP (Individualized Education Program), which the parents and I develop, to address problems in areas of development (social skills, communication skills, cognitive skills, gross and fine motor skills and adaptive skills).  We work on their delays at school and then I do home visits in the afternoon, coaching parents and working with the children.  Our classroom also has speech therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and other specialists also working with the children.  I have two assistants that help to carry out the program.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 06/25 at 09:04 AM

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What’s it like to be a….TV News Reporter?

My job title is: Senior Reporter
My actual position is (if this differs from job title): Sometimes I shoot and edit video

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?

A typical day starts at nine AM with an editorial meeting.  We decide who is covering what, and we go out and get those stories.  It hasn’t changed a lot in the last 30 years, except that now we email back photos and notes to update our website.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?
My first job out of college was in radio news.

What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?

A college education is essential, along with curiosity and willingness to learn new technologies.

What are the rewards in your position? Challenges? What makes a good day for you?
It’s rewarding to tell human stories that people respond to.  A good day is finding compelling characters that make the news stories come alive.

What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years?
Reporters will shoot and edit more of their own stories and file them on the web as well as on TV.

How could a person find out more about your field?;

When you were growing up, did you have any interests that you have built into your work?

I was interested in the world about me.

What obstacles have you overcome to get to where you are today?
Fighting fatigue with covering the same stories over and over.

What was your first job like after college?

It was a radio news reporting and anchoring job and a lot of fun.

How do your beliefs and values or worldview perspectives impact what you do at work?
The most impactful video news stories aim for the heart to inform the mind.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 06/23 at 09:18 AM

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What’s it like to be a…..Christian high school principal?

If you have had this position for a while, how have things changed?What does my normal day look like?  Is it consistent throughout the year?

When school is in session, late August to early June, I am in the office well before 6:00 a.m., at school or school-related meetings during the day, at home for supper between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., and then back at school for the evening until 9:30 -ish p.m.

When school is in session, early morning time until about 7:15 a.m. is a wonderful and necessary planning time.  It is during this time I do short-term and long-term planning and take care of lots of correspondence.  Teachers and students begin filling the hallways around 7:15 a.m., and from that time until 4:00 p.m. I am “on” for running the high school.

Being “on” means being available to students and teachers throughout the school day using a “managing by walking around” style.  This walking around involves answering and responding to a myriad of situations, questions, phone calls, and e-mails, and being available to students, parents, alumni and teachers who stop in throughout school day.  It also means being a presence and observing the daily flow and interaction of a dynamic Christian community.  Education is touching and influencing lives and this can only be done by “being there.”

I am home to have supper with my wife from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m., and then I’m back again for the evening, which includes parent meetings, board meetings, and supervision of student and athletic activities.  Over time supervision of activities becomes more like “I really want to be there to support and encourage students and coaches and parents- it’s our ministry, I don’t want to miss out.”

During the summertime, I maintain school office hours from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., except for those times when I’m on vacation.  I am allocated five weeks of vacation out of 52 weeks each year.  Summer is filled with planning and preparation for the new year.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 05/19 at 02:19 PM

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What’s it like to be an….architect/business professor?

My job title is: architect/business professor
My actual position is: founder/principal architect/former partner of AMDG architects, currently associate professor of business at Calvin College

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
Architect:  Meetings with staff, consulting engineers, clients, code officials, doing architectural design, project management (tasks, budgets, schedules), reviewing construction drawings, managing the business side, personnel reviews and training, marketing and going after new projects; pretty well consistent through the year now that there are concrete admixtures which allow pouring concrete in the winter in Michigan. We’ve grown from one person (myself doing everything) to 15+ staff.  It has become more management and less doing the project drawings myself which are now done mostly by other staff. The move toward more computer design for the conceptual design process and construction drawings has meant technological changes, and design/build approach continues to grow vs. the more traditional approach with having an architect provide drawings and then bidding it out to several contractors.

Professor:  Teaching methods are changing somewhat to better adapt to the students’ expectations and learning styles, much more experiential and discussion vs. straight lecture.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 05/14 at 12:54 PM

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What’s it like to be a….Social Work Professor?

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed? 
My day is varied and includes preparation and teaching of classes to social work majors, participation in departmental and college wide committee work, and academic advising.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?
My background in social work is also varied.  I worked full time while working toward my Master’s Degree in Social Work:
I worked as a career counselor at a technical college, working with young people completing certificate programs to write resumes and cover letters, prepare for interviews, and search for jobs. 
In addition to this I worked briefly at a pre-natal clinic for low-income mothers in Irvington, NJ. I worked directly with the pregnant mothers and the medical professionals to connect the women and their families to needed resources including housing, food stamps, Medicaid, and where necessary, substance abuse treatment. 
After this I worked in Newark, NJ as a supervisor with the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program (CASA). This is an organization that works with the courts to help oversee cases of child abuse and neglect and to advocate for the children and families in order for the children to move toward permanency, either back at home with their parents or toward adoptive families. 
My most recent work, prior to teaching, was working with homeless women and children and in the development of low-income housing, including permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, housing for persons with AIDS (HOPWA), senior housing, and housing for people with disabilities.  Most of this work was done with Lutheran Social Ministries of NJ and also in Grand Rapids with Genesis Non Profit Housing Corporation.

I got to where I am now by always learning that regardless of what job I found myself doing at any given time, that there were valuable lessons, skills, and abilities to learn which could be transfered to my next position.


Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 05/12 at 09:45 AM
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