Consider Yourself Retooled

AKA Boo Boo Begging

I’m retooling my blog. Writing about unemployment is all well and good but it felt limiting and I just got sick of it.  It’s depressing to write about finding a job (especially if you don’t have one yourself) and honestly after I found a job what interest I had in writing about finding a job went the way of the dinosaur.

I stopped blogging because I couldn’t come up with things to write about finding a job and for some reason I was trapped in a box thinking I’d have to create a new blog so I could write about other topics.  The only problem was that I got worried about that too. What if I got sick of the new topic? Now, why I thought I had to pick one specific topic and why I thought I would have to delete this blog and start over, I’m not sure…

But anyway, about a week ago I had an epiphany.  I logged back into WordPress and realized I could just change the blog I have to make it fit me now. And if I need to change it again tomorrow, next year, 10 years from now, and again and again I can do that.  [DUH!!!!]

My only problem was that I wanted to give it hook, or a little something (besides the title) that describes me.

I’m in the middle of reading “The Pathfinder” by Nicholas Lore, which was recommended by Jen Gresham and I’m trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, which entails figuring out what I’m passionate about. I just started reading, but so far I’ve got: dogs, fitness and buildings, which I then decided to rename design because who doesn’t love some good old fashioned alliteration?

So I decided that should be my new blog and more specifically what I’m going to write about.  I know I deeply love and frequently step on my soapbox about those three passions, so why not write about them? Pretty much every topic (and there are many) I want to write about fit into one of those three categories and if it doesn’t, so be it.

I just felt I needed to make a commitment to the things I love and write about them, and heck, writing is so much easier if you’re passionate about the topic. I’m going to go with this for now and tweak it as I go, which is pretty much how anyone does anything. The important thing is to pull the trigger, and although I’m deeply anti-guns (I smell a future post…) that’s just what I had to do.

Enjoy!


Buster Beat Cancer

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My dog Buster had surgery a few weeks ago to remove a cancerous tumor from his right hind leg.

He’s eleven and a half years old and considering he’s a black lab-retriever mix he’s not exactly a young pup anymore.

Buster’s vision, hips and ears have seen better days but you’d never guess he’s almost 12. When we found out about the cancer my husband and I didn’t flinch or hesitate, the question was not ‘Should we pay for the surgery?’ the question was ‘When can we get him in to have the surgery?’

My husband scheduled the procedure for the following Tuesday and not once did we question whether we were crazy to spend a nice chunk of our savings on our old fella.  I brought him to the vet the morning of the surgery after a sleepless night and dropped him off. When I got home I watched some of the Olympics, cleaned, and did pretty much anything to keep Buster off my mind. As I was vacuuming like a fiend I missed a call from the vet. It had only been a few hours so I assumed the worst and frantically called him back.

The tumor had been removed, everything went well and Buster was out of surgery. They were going to wake him now and we could pick him up after 3. I was elated. I physically felt the heavy weight of worry being lifted off my shoulders.  It’s amazing how light relief makes you feel when it rushes over you.

Then I went to my bedroom because I knew something odd was happening. Tears started forming but not because I was upset…

I felt sheer, overwhelming gratitude on a scale I’d ever felt before. How lucky was I to find a husband that not only let me spend a small fortune on an old dog, but also agrees that that’s exactly how our money should be spent? And how lucky am I that despite his age, Buster made it through surgery like a champ? The feeling was overwhelming, I felt like a gold medalist.

Over the past few weeks Buster’s recovery has been borderline miraculous for a dog his age. He’s like a 5 year old again. His energy is amazing, his appetite is veracious and he’s a whole new boy. It’s like Buster’s showing us that we made the right decision, not that it matters, we would have made the same decision 100 times over. But this is the outcome we were hoping for when we decided Buster should have surgery.

Even though money’s tight and will be for a while, I keep reminding myself of that sheer joy I felt after we got the all clear from the vet and how silly it is for me to quantify such moments by my bank account.


Plastic Shopping Bags

Plastic Bags Galore!

C'mon people, you know you have WAY too many of these in your pantry, under your sink or in the closet.

Working in a retail setting has given me my most recent idea: Plastic Shopping Bags- I’m gunning for you!

Now that I got that out of my system, it occurred to me that when working at a cash register I usually ask people who are purchasing few items if they’d like a bag in addition to the questions cashiers are required to ask such as ‘Will you be putting that on your DIY Supercenter Credit Card?’ (which is a question I hate-as a customer I don’t think it’s any of the cashier’s business how I pay, as long as it’s an accepted form of payment and not Monopoly dollars) or ‘Did you find everything ok?’ (which I’m also not especially fond of because if they say no and ask me where something is I usually have no idea and want to say ‘They don’t let me leave this general vicinity…’)

Anyway, I started thinking to myself, if they can require me to ask the questions above, why not add one more question to this list- ‘Would you like me to put this in a bag?’ It would help the environment and maybe even encourage people to recycle their bags by either buying the reusable ones, or even reusing their old plastic bags. It also might serve as a reminder to forgetful people to bring their reusable bag with next time.

I’ve conducted a few experiments on customers purchasing one or two items. When I automatically put their items in a bag, 9 times out of 10 they would take the bag and say nothing. When I asked similar patrons if they wanted a bag for their one or two items 9 times out of 10 they said no, which saved bags from ending up in landfills and ultimately saved the company a teeny tiny amount of money. So even if the DIY Supercenter doesn’t care about saving the environment they may be interested in the cost savings.

I’m making up figures here, but let’s say they would use 20% less plastic bags each year across 3,000 stores (approx), that could potentially be a chunk of change… My next step, I just need to figure out how much plastic bags cost. I can’t imagine they are expensive, but in this economy what business isn’t interested in cutting costs?

Now, to prod management to see if anyone at DIY Supercenter would be interested in this idea (but that’s a whole different post for the future…)


Some Things Never Change

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Today I was contacted by the Northfield Historical Society which is the local museum in my hometown. In 8th grade I participated in a program called SCOPE. I can’t for the life of me remember what that stands for but I know I got out of my least favorite class, and more importantly, teacher and instead I got to go hang out at the museum for a few hours every other day. That’s when I wrote the paper attached to this post. It has a few typos but all in all, my writing at the ripe old age of 14 was not bad… I also gave my first ever speech on this very same topic, which my dad informed me was the best presentation of the bunch (and I’m sure his critique was 100% objective…).

I volunteered at the museum starting in 6th grade when I signed up for a summer program. I got to explore the archives and develop my love for history. I continued volunteering until I graduated high school and went to college.  I worked in the gift shop, at the admissions desk, and helped out during The Defeat of Jesse James Days (or Jesse James Days as everyone else calls it).

The museum also gave me my first job, as a tour guide. I was paid $200 to give tours for 6 weeks in the summer before 9th grade. I dressed in a costume reminiscent of the late 1800′s with a bustle and all and taught museum goers about the day the James-Younger Gang rode into Northfield, MN on September 7th, 1876.

To this day being a Tour Guide is the best job I’ve ever had. I loved everything about it, giving tours to museum goers, learning everything I could about the James-Younger Gang and the history of Northfield, and most of all the museum environment. Just thinking about it gives me fond childhood memories and makes me remember lost dreams of wanting to become a museum curator.

Feeling particularly lost with my job search and getting this e-mail from the Northfield Historical Society may have been just what I needed. Perhaps it’s the universe’s way of reminding me of my true passion and giving me a bump in the right direction.  After I sign the contract allowing the Northfield Historical Society to post my research paper online I think I’ll look into museum jobs and a masters program to see if there’s a way to pursue this forgotten dream.


What Have You Done for Your Job Search?

I’m reminded of John F. Kennedy’s speech where he states “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” I know cliche, but for some reason it keeps popping up in my head. I’ve got some spare time on my hands now that both my graphic design projects are done (for now, still working on the Telient Version 2.0 website in my head, but I thought it would be a good idea to step away for a few days before tackling that one). Oh, and did I forget to mention that my job is boring…?

Anyway, this has given me more time to think and JFK’s speech keeps surfacing, except I keep thinking of it as “Ask not what your job search can do for you, but what you can do for your job search” and from there it became “What have I done for my job search today?”

Everyday I try to do one thing to further my career. Sometimes it’s blogging, sometimes it’s networking and sometimes it’s something as small as posting a comment on Brazen Careerist or someone’s blog.

When tackling something huge, like a career change, it’s best to take baby steps. I know that I’m probably not going to be a full fledged graphic designer or CEO of a fortune 500 company tomorrow, but if I keep taking jobs on the side, doing the best I can and networking to get more jobs I’ll get closer and closer to that goal. So, today I’ve decided to focus on networking since I just completed my graphic jobs and networking could lead to more graphic jobs.

See, no life changing decisions made, just one simple idea to talk to some people and given that I’m planing to meet a friend today and hit up a dog bar, that shouldn’t be tough. Additionally, at the end of the day, I can feel good knowing that I did do something for my career.


Interviewing in 2011 & Why So Nervous (to interview that is…)?

Daily AffirmationsHi faithful readers, if I have any yet…

Before I get on topic I wanted to apologize about posting so little this week. Between having a cold, interviews and graphic design jobs I haven’t had much time for my blog. Additionally since I’m new to the whole blog thing (it’s been about a month since I started) I’m still learning how to best prioritize my time to make sure I post regularly and (more importantly) I post things that are helpful, interesting and well written.  Feel free to comment!

Now that my energy is coming back and I’m starting to feel human again I wanted to talk about interviewing (again). It’s on the brain since I just had another interview yesterday.

Yesterday’s interview was different from any other I’ve ever had, but then again every interview I’ve ever had has been different than their predecessors before. When I was in my last hardcore job search I was a senior in college and had NO idea what I was doing and had no confidence in my skills. Most of those interviews didn’t go well by today’s standards, but then again hindsight is 20/20, right?

This leads me to the 2 points I wanted to touch on today:

  1. No two interviews or interviewers are the same

I’ve noticed in my current job search that interviewers are not just asking the typical interview questions. They’re actively trying to get you out of your shell. They assume you know all the typical interview questions and they want to ask you something you haven’t prepared for. In each interview I’ve had in my current job search I’ve been asked a question that made me think “I didn’t prepare for this question, nor would I have even thought to prepare for this question…” Some examples are: “Have you read any customer service books?”, “Describe your sense of humor” and my favorites “One of our core values is Data Driven, what does that mean?”(GREAT question BTW) and “If I tripped and fell would you laugh, or ask me if I was ok?

Really?? Cause honestly, if anyone fell I would ask if they were ok and if they started laughing then I’d probably join in, which is what I answered… I believe my interviewer was looking for “Laugh”…

Before you ask, I’ve been interviewing for a wide range of positions from cashier at a large DIY store, Customer Service Representative for an information and technology company and everything in between. Not by any means VP or salaried positions.

I’m not upset that the typical interview questions have changed, I’m actually quite pleased about this since you’ll probably get to know me better by asking different questions, I’m just upset that it took me 6 or so interviews to realize this… Which is why I’m sharing this with you and planning to write an article about it.

The second part of no two interviews or interviewers are the same that I wanted to touch upon is that even in the more typical interviews I like to take it upon myself to answer the questions well, but also add a personal touch so they remember me for something other than my canned answers. Being different in an interview isn’t a bad thing, just make sure you’re not inappropriate.

For instance when asked about my writing skills I usually say I have strong writing skills and that I just got an article published about a month ago and would be happy to share the link with them if interested. That way the interviewer can check out my article to get a taste of my writing. Also this most likely sets me apart from other candidates. I guarantee most people applying at DIY Central don’t have a published article, or maybe don’t think to share that tidbit since the job doesn’t require someone with a published article.

Onto point #2 (finally, I know, I’m a little long winded today…)

  1. There’s no reason to be nervous in an interview

Whenever I get nervous before an interview I just remind myself that I really do believe I would be an asset to XYZ Company and regardless if I get the job or not I have nothing to loose, only a lot to gain. If I don’t get the job, I’m no worse off and I have other things I’m working on to bring home the bacon and other job opportunities in the pipe.

With that attitude you’re much more likely to get the job than if you’re nervous and the interviewer can tell, so just do what you need to do to put a check on your nerves.

I can’t believe I’m admitting this but sometimes in my car before I walk into an interview I look in my rear view mirror and tell myself that I’m awesome and XYZ Company would be silly not to hire me! Saying it out loud helps. If that doesn’t work for you, call your mom, talk to your best friend and ask them to reaffirm you.

And even if you bomb the interview it’s only a failure if you don’t learn anything from it, which is why I always do a post mortem on all my interviews so I can always be sure to improve for the next one.


I’m Not Irish but I’m Having a Great Day!

I’m not Irish (unfortunately) but I’ll wish you a happy St. Patrick’s Day nonetheless. I was doing some research and found out that Irish-Americans who wanted to reconnect with their Irish roots invented St. Patrick’s Day.  I also found out, thanks to the good folks at Guinness, that on average 5.5 million pints of Guinness are drank every day (see the link above for more information). On St. Patrick’s Day that number doubles to 13 million pints.

I also learned, thanks to Biggest Loser’s Olivia, that Guinness is one of the lightest beers. There’s only 125 (approx.) calories in a 12-ounce beer (210 in a pint). Not too shabby.  If Twitter were working I’d share BL Olivia’s Twitter page and where she got that information, unfortunately Twitter doesn’t seem to be working for me.

I figured since the Irish (and anyone else who’s “Irish” today) are having a blast that it would be a good time to mention that the luck of the Irish seems to be wearing off on me as well since I’ve had a fantastic day (and nothing to drink).

I got my first real paying graphic design job (no offense dad- and yes I’m still working on the website and it’s coming along swimmingly) and I owe it all to networking and Brazen Careerist (if you need me to hyperlink Brazen then this is probably your first time on the site…)

I get to design an ad for a magazine. I LOVE magazine’s so I’m absolutely thrilled at this opportunity. If I could have any job I wanted I would do layout for a magazine (not sure which, probably This Old House or American Bungalow or Women’s Health-they need help).  I know, I’m far from that dream of doing magazine layout but I also didn’t wake up this morning expecting my first paying graphic design gig either. I don’t even have my portfolio online yet…

Anyway, over the past few month’s I’ve been expanding my graphic design skills to include Dreamweaver and Flash, but honestly, they don’t come as naturally to me as InDesign or Illustrator. So needless to say I’m excited that I’ll get to work in my old favorite InDesign, which is what one would use for magazine layout.

Additionally I’m excited because although I know it’s one ad, it feels like I’m on the right track to making my goals of getting into graphic design come true. I also feel like I absolutely made the right decision to move down to NC and quit my previous job in the mortgage industry.*

I feel busy and happy and excited all at the same time. I can hardly believe that I’m going to be paid by someone (outside my family) to do something that I honestly would do for free because I enjoy it so much! I haven’t had a job like that since I was 15 and gave tours at the local museum in my hometown.**

It’s true what they say; good things come to those who wait and today has definitely been a good day.

*To all of you in the mortgage industry- my hat’s off to you. It’s absolutely NOT for the faint of heart!

**Which by far has been my favorite job ever. I liked it so much that I didn’t mind dressing in garb from the 1850’s… and no, there are no pictures.


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