Social media: should I stay or should I go?

I don’t think I have to mention just how prevalent social media is these days. If you’re reading this ‘blog, most likely you’re engaged in some form of social media. Terms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are a regular part of daily life these days. It’s gotten to the point that these terms have become verbs (e.g. “Facebook it”). Even I’ll tell people that “the best way to get a hold of me is on Facebook,” and I’m the first to admit that I generally can’t go a day without checking my Facebook app on my phone.

In these times of divisiveness, security concerns, and ‘bots, I’ve also seen a number of friends say, “I’m closing my Facebook account” or “I’m shutting down my LinkedIn.” I’m often saddened by these, because one of my main reasons for maintaining Facebook (which I’ll expand upon in a moment) is to easily keep in touch with friends and family. Any time a friend says that (s)he is shutting down his or her account is a contact that I lose. It doesn’t mean that (s)he is no longer a friend; it just means that it’s a little more difficult to keep in touch with that person.

However, a lot of people are (understandably) turned off by the negativity and political discourse that are pervasive on social media. People have written articles about how much better their lives have become after shutting down social media. I completely understand how people are disillusioned by what they see on social media.

So I get it when people ask this question about social media: should I stay or should I go?

I’ll give the standard DBA answer*: “it depends.”

(*For those who don’t understand the reference, the widespread joke among data professionals and IT people is “it depends” is the standard response when they are asked just about any question.)

Not satisfied with that answer? Let me expand on it.

I don’t think I need to get into why people want to leave social media; there are too many obvious examples of that out in the wild (and maybe a few not-so-obvious examples, such as data security and privacy, and the “need” — a very stupid reason, in my opinion — to maintain social status). People are getting stressed out over these issues. I certainly understand why people want to leave social media, and I won’t decry them for it. So instead, I’ll talk about some reasons why you might want to stay.

Like just about anything else, social media is a tool, a piece of software developed for a purpose. Mostly, that purpose is communication. People have been talking about the shrinking world for years. Social media contributes to the world shrinking even further.

I mentioned earlier that I maintain my Facebook account so that I can easily stay in touch with friends and family. It is the primary reason why I first joined Facebook, and it is why, even despite all the issues that come with it, I maintain my account today. Humans are social animals, and more often than not, humans need to maintain social contact with one another, especially so these days with the COVID-19 pandemic. I enjoy talking to people and keeping in touch with friends, so for me, personally, these reasons outweigh all the problems and tribulations that come with Facebook, and maintaining my account is worthwhile.

Some people seem to think they have to maintain some level of status on social media, like trying to compete in some type of popularity contest. Personally, I think this is one of the biggest bullshit reasons to be on social media. I could not care less about how popular I am. I’ll post about personal news that’s happening in my life, something on my mind that I want to get off my chest, ask a question about an issue I can’t seem to solve on my own, or occasionally express an opinion (although I do try to avoid anything having to do with politics; personally, I despise politics passionately). If you’re on social media to maintain social standing, I think you’re on it for the wrong reason. (Trying to sell yourself is a different matter; I’ll get into that shortly.) If I don’t care about my social standing (and I don’t), then I don’t have to concern myself with maintaining it on social media.

That is why I want to be on social media. However, I also think there are reasons why you should be on social media.

Love it or hate it, social media is prevalent in our society today, and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. Because so many people use social media, it’s probably the single largest and most effective communication device in the world.

I think you have to be on social media if you’re at all serious about any of the following: marketing, networking, sales, job hunting, problem solving, news and information (not the fake kind, but I digress), running a business, customer service, recruiting, and maybe a lot of other things I haven’t thought about — essentially, anything that involves communication on a large scale. Most business sites that sell products or services include links to “like us on (insert your favorite social medium here).” Many job applications include a form field for your LinkedIn profile, a sign that they take it seriously. Organizations such as PASS make extensive use of media such as Twitter to communicate with their members. I’ve also written before about online networking; I won’t rehash that here.

One of the big complaints I often hear is that people are sick of being bombarded with ads and politics. Facebook (and other media, I’m sure) does include tools to suppress things you don’t want to see; for example, there are tools to “hide” or “block all from (name of account).” There are a number of such tools available. I won’t get into them right now, but I will say that using them has made my online experience much more palatable.

So should you maintain a social media presence or not? These are the reasons why, despite their issues, I continue to do so. Social media are communication tools. How — and whether you decide — to use them is completely up to you.

The appeal of working for a virtual company

This morning, I had an online interview for a virtual company. For personal and privacy reasons, I won’t talk about the company or the interview (other than it went well), but one takeaway from it was that it seems very much like an organization where I’d like to work.

If I do land this job, it would not be my first experience working for a virtual company. I previously worked for a place that had no brick-and-mortar office location. I left that job after a few months for reasons that were unrelated to the virtual office structure.

I will say that during my time at that company, I saw — and still see — the appeal of working for a virtual company, something that is much more relevant now, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For starters, there’s the commute. When I was working my previous job (and before the pandemic), I’d get in my car and drive fifteen minutes to get to my office. In a work-at-home situation, my commute is the distance from my bedroom downstairs to my home office — which generally takes all of thirty seconds. Additionally, that’s less wear and tear on my car, and less gas that I need to use. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to put gas in my car during the pandemic.

The job for which I interviewed is a full-time position that requires me to put in forty hours a week — but they are a flexible forty hours. This position would give me the ability to adapt my schedule around my activities.

While I like the camaraderie that comes with working with people in a brick-and-mortar office, one of the great appeals for this position is that I would be working with a globally distributed and geopolitically-diverse team located in several different countries. As someone who enjoys watching shows on The Travel Channel and Food Network, the idea of working with such a diverse group of people is especially appealing. I enjoy experiencing different cultures, and the prospect of working with different people from around the world appeals to me. While I will likely not meet these people in-person, and while they are not a substitute for physical presence, current technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams do make up for some of the lack of contact.

And although I never had the opportunity to physically shake hands with my coworkers from my previous virtual position, I did make a number of friends with a number of them. Several of them are still connected with me on LinkedIn and Facebook to this day.

Additionally, while I would be working for a new company, I would already go into it being familiar and comfortable with my surroundings. There is no concern about getting comfortable with a new desk, learning the layout of your office, knowing where the bathroom is located, or trying to figure out where to go for lunch.

To be sure, remote work is not perfect, and there are several things I do miss about working in an office — for example, the ability to go out to lunch with my coworkers or go out for a drink with them after work. However, despite the fact that this company has no brick-and-mortar location, I’m finding that there are many aspects of this potential employer that appeal to me. I’m genuinely excited about the prospect of working for this company.

During this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to work from home is essential. Some people argue that virtual companies are the wave of the future. Regardless of how you feel about the work-at-home environment, there is something to be said about working for a virtual company.

Upcoming speaking engagements (as of 9/10/2020) #SQLSaturday #PASSSummit

This morning, I got the official word that I will be speaking at SQL Saturday #1003, Memphis on October 3. Since it’s being held virtually, I don’t have to make travel plans to Tennessee. (That’s too bad, since I understand that Memphis is a cool city to visit, with its music history and barbecue!)

I am now confirmed to speak at two (virtual) events, so I figured that this was a good a time as any to update my speaking schedule.

I continue to apply to speaking events that I am able to attend (since many are held virtually right now, it makes it easier). As my speaking schedule is updated, I’ll keep you posted.

My #SQLSaturday presentation on networking is viewable online #SQLSatAlbany #SQLSat961

I recorded my SQL Saturday session from this past weekend. If anyone is interested in checking out my presentation titled: “Networking 101: Building Professional Relationships,” it is now viewable online!

If you have an hour to kill, click here to see my presentation!

#SQLSaturday #961 Albany — TOMORROW! July 25 #SQLSat961 #SQLSatAlbany

IMPORTANT!  If you are attending SQL Saturday, you MUST register on the SQL Saturday website (NOT Meetup or Facebook) at https://www.sqlsaturday.com/961!

This is a reminder that tomorrow, July 25, CASSUG will host Albany SQL Saturday for the seventh time!  And for the first time, Albany SQL Saturday is going virtual!

We will have a full day of great presentations that cover a variety of topics that include, but aren’t limited to, business intelligence, data science, database development, data architecture, and professional development!

We will also have our usual wrap-up and raffles at the end of the day!

To register, go to https://www.sqlsaturday.com/961.  It is important that you register at this site; RSVPs to Meetup or Facebook do not register you for SQL Saturday!!!

SQL Saturday is always a good time!  We hope to see you (virtually) on Saturday, July 25!

Don’t overlook your references #JobHunt

This morning, I had a conversation with a friend — a former coworker from a previous job — whom I listed as one of my references. He told me that he had a good conversation with a gentleman with whom I recently interviewed (whether or not I get the job remains to be seen). This friend has been invaluable throughout my job search, and I told him that I would get him a bottle of Scotch to say thank you once I landed.

It got me thinking: when it comes to advice about the job hunt, one topic that is almost never discussed are your references. Nearly every prospective employer asks for them, yet they are almost never mentioned when talking about the job hunt. I’ve read plenty of books and articles, and attended a number of SQL Saturday presentations, that talk about resumes, interview questions, how to dress, and so on. But it occurred to me that not one of them — including my own presentation (and I might need to rectify that) — talks about your references.

So, what should you consider when asking for people to serve as references? Here are my thoughts.

  • Make sure people are willing to serve as references. You want to make sure that you find people who are willing to speak on your behalf. Don’t list people as your references unless they give you their permission to do so. People don’t want to be surprised when one of your potential employers contact them. It’s unprofessional, and it’s just plain impolite.

    Speaking of which, the people I asked to serve as my references did request that I let them know any time that I dropped their names as references. So far, I have honored that request; every time a prospective employer asked me for references, I let my references know so that they wouldn’t be surprised when or if a phone call or email from my prospective employer came.
  • Get your references’ contact information. This might seem obvious, but it isn’t as straightforward as you might think. People might not want to be contacted at their work email, home phone number, and so on. When asking for references, make sure you also ask for an email and phone number where they don’t mind being contacted by a prospective employer.
  • Make sure your references know you well, both personally and professionally. You don’t necessarily have to ask your best friend to serve as a reference, but these people do need to be able to talk about your personality and your work. They need to be answer questions about you when prospective employers contact them. They are an extension of your interview; they need to be able to answer questions on your behalf.
  • Co-workers probably are the best references. There is nothing wrong with asking friends to serve as references, but keep in mind that prospective employers are likely to ask about your work, so they need to know you professionally as well.

    For me, I had a good rapport with my former co-workers, so I had no problem with asking them for references after I was let go from my job. However, if you’re actively working and are looking to move on, you might need to be more discreet. Make sure the people you ask are ones you can trust.

    Speaking of people you can trust…
  • Your references need to be able to provide an honest assessment of you. Your references are like your resume. They give a prospective employer a perspective of your skills and capabilities. It’s often said that you should never lie on your resume. The same holds true of your references.

    My friend asked me to discuss possible answers so that we were “on the same page.” I politely refused his request. I told him that I trusted him, and that I shouldn’t influence what he might say to a potential employer. I wanted him to provide an honest and fair assessment in his own words. If I didn’t trust him to do that, then he probably wasn’t my best pick for a reference.

Your references are often an overlooked part of your job hunt. Make sure you choose them well. They might be the difference between whether or not you get the job.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 16: Getting a kick in the butt when I need it #COVID19

It’s been a while since I wrote a COVID-19 update, so I think this is Part 16.

This morning, I had a text conversation with a friend who gave me a badly-needed kick in the butt.

A little background information is in order here.

I’m not going to lie. I have been very discouraged by the job hunt (going on nearly three months, now). It seems like every place that I’ve applied has rejected me — to the point that my job hunt morale has taken a big hit. I can count on one hand the number of interviews I’ve had, out of the many dozens (and counting) of applications I’ve submitted. My job situation has been a major source of stress, along with a few other things (that I won’t get into here) that have added to it. The only thing that has kept me going is my LLC. I have a couple of clients that have been keeping me busy, but it’s still not yet enough for me to pay my mortgage. I address acknowledging your own emotions at the beginning of my job hunt presentation, and I, myself, fell into the same trap.

And, of course, I have not been helped by the COVID-19 situation.

My friend — a former co-worker at my previous job — told me, in a nutshell, to get off my duff and get busy again. He reminded me of a few things that, as it turned out, I badly needed to hear: I need to learn new things, I need to keep learning and stay on top of things, I need to keep plugging away, I need to keep working, and possibly the most important reminder: I have the smarts, the talent, and the wherewithal to do great things. Don’t throw that away.

Our conversation reminded me of the many good things I do have going on, and either want to continue doing, or want to restart. My LLC has been a source of professional and educational experience during a time when I badly need it. I’d started a few endeavors during this COVID-19 crisis, including starting my new business, starting a Couch-to-5K program (which has been on-hold lately because of health issues — not COVID-19 related) and teaching myself French. There are some other things that I either started a while ago or in which I’ve been active, but have also fallen by the wayside: teaching myself BI, teaching myself GitHub, and getting back into my music, including my songwriting endeavors. I also want to make sure that I brush up on my development skills that have become rusty over time.

Some people are able to stay strong throughout this crisis (which seems to have no end in sight), while others need an occasional boost. No matter who you are, it’s easy to lose sight of things, and it’s important to have support to keep that going — which includes friends who’ll give you the occasional kick in the butt when you need it. One of the casualties of the COVID-19 crisis is that we’ve been so isolated that we don’t see our friends (other than immediate family within your household) as much as we’d like or need. Your friends are your support system, and good friends will get you back on track when you need it.

So, to my friend with whom I spoke this morning, if you’re reading this, thank you again for that kick in the butt. You likely helped me more than you know.

Whaddaya got to lose? #JobHunt

This morning, one of my LinkedIn contacts (a recruiter for a consulting firm) contacted me about a potential job opportunity. She sent me the description. The position in question is for a senior programmer analyst for a local firm. They’re seeking someone knowledgeable about .NET, XML, and SQL. I gave her a call, and we had a very good conversation about the opportunity. She asked me to tailor my resume to more closely match what the client sought, and that she would do whatever she could to get me in to speak with the client. I also told her to let the client know that if this position was not a good fit, I would also consider other opportunities with the client, if any were available.

These skills do appear on my resume, and I do have experience with these technologies. At the same time, however, I also make no secret that my career seems to be moving away from hardcore technical development and more toward soft-skill professional development that involves communication, writing, and visual design. It’s been at least a couple of years since I did much in the way of serious application development work, so any technical skills that I’ve accumulated over the years are likely to be rusty.

I did mention this as a concern to my recruiter associate, and she told me that she appreciated my honesty and openness. I wanted to make clear that while I do have that experience and background, the client, if by some chance they do hire me, will not be getting a technical guru or expert, and they shouldn’t expect one. What they would get is someone who has the diverse technical skill set who, while not necessarily being an expert in them, knows enough to mostly get by and at be able to sound like he knows what he’s talking about, not to mention someone who’d do his best to make sure things got done.

I mention this because in my current job search, this is the type of position to which I likely would not have applied, had my associate not contacted me. I’ve been applying primarily for technical writer and business analyst positions. That said, I am also open to programmer analyst positions should the right opportunity come along.

I did mention to my contact that I had nothing to lose by applying to this position. If the client decides to talk to me, it’s another potential opportunity to pursue. If not, at least I gave it a shot.

The moral of the story: even if a position doesn’t appear to be what you’re pursuing, if you believe you’re capable of doing it, go ahead and apply for it. You never know. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

My #JobHunt presentation is online #PASSProfDev @PASS_ProfDev @CASSUG_Albany #SQLFamily #ProfessionalDevelopment

If you missed my job hunt presentation, it is now available on YouTube. Click here to view my presentation!

Additionally, my presentation slides can be downloaded from here!

Join me for my #JobHunt #ProfessionalDevelopment presentation — next Thursday, 5/28/2020 #PASSProfDev @PASS_ProfDev @CASSUG_Albany #SQLFamily

Reminder: my presentation is tomorrow at noon (EDT). Come join me and Paresh Motiwala for my presentation and our discussion!

Welcome to Ray Kim's 'blog

This is a reminder that next week, Thursday, May 28 at noon EDT (click this link for your local time), I will do my presentation for the PASS Professional Development Virtual Group about unemployment and the job hunt, titled “I lost my job! Now what?!?”

To register for the event use this link.

I’ll touch on these topics during the presentation:

  • Dealing with your emotions
  • Taking stock in yourself
  • Resumes and interviewing
  • Resources you can tap
  • Networking
  • Weathering the storm

In addition to my presentation, we will also have an open discussion with Paresh Motiwala (PASS ProfDev moderator and host) and myself. You are welcome and encouraged to take part!

I’ve done this presentation for SQL Saturday; now, you get to see it online. See you next week!

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