Don’t Bring Mom. Seriously.

As I was trolling the web looking for pithy career topics, I ran into a job tip for graduating college kids: Don’t bring mom to the interview. Seriously? You actually have to tell young adults that? Apparently, you do. A survey done by Office Team found that managers were talking to candidates’ parents and not just the candidate — and not willingly. Moms and dads showed up at the interview with jr. in tow, answering questions the manager put to the candidate. They also called managers to find out why their children did not get jobs. Hmm, that must have been tough to figure out.

It’s difficult for me to hide my incredulity on this one, having made my own doctor and dentist appointments since I was a pre-teen. But I guess I shouldn’t be shocked. There were helicopter parents even in my generation. One friend’s mom traveled three states away to cook and clean for her daughter who had the flu. One roommate had her mom call her — in grad school, mind you — to wake her up every morning because she “couldn’t wake up on her own.” Yes, I understand it’s a mean ol’ world, and getting a job right now is still difficult, but bringing your parents to an interview says a lot about you and none of it good.

If you’ve made it through college, you can make it through an interview on your own. Parents have a lot of advice to contribute on the job search and some of it probably will be very helpful, but leave the parents at home. Practice interview skills with them; practice phone skills with them; ask them to critique your resume; ask for interview attire advice; dissect the interview afterward with them;  practice interview follow up phone calls with them. But do not let your parents speak for you, whether at an interview or over the phone. After all, will your parents be doing your job for you should you be lucky enough to land one?


Memorial Day Weekend: So, Whatcha Doin’?

Allegedly, the beginning of summer is here, although you can’t tell by the weather here on the west coast. It’s Memorial Day Weekend. So, what are you doing? Are you actually taking Monday off and doing something fun? Unfortunately, freelancing is a career when there is no rest for the weary or the wicked, especially when it comes to holidays and vacation days. Take time off, whether because you want to or the work servers are down, and you do not get paid.

But what about Americans who do get paid holidays and vacation days? Are they taking them all? According to a 2010 survey done by Expedia, $67 billion of work days were not taken last year in the US. Read about it here. That’s about 4 days for every person who gets paid vacation days. Some people aren’t taking them because they are afraid they’ll lose their jobs if they do or they’ll fall behind on work. A lot of people are like me and use vacation days to move, to run errands, everything except to relax.

But seriously, you and your brain need a vacation. And not one where you DO finally relax only to get sick with a summer cold. Resting up and recharging your batteries can do wonders for your relationships and help you return to work after the vacation is over feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next set of problems. If you can leave work behind, that’s great. But most people end up checking in at work on their vacations, which means that really isn’t a vacation at all. You need to set some vacation ground rules: 1) Put in early for vacation time at work — don’t wait until the last minute and give your boss a reason to say no; 2) get your errands done before your vacation; 3) plan ahead what to do if it’s going to be a staycation or where you will go if leaving town; and 4) set a check-in time for work if you really must, and then let subsequent work calls go to voicemail.

Yes, I will be working on Monday and dreaming about paid holidays and vacation days. Hopefully, you will take some time on Monday to remember the veterans, both those who are gone and those still here who have made sacrifices and have made it their career to keep the US safe.

Writing Horror Fiction: Or, The Teddy Bear Sucker Dilemma

If I ever get away from writing how-to and about articles, I think the genre of choice is going to be horror fiction. After all, writing teachers tell you to write about what you know. And I do know horror. Growing up with 5 siblings, 2 of whom were boys was bad enough; however, it gets worse. I vaguely remember pics of my uncle and his barbershop quartet friends dressed up as clowns. (Very creepy). Living in an eery old farmhouse. (See This Cali Modern Life) Giving my Miss Muffett ragdoll who was supposed to resemble me a severe military style buzz cut. She looked so disturbing in her new coif that I immediately started screaming. My grandmother sewed new hair on her, but she then resembled a brassy blonde, blue-eyed Raggedy Ann. (Just plain weird.)

But the crowning pinnacle of horror had to be my teddy bear, a hand-me-down from an older sibling. This bear was not Winne the Pooh, a bear of very little brain. However, he ended up as a bear of very little face as it turns out. The night in question was, of course, Halloween. In case you never learned this, there is a reason why you do not eat Halloween candy in bed. Sugar Daddy suckers are especially yummy. They are also especially sticky. The last thing I remember was how yummy that Sugar Daddy sucker was. I woke up the next morning, and saw the sucker stuck squarely on the kisser of my teddy bear. Stuffed animals are pretty resilient — they have to be. I pulled hard on that sucker, thinking the worst thing that would happen is that it would come away covered in fuzz. (I hate fuzzy suckers.) Imagine my horror when the sucker did come away, with the bear’s face attached.

I think this is the real reason why so many horror novels and movies feature kids’ toys: clowns, dolls, bears. Number 1: They can be just plain creepy. Number 2: All those horror writers probably had a Halloween bedtime candy nightmare in their pasts. Although the result for me was a horrifically faceless teddy bear, who knows. Maybe there will be a Bram Stoker or an Edgar in it for me some day…

Your Resume Never Dies

You thought all those resumes you sent out via the Internet ended up in the circular file, a.k.a. the waste bin, when you never heard from the hiring companies, right? Wrong. Your resume represents gold to a recruiter, even if they can never hire you for positions they typically have. Here’s why in a word: networks. Today’s in-house company and agency recruiters usually belong to recruiting networks where they can swap resumes and reap a percentage of the placement fees for you if you land a job through another recruiter. It may sound great on the surface because your resume gets even more exposure, but now you have lost control of your resume.

Think back to all of the places you have posted your resume. Online job search engines, job lists, company websites. Even if there is a kill switch where you can take your resume down from a site, many recruiters have already sourced your resume and have it in their databases, maybe even have swapped it with another recruiter in their network. It is still out there floating around in cyberspace. You should control where your resume goes. Recruiters are notorious for submitting your resume for a job without telling you. Again, this sounds great until you realize what this can do to your career. You could be out of that newly, hard won job if your boss finds out you are a candidate for another job, EVEN if you never applied for it in the first place. You could also be submitted without your knowledge for a position at a company where you were fired or downsized. How embarrassing.

Recruiters are also notorious for constantly calling people from their resume databases for leads on job candidates. If you are in a specialized field and very good at what you do, this means you are going to be getting bombarded with “Who do you know” and “Give me an update on your resume” calls. I only worked in the recruiting field on the agency side for a few years, and I finally had to change my telephone number because I was still getting so many recruiter phone calls after leaving recruiting. I had posted my resume everywhere trying to get that first recruiting job, and I paid for it with having to do extreme damage control by changing my number.

Don’t let that happen to you. Not updating any resumes out there already may sound like good damage control tactics, and it may work to a certain extent. However, you still may get calls asking for updates on your resume or gauging your interest in a new job. This seems great, especially for someone who has been job hunting for a long time, but do you really want to be fielding these phone calls at your new job or during the middle of dinner? Because you will be getting calls at both places. The best you can do in this situation is to ask the recruiter to remove your resume from the database or at least mark your resume inactive.

Take control of your resume in the future by thinking about where you will send it next. Cultivate relationships with recruiters in your field who will respect your wishes on when and where to submit your resume, and make yourself so valuable that those recruiters will never give away your resume. Do this by touching base with the recruiters on a regular basis, referring good candidates for positions and updating your resume with them. Even small updates such as you’ve now joined the Society of Women Engineers are important. Not every job search word phrase is a skill. Recruiters often search for associations, awards, training programs and hobbies as well. Negotiate when you will take phone calls from recruiters. This will make your work life balance much more tolerable.

Yabba Dabba Do! Animation Goes Retro

One of the coolest jobs out there has to be animation. It combines awesome talent with just plain fun and interesting plot lines, whether it’s for kids or adults. Seeing that I can’t draw a straight line, the closest I’ll ever get to this career is reviewing illustration portfolios for art students applying to Disney. And that was cool enough, but one animator out there is about to realize his lifelong dream of illustrating the “Flinstones” again.

Yep, Seth MacFarlane is about to give the Flinstones a “reboot.” Read about it here. Now I’m not a fan of “The Family Guy,” but just think about how much fun you could have with biomimicry, technology and the new Flinstones. Not that I think this will ever rock the original from its animation foundation status. But a GPS bird who flies in front of the car and then lands in the car’s squawk box with GPS instructions? Or how about an update on the push lawnmower, a riding dinosaur (herbivore, of course) lawnmower with cup holder.  The latest cell tower in Bedrock could be a huge dinosaur’s tail. Get rid of those pesky tyrannosaurus rex flies with a patio bug zapper made from a lizard in a box with a really long tongue. Barney and Fred can squish their Play-Doh cars up and put them in their pockets when they get to work or when they get home.

On the home front: Fred can relax in an angrily vibrating saber tooth tiger reclining chair while Wilma and Betty dish in the kitchen wearing small furry animals on their heads to mimic NJ Shore hair poufs and saber tooth tiger skin minidresses. The kids will be wearing chameleon foot jewelry that flashes and changes colors when they walk or run.

See, and you thought an update would ruin this classic show… Hmmm. I guess I will wait and see…

From Squintern to Employee

SPOILER ALERT!!!!! Ok, so if you are a “Bones” TV show fan, you’ve already seen tonite’s episode, so you know Mr. VNM is no longer with us. But it’s okay. Can you picture him hired on as an employee of the Jeffersonian? Nope, neither can I. I can’t even imagine how he would have morphed from a squintern into a full-fledged Jeffersonian scientist. It was bad enough that Booth and Bones gave Sweets a hard time for being so young, but you can bet if he had lived, they would have been even worse to Nigel.

Unfortunately, this can also be true in real life. I know there are a lot of seniors graduating from college right now who are considering the job offers they have received from companies where they interned during their college years. I know, it’s the “safety” offer. Consider this: How will you make the transition from being seen as an intern to a full staff member? One way is to meet with your mentors and tell them what you have learned since interning at their company — i.e. fill them in on the “new stuff” that they may not know about you.

Getting a boss who wasn’t your internship supervisor may not be enough, either. Networking isn’t just for students and job seekers. Smart people network within their own company. This means that your new boss may be asking your mentor about your strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, your new boss can end up approaching this new work relationship with a lot of preconceived notions about you. Also letting him or her know what else you have learned after interning there can dispel some of these preconceived ideas about you. However, you may have to dispel the rest by being a stellar employee.

Being an employee is very different from being an intern. Interns get extra slack, more time with their bosses, and may also get to choose some of what they work on as a “special side project.” Not every intern is just asked to fetch coffee, after all. The work pace may be faster, more will be expected of you, and you may find that the boss is harder on you as an employee. Make sure you know what your job duties will be and how you will complete them. You may also find that you have more autonomy and are individually responsible for making your deadlines. Will you be able to handle it? What will you do if you do not make that critical deadline?

This last bit is really difficult to do, especially if you are working directly for the person who supervised your internship, but do not second guess yourself. Analyze the situation and make a decision. Period. No waffling. No asides to your supervisor as in, “Was that right? Should I do it differently?” Everyone will see you for the competent, contributing employee that you really are if you step up to the plate and deliver.

The positives to accepting that job offer where you used to intern: you know most of the people there (excluding new hires since you’ve interned), you know the culture and your way around the building, you are familiar with the product or service the company provides, and you should have a good feel for where you fit in as an employee. Take the position if familiarity is important to you; just remember that there may be some hurdles to get over in transitioning from an intern to an employee.

Funerary Explorations

The first funeral I ever remember attending, and I attended a lot of them between ages 6 and 10, was my mother’s. I never really gave much thought as to how the funeral was planned and the deceased prepared until I was 9 or 10. The apartment building across the street was bought and turned into a funeral home that spring. A family with four kids around my siblings’ ages moved into an apartment upstairs from the funeral home, and that was when I began some early career explorations. For example, I learned that in NY state at that time, someone had to be on the premises at all times when there was a body in residence.

Now you would think with my love of horror novels that there would be great fodder here for some of my own writing and maybe there is, but I have not found it yet. What I discovered instead were ornate side parlors where I got to wait for my parents after losing my house key on the way home from school. Somehow, they were just kind of sad in a cool breezy sort of way instead of scary. And I was never allowed to stay downstairs when there was a body waiting for a viewing or calling hours. The guest book with signatures stood testimony to someone’s passing and to a family’s grief. By contrast, the family who lived upstairs and directed the funerals and took care of the dead were fun. The parents had a great sense of humor, and I spent whole summers playing with these kids. The oldest, a son, expected to study mortuary science and to take over the business, which he eventually did. My brothers got to visit the “preparation room” in the basement – I don’t think they were down there with a client – and see what it was like. Evidently, it wasn’t a trip for girls.

But I did sleep over the night before a funeral once. I did end up seeing the deceased lady, and was struck by the “restorative art” or make up on her. Even back then in the late ’70s, she looked like she was just laid out and sleeping. The mom talked about how the body was prepared and how the make up and hair were done. Kind of fascinating, but kind of odd too. Maybe she did that so I wouldn’t be nervous there at night. It wasn’t too bad. I had spent so many hours downstairs in the funeral parlor being locked out of my own home, it felt like a second home. The worst thing that happened was I woke up in the middle of the night in the attic where the girls slept and saw something long and white come floating towards me. I did freak out a little until I realized that it was the mom’s wedding gown, hung up and swaying in the nighttime breeze.

What struck me the most about these people and their unusual career was their sense of fun, their goofiness, their love of life that blended perfectly with their professionalism and respect for their clients. When my father passed away and it was time for our family to be this family’s clients, I was glad I had spent so much time there and that these people were taking care of my family. Even when the son who was directing the funeral choked up over the Irish Blessing, I felt that the funeral was handled professionally. We were right where we were supposed to be. And yes, it did feel like home…