Month: September 2009

Career and identity

After three seasons, 10 months, over 500 resumes and one unexpected layoff, I went back to work this week.

I won’t say much about the new job (to avoid any conflict of interest or issues), but I can tell you that it’s in Chicago, it seems like a very nice place to work, and I’m grateful to be back.

Looking back, I was shocked at how forcefully my job loss hit me.

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Catching up to tomorrow

DSW desperately wants me to buy high heels....but pink is SO not my color!

DSW desperately wants me to buy high heels....but pink is SO not my color!

I’m human, and I have my weaknesses and vices. Who doesn’t?

Aside from coffee and chocolate, one of my biggest weaknesses is a firm belief that retail therapy can solve most problems – at least for a little while.

My biggest vice is shoes. You can tell a lot about a man by his shoes – and I like mine to say new, sleek and stylish.

I’ve signed up for those frequent shopper cards at several shoe stores, like DSW.

A simple idea with straightforward implementation, right? Well, not quite.

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Excellent adventures

chicago-ctaAs I mentioned last week, I’m headed back to work after a lengthy period of unemployment. I’m really happy about this – it feels a little like the first day of school!

Despite having nine months of “free time,” I really didn’t have a period of “funemployment.” I was so focused on my job search that I didn’t take a lot of time for a whole lot of recreation.

So here’s my question to my Chicago readers: There’s a few days this week where I’ll still have my whole day free. What should I do, and where should I go?

I don’t want to hit any of the seriously touristy areas, and I live fairly close to Grant Park, Millenium Park, Museum Campus et al so those I’m already aware of and have already gone to. Are there unique Chicago adventures you’d recommend?

Follow Friday

It’s Friday (the last Friday of summer, in fact) and that means Follow Friday on Twitter. I’m a bit of a newbie to Twitter, so it’s taken me a few Fridays to pull a list together.

I am shamelessly stealing the idea to have Follow Friday posts from Gini Dietrich, whose Spin Sucks blog is on my blogroll. I’ve stolen this idea because of the sound reasoning behind it: suggesting that you follow someone has far more value to YOU, the reader, if you understand why.

My first Follow Friday picks are all in the engineering/design field. I’ve always been a writer, but I always was jealous of the cool guys in school who could design something, who could sketch and draw vivid images. They always had pens and mechanical pencils in their products and intense, jagged handwriting. I wish I could do that as easily as they do!

Chris Glass (@glass): I’ve never met Chris in person, but I’ve followed his blog for years. He has an amazing eye not only in creating his own work, but in appreciating the work of others. His blog is a good place to start to get a sense of his aesthetics. He’s also a part of Wire And Twine, a great online store. Extra bonus: Chris is perhaps the kindest, coolest person alive. I have yet to see any ego, bitchiness or negativity in Chris – only a wonderful childlike perspective and a humble appreciation for the world around him.

Coudal Partners (@coudal): Coudal is an advertising and design firm in Chicago; they have a great interactive Web site that’s really engaging not only for professionals but also for people like me. Coudal definitely gets all the cool kids to come and play in their sandbox (I believe they’ve featured Chris on a few occasions). They are smart and funny, and their posts usually find a way to mash together high art and graphic awesomeness with a pop-culture sensibility. One of my favorite things they’ve done was to create a meme (which readers populated) of book titles and band names mashed together (e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style Council).

Aaron Renn (@urbanophile): City planning, and how cities use urban spaces, has become an area of interest for me. I’m not an expert by any means, and I need to learn more about the field, but I’m really interested in planning and architecture. Aaron’s blog, The Urbanophile, always has smart analysis of cities, and he’s specifically written a great deal about cities in the Midwest. Having lived in or near several of the cities he’s written about (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Erie, Columbus, Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and of course, Chicago), it’s intriguing to see what Aaron thinks and how he frames his discussions.

Axis Maps (@axismaps): Axis Maps is doing great work in a field that, until recently, I knew nothing about – cartography. Their work goes far behind simply making maps; work in cartography and geographic information systems (GIS) is far reaching work that can be used for something as complex as government projects – and something as simple as the apps on your iPhone.

Okay, full disclosure: My best friend is a partner in this company. But even if he wasn’t, I’d be pretty blown away by the work that these guys are doing, and the exciting possibilities that those programs have for the future.

The value of no

426-kanye-taylor--125292517719288600I was one of millions of people who were surfing the Web when the latest news about Kayne West exploded within the Twitterverse this weekend.

This wasn’t exactly a surprise, given Kanye’s penchant for causing a scene and for disagreements.

(In fact, Saturday Night Live famously did a sketch a few years back that ran throughout the course of a whole show. It was based on another award show he’d interrupted. On SNL, he kept storming the mic in different skits and saying “Aw, hell no!” at various intervals.)

It struck me that Kanye may be an extreme example of an issue that faces a lot of people today – an issue that comes to the forefront in the professional world and on the career track.

Many people can’t deal with “no,” and they cannot process constructive criticism.

But as one of my co-workers used to say, “No is an answer.”

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A change of seasons

fall leavesThe change of seasons comes every year, and there’s no element of surprise to it.

It’s part of nature – as is death,  which eventually will happen to all of us.

(Yeah, I know. I’m just a ray of sunshine today.)

So I’m sure that there’s nothing terribly unusual about this summer (which was a little cooler than normal) or the notable figures that passed away over the last few months.

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Turbo job search

job_searchAfter nine months of searching, I have some encouraging news in my job search. I don’t want to jinx it by talking about details before the ink is dry, so to speak, but let’s just say that it appears there is light at the end of the unemployment tunnel!

It was a long, hard, emotionally draining search over those months. I thought I was an expert; after all, I’d just spent a few months in early 2008 learning best practices when I was searching for a job that would bring me to Chicago.

And then I was hired for my dream job – where I actually wrote about careers and job searching. I was devastated to lose that job, but I’d figured I had just had a master course in how to look for work. I’d only be out of work for a month or two, tops. Right? Well, not quite.

2009 was an entirely different ballgame. What I can tell other people is this: Your search today must be unlike any other search you’ve ever conducted. You have to be in a lot of places, all at the same time. You can’t just use one or two tools to land a job – you have to use the whole damn toolbox.

You can’t glide through a standard-issue job search. You have to kick it up to TURBO.

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Be prepared

With today marking the eighth anniversary of 9/11, there’s been a great deal of news coverage about that day. MSNBC rebroadcast its 2001 coverage in an “as it happened” style this morning. And amid remembering all of the shocking events of that day, an idea came to me.

Wouldn’t it be great if all companies and businesses adapted September 11th – or the week of September 11th – as a time to test their evacuation plans and business continuity plans?

Of course, many companies have drills quarterly or biannually, and they’re constantly updating those plans and testing different scenarios. But it would be great to have a date, or a time frame, where companies focus on disseminating that information and testing it.

I’ve worked on disaster recovery/business continuity plans, and companies will usually do a great job of developing a plan…..which then sits in a corner and gathers dust. No one does a test run, names and contact information don’t get updated, and it becomes an obsolete pile of papers, yellowing away in a binder.

If workers need a reminder that underscores how important it is to know what to do in the event of an emergency, 9/11 is clearly it.

It would be an easy trigger for people to remember something that might otherwise be easy to forget or overlook. Firefighters and safety experts wisely tied changing the batteries in your smoke alarms to changing the clock for Daylight Savings Time, and thousands of lives have probably been saved by functional smoke alarms as a result.

We could probably prevent injuries and save lives at work if companies across the country would adopt this idea.

Speaking her name

A long time ago, September 11th was just a date on the calendar.

Eight years ago, it became a symbol of the horrific terrorist attacks that happened in New York, Washington, and a town not far from my hometown in Pennsylvania. That town, Shanksville, was where one of the hijacked planes crashed before reaching its destination (the White House).

There’s a great project, The 2996 Project, and its mission is to take the focus away from the perpetrators and refocus it on the people who lost their lives that day. That’s accomplished by having talented writers and bloggers research their lives and remind us in words who they were. It’s a magnificent idea that many in the blogging community are embracing.

I hope that fellow bloggers will understand that I am not participating in this wonderful project, because there is someone very close to me that I lost on a very different September 11th two years ago.

I want to tell her story, too, so that people will not forget who she was.

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