I am pleased to report that I have landed! I have been offered — and have accepted — a position at TEKSystems!
A while back, I wrote an article that I affectionately refer to as the “job hunter’s survival guide.” One of the things I mention in the article is to “keep busy.” In my current state of unemployment, I’ve discovered that I’m busier than I ever thought I would be.
First, there’s the job hunt itself. I’ve often told people that “looking for a job is a full-time job.” I have yet to disprove that theory. My work days have been spent working on my resume, applying to positions, touching base with my networking contacts, interviewing, taking assessment exams, following up on leads and applications, and so on. That makes for a lot of work, and it makes up a good chunk of my working hours.
Second, there are a number of things with which I’m involved. I’ve said before that getting involved is a good thing for multiple reasons. Since my former employer and I parted ways, I’ve been to two SQL Saturdays (including one in which I presented), and am scheduled to present at a third one in July. I’ve rehearsed with my wind quintet. I’m involved with my local SQL user group. I work out at the gym. I also have a number of things with other groups (such as one of my alumni groups) that I need to address.
Third, even staying at home doesn’t offer a break from my to-do list. Household chores need to be addressed — I have a long list of items around the house. We have two cats that want attention. Those of you who are homeowners understand the struggle. When you own a house, there’s never a shortage of things to do.
For someone like me, I’m finding a few other things to keep me busy. If you’re reading this article, you’re looking at one of those things. A writer — even a ‘blog author — always has something to do if he or she has something to write about. I also have some presentation ideas that I want to develop; hopefully, you’ll see them soon at a SQL Saturday near you. In doing so, I’m looking for more opportunities to learn new things and keep myself up-to-date.
Staying busy is a good thing; you don’t want to be idle. If a prospective employer asks what you did during your downtime, you can list all these things you did to keep yourself busy. When you’re in the job market, small things like this can give you an edge.
If there’s one thing I’ve managed to develop throughout my professional life, it’s my ability to adjust to my environment. I’ve practically made a career out of it. It’s an ability that has managed to keep me sane in tough situations, not to mention that it has enabled me to extend my shelf life long after my role, whether it’s because of an organization’s changing needs or my skill set no longer fits, has become obsolete.
A ballplayer with a long career (yes, here I go again with the baseball analogies) is usually able to do so by developing a new strength after an old one is no longer effective. For example, pitchers such as C.C. Sabathia or Bartolo Colon have reinvented themselves as finesse pitchers who get batters out using guile and precision, long after their fastballs are no longer effective. Likewise, a professional who is having difficulty keeping up with modern trends or technology may need to reinvent him or herself in order to remain relevant in the marketplace.
My recent unemployment forced me to take stock of where I am in my career and where I want to be going. Even before my (now-former) employer let me go, I’d been asking myself some hard questions about who I was. I had been struggling as a developer, which was making me question whether or not it was what I should — or even wanted — to be doing. At the same time, I also considered my strengths. What was I good at doing? Were these strengths marketable? Were they skills that I could offer to an organization? Would I enjoy a position that took advantage of these strengths?
For me, personally, I discovered — or, more accurately, re-discovered — that my strengths were in writing and communication, not software development. This revelation made me realize several things. While I enjoyed doing development work, I found that I wasn’t passionate about it. I was, however, passionate about writing and documentation — to the point that I began steering myself in that direction. I became openly critical about my company’s documentation (and, in many cases, the lack of). My SQL Saturday presentations have all been based on writing and communication. Even in my current job search, my focus has been on positions that emphasize writing and communication over hardcore technical skills. Having said that, I am also not discounting my technical background; my ideal position is one that takes advantage of that background. While I am looking for something that focuses on communication, I am looking at my technical background to supplement that skill.
At this point in time, whether or not this strategy lands me a new position remains to be seen. However, I’ve made some observations. First, I’ve noticed that prospective employers appear to be more receptive to my approach. I seem to be getting more and better prospective opportunities, and they are coming quickly. Second, I’ve noticed that, in conversations and interviews, I am much more confident and assertive. Third, I’m much more focused in my search — in contrast to job searches in years past, where I would apply to anything and everything that even remotely sounded like a position I could fill. Finally, as strange as it may seem, I’m finding that I’m actually having more fun with this process.
It’s often been said that when a door closes, another opens. If a current position or career isn’t working for you, it might be time to take stock and reinvent yourself. You might discover a new mindset and a new motivation. You might discover a new passion. You might even find that reinventing yourself results in a new career path — one that is more satisfying and rewarding than you had ever previously believed.
Yesterday, I got into a conversation with someone about getting rid of stuff. (I have no idea how we got into that conversation.) I told her that I was a self-admitted pack rat, and (like many other people, I’m sure) I had a tough time with getting rid of things. How many of you have tried to clean out your closet, your attic, or your basement, come across an item, and have said either “oh that holds fond memories” or “I might need that later”? I’d bet that if I asked that question in a crowded room, almost every hand would be raised.
She said something profound: “Everything has a story. When I get rid of something, if, say, I’m giving something away, I’ll tell that person the story behind it. For example, let’s say I’m getting rid of a dress. I’ll say, ‘oh, I wore that dress for a friend’s wedding,’ or whatever the story is behind it. Once I tell the story, I can let it go.”
She gave me some advice: “If you’re getting rid of something, tell someone about it — even if all you do is write it down somewhere. Even if no one ever reads it, at least the memory is preserved.”
It’s hard to let go. We place a lot of value in things, whether they’re people, relationships, or inanimate objects. If something is valuable to you, you gain an attachment to it. The stronger the attachment, the more difficult it is to let it go.
So the next time you’re getting rid of stuff, tell someone about it — even if you just write it down. You might find it easier to part ways.
Well, after posting an article only a month ago about losing a job, I am now in that position myself. I was officially dismissed from my position this afternoon.
Yes, I am, admittedly, a little down, but at the same time, I also feel a measure of freedom — the type where I feel like I can spread my wings and fly. I feel good about my prospects, and I’m sure that I will be landing on my feet soon.
So, time for me to practice what I preach.
“If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying.”
— Wynton Marsalis
“I get knocked down, but I get up again; you’re never gonna keep me down…”
“You’re only human; you’re allowed to make your share of mistakes…”
— Billy Joel
“It’s not how we fall. It’s how we get back up again.”
— Patrick Ness
It’s been said that (baseball) pitchers need to have short memories. Whenever a pitcher makes a mistake — say, gives up a home run — he needs to shake it off — forget about it and move on to the next batter.
That being said, he needs to remember it as well. He needs to figure out what he did wrong (e.g. “okay, he likes the fastball down and away”) and remember not to make that same mistake the next time that batter comes up to hit. In other words, he learns from his mistake.
This pretty much happens to all of us. We’re human. We’re not perfect. We’re going to make mistakes. The issue is when we become afraid of those mistakes. We become so afraid of mistakes that it discourages us from doing things.
Let me make one thing clear. I’m not talking about people who willfully make mistakes, don’t care, or strive for mediocrity (which, by the way, is a huge pet peeve of mine, and one that I do not tolerate. That’s another ‘blog post for another time). I’m talking about people who genuinely care about what they’re doing, who want to do a good job or get better, and are putting in an effort to reach that goal.
As a part-time musician who holds a leadership position, this particularly troubles me when it comes to making music. Someone doesn’t want to play something because he or she is afraid of screwing up. Why? Music is an area where it makes the most sense to make mistakes. The time spent practicing or rehearsing music is when making mistakes makes the most sense. It’s called practice for a reason. It’s time spent to address areas that need to be improved — hence, why it’s important to make mistakes. Mistakes tell us what needs work or what needs to be addressed. Mistakes are why we rehearse. We don’t — and shouldn’t — practice what we’re doing right; we need to practice what we’re doing wrong.
When it comes to music, I attribute part of it to stage fright. People don’t want to make mistakes in front of other people. I say, who cares? So what if you make a mistake? What’s going to happen? Are people going to think less of you? In all likelihood, probably not. For what it’s worth, I’ve heard — and even seen — professional musicians make mistakes during concerts or live performances. More often than not, they’ll keep going as if nothing happened. No big deal. It’s funny, but I lost my fear of performing (or speaking) in front of groups a long time ago. I attribute it to realizing that making a mistake isn’t the end of the world.
The same holds true on the job. Many of us are afraid to make mistakes at work. Why? Are we going to get fired? Unless the mistake is either (1) very large, or (2) numerous, it’s unlikely. How many of you have had bad days at work? It happens sometimes. How many of you have lost your job because of them? I suspect, not many.
The thing is, we always want to be better at something. Getting better means getting out of our comfort zone. When that happens, we’re going to make mistakes. I’ve often said that “perfection as a goal is okay. Perfection as a standard is not.” We’re not built for perfection. That’s what being human is all about. Someone once said that “one of the worst quotes ever coined is ‘get it right the first time.’ It’s stupid, because almost nobody ever gets it right the first time.”
Well, someone might say, “what about a profession where you can’t afford to make mistakes, where making a mistake can cost lives, such as doctors and airline pilots?”
For this, I point out a couple of things. First, there’s a reason why jobs like that require extensive training and practice. Pilots practice in simulators. Doctors practice on cadavers and dummies. In both cases (and probably others as well), students are closely supervised. These days, virtual reality contributes to these practice scenarios as well. And even then, mistakes will be made during practice. Second, professions such as these are becoming increasingly reliant on checklists. Checklists decrease the probability of mistakes, and are becoming increasingly prevalent in numerous professions. (I have an idea for a presentation and a ‘blog article about checklists; hopefully, this will be coming soon.)
The ability to make mistakes is important. We learn from them. We get better because of them. They make us stronger. And once you can address them, overcome them, learn how to recover from them, or eliminate them, chances are that people will say that you’re the master at your craft, whatever that craft may be.
Ho-Jon: “How can I ever thank you?”
Hawkeye Pierce: “You just go and be the best you you can be.”
“Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned? I know it sounds absurd, but please tell me who I am…”
— Supertramp, “The Logical Song”
“Who are you? Who, who, who, who?”
— The Who
At my CrossFit gym last night, we had a tearful good-bye to a friend (one of our members) who was moving out to the western part of the state, along with her husband and children, for a new life. One thing she said struck me: “I’m not the same person I was when I walked into this place. How is this new person going to be able to adapt to a new place? Am I going to be able to find another Ray, or another [name], or another [another name]…?”
I said to her, “all you can do is be you.”
I said that, and I believe that. But what, exactly, does that mean?
I could probably write an entire book about that (and some people have), but I’ll spare you the gory details. Besides, I’m no psychologist, and what I say might be worth about as much as a politician’s alt-facts (don’t get me started). But, since this is a ‘blog article, and I write what I think, well…
For starters, you’re the one person whom you’ll get to know the best. You know your likes and dislikes, your strengths and weaknesses, your tastes, your interests, and so on, better than anyone else. You’re the one person over whom you have complete, 100% control (disclaimer: I am not talking clinically; that is another discussion about which I know nearly nothing). If you don’t know yourself, if you don’t take stock of who you are, you’ll start having issues.
Knowing yourself leads you to something else: having confidence and faith in yourself. If you know yourself, you know, for the most part, what you’re capable of doing. I’m not always sure as to what I’m capable of handling, but I do know myself enough to know what I can do.
This bring me to another thought: being you also means testing your limits. Testing your limits means stepping outside your comfort zone. Are you capable of doing more? Often, you won’t know until you try. And once you do try, how does it make you feel? Proud? Accomplished? Can you do even better the next time you try? The point is, you will always be you, but you are never static. We are always changing. Who you are now is probably not the same you from years ago. And who you will be in several years won’t be the same you that you are now.
The world is a scary place. It is human nature to fear what we don’t know. But the world around us often defines who we are. Who we are depends on what kind of cards we’re dealt. We are often shaped by the changes we face. And in the end, the way you deal with change is to continue being the same, ever-changing you that you’ve always been.