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Sharing your interests and personal projects can lead to paying work for others – from the Career Opportunities Podcast

April 29th, 2013 Comments off

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Many people like to think that there is work and there is play and there is never any crossover between them. We do “work” to earn money to pay for our food, our clothing, our houses. We “play” to escape our work and have fun. I was reminded this week, though, that playing can also result in more creative and fulfilling work, often in entirely new areas. In today’s work world, where everyone is an entrepreneur regardless of where they work, we all need to be looking for those new, unique ways, to expand our work and build a career that is both lucrative and fulfilling. Often, this means engaging in new ideas and projects simply for the sheer fun of it. I can tell you from personal experience that you never know where it might lead.


 
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My most recent story of turning play into paying work started a few months ago. I was working in my computer consultant role for a friend of a friend. It was some typical Windows-related software issues that I fixed in about an hour. This was my traditional work role — fix the problem and get paid.

At this client’s house, though, there was a beautiful Asian-influenced garden. There, in the heart of the suburban San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, was a tranquil retreat for both the owner and the clients who came to her creativity consulting business. I was so struck with the garden that I asked the client if I might take a few photos to share on my garden blog — another aspect of the far flung areas of my work/play. When I returned home, I posted those photos to my blog and then also created a short montage video, which I naturally shared with her.

Peaceful Garden

Fast forward to about 6 months later. This same client contacted me again, but not for my traditional computer consulting. She was holding a creativity event and wanted to know if I could create some testimonial videos for her business with the people who would be attending. She had quite liked my original garden video and since she already already knew my work she felt comfortable in hiring me for this new project. Had I not taken a few moments to document her garden for another aspect of my work — and share those photos and video through my blog — she would have probably never known I was even capable of video production.

This story directly points out how important it is for all of us to engage in activities outside our typical work — and share those activities with others. You never know where your next job, your next project, your next career may come from. I have found over the years that these serendipitous moments are often the source of my most fulfilling and lucrative work. It may seem odd to combine work with play and personal projects, but it is through this combination that we develop our own personal career and create opportunities we may never have thought possible.

The strange fact is, we are often the worst judge of our own talents and value. We can be dismissive of our leisure activities and think that there is no way these activities could also help us earn a living. This is why it is so important to share these activities and let others decide how useful they might be. In this particular case, the client simply did not have the skills — or interest, for that matter — in creating these videos, even though she knew they would be very useful for her web site. Once she saw my interest and abilities, she realized she had found someone who she could pay to bring the project to fruition. Had I never shared my interests and skills, though, we both would have missed out on a great opportunity.

Starting today, I want you to think about your own interests and hobbies and how you might share those interests with others. Surely, not every part of your “play” needs to be turned into paying work, but wouldn’t it be great to earn money doing something you absolutely love? This can’t happen, though, unless others know about your love, your skills and what you can create for them. Open yourself up to opportunities all around you, simply by letting others know what you find interesting and fun. You never know where it might lead.

***

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Job Listings from Tuesdays with Transitioners – April 29, 2013

April 29th, 2013 Comments off

Jobs offered

Job Openings from Tuesdays with Transitioners

Jennifer Oliver O’Connell, organizer of Tuesdays with Transitioners posted these job listings recently. Join Tuesdays with Transitioners Meetup group to receive these job listings directly via Meetup.com and email.

Job Listings from Tuesdays with Transitioners – April 29, 2013

  • Sr. HR Business Partner (El Segundo)
  • HR Manager (El Segundo)
  • HR Director (Gardena)
  • Social Media/Digital Marketing Intership (Possibility of Intern-to-Hire)
  • Contract Technical Writer, Medtronics (Northridge)
  • HR Analyst, Entertainment Company (Los Angeles)/HR Generalist, Real Estate Company (Beverly Hills)
  • Entertainment Agency seeks 2nd Assistant
  • Director and Manager, Tierra del Sol
  • Contract-to-Permanent Recruiter, Emser Tile
  • HR Business Partner, Los Angeles-based manufacturing firm
  • Associate Director, Human Resources (San Francisco Bay area)
  • Sr. Compensation Analyst
  • HR Generalist (Jackson, MS–relocation paid)

Link to Tuesdays with Transitioners for details on all these positions and past listings

** Find more jobs on the Career Opportunities Job Board from SimplyHired.com

Archive: Just-in-Time Learning — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

April 27th, 2013 Comments off

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How often do you know everything about a job or project before you walk through the door? How often do you know everything about a piece of hardware or software before you have to install it or, even more likely, teach it to someone else? The world moves too quickly these days to possibly learn everything we need to know, before we need it. In today’s world, we are often deeply engaged in more “just-in-time” learning than ever before. So, how does one survive in a world where we are learning and teaching at the same time? Oddly enough, to be successful at just-in-time learning, you actually have to make many preparations.


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One way of preparing for the “just-in-time” world is to learn as much as possible about as much as possible. If you have taken classes in Cisco router management, project management or accounting, you may have 70%-80% of the knowledge you need to be productive. Training, classes, apprenticeships all fill the well you will draw on in later work. You need to choose wisely, though. Overly-specific training or classes that have limited application aren’t going to help much. You simply won’t find enough opportunities to apply that knowledge. Training on products or concepts that are nearing obsolescence won’t serve you well, either. You need knowledge that is going to be applicable in the coming months and years.

That said, nearly anything you learn can help, even if you are not yet sure how it applies to your future work. Take, for example, learning how to manage a coffee bar. It has many lessons to offer that apply far outside its immediate realm. You will learn management skills, accounting and bookkeeping, customer service and a host of other useful skills. You can never be quite sure how you will apply your new knowledge in the future.

Your goal in all this learning is to be able to face new challenges by drawing on your reserves of knowledge. In an example from my own life, it is impossible for me to work with every piece of hardware and software on the market today. In fact, it would foolish to even try. I would be spending hours investigating devices and programs I might never see in the actual course of my work. Instead, when I find myself facing an entirely new situation, I have developed enough experience with enough devices that I can make my way through nearly any process.

Over the years, I have also discovered a host of web sites that allow me to find more specific information “just-in-time.” Whether I am faced with an unfamiliar virus, error message or unique piece of computer hardware, a quick search is often all I need to move the project forward.
To some people, this “seat-of-the-pants” method can be overwhelming, if not outright frightening. Still, it is essential for every worker, regardless of your type of work, to apply these methods, no matter what your official job title. You must be able to adapt, learn and apply your knowledge almost simultaneously.

Another important aspect of “just-in-time” learning is the ability to retain the knowledge you have acquired from day-to-day and moment-to-moment. In my own case, I use a combination of tools to “remember” information that might be useful in the future. My first, and most important, tool, is the journal I am writing in at the moment. I often take notes when I am with a client, especially if faced with a particularly esoteric or challenging problem. Then, when faced with a similar problem in the future, I don’t have to try to remember the entire solution, only a basic idea of when I first faced the situation. Then I can simply flip through my journals to refresh my memory.

I also use online bookmarking tools, like del.icio.us, to remember useful web sites, tech notes and online discussions. These tools add the additional benefit that they allow me to access the information wherever I have an Internet connection and they contain search tools that can quickly locate the information I need. You should develop similar tools to assist your learning and retention.

Just-in-time learning is a fact of life in today’s work world, but through active learning, and learning through experience, you will be ready to face even the most exotic work challenges.

***

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What Your Need: A decent place to live — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

April 24th, 2013 Comments off

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Our lives and our careers are deeply affected by our surroundings. We can try to ignore the noise, trash, overcrowding and other issues, but it really isn’t completely possible. They can effect us at a subconscious level and add burdens to our sometimes overburdened lives. When you are trying to build the career you deserve, you need a physical environment that helps and soothes you, not one that is constantly confronting you and taking energy away from your more important work.


 
One-To-One Career Consulting with Douglas E. Welch

 

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The Place

What makes for a “decent place to live?” It is different for everyone. Let’s start with the physical constraints. Is it overly noisy? Is it too noisy for your constitution? Some people thrive on “the voice of city” — that constant cacophony of cars and people and sirens and trains. It gives them energy and helps them feel connected to the world. Others, like myself, get annoyed by constant, repetitive noises and need quiet. As I write today, the air is filled with the sound of gas-powered leaf blowers — one of the banes of my existence. The sound distracts me and makes it hard to do my work. Luckily, though, the noise will soon abate and the neighborhood will be somewhat peaceful once again.

In your area Is there too much pollution? Too much crime? No easy way to get to work? Whatever the problems, you need to think deeply about what is affecting your ability to create the career you want and deserve. You need your energy to focus on your work and career and each physical problem you face saps that energy. It makes it more difficult for you to do great work, expand your influence and grow. I know that in many cases we focus more on career issues like general education, specific skills and career opportunities, but your physical environment is a low level problem that affects everything else in your life. It can’t — and shouldn’t be — ignored.

The People

Often, we live someplace because that is where we, our families and our friends have always lived. Unfortunately, this means that some people live in depressed, dilapidated and even dangerous areas. Even worse, we live in those areas not because we have to, but rather simply from inertia. If you want to build a great career — and a great life — you may need to move from your family’s traditional setting to somewhere more conducive to your career.

This could mean moving from the small town to the big city. It might mean moving out of “the neighborhood” to somewhere closer to your job. In this global economy it could even mean moving to another country. Whatever the case, it can be difficult to break free from your history, but it can be dramatically important to do so. If there are few job opportunities where you are, you may have to move. If you face crime every time you return home in the evening, you need to move. If you are surrounded by the exact opposite type of people you wish to associate with (or become), it may be time to get out. It is a simple truth that who you are is greatly affected by the environment where you live. You can’t divorce yourself from your environment.

Where to go

The first step in finding a “decent place to live” is understanding that you are not trapped where you are. You CAN move across town, across the state or country or even to another part of the world, should that be where the opportunities exist. With my own son, I have hoped to instill in him the fact that his work could take him anywhere.

We have had the opportunity to visit family in Sicily and take him on business trips to the UK. He is currently enamoured with working in the gaming industry and often talks about the possibilities of working abroad. I feel that it has been very important to expose him to new countries, new people, new thoughts throughout his childhood so that he would be open to the possibilities for his future. Sure, I will miss him if he moves thousands of miles away, but I will also celebrate the fact that he is seeking opportunities wherever they may lie.

If you have never thought about the possibilities and opportunities of leaving the place of your birth, I urge you to do so. Yes, you may find success where you are now, but it is deeply important to be open to opportunities elsewhere. Don’t limit yourself to your own small geographic area. Be aware of far flung opportunities — perhaps even cultivate them. In today’s world of social media it is very likely you will have contacts all over the world. Engage with them. Ask them questions. Learn what they like about their location and their career — what their city or country offers them.

Except for those in the most desperate of circumstances, most of us can choose not only the work we do, but where we do that work. Careers are rapidly becoming global in these first decades of the 21st Century and all of us need to recognize and exploit that fact. We are not stuck. We are not trapped. We all need — and deserve — a decent place to live so that our careers — and our lives — can flourish. It is up to you, though, to go out and actively find the environment, the city, the state, the country that is best for you. Don’t let inertia decide where you work and live. It is a fundamental truth that what we all need is a decent place to live.

***

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Job Listings from Tuesdays with Transitioners – April 21, 2013

April 21st, 2013 Comments off

Jobs offered

Job Openings from Tuesdays with Transitioners

Jennifer Oliver O’Connell, organizer of Tuesdays with Transitioners posted these job listings recently. Join Tuesdays with Transitioners Meetup group to receive these job listings directly via Meetup.com and email.

Job Listings from Tuesdays with Transitioners – April 21, 2013

  • Assistant Program Supervisor
  • Medical Assistant
  • Financial Analyst/CPA (Torrance)
  • Adsense Expert, Amazon Affiliate Store Pro, Wikipedia Genius
  • Freelance Writer/Blogger/Social Media Expert
  • Graceful Palms Hospice and Palliative Care needs Nurses (San Fernando and Antelope Valleys)
  • Beats by Dr. Dre is Hiring Controllers (Santa Monica)
  • Front Desk Assistant, Iyengar Institute

Link to Tuesdays with Transitioners for details on all these positions and past listings

** Find more jobs on the Career Opportunities Job Board from SimplyHired.com

Archive: Making the professional personal — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

April 19th, 2013 Comments off

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One of the best ways to build your business, and your career, is to focus not on the business itself, but on the one, unique item you have to sell…yourself. Making your profession personal means giving your clients a direct and personal connection to the work you do. The professional/personal concept came to mind during one of my monthly Career-Op Skypecasts. These are open teleconferences where readers and podcast listeners can ask questions of myself and other attendees. On two separate occasions, I have been asked what workers can do to protect themselves against outsourcing and layoffs. While my own work situation as a freelancer is unique, I believe that others can make use of some of my methods.


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Clients hire you, not your company

In my own computer consulting business, people hire me, not a company. When they call The Geek Squad or other computer support company, they are unsure who might show up at the door, which means they are unsure if their problem will be solved. When they hire me, usually as a direct referral from an existing client, they are 100% sure that it is I who will respond. In my case, I am my business. 

No matter where you work, you should seek to establish similar feeling in your clients, even if they happen to be your fellow employees. Co-workers shouldn’t feel they are calling the IT department (if that is your current assignment), but they should be calling Bob in IT, or even better, they should simply be calling Bob. You want the client to associate your excellent work first with you, then with your company or department.

There are several reasons for taking this personal approach. First, regardless of how or when your manager recognizes your exceptional service, your clients will already be aware of it from direct experience. Secondly, your own personal relationship with your client can’t help but outweigh any negative associations with your company or department.

During my time in corporate IT, clients would often praise my work while complaining about the IT department in the next breath. It was a bit surreal, having to divide yourself from your department, but it is essential to your own mental well-being. The truth is, it is often IT workers themselves who have the biggest issues with IT policies. It is nearly impossible to agree with everything your management does. So ally yourself with your client. They should feel that you are on their side and a partner in solving their problems, not another drone from a nearly nameless department.

I believe that my ability to develop a personal relationship with my clients saved me from, at least one layoff. I had been marked for a layoff from my IT position, but then another department, someone I had worked for in the past, heard of this plan, and I was transferred into their department, as their own divisional IT staffer. Had I not performed well in the past work for this client, and developed a relationship beyond my IT role, it is very likely that I would have ended up just another anonymous layoff. Success in your career is truly related to “who you know” in some ways.

You should also be developing personal relationships with your management. The more your manager knows about you, the more difficult it will be for them to add you to the layoff list. It is your goal to remain employed and build your career as much as possible. Isolating yourself from management only makes you a question mark — an anonymous cubicle dweller of whom your manager knows little. No matter the quality of your work, if your manager is unaware of your accomplishments, if is as if they never occurred.

Regardless of whether you are running your own business or working inside a large corporation, you must make the professional personal. You must connect with your clients as a unique individual, as well as an IT worker, salesperson or accountant. It is through these personal relationships that you will build your career, increase your client base and cement your position within any company.

***

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Job Listings from Tuesdays with Transitioners – April 14, 2013

April 14th, 2013 Comments off

Job Openings from Tuesdays with Transitioners

Jennifer Oliver O’Connell, organizer of Tuesdays with Transitioners posted these job listings recently. Join Tuesdays with Transitioners Meetup group to receive these job listings directly via Meetup.com and email.

Job Listings from Tuesdays with Transitioners – April 14, 2013

Link to Tuesdays with Transitioners for details on all these positions and past listings

** Find more jobs on the Career Opportunities Job Board from SimplyHired.com

Archive: Knowing all you can — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

April 13th, 2013 Comments off

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How much do you know about the company for which you work? How about your company’s market? Do you know the names or professional backgrounds of the members of the board of directors? Why should you care? The truth is, knowing all you can know — about your company, your market, your work and the interests of those around you — directly effects the success of your career. Workers who are insular and care only about the day-to-day tasks they must face will find themselves blindsided by circumstances that might have been foreseen. Your job and your career do not exist in a vacuum. Learn as much as you can about all aspects of your company and you can and will make better decisions about everything. 


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The State of the Company

When I was working for a large corporation, I sometimes joked that “workers should never invest in their own company. The employees are always the last to know about anything.” While I might have been joking there was a deep kernel of truth in it. I would often read about layoffs, management changes and cancelled projects in the newspaper before I would hear anything internally. Companies want to keep bad news quiet, especially inside the company, so you have to dig for the information you need. There are several ways to accomplish this.

First, make use of all the news sources at your disposal. Automated news and web searches, like Google Alerts, can often turn up information you might never have heard about otherwise. If your company is publicly traded, subscribe to the news feed for its stock ticker symbol. You might also want to watch the company’s stock price, even if you aren’t an investor. Dramatic stock price changes can point to problems in the company or rumors of potential mergers, even before news stories appear. You would probably monitor the price if you were an investor. Doesn’t the investment of time in your career dictate the same due diligence?

Next, do some research to see how your salary, and the salary of other employees, relates to geographic, national and international pay rates? While I can imagine managers and executives screaming in pain when they read this, I am a firm believer that everyone’s salary should be known to those around them. I know, you can find stories about ruined worker morale and increased pay scales, but as a worker, if you do not have some idea of the going rate for your position, both inside and outside the company, you have no ability to negotiate a valid salary. When salary rates are unknown, the hiring company holds all the power. You owe it to yourself to be armed with the best information possible.

One great way to gain insight on salary and other work-related issues to to regularly socialize with your peers in the community. Here in Los Angeles, a local group has formed around the concept of BarCamp. These are ad-hoc, unconferences held all over the world. You might even find one in your own town. As part of our local group, we regularly hold Geek Dinners, where we can come together for food and discussion. You never know what information you might discover while attending one of these meetings. Recently, I was able to gain deeper insights into some technical issues at a local web hosting company that I might never have discovered without meeting this person face-to-face. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of this resource in enhancing your career decisions.

Getting personal

Along with information about your company, you should also seek out in-depth information on yourself. If you don’t have some idea where you stand, professionally and financially, you can make uninformed decisions that can harm you later. One quick calculation to make is to figure out your gross hourly rate. People who work on salary are often surprised when they calculate this number. First, calculate it based on a “normal” 40-hour week. Then calculate your gross hourly rate based on the number of hours you actually work. If your company has a lot of mandatory overtime and other emergency-driven hours, you might find your hourly salary on the pace of someone who works at the local convenience store. Finally, while it can be difficult to pin down exactly, try to divine what your net hourly salary might be when you consider expenses such as taxes and unemployment and health care co-payments. I can guarantee you, this exercise will be a true “eye opener”.

Next, take a good look at your savings, both current and money that you may have tied up in retirement plans, such as IRAs and 401k plans. You might scoff at this if you are in your 20’s, but you should be considering your retirement nest egg from the moment you start your first job. The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you will be. Don’t let this opportunity slip away. For myself, I never really plan on “retiring” in the traditional sense. As I look towards the future, I will always want to be doing some sort of work, even into my 90’s. What my retirement plan will provide me, though, is the freedom to work on projects I find important, rather than worrying about supporting my day-to-day living expenses.

Finally, get to know your own wants and desires. Pick your jobs, do not let them pick you. Direct your career where you want it to go, do not let others push in you into a career you do not enjoy. The more information you have about your employer, and about yourself, the better decisions you will make, day-to-day and year-to-year. A great career is not simply about the choices you make today, but the choices you make over a lifetime.

***

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New, different, action is the way to recover from career setbacks — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

April 8th, 2013 Comments off

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I have written in the past about the immense power that action brings to your career. The act of taking action brings power to any situation and no more so than when you suffer a career setback. Perhaps you didn’t get the job or the promotion or you’ve been laid off. Let those setbacks drive you on to new — and different — action that can lead the way to the next step in your career.


 
One-To-One Career Consulting with Douglas E. Welch

 

Now available exclusively to Career Opportunities readers and Listeners.

Click for more information and pricing


If you have been pushing for some sort of career change, and find yourself thwarted, it can lead to depression, inaction and even more self-destructive behaviors. How do I know this? I have seen it in myself over the years of my career. In fact, I think it is something that we all have in common as human beings. When we suffer a failure, we often turn inward and attack ourselves with anger and self-doubt. Rather than do this, I challenge you to direct your energies outward. More importantly, though, I also challenge you to do something new, something different instead of repeating the same actions that brought you to that point.

Like anyone, we can become stuck in ruts of attitude and behavior. We can come to believe that there is only one, right way of doing something –whether that something is making our bed or developing our career. That fact is, if you have suffered a career setback after trying one particular tactic, you would be foolish to attempt that same tactic again. Trying the same things over and over and expecting different results only leads to madness. You need to find new and different ways of approaching your career. New ways that have a better chance of succeeding than those you have tried already. This may seem to be common sense, and yet I see many people repeating the same errors over and over in their careers and lives. They can’t seem to break free from their thinking and actions and therefore fail again and again in exactly the same ways.

So, if you recently suffered a career setback, think about the methods you were using. Then think about a method that is directly opposed to that method. If you were looking to gain a promotion by being the same as all the other candidates, think about how you might be different next time. If you were trying to be very different, think about how you might be more similar to the other candidates. If you have been searching for a job without success using the traditional methods of classified advertisements, recruiters and job web sites, think about looking for a new job using direct personal contacts, networking, conferences and more. For every action there is an equal and opposite action, or tactic, or thinking, that you can bring into play.

Whatever you do, though, don’t let inaction become your default action. Unfortunately, inaction is exactly what most people do when faced with career setbacks. We retreat to our caves, salve our mental wounds with binges of television and junk food and try to pretend that the setback never happened. The only way out of a bad situation is through it. Trying to hide will guarantee that you remain no better off than when you started — and more likely, even worse. Hiding away wastes time and energy that could be better spent on finding the next action — and taking it. Taking positive action always leads to improvement, even if the only improvement is making you feel better about yourself and your work. That said, feeling better about yourself and the situation is the first major step to improving the situation.

Action is important when addressing any career setback, but that action must be positive action, focused in new and different directions. Don’t repeat your mistakes again and again. See them for what they are. Learn from them and then try something completely different. Once these different actions are tried you will probably find that success lies somewhere between the two extremes, but if you never try something completely different you will never know what is possible. You’ll simply fail again for the same reasons you have failed before. This is not the career you deserve.

***

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Job Openings from Tuesdays with Transitioners – April 7, 2013

April 7th, 2013 Comments off

Job Openings from Tuesdays with Transitioners

Jennifer Oliver O’Connell, organizer of Tuesdays with Transitioners posted these job listings recently. Join Tuesdays with Transitioners Meetup group to receive these job listings directly via Meetup.com and email.

Job Listings from Tuesdays with Transitioners – April 7, 2013

  • Executive Production Assistant
  • Retail Specialist (Full-Time)

Link to Tuesdays with Transitioners for details on all these positions and past listings

** Find more jobs on the Career Opportunities Job Board from SimplyHired.com

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