The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 19: Work hard, play hard #COVID19

I think it’s pretty safe to say that many of us are suffering from pandemic fatigue. I know I sure am. I’ve written a few times about my job search frustrations, and quite frankly, it’s wearing on me. I’ve mentioned in my job hunt presentation (which I’ll be presenting on October 3 </ShamelessPlug>) that looking for a job is, itself, a full-time job. It easily occupies most, if not all, of your working day. And it can be very wearing… not to mention stressful — and frustrating.

With that, I’ve been turning to my activities to keep myself sane. Now that New York State has allowed gyms to reopen, I’ve been going to CrossFit classes (whenever my schedule and my aching back/shoulder allows it). I’ve also tried to stay on top of professional endeavors; last Monday, I attended a very good user group meeting in which Mindy Curnutt talked about spatial data. (I had no idea that you could do stuff like that in SQL Server!) And I’m looking into other ways to keep on top of my professional skill sets; I’ll be speaking at (and attending) Memphis virtual SQL Saturday two weeks from this Saturday, as well as virtual PASS Summit in November.

However, staying on top of skill sets isn’t just limited to professional endeavors; they apply to my extracurricular activities as well. I mentioned earlier that I’d gotten back into songwriting and music recording again. While this is primarily a hobby and not something I do professionally, it is, nevertheless, a hobby that I take very seriously — to the point that I treat it as though I do it professionally. I’ve invested time and money into equipment and software. I’ve attended songwriting workshops in the past, and I’ve even spent time in professional recording studios. And I’ve started looking around on Google for courses in audio engineering and multitrack recording; while I’ve learned a lot working on this on my own, I realize that there’s also a lot I don’t know, and while I’ve gotten better at my craft, I also recognize that there’s a lot of room for improvement.

If you have an activity that you’re passionate about doing, I think it’s just as important to work just as hard at it as you would your profession. You’ll sharpen your skill sets in a number of ways — even your extracurricular activities can often benefit you professionally. And you’ll also gain a greater deal of satisfaction and appreciation for your art — whatever art that may be.

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.

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.

Check in on your black friends #BlackLivesMatter

Just this once, I’m addressing a controversial topic. I usually don’t write about these things, but I am deeply troubled by the state of my country and the world, and if, by my words, I have the power to change it, then I’m going to do it. I’m not sure what kind of effect, if any, one ‘blog article will have, but I would regret it even more if I could’ve said or done something to make things better, and I sat by the sideline and did nothing.

In light of everything that has been going on (I won’t get into that here — but by reading this article, you should get a sense of where I stand), I wanted to check in on some of my friends. So this morning, I posted this — a simple question — to my Facebook and Twitter.

To my black friends:

I wanted to check in. How’re you doing?

I was asking this question seriously. I have a number of black and African-American friends. I was concerned about their welfare, and wanted to make sure they were okay. I wanted to know how they were holding up. And especially given the current political climate, I wanted to let them know that, if they needed anything — even if all it was was an ear to bend — I was here for them.

My post was a simple and small gesture, but I wanted to send a clear message to my friends: I’m here for you, and I’m listening. I have your back.

Granted, I’m not a white person (for those of you who haven’t paid attention, I’m Asian-American). Nevertheless, I grew up in a rural and mostly white neighborhood with mostly white friends; subsequently, I’ve adopted white attitudes and mindsets. Even when I was a kid growing up, my parents had to explain this to me; I remember, as a child, being puzzled about why my own skin tone wasn’t as pale as my friends.

I did have a couple of black friends when I was young, and they are still among my best friends to this day. I never thought of them as my black friends (and I still don’t). I thought of them as my friends. Period. End of story. There was never any “black” preceding the word “friends,” and there never will be. Okay, so they looked different. So did I. Big whoop. I never had any problem interacting with them, playing sports or music with them, going to school with them, and so on.

That said, our present society is forcing me to see them as black. And I’m worried about them. The last thing I want is to read their names in the newspapers, hearing that they died for the sole reason of the color of their skin.

I want my black friends to know I’m worried about them. So I asked a simple question: “how’re you doing?”

I think, ultimately, that is how we achieve racial peace. If you’re white, and you have black friends, drop them a line. Ask them: “how’s everything going? Are you okay?” And if something’s on their minds, lend them your ear, just as you would with any other friend. Listen to them. That is what the demonstrations, protests, and riots are about: they have something to say, but nobody is listening.

Let them know you’re listening. If you hear their concerns and are able to do something about it, great. But above all, listen. Let them know that you hear them. And let them know that you have their back.

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

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!

Rethinking my resume

I learned something new today. But first, here’s a little background behind it.

Let me start by saying that I resent that job searches these days are performed much more by machines than humans. During times when I’m employed, I get irritated by emails resulting from bots that do keyword searches on my resume and constantly spam me with job inquiries for which I have no interest. Likewise, I also make no secret that I hate spam recruiters.

That said, now that I’m not currently employed and I am job hunting, as much as I hate robotic resume scans (and believe me, I still do), it’s the nature of the beast. If I want to get my resume seen by the right people, I need to be able to play the game.

Whenever I’ve updated my resume, I’ve always written it thinking that a human will look at it. These days, I need to design it with the mindset that a machine will look at it.

I was struck with that realization today. One of my networking contacts connected me with a career counselor. We spoke for about fifteen minutes over the phone this afternoon. He encouraged me to send him my resume for a review. I sent it to him, feeling confident that it would be well-received. But when he replied back, he hit me with a dose of reality.

First, he told me that my resume was not ATS (applicant tracking system) compliant (a brand-new term for me). He gave me some tips for redesigning it. Additionally, I searched Google for ATS compliant Word templates, and found this site, which includes a link to free templates. As soon as I find one I like, I intend to use it to redo my resume.

Additionally, I’ve noticed that a lot of online applications ask me to upload my resume, and when I do, it parses it into their system. And more often than not, it does not parse it correctly, which frustrates me. It did not occur to me that redesigning my resume not only makes it better to parse, it also makes it easier for potential employers to find. This may have been sabotaging my job search, and I wasn’t even aware of it.

Second, he also informed me that I had overused the word “professional” — something else that had escaped my attention. It’s the equivalent of saying “um” when you’re doing a presentation — you’re not aware you’re doing it (and I probably do when I do my SQL Saturday presentations) until someone else points it out.

Little pieces of advice like this will help my job search — and hopefully, I just improved yours, too. I’ve practically made a career out of adapting to my environment, and I realized today that that includes my job search. No, I still don’t like that my resume is searched by machine. But that’s the nature of the game these days, and if I want to succeed, I have to play it, whether I like it or not.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 15: The need to let off steam #COVID19

Think about a boiler or a steam engine. As steam builds up within, pressure increases. Eventually, pressure builds beyond the boiler’s capacity to contain it, and the boiler explodes, often with devastating results.

While we as humans don’t physically share the same traits as a boiler, psychologically and metaphorically, the principle is the same. Often, things in life causes stress and builds pressure. Eventually, the stress builds to the point where we just explode. The outlet can happen in numerous ways; at best, we cry on someone’s shoulder, and at worst, we hurt someone else in the aftermath.

I reached that point yesterday during my job hunt. My wife could see that I was visibly upset, and it got to the point that I vented on my Facebook account. I usually watch my language whenever I post to social media, but you know I’m upset when I start dropping F-bombs without any filters, and I did exactly that on my Facebook account yesterday. It’s not the first time I’ve done that, and it won’t be the last. There’s a reason why I keep my Facebook account separate from my ‘blog and from my other public accounts. My Facebook is strictly friends-only, and it’s the equivalent of keeping my private life separate from my public persona.

The point is that we all occasionally need to let off steam before the pressure causes any damage. If something is bothering you, don’t keep it bottled up. Find some kind of outlet to release the pressure. Talk to your significant other or a friend. Go out and do something to get your mind off of whatever is bothering you. Write in a journal (or a ‘blog). Find an activity to safely release your anger and your extra energy. Do something creative. Exercise. Go for a walk. Go out to your backyard and yell at the top of your lungs. Do something — anything — to release that pressure, and make sure that you don’t hurt anyone in the process.

One of my favorite — and funniest — examples of letting off steam is a scene in the movie Analyze This, where a psychiatrist (played by Billy Crystal) tells his mob boss patient (Robert DeNiro) to hit a pillow. What he does is amusing! (If you have sensitive ears, be forewarned that F-bombs are dropped in the YouTube clip link that I provided.)

In a couple of weeks (May 28), I will be giving my online presentation about the job hunt and being unemployed. (If you’re interested in attending, use this link to register for the webinar.) One of the first — and biggest — things I address is dealing with your emotions after you lose your job. You’re going to feel something after your employment ends, and before you can do anything else, you need to deal with those emotions before you can proceed with your job hunt. Once you do, you’ll be able to proceed with a clear head.

These days, especially during our confinement through the COVID-19 crisis, our stress levels are heightened. Make sure you find a way to relieve that stress before it reaches a boiling point. Don’t become an exploding boiler. People can get hurt.