Archive for the ‘career’ Category

Life in the Shit Lane

March 24, 2009

It’s been six months since I last had a job. That’s half a year. This is not for lack of trying.

I have literally applied to positions at a car dealership, several hospitals as a nurse, countless biotech firms (none of whom called me back not even to tell me that the position was filled), non-profit administrative positions, IT support jobs, programming positions, numerous government agencies, and I cold called over 100 area colleges about office work.

I had two non-profit full time interviews that I totally rocked then did not get the jobs. I had one part time non-profit interview where I idiotically did not promise to stay there until they kicked me out. Finally, I had a single job at one of the 100 or so colleges I cold called about a position. They didn’t hire me either, but they were nice about it.

My next mission is to go door to door to every area business to ask for a job. Any job. This seems like a depressing feat, but it has actually been pretty fun so far. It is nice to get out in the sunshine and talk to people. Even when they say “no”, I feel that I am at least trying to get a job. And no, I do not get discouraged. At least so far. I don’t know why. I am more motivated than ever.

For one thing, I despite the title, I don’t subscribe to the whole hierarchy caste system of jobs. I used to, but at this point, I can’t afford to. I feel too old for this nonsense, too. It’s like a mental game that children play at. I just need to have money flowing in so I can pay off those student loans that people told me would lead to such great career heights and happiness.

Therefore, no job is beneath me. In fact, I’d do pretty much anything right now. I see the people at the beach who take out the trash, and they do it with great dignity. Plus they are on the beach. All day. Most importantly, they are getting paid. Also, they get to drive a nice truck for free.

Before the week is out, I’m going to peddle over to the beach and take some more applications. Hopefully someone will hire me.

Right now, I’m shaving off the beard that the wife loves so much, and I’m going to bicycle over the nearest blood bank to see what’s up with my application. Follow up is everything, I believe.

Career Survey: Lab Technician

January 16, 2009

This is a job that I have spent most of my life doing. There are some things about the job that I liked, and some things that I miss when I think about them. But most often, I hated this job.

This is not about an actual scientist job. This requires a graduate level degree. I made the mistake of never getting this degree, though I spent almost enough time in school to get it. I just dropped out because I hated it so much. Guess where the easiest place for me to get a job was? After all, my contacts and everything I knew for the past 7 years was science based.

Also note, that this is speaking of a technician for academic research only. I believe the corporate life is much better. Don’t believe the hype! Academic research gives you no more freedom than anything else. That freedom shit is bullshit to trick you to work for less.

Pros:

1. You get to use some really cool machines, and do some really cool experiments that nobody has ever done before.

2. You get paid to think, at least some of the time. You can use your mind to solve problems.

3. This is one of the best job to talk about during cocktail parties. When someone asks what do you do, and you say “investigate taste and smell”, for a moment, you are life of the party.

Cons:

1. You have to use some machines instead of just sitting in a desk like a normal white collar job. Since the experiments have never been done before, they might not work out like the boss says they will. Guess who gets blamed if things don’t work out?

2. They say they want you to think, but the boss can always shoots down your ideas which can hurt if you put a lot of time in it. Also, much of the work is grunt work which could be done by a child so it’s actually not that thought heavy as the boss reserves much of the deep thinking for himself.

3. The aspects of the job that people who go to cocktail parties like to hear get really boring after a while. Life on the job is not nearly as cool as it sounds.

4. As a lab technician with graduate level education, I managed to get paid less than my wife who had a HS diploma.

5. The job can actually be high pressure as the boss lives and dies based on grants. This means that the experiments, the ones that you preform, have to get the results that he wants.

6. The hours can suck. Since the boss worked for free for six years, guess how much he values your time? Since he’s in love with whatever obscure thing he’s researching, guess how much he cares that you don’t want to spend an unpaid weekend doing experiments? Basically they wish to pay you as much as a fast food worker, and work you hard as a doctor.

Overall, this job is for people who have a HS degree or some college and think that they’d like to do research for the rest of their lives. That’s right, many lab jobs give you the same work you’d get with a BS if you have the proper skills which can be gained by internships or volunteering. A year or two can pay the bills and allow one to live the good life in the big city. Longer than two years, and you start to look old like the staff at the local fast food joint. Ten years, and you’ll be an angry, bitter person.

There is no career advancement save for going back to school and working for free for 2 to six years (or more) while you get a graduate degree. Then you still make less than many paralegals and accountants who have less than half the higher level education than you do. You’ll have tons of debt, and a huge competition for mediocre career prospects.

I suggest getting an office job and watching lots of Dexter’s Laboratory.

Taleo: Tool of Darkeness

January 6, 2009

What is Taleo?

Executive Summary: If you are applying for a job, and you get to a site that says “Powered By Taleo” close the site and forget about applying for this company.

Longer Article: According to the site itself, Taleo is strategic talent management software.

Confused? So am I. I wonder why anyone would have anything to do with such an obfuscated mess. If they buy products that have ad copy that’s so annoying does this bode well for your job?

My take on Taleo is that it is software you have to use to apply to certain companies. Although I applaud software and companies and the like,however, I hate taleo. Why?

For one thing Taleo is buggy as hell.

Another reason is that it seems that the point of Taleo is to save work for HR personnel by taking your well crafted resume, that you were told was so important, and boiling it down to keywords that Taleo will search for. The more keywords, the better the chance that you will called.

One way to look at this is a game of poker. If you stack the Taleo deck with the right cards that is keywords, you will get a callback from the job. Great, right?

Not so fast. First of all, it’s difficult to figure out what the keywords are. I fear that everyone that has a computer and a yen for a job has gotten their heads around the trick of feeding the job description back on the application. So I wonder if this type of “Taleo Jamming” works. If it does, then great. I’d be interested in people’s opinions on this as I find Taleo and its ilk to be of keen interest.

I will not be using this advice, however as my recommendation is that one should boycott Taleo Powered Sites. This is not out of any kind of activism, but rather from the practical standpoint that Taleo does not act, as a job candidate, in your best interests

As an employee, you are a unique person with skills and personality. I feel that this will come through most clearly on a cover letter. However, Taleo isn’t about cover letters. You still have to run the gauntlet with the little input fields. If you don’t match the
keywords, do they read your cover letter? I don’t know. Again, I’m interested in feedback from inside the HR citadel.

What Taleo tells me about an employer is that they don’t value the employees time. They would like to offload as much of their work onto an applicant and buggy software rather than screen the applicants themselves. This makes for a very cookie cutter hiring process.

Worst of all, the work that it takes to input the data into all the little boxes is not time well spent because I HAVE TO RETYPE MY RESUME FOR EVERY JOB I APPLY TO. What a pain in the ass.

I’m OK for researching the perfect job for hours then spending more hours into the resume and perfect cover letter. If I want a job, I’ll stop at nothing to get it. But Taleo makes me feel that I can’t really do anything to make myself look better for the job.

Also, Taleo is buggy as I have showed above. I experience its bugginess when I have applied to many jobs that I was qualified for on Taleo, and I never got a call back. Many times Taleo crashed before I could a. Finally, in disgust, I gave up.

I suggest that if people value their time, and they want to work for an employer that respects them, they’ll boycott these crappy
organizations. The world will split into the pro-Taleo and anti-Taleoworkplaces. Let the best workplace win!

Obligatory 2009 Post

January 3, 2009

Well, another arbitrary date has passed that we recognize as the new year. There seems to be a fad for predicting the next 365 days so I’ll jump on the bandwagon and make my predictions and/or resolutions.

I don’t have any resolutions, and I never did because I don’t know what I’ll be up to from moment to moment let alone 365 days. Resolutions are a setup for disappointment and guilt.

I do have two virtues that I’d like to especially focus on for the upcoming New Year. The first one is honesty. I feel that the cause of a great deal of my suffering was because I was dishonest with myself. Imagine having a genie willing to grant you wishes, and you don’t wish for anything because you aren’t sure what you want. Worse, you fear wishing for anything because you fear the outcome. That’s how I feel much of the time. This is the basis for my honesty.

Along with honesty comes courage to face the consequences of speaking up. If one is dishonest, then one can rationalize one’s own suffering and lack of success. If one is honest, one has to be responsible for one’s own feelings, desires, and outcomes. In the long one, I believe I’ll be happier despite the dangers. I’ll learn that the fears were smaller than I imagined, and that I can deal with anything that comes up.

The second virtue I’d like to develop is compassion. One must have compassion with honesty otherwise one can be an ass and hide behind the old, “I was just telling the truth.” Also, compassion will allow me to be more honest because I’ll realize that honesty will benefit myself and others in the long run. I did an assessment of my compassion level the other day, and it was sad to see how low it was. The meditation was not really meant to be an assessment, but a way to grow compassion, and it failed! I just learned how self-centered I am. This is obviously going to take a great deal of work. With honesty at my side, I will never be able to feign kindness to others to cover up my discomfort. No, I’ll have to honestly dislike someone openly. This should spur me on to become more compassionate because hating people opening is very difficult.

From what I read, 2008, was, for most people a crappy year.

For me, 2008, was the best year of my life. This is due to luck and circumstance. I’m hoping that you have the good luck and circumstance this year that I had last year. It’s wonderful yet confusing to have everything work out your way.

2008 Career

January 1, 2009

Here’s a summary of last year.

1. What went really well for you at work in 2008?

This is the first year since 1998 that I have thought of a job as a part of my “career” instead of a way to just get by. Along, the way I had forgotten that I used to have a great deal of intelligence and drive. I remembered again. This was a bit depressing seeing how little I have done, but I vowed to do more.

2. What did you do that you’re proud of?

I worked a job that didn’t piss me off for once in my life. Two jobs, actually. I used the first job to get recommendations for the second.

I put my foot down and refused to work a job that I can’t stand. This is after years of human blood, mouse feces, and abusive supervisors (and a few nice ones, but shitty conditions were the norm).

3. Who have you helped out?

God first of all. He came and told me to stop wasting my life and being an ass.

Also, my wife said the same thing but a bit louder.

Myself for caring for once in my life.

Buddha for all of his pithy sayings that convinced me that I could learn to like myself instead of the hot/cold relationship I had before.

Nurses who taught me how to be more decisive and quicker on my feet. Also, for showing me that I really don’t have what it takes to be any part of medicine.

4. How have you grown and developed professionally?

I have taken the first step which is trying to figure out what I’d like to do for the rest of my life. Since I have 10 years of school that has touched on zero of what I am really interested in, this is kind of depressing.

5. How have you grown and developed personally at work?

I actually believe that my work is always good enough. I believe in myself. I can honestly tell an employer that I am the best. I am not intimidated by people who were lucky enough not to have a nervous breakdown during the last two years of med school anymore.

6. Who has really appreciated your work?

Everyone I came in contact with both at the office and on the tour. While leading tours, I was given tips to show that I went above and beyond. At work, people told me “DON’T LEAVE!” I was offered to work remotely as well. This refutes the nine years of abuse I had suffered previously, being told that my work was not good enough which I learned later was just a way of manipulating me to work unpaid hours and to work even harder than I all ready was.

7. Who has helped you out and been there for you?

My wife. That’s it. Nobody in my family has been there when things were hard. They just gave me empty platitudes like, “You can do it.”

Oh, and random strangers on the road who treated me better than my family ever did.

8. Who have you admired at work in 2008?

My boss who earned his way there from a construction job to management. He knew how to motivate people. He was super-kind, and he always got the work he wanted from people by acting PROFESSIONALLY something my other bosses could learn.

9. What have been some fun moments at work in 2008?

Touring: The entire job was like a paid cocktail party. The speech was fun to memorize and give. The tour itself was like an hour long walking meditation. I loved it.

Office: The staff was funny especially the meeting. Especially exterminator meetings. I loved all the stories of the mice attacking the pampered students. I also loved all the hate mail directed to me, a stranger, by people who damaged their rooms. You’d think someone spending $30k would write a bit better and be more professional in email communication which lasts forever and is easily forwarded. No, I didn’t break any ethics rules, but I did laugh a lot to myself.

10. Which 5 things from 2008 would you like to have more of in 2009?

1. A job I can stand.

2. Money.

3. Free time.

4. Surfing.

5. Problems that I can solve.

6. Confidence.

7. Compassion.

8. Assertiveness.

I spent the countdown sitting in complete silence with lovely people. I hope this calm pervades everyone’s next year despite the craziness of life.

Academic Confidence

December 31, 2008

I saw a speaker last night gave a talk on Buddhism and schizophrenia. His slides are available online.

One of the things he said that made a lot of sense was that people tend to conform to their expectations. Students that were labeled bright and given no other intervention tended to be brighter academically compared with those who were labeled as being slow.

I was not labeled anything, but my grades were always pretty poor up until sixth grade. Someone told me that Alison was the top student. I told them that I thought I could beat her. I really don’t know where this confidence came from.

I never did beat Alison, but I did get mostly A’s. I was never perfect in school, but I was far above average.

This winning streak continued, for the most part. In high school, I realized that I wasn’t the brightest bulb, but I idiotically felt that if I continued to work really hard then I would get good grades. This was mostly true, but looking back, I don’t think it was worth the effort. I feel like much of my childhood and teen years were wasted in front of books learning stuff I mostly forgot so that I could have a lackluster career which was mostly characterized by fear of employers and crushing debt.

I wish I actually spent my time in high school watching porn and playing role playing games and messing with my computer. After high school, I’d have no choice but to find a job. I wouldn’t be in debt. There are many jobs one could get right out of high school that pay as well as I ever earned and don’t require a college degree. Government work comes to mind.

The point is that sometimes what seems good could actually be quite bad in the long run.

You can regret anything

December 22, 2008

I don’t know why I do this. I call it the regret game. It’s completely worthless, and it causes a lot of pain. But it can be kind of exiting like cutting yourself with a razor blade.

When I was younger, I made it a point not to regret my life, and I think that this was my first mistake. Trying to be overly perfect creates too much pressure on one’s life, and it leads to unnecessary stress.

My parents were of the ancient mindset that hard work got you places so I worked hard in school. I’m not blaming my parents for my problems, I did that yesterday, and I’ll probably do that tomorrow. Today, I’m just talking about what actually happened.

I remember it well, when I in fifth grade some kids whispered about how smart Alison was. Without blinking, I told them that I’d beat her. I had shitty grades before this, so I have no clue where I got such confidence. I’m pretty sure I did not beat her, but I did very well, and my parents assured me that I’d have success and a good income. I believed in the world of Revenge of the Nerds. The studios geeks will inherit the earth and the cool people will be reduced to being their servants and lapdogs. Again, I ask, where did I get this nonsense from?

I worked hard in high school as well aside from a few classes where I started off badly. In those, I pretty much threw in the towel. Giving up, I don’t regret. That was smart. I passed anyway. Plus there was less stress. Finally, there was a lot less work.

I spent the bulk of my grade school, high school, and college life holed up in my room studying my ass off. Since I seemed to be so good at it, and because it was the only thing that brought me any kind of success, I plowed forward making it a goal to be a doctor. This was a job I knew nothing about. The more I learned, the less I liked it. Therefore, I limited my contact with the actual field in the hopes that I wouldn’t change my mind before I got there.

I believed in delayed gratification. Getting there, might suck, but once I did, I’d be in some kind of Xanadu with a big house, a hot wife, and lots of people sucking up to me. I know where I got these ideas. From friends, family, and TV.

While on my way to fame and fortune, I got into debt, something else I regret. I _knew_ signing any kind of loan was a really bad idea, but I was assured by friends and family that I’d soon be able to pay it off. If I could do one thing different in my life, I would take the PHEAA application and burn it. If they kicked me out of school then so be it.

So there’s the story. It’s possible to do all the right things and wish you hadn’t. If I could have done it over again, I would have joined every club in school I was vaguely interested in. I would have cheated on every test so I wouldn’t have to waste any time studying. I would have taken more drugs and cared less about what people thought about me. I would not have done anything that didn’t give me an immediate payoff. I would not have worked hard. I would not have gone to church. I would not have taken any job where I wasn’t excited about it.

I probably would have regretted not “making something of myself.” So I guess the point is that no matter what you do, you can regret it. I often regret the things I did not do as much as the things that I did. Basically, I would have followed this code:

1. Experience as many new things when you are young because when you get older, you’ll just get too tired to care and probably tied down with baggage.

2. If something is boring or crappy don’t stick it out. The people who win the Olympics and other feats of endurance are not any happier than the average coach potato so don’t waste your time.

3. Talk to as many people as possible. Be nice to everyone EXCEPT

4. Don’t let people treat you like shit. Stick up for yourself. Nobody is better than you. If someone is a jerk then they are definitely beneath you.

Reading is one of the few things I did that I did not think was a waste of time. Only, I wish I read a more variety of topics instead of just Science Fiction, though the SF was worth it. I just wish I spent more time whining about women reading instead. I wish I spent most of the nights I went out to bars at home with a book.

I wish I spent more time skateboarding rather than studying Chemistry or Medicine.

But if I did, I’d probably have regretted it. I’m really good at regret. It’s kind of fun.

Nailed the Interview!

December 19, 2008

Executive Summary: Today, I went to a job interview at an organization that helps children. I nailed the interview.

Read no further unless you want to hear me brag about how great my interviewing skills are.

They had a group interview “to save time.”

“Great,” I thought, “I’m all ready a stressed and nervous person. Nothing like a little competition to make me completely crumble.”

How wrong I was. The interview actually boosted my confidence. For one thing, i have been working on my competition skills. I do think that competition sucks. I hate competitive people because they are not nice. Given the choice between kindness and acting like a jerk, competitive people will choose the latter. Then they’ll justify it by assuming that “everyone does it” which is nonsense.

However, I am running out of money here, and I need a job. Also, i don’t want to be a complete doormat. Surely there can be a middle way between taking the air out of people’s tires and rolling over dead at the first sight of conflict.

So I rubbed up my greasy hands and rolled up my sleeves thinking, “Competition is what you want? Competition is what you get. Game on!”

From the first question, I knew I had the interview sewed up. When they asked us our non-profit experience, I was the only one with ten years in the field. I was also the only one who had volunteered to help children. Nobody mentioned volunteering at all. Finally, I was the only one who told cute anecdotes that made them smile and nod knowingly. I am the master story teller. After all making up stories is my calling.

Some of the other candidates did do a good job. One of them knew Spanish which may clinch the job as it’s the only thing I don’t have that is required of the job. Another had a lot of computer skills, like me. She also had hospital experience and experience with confidentiality. I had that, too, but I didn’t have a chance to talk about it.

I was the first to answer most questions especially the one that nobody else was ready for, “Why should we hire you?”

Afterwards we were able to ask questions. I had ten ready, but they only had time to answer one. The only other person who asked a question asked, “Is this a non-profit?” Just give it up dude!

Unless there is something out of my control, I have this job. I think I finally found the secret HR decoder ring. I’m still going to work really hard on practicing for interviews and to applying to jobs because I need to be ready.

Interview Preparation

December 18, 2008

When I went for my first job interview, eleven years ago, I thought that I would just go answer some questions and they’d give me the job. That is totally untrue.

The interview is actually a way of weeding people out. The questions they ask are usually these BS HR style questions that are just there to see if you practiced answering BS HR questions. The answers are actually pretty surprising. For example, when they ask you about yourself, they don’t care about you. They actually want your work history and how it relates to the job in question. Why don’t they ask normal questions? Because the working world is like a secret cult where it’s up to you to figure out the answers.

Reading HR blogs has been good for me. I have learned some highly disturbing things about HR people. Many of them had the same mentality as the “cool kids” in high school had. It’s all about who’s in and who’s out. It’s all based on keeping up with empty appearances and following empty gestures and rituals.

However, unless you have friends or family to help you out, you have no way of knowing this. Luckily I was smart enough to marry someone who would coach me on my interviewing skills.

At her suggestion, I got a list of common interviewing questions and wrote down the answers. It was like doing a bunch of mini-essays. I heard that the most effective answers are the ones that tell a cute little anecdote. The best way to craft these is to take a flashback to the Reagan presidency when he would answer all his questions. Reagan could get hired for anything.

The surprising thing was how absurdly bad the answers were in the book. I’m not yet an HR expert, but I could tell how horrible these little blobs of text were. I can’t believe these phonies sell books on how to interview people that are so bad.

Their interview answers were highly generic, cold, and empty. At least I’m not going to make this mistake. An example asking the person to compare their oral skill vs. their written skills. The answer basically said, “I’m good at both.” Yea, I’m great at everything. Bullshit. I know that they expect something a bit more substantial. One of them even suggested to present themselves as “highly competitive”. Do these morons even think about what competition means? The competitive people I knew were liars and cheaters. This answer would be the kiss of death for me. I want to work with people who cooperate with me, not those who are trying to let the air out of my tires. I want to work with hard workers which is much different than those who think that they can scam their way through the work day.

To avoid poor answers in my interview, I have been continuously answering the same questions over and over again in front of my wife. Also, I rehearsed some of my answers like it was a part in a play. I found that my answers sucked, but they got a better over time.

These days, all the best jobs in every field seem to go to the best actor. For example on TV who were the most respected people in finance? Those who told the people what they wanted to hear. The ones that actually predicted the economic collapse were mocked. The shit heads that sucked up to the TV people lost their employers a great deal of money.

I’d rather have the right answers even if it means being mocked. That’s because if I lie, I’ll get the wrong kind of job, and I don’t want to do that again. I will, however, give them the secret insiders hand shake. If only I can figure it out.

Working Publically Vs. Laboring in the Dark

December 17, 2008

One of my wife’s suggestions was for me to volunteer in “following my
passion” so that I could more easily get a good job.

Clearly my passion is computers, especially Open Source Software like
Linux and Gnome. I also profess a love for writing, though I tend to
spend waaaay more time programming than writing. Therefore, she
suggested I do some documentation on Open Source Software.

Yesterday, I started using my usual method of looking for something I
want done, and working on it. “Scratching my itch.” In this case, it
was to write the API for libeel, an obscure library that is not
recommended for public consumption.

At the last minute, I stopped working on this, and looked around for
task lists. Of course, there were many. I was going to start working
on one of those, but instead, I joined a mailing list and offered my
services. They gave me three tasks none of which I would have figured
out on my own. Hmmm. Should I work on what I want to work on and risk
having nobody care, or should I start working on something that
people actually asked for?

I am choosing the later of course, but in the past, I would not have
thought of this. Working with others is not something that comes
naturally to me.

Anyway, I feel like Captain Obvious mentioning this, but I didn’t know
about this until now, perhaps there is someone else who could use this hint.