On deck: SQL Saturday #716, NYC

Reminder: I am speaking at SQL Saturday #716, New York City this coming Saturday, May 19!  The conference will be at the Microsoft Technology Center, directly across 8th Avenue from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.  This is a secure location, so you must register using the link above if you want to attend!

I will be giving the following two presentations:

  • I lost my job!  Now what?!?  This is my career/job hunt presentation, and it’s becoming one of my best-sellers.  In this talk, I provide tips and advice for surviving a jobless situation.  Anyone who is looking for new employment is encouraged to attend!
  • So you want to be a SQL Saturday speaker?  This is a brand-new presentation that is making its debut at NYC SQL Saturday!  Want to be a speaker at SQL Saturday?  Here’s how I did it — and you can, too!

Hope to see you there!

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Reminder: SQL Saturday #714, Philadelphia

This is a reminder that this coming Saturday, April 21, I will be speaking at SQL Saturday #714, Philadelphia (more accurately, Blue Bell, PA).  Go to the link to register for the event.

I will be giving my career/job hunt presentation, entitled: “I lost my job!  Now what?!?

Hope to see you there!

SQL Saturday #716, NYC Schedule

The schedule for SQL Saturday #716 is out, and it turns out that I’m on it not once, but twice!

I will be doing the following two presentations:

Hope to see you in the Big Apple on May 19!

Networking: it isn’t just for breakfast anymore

At last weekend’s SQL Saturday, I sat in on my friend’s (Paresh Motiwala) presentation about job hunting and interviewing.  (This is yet another presentation that I highly recommend!)  Since I was also doing a presentation related to career and job search, I figured that I should sit in (even though this was the second time that I’ve been to this presentation).

As in most career-oriented presentations these days, the subject of networking came up.  Paresh asked the question: “what is networking?”  One lady answered (I don’t remember the exact wording, so I’m paraphrasing), “it’s where you get together with people that have the same interests.”

That’s where I interjected.  I told her that what she said was a myth.  I said the myth were the words “…that have the same interests.”

When I did my own presentation later that afternoon, I made it a point to bring that up.  “Networking,” I explained, “is any situation where you get together and develop some kind of relationship with people.”  Notice that I did not say anything about people who have “the same interests.”  At a SQL Saturday, most people who attend are data professionals.  Of course, that’s a networking event of data professionals.  However, I also mentioned my extracurricular activities (such as, for me, the large symphonic concert band with which I’m involved).  That’s also a networking event.  I asked, how many of you are parents who bring your kids to Little League, soccer matches, and so on?  I explained, that’s also a networking opportunity.

Now, some of you will likely argue, “well, we wouldn’t have met these people at these places if it wasn’t for some common interest,” and you would be right, so let me qualify this a little.  Obviously, people expect to meet data professionals when they attend SQL Saturday.  But if you want to meet data professionals, and you only go to events like SQL Saturday, you’re missing out.  I play with music groups on the side.  I do CrossFit.  I attend user groups.  I am very active with my college and fraternity alumni events.  Some of you are likely involved with other activities.  All of these are networking opportunities.  Data professionals (or any kind of professional) are people, too.  They have lives outside of their profession.  While you are more likely to meet data professionals at events such as SQL Saturday, a local SQL user group, or any similar event, there is nothing that says you can’t meet one of these people at a music rehearsal, a church group, a kids’ soccer practice, a CrossFit class, a book club, or an online gaming convention.  I’ve actually connected with peers outside of technical events (in fact, I obtained my current job through a Facebook contact).  So you never know whom you will meet.

We connect with people through countless different channels.  Attending events that match your interests is a great way to meet people and to network.  Bear in mind, however, that networking opportunities exist everywhere, not just at an event geared toward your interests.  Your next employee, your next job, or an answer to your question might just be a connection away — and you might not even know it.

The bane of unsolicited recruiters

If you are a technology professional, chances are you’ve received the emails.  They usually look something like this:

To: Ray_Kim@MyEmail.com*
From: SomeRecruiterIveNeverHeardOf@somecompany.com
Subject: [Some job that doesn’t interest me] located in [some place where I’m not willing to relocate]

Dear job seeker:

I trust you are having a pleasant day!

I came across your profile, and I believe you are a perfect fit for our exciting job opportunity!  We have a position for [some position about which I couldn’t care less] located in [some place where I’m not willing to move].

If you think you are an ideal candidate for this exciting position, please call me immediately at (800) 555-1212!

(* My actual email address is suppressed for reasons I think are obvious.)

To me, these emails are no different from the email spam I receive that says I need to respond to claim $1,000,000 from a bank in Nigeria.  I’ll make this clear: spam is a major pet peeve of mine, and is something I hate passionately.

I came across this link that perfectly sums up why I hate these recruitment tactics.  I recently performed a Google search on “recruiting spam” — and the number of links I saw was overwhelming.

Among other things, I found a link by my friend, James Serra, who wrote this article about low-rate recruiters.  I also recently saw one of his SQL Saturday presentations where he talks about enhancing your career.  (It is an excellent presentation; I recommend it highly.)

In his presentation, James talks about taking risks, and he told stories about how he pulled up stakes to seek lucrative opportunities elsewhere.  Personally, I am not willing to pull up my roots and relocate (having said that, you are not me), but I do understand what he means by taking risks, especially calculated ones.  You need to take risks to get ahead, and you need to step out of your comfort zone.  (This is outside the scope of this article, and is another topic for another time.)

However, it’s one thing for opportunity (where you’d take a risk) to present itself.  It is quite another when a “get rich scheme” crosses your inbox.

I once had a bad experience with a spam recruiter.  He set me up on an interview.  When I asked the company with which I was interviewing, he would only say it was “an insurance company.”  He did not reveal much in the way of information.  I only found out where I was interviewing only hours before I was supposed to interview.  It ended up being for a company where I was not interested in working.  After that experience, I told myself that not only was I never going to work with that recruiter again, I also would never again accept any unsolicited recruiter requests.

A good ethical recruiter will take the time to get to know you, gauge your career interests, get an idea of where you want to go, and respect what you want to do.  A spam recruiter could not care less about any of this.  All they want to do is make a buck, and they are willing to exploit you to do it.

I recently responded to a recruiter in which I apologized for my harsh response.  Like so many unsolicited recruiting emails, he pitched a position outside my geographic interests that did not interest me.  After I responded, he wrote me back to apologize, and he was sincere in his response.  I had made numerous attempts to unsubscribe from his list, to no avail (a fact that I mentioned in my email to him).  He mentioned that he had looked into it, confirmed that there was an issue, and made efforts to correct it.  His efforts actually swayed me.  I wrote back to apologize and to say that I was willing to work with him.  (Legitimate recruiters, take note; efforts like this go a long way.)

(Disclosure: I am not, I repeat, not, actively seeking new employment; I’m happy in my current position.  However, I would also be remiss if I did not consider opportunities that could potentially represent a step up.  See my paragraph above about taking calculated risks.)

Swimming in the candidate pool can be an interesting, exciting, and even rewarding experience.  Just be aware that, within that pool, you might be swimming with sharks.

So, what’s in it for me… I mean, the company?

The Facebook “Your Memories” feature can sometimes be an interesting thing.  Yesterday, this memory from four years ago came up on my Facebook feed, and it’s one I want to share.

I think I’ve discovered the secret to great interviews — and I’m sharing this for the benefit of other job seekers like me.

Based on some resources that I’ve read (including “What Color Is Your Parachute?”), most job seekers go to an interview wanting to know, “what’s in it for me?” What they *should* be doing is asking the company, “what’s in it for them?” In other words, ask the company what they want and what you can do to fulfill it. Sell yourself on the precept of what value you bring to the company.

For the past two days, I’ve gone into interviews with this mindset, and it has served me well. It’s one of the reasons why I feel like I aced yesterday’s interview. Also, during this morning’s interview, I asked the question, “what are intergroup dynamics like? What other groups do you work with, how are the relationships, and what can I do to improve them?” When I asked that, I saw nods around the room that said, “that’s a good question!”

It’s too soon to say whether or not I landed either job, but I feel like I interviewed well, and I feel like I have a fighting chance.

Ever since I had this revelation four years ago, I’ve used this approach in every single job interview.  I won’t say that I aced every single job interview — I didn’t — but this mindset has made for better interviewing on my part.

Let me back up a little before I delve into this further.  It’s been often said that you should never not ask questions at a job interview.  Asking questions demonstrates that you’re interested in the job.  I’ve heard stories where a job candidate completely blew the interview simply because he or she did not ask any questions.  Not asking questions demonstrates that you’re indifferent toward the company or the job.

That said, it’s also important to ask the right questions.  Never ask about salary or benefits (as a general rule, I believe that you should never talk about salary or benefits, unless the interviewer brings it up).  If at all possible, try to avoid questions that ask, “what’s in it for me.”  Instead, ask questions that demonstrate, “how can I help you.”

Employers are nearly always looking for value, and their employees are no exception.  When interviewing potential candidates, they look to see what kind of value the candidates offer.  For me, I go to every job interview with a number of questions that I’ve formulated in advance — questions that demonstrate I’m interested, and I want to help.  For example, one question I always ask is, “what issues does the company or organization face, and how can I help address them?”  I’m asking what I can do for them.  It shows that I’m interested, and it shows that I’m willing to lend a hand.

For your reference, I found this information in my local library.  A couple of books I would recommend include the most recent edition of What Color Is Your Parachute? and Best Questions to Ask On Your Interview.  Among other things, these books provide ideas for questions for you to take with you to the interview.  Much of this information is also available on the internet; do a search and see what you can find.

I would also consider attending seminars and conferences, if you are able to do so.  For example, Thomas Grohser, one of my friends on the SQL Saturday speaker’s circuit, has a presentation called “Why candidates fail the job interview in the first minute.”  I’ve sat in on his presentation, and I would recommend it to any job seeker.

I won’t say that this mindset guarantees that you’ll get the job, but it will increase your chances.  This approach shows the interviewer that you’re interested, and you can add value to the organization.

Best of luck to you in your interview.

The search is over!

I am pleased to report that I have landed!  I have been offered — and have accepted — a position at TEKSystems!