Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 378: Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological affliction suffered by some abuse victims. The terms describes a condition where the victim develops empathy for his or her oppressor. They become normalized to the abuse and even consider the lack of overt abuse as a certain kindness and caring.

I think I'm feeling this.

I haven't heard from the folks I interviewed with 10 days ago. I was told at the end of the expensive, two-day process that I would hear something "in a few days." This being a Tuesday, I expected that meant likely by Friday. That was last Friday.

So now almost another week has passed. And I'm making excuses for the interviewers:

1) "Well, they said a few days. That could be more than a week, easily."
2) "It was Memorial Day weekend. That probably delayed the process."
3) "A lot of people take Memorial Day week off. Maybe the decider is on vacation this week."
4) "They're probably sending a formal offer letter, and it's gotten delayed in the mail because of the holiday week."
5) etc.

Of course, experience has told me that when things take this course, it usually means:

1) They've made a decision, and are waiting for that to be squared away before extending the offer to anyone else or notifying.
2) They aren't good with the aftermath, and I'm waiting for a train that's long since left the station.
3) Hot and heavy on the front end has become cold and careless on the back end, and my obligatory rejection notice is moving through the slowed snail-mail process.

My instincts tell me that it's over for me, I'm out, and that soon the official notice will come. My stupid hope won't let me believe that I'm once again a bridesmaid.

I love being right. How I hope I am wrong.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Internets

Last I checked, it is full on 2012.

So there's just no possible excuse if you're a business to not have a strong presence on the Web. It's astonishing, but I admit to having worked places that didn't understand the importance of a powerful online voice.

Just looked at a job ad and couldn't find the Web site for the associated company. You've got to do your homework on a company to see if it's a good fit, you can't just willy-nilly apply for something and hope later that the marriage is going to work. This prevents you from working for Al Qaeda front groups. Or CIA front groups. Either way, do your homework.

After looking at what might be the company's Web page (the site looks shady), I'm not going to go any further down that road. Why waste my time?

Company, if you're legit, you need to scream that online. Your Web site is who you are.

You'd think that companies would get this by now. It sets off major alarms when one doesn't. Slow traffic keep right.

Day 377: Could This Be The Day?

Well, yeah, of course it could.

Just got a call from a 310 area code number. Heart-in-throat time. Turns out it was a property management company returning a call regarding a place I'd seen in Torrance. I told them I hoped to be needing their services soon but that I couldn't exactly go tour a place today.

In the meantime, a handful of interesting local prospects are on the scene, and time will tell how that shakes out. It's actually a kind of exciting time. Something's got to give!

My advice, brethren, during these times of uncertainty is to try and stay as positive as you can. It doesn't just help you mentally/emotionally but I think it helps physically as well. Stress is a proven cause of stress. (HA!)

When you fret, it can manifest itself with a weakened physical condition. You just feel run-down. So that's when it's even more important to work to stay alert, stay active.

Today I will brave the dog park for the first time since the Great (Awful) Poop Swim Incident. Hopefully I won't have a stinky dog for sale by the time I get back.

Now if that western job offer will just come along...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 376: Drafty

I've got 13 posts in draft form. They're a cross-section of random thoughts/short article ideas that haven't yet been strong enough to leave the nest. I had two good ideas in the last couple of days that I want to investigate.

This is progress. I used to ruminate on ideas that I thought had some legs, then wouldn't write them down or follow the muse for long and they disappeared back into the ether.

Now I write sometimes in a way that I don't really love. I put the idea down and come back to it hours/days/weeks later. I've been working on one thing for it seems like a year now. I've got two short story ideas that I've literally been futzing over for more than a decade each.

I prefer to sit down, blast it out and be done with it. I've come to look at this as sometimes a lazy approach.

It's much harder to let something grow at its own pace. But I've learned to just let it be.

My advice is to make notes of everything that crosses your mind that interests you as having potential to be good. Leave yourself a voicemail. Scribble a note on a napkin. Whatever. You'll eventually discover if the idea is worth pursuing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 374: Strength

Whatever happens, happens. You've got to be able to pick up and keep growing, keep moving.

It's not as easy as it sounds, but it is a bottom line. I've been better this week about not lamenting this or that and keeping positive. I've got to believe that one way or another, things are going to work out.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 372: Poetry

I love Dylan Thomas. Today, this poem of his occupies my thoughts...

I know this vicious minute's hour

I know this vicious minute's hour;
It is a sour motion in the blood,
That, like a tree, has roots in you,
And buds in you,
Each silver moment chimes in steps of sound,
And I, caught in mid-air perhaps,
Hear and am still the little bird,
You have offended, periodic heart;
You I shall drown unreasonably,
Leave you in my to be found
Darker than ever,
Too full with blood to let my love flow in.
Stop is unreal;
I want reality to hold within my palm,
Not, as a symbol, stone, speaking or no,
But it, reality, whose voice I know
To be the circle not the stair of sound.
Go is my wish;
Then shall I go,
But in the light of going
Minutes are mine
I could devote to other things.
Stop has no minutes,
but I go or die

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 371: Pre-Sad

OK, you serial optimists out there won't like this one.

I call it "pre-sad" as a hedge against the possibility that in my fifth strong prospect for employment during this time, I once again don't bring him the gold.

A lot about this one has been different. I wasn't as nervous going into the interviews. I felt calmer, more poised. Ready. Now, I feel something else different... instead of expecting to hear the good news and being crushed if it doesn't happen, I'm just going to presume that it's a tossup, and not be too devastated if I don't get it.

I think it was Steve Nash who talked about the mindset during playoff basketball that players have. Paraphrasing, he said that when you win a game, you feel like you're never going to lose, and when you lose, you feel like you'll never win again.

Make no mistake: If the answer is no, I will be crushed. I went 3,000 miles to get this one and spent almost $900. Not only that, I showed them that I can do the job.

The person who finishes second in the Heisman voting is still a helluva football player, he just didn't win the biggest prize.

So today I'm a little blue, not knowing yet, and not wanting to get my high hopes any higher. Maybe it will work out, and in a few days I'll be tasked with planning a major move and a new life. Or maybe it won't.

It's out of my hands now.

So, today I am looking and applying for other jobs. One way or the other, the future awaits.

But I still want to believe. Yesterday, driving on Interstate 40, something interesting happened. I tend to believe in kismet, fate, whatever you want to call it. I believe in signs. I believe that if we are open to it, we can see things in our world that provide a glimpse into the bigness of everything around us... things we get too caught up in our daily BS to see and admire. It's a shame. I prefer to have some magic in the world, some hope that there is something bigger than just this. Some people have this fulfilled by religion.

Anyway, I'm driving down the road and I see a truck with California plates. Odd enough in BFE Oklahoma. I then noticed the word "victorious." I hope they're talking to me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 370: Waiting

I'm back; it went well. My perception of the overall evaluation I should get would score it an A, or at worst, a B+. I tried too hard in the face-to-face part, trying to be too detailed about past experiences. I should have just cut to the chase on some things.

That said, if someone beats me, they hit it out of the park. I just hope I don't lose to a dress-selling babysitter.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 366: 12 Hours

In 12 hours, I will be on approach to LAX.

It feels good. I've prepped for this one. And will do some more tomorrow.

By the time I can post here again, I'll be through the waves.

Surf's up.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 364: It's An Anniversary!

One year ago today was my last day at my previous job. I got paid through May 18, but my last day on-site was May 17.

As "breakups" go, this one was actually more agreeable than most. I was casually able to clean out my desk, and I consulted with those who would be assuming my duties because my position was eliminated but the work was not. I left pertinent data and contact info, and in general there were few hard feelings (that I know of).

Sometimes it's hard, but mostly I try and look at endings as new beginnings. Yes it sounds new-agey, or even trite, but there is an undeniable truth to it. When something ends -- an event, a job, a relationship, a life -- you must accept it. Lamenting it to a certain extent is normal and OK, but you've got to be able to move on and let go.

If you're the kind of person who often overthinks things and are in touch with your feelings, this can be hard to do. I've been much better at this in theory than in practice. You can be wracked with self-doubt, analyzing every move... "What if I had done this? Who decided my fate? Why did this happen?" That is normal, and can be a "teachable moment." Even Achilles had a weakness, so you've got to be willing to examine your behavior and be realistic about any role you may have had. Be honest with yourself and if there was something you might have done better, make sure and be mindful of that going forward and let it help you succeed in the next situation.

But, don't beat yourself up over it. Most of the time, no one thing is going to do you in. And sometimes, you can do everything right and still things don't work out in your favor. In fact, where job layoffs are concerned, analyst Geoffrey James has a point of view that I have adopted about layoffs.

James thinks that layoffs, which are always borne by the rank-and-file, are actually the fault of management. His view is that management charts the course for a business, making the big decisions about how to allocate money and resources. The staff doesn't make those decisions. The big boss makes those decisions. The big decisions determine if a business makes it or sinks. You've got to look at the big picture and not mikeromanage.

Some Schmo at the big Wall Street firms that went bust in the past few years wasn't making the choices that trashed the world economy. The sign-off for that came at the highest levels. But unless the whole company went down, the executives didn't pay those prices. And in the few cases where they did, they were often given fat payouts in the millions as lovely parting gifts.

James' solution, which I'm totally on board with, is that if a business gets into the sort of trouble that requires layoffs, the first to go should be the management team. They're the ones who made the wrong decisions. They're the ones that ran the thing into the ground. See "Titanic, The." The captain should be the last one who gets saved. It's his (or her) responsibility to be successful. That's why he's the captain.

Good luck seeing this be the norm in business, however. I've only heard of one case of it. 

One of my favorite companies is Pixar, the animation firm that has produced a string of unforgettable movies. But things weren't always so rosy. Before their huge success, in tough times more than 20 years ago, Pixar was a division within Lucasfilm. Pixar's top two managers were told to make layoffs. They resisted until given a deadline. At the deadline, the two managers said, essentially, "Fire us. We're the ones who didn't get it done."

This story was posted on the Harvard Business Review blog:

The managers' leadership inspired their bosses, everyone kept their jobs, and in 1995 Pixar made a splash with a movie called Toy Story. The rest, as they say, is history.

Being out of work for a year has sucked, but it hasn't all been bad. I've been able to do some volunteer work that I might not have had the time for otherwise, and that has paid me in a currency far superior to filthy lucre. I've been able to spend more time with people I love, and with my beloved dogs, even the terrible one who rolled around in poop last night.

She's not terrible. But man, she does NOT need to do that again. EVER.

I've had the support and encouragement I needed, and I've had some near-misses that would have made this a shorter issue. But it is what it is. We've been smart about money, and amazingly other than a few thousand left to go on a car payment, we have no debt. We have a small amount of savings, not enough, but we're not living on hot dog soup.

Monday and Tuesday, I have an opportunity to impress some people and land a job that would fulfill me on so many levels, AND allow me to return to live in a place that I love. It's big. BIG.

And perhaps never would have happened had I not been laid off a year ago. How about that?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Day 362, Pt. II: The Best for Last

Got a confirmation e-mail today about my interview next week in SoCal.

The process has already begun, and in some cases may be completed, for local candidates. The process is in three parts, the first is a written test. I'm not sweating that at all. The second and third components are more hands-on... I'm not too nervous about those, either. I always feel like I interview well.

Most if not all of the candidates have an obvious head start. That puts a little pressure on me to overwhelm all the other candidates. On the other hand, they've probably weeded out the non-hackers and have a "leader in the clubhouse" as the top prospect. So I don't have to be better than 10 people... just one.

Let's do this!

Day 362: Reserved

This won't earth-shattering news that you've never heard before. My advice is to sleep on it.

I have loved e-mail since as long as it's been around. The beauty of it is that there is a documented thread of a conversation. It's great for business; I once worked at a place where a key component of what we did was implementing an online tracking system for work orders. It was marvelous. We had a complete record of a project from ideation to completion. We were able to log specs and changes as a project evolved, offering documented feedback between customer and producer. It allowed us to easily keep track of deadlines, assure quality, and when all was said and done we also had a superb way of measuring  our results. Absolutely perfect.

That was a highly evolved "e-mail" ordering system. But most e-mail in a business use is less structured and less formal.

It can also be very deadly. Because of its theoretical permanence, what you write can and may be used against you. e-mail lacks nuance. Something written in a humorous vein can come out sarcastic or flip.

I learned this the hard way.

At one time I was a master of the hot e-mail. And not hot like you'd find on the seamy side of the Internet... hot as in, someone's gonna get burned. Sometimes that was me. Hello, Laymon.

In my ongoing evolution toward complete honesty, along the way I've lost some of the filtration system that can be useful. This is known as "sugar-coating." Sometimes I'd get a bee in my bonnet and knee-jerk a response.

Don't do this.

The problem isn't that you may be right, perfectly right. The problem is in the delivery. Especially if a lot of recipients are privy to the conversation, a hot e-mail can not just put someone on the defensive, it can downright embarrass them. This does not usually foster and develop a collaborative work environment.

This policy also applies to non-work e-mail.

What I learned in that long-ago situation was that if a hot e-mail wasn't time-sensitive, give it a night to see how you feel tomorrow before hitting the "send" button. Maybe you are being too harsh. Maybe you're even wrong. In any event, re-reading your post before sending can allow you to soften the message if need be.

I wrote four hot pages Saturday, and wasn't done when I got interrupted and pulled away from it. Today, Tuesday, it remains exactly where I left it. A lot of what I wrote represents my version of complete truth. But truth wielded like a hammer can be very destructive.

So I haven't sent it, and probably won't send it. It's going into the archive and may one day resurface as a window into a rough day and an unpleasant scene.

But today, I feel mature and wiser. Not a bad approach.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Day 361: Homework

Up early today to study for next week's big tests. I cannot wait to get in there and show my stuff.

This is a good way to feel. I've had some moments of anxiety and ... for what? I'm qualified, determined and ready. But I'm spending a lot of time and energy reading up on relevant materials and data. I'm going to impress.

It's fun. I'm sure the butterflies will return -- they always do -- but I'm in a good place.

I remember the last time I had a big job in front of me, and I had some self-doubts. Then I remembered that one of the great things in life is that you can choose to reinvent yourself. You're only limited by the shackles you put on your own imagination. When I had those fears, I distinctly remember "coaching myself up" and taking charge.

As I've said before, I'm more adequately prepared and capable for this job than I was for the glamour job back in the day. That's reassuring. I'm near the height of my abilities... I won't say at the top, because I want to continue to get better and learn and grow.

It's going to be a lot of fun. Bring it on!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 355: The Brand of You

Read a great excerpt today from Krugman's book "End This Depression Now!" on HuffPo.

He discusses the draining effect long-term unemployment has on economies, and on people. And he's right about a lot of it.

It's Day 355. I have that big interview soon, but I also got notification of passing the first hurdle of a local prospect, and sent my resume yesterday to another local lead for which I should be a strong contender.

So it's been almost a year. I've had some down days. I had one the other day, because it HAS been almost a year, and I got a little stressed over the pressure of this big one coming up.

Then I realized that all I can do is the best I can do, and that it's not going to always be about who is best for the job. This is something I've touched on before.

I hate egotists. We all have ego, and we all have moments when we puff up and get a little full of ourselves. That's OK. It's OK to feel proud and accomplished when you get a promotion, you get positive feedback on something you've done, you make someone happy, you do something good.

It's not OK when you walk around like your God's gift to the world. Get over yourself.

I'm one of those who are not great at self-promotion. I just find it kind of gauche. But there are times when you have to promote the brand of You. You have to.

A job interview is one of those opportunities.

I'm the ONLY person who knows precisely what I am capable of. And here's the big secret: I'm capable of being a star. Several years ago I was in a job that I was well-qualified for... overqualified, even... I made a football analogy to my supervisor about how a coach wouldn't try and turn a Hall of Fame running back into a lineman. The supervisor seemed offended that I thought of myself that highly. Or maybe it was the questioning of his coaching.

Some people are happy to be linemen. I was a lineman when I played football. But I thought I should have been a tight end... someone who can do more.

It's OK to think like this. In fact, you SHOULD think like this. You should always see yourself as capable of more, as an eagle among the sparrows. Otherwise you're just settling. You have to think of yourself as ready to be a star, not the understudy.

Some folks are happy being the understudy. Some folks are more than willing to plod along with their average lives and their mortgages and their book club and their kids' soccer games and God bless 'em. Those are all fine and honorable things. But sometimes you want more.

I want more.

So I'm going to be the ambassador for my brand. It's quality. I'm quality.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Day 354: Dreamy

Dreams are a fascinating phenomena. The brain is such an extraordinary machine it just can't calm the heck down.

I've often wondered if dream analysis/interpretation was accurate or a crock. A part of me wants to believe that everything that occurs naturally is valid and valuable. Another side of me thinks that things that happen in the subconscious are just the crazy coming out.

Last night I dreamt about my upcoming interview. I was at the airport when I realized that I had forgotten my suit. So I went home to get it, but, I went to my childhood home. It was pouring rain and I was on a bicycle.

Directly behind my childhood home is an undeveloped area that features a large creek and drainage that feeds into White Rock Lake. This area provides a nice greenspace between two large residential neighborhoods, where just west of my block is a big park, probably about 10 acres overall, that is used for softball, soccer, picnics, etc. Across a six-lane street on the west edge of the park begins the grounds that include the lake.

Upstream development makes this area a little flood-prone at times. In my dream, I rounded the corner at the edge of the pre-park area behind my house and saw maybe a foot of water in the creek behind my old home's alley. I knew it was risky but was preparing to brave it and try and make it through the water. Oddly, the water was flowing west to east, which is against the current and something I've never seen before.

As the rain fell and I was preparing to try and ford it, a huge wave arrived and suddenly the water was several feet deep. Impassable and close enough to be very dangerous.

About this time I also realized that my flight took off in about 95 minutes, and I had a 40-mile bikeride to get back to the airport.

Yeah, I think I'm maybe stressing a little.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Day 348: Investments

Sometimes it's said you've got to spend money to make money.

I hope that's true. I've booked airfare, a hotel, and a car in CA for my upcoming interview, and the total is at about $670 thus far. Associated travel costs are surely going to push that total beyond $800 when all is said and done.

Spending $800 when you have no income is a risk, but it's a risk I've got to take.

Last night I thought of it the days leading up to this as my training period. I have to study the relevant topics, coach myself on the skills I've acquired and developed that fit the job, and make this my shot at the Olympics.

Strangely, I think, I will be much more prepared for this interview than I was for the interview that landed my other California job in 2000.

I've accepted that no matter what, sometimes the decision about who wins or loses something like this has a certain arbitrary quality to it. There's an alchemy that no one knows the precise mix about, so all you can do is give it your best shot, anticipate what might give you an edge, and then just kind of hope providence or divinity or just luck fills in any gaps.

Having finished second in (at least) four previous races leading up to this, it'd be nice to close the deal this time. In fact, if you'd told me a year ago that I would only get the offer for one of these five jobs, this is easily the one I would choose to win. EASILY.

I have always been in love with California. The last time, the timing just wasn't perfect. This time, it is.

I'm thinking about keeping a running total to the penny of what I spend to get this job. Then when it's time to negotiate, I'll add that number to the bottom line.

Or not. I just want the job.