Search This Blog

26 December 2010

The TSA Guide to Password Security

Inspiration: Walsh, Ivan. The Mel Brooks Guide to Super Strong Passwords. Business Plans for Smart People. Posted 25 December 2010, downloaded 26 December 2010.

This year, we learned about the TSA patting down five-year-old Christian boys, strip-searching sixteen-year-old girls, x-raying congressmen and celebrities, and sending 56-year-old rape victims into flashbacks and panic attacks, while waving-through young Muslim men and protesting imams.

In the spirit of shutting the barn door after the cows have already escaped, we can learn fine lessons from the current administration about how to set up strong passwords.
  • Always make passwords no more than six characters in length so you can type them quickly.
  • If you absolutely must use an acronym, use an obvious one like rotflmao or wysiwyg.
  • Use just lower case letters in your passwords. No need to use mixed case, numbers, or annoying symbols that require using the Shift key.
  • Using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols will just confuse you.
  • Don't make embarrassing spelling mistakes.
  • Substituting look-alike numbers or symbols in your passwords (for example, pa$$word or V1agra) will make you feel clever.
  • If you use multiple words, make them easy to remember by using common terms or phrases like threeamigos, myhump, or JoeSchmoe (or whatever your name is).
  • Use familiar, publicly available terms such as your name, address, high school, or Twitter ID.
  • Another clever password consists of a sequence of letters or numbers, such as 123456, abcdefg, or qwertyu.
  • Even more clever, you could combine the name of the website with an easy-to-remember sequence, such as facebook123.
  • Birthdays, family members' names, and celebrities' names are perennial favorites sure to stir sentimental memories.
  • Nobody would ever guess a word spelled sdrawkcab!
  • Just in case you need to remember a password when you're not at home, always store a list of all your passwords online.
  • Once you establish a great password, why ever change it? Hackers would never collect information about you or use one account to exploit other accounts before doing something obvious.
Finally, relax! Forget about Wikileaks, hundreds of millions of stolen credit card files, hacked Facebook accounts, and spyware-infected computers. Enjoy life. Hackers who figure out your password for one account would never figure out that it works for all your other accounts, too.

23 December 2010

E-book Reader You Already Have

You don't need a Kindle or Nook to read e-books. You can use the screen and computer you're using right now.

By downloading appropriate software, you can use your desktop or laptop computer to download, manage, and read e-books without shelling out even more money for a Nook or Kindle. I like that I could copy-and-paste from a book to an article that I'm writing in Word -- a great advantage over having books on e-readers.

Of course, you won't want to carry your laptop to the beach, the batteries won't last as long as in an e-reader, and it won't be easy to read outdoors as on one of those paper-like screens. On the other hand, you can't read those paper-like e-reader screens in dim light, and you might need that extra money for keeping the lights on.

If you already have an e-reader, don't worry about transferring books. Once you purchase an e-book, you can read it on either your e-reader or on your computer.
  • The Barns and Noble website offers free Nook software so your iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Mac, or Windows computer (including desktops, laptops, and netbooks) can access the Barns and Noble on-line bookstore. The software permits highlighting, taking notes, and creating bookmarks as you read, and you can sync bookmarks between different devices. B&N claims to have more than twice the library that Amazon has.

    Nook books use files in the .epub and in Palm's eReader PDB formats. Nook e-readers can download newspaper and magazine subscriptions, but B&N's website does not clearly state that the Nook for PC software has that ability.

  • The Amazon website offers free Kindle software so your iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Mac, Windows Phone 7, or Windows (including desktops, laptops, and netbooks) can do what a Kindle does: access Amazon's on-line bookstore and read your purchased e-books. The software permits highlighting, taking notes, and creating bookmarks, as well as synchronizing your highlights, notes, and bookmarks with your other devices.

    I really like that the Kindle software has a built-in dictionary. You select a word in the text and get the definition. Great idea, but I doubt the dictionary has that great a quality. Besides, you could always open your favorite browser and search on "definition [big word]".

    Kindle books use files in Amazon's .azw format, plain text .txt files, and Mobipocket's .mobi and .prc formats. That means you can find more e-books on sites such as Fictionwise, Mobipocket, Webscriptions, and Project Gutenberg. Beware, though: Books from other sites such as Mobipocket won't work if they have DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection, even though, ironically, Amazon owns Mobipocket.

  • Nook and Kindle e-readers and software can display files in Adobe's .pdf format, but not reliably. They can't display some graphics, formulas, and tables.

    No problem! Your computer should already have Adobe's free Adobe Reader. If not, use the link I just gave you to download and install it.

  • Recommendation: A lot of e-book file formats exist. Calibre (they spell it with a lower-case 'c') provides one solution for Macs, Linux, and Windows computers. Their free e-book viewer software (donation requested) can manage libraries of e-books having a number of formats. Calibre can also convert files between a number of common formats. Since you can download e-books from Amazon and B&N with your browser, you might not even need to bother with their software.

    The B&N software can sync e-books on your computer with your Nook, and Amazon software can sync them with your Kindle. If you have them. Calibre works with the Nook and Kindle, too... but it also supports Android phones, Apple iPhone and iPad, Airis dBook, BeBook/BeBook Mini, Binatone Readme, Cybook Gen 3/Opus, eClicto, Ectaco Jetbook, Entourage Edge, Foxit eSlick, Hanvon N515, Irex Illiad/DR1000, Iriver Story, Italica, Kobo Reader, Longshine ShineBook, PocketBook 360, SONY PRS, SpringDesign Alex, and the Teclast K3.

    Remember that the free Adobe Reader still is the best software for reading .pdf files.
I have resisted getting an e-reader. I have too many books waiting on my bookshelf to be read and too many informative articles available through my browser to consider an e-reader to be a worthwhile purchase.

However, I have downloaded many free books that are formatted for e-readers, so I need appropriate software. If you're like me, you will find the recommendation above to be your best solution.

20 December 2010

Keeping Up with the Geeks

I love technology, but I hate the pace at which application software evolves. Just about the time I develop enough expertise to be the office go-to guy, the game changes.

You can keep up with some technology all of the time,
and all of the technology some of the time,
but you can not keep up with all technology all of the time.
 -- with apologies to Mr. Lincoln

Mitigation plan: Choose a niche or two and focus, focus, focus. 

11 December 2010

Which Browser to Use?

Reference:  Purdy, Kevin.  Browser Speed Tests: IE 9 Beta, Firefox 4 Beta, Chrome's Crankshaft, and Opera 11 Beta., 10 December 2010.

Kevin Purdy ran benchmark tests on Chrome, Opera, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. He scored them university-style against the total number of points they could have received and ranked them.

Purdy should have included Apple's Safari. It is popular enough to deserve inclusion.

He also should have rated the browsers on security or borrowed ratings from elsewhere. However, I speculate that he might not have done so because he was concerned only with performance. Security also depends on the use of anti-virus and anti-spyware applications such as my favorites, Microsoft Security Essentials, Spybot Search & Destroy, and Lavasoft Ad-Aware. In fact, security depends so much on security tools and on security awareness that the security of browsers may be a wash.

Not satisfied with Purdy's scoring method, I created a table and assigned my own scores (1 to 10, with 10 being best) to the performance of each browser.

Click on the table to see a larger view.

Purdy did not list results for Internet Explorer in the Memory Use with Extensions test. I assume this is because you can't use extensions with IE, or at least not the same ones available with other browsers. That reflects very poorly on IE's flexibility, so I don't feel bad giving it a score of zero.

Purdy did not list results for Opera 10.63, either. I assume Opera 10.63 had issues similar to IE's limitations. However, since Opera 11 has a score, some functionality must be there for 10.63, so I gave it a 1. Give me a reason to change it and I will.

Next, I ranked the tests in order of importance and assigned weights to them.

I made a decision matrix spreadsheet, normalized the weighted scores, and found the following results.

Or, if you prefer a bar chart....

Click on the figure for a larger view.

Surprisingly, my scores did not greatly differ from Purdy's.

Chrome and Opera have the best performance, with Google Chrome 10 winning by both Purdy's scoring and by my weighted scoring. If you use Firefox, you can do better (although you may prefer the add-ons that are available for it). If you use MS Internet Explorer, you can do a lot better.

12 November 2010

SEO: Move Your Page Higher in Search Results.html

A family friend has started a web site to sell baseball and softball gloves and mitts, but she's discouraged due to low search engine rankings and even lower sales. I would like to sell stuff through an internet store some day, so I've paid attention enough to know that her site needs search engine optimization (SEO).

First, a bit of background about search engines:

The Internet has computers "out there" that function like the phone book's white pages. They maintain lists of all the addresses on the internet. Computer programs called search engines use these lists to look for web sites and then read the sites' contents. Search engines are smart enough to recognize hyperlinks, so they explore all the linked pages, too.

Search engines use lists of vocabulary words to recognize the contents of web pages. They look in the URL, in the text, in headings, in hyperlinks contained in the pages, in the names of files such as pictures, and in a lot of hidden text that web pages contain. They also collect information about when pages were changed.

The search engines then generate statistics about what words are used in which pages. When somebody searches for something, the search engine compares the search words to the words on the web sites. These matching words are called keywords. The search results supposedly list the best matches first.

The art of creating a web site so it lands high in the list of search results is call search engine optimization (SEO). How high a site lands in the search results is called its rank. Ideally, your page lands at the top of the first page.

A new web site has several strikes against it. Many web site owners pay advertising fees for higher rankings to companies like Google. Many web site owners have already optimized their sites to score higher in the search results. And many web sites, thanks to advertising and connecting to other web sites, have more links pointing back to them from other web sites.

Even with these disadvantages, a new web site owner can move his or her site up in the rankings.

Here are some ten things you can do to improve your site's rank.

1.  A search engine that sees keywords in the URL of a web page will rank the page higher.

For example, my blog has my name in it. That's fine for people looking for me by name, but somebody looking for a systems engineer will find me lower in the search results.

I'm going to use as an example for the rest of this article. The address contains softball, baseball, and gloves. That should bring it some hits from sports fans in the spring.

As you explore the Softball Baseball Gloves, site, you find that it has more pages. Each page that has an address containing words indicating the page content will rank higher in search engines. For example,

would score higher in Google if it read

I left in AC-MCFB100R because it's an easy way to distinguish the page for this mitt from the pages for other first base baseball mitts.

2.  Google Trends lets you determine the best keywords -- that is, the words that people search for the most.

Notice the exact words, baseball-mitt-first-base-youth: Is this the best order, and are they the best words? To determine that, you need to ask,
  • What words get this page the best ranking in search engines?
For example, which do people search for more: mitt, mitts, glove, gloves, baseball mitts, baseball gloves, etc?

To find out, we first write a list of comparisons we'd like to make:
  • glove, gloves, mitt, mitts
  • glove, baseball glove, mitt, baseball mitt
  • first base, firstbase, first baseman, firstbaseman
We might think of more comparisons to make as we go.

We can compare search terms at

To see the result for glove, gloves, mitt, mitts, click here or copy-and-paste this into your browser:

I assume you can read the graph and connect the boxed numbers to the notes on the right. You'll see that, by far, the most commonly searched-for term is gloves.

The graph shows that in early 2008, mitt surpassed gloves. The notes show why: People were searching for Mitt Romney! Also note that gloves spikes before Christmas each year. Perhaps people want to give warm fuzzies during the gift-giving season or want to avoid frostbite during winter. We need to refine the search.

We need to know whether baseball fans search for glove, gloves, mitt, or mitts. This time, copy and paste the following into the search form:
  • baseball glove, baseball gloves, baseball mitt, baseball mitts
The results show that people search for baseball glove and baseball gloves about equally.

(Notice also that they do it after the first of the year. The site owner can use such information for planning.)

Let's do the same for softball to see if the same trend holds up:
  • softball glove, softball gloves, softball mitt, softball mitts
(I assume you can copy-and-paste that into the search form without being told to.)

The graph shows a similar trend. So, while we want to use correct terms such as catcher's mitt, we will get more visitors by including glove or gloves somewhere on the page.

Does the order make a difference? Let's try another variation:
  • softball glove, glove softball
Apparently, the difference is not significant. It might make a difference in other contexts, such as first base versus base first.
That reminds me: I didn't like one of the vendor's terms, firstbaseman's mitt. We can let Google Trends settle the argument.
  • first base, firstbase, first baseman, firstbaseman
As you can see, only the first term shows a significant number of searches, and I bet baseman applies only to the player, not to the glove. It does not hurt to have less-used terms* on the page, but it does help to have the most common terms, too.

(*In fact, some web masters will hide synonyms and variants of the keywords at the bottom of the page. I doubt this hurts anything. Some pages, however, include irrelevant keywords such as naked and obama just to draw more visitors. This over-the-line practice, called keyword stuffing, can actually move you down in the search engine rankings. It also brings more visitors that will not buy, which can jam up your site's Internet Service Provider' servers.)

In such naming, the most important word should come first. Try these terms in Google Trends:
  • baseball, youth, glove, first base
Baseball is searched lot more than youth. Glove barely registers, and first base doesn't register at all. So that's the order I would use.

I would not leave out glove or first base just because so few people search for those individual terms, though, because I would want to draw the visitor who might search for first base gloves. That's a judgment call based only on my intuition.

To get the highest search engine ranking for this page, then, I would use this URL:

3. Search engines look throughout web page at the terms used. Since gloves is a home run and mitts strikes out, you must use these lessons in the titles, headings, text, and meta tags of every page.

Meta tags are headings hidden in the code of the page. They give information such as the title of the page, lists of keywords that search engines can use instead of reading the whole page, and the date the page was updated. Blogspot pages put keyword tags out in plain sight. Explaining how to edit the hidden codes lies beyond the scope of this posting.

Update: Google's chief engineer states that Google does not use the keywords meta tag in calculating web search ranking. He does not speak for other search engines.

4. Search engines also look at the names of pictures files. You want to name your picture files using the same naming conventions. You can abbreviate designations such as th for thumbnail and lg for large.

For example, one picture on was named 7.jpg. Google would give the page a higher ranking if the file were named, baseball-glove-your-first-base-AC-MCFB100R-th.jpg. Yes, it seems long, but when you are organizing your files, you will thank me.

While we're talking about pictures, please indulge a pet peeve: Webmasters often use pictures of text instead of using actual text. It might make sense in a graphic design, but search engines don't read pictures. Using, for example, a button where text would work throws away a chance for your page to contain a keyword.

5. More hidden text: The code that makes a picture download provides for Alt text that displays while the picture is loading. Alt text helps visually impaired users browse your website. Use this code. It adds content to a page when somebody has their browser set to skip downloading pictures to speed up access, and search engines like it.

The code to display an image will look like this:

     Alternative Description Goes Here

6. Search engines count hyperlinks to your web pages, including links within your web site. See #8, below. For example, an article on different pocket designs could say, "For an example of this design, click here," which would take readers to a product page. This exposes readers to your products, and the hyperlink increases search engine ranking.

7. Search engines like fresh content. Updating all your pages at least once and ideally five times per week boost your rankings. You probably won't have time to update all the pages, but you should at least make minor changes to the top level pages such as the home page.

8. Customers are drawn to useful content. Combining this with #7, above, might be the most fun of the whole business. Here are some ideas for
  • Add some pages for the histories of baseball and softball.
  • Add a page with news content. It could have links to current scores and to important baseball and softball stories in the news.
  • Add a Reference page that provides links to sites about rules and trivia, team home pages, the history of the games.
  • Add a page with your own content related to your products. What is the difference between an infielder's glove and an outfielder's glove or between a baseball glove and a softball glove? What are the differences between the brands? How did we get two versions of the same sport?
  • Add a page for posting customer testimonials.
  • Update pages with comments. For example, on the Support page, you might document a customer's problem and how you solved it to demonstrate your winning personality and the high quality of your customer service.
Content pages draw more visitors to a site by presenting more subjects that they might search for. Frequently updated content such as scores or commentary will turn visitors into repeat visitors. If your product line changes infrequently, non-product content will give you the excuse to update your site. More pages on your site also means more pages listed in the search engine results, as well as more links between the pages of the site.

So set a goal of giving search engines a reason to keep scanning your site and giving visitors a reason to return for more information.

9. Resubmit your web site to search engines after making changes. Otherwise, you could have to wait weeks to see the results of your work. Again, how to do this is out of scope, except to say that I would never hire a service to do it for me.

A service could submit your site to hundreds of search engines, but most people use only a few, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Ask. (Besides, a lot of search pages are "powered by" the major engines.) You could submit your web site to the few search engines that will get you the vast majority of your visitors in less time that it takes to hire a service to do it for you.

10. A lot of web marketers make people establish "accounts" before letting them access content such as the content pages or free e-books. They only do this for one reason, which is to build a mailing list for newsletters. Newsletters is a polite word for advertising. Or at leas an excuse to slip advertising through the mail slot. Newsletters can become quite a commitment, but they are a way to draw in the most likely paying customers.

I know, #10 has nothing to do with SEO, but the purpose of SEO is to draw more visitors so you can make more sales, so it sort of fits.

Some people have SEO down to a science. Major web sites can profit from gathering massive statistics and fine-tuning their sites' search engine rankings. However, just these nine steps (I'm not counting #10) will give you the greatest return on your investment of time and effort to draw more visitors.

Copyright 2010, Richard Wheeler, All Rights Reserved

01 November 2010

Middle Aged and Long-Term Unemployed? Eight Ways to Mitigate Discrimination

Candice Arnold
Oct 22, 2010
Hiring managers want young applicants who already have jobs. Though federal law prohibits agism, discrimination is human nature. Recruiting people who have less knowledge and wisdom, who have the greatest financial obligations, and who least need new jobs seem foolish and unfair. But it happens.
  • During lay-offs, the least productive get booted first, so slackers are over-represented in the market. Employers increase their odds of getting great employees by favoring those with jobs.
  • Being "wanted" -- that is, being retained during a bearish job market -- gives workers perceived value. The challenge of "stealing" employees away from other employers excites some recruiters.
  • Less-than-stellar job seekers have a harder time finding new positions due to their weaknesses, and they often don't look as hard for new work. Employers increase their odds of getting better workers by favoring those recently laid off over the long-term unemployed.
  • The average income tapers off after 45 and declines after 50, partly because of obsolescence and partly due to negative perceptions of mature workers as costing more in overhead due to health problems. 
To get around negative stereotypes of agism and long-term unemployment, consider the following:
  • Were you a less-than-ideal employee? What specific steps can you take to become more valuable? Be merciless in your self-evaluations, but once you create a corrective plan, put the criticism behind you. Failing to forgive yourself saps your energy for the hunt and undermines your countenance during interviews. Adding to your skills and your character adds to your attractiveness as a potential employee and builds confidence for interviews.
  • Were you in the right career? People who love their work produce more, put more into developing relevant skills, and live more fulfilling lives.
  • In investment, diversification spreads risk. The same principal applies to vocations. Do you have a back-up career plan? To what other careers could your skills transfer?  Spend a portion of your time preparing for and pursuing your second choice.
  • Increase your perceived value by either volunteering or by getting a less-than-optimal job*. Employment, even underemployment, shows initiative. Volunteering shows energy and involvement, and it might lead to a temporary job or new career. Both can help you develop skills and can present networking opportunities.
  • Take classes to refresh existing skills, build new skills, obtain certification, get out of the house. Improve your value to hiring managers by proving you're not an old dog who can't learn new tricks.
  • Use a resume style that de-emphasizes your age and status. Consider using a professional resume writer. Which will cost you more: a professional resume, or delayed re-employment?
  • Maintain your appearance. Naturally, you want to groom and dress for success during the interview, but have you considered how your health affects your appearance? Try not to skimp on medications you might need. Boost your energy and maintain your health through exercise and superior diet.
  • Maintain your countenance. 
    • Release feelings that need catharsis in a safe setting
    • Build your spiritual life
    • Do those things (above) that build your self-worth
    • Teach yourself to think positively (even if you don't believe it)
    • As a last resort, pretend you're an actor and fake it.
Middle-aged and long-term, unemployed job seekers increase their odds of successful hunts by understanding why such discrimination happens and then taking steps to prevent those effects.
    * Before seeking or accepting underemployment, check the effects on your unemployment insurance claims. Public Law P.L. 111-205 (see H.R. 4213 or H.R. 4213 ) prohibits states from penalizing under-, temporary, or part-time employment by reducing benefits. Some states, however, have yet to adapt to the new law. 

    Copyright 2010, Richard Wheeler. Permission granted for personal or non-profit use. 

    29 October 2010

    Meeting Minutes and Other "Menial" Tasks

    A.S. asks,
    How many [technical writers] record meeting minutes for electronic distribution. In other words, perform duties of a secretary or stenographer? There are places where people view technical writers as slightly more expensive secretaries, in which you're expected to take meeting minutes. In most of my jobs, however, it hasn't been my responsibility nor do I think it should be considered part of the core set of expectations. It becomes a burden and takes away time from my normal writing and editing responsibilities. I'm encountering it more and more in job descriptions.

    However the one recurring opinion I have developed from taking meeting minutes is that there are so many people who do not know how to conduct a meeting and manage the time.

    I empathize with A.S. regarding the stress of having yet another serving of work laid on your already full plate.

    He actually raises two issues:

    • Should technical writers' duties include taking minutes?
    • What should our attitudes be about unexpected duties?
    Taking Minutes

    Do not underestimate the challenge and prestige of recording minutes.

    Producing useful minutes takes a familiarity with the players, the meeting topic(s), and the history behind the topic(s). Some meetings, such as department meetings, have topics that everybody understands. A summer intern could handle those minutes. However, other meetings, such as a corrective action board or a design review, require backgrounds far above what any secretary or stenographer has.

    Stenographers take dictation. That's fine if you want everything said in the record or want someone at a higher level to edit down their transcript. It's similar with secretaries. In a technical or management-level discussion, neither has the expertise to decide what to include, and getting participants to stop and dictate during a meeting is nearly impossible.

    Personally, the more content-rich the meeting, the more I struggle with taking minutes. I miss too much information when I stop listening so I can write. (I've never been able to listen and write at the same time.) Fortunately, since too many conflicts arose over what was said, I was allowed to use a recorder in my last job.

    • Good: Recordings created objective evidence that settled a few disputes. 
    • Better: The presence of objective evidence prevented many disputes. 
    • Best: It freed me to focus on comprehending the flow of information presented by the subject matter experts so I could record not just what was said, but what was meant.
    Taking minutes creates the wonderful benefit of turning each meeting into a course. Using a recorder, you get to listen to subject matter experts twice. During the second hearing, you already know the context, so discussions make more sense. Not only does the repetition increase retention, but so do the transcription, editing, and reading of the information.

    Serving at the core of meetings lets you into the inner circle. You get to know the experts and managers -- and they get to know you -- as you interact to ask for clarification or to gather presentation packages during preparation. (Maintaining a library of those presentations can make you quite a resource, too!)

    The learning element has another advantage in that, over time, you become the historian on many subjects. Our vice president constantly looked to his board facilitators (who recorded the minutes) for background on different issues. This not only gave us visibility, it also gave us influence.

    Depending on the meeting, producing useful minutes both adds to your value and creates value -- and visibility -- in which you can take pride.

    Attitude toward Unexpected Work

    For perspective: Many leaders do work that subordinates ought to do. If something inconveniences you, a contributor, it inconveniences leaders even more. Tasks belong at the lowest competent rung of the ladder. As indispensable as you think you are, the time of those paid more than you has even more value.

    If the job descriptions includes taking minutes, then it is one of your "normal writing and editing responsibilities." On the other hand, employers do not chisel job descriptions into stone (unless you work for a union). If your supervisor approves the task, then it is one of your "normal writing and editing responsibilities." If that overloads you, pass the responsibility for what does not get done to your supervisor by laying out your goals and tasks and asking him or her to prioritize them.

    If my supervisor weren't available and I did no want the task, I would answer the organizer, "I'll be happy to take minutes this time, but next time, could you pass that through [insert your supervisor's name here] so he can adjust my priorities?" This will preserve your image as flexible, cooperative, and supportive while protecting you from future disruptions to your scheduled workload due to poor planning on the meeting organizer's part.

    A.S's observation about meeting owners lacking skills for conducting meetings is true. It is also an opportunity. If you have (or can acquire) such skills, you could offer to moderate and facilitate. (By moderate, I mean act as an MC to keep things on track. By facilitate, I mean coordinate preparation and follow-up.) Of course, you need the meeting owner to agree to back you up. Moderating a meeting and taking minutes forms a package that will portray you as a leader and benefit your career.

    22 October 2010

    I Hit a Deer

    I hit a deer. I slowed to miss a fine, 3-prong buck. As he stopped on my right and turned to look back at me, I started out again. Suddenly, from my left, a doe trotted onto the road, only a few feet in front of my car, following the buck. I braked, but we collided. She tumbled into the dirt, but scrambled to her feet and ran away.

    I saw no scrapes on the doe and my car shows no damage. But I learned that, where there's one deer, instead of focusing on it, I should look around for others.

    And in life, when you avoid one danger, you should look around for other dangers.

    15 October 2010

    Four Unconventional Job Search Strategies

    Has your job search made you feel under-qualified and obsolete? 
    AP article* hints that it may not be your fault.

    Before the recession, 18 unemployed people competed for every 10 jobs. Now, there are 46.*

    Unemployed workers surfing the job market face a string of towering waves.

    More competition. The most obvious wave is the number of other applicants. As with recent tsunamis, however, this is only the first wave in a chain.

    Stiffer competition. A Widget Technician (WT) competes against other WTs. As the population under the Bell curve increases, it includes a greater variety of WTs, including those who are less experienced or competent and those who are more experienced or competent. Obviously, the WTs who convince ACME Widget Manufacturing that they have the better skills will get the jobs. So the first wave of better-qualified competitors results from the larger pool.

    Competition from above. Since Master Widget Technicians (MWTs) compete for fewer MWT jobs, more of them remain unemployed. More MWTs, therefore, apply for lower-level WT positions. The WT has to compete not only against other WTs, but also against more experienced and skilled MWTs.

    Job consolidation. Employers down-size not only due to a lack of business, but also to increase their ability to compete in a shrunken marketplace. They cut workers and expect remaining workers to take up the unmanned tasks and work harder, longer, and smarter. ACME Widget Manufacturing wants a Master Widget Technician who also has internal Widget Technician Trainer experience and Lean-Six Sigma Black Belt certification. When the former MWT from Consolidated Amalgamated looks at ACME's job descriptions, he faces not only a scarcity of jobs and a surplus of competition, but also a much higher bar.

    Stricter requirements. The push for efficiency drives employers to minimize learning curves for new employees. To achieve this, they want greater experience, a better match between the resume and the job description, and greater familiarity with the company's way of doing business. As a result, more employers cross-train and reassign their groomed, existing employees.

    Down-shifting openings. Promoting people from within has an unfortunate side effect of shifting openings to lower levels. When ACME trains a WT to fill their MWT position, a WT position opens. The opening has shifted down one level. If ACME replaces the Widget Technician with a Widget Assembler, the opening downshifts yet another level. Eventually, the job description locks out the laid-off WT from Consolidated Amalgamated because he's over-qualified.

    Inflexible qualifications. Whereas hiring managers previously considered an applicant qualified with an 80% match between the resume and the job description, employers now hold out for a 100% match. Human resource specialists say employers who increasingly need multi-skilled employees aren't willing to settle for less. They'd rather wait and hold jobs vacant.*

    Fear of commitment. U.S. employers not only ship jobs overseas for cheap labor, but increasingly contract work out to staffing agencies.** Using temporary personnel reduces costs of benefits and makes getting rid of people easier and less expensive if they don't work out or if the economy does not support the position. As a variation on outsourcing, employers increasingly assign lower-level tasks to avoid losing high-value employees.

    Deteriorating opportunities. Available jobs pay less. The National Employment Law Project claims that higher-wage industries represent 40% of jobs lost during the recession but only 14% of new jobs during the recovery.***

    Advice for the Job Search

    1. Give your resume writer more ammunition.
    • Take advantage of seminars and training programs that your unemployment agencies offer. If you can afford it, pay for your own training. 
    • Look for free Internet tutorials, podcasts, and videos. 
    • Hit the Interned and the public library. Read everything you can to increase your workplace skills. 
    • Collect wallpaper. Professional certifications or degrees not only make you compete better, they also open up new options.
    • As you study, write it up. Taking notes and writing reports make more of what you read stick in long-term memory. As you can create a portfolio of blog entries (as I am doing) or e-books, you position yourself as an expert as a side benefit of increasing your skills.
    2. Working out issues, increasing your faith, and strengthening your character will increase your confidence during that job interview, keep you motivated during your job search, and make you a more valuable employee.
    • Study self-help books.
    • Take time for introspection. What personality traits or character flaws may have put your managers more in the mood for putting you in the lay-off list? What can you do about it?
    • Go to candid friends, family members, former managers, and former co-workers and ask for the top-five issues they wish you would work on. Before you defend yourself, just bite your tongue. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Proverbs 27:6)
    • Go to church to network -- not just professionally, but also socially and spiritually.
    3. Volunteer your best skills.
    • Employers want applicants who don't just sit on their butts.
    • Getting out into the community keeps you balanced, gives you purpose, and boosts your mood -- a valuable benefit during that next employment interview.
    • Staying involved with other people builds your networking and your social skills.
    • Exercising your workplace skills keeps you fresh, widens your perspective, and might even lead to a different and more rewarding career.
    4. Change your focus. Working to increasing one's qualifications requires time and energy, takes away from time to look for a job, and repulses some people.
    • For a quick transition back to employment or if you just can't stand learning, aim low. Since the job descriptions have changed, you may find your match in a lower level position. It's not fair, but the set-back in pay and grade will cost you less than continuing unemployment; and during the next interview, it will help you avoid embarrassing questions about gaps in your employment. 
    • Since many employers offer training benefits, a lower-level job will give you a better chance to broaden your skills and get back to your previous level once you have a job.
    • You may find another occupation to which your skills will transfer and that might be far more satisfying.
    Standard advice for the unemployed focuses on finding jobs, networks, and personal branding. The job market, however, pressures today's job seekers to undertake far more substantial and challenging strategies: changing who you are.

    * Rugaber, Christopher S. Unemployed find old jobs now require more skills. Associated Press. Posted by bestlogicstaffing. October 12, 2010, 5:16 pm.
    ** Madden, Kaitlin. Who’s Hiring This Week, you missed it we got it. The Career Guide. Wednesday, October 13, 2010.
    *** Anonymous. Data Brief: A Year of Unbalanced Growth: Industries, Wages, and the First 12 Months of Job Growth after the Great RecessionNational Employment Law Project. March 4, 2011.

    Copyright 2010, Richard Wheeler

    09 October 2010

    Quote: Choice, not circumstances, determines your success. But to what degree?

    Choice, not circumstances, determines your success. So goes a famous quote from an unknown source.

    The quote incorrectly assumes an either-or, cause-effect relationship.

    Luck is a pattern of circumstances that seem non-random. It is a pattern of values falling outside the expected limits.

    Circumstances result from chance, previous circumstances, and choices that exercise partial control over the creation of future circumstances. Luck, therefore, is a seemingly non-random pattern resulting from unusual, random chance (coincidence), a lack of change to the circumstances, or control resulting from choices made.

    Luck is an interpretation of current circumstances. Neither can be changed. Choice can be uneducated and driven by emotion, or it can be informed and considered. The quality of a choice (the selection of one option from two or more) can be controlled.

    Since true coincidence is more likely to end than to continue, it disappears from the equation.

    Two things result in a greater likelihood of "bad" luck: adverse circumstances and uneducated choices. Two things result in greater likelihood of "good" luck: favorable circumstances and educated, considered choices. Educated, considered choices can change circumstances or can prepare to expand the impact of advantageous circumstances when they occur.

    We cannot control circumstances. Choice, however, influences future circumstances.

    I disagree with the literal sense of Choice, not circumstances, determines your success. It ignores that success or lack thereof depends on both circumstances and on choices.

    The quote also ignores the process of setting the goals that define success. We can choose either probably attainable goals, unrealistic goals, or no goals at all.

    Circumstances set the most probable default outcome, but our choice of goals and our choice of actions to change or take advantage of circumstances influence the probability of success.

    We are not responsible for circumstances' effects on our degree of success, but we are responsible for our choices' effects. Choose realistic goals that will define you as successful. Change the circumstances that you can. Prepare to take advantage of favorable circumstances.

    We may receive from the hands of others the clay with which to create our victory cups; but the cups are ours to design and to shape.

    For persons of faith, I will draw out another factor that I silently lumped in with circumstances, above. I believe in a personal, planning Creator. I don't believe in a universal fatalism, but I do believe that the Creator intervenes to bring about certain things.

    Most of us set goals for ourselves first in this world, and after that for the next world. The Creator prioritizes goals for us first for the spiritual dimension, and after that for the physical world. If we don't achieve our goals, we must cut ourselves slack because we may have attained the Creator's greater goals without knowing it.

    We who value the will of our Creator should strive to align our goals with what we know of the Creator's goals and to allow for unexpected ones. Victory cups of His making outshine any that we could ever design.

    Copyright 2010, Richard Wheeler. Free to use for non-profit purposes.

    02 October 2010

    Correcting Thoughts that Limit Your Career Development Careers and Worklife
    Posted September 30, 2010 at 2:14 pm
    Downloaded 2 October, 2010

    Excellent article, but the style is appropriate for print, not for the web. I strongly advise unhappy workers to read the linked post. I offer, however, this abstract to make the reading a bit easier.
    The #1 barrier to achieving career success is you.  You stand way of your own success with negative distortions. It is impossible to think negatively and have healthy career development. These eight thought patterns can derail your future.

    1. Absolute Thinking about your job or about yourself.

    2. Blaming someone, something, or yourself.

    3. Over-generalizing past failures into a future failure or into a failed life.

    4. Negative Thinking, a self-fulfilling inner dialog of gloom and doom.

    5. Discrediting positive accomplishments, strengths, achievements, attribute.

    6. Forecasting that the worst will happen.

    7. Over-exaggerating the importance of negatives to the exclusion of positives.

    8. Self-Sabotaging creates mental barriers that manifest themselves in negative words and self-defeating behaviors.

    All your career problems are in your head, and fortunately, that’s where all the solutions are.
    The author explains the negative patterns and gives advice about positive steps to take. My favorite was this:
    If you wouldn’t call your kids or your friends a loser, then don’t say it to yourself. Ask yourself, “What advice would you give to your kids or best friend?” Take that advice yourself and model the way for others.

    28 August 2010

    Extend Your Time Management Skills to Your Leadership Actions

    Reference: Personal Branding Interview: Jim Kouzes
    By Dan Schawbel
    Personal Branding Network
    Posted August 26th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    You can learn leadership, and you can apply your personal skills to it.

    According to Jim Kouzes, a professor at Santa Clara University and an award-winning, best-selling author, Leadership is not about who you are or where you come from. It’s about what you do. He identifies five leading behaviors:
    • Clarify values and set the example.
    • Envision and enlist others in a positive future.
    • Search for opportunities, experiment, and learn from the experiments.
    • Foster collaboration and support action.
    • Celebrate contributions, values, and victories.
    Kouzes recommends formulating one's values, just as one would do for time and life management (see previous entries to this blog). He then recommends conducting a dialog with the team to define work-related values of each person and then identifying the common values. When the team agrees to hold itself to the common values, trust builds and a team culture forms.

    For time and life management, one identifies life goals and short-term goals that influence the priorities of long-term and short-term activities. Kouzes states that leaders share and encourage a long-term perspective with their teams. He recommends monthly team meetings to discuss issues and developments that might affect the business. Expanding members' perspectives can lead to innovation. This also establishes common priorities and goals toward which members can work; and seeing your task as part of a larger goal adds motivation.

    Kouzes emphasizes that leadership must focus on building and supporting others. This goes back to values. To quote the most famous, totally unknown writer in the world (me), The greatness of a man lies not in what he accomplishes for himself, but in what he accomplishes for others. This extends to the team, as well. When each member of a team focuses on building up and empowering the other members, each person receives knowledge and empowerment from multiple directions. The team leads itself as a growing, synergistic front to any problem or competitor.

    Asked about changes in leadership theory, Kouzes points out a shift from command-and-control to serve-and-support leadership. This principle goes wayyy back. For example, two millennia ago, Jesus taught on several occasions,
    You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25-28, KJV)
    Some people can take directions and immediately act on them with all their strength. As a product of my generation, I need more. I need to know that the directions favor my own interests or at least the common good. "American values" recognize that government derives its authority from the consent of the governed, and that the governed has a right to overthrow leadership that undercuts the common good. Even the American military has found greater success with motivating followers by establishing trust and common goals.

    This ties back to the concept in time and life management, that knowing why and feeling in control by connecting values and goals to tasks motivates voluntary focus and performance. What works in time and life management also works in leadership.

    Whaddya know, I'm learning some transferable skills!

    18 August 2010

    Improving Self Confidence

    Asma Zaineb. 
    CommLab India. 
    August 17, 2010, 05:34 AM

    This entry original posted 18 August 2010, revised 25 August 2010.

    We all differ in motivations, what lacked in our upbringing, what challenges have tripped us, or what chemicals our brains lack, have in surplus, or metabolize incorrectly. Different remedies, therefore, might build self esteem for different people. At the end of any method, though, success leads to self confidence.

    Many who do not have confidence issues think that in only takes success to build self confidence. Pep talks about "believing in yourself" sound trite, frustrating people who lack the inner knowledge or belief that they can succeed. The discouraged may try but then lack the confidence to perform with excellence. They may succeed but then see only the flaws in their product or service. They might even rejoice in their success but then lose that joy after viewing their "success" in light of a long track record of what they perceive as a downward spiral of failure, mediocrity, and growing obsolescence. How do you establish that which has eroded to nothing?

    This discussion takes a more sympathetic approach. It identifies some ways to lower perceived barriers to success and to increase the drive to attack or bypass those barriers.

    Do not let the many suggestions get in the way; pick what sounds right for you and try it. Also, be patient with yourself and allow yourself to build desired traits gradually. It took you a lifetime to get this far; don't expect change overnight.

    Before addressing self confidence, one needs to distinguish between lacking self confidence and being lazy. Doing the most important but more challenging task requires exertion and sometimes pain. The lazy mind prefers the comforts of non-productive behavior or of easier tasks. Lazy minds can use insecurity as an excuse and blow it out of proportion. How to deal with one's own laziness is off topic here, but recognizing it is an obvious first step.

    (Continued after the caution.)
    Caution: A lack of self confidence may link to depression. Depression can have a lot of causes such as upbringing, genetics, diet, abnormal sleep, or side effects of medications. It goes beyond mere discouragement. You may not be able to will yourself happy, affirm your way out of it, or wait it out. Don't let any person or any thought embarrass you out of seeking help. It's not your fault. You don't need to be a hero and live through the pain. If you think a lack of self confidence might link to depression, get professional help.

    Start with your primary care physician to check for physical causes. If your doctor recommends further action such as visting a sleep clinic, dietician, psychiatrist, or counselor, do it. Maybe you just need to change some habits or a prescription. Maybe you need antidepressants. You don't have to choose between living with the pain, self-medicating, or escapism. You know the long term cost far exceeds the short term cost of treatment. And you know you are worth it.

    Zaineb, the author of the linked article, gives some good advice but lacks consistent logic. You almost know what to expect after reading the title. He advises,

     o Prepare. Good. We each have the opportunity through study and hands-on practice to become an expert at what we wish to do. Knowledge is power, power becomes success, and success becomes confidence.

     o Know your desires and goals. Eh, so-so. Zaineb says, set your own criteria for success rather than duplicating others' goals. There's a lot more to be said about goals that I'll say elsewhere.

     o Emphasize your body posture. Good. In Psychology 101, I learned that feelings often follow behavior; so the same advice applies to how you talk about yourself. Humility and self-deprecating humor may charm and endear, but it traps those lacking self confidence. In addition to Zaineb's suggestions about posture, smile at yourself in the mirror while getting ready. Smile at everybody you see. Smile and act glad to see everybody you meet. Smiles are contagious, and you might just catch it back.

     o Overcome your fear. Zaineb offers nothing about what this implies. I may have addressed it below.

     o Teach yourself to be happy. Zaineb tritely advises us to list our positive attributes to remind us that we are special and unique. Being special and unique does not give me confidence, however. Having some strengths does not mean that I have all the strengths that I need to accomplish a victory. Zaineb should instead focus on using affirmations and on how, to some degree, we can choose our moods.

     o Observe others. Good, although Zaineb unnecessarily limits this bit of advice to public speaking. Speechifyin' ain't the only task what needs confidence.

     o Believe in your abilities. Huh? The cure for not believing in my abilities is to believe in my abilities?

     o Examine your past failures. Good, but very poorly written. Mr. Zaineb contradicts himself and fractures logic by saying that we should forget the past, and therefore should examine past failures to gain experience (insight would be a better word choice). Perhaps he means, Learn from failure and then leave it in the past. To reinforce this, consider starting a journal titled, "I Learned Something Today," and inside the back cover, start a list of questions and subjects to study, with stars next to the really important subjects.

    Motivation. One also needs to distinguish between insecurities and having insufficient motivation to overcome insecurities. To gain motivation, I recommend listing one's life goals, identifying the values that lie behind those goals, and planning the activities, especially the activities in which one lacks confidence, that will accomplish those goals. Don't include just the positives; include the negatives, too. Consider what you want to avoid and what will happen if you let your insecurity stop you from even trying. Keeping in mind the goal-based value of an activity will often motivate one to act and to strive despite insecurities.

    Character. Courage is the will to do right, even when it will cause us pain. Honor is the pride that motivates and results from the exercise of courage. In America, many people have pride, but few have honor. For proof, one need only look at divorce rates, the low age of teenage sexuality, and the saturation of political speech with dishonesty. Character can motivate us to do what we need to do even when we lack confidence. Sometimes only character can move us to achieve the successes that will build our self confidence. Try not because you will succeed, but because it is right to try; or as Lt. Worf would say, because it is honorable.

    Opposition. One writer stated that his mother always told him, "You can't do anything right. You'll never make anything of yourself." I sometimes hear echos of my foster mom crying, "Richard, you're so destructive!" after I broke plate. A successful lawyer told me, "there are plenty of people out there who try to kick your teeth in everyday - and sometimes it gets to you and you start thinking the problem is 'you', hence the depression. It's a very petty, political world out there - some people can't stand the fact that other people do things well and get the glory - but they don't realize 'Blowing out someone else's candle doesn't make their candle glow any brighter!' ...some people, or all of us at various times, may think 'the whole world is against us.'"

    The writer mentioned above used two approaches to overcoming a lack of self confidence due to opposition. First, he worked even harder to prove his mother wrong. This is close to the stereotypical Type A personality who obsesses about his work in a subconscious bid for his father's approval. Second, the writer chose to recall the encouragement of a loving aunt rather than the discouragement from his mother. He intentionally thought about positive experiences and turned childhood opposition into motivation that led to a successful and rewarding career.

    Alignment of activities to goals. This goes back to goal-setting and planning. (See my previous entry on Driving Your Time Management.) I will assume you know your goals. Consider whether, in practice, you really pursue your goals. You might execute your to-do list in the wrong order of priorities, or you might even work in the wrong occupation. In a variation on this, a boss or a team member mis-employs himself by performing tasks for which another team member has better skills. Focusing on less important tasks and trying to do a job for which you have the wrong aptitudes or preferences can fast-track you to failure; and failure destroys self confidence. Doing what you were made to do will lead to loving what you do. Self confidence will become less of a barrier, and success will boost self confidence.

    Your goal-related activities include more than the tasks you need to get done. They also include preparation, study, and experience. Do you think you left studying behind when you graduated? Ha! Schools gave you a foundation for learning your job. It gave you basic knowledge on which to build a lifetime of learning and the skills to acquire the real-life knowledge you will need. Whatever you do, study and practice to become the expert at what you wish to do.

    Lower expectations. As Zaineb points out, unrealistic expectations can erode self confidence, but not everybody, as he implies, gets their criteria for success from others. As a perfectionist who competes against himself, I have learned that I cannot exclude failure and imperfection from my human condition. We must expect shortcomings and pay attention to what goes wrong. A setback is not a failure that shames us; it is an empowering lesson. Prepare better and correct unprofitable tendencies. Think about how many drives it takes to carry a football down the field to score in a typical Superbowl. Or think about how many pitches are received for each home-run hit in baseball. Then step up to the plate again.

    Network. Having an accepting, encouraging friend can help if you don't tend to isolate yourself. Don't worry about the number of your friends; you have found a gem if you find just one true friend who sticks by you. Reward your friends by focusing on their problems, by making their lives easier, by encouraging them. What gives you your lasting worth is not what friends do for you, but what you do for others. (Reminds one of JFK!) When you need them, hopefully, they'll be there for you.

    Look for a mentor, someone with a teaching, encouraging spirit. Don't limit your search. One of my mentors ranked lower on the career ladder than me; yet he taught me some of the most important lessons in life. You will probably have to try relationships with several people before you will find one that works. One might coach your people skills while another coaches your technical skills and another coaches your spirit. As life goes, you will have many mentors at different times.

    For supervisors and coworkers: David Paul, PhD, found that employees respond with greater productivity when they receive a balance of respect, regard, and reward. Respect values people for their abilities, attributes, and achievements, and we usually offer respect by default until it is earned or found to be unwarranted. Regard values the person because of their character, uniqueness, and abilities. It implies a more personal connection. Reward consists of the reinforcement offered, from acknowledgment, praise, or thoughtful, constructive criticism, to increased privileges, responsibility, or take-home pay. Don't forget the reward of demonstrated care -- such as persuading a depressed employee to seek medical help. Different people respond to different rewards. Besides encouraging certain behaviors, respect, regard, and reward can boost self confidence.

    A great venue to grow self-confidence is Toastmasters International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging members and supporting their growth in speaking and leadership. Virtually every city has them as do many places of business. You can visit as many times as you like to see if it appeals to you.

    Caution yourself against demanding too much time and attention. Nobody enjoys helping whiny, self-righteous, self-centered people, and they cannot help you if you drag them down. Reward your mentor by demonstrating progress in achievements and in attitude.

    Self worth. Feeling poorly about yourself can spill over into self confidence, so do something different that raises your self worth. Find a place to volunteer. Make a game of complimenting people. Look for people in need and then help them without being asked. Find ways to pipe oxygen to others' candles, and you will find your own candle burning brighter, too. His candle burns brighter, who lights another's candle.

    The Big Why. What motivates you? Aligning your goals and tasks your Big Why, your internal, emotional carrot-and-stick, can drive you through any barriers that low self-esteem creates. (See my previous entry on Driving Your Time Management.)

    Affirmations. Affirmations work for many people. For others, they're just fun. Steven Covey, I think, said that one habit of successful people is that they lie to themselves a little bet to encourage themselves. Affirmations remind you of behaviors you want to adopt, such as learning, perspective, choosing the most important tasks, or focusing on serving others. Choosing to act out those behaviors begins to create habits, and habits become attributes.

    Practice affirmations. Write them on calendars, make your own 8-1/2x11 poster, carry them around on 3x5 cards to repeat and memorize throughout the day. Read motivational books, listen to motivational recordings, study time management. Take steps to counter the negativity in the world and the negativity that has taken root within us.

    I'll list any that you send me, but you should seek other sources for more and better examples. One person offered, More wag, less bark (source unknown). A dog's bark often signals insecurity, so I think it means, set aside your insecurity. Act happier and more friendly, and you will become happier and more confident.

    I wrote the following one for you:
    Affirmation for *****, in which I lack confidence: 
    I will try to ***** as an experiment so I can learn how to better prepare for it. I will use what I learn to train or study and to determine the right decisions and steps that lead closer to success. I will repeat this process until I succeed because, when I succeed, I will be rewarded by ____________ and will avoid ___________.
    Thanks to authors mentioned in previous posts. Thanks to LinkedIn Quotivate members Dennis James Deegan, CTM, Steven Weinrieb, Esq., Ray Burchett, Jennifer McGinnis, and W Samantha Newman.

    04 August 2010

    Values and Value-based Resumes

    In a discussion on LinkedIn, a poster confused value statements in resumes with statements about values. I included the post after my comments (below) because he made some excellent points.

    A value-based (not values-based) resume addresses exactly what the poster said. I do not know who started the use of value statements, but they appear to have taken a lesson from marketing: Instead of just telling the customer (the hiring manager) the products' specifications (your skills and experiences), show him how hiring you will relieve his headaches, make his office sparkle, and put money in his pocket.

    Have you met somebody who bored you by talking about nothing but themself? Most job seekers still use self-centered objectives and static lists (or even worse, paragraphs!) to identify all the mundane things they were supposed to have done. In contrast, a value-base resume stands out by letting the hiring manager know that you are the labor-saving, money-making machine that makes him the envy of his corporate neighbors.

    Several tactics will help hiring managers see you as the product they can't live without:
    • Replace the heading, Objectives, with the title of the position you want. This starts to give you a "brand," creating a mental image of you in the coveted job. It also helps you focus on the job, making it easier to tailor your resume.
    • Replace the statement of your objectives with a statement about how you will make your employer the one that smiles like "Bob" when he walks around the office. For example, from one version of my wife's resume:
    Events Manager
    • Events facilitator with training and experience in successfully planning and coordinating events attended by up to 10,000 guests.
    • Leads with passion for the mission, flexibility, respect for coworkers and guests, and exemplary ethics.
    • Tailor your experience to the opening. Cut out irrelevant tasks. You're going to need the room.
    • Tweak tasks into accomplishments by adding results that draw a mental picture of your value. For example:
    Facilitated successful church and civic events with attendance up to 10,000 and guests such as Phillips, Craig & Dean, the Heritage Singers, and Oliver North.
    It is not ironic that I used the most verbiage for a single word, Objective. Using the job title molds the reader's first impression of you and renders unnecessary the old practice of saying, "My objective is to [blah blah blah me me me]." Your resume has mere seconds to grab readers' attention before they move to the next sheet in the stack, so don't waste their time with superfluous labels and statements of the obvious.

    Applying the 80/20 rule, 80% of their impression of you will come from the first 20% of their reading. Accordingly, conveying at least 80% of your value in the first 20% of your resume.

    The bottom line is that most hiring managers choose someone based on confidence that the candidate will deliver value corresponding to their level of experience and training that meets the hiring manager's need, AND based on perception that the candidate is a good fit for their work environment and position. Fit is based, in part, on the degree of alignment that a candidate presents himself or herself.

    The poster offered excellent advice except with respect to values. As he stated, "hiring managers choose someone based on... perception that the candidate is a good fit for their work environment and position." Many corporations, especially those that deal with the central government, stress values. Issues such as ethics, compliance with government regulations, and teamwork can spell success or failure, so you need to say something about how you will support your employer as a good corporate citizen.
    Most hiring managers, especially but not exclusively in the secular world, are utilitarian when it comes to hiring rather than values-based. In other words, as a hiring manager do I have confidence that you can do the job better than other candidates? Will you ease my work burden or create more work for me to do? Values, when they are considered at all in hiring, are in reality lower down the chain. The key to your question is to put yourself in a hiring manager's shoes. As a hiring manager what would you look for when sifting through a hundred resumes?

    95% of what a hiring manager cares about is a candidate's relevant experience and education to a particular job opening. Everything else, including an objective or value statement, is secondary at best. That being said, if I was to rank objective or value statement, objective would be higher. However, objective should not be a generic statement such as, "Marketing position in a high quality company that values its employees." The objective should be customized to your target job and organization, such as, "Marketing Assistant at Nike." This demonstrates that you want a specific job in a specific company. If you are unsure whether a particular job opening exists in an organization, I advise omitting the objective altogether.

    As a hiring manager I want to know that a candidate wants my job opportunity and my organization. I'm less interested in candidates that submit resumes in what I perceive as mass distribution.

    The bottom line is that most hiring managers choose someone based on confidence that the candidate will deliver value corresponding to their level of experience and training that meets the hiring manager's need, AND based on perception that the candidate is a good fit for their work environment and position. Fit is based, in part, on the degree of alignment that a candidate presents himself or herself.

    Values can be presented with impact when they are incorporated into a cover letter or as measurable performance in a resume. But that's another discussion.

    20 July 2010

    Driving Your Time Management

    I need major improvement to my time management. It seems that most days fill with frantic, stressed-out busy-ness, but still run together without any meaningful milestones to prove they were lived.

    I read two very helpful books that showed me how my problem is not just a lack of time management. It is a lack of life management.

    How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, by Alan Lakein, stresses the following flow when planning your day or week:

    Lakein’s book pays for itself in the useful exercises he includes for identifying your goals and using them to govern your daily life.

    The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management: Proven Strategies for Increased Productivity and Inner Peace, by Hyrum Smith, starts with another dimension: the values that govern -- or should govern -- your life.

    Smith, a time-life management guru, designed the Franklin Planner, the popular daily planning notebook sold by the FranklinCovey company, that helps users put all this to work in their daily lives.

    Smith explains a second process to assist in correcting ourselves when things don’t work out. The one thing not obvious in the diagram is that we use our beliefs to screen our needs. For example, the need to acquire things must pass through a "belief window" that imposes restrictions against stealing, but does not inhibit working to acquire money with which to buy things.

    Smith’s second flow addresses a more human side of managing our lives. Smith believes that results should reinforce or modify what we perceive as our needs, but I believe that needs do not change, while beliefs are informed by new information.

    Because the two views parallel each other so closely, I combine and simplify them as shown:

    Up to this point, I would be doing great if I had a procedure-driven personality. Needs still doesn’t connect. I need more. My third major lesson, surprisingly, came in a free e-book distributed by an Internet marketer, Michael Dlouhy and his downline disciples.

    The next few paragraphs use Dlouhy’s material liberally, so I owe him a plug. The ebook is Success In 10 Steps: Home Business Warning: Don’t Get Toasted Like a Pop-Tart! You can download the whole file here:

    Lakein and Smith address the logical side of time-life management. Dlouhy views needs from a different angle and identifies the missing factor: Motivation. Dlouhy asks,

    What is your big why?

    "Why are you on this planet? What were you meant to do?" Answering this will give you “the big, big, big reason that will keep you going.”

    • "What do you love?" "What gets you really excited?"
    • "What do you hate?" "What scares you to death?" "What makes you angry about your life?" What are your greatest regrets?
    • What threatens you? What problems could you solve if you won the lottery? What problem do you want to resolve "so it never, ever happens again?" What change in yourself would repair your relationships?
    • What do you want to do for others? How have you failed the people you love? "What would you like to give the people you love most?" What would helping others improve their lives mean to you?
    • "What is really important to you?" "How many hours a week do you work?" "How do you spend your free time?" How would you spend your time if you could retire? "What makes you feel good about yourself?" "What do you want for your own personal growth?" What do you want to accomplish in your life?
    Dlouhy says that if “your why is a 70% and you come up against an obstacle that's a 72%, you're gone.” You will achieve the mediocrity of a torturous career, you will quit in failure, or, worse, your employer will terminate your employment due to your failures. When you find the right why, however, and your why is a 99.9%, it will empower you to overcome any obstacles.

    Your big why, according to Dlouhy, “is never money. It's about who you really are. Your driving factor must be way more than money.”

    I don’t know whether that’s true. Some people seem completely motivated by the lust for pleasure, the lust for possessions, or the lusts for power, pride, or popularity. Evil exists. It controls, to some degree, in all our lives; and in some, it controls completely. When divorced from values, the unintended consequences of fulfilling our motives ultimately produce suffering and bitter, never-satisfied, unfulfilled lives.

    Many let their motives drive – or destroy – their values.

    We can minimize misery – for ourselves and for others – by measuring our motives against values, a system of morality or ethics. A good values system stems from the teachings of a higher power or at least from a defined set of empathetic ethics.

    We need this check because values should be left-brained, objective, and deductive. Motives, on the other hand, are right-brained and inductive, and can be visceral, desire-driven. Values lie in the intellect, but motives live in the heart.

    Values do not change with circumstances, although sometimes we must balance one value against another. Motivation grows, deteriorates, or matures. Motives can reflect values that we have not balanced against each other. For example, ambition and drive are good, but we limit them out of consideration for others.

    As our goal, we will use our values to prioritize our goals, activities, and daily tasks, but we will use our motives to drive their execution.

    Determine what drives you and temper it with solid values. Harness your big why. Plan your life and your time accordingly, and your inner fire will drive you to plan meaning into your days.


    1. Dlouhy, Michael. Success In 10 Steps: Home Business Warning: Don’t Get Toasted Like a Pop-Tart!, Inc. . Downloaded 14 July 2010.

    2. Lakein, Alan. How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. Signet, New York. 1974.

    3. Smith, Hyrum W. The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management: Proven Strategies for Increased Productivity and Inner Peace. Warner Books, New York, NY. 1994.

    Copyright 2010, Richard M. Wheeler

    16 July 2010

    "Result With" or "Result In"?

    Right or Wrong?- the word WITH vs the word IN when writing "reduced errors by 60% resulting IN saving over $70M" Does anyone know if WITH is gramatically wrong? Please provide evidence.
    Great question, and wise to insist on evidence. I have had many similar discussions. It took years to get my daughter to say something happened "by accident" instead of "on accident." The answer is that this resulted in a non-productively spent afternoon.

    The issue does not concern grammar, so with is not wrong grammatically. Result is intransitive -- it takes no object, but it can be followed by a prepositional phrase. The issue concerns usage; with is incorrect diction.

    In general, you can find the evidence in many dictionaries (see that identify or give examples of appropriate usage.

    Result speaks of a cause-and-effect relationship. With implies togetherness, colocation (can somebody think of a better word? Con-resultantcy?) in the cause-and-effect chain. Resulting with, therefore, implies that the action and the result occur together -- a logical impossibility.

    In simply implies place or condition. Result speaks of an action that has beginning and ending conditions. The thing affected, therefore starts in one condition and the action causes something to be in a new condition.

    An alternate construction deals with the case where the result is the subject of the sentence. In this case, the end condition results, and you could stop there. However, you might wish to add more detail. For example, a 60% reduction of errors resulted, with the corporation saving over $70 M.

    One more case: reduced errors by 60%, [note the comma missing from your example] resulting in saving over $70M. This leaves saving isolated in a sensory deprivation chamber of ambiguity. Who saved $70M? The employee? (I'd like to have HER salary! On second thought, I'd like to have ANY salary.)

    Better: resulting in the project saving over $70M.

    Better-er: resulting in over $70M savings.

    Best: Leave out resulting -- reduced errors by 60%, saving the project over $70M.

    More bester-est: Replace the negative saving with positive profits -- reduced errors by 60%, increasing profits over $70M.